Really excited to have a guest post today from M. Sean Coleman author of The Cuckoo Wood which I adored, check out my review. The book is available to order in paperback directly from Red Dog Press where you can also pre-order The Hollow Sky – the second Alex Ripley Mystery. e-Books are available via amazon here:
Thats enough of a sales pitch from me, over to Sean:
I didn’t set out to be an Indie Author, nor to be a founding partner of a small Indie Publisher, but that’s what happened and here we are. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, perhaps to test how much you really want to achieve your dreams, and you either catch it and snatch that winning wicket, or you fumble it and lose the series.
When the traditional publisher of my latest mystery series restructured their business, and pulled support for my series, barely a week after publishing the first book, it was my turn to try to catch that curve ball.
I’ll admit, at first, I fumbled it. But only briefly, in the privacy of my own home, late on a friday night. I was devastated. It felt like the series had been killed off before it had chance to see the light of day.
Had I just wasted a year of my life writing the first two books in a series no one would read? By signing the contract with that publisher had I, in fact, signed the death warrant for a character I love, who has been with me in one form or another for over ten years, waiting for her time to shine? I wasn’t ready to let Alex Ripley go.
Fortunately, I have a fiercely pragmatic partner, and some good friends who have all had to find their own silver linings recently. By the end of the weekend—thanks also to a timely interjection from an editor colleague, and some positive ranting amongst ourselves—self-publishing had reared its head, and quickly evolved to us setting up our own small independent publisher. Red Dog Press(https://www.reddogpress.co.uk) was born around the kitchen table and out in the fields, walking the three red dogs who don’t care much for career breakdowns if they interfere with walkies.
The Red Dog Blog has a post about our journey into publishing, (https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/blog) our hopes and ambitions for the company and our place in this evolving industry, so I won’t repeat that here. Instead, I wanted to share what this change feels like as an author.
I will admit that, before my sudden shift in fortunes, I shared the common misconception that self-publishing was a step down. I had never questioned this assumption, I just believed the hype. In order to be a real writer, you had to have a real publisher. I know, I hang my head. But I didn’t know any better—I’d believed the opinion pieces. (https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/mar/21/for-me-traditional-publishing-means-poverty-but-self-publish-no-way)
In the end, I guess, it boils down to why you write what you write. There is so much snobbery, even among authors, about genre versus literary fiction, or even thriller versus romance, and yet there are readers for all. If your ambition is to win a host of literary prizes, self-publishing may not be your route to achieving that success, given the reaction of French Booksellers(https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/sep/15/french-bookshops-revolt-after-prize-selects-novel-self-published-on-amazon) to a self-published book turning up on the shortlist of this year’s Prix Renaudot. The simple fact that there is a self-published book on that list in the first place shows that even that hurdle can be challenged if the work is good.
I write crime thrillers. I hope they are good ones. I want people to devour them on a beach, or on a plane or train, or on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t want them to be analysed for A Levels or BA degrees. I don’t see them rubbing shoulders with Award Winners. I’d rather a group of avid readers discuss my books in the pub. I want to transport readers, like you and me, for a few hours a couple of times a year, into one of the worlds I have created.
So perhaps, becomming Indie was exactly right for me. Being the geek I am, I like knowing who my readers are. I like to analyse statistics of my sales and know that in the UK I have a different audience to the one in the US. It feels pleasently intimate knowing more about the people I am writing for, and the other things they like. This is information I never got from my traditional publisher.
People warned me I would spend all my time marketing, and none writing. While it is true that I spend more time on social media, or creating marketing strategies and talking to booksellers than I did before, I am still hitting my daily word count on the next book, the first one is selling modestly, and everything is fine.
The truth is doing it myself makes me more realistic and less frustrated. I am more aware of how people browse for and buy books. I understand some of the challenges faced by Indie Booksellers. All those Field of Dreams“If you build it, they will come,” notions have been knocked out of the park. In a good way.
My old publisher did little to promote my book—the English Language market was not their focus. Now, I am in control of the way my book is promoted, of the images and words used to promote it, and the way I interact with the audience responding to that marketing.
If I want to run a giveaway, a quick price-drop, our give out samples, I can just do it. I’m not adovcating ad-hoc, splattergun marketing. Strategy is important, and the Red Dogs know how to strategise, but because we’re small, we can be nimble, and that is important. I hope we can keep that agility as we grow.
Ultimately, I feel better as an Indie Author. I feel as though my long and varied career—outside of writing—has been preparing me for this career path all along. I don’t write this intending to disparage any traditional publishers, just to say that I prefer the path I am on now. Perhaps, in future, we can find the positives in both methods of getting books to readers, and everyone will be happy.