I’ve Written a Book – What Next?

A dozen Pembrokeshire-based authors gathered in Haverfordwest recently to hear a presentation by publisher Chris Jones, on the subject of the modern publishing industry. 

In the olden days of course, if you were a new author looking at your options for publishing your novel, those options were very limited indeed.  You sent your manuscript to as many literary agents as possible, and if you found one who liked your work, they might – just might – be able to find a publisher for you.

There was a slight variation to this, as some publishers worked a “slush pile” system, inviting writers to send their manuscripts directly to them, but the chances of acceptance and eventual publication were vanishingly small. 

Even once you were published, you’d normally have to wait until the publisher had recouped their costs via the first two or three thousand sales, before any royalties make it to you as the author.  If you never got to this milestone, you wouldn’t get any royalties and the infamous “clawback” of any advance was likely to come into play.

The major publishers are still out there, of course, though fewer in number because of multiple mergers and acquisitions, but the “traditional” route to market still exists.  In Wales, this route is particularly strong because there are several small Welsh publishing houses which receive grants to publish Welsh works.  However, this option is often seen as a stepping-stone at best, with authors establishing themselves with a Welsh publisher while trying their best to win a contract with one of the big boys, in order to find a wider readership and to try to actually make some money.

However, these days there are at least three other legitimate methods for getting your novel published.

Every year many thousands of novels are self-published on Amazon and other platforms.  The outlay is usually small, as many writers spend little or nothing on editing, cover design, and the other services which can make a book better and get it noticed.  The income is usually correspondingly small; also, books self-published on Amazon do not make it into bookshops.

In an attempt to solve both problems – low professional input and low potential sales – crowdfunding has been making an impact in recent years.  Authors either pitch an idea through social media and then write the book only if the interest is there, or else they try their best to get attention and support while they write it.  Sites such as Unbound and Pubslush specialise in this process, and generic crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter also have book platforms.  The downside is that most of the time you will need to raise at least £5,000 from at least 2,000 social media subscribers before any of these sites will take an interest in publishing your work.

The last route to market tries to marry the upsides of several of these forms of publishing.  Cambria Books usually works on this basis.  The first part of their service is performed by their five professional readers, who give their verdict free of charge.  If a book is accepted, the average writer ends up paying around £500-£1,000 for editing, cover design, and other professional services, and in return, the author keeps a much higher proportion of the profit from all sales.  In contrast to self-publishing, the books can be ordered via “bricks and mortar” bookshops. If you’re still reading this, you’re probably an author yourself, in which case, more details are available: www.cambriabooks.co.uk

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2 Responses

  1. This is an interesting article and good to know but I don’t agree with the suggestion that if you self publish you won’t get in bookshops – you can but it takes work and money. If your work is properly listed on Nielsen and Bowler agencies (ISBN agencies in the UK and US) it will be picked up by bookshops for ordering. The rest is down to hard graft – you can get books to County Library services by going direct to their buyers and doing a deal -of course you need paperbacks to send them – I suggest sending a free copy for approval and ask them to return it if they aren’t interested – this works by the way. The point is, if you self-publish you have to do what a publisher will do for you – market your book. It is desperately hard work and you have to view it as a business.

  2. Rob says:

    Thanks Tim, your comment and insights are much appreciated.