Last week’s post (What To Do With My Business After I’m Dead) looked at a book that fellow Writing Magazine columnist Tarja Moles has published. This week, another fellow Writing Magazine columnist, Lorraine Mace, explains why she’s bitten the bullet and self-published her children’ novel, even though it was something she swore she’d never do.
“Vlad the Inhaler was the first book I wrote,” Lorraine explains, “and so it has always had a special place in my heart. In 2007 I was taken on by one of the UK’s top children’s agents. She loved Vlad and was certain she could find a home for him in one of the big five. We came close, but it wasn’t to be.”
“In 2012 Vlad was picked up by a US publisher and looked set to do very well. I wrote the second in the trilogy and that was also published by the same company but it wasn’t a marriage made in heaven. I was able to take back my rights just over a year ago and, sadly, believed that was the end of Vlad’s publishing lifespan.”
Nobody likes to think about dying, but have you considered what might happen to your writing business after you’re dead? Don’t forget, everything you write is protected by copyright for another 70 years after your demise. That’s 70 years when others could make use of your intellectual property rights.
But would they know that? Where would they go to look for information about your writing business? I keep all of my information in a database in my computer … which is password protected. Which is no use to anyone when I’m dead.
Last Saturday I was assisting with a workshop on self-publishing run by Wrekin Writers, as part of the Wellington Festival, and the topic of Hybrid Authors was briefly discussed. So I thought I’d take the opportunity of posting my recent Writing Magazine feature where I chatted to two writers about being a hybrid author.
Traditionally-published or self-published? Simon Whaley chats to two writers with a foot in both camps.
A few years ago, a writer’s life was binary: either you sought a traditional publishing contract for your book, or you self-published it. Traditionally-published authors liked someone else picking up the costs of editing, proofreading, jacket design and production (in return for a reduced royalty rate), while independent authors were proud that they were in complete control of the whole process, despite having to finance it, in return for a higher royalty rate.
However, the business of writing is changing. No longer is it necessary to be one or the other. Some writers are choosing the hybrid route: having a mixture of traditionally-published and self-published projects. Why be pigeon-holed into one, or the other, when you can have your cake and eat it?
Leah Mercer (https://www.leahmercer.com/books), whose latest novel The Man I Thought You Were, published by Amazon imprint Lake Union Publishing, believes being a hybrid author offers many benefits. ‘Hybrid authors really have the best of both worlds,’ she explains. ‘By self-publishing, they have the freedom to publish what they want at a price they choose, and they can plug the gaps that often occur when publishing with major houses.’
Last week, I shared a post on Facebook (dating from March 2016, so it wasn’t new) from the Guardian’s Books Blog by Ros Barber who explained why she doesn’t want to self-publish. It was in response to the many comments she received on her own blog following a post she’d made about the derisory incomes authors earn these days, even those who are traditionally published. She was making the point that we’re not all offered the six-figure advances that many readers think we are. (Heck, we’re not always offered an advance at all these days!)
‘I don’t want to worry you, but have you seen this website?’ Those were the words from a concerned fellow author who’d found all her books were being offered for free, as PDF downloads, via an unscrupulous website. I searched for my name and found nine of my books listed. My immediate reaction was “Shiver Me Timbers,” or words to that affect. Then I wondered what I should do about it.
In this business of writing, copyright allows us to licence others to reproduce our work in a variety of agreed formats, hopefully for some financial reward. My first book, One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human, published by Hodder & Stoughton, is available in print and ebook format, because that’s what the contract agreed. The only other businesses who can publish my words in these formats are the four foreign publishers who’ve negotiated the right to do so.
Two weeks ago I mentioned that the follow up to my short story collection (Ten Teatime Tales) was in production, now that some of the stories I wanted to include in it are now out of their exclusivity period. Well, I’m pleased to say that Ten Teatime Tales 2 (it took me months to come up with that title) is now available. (Just in time for all of those new electronic reading devices that will be unwrapped in a couple of weeks time.)
As writers, we tend not to think of our scribblings as products. But if you’re hoping to generate an income from your creativity it’s important to think about the different formats you can exploit in your work.
Sometimes, it’s not until you build up a body of work that you really appreciate what you have created. And that’s when the consequences of being a little slap dash with the rights you grant others in your work becomes apparent.
When you’re starting out, it’s easy to be swayed into granting more rights in a piece of your work than you’d like. You know you really ought not give a publisher copyright in your article, but they are going to publish it (which is what you really want) and, let’s face it, who is going to turn Ten Alternative Uses Of A Nose-Hair Clipper into a movie?
Last week I was approached by two different writers, each with their own publishing dilemma. I hope they found my comments useful, but what the queries demonstrated was that when it comes to publishing your book you need to be clear what your dream is. Only then can you decide what is right for you.
The first writer had made the decision to self-publish her novel, having spent many years writing it and then even more time trying to interest a traditional publisher. She’d come to accept that to get what she wanted – a print book she could encourage retailers to take – that self-publishing, or independent publishing, was the way forward for her. It would cost her money, but it was what she wanted.