Tracey works as a freelance copywriter and editor. She regularly contributes to online magazines Exeunt and Unleash the Fanboy and is the author of 3 books, the most recent of which is Dark Dates.
Over to you, Tracey...
I am a published author. Yup, several years ago I fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition and had not one but two books published. So why on earth would I choose to go down the tricky path of self-publishing?
There are a number of reasons. My original publisher is a small ‘literary’ press and my new novel is the very definition of mainstream: an urban fantasy book (yup, vampires and everything), so it didn’t fit the publisher’s profile. Also, I’ve embraced the digital world with a vengeance: I love social media and write for several online magazines. I wanted a book that would be available digitally, which wasn’t an option with my existing publisher.
I tried the ‘traditional’ route: contacted lots of agents, most of whom came back to me saying ‘you write well, but vampires are over’. But much I wanted – and, if I’m honest, still want – the shiny paperback on display at Waterstone’s – the whole process of traditional publishing seemed so… slow. So I simply put my book out on Amazon as an e-book.
This was a steep learning curve. Without an editor, I had to rely on trusted friends to give me feedback to help shape the story (and spot the typos!) I had to get the book formatted (this is surprisingly easy, but daunting if you have no clue where to start). I needed a cover - for someone with the artistic ability of wallpaper paste and no budget, this was a stumbling block, until a friend offered her services for free.
So how to get anyone to read it? Genre fiction has a big audience online, but people still have to find a book to buy it. I’m promoted Dark Dates via my Facebook and Twitter accounts, plugged it through my blog and the sites I write for, and set up author pages on Goodreads, Amazon and Facebook. But this is tricky: if you over-promote yourself on sites like Twitter it can backfire and lose you followers/readers. Also, as this strategy depends on building word of mouth, it’s necessarily a slow one (people don’t read books the minute they buy them - I’m as guilty as anyone of leaving books on my Kindle for months, unread) so it can be frustrating.
But it is rewarding. Pricing the book cheaply means people are more likely to take a chance on it, and the ‘conversational’ nature of social media means that readers can engage with you directly (luckily, most responses have been ‘I love it!’ – obviously that direct engagement might seem less appealing if they were saying it was crap…) I feel like I’ve taken charge of the process, rather than sitting around waiting for someone to like my book enough to publish it, which has freed me up from the dispiriting round of submissions /rejections to work on the sequel: that’s enormously liberating. I don’t think any writer who has an agent will be throwing them away anytime soon, but if you’re trying a new direction, or willing to put yourself out there and see what happens, it’s an option worth considering.
Read more: Adventures in self-publishing:
Tracey will be posting regularly on Strictly Writing. She also has a prizewinning blog here. We'll be back after the Bank Holiday break. See you then!