Friday, 18 April 2014

UKYA Day: Joint Interview on Hybrid Publishing - Part 1

Okay, this is one of the features I've been ESPECIALLY looking forward to sharing with you for ages, but have been holding off because it's such a great one that I wanted to save it for UKYA Day.

If you don't know about UKYA Day, firstly, where have you been? And secondly, check out the awesome Project UKYA and the hashtag #UKYADay on Twitter for all sorts of amazingness today.

I think one of the most interesting things about the last few years in publishing has been the rise of self-publishing to the stage where it's now seen as a viable option for many authors, including those who also have contracts with publishers for other books. I spoke to four of these 'hybrid' authors - Keris Stainton, Kim Curran, Laura Lam and Siobhan Curham - about the challenges and rewards of self-publishing, and why they chose to do it.

1. You've all gone for different journeys to self-publishing. Keris self-pubbed a non-fiction quotes collection; Siobhan, you self-published Dear Dylan before Electric Monkey picked it up (and I think I'm right in saying you're self-publishing again this year?); Kim, you've written a novel unconnected to your Shift trilogy, and Laura, you're doing stories set in your wonderful world of Ellada from your Micah Grey trilogy. What made each of you decide to self-publish?

Keris: Mine was mostly just for fun. People had been telling me for years that I should put my kids' quotes in a book and I'd seen books like Preschool Gems and even Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, so I didn't think it was too far-fetched. I knew it wasn't something a publisher would be interested in, so I thought self-publishing would be a way to actually get it out there and also a way for me to test self-publishing out, because it's certainly something I'd like to try with a novel at some point. 

Kim: I started writing Glaze after Shift went out on submission to publishers (in 2011). When I got the deal for Shift and the next two books it kind of went on the back burner. When I returned to it in 2013, I realised that so much of the stuff I was discussing in the book was prescient to the point of creepiness! It opens with a riot – and this was before the riots in London. It essentially predicted Google Glass – before there was so much as a TED video about it. And all the revelations about GCHQ too. Anyway, it was so very relevant to NOW that my agent and I decided that if we exhausted the traditional publishing route the book might not come out for 18 months. By which time it's relevance would be flagging. (We did try a few publishers who confirmed this – they either had something like it coming out or they didn't think SF YA had a market).

So, I decided to get the jump on traditional marketing by publishing it myself!

It was a really exciting idea to me also because my day job is in advertising and I have a network of friends who are designers and marketers. And here was a chance to put my 15 years' experience to the test and make all of the decisions about the marketing and the design of the book myself. And as I have the publishing network too, I was able to ask professional editors, copy editors and proof readers to work on it, ensuring the book was as polished as if it had been traditionally published.

Just as I was set to announce my decision, I got chatting with Jared from Jurassic London. He was really excited about the book and emailed me the next day saying 'welcome to the terrifying world of my enthusiasm'. Between us we cooked up the plan for him to publish a limited ed hard back of the book, while I handled all the ebooks and paperbacks myself. This has proven a wonderful experience. I get the joy of still working with a publisher and having someone to bounce ideas around with, while ultimately staying in control (in my experience, all writers are control freaks to some regard). The fact it's also being 'traditionally' published by Jurassic London means I will be able to enter the book into awards as well. So WIN WIN.

It does make explaining the whole thing a little complicated though, hence this unnecessarily long answer!!

Siobhan: I initially turned down a traditional publishing deal for Dear Dylan to self publish because the publisher wanted to water down some of the issues it covers. I was really concerned that this would really weaken the book and so I withdrew it. Self publishing felt very liberating as I was able to publish it exactly how I wanted. It also freed me of the pressure of having to do well to keep my publisher happy. I'd written the book to try and help young adult readers going through the same thing as the main character, Georgie. It was never a 'career' thing. So I gave the e-book away for free on my website. I also sent copies of the paperback to book bloggers and they were so lovely and supportive. They all reviewed Dear Dylan despite the fact that it was self-published and this gave me the confidence to enter the book for an award. In a fairytale ending (or beginning!) it won! 

Dear Dylan ended up going to auction and was traditionally published in 2012 - without any changes being made to it. Although I've since had three further YA novels traditionally published, and have two more coming out next year, I've decided to go back to self publishing again too. I'm starting by publishing my backlist of adult novels (originally published by Hodder) as e-books. I love the freedom that self publishing gives the writer and the sense that you have complete control over your writing career. And I could really relate to what Kim said about working really hard on the marketing and design aspects to make sure the quality is just as good as traditionally published books...

Kim: Really fascinating, Siobhan! I think we're going to see more and more writers turning down publishing deals for reasons like this. It should mean that the power is back in the author's hands – as for a really long time it's been 100% with the publisher. Wonderful to hear that your book ended up getting the recognition it deserved too!

Siobhan: Thanks so much Kim - and yes, authors having more power over their work can only be a good thing. Happy days!

Laura: For me, I wanted to put up some supplementary stories set in the same world as Micah Grey starring the secondary characters, such as Drystan and Cyan. The world of Ellada is large, and I wanted to show more of it through others’ eyes. However, I wanted it to be pretty easy for people to get them, and so self-publishing on Kindle seemed like a good plan. I didn’t want to go on the query merry-go-round for magazines, and also two of the stories are likely going to be more novella-length, and there aren’t many markets for them, except in the e-book market. I also think my books have appeal to both adults and teens, and as the shorter stories are a bit more adult in nature (not erotica!), it might help bring new readers to the Micah Grey series. I’ll be able to control pricing and do occasional promos, see sales figures, and generally be more in control. I find that very exciting.

2. People often think of self-publishing as a rather solitary occupation, and Kim, I know you responded to John Green's thoughts (which JG clarified here) on this fairly recently. How many people are involved in the creation of your books? On a possibly-related note, how do your current publishers feel about them?

Keris: Three friends read mine and gave feedback on the order of the quotes, pointed out typos, repetitions, etc. I also put the proposed covers up on Facebook and got feedback there. If/when I self publish a novel, I'll use an editor and a cover designer. I don't know how my publisher feels about As Delightful As a Carrot - it's not really the same audience so it's not really an issue - but I did check with my agent before publishing it.

Kim: It feels like I've had more people involved in the publishing of Glaze than any of my other books! Or at least, I've had more direct contact with those who have been involved.

So, in order of involvement: my team of beta readers, including my husband, Laura Lam, Lou Morgan and James Smythe – who gave amazing feed back before the book went anywhere.
My agent, Sam Copeland.
My art director partner, Regan Warner – who designed the cover.
Jared Shurin who is publishing the limited ed.
Amy McCulloch who edited it.
My copy editor and proof reader.
Then all the bloggers who've signed up to #teamglaze (50 people at last count) -
note from Jim; this interview happened a while ago so #teamglaze may well be even bigger now, especially with the brilliant Faye from A Daydreamer's Thoughts running the blog tour!
Author friends who have given cover quotes.
And finally my friends across Twitter and Facebook, who are really getting behind me with this. I feel this enormous sense of good will about what I'm doing!

Most of this wouldn't be possible without social media. And the irony that the book is about the powers of social networks isn't lost on any of us!

Siobhan: I don't find it lonely at all as, like Keris and Kim, I still have a team of people working with me. I use professional designers for my covers, because, despite the saying, we do all judge a book by its cover. And I make sure my self published books are traditionally edited too - this is vital! It's also lovely involving people via social media. Like Keris, I put some recent cover designs up on Facebook for feedback.

Laura: Like others, I have a great support network. I’m still in the early stages of planning things – all stories are at least in first draft, and I’m sending them out to beta readers for initial feedback. I have a friend I’ve known since we were wee pre-teens helping me with artwork and design. Kim and her advertising experience has been invaluable already. My husband will help me format, and my friend Shawn is helping with blurbs and some marketing. I’ll hire an editor for all four stories at once before they go up. I definitely want to have a professional, slick product just as good as anything trade published.

By being traditionally published first, I have a great network of bloggers (such as you, Jim!) who have been really supportive and happy to help spread the world closer to the time. When I announced that I was putting up these Vestigial Tales, I had an excellent response from people that really helped me feel that this was the right decision. I have a small but very loyal reader base, and I’m hoping more stories will help that base grow.

My publisher does not mind, as these stories may result in more sales of Pantomime & Shadowplay, the first two books in the Micah Grey series. It’s also looking more and more likely that one of my works in progress will be self-published, and so this will be a great learning experience prior to doing that.

Thanks so much for the fab answers, everyone! Check back tomorrow for part 2.

Keris Stainton is the author of Della Says OMG!, Jessie Hearts NYC, Emma Hearts LA and the upcoming Starring Kitty. She self-published As Delightful As A Carrot earlier this year. You can find her on her website, her blog and Twitter, while she co-runs the fabulous UKYA website.

Kim Curran is the author of Shift, Control and the upcoming Delete. She is about to self-publish Glaze. Find her on her website and Twitter.

Laura Lam is the author of the Micah Grey series, Pantomime and Shadowplay. She is about to self-publish short stories set in Micah's world, the Vestigial Tales. Find her on her blog and Twitter

Siobhan Curham is the author of numerous books for adults as well as YA novels Dear Dylan and Finding Cherokee Brown and series Shipwrecked (second book, Dark of the Moon, out in June) and non-fiction guide to dealing with bullies Finding Your Inner Cherokee. (Download that one FREE here!) She will soon be self-publishing her backlist of adult novels. Find her on her website, her Twitter and her Life Coach and Mentoring site Dare To Dream.

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