Today we have something very special here on Catherine, Caffeinated. Drum roll, please… My very first guest poster, author Miriam Wakerly, describes how breaking all ‘the rules’ paid off when she successfully self-published her first novel, Gypsies Stop tHere…
“I’ve broken all the rules, or a fair few – rules, that is, of the publishing world. I can count five – let me know if I’ve missed something!
So, I am – oh no – over 40 and presume to publish a first novel? Actually, over 50!! For heaven’s sake! I hear despairing cries and see reproving looks. No, it’s worse. Over 60!!! How can I be a worthwhile investment, near the end of my days? And surely I am only fit to write about – like, old people? Indeed, I would not presume to get deep inside the head, heart or skin of a 30 year-old of 2010, but believe me I was that age once. Now I have children that age and older.The second charge against me is for main characters being, predictably perhaps, ‘mature’. Pretty reprehensible and arrogant, I know, but I have observed when in bookshops, libraries, reader groups and book clubs, what a high proportion of people are over 50 – at least. My conclusion is that a vast number of the reading public are, reasonably enough, pleased to have some books relevant to their own generation. Perhaps some people reading this will think, ‘ah, so this would be something my Mum or Dad might like …’ Actually plenty of young people have read and enjoyed my books too! They include characters of all ages. Anyway, enough about age.
Third breach of acceptable behaviour? I have the word ‘Gypsy’ in the titles of my two novels, Gypsies Stop tHere and No Gypsies Served, which, one agent told me, no publisher would touch, for fear of political incorrectness. Please see my blog for an explanation on terms like Gypsy and Traveller. The agent was wrong – or more correctly, the agent may have been right but publishers would probably be wrong in this assumption. My first book has been published for two years and I’ve received no complaints yet.
Fourth rule broken? Alas, my books do not slot easily into a given genre. Again, there is a post on my blog about this vexed question. They are not romantic fiction, mystery-crime or historical, for example, yet they hold elements of all these. Classification is good old ‘modern and contemporary fiction’ but the titles give a strong clue as to theme and hint that they explore social issues. The reviews (see www.strongmanpublishing.com) tell readers that they are entertaining. So the potential reader can check that the can does what it says on the label, so to speak. Or indeed, you can judge the book by its cover!
The fifth rule, at last, is that I set up my own publishing company so I could just jolly well get on with it. I wanted to be writing, not spend my entire retirement looking for an agent and publisher. Now I know that some self-published novels do look quite bad – sorry – but it is true. I’ve seen books that are a strange size and shape, badly written, boring, full of mistakes – they just look wrong and stand out – not in a good way. I hope by saying this, I do not invite that other cliché of having scored an own goal. It is essential to have plenty of criticism before going to print, from people whose opinion you value. For my books I have had writers, booklovers, academics, Gypsies and Travellers and general ‘book reviewers’ critique my manuscript. I take any feedback on board, but ultimately make my own mind up whether to change anything based on such comments.
I spoke on the BBC Radio Oxford programme The Write Lines about my self-publishing venture and explained the pros and cons. Key difficulties are credibility, distribution and spreading awareness of the books’ existence. I do not have the PR machinery and marketing clout of a large, reputable publisher. But I do have control over my books’ content, cover design and many other things. Much of the PR and marketing that I do myself, many authors with large publishers find they also have to do. If I did have a publisher and agent looking after me, however, I would doubtless have more sales. Swings and roundabouts.
On my blog (http://miriamwakerly.blogspot.com) I give some tips on self-publishing, from my own experience. On the mechanical business side, I did consider POD, and providers like Authorhouse, but found the unit cost would make it unprofitable. I do not expect fame and fortune but it is nice to break even and I could not see that even this would be easy with digital print, taking into account the discounts expected from booksellers and distributors.
I am now exploring e-book possibilities and have been thinking about audio books but have not yet taken the vital steps needed to move this forward.
My launch for No Gypsies Served is on 11 March at my local Waterstone’s, but is available now from bookshops, Amazon or from www.strongmanpublishing.com and currently around 60 people are expected. This should give it a good kick-start. You see anything’s possible!”
Click on the links below to purchase Miriam’s novels from Amazon.co.uk:
Click here to follow Miriam on Twitter. Thank you so much Miriam for paying Catherine, Caffeinated a visit!