I've set up this blog so that all my friends, relations and colleagues in the world of writing can keep up to speed with what I'm doing - from now on, I'll never have to say sorry for not keeping in touch.

Or anyway, that's the plan.

So do please link up with me on Facebook and Twitter - https://www.facebook.com/margaret.james.5268 and https://twitter.com/majanovelist

You can find my novels as digital downloads on Apple iTunes, Kobo, Kindle and Nook, and most are available as print paperbacks, too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Traditional, independent - which is right for you?

Most of my writing life, I've been traditionally (or, if you like, commercially) published. This has been the case with all my longer, novel-length fiction. I'm currently published by a brilliant company which has done me proud in every respect - production, publicity and marketing.

But, when my writing partner Cathie Hartigan and I decided to write some guides for creative writing students, we chose to go independent.


It would be quicker.

Once we had written the first book, had had it read by several of our writing friends, including our own students, and we had edited it ourselves, it was ready to publish. But, if we'd sent it to a literary agent, who would then have had to find a publisher, who would then have had to find a publishing slot for it, we might have been looking at three years or even more before the book actually became available.

We would have total control over the products. 

We could and we did design and produce the covers. We chose the layout. We typeset the print books in the format we thought was most appropriate - in large type with wide margins, which left plenty of white space for the students to make notes on the books themselves, which we have learned some of them do!

We would be paid promptly every month.

A traditional/commercial publisher's accounting system is usually set up to pay authors royalties every six months. This means that the payment on a book which earns a specific royalty on - for example - 3rd September will probably not reach the author until three months after the end of the publisher's accounting period. So, if the accounting period happened to be September to March, the author would not be paid anything until round about the June of the following year. It's a long time to wait!

We would earn more money.

As the publishers of our books, we would receive 100% of any royalties, rather than a percentage negotiated with a traditional/commercial publisher.

We could set the price.

Traditional/commercial publishers have to make a profit. They're not charities. They have staff to pay, warehousing to find, publicity and marketing to organise. All this costs money. But independent authors are working for themselves and - if they have the time and are prepared to learn the skills - they can do all the jobs for which traditional/commercial publishers have to pay third parties.

We could change the price.

A traditionally/commercially published author has no say in what a book will cost.  What if the author feels a book has been priced so highly that nobody will buy it? Or priced so low that the royalty for the author will be negligible? We started promoting our books at a price we thought was fair to readers and to us, and so it has proved to be. But if we ever want to change our prices - for example, put the books on special offer for a time - we can do so without reference to anyone else.

It would be a challenge.

We like a challenge! We understand that presenting your book to the world can be scary. What if nobody buys it? What if everyone hates it? What if, after the reviews start coming in, it becomes apparent that it's a really bad book? It's a risk all independent authors have to take.  But, when it works, it's great.  As I type, both our guides to creative writing have received good reviews and they sell in gratifying quantities - not brilliantly, but consistently. The print version of The Creative Writing Student's Handbook sells particularly well.

So thank you, Amazon KDP, for making this possible.