22 January, 2014

Publication with Thistle Publishing



I’m pleased to be able to announce that my first novel TheArt of Letting Go is very shortly to be published by Thistle Publishing.

Thistle are a new digital publishing press. They are not a traditional publisher and this is not a traditional publishing deal. Let me explain...

I am represented by The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency. This is one of the UK’s leading agencies (Andrew himself was the top agent in the world last year in terms of the number of deals made on behalf of his authors) and they often seem to lead the way in terms of adapting to the changing world of publishing. Last year, Andrew and my agent, David, launched Thistle Publishing, primarily as a way of promoting the books of debut authors in a increasingly tough industry to break into.The idea of Thistle was to publish new novels through Amazon, while the books were being submitted to publishers (although they do publish other books for other reasons now too). This is essentially what is happening with my novel.

As you can imagine, this new trend in publishing had me very wary. So I thought I’d put together a guide for you on this method and why I have decided to give it a go. Please forgive the long post - I've split it into headings so you can find the bits that interest you!

What’s the difference between self-publishing on Amazon and publishing on Amazon this way?
The chief difference is having an agent. Amazon’s White Glove Program is only available for agented books. It provides assistance with cover design and allows access to different kinds of promotions on site. For me, having an agent is crucial for my own peace of mind as well. I didn’t want to self-publish from the start because I wanted to know that my book was good enough, and I wasn’t deluding myself. Being signed to a reputable agency who would champion my book to traditional publishers was very important to me.

So you’re trying to pretend you don’t care about traditional deals now and this is what you wanted?
No. This wasn’t the dream. I wanted publishers to fight over giving me a three-book, six-figure deal without experiencing a single rejection first. The fight hasn't kicked off yet. Remember, my novel is still on submission. I still want that deal, and so does my agent. If he didn’t, I’d have no confidence in him. I have had amazing feedback from big publishers, but no offer yet. This was not first choice but it is a choice.

Surely, once you’re published this way, no traditional publisher will touch you?
I thought so, but apparently it’s not true. Publishers are beginning to see presses like Thistle as a good proof-of-concept. Getting a deal this way is by no means guaranteed but it does happen. After only launching last year, Thistle have novels that have sold in their tens of thousands and have gone on to get foreign rights deals as well as traditional UK deals. They even have authors who have refused traditional deals because they loved the process of being published by Thistle and have found great success through it.

What are the downsides for you?
Pride for one thing. People can be very condescending about new ventures such as this. If my book was any good at all, surely it would’ve been snapped up? I know people who have signed traditional deals in the last year or so and it stings that I haven’t yet.
Editing is where the biggest difference is. The editing and proof-reading of the book will be down to my agent and me. This actually scares me less than it might as David was an author and book editor for a long time before becoming an agent. When he took me on, he sent me a detailed letter which has led to a couple of rounds of revisions already. So for me, the main difference is not have a final copy edit to polish the manuscript. However, I’ve been surprised to learn that although I know many authors who have a great relationship with their publishing editor, increasingly traditional publishing houses aren’t providing detailed editing services either.
Marketing is the other thing. Obviously having access to certain Amazon promotions will be helpful, and my agency will do all they can, but a lot of it will be down to me. I find this quite daunting and will be grateful for any help or advice you can give me! Again though, this appears to increasingly be the case with traditional publishing houses too. New books by unknown authors do not always get promoted. I’ve even found out that some UK publishers are effectively doing print-on-demand without telling their authors, so an author is giving away most of the cover price of a book to a publisher who isn’t even distributing it for them properly.

(There are some fabulous publishers and publishing deals still out there to be had - I'm not trying to do them down. I'd love to have a Book Deal Moment, I'm just aware that some publishing deals are not as beneficial to the authors as they should be and some well-known authors are begining to leave them behind.)

Why do it?
Mostly because I trust David (and Andrew) to know what they’re doing. If the agency was not so well-thought of or established I would be much more wary. There will always be scornful people, but I am more inclined to listen to the stories of authors who have actually done it. Such as this one. It’s also an approach that other big agencies, such as Curtis Brown, are taking too. I am not expecting miracles. I wasn’t expecting miracles when I wrote the book, or when I got an agent, or when I started receiving positive feedback from publishers. Some of Thistle’s authors have sold many times the number of books they would’ve sold through a traditional publishing deal and made far more money already, but I’m not relying on it!
A big issue for me is having a sense of moving forward. 2013 wasn’t a great year for my writing and a lot of that – not all – was about decision-making. I didn’t make lots of bad decisions, I just didn’t make decisions at all. I missed competition deadlines while I couldn’t decide whether to work on novels or short stories; I wasted hours not committing to any project but half-thinking about many different things. I promised myself 2014 is not going to be the same.  

The short answer is I have written a book I’m proud of, it got an agent who really believes it deserves to be published, and it will soon be available to buy. And I’m excited about that.

Are you sure?
I’ve thought about it for a long time now and it seems a good option. Not for everyone, and not for every situation, but for me, in my situation, now. In two months I’m having a baby – I have no idea what the rest of 2014 will be like. I want to kick-start something while I have the time and energy. If the publishing industry is going to change, I want to change with it. This is just my first book and this doesn’t tie me into a contract forever. I believe in this book and so does my agent. The feedback we’ve been getting is good. But there will be other books too and this book can be re-published in the future if my later books prove to have a smoother journey to publication.

What advice would you give to other authors interested in this route?
Don’t trust anybody who offers this to you as a first, best or ideal option. It has been a good option for many people already, but you want an agent – from an established agency – who truly believes your book should be published for the world to read.
The publishing industry may be changing rapidly, but the advice to writers remains the same: write a good book, get a good agent.

What now?
We are already most of the way through the editing stages and so there’s little left to do except finish that off and get a cover design sorted etc. It could be only a matter of weeks, until The Art of Letting Go can be ordered, or it could be a few months – the baby will decide!

How can I help?
Thanks for asking! The chief way you can help is by buying my book and reviewing it. I know you are inundated with requests to buy books, but if you were able to get hold of a copy it would be marvellous. If you like it, leave me a review. If it’s not for you, maybe pass it on to somebody who you think might enjoy it more. You can also of course share my journey on social media networks, or consider hosting me on your blog for an interview or guest post - I'm sure that will help too. More on this to come I’m sure as the publication process continues...

Please do ask questions below. I’ve always said I want to be honest about my writing journey; it’s up to you to make me stick to it!

12 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Chloe! This is an extremely honest post and shows you have your feet firmly on the ground, which is obviously a good place to start. It is exciting news - but I can understand why you're not cartwheeling down the road and shouting it from the rooftops (pretty tricky to do both simultaneously, anyway, and definitely not advisable for mums-to-be).

    As you say, the important thing is that your book will be out there, soon. Good luck; I hope it takes off and leads you closer to your publishing dream. I look forward to reading it!

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  2. Yeah, I'll keep the cartwheeling and parkour for if the baby gets overdue and I want him out!

    Thank-you. It's surreal to think people will actually be reading it soon!

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  3. Congratulations, Chloe. Every time I've ever communicated with Andrew he has been open, honest, quick to respond purposefully and he pulls no punches. You're in good and discerning hands.

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    1. Thank-you, I think so. It's not what I imagined happening but it's exciting and who wants life to run exactly as expected?!

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  4. I really think you should see someone about this trait of asking yourself questions and answering them - but congratulations! I'm sure this is only the start of a successful career!

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    1. I'm in training to be a politician. Next up - starting every answer with "Look, I've been very clear about this..."

      Thank-you very much!

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  5. What terrific news. So much is going digital now and it's a great way to get your name out there! Congratulations!!

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    1. Thank-you. It's certainly exciting!

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  6. Ohmyohmyohmyohmyohmyohmyohmyohmyohmy!! This is so exciting! Congratulations! Being in the world of all things digital and marketing I see how this is a good thing! GOOD THING! You have that validation and editing guide - so you are good to go! (To many goods in there).

    You'd feel the same weirdness and worry with a hard copy book too. It's to be expected. I would certainly LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE to host you over on my blog. All the places you are spreading the word add up. Let me know right away when it comes out! I want to see blog-hops, dancing, extra content, and other stuff people do to advertise their books.... (?? mind has gone blank).

    Start doing a few readings too! Come and do something for the Bristol Lit fest (keep an eye on it and see). Everything counts.

    PS: so excited. I'd have jumped all over this! It's the future!

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    1. God bless you, Freya! You've made me five times as excited now. How wonderful to know somebody doesn't think it's a) a bit dodgy or b) neutral at best!

      I will definitely come over to your blog sometime, thanks. I was hoping you'd give me ideas for marketing as I know nothing about that side of things!

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    2. : D That's because it is! Manohmanohman! People will be reading it! My brother is a designer and will soon be working with a big publish company to relaunch their non-fiction side (can't say who) and the stuff they're talking about is immense! A web ereader where people can comment, share, get extra content. It's about to get big! If the world of Ebooks was successful before, then it's about to become an explosion - just you wait. You're going at just the right time and with the right backing. I totally agree with your agents. It's a genius format and brilliant company strategy. Nobody looses out. Show the book can sell and a publishing company won't see it as a risk! Email me whenever you want about marketing! I love to get a bit creative with it. :)

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    3. Thank-you - how exciting! I'm ready and raring to go now!

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