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
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
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.
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?
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.
industry may be changing rapidly, but the advice to writers remains the same: write a good book, get a good agent.
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?
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!