Becky Wicks and Sarah Alderson are two authors in their thirties who started their careers writing young and new adult, and travel memoirs with Simon and Schuster, Pan Macmillan and HarperCollins. in this brand new age of self-publishing however, they’re both discovering that while signing with the mainstreams is exciting and has definitely boosted their writing careers, it’s not always the best way to go. Here are a few thoughts on the pros and cons of mainstream versus self-publishing as they both go through it. Today, the issue is ‘why self-publishing? versus going with a mainstream publisher?’
Becky you are just six weeks away from publishing your first new adult novel Before He Was Famous (which is amazing by the way). Although you have been traditionally published in the past by HarperCollins you’re self-publishing this book. Why?
Well, having written three travel memoirs (mainly as an excuse to gallivant around the world for three years) I decided to finally follow my real passion and write fiction. However, I had a pretty mediocre experience with my mainstream publishers for the initial three books. They were all really nice, don’t get me wrong, but I realized that they could never give me as much help with marketing and selling as I needed, plus, I had zero control over who could read and review my book, who could buy it, or where people could get hold of it, which made anything I did myself seem exhausting and irrelevant.
I decided to read up on self publishing and launch my next books myself and I was so inspired by people like Colleen Hoover and Abbi Glines who’ve had huge success by just going for it! I thought, well, if they can do it, maybe I can too. And if it doesn’t work out, at least I can say I tried and learned a few things along the way. There’s literally endless amounts of advice and information out there. As soon as you read up on one thing, there are a hundred more things you find you should probably know about. I felt a bit like I’d taken myself back to college at first, a self-taught course on self-publishing. That’s how much info there is to brush up on! I found BookMarketingTools especially helpful – their videos are incredible and totally helped point me in the right direction. I’m sure I’ll talk about more as we go on.
Sarah, you have books out with two major publishing houses. Would you say you’re satisfied with the amount of input you’ve been allowed when it comes to selling and marketing, or has there been a time when you’ve wished you could take control more?
I’m on my fifth book now with S&S and my first novel with Pan Macmillan – Come Back To Me – is out in June. When my debut novel Hunting Lila came out with Simon & Schuster I was just so grateful and excited and had no clue as to how publishing worked so just went along with everything. They did quite a lot of PR and marketing and I was thrilled. But I very quickly realized that with so many authors on the list and a very small PR team that I had to start doing my own marketing too or I would sink pretty fast.
I am very active on Twitter and Goodreads and Facebook. I respond to all my fans and also engage a lot with bloggers who I really value (so much so that I dedicated The Sound to them!).
I have such good relationships now with YA bloggers in the UK and Australia that I tend to set up my own blog tours and I put shout outs on Twitter and FB when I need help promoting. I’m really lucky to have that means of getting word out. A single ‘Waiting on Wednesday’ post can get your book put on hundreds more shelves and your name in someone’s brain.
I’ve also been really inspired by you Becky. I see you every day working your butt off to get your book out there and let’s face it, over 1000 books are published each day, sometimes it feels like you’re shouting into a void. Even as a modestly well-known author I struggle to promote my books so if you’re trying to build a platform from scratch it’s not easy at all. Over the years I’ve definitely seen the level of PR and marketing dropping off. I often feel like I’m waiting for things to happen and like I need permission from the publisher, but now I’m just saying ‘screw it’ and doing it anyway and not waiting for them to make stuff happen.
A good example of this is I have started sending out E-copies of upcoming books to all my favorite bloggers. The publishers might upload it to NetGalley but there’s no saying if people will download it, and they may send out a dozen review copies but this just isn’t enough. It’s really only reviews that count at the end of the day. Hunting Lila did so well based on word of mouth on places like Goodreads where it garnered great reviews. So getting the book into the hands of those people who can sway opinion is really important.
Another thing I did was push very hard for press releases. With my upcoming YA book Out of Control I not only gave the PR team at S&S a strong angle to work with I also wrote a few paragraphs they could use, and out of that they managed to land me a feature in the Big Issue. So being pro-active is definitely worth it and I would never have been able to get that on my own.
“What I guess I’m saying is that I think nowadays to succeed within the traditional publishing industry you have to act like an indie author.”
You have to take control of your own PR and marketing while also working respectfully alongside the people working hard within your publisher to make you a success. I find that the publishing people I work with are really grateful and thrilled when they see you pushing yourself.
We’ll be blogging more on our self publishing versus mainstream experience as the weeks go by, so watch this space! If you have any questions, send us a message and we’ll do our best to answer.
Becky and Sarah xxx
Becky’s book ‘Before He Was Famous’ will be launching May 29th on Amazon. Add it to read on Goodreads now.