Claire King

Author

Tick Followed Tock

Posted on: February 3rd, 2011 by Claire - 28 Comments

I’ve had a few conversations this month with Indie Authors who are baffled by my willingness to sign up for a 2013 (yes, a full two years away) launch of my debut novel.

The main question is “Why Wait?” –  Not why I decided to stop approaching other publishers (who may have offered a 2012 launch) when I got the offer from Bloomsbury, but why, in this day and age, I could wait so long. If I had chosen the Indie Author route, I could have my work out there, being read by others and making money (hopefully) six months from now.

That is a really good question, but first, this:

For me, making the decision to wait is a mix of heart and mind. The heart part is easier to explain because the rational part of the decision still offers more questions than answers. Here are some of the questions that concern me, as an author, and which have guided my decision:

  • The number of books being published is increasing rapidly, but what is happening to the number of books being purchased or read? Is it keeping pace?
  • If not, does supply vastly outstripping demand mean a strong downward pressure on prices and if so is this across all books, or does it depend on how they are published?
  • In this context, what is the best way to get a literary novel to market, to ensure the widest readership and the most royalties? Is this different to genre fiction?
  • What are my aspirations as a writer?
  • Can I do this alone? Do I have enough money, do I have enough experience?

I’d also really like to point you to this excellent article here, about literary fiction, advances and e-books.

Is there a right answer or is it horses for courses? I’d love to hear your points of view on this.

28 Responses

  1. Diane Becker says:

    My instinct would be to happily wait till 2013! Gives you time to carry on writing next novel with lovely feeling that the first one’s with an amazing publisher. I don’t think there’s ever any rush if the package is good. There’s too much rushing around – good things take time – bit like slow cooking 🙂 x

    • claire says:

      I do love the fact that I’m not pressured for time to have the second novel on the table (although I’m working on it, of course). Also that there’s more time for edits, translations and reviews etc. I can’t deny that it would be lovely to see it in the shops this Christmas, but as you say, it would also be lovely if there were a delicious stew ready for my lunch right now. Ah well, I shall make a sandwich…

  2. Peter Labrow says:

    I agree with Dianne. I opted to self-publish for the first novel just to create some momentum and awareness, to test the market, that kind of thing. But I’d happily sign up with a publisher for a 2013 publishing date – and use the time to get the next couple of novels churned out.

  3. Christopher says:

    I was going to say exactly the same thing Diane said. Carry on writing your second novel now.

    Bloomsbury. Wowsers. That’s fantastic.

  4. Pete says:

    It is a long time but it means that you can write now so there’s less pressure when you start the rounds of publicity etc to churn out the follow up quickly if you’ve got the second one well underway / done. Also gives you time to learn how the business side of publishing works rather than just being carried along by the tide.

  5. Glynis Smy says:

    Congratulations!

    I would be happy to sit and wait until 2013. As said before, you can concentrate on your other wip’s.

  6. Effie says:

    Why are people even asking this question?
    A publishing deal with Bloomsbury? Too right I’d wait, should I ever be lucky enough for them to take me.
    Good luck!

    • claire says:

      Well, part of it is impatience, but I suspect there is another part which is about the changes in the market, the shift into e-books and the uncertainty over what happens next in trade publishing?
      Also of course, the process of finding an agent and a publisher can be so long and soul destroying for many…the idea of two years to wait on top of all that must seem an awfully long gestation.

  7. Hi Claire
    Thanks for the invite to your blog.

    Just as an intro, I’m heavily into the ‘indie’ scene right now. I’ve got two self-pubbed collections of short fiction, and two charity non-fiction titles I’ve published for friends.

    My history is in short stories. My idea was to come into ‘big’ writing via success in short story writing, by being published in posh literary magazines, winning literary competitions, and finally by winning the Bridport.

    Alas, few of those things happened. In fact, very few. Especially the Bridport bit. And to be honest with you, I lost a bit of faith in my writing. I was too impatient to write a truly *good* literary fiction short. I’ve revisited some of my very early work, and my word, does it stink. Righteously.

    However, through the magic of Kindle and associated hangers-on, I’ve discovered the joy of people, who aren’t me, reading my work. What a great buzz it is. So much so, that I’m working on one of my (many) discarded novels, rewriting from the beginning, knowing that I can take few risks, and within a day or so of me saying “finished”, it’s going to be out there. There’s more drivel like this on my blog: http://geraldhornsby.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/why-self-publish/

    Having said all that, I’m happy for Claire. As far as I can tell, Bloomsbury are a good house to be with. We had two of their authors and the local Bloomsbury sales guy at a literary festival we helped organise last year. Great people, fantastic chat, interesting discussions. If I were younger, and had the talent Claire has, this would definitely be the way I would go.

    Although the ebook market, and the huge explosion in indie publishing, is in its relative infancy, some things are becoming a little clearer. Genre fiction works in indie. Hot genre fiction (vampires, vampire romance, fantasy) definitely works well in indie. But who knows how long the hot fads are going to last? And if a 2 year lead time is the norm, will everyone be fed up to the back teeth with vampires by then? No one knows. But literary fiction? I know an indie literary fiction author who’s struggling a little to sell her books. They’re very good, great writing, and deserve a much wider audience, but she’s thinking there isn’t a market for dark literary fiction. But there is a chance she’s being influenced by the sales figures of indie authors in hot genres, and thinking that she’s not doing very well.

    And, as with all things commercial, you can build the best mousetrap but no one’s going to buy it unless they know about it. There’s one thing that big publishing houses do well, and that’s marketing. And distribution. Okay, so that’s two things. But if you’re writing literary fiction with the intention of making a long career out of it, then at this point in time, you need to be with a big publisher. You’ll get the right publicity, you’ll get the submissions to awards, and they’ll build you a following. No question.

    Changes in the traditional way of doing business, with the problems that Borders are having in the US, is a concern, however. There’s a semi-anarchic frisson passing through the indie crowd at the moment, and any sign that big publishing is struggling is pounced on and held aloft, with much chanting and dancing with glee. It’s not nice to see, and there’s some sour grapes (in the form of rejection letters, I’m sure) being pressed into sour wine.

    So, to broadly answer the questions (there were questions?)
    a) for a literary fiction writer, ‘going indie’ might not be a good decision just now. If you could just work a vampire or a zombie or a fantasy land into your book, you could be made.
    b) 2 years is still a hell of a long time. Did Blair have to wait two years for his book to come out?
    c) Loved the video – very apposite
    d) Patience is a virtue. I’m not virtuous, or patient, but books will be around in some form or another for decades to come. Having the right backing can only be a good thing.
    e) Sorry to go on
    f) I wish you the very best. Would you like to come to our literary festival?

    • claire says:

      Gerald,
      Thank you so much for your articulate and comprehensive comments. I really appreciate your insights.
      Blair, of course didn’t have to wait 2 years, but then he already has a (teensy tiny) platform!
      The fabulous Vanessa Gebbie has just signed with Bloomsbury too. Her novel, which is very topical, will be launched November this year and it’s all steaming ahead.
      So I will make sure over the next couple of years that I learn from her experience and also cultivate my patience!
      Of course I’ll come to your literary festival. Could you wait until 2013?
      😉

      • Re: festival. I’ll just have to try to learn the value of patience from you! Tick, followed Tock, and all that.

        Vanessa’s a splendid writer too – I remember her from A Certain Bootcamp. I’ll look forward to reading hers whilst I wait (patiently) for yours 😉

  8. It’s Bloomsbury! I’d have waited too… and those who have said that it buys you some time to work on your next project are very right, I think. How often do we hear of new authors under pressure to get the next one out quicker than they’re ready to do so?

    And in case I didn’t already say so: huge congratulations!

  9. The Fabulous Vanessa here – (thank you, but I just checked, and my husband says you must be thinking of the other Vanessa…)

    I am in the hugely fortunate position of having been published by one of the largest indies (Salt Publishing) until now – so have a perspective on both that and what’s happening so far, with Bloomsbury.

    If it is ££ you are after, whether in the form of advances or royalties – an indie may not pay the first at all, and the second will be generally less than mainstream. Salt did not pay any advances. And the royalties are structured to give them a cash-flow breather – ie, we wait for more than a year…
    They have no dedicated marketing team, no sales force. No reps. No-one to footslog into shops, libraries, or to try to get you into festivals. Unless you are very very lucky and someone rings them wanting a writer…

    That is the indie reality. You have your books, and they are beautiful. You then have to become marketeer, salesperson, rep (if you have the balls…). You have to organise gigs, readings, interviews, reviews…get the books in, (at a discount of course) – and sell them.

    It is a very very good training ground – and I would not have been without it for the world.

    But the downside is, you have no time for the thing you are best at – writing.

    You have the best of all possible worlds- a great publisher wanting your work, time to write the next… time, time time.

    vx

  10. William Topek says:

    Things are changing rapidly in the industry (or so we are being told), but at this stage in the game, I’d happily go the route you’ve taken. If there’s a decent advance, and if I know there’ll be a professional marketing campaign for my book when it does come out, I’d have no problem writing and waiting.

  11. Hi Claire,
    I’m with effie and several of the others. A deal with Bloomsbury – heck – it’s worth waiting for.

    I self-published – no regrets – but I did the rounds of agents and publishers first -no joy. There were a few good reasons I decided to go it alone.

    But if I was to be offered a trad publishing deal for future work, I’d sign on the dotted and wait the alloted time for launch day.

    All the best – and like you say two years will pass very quickly.

    Anne

  12. I’m going Indie because my book is too topical to wait…

    As far as literary fiction not doing well, big houses doing sufficient marketing, and royalties from self-publication being less that mainstream, my research has found the opposite of all three.

    Still, the time to write the next one is a critical factor. I’m “lucky” enough to be on a small military pension. So, writing and promoting can share the 14 hours a day that is the work I’m doing in my retirement 🙂

  13. Vanessa said:
    “That is the indie reality. You have your books, and they are beautiful. You then have to become marketeer, salesperson, rep (if you have the balls…). You have to organise gigs, readings, interviews, reviews…get the books in, (at a discount of course) – and sell them.”

    But isn’t that the old indie reality? When there was little, or no, online networking? We read the tales every week of authors selling thousands – no, tens of thousands, of books every month without doing any gigs, readings, interviews (except online), etc etc. It is possible to become a huge best seller online. Even if you’re not in the rarified air of the Konraths, Hockings, Sullivans, et al, there’s still a decent dollar to be made by being an independent author. If that’s what you want. You won’t get the recognition – Amanda Hocking has sold half a million books, but the New York Times doesn’t feature her in their bestsellers list. Why? Could it be because she’s an independent author?

    As I said before, to launch and build a career as an author, and to be recognised in the traditional literary community, you need to go the traditional route. If all you want to do is to sell some books, then indie is certainly worth a look. IMO.

  14. Well, absolutely, Gerald (hello!), but who is going to do all the necessary ‘networking’ – which taketh time, time time?

    And nope, this is the reality of working with the biggest indie in the UK, with whom I have had three books in the last three years, blessem. They have a brilliant website and online ‘shop’, (orders taken and pushed through an despatched by the person who answers the phone, who is editorial assistant, and other multi-taskings). They get the books onto Amazon. But unless the writers DO things and more things to sell the books, they will sit on a shelf…and ‘by do things, I include all the online necessaries – websites, upkeep of blogs, organising blog tours, using social sites, endless emails as well as physical paper marketing campaigns…

    Tell you who does it all..the writer. From repeated experience, it takes as long if not longer to respond with care to a list of questions for an online interview as it does to sit on a stage and natter to a colleague at a literary festival… or perhaps, longer… the result is going online in perpetuity, and you have to get every word right, make sure you say everything you can about all you can, in the right way.
    One comment on one website will not sell your ‘thousands’ of books… my feeling is that you need to be fairly obsessive to be very successful at it.
    And sure, the tales are there of those who make their sales in the thousands. We don’t hear of the vast underbelly of the iceberg who as yet, haven’t cracked it, because there is nothing to hear.

    Some fairly well known authors are, we hear, using Twitter, by proxy. Clever, clever people. Paying someone else to do the work, while they – guess what – squirrel themselves away somewhere and write.

    Sorry to quasi-hijack the thread, Claire. The message remains – I think you done the right thing, girl!!

    • claire says:

      Hi Vanessa The Fabulous (just going on what I’ve heard)
      You’re not hijacking the thread at all, it’s just the sort of discussion I wanted to provoke because it’s very relevant to writers now. There are choices, and I think it’s critical that writers weigh them up and make informed decisions.
      For me what’s coming out of all this for me is the value of time. I wrote The Night Rainbow whilst still full time parenting and holding down two part time jobs, both of which are self-employed and one of which takes me away from home for long stretches. The Night Rainbow was written mostly on trains, during the little one’s nap time or after midnight. So many people I know write this way – in scraps of time squirrelled from busy lives. I’m very glad I did it, but I’m also VERY glad that now the littlest is at school 4 days a week, and I have a good window of time to get the next book as good or better, without having to devote huge amounts of effort to publicising book 1.
      I just had a look at Amanda Hocking’s site – so brilliant for her to be enjoying so much success so young. But it does make me tend to agree with you, Vanessa – I bet she’s time-rich and devotes the lion’s share of her time to the writing/marketing/networking.
      Maybe in 20 years time…

  15. Huge congratulations on your deal! This is wonderful news. I don’t consider it be a shockingly long wait. My publisher (also Bloomsbury) said it takes at least a year to go from final edited manuscript to book-on-shelves. So adding in time for structural editing, copy editing etc – your two-year wait doesn’t seem all that unusual. They also seem to prefer to publish debut authors in spring or summer rather than in autumn or winter…

  16. Eiry Thomas says:

    Congratulations Claire. I look forward to reading the book as much as your shared insight. It is tough out there and it’s good to share thoughts and experiences, especially when starting out on an alternative path as I am doing. The purpose of this post is not to bring attention to that however, but if my experience adds anything of interest at a later stage, I will gladly share it.

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