Dilemmas, Dilemmas

It seems to me that a writer’s life is full of dilemmas. At the moment, my main one is whether to try going back to the traditional publishing route.

Apart from winning a £10,000 publishing prize some years ago, this is not an area where I’ve had a huge amount of success.

That prize came after years of trying – and failing – to get myself published, mostly back in the day when ebooks were still the realm of sci-fi imaginings.

I’d collected quite a number of the standard rejection letters. Many along the lines of: “Dear (insert name here), Your submission (insert title here) was read with interest but we do not feel we are the right agent/publisher for you.”

Then – in 2005 – I entered and won a national UK contest for new authors with The Tale of Findo Gask. As well as getting that very substantial prize, even more marvellous was the publishing contract that came with it.

Sadly, the company involved did next to nothing to promote my book and went out of business within a year or so. I never did understand their thinking. I was very glad to have the money but would have been equally delighted with a £100 prize and a few national newspaper ads to promote my book. That way we might both have ended up better off.

Findo made it onto Amazon but I’m not sure many copies were ever printed. I only ever got one royalty cheque and that certainly wasn’t huge.

So it was back to trying – and failing – to find a new publisher/agent. Over the following years my enthusiasm waxed and waned. Other things distracted me, like moving to Portugal to teach, setting off on a 10,000-mile tandem ride… but that’s another story.

In 2011, my wife bought me a Kindle for my birthday. I wasn’t sure I wanted one but we were still living in Portugal at the time and it was really hard getting English language books to keep up with my reading rate.

Later that year, having got used to my Kindle, I discovered Amazon’s self-publishing arm KDP. A revelation!

I must admit: I rather rushed in at the beginning, publishing a collection of my short stories and re-issuing Findo on Kindle. I didn’t take as much care as I should have done over anything: covers or content. I was just so happy to have people choosing to read my stories.

Since then, I’ve tried to get more professional about the whole process: proper editing, proofreading, decent covers etc. I’m selling books – and gathering some decent reviews – but sales are low. I’m a very long way off my ultimate ambition of becoming a fulltime writer.

The trouble is that so many other people have discovered self-publishing. Amazon is full of independent authors. Some of their books are superb, some are terrible. Many would be good if they were properly edited.

When I first turned to KDP, their five-day free book promotions were quite effective. Even without doing anything to promote your book, you could give away thousands of copies and then see actual sales in the following weeks as other readers clicked on those “people who bought this have also bought this” links.

Now, though, there are just so many free books out there – and so many websites vying for your money as they offer to promote your free days. When I put my novels on a promotion, they’re not just one among hundreds, they’re one among tens of thousands.

The reason for my current dilemma is that I don’t have the clout/know-how/money to effectively market my books on my own as an independent author.

Which is why, having just completed my latest novel, I’m seriously thinking of going back to the search for an agent/traditional publisher. (I’ll try not to get too depressed when my unsolicited manuscript disappears off into that horrible black hole!)

 Any advice or comments on the whole indy versus traditional dilemma are very welcome.

By the way. If anyone’s noticed that I haven’t been posting regularly on this site for a while, that’s because other things have taken over my life. Partly completing my latest book. Also a major revision for the novel now known as Waking Broken – more about this next Friday. Plus I’ve been spending a lot of time on my website on cycling in Portugal.

That’s the trouble with being an author. There are so many possible projects out there. Which one to choose?

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2 responses to “Dilemmas, Dilemmas”

  1. Jessica L. says :

    I’ve had the same dilemma recently, and opted for the traditional publishing route the next time/book around. It is so hard to stand out among so many indie/self-published writers today and it’s disheartening to spend so much time and effort marketing, sharing, and discussing one’s books and writing and not to have much to show for it–financially, brand-recognition, or otherwise.

    On the one hand, it is great that so many good writers are able to be heard through the magic of self-publishing and I say bravo to those who have found a way to be even moderately successful at it, but on the other, it’s frustrating that many good writers fall through the cracks of potential readers’ consciousness simply because of the lack of resources to be able to push their work(s) to the forefront.

    I don’t know if that helps at all, but I wanted to say at the least, I sympathize with your dilemma, and I hope you’re able to come to a decision that works out well for you.

    PS: Congrats on finishing the book! I’ll look forward to reading it when it comes out, wherever and whenever that may be!
    -J.L.

    • Huw Thomas says :

      Helps a lot! Didn’t think I would be alone but it’s always good to know others are having the same dilemmas.
      I’ll let you know how things go – and I’ll also definitely be posting news of the latest book, wherever and whenever it’s published!

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