For as long as I’ve wanted to write I’d hoped to one day sign with a literary agent. And then I did and it was nothing like I’d imagined. Possibly as a result of reading too many books set in the 1930s, I had this idea of literary agents as fatherly figures or blue-stockinged, strong minded ladies who maybe smoked too many cigarettes or took too many long lunches but knew the publishing industry inside and out. I thought they’d pick up my book and guide it, with a firm hand, out into the world. Perhaps that’d involve wining and dining the right editor, or shaking the right hand at a book fair, but sooner or later I’d have a book deal on the table.
Only it didn’t work out like that. I got a series of very polite rejections for the most baffling variety of reasons. One editor loved this about it but not that, the next turned it down because they enjoyed the rest of it, but hated what the first editor had loved. At the end of that my confidence, which is never high, had taken a total battering and whatever belief I’d had in Beltane had pretty much disappeared. And my faith in my agent was being shaken at the same time. They made promises they didn’t fulfill, often didn’t reply to emails until they’d been chased and, hardest to forgive, turned down two offers from publishers in the US without discussing them with me first.
Then last autumn my agent suggested that I publish Beltane through Amazon’s White Glove programme. White Glove is only available to people who have an agent and, I was told, is like an enhanced form of KDP and would allow access to Kindle Monthly Deals. Once I got started with it there was little evidence of the additional marketing support that I’d been promised. It turned out that Amazon had changed their rules, since we’d originally talked about it in the autumn, and books could only be nominated for Kindle Monthly Deals quarterly and I’d have to wait until the end of March to be nominated for spring promotions. But before that the price had to remain above £1.99 and it wasn’t possible to run any other promotions. Anyone who has self-published will be aware of how hard it is to generate interest in a debut. Being unable to drop the price below £1.99 it felt next to impossible, no matter how great my reviews were or how much time I spent on Twitter.
It took something else to happen for me to leave but the end result of all of this is that my agent and I have now parted company and I’ve been trying to re-orientate myself in a new world. I’m now with Fabrian Books. It’s lovely to be part of a small team but retain control of the way my book is sold and marketed.
Now I’ve arrived here, I’m wondering if it’s where I should have been all along. I’ve tried to play by the rules, doing things the traditional, approved way and it’s not worked. Perhaps I’m not cut out for dealing with the world of traditional publishing. What I’ve seen of it so far has not exactly impressed me. Coming from the certainties of the world of law it’s pretty hard for me to understand that everyone in publishing seems to be desperately searching for the holy grail of the next big thing, but can’t actually tell you what it is they’re looking for.
Watching someone mismanage your book is a very painful process. I never want to go through that again, so does that mean I’m now indie for life? I don’t know. I guess I need to try it and see. I felt really fed up earlier this week about it not working out with my agent, about the time wasted and the opportunities I could have taken if I’d not been locked into this route that was supposed to be the best one for publication. Thanks to the support of the other Write Romantics and an exercise at my yoga class about being upside down and looking at things that way (try it sometime, it really helps!) I’ve now been able to see that maybe I needed to try the agent route to find out that it wasn’t right for me.
Because of all of this, I’ve read Beltane again for the first time in about 2 years. What really hit me this time is that it’s a book about outsiders. Maybe it’s right that it’s now truly independently published.
Has your route to publication not worked out at all as you’d expected? If you’re happy to share them, I’d love to hear about your experiences.
Beltane is now published by Fabrian Books and is available here and is only 99p until the Summer Solstice on 20th June.