A Bright New Start for Beltane by Alys West

downloadFor 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.

Beltane new ebook coverNow 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.


16 thoughts on “A Bright New Start for Beltane by Alys West

  1. I suppose the lesson here is to be very careful what you sign up to. If an agent isn’t performing for you, you need to extract yourself ASAP. Thanks for posting and best of luck with the book.

    • Hi Pam
      Thanks for taking the time to comment and you’re absolutely right, about being careful what you sign up to. As I’m a lawyer in my day job I’m always counselling people to be really careful what they get into and I feel a bit of an idiot for not taking my own advice! I wish I’d left as soon as the doubts started to really crowd in but as I’d worked so hard to get to that point I kept telling myself I was better off with an agent than without.
      Thanks so much for the good wishes for Beltane.

    • Thanks so much Ellie. I’m already loving being part of Fabrian Books. It’s great to be part of such a great group of writers and to work with such lovely supportive people.
      I really hope you enjoy reading Beltane.

  2. Like Jackie, I loved Beltane. It deserves to be widely read and enjoyed by others, from the moment you outlined the plot to me in that coffee shop in Broadstairs, I knew it was something special. And it really is. I love the fact that you now correlate the outsiders angle of Beltane with its publishing route. It does seem, despite the convoluted journey it’s taken to get where you need to go, that it really is all meant to be 🙂 Congratulations my friend and I am sure this is just the start of an indie success story xx

    • Thanks Jo. It’s amazing what clarity you can get on a book when you go back to it after a long break. I couldn’t have got through the past couple of weeks without your support and encouragement so thanks for everything. You’ve been an absolute star!

  3. I love Beltane and I’m sure the readers will, its unique, individual & a cracking good read!! 🙂 I think the future for publishing now is in little, specialist, craftsman groups just like the write romantics! 🙂 x

  4. Sorry you had such a hard time, Alex – my friend always used to call these experiences AFLOs (another f***ing learning opportunity) – let’s hope for a smoother path ahead xxx

  5. I’m so disappointed for you that your dream didn’t work out as planned, but you have a different – and better – dream now. I’ve read Beltane twice now and loved it. My mum loved it too and neither of us have ever read anything in that genre before so amazing work on getting two newbies to the genre hooked in! I look forward to watching it soar up the charts under Fabrian. Big hugs xxx

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