I went to the above festival recently and made 100+ pages (fortunately only A5) of notes so I thought I’d share them with you. Today is the second instalment and because of the quantity, it’ll be pretty much as I wrote it (not word for word but paraphrasing) so my apologies if it feels fragmented. You can read part 1 here.
The Good Old Days –10.30am Friday 18th July 2014
MW: How did you get published?
JO: I self-published, some short stories that had been shortlisted in competitions but not published and sold c.350,000 copies in eight months. I wanted to be ‘properly published’ but kept getting knocked back but then when I did well Penguin approached me.
MS: I was rejected for nine years, including some great personal rejections, so I self-published in December 2011 and it took off. My goal, like JO, was to be traditionally published. My agent took one of my books to the London Book Fair in 2013 and it was picked up (went to auction).
ME: I was on TV in the late 1990s about aspiring writer. I met my collaborator Louise (Voss). It was picked up by the BBC for TV but not published. We put it on Kindle and it got to no.1. It was then picked up by Harper Collins but didn’t get into the shops so we thought that was that so we self-published ‘The Magpies’ which sold around 250,000 copies. I was in debt at the time as I’d given up my day job when taken on by HC but ‘The Magpies’ paid off my debt.
MH: I tried the traditionally published route and came very close to getting an agent and publishing deal. I went with a small press but got the feeling it wasn’t going to plan and was then advised that they couldn’t publish it within the contracted time by which time I’d spent the advance. Every writer needs an agent. Even when I got mine it wasn’t easy as my main character is gay. Her book was published in Germany first and got more polite rejections through her agent.
MW: Was published in 1998 “not that anyone noticed”. How important is it having an editor?
MS: I was too close to my work and learned by my mistakes. I have six beta readers (my mum’s my biggest critic). I do four drafts before anyone else sees them.
MW: I roll around the floor agonising over my drafts!
ME: There’s a lot of dross out there. When writing with Louise, we edit each other’s writing.
MS: Early copies of one of my books had a prologue but I took it out because I had it pointed out to me that it gave away the plot.
JO: I offered a free second book if anyone spotted any mistakes in the first one.
MH: I also write scripts so I’ve been told my writing is very visual.
MW: The pricing structure is very different with Kindle versus paperbacks and with the former there seems to be a “race to the bottom”.
ME: My eBooks are £3.99 and I’ve begged my publisher to lower the price so I’d sell more and proportionally make more profit.
MW: There’s a war going on between traditional and self-publishing with the latter reducing the former’s profits. What will we do when Amazon kills traditional publishing?
MH: I don’t think they will. There’s too much pleasure from browsing at a bookshop.
JO: I sell twice as many paperbacks than eBooks. I’ve been in publishing for 20 years and it’s always been in crisis.
Questions were then invited from the audience.