Today’s guest blog post is brought to you by ghostwriter, novelist and writing guide guru Andrew Crofts.
The Widest Range of Publishing Options Ever Available to Authors – But Who’s Going to Do the Marketing? by Andrew Crofts
Once upon a time there was really only one publishing option. If you couldn’t persuade a traditional publisher to make you an offer you pretty much had to give up on ever seeing your work move beyond manuscript stage. There was the possibility of “vanity publishing”, as self-publishing was known then, but the costs were exorbitant and without the internet it was virtually impossible to distribute and sell the resulting books beyond your own family circle.
Now however it is all different – up to a point.
As we speak, I am in the process of publishing several different books, one with the very traditional HarperCollins – (“Secret Child”, which I wrote with Gordon Lewis about his childhood in a home for single mothers in Dublin in the Fifties) – one with the selective, bespoke publisher Red Door – (“Chances”, an erotic love story which I ghosted for the author known only as “Penny”) – and one with Thistle Publishing, the enormously successful imprint run by literary agents Andrew Lownie and David Haviland, (“Pretty Little Packages” a novel about people-trafficking and modern slavery which was first published in 2001 under the title “Maisie’s Amazing Maids”, cover below).
The most obvious difference is in the offices they all inhabit. HarperCollins, being part of one of the biggest media corporations in the world, has just moved to a Thames-side tower block beside the Shard. The hushed, open-plan offices seem to stretch forever, merging into the view across the city below. Hundreds of young publishing people move silently amongst the white desks and glass meeting pods. Red Door, by contrast, happens in a converted barn behind the founder’s house. Clare Christian, who first set up and then sold The Friday Project, lives down the end of a seemingly ever-lasting lane, her family farm nestling beneath the picturesque South Downs. Meanwhile Thistle Publishing happens in Andrew Lownie’s elegant town house in a Dickensian street behind Westminster Abbey, from which he has been operating his extraordinarily successful literary agency for many years.
The first thought that occurs to me, therefore, is how many more books have to be sold to support a giant glass edifice beside the Thames than are needed to give a good living to a publisher or agent who works from home. I’ve published many books with HarperCollins however, and know that when they have their eye on the ball they are able to shift cartloads of the things into supermarkets around the country virtually overnight. The editors and publicity people who populate the shiny new glass pods are all as smart and market savvy as you would expect of employees of possibly the most voracious corporate titan in the world, but will they have time to concentrate on Secret Child when they have so many other books coming out at the same time?
So if all three can edit and design beautiful books, it all comes down to marketing muscle and public relations guile. Andrew Lownie and David Haviland, being agents, are both seasoned sales people who understand the publishing industry from grass roots upwards, including the absolute necessity to generate real sales if an author is to earn a living. Clare Christian worked at Hodder before she set out to build her own companies and is equally in touch with the realities of the marketplace.