I’ve had the privilege to connect with the lovely and talented children’s author Jemma and her clever children’s book ‘The Adventurers and the Cursed Castle’.
I was so amazed to hear about the process of writing and releasing her book (she turned down a publishing deal to publish independently!). I’ve worked with many authors and publishers and was so intrigued about how indie authors find their way.
I’ll let Jemma tell you in her own words…
Why did I turn down a publishing agreement? Isn’t that what every unpublished author dreams of?
Yes and no. All the arts industries are changing, anyone can release their own song, publish a book, upload a film on YouTube… being a creator has never been more accessible. Yet thousands of writers still send their work to agents and publishers, waiting weeks, months, sometimes even years, hoping to receive a letter or email with the magic words that someone wants to publish or represent their work.
Early on when I completed the first draft and edit of The Adventurers and The Cursed Castle (which had a different title back in those days), I wrote to a few literary agents – all of whom either didn’t reply or politely declined my manuscript without offering any feedback. And I get it – having worked in a recruitment firm many years ago I know what it’s like to receive lots of applications which you don’t have much time to read, with no time to write back to everyone individually. Most of the big publishers only accept manuscripts through agencies, so I wrote directly to a few smaller publishers. I was a lot more encouraged by the responses from these organisations – even though a couple declined, their emails showed that they had read my sample chapters in full and they took the time to comment on what they liked and what could be better (the latter really helped me refine and improve my manuscript).
One day one of these small independent publishing firms asked to see my whole manuscript and about a month later, offered me a publishing agreement. It was a ‘hybrid’ deal – they were asking for a small amount of my money to contribute towards the publishing costs, in return for a royalty rate roughly three times higher on paperbacks than large publishers tend to offer. There’s lots of warnings out there about ‘vanity publishers’ – companies that ask authors to pay them to publish their books. These companies usually charge the author thousands of pounds to publish their book. I didn’t feel like the company that offered me a deal was a vanity publisher – firstly, the contribution they wanted from me was very small (about one quarter of what I went on to spend publishing my book independently) and secondly, I had reached out to a couple of authors who had worked with them and neither gave me the impression that this company had ripped them off.
So why did I turn it down? By this point I had already started researching what it would take to publish independently. I had made connections with people who had published their own books very successfully already and was in touch with industry professionals who were offering their services on a freelance basis for editing, proof-reading and cover design. (I can do another post if there’s interest on publishing independently, but the bottom line is never try to do it all yourself – the end result will end up being rubbish!)
I asked the publishing firm a lot of questions – about their marketing strategy, the cover, pricing, distributors that they used, etc. They readily answered my questions but two things became clear – 1. they had a different vision for my product than I had, and 2. although they seemed very happy to work with me, by signing this deal I’d be handing over control for some of the most important decisions about my product to someone else. One of the main sticking points for me was the cover design. I had an image in my mind of the illustration I wanted, whereas the publishing firm wanted to create a cover using stock photos. Stock photos can look good on teenage books, romances and other adult novels – but I really wanted an illustrated cover for my children’s book. This would be my first time putting a product out there – out into the wild– and it was going to have my name on it! So how it looked was extremely important to me.
You can find this delightful children’s book at booksellers all over the UK and on Amazon. Make sure to go to Jemma’s author website JemmaHatt.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.
Here’s a little snippet of the book…
A mysterious curse has stricken Kexley Castle for generations ever since Egyptian treasure was transported to Cornwall by a 19th Century explorer. Can four young adventurers reveal the secrets that have been hidden for over a hundred years?
Join Lara, Rufus, Tom and Barney in their first exciting adventure together as they unravel the mystery and race to find Captain Jack Kexley’s hiding place. To succeed, they must discover and solve a series of clues left by their ancestor, ahead of two unwelcome visitors from the British Museum who are determined to get there first!