The agent liked my novel – El Niño. Original voice. Great story. All that. Reckoned we’d have it on the shelves in every major bookshop in the next 18 months. We’d get an upfront fee and then a percentage of the sales. He’d be taking 10% of everything. The shops would want a cut of 52.5% and the Publishing House would take 40% of everything left. There’d be handling charges, design costs, PR and Marketing and delivery costs.
Think about it like this, he said, your book sells for €10 in a shop and you’re lucky to get 10 cents. But you’re getting your name out there, recognised as an author. That’s priceless for your career going forward.
Either way, it didn’t happen. The publishers didn’t want to take a risk with a new writer. The big hits these days are Cook books, Travel Writing, Non fiction and Sports. None of that here, Mick.
‘So what do I do?’
‘We’ll just have to see how it goes.’
The worse thing you can do as a writer is wait to ‘See how it goes….’ It’s a euphemism all the untalented cowboys use to hang on to your work in case it accidentally becomes a hit and they can claim a percentage. Meanwhile, your most creative years are sailing by in dead hope. I respected the agent for trying but after that: Fuck them.
Time to move on.
Found a crowd in Dublin. They’d publish it. No problem. How does a fee of €2,000 sound? We’ll design it, format it, print it and give you 400 copies for yourself. Normally, this would be a risk but I was running my own theatre company too and I knew I could sell the books after the Plays. Go for it, lads.
They had a designer and he’d suggest cover ideas or you could provide an image yourself and he’d do the edits. It’s a Crime Novel so I wanted something catchy to the eye, something that tells the story. My mate Tom Page was living in Florida and he knew a gun fanatic so I asked him to take some pictures and send them over. Eventually we got the right one and I sent it to the publishers. After some debate on the blurb and some final checks on the manuscript, it was ready to go. The whole process took about four weeks and, when finished, it looked like this:
I sold all the books for €10 in about a month. That covered the cost of publishing and returned a profit a lot greater than 10 cents a copy. It also vindicated the quality of the novel. For all the people that tell you to your face they like your work – the only true measure is what people will pay for it. If they’re buying it, then you have something.
Traditional publishers/Editors/Agents will scream at you to stay away from Indie Publishing. They call it “Vanity” or “Desperation” or “Outright Scams.” This is because you’re cutting them out. Circumventing their business model. Making them obsolete. Of course they’re abhorred. Saying that, if you do publish yourself it’s essential to do your own research. Order a book from the company you’re considering. Test it for quality. Ask yourself: Is this the experience I want my readers to have when buying my book?
Eventually, my relationship with this company did go wrong. But it was ultimately a positive thing. I discovered CreateSpace.
I’ll talk about this in another post tomorrow. Meanwhile, feel free to check out my published work at the links below.
Novel – El Niño (in Paperback).
El Niño is the exciting debut novel from Mayo man, Mick Donnellan. Slick, stylish and always entertaining, the story is a rollercoaster of drama and tension that hasn’t been seen in Irish fiction for a very long time. Charlie is our protagonist, the pick pocket that steals El Nino’s wallet and then falls in love with her. She’s the wild femme fatale, beautiful; enigmatic and seductive. She rocks Charlie’s world with her smoky wiles and drinking ways and her tough girl ideals. This is Noir at its best. Dark and edgy with crisp fresh dialogue and a plot that engages the reader from the first line and keeps them up all night – right through to it’s powerful finish.