Indie, Traditional or Both? The Drowning Isle by Simon McCleave | Magazine | Crime | Interviews
The Drowning Isle

By Simon McCleave

The Drowning Isle: The completely gripping new crime thriller from the author of the bestselling Snowdonia DI Ruth Hunter series (The Anglesey Series, Book 4).

In 2019 my growing frustration with trying to get my book The Snowdonia Killings traditionally published had led me to the brink of giving up all hope. The interminable wait for a series of polite ‘rejection’ letters from Literary Agents and publishers, no response from others, meant that I had nowhere else to go. Or so I thought.

But then I came across a series of articles about the self-publishing revolution. I spent the next six months taking self-publishing courses, reading books and listening to podcasts. I treated this time as if I was taking a degree in how to publish a book independently. If I was going to try this route, I needed to hit the ground running.

In January 2020, I pressed ‘publish’ on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and sat back, assuming that I would sell a dozen or so copies to friends and family and continue my job as a secondary school teacher. However, something very strange happened. The Snowdonia Killings started to sell hundreds of copies. Then thousands. Eventually The Snowdonia Killings hit the No. 1 spot in the Amazon UK Chart! I repeated the process with a second book, The Harlech Beach Killings, and the sales continued to grow.

Since then, I’ve written eighteen book in this Snowdonia series and four prequels. And I’ve sold two million books. I still have to sometimes pinch myself.

I now class myself as an indie publisher. I have my own publishing company, Stamford Publishing, and employ a PA, a cover designer, two advertising and marketing consultants and an editor / proof reader. It would be hard to classify this as ‘self-publishing’.

The advantages of this publishing model are numerous. I have complete creative control over my books. I write the books that I want with no editorial interference whatsoever. Having worked for many years in television and film, both in development and as a writer, this kind of creative freedom is both exciting and liberating. Even though my book cover designer is very talented, I also have final say on my books covers and blurb.  

When it comes to advertising, marketing and PR, I oversee all strategies, design and budgets. There are lots of ‘balls to juggle’ or ‘plates to spin.’ It’s hard work and very time-consuming, especially in the early days when I had no help. But the creative and financial rewards of this indie model can be considerable.

In time traditional publishers came knocking, contacting my agent and enquiring if I would be interested in a publishing deal in 2021. Many of my fellow indie crime writing friends, who had worked with traditional publishers it the past, advised me not to sign. However, after careful thought, I realised that there were some substantial advantages to having a traditional publishing deal. Plus, I write very fast, so I could see that I could keep writing my own series at the same time.

I look at having a traditional deal almost as ‘a loss leader’. Financially, a book advance doesn’t compare favourably to the sales income from my indie books. However, it does open doors to new readers that I can’t ever reach as an indie publisher.

The Dark Tide, the first book that I wrote for Avon (Harper Collins), was picked to be Waterstones Welsh Book of the Month. That saw me whisked around to book signings at every Waterstones in Wales. In Too Deep, the second series, was sold in Tesco and WH Smith. I’ve also attended various literary crime festivals – Crime Fest, Newcastle Noir, Bloody Scotland. There is still a fair amount snobbery in the publishing world when it comes to indie publishers. Despite knowing at least a dozen indie authors who have sold more than a million books, there are still some who believe that these writers and their books are somehow inferior.

While writing my series for Avon, and a one-off psychological drama for Storm publishing, I’ve encountered some fantastic editors. Working with them has undoubtedly improved my writing, as well as providing a more collaborative environment to work in. The world of an indie author can sometimes be a little solitary. And, despite what I’ve said about the indie model, it is also sometimes nice to hand over the cover design, marketing, advertising, PR and budgets to someone else and focus just on writing the book.

So, now I’m classed as a hybrid author. Part indie, part traditional. I know how lucky I am to be able to juggle these two publishing worlds. The former allows me a wonderful creative freedom and control, and is lucrative enough for me to earn a decent living. The other enables me access to new readers, a broader retail market, festivals, national media, and I get to work with some fantastic creative people who inspire and encourage me to be a better writer.

It allows me to work with some of the best.

(c) Simon McCleave

Author photograph (c) Stephen Cain

About The Drowning Isle:

The Drowning Isle

On a remote island, there’s nowhere to run…

When a teenage boy goes missing on a camping trip with his friends, the close-knit community of Anglesey is shaken. DI Laura Hart is brought in to lead the murder investigation and instantly feels the pressure, not least because her colleague’s son was the last to see the missing boy alive.

Laura’s investigations force her to delve into the tangled web of relationships and personal lives of her own neighbours. The trail leads her to uncover a religious cult called The Fair Men, who locals say have a dark history and still hold their ceremonies on the island where the boys were camping. But could it be that yet more secrets are hidden behind closed doors?

Amongst all the mysteries and lies, Laura is sure about one thing: the island will not give up the truth easily…

A pulse-pounding, atmospheric crime thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Perfect for fans of L.J. Ross, Ann Cleeves, Elly Griffiths and Val McDermid.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Simon is a million selling crime novelist. His first book, ‘The Snowdonia Killings’, was released in January 2020 and soon became an Amazon Bestseller, reaching No 1 in the Amazon UK Chart and selling over 300,000 copies. His twelve subsequent novels in the DI Ruth Hunter Crime Thriller Series have all been Amazon Best Sellers and many have hit the top of the UK Digital Chart. He has sold over 1.5 million books since 2020.

The Ruth Hunter Snowdonia books are currently in development as a television series to be filmed on location in North Wales in 2023.

SImon also has a very successful crime series set on Anglesey with Harper Collins (Avon). ‘The Dark Tide’, the first of the series, was the highest ever selling Waterstones’ Welsh Book of the Month.

Simon McCleave was originally born in South London. When leaving University, he worked in television and film development. He was a Script Editor at the BBC, a producer at Channel 4 before working as a Story Analyst in Los Angeles. He worked on films such as ‘The Full Monty’ and television series such as the BBC Crime Drama ‘Between The Lines’.

Simon then became a script writer for television and film. He wrote on series such as Silent Witness, Murder In Suburbia, Teachers, Attachments, The Bill, Eastenders and many more. His film, ‘Out of the Game’ for Channel 4 was critically acclaimed – ‘An unflinching portrayal of male friendship.’ (Time Out)

Simon lives in North Wales with his wife and two children.

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