Bestselling author Michelle Jackson writes about the two sides of publishing and why she thinks there is room for both:
I am a hybrid author; someone who is traditionally published yet has self-published ebook editions and titles. The term is usually given to authors who self-publish first, then a traditional publisher prints hard copies after the book has proven successful. Some very talented authors have been picked up this way who received rejection before.
The snobbery around self-publishing started to disappear as authors and publishers realised that self-publishing accounts for one-fifth of all ebook sales in the UK. My novels have been published traditionally by Poolbeg Press and I have learned much from going through the process with my wonderful editor Gaye Shortland. I am fortunate to have my work translated by publishers in Portugal, Holland and Germany among others. For readers who love the smell and feel of a book it is imperative that books are still published in hard copy. But it’s important to remember that the launch of the ipod didn’t stop music from being produced on CD but it has changed the music industry and the book industry has undergone the same transformation.
After publication of my last novel for Poolbeg I decided to take a break from writing novels for a while. I wanted to travel to find new inspiration for my next book. But I received a lot of lovely emails from readers, asking when my next book would be available. So I rooted through my files and found a bottom drawer book that I had written before my first book was traditionally published. It had a working title of ‘When in Rome’ but with my theme of numbers and places I changed it to ‘7 Wishes in Rome’ and popped it up on the Amazon Kindle Store. I’m glad that I did because it was my best selling book on Amazon last year.
The break has served me well and I’ve found a new career writing travel features for the Sunday newspapers in the process. On my travels I went to Oklahoma and found the inspiration for my new novel ‘Journey to the Heartland’ which is currently under submission to traditional publishers through my agent Tracy Brennan. ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ was a huge influence for me and travelling to an off-beat destination like Oklahoma made me write about different themes to my other books. It took me a lot longer to write this book too, but it was nice to be able to self-publish while working on it.
I couldn’t let the centenary of the Easter Rising pass without doing something to commemorate it. What more obvious way could I do this than to write some stories? ‘Tales of a Century’ is a book of short stories that I wrote over a three month period. I had never written an historical story and I wanted to try it. I knew already that I enjoyed writing stories set in the fifties and sixties as I love listening to my parent’s tales of what life was like for them. So I only had to fill the gap with some other memorable occasions in Irish history, the eighties I remember too well and I had some other short stories that had never seen the light of day so they filled in the gaps. Being able to put out your book exactly when you want and being able to use a story that would never have been read otherwise is another benefit of self-publishing.
In practical terms there are two important things to remember when self-publishing − get a good editor and a good book cover. It is annoying for readers to spot typos or errors while reading a book and that’s why even the very best authors in the world need editors and proof-readers. A good book cover will draw the reader’s eye to your book but in order for it to be noticed on the Amazon search engine you must tag it properly. Linking it to tags like fiction may not be as successful as something like family saga which has a smaller pool of titles to get up the charts. Once your book starts to move up the charts it will do better. Some authors give their book free for a short time to get it out there. When this works it is great, however your book is at risk of being picked up by a free ebook site and it is difficult to get it removed thereafter.
Self-publishing is not an option that suits all authors – some prefer to write their book and hand it straight over to the publisher to do the rest of the work. But it means that authors have a choice. I enjoy marketing my books and any self-published author will tell you the importance of social media. If you don’t tweet or Facebook or Instagram then how will you get your ebook out there? Even traditional publishers will insist that their authors use social media to interact with readers and promote their books.
Publishers still have a very important part to play in the process but times have changed. Ebooks are here to stay and it is up to authors and publishers to use this technology wisely so that it functions to everyone’s advantage, author, publisher and reader.
(c) Michelle Jackson
About Tales of a Century
Ireland is one hundred years old and to commemorate the centenary of Easter Rising 1916 Michelle Jackson has written a collection of short stories reflecting real women’s lives through the decades. Starting in 1916, she takes different characters through the fifties and mass emigration, the troubles of the seventies and the decadence of the new millennium. This collection of eight short stories about Irish women is for any one with an interest in Ireland.
Michelle Jackson’s new book of short stories Tales of a Century 1916-2016 is now available on online here!