Diana is the author of more than 40 books for children including the successful Pony-Mad Princess series. She also runs Wordpool and Contact an Author. There Must Be Horses is her first novel for older readers.
But the book took a long time to write and that time coincided with the biggest changes in publishing since I first became an author, more than 20 years ago.
As the writing progressed, I realised two things. Firstly, this was going to be the best book I had ever written.
Secondly, I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to hand it over to a traditional publisher.
Like many of my writing friends, I was experimenting with using Kindle Direct Publishing to bring new life to out-of-print work. I was also toying with self publishing a book I’d never managed to sell. The real test of this brave new world would be to self publish a book I was sure I could sell conventionally if I wanted to. But did I have the courage to try?
MONEYIt was a hard decision involving lots of thought, nailbiting and finger crossing plus some important financial calculations.
A traditional publisher would give me an advance of royalties and take on all the risks and expense of editing, design, production and marketing. Publishing myself would mean taking on those costs and risks myself and kissing goodbye to the advance. However, if and when the book sold, I would get to keep all the profits on each copy – an amount far exceeding normal royalties. And I would receive that money far sooner. No more waiting six to nine months for a royalty statement.
CONTROLBut money wasn’t the most important issue for me. More than anything, I wanted to keep control of my book and not let anyone spoil it.
I didn’t want to work with an editor who didn’t understand my writing style. I didn’t want to be told to change the name of my main character to something more popular and I absolutely definitely didn’t want the cover to be pink. The thought of possible fights ahead made me cringe. I’d had them before with other books and knew how stressful they could be.
Self publishing would let me choose my own editor and have total say on the cover. The book would be published exactly the way I wanted it, and I’d only have myself to blame if it didn’t sell.
FREEDOMTraditional publishing would also involve a traditional publishing contract and I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to sign one. Over the last twenty years, contracts have become longer, more complicated and more restrictive. In particular, the non-competing works clause has changed from a simple, quite reasonable way to stop you producing an abridgement or other version of the same story for a different publisher to a swingeing restriction on trade that sets out to stop you writing anything that might compete with this one book.
I once pointed out to a publisher that their wording meant I couldn’t write another book for the same market without their permission and was told that was exactly what they intended.
As a result, I walked away from that deal and now I had the chance to walk away from non-competing works clauses completely. Self publishing would give me the freedom to write whatever I fancied in the coming years.
SECURITYBig changes in any industry cause casualties. Few typewriter companies survived the introduction of computers and the switch to digital photography caused the collapse of companies that made or processed film.
Similarly, some publishers won't adapt fast enough to survive the digital revolution and I’ve learned the hard way that authors can run into trouble when publishers close down or are taken over.
We’re often at the end of the list of creditors and our books can end up being part of the assets sold on to new owners that we may not have chosen to work with. Royalty payments can be delayed for months in the resulting chaos and it can be hard to get your rights back from a company that no longer exists.
At this time of flux in publishing, self publishing offered an alternative to signing away my rights to a company that might not exist in a few years' time.
TIMESCALESIn the end, after months of thought, it was my mother’s death in January 2012 that finally made up my mind. Her departure from my life was a painful reminder of my own mortality that made the timescales involved in traditional publishing look tortuously long.
Sending the book out in the usual way would involve months of waiting for decisions, more months waiting for contract negotiation and editorial feedback and final publication in 2014 or even later. Doing it myself would have the book edited and on the market in time for Christmas.
So I armed myself with some savings, left my agent and stepped out on my own. It’s been a huge learning curve, nowhere near as expensive as I expected and huge fun.
Having a new book published is always exciting, but it’s even better when the finished product really is all my own work.
Can Sasha persuade them to change their minds and let her stay forever? And can she do it before her social worker finds her another home – one without horses?
View There Must Be Horses on Amazon in Paperback, on Kindle