How Self-Publishing Prepared me for Traditional Publishing
There’s not a lot to beat the feeling of receiving a box of books with your name emblazoned on the cover. In June, after many years of writing, I received my very own box with the publication of New Pompeii from Titan Books. In my science fiction novel, the population of ancient Pompeii are transported through time, just seconds before Vesuvius explodes, and into a replica of their town. The main character, Nick Houghton, is a historical researcher drafted in to help the company run the historical research facility. But Nick soon realises everyone is underestimating their captives…
Titan, who publish a range of genre fiction (including sci-fi, fantasy, crime and horror), released my book in both the UK and US as part of their rapidly growing original fiction line. Of course, New Pompeii didn’t emerge from nowhere. I have several manuscripts that never quite made it, gathering dust in my attic. However, before signing with Titan, I also self-published a children’s novel with Matador in 2013.
Johnny Max and the Panther’s Skull revolves around a newspaper boy who interrupts a burglary and ends up involved in a dangerous mystery. Aimed at children between the ages of 9 and 12, I received a lot of good feedback from beta readers but didn’t quite manage to snag that elusive traditional publishing deal. After a lot of consideration, I then decided to self-publish.
How did Self-Publishing Prepare me for Traditional Publishing?
The steps involved in publishing a novel are similar for traditional and self-publishing. First: the line edit, which basically sorts out plot problems. For both New Pompeii and Johnny Max and the Panther’s Skull I used the Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. The Cornerstones reports identified plot inconsistencies and ways in which the stories could be improved. Once I signed with a literary agent and New Pompeii sold to Titan, the manuscript was also examined in detail by my editor, Miranda Jewess, who ironed out the final few wrinkles and polished up the text.
Next comes the copy edit, which looks for mistakes and issues of consistency. It’s amazing what you don’t spot when you get ‘too close’ to your manuscript. For instance, Matador noted that in Johnny Max I’d given one of my characters the title of Sergeant through the entire novel except in the final paragraph: the result of a change during writing which wasn’t followed through right the way to the end. In another example, the name of a minor character switched several times between Molly and Holly. Interestingly, Titan produced an Advanced Review Copy (ARC) of New Pompeii prior to the copy edit. As such, if you get your hands on one of these ARCS now, you can play a game of editorial ‘spot the difference’ with the final version: with several tweaks required in the first few chapters.
My experience with self-publishing certainly helped me move into traditional publishing. Writing can be something of a solitary hobby, but getting a book produced means working closely with others and progressing through a series of steps with an editor. Self-publishing [my first ebook] meant I was familiar with this process.
The final stage is the proofread. I must admit to skipping this for Johnny Max. With a limited budget, I concentrated my available funds on the copy edit (which I figured was more important than nabbing the last few typos) and cover design. Talking of which, I was very pleased with the covers of both Johnny Max and New Pompeii… but they are designed for subtly different audiences. Johnny Max was published as an ebook only. As such, it is uses large text for the title and author name to make it stand out as a thumbnail principally, on Amazon. New Pompeii, meanwhile, has a cover designed to distinguish it from all the other science fiction titles on the shelves and tables at Waterstones and Barnes and Noble.
My experience with self-publishing certainly helped me move into traditional publishing. Writing can be something of a solitary hobby, but getting a book produced means working closely with others and progressing through a series of steps with an editor. Self-publishing Johnny Max meant I was familiar with this process, prior to starting the work on New Pompeii.
My next novel will be a sequel to New Pompeii, scheduled for June 2017, called Empire of Time. Titan purchased New Pompeii as a basically finished manuscript, so I’m nervously waiting for the line edit on Empire of Time to arrive. And then off we go again!
Connect with Daniel Godfrey on Twitter: @campaniadreamin