In my writing career I have been lucky enough to have many exciting things happen to me.
I have been lucky enough to get not one but two literary agents. I have been lucky enough to get four book deals with major publishing houses. I have been lucky enough to sell the options for my first novel to a film producer and sit in a meeting where I was told that actresses like Kate Winslett would ‘kill’ to play the main character! (I had yet to learn that film producers can talk a fair amount of b*****ks!) I have been lucky enough to appear on national television and radio more times than I can mention. I have been lucky enough to acquire a German publisher. I have been lucky enough to receive amazing emails from readers all over the world. And I have been lucky enough to receive positive reviews for all of my books in the national press.
However, I have also experienced a rather more unpleasant side to the world of publishing.
I’ve experienced the pressures of living up to a publisher’s high expectations. And the crushing disappointment when they are not met. I’ve experienced the fear and isolation when your editor resigns and you are left to sink or swim on your own. I’ve experienced the frustrations of being given book covers that I didn’t feel represented the content of the book. I’ve experienced the shock of having a book published by a major publisher with no publicity or marketing budget.
And more recently I experienced the ‘delights’ of dealing with a publisher without an agent. This was with my first book for young adults, Dear Dylan.
Initially it all went really well. I had heard that a publisher was looking for new titles for their fiction list so I sent off the manuscript. It was the first publisher I sent it to.
Within a week I was offered a two book deal.
My agent doesn’t deal in children’s fiction so I decided to handle my own contract.
The contract I got was, quite frankly, an insult.
As soon as I compared it with my previous contracts from Random House and Hodder & Stoughton I realised that I was being offered way below the standard rates.
So I sent the contract back, amended in red, with what I thought I ought to be getting.
The editor immediately upped her offer. Quite dramatically.
But this all left me with a really bad taste in my mouth.
Clearly the minute the publisher learnt I was representing myself they thought they would try it on. All the emails and phone calls I had received raving about how ‘fresh’ and ‘original’ my book was and how excited they were to have it, were seemingly forgotten. Author’s royalties are low at the best of times. To try and bring them down even lower was an absolute joke.
So I withdrew my book.
I wasn’t being a diva – it just didn’t feel right.
Then I sat on it for a while, trying to decide what to do next.
Today I made my decision. And I have to say it has been the most exciting and rewarding moment of my writing career to date.
I’ve decided to give the book away for FREE.
I wrote Dear Dylan after years of running workshops for teenagers and wanting to give them something that would help them through what can often be a challenging time.
I wanted to write a piece of fiction that teenagers could hopefully relate to and take inspiration from.
I have decided to self publish the book with a company called AuthorHouse and give it away for FREE as a digital download. Hopefully this way Dear Dylan can get to as many readers as possible. It would also be kind of fun to fully embrace the digital revolution that seems to have the traditional publishing world in a bit of a panic. And coming from someone who vowed she would never, ever part with her vinyl record collection this is set to be somewhat of a steep learning curve!
So now I feel like kind of like the Kevin Spacey character in American Beauty when he walks out of his job.
After years of worrying about keeping a publisher happy it is so liberating to say, to hell with it, I’m going to give the book away. And it feels very, very right.
The book is now being launched at the London Book Fair in April , where I am also guest speaking.
Exciting times indeed!