Publishing the First Novel: Author Leonora Meriel

Publishing: Its Not How You Imagine It

“Publishing” today is a universe away from what it once was. Even just a few years ago, to be a “published author” meant to have been paid a fat advance by a Big 5 publishing company and to have a contract for a 3 book deal and your novels in the bookshops.

Nowadays, you have to distinguish between “trade / traditional / trad published” (by a publishing company); “self-published” (entirely yourself); “indie-published” (either yourself or by a small independent press) or “hybrid” which is a combination of any of the previous options. And I’m sure there will be more variations added in the coming months and years.

As the author of literary fiction novels, I started out down the “trad” route, looking for an agent and a traditional publisher. I found the agent, but my first book didn’t sell, and so I explored the “indie” option of publishing my work on my own. This world seemed so exciting and explosive that, by the time I had completed my second novel, I had decided to take my career in my own hands and become an “authopreneur” – a writer and businesswoman in charge of my production, marketing, distribution and entire business model. It might not have been exactly the dream I started off with – but it was a bigger and wilder ride – more challenging, and most assuredly, more rewarding.

My first major decision when I entered the world of independent publishing, was – which tasks should I do myself and which should I outsource. I wanted everything to be the highest quality, and I also didn’t want to lose money by making expensive mistakes. So, for as much as I could, I worked with top professionals, most of them originally from the traditional publishing world, to help me re-structure, edit and proofread my book. I chose cover designers who had worked on some of my favorite books (Haruki Murakami, Terry Pratchett, Marjorie Blackman) and they designed dream covers for me. I had the books professionally typeset. I learned the distribution options and how to make my books available in different countries. I learned about pricing. I joined the Association of Independent Authors (ALLi) in the UK. There was a lot of learning! I already had an MBA from my previous job running a business, so I was used to setting up new models and structures, but it was still a challenge leaning how an entire industry works, and then having to implement every separate part of it – and do it right the first time!

When all the basics had been set up, then it was time for luck. Novel in hand, I started visiting bookshops and seeing if they would stock my book. I sent my novel to magazines, newspapers and literary journals for review. I entered prizes.

And the result? A good dose of luck. The largest bookshop chain in the UK decided to stock my books in over 20 shops. I had some excellent reviews by well-known writers and magazines. I haven’t yet won a prize, but I’m glad I entered. The majority of literary journals refused to review it, because it was indie published. However the local press in my area of London gave it glowing reviews. I had a successful book launch in a bookshop and have many dedicated readers, some of whom are now friends.

It has been a year and a half since I published my debut novel. I certainly reflect on the journey and think what it might have been like if I had been traditionally published. The main upside that I see, is that I would have more time for writing. However, the “traditional” and “independent” publishing models are coming so close together now, that it is really hard to see a clear upside to the “trad” model. Social media marketing is now so important that the majority of writers with publishing contracts have to spend significant time on their own marketing. Yet the publishing company still takes most of their royalties.

In an industry that is transforming before our eyes, I am more than happy to be on the side of change, firmly in control of my author brand, editorial decisions and marketing strategy, and receiving 100% of my royalties for my hard work.

It’s been a challenging and intense journey – and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Meet the Author

Leonora Meriel is the author of two novels. The Woman Behind the Waterfall (2016) is the magical realism tale of three generations of women in a Ukrainian village. The Unity Game (2017) is a speculative science fiction novel set in New York, a distant planet and an after-life dimension.

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