And so, continuing the series on self-publishing, this week I interview SCBWI-BI's own Debbie Edwards, who has published her Aggie Lichen series through her own indie publishing company, Purple Ray Publishing.
Aggie Lichen: Pilp Collector
Part One of the Mirvellon Trilogy
Part One of the Mirvellon Trilogy
Aggie Lichen faces the same dilemmas as any other thirteen year old. But while other teenagers are doing their homework or watching T.V., Aggie flits from house to house in search of prize pilps. That’s where Aggie is a little different. You see, Aggie Lichen is a pilp collector - a tooth fairy!
One nightsgritch - a tooth collecting evening – Aggie is attacked by a bright, mysterious light. Is is a low flying glow-worm or something more sinister? Unknown to them, Aggie and her gang have just thirty days to save their kind, but time is not on their side … neither are the sprites or the Grublins.
Debbie, what made you decide to self-publish, and had you tried to traditionally publish (or been traditionally published) before going the self-publishing route?
I had had enough rejection letters to fill a small room in a rather large house! Some came back with little comments, others were just blank slips. I had hawked the first book around to several adults and lots of children and they seemed to like it. I decided then that I wanted my book out there whatever the cost so looked into self-publishing.
There is a lot of talk about the publishing industry being in a state of change, did this influence your decision to self-publish in any way and what do you think the changes taking place in the publishing world mean for writers and for writing/literature per se?
My reason to self-publish was purely to get my book out there in the big wide world. I think the changes that are happening are really exciting! Yes, it may be that some crap gets published through self-published or e-book means, but the public will ultimately decide what they like and buy it. Simple as!
Is your book published as an e-book, Print on Demand, paper book, or all three?
All three of my Aggie Lichen books are published as paperbacks. Only the first book though, is published on Kindle. It’s on at 86p at the moment. A bargain!
The criticism of many self-published books is the lack of editing and proof reading. Did you use an editor to polish your book before self-publishing, and if so, how do you feel this helped?
No, I didn’t have an editor, but I did use lots of critical friends and used the pupils in my class to test out the books. I also had the great Herbie Brennan, best selling international author of Faerie Wars. I sent the first book to him and he loved it. He gave me a lovely quote to put on the front cover - wonderful accolade that no editor could have provided.
Did you use a designer for create a book cover for you? If so, what difference do you feel this has made?
The first book – what a disaster! I was so eager to get the book out that I designed the cover myself – in word, enough said! I was rescued by my daughter’s friend at university who was an art graduate. She redesigned the first cover and went on to design the second and third book covers too. Lesson learnt; yes, you DO judge a book by its cover. When I give book talks in schools I always hold up both book covers. The response is overwhelmingly for the redesigned cover – always!
How did you decide which self-publishing option to use? What were your reasons for your selection?
I did look briefly at POD, but I thought it worked out rather expensive when compared to other self-publishing options. Financially, I was in a position to go straight to a printer and after looking around on the internet, I found the wonderful folk at York Publishing Services. We conversed through email then I went up to York to meet them, got shown all the processes involved and was treated to lunch – told you they were wonderful!! It worked out better financially to do this and I have found that the quality of paper is much higher. Okay, so I have an issue with shoddy paper!!
How do you feel about the less than complementary remarks so often made about self-published books vs. traditionally published books – and do you think this perception is changing?
I can understand the worries about crap being published, but let’s be honest, there’s a lot of crap published through mainstream and don’t even get me started on celebrity ‘writers’. I have been to conferences, attended workshops, suffered critiques etc. I have tried to develop my writing to the highest standard and will continue to do so. I chose this route because there was no other option; publishers don’t like my books yet 7000 children/adults clearly do. There’s room enough for everyone and like I said, the public will decide what they want to buy. As for change, personally I don’t think this perception will change until self-publishing and e-books are truly embedded in publishing.
With self-publishing, you carry all the risk – the onus is on you to create as “perfect” a book as possible and to market it. How have you found the process of being your own publisher, and what have you particularly learned?
It has been one of the steepest learning curves ever! Yet, I have learnt so much. I know all about bastard pages, recto and verso, ISBNs, sending six free, yes free, copies of each book to the British Library and lots more. When I first started out, I bought a copy of How to Self-Publish by Peter Finch. It had everything you needed and provided a step-by-step guide on how to get published. I owe a lot to that little book.
What marketing platforms are you using to promote your book(s), and how much of your time does the marketing take?
The best way of promoting my books is through author talks in schools. Unfortunately, I am only allowed out of the asylum on a Wednesday afternoon which limits the events I can complete. I also do signings on Saturdays at bookstores. This can be quite lucrative as I can sell around 70 books in four hours. For an unknown, that’s not bad. And, if I am in a town where a store has my book stocked, I will also hang around and wait for an unsuspecting victim, usually selling to them after a quick chat. Many people are delighted to see a real life author – even if she is self-published. All my books are on websites such as, Amazon, Waterstones, W H Smith etc. Did I mention that my first book is available as a Kindle e-book …
All in all, it takes up a lot of my time, but it’s worth it.
It’s a personal question, but do you feel you’re making, or are able to make money by having self-published your book? Do you feel you are making more than you would be being traditionally published?
I’ve sold around 7000 books so far and yes, I think I have made money from it, but it’s all ploughed back in for the next one. Does that count? Selling to schools is better financially. With events at Waterstone’s there is a percentage to negotiate depending on the terms you have with them. It’s the same with W H Smith, but I get a better deal with them – with self-publishing comes knowledge …
Are you happy with the level of your sales? Do you think there is more you could do to improve your sales?
Oh, there is always something I could do to improve sales. Sort out the website, do more school events, do more bookstore events. It all comes down to time or in my case, the lack of it!
Will you continue to self-publish, or do you want to be traditionally published (and self-publish), and why?
As much as I have loved the experience of self-publishing, a part of me still hankers after traditional publishing. When I reason with my self, it seems to come down to time. The time I spent promoting my books is often valuable writing time missed and the more books I have, the more time it takes. I have just finished my new novel, Marvin’s Curse, my first YA novel about a boy who talks to the dead. I’m now torn between sending off to agents and self-publishing …
Would you recommend self-publishing to other writers?
Absolutely! It’s definitely not the easy option and you need to be prepared to work your socks off, but it’s all yours and what have you really got to lose? (Okay, perhaps some money, quite a bit of time, your sanity …)
What do you see as the pitfalls in self-publishing?
Financial problems, possibly. Personally, lack of time.
Do you have any tips for writers thinking of self-publishing?
Stop thinking about it! Get on and do it!
Thanks to Debra Edwards for participating in the series!
To find out more about Debra J Edwards, please visit her website, Purple Ray Publishing
Or you can become a Facebook fan.
Or you can contact Debbie by email.
All Debra J Edwards' books are available through Amazon (both paperbacks and Kindle e-book), Waterstone’s and WH Smith online. Some branches of Waterstone’s do stock her books, but check online for availability. The Aggie Lichen books are also available through Debbie's website/email.