I recently reviewed Joanne Tracey’s debut novel, Baby, It’s You. I mentioned elsewhere that she was self-published and someone suggested I interview her to get some insight into the
long arduous road self publishing process. And I aim to please, so… without further ado…
Tell me a bit about the genesis of the book: your inspiration; when you first started writing it etc?
Baby, It’s You started life during a holiday in Thailand in April 2013, with the final 50,000 words being completed during Nanowrimo that year.
The inspiration started much earlier than that—waiting for my bag to emerge from a luggage carousel and wondering what would happen if someone took the wrong bag home. I played around with the idea a little, adding to it as other things took my attention. The title and (lead character) Em’s love of daggy pop music came as I was dancing around the kitchen one Saturday night cooking dinner and singing very badly.
Did you try the traditional publishing route before deciding to self-publish? What was your experience like? What made you finally decide to self-publish?
I sure did. Baby It’s You is the 3rd manuscript I’ve written. The first scored okay in a couple of RWA (Romance Writers of Australia) competitions, but didn’t get past the slush pile. In retrospect, that’s a good thing. It’s now at the bottom of the virtual drawer, never to be seen again…although the lead characters and storyline will become part of something else… is that a spoiler alert?
Where was I? I shopped around number 2 for a bit, and got past the slush pile on 3 occasions, with call-backs that had the book out of commission and waiting for responses for a total of 14 months—only for a rejection to come at the end. “Really enjoyed it, but not enough romance for us.” / “Really enjoyed it, but too much romance for us.”
When Baby, It’s You was ready, I sent it out. It too, made it through the slush, with a publisher calling for the first 3 chapters, and then the lot. Same as last time. The feedback? “Love the story, but not quite for us.” Same as last time.
This rejection hit me harder than the others had, and something clicked in my brain—if I believed in the story, why did I need someone else to tell me it was good enough? Then the control freak of me kicked in: why was I allowing someone else to control the process and the outcome for me? Did I really want to spend another 14 months waiting?
As scary as the idea was, self-publishing was a no brainer after that. The hard part was choosing to use my own name for it.
On your blog you shared the project plan you used for publication, can you walk me through the steps—from your final draft to publication?
Aaah, the process. Although I write by the seat of my pants, self-publishing is a business and I had to treat it that way.
I wanted this book to look and feel just like a traditionally published ebook. First on the list was choosing an editor. I dug out my favourite chick lit books and made a list of the editors I most wanted to work with. But I also had some other considerations.
The really hard work started once the structural edit came back. While my editor made suggestions, the decisions to leave or cut were mine.
Once the rewrite was done, it was time for copy edit, and then once that was done, proof reading.
In the downtime (ie. while I was waiting for my editor to do her thing), I was also:
- Researching designers and commissioning the cover. This one was tougher than it needed to be—I had trouble getting people to return my emails. It was an impassioned callout to my twitter community that finally put me in contact with Jacinda May
- Obtaining the various numbers that were needed. eg. ISBNs and CIP—I’ll be posting something on this shortly
- Researching the pricing and royalty structures with Amazon
- Re-writing the draft of what will be number 2. It’s due to go in for structural edit in July.
How does the launch or promotion for an ebook differ from a hard copy book?
I’m taking the launch of Baby, It’s You relatively softly. I’ll be doing more when I launch on iTunes in 3 months. Having said that, after talking with a few traditionally published authors, the main assistance they get from their publishers is in relation to pre-release distribution for review purposes.
Unless you have the newest, hottest fought-after thing—or you’re a celebrity—new authors don’t get the posters, launches and signing tours that we all fantasise about. These days, especially if you’re an unknown, you will have to do much of the word of mouth stuff yourself.
Any lessons you’ve learned along the way or advice to share with others thinking of self publishing?
I underestimated how long the process would take—which left me with little time to do pre-launch things well.
- As soon as you make the decision to self publish you are, essentially, setting up your own publishing company. You’re responsible for every step and decision in the process.
- Timings and timelines are crucial. Estimate the time you think you’ll need and then add contingency.
- Set yourself a budget—and price your book based on this. I’ll be posting something on this one in the next couple of weeks.
- Set yourself deadlines—and stick to them as if you’d committed to a publisher. If you’re using a reputable editor, they’re probably tied into their own timelines with other publishers. Your delays will have a knock on effect and could result in your missing your opportunity to work with them.
And what’s next for Joanne Tracey, author?
I’ve planned 5 novels in what is a loose series of sorts. I’m currently re-drafting no. 2—Big Girls Don’t Cry—and writing the first draft for no. 3. Each novel is stand alone, but picks up the story of a minor character from the previous—that whole six degrees of separation thing. Each is set mostly in Melbourne, and partly in Bali.
And there you have it. The (arduous but hopefully fulfilling) road to self publishing. Thanks so much to Joanne for her insight!
Any surprises? Anything else I should have asked?