Today is the publication day of author Jon Appleton's wonderful Ready for Love! On this happy day we thought we would share an interview with Jon about his indie publishing experience. Jon has worked at one of the largest traditional publishing houses as an editor so has great insight into both publishing routes, and also some top editing tips for indie authors. Read below to find out more ...
What was behind your decision to independently publish your books?
I tried to get an agent in the traditional way. Of the 50% who replied, several were encouraging. They enjoyed the book as readers, but didn’t think they could sell it to a publisher. I thought that if the book existed, people would enjoy it. So then I looked for ways to make it happen.
What was behind the inspiration for Ready to Love your most recent novel?
A lot of us, most of the time, silently curse, ‘Why did I say that?’ or ‘I can’t believe I didn’t see it coming.’ While other people seem to sail through life blissfully unaware of the consequences of their actions, untroubled by introspection. I wanted to explore the tyranny of self-knowledge. That was the starting point. But along the way the book explored lots of other things and, in the end, became a love story, too.
After working in a major trade publishing house, what is your take on the publishing landscape and the future of indie publishing?
I think there’s definitely room for both, and people no longer automatically tack on to ‘self-publishing’ the word ‘stigma’. A lot of indie authors achieve the sales (or exceed) that mainstream publishers anticipate for their own acquisitions. Also, mainstream publishers expect all their authors to market their own work – a writer is often his/her book’s best advocate – and that’s what indie authors have been doing for years. Readers are there to be reached by whomever is offering something compelling, and of high quality, to discover.
As an editor yourself, how do you go about editing your work?
Fortunately, a writer friend whom I trust was my first reader over many drafts and several years. But 99% of the time I was on my own, and it was trial and error. And time. If you put something away and try to forget about it, it will look like a different piece of work when you revisit it, and that makes it easier to assess it objectively, and revise. The gift an editor gives a writer is perspective – and you can approximate that by putting some distance between you and your work.
What are your top tips for indie authors on finding an editor or editing their books?
Once you’ve found an editor – and there are plenty of good ones who don’t hide themselves away – talk about the kind of edit you want. Is it a structural overhaul, which might entail a few sweeping points to help with character or pace or harness the themes? Or are you ready for a detailed line edit, where sentences are turned inside out? Or a copy-edit where repetitions are culled and dialogue smoothed out? After the edit, look at what you agreed and revised and, when it comes to revising your next, new piece of writing, remember the kind of work you did. And apply that to the new work. You’ll begin to self-edit – to second-guess what an editor will tell you.
Your cover for Ready to Love is brilliant. How did you work with Mark to come up with the cover design?
I was thrilled when Mark agreed to design the cover. He’s one of the best in the business. Of course, that didn’t stop me from providing tedious details for several concepts which I thought would work well. But then Mark read the book – and not all designers do that – and he got the tone and the subject matter spot on, and came up with the perfect cover. I couldn’t be happier.
Why did you choose to go to print?
I’m a print-based reader. I wanted to see how Ready to Love looks as you flick through the pages. I want people to turn the last page, read it, and close the book with a sigh of satisfaction. You can’t do that with an ebook.
How do you split your time between marketing and writing?
Until recently, I worked full-time. I finished Ready to Love at the end of 2015 and it was edited in the new year. From then until now (June 2016), I’ve spent all my spare time preparing to launch: cover, proofs, metadata, etc. I’ve written a stack of blog posts about the process so they’ve been ready to publish three times a week in the weeks around publication. For the foreseeable future, my focus will be on marketing the book, but also generating conversations about writing and editing and publishing, which is the focus of my new freelance working life.
How did you find the Clays experience?
It was exactly what I was looking for. I’d contacted a couple of self-publishing companies who offer an all-in service but what they produced, to me, looked like self-published books. The books Clays produce look like any title you’d find in a bookshop (probably because Clays print for most of the industry!) As I had experience of publishing, I knew about many of the processes but it was invaluable for me when Rebecca and Georgina made introductions to the relevant professionals. I dealt with them on my own, but Rebecca and Georgina were always on hand to help with questions and to offer back-up when needed. They offer as much or as little help as you need. And, importantly, because you do a lot of the work yourself, I think it works out to be less expensive than dealing with an all-in indie publishers.
What is your top advice to indie authors?
As with all things, you get what you pay for. Proper typesetting will make your book read well and a typesetter will provide an epub file ready to upload, so you don’t have to waste days formatting files. Trust the professionals and use your own time and skills wisely. Clays will make your book, leaving time for you to promote and sell it.
What are your next steps?
I’d love to build a community of readers, so there’s a demand for another novel like Ready to Love. I’d like my second book to be taken on by an agent and mainstream publisher. But I also want to work with writers – especially indies – to help guide them through the publication process. I’m an editor for hire!