In this article, I will discuss how self-publishing can be a productive route into securing a traditional publishing deal. Self-publishing is beneficial on a number of levels: obviously, it generates sales; it increases the visibility of the author and the book and, not least, your book could be noticed by an agent or acquisitions editor from a commercial publishing company.
For New Zealand crime and psychological thriller author, Nikki Crutchley (photograph above) self-publishing became an option after she submitted her first novel “Nothing Bad Happens Here” in 2018 to the publishing companies in New Zealand (there are only two.) Swiftly flew their rejections. As she tells it, she was not surprised or heartbroken by these rejections because she had half expected it to happen. Does this sound as if Nikki was a little defeatist? Possibly, but being a first-time novel writer is like being a first-time parent. You are learning as you go. One aspect of Nikki’s approach was how she sensibly managed her expectations, keeping them low and realistic. She was, therefore, not crushed by the rejections.
As well, Nikki was writing in a sub-category of the very popular genre of crime fiction; her category being small-town secrets, lies and murder. Commercial publishers have to make profits. Therefore, as authors (suppliers) we need to pitch them a commercial product. For example, at the present time, writing one’s memoir is fashionable but, unless we are a celebrity or a public figure, acquisitions editors will not be running after us, frantically waving contracts in our faces.
Following the rejections, Nikki decided to have her manuscript professionally appraised which she found ‘really valuable.’ At a little over 50,000 words, it was too short and she wrote more chapters and made other improvements. Surprisingly, she did not resubmit the expanded, rewritten novel; instead, she decided to self-publish it. She even handled her own distribution to bookshops in her region. A breakthrough: her novel “Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here,” was a finalist in the Ngaio Marsh Crime and Thriller Writing Awards. Gaining this recognition boosted Nikki’s self-confidence as she realised, “I did write a good book!” She decided to keep writing and self-publishing her crime series books. Another breakthrough: she was approached by a literary agent who wanted to know if she would like to be represented. Nikki jumped at the offer.
While self-publishing was not what Nikki had planned, it turned out to be a good experience. In her own words, Nikki says:
“I wouldn’t change anything because I only got my book deal because of how I put myself out there with my self-publishing.”
Her literary agent pitched her new novel 'To the Sea' to publishers around Australia and New Zealand and, in fact, all over the world. Initially, her agent received a flurry of rejections. However, within two weeks, Harper Collins came back offering a two-book deal!
Nikki’s experience is an example of the domino effect in action. Rejection of her first novel was the first domino which was followed by the domino of having her work professionally assessed. Achieving recognition as a finalist in the national Writing Awards was another domino. She gained more confidence and went on to self-publish two more novels in the series. Her work was discovered by one of New Zealand rarest species, the literary agent, and another domino fell. In her fourth novel, ‘To the Sea,’ Nikki departed from her crime series to write a stand-alone psychological thriller. Her literary agent pitched the new book and within two weeks it was snapped up by major publisher, Harper Collins, in a two-book deal. Over went another domino and her publishing dream was at last becoming a reality.
As Nikki describes it:
“Self-publishing was essential in getting me my agent and if I hadn’t self published, I don’t think I’d have got the Harper Collins deal.”
Don’t wait for someone to seek you out. The domino effect happens when an author puts themselves forward and makes their books available in the marketplace. Wherever literary agents, acquisition editors, publishing editors congregate, that is the place to be seen and to connect with them. While the domino effect is not guaranteed for every author and every book, it does work. (Nikki is but one example.) But rarely does it happen in isolation. Reach out, be noticed and let the dominos fall for you.
Wishing you Every Writing and Publishing Success in 2023,
Lynne Lloyd Moss
LLOYD MOSS publishing
p.s. If you have questions about your writing, having your work edited or proofread, and/or your publishing options, jot down your query using our contact form, or phone/text 0421 998749,
Article Reference: Australian Writers Centre podcast 'So You Want To Be a Writer' (click on the link to listen)