The road to republication
If you’re a writer on the road to having a book published, or a writer who’s just been signed, look away now… this blog is like the stuff people don’t tell you about marriage when you’re celebrating your engagement. Sometimes, the task of finding a home for your book doesn’t end when you’ve swapped contracts. This is the journey of Keep Walking, Rhona Beech (Abacus); a novel with three publishers in its first five years.
One book, three offers
Like any published author, I could pen a whole blog about signing with publisher number one (which I didn’t realise would be ‘number one’). An agent had replied to my submission to say, ‘It’s one of the best debuts I’ve read but I’m about to head off on maternity leave, if you want to wait till I’m back’. Meanwhile I also had offers from three small Scottish publishers. I signed with the wonderful team at Cargo (Helen, Gill and Simon) and Head for the Edge, Keep Walking was released in May 2014. It enjoyed good local publicity, two festival seasons, and 5* reviews on Amazon.
One book, two publishers
It made sense to to keep the novel available to readers
It’s easy to forget that publishers are businesses, facing multiple factors that affect viability. Thus, sometimes it makes sense to sell up, which Cargo did in 2015. When a purchasing publisher wants to acquire backlist titles from a selling publisher, authors can choose to take back the rights to their titles instead of moving to the new publisher. I ran this scenario past a London agent at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and she didn’t rate the chances of reselling the book to a different, perhaps bigger, publisher. Not knowing what else I’d do with the rights (other than put the book online myself, which would have meant a higher royalty percentage but significant effort in trying to publicise it), it made sense to sign with the purchaser, Freight, and its talented team, to keep the novel available to readers in e-book and paperback.
One book, no publisher
Within a couple of years, publisher number two was entering liquidation (not an unknown event in indie publishing) and my book’s rights were reverting to me. Remaining copies of the book were mechanically pulped, save for the few boxes I purchased.
I hope you never find yourself in a similar a position but if so, some solid advice – join the Society of Authors. If you can find £108 it will be worth every penny. The quality of its specialist, supportive advice was indispensable.
An obvious option was to keep the book alive as an ebook. I spent hours navigating Amazon’s self-publishing site (formatting, uploading, creating a profile and registering on its financial systems) before giving up and finding someone who could do that stuff in their sleep, Aberdeenshire’s Lumphanan Press, and paying them for the service.
One book, one agent
The novels have gone into a pulping machine, yet I’m holding a card in my hand from a reader telling me why she loved it
In latter 2017 I emailed around five agents or indie publishers, telling them about the novel and my close-to-finished short story collection. The prevailing view was, ‘I like your novel but I couldn’t sell or publish a book that’s been out so recently, and I like your short stories but it’s hard to sell short stories. Please send your next novel.’
And I might have accepted that view and stopped there, were it not for two (angelic) readers who took the time to write, three years after the novel came out, to say, ‘I loved this book, I told my whole office to read it’ and, ‘I’m a bloke, I picked this up in the library, I’ve since bought copies for other people’.
I remember standing in the street one day, thinking, ‘The novels have gone into a pulping machine, yet I’m holding a card in my hand from a reader telling me why she loved it.’
To me it was clear that if readers responded so well to thebook, then it must be worth keeping available to readers. I sensed that email wasn’t necessarily the best medium for connecting with someone in the industry who might feel the same way, thinking, ‘If only I could get in front of someone.’
And lo… in March 2018 Creative Scotland scheduled a professional development day for writers, and I went along with a copy of the novel and a slot pre-booked with Stan from The North Agency.
It was incredibly fortunate to get those 30 minutes face-to-face. He loved the book and saw no reason why we couldn’t offer it to publishers. His top choice of editor was given first refusal and she loved it too. It wasn’t an issue that the book had been out in recent years; to them it was a small release ripe for a wider audience.
One book, two editions, two titles, two covers, five years, three publishers
Fast forward to April 2019, the release of the second edition, Keep Walking, Rhona Beech, and a superb publicist at Abacus who secured reviews in HELLO!, Sainsburys magazine, The Lady etc. Thankfully, those reviewers ‘got it’ and that’s as much as you can wish for. My fingers are crossed for the main character and her pals, who seem to keep finding a way through the cracks into daylight.
When you’re celebrating that a publisher has bought the rights to your work, the last thing you imagine is being offered those rights back again, not once but twice. It doesn’t feel like much fun in the moment but remember it’s not necessarily a dead end - keep the faith and keep walking…
Photo credit, Herald and The Times.