Category Archives: Author interviews
Posted by Orla Shanaghy
Derbhile Dromey‘s first novel, The Pink Cage, was published in June 2011 by Book Republic. Derbhile is a full-time writer with many strings to her writing bow: fiction, journalism, editing, and creative writing teaching. She is also keen to help other people achieve their writing dreams and is launching a Prepare to Publish Service, offering manuscript evaluations and lists of places to send manuscripts. Orla chatted to Derbhile about getting published as a new writer, the pros and cons of working with a “non-traditional” publisher, and the best ways for new writers to promote themselves and their work.
OS: Derbhile, congratulations on the publication of The Pink Cage. The book is published by Book Republic, a small, new, non-traditional publisher. How did you establish contact with this publisher? Can you describe the steps leading to publication of your book?
DD: I finished the book in May of last year and immediately started sending it out. I began with Irish publishers and agents, then moved to British agents and publishers who took email submissions. I then hit a wall because most of the publishers and agents required SAEs and Irish post offices don’t supply International Reply Coupons that the publishers and agents could use as stamps. But most were happy to reply when I explained this.
I had a total of 27 rejections before I found Book Republic. I had fully expected to get at least 30. After a ‘positive rejection’ from a British agent who had taken the time to write an encouraging note with her form slip, I had a spurt of energy and went onto the site www.writing.ie, a new resource for Irish writers, which had a list of current publishers. I had been thinking that a small, independent publisher would be a good way to go. They would bear the cost of bringing out the book and I was willing to promote it. Book Republic were listed on writing.ie. I submitted to them and three days later got an email to say they were interested.
OS: There can be a negative perception around the financial rewards for writers, especially new writers, who work with the more established print publishers. Book Republic describes itself as a “boutique publishing press” that “was set up to combat the traditional model of publishing”. How have you as a writer found working with this kind of publisher? Do you think the financial rewards for the writer can be greater with a non-traditional publisher like Book Republic?
DD: The advantage of going with a publisher like Book Republic is that you get to keep more of your money. Royalties are better than with traditional publishers. And you get more autonomy over your book. You can decide on your cover and you get a strong say in the editing process. They also distribute books on a Print on Demand basis, which means that a book is only printed when someone orders it. This means no returns and less likelihood of ending up on the bargain pile. They also automatically produce an ebook version of the book at the same time, which gives me a chance to avail of the growing ebook market.
But the disadvantage of that is that it’s proved impossible to get it into the bookshops. People can order it in bookshops, but most bookshops won’t stock it because they use the more traditional distribution channels. And despite all the talk about high figures for buying over the Internet, a lot of people still expect to stroll into a bookshop and pick up a book. So this has meant that the book isn’t as visible as I’d like.
OS: The Pink Cage was released in print and electronic format simultaneously. How do you feel about having a published e-book? Is it something you would encourage other authors to do? Do you think having a book out in electronic format as well as print is a positive thing in terms of sales?
DD: I was interested in Book Republic because I felt that they would help me tap into the growing trend for people to buy ebooks. I think Book Republic are ahead of the curve. They publicise and sell largely over the Internet, but a lot of people still live in the world of paper books, including myself. I’m looking forward to seeing how the ebook phenomenon develops over the next few years and hope that I’ll benefit from it.
OS: You marked the release of The Pink Cage with book signings and launches. Can you tell us a little about the “real-world” publicity side of a new book: How important are launches and signings for new authors? Did you organise the events yourself? How much of that kind of in-person publicity do you think a newly-published writer needs to do? Do launches and signings have a noticeable effect on book sales, or is their effect more general in terms of profile raising?
DD: The launch and signings were hugely beneficial. Book Republic do a small print run of 250 copies to mark a launch. They decided to print mine in hardback and all the copies were sold out at the launch and two signings. It’s hugely beneficial to do real-world publicity. And traditional media proved to be extremely effective in publicising the launch in particular. Book Republic organised the launch and I organised the signings. So in all, I would say they’re extremely important. The Internet is great, but it’s too easy for your book to get lost in cyberspace. Nothing beats that real-world connection with readers.
OS: You are active in the online and social networking worlds. Social networking can be hugely useful for creating a buzz around a newly-published work. How have you leveraged social networking for the publicity around The Pink Cage?
DD: Twitter has helped me to find people to blog about the book and Facebook has helped me to communicate with potential customers. I have a page for the book on Facebook, www.facebook.com/thepinkcage and a profile on Twitter @ThePinkCage.
OS:You also have your own blog and you do guest blogging on other sites. In your experience, how can blogging be used to publicise a published work?
DD: Blogging is more about giving useful information and creating a profile for yourself as an expert. It’s a complement to other social media activities.
In the end, you need to adopt a multi-pronged marketing approach, with traditional media, social media and word of mouth working in combination.
OS: In your experience, is there a specific period of time post-publication after which publicity efforts are no longer effective in terms of sales of that particular book – e.g. six months, a year?
DD: I’ll know more after Christmas!
OS: I know that you are also an active networker in the offline world. How important is real-world networking for writers? Do you have any recommendations for fledgling writers in terms of what they can do in the real world to promote themselves and increase their profile?
DD: Networking can be tricky for writers, since they tend to be quite reserved. But going to festivals and short courses are a good idea, because you meet like minded souls and you’re brought together by your work. Your priority has to be your work, but it’s important to step out of your cocoon and freshen your mind through contact with other writers.
OS: Derbhile, thanks for stopping by Wait til I tell you and enjoy the rest of your blog tour!
The next stop on Derbhile’s blog tour with The Pink Cage is tomorrow with Sian Phillips at www.sianphillips.ie.
The Pink Cage is available from the following outlets
Ebook: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Pink-Cage-ebook/dp/B0055PDNKO/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1315832405&sr=1-2 (paperback book can also be found here)
The Book Depository, http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Pink-Cage-Derbhile-Dromey/9781907221248
Book Republic website, http://www.bookrepublic.ie/books-p/188-the-pink-cage
Posted by Orla Shanaghy
Maria Moulton is the author of the just-published Mammy Diaries, a fascinating, in-depth look at pregnancy and motherhood in modern Ireland based on almost three years’ worth of interviews with Irish mothers. Published at the end of March, Mammy Diaries has already received a level of publicity in both old and new media that is remarkable for a self-published work.
I recently caught up with Maria at the Waterford launch of Mammy Diaries and asked her for her insights into self-publishing and self-promotion.
OS: Maria, first of all, congratulations on your remarkable book, Mammy Diaries. It’s the first book that I’m aware of that really lifts the lid on what motherhood in 21st-century Ireland is like. How are you finding life as a published author so far?
MM: Thanks Orla! Well, to be perfectly honest, I’ve just swapped the busy-ness of being a stay at home mother trying to squish in time to research, write and compile a book, for the busy-ness of being a stay at home mother trying to squish in time to promote, sell and publicize a book! It’s been great fun though. I still can’t believe that it’s “out there.”
OS: Mammy Diaries is a self-published work. Did you decide to self-publish from the word go or did you consider approaching traditional print publishers first?
MM: From the start, I really liked the idea of self-publishing. Aside from the obvious benefits of working at my own pace (essential with small kids!) and having complete control over content, I also knew that the book I was putting together had a very specific audience and as such would be a lot easier to publicise then if say, I’d written a work of general fiction.
My husband was a bit nervous about the idea at the start, so for his sake I did send out a few letters of enquiry to a few traditional publishers. I never even got past the proposal stage with them, so in the end, it was self-publishing all the way! I decided to go with a company in Dublin called Original Writing and they’ve been absolutely amazing. A real pleasure to work with and very efficient, every step of the way.
OS: The publicity around the book has already been fantastic – radio slots, newspaper pieces, online PR, and your ongoing nationwide book tour. The book is also on the shelf in Easons’s, which is rare for a self-published work. How have you gone about generating publicity for the book?
MM: As you said yourself, self published works don’t tend to get into the larger, mainstream book shops, so my main goal when Mammy Diaries was published was to generate as much publicity in as short a space of time as humanly possible. The ide was to make it that much more attractive to the bigger retailers. This meant contacting journalists who I thought would be interested in the project, getting exposure in both local and national media and once I’d gathered enough clippings and podcasts, my publishers in Dublin contacted the bigger shops and “Voila!”.
The Internet has definitely been my biggest and most effective tool. Without it, the book probably wouldn’t have been written and I’d never have even considered self-publishing without it. You can do anything online. IrishPressReleases.ie allows you to contact the nation’s media in seconds and social networking sites like Twitter, Blogspot and Facebook have just opened up so many doors. It’s amazing really how far we’ve come in the last 10 or 15 years.
OS: Which channels are you finding the most effective so far for promoting your book?
MM: Well, the press coverage at the start was a huge boost . That definitely brought the book to the public’s attention. Having it in Eason’s is great because it means that it’s easily and constantly available to people. The book tour allows me to help keep the book current and to continue to introduce it to people who may not have heard about it yet. Obviously though, as I said above, it’s the internet that’s making it all happen.
OS: Mammy Diaries is currently out in print format. E-reader platforms like Kindle can bring self-published books to a much wider audience. Have you any plans to also publish Mammy Diaries for e-readers?
MM: My husband is working on it at the moment! Touch wood, it should be available in Kindle format in the next week or so.
OS: Self-publishing used to be the Cinderella of the book world. Some sources now say it’s the next big thing. What is your view of self-publishing versus the more traditional route of submitting your work to established publishers and hoping for the best?
MM: Honestly? I love it. I think that if you have the drive to get out there and put in the work to promote your book, it’s definitely worth considering. No one is going to work as hard for your book as you are. I know I’m probably sounding like a bit of a broken record, but the internet really has opened up so many doors and possibilities.
That being said, it’s called self-publishing for a reason. You are your own editor, critic, agent and publicist, and that can get a little tiring. You’re not going to feel one hundred per cent all the time and there are going to be days when you wish to God that there was a team of people behind you organizing everything for you and telling you exactly what to do next. You are going to have moments of self doubt where you wonder “Is it really any good at all? What have I done?!”
At the end of the day though, you get to put out exactly what you want to put out and not someone else’s version of what you started off writing. Hopefully, with a little luck and a lot of work, you’ll find a group of readers who connect with what you’ve written and who will look forward to hearing more from you.
OS: For many writers, their work is a labour of love. But money is key to being able to continue as a writer. Can you talk to us a little about the financial side of a venture like Mammy Diaries – did you have to invest much of your own money into getting it published and to publicise it? Do you expect to make a profit on the book?
MM: The cost of publishing varies from company to company and package to package. With the different self-publishing companies that are out there (and there are more popping up every day) you can look at paying anywhere from 1000 euro for your basic, no-frills option to several thousand euro which will buy you editorial services, consultation on cover design, and so on.
Not being made of money myself, we went for something on the more basic end of the scale publishing-wise. Aside from the cost of petrol, all of our publicity has been free, so for us there really wasn’t that much of an investment to be made.
Aside from that, we’ve just worked really hard to do as much of the grunt work as we could do ourselves. My husband learned how to do web design so he could do my website and we also designed the cover ourselves. I have a regular (if currently neglected!) blog of the same name, a Facebook group for Mammy Diaries as well as a Twitter account that I’m getting better at using. Whenever we go anywhere to do signings, I let the local media know in case it’s something they’d be interested in covering. None of this costs money, just a bit of time and effort.
I’m also lucky enough to be surrounded by a large group of friends and family who are unbelievably supportive of Mammy Diaries and do their best to promote the heck out of it, for which I’m eternally grateful!
OS: You’re currently on a nationwide book tour. How are you finding the tour? Would you recommend a book tour to other writers as part of the PR campaign for a self-published work?
MM: Definitely. It’s a great oppurtunity to meet the people who will be reading your book as well as to make contacts with book shops and libraries. Also, every launch gives you the potential for local media coverage, which is great for keeping your book in the public eye.
OS: I’ve been told that self-promotion can take as much time as writing itself, if not more. How do you go about making the time for promotion work for Mammy Diaries? Do you have any tips for other writers in this regard?
MM: Do your best to do the kind of promotion that works for you. As a mother of two small children, traditional evening champagne launch events didn’t work for me (or for that matter, for the majority of my audience!). Instead, we hold our signings in play centers where my girls can run around and play with other children and the mothers who are coming along can do the same and not have to worry about babysitters and such. The same goes with radio and print interviews – most of mine were done on the phone so I could do them from anywhere. I spoke with The Irish Times from the car while we drove around the countryside putting the girls to sleep and I did an interview with a Waterford radio station live from my kitchen in my pyjamas!
My husband was made redundant last year, which ended up being a blessing in disguise as it was his being home that gave me the freedom to really buckle down and get the last of the book finished. He’s also my chauffeur/graphic designer/web master and general go-to guy.
Aside from that, I fully admit that there was a LOT of procrastrination in the way of Facebooking, tweeting and emailing going on while I was writing Mammy Diaries. Nowadays, I use that same time to do the same things, but with a purpose. Instead of a way to procrastinate, I’m using them for promotion instead.
OS: Many thanks Maria!
(c) Curmumgeon 2011