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