Friday, June 14, 2013

To Self Publish or Traditional Publish? Your choice.

Today I'd like you to meet colorful author Tristram la Roche whose books are selling like hot Portuguese custard tarts. Tris is both traditionally and self-published. I asked him to share with us his experiences.

Sue: Why have you decided to go the self-publishing route when you've been traditionally published?
Tris: Well, I have and I haven't if that makes any sense at all. Perhaps I should start by saying that I remain a firm believer in traditional publishing - the whole agent, mainstream publisher, bookstores and book tours thing. That is still the only way to go if you want your books for sale across the bookstore network, if you want to be known to the widest possible audience. Despite all the claims that e-Publishing would end this model I see no sign of it. Anyway, both can exist as they satisfy quite different markets in my opinion. When the rights for On My Knees reverted to me (yes, time flies) I had to make a decision what to do. Through my writing I came across another author, Daniel deLoite. Daniel only self-publishes and he has been quite successful with short stories for Kindle. I had a talk with him and he persuaded me to try it. Of course, as a writer, I was also very curious about how self-publishing works; no sense in remaining ignorant about a sector of your industry, is there? That's burying your head in the sand. You may have seen the rise in people and agencies advertising to help you self-publish (erm, doesn't that defeat the object?) for staggering amounts of money. My natural curiosity had to be satisfied: how hard could it be to self-publish a book? Is there any need to pay for help? By self-publishing On My Knees I've found some very interesting answers. Hmm? You want to know what they are? Oh, right! (Read more)

Well, first of all, it's easy. I mean really easy. I suppose if you are a total waste of time with a computer and lament the demise of the quill you will have problems, but how many writers today can be that helpless? How can a writer afford to be that out of touch? So really, there is no need to pay someone to do it for you. Except when it comes to the cover! Your book cover is your first and best shot at selling your book. If you have an eBook - which is really what we are talking about here - you need something that will look good as a thumbnail. If you are competent at photo manipulation you may be able to do your own (I did, using Photoshop Elements - but I had used Photoshop before) but unless you can produce a professional cover, for heaven's sake spend some money on getting one. The rest is a cinch and costs nothing except time. You are a writer, so making sure the text is good and tight, free of errors, should be easy enough. Get your beta readers on it. And just as if you were submitting to an agent, polish and polish and polish. A bad book won't do you any good.  If you know an editor who will edit for free, all well and good, but if not think about paying one. Yes, I did say that, but if you do pay an editor remember you may well never recover the cost. Don't go into this thinking the sales will necessarily roll in. A sobering thought is that once you click the publish button you have done all that some of the e-Publishers do. Think about that. Once your book is on sale, the big thing is to sell it. Do you know where to start? Again, if you are clueless, you may wish to think more about your options. Don't assume that all publishers will work to make your book sell, though.

Tris, can I just butt in a second? Talking about editors and polishing your work, I know that Steve Emmett is really good at improving works in progress and I can highly recommend him. He has a site for this: 

Sue: Sorry for interrupting. How are you promoting your self-published novella? Are you doing anything different to your traditionally published ones?

Tris: Different? No, not really. Short of taking out paid ads - which I am convinced do not work (I could write more on this but won't bore you) - authors are left with the very hit and miss social media like Facebook and Twitter. I have my doubts whether they really work. Daniel told me something interesting. When he started publishing he purposely had no website, no Facebook, no Twitter. He simply clicked publish. And his books sold. And sold. He was unknown, did zero promo and it worked. He has since created a presence and tells me it's made not one jot of difference. I'm looking at more subtle ideas at the moment and I will come back and tell you about them if they work. In short, I believe a good cover, good blurb and top notch writing are the three keys to success. So what about the total drivel that has done well on Kindle, you ask? Yes, that's true and I put that down to two things. First, price. Don't let anyone tell you the eBook market is not price sensitive (unless you are already a big name in demand, that is). There are many people out there with an e-reader of some sort who will read anything if it's cheap. Sad, but true. Second, being internet savvy works - and this comes back to the subtle approach I touched on. 

Let me add this, if you will. Take with a pinch of salt all the bloated blog posts and marketing splurges telling you to contact the libraries, to get speaking engagements, go to schools and so on. Unless you are very, very lucky; unless you have some very particular niche message; unless you really are married to a bisexual werewolf with x-ray vision who makes lemon curd for the farmers' markets - no one will want to talk to you if you have a self-published book. Not that they will be much more inclined, to be honest, if you've had a book published by a small publisher whose print books are entirely Print on Demand (POD). For all the good arguments in favour of POD (and there are many), getting them into bookstores is a major hurdle. One reason is the cost of producing each book, and when there's the printer, the distributor, the author and the publisher to pay you can see that a. prices have to be high and b. someone is going to get squeezed - and that means the bookstore (the author is squeezed already!). The larger bookstores need around 40% minimum discount and the only way to achieve this with POD is to make the cover price above what the market can stand. As a result, self-publishing a POD book can mean an acceptable cover price, but don't expect to see it in Waterstones.

Sue: Tell us about your novella On My Knees.

Tris: On My Knees was the first thing I ever wrote. Imagine my delight when it was a genre bestseller on Kindle! It also had some great reviews which all served to encourage me to write more. It's a coming out story about a nice guy who is caught in a downward spiral; a failing and loveless marriage and a business going down the toilet. Mark just doesn't fit in, never has, and assumes he's just some kind of weirdo. One night, after a terrible row with his wife, he goes to the gym where he meets Attila for the first time. Mark is drawn to the newbie and allows himself to be persuaded to go out for a drink. One thing leads to another and before the night is out Mark understands that he isn't weird at all, he's gay. Of course, life doesn't follow a straight line and the pair have some ups and downs, but we do actually have an ending that is 'happy for now' at least.

I've reworked the story a bit. Two years on I think I write better and I wanted to tighten up the prose, add a little here and there to create more depth to the story, so I call this On My Knees 'enhanced version'. I've put it on Amazon Prime so you can either buy it outright or, if you belong to Prime, you can borrow it for free. Here's a link:

Now, one bit of news even I didn't expect. Having made friends with Daniel deLoite we decided to pool our works and produce an anthology. We call it MANTHOLOGY and it contains On My Knees plus 5 short stories from Daniel. It's out now on Amazon (again in Prime) as eBook and paperback. We have kept the prices low, so the eBook is £1.98 and the paperback just £5.69. Here's a link: 

Here're a blurb and excerpt from ON MY KNEES:

Mark’s life is in turmoil. Held together by alcohol and antidepressants, he ducks and dives through the war zone his marriage has become, and watches helplessly as his business spirals down the plug hole. After yet another blazing row with his wife he escapes to the gym, intending to work off steam – and the effects of too much wine - but a tall and very handsome stranger catches Mark’s eye.  Feeling uncomfortable and weird, and in no hurry to return home, Mark agrees to a pint in the nearby pub. Before the night is out, Mark finally understands that he isn’t weird – he’s gay – and a new world opens up for him.

A gentle breeze freshened the early morning, chasing away the odours that gather in the city during the dark hours. The walk from Attila’s flat back to my car on the other side of Belsize Park blew away the last of my cobwebs. Despite the lack of sleep, I buzzed with excitement and couldn’t wait to tackle the day. I felt his business card in my pocket and rubbed it between my fingers. That little piece of card represented hope. Why would he have given it to me if he didn’t want to see me again?
I switched on my mobile phone with a feeling of dread. How many times would Diana have tried to get me? I did have to face her, couldn’t put it off any longer. After midnight, hate me or not, she would have been out of her mind with worry.
I found a call from Alex at 22.32 the night before. He’d left a voice message but, sounding very drunk, his words were inaudible against the background din. And that was the only one. Diana hadn’t even tried to reach me. The anxiety melted away, only to be replaced with concern. She always pestered me after a row and, despite the lack of love between us, I worried that she may have done something foolish. Yes, she had hurt herself so badly, or worse, that she couldn’t call. I jumped into the car and headed towards home.
As I drove up the hill towards the flat I expected to see the place burned to the ground, the site surrounded by police tape and the passing traffic slowing to allow the drivers to rubber neck. But everything looked exactly as it had when I left the night before. I swung the car into the usual space and took a deep breath as I strode towards our door.
The books she’d hurled at me lay at the bottom of the stairs just inside the door to the flat, their covers open to reveal bent and torn pages. I heard her crashing around in the kitchen above. Well, at least she hadn’t taken the knife to herself.  I took a gulp of air and mounted the stairs. I would be nice and conciliatory, try to smooth things over.
A mug hissed past my head and smashed into the wall behind me as I got halfway up the stairs. I automatically turned to look and saw brown liquid trickle down the wall. I heard Diana’s footsteps on the tiled floor and made my way to the top of the stairs before she had chance to rearm.
“Hi,” I said, venturing into the kitchen. “How are you?”
“Get out.” She didn’t even turn to look at me. She leaned on the counter, staring out of the window. “Just get out and don’t come back.”
“We need to talk.”
“I’ve nothing to say to you.”
“Come on, we can sort this. We always do.”
“I said get out and don’t bother coming back.”
“You don’t mean that.”
She’d said it a hundred times in the past. I wondered, looking at the back of her crumpled blue and white print frock, if she’d ever find anyone else if I left.
“Don’t you tell me what I mean. Don’t you dare to tell me anything.” She spun round, her hands trembling, teeth gritted. Her eyes betrayed a night of tears.
“I’m going to get changed.” I headed for the internal stair.
She followed, right behind me, and when I reached the first step she pounded my back with her fists. “You bastard. Where have you been all night? I’ve been out of my mind.” She began to sob and the beating stopped.
But now my guilt had turned to anger. “Don’t come that.” I turned to her and jabbed the air with a finger. “You never even called.”
She wiped her eyes on her sleeve and sniffed. “Who is she?”
“Come again?”
“The woman you’re seeing. Don’t think I don’t know. I’m not stupid, Mark. Who is she?”
I hadn’t expected that. Perhaps this wasn’t the right time to tell her the truth after all. I needed time to think. I had to sort my own head out. “There is no other woman,” I said. “I can assure you of that.”

You can find Tristram here:

You can find Daniel here:


  1. Thanks for having me,Sue

  2. I think initially, the e-book route is best for the majority of fresh writers to go, but as recent events have shown (ref: Hugh Howey and his e-novel 'Wool' - read by Ridley Scott who liked it so much he bought the rights to make it into a film, and now HH has a book deal signed with a traditional publisher!), if the right people read and like your e-book, things can take off.

    Interesting post, Sue :)

  3. You're always welcome, Tris.You're right, Mark, the publishing industry is changing fast.

  4. Congratulations, Tris!
    Not sure if I'd ever dare self-publish, but at least I'm established if I do. And while I am with a traditional publisher, it's the eBook version of my books that sell best.
    Lots of great tips today! After what my guest today posted, I feel like a slacker.

  5. Very informative post! Congrats Trish on your success, may they keep on coming :)

  6. I agree, very interesting and informative, especially Tris's views on internet marketing. He articulates what I've been wondering myself. Great interview, Sue.


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