In 2013, I was on holiday in Majorca with my mother and my daughter when I got an offer of publication from Inspired Quill. The Last Time We Saw Marion was my first novel and I had to think long and hard about committing what was at that point my life’s work to a small press that I had never heard of. I weighed up the options. I would not get the advance of money that every aspiring author dreams of. The royalties for each book would not amount to much.
But what I would (and did) get were a series of edits on my book, mutual back-and-forth edits which improved the quality of the writing – and for me, the quality of the writing is as important as the story and the book’s potential saleability – I’m in it for the long run.
Signing with this particular small press would also result in a beautifully-produced book with a professional cover design, and printing costs, all funded by my publisher. From signing, to the first box of books, equates to at least £2000 in monetary terms, and that doesn’t take into account what would have been the cost of the repeated rounds of editing. The small press publisher contributes these services for free. I take immense satisfaction from working with an editor, perhaps my willingness to work with others on every possible way of improving my work comes from my background in Fine Art. During the process of the BA and Master’s degree, ‘group crits’ are an essential means of personal development.
The £2000+ costs of proofreading, cover design and initial printing, not to mention any publicity costs, are what I would otherwise have had to spend myself to come up with a comparable finished product, and I didn’t have that money. Most of all, I wanted a publisher behind me, I didn’t want to be cast out alone on the choppy sea of self-publishing.
When you open your first box of newly published books it feels like a validation of all the hard work. The Last Time We Saw Marion emerged into the physical world in April 2014.
But in November this year, my third novel, The Eliza Doll (currently out on Kindle), comes out in paperback with Wild Pressed Books. This is the independent press I’ve set up with my husband, Phil Scott-Townsend. Wild Pressed Books has also published two other books this year: Davíð Rafn Kristjánsson’s Burning Karma (launched at the Embassy of Iceland, London, March 2016) and Holly Bidgood’s The Eagle and The Oystercatcher, to be launched at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August. We’re really excited at the new skills we’ve learned, and are continually working on. Our first publication has gone very well so far, and our author, Davíð, is already making a name for himself in Iceland, with the sales trickling through from our bookshop. We can do this.
And yet, in March, 2017, I am returning to Inspired Quill for the publication of my fourth novel, Of His Bones. Why did I decide to go back to Inspired Quill to publish my fourth book? Because I value the editing and production services of my small publisher. Yes, I could do it myself, as could have the authors who have signed up with the small press Phil and I have set up. But for me it isn’t about having all the control, it’s about working in conjunction with a trusted other, to produce the best and most professional outcome. This can be achieved in different ways for different writers, and the small-press way is the best way for me.