Traditionally published, then self-published – this author compares the two

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Allison RushbyEarlier this year, in episode 4 of our top-rating podcast, So you want to be a writer, we spoke with internationally published author Allison Rushby.

Now, many writers begin self-publishing and end up with a traditional publishing book deal. However, Allison has done it the other way round – choosing after 14 years as an author to self-publish for the first time this year when the rights to four of her earlier books reverted to her. Then, on a roll, she chose to self-publish her new young adult novel, Being Hartley, at the same time.

Allison provided some valuable insights into the relative strengths of both of these two publishing methods, and writing in general – we've summarised her key points here.

How self-publishing differs… “It’s very different. I think that you get a lot of control — a lot more control than you do in traditional publishing, but with that extra control there’s a lot that you lose as well. You have to be sort of eternally vigilant with self-publishing, you’re always thinking of strategies, and how you can bounce the books off of each other and things like that.”

Nailing your self-publishing strategy…  “[This past year] I put out so many books in quick succession — five books probably over the space of maybe eight or nine months. That’s a lot to be going on with for a start, just even things like getting the copy editing and the proofread at the same time. But also how you’re going to market them, not just separately but together, because so much of self-publishing is about promoting one book at a time on things like Book Bible, Book Blast. And then how you’re going to work your promotions — Are you going to do a countdown deal on this one? Are you going to price it at $0.99 for a week? It’s all about the strategy as compared to traditional publishing.”

On not cutting corners… “Coming from a traditional background in publishing, I think you do see the benefits of a really good structural edit, a really good copy edit, and a really good proofread. And, a professionally designed cover — please have a professionally designed cover! I think you really can’t underestimate those things when you’re self-publishing your book.”

Whether an unpublished author should choose to self-publish or aim to be published traditionally… “I think it all depends what you want and what sort of area you’re publishing in. If I were publishing new adult I would seriously look at self-publishing, that’s such a hot self-publishing area. Whereas if I were publishing middle grade children’s books I wouldn’t touch self-publishing with a ten foot barge-pole. It’s just not an area where you’re going to sell very many books.”

Being a plotter/planner vs flying by the seat of your pants when writing… I think a lot of it is organic in that if you are writing a novel you’re probably also a reader, you’ve probably read a lot of books and you’re quite familiar with story and how it works. So when you do hear writers like Stephen King who are quite anti-plotting talk about being anti-plotting you think, “Well, I think that is only because he has organically learnt about how to do what he does.” I think everybody is a plotter really, it’s just that some of us are maybe a little bit more anal about it.”

On writing regularly… “I really despise when other writers say, ‘You must write everyday and you must write your ten pages.’ It’s like, ‘Well, yeah, I’ve got two kids, a husband, and a cat… I can’t write everyday!’ That’s just not how life works. It’s not set in stone. I think if you can manage to keep writing and keep squeezing it in where you can, then that’s what really matters.”

On writers being readers… “Read. Read and read and read. You really need to know what’s out there and what works. The sorts of books you like to read really do tell you what you’re most likely to be writing, I think. It always surprises me to find when people read one thing and write something completely different – I always think that’s a bit of a worry. Or trying to write in one area maybe because of the market. Reading what you love and understanding what you love gives a lot to your writing.”

‘Discoverability’ and an ‘author platform’ in the world of publishing… “I’m not in a big believer in things like needing a blog, or 10,000 Twitter followers, or anything like that. But, when it comes to self-publishing I think your author platform is more about how many books you have to offer than it is about how many Facebook friends you have, and things like that. You really have to have that larger volume of work where you can bounce the books off of each other… and lead them through the process of finding your next book, or what they need to read from you next.

“Just write a really good book that people cannot put down. At the end of the day that is all that matters is this fantastic book.”

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Allison Rushby
Allison’s latest book (traditionally published by Allen & Unwin) is middle grade book, How to Save the Universe in Ten Easy Steps, released last month. You can find out more about this and her other books by visiting her website. And for the complete transcript of Allison Tait’s interview with Allison Rushby for our podcast, go here.

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