Maria Constantine

I met Maria Constantine in January, 2012, on an authors’ website, Authonomy. She was one of the first people to welcome me, and one of the first to review my suspense novel, Chameleon. I reviewed her book, My Big Greek Family, too. Since then, we’ve become good friends even though she lives in the U.K. and I live in the U.S. What an amazing thing the internet is. When she told me she was going to self-publish her book, I asked her to write a guest blog article and share it with other authors. She was happy to do see. I’d like to introduce you to Maria Constantine.

Thank you, Susan for inviting me to write a guest blog on why I’ve decided to self-publish and how I’m going about it.

I made the decision following my visit to the London Book Fair (LBF) this year. I’ve been attending the London Book Fair for the past few years and have learnt an incredible amount about the changing landscape of the publishing industry. I have posted the notes I made from various seminars on my blog as other writers may find them of use.

Today I’ll be sharing my journey and how I changed from being an author who thought getting a publishing deal with a large trade publisher was always the best option for an author, to now believing that pursing the traditional publishing route may not always be the best option. The key is being able to make an informed decision and realising that it is possible for a writer to take different routes for different books.

‘My Big Greek Family’ is my first book and it falls within commercial women’s fiction. Listening to literary agents at the LBF I realised there are trends in publishing which will influence whether a manuscript is accepted by a literary agent and publisher. Two genres doing well are Young Adult and Erotica; I think we all know why Erotica has caught editors’ attention. One literary agent said that the market for commercial women’s fiction is ‘saturated’ and to add to this my book is not typical for the genre. The main characters are second-generation women, the story is written from multiple points of view – and one of the characters, Sophia, makes a choice to explore her Christian faith. Sophia’s choice is mentioned in a few scenes and it would be easy for an editor to change this. Going to a fortune-teller is the more popular option in commercial women’s fiction. However, there are certain changes I am not prepared to make – this is not to say that the manuscript has not been professionally content edited, copy edited and proofread.

Therefore, taking everything into account I decided to self-publish ‘My Big Greek Family’. I wish to enter mainstream commercial women’s fiction with a different voice and from a different perspective. I am prepared to take the risk and invest time, energy and money to publish a book with characters that second-generation women can relate to and identify with, as I strongly believe there is a gap in the market.

I was fortunate to have a fifteen-minute-slot to discuss my manuscript with a literary agent at the LBF this year. The presentation went well and the literary agent gave me her card to submit my work. She was extremely helpful and at the time I thought I was going to finish revising my manuscript, and then submit it for consideration.

But I didn’t do this. Instead I rang Gareth Howard at Authoright. I met Gareth in 2011 at the LBF and again this year as Authoright were curating the Author Lounge. If a literary agent or large trade publisher considers my manuscript I want to be in a position where I have researched my market, developed an author profile, book brand and tested the market.

I am digitally self-publishing, not print publishing, as at this stage I do not want to take on print book design, distribution etc. – plus it would make it easier to sell the print rights to a publishing house if that became a viable option. At the end of the day publishing is a business and I am not closing the door to the traditional publishing route by e-book self-publishing first. If I show there is a market for ‘My Big Greek Family’, I have all the rights and can enter into negotiations, such as sell the print rights but keep the digital rights. Of course, interest will only arise if the e-book sells, but I am prepared to take the risk. Trade publishers are risk averse and I can understand why as they have high costs to cover, and need to adapt to seismic changes within the publishing industry.

I must add the crucial point that even though I am self-publishing I am not doing this alone. I have an editor, Jo, who also works on a freelance basis for a large trade publisher; I’ve often joked with Susan that the manuscript is going through another edit and I don’t know if I will ever finish with the edits! Firsty Group will be converting the Word document into ePub and Mobi formats, and then passing on the files to me so that I can upload them onto the various online retailers. And last but not least, Gareth and his team at Authoright are designing the cover, author website and will be marketing ‘My Big Greek Family’. I do not have a marketing background and from our initial meeting Gareth was able to direct me in the branding of my book. The first thing that I changed was the title. The cover design is nearly finished and I hope to have the final design soon.

A book that has guided me on how to self-publish is ‘The Indie Authors’ Yearbook – Choosing A Self-Publishing Service 2013’ by Ben Galley & Mick Rooney, Edited by Orna Ross. Orna refers to the hybrid model where an author can follow both the traditional publishing route and the self-publishing route: they do not need to be mutually exclusive.

Jackie Collins has decided to digitally self-publish, not because she does not get on with her publishers but because there are situations where self-publishing is the better option.

Today I opened an envelope, which contains the two ISBN numbers I bought for my e-book. Self-publishing is not the easiest route to take because it requires the author to take on entrepreneurial skills and a lot of responsibility, but I have a great team around me and my sight is not set on finding a publisher, it is set on finding my readers.

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