The recent debate at Birkbeck Arts Week on Getting Published in the Digital Era showed how much division there still is about the merits of ‘going digital’, even with an established publishing house.
But if there’s one thing that two creative writing courses have taught me, it’s this: getting published is tough. And getting your first book published is even tougher. Some writers apparently leave them unpublished in drawers forever. My first novel, which is about to be published digitally, had almost been picked up by an independent print publisher, and I’d gone through the process of making revisions for them, but we ultimately had different ideas for the novel. It had been shortlisted in draft form for two awards (and has now been shortlisted for a third), and each time there was the dizzying excitement of possibility. I figured I must be onto something, and merrily undertook a second novel, which I’ve worked on for my MA. But still no joy for the first novel.
So when Carina UK, the new, cross-genre, digital imprint of Harlequin, said they loved that novel, and that they wanted two more, I wasn’t about to say no. This was the ‘three-book deal’ for which I had been waiting. No more insipid emails from agents saying ‘it was well-written but they couldn’t see a market’, instead, a dynamic new imprint willing and able to take a risk on a new author. For me, initially, it wasn’t about a choice to ‘go digital’ or not. It was about getting my story out into the world. It was about the fact that the initial feedback from my Carina editor on my manuscript was amongst the most intelligent feedback I’d had on that novel. About working with someone who ‘got’ and shared my vision—a psychological thriller about two young women who exchange identities, with alternating chapters in each of their voices.
Because let’s be clear about this: digital publishing is not about dumping books on a Kindle. Nor is it a form of self-publishing, or working with an anonymous marketing machine, or about contractual small-print that robs you of your firstborn. It is none of those myths. With Carina UK, I have gone through all the processes one would expect with a ‘traditional’ publisher—even a nice lunch with my editor discussing our favourite novels (we share a love of Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton).
The amazing thing about digital for me, though, is that I submitted my novel in late February, and it will be coming out in mid-July. And, if all goes well, my second novel will be coming out later this year or at the start of 2014. Suddenly, I will be in the world as a ‘published author’. That is clearly something to be celebrated.
Going digital is not for everyone. An ingénue may feel daunted by the prospect of not being on a bit of paper for ‘posterity’. Other writers, I know, would baulk at the idea of spending time on social media and don’t ‘get’ Twitter and the online reviewer/blogger community. But for people like me who have been savvied-up with a Faber Academy course and/or an MA, and have been tweeting, reviewing and blogging for years, it feels natural and exciting. My approach as a reader has changed over the years, too: I was initially suspicious of Kindles and their kind, but increasingly I relish clicking a link and having a book on my screen moments later. I’m not plotting the demise of the print book (I still buy them too) but there is a home for both.
I don’t yet know how being a digitally published author will play out, but no debut author can really have that certainty. At the moment, I am in the dazzling position of having a book out this month, and my editor reviewing my second one at the moment. I would love for Yours is Mine to resonate with readers, for it to keep them up till 2am in suspense. I would love for them to be able to access it in as many ways as possible—so if ‘e’ became ‘e’ and ‘p’ that would be just fine. I would also love for digital imprints to be regarded on equal terms with what will hopefully cease to be termed ‘traditional’ ones, with the same access to mainstream reviewers, media and literary prizes. That way those publishers who have dared to use a new model to take a risk on debut authors, win—and so do the authors and readers.
Yours is Mine, a psychological thriller, will be released by Carina UK on 18 July and is available to pre-order now on Amazon and iBooks. For more details see the Carina website.