Today I'm very pleased to share The Fiction Factory with another fantasy author, the upcoming Michael R. Miller, who is here to share his self-publishing story and how we published his book using a publishing company called Acorn, one of the good guys. Here's his story! Enjoy.
A little bit about me
In order to fully understand why I chose the route to publication that I did, it is worth knowing a bit about what was happening to me about a year ago. I’m a firm believer that nowadays the path of publishing is very much down to which road suits you best. Your situation. Your personality. Your goals. So understanding where I was is key to understanding why I chose the route I took in publishing The Dragon’s Blade.
Back in late 2014 and early 2015, I was in the midst of a law conversion course. The end goal of this was to become a lawyer. Around Christmas time I had to face up to a very terrible truth. In no way did I want to be a lawyer. And that’s a pretty awful truth to accept when you’re stuck on an intense course. When I forced myself to be honest I knew that the only thing in life I really wanted to – you know, before I cop it – was to write the fantasy novels I’d been thinking on for years and give it a go.
So I began writing. Poorly, at first. Embarrassingly so. Still I just kept at it. I watched a lot of author interviews, and I learned a ton from Brandon Sanderson’s lecture series on youtube (search for WriteAboutDragons). I also joined the London Writers Café (LWC) where, after some months, I attended an event on self-publishing. It was there that I met one of the directors of Acorn.
From submission to contract
Hold on, I hear you say, a contract?
Submissions? But you were self-publishing, right? Well no, I didn’t intend to go down one way or the other back then (this was around late April). I was just researching but I’m glad I kept an open mind and didn’t lock myself into a mental state of ignoring everything from the traditional or self-publishing world. And Acorn – also known as I_AM Self-Publishing – are definitely somewhere in the middle.
They have a submissions process. After all, they are putting their name on it. There is therefore a quality check because their reputation is on the line with the books they put out into the world, just like any larger house. However, the process is far quicker. This is due in part to having less submissions than a larger house and so a regular ‘slush pile’ is avoided. The other factor in play is their business model, which essentially boils down to you paying upfront for massively better royalties in return.
How it works
If Acorn feel that your work is good enough and you want to sign up, there are two options. One is to pay for all the professional services they will provide, get set up on Amazon and then you part ways. On this model you keep 100% of the royalties but you are on your own. This option feels most like ‘pure self-publishing’ as it will be entirely down to you going forward.
The second model is to stay with Acorn and they will put it through their massive distribution network. They will continue to handle everything like dealing with the distributors/printers for you so long as you remain with them. More importantly, they are often approached by the likes of Amazon and Kobo to select books for a particular promotion and can submit their books for promotional deals on these sites which you won’t get the chance to on your own. On this model Acorn take a 20% cut of the royalties.
I chose the latter option, for a number of reasons. A major factor in swaying me towards staying with Acorn (aside from the chance at amazon promotions) was having a set of experienced industry professionals to be able to turn to for advice. This was an advantage at every stage, even during editing, cover design and typesetting. Sure you can hire a cover artist yourself but my editor had excellent contacts with some of the best in the business. The cover artist that I eventually got, Rachel Lawston, did a truly amazing job and I wouldn’t have been able to get her to work on my book at the time were it not for my editor approaching her. The cover recently won an award, gaining me more exposure. I also felt very safe in the hands of my editor, Leila Dewji, who had previously worked at Gollancz and so had plenty of experience in the fantasy genre. As she is also a director at Acorn, I knew that she would put as much effort in as myself because she was invested in my book doing well. That was comforting to know. Indeed, having now spoken to many authors, I realise that Acorn put in an exceptional amount of editorial service. You absolutely get your money’s worth and then some. At the British FantasyCon last year I heard from some authors that they only received an email with a list of bullet points from their editors every now and then. At Acorn I had lengthy telephone calls at every major stage, detailed comments via track changes on drafts, quick feedback on fixes I did at my end, and in depth analysis of beta reader questionnaires to decide what further steps had to be taken there. I have no qualms about returning, purely on an editorial front.
The extra bits
I also asked Acorn to create a website for me and some marketing materials such as good business cards, posters and a book trailer. Again, this could all have been done elsewhere but there is something to be said for only dealing with one organisation. It helped, for example, that Acorn could use the cover images and the title font throughout creating these additional materials without having to wait on files or permissions from third parties. It helps that I can phone in when I need to, even if that is just for the occasional bit of advice. Starting out as a new author is a daunting experience and it is good to know that someone out there has your back. After all, they have put their name on it. They want my book and myself to succeed as much as I do.
And now that I have a better understanding of the whole process, I will be more comfortable in undertaking certain things entirely alone in the future. For instance, I now have a good relationship with my cover artist (who also produced a beautiful map for me as well) so I can go straight to her in the future and skip the middle man. Or I may look to take a book down the traditional route in the future. That’s the beauty of modern publishing which is often over looked. You, the author, have more choices than ever in how you get your work out into the world. I encourage everyone out there to not get locked into thinking there is only one way of doing it, or that there is a one ‘superior’ way. What’s most important is that you embark on the route that suits you and your current book best.
I hope this piece has been helpful in drawing attention to an alternative style of approach to publishing. If anyone has any questions for me regarding my experience with Acorn, please comment below or reach me at email@example.com.
Thanks again to Michael for sharing his story with us, and hope that helps you authors out there understand some of the other self-publishing methods available to you. If you want to connect with Michael, you can find him here.
See you soon,