Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Part 2 - Q&A with bestselling author Kate Hilton

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Yesterday I featured Part 1 of a 2-part Q&A with Kate Hilton, best-selling author of The Hole in the Middle. Originally Kate self-published the book. Then an agent contacted her, and six days later sold the book to HarperCollins. Penguin Random House has since bought the book and will publish it in January 2016 in the US.

Q. If you had known what you know now, would you have self-published or done something different?

KH: I would have done exactly the same thing. I learned an incredible amount through self-publishing, and all of those skills helped enormously when my book came out with HarperCollins. Writers are expected to work in partnership with their publishers on marketing, and for most writers, self-promotion is uncomfortable. You get past that discomfort quickly as a self-published author – you have no choice!

How did you market the book when you self-published? How did you decide price, etc?

KH: I did my research. There are many resources available online which provide genre-specific and platform-specific advice to self-published writers. In my case, I published through the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program on Amazon, and I read everything I could find about how to use that platform effectively. I also looked at other books in my genre that were selling well, and used those as a starting point for thinking about issues such as pricing and cover art.

Can you give us an idea of the success - ranking on Amazon, number of reviews, sales, etc?

KH: The Hole in the Middle wasn’t available as a self-published book for very long – only about six weeks. But in that time it was downloaded over 14,000 times.

What changed after Harper Colliins bought the book?

KH: I was under contract with KDP for 90 days, although I stopped doing any marketing once I sold the rights to HarperCollins. As soon as the Amazon contract expired, I removed the book from the KDP platform.

We had a debate about changing the name, actually, but in the end it stuck. I did quite a few revisions under the guidance of my HarperCollins editor, Jennifer Lambert. I loved working with the editorial team at HarperCollins – I expected to enjoy the process but I was surprised at how much I felt the book was improved.

What do you like best about going the route of traditional publishing?

KH: I think that traditional publishing produces excellent books. There is a huge team of people behind every book, and all of them bring remarkable care to the project. I love that The Hole in the Middle ended up with so many talented people invested in, and cheering for, its success.

What did you miss if anything about self-publishing?

KH: Honestly? I didn’t miss self-publishing. I loved the experience of it, but I was ready to have more support behind me. Many writers will tell you that they are more comfortable with the control that self-publishing gives them over every aspect of book production; traditionally published writers have little or no input into pricing and design, for example. But having complete control is time-consuming, frankly. I was happy to cede some of those responsibilities to my publisher and get back to writing my next book.

Knowing what you know now, and the route you took, what would be your advice to someone who's written a novel and tried to get an agent/publisher? (Start something new, revise and resubmit, self-publish, etc).

The advice I always give is to make sure that any work you put out into the world is your very best. There is no substitute for professional editing, and it should be part of every self-published writer’s budget. A professional editor will also give you an objective perspective on the quality of your manuscript, and help you think about the right next step for you and your book.

In this age of the popularity and success of self-publishing you can make a lot more money sometimes by self-publishing because royalty rates are higher. Why did you prefer to shift to traditional publishing after already selling a lot of copies yourself?

KH: The truth is that very few people are making a lot of money in publishing these days, in any form. I don’t think aspiring writers should make a decision about publication based on how much money they think they can make. There are just too many factors at play, and luck is a big one. In the end, I sold more copies through traditional publishing than I did through self-publishing, but I would never had predicted that outcome. I simply felt that traditional publishing would offer a larger readership than I could generate through my own marketing efforts – and I wanted the experience of seeing my book on the shelf in bookstores. And, I have to say, that moment was every bit as thrilling as I had imagined it would be.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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