Going Acoustic: Our Deal With HarperCollins
Anyone who has followed my breathless outpourings on this blog or on the various social networks and forums I frequent will know that the last month has been both exciting and surreal. To recap: Catch Your Death was No.1 on Amazon.co.uk for a month; Killing Cupid kept climbing up to No.2, helping us achieve the double whammy twice; we sold 42,000 ebooks in June and sales are still going strong in July. Weve been on live TV and radio, written about in the national press, blogged about worldwide.
In the meantime, while all this has been going on, events have been rumbling in the background. I havent been able to go public until now, but this is the definitive version from the (slightly hoarse) horses mouth.
A few weeks ago we acquired an agent, Sam Copeland at RCW. He quickly pushed out submissions of Catch Your Death and Killing Cupid to all of the major publishers in the UK. (Contrary to what has been widely reported, Catch Your Death had never previously been submitted to any publishers. Killing Cupid was submitted, years ago, but our agent at that time was lukewarm about it and, besides, we have radically revised it since.)
Id been here before, numerous times, mostly back in the 90s when I had an agent who tried to sell three of my novels. And Louise had also been here, with more success, though she had since resigned herself to never being published again. We certainly didnt feel that getting accepted was guaranteed. Our sales on Kindle didnt matter at this moment: it was all about whether anyone liked the books.
A few days of nail-chewing tension followed. Back in the day, whenever this had happened it had felt like tossing a coin in the air that always came down tails when youre praying for heads. But then, the day before our media blitz, we received a pre-emptive offer from HarperCollins. The offer was for four books. The advance was six figures. The editor, Kate Bradley, and the team at HC were excited and enthusiastic.
We said yes.
Heres the press release that HarperCollins put out this week, the kind of thing I used to fantasise about:
HarperFiction have moved quickly to snap up internet sensations, Louise Voss and Mark Edwards, whose two self-published novels have stormed both the Amazon Kindle and the Amazon Books chart. Catch Your Death, their second novel, has remained at the top of the Kindle chart for weeks and sold 42,000 copies in the month of June, while Killing Cupid, their debut, remains in the Top 10. The authors have sparked huge interest, appearing on BBC Breakfast, Sky News, Radio 2 and Radio 5, along with numerous newspapers and sites including BBC News, The Guardian and The Telegraph.
Kate Bradley secured World Rights for four books with a six-figure pre-empt from the agent Sam Copeland at Rogers, Coleridge and White.
Bradley said ‘When Killing Cupid and Catch Your Death were submitted, I ripped through them in just a few hours and it was clear that we had found something very, very special. Louise and Mark have done a fantastic job of publishing their own books in the digital space and I’m thrilled that we are going to take them to the next level, both in terms of their ebook profile and in the physical market. They are writing clever, fast-paced, psychological thrillers that are highly addictive and we can’t wait to get these out into the wider world.’
The first book Catch Your Death will be published as a physical edition in early Spring 2012, while the ebook editions will continue to sell online.
We have met our new editor, Kate, and she is as enthusiastic in person as she seems in that press release. And yes, we are doing something that hasnt been done before in the UK: the books will remain online as ebooks, republished by HarperCollins, continuing to sell as we await the release of the paperbacks.
When Amanda Hocking got her deal with St Martins Press, and when Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler signed with Amazon publishing after renouncing legacy publishing, as Konrath calls it, great ripples went through the indie publishing world, a world that Louise and I have been part of for the last five months. It is not an exaggeration to say that indie publishing has changed our lives, and as the sub-title of this blog indicates, we are excited by the revolution going on right now that allows writers to find readers directly through Amazon, Smashwords and so on.
We never could have dreamt that we would sell so many copies or that we would occupy the No.1 spot for an hour, let alone a full month. Partly, we have been lucky: we arrived just after the first wave of indie success, following in the wake of Lexi Revellian, Saffina Desforges and Stephen Leathers self-published books. The rules were being written, invented, torn up, reinventedincluding by Louise and me. We rode that second wave.
I am sure there will be some people who wonder why we have decided to go this route after enjoying such success on our own. So, like Amanda Hocking before us, I want to get our thoughts down in writing.
Firstly, theres the marketing effort. Getting to No.1 was not easy in our first three months we earned about £100 between us. And that was after spending at least two hours every evening, after coming home from our day jobs, working on getting our first book noticed. It was exhausting. Thrilling and vindicating, too, when it began to pay off, but being an indie writer and publisher can take over your life. We had no time at all to do the thing we love doing most: writing. Its true that any writer who wants to be successful needs, as Jodi Picoult says, to be their own cheerleader, but with a publishing house behind us we wont have to do all the marketing and promotion on our own.
Secondly, theres the actual product (although I dont really like using that word to describe something youve put your heart and soul into). We have had numerous problems with formatting issues, plus the lack of anyone to proof-read or edit the books meant readers kept pointing out mistakes (something Hocking experienced too). This upset us because we want our books to be perfect. Having an experienced and enthusiastic editor, plus proof-readers, epublishing professionals and designers (although our own designer did a fantastic job with zero budget), means we can produce a truly professional piece of work. And, of course, a good editor can help you make the story and the writing better. I dont think this should be underestimated.
Thirdly, theres the big question of availability. When we started selling ebooks in quantity, our friends and family were happy for us. But the most common question we got asked was When is it going to come out as a real book? It doesnt matter how many times you tell people that ebooks are the future, there are still hundreds of thousands – millions – of potential readers out there who dont own a Kindle or Nook and who dont want to read anything on their phone. They want a book. This is especially true in the UK where the ebook market lags behind the US and the vast majority of sales are in paperback. Last week, we sold around 7000 copies of Catch Your Death, but the No.1 fiction paperback sold just under 50,000, at a much higher price. This will change, but we think books will be around for a while yet. And we want everyone to be able to read our books. I want my mum to be able to read my books!
Added to that, we want people around the world to read them. Nearly all of our sales so far have been in the UK. Cracking the US is hard enough despite being able to publish on Amazon, but without a publisher we had little hope of ever getting our books translated and sold in other languages. I know its possible to go direct to other foreign language publishers but its much harder.
And finally, there is the biggest reason of all, at least for me, a book virgin. There will be lots of people, I imagine, trying to work out how much money we could make as indie writers and how that compares to being published. It is all speculation. Nobody knows, including us. Of course, we tried to work out the sums but quickly realised it wasnt the most important thing.
Because this is about wanting something for a long time and finally getting it. Its about having a dream the dream of holding a book in your hands with your name on it, with your words inside. A book that might end up in the remainder bins within weeks or might, who knows, stand the test of time. It might even outlive you. Its about being able to show something to all the people who believed in you and yes, those who doubted you and saying, Look. We did it. We never gave up and we achieved something.
That, for me, is the most important part of all of this. Finally becoming a published author after so many years of trying. Getting that call to say we had a deal was truly special. Whatever happens now, in this ever-shifting world of books and stories, I will never forget it.
And I just want to say one more thing: this doesnt mean that we are abandoning the indie world. Louise and I have made some great friends over the last few months. The indie writing community is a wonderful place full of talented, supportive people and Louise and I still intend to be part of that community. Louise is very soon going to self-publish her first four novels on Kindle. We have the Summer Book Club running for the next eight weeks. And I have my own solo novels which may appear only as ebooks; who knows? This blog will continue, and soon I hope to have more time to devote to it.
Right now though, we need to crack on with the sequel to Catch Your Death. We have a publishers deadline to meet!