Interview of John Gormally, writing as Patrick Greenwood by Gabi Manangan:
So, you want to publish a book. Great. Got your idea? Your whole story structured? How about your finished manuscript that took months to draft, read over, and edit, again and again. Awesome. You’re almost there!
Now, the hardest part: you must go through the trials and tribulations of becoming published. You may attempt to seek an audience with the traditional publishing kings of the business and plead your worth or take the treacherous path of making it all on your own. Or, at least, this exaggeration is what it may feel like for one new to the gauntlet, and even for those who have already been through it!
Newly published author, Patrick Greenwood, graciously gives us some of his time and wisdom on the matter. Changing careers from tech sales, he faced the very same dilemma you might be facing right now: he had no idea what publishing route to choose! One afternoon, during the pandemic, after a heavy day at work, he sat down and drafted up the first draft of his debut novel, “Sunrise in Saigon.”
At this point, one should seek out others. First, use at least one writing group. Next, find beta readers. There are websites that provide regular people who like to read new books. You could ask your book club to review it. There are even Facebook page sites where people will read your book.
The next step might be expensive. Find an editor. Someone who will catch all the little errors your eyes no longer see. There are automatic programs, but “I assure you, they make lots of errors.”
After he felt that he was ready, Greenwood spent time sending his hard work to traditional publishers. He found an opportunity at a hybrid publisher, Austin Macauley. In the arduous journey before, during, and after, he has gained wisdom to share with authors going through the same process.
Greenwood says that hybrid publishing can be a middle-ground between traditional and self-publishing—a company, for a price, will get the book published, but the author still needs to do a lot of legwork to make sales take off. Greenwood cautions, “Be sure to know what they going to do for you.”
For Greenwood, he saw that despite Austin Macauley’s price, the firm offered “experience and global expertise.” Performing his due diligence, Greenwood bought a whooping 41 books from the publisher. After reading them, he decided they were of acceptable quality and that he would be okay having his book released among them.
Research any publishing house goes a long way— traditional or hybrid. It’s an investment in your book’s future. Prices an author might pay the hybrid publisher may range from $2,500 to $30k! On top of that, there are still royalties held by the publisher that varies for a multitude of situations and conditions.
Acting between traditional and self-publishing, hybrid publishers are able to take the lead on certain aspects of the publishing process, including editing, cover art, various formatting, marketing, and more. While an author may have more control and autonomy doing everything, it means just that – they do everything themselves! Hybrid publishing is especially helpful if the author knows with what aspects of self-publishing they want or need help.
One other example of a hybrid publisher is BookBaby. Through Amazon, they focus on getting your book published and available through various formats. Additionally, BookBaby advertises that they will do some extra promoting of your book.
For example, Greenwood asserts that, despite going through a hybrid publisher, a book’s success will be heavily reliant on the author’s ability to sell the book. Authors should “be realistic on their expectations. Do not expect them to do your marketing. They are trying to get the book out. And they want to have their name on it in some form.” A publisher may not even have a focus on editing your work. You’d expect them to have high attention to detail, but at the end of the day, their focus will be getting the book published and not much else.
Greenwood compares the plight of hybrid and self-published authors to some traditional publisher cases. Traditional publishers may pay an author to do signings or make appearances. When Greenwood approached a Barnes & Noble bookstore about having stock of his book there, he was promptly asked for his marketing plan and was informed that they “do not do signing days unless they are a ’Barnes & Noble premier author.’” Self- and hybrid-published authors must rely on their own marketing. Greenwood offers social media, virtual and in-person book signings, and giveaways as some examples.
When negotiating with publishers, Greenwood knows one thing for sure: “If they don’t offer Ingram Sparks, run the other way.” As soon he was on Ingram, his book was on 14 other websites throughout the world. Ingram Sparks notified other online sites that the book was available. “Part of what you will be paying for is a foot in the door.”
Ingram Sparks, like Amazon, offers “print on demand” services, which can be a powerful tool. One strength is being able to edit as one goes; an author is able to submit edits and require no time at all for their updates to be reflected in the books because they are made when ordered. However, Greenwood admits this strength may not be reflected when a publisher is the one posting the manuscript onto Ingram Sparks; they didn’t always upload the updated master copy in a timely manner.
Going forward, for his future books, Greenwood recognizes his planned self-publishing process will be easier, since he is already a published author and, on top of that, he has a publishing house behind his first book. As an interesting aside, even though he went through his hybrid publisher, Greenwood is still considered self-published since he still owns his manuscript. Many book awards incentivize self-publishing by offering awards specifically for self-published works.
Overall, self-publishing is a very flexible route that gives authors autonomy they otherwise might not have had with a publisher. When going through his publisher, Greenwood admits he had to fight to keep the name and cover he had planned for his work (and he still had to pay the publisher’s art fee)! The beautiful cover art was a photo taken by Greenwood himself, full of meaning to both him and his story.
Additionally, publisher isn’t able to support the author in every way. Greenwood recalls the story of requesting a Vietnamese woman with a narration role in the audio book format. Austin MacCauley was not able to provide an actress’s voice. Fortunately, Greenwood was able to introduce someone to his publisher.
Going through self-publishing, Greenwood offers advice on the different formats—hard and softback, eBook, and audio-book. First, he recommends Ingram Sparks over Amazon; preferring their print-on-demand service. Then, one can use Ingram Sparks’ ISBN for hard and soft copies of the book. Next, take the book’s ISBN number and upload it to Amazon for the sole purpose of having it available through Kindle. For physical sales, books on Ingram Sparks can be listed on Amazon. Last, he recommends “Upwork” as a medium agency to outsource work. Freelancers available to format your book for various formats are readily available, and Greenwood happily reports that some even go the extra mile and even upload it themselves.
The hardest and most important thing a writer must learn and master is marketing, marketing, and marketing. Even when going through a publishing house, Greenwood says, “Publishers will market your book, never you.” Regardless of your route, becoming comfortable with marketing is paramount to your success.
Greenwood emphasizes the importance of doing proactive marketing. “The author is going to have to talk to people." He points out that paying a PR firm to get your work an ad spot on a podcast isn't going to cut it. "YOU have to be the one on that podcast."
Marketing is a continual process. You have to post on social media, send out books, and ask for reviews, good or bad! He gives an example—he thanked a literary titan on LinkedIn. They came back and offered a press release for him, free of charge. Just like many aspects of life, kindness goes a long way.
Greenwood has a few outlets through which he markets his writing. Most notably, the most community-friendly has been his podcast, “Writers on Writers over Triple Espresso.” Over coffee, Greenwood offers a platform for fledgling authors to talk and advertise themselves. Recognizing the plight of getting one’s name out there, Greenwood offers a platform from which writers can talk.
Unfortunately, marketing is a rough slog for many. And despite the author’s best efforts, their book may not sell as well as they expected. Greenwood offers: “Think forward!” Rather than lose oneself in fantasies of grandeur, think smaller: buy books and distribute them. Give them to friends and family and acquaintances and ask them to write reviews. Let your small project take root and care for it as it grows. Treat your written work like a young sapling and nurture its growth.
The point isn’t to subdue your expectations and to expect nothing; it’s to recognize the monumental feat you’ve accomplished just by having the discipline, passion, and drive to sit down and write. And, Greenwood points out, you now can do it again. And again. And again.
Throughout the interview, Greenwood’s passion simmers up as he shares his experiences. A genuine adoration of the art of writing overflows and it’s hard not to get swept into his enthusiasm.
Regardless of how an author publishes, or even if they don’t publish at all, it’s important to savor the time from start to finish. Regardless of the route you take, you can always learn something new and tailor your future publishing experiences accordingly. Keeping this motion in mind, Greenwood signs every one of his books with the same three-word phrase: “Enjoy the journey.”