I’ve been wondering about Susan’s move from self-publishing to traditional publishing ever since “The Traitor’s Wife” was published by Sourcebooks, so I’m so pleased that she has agreed to write about it for us. Danielle from Sourcebooks is also sponsoring a giveaway of “The Stolen Crown” (see my review) for two readers in the US and Canada. Please see the entry form at the bottom of this page.
It put an idea into my head. I was an unknown writer with a long novel about an obscure historical figure, Eleanor de Clare, and I knew that getting it published might well be an uphill battle. Why not pay to have it published, especially since I was on the wrong side of forty and didn’t have the patience I used to (which wasn’t much to begin with)?
Doing the research on self-publishing (or to be more precise, subsidy publishing), I found no shortage of reasons why it was a terrible idea. I would never live down the shame of having self-published a novel. I would never recover the money I had invested (about what some women would spend for a fancy pair of shoes and matching purse). I would never sell more than twenty copies of my book, and all of those to my family and friends. (Indeed, since I have a small family, I could probably count on selling no more than ten copies.) I would never stand a chance of seeing my books in a brick-and-mortar bookstore or getting a reputable publication to review them.
I decided to self-publish anyway. Having completed my novel, I didn’t want to wait years to find an agent and then a publisher—and, frankly, I was afraid that if I didn’t tell the fascinating story of Eleanor de Clare as soon as possible, a better-known author might beat me to it. I would be in the unenviable position of trying to sell a story that was regarded as having been definitively told by someone else. So I paid my money and I took my chances: I self-published The Traitor’s Wife.
And it worked. My website, my blog, and the other online marketing tools I used brought readers in, without my family and friends ever buying copies. (They got theirs for free.) The Traitor’s Wife also won prizes in a couple of contests geared toward independently published books, which helped my marketing efforts even more. So when I finished my second novel, Hugh and Bess, I decided to publish that independently as well—this time for a grand total of $50. Just two months later, quite out of the blue, Sourcebooks contacted me about publishing The Traitor’s Wife.
Well, this was a no-brainer: Naturally, I said yes. Since then, both The Traitor’s Wife and Hugh and Bess have been reissued by Sourcebooks, with some revisions, and my new novel, The Stolen Crown, was published by Sourcebooks just this month. All three are in bookstores now—and I still get a rush when I see them on the shelf.
So would I try self-publishing again? Would I advise someone else to self-publish? These aren’t easy questions to answer. Even though I did comparatively well with my self-published books, I never sold as many as I would have through a traditional publisher, and I never did succeed in getting more than a few copies in local bookstores (the naysayers were right about that). I always had a sense of gazing through a candy store window at the “real” authors out there. And most self-published books do remain obscure—many, alas, deservedly so because of poor writing. On the other hand, I’m one of those who believe that there can never be too many books in the world, that reaching a small audience is better than reaching none at all, and that one of the saddest things in the world is to see a perfectly good book go unpublished because no one was willing to take a chance on it. It comes down to this, I suppose: given the choice between allowing a worthy book to go unpublished or self-publishing, would I choose self-publishing?
You bet I would.
On May Day, 1464, six-year-old Katherine Woodville, daughter of a duchess who has married a knight of modest means, awakes to find her gorgeous older sister, Elizabeth, in the midst of a secret marriage to King Edward IV. It changes everything—for Kate and for England.
Then King Edward dies unexpectedly. Richard III, Duke of Gloucester, is named protector of Edward and Elizabeth’s two young princes, but Richard’s own ambitions for the crown interfere with his duties…
Lancastrians against Yorkists: greed, power, murder, and war. As the story unfolds through the unique perspective of Kate Woodville, it soon becomes apparent that not everyone is wholly evil—or wholly good.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susan Higginbotham is the author of two historical fiction novels. The Traitor’s Wife, her first novel, is the winner of ForeWord Magazine’s 2005 Silver Award for historical fiction and is a Gold Medalist, Historical/Military Fiction, 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards. She writes her own historical fiction blog and is a contributor to the blog Yesterday Revisited. Higginbotham has worked as an editor and an attorney, and lives in North Carolina with her family. For more information, please visit http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/.