Self-publishing v traditional publishing: my story – Jon Rance

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By Jon Rance

Every writer dreams of that moment when they get the call. You know what I’m talking about. The call that says, “You’ve got a publishing deal!”. A two or three-book deal with a huge international publishing house. You have dreams of a bestselling novel sold all around the world, of interviews with magazines, and why not, a film of the book! If J.K. Rowling can do it, why not me? We all have it – the red carpet daydreams. OK so I did get the call and it changed my life, but did all of my dreams come true? Of course not because I’m an author and my imagination is far bigger than my reality, but what’s the truth behind the dream?

Let me start by saying that I loved getting published. It was incredible, exciting, the pinnacle of my writing career up until that point. It’s the dream of every writer from the moment they pick up a pen or touch a keyboard. When my self-published first novel, This Thirtysomething Life, climbed the Amazon charts and reached number 7 on the UK paid chart, I couldn’t believe it. All of my hard work and commitment had paid off. But then it got better. Out of the blue I was contacted by a huge publisher in London and they wanted to publish my book! My book! I was gobsmacked. It was like all of my birthdays and Christmases rolled into one. Fast forward a year and I have an agent and two books in book shops across the country. I really was living the dream. My first book had been sold to five other countries and I was working with my agent on my next book. At that moment, I truly believed I was all set for more success.

And that’s where my traditional publishing story stops. My next two books don’t get picked up by a publisher and eventually – and perfectly amicably – my agent and I part company. We worked together for a few years and It just didn’t work out. That’s how it goes sometimes. I’ve just written my fifth novel and it will be the third book in a row I have self-published. But here’s the thing – I’m doing great. I mean yes I miss working with a publisher and my agent and I’m hoping to return to that world soon, but self-publishing is working for me at the moment. My last novel, Sunday Dinners, broke into the top 100 in the UK and has been in the top 500 in the US and Australia. The result is that financially, at least, it has made as much money as my first published book. That’s right. I’ve made as much money from my last self-published book as my very first traditionally published book and my second together. I know, I can’t believe it either.

Being self-published can work for you, but you have to treat it like a professional career. I have an editor and I do my very best to make sure everything is as good as if it was being published by a traditional publishing house. If you want readers to read and pay for your book, it has to be as good as a published book. Anything less and you’re letting your readers down. We live in an age where publishing has changed to the point where you can make a living as a self-published author, but if you want to make it your job, you have to treat it as such. I’m a full-time author. OK, I’m also a full-time stay-at-home father, full-time husband, house cleaner, washer of clothes, cook, chauffeur, and bottle washer. I’m all of these things and it’s working.

So here’s the thing. We all want to be hugely successful authors and that used to mean getting a traditional publishing deal, an agent, and doing it all their way. But now you have the option of going solo and it can work. But that doesn’t mean you should stop aiming for the stars and getting that agent and publishing deal – the difference now is you can do both and I’m living proof it can work.

I don’t know what the future holds and I really hope to get another publishing deal soon, but if not, I know I can be a success on my own. I guess the secret – if you can call it that – is not giving up. If there’s one thing I learnt from my publishing journey is that there’s no such thing as success and failure, it’s all part of the same process, and it just keeps going and you have to as well. So don’t give up, keep writing, and what happens – the good, the bad, and the ugly – will just happen. I’m still holding onto my red carpet dreams and you should too!

Thanks so much for having me. It’s been an absolute pleasure.

Jon Rance is the author of five novels: the Kindle top ten bestseller, This Thirtysomething Life, Happy Endings (both published by Hodder and Stoughton) This Family Life and Sunday Dinners. His fifth novel, Dan And Nat Got Married, is available now.

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