A guest post by Kristyn M. Levis
I have never met my publishers. I have been signed with them for three years now and we have never been in the same room together. As I am based in Sydney, Australia, it is virtually impossible for me to pop into their office in Manila, Philippines, for a meeting. Strangely enough, the arrangement still works thanks to the power of technology. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.
Like a lot of unpublished authors, I was thisclose to giving up my dreams of being published traditionally. I was juggling a full workload and a toddler while finishing my first novel (which took four years to finish) but I kept at it, sending my cover letters through to publishers every now and then. The rejection letters came through as well, one after the other. Some were encouraging, some said it was hard to market the book, others sent just the standard letter or no letter at all. I couldn’t get an agent either (even now, after I’ve had a best seller under my belt, I still can’t get an agent but that’s okay, I’ve given that up with open arms).
As the first book, The Girl Between Two Worlds, had themes of Philippine mythology (my heritage) I decided to try out a publisher in the Philippines. It was the last publisher I tried before deciding to self-publish. I gave it a good three months, waiting with fingers crossed, but I heard nothing back. So, while I was doing my day job, I was also preparing to self-publish my first novel – hiring a freelance editor and researching professional self-publishing agencies. Six months into the process and before I had the chance to hit print, I got the coveted email from the publisher.
After the initial celebration of screaming and dancing around, the real work started. There were several aspects to the whole process that I needed support with. For one, book contracts are confusing as hell. Having no agent to help me, I reached out to another traditionally published author who gave me the contact details of an agency that can go through the contract for a fee. It was $500 I didn’t have to spare but I decided it was a worthwhile investment. At least it was a tax deduction, plus I learned a lot from the whole process. Like a lot. Plus, I knew what to look out for just in case I got a second book contract.
Although my book is a series, the first contract was just to cover the first book. Firstly, because I was a new and unknown author. Secondly, because I forgot to mention it in my cover letter (duh). There were stipulations in the contract that I wanted to clarify – especially the bit about distribution. I’m in Australia, they’re in the Philippines, are my books going to be available worldwide? What about the eBook version? Where will they market it? It took the first book a year and a half before it was finally available on Amazon and Book Depository but still not on the shelves in Australia.
The second novel, The Girl Between Light and Dark, has just been released in the Philippines in June 2018. It’ll be a while before the eBook version comes out, and even longer for worldwide distribution. This one aspect of my situation frustrates me sometimes.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to have a publisher, but since I’m in Sydney I can hardly advertise my books locally given that there are no copies here. I also have a hard time “selling” myself as an author in Australia because my books can’t be found in local bookstores or libraries (I’ve donated my books to two local libraries so far but that’s about it). Then there’s the problem of book signings, meeting book fans and author talks. In the last three years I’ve managed to squeeze in a couple of events when I go to the Philippines to visit my family, but that’s limited too. I can only organise ones that are in the areas I’m visiting during the holiday. I don’t even have the money to fly to Manila to meet my publishers!
At the moment, my publisher is going through my third manuscript and has committed to publishing it. This, for me, is an amazing gift because it isn’t that easy to have a sustainable writing gig in this day and age. I’m still not sure of the distribution schedule, or if I can afford to fly myself to the events they have planned for me. I still find it frustrating not being able to pick up the phone and call them or drop by the office for a coffee. And I don’t really know when I’ll get to meet them (maybe when book four is released?).
But there is no point obsessing about things I have no or little control over. What I can do is continue to nurture the relationship I’ve created with my publisher and the fans of the books. They are active on social media and love interacting with me as well as their fellow readers. They’ve been supportive and vocal when copies run out in bookstores. So although literary agents still ignore me and I’m still not sure how the distribution thing is going to work, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.
Kristyn M. Levis is the bestselling author of the young adult novels, The Girl Between Two Worlds and The Girl Between Light and Dark with Anvil Publishing. She is a former journalist with over 14 years experience and the co-owner of a digital marketing agency. She worked as a TV and radio broadcaster and finished her masters degree in communication in Singapore through the ASEAN scholarship.