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Inish Carraig - a self publishing journey

About 2 years ago, I took a decision. I decided to ask my then agent (although we were going through the motions, having already decided to part company) to pull Inish Carraig from the remaining editors looking at it. We'd been on submission over 6 months and the comments coming back patently indicated it wasn't hitting the market it was subbed to (which it wasn't - it had been a crossover novel turned into a YA novel and subbed as a crossover....)

I decided to publish the book myself. I thought it was too good to sit in a trunk somewhere. I wrote Inish on a whim, had fun with it and was surprised by how solid the final book felt. I wanted to share it.

How did it go?

Well, firstly - by the time Inish Carraig came out I knew it was a book to be proud of. My beta readers loved it, my editor advised me it was solid, many of the publishers had nice things to say about it. One editor - at a big 5 house - liked it a lot and mused on it for months before rejecting as they didn't want an alien invasion novel. The reviews ever since have supported this - on blogs, on goodreads, on Amazon, the rating remains in the high 4s.

It's done well, overall.,The sales are in four figures and I'm in a reasonable profit - especially since I sold the audio rights and covered my publication costs with that sum alone. But it's not a runaway selling-three-figures a day indie success.

Instead, it's something of a cult hit. The relatively few who have read it like it very, very much. They recommend it. I get asked for a sequel. There is some adaptation interest in it. Quality-wise, I'm more confident now than I was when I released that I, mostly, nailed it with Inish Carraig.

What didn't work?

The title. No one knows this book is science fiction, let alone an alien invasion. Even if they did, for those readers looking a typical alien invasion novel, they'll be left scratching their heads. Where is the invasion? The smart bombs exploding? The adrenalin-fuelled visuals? The conflict?

Instead, I have a family. And an angst-ridden cop (I do angst well). And the stakes are personal, not planet-wide (mostly). It's not a book easy to define - but it is a book that is very me. And, if nothing else, I feel I'm cornering the market in Jo Zebedee books - that I have my own focus and style. That, I suspect, isn't a good thing at my stage of writing, but it might be an excellent thing in the future. Which is irrelevant - I don't write with an obsession on sales but on a need to tell my stories.

Did I do the right thing?

I had offers on Inish Carraig that might have made it a higher profile project - but I went it alone. I did it to learn the business more fully and to have control over a story that had been mauled and forced into shapes I hated and that missed the fresh rawness that is Belfast. I wanted to bring it back to that. I wanted to feel it did what I hoped it would do.

So, from that perspective, it was a no-brainer. I wasn't going to go with a publisher, so it was self publish or lose it.

As someone (thanks, Wendy!) said today on facebook: 'Inish is awesome. It sure don't deserve to be lost. It deserves to be read and loved by loads. I'm really glad you did self publish though and give me the chance to read it.'

And that is job done.  If the people who have read it are glad I published it, if they're enriched by it, then I did the right thing and none of this journey has been wasted.

I, too, am glad it's out there. But I'll always be a little sad that it missed its chance on the platform it seemed to deserve. I'll always wonder what could have been, whilst embracing what has-been.

And that's pretty much a writing career in a nutshell.


A.C.Flory said…

My first novel, Vokhtah, hasn't had the success of Innish, but like you, I knew how it was meant to be, and I self-pubbed in order to retain creative control.

We only get one chance at legacy, and I want no regrets about mine. :)


[Meeks from SFF]
"But I'll always be a little sad that it missed its chance on the platform it seemed to deserve"

In the short-term, maybe. But even a trad platform might not have made it a success for the same reasons you list. And that could have killed that career route before it started.

You still have the potential to be picked up by a big publisher in future. They may take an interest in any rights to your backlist you still hold. And being more established by then, and having a big 6 on your side, could give it the audience potential you wanted.

I don't say that to build up your hopes - I think someone as dedicated and prolific as you could make that option a real possibility one day. The bigger question is whether you'd regard it as the opportunity you once thought it might be. :)
Joanne Zebedee said…
Meeks - I think creative control is one of the best reasons to self publish and if you can come away delivering the project you wanted to, it's job done. (Although sales are nice too!)

Brian - you're right, of course. I am judging this off today and who knows what the future holds? Nice to have hope to cling to!