10 February 2021

Guest Post: Writing a Novel, by Saga Hillbom ~ Part Two: The Publishing Process


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1483, Westminster. The bells toll for the dead king, Edward IV, while his rivaling nobles grasp for power. His daughter Cecily can only watch as England is plunged into chaos, torn between her loyalties to her headstrong mother, Elizabeth Woodville, and her favourite uncle, Richard of Gloucester. When Elizabeth schemes to secure her own son on the throne that Richard lays claim to, Cecily and her siblings become pawns in a perilous game.

"
Traditionally published books are of a higher quality. Self-publishing is for those who failed."

An acquaintance of mine said these exact words to me when I was fifteen and considering which way I would want to publish my debut novel. Now, the novel was, to put it bluntly, shit. That is why I later removed it from the market and am currently rewriting it—but I did receive a couple of offers from literary agents. 

Recalling what my acquaintance had told me and what I knew was a common view of traditional versus self-published books, it felt like a no-brainer to accept one of the offers. However, I did not. Creative control has always been extremely important to me; I write because I love it, and I want to have full power over what happens to my finished product. Moreover, I was eager to get my book out there, as I imagine most writers are. To wait a couple of years before seeing it in print, to have others influence my cover design and tell me what I had to edit out from the manuscript—all this felt harrowing.

When I first began self-publishing, I was a complete novice and made more mistakes than correct choices. I have still not mastered the process, but a lot has improved. For example, I have learnt how to professionally format a book, how to market myself, and which cover designers to hire. Although I far from enjoy the publishing process, I do not feel quite as lost, and I am glad that I chose creative control over supposed higher status. There are terrible traditionally published books just as there are fantastic ones; the same stands true for the self-publishing market. No matter which way suits you best, there will always be both good and bad reviews.

I use Ingramspark to print my paperbacks and Kindle for my ebooks. This combination works best for me. Ingramspark has given me various issues over the years, such as making my book available to retailers before either of my ‘publishing’ and ‘on sale’ dates, but I stick with it. If you are planning to self-publish your book, be sure to check whether there are any promo codes available. Around November, you can usually find a code for NaNoWriMo, saving you the fee for uploading files on Ingramspark.

In August 2020, I ordered the cover for my historical novel Princess of Thorns from my favourite freelance graphic designer, who has made the covers for my previous books as well. There are not many stock images out there depicting accurate 15th century fashion, so I had to settle for the best I could find. 

The girl on my cover is therefore a compromise between historical accuracy, visual appeal, and the protagonist's appearance. The crown encircling her legs is obviously symbolic of the literary themes. To tell the truth, I sometimes feel that all my books look more ‘girly’ than they are once you actually read them. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with chick lit, I hope my designer and I have managed to convey the right mood for Princess of Thorns. Overall, I was very pleased with how the cover turned out.

As part of my publishing and marketing process, I have started a series of Instagram posts about medieval and early modern England. This is partly to attract my target audience, partly to keep me busy while I go through the periods of waiting associated with releasing a book. The series of posts centers around the Wars of the Roses, including everything from battles to major and minor personages, but also covers 15th century food and clothes. In my experience, the publishing process can be quite frustrating at times, so I really recommend having another little project on the side.

This has been a shorter post than the one I wrote about my writing process, but perhaps that is because publishing is simply not what I feel the most passionate about. I would say that I publish because I write rather than the other way around, if you see what I mean. Someday, I might sacrifice a bit of creative control and give traditional publishing a proper go, but not with Princess of Thorns. As for now, I am about to bundle myself up in a blanket, make a cup of tea, and flick through my proof copy.

Saga Hillbom

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About the Author

Saga Hillbom is the self-published author of four historical novels, including Princess of Thorns, City of Bronze City of Silver, Today Dauphine Tomorrow Nothing, and A Generation of Poppies. She is currently studying history in Lund, Sweden, where she lives with her family. When not writing or reading, Saga enjoys painting, cooking, spending time outside, and watching old movies.. To find out more, visit her website sagahillbom.blog and follow Saga on Twitter @sagahillbom02

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