Today I am joined by independent publisher, Louise Walters, who describes herself as a reader, writer, editor and publisher. Her imprint Louise Walters Books is tiny, indie, and receptive to books bigger publishers may not be able to consider. Her aim to publish only the very best in adult literary and literary/commercial fiction, across all genres.
GJ: Thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me your journey to becoming an independent publisher?
LW: It started in 2017 when I decided to self-publish my second novel, A Life Between Us. My first novel had been trade published by Hodder in 2014, and when they turned down my second novel, I had some decisions to make… I found I really enjoyed the whole publishing process and experience, and that’s when I decided to set up Louise Walters Books and publish other writers.
GJ: As an independent publisher what is the biggest challenge you face with getting books into customer’s hands?
LW: Getting my books into retailers’ hands first! So far Waterstones have not accepted any of my titles for core stock… disappointing, but to be expected. I need a “break out” title really to get on retailers’ radars… a good prize long-listing, respectable domestic sales, some nice translation deals… something that clicks with bookshops! I am publishing a wonderful paranormal crime series by Laura Laakso, which I am plugging away at, gradually increasing its readership and discoverability. There are no overnight successes in indie publishing, at least not so far.
GJ: How many authors do you publish?
LW: I bring out up to four books per year. In two years of running LWB, I’ve signed six authors.
GJ: Do you grow your list of authors?
LW: I invite submissions via my website; I critique novels as my “day job” and I am on the cusp of signing an author whose novel I initially critiqued. I also read for a friend’s writing competition and found two of my authors through that. One of my authors was brought to my attention by a friend who had critiqued his novel… There are lots of ways in which work comes to my attention… so always get your work “out there” because you never know who will see it.
GJ: What do you find is the most effective way of finding new talent?
LW: Via my submissions inbox, and via my other writing-related activities. If I happen upon a piece of writing that excites me, I will get in touch and ask to see more, no matter how it comes my way.
GJ: What would you suggest is the best route for an author to get their work in front of a publisher?
LW: That entirely depends on the type of publisher you as an author would like to work with. We all dream of the six-figure book deal with a big five publisher… so the best, more or less only, route to that is to find an agent first. If you prefer the idea of working with a smaller publisher, you can usually get in touch directly without an agent (or with one too, if they are happy to approach smaller publishers).
GJ: What would you say is the biggest challenge for book publishers in this current market, and in particular for an independent publisher?
LW: Getting the books onto radars. Social media is enormously helpful; and entering prizes, at least in theory, puts all publishers on a level playing field… but getting books into bookshops is my biggest challenge.
GJ: Do you think self-publishing plays a significant part in the publishing industry as a whole?
LW: Yes, and no. I have self-published two of my own novels… and a well-written, well-produced self-published book is great. Where I part company with self-publishing is when shoddy books are put out there, poorly written, edited and produced. That sort of self-publishing is frustrating because it gives all of self-publishing a bad name. If you do intend self-publishing, that’s great, but be professional. Work with an editor and a cover designer, at least.
GJ: Do you consider self-publishing to be a valuable way to discover new talent?
LW: I haven’t yet “discovered” a self-published author… and I think many indie authors don’t want to be discovered, actually… being in control of your own career is quite a heady experience! Also, I would be unlikely to publish any book that’s already been self-published… it will have found its readers already and as I’m such a small outfit, I’m unlikely to find it many more, so financially it would not be sensible for me to do that.
GJ: Can you tell me about your latest release?
LW: I’ve just published a short, sparkling, literary, unique novel called Don’t Think a Single Thought by Diana Cambridge. So far it’s selling better than my other books, and is getting wonderful reviews… it could be that “break out” book I need…!
GJ: Thank you Louise for all that great advice.
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