An Interview with my Self-publisher

Learning to love Blue by Saradha Koirala

After having four books published through small independent publishing houses in New Zealand I have just released my first self-published title. My experiences have all been positive, but have ranged widely from the quintessential bookstore book launch, to crowd funding, to author collaboration and carrying boxes of books home to sell myself. I decided to self-publish Learning to love Blue as it’s the sequel to my debut YA novel Lonesome When You Go and was proving tricky to find a home for. I was also curious about the self-publishing process.

Thanks to some very supportive Facebook groups and an inheritance from my grandparents, I was able to figure out an approach that seemed, well, approachable. I chose to use Ingramspark’s print on demand service, and set up the imprint Record Press.

Record Press: Congratulations on Learning to love Blue! You must be thrilled to hold a copy in your hands.

Saradha Koirala: Thank you! Yes, it’s amazing to finally have this story in the form of a beautiful blue book. I’m so happy with how it turned out and it’s kind of a relief that it’s finally landed.

RP: It is a beautiful book! Why is it a relief?

SK: Well, I started writing this story soon after I moved to Melbourne — That was five years ago! It was just as Lonesome When You Go was being published, so the main character Paige and her voice were still very clear in my head. I played with a few other ideas, but realised it was Paige’s story I wanted to continue with. I had her move to Melbourne and to be honest, the first draft of this was a very introspective, not very convincing story about someone wondering why they’d left home. Needless to say I was finding my own move to Melbourne rather tricky and lonely. I had Paige lying awake a lot thinking about stuff, but then all the action was kind of super-happy with opportunities falling in her lap, as I guess that’s what I wished for her. Anyway, the manuscript floated around for a while then was put away, then came out again. Once I had revised it a couple of times, I really did think it was a good story and I just wanted it to be out there for other people to read.

RP: What was behind your decision to self-publish?

SK: Initially the publishers of Lonesome When You Go, were quite keen and gave me a very generous and thorough assessment of my manuscript. Unfortunately, they were feeling a bit down about the state of YA and ultimately have changed their business model anyway, so they are no longer publishing YA at all. I shopped it around some other publishers, but separating it from Lonesome made no sense to me. In the end, I felt I had some time, some money and some curiosity about self-publishing, so thought I would give it a go. My expectations were just to have the book produced and available to people who love Lonesome, but I do think it could stand on its own too. It’s a coming of age story and hopefully a relatable one about moving out of your comfort zone and finding there’s more to life — especially to relationships — than just having a few things in common. Paige learns through music to be more patient, more vulnerable, more open with her feelings. I think that’s an important theme. So yeah, I was keen and curious to get the book out to an audience, even if just a small one!

RP: You said before that you don’t like the term ‘self-published’. How do you prefer to describe this process?

SK: I think I have an aversion to the term because it still somehow implies the work is a bit amateur or a vanity project. I know this isn’t the case any more with self-publishing and I’ve seen some beautifully produced books, but it still holds a stigma. But also, having been through the process I realise it’s not at all a ‘self’ process. I mean, you could try to do it yourself, and some people probably can do it very well, but I’m a writer, not a designer or an editor or a proofreader (I can do those things, just not for my own work.) So I paid a professional editor to edit, a professional proofreader to proofread and a professional book designer to design the book. I prefer to call it ‘Author-coordinated’ publishing. The people I worked with were absolutely amazing. I also like that the money went straight to each person who worked on the book and the whole process only took two months. I’ve spent longer waiting for replies to emails from publishers!

RP: Well it’s considered reasonable for publishers to take up to six months to respond to submissions.

SK: I know! And that’s understandable, but it’s a long difficult process as an author waiting for a response and then waiting another 12 months or so for the book to actually be produced. A book like Learning to love Blue, didn’t have that much time up its sleeve and the content gets less and less relevant as time goes on. I didn’t want to be promoting a sequel to a book that came out so long ago no one remembers it!

RP: So time is a big one, but what are some of the other pros and cons of self-publishing — or self-coordinating? What did you miss from a traditional publishing experience?

SK: The pros for me have been the sense of control, the lovely working relationships and the quick time frame. I was able to chose exactly who I wanted to edit, proofread and design the book and I loved working with each of them. For example, the editor for Lonesome When You Go was 100% the best person to edit Learning to love Blue and I was thrilled she was available to work on it. The time frame was in my control, which was important, as I largely worked on the revisions and co-ordinating while my 18month old was napping, or with my partner. These were small specific chunks of time and mostly the deadlines imposed were my own.

I would say the cons are the lack of support team — flag-waving, champions of the book. So few people had read it that it was very easy to doubt it was any good at various stages. With a traditional publisher you’re in that constant conversation about the work, what would make it better, what parts are singing, why this is publishable right now, how excited they are… My first two books in particular were met with such enthusiasm and love, I would leave the publisher’s office after every meeting floating on my own sense of brilliance! There has certainly be a lot more self-doubt and wondering if I’m completely delusional during this process. And of course, the more people involved in the process, the more hype and interest can be generated. Publishers have contacts, teams of people distributing, marketing… they have relationships with bookstores and reviewers. As an author I don’t have a lot of knowledge or capacity for that sort of thing.

RP: The marketing is a tricky one, for sure. How have you made the book available? Where can readers buy it?

SK: I published through Ingramspark, so it’s available through just thousands of distributors worldwide! It’s a little tricky to find at the moment, but should be available wherever people like to buy books online. I’m encouraging people to request it at their local bookstore and library and of course people can contact me for a copy or two too.

Learning to love Blue is published by Record Press and can be ordered here. Lonesome When You Go is available here.

Saradha Koirala is also the author of three poetry collections, that can be found here.

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Saradha Koirala

Saradha Koirala is a writer and reviewer, living in Melbourne. She is the author of three poetry collections and two young adult novels.