Rebecca Souster is Self-Publishing Account Manager at Clays and holds responsibility for driving sales in the self-publishing market. Her role is to work directly with authors, providing support and guidance through the initial production stages and beyond. She also facilitates a full service print solution for authors, from administrative tasks, to design advice, production and distribution. We spoke to Rebecca about her role, the continued relevance of printed books for self-publishing, and her tips for self-publishing authors.
1. Tell us about your role at Clays.
I have been at Clays for just over a year now and my role has developed whilst my knowledge of self-publishing has continued to grow. My main job title is self-publishing account manager but that involves project management, consultancy, design advice, running events, holding author meetings and being a general hub of advice and support for authors. It’s varied, exciting, and rewarding – there is nothing better than when the finished book arrives on my desk
2. No matter the proliferation of e-readers and tablets, printed books seem as relevant as ever for people who are self-publishing. Why do you think that is?
Ebooks removed all of the risks associated with publishing – it no longer cost thousands of pounds or took 9-12 months to publish a book. It became free and instant. For self-publishing authors, ebooks democratised the publishing market. People who are passionate about books, whether you are the writer or the reader, aren’t passionate about ebooks or print books independent of each other, they are passionate about the stories that hide within the pages. However, of all the authors I have worked with, they are thankful for digital publishing opening up the market, but they turn to print because print books make their dream feel more real. It is a physical object rather than an XML code sat within the screen of a digital device. Now that it is affordable for authors to print short-runs of books, I think we will see more and more authors moving towards traditional print publishing.
3. How important do you think it is for authors to enlist professional services like book cover design, copy-editing and proofreading?
Self-publishing is about surrounding yourself with people that can help you to curate not just a book but a beautiful object – there is very little ‘self’ in self-publishing. Whether this is bartering your own skills for the skills of others or hiring a collection of professionals, getting editorial, design, production, distribution and publicity advice and support, is absolutely key to an author’s success. It shows your readers that you care about the quality of the content, it shows that you care about your book standing out on their bookshelf, and it shows that you appreciate them as your reader.
4. How does Clay’s differentiate its service from other printers?
I would say that out USP is the fact that we are very hand-holding in our approach and we can sculpt our services based on what our authors need. Whether it is full on project management, or just being there for assurance, we can facilitate both. I don’t feel comfortable offering package deals because every author that you speak to is at a different part of the process, but I will happily put them together a schedule and put them in contact with the people that can help them. I have built these relationships with people that I trust over the past year and I guess vetted services alongside project management is what separates us out from other printers that offer similar services.
5. What advice would you give an author considering self-publishing?
There is so much advice to give – but my top tips would probably be:
1. Research the market – it is important to know the market you are entering. Are you entering an oversaturated market e.g. romance, or are you doing something more niche? You need to be able to identify your target market.
2. Always print to UK industry standard book sizes – when approaching retailers to stock your book it is better to have your book listed as a UK size rather than it’s US equivalent. It fits in.
3. Invest in professional services – unless you are a design whizz, an eagle-eyed editorial genius, a tech-savvy marketer, amongst many other things, you will need to surround yourself with the people who can help you. The publishing world can be a scary place, but with the right support network, it’s exciting.
4. Get your ISBN registered with Nielsen Bookdata at least 6 months prior to publication and make sure that your metadata is hot. Google trawls this metadata and makes your book visible across the web. The better the metadata the more visible your book will be. Your meta-data is like an online salesman – you wouldn’t want a salesman going into Waterstones with your book when he doesn’t know how much it costs, what it’s about, or when the pub date is.