Louise Walters shares her self-publishing Vs trad publishing experience



I am delighted to welcome onto the blog the lovely Louise Walters. I’ve been captivated by Louise’s writing since reading her beautiful debut ‘Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase‘ and I was super excited to read an early copy of ‘A Life Between Us,’ which is due to be published on 28th March. Louise carefully weaves a tale of family secrets and effortlessly spans decades in this cleverly crafted story. Tina Thornton lost her twin Meg 40 years ago, but still harbours guilt, but was Meg’s death really an accident? As the tale unfolds Louise slowly reveals the crushing impact secrets and lies can have on a family for generations to come. The tiny details included in this book instantly transported me back to my childhood of Sindy Dolls and Spangles. There’s a complex mix of characters in this novel, some I didn’t like at all, but to me that added to the richness of the story, and I found myself rooting for Tina as the layers of her family history are slowly peeled back. Louise has chosen to self-publish this novel and having also been traditionally published I’m eager to find out Louise’s views on her experience. Let’s read on.

“In January 2016, I made a decision: I was going to self-publish my second novel. It was a tough decision to make, with lots to consider – reputation, workload, sales (lack of?), time, time, time…

I decided I would go the assisted publishing route, and I went with Matador, who are well established, and reputable, a major consideration when you are going to hand over quite a lot of cash! The first thing I decided was I wouldn’t rush to bring the novel out. So I opted for a publication date one year on (originally February 2017, later put back to March 2017). I wanted time to work, to get the novel into tip top condition. I wanted to do all (at least, as many as possible) of the things a traditional publisher would do for my book – copy editing, proof reading, a professional cover design, sales representation and distribution. I didn’t want to hurry myself at any point (although even with a year “lead in” time, there have been a few urgent moments/calls/e-mails!)

What have I learned about publishing?

Publication is expensive. Publication is a gamble. It is multi-tasking, it is hard work.

Profit margins are minuscule; balancing the books, as it were, is a precarious business. I’ve no idea if I’m going to make a loss, break even, or make a profit. I’ll take either of the last two; I’ll even take the first if that’s how it turns out, because I have learned so much this year. It’s been a valuable exercise, and there are worst things to spend money on!

What have I learned about myself?

I love to project manage, and I’m good at it. I really am. I had no idea. Such a useful discovery! Still much to learn, of course, but I’m on it.

I’m also a dab hand at setting up a website. Again, something I’d thought I would never be able to do. But I have. It’s not brilliant, but it’s mine, it’s me, it ties in nicely with my “brand”.

I now subscribe to The Bookseller and I know a little more about what’s going on in publishing. I actually feel I’m part of it now, whereas before I felt as I suspect most authors feel – I was hovering on the edges, not really “of” the publishing world.

I have also realised something about myself I only suspected before: I love to be in control creatively. The whole shebang. That kind of ties in with the project managing thing! For instance, my involvement in the book’s cover was fantastic. I didn’t design it, but I wrote the brief for the designer, and my word was the last word in which design to go with (Matador had to approve it too of course, as they have their own reputation to think about).

Would I self-publish again?

Yes. YES. I would. Despite the snooty attitude that still prevails towards self and/or assisted publishing (but is slowly disappearing thank goodness), despite the endless work, the expense, and the fear that you are going to make an absolute arse of yourself, I would do it again. I would also consider publishing traditionally again, should that opportunity ever arise. We live in a plural world and there is no need to confine ourselves as authors to one method or another. It’s all there for the taking and it’s exciting to be an author right now. I think we could be on the cusp of big changes. For instance, I would from now on try very hard to hang on to e-book rights. There is little for an author to gain from handing those over for 25% (less print book returns!) when we can bring it out ourselves, get anything from 30 to 70%, and control the pricing. Just sayin’!”


Thanks so much Louise for the fascinating insight. You can find out more about Louise here and buy her books here.


38 thoughts on “Louise Walters shares her self-publishing Vs trad publishing experience

  1. Very interesting indeed, Louise & Louise! Particularly as I am now going down the self-publishing route after two trade published novels. Glad I am in good company! “…it’s exciting to be an author right now.” Absolutely, there is no reason why we can’t make a success of it, if we make our end result a top-quality product.

  2. This is really interesting, Louise – thanks for sharing Louise’s experiences. Hard to know which way to turn these days as we all have more choices, if tough ones. Being a bit of a ramshackle soul, I suspect I would NOT be good at project management. Hmm. Things to ponder.
    BTW, I see you’re being deatured in next month’s Writing Magazine! Congratulations, that’s amazingly exciting. I shall look forward to reading your interview very much.

    • Thanks Lynn. I can’t even project manage my housework so I don’t know how I’d co-ordinate a book but self-publishing interests me, that creative control. Writing Magazine! It was absolutely months ago I did that interview and kind of assumed they weren’t using it. Can’t remotely remember what I said.

      • Yes, I can see that self publishing would work for some people. If you can market effectively, you stand to earn more money from each sale too, which many writers would be very pleased with! Maybe one day – I’ll hope for success by the traditional route first 🙂
        The Writing Magazine interview will be a lovely read if you can’t remember it, then 🙂 I confess that when I won one of their comps last year I bought several copies and still have two unopened in their plastic sleeves! Tragic?
        Well done again – and for half a million sales for The Sister. Your success knows no bounds and is thoroughly deserved

      • Very true! My son is nearly thirteen, so not really interested in what I do. But Maybe in the future, he’ll see what I’ve produced and be proud. His dad is in TV too, so he has his own legacy to leave. I hope he’s proud of us both in the end 🙂

      • My 18-year-old is like that. He said it read the book when it was finished. Then said he’d read it when it was published. Then said he listen when it was on audio. Now he says he’ll wait for the film…

      • Ah, bless him. He’ll appreciate your success more as he gets older. Is it going to be turned into a film? That would be exciting. I can see you might just get him to that … 🙂

      • Ha! You never know, Hollywood may come knocking. Though perhaps a nice BBC production would be preferable? What does your son want to to? Directing? My other half went to the National Film and Television School in Buckinghamshire – a big financial investment, but it kickstarted his career and he’s had very few gaps in employment since then.

      • Yes. He’s written a few scripts as well. Thanks so much for that Lynn. I’m going to check them out. It’s been hard to get any advice of what next other than uni. It’s not a million miles away either.

      • Talented young man! Hope he finds something that suits him. It’s a tough way to earn a living, with short contracts and sometimes a lot of travelling, but if you love it, what else could you ask for. Best of luck to him

    • Thank you Lynn, glad you enjoyed the piece. I have found I need to be very organised with this self-publishing project. There is a lot to do, and remember. I have a notebook full of lists and reminders. I enjoy the work, but it’s quite tiring…! But so worth it now the book has been printed and I can see, touch, smell and feel them!

      • I’m so impressed you can make such a success of juggling all of the roles you’ve taken on – and the book sounds wonderful. I hope it does brilliantly for you 🙂

  3. Most interesting Louise. As a Matador author too (x3 – 4th on the way) I agree with everything you say about being in control and feeling part of the process. I note you use the term ‘Assisted Publishing’ and wonder if perhaps it is time to distinguish more clearly between the partnership model and true self-publishing.

    • Hi Linda, nice to hear from another Matador author. I think you are right, it’s all quite confusing, with so many different ways to bring a book out. Self-publishing is really an umbrella term for anybody who pays or does the work themselves to publish a book. The partnership/assisted model was the one I wanted as I don’t have the time or skills to do everything myself. It’s been a fabulous experience.

  4. I love this. Sometimes I feel I’m dead set on traditional publishing and then self publishing seems so alluring. So I like how Louise Walters says there’s no need to define ourselves as self published or trad published forever. Things change and whatever is the best way to get your books out there – do it. I wish her all the best, though I’m sure she won’t need it.

  5. Two books in, I’m not enjoying self-publishing and would rather be traditionally published. That being said, it’s better to self-publish, if the alternative to this is your novels never seeing the light of day. If I were to self-publish a third novel, I would need to save up enough money first to throw at a launch campaign and regular marketing thereafter.

  6. I enjoyed reading of Louise’s experiences. So much regarding independent publishing registers with me. ‘Profits are miniscule’, ‘endless work, the expense, and the fear that you are going to make an absolute arse of yourself’ – yes, yes, yes! I know I learned a lot about the publishing industry by just doing it. But the hard work and expense is more than compensated for by the enjoyment you get from the experience – especially when someone writes to say they’ve enjoyed your book.. I’m still not sure I want to do it any other way.
    [BTW Louise, will look out for your piece in Writing Mag. I’ve had a couple of articles, back in 2002 /2003 I think it was, and they do take a while to feature them]

    • I think Louise is right here where she says it’s not that much different for trad or self-published. The fears and the pressures are always there. I guess if you have a trad publisher you can blame them when things go awry… whereas with self-pubbing you are on your own. But I quite like that!

Constructive criticism appreciated

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