Claire Cook, bestselling author of Must Love Dogs, recently made the transition from traditional publishing to self-publishing, choosing to leave her big-five house and agent. Her new self-published book, Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention, is a candid and humorous look at Cook’s journey in publishing so far, along with the reasons she’s chosen to strike out on her own. Cook spoke to PW about what surprised her most about becoming an indie author, the advice she has for new indie authors, and what readers can expect next from her new venture.
Out of all the hats you wear as an indie author, which do you find suit you best, and which takes you out of your comfort zone?
I enjoy all the hats, though I have to admit that wearing them all at once can sometimes get a bit unwieldy. I love writing. I love speaking to groups. I have awesome readers and interacting with them is pure joy. I'm fascinated by the publishing world, and I have always tried to soak up every bit of knowledge I could along the way. I have an entrepreneurial spirit. So I'm crazy busy, but also fully engaged and never bored.
Did you hire someone to do your book covers?
My original plan was that I'd do the prototypes and then hire a cover designer. But when I started working with the cover designer I'd chosen, she didn't get it. And with each pass, the cover drifted further away from my vision and looked like a cover I'd seen many times before on other authors' books. It made me realize that if you work hard over lots of years, in a way you become your own best expert. I've had some gorgeous covers for my traditionally published books, but I get just as many compliments from my readers on my seven indie covers. This is not to say that I think I'm a brilliant cover designer, but I know my books and I know my readers. And it's fun to play with images instead of words for a change.
What has been the most rewarding part so far of going indie?
I had a wonderful run in traditional publishing for many years, and I'm forever grateful for that. But when things started getting bumpy, no matter how hard I worked, it felt like I couldn't get close enough to my own career to get it moving again in the right direction. It was such a frustrating situation, and in the end I felt that I had two choices: whine or move on. So taking control of my own career has been rewarding. I'm learning so much, and if I make a mistake, I have the power to fix it. And I've never felt closer to my readers, which is the most rewarding part of all.
What has been the most surprising?
That the stigma of [self-]publishing is gone. My readers aren't the least bit interested in who is publishing my work. They just want to read it. I've re-released five of my backlist books and published two new books via Marshbury Beach Books, which I named after the fictional town in my beachy novels. I'm getting plenty of media and blog coverage and speaking invitations for my newest release, Never Too Late, so I don't think self-publishing has closed those doors either.
What advice would you give to self-publishing newbies? Any do’s and or don’ts for self-publishing?
Do your homework. I started researching the indie world at least a year and a half before I dipped a toe in. Google everything you can find. Join indie author groups. Sign up for updates at JaneFriedman.com. Get your tech together. Be tenacious. Don't listen to all the negativity that's out there. When you make a mistake, learn from it and see it as an opportunity to do it right the next time. Never forget that your readers give you the gift of your career. Make sure your book is as good as it can be before you let it out in the world. Share what you learn.