On 28th June I attended yet another brilliant Illustrator Masterclass, called Ways into Publishing. This was given by the inspirational Gillian McClure and organised and run by our lovely Anne-Marie Perks.
Gillian McClure is a very experienced published writer and illustrator, who has experienced being in print in three very different ways since her initial success. First, Gillian was published through the traditional mainstream method, from 1974 until 2008. Then in 2010 Gillian, due to changes in the publishing world, she chose to start her own publishing company, Plaister Press. And most recently in 2012, Gillian’s company has become part of a group called Authorization, which gives extra help and support to self-publishers or small publishers.
Gillian devised the workshop to explore all of these publishing possibilities so that we might be better informed of our options. The event was divided into two sections.
In the first part she explained the advantages and the disadvantages of each publishing path. This was followed by Gillian showing us the sales and costing figures of producing a picture book, which drummed home the hard-core reality behind the business of making picture books.
In the second part we were separated into small groups to explore and discuss each of our projects, work out how we could best sell our concept and where it would fit in the market. Finally three of us pitched to the whole group and Gillian gave us feedback that would help all of us think of how to present and analyse what’s the best way forward for each of our particular proposals.
To summarize the choices, looking at the traditional publishing route, the main benefit that stood out for me was the kudos of being on those Publishers' lists. And although there were plenty more benefits, the disadvantages can include: that even once you’re a published author/illustrator, you may still be waiting for a long time for responses; or that there can be a lack of commitment or support regarding marketing depending on your sales results.
With regards to the self-publishing route, the main advantages are that you are much more in control, being fully committed to your own project. You can make decisions on future print runs; choose directly which reviewers to send to, and form direct relationships with stockists and bookstores. The disadvantages include having to self-fund; having to do all of the marketing and business side on top of the creating; and having the stigma of self-publishing, which, though less prevalent today than it once was, still lingers.
And finally, there is the hybrid route, which is being part of an umbrella organisation (though this may only be able to happen if you are already published or have your own company). This seems to offer a great opportunity of having the freedoms gained by being self-published, whilst being part of an endorsed community, which offers business and marketing support. However, the disadvantages are that they will take 35% approx. of net profits and it’s still a very new business concept, so it’s not as tried and tested as the traditional route.
This was a fantastic workshop, which provided both published and unpublished writers the opportunity to gain vital knowledge from the wealth of Gillian’s experiences. It makes clear how hard it is to make money from this industry, however, I don’t think that any of us are, or should be, interested in this career solely for the money. Though we want and need to be paid fairly, the core desire of anyone creating tales and beautiful pictures is to give and take pleasure from telling our stories and to be appreciated. Gillian has shown us several possibilities of how to make this happen.
It was generous and brave of Gillian to share this information with us and I would like to thank her on behalf of all of those present. I would thoroughly recommend attending if Gillian was to give this talk again.
Shana Nieberg-Suschitzky aka Shanarama creates stories and illustrations for both picture books and older children’s fiction, though she has a few other tricks up her sleeve. In 2012 she won the Undiscovered Voices Competition for illustrating and is a proud SCBWI member.