What can Clays Indie Publishing, a division of Clays, offer independent authors and publishers? We asked Georgina Aldridge of Clays Indie Publishing a series of questions to find out.
Q: Clays has been an integral part of the print and publishing industry for over 200 years. Is this experience part of what makes Clays Indie Publishing a good choice for independent publishers and authors? Can you provide better quality books?
A: Being a part of the industry for so long has definitely helped in our understanding of publishing and how it is changing. Some of the changes we have been at the forefront of (Clays have invested millions into digital presses which have helped us to offer economical short run printing), some of these changes we have survived (e-readers and e-books!) and we work closely with our publishers to continuously improve the services we offer to keep up with the evolution of publishing.
Indie publishers benefit from all of the years of learning and experience as we treat every book going through our factory the same, whether this is from a huge publisher printing millions of books a year, or an author who is trying out their first title independently. The stocked materials we offer will be the same, the way the order is planned onto the system and sent through pre-press is the same, and the process through the factory will be the same. Any improvements we make from working with one publisher have a positive effect on everyone printing with us.
Most people get in touch with us because they have seen our name on the imprint page of a book they love, and want to have their books printed to the same quality. The physical product, the book, housing the content should not be of a lower quality than other books – that would be letting the content down in such a competitive market.
Our books are as high quality as expected by the trade and the many different ways to make your title bespoke sets us apart from other book production methods on offer.
Q: If an author were to choose to self-publish through Clays Indie Publishing, how would you guide them step by step through the process of publishing? On your website you list the steps as metadata, editorial, design, production, distribution and marketing and publicity. What do each of these steps entail? Do authors need to use all of these services or can you choose some and not others? Does an author have one essential contact to help them through or are there many people involved?
A: The services we offer are all completely optional, lots of indie publishers may already have contacts set up, cover designed, typesetting done and distributor organised. And a lot of authors have skills that they put to good use in these areas.
Getting your book out there involves following certain steps and there is a lot to think about, so we have built and are continuing to build a network of people to put authors in touch with in regards to editing, proofreading, cover design, complex typesetting etc.
We also suggest organisations to look into joining such as the Alliance of Independent Authors and Byte the Book who offer invaluable support and advice for indie publishers.
You would have one point of contact at Clays, but that contact would introduce you to the different services you are looking for – again all optional, but we can be in the background if you need anything from us.
Each step of the process is very important, but the first thing is to have a manuscript in the very best state possible. From there, in no particular order, there are some key steps to publishing a book:
Metadata: this involves signing up for your ISBN numbers and entering all the data about your title so it feeds out to online retailers (such as Amazon) and so physical retailers have visibility of the book.
Editorial and proofreading: making sure you have at least one other person looking through your manuscript, preferably a professional editor and then proofreader (maybe even a reading group), to make sure it is in tip-top shape before it goes to print – readers deserve the best you can give them.
Cover design: making sure your book has the best and most appropriate cover possible – it has to appeal to your readers, fit in with the genre, make people pick the book up in the shop but also work at thumbnail level. Cover design really is an art so we would highly recommend using a professional. They will also be able to provide you with a file that is ready for print.
Typesetting: the interior design has to also be top quality, with a decent and readable font, well laid out so it is easy and enjoyable to read. Clays now offer typesetting and e-book creation for text only files, but we also have contacts for more complex typesetting projects.
Production: this is the fun bit! Books are so much less disposable now. People keep their books and treasure them. Since the e-book revolution, printed books have upped their game – cover finishes are more common and well used and beautiful cover designs are expected now, all whilst keeping a competitive RRP price. We can advise publishers on what might work for them with their budget and design, to help them create a beautiful book.
Distribution: you have a fantastic book now but how do you get it to your readers? Some indie publishers distribute themselves or direct sell only; some indie publishers have accounts with distributors; and some indie publishers that work with Clays take advantage of the optional distribution with Gardners that Clays offer. Whatever the method, it is important to think about this early on in the process.
Marketing and PR: we would highly encourage thinking about this at the start of the process even whilst still writing as it is a really major part of getting your book out to readers – a lot of indie publishers successfully market themselves and we would advise taking advantage of the free social media platforms available and creating an author website.
We advise through the process as best we can and introduce authors to services and professionals that we trust to do a fantastic job for them.
Q: Clays Indie Publishing offers short run printing. What are the advantages of this model in comparison to a print on demand model?
A: Short run printing is a very different process to print on demand – instead of a book being ordered, then printed and fulfilled, the books are printed first and stocked so that orders can be fulfilled. Although printing copies upfront holds some risk, you benefit hugely from the economies of scale on your unit price and also the ability to market using the physical copies. You also benefit from all the different options of cover finish, case material and paper choices to be able to make your book stand out and compete on the shelves.
This isn’t to say POD isn’t a good model, it is a great fit for some with its own positives, but short run printing is different and may suit some indie publishers more. We have found the authors who are targeting bookshops tended to prefer having stock. Authors who sell directly (after business conferences, speeches, concerts, school talks) also like to have stock as they then make a good profit margin!
Q: You’ve worked on some really exciting projects like the bilingual books of Parapara Books. Would you agree that it is authors and small publishers who are the driving force of creative new development in the publishing world and is Clays Indie Publishing ready to meet the challenges these new ideas might bring?
A: Indie publishing is an incredibly innovative part of the market and has been pushing the boundaries to the benefit of the whole industry. It has been great to work on some very niche, exciting titles, and work with authors and small publishers who are bringing out current, challenging work. To publish is to contribute to culture, and I know that indie publishers take this contribution very seriously – these are books they care very deeply about and are taking a risk on! We are constantly trying to build our network of professionals and develop our services to be able to offer the quality and bespoke books that compete with trade published books on the bookshelves. We also try to come to Byte the Book every month (come and say hello!) and other industry events to keep up our knowledge on a constantly evolving market … if we rested on our laurels, we would fall behind!
Q: What has been your favourite project so far and how do you feel Clays Indie Publishing was best placed to help it thrive?
A: I have been lucky enough to work with some lovely authors and publishers so it is really hard to pick just one!
A highlight would be Who’d Have Thought It? by Christine Webber as we met at an event Clays hosted on Indie Publishing, and from there her book was out and looking wonderful (with some lovely spot UV) within a few months. We helped Christine by advising on the process and production options, and putting her in touch with a typesetter (she in turn has helped us find a brilliant proofreader, Helen Baggot, who we now recommend to authors) and the book has sold well through our Gardners distribution scheme. Christine, who has been traditionally published many times for her non-fiction books, has been amazing throughout, especially at marketing and promoting Who’d Have Thought It?. It was lovely to hear her on the radio or in articles talking about her novel, and to see all the brilliant reviews. Her enthusiasm is so infectious, and she was joy to work with.
Another great project was working with The Dome Press on their very first title Life’s A Drag. The founder, David Headley, knows a huge amount about the publishing industry (as he is also the founder of Goldsboro Books and D H H Literary Agency) but it was really fulfilling to be involved advising on production options and on other little parts of the process. It was so exciting when I got my office copy and is on my holiday reading pile for my next trip away. Life’s A Drag is also going to be in a large WH Smith LBGT promotion, and The Dome Press is releasing a new YA title Sleeper which looks brilliant, so very excited to see how they continue to grow.
Q: If you could offer one piece of advice to individuals starting out on their publishing journey, what would it be?
A: Think about your end destination from the word go – it is important to put together a sales and marketing plan for yourself, research the market, wander around bookshops and visualise your book on the shelves and online. How should your cover look? Are most books in your genre a B-format paperback, or should you be thinking about a special edition Demy hardback? We would never advise anyone to leap in with a really big run length unless they had a solid sales, marketing and distribution plan.
And enjoy the control, build a publishing team you trust, take your time and dive into the creative process!
Georgina Aldridge is a Sales Executive at Clays.
You can find out more about Clays Indie Publishing on their website.