Today author T.S. Hawken shares his experiences going the traditional publishing route compared with going it alone for his latest novel If Kisses Cured Cancer. We also had the pleasure of reading this wonderful novel — read our review below.
PLUS to celebrate its recent publication 3 lucky readers will win If Kisses Cured Cancer in ebook — entries open worldwide.
The Pros and Cons of Self Vs Traditional Publishing
After I’d written my first manuscript at age 25, I naively thought it would only be a short time before one of the major publishing houses picked it up. How wrong I was. Hundreds of rejections, dozens of rewrites and nearly 4 years later, and I was still trying to get the right people to take notice. I won’t go into the full details of how I finally managed my first book deal, because I’ve written about that elsewhere before. In short, it involved a chance meeting with a best-selling author in a bar, who I somehow convinced to read the story for his thoughts. A few weeks later, we ran into each other again, where he said “Oh hey, Tim, I’ve been meaning to get in touch. Loved the book, my publisher wants to pick it up!”
That publisher was a boutique outfit from the UK called Dangerous Little Books, who had solid runs on the board with the title God Hates, You Hate Him Back. Given my own book was set in Hell (yup), the fit was pretty good.
When Hellbound launched in 2010 it was met with a great reception. Sales were reasonable for a first-time author, there was serious interest from people in Hollywood about a screen adaptation, and we soon rolled out two more titles to round out the dark-fantasy trilogy.
It was a wild ride, but a lot also changed in my life during that time.
My wife was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer, we moved from living in Bali, to travelling through Europe then back to living in Australia again, and Dangerous Little Books evolved into Rethink Press, which was more of a hybrid publishing model aimed at self-help titles. In there somewhere, my wife and I also decided to go and pop out two fresh humans into the world.
The whole process meant I had to reassess everything. I continued to earn money as a copywriter for some international brands and started working on a literary fiction novel, inspired by my recent experiences.
Once If Kisses Cured Cancer was ‘ready’, the dilemma of how to publish raised its head. I sat down, did my research on self-publishing and wrote out some pros and cons based on my experience.
These aren’t the full pros and cons, but for me they are the main ones. There might be a couple in there that seem a bit strange. For example, do authors with publishing houses really have to do all their own marketing? You bet. Most publishing houses will look at your existing platform and marketing skills before they even think about reading your manuscript. That’s because they know they only have the resources to support of few select titles in any meaningful way. However, having that old Antarctic bird printed on the spine of your book does pretty much guarantee most reviewers will at least consider reading your book. That helps a lot.
It’s definitely a tough slog approaching press cold as yet another self-published author in the throng. To combat that, it really boils down to pinpointing the right outlets, building a genuine relationship with them and putting your best foot forward. Failing that, you can always start up a shell ‘press’ company to make it seem like you’re a professional outfit. Hello, Seahawk Press (aka me). Still, I haven’t actually used the name yet to see if it will open doors, but if I do, I’ll let you know.
The other big hurdle is pulling everything together. I was fortunate that during my time as a writer and marketer I’ve made friends with a lot of very talented editors, designers and PR people. Using those contacts has been invaluable in being able to keep creative control, while still producing something of professional quality (I hope!) at a reasonable cost (kind of). If you’re going to spend good money on anything it’s two things – a great editor and great cover design. The price range varies, but most of the time you get what you pay for and, if you don’t have the contacts, most writer’s centres have guides to help find good options. Print-on-demand services like Ingramspark also mean there’s no more forking out for minimum print runs of 5000 books you might only sell a fraction of.
So, knowing all of that, I have leapt headlong into going it alone and am almost out the other side. Because the story is so different to my first titles, I’ve published under my initials T.S. Hawken. It feels a little pompous compared to regular old Tim, but I’m getting used to it. The book is done, I’m proud of it and the reaction so far from early readers has been incredible. Time will tell whether it becomes a success in the more traditional measures of sales and critical acclaim.
From a growth side, I’ve learned a great deal. I’m even excited to start a new book, take the knowledge and make the next effort yet better again. If the right offer came along from a traditional publisher I’d now have to think really hard about whether I really need the support, or if I’m happy creating work I can control and take full responsibility for, successful or not.
To get exclusive content and deals around the release of If Kisses Cured Cancer, sign up to T.S. Hawken’s newsletter here. You’ll even get a free e-copy of Hellbound as an added bonus.
If Kisses Cured Cancer is a story about life in a growing coastal town, falling in love and stealing shopping trolleys.
‘A refreshing take on young love poisoned by life-threatening illness. Heartfelt, honest and surprisingly funny.’ – Jodie How.
Disclosure: If you click a link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.
If Kisses Cured Cancer Synopsis:
Matt Pearce is depressed, working an uninspiring job and lacking any prospect of dragging his life out of mediocrity. That is until he meets Joy: a cancer survivor who lives beyond the rules of normal people.
As the pair go on a series of unusual dates – from hijacking fish n chip orders, to ‘extreme people watching’ at the airport – their love for each other grows. But Joy’s past is about to catch up with her, and a hidden secret could tear the two apart forever.
If Kisses Cured Cancer is a quirky look at finding love in unlikely places. It is about the importance of connecting with those around you, enjoying every moment and not being afraid to go skinny dipping in the forest. It will have you in tears of joy, tears of sorrow and tears of laughter…
(Available in eBook or Paperback 353 pages, Seahawk Press – May 2018)
Firstly, I am impressed by the end product. If Kisses Cured Cancer in paperback looks just as good or better than the product from the big-name publishing houses — beautifully formatted, lovely smooth and high-quality page stock, faultless binding in a 5 x 8 inch sizing that sits nicely in the hand with comfortable heft.
But the story waiting for readers within this book’s covers has more than heft, it has gravitas. But not in a sombre, oppressive way – quite the opposite actually. If Kisses Cured Cancer is a kaleidoscopic and achingly real representation of life’s rollercoaster — the darkness can feel deep, but boy can the sun shine brightly too.
Hawken’s characters are authentically flawed, each with well-developed and endearing personas. Hawken’s lead character Matt in particular, but also the narrative and dialogue more generally, exudes an appealing, understated Australian irreverence. And Joy, she is feisty and fantastic, but unavoidably human like the rest of us.
In prose that nicely balances pace and accessibility with a lyrical sensibility, Hawken has honed in on that infinitesimal line between joy and sadness, that can be found in the simplest of things, in the everyday. I was engrossed and entertained, and my heart warmed.
Oh yeah, and that marketing spin “it will have you in tears of joy, sorrow and laughter”… this time it is actually true!
An early contender for my best books of the year list, I recommend If Kisses Cured Cancer unreservedly. Set some time aside for it, because it’s a hard one to put down.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5
Get your copy of If Kisses Cured Cancer from:
I have also since had the pleasure of reading Tim Hawken’s experimental YA fantasy novelette Spellraiser .
About the Author, T S Hawken
T.S. Hawken is an Australian author who started his career in journalism and writing for advertising agencies. His work has appeared in publications such as Huckberry Journal, Surfing Life Magazine, Midnight Echo and more.
When his wife fell ill with cancer at the age of 29, Hawken was inspired to write the coastal fiction novel If Kisses Cured Cancer. He also writes dark fantasy under the name Tim Hawken. You can find out more about his work at timhawken.com and connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.
Thanks to Seahawk Press (aka T.S. Hawken’s publishing front), 3 lucky readers will win an ebook copy of If Kisses Cured Cancer.
- Open worldwide, entries close midnight 19 May 2018
- You can also improve your odds by spreading the word via Twitter , Pinterest and Facebook/Google+/Webpage
- The 3 winners will be randomly selected and announced on our Facebook Page
SORRY, ENTRIES CLOSED — See winners announcement