Traditional publishing is not a monolithic thing. There are different kinds of publishers, and authors want different things out of a publishing deal and relationship. Georgina Cross talks about her experience with two different traditional publishers and the pros and cons of each.
In the intro, new e-reading devices, Kobo Clara 2E and Kindle Scribe; Findaway Voices now allows you to do audiobook promotional pricing for Spotify (as well as Chirp, Apple, B&N Audio); YouTube Learning; Change in Google Search [Search Engine Journal]; Writing Career Toolkit ebook Bundle (limited time); Stepping back to step forward with me and Orna Ross [Ask ALLi Podcast].
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Georgina Cross is the best-selling author of five suspense thriller novels with Bantam, Penguin Random House and Bookouture, Hachette Publishing.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.
- Making the decision to pursue traditional publishing — and the patience needed along the way
- The need for validation
- The pros and cons of an agile, fast-moving publisher vs a bigger imprint at a larger publishing
- How much marketing does a traditional publisher do for you?
- Tips for getting a traditional publishing deal
- How the money works with a traditional deal
- What do you want — and what are you willing to give up for that? Aspects of control.
You can find Georgina Cross at Georgina-Cross-Author.com and on Twitter @GCrossAuthor
Transcript of Interview with Georgina Cross
Joanna: Georgina Cross is the best-selling author of five suspense thriller novels with Bantam, Penguin Random House and Bookouture, Hachette Publishing. Welcome to the show, Georgina.
Georgina: Thank you so much for having me.
Joanna: It's going to be interesting to talk to you today.
Tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing.
Georgina: Like a lot of authors that you've interviewed, I always wanted to be a writer as a child, and I was that kid with the desk in her bedroom, who would sit there and write books, even if it was just on notebook paper. My very first book was ‘Me and My Alien Friend.' It was a masterpiece. I was the illustrator as well.
All through high school, and I've heard other people we've interviewed say the same thing. It was a career path that wasn't guaranteed. I didn't know if I could even publish a book, whether I could even make a career or a living off of that.
And so, going to college, I thought, okay, I'll at least get the degree, broadcast journalism is writing, sort of. It's really not. It's shorter sentences, fragments, four-second promos, 30-second other bits and pieces. To me, it just wasn't satisfying.
But a few years back, I thought, okay, it's time to double down. The kids are a little bit older now, and I can at least try to make a go of this.
The goal was, before aged 40, I wanted to get published. And I missed my goal. It took me until age 41. But that's okay. I didn't want to give up. And so, here I am, several books, several years later.
Joanna: If your goal was to get published by 40, when did you start writing seriously for publication?
Georgina: About four years before that.
When I rolled out of TV news, like a lot of us do, we go into marketing communications. In Huntsville, Alabama, which is where I live, we have a lot of aerospace and defense. NASA's here, Redstone Arsenal, lots of military. My husband is former army. And so, a lot of us will land in marketing comms, but it wasn't as creative for me as I wanted it to be.
On the weekends, I would write, and I was basically working seven days a week. Still am working seven… I'm like you. I'm a workaholic, just like you. Because we love it, right? We enjoy it. I just thought I've got just to make a go of this. We could talk about this, but it took about four years before my agent was able to finally sell my books.
Joanna: Interesting. Okay. Well, you said to me before we started recording that you've been listening to this show for years, and that you listen to my show with Orna Ross on the ‘Ask ALLi Podcast.'
You are clearly educated about the indie author business model and all of that side of things. So, why did you decide to go the traditional route? Especially, like you said, it took four years. I don't have any patience. I would have just given up by then.
Why did you decide to go into traditional publishing?
Georgina: I've always had the entrepreneur mindset. At the age of 21, I started my own non-profit. I have a separate non-profit now called Susie's Wish. I've just admired, especially women in business in particular, I've always admired it.
In my jobs, it was something that I cultivated for myself, I've always wanted to learn. And so, I felt as if the more I could learn about the background, the more I could follow people like you, people like Orna Ross, Mark Dawson. I've listened to his podcast for a long time, too.
But I went the traditional route because when I first started off, I thought, okay all the books, the blogs you read, it'll suggest getting an agent. And I went that path thinking at least the agent will guide me, to tell me if my books are even good enough, if, what path I could possibly take.
Once I connected with my agent, and that was at a conference in Chicago, we did a face-to-face pitchfest. That was it. She said, ‘We will get you published. It'll happen.' It took four years. And you're right. A lot of people could have backed off and just said, ‘I'll self-publish.'
I did consider it. Truth be told, I listened to so many of your shows. I've taken notes. I considered it for quite a while. But my agent really thought, ‘We can sell this. We can finally sell this.'
I had been writing, like I said, on the weekends, and it was tiring. But what happened was I ended up with two full manuscripts. And that's what she turned around. As soon as those were finished, she was able to turn around and sell those. The first book did not sell, the one that she started pitching it in the beginning. We shelved that, and I think, like you said, why did I wait four years?
Working full-time, there's almost a point where you can have the patience a little bit, because that had to be my career. That was at least a guaranteed paycheck. That was what I was using to raise my two sons with, and the writing at that time was bonus. If it happens, it happens. I was able to have patience.
Although I will admit that last year, I was approaching 40. So I was missing the goal line. But yeah, it finally did happen. And we went traditional. But that doesn't mean to say I'm not considering one day being hybrid. I admire so many of you that are solely indie. I just want to have all the information that I can have.
Joanna: It's interesting.
So, you said, before, that you went to look for an agent, to see if my books are good enough.
This gets to the heart of why people, I think, a lot of the time do go traditional. It's this need for validation.
And this is so core, and it's very difficult.
I've had many conversations with indies in the community. What is the equivalent, as an indie? It's book reviews, it's money in the bank. But it almost never is anyone in the commercial world telling you that your books are good enough.
So, I think it's really interesting that that's what you said. Do you feel that that's true now, given that you have five books published?
Georgina: I think by now, the confidence for me has definitely been bolstered. That first book she didn't sell, if the others hadn't sold, either, there would be a part of me deep down, that's ‘Okay, I'll just stick with the marketing day job. I'll continue to work at aerospace and defense.' I ended up working at the Chamber of Commerce too. And the writing will just be a fun hobby.
For a lot of authors who self-pub, the validation, it is, let me get it out there. I want to be my own boss, and I absolutely admire all of that. I think the validation comes with the sales, like you said, with reviews, with people following, people buying the books, and then you keep on going.
For me, I was so new to the game. I really didn't know any authors. There aren't many of us here in Huntsville. In fact, actually, then I find out one of the biggest legal thriller authors is my neighbor. He's just down the street. But I had no idea.
I needed that confidence boost. I admit to that, very much so, that I needed that outside validation.
But I think, knowing now, like you said, with the five books, I do feel as if I could maybe one day publish, especially some of the manuscripts that are lingering on a hard drive somewhere, that maybe I could do this on my own, and see where that takes me.
Joanna: Which I love, because you're implying that that's the harder route, going indie and running it all yourself is a harder route. But many people obviously struggle to get into traditional publishing. So I love your attitude there. I think it's brilliant.
Let's get into the publishers, because we're going to talk about how different publishers are different. And this is so important, because people will hear, ‘Oh, so and so got this book deal.' They might know a broad thing about it.
But generally, you don't necessarily know the imprint. You don't necessarily even know what publisher it is, so people just think all deals are the same type of deals, all publishers are the same. So, tell us about how Bookouture and Bantam are different.
First of all, let's start with the acquisition process and speed of publishing. How was it different in that way?
Georgina: Something that I would love more people to know, and I think the word is getting out there with Bookouture, you do not need an agent to submit to them. You can submit online.
It's quite an easy process. I do have an agent, like we talked about. And Bookouture, as we discussed right before the show, they wanted to start branching out to other countries. This is several years ago.
They made a real big push to sign on more U.S. authors. And that's what got my agent's attention. They're an eBook publisher. They're very focused on digital.
With them, they want to sign you for a two to three-book deal, which is amazing. I don't know if they ever have signed anybody for a one-book deal. And because they do that, it's the fast turnaround, with them being a digital publisher. When you submit that manuscript, it is six months later that everything is done, published, digital ARCs are sent out. And it's a churn.
Then, within the next six months, the other book is published. And if you've got a three-book deal for the year, these authors are constantly writing. So they're fast. They're very quick, very agile, smaller group, based in England. A lot of them are working remote, obviously, with COVID, too.
But then with Penguin Random House, they're Penguin Random House. They're enormous. They have a name. But they're slower.
That's what happens with any large publishing house. I think traditional, in particular, as a whole, they tend to be slower. They're going to sign you for one-book deal, maybe a two-book deal. But when they announce your publication date, it is a year later, because they have lined up all of their other authors, and their entire marketing plans, and you just have to get in the back of the line.
That can be good, in one way, because you do have time to really reflect and dig deep, and write better prose, months and months of structural edits, like three or four versions of it. But Bookouture, they are fast, and they get your book out there, which is really cool for a lot of authors, if that's the kind of pace that you enjoy.
Joanna: It's interesting though, because Bookouture was a startup, they were a small company, and then they got bought. Or sold. Sold to Hachette. And Hachette is one of the big five, or what is now the big four or three. [The Bookseller, 2017]
You mentioned, though, interesting that PRH is slower, and they have these much longer things. But I would say that's more about the imprint. Because Bookouture is, of course, now an imprint of Hachette.
Is it more that Bantam out of PRH is a longer-established traditional brand of imprint?
Georgina: Yes, and with Bookouture being sold to Hachette, yes, they are with one of the big publishers now, but they, to me, and to a lot of the authors in the group, they feel still very independent. It still feels like this boutique group.
They have their own timelines, and they operate on their own. It's very small senior management. I don't live in England, and most of them are in England, but I feel as if I know most of them. It's very easy to reach out to them.
With Penguin Random House I was able to visit the office in New York several weeks ago, I met with my editor, there are so many imprints there. And they're all in these huge offices. And there's Bantam and Ballantine, and Dutton. And you go on and on and on. And so they're all working these different books schedules. I think that's why it takes so much longer.
Like I said, we are basically put into a schedule behind everyone else that they have signed maybe one to two years prior. And so you just have to have more of the patience.
Bookouture is just agile. They're really agile. And it's been interesting. It's been really interesting to be between two publishers. I don't recommend it for everyone. I don't know a lot of people that would want this pace.
Joanna: Why wouldn't you recommend having two publishers at the same time?
Georgina: You have two editors. So you have two bosses. You have two different timelines.
With Bookouture, I'm signed with them for two-book deals. And I signed again with them for another two-book deal. So, those schedules will overlap on top of my deals with Penguin Random House.
It is a wonderful situation for me to be in, particularly after four years of the first book not selling, grinding with the other manuscripts, finally selling the other books. It's a dream come true. But it can be, for some people, I think, an overload.
For example, this week, I'm finishing edits for a book for Penguin Random House while also having to proofread the next book with Bookouture. And you do a lot of projects simultaneously, too, but I know that you do a lot of time blocking. These weeks, your non-fiction, these weeks, it's another project.
But to get my mind into one story, and then pull it out into a completely different story… And we had to update the contracts, I think it was last year, where basically, Penguin Random House said, very kindly, but the marketing efforts we want to put behind you, we don't want it to compete with the marketing efforts that Bookouture is doing. And that makes sense.
So we updated the contracts that, from now on, my Bookouture books cannot be published unless it's four months before Penguin, or four months after. And that gives room for them to do the marketing, for both publishers to push me, and see the results, and not it be intertwined or mixed.
Joanna: I wonder how on Earth they can control that. Bantam doesn't control Bookouture. They can do whatever the hell they like, at the end of the day. I guess you'll be in breach of contract, but Bookouture wouldn't be.
Georgina: Right. And hence the reason why agents, and I love my agent, she really had to go to bat for me for this, because, understandably so. And like you just said, Bookouture wasn't very pleased.
Joanna: I imagine.
Georgina: Especially because they want at least two books a year from me. And their other authors, some of them they're signing five-book deals, and these authors are doing really, really well. But I want to stick with the two publishers for now, just until the money's a little more steady.
My career is getting to a very nice spot. I'm happy but I don't know when I'll feel completely settled.
But for now, I'll stick with the two publishers, and just continue with the working grind, seven days a week.
With Bookouture, it was, okay, they said, they suggested, ‘How about with us, you focus on domestic suspense? That's how we've branded you.' And I know you've talked about this before. In fact, the person you interviewed, it came out yesterday, was saying, how yes, publishers will tend to corner us.
Joanna: Tess Gerritsen. Yes.
Georgina: Yes. So when I heard her say that, I was like, ‘Absolutely. That's what they do.' So, with Bookouture, I'll be domestic suspense focused. They want small neighborhood family drama. Shorter, 75,000, 85,000, 90,000 words. And something that's fun is we agreed to make all of my settings be in the South.
That will differentiate my books from other Bookouture authors, especially. A lot of the neighbors and areas around here are really having fun with it, because it's drama and crime, in small Southern towns.
But with Penguin Random House, the agreement was, okay, the four-month parameter on either side, longer manuscripts, much bigger settings, and I can go full creepy. I can really push the envelope with them. And I'm allowed to have curse words with them.
Joanna: It's so interesting, because both of these things are very prescriptive.
Joanna: We have a lot of discussion in the indie community about writing to market. And that means studying what readers like, and studying the charts and things like that.
What you're talking about is essentially writing to the market that the publisher is telling you to write.
Georgina: Yes and no. In the beginning, the books that were sold to Bookouture, they were very domestic suspense. When you start off, you don't really understand what you're writing. You just write what you love. And I know that you have so many different ideas. You're always writing what you love.
So to me, the idea that it was domestic suspense, I didn't even consider it until yes, they said, ‘By the way, your stuff is domestic suspense. Could you keep going that way? We love it. It's been doing really well.'
In the background, I had been writing this other manuscript called ‘Nanny Needed.' Big New York City setting, much creepier, very dark and different from my other stuff. As soon as my agent saw that manuscript, the idea was, we need to pitch this to someone else. In fact, Bookouture turned it down because it didn't fit the domestic suspense that I had been writing.
Up until that point, I was writing just what I love and enjoy. And I still feel that I do that way.
But because of the parameters set in the contract, you're right, I'm a little bit more prescriptive in my approach, because it's been asked of me, but it also has, if I'm going to continue to be with the two publishers, it has also given me some guidelines, right. In my head, it allows me to write separately, with my editors in mind.
Joanna: I guess you've mentioned that Bookouture is, of course, UK-based, but they've moved into the U.S.
How has it been for you as a U.S. author to have a team in the UK? And have you felt that your books have reached a U.S. audience as well?
Georgina: They're very international. The way I see Bookouture is, the sales that I experience with them tend to be very international, but they've been around for a while, and especially now being under Hachette.
Getting European, Asian readership, sales in those areas has been super cool, where with traditional pubs, they will sell out my rights to another country.
My books were, especially ‘Nanny Needed,' that was very much focused in the U.S. I could feel that immediately from the get-go. Lots of Facebook advertising, all kinds of Instagram advertising, but it still felt very U.S.-based.
That made sense, because then they sold my UK Commonwealth rights to Avon. And so that was very interesting for me, because we'd already launched ‘Nanny Needed.' And then I'm jumping on calls with a publicity team in the UK, with Avon, and they want to do completely different stuff. They'll have a completely different cover.
I've been learning this as I go. Once that book came out six months later, it was like launching that book all over again, in a completely different market. But we've sold rights in other countries too. There hasn't been as much of a publicity push. It's just been the word of mouth of bloggers on Instagram. Like, who knew, Poland. I need to visit Poland because…
Joanna: Huge market, Poland. Absolutely massive.
Georgina: Oh, my goodness. I had no idea. They are just reader lovers. It's been really amazing to see.
With Bookouture, they wanted to get more U.S. authors. They've got quite a few of us in the stable now. There are times where I feel we are separate. They had their yearly summer party, and it's in England. And it makes sense. Most of their authors are in England, UK area, along with their staff. So a lot of us in the U.S., unless we can afford it, and then COVID shut down a bunch of things, we're not going to be able to go. So that kind of hurts.
But, Bookouture has this lovely authors' lounge on Facebook. And it's been amazing. I've talked to so many authors, and they don't have that with their other publishers. And it's, again, that smaller feeling. Even though there's hundreds of us in there, where we're able to ask questions, and no one from the senior edit team can be a part of that group except for the two publicists.
They're pretty good. They'll come in and correct us every once in a while, or let us vent, or ask questions. And they might point us to the right person. But it's been a really cool community. So I feel like even though we're all over the world, we've been able to connect that way.
Joanna: Let's talk about marketing then, because one of the reasons many people want to go traditional is that they feel like they don't have to do the marketing that indie authors have to do.
What's the marketing been like with each of the publishers?
Georgina: It's been a big difference. Penguin Random House has a much larger marketing team. The calls, there are two publicists, the lead, the editor's on there, very much create a marketing plan that's catered specifically to each book, to each author. So you don't see a cookie-cutter approach.
We were able to do really fun promo ideas, because with ‘Nanny Needed,' with it being a ‘Nanny Needed' want ad, they were able to have a lot of fun with ads, and pulling it out of the book, and listing the street address. And then there were promos because one of the characters, Chanel No 5 is mentioned a lot. There's a lot of sensory things. There's some ghostly feelings to the book. And they were able to have fun with that. And we ran a bunch of promos.
They also hooked up with retailers that I would have never have. I'm sitting in the background, just plunking away at my next manuscript. And they'll tell me, ‘We signed a deal with Brooklinen,' which, you probably don't know in the UK, but they're here in Brooklyn, New York. And they launched a package because my book came out in the fall.
It was October timeframe. And it was just a really fun promo package. Their latest bedsheets, a candle, a satin eye mask, and a book to read at night. And it was my book.
It's that really fun, creative marketing that I would have never thought to do, or would have been able to afford to do.
That's been really exciting to see.
Now, with Bookouture, they will organize the blog tour for each author. The promos, we all tend to have the same style of promo. So, it's not catered to each book.
We're all very much the same. And it's nice in a way, because I think there could be, well, this person was able to have this opposed to this other person, there would be discrepancy. We're all very much promoted the same way. But the graphics tend to look very similar.
It's highly recognizable. If a reader sees it, they know, absolutely, it's a Bookouture book. And they have this insanely loyal group. I didn't realize this, but with their email list, there are people who will only read Bookouture books. Especially because of the price point. That's where Bookouture really hit the mark.
We talked briefly before the show, but the gentleman who founded it, he was with a large publisher. He pulled out. He saw the writing on the wall several years ago about eBooks, which is a lot of what you've talked about for years, and the accessibility of the e-readership.
But he wanted there to also be the print-on-demand option. And we're seeing that more and more with paperback, that people really do love their eBooks, and that they also will want to have paperback. But he was able to do the math, come up with a really low price point, so when our books come out with Bookouture, these readers will just gobble them up, because they're so much more affordable. And they're reading, also, two or three books a week.
Joanna: So, everything you've said so far has been they are doing the marketing. Have you done any marketing?
Georgina: I have. But I will admit to you,
I probably don't do as much marketing as I should, because I'm writing the next book, and then killing myself to write the next book.
The benefit that I've had, being in a smaller town of Alabama, our local outreach is fun in that way, especially because the Bookouture books are based in the South. So we've had a lot of local support, which has been neat. A lot of word-of-mouth book clubs.
But no, I have not paid a single dime for an ad. I've considered it. I've thought about it. I haven't done it. I just sat back and watched. But it's been a lot of Instagram lives, and interviews, and those I'll schedule myself.
Every once in a while, yeah, the publicists will reach out, which has been helpful. They'll reach out and say, ‘Zibby Owens has a spot. Would you like to be on her show?' It's been pretty cool. Compared to some other author friends of mine, the most I've spent is shipping. I'll run a contest and sign book, and I'll send a book out. Or I'll do a separate blog tour.
Here's the other difference, too. Bookouture, they're getting better. But I noticed with my first two books, a lot of the bloggers are, understandably, UK-based, or European-based. Poland, like we just discussed. I've connected with someone here in the U.S. But I shared that list with the publicist, with Bookouture, just because I wanted to be helpful and say, ‘Here are so many bloggers here in the U.S., too.' And so tap into them for future American authors.
Joanna: Of course, marketing is not just money. It's time.
So, all the time you spent, most traditionally published authors, even Tess Gerritsen, who we mentioned before, talked about how much she has to do, even as a really super famous author. And it's all time-based. It's not money-based.
Georgina: Yes. And there's the conundrum, right? She made the comment to you about, I wish that authors could do what they used to do, which was just write.
Joanna: That's why I was surprised when you said you weren't really doing anything.
Georgina: I met with Clare Mackintosh. You had her on your show a few weeks ago. I love Clare. She and I got to meet at ThrillerFest in New York. I know you've been to the conference before, so that would be super neat if we met face-to-face at a future show. But Clare and I sat down and we talked about it. She is a marketing machine.
Joanna: Oh, yeah.
Georgina: I've seen other authors that are just constantly whipping out newsletters and contests. But it takes time away from the writing. And I personally haven't been able to do that. Now, when I slow down… I'm hoping to slow down next year.
Joanna: Oh, so you're slowing down?
Georgina: I need to. My husband's like, ‘I thought you were at least going to take Sundays off?' I haven't. The kids are sleeping, so I might as well get up on Sunday and also write.
I would like to start slowing down.
Because I think all of us understand that marketing is this necessary part of our work to get the books out there and to let people know to buy them, to read them, to follow us.
But unless you have that hook, unless you can create that book that just gets the attention of so many, and sets off on wildfire, a lot of us don't feel satisfied.
It'll be interesting, when, if I can slow down and I can start focusing on marketing, we'll see. But next year, I've already told myself, I'm going to take longer to write this next book idea that I have. And that's the one that's going to be with Bantam, Penguin Random House, because I really, I want the time to hit it out of the park.
I would like to go back to when authors spent a year or more toiling, because whipping out books like this, it's been great money-wise, but I don't think that my writing is to the bar that it could be. Does that make sense?
If people were considering going this route, any other positives you might have missed, and what are the biggest negatives, or things to watch out for?
Georgina: I don't want to sit here and say everything's always wonderful and perfect. And we already talked about, it is interesting to pick which publisher you want to be with, make sure it's the right fit for you.
There have been some negatives along the way. And it's been something that I've had to learn, and author friends of mine who've asked about Bookouture, I've been very straight up and honest. I've got a bullet point list, so, here are all the amazing pros, here are all the amazing cons. Same with Penguin Random House.
They could probably supply me with their own pros and cons of being indie, their own pros and cons of being with another publisher, somebody small. But with Bookouture, as much marketing as they do, they don't request blurbs. In fact, they don't do author blurbs.
It's very much you on your own, finding authors. In the beginning, I knew no one. I couldn't have sat down with Clare Mackintosh a few weeks ago. I couldn't have done that in the very beginning, four years ago. There's no way. So, that's been tough.
And they don't do paperback ARCs, because, again, digital publisher. So it's been NetGalley widgets, which, a lot of readers and authors, they're fine with that. I think they get so many books anyway, they don't mind.
But it is nice to have that paperback that we can hand to another author, especially if they're able to post a picture of them holding your book, and saying that they're going to write a blurb.
Whereas Penguin Random House is very much, who are the authors that you're wanting? Here's a list of authors we think are comparable. Here are the big authors we're going to hope to get to write a blurb for your book, and they'll take care of all of that. They've also been really, really good about what kind of cover do I want?
Because we have such a long timeframe, we can edit and tweak. Bookouture, again, they're super fast. That six-month turnaround, it is bam, bam, bam, and it has to. You gotta hit those milestones. Because not only is it my schedule, it's their editor's schedule, and the line editor, the copy editor, each person, their schedule.
There is no wiggle room with the cover. There is no wiggle room with the title. They tell you what the title's going to be.
You can tell them you don't like it. And they're like, ‘Look, this is what we think will work, and there is no time to fiddle with it.' And so, that's the cover you get, and you go on with it.
That's been a little tough, especially for anybody wanting to be indie. Titles and covers are so special and important. It's taken me a lot to just, I guess, accept when I see the cover, and go, ‘Well…' Even if I had a question, I can't say anything.
Luckily, my first two covers, I loved. The third cover, there were little things I would have wanted to change, but they basically say, ‘Trust us. We know this. We've done enough studies. We know what it looks like in the thumbnail.'
But it's that control aspect that right now, I think because I'm so inundated with schedules, I am letting some of that stuff go. But as I get more established, it would be super cool, and that's why I listen to you, I listen to Orna, I get Mark Dawson's emails. I would like to, A, I'm interested in what all of you do. I think it's fascinating. I think the more information I can get, the better.
But who knows, maybe one day down the line, it would be really interesting to look at my contract and see what I can publish on my own. Maybe get some of my own work out there.
Because most people pick up a book or they open up an eBook, they don't know who the publisher is, and they really don't care. They really don't.
And if they know Joanna Penn, JF Penn, they're going to buy your book. If they know my name, Georgina Cross, hopefully they'll also pick up my book.
For any indie authors, or just authors in general, who want to get a traditional publishing deal with whatever publishing house, what are your tips for making it?
Georgina: I really do believe that my agent was helpful. And in the beginning, like I've talked about, I really didn't know any better.
But my agent having the connections that she had, that was really the entree into some of these bigger publishing houses, where she could personally pick up the phone or email them. And that's how we were able to get with Penguin Random House.
I've heard so many authors who do the cold email submission. I applaud that. I did that for a few months in the beginning, too. But it wasn't until I met her face-to-face. I tell that to so many authors. If you do want to get an agent, because of those licensing rights that he or she may be able to obtain for you, it is really helpful, if you can afford it, and get the time away, to go to these conferences and pitch face-to-face.
A lot of times you sell yourself along with the book idea.
I've joked with Rachel; she wanted to make sure that I was not crazy, just as much as I wanted to make sure that she was someone I could work with.
You've heard of these pitch sessions. They're only a few minutes long, but it's long enough for you to get a feel. They need to know, is this someone that can take a lot of criticism? Is this someone who can take a lot of edits?
It was super helpful to do that. I was lucky with Rachel. She's at an agency now that, they're fairly big. They're in New York City, they have a film agent in-house. So, last February is when we got the call that, hey, we've got some interested agents for different production companies. We've got actual production companies also calling. We'll keep you in the loop.
They took care of all of it. Again, I was so busy writing the next manuscript that I just said, ‘Let me know if it happens. I'm not going to put any hope on it. Just let me know.'
My husband took five minutes to research some of these production companies. And we didn't know their names from Adam. We didn't know if they were good or not. We didn't know if anything was going to get signed. Then a month later, we got an email that Netflix had called, and we said, ‘Well, we know Netflix. We recognize that name.' And so they went ahead.
They bought the rights to my first book, ‘The Stepdaughter,' and they bought the licensing rights for ‘Nanny Needed.' That was my third book. So, one with Bookouture, and the other book with Penguin Random House. That has been just crazy. It's been amazing. Again, I wouldn't have gotten that on my own. I would have had to find someone. But this came along with my agency, so it was helpful.
Joanna: It sounds like you're very happy with your publishing decisions, which is always nice to hear.
Georgina: Yeah, I am. I am.
But, I would like to one day venture out and to make more money, potentially, with my books.
The one thing I consider all the time is, and I'm sure this comes from my aerospace days, lots of spreadsheets, where, if I make 100% of the royalties self-publishing, I do want to factor in my time, and the costs for having an editor and a cover designer, and then see what I net.
Right now, with Bookouture, it's a much bigger royalty percentage. It's 45%, which is great. But there's still that cut that goes to them for their overhead, for all the publicity they do. Then there's that other cut for my agent. And then I get the rest.
By that point, it's, could I have made more money if I were to write a new book on my own, or pull out the other ones from my drawer, could I publish those and basically keep all of that?
Have learned everything I have learned from you guys, and take a stab at it myself? I would like to do that. With Bookouture, another positive is they pay quarterly. I know with indie authors, the money comes so much faster.
Joanna: It's funny you say that. I just did a thing this morning, and the money is already in my bank account. It's like, within half a day.
Georgina: Right. Exactly.
For me, going 20-plus years working in corporate America, where it was a paycheck every two weeks, to all of a sudden not getting paid for months, it's been a huge adjustment.
A lot of people warned me about that in terms of planning. It's been tough.
It's been just waiting and waiting for the money to come in. But with Bookouture, thankfully, at least it's quarterly. That's still a long time to wait. But the money has to go to my agent first. And then I have to wait another week before the rest comes to me.
Penguin Random House, with the advance that they pay, it's split up into four payments within two years. Some folks that are only writing with a traditional publisher, you'd better have some savings, or you'd better hold on to that day job.
Because I don't know how a lot of people can afford to write full-time and get paid… Unless it's a monster advance. But those are quite rare. But to be paid four times over two years, I just don't know how you can live off of that.
Joanna: And it's not even when you know it's going to come either, right? It's, like, four times, and not even on a specific date, necessarily.
It's not under your control, I guess that's the point.
Georgina: Yes and no. They'll say the first payment is upon contract signing. I've heard some horror stories where it's taken months and months, six months maybe, to finally sign, even after they've agreed to buy the book. So you're just twiddling your thumbs waiting for that first payment.
Mine luckily came within two months, so I was good. The second payment is when the line edits are accepted. This is when you're like, yes, we…right. So, that is an arbitrary date, because that could be eight months from now, three months from now. You just don't know. It's until the editor's like, ‘Okay, this is good enough to where I think we will actually publish it after all.' Third payment comes when the book finally publishes.
Joanna: Which, again, is not in your control.
Georgina: Right. So, to have worked 20-plus years, having that, and having the 401(k), having all of that set up for me, and to all of a sudden now be a solo entrepreneur, I am doing my own accounting, to the best I can. I'm trying to keep up with what I'm doing.
The pay is not something that feels steady enough for me.
And that's why indie continues to be enticing… I hear all these great stories, and to be able to get paid within a day? Holy cow. That would be amazing.
Joanna: It is. You have mentioned that basically, the lack of control is the biggest reason that people go indie. And you've mentioned the lack of control over the cover, the title, the timing, the money. It's so interesting when you weigh everything up.
But what you've done, and obviously, you've learned loads, you're doing really well, and you have the choice. I said the same thing to Clare, even Tess Gerritsen, she said, ‘Oh, if I had something that was a bit different, I might go indie,' I think that you have the option now, right? You can do that.
You can write more books, so you can make the choice with every book.
Georgina: That's what I'm hoping for. I think a lot of authors, because so many of you have paved the path, you're making a living this way. Absolutely everything is under your control. You're steering your own ship, so to speak. I think because a lot of us are watching this, and really interested in this, and so many authors are starting to turn that direction… You've talked about this, too.
I wouldn't be surprised if there are more and more authors who are already, if not about to start publishing separately, whether it's a romance book under a pen name, whether it's a paranormal book… I know another author, friend, she has a pen name for her paranormal stuff. Or, I keep my name, I check my contract, and make sure, okay, these are the projects I can self-pub, and maybe still continue to do one book every two years with a publisher. We'll see.
I like to capitalize on the marketing that they are able to provide for me, but I'm absolutely taking notes. I've got all the notes of what they do, and the people that they contact, and I could absolutely do it myself.
Joanna: We will see what happens next with you, but we're out of time.
Where can people find you and your books online?
Georgina: I am Georgina-Cross-Author pretty much everywhere. My website, Facebook, Instagram. I don't do a lot of Twitter. I'm really bad about that. I should try more.
My books are sold pretty much everywhere. So, thank you so much for having me.
Joanna: Oh, no, thanks so much for your time. That was great.