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Q&A with Richard Wright

September 11, 2015

Following on from last week’s post on the release of The Weighing of the Heart, here is a mini Q&A with author Richard Wright in which he shares some insights into his experiences with the world of self-publishing.

the flesh remembersVC: Tell us a bit about yourself and the books you’ve written.

RW:  My biography says that I’ve been writing strange dark fictions and having them published in the US and UK for nearly two decades, so that must be true. It’s a bit depressing though, isn’t it? Two decades

In the last few years I’ve also self-published some novels and novellas. They’ve been modestly successful. I’d rather they’d been immodestly and gratuitously successful, but you can’t have everything. Last year I released my fourth novel The Flesh Market, which is a big and gothic historical horror set in Edinburgh, and as you know I’m currently partway through releasing a trilogy of fun pulp novellas under the series title The Lomax Chronicles.

weighing of the heart_coverVC: What made you decide to self-publish and what do you think the biggest pros and cons are of doing it all yourself rather than going down the traditional publishing route?

RW: I noticed self-publishing becoming a ‘thing’ a few years ago. I was pretty certain that when the dust settled and the old guard finally climbed down from their high horses it was going to stick around as an additional way for authors to reach readers. I had a previously published novel from way back that was out of print and doing nothing, so reckoned there was little to lose in testing the waters. I launched Cuckoo pretty quietly – there was enough stigma around self-pubbing that I couldn’t work out how embarrassed I should be about it – but it earned back its setup costs (basically a professional cover from Em Barnes at Snowangels/Snowbooks) within a few months and has been in profit ever since. I counted that as a win, and have released new books regularly since then.

The pros are fairly simple – if you choose to self-publish then you are removing all the obstacles between you and a finished book. That’s the downside as well. Some of the obstacles traditional publishing presents are actually worth learning how to navigate. When self-publishing first came along in its modern incarnation, people with upturned noses dismissed it as (at best) something for authors to do before a traditional publisher took them seriously. A training ground, if you like. I think it’s the other way around now. The best way to work out how to self-publish might just be to work with traditional publishers first. Once you’ve seen how it’s done from the inside, you’re in a far better position to go it alone.

51VB8SdSnJL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_VC: How do you market your books and what have you found to be the most effective tricks and tools?

RW: Ah, marketing. Subject of a thousand broken promises and hearts. Everybody wants to tell you how to make it big in self-publishing. Unfortunately nobody really knows, not even the successful outliers. Self-publishers are often keen to pay it forward when they find success, but lose track of how fast the online environment changes. They might tell you in good faith exactly how they managed to leap to the top of the bestseller charts six months ago, but if Amazon tweaks a minor algorithm under its mighty bonnet in the intervening time then the trick is no longer repeatable. Unfortunately that online advice gets archived by Google and stays forever searchable, even though it no longer has any merit. Hundreds of new self-publishers chase that advice down, repeat it, and burst into flames when they don’t subsequently have bestsellers of their own.

And you know what? Writers are awful at self-analysis anyway. Most of us suffer from dreadfully low self-esteem. It never occurs to us that a book we wrote might be popular because it’s really good. There always has to be a trick to success that isn’t quality, because we often don’t recognise that in ourselves.
The only repeatable things that definitely work are the same things that always did. A great cover and good sales copy to drag people into a story that’s worth reading. Sure, you might stumble on a quirky way to game the system, and power to you if so. I wouldn’t waste a lot of time trying though. There are very visible ‘success stories’ in self-publishing in every genre, but they’re the outliers. Some of them got lucky, but in the end most of them just wrote books that people like reading.

Do that. Write books that people like reading. It might take a while (it always did), but readers will find you.

8208788VC: When it comes to self-publishing, how important do you think the cover design is in helping to get your books noticed?

Cover design is all you have. Ignore anybody who tells you it doesn’t matter. People absolutely DO judge a book by the cover, especially if they’ve never read you before. Even your sales blurb is secondary to the cover. Even the book’s TITLE is secondary to the cover because the internet is a visual medium rather than a written one (look at how images have come to dominate your Facebook feed for evidence). Your cover has to be the most arresting thing on what might be a frantic and headache inducing page of memes and vines and videos and more, or nobody will stop for long enough to read your snappy sales pitch.

If you do just one thing to give your book a fighting chance among the quarter of a million or more published every year, spend money on a cover artist who’ll take the time to understand your project and produce an image that will stop readers in their tracks for long enough that you may whisper in their ear.

It’s quite important, is what I’m saying.

51Vb-cWx6pL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_VC: If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice before you had started to self-publish, what would it be?

RW: I would probably save myself a lot of anxiety by making sure I understood that the only thing I can control is the fact of the book. I can try to write good words, and tell a good story. I can make the book look good by commissioning great artists, designers, and editors. Then it’s done.

The finished book is the only part of ‘self-publishing success’ that is within my power to control. The rest is a crap shoot. It’s taken me four years to get that, but now that I have it’s a lot more fun and I’m a lot more relaxed about things.

These days I define self-publishing success as ‘releasing a book that I’m proud of’. Everything else can take care of itself.


51r++0vCDkL._AC_UL320_SR210,320_You can find out more about Richard and keep up to date with all his latest news over at his blog: or you can stalk him on twitter at

The first two books of The Lomax Chonicles, The Flesh Remembers and The Weighing of the Heart are out now, but keep an eye out for The Blackened Soul, the final book of the trilogy, which is still to come…

Richard’s previous four novels, The Flesh MarketCraven PlaceThy Fearful Symmetry and Cuckoo are also all still available through Amazon.

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