Imagination on Overdrive: PW Talks with Roger Croft
"I went to self-publishing rather than going through all those gatekeepers who take it upon themselves to protect publishers from books or authors they don’t like."Roger Croft self-published the thriller Operation Saladin—the second installment in his Michael Vaux series—through CreateSpace. The book received a starred review from PW Select, with our reviewer calling it a “complexly plotted, vigorous spy thriller.” We caught up with Croft over email to chat about self-publishing, the importance of marketing, and circumventing publishing gatekeepers.
Why did you decide to self-publish Operation Saladin?
Operation Saladin was the unexpected sequel to The Wayward Spy. Unexpected because I never really planned a sequel—Wayward was a novel in itself. After publication of Wayward, many readers were curious as to what happened to Michael Vaux, the protagonist, after his flight to the Middle East. That set my mind and imagination on overdrive and I wrote the sequel in six months. I wanted to get the book out on the market before readers had forgotten their interest in Vaux, and so I went to self-publishing rather than going through all those gatekeepers (agents) who take it upon themselves to protect publishers from books or authors they don’t like.
Prior to self-publication, did you try selling your book to publishing houses?No, I did not have a literary agent. I sent The Wayward Spy to a few agents in London and New York but nobody seemed interested. If one doesn’t get past the literary agent, one has little hope these days of getting the book published by a conventional publisher.
Once you decided to self-publish, what was the process like?
I worked with CreateSpace as I had with The Wayward Spy. I found the process efficient and a lot quicker than it might have been. I asked for editing services, book design, and an in-house critique, and was happy with the publisher’s execution of these services. The total cost of the whole process came to just under $3,000.
What were the biggest challenges with self-publishing?
One word: marketing. Until places like CreateSpace come up with some deal with bricks-and-mortar book shops (even if they are an endangered species) self-published writers will always face the high cost of marketing through Internet ads or print ads. Because of the book industry’s arcane form of payments, reimbursements and returns, even book signings in conventional bookshops are difficult to organize. Sometimes, the author is required to buy the books that could be sold to eager readers to make sure the bookshop takes no risk. Then you have to hope you’re not left with a pile of unsold books because it snowed or rained all day.
Looking back on your own experience, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
As a former journalist, I’m used to having my writing see “the light of day.” So, of course, the big advantage of self-publishing is to see your novel in print and available to the public in unlimited quantities! The cons of self-publishing are, as suggested, the very real problems and expense of self-marketing.
What advice would you give to other writers considering self-publishing?
When I decided to go this route, I was confident (a) that I could write and (b) that I had a gripping story to tell in my favorite genre—spy fiction. So anyone who is confident of their basic writing abilities and who has an interesting story to tell should, after a certain number of rejections from agents and/or publishers, simply “go it alone.”
With more people self-publishing, do you see the lines between publishing and self-publishing beginning to blur?
Yes. Bestseller lists are featuring more self-published works—and that’s highly positive. Conventional publishers may even one day wake up to the fact that their favorite gatekeepers (agents) are constantly making faulty judgments about a book’s prospects.
What are you working on now?
Believe it or not, a third thriller in the Michael Vaux trilogy.