Traditional Publishing

The surprising joys of independent publishing – Monday June 3, 2024

Publishing non-fiction is a tricky beast. I should know, I’ve written five non-fiction books to date with different publishers across the board: Ebury, Transworld, Hodder & Stoughton and each experience has been very different. While I’ve had great experiences (a Sunday Times Business Bestseller, Apple’s "best book of the month", UK book tours, guest curating at Cheltenham Literary Festival, multiple appearances at Hay Festival and other “badges of honour”) I’ve been left wondering if there might a different way to get my zeitgeist non-fiction writing out there. Non-fiction is famously hard to sell (requiring authors to have "a platform") and the books often include timely topics that rely on tapping into a cultural moment. I’ve been thinking: in a world of newsletters and zines — is publishing a traditional big hardback non-fiction book always the best way to spread your idea? I am not so sure anymore.

My Substack newsletter, The Hyphen, has really taken off over the last couple of years and has attracted over 50,000 engaged readers, meaning that I can publish my articles and essays with a click of a button, directly reaching my readers. There is a paid subscription model for any supporters of my work who want to access my hub of over 100+ articles. Even though it’s more about building the community than "scaling" financially or otherwise, I recently made the equivalent of a previous non-fiction book advance in a single month on Substack.

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