No Regrets: PW Talks with Harry Bingham
For the third installment in the bestselling Fiona Griffiths series, Bingham is going indie and doing things a little differently.Harry Bingham is the bestselling author of the Fiona Griffiths mystery series, the first two volumes of which received starred reviews from PW. For the publication of the third installment, The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths, Bingham told PW how he's doing things a little differently.
Tell me a little about Fiona.
She’s young. She’s exceptionally smart. She’s a junior detective, living and working in Cardiff, Wales. Also, she’s in recovery from a weird-but-genuine condition known as Cotards Syndrome: an illness whose sufferers believe themselves to be dead. She’s a lot better now than she used to be, but she still sees the world very differently from the rest of us.
That’s about it, really. Oh, yes, and there's her dad, who used to be Cardiff’s leading crime boss. And there’s a weird little mystery surrounding around her birth...
The first two Fiona Griffiths books were published by Random House here in the U.S. For the third, you’re self-publishing in the U.S. while still going the traditional route in the U.K. What’s up?My experience with Random was curious. They published me very well in many ways and critics loved the books. But though the books sold okay in overall terms, the hardback sold poorly and the paperback sold horribly. [A] $27 hardback is a lousy discovery-type product: it’s simply too expensive for people wanting to experiment with a new foreign, debut author. But though Random were interested in working on an e-only basis, I couldn’t for the life of me see why I should give up 75 percent of my royalties: I’d rather self-publish. I haven’t regretted a thing...so far.
Was there anything you were worried about when you made the decision to self-publish?
Uh, just one itty-bitty little thing called sales. I wasn’t worried about anything on the production side. I’ve got a great cover, plus a professionally edited and copy-edited manuscript, but that still leaves the massive question of whether anyone will buy the book.
As someone who has now been immersed in both publishing routes, where do you see self-publishing going and how do you think traditional publishers will react?
Self-publishing is more successful and confident than it ever has been. I think that one of the biggest trends over the next year or two will be that more and more authors opt for the hybrid approach, just as I’ve done.
You founded The Writers’ Workshop in 2005, which offers editorial advice to writers. Do you have any advice for both the new and experienced?
Oh, lots. First, editing matters. It matters to a very experienced pro, like me: my books still benefit massively from my editor’s input. It matters even more to relative newbies who have less experience to fall back on.
Hard work matters too. Successful writers—indie or traditional—work really hard at what they do. An obsessive and perfectionist approach is common to pretty much everyone who succeeds at this game. And last, you need to find a really strong concept that lies at the leading edge of whatever your genre may happen to be.