Birds of a Feather welcomes Marjory McGinn to the Nest
I love hearing how other non-fiction authors have discovered their writer’s voice and found their path to market, so am pleased to feature a author interview with Marjory McGinn, who has just released her third book in her Greek Memoir series.
Find out how Marjory overcame the trials and tribulations of partnering with a traditional publisher before heading down the self-publishing path.
How would you describe the type of books/genre you write?
My books are travel memoirs based around my four years spent living in southern Greece during the economic crisis.
What motivated you to start writing Non-Fiction?
As a journalist I have been writing for many years, mainly features, including a lot of travel articles, so it wasn’t such a big jump to writing travel memoirs. The three books I’ve written so far, including the latest, A Scorpion In The Lemon Tree, were inspired by a mid-life odyssey to Greece that I undertook with my partner Jim and our crazy terrier Wallace, in 2010.
We were escaping from an Arctic winter in Scotland, where we were living at the time, and after years working in journalism, we were also sidestepping a downturn in the British newspaper industry.
We picked a remote village in the Mani, the middle peninsula of the southern Peloponnese on the mainland, for a year’s adventure which turned into three at that point and inspired my first two books, Things Can Only Get Feta and Homer’s Where the Heart Is.
During our first year there, I had a vague notion that I might write a book if the experience was interesting and it turned out to be more inspiring than I could have imagined when we made the decision to integrate with the local Greek community there.
My new book, A Scorpion In The Lemon Tree, was the result of a second odyssey to Greece in 2014, for over a year, on the adjacent, Messinian peninsula.
Tell us the journey you went on to get your first book published (e.g. self-published, assisted-publishing, traditional publisher)
My journey has not been particularly easy. I wrote the first book, Things Can Only Get Feta, while we were living in the Mani and secured a small independent publisher in London, in 2013. That part happened fairly quickly and while things were good to start with, cracks quickly began to appear when the publisher seemed reluctant to pay my first royalties and only did so after an acrimonious battle.
Later, while on our second odyssey in Greece, things got worse with unpaid royalties yet again and then the paperback was allowed to go out of print. Double disaster! It was difficult to sort the situation out while in Greece, living on a remote hillside, with only a mobile phone and unreliable wifi, as you can imagine.
After getting legal advice from a London authors’ society, I had to set about getting the rights of the book back since the publisher had seriously broken the terms of the contract.
When I finally got them back, I no longer had faith in mainstream publishing, so decided to publish the first book myself and the second one which I finished while in Greece, with the help of my brilliant partner Jim. Fortunately, he had started his own book editing and formatting company www.ebooklover.co.uk over a year beforehand.
That was a lucky circumstance for me. The books have since done very well and I can honestly say that publishing books yourself on Amazon has been a breeze compared to dealing with an incompetent, uncaring publisher. And royalties are delivered like clockwork. What’s not to like?
What publishing elements do you most enjoy and most like to avoid, and why? (e.g. design, marketing, formatting etc.)
I have been lucky in not having to deal with design and formatting of the books – which doesn’t appeal to me at all – because my partner Jim does all that as well as editing. I trust him absolutely, even with occasional rewrites.
I was also lucky to be able to use the same London artist, Anthony Hannaford for all three cover illustrations, and he has given me some wonderful work.
I find the marketing and promotional side of things more challenging, but I have to say that when I had a publisher, he didn’t do all that much for me, which is often the case with small publishers and I had to find most of the publicity opportunities myself and write the stories as well. It was all hard work.
With the hindsight of being a published author, anything you would have done differently?
I would have taken more time in the beginning to vet mainstream publishers carefully instead of rushing into the whole procedure.
As an author who has experienced both sides of the coin, I would say to anyone starting out: don’t assume you will be better off with a publisher and don’t assume that because you have signed a contract that the publisher will abide by it. He may not and taking him on, legally, can be difficult, and costly.
I am always amazed that so many savvy writers I connect with on social media are still set on finding a publisher “one day” because of the assumed prestige there is in that. I agree that you get your book distributed more widely with a publisher, and may get invited to the odd literary festival, but on the whole, there is no point in having a mainstream publisher if that person is not willing to pay you and won’t respect you as a writer, even if your book is selling well.
I have not found the Indie route easy, not at all, but to have total control over the look of the book, the content and how it is promoted is fantastic.
What tips or advice would you give an aspiring indie author who is looking to self-publish?
I would say, work on your manuscript and polish it until it sparkles like the Krueger diamond. If you’re uneasy still about any of the writing or aspects of the plot, rework it, or get advice from a professional editor.
I use the same rule with writing books as I did with journalism: don’t part with a story until you know there is not one thing you could still change for the better, then you can move on to the next thing with a clear head.
And also, get help with editing, formatting and design from a professional. Don’t try to do everything yourself, or rely on friends.
What marketing or promotional tools or techniques do you use to reach your readers?
I am not a great self-promoter by nature, like most writers. I am also not very techie or a top gun with using Twitter and accessing great author sites, but I have lovely friends who are. I tend to relate to people a lot through humour and just on a human level and I use a lot of photos on my posts and tweets as well.
On Facebook, I have joined a few writers’ groups with an interest in Greece and have found this to be very rewarding. If you can find a group of kindred spirits like this, it will help to spread the word. In terms of promotion, I still try to place stories in the local press and occasionally national papers if I can, though I admit this isn’t easy, even for someone who worked as a journalist. I don’t recommend this path really.
But you know, I find you can get across to readers just as well through writing for interesting writers’ blog sites like this one. And it’s fun as well.
What impact do you want your books to have on your readers?
As my books are mainly about my travels in Greece and my huge love for this fabulous country, it is my hope that readers will come to love the place as I do and discover that not all the negative things that have been written about Greece during the economic crisis have been true.
I hope it will encourage more people to go there, particularly the remote southern Peloponnese where we lived for four years. If I can achieve that, I will be a happy woman.
What is your latest book Non-Fiction about?
The new book, A Scorpion In The Lemon Tree, continues the adventures in southern Greece.
After we returned to Scotland in late 2012, we quickly drew up plans to have another long odyssey in Greece. We had planned to return to the same region, the Mani, and pick up where we left off, but things turned out differently and we ended up in a completely different peninsula having a different kind of experience to the one we planned. But in Greece things never do go to a strict schedule. That’s why I like it! There were predictably more dramas and funny adventures.
What’s next on your writing journey?
After writing three non-fiction memoirs about Greece, I have an urge now to write a novel and let my imagination have free rein for a change. I have written a few chapters, so we will see how it goes. Not surprisingly perhaps, it is also set in Greece.Find out how Marjory McGinn #selfpublished her #nonfiction memoirs @fatgreekodyssey Click To Tweet
Marjory McGinn is a Scottish-born journalist who was brought up in Australia. As a feature writer, her stories have appeared in leading Australian newspapers and also in British publications after she returned to live in Scotland in 2000 with her partner Jim.
A youthful work/travel year in Athens inspired a lifelong fascination for Greece. In 2010, she set out with her partner and their crazy dog Wallace on an adventure in southern Greece that lasted four years altogether and became the subject of her three memoirs. During their time in Greece, they also freelanced for a number of British and Australian publications.
Marjory’s three books can be bought on all Amazon sites in paperback and ebook format.