By Emily De Vogele
Last month, I sat down with Curious Cat Books founder and Amazon bestselling author E. Rachael Hardcastle to discuss all things publishing. We talked about the success of her company, her views on the rising trend of TikTok book recommendations and publishing in the north of the UK.
How do you juggle being an author and the founder of Curious Cat Books?
With great difficulty! The majority of my time is dedicated to my company. Writing will always be a hobby: for me writing is escapism. The company is my way of allowing other people to turn their writing into something more than a hobby.
Is there anything unexpected you’ve learnt about publishing since starting up your own company?
Curious Cat Books is different to other publishing houses. I work with un-agented authors and focus on the personal side. I wanted to start a company that meets people's needs. There is a lot of work that goes into publishing a book and we do everything ourselves: the marketing, the design, the copy editing, everything. I've had to become an expert at app steps in the process, which can be quite overwhelming at times, but worth it in the long run.
Bradford, and in some other cases, parts of the north in general, isn’t known for publishing. What made you want to set up a publishing house up here?
I’ve always been up here, I’ve studied and worked up here. People in the north need these services and they might not want to go to down to the big publishing houses in London. Success shouldn't be determined by location.
There has been a trend in publishing houses moving further up north, do you believe the industry is shifting, especially as a result of the pandemic?
I hope so. There’s an increasing demand for self-publishing and demand for wanting to do things yourself. Authors want more options. The introduction of self-publishing made Curious Cat Books possible. Hopefully, we see more opportunities crop up because you don’t need a central location for the job. I can work from anywhere if I have my laptop.
What was the biggest risk you faced when setting up Curious Cat Books?
Am I going to get any authors? Obviously, there were the financial worries, too. Did I know enough? Was I ready to help another author? Looking back, there are a few things I would have done differently, but you learn and move on.
How important is it to have the support of the local community, like Waterstones, when launching an independent business?
Massively! Waterstones is one of those shops that authors dream of being on the shelves of. When a company like that reaches out, it’s a special feeling. We managed to pull a group of likeminded people together from different backgrounds [for an event] and Waterstones facilitated that. Something well-established and respected in the community was helping with something new.
I noticed you’ve also published work by your dad, what an incredible experience it must be to share this with your father! Did your appreciation for literature come from him?
This conversation would actually make him laugh, because he is not a writer or a reader. He is an ideas guy! He wakes up with all these ideas for books. A lot of his life experiences fuel his ideas for novels. It was quite nice to share this project with him and it turned out to be a fun father/daughter experience.
Speaking of which, are you a big reader?
Oh yeah! I read anything and everything. If it sounds good, I’ll read it. If it has a good cover, I’ll pick it up. That’s why I tend to accept most genres for Curious Cat Books. Reading helps me understand the market and what’s currently selling, but it also helps with my own writing. Being creative you have to engage with other creative forms of media such as films and podcasts.
If you could give any piece of advice to budding authors out there, what would it be?
Just write what you want to write, don’t be pressured into writing what’s selling because you’re not going to enjoy it. It's better to be writing what you love than focusing on one particular genre and hating it. Writing what you’re passionate about is most important.
What are your views on the rise of social media pushing book recommendations, such as TikTok or Bookstagram?
Technology opened up a door for self-publishing, making it more accessible for authors. But it opens doors for some and closes a few for others, depending on your viewpoint. It’s great for pushing sales, trending hashtags and as a way to reach more people. Whether or not it actually convinces people to buy is another question entirely.
Sales and purchases also don’t equal reviews and reviews are vital for self-publishing. Part of publishing is understanding how readers' minds work. Some readers just won’t write reviews: they read the book and leave it. But, the best review you can get as an author is a personal recommendation. Recommendations from one person to another is so much more genuine.
How does it make you feel when there’s so many of the same type of book?
Publishers look for a specific thing, even if your writing is brilliant, if it’s not in the current trend it won't be published. It’s frustrating waiting until the market shifts to find new authors and new releases. The industry sometimes goes with already established, guaranteed sales, meaning a lot of new authors with such talent are passed over. That’s where self-publishing comes in and gives these authors a chance to shine.
Finally, for a bit of fun, what are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading The Quiet at The End Of The World by Lauren James. I just finished The Cat Who Saves Books by Sosuke Natsukawa, which was brilliant. It had a lot of themes quite close to my heart, such as loss and loving books, making it a great read.
Rachael’s books can be found on Amazon and more information about her publishing company can be found here.