One woman's journey to becoming an independent author & founder of Heddon Publishing

Let me introduce you to Katharine E. Smith, a bestselling author and founder of Heddon Publishing. Wait a minute, I hear you say, I know her! Well, why am I not surprised. Kath is my dear friend and is a fantastic friend to many. If ever your path crosses with Kath's once, you can be sure your paths will cross again - you can not help but love this lady! I'll pass you over to Kath who will share with you her journey to where she is now as an author and publisher...

After years hopping about from one job to another – always having this dream of working with books and being a writer – my hand was forced when I was made redundant whilst on maternity leave. Although it was ethically dubious on the behalf of my former employer, it was one of the best things that’s happened to me.

Eleven years on, I run Heddon Publishing - a small independent publishing company - and I am working on my tenth novel, book seven of the Coming Back to Cornwall series.

Back to 2009 - I had previously trained as a proofreader whilst I worked full-time elsewhere and, having realised that redundancy was a threat on the horizon, I decided to take maternity leave as soon as I was able to and took on some freelance work before my daughter made her appearance.

At the same time, I was finishing the first draft of my first novel, Writing the Town Read. My baby’s due date was my deadline but as she was two weeks late (lazy), I had the chance to read back what I’d written and begin editing. It would be another four years before I published that first book.

I was working while I should have been ‘nesting’ – I’m afraid housework has always come second to work; as long as the basics are done and we’re all fed and healthy, I’m happy with that. This set the pattern and after she was born, while my daughter was sleeping, I’d be working again, on my own book or other people’s. Over time, my work developed into a managing editor role and I began to better understand the publishing lifecycle. I could see the benefits of publishing independently and after some positive feedback but ultimately rejections from agents, I took the plunge and decided I would publish my own book myself.

I also decided to expand my freelance work, developing my editing skills and learning to format books and ebooks, and so Heddon Publishing was born. The first book I published myself, a few months after my son was born in 2012, was Steaming into the Firing Line, by Michael Clutterbuck. I am now working with Mike on the sixth book of his series!

The thing that was missing was a cover designer but in 2013 I met the brilliant Catherine Clarke, who has now designed all of my own covers, as well as those for many of the authors I have worked with.

I’ve had the privilege of working with writers all over the world, in a range of genres, and on a range of topics. Many of the Heddon authors I now consider friends, and quite a few I have worked with more than once. I particularly enjoy this as it’s possible to really get to know a particular author’s style, which is extremely helpful for editing.

I believe wholeheartedly that the authors I work with should feel that their book belongs to them, at all stages of the process. I advise and make recommendations when it comes to developing and designing a book but the final decision always belongs to the author. This is one of the benefits of independent publishing; the author should be able to retain control of their book and always be proud to put their name to it.

I think it helps that I am an author myself. I understand how much writing means and also many of the pitfalls and doubts that are part and parcel of the process. Some people will look down their noses at self-published authors, as though it invalidates us as writers, but gradually this snobbery is being eroded and there are some truly fantastic and very smart indie authors out there who take their books and their careers very seriously.

Since my books started to sell fairly well, I have been asked more than once if I’d like to be ‘properly’ published. Honestly, I am properly published, and proud to be an indie author.

Heddon Publishing is a partner member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, which is a great place for any aspiring author. It’s a strong and positive organisation that I love being a part of, and its membership is by and large friendly and supportive.

I am very lucky to be able to work as I do, and to have started to make a living from my own books, but it’s taken me a long time to get to this point, and a lot of hard work. That will never stop but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

If you haven't already done so grab yourself Kath's Coming back to Cornwall series:

  1. A Second Chance Summer

  2. After the Sun

  3. As Boundless as the Sea

  4. Sticks and Stones

  5. Lighting the Sky

  6. Something about the Stars

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