An interview with crime author Val Penny

I am delighted to welcome author Val Penny back to my blog this week.  I first met Val when I joined the community of Crooked Cat authors (now Darkstroke) back in 2018.  (And I first interviewed her for my blog here.)

Crooked Cat/Darkstroke was (and still is) a great community of supportive and knowledgeable authors and I learnt so much from all of them, but Val was particularly helpful.  She has a wealth of knowledge, experience and sheer common sense and has been an inspiration and support throughout my time with Darkstroke.  (She also writes really good crime stories!)

I was very sad when I learned she was changing publishers and asked if she would like to come on to my blog and talk about it.  It is, after all, a very big step for an author to take.

So, welcome back Val.

Val

Thank you so much for inviting me along today, Paula. It is good to be able to sit and chat with you today

Me

I know authors often change publishers. I’m curious what might the reasons be for this?

Val

Each publisher offers something different to their authors but what the authors want, and need will change over time. Therefore, it is not unusual for authors to move from one publisher to another. This may be because the writer has chosen to write a book in a different genre not supported by their original publisher or simply that their support or distribution requirements change over time.

Me

What led to you wanting to change publishers?

Val

When I moved publishers, I had been with Crooked Cat and their crime imprint darkstroke for about seven years. The directors there work hard to develop a feeling of community amongst their authors and run in-house courses about, for example, editing, Amazon algorithms, or how to use social media. For a new author this tuition and information is gold-dust. As a new author I was very lucky to have been nurtured in this environment. 

However, after that period of time and with seven fiction titles under my belt, my professional needs began to change.

Me

How did you start the process?

Val

I began the process of moving publishers at the beginning of this year. It is a stressful thing to do. A bit like moving house, you know when you must do it and that the ultimate benefits will outweigh the temporary anxiety, but that does not take the anxiety away.

Darkstroke had begun to accept mainly first-time authors who needed a great deal of support, and a different kind of support to that I required going forward. The in-house courses the company offered were all familiar to me and it became clear that a move to a different publisher was called for.

Me

 One of the big issues when leaving a publisher is rights reversion. How did you get about getting your rights back from the publisher?

Val

Here, I firmly believe communication is the key. Most of my books were out of contract with darkstroke. They still published the first five books by agreement and, as I had been one of darkstroke’s best selling authors for the past five years, I thought the best thing to do was to speak to them and explain my dilemma. We quickly reached an amicable agreement about reversion of rights which required me to remain with them for a further three months and then the company agreed to a reversion of all my rights at no cost to me. 

This is unusual, a charge is often required, but in this case, a calm discussion about the need for a move was useful. This is a small industry, and it is sensible to remember that bad news or word that you are difficult to deal with travels fast. 

My grandmother always used to say, courtesy costs nothing. That is as true now as it was then.

Me

Once you have done that, it is then necessary to find a new publisher. How did you go about finding a new publisher?

Val

This is truly the most stressful part of the process!

I was fortunate in that when it became known that I was looking for a move with the rights to my whole back catalogue and various ideas for new books, several publishers expressed interest in signing me. I also investigated the possibility of setting up my own publishing house but, when I struck a deal with SpellBound Books, I was aware I could not replicate the expertise and vision of that company on my own. 

I am excited to be part of the SpellBound Books family now.

Me

 I know you don’t use an agent and prefer to approach publishers yourself. Why this choice?

Val

I have, briefly, had agents twice in the past and I am sure that if an author secures the services of a good agent who actively supports them and promotes their books this can be advantageous. However, my first agent had the audacity to get pregnant and leave the business without a thought for her authors. The next was more interested in promoting herself than working on my behalf.

I then spoke at length to a friend who worked as an agent with a large company for many years before changing careers and her view was that I didn’t need an agent. I have never had a problem getting publishers to accept my work, even when I was an unknown author. Her view was that I would just be paying an agent a percentage of my income to no good end. So, for the meantime, I will continue to work without an agent.

Me

Please tell us about your books

Val

I have two police procedural crime series, The DI Hunter Wilson Thrillers set in Edinburgh and The Jane Renwick Thrillers set in Scotland. 

SpellBound Books published the first book, Hunter’s Chase on August 20 while Hunter’s Revenge will be available from November.

Me

Hooray!  I’m looking forward to that very much indeed.  

So, finally, where can my readers go to find out more about you and your books?

Val

The easiest place to find out about me and my books is on my website at www.valpenny.com

Me

Thank you so much for a fascinating interview, Val.  I wish you every success in the world with your new publishers – and you are hugely missed at Darkstroke. Our zoom meetings aren’t the same without you!

Author bio

Val Penny’s crime novels, starting with Hunter’s Chase form the bestselling series of DI Hunter Wilson Thrillers. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland and published by SpellBound Books (link here) Her first non-fiction book Let’s Get Published is also available from Amazon.

Val is an American author living in SW Scotland with her husband and their cat.

Book link. Hunter’s Chase. link here

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