Sunday, 15 August 2021

The Wishing Brick is published... so what next?

The Wishing Brick is published, but I wrestled and twisted and struggled about what to do with it. I’m from a traditional publishing background where the general route to publication is to send off your finished manuscript to as many literary agents as you can in the hope that one of them takes you on. If one does, then they send it out to as many publishers as they can in the hope that one of them takes it on. It is a painfully slow process where nothing is definite and you are left out of the loop with your next book hanging in limbo. 

By contrast, self publishing gives you total control. There is no question about the book coming out, which means you can look ahead to the next one while you’re editing the first. You can do as much of the work yourself or hire editors, blurb writers and cover designers in exactly the same way a publishing house does. 

So I sent out a few submissions back in May to test the water. I got one reply from an ex-agent, but it was weeks before any of the others got back to me. In July, I decided to take the reins myself. I put on my editor’s hat and immediately stripped out an entire subplot. This here is the big difference between self and trad publishing. Because you have no one to rely on (unless you’re paying for editorial services) the buck stops with you, the writer. You need to look at the whole story from a publisher's perspective and question everything. In my case, this subplot clashed genres with the main theme, and while I loved those chapters, they simply had to go. 

At the beginning of August I was sitting with a final, edited manuscript and decided to give the traditional route one last go. I sent a sample off to an agent and received an automated response: “We hope to get back to you within twelve weeks.”

Twelve weeks

I checked my previous agent submissions, the ones that went out in May. Of the ten agents I sent samples to, only four got back to me. The get out clause is in their submission guidelines: “If you haven’t heard from us in x weeks, consider it a no.”

Do I really want to wait twelve weeks, just twiddling my thumbs wondering whether or not I’ll even get a reply? I can’t start work on a sequel because I have no idea how a publishing house will want to edit book 1. What if they want a major character cut? What if they want a different ending?

Sod that. All the work was in place. I’d even done the internal layouts while I was pondering. All I had left to do was grab a cover and upload the thing. And so, less than a week after getting that auto response, my book is published and promoted and even part of the Amazon Storyteller 2021 competition. 

So what next? Book 2 - that's what's next, and best of all, I can get to work on it while I’m all fired up. I’ve got a bunch of characters I love, and they’re all set up to take on something new. I've got a few ideas, but not much else. I'm just going to dive in and see what happens. How's that for a plan?

Monday, 3 May 2021

Pulp fiction

The the harsh reality of traditional publishing is this: if books don't sell, they get pulped. In the case of Buttercup, the publisher is moving distribution companies, which means the pulping decision is pushed on them a little earlier than they'd like. They sent me an email saying they were sorry that things hadn't gone better and that publishing is a bit of a gamble at the best of times, however, for the price of postage, I can have the remaining stock. Well, if nothing else, I'd have loved a full class set, or even just a group set for my low ability readers. Unfortunately, the publisher hadn't updated my email address, so the warning sat unnoticed in an old account. I only found it by chance the other day. By then, of course, it was too late.

It's not necessarily the end of the road though, as they have reverted the rights which means I could take the title somewhere else. I doubt that another publisher would consider it, but I could do it myself - I'd just need a new cover and internal layouts. That's easy enough as the artwork is based on my own illustrations. As for the series, I originally planned it as four books, three of which were written, the fourth was planned out in note form to bring the whole thing to a suitable end.

However, times move on, and right now, I'm writing a different kind of fiction. Buttercup helped to get me through a difficult time. It was fun to write and I really enjoyed the opportunity to illustrate it (which ended up more work that I realised!) but for now, the whole episode is being filed under the Downside of Traditional Publishing. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

CAMP TOMBSTONE: Night of the Pickled Donut

This has been a fun little project. Back in the summer, I thought this story would sit in my hard drive and go no further. I wrote the original script when I had an agent. She loved it but couldn't sell it, so I thought that was the end of the road for this little story. But during the summer, listening to a podcast called the Self Publishing Show, I heard Karen Inglis talk about her own self published children's books. Until then, I never thought self publishing was an option for children's authors. The simple reason that kids don't buy ebooks and as that it the primary income for most self published authors, it wasn't a viable business.

But, there was something I didn't consider. The reason that self published authors make most of their money through ebooks is because the paperbacks are too expensive. The printing costs are high meaning the cover price has to be high in order to make any profit. Even just a 50p profit margin is enough to price yourself out of the market, so for many KDP authors, paperbacks are simply not worth the effort. However, children's books are shorter. Less pages = lower printing costs. This makes a huge difference.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Virus Lockdown Birthday Blues.

It's t-shirt prison for you, young fella-me-lad
Birthday blues? Nah, not really. So okay, I might have missed out on sea and sun and sangria as my surprise holiday in Spain was cancelled, but on the bright side, I got this cool t-shirt. I liked it so much, I've put it in a frame. My actual party was a very small affair - about six of us, all spaced out in my sister-in-law's back garden. A couple of cans, few shots and an afternoon of baking sun. Didn't really need Spain at all. It was fun. Different, but still fun.

Sometimes it's important to focus on the good stuff and try not to get bogged down with the negatives. Now, more than ever, it's very easy to get wrapped up in the down side of things, and 24hr news coverage replaying the same stories, the same predictions and interviews doesn't help one bit. 

Saturday, 2 May 2020

A Horror Revival?

There was a time in the 80s when every bookshop and newsagent had a healthy horror section packed with black covers and shadowy illustrations. 

Today, that is no longer the case. In most instances, the horror section has been absorbed into Fantasy and Sci-Fi, which means it's only the big names on show, while new, and event established talent is completely overlooked.

The Ritual - I'm never going out in the woods again!

Adam Nevill is a good example. Adam is one of my favourite writers of any genre. He has won the August Derleth award three times and The Ritual had a major movie release, yet his books are nowhere to be seen - certainly not in any of my local bookstores. This all gives the impression that the audience for horror fiction is too small to bother with.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Yearly roundup and a look ahead to 2020

I took a long break from writing at the start of the year. The second Buttercup book had been put back to September, there were no plans for books 3 & 4 and my other attempts at breaking into the children's market had fallen short of the mark.

But one unexpected thing that came as a result of writing Buttercup was it rekindled my love of classic horror. Horror is the one genre that has always been with me. As a kid, I loved horror movies. I'll never forget the impact Salem's Lot had on me, or the first time I saw An American Werewolf in London. For books, it started when I spotted the Eleventh Pan Book of Horror Stories in a newsagent on my way to school. I managed to get the rest from jumble sales. In my teens, I moved onto James Herbert, Stephen King and HP Lovecraft. My very first attempt at a full length novel was a terrible attempt to do Cthulhu-inspired horror. And right now, my favourite author by far is Adam Nevill. He's just incredible.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Cover reveal

Buttercup Sunshine and the House on Hangman's Hill
has a finalised cover. 

Due out September, so not too long to wait.