Tag Archives: getting published

New stuff, has landed! Woot!

So, I have a new release.

Yep. That caught you by surprise didn’t it? It’s a 10k short and it’s in an anthology of other excellent stories for yes, now, once again, ’tis the time of year for Christmas Lites. In this case, Christmas Lites VIII.

You may or may not remember the story behind this because I shared it last year. Splitter, an author friend from way back, found himself in a women’s refuge, dressed as Father Christmas with a bunch of candy canes in a sack. He was supposed to be arriving at the office party but instead, ended up doing the whole Santa malarky where he was and giving the candy canes to the people staying there.

You may also remember how his boss asked him where he’d been and how she then called him into work the next day where he found she had loaded her car with presents and how the two of them went back to the refuge with them the next day.

It’s a brilliant story, it’s human nature at its absolute best, and now every year, a group of authors join together and release a new Christmas Lites anthology to raise money for a charity which helps domestic violence victims, and which, I believe, was the the charity behind that shelter, the NCADV. It’s all the more poignant to the authors involved, now, since Splitter died of cancer a few years back so as well as the charity element there’s a dimension of doing a kindness in memory of a lovely guy. I am incredibly proud to be involved.

I’ve made a page of links to places where you can buy it. Unfortunately, because of the logistics of getting the money made to the charity, the book is only available on Amazon at the moment.  Hopefully that won’t be too much of a pain in the arse for users of other platforms – I can recommend the Kindle app if you have an Amazon account.

Grab your copy of Christmas Lites VIII here.

On other news, I also have stumbled upon a rather excellent give away.

It’s a Strange World Science Fiction

This giveaway is running from 22nd December through to 22nd January. These are authors who’ve written sci-fi books that are planet-based, you know, either future Earth, parallel Earth or different planets in other universes. If you enjoyed my stuff about K’Barth I think you may find some things you like among these too. At the least it has to be a release from Christmas telly and turkey farts!

You can find the books and have a look at what’s on offer by clicking on the picture or clicking on this lovely link here.

That’s about it from me, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas or, if you don’t do Christmas, I hope you had a wonderful whatever it is you do. Incidentally, did you know that the whole thing in America where they can’t say ‘Christmas’ is actually just something that occurred because Happy Holidays catches it all and shops didn’t have to have loads of labels, cards etc printed to mention all the other celebrations around at the same time. Then, in order to disguise their laziness, they pretended it was altruism and said they were doing it not to offend anyone. So now everyone’s up in arms at the liberals when the origin may well be down to Hallmark trying to save printing costs! Mwahahahrgh a little Christmas-tastic trivia for you. Sadly, I have not been able to fact check it, but I am very much enjoying the idea.

Anyway, happy it, whatever it is you do and all the best for a fabulous 2019. Whatever the New Year brings, here’s hoping it’s good.

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Filed under About My Writing, Author Updates, Blimey!, General Wittering

Publishing is dead: Long live… publishing?

What does a publisher do? Is there a point to having one? As a species are publishers dead?

I was just looking at this and even though I’m self published, I agree with pretty much all of it.

So… reading that kind of bears out what I’ve always thought. Ergo that a publisher is something akin to a venture capitalist. They see an idea and they invest. After a number of funding rounds etc, the ‘inventor’ of a product usually ends up with around 10% although I know people who have ended up with about 2%. When a company you started sells for several hundred millions and you get a ‘mere’ two it could be galling, if you looked at it the wrong way. But, in many cases, without the expertise of the Venture Capitalists – sorry I think they call themselves Business Angels these days – that hundreds of millions sale may not happen. Inventors invent something but as I understand it, where they make the money is sharing their know how with, and investing in, like minded individuals afterwards.

So what I’m saying, inarticulately as usual, is, writers have an idea, the publisher is the venture capitalist in that they pour thousands into the venture to get it to the stage where it will start making a return. The writer who has a publisher gets 10% rather than 70% but they will probably get to a break even point quicker than they might otherwise. Well… unless they live on benefits and spend all day every day marketing their work online and elsewhere. The other 60% absorbed by the publisher has probably been spent on design of the book and cover, some marketing, paid reviews in the right places and the kind of contacts and clout that no self published author will have. In short, if you’ve written, something, anything marketable, a publisher is the best bet (or acting the EXACT same way as a publisher – apart from saying no to yourself, obviously).

Unfortunately publishers are not like VCs or BAs, they’re much more cautious about who or what they invest in and there seems to be a lack of creative flair among the big ones. That means a lot of good stuff gets left on the cutting room floor… or the author may have some home life reason that precludes them from writing two books a year – which is what any self respecting publisher will expect (and need).

Those are the people who are going to have to do their own thing and those are the people whose books WILL get written, whatever the article says, and will get published. None of my stuff would ever see the light of day if I had to sell it to a publisher first. That’s partly because I’m bollocks at sales but a big bit is also because I have too much on in my real life to write a book in under 18 months. Even with an advance I couldn’t do that because the sticking points are people who need me, my time and my… well it sounds corny but… love.

So, if publishers could accept China Mieville’s view: “If we try to second guess readers, it’s a fool’s game. Our job is not to give readers what they want, but to make readers want what we give.” it would be great.

Unfortunately a lot of the big ones are trying to second guess what readers want and give it to them. The result is a huge restriction on choice and creativity.

Hang on though! Lots of small publishing houses have appeared in the last few years who are bang in line with Mr Mieville and have stepped into the breach. At this rate the publishing industry will re-invent itself… as it’s old 1960s forward looking, inquisitive, quality driven self.

Let’s hope so.

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The Overnight Success Myth and Other Stories…

I’m not sure why this has come up now but I’ve found myself discussing the hard work aspect of becoming a writer quite a lot over the past week.

Also, with the attitude of some independent authors and the hardening attitude among readers it has caused, I am beginning to wonder whether self publishing is quite such a smart option. It’s definitely right for me at the moment, but long-term smart? I’m not sure.

Run with me on this, eventually the two thoughts will connect.

Reading the results of the Taleist survey of indie authors, I was interested to see that some ludicrously high percentage of independenly published books – about 75 I think – are fantasy. I’m not sure this reflects the number of fantasy writers out there so much as the number of publishers willing to take them on. Certainly there were very few in 2009 when I was looking at the traditional route and of the few prepared to read a fantasy manuscript, even less, would look at a funny one.

However, whichever way you cut it, it means that any fantasy writer who does decide to look for a publisher will have a lot of competition. In regard to my own work, the standard doesn’t worry me, but setting my talent (or lack of it) aside for a moment, there are a lot of aspects, beyond my control, that make someone like me an unattractive prospect to a publisher. So if you’re grappling with the self or pukka publisher question here are four reasons to think about self publishing over and above the usual ones.

If you take a long time to write a book.
Going on my own experience here, the way I see it is this: If I go on sending my work to publishers for long enough the law of probabilities states that it will click with somebody – but with my business hat on, I can’t help wondering about the other criteria. You see if I was a publisher, I’d be looking for more than just talent, I’d be looking for commitment and that’s where I fall down. Big time. I already commit most of my spare time to being a writer and it’s about… er hem… 10 hours a week. I have the odd weekend, too, so I could score a Saturday book signing every now and again but I would probably have to attend with a small boy (four tomorrow).

Looking at the early Pratchett model, I reckon you have to be able to write a decent book every 6 months at the outset to keep up momentum and to keep your readers – not to mention your publisher – interested. It costs a lot of money to publish a book and until you have written a few of them, the Publisher isn’t going to get much back. So, if it takes you longer than 6 months to write one I reckon you have two options. Publish them yourself or stockpile a few manuscripts that are ready to go before you approach a publisher. Think about it from their point of view, if they like your work that’s good but if you’re prolific you will deliver a return for their investment more quickly. That might be the difference between their giving a contract to you or to someone else.

If marketing your book will get in the way of writing the next one.
One of my author friends is doing a book signing somewhere in the UK on all bar 4 weekends this year. That’s seriously impressive. If anyone deserves to be an ‘overnight success’ it’s this guy but that’s the level of commitment it takes. It’s the level of work I would aspire to if my circumstances were different, in fact I’m kind of envious of him. Oh alright, I’m very envious, positively seething, but I digress.

If you do have a publisher, marketing your book is almost more important than when you self publish. How so? Because they have put their faith in you and if you have any scrap of self respect or honour in you, you won’t want to let them down. You will have to be involved in a very hands-on way with selling your book. So there are two things to think about there. First, even if you want to put in that kind of commitment, can you? If you can’t, will you feel bad about letting your publisher – or yourself – down or feel pressured that you’ve found a publisher and shouldn’t waste your opportunity. This is one of the big factors in my decision to self publish. It’s also why I believe I will have to demurr from chasing establishment endorsement for a couple more years.

Do you need to balance the proportion of your time you spend positively?
Getting said ‘no’ to on a semi-professional basis can be soul destroying. You are probably different to me but going on the vast difference between my ability get a job and my ability to actually do one, I should think it will take me well over 100 rejections before I get a reply from anyone – let alone a yes. I might be able to handle that if I send out my applications in batches. However, there’s a catch. Sure, most publishers want the same kind of things but each one wants them presented just differently enough to ensure that a merge file won’t cut the mustard.

Publishers are getting hundreds of letters from people like you and me every day. Jumping through the hoops the way they want you to is very important. Do it wrong and your application will be filed under ‘B’ straight away. So by the time M T McSpacker, here, has checked and re-checked each application, that’s going to be my 10 hours for the week, and probably my 10 hours for the next week, too. What I’m trying to say is that right now, that’s a daunting amount of work to put into a very negative process. Yes, getting politely and repeatedly slapped down – even if the eventual outcome might be positive – is grim. It’s self indulgent and whimpy of me but I just don’t have enough spare time or confidence to use that much of it, that way, at the moment.

Don’t be afraid of getting left behind.
Kind of an about turn after some of the things I’ve been saying but still important. The hardest, hardest thing to do but very important or you’ll burn out and go mental. You have to take this stuff at your own pace. If you aren’t able to achieve something right now, for whatever reason, relax and concentrate on the things you can achieve.

For me, the publisher question will not go away. It’s good to have the endorsement of a gatekeeper and it’s good for your confidence as a writer. I believe in my stuff or I wouldn’t ever have found the balls to publish it myself. However, I see a little gap in my confidence, a tiny doubt, that will never go away without establishment endorsement. And I see the headway I make trying to get it into brick and mortar bookshops. And I think. Ah.

Hopefully, anyone who does the self publishing thing properly, me included, is going to learn things in the process. Things that may well increase their marketability to a publisher. After all, if you can show some empathy with their viewpoint and the challenges they face, it’s got to help. Maybe, if I understand a bit more about what publishing is about it will make up for the lack of time I have for both writing and marketing.

So, I’ve set myself a realistic target. When the next Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook comes out (2013). Then, if the publishing world is still the way it is now and if my world contains more time, I will spend one day a week on getting a publisher. And I will write to every British Fantasy publisher in that ruddy book until I can bludgeon one of them into saying yes to me.

Until then? Well, I’ll ignore it and hope it’ll go away. I never said I was brave did I?

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Blimey!

I’ve had a bit of a pip tonight.

My first freebie short story, Is This Heaven? has had 108 downloads on Smashwords and is linked in two other writer’s profiles. It’s had about 350 hits on Freado/bookbuzr and Scribd but I’m not so sure of the accuracy of their stats… but I digress…

My point is, I put the second short story – Bog Man – onto Smashwords at about 6.00pm last night.  I hoped to get a few hits, I thought that if I did it would mean that the people who’d downloaded Is This Heaven liked it and had been waiting for the second one.  Well, by the end of the evening 75 people had downloaded it, by 6.00pm today, 86 people had downloaded it, even better, two of them were new readers who liked it so much they downloaded Is This Heaven, too… 7 Smashwords authors have linked to Bog Man in the first 24 hours, too.

Mmm (says a very smug M T). Isn’t that a pip?

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News for the famous. Writing a book is NOT obligatory.

I just noticed this courtesy of Neil Gaiman’s twitter thingummy doodle.

I could imagine Jonathan Ross had always wanted to write a graphic novel, more to the point, I could imagine he’s been practising for some time and it might actually be quite good.  He’s a man who lives, sleeps, eats and breathes graphic novels so he’s not actually an example of what I’m annoyed about but he’s reminded me why I am.  I guess he’s just knocked the scab off the wound allowing my suppurating bile to spill forth into the benign world of the blogosphere.  Being who he is, of course, getting published – and strong sales – are a given regardless.  Sigh.

Ok so he’s probably one of the ones who deserves it.  Some of them do. As Ian Jury said, “there ain’t half been some clever bastards,” yeh, “Lucky bleeders…”

Look at Ben Elton – clearly he was just too talented at too many things.  Maybe the stand-up thing was an accident, you get the impression he’s always considered himself an author… But there we all are thinking he’s an edgy comedian and then a novel comes out and suddenly we all realise how much of Blackadder he wrote…

Years ago I did stand-up for a while, I didn’t want to be a comic but I seriously believed I had more chance of making it as one than I did of getting my book published by merit, alone. And I reckoned that if I made it in comedy, getting my book published would be a great deal easier… Yeh, I was young and naive… or was I?  Probably, yes, about making it in stand-up but about making it in publishing?  Even then, no.

In the end I got married and staying out until 3 o’clock in the morning on a regular basis got complicated so I sat down.

I do get a bit pissed off, though, with the idea which seems prevalent at the moment,  that anyone famous can write a better novel than the rest of us or that somebody of 21 can turn “I got famous really quickly and it’s been a bit of a gas!” into an interesting autobiography.  The idea that there’s a book in everyone and writing it – or at least having somebody write it for them – is easy.  I take issue with the idea that publishing somebody’s work because it’s not bad and they’re famous is a good idea. Just because we readers know somebody’s name it doesn’t make them a good (or ‘ready’)writer.  Unless they’ve spent most of their lives honing their writing skills the way any other author has to, the chances are their work isn’t going to be as good.

Could I do Lewis Hamilton’s job as well as he does without any training or a lifetime learning my craft the way he did?  No.  But ask the same question about an author and suddenly the answer to that question is “oh yes, of course you can, it’s a piece of piss”.  Clearly writing well is deceptively easy…

And all this celeb writing blocks the rest of us.  When somebody famous gets their novel published because of who they are another unknown author is turned away.  For every Jordan who ‘writes’ a book a new author who might have been published some years ago stays unknown…

Does this sound like sour grapes?

(Pauses for thought.)

Well, OK, yes, it is sour grapes.

But it’s taken me since 1997 to write a novel I am actually proud of.  I’d be fairly mortified if my first effort had made it to press, so it’s lucky my bid for domination of the comedy circuit failed, but now… Well, I know this one’s not bad but with the right help and guidance it could be good… maybe better than good.  And I want it to be the best I can make it.  With the help and advice of a decent agent and editor, I could cover the next 10 years’ worth of struggle and effort in about a third of the time.  I learn fast but I’m rubbish at the dissection part, someone else does that, shows me and we have a scales from the eyes moment and I’m set.  But with all that celebrity bollocks out there, it looks unlikely that I’ll have that opportunity.  Yeh, as the Americans would say I’m pissed.

Do you detect a swing back towards the e-book…? Yes… when I hear the results of my latest submission.  In the meantime, I must sort it out with a decent cover.

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One of those days…

Have been having a “why do I bother week” I’ve been a bit pre-menstrual, frankly so I thought I should try to cheer myself up by submitting my book somewhere.

It all came to a head today when they closed the road which is the only way out of our house.  We had a tiler and an electrician on site and the roadworks guys were kind enough to let me and mini-me out – and in- but we had to go in the spouse-mobile because the tiler’s van was blocking the garage and… yeh you can see what’s coming next. That’s right.   When I came back I managed to prang the spouse-mobile on the tiler’s van.  Mwah ha ha haargh.  Double jeapordy.  Luckily the tiler has decided the scrape is spouse-car paint and will be giving the van’s wheel arch a t-cut this weekend rather than informing his insurers.  I will therefore pay spouse to have scrape fixed and hopefully all will be fine and dandy.

But you can see I needed cheering up or at least to feel I’d done something to try and earn myself some money to pay for the new, scratch-gone treatment for spouse-mobile.

Hummed and haad about approaching another agent but it’s tricky… you see, I sort of get the impression my book is the antithesis of everything an agent would like…

You can describe it like this:  Take something like Terry Pratchett or Jasper Fforde, add a little J K Rowling a few spoonfuls of the Hobbit, a James Bond car, a sprinkling of PG Woodhouse,  a pinch of Douglas Adams and a splash of Narnia. Mix well and enjoy.

This kind of stuff appeals to a broad audience but my feeble research would suggest that authors who combine the pariah genres of sci-fi or fantasy with comedy don’t tend to get picked up by the literary establishment until their books are already selling… or unless the BBC has taken the risk and the book is an adaptation of their successful radio programme… and I would write something mainstream if anything normal ever came out when I sat down at the keyboard.  It doesn’t though because I write, like I read, to escape.

So I thought I’d try a small publisher, obviously hoping that they’ll see my huge talent the way that other one saw Terry Pratchett.

I’m pointing you to their site because the tone is spot on.  Yes, these are exactly the kinds of people I’d like to work with.  Fingers and toes crossed then. Go here for a gander.

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Filed under Finding a publisher, General Wittering

Dammit…

I liked these people, MCA… but despite being listed on querytracker.net as looking for my genre, the agent mentioned in the listing is not actually looking for sci-fi or fantasy.

So… querytracker.net gets a big thumbs down from me… one to avoid unless you’re in the US I suspect.

Looking for a new agency to submit to but not doing too well… many, when asked, express an aversion to fantasy… maybe I should pitch it as a comedy and forget to add the word ‘fantasy’, that’s a bit cheeky though.  Better to be straight.  And although it’s crap that there are so few agents dealing with my genre in some respects, on the up side, the fewer there are, the sooner I’ll know if I’m stuffed.

I really would love to find an agent though.  You know, a real one.  Someone who could help me hone my work, somebody who could open my eyes and turn me from a reasonable writer into a really good one… But at the same time, I’m kind of intimidated… the more agency websites I research, the more Oxbridge  English graduates, with MAs I find… I can’t see these literary rocket scientists going for an eccentric middle-aged, middle-class Mum with a bad Art History degree and a huge pussy* cat.  Hmm… it’s going to be a long search.

Never mind.  My submission to Snow books is good to go… what a pity my book isn’t (guffaw).  No, I’m not that disorganised, I just need to finish the last chunk of editing which is marked up already.  Then I can send it.

Perhaps it’s time to write another free e-short.  I have had 39 downloads in a month… not going to set the world on fire but not bad and I suspect it won’t get much better unless I keep up some momentum… wondering if I can manage one a month… or perhaps I should do a reading and sell it as an aural book.  That would be a scream.  I am a massive ham!

On that subject… the speaky thing, I mean not being a monster ham; since there’s a lot of speech in my novel ( “is it a play?” one agent asked me) I’m toying with adapting Few are Chosen for radio… just following the models of people who have succeeded at writing varietals of the stuff I do.

Well… it’s a thought.

* This joke was brought to you by the Mrs Slocombe appreciation society.

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Filed under Finding an agent, General Wittering, Marketing Ideas