Category Archives: Publishing

Final, final update

And with this, I really do promise to move on.

Ros Barber was written a blog post. You can (and should) read it here: http://rosbarber.com/you-one-me/

In it, she tells the story of how she came to write *that* article, and of some of the ‘feedback’ she’s received from it. I have written a reply, but I don’t know if it will get approved. I hope so. I shall put it here as well, just in case (for some reason, I can’t copy and paste it from there, so here’s a screencap) (and it’s not particularly well-written, and unedited)

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 23.41.11I didn’t agree with the original article. I felt that it demeaned self-published authors, and much worse, could harm the reputation of someone who does use an alternative method of publishing to the traditional one. I was angry and disappointed.

But I would never, ever, abuse someone online for something they’d written. As someone I once worked under (for literary short story writing – hi, Alex) said: critique the writing, don’t criticise the author. We may take issue with the words, dislike those words intensely, but we should always try to maintain a courteous relationship with the real person that wrote them.

And there is never a good reason for abusing someone online, and using foul and abusive language against them just because they wrote something you disagree with.

UPDATE: My comment has been approved on Ros’s blog.

Update on the Guardian self-publishing article

Not that I’m obsessed about this nonsense in any way whatsoever.

But …

I was wandering around Facebook spending 90% of my time telling people to BUY MY BOOK because, well, that’s what all us self-publishers do, isn’t it? Anyway, someone appeared who I thought was Ros Barber, but wasn’t, so I decided to have a shufty at her page.

Of course, a few people (who almost certainly haven’t a clue what they’re talking about) agree on what an absolutely awful idea self-publishing is, and up pops the following comment:

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 19.36.29So there we have it. Controversial article = lots of “engagement”. Which, by the way, equals lots of page views which equals lots of advertising revenue for a newspaper that’s shedding journalists and property.

http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/guardian-cutbacks-250-staff-go-30000-square-feet-shed-events-space-kings-cross-scrapped

It’s not often I get annoyed …

For me, writing is a delight, and allows me to create characters and worlds out of thin air.

And then I read the following article:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/mar/21/for-me-traditional-publishing-means-poverty-but-self-publish-no-way

And it made me angry. Because, yet again, here is a traditionally-published author pouring scorn and derision on the world of self-publishing, and making the same old clichéd statements that trad authors, publishers, and the whole traditional publishing industry spew forth.

Go read it, and come back here. Because, in the great tradition of Joe Konrath http://jakonrath.blogspot.co.uk/, we’re going to do some fisking http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Fisking

* I exploded the myth of the wealthy writer.

Only a fool would try and portray writers, as a profession, as being rich. However, it’s not a myth. Some authors are incredibly wealthy; most are not. Think of everyone in the UK who plays football – there are people at many stages of the game, and many who only play because they enjoy it, not because they expect to accumulate great wealth doing it. I would venture to suggest that 99% of football players know they’re never going to become rich, but they continue to play anyway. 99% of authors know they’re not going to become a Stephen King or a James Patterson, but they will continue to write anyway.

* You might as well tell Luke Skywalker to go to the dark side.

I think you have to be careful about how you choose words. Associating self- or indie-publishing (and they are not the same) with the “dark side” supports a certain narrative, which those of us who do self-publish find quite offensive. Self-publishing is not a “dark side”. It is a viable and useful alternative to the traditional system which has been in existence for decades.

* Self-publishers spend 10% of their time writing, and 90% of their time marketing.

What nonsense. The whole point of self-publishing is that you choose what to spend your time doing. It’s a choice, pure and simple. There are no rules, no contracts drawn up by a team of solicitors, to which you can be held for the lifetime of that contract. I self-publish, and I spend far more time writing than I do marketing. And I spend far more time than either of those messing about on social media, but that’s my choice. No one is telling me to do anything.

* Self-publishing can make you behave like a fool.

And traditional publishing can make you behave like an egotistical, arrogant idiot. I mean, really? This cliché of the pushy author/marketer is indicative of some, but by no means, all, self-publishers. In fact, most professional self-publishers I know do not employ these tactics, because they are self-defeating.

* Gatekeepers are saving you from your own ego.

Did the twelve publishers who rejected Harry Potter save J.K. Rowling from her own ego? Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell? Thirty-eight rejections. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight received fourteen consecutive agency rejections. Need I go on? There is a perception that publishers and agents know what is going to be successful. The truth is, they don’t. The gatekeepers of traditional publishing, as I’ve shown, can reject very successful books for any one of a number of reasons. Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin. Katy Price? Dan Brown? E.L.James? None of those is lauded for the quality of their writing. They are lauded for writing compelling books that millions of people want to buy.

Self-publishing gatekeepers do exist, and they are the only ones that matter – the book buyers.

* Good writers become good because they undertake an apprenticeship. Serving your apprenticeship is important.

I think I almost actually agree with this. But let’s not be prescriptive, eh? Some writers have to work at being good. Some writers are just good straight out of the box. Just because one’s own experience has involved a lot of writing and a lot of disappointments, it is not to say that others will, necessarily, be the same. There are plenty of blockbuster debut novelists.

* You can forget Hay festival and the Booker

Some of us might not be interested in them, actually. I’m not a fan of awards, and awards events are a chance for the traditional publishing industry to preen and pose. ‘Quality’ of writing is extremely subjective, and I’ve read Booker-nominated and short listed books that had me shaking my head. I was a member of a book club that featured, one month, a very well-known prize-winning author, and their Booker-nominated latest novel. Only one of the twelve members of the club managed to finish it, and then only because they felt they needed to. No one enjoyed it.

* You risk looking like an amateur

And writing articles attacking a different method of publishing makes you look self-obsessed and out of touch and, actually, a little worried. And arrogant. If you care for your writing, and if you get quality feedback, your writing will stand toe to toe with anything the traditional publishing industry can offer.

* 70% of nothing is nothing

She quotes another writer, who tried self-publishing, but it didn’t work for her. Oh dear. Just because your self-published books didn’t do well, no one else’s can?

* With Amazon’s Kindle and CreateSpace as the major outlets, it continues to put money in the coffers of the company largely responsible for destroying author incomes in the first place.

Ah, here we go. The traditional publishing swipe at Amazon, and probably the reason for this article in the first place. Traditional publishing, with agents taking 15% before passing money onto authors, low royalties, bi-annual accounting, delays on payments, restrictions on author’s writing. None of which is good for authors. Traditional publishers have ruled the roost for decades. Before self-publishing came of age, there was no other route to getting your work in front of readers than to be subjected to the humiliation of the submission – wait – reject merry-go-round (unless you count vanity publishing, of course). Now, authors can bypass all that, and put their writing out into the market, for whatever price they like, and how often they like. And let’s not forget – trad publishers are a business, and their business is to make money. They can afford to take a punt on a very few new novelists each year because of the money they make on the blockbusters. The celebrity biographies, the TV chef cookbooks. They sell enough, and make enough money, for them to contract a few new authors a year. Repeat after me – publishers are in business to make money.

* For those who prefer orchestrated backing to blowing their own trumpet, who’d privilege running a narrative scenario over running a small business, who’d rather write adventures than adverts, self-publishing is not the answer.

So, anyone who self-publishes isn’t a proper writer? Really, this is one of the most obscene comments. How arrogant do you have to be to be able to sit on your perch, spitting on those who haven’t managed to attain your lofty (or, actually, not so lofty) status?

screenshots-twitter-rosbarber

Whilst trying to maintain an innocent face, Ms. Barber has written a rather nasty piece. It’s not, as she suggests, her personal reasons for not self-publishing her literary fiction. It’s an attack on the ethics and skills of anyone who might choose to self-publish. And she has, indeed, exposed herself to a number of cross people – good, professional authors who made a different choice to hers. And that is no reason to attack them.

The comments section of that article is awash with strong responses. Here’s one of the best pieces I’ve seen.

https://medium.com/@edrenehan/the-elites-vs-self-publishing-85e093b1ae65#.mjhag5q9i

UPDATE: 23rd March 2016 14:10

There was a Twitter exchange late last night. I reproduce it below:

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 14.09.47I haven’t engaged any further with Ms. Barber. It’s clear from her Twitter comments to me, and others, that she thinks she was making a personal point about her reasons for not self-publishing her literary fiction. But she paints a picture of “if you self-publish, this is what you do, what you have to do, and what I see people doing”. The article was biased, unfair, and used the same old tired clichés to talk about self-publishing. She implied that self-published books were of poor quality, written by bad writers, and if you self-published, you needed to spend 90% of your time marketing. She was never specific, except in the article headline, and never acknowledged that self-publishers can produce good quality books and write good quality stories. It was throughly negative, which irritated many in the self-publishing community.

Anyway, the more that certain authors retain attitudes like this, the more self-publishers will execute a fundamentally fairer way of publishing their work, and readers will be able to read the books they want to read, and not what some corporate big-wigs in posh offices tell them they want to read. Long live independence!

NaNoWriMo 2014 – it’s all over (almost)

So, NaNoWriMo is all but over for another year. I validated my word count (and downloaded my certificate and winners’ badges) at around 3.30pm today (30th November). But it wasn’t really that close. I had started a #50k5days project (yes, writing 50,000 words in 5 days) which I wasn’t able to successfully complete, and I had over 27k words on that for the month, too. But I wanted to finish the NaNo with a ‘proper’ 50k words.

wordcount2014-100k100-30NovRegarding NaNoWriMo itself, I wrote a first half or so of a novel City in Flames, another apocalyptic ‘The world in going to end’ novel which will fit quite nicely into the, as yet, unpublished End Of Civilisation series. My writing pace was a bit all over the place (see graph to the side): the blue line is my daily word count, the red line the average over the month, and the greeny line is words ahead of / behind target. But it’s done, and this is my 10th ‘win’ in 11 attempts. And, for the first time, I don’t hate my story. Previous NaNo ‘things’ have been despised by me, and grinding out the words has been a trial. But not this time. I had a good story, I had reasonable characters, and an active timeline which makes the story work well as a thriller. At least, I think so. I’ll be continuing to write this.

City In flames1-smallOh, and thanks to a very kind offer, I have a cover done for me by Rivka Kawano over at http://www.authorsensei.com/cover-design–illustration.html

Social activities? I went to the Essex NaNo group Kickoff party, and it was great to see some existing friends and meet new ones. Well done @em_biddulph for taking on the role of Essex ML once again, and for organising so many events. The NaNoEssex Facebook page was lively and interesting, too.

This year saw the official introduction of a Suffolk region, and as I’m almost literally a stone’s throw from Suffolk (well, a very hard throw of a very small stone), I joined that group, too, under the watchful eye of their ML, Sarah. I went to a few of their write-ins, and they had a very active Facebook page, too. I was happy to join a group of word sprinters on there to push my word count along. So the social aspects of NaNoWriMo were very enjoyable again.

Regarding #50k5days, I began the month trying to find 5 consecutive days where I could dedicate my time to writing ten thousand words each day, but that was difficult. So I announced I would be doing it piecemeal during the month. And then, I left it to the last minute, so I was using the last 5 (consecutive) days for writing this. I started day 1 with over 8k, then 10k on day 2, then a disappointing 7.4k for day 3, when real life got in the way. Day 4 was an almost complete bust at 2k, and at that point, I abandoned. But here again, I have what I think will make a good story, and the writing I’ve done is as near as a good edit / rewrite from a finished draft as I’ve ever done. So double positive.

And what now?

I’ve started a “Write.A.Page.A.Day” group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/write.a.page.a.day/ if you’re interested), with the intention of encouraging authors (me, mainly) to keep writing during the days and weeks after the end of NaNo.

I have my Writer-Chat shows http://writer-chat.com/ where I will spread my chatty net wider, beyond my NaNo buddies, haranguing published authors onto the ‘air’ with me. I’ve invested some money in audio equipment, so I’m intending to increase the professionalism of the show as we continue. I want to provide podcasts of them in the future, too.

“What about publishing”, I hear you cry? (I hear stuff all the time, it’s okay). I was hoping to publish three things this year. So far, I’ve published … nothing. Another target missed. My collaborative slasher horror is in second edit. I have three completed first drafts, waiting for me to return to them – one is crime, which might get my attention first, and t’others are apocalyptic thrillers, which need a bit more work. So it’s all there, or thereabouts.

And sleep. I need better sleep. I had too many late nights attempting to meet wordcount targets. I watched with interest as the quality of my writing curved downwards as the month progressed. My vocabulary disintegrated until words of even a single syllable were tricky.

Thanks to all my real-life and online friends for the support, the banter and the discussions. It was a brilliant month.

2014 – a look ahead

 

Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklers

 SUMMARY

I shall be aiming to participate in the usual #100kwords100days challenges (January and July, all things being equal) and also in NaNoWriMo 2014.

There is also a rather larger, tougher writing challenge – #milwordy. Those who are good at deciphering acronyms might realise that the challenge is to write 1,000,000 words during 2014. One. Million. Words. Two thousand, seven hundred and forty words a day. Every day.

I’m pretty sure I can do this. Typing isn’t a problem for me, and I have a stack of new project ideas ready to be lifted from obscurity. But my problem is one of producing stories which are good enough to go on to publish.

And that’s one of the downsides to rapid writing – the quality can, and sometimes does, suffer. Do I really need another million words of something-less-than-first-drafts, when I already have nearly 720,000 already sitting in Works In Progress? When doing my fast writing, I tell myself that I can add more character depth later, add a plot twist or a subplot later. And, I think, that leads me to be dissatisfied with my writing. It’s a conundrum. 

WRITING PROJECTS

Anyway, I’ve been thinking, and I know what my major project will be this year, and that is to write a series of apocalyptic fiction novels, with a common main character taking the reader from small, local, everyman issues, up to global and international issues, and perhaps beyond.

I’m not going to do this alone. Oh no. I have a small army of previously-written concepts, which I’m going to use as fleshed-out plans for my 2014 writing. I have a character who struggles with politics and business (key themes for my End Of Civilization series), but on a very basic, local level.

He then moves onto to the national stage, moving in circles with people he used to watch on TV, tackling big international issues.

Then, he moves onto a global stage, where the challenges are bigger and the stakes are higher.

The final piece of the series bring him full circle, back to a very local level, dealing with personal issues, because he’s failed to resolve the mighty issues that challenged him in Book 3.

 Added to that (which is a big enough project on its own, I know) I will be trying to complete my collection of crime series. For marketing reasons, that might be written under a pseudonym, but we’ll see. All in all, it’s going to be a busy year.

 Happy New Year!

Please! How can I sell more of my books?

money-bagI’ve been writing for over 40 years. Okay, so for many of those 40 years I was working for a living, having children (not literally), and generally being too busy, or lazy, to write, but I’ve taken writing much more seriously over the past ten years. In that time, I’ve written getting on for three-quarters of a million words. I’ve submitted short stories and flash fiction to online publications and competitions. I’ve been part of writing groups, where my writing was subject to open, honest, and sometimes harsh critique. I’ve completed (‘won’, if you will) eight NaNoWriMo’s. That’s 400,000-odd words right there.

So, I get quite grumpy when I see questions from writers asking “how can I market my book?” “How can I sell more of my books?” “What’s the best way of using Twitter and Facebook to market my book?”

Quite often, these questions are from people who’ve written one book. No writing CV. No other writing success. They’ve written one book, and they’ve read how some writers (Amanda Hocking, John Locke, J.A.Konrath, Michael J. Sullivan, Louise Voss/Mark Edwards, Stephen Leather, Bella Andre, et al) have made a ton of money from self-publishing, and they want some. They think all they have to do is write one book, upload it to an online bookstore (Amazon, Barnes&Noble, iBooks, Smashwords), and promote the hell out of it, spamming Facebook groups, endlessly Tweeting about it, and generally getting on everyone’s nerves. And then they think there’s something they’re not doing, some magic bullet which, once they’re told about it, will rocket their book up the bestseller charts, earning tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

I used to avidly follow the posts in the Writer’s Café section of Kindleboards (i’m not going to give you a handy clicky link – if you can’t be arsed to drive Google to find it, then you’re not serious about this), and it was a great place for the new self-publishers. Writers shared successes, with numbers, and dollars, and what they did, and how they did it. Now, most of those fascinating self-publishers have gone away, tempted by the Big K – Kudos – that a ‘proper’ publishing contract can bring to them. And I don’t blame them for that. Publishers are in business for one thing – to make money. And if they can sign up a writer with a proven record of selling huge quantities of books, then they’ll come a’ running, with cheque books open. But the rest have got pretty tired of the new members. “I’ve written a book, and uploaded it to Amazon, but sales are disappointing. How can I improve my numbers?”

I’ll tell you in the next blog post, coming soon.

Bleak Midwinter Tales in paperback!

Woo hoo. I have just finished publishing Bleak Midwinter Tales in paperback, and now available from Lulu for the princely sum of £5.99 (plus postage). Buy now from Lulu through the following link: .: click here to buy! :.

I’m very excited about this book. It features all of the stories of the two Bleak Midwinter Tales ebooks, re-edited and reformatted for print publication. It also features two new stories, plus the prologue to a new crime / thriller novel, due out … soon. That’s FIFTY-THREE separate bits of writing. All lovingly shoehorned into one paperback book.

You want it, you really do. Don’t forget – click *** HERE *** to buy 😉

Publishing shorts

I’m an impatient kind of guy. If there’s something I want to do, then I want to do it now.

Like publishing my work. Do I want to do the “research – submit – wait – wait some more – almost give up – read rejection … research” roundabout? Or would I rather get my words out there and doing something, rather than sitting on my hard disk?

To this end, I’m going to start publishing my short works, probably for free download on Smashwords (Sony et al) and Amazon (Kindle). They will be the teasers for the main works which will come along after I’ve edited them. And rewritten them. And edited some more.