Last time I wrote about my first experience of publishing (self/indie as you will) my first novel The Threads of Time.
It culminated in a book launch at which I discovered I was not designed to ‘sell’ books. I adopted a kind of ‘puppy’ approach in that I didn’t want people who might not treat my book with respect to even buy a copy. Retrospectively that seems somewhat ‘precious’ but also I wonder if it represented a more deep seated lack of confidence. Rightly so. Some people just hated the book because of the punctuation and couldn’t get into the story at all because of that. After some six years of railing against the closed mindedness of such people, I finally started to come round to the fact that people who read books just want to read books, not engage with my personal life issues regarding schooling inadequacies, personal confidence issues or my thin skin.
One top tip for the ‘indie’ is if you want to be taken seriously as a ‘proper’ author you have to give the goods in the same way as a ‘professional’ publisher does. That’s a hard lesson for individual writers to learn. I’d earned a living from writing for some five years prior to this first publication. But I still had a lot to learn. Not least that each writing medium has its own rules and you have to ‘position’ yourself properly and be honest about your motivations when you write (and more so when you publish).
But I’d scratched my itch. I’d published and been damned. And life went on. I still believe in the story but the experience began to teach me that while content may be king, we don’t live in a world where monarchy is always appreciated.
When I next published, it was for completely different reasons. I’d written an online novella and I wanted to see what it would look like in print. And in those days the whole ‘blog’ thing hadn’t really taken off so I didn’t feel that my online writing had any ‘posterity’ to speak of. I know that everything you write online stays in cyberspace for ever, but I wouldn’t know where to go about finding Project Jam which is the place where Otro Mundo es Posible first saw the virtual light of day and was, I guess, published online as a serial novella.
However, always up for an experiment, I found a way to publish a small, limited edition for my own personal ‘enjoyment’ of some 20 copies. (I know my publishing history well enough to know that loads of what are now ‘classic’ writers did similar things in the 19th century. And I’ve always had a penchant for the 19th century when it comes to reading!) I don’t think it was ‘vanity’ because I wasn’t putting it out there for the world to slobber over. It was a legacy for myself more than anything.
I don’t like ‘unfinished’ work. When you are a screenwriter or playwright, you’re left with loads of scripts which never get made. That’s annoying. Even if you’ve been paid (even handsomely) for the work, you still want to SEE it. And with prose writing, I feel the same. If it’s written as well as I can write it – if I’ve ‘finished’ it, I want to be able to read it as I would read any other writers work. That’s my main motivation for print publication. I read paperbacks, so if I write paperbacks I want to be able to read my own work in print. Is that vanity? Or simply common sense? And for all my creative work, when I’ve hit ‘the wall’ of mainstream non acceptance, I’ve just rolled up my sleeves and gone DIY. I’ve produced films and stageplays and I don’t see any difference in publishing novels. The quality of a work isn’t in the breadth of acceptance after all. But a play doesn’t fully ‘exist’ until staged and a novel doesn’t fully ‘exist’ till it’s published. That’s my opinion and belief anyway.
For Otro Mundo es Posible I used a short run print company. They do what they say on the tin. Print your book. End of. And a very good job they do. You publish, they print. Responsibility is all down to the publisher, because that’s what you are to them. And they treated me as well for my 20 copies as if I was a major customer. I used their ‘fastprint’ service initially but I’ve used them since under their Print On Demand Worldwide company, and they have always given me good service.
Again, I didn’t proof carefully enough and was left with an ‘error’ on the cover. Which was a bit annoying. But another lesson to me that the devil truly resides in the detail. I’m not saying it didn’t matter, it did matter, but it was a relatively less expensive way for me to remind myself that publishing is much more than simply putting what you’ve written into covers! Books hang around a long time and you need to get it right!
The first limited edition Otro Mundo es Posible, became Another World is Possible and was subsequently published by YouWriteOn in 2008, which is a kind of hybrid self-publishing system (much cheaper than the old ProPrint days) but still leaving you to your own editorial devices. It was another experiment in ways of publishing. The YouWriteOn experience cost me no more than £50 (plus buying copies at the same price as any other customer. Maybe there’s an author discount, I can’t really remember, but it started the whole POD thought in my mind.) Rather than having 100 or even just 25 copies sitting leering at me shouting ROOKIE ERRORS for the rest of my natural days, I could just order up any number of copies I wanted to sell personally at near standard price (probably clearing £1 a copy) and the book was available all over the internet for other people to buy. They don’t of course. You can’t just put a book ‘out there’ onto Amazon and actually expect people to buy it! I republished Another World is Possible myself using Amazon CreateSpace in 2012 (I wasn’t totally happy with YWO’s paper/size but then I don’t like the size/cover/paper of CS either!!) and to date no one has bought it. I’ve done no promotion of it, and I really should delist it and publish it again ‘properly’ in a format I’m happy with. Though as a novella, part of the problem is it’s too ‘slight’ to end up looking how I really think a book should. It’s on my to do list but not that high up.
The lesson learned, more than once is there is no ‘if you build it, they will come’ in publishing. Once again, you’ve got to examine your motivations for action. In my case when I used CS to publish Another World is Possible, (after it went out of print with YWO) I had people saying ‘I want to read it in paperback’ (but then they didn’t buy it!) and I wanted to test out CreateSpace and how it worked. It only cost me about £30 to do this. And I don’t have copies sitting leering at me. So that’s an improvement. It also taught me that you can’t pander to the potential reader too much. People will say they want to buy the book but in my experience that can often just be so much ‘talk.’ They say it because they want to show they like you, but they don’t REALLY want to read the book. And if you take them on face value and publish in every format known to man, you can actually just waste a lot of time (and money) by not realising that ‘words that do not match deeds are unimportant’ (which is the strapline of Another World is Possible by the way!
You can get hold of Another World is Possible as an ebook for Kindle or as a paperback from Createspace It doesn’t seem to be available as an epub at the moment – that may be because in the past 18 months I’ve only sold 1 epub format ebook and am kind of losing the will to live on that one. I obviously am not ‘reaching’ an epub reading ‘market’ type of person. But if you really DEMAND it as an epub I can get one out there in a mere 24 hours.