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You’re my number one

by on June 29, 2014

IMG_0313All right, I confess. It’s 9.30 on Sunday morning. Today is supposed to be a rare day off: or to put it another way, a day to do some domestic chores, small electrical repairs, a bit of gardening and maybe even – gulp – some painting. Not pictures, never that. I seem to be surrounded by talented artists with whom I can’t compete: my teenager is always drawing or painting, my close mate Sophie (who has drawn the astonishing illustrations in Snort and Wobbles, my about-to-be-released-in-paperback book for children); Hazel who drew the cover and is working on The Showing’s new design, Doctor Sam who draws a very mean weapon of mass destruction from her seemingly limitless collection… you get the picture? Sorry. The point is I know I can’t compete, so rarely for me I don’t try. ‘Man’ got to know his limitations’, as Clint said in one of the Dirty Harry films.

Anyway, there I was getting sidetracked again. Why is it supposed to be a rare day off? Probably because I am a workaholic where the book world is concerned. yes, I admit to it, I can be an authorholic (term used under license from my unfairly talented mate MT McGuire. She’s blessed with a good husband, a good sense of humour and a good car and a good writing talent. Grrrrr. Yes, I have car envy, I admit it) and I do put a lot of hours into the books, probably because writing and even editing are really so much fun that I don’t consider it work. But this weekend is Glastonbury, and like a moth to a flame I’m drawn to watch just another song, another band. Last year I was introduced to The Strypes from Ireland, and loved their stuff immediately. This year I was just reminded that I need to acquire more Goldfrapp (hence the title of this blog) as I do love Alison Goldfrapp’s voice over the groove they can create. Sorry, drifting away again there. Back to the point.

This week I’ve been reading quite a few blogs by authors talking at length about the benefits or otherwise of being published by a big press, by an indie press, or being self published. And yes, almost always they are by self published authors talking about how the ‘traditional model’ is obsolete, how they have total control of their work; they mention the horror stories of ripped off writers as evidence they are right… ah, the romance of releasing their work, living the dram, and so on… I’m still unconvinced, and I’ve been ripped off by an indie press. Most of you know that up to Christmas I had a decent seller on Amazon called ‘The Showing’, presently unavailable. It is unavailable because the publisher first moved from the UK to the USA, and then after a year basically admitted that he and his new wife had taken all the authors’ royalties and were shutting up shop. And they did so, leaving a trail of unpaid and unhappy authors. That still isn’t enough to convince me that the traditional model is dead. Why? Because releasing a book costs a shed load of money.

I presume that you too have read the blogs saying : Self publish! It’s great! It doesn’t cost you any money! Let me give you some good advice here: if you read a blog saying that, run away as quickly as you can. It’s yet another deluded loonie or a con artist. Have you ever wondered why small presses struggle? It’s because they have to pour so much money into each book, and will probably never make it back. I really wish someone would write a book telling the real facts behind this business. Mind you, it would never sell, would it? When facts are unpalatable, as a species, we tend to be terribly good at ignoring them, don’t we? To my mind, Amazon and the other platforms can be quite complicit in this delusion. ‘Upload your work’, they say. ‘Use one of our stock covers for free’ they say. ‘Set your royalty rate and PUBLISH’ they say. Why can’t they be honest and say: ‘We’ll format your unedited, badly proofed rubbish, add a generic cover as used by a couple of hundred others and shove it on the internet free for you’? Mind you, no one would bother then, but at least they would be honest.

So, from my experience now that my first work under my own imprint is close to coming out – it’s a view shared by a lot of other guys with their own imprints too, my friend MT McGuire for one will agree – this is how it works.

You write the book.
You get it read by BETA readers.
You rewrite the book.
You PAY an editor to review it.
You PAY a proofreader to proofread it.
You PAY the best cover artist you can find to draw a striking cover.
You discover how much of a cut Amazon and other distributors want of the retail price, and wince.

(After you have paid all that out, suddenly you might start to appreciate what a small press or publisher actually does for their pitifully small cut of the royalties.)

Now, when you have spent several days sorting out the formatting, and PAYING for proper proof copies to check your work and almost certainly correcting it, you are finally ready to ‘Self Publish For Free’… aren’t you?
But then, if you think your book is any good, why should you not invest in it? Properly? Professionally?

I’m sorry for indulging myself in a rant this week. You see I was upset with myself yesterday. I attended an author event at Barry County Library in Glamorgan. Whilst there I was chatting to someone – not one of the exhibiting authors, who were much more intelligent I hasten to add – who believed that they could adequately proof read their own forthcoming self published book and refused to listen to gentle reason or cogent arguments why they could NOT do so at all. And I got annoyed that I was unable to pierce said scribbler’s rosy cloud of self delusion, fuelled by all the blogs and Facebook writers convinced that their spelling and grammar and typing are beyond reproach. They (I am deliberately avoiding identifying the offender as male of female) will doubtless upload their work in due course to swell the enormous ranks of those who give all indie press and self published books a bad name…

So now that I’ve made myself unpopular with them all, I’ll just go back to watching Glastonbury on TV. Not least because after all the recent expense (which is in no way a criticism of those whose services I’ve been using – really they should charge me more, but for the gods’ sake don’t tell them) I could not afford a ticket anyway.
To apologise, here’s a cute puppy pic; of which I warn you now, I have an inexhaustible supply.

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10 Comments
  1. paul robinson-kamp permalink

    “Have you ever wondered why small presses struggle? It’s because they have to pour so much money into each book, and will probably never make it back.”

    This is true, Will, unless they follow the business-model you outline when you say:

    “‘We’ll format your unedited, badly proofed rubbish, add a generic cover as used by a couple of hundred others and shove it on the internet free for you’?”

    If you could suck in enough writers, that might just work, no?

  2. paul robinson-kamp permalink

    We’re witnessing the dawn of a new era: The cashless publisher. It’s one more nice little wrinkle spawned by the new technology I guess.

  3. Thanks for the compliment sweetie, you are too nice! Can’t wait for S&W to be in print!

    Lol, I agree with most of what you say sweetie, authors definitely DO need fresh and professional eyes on their work rather than just relying on their own skills, good or bad. BUT, lol, and this is where I go off on a rant, I must say I don’t share your opinion of poor publishers. Even the nice publishers and I know from experience that there are many nasty ones out there, are publishing author’s books to make money, to make profits. They’re not doing it for charity. Now the good publishers put quality before money, but many don’t. Yes, getting a book to publication stage costs money, as it should, in order to produce a quality product. But some publishers cut dreadful corners – they create awful amateurish covers themselves instead of paying money for a professional to do it as you have, they send out work to be proofread and edited by students (amateurs) who will do it for free or a minimal charge and who may, through inexperience, introduce more errors into the work than there was to begin with, and some publishers by offering truly dreadful contracts to their authors and cutting these corners to maximise their profits, produce cheap looking books that do a great disservice to the authors and their wonderful stories. Just saying, Will, small press publishers may not have deep pockets, but the authors are often the ones who lose out. 🙂

  4. paul robinson-kamp permalink

    Publishers are basically gamblers. That’s fine as long as they have some money to gamble with. If they have no capital, they’ve no business being in the casino.

  5. paul robinson-kamp permalink

    “…cutting these corners to maximize their profits…”

    Exactly, Sophie. And that’s the irony: by cutting those corners a publisher almost guarantees there will be no profits. Publishing isn’t something that can be done well on the cheap. It’s not like fixing someone’s roof-tiles. Not for nothing has publishing traditionally been the game of the rich. Being poor is for writers, not publishers. An impoverished publisher is about as much use as an illiterate editor.

  6. Oh, yes. Self-publishing is a LOT of work and does cost time and money. I’m an advocate of self-publishing, but I also tell authors if they can find a good publisher who is willing to back their book with money and marketing, go for it. If you can find someone who will take over the burden of editing, formatting, commissioning a book cover, marketing, and all the other details that go into bringing a book to publication, you can free time for writing. The trick is to find a publisher who can do all of these things well. For every well-established small press who is professional and proficient, there are at least 10 pop-up publishing companies who don’t know what they’re doing and don’t have the resources to follow through on their plans.

    I’m so sorry you had a bad experience, Will. I’m sure it doesn’t make you feel better to know you’re not alone. I’m glad you’ve got the support you need to get The Showing back out there. I read it and it’s a wonderful book.

    • Thanks, Tricia. Guess what I’m doing with it this week? Yes, editing after another proofread showed up more of my errors…

      Then buying enough lottery tickets to become a millionaire and be able to afford to release it properly

  7. Thank you for being so kind about the drivel I write. For what it’s worth each of my books costs approximately £1,500 to publish. I pay for a copy editor and then I pass it to my ever expanding group of beta readers, a couple of whom are professional proof readers, to spot as many errors as possible. Recent experience has taught me that two rounds of beta reading is smarter than one. After that I sit and go through it while my kindle reads it aloud and I follow one the manuscript. This picks up a lot of missing words… and I still send it to press with eyrie spelt eerie. Thus making myself look unbelievably thick.

    Self publishing is extremely expensive if you are going to do it properly and frankly, if you’re not going to do it properly, there’s no point.

    I would trad publish like a shot if I wasn’t the epitome of a crap buy – one book every 2 years, only works in school hours and without a LOT of logistical juggling a attend all public appearances complete with six year old personal assistant. Evenings are a no-no unless you’re going to pay my petrol money and the babysitter.

    Also I’ve got to the point where I have a vague idea what I’m doing publishing a book. So even if it takes ages, at least I have control. But yes, a publisher is a venture capitalist and nobody ventures in to venture capitalism until they’ve made a fortune on whatever it was they invented in their shed that allowed them to the cash to become a venture capitalist first. Because venture capitalists all have one thing in common. They’re all millionaires. At least. And believe me, I’ve met a fair few of them. I know it’s true.

    Great post Will. Oh and anyone who thinks they can proof read their own stuff is bat shit crazy. Not that I have a strong opinion about it or anything.

    Cheers

    MTM

  8. Well, it takes the most eagle eyed reader to see the difference between eerie and eyrie, doesn’t it? Especially when a lot of software doesn’t know the word and so tries to tell you it is wrong. WordPress, I’m looking at you here…

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