So, ‘The Search for Ethan’s in the bag, what now? Well like most aspiring writers I jumped on the ‘Find an agent express’, with eyes on the prize of a deal with one of the big publishers and a huge advance which would allow me to write full time under their benevolent patronage, encouraging and developed my undoubted genius to greater and greater…Aye right. The first two replies were positive on the book, but not what they were looking for. The third a standard pass, as was the next…and last. This was obviously going to take time. Now, having no fucking patience whatsoever, what’s plan B? That’s when I looked into the self-publishing option. Once upon a time self-publishing, or at least a lot of it, was dubbed ‘Vanity Press’. Not an attractive label for any aspiring writer. But the ebook explosion has destroyed the previous publishing models in the same way that punk did with music. Anyone could play, record and release their music, even start their own label. Now with the digital revolution it’s even easier. The down side is quality control is essentially eliminated, left to the ‘market’ to use a political / economic analogy. But who says what is good and what is shit? I’m a colossal music snob, despise the XFactor, but what are the quality control alternatives? One thing that became obvious very quickly is that the big publishers, especially post financial meltdown, were very risk averse, only interested in things which fell into readily marketable genres. Oh, and celebrity books, lots and lots of celebrity books (with a readymade audience). Now from a business perspective it makes perfect sense, but if publishers have tossed their creative pretentions to get down and dirty with the rest of the business world ie In the business of making money above all else, to my mind they have abdicated their right to be the gate keepers of literature. If you think of some of the classics, would they be published now? Many, I doubt.
Now, if someone came dangling a big fat cheque would I bite? If it meant I could write full time…maybe, but only maybe. Why? Well I’m definitely at one with the Clash’s ‘Complete Control’ philosophy. With music I had to write, play, record everything myself. Same with writing. The idea of being told to change this, add that…fuck right off! And that’s the absolute beauty of self-publishing. You have the opportunity (no more than that) to keep your own voice, write and publish your book, not someone else’s version, uncorrupted by commercial concerns. I say opportunity because some self-published authors look at their enterprise through the lens of commerce and who am I to dump on them. We’re all free to plough our own furrow.
So, decision made, now what? Good question! The answer to that was the answer to most things, initially at least…Google. What would we do without it? There were two aspects to look at. Publishing / distribution and marketing / promotion. On the first, the two main options are Amazon, the new Colossus of publishing and Smashwords, which is basically a gateway to the other main sales outlets. So I knocked my ebook into the shape format wise, uploaded, pressed ‘publish’ and hey presto, job done…Bollocks. At least it is if you want more than a wee pat on the back from family and friends. So, promotion…Geez, do I have to? I just want to write…Jump back a line Robert…Aye, okay…Fuck.
Now, imagine walking into Tesco and seeing a big banner saying ‘Asda have got some great deals on, go have a look!” A ridiculous notion eh? Actually no, but I’m getting ahead of myself. (Impatience be gone). So, promotion. The main avenue, initially at least, is social media. Now prior to all this I’d viewed Facebook as the internet version of big brother (the TV show not the book), a platform for dull people to share the minutia of their dull lives with other people with duller lives. (Eating my second custard cream of the day). A heavy price to pay for selling a few books. Now before you all run to the unfriend button, my view has been radically transformed to the good. I love Facebook now, as my wife will confirm (“Your worse than the weans” (Scottish for children)). I’ve ‘met’ a lot of great people who I would never have come across without it, and rediscovered some lost ones too. Twitter, I’m still figuring out. Ok, account created…How to find readers? Well, you don’t, or I didn’t. The idea of approaching strangers and saying, ‘Hello… Buy my book’, just seems so embarrassing and desperate. I don’t know what text speak for shudder is. ^v^v^v maybe? It is now. Anyway, I can’t do it. One thing I don’t have is a brass neck. Having been on the receiving end of it, I’m glad I don’t. “Your book looks interesting…I think you’d love mine” or best of all “Thanks for friending me, here’s a promo for my book on your timeline”…Fuck off! How welcome is a cold call when you’ve just sat down for your dinner? Do you love it when the Jehovah Witness’s come calling when you’re in the throes of the Devils own hangover? Me neither.
But now on with the far more prevalent and positive side of it all. Where to start? Finding people in the same boat seemed a good idea, and for me that started with a text from a mate saying ‘I found this guy online, writes books, used to go to Bellshill Academy, names Mark Wilson’. So I friended good Ol’ Mark on FB, read his posts, chipped in a few comments…tried not to feel too stalkery in this strange new world. I read and enjoyed some of his stuff which lead to the ‘People who read this also read…” banner on Amazon. One title which stood out was “Twelve mad men” Twelve! So same again, try to get to know people as you would normally. Not being pushy. If your reading this and starting out too…basically, don’t be a dick. I’ve checked out other peoples work and If I’ve enjoyed it left a review. If others do the same, in their own time, that’s cool. Do unto others as an old book says. (Are you listening Jehovah’s Witnesses?)
Time to jump back to the Tesco analogy. If writers viewed each other in commercial terms, we are competitors. That’s just a fact, especially if writing in the same genre. That for me is one of the major differences between the traditional publishing business and the indie scene. One is competitive, the other supportive. Without wanting to sound too gushy…ah fuck it, gush away…I have been blown away by the support, advice and encouragement I’ve received from what for me is ‘Team Indie’. Not just in terms for positive feedback on the book, but advice and practical help. Example, early on I posted looking for advice on the best format for a paperback. Almost immediately I got advice, links to tutorials guiding you step by step. Fantastic. Then Ryan Bracha told me to send it through and he’d do it for me, a complete stranger at that time! He asked for 24 hours (asked?), he did it in 12, waiting in my email inbox when I got up the next morning! His only request was that I ‘Pass it forward’. How fucking awesome is that? And not untypical. And so it’s gone on. Darren Sant is another deserving special mention. Such a public spirited, generous gent who’s given a lot of advice and support.
It’s been a very positive and humbling nine months. I’ve read a lot of great stuff by amongst others, Ryan, Mark, Darren, Keith Nixon, Paul D Brazil, Martin Stanley, Craig Furchtenicht, Neil Cocker, Colette Brown, Gerard Brennan, Allen Miles, Gareth Spark, Stuart Ayris…The list continues to grow. Check them out, you won’t be sorry. As well as being great writers they’ve become friends and for that and more, I am profoundly grateful.
Which takes me to (drum roll)…the Rogue Anthology. I read the first anthology, ‘Gloves off’ a while back. Another five golden stars of awesomeness and great introduction to and reminder of, how many great indie writers there are. Rogue is the follow up, with some of the same people as ‘Gloves Off’ and some new names. There are twenty two stories, from people like Ryan Bracha, Paul D Brazil, Keith Nixon, Aidan Thorne, Cal Marcius, Benedict Jones, Tess Makovesky, T Maxim Simmler…and many others, to discover. There’s also one from me (‘Security of Supply). A big thanks to Darren and the Rogue’s for allowing me on board this exciting project. I for one can’t wait to read it.
And I no longer have to. Yes, it’s out today on kindle (2/4/15). Fill yer boots. Your life will be better for it!
PS: Only if you have any room left in said boots AFTER loading up with the life affirming purchase of Rogue, ‘The Search for Ethan’ is on kindle countdown next week 7-14th only £$0.99… Feeling grubby…going for a shower to scrub the shame off…^v^v^v^v) Now go read Rogue.