Friday, October 12, 2012

Chapter Six – Going Public

In the lead-up to the scheduled official release, It Hides In Darkness was listed on various book-selling websites. My publisher pointed me towards various affiliate schemes with those outlets.

An affiliate scheme is one where you direct sales to a particular website and earn a small commission from any resulting sales. In theory at least, you can be earning both your royalty from sales and an additional percentage on sales

I signed up for each of them. The reality however is how do you direct sales to a whole range of different sales outlets? By experimenting, I found the Amazon affiliate scheme easiest to work with. Identify the product, press a button and there it is – the html code to create insert into a webpage, blog post or whatever, and out comes a nifty little button, advertising the product and directing traffic to the relevant page at Amazon. But even Amazon has its quirks. The main Amazon operation is based in the USA. However the Amazon outlet in the United Kingdom is a separate operation with its own website. With my novella being released in the UK, it seems that it would be best to use buttons to both the main website and the UK operation.

So what do these buttons look like? Well, here they are:

the US version:         the UK version:

How do I use them? I have used them in blog posts and included links on my webpage. But this is a rather random approach. What else could or should I do?

Chapter Five – The First Outing

Official release date was to be October 8th. But my little novella was to make its first public appearance a week earlier at Conflux, a speculative fiction convention. I duly arrived in time to deliver my stock to the book stall that was selling it in the Trader's Room. Due  to the amount of stock being carried, rather than piles of available books which was the norm, the display was a single copy of each title collected between to book ends. My slim little volume was hardly prominent in that display.

At conventions like that, having book launches on-site drives more business to the Trader's Room. This year there was only the one launch on-site, others being held elsewhere at a function on the Saturday night. Overall sales in the Trader's Room  were well down as a result. In comparison to the 2011 convention when the same stall stocking my book had done several thousand dollars of business, this year sales were probably in the region of 5% of the previous year.

I was however quite chuffed that there were more copies of my novella sold than any other title on the stall. Does that make me a 'best seller?' Not really, seeing my sales were still single digit. But it was still nice to be calculating my sales less stall commission and writing them a receipt for my share of the take.

In fairness, my sales were to people who knew me. But it was still nice to see a few being shifted, not to mention being asked to autograph all of them. And I had the thrill of a first-time solo author seeing their work actually on sale somewhere.

The rather obvious lesson is that just having them present at a a sales outlet does not guarantee actual sales. Like any product, some sort of marketing and sales plan is needed.

Click me for an autographed version
get a Kindle autograph!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chapter Four - And.... Printed!

With the lesson learned about editing and (hopefully) all the errors fixed up, moving towards the actual printing was quite quick. And for me at least, quite painless. Meanwhile poor Phillip at Creative Print Press was flat out like a lizard drinking (to use an old Australianism) with a number of other publications as well as mine all on the go at once.

After all my additional editing there were only two small matters that needed fixing up once I reviewed the proof copy. And what excitement it was to receive that proof in my email, along with the news confirming release date of October 8th.

Now it was time for a cover. I was asked for any input I might have but to be honest, I really didn't have any to give. I am not exactly the most graphically-adept individual.

Phillip sent through a design he had dreamed up. At first I was taken a little aback. The image featured the Grim Reaper but said Reaper did not appear in the story per se. But then I had a think about things for a bit. The story starts with death and ends with death. From that respect, Mr Reaper's presence was not so unexpected after all. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the cover and could not wait to see the real thing.

One thing lead to another and then, once more quite quickly, I received an email informing me that a proof copy had been received from the printer, that it had passed inspection at the publisher's end and a copy had been ordered to be sent all the way Down Under to me.

I do not mind admitting that I was pretty nervous and excited while waiting for that book to appear in the post. And suddenly, there it was - a flat, cardboard parcel in the post. And inside was my very own copy of my first book, resplendent with its shiny black cover.

Like a kid who has just received the biggest and best present of his life for Christmas, I was showing that copy off to everyone. I had to keep cleaning it because of the finger marks on the cover. I fondled it. Studied it. Admired the nice quality paper. Even sniffed that lovely new book smell.

Mine! All mine! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha

Of course the real business only starts once the book is actually published. I rushed off an order to get my first lot of personal stock as I had a speculative fiction convention to attend and I wanted my little monster on one of the bookstalls.  With the POD technology for ordering and printing, that carton of stock took just under a week to be ordered, paid for and received at my end.

And as I am rather busy with some other things just now, this chapter is coming to an abrupt halt. Stay tuned for more.

Click me for an autographed version
get a Kindle autograph!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Chapter Three - Heading Towards Print

My previous experience with editors was with some pieces going into anthologies and some non-fiction work in different markets. While I made a genuine attempt at proof reading anything and everything, I have to be brutally honest and admit that I am worse than average at proofing my own work. I certainly do not expect editors to be doing my proofing for me but I was used to having a proofing stage to pick up such things.

The first proof copy of It Hides In Darkness arrived in my email inbox in pdf format, very quickly after I signed the contract. I went through that proof edition and the sheer number of things that needed fixing was pretty darned bad. I was more than a little annoyed with myself, typed up a list of everything and sent it back by email.

A response from Creative Print Publishing came back pretty darned quickly – Philip’s turnaround time is remarkably fast. But he was pointing out that the competition was for something that was ‘print ready.’ The onus was on me to have ensured it was indeed ready for going straight into print layout. I gave myself the excuse that when I learned of the competition and submitted it, I was more concerned with the pending drilling a hole into my skull for the surgeon to literally pull part of my brain out of said hole. Nonetheless, the product was not really good enough.

Creative Print Publishing was kind enough to agree to my going through it again in closer detail before redoing the print layout. I am fortunate in having a very close friend who works in an editorial role for a publisher and Lisa very kindly went through it with her coloured pen, picking up even more things that needed fixing.

Now I was able to get that proof reading done for free although I owe Lisa Big Time for her work on my behalf. But there was an important lesson to be learned here – any publisher or publication editor has a lot of copy to look at. The onus is on us authors to make it look as clean a copy as possible. And if I am lousy at proofing my own work, then I need someone else to help me with it.

If we are talking about publishing in any form that involves payment linked to sales, then it is a good investment to have someone else do that proofing work for you. A different, fresher set of eyes can pick a lot of things up, which I discovered for myself in the past while doing some paid proof reading work for another author (although that lesson obviously did not kick its way into my consciousness at the time).

This was an important lesson to be learned – get that manuscript as clean as possible, using someone else’s services if it is going to make a noticeable improvement.

Lesson learned.

PS check out the addition to the following links - it is now possible to obtain an 'autographed' kindle version of a book. I thought it was pretty kewl!

Click me for an autographed version
get a Kindle autograph!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chapter Two - A Competition Entered And Won

As part of the university project, in addition to the actual novella I also had to submit documentation which would have included pitching the piece to a potential market. I decided to be clever by exploring markets via the speculative fiction marketplace website, Ralan. I located a publication which took pieces of the length and genre I had written in. The theory was I would write the story, use any relevant feedback from the assignment marking process and then submit to that market afterwards. Everything went swimmingly until I actually went to submit. The market had closed between short-listing it and having the final product ready to go.

That was late 2008.

After that, finding a place for a story of 14,000 words in length was proving difficult. The occasional anthology would appear which was calling for novellas but for one reason or another mine was never suitable. Eventually it was shelved and while not forgotten, I was no longer actively looking for a market.

Come late 2011, I had a fair bit on my plate. Aside from having returned to university to do a research degree, earlier in the year an aneurysm had been discovered around my left temple. By late November I was about to enter hospital for major surgery to get the not-so-little nuisance repaired.

A couple of days before my hospitalisation, the weekly e-news from the ACT Writers Centre included an advertisement for a competition: Unpublished Author Print Ready - Novella competition. I am not terribly big on competitions as a rule but seeing as I had a novella sitting there unused, what the heck. After looking at their website, the publisher seemed genuine and not a scam outfit. And while I had previously had some short fiction included in anthologies, I was still eligible. So just before packing up to head over to the hospital, I submitted to the competition. 

Following the surgery, I was not exactly firing on all cylinders for a couple of months. Although I had a pretty cool scar across my forehead to show off. 

Time went by. Things returned to what passes as normal for me. One afternoon in July, 2012, I called into see my friends at the ACT Writers Centre. I forgot exactly what for. While I was there, I checked my email.

Here was an email offering me a publishing contract.

What the heck? Not knowing what they were talking about I decided it must be spam and consigned it to the spam bin. But a few more unread emails down the list, I found Creative Print Publishing's slightly earlier email which was advising me that I had won the unpublished novella competition from the previous November.

Feeling a little shell shocked, having forgotten all about that submission, I hastily retrieved the email with the contract from the spam bin.

"I'm getting published," I announced to the girls in the office. My knees felt week and I had to sit down.

Needless to say I soon checked out the contract, signed it and happily took up the publishing offer.

So, what next?
Click me for an autographed version

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chapter One - A Beginning

Over the last couple of months I have found myself on a more-than interesting little journey. So far I have learned all sorts of things that I had not thought of or not given sufficient thought to. And so here go - the first of a string of posts that shall be documenting what it is like as an author being published on the small press scene.

So how was the story born?

One of the things I toy with for inspiration is browsing websites such as Ralan to see what potentially interesting anthology markets might be calling for submissions. I came across one that was seeking horror stories set in the Confederate States in northern America. This idea intrigued me and I scribbled various thoughts but they did not get beyond my writing journal at the time.

I subsequently took on some post-graduate studies in writing at the University of Canberra. One subject was a project to undertake an independent writing project. I decided this was a good opportunity to explore my fledgling ideas for a horror story set on a plantation within the Confederacy.

Developing the piece saw me exploring aspects of life within that place and that time, leading me to a rice plantation rather than the stereotypical cotton plantation. I had a supervisor at university who kept on eye on my project and she put me onto a quite valuable source, transcriptions of interviews conducted in the 1930s with surviving former slaves. This provided a wealth of information for developing a style of voice.

I was also intrigued to learn of what was at least a phase of slave owners bestowing names on slaves, that were sourced from things like classic literature. This in turn lead to character names like Cassie (Cassandra), Ulee (Ulysses) and Pompey.

Years before I had read in a historical novel about a startling punishment on a slave plantation which involved the use of a cat - the feline not the cat o' nine tails. I subsequently came across other references to that and similar punishments. It seemed dark enough to warrant an adapted use of the same in my story. A reader of an early draft of the story, described that scene as completely absurd and unusable.

There is a scene with an attempted rape. The same reader above, was infuriated, declaring that I was merely attempting to titillate and therefore the story was 'unpublishable'. I did not go into rape in any light manner. But this was intended as a horror story for adults. And there is a perverse side of me that enjoys proving others wrong.

The setting in a southern state also provided another aspect I thought full of prospects for engaging the senses - venturing into the swamps. In the end the swamps did not feature as much as I had first intended but it was still an interesting piece of landscape to explore, seeing as I have never seen one other than on the television.

This proved a fascinating experience for me to be writing about this particular environment. And as a 'true' speccie fiction head, the supernatural simply had to enter the piece.

At the end of the day, I finished the novella, received a High Distinction for the content (but marked down a little on some other aspects - grrrrr) and the adventure was pretty much over for the time being.

Stay tuned for Chapter 2.

In the meantime, here are a couple of links - an Amazon link for worldwide distribution (but more details on other options shall be detailed before long) and for my Australian friends, a link to obtain an autographed version (should you be interested in my scrawl across the otherwise virginal white paper).

Click me for an autographed version


I recently had a my first solo publication released and decided to start blogging about the experience over at Words by Ross. However I have now decided to instead start posting this material in its very own blog.

Here I shall be posting Chapters that explore everything I have been experiencing and learning with this publication journey.