Story updates and advice on self-publishing

Books

Evening all! I’m back with more news updates and advice for fellow writers. This month I’ve got a handful of updates about Million Eyes and the Million Eyes Short Stories. I’ve also got some advice about self-publishing, having been through the process myself.

Mystery Weekly rejections

I mentioned last time that online magazine Mystery Weekly was “holding onto” The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller. The editor liked the story but was still deciding how she felt about the ending.

Sadly she ended up rejecting it. She said it was suspenseful and she liked the time travel element, and that the ending was “okay” but a bit of a letdown. What’s interesting is that someone else who critiqued this story said that the ending was one of its strongest points. It’s the subjectivity problem again (I talked more about this in my first news and advice article).

Anyway, I sent her Rachel Can See and Operation Loch Ness. These were also rejected. She said they’d be better suited to the sci-fi and fantasy markets. I will continue to send her stories though. She has praised my writing and was very close to publishing The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller. I live in hope that one of them will eventually hit the mark. 🙂

Million Eyes: editing progresses

I’m now about halfway through the editing process on my novel, Million Eyes. Well, I say halfway through. I’m reading the novel to my writers’ group and getting their feedback, and I’ve been doing that since January last year. My plan – once I’ve read it all – is to do one final edit of the whole thing, mainly checking for consistency.

Hopefully by this time next year I’ll be very close to the end! And when I say the end, I obviously mean the beginning of the inevitably long and arduous quest to find a publisher!

New story: The Quiet Invasion

I mentioned this last time. In the run-up to Christmas, I wrote a short story not about time travel, but about the side effects of time travel (not the sort you’d expect). I then got a critique from The Short Story.

The Short Story told me that it was an interesting and entertaining story with a nice pace, and gave me top marks for ingenuity. They said that reworking one of the supporting characters, employing a bit more subtlety and making some tweaks to the plot here and there will turn it into a “strong and surprising story”. Which is obviously great to hear.

So I’ve done some rewriting, completely altering the supporting character, and I’m now ready to start sending it out…

Paul – shortlisted in the Aeon Award Contest 2015

Just a quick update re my short story Paul, which was shortlisted in the first round of the Aeon Award Contest 2015 (more details here). Paul is now part of a final shortlist consisting of 49 stories in total after 4 rounds (so a longlist basically).

So Paul is therefore up against LOTS of competition. The top 6 of these 49 should be announced by the end of March – I’m not really expecting Paul to get any further given the competition. It would obviously be awesome if it did. The unfortunate thing about the Aeon Award is that because of the 4 rounds, the competition entry period is really long and you end up waiting ages for results. In the meantime, they don’t allow you to send your story anywhere else (as is the case with lots of short story magazines and competitions).

We shall see what happens…

New story ideas

The great thing about writing “Behind The Curtain” is that it gives me new ideas for the Million Eyes Short Stories.

The next short story I plan to write is going to be based on the Queen Elizabeth I conspiracy theory, which I wrote about last year. It’s the theory that she was actually a bloke called Neville, disguised as a woman. The real Elizabeth is said to have died from a mysterious illness while staying in the village of Bisley in her youth. Her guardians replaced her with a similar-looking little boy in order to hide the truth of her death from her father, Henry VIII. (So it’s basically ‘Paul is Dead’: Tudor-style.)

I think I’ve come up with a good way of incorporating this conspiracy into the time travelling world of Million Eyes. It’s only in the planning stages at the moment, but watch this space.

Another story in the planning stages is about premonitions. It will centre on the premonitions of Eryl Mai Jones, the little girl who predicted and then tragically died in the Aberfan disaster of 1966, which I looked at in my first blog of this year. Again I’ll be linking Eryl Mai Jones to the time travellers who populate the Million Eyes universe.

Those are my updates for this month. Unfortunately there are no new stories yet on the publication horizon. But if you haven’t read Who is Rudolph Fentz?, the first of the Million Eyes Short Stories, you can still get your hands on the winter 2015 edition of Scribble magazine where it’s published.

Some thoughts on self-publishing

This won’t be my only article about self-publishing, I’m sure, since I’ve been doing it for the last 5 years. But I’ll use this article to give you a general overview of my thoughts on it.

There appear to be two modes of thinking in today’s book publishing industry….

Camp 1 says that traditional publishing, where the publisher pays you an advance, gives you a contract and royalties, and promotes your book in order to make money for both you and them, is still the way to go. Camp 1 says that self-publishing should be the last resort, that you cannot have the same level of success if you self-publish because you don’t have the backing.

Camp 2 says that self-publishing is the way to go, because traditional publishing is nigh on impossible these days. It’s too competitive. First you need an agent – that’s the first hurdle to jump. I say hurdle to jump, more like mountain to climb. And even if you reach the top and get an agent, your agent still might not find you a publisher. I know an author who found an agent years ago, but his book is still unpublished. Camp 2 also argues that the advances are much lower than they used to be, and the royalties are only a fraction of what you’d get from selling a self-published book.

My debut novel "The Pendulum Swings"

My debut novel “The Pendulum Swings”

Which camp am I in? Well, having tried self-publishing, I have to place myself in Camp 1. I’m yet to be traditionally published, so I might switch camps one day, but at the moment I can safely say that self-publishing hasn’t worked for me. What I mean by that is, I’m not making any decent income from my debut novel The Pendulum Swings, and my series of illustrated children’s Christmas books, The East Pudding Chronicles.

That’s not to say I don’t sell any. I sell them online from time to time, and sometimes I’ll shift a few at the odd Christmas fair. I generally sell a decent number when I visit schools and do talks (but being a copywriter, I don’t get to do this often). I’ve always had positive feedback from the people who have bought them.

However, when I first released The Pendulum Swings, I did a lot of my own promotion. I’m not a publicist or a marketer. Being a copywriter helps, because I can write my own promotional materials. But in terms of developing and executing a promotional campaign, i.e. knowing how and where to advertise and having proper communications links with the media, that’s just not my forte. Most importantly, I had no budget.

I had a stab at it anyway. I arranged a book signing at the office where I worked (yes, my criminal defence firm turned into a bookshop for the day). I made some cheesy, cheap-looking trailers for YouTube using the wondrous (not) Windows Movie Maker. I had a load of fliers and business cards printed. I started making films out of my poems, as another way of promoting my writing and my old website, and I did a ton of promotional Twitter statuses.

Nothing I did set the internet alight with buzz about my book. But I had limited time, limited money and limited expertise. And I think you need all of these things to make self-publishing work.

So for the time being, I’m in Camp 1. Self-publishing Million Eyes is going to be my last resort, and if it comes to that, I plan to have saved enough money to find and pay a publicist. Whatever I do with Million Eyes, I don’t want to publish it without knowing that I’ve done everything in my power to maximise its exposure.

But while I’m still a resident of Camp 1, I want to rely on someone else’s expertise, someone else’s time and money and someone else’s media links to get my book out there. Yes, okay, so all authors – including traditionally published authors – are expected to be fully involved in the promotional effort. I get that and yes, I’m totally up for that. But I want someone to steer me in the right direction, someone who also wants the book to sell – because that’s how they make their money, too.

Just my two cents. In future articles I’ll give you some insight into the way I went about self-publishing, and, if I do move to Camp 2 one day, how I would do it differently in the future.

Next week: the weirdest plague in all of history – dancing

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