Tag Archives: publishing

Galactic Chat 61 – Kameron Hurley

In this latest episode of Galactic Chat, I get to talk to another one of my favourite writers—Kameron Hurley. I discovered her writing through the Bel Dame Apocrypha (God’s War Trilogy), one of the most original works of sci fi in recent times. But, she is also one of the leading fan writers in the spec fic community, and continues to challenge and subvert many of the things we take for granted with her blogging and essays.

As usual, my inner fanboy was fighting for control the whole time, but Kameron still managed to deliver a fascinating interview, where she talks about everything from Dragonlance to blog tours, and other topics listed below.

Plus, you get to find out more about her amazing new series!

This week David chats with award winning author and blogger Kameron Hurley. Kameron has been nominated for the Nebula, Clarke and the BSFA, selected for the Tiptree honour list and this year won the Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Additionally, her essay “‘We Have Always Fought': Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative” also won the Hugo for Best Related Work.

Please enjoy their chat where they talk about the influences on her most famous trilogy (including a dodgy rental apartment with bugs), when authors should speak out on issues of poor or disadvantageous contracts and what’s next on Hurley’s agenda.

You can find Kameron at her website

Credits
Interviewer: David McDonald
Guest: Kameron Hurley
Music & Intro: Tansy Rayner Roberts
Post-prod.: Sean Wright
Feedback:
Twitter: @galactichat
Email: galactichat at gmail dot com

Wednesday Writers: Russell B. Farr

One of the exciting things about being a spec fic author and fan here in Australia is the vibrant local publishing scene. We are blessed with a number of high quality independent publishers who continue to put out book after book every year, the quality of which compares more than favourably to anything internationally – dare I say often exceeding it.

When you talk about the Australian scene you cannot go past Ticonderoga Publications. At some point, almost every Australian author of note has had a story or book come out under their label, and they have not only played a part in helping raise awareness of some of this country’s best new talent, they have also made sure that many classic stories continue to be in print. Their books have been recognised internationally for their quality, garnering nominations for some of the big awards.

Given their impact on writing in Australia, it seemed obvious to me that I simply had to ask the founder of Ticonderoga, Russell B. Farr, to come and feature in Wednesday Writers. Knowing he was a busy guy, I expected that it might be hard to pin him down, but instead I was pleasantly surprised by how willing he was to write something for this blog. It’s obvious that, even after all these years, he remains as excited and passionate about publishing as he was in the beginning and was delighted to have a chance to share that passion. So, I am really happy to hand it over to Russell and I know that everyone will get a lot of this great post.

In very kindly asking me to contribute to his excellent Wednesday Writers series, David asked me the following

Given that a large chunk of my audience are writers, and that you operate one of the main presses in Australia, they might be interested to read about what it is that you look for as opposed to what overseas markets look for – because you answer to yourself are you going out on a limb more, taking different kinds of risks? What excites you about anthologies versus collections? What’s your master plan?

It got me thinking.

When I first started this gig, way, way back in the 1990s (kids born the year our first book was published will be finishing high school this year), there was no plan. I had a whole bunch of ideas, a list of fantastic writers I wanted to work with, and it was a case that as one book went off to the printer, I’d hit up my list to see who said yes first. There was a wonderful sense of innocence, naivety, about it all (in between lamenting how much cash it was eating).

Now it’s not like that at all. We have a Master Plan(tm) *cough cough*. To me, a Master Plan(tm) has a goal, an end point, a finite achievement (even if it is World Domination(tm)). While we have a bunch of minor plans and projects, and some goals, we have no end point. There’s no achievement on the radar, or in my imagination, that would mark the ultimate pinnacle.

I guess our Plan That Is Not Quite A Master Plan(tm)(patent pending) runs along the following lines

  1. Produce the best books we possibly can.
  2. Make each book at least as good, if not better than the one before.
  3. Pay all the writers and artists as fairly and as much as we can.
  4. Foster new talent.
  5. Make a positive contribution to the genre in Australia.
  6. Make enough of a surplus to pay ourselves something.
  7. Keep doing this as long as it’s still enjoyable, worthwhile, and able to fulfil at least items 1-5 without being overly concerned by the shortfall in meeting #6.

If we were going to dream up some sort of business slogan it would be along the lines of “Quality Over Profit”, in that we’re more driven by the desire to produce quality books, the type of books we love and love to read. Beautiful looking books, filled with fabulous stories, amazing novels, incredible new lands, wonderful characters. If we publish a book, it’s because we love it, inside and out, not because we expect it to make piles of filthy lucre.

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Though we do hope that, for every title, the world also shares our love for the book and buys lots of copies. I know that this way lies madness, but we’re a little too far down the road to turn back now.

“Anthologies vs Collections” would make a great smackdown panel. In the red corner we have anthologies: cumbersome beasts made up of many writers, involving lots of work, the occasional herding of cats and large amounts of contributor copies. In the blue corner we have collections, a single writer on the cover (unless you’re Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter), a single person to work with, and only one lot of contributor copies and associated postage.

Collections have a lot going for them in the short term: the incidental costs are less, they provide the opportunity to work closely with a single writer so a single clear vision is shared, and the final product has the writer’s name on the cover, giving them a sense of ownership of the book. This in turn gives the writer more motivation to actively promote the work, and also discerning buyers familiar with the writer are drawn to the title.

Anthologies are quite the opposite: it’s a case of dealing with 12 or 18 or 30 writers, not as closely, and requiring more organisation and time. The final book has the editor’s name in big letters, and few editors have the kind of name that will sell by the box. At the same time, each writer only feels 1/12, 1/15 or 1/30 of the ownership, individual promotion is harder, and unless the anthology has a “name” contributor like Gaiman or Harris, it’s a harder sell all round.

That said, without original anthologies it’s pretty hard to have collections.

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There’s a bit of a current trend for to fill collections with as much original material as possible, and most of the time I disagree with this. It can work for the occasional tightly-themed book, where each story benefits closely from its shared context. I don’t think it should become the norm, as mostly reprint collections allow the writer to be paid twice for the one story, and anything that pays the writer is a good thing.

Anthologies (and magazines) provide the first home for the story. They are a place where the writer gets to flex their finger muscles, are challenged by themes, and is where they often do their real work. Many writers rise to prominence through these markets, they provide opportunities to hone skills, experiment, work with different editors. Few, if any, short story writers are born with a collection ready to go.

As an editor (with open submissions), anthologies present the great unknown, the opportunity to find fresh new voices, to work with tomorrow’s stars. They have a sense of great potential, the lure of undiscovered treasure. There is the opportunity to read incredible tales from writers you’re not familiar with. Sometimes there’s also the opportunity to work with writers you really admire, as established Australian SF writers are generally a generous bunch.

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If I’m building a themed anthology, it’s always great to see how writers have interpreted the theme. See where the spark of inspiration has taken them. To be confronted by multiple points of view, all creatively expressed.

Every book is a risk. Any time we put out a new title, a title that we are heavily emotionally invested in (if not also financially), there is the potential for bad things to happen. Emotions and money become tied together, dozens of review copies go out, some never to be heard of again. The frustration of knowing that a book is truly awesome, so why isn’t it selling by the thousands? Why aren’t more people buying and loving and sharing and talking about this incredible work?

Each book is putting passion on the line. Not only ours, but our writers. When you’ve worked closely with a writer to produce something everyone agrees is pretty special, when the process has involved sharing hopes and dreams, we really want the work to do well. We want to be able to give lots of good news and positive reviews back to the creator. We feel honoured that these writers want to share their work with us, to allow us to be part of the journey in sharing their art, and we really do want the best for all.

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It’s a wonderful thing when it all goes to plan. Great reviews coming in, solid regular sales, hearing the stories from people who’ve bought and read and loved the book. This is what makes it worthwhile.

What do we look for? Character-driven first and foremost. We want to love and hate and feel and fear and smile and experience what’s going on. We want to experience the world through the protagonist’s eyes (though if doesn’t have to be first person narrative). Good story-telling is also important, we want to be put in the situation where we can’t not turn the page. Genre isn’t overly important, anything speculative is good. We’re not too keen on gratuitous violence, or gratuitous anything (though the occasional gratuitous explosion, car chase, or kitten is okay). Tell the story, show us a new world.

Russell B. Farr is the founding editor of Ticonderoga Publications and has published more than a thirty titles. His recent anthology, Belong, explores the concepts of home and migration, and he edited the award-winning Australian vampire anthology Dead Red Heart. In 1999 he established ticon4, now Australia’s longest running semi-professional science fiction webzine. Previous works as editor include the award-winning anthology Fantastic Wonder Stories, award-winning collection Magic Dirt: the Best of Sean Williams, and Australia’s first work-themed anthology The Workers’ Paradise.

As editor of Ticonderoga Publications, Russell has overseen the publication of landmark story collections by Simon Brown, Stephen Dedman, Terry Dowling, Lisa L. Hannett, Angela Slatter, Lucy Sussex, Steven Utley and Kaaron Warren.

Russell was born in Perth, Western Australia in 1973, where he lives in the northern suburbs with his wonderful partner and a sociopathic cat.

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Wednesday Writers: Jane Routley

We often ask ourselves, “Why do bad things happen to nice people?”, and if anyone deserves the nice person tag it is Jane. Ever since I’ve met her she has continually shown herself to be wonderfully supportive of other writers, and extremely welcoming to newcomers like myself. So, it was pretty disappointing to hear of the bad experiences she’d had with publishing, and delightful to hear the news that she had the opportunity to re release her books and give them the second chance they deserved. To me, this is where the new world of publishing shines, and I thought it would be great to get Jane to tell her story because I am sure it will be of great interest to other writers. Plus, it’s worth celebrating!

How I scared off the “You’re Crap Writer” fairy and learned to write again, or Re-taking Control of your career through the joy of ebook publishing.

Back in 2008 my publisher finally announced (after 18 months) that they were going to pass on The Melded Child, sequel to The Three Sisters.

When a publisher decides to “pass” on your book, it’s hard not to blame yourself. The “you’re a crap writer” fairy takes up residence on your shoulder and starts whispering in your ear every time you approach the keyboard. Only large amounts of chocolate/ alcohol/ drug of choice/ can shut it up.

So I followed the rejection with an undignified time moping, wailing, and threatening to give up writing, which was mostly borne by my unfortunate loved ones (Thank you for your support and patience, Terry Cooper). But the fact is writing is my real drug of choice. I work part-time in a low paying non-career job so that I can write, I mentor people because I love writing, and when I can, I go to writers’ workshops because I enjoy reading other peoples work and seeing how they make writing work for them and how they can make it work better. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 5. If I gave up writing and fell in a heap, what the hell else was I going to do?

Time to re-assess and see what I could do to recover.

I can pin-point a number of things I did wrong in dealing with my large American Publisher, the major one being that I had expected them to be enthusiastic about my books and to be interested in helping me make them better. Aside from the person who bought the first one, and who left the company six months later, I worked with a series of beginning editors, most of whom were seriously luke warm about what I produced. So much so that I was really startled when the publisher asked me for more. I may have been being oversensitive here. I get the impression that big American publishers handle their beginning writers in such a way as to prevent them from achieving an unmanageable sense of entitlement. Since achieving even a manageable sense of entitlement is pretty hard for an Australian/ Australian woman, this experience had a fairly corrosive effect on my self-confidence.

To have an editor at the publishing house who likes your writing does more than keeping the “You’re a crap writer” fairy at bay. They’ll encourage the marketing people to do some marketing, a rare commodity in a publishing house where most of the marketing dollar is spent on the already successful writer.

Like all first time writers, I thought the publishers would handle all the marketing, send me on a publicity tour and treat my work as if it was a precious jewel. This was how all the writers memoirs I’d ever read put it. I can only suggest that these memoirs are from another age (or they are wearing rose coloured glasses/ are lying hounds). Publishers nowadays want to be able to do as little work as possible on a manuscript, they usually type set it from a file you send, and editors are more about marketing than editing. They send out a few copies for reviewing to the usual suspects who have big piles of other review books on their desk and put you in catalogues and sometimes in ads with the rest of their crop of writers for the month. I suspect they don’t really know what works anymore than you do. Lack of satisfactory marketing seems to be the chief complaint all writers have of their publishers.

There was no writer’s tour, no book launch and as for the precious jewel stuff, a hollow laugh sums up my experiences here. The first time I paid for myself to go an American SF convention, I discovered only after I arrived that it was up to me to organise any appearances or readings (by then of course it was too late.)

Most of all, I felt that I had no control. I had no say over the not very good covers, I had no way of finding out if they were entering me in competitions, sometimes they didn’t even seem to send out review copies and they almost never said they liked the work. Actually they rarely even replied. They changed my name even though I’d won prizes for the previous books under my own name (Apparently its easier to sell a first time author to bookshops than a fourth time author). Worst of all they let the first book of my trilogy go out of print years before the others (????). Clearly they just weren’t paying attention.

I was a very small fish in a very big pond. After 14 odd years of being/ feeling like a small fish and feeling helpless, I started to man up (that’s not an accidental verb by the way). I was expecting to be looked after like a fairytale princess. Time to start making things happen for myself, like the big strong feminist I was supposed to be.

The fact is you can’t blame yourself for all your success/or failure in publishing. Only a few writers capture the zeitgeist and become million sellers and even publishers can’t pick out who they will be. We all know that good writing seems to have little to do with that success (Who hasn’t read a really badly written best seller.). And on top of that there are all kinds of different readers out there. Not everyone regards the same book as good.

So away with you “You’re a crap writer” fairy.” Who died and made you the boss of me?
I’d already started to deal with the editing/self confidence thing by workshopping my work and I started looking for ways to increase my internet presence and do my own marketing well before the final rejection. I’d always thought internet was a dangerous time sink, but now I started to look at how Amazon and social networking and blogging worked. It doesn’t hurt to find out. I made my own very simple website.

Once the worse happened and I got over it, (see earlier reference to chocolate abuse and moping) I decided to have a try at this earth thing called ebook publishing. I had one unpublished book which was a sequel and so unmarketable anywhere else. I just wanted readers. The first thing I did was pay someone trustworthy for a manuscript assessment. I’d never been told why it was rejected and I didn’t want to publish something crap. Working with the assessor was vital in helping me get my confidence back.

The second thing I did was to apply for get the rights of all my other books back. To be honest I was pissed off with my big American publisher and wanted to take my toys and go home. Gallingly this was the time they were most helpful. They even rang me!!!

Finally I went looking for an ebook publisher – someone who knew how to package a book with covers etc. and more importantly how to make kindle friendly downloadable files. Doing it alone is a lot of work and needs a steep learning curve. The lovely Lindy Cameron, powerhouse and publisher of Clandestine Press was more than willing to include my books on her list. My first three books came out as The Dion Chronicles in 2010 with a set of wonderful covers that I helped choose (and Lindy sometimes mentions that she likes the books. Pure gold I tell you.) They are selling o.k. Lindy isn’t worried about warehouse space and she doesn’t need me to sell 10,000 of thousands of books the way the big American Publishers do. I talk to her on the phone and do marketing appearances with her.

In 2011 Russell B. Farr from Ticonderoga Publications offered to bring The Dion Chronicles out in print and they came out later with really stunning covers which I had some say in. I did a book launch and some publicity. I felt in control and it felt good.

This year I hope to publish my other books The Three Sisters in ebook and also the long rejected sequel, The Melded Child with Clandestine Press. People still email and ask me where it is. I love the internet even if it is a time sink.

This is strange time to be publishing. The conventional market is in a messy transitional state where advances are dropping and midlist authors are being ditched all over the place. The print media seems to be dominated on all sides by the lowest common denominator. People out there who want to read niche or thoughtfully written books/articles are almost being forced to resort to ebooks.

The ebook market gives you so much more control over your product and it’s a big global market. You don’t have to be a bestseller to be read. You can have readers all over the world and get feed back from them. And my ebook publisher pays me a much larger percentage on my books so I’ve seen more royalties than I’ve ever seen in my life (Which wouldn’t be hard. Up until now it was all lump sum advances).

The only real problem is marketing. So many voices in a room shouting at each other, and no one really listening. How to do enough while leaving yourself enough time to do the actual writing? How to do it successfully? How to increase your readership? When I’ve cracked that problem I’ll let you know.

Jane Routley has published four books and a number of short stories. Two of The Dion Chronicles won Aurealis awards for the Year’s Best Fantasy Novel.

When not writing and guzzling chocolate, she works for the railways gathering up lost souls and collecting station stories.

You can find out more by visiting http://janeroutley.com/

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Wednesday Writers – Paul Collins

It would be nigh on impossible to overstate the influence that Paul Collins has had in the Australian Spec Fic community. As an author, whether on his own or in collaboration with some of the scene’s leading lights, he has produced a vast catalogue of writing and his incredible versatility can be seen in the way in which he has moved effortlessly across genres and age groups.

As an editor and publisher he has worked with the best names in the business, and given opportunities to some of the most exciting new voices emerging onto the scene. Through initiatives like his speaking agency he is also helping ensure that there will be a new generation of spec fic readers coming out of our schools. It is no wonder that he has been recognised with the Aussie awards that exist to celebrate those who have contributed above and beyond to creating a vibrant and exciting scene.

On a personal level I can attest to how welcoming he is to newcomers after I was found myself at a writers event where I quite literally knew no one. Paul quite kindly let me presume on our (at that time) very limited acquaintance and made sure I was included in conversations and introduced me to a heap of people, a generous gesture I was extremely grateful for.

It’s a real pleasure to welcome someone as knowledgeable as Paul to Wednesday Writers this week as he discusses the future of publishing.

The Future of Publishing

Is publishing an ailing industry or just a changing industry? I suspect the latter, due solely to technology leaping ahead exponentially. And of course products other than books are also suffering. We live in a world of built-in obsolescence, fast turn-over and ever-changing rules and regulations. I suspect the younger generation will cope with it all just nicely – it’s we older folk who will miss the ‘old’ ways. My generation lived through the halcyon days when things were a lot simpler and predictable. We didn’t throw something out when it broke down, we simply went to the corner shop and the guy there fixed it and it would last another decade. My Sharp TV is thirty years old and still copes with all of today’s technology. It’s just augmented: a switch board has been added to take all the plug-ins for DVD, CDs, Foxtel, etc. And now that analogue is becoming obsolete I just need to spend $80 on a set box and voila! my old TV – never broken down in thirty years! –is suddenly digital. When I spoke to a guy at Tandy he suggested I move on to a flat screen TV. I told him I would if he could guarantee it would give me thirty years of service. Of course, this tale of woe is obsolete in itself, because my tech-happy partner has gone out and bought a SmartTV and my beautiful Sharp is stuck in a cabinet on the verandah. I’d love to pass it on to someone who will get enjoyment from it but alas, I can’t even give it away.

What has all this got to do with books, you ask? Well, it has everything to do with books. People are discarding old tech for new tech. Print books are being passed over for e-books. Some schools are now proudly boasting they’re print free. Personally, I think this will have disastrous ramifications for an entire generation of kids. Sure as anything they won’t be readers.

All this isn’t to say print books are dead. Far from it. I’ll see out my time in the industry doing okay. But I do see them becoming something like the relics vinyl records have become. Hands up all those who still have their vinyl collections? See? That’s why I kept on to my old Sharp. I bet most people can’t even play their records anymore – those needles are hard to find now, too.

But back to the publishing industry. Amazon seems to be considered a major threat, although I’m not sure why. Sure, they’re promoting e-books, but they also sell print books. I’d be covering both bases if I were them, too. Another more serious threat is illiteracy. See my note re schools becoming digital. Yet another problem is the proliferation of games and other distractions competing for eyeshare. In my day, a wagon train set or soldier figurines at Xmas made me the happiest kid around. And when money was tight, I made my own go-cart and would race down the hill on the street and think all my Christmases had come at once. Alas, such simple pleasures are long gone. Perhaps one of the biggest threats to the print book is the idea that everything readable should be for free: millions of blogs, and not just by unknowns, but your favourite writers are into them, too; facebook and other social media; emails – not so long ago you’d write three letters in a day max and feel as though you had writer’s cramp. Today I write ten to fifteen emails before lunch; websites, ‘free’ content on the Net including episodes of TV shows you missed because you were elsewhere or doing something else and a plethora of other distractions. Another problem is that with e-books gaining ground, bricks and mortar shops are closing. Rents are going up and sales are going down, and it’s the booksellers that will lose this fight. With no distribution outlets, the print book truly will be confined to the relic pile.

On this note, we’re seeing publishers merging and cutting back on superfluous staff. Either the staff work twice as hard or the publishers publish fewer books. The Penguin/Random House merger is the latest catastrophe here. We’ll see less competition so less remuneration for authors (already surely the lowest paid workers in the Western world). Where will publishers get their A-list authors from if not via the ‘discoveries’ in the slush pile? Easy. They’ll be feverishly looking at which books soar on the net. Take for example 50 Shades of Grey. Any books self-published, either POD or ebook, that looks like a best-seller, print publishers will snap them up. Too easy to predict, really. You read it here first :-).

All of this will lead to something else. The slack being taken up by small presses. And even we won’t be immune from the majors snapping up the authors that we ‘discover’. With BookScan publishers can see what’s moving in print format. Offer a small press enough money and they’ll assign rights in a second. And if not, the publisher will contact the author direct and you can bet anything you like the author will dump the small press in a flash to land a healthy deal with a major publisher.

Because books are so easy to print these days (PODs, do-it-yourself at Lulu, smashwords etc), we’re also competing with foreign books being translated to English. On top of this, books may never be out of print again, so even new books are competing with titles published decades ago that once upon a time would be relegated to secondhand stores. Perhaps needless to say, with more books being published, fewer copies per title will sell. A survey was done a while ago and the result was that the average sales of a book these days are less than 100 copies. Clearly only self-publishers can make this work. Traditional publishers need to sell a minimum of 1000 copies just to break even.

According to Bowker which is an authority on all things bookish, over three million books were published last year and only ten percent were from traditional publishers. The rest were from print-on-demand and vanity press. Apparently there’s a book printed somewhere in the US every ten minutes. Include the world in that statistic and you’d realise you’re pushing something uphill to get noticed Out There.

None of this looks too good for the authors, either. There’s going to be a cross-subsidisation going on like never before. Right now unless you’re either a best-seller or very prolific, there’s no way you can make a living at writing. For many years I worked as a bouncer in hotels to support my bookshops which in turn supported my writing. Right now I’m publishing and running a speakers’ agency to support my writing – although to be honest, I think the writing and agency are supporting the publishing! Regardless, there’s cross-subsidisation going on.

So in summary, the only thing to suffer is the traditional print book. There’s always going to be people writing and wanting to take a shot at becoming ‘famous’. Only now more than ever will be that cross-subsidisation I mentioned and less chance of making writing anything other than a lifestyle career.

Paul Collins’s 140+ books for young people include series such as The Jelindel Chronicles, The Earthborn Wars, The Quentaris Chronicles and The World of Grrym in collaboration with Danny Willis. His latest series is The Maximus Black Files. Mole Hunt and Dyson’s Drop are in the shops now. The trailers are available here: Trailer 1 and Trailer 2 He is also the author of over 140 short stories. Paul is the publisher at Ford Street Publishing and runs Creative Net Speakers’ Agency.

Paul has been the recipient of the A Bertram Chandler, Aurealis, William Atheling and Peter McNamara awards and has been shortlisted for many others including the Speech Pathology, Mary Grant Bruce, Ditmar and Chronos awards.

Visit him at www.paulcollins.com.au

 

 

Future Trends – eBooks and bookstores

There is a great discussion going on at the Greylands eBook Launch site, sparked by an excellent guest post by Paul Collins.

These are scary times for writers and publishers. Whereas it’s never been easier to get published, conversely it’s never been harder to sell. This great divide is expanding exponentially. Take a look at the Al Gore demonstration at Mike Matas: A next-generation digital book. All of this seemed pretty whiz-bang a year ago. Now my smart phone can do most this.
 
The Great Divide Paradox is easily explained.
 
Major publishers are down-sizing, and guess who goes first? The B-list. With fewer staff, publishers are publishing fewer books. Perhaps only the best-sellers will enjoy print books from the majors with no or little mid-list. It does make you wonder where publishers will find the next generation of best selling authors. They’ll undoubtedly get some from best-selling self-publishers, such as the recent EL James (50 Shades of Grey) and of course this has been happening for a while – Matthew Reilly (Contest) springs to mind. And there will be a proliferation of these authors with the availability of lulu.com, Lightning Source, etc. Even Dymocks has a platform for vanity press at dpublishing.com. I think the self-publisher has replaced the agent for assessing the slush pile for major publishers.

It’s not just the article itself that is worth a read, the discussion below the comment line is well informed and thought provoking too. Anyone with an interest in the subject should check it out.

Wednesday Writers: Saul Garnell

Often, in all the noise and furor that comes with the debate about which publishing model is superior to all the others, we lose sight of the fact that we are incredibly fortunate to live in a time of vast opportunity where there is more than one path to publication, and that people are finding success in both traditional and non traditional avenues. In today’s guest post, Saul Garnell (a stand up guy I had the pleasure of meeting at Conflux and have stayed in touch with ever since) talks about his road to publication and why he chose to take this path.

My Journey with Independent Publishing

I write with Hotspur Publishing, a small independent publisher finding its way in the ever-changing marketplace. And though I’m quite satisfied with how things have worked out, I have to admit that being part of the independent-publishing phenomenon wasn’t my original goal: it just sort of worked out that way.

You see, back when I first had the notion to write a novel, I had made up my mind to write a book acceptable by traditional publishing standards. To that end, I knew I had the basic skill. But I never felt that writing science fiction should be a hermetic activity, and I realized early on that I needed a partner to help guide me. So after searching for about a year, I found David Bischoff. At that time, Dave was one of the few freelance editors with an extensive background in science fiction and fantasy. However, back in early 2009, the market had not yet gone through any of the upheavals we’ve recently seen, and few editors with Dave’s background were available on a freelance basis. I was lucky to find him and thankful that he took me under his wing. Together, we began to work on my first book, Freedom Club, which ended up getting completed around mid 2011.

Then the big day came: what to do with my finished manuscript. Submit to traditional publishers and agents? It was a real problem because, at that particular time, the market no longer looked anything like it did in early 2009. Things had been turned upside down. Self-publishing was all the rage, and some traditional publishers were either closing their doors or reorganizing. Very important was that (most if not all) large publishers relied more heavily on known writers to guarantee their bottom line. So yes, I could submit my book to traditional publishers and agents, but it seemed increasingly apparent that new writers like myself faced an uphill battle getting any kind of recognition.

That’s when something interesting occurred.

You see, David Bischoff had come up with the idea to start his own publishing house, not only to republish older works now out of print, but also to publish backlog and the works of new authors. He named the organization Hotspur Publishing, and asked me if I would be interested in being one of his new authors. In some sense, it was a natural evolution. Dave and I had already forged a strong editor/writer relationship, and at this point I should probably say that I jumped at the opportunity he offered, but in fact I mulled about it for a few days. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I wasn’t excited about what Dave had presented me. After all, opportunities like this don’t appear every day. The problem was that I had to reevaluate the market and decide if my first novel still had a chance with the traditional route. To make a long story short, even though I felt strongly that my book met the requirements of New York publishers, the chances of getting picked up as an unproven author were not favorable in 2011. At that  time, the market was simply too unstable for either a publisher or reputable agent to go with someone like myself. I am of course a businessman by trade, so this logic wasn’t alien to me. All successful businesses would lean towards less risky ventures during times of market upheaval. And here we were, in the middle of The Great Recession. All my instincts told me that if I wanted to go the trad route, I’d be putting off getting published for some time, or just waiting around and never getting published in the end.

But I had a choice laid before me. Namely, to join Dave and help him establish Hotspur Publishing at a time when the market was open to new ventures. To our advantage, barriers to entry were at an all-time low. The e-book channel was growing at a fast pace, and Print On Demand had become a low-cost option if paper copies were required. On top of all that, Dave  brought into the picture Chris Lampton and Amy Gilbert from Illuminated Pages. Chris and Amy together have many decades of publishing experience and support Hotspur with both line editing and graphic design. As a team, we’ve worked out a low-cost method of quickly producing books of high quality. So even though we had some white space in our business model, there was no significant money at stake. Under those conditions, there seemed no reason to resist, and every reason to give it a try.

That brings us to today. It’s been just under one year, and irrespective of commercial issues, we’re having a lot of fun at Hotspur. Not only did we get my book published, I began working with Dave on other projects, namely the reboot of Star Hounds, a series of three books published by Ace Books back in the early 1980s. For those of you unfamiliar with Star Hounds, it’s classic space opera, with a kick-ass cyborg heroine who loves adventure, space pirates and, well…kicking butt. Dave not only let me rework the original manuscripts, but he agreed to co-author a new 4th book, one that we e-published earlier this year.

The great thing about projects like Star Hounds is the reboot process itself. I was surprised how fun it was, and how much it taught me about the art of writing and packaging a book. It’s more than just scanning a book and converting printed text into digital format. I found it fascinating to document and reshape the original Star Hounds universe that Dave had created decades ago. Once the rebooted novels were complete, we soon jumped into writing the new story. Honestly, it was amazing to learn about the art of collaboration. Every team has its own methodology, I suppose. For us, it was a back-and-forth process. Dave wrote some chapters, then I picked up the story and wrote a few more. Dave edited my text and vice versa. Slowly but surely we forged a new storyline from which a grand new vision emerged.

If you ask me what I’ll be doing with Hotspur next year, I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you that a huge benefit of indie publishing is the control one has. We have no lack of projects and no burden upon us to write books beholden to the needs of an antiquated business model. Dave and I craft our books under the philosophical belief that genre fiction has literary merit, while also being able to entertain a wide range of readers. This idea has been at the heart of genre fiction ever since its inception. It thrived decades ago, and I do believe indie publishing will spearhead genre publishing’s revival against the homogenizing effect of mass marketing and profit taking.

So let me sum things up as best I can. I’m satisfied with how things have progressed and I’m quite certain Hotspur Publishing will continue to thrive over time. As more authors join us and we publish a greater body of work, we’ll continue to explore what’s possible in all types of fiction (and some nonfiction too). At some point, Hotspur will take off into a new dimension. When will that happen? I don’t know, but at the same time I’m not so concerned. That’s because of the sheer enjoyment I get from writing under an indie imprint. I work under the guiding hand of professionals and produce quality science fiction with the greatest degree of freedom an author can expect. From where I stand, it’s what writing is supposed to be about, and more than enough compensation in the near term.

Saul Garnell - I was raised in New York State, and now living in Arizona. I work during the day for a company called SAP and having lived in Australia, Japan, India, and Germany, I bring an international perspective to my writing, along with an unusual point of view driven by many years of experience in the banking and software industries. Freedom Club is my first novel, a speculative fiction in the near future. However, I have delved into other genres by writing some horror, and Military SF pieces. I only write part time, but enjoy writing Science Fiction as a hobby and look forward to publishing more with Hotspur Publishing in the near future.

For more information on Saul and his books, please see the following links:

Hotspur Publishing’s Website: www.hotspurpublishing.com
The Freedom Club Blog: www.freedomclubthebook.info
The Voodoo Robot Chili Blog: voodoorobotchili.wordpress.com
Twitter: @sgarnell