Thursday, 4 June 2009

Self-Publishing: By authors who have tried it. #8




A stalker of demons and legends, a pair of master criminals, a teenager on the brink of madness and a man forever cursed with the desire for vengeance. They are all pawns in a plan set in motion over nine centuries before their birth. Pursued across the globe by enemies both human and supernatural they must overcome their mistrust of each other and uncover the truth before it destroys them all.

Fallen Heroes pits an unlikely group of heroes and anti heroes against an evil which has existed since the first crusade. If they can keep from killing each other long enough they might just be able to stop the world from plunging into a new dark age.

‘Fallen Heroes is a stylish debut filled with sparkling characters in a skilfully drawn adventure that heralds the arrival of a bright new talent.’ - James Barclay

• Reasons why you chose to self-publish?

I had finished my novel Fallen Heroes and after shopping it around to agents and publishers for a while I decided that I wanted to get my work out there. The rest as they say, in the very best cliché’s, is history. The more I put into the work the more I enjoyed the feeling of control that I had over everything.

I was originally advised that my book was way too long for a first time novel, which I think it was. I did an eighteen month edit on the book and got it down to a more manageable size. I then went straight to POD where in hindsight I wished I had tried pitching it again for a while. One of the lures of POD is that you can get your work out into the world very quickly (as I did with my first edition) but there can be a cost to that when you rush it out there (a cost I saw when I saw the amount of typos with the first edition).

• Type of self-publishing deal you went for and why?

I went with POD without realising there was this huge stigma attached to this type of publishing. I am a huge comic reader and in that world there doesn't seem to be the same stigma attached to indie/self published comics and I naively thought it would be the same with books. Once I realised my mistake I rolled up my sleeves and told myself “I’m here now what can I do to lessen that image with my book.”

My goal was to produce a book that you could walk into a bookshop, pick up and not even spare a second thought on how it’s got there.

I used Lulu and I have to say I personally did not have any issues working with them. I found it all pretty self explanatory and the few times I did run into trouble I just went onto their live web chat and got a bit of help.

• Did you employ any kind of editor / editing service before going to print?

I went to Angel Editing who were great and who proofread, edited and formatted the final draft. This was after the book went through the hands of several proof readers. One of the hard truths I discovered about self-publishing is how much work has to go into the editing process. Even now I’m still finding typos.

• Finished book quality – pleased or not?

I was very pleased with the quality.

• What kind of marketing do you do and how much time is spent promoting your book?

I learnt early on, in trying to promote the book, that the shy and retiring approach was not going to get me far. It’s no good having a story you think people will enjoy if it exists in a vacuum.

One of my main tools was book called Pod People by Jeremy Robinson which I would highly recommend.
The book gave me some great advice on how to approach the marketing and promotional side of POD publishing.

I created a website for the book (which I don’t update as much as I should). I sent out press releases to just about everyone who would. I’ve been in my local paper, interviewed on podcasts, websites and done two radio interviews. I contacted over a hundred branches of Waterstone’s (and got two branch managers to review the book on the Waterstone’s web site) in an effort to get them to stock the book. I also have Facebook and myspace pages for the book and have attended a few conventions where I have sold copies of the book. I also have a promotional pack containing business cards, bookmarks, postcards and even a few fridge magnets.

How much time? Not sure but a lot…a bloody lot of time.

• Cover design – did you design it yourself or use a professional?

For the cover design I used a graphic artist. I chatted to him about the kind of look I was after and after some back and forth over email he got to work on it. The cover has been a definite asset. Not only is it striking (well I am a little bias) but I know have an established Fantasy author James Barclay putting a few words on the cover which has been the icing on the cake!

As I said earlier one of my goals for Fallen Heroes was to produce a book that could sit on a bookshelf. I wanted it so that if someone picked it a copy they would not think “Ah this is self published.”
The first hurdle I had to overcome was making sure I had an eye catching and professional looking cover. I think the artist I went with did a great job on achieving that goal.
Putting the time an effort into a great cover can make difference. Several of the Waterstone’s branch managers told me the cover was one of the reasons they took a closer look at Fallen Heroes in the first place.

• Have you ended up taking a self-publishing deal that has left you with a house full of unsold books?

Nope…wow that was an easy one. In fact I keep meaning to buy myself a hardback version of the book.

• Bookshops, libraries, Amazon, etc – how open are various companies to promoting self-published work?

My local branch of Waterstone’s were just great. I sent the manager an email (email queries are your best friend when trying to get a large chain interested) about the book and she asked for a review copy. She then took the chance to stock the book in the shop which was great as I don’t think I would have gotten as far as I have with the book otherwise. After it sold out a few times in that branch I contacted several other branches of Waterstone’s who also made orders. My high point was getting copies of the book into the flagship Waterstone’s branch in Piccadilly which is considered to be the biggest book shop in Europe.

• Final book costs – how competitive are they in the real world?

I don’t think the price is as competitive as it could be. If Pod books were cheaper I think more people would be willing to take the risk on them. We are asking people to pay well over the odds, in some cases, compared to books that have come through the normal channels and that’s a tough sell.

• Self-publishing forever or still keen on pursuing the traditional route?

I learnt a lot about the hard work that goes into doing it yourself and had a lot of fun along the way and made some great contacts. I also realised that even if you do everything right making an impact with your book (unless you’re one of the few success stories you hear about) is so much harder without the distribution and marketing machine that comes from by being signed to a mainstream publisher. I’m not saying I would never self publish again as there are a lot of things I know now and contacts I’ve made which would make the process easier.

• If you’ve approached agents, publishers, with your self-published book, have they shown any interest, what is their reaction?

I did approach a few agents and publishers with no joy. I have now been taken on by an agent, based in New York who is working to find a mainstream publisher for Fallen Heroes.

• Pitfalls and perils – what have you learned along the way. What would you do differently?

That’s a tough one. I think upfront it took me around six versions (all of which were released online) before I was close to the kind of proofreading/editing quality I wanted. If I had to do it again my book would not see the light of day online until I was sure the proofreading/editing was top notch.

I’ve learned that you can never do too much promotion for your book and that learning how to do a press release is a god send.

The one overriding lesson I’ve learnt is never stop building on success. I had a few people tell me they would pick up a copy if there was an audio book available. I’m now working with a voice actor and we’re about halfway through an audio version of the book. I also wanted to get a bit of hook for the book for when I went to conventions. I now have a ‘Special Edition’ of the book which I only sell at conventions. The version includes deleted scenes from the book (including a different opening) and my reasons behind taking them out of the book. There were also some sketches showing the development of the book’s cover.

If you get your POD book into a bookshop tell the world about it and then think “Right how can I use this, how can I build on that?” It doesn’t matter what level of success you get to I think you should always be asking yourself those questions.

• Would you recommend following the self-publishing route based on your experiences?

In the last year I’ve done two Waterstone’s book signings, got the book onto the biggest bookshop in Europe and an established author has allowed me to quote him on the front cover after he read the book.

I have an agent and the book has just been optioned by award winning TV and film production company Celtic Films (the team behind the Sharpe series starring Sean Bean) and work is soon to start on a Graphic novel adaptation of the book by Insomnia Publications. The comic adaptation is being written by a BBC journalist and I’ll be onboard overseeing the adaptation.

I would be hard pushed not to recommend this route given everything I’ve just said. I would however tell anyone to be aware of what you’re getting yourself into and know exactly what you want out of this route.

It’s been a journey of hard work, disappointment, lesson learning and huge moments of sheer joy. I have learnt a lot about what it takes to not only get your work out there but what to do once it is. I have pushed myself to do things in terms of self promotion I would never have done otherwise (signings are not my strong point!).

One of my goals in putting Fallen Heroes out as a POD book was to get it out there and get it noticed and I achieved that goal. I can’t say fairer than that really.

Pick up Pod People at:


Debra J Edwards said...

You must be so proud of your achievements. It's a lot of hard work and the promotion of books is endless. You have proved that hard work and determination can pay off. Good luck for your future projects.
Debra J Edwards

Barry Nugent said...

Many thanks for the kind words Debra!

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