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Sunday Ramblings and thoughts: Indie Publishing, Social Networking and Reviews

Almost two weeks ago I posted a little competition.

Fancy a free e-book copy of “Tales of Cassius: Statues of Justice”? Of course you do, you don’t want to have to pay a measly £1.33 ($2.99 or thereabouts) for a copy do you…

Well all you have to do is tell me what you think would be a good name for the next baddy for Cassius to take down. All I can tell you about the next story (I don’t want to give the game away) is the Title – “Tales of Cassius: The Necklace of Eyeballs” and the fact that it takes place on a Moon base.

You’ve got a week to enter and I will pick the best one next Saturday!

I had some interesting replies. In fact it set quite a discussion off on my Facebook page. There was a certain amount of bantering and rather a lot of laughing, but this is all to the good when socialising.

And that, my dear friends, is what Facebook is for. Socialising.

Yes, I have a Facebook Fanpage:

A lot of authors have Facebook pages for their personal use and Fanpages. This is so that those people who enjoy our work can catch up with the latest work from the author, discuss the characters in the books and generally get to know each other.

In essence, Fanpages are a kind of continual conference where you can meet the author without having to travel.

There are also Facebook groups. Now most authors belong to groups which are to do with the genres that they write in, but there are also ones which are a kind of promotional tool. We post up the details of our latest books in the hope that someone might click through the link, buy a copy, read it and review it.

Authors live for reviews.

We write because the tales plague us constantly, the voices of the characters not resting until their stories have been told (well that’s my experience anyway). We enjoy the experience of writing and reading so much that we want to share the joy with other people; and thus we publish our work.

Of course it’s a lot easier to become an Indie Author now. At one point you had to shell out hundreds of pounds to a printer to pay for your work to be printed and store them somewhere… not to mention the effort it took to get them stocked in bookshops.

I feel faint with exhaustion at the thought of it… *grins*

Now we can write and publish with a few clicks of the mouse, our work out there for all you lovely people to read and enjoy. However. There are a few (well more than a few actually) people who spoil that process for us.

How? Well, let us look at the process of becoming a published author.

If you are serious about being a writer you learn your skills carefully before you start publishing. You learn the grammar rules and story structure through writing courses and reading books upon the subject.

Then you hone your craft by working on short stories and poetry and attempting to get them published in magazines, webzines and anthologies.

At this point, you may join a Writer’s group (actual or virtual) and get advice and honest critiques from the members on your work. You continue to sharpen your abilities, all the while increasing the number of words you are writing on a daily basis.

Eventually you get to the point where you have written your first novel. The question then is what to do with it.

Some people go the traditional route. They write a synopsis and a covering letter and send it off on the querying round to as many agents as thy can manage from that bible of all writers, The Writers and Artist’s Yearbook. They may rack up hundreds of rejections before they find one agent interested in their work, who requests to see the manuscript.

They send off the manuscript and wait breathlessly to see if they are successful in gaining the agent’s representation, checking the post every morning in growing anxiety.

If they are unsuccessful they start the process again. If successful the agent then sends the Manuscript around various publishers in the hope of gaining that all important contract.

I considered taking that route, oh about three or four years ago. I’d managed to get a few poems and a short story published, so I queried a few agents about the book I was writing at the time (Don’t ask, it will never see the light of day). All the rejections I got suggested that I try improving my skills before I tried again.

When an agent tells you to improve your skills, you listen. So I went back to the beginning, took a Grammar and Proofreading course and started the process all again. This time round I was more successful on the short story front.

The thing about the traditional route, is that it improves your skills in a way that self publishing doesn’t.

You learn to read your own work for flaws, you listen to critiques (from your group members and those agents who can be bothered to write one to help you) and you improve your expertise with every rewrite, edit and reading.

When I got to the novel point again (with Heir of The Dragon) I sent it to a few editors instead, with the idea of having it serialised in a magazine. One editor in particular was interested but said it needed a lot of work. He sent me a two page email suggesting improvements.

I worked on it. I got a few people in my critiquing group to check it over, I worked on it again and sent it back to him. He sent me a few more suggestions and said that it was too good to be serialised, to look at getting it published.

Now, the alternative to the traditional route is self publishing.

When I started, self publishing wasn’t even a consideration because I just couldn’t afford it. When the editor told me to get it published, I’d met (virtually – through websites) enough writers on the traditional route to know that I didn’t want to go that way either… not that I’d turn a publishing contract down, I just didn’t want the stress of the querying process.

However, this time, e-book technology had appeared on the scene. Suddenly everyone could publish their own work and the floodgates opened.

I took my time though. I wasn’t entirely sure of the process and I wanted to test the waters, rather than jump in with both feet. There were a lot of debates about e-books, whether or not they were a good idea; would they peter out or get stronger; how could traditional publishing compete. I read a fair number of these and came round to the idea slowly.

I like to have a print book in my hands, to smell the pages and see the words. This won’t ever change. I do, however, enjoy reading, so the ability to have hundreds of books on one gadget appealed to the Librarian in me.

I brought out a collection of short stories.

My first story collection… a gentle introduction to my mind.

They were the ones that had been edited to a faretheewell and had appeared in various anthologies already. This was how I knew they were good work. I added a couple that hadn’t been published anywhere and borrowed the services of a beta reader or two to check I had everything in the right place. I asked a friend to design me a cover and with a deep breath I decided I was ready.

Then I launched it out on the unsuspecting public. I didn’t expect to sell many.

Actually, I wasn’t really expecting to sell any. This was a test and a way of learning the process to gauge if I could do this by myself or if I was going to have to look for a publisher to help me.

My next self publishing venture was “Tales of Cassius”.

This time, I had a bit of knowledge on the process and my editing skills had improved, so I designed the cover myself and launched the book.

The story was a short one, deliberately so. I am intending to write a series of stories in the same line and then collect them into one book when I get enough words together.

By now I was certain of what I wanted to do. I still wouldn’t kick a publishing contract out of bed, but I knew that I wanted to retain a certain degree of independence.

The problem is, since I started writing seriously (it’s been about 17 years) times have changed and its difficult to make a living selling your own work if you can’t get a fan base. I have a very small one…*waves to all four fans*… and that’s not really enough to support myself and my family.

The need to write is what drives me to do it, but there’s no point in doing it if no one reads it apart from me!

Out in the Independent Author world, there are hundreds of thousands of would be writers. Some of these have cut the traditional route out of their path completely and just self published. Some of these self publishers haven’t even bothered to get someone to beta read their work. They’ve just clicked the button and put it out there.

And it shows. Poorly designed covers, content filled with spelling and grammar mistakes… it gives Independent Authors a poor reputation. And unfortunately if we want to be a success then these people have to learn from their mistakes and improve their work.

And that takes reviews.

Not just wonderful, sparkling 5 star reviews that gush joyously over characters and story, but 3 and 4 star reviews which point out, honestly and gently, the mistakes that the author has made in the hope they will improve the book and reload a better version.

2 star reviews are for when the writer needs to go right back to the beginning and start again with the story. 1 star reviews are (in my opinion) a waste of time. They’re a “well done for making the effort” review that tells the author that he/she really needs to have a long, hard look at what they have published.

However, many 1 star reviews are left by people who are just trying to bring the author down. They are left by trolls who seem to have a hidden agenda, whether it’s bumping their own or their friend’s work up the lists, or just because they are jealous of the author’s success.

I haven’t had any 1 star reviews yet, but when I do get one I shall treasure it as a sign that I have finally arrived as an author. So keep your eyes on my Fanpage on Facebook… you never know when it will happen.

Back to that competition.

The winner of the free copy of “Tales of Cassius: Statues of Justice” is Vivienne Tuffnell, with honourable mentions to Chris Morley, Maria Kuroshchepova, and Andrew Meek. I’ll be in touch with Vivienne shortly to facilitate delivery of her prize.

For the rest of you, should you wish to pick up a copy of “Tales of Cassius: Statues of Justice”, I have a coupon code for you!

Until the 31st August, those who wish to, can use this code:


And get a free copy in whatever format your heart desires. Just follow the link below: