Adventures in Publishing

Publishing is a hard industry, probably one of the most unrewarding, punishing and unfulfilling industries to be in. I know from experience, yet I come back to it as the industry is changing, it’s not as punishing anymore. Publishing is moving forward, and getting your writing out there has become something a mortal person can do on the weekend.

My experience in this field started sometime in 2003. It might have been April. I was happily minding my own business, and I got a call from Storm Constantine a friend of mine at the time. The call went something like this:

SC: “We’re a publishing company now!”
GS: “Oh? What!”
SC: “I’ve just bought ten ISBN numbers.”
GS: “Well looks like I have a lot to learn in the next month then.”

I did just that, from knowing nothing about publishing to getting our first book out took about a month. Immanion Press was born. It was a fast and hard learning experience but one I won’t forget quickly. Prior to that phone called we had a gin fuelled talked about self-publishing and with the new Print on Demand (PoD) technology most authors can get their old works back into the world. So in the space of a month, I taught myself how to typeset books, how to manage and update ISBN records, found a PoD company (Lightning Source at the time), commission art and published a book.

The First Year of publishing

That first year was exciting and hard; we aimed to publish 1-2 books a month not only of Storm’s back catalogue but other authors who had fallen foul of a system that was favouring young good looking writers over talented established ones. We published Frieda Warrington, Michael Moorcock, David Barnett, Ian Watson, etc. We also offered a chance for new artists to get their work out, especially ones that fell down the genre gaps.

Things went fine for a few years, I learnt about setting up and holding conventions, and organised a hand full around the world. Then the crippling troll of life came to visit, after a few years my personal and living situation was so dire I had to bow out of Immanion Press. I sorted myself out over the next few years, but things were still up and down due to rogue landlords and mental health issues. I plugged along going to film school and came out knowing I want to write, not just films but anything that tells a story. It’s fair to say I was living in interesting times.

The Present

Having co-written two novellas and a number of short stories with my partner Lydia Strange-Wood. I thought 2017 is a good a time as any to be a bit more proactive and get back on the creative band waggon again. So a few weeks ago I looked into making Casimir Effect into an eBooks and stumbled across Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), this takes the initial cost out of publishing. With KDP you can get your eBook  on Amazon, and they even offer a PoD service so your readers can get a physical copy of the book. So one hazy night a few weeks back I made Casimir Effect into an eBook and published it on Amazon.

Now the dread set in. I needed to promote this book, so next was a website, social media presence and blogs. Lots of blogs. Over the next few weeks, I shelled out for domain names and web space from GoDaddy and started building this site. I had designed websites in the past, so it’s wasn’t too hard to get the basics up and running. Getting all the social media setup and the connections between all the accounts was tedious but necessary, for the best exposure. We’re now two novellas in and a third on the way, and I have learned a few new things:

  • Publishing has gotten a lot easier, editing hasn’t. I discovered Grammarly, it’s not perfect by any means but it pretty good at pointing to problems you might otherwise miss and helps you avoid them in the future. It also integrates with MS Office and most web browsers. Don’t go through correcting everything it says as it’s not always right, but it knows there is something wrong so use it to point you to the problems and as an aid to finding solutions.
  • Kindle Direct Publishing is only one stepping stone. You need to be on social media promoting and annoying friends to get sales. Amazon reviews are handy as they can help draw other readers in. But don’t publish your book and expect to magically make money.
  • Pricing is critical, no matter how much you think your work is you will never get that much for it. Your first book will probably end up being a freebie where you won’t make money, but you will hopefully start building a reader base. Set it to 35% royalty and £0.99p or $0.99c for the eBook, and you will make about 35p a book. For the PoD books look to make a minimal profit, I aim for about 60p per book for the first books. The lower you can make the price the more attractive it is to new readers. If I could give the first few novellas away for free, I would.
  • Free eBooks, it’s a lot harder than you think to give your eBook away for free. Under one of the KDP promotion options, you can’t put the eBook on any other site, but you get a better deal and other revenue streams. You get five days out of every ninety days where you can make your eBook free. Use these and promote on every platform until your friends hate you for it.
  • Kindle Unlimited, seems too good to be true but I’m going to see how this works. Essentially it’s a library for the Kindle if you sign up to it or have Amazon Prime you get revenue for every page read. As the reader doesn’t pay directly for the book, it’s a good chance to get readers who wouldn’t otherwise take a risk on a new author.
  • Amazon Associates is another great way to get an extra few percent out of Amazon. Once you have an account, you can create a link to your books and get an additional kickback from each sale. You do need an associates account in every country. I just use the US and UK for now. You can also use the associates account for any Amazon product links and even put their banners on your site for extra revenue.
  • Links to you books need to go everywhere make sure your readers are one click away from you Amazon books page wherever you can. I use smartURL to create country sensitive links, no matter where the buyers are it should direct them to the best Amazon store to buy my books. You can even append your Amazon Associates tag on them for that extra kickback.
  • Use Amazon Author Central to set yourself up an author page you can link to. Here you have put up photos, videos, event, a biography and other stuff. The most important part is that it links all your books to one page, even books you’ve previous had published can be added to your author page.

It not hard just takes the time to get all this setup. I’m sure there are more tools which can help getting things off the ground. This is a second learning curve for me as KDP offers a new model for publishing, which avoids the quagmire of the big publishing companies. I’m not saying don’t send your work to them, by all means do, there is always a chance they will take your book. At least now there are other options you can pursue if your pile of rejection letters weighs more than your manuscript.

Gabriel Strange-Wood

Casimir Effect by Gabriel & Lydia Strange-Wood

Casimir Effect Cover Dr Alice Sharpe has a choice to make, stay with her true love and risk the collapse of the space-time Continuum, or take more drastic measures to prevent the destruction of the universe. Alice is thrown through time and into her own past. She finds her true love in Dr Robert Cameron. However, if she embraces this love she risks a paradox that could destroy all of creation. [link]
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