In some ways I feel a bit of a fraud offering up advice to would be self or small press publishers. After all I haven’t been in the game very long, it was only January that the Rollicking Tales wagon really began to roll. But then, when I come to think about all the things I have found out it has actually been a very steep learning curve. And if I can impart even one pearl of wisdom to a prospective publisher and help get more stories out there, then it will be worthwhile.
As a bit of background I am a farmer with, up until recently, no experience of the publishing world. I’ve been dabbling in writing for a few years but had never actually finished a story, let alone looked at publishing my own or other people’s work.
Then, in the autumn of 2011 I came to the conclusion that it was time I pulled my finger out. However many ideas I had for stories they were never going to see the light of day unless I sat down and actually wrote. A whole story. Right to the end.
And so I did. As a result ‘The Curse of Lincoln’s Inn’ will be appearing soon in the pages of Bruce Bethke’s Stupefying Stories.
It was a nice feeling to actually be able to call myself a writer. But I soon realised it wasn’t enough. I have a passion for story telling, and getting my own stories published was not going to satisfy that. Rollicking Tales was born, but the hard work was only just beginning.
So why should you go down the small press or self publishing route? Well for a start I think it is useful to separate the two. They share much in the practicalities of getting a book out there and letting the public know about it, but actually I believe they are two quite different creatures.
Let’s start first with self-publishing. This has got quite a bad press, and not all of it is undeserved. The trouble with self-publishing is that it is actually very easy to do badly, but to do it well takes a lot more effort.
I’ve got a first draft of a story on my hard drive and potentially it could be available to the world as an ebook, or even a print on demand book, by this evening. That doesn’t mean it should be. If I want to take this story down the self publishing route then I will have to do a lot more work on it than if I was submitting it to a publisher. With out an editor to check your work, you better make sure you’ve caught every last typo, with out a graphic designer you better make a good job of the cover, and with out a PR team your going to have a long uphill struggle to let the public know your book even exists.
So if self-publishing is so hard, why do it? Well for some people it is the right route. Maybe they already have a following who will buy their book. Maybe their book just doesn’t fit in with any publishing house they can find. Self publishing gives you a lot more control over the finished product. A lot of people are being successful with self-publishing, but unfortunately a lot more are making a hash of it.
So what about small press? Rollicking Tales is a very small press indeed, and we will face a lot of the same problems as a self-publisher. So why am I doing it? Why not let the contributors find their own way of getting their stories out there? To be honest I don’t have an easy answer to these questions. My stories will not be appearing in the pages of Rollicking Tales so why do I care?
Firstly, as I’ve said before I have a passion for stories, and for pulp in particular. And at the moment I feel there is a shortage of decent pulp publications. There are some out there, and some very good ones, but not as many as I want to see and I think there is a fan base which will support more.
Having said all this I don’t expect Rollicking Tales to make anyone rich, least of all me. If you want to get rich then become a banker, don’t start a small press. While the start up costs are very small, so are the potential profits. To make a book that can compete in the market place with books produced by multi million pound companies, who print their books in runs of several thousands, the profit margins are going to be very small.
It is a point worth remembering that however much you love your project the bottom line is, are people going to buy your book? When a potential customer logs onto Amazon and types in ‘pulp anthology’, or whatever your lovingly crafted book is classed as, will your book stand up to, let alone stand out from, the other search results? If it doesn’t look professional, if it doesn’t have good reviews, then people aren’t going to buy it.
So before you start up your press go onto Amazon and search what else is out there. Can you compete? If you think the answer is yes, and your willing to put in a lot of hard for very little reward then I wish you all the luck in the world.
This guest blog is part of the Rollicking Tales Blog tour. Tomorrow we will be guests of Molly Spring (http://mollyspringwrites.wordpress.com). To follow the tour from the beginning, go to The Various Electronic Missives of Thomas H Pugh (http://thomashpugh.blogspot.com).