Jake Corey

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On Publishing with one of the ‘New Publishers’

By Jake Corey

You’ve finished it. There’s just over 90k words, it’s more or less edited and proofread and you’ve even thought about a cover. That ending by the way will absolutely blow them away. Now what?

For new, aspiring and even experienced writers, publishing can be a daunting business. The ‘Big 5’ (or is it still 6? I’m not sure, a couple of Publishers may have merged by the time I finish this article) ‘Publishers’ are difficult to break into. But the publishing world is changing. Amazon was partially responsible for that. If an author has a well written, edited, proofread and formatted manuscript, he/she can self publish on Amazon in under one hour. Good news right. Well… almost. There are millions of books available for Amazon’s Kindle, so the chances of your pride and joy being seen, let alone downloaded is slim.

Some literary critic once wrote that 40% of ‘published books’; that’s books published by the ‘Big P’, are rubbish. But that 90% of the self published books are rubbish. Hence, the case for quality control via the ‘Big P’ is proven, right? Well, if you have a warped sense of logic, I suppose you might twist your mind around to that argument. He may be a critic and a wit but his logic is flawed. But wait, if you take sales of paperbacks as an indication of success, then the said literary critic is of course correct.

But if you take books actually read as an indication, then my ‘finger in the wind’ estimation is that about 90% of the books published by the ‘Big P’ are less than good. They’ve been purchased based on some literary critic’s insight. But most of these paperbacks will not be read by the purchaser or they’ll be read out of sheer bloody minded determination, not out of pleasure. In the past, thanks to the ‘Big P’, we’ve been buyers of books, not necessarily consumers of books. On the other hand, there are some great books out there that are self published or published by a new breed of publisher. A.W. Lambert’s ‘Shadows’ and ‘Treacherous Past’ are cases in point. There’s also ‘The Final Tally’ by ‘Philip Cobley’, great book but unlikely to sell in the numbers the ‘Big P’ need.

Before the E-reader came along, I would buy paperbacks at a rate of perhaps five a month. Last week I went down to the recycling centre and threw away dozens of paperbacks, most of which I’d given up on at page twenty. But according to the back cover reviews, the blurb and the clever cover, I’d thought they must be the best thing since the plastic rawlplug. Some of the books I threw to the back of the skip with a degree of venom, how could I have been so gullible as to buy a book based on a reviewer’s comments? Amongst those books were some big names, like Monica Ali and Kate Mosse.

But there’s also a certain snobbery associated with being ‘published by one of the ‘Big P’, a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.

“I’m with HarperCollins,” has a certain ring to it, don’t you think? And that’s fine, if that’s all you want, and you’re prepared to send your manuscript to nine or ten literary agents, with all their foibles; who want your manuscript,  “In ‘Times New Roman’ 11pt font with a 1.25cm indent at the start of each paragraph, 1.5 line space and three chapters only unless there’s a Prologue in which case, send us two. And a synopsis of the whole book in exactly 250 words, blow for blow (and any more will be rejected).”  (So there, Darling!)

These literary agents will, of course, take their cut. You’ll then have to wait and wait for that contract. Even then, if the literary agent finds a publisher for you, there’s no guarantee that your book will sell, never mind be read. I think you’d have to be slightly ‘jålete’ (vain) as they say in Norway, to go down that route in today’s market.

So, what’s the alternative? Vanity Publishing? Certainly not. But what about this ‘new breed of publisher’? I suspect that the writing and publishing system is still in the shake out phase. But changing, it certainly is. Technically, if you have a website and some know how you can declare yourself a ‘publisher’. You can tout for business, publish whatever the writer gives you onto ‘Amazon’ and ‘Smashwords’ and you and your author can wait for the accolades and the money to come in, like an expectant mother, right? Wrong!

There are just a few ‘issues’ that writers may come across, whether it be with the ‘Big P’ or one of these ‘New Publishers’. I’ll list some of the jobs that a good publisher, (whether it be ‘Big P’ or one of the ‘New Publishers’) should do to support you, the writer.

1. Check the story and check the facts.

2. Provide editing advice

3. Proof Reading advice

4. Format the manuscript

5. Provide a cover design

6. Distribute your book so that it’s seen, bought and read

7. Publicise and advertise your work and make your book ‘visible’

8. Keep you on the right side of copyright

9. Keep you writing

10. Support you, both morally and technically

You may say that you, the writer, can do all of these things yourself. You’ve been using ‘Word’ for years, right? You can give your book to Aunty May and your friend down the road, who reads a lot. You use grammar checkers, they are good, but unfortunately not good enough. You can use ‘Photoshop’ a bit and do a cracking good cover with lots of colour and fancy fonts. Then upload it on to Amazon. Voila, job done. Except that you haven’t. You haven’t given numbers 1 to 10 above the attention they deserve, and you probably never could, on your own.

Writers, 1 to 10 can typically take weeks, if done on your own. It’s soul destroying, middle of the night work.

Now the ‘Big P’ are quite good at supporting writers, but not always. You only have to read some paperback thrillers on the shelves of well known books stores and wonder if the book has ever been proofread, except perhaps by a sixteen year old intern. But generally, the ‘Big P’ are good at supporting writers whilst their books sell. And they are good at selling books (even poor ones) to gullible ‘would be readers’. But in the past they’ve been a near monopoly. On the other hand for ‘New Publishers’, 1 to 10 above is costly and time consuming and often the writer has to foot the bill. That, in effect, is ‘vanity publishing’.

So, you need to select and choose your ‘New Publisher’ carefully. It’s your book and it’s better to self publish than have a wannabe, pretend publisher take a cut and do very little. So look carefully at 1 to 10 above and see if the publisher you’ve approached will at least give you value when it comes to handling your work.

There are some good ‘New Publishers’ out there, that in my opinion, give value for money and will add value to your work. I publish with ‘Fiction4All’, I have a couple of books with them and they are quick to respond, add value to your work and they are transparent when it comes to royalties. What’s more, they answer E mails, always.

But for the writer who has laboured for many hours over a manuscript and is pondering whether to go ‘Big P’, ‘New Publisher’ or ‘Self Publishing’, consider with the wisdom of Solomon. Make your choice with all the thought, poise and grace of the opening sentence of your book. But make that decision you must. Above all, choose carefully, and choose with  all the courage, fortitude and conviction you can muster.

Talking of courage. It can come from unusual places and at strange times. For example, in the middle of the night when your spouse is sound asleep and you’re checking your manuscript for the twentieth time for that missing closing quotation mark, and as the light breaks through the trees and your cat/dog brushes against your foot and grumbles in its sleep and you still fail to find it. So you start at the beginning and check it again, for the twenty first time. That’s courage. The courage to say ‘I will not sleep until I find it’, ‘I will not make myself another cup of tea,’ I will not give up. Good writers grit their teeth, smile and check it again and again and when they’ve found it they smile, have a cup of Jamaican Tea and sleep the sleep of the contented protagonist. It’s that thought, that this is what you do, you write, you have conviction and you have faith in your own ability. At times it’s nothing short of heroic.

So Dear Reader, and I hope, Writer,

It’s a brave new world out there Jim, so think long and hard before you go quietly into that good night. For a writer must do or do not… there is no try. (Star Trek, Dylan Thomas and Yoda)

So, why bother? Seriously now folks, it’s because we are writers and we write, that’s why.

“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will,” Stephen King, On Writing.

Oh, and Publishers,

If you’re going to publish, try to support your writers (and readers) properly, do it at least as well as you support your race for profits.

Fiction4All has set the benchmark for a ‘New Publisher’, so follow their example.

“If I do the right thing right, I’m going to succeed,” Anon

“Do it right or I’ll send the boys round,”  Jake Corey ‘Sins Of The Father’.

Jake Corey author of ‘Devil’s Orphans’ and ‘Sins Of The Father’

This article was in no way solicited by Fiction4All

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