Tag Archives: self publishing

It’s a business Berkoff

Steven Berkoff - Click on the image to visit his website stevenberkoff.comPhil: Sat on the M1 yesterday, I had the chance to listen to Steven Berkoff plugging his new books.

I’m no expert on celebrity and a bit light on the sort of magazines that could fill in his background but fortunately, Practical Classics tells me that he appeared in an episode of The Professionals called “A Mann Called Quinn” so I know he’s an actor.

Anyway, Berkoff has embraced the world of self-publishing and you can buy the new books on Amazon. It seems that his publishers have quite unreasonably decided that as his previous literary efforts haven’t made any money, they don’t want to publish any more of them. The great author isn’t impressed by this – writers should be treated like rare fruit and delicately nurtured. Never mind your boring business considerations, once you are on the roster, the publishers role is to gently stroke the ego of their charge like a mad old lady fuses each of her collection of pussies.

I’d love to think this is the truth and, if any potential publishers are reading, team NolanParker very happy to be on the end of this sort of cosseting, but we know that’s not how it works.

Publishing is a business. You sell books or the harsh economic winds will be blowing around your ankles as you stand outside your boarded up offices holding a box containing the contents of your desk. No matter how much we rail against Tess Daly being skipping from writing “Once upon a time” to being published to Hollywood film in 6 weeks (Grrrr), it’s a harsh fact of life that she will shift more units than a pair of brilliant but largely unknown writers.

In a way, it’s great news for the world of self publishing that “names” are dipping their toes in the water. Maybe this will reduce the stigma associated with bypassing the traditional methods of getting in to print. How long will it be before someone with a massive media profile goes for it? After all, if your phone is full of the numbers for TV people and the editors of the national press, why not take ALL the money from your work? Maybe this is what Berkoff is doing…

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Self-publishing with Polly Courtney

Polly CourtneyPhil: Last week, we chatted with author Polly Courtney about the writing process. This isn’t the end of the process. While most writers dream of handing their manuscript over to a publisher who will take it away and sell the book, Polly choses to self-publish. How does author as publishing house work? We were eager to know…

Most new authors concentrate on producing a story but as a self-publisher, you appear to approach the book as much more than this. Does the book just become “product” to sell this way? Can the temptation to write something easy to sell ever change the content of the book?

Good question. It’s one of those things that’s very personal: some authors feel it’s compromising their integrity to think about the commerciality of their novel before they start writing. I don’t have a problem with it – although I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I change my intentions for a book based on its market appeal. I’m fortunate, in a way, that the subjects which get me going are also ones that other people find interesting. Would I write a book about a little-known issue that had never hit the news? Maybe – no, definitely, if I felt strongly enough about it. I’d just have to create the demand, instead of using existing interest in the subject.

Your books are famously not chick-lit but do they fit a genre? Does this matter if you don’t have to fit within the pre-conceived ideas of a publishers marketing department, or does it make it harder pitching the book to sellers?

I’ve never been good at fitting in a box (book-wise). It’s a problem for publishers, definitely. They need to be able to see where a book will sit ‘on the shelf’, but mine falls between shelves; it’s fiction, but it’s social issues-led. “What do we call it? Which author is it like?” publishers ask, in a panic. That’s why I was squeezed into the ‘chick lit’ mould when I was with HarperCollins: it was the closest recognised genre they were happy to work with. Frankly, I don’t need to put my work in a box; the main thing is that it’s well represented in a visual sense (i.e. title and cover) so that readers can tell what themes and styles are inside. That’s the beauty of online bookstores; the recommendations engines can provide suggestions for readers based on their reading habits. No need for shelf-based searching any more!

(These are the ‘on brand’ cover designs for my self-published novels, courtesy of the incredible Sinem Erkas):

Golden Handcuffs, Poles Apart, Ferel Yout

How does the planning work? Do you treat it like a project with charts, spreadsheets, budgets and all the related paraphernalia?

Oh, boy. You asked for it. I am anal when it comes to planning. Seriously, there are financial spreadsheets, Excel timeplans and lists – many, many lists. In the run-up to launch for Feral Youth, my boss has left me daily to-do lists with penalties for late completion. It’s tough, working for yourself (but I love it).

Ferel Youth plan

What advice could you give to new authors looking to promote their books? Since you have a new novel out and are re-releasing some old ones, presumably there is a plan, what does it involve?

Here’s some advice I would give any author or wannabe author (including my twenty-four-year-old self, a few years ago):

Take time to think about what you really want to write (style, content, themes etc.) and who might like to read it (demographics, attitudinal groups, etc.) and then think about the best way to publish, staying true to these two important things. For some writers, this might mean signing with a publisher (one that really understands your goals), but for others it might mean going it alone and retaining control over the execution of that vision. And remember: if it doesn’t fit in a box, that’s not a problem any more 🙂

Thank you again for your time Polly. Don’t forget, if you want to know more, visit pollycourtney.com

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The death of print?

The Crystal BallPhil: There’s a bit of buzz around the story that the magazine Newsweek is going to give up its print edition. Rumours abound that the Guardian will ditch the print edition soon and go on-line only.

Many commentators suggest that days of big news corporations are over because we can all get our updates free of charge from bloggers and “citizen journalists” rather than well paid hacks.

They then look beyond expensive news production and into the magazine world confident that you’ll soon abandon buying anything printed on a dead tree in favour of downloading it onto your iKindleslab.

Sadly (for the commentators) this proves why they are wrong. Magazine sales may be slipping but e-publication isn’t making much of a dent. With only 1.7% of sales being electronic any loss in circulation is down to other factors.

The point is that just because you say something doesn’t make it true. Even if lots of people are saying it, that doesn’t make it true. Proper journalism, the stuff people don’t want to pay for, involves going back to original sources, fact checking and other boring stuff that takes time. If you want the news according to an Idaho basement living nerd, well you can have it for free but in truth that’s all it’s worth. Just because something is loaded on to YouTube doesn’t mean it’s accurate either. Chances are that when you are seeing is only one side. Balanced reporting takes time and money too.

Of course, “big media” doesn’t do itself any favours sometimes. When you report stories happening outside your door by watching Youtube and Twitter rather than dispatching someone with a camera to go and have a look then those paying for it will begin to wonder. Likewise, some of us don’t think that the opinions of people you find wandering around the streets during the day are a substitute for cold hard facts, even if they are cheaper and more colourful.

“What has this go to do with writing a book?”, I hear you ask.

Well, the same commentators predicting the death of newsprint also tell me that e-books are the future. I’ve played with a Kindle and it’s very nice. You don’t want to kill flies with it or use it prop up a wobbly table leg but for reading it’s lovely.

The thing is that I can write a book to appear on it easily. Possibly too easily. No need to get involved with “big publishing”, they are as much of a dinasour as the big news corporations. Ignore the basic tenets of plots, character development, grammar and spelling – just write and be free!

Is this too easy though? Some numpty keeps e-mailing me something about how quickly you can write for Kindle etc. without bothering to do research. The messages clutter up my Spam folder daily. I think the idea is to churn out unreadable book after unreadable book, sell them for a tiny price and hope that all the sales will bring in a substantial income. (Feel free to correct me as I never read them properly never mind waste my broadband allocation watching the embedded video).

We have looked at e-publishing and technically, it’s not that difficult.

Is it the right way to go?

Is it the future?

Should we just assume that “big publishing” chooses its authors based on the number of weeks they stay in Strictly Come Dancing rather than how much they have to say?

There is a Self Publishing Conference in Leicester in 6 months time. Should we go?

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