Factotum – Chapter Eleven on Self-publishing
A lonely car on a street at dusk, a Bukowski reference. We’re in the territory of the familiar unfamiliar, as Alan Kaprow would say. It’s a time to be a little philosophical, the kind of philosophical to be found at the bottom of a jar of rum at 4.30 am.
The title (as those familiar with either Bukowski or the casual mis-use of Latin will know) means ‘man of many jobs’, most of those jobs being menial. I feel a bit this way at the moment. ‘Publisher’ may be a grandiose title and I’m sure it is for those who employ an army of minions to do all the little jobs, the most crucial, yet often boring jobs which turn the cogs in the big wheel. The most nobel of jobs I realised ten odd years ago when I got my first job as a glass collector in a big commercial bar full of loud, drunken sleazebags.
At the top of the metaphorical pyramid the anxieties of trying to communicate with the fairly faceless entity which is Lightning Source (who sometimes get back to me with the speed of light, other times drag their feet like a mardy toddler) about something that is very important to be me (my book/baby), that is trivial to them. I’m in ‘computer says no’ territory.
I think I’ve successfully uploaded my book cover and interior files to their system and ordered my proof copy, but I’ve had no confirmation of this. Until you go through the application process, Lightning Source hold back on telling you an estimate for when you can get printed by, which will be reliant on how many orders they have at the time. I imagine closer to Christmas is busier. I’ve been quoted 8 business days for a proof and a remarkable 5 business days (+ shipping time) for 500 copies of a B&W (interior), perfect bound paperback. So long as there are no delays/problems. This sounds optimistic, but we shall see.
In the meantime I must do my market research (part of the Headstart – business start-up course I’m doing). Part of the trouble with this is how to define my niche in order to research it. I need to pigeonhole myself at least a little bit in order to look for data on ‘similar’ novels. Although I would argue that Dogtooth Chronicals (sic) isn’t dystopian (I don’t feel it has a bleak outlook on the future of our race), in terms of themes it will probably appeal to fans of dystopian fiction. This at least gives me a broad range of writers to look at from Margaret Atwood to Philip K. Dick. When The Hunger Games first burst onto the cinema screen I was a bit annoyed at the glossy HD re-imagining of the darkly funny ideas in Battle Royale, but at least from my publishing perspective 10% less of the population will ask what ‘dystopian’ means.
Aside from that the past week I have done the following…
– skulked around Waterstones with a notepad looking for a relationship between price, number of pages, indie/commercial publisher (there seems to be little-to-no relationship).
– looked for that one independent firsthand bookshop within my (non-driving) travel range & confirmed it has closed down.
– tried to remember how to use Excel from my A-Level key skills days (a decade ago, good grief) & resorted to the usual high-tech laziness of the modern condition ‘Ask Google’.
– tried to continue my ‘social media presence’ without getting distracted/sucked in by film reviews, funny comments & pictures of a dog playing with a couple of wild polar bears.
– tried to work out my finalised price & set the percentage wholesale discount, but forgot & got confused about tax.
– made some stupid mistakes in my application for a business bank account so that the bank now can’t decide if I’m a. Incredibly stupid b. A drug baron trying to launder money.
– Printed things, photocopied things, filed things, refiled things, highlighted things, stapled things, worried, fretted, drank 28 billion cups of Yorkshire tea, wasted money on stuff I can’t afford, bought an actual answerphone for my landline (can now pretend to be in a 90s rom-com when I get home Nobody has called except my mother – waaahhh), refreshed my inbox 43 times in the hope LS had answered me, asked victims to fill out surveys, went to a writers talk & felt that everyone except the writers were self-serving bourgeois leeches & dreaded the day I may have to deal with these people.
– Had meetings with friends in pubs (this is my favourite part of what I do, apart from writing great things).
Off course I’m not totally a one (wo)man band. Without freelance editors, designers and some bloody good friends I would be in the middle of nowhere humming the Banana Man theme like a mad cow. But it takes a lot of fuel to keep the old train trundling along and unless you have endless leaves of money to toss at those who don’t live in fear of elbow grease, you will find yourself shape-shifting. Trying and trying to be all things to all men (or at least all things to all readers sitting in their rocking chairs ponderings where the next great piece of literature will fall from).
A final note, I feel Ive been lacking in the useful links department, a few places on the interwebs I’ve been recently (some I’ve linked before which are very useful, others are new discoveries).
Bookfinder (useful both for finding unusual books, but also for discoving alternative internet outlets to the ubiquitous amazon)
VIDA (Women in the literary arts)
Tindal Street Press (An example of a local (Birmingham) small publisher with an impressive output & rep)
Write a Revolution (Still in the construction phases, a blog supporting self-publishers)
Preditors & Editors (A-Z to help avoid vanity/subsidy publishers with a bad rep)
Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds (Greatly funny, sweary, mad-cap blogsite from an experienced writer who has been published & self-published. His series of 25 Things blogs are particularly worth reading, both for laughs & solid food for thought)
Subtle Melodrama Book Reviews (Particularly enjoyed her recent series on Scottish fiction)
Over & owt