Tag Archives: Publishing

The long wait

Anyone who writes is familiar with ‘the long wait’ of up to three months while publishers shunt your missive into a queue before saying “Not what we’re looking for right now” or “We don’t see a market for this” or even three months of dead silence and no reply at whatsoever. Which is what so often happens.

This long wait can take a terrible toll on young hopefuls, especially when the entry points to the world of grown up publishing are so limited. Most publishers won’t even look at new writers without an agent. Hence my enthusiasm for this Harper Vector opening, because finding an Agent; well, to be honest I’d given up looking some time ago.

What the hell. I have three days off. I need them, because at four this afternoon my get up and go, went. I know not where. I finally hit my own personal wall with a fairly hefty thud. Almost three weeks without a break working from six am to midnight is enough to wear anyone down. On the plus side, I did get to see a lot of nice sunrises. A couple of days out and off are required.

Now I am off to make friends with a bottle of Bushmills. The keyboard can wait.

Cerberus conspiracy novels and Paul Calvin

Almost ready to submit the first MSS to Harper Vector, I’m at the more than slightly nervous “Am I doing the right thing here?” point. The other news is that despite my intention to bunk off fishing with rod, line, and a hip flask, I’ve finally gotten my head around the plot for the next piece of work in the Paul Calvin Cerberus series. So the fish will have to wait. At least until Thursday.

The first three projects in the Cerberus series are as follows;

1. Heads of the Beast – 70,000 words. Complete, formatted and ready to go. I’m happy with it.
2. A falling of Angels – Plot outline, note and dialogue samples only.
3. Shifting states – about 45,000 words so far needing a bloody good rewrite.

Have just confirmed by email that I’ll be at the Surrey International Book Fair, Vancouver for the Saturday afternoon and evening (5:30-7pm) sales event on the 20th of October, sharing a table with fellow local writer Kenn Joubert, and punting the first two novels in my ‘Stars’ trilogy. I may even sell a book to some poor unsuspecting soul. I’ll be writing while I’m there, or something like that. Maybe quivering under the table. Whatever.

Four thousand words a day challenge; day four

Start: 33250
Finish: 37018
Total: 3768 words, 232 short of daily target. Average 4170 and on track for 80,000 word target by October 1st. This includes research, fact checking, and editing for grammatical and spelling errors.

Not bad considering. Have just ratcheted the first Cerberus story on to the next phase with a bizarre and ritualistic double murder. One my hero has to come back from exile and not quite solve. Because there are some things beyond even his abilities.

Am resisting the temptation to read the newspapers, because bad news always takes my mind off what I should be doing; i.e. writing.

The four thousand word a day challenge: day one

Harper Vector are opening their books to new authors without agents for two weeks from the 1st to the 14th of October 2012. They are looking for new science fiction and fantasy authors for an assault on the eBook marketplace. I have a novel I’d like to submit, but the problem is it’s all notes and fragments, and there’s two weeks to go before the submission floodgates open.

No agent has seen fit to respond to my many missives about other work over the years, and I’m pretty sure my work has gone unread and straight into the shredder. No agent, and no publisher will even look at your work. Not even into their slush piles. However, there is a window of opportunity here, and I’m going for it. At a target of four thousand words a day starting yesterday.

Word count for the first novel in the Cerberus series started at 20338 16th September. Current word count 25982 Tuesday 18th September 08:40am Pacific Standard Time. 1500 pretty good words since 6:10am this morning. Another thousand before 10am when I go off to the day job, and another 1500 after I get home around 6pm. Add in cooking breakfasts, making tea and suppers for both Angie and I, cleaning kitchen, brushing dog, and acting as Angie’s home tech support, plus watching a movie with her, and I have a full day. Tonight’s movie fare will be the Bourne Supremacy.

I have to keep up this work rate for fourteen whole days. I’m currently out of my office and working in the kitchen almost full time. Which seems to work. Back in 1987 I put together a 40,000 word novella, ‘Machine’ from scratch in thirty days using an old Imperial Safari. So work rate isn’t a problem. Hodder and Stoughton did ask me about writing a series back then, but I felt the character of the ‘Machine’ didn’t have enough in him to justify extending the franchise. I still have the old MSS, and revisit it from time to time. Just to see if I can pick holes in it. Oddly enough, that was written in a kitchen too.

Right. 9am. Break over. Back to work.

The hardest part of bringing characters to light and bolting them into a riveting story is the opening and closing sequences. Those I have. The rest of the story is mostly a detective whodunnit with some serious sci-fi roots. I’ve also managed to get a handle on who Paul Calvin is. A psychic cop with a conscience in a crumbling society, but that is all I’m giving away on this blog.

Spurious reviews and sock puppetry

They say all is fair in love and war. and the same rules seem increasingly to apply to publishing your own work. It appears some people think posting spurious negative reviews, under a spurious identity on Amazon and similar with authors in the same genre will boost their own popularity. Now it seems that what was only suspected is real, and more widespread even than previously suspected.

Anyone who publishes online, or puts their written work in the public domain is subject to criticism. Some justified, some plain mischievous, and also we find, downright malicious and dishonest. Reviews where the critical voice cannot possibly have read enough of the work in question to critique it properly, yet posts a one star or less review. Then posts a five star review on their own work under another user ID.

Personally, I rarely take notice of critics. Their world view is not often one that I share, and something that might wow them can leave me utterly cold and unimpressed. Some say the Brontes were literary classics. Like many others who trawled through their prose at high school, I would disagree. Most of Dickens leaves me quite unimpressed, but hand me Donne, Shakespeare, Kipling, or Chaucer and it’s a case of “I’m just slinking off for a quiet read – back next week.” I also prefer science fiction and fantasy authors like Heinlein, Niven, Pournelle Hamilton, Bear, Harrison, Barnes, Butcher, and Pratchett. They have an ease of reading that lets me immerse myself in their fictional worlds, almost too deeply to come up for air. Although even in that hallowed list there are some pieces of work I’m not too fond of.

Overall I’ve always tended to look at critics as a negative force, and now much less than trustworthy because anyone can be a critic, even competing authors. Online honesty in criticism, it would seem, is now at a premium. Cheap at that price too, as cheap as at $5 a time for ‘raves’. Apparently there is a modest buck to be made by freelance writers playing this deceitful game.

Such dishonesty often hides under the poisoned umbrella of ‘online relationship management’. Yet the problems demise, while not yet in sight, might be looking at a form of online Armageddon in the not too distant future. Software tools are becoming available to track and detect such spurious sock puppetry, and the battle against false reviewers, trolls and similar online pests will soon turn.

For my own part I find myself mostly flying under the radar of the fake reviewers. My sales are nothing to write home about; but then I do not write for critics. I write for myself.

I’m now a ‘literary luminary’

Martyn Jones at November book signingFinally got the picture taken of me, grinning like a maniac at my first ever book signing. Still not comfortable with seeing myself smiling, or the shine off my head. However, life moves on, and despite not doing much writing over Christmas, things have been moving gradually in the right direction.

Helping out with taking down our local Museums ‘La Belle Epoque’ display and gossiping with display guru Rick Slingerland about various things, when Amy, the museums Programs Director wanders into the display area we were taking down, sees me lying on on my back undoing bolts with an electric screwdriver in hand and asks to talk to me “When you’re vertical.”
“Sure.” Said I, finished what I was doing, and being a gentleman stood up to talk to her.

the upshot of our conversation was that I’ve been invited to do a presentation as one of the local ‘Literary Luminaries’, in which local writers get to do short presentations about their work on the 26th February. Although at the time of writing my name isn’t on the blog or any visible online publicity yet, but then I wasn’t asked until shortly before 11. Even in these days of instant connectivity, Facebook and Twitter, someone has to write the news down first.

Feeling mildly pleased with myself. Must get a couple of posters and some promotional stuff made. Fortunately I picked up some extra work over Christmas which will pay for such small expenses. I’m almost looking forward to it; which is unusual for me and public appearances.

Writing one off

Looks like I’m going to have to give up on getting ‘The Odd Machine‘ into iBookstore and Barnes & Noble. I’ve done everything the publishers asked, and the bloody thing still keeps on getting chucked back at me for the same reasons.

‘Change your metadata’ is all I could get out of support, which is about as much help as a slap in the face with a rotten Sardine. Even after asking “How is the metadata accessed?” Because I made all the requested changes where I could, and still my eBook kept getting rejected for the same ‘reasons’.

Well I’m writing ‘The Odd Machine’ off as far as iBookstore and Barnes & Noble are concerned. You can get to the point where something wastes so much of your time it gets in the way of new projects. I’ll just have to chalk this one up to experience and hope that particular eBook gets noticed via the blog.

To be honest it’s left me a little disenchanted and annoyed. I hate people who won’t give you a straight answer to a simple question, instead beating around the bush and hiding their response with jargon they won’t explain, and probably don’t understand themselves. Bloody hell, it’s like trying to get network support to perform a simple task. For the moment I’m going to stop beating my figurative head against the metaphorical wall and go and enjoy Christmas.

I’ll try my luck with the first of the Cerberus eBooks in the new year, and if I get the same problem, change publishers.

Authors rights

There’s a spirited little discussion between writers going on in the LinkedIn forums. Mostly on the “How does a writer get an agent in 2012” thread. I read several comments regarding copyright, where authors wanted the rights to their work returned and had difficulties getting the necessary permissions from their previous publishers.

Not being a lawyer, but fairly switched on legally speaking, my younger stepdaughter passed her law degree with honours and specialised in that area. So we have had discussions.

The thing is, when you sell a book to a publisher, what they are buying is the ‘right to publish’ for a given edition. If the writer has not been so blinkered by excitement of getting a deal and signed away everything. Did that once for a short story. Never again. The specific rights sold might be the US / UK book rights, the publishing rights for a screenplay based on your work, forget what they’re called, have to look them up. Anything like that. Only complete newbies sign away all the rights to a given piece of work, but then we’ve all been there. Excited and bright eyed because you’ve actually sold something, and so desperate not to lose that sale that you don’t bother to read the deal on the table.

Well, that’s my understanding. However, with the current boom in eBooks, print on demand services and self publishing, the field is wide open. This may mean the days of the publishers advance are coming to an end, but the self publisher seems to get a bigger slice of the pie, so better royalties.

Return of the ‘Penny Dreadful’

Back in the 19th, and early 20th century, there was a type of cheap sensationalist fiction called the ‘Penny Dreadful‘. Serialised fiction which is echoed in the less literary ‘Graphic Novels’ of today. Of late I’ve found myself thinking that there’s a gap in the market as far as eBooks are concerned.

Having considered the matter, there’s always been a market for such material, from Romance to Thriller, from Supernatural to Science Fiction. It’s called ‘pulp’, and there was once a modest living to be made from it.

Now I’ll be the first to concede that I’m no towering intellect. I’m a working stiff with an occasionally elegant turn of phrase. Yet even I can see echoes of the Victorian past and mass literacy that rode on the back of such reading material in the growing market for independently published eBooks.

There are those high-minded individuals who sniff at such poor literary fare, disparaging anything which does not live up to their personal ideals. For my own part; I think this attitude is counter productive to mass literacy, and expecting everyone to prefer Dickens or Orwell rather misses the point. The idea of the ‘pulp’ end of the market should be to provide a springboard to get the less literate actually reading. Providing a set of low rungs on the literacy ladder that the less motivated or able can readily clamber onto. Although I personally draw my own line at tales of Vampires and Zombies. Just never seen the appeal.

The truly great thing about the new eBook market is that no-one sees you hanging around the e-comic book store and makes sniffy comments about age, intellect, or darker associations. There’s no-one in online book stores to pass judgement on the contents of your eReader. It’s incredibly cheap, democratic, and there’s nobody telling you what to read. I think it would be a crime against mass literacy if we let the narrow tastes of the high minded dictate who reads what.

As far as reading is concerned, we all have to start somewhere, and we all have different tastes and comfort zones.

I will be presenting my own contribution before Christmas. One ten thousand word serialised eBook a month; and if demand is good, perhaps more often.

Some notes on eBook formatting

Just had a story rejected as an eBook over formatting issues. Easily resolved, but a thoroughgoing pain to have to go over and redo work you thought you’d completed a month ago.

The trick seems to be that my specific eBook publisher needs the source document to have the story spilt into specific segments, like chapters. Now I find cutting up a story like this a bit limiting sometimes, as chapters can get in the way of a narrative flow by cutting it into distinct chunks. For some narratives they work, but for others, not. I find they tend to slow the flow of a story down too much, especially if you’re dealing with multiple related story lines.

For my Novella, ‘The Odd Machine‘ which is out as an eBook, I had to chop the story into fourteen distinct ‘chunks’ to satisfy the eBook criteria, with the factual story notes as a fifteenth section. As someone who can read at over twelve hundred words a minute when the mood takes him, I find chapters in this format are often too short and detract from the pleasure of reading.

When formatting, the simple rules to follow seem to be these,
Firstly; ensure that all indented paragraphs have no extra tabs in them. Always use the ‘Paragraph format’ tool with the ‘first line’ option selected. If you can get away with it, don’t use tabs in your manuscript at all.
Secondly; in the MSS file, the eBook title should be in ‘Heading 1’
Thirdly; the chapter headings should be in ‘Heading 2’ and any subsections in ‘Heading 3’. Anything else doesn’t seem to work.

Following these simple rules should ensure that your eBook gets out into the marketplace without any unwarranted and annoying formatting related delays.

Literary festival?

At a neighbours birthday party last night I got talking to a neighbour of mine (Kenn Joubert) who writes historical fiction (Even won an award for it), and we fell to discussing the issues surrounding self published works. Issues like the difficulties associated with getting your product to market. Most of them to do with distribution. Problems like Book shops being highly reluctant to stock non mainstream books except on terms that significantly reduce author royalties. Some who won’t even talk to self published authors, as though self publishing was some kind of communicable disease.

One of the ideas we bounced around was a regular series of Literary events for local self publish authors, purely on a co-operative basis. Nanaimo is a tourist stopover for Cruise ships, and the thought occurs that perhaps if we synchronised our events with cruise ship arrivals we might act firstly as a point of sale for member self publishers, secondly as an attraction for those cruise ship passengers who are looking for something to read where they can guarantee to talk to an author.

While the idea is all very nebulous at the moment, I can actually see it working; providing we get the mechanics of who does what agreed, and everyone sticks to their part of the ship. A downtown location would work best to make travel easier for visitors. A deal done with a local hotel, something that provides a focus for visitors. Like the Hay-on-Wye festival in the UK. Perhaps something coupled with a regular web presence. Rather than hiding our collective laurels under a bush, perhaps with a little goodwill such a concept can be made to work, and not cost us a fortune.

New Page

I’ve gathered up all the links to my currently published work on a single page, which I’ve added to the blog. I’m quietly pleased about the result, because anyone who wants to access my work now has a single point of contact.

Between visits to Vets for poorly pup, nursemaiding old friends through bereavement, house moves, and subsequent skirmishes with bureaucracy, it has been a very busy time. Throw in the odd run in with food poisoning and Google shutting off my email, not to mention extra shift work, I think I’ve coped admirably. Did I mention it was raining heavily and that snow is expected this Friday?

All grist to the mill. Carry on remorseless. The world turns on.


Today I’m punting out a Novella in eBook format called ‘The Odd Machine’ (ISBN:978-1-105-24277-9). It’s a first person account of a man whose wife leaves him, supposedly over a family heirloom, then she makes false accusations which result in his arrest. Narrowly escaping imprisonment with the help of a clever young lawyer, devoted husband and father Christopher Matthews struggles to come to terms with why his wife seems to hate him so much.

As he battles to keep his young family together he faces public libel, slander, and is forced to change his name to escape persecution. Losing his livelihood and almost losing his two children to the ‘Care’ system and later a criminal gang, he discovers the real reason for his wife’s desertion in the words of his more worldly wise younger brother.

20,000 words with plenty of action and emotion for everyone. Addresses a number of very pertinent social issues and posits the question; “Who do we belong to?” A very dark and controversial tale with more than a touch of mystery.