Indie Publishing a Print Book

So, how much does it cost to independently produce the print version of a book these days?

Well, Stealer of Flesh (currently available from Amazon, the Book Depository and any bookstore where you care to place an order ISBN: 978-1483969541) cost me somewhere under $125. To those of you who, like me, grew up in the world of Quark Xpress, offset printing and warehouse distribution, that number is probably jaw-dropping. Welcome to the new world of Print On Demand (POD) publishing.

Let’s take a look out how the figures break down. I used CreateSpace, Amazon’s print on demand subsidiary for the actual production. Signing up for an account was just as easy as signing up for a KDP account. It was a case of inputing some personal details and how I wanted to be paid and I was good to go.

The hardest part of book production for me has always been the cover. Each one is an individual exercise in layout based on the thickness of the spine which, in turn, is based on the number of pages and the type of paper. This turned out to be handled very easily by CreateSpace. I inputed my trim size (the actual measurement of the book, in this case a 5.5 inch by 8.25 inch trade paperback), the number of pages and the colour of paper I wanted (a choice between white and cream) and CreateSpace gave me a template with the exact size of the cover I required.

I cheated on the next step. I sent the details on this template to Clarissa Yeo at Bookcoversale.com who does my ebook covers and she set up the cover for me. Clarissa does a very nice package deal where the cost of the print cover adds only $25 to the cost of the ebook cover. Her full print cover deal is $85, her ebook cover only costs $60. I am going to subtract the cost of the ebook cover from that of the print book cover since the ebook had already been released at this stage. Anyway, as far as I was concerned, that was the hardest part of the production out of the way.

Next up I bought a multi-book license for the Crimson page layout template from Joel Friedlander at bookdesigntemplates.com. This cost $97. Joel is a professional in this field and his templates, which use open source fonts, look great.

I could have laid the book out myself but using the template made things very easy. It also stopped me from making very basic rookie mistakes like having page numbers on blank pages. Now I know you’re thinking you said producing the book cost less than $125, Bill, and there’s almost one hundred bucks right there. You’re right too but I have already got 3 books in the Kormak series and I can use the template for all three of them so I am going to divide the cost by three, rounding it up to $33 because I am lazy. The fact is that I will be able to use the template for future print books in the series giving it a nice consistent overall look, that will drop the price even more.

It took me a couple of hours to cut and paste the manuscript into the template but the process was simple and doubtless will become more so as I become more familiar with it.

Once that was done, I saved the Word file as a PDF and uploaded it and the cover to CreateSpace. I waited a few minutes, did a basic check of the online proofs just to make sure everything was OK and then ordered a print proof. At the end of the initial creation process I decided to pay $25 for extended distribution which means the book can be ordered by ISBN from any bookstore.

I confess I cannot remember how much I paid for the proof copy but I am pretty sure it was under $20 since I chose the slowest shipping option. There were some errors (made by me) in the layout but otherwise the book looked really excellent. I corrected the errors in Word, uploaded a new PDF, got another proof sent and this time everything looked fine. I approved the book and a couple of days later it was available on Amazon and ready to be shipped.

Total cost to me: $123 or so, including a couple of proofs shipped internationally.

What about other costs such as editing, artwork etc, I hear you ask. Well, I had already paid for those for the ebook so I am writing them off. I think this is fair since most indie publishers will probably be releasing ebook versions of their work and quite likely before the print version.

In the end, producing is a print book is more work than an ebook, that is for sure but it is worth it. At the end of the day there is something really nice about having an actual book sitting on your shelves.

Writing Fantasy Heroes

Today I am pleased  to have a guest post by Jason M Waltz, the publisher of Writing Fantasy Heroes and many other fine works via his company Rogue Blades Entertainment. Jason and I have crossed paths in numerous sword and sorcery forums and and his knowledge of  and his sincere love for the genre have always impressed me. I am really happy to have him here talking about his latest project, a book with a stellar lineup of contributors which  is  certainly worth the attention of the writers among you as well as anyone who is simply interested in how the fantasy genre is written. There will even be a chance to win a copy of the book itself. Anyway, without further ado I’ll hand you over to Jason…

Howdy all! I want to begin by expressing my thanks to Bill for inviting me to discuss my latest release, Writing Fantasy Heroes (Rogue Blades Entertainment, 2013). This 54,000 word how-to book has been a project of passion for me for almost four years—and I’m dang proud of it. Gathering this assortment of authors, convincing them to offer tidbits of knowledge, and finally holding a completed manuscript was an exciting process. Mostly.

There were challenges, authors that were unavailable, money and time that withered away, cover art that escaped, and authors that had to be replaced. There were a few low points when I feared the project may die…and a few high points as well, where I was delighted by a particular turn of events. Now that all is said and done, I am immensely satisfied. This collection achieved what I’d set out after late in 2009:  delivering a unified group of essays on the creation of the heroic character.

It surpassed my desires actually, as I’d aimed for a dozen essays and scored the addition of Janet and Chris Morris at the last moment after striking up conversation with Janet in the Facebook Heroic Fantasy group. I consider their insights on the ancient Western trademarks of heroism and companionship a real plus that rounded out the contents admirably. And the cover art—this cover art heralds the charge and kicks the gates open and yet it almost wasn’t! I won’t belabor the tale, but landing cover art for this book required heroic feats of perseverance and daring-do and I almost wasn’t up to it. Then out of my valley of woe came Dleoblack and his portfolio of excellent heroic pieces—a match made in Valhalla!

 Writing FH

So why did we need another book about writing? Writing characters even? And heroes? Doesn’t everyone know what makes a hero? No, I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s that simple either. Writing Fantasy Heroes isn’t so much about the writing (though sound advice is present); it’s not even all that very particular to fantasy (though the authors are well-known contributors to the genre and the examples they use come mostly from it). And though it is about the creation and writing of characters who are more often than not protagonists of their tales and usually the heroes, this book is really a conversation about us.

I targeted known names in the SFF circuit for a reason—they either wrote beloved characters or were beloved characters themselves. Then I asked them to write as if they were sitting with fans and chatting of their own tales, their own characters, their own heroes. I invited them to spend a few moments sharing their points of view on the creation of ‘the hero’ and to bolster their opinions with examples from their own works. I sought to balance advice by tapping tenured professionals and first-contract signees, novelists to short story writers, bestsellers to consistent sellers. Gaming writers to script writers, science fiction to historical fiction, shared worlds to solitary; they’re all here and it’s all touched upon, and each of them agree. Writing a compelling and appealing character—let’s face it, if readers aren’t persuaded or pleased, we won’t grow addicted to your hero—boils down to one thing: the author’s honesty.

Your ability to be believable. This is what Writing Fantasy Heroes offers: thirteen, fourteen with Steven Erikson’s foreword, ways to prove sincerity. To authenticate those characters you writers want readers to believe in, and you readers want to discover. This isn’t a book only for writers; this examination of what makes the heroic heroic is for all of us. Shoot, even Orson Scott Card in his essay says it took writing this short piece to finally decipher what it required of him to transition the character of Ender from novel to screenplay. It isn’t about the rules of writing or the traditions of history or the experiences of publication; it’s about what’s believable and what is not.

The authors cover a lot of ground in their essays, contributing numerous ways of building and supporting believability from within and without a character. Their words are amazingly consistent and barely repetitious. Why is this amazing? None read any of the other contributions and rare were my content edits. Fourteen responses to my invitation to sit and tell us of the making of heroes, and each, through whatever mechanisms were valued by its respective author, delivers an unswerving message. I could not have planned it better. In fact, I’ve already fielded inquires regarding a sequel.

And now to the competition: What do you think makes a true fantasy hero? Just give your answer in the comments below. To encourage a deluge of suggestions, Bill and I have devised a little deal: after a week or so of comments, he shall randomly select from among the reasonable and sane submissions one lucky individual who shall receive an e-copy of the book sans an exchange of funds. In other words, one of you will win a free electronic copy of Writing Fantasy Heroes!

Writing Fantasy Heroes is available in print for US$14.99 from most online sellers and on the Kindle for US$7.99. Contributors consist of Alex Bledsoe, Jennifer Brozek, Orson Scott Card, Glen Cook, Steven Erikson, Ian C. Esslemont, Cecelia Holland, Howard Andrew Jones, Paul Kearney, Ari Marmell, Janet and Chris Morris, Cat Rambo, Brandon Sanderson, and C.L. Werner.

Nice Review of Stealer of Flesh

There’s a very nice review of Stealer of Flesh here by someone who clearly understood what I was attempting. It’s attached to a short essay about the structure of fantasy novels which is worth your consideration as well.

Kormak Omnibus Released

So that’s the first Kormak Omnibus released. It comprises of pretty much everything that has been written so far; the first three novels, the short story Guardian of the Dawn, all my author’s notes for the series and a lovely parchment-style map by Chazz Kellner.

Parchment  the Old Kingdoms

I confess this is an experiment with a new format more than anything else. A lot of indie writers have reported having success with omnibus editions and the various Gotrek and Felix and Space Wolf collections Black Library have put out have always been my biggest sellers. The value proposition for the reader is obvious. I am aiming at a roughly three for the cost of two price point and throwing in the rest of the stuff as extras. If you’ve been putting off buying the series now might be a good time to give it a try.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Kormak books, they follow the fortunes of a monster hunter in a sword and sorcery world. The easiest way of describing Kormak would be imagine if Conan had his family wiped out by demons as a child and was taken in and trained by an order of demon-hunting warrior-monks. He’s a driven resourceful character armed with an enchanted dwarf-forged blade and a variety of magical amulets that protect him against evil sorcery. Each book details his quests and adventures in different fantasy realms as he fights against demons, necromancers, priests of evil gods and all manner of other monstrous beings.

These are tales of adventure in the classic sword and sorcery style I loved in my youth; fast moving, action-packed and told from the point of view of a sword-wielding hero in a world where humanity is embattled by the powers of darkness.

There should be three more books in the series this year. At the end of May/start of June (depending on how quickly I get my act together and revise the manuscript) City of Strife will be available. This is a change of pace for the series, an urban adventure, somewhat in the style of Fritz Leiber that sees Kormak caught up in a war between two great merchant houses while investigating a plague of monsters that is over-running the cathedral city of Vermstadt. It’s a spaghetti western in the style of A Fistful of Dollars with added were-rats and undead gangsters.

COS

By the end of the summer, I hope to release Taker of Skulls. This could best be described as Red Nails set in Moria. An urgent mission on behalf of his order takes Kormak to the haunted ruins of the great dwarven under-kingdom of Durea, a place where the barbaric remnants of the dwarven nation are trapped in a relentless struggle against the invading goblins and the Old One who leads them. Among other things, this features a fairly radical revisionist take on dwarves.

TOS

Towards the end of the year, we should see Ocean of Fear. This one is a sea-faring adventure complete with pirates, sunken kingdoms, a beautiful mer-woman warrior and the return of the Quan, the squid-like alien vampires last seen making life miserable for Rik in the Terrarch books.

OOF

That’s the plan anyway– let’s see how it goes!

The Kormak Saga Omnibus is available at Amazon.comAmazon UKBarnes & Noble and Smashwords. As ever Apple is dragging its feet a little but the book should be available on iTunes in the not too distant future. 

Elric Among the Nazis

Last year Gollancz announced it was going to be making all of Michael Moorcock’s genre work available both in print and in ebook form. It was exciting news for me. Moorcock was my gateway drug to genre fantasy more than 40 years ago. I own most of his stuff in paperback but the books are scattered hither and yon about the world and quite frankly you can’t beat ebooks for convenience, particularly when you’re a long term expat like me.

Recently the first books in the new Michael Moorcock Library rolled off the digital presses (or whatever) and I was delighted to note a completely new (to me) cycle of Elric tales called the Moonbeam Roads. Turns out they were not quite new– Daughter of Dreams looks like it’s a retitled version of the The Dreamthief’s Daughter but that was OK by me. I never got a chance to read it when it first came out because it was not released in the UK. As a bonus the new version comes with an introduction from both John Clute and Mr Moorcock himself. How could I resist?

Anyway, off to Amazon I go, and download the book and into the prose I leap. It’s in first person, which is unusual for an Elric book, and that first person is not Elric, nor is the setting The Young Kingdoms. The narrator is Ulric Von Bek, descendant of that Von Bek who told the tale of The Warhound and the World’s Pain and the setting is our own dear earth sometime between the World Wars. I am not too bothered because I am familiar with Moorcock’s Eternal Champion mythology and the way his multiversal mythos all interlinks and hey, I like the man’s prose.

The story starts with a shuffling slowness but is nonetheless engrossing. We meet Von Bek’s cousin, Gaynor, another name familiar to people who sail around the multiverse on a regular basis. Gaynor is one of Moorcock’s more entertaining recurring villains. In this particular volume he is working for the Nazis, and in search of both the Holy Grail and the Black Sword. Von Bek’s family as it turns out are guardians of the Grail and as it happens our hero is in possession of a black sword that bears more than a passing resemblance to Stormbringer. Soon Von Bek is having visions of white hares, other worlds and an albino who looks not unlike a certain proud prince of ruins. He’s abducted by Nazis, thrown into a concentration camp, and finally escapes Gaynor’s clutches with the aid of a couple of otherworldly travellers. We’re about a third of the way through the book now though and still no Elric. I am starting to feel a little mis-sold.

Still we’re also running through the Mittel Marches, the fantasy worlds that intersect with our own in the multiverse, being pursued by Nazis through a strange tunnel world occupied by one of those idealised philosopher races Mr Moorcock likes so much. I’m not unhappy with the book so much as confused by the non-arrival of the putative star. It’s all a bit like that Steven Seagal/Kurt Russell movie where Mr Seagal gets killed in the opening fifteen minutes and you spend the rest of the movie wondering whether he’s going to reappear because his name is above the credits. (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t. Incidentally it’s my favourite Steven Seagal movie.)

After some more adventures, Elric finally manifests himself by taking possession of Von Bek’s body and we have two facets of the Eternal Champion for the price of one. We also have Elric’s alien consciousness mediated by the human, first person voice of Von Bek, which is a first as far as I can recall.

The plot kicks into gear and I am sure long term Moorcock readers will be unsurprised to learn that Tanelorn is under threat, this time by Miggea, the mad duchess of Law. It’s all part of the same vast universal conflict that the struggle with the Nazis is in our world. There’s much toing and froing, chasing after Gaynor and being chased by him. There’s dragons, there’s colossal world-shaking feats of sorcery and there’s sword fights. There’s a confrontation between Elric and the leaders of the Nazi party. I don’t want to say too much else for fear of spoilers. Oh OK then– here’s one– the Nazis don’t win.

You’ve probably noticed a supercilious tone to this review. I’m not exactly sure where it’s coming from. I enjoyed Daughter of Dreams greatly. The set-pieces, like the dragon flight over Europe, are great. And Elric when he finally arrives is as full of star quality as ever. The writing is very, very good indeed.

And yet, I was left partially unsatisfied or at least uneasy. Part of it is that in places the first person narration slows things down without saying anything particularly interesting. It becomes an excuse for Von Bek to philosophise about Nazism and the banality of evil. Part of it I think is that setting Elric among the Nazis feels a bit blasphemous. Conflating concentration camps and cosmic sorcery leaves me uneasy.

It’s the sort of transgressive thing that many people love but the truth is Daughter of Dreams is a romp, and a romp through the ruins of Auschwitz seems to me a very odd thing. Moorcock does some very nice things with the imagery, including commenting on its influence on his own fiction, but in the end of the mixture of real world horrors with heavy metal, sword and sorcery imagery did not quite gel, for me at least.

As always though Moorcock is never less than interesting and the best bits of the book are very good indeed. It’s not my favourite Elric book but it is a good one.

A Map Of Kormak’s World

So finally the Kingdoms of the Sun have what all serious/series fantasy worlds seem to need– a map. This beautiful one was done by Chazz Kellner using Campaign Cartographer 3. (Thanks Chazz!) It’s an enormous improvement on the vague sketches and lists of names that I produced when I first started writing the stories. The distances are accurate and I now have a much clearer idea where everything is. It’s been a fascinating process watching bits of background from my published books, my notes and my half-completed short stories take shape. I’ll be adding this map to the latest version of the ebooks. Hopefully, there will be an update for those of you who have already bought them.

The Old Kingdoms Color 1

Of course, there are a few words of caution. Like all maps, this is a snapshot of the political boundaries of the continent at a particular period of time, roughly 20 years after the Orc Wars. They are not likely to remain stable for very long. The Templar Kingdoms are under pressure from the Seleneans to the East. Many feel it is unlikely the descendants of the Oathsworn will hold their lands for another generation.  The Elvenwood is shrinking as humans encroach from western Taurea and the Siderean strip on the Blood Coast. A blight is eating away at the heart of the forest.

Taurea is imploding politically as civil war tears it apart and it is quite likely that its neighbouring kingdoms will take the opportunity to rip chunks out of it. The Orc Hordes are rumoured to be preparing a new invasion which may re-draw the map completely.

As example of how quickly things can change, the Great Scar Valley was until about twenty years ago the Valley Kingdom of Rahania, a fertile land of lakes and farms. It was turned into a wasteland when the orcs came through, burning the cities to the ground and taking the human population for their herds. 

The Kingdoms of Shadow and Ash are expanding outwards and bringing  undeath and dark magic in their wake. This is not merely a migration of population, it is a malign growth of the Shadow-blighted Desert of Ash itself.

And of course, things are likely to change as new stories get written, new places get added