In a long standing Xmas tradition for this blog, which I have just made up, we have another guest post today. This time from Jonathan Green. Jon is the genre-spanning author of more than 40 books ranging from Warhammer novels to works set in the universes of Dr Who and Star Wars. He is the creator of the Pax Brittania steampunk series for Abaddon books. He’s also well known for his work on the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks.
I’ve been meeting with Jon most enjoyably (for me at least) at Black Library functions for many years and we’ve talked about this and that. Recently he made the mistake of asking me about e-books and indie publishing and I responded with my usual torrent of incoherent enthusiasm on the subject. Apparently my demented ramblings impressed him more than I thought, as you will read below…
Adventures in Self-Publishing
My name’s Jonathan Green and I am a self-published author.
There, I’ve said it.
Be honest now, how many of you cast your eyes at the ceiling when you read the words ‘self-published author’?
In case you haven’t come across my work before, I should explain that I’ve been a published author for the last nineteen years, but it’s only in the last month that I’ve self-published anything.
‘Why wait so long?’ you might ask.
Well, for exactly the same reason that some of you cast your eyes to the ceiling when you read the words ‘self-published author’.
We’ve all heard about the self-publishing success stories (and I won’t give them any more credence by mentioning them here) but we’ve also all heard how bad self-published books can be.
The age of e-publishing has arrived, making it easier (and most importantly cheaper) for writers to self-publish than ever before, and to get their books in front of a massive potential audience like never before.
Of course, the down side of this is that no impartial pair of eyes needs to check the book before it goes ‘to print’, as it were. In other words, the vast majority of self-published books never receive an editor’s input.
As a professional writer, I know the importance and the value of a good editor. I’ll be completely honest with you here; of the various novels I’ve written, the ones that have received the best, and most consistently good, reviews, are the ones that have been the most rigorously edited.
I won’t deny that there are some great benefits available to those who self-publish, especially in digital form. Your book will stay ‘in print’ as long as you want it to. You can sell only a couple of copies of month and know that it won’t run the risk of being pulped. You can publish as many books as you want under your name in one go, where a traditional print publisher wouldn’t want to flood the market in that way… And potentially, the returns are better from self-publishing. Cut out the middle man and there’s more money available for the author.
Now I’m not arguing for the abolition of traditional publishers – perish the thought! – but in these tough economic times any extra bit of income can only be a good thing, if you’re trying to make your living as a writer.
So why did I wait so long before self-publishing?
Ignoring the stigma that surrounds that simple compound verb, the rights of much of what I write belong to others, especially when it comes to tie-in fiction. I needed to have something to sell that I owned the rights to, and that either meant putting several months aside to write a brand new novel, with the risk of little or no return at all, or writing a number of short stories over a year or so, that I could later collect together in one volume. And that was the route I chose when I finally took the plunge, inspired by the likes of William King and Michael Jecks.
Dark Heart: A Collection of Short Horror Fiction came out at the beginning of December and contains six short stories that have all been published somewhere else first. This means a critical eye other than my own has been cast over them already, so I know that what I’m putting out there in the public domain is the best it can be.
Now Dark Heart is also something of an experiment, a means of me testing the waters and seeing how faithful a following I have as a writer. I’ve also put this to the test by running a Kickstarter project to raise funds to write the definitive history of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.
2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of the first Fighting Fantasy gamebook, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. They didn’t realise it at the time, but Steve and Ian had kick-started a role-playing games phenomenon.
YOU ARE THE HERO will tell the story of that phenomenon, from the early days of Games Workshop right up to the present day, and beyond. I need to raise £15,000 to make YOU ARE THE HERO a reality and I’m just about two thirds of the way there with two weeks still to go on the Kickstarter.
Will it succeed? Only time (and the support of faithful gamebook fans) will tell. And will Dark Heart lead to a new venture in e-publishing? Again, we’ll just have to wait and see. But it’s going to be fund finding out.
And whatever else happens, it’s definitely been an adventure.
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You can find out more about what Jon’s working on at the moment at www.JonathanGreenAuthor.com and you can pledge your support to YOU ARE THE HERO – A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1412864360/you-are-the-hero