Friday, January 11, 2008

The Great Publishing Adventure

Avid readers of this blog may be aware that I wrote a novel last summer and have been trying to get the damn thing published ever since. Translation: I've been sending it off to literary agents, because traditional publishers in the UK don't dirty their hands by dealing directly with newbies any more. Furthermore, it seems the publishers don't take risks on newbies at all, and prefer to throw their money at ghost-written 'books by celebrities'. It's a tough market if you're not a celebrity who can't write. Especially for fiction.

So far I've only sent my sample stuff to literary agents who have heard of this thing called email: I've had a couple of genteel refusals, and a bunch of silence. A few weeks before Christmas I fired up the laser printer and sent printed-on-paper versions to three agents. These dudes are the first ones to get the actual final version of the book, but they all say it takes them one or two months to respond. We can probably add a fortnight to that for the Christmas holiday. Whatever, I'm not holding my breath, I could be dead before I get any response!

The important thing is to get the book out there, and then we'll see if anybody can be persuaded to buy it. So we are going to self-publish it. 'We' in this case means my very good buddy in Liverpool, and me.

Is this vanity publishing, Keefie? Absolutely not. With vanity publishing you pay a shitload of money to a company who will sort out your scribbles, print a few hundred or a few thousand copies and deliver them to you. They will then rot in your garage. Our venture means that we become the publishers: we have our own ISBNs, we have designed the cover and the book interior, and we own all of the rights to the material. We won't have a shedful of unshiftable stock, but if you order a copy you'll have it in 2-4 days. And we'll be doing some serious marketing to get the thing moving.

How is this possible? Through the magic of Print-On-Demand. What happens is that we lodge the digital artwork for the cover and the interior with our printer. In theory, if we have an order for one book, they will print one book on their digital printers - they produce around one million books per year, but their average print run is 1.8 books - and ship it to us. In reality, we will always maintain a small stock for immediate despatch. The book will be available from our website, and trade distributors. POD is somewhat more expensive than offset (about 4x), but we think the advantages outweigh the cost: it means we can get the product out there in the market for a minimal outlay and see if we can generate the demand for it.

I think the book will be available around the end of January, so get saving your dirhams: I expect all of you to buy at least one copy, and I'll know if you don't.

Watch this space!