Friday, 11 December 2009

'Choosing your publisher'

‘Choosing your publisher’

By Harry Riley of Nottingham

Having written ‘Sins of the Father’ my first mystery ghost novel I was faced with a ‘common’ writer’s dilemma, how to get the manuscript into print. You are a celebrity?

Have a friend or relative in publishing? No problem! Mainstream publishers are probably falling over themselves in the rush to sign you up, and with a big advance into the bargain.

I used to run a commercial printing company but only took up creative writing on retirement as a stimulating challenge and to try and ward off the evil curse of Dementia that seems to be lurking around every corner for people of my age. So seeing my name on a book was not my overriding ambition. What was important was to research mainstream publishers to seek out the right one for me and to find out how other writers had won through. This was a chastening experience. Many established writers had spent months or even years submitting manuscripts to publishers and literary agents only to have them returned, rejected or even unopened. More than this I now understood that many publishers and agents do not take work from ‘first timers’ or unpublished writers. As a pensioner I couldn’t wait for several years as my allotted time on this earth was fast running out. I already had another two anthologies and a follow up novel waiting in the wings. So I consulted a hi-tech guru (my son) whose advice was simple: In his opinion the future of publishing lies with the Internet and the global community. He advised me to seek out a publisher on the Web. Once I chose this path another problem loomed large; could I afford to try the well publicised, avenue of self-publishing? The short answer was no, and even if I had taken that course, could I have justified the high cost, time and effort involved? There are plenty of Internet Companies who will undertake this task and who offer a range of services that can range from basic to a more comprehensive package depending on work involved and the amount that you are prepared to pay. This option is often called ‘Vanity Printing’ and the name put me off. However over recent years I have seen many fine and old established printing and packaging companies go to the wall and this must surely have been the same with publishers and bookstores so I am realistic enough to know that to succeed, a publisher has a duty to make money in order to stay in business and to promote the cause of his writers. So where did I go from there? What does self-publishing entail? It would seem an ISBN number is essential for a book to be officially listed and searchable. To be sold and distributed in the UK a ‘Bar-Code’ is required and the book has to be catalogued with the British Library. This is just for starters! Then there is the huge task of marketing and promotion. Although I have been a sales manager with a national company I have always been a square peg in a round hole when it comes to ‘Self-Promotion.’ I am not an extrovert and find the whole subject uncomfortable. My natural inclination is to slink around unseen in the shadows, lifting my head above the parapet only to draw breath and before scuttling off again to my quiet peaceful corner. I have heard of ‘E’ books and this might become a new and exciting outlet for writers. I am watching this phenomenon very closely. Anyway My story was written and still I vacillated until I came across an item on the Internet about a writer who had been interviewed by the BBC. This writer had chosen a publisher called Pneuma Springs of Dartford Kent.

Maybe I could try them? I found their website: and after some cross-checking-research, read that they seem to offer a straight-forward, no-nonsense contract for stories they consider satisfactory. For a small fee they will do all the work of getting the book listed, typeset, printed, published and registered with the major online outlets, wholesalers etc. They have their own on-line bookstore and assist with promotion, the author keeps copyright and receives a sales based commission.

Well ‘for my sins’ I chose this way for my first novel and honestly believe that having invested a ‘token-outlay’ I have received excellent value for money, with a product (paperback) of good commercial quality, perfectly fit for today’s market and released on time. Yes, I had to put a little money where my mouth is, as a commitment and a belief in my novel and was pleased to do so (I have learned there are no free lunches in this life!)

Doing my best to assist book sales with a few ideas of my own is no great hardship and I have written this guide for other writers in the hope that it may bring a little light and hope to their efforts.

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