This week I went to a talk at the University of Portsmouth all about self-publishing. Tom Sykes, travel writer and lecturer at the University, led the session which consisted of a panel of writers and entrepreneurs, all of whom have published work themselves in a variety of ways. Independent publishing has risen by sixty percent over the last few years (according to Publishers’ Weekly) and this seismic shift is largely due to the increasing professionalism of the writers.
Mike Manson of Past and Present Press, a Bristol-based publisher, decided to publish his work himself in the 1990s. He gave advice based on his own experiences including: 1) Get the book edited and proofread properly. 2) Choose a decent font that is readable (Garamond has been around for two hundred years). 3) Consider paper, layout and size (will the book fit on the shelves of most shops? White or cream paper? What images, if any?) 4) Sort out barcodes and ISBNS (depending on how you publish).
Mike also discussed how to sell the book. There are very few bookshops around now apart from chains and a few independent ones. Depending on what you are writing you can look at other places such as gift shops. There is also the internet and this is also useful with selling the book and finding an audience for the book.
Next up was Tessa Ditner, a local writer and editor of the spellbinding Portsmouth Fairy Tales (available at all good bookshops). Her experiences with self-publishing meant she was in complete control of all areas of how her books were produced, while being published the traditional way would have meant losing much of that. Tessa was able to have a say in the design of the cover, the size of the book and how and where it was sold. Self-publishing is also a much faster process than traditional publishing, particularly if you know artists, photographers and booksellers who can help you.
Tessa also talked about the collaboration element of publishing a book yourself. The Portsmouth Fairy Tales (that is still available at all good bookshops, and no, I am not being paid to say this) involved many different writers, graphic designers, a photographer and people to make the trailer. There were also events at two festivals, which gave the book free exposure, and there was the chance to write articles for magazines and work with venues to host events (theatres, libraries, etc).
The final speaker was Alex Sebley, who founded the publishing company 137 Albion Road using a crowdfunding site called Kickstarter. He discussed how he published the work of a local writer, Gareth Rees, by setting up this company. He also mention the Independent Publishers Network and the need for editors.
All in all this was a very interesting event and it was also good to see there are many writers who are hoping to get their work out despite rejections and that their is a growing entrepreneurial spirit among artists in Portsmouth.
Over the last couple of months I have been to two literary festivals: Havant and the Portsmouth Bookfest. Both of these were very interesting and laid on all kinds of different events.
At Havant I was lucky enough to have the chance to sell some books (I managed to pay for my train fare and have some left over so thanks to all those that came and bought some). I also went to two talks in one evening. The first was with crime writer Fergus McNeill, who has written for the games industry too and he was also on the panel for the Gaming and Story session along with a leading figure in the game industry, Sam Barlow, and the actor Doug Cockle. Both sessions were very interesting and there will be a future post on computer games and storytelling.
The following evening I was back in Havant to see one of the keynote speakers, Will Self. His talk was most entertaining and I got a book signed. That’s the thing with these events: I’m running out of room in my signed-books box…
The Portsmouth Bookfest kicked off with a talk from historical fiction author Simon Scarrow. Simon is the author of the Macro and Cato series of Roman novels and has also written a series set during the French Revolution. There is now a game featuring the protagonists of his Eagle series which I should download at some point.
The following week was the launch event with the launch of the paperback of Portsmouth Fairy Tales. Give this a go as there are some brilliant stories in there (and, no, they have not paid me to write this!)
The Bookfest also has non-fiction events and there was a very interesting talk on Portsmouth during the Great War by local historian Sarah Quail, about the men that joined as soldiers, those left behind, the role of women and the navy at the time.
On Halloween I was lucky enough to be invited to perform a story from my anthology at the Day of the Dead event. This was a splendid soiree of spooky scribbling assembled by Mister William Sutton. Good fun was had all round.
Last Friday was another historical fiction event about sex, love and violence in the Middle Ages with James Burge and Michael Jecks. This discussion was very entertaining and I look forward to reading their books that I bought.
The final event I went to was CSI Portsmouth in the Royal Naval Museum. I enjoyed this series of discussions very much but not the cold that was doing a merry dance on my chest…
So it’s been another busy season of literary events down on this part of the South Coast so do keep your eyes out for next year!
Right, I’ll warn you now. This is not a long list. Reason being I’ve been knuckling down to finish the first draft of Novel Three and it’s very, very nearly done. I’m a chunk of the way through the last chapter and then there will be a little Christmas treat in the form of Because it was Christmas, my novella of the First World War Christmas Truce.
Anyway, I did manage to get a few books in and here they are:
1) The Sins of the Father by C. B. Hanley. This is a Medieval murder mystery set in 1217, a time when the King of France very nearly became King of England during a little-known civil war in the wake of Magna Carta.
2) Bretheren by Robyn Young. This is Robyn Young’s debut set during the Crusades with action taking place in England, France and various parts of the Middle East. Give it a go.
3) Dracula by Bram Stoker. Well, the first half anyway, after all it is Halloween!