Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Genres: The world of Steampunk revealed

Today for my teabreak I decided to investigate the world of steampunk with a view to finding an audience for my book about real life steam punk Dionysius Lardner. In case you've not heard of it, steampunk is a design genre, much in the same way as heavy metal, goth or emo.

The world of steampunk seems to interact seamlessly with the world of Second Life, where several steampunk memes such as New Babbage, the Primgraph and a predeliction for drinking Absnthe seem to find their origin or at least reside.

Steampunk is a genre of fiction writing too: the site Steamed features many authors and Goodreads  itself lists 576 best steampunk books including HG Wells's The Time Machine and Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, which, come to think of it, does make sense, somehow, as they both feature both Victorians and futuristic fictional or non-fictional feats of engineering, and daring adventuring, which are major themes. Apart from those two I haven't read any of them. 574 to go then. And I'm not that hot on fiction anyway. That's a bit daunting- does that mean I can't be a steampunk afficianado after all? I do like Studio Ghibli cartoons though, and a lot of them feature weird things that fly and people wearing goggles, and brave women dressed in Edwardian Garb. And I have long been an admirer of Sydney Padua's wonderful Babbage and Lovelace cartoons.

Anyway, it occurred to me that it might be good to have a book launch at a steampunk event, and I had to laugh with recognition when I Googled "steampunk convention" and looked at the artwork and typography for the fabulous posters for the World Steampunk Fair. Attending this event will now, I see, be a Mecca to aim for in my future plans and I suspect my daughter will be just as keen (although she'll pretend she doesn't know me there of course). And its second sentence of the advertisement reads "welcome one and all, welcome steampunks, welcome people who aren't steampunk at all" so that might include me somewhere in that spectrum I hope.

Just as well Babbage can't hear my brass band though.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

When to buy in professional help

As mentioned in my past post, I have decided to buy professional publishing services from Merrimack Media together with Crowdpublishr. In some ways this goes against all my training and the advice that I have often heard: you should never be asked to hand over any money to a publisher. Self publishing is traditionally frowned upon in the publishing industry and is given the term 'vanity publishing'. Moreover the sums involved are not to be sniffed at: I have just agreed to pay what I would normally only spend on a car once in three years, probably the biggest expense I will ever make, short of buying a house or sending my children to University (or selling them as slaves).

Self- publishing is very 'big' these days now that everyone has Windows and Open Office at their fingertips, and any attempt to control quality in the industry is pretty futile. It has been said that there are more people writing books than there are reading them, hence the title of this blog: "of the making of books there is no end" - Ecclesiastes 12v12. It seems unwise to rush to join this herd of shabby lemmings as they foolhardily propel themselves headlong towards the book market void.

Despite all this, I am remarkably happy about the transaction and have seldom felt more sure about anything. The Times, they are a Changing, as Dylan would remind us. Indeed, I have quite deliberately chosen to follow the self-publishing route rather than have to negotiate some dubious deal with a mercurial publisher whom I might never have heard from again and who would own rights over my pride and joy that has taken me ten years to craft. A publisher and an agent have rights to a cut of all future earnings, whereas if you pay a set amount in advance for each service at least you know where you stand and the expense is paid and although crowdpublishr do take a cut of the profits it is less than that taken by publishers. I was advised on this by some friends who published a best-selling children's book and only made them £20,000 which they considered a derisory sum (!) They published the next book themselves. I must remember to ask them how it did.

Coming from the UK I really know absolutely nothing about the American book market, although I fondly imagine that I know quite a lot about the English and Irish markets. Moreover, publishing a book alone is quite an isolating business and one needs wise mentors and battle scarred generals to proffer advice and designing expertise. What is more, if you are going to publish a book in America, legally you have to have an address in America to whom the tax bill can be sent.

Once you have decided you need  some advice - how to market a book in the States, what to send to whom, and when, how to present yourself, whether or not to set up a pre-order system, and unknown unknowns- how do you identify a trustworthy company who have the necessary qualities you seek, but charge a price that you can afford?

I was very fortunate here in that I managed to stumble across Merrimack Media and Crowdpublishr whilst trying to identify an artist for my cover, and through this connection I trusted them. Merrimack have a good track record with scores of books in their list which are listed on Amazon and on the  Library of Congress website. I have so far found them to be knowledgeable, attentive, fast and just nice people do do business with. I am very happy about my decision and look forward to discovering what the future months hold for my book and myself.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Making a publishing plan

I have lately begun some negotiations with Merrimack Media, a company based in the Merrimack Valley, which stretches between Massachausets and New Hampshire. This is to help me understand and break into the American market from the UK where I am based.

Merrimack have an impressive back catalogue, judging from a search of the Library of Congress catalogue and an Amazon search.

Looking at their website I see that they are organising what looks like an excellent conference in Conneticut, which explains all the things I need to know about self-publishing, namely:
  • Get a well-designed cover to attract your audience
  • Distribute your book using online, bookstore and other channels.
  • Generate publicity using social media, book readings, PR, book reviews and more
  • Build an online presence with a WordPress blog and and website
  • Harness the power of social media
  • Develop a media kit and sell sheet
  • Develop your own WordPress website
  • Make a video trailer
  • Crowd-fund your book
  • Make a plan for success
Merrimack charge for their services and take a cut of the royalties of the book too, which seems a bit like having your cake and eating it. Nevertheless, I believe they will give good personal attention to my project, and get the job done well, which is the main thing that I want.