Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How the hell did I end up here?

My name is Marc Nash. If you google the name, you get a Lower Division footballer who plays for Hartlepool United. As an aspirant writer, my stock is clearly lower than a minor footballer. If we both strike the big time, just as long as he doesn't have a ghostwritten biography, we should be okay me and him slugging it out in the search engine race.

I am about to self-/ independently/ print on demand, publish a book. Nowhere on this blog will I plug the book. This is a blog about my experience of the process of self/independent/POD publishing, offered freely to anyone else considering going down the same route. If you like what you read here as an example of my style so much so you want to buy the book, you can google in order to track down the selling outlets. Mind you it's not published yet. Hopefully this blog will build into outlining each stage of the pre and post publishing processes.

Anyhoo, how did I end up being responsible for publishing my own work? I had been writing stage plays for 15 years with limited success. My greatest achievement was self-financed and self-produced. I put my money where my mouth was. Not that it led to any progression along the professional path. For various reasons I turned from plays to prose. For 10 years I submitted unsolicited MS, mainly to agents and a sprinkling of presses. Over those 10 years, fewer and fewer presses would consider submissions that weren't through agents. As I had with my rejection slips from my playwriting days, I mounted the form letters on my wall by my desk to drive me on to prove them wrong. Some are now very discoloured with age, but that's by the by.

I had given up on the principle of cold calling through the anonymity of the mail and stock rejection letter in return. Online submissions seemed an easy and cheaper way to go, but despite receiving 4 acknowledgments of receipts from the 5 I sent to, a year on to this day I have never received any verdict. Almost for something to keep up the illusion I was still a writer, participating within my chosen profession in some meaningful way, I joined the Authonomy online writing community. Mainly lured by the pot of fools gold that was the offer of a professional critique from Random House for the monthly chart toppers. I left within 3 months, (if people are interested I can devote a post to the pros and cons of online peer review groups), but I knew I couldn't just crawl back under my rock, so I joined You Write

You Write is a peer review site, but one which provided the opportunity to be self-published for those who wanted it, through a tie in with Legends Press. Periodically, You Write On would invite people to apply for the service, and for £49.99 you could have your book published and available as a print on demand service, having been listed on the main online retail sites such as Amazon & Barnes & Noble. For £50, surely it wouldn't be beyond the wit of most to get a few friends to buy it in order for you to get your money back. Unfortunately, what remained beyond the wit of man, or me at least, was making head or tail of You Write On's blurb about the service. Legends Press' own website wasn't any more enlightening, so I dropped them an e-mail with a couple of queries I had.

Knock me down if I didn't receive a phone call from Legends Press head honcho Tom Chalmers to clear up my questions. In chatting, I realised that I had missed the You Write On deadline and would have to wait several months for the next round. It was then and there on the phone that I resolved to try and break out of the publishing malaise by going down the route of self-publishing. It was no different from mounting my own play. Though it offered greater longevity. The packages Tom was chatting to me about were a bit more than the basic £50 deal and completely through Legends Press rather than involving You Write On. I'll go through the package I plumped for in more detail below. At this point I decided I better do some research on what self-publishing involved, since I'd virtually made a spur of the moment decision.

I got the contract through from Legends and researched some other companies providing a similar service by getting hold of their contracts. Legends seemed competitive on price and offered 10 free copies to the author instead of the usual 5 elsewhere. That's 5 more that can be sent out to Press or Festival committees. There were claims about the superior quality of the actual printing, but in truth that was difficult to verify one way or the other.

The main variation seems to revolve around the cover. The YWO £50 package gives you no option of a bespoke cover; you have to choose from preset templates. The package I plumped for allowed me to come up with a brief for a professionally designed cover. In time I found out that this was a two bites of the cherry process. I sent off my brief, got a first version back, but only had one more stab at it since the package only allowed for one revision. I was a bit alarmed during this process, since although the designers had got all the diverse elements of my brief down pretty well, they had combined them all into one cover, despite the brief clearly stating that one set were for the front cover, the other for the back. I'll leave you hanging in suspense (or not) as to the outcome of this, since I have jumped ahead of the sequence of events in the process.

I signed the contract, put it in the mail and paid the fee online. Then I performed a final line edit on the text I was going to submit, over the course of a Bank Holiday weekend. Ready to go. Or so I thought...