Hello lovely followers, it’s time for another guest post! This month please let me introduce you to British indie horror and sci-fi writer Anthony Morgan Clark. Anthony has just recently released a spine chilling short story collection The Soul Bazaar, (cover designed, incidentally by the wonderful Justine at Jakeart1 who has also designed some of mine!) and he is also the author of the epic The Complete Tor. Here he talks about why he chose the indie path and why it’s what works best for him at the moment…
“So when are you getting a book deal, then?”
Many people to whom I’ve spoken about my writing assume that writers fall into two categories: the ‘serious’ writer who spends months or years slaving over the perfect manuscript to use as a tool to pursue a publishing contract; or the hobbyist who writes occasionally, is more interested in self-expression than success, who publishes their work on their website or Facebook page and throws out a Kindle book every so often because, well, what else do you do with all that writing – and who knows, it might even make a few quid. The digital equivalent of vanity press authors.
Of course, the advent of the e-reader and print-on-demand services has thrown this reality (if not the perception) into disarray. Self-publishers now exist in a mixed-up spectrum rather a single category, ranging from the aforementioned hobbyists to the top-level pros who essentially constitute small presses themselves through their outsourcing of editors, proofers, cover designers, formatters and advertisers.
Me, I sit somewhere in the middle of that. I’ve learned to proof and edit my own work, though am happy to take feedback from beta readers. I possess none of the artistic skill needed to create the visuals on my book covers, but do assemble them myself using paint.net (a free Photoshop equivalent) or Canva. I have a very limited marketing budget at present, but use my writing and copywriting knowledge to draw attention to my books. I am far from being a hobbyist. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but my goal is for my writing to be my main source of income. But does that mean I would welcome a publishing contract? After all, I have four titles already published. All of my published work has received strong reviews. I’ve two further horror novels outlined and am working on a third. As a horror author, I have an existing market a well-funded and well-connected marketing department could tap into.
So, given that my existing releases have not garnered the sales I’d like, it would make sense chase a contract with my upcoming manuscript, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Aside from the hurdles involved, from finding an agent to the insistence of some agents and publishers that a script is ‘professionally’ edited (whatever the hell that means), to the unbearable turnaround times, there’s also the amount of control I’d need to give up.
More often than not I’m a horror author. Any publisher would market me as such. Given the content of The Tor and The Soul Bazaar, that would be sensible. Even more so, if they asked to see my unpublished outlines for Swarm or my current untitled WIP, a supernatural horror. The problem is, I’m not just a horror author. Reformed may have horror elements, but it is mostly a sci-fi. The same is true of The Graveyard, another plotted WIP (that will be having its title changed!). I also have enough short stories for another collection, covering a range of styles from sci-fi to comedy to social commentary to literary/speculative fiction. The entire publication will be a tangential sequel-of-sorts to the final short story in The Soul Bazaar.
How many publishers would be comfortable marketing a collection of shorts, none of which crossover but are still collectively a sequel to a short story which is itself an offshoot of a trilogy of novellas? Or would be happy to spend time and money promoting non-genre (or different genre) works by someone they’ve pegged as a horror author? Even those that would are likely to insist on a pen name. Which I won’t do. Because all my works are interlinked. For example, several characters from The Tor appear in other short stories in The Soul Bazaar, including Symeon. Symeon is an archivist and a collector of stories, and it is this idea which binds together all the stories in my as-yet-unpublished collection. The Krahe family from The Tor appear in Tremere, a novel existing only in a notebook on my shelf. The Rutenger Corporation own the technology driving the majority of Reformed, but also run the vivisection clinic from Swarm, the deep-space tech of Graveyard, and the AI tech in some of the stories from that future collection. In addition, there’s ‘5304’, a code that crops up more than once in Reformed, The Soul Bazaar, The Tor, Swarm, and a number of other short stories. I can’t even begin to tell you what that’s about… Then there’s the length of the product.
I enjoy working quickly, and after the four hundred pages or so of The Tor I’m looking forward to working through all those ideas and outlines I constructed whilst editing The Tor. A few of them (Swarm, Graveyard) I expect will run to the length of shorter novels such as Herbert’s The Dark, or King’s Salem’s Lot. Other ideas, such as my story about a female serial killer, or the sequel to Reformed, I’d expect to become novellas. How many publishing houses market books of that length anymore?
As an author, I want to push and test my writing abilities. I want to experiment with different genres, styles, and techniques. If I fall on my face doing so, then so be it. I want to choose what I write, how much I write, when I release it. I want to choose how long I spend promoting my release before moving on to the next project. I want to choose who does the art for my covers. I don’t want to be a manufacturer, penned in to my own little niche, making product after product for the marketing department. So I choose to self-publish. Ultimately publishers are gatekeepers. And who needs gatekeepers now there are no gates? I may have started out as an indie by default, but I think I’ll choose to remain one for a long while yet.
Over to you! Writers, have you chosen the indie or the traditional path, and what has led you to this decision? Perhaps you have tried both? What do you think are the pro’s and cons of each publishing path?
Don’t forget I am always looking out for new guest posts on my blog! If you have something to say that is related to writing or your writing journey, then please get in touch. Alternatively, if you have something to say which relates to my theme of glorious outsiders, then let me know! I am happy to consider blog posts, poems, short stories, novel extracts and more!