Guest Post: Anthony Morgan Clark

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.

Thanks Anthony! You can find out more about Anthony and his books by following him on Twitter  and Facebook

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!

 

Indie Survival Kit

Indie Survival Kit

When I first started out as an independently published author in 2013, I had no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea what I was doing, and it took me a long time to figure out what I needed to know. There is a lot of help and support out there for indies, if you know where to look, but it’s very difficult to find the time to research, when you are already spending a lot of time writing. With this in mind, here is an Indie Survival Kit. A list of things you will need! Imagine you are about to pack a bag and start a long, unknown journey. These are the things you might need to pack.

The Right Attitude.

You need grit, determination and self-belief. You need to believe your story is worth telling, and that you have the skills to tell it. You will need to grow a thick skin, and become good at self-promotion. You might wish you could just sit at home writing and not have to bother with the rest of it, but you can’t. Not if you want to succeed. So roll up your sleeves, open up your mind and get working.

Community.

Surround yourself with like-minded people. Become part of the author community. Read other authors and reach out to them, connect, support and join forces, as together you are stronger. It’s not all about you, and if you think it is, you won’t get very far. It’s amazing how supportive and helpful other author’s can be, so make sure you are involved. Invite authors to post on your social media pages, or on your blog or website, and offer to do the same for you. Interviews are always very popular and interesting to both writers and readers!

Social Media Checklist

Have you signed up to at least three social media sites? One of these should be your blog/website. Do you blog regularly? At least twice a month, although ideally more? Are you visible on social media? Do people know who you are, or have they forgotten about you because you haven’t posted anything interesting lately? Has Facebook assumed your fans are bored, and has unliked the page on their behalf? Keep things fresh and fun, start debates, run contests, let people know about your struggles and successes, link up your sites to save time, share articles of interest and so on! Do this daily, as much as you can and don’t neglect it.

Reviews

Seek them out. Go after them. Don’t just rely on friends and family, or on the assumption that readers will remember to review. They rarely do. Go to review sites, and be prepared to pay for some and to be put on waiting lists for the ones that are free. The same applies for bloggers. Research them, make lists and do this weekly to build up those reviews. Remember that reviews help your book move forward; they encourage readers to buy and they convince Amazon to take your book more seriously.

Courses

Keep your skills up to date. Join writing groups online and in real life. Take courses. Udemy and FutureLearn are great sites that often have deals and freebies, so grab the offers when you can. Keep your skills sharpened and work to constantly improve your craft.

Audience

Be patient, but work on growing your fanbase at all times. Use your blog, Wattpad, Street Teams and social media sites to interact and connect with readers. Ask their opinions, share sneak peeks, freebies and competitions, share your ups and downs, your decision making processes and so on. Stay positive and upbeat. They will feel like they are on the journey with you. Offer free samples and short stories at the back of your books, or on your blog.

Resources

Look for free or cheap to help keep costs down. Canva.com is a great site for graphics and posters. You can create social media graphics, memes, posters, leaflets and even ebook covers on there. iAuthor is free, and is a great way to find the readers who are looking for your type of book. You simply add your books to the extremely diverse ‘themes’, or even make up your own. Wattpad is free, and is a great way to find readers and get feedback. Fiverr is a site where you can pay people as little as $5 for file conversions, artwork and more.

Follow the right people

There are so many great sites and pages out there for writers, it’s hard to know where to start. But do start. Follow organisations that will provide you with the information you need, so that you do’t have to go looking for it. The Alliance of Independent Authors, Author Unlimited, Writer’s Digest, The Writer’s Circle and Positive Writer are just some of the many pages/groups I follow to pick up tips and up to date information on the writing world.

Income streams

Find other ways to make money out of writing. Ads on your blog, sending articles to sites who pay, short story submissions and competitions are all great options. You can also get paid work as a book reviewer. There are so many sites  popping up now to provide reviews for indies and these sites also need reviewers! Offer editing and/or formatting to other indies, or even front cover design, graphics and art work if you are up to it. Many writers also make additional money by going into schools to run workshops, or by offering workshops to other writers. You can also do this online and sell the content. Copy writing, ghost writing, ad writing, all are other ways to pick up income through writing.

Promotion

As an indie, you will more than likely have a love/hate relationship with the promotion of your books. You know you need to do it, but you don’t know how. You know you must figure it out in order for readers to know you exist, but all you really want to do is write. I think the sooner you get to grips with promotion and accept it as part of the deal, the better. It can even become fun. Your blog for instance, should be fun. After all, it should be your little stage, your platform to talk about anything you want to talk about. Again, social media should be fun, and it can be if you engage with it and make time for it. Set aside one day a week when you concentrate on promoting your books. I advise setting up a website/blog early on and making sure it is as professional as possible, after all it may be the main landing point for readers interested in your books. Everything else can come from here; your links to social media, links to your books and your style of writing itself. Set up a subscribe by email button, and another button that collects emails for a fan newsletter. Do this as soon as possible so that you can start building an email list of people who are genuinely interested in your writing. You can then treat them to freebies, sneak peeks and special events and you are on the way to building an audience.

These suggestions are all simple and relatively cheap, and they are all things I wish I had known before I started.

I’ve Slowed Down A Bit…(and that’s a good thing)

For the past few weeks, I’ve felt a bit like I am on holiday. This weird, and decidedly naughty feeling has crept over me every day since I handed The Tree Of Rebels back over to my top beta reader. For those that have been following the whole saga, it was meant to be the final, final, draft, but I then decided to hand it over again, and attack it one more time once I get it back. This was meant to be a moment of relief; I’d hand over one project, (the one that’s been driving me crazy) and jump straight into the next one. The next one is the second draft of my novel Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature, a book that was consistently calling to me and generally interrupting the flow of things while I worked on The Tree Of Rebels.

You’d think I was gagging to finally, really get my teeth into that one, and you would be right. I was, and I still am. But something made me stop. It’s been two and a half weeks now since I parted company with The Tree Of Rebels, and I have still not dived into the next book, despite how much I want to.

You see, normally I would have. I would have started that second draft the very next day. I would have divided up my time and my attention, between that, and the million other things I constantly need to do, just like normal. I would have split my time in half each evening; half the time for Elliot Pie, half the time for ‘other things’, such as my short story collection, proposed articles for Author’s Publish, my preparation for the kids writing workshops I run, reviews for Underground Book Reviews, and not to mention, the big fat ugly elephant which sits and reeks constantly in my room. Promo stuff.

Promo stuff; like sorting out my websites, like finishing the process of getting all my books re-available in ebook and paperback after my indie publisher went bust in February, like researching and submitting to review sites, like building an email list, like figuring out how to best ‘sponsor’ a post on my Facebook author page, and so on and so on…

Basically, I have a constant back-list of ugly things to do, and I am constantly putting them off. Why? Because the characters in my head are so totally real, vibrant and alive, that I actually feel physically sick and guilty if I ignore them. Add to that, the very real and crawling in the pit of my belly panic that I have that I will die before I ever get time to write all of the books I want to write… I mean, really, there is just not enough life…

Anyway, I don’t know what, but something happened. Maybe common sense invaded my fucked up writer’s mind and beat the characters over the head with a club to make them shut up. Maybe I just got really tired of juggling lots of balls, and lets face it, seeing very, very little financial reward for any of it. It’s time to get real. It’s time to grow up…well, just a little bit. I love writing. I love it with every fibre and essence of my being. It is completely and utterly who I am, who I have always been, and all I ever want to be. But I can’t just sit and write my books. I have to figure out a way to sell them. I have to give the right amount of attention to other income streams.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Grown-up stuff. I’ve finished the short story collection and at some point this week I fully intend to upload it to KDP. I’ve set up my email list, and the very lovely subscribers to it will be getting a new and exclusive short story very soon, and many other goodies and sneak peeks in future newsletters. (If you are interested you can sign up here ) I’ve been adding bits to this site  and to my Chasing Driftwood site. I’ve submitted some articles, drafted a review and proposed an author interview. I’m all prepped and ready for my next two kids workshops and my adult writing group.

I’ve been turning the laptop off at nine or ten pm each night. I’ve been curling up on the sofa to watch old X-Files with my kids while they are on Easter holiday. I’ve felt calm and unpanicked, and like I am on holiday! And all because I have pushed the novel writing aside…the thing I love the most…

And yes, all of this time, Elliot Pie has been there. Dear, sweet little Elliot. Who has waited so long to get my full attention, who is there whenever I set foot on my beloved wild common with the dogs, chatting away, thinking his thoughts, writing his lists, trying to think up ways to convince his mum that the world is not such a bad place… He has whispered, and he has giggled, and he has sighed sadly and wandered off again to leave me to it. I am mental, because I really do love him. He is real. Like they all are.

But slowing down has been good for me. Elliot will still be there when I am ready. I am trying to convince myself that I am ignoring him in order to build a better future for him! (See…? Totally fucked up writer’s mind.)

 

 

Interview with indie author Joel Dennstedt

Almost a year ago I interviewed two great author’s about their experiences of writing and publishing, Kate Rigby and Alec John Belle. You can find the interviews here. I’ve been meaning to interview more author’s since then, and just have not had the chance to get around to it. Anyway, that’s all about to change! Joel Dennstedt is a very diverse indie author, and I have enjoyed all three of his novels. Here he chats to me about his indie journey so far, his books, his on-going travels, and his plans for the future.

 

1) You and your brother are currently travelling through South America. Could you tell us a bit about what made you decide to do this? And was there a conscious decision to write and blog about it as you went?

Everything was Steve’s idea. As of 2010, I was working for the same evil corporation as he, a criminal organization known as the largest bank in the United States. He couldn’t take it anymore and decided to retire. His wife could not take that, so they divorced. He said he was off to see the world. I had to ask him twice – he did not believe me the first time – if I could tag along. So, in April of 2012 we packed everything we owned into our backpacks and duffels and went off to see the world …. slowly. Four years later, we have made it to Peru. He began his blog a year before we left, and once we hit our first stop in Merida, Yucatan, MX he said: you should publish your novel Orange Cappuccino. So I did. Because he has really great ideas.

2) Your novels are all quite different. Could you tell us what inspired you to write each one? Where did each idea come from?

Orange Cappuccino is true. I wrote it as a novel for the style. It tells the story of my life with my second wife and our trials and tribulations in Alaska. I had to write that story to make way for other things. And yet, the first book I wrote was Hermit – A Novella. I wrote that during my breaks at work, and though the main character is a lot like me, the story was simply a fantasy to help me get through my days in the real world. I published Orange Cappuccino first, and Hermit only after a hundred hours of editing while ensconced in a hostel/brewery in the jungles of Honduras. Guanjo is my science fiction novel, a promise to myself when I was young. The idea came from two photographs I had collected along the way: one of a huge longhouse situated in the canopy of a rainforest; the other of a little native girl with her pet frog.

3) Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

I have never wanted or intended to be anything else. I considered myself an abject failure for 60 years of my life because I caved to the necessities of the real world.

4) What has been your journey so far as a writer? How would you describe the experiences you’ve had?

Mostly, I have felt rather lost. The writing is not fun. There has been little appreciation for my work. And yet, when I compare now to four years ago, that is not true at all. I have had a lot of fun. The appreciation has been immense. Now put those two feelings into one and shake them up every single day, and you know something of the rollercoaster ride that you and I are on. The experience of writing has called on every reserve of wisdom that I possess, and made me practice the path I follow with an intensity far beyond what I had known

before. The best things come unexpectedly. The worst come from my own expectations. The lesson: stop expecting and start accepting. And all I can say to that is when I do, things seem to progress perfectly.

5) What would you say are the best things about being an indie writer?

This is pretty easy. The creative control is great. The ability to immediately respond to any new idea, whether in the writing itself or in the marketing and sales keeps everything alive and fresh. The rebelliousness of it all. The interactions with other indie writers, their support and commiserations.

6) What would you say are the worst things about being an indie writer?

Only one thing that I know of: lack of exposure. The challenge to locate your audience, when mainstream authors seem to find their audience ready-made.

7) What are your personal top tips for indie survival?

Be prepared to do it all. Create, Write, Proofread, Edit, Produce, Promote, Market & Sell. If you don’t understand the essential elements of business, then enjoy the vanity of it all, but don’t expect success. And one personal tip for Indie Authors in general: if you don’t start learning to edit and correct your mistakes, you are going to fail. I read a lot of Indie works now, and I am nauseated by the typo’s, grammatical errors, misspellings, and simple format errors that permeate their books. It has given and will continue to give Indie Authors a bad reputation.

8) What are you working on at the moment?

I am supposed to be working on my literary novel: In the Church of the Blue-Eyed Prophets. Instead, I work most consistently on my blog, my collection of horror short stories, and my book reviews.

9) Who are your favourite authors?

My top 5 favorite authors are British: Barry Unsworth, Jean LeCarre, William Golding, Charles Dickens, and Graham Greene.

10) What are your dreams/hopes for the future in terms of your writing?

My biggest dream is to be accepted by the industry professionals and regarded as a writer of great literary merit. I know I ought to be seeking popular approval, but mostly I just want affirmation from those who know good writing.

11) Tell us about your writing routine/process

I guess that you’re assuming I have a routine. Not so much, really. I write what I want, when I want, at the pace I want. In this regard I pretty much go against all the advice of others. I do not write a certain number of words a day. I do not challenge myself to write so many pages. I do not even make myself write each day. It does not work for me. And even if it did, I would not do it. When I have experimented with such a program, what I wrote was trash, and I had to go back and rewrite every word. Sometimes I write a single paragraph in a day. Sometimes a page. Much more than that, and once again it turns to trash. I also ignore the trusted advice to just get the first draft out. Doesn’t work for me. I edit as I write. A lot. I cannot proceed until the writing is almost at the standard I maintain. And when I’m done, I go back and edit, edit, edit all over again. You see, writing does not come easily to me. And if I don’t take long breaks between, the writing suffers … a lot!

12) Tell us three interesting things about you

I am the son of a dwarf.

I believe that I am high-functioning autistic, enough not to be diagnosed.

I believe that animals can talk.

http://www.amazon.com/Joel-R.-Dennstedt/e/B008VJZ6RE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1456438558&sr=1-1

https://www.facebook.com/JoelRDennstedt/

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