MY JOURNEY INTO SELF PUBLISHING: PART ONE – WHY?

Many aspiring fiction writers know what it’s like. You’ve written a book, had plenty of rejections from agents, but a couple of them have read your work and responded warmly at first – only for hopes to be dashed when both say that, in the end, they don’t feel they can represent you and your novel.

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I have no idea how much effort went into writing The Utterly Amazing Bumbling-Boy VS. The Green Bogey because it was fashioned in the evenings and at weekends over a period so long I have lost track of it. Given that it takes me five minutes to write the title alone I can only surmise that I put plenty of hours in.

I do know, however, that writing the story gave me a great deal of pleasure. I also know – well, hope – that it is a decent, 50,000 word read that will make young readers laugh and think.

The fact that one agent gave me some valuable notes that tightened up the book and improved it no end means I feel my manuscript is as finished and good as it will ever be.

Nevertheless, it seems foolish to waste time being turned down again. After all, the agent said ‘no’ on the grounds that she felt the middle grade superhero market is too crowded.

Maybe every other agent feels the same way, so what’s the point?

I did consider abandoning the book to concentrate on new works in progress, but then, while watching Avengers Assemble, I realised we are living through a superhero population explosion. The crowded superhero market has never stopped Hollywood. 

It’s not going to stop me either, which is why I find myself on the brink of self publishing and steeling myself to ask friends and family to “pleeeeease, buy my book.”

This feels very un-British, but it will have to be done.

It’s not that I expect to make any money. I just want the book out there, but if I can con some mugs – er – appeal to the literary sensibilities of young and old and have them buy it then so much the better. Truth is, if someone actually buys your book it feels that much more real.

There was no reasoning behind my choice of platform. The kindle and amazon brands are in my head, so Kindle Direct Publishing was my first and last port of call.

Straightaway I was pleasantly surprised to find that I can offer both an ebook and paperback – despite children’s enthusiasm for consuming content on mobile devices they know there is still something nice about a book with a tempting cover you can flick back to as the story unfolds.

The KDP process is simple. I had a couple of issues formatting my manuscript but they were easily addressed. Revision is easy, too. Spot a typo or make a change and simply upload again to replace the now defunct version. The previewer, which allows you to see what the book will look like on a tablet, kindle or mobile, is strangely addictive.

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Next I inserted my product description:

Let’s get ready to Bumble…

When chubby 10 year old Kenny Lane is stung by a radioactive bumblebee he develops wings and compound eyes.

The good news: against all the odds he can fly. Sort of. The bad news: he’s not sure he is the right shape or has what it takes to be a superhero.

To be like a spider or wolverine, that would have been much more cool. To be just plain and simple super, well, that would have been super.

But when his family and hometown are placed in mortal danger by a ghastly villain Kenny realises that being bee-like has its uses.

His classmate and fellow dork, Dinkesh, is a giant brain on legs who invents gadgets like the BeeMX rocket powered bike, the BeeZooka and the Bubble Gun.

Kenny lives in a town called Blackwater with his adoptive parents, George and Marjorie, and his real sister, Sarah.

The enemy who threatens them all is the ghastly Green Bogey, aka Mr Green, the nutty caretaker and former science teacher who has built a mad lab underneath the children’s school. The slimy monster he can become is the result of an insane experiment gone wrong.

With his sarcastic supercomputer, MUCUS, the Green Bogey intends to rule Blackwater and then the world.

Spare a thought for Blackwater’s senior policeman, Inspector Potter. His first name is Harry and for many years he’s been on the receiving end of jokes. Only days ago someone locked him in the police station toilet and painted CHAMBER OF SECRETS on the door.

For this and all the latest news from Blackwater search for The Blackwater Bugle.

The Blackwater Bugle is meant to be my USP. In the novel it’s a news and views website maintained by a 10 year old key character called Samantha Kwok. I have created it in the real world with a WordPress template, allowing my readers to find out more about Blackwater and the people who live there. I’ll update it with new comical stories written by Sam when inspiration strikes me and so build a parallel entertainment that promotes the novel. At least that’s the theory.

I think the Bugle is a rather smart idea, though the lack of budget means it is text only – unless I can find some way of persuading friends and their families to model as Blackwater citizens.

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I priced my eBook at $2.99 with a 70% royalty. I can’t price the paperback yet because I need to submit a cover.

A good cover is clearly of enormous importance, but sadly my art and graphic design skills are negligible.

So I reach out to a fine comics artist called Dave Kennedy with whom I have worked in the past and give him some ideas but ask him not to regard them as prescriptive. I also ask how much the cover will cost, get an answer, and start haggling him down on the basis that I may not sell enough books to cover the cost of the art. I tell him that if Bumbling-Boy busts the block I will see him right.

Good old Dave has just emailed to agree and even sent a quick sketch – poor, deluded child. All is well. Now I have to wait patiently for the first version of the concept.

In front of me on Post-Its is a list of things to do and think about that might help with all important publicity.

  • Social media strategy
  • Friends and colleagues database
  • A launch event at my local bookshop
  • Press release
  • Author photographs
  • Journalist and PR contacts
  • Write various blurbs and tag lines
  • More stories for the Bugle
  • Can I offer any incentives or rewards to encourage book buying?

The first one needs plenty of thought. I am reasonably clickbait savvy but need a proper social media plan.

Luckily I have a daughter and a friend who do this sort of thing professionally.

They are about to be ruthlessly exploited.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

To be continued…

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Author: Mark Gorton

I am a television producer making things for screens large and small. In my spare time I write, with a particular interest in fantastic fiction and sport non-fiction. It is an honour to host Samantha Kwok's local news site, the Blackwater Bugle. Blackwater never ceases to amaze.

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