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Vanity press: or is it?

Following on from the cracking post by KV Taylor regarding the pricing of e-books, I was thinking about vanity press, being as that is seen as much worse than self-publishing. I remember getting my acceptance for my second novel a few years ago along with a £300 fee for god knows what, I can’t remember now, and asking a few in the know for advice. The resounding opinion was that of outrage, that I was being asked to fork out £300 to have my own book published and one of those I spoke to mentioned the self publishing route.

That was even more of a shock to me, as if I was to go out and publish the book myself then what had happened to the whole process of publishing, how could an author just decide that their book was adequately edited and ready for publication and what did that mean for me as a reader?

Two recent cases in point have strengthened my negativity to self-publishing (sorry but I’m not a fan) and that is that two authors who sent books to Morrigan Books and were subsequently rejected by me have suddenly released their books themselves less than a couple of months later. I’m aware I’m off making generalisations again, as merely because these two have done that doesn’t mean that everyone does that but it begs the question when you know it’s self-published, yes?

Something that would sway me would be if someone like Robert Hood were to publish his own novel. Firstly I’d be shocked that he’d done it, mainly because he wouldn’t need to but then I’d be very interested in reading it because it’s Robert Hood (for god’s sake!) and because the work I receive from Rob is generally ready for publication, only minor editing required (“a quick pat on the bum and sent out the door” as an editor I respect once mentioned editing writers like this).

And this brings me back to the early queries I received which are now in print. The rejection was based mainly on shoddy editing, a level I though below par for a book at Morrigan Books, as we want to whip your works into shape, not get ready for a rewrite and extensive editing project. So when I see one of these books on the market, it saddens me and frustrates me, as I gave my comments, explained what needed doing and for it to be released just makes the indie press scene look bad, because someone picking up that book and seeing its flaws might be wary of another indie book and that can’t be a good thing.

However, my post today was supposed to be about something else, as I was going to discuss a mail I got, offering me the chance to be published if I won a competition (yes, only me, you didn’t get the mail did you, suckers?). Oh I love competitions, I’m in, I’m off…but wait a minute you want me to pay $25 for the privilege of me getting a chance to be published? I’m thinking your talking vanity press here, or?

I mean I have entered the 3 Day Novel Contest twice now, being as I think it’s a cracking idea, totally mental and it gets me writing again. OK, I could do the thing on my own but there is something about this event feeling, forums and the like, knowing others are stressing over their terrible manuscripts at the same time I am. There is a prize of publication for the best manuscript sent in after the three days but to be honest it’s not really on the mind when writing, as the book is the focus.

Yet this, was a whole different kettle of fish (I wonder if that’s why Pete found a fish in the percolator):



I mean, you just send in your manuscript before a certain day and then they pick their best and publish it, no doubt using a POD (Print on Demand) facility and a dodgy cover, meaning their outlay is a fraction of what they received in participation fee. Remembering of course they are not going to spend a cent on marketing either.

And KV Taylor mentioned something about not self-publishing more out of a sense of not being able to maybe push herself enough in the promotion arena, and this is also a very tricky topic as how much do we as writers know about marketing? I mean there are degrees and such for this kind of thing and are you sure you know the border between aggressive marketing and just plain annoying. Again referring back to one of the books we rejected, based on the fact that it needed a very heavy edit (which I don’t believe for a minute was achieved in the two months between rejection and publication) the author in question has engaged in a heavy self-promotion campaign, which involves discussing all the different elements required to self-publish in a way that is painful to read.

I am now aware my post is starting to lose a little focus, mainly because it’s a culmination of a lot of thoughts that have been on my mind for a few months now, and make me fear a little bit about the industry we’re in. I’m sounding pessimistic while at the same time very positive about a lot of things in indie press. I mean we are about to announce three books that are extremely well written, require minor editing and will look very comfortable on your shelf, along with your other Morrigan books, (what do you mean you haven’t got them all yet?) and there are a few new publishers on the scene doing rather interesting things too (a later blog post).

It’s KV Taylor’s fault, she darn got me thinking!

Although it comes as no surprise to me, I want to draw your attention to the fact that Scenes from the Second Storey has made the shortlist for the Aurealis Awards, to be announced 21st May.

Some cracking works in every category, as always and whether the book wins or not, it's in great company already.

Congratulations to all nominated!

All the categories and nominations can be found below:

Aurealis Shortlist 2011

January 9th 2011 - Bristol and Manchester, UK

 

Gareth L Powell and Sharon Ring sign author/agent contract.

Gareth L Powell has signed up with Literary Agent Sharon Ring. Sharon Ring will act as agent in regard to five titles, Revenant Skies; Reclaiming The Dead; Silversands (originally published with Pendragon Press); The Last Reef (originally published with Elastic Press); The New Ships.

Gareth is rapidly gaining a reputation as a “strong new voice in epic science fiction” (Solaris). In addition to his previously published novel (Silversands) and collection (The Last Reef), Gareth has appeared in several anthologies, including including Shine (Solaris Books, 2010), Conflicts (NewCon Press, 2010), 2020 Visions (M-Brane, 2010), Dark Spires (Wizard’s Tower, 2010), and Future Bristol (Swimming Kangaroo, 2009). His short story Ack-Ack Macaque won the Interzone Readers’ Poll for best short story of 2007; and Solaris will publish his second novel The Recollection in September this year.

Gareth said, "With two novels and a collection under my belt, I'm glad to have someone with Sharon's contacts and chutzpah to help me scout out the territory ahead. I expect this will be a successful and productive partnership for us both."

Sharon said, “Gareth is an ideal writer to join forces with at this time. The more I read his work, the more I feel he is poised to have wider success in the science fiction community. He has a strong narrative voice; concise, direct and, above all, very human in the exploration of his chosen themes. I’m delighted to be forming this partnership.”

A full list of Gareth’s published work can be found at http://www.garethlpowell.com/books/.

All enquiries regarding this deal should be directed to Sharon Ring: sharonlring@gmail.com.

Morrigan Books has today signed a contract with author Martyn Taylor with regards to publishing his novel Whitechapel, as part of its new e-book series. Martyn has already been published by Morrigan Books in the anthology The Phantom Queen Awakes, with his short story The Good and Faithful Servant, and is also due to be published with Gilgamesh Press and their début anthology In the Footsteps of Gilgamesh with The No Man.

Morrigan Books is extremely excited about Whitechapel and believe it is a book that will whet the appetite of anyone who appreciates clever and imaginative fiction.

During the Indian summer of 1888 London is the capital of an empire that colours half the map of the earth red. Yet even the rulers of such an empire are taken aback when envoys arrive from a very distant location, wishing to come under the protective wing of the Great Queen. While the government entertains the visitors (the 'Men from Mars') they also have them kept under close observation by their chief secret policeman, Inspector Fred Abberline. These mysterious visitors also attract the attentions of a penniless radical teacher and journalist, George Wells, and his equally eccentric lady friend, Miss Cara Benn. As the negotiations proceed in Whitehall, in Whitechapel Abberline and Wells become involved in ghastly slaughters that will leave the inspector's place secure in history, as well as opening up the future to Wells.

Whitechapel will be edited by one of Morrigan Books' newest editors, Amanda Rutter.

Ooh, that all sounded dramatic didn’t it? You’d half expect that I have decided to release a couple of albums and set them up for contention – or even set up my own music company…hmm…

Anyway, on to the point and one thing that comes in this year is that I have decided to design the year’s best song CD cover by using a friend’s photo from the year (or that I have at least seen for the first time that year). I have several friends, very adept with a camera who have jumped up at this idea (well they said yes) and so this year’s photo comes from Karin Strand, and will be unveiled in the next couple of days.

So, the idea that was hatched yesterday was inspired directly by Ian Stackhouse and indirectly by Claudi Martin, as I’ve been having chats with both about this year’s music and Ian has been posting his top 15 albums bought in 2010 on his Facebook.

What am I doing then? Well, last year I announced the albums between 20 and 11 in the chart on 20th December, before announcing 10 to 6 on 23rd December before the all important top five on 31st December. Naming the top five on New Year’s Eve has been a tradition since 1999 and this year I change it…*gasp*…as this year I have a new schedule.

17th December (tomorrow) will see the announcement of the albums finishing in the 20-11 slots before we move on to the top ten albums of the year, which will be announced daily…yes, you heard me, daily.

Here’s the schedule:

Sunday 19th December: 10

Monday 20th December: 9

Tuesday 21st December: 8

Wednesday 22nd December: 7

Thursday 23rd December: 6

Monday 27th December: 5

Tuesday 28th December: 4

Wednesday 29th December: 3

Thursday 30th December: 2

Friday 31st December: 1

2010 is the year I turned 40 and the year I came up with the idea of the new covers (and new titles) for each year, so it makes sense if I’m going to change this, I should do it here.

MORRIGAN BOOKS announces new editors

Morrigan Books can today reveal the names of several editors who have been taken on by the company in readiness for its new e-book series. Some are established, whereas others are new to the field, further strengthening the vision of Morrigan Books that it wishes to promote new talent at the company, as well as maintaining its level of excellence in the field of dark fiction.

We are very pleased to welcome the following to Morrigan Books:

RJ Barker

Karen Newman

Richard Palmer

Amanda Rutter

KV Taylor

All our editors can be found at the Morrigan Books site.

Gary McMahon has signed up with Literary Agent Sharon Ring. Sharon Ring will act as agent in regard to two titles, The Quiet Room and Rain Dogs (previously published by Humdrumming Press).

Gary is widely acknowledged as a powerful, new talent in British horror fiction. He received a British Fantasy Society nomination in 2009 for his first novel, Rain Dogs, and his short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Vols. 19 & 20 (ed. by Stephen Jones). Tim Lebbon calls him a “bloody good writer indeed... heartfelt, talented, soulful... serious and mature.” Conrad Williams describes Gary as “a skilful writer... an able cartographer of these badlands.” With three novels already under his belt, plus three more titles scheduled for publication in 2011, Gary is set to reach a wider genre-loving audience.

Gary McMahon said, “I’m very excited about this new collaboration. Sharon is an ambitious, knowledgeable and proactive person, who believes strongly in both my work and her own abilities to make things happen. Her passion for dark literature, along with the contacts and know-how she has developed over the last couple of years, will hopefully place us in a good position to take things forward and bring my writing to an even wider audience.”

Sharon said, “I’ve been working toward taking on my first author as a literary agent for some time now. I wanted to make sure my first client was a perfect fit. An opportunity arose to work with Gary McMahon on two titles and I knew the time was right. Gary is one of the most talented horror fiction authors on the scene, breathtakingly astute in his vision of the modern world and the fears which lie at the heart of us all, and completely unafraid to venture into the darkest of territories. It’s a privilege to be working with him at this time in his career.”

A full list of Gary’s published work can be found at http://www.garymcmahon.com/2008/04/publications.html.

All enquiries regarding this deal should be directed to Sharon Ring: sharonlring@gmail.com.

Grants Pass - only $10 today! (US only)

Yes, that's right, award winning Grants Pass is on sale today only with a 50% discount, dropping from $20 to $10 (for US purchasers only)!

Grants Pass





"Each story from Grants Pass draws from the same well of emotions and horror as Stephen King's THE STAND and Robert McCammon's SWAN SONG. It'll take you to the darker sides of humanity and yet, at the end of the road, Grants Pass will show you the hope and possibilities of the human spirit."

-- Jason Sizemore, Stoker-nominated editor-in-chief of Apex Book Company and author of Irredeemable.

"This is a unique anthology that deserves attention. You’ll hear echoes of Stephen King’s The Stand, David Brin’s The Postman and even Cormac McCarthy’s The Road as you read this series of stories about the survivors of a great plague. The stories are varied and lively, and their talented authors lead you (sometimes kicking and screaming) toward sanctuary. If you’re reading these words now, dive into these pages, and meet the survivors at Grants Pass."

-- Patrick Swenson, editor of Talebones Magazine.

"Grants Pass is a remarkable, disturbing, and worthwhile read, and one that is likely to stay with the reader for some time to come. I’m predicting that this anthology will be up for a swag of awards come the next round of Aurealis, Ditmar and Australian Shadows nominations."

-- Chuck McKenzie, HorrorScope

Rejection musings


As a writer, an editor and a publisher, you really get to see the rejection process from all the angles. I'm not sure it makes you wiser about the whole rejection situation but, at least for me, it doesn't make me worry about my work not being good enough when one of my stories is rejected.

Today's post was prompted by Harry Markov, writing in his blog about a rejection, in which he said:

Even if it doesn't elicit tears, the rejection sends the message 'you are not there, yet' and nobody wants to hear that. After all, we are all special snowflakes.

I suppose I agree with the special snowflakes bit...but I have trouble agreeing with the comment of 'you are not there yet'. This is because I am aware that your story may well have been rejected for several reasons, and many of them not involving the concept that you're not there yet.

Maybe you have sent your short story to a themed anthology, and even though you have followed the guidelines perfectly, the story jars with the others in the anthology (this is a reason why I have always struggled with anthologies that accept stories before the deadline date, as how can you, as an editor, know how the book is going to look until you receive all the submissions?) and this means that no matter how good the story is, it's not going to make it.

Two examples of this over at Morrigan Books, are: a story that was easily one of my favourite submissions for our The Phantom Queen Awakes anthology, from an author whose work I adore. Her story really didn't gel with those already in the book and we were forced to reject it. The fact that I have asked if I can have the story as a new story for a collection we will be publishing is testament to the quality. In no way was this a 'you are not there yet'.

The second was a sub for Voices, our hotel anthology. Both Amanda Pillar and I liked the story but felt it was lighter in tone than the others in the book and rejected it. That story will feature in an anthology, entitled 'The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime' and I can understand why. Great story, didn't suit Voices.

These are decisions made from an editor's perspective but what of the publisher? What does he/she reject and why?

Easier decision here as it all comes down to sales and marketing and the industry as a whole. Well, that bit is simple, the getting all that right is another matter...

Anyway, it may be that this is just not the time for another zombie novel, much as you think it is prime time, and even though your zombie novel is brilliant, it's not now it should be published. The argument for there always being a place for good quality fiction is sound but at the end of the day the publisher is not OK about going out of business to prove that point (I suppose given this year's disappearance of several indie presses, this can be argued too).

For good or ill, this is how I see it when my beloved story/poem/novel is rejected. It wasn't the right time, it didn't fit the anthology, etc. This is a sound way to deal with form rejections, as if the publisher hasn't deemed that the stories deserve a critical analysis then how can you know why they are being rejected?

If they tell you why it is and they inform you that 'you are not there yet', then send it off somewhere else and when it's accepted, you can hope they see your story on another website/magazine/anthology!

Or you could see it as a personal rejection, be all maudlin about it and lose valuable writing time...

It's basically up to you isn't it?

[First posted here: You're in my Head. You can comment here or there]


That's right, the Irish crime anthology, chock full of top names in the crime field: Ken Bruen, Maxim Jakubowski, Stuart Neville, Brian McGilloway, Adrian McKinty, Sam Millar, John McAllistar and many others... is on sale to you today, on not one but two formats:

The UK hardback edition price has been dropped from £12.99 (+ shipping) to only £7.99 (+ shipping). (To overseas buyers: if you contact me today, I will offer the book at a similar discount to your country - e-mail me a request and we can discuss.)

But not only that, the e-book edition (for all formats) is now $3.99 (USD) over at Smashswords! (Please make sure to use the coupon code: FA25T when ordering to get your $2 discount)


Remember, today only!

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