John C. Scott returns for another guest post as he talks some more about his experiences with self-publishing and what the future is like for his various projects. You can find his previous guest post here. This is part two of our continuing self-published author spotlight for July and August. Part one, with Dan Johnson, can be found here.
Note: No Wookies were harmed in the writing of this guest-post. At least, that is what we are told.
Adam Caine and Self-publishing
by John C. Scott
I’m writing this at 3am, before I start the day-job, as after 12 hours of constant physical labour in 30-celsius heat my body can barely stand let alone write! So with that in mind, I do apologise if none of this makes sense, or causes you to have a brain haemorrhage or aneurysm. Abhinav put a bolt pistol to my head and made me write this post, so what does that mean?
IT’S ALL HIS FAULT.
As per normal.
(As a sidenote, the green squiggly line just told me that it should be ‘his entire fault’ so that goes to show just how much I know……)
I suppose the best place to start would be the beginning. How did I start? And how did I get published? All that smeg.
Okay, the start. Like many I was a huge fan of Star Trek, and more specifically I’d just seen Star Trek Insurrection at the cinema, and decided to create my own Federation starship and my own bizarre crew. This story carried on through a week-long camp with the Air Training Corps where I managed to fill half a large refill pad using a green-ink biro! At any rate, the story is now lost (wish I’d kept it), but it very much inspired about six or seven re-vamps of the crew and ship (including a pretty detailed schematic of the ship in question, USS Lonewolf –a Curry-class if you’re interested. Seriously, Google the class, it looks so awesome). The latest re-vamp is currently in its beginning stages, and maybe one day I can actually publish it as a novel. But anyway, the fan fiction continued, and inspired me to carry on, although I was still only playing in other people’s worlds. Since that camp I’ve done a couple of Star Wars stories, Stargate, and quite a few 40K Imperial Guard’s!
This continued for a while until my dad caught wind of my writing, and suggested I try and do something original for the Richard and Judy short story competition back when I was still at college. I wrote a short story about a character known as the Dark Angel, set in New York. This was my first foray into a brand new original world, and it sucked big time, but it began my love affair with creating new worlds and new histories. Incidentally, the current version of the Dark Angel has yet to be written properly yet, and I may get to it before I start the Core War series!
Anyway, where was I?
What do you mean get on with it you hairy-faced muppet?
In 2006, after getting bored with fan fiction for a time, I went to see my Dad run the London Marathon. He did it in 5 hours, which was pretty good for a 50-year-old rugby player. I’m still proud of him doing that, and jealous because I’ll never be able to do it. Anyway, the night before I was out and about in London (went to a pretty amazing French/Italian restaurant and experienced spaghetti carbonara for the very first time), and using the Underground to get around. I was at Victoria (I think) waiting for the Northern Line train when a voice came over the tannoy asking us to evacuate the platform as a suspicious package had been spotted. This was only eleven months after the 7/7 bombings, you understand, so it was all pretty tense. But afterward, my mind suddenly thought what would happen if there was an explosion on a moving train and instead of the people on it being killed, what if they were whisked away to some distant future?
And thus, Adam Caine was born.
I sometimes wonder if my wife thinks I love him more than I love her.
Well he isn’t dead, so who knows?
Anyway, it took me four years to finish the short story collection that is The Legend of Adam Caine, numbering close to 400 A4 pages. The very first trio of short stories were originally meant as a study on what would happen if a Victoria Cross war hero made the wrong choices in his life? What if he chose not to help his new friends? Or just gave into those murderous rampages of hate and rage? But it then became a long story spanning ten years detailing his greatest adventures, his greatest enemies, and his greatest tragedies.
I also wrote the most heart-wrenching scene I’ve ever done in the final two-part story. I actually had a few tears. Read the book and I’ll tell you about it. My brother hates me for that scene. But that was the point.
I sent samples and all the right bits and pieces to about thirty different agents. I only ever heard from one, and they told me that they didn’t do sci-fi anymore! Cheers. So I looked elsewhere, and found Authorhouse, a self-publishing company on both sides of the Atlantic. They wanted to charge a fortune for it, and I managed to get 33% discount! Of course, I had no money for anything else, so all the editing had to be done by me. When I got the proof it was in PDF format and I was impatient, so I didn’t think to check the formatting.
When I got the first printed copy, however, I was incredibly annoyed that the formatting was all over the place: some of the paragraphs were not indented; the print itself was different sizes; and even a lot of the italics were reversed so it made it even more confusing.
When I told them this, I was told that that was how I’d sent it to them. Huh? So I dutifully checked the original word document and discovered that there was nothing wrong with it! I let Authorhouse know this, and they still told me it wasn’t their doing, and that if I wanted to change anything more I had to pay them –with money I didn’t have. So the book was left as it is, and it was published. I’ve since tried to correct these mistakes on the recent Kindle version.
Plus, they wanted to charge a fortune for the book, giving me a minimum of £12.00 with only a 5% royalty. So I chose the 10% option and it’s 12.50 on their direct site and up to and past £20 on Amazon and other sites! I was highly disappointed. To be fair, it was all my own fault for not checking things through properly and for not entirely understanding my rights and whatnot.
Marketing consisted of me using word of mouth, basically, and spamming the links to the book on my Facebook page as the publisher wanted to charge me something like two grand for the basic package! Joy.
Just to point out, self-publishing with the likes of Authorhouse requires a great deal of money on your part. As much as I was excited to finally be published, I won’t be going back there unless I win the lottery or something.
But then National Novel Writing Month 2011 came along, and my wife pushed me to do it, saying it would be a good experience, and you might be able to get your name out there a bit more.
It was certainly that, but I didn’t know it would be quite so intense, though. I learnt a few things about myself, for instance, about my writing. I managed 72,000 words in 21 days and spent the other 9 days editing. But I managed it! And I discovered a few things about making me focus on it as well, using certain types of music to keep the outside noise away and prevent me from focussing too much on the music itself. So, after a month of 1-3am starts (as well as still working 12-hour shifts on the cookline), I managed to write Recon One-Five.
Recon was a spin-off of Legend, set in amongst some of the stories and references of a specific event in the universe that I got to expand upon. It also introduced another military figure in my world in the form of Deef Alcott, an aging Staff Sergeant, and his band of elite Pathfinders. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the novel, and those specific characters, and I will definitely be returning to them sooner rather than later.
When the month was over, those who won were given a prize of five free copies of their book if they published it through Createspace.com, a free-to-publish website that’s part of the Amazon group. And so I fell in love with Createspace!
The process was easier to manage; the proofs were travel-ready paperbacks instead of a file on my computer; and the book was easier to knock down the price to entice people to read it (and to order my own copies of course!). There was no marketing, but it was available through Amazon almost immediately. Marketing was something I had to do myself, but that was fair enough.
So it came to reviews. I’ve had some pretty positive reviews so far, including a couple on The Founding Fields. A few criticisms, but that’s fair enough: mistakes were pointed out, and they were right to do so. Admittedly, my work hasn’t earned any five-star reviews yet, but I’m getting there, slowly.
When it comes to reviews, you just have to look around for sites and magazines that specialise in whatever genre you’re writing in. Sci-fi is an amazing genre, and there are some great sites and people out there, including Abhinav, Bane, Ploss, and a few others on MasterKoda, and the Nanowrimo Facebook page and forums.
To be honest, given recent events I’ve thought seriously about jacking it all in, but my wife and my newfound online friends have kept me going.
So to all those people (especially Abhinav and Ploss) I’m offering great big Wookiee hugs!
So… the future.
Well, I’m doing Nanowrimo again. This time I’m writing a detective story (still set within the Nineteen Galaxies universe), The Case of the Empty Killer. This is going to be a difficult one for me, as I’ve only written military sci-fi so far.
I’ve just completed two short eBooks, both preludes to the Legend sequel, Ghosts of Earth. They both revolve around a plague, although they’re both very different stories (one’s a zombie story and the other’s about a priest who loses his faith). The Lament of Reverend Bishop is already available on Kindle, and The Phoenix Incident is still not quite ready.
And then there’s Ghosts of Earth. This 700-page novel is still sat on my desk, waiting for the proof to be edited and changed, whatever. Can’t bring myself to open it yet. This is of course Adam Caine #2, essentially, and shows the opening moves of a war I’ve been waiting to write since creating the character.
What else? Oh yes, I’m still a quarter of the way through writing Rowlandos, a pirate novel (still same universe) based on my best friend Row. It’s mad and my first real attempt at first-person.
There’s The Fall of Terra, the big prequel to Legend that shows the destruction of Earth mentioned a few times throughout, and set a hundred years before it, so it will be all-new characters. Basically, it’s a big disaster movie in a novel.
At the moment I’m writing The Package (again, still the same universe), a novel very close to my own heart. All of my profits for this novel will be given to the neonatal charity, Bliss. It’s about a smuggler who takes on a passenger (think Han Solo who hasn’t had the compassionate Chewbacca by his side), and gets into more trouble than he thought possible as everybody is after her and what she’s carrying.
On the horizon looms the Core War, although I still can’t decide on an overall title. It’s basically a 10-15-book metaseries in the same vein as the New Jedi Order Star Wars series of novels. All the characters I’ve previously written will be thrown into the path of a massive invasion. This one, however, has a definite and destructive ending compared to NJO.
After that will be the aftermath, and there are several other adventures planned after even that.
So, any of this making sense? Or should I go back to my Wookiee Hole? Get it? Wookiee H… never mind.
Why are there men in white coats coming towards me? And why are they holding a strait jacket with my name on it? Abhinav, you tricked me you douchebag!!!!
*Skips away cackling to himself*
Some reviews of John’s work:
The Legend of Adam Caine, review by Bane of Kings.
Thirteen Galaxies: Recon One-Five, review by Bane of Kings.
You can find John on twitter – @Shaven_Wookiee or on his blog, Shaven Wookie.