What’s the hardest thing about self-publishing? Well, it’s probably the same as the hardest thing in traditional publishing: finishing the bloomin’ book.
Crafting 80,000 or 100,000 words is a colossal labour. You get better as you complete more books, but it will always remain a hell of a lot of work, with no shortcuts.
It’s also great fun and deeply satisfying, however, which is why we do it. I’ve been lucky enough to release four books with publishers, but a while ago the realisation dawned that several other completed manuscripts sitting on my hard-drive were unlikely, at this stage, to be picked up by a traditional house. Two thrillers, one YA and one humorous non-fiction got good reviews but, alas, sold very little.
Enter self-publishing. I just released a new novel – a Young Adult adventure called Red Raven – first of six e-books I plan to upload to Kindle, roughly once a month.
A mash-up of superhero comic-books, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and ancient Celtic mythology, Red Raven retools the legendary Fionn MacCumhaill as a baddie (albeit a complex one). He plans to bring comrades from the realm of myths to our world, at Hallowe’en; three small-town Irish teenagers and their ghostly mentor must stop him inadvertently destroying the universe. It’s action-packed, exciting, funny and fun.
The other books (in order of release) are: Devil Hang Over Me, a psychological thriller; !!SuperHyperMEGASTAR!!, a comedy/satire which crosses The X-Factor with Cyrano de Bergerac (yes, really); Pretend We’re Dead, a novel about slackers in 1990s Cork; The Driving Force, a short-story collection on a theme of movement; and There is a light and it never goes out, a sort of Cloud Atlas-type thing where five stories are wrapped inside one over-arching narrative.
You can see I’m beginning with the more commercial work! Hoping to snare a huge audience with laughs, thrills and chills, to get them hooked before unleashing that strange, oblique, JG Ballard-esque collection of abstract fantasia…
Anyway, why am I doing this now? Well, these books have been sitting unread for long enough now, the internet is free – so why not? It’s as simple as that, and actually doing it has proved surprisingly straightforward too. Here’s how I took a drive down the road of self-publishing:
First, I decided which books to send out there. Each of them, with all due modesty, is pretty decent, in different ways; also, I review a lot of books in my day-job as a journalist, and my own stuff is at least as good as much of what’s out there. So, each will be published. But you might find an early work that’s pretty unreadable; every author needs to make their own call on quality-control.
And speaking of quality-control: should you pay for an editor and/or proof-reader? A friend of mine, Tom Galvin, recently self-published The Ghost Song, and employed a number of professionals to fine-tune the text, design the cover etc. In my case, I did everything myself. I’ve worked as an editor in print media for two decades, so I reckon I have a decent eye for typos and clunky phrasing. Also, these books have all been rewritten several times, in some cases for many years; at this stage, they’re probably as good as they’re going to get.
Next question: e-book or print-on-demand? The latter is great, I think, if you haven’t been published before: it’s a lovely feeling to hold a real, honest-to-God paper and ink copy of your book in your hands. As mentioned, though, I’ve been published – my four books are glaring down at me from the shelf as I type – so I decided to stick with e-book only. One crucial reason is that, while self-publishing is relatively quick, it does take some amount of time; doing the necessary legwork for two different formats adds to the workload.
There are several places where you can publish an e-book – Smashwords, Lulu, Reedsy, Matador – but for similar “time is money” reasons, I’m sticking solely with Amazon’s Kindle Direct e-book service. The online giant is the Big Kahuna of self-publishing, with a large proportion of sales. I figure that, if any of my books really takes flight on Amazon, I should do alright in terms of sales and revenue.
(c) Darragh McManus
Read Part 2 of this article here.
About Red Raven:
Irish kid Fiach Barden turns 17 in five days, at Hallowe’en – but has no time to party. A powerful warrior has escaped the realm of legend, and threatens to destroy our world completely.
Only Fiach and his friends (the coolest kid in school, a brainy sweetheart and a 3,000-year-old ghost-crow) stand in the way. He must use all his wits and supernatural fighting skills to stop the villain, otherwise the universe as we know it will cease to exist.
How’s that for a happy birthday?
From the author of the critically acclaimed Shiver the Whole Night Through comes a Young Adult urban fantasy which mixes Celtic mythology, superhero comic-books and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This funny, action-packed, exciting story sets three courageous kids on a quest to save the world, escape with their lives (and for Fiach, win the love of beautiful Loss)…and of course, make sure their parents don’t find out.
Get ready to fly like a red raven.
Order your copy online here.