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Friday, 6 December 2013

Publishing an Epic Fantasy Trilogy.

Placing an epic fantasy trilogy with a publisher is never easy: for a writer with no track record in the genre, it’s all but impossible. But I was determined to try the route. Apart from any other considerations, I wanted to ensure the work was properly edited. I was also concerned to have a professionally designed cover that could be carried through the whole series. And the maps needed to be made accessible to readers. Finally, and most importantly for me, the expertise that a publisher can bring to marketing and sales is something I just don’t possess.

The books I’ve self-published have been universally admired by those who’ve read them, but sales have been disappointing. This in spite of extensive work in social networking and the other areas of marketing I can afford. So, clearly, there’s some element missing from the promotion activity. My suspicion is that, in common with a lot of writers, I lack the hard-nosed confidence of the salesman and this is reflected in my own efforts at marketing. A publisher can provide the effort and conviction needed for sales.

The following interview between myself and Dan Grubb of Fantastic Books Publishing should explain why I’m delighted and excited that this independent publisher has taken me on.

SA: At a time when many writers are turning to self-publishing, Dan, can you detail the advantages of publishing with Fantastic Books Publishing?

Dan:  Professional editing/proofreading, professional covers on both e, print and eventually audio versions. A publisher ISBN (as opposed to a bought one) and registration of your work in all professional databases including the British library
SA: What stages do your books go through prior to publication?

Dan: Editing, editing and editing. These three are probably the most important! Then off to the proofreaders and then on to a collection of beta readers who will offer opinion/review from lots of different places globally. This gives us an indication of how popular your work may be and how to focus marketing efforts accordingly. These guys will also leave reviews on sites such as Goodreads and Amazon following release.

SA: My book, A Seared Sky: Joinings, is due for publication early next year. At what stage is the process for this book at present?

Dan: The editing is looking good. You're a very talented writer and as such there is really very little to do on the editing front. The proofreading is a 6 stage process involving professionals initially, followed by 5 straight read throughs by our team. The last read through I do myself before sending it off to ebook production and typesetting.

The cover, thanks to your beautifully drawn maps is reaching final stages and I should have a cover for you by the end of the month. (SA – It turned out I’d misunderstood the design concept: Doh! Dan and I discussed the beautifully designed original cover options and agreed on a slightly different approach, which has delayed the initial pre-Xmas launch. But we’re both happy with the new concept and, understanding the importance of book covers, are willing to accept the delay to get it right.) The cover will also give us some great marketing images to begin spreading around the internet.

SA: I know that you are very keen on audio presentation alongside the usual publication route. Can you explain the philosophy of Fantastic Books Publishing on this aspect of book production?

Dan: When we were growing up, audio books were cool. They were a way of 'reading' after lights out in bed and also a great way to enjoy our favourite books on the move. With today's resurgence of personal audio devices (ipods, phones, tablets, MP3 players), we think it's time to make audio books cool again. There are many worthy reasons beyond convenience that we feel audio books should come back to the forefront, the main one being making books accessible to the blind and partially sighted community but, beyond that, there are also many more people who can't enjoy the traditional reading experience such as dyslexic folks (who can alter ereader screens to be more accessible but perhaps would be able to enjoy the book much more as the fully immersive experience that an audio book provides). The target for audio books isn't always to help with medical problems though. I love to listen to audio books while stuck in traffic, training or out walking the dog. Another great benefit of audio books is for those who are temporarily hospitalised with, for example, back problems. It might not be comfortable/practical for them to be holding a book or an ereader for extended periods of time whereas they can just press play once on an audio book and enjoy hours of uninterrupted listening.

SA: Your terms for authors seem more generous than those offered by most publishers. Can you tell my readers about your concerns for your writers.

Dan: We were shocked to discover some of the royalty rates paid to some authors, especially those involved in huge 'string' deals where their first book has been accepted only on the understanding that their next 5 books are all given to the same publisher and the publisher sets the timeframe for their release. Here at Fantastic Books we understand that life can sometimes throw a spanner into the works and so we leave timeframes flexible. Imagine breaking a leg and, as well as dealing with loss of earnings and the inconvenience of being hospitalised/bedbound for a while, also finding yourself in breach of contract!

And so we decided that for every book sale, we would never make more than the author makes. Period.
We give 10% of operating profit to a charity of the author's choosing.
We NEVER ask for the rights to more than 1 book at a time. We want you to come back to us with your next book because we have done a good job, not because you are contractually obliged to.

Writers should be given the freedom to write, that's the guiding principle behind Fantastic Books Publishing.

SA: I expect any writer reading this will fully understand why I'm so pleased with the publishing deal. I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Dan for his time and understanding.

Dan gave a really interesting talk on marketing to my writing group. Click here for a link to a post about that.

I wrote a previous post about the early stages of the publishing process, which you can access here.


Karen Wolfe Whitchurch said...

First of all, warmest congratulations on your well-deserved success.
The blog has made me re-consider the conventional publishing route. I've always been discouraged by the genre thing, as I never seem to quite fit. How wide a remit does Fantastic books have if approached by someone who steps outside the box?

Stuart Aken said...

Thanks, Karen. Best thing to do, if you're interested in trying the publisher but you're unsure whether your book is a fit, is to use the 'Terms and Conditions' link above. You'll find an email link there. If you drop them a line via that, describing your potential submission, I'm sure they'll let you know whether they'd be open to your book. Hope that helps.

Linda Acaster said...

I'm impressed that FBPublishing sets such store by *editing*, to say nothing of its proofing schedule (usually up to the author's eagle eye with mainstream publishers).

Would have loved to have seen a rough of the proposed cover, but we'll have to make do with the map, which I grumbled over before realising that right-clicking would show a bigger version. Wow. All your own work, or FBP's from your rough?

Stuart Aken said...

Me, too, Linda.
No rough available yet. And, yes, the map is all my own work - took me a while to draw and then I left it exposed to sun and potential stains, folded it and crumpled it to make it look like aged parchment.

Madeleine McDonald said...

I listen to radio all the time. The spoken word gets me through cooking, cleaning, ironing and driving. However, through inertia and force of habit, I've never investigated audio books. I will now.

Stuart Aken said...

I suspect audiobooks have been associated with the elderly (and blind) for quite a while. But modern versions appear in such diverse formats that they now appeal to a much wider audience. People listen to them on iPods, CDs, and many other devices. So, go for it, Madeleine.