Monday, 9 February 2015

Self publishing

Welcome to Elizabeth Poynter, a lovely writer I recently met who is going down the self-publishing route so she kindly agreed to do a guest post about her experiences starting with her profile on Amazon.

For some strange reason I decided to study Chinese at university in the days when hardly anyone did that - only three of us graduated that year - which started me off on my travels. I lived in China for two years in the '80s, when foreigners were weird and exotic beasts there, and later seven years in Japan.

My great interests are languages and history, and these interests inform my writing. I've always loved science fiction, and started writing in that genre years ago, though I've also tried my hand at historical novels and non-fiction. I don't write 'hard' science fiction - I'm more interested in the characters and the culture. 

Over the years I've developed a whole galaxy of different species who interact with humans, their languages, religions, and key 'historical' events. You can read more about this world on my website (see below).

Self-publishing with Kindle Direct

Why did you decide to go down the self-publishing route?

Well, I've tried regular publishers and agents on and off for years. They told me my stuff was 'of publishable standard' but just not quite right for the market. In particular, SF is really hard to place in the UK. OK, nowadays the world has opened up and I could have tried to publish in America, but I'd got really disheartened. Then a friend happened to mention Kindle Direct and I thought: Why not?

Do you have to be a real techie to do it?

I thought that might be the case; my friend is an IT lecturer. But actually, unless you're still at the stage of writing by hand or on a manual typewriter, it's pretty straightforward. I spent quite a bit of time just reading the KDP website info - it's really well-organised and tells you exactly what to do at each stage. And then if something goes wrong, or there's something you don't quite get, you can email them and they get back pretty quickly. For instance, the first time I uploaded a book it came up with just the text and no images. Apparently when you convert a Word document to a Web page you need to put it in a zip file before you upload it so all the images go too. They not only told me this but also sent step-by-step instructions.

So what are the advantages, and is there a downside?

What I really want is for people to read my books. Anything that gets them out there has got to be a plus. And with KDP, I'm in control - I decide what I want the cover to look like, the blurb, the price, the publication date, everything. The downside is I could be getting those things wrong. And just getting the books published is only the start, as I'm now discovering - they offer a few promotional tools like Countdown deals, where you reduce the price in a particular marketplace for a limited period, but really, it's down to me, and self-promotion isn't one of my strengths.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of self-publishing?

I'd say, go with KDP first, and if you start selling think about CreateSpace, also an Amazon company doing print-on-demand. Of course there are people out there who'd rather read on paper, but not that many, and if you're only selling small numbers it's probably not worth doing a whole new format and learning a whole lot of different IT skills. Read everything carefully and look on Amazon at what a few other authors have done. Use Amazon's Author Central and any other facilities they offer you. And don't expect to become a best-seller overnight. You're not likely to become a millionaire either. But if you just want a few more people to read your work, it's not a huge amount of effort and it's really satisfying to see your stuff there in the online store.

Extract from A Tale of Two Women:

Tania, one of the two protagonists, has been captured by the Yol, a feline species at war with the Federation . . .

For the first time, it occurred to me that more than chance might account for my preservation so far.  With the exception of the Dalonje, who had been the last to die, I had been the only woman in the civilian party.  To the Yol, with their sharp gender-distinction, all men are potential warriors and those who do not fulfill that potential are failures and probably cowards, worthy of no respect.  But women are different.   Yolyt women do not fight and are closely-kept.  The base's garrison was of course entirely male.  Was there, perhaps, some degree of sexual curiosity in Asgar's feelings for me, huge, hairless and ugly as I must appear to him?
     I freely admit that if I had had any idea as to what would attract him, I would have used that knowledge without shame.  When in the presence of my captors I had put thought aside and lived only in the moment.  Perhaps this showed in my eyes for his own blood red ones slitted in speculation, and I felt the shock of his stare in a hot flood through my body.  Instinct took over and dictated my response.  Unobtrusively I arched my body so that my breasts were thrust forward, at the same time running my tongue over my lips.
     There was a charged silence.  I could see the conflicting emotions run through his tensely poised frame.  When finally he moved I knew he was going to either kill me or take me; I'm not sure even he knew which.  I was filled with the breathless, heart pumping excitement which comes when you push things to the edge.  He seized me by the shoulders and then transferred the grip of his right hand to my hair, pulling my head back as he dug his claws into the matted strands.  For a moment I believed he was going to break my neck and hoped it wouldn't hurt too much, but I made no move to escape because it would have been futile, but kept my gaze fixed on his.  Then his left hand moved to twitch aside his apron and my head was forced towards his sexual organs.
     It could have been a lot worse.  He was clean, a good deal cleaner than I in fact, and close to his body had a faint spicy odour which was not unpleasant.  I did my best, and being strongly aroused he climaxed vigorously and quickly.  When it was over, instead of releasing me he kept hold of my head with both hands, running his thumbs lightly over my throat.  I knew that this moment was even more critical, if possible, than the earlier moment of decision, for now there was no desire to be satisfied. 

My website:

My Amazon author page:

Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for this most fascinating insight, and good luck with your work.