Wednesday, 21 December 2016

So How Do You You Get Into Self Publishing...and SHOULD You?

Back in the 1980s there was an explosion in the number of Small Pressers both in the UK and beyond. Prose, comic strip, fan publication, poetry there were so many that the term "Zine" (abbreviation of "magazine" -noting the original fan newsletter publications).

Here is the thing.  The main thing really. Earlier we had used gestetners to produce publications. How to explain these? In fact, I found videos on You Tube!  The sound is a little rough on this one but I'm sure you'll find better ones! If you can't wait scroll down now!

A mistake on the stencil could be corrected with nail varnish if no Tip-Pex was around.

Illustrations usually meant going and looking for a rather costly photocopier in a local shop or business -that or not so great stencilled images (it's been over 40 years and I can't recall how we did that! Essentially, unless you produced your publication through a school, college or other source, the Gestetner was not cheap -back then (in the late 1970s I had one offered to me for £5 and later another for £7 which is nothing today but...) it could also be smelly and messy.

Here is a video of one in action:

But then came the photocopier breakthrough. There were ups and downs because you would often, uh, use the office copier when no one was about at work. Small shops might let you use the copier without supervision but then...Xerox and other photocopier shops opened up everywhere and in just one small area of Bristol there were 20...there are none today.  Seriously, any other country and there are copier centres but in the UK they seem to be find and go to places.

However, back in the 1980s you could pop into a copier centre on the way to the Westminster Comic Mart and copy off pages or zines and get your stapler out there or at the mart and there you were -a zine publisher!

We all took it very Actually, we had a lot of fun.  "Hey, I need 2 pages to finish the zine off -anyone help?" and within a week you might get enough pages to publish two more zines! We all knew each other and corresponded via mail -phones were too expensive and (do not panic youngsters!) there was no internet or email.....did someone just pass out?

And it is odd that we all kept in regular contact and helped each other out -whether you were in the Scottish Highlands, Cumbria, Leeds, Derby, Cardiff, Swansea, Bristol, Bath or London.  Everyone knew each other - or was introduced by others.  It's all so much easier now with email, attachments and so on yet that camaraderie spread across the UK is no longer there and certainly not on the international level we had back then.

But, back then as now, an individual can produce their own work and sell it. Big publishers have had their day and have made sure that new talent will find it harder to break into publishing and that is damaging for everyone. 

Let's say, however, you have great story ideas but cannot draw?  Publish your work either in parts in an anthology or (if short stories) single prose zines. You can find out of copyright or free to use illustrations online for covers or even for the odd interior page.

You can draw but no one will give you a break? Again, publish your own comic or artwork. Add an intro note stating that you are not a writer but wanted to get your work "out there".

I have seen people produce great poetry and yet they cannot find a publisher -poetry tends to be run by a very petty minority who will criticise every aspect while having no interest in publishing your work. Luckily, I've no inclination toward poetry other than reading it but those creating poetry see their work crushed for no reason.  Well, now you can publish your own work, promote and sell it and by-pass the cliques.

Film or TV reviews, horror stories -whatever, you can do this yourself now.  And with Print On Demand (POD) you can produce even better looking publications.  Black Tower books are often 'accused' (I call it praise) of looking too slick and professional.  Although I publish in the A4 Coffee Table format (in other words, bulky books with illustrations!) or A4 Comic Album size you can publish in paperback format, digest (A5), Magazine and so on. 

Do not be put off because it is not the most difficult thing to do.  Its quite easy.  Check out where you get a free store front -you can check mine out here though there are a couple different Layouts and themes they offer -

There is also Ka-Blam!

The thing with Lulu is that you get an Author's Discount price -a book that might cost someone £10 to buy from your online store you can buy for the printing cost so you can buy copies to sell at that price but sell at the full £10 at events (remember that when you price a book to sell you need to also take into account the postage it cost you).  No big sum of money for 500 books that you then have to store and hope you can sell!  Print On Demand means that a book is only printed when ordered which is why there is usually an "Allow 3-7 days for delivery".

You cannot get a table to sell at? Organise an event of your own and put the word out to other Small Pressers. A church hall, scout hall, or any place where you can hire a room -find out how much it costs to hire for a day then make sure tables for use come with that. Hall or room cost you £70 then charge ten tables at £10 each and you make back your money.  Never go over the top and ask for a huge amount to hire a table at your event -you'll soon find people really do not want to attend as sellers any more.

The point is that you can put together and publish your own publications now from your own room (so long as you have a computer.  If you don't have a computer are you reading this??) and it does not matter if you are not a top quality professional artist or writer so long as it is all fun for you and if you sell a few copies -why not?

Once you've got your book/zine the hard part is publicising it and that means sending out a review copy so budget for that and check to see who will review books and do so impartially (a-hem).

Do not expect to be the next J. K. Rowling or whichever computer hack is the current top comics artist.  Do this for fun and anything else is an extra. If you've a body of work you can show and it is good you never know.  Also, unless your parents support you, get a job. Publishing will not make you rich and if you are human then you need to eat and pay bills.

But if you have any questions I have over 40 years of experience and I have also still got full control of my brain. But if you have any questions I have over 40 years of experience and I have also still got full control of my brain. But if you have any questions I have over 40 years of experience and I have also still got full control of my brain.  What was I typing?

Just have fun!

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