As I am preparing to self-publish my first novel, I thought I would talk to some friends who have gone down this road ahead of me, to see what they did, what they think now that it is done, and hopefully offer some inspiration to those of us taking the road less travelled.
I got John McClure, author of Puss & Boots in the 23rd Century, to sit down (metaphorically, as we only communicate online) with me. He’s an old fashioned Southern gentleman, and wrote a rousing good tale in P&B. I will be reviewing it at length on my writing blog later this week.
Cedar for Amazing Stories: Why do you write?
John McClure: I have stories in my head, and always have every since I can remember. I
liked making them up as I sat in church as a kid and being bored, made
up stories in my head about the people in the chorus, who had
interesting faces. I remember one woman whom I imagined as a tragic
Roman Matron and a man who I cast as her Centurion protector (I was
too young and bashful to get into the sex thing back then – And I was
in Church after all!!
I started on Puss & Boots as a description of a Comic that my son Jed
and his buddy Ian decide to write (Jed to do story and Ian to do the
art). I started off doing scene descriptions in present tense to
describe what I thought they might want to write and draw. Theirs was
a concept of a 22th Century lesbian bounty hunter who somehow found
herself linked up with a 2nd century Barbarian somehow teleported to
her time. Jed and Ian did one panel, then dropped it. When I asked
permission to work on it, it was freely given…
I turned it into a Mil-SF in the next century (23rd) but kept the
dystrophic world in which they lived, and added another gal and a
totally improbable time traveler to the mix. I am a geologist and
thus a woods-walker, so I got to write about what I know. Fun!
AS: Why did you decide to self-publish?
JM: I found that there are only two publishers of Mil-SF in the
country, Tor and Baen, and Tor has only one reader. Baen has a sort
of committee system of volunteers, that a newbie can never get past
because they are all push their own work (IMHO). (Full disclosure by Cedar. I am a Baen Slush Reader, although no longer active. I probably was reading during the time John is talking about, but did not read P&B, or I would have kicked it up a level. The volunteer system allows Baen to read through slush faster than most houses, and most of us didn’t have our own work in the queue.) Puss & Boots sat in Baen’s slush pile for 14 months, until they finally got around to
rejecting it. Tor took only five days to reject it with extreme
prejudice. So what else to do, but self publish it. I thought it was
good any way – and others thought so too…
AS: Where did you publish? Amazon, Smashwords, B&N? What made you choose
the platform(s) you did use?
JM: Son Jed was my mentor here, and while we first started out with
another self-publisher (Lulu), we wound up with Create Space (owned
now by Amazon).
AS: How did you format your manuscript?
JM: I put it into the shape I wanted, paras, scene breaks and chapters,
and then Jed put it into final format for Create Space.
AS: How has it worked in terms of sales (I do not need specifics)?
JM: Not real well. I haven’t done a real good marketing job, probably
because I am a bit too shy to be a self promoter…
AS: Would you do it again? Or would you prefer to publish through
JM: I am working on both book two of P&B and another thing about Africa in
1919 even as we speak. And I think that the only way to get out there
for me to sell my stuff (which is aimed at a relatively narrow market)
is to do the self-publish route.