Thursday, 1 September 2011

Writers write, right?

I write. More than just this blog, I mean. I write fiction, or try to at least. After a very long break from doing so, I picked up the pen again (or rather, rebooted the laptop) in 2007. Since then I've kidded myself about the varying level of seriousness with which I've been writing. Sure, I got a story published in a book. And a couple in online literary journals. Great. Exciting even, especially the book thing. But not enough.

So I tried to ramp it up. Finding writing time in amongst hectic work and personal lives is difficult, so I hit upon a scheme where I would try to write an instalment of a novel-length work every week and publish it, raw and unedited, online for comment. And whilst life has meant that inevitably I have missed a few weeks, that's still going. Great. But still not enough (and I wish I got more comments there too).

What to do, then, with my other short stories... I know they're not all great. I've had some of them bounced back from enough competitions to know that. But I couldn't shake off the feeling that I ought to do something. And then, as a Kindle owner, I suddenly realised that the answer was in my hands. Yes, self-publishing. I know what you're thinking - I've always felt the same. Vanity press, right? But when it comes to e-books, everyone's doing it. The Kindle bookstore is awash with a lot of cheap tat, some of which is written by people who cannot punctuate or proof-read, let alone string an interesting sentence together. Surely I could do better than that?

So I had a go, and bundled seven short stories together with an extract from the aforementioned novel-length work, jumped through all the Kindle formatting hoops (really not too hard) and published it. Ta and indeed da! It's called Dark Steps and is available from these fine Amazon channels:

Of course as soon as you get set up on Amazon as a Kindle digital publisher, you get an author page - here's mine. And I thought if I was going to have one of those, and give this writing lark a proper punt, I'd better set up a website specifically and solely for my writing endeavours, so I did.

Then I started getting emails from people saying they wanted to buy Dark Steps (blimey), but they didn't have Kindles so could I make it available elsewhere. Luckily, I had a Lulu account gathering dust in the depths of my bookmarks, so after really very little work I was able to make a real paperback version available too. And that was inevitably followed by "I have a different e-reader, what can you do for me?" So the book is now on Smashwords as well.

Reality check time. As I mentioned before, the e-book market is awash with cheap tat. It's becoming rapidly and increasingly difficult to break out from under that. Some might argue all I've done is add to it. And deep down, I know it's just self-publishing, the vanity press - my only redemption there is that at least I didn't have to pay to self-publish. And the book itself is just a throwaway little bundle of so-so short fiction. It's not going to take off and sell tens of thousands of copies. I'm not going to be able to give up my day job.

But writers write, right? I've got a few words to share, and this is my stab at sharing them. So what if nothing comes of it? I've enjoyed having a go and someone, somewhere, enjoyed the results enough to give me a four-star review on I may not be the next Stephen King but at least I can proof-read.


  1. My copy arrived yesterday. I'll get round to it soon. I'm thinking about doing something similar with my own unpublished novels and short stories... I may be coming to you for advice!

    1. Hope you enjoy it. And whilst I'm far from an expert in all this, I'll happily share any advice I can.