Guest Post–Martin Willoughby
REMINDER: For the months of June through August I will only be posting on Tuesdays and Fridays (with a few special blog tour days thrown in). There is still room if you would like to guest post on My Writing Journey. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week will be a M, TH, Sat posting.
We have another great guest blogger with us today. I’ve asked Martin Willoughby to share his story to published author. It’s a bit different, but you know what, I think it’s awesome! The wave of the future is before you…
In May 2011 I had a dream, one that would change the world and bring forth great change…and when I remember what it was I’ll tell you about it. Until that momentous event occurs I’ll let you know about how a group of writers started a small publishing co-operative and, despite setbacks, have continued with it.
Back in March 2011 I tested the electronic water with a collection of previously published short stories. I formatted the collection and then uploaded it to the website and waited for the money to roll in, which in due course it didn’t. What I did learn was the whole process was no trouble and free of charge.
Fast forward to May 2011 and I suggested to the writer’s group that we get a few of our books together, put them up on Amazon (Starfish Publishing) and have a launch party in November of that year. The idea was met with glee, happiness and several pats on the back, the bruises from which have now disappeared.
The next thing we did was decide which books we were going to put forward. I had an almost finished novel in the pipeline as did one other writer, while a third decided she was going to write a new one from scratch. After a couple more weekly sessions of discussion, we settled on a launch date, a deadline for having the books not just finished, but edited and given the okay by the editing committee (all the members of the writing group). It was a tough call, but we made it, albeit just in time.
After that decision was made we had to work out how to launch them onto a receptive, but unsuspecting, world. A book launch was the obvious answer, but how do you launch an e-book? There’s no physical product and none of us had the financial wherewithal to get a hundred copies printed so we had a problem that would take us a few weeks to solve.
In the meantime we had to decide on the name for our publishing co-op, the answer to which was fairly simple. By day I’m a PC consultant trading under the name of Starfish PC and had a website under that name (www.starfishpc.co.uk). Guess what happened? You got it, we used the starfish name, website and domain name and decided that PC would now mean Publishing Co-Operative. (The in-house joke is PC stands for Publishing Cupboard as we’re too small to be a house)
After some discussion and looking around at other blogs of authors who’d had a book launch, we knew we’d need something to hand out at the launch so decided to have some bookmarks and signed pictures of the cover art available. The big question of how we sell books was still to be answered and it became obvious the more we thought about it: laptops at the launch so people could download it there and then.
Come the day, come the launch. 12pm and no one had arrived, not even one of the authors, though she has a tendency towards tardiness and will no doubt be late for her own funeral. The first of our invitees turned up at 12:30 and others turned up over the next half hour, including two non-family members (woohoo). At 1:30pm, the authors stood on the dais to read excerpts from their books at which point one of our number remembered that in all the hassle he hadn’t actually read through his book to decide what part he was going to read. Okay, it was me. You live and learn.
While the launch wasn’t a success as regards attendance or sales and was a metaphorical rejection, we’d done the work and it hadn’t put us off doing it again. Our next launch will be this November and this time we’ll have something physical in the shape of a CD with the book on it in a slim DVD case complete with cover and the usual blurb on the back. We can make this for less than £1 and have the book cover artwork printed on the CD as well.
As a result of the problems with formatting I had on one book, we now have a style sheet that makes the process far easier as long as people stick to it. The style sheet covers basic formatting such as paragraph indents and the banning of tabs, not font size or style or any other peculiarities of the writer.
The biggest problem, as always is advertising the books and the launch and we’ve been searching for ways to do this that cost nothing, or very little. The ‘what’s on’ page of our local newspaper is one possibility and we have a firm offer put the details in a local magazine. The hall we’re planning to launch in has a bulletin board and as it’s the regular meeting place of several societies that could prove advantageous. We’re also going to make contact with the local library about doing another book launch there either the day or week before/after as one thing we’ve learned is promotion is continuous.
We’re learning what it takes to run a publishing cupboard, but by doing it together–learning together. We have an active twitter account (@Starfishpc) which one of our number is looking after and a facebook page (Starfish-Publishing-Co-Operative) which the three admins can post to and is linked to twitter. We’ve also started a weekly blog (http://starfishpc.blogspot.co.uk/) which we all contribute to.
The most important thing we’ve learned is that by working together, each person acting to their strengths, we’re stronger than the sum of our parts. We’ve even seriously discussed the possibility of turning the co-operative into a fully fledged publishing website akin to Smashwords at some future point. It’s a dream. And that’s where you came in.