Sunday, 29 May 2011

Eyes Wide Open

(This is a long post, please take a deep breath, grab a cup of tea, and dive in.)

And so, here it is, the news I've been hinting at for what seems like weeks, and something I thought I would never, ever say (which just goes to show you should never say never):

The first in the series of books known as THE LONG SECOND trilogy will be published on Amazon Kindle in June 2011, to be followed shortly afterwards by other formats. Later in the year its sequel - BROKEN - and also a third, unrelated book will also be available on Kindle and other e-readers.

Hurrah! Shout it from the rooftops! Rejoice!

It's not, of course, as simple as that.

I'm proud, and apprehensive, to say that I'm publishing them myself. Yes, I know what you're thinking. It's exactly what I've been thinking for most of the past two years, but let me explain...

This isn't failure. This isn't vanity publishing. Nor is this a short-cut to "traditional" publishing or a get-rich-quick scheme. It's none of those things, and more besides. But it is publishing. And, and this is actually pretty important so I'll do one of those rare things and use CAPS for emphasis: I'M DOING THIS WITH THE KNOWLEDGE AND APPROVAL OF MY AGENT.

I've watched the publishing world change beyond belief in the last two years. Two years ago the e-book was little more than a distant possibility, considered by most industry insiders to be at least ten years away from having any significant impact. A year later those same insiders were still insisting that there was a good five years to wait before the e-book became mainstream.

And then Amazon released their latest Kindle and all bets were off. It's hard to say why the current Kindle captured the public's imagination as it has, but there's no longer any denying it. You might still read Amazon's figures about the sales ratio of e-books to paper books and wonder if they are a little manipulated, one way or another, but you can't deny the buzz that now exists. E-books have arrived, big time.

With this arrival has come the ability to easily self-publish in electronic form. I've read countless pages and blogs on what that means, and I know that there are plenty of people who won't touch a self-published book, and for very good reason. I've read some and, to be honest, they've fallen short of the quality I'd expect from a traditionally published work - usually in simple areas such as grammar, spelling and basic story-craft. (I've started reading some books, not knowing they are self-published, but within a few pages the niggles set in, strange formatting quirks that make me go off and check. I'll still finish the book - if it's good enough, of course - but I read it with a different mindset).

Without a doubt, there is an enormous mass of awful, dreadful self-published work out there, and that mass is only going to grow.

So, why am I prepared to join it?

There's one simple reason:
The Long Second trilogy has not been picked up by a traditional publisher and, it would seem that after two years of trying, it's not likely to happen.

Does that mean it's not worthy of being published?
In my (admittedly biased) opinion and that of my agent: no.

But... doesn't that make me as deluded as all those other self-published authors, the ones I've alluded to above?
Hopefully, no. Here's why:

The Long Second has been through at least some measure of quality control, a level which I believe many/most self-published books don't achieve. Of course, friends and family have read it and loved it and told me how wonderful I am/it is, but that's not what I'm talking about.

The Long Second secured me an agent (and had multiple "full" requests before that happened). This means that there are independent people, people with no vested interest in telling me that it's a good story, well written, "tight", cohesive, who have told me these very things. My agent, at the very start of the submission process, told me that "it was in need of very little editing" (that may have been understating things somewhat, I've done plenty of editing on it since).

So, why has it not been picked up by a publisher? That's anyone's guess. Timing, in this business, is everything. There's "no market" for this sort of novel, apparently, or at least not one that's big enough for any of them to take a chance on, because they'll have to invest heavily in taking that chance.

And that's where self-publishing comes in. My investment, relatively speaking - at least in real monetary terms - is tiny. I can afford to take that chance.

Point number 1, then: I've had independent verification that The Long Second (and it's sequel) are worthy and of sufficient quality to be published.

And so we come on to the title of this post: Eyes Wide Open.

What do I mean by this?
* I don't expect to get rich from this exercise (though that doesn't mean I won't dream about potential success and what I'll spend the money on);
* I don't think that this will be a short-cut to traditional publication (though I will continue to write to pursue that dream and, in the event that I do well out of this, it won't hurt);
* I am doing it to get feedback, and am prepared to take the bad and the good, in the hope that it will help me become a better writer;
* I do want other people to read the book - I've been told it's good enough and so it would be a shame to consign it to the virtual desk-drawer, never to be seen again.

So, I ask you to do what I've done: put aside your prejudices for a moment, stop seeing self-publishing as the last resort of the hopeless and talentless, and approach it with an open-mind. I know that there will be many of you who (if you would be so kind as to buy the book) will be acutely aware that it's self-published and will be looking for typos and formatting errors, and will see each and every one as justification for their opinion. I can only say this: I have worked really hard to make this book the very best I can, I have scoured it (more times than you would believe) for typos and errors but I don't doubt for a minute that some remain, I have tried to present it in a professional style - adopting (as best I can) the layout of "real" books.
(And if you believe, for one moment, that all traditionally published books are error-free, then I can give you examples including one, from a fairly major author, whose back cover contained a typo, and whose content contained errors. But I won't. I did, though, contact his publisher about the typo...)

I genuinely believe you will be pleasantly surprised. If you are, please tell me and tell your friends and the world. If, on the other hand, it reinforces everything you ever believed, please tell me, I'd genuinely want to hear what you have to say and, if possible, work to make it even better.

I've never believed I was about to be the next J K Rowling, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be the next Amanda Hocking, but I'd love to be able to say that Marshall Buckley published on Kindle and, you know, did a pretty good job.

Over the next few weeks (months?) I'll be going into more detail about how I got to this point, what was tried along the way - the highs and the lows - and what I've had to do to get the book(s) fit and ready for self-publishing. I promised to blog much more regularly than before. There's even a new website in the making... I have, you might have gathered, been quite busy of late.

I titled this blog Publishing Dreams right from the start. It's just that those dreams have changed a little.

Thank you. (I'll be sure to let you know when it's finally available).


  1. I think this definitely calls for some bubbly and cake! Congrats!

    I don't think that self-publishing is only for failures, and your expectations seem very reasonable.

    You'll do well, I think.

  2. *applauds*
    Good for you. Having been in a similar position,I took this sort of route.
    It takes a great deal of courage to do it, because there is still so much misinformation and so on.
    In the end, waiting for an opening that may never come is damaging to the spirit beyond imagining.
    Good luck.
    Viv (guineapig66)

  3. Excellent, well done. I'll be reading it for sure!

    Wish you lots of good luck, you deserve it. Hugs.

  4. Good for you! I look forward to reading them :)

  5. Thanks everyone... watch this space. (Well, watch Twitter too!)

  6. I think it's brilliant that you're being proactive in putting your book out on Kindle but also admire you for giving it so much thought. I've read some excellent self-published books written by Twitter pals, which I might otherwise have had to wait years to read, and some of which I might never have got to read through no fault of their own. I'm very much looking forward to reading yours. Congrats on taking this step!

  7. Well good for you, old bean. I will be delighted to buy it.
    Very best wishes to you from Whitby.

  8. I'll be buying it! Congratulations!

  9. Congratulations and good luck. One minor question, what exactly is a "get-quick-rich scheme"?

  10. And *whoosh* - there goes all dreams of being a decent copy-editor.
    A "get-quick-rich" scheme is exactly what this isn't, nor is it a "rich-quick-get" scheme or a "quick-rich-get" scheme.
    Thanks for spotting that. Feel free to offer your services as an proof-reader sometime...

  11. Have been away for a week and just have found out your news.

    Well, congratulations, Marshall! Will be very interested in reading all about your publishing journey.

    As well as the books, of course :)


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