In Praise of Small Press, A Guest Blog by Tracie McBride

Most writers who reach a certain point in their writing career will ask themselves the following questions:

Should I pursue a contract with a publishing company? Or should I self-publish? Or should I place a bob each way and try to do both?

If you decide to go down the self-publishing route, then to do so you’re going to need either very deep pockets or very talented and generous friends. You might already possess the extensive skill set to successfully get your book to market and to do it well, but that is unlikely. Otherwise, prepare yourself for a mighty steep learning curve.

Let’s assume you’ve already honed your craft to the stage where your work is worthy of publishing. No matter how good you are, it will still need editing. And once it has been edited, it’s a good idea to have it proofread as well (contrary to popular opinion, editing and proofreading are not the same things). This is so important, it bears repeating, in bold and italics:

No matter how good you are, it will still need editing.

There might be some freakish individuals out there who are capable either of turning out a perfect manuscript that requires no further polishing, or who are capable of turning a wholly objective eye on their own work and effectively self-editing. I’ve never met any of those people. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, if you’re reading this, you’re not one of those people either. I’ll go a little further out on that limb (it’s thin and bendy at this point, and just about to snap off and dump me on my ass) and say that, if you’re one of those self-publishers who neglects this stage altogether, then you’re doing your readers, your fellow indie writers and the craft of writing itself a grave disservice.

OK. So you’ve found yourself an editor who is both good and affordable, and after a few months’ work (it’ll take at least a few months, because it’s highly likely that neither you nor your editor has the time to devote your entire attention to just this one manuscript) your book is as good as it can be. Now you need cover art. But you’re a competent graphic designer as well as a good writer, so that’s going to be easy…

Oh. You’re not a graphic designer? Then you’ll either have to find one (and probably pay one), or learn how to do it yourself. Your cover design can be created fairly quickly and inexpensively using stock images purchased off the internet and a good quality graphic design program. If you want customized artwork on the cover, that could cost you more (or you could call on those talented and generous friends mentioned earlier). This stage of the book production process needn’t be difficult to get right, but get it wrong and your book could languish forever unsold in the bowels of Amazon.

Once you have your manuscript and your cover design sorted, you have to lay out your book for publication. Resources abound on how to format your book as an e-book, but even this can give you headaches. If you want your book published in paperback, then the interior layout is different again.

And once all of the above is accomplished, you still have to sell the thing. Simply listing your book on Amazon and hoping it will sell on its own is not going to cut it. Anecdotal evidence suggests that successful indie writers spend just as much time promoting their work as they do writing it.

Let’s review the list of skills involved: writing, editing, proofreading, graphic design, layout, e-book formatting, marketing and promoting… Are you overwhelmed yet?

If your book gets accepted by a publisher, then they’ll take care of everything except for the writing part. Sounds much simpler. Except that for your manuscript to be considered by a major publishing house, then you’ll need an agent. And getting an agent involves…sending out a lot of query letters, L-O-N-G waiting periods for answers that will more often than not be “No”, and still no guarantee of publishing success even if you do manage to secure that elusive representation.

Which is where the small press comes in. Small publishers offer most of the services that big publishers do, except they’re…well, smaller. They might not pay advances, but you don’t have to go through an agent to get to them, either. Small press publishers usually specialize in a particular genre, and they do so because they genuinely love that genre. Their primary reason for running a small press will not be money (although making money certainly helps!); because they’re not as concerned with the bottom line, they’re more inclined to take creative risks and to sign the relatively unknown writer or to accept the commercially unusual concept novel. They will probably be run by people who are writers themselves, so they understand the process and understand what you as a writer need from them. They will most likely be active in genre fandom; you’ll see them propping up the bar at conventions, and they will represent your book to the best of their ability when awards time rolls around.

Most importantly, once you sign with a small press, you become part of their family. They will remember your name, your partner’s name, the name of your kids and your pets. They will see you, not as a row of dollar signs, but as a talented and worthy individual.

So in the tussle between indie authors and publishing giants, spare a thought for the little guys, the small press, working away tirelessly to bring your book into the world. You might even want to support them by buying a book or two…

*****

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Tracie McBride is a New Zealander who lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in over 80 print and electronic publications, including Horror Library Volumes 4 and 5, Abyss and Apex, BULL SPEC, Dead Red Heart and Electric Velocipede. She won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best New Talent for 2007. Her short story and poetry collection “Ghosts Can Bleed” was released in April 2011 by the writer’s co-operative Dark Continents Publishing, of which she is vice president. She welcomes visitors to her blog at

The Exquisite Corpse

Also, check out Tracie’s books.

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Ghosts Can Bleed

Dark Continents Publishing

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April Fool and Other Antipodean Horror Stories

The Warm and Fuzzy

~Ahem~

Let me preface this for my sister [yes, my favorite sister out of three siblings, two of which are boys] before I write this piece: I will do something similar for you. Now, P-Shorty just hold onto your boot straps for a while longer.

~Ahem~

Since that’s out the way, let me continue.

You may have heard by now that I have a three story collection out there on Amazon titled Along the Splintered Path. If you haven’t heard before now, well, now you have. Follow the link above and check it out. The reviews have been really good so far.

[[Side Note: I know that was a shameless plug and here is a shameless request to go along with that shameless plug: if you have read Along the Splintered Path, would you mind leaving a review? People really do read those things before deciding on buying a book. End Side Note]]

Occasionally in life you have a chance to do something nice for someone. Many folks don’t take these opportunities. We live in a world where it’s all about ME and if we can’t get anything out of it, well, then we’re not going to do it.

Let me say this to that mindset: When you do something nice for someone you do get something out of it. You get the satisfaction of helping a person(s) with something they needed and that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside. And if feeling that does nothing for you… well, go ahead and stop reading now because nothing I say from here on will interest you.

As I mentioned above, recently a three story collection was published by Dark Continents Publishing in what is their Tales of Darkness and Dismay e-book release. I’ve done a bit of advertising and seeking out websites to review the book, as well as seeking out places to do guest blogs and interviews. Marketing is tough work.

[[Side Note: To you writers out there, if you have any suggestions on where to send requests to, I’m completely open to listening. Just drop me a note. It’s much appreciated. End Side Note]]

A few of my friends and family were not happy with me because I didn’t tell hardly anyone about the book until right before it came out. I did that on purpose and I’ll explain it briefly here: A few times last year things in the works fell through. I had mentioned these things to friends and family and then those things didn’t come to fruition. I’m not really the superstitious type, but I got tired of telling folks, ‘no, it’s not happening now,’ so I kept this one under wraps until it was a done deal. No need to jinx myself, you know?

In the process of telling folks after it came out, I missed a few people. One of them is a lady I have worked with for a while now. She and I had an instant bond when I saw her reading a Stephen King book when I first met her. We talked off and on after that. When I told her I was going to try my hand at writing, she encouraged me.

And encouraged me.

And encouraged me.

Do you get the idea that she maybe encouraged me?

Besides my wife, she is the only other person who truly believed that I could succeed (as much as success can be had) if I worked hard at it.

Occasionally she would read one of my stories or ask if I had anything for her to look at and I would give her the current project.

She has been a constant believer in me and my abilities. Even when I wasn’t so sure.

I passed by her desk recently and we started chatting about King’s 11/22/63. After a couple of minutes my book came up. The lady was excited. Her eyes dazzled—dazzled, I say—and her face lit up.

But, then the shine faded when she said she doesn’t have a Kindle and she doesn’t use a computer at home.

As a writer I want to get to as many readers as I can. But, this was one reader who wouldn’t be purchasing the e-book. I wasn’t disappointed that I wouldn’t be making a sell. I was disappointed that someone who had constantly believed in me and encouraged me wouldn’t be able to get the book.

I went back to my office and an idea formed. I have the PDF version of the story. I have the cover art. Why not make her a book? No, it wouldn’t be perfect bound like the presses but still… it was something in print that she could hold and read in bed if she wanted to.

I had the book printed out along with the cover art. Then I went to a local copy shop and had them bind the book with a clear front (there is a reason for this) and a hard vinyl back. Then I took it back to my office, pulled out a black Sharpie and signed the clear cover with her name, my name and sandwiched in between were the words:

Thank you for always believing…

A couple hours later I went back to see my friend.

“I have something for you.”

She gave me a curious look.

“It’s not much and it’s not an official print copy, but I had this made for you.” I proceeded to hand over a copy of my little collection.

Her face lit up and I swear her eyes got wet. She gave me a big hug and said ‘thank you’ several times. She then said, “I have every story you’ve ever sent me printed out and in a box at home.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes. I wanted to keep them for when you get famous. I can say I knew you when.”

There is more to this, but that is the gist of the story. You see, she believed in me, she thought I could do this writing thing. I’m going to be honest, I was never sure I could do it. Granted, I’ve not done much, but even a little success is more than a lot of folks have.

I walked away feeling all warm and fuzzy. I may not have made a sell, but I did keep a long time fan happy, one who always believed in me. And, really, isn’t that what this is all about?

It’s ALIVE…

Oh my. It’s here. The new phonebooks are here…

Oh, wait, that’s not right. While I do feel a little like Steve Martin from the movie The Jerk right now, the new phonebooks don’t arrive until February around these parts.

What has arrived is my three story compilation, Along the Splintered Path. Officially, it was released yesterday by Dark Continents Publishing, but sometimes it takes a day or so for it to appear on Amazon. I’m here to say that, yes, it is now Alive—Alive, I tell you… mwa ha ha ha ha—at Amazon.

Ahem…

I like to make things easy for the readers, so here is the link to the Amazon page:

Along the Splintered Path

If you, the readers, wouldn’t mind picking up a copy and reading it, I would appreciate it. Seeing that it is priced at 2.99, I’d say that’s a deal, wouldn’t you?

Also, if you feel inclined to, would you mind leaving your thoughts about the collection? If not, I’m okay with that. I’m just glad you wanted to read it.

Also, the first of what I hope is many interviews is now live at BREATHE, Michelle Garren Flye’s blog. You can check it out here:

A.J.’s Back: Announcing ALONG THE SPLINTERED PATH

Drop a comment, say hey to Michelle and peruse her blog—lots of good stuff going on there.

Also, I want to mention that my collection is one of ten released by Dark Continents Publishing in what is The Tales of Darkness and Dismay book release. Twelve authors, Ten books. In the coming weeks, I will post blogs and, hopefully interviews, for all of them. Stay tuned. You won’t be sorry.

For now, I’m A.J. and I’m out…

Along the Splintered Path and A Couple Other Notes

Good morning, afternoon, evening, Friday to you all where ever you may be. Today is December 30th of the year 2011. Just two days left before we ring in 2012. Hopefully the New Year will bring joy and happiness and peace to us all.

Okay, I’m done with the sappiness…

I have good news and hopefully you all will like it.

Two things happen at the beginning of this year. First, my story, In the Shadows They Hide will appear in the anthology Night Terrors II, put out by Blood Bound Books.

The second one—and this is the one I’ve been chomping at the bits for: Dark Continents Publishing will release a three story collection of mine titled Along the Splintered Path on Monday, January 2nd. It is part of an e-book launch titled Tales of Darkness and Dismay. There are ten books in this launch and I’m glad that one of them is mine.

My little collection includes the reworked version of The Woodshed (which originally came out in 2008 in the anthology Dark Distortions put out by the now defunct Scotopia Press). This version is better, reworked half a dozen times since then. If you’ve never read The Woodshed, well, you’re in for a treat.

’Round These Bones, another older tale that was originally quite flat in it’s story telling and around 2300 words has been reworked and tops out at near 10K words now, is also in this collection.

Finally, but certainly not the least of these three stories, is Phillip’s Story, about a homeless man who comes into some money that, literally, falls from the sky. Ahh… but there is more to Phillip’s Story than that. It is two stories intertwined, two destinies colliding in time. Of the three stories, this is my favorite.

At the end of this is the cover, but before I post it, I wanted to say a little thanks to some folks who helped get this collection ready for submission:

Neil Buchanan
Kevin Wallis
Gay Degani
Lucas Pederson

And a very special thanks to my friend, Paula Ray, who helped me with my bio and the collection’s title.

Also, I’d like to thank Dark Continents Publishing for the opportunity to put this out. Several times in 2011 I had collections fall through and I got really frustrated… even thought about not writing for a while. My wife talked me out of that. Thank you, Cate. (Most of you know my wife as Catherine, but she prefers Cate…)

Now, here’s one thing I need to say for certain: I’m not an avid fan of reading those ‘self help’ books, the ones that tell you the rules and tell you things that really don’t make sense. However, if you are a writer (or a reader) I strongly encourage you to read Stephen King’s On Writing. This is the only book I will ever suggest to any writer to read. It taught me more in the two weeks it took me to read it (I’m a notoriously slow reader) than anything else about telling stories.

Everything I have written since reading this book, including a novel titled, Cory’s Way, is so much better because I read On Writing. You see, King doesn’t give you a bunch of rules and crap. He just tells you the truth about writing and that truth is, well, to tell the truth in your fiction and make the reader fall into the story, make them believe that what you have written is happening.

I’ve often said that in today’s world of writing and publishing, there is not enough ‘alive’ story telling. What I mean is that so many writers these days just tell cut and dry, action oriented stories that have no real life to them. They don’t let their stories breathe. King lets his stories breathe more so than anyone I have ever read (sometimes with a bit too much breathing that borders on hyperventilating). The point is, don’t restrict yourself because you don’t think someone will pick up what you have written. Good stories find a way to get published.

Cory’s Way was originally supposed to be a novel, but I found the task of writing it extremely daunting and decided to turn it into a short story. The story didn’t want to be so short and it grew and grew and grew (and I let it) until it turned into a novel that I am proud of. Hopefully, in the coming year, I can find a home for it, as well…

I’m going to go now, but before I do, here is the cover of Along the Splintered Path. I think it embodies the stories in the collection. I’ll post links to the collection when it comes out. If you purchase it, I appreciate it—more than you will ever know. If not, times are tough, and I understand. I thank you for considering it anyway.

Until next time, I’m A.J. and I’m out…

Along The Splintered Path, Book Cover

[Herbie’s Note: No paths were splintered in the writing of this blog.]