Darren J Guest, author of Dark Heart: The Purgatory of Leo Stamp, published by independent Snowbooks, tells us about his indie experience, giving some insider knowledge and tips for anyone thinking of following in his footsteps.
The spectrum of quality within independent publishing is as broad as it is with mainstream. I would say I got lucky signing with Snowbooks, as it is one of the few indie publishers that can get its books into bricks and mortar stores, and that isn’t to be underestimated where sales are concerned.
The first thing that surprised me was the timescale Snowbooks work to. From signing the contract to seeing my book in print took ten months, and you can add a couple of months onto that if you want to count how long they had my MS before contacting me with the good news.
The most important thing in the whole process is the Author Information sheet (AI). It’s an A4 piece of paper that contains all of the book’s details: blurb, author info, dimensions, strapline and selling points, etc. The booksellers need this info 4 to 6 months prior to the book’s publication; they simply won’t order it otherwise. In fact, that’s a sobering thought right there; after all your hard work it still comes down to the booksellers wanting to order your book.
The indies don’t have mainstream budgets either, so no advance and no big teams working on all the different aspects that go into producing and selling a book. Anna Torborg was my editor and cover designer all in one. But a lot of the grunt work was on me. I had to format my own book, which was daunting at first but was quite enjoyable by the end, and the editing is more like a proofread. I had the opportunity to go through the novel at several stages during the process and I took everyone – read the whole novel twice in one week in the final stage and was still finding niggling typos. In fact, that’s the best advice I can give: get lots of different eyes on your work and try to read it in different formats. You become blind to your own mistakes after a while.
And don’t expect big advertising campaigns, indie publishers just don’t have the funds. That means getting yourself out there – the donkeywork of self-promotion. An online presence seems to be essential for an author these days but doubly so for the indie author. Get that blog started before you get published. I went into my local bookshop this week to see if they’d stock Dark Heart; the first thing the manager did was Google me. He then ordered five copies, and this was one of those posh bookshops that don’t stock genre.
But the best thing about independent publishers is that most of them will look at un-agented work. It may seem like a backward way of doing it, but many of the Snowbooks’ authors have acquired literary agents after the publication of their first novels. A published novel to your credit makes you a far more appealing prospect to an agent, and if landing a five-figure deal with Random House is your dream, an agent is the only way you’ll be knocking on their door.
Lastly, don’t think indie publishing is a backdoor in for substandard work. They’re trying to make money just like the big houses. So if you’re getting rejection slips coming through your door like takeaway menus, don’t lose heart. It’s part of the maturation process a writer must go through. The worst thing that could happen to you in my opinion is to get published before you’re good enough. If you do, you’ll have a short and fruitless career ahead of you.
Darren J Guest led a vampiric existence in his youth, spending much of the 80s hidden from sunlight within the crypt-like snooker halls of Essex. But at some point in the mid 90s he buried his professional snooker career and rejoined day-lit society. He now lives and writes in Suffolk. His debut novel Dark Heart: The Purgatory of Leo Stamp is published by Snowbooks and is available now priced £7.99.
On Leo’s sixteenth birthday, something bad happened.
Something so traumatic his mind fractured, and darkness filled the crack. Twenty years on and the crack is a canyon. The schizophrenic hallucination that once offered sympathy has taken to mocking him, and the memory of that long ago birthday claws at his darkest fears, overshadowing even the murder of his younger brother Davey.
But just when life can’t get any worse . . . Leo dies.
A demon returns after twenty years.
An angel follows close behind.
Leo is caught in an age-old conflict, his past lying at the dark heart of it all.