Blog 5 – Crowdfunding

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A few months ago I entered into the foray of crowdfunding. There are some excellant new sites now, and 2 of them stand out from the crowd (no pun intended),

Unbound and Inkshares. One is American, the other British. I submitted the first chapter from my new book (Killing Time), and was accepted, but after reading the small print, I declined their kind offer.

Xander Cansell is Head of Digital at Unbound, and he was curious to know why I was not interested any more… which to me is a good thing, it means they are always looking for ways to improve their service. So I gave him a reply, which he may or may not have liked, but should have been helpful to them. I think it will be usefull for anyone contemplating using a service like this, so I have posted it below:

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Hi Xander,

No problem… Primarily I was daunted by the prospect of pushing for the pledges. Whilst I realise that this is the whole point of crowdfunding, it was probably the wording on the web page that struck reality. I have no family to call upon apart from a brother, and not that many friends (writers are a solitary bunch). Those friends I have are already supporting me, but there is no way that I could get an average of £25 from 150 of them, and definately not from work colleagues who would struggle to give £10 for a worthwhile charity.

Then, after all the time sapping emailing of individual messages and updates in the shed (Unbound’s writer’s area), I might, just might make the deadline/s. With the £3,595 raised, approx a quarter goes to admin, the bank and the tax man, leaving approx £2,800 to pay for editing, proofing, cover and typesetting. For that support, and of course the use of your site that gives the push, drive and focus for the building of funds, I would have to sign a 5 year contract that allows Unbound to ‘exploit‘ the content for whatever they deem fit. In addition, you would also get the first option for any sequel, prequel or novel set in the same narrative structure as the first. Whilst I am sure Unbound are a professional group and would listen to any misgivings I would have, it seems a big personal cost for the initial Unbound process that serves primarily as a guide in how to raise that £2,800 (after extractions). Personally, I would rather raise the money myself, through some local support and even getting a temp job and then use the money to get said editing, proofing, cover and typesetting done myself and hold onto my own publishing rights.

Yes, you provide an excellent platform for raising the money, and have a list of editors etc to polish the product and can handle sales, but it is nothing I cannot do myself. Online and via The writers and artist handbook, I can find reputable editors and via Amazon, Ingrame Spark etc I can publish my own book. But… I can also choose for myself to get it made into a paperback and… as I have done recently, go to the few independant bookshops left, and get them to stock it, as I have with my book, ‘The Awakening of Adam Capello’ which has just been ordered by Foyles. In addition, I can buy my own ISBN and therefore be the publisher. Yes, it is not as good as getting a traditional deal with a traditional publisher (in my eyes anyway) but at least I retain the personal freedom to have a paperback and negotiate any TV or Film rights if asked.

So in short:

I was worried about having to raise the money via being pushey to my friends

I was worried about having to go for ideas such as selling character name placement for pledges or a list of sponsers in the back

I think 5 years is too long

I think first option of sequels etc could tie me in for many years as one would lead to another

I’m not sure, but it looks like Unbound would get 50% of any monies received in regards to licensing, TV or film rights, which seems way too high, and that Unbound would be choosing where, or by whom etc.

In regards to my existing book ‘The Awakening of Adam Capello’, I have already had it proofed, typeset, formatted and the cover designed, (right down to making the spine as eye catching as possible) and am selling it worldwide via Amazon (Createspace).  So whilst it could always do with a professional eye to look over it, I’d rather not enter into a minimum 5 year contract with this book. If I was half way through something and it was my first book then I might feel differently, but I have learnt so much in the last 2 years of trying to get it published via an agent and then self publishing, that I feel Unbound do not offer me a service that allows me to sell a paperback as well as Amazon does.

But… I do like the idea of crowdfunding, and think services like Unbound will grow as they evolve into a better fit. I have made many mistakes in the last 2 years in my steep learning curve (I should have purchased my own ISBN for starters) and it would have been great to have professional assistance to guide me on this path, but I’d want it to be less automated, more the personal touch, almost like an online course with human tutorial feedback. Yes I know the shed gives a community of writers, but so does Goodreads etc, but I don’t have to sign a contract for 5 years.

Ahem, sorry, you did ask. I hope that helps answer your question and would be happy to correspond further or chat sometime as I find the whole process fascinating.

Regards,

Mark

M W Taylor

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So for anyone considering crowdfunding… please check the small print first.

Blog 4 – Buying your own ISBN

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So you have finally finished your book, eradicated all the spelling and grammatical errors, designed the cover and the blurb for the back page. Your baby is ready to go out into the world!

If, like me, you love the idea of having a traditional publishing deal and want more than anything to see it in print, then go ahead, contact all the agents you can find

… and I’ll deal with that subject another time.

It is a very time consuming process though, as every submission has to be tailor made to the agent you are submitting too. So what do you do whilst waiting for replies etc? I got frustrated, and started publishing in digital form via Smashwords, which is a great platform, but they do not make paperbacks. So I eventually drew up the courage to publish on Amazon, via their service, Createspace.

As part of the sign up process to Smashwords, and Createspace, you have a choice to either use their free ISBN or your own. An ISBN is not copyright, it is purely the right to say who it is published by.

Applying for an ISBN looks daunting with its paperwork and, most importantly, costs £99.99 for just one, or £149.99 for 10… but who wants ten? I’ve only got one book, and blimey, a hundred pounds just to put a bar code on the back! So the free one seems like a no brainer. It is sooooooooo easy, just click the right option boxes and it is yours, for nothing, zilch, nada!

And, if that was not enough, Createspace now seem to have an option of ISBNs to suit different purposes. For just £10, they will even let you put your name down as the publisher. My publishing name is Savant Press, as you can see from this web site.

I have this publishing name because I finally went down the ‘owning my own ISBN’ route. Yes, I wanted the freebie, and to be honest, it served me very well. I was able to publish my book and have it sold all over the world by Amazon and I felt like Stephen King. Wow, I can Google Amazon almost anywhere in the world, and there is my book selling with a whole load of the local lingo wrapped around it. In Japan, Australia, USA, UK, Europe etc, etc.

         And to be honest, if I wasn’t worried about sales or just trying to get my book the best exposure possible and respect that I think it so truly deserves (honestly, it is a fantastic book, but don’t just take my word for it, look at the reviews… I am biased though) then I could just leave it on Amazon to wallow, and tell my friends, family and anyone within earshot that I am a published, international author! It really is as simple as that. But it doesn’t pay the bills, and it doesn’t get it read. So what is the next step? Getting it into bookshops of course.

So I’m standing outside on the street, the book is looking amazing with its new cover, and again I pluck up the courage for my new venture. With my pulse racing and my shoes wanting to walk in the opposite direction, I went inside Foyles flagship bookstore in London and asked to see the buyer. Ben is his name, and after graciously listening to my pitch, he accepted my book to read and decide.

I waited a month before my impatience got the better of me, as I had not heard from him to get any orders. Did he not like my book? Does he hate it?

No, thank goodness. In fact, he quite likes it.

When I went to see him again, he said he had already ordered it. He had tried Createspace, but it was not possible, so he ordered through one of their distributors, Ingram.

Ingram is one of the country’s largest distributors, and used by bookshops everywhere.

But maybe not by Waterstones for some reason (I’m still looking into that) so they use Gardner.

But Ingram then order it through Createspace (Amazon) and they don’t really like each other very much, so they do everything really slowly. Which also means that instead of printing the book in England, which they do if you order on Amazon.co.uk, they print it in South Carolina in the USA… which is madness! All in all, it took about 6 weeks for Foyles to get my book, and they had very few details about it on their system.

Oh Jeez, this is becoming quite a long description… if only writing my new book was this easy.

So I decided that I would publish via Ingram Sparks. the Indie author route to their service, but you have to own your own ISBN. MotherFU$%R! It is not simple. But I did it anyway.

I registered and bought 10 ISBNs

Why 10?

Because every time you make a change to the cover, or even the paper type or whatever strange rule they have, you need a new ISBN. So buying 10 is by far the most economical way to do it. Also, every time you make a change on Ingram, you are charged £25.

Createspace are lovely, they don’t charge you anything and they are a lot more flexible in what changes you can make with your existing ISBN.

Sooooooooooooo, in short, and this is a bit naughty, because any changes should have a different ISBN, or Edition number, but… for the struggling writer, use whatever tools you can.

Soooooooooooo, when you really think it is ready, publish on Createspace and spend the £10 to use your own name, it will help a little as some bookshops don’t like Amazon as a publisher.

Then let it mellow.

Then, after some months, and listening to feedback, review the look of the book and the actual writing. Have any mistakes been found? If not, just change it on Createspace, free of charge.

Hint: When you make a change to createspace, you have to wait 24 hours for it to be checked. When given the thumbs up, publish again without checking, and then order a copy on Amazon. It is by far the quickest and cheapest way to see what it looks like as a book. Only then can you be sure.

After a fair while, and just before you go knocking on bookshop doors, buy / register your own personal ISBN and register with Ingram Sparks and the Neilson publishing list, which populates bookstore owner’s computer systems with info on your book. It takes about 6 weeks to go through.

Then email Createspace and ask them to retire your old title and create a link to your new edition.

Don’t try running the same book with two different ISBNs unless they look very different. It confuses the book buyers and your readers.

So publishing your book on Amazon is fab, very easy, and gives you the ability to give it a test run.

But they are not good as a bookshop distributor, so you will need Ingram Sparks as an Indie writer / publisher

So when you are absolutely certain, purchase your own ISBN to get it on Ingram AND Amazon (via Createspace).

I hope this helps. If you have any questions, just drop me a line from my contact page, it’ll be great to hear from you.

Mark

 

Blog part 3 – Making ends meet

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When I was made redundant from the Metropolitan police on 31st December 2015, I was lucky enough to be given an early ‘modest’ pension to stop me panicking about getting work as soon as possible. In a way, it has given me the freedom to start writing my second book, whilst trying to get the first one published. And to be honest, these two projects, take up most of my time and I have never been busier.

That said, I am also trying to earn a little extra so that I can delay going back to full time work for as long as possible, as I feel I am working for myself and never bored. Now I have the luxury of looking for work based on how much fun it might be, rather than it having to be anything I can find, as long as it pays my mortgage.

The first thing I did:

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I signed up for one of the most famous model agencies in the UK, called Ugly…

I’m in pretty good nick for someone over 50 years old, so I thought I might find a slot in the mature modelling market, and fortunately for me now, you don’t have to look like a film star to earn some cash. Within a month I’d secured work with Puregym through Ugly, and a little later, with M&S for their new customer review service. It pays really well, but would never be enough (unless you look like George Clooney) to live on.

As a photographer myself though, it has been fantastic to work with other hugely talented art directors and photographers on a very professional scale. Some of the requests I’ve had in the last two months have been very bizarre, but you only get 1 in 5 of the requests made of you though. Requests made:

To dress up and interact with the crowd at a conference as James Bond… then, in the second half, change into a Ziggy Stardust outfit to do the same.

To dress up as a ‘Ghostbuster’ and ride the new Derren Brown Ghost train at Thorpe park for The Sun newspaper… I’d have done that for free!!!!!!!

To ‘streak’ in front of Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on the Alan Carr show wearing only fleshing underpants! Luckily they wanted someone with a big belly (of which I do not have) so my bluff of saying yes paid off, as it would have been painfully humiliating.

To be a cool dad, playing football with his wife… they are happy… happy because he has had a vasectomy and their sex life has never been so good.

To be an accountant buying flowers for his wife… wow, a normal one.

And today… I had an audition to play a doctor flying a plane whilst talking to a transvestite about HIV. I’m waiting to see if I get the part for next week.

So, if you are quietly confident enough to perform or pose in front of a camera, and have the flexibility to turn up at castings, shoots and auditions at very short notice, then this is a great way of earning a little extra cash to fund the writer in you. AND… it gives tons of new material to work with if you are a comedy writer… it is bonkers!

I’ve also signed up for Ray Knight, to get some film extra work, so looking forward to my first gig very much. The hours are quite long and start early, and don’t really pay that much (Approx £100 per day) but again, you meet some very interesting people, and it can lead to other opportunities.

Okay, my next blog will be more writer orientated, with the question… To ISBN or not to ISBN?

Sprinkled with any new adventures. Have a great week.

 

Mark

Blog part 2 – Adventures in trying to get published

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I have always wanted to write… Well, I’ve always had niggling prods in the mind telling me to get something written. When I was younger, much younger, I kept to poetry. It was short and expressive, almost musical. It also made me feel artistic, which, as I am also a photographer, made me feel good. But… truth be told, I don’t really like poetry, at least, no one else’s, so I felt a fraud, after all, how can you expect people to read your poems if you don’t even read poems yourself.

Then came the reality that I wanted to write a book. I lacked a lot of confidence in my grammar, and my handwriting was awful. I’d get writer’s cramp within 5 minutes and be left with a page as unintelligible as a doctors prescription. I thought about getting a typewriter of course, but I didn’t know how to type! Ah, the innocent, pre-Microsoft word days.

Anyhow, at age 48 I finally had a book written via the beauty of word processing and a lifetime’s experience to set me on the right path. The book, as you can probably guess, is: The Awakening of Adam Capello… and it has consumed a good part of my life for the last 3 years.

I thought getting it written would be the hard part, but it pales into insignificance compared to trying to gain the attention of a publishing agent. I wish I’d started a blog as soon as the book was finished, so that I could log all that has happened as it happened, but I was working a 24/7 shift pattern as a crime scene photographer, and juggling that with seeing my kids who come over to stay very often from my ex wife (who is a good friend btw). Oh and navigating the highs and lows of internet dating, which is another book in itself. But on January 1st 2016, a wonderful thing happend. I was made redundant and given a modest pension to keep the wolf from my door. I don’t have to work for a few years at least, so now at last, I can live the life of a writer and give it the time it deserves. I am still working of course, only this time, I’m working for myself, and it feels good.

So I am starting a blog now to try and catch up with my experiences in self publishing, and illustrate to anyone who may take an interest, how difficult it can be to take your work and get it published in the big bad world.

I’ll talk about:

Finding the right agent

Sending them the perfect letter of introduction / synopsis / biog / summary

Going to (and paying for) author events to meet agents etc.

Getting it proof read, and going on to getting it edited professionally

Self publishing vs a traditional publishing deal

New services such as Inkshares and Unbound

Getting an ISBN

Promoting your online profile (such as having a website like this)

Getting your self-published book into book shops

And it will all be wrapped up in how my life is right now, after all, everything I do is intertwined, and this is all part of the big adventure. I have also finallly started writing my next book, with a working title of ‘Killing Time’ and will include a chapter or two to whet the appetite. I’m hoping I might even get a couple of movie trailers made too.

So welcome to my new site, please do say hello and keep checking for new updates which should go out at least once a week.

All the best,

Mark

M W Taylor

Blog part 1 – Welcome to the website of Savant Press

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Hi, my name is Mark William Taylor… the same M W Taylor that has his name plastered all over the cover of his first book, ‘The Awakening of Adam Capello’. And already I find myself talking about myself in the 3rd form… is that a writer thing, or just me?

This is a brand new website for me, and therefore not completely finished, but I wanted to post my first message to say hi, and let anyone who has read my book leave comments on this site. I’ll also try and keep some more interesting news on my blog, with info on my next book, ‘Killing Time’.