A little change of emphasis in the update this week. Writing a story is one thing, editing another and after that comes the actual act of turning the story into a genuine book. Here you need a publisher. I’m very fortunate in that I’ve already got that box ticked.
Even better, they’ve conceded to an interview so that you can get some insight into what they do and why I’m working with them.
Fantastic Books Publishing are a specialist publisher in Sci-Fi and Fantasy. They’ve already published one of my short stories in an anthology called Fusion. Their work in taking my draft and turning it into a finished work was exemplary and they were the natural choice for Elite:Reclamation with their ‘Just Imagine’ tag-line.
I sent out my tweaked and upgraded Racing Green Cobra Mk3 (with newly re-trimmed cream leather bucket seats and a working autopilot) to pick up Dan Grubb, CEO of Fantastic Books Publishing.
Looks like he’s just arrived…
Q. Welcome aboard, Commander! Zaquessoian Evil Juice, or Anlian Gin?
Oddly enough I enjoyed an evening at home with a good friend who’s a trekkie just the other day. He says that the Anlian Gin, the preferred choice, is quite close to a beverage served in Star Trek at the onboard bar. Also, Anlian seems a little too close to Alien, anagrammatically speaking.Is Zaquessoian Gin a possibility?<Drew checks with the Sombrero totting bartender with the dark grey eyes, thick beard and deep laugh> Yes, apparently that’s ok…
Q. Who are Fantastic Books Publishing? Introduce us to yourselves!
We are an independent publishing house based in the north east of the UK (Earth, Sol System). There’s me (Dan Grubb – CEO), my wife (COO) and a group of snarling, spitting editors which we keep in the basement and feed on raw meat and manuscripts.
Q. You seem quite different from a traditional publisher, how would you differentiate yourselves?
That’s good to hear, thanks! I suppose the short answer would be ‘we’re honest’. I don’t mean to paint every other publisher out there as corrupt but there are certainly a few sharks in this pond.
We decided from the start to operate from a position of complete honesty, openness and transparency with our authors. This has led to some really interesting conversations where a cynical (but valid) question like ‘would you be able to tell me exactly how the publication process for my script would work?’ is answered with a resounding ‘yes!’.
We exist to help writers produce, promote and sell their books. That’s it.
Q. What do you make of the shift to ebooks and the effects of this on ‘traditional’ paperbacks, publishing, agents and the overall relationship with writers?
I think the move to epublishing has empowered writers enormously and this is most definitely a good thing. Fantastic Books Publishing works WITH writers, not against them. We have the contacts and the industry knowledge to get their work out there but the hard bit is the writing so we try our best to have them do as much of that as possible.
Self publishing has always had an ‘expensive’ tag attached. Epublishing allows us to take on a book, produce it, give it an ISBN and professional cover and send it to market without the author spending anything. Then, when the esales reach a reasonable amount (usually around the 8000 mark), we use our profits to produce a print version of the book too. Again, this costs the author nothing. Just imagine a world where a writer can BE a writer, just by writing…
Q. What are you looking for when you choose to go with a writer?
Fantastic talent. Pure and simple.
We will take on established names who we admire but the majority of our clients are first or second time published authors. We truly believe that new authors are writing the classics of the future. If a publisher isn’t going to take a chance on them, who will?
Q. Novelists used to write in obscure isolation. How important do you believe the use of social media, websites and interaction with fans is to a novel?
Very important. These days, with tens of thousands of new books appearing every day, it is important for authors to get out there and build their tribe.
It’s not hard, it just needs to be organised and we help our authors with that organisation.
A good rule of thumb is, sign up to everything, then link everything together. Post to one place, you appear to be posting in lots of places. Mix this up with some considered literary quotes, some blog appearances and a proactive marketing plan and you’ve got yourself a platform.
Interactive content is becoming more and more important too. A short video here, an audio interview there. It’s all good stuff to point potential readers to when they first find you. Oh, and the best piece of advice I can give writers trying to build their platform is this; Make your book buying links prominent! It’s easy to forget when you’re commenting on a dozen forums and chatting with a million other authors that one of the main reasons you are out here in internet land is to sell your book!
Q. Sci-Fi is a specialist genre with typically highly intelligent and critical fans. What do you need to do as a publisher to ensure a Sci-Fi novel attains a sufficiently high quality?
This is down to our editors. They are a scary lot and won’t accept anything they consider even vaguely mediocre. They read through every submission carefully then produce their initial report. Any inconsistencies at this stage will be pointed out with extreme prejudice. When the full manuscript arrives, post suggested changes, they will go through the whole script again, usually suggesting more changes. After playing ‘manuscript tennis’ a little, it arrives with our readers. We have trusted beta readers all over the world who give us not only their feedback and critique but an idea of the cultural relevance of a script in different countries. To answer this question fully we need a key sci-fi person. Without wishing to sound arrogant, I guess that would be me.
My grandmother passed me a copy of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Golden Apples of the Sun’ when I was 7 or 8 years old. I have consumed sci-fi and fantasy stories ever since. I am currently rereading Asimov’s robot series.
My editors are a terrifying bunch and can be quite heartless with less than satisfactory scripts (I edit their reports before they go to authors sometimes). However, when it comes to science fiction, I make them look like teddy bears. If a sci-fi story can get past me, it’s worth the trouble (see Fusion for example).
Q. Elite : Reclamation had an unusual genesis. What did you make of the Kickstarter concept and approach?
Wonderful! Many, many kickstarter campaigns fail because they don’t get the backing. This is usually down to the organisers not putting enough effort into telling people just why they should invest in the project.
You did SO WELL in that regard Drew and you have continued to produce great content to keep us all up to date with the project and your process. We really appreciate your dedication and I think I can safely speak for all when I say that we all feel involved with E:R on some level.
Q. A novel doesn’t normally need ‘sign off’ from another organisation. What do you make of the involvement of ‘Frontier Developments’ as a 3rd party?
Due to the unusual nature of the project, I think collaboration was inevitable. Touching on your previous question about the sci-fi genre, it is vital that you align your book with the world in the game and I was heartened to hear that the Elite : Dangerous team also made some game changes to align with your book. That’s a big thing for them to do and I was very impressed that they even considered making changes, let alone that they actually made them. This proves to me that they are fully behind the project and believe in it.
Q. One of my short stories was included in the anthology ‘Fusion’. Tell us about that and the criteria you were using to shortlist the stories submitted.
Again, it was mostly me and the editors. The stories were so varied and covered such diverse topics it was a wonderful experience. The contributors (yourself included) were really easy to work with and, although some of the long listed stories were sent back half a dozen times for rewrites before finally being rejected for the anthology, everyone was helpful, punctual and dealt with the editorial process with dignity and professionalism. We couldn’t have asked for a better bunch and the anthology is one of my proudest publishing achievements to date.
Q. You’ve seen the plot for Elite : Reclamation. What excites you about this story?
Well. Where to start? Now I mustn’t give away any spoilers but one of the main characters, the leading lady, has already made me fall madly in love with her.
The way you have wound the emotions of the story and the geography of the system together is nothing short of legendary.
I’ll be pushing this book to market so I’ll leave it there for now. Needless to say, it’s going to be something special.
Q. How could Elite:Reclamation differentiate itself from the other Elite projects out there?
Imagine a crime writer. They write a few words, stop, check Agatha Christie’s take on it, rewrite…
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to proactively differentiate your book from the other similar projects. You could almost force that similarity by becoming too interested in them.
Write your own book. You have the constraints of the system and other things to take into consideration. Don’t add to that list.
I have been privileged to see what you have so far and trust me, you’re doing just fine.
When you have written the whole book (and ONLY when), check for consistency. Be absolutely precise in staying true to the constraints (geography/character traits/ship layouts/building geography). Don’t make mistakes that will haunt you post-publication.
Let the other projects run, just like a crime writer would ‘let’ other crime novels be written. You are a talented writer, Drew, don’t ever forget it! (or we’ll feed you to the editors)
Q. Any other advice for me as I plough onwards?
You’re doing just fine. Don’t rush, only stress when your characters are stressed and remember the golden rule; Quality is key. That’s why I know that Elite:Reclamation will be a FANTASTIC book.
Dan many thanks for taking the time out to visit. I’ve programmed the Cobra for the return trip via the quickest hyperspace route. Don’t worry about the nervous glances in the space lounge, Riedquat isn’t as bad as they make it out to be…
And progress on the book? None this week I’m afraid. I had to work last weekend, and as you’ll have seen, in my previous blog entry, other events also overtook me. I have done some Elite work, I helped out with one of the upcoming writers’ interviews. More news on that when it’s available.
A final piece of eye candy before I sign off. I managed to patch and fix my copy of Space Engine and thus, we’re back on course for Chione. See you next week, Commanders.