• Elliot Harper

The Tales of a Yorkshireman living in Texas: Self-Publishing

“It's a dark, cool, quiet place. A basement in your soul. And that place can sometimes be dangerous to the human mind. I can open the door and enter that darkness, but I have to be very careful. I can find my story there. Then I bring that thing to the surface, into the real world.”

- Haruki Murakami


It’s been over a year since I launched my website and began this blog. Time really does fly. Creating a website got the ball rolling for me. From that point onwards, I started to take my writing a little more seriously. It made it feel more real. It gave me a place to showcase what I’ve been up to all this time, and I really do love putting work on there.

It’s also been three years since I began scribbling down anything that came to my mind. A lot of it you have read, even more of it you haven’t. It’s hard to believe that I’ve written thirteen blogs, upwards of 50 short stories of varying lengths, and seven books, one which has since been published. I genuinely don’t know where it all comes from! I knew I had an active imagination as I spent most of my study and working life daydreaming the hours away, but little did I know there was so much stuff crammed in there, dying to get out.

This month, I’ve decided to talk about writing now that my published novella has been out for six months. Firstly, I’d like to thank all of you who bought it. I can’t adequately explain how pleased I am that people actually bought my crazy little book. It’s incredible to think that some of you have actually read the thing. I’ve since found out that a total of fifty-two people purchased it either online or in person, and I think that’s a respectable number for a debuting author publishing with a small press. I’ve genuinely enjoyed the experience.

That being said, I don’t think it will come as much of a surprise when I say it’s bloody hard promoting a book beyond friends and family. I’m not complaining, like I said it’s a respectable amount of sales, but I’ve found it nearly impossible to get it further out into the world. I contacted indie bookstores for signing events, I sent it to bloggers and reviewers, I purchased Facebook adverts and post boosts, but it all came to nothing. I don’t hold it against any of them for not giving it a go. They need to think ahead and spend time on books that have larger audiences or produced by bigger publishers. It makes sense, I’d do the same if I was in their position, but that’s just the way it is. It’s what I expected, but I wanted to give it a go either way.

The other thing about this writing lark is there’s no money in it. This is something else that I expected as well. From the fifty-two books I sold, Amazon takes 30-40% of the profits, plus printing costs. After that, the publisher receives 60%, and then yours truly gets the rest. To me, this isn’t about money, I just want my writing to be read, but that being said, I did only make $78! I put in a few month’s work on that novella, so I dread to think how much that is per hour, but like I said this isn’t about money. This is about doing something that I actually give a shit about.

I’ve gained some invaluable experience from the release of The City around the World. It’s forced me to improve as a writer. I’ve had to work harder on editing, harder on the tone of my website, harder on my style. I’ve had to think about my “brand,” about what I want to achieve, and where I see myself in a few years. These are the kind of things that I’ve avoided thinking about for twenty plus years. I’ve had some setbacks, but the experience is essential if I want to carry on and publish more books, (or even achieve the Holy Grail – getting a literary agent - if someone out there knows how to do that by the way, please let me know!)

Publishing more books is the other reason why I’ve written this blog. I’m sure a few of you have noticed my recent announcement and seen those little teaser videos on my various social media accounts. (I made those myself using free videos from Pexel and editing them on Clips on my iPhone, not a bad effort considering it’s just me messing around.) Just in case you don’t know, I’ve been working on self-publishing a short story collection called On Time Travel and Tardiness.

After I had attended a few workshops at a writing school in Houston called WriteSpace, I became aware of the possibility of self-publishing. One such workshop with the author D.L.Young really opened my eyes to the process. I had been put off by the costs and just assumed that the traditional form of publishing was the only viable way of getting a book released. At David’s workshop, I found out that wasn’t the case. It showed me that there are many different websites and tools that could really make self-publishing a possibility. So, I decided to give it a go.

It all started when I noticed I’d written quite a few short stories with similar themes that complement each other nicely. I chose a selection of those short stories, edited them as best I could, threw them together in one document, and then ordered a front cover from an outsourcing website called Fiverr. This fantastic platform provides access to thousands of people from around the world who are willing to create front covers, edit manuscripts, format documents, design marketing campaigns, anything really.

On that website, I contacted a guy called Burconor. He gave me a selection to choose from based on some examples I provided. I chose the one I liked, and then he had the finished article to me within 24 hours, which is amazing, and it only cost me $40! There’s something about seeing a cover come to life, it’s symbolic, the excitement really kicks in.

I then asked two of my good friends, Billie-Jean Hignight and John Brook-Smith, to proofread, and edit where necessary, the manuscript. Usually, to commission someone to edit it would have cost me about $500 minimum, so this has really saved my arse. They picked up quite a few errors that I’d missed despite me going through it dozens of times.

After that, I tried something new. I used Microsoft’s Read Aloud option in the Review section of Word. It’s impressive just how many things this new technique highlighted. It’s incredibly jarring when you hear an error, whether it’s a missed full stop, the wrong tense, a spelling mistake, it all sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s probably saved me much embarrassment!

Now that the editing was finished, it was over to the formatting. A manuscript needs to be set up in such a way that it’s ready for paperback and e-book. I shopped around for this as I didn’t want to risk it myself. I nearly ordered some from Fiverr, but I luckily went through some old notes from a workshop and found out about Reedsy Book Editor. This incredible resource allows you to upload your manuscript chapter by chapter, and it then arranges it all so that it’s formatted correctly!

If that wasn’t amazing enough, it also has templates for legal pages, as well as options to add pages for acknowledgements, forewords, epigraphs (quotes), about the author, and anything else that’s needed! And that’s not the best part… it’s free! That’s right! Absolutely free (my typical Yorkshireman reaction to this was pure and utter glee!) Unbelievable. The formatting is simple, no flash or flair, but that’s a small price to pay to know that it’s been done correctly, I think, especially if you’re trying to DIY it like I am.

The final hurdle was loading it up to Amazon’s self-publishing service, KDP. I had the cover and the formatted manuscript, so all I needed to do was upload it to the system. With that done, I checked the book on the Previewer and then ordered a proof copy. It came back fine, so I knew I was ready to go. After that, it was just a case of adding the book name, it’s genre, age-range, keywords for searches, price, and availability. Relatively simple when you come to think about it.

Why did I choose a short story collection and not one of my other novels? There’s a few answers to that question. It’s much shorter, which makes it easier to create. I’d been working on those stories for months already, so that meant the edit would be straightforward. Plus, I can play around with styles in a short story collection. This is very much a DIY project, so this way I could save money on its creation. I want to get a book out there for as little money as possible, and this is where you, my wonderful reader, come in!

I want this book to be thought of as a Kickstarter or a Crowdfunder, but with a twist – a Kickstarter with Benefits, if you will. Rather than me just straight up asking you for money, you get a book as well as the knowledge that you are helping me out.

Why am I asking for money? Well, it’s simple. I want to self-publish at least another two books. I may go for the other two that form the trilogy with The City around the World that I’ve called The (un)Trilogy of Zand, or possibly one of my other larger books, but I’ll decide later depending on the success of this book.

So, you see, every book sold will go into a small pot to help me fund those larger projects. There won’t be a lot of money in it, not enough for me to live a lavish playboy lifestyle or anything, but I hope there’ll be enough to at least get the other two in the trilogy, New Oxford Street and Mr Zand’s Emporium of Rare and Occult Books, off the ground and out into the world.

I hope you don’t think I’m being cheeky asking for you to purchase my latest book when it’s released (especially with the way the world is at the moment), and I hope a lot of you will be happy to do it, but I wanted to tell you my plan as honestly as I can.

Every sale of On Time Travel and Tardiness will help me bring a little more of my weird imaginings into the world. Will it make it a better place? I doubt it, but at least it’ll give us all something to do for a few hours! What more can we ask for?

On Time Travel and Tardiness will be available to purchase from Amazon on Saturday 13th June. Keep an eye out on my social media for more details.

That wasn’t quite a tale of a Yorkshireman living in Texas.

Write, read, edit, repeat.



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