By Stephen Cox
It’s been ten years since I had the idea for Our Child of the Stars.
I’ve now published two books, first drafted two or three others, and I still have lots of ideas in pieces on my dining room table.
Here’s ten things readers might like to know.
- Many people still like books and care about them. It’s the original immersive experience. We are surrounded by all sorts of screen and ear experiences, but books haven’t disappeared.
- People in publishing genuinely like books and enthuse about them.
- It doesn’t matter how you read or listen to your books. Wise authors don’t care. We borrow from friends, use libraries, and buy from charity shops too! We’re not great about you stealing our books though and the free downloading sites are stealing.
- A quick review or a mention on social lifts our day. It can be lovely to be an author – when a reader likes your book, when they find it true to their experience, where you make people see something a different way. Sometimes readers surprise you and see things in your book you didn’t realise were there.
- A grown-up author understands not everyone likes their book. Maybe you hate it. Well, it’s a free country. I loathe lots of successful books. Tagging an author in a bad review isn’t cool though. It’s like going to someone’s house and shouting through the letter-box, ‘That shirt looks truly shit!’.
- Writing doesn’t pay well or quickly. Most authors are paid far less, more slowly, for more work than you think. I signed my two-book deal in summer 2018. I’m published across the Anglosphere. I received the last of my advance money in March 2022. Four tax years.
- A book deal doesn’t give you life membership of a club. Nowadays most debut authors must fight to get their second deal, and their third. Like most debut novelists, I must show my old publisher my next book, but they’re not required to take it.
- You think it sucks when a series is not finished? Well, publishers don’t pay a writer to write a series as long as you want. They pay them to write two or three books, by which they mean if #1 doesn’t sell, they reserve the right not to publicise the second, or maybe even not publish it at all. Some people choose not to buy a series until it is finished. Just know, people doing that obviously and unarguably reduces the chance the series ever will be finished. It’s like arguing with gravity.
- Self-publishing is morally great – more people can get their work out there. You can make a living, particularly if you write fast and think in series. And by the way you need to be an excellent self-marketer, willing to spend perhaps half your life on it. But still, most people who write fast and think in series won’t make a living.
- Broadly publishing falls into four:
- Traditional: Publisher pays you
- Crowdfunding: Your friends pay you
- Self-publishing. You are your own publisher, you carry the cost and make the decisions. Your outgoings, your profits.
- Vanity publishing. Some companies will claim they do everything for you to get the book out there and promote it. They charge tons for a terrible package with vague T+Cs that won’t even scratch your dreams. Do your research.
Stephen is the author of Our Child of the Stars and Our Child of Two Worlds, heartfelt and thrilling science fiction. His agent has a new book. Stephen’s genre birth was Doctor Who, and he remembers Patrick Troughton in black and white. His website www.stephencox.co.uk carries free fiction and a newsletter, and he welcomes questions. To his dying day he will talk of playing Just a Minute with Nina Wadia at SFW XIV.