Ready for Halloween

I hope

The Halloween anthology, the fifteenth Underdog Anthlogy, is now live on Smashwords and going through the process on Amazon. Hopefully it won’t take long. Anthology 16 (Christmas themed) is open for submissions but due to the backlog of other work, editing won’t begin until November so there’s no need to rush.

It still astounds me that it’s got this far. I genuinely thought that putting ‘Volume One’ on the first Underdog Anthology was overly optimistic. And now we have number 15. There are already a couple of stories in for number 16. I’ve created a monster!

Well at least it’s a benign monster. You won’t die from reading its contents. Also, I am happy to report that every single Underdog Anthology has introduced at least one new author, and this one has continued that tradition.

Ah, the Kindle book already appeared while I was writing this post.

I have four stories in there. The first is available under the ‘look inside’ option, followed by a teaser for one of Daniel Royer’s tales, and it’s really worth your time and pennies to see where that one goes. Another of mine is a past entertainment blog post. One more is a reprint of a story from ten years ago, and the fourth is part of the Panoptica lead-in stories. Once I catch up with the backlog I’ll put those lead-ins together in one place.

Okay, the world is full of madness but I’m leaving that alone for tonight. This book was beset by delay after delay, it’s over now and I need a day off before starting the next one.

Fingers crossed that there won’t be any issues with the print copy!

Underdog Anthology is imminent

The Amazon page is up and the Kindle version will probably be available first, followed shortly by the print version.

The Kindle will be £1.99 including VAT in the UK (yes, they charge VAT on eBooks now and it varies depending on which country you buy it in). The print version will be £4.99. I make pennies per copy but as I said at the start, this first one wasn’t the ‘make me rich’ one. It’s the ‘get known’ one so the cheaper the better.

I now have four novels in process, the first of these just needs a cover, the second already has a cover and just needs my final proofreading. Those two contracts will go out in the coming weeks.

Also there will be a second anthology next year and another for next Christmas so I’ll be looking for stories again. Can’t promise the same pay rate as last time, it was generous to get the ball rolling but future books will have to suffer the oppression of reality. I won’t make a profit in the first year but I’d like to in the second.

Next, I have to prepare the anthology for conversion into all the other eBook formats out there. As long as I set it up properly that won’t take more than a few days.

Novels are actually easier…

It begins…

The Underdog Anthology is now in the hands of Lulu and Amazon and I am waiting for proofs before letting it loose. Retail price will be £4.99 paperback (200 pages). I make about 30p profit per book but the first one wasn’t about the money. It was about getting started.

Base price for Lulu’s ‘economy’ version is actually a little higher than the base cost for their bookstore-quality one. This seems to be because the economy version only ships from the USA. So we won’t bother with it, we’re just going for the good one.

Once the proofs arrive and everything is OK I’ll make a hardback version too. That will be disgustingly expensive but it’ll be there if anyone wants it.

The next job is the eBook version. It’s not hard, it just takes time to put in all the internal links.

We’re under way. At last.

20128998_cover

The back cover – first draft

Not quite first draft, there have been a few other versions. This is the latest – again a collaborative effort with CStM. Opinions welcome.

backcover4I probably have to add a ‘not for children or the weak’ notice, to be on the safe side…

 

Update: The wording might be ‘Not suitable for children, Puritans, the hard of thinking or the perpetually offended.’ That should cover it.

Anthology… it’s getting very close now

coverdraft

That’s the cover image, first draft anyway. I have gone for a plain font for the writing. There is time, but not much, to raise objections or suggest alternatives.

Midnight Wednesday is the last chance to ask for changes to the text. After that I’ll go through it one last time and as soon as the back cover is ready (we have the image) it’s going out to print.

It’s going to be published under Leg Iron Books because if you Google that, the first hit is the previous post and the second hit… is kinky.

The Ebook will take a little longer. I have to set up lots of internal links between each story and the contents page and make sure there are no format issues. It’s not hard, but it takes time. The Ebook will have the same front cover but of course it has no back cover.

So, authors, check your section in the PDF I sent out very thoroughly indeed and let me know by midnight if anything is amiss.

Before you know it, we’ll be working on the next one.

Cover versions

CynaraeStMary and I have been getting all artistic this evening, working on cover images for the anthology. There are a lot of photos so I have roughly and quickly produced a few cover images from some just to see how they will look.

cover1

The image signifies that it’s the first anthology. There is a slightly fancier version too…

cover2

I hope you all appreciate the effort involved in growing my nails that long…

Some might consider that image too rude so let’s try something with a bit of romance. Have a heart….

cover3

As I said, there are a lot of images to go through to get the best one but these are the principal themes. There is also the matter of the back cover, which will continue the theme. Something along these lines…

img_7310

Then maybe a greyscale frontispiece inside. Just like a picture-book storyline…

img_7314_grey

I have a couple more hearts in the freezer in case we don’t have the perfect shot yet. This, though, is the sort of cover image we’re considering. I have one important question –

Is it horrible enough yet?

Underdog Transport

No, no, I’m not starting yet another business. While I’m on the subject of business though, I have to set a deadline for anyone who hasn’t yet checked over their stories in the PDF of the anthology that I sent out. Let’s say Wednesday – at midnight on Wednesday I assume everything is okay and start the process of putting it in print.

There’s still the cover, but since the weather is not likely to get above freezing tomorrow I’ll be home all day so I can try out some images.

Also I will be reconsidering the name Underdog Books because as a few people well versed in legal matters have pointed out, the name is rather overused these days. This also means a search will throw up all the other Underdog sites and I’d prefer to be on page one at least.

Then there are the genres. Since I won’t specialise I will probably need imprints – sub-names – for different genres. Depravity Books seems to be still available. That’s  a start.

Digression over. Now, back to the title.

CynaraeStMary has a little dog, and that little dog is now taking control of the entire house here in Scotland. Getting her here was a challenge, but we did it eventually.

It started with a shock. The quick way would be air transport but the lowest quote for that was £1400. It would be far cheaper to shoot the dog in Denmark and buy a new one in Scotland. Not surprisingly, that idea didn’t go far.

Other options included sedating the dog and wearing her as a scarf, giving her a dose of something to make her rigid and pretend she was a stuffed animal, and there were a few strange ideas too.

In the end we went with an animal transporter who travelled by road. The little dog must have thought she’d been kidnapped by a travelling animal collector as she was driven from Denmark to Calais and through the Channel Tunnel to London. That part of the journey wasn’t expensive. Since they picked up several pets across Europe in one trip, the cost of the trip was shared.

Getting her from London to the farm north of Aberdeen was going to cost £600, since she’d have a private chauffeur for that trip and the driver would have to stay somewhere overnight before driving back empty. No problem, we thought, we’ll pick her up in London and bring her back ourselves.

The plan was slightly hampered by not having a firm date for the dog’s entry into the UK. Slightly more hampered by not being able to transport her by plane, train or bus. We had to drive her here.

Okay. I have driven here from south Wales already this year, and horrible though it was, it’s possible. However, my little car has suffered greatly this last year and isn’t in a fit state for such a long trip. Hire car, both ways, was a consideration but driving that route one way is knackering. I couldn’t do it without a few days rest in between and that would jack up the hire car cost. So… no.

We found out the date of the little dog’s arrival on Friday at 2 pm. She was due in that night. In Caterham in south London, some 600 miles from here.

Well, there was an issue there too. The vet had given the requisite anti-parasite dose at the right time, but had put the certificate on the wrong page of the passport. That was enough for Border Control to play Jobsworth and refuse to accept the passport.

The pet transporters went to the trouble of finding a local vet who could amend the passport. They were very good throughout.

Okay, we still had to get to Caterham and bring back a little dog without public transport. It was scramble time.

Within a few hours we had, between us, booked a flight for that evening, a hire car at the destination airport (Luton) and a hotel in Reigate for that night. Caterham was close to that hotel so we could get started early next day.

Every time I hire a car, which is extremely rarely to be honest, I ask for something like the Vauxhall Astra. A straightforward car, no complicated frills. Last time they gave me a Nissan Qashqai and I had to pull into a layby outside Aberdeen to find the screen wash and heating controls. The thing was festooned with buttons. There were more buttons on the steering wheel than my little car has in total.

There was also a slight issue with the fuel cap. Turns out it’s opened by a little lever near the driver’s pedals. The guy at the petrol station must have wondered why I took so long to start filling.

Keep in mind that I learned to drive in cars that had manual choke control and a radio lashed to the dashboard with Meccano. The new ones look to me like something that should really be capable of space flight.

This time they gave me a huge black Volvo V40, again festooned with buttons. This time I checked where the basics were before starting out. Then a tour round the M25 to Reigate without crashing and then parking the monster in the narrow hotel car park without hitting anything. Success.

Next day, we found our way to the pet collection house without incident. The detour along country lanes was a deliberate act on my part, it made a nice change from the motorway, I thought. I did not deliberately disregard both the satnav and CynaraeStmary. It’s been scientifically proven that women’s voices cannot penetrate the driving male brain.

Anyway, the satnav later proved to have its own agenda.

So began the trip back. All pretty good really, even the M6 managed to keep moving, albeit pretty slowly at times. Then we stopped at a service station. Took the dog for a walk then left her in the car while we went for some food.

No chance. The dog set off the car alarm. We could not take the dog into the service station, we couldn’t leave her in the car. We had to go in individually. Every stop. It worked, and to be honest the longer stops meant a longer rest from driving for me.

There were no major issues until Glasgow. The roadworks that were there in the summer are still there. I think Glasgow has forgotten them. The cones have been out so long they are now grey with road dirt and not even slightly reflective. As in the summer, there is nothing to indicate where you turn off the M74 to the M73, so we ended up in Glasgow again.

Ah, but this time we have satnav. No problem – we just program it for say, Dundee, and it’ll get us out of here.

“The trip involves ferries and motorail” intoned the fantastically tedious voice. I said things that could get the blog shut down. It tried to make us head for Glasgow Airport and it wanted us to go to Belfast.

Let me just point out here that Belfast is in exactly the opposite direction to where we wanted to go and is across the Irish Sea. We tried various alternative destinations – it insisted on going via Belfast every time. Maybe it was programmed to pick up a shipment of guns or something.

Finally we got it to accept the postcode of the house here. That did mean we had it babbling away all the way, and throwing a hissy fit every time we pulled into a service station for a rest. But at least it no longer insisted on going to Belfast.

We made it here, car and dog intact, in good time. I have now returned the rental car, also intact, and have my own car back. I did consider just giving them the keys to my car but it seems they have a note of which car they gave me.

From leaving the house to being home again took around 30 hours. 1200 miles in 30 hours. 34 if you count the time to organise the trip. All for a little dog.

cdrjf1av

Who slept most of the way and then turned into full overexcited toddler mode on arrival. She still hasn’t explored everything.

There was only one incidence of bleeding on the whole trip. I call that a successful venture.

 

Contracts for novels

I have been looking into novel contracts while waiting for the final OK from all the authors in the anthology. That will go out first, naturally.

The Christmas anthology will be postponed but not cancelled. I vastly underestimated the time needed to organise a book with multiple authors but hey, it’s my first go. The Christmas book will be prepared next year with a slated release date in mid November 2017. It’ll happen, but not this year. There will also be a Halloween collection next year, which I’ll start preparing around April.

The Easter collection remains a possibility but I’m not rushing into it.

Once the first anthology is out, the next Underdog Book will be a novel called ‘Cultish’ by Hugo Stone. A delightfully demonic and depraved work of fiction. Next, a novel called ‘The Goddess of Protruding Ears’ by Justin Sanebridge. These, naturally, require a different form of contract from short story collections.

Both of these depend on the authors actually agreeing to, and signing, author contracts. They are not yet absolutely definite, both could change their minds and go elsewhere. I hope not, since I’ve already arranged editing, but until that contract is signed I have no hold over them.

With this in mind I have been checking existing sample contracts to see what’s required. The standard contract runs for five years and at the end of it, the author can decide whether to sign up for another contract or take the book to a different publisher. Copyright to all works always remains with the authors: unlike certain publishers, Underdog Books will never seek to reassign copyright. We only ever buy the right to use the story, never the copyright.

I know there are a few readers well versed in legalities. So let’s see if we can work something out based on a site giving advice to authors in contract signing. I’ll use their headings…

It’s important to note that everything in a contract is negotiable. Every clause can be changed. If we can’t reach agreement on a final contract we go our separate ways and move on. Still, if both parties are reasonable about it, there should be no problems.

Grant of Rights

Underdog Books is only interested in the rights to exclusively publish, in English, worldwide in print and eBook formats. Film or TV rights, plush toys or action figures depicting your characters (Hugo, don’t even think it), cartoon spinoffs, translations into other languages, anything like that we’ll deal with when we get to it. This publisher isn’t taking those rights in the novel contract. If you want to republish in Sanskrit, Mandarin or Welsh, it’s none of my business.

Competing Works

I don’t care. If you write something similar and publish it elsewhere at the same time, you’re only diluting your own audience. I will be using print-on-demand and eBooks, I won’t have a stock of unsold books so you’d only be hurting your own sales figures. I’d advise you not to do it but it won’t be a contract clause.

Author’s Warranty

A statement that the works isn’t plagiarised or fan fiction or contains anything that might get me legitimately sued. This is important – but as the article states, it won’t be some draconian ruling that locks you in if some deranged lunatic decides you telepathically stole the novel he was thinking of writing one day. Our legal department (that’s also me) will have a supply of response slips with ‘Just fuck off’ printed on them in nice friendly letters. I do not intend to take frivolous lawsuits seriously.

Manuscript Preparation

The manuscript has to be complete before submission. I can’t pay an advance on the basis of a half written one, no matter how masterful and brilliant it seems to be. I just don’t have that kind of resource. Get it finished first.

Here’s a tip from my own early mistakes. Don’t keep ‘fixing’ Chapter One. You might find that when you have the whole story, you’ll ditch that chapter entirely anyway. Getting stuck in an editing loop on the first chapter is a very good way to never get any further.

Viability and Publication Delay

Not really an issue here, there won’t be a contract until the novel is complete.

Copyright

Copyright remains with the author. Always. Underdog Books doesn’t want it. Only the rights to exclusive publication within the limits already described.

Proofing and Editing

There will be editing and there might well be changes to the manuscript. These are intended to improve the book and you lot know me well enough by now to be sure there won’t be any politically-correct editing going on. There is no charge to the author for this, it’s all my problem.

Publication

Yes, I will set publication deadlines but bear with me on this, I’m still on the learning curve here. I intend to have both Cultish and The Goddess of Protruding Ears out early next year. I would say ‘by Christmas’ but I’m learning my limitations at the moment. Both books are pretty much print-ready, so early next year is definitely on.

As I gain experience in how long this stuff takes, the publication dates will get more accurate.

Royalties

Okay. This is the one the authors are really interested in. I’m going to base mine on a percentage of the actual book price. For hardbacks, I would suggest you don’t ask for more than 10%. Paperbacks, somewhere between 10 – 40%. eBooks, we’re talking 50%.

Why? Well, there is a base cost to printing and distribution. Then I have to recover costs of editing (yeah, I pay for that) and sometimes cover art. Plus I have to make a profit although I intend to keep that to a minimum to keep costs down. If you, the author, want a big percentage of the cover price it will have the effect of increasing the cover price. You’ll make your book expensive and harder to sell. This is especially true of hardbacks. I can do them for you but they start out expensive and boosting the price with a high royalty demand will kill them.

It’s up to you. Royalties are negotiable but seriously, if you push up the book price you’ll find it harder to become the famous author you really want to be.

This is far less of a problem with eBooks of course. There are no print costs so a 50% royalty is achievable without getting into silly prices. That’s 50% after VAT of course, since VAT is payable on eBooks but not on print books, and VAT is at a different rate depending on which country buys the book.

Royalty negotiations will come out with a different percentage for hardback, paperback and eBook versions. I do, however, want to keep all those final prices reasonable. You’re a new author, I’m a new publisher, nobody has heard of either of us. Let’s stay within the price range where people will take a chance.

Advances

An advance is what it says it is. An advance payment of royalties. It means you don’t get any more until your book has earned the amount of royalties you’re already been paid in advance.

Underdog Books can’t pay an advance except in exceptional cases and then not very much. Most authors don’t want it anyway. If the book does not ‘earn out’ (get the advance covered in the time of the contract) then it looks bad on your author CV and I’d be wary of offering another one. So think hard before asking for an advance and be aware that I might not be in a position to offer one. One day I might be… but it it not this day.

Foreign Sales

Worldwide rights mean I treat foreign sales the same as UK sales. The only variation in that would be the VAT charged on eBooks which depends on the country the buyer resides in. Other than that, the buyer pays postage so the royalty on the sale is the same no matter where the book ends up.

Deep Discounts and Book Clubs

I intend to stay away from these and sell at low prices right at the source. The deep discounts can hit both author and publisher hard and basically, screw that.

Sale of Rights

I won’t be selling the rights from the contract. I will only have English language rights in print and eBook. All other rights stay with the author. You can negotiate them separately.

Payments

Quarterly sales reports and payments are normal, it seems. I’ll go with that. That’s how I’ll get the income from the distributors and I’ll set my payment dates to just after theirs so the authors get paid as soon as possible.

Reserve Against Returns

Not applicable. I’ll use print-on-demand so there won’t be any shelf stock lying around.

Author’s Copies

You can expect a box full of freebies from a big publisher. I’ll maybe be able to run to four or five copies. Other than that, you can buy copies from me at print costs rather than full price – but of course they won’t count as royalty sales.

Revised Editions

Nope. Revised editions are a separate contract and should be instigated by the author. Not something I’m ever going to insist on.

Out of Print

Does not apply. I use print-on-demand and eBook. If you don’t like sales figures and want to terminate your contract early, we can come to some arrangement. Otherwise, the book contract ends five years after you sign it.

 

Okay, I have to device an author contract out of that lot. More like a template really, since authors can negotiate any of the points so every contract will be individual.

All comments welcome. I have to do this soon.

Finally, it’s tease time

I have had to come to terms with reality, much as I despise the concept. It was never possible to get this multi-author book sorted out in the time frame I gave myself, especially with moving house at the same time. However, it’s nearly there.

The Christmas anthology isn’t likely to be possible this year but I will still be looking for stories. The sensible way to do things (an alien concept for me) is to set up for a Christmas anthology next year. That gives people time to write the stories and gives me time to recover from formatting disasters and the intrusions of real life.

Once this is done I have two completed and edited novels to deal with. Those won’t take as long because the hard work (editing) is done and I’m only dealing with one author per book. I’d like to have both out by Christmas if I can but otherwise it’ll be the new year for both.

In addition, it seems my contracts for publishing Jessica’s Trap and Samuel’s Girl are expiring or have expired. I intend to take those under the Underdog banner too so I can sell them at a lower cost than the publisher. I’d only need to develop new cover art, the rest is done.

It seems I missed a couple of authors on the payments before I moved house. I’ll deal with those at the weekend and get an answer on whether they want cash or books. Most are already sorted, but I apparently missed two.

The book itself is in format and, I think, finished. Cover art won’t take long, I have an image in mind…

I’ll send each author a PDF of the whole book so they can check everything is in order. Check that I didn’t miss anything when fixing the format disaster. I’m deliberately sending PDF because I don’t want a lot of Word and OpenOffice documents coming back with minor changes in each section. I’d have to merge sections again and that would set me back to the time just before the formatting disaster.

This time, it has page numbers. Any changes, tell me page and line and what needs to be changed. I’ll fix it in the original and that’s the final chance to change anything. No more tweaking, no more perfecting, here we go. I am absolutely determined not to let this one slip into 2017. I’d quite like to do an Easter one, and next year the Halloween one is starting a lot earlier.

This weekend I’m finalising it. I have to force myself to stop proofreading and procrastinating. There are more books waiting. The Underdog Anthology is, I think, ready to go.

Here, as a tease, is the contents page with page numbers. This, as the saying goes, is it.

Roo B. Doo – About the Author 11
‘Til the Fat Lady Swings 13
Mind the Gap 17
Succulent Sardines 21

John Duffy – About the Author 25
The Wheel 27

Mark Ellott – About the Author 35
Wings Over Malta 37
The Revenge of Morning Cloud 47
Memoirs 71

H. K. Hillman – About the Author 75
When the Wind Changed 77
Waiting for Midnight 79
Seven Minutes 83

M.J. McFadden – About the Author 91
Breathers 93

Pete McLaren – About the Author 97
Breakfast at the Albany Café. 99
Cycling 101
Charlie Wobbly Bosoms 103
The Christian and the Toddler 105
When Things Go Wrong 107
Small Boys and Cigarettes 109
Accidentally 111
The Beach 113
Lego 115
Bin it… 117

Elizabeth Pole – About the Author 119
Dave 121
The Orchid Girl 123
Husband 127

Hugo Stone – About the Author 129
Jesus Saves 131
The Coffee Shop Girl with a Smile like the Sun 145

Justin Sunshine – About the Author 153
The Caretaker 155
The Death of Marcus Fernsby 161
The Halloween Haunting 169
Suffer the Children 175
Return of the Butterfly 183
Gaol Time 191

 

They are, of course,. formatted properly in the actual book  😉