To celebrate the publication of my novella, Christmas with Mr Darcy, I’m hosting a special ‘Indie Month’ on my blog where bestselling authors will tell you about their latest book and share the secrets of their indie success.
Today, I’m delighted to welcome Sam Mills.
Tell us about your latest indie book
It consists of 2 short stories, The Joy of Suicide and The Tic Tac Man. The first is a story about a young man who is an artist pursuing herostratic fame, and sets about trying to find a potential suicide victim willing to die in front of an audience as a publicity stunt for his art project. The second (which is 9,000 words – practically a novella) is about a man who suffers from a rare illness called gastrica vulvus penna and whom one day sees a newspaper report about his nemesis at school, and sets about seeking revenge. However, all books and stories have their overt blurbs and their watermark themes and deep down the story is all about mental illness, the bizarreness and the banality of the daily routine that it inflicts on a sufferer.
The Tic Tac Man was originally commissioned for a short story collection called New Wave of Speculative Fiction back in 2006 and SFX reviewed it kindly: ‘Perhaps the strongest story is the opener, “Tic Tac Man” by Sam Mills. Mills tells the story of a strange man, with an even more obscure and strange disease as he adjusts to his rigid life. The story examines identity and regret, and has the ambiance of a Twilight Zone episode. I wonder if Mr. Mills familiarized himself with a certain disease guide while writing this powerful and haunting story‘. However, the said collection is out of print and not available on the Kindle, so I wanted to give the story a second chance to find a readership.
What made you decide to go indie?
I don’t have enough short stories for a full collection – and even if I did, I’ve heard that it is quite challenging to get a story collection published unless you are A Name. So going indie gives me the freedom to release them as a duo. It also means that readers don’t have to splash out their hard earned cash on a collection either – they can get a taste for my short stories and see if they like them. I think this is a good thing, for people tended to either love or loathe my novel; I have a small, passionate readership.
Do you design your covers yourself and write your own blurb etc?
Yes, I designed the cover myself. I thought a simple cover would be more striking (which is possibly a euphemism for ‘I was strait jacketed by my lack of technological expertise’).
What are the pros and cons of going indie?
The pros: the good royalty rate and being able to publish as and when you please. The cons: all the fiddly fussiness of formatting and converting it and getting the cover right. It is such a headache for someone like me – I am computer illiterate; I don’t even own a smart phone.
How do you publicize your books? Do you think Twitter and Facebook really help in getting word out there?
I am currently building a new website. I am on Twitter, though I am an occasional Tweeter rather than a prolific one. I would like to go on there more often but when I am writing I need to drift and swim in the dreamsea of that book through the day and night – and Twitter yanks me back onto dry land. However, after The Quiddity of Will Self was published, I did get a chance to chat to fans of the book through Twitter, which I enjoyed. I’m actually more interested in making promo videos for YouTube. Publicity is always uncomfortable for any author, as it feels so at odds with the introverted nature of writing and it always makes you feel a bit sheepish, like you’re some online equivalent of a door-to-door salesman begging people to buy your book. So I think that I’d prefer to do it in an imaginative, indirect way, so the reader is enticed with a more subtle hook, than just tweeting ‘My book is available for 99 p – buy it now’ which is just annoying. I’m interested in making videos that link to the book, explore its themes, but are also interesting in their own right. The one I am working on now involves a snail and a beard.
Do you read any indie authors yourself?
Not yet – in part because I love books as physical objects and I don’t yet have a Kindle (though I’ve downloaded the occasional book to my PC). If an author I liked deserted his/her publisher and self-published, I would download their work. I tend to enjoy novels published by small presses, as I think they have a greater opportunity to take risks than the big guns. If someone recommended an indie author to me, I would certainly check them out…
Could you see yourself going completely indie in the future or do you still like the idea of being traditionally published?
I like my present publisher, Corsair, because my editor allows me creative freedom and my publicist is very dynamic. If the publishing industry as we know it collapses in the manner that some prophesize, then I would definitely self publish, because I want to keep on writing for the rest of my life. However, I do want to keep on putting up shorter pieces and novellas online. I am toying with creating an ebook of Part 6 of The Quiddity of Will Self, as this never made it into the final book. It was a dark, incestuous tale set in 1860 and I cut it out because the book was already very long. But I might polish it and publish it.
What advice would you give to writers thinking of going indie?
Marry Roy Connelly (Victoria’s hubby) as he is excellent at ebook conversion.
Thanks so much for sharing your indie journey, Sam! But I’d just like to point out that Roy isn’t looking for any extra wives. He has quite enough to cope with just with me!