Friday, 15 August 2008

The Lost College & Other Oxford Stories

Next Tuesday night in local pub Far From The Madding Crowd sees the launch of a second book of Oxford short stories - 'The Lost College & Other Oxford Stories' by the OxPens writer's co-operative, of which yours truly is a member.

This follows the success of our previous anthology;

which was launched almost two years to the day in the same pub in 2006, to a gratifyingly packed venue with copies flying off the table, and which, with the help of various marketing-minded members of the group, went onto enjoy success and profit for all thirteen of we contributors (if not quite enough to renounce the day job), beyond our intially-modest breaking even hopes, being both Blackwell's and Waterstone's no. 1 local fiction seller for some time.

Far from 'vanity publishing' (a process by which you hand an over-inflated sum to a shyster for a set number of often poorly produced books over which you have virtually no quality/editorial control - and who seldom offers after-sales or marketing services), knowing ourselves to be quality and capable writers, we made a conscious decision that we wished to take control by publishing ourselves, using a reputable 'publishing partner' to produce a high quality, bookshop saleable collection on a par with anything to be found from a terrestrial publisher.

This enabled full cost/editorial/jacket control, the option of marketing help and to go the print-on-demand or POD route so that if our first volume was less than a success we didn't have boxes of the darned things cluttering up our living rooms and tying up assets we didn't have for years!

Thus we have been able to order them in batches of 100-200 as needed and mostly supply Oxfordshire shops directly (gift as well as book), not forgetting to ensure a presence on various online bookshops including Amazon. In addition we have solicited reviews wherever we can and been lucky enough to have an author friend or two in a high-er place who has been happy to say nice quotable things about us, and genuinely so - we didn't need to bribe them or anything! We also had the splendid luck of the aid of one of Oxford's finest artists, Valerie Petts, with our lovely eyecatching wraparound jackets.

As a group who have often had agents and publishers come and talk to us over the years, we realised some while ago that the majority of authors (however good) are depressingly now shut out of mainstream publishing, with most publishers and agents refusing to take on new authors and having dispensed with the 'readers' who used to read slush piles to pick out the next JK Rowling, so the DIY approach made ever more sense rather than an UnpublishedWriters4Justice stunt abseiling down the Houses of Parliament to get noticed! Not least since those of our members who have been conventionally published in the past now struggle as much as the rest of us to get anything further published in this increasingly competitive climate.

Sure we've had endless meetings labouring over every comma and the odd disagreement along the way, but we've (nearly) always managed to stop short of inkshed, and most of us have been pretty pleased with the results.

Should you be stuck for an Xmas or birthday present for the Oxfordophile in your life, you can purchase either or both titles here;

The Lost College & Other Oxford Stories

The Sixpenny Debt & Other Oxford Stories

I've slightly reduced the body count in my latest short story!


LucyFishwife said...

Hurrah for you! Was it Lightning Source you used? I went to a Small Business Forum where they spun a persuasive web of words, and I left feeling that if only I had the time I would rescue all my out-of-print favourites from obscurity and get them republished to sell in our shop... Still not ruling it out once we get the website up and running!

LucyFishwife said...

P.S. Yes the world of mainstream publishing is becoming depressingly pennypinching - I've found a lot of them now only publish backlist titles (by the likes of Jane Gardam, Mary Renault etc) as POD, which means NOT ONLY do they not have to take a punt on a proper print run, BUT ALSO the books cost £10 each, take a week to come, and are non-returnable for us booksellers... mean!

Rol said...

Good work, Laura - best of luck with volume 2!

Old Fogey said...

It's the right way to do it. You've got to get your work out there to an audience - it's your duty as a writer - but it won't happen itself. It's a great initiative - and I've placed my order with Amazon.
Best wishes

teeni said...

Well, this is wonderful news! I just checked and Amazon in the U.S. is also carrying both titles! I'm so excited. So you have something written in each volume? I would love to get my hands on them and will try to do just that in the very near future.

Brother Tobias said...

Good for you and the co-op. Sounds as though you have your acts well together, and this seems like a good route to have gone down. I'm looking forward to them.

kaylee2 said...


Steve said...

What a brilliant idea... though depressing to realize that it's even more difficult to get a break via mainstream publishing.

Donnnnn said...

Thank You for clarifying the subtleties of vanity publishing "a process by which you hand an over-inflated sum to a shyster for a set number of often poorly produced books over which you have virtually no quality/editorial control - and who seldom offers after-sales or marketing services" as I am innundated by several of these shysters who know that most of us Bloggers thrive on a self delusional quixotic campaign to become world famous multimillionaire best selling authors.

The Sagittarian said...

Congratulations Laura, that means the first round is on you right? I'm just checking to see if the protocol is the same in the UK as it is here in the Antipodees....(says eh who has only had one measly poem published)

The Poet Laura-eate said...

LucyFishWife - thanks for your fascinating feedback. You should certainly do the market research for your out-of-print faves to find out if there'd be a market there!
We used as our publishing partner who I believe did use Lightning Source for first book (though not sure if that is the case for 2nd book). A big problem with mainstream publishing apart from the sheer deluge of all the unsolicited manuscripts of people with computers who have now decided that they will get that 'book in them' out is that if that publisher also has a celeb on their books, they feel obliged to give eg Dawn French £2m to keep her happy/on their books which leaves them sod all to give to their other - even established writers, so non-celeb writers get less and less for each book. Re POD I do not understand how POD makes each book £10 as it was supposed to be as cheap if not cheaper than a standard paperback.

Thanks Rol.

Old Fogey - Thank you. I am indeed honoured - I trust you won't be disappointed!

Teeni, you're a star! Yes I have short stories in both.

BT - thanks for your support. Do let me know of any upcoming literary endeavours of your own.

Kaylee - thanks. :-)

Steve - I think the key will be to be the first to embrace new technology when a lot of authors are still scared of concepts such as POD or making their book into a downloadable MP3 recording. Actor Martin Jarvis was told that cassette books would only be of interest to the blind when he began recording them as a commercial enterprise, but he's now a millionaire several times over as he realised that anyone who was 'time-poor' would appreciate the ability to hear a good story read well by actors. That situation has not changed, just the cassette element!

Donnnnn - thanks for dropping by. Vanity publishing possibly suits some people just writing something they want bound for the grandchildren & are not that fussy about editing, but again, they'd
end up with a vastly superior and less costly product if they were prepared to play a greater part in the publishing process themselves and take a pride in the end result. Something for posterity possibly and not just the grandchildren!

Sagittarian - Cheers! Let me know what your poison is/when you're plane lands and I'll buy you a drink!

Brother Tobias said...

(Laura, I meant I was looking forward to reading the short stories, not emulating your publishing route. I am too much in awe of what I read any longer to believe I might join them!)