Moonlake: So now we return to the interview with Colin Palmer. Hearing about your story with this big company, I definitely felt like they were toying with you. But at least you made a comeback. So how did the comeback come about? Wow, that’s a mouthful there lol.
Colin: Ten years later, in another country surrounded by non-English speakers, I received a minor epiphany, if an epiphany could be considered minor! I was teaching English and one of my students required specific help in writing computer blogs. That was almost two years ago and it made me wonder about my own writing. I had friends, other students of mine in the IT sphere and I asked them about publishers in this country. Unfortunately, there were very few and none supported foreign languages but two of my students also directed me to a Russian website, Ridero.ru. The support section of Ridero replied to my email immediately, courteously apologising that they could not assist with English language books but re-directed me to their European website, Ridero.eu which did have an English Department, albeit brand new.
Moonlake: Cool. The ball started rolling from there on, yeah?
Colin: Yep, I studied online publishing, self-publishing and compared many similar sites to Ridero over a period of six months with Ridero becoming the standout because of the enormous amount of free services they provided to the author PLUS an amazing 85% royalty return on sold books. They also provide free ISBN, non-exclusive contracts and distribute to all the largest online bookshops in Eastern and Western Europe, plus Google Books, IBooks and ITunes, plus Amazon USA! Hardcopy and paperback books are available on a print on demand basis direct from Ridero and the author does not need to outlay any money at all. They do offer professional editing, layout and cover illustration specialists and these you do have to pay to use but their prices are exceedingly cheap compared to western publishers.
Moonlake: Okay, sounds more enticing than Amazon even. How did this venture go?
Colin: Well, everything was looking good, and I went back to writing. I already had a desktop, my weapon of preferred choice but I also bought a laptop for those times away from home. I dragged out the portable hard drive and discovered nearly half my stories were written in a Word programme so old even the latest Word had trouble formatting them! It took days of manually rewriting but it also let me update and edit them even further. Yes I did try scanning and auto formatting but it made them worse. I also sought advice from friends in the professional sphere who tried different ideas but all failed to produce good copies. But I rediscovered the joy of the stories as I rewrote them and it become a pleasure, not a chore. My oldest novel was the most difficult because of its length more than anything. I managed to edit off over twenty-five thousand words from that one!
Moonlake: Yep, nothing like time away from it to get a new perspective on things. What happened next?
Colin: Then I began applying my research about self-publishing, create a page or pages on social media, create a website, join like-minded online groups, create a blog, get your name out there, sell yourself, marketing, marketing, marketing!
I sent my first book to Ridero in December 2016, it was available online before Christmas. I pumped the new book and the site through my Facebook page, through friends, family, I did that for a month and got nothing, zilch, zip.
Moonlake: Hmm… so initial marketing hasn’t been successful, any lessons learnt?
Colin: Lesson learned about family and friends, they will support you verbally, congratulate you if deemed necessary but buy your book, pass on information about your book, and more importantly in self-publishing, provide a review of your book, no, don’t hold your breath. I sent my second book to Ridero, the one with the heavy editing work completed and did the same with family and friends, doing everything except beg them for shares, reviews, or bless their cotton socks, actual purchases.
Moonlake: So what did you try next, if any?
Colin: I joined Book Review clubs and groups and began making more comment in social media, anything to get my name and product out there. I was sending out my website and FB author page weekly, sharing a blog post twice a week, and still writing. I finished my third novel and submitted it to Ridero. I kept checking statistics for all the available markets where my books were sold, nothing, no reviews, no sales. I kept writing.
Some of the groups on social media were turning into a wasted exercise, their questions so blatantly basic and ridiculous that I realised were purely for attention seeking. I learnt that big groups are not helpful except for socialising and I had no time for that. I tested each group by placing an appropriate blog answer to one of their basic questions, then monitored the visits to my blog. It was usually nil, on rare occasions one or two. Those groups were systematically deleted off my lists.
Moonlake: Yeah, it’s hard to drive traffic from Facebook groups to your site. I usually just use them to network with other writers as opposed to marketing. Then again, I haven’t got any work to market. So what else happened with this first foray into self publishing?
Colin: In mid-May 2017, a friend in Australia sent me a personal message via FB telling me they had searched for my book on Ridero to purchase a hardcopy. Even with the link I’d provided, he couldn’t find my book or either of the other two NOR receive a return when he put my name into their search engine. I immediately contacted Ridero and as usual with their correspondence, they immediately replied that they would look into it. I also tried searching for my book randomly on Google and received only the Amazon US site, so at least they were there! I tried searching Ridero without entering through my Author Login and found the same thing my friend had – nothing about me or my books.
Moonlake: Oh, that’s a pretty major hit in terms of distribution! How did you resolve it?
Colin: Ridero replied quickly to this situation, very apologetically advising that their search engine had no capacity to find English language books or authors! They understood the consequences of this and have been frantically working to fix the problem, and nearly every day for the past month I’ve received email updates on their progress. Finally, just yesterday, 9th of June 2017, they advised that only their Russia based website could deal with the language problem and with my agreement, they would forward my books into the Russian system. Unfortunately, this means I have to fill out a contract in compliance with Russian Law, an actual real live in the flesh contract which would be mailed to me, online or faxed contracts are considered unlawful. I will need to do this for the existing books with Ridero and any future books I place with them. There are currently strict sanctions between this country and Russia and I don’t even know if the mail will come through and if it does, whether my returned contract will be actually returned.
As of yesterday, I am still writing, still editing, and also writing this, my experience as a writer with the traditional publishing world and self-publishing online. Neither route has been very successful for me but at least I can SEE my books for sale even if nobody is buying them! Am I giving up again? No way Jose, the thrill is in the writing, the story coming out in front of my eyes. My imagination is the author and I am just the tool it uses to get that story out – but damn, isn’t it a amazing to see MY name on a book as the author. I want more thrills, I want more amazement so for now, I’ll keep plugging at the blogs, and the websites, the groups, and the reviews and hope I start getting some back on my work.
Moonlake: The chase is the reward, as they say. I feel the same way. And I’m always uplifted by other writers’ persistence. Now, looking back, how would you have done things differently or would you have done things differently?
Colin: Oh yes . . . I would have chased the dream beginning when I was at school, where the “bug” began but I had little to no encouragement then except from myself
Moonlake: Well, I guess the interim period wasn’t totally wasted, you put a lot of stuff in that notebook, I think that qualifies as a writer’s journal or idea journal.
Colin: Sadly, I’ve never found that little notebook again though I harbour the hope my daughter still has it with all my manuscripts . . . somewhere . . .
Oh, that’s something I WOULD have changed – technology, I would have saved things better 🙂
Moonlake: Wasn’t finding the notebook the turning point after the big upheaval of your life? Is the notebook lost subsequently after that?
Colin: I found that notebook in the 1990’s. And I should have placed more importance to it because it and the floppy became things of the past – you know, lost their importance
Moonlake: Ah I see, it is subsequent loss. But you turned some of the stuff there into short stories already I thought, those 2 that you got into 1st and 2nd for.
Colin: Yes, they did that, and more – ideas from that era still pop up in my head.
Moonlake: I’m pretty sure that the best are still there and more will always be formed as you live and see and experience things. Anyway, let’s ask the closing question for this interview. Overall, how far do you think you have come since your starting point?
Colin: In the last year, my word count has increased massively, the numbers of short stories I’ve completed has almost tripled but my conversion rate from short story to novella or novel has decreased. I put this down to two main reasons. Firstly, there is, for me, relatively new involvement in writing groups, two of which have become favourites because of the support from fellow members and the writing prompts they deliver up on a regular basis. Their encouragement and sharing is fantastic. Secondly, my main WIP is a devilish thing, rhetorically speaking and the MC is refusing to cooperate and make the story flow. As a pantser, I watch the story develop as I write it and this one is confusing me so badly because the protagonist and the antagonist appear to be changing roles! Who I thought was the MC is turning out to be the antagonist. So I keep diverting to my growing short story collection, finishing more and more of them to rest my head! How far have I come? A long, long way over 50 years with this past year being the most productive as far as quality and quantity. I am a much more accomplished writer now than ever before. As it should be, all writers should remain students of the art right through ’til the end!
Moonlake: Well, I think it’s been a fruitful year for you in an overall sense. And everyone lives to learn, especially writers. Well, thank you to Colin and our dedicated readers today. Till next time!