Publishing; Which Way?

Indie April

Self-Publishing and submitting; what I’ve learned so far, which admittedly, may not be much. It is what it is.

I’ve never considered traditional publishing, potentially because I can be a bit of a control freak (I hate waiting) coupled with a (sometimes stubborn) passion for self-learning and autonomy. In my view, it seems that there’s a lot of faff down the traditional route to wade through; from finding an agent and/or finding publishers that align with your style/genre/concepts. Jumping through many hoops for potential (likely) repeat rejection. Not that rejection is a bad thing, that too can be a very useful, if not utterly essential, learning and evolution tool. Then there’s if you’re accepted, you may have to change your writing significantly to fit into someone else’s ideals and target audience — a form of censorship and creative dilution, absolutely. Of course, I’m sure when (if) you get through the hoops, the potential for higher earnings and being considered a reputable writer because you’ve been approved and accepted by a higher power may well be worth the faff and hoops. Personally, all that feels like an elitist, bureaucratic headache for the most part.

Self-publishing has a lot of stigma thanks to the structure and standards set by publishing powerhouses. It’s a reflection of many of the institutions of life; be approved by the institution to be accepted by the masses, or you’re worthless. Music is like that too right. I don’t buy it, do you? I’ve read my fair share of tripe churned out by traditional publishers (sometimes due to who the author knows more than what they write), I’ve worked with highly educated fools who think their PhD gives them superiority even with a gross lack of real-life or business experience. They got approved, though. Better than you off the bat, right? Nope, I’m not buying that either. It filters right down through parenting as well — inescapable — must tick the boxes. All a despicable institutionalised, ritualised validation process, a façade that ignores the real nitty-gritty and that thing again — autonomy, passion, grit and authentic nurturing, in life as indeed art. Like the paper, age does not always bring wisdom, especially when one is stunted in their sole path and idealised view, selectively dismissing poorer choices. Or indeed highly institutionalised, even when it comes straight from the patriarchy (or matriarchy in some instances).

To self-publish, there are more and more platforms arising to help support and facilitate those with the desire to do this. There’s a load of work involved, even with a decent host. One must consider the writing, first and foremost, then, of course, there is editing, cover design (eBook/audio/paperback/hardback), book design, formatting, layout (yes, there are some basic standards for that, in respect of front-matter, back-matter, copyright declaration and numbering), narrator/producer (if producing audio). Sure some make it appear easy, but it’s far more involved than many may expect – it’s seen as the easy route to publication after all, right? Wrong. All of this takes time, dedication, learning and money. Of course, corners can be trimmed, but that will affect the end product. And we cannot forget attracting readers and reviewers to the work once it is out there — marketing really is another beast in itself. No, self-publishing is not easy by any stretch. Accessible — yes, easy — no.

I started self-publishing to get to know the process, and while I do love it, I’ve found much value to be gained in submitting pieces to small press and indie publishers. Gaining contacts, connecting with different audiences and driving creativity by rising to challenges I may not have considered solely. I’m not driven by pressure, and much prefer to go with the proverbial flow. There’s no cut and dry Pro-forma of right and wrong when it comes to art, creating it, and sharing it. It comes down to trying different things, and seeing which one resonates and fits with your flow best. In dealing with other publishers, I have quickly established in mind traits that I like and those which are huge turn-offs for me as a (submitting) writer. It’s fair to say once you begin submitting, you’d be mad not to have a ‘list’. Here are a few things that have landed publishers on mine after submission, which ultimately boils down to etiquette and communication:

  • Poor communication. Submission guidelines are not only a way for publishers to outline what they want and specify the format, but it’s also a key component for publishers to manage writer’s expectations upfront. What I find massively disrespectful is publishers who don’t respond to a submission – it doesn’t have to be big; a quick ‘thanks but no thanks’ is better than zilch. That’s just rude.
  • I don’t like arrogance and indie publishers mimicking traditional publishers – if I wanted that, I’d chase traditional.
  • When a call says ‘No simultaneous submissions’ but a publisher holds a piece too long, only to reject it, thus removing opportunities for the work to be considered elsewhere. If ‘No simultaneous’ is stipulated – considerations and responses should be swift.
  • Editorial changes and queries – I’ve had pieces published with errors that were not present when I submitted, and the queries ignored. Again, poor communication adds to the uphill battle many indies (writers and publishers alike) face. Sometimes support is as simple as acknowledging and owning mistakes.

While I can’t speak for traditional from any sort of experience, other than a reader, it is clear that one size does not fit all — in writing, publishing and indeed life. Sometimes one has to stop dreaming and just do it. Leaving expectations at the door. Jump in, flail around a bit, get over the panicked shock of ice-cold and learn to swim — however that looks. Jump back out and watch by the edge for a bit if you have to breathe again.

But don’t be afraid to at least try. As a good friend of mine often says — fuck it!

What’s Happening

It’s only heading towards the end of January, and I’ve too many ideas for this year! That being said, channelling one at a time and arranging my notes into some semblance of order is the (lifelong) personal challenge. Unless it’s for someone else my sense of organisation, with my own creative projects, can be chaotic.

On the well-organised side (the joy of the Gemini), I have opened the doors and made Word Refinery public! If you haven’t already, feel free to check out Word Refinery pages. I am opening up my editorial and proofreading diary to new clients. More info here:

Word Refinery: Editorial & Creative Support

Word Refinery: Terms & Conditions 

About 

Writing has been slow burn this month, with the exception of one completed short story – which, hands up, I love. It’s wicked — I can’t wait for folk to read it. It’s parked for an upcoming submission, but if it doesn’t make the cut (I really hope it does!), it will be published this year, I may even squirrel it away for my solo collection.

On that front, it’s been a year since I’ve personally published. In remedy of this I am collating some short stories with a couple of unpublished pieces to put out a collection this year – potentially in the summer, depending on editorial commitments, which take priority.

Books Releasing in October

First up is Dark Halloween, the 5th book in Macabre Ladies Holiday Horror Collection. With the eBook available for preorder now, it goes live October 6th. My 3 flash stories; ‘Interspecies Relations,’ ‘Painted Black’ and ‘Bloody Eels’ will feature among a host of Autumn/Halloween themed horror.

‘Interspecies Relations’ was inspired by some reading and artwork I was taking in around mythological creatures – particularly that of Cecaelia from Asian and North American mythology. Writing this also inspired my ‘Tentacles’ painting.

‘Painted Black’ is a little flash inspired by my youngest daughter, who rather chillingly asked me why the shadows were looking at her at bedtime one evening.

‘Bloody Eels’ is a Drabble that came from two interlinked short stories of mine ‘The Night is Mine’ and ‘Phantasmagoria.’ It is a view from a trapped spirit of the character Amy when she is in a disembodied, limbo-like state after death.

Next up is Books of Horror Community Anthology Volume 2 from the wonderful Books of Horror Publishing. Another book that can be preordered now, for October 16th release. My new short story ‘Sacrifice’ will feature alongside a mix across the spectrum of Horror.

‘Sacrifice’ was originally an idea I intended to write as a flash piece that centred around Summer Solstice. It sprouted and became a little more with some nostalgic elements entwined with themes of manipulation and betrayal.

I gained a spot with D&T Publishing, with their anthology, After the Kool-Aid is Gone. This one promises to be a ‘heavy-hitting collection’ of political horror / dark fiction. My short story, ‘Neighbours’ will feature.  preorder now for October 26th release.

‘Neighbours’ is another new story, one born during the 2020 global pandemic. Led by the MC’s internal narrative over his frustrations with the hypocrisies and selfishness of mankind, while his family-life is shattered, irreparably during ‘lockdown.’ This story is one man’s journey over the edge in suburbia.

Finally, as far as books I have stories in this October is Iron Faerie Publishing’s anthology, Hexed. Here my flash story ‘Hard Shades’ will appear. Preorder now for October 31st release.

‘Hard Shades’ came from a mind spiral evolving from ‘Painted Black’ marrying with thoughts of the theatre of vampires – though this piece is not vampiric. The dance and chase between light and dark is a classic that I enjoy playing with.

Reading, Writing and Subbing 2020

A little update since the sands are sure as hell quickening, if not entirely running away.

Reading this year has been pretty diverse, with an unintentional heavy focus on horror — of all flavours. I’ve also developed a taste for bizzaro horror, I’ve come across a few authors who have tickled me – a new (non) guilty pleasure for sure. If it’s gonna simultaneously grose me out and make me laugh my ass off, it’s a thumbs up!
Outwith proofreading, editing support and competition reading my ‘just for fun’ list, in no particular order, have included:


Richard Laymon – The Beast House Chronicles
Edward Lee – City Infernal (Series)
Kevin J. Kennedy – The Horror Collection (Anthology Series)
Jethro Punter – The Daydreamer Chronicles
Eleanor Merry – Dead Aware (Series)
RJ Roles – Girl’s Best Friend (Tangled Web Series)
Steve Stred – Ritual (Father of Lies Trilogy)
Matt Shaw – Deep Rooted Fetish (Short)
Duncan Ralston – In Every Dark Corner (Shorts Collection)
Darren Tarditi – Neigfrid (Novella)
Natasha Mostert – The Midnight Side (Novel)
Laurel K Hamilton – Anita Blake (Series)
K Trap Jones – Welcome to the Splatter Club (Anthology)
Ernest Cline – Ready Player One
Ernest Cline – Armada
Christine Morgan – Lakehouse Infernal
Insignia Stories – Japanese Fantasy Drabbles
Liian Varus – Is Stranged
John Black – Growlers
Iron Faerie Publishing – Hawthorn & Ash (Anthology Series)
Iron Faerie Publishing – The Best of Iron Faerie Publishing 2019
Andrew Lennon – Life to Waste
Tim Lebbon – Eden
Saemund Sigfussion, Snorri Sturluson – The Poetic Edda & The Prose Edda

Writing wise, as per my previous posts, I’ve been subbing work out this year. When it comes to responding to open-calls and invites it can be a bit like having free time (which I never do) and swanning into a well stocked library – it’s easy to get lost and devoured by the stacks! Or, maybe a more precise analogy is the old ‘kid in a sweet shop!’

The submission opportunities out there are plentiful and you can’t write or, indeed, get accepted into them all.

I’ve naturally had a preference for small press/indie publishers. Responding to these opportunities is rather nice as it takes the work out of the book building/formatting side – which is an immense amount of work on the publishing side. I massively appreciate the work that goes on behind the scenes of a quality publication and am truly grateful to a part of each one who’ve warmly accepted my (often) warped little terrors into their fold.

Designing stories with specific open calls as a target has helped reign in the ideas by having a set genre or word count to meet. It’s been beneficial as I oftentimes overwhelm myself with too many ideas that get scattered around as notes and poetry that may evolve, or not. Needless to say, responding to some of the opportunities has put my other WIPs on pause, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it gives those stories and characters more time to prove and maybe keeps the demon, Writers’ Block, at bay.

Some of my published (and to be published work) can be found within the catalogue of the below Publishers:

KJK Publishing: http://www.kevinjkennedy.co.uk/
The Macabre Ladies: https://macabreladies.wixsite.com/website
Books of Horror: https://www.facebook.com/groups/526308964218819
Insignia Stories: https://insigniastories.com/
Iron Faerie Publishing: https://ironfaeriepublishing.com/
Sirens Call Publications: http://www.sirenscallpublications.com/
The Reanimated Writers: https://www.reanimatedwriters.com/

Those currently available are updated on my ‘Books’ page and links for those to come will make an appearance in due course. The below two titles are releasing in September 15th (Dark Celebration) and September 28th (Southeast Asian Fantasy Drabbles.) I am grateful to have two pieces in each alongside a TOC of talented international writers. Both anthologies are available to preorder now from Amazon, worldwide.

Free Books

Four of my publications are currently available for FREE download from Amazon worldwide. The offer runs for three days through 17th, 18th and 19th June 2020.

Please check them out and if you do read – a review is always hugely appreciated, especially by Indie writers like myself, Andrew Taylor and G G Flavell.

Writing – 2020 so far

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted an update here so thought I should swing by!
The writing priority for 2020 was really to release Concoction V2 and focus on submitting pieces to other anthologies.
Subbing out is still very new for me, it’s been going well, considering all the hurdles 2020 has thrown so far!

Below are titles published in 2020 containing some of my short stories and drabbles. I’ve, naturally, been writing predominantly in the horror genre this year, and loving it.

Out with the already published works, including the 19 within the anthologies above, I have another 14 accepted pieces and 4 awaiting a response. A few of these are drabbles which will appear in Iron Faerie Publishing’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse series and a flash fiction dark fantasy tale in their Hexed Anthology.

I have also been dipping back into two ongoing pieces that seem to be continually evolving, so will have to see how they play out – they may evolve into an interconnected collection or novel. Their journeys are still being designed to the crazy soundtrack in my head!

Posts are more frequent on Facebook and Instagram, so feel free to pop over there; https://www.facebook.com/NatashaSinclair or https://www.instagram.com/clan_witch/

Natasha x

Lost Shadows: A collection…

My first mini collection has been published and is now live. Paperback and eBook available worldwide.

Link below.

Work in Progress

A couple of writing and publishing projects are currently underway so I thought I would drop a brief update here.

The second ‘Concoction’ anthology is one which is scheduled for release December 2019. This time the prompts are most distinctly Scottish and will feature the same three writers as the first volume; G G Flavell, Natasha Sinclair and Andrew Taylor. As before it is open genre so we should expect a unique eclectic mix of stories. There is potential for a fourth writer to be added to the bill, will just have to see on that one. The initial story submissions have started coming in though and it’s looking pretty good! You can’t beat a good wee Ceilidh!

It is also very likely I will be releasing a mini collection of poetry and drabbles this year. These pieces have already been written, some have been published and some have never seen the light of day beyond the notebook. One again an eclectic little mix of material. Very organic in nature, as with my own style of writing. Themes running through those collected so far include; depression, relationships, politics, sex, freedom, nature and more.

Please look out for updates via here and on my Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/NatashaSinclair/

Thank you, Natasha

Blue Hue

My Daughter in NICU, 2014

This picture doesn’t look real…
Like there’s a filter; to enhance, to hide, deceive the eye.
Shielding a painful reality; it was a painful reality.
The mind, like the camera, does this all on its own.
This picture doesn’t look real…
A reflection of how it felt; a blue hue, a hazy dream.
Everything thrown out of balance.
A reality that swallowed you up, yet one that could barely be touched.
Spinning lost through electrical sparks.
A new reality at the edge of everything.
At the edge of all the mattered and all that didn’t.
A steady calm or frozen panic; so close to the same.
Something else on the edge; the blurred borderline where the unreal is real.

© Natasha Sinclair

Read more about our experience through NICU in my deeply personal memoir, ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: A story of love & survival through NICU.’