Print Price Changes

I do not speak for all independent publishers.

This is my base rationale for why I’ve chosen to utilise POD (Print On Demand) services.

I make no secret that when I began publishing, I never considered the traditional route. Honestly, I like the control and freedom of running a project end-to-end on my timeframe. And I need to understand processes end-to-end as much as possible and practical to do so.

Why print on demand?

Environmental: I don’t have to print more books (and other products) than I need to meet the demand of readers (and merchandise customers).

No stock goes to waste.

Books are shipped direct from printer to customer without the middle person (me) and extra costs.

Practical: As an independent, I don’t have the means to store bulk stock quantities.

Financial: To bulk print is a significant financial outlay avoided with POD.

Surface deductibles from the list price are the print cost plus royalty share shaved off from the distributor. Much more goes into the production of a book than those, of course.

KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing / Amazon) has informed publishers utilising their POD platform for book printing and distribution that print costs are rising from June 2023.

This will directly affect all softcover and hardcover books for publishers and our readers.

Publishers working with the KDP POD service are encouraged to review and amend list prices immediately.

I won’t be increasing list prices until June 7th.

Sorry, it’s outwith the control of us indies.

Thank you all for your continued support, and please continue to support #indepedant writers, artists, editors and businesses.

Natasha )O(

Art Inspires Art: Incesticide

I was asked recently about the cover for Incesticide: Collected Horror, so I’m sharing a wee bit about it here.

Music is a massive part of my life, inspiring me when I work. It helps me find grounding when the the Earth has fallen from my feet, and I can’t find anything else to tether onto. Art is a wonderful way of distracting us from pain or helping us face and conquer the demons taking up space. The title was chosen in homage to Nirvana — I am a huge grunge fan, and it is one of my comfort-food genres, so it felt natural to fall into that.

The artwork followed the title. What’s more grunge, punk and indie than doing it all myself? I love to paint too. I guess the creative streak is profoundly ingrained in my wheelhouse, even when I suppressed those urges in years gone by. I took this idea and continued my homage to the title. I didn’t overthink it and just went with the flow, inspired by and creating my spin on Kurt Cobain’s cover art for Nirvana’s Incesticide.

Dandelions (dandelion wishes) are my favourite flower. The invasive weed wields healing properties. Her seed is carried in the sweep of a breeze, and she’ll resist suppression, taking deep root wherever seeds land. She’ll bloom through cracks in the concrete — nature dominating and cleaning the disaster of man. I replaced Kurt’s poppies with dandelion seed heads. Though this element is scarcely visible on the Incesticide: Collected Horror book cover, as the figures took central focus on the wraps.

Those two forms: I switched the small figure to the opposite arm and painted them with only a loose nod to Cobain’s originals. I fleshed out my forms but maintained a skeletal accent to the larger figure. For the small child figure, I wanted to recreate that mannequin/doll base but with a dance that quietly echoed the larger one. I think they quickly transformed into ‘mother’ and ‘child’ when painting them, more so when I stepped back and saw a ghost of my daughter’s face in that child form. My ‘koala baby’. With that, it made sense that’s where my paintbrush went. That revelation then paints more sense onto the wide-eyed, dishevelled ‘mother’. The art for Incesticide became personal. Perhaps a bit of a mirror to PND. A little horror of life that has nothing to do with the collection’s contents.

As well as the Ts and Hoodies on my Etsy, prints of the Incesticide artwork are available if you find me skulking in the shadows with my books and other entwined wares at some cool events this year.

The Gothic Market

The Cast of Delevan House #9

One Should Keep Walking from a Walker We all know the easy analogies…like a month to a flame…stand too close to the fire, and you’ll get burned…on …

The Cast of Delevan House #9

The Cast of Delevan House #3

This week you’ll learn a bit more about what makes Robert Lawrence Gorgon tick. Though no more than you’ll discover from visiting Badb village, where…

The Cast of Delevan House #3

The Cast of Delevan House #1

Delevan House: Part 1 We’ve enjoyed sharing ‘The Making of Delevan House’ with you in a series of posts on Brazen Folk Horror before our release on …

The Cast of Delevan House #1

Time is Money

It fills me with terror when I see short turnaround periods offered for manuscripts on some freelance service platforms, where folk offering many different services can utilise to garner business. Often a guaranteed timeline is presented upfront without assessing the writing requiring the work. Is it arrogance or ignorance of editing skills involved?

Editing speeds vary from person to person. Yes! this is a set of skills that requires the human brain, not AI, not an app!

Multiple factors feed into how long a project will take, such as the type of editing, word count, language(s) used and the overall condition of the manuscript. Another critical factor is the editor’s familiarity with the writer’s work. The more familiar, the more we know the nuances and common errors that arise and the slicker one can become in completing a manuscript.

When I see small house publishers or independent writers churning out book after book, I wonder how much time is spent on this essential process and how many passes a book undergoes before publication. I also wonder ‘who’ is editing. It’s a dangerous assumption that any writer or reviewer can also be an effective editor. Editing is far more than reading and spotting the odd typo. Unfortunately, the latter is a common ignorance in particular writing circles and some so-called ‘editors’.

As a serious writer with pride in your work, you should consider these questions too. Consider what an editor and publisher can genuinely do to add value to your process before signing a contract.

From my desk (and I’ve already explained how many factors play in), I average 1k-2k words per hour. I reiterate this is editing, not reading.

As a simple example, a 60k manuscript = 60 hours of work. What would you expect to be paid for working 60 hours?

This little example is worth considering when you are pricing an editor — who will have additional tasks before the edit begins on your piece. The essential set-up stages also cost them time. And as the saying goes, in business, time is money.

When I set up my editing business, Word Refinery, I offered introductory rates. As a passionate freelancer and supporter of creatives, I supported small publishing houses with additional discounts at my own expense. Independent businesses incur more costs than just time — which is one of the most valuable commodities. And, of course, the cost of everything is rising worldwide. With that, Word Refinery fees are under review.

Professional relationships between writer and editor or publisher and editor require a two-way level of respect. Fees are an integral component of that.

Trust, Value, Editing

I will admit something that, like so many independent writers, can be torn apart. And I also acknowledge there can be pitfalls – some gatekeepers regard this audacious move as career suicide regardless of experience or qualifications.

Not only do I professionally edit works for other writers, businesses and publishers, but I do something else regarded as a grave sin.

I, as a writer, self-edit, and I publish it!

I must be insane, right?

Imagine an artist controlling their art! Ensuring every stroke of the brush is theirs. The absurdity!

Editing is an independent skill in writing. This is a fact. With that, it is true that an editor isn’t necessarily a skilled storyteller and vice-versa. These can be common misconceptions. I have read poorly self-edited work and work edited by so-called editors who were glorified spell-checkers and saw themselves as prescriptive grammarians, thus stripping a piece of style and substance. Editing (in the independent writing and publishing world) is a highly sought-after skill and grossly undervalued.

I have spent much of my life writing and editing across many forms, and when I began publishing books in 2018, I honestly did not consider passing them through an external editor’s desk. Ignorance at the time was perhaps in part to play. I, admittedly, did not consider hiring an editor as part of the process. And now, with a couple of years of publishing experience where I have learnt something new with every title and even when working with others, would I change it? Personally, no.

Why? Well, I’ve worked with editors and writers who take prescriptive approaches, and in such methods, so not hold a place in creative writing. I’ve also been ‘edited’ by terrible communicators who have ignorantly ‘corrected’ spellings of Celtic or Scots words to a form of English, thus destroying critical seeds of the story and publishing their mistakes in my work under my name. An editor’s job is to polish and enhance, to bring out the best in a writer’s work, not diminish their voice and make them look stupid. I’ve learned many lessons from both. In my writing and skilled self-editing, I’d rather make my own mistakes that I can correct than have someone else do it and not take responsibility and rectify their shortcomings.

Rigid, prescriptive processes can have their place when writing for a corporate audience and developing educational materials, in which I have much experience. But artistically, a prescriptive approach to editing has no place; one size does not fit all.

My choice to self-edit is not one I take lightly. As a freelance editor, I am not ignorant about the depth of such a task, and as with any other piece of written material that crosses my desk, I consider, correct and develop: punctuation, spelling, syntax, morphology, overall structure, make cuts of redundancies, tautologies and lines or passages that don’t drive the story forward, and of course, consider developmental opportunities, and the author or publisher’s specified needs and style which I always discuss prior to working with them. I consider the narrative voice and those of the characters to ensure they read authenticity. And another vital component is style — a piece of creative writing should have rhythm and motion, like a great painting or music. If it’s rigid and static, as it would be following a prescriptive approach, it would be stale.

Even with such vigorous attention to my work and my clients, I am not infallible. No editor is, and I don’t trust anyone who portrays themselves as so. Neither should you.

2022: The Year of Birds

Hogmanay nears, as does what can barely be avoided — the annual consolidation, the ‘review’ as we step over the next threshold.

It’s been another year of tumultuous news and events stabbing the air in-house and in close proximity. Health issues have arisen in many, some near and dear, some farther but no less dear to me—several with fatal implications, where time somehow runs faster on the clock. My heart has shattered a few times. Such is the way it goes.

Covid hit my house with a bang. I was pregnant, and the baby, Averey, died inside my womb when I had the worst symptoms. Since our second bout in July, long Covid symptoms have persisted, including with my young children. The year that we hoped to grab some social normality has demanded much push.

One of the many benefits of home educating (not home-schooling) is that the pressure and stress on children not to ‘fall behind’ on a prescribed curriculum and being ‘marked’ by ‘poor attendance’ due to health issues beyond control is absent, avoiding undue pressure on my kids’ mental health, to which almost anyone who has been schooled and has health issues can relate. All public services in the U.K., including schools, seem to be on a steep downward slope, faster than ever before. The unrest is palpable. That being said, home educating isn’t all skipping through the daisies! Many days have their challenges, and being the literal full-time parent and educator is tiring — and that was before the long-covid fatigue. Still, we get each other through, and the alternative isn’t an option.

As always, writing has been a constant. Separate from my creative writing, it’s been my introvert-central-management system since childhood. Sketching is too.

Professionally, I have had the pleasure of editing works by some fantastic writers this year — some serious jaw-dropping, inspiring talent. One of the last short stories I edited had me reaching for my inhaler! That author painted a vivid anxiety, paranoia-ridden piece in their protagonist — I felt it all! The subversive angle of the work while playing off the backdrop was skilfully moving. I was in awe. In the massive catalogue of literary genres, the immense skill some horror writers portray is hugely underrated, all due to that simple label ‘horror’. You’ll find the asthma attack-inducing story in KJK Publishing’s The Horror Collection: Sapphire Edition.

This year Ruthann Jagge and I joined forces and created Brazen Folk Horror to share our collaborative works. We have been sharing weekly updates there and have many more ideas for the future. As with this site, readers can subscribe to receive those updates directly in their mailbox. The debut collaborative novel under our exclusive in-house imprint, Delevan House, releases on the 1st of February 2023, and the second book in that series is underway. I’ve shared before about how I adore working with her. We’ve each had much to contend with this year. At times, we’ve both been swimming against a ferocious tide, but we have prevailed and have created something unique from Scottish and Celtic folk inspiration. You better believe my girl and I are indeed Brazen as fuck.

Getting back into academic study has been challenging to make space for, but somehow It’s been working out, in sacrifice of sleep! I passed my first module and started my second towards my English Language and Literature degree. The second part has been immensely inspiring. I am enjoying it far more than I anticipated. It’s ignited old and new passions for my own language, those that I’ve been surrounded with and the broader scope of the world. I’ve been evaluating how this entwines cultural and individual identity. This leg of the course has lit a few fires.

Onto the books published under Clan Witch this year:

Asylum Daughter — my psychological horror novella set in Glasgow, Scotland. I’m proud of how this piece turned out. I loved writing it and got to exorcise the asylum.

The Crash of Verses by Rafik Romdhani — this is Romdhani’s second published collection. His poetry is among my favourites of recent years. If you have not read him, pick up this book. He is an exceptionally skilled modern poet.

Incesticide: Collected Horror — my second collection of short horror fiction. It includes nine stories featuring urban folk horror, a touch of splatterpunk and fairytale horror twisted with BDSM, among other assorted flavours for those who enjoy a taste of different things.

Clan Witch: Found Shadows, my collection of free verse poetry and drabbles. This brings together small pieces scattered with other publishers and some never before published poems. Not all truth and not all fiction.

There have been other written pieces published throughout 2022 in the form of short stories, poetry, articles, forewords and copy for other titles.

What about the birds? Birds have been a significant and symbolic component in my year. Before the baby was born, magpies started frequenting my garden. They never had before. In truth, I was never a fan of the species. (Largely due to a childhood memory or a magpie killing sparrow chicks in a neighbour’s garden. It was such a brutal attack, not for a meal or anything. It seemed to enjoy causing the suffering and instigating horror in the flock of sparrows screaming at the beautiful beastly creature.) Other corvids, such as their cousin, jackdaws, yes. But never the magpie. Of course, going through pregnancy and loss again, this felt strikingly symbolic. For the longest time, there would be one—a dark omen. One for sorrow… as the months have passed, groups of them now frequent the garden along with the smaller birds, which have their daily routines flying in for a feed and natter. Adopting ex-commercial laying hens scheduled to be slaughtered has been tremendously healing. We brought them home less than two weeks after our loss. Building for them and supporting their transition to domestic retirement felt like a productive and helpful use of grief energy. Then the hens have taken in robins. The birds have been inescapable and have become a significant feature of Delevan House too.

Life and creativity can be inseparable, at least elements of each. Twisting tendrils that reach out to be touched and woven into new patterns.

I am wrapping up, as I didn’t intend on doing this kind of update this year! There you have it, a wee mixed-bag summary of 2022. I best be off again, I’m currently hauled up with an unwell small. Her feverish chattering dreams spill out into the dark in a torrent, and I wish, as many parents do — I wish I could soak up the fever and take all the pains away, for always. But life has so much more of that in store. I will have to be content with holding her for as long as I can and as long as she needs.

The darkness is drawing in, approaching the longest of nights, and I wish for what I always do here and the world over, peace.

Natasha )O(

Incesticide: Collected Horror

NEW RELEASE

Incesticide: Collected Horror has almost emerged! Due to some interruptions within the industry and the panic rumour mills spinning, I decided to get things placed early to ensure the print edition launched in time with the digital. Well, this strike was swift, and the print editions are now (quietly) available ahead of the official release of December 14th.

The collection features nine unique short stories, each followed by a few words on how they came to be.

I painted the artwork for the book. Taking loose inspiration from the book’s namesake – Nirvana’s Incesticide cover art by Kurdt Cobain. I was delighted with how the painting turned out, and have created some exclusive products featuring the print available on my Etsy store.
Thank you to everyone who had preordered. I hope you enjoy my little morsels of horror.

If you fancy a listening to me reading a story from the book, Fuckin’ Maggots is featured on my Youtube.

The Making of Delevan House #12

Going Rogue #BeBrazen The earliest use of the term is regarding elephants. There are “elephants” in any room, group, gathering, or social structure. …

The Making of Delevan House #12