Our family has a question that instantly sorts potential friends from eejits: "What noise does a bale of hay make?"
Having owned sheep, cows and goats, and currently two Fell ponies, we know that it is perfectly logical to say that a bale of hay makes a noise like breakfast. Take one into a field in winter and you will be surrounded by a drooling, bleating/mooing/whinnying mob.
The parallel question to this is, "What noise does a book make?" Of this I'm not so sure. My own books make noises like horses, most of the time, but there are a lot of people in them, some of whom talk in dialect, others who are equine experts and talk in Horse Code, and some of whom are as wild as I would have liked to be in my Church College youth, where staying out till 1 am was regarded as Wicked and Naughty, likely to get you Bad Grades (I was usually in the As and Bs) and a sign that your future was likely to be Extremely Suspect. I wish it could have fulfilled their expectations.
All of which is really a long way round to saying that Jackdaw E Books is now up and running, in order to publicise the books I have already had published, and get the new ones out there without spending my whole life pitching to agents the way we used to pitch to publishers.
Like many people who write, I dislike having to pigeon-hole what I write and shoe-horn it into a marketable "genre," when what the mind does best is to write outside the formulae.
I turn mythology upside down. I make old women solve crimes by accident instead of by being nosey. My historical hero's career looks promising but then goes downhill amid emotional complications, instead of soaring to cosy success.
I have looked at publishing services as well as vanity outfits who promise to "publish your book on Kindle" or "publish your novel in hardback" for sums that appear to start at £1,000 and roar off into multiples.
But I've taught computing and desktop publishing and web design for years. I've published for other people, including the Fell Pony Society's twice-yearly magazine. I can copy edit, proof, set up files, create covers and produce a book myself. The only things the "services" do that I'm not well accustomed to are marketing and distribution.
Enter the website, the blog and Facebook. The only thing I can't bear is Twitter. (I'm on there, but to me it's just that - twittering. Who has the time to tweet every fifteen minutes, as well as writing? Apart from HM's Press Office, the Government, Stephen Fry, Philip Schofield and Alan Sugar? Not me.) There are services available to get your books listed on the commercial databases, and if you've got a stock of stories to put out there it's much, much cheaper to buy a batch of ISBNs and enlist the services of a good printer and distributor than it is to buy the services of a company who all want your money to pay THEM for doing the same.
I'm determined that my books are not going to be a disgrace to the term "self publishing." They're going to have decent covers, containing accurately produced text that has been heated and hammered and tempered and reheated until it tells the story the right way. They'll have ISBN numbers and be available in bookshops as well as in digital form.
If I get the first few out of the way I have one print-published book that I want to digitise too.
It's truly "pain in the neck" hard work, but self publication and doing the figures myself is a damn sight more satisfying than trying to explain to an agent why I think the way I do. Once I've got these first three out of my hair and persuaded a few people to review them, perhaps I can settle down to write the rest of the stories that are in my head.
JACKDAW E BOOKS