I’ve just finished the last story for a planned book of short stories revolving around the theme of the uncanny – strange, dark twists befalling the lives of the characters concerned. Whoopee!

Now, of course, I am faced with the problem of what to do next. Publishers typically do not like collections of short stories, especially by unpublished (or self published), agentless authors. Most will not take direct submissions of anything. Agents, on the other hand, don’t particularly like authors without publishers – why should they, after all?

On top of this, I do not particularly like hawking myself around various publishers, especially when, in the end, I know most of them belong to one of three publishing houses, but they don’t accept manuscripts anyway, so I don’t have to worry too much…

This leaves me with a last option – to publish myself. This is becoming more and more attractive, especially the Amazon option, which, for the standard print, is free. You have to arrange your own readings, and placements in local bookstores, if possible, as well as creating an online market. But I did this with my last book, where production costs were much higher, and still managed to make a small profit (very small), but I wouldn’t expect to make much with a publisher anyway.

So, unless someone rips the material out of my hands, and insists on publishing it (of course I would say yes – it’s the Kudos, man), I guess this is the way I’ll go. Hopefully I’ll have the book sorted by April, and will start arranging local readings then (local, as in Hamburg…). Until then, you can read the latest story here.

I Spy

Well, so far, so bad. I was up to thirty minutes running a day, and then it hit me like a hammer – the commoner garden cold. Atishoo. Not only that, I have put on one and a half kilograms since I started jogging. This, I am told, is normal as one tends to eat more, the more one does. I am now eating muesli and dried fruit everyday and feel like a sick rabbit. I have decided to take a break until my fever subsides, but then it will be back to pounding the pavement, and seeing whether muesli tastes better when eaten with a fork.

In the meantime I wandering through the Guardian and read an article about a new online game where the players have to spot and solve a real crime caught by CCTV, which got me thinking about surveillance cameras in general, and, me being me, I wrote a poem about it. You can read it here.

I’m afraid I didn’t have much time to write the last week as I had a translation assignment to finish. Now done, now back, but can one write with such a sore head? I’m not sure, but will try…
What I have tried out is the Google translator toolkit, on a bit of private translation I was doing for a friend for his website. Well, the results were certainly better than other translation software, and it’s easy to use, but, and it’s a big but, you still run up against that age old problem that almost every sentence needs to be substantially corrected, and you need a thesaurus look for better vocab. All in all, I’m still faster just typing the stuff straight in instead of doing masses of correction work. But, it’s a good kick-off point if you’re feeling lazy or out of sorts – creates the illusion that you’ve actually done something, even if it’s only pressing a few buttons.

Things I’m thinking of doing: 1. putting up readings of my poems on the web. I want to do this to music, but first I have to learn to play something before I can do that. This may take more time than I thought. 2. At the moment I’m working on creating a collection of poems as well as a collection of short stories so that I can publish two books. Of course, I know this part is easier said than done, if not nigh on impossible. That being the case I want to look at Amazon’s self publishing stuff to see whether there might be a viable outlet there. The point is always marketing, as getting a book to print nowadays is relatively cheap and easy, although you do have to watch for quality. My feeling is that new technologies such as BOD sold on the internet, and Kindle, could provide a revolution for new authors if we actually actively appropriate them for our own uses. Publishers beware! But if people can find alternative outlets then all power to them. I might try doing a dry run with my PhD just to see whether I move two or three copies that way – let’s not get to ambitious, eh.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that if a publisher came to me and offered to publish my stuff that I’d say no – I’d jump at the chance. It’s just that the hurdles have been set so high for new authors, with manuscripts not being directly accepted, and agents only accepting published authors, that the amount of work you have to put in to get noticed may be better off spent elsewhere. Self-publishing, in contrast to the vanity industry of yore, nowadays costs next to nothing, and with 50% returns on books you’ve sold yourself, if you arrange local readings then you can expect the same returns that you would get on your average first book anyway. What’s missing is exposure to bigger audiences – but, if you’re internet savvy, this can be achieved too, through blogging, and if you’re ambitious and have the cash, through mail-shots and web advertising. Of course, it’s something everyone has to weigh up for themselves, but I’d say the times are changing…