Posts Tagged ‘self-publishing’

Today I have a guest post from Russell Phillips. Regular readers will be familiar with Russell as the author of several self-published books on military history, as well as many insightful comments here. He’s been a huge help to me in starting with self-publishing, and he’s here to offer some more of that great insight today…


When I was at university, I discovered open source software, and I’ve been using it ever since. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, open source basically means that the source code for a program is available to anyone that wants it. They can then examine it and, if they wish, change it so that it better suits their needs. These days, I’m less involved with the open source community, but I can see some parallels between the open source community and the self-publishing community. I think there are lessons to be learned from the open source community’s experiences.

Fund-raising and self-publishing (the open source way), Part one

I often saw this quote in open source circles: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” I’d say that open source is currently in the “then they fight you” stage, and self-publishing is moving from “then they laugh at you” to “then they fight you”. I don’t know whether self-publishing will ultimately “win” or not. I think it will become an accepted way to publish, and that in itself is something of a victory. Maybe the traditional publishing houses will slowly die out completely, and self-publishing will be the only way to publish, but it seems more likely that some traditional publishers will adapt and survive, alongside self-publishing.

FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, And Doubt

Many open source advocates have accused traditional, closed-source, companies and developers of using tactics known as “FUD” (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) when arguing against the use of open source software. Such tactics are easy to use, and difficult to counter, since they don’t offer concrete examples of problems, they simply suggest that problems might exist. Why go for the new and unknown, the argument goes, when you can stick with what you know? The same tactics are now being used against self-publishing, with warnings that many self-published books might not be ready for publishing.

Hippies, Teenagers, And Authors

The stereotype of open source developers is long-haired hippies and teenagers living in their parents’ basement. Similarly, the stereotypical self-published author only turned to self-publishing because their work isn’t good enough to get a traditional deal. There is undoubtedly some truth in these stereotypes, but in both cases, the stereotypes fall far short of the full story. Large companies including IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have released open source software. Self-publishers regularly appear in the New York Times and USA Today best-seller lists.

The Letter Matters More Than The Spirit

One lesson all authors (both traditionally and self published) should take to heart is that the letter of the contract is important. Large companies will obey the letter of the contract, and if they don’t, they can be sued. That’s a difficult proposition, but it’s much more difficult to sue a company for not adhering to the spirit of the contract. If you are signing a contract, make sure that everything that matters to you is written into the contract. Similarly, don’t agree to a contract or a set of terms and conditions if there are provisions missing that are important to you. Several large companies (including Amazon) have released open source code because the licence forced them to do so. In some cases, they did the bare minimum to abide by the licence conditions, annoying some open source advocates because the way it was released meant that developers had to spend many hours getting the code into a more useful form.

Not Everyone That Takes The Freebie Would Have Paid

I run my own web server, using the Linux operating system, Apache web server and MySQL database. These are all open source, and none of them cost anything. There is an option to pay for this software, usually in return for support, but because this option is primarily aimed at businesses, it’s expensive. If the free option wasn’t available, I wouldn’t pay the huge licensing fees. I’d make do without my own web server, and just pay to host my websites for me. Similarly, not every copy of your book that is given away or pirated is a lost sale. If the free copy wasn’t available, some of those people would buy your book, but some of them would simply look elsewhere for their entertainment.

Share The Knowledge

This seems to be a lesson that many self-published authors have already taken to heart. The internet has many blogs (including this one), forums, etc, where authors share their knowledge, what has and hasn’t worked for them, etc. Similarly, open source developers often share ideas and help each other solve problems. While it may seem that other authors are competitors, very few of them actually are. I write non-fiction (specifically, military technology and history). Andy writes fantasy, steampunk and sci-fi. My books simply don’t compete with his. Even if a given reader reads both genres, they’re highly unlikely to refuse to buy a book I wrote about the Football War because they’ve already bought a book by Andy about Victorians going to Mars on steam-powered space ships.

What Else?

These are some lessons that I believe self-published authors can learn from the open source world. There are probably more, but I’m sure there are also lessons that could be learned from other areas. Maybe doctors, taxi drivers, and chefs could teach us something. Do you have any lessons from other areas of your life that are relevant to authors? Act on my final lesson, and share your knowledge in the comments.

Image by opensourceway, from Flickr.

Today I have a guest post from Felipe Adan Lerma. Felipe is a writer and artist with his finger on the pulse of current changes in publishing, and who is making the most of those changes, as this post shows…

Short Chapters, My Growing Preference

It is a distinct pleasure to stray off the beaten-to-a-pulp path of parsing how and why both Hachette and Amazon are more alike than different, and write about something I almost neglected and lost sight of in the digital dust: my growing preference and pleasure with small chapters.

Whether I’m reading shorter chapters or writing them, I’m finding more and more I really enjoy how they encapsulate micro moments in a story’s thread. Like scenes in TV show or movie I really enjoy, like The Middle or instance.

What’s surprising to me is, I should’ve know all along!

Like that old saying, that the truth is often right in front of us.

Or that the path is within.

Follow your heart.

All that.

You see, I grew up being told, and believing, that all good things take work. Lots of it. Effort, even more of it. So, from the beginning, in terms of writing, I struggled to fulfill that expectation. I sure wasn’t wanting to shirk from the full needed effort to succeed.

Plays had to be three acts. Novels had to be hundreds of pages. Short stories and novellas were for wimps. I may be short, at five foot six, but I wasn’t about to be short in terms of effort, or production.

Yet, life kept trying to remind me that my preference was for quicker, tighter, shorter work.

Specifically, my mind body-connection kept showing me, by example.

How to follow my heart, almost literally.

Played based ball for years, always trying to hit the long ball. Almost got one over the fence, once. But if I concentrated, I could bunt or bloop fly myself on base almost at will.

When I was in junior high, I went out for track. Loved to run. Trained for 440s and longer. In my 20s and 30s I ran three miles almost every day. But what I loved doing, was sprints. Embarrassing though, dashing for a short distance, for fun. Couldn’t I go further?

In college (80s), after my Air Force stint, using my VA benefits, I took every type writing course I could. My first creating plays. Three acts please. But my act bits were the best. Short stories? Meh. Nobody reads those. Novella. Lengthen it, tell us more, I was told. I did, but it wasn’t as good. The fire was gone.

Then in the 90s, my wife and I sold my art at art shows and malls and, to pass the time, I wrote short one page poems. Something we could print on one page, personalize it, and sell – especially on holidays. We did that for a decade as I dreamed of writing something bigger.

I painted. Eight by tens to forty by sixties. People wanted sofa size art.

But I loved my smaller pieces. Bits of my heart.

And now. In this digital age, I find I can do anything. Nobody much cares either way anymore, telling me, “No, don’t do that – do this!” But I had been trained well. So I “sneaked in” bits and scenes into my novellas and the few “novels” I’ve done. Made sure I created smooth enough transitions to justify a continuity of those scenes and bits. Started doing short stories as “fillers” and “back stories” to the larger work. There had to be a good reason for doing them, after all. (smiles)

But in this latter time, this new digital time, I came upon writers like Joe Konrath, James Patterson, Michael Crichton, Janet Evanovich. I liked the way they switched point of views, switched locales, created incidents and episodes of action. Like the shorter quicker pulses of narrative.

So, recently, with my latest short story, “Lunch with Grandma and Grandpa,” I created what I consider short story short chapters. You know, segments divided with an “*”. Some are a few pages long, some a few paragraphs long. Point of views change. Yet it all merged and worked. It was extremely satisfying. It was a pleasure. It was fun.

With that, I was ready.

Or think I am.

Currently, weighing in at just under 20,000 words, and about two thirds finished with the first draft, is my first mystery thriller effort, tentatively titled, “Day Trip, the Hill Country.”

My first crime mystery effort, a short, was “Dirty Sixth Street, Austin,” and I bring most of the same characters back for this work. While the short does have scene bits embedded into it, with some pretty nice transitions, it was still my basic straight forward narrative.

This newer novella size story, is looking to have seventy plus chapters. Averaging less than two pages a chapter. There are a few three pages, many two pages, and lots of one page chapters.

I still feel guilty. Try to expand a chapter here and there. Recognizing where more development feels right. But more often, fighting to keep the impact I feel and get when I both write then read the work.

A favorite literature professor of mine at the University of Houston Clear Lake, way back then, in the late 70s and early 80s, once told me, “Some writers take decades to forget what they learn getting their masters. And spend a lifetime learning what they like.”

That’s me. It was in front of me all the time.

adan at thompson park bridge DSCI4701

Felipe Adan Lerma


A steam-powered cowboy with a taste for death.

A daring art heist in a moving city.

A zeppelin flight through the smoke-filled skies of a Europe torn apart by volcanoes.

Riding The Mainspring - High Resolution

No, these are not just random words that I’ve thrown together to fill my blog. They are among the many exciting stories featured in my new collection, Riding the Mainspring, out now on all your different Amazons, including for those of you living in Mickey Mouse country and for those of us who shop using pictures of a lady in a crown.

This collection brings together nine stories of mechanical endeavour and daring do from worlds where pistons and clockwork are king. Each short story explores a different steampunk possibility, from the Wild West to the sewers below Venice. Starring scientists, detectives, criminals, and more machines than you can shake a pair of brass goggles at.

Mud and Brass - High Resolution - Version 2

And if you’re looking for something a little smaller, my brand new short story Mud and Brass is also available as an Amazon e-book for only 99c – again available on all Amazon sites including your Yankee website and our tiny island nation version. It’s a story of mud, mechanisms and romance in a steampunk city.

If you read these stories then please let me know what you think. And better yet, please leave a review on the relevant Amazon site, as that’s hugely useful for me.

These are just the first in a series of short story releases I’m planning over the next few months. If you’d like to win a free copy of the next release then please leave a review of one or both of these steampunk books on Amazon and paste a link to the review in the comments below. Anyone who leaves a link to their review by the end of August will go into a draw to receive a free copy of the next collection.

And for those of you who don’t use Amazon, fear not. I’ll also be releasing these e-books on other platforms soon – keep an eye out here or join my mailing list to find out when that happens.

I hope you enjoy the stories and look forward to reading your opinions.

Happy reading!


I had a guest post earlier this week on Wayne Halm’s Golfing on Kauai blog. That might seem an odd choice, given that my one encounter with golf involved ripping my back open on barbed wire at the age of twelve (it’s a funnier story than it sounds – well, less hideous anyway). But Wayne also discusses writing on his blog, and my post is about that – about where we’re at right now as writers and readers. So please pop on over to Wayne’s blog and enjoy The Freedom of the Modern Writer. And while you’re there why not read up on your golf? Just beware the barbed wire.

* * *

On an unrelated note, thank you to those of you who took the time to respond to my post yesterday about depression, whether with a comment, a like, or talking with me about it elsewhere. That was a tough post for me to write and put out into the world, but it was important to me to say it, and your supportive feedback meant a lot.

Tomorrow there’ll be a link to another guest post I’ve written, this time for Josh Stanton. So the second half of my discussion from Monday will finally appear on Friday. Maybe. Assuming nothing else comes up in the meantime.

Wow, when did this place suddenly get so busy?

I’ve written several posts here about how wonderful current changes in publishing and modern technology are. But not everyone sees those changes like I do, and if we’re to discuss them with any intelligence then it’s important to think about why.

The devastating loss (of coffee)

My favourite local coffee shop closed down this weekend. As a working writer this is a terrible blow. Nowhere else that close combines wifi, plug sockets and friendly service. I’m going to have to walk at least ten minutes now if I want to work out of the house. Laura’s also sad about it – the staff were friendly, they knew what we liked to drink, the cakes were top notch, it was a lovely place to relax.

I loved Barbican coffee shop, but I suspected it was doomed from the start. It was an up-market coffee house on a street of discount stores and the cheap, cheerful cafés favoured by the working (and unemployed) English. It was an independent business following a model dominated by big chains. It was bold and beautiful and I hoped rather than expected that it would last.

Alas, poor coffee, I knew you well...

Alas, poor coffee, I knew you well…

If such an expected inconvenience can put me in a grump, even though it costs me nothing directly, imagine how it must feel to have your whole working life threatened. Not just the income, or the stability, or your corner cubicle that’s handy for the coffee machine. The very credibility and value of the model you’ve invested your work in for years. That’s what the rise of indie publishing and disputes like the one with Amazon represent to the employees at big publishers like Hachette. Their working lives and personal identities are built around believing that what they do creates value for readers and writers, that their service is a good thing. And now innovators are coming in and stomping all over that.

It doesn’t matter how good the evidence is. It doesn’t matter how much they normally like innovation. They are going to be predisposed to believe and defend the viewpoint that says ‘you are right and Amazon is ruining everything’.

The frustration of facing denial

I used to work in business improvement, trying to help employees save themselves time and effort, trying to help clients get a better experience. I was constantly faced with people who would prevaricate or refuse to act on evidence clearly showing that changes would benefit everyone. They didn’t want to take the risk of changing, and it drove me insane.

That’s how it must look from the other side of the indie/traditional dispute – that of innovators like Amazon or hybrid author Hugh Howey. Their lives and identities are built around the value of moving forwards, trying new things. They find this incredibly exciting. They can see the benefits it will bring. They have the evidence. They have the logic. And yet still people dig in their heels against them.

Like some kid trying to win an argument in a YouTube comments thread, they aren’t thinking about how their argument makes people feel, just whether it’s right. But just being right won’t change people’s perspective unless you take into account their emotional response too.

So what?

So what does this mean in the end? Right now it means that no-one’s going to ‘win’ this debate. Publishing will change, and in the long run I believe the innovators will win out, not through better arguments but by providing better access to books in the way that readers want. The Amazon/Hachette dispute – which despite all this rhetoric is really just a contract negotiation – will be decided by power and profits, not who’s right about the future of publishing.

People will move on, but you can’t force them. And if you want to have an intelligent discussion about these changes then you need to think about how they make people feel.

Our reading habits are hugely influenced by gatekeepers, people and institutions who make broad judgements on what is and isn’t worth reading. It might not feel like it on an individual level, when you’re picking up the book that your friend recommended, but if you look at the big picture you can see these guardians of our reading experience looming over our selections.

They’re the big publishers, deciding what to put into print.

They’re the bookstores big and small, deciding what to order, what to show prominently on the shelves.

They’re the reviewers and editors who decide what gets attention.

They’re the writers of school and college curricula, making decisions on what counts as ‘important’.

Out with the old gatekeepers

Of course the overt power of any given gatekeeper is crumbling. Western culture developed a healthy and outspoken strain of cynicism about authority in the 1960s. The rise of the internet in the 1990s created a space in which we could easily seek out voices like our own, and so live the fractured and pluralistic culture promised by that previous generation. Now the growth of self-publishing is along many more writers to see their words in print.

The power of traditional gatekeepers is in decline. Bookstores are closing down, or at least being transformed. Ministers receive as much ridicule as praise when they try to tell us what’s worth reading.

And yet the wide range of choices causes us problems. We need a way to filter the millions of books, to decide what to read. We cannot make decisions without the help of some kind of gatekeepers. So what will those gatekeepers look like in ten or twenty years’ time? And will they empower us to make the choices that best suit our tastes, as we want them to, or will they try to make us fit their tastes, as is traditional?

Algorithms as gatekeepers

One of the biggest gatekeepers at the moment is Amazon. Its algorithms are designed to help you find books that you will like through its recommendations on what to read next. Amazon foregoes the opportunity to deliberately point you towards books which provide the company with a larger per-sale profit, instead betting on the long game. If they keep recommending the best choices for you then you will keep coming back and buying through them. It’s part of how they so thoroughly dominate the book selling market right now. If you want to know more, go read the informative books and blog posts of David Gaughran.

If the Amazon story has taught us anything it’s that nothing lasts forever. Damien Walter has predicted that, with the rise of more sophisticated software, Google may eventually take over from Amazon as our best source of book recommendations. This would, as Damien points out, liberate writers from being dependent on Amazon. However, Google’s paying customers are advertisers not readers or writers, and that could have a detrimental impact on how it works.

Algorithms have proved the sort of gatekeepers that empower us and help us to find books we want. The owners might change, but those programs aren’t going away. What will be interesting to see will be who provides the programs and who they help.

Awards as gatekeepers

Awards ceremonies provide a very different sort of gatekeeper, essentially creating a recommendation that the judges or collective community believe everyone should read. Whether it’s the impending Booker Prize directing the entire British reading public towards a single piece of literary fiction, or the fandom-voted awards that accompany the summer’s big science fiction and fantasy conventions, these are hegemonic gatekeepers, trying to hold a group together through shared tastes and identity.

The Knighton prize for getting my lazy arse out of bed in the morning

The Knighton prize for getting my lazy arse out of bed in the morning

In some ways awards are among the most old-style of gatekeepers. The idea that any single book can be held up as objectively the best in its field feels absurd to me. But these prizes aren’t going anywhere, and they do fill a useful function. They bring us together, scattered as we are by our diverse tastes, help to create bonding conversations before we scatter back to our algorithmically identified reading piles.

What other gatekeepers?

I’m sure there are other gatekeepers still of relevance. Can you think of some I’ve missed? And what difference do these ones make to your reading? Do you find Amazon helpful? Do you single out award-winning books to read?

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments.

I’m big on planning. Both as a writer and as a human being (wait, did I just imply that writers aren’t people?) I deal with life a lot better if I know what’s coming. I have a template for planning blog posts. My story plans include a specific bit of guidance for roughly every 500 words. If I go into town I scribble down a list of the errands I’m running so that I don’t forget.

So of course I’ve done lots of planning and research before trying self-publishing. Based on the great responses I got to my previous request for help and guidance I’ve done a lot of reading and note taking – from people’s comments, blog posts, books, podcasts…

It’s only been a few weeks, I haven’t published anything yet, but here are some of the things that I’ve learned already.

Apparently I need one of these (both the machine and the tiny moustache)

Apparently I need one of these (both the machine and the tiny moustache)

Covers matter

It sounds obvious once you stop and think about it. A visually striking cover can make all the difference in what you browse in the bookshop, and of course that applies online too. Yet being so word-focused I’d been treating it as an afterthought. But your cover needs to work well, to get across your genre, to draw in readers who will find your story interesting. And it needs to work in a variety of formats – on books, on ebooks, on blog pages when you hopefully get reviews, and as a tiny little gif on Amazon. That’s a lot of work, and needs a lot of thought put into it.

This post gives some insight into the sort of things that matter, and certainly helped me to think in design terms. But ultimately I’m a writer not a designer, so I’m going to have to turn to someone with those skills to get this right.

Another reason why the lone artist is a stupid myth.

Timing matters

Do people buy more or less ebooks in July?

Will this month’s big fantasy releases drain the time and money of my potential readers?

How soon after release is a free give-away most effective?

At what point will my book vanish from e-book new release charts?

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can’t take every timing factor into account, but boy, there are a lot to consider.

But not everything matters

Having buried my nose in indie book blogs, I’d been overwhelmed by the amount of coverage of the dispute between Amazon and Hachette. It’s a situation I find genuinely fascinating – the social phenomenon of big business interests me, and this stuff makes a difference to our future.

But still, there’s a storm in a teacup element to this. It’s one in a series of disputes that will shape the future of the business. It’s obscure enough that the wider reading public mostly don’t know it’s happening. And, for all those pages and pages of coverage, it makes no practical difference to someone planning to start self-publishing.

Like any in-community dispute, it clearly feels big and intense to the people involved. But it’s important to be able to step back and recognise when the shared anxiety perhaps outweighs the impact.

So what next?

All this and more means I’ve learned a lot, and have a lot of planning to do. I’m still intending to start with a collection of previously published short stories. I know that won’t sell brilliantly however hard I try, but it’s a way of trying out all this learning without putting something new on the line. Plus I have friends who’ve asked for a collection before, which is nice.

Originally I’d hoped to get that first collection out this month, but it’s the 15th already and it’s only now reaching the top of my to-do pile, so that seems unlikely. Not impossible, but not the most practical ever. Soon though, very soon.

Meanwhile I keep on reading. I’m nearly through the third of the four key books I was recommended to start with, I’ve got some pretty crowded notebooks, and soon I’ll be developing a book-launch project plan.

It’s like being back in project management, except now I care about my projects far more.

More updates to follow as I go along.


Picture by Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr creative commons – one of the coolest collections I’ve borrowed a picture from, you should check it out

The word ‘customer’ has a certain grubby, commercial ring to many people working in the arts and the public sector. I say this having striven all my life to work in those sectors, and as someone wary of the ‘people as sources of money’ thinking that can attach to the word.

Not what the word 'customer' is all about

Not all the word ‘customer’ is about

The problem is that ‘customer’ actually has two different and related uses. Sure, it can mean someone with whom you’re entering into a commercial transaction, providing something for money (lets call this an A-customer). But in the absence of any other word to fill its place, many organisations and systems thinkers also use ‘customer’ to refer to anyone to whom you’re providing a good or service (lets call this a B-customer).

Amazon and Hachette and customers

If you pay any attention to books as an industry then you know that there’s currently a dispute between online bookseller Amazon and publisher Hachette. If you follow any authors or book bloggers you may also be aware that it’s become incredibly divisive within the industry, with fierce words put forth on all sides.

For me, the deciding factor in this is customers. Putting the customer first isn’t just empty rhetoric – in the long run it’s what leads organisations to success. Publishing is going to keep changing, evolving towards systems that serve B-customers better because that’s how they’ll get the money out of A-customers. Any argument about publishing that doesn’t begin and end with the reader experience, taking authors into account along the way, is flawed. Publishing exists to provide readers with books, and if you don’t remember that then you’re doing it wrong.

I’m seeing a lot of arguments, especially on the Hachette side, that are doing it wrong.

TV streaming and who’s the customer

This ‘customers first’ thinking is also why I think streaming services are going to win out over traditional TV channels.

Traditional channels have viewers as their B-customers, the viewers of their shows. But their A-customers, the people paying for it, are the advertisers. As someone recently pointed out to me, if you’re not paying for something then you’re not the customer, you’re the product. As a result, those A-customer advertisers have pulled TV in directions that are less satisfying for the B-customer viewers, the shows drowned out by the volume of adverts. Given other cheap options, viewers will go for a more satisfying experience, and the service will die.

But I don’t want to be a customer!

There’s no point burying our heads in the sand. If you want to sell books, if you want to read better books, if you want to make smarter decisions about your work whatever that work is, then you need to be thinking about A-customers and B-customers. Even great art works by serving people’s needs and desires. And no-one but customers is going to pay your bills.


Picture by Images of Money via Flickr creative commons

In among all the palaver about how e-reading is changing book distribution, we often forget that it’s also changing the other part of the business and art of books – the reading experience

Comixology, Device 6 and navigating books

I recently raved about the unusual reading experience of the story/game DEVICE 6. One of the joys of that experience was the way in which the reader navigated the text. Sometimes you had a choice of two ways to read, scrolling in different directions. Text layouts reflected the story environment. Visual puzzles and audio elements were interspersed through the surreal short story. All this was possible because of the different formats that e-reading allows.

Believe it or not, this logo represents a sophisticated leap forward in comics reading. More importantly, it let me read the new Gillen & McKelvie comic, which is awesome.

Believe it or not, this logo represents a sophisticated leap forward in comics reading.

But this is also being used in more low-key and more widely read formats. I recently acquired a Kindle Fire and the Comixology app, letting me indulge in my neglected comics habit.* Comixology changes the comic reading experience. You can view one page at a time, enjoying the art of the layout as in a print comic, though without the intrusive adverts. But you can also view the comic one panel at a time. This means that elements later in the page come as more of a surprise, but that you miss out on the tricks of layout that truly great comic writers and artists use. The pacing and tension of the reading experience is subtly changed, and as creators adapt to this new format so will the medium.

Joanna Penn and intertextuality

Look at me, pulling out the ten dollar words. But intertextuality – the relationship between texts – is transforming and being transformed by e-reading as books start to adopt the tricks of the internet.

I recently read Joanna Penn’s Author 2.0 Blueprint, which is essentially a beginner’s guide to self-publishing.** Joanna includes a lot of links in her book, letting you read more on particular topics without slowing down the main points. It’s a smart approach, one we see all the time on websites but could not do in paper books. With e-readers we can.

And this is changing the way that we validate knowledge through references. It used to be that a factual book would provide a footnote referencing the source of information, but now you can provide direct links to that source if it is web-based, for readers to go and check the information themselves. How long before this is used to connect between books as well, giving readers a more inter-connected reading experience and marketers a way to sell you even more books? Could this be the future of academic journals?***

Mo Options Mo Awesome

The Notorious BIG provided a powerful metaphor for the dangers that come with a growth in our wealth of creative options.**** But the flip side of this is that these options let us do ever more interesting and creative things. They let us connect ideas together in new ways, experience stories in new formats. That’s great. The old forms aren’t dying – they’ll still be there if we want them. But new forms are rising up to join and in many cases surpass them.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you enjoying the experience of e-reading? Have you seen it used in interesting ways? Share your experiences below.



* Turns out that freelance work from home does have a downside – not working within walking distance of a comic shop.

** Joanna actually covers the full range of publishing options, but the emphasis is on the tools, techniques and challenges of self-publishing. I’ll be returning to this another day I’m sure.

*** It should be, but for smart people academics can be very slow to change.

**** Or maybe he just wanted to show off. So hard to tell with champagne-swilling jewellery-covered superstars.

Today I want to take a post out from my busy schedule of pontification and celebrate someone really helpful.

I first got to know Russell Phillips through Durham University Treasure Trap, the live roleplay group I was part of at uni. Like any organisation full of young people who care about what they’re doing, DUTT was a club divided by deep ideological and personal rifts. In our case, these mostly boiled down to whether you thought roleplay was a nice addition to the serious business of drinking, or whether drinking was a nice addition to the serious business of roleplaying.

This stuff matters when you’re twenty.

Russell even has a natty line in hats

Russell even has a natty line in hats

Russell was almost unique in being universally liked. Sure, he didn’t come out on our late-night post-questing nightclub expeditions (I was part of the hard drinking party, proudly known as the Drunken Bums) but he was such a decent bloke that everyone liked him. I never heard a bad word spoken against the man, which was positively unique in a society so full of youth and strong opinions (or ignorance and vitriol, depending on how you feel about young people).

It’s a long time since my student days, and I haven’t seen much of Russell – his was one of many old faces I’d wave to once a year across a field full of orcs (I might not be a student but that doesn’t mean I’ve grown out of my hobbies). And then over the past year we stumbled across each other on social media. I was blogging about writing and publishing, while Russell was self-publishing books about military history. He started leaving interesting comments on my blog, offering useful suggestions and insights, and when I put up a post last week asking for self-publishing advice he sent me all sorts of useful guidance and links.

Russell is a top, top bloke. One of the things I love about the modern world is that you can reconnect with people in that way. And one of the things that I like about self-publishing is that it seems to be full of helpful people like Russell.

If you’re at all interested in military history then please check out Russell’s blog and books, which can be found at:

And thank you Russell for all your help!