Tag Archives: books

Moon Books – Small Press Big Ideas

This month I’m joining in with #SmallPressBigIdeas. I’m going to be blogging about some small presses, starting with Moon Books.

Moon Books is the Pagan imprint of John Hunt Publishing. I’ve had books there since 2012 when my first non-fic came out with them – Druidry and Meditation.

Moon Books publishes a broad array of Pagan titles, some broad and aimed at a wide Pagan market, others gloriously niche. Titles focus on individual deities, different paths, traditions modern and old… Authors contributing to Moon Books come from around the world, and represent many different ways of being human, as well.

For me, Moon Books has been a community as much as it’s been a publisher. Through Moon Books, I’ve met a number of people I really like and who have become part of my life in other ways. This year I was at Halo Quin’s Goblin Masquerade. Laura Perry sauntered over to Hopeless, Maine and designed a tarot deck for us. There are also friends at Moon Books I’ve known far longer than this imprint has existed – Robin Herne, Cat Treadwell, Elen Sentier, Brendan Myers. There are many authors at the imprint who I think of as friends, even if we haven’t met in person. That’s too long a list to type!

My experience of small publishers is that they tend to be far better at taking care of their people than big houses are. If I need to talk to the boss – Trevor Greenfield – about anything, I can count on hearing from him within the week. Usually quicker. Smaller houses don’t have vast sums of money to spend on promoting books, but a lot gets done through clever use of the internet, and mutual support. Rather than seeing each other as competitors, authors at Moon Books look out for each other, share opportunities, and we all keep an eye out for books we can support. No one is ever leaned on to support a book that doesn’t align with their thinking, and there’s quite an array of opinions within the books so we aren’t all comfortably coming from the same place all the time. The support happens where it makes sense, and thanks to that, you’ll see me reviewing titles from other authors here and there. Only the books that appeal to me.

Publisher website – https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MoonBooks

Twitter – https://twitter.com/MoonBooksJHP

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/moonbooksjhp/

Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/c/MoonBooksPublishing

The trouble with series

Committing to a series is a risk. Sometimes the creator dies before it’s finished, or loses interest and gives up. Sometimes the creator isn’t capable of handling the setup in a satisfying way, or turns out to be awful in some unexpected fashion. Sometimes the whole thing gets cancelled and there’s no proper conclusion. Sometimes the thing is so successful that people keep making new instalments long after they’ve run out of ideas and it all gets a bit sad and repetitive. You’ve been there. We’ve all been there.

However, if people don’t take a risk on a series, you can be sure it won’t work out. Publishers ditch authors with low sales. Netflix cancels shows that merely do ok. It’s incredibly frustrating for audiences and creators alike.

Which leads me round to the Hopeless, Maine graphic novel series I’ve been working on for the past ten years or so. It was written with a plot arc from the start. While I’ve tinkered with that, it’s basically the story I intended to tell all along. We had a false start with a crappy American publisher who messed us about a lot. However, we’ve got a secure home with Sloth Comics, and a strong relationship with Outland Entertainment who are doing hardcover editions. The penultimate book came out with Sloth this year, and we’re talking about 2023 for the final instalment.

That final instalment is most of the way to done and handed in. Over-penciling, scanning and doing the lettering remains. These are the smaller jobs. And then it’s done, the series is finished and the story is complete. If you were wondering about having a look but don’t enjoy the uncertainty attendant on reading a series, I think it’s safe to say that this is no longer an issue for Hopeless, Maine graphic novels.

This is the last graphic novel we’re going to do. It’s a labour intensive form, and doesn’t give us much time for anything else. We want to explore other kinds of storytelling more – in film, on stage and on paper. It’s not the end of the Hopeless, Maine project, but my intention from here is that everything we do should stand alone so that you don’t have to have read the whole thing to have a shot at it.

Hopeless Optimists

Hopeless, Maine – Optimists is the fourth book in the Hopeless Maine graphic novel series I create with Tom. At time of posting it’s available for pre-order in all the sorts of places that sell books. My publisher for this – Sloth Comics – tells me there have been a happy number of pre-orders places already, which is cheering.

Sloth is not a big publishing house, and in normal years has depended a lot on direct sales at comics events. These have not been normal years, and many events haven’t happened. The creative sector has been even more precarious than it usually is. With the cost of living rising, people will, of necessity, cut their budgets for fun things first. Throwing coins at people makes a huge difference.

Of the covers we’ve done so far, this one is my favourite. I’ve only been involved in creating some of the covers, having taken on the colouring part of the work after several books had already been put out there. 

Hopeless, Maine graphic novels are generally available from places that sell books, including book shops – although you’ll probably have to order them. Optimists is, at time of posting, available for pre-order and due out at the end of March.

As Sloth isn’t huge, we don’t have much distribution outside of the UK for these editions BUT we also have an American publisher bringing out hardback editions, which makes it easier for people to get copies should they so desire.

How to be brilliant and successful

I’m always fascinated by the advice writers hand out to other writers, as though there really is a magic formula that will get your book written and published.

There really isn’t.

If something feels weird and uncomfortable, probably don’t do it. This is advice that holds up in most situations, not just writing. The exception may be around medical checkups. 

Of course it’s tempting to think there are easy answers and things that are bound to work. But honestly, if that’s what floats your boat, get into something where doing what you’re told to do actually gets you results. Whatever those things are. I can bake a cake by following instructions. I can make a granny square. What I can’t do by following other people’s rules is make something original and also be guaranteed to sell it for a lot of money. 

When you start out doing something you have to put in the time to find out how it all works. No one would expect to win a baking contest with the first cake they’ve ever made. I find it odd that many people have entirely different expectations for their first book. 

Being brilliant takes time. It means going beyond whatever natural gift you have, and finding out how to work with it. Putting in the work is essential – just dreaming about it doesn’t lead to success. However, being brilliant doesn’t lead reliably to success either. In the creative industries, luck, privilege and nepotism count for a lot. These are not meritocracies.

Most authors do not earn enough to live on and either work other jobs, are supported by other people, have resources available to them or accept being poor. Or exciting combinations of those things. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something. It may be a book. Perhaps it will turn out to be a book about how to teach people how to write books. 

You have every chance at being brilliant. Find out how you do things to best effect and keep doing it. Brilliance has everything to do with time and determination. You probably won’t be successful economically, because that seldom happens. Other measures of success exist. Joy matters. Being able to share with people is good.

Doing it for money

Living by creative work is a bit of a gamble, to say the least. Most of my working life I’ve had other jobs on the go as well – often also in publishing, because marketing and editing pay more reliably than writing does.

I spent this last year mostly working on my own stuff, when I wasn’t being horribly ill. Given the many rounds of being horribly ill, it’s as well I wasn’t trying to do much else! But, I gambled on a couple of things and it hasn’t worked out. This happens. Opportunities melt away, or turn out not to be as good as they looked. Currently the entire book industry is being sorely challenged by distribution issues, paper shortages and whatnot, especially in America. Royalty payments are down, because American book sales are really low right now.

What you earn as an author tends to depend on work you’ve done in previous years, and there’s often no knowing how long it will take for the work to lead to money. One of the advantages of self publishing is that you get the work out and sell it. Big publishers move slowly and can take years to make decisions. Graphic novels are slow to make, so the books we’re working on were first drafted ten years ago. With the series complete, that set of books will be more interesting to other publishers, and Sloth may be able to pitch it on – but who knows?

Once upon a time, I wrote a novel in six weeks because someone offered me something like a thousand pounds to do it, and that’s more money than I’d ever made from writing before that point. By the end of it, I had days where I was mostly just shaking and crying – multiple drafts of an 80k novel is a lot to do in six weeks and I didn’t sleep much. I didn’t do another one. I couldn’t have sustained it, although it turned out that my first husband thought I should have done.

I gambled and lost, this year. I lost money on an event where I really needed to come out ahead. Everything has been slower than I needed it to be. Releases are delayed. Various projects have been hit with problems and some things I’ve just had to rethink. Meanwhile energy costs, and food costs are set to rise. I have a safety net, but it’s finite, and shrinking. 

I spent New Year’s eve looking at local employment possibilities. I’ve done all kinds of work along the way, I have no qualms about jumping back in – shelf stacker or dinner lady maybe. My skills aren’t much use for conventional employment outside of publishing, I don’t have a car, and that means I’m pretty much obliged to look at minimum wage jobs if I can’t get the writing based work to pay. At one point a few years ago I was doing half a dozen small jobs to make ends meet, and it was tough. So, I was bracing myself to get back into all of that.

Much to my surprise, I find that instead I’m going to be writing a novel to a tight deadline and for a flat fee. I’ve got three books to read as a matter of some urgency, and I’m going to be flat out for the next eight to ten weeks. So if the blog is a bit brief, or sporadic, this will be why. But it will pay better than being a traffic warden, and I was going to have to lie on that application about how well I handle aggression and conflict situations…

Reading resolutions

I don’t track how many books I read in a year. Often my reading is pretty random, and informed by who wants a review from me. Sometimes I just go to the library and pick up random stuff I know nothing about. However, this last year I’ve been being a little more organised and as a result have come up with some reading goals.

I’m working my way through Jane Austin’s books. So far I’ve read Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion. I’m aiming to get Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park in the coming year. There’s an unfinished novel that I probably won’t explore.

I’m also working my way through the Brontes. I’ve already read Jane Eyre, Shirley, Villette, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I have The Professor to go.

I’m planning to work my way through EM Forster’s novels. So far I’ve read A Room With A View and A Passage to India, leaving me Where Angels Fear to Tread, The Longest Journey, Howards End, and Maurice.

Last year I read the first part of the Japanese epic-classic – The Tale of Genji – I aim to read the rest of it, although I’m not expecting to manage that next year.

Otherwise my intention is to broaden my reading and pick up more classics in translation. Particularly with an eye to reading more classics that aren’t European in origin.

Book news

I have a number of exciting thnigs going on with books currently – all around the Hopeless Maine project.

Hopeless Maine is now published in America by Outland Entertainment, they’ve just released some prose fiction set on the island.

They’re re-releasing the whole comics series in large, hardbound volumes, and copies of those have started turning up.

We now also have copies of the penultimate book in the graphic novel series – which comes out officially early next year. we’ve started work on the last book in this story, and we do know what happens afterwards…

For those of you not familiar with this project…. Hopeless Maine is a creepy island, lost in time, somewhere off the American coast. It started life as a graphic novel series and has since spawned a role play game, tarot, live performance, prose fiction, poetry, songs, and a film project. It’s a gothic, steampunk sort of a thing, originally the idea of Tom Brown (to whom I am married) but it’s become a large, sprawling international community with all sorts of lovely people getting involved. You can find out more about it over here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/

Pagan Dreaming

I’ve written a number of Pagan and Druid books, and of the ones published by Moon Books, Pagan Dreaming has been by far the least successful. It’s been out for years and has just broken through 500 sales. For perspective, the average book sells 3000 copies in its lifetime. Most of publishing does not look anything like those multi-million selling famous authors. For every massive international hit, there are many, many books that don’t even sell a hundred copies. 

Part of the problem is that there are a lot of dream books out there, it’s a really saturated corner of the market. Most dream books are either dictionaries of meaning, or are focused on teaching you how to control your dreams, and these are not things I’m interested in. Much of the motivation for writing the book came from wanting to offer alternatives to the x=y approach to dream symbolism, and the idea that control is the goal.

The trouble with publishing is the assumption that people want more of what they already have. It’s perhaps less of an issue in Pagan publishing because it’s still a new area and we haven’t established hard rules in the way some genres have. Long may it continue so. As a reader I am not even slightly interested in reading books that are just like some other books I’ve read. I want to be surprised. I want something different. This is one of the reasons I read a lot of books from indy authors and small publishing houses. 

Of course I’m not alone in this. Netflix are proving over and over that there is an audience for films and series that are not exactly like everything else. Books that are unusual can and do sell too.

The trouble is, that books, films, etc are all easier to sell if you can go ‘if you liked that other thing you’re going to love this.’ I’ve worked in marketing.  There’s an obvious attraction to things that you can easily see how to pitch and who to pitch to. But that doesn’t get you the best books, or the most original books or the books that could actually sell the most. If no one has done it before, you have no idea if this is the book everyone is waiting for. It could be. It might not be.

Some authors are amazing and brilliant, timely and trendsetting and deserve every success. Some authors are successful because they’re really good at figuring out what people want from them and how to pitch it. Some authors are simply lucky, and catch the zeitgeist in some way. Some authors keep churning out the same thing and get enough marketing support and sell far more copies than perhaps they deserve to. It’s not a meritocracy. 

I prefer to take risks, write things that interest me and hope for the best. I’ve tried to be commercially oriented, and frankly I don’t do that well. There are enough people who like what I do for it to feel worth doing. That’s enough. 

If you’re the sort of person who is interested in your dream life, but also heartily sick of dream dictionaries and you don’t see lucid dreaming as the goal of your dream life… I may have a book for you and you can find out more about it over here… https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/pagan-dreaming

Books and blogs

As well as writing this blog, I also write books. Most of the Pagan ones are published by Moon Books, with the exception of Druidry and the Future, which is over on ko-fi – https://ko-fi.com/s/6f6d37772a

You may be wondering what the relationship between the books and the blog is. If you read the blog, is there any point reading the books, especially given that most of them are for sale (Druidry and the Future is free).

There are bits of my books on the blog, if you search for excerpts. There are ideas that started here and that I’ve since expanded on and developed. Those are scattered around. There is, for example, a Pagan Pilgrimage category where I occasionally play with ideas around this subject. At some point there may well be a book, but that will come from an assimilation of the experiences I’ve blogged about here, and there will be a lot more to it than these first forays.

At the moment I am writing a Druidry and the Darkness book over on Patreon, with new and otherwise unavailable content each month. https://www.patreon.com/NimueB That’s in the Bards and Dreamers category, which also gives you a poem every month and my singing the wheel of the year content. What goes up there is some of the first draft content, so there will be more in the final book. It’s also an opportunity to engage more in my writing process, get the finished pdf before anyone else (when we get there) make suggestions and the such.

What I don’t do, have never done and will never do is take content from the blog and recycle it into books and then charge for it. The books are written as books, with a considered structure and the kind of oversight and integrity that you can’t have if things are cobbled together in 500 word chunks off the cuff. Blogs are, by their nature a bit limited and superficial, there’s always more to say. A book is the better vehicle for digging in to a subject and exploring it in more depth and breadth. For some readers, an easily digestible thought is much more helpful than a hefty tome, and for others, the digging in is preferable so hopefully this mixed approach works for more people.

Free Books

For some time now, I’ve been giving away pdfs of my self-published work. As many of you have followed the blog since I started doing that, you may not have seen all of these and you might want to get in for them.

At present I have 4 pdfs in my ko-fi store. They’re ‘pay what you like’ and it is totally fine not to pay anything if you are short of money. if you want to drop something in the hat that’s lovely and it helps me stay viable while giving work away, which is a win all round I think.

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Mapping the Contours – poetry with strong landscape themes. https://ko-fi.com/s/8e7caa2cfc

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Druidry and the future – non-fiction https://ko-fi.com/s/6f6d37772a

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How to Unpeel a monster -poetry with themes of identity and being unacceptable https://ko-fi.com/s/6c04e1cb8c

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Wherefore series 1 – daftness, animism, magic, https://ko-fi.com/s/2241a51430