Here are his insights on working with a small press, and getting his books into the hands of readers.
KR: Did you do the agent routine?
JH: No. I'd love to find an agent, but thus far my luck has not been with me. To be fair, I've only attempted a half dozen or so agents and publishers (combined), so my rejection count is pretty minimal.
KR: How did you come in contact with Fido Press?
JH: At the risk of inserting my foot into my mouth, I ran across a writer's work on an independent website and found it somewhat lacking. I checked out the writer's profile and saw that they had something coming out on Excessica. I thought, "Wait a minute, if writing like this can be published..." I checked out the website and threw something at it. It was rejected for various reasons that I don't agree OR disagree with. I accept them, and decided to try something longer (Voidhawk) and definitely not along the typical vein of what Excessica takes. It was accepted. As we progressed through the acceptance talks, I became aware of a sister publishing company being launched that caters more to mainstream writing. We agreed Voidhawk would be a better fit for that company, so we moved it over to be one of the initial launches. Fido was the name of that company.
KR: Would you walk us through the small press publishing routine? How exactly did getting your manuscript into a book go? What services (editing, cover art, publicity, etc) did they offer?
JH: It's pretty simple really. I submit. They accept (hopefully). Then comes the legal forms that have to be signed off. I suggest a variety of things (blurb, excerpt, any ideas I might have for cover art, etc.). Then they farm it out to an artist to design some cover art. Somewhere along the line (timing varies) it typically hits an editors desk. My editing experiences have varied, I'll admit, but I've yet to be disappointed. I've also met [through Fido] an exceptional editor who I continue to keep in touch with on the side. When the editing and cover art is complete, it becomes just a matter of waiting for the book to be released on its scheduled date. Voila! And with Excessica and Fido there is no vanity charges, they are legit and offer up great contracts to the author.
KR: Is your book available at any brick and mortar bookstores?
JH: I don't know. What? Yes - it's true. I took several books down to a retail establishment when I lived in Moab, Utah, for them to consider purchasing but they had a campaign going where they were accepting book donations for the troops overseas. My books were accidentally sent there instead of purchased and put on the shelves. It's a good cause so that tempered the frustration I felt for the lack of organization. I've also taken part in a campaign called Operation: E-drop, which offers free ebooks to overseas troops.
So, with that snafu behind me, I have all of my books made available through a variety of channels that might make it possible for a brick and mortar retailer to purchase and make them available. I don't think any have done so though - the Createspace POD model is so expensive it is rather cost prohibitive to offer them thusly. [KR: Fido publishes through CreateSpace. They get the book ready to go, but farm out the actual printing and distribution.] They can be picked up on Amazon, however.
KR: How many copies has it sold?
JH: Well, that's a tricky question too. I retain full rights to my books so I have them listed both on Fido (or Excessica, where applicable), and in a few other self-publishing locations (http://www.createspace.com, http://www.smashwords.com, http://www.bookmato.com, http://www.booksbyjason.com). Plus some I have personally sold at a book signing event. All told, I'm in double digits for Voidhawk sales, with only a single one coming from www.Fidopublishing.com. That has a lot to do with limited marketing and advertising (I think). I'm still learning that aspect of the business and I have not had any spare money and very little time to assign to it.
KR: Will you continue to work with a publisher either Fido or a different one in the future?
JH: I plan to continue with both Fido and Excessica. I have unbeatable deals with them so there's no reason not to do so - especially if I can boost my own presence and advertising to draw people to their sites. It's a win-win, I get more exposure and so do they, which helps the sites and other authors listed on them.
KR: You mentioned that you traded IT labor for keeping the rights of your stories. Can you expand on that a bit for the readers? (Who would probably be interested in finding ways to get a professionally published book without having to give up ownership of their characters.) Because of how well the book has sold, do you think it was a decent trade?
JH: It's a painful story, to be honest. Over the span of a couple of months I developed a totally self-sustained web site for Fido that could handle everything necessary. I was quite pleased with it - but I would be since I wrote it. The owner liked it as well, however the ISP they were using did not support the technology I built it on. They had their own solution for an e-store, a canned package that could be customized. We decided to go that route with it and, after another couple of months of struggling with trying to adapt some particularly difficult code, www.fidopublishing.com was born. I still remain confident my design was superior, but mine was customized for the business rather than something off the shelf that had to be shoehorned into the necessary role.
Was it a decent trade based on sales? Not yet - but I remain optimistic that it will be in the future. After doing that for Fido I did the same thing for Excessica and I have some books coming out in a matter of days and months (two of 'em). Between the two sites and my own ambitions to get more PR going, I remain confident that it is an investment in time and resources that I will be appreciative of.
And if it's not, I still learned a few things along the way so it's been a win-win all along, even if at times it felt rather frustrating.
If you want to learn more about Jason, go check him out at http://www.booksbyjason.com/. He;s got a sequel to Voidhawk and a few other interesting bits out.