Category Archives: industrial revolution

Self publishing: The truth

So you’ve got your finished novel. It’s gripping, the characters are suitably complex, you’ve knitted an intriguing narrative and the twist at the end rips the reader’s heart out. You’ve cleaned up the tense, grammar and narrative glitches, dropped bombs on the adverbs and you’ve saved yourself a lifetime of embarrassment by heeding your writing group’s advice to deep six the bondage scene.

You know it’s just the greatest novel since Nineteen Eighty-Four despite the fact it’s been rejected by loads of agents. Hang on, you’ve not sent it to any agents?

Step Zero: Send the manuscript to loads of agents.

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that self-publishing should never be your first port-of-call. No matter what the self-publishing brigade tells you, getting properly published is always better. There is only one Hugh Howey. If you live in the UK, be sure to send the manuscript to The Blair Partnership and AM Heath (if, like mine, your book is sci-fi be sure to get a copy to Robert Dinsdale). TBP was very close to accepting mine, but after a very useful and productive back and forth, I decided the changes they wanted were too drastic and I chose self-publishing over making their changes.

What a colossal mistake that was.

Moving swiftly on… Get yourself a copy of the Writer’s Yearbook and send your manuscript to all the agents listed unless they specifically say they don’t accept your genre. “But my amazing book transcends genre,” I hear you say. Has it got time machines and space aliens in it? It’s sci-fi. Wizards and Orcs? It’s fantasy. Deal with it.

TIP: Most agents accept e-submissions these days, don’t waste your money on postage to the ones who don’t.


Now go ahead and submit, I’ll wait.

Finished? Good.

So you’ve got your finished novel. You know it’s just the greatest novel since Nineteen Eighty-Four despite the fact it’s been rejected by loads of agents. You’ve made their changes, resubmitted and been rejected again. Now’s the time to consider self-publishing.

Or is it? This is the point where you need to be very truthful with yourself. You need to read the comments people who’ve read it have made and ask yourself if you really want this work out there in the public domain. This is your name we are talking about and THE INTERNET IS FOREVER.

Yeah, yeah… I want to release this book no matter what!

See, I knew you wouldn’t listen to me. How did I know that? Because I am the same as you. Here are the things you need to consider:

Your book is probably crap.

The thing that no self-published author will admit is that most self-published books are crap to the point of being unreadable. If any of the following apply to you, it is almost certainly crap:

  1. No one has read your book but you (and possibly your mom)
  2. You don’t read much fiction yourself
  3. You wrote it for NaNoWriMo
  4. You wrote it for NaNoWriMo and everyone in your NaNoWriMo support group loved it
  5. You wrote it for NaNoWriMo, everyone in your NaNoWriMo support group loved it and it’s got zombies in

Because a proper editor hasn’t gone over it line-by-line, there is no guarantee your book isn’t crap. However, having one of The Guardian’s twelve best new novelists in the country review it can’t hurt. Jenn Ashworth runs a brutally honest service called The Writing Smithy that does just that. I would recommend her services whether you choose to self publish or not. Her report is largely responsible for my book getting any agent attention at all. Want to know what one of her reports looks like before you buy?

Have a look at mine. SPOILERS (obviously)

No matter how good your book is, everyone will make this face at you when you tell them it’s been self-published.

Man with condescending face

Seriously, get used to that face.

Your book will contain typos.

Listen, yeah, you think your spelling skills are, like, totally the best, yeah? Well, in Grade 9, I was in the 92nd percentile nationally in spelling. 92nd percentile. That means in Canada, I was the… uh… 92 times 26 million… divided by the square root of Pi… carry the 1… what I am trying to say is that I am a very good speller. Were you in the 92 percentile in spelling in your country? No you weren’t. I am a better speller than you and my finished book has six typos in it. Your book will have typos in it. CreateSpace (more on them below) provide an editing service, but expect to pay around £2000 for even the most basic package. I didn’t pay for it so I cannot tell you whether they would’ve spotted my six typos, but I can tell you that every time I see those six typos in my book I want to kill myself.

How many typos do you see in books that are traditionally published? Answer: Not many.

The quality of the printed book will be crap.

I got my book done with Amazon’s CreateSpace. CreateSpace is the one Hugh Howey goes on about and is by far the most popular. See that bent cover? That book hasn’t even been read. Don’t get me wrong, CreateSpace is good, probably the best self-publishing service out there. The customer service is fantastic (Americans innit), they’re interior design package is worth every penny, but the quality of a print-to-order book simply isn’t great. Also, whatever you do, do NOT pay for their Promotional Text Creation. Here is the Createspace promotional text for my book.

Pretty crap, right? Guess what. They don’t actually read your book. No one will.

“But I’m not going to bother getting physical copies made, everyone’s got a Kindle these days anyway, I’ll just save the money and go ebook only.”

Here let me show you your mate’s self-published-book-face with added ebook-only angst:

Man with condescending face and speech bubble that says

If I removed the paperback sales from my total sales, there would be almost nothing left. Going ebook-only also means your Grandma and your Uncle Cletus who’ve never touched a computer can’t give the book out to people at Christmas. And believe me, if you are self-published, these are your core readers.

Your book will not get reviewed.

I sent mine to loads of places from tiny blogs to indie publications, to Gav Reads, to proper newspapers. I got two reviews. One from (an albeit awesome) magazine I wrote a bi-monthly column for five years and one from a dude who runs a Climate Change blog.  Big Al’s books and pals is not your friend. I submitted mine last August and have heard nothing back. And because they review so many self-published books, a Big Al’s review is pretty much meaningless anyway unless of course you have a go at them for a bad review. If you are lucky enough to get a review, for god’s sake do not respond no matter how bad it is.

Have a look at the books that won a Big Al’s Readers’ Choice award. These books are the best of the best of the thousands of books Big Al reviews on a yearly basis. Besides Wool, have you heard of any of them? Me neither.

Your book will not win any awards.

There are loads of book awards out there that accept self-published books. If they are free, by all means, fire away. The Kitschies are a great award, but they also accept books from properly published authors so you really haven’t a hope in hell. The mighty Thomas Pynchon was nominated this year and didn’t even win, so don’t be surprised when you look at the shortlist and find it doesn’t contain any self-published books. There are many others out there, like the Bath novel award and the IPPYs that charge you to enter. I would say it’s probably a waste of money, but I entered them anyway. Because, like you, I am a chump.

You better like marketing as much as you like writing.

Do you like marketing? If you’re a jaded, middle-aged writer currently typing in a stained, woollen cardie like me, the answer to that question is probably: “Hell no”. If you self-publish, you will not get any writing done for a good six months after you launch your book because you will be spending all your time making a fool of yourself trying to get your mates to buy it. And then, despite your best efforts, you will still sell very few copies. Unless, of course, you are very good at marketing and have no soul… then you might sell a few more.

Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking. I was thinking the same thing when I read all the anti-self-publishing articles before I self-published. You’re thinking: “This Cutforth guy’s book is obviously crap. There are loads of self-published books out there that are great.” Well, you could be half-right. One thing I didn’t do before I self-published (and what I highly recommend you do) is actually read some other self-published books. Since my book has come out, I’ve read two winners of Big Al’s Readers Choice awards. Well, I say “read”… I didn’t finish either because (you guessed it) they were crap.

First review!

LeftLion 55 cover

Remember the Canadian In New Basford column we used to run in this magazine? Well, the writer of that classic Leftlion feature has been keeping himself busy over the last couple of years by penning this post-apocalyptic Manchester-based tale. Seth wakes up with amnesia to a city that has been destroyed and all around him there is a scramble to survive. Standard currency has changed from coins and notes to fresh food and WD40. The only person he has to turn to is a sadistic doctor who tortures him to try and glean some information about ‘the machine’. Oh, and the dictaphone recordings of a little girl who appears to be long lost. Eventually this mystery begins to unfold as he pieces his broken life back together. A strong debut novel, full of twists and turns. Since he left us, R T Cutforth seems to have progressed from writing like a Canuck Charlie Brooker to a young Stephen King or Dean Koontz. Long may his progress continue. Jared Wilson

photo of the review as it appeared in the magazine.

A young Dean Koontz or Stephen King? Wow, that’s pretty good.

My other website has been hacked and cloned

As some of you may have noticed, my old website has been taken over and cloned and is selling some sort of growth hormone whilst still claiming to be me.

If you were one of the six or seven people who had feeds pointing to that site, you may want to redirect them to this one or just delete them altogether.

So annoying with a book coming out. I blame Obama.

In proper book related news, the date for the book launch has been set for 20 August. More details to follow shortly.

Lovely covers!

Ian Rogers, Montreal graphic designer and owner of the brilliant art blog Grey Not Grey is doing the cover for my upcoming release “Industrial Revolution”.

Ian has instructed me to tell you that these are “very, very rough, the equivalent of a digital ‘napkin sketch'” so, yeah, keep that in mind.

You have to take my word for the fact that they are all very relevant to the story in their own ways.

Number 1: Grey skies and broken glass

grey cover. Manchester buildings behind broken glass. Title in industrial font and upturned letters

Number 2: Face in ribbons

black cover. a man's face in red swirling ribbons. Title in white on the ribbons

Number 3: Creepy eyes!

black cover with a strip of flesh punctuated by two right eyes, one brown one blue. Title in splashy red font

I have polled my friends and family and one of them was a clear winner. See if you can guess which one.

Favourite comment so far: What kind of author name is ‘Rob Cutforth’?! ‘Steve’ King wouldn’t have cut it, change it to ‘Robert’ or ‘RT’. Yes ma’am.

One of those people

Self-publishing is a choice, yeah, a decision I made after years of careful thought. It’s political, man. Publishing houses are evil art destroying factories and agents are just heartless robots with chainsaws for arms and dollar signs for eyeballs. It has nothing to do with the fact that the book was rejected by all the agents I sent it to. IT’S A CHOICE I MADE, I TELL YOU.

Book club nerd

Don’t let anyone tell you self-publishing isn’t great. Why would I want to share all those fat profits with some sort of agent? What do they know about getting books published anyway? It’s not like they do it for a living or anything.

Being rejected isn’t soul destroying, it’s liberating! I just get so JAZZED by the idea of self marketing.

businessman dreaming of fanny

Nothing gets my blood pumping faster than the excitement of putting myself OUT THERE. In the world. With other humans. Branding, SEO, marketing campaigns… Finally, I’ll have an excuse to drink during the day, snort coke off a hooker’s tits and eat a monkey’s brain like a real, live, Ad Exec. I cannot wait to start selling things to my friends.

This is how I imagine it going:

Me: Hey buddy! How are you? Yeah, I know we haven’t spoken in years… how are you? Yeah, whatever, listen. Hey did you know I am a writer now? Yeah man. Got a book and everything. Yeah, it’s self published… hello? I HATE MY LIFE!

It reminds of that time my best friend in school, Josh, (not his real name) convinced me to attend a “business meeting” with him that turned out to be a pyramid scheme selling soap to old ladies. Josh is now living large as a born again christian with dreadful web design skills and a disturbing penchant for World of Warcraft. Incidentally, he’s also written a self published novel. It’s horrendous.

hellboy cosplay. man in background looking dubious. Caption not convinced

Luckily, unlike Josh, I am the king of social media. People love reading tweets from fake authors about their amazing self published books, am I right? Hey world! Check it out, Johnnie Dillhole from Antfart, Nebraska gave me three and a half stars on Amazon! And daddy said I’d amount to nuthin. Up yers, daddy!

But twitterers aren’t fools. If there is one thing I learned from the National Film Board of Canada, it’s that persuasion is better than force. You can’t just hit them over the head with your pitch, you have to finesse it. You need to trick people into buying a book by writing a funny joke. And use many many hashtags.

Knock knock, who’s there? BUY MY SELF PUBLISHED BOOK, IT’S GREAT #seriouslyitsawesome #book #self #published #amazing

What is my book about, I hear you scream? Fine, settle down and I’ll tell ya.

It is about a man who wakes up in a near-future, post-Apocalyptic Manchester with no memory except that of a machine that prints human beings. He has to survive long enough to retrieve his memory and find the machine. A difficult task what with all the zombies… THERE AREN’T ANY FUCKING ZOMBIES IN IT, STOP ASKING ME.

Anyway, the book is the best thing since To Kill A Mockingbird and it is totally what Harper Lee would’ve written if she was still alive. Out next month.

Thanks in advance for reading it.

Your pal,


EDIT: Harper Lee IS still alive? DAMMIT.