In the wake of BristolCon 2013

Routes to Publication and General Chin-Wagging

SFX Editor in Chief Dave Bradley and British Science Fiction Dark Fantasy Author David J Rodger - BristolCon October 2013

SFX Editor in Chief Dave Bradley and David J Rodger – BristolCon 2013

It’s been a couple of weeks since BristolCon and I’m still enjoying the push that going there gave to me, like riding the outer edges of the wake as the energy of the event slowly dissipates.  I’ve been super creative since going.  BristolCon was put together by the energetic crew of the Bristol Fantasy and Science Fiction Society, and it was a spectacularly well-organised event.  The meet-and-greet I received as a panel participant; the layout of the syndicate rooms; the cordial and efficient manner of the staff who were there to keep panels running to time and motivating interesting debate. I was particularly struck how relaxed and friendly everyone was, from participants to punters.  Really, really good fun. Especially the bar area as things began to wrap up.   I’ll certainly be there again next year.

I was invited to sit on a panel about “Routes to Publication”. There were five of us.

  • Chrissey Harrison
    • Fiction editor and film maker for @thegreatesc. Writer and owner of @aquariumdays. Links: <> @ArcadeStarlet
  • Jonathan Wright
  • Cheryl Morgan
    • Science fiction critic, energy economist, rugby and cricket fan, e-book publisher. Links: <> @CherylMorgan
  • Sara Jayne Townsend
    • Writer. Horror fan. Gamer. Self-professed Geek.  Links: <> @sarajtownsend
  • David J Rodger

I really enjoyed it. Wasn’t sure if it was going to be confrontational as I’m there representing how to do everything yourself, sitting alongside folks who have a business in bringing authors to market.  It quickly evolved into a very thought-provoking discussion about the pros and cons. From doing what I do, through to small press and the big corporate players.  No confrontation. Rather, the overlapping opportunities of different approaches.

Other items of note for the event were readings by Philip Reeve, Mary Robinette Kowal and Ian Whates, plus a panel about the surge in popularity of Comics and Graphic novels , with Mark Buckingham doing a lot of the talking (surprise!) and a shared dismay that the World Fantasy Con continues to ban / dismiss graphic novels as appropriate format.  WTF?!  Meanwhile the merch-room had a mass  offering of solid creative talent such as Jennie Gyllblad.

What I took away from the day was this. If you’re passionate about the whole process of getting a book to market, not just the actual writing of the book but everything you have to do after that (hardest bit) then you should certainly try the going-solo (one man/woman band) approach.  If you don’t have the time, energy, experience or wider skill sets for that, then certainly approach a small press like  Chrissey Harrison and Cheryl Morgan.

With a small press operation (there are hundreds out there) you’ll get editorial guidance with a personal touch, and depending on which small press you’re using, with minimal interference in your overall idea.  A small press can also help with cover art and point you in the right direction for marketing.

If however, you’re less interested in control and open to change that is out of your hands, then definitely take your work through the grinding gears of big publisher and agent approaches.  The majority of book deals out there from the corporate publishers are going to involve you swallowing down bucket loads of sawdust and choking on the sensation of all your creative-juice being sucked out of you. Ok, I’m being melodramatic and very unfair to those biggies. *grins*  What the big folks are good at doing is identifying and then honing a product specifically right for a particular market and target audience.  They hope you’re the next big thing. And there is every chance you might be, so go for it. But do bear in mind that if your books don’t sell enough volume – the big publishers will drop you like a pebble they’ve picked up from the creative shores, and pick up another one instead with the hope and intention that this one will become The One that everyone desires in droves.

What nobody will do for you, small press or big corporate, is really SELL your work. That ultimately comes down to you.  And that can be a full-time job in its own right – online and in realspace.

For me, I realise that I’m in a good position in that I control all aspects of the operation. I like that. I enjoy it. I get a lot of satisfaction from it – even though it often leaves me exhausted and times when I’m running an “outreach campaign” I’m often cursing because it’s time I could be writing. But what’s the point of writing anything if you’re not going to promote it? Otherwise it’s just a way of giving yourself therapy, right?

I feel my books are a product that’s a little rough around the edges.  I used to worry about that but it turns out that might have been working in my favour – home-baked artisan bread?! – as fans commonly tell me they love what I produce.  Still, it’s a point I keep note of, for future self-development and the desire to continuously improve what I put out.

Talking of which, I’ve got a new novel coming out this month (November 2013) called The Social Club:

“Powerful and chilling… an Orwellian detective story within a damaged universe.”


It’s post-Yellow Dawn. Launch party on 23rd November (Saturday) @ 2pm. If you’re in Bristol, come along. Press release here.


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David J Rodger – DATA


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