Saturday, 21 November 2009

Farlkris by Kelsey Drake

Farlkris by Kelsey Drake
Published by Matador 2009
ISBN: 978-1848762640
Price £6.99
Genre: Children 9s-12s

What is your book about? It's about an incredible danger that threatens Musselburgh in East Lothian in Scotland. There’s a posionous chemical entering the sewers and it’s giving off a toxin as it mixes with the waste water and enteres the river and sea. And basically, everyone in Musselburgh – dragon and overgrounder – is at risk. The dragons are already in serious danger, as they live in caverns cut out of the rock near the sewers under the industrial park in the town centre. They have magic to protect themselves for a while, but have sent a youngone, as we call them, above ground, morphed as a schoolboy, to investigate the source of the chemical discharge. That’s Farlkris, or Kris, and his success or failure will seal the fate of both Musselburgh and the dragon layr.

Kris joins forces with Hannah, so we have a “boy” and a girl at the centre of the story, and their search takes them into conflict with many people. To quote part of our cover blurb: “Against a background of waning magic powers, dying animals and ferocious storms, Hannah and Kris’s courage, despite unbearable grief, leads to a dramatic and unexpected conclusion.” Well, you wouldn’t want us to give the story away, would you!

Why did you write this book? We love dragons. We also love providing young people with stories of good people and wonderful dragons winning out over bad. There’s a real baddie in the story, whose only interest is in living for ever. He doesn’t care who he damages on the way. And I think we also take pleasure in showing the world that many kids are really loyal and courageous and have great ideas and lots of stamina, whatever the press says against them.

Where did you get your inspiration from? We heard some workmen opening up the pavement one day and and realised there was a whole world down there and that dragons could live there. We were about to write a novel to enter for the Kelpies Prize (run by Floris Books) so we had exactly the inspiration we needed, and set off in search of a place where dragons really did live underground. And that was East Lothian. It’s a wonderfully interesting place to visit, even though it looks like a forgotten area hanging onto the side of big brother Edinburgh.

How does your book differ from others that are similar? We mixed dragons and current-day overgrounder life instead of choosing one or the other. Some of our literary infuences would include adult ones such as the Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey (for the magic ideas) and the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey (for the good type of dragons), though the end result is unlike either. Also, one of us can remember reading the Lone Pine series by Malcolm Saville and they were books set in real places you can visit, and we both wanted to do this. It’s like a bonus for the reader. In Farlkris, you can go find all the places where the events took place and even the road where Hannah lives. One person who bought the book at the first signing looked at the map and said to us: “Is that XXX school?” We said we hadn’t named any school as we didn’t want a law suit – but the detail is that close to reality. So – real world and real dragons, magic, courage and goodness, and places you can visit. I think that’s a pretty unique mix. We’re proud of it.

Why did you choose POD? This was our second dragon book to be published, although it was written first. We knew it was good, as it had been runner up for the Kelpies Prize, so we had no reason to change our POD plans for this one. We felt we could hold our heads high. You have to be a bit thick-skinned when people finally twig it’s self-published, print on demand. Some begin to um and ah, because they’ve heard of vanity publishing and its notoriety. But the market has changed and economic reality means that publishers are refusing all sorts of excellent books as they seek to have only big names or “slebs” on their lists. We don’t feel POD or self-publishing is second rate at all.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this method? With this method, we get to choose everything. A significant thing this time round was the choice to make the two books stand together as a brand. The designer did a lovely job with his first idea for the Farlkris cover – but it departed too much in colour and style from Scordril, so we asked to have it altered to match, keeping the circular “insert” as he’d drawn it, but choosing colours and scripts for the wording that suited us better.

I guess one disadvantage is always going to be the difficult decision of choosing how many to print at any one time. You can’t just un-print them and give up. You have to answer for your choices! Yet POD can often not mean “on demand”, especially if you are going to visit schools, libraries and shops to do workshops or signings – you have to have a box of them with you. So there’s a certain amount of stress and gambling involved, and you can’t blame the publisher for any wrong decisions.

How do you market your book? We have a
website and a related blog We’ve got better at this and now have excerpts, pictures and even an audio extract to listen to! We do lots of book signings at local bookstores and have copies available via Amazon and their Marketplace. The publisher deals with the main distributors for us but doesn’t otherwise market us except via their website page devoted to Scordril and Farlkris.

We notified all East Lothian libraries and schools that the next Lothian Dragons book was available, and it was obvious at the first signing that people had noted this. We’ve been more confident this time that we knew who to contact and where we were more likely to make sales. We’ve also accepted that we will not be bought by the little local shop in Penzance, for instance. We don’t have the funds to support really wide marketing and will concentrate on the North East and just enjoy it. Of course, there are buyers from many other places through our own contacts. Everyone has those. In addition to bookmarks and posters, we have produced a business card that shows the two covers side by side and the web links, and have left a small holder full of these on the cash desks at the bookstores we visit.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome? After doing this twice now, we’d probably say it’s about turning ourselves into outgoing salespeople instead of inward-looking writers. Some days you just want to write and not be bothered to think of more outlets. But writing is most satisfying if other people read it – so we try to overcome this and get out there. But that’s our biggest challenge!

What would you say to others considering POD? Decide who your readers are going to be – and if the book’s good enough and you can identify readers, go ahead and sell it to them with pride. You’ll have enriched not only their life but yours too. Life’s too short to hang around waiting for the publishing climate to change.

Where can I get a copy of your book? You can contact us for a signed copy via the contact form on our website at or you can buy direct from our POD publisher, Matador, at or go to Amazon.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Scordril by Kelsey Drake

Scordril by Kelsey Drake
Published by Matador
ISBN: 978-1906510817
Price £6.99
Genre: Children 9s-12s

What is your book about?
It's about the dragons who live under Traprain Law in East Lothian in Scotland. They've become trapped by an ancient magic that has slowly grown up around the hill. Scordril and the dragons of Musselburgh, who used to live with them a hundred years ago, are suspicious about the request for help but decide to plan a rescue. They can only do this with the help of two children, Morris and Flick, who are camping near Traprain Law where an archeological dig is underway. The dragons only occasionally have connections with overgrounders nowadays and they have to learn to trust each other. The action builds to a showdown at dead of night between Scordril and his kin and some evil wingriders and their zombie nightdragons in the skies above and in the caves below Traprain Law. The children are key to some of the best action and we've added magic and a blue moon, ancient spells and healing herbs, the Beano and communication by mindspeech. To say nothing of a feral cat and a child going missing. I guess it's also about courage, loyalty, misunderstanding and reconciliation.

Why did you write this book? We love dragons. We wanted to share that love with all those who know that dragons are lovely honourable beings and not the kind of baddie dragons you often get in children's books. It's amazing how many young readers have told us that's just the sort of dragons they love. We've had brilliant dragon conversations with them and their parents in bookshops and schools. So we feel we achieved what we set out to do. All writers want readers to enjoy their work.

Where did you get your inspiration from? We heard some workmen opening up the pavement one day and went out to have a look. What we heard was watery noises and banging and clonking coming from deep below, and said to ourselves, "What if that's where dragons live?" It just grew from there. But the real inspiration came after we went to meet the East Lothian dragons and heard about their lore and customs, and saw how wonderful they were. There's nothing in overgrounder life that matches the atmosphere of a dragon get-together in their Great Hall underground.

How does your book differ from others that are similar? It's unique in that it has dragons and current-day overgrounder life mixed together - usually books are either one or the other. And many books about dragons are funny in the "ha ha" sense and depict them in a cartoony way, as if dragons didn't exist, or pseudo medieval as if we overgrounders didn't exist. Whereas the reality is that we and they co-exist if you know where to look. Besides, this is the only book we know where real dragons are nice, and humour stems from the story, as and when. Chris d'Lacey has nice dragons in his books, but they are clay ones who come to life when needed, so that's not really the same. Ours live underground all the time and fly behind mageclouds when they are out hunting so that overgrounders will not see them.

Why did you choose POD? The usual thing about too many publishers saying this book is excellent, the characters are great, but not for us. It's also possible they didn't know where to place it by genre. The second book, coming out in November, also POD, was written first, as it happens. This second story, Farlkris, was runner up for the Kelpies Prize 2005, so we had already proved the idea was great. So we weren't too worried about selling enough to cover our expenses. We decided to publish in chronological order when we settled on POD because Scordril pre-dates Farlkris by about 60 years, so this made sense.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this method? It gives us choices about style, order of publication, how long to leave between the two publication dates and a real say in cover designs. Plus we can order again when we've sold the first batch, without too much hassle. We've done this several times already because in the year since publication Scordril has sold 700 copies pretty much in a small area and by our own hand, though Matador have shifted some stock via the distributors.

How do you market your book? We take a certain number and do book signings at local bookstores. We have a website and a related blog and also have copies available via Amazon marketplace. We don't choose to have Amazon stock it up front as they expect so much discount. We notified all local libraries and schools and have taken class sessions at both. We've given talks to local adult groups who are happy to buy Scordril as presents for young people in their families, and we notified alumni newspapers who might be interested in our success because we both have MAs in the subject. They were quite happy to report on Scordril. We did try relevant local newspapers but found them less responsive.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome? Make that present tense! It's ongoing. We've missed out on libraries and purchasers nationally as we don't pay anyone to sell it in the rest of the country and can't afford to travel too far ourselves. We're hoping to find a solution to this one when Farlkris is published.

What would you say to others considering POD? It's absolutely the right thing to do if you can afford the outlay and believe in the standard and content of your book. Stories need readers or something feels unfinished. Be realistic about how many you might sell and then go for it. There is far less stigma nowadays attached to going it alone. Everyone knows that many publishers are only interested in light, frothy books for children, or ones written by, or ghosted for, celebrities. We meet so many readers who want a seriously good read. It makes sense to provide it. But do get grammar and spelling checked. It has to be as professional as those published by mainstream publishers.

Where can I get a copy of your book? You can contact us for a signed copy via the contact form on our website or you can buy direct from our POD publisher, Matador

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

A Thousand Beauties by Mark Adam Kaplan

Title: A Thousand Beauties by Mark Adam Kaplan
Published: Bewrite Books
ISBN: 9781905202942 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781905202959 (e-Book)
Genre: literary fiction
Price: £7.99 (UK) $14.99 (US)

What is your book about? A Thousand Beauties is about Rupert Ruskin, a successful but unpopular man who has isolated himself from the world to chase his family’s elusive vision of enlightenment. He believes if he can see a thousand beautiful things in one day he would achieve the perspective of angels and spend the rest of his days in bliss. But his vision-quest is interrupted when his ex-wife, Elaine, bursts back into his life with the news of her cancer. Ruskin figures that if he can help Elaine find a thousand beauties, then perhaps her last days won’t be completely miserable.

Why did you write the book? I began writing this book after the death of my paternal grandmother who succumbed to pancreatic cancer, an illness that I discovered ran in my family. My maternal grandmother died shortly thereafter. I have been fortunate to lose few loved ones during my lifetime. Their passing forced me to stop putting off my novel writing and sit down to work.

Where did you get your inspiration from? Believe it or not the inspiration for this story came as I sat at the desk in my garage, and discovered a spider moving in on a fly. I found myself captivated by the scene (which appears in the prologue of the book). I felt myself gain insight, a feeling that I had only had once before, when looking at a totem pole in a park in Seattle. These moments of insight granted me perspective, and were beautiful to me. From the combination of these momentary flashes of insight, the idea of the Ruskin family’s philosophy was born. The recent deaths of my grandmothers, combined with a new and volatile marriage fed the rest of the story.

How does your book differ from others that are similar? Literary fiction is a genre that defies concepts of similarities, or differences. Two writers may very well focus on the same idea, but their work will target vastly different aspects of it. I do not know of any books that present this kind of tragedy and still leave some room for hope. This was my intention with A Thousand Beauties, but only the objective reader can tell me whether or not I succeeded.

Why did you choose POD? The fact is that I had been sending the book out for about three years with no success when I came across Bewrite Books. The editor, Neil Marr liked my submission packet and requested the script. He wrote to tell me how disappointed he had been with the execution of the book (I am paraphrasing), and that they would not be interested in publishing it in its present form. He took the liberty of including notes on the manuscript, which he offered up for me to use or discard. When I reviewed his notes I found that they were exactly what I needed to see the manuscript clearly again. I wrote to ask if he’d be interested in reviewing the book again after I reworked it. He was, and did, and later accepted it for publication. I was so happy to find an editor who actually edited, that the details of how POD worked were less important to me than maintaining and extending our professional relationship.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this method? The advantages of this method, for me, have come in the pre-publication stage. My work with Neil renewed my faith in the industry and made my book exponentially better. I believe that without the pressure and cost of a large initial book run, and big author advances, POD enables editors to discover and work on books that might not otherwise seem profitable. Certainly, a literary novel like A Thousand Beauties would be a hard sell to an editor who wanted to know the niche audience, or targeted readership. This is its greatest advantage - the opportunities it affords editors to take risks on authors or books that might otherwise not have a chance.

Its disadvantages are that the marketing of the book falls predominantly on the authors’ shoulders. The book is launched without the hoopla afforded by the budgets and connections of the big publishing houses. Reviews are harder to come by, and some venues, such as the New York Times Review of Books will almost never publish an opinion about a book from such a small house. The lack of big name reviews hurts sales, and makes marketing the book that much more difficult. Publicizing the book becomes a grassroots effort, which takes longer to yield results and requires tremendous energy and enthusiasm.

How do you market your book? I am marketing it on all of the Internet sites I can find, holding readings in the local library, and bookstores. I am contacting friends and family in every different city I know and asking their help getting the book out. My brother will work Chicago, my sister New York, I will work Los Angeles. I have a friend in Washington D.C., one in Amsterdam, etc. Also, I am sending interviews out, cold calling any possible venue for exposure I can find, and hawking the book at work to try and generate word of mouth.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome? My biggest challenge was and is time management. I am a full-time public school teacher, the father of two young daughters, and currently attending graduate school. Finding the time to work, rework, and work the book over again was difficult. Returning to it so often, and maintaining a fresh perspective was difficult. In fact, just finding the energy to sit down and look over the pages was sometimes too much for me. But it was all worth it, and now I have a book that I can be proud carries my name.

What would you say to others considering POD? Understand the advantages, but realise that the book may cost more than a similar book from a big house. Also, be certain you can live without the hard cover that has haunted your dreams. Lastly, listen to your editor. If you’re lucky, you will find someone willing to work with you to hone your work into a thing of beauty. Be open to their criticism and willing to keep working. They don’t have the budget for a big launch, so your book won’t make it into the rack at the grocery store unless you work to make that happen. Don’t expect the big display at Borders. But be proud. This publishing is as big a deal as any. Remember, even after the book comes out you still have work to do. After all, it’s your work. Get it out there. And don’t be afraid to work it one reader at a time.

Where can I get a copy of your book? A Thousand Beauties is available at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA,,, (Germany), (France), Liberia Universitaria (Italy), Powells – US, The Book Depository,, and Borders and Barnes & Noble. In the UK, the book can be found at Waterstones, Foyles, Blackwells, WHSmith and Tesco. In Australia at Angus & Robertson, in Canada at Chapters/Indigo, in South America at Kalahari, and Exclusive Books, and in Asia at Paddyfields.

Please visit my website at