Thursday, 3 October 2013

Guest Post - Sam Tonge on being published by AlfieDog

I'm a big fan of Sam Tonge's blog where she interviews not only other writers but people connected with women's magazines such as fiction editors and illustrators. Her writing is going from strength to strength, and she has a new short story collection Sweet Talk just out, published by Alfie Dog Fiction, available as both an ebook and a print book. 

In this guest post she talks about her experiences of publishing through Alfie Dog, and why she chose this route rather than self-publish.

Alfie Dog Fiction is an innovative short-story publisher, offering hundreds of stories available to download, plus collections, some of which are out in paperback. They have just published my short story collection, “Sweet Talk”, so I thought I would share my experience with those of you who are considering submitting your stories to them - and those of you who, like me, have never been through the process of publishing a book.

Back in June, I started off submitting my individual stories to Alfie Dog Fiction, most of which had been previously published by women’s magazines. Each one accepted was posted on the site, and available for download for 39p a time – I would earn 16p from each sale. Not a huge amount, but, to my mind, more than I’d earn if said sold stories were left to languish in my computer files.

Having had a number accepted, I approached Alfie-Dog Fiction’s editor, Rosemary Kind, to see if she would be interested in putting together a collection of my feel-good stories. Several of my fellow magazine writers have self-published their own collections, but this was never an option for me. I considered it better to have Alfie-Dog’s platform to sell my book from, as well as my own, plus, of course, the benefit of Rosemary’s experience as an editor and publisher. Also, unlike some of my fellow writers, technically, I lack confidence and knowledge regarding the self-publishing model. I didn’t want to have to invest a large amount of writing time learning how to correctly – and professionally - format the cover and contents, get the book onto Amazon, buy the IBSN number, etc.

To my delight Rosemary was interested and our first task was to decide on a title, to be taken from one of the stories we were considering. I suggested what I thought would be the most uplifting, appealing ones – “Sweet Talk” or “Bluebirds of Happiness”. Rosemary liked both, so I canvassed friends for their opinions. In retrospect, what luck that the majority chose “Sweet Talk” because this meant we had a wide range of covers to choose from, and - more importantly - when it came to asking retail outlets to stock the book, there was an obvious market: sweet shops.

The great thing about working with a very small, independent publisher is the input I’ve been allowed to have, at every stage. Rosemary offered me approval on all the cover choices, the font to use, positioning of the words… A journalist photographer friend of hers took a picture in Rosemary’s local sweet shop, which we both deemed perfect. Cover decided, Rosemary then selected 20 of my stories, covering a wide range of subjects and seasons. We discussed which should go first. I wrote the dedication, the acknowledgements, a paragraph about myself and the blurb for the back and Amazon page, all under the beady eye of Rosemary of course.



We began talking about how the sweet shop cover would really appeal to sweet and gift shops and I consulted writing friends who had successfully got their books into various retail outlets. I thought “Sweet Talk” might sell well as a gift, due to its feel-good nature and appealing cover. How exciting it was when Rosemary decided to invest in doing a trial print-run with my book - a first for Alfie Dog. This meant we would have 100 books to get into shops and that this would be feasible because we could offer a decent, attractive discount of up to 30%. If we’d not done a traditional print-run and tried to get the POD paperback version, from Amazon, into shops, we would only have been able to offer an unappealing - and frankly unworkable - 10% discount.

 Doing the print run meant we needed to add another story, to fit the printer’s page requirements. Then finally the order was made and several weeks later, I met up with Rosemary – and her lovely dog, Alfie - to pick up my copies. This was very exciting!

I love the look and professional quality of the physical book and have put on my thick skin to get it into outlets. So far, we have done deals with a gift shop, sweet shop and post office. I am waiting to hear from a book shop.

It’s been a fascinating journey and one which, in many ways, is only just starting.

 I hope this post provides a comprehensive view of Alfie Dog Fiction and the opportunities this inspired publisher offers.

Thanks Sam! The book does look good enough to eat and what a great idea to market it in sweet shops and as a gift. I've not had chance to read it yet, but it's on my Kindle, and up next. 

18 comments:

Patsy said...

You definitely made the right choice with that title and cover, Sam. And with Alfie Dog, I think. Rosemary is easy to work with, isn't she?

Rosemary Kind said...

You are all being too kind. Thank you. To be fair, I have the pleasure to work with some wonderful and very talented writers which makes it one of the best jobs in the world.

beverleyargent said...

The cover is really bright and easy to spot. Totally agree with Patsy. Alfiedog is an excellent publisher, having gathered an amazing selection of stories from every genre. Rosemary works with every author to bring the best of their work to the page, and it's not something she should be coy about. ;)
Nor, for that matter are your short stories Sam!

Sarah England said...

I'm a big Alfie Dog fan too and have really enjoyed working with Rosemary on my thriller collection. I think Alfie is going to go from strength to strength! As are you Sam!

Samantha Tonge said...

Thanks very much for the kind comments, everyone.

Yes, Rosemary is very easy and pleasant to work with, we are lucky at Alfie Dog!

Glad you like the colour, Patsy and Beverley.

Thanks, Sarah!

And thanks for the lovely comments and having me here, Womagwriter.

Samantha Tonge said...

I mean cover, not colour!

Kate said...

Gorgeous cover and good interview!

Wendy's Writing said...

Thank you for this invaluable glimpse into the journey of your story collection with Alfie Dog, Sam.

Samantha Tonge said...

Thanks Kate and Wendy! Hope it is useful.

Gayle Beveridge said...

Thanks Sam. It's interesting to hear how this went. I do think the book will make a lovely Christmas gift and what a good idea to pitch it that way. I also have some stories on Alfie Dog and have always been impressed with their professionalism.

Samantha Tonge said...

Thanks, Gayle - yes the process has made me realize just how important the cover is, and how it obviously pays to think ahead to the marketing aspect, before choosing one.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great to hear about the whole process, Samantha - and I love the idea of putting the collection into certain shops. Make a great gift!

Samantha Tonge said...

Thanks, Rosemary - yes, it's a slow process and a steep learning curve, but hopefully we'll sell all the books.

parlance said...

Very interesting post, Sam. Thanks for sharing your experience. It's a big new digital world and I sometimes think it's overwhelming for writers, who mainly want to write, not oversee the production of books.

That's where Alfie Dog is a wonderful resource to us all. It's lovely to think that once a story has appeared in a magazine, it can have another life and reach a whole new readership. (And, of course, some stories will go straight to Alfie Dog without having a previous incarnation in a magazine.)

Samantha Tonge said...

Yes, absolutely, parlance - i do find the digital world overwhelming and don't think i would have ever got a short story collection out there on my own - certainly not with AD's level of professionalism.

Me-Time Tales said...

Certainly raises interest in AlfieDog. Lovely cover, and such a neat idea to sell in sweet shops. Hope it does well. Rosalind http://fictionalcharacterswriting.blogspot.com

Samantha Tonge said...

Thanks, Me-Time Tales!

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