There’s a lot going on in the background as I move a number of manuscripts toward publication, so this series of posts will capture some of the inputs and things I learn along the way for Horizon, The Lenticular and 2 Bodies (which is definitely a working title). Horizon is up first.
The ebook of Horizon was published in 2014. This was one of the first crop of books selected by HarperCollins Australia for its Impulse imprint – a range of titles to be published as ebooks only. The whole ebook thing was still in relative infancy and all the major publishers were experimenting with ebooks at the time.
Having said that, the contract that HarperCollins offered was a standard one, where they expected to be assigned every type of right imaginable: print, TV/ movie, audibook, radio, serialisation etc. I didn’t have an agent (HarperCollins weren’t offering an upfront fee so there was no incentive for an agent to get involved), but I did have some very good advice from people in the industry, so I asked for the contract to be amended before I signed.
There was no indication HarperCollins were seriously going to pursue the majority of the rights they were seeking, so why would I ascribe them those rights? They were happy to remove them from the contract. The only real option was print rights. If Horizon took off, then HarperCollins would naturally exercise their option to create a print book. But again, if it didn’t take off, I didn’t want to sign away my print rights in perpetuity. So I asked for a sunset clause. If HarperCollins didn’t exercise the print rights within 3 years of ebook publication, I could request those rights revert to me and they would be unable to refuse.
I’m glad I did. Because now I can publish the print version of Horizon. I read ebooks pretty exclusively, but I know I’m a bit of an outlier in that respect. There are a LOT of people who read exclusively in print, and not just old people either. Not having a print version of Horizon means a lot of people – including people I know – will not read Horizon. And that’s a pity because it’s a good story with interesting things to say about space exploration, human nature, and the ethics of stepping into an ecosystem that is not our own.
This print version of Horizon will be a little different to the ebook, but not too different. When HarperCollins bought the ebook rights, they did a fairly minimal edit on the manuscript. Like I said, the Impulse imprint was a bit of an experiment and they didn’t want to invest too much in case it didn’t work out. So there was minimal editing, marketing and pretty much minimal everything else. The edit for the print version will be better, because I engaged a professional editor to cast an eye over the manuscript, poke under the hood to tune things up and correct any errors in the page proofs. If you are looking for a professional editor in Australia, check out iped or fen.net.au.
It also has a different cover. One of the benefits or running a small press is getting familiar with Adobe InDesign. I’ve laid out a lot of print and digital books and I’ve designed a few covers too:
For Horizon I needed something that was visually similar to the ebook cover HarperCollins had designed (so it was recognisably the same book), but not a straight copy (as that would potentially raise copyright issues). Cue iStock. It’s a few years since I used iStock and the images have gotten a lot cheaper. The one I ended up using was something like $12 and comes with all the rights permissions.
I have to say, I prefer mine.
Next post, the joys of metadata, keywords and ISBNs.