The book was initially planned for release in June, but Robin had to suspend the release when plagued with set back after set back, so with the book at the publisher, we grabbed a chance to have a few quick words with the author.
Its not been the best of years, for Robin, who delayed the book as he wanted to expand and add another chapter, which was followed with delay’s on the artwork, and finally just to make things worse, his home was broken into and robbed of some vital IT equipment, which he used for promoting HTTK, and also contained all the formats for the web site.
Feeling a little more relaxed as the book was despatched to the publisher, we asked about the year to date. “ How are things going now?”
He smiles. “Its better, it has been a hard and at times very emotional year. It has felt a little like taking one step forwards, just to be knocked ten steps back, its been very frustrating as I have invested a lot of time and effort in building up the momentum for HTTK, and I think its slipped a lot because of the delays.”
Robin who uses self publishing company UKUnpublished, promotes most of his work via his small team, with many authors taking the same route, we asked about the difficulties that entailed. He appears very relaxed about it all. “Its not easy, as there are thousands of new books out there, but in a way I prefer it. I like the idea of being very involved with it all, It was difficult when we lost the computer, because it had two years worth of work on it, luckily none of the books were on it, but although it was a little panicked at moments, its been good to rebuild all the website and reformat much of the promotional stuff. It has given me the chance to look at everything we have done, and make many new improvements. We have lost a lot of the followers on Facebook and some of the other social sites, which is disappointing, but that is now up to us to try and get them and few more back as we build the momentum up again.”
It feels like a lot of work, and one has to wonder if it would not just be easier to let a publishing company handle all the work. We enquired about it, considering he has two published works out there, would it not be a lot easier to approach a traditional publisher?
“I suppose I could sit back and wait for the royalties to arrive, but the problem there is getting a mainstream publisher to sit up and notice. It’s a lot harder for authors now, the whole industry is changing and publishers at the moment are even more cautious than they were three years ago when I was looking for a deal. I also think there is the question of loyalty, after all UKUnpublished took me on and produced the first two books. I think at the moment considering my relationship with UKU, I would possibly only move if I was to take the promotions side of my work further and consider becoming my own publisher.”
Is that a future possibility? “I have looked at it and as I gain more insight to the publishing world, I do think at some point in the future it could be possible. I must admit I do like the idea of being in complete control, and shaping my own future, there is a part of me that has always been a bit of a maverick, so yes I think it is a direction I will one day take. For now UKU is a new company, and I was their third author, I have enjoyed being a part of something new, and it’s been nice to see how the company has grown in the last two years. The good thing about UKU is I have the freedom of editorial control and obviously I retain all the rights to my work, I never liked the idea of giving up all the rights to a publisher, and I think even though it is a harder route to take, it was the best decision for me as a person.”
Self Publishing was once seen as a lower standard in the publishing industry, and there are still many who refer to it as “Vanity Publishing,” we asked about Robin’s thoughts on how much the industry is changing.
“I find the term Vanity very amusing, if it is vain to publish your own work, then surely is equally as vain to ask a publisher to do it for you. I tend to dismiss those who use the term, and I do find them to be overtly snobbish. The world is changing daily as we evolve from traditional ways of doing things to a more modernised approach. Self Publishing is very rewarding, and a hell of a lot easier because of the new technology that is available. I think in the past the traditional publishers had it all there own way, and dictated terms to the authors, who to be honest have always had the rough end of the deal. In today’s environment it is easier for the author to take more control and have a bigger say in the work they do. If you really look at it, I have invested over 15 years of my life planning and researching the HTTK story, if I was to use a traditional publisher they would cut large sections of it out, and pay me around £0.50 a book, whilst demanding ownership of all the rights and taking the lions share of the profits. It’s the only business in the world where the actual creator of a product gets so little in return for their efforts. I much prefer the Self Publishing route as at least I have a real chance to earn an income from my writing if it is successful, and I get to retain editorial control to present the work as I feel it should be presented, and keep ownership of the rights. It is commonly agreed that if Tolkein submitted his work today, it would be considerably edited down into sound bites and a lot of the depth would be lost, that is of course if it was even accepted. I kind of like the Tolkein approach of letting the reader decide what is and isn’t relevant. If a book has good appeal then people will talk and it will sell, I will wait and see what people talk about.”
The third book in the series is due for release, and life for Robin is getting back to normal, so we asked what he had planned next, and was he going to give any insights to the Darkness of Dunnottar? He gave a smile. “I think people will enjoy this one. This is a series of books, but at the end of the day it is one story, saying that, I have wanted each book to have a different feel and take twists and turns that maybe the reader will not expect. Dunnottar does feel very different, and obviously will take a new twist. There is a slightly darker and sinister feel to the book, hence the title, but Harry is still in there creating havoc with Jade and Jett, so there is a good supply of humour to carry them through. I must admit I really enjoyed going through it again as I did the final edit, you have to remember I wrote this at the very end of 2007, so its been a while since I read it and to be honest I think its better than I remembered it being. I think if you enjoyed the first two, then yes, you will really enjoy this one. In regard to what’s next, I am continuing to write the rest of the series as well as some other stuff that I am interested in. I want to spend the next month getting stuff ready for the website so when the book is released the site will reflect the new stuff, and as always myself and Rin will be pushing like mad to up the promotion and get the word out, its still going to be a while to take the book more mainstream, we have a lot of people out there to try and convince that this series is worth a read.”
The Heirs to the Kingdom website is quite a wide ranging site of information on the story, and has grown considerably since it was first set up, we asked Robin what else he had in store for it?
“Its not an easy question to answer really. The whole idea behind the site was to fill in the blanks, as a lot was edited out of the books to ensure they flowed. I think the site reflects pretty well my true Aquarian nature, as there are very basic facts, but also there is a lot depth if you want to go hunting for extra facts. Its bright and colourful, and there are pages written from the characters point of view, I suppose there is something for everyone on it, and it changes regularly as I look it most days and try to find ways of making it simpler and more user friendly. The best way of looking at it I think is to see it as an interactive HTTK companion, you can log on to see what I am up to, or you can probe into the hidden depths of HTTK and learn more of the background to make future books more fun to enjoy.”
Robin has said in the past that he would publish the whole of the HTTK series and then consider what he would do next, so with a third book going on to the shelves, we asked as to how big the series is going to be, and had he any insights to his future as a writer?
“Writing is without doubt a better way of life than Horticulture, but if I am really honest I have to say that at the moment writing looks very bleak as a future for anyone. The public do not see how many hours are invested in writing a book, I mean I worked from dawn until late evening in horticulture, yet writing takes up even more hours, and pays a hell of a lot less. Its irrelevant who you publish with, the book industry is now changing so rapidly and at the moment publishers are not taking on writers, if anything they are cutting them from their lists. Royalties are dropping as larger companies discount more and more, and at the end of the day it’s the writers who get the least share of the pie. A lot of writers at the moment are seriously looking at going it alone in order to make a living out of the industry, digital books are growing fast, but they are now discounted so heavily that once the publisher has took his cut, there really is very little left for the author. I am watching the markets carefully, and where there is a large part of me saying that making books cheaper is good for reading which it is, its not good for those who write them, and I have a family to support. At the moment I cannot see me putting anymore books out after HTTK, I need to use the time for earning enough to support my family, and sadly that will not happen as a writer. I think I will always write books, but as a source of income, I have little chance of a future, unless the industry becomes fairer and to be honest that will involve publishers cutting their margins and paying more to the author, lets face it that will never happen.”
Its feels like a sad state of affairs, but Robin smiles. “Its not the end of the world, that’s in 2012.” He laughs. “I have written a few more instalments of HTTK so I have a year or two before making any decisions. What matters to me at the moment is I do the very best I can to make HTTK a series of books that is as great a read as possible, I think I am improving with each page and that is a good thing, I am not worried about fame. I have never wanted to be famous, I will be happy knowing that there are a few people with a complete set of books on their shelves, who love the woodland realm as much as I do.”
Finally the question everyone wants to know is when will the new book be out?
“I have to wait for the publisher to let me know, as soon as we have the ISBN and a release date we will have it on all the sites we are on. I am hoping to get it out for about mid October, as I have a few things planned, so it will be nice to have the new book on display, but for the moment I am waiting for confirmation.”
For now we must wait just a little while longer, but at least we know that Heirs to the Kingdom Part Three: The Darkness of Dunnottar is not very far away. We will update this site as soon as we know, and once again we thank Robin for his time and giving us an update on his progress. For now as you prepare you can always read the first two books again Book One: The Bowman of Loxley (ISBN 9781849440035) and Book Two: The Lost Sword of Carnac (9781849440165) can be obtained from all the usual online sources, or ordered via your local bookshop.