Greg Byrne is an English teacher, grammar consultant, and lecturer. He enjoys exploring places, ideas, history, languages and science, dinners with friends, watching his family grow, and living life’s great adventure. His next projects are a young adult thriller with a twist, developing a grammar teaching system for schools, and writing a grammar text for ESL students. He lives in Perth, Western Australia, with his beloved wife and family and an overweight British Blue.
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Greg: I really had no choice about being an author since both my parents were either writers or lovers of books. As a result, words, stories, languages and books were hardwired into my DNA from conception. I really had no other choice. I also had no choice with Nine Planets. It ambushed me quite amazingly (I was deep in another set of novels at the time, one I abandoned immediately and have never gone back to!) and so I felt unshakeably compelled to write the story of Nine Planets. There was never any question about choice. I had to.
Is this your first book?
Greg: No, my fourth. The first three were high fantasy epics, the ones I abandoned, although I may go back to them later.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Greg: With small press, and I must say that it is quite delightful to be on first name terms with the publisher himself and to have quite some say in proceedings, in design, editing and other matters. There are certainly trade-offs; larger presses can generate larger publicity and volumes but there are also the less pleasant stories of authors and large presses parting ways. I’m happy where I am. Getting out and talking to bookstore owners has been a valuable part of the publicity process, one I have really enjoyed, and one I may not have experienced so much with a larger house with more publicity power.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
Greg: I was so convinced by the merits of Nine Planets that I took it along the agent route first, convinced that someone was bound to see what a fantastic book it was. When none did, I gave up for a year or so until a friend and fellow author got published by Dragonwell and recommended I approach them. I sent off the ms and waited, and was amazed and shocked some months later when they sent an email saying they wanted to publish.
Agents are wonderful people who can do a lot but getting one is HARD and often luck plays a huge part. I had an agent briefly who was starting his list at the same time as I was querying, but he fell ill and the relationship ended. After that, I tried for years to get another one without success. I briefly toyed with the idea of self-publishing and I know some folks who have gone down that road with success, but those in the publishing game I have spoken to, more often than not, treat self-published books with less enthusiasm.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Greg: Be prepared to work hard. Don’t assume the publisher will do it all. Get involved with every aspect. Find out how the publishing process works: the editing, contractual arrangements, publicity, pricing, printing, binding, formats, ISBNs, paper stock, fonts . . . the list goes on but the author needs to know every part of it.
The other critical factor of the publishing process is the title, cover design, spine and the production quality of a book. When I go into a bookstore to look for something to read, these aspects of a book strike me first. If these aren’t attractive, the chances are that I won’t even open the book to look at the first five pages.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Greg: Absolutely! Getting involved with the publishing process is really important as I’ve outlined above.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Greg: I’ve often heard it said that you only have to keep trying to get successful, particularly with the publishing game. People who say this often quote the JK Rowling story and her long journey where she was rejected many times before Bloomsbury took it on. If she could do it after so much rejection, so can you, aspiring authors are often told.
Could I add to that equation the other quite important parts of (i) a fine story that demands to be told and (ii) the ability to write it. Without these two, all the persistence in the world won’t be of any use, regardless of who you are. So my advice is this, in point form.
- Get into a writing community. My best ever step in my writing journey was joining the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. Google it. If you write in a different genre, there’s bound to be an online or face to face writing community that you can join.
- Share your story with other writers.
- Ask for honest feedback.
- Read voraciously, all the while comparing your own story to the best there is in the current market.
- Review the work of others and ask for reviews of your own.
- Accept justifiable criticism.
- Be honest with yourself. Writing for some is an unpaid hobby, for some a passion, and for others a passion with an income attached. Which one are you?