On indie press: Simon Haynes

I’ve invited a number of people who have published in indie press and gone on to become professionals in the field to write about their experiences. Today’s post comes to us from Simon Haynes, an author who has experienced success professionally and is also experimenting with self-publishing. 

I’ve had a long association with small press. My first paid publication was an SF/horror story in issue one of Ben Payne’s Potato Monkey. “Sleight of Hand” won the Aurealis Award for horror that year, which I’ll put down to beginner’s luck.

From 2000 to 2003 I self-published three novels, which put me into contact with editors and artists active in small press. I chose self-publishing because I was writing for a niche market, one which trade publishers weren’t interested in. My goal wasn’t to sell lots of books, it was to prove there WAS a market, and then snag a deal with a publisher.

I helped set up Andromeda Spaceways in 2001/2002, and I spent almost ten years assisting in the running of the magazine. As a writer, if you ever get a chance to read slush … take it! Learning to evaluate stories – to decide which are publishable and which aren’t quite ready – was a massive help when it came to my own work.

In 2004 my self-pub gamble paid off, and I was offered a contract by a trade publisher. Over the next four or five years I worked with industry professionals to get four Hal Spacejock novels edited and released to bookstores. I absorbed as much knowledge as I could, and enjoyed every minute of the process.

Fast-forward to 2011, when my next niche project was ready for submission. This time I’d written – of all things – a hard science fiction comedy novel for readers aged 9+. Okay, ‘hard sf’ is probably an exaggeration, but I tried for something as realistic as I thought I could get away with for that age group. (Hal Junior features a young lad living aboard a space station in the distant future. It’s the opposite of the kids-flying-spaceships scenario you get in movies like Jimmy Neutron).

Why did I write junior science fiction? I’ve always loved kids’ books, and it seemed a natural progression to me: mix things up a bit, graduate from writing for adults, and publish something to fire up younger readers. Plus I do a lot of school and library visits, where I usually speak to upper-primary kids about the magic of science fiction. It always seemed a shame to get them interested in SF, then explain all my books were for adults.

I submitted Hal Junior to a couple of publishers, but I was already debating whether to self-publish. When a certain someone familiar to readers of this blog (thanks T!) informed me Lightning Source had just set up in Australia, I wrote to the publishers I’d queried and asked them to delete my submissions.

Yes, I was that keen on self-publishing.

The term ‘indie-publishing’ appears to be fashionable these days, but I don’t think the terminology matters. I just think it’s important to write a decent book and employ professionals to bring it to market: especially the cover artist and editor.

Working with small press gave me the confidence to publish my own work. Without Andromeda Spaceways and the odd science fiction convention I’d never have met the network of contacts which are so vital to the future of small press in this country.

Here’s one example: Last night, at well past midnight EST, I had a three-way email exchange with several people involved in next month’s Conflux SF convention. On the spur of the moment they organised a launch for my new novel, agreed to hand out signed bookplates, and gave me the address to deliver copies of my book. Ten minutes later, via Facebook, someone else attending Conflux agreed to do a reading. (Thanks Gillian, Mary, Karen and Devin!)

That’s why small press is strong in this country. We all work together.

Simon Haynes was born in England in 1967. He moved to Spain with his family in 1976, and enjoyed an amazing childhood of camping, motorbikes, mateship, air rifles and paper planes. His family moved again in 1983, this time emigrating to Australia. 

From 1986-1988 Simon studied at Curtin University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Film, Creative Writing and Literature. Simon returned to Curtin in 1997, graduating with a degree in Computer Science two years later. An early version of Hal Spacejock was conceived during the lectures.

Simon divides his time between writing fiction and computer software, with frequent 25-40km bike rides to blow the cobwebs away. His goal is to write fifteen Hal books (Spacejock OR Junior!) before someone takes his keyboard away. Find out more at www.spacejock.com.au