Simon has four Hal Spacejock novels, one Hal Junior novel and several short stories in print. He divides his time between writing fiction and computer software, with frequent bike rides to blow away the cobwebs.
His goal is to write fifteen Hal books (Spacejock OR Junior!) before someone takes his keyboard away.
1. Since the last Snapshot, you’ve made the decision to self-publish the first of the Hal Junior series, rather than take the “traditional” route – what can you tell us about your reasons for making that decision, and how has the journey has been, this time around?
I’ve documented this journey on my blog (halspacejock.blogspot.com), partly so others would understand why I was doing it and partly to document and justify each decision for myself.
In a nutshell, I believe that traditional publishing is no longer the best option for an ongoing series. By the time later books are released, the first have vanished from bookstore shelves, and it’s rare for any reader to start a series on book four, five or six. Sure, there are incredibly rare occasions when a series really catches on, and all the books are released, re-released and re-re-released in every format under the sun, but you can’t possibly anticipate or plan for that kind of success.
This is the reason I pulled my Hal Junior submissions and decided to set up my own imprint and employ professionals (editor, cover artist, proofreaders) to publish the first novel last year.
As for the journey, I’m working to a long-term plan. If I write and publish four or five Hal Junior books and they fail to take off, fine. Every book I write improves my skill (hopefully!) and teaches me something new. Maybe one day I’ll write the kind of book publishers will fight over, but since writing is primarily a hobby for me I’ll always write what I want to read first, and worry about the potential market afterwards.
2. Your publishing journey is an interesting one, from self-publishing, to traditional, and back again! Hal Spacejock: Just Desserts came out in 2008, and since then you’ve taken on the rights to e-publish all four of the Hal novels. Has changing technology made a difference to self-publishing for you?
The market for children’s ebooks is tiny at the moment, so e-publishing was not a factor in my decision to go it alone with Hal Junior. With Hal Spacejock, on the other hand, I believed there was enough of a market to sell the ebooks via Amazon, Smashwords, B&N and various other outlets, and never have to worry again about approaching UK or US publishers. In fact, I wrote to my agent the same week I got my ebook rights back. I explained I was going to be focusing on children’s fiction, which he didn’t represent, and that I would be publishing the Spacejock ebooks worldwide. I know he tried hard to sell the Hal Spacejock books in the UK, but after five years you kind of run out of editors. Anyway, we parted on good terms.
As for the technology, when I discovered Lightning Source had just set up shop in Australia (thanks, Tehani!), that was the trigger for me. I wrote to the various publishers who’d been sitting on Hal Junior for several months and informed them I was withdrawing the submission. One I never heard back from, another replied immediately wishing me luck, and the third wrote to me six weeks later asking to see the full manuscript. (Tough. It was already in print!)
3. What’s next for you? More Hal? More Hal Jr? Something else entirely?
Right at this very moment I’m putting the finishing touches to Hal Junior book two. The text is pretty much done, and I’m organising internal art, cover roughs, page layout and so on. I’m planning an August release but I believe I’m a long way ahead of schedule.
After that, I have a killer idea for Hal Junior book 3, and Hal Junior book 4 is half written.
Hal Spacejock book 5 is almost finished but I’m letting it percolate for a bit. I’ve written Hal 5 FOUR times so far, each with a different plot and characters. On the bright side that just means I have Hal Spacejock books 6, 7 and 8 partially completed …
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’m currently reading Garth Nix’s latest, ‘A Confusion of Princes’. Good stuff – futuristic, part Ender’s Game, part Foundation. I’m definitely enjoying it.
Apart from that I’ve been reading Agatha Christie novels back to back for the past year or so, which has left no time for reading anything else. I’m currently up to 48 or 49 of 70+
5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
That I can’t tell you, because I’ve pretty much disappeared from the scene. I resigned from Andromeda Spaceways after something like 10 years, and I haven’t attended a con for a year or two now. I’m incredibly busy and my working day usually runs from around 7.30am till 11pm, seven days a week. Since 2005.
That’s what happens when you work from home and have four or five different demands on your time, from contract programming to customer support to writing and publishing. Obviously I make time for family and exercise (thousands of kilometres of bike riding every year!), and equally obviously I’m never bored.