Friday, 29 June 2012

PUSHED FOR ANSWERS: Gary William Murning

In the latest of a series of interviews designed to lift the lid on the rapidly shifting landscape in the publishing world PULP PUSHER talks to inde author Gary William Murning about his diverse output.
PULP PUSHER: For those readers not familiar with your output, give us a quick taster ...

GARY WILLIAM MURNING: Three novels to date: If I Never—a quirky cross-genre love story cum thriller, published by Legend Press; Children of the Resolution—a heavily autobiographical coming-of-age story feeding on my experience of the introduction of integrated/inclusive education for children with physical disabilities in the 1970s, published through Lulu (didn't fit the Legend Press brief); and The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts—a hopefully thought provoking literary horror novel that explores human need.

It's safe to say it's not the kind of 'easy pitch' the Big Six publishers go for ...

Oh, yes, very safe to say! You know, I've tried writing neat, easily pigeonholed pieces numerous times and it just doesn't work out that way for me. It's that old thing of if you don't write what you want to write, nine times out of ten it's going to turn out badly. I don't think the stuff I write isn't Big Six material. In fact, I think it would probably go down pretty well (in a Russell Hoban kind of way)—but getting it to them, finding an agent willing to champion what I do with the big boys, is tough. I actually used to get pretty close in the good old days before agents started acting as editorial filters for the big publishing houses. Came close with editors at houses like Doubleday and Andre Deutsch a few times. And then the industry changed! (This probably gives you some idea of just how long I've been writing and submitting!)

Did you have a difficult route to print?

I did, yes. A long and difficult route. I wanted the recognition of a "traditional" publisher. I didn't want to head down the self publishing route (which was becoming more popular even five or six years ago) without someone else having been prepared to invest in my writing first. Consequently, I collected many, many rejection slips before I finally got lucky.

You've chosen an interesting route to publish, establishing your own company, effectively ...

This is actually a very recent development. As I've said, I was originally published "traditionally"—and I'm actually in discussions regarding a new one with Legend at the moment—but not all of my stuff fits with them all that well and so I decided to have a bash at doing it myself with the novels they didn't want. I tried Lulu first and, whilst it isn't a bad service, I found it very limiting with regard pricing and book format—so, with the next one, I cut them out and went directly to their print on demand printer/distributor, setting myself up as a micro-publisher and handling every aspect myself. It was a lot of extra work but, frankly, nowhere near as much as you might expect.

How has that worked out for you?

Very early days, yet. Naturally, with the print on demand aspect (non-returnable) there are limitations. Getting books in high street stores is nigh on impossible (though as time goes on and I'm in a position to do print runs, this will change), but my main sales, even with If I Never, are actually online—so, in that regard, it isn't that much of a disadvantage. I think it's fair to say I'm going to need a fairly considerable lucky break to make a million from it, or even a reasonable living, but I think it's a worthwhile sideline to my more traditionally published stuff.

Has the recent upheaval - or new dawn, depending how you view it - been good for writers?

You know, I change my mind about this about three or four times a day on average. The choices available to writers, now, are fairly limitless. It is certainly true to say that publishers aren't needed in the way that they once were (I don't think we can completely dispense with them just yet—and, truthfully, I hope we never do). Writers can get their work out there and, if they apply themselves to the whole marketing/promotion gig, can do pretty well out of it, with a little luck. But getting noticed by readers is becoming increasingly difficult as a direct consequence of this. There is just so much out there—and it has to be said, whilst there are some real gems to be found, a lot of it is pretty substandard. Time will tell, I suppose. I think there are many more changes coming over the next few years—just don't ask me what they will be!

How do you see the eBook market shaping up in future?

I think it will continue to increase its dominance. Readers are already embracing eBooks in a huge way and it strikes me as inevitable that publishers will focus more and more on this area. I don't think the traditional book is dead just yet—but let's just say it's got a bit of a worrying cough. (And, yes, I'm a recent convert to Kindle. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was still insisting I would never give up on traditional books … and then I tried the Kindle Touch. Now you will find me on street corners getting all evangelical about it. Bloody love it.)

And do you see publishers adapting and embracing or merely shrinking and conslodating like the music biz?

I think they may TRY to adapt and embrace, but there will have to be some shrinking and consolidating, I would think. In some respects, I think the industry might actually—to a degree—return to the older model of publishing, with more small independent publishing houses springing up (already happening) and gaining recognition through their willingness to put the less easily classified fiction out there. Either way, it's going to be an interesting few years. Especially for people who are prepared to try new things and explore the possibilities.

Would you actively seek a traditional publishing house now?

Absolutely, yes. I will continue to publish through my own company, but that will only ever be with fiction that doesn't fit with my existing traditional publisher and which I feel meets my usual standard. Controlling every aspect of the publication process yourself is extremely liberating (and fascinating), but it's additional work that, ideally, I could do without. I'd much rather be in a position where I was left alone to write, without having to break off now and then to sort out a distribution problem or whatever.

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