My novel ‘Sybernika’ recently reached a milestone – namely 1,000 downloads on Smashwords. It is, of course, downloadable from other sites but I have no figures for them.
Curious to see if my work had made any ripples out there in Internetland, I did a quick Google on the term ‘Sybernika’ and was pleasantly surprised to come across two highly flattering reviews of the book, one of which describes it as ‘a cyberpunk classic’.
Before I preen myself by publishing the reviews here, I’d like to mention you can download a free copy of ‘Sybernika’ from http://www.sybernika.com where you can also read it online.
And now those reviews (both of which come from the Web Fiction Guide):
“A cyberpunk web classic. Violent, depraved, and weird!” – Fiona Gregory.
Short but sweet. The second review is more detailed:
If you’re a fan of horror and scifi/cyberpunk, I can’t recommend this story enough. I only intended to read the first handful of chapters, but I ended up blowing through all of Part 1 (about half of the completed story, from what I can tell). It was grim and creepy, and incredibly well written, both in structure and story.
The story is told in a lilting, almost poetic style. I thought I would get bored or annoyed with it at first, but after a while I realized it really adds to the building atmosphere of the story . . . and what atmosphere! The scifi hook kept me reading at the beginning, but as the author subtly and unrelentingly built up the dread I found it impossible to stop.
I would mention the flipside of such amazing writing abilities; with such believable characters the darkness of this story became increasingly difficult to read. The violence, the domestic, emotional and sexual abuse, and the overall dark tone was a little hard to deal with, precisely due to the fact that it felt so real. I thought it was perfectly appropriate to the story, but readers with more delicate sensibilities may want to beware.
Honestly I’m shocked at how real the emotions were while reading this serial/novel. Module (read: chapter) 10.0 was able to deliver an emotional punch to the gut, and it’s a single sentence long. It’s rare that I encounter a character that I truly, viscerally hate, not because they’re annoying or over-the-top evil, but because I can see them as an actual person, real enough to loathe. The antagonists of Sybernika fall into that short list of characters.
Long story short, Sybernika has its ruthless moments, but as long as you know what kind of story to expect going in it’s a marvelous work. Well worth my time.
I’m a slut. That is to say, I am happy to bestow my favours for free upon anyone who asks.
You see, I wrote this science-fiction novel called Sybernika which is set in the near future and explores – amongst other things – the impact that faster and cheaper computers will have on society. It is an edgy work, in that it has much that certain people might find offensive – sex, violence, swearing and other fun stuff.
Little wonder then that publishers who were keen to publish the book (three of them) also demanded I make changes to ‘tone things down’ as it were. This I felt I could not do without damaging the integrity of my work. (Precious, I know, but it’s not my fault that I care .)
I was beginning to despair of finding a publisher for my baby when I stumbled upon Philistine Press, a truly remarkable outfit. What makes them different to most publishers is that they give it away.
Yep. You heard. They give it away.
Now why the heck would they want to do that?
To quote from their website: ‘We’re here to publish material that wouldn’t ordinarily be published by mainstream presses, or accepted by the literary establishment.’
Frank Burton, Philistine’s founder and head honcho, thinks giving it away is a great idea. His reasoning being that very, very few books make a worthwhile amount of money and it’s better to give away a 1,000 books than to sell a half dozen for a couple of quid each.
You can see his point, can’t you?
And with the profit motive out of the way, there’s no need to pander to the market place. So you don’t have to follow trends and (more importantly) you don’t have to impose censorship on your authors.
I realised at once that Philistine was the perfect home for Sybernika.
Thankfully, Philistine agreed and now Sybernika is out there – untamed, uncensored and willing to go with anyone who asks.
The book was (kinda) launched last March at the Not the Oxford Literary Festival fringe event held in the fabulous Albion Beatnik book shop in Oxford. After Frank gave a speech detailing Philistine’s activities and rationale, I gave a short reading from Sybernika.
Also present was Banana the Poet whose Endaxi Press publishes poetry. She was quite adamant that Endaxi would never contemplate selling its books for nothing. Part of her reasoning was that if you give it away, nobody appreciates it.
The lady has a point.
I suspect Sybernika has ‘outsold’ any of Endaxi’s books by a factor of 100. But how many of the people who’ve downloaded Sybernika will actually read it? Very few.
Each Endaxi book, however, will be read at least once and probably several times by several people.
So why go down the free route?
In the case of Sybernika, I had two prime motives. The first I’ve already mentioned: I did not want my baby butchered to suit somebody else’s middle class sensibilities. My second motive was, of course, exposure.
With everybody and their brother inflicting their work on the Internet, it’s very hard to get noticed. Quite frankly, I’m not sure of the best way to go about it and I seriously doubt anyone else does. And there’s no point studying the journey of the best sellers – 50 Shades of Gray etc…– because they make it more by luck than judgement. What works for one person doesn’t for thousands of others and may never work again for the person for whom it did work in the first place.
So what’s a boy to do?
I’ve gone for a scatter-gun approach. With every new book I put out there, I try something different. So I have books that are self-published, books that are published through publishing houses such as Philistine and Musa, free books, cheap books, not so cheap books, ebooks, paperbacks, books on Smashwords and books on Kindle Direct. On top of that, I have this (woefully neglected) blog and I whore myself on Facebook where I have over 1,000 ‘friends’.
Now all I can do is hope for that elusive breakthrough where some sort of dark alchemy kicks in and word-of-mouth creates a buzz for me and my work.
And in the meantime, I’m more than happy to give it away for free . At least some of the time.