Indie v Traditional – The Writer Must Decide

Indie V Traditional – The Writer Must Decide

There’s no doubt that the advent of E-book and print on demand publishing of books has turned the publishing world on its head. Writers who stood little chance of getting their books published by mainstream publishers are now seeing their works in print – not only that, but many are finding a readership and making money.

These notes detail my own experiences of this new publishing world – and I stress my own. Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at the world of Independent Publishing. I hope this might be of help to writers thinking of producing their own books, so I’ll be taking the whole process a stage at a time. If you are an experienced publisher I do hope you’ll chip in with your own thoughts and suggestions.

I’ve been a professional writer for over forty years. I’ve been traditionally published. I’ve seen piles of my books stacked up in bookshops.

But now I think that Indie Publishing is the way to go – and I’ll tell you just why.

Traditional publishers are, mostly, screaming in protest at the world of Indie Publishing. They are bleating that books on Kindle, Kobo, print-on-demand CreateSpace and whatever are not proper books. Rubbish! A book on any of these platforms is just as valid as anything they produce. Publishers are not some specially selected breed. They are just business people who have gone into publishing to make money – the same as Indie writers.

The days when publishers – and I’ve met quite a few – have much interest in literature are over. The great publishers of the past, such as Billy Collins, Jonathan Cape and Victor Gollantz, who would take young writers out to lunch and virtually subsidise loss-making books for several years in the hope that those writers would build up a selling reputation are over. Now, if you’re are not a quick hit you are OUT!

The first time writer, traditionally published, really does have to sell lots of copies of their book or they are dismissed, their books rapidly withdrawn from bookshops and pulped. Publishers are even abandoning writers on their lists who have been moderately successful in favour of the latest celebrity memoir or cook-book. That’s why you’ll see quite well-known writers self-publishing on Amazon etc., their traditional publishing days behind them.

And let’s assume you are picked up by a traditional publisher and you get a contract. Do they, as they once did, give you help with marketing or make much of an effort to promote your book after the first day? You’ll be darned lucky to even find them sending out review copies, let alone paying for any advertising. They will tell you – and the blogs of very well-known writers confirm this – that you are on your own. Go and give talks in your local library, they say, or try and cut a deal with some nearby bookshop.

And the cost of all this you are supposed to pay for out of the meagre 10%, or more often these days 5% royalty, you will probably get – and forget about ever getting much of an advance. Given that the publisher and bookseller are keeping the other 90% plus you do wonder what they’re doing with the money, apart from lining the wallets of shareholders.

If you become an Indie Author you’ll certainly have to do the marketing yourself, but at least you’ll be getting a royalty of up to 70% per copy to encourage you on your way.

‘But I need to be published to prove to myself I’m any good’, says the aspiring author, who looks at getting into the hands of a publisher as an affirmation of quality. Getting past the gatekeeper becoming rather like jumping levels on a computer game.

Believe me, you don’t need a gatekeeper, pronouncing on the value of your work. And just who is this gatekeeper who gets the first glimpse of the novels on a publisher or literary agent’s slush pile? In all likelihood the first reader of a submitted novel is some youth who graduated last year and is working his way up from office boy. We all know the tales of the massively famous authors who were rejected dozens of times. .Not surprising when someone almost unqualified is making the initial decision

Now, to be blunt, a lot of self-published books are not very good. They would never have been traditionally published even in the good old days. But the same can be said for an awful lot of traditionally-published volumes. At the end of the day the readers will decide whether a book sinks or swims. And that’s how it should be. Books are written for readers and readers alone should control who is or isn’t successful in the market place. Not the publisher’s office boy.

And, even as mainstream publishers condemn Indie Publishers, they can’t wait to try and get a share of the market. Every major publisher puts their authors’ books on Amazon Kindle. They just diddle their writers by keeping most of the 70% royalty for themselves. These contracted authors are crazy to put up with it.

And, even worse, some mainstream publishers have launched off-shoots to try and lure in people who might go Indie. Offering bogus deals such as “three-book contracts”, when all they are doing is actually putting out your work as an E-book/print on demand copy – just the same as you could do for yourself.

I’ve seen on blogs some writers almost weeping for joy because a publishing house has offered them just such a three-book deal. If the publishers had a real belief in these authors that would offer a genuine three book contract. They won’t, of course. They’ll accept virtually anyone in the hope of getting their hands on a chunk of that 70% Kindle royalty – which those same writers could get for themselves in its entirety if only they would go Indie. These publishing offshoots, or certainly the ones I’ve looked at are little more than a scam. Please don’t put your cash in their pockets.

And some publishers are getting even tougher with their authors. One major publisher of factual self-help books is telling would-be authors that they will only be taken on if they are prepared to buy, and pay for out of their own pockets, hundreds of advance copies of their own book. Quite disgraceful!

After many years in the trade, I first came to Indie Publishing because I wanted to publish easily a couple of non-fiction books on walking in the countryside. I didn’t really put them out in the hope of making much cash. I just thought they’d be fun to have around. As it happens these titles have sold steadily, not making a great deal of money but more than I expected.

Encouraged by this, I decided to put on my novels and soon found that fiction is the real seller. I’m pleased with the sales I get, though always hoping they might increase (you can see a list of my books above).

True, I could have sent them out to a mainstream publisher, waited months for them to make up their mind and then a year of two for the books to actually appear and start earning money. But, frankly, I couldn’t be bothered waiting in the queue. I’d rather spend my time writing and Indie Publishing more books – and keeping a darned sight more of the money.

So, if you have a book already on the stocks or not, I intend to look at my own experiences as an Indie Publisher over the next few weeks, taking the whole process step by step. So if you are a beginner or experienced as an Indie Publisher yourself please do click follow and come along for the ride. I would love to hear your comments, experiences etc. which you can post below.

Indie Writers are in the vanguard of a whole new way of publishing and one of the wonderful things about Indie Publishing is the help and support we all share with each other. I’ve valued reading the blogs and opinions of others on how to progress. I hope my contribution might be as helpful, John

The World of Indie Publishing

From Monday I’ll be starting weekly pieces on this blog about the world of Indie publishing, looking at such issues as whether it is better to go Indie rather than traditionally publish and some notes on my experiences of both.

I hope what I write may be helpful to writers coming to Indie publishing for the first time, and might trigger a debate and offer an opportunity for experienced Indie publishers to contribute.

So please click follow and come along…

John Bainbridge


Reading the Robin Hood Ballads

Reading the Robin Hood Ballads

I first read the Robin Hood ballads many years ago. Since writing my recent Robin Hood novels in my series “The Chronicles of Robin Hood” I’ve re-read them with great enjoyment.

But if you are adding to Robin Hood fictions you have to make a decision whether or not to base your story on the ballads, abandon them altogether, or – as I have done – take bits of them and use them for your own ends.

There is, for instance, a prominent character in the ballads called Sir Richard of the Lea. I’ve used him in my latest novel “Wolfshead”, but not as he appears – as a rather broke individual, being chased for money by an abbot – in the ballads.

Again, I’ve brought in the silver arrow. In the ballads this is a trophy won by Robin in an archery contest. I’ve done something rather different with my silver arrow.

Not being a slave to the ballads means you can introduce new characters. I’ve created a baddie in “Wolfshead” called Lord Malvoisin, who has some rather violent habits. He doesn’t appear at all in the ballads, though there are a few real-life models for his character in the histories of the time.

Similarly, many of the so-called Merry Men (mine aren’t all that merry by the way) don’t even appear in the earliest ballads. Marian, for instance came along centuries later.

Making changes also means you can create your own character of Robin Hood. We all have a favourite Robin, be it from books, or films or television. As a writer you shouldn’t reproduce what has been done in the past, though elements of earlier versions are bound to slip in – even subconsciously. The Robin of the early ballads is scarcely the charitable outlaw of recent representations.

So we shouldn’t rely too much on the veracity of the original Robin Hood ballads as printed, where the Sheriff of Nottingham hunts the outlaw not so much in Sherwood but in Barnsdale.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that the Robin Hood tales originated in Barnsdale. There never was a Royal Forest around Barnsdale, either in the strict legal sense of a royal hunting ground, or the modern interpretation as a place with a lot of trees. The Barnsdale of the period was a place of heathlands and small woodlands. Not a very good location for fugitives and wolfsheads. Nor was it a Chase, in the sense of a hunting ground for particular nobles.

All of the above doesn’t mean that there never was an outlaw called Robin Hood in Barnsdale, who inspired the early ballads. There may well have been. We shall never know for sure. Robin may have come from there, or Sherwood – a considerable Royal Forest – or a dozen other places.

There is, for instance, a considerable tradition of Robin Hood in distant Westmorland and Cumberland. Alan a Dale traditionally hails from Stainmore on the present-day borders of Westmorland and County Durham. I used those places for the origins of my Alan the Minstrel.

It always has to be remembered that the ballads which have survived as printed versions were probably quite late in the day; surviving examples of earlier oral ballads which might well have had differing locations. Evidence from other ballads demonstrates that local people would change names and locations, putting in places that were familiar to them. So if the printed versions suggest Barnsdale, then that might well be because those were the accounts that an early writer and printer took up.

Similarly, because the ballads refer to the monarch at the time being King Edward, we shouldn’t take for granted the idea that a king called Edward was on the throne at the time of Robin Hood. As the ballads were related generation after generation they would simply be updated to mention the king at the time, giving an added relevance to their listeners. Earlier oral versions might well have referred to the king being Stephen or Henry or Richard or John.

Professor Holt, in the revised edition of his excellent book Robin Hood, which I recommend if you want more background to these outlaw tales, finds a Robin in the early 1200s, who could well have been around during the reign of King John. And who is to say he was the first Robin?

If you look at Langland’s “Piers Plowman” (1377) you find his character Sloth proclaiming:

“I kan noght parfitly my Paternoster as the preest it syngeth
But I kan rhymes of Robyn hood…”

And Langland was quite late in the day as far as Robin Hood was concerned.

My latest Robin Hood novel “Wolfshead” is now available for pre-order, and is already out in paperback. The price goes up after publication day which is on Friday 25th March. Just click on the links below for more information:Wolfshead Cover_edited-5

The First Robin Hood novel “Loxley” is available in paperback and on Kindle at:






Loxley New Cover














Wolfshead – My New Novel

My new novel “Wolfshead” is now available in paperback, and will be published next Friday on Kindle and Kobo (Nook on Saturday). Order it now on pre-order and you’ll get it cheaper. Just click on the link below for more information

This new novel is the sequel to last year’s Robin Hood novel “Loxley”, though “Wolfshead” is complete in itself.


1199 AD
The fate of a silver arrow brings blood-soaked terror to the peasants of Sherwood Forest.
England faces uncertainty as the king falls in battle. Nottingham Castle is seething with intrigue as the Sheriff’s power is threatened and Sir Guy of Gisborne faces an old nightmare. Wolfshead Cover_edited-5

Robin’s fight is more desperate than ever. Friendships are tested as the outlaws confront a new depth of evil.

When even the villagers have turned against him, Robin Hood discovers the true cost of being made wolfshead.

A hunted man – and this time it’s personal…

Wolfshead – complete in itself – is the second in a four-novel sequence The Chronicles of Robin Hood.




Read Loxley, the first in the series today on Kindle and in paperback. Just click on the link below.




Crime Novelist Marni Graff On Her English Settings

We’re very pleased to welcome a guest post by crime novelist Marni Graff. Marni is one of a distinguished group of American authors, including Kate Charles, Deborah Crombie, Elizabeth George, Charles and Caroline Todd, who set their detective fiction in the U.K.MKGHdshot

Marni’s first series The Nora Tierney Mysteries are an engaging blend of amateur sleuth and police procedural. An affectionate homage to British Golden Age mysteries, the novels have cast of characters, maps, room-plans, satisfyingly complex plots and red herrings galore. Norah Tierney is a delightful character, a young American living on the shores of Windermere and it’s fun to see the foibles of the British through her eyes. 

We asked Marni to tell us why she decided to use an English setting:

Why England?

The setting any author chooses is a deliberate and thought-out selection. It’s the world my characters inhabit and affects their actions, so it was a very important decision for me when choosing where my Nora Tierney Mysteries would unfold. I’m a big fan of writers who manage to bring me into their setting, and I feel most writers wish to have the place a book’s characters move in feel real to their readers. My mentor and friend, P. D. James, always started her novels by deciding on the setting for its influence on the story she’d develop, and I agree and try to have the setting permeate the plot.

After a successful thirty-year nursing career, I was finally able to turn to the mystery writing I’d always planned. There was no question I would set my first series in England. I’ve always loved the UK and on my first visit in my early twenties, I stepped off the plane and felt like I was coming home. It’s a feeling that remains with me every time I’ve been to visit since then. Perhaps I lived there in another life? Whatever the attraction, my affinity for England set my course early on.

Choosing to set my mystery series in England was a deliberate choice, yet one I knew would present challenges. It would also allow me to visit the country I loved, and I’ve returned many times. Visiting new places for future books’ settings is a great excuse to travel, and one recent trip saw me on a train trip after attending St Hilda’s Mystery and Crime Conference in Oxford. I traveled to Bath to visit a friend for several days to renew my vision of that lovely town, and was introduced to the owner of Mr B’s Reading Emporium. He agreed to let me use his store as the reason Nora visits the town, for a reading and signing of her children’s books, although he did seem disappointed when I assured him no one would be murdered there.The Green Remains_frontcover_dark

Then I set off to Devon, where I stayed in Torquay and was able to make the “pilgrimage” via a vintage bus to Agatha Christie’s home, Greenway. For an Anglophile mystery geek like me, this was nirvana. Next I was off to Cornwall and Penzance, a place that will feature down the road in a later Nora mystery. I went to St Michael’s Mount and to the outdoor Minack Theatre, gathering setting material. Then back to glitzy seaside Brighton and the warren of tiny streets called The Lanes, before visiting friends in Chiswick, outside London. Any excuse to get me to the UK is welcome.

Last summer my husband and I traveled to Normandy. France is his favorite place to visit. But you’d be wrong if you think I could be that close and not visit England! I signed up again for St Hilda’s and Doc came with me, but not until we’d spent a day in Cambridge, another first. I’ve been to Scotland and Wales, too, but very briefly and need to visit in more detail. Those are high on my list for my next trip abroad.scarletwench_cover_front

My American protagonist, Nora Tierney, is a writer who has been living and working in England for several years. While it’s fine to have her appropriate common Brit words like “loo” or “buggy,” her voice has to remain distinctly American versus the other characters in her circle. It’s one reason I read UK authors continuously, to keep the cadence and slang of that country in my ear—plus many of my favorite writers are from there. But the challenges go far beyond language.

Having this lifelong affinity for England and its environs, I originally chose Cumbria, the county containing England’s glorious Lake District, as the setting for the opening of the Nora Tierney series. My visits to the land of Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter hold a fascination for me and I decided Bowness-on-Windermere would suit me. It is one of the most beautiful natural areas I’ve ever seen, with the bluest skies and whitest fluffy clouds, set against the majestic fells and shallow tarns. I took photographs and came home armed with maps and brochures to use as reference material.

Then life intervened with an opportunity to attend a summer course in Oxford, and I found myself in the hallowed halls of Exeter College, studying Wilkie Collins and Daphne Du Maurier, two of my favorite writers. Sworn in as a reader at the Bodleian Library, I was able to read the original broadsheet reviews of The Woman in White.

Oxford is a jewel of a town encircled by the lush green countryside of the Thames Valley. Its mellow limestone “dreaming spires,” as described by 19th C. poet Matthew Arnold, change color with the light and weather. Magnificently preserved architecture reflects every age from Saxon to present, all exhibited somewhere amongst the federation of forty-odd independent colleges which make up the University of Oxford set right in the town.

This mix of “town and gown” is noticed at once when visiting: The university has its dons lecturing in sub fusc, scouts bringing students morning tea, an historic tutorial system, and those forbidden grassy quads (with their tradition of only being walked on by dons), while the town has its own muddle of traffic-choked streets, packed with bicycles and pedestrians, pubs and shops. Both exist alongside green meadows with grazing cattle, and rivers teaming with punters and canal boats.

Small wonder then that I fell in love with the place. I could picture Nora here, too, and suddenly the idea for a new mystery, one that had Oxford at its heart, took over. I set aside my original idea for a Lake District manuscript and started writing The Blue Virgin, a combination of cozy and police procedural. Trying to clear her best friend, Val Rogan, of the suspicion she has murdered her partner, Bryn Wallace, Nora quickly becomes embroiled in the murder investigation, to the dismay of DI Declan Barnes, the senior investigating officer.

I took great care to be accurate in describing Oxford’s history and he colleges, as well as the various locations and sites my characters visit. After all, this is the town that gave the world Lewis Carroll, penicillin, two William Morrises, and graduates spread across the centuries whose influences are still felt. A very short list includes: Shelley, Tolkien, Browning, C. S. Lewis, Oscar Wilde, T. S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers, and Christopher Wren. More modern grads you will recognize include Stephen Hawking, Richard Burton, Indira Gandhi, Hugh Grant and Val McDermid.

And Oxford exudes mystery, as any Inspector Morse fan can tell you. I knew that readers would be quick to point out any factual errors I made. I carefully described favorite student pubs, shops, and the wonderful Covered Market, and tried to give the reader the sense of that ancient town, and how living in it affected Nora’s actions.The Blue Virgin_cover_frontonly

When I came home to write The Blue Virgin, I kept an enlargement of the town map taped to my desk–no sense describing a cobbled lane if I had the name wrong. I referred to my research materials often, as well as my photo album from the trip. My characters move within the real town, have tea at The Old Parsonage, and brunch at The Randolph Hotel. The Chief Superintendent of the CID in St Aldate’s Station gave me insight into the Oxford station to add reality to the setting. Only a few settings, such as Nora’s flat, are fictional.

By the time The Blue Virgin was in print and I started writing The Green Remains, I’d moved Nora to Cumbrian. The cover from The Green Remains is based on one of my own photos, taken on a boat trip around Windermere. I saw a stone jetty with a folly at its end. That would make a perfect setting for the climax of a book, I’d mused, and used it in my second book.

The third book, The Scarlet Wench, is set in Bowness, too, but for the one I’m writing now, The Golden Hour, there are scenes in Oxford and Brighton. However, the majority of the action takes place in Bath—which is why I’d spent time there. A series writer must always be planning ahead, and I like the idea of moving Nora around instead of keeping her in one area where she can suffer from what I like to call “the Jessica Fletcher Syndrome,” with too many murders occurring in one small town.

Besides, isn’t that a great excuse to have to visit the UK again?

Marni Graff ‘s first two Nora Tierney Mysteries have won awards as “Best Classic British Cozy” and the third is short-listed for the same award from Chanticleer Media. A member of Sisters in Crime, Graff is Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press and writes a crime review blog at

Thanks, Marni. That was really interesting – and very kind to us. Sadly, we do have plenty of eyesores and a constant battle to keep developers from ruining our historic towns and countryside.

Marni’s most recent novel is Death Unscripted, returning home with the first in a new series of Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries.

And if you love crime fiction don’t miss Marni’s terrific review blog.