Catch-22: Hal Spacejock by Simon Haynes

Today, I give the microphone to Simon Haynes, author of the Hal Spacejock series, and the yWriter software. Simon talks about publishing and self-publishing, which he has done since before the ebook existed.

I’ve always been fascinated by the publishing business. An endless stream of books are launched onto the ocean of hopes, where most sink with barely a ripple. It all seems so ethereal. Ironically, it’s the ethereal ebook which is proving more permanent: Launch an ebook and it’s available forever. Every time an author releases a new novel, short story or novella on Amazon or Smashwords they create a bigger net for readers to flutter into.

Problem is, when you sign a print contract with a major publisher you also hand over the ebook rights, and that’s not in the author’s best interest. Nothing says ‘gotcha’ like earning $1 royalty on a $9.99 ebook, when self-pubbed authors are getting $2.80 on a title selling for $3.99.

Five years ago, when ebooks were just a spec of grit in Big Publishing’s all-seeing eye, I happily signed over the ebook rights to my Hal Spacejock series. With Hal Junior I was determined to keep them.

I don’t believe ebooks and junior fiction are a good fit yet, but who’s to say what the market will be like five years from now? We used to joke about ebook readers being given away in cereal packets, but in five years the back of the cereal box might be e-paper. If they can get the manufacturing cost down, what would advertisers pay to put moving colour images on breakfast tables worldwide? And then there’s the imminent release of the Harry Potter ebooks, which could easily cause a spike in the spread of reading devices amongst younger readers.

Apart from technology, what about e-rights? I’ve seen reports of publishers bringing out new contracts with clauses securing print & ebook rights in perpetuity. With the Hal Spacejock series I was caught out by the march of technology, and that’s why I’m determined to keep the Hal Junior e-rights.

So there I was, poised to shop my new junior science fiction novel around. On the one tentacle I wanted the safety and marketing reach of a large publisher. On the other tentacle, I wasn’t going to give up the ebook rights. And on the third tentacle it turns out I’d written another niche title. You see, according to the experts, junior science fiction only appeals to a small segment of the market, and that means science fiction authors don’t have a row of dollar signs jiggling above their heads.

The way I saw it, I could spend years trying to find a decent-sized publisher willing to give Hal Junior a go, only for the deal to fall through when I refused to give up the e-rights.

So, I decided to self-publish. Originally my plan was to upload an ebook version to Amazon and Smashwords, release a print version through Createspace (US), then find a POD publisher in the UK and Australia. Those plans changed after Tehani (FableCroft) mentioned that Lightning Source had just opened up in Australia. With their awesome printing facilities, worldwide distribution and keen pricing, your title is available through every bookstore on the planet. Order from and the book is printed in England and shipped locally. Order in Italy and it’s printed and shipped from France. Fantastic!

Lightning Source also pushes your title onto the catalogues of dozens of major distributors, including several majors who service every bookstore, school and public library in Australia. I contacted a local school libraries supplier who knows me from the Hal Spacejock books, and they’re showing a copy of Hal Junior to their sales reps next week. They can order it from their regular suppliers at their regular discount, and to them it’s just another professionally produced title. Except it’s self-published!

By the way, I can’t speak highly enough of the printing quality – cream pages, sharp text and illustrations, lovely silky cover … truly excellent.

One thing to note: Lightning Source deals with publishers, not authors. You need the same technical and business skills as a publisher, and they won’t take a word file and turn it into a book. You supply finished files in the required format, just like a publisher would. (My background is small business and computers, so it’s a perfect match as far as I’m concerned.)

To summarise: with ebooks available through, Smashwords and my own site, and with print books available … well, everywhere … I believe I’m giving Hal Junior every chance of success. I’m working on book two now, and my goal is to publish two junior titles a year. If the first takes a while to get going, who cares? It’s never going out of print!

Hal Junior: The Secret Signal is available now through amazon (print and ebook) and via Barnes & Noble (Print now, Nook soon.)
Ebooks and signed copies can also be ordered via the author’s website.
The paperback is currently being added to Australian distributor catalogues.

Simon Haynes was born in England and grew up in Spain, where he enjoyed an amazing childhood of camping, motorbikes, mateship, air rifles and paper planes. His family moved to Australia when he was 16.
From 1986 to 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 written during the lectures.

Simon has four Hal Spacejock novels and several short stories in print. Sleight of Hand won the Aurealis Award (short fiction) in 2001, and Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch was a finalist in both the Ditmar and Aurealis Awards for 2008.
Simon 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.