Hello Space Cadets! Today, I wanted to offer you a gift in the spirit of the upcoming holiday season. Don’t worry, it’s not a fruitcake. It’s an interview with Paul P. Corcoran. Paul works at the publishing house, Tickety Boo Press, and their science fiction imprint, Space Dock. I know most of my readers are also writers, so here is a chance to learn from a successful author and discover the publishing house that might print your next big idea!
To help you appreciate why I chose to interview him, let me tell you more about Paul. He is the author of the Amazon best-selling Saiph novels, a military veteran, and has been appointed as Acquisitions Editor of Tickety Boo Press’s Space Dock imprint. He is ideally suited to running Space Dock – not only has he served in the military in various roles, including security and intelligence, but his knowledge of the military and his love of Science Fiction have already combined into becoming a full-time career as a writer of action-packed SciFi.
On a more personal note, Paul is very willing to mentor new writers (though he likely regrets accepting my friend request!) through his social media presence. He’s an overall decent fella, the kind you’d enjoy doing business with.
JR: Where did your company name come from? To my American ears, Tickety Boo sounds like an odd word.
Paul: Tickety Boo is most definitely an odd word. In normal conversation, it refers to ‘things being OK’, however, in this context I had to ask the founder of Tickety Boo Press, Gary Compton, what it referred to. It turns out that Gary is a big fan of a Scottish comedian called Billy Connolly whose production company went by the name of Tickety Boo, so in effect Gary stole, or should I say borrowed, the name in homage to Billy.
JR: I’d like to talk about your work as the Acquisitions Editor of Space Dock. How did you come to this position?
Paul: It happened rather oddly. I was in contact with Gary in early 2016 in relation to publishing my own work through his press, which led to several long conversations about my process for self-publishing the Saiph series and how I kept the various books in the Amazon listings for so long. At some point Gary asked if I could do the same with other good quality work, to which I foolishly answered, yes! Gary then asked me to take on the role of Acquisitions Editor of Space Dock, which I accepted in September 2016 and I’ve been hard at it ever since! I’ve filled Space Dock’s publishing schedule for the whole of 2017 already, but, I’m undeterred and I’m always on the lookout for more authors to join the Space Dock family. (Get in touch, People!)
JR: You’re an author, with several successful novels under your belt. Tell us about your works and how your writing pulled you into the publication business.
Paul: Well, as you know I’ve only been writing for a couple of years and I don’t have the advantage of any formal writing training. But, I’ve been an avid reader and fan of science fiction for as long as I can remember. A few years back I noticed the book market was flooded with very similar military sci-fi plots, I thought I could write something that I thought was missing – an epic ‘origins’ space opera – and I outlined what later became my first novel, Discovery of the Saiph. The story really developed itself, the basic premise is that the crew of the first faster-than-light ship discover a buried library from a long dead alien race called the Saiph, hence the title of the series. As I reached the 80,000-word mark of my first novel I realized that I couldn’t squeeze my whole story into one book and, before I knew it, my original outline turned into a four-book series! I was lucky enough to reach #1 in several of the Amazon bestseller lists with the series and even managed to slip in to Amazon’s Top 100 Science Fiction Authors for a short time. The success of the Saiph series has been unexpected and amazing! I’ve been privileged enough to be able to give up my day job and write full time and to start on my new series, The K’Tai War.
Planned as a trilogy, the K’Tai series views interstellar war from different angles. While epic fleet engagements rule, I’ve thrown a more personal perspective into the mix with the Carters, who appear to be a run-of-the-mill family caught in the middle of an alien invasion of their planet Agate. But, the Carters have a secret past, which they thought they’d left behind, now, they must use all their skills to ensure their family survives. Without revealing too much of the plot, the K’Tai Imperium has its own problems and what they thought would be a quick invasion becomes much more… You’re going to have to read it if you want to know more, LOL.
Now, you’ve also asked me how I got into the publishing business. The answer is quite simple. I had no idea of the existence of agents or publishers. My wife pointed out that I could self-publish on Amazon (whatever that meant!), so, I set about learning. I found myself an editor, with good reviews, from the internet. My wife, who has an art degree and is a computer geek, learned how to create book covers, format eBooks and print books and, before I knew it, I had a finished book and it was on sale worldwide, courtesy of Amazon.
This sounds pretty much like every other self-publisher, however, I quickly realized that getting your book onto Amazon was the easy bit. Finding a readership and keeping them is a whole other ball game. I knew very little about marketing, never mind marketing books, but I came across the brilliant advice of Joanna Penn. I’m not affiliated in any way, I simply think her website is packed full of great advice and mostly free.
After researching The Creative Penn and other similar websites, I discovered there was such a thing as eBook advertising, Amazon algorithms, SEOs and keywords. So, with the help of my wife, we devised a marketing plan and to our great surprise it worked! The Saiph series hit the bestseller lists and remained in the top 100 for many months, shortly after this Tantor Media contacted me through my website (just shows how important an author website is!) and they bought the audio rights for the complete Saiph series and the K’Tai War trilogy.
It was only after all of this had happened that I realized that if I could do this for myself then I could do it for others. Therefore, when Gary Compton came along with the offer of Acquisitions Editor for Space Dock I jumped at the chance. And voila! I am now involved in publishing.
JR: As the Acquisitions Editor of Space Dock, what are you looking for in submissions?
Paul: A good story. One that gets me hooked in the first ten percent. Why ten percent? Simple, Amazon allows you to read the first ten percent of any book free so if that ten percent doesn’t have the reader hooked then they’re not going to buy.
JR: How do you decide which books to sign and which ones to pass on?
Paul: Unlike traditional publishers, I don’t demand cover letters with bio’s and the like, I’m much more interested in the story and if you have a good story, you are most of the way there. I’m notoriously hard to please in terms of sci-fi stories, and I know if I like the story then other readers will too.
Also, unlike traditional publishers, I actively seek authors and I’ve found Facebook to be a great resource for doing that. I’ve met interesting authors and read fantastic works from people I’ve met on Facebook. I particularly love the flash fiction competition run by the Space Opera Writers page. (It’s a closed group for SF writers.) I’ve found outstanding stories here and have even signed an author or two!
I have found, though, that there are authors who are a little too ‘precious’ about their work. By this I mean that they are reluctant to make changes to their work so it is more commercial, or to fit into a specific genre a little better. I, as an author, have learned that to make a living as an author, I have to appeal to my readers and it might mean changing my writing. In terms of publishing, if an author is not willing to do the same then I have to walk away.
There are also those authors who, after writing a great story, expect the publisher to do everything else for them. In my eyes the publisher has responsibilities to market and sell the book. However, the author also needs to be involved in actively seeking publicity and for building their own following. If I don’t get a sense of this ambition from an author, I won’t sign them.
In essence, all I’m looking for is a good sci-fi story and an author who is willing to work at building their readership.
JR: What types of publishing do you offer? (Tradition Publishing, Co-Publishing, Self-Publishing)
Paul: Space Dock is primarily an eBook publisher whose major market is Amazon. Space Dock will provide cover design, editing, formatting, advertising and marketing opportunities. Books we publish will be available as eBooks, paperback and even limited edition hard covers. In this day and age, however, the publishing lines are becoming blurred and in my view Space Dock are taking on more of an ‘agent’ role. We are able to offer the sale of audiobook rights to our contacts in market leaders Audible and Tantor Media, or use our in-house production team to produce the audiobook.
In the near future, Space Dock hopes to move into the field of foreign rights and give our authors the opportunity to have their books translated and selling worldwide. I have successfully secured contracts for my own work in Spanish, Portuguese and I’m making inroads in the Chinese market. I am actively researching how to do this on a larger scale for all authors signed to Space Dock.
Our focus is author success, to that end we will encourage authors to build a relationship with their readers, if an author doesn’t already have a website Space Dock will build one for them, free of charge. We will also provide a dedicated Author Page on the Space Dock website.
In terms of self-publishing, Space Dock’s parent company, Tickety Boo Press, offers various self-publishing services to authors which can be found on their website.
JR: What sub-genres of science fiction do you prefer?
Paul: My personal preference is military science fiction, however, whenever I began receiving submissions for Space Dock, I discovered I enjoyed all kinds of sci-fi sub genres, as I eluded to earlier, if I receive a good story then I will not say no because it doesn’t fit into military SF. Space Dock’s 2017 publishing schedule bears this out, as you will find everything from dystopian to time travel to military to near fantasy.
JR: How does someone submit to Space Dock?
Paul: Simple. You email me at email@example.com with the word ‘submission’ in the subject line. Attach a synopsis and the first three chapters and I will get back to you when I have read it. How easy is that?
JR: After an author has signed with you, and the novel is done with the last editing pass, what do you expect of your authors? What part of the process do you cover?
Paul: Space Dock will publicize the author and their work on social media platforms, blogs etc., we’ll arrange regular advertising and organize interviews, however, in the modern world that is not enough. Space Dock expects their authors to use social media, their friends and family, fellow authors and anyone else they know to let the world know about their book.
JR: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Paul: It depends on the author’s goals. If your ambition is to simply publish a quality book, then get it edited or at least proof read and publish it on Amazon, Smashwords or Draft2Digital. For me Amazon has the biggest reach. If you publish with KDP Select your book is available for sale and for borrowing. Don’t produce your own cover, unless you are a designer in your day job! You will need a decent cover and there are many cover designers online who are low-cost and look out for pre-made cover offers which may fit your book exactly. If your goal is to self-publish and sell books to make a living, then you need: a great book, well edited and proof read, a great book cover (don’t, I repeat, don’t produce one yourself, unless as I said earlier you are a designer), a marketing plan and a small advertising budget. You will also need to work hard at promoting yourself, building an email list and a following on your social media of choice, whether it’s a blog, Facebook, twitter, Instagram or a forum. Also, be prepared to approach audio publishers or translators to sell your audio and translation rights or to get them produced. The other option is to come to Space Dock and we’ll help you along your way, LOL. Just kidding! … no really…
If this convinced you to find out more, look Paul Corcoran and Space Dock up here:
I hope you all had a great time getting to know about one of the United Kingdom’s newest publishing house! Don’t be afraid to say hello here or on their own website. They’re always quick to respond when not searching slush piles for the next big thing! And for proof of their ability to handle a stressed-out author, Paul is friends with little ol’ me! Quick, give that man a medal!!
Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!
–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.