What could publishers offer? An interview with T Q Chant

Tim Chant self-published Sam Cane: Hard Setdown and the ebook is now available on Amazon. Tim kindly gave me time to talk about the book, about self-publishing and what he might be missing by not having a publisher.

Tell us about Sam Cane: Hard Setdown

It’s a tense and at times horrifying SF survival adventure (or so I’ve been told…). It follows Sam, a newly minted security specialist with a shady past, as she arrives on a far-flung colony world only to find the settlement deserted. Stranded by a callous corporation lightyears from help, what follows is a desperate struggle to survive, stay sane and work out what happened. These are the opening shots of a saga that will pit Sam against a ruthless enemy and that will range across the early stages of human interstellar colonisation.

Sam Cane is available on Amazon for Kindle. There’s no publisher listed. Why go it alone?

Going straight to self-publication became the plan fairly early on in writing this. The SF market is pretty crowded right now, and there’re also some issues in it that I wanted to keep a handle on. The story
was in my head, though, and writing it gave me a break from redrafting a much larger work, so self-publication made sense. It’s also done me a power of good just to publish something after years of scribbling – I’ve been far more productive since taking the leap.

What do you think a publisher could offer that you or a boutique PR agency couldn’t?

Reach. There’s a lot of good fiction out there and people only have so much time to put into reading, so any help getting noticed would be a massive boost. I’ve been really lucky in knowing some very talented people who have provided editorial input, done the cover art and the proof reading, so yep, marketing is the key thing a publisher could bring.

Talking to authors you’ll sometimes hear Amazon described as the huge villain and sometimes as the saviour of the industry. What are your views on the behemoth?

I don’t do absolutes – I’d hesitate to describe anything as being absolutely good or evil. I think we have to accept that technology has changed the way we shop for and own everything, and you can’t deny Amazon has been very clever in taking ownership of this change. At a time where publishers are (perhaps understandably) focused on hanging on to their big earners, Amazon has made it possible for writers like me to get our work out there and maybe get noticed – and while other companies offer similar services, I don’t think they’ve got the same market as Amazon. I think this has driven a trend for publishers to consider work that’s been self-published, which I think is a healthy thing.

What tips and tricks have you picked up?

In terms of writing? I’ve been given all sorts of good advice, some of which rings true (no such thing as a magic bullet, it’s all about hard work etc). The thing I found most useful when writing Sam was to be transgressive. This started life as a fairly straight-up Mil-SF with a fairly standard main protagonist – what really brought it to life for me was when I decided the main character should be a woman from a multilcultural background (I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that Sam is my first female protagonist) – from there flowed a far more interesting background that has been really helpful in planning out how she reacts to things and what will happen next for her.

Tips for self-publishing? Plan ahead and do your research – I maybe leapt before I’d looked properly, and while I don’t regret it for a second I could have made some steps of the process a little less stressful for myself.

What are writer groups and are they important?

I’d go as far to say absolutely vital, particularly when starting out. Working at its best, a writer’s group is a collection of people who may not be like-minded but are all going through the same process, where everyone puts forward their work for constructive criticism. As long as you’ve got a thick enough skin to take it, rigorous criticism can be very important in tightening and polishing work, getting you to realise that a passage you’re maybe overly proud of doesn’t work, and helping to crystallise your thinking. It’s more than just being critted – reading and commenting on other people’s work and listening to other people comment can be just as helpful in honing your own work, and honestly just chatting over lunch

I’ve been lucky enough to be a member of the Edinburgh Science Fiction and Fantasy writer’s group for years now (big shout out to M Harold Page for the initial invite) and have been critted by both established authors like Caroline Dunford and those like me who are just starting out. It’s been hard, sometimes, and I haven’t always taken on board all the criticism, but it’s been worth it.

Which books from indie or small press authors would you recommend to readers who enjoyed Sam Cane?

With a certain amount of chagrin, I must admit that I don’t really pay much attention to who publishes the books I read. I’ve been enjoying the Daniel Leary series by David Drake (Baen), sort of Patrick O’Brian in space, and I’m currently working through the first volume of James S.A. Corey’s ‘Expanse’ which has a similar slightly lower-tech horror feel to it. I’m a slow reader and alternate factual and non-factual books so my recommendations may be a bit lame…

What can we expect next from Tim Chant?

I plan (hope?) to release Sam Cane in 30,000 word or so novellas (in a way, Amazon has allowed a look back at the original SF serial publishing) so keep an eye out for ‘Sam Cane: Hard Lessons’ in four or five months. I’m also finishing a ‘Steamquill’ work which I’m soon going to be sending to agents and publishers, and starting to plot out a turn of the 20th Century naval adventure.


This interview with Tim was published in 2016 on Zebra Eclipse and then tidied over here in 2023. 

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