Alice Clark-Platts writes our monthly column on self-publishing. Here she discusses the work of the Hong Kong Writers Circle.
The world of self-publishing can be a tortuous and labyrinthine place to the uninitiated. For the less well-travelled writer, a comforting path to self-publication is sometimes offered by joining forces with a writers’ group.
Formed in 1991, the Hong Kong Writers Circle (HKWC) is one such organisation with writers of all levels, from all genres. Amongst its members are professional writers as well as those who work in the publishing industry, journalists and editors. Many members have themselves published books.
The Circle exists primarily as a social group with monthly meetings where authors can critique others’ work, but it also provides opportunities for writers to further their craft; to network and meet industry professionals; receive feedback on their work; and to take part in workshops. And once a year, it publishes an anthology of short stories, non-fiction and poetry.
Yearly elected editors are responsible for everything to do with the anthology - from theme conception to marketing the book once it’s been published. The theme of the anthology is chosen via consultation with a combination of those editors, the organising committee and the members themselves. The theme tries to be specific, but at the same time broad enough for members with different styles and interests to want to contribute. All members of the group are invited to submit to the anthology with the editors deciding ultimately which pieces are published.
The latest anthology published by the HKWC has the theme of Another Hong Kong – delving into an unknown side of the city where the writers live. It explores aspects of the place hidden from the traditions and clichés a reader may expect.
For the past few years Inkstone Books have printed the anthologies. This means that the group has had the same copy-editor, designer and printer for most of the anthologies. The current chair, Melanie Ho, says that because the editors change every year, it is helpful to have the same partners working with the production of the anthology year after year.
Melanie describes the publication process of the anthology as a learning experiences for editors and authors alike. It is the production of the book which floats their junk, rather than traipsing around bookstores and actively marketing its sales. Having said that, some of the writers involved produce blogs documenting the whole process and carry copies of the books wherever they go - in order to make sure they never miss a sales opportunity!
Most of the sales of the anthology are print copies in Hong Kong, although they also use print-on-demand through Amazon - as well as eBook sales. The group uses print runs conservatively – usually 200 or 300 copies at a time – although some of the anthologies are now into their second or third print runs.
The HKWC exists to provide opportunities for writers in the city to grow and develop their craft. The yearly anthology is a large part of this and offers a safe launching pad for authors to experiment in the field.
Another Hong Kong can be purchased from Amazon or at www.paddyfield.com.