Monday, December 19, 2011

Haunted Hunting for the Holidays with Guest Blogger: Romulus Crowe

Win Ghosthunting for the Sensible
and meet author
Romulus Crowe today at the Book Boost!

He's here to discuss the on-going disputes between the worlds of self publishing and traditional publishing...

I investigate hauntings. I try to capture verifiable evidence of life after death. Naturally, some people scoff at this and say I am wasting my time. Well, it’s my time and I’ll use it how I wish.

The skeptics can be incredibly belligerent and vociferous and I sometimes wonder why they waste so much of their time telling me I’m wasting mine - but again, it’s their time to do with as they please.

Polarization of opinion seems to be the way of the world these days. Everyone either agrees with something absolutely or is violently opposed to it. I am amazed to see that atheism has now become as organized as Catholicism. They even have meetings! I have no religion but I don’t see any need to attack anyone who does, my beliefs are not your beliefs. That’s all part of the rich tapestry of life and if we were all the same it would be a gray world indeed.

This polarization also appears in the world of publishing. Do we try our luck with publishers and agents or do we self-publish? It sounds such a simple option but it has, like religion and atheism, its zealots on both sides. Why does each side insist on berating the other?

There was a time, not so long ago, when self-publishing was a big financial risk. A printer had to pay someone to assemble your book from a tray of metal letters, in reverse, to make print blocks for the pages. That skilled job cost the printer money, as did the metal letters. Then there was the printing, the binding, the covers...

No printer would have considered printing ten copies of a book. To make it worth their while you’d have to have a print run of hundreds and you then risked having boxes full of books you couldn’t sell piled up in your garage. A big financial outlay that might never pay for itself.

Now, all you do is load your book onto the internet and it’s an e-book that’s available within seconds and a print book that anyone can buy one copy of and get it in a few days. You can do this with no financial outlay at all. The big boxes of metal letters are now nothing more than a print file on a computer so although printing one copy still costs more than a mass-produced paperback, the price is no longer prohibitive. The best part is, you don’t have to buy any copies yourself. No boxes of stock cluttering up your house.

This is both a great thing and a big problem for the modern self-publisher. There is no screening, no checking, no editor between the writer and the internet and with no up-front costs, nothing to push a writer into getting their work checked. Some self-published books are absolutely brilliant. Some are a disaster in text and there is everything in between. Finding the carefully-checked and proofread book among a mountain of texts that look as if the letters were dumped on the page by a tornado can be exceptionally difficult.

Traditional publishing employs slush pile readers so the random-spelling manuscripts are screened out at stage one. If the publisher proceeds with the book, they will employ an editor to go through it and check its quality. The editor might ask for large changes, small changes or none at all.

There are advantages to traditional publishing and chief among these are the services of a professional editor, professional cover artist and marketing, all paid by the publisher. The main disadvantage of the traditional route is time.

It takes a long time to write a book and even longer to rewrite it. By the time you finally have it in a form you think is ready to publish, you might have spent a few years on it. Then you have to submit a query and wait three months for a response. If the response is positive, you send in the full manuscript and wait another three months. If it is accepted it can be anything up to a year from there to seeing it in print.

If it’s rejected at any stage, you’re back to square one.

It’s not a game for the impatient. That makes it understandable that some authors want the immediacy of putting their books on the electronic bookstores and seeing that e-book available within a day. The traditionally-published often sneer at such impatience, seeing it as a lazy way out.

However, self-publishing is not an easy route. Those professional editors and artists paid for by publishers are your problem if you want to be the publisher. Either pay them yourself or learn to do it yourself. Then there is marketing.

Yes, you need to do some of this yourself anyway, but if you’re self-publishing then you’re doing it all. Nobody is sending books to reviewers on your behalf. Nobody is mentioning your name at book fairs. Nobody is including your book in advertising. You have to do it all yourself.

Whichever route you take, there is a particular sort of person who succeeds. The determined, perhaps to the point of bloody-mindedness, individual. In the traditional publishing world it’s the author who shrugs off rejection and just keeps writing and submitting who eventually gets through. With self-publishing, the perfectionist and the shameless self-promoter move to the top of the pile.

These people are often the ones with strong opinions and who do not back down when challenged. Perhaps this is why, when the relative merits of the traditional and self-publishing models are discussed, tempers tend to run very high.

Yet it is possible to do both. My own preference for novels is to take the traditional route while short stories and collections are self-published. The reasoning behind this is that I can comfortably self-edit a short story but I prefer a novel to receive the attentions of a professional editor.

With Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator, I initially went the self-publishing route because that first edition was very short and because I didn’t really expect it to sell. When it did, I produced a much longer second edition, but still not really enough to interest a traditional publisher. The third edition might be.

We should not be arguing about whether traditional or self-publishing is best. We really should be doing both to the best of our abilities.

As far as I am concerned there really is only one rule. Publication should not cost the writer money. As long as I stick to that one rule I am happy.

A Note from the Book Boost: I agree with you that there are pros and cons to both avenues of publishing. I, myself, have only ventured forth into the traditional world of publishing but I've never closed the door on the possibility of self-pubbing. I salute those who do and do it well. Thanks for joining us. Please tell us more about your ghosty goodness.


In the five years since the first edition there has been no progress at all in research into ghosts and related phenomena.

In fact, it appears that ghosthunting is now more about reality TV and entertainment than about any serious research. Modern 'investigations' seem designed to show off new gadgetry rather than to obtain any form of actual data.

This second edition consists of a collection of essays by an author infuriated by the abandonment of even the most basic of research principles and by the ridiculous insistence that buying more unproven gadgetry will somehow enhance success.

You will not agree with everything in this book. It is not here to be agreed with. It is here to start you thinking like an investigator rather than a TV presenter.

Most of all, it is here to save you money.


For temperature measurement you will need a thermometer. Since you will want to examine cold spots, the laser-aimed digital thermometer is no use. The cold spot is in the air and those thermometers do not measure air temperature. Where that laser dot lands, that is what you are measuring. Not the air in between.

If the first solid object is some way off then the temperature reported by the device is the average over a circle of measurement that gets bigger the further away you are. The bigger that circle, the more inaccurate the measurement because moving the thermometer even a little will give you a different average. Their measurement range does not conveniently stop where you want it to.

Another reason to be careful of such devices is safety. The laser in the handset is perfectly capable of damaging someone’s sight so waving that thing around in the dark can be dangerous to any co-workers there with you. Make sure you know there’s nobody in the way before you use it.

These thermometers are useful for measuring surface temperatures but for cold spots in the air they are of no use at all. A better option is a digital thermometer with a probe on a cable, the sort you can buy very cheaply for use in greenhouses and aquaria. They are only accurate to around +/- 2°C but that’s good enough. Remember you are looking for a change in temperature rather than the absolute temperature and even the cheap devices will give you the difference between one point in the air and another point.

Don’t hold the probe with your fingers. Tape it to something you can hold out in one hand while watching the thermometer reading. An extendable rod, such as a car aerial, is ideal because you can extend it when you need it and put it in your pocket when you don’t. Have the probe out of your pocket for some time before using it so that it’s not warmed by your body and is closer to room temperature. Also, when fixing the probe to a metal carrier such as an aerial, insulate it from the metal with a foam pad or anything that doesn’t conduct heat too quickly.

This gives you a reading of the air around the probe. You can tell exactly where you are taking the reading. It can take a little while to stabilise so don’t wave it around like some manic orchestral conductor. Take your time. Get a reading in the cold spot and to either side and write them down. Record your results so you can analyse them later. Note where the cold spot is as accurately as you can so you can check maps for underground water courses, supplies or drains, and check back in daylight for draughts.

A vague statement of ‘it was a bit cold at one point in one of the rooms’ impresses nobody and more importantly, proves nothing.

Want More Romulus?

Follow his blog here:

Pick up a copy of his first edition here.

Or, click here to upgrade to the second edition.

Contest Time:

Leave a question or comment for Romulus and be entered to win signed copies of both the first and second editions of Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator (one winner).

**Winners for Book Boost prizes are drawn the first week of the following month and posted in the Recent Winners box in the right hand side of the blog. Check back to see if you are a winner and to claim your prize! Please leave your contact information in your blog post!**


Margay Leah Justice said...

Wow, I learned some interesting things just from this article and the excerpt - I can only imagine what's in the books!

Debby said...

Interesting post. I guess what you choose would depend on your own personal circumstances.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Romulus Crowe said...

Margay - I'm hoping to inject some scientific rigour into investigations. That does mean annoying some people, which can't be helped. Still, if I save someone the expense of 'tooling up' with gadgets that don't help, it's worthwhile.

Romulus Crowe said...

Debby - I think it's more a case of personal preference. It also depends on whether the author intends to make a living at it.