13th Dragon Books

I’m very much a hybrid writer – that means I work with bigger presses when I can, small press otherwise, and I do some self-publishing. These days it’s becoming ever more common to work this way. Sure, we’d all love a Big 5 publisher to buy everything we put out and nurture us and send us on champagne junkets all over the world. But that’s only the reality for a very few. The vast majority of writers, even if we do sell to a Big 5 publisher, may enjoy a period in the sun and then not sell to one again. Or maybe not for a while and then get another stab. This business is not a straight line rising upwards. It’s not a job where you start at the ground floor and steadily get promoted up. It’s a random, chaotic series of rises and falls and hopefully, over many years, the trend is generally upwards. But nothing is guaranteed. So a lot of us end up in this hybrid situation where we have a variety of publishers and maybe some self-publishing too.

Back in the primordial past of the mid-00s I first played around with a bit of self-publishing. At the time, ebooks and print-on-demand were new and exciting. I enjoyed it for a while. I enjoyed it so much that I set up a small press. I used it to publish a couple of my own things, and a handful of other books. It was called Blade Red Press, and I commissioned a logo for it. The logo went on the website and on the spines of our books. Here it is:

However, after playing in that sandpit for a while I realised that I didn’t want to be a publisher. I wanted to write, and operating a small press took far too much of my time and attention. So I wound the whole thing up. I went on to working with publishers and enjoying that relationship. But this industry is forever in flux. Over the last few years I’d started thinking about maybe self-publishing a few things again. Firstly, I’d had publishers fold and take books with them, so it’s clearly not safe to have too much in one place. Secondly, with self-publishing you have entire control and all the profits. Thirdly, I’ve been at this a while now and have enough of a following that perhaps self-publishing wouldn’t be so much work this time around. But I still wasn’t sure how to go about it, or what projects I might self-publish. Then the whole nonsense with THE ROO came about. A novella, written in part as a joke, all for a bit of fun, so I decided here was the thing I could use to start a bit of self-publishing again. [Edit: this was around the end of 2019/start of 2020.]

I dusted off all the old skills, called in some help, relearned a bunch of stuff and set to self-publishing THE ROO. Now for me, a book doesn’t look right without a small logo on the spine. It doesn’t look finished somehow. So I thought, Why don’t I dig out the old Blade Red logo, just for a bit of nostalgia, and put that on the spine? So I took the text off, and this is the logo I put on THE ROO. Then I decided to do a standalone version of my wuxia fantasy novella, GOLDEN FORTUNE, DRAGON JADE. So I used the same logo again. I decided this would do two things:

1. It would look right, fulfilling my need to have a logo on the spine of a book, and

2. It would clearly indicate anything I’d self-published. All my self-published work will now bear this logo.

Here’s how it looks now:

And here’s where the name bit comes in. The page of a book called the TP Verso (the reverse of the title page) is where all the disclaimer and ISBN and other information goes. This is also where the publisher is named. So for fun, with THE GULP, I added 13th Dragon Books under the ISBN on that page. That’s the “publisher”, because that’s me. I’m the 13th Dragon. Here’s why.

Within the kung fu style I practice and teach, Chan Family Choy Lee Fut, at the top there’s our grandmaster and the Jeung Mun (or Keeper of the Family Style), Master Chen Yong Fa. Master Chen has disciples, who are responsible for protecting his legacy and spreading it to all the schools around the world. First, there are the golden dragon disciples, then the fire dragon disciples, then silver dragon disciples. There are further disciple levels after that (tigers then leopards), but let’s stay focussed.

There are currently 20 dragon disciples – 3 Golden Dragons, 12 Fire Dragons, and 5 Silver Dragons. Over time, more people will likely be promoted to this level, but that’s where we stand currently (April 2023). I was the 10th fire dragon named, or the 13th dragon overall. (There were previous Golden Dragons who aren’t around any more, but at the time I was named a dragon disciple, that’s how things stood.) So that’s me, the 13th Dragon.

And it ties in nicely with that sweet dragon head logo from way back when. And 13 is a good number for horror and all that. See how it all fits together? The whole thing pleases my sense of synchronicity. That’s why my self-published stuff will bear that logo and have 13th Dragon Books listed on the TP Verso. I’m not hiding the fact that this stuff is self-published, and I will list it as such in anything that requires a publisher to be listed (like awards submissions and all that), and on the bibliography on my website. But I just think it looks right to have a logo and I like the idea of naming it. I’m a nerd, right? But you knew that.

And this is also why my Substack newsletter is called The 13th Dragon. Who knows, I may change it again, but for now, this works. (Seriously, I hate naming things!)