E-Day for “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast”

Tomorrow the Kindle version of my history/travel book becomes available on Amazon. The Paperback is already out and some lovely people have bought it – more than I anticipated since I don’t really get into the marketing swing until 10 August when I’m back in the UK.

I thought I’d share some of the marketing ideas that I’ve put together and the responses I’ve had to them -bear in mind that this is a non-fiction book and likely to have a limited audience.

1. I’ve had A5 posters made of the cover. I spent ages agonising over the size of these – naturally I thought the bigger the better. However, the posters are going to library, museum, visitor centre and supermarket notice boards in the towns and villages down the coast that feature in the book. The decision about size was taken on the basis that there is always pressure for space and it’s far easier to remove a large poster to make more space.

2. I’ve been fortunate enough to have articles published in a number of regional magazines and I approached the editors to see whether they would review the book. As all have agreed to do so a copy is winging its way to each of them.

3. I’ve used social media to a limited extent mainly because I don’t want to put folk into a catatonic state as I rabbit on. Creative1 publishing – the company that formatted the e-book has offered to do a number of tweets about it for me and of course I use this blog, Facebook and Twitter. In addition I’ve uploaded a number of the photos from the book as well as some that didn’t make it to Pinterest – www.pinterest.com/sheila0661/close-to-the-edge and I’ll be adding to the Board over the next few weeks.

First Spurn Lighthouse later used for storing explosives.

First Spurn Lighthouse later used for storing explosives.


4. I’ve approached the local radio station to see whether they would be interested in running a short piece as well. So far, the air waves are silent.

5. I now regularly follow some of the local newspapers to pick up any snippets of news relating to the area I’ve written about. This enables me to contribute to any debate or news item on-line without overtly touting the book.

I find, like many independent publishers/authors, that marketing is just not my thing. I shrink from banging on too much about The Book and don’t find it easy to “naturally” mention it in both on-line and direct conversations. When I’m back in the UK I’m going to a couple of independent bookshops in the area to see whether they would take the book on and that fills me with some trepidation too…and I’m not normally what you might describe as a shrinking violet. I can’t quite put my finger on why this is just yet so I’ve tried to adopt the attitude – “if you don’t ask – you’ll never get”. I also keep asking myself – “What’s the worst that could happen?” and have (perversely) rather pleasurable moments thinking up the most horrifying answers. It helps to soothe the fears.

So this is where I’m at right now. Saturday 1 August is E-Day for “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast” – it’s also Yorkshire Day so it seems fitting. Breath is baited!

It had to happen didn’t it?

Back from a great week in bonnie Scotland only to find the gremlins are definitely at work. Why oh why did I have to say “Close to the Edge” would be available 1 June? For those of you waiting with bated breath…I’m sorry but there will be a delay. There are problems with the photos which, if said problems can’t be resolved, means I am not willing to publish as an e-book. Looking as it does at the moment, I wouldn’t buy the book so how could I expect others to do so?

I’m gutted really but 18 months of my life has gone into this and I don’t want to turn out a rubbishy looking product.

I’m absolutely not going to predict any more launch dates – but it could be…No! No more predictions! This indie publishing is a lot harder than I thought it would be – perhaps it would be easier if it were all text; perhaps…perhaps. Well I’m not going there either.

So please stay tuned in and bear with me in my frustration. AAAAGH!!!!!!!!

Close to the Edge? Close to Meltdown!

Long time no write! Since my last post I’ve been eagerly awaiting a verdict from the publisher about my book Close to the Edge. Finally, after getting all excited and talking turkey with the publisher, I get it kicked back with a comment that as they’re going to publish another book about East Yorkshire, they don’t want to take on a second one until sales figures are in. Did it really have to take eight weeks for them to tell me this? So after a week sticking pins in my voodoo doll, I’ve recovered my equilibrium and am on the move with the first version of the book – a Kindle version.

The Holderness Coast in days of yore

The Holderness Coast in days of yore

The book has a great selection of images both old and new (you’ll probably have to magnify this one to see it clearly) and I’ve learned that copyright is a minefield even for items that are over the prescribed time limits. I’ve spent so much time trying to track down owners, owners relatives, owners best friends and owners dog called Poochie that I’m beginning to think it isn’t worth the candle to include anything other than my own images. Still, ’tis done now as best I could.

I’ll by posting some of the images that didn’t make it into the book over on Pinterest – look for the Board called Close to the Edgeand over the next few weeks I’ll add to it. I’m also going to be making a few short clips for youtube so watch out for those as well.

So lots of final details to deal with whilst at the same time, I’m pressing on with a selection of spooky short stories – four written and three to go…oh and of course celebrating the anniversary of my first year in France (any excuse for a party). Suffice it to say I came, I saw and was conquered. It’s definitely home now.

Labour Pains II

Approaching the end of the editing process for my book Close to the Edge, have my witterings in my last blog been justified?
Emphatically not!

So far, Caroline Chadderton, my editor has combed through my typos, inconsistencies and bits of burbling with tact and zeal. No blood has been spilled; no tears shed. Instead her comments have been both insightful and helpful. What is particularly spooky is how she picked up on points where I felt some unease-such as my predilection for using modern slang and idioms at inappropriate moments. The objectivity she has brought has also increased my ability to see things from the reader’s viewpoint and hence improve my explanations of certain events and issues.

She has yet to do the final formatting and let me have her final comments but all in all this has been a powerful experience and one definitely worth considering if you are going down the self-publishing route.

The next steps are to wrap up the permissions for photos and quotes which so far has been a bit fraught as I struggle to ensure I don’t infringe anyone’s copyright. Then there are the photos to caption, acknowledgements to make and finally uploading it all to Createspace. Oh yes, then there’s a pricing policy and a marketing strategy to work out. In between, there’s a quick trip back to the UK and I’ll try to finish my next Mag. Op. – a collection of spooky short stories. That’s me stitched up for the next three months. Christmas? What’s Christmas precious?

Labour Pains

Prolonged birthday celebrations mean I’ve been somewhat tardy in attending to this blog nevertheless I’ve not been entirely lost in jollity. I’ve started on what I hope will be the last twiddle phase of my book Close to the Edge.

I finally came to a decision about professional editing and have entrusted the book to a pro. How much she will slice and dice is yet to be seen but I confess, I await her verdict with some trepidation. In coming to this decision – to edit or not to edit – I read up on others’ experiences and talked to a few trusted friends and even to a “proper” author who lives here in the village. Opinion was divided but there was one area where agreement was reached –the number of poorly presented, formatted and copy-edited e-book offerings that are out there and that’s before the quality of the writing is put to the test. Even I, a late-comer to reading ebooks , have noticed this. I would say about 10-12% of those I’ve downloaded fall into the category of poor presentation with typos, photos that move from one page to another, confusion over homonymic words and so on.

I don’t want to fall into this category and even though I’ve combed my mss umpteen times I still pick up the odd error or the desire to tweak a paragraph here and there so perhaps professional copy-editing is essential. However, I’ve gone for the Full Monty to include textual/structural editing. It’s a more subjective element and I wonder how and how well I’ll manage the feedback.
Already I’m picking over the one piece of feedback I’ve had so far – and that is only based on a read through of the first and last chapters so that the poor lady could give me an idea of cost.

“You write with fluency and authority” she observed. Like a cat on a mouse I pounced on the words. Is that good? Or does she really mean I waffle on and sound like a bossy know-it-all? I’ve turned her words inside out and upside down to understand her “true” meaning. Why can’t I take them at face value? Shades of my schooldays when Miss Grey, my teacher, returned the obligatory weekly essay, garnished with red ink, with the comment – “Sheila you have let your imagination overrule the necessity for neat hand-writing and attention to punctuation.”
Have I spent the better part of a year only to turn out a pile of goose-poo? Would I be better taking up underwater-knitting? What do I do if I receive negative feedback or suggestions for changing parts of the book? Do I change them?

The obvious answer is…it’s my book therefore it’s my choice…and yet.

I’ve paid a lump out of a limited budget to someone who is well-established in her field with a list of credits a mile long, particularly for non-fiction. How confident would I feel about ignoring her opinions? Answer – I don’t know. In most areas of my life I’m a pretty confident cookie, but with my writing – it’s the opposite. Generally I shrink from exposing the waffling of an over-taxed brain to anyone – it is a miracle akin to the wine and water trick that I’ve had anything published at all. I’m guessing it’s the same for many writers.

So over the next few weeks this blog will be less about adventures in France. Instead, I shall be sharing the pains, the labour pains if you will, of the editing process and hopefully you’ll be in on The Birth of this masterpiece around Easter next year.

Close to the Edge

Close to the Edge

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

Are we at war? Have I done a Rip van Wrinkle (I was going to write “sleeping beauty” but this is not a work of fiction)and just woken up? Actually yes I have but let’s not spoil things.

Why is my inbox loaded with weighty missiles? Some from a group called, as far as I understand it, the Trads and others from a bunch called the Indies. Whoever these people are they are trying to enlist me into their armies and me with flat feet and bottle-bottom glasses. But they’re everywhere sniping at each other across everyman’s (and woman’s) land known as the Blogosphere.

The Trads declare Indies are killing them indiscriminately and without editing aforethought. They rubbish the rubbish that Indies produce crying that it pollutes the totally excellent Trad streams of consciousness. They abominate the horrible cheap prices or worse, the freebies, that a poor ignorant civilian population gobble up because they’ve been brainwashed into thinking that cheap is good and never mind the quality.

Then we have the Indies – the rebels with a cause, crying “freedom and who needs agents and greedy publishers anyway?” They gloat over the effectiveness of their mass writing tactics and the high payoffs. They launch statistics about who bought what from whom and when and where (and probably how and why for all I know). With glee, they parade those (according to Trads) treacherous turncoats who have done a deal with the devil and joined the Indie cause.

All I ever wanted was to write and I have enough self-belief to think that if the Trads don’t want me then in the words of Ol’ Blue Eyes I’ll do it my way.

Now Trads and Indies – play nicely and kiss and make up.

Have a great weekend…and don’t forget to wear your flak jacket.
PS The title quote is from Nietzsche

If You Publish, They Will Come – Ha!

I’ve been tied up with the day job this week so have had little time to blog but did catch up with my Reader items plus read a book that I wish I’d found six months ago – more of that to come.

The posts that go into my Reader have one thing in common – their authors are working their butts off getting their books in print and promoting them. My own efforts look particularly feeble by comparison. If hard work, perseverance and sheer bloody-mindedness count for anything they all deserve spectacular success.

It’s clear that being an accomplished writer is just not enough if you follow the self-publishing route. You also need to be entrepreneurial in spirit, a great salesperson not afraid to blow your own trumpet, inventive, think-on-the-hoof type, publicist and self PR and probably much more. It’s not enough to say “all I want to do is write” unless of course you’re happy for your pearls to languish unseen in the bottom of a drawer.

I suppose I was naive when I published Time for Your Life. Actually no I wasn’t naive I was just plain stoopid. I think somehow, somewhere I had this computation that the book would almost sell itself. Perhaps I have this subconscious arrogance that tells me “cream rises”. Whatever delusions I was suffering under they were put to flight with a vengeance when I read “Self-Printed – the Sane Persons Guide to Self-Publishing” by Catherine Ryan Howard (she blogs as Catherine Caffeinated). This book is an account of how she came to self-publish her own non-fiction and what worked for her in marketing and selling. She’s very clear that the book is about the way she did it and makes no claims for it to be the only way but her sales figures speak for themselves. She also is a very funny writer.

Well what an eye-opener. I think I can claim to have made every mistake possible and the really really really irritating thing is that what she writes just makes total sense if you are going to self-publish. At least it does to me…now. Grrrrrrr!

So I’m wondering if there’s some spore or virus that is released into the atmosphere when a writer is about to self-publish that unless you are really smart completely blinds you to the work that lies ahead turns your brain into a soft gooey mush and sucks out any last remnants of practicality and common sense – just for good measure.

Or is it that I have a very active self-deception gene? Please tell me I’m not alone.

Have a good weekend – I’ll be back next week.

John Paul Jones, His Lordship and Me

Last week I went in search of a cannon ball. Not just any old cannon ball but one supposedly fired by John Paul Jones, the scurrilous Scottish pirate or, if you’re a US patriot, the brave heroic scourge of those snotty, tea-swigging English.

It is rumoured that during the War of Independence he used to sail up and down the English coast, harrying shipping and every now and again firing a cannon ball at the local gentry’s houses. One such missile is said to have landed and thereafter resided, in the garden of a country house not too far away from where I live.

Since I’m writing a feature about the adventures of JPJ, I thought I would try to establish some facts and, if possible, get a photo of the cannon ball if it really exists. So, notebook in hand, camera over shoulder and my latest vanity – a biz card that declares I’m a writer – tucked in my bag, I went in search of my quarry.

The house in question is one of hundreds of minor mansions that dot the British countryside. This particular one is inhabited by a peer of the realm,thought to be somewhat reclusive and/or eccentric. Aren’t they all?

Be that as it may, cap in hand and forelock ready for tugging I drove up the winding gravel drive to the imposing front door. There my nerve fled as the shades of his lordship’s ancestors rose up in anguish at such an intrusion. I snuck around the back, looking for (no sniggering please) the tradesman’s entrance.

Before I could track it down my ears were simultaneously assaulted by that cut-glass English accent so beloved of cliché-ridden 1950s films shown on daytime TV and the twanging of an acoustic guitar coming from an outhouse.
“I say, twang, what are you doing, twang, twang twang?

I was confronted by a scruffy figure holding a guitar, wearing torn jeans and trainers that that looked as though they’d gone a hundred rounds with Mohammed Ali. His face, like mine, was all saggy but, unlike mine, he had what those who know would describe as a “good bone structure”. I explained my mission and handed him my card which he scrutinised for a tenth of a second before stuffing it in a pocket.

Then he sneered and I must admit it was one of the best ever; the Full Monty in fact – the raised eyebrow, the look-you-up-and-down glance, the scornful eye and the precise, clipped speech.
“Now let me see, have I understood correctly? You are almost certainly one of those new Kindle writers. What do they call you now, self-publishers is it? Was a time when it was called vanity publishing and produced the most appallingly written rubbish – “Memoirs of a Country Bore”, “The Reticulation of the Cabbage White Butterfly” – all utter fatuous, unreadable rubbish. Am I right? Am I right?”

His voice rose an octave as he almost danced around me. At one time I thought that his guitar and my head were about to meet in unholy union. I backed off a little but take credit for almost standing my ground and I repeated my enquiry about the cannon ball.
“Ha! Never heard of it. You’ll have to come back at the weekend when the house and gardens are open.”

He turned to go and I could see I wasn’t going to make any progress so despite the urge to cripple him with one of my devasting ripostes, I said politely,
“Well thank you for your time, your lordship. Perhaps I will come back at the weekend then.”

Without turning he gave me a dismissive wave and then, just before he disappeared back into the outhouse I heard him mutter,
“And I’m not his bloody lordship either. I am his lordship’s bloody butler.”

Just goes to show you can’t take anything for granted these days.
Oh how we self-publishers suffer for our art.

Kindle Revisited

My exclusive 90-day deal with Kindle Prime for Time for Your Life will soon be up and I thought now might be a good time for a bit of reflection.

The original idea for Time for Your Life was to start to build up a library of articles and e-books on my business website http://www.thecoachingcorner.co.uk to support my coaching activities. I never expected to sell many copies – just as well really as it turns out.

The book garnered 3×5* reviews on UK Amazon and 1×5* on Amazon.com (Thank you Gwen Bristol) but I have sold very few copies through Kindle. On the other hand I have negotiated three-year licence agreements with a couple of companies for it to be available to the staff via the company intranets. This alone has more than covered my costs and will keep me in jelly beans for a good few months. Both those agreements came about because I sent free PDF copies to Human Resource Directors and two of them got in touch with me. The next step is for it to be available as a PDF via an on-line training and personal deveopment resource website: http://www.glasstap.com. This will expose the book to a completely different market.

I also had some picture postacards printed with the front cover of the book on one side and message/address space on the other. These I sent out to my past and present individual coaching clients. As far as I know none of those has resulted in any Kindle sales but I have sold PDFs.

So what have I learned?

1. Publishing an e-book takes very little time if you have the tech skills or the right people behind you. However marketing an e-book and getting sales takes a very great deal of time. I haven’t put nearly enough time into marketing. I had a marketing plan but seriously underestimated what time it would need – particularly finding, getting and keeping active on different book forums, blogs etc.

2. Pricing an ebook is a bit of a thorny question for me. I didn’t do enough homework on prices and so, in comparison with other books that appear to be of similar content, Time for Your Life may look pricey. £6.00 as opposed to the £1.99ers. Perception is all here. I have a view that if something is offered for sale at what seems to be a very low price then I have very low expectations of it and am more likely to pass on it. I also hold to the belief that you can always lower a price but if you start low and then try to go up in price, you pretty soon piss off a section of your customer base.Maybe I need to review these beliefs…I’m not sure.

3. I’ve mentioned this in other posts but for non-fiction it still may be better to bite the bullet and go for hardcopy publishing. I’ve been asked so many times for a hard copy or “proper” book as many have called it. I think this is an issue of disposable v for keeps.

4. I’m not totally convinced of any advantage Kindle Prime offers for this type of book other than the % rate. With hindsight I would have preferred to have offered the book from the get-go in as many ways/formats as possible.

So just something to chew on this Friday morning. I’d be more than happy to hear your thoughts/experiences – perhaps between us we should put an ebook out on the definitive way to self-publish.

Anyhoo – signing off for the weekend which is predicted to be warm and sunny – so have a good one.

Books on Botox…The Enhanced E-book?

During a period of prolonged www fossicking I came across the latest thing in e-books – enhanced e-books. Well I say latest but I don’t get out much so it could be old hat to some of you. But I’ve only just digested ebooks so what is this enhanced version?

Now just to prove I’m no Luddite here are a few snippets I’ve garnered.

Audio – if you want to quote an extract of a speech say by Winston Churchill or Abe Lincoln why write it? Why not insert an audio extract, possibly of the great man himself if you can get the permissions.If your recipe book includes instructions for simmering your soup why not have the steady “gloop gloop” noise playing in the background to illustrate the process. If your hero is caught up in a great conflict why not have a bit of background bang and crash to help make the point?

Video – travel writers you could show people, places and events using short video clips to enhance your words and make them come alive. Instead of static book covers we could have a little vid clip – Orcs slobbering, masked killer about to strike, heaving bosoms as heroines meet heros…your imagination’s the limit.

Author Interaction – not enough just to write the ebook we all need to give additional interactive material – our reasearch, where we get ideas from, where and how we write. We could even share our notes, plot lines and characterisations. Talking of characters…

Hyperlinks – internal hyperlinks inserted say for a list of characters so readers can tag along with them or find them quickly in any part of the book. External links too can take the reader to other sites, resources, people or places.

Then, one of my favourites – tables. When I wrote Time for Your Life it was replete with tables that the lovely Steve at http://www.kindlemybook.co.uk had to convert for me to make them more Kindle friendly. But no more…embedded pdfs, that’s the way to go so I now can have tables, graphs, graphics of whatever sort for my ebook.

All of which creates a multi-media, multi-sensory reading experience.
Does it mean writers will need to add other techie type skills to their profile?
Or will books become collaborative efforts with people with different skill sets sitting round a table to produce an enhanced ebook?
If we have an ebook can we still be said to be reading? Yes, but not as we know it, Jim.

I guess it’s a bit like cosmetic surgery – it all depends on how judiciously we use these enhanced features, which by the way, only Apple and B&N readers support.

Whatever will happen to curling up quietly with a good book?
The runes are there to be read or multi-media’d.