Indie or…?

The editing is finished; the photos all ready and the whole book “Close to the Edge” is ready for uploading to CreateSpace…or is it?

I was extremely uncertain about using an editor but I am willing to admit there was no need for concern. The whole experience has been helpful and positive. Caroline High (my editor) has worked through the mss and combed out all the nits – the odd or inconsistent spellings, the bits that didn’t flow well or where I’d left the reader a bit at a loss because I’d forgotten to tell them something earlier in the book. No matter how thorough and careful you think you have been I would recommend that at least a “copy-edit” is a worthwhile investment.

Now comes the snag albeit an interesting one. Not only did Caroline do a sterling job as editor she also approached a publisher on my behalf. Now I’m in no-man’s land; sample chapters and an outline are now with the local history commissioning editor. Today, she has written and said she Likes It and is putting the mss in front of the sales team and has asked a few questions about the potential market. There’s a long way to go and nothing is at all certain but do I “stick” (with indie publishing) or, if I get the opportunity, do I “twist” (with traditional publishing)? I have to say it’s one of the best dilemmas I’ve ever found myself ruminating about and, if you haven’t guessed already, I know which way I’ll go.

So, a waiting game for a week or two. Indie or Trad? It’s a cliff-hanger!

Aldeborough Road End 3.jpg

The Desperate DoZen

Only twelve desperate days to go before the BIG MOVE. I wish I could say I was in a state of grace and serenity as I glide from my English life to my new French one.  Did I say glide – I mean stagger, lurch and stumble.  The awesome bureaucratic machine that is French administration with its insatiable appetite for papers (preferably bearing the expensive insignia of a notaire or English solicitor) and requests for documents that are currently unobtainable, has already given me a couple of hors d’oeuvres to swallow. I need to open a bank account? I need a utility bill to do this. I can’t have a utility bill until I’m sent one. When will that be? Oh a couple of months and then I must pay by cheque. But I haven’t a bank account. Open one. Need a utility bill. Soooooper.

Still it’ll give me the opportunity to practise for my Zen mastership.

Actually so much is happening at once that I do need that inner calm. My local history book “Close to the Edge” is completed, edited and just awaiting a few permissions for some of the older photos. One of the publishers I approached is making all the right noises but is still havering so I’m looking again at self-publishing, Print on Demand and all that jazz. If anyone who reads this has any experience of using Lightning Source I’d be really pleased to hear from them. The idea of marketing a book from 1000 miles away seems a little daunting but since I’ve got to come back to the UK for day job work every now and again, I’m sure it’s possible.

In the meantime I’m moving on to my next keep-me-in-Blanquette (fizzy wine, local to my new home to those that don’t know) book. I enjoy writing these short quirky history books. My original idea was to develop them alongside fiction that I want to write to help pay the bills. It’s a bit of a cop out in some ways because the non-fiction is easier to write and sell, although not in huge quantities. But I do think that maybe I’m avoiding something here. My track record in fiction writing is limited to a few short stories and a radio play.  Lurking in a drawer I have four half-finished novels where I’ve run out of steam or gotten a bit bored with them. Basically I think I’m a coward and won’t face up to the possibility that I’m a crap fiction writer. My head teems with ideas and I’m pretty good at visualising scenes and situations; dialogue runs well for me too. I often walk on the beach, in character as it were, creating pretty good dialogue (to the amusement of many a dog walker) but the minute I try to write it all down, pouf! The gremlins that live in the dust balls under the bed steal it all away whilst I’m asleep.

So do I take the easy road and conjure up a few more eclectic histories or do I bite the bullet and finish off one of the four unfinished opusses (yes, pedants, I know it’s not the plural of opus)? Perhaps the change of scene will do the trick. There again, perhaps the warm spring airs, the lure of the mountains and the scent of the garrigue will do for me entirely.

1812D

A little peep at the new des.res.

The Editing Bell Tolls

As of midnight yesterday the first round of editing is complete. I’ve de-blooped the bloopers; ruthlessly rooted out repetition and purged purple passages. Those sentences and phrases that, at the time, sounded good came across as pretty naff when I considered what purpose they served or in what way they moved the narrative on. It was painful at times with my fanciful self at war with the ever practical and objective one.

What am I left with? At best probably half a book. That’s not a problem since I garnered enough research material to decorate two tomes at least, although things on the domestic front being what they are, it may be a few weeks before I can actually sort and integrate it.

Although this is the second book I’m preparing for publishing, for the first time I can really see the value a professional editor brings to the process. First time around it was all a rush of excitement and enthusiasm and a belief in my own editing skills. The result was OK but it’s definitely time for a second updated issue. This time, partly because I have a whiff of interest from a publisher, I’m nervous. I’ve come to realise how easy it is to miss the most obvious gaffes. You just don’t see them. You know what you’re saying and what you mean so that’s what you see and read be it ever so obscure to anyone else. Methinks a professional edit will be money well spent.

From the outset, I intended to have a modicum of humour in the way I presented the history of this shifting coastline – indeed the title strap line is “an incomplete and often irreverent history of the Holderness coast.”  Those of you who follow my blog (and by follow I mean actually read) will have met snippets from the book and will, I hope, understand  when I say that as you read the tales of the Naughty Nuns or Fat Willy you are definitely hearing my voice and my interpretation of history. I’ve never felt that history should be dull or boring but have I over-egged it? Other books the publishers have produced are quite po-faced, serious and on occasions rather scholarly…not words that apply to my offering.

I’ve struggled too to find a consistency of style. Once, way back, I wrote a newspaper column based on my antics as a self-sufficiency disciple.  In time, I pulled these articles together into a book and did the rounds of publishers with no success. However, one publisher gave me some feedback to the effect that he “suspected the book was based on a series of articles and felt stitched together as a result”.  In his opinion turning articles into books never quite worked. After I finished this editing round I do think it reads inconsistently…a little “stitched together”…almost, dare I say it, like a series of blogs rather than an integrated piece of work.

One bright light is that I’ve resolved the issue I had with structure that I mentioned in an earlier blog. I’ve ditched the chronological approach and moved into a more topic based one. Despite what I’ve written above, that does appear to help the flow and fluency of the book.

So back to the drawing board or rather the writing table and yet there’s one thing I am pleased about – I didn’t think the book so dreadful that I consigned it to the rubbish bin. Maybe that’s where it’ll end up but in the meantime, I’m on that so-called steep learning curve and there’s work to be done.

Seductive Synopses

Something from the motivational conference I attended earlier this week must have snuck into one of the spare rooms in my brain because I have shifted some work this week. For the first time ever I chose to put writing above the day job so I got a real feel for what life might be like if I ever give up the day job.

In line with my policy of trying to get a couple of articles accepted every month I have a queue of pieces all waiting in their allotted folders to be fully developed. The basic idea is there together with notes and research material. To get them all placed I sent out a half-dozen pitches and whilst I was at the conference two came back as acceptances…well one had a laconic “let me have a look” but ever the optimist I take that as a yes. Writing those two articles kept me full at it until the witching hour on Tuesday.

But the big thing this week was a nibble from a publisher and very pleasant it was too. In a rush of enthusiasm, on spec I had submitted a 150 word general summary of the book The Uncertain Coast via the publishers’ website. Just in case you’ve forgotten the Uncertain Coast is an illustrated light-touch history of the towns and villages lost to the sea on the unstable Holderness coast and of some of the people who lived in them. On Wednesday the publishers came back and asked for a full synopsis.

Yikes – this presents something of a problem. They want details of word count, how many photos/piccys, chapters and chapter summaries, markets and market sizes, hat and shoe sizes – no I made those up just to check you’re still awake. The problem is I simply don’t know. I’m about a third of the way through the research and have just the first chapter written plus two others.

I’m not great at planning out a structure, chapters and content before I’ve completed the research. When I judge I’ve got all the material I can access together, then I start to fit the pieces and the book evolves. So collecting up some emergency rations – fruit, energy bars and sport water – what? Who wrote that? My emergency rations come in the form of choccy, cashew nuts and a fruity red wine. I went into conclave with my co-author i/c photography and we knocked something into shape. I was elected to turn that something into a persuasive, seductive come-and-buy-me to the publishers.

I’m currently on version 5, weary, wordless (well almost) and most telling of all, I’ve realised that seduction is not my forte.

Y’all have a good weekend now.

“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

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Why is it that when I’m away during the week doing the day job, when I get to the weekend there’s a more than usual number of “must-do” jobs around the house and garden? These “must-dos” are not tasks that I’ve let slip (well not many really) but are things that have cropped up during the days I am away such as a delivery that I’ve planned. I explained to the courier when and where to bring it only to find that he washed up three days too early and seemed to have left my precious parcel with everyone and his dog in the village. By the time I finally tracked it down it was, shall we say, well handled!

And another thing…have you noticed that the whinge factor of my posts is on the rise? No? Well it’s just not fair. Pay attention please. I’ve been blogging since January this year and over the weekend I took a trip down blogging lane to revisit some of them. Over the weeks I noticed how they’re beginning to sound whiney. Too hard, too difficult, too much work, not fair, no-one will buy my wares blah blah blah. It’s a dangerous thing this increasing whinge factor – for one thing it exacerbates my rheumatism – have whinge will twinge sort of thing – but more seriously whinging raises the victim spectre. Poor me; all I ever wanted to do was write but “they” won’t let me. They insist I pay my mortgage; they insist I write something worth publishing; they say that unless…Oh get over yourself woman.

So there’s going to be a few changes around here. This blog is going to be less about writing, the writing process, Kindle and all the other writing/publishing nibbly-pibblies (bring back “Blackadder” please). Instead it will be more as I originally intended – notes from the coast and will probably not even mention the W word, the K word et al.

If this is not to your liking and you follow this blog (what wonderful refined taste you have) I’ll quite understand if my future musings are not your thing and you decide to “unfollow”. However it’s only fair to warn you that I am the neighbourhood witch and I know where you live.

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.

What Can You Do with a Belgian Chocolate Mousse (BCM)?

Ha! Gotcha! You only looked at this post because of the title didn’t you? (Note to self it does go to show how a title can draw in the readers). Well, although BCM has a role in this vignette, I confess I’ve deceived you, it’s only a rub-on sorry I mean walk-on part.

Over the weekend I treated myself. It was what I call an anticipatory treat – I was anticipating the arrival of a cheque which would help to make the month go a bit further. So I wandered into WHSmith (a newspaper, book and stationery chain)for a browse. Browsing is my second favourite occupation; my first is lying on the sofa thinking beautiful thoughts whilst eating WeightWatchers Belgian Chocolate Mousse in an effort (as some of you may remember from earlier posts) to rediscover the lost territory of my waistline.

In WHSmith I headed for the magazine sections – something for everyone here from topshelf tit fetishers to solve-while-you-shit sudoku puzzlers. However, I was looking for something specific and found it – a regional countryside mag. I scanned through it and there it was – my article, my photos and my name. Ah Heaven! I get such a buzz from seeing something I’ve written actually make it to print. It’s even better than taking a WW Belgian Chocolate Mousse and smothering…well, let’s move on.

I’m basking in this admittedly minor glory when Inner Crit pipes up;
“that sentence is a bit clumsy;should’ve put a full stop there not a semi-colon”
But for once I have the upper hand. It was good enough for the editor (lovely, lovely man that he is) so up yours inner crit – go back to sleep.

I’m not normally so brash as to bang on about a 1000-word article and a couple of photos (I’m quite shy and retiring really…honest) but this is a milestone for me. Apart from the book (which somehow feels like a different thing altogether because I published it) this is the first bit of my work to make it to the world stage – well UK stage – all right then Yorkshire stage…as part of my second-time-around writing career. It’s the first piece that a third party has looked at and given the green light to. (I know, I know, prepositions-end of sentence and all that jazz)

There’s more in the pipeline so I hope I get free copies of the mags otherwise I’ll be spending a fortune on buying them.
Can you imagine what I’d be like if something I wrote truly went global?
Unbearable – who said that?

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.

Nostalgia Smells Musty

I’m about to hit the finishing stages of Phase II house renovations. The builders have left, snagging completed and I am now the proud owner of acres of newly plastered walls, ceilings and panelling. All of which has to be decorated by my own fair hand.

In preparation I started to clear and tidy the boxroom where I will store all the decorating materials. This is quite literally a box room – packed full of…yep, you’ve got it…boxes. Stuff that when I moved 18 months ago I’ve never unpacked. It’s a slow process because being a go-with-the-flow type of gal (i.e. lazy besom), I never actually labelled the boxes. So, it was inevitable that I got delayed in my clearing task by poking around in the contents of each box.

I came across a rather tatty box file and inside were yellowing pages of typescript. Each set of pages was neatly pinned together with one of those gold-coloured paper fasteners. The paper curled up at the corners and had a musty-mousy odour; the typescript was faint and peppered with handwritten corrections. Clearly I was a hunt-and-peck typist in those days for these were my first literary outpourings from 30-odd years ago when I decided I would write for a living.

Ah yes, I remember it well – the summer of 1976; drought and a heatwave in the UK, of a type never seen since. I was taking a year off work to establish myself as a writer thanks to the indulgence (and not a little condescension)from my now ex-husband. Every morning I sat at the kitchen table banging out stories and articles on my little blue Olivetti.

Rejection after rejection followed yet never daunted me – the optimism of youth! I got hold of an old copy of the Writers and Artists Year book and I’m sure I must have approached every literary agent in the listings, sending them shovel-loads of my work. Of course it was all returned with stiff little notes – now stashed at the bottom of the box. I picked up one from an agent who was obviously frustrated and irritated with me, for her note, scrawled on a compliments slip read “where do you expect me to sell this material? There is no market for it.”

Last night I read some of the stuff I’d written. Most of it was horrible; short stories trying but failing ingloriously to be some sort of hybrid Somerset Maugham and Guy de Maupassant – both of whom I still rate as short story writers. Quite clearly I hadn’t found my own “voice” and from the tenor of many of the rejection notes the literary world hoped I never would.

Nevertheless I have a fondness for the person who wrote this stuff – the person I was then. I wouldn’t choose to go back in time and become her all over again. My wrinkles have been hard earned and I don’t care for repeats. Do I wish I knew then what I know now? Nope – the joy of life is in playing the game as it is served – aces, mis-hits, net cords and all.

So what to do with this file of youthful indiscretions? Keep it? Stash it away again? Put it out for recycling?

Haven’t decided yet, but I’m having a bonfire at the weekend. Perhaps it’ll be the Bonfire of the Vanities?