Milemarker

Another Milestone

In my last postI said I was close to completing another milestone: sending the book off to a publisher. Well, I’ve only gone and done it. It was with a heady mix of anxiety (is it as close to perfect as I want it to be?) and excitement (it’s going to a publisher!), I lined up the email and pressed the ‘Send’ button. That’s not to say there weren’t a couple of hills to climb first though.

Marketing

Also in the last post, I spoke of my mind turning to marketing. Incidentally, I’m still in the market for speaking opportunities if you’re aware of any. As well as the manuscript, the publisher asked me to complete a form with basic information and initial thoughts on this very subject. This really focussed the mind. Rather than simply putting forward some vague ideas, I was obliged to start thinking about specifics. Of course, I was going to do this anyway (honest), but in my mind I’d seen this as a post-final-manuscript task, rather than concurrent. 

An example of the sort of thing this involved included listing geographies which might have a particular interest in the book. In other words, the areas I walked through. I was also asked to provide a description of the book looked at from different angles. For example, a description for what is called an AI (Advance Information) sheet, sent to book retailers, is likely to be different from that for a press release. I also had to provide a brief biography. I have a number of these, but this one needed to be within the Diagonal Walking context.

Photos

A second challenge was obvious really, but not obvious enough for me to realise it. I’m speaking here of the photos for the book. Whether or not to include photos has never really been an issue for me. I think the book does need them, although interestingly, looking at other similar books, I seem to be in a minority on this one. Maybe this is to do with cost? In my case, it’s adding about 80p to the cost of each book. This is significant, biting into an already thin profit margin, but essential in my opinion.

I have opted for a colour plate in the middle of the book of eight pages. That’s 16 sides, at an average of say three pictures a side, that’s 48 pictures to distil my collection of hundreds down into. I managed it, but it was tough. Luckily (or perhaps not, I have been thinking about it), I already had a good idea of ‘must haves’ and ‘possibles’. Still, sorting and captioning them and then presenting this took the best part of a day.

Price

On the subject of price, I also had to decide this. Naturally, it would be good to come in at the £9.99 level, which seems to be the benchmark. I could do this, but it would mean that for every book sold through Amazon I would lose getting on for a quid. Amazon take a 60% discount, and the publisher takes 15% for warehousing and supplying. There’s not a lot left for the author there after printing costs. Equally, books sold though book retailers would be at rough cost price (they ask between 35-50%). This kind of sticks in the craw. The theory is you make up for this through profits made on books sold direct, but there is a principle here.

The publishers have assured me that a cover price of £12.99 is still deemed to be commercial. I think the photos (which most other similar books don’t have remember) help justify the price, but it is higher than I’d have liked. That said, it does give me wriggle room for discounting from this website. Plus, and this is a thing few people take into account, you have to remember postage. Every (single) book I post costs me £2.85 in postage alone. That’s a huge chunk of the profit margin.

In the end, I ran some numbers and calculated, using a formula of direct, retailer and Amazon sales, that I can break even if I sell all the initial print run. If there is demand for a second run, then the profit margin goes up considerably due to lower fixed set up costs and I might actually make some dosh.

The Cover

Finally, I had to think about the cover. Again, I took photos along the walk with half an eye on the cover and had a small library of potential images I could supply. Tricky this, I find the photographer’s instinct is to take landscape photos, when of course a portrait image is preferable. You also need a lot of space clear (normally sky in my case) for the title. 

Giving a cover designer a brief is tricky as you have an idea of what you want, but you don’t want to constrain their creativity. I hope it’s a balance I’ve achieved. Let’s see what comes back and I may share it here to get suggestions.

The Next Stage

All in all, the final copy of the manuscript has been ready for a week. Okay, I have tweaked it a bit. Completing these other tasks has been something I had been putting off, but it’s done now. Packaged. Sent off. It’s not the end though, more of the beginning of the next stage. Before too long, I’ll be checking drafts, commenting on covers and so on, but hopefully there’ll be some respite over Christmas. I think I need a break …

Have a good one and keep walking – diagonally, of course!

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Ever Wondered What’s Involved In Writing A Book?

There’s nothing I like better than writing a book, or reading one for that matter. Over the last twenty years I’ve written over twenty books and enjoyed some modest success. It’s true that none of my books have troubled the Sunday Times Bestsellers, but I have occasionally hit the upper echelons of different Amazon categories. Over that time, I’ve made a modest income, dabbled in traditional publishing with different publishers, done some self-publishing and got involved in e-publishing. So, while I may be a journeyman, I hope I have something to say to anyone who’s ever wondered what’s involved in writing a book.

 

 

If It Ain’t Broke …

 

If I’ve learned one thing about the publishing world it is that it likes its traditions. Its approach to how it goes about things can be summed up as ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. The biggest hurdle any aspiring author will have to face is breaking into that fixed world. If you’re an unknown, you are very likely to stay an unknown.

 

Put simply, and it’s not an unreasonable position, why should a publisher take a chance on you? The publishing world isn’t alone in protecting its corner. However, as similar industries have found, they are vulnerable to attack from the democratising power of the internet.

 

 

Diagonal Walking: A 21stCentury approach to writing a book

 

That’s why, when considering my next writing project, I decided to take a 21stcentury approach. The project is a travel book, documenting a long distance walk following a diagonal line drawn NW to SE through the centre of England. I could have just done the walk, written the book and then pitched it to publishers. In fact, not to publishers, but to literary agents. Publishers very rarely respond to direct approaches, even if you have written twenty books.

 

Instead, I’ve decided to get the general public involved. If you’ve browsed this site you will have got it by now. I want to be a sort of authorial pied piper, gathering a virtual cloud of followers. These can be on social media, or through podcasts, blogs and videos. I want to harness the power of the internet to build a potential audience for my book. The aim is to rebalance some of the power of decision making towards the author. When the walk is finished and the book is written I want to have a say in how it reaches its market.

 

 

Follow and Learn

 

With Diagonal Walking experiment I’m going to open up the processes of planning, generating material, writing, editing, proofing and publishing. Using the various outlets I have created, I am inviting people to follow every step, and learn from my experience. I will share the ups and the downs of the process in real time. At the same time, I will ask for ideas and help. I want to make this book a communal effort.

 

 

I’m Learning Already

 

I’ve learned a lot already, and the project’s only been going three months! I’ve learned technical skills such as how to build a website and optimise its search engine attractiveness. I’ve learned how to make a video and get it on YouTube. I’ve learned how to record and publish podcasts. But I’ve learned more than that. I’ve learned patience, especially when you delegate tasks to others. After all, this is your baby not theirs, you can’t expect them to share your urgency.

 

Perhaps most significantly, I’ve learned to follow an idea. Truth time. When I started with Diagonal Walking I was only thinking about getting others to follow the walk. As time has gone on, I’ve appreciated the potential the project offers to shine some light upon what, for most, certainly for anyone thinking about writing a book, is a place of very dark secrets.

 

 

Follow Me!

 

So, follow me along the journey. Not just the physical journey but the whole journey of writing the book. I will keep on posting regular updates even when the walk is finished, sharing the pleasures and agonies of the whole writing process. Planning and executing the walk is the easy bit. The real slog starts with the rising, editing, proofing and publishing.  There’s still a long way to go, I haven’t even started the walk yet!

 

Happy writing! Diagonal or otherwise.

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