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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100% Proof?

Another milestone for Diagonal Walking this week. After three weeks of slog, sorry, I mean finessing, I’ve incorporated the changes suggested by my editor. As such, I’ve been able to pass the book onto its next stage: proofing. Again, this is something I’ve sub-contracted to the professionals, and I expect the proofed version back within a couple of weeks. I know it’s been a while since my last blog, but hopefully this one will go some way to explaining why. So, in line with one of the larger aims of this project – to share the triumphs and travails of the writing process – it’s time to bring you up to date.

 

Letting Go

Re-reading that opening paragraph makes that process sound very logical and sequential. Scratch the surface though, and it’s anything but. As any writer will tell you, the hardest part of the process is probably letting go. Incorporating the edits has been a mix of correcting obvious errors on things like sentence construction, grammar, facts and spelling. So far, so mechanical. Then there have been the moments when I’ve read a sentence or paragraph and thought … ‘You know what?’, and the process of re-crafting has begun.This is the bit that slows you down. Judging the line between making the text better and over-complicating it is a fine one. If I think there’s a change is worth attempting, it’s a case of make it, read it, read it again, and test it against the original. Is it shorter? Pithier? Clearer? If not, revert to the original.

Then there’s the issue of when do you let go? It’s never really finished, is it? My solution to this problem was to set a deadline. I lined up the proofer beforehand. Getting a slot in his schedule meant not only a smooth transition between phases of the book, but also an incentive to finish, sign off and get my life back.

 

Timing and Proofing

As you’ve probably guessed, all this isn’t a fast process. I can safely say that wasn’t a single page of the original manuscript I sent to the editor that didn’t have some kind of change (necessary or optional) on it. The next time an interviewer asks me the question they always seem to ask: ‘How long did it take you to write the book?’, I may mention this.

I’ve probably spent around ten days making these changes. This is something it’s easy to underestimate. I fully expect to go through the whole thing again when the proofs come through, although hopefully these won’t be quite so fulsome. In between times, I have also created a map of the route for the book. The dilemma here was whether to go down the hand-drawn or digital route. I tried both, but in the end went for the latter. It looked crisper and more professional, as well as easier to read!

My next job is to set myself another deadline to replicate the transition next time I have to let the manuscript go. I fully expect it will be harder next time though. The version on that occasion will be the final one – the one I send to the publisher. Blimey!

 

Publishing

My last blog spoke of how I still had one more traditional publisher interested in the book, and how she needed a ‘few weeks’ before she came back to me. To be fair, she came back in a couple of weeks. The opening sentence of her email was encouraging (I quote) ‘there is so much to admire about the project and the writing.’ But, in the end, she was still worried about sales.

I wasn’t too disappointed. Sure, part of me would have relished the affirmation of a professional publisher, but the longer the process of securing one went on, the more I became convinced it wasn’t the route for this project.

My main reason for this is timing. As I’ve mentioned before, I need this book to come out while it’s still relevant, and ideally I think this is probably around the time we exit the EU i.e. the end of March 2019. Assuming we do of course. The events of recent days have highlighted once again, the importance of staying relevant. One of the selling points of the book is going to be a view on where we were during the crazy summer before. This isn’t going to be very interesting if publication is delayed until 2020, which would have been the case if I’d gone down the traditional publisher route. Self publishing it is then.

 

Selecting a Publisher

My next job then is to select a publisher. This is what will give me the next deadline. The self publishing option gives me control, now is the time to exercise it. I’ve done it before and know where to go, so while the book is away at the proofer I’m going to get some quotes and, hopefully, make a choice. The power, the power. I feel I’ve given the traditional publishing route my best shot, but ultimately I’m back to where my initial instincts were taking me.

Self publishing has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. ‘Package’ suppliers offer not just printing but also marketing and distribution amongst other services. For example, getting a book on Amazon. Most operate a pick and mix system, so it’s a case of selecting the best deal.

Ultimately, time will tell if I get this right. But then again, there’s no 100% proof that any option is the best.

 

Wish me luck, and stay tuned for further updates. Meanwhile, don’t forget you can download my latest novel for Kindle off Amazon for only 99p – for a limited period only.

 

Meanwhile, keep walking – diagonally, of course!

 

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walking

Parallel Paths

In my last blog I talked about the Diagonal Walking project moving onto a fresh phase: getting published. This is now well underway and on schedule (for schedule there is). It’s fun but terribly time consuming. It might come as some surprise therefore, to learn that Diagonal Walking isn’t the only book I have on the go. I also have a novel ready and this has been in the background, a few steps ahead, all summer. Lessons learned from bringing that book to life have helped in the planning for this one. As such, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two processes. Also, I have a proposition for you …. but more on that later.

 

Chip, Chip, Chipping Away

It’s now nearly three weeks since my last blog. At that time, I’d finished a first draft of the book. Since then, it’s been a case of chip, chip, chipping away, refining, revising and generally tinkering with the manuscript. Part of this has been about tightening the narrative. This meant being ruthless with discarding bits of it that I like, but aren’t really quite working. Another part is about ‘voice’: getting a consistency through the text, after all it was written in stages.

 

Timing

In all, I’ve now gone through the text three times and it’s time to show it to someone else. This is an emotional moment. Up until now, the manuscript has been my ‘baby’, now I have to show it to someone else and get their reaction. I’ve been here before, as I describe below, but it’s never easy. The Brexit angle to the book also makes it difficult to state categorically that its finished. This is a moving target, with fresh developments almost daily. As such, it’s tempting to stay with the story to see how it pans out. The recent party conferences and the planned big Peoples Vote March serve to reinforce this, but my book has to be a record of the summer, not the summer, autumn and winter, otherwise it would never get finished.

 

Editing and Proofing

That someone else is an editor. Their job is to go through the text and highlight areas where it is and isn’t working, where it may be confusing or inconsistent, and to pick up on mistakes in syntax, sentence structure and spelling. As I mentioned last time around, I identified a couple of potential candidates from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. One quoted me on a straight day rate, the other offered to edit a chapter to show what he could do and to give him an idea of how much work was involved. This was good marketing, as I have now commissioned him and sent him the complete manuscript. Once I have implemented any suggested changes here, ideally by the end of the month, the book then needs to be proofed, which is the real fine toothcomb stuff, and will probably cost much the same (around £500).

 

Publishers

The saga of securing a publisher continues. There are two runners and riders left in this field. One I have worked for before and, following encouraging noises, I am still waiting to hear back from. The other I chased, and she came back saying she liked the idea and style and been, in her words, prevaricating on whether to offer a contract. In the end, she said no, mainly because she was concerned she couldn’t achieve the necessary sales. I didn’t take no for an answer however and went back to open a discussion about what a good level of sales might be. To cut a long story short, she has now agreed to look at the full manuscript, but it’ll take her a ‘few weeks’ before she can come back to me. Frustrating. There’s progress, but boy, is it slow.

 

A Parallel Project

Dark comedy

Which brings me onto my other project, the novel. You see, I’ve been here before, and know what it’s like. The novel is called The Bond, or Last Man Standing. It’s a coming of age tale for a generation, but I also describe it as a black comic murder mystery. I’ve been writing this for a while now, but set myself the target of getting it finished before I started to walk diagonally, using that time for it to go through the publishing mill.

Here, I went through the same process of using a freelance editor and proofer (the same people), although in this case, the book went through three stages: the copy edit and proof, plus a development edit. This came first and was more about plot and characters. As there isn’t really any of this in Diagonal Walking I’ve decided against one of these here.

 

An Agent Mr Bond?

The Bond or Last Man Standing was less time sensitive, so I decided to try to see if I could get a traditional publisher interested. The only viable way of doing that these days is to get an agent. These are listed in the Writers and Artists Yearbook, and I dutifully sent the book away to a selection of these, topping up with a fresh approach every time I got a rejection.

None of them seemed to be taking the bait, so in the end I decided to opt for self-publishing on this one. There was some good learning here. Firstly, I think the novel was too hard to define, it didn’t have a strong ‘sound bite’. Also, it wasn’t part of a series. This is definitely the fad now, ideally a detective with a troubled back story. Yes, I know. I suppose the agent and/or publisher wants to know you represent an income stream into the future, rather than a one-off. Also, the book was probably a bit too long, at 137,000 words (Diagonal Walking is around 97,000). That represents at least 400 pages – too many for a first timer it seems.

 

Making It Happen

Having made the decision to go it alone, there were a number of things to be done and decided. The first was how ‘large’ I wanted to go. Here, I decided to release the book as an e-book, using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform in the first instance. This also has the facility for printing one-off (or more!) copies on a print on demand basis. My plan is to use this for a handful of copies in order to test the price, quality and to produce some review copies. If the price and quality if okay, then fine, I’ll make paperbacks available on Amazon that way. If not, I’ll get them done externally, probably using these guys who offer a range of services to the self-publisher. Their prices seem fairly reasonable too – around £3.60 a copy if I print 100, or £2.91 each for a run of 250).

 

Bits and Pieces

Before then though, there’s some other things. First, a cover. I scouted the internet and ended up using these guys. I was pleased with their creativity, willingness to keep tinkering with the design (they say they offer three revisions, but I ended up doing a bit more, although they were relatively minor) and price – around £260. This included a front cover, a 3D version, social media banners and a full front, spine and back version.

The book also needed an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). This is the unique thirteen-digit number ascribed to your work. You don’t technically need one of these for an e-book (or Amazon can assign you one), but you do for a printed book. You can buy these in singles or in bulk, but I ended up buying one from these guys, for around £50.

The book also needed a ‘blurb’ – the description on its Amazon page and on the back of the book which encourages people to buy. Finally, all these come together. I used Amazon’s Kindle Create to format the book. This is a fairly easy to use system, once you get the hang of it. Taken together, this is enough to get the book live, which is what I wanted. Once the book is physically published, there are other things that have to be done, such as registering on the Nielsen database, which makes it easier for book stores to locate the book, and sending off Legal Deposit copies, but this is for the future.

 

The Offer

The Bond or Last Man Standing is now live on Amazon, and I am looking this as a sort of Beta version. I’m not actively marketing it at the moment, but what I am doing is making it available – for a limited time period – to followers for the minimum I can, a mere 99p. All I ask is you buy it (less than half the price of a latte), read it, and if you like it, review and rate it. Also, if you spot any errors, let me know through this email: nick@nickcorble.co.uk – not on the review, and I will make the changes. One of the big advantages of Amazon’s system is it’s possible to refresh the version on their system.

 

So what’s stopping you? You get a great book for 99p, and I get some momentum!

Now, back to Diagonal Walking ….

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A Million Steps Later

I’ve added a new video to YouTube detailing the last day of the walk and a few reflections from the whole experience. It’s called ‘A Million Steps Later’ and can be viewed here:

The End of the Beginning?

I’m feeling a bit guilty. It’s been a while since I posted an update on progress, but there is a good reason for that. I’ve been walking! Planning, walking, writing, marketing, reaching out to publishers. Reaching out to publishers? Didn’t I say in my last progress blog that I was minded to go down the self-publishing route? Well … yes, but I’ve been having a bit of a re-think. More of that later.  First, a bit on the wheres and wherefores …

 

How’s The Walking Going?

walking

It never rains but …

 

It’s going very well thanks. The weather has been a bit of an issue, with temperatures reaching into the thirties during the fourth stage of the walk. Still, it’s better than rain. The heatwave seemed to disappear between the fourth and fifth stages. It felt like we were back to a normal English summer. This meant, of course, I got to experience what it felt like to be a drowned rat while walking.

WGC

The Centre of Welwyn Garden City

 

The fourth leg saw me walking from Newport Pagnell, through Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire and into Epping Forest and the north-east London boroughs. Along the way, I walked along the River Lea for a fair bit – more on that here.

I also got to visit another new town and compare it with Milton Keynes. I’m talking about Welwyn Garden City, which is coming up to its centenary. As such, it probably doesn’t really qualify as a new town anymore. Anyway, more on Welwyn here.

Highams Park Lake

 

I also had the pleasure of being invited to look around a community project at Highams Park in Epping Forest. Here I met Gordon and Martin, and I recorded a podcast with the latter, which can be found here. Finally, I drifted into London, which was quite a different experience. There will be more on this, and how I nearly got mugged, in the book. In the meantime, here’s a picture of a tuk-tuk to illustrate the diversity I found there:

Yes, a tuk-tuk, parked up on a London drive.

 

Walking Through Kent

The fifth and final stage has been broken into two parts, and it’s the first of these I’ve just come back from. This stage involved crossing the Thames. As it happens, my diagonal line goes right through the Dartford Crossing. Alas, no pedestrians are allowed on the bridge, so I needed to have a think. Luckily, there’s a bus which runs from the Lakeside Shopping Complex to the north of the bridge to the Bluewater one on the south. Why anyone would want to use this route is beyond me – comparison shopping? Anyway, it suited my purposes, and for the princely sum of £3 I found deposited myself in Kent: my final county. I think I was unusual in wanting to get off in between the two shopping centres. The driver was asking me the way!

The weather on this leg was more suited to April than August – sunshine and showers. Still, I got to stay in places with wonderful names such as Bean and Snodland. I even went to Bluewater, because it was the nearest place to eat. The pub in Bean doesn’t do food on a Friday night. Why would it? Madness. I was there the day that it was announced that House of Fraser, one of the centre’s three anchor stores, was being taken over by Sports Direct. This gives me the chance to use the following picture to ask whether storm clouds are gathering over the retail trade:

Are the storms gathering over the retail business?

 

I was also joined on this leg for two days by my sister Sue. This is the first time I’ve had a diagonal walker with me for two consecutive days. We had a good catch up, and it was interesting to sees things (and places) through someone else’s eyes. My brother in law Tim was kind enough to ferry us around, as there was a dearth of places to stay when walking in the Weald of Kent, certainly on my route anyway. Anyway, you’ll have to wait for the book to find out what we saw and thought, and some of the encounters we had with people, and, in particular, with sheep. And fruit. A lot of fruit.

walking

Sister Susie holding shirt (not shoulders)

 

Publishing Rethink

 

Talking about the book, writing the last blog was cathartic, but it got me thinking. A mantra I’ve always followed in life is if you don’t ask, you don’t get. As a result, before setting off on this latest leg, I put together a pitch and synopsis and sent these to medium sized publishers who publish this sort of thing. I have avoided the big boys for the reasons stated in my earlier blog i.e. I’m not established enough. Plus, the book isn’t finished, although I have been writing it as I go.

At the same time, I’ve been looking at digital publishers for a novel, which is finished and ready to go. These are a newish kid on the block, specialising in e-publishing, with a sideline in physical books. These might offer a decent backstop position, or a comparator to the self-publishing option.

Finally, I’ve decided to approach publishers I’ve worked with before. You may wonder why I haven’t done this already, and it’s a good question. The main reason was because my other books have tended to be more of a niche interest and I didn’t think they’d be interested. But, as I say, don’t ask, don’t get. Plus, as luck would have it, I noticed a book on similar lines by one of my previous publishers on sale in a shop in a tiny village in Kent during the walk.

Karma.

 

The Numbers

Finally, an update on numbers. I’m now tantalisingly close to the four figure mark on Instagram followers. Also, I counted up the number of ‘likes’ my pictures have had for the publisher pitch. Over 16,000. Not bad.

Tantalisingly close to 1,000!

 

The Twitter numbers are creeping upwards, as are the Facebook followers, although for some reason the podcast downloads have stalled. In terms of miles and steps, I’m now on 821,000 steps and 380 miles. As such, I’m unlikely to break the million steps, in fact I definitely won’t unless I get hopelessly lost during the past two days.

SEO walking

Writing, writing

 

In terms of word count on the book, I’m now up to 70,000, aiming for somewhere in the region of 85-90,000 for the whole thing, which is a manageable number. I’ve been making a lot of notes for the conclusion, which are included in that 70,000, and indeed, a conclusion is beginning to form – but again, sorry, you’ll have to wait for that!

I might be nearly the end of the walk, but as a certain wartime leader might have said, this isn’t the beginning of the end, merely the end of the beginning. I will continue to post updates on the actual process of writing and publishing the book. As these last two blogs have shown, this can be an up and down business mentally, and I will be sharing the journey here.

So keep following, and stay diagonal!

 

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The Sense of an Ending

Welcome back to another ‘eve of walk’ themed blog, written as I wind up the planning for the fourth leg of Diagonal Walking. As with the last ‘Progress’ blog, I’m going to use this one to bring you up to speed with the walk itself and also some of the work going on behind the scenes regarding the Diagonal Walking travelogue. As has now also become the norm, I’ll also give an update on some numbers.

 

 

Where Now?

The last leg left me in Newport Pagnell, although I added a day on to the end of that stage to visit Milton Keynes. There, caught up with both the town itself, and the people living in the house I helped build there over thirty years ago. There’s more on this in this podcast which is also available on the Diagonal Walking feed on iTunes. Just so it didn’t feel left out, I also wrote a separate blog on Newport Pagnell.

From the delights on the north of Buckinghamshire, on this fourth stage I’ll be heading into Bedfordshire. For much of the way I’ll be following the line of the MI, well, at least as far as Luton. I’m staying the night in Luton and hope to have a little bit of time to explore why it has such a reputation for extremism. That’s of both the far-right and Jihadist varieties. Wish me luck. Luton also presents one of the route’s main physical obstacles. The diagonal line passes directly through the main runway of the town’s airport! Luckily, there’s a way around it, following the Upper Lea Valley Walk, but things could get a bit noisy for a while.

There’s a fair bit of urban walking on this leg, especially towards the end, when I pass through East London. Before then though I have the delights of another new town to explore (Welwyn Garden City). The diagonal also passes a house I used to live in (it’s literally within yards of the line). As such, I’ve written to the current occupiers to see if a visit is possible. I’ll keep you posted.

From there, I pass through Enfield, Chingford and Walthamstow. So, if you’ve got used to pretty pictures of fields on the Instagram and Facebook accounts, get ready for something different in the coming days. As I write, the exact end point of this leg is open to events, but put it this way, I won’t be far from the River Thames, which I have a cunning plan to cross.

 

 

Route Planning

Planning for each stage requires a fair bit of work. Not only do I have to calculate a route and prepare copies of it onto A4 sheets, but I also have to find places to stay along it. Taking lessons from earlier in the walk, I try to find places as close to the route itself as possible. I’ll even manipulate the route to make this possible. While still keeping to my three mile corridor of the diagonal of course.

As such, once I’ve sketched out a route I then have to find potential places to stay. These may be budget hotels (all I need is a clean room, a bathroom and wifi), and ideally near somewhere I can eat. Airbnbs or kindly friends and family who can put me up also feature. Naturally, when planning, I start at the beginning of the route and then work my way down. You don’t want to fix up the back end of the trip and find the front end is impossible. All this takes time and needs to be done in advance. I’ve found that the sorts of places I’m looking to stay in are often in demand from contract workers during the week, something I hadn’t anticipated.

This, in turn, means needing to commit in advance. Whilst medium term weather forecasts can help in allowing me to know what I’m in for, they tend to be as reliable as a politician. However, the heatwave we’ve been having recently seems to have provided a more reliable indicator from Mother Nature. As such, I’ve decided on this leg to commit to shorter legs. At least that way I won’t over-do it, something to take into account when on my own and have somewhere I have to get to.

Once the practicalities are sorted, the research begins. I try to find out what I can about the places I’m passing through in advance. This helps to direct me towards places of interest and to make sure I don’t miss anything. Results from the research might be tangible – a specific thing to see – or intangible, a sense of a place, or an interesting fact or statistic.

 

 

Reassessment

My previous planning had suggested that Newport Pagnell would represent the half way point of my walk. I’ve reassessed this and reckon I’m probably now nearer to 60% of the way through. Indeed, by the end of this fourth leg I’ll be getting close to the end. This seems incredible, even though there’s still a way to go yet.

There’s no getting away from it though, there’s the sense of an ending to the project, or at least the actual walking side of it. I feel a bit conflicted about this. On the one hand there’s a sense of challenge met, on the other, there will be some grieving. The whole exercise has been fantastic fun, as well as stimulating.

The walking and the people I have met along the way has gone better than I’d anticipated. That said, when I set out I had hoped for a little more connection with third parties, for example people ‘finding me’ on the internet or through my publicity efforts. While there’s been a bit of this, it would have been nice to have more. It’s possible that I should have left more time for momentum to gather, but countering this has been a need within me to keep the momentum going on the walk itself, and to get it completed within the summer. This, in turn, is driven by the demands of the book and when I want it to be ready by. More on this in a moment.

 

Diagonal Walking – The Book

A key part of the Diagonal Walking project has been the writing and publishing of a book – a travelogue. I want this to be available around the proposed Brexit date of the end of March 2019. Diagonal Walking is not about Brexit, but there is a link to it. It’s my guess that it will act as a spur to contemplation about where we as a nation, and I hope my book will contribute to this.

As anyone who’s ever had contact with the publishing world will tell you, it isn’t exactly dynamic. It can take a year from signing a contract to seeing a book in print. Before then, you have to get the contract, which these days invariably means getting the attention of an agent. Neither agents nor publishers can be engaged without a completed manuscript, unless you’re a celebrity or established author, so you can see the dilemma.

Following the ‘traditional’ publishing route would involve a journey at least twice as long as the project itself, with no guarantee of success and the near certainty of the book now being available until 2020 at the very earliest. It’s not encouraging. For this reason, going down the self-publishing route is becoming more and more attractive. I also happen to think that from a marketing point of view, the book’s premise has enough of a sense of intrigue to be attractive to the organisers of talks, journalists and other media. I am confident enough in my own abilities in this field – to ‘sell myself’ – that my current mindset is this is the way I’ll go. I will approach more traditional publishers (there are three or four obvious candidates), but more in hope than expectation.

 

The Numbers

Instagram Page

An integral part of Diagonal Walking was to get others to ‘Walk With Me’ virtually. I’ve had some success here. The most notable areas are in podcasting, where I’ve had about 500 downloads so far, and with Instagram, where I have around 800 followers at the time of writing. There’s a fair bit of coming and going here too, but I’m monitoring it and the general trajectory is upwards – I want genuinely interested followers, not people playing games. Reaching 1,000 followers here now seems very achievable, and I’d have taken this at the beginning. Twitter is interesting, with a steady flow of new followers, but these tend to be replacing my ‘temporary friends’ I gained through the competition I did with ‘Stay in a Pub’.

In terms of the walk itself, as I say on my ‘How I am Doing’ page, I reckon I’ve completed just under 250 miles and over half a million steps. I might not make a million steps, but it’s a good marketing angle! For those interested in the book, which I’ve been writing as I go, I’m now up to around 50,000 words, which is probably more than half.

There’s much more to come, so stay tuned and keep diagonal!

 

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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.

If you would like to be kept up to date with future blogs from this site, why not use the RSS feed on the main menu. For more information, click here.