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.
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).
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
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 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: firstname.lastname@example.org – 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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