CreateSpace – Part II of my anticlockwise journey towards a paperback

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books and pages

Following on from my previous post, I have moved a little further along the road towards creating my first-ever paperback *shivers as a life-long dream seems possible*.

Firstly, I set up a CreateSpace account alongside my Amazon author’s account, then proceeded to navigate CS’s user-friendly set-up menu. I was offered a plethora of differing sizes for my physical book, and after having discussed this with other bloggers, I finally settled on the 6×9″ format.

I then downloaded the novel template (6×9″), after which ‘A Construct of Angels’ (already formatted in Word) was pasted into the template so I could make any adjustments to the layout.

Here’s where the gnashing of teeth began…

When I scrolled through the virtual book (complete with flipping pages feature…it’s looking more like a real book already), I found a problem. Not Major by any means, but nether was it minor.

For some reason, my the formatting contained within my original layout caused the whole MS to leave random (it seemed) spaces at the bottom of every page, giving it a chewed-off appearance . I had to spend three nights inside the Word document copying and pasting text from the top of the previous page into the end of the text from the one above. Sometimes there was only one blank line; other times there were five.

Weird. This was the point where I wondered if I should finally make the move to Scrivener…

Patience required, definitely. Still, I wanted it to be right, so I put in the time to set it all up properly.

Save, copy, paste and check the format on CS once again – more flicking through virtual pages with a beady eye on the spacing.

Then the next problem reared its head. I use two images within my text. CreateSpace’s automated formatting checker decided that the resolution of these images was too low to print properly. Now, this is an image of some handwriting - some very poor handwriting, as it happens…if you think ‘spider that scuttled through a puddle of ink’ then you won’t be far off. Yes, it’s ncessary to the plot.

Guys, it doesn’t NEED to be hi-res.

I DID try to change the resolution using Paint and then PhotoImpact, but to no avail. I can live with it. The question is, will CreateSpace let it pass?

The next stage is the cover.

I sent the details of the size, page colour and page count to Ravven who has tweaked the original artwork to match.  Thanks, Ravven!

Now that the final piece is in place, and CreateSpace is happy with the format (low-res image notwithstanding), I have ordered the proof copy from the US printers (the proof has to come from the US, but subsequent purchased copies are created in the UK for UK buyers) and wait for its arrival with teeth gound and breath held.

The tension mounts…

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CreateSpace – Part I of my anticlockwise journey towards a paperback

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books and pages

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but never really imagined that it would be possible for me to have my novel on a shelf alongside the likes of of Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and David Eddings (I did say I’d been writing for a long time).

But when I began to imagine that it could be possible, I began to write with a serious aim – to see my work in print.

However, I could never have imagine the circuitous, nay, labyrinthine route that my journey would entail.

I’d imagined that I would complete my book, send it off to a publisher and they would dance for joy at my having approached them. And for a while, I continued to entertain this (flimsy) dream.

But then things began to shift within the literary world. It became de rigueur to approach an agent first if any hope of publishing was to be entertained. So, with my first attempt at a novel completed in 2011, I began to make the Royal Mail postal service earn their keep by querying over one hundred UK-based literary agencies.  

To no avail.

I received a smattering of replies (less than half) from the agencies, during which time I began to take notice of the rumblings regarding self-publishing for indie authors. In July 2012, when I received John Jarrold’s extensive rejection letter, it prompted me to write my first-ever post and I plunged into the world of electronic authorship, swimming with my other published and want-to-be-published fellows. In the three months that followed, I learned a great deal fom my fellow bloggers (thank you, one and all!) and October saw me uploading y debut novel, ‘A Construct of Angels,’ to Amazon.

I couldn’t have been happier. I’d achieved a life-long ambition – to create a novel that could sell.

But now, thanks to potential buyers’ feedback, I find myself in the peculiar position of considering a paper book once again, except this time, I will be the publisher, agent, publicist and distributor. CreateSpace, the printing arm of Amazon, has opened up whole new possibilities for the independent author. Books and novels (for they are not the same animal) can be created for a modest cost and shipped directly to the buyer via Amazon or bought in bulk and delivered to retail outlets such as Waterstones.

This work-around route to getting a paperback novel published still seems a little crazy to me…but, hey, we gotta do what we gotta do.

I’ll keep you posted as to how this all works out. :)

In the meantime, Write On!

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To CreateSpace…or not to CreateSpace?

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hbrinkman bookseller

Over the past six months I have introduced ‘A Construct of Angels’ (using my bookmarks) to hundreds of people. In that time, a clear pattern of responses has emerged from my endeavours.

Pretty much everyone is initially startled by my ‘Do you read much?’ query, but they soon settle when I hand them a free bookmark and ask them if they’d care to try my book. Most stare at the bookmark, then at me and I can almost hear the penny drop as they say; ‘This is YOURS? You actually WROTE this?’

It always surprises me how people change when it dawns on them that they are standing next to someone who has (self) published a novel. Having had six months to get used to the idea, the shock and awe of finally completing a book has worn off, and I often forget how humbled I always felt in the presence of Jenna Burtenshaw, the author of Wintercraft and Blackwatch. Last year, I attended her book signing in Darlington and there she was - a published author and there I was, a newbie wannabe unpublished speck of nothing. I wasn’t fit to stand in her shadow…and so on.

It’s very strange hearing people using words like ‘honoured’ and ‘amazed’ when they talk to me – words that I try to shrug off. I’m not a movie star. I’m simply a writer who managed not to succumb to the depressing idea of never having a book see the light of day – nothing more.

Generally, the people I talk to are quite receptive to the idea of the bookmark and most will assure me that they will have a look at the free chapters available via Amazon. Of those who tell me that they don’t own eReaders, most are surprised that Amazon will offer them free software, ‘Kindle for PC’ that allows them to read Kindle books on their PC, Laptop, Netbook or Tablet. I’ve probably been responsible for a few dozen non-Kindle readers now being able to buy and read Kindle eBooks. :)

I also point them towards Smashwords, where ‘A Construct of Angels’ is listed in ePub, pdf and several other formats.

With the remainder, I have hit a stumbling block and I feel that the time has come to address that problem. Some readers, for various reasons, remain committed to paper books – something that I am currently unable to supply for sevral reasons. For one, I have been rejected by every genre-relevant agency in the UK, which is one of the reasons that I decided to self-publish. The other reason for my remaining entirely electronic is that the cost of a paper book was so far above that of an eBook, it seemed prudent to sell my work at the lower cost rather than try to push the more expensive paper version.

But I have seen so many faces registering disappointment when I admit that my book doesn’t exist in physical form, I am now reconsidering my decision to remain purely and unshakably twenty-first century electronic.

CreateSpace seems, for the moment, the best option for me. My book is already uploaded to Amazon, so having it available on the same site would appear to make sense. I’m currently using Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo and Scribd to shift copies (some with better success than others), so a fifth site would just complicate things – unless of course that new site was far better than CreateSpace.

If you’re also in the position of thinking about offering a paper book, Karen Inglis has posted a huge amount of information on the subject. As a UK-based children’s author, Karen is favour of using a combination of CreateSpace and UK print-on-demand company LightningSource to save on shipping costs and delays.

*One day later;*

A couple of my blogging friends (thanks guys) have advised me that CreateSpace may now be advanced enough to be able to use for distribution on both sides of the big pond.

Sounds like a plan…although the goalposts are constantly shifting.

Watch this space…I might be entering the twentieth century once again. :)

.

keep calm plus author inside

Writing is not for the impatient

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patience mrsmas

It’s now just over six months since I self-published my first novel, ‘A Construct of Angels’ and I have learned many a lesson in just that short time – and I know that I still have much to learn before I finally end up in a long wooden box.

The first lesson, as the title suggests, is to have patience.

L-o-t-s of p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e.

Writing is a long, slow process – even if you have just emerged, breathless, from a month-long NaNo sprint. Not only must you have patience in yourself in order to create that precious first draft, but you will have to watch and wait as your query letters flow first out, then back in as (hopefully) requests for the full MS or (more likely) rejection slips. There are many agents and publishers out there and the water must be tested with each one before moving onto the next. If you’re a nail-biter who doesn’t like to wait, then this will be a nervous time for you. Even if you choose to self-publish, then all the fun of formatting your book lies ahead.  And boy, does that take some patience!

The second lesson is to keep, keep, keep plugging away at spreading the word. Unless your sole ambition is simply to see your poem / artwork / novel listed on-line and you have no further desire to engage with it, you owe your magnum opus (or opus minus if you are less confident in its greatness) some degree of dedication towards seeing it flourish even briefly within the publishing world. As much as you’d love to imagine the scenario, there will not be a stampede of global proportions for your newly-published works. Yes, there could be an initial (and quite encouraging) surge as your friends, followers and family click ‘purchase’, but that interest is finite and unless you are very lucky, your eBook could languish in the doldrums for some time, only picking up the odd sale here and there.

Patience, my friend…spread the word as thoroughly as you are able via word of mouth and your (essential) author platform. If you tell everyone that you meet about your book, then you can rest a little easier knowing that you are doing everything possible to encourage sales. Last week, for example, I managed to generate some interest amongst the Polish community in North West England – something that seemed counter-intuitive at the time – because reading English-language books helps to improve their written English skills.

The third is to absorb every piece of advice from other authors, editors and publishers that you can. You don’t have to use it all as not everything will be relevant to your situation, but take note anyway. You never know when your self-published book might get picked up by a publisher and you suddenly need to know about contracts, or you may suddenly decide to begin giving away swag and have to find a printer or jewellery / fridge magnet maker in a hurry. There are always new skills to learn and the number of published authors is ever-increasing…as is the wealth of experience out there. Many of us have made mistakes, spent money unnecessarily or gone with the wrong publisher. Some are happy to relate their experiences and we owe it to them to pay attention and do things better. But all these lessons cannot be learned in a single day – and they do not arrive on our doormat in a brown-paper-and-string parcel. This is where our author platform becomes an essential tool, connecting us to our peers and more experienced colleagues.

Your book might be listed on Amazon / Kobo / Smashwords / Scribd (delete as appropriate) but at this stage the process is far from over. As my driving instructor told me on the day I passed my test; ‘Now you can really begin to learn how to drive.’

And so it is with publishing. Many lessons lie ahead – but so do many adventures.

keep calm plus author inside

Do you empathise with your characters?

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Do you?

I mean really get down into the mud with them and feel their pain as if it was your own?

In this age of guts, gore and death on both the big and the small screen, it’s all too easy to sit back and munch popcorn as a larger-than-life action figure takes a bullet, then fights on to the expected victory.  The heroine, meanwhile, hangs by a single finger over a fatal drop before she is rescued in the very last instant by a strong grip around her slender wrist.

Yeah, sure he groans as the bullet buries itself in his flesh.  She shrieks as her finger slips. 

But what do they really feel?  Can you, as a writer, firstly imagine the pain, the sheer terror that these characters ought to be feeling?  And can you, secondly, convince the reader that these unfortunate, suffering characters know that a life-stopping moment is but a heartbeat away?   We are all buzzing bags of emotion, not unfeeling machines.  Readers know this – and we must deliver. 

I’ve dreamed of plunging to my death in a car, then woken in a cold, shaking sweat, hardly able to convince myself that I’d survived.  In one brief moment, I’d mentally wrapped up my life, regretted things unfinished, and wondered if non-corporeal existence or oblivion awaited me.  Then; bang;  I was a crumpled statistic – but one with an answer.  One with an edge to create better death scenes; and to recognise shallow ones.  And although it was a dream, I’d been there.  I’d actually felt it.

If you’re in any doubt that you are tuned into your characters, retire to a quiet place after you’ve written your action sequence.   Become one with your character of choice.  Climb into their skin, then re-run the action.  Hang from a stone gargoyle one hundred storeys above the city.  Plunge over a waterfall, not knowing if you’re going to see the next minute.  Switch off all the lights and spin around three times to experience some of the disorientation of being inside a darkened warehouse (but please don’t injure yourself – even if you are researching pain!).

Better still, if the geography or architecture allows, visit the closest possible parallels to your scene and lean over that edge; feel the power of the wind and water.  Picture the last seconds of your life as gravity claims its prize. 

Your character would.

Imagine how you’d feel if someone close to you went over the edge instead; feel that anger, that helplessness, that utter and permanent loss.

And relax…breathe.  Then get it down on paper / screen.

I’ve dealt largely with falls so far.  Other fates are available, naturally. 

And of course, this technique doesn’t just apply to action scenes. 

Pain is not the only emotion;

Betrayal?  Your best friend has just eloped with your significant other / taken your expensive car / smuggled out your priceless show cat.  Get angry; feel betrayed.  Just don’t call that friend until you’ve simmered down and put your hurt and anger into black-and-white.

Love?  A trickier one this, one that relies on previous experience.   Think of it as the ultimate head-and-heart battle.  Except that the head belongs to an adult, and the heart is a wanton, wailing, selfish four-year-old that (almost) always gets their way.  How wrenching would that be as an internal monologue?

Fear?  There are many shades of fear, too many to list here.  Briefly, though; Fear of death (brief pain and it’s all over – but you might leave everything unfinished); Fear of loss – what is it that you could not stand to exist without?  Fear of change; your comfort zone – obliterated.

Feel them all – no, really.  Feel them all.  And then create characters that we can really relate to – and emotions that stir our own. 

What better than a novel that takes us upon a roller-coaster ride that leaves us emotionally wrought, but thoroughly satisfied?

For further reading I’d recommend Rivet your readers with Deep POV.  Please note that I am in no way affiliated with this work  – I just found it to be instructive.

So, over to you;

What techniques do you use to get beneath your character’s skin?  

Do you perform mental walk-throughs? 

Do you research on-line for the experiences of others, or even query them face-to-face?

Six Sentence Sunday…oh, heck. Too late!

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Well, many others have offered up their six sentences, so here are mine.

.

“Sara, move!”

The impact of Michael’s hand against my shoulder provided an impetus that thrilled me forwards in a blur of motion – I found myself on the far side of the crossroads in a heartbeat.

A moment later we were sprinting up Sampson Square, flashing past the darkened shops.

My limbs moved faster than I would have thought possible as behind us, a feral howl rolled up the street, blasting through the air and ripping the September leaves from the trees.

“What the hell was – ?”

“Never mind,” Michael yelled.  “Just keep running!”

.

Hopefully, this segment coveys the urgency of Sara and Michael’s desperate flight from a horde of Spawn – unfortunate individuals who have been endangered to the point of death, where their souls have been snatched away, leaving them as empty, enslaved monsters.  Michael, an angel (of sorts) is able to assist Sara by temporarily enhancing her muscles with supernatural energy.  These are not standard ‘zombies’.  They are closer to ‘I am Legend’ than ‘Dawn of the Dead’, and are capable of a surprising turn of speed.

This segment is lifted from the chapter where Sara finally realises that the dangers around her are real and that Michael really has a serious purpose on Earth.

Any thoughts or feedback would be gratefully received.

PS I will get the hang of this Sunday / Monday thing.

My first nomination!

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Well, this is a brand new and fairly uncertain experience for me.

It came as a complete surprise when C.A Hustead nominated me for the ‘One Lovely Blog Award.’

For the past year or so, the only visitor to this blog has been …me.

Then Aayla Avalon came to visit and boosted my stats by 50%.  Since then, it’s been largely quiet…until about three months ago (I’m guessing here – I will verify that later), I began to get visitors!  Around that time, I made the (rather obvious now) connection that by commenting on other writer’s blogs, those writers might be curious enough to visit my blog. Now I’m following and regularly reading several blogs, as well as discovering new ones each week.

Sadly, my time on-line is limited (work, home life, travelling time) and I can’t be as prolific or entertaining as other bloggers.  My blog was mainly a journal, documenting my experience as a first-time novellist, never designed to impart deep, meaningful thoughts or throw out weekly challenges.

However, now that I have followers for the first time (thanks to everyone who has chosen to follow my humble ramblings!) I will endeavour to raise the entertainment level from the lowly levels of Notch One.

Now, following in the style of Mr Hustead, and Ms. Nine  before him, I believe the format is to nominate seven other bloggers;

The Rules:

1. thank the blogger who nominated you with a link to the site.
2. write seven things about yourself that other bloggers don’t know
3. nominate fifteen other deserving blogs.

The Big Thank You:

Thank you, Mr Hustead, for the kind nomination.  I will attempt to keep up the ‘good work,’ and create meaningful, useful and perhaps even the occasional entertaining posts.

Seven things about myself?

  1. I am spiritual but definitely not religious.
  2. I watch (and enjoy) romantic movies.
  3. I have been within ten feet of Tony Blair, Princess Anne and Jean-Michel Jarre (not all on the same day).
  4. I am afraid of heights and cannot stand roller coasters.
  5. I am a night owl as opposed to a lark.
  6. When I grow up I want to be a bush pilot (4. notwithstanding)
  7. I cried when Freddie Mercury died.

Nominations towards other blogs;

Aayla Avalon for her endearing depiction of a writer struggling to metamoprhise into an author and for her encouraging words to fellow proto-authors.

Kimberly’s writings is informative and always fun to read.

Candace Knoebel for her thoroughly engrossing posts.

Ryan Casey who has done more than anyone to convince me that self-publishing may offer an alternative way to get my novel ‘out there’.

A Journey to Atlantis for always providing a riveting read!

Lillie McFerrin for getting us all to write (or intend to write in my case) Five Sentence Fiction.

Michelle Proulx for not only providing insightful blogging, but for her encouragement of others too.

And finally…

M.D.Kenning, who has provided several thoughtful articles which has led me to re-examine my own prose in a new way.

I know that’s not fifteen, but I have only recently launched my blog into the…um… blogosphere.  I have chosen to follow those blogs that interest me the most and will add new ones as I stumble upon them.  I continue to watch out for recommendations posted upon others blogs.

Again, thanks for the nomination and all the encouragement I have received from my followers.

Andrew Toynbee

The best rejection letter ever?

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Today (24th July 2012) I received a rejection letter from John Jarrold.  Naturally, I was disappointed, but it was such an in-depth letter, I didn’t mind as much as I ought to have.

I’ve attached the letter below for you to read.

Has anyone else received anything similar?  Or is the one-line reject letter the norm?

Dear Andrew

I have now read your material – I do apologise for the delay.  I can see the imagination and intelligence at work here, but I can’t honestly say I loved it.  After fifteen years in publishing before setting up the agency, I’m all too aware how difficult it is to get a publisher interested in a new writer, so I feel that I do have to love my clients’ work – personally and professionally – to do the best possible job.  If I don’t feel that strongly, I’m the wrong agent.  Publishing is a notoriously subjective business, and every new author needs both an agent and an editor who do love their work.  It’s hellishly difficult getting the bookselling chains to take a new novelist seriously, so that initial enthusiasm is vital. If an author’s prose doesn’t set me on fire, first and foremost, I say no, as do editors in this situation.

Most UK editors see around thirty books every week and only take on one or two debut novels over an entire year.

The entry level for a new novelist now is ‘special’, not ‘good’.  This is partially because sales and marketing directors have so much more power than they did a dozen years ago.  If they don’t believe they will be able to sell a first novel into W H Smiths and the rest of the bookselling trade in numbers, they’ll block the editor from acquiring it in many companies.  A senior editor told me a few weeks ago that even if he loved an author’s writing, he wouldn’t make an offer until the book that was submitted to him was 100% right for the market – he has just acquired an author whose previous four novels he (and everyone else in London) had turned down despite liking them a great deal. Thus, I have to believe the writers I take on are truly wonderful, or it’s pointless submitting them.  I just wasn’t entirely drawn in by your story and characters – I wasn’t thinking WOW, which is what I look for.  Another agent may feel differently, of course. So often, it’s about unquantifiable gut reaction and the pricking of your thumbs.

FYI, I’ve taken on about forty writers as clients and turned down well over 9,000, so far…I know it can be as difficult to get an agent as it is to be taken on by a publisher.  You just have to keep plugging away.

All best wishes for the future – and apologies again for not coming back more quickly.

Yours

John Jarrold
Website:  http://www.johnjarrold.co.uk/

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