CreateSpace – Part V of my anticlockwise journey towards a paperback

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CoA post its

Well, my second proof copy has arrived from the USA and despite my best hopes, I’m still finding errors in the text. :(

I asked my significant other if she’d read through it for me… a fresh pair of eyes, and all that.  However, after five weeks of gathering dust (the book, not me!), I realised I’d have to undertake the task myself. *sigh*

After hundreds of read-throughs, I’m having real trouble concentrating on the text and find myself drifting along with the narrative instead.

Why, I keep wondering, do these text errors continue to plague my MS? I like to think I’m meticulous with my grammer and, speeling. I can only imagine the errors are typos I’ve somehow missed.

True, my typing isn’t perfect. As It gets faster, mistakes begin to appear, so I temper my speed to keep the typos down. However, impatience can sometimes bite and my fingers will get carried away, often typing faster than my brain (that only takes eight words a minute, usually!).

So this week finds me ploughing (yes, that’s how it feels after 500+ reads) through the paperback, hoping to upload and receive a corrected version before the end of July.

I have to – a couple of Floridian friends are keen to see a paperback copy in early August.

Anyway, back to reading…

In the meantime:

acern270ginger write on

Published for a year…

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CoA post its

On October 17th, 2012, I clicked a button marked ‘Upload’ and sat back, nervously awaiting the delivery of a stream of electronic information to Amazon KDP. Twelve hours later, ‘A Construct of Angels’ was live and I realised that I had finally achieved my dream – to complete a novel and put it up for sale.

Thirty-seven years ago, I could never have dreamed that in this future age of flying cars, silver jumpsuits and daily trips to the Moon, my book would exist only as data and that it would be held in storage in a distant country. Readers would only have to tap it with their finger if they wanted to select, pay for and read it.

Cool.

I am still working to make the paperback version a reality, but with the recent bout of editing that I have subjected the poor thing to, that particular realisation has been delayed yet again. Configuring an electronic (Word-based) template with paragraphs, page breaks, chapters and the odd image isn’t as straightforward as it ought to be. *frowns* It’s now back with my new editor, Tara, after receiving some swathing cuts, including the complete removal of two characters.

In some ways, I hardly seem to have moved on at all. I am still editing and I really need to put A Construct of Angels to bed and pick up the sequel. But it will haunt me if my first book isn’t the best it can possibly be. Only when that’s sorted, can I let it go…

However, as I mentioned in a previous post, One Year On,  a great deal has changed for me in the last twelve months (plus I now have 300 followers – who’d have thought?) and I still can’t quite believe how much has been crammed into such a short space of time. I can only wonder what the next twelve months will bring, although I can’t imagine them being as crazy as the last twelve. The learning curve, I feel, is no longer as steep as it has been and for that, I am grateful. :)

Regular readers will know that my job sends me all around the UK. Well, by sheer chance, this week happens to have landed me back at the exact same desk from where I uploaded my book, one year ago. I am experiencing an eerie sense of deja vu – again.

It’s another reminder of what’s changed. If I could borrow Sandra Bullock’s time-travelling postbox (The Lake House), I would send my past self a message that says ‘hang on to your hat.’

Not that I wear a hat. I’m not Terry Pratchett. :)

Anyway, until Tara has finished looking over my new edits, I’m hoping to press on with the sequel,  ‘A Vengeance of Angels.’ I’d really liked to have completed it, one year on, but life has a peculiar way of rearranging even the best-laid plans of mice and authors.

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The genre system – is it good enough any more?

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digitalart, freedigitalphotos dot net

I’ve been browsing through the ‘Blogs I follow’, trying to keep up with all the discussions, concerns and new releases and I’ve been seeing a lot of posts where authors are grumbling (quite rightly IMHO) about the trouble they’re having with squeezing their novel into a genre category.

And it’s not surprising. For instance, on Wikipedia, there are currently 80 genres and sub-genres listed under fiction alone. Yikes! My own novel,  ‘A Construct of Angels’ would currently fit into the horror, romance, Urban fantasy, religious fantasy, thriller or mystery categories.

There are How-to-Write books on the market that happlily suggest that writers should choose a genre and write within its boundaries if they want to sell. But why should we have to work within such restrictions? We’re not aiming towards library shelves. Some of us aren’t even looking towards bookshops any more. The electronic age has changed all that.

In these days of indie eBook publishing, with sub-genres and even sub-sub-genres sprouting up, the whole idea of ‘genre’ feels overloaded and outdated. Of course, to declare that, an alternative is needed and here’s my (fledgling) idea;

Wouldn’t it benefit both readers and retailers if some sort of ‘tick box’ or a graphic system was introduced where the elements of the book can be highlighted (or illustrated) by a sliding colour scale such as we have with rated domestic applicances (in Europe at least)?

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energy rating

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I experimented with a few variations on this theme and didn’t find them to be flexible enough as I was still having to insert genre labels. It was colourful, but no better in terms of classification. Perhaps you could see a way to make it work.

So I tried a pie chart instead. This is a simple chart, created using ten subjects that are most relevant to my debut novel  ‘A Construct of Angels’;

CoA pie chart

Note that I said the ten most relevant subjects – there are others that I could justify adding in there, but ten is plenty. Perhaps ten is too many and five would suffice. Who knows? This is all hypothetical and open for discussion.

BTW, for you with your magnifying glasses against the screen, there’s only 0.5% sex in the story. :D

In an ideal world, the catergories would be listed from most relevant to least relevant, top to bottom, thus;

CoA pie chart sort

This arrangement should make it easier for the potential buyer to interpret. They would be free to scan the top two or three subjects and decide if the story is for them or not. They might still be swayed if their favourite genre was listed as number four or five – something which wouldn’t happen if the book had been listed under ‘Thriller’ when they prefer to read about religion- or horror-based stories.

I don’t think it would be too difficult for an algorithmist like Amazon to feed the percentages into their version of Deep Thought deep in the heart of Amazonia and begin to categorise the books in this way.

As I said, this is all hypothetical.

Do you think the time has come for the library shelf-based genre categories to be given a shake-up? Perhaps you have a fledgling idea that leaves my suggestion eating dust.

If so, please share! I would be happy to eat humble pie chart. :)

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keep calm plus author inside

One year on from my first post – and look what’s changed!

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100th post

A few days ago, WordPress sent me a reminder that I’d just published my 100th post – and I was taken aback.

I suddenly realised that it has been almost exactly one year since I first created my first ever post; The best rejection letter ever?

And what a lot has happened in those twelve months – just look at the stats;

Last July                                      This July

1 post                                            100+ posts

2 WP followers                             235+ WP followers (update?)

20 Facebook followers                 900+ Facebook followers

no Twitter account                        475+ Twitter followers

No eBook published                      eBook self-published

No paperback                                 Paperback very close to completion

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This is all part of spreading the word, of building an author platform – and it’s looking quite good, IMHO.

Along the way, I have met some very talented people. Some of them are constantly beating a path for the rest of us to follow, whilst others are still following their aspirations to publish. Many are very, very close to that first eBook or printed book.

Then there are the non-writer bloggers who post recipes, amazing photographs or offer philosophical insights that leave me thinking ‘wow…’

I have learned a great deal since last July. Back then I had just exhausted my 102-strong list of UK-based Literary Agencies and whilst I’d received some encouragement along the way (notably The best rejection letter ever?), I was no closer to being published.

At that time I was on a knife-edge, wondering if I ought to begin querying US-based agencies – but electronically. I could never have afforded the postage costs. I was already several hundreds of pounds down (I still am) and further investment would have crippled me financially.

And then I began hearing, via Facebook and WordPress, about self-publishing. I was (at first) curious – and then intrigued. I wanted to know more.

The seed was sown. As the rejection letters continued to trickle in, I decided to learn all I could about creating and publishing an eBook, just in case none of the agencies picked up my book. They didn’t – so I launched myself into the world of ePublishing. The rest, as they say, is history. Very recent history – and something I could not have done without help from fellow bloggers.

Capture

Sharing – it’s the best part of blogging! It makes the lonely business of writing feel a lot less…well, lonely. We all get to read about other people’s experiences on a daily basis, both the good and the bad. Most notable is Ryan Casey’s runaway success with his short stories and novels and Michelle Proulx’s difficult journey with the publisher iUniverse. Both authors have flourished, but their experiences contrast greatly. But even bad experiences can teach us all something. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

What’s most encouraging is the great feedback that I’ve received. Every comment makes me want to post again…and again. I love seeing that little orange star at the top of my dashboard. It’s encouraging to know that someone had read and ‘liked’ my words. But even more heart-warming is that little orange speech bubble. Whatever I was about to do, whatever words I had in mind…they get sidelined as I click on the bubble to see the message that has been left.

A blogger once remarked that comments are addictive. They were right. I love them! They have delivered support and encouragement in so many different ways. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to leave me feedback.

I wonder if my second year of blogging will be as fascinating and thrilling a ride as the first?

See you all in July 2014!

Keep blogging (especially Shay Starcaller)!

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Post Script;

What I hadn’t expected – and this came right out of the blue as I was preparing to post, was this;

Capture

I really had NO IDEA that I’d been with WordPress for so long.  It’s true that I’ve chronicled my writing endeavours as far back as 1999 (see The Homeworld Saga), but that was all retro-written just to document where my modern writing began to coalesce properly.

But four years?

Wow…

Time does fly when you’re having fun doing what you love the most!

CreateSpace – Part IV of my anticlockwise journey towards a paperback

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CoA post its

Isn’t this is the BEST justification EVER for ordering a Proof copy of your Print on Demand novel?

I used nearly three packs of Post-it strips marking out typos (not too many), weird spacing issues (loads) and missing or shifted text (scores – mostly at the bottoms of pages where text had been moved to fill the silly gaps).

I also took the opportunity to have one last crack at polishing the prose as I went. Who says a writer is never done editing?

Anyway, Big Lesson learned here; Never assume that because it looks fine on the screen, it’ll be fine in print. WRONG!

And don’t order TWO copies in the naive hope that the print will be fiiiine *casually dismisses problem with a wave of his hand* and you would be able to send one of them to…for instance…your mother.

So glad I didn’t…

Unless you are planning to use an editing buddy, someone who will be reading the second copy, don’t waste your money. Order ONE, fix it, THEN order another proof – just to be certain.

Sure, it all takes time…an interminable period during which you are champing away, desperate for the process to be completed. But as I’ve posted before, patience is most definitely required in this self-editing game.

So, now that I have completed my read-through, I only need to update my electronic version and re-submit the document to CreateSpace…and order another proof copy, which must come all the way from the US… by snail mail..and then read through THAT…and identify any remaining errors.

*drums fingers in agitation*

How long is the average human lifespan?

Muse; Patience, Mister Toynbee, patience.

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CreateSpace – Part III of my anticlockwise journey towards a paperback

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Construct paperback

It’s heeee-re! It’s really here!

I’m as proud as George McFly when HE opened his box in 1985;

A Match made in space

(George McFly is a fictional character and wannabe author who was featured in ‘Back to The Future’ in case you don’t remember the 1980’s)

I can report several parallels with George’s story…we’d both been writing since we were at school, we’d both suffered similar abuse from our peers and we’ve both been accosted by time-travelling versions of our own sons. Except that mine hasn’t happened yet…but I’m sure it will. :) It’s bound to. That’s how time-travel works, right?

Ahem.

Anyway, back to the main event – the paperbacks. Actually, they were so large, I thought CreateSapce had accidentally sent me hardbacks. At 500 pages long, ‘Construct’ is no lightweight – but it would have weighed in at 700 pages if I hadn’t made the decision to lose the last three chapters from the original draft and recycle that ending into the (proposed) third book.

I can report that the print quality is top-notch. The cover is of good quality, printed on at least 200gsm card – possibly thicker.

(You’ll guess from the above that I’m not an expert in this field!)

However, it feels as good as any ‘real’ paperback and doesn’t feel as if it’s going to disassemble itself the first time it’s opened. Quite how they put such a small number of books together so well, I’m uncertain. I imagine that there is a large workshop beneath one of Amazon’s warehouse, complete with chutes and steam-driven conveyor belts manned by elves who sing jolly tunes as they lovingly construct the books.

Perhaps I’m wrong – but can anybody prove it?  :)

When I was populating the CreateSpace template with my MS, I went for a 6×9 layout, black text of cream paper and a size 11 font – Book Antiqua – which was the default font of the template. This resulted in a pleasant and easily readable text.

Even the image file that CreateSpace  flagged up as too low-resolution (less than 300 dpi) turned out to be fine. Since it was only an image of a character’s shaky handwriting, it didn’t concern me. I’d have shows it to you, but it’s a major spoiler. I imagine that a photograph of a similar resolution might have turned out poorly, but as someone commented recently on a previous post, ‘if it looks fine on the screen, it’ll probably be fine in the book.’

A quick flick through the book revealed that all was well, although one of those irritating spaces had managed to make an appearance at the bottom of one of the pages. *Fumes quietly to self at having missed it.*  I also felt that having chapters begin on the left-hand rather than the right-hand  page looked wrong. Unfortunately, this was the way that the text fell, so I will have to make some changes in that department.

My bio, now that I see it in print, reveals more about me than I’m comfortable with, so I’ll be trimming it slightly. Once I’ve had a chance to read the rest of the book, I may find other aspects that I’d prefer to adjust, but that’s something for another day.

So, a few minor tweaks required, but not a disaster by any means, but this all goes to prove that it was a wise move to follow CreateSpace’s advice and order proof copies and not just trust that I had everything right first time.

If you’re thinking of using CreateSpace, I’d be happy to report that it’s been a straightforward, happy experience – aside from my shenanigans with the formatting, although that is an issue with Word and may possibly have been a left-over from using Word to assemble my story in the first place. Those wise writers who utilise Scrivener may not have this problem.

So…off I go to a dark corner where I can read my 500 pages without interruption.

Yeah, like that’s going to happen! :D

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In the meantime, whether you prefer pixels or pages,

Write On!

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Becoming a Scrivener-er…a new adventure.

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Mattox MS

On Tuesday 21st May, I finally decided that I’d had ENOUGH of writing in Microsoft Word and took a long, hard look at Scrivener.

But why, you might ask, when more than half of the writers I’d spoken to said it was the best thing ever, had I waited so long???

Well, (long story short) I’d always been happy to use Word in all of its incarnations since before Office 95 was ‘the latest thing’.  But now, as I began to use Office 2010, acquired in March 2013, my heart sank. The darn thing seemed to have a mind of its own.

From paragraph formatting to bullet points it suddenly felt as if Word didn’t want me to be there any more.

I use *   *   * to separate paragraphs – have you tried to type that in Office 2010? It turns into bullets!!

Still, I persisted and wrestled with it for another four weeks, working around the peculiarities as I assembled articles, short stories and…my CreateSpace version of  ‘A Construct of Angels.’ Huge gaps between paragraphs and page breaks that refused to undo became the final straw. For three nights, I was forced to cut and paste sentences in order to get around this idiotic formating problem and when the time came to begin my next project, my brain cried ‘ENOUGH! I can’t go through all that again!’

So, in desperation to soothe my addled mind, I Googled the best price for the latest (or even the previous, for I am not proud) version of Scrivener.

Not so easy, for here in soggy England, we’re unable to take advantage of the NaNoWriMo offer price on Amazon (unless you know of a way around that…) as it’s only on Amazon.com…and we poor Brits aren’t allowed to download from there in case there’s none left for everyone else. We’re quite a ravenous bunch over here – we have been since WW2 rationing ended.

But I managed to uncover a trial download from PC World – priced at $40. Why dollars? Well the download linked to Literature and Latte dot com who seem to have no problems with feeding us hungry Brits.

And so I went for it, desperately hoping that this shining light, this gift from the Gods (they are there…they’ve just retired) was everything that it had been purported.

All right, Toynbee…don’t oversell it!

So far, so good. It downloaded (49MB), installed (even on my stone-age Windows Vista Netbook) opened and allowed me to explore. The tutorial looked daunting, but because it’s interactive (‘try this…see what happens; now try this…isn’t it good?’) it’s more kinesthetic than cramming.

I think that Scrivener and I are going to get along just fine. My ex (Word 2010) will still  be allowed to visit at weekends, but that relationship has definitely cooled.

I will let you know if romance blossoms with the new girl in town.

So, with Scrivener in mind, Write On!

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