Monthly Archives: January 2015

Confessions of an ‘indie’ publishers (part 6)

You have your manuscript ready for publication and you have decided to ‘indie’ publish. There are probably as many ways to ‘indie’ publish as there are ‘indie’ publishers, all I can talk about are the decisions I made and my reasons for coming to them. 

I chose to create for myself the publishing identity: Avenue Press Scarborough. On reflection, I think this was to do with the hang-up I have with being an ‘indie’ publisher. I wanted a publishing identity to hide behind. Perhaps if I had one, fewer people would realise I wasn’t traditionally published. I’m not sure it was the best of decisions. I’m having to reveal myself as an ‘indie’ publisher to so many people to get their help with promotion and marketing, it feels like my cover is well and truly blown. I had looked into paying a designer to create a logo, in the end I decided against spending my money on this and I created my own. I’m fond of it, but no doubt there are designers out there cringing and gnashing their teeth.

I am glad I paid for my own ISBNs. It’s not necessary. You need an ISBN if you publish a physical book, but often the companies which facilitate this can provide an ISBN. I prefer to have ISBNs which belong to Avenue Press Scarborough and find it pleasing that the books in my series will have consecutive ISBNs. Whether this makes any practical difference I don’t know, but it feels emotionally right to me.

I decided to have both an e-book and a paperback. So where to go for these? With many misgivings about selling my soul to the devil (or at least a large corporation) I settled on Amazon Kindle for the former and Amazon Createspace for the latter. My reason? It appeared the easiest route to reach the biggest number of readers.

There are other companies which will do an e-book, Smashwords for one. But to get onto Kindle, you have to offer exclusive rights to Amazon, and I decided Kindle had the biggest reach of all the e-book devices. I get a royalty % of the price every time one is sold.

Createspace will also get you straight onto Amazon (with your page linked to your Kindle version) and deal with the distribution from that platform. It seemed more complex to get the title on Amazon with other print-on-demand companies, plus there were often up-front costs, which there are not with Createspace. I paid for a proof because I wanted to see the physical paperback before I okayed everything, but if I’d stuck with a digital proof, I could have ‘published’ without paying anything. I can order copies at an author’s rate (about half the cover price) for myself to sell and then I get a royalty % for every time someone buys a paperback of my title from Amazon.

I registered my title with Nielsen which means bookshops can find my book via its ISBN and/or genre. I will have to deal with these orders myself (since I am really Avenue Press Scarborough). I don’t think this will be a lot of work at the moment, however, if it does become onerous, I will have to look into using a trade distribution company.

One thing I have discovered since publishing is that I should have given the paperback a different ISBN to the Kindle. The one order I did get from a bookshop appeared to be for an e-book, when in fact they wanted a paperback, because the ISBN was the same. I am now having to take steps to sort this out. I cannot apply to be available through Waterstones (another form) until this is regularized.

Technology continues to change and what worked in 2014 may not be appropriate in 2015 or 2016. It’s always worth doing your own research into what is on offer. For me the main things which swung the decisions about which company I used was about up-front costs and distribution. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, Amazon appears to have that all sewn up. If you decide to go with Kindle and Createspace, do make sure you fill in the required forms on-line so that you don’t pay US tax. These are easy to do, but, like all forms, need some attention.

The next ‘Confessions’ will look at formatting your manuscript for publication. However, this will be after I have embarked on the ‘2K International Writers’ Blog Tour’. I hope you will come with me for that. Meanwhile, do look at my novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect’, the first of a series of crime novels set in Scarborough, http://goo.gl/5r9WBv.

 

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Confessions of an ‘indie’ publisher (part 5)

So you’ve got a manuscript which is pretty much novel length, following a long (or not so long) process of writing, getting feedback, writing some more, researching, resting, writing…. Now what? The next steps are preparing the manuscript for publishing through editing, copy-editing and proof-reading. Some people appear to think these steps are inter-changeable, they are not, though they may merge into each other.

A good editor will look at the manuscript and begin to mould it with an audience in mind. A good editor will be a very, very discriminating reader. They will look at: the narrative as a whole; at the way characters develop (or do not); at whether dialogue is realistic enough; at the balance between action and scene setting; at pace; at the beginning, the ending and the notoriously soggy bits in the middle in order to try to firm them up; and so on. A good editor will have opinions about whether the writing fits with the audience or publisher being aimed at. A good editor will also be able to gauge whether legal advice needs to be sought for libel issues and will understand the rules around using quotes and references.

The editing process can be a very creative one; the editor posing the problems around, for instance, pace, dialogue, characterisation, and then the writer coming up with the solutions. There could be much backwards and forwards at this stage.

Following the editor comes the copy-editor. They look at the manuscript with more of a magnifying glass, checking for syntax and grammar. They could pick up on inconsistencies (like the character who had blue eyes on page 1 and has green by page 17) and areas of research (when did women stop wearing corsets with whalebone in them?) Usually a manuscript which has been to a copy-editor will arrive back at the writer for corrections to be done and there will be little conversation about it.

Finally, a manuscript which has been edited and copy-edited can go to the proof-reader whose job is to check for spelling and punctuation errors and for those cunning little typos. Usually, a proof-reader would not have the job of re-writing huge chunks because of poor grammar or deficient writing. And proof-reading must come right at the end of the writing process, if you’re still messing about with the manuscript, then it is not ready to go to the proof-reader; because even the smallest alteration to the text could produce another typing error.

I whole-heartedly believe in paying for a professional to do their job. Each has their own specialist skills and even if we possess those capabilities ourselves, it is very difficult to employ them completely successfully with our own work. However, needs must, and I could not afford all the professional help I would have liked. I, therefore, decided to do my own editing (with the support of writer friends) and my own copy-editing. It meant that I had to learn, and discipline myself, to read my work with a different hat on. When I read as an editor, I had to stop being the writer lovingly solicitous for all my beautiful words, and I had to become a critical reader. When doing the copy-editing, I had to restrict myself to analysing the sentences and not get distracted by adding to or deleting my descriptive flourishes. It was not easy to do and I dare say I was not as effective as I would like to have been.

I drew the line at doing my own proof-reading. For a novel-length piece, I think it is nigh-on impossible to proof-read our own work. So I paid the lovely Jenny to do it (jdrewery.thewriterthebetter@gmail.com) and, because of her skills, she was able to, for instance, pull me up on an issue around using song lyrics (see November post ‘Why writers need proofreaders’) something a good editor or copy-editor would normally do.

Next time I will look at some of the decisions an ‘indie’ publisher has to make. Meanwhile, do look at my novel, The Art of the Imperfect, the first of a series of crime novels set in Scarborough, http://goo.gl/5r9WBv.

Confessions of an ‘indie’ publisher (Part 4)

I’m assuming that those reading these blog posts will at least have a kernel of an idea, be writing and be on with building up a supportive writerly community (see last ‘Confessions’ post).  There is no magic about writing a novel-length manuscript, what you have to do is write, write, write, get some feedback and creative nourishment and then write some more. Sounds simple? In some ways it is, yet behind that straightforward statement, there is what I call the need to create a writing space. I mean this in terms of a physical space and also in terms of carving out time for the creative process. In addition, in my opinion, there also has to be a psychological and emotional shift for this to happen.  Taking a physical space, demarcating time, implies saying to yourself and others, ‘My writing is important’. It might mean putting your writing before the needs and demands of others. This is hard, especially at the beginning when you have little to show for it and others will often see what you’re doing as a nice little hobby. On the other hand, it’s possible that you will self-sabotage, allowing critical voices (real or imagined, from your past or present or future) to undermine your confidence and motivation. This is where you writerly friends are so important in supporting you to carry on even when giving up appears the safest option. (I have written about writing blocks and pathways through them: http://goo.gl/k360PX)  In tandem with writing you need to be studying the genre you are working in by reading, reading and reading more. I would also recommend Margaret Geraghty’s ‘The Novelist’s Guide’ for craft and technique, though you may find your own personal favourite handbook. You cannot write a novel-length manuscript for publication without feedback. Going on courses and/or joining groups will assist you to build up a sense of what feedback is useful, when and how to ask for it, as well as school you in the art of giving it and receiving it. Personally, I choose who I ask for feedback very carefully, I need to trust them not to have their own agenda and also to understand where I am coming from. It’s not easy to listen to and act on feedback but it is crucial to producing something worthy of putting before an audience. In amongst this process, you will also find your own critical skills are being sharpened, so that you are able to assess your own work with a more dispassionate and analytical eye.  Writers also research. A lot of what we write comes from deep within us, and the more we are prepared to be honestly excavating our different selves, the better our writing will be. In addition, writers notice, they listen, they question, they are curious, they ask people about their lives, they go to tiny little museums in out-of-the-way places and read all the little illegibly penned notices. Writers are interested in people, in settings, in happenings, in the silences, in the spaces in between.  Writing a novel length manuscript can take many years. In some ways ‘The Art of the Imperfect’ took me thirty years to write. All the writing, researching and crafting I had done up to now was my apprenticeship. It is because of that apprenticeship that I have found ‘The Art of…’ series is slipping so satisfyingly off my pen and I have been able to shape three novels in about 24 months. Next time I will look at the fraught issues of editing and proof-reading. Meanwhile, do look at my novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect, the first of a series of crime novels set in Scarborough, http://goo.gl/5r9WBv.

Healing Words Workshop – 7th March 2015

Growing into Ourselves, using fairytale narratives to reflect on where we are in our journey. Scarborough Counselling & Psychotherapy Training Institute (SCPTI), 1 Westbourne Grove, Scarborough, YO11 2DJ, 01723 376 246, mail@scpti.co.uk

Fees: Early bird before 15th January 2015 members SCPTI £75/non-member £95. Non-early bird £90 (member SCPTI)/£110

A day of gently facilitated writing exercises which will use fairytales as a starting point for exploration and creativity. The fairytales we probably encountered when young come from a long tradition of oral story-telling, where the narrative was taken and moulded by each re-teller at each re-telling. They were vehicles for passing on wisdom, as well as for creating a sense of self and community for the story-teller and listener alike. When fairytales were written down in the nineteenth century, for the most part, they became stuck in the societal mores and outlook of Europe at that time. It is time to reclaim the fairytale for our day, for our lives, for our own journey.

Tutor: Kate has been a writer for 30 years. Her non-fiction, short stories and poems have been published and she has created two audio installations using poetry for Coastival. In 2013, her book Pathways through writing blocks in academic environments was published by Sense Publishers. She is a trained as a psychotherapeutic counsellor. She has been working within therapeutic environments with creative writing for over 10 years. She has run a group for people with depression and anxiety for four years and has been poet in residence for Hospital Arts in North Yorkshire working with terminally ill patients. She has also facilitated training for clinical psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors and writers. She is a member of Lapidus (Literary Arts for Personal Development, http://www.lapidus.org.uk/).