Sharing my Experience

Today I’m publishing the first two (of an intended seven) installments of “My Self-Publishing Journey“. It’s not intended to be a definitive statement of how it should be done – I don’t have nearly enough experience to pontificate.

But I learned a lot from following others, and thought it would only be fair to report back on what I’ve done myself while taking One Equal Temper from a vague idea to a paperback in my hand.

There will be also a lot of links to the resources I’ve used – there are so many out there, it’s sometimes hard to navigate through them all.

I hope someone finds it helpful!

Alex

Tangible Evidence

The word “tangible” is very important. You can have as many ideas and theories as you like, but there is nothing quite like having physical evidence that you can touch, feel, and sniff.

Today I received the first tangible evidence of being a writer: the postman delivered the proof copy of the paperback edition of my first novel, One Equal Temper. I’ve set it up as a Print On Demand offering using CreateSpace, chosen mainly because it’s easy and cheap. I plan to push the “publish” button at the end of March.

But, for now, I am revelling in having, in my hand, the fruits of my labour over the last eighteen months. And there really isn’t anything quite like it. I’ve read the words more times than I can count, and I’ve had printouts for revision and proofing – but this is different.

Sure, if you look closely, you’ll see that the production quality is a notch below a commercially printed book. The alignment of the left and right pages is a fraction out, and the binding isn’t as good, which means that you have to leave a large gutter and which makes me fear for the strength of the book if I were to open it too far.

Additionally, now I have it in my hand I can see I’ll have to make one or two tweaks to the cover design, but of course that’s why I have a proof copy.

Despite those imperfections, it’s a book. A real book, one you can put on the shelf or take on a plane or read on the beach. I suspect I will be picking it up quite a few times, just to reassure myself that I didn’t dream it all.

I’ll be taking a close look at it over the next few days to make sure it’s as good as I can possibly make it. Then everyone else can see, too!

End of Project Party

All right, all right, everyone, pipe down. Can I have a bit of hush for a moment? Yes, please Chapter Five, do close the door. We’d hate all those people outside to hear how much fun we’re having.

Well, what can I say? We did it!

No not that, Chapter Seven. Well, you might have, but what you get up to in your spare time among consenting adults is your own business.

What I mean, of course, is that we have finally finished The Novel and it is, even as I speak, winging its way across the ether to our Readers. Let’s hope they like it!

There were times, I’m sure we all thought, when reaching this target felt a touch unlikely. For example, there was the occasion when Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen went off on a romantic break without telling anyone where they’d gone. Where was it you went, by the way? OK, still not telling, fair enough. Ah, look, Chapter Fourteen is blushing! Whatever they got up to, I hope it was worth it.

And, of course, I’ve lost the plot more times than any of us can count.

Yes, yes, thank you.

There’s no need for that, Chapter Five. Or that.

Anyway, we did it. So all that remains is for me to say a huge well done and thank you to all of you, and the drinks are on me!

What I Have Learned

I recently completed the writing, editing and self-publishing of my first novel, One Equal Temper – available soon in all good online ebook stores! There were several reasons for wanting to do it in the first place, but high on the list was that I wanted to learn something.

And, boy, have I done that.

In the last seventeen months I have learned so much stuff that I’ve forgotten what it is that I didn’t know. So I thought it would be instructive to try and capture some thoughts on the topic, before it all disappears into the mists of unreliable memory.

There have been a zillion little things, but listing all of them would take forever and a small sample would sound like I’d just learned a few bits of trivia, which isn’t how I feel about it at all. So I’ve tried to come up a level of abstraction to some summary headlines of what know now that I didn’t know then. I have learned:

1. How to write a novel. That sounds obvious, or possibly even content-free. Of course I have, but what does that mean? I think it means that I now understand the process in a way that I didn’t before. Not that there is just one standard process to be followed; but I know what the parts are and roughly how long they might take (a LONG time).

2. How to write English. To be frank, this came as a big surprise to me. I thought I already knew this, but it turns out that I didn’t. Not just the specific rules that apply to fiction, such as how to punctuate dialogue, but more general rules of grammar and punctuation. Not to mention writing prose that is easier on the eye.

3. About Social Media. I was a casual user of Facebook for the standard social purposes, but had never got into Twitter. Now I have over 1300 Twitter followers, and I’m using some of the tools like a pro to see what is and isn’t working. That means buffer, justunfollow and the amazing followerwonk. I’ve also met and interacted with a lot of people!

4. About websites and blogging – more than I thought I would. I have published websites before, but not for a very long time and I was completely off the technical pace. I’m still a bit of a beginner, but I do now have my own self-hosted wordpress site.

5. About the self-publishing process. I was always expecting this, and I wasn’t disappointed. No matter how easy Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords and CreateSpace say it’s going to be, you just know it’s not, at least if you want a decent looking product. It took me a few goes but I think I now have at least the basics in place.

And, finally, I’ve learned how much more there is to learn. This isn’t a surprise at all: in a field as big as this, you’d have to be mad to think you can master it all in a year or two. My learning curve is still steep – I feel I’m learning something significant every single day – and is showing no sign at all of levelling off. That’s how you know there’s a lot more to go.

Learning stuff is what I enjoy, which means I have years more fun to look forward to. How great is that?

The Final Push

Good evening,Brantham Works everyone, and once again thanks for coming. It’s been some time since we last met, and although our final deadlines are getting very close, I thought it was worth taking our eyes off the page just for a few minutes to take stock.

The big news is that I’ve decided that the current version, Draft Five, will definitely be the final one.

OK, settle down everyone, I know you’re as excited by that decision as I am. What’s that, Chapter Seven? You’re not that excited? Fair enough, I apologise for misinterpreting the fist you just threw at Chapter Eight.

So what does this mean? Well, for a start it means that all of the feedback from Draft Four has now been triaged and processed. No, Chapter Twelve, I said “Triaged”. It means that each comment has been reflected in the manuscript, unless of course the Editorial Board – that’s me, by the way – has exercised our creative authority. That means “screw you, we’re doing it our way whether you like it or not,” in case you were wondering.

There should be no further substantial changes, which means if that if any of you come up with a fabulous new plot twist, or a previously unknown second cousin of our protagonist, please keep the idea to yourself. I don’t want to know.

Our only focus now is on fine tuning the manuscript, which means staring at commas, semi-colons and gerunds until our eyes swivel in their heads and fall out.

Now get back to it, you lazy SOBs. We need to get this job done!

One of our Plots is Missing

263-Parking-SWDear Characters,

It has come to my attention that the storyline for our work-in-progress has gone missing. It was right there at the end of Chapter 20, but somewhere during Chapter 21 it disappeared and has not been seen since.

Now, I’m sure that whoever has taken it did so with the best of intentions. As a joke, perhaps, to cheer us all up after a particularly fraught weekend slaving over a hot keyboard. I know that we were all feeling a little dispirited when, despite all that effort, the Word Count simply refused to budge.

But a joke can only be taken so far: after a while it becomes a little tiresome, and I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that we would all be very pleased if whoever has taken it could return it.

If it helps, we can turn the lights out for a few minutes so that the character that has misappropriated our story can put it back, in confidence. Just place it on the desk at the front of the room, and we will say no more about it.

On the other hand, I hardly need say that if it is not returned, promptly, I shall have to conduct a thorough examination of the scene – I still have that fingerprint kit I was given last Christmas by Aunt Maude – and will leave no stone unturned until I have established the facts of the matter.

However, I’m sure that it won’t come to that, and the guilty party will replace the missing artifact in the next few minutes under the cover of darkness.

After all, I’m certain that none of you would want to accuse me of losing the plot.

Yours sincerely

The Author

Letting Go

I’m very sorry, Chapter Two, but you are going to have to go. Yes, I know we’ve been together for several months now, but it really isn’t working out for me. It was all very exciting back then: I’d just finished Chapter One – of my very first novel – and it felt like I was on a bit of a roll. The words just fell onto the page, it felt fresh, new, exciting. I was doing things I’d never done before – and all thanks to you. I’ll always be grateful, you know that.

But things have moved on since then. I finished the rest of the first draft a couple of months ago now, and I’ve been struggling to whip the whole thing into some sort of shape that someone else might possibly want to read. Chapter One has been completely rewritten twice: and Chapters Three to Eight have been tweaked, twisted and revised so that I can hardly recognise them.

But you, Chapter Two, have remained unaffected as I’ve chopped and created characters, added and removed whole story lines. It makes me think that you’re not really connected to the rest of the story. Dare I say it, possibly even redundant?  If you’d come later on, I might have got away with it: perhaps, halfway through, you could have been an amusing diversion or interlude between two more intense scenes. But right at the beginning, when The Reader will just be struggling to get to grips with what the story is about? Sorry, I just don’t see it any more.

And then there’s the question of the style. Way back then, when I first wrote you, I didn’t really know what sort of story I was writing. Now, as everything else around you has been rewritten and revised, you look as out of place as a 1950s shop front, alone in a parade of twenty-first century glass and chrome. Or like an actor who’s wandered onto the wrong set – a Roman Centurion walking down Sunset Boulevard, or a spaceman in an Elizabethan court.

So, Chapter Two, this is it. Next time I open up the manuscript, you’re for the chop. Maybe we’ll meet up for coffee one day – in a short story, perhaps. I’m sorry it had to end this way: but we’ll always have The Elephant.