Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I think I might have a book out

Okay, it's a bit hopping around the time frame for all this, for which apologies, but as of tonight it's all got a bit vertiginous. Apparently my book is available online. No notification from Legends Press. No sign of my free copies. But it's up on Amazon with a delivery time of 3 weeks (!) so maybe it's not formally out quite yet, or as formally out as a POD can be. Nothing listed on Book Depository and Waterstones, the latter I'm not sure if it goes to, the former, well I was advised sometimes the feeds for titles to be added to lists can take a couple of weeks. Barnes & Noble have it as available within 24 hours, so maybe I'll crack America before home? Confused? Not as much as I am right now. New Generation Publishing, the partners in this enterprise with Legends Press, haven't even got it listed on their website as available to buy. Can't see the feed lag being an issue for them... Oh and the e-mail I fired to Tom Chalmers at Legends drew an "Out of the Office" reply... Not because it's just shy of midnight, but he's away until Monday, so this won't get cleared up anytime soon. It's not even worth asking a mate to order one from Amazon as a test run, since they wouldn't get it for 3 weeks. Singularly unimpressed. Mind you, the good news is that there is also one used copy for sale on Amazon. Impressive, unless it was a test copy, how can anyone have pre-owned it? I didn't look at the delivery time for that one.

While I've been networking like crazy and building the mythical platform, I could - potentially - also have been linking to the book. I'm not actually sure. It has been my greatest frustration even before tonight, to do so much marketing groundwork, but have to hold it back because there is no book, with no website links to attach to it. Right now I am holding back on firing off the e-mails to friends, colleagues and other biddable folk, as I don't know if those orders can be fulfilled. They were always going to represent the first wave, but now it looks like it's all concertinaing together with the second wave of marketing to strangers.

I decided from early on that I was going to be as businesslike and therefore emanate consummate professionalism throughout all my dealings with Legends Press. To my mind, that meant answering each email without delay, not bothering them unduly with lots of minor queries (finally collated into 1 e-mail last month, see below) and not really getting hung up on issues and making everything into a battle. The art of the possible has always been my motto. Two drafts of cover art, so be it. Another few weeks delay because of typesetting, well then I shouldn't have sent the original with all those typos then should I? That I never received a date for publication, must probably be because there is no formal release and the times vary when each online outlet has it up and listed. All I had was, an email affirming that it's gone off to the printers, which means the electronic version from which all POD copies will be cloned, plus my small order for 25 copies for touting around and marketing purposes. I just assumed the receipt of those would indicate that the book was 'out'. That I would get my copies before retail outlets listed it.

In retrospect, being professional might actually entail not conducting all our business by email alone. Plus making sure I got what I demanded from the business dealings, without being arsey about it of course.

Instead I restricted myself to an e-mail of minor clarification queries I had, reproduced below. As you can see, number 1 "When can I expect to start selling my book?" wasn't one of them.

Firstly, which online outlets will have the book so I can let people know? When do they start listing the book? - Amazon, B&N, you know the usual. each one varies when it updates its list for new titles.

When and how do I need to post the 100 word blurb for Amazon? The Printers send it on. You can change it and we'll pass it on to them to send out. To date, Amazon has no blurb, though Barnes & Noble does. Shame the book's themes are so damned British.

I had an email from New Generation encouraging me to get people to order through them. Should I direct people to them rather than Amazon or whoever else? Does it make a difference?
If you want, but makes no difference

Is it true that certain outlets may wait for 3 or 4 orders before requesting printing up to fill them? If so, I guess I may steer people to more instantaneous suppliers.
Never heard of it before and makes no economic sense. yet could this be the reason behind Amazon's current stated delivery time of 3 weeks? Doesn't strike me as a time period worthy of the term Print On Demand?

Is there an upper limit to POD copies (a virtual print run as it were?) Or is it continuous as long as there are sales and I pay the annual fee to keep it listed? Pay to play (my summary not his words)

Do I have to lodge copies with copyright libraries? Or does Legends do that? That's one of my free 10 copies accounted for. (I am already a writer with a MS in the British Library - of a performed play and after fobbing them off that I needed to rewrite it into the final script we performed from, I gave up and sent them an unworked script copy with slide on binding. Nightmarish visions of that being less Heath Robinson than the current enterprise).

Sorry to ask again, but if I could have the cover art so I can begin work on the press release and the credits for the video readings. This has been sent, but only the front cover and I would like both. The back cover is more striking (note to self, this may also have been a tactical error)

Is there anything else I either ought to consider or actually be doing? see below.

At no time have Legends or New Generation asked me for my marketing ideas. Their response to the last question was "Will have a think of anything you could immediately be doing." They must still be thinking. Possibly even sat on a beach somewhere. I think at this point I can safely advise any would-be UK self-published writer, to ask to be walked through the process from top to toe. Face to face meeting might be an added advantage.

So there you have it - which is more than I can say for myself or the book. I did kind of blunder into this whole process, but had felt I'd made great strides towards making my target achievable. Right now it's merely a bit of a false start, but what damage really has been done? It's been up on Amazon a few days/weeks and no one's bought a copy that's all. Yes there are still issues I need addressing, but I haven't initiated any of my staged sales drives.

Some of the pitfalls and pratfalls I've encountered may just be avoidable if you're reading this and trying to weigh up going down the self/indie/POD process. In the next post I'll give you the pros and cons of self/indie/POD as I've elicited the arguments from both sides from a combing of the web for people's views on the issue. Oh and I did say I'd tell you what I'd settled on for describing exactly what way I'm being published. I'm plumping for independently published. While it does still contain a suggestion of a small independent publisher having chosen me, rather than vice versa, I like the associations with the punk rock DIY ethic from the late 1970's. POD is factual and uninvolving as a description, while self-publishing conjures up to my mind me sat there in my bedroom desktop and binding glue to hand. More fanzine than printed book, so I guess I can only take the punk rock DIY ethos so far. But for all this, I think it quite indicative that the expansion of self-publishing hasn't really afforded time to give itself a proper name.

Final newsflash. The other Marc Nash, the lower League professional footballer, has according to reports on the Internet, had to retire from his chosen career through injury. The way should be clear for me to ascend up the search engine listings now. I just hope I'm not permanently crocked so as to have to give up my dream vocation like him.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Gonzo Guide to Marketing

So marketing. Techniques to build a platform that isn't a gibbet...

As said, one half-hearted blog and some posturing on peer review online communities wasn't really going to cut it in drumming up much interest. Okay, the video promos were in pre-pre production, but that was about the size of it so far.

Step 1 courtesy of the wonderfully informative Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes on Twitter, website In one of his many product tested and recommended columns, Dan spotlighted, A free service in which you can display all or as much of a sample of your book as you chose, in a form where readers can have the virtual experience of turning pages like a real book. So superior to uploading inflexible Word documents for your MS. You can upload your ISBN number and copywright it on site. You can post links to websites, YouTube and a link will add you to's marketing tweeting, though having just joined Twitter haven't caught my name in their despatches yet. You can follow the number of readers both statistically and plotted on one of those easy on the eye graphs. Readers can leave comments or become fans. Did I mention all this is FREE?!

Step2 build a website. Meh. Made the decision I was going to devote the website wholly to the novel. It would tie in directly with posts expanding on specific themes or sources solely to do with the book. My more instantaneous and responsive posts would be made on my blog (see below). Now I will admit to a real dislike to opening up my thought processes behind the decisions that went in to the writing of the novel. To me these are the scaffolding that holds up the edifice while it is being constructed, but which comes down once the edifice is up and complete. I don't think they are inherently interesting in themselves, especially if you haven't read the book when they must seem impenetrable. If you're doing a reading and a Q&A to an audience some of whom will have read the book, then it is a different matter. But the website is intended as the first point of call for people to get information about the book which may or may not influence them to buying it.

So instead, after the fairly straightforward intro and plug stuff, I write more about some of the themes in the book in a wider context that the book couldn't really go into. Some of it still related to the craft, such as how I came by the character's names and a wider consideration of naming in literature, but some range over the incendiary themes in the novel (the novel swipes at British culture in the 'Noughties'). For example, binge drinking is an ever present in the novel, so on the website I give the subject a fuller and more rounded consideration than the Cyclopean view represented by my main character. I can opt to do several of these sorts of spotlights, since there are a myriad of such themes throughout the book. The website is still under construction.

Step3 Twitter. I'd held off both Twitter & Facebook as something for the kids. As a writer devoted to the word, I couldn't begin to imagine myself firing off 140 character bulletins and making any legible sense. A very sassy and sussed writer friend, Deborah Riley-Magnus threw down the Twitter gauntlet (and her wonderful new writer's showcase site and some personal hectoring on her part, saw my will weaken. A conversation with a techie non-writer friend of mine, who consumes his literature by podcast, planted the notion that I could Twitter as my fictional character which intrigued me. The ever trenchantly wonderful Nicola Morgan on her blog sheared the last frayed threads of my resistance and I signed up. Initially I just had one Twitter account in my heroine's name and character, but while I could range freely over 'what she was up to right now', I was struggling to maintain real time and real people communication. So I signed up for a second account as the writer behind her.

As of today, I have been on Twitter 13 days. The amount of information I have got from being pointed at people's blogs is huge. I have entered the various debates I've come across that are pertinent within the writing community. In doing so my desultory blog has taken on a new lease of life as I find myself writing every other day or so and posting. I am conducting my own internal debate online through my blog. So many aspects of marketing and self-publishing I'd never even thought about are now whirling around my head. The use of video not as marketing but as part of the literary 'text' itself (through 'vooks') being one of them for example. Thanks to the wonderful pioneer @namenick and innovative @revolucion0 on Twitter for igniting my appreciation of the possibilities. Namenick's blog can be found and revolucion0 her WIP and the craft.

But apart from the information available and the steers towards them from other people, the increase in traffic to my blog and sample are incredible. Now these may drop off, but in 13 days I have tripled the visits to the bookbuzzr sample of my novel. Of course they might not read more than a sentence, but even so a hardened old technophobic cynic like myself is suitably impressed.

Also the instantaneity of Twitter is amazing. Spotted an Open Mic possibility last Sunday. 24 hours later I was doing a public reading. Saw a call for 10 line flash fiction in the US, by the time I was going to bed I was published online on their site. Am currently engaged with another author I'd never even met 10 days ago in an interactive writing project online. I had sworn to myself that I would write nothing new for the 6 months I was giving over to publishing and marketing the novel. In the last 7 days I've never written so much new stuff, albeit not all of it creative fiction. These new media demand you to pick up your own pace. I readily admit you need to invest a lot of time in order to maintain a presence in all these social media and that this week I have been privileged to be on leave from work and have been able to apply myself fully. This will inevitably drop off when I return to my day job next week. There is also a valid consideration that an unpublished writer pontification on their blog might be somewhat on the self-indulgent side. All I can say is that reading other writers' blogs, not all of whom are professional, has given me lots to cogitate on and evaluate my approach to the whole panoply of what writing involves. If you do post thought-provoking peices, it augurs well for attracting more people to your platform. I aim to be shooting my first video, not of a reading, but of a consideration of craft this weekend. Just waiting for some props to arrive through Amazon to illustrate the argument on video...

The quality of the information, the intensity of the interactions, the constant refreshing of one's own visibility, represent a huge step up from the polite shadow boxing that are online peer review sites such as YWO and Authonomy. It represents a step up in class, to playing with the big boys, the professionals and the semi-professionals, as against the hobbyists of the writing communities.

Oh and did I mention, all the above are FREE to the user. There are no economic barriers to entry.
Weebly (website)

There is no excuse. Not even being a technoninny like me. The above are all simple enough to engage. I've set most of them up within the last 2 weeks, so there are not even huge time implications. I'm sure there are far superior versions for websites and the like, but I'll leave those for you to hunt down. These were navigable by me and job's a good'un as they say oop North.

Next post back to Legends Press progress report

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Typesetting, Typos & Triptychs

Why is the word 'ectoplasm' in the last post's title? Well, at that stage, all I had done was send my Word document MS through the ether. In my head no transformation of it into a book had taken place. There was as yet nothing to show for it. Now this wasn't a problem for me. This isn't an exercise in vanity publishing. I'm not interested in only selling it to friends and family. It's not that sort of book. If Auntie's easily offended ... So it's not about them doing me a favour, since I have to reach a wider audience. If I can build a fanbase and prove that I can move units under my own steam, then rightly or wrongly I perceive I have a shot of gaining a couple of rungs on the professional ladder.

The calculations involved? Well I'm guessing here, since there are no figures that I know of, but I reckon the odds of going sufficiently viral to attract the attention of the profession, are no better or worse than the odds of your unsolicited MS being accepted through the conventional postal submission to agents and publishers. I'm not changing the odds, I am just taking more responsibility over the process. I am putting my money where my mouth is just as I had when writing plays. Having to stand or fall by your own efforts, concentrates the mind wonderfully.

And returning to 'ectoplasm'? This whole venture has nothing to do with realising any dream about having a hard copy published work of my own. One I can touch and hold and put on my bookshelf with my name on the spine winking out at me. It's about unplugging the logjam and getting a career underway. The book itself will return to dust if it doesn't open up a few new avenues. I won't feel any pride in handling my own copy, but even if I fail in my adventure, I hope to feel pride in the efforts I undertook to try and make things happen. In such a scenario, the book will be a symbol of that effort. But I hope it won't come to that.

So until it hits my target, it's ectoplasm. The secundines of ghostly presence. What is the target? I've heard the average sales figure for self-publishing is 75 copies. (Suggests to me that they weren't able to sell beyond about one and a half degrees of separation). Discussions on forums seem to suggest that if you can secure 2000 sales, it ought to demonstrate to the publishing industry that you are a writer who can sell units of product that they deal in. My target is somewhere between the 2, but closer to the 2000 than the 75 on the assumption that the consensus is likely to be in the right area. Even then will a publishing professional come a calling? Well, let's not toddle before we can crawl...

That first e-mail back from Legends Press. Mid July. Now I read about 50 new books a year. I should be fairly familiar with what a book looks like inside. But I was such a greenhorn that on receipt of a PDF of my typeset MS, it was a shock to see it laid out. In Word, you're concerned with things like line spacing and indents. Now the typeset version looked like, well, a proper book. No spaces between lines. Every new paragraph indented. Every line of dialogue indented at the beginning. Even the speech marks seemed to have a greater solidity than those you get in Word. If I had been 'living the dream' of being first time published, my idiotic shock at the transformation between MS & typeset book would have prevented me basking in the glory of it anyway. Oh and the second pagination cull naturally occurred at this typesetting phase. The whole thing was down to 189 pages, as compared with the 276 of the Word version. Never mind the quantity, feel the width...

Tom Chalmers suggested I read through and check I was happy with it. Another weekend filled with line by line scrutiny, this time of an alien looking version of my own words. I found 15 fairly minor typesetting errors, ranging from a set of speech marks pointing the wrong way and a double indentation of lines within dialogue, to a rather more serious spacing issue; I'd ended each chapter with a page break on which I'd given various recipes for cocktails. The typesetters had run these straight on from the end of the chapter, so they no longer served as a spacer and in some cases went over 2 different pages. I popped all these down in an e-mail in readiness for Legends.

But the bulk of that e-mail was filled with other errors. Typos rather than typesetting. A humiliating list of (count 'em) 87 mispelled words that had evaded all my various line edits. 'Accommodate' and 'miniature' were spelled wrong every time they appeared in the text. 'Philosopher' and 'alcohol' both were missing one of their 'o's'. I spelled 'epiphany' wrong which about sums up my chagrin at confronting this. Virtual tail between my legs, I added them to the body of the e-mail sent back to Legends.

So now it had to go back to the typesetters to put these mistakes right. Meanwhile I was asked for my cover brief. It was only through parleying on forums that it occurred to me that I would have to come up with both a front and back cover design. (Greenhorn goes moo!) The spine too. I had an image for the front cover for well over a year, so putting together the brief for that was fairly simple. The back cover, the one that has to leave space for the blurb, was a more recent revelation. One that arose from serendipity, seeing as most online peer review sites prompt you for some artwork when you upload part or all of your book. I basically found an image on Google Images and used that for the site. Now I could develop it to my desire and offer it as the brief for other to execute to my spec. So I didn't have to spend too much time compiling that particular e-mail to Legends.

I have no art skills whatsoever. Long before I went down the self-pub route, I had dabbled with approaching a couple of online writers with design experience in order to do some artwork, but which came to nothing. I believe some of the Legends packages allow you to provide your own artwork to the published product, but I think you had better contact them and ensure exactly what format they require the artwork to be presented. Each self-publisher seems to have its own approach to cover art and as intimated earlier, the cover art seems to represent the biggest variation between each of the Companies in this field. Presumably if you provide your own art work, there are savings in the cost of the package to be made. But you do need to do your research very carefully.

I was asked for the blurb about a week later. 100 words for the back cover. Or Legends offered to do it for me. Which was interesting as they'd never given me any indication that they'd read my book. Certainly never commented on the MS itself. Now I was in two minds about the blurb. Imagine the scene - I'm sure you have countless times yourselves - potential customer browsing in the book shop. Picks yours from the shelf, intriguing title. Spins to back cover for the blurb - CLOSE THE DEAL, CLOSE THE DEAL! Of course they may dip inside the text to get a squint of your style. But that blurb has to get them there or to the checkout. I had two blurbs in mind. One was fairly straight, about the two characters and the dilemmas they found themselves confronting within the novel. The other was a far more punchy, in your face roster of the cultural points of the novel. Ie a marmite love it or hate it reaching out to clue potential readers, 'if you're into this, you'll love my book' appeal. I sent both options off to Legends and nine days later Tom emailed back saying he favoured the former which I was happy to go with. The blurb would also double up for the listings with Amazon and the like which the POD printers were responsible for lodging. I did have the option of writing an alterantive blurb which Legends would forward to the printers to send out. At present I've desisted from changing, but I might review that decision. I might offer the marmitey one yet.

So text back at the typesetters. Cover brief with the designers. Blurb signed off on. All these processes well underway and Tom informed me he was away for a week on leave. Okay then, in the hiatus, time to turn thoughts towards marketing...

Ectoplasm, Storm Lull and Waiting

The money had left my bank account, the contract signed, I was now committed to self-publishing. Hang on a moment, I'm not an imprint or a press. Okay then, I'm having my book published, but not in a way most people understand it to mean. I haven't been scouted and signed any book deal. I'm paying a publisher to provide a publishing service. This nomenculture is proving a touch tricky. But I'll need to work out what I'm going to call it when the time comes. I'll let you know what I settled on, via somebody else's blog, further along the journey when we catch up to real time.

The first step was easy to figure out. Legends Press had asked for the MS in electronic form so they could send it to the typesetters. A realisation that what I sent them would be the finished print version, sent me off into a final, final line edit (part 74). Found a few errors, but nothing too sinister. And importantly, despite being jaded by having read over it so many times, the book still seemed fresh and alive with its initial energy to me. But then enter my first anxiety. What format to send the MS? Hard copy submissions to agents specify line spacing and one-sided pages, but they tend to leave font choice and size to the writer. Although the MS would be reset by typesetters, still there were probably in-house standards they called for in the presentation of the MS. As I had undertaken the task over a long Bank Holiday weekend, I wouldn't be able to raise Legends to ask them. No panic, I went on to a forum at You Write and conducted a straw poll of my fellow writers. Times New Roman 11 or 12 point was the consensus and I duly converted my helvetica and saw the pagination drop by about 30 pages. This was the first crash diet of two that the demands of printing brings about to your text. But it's nothing compared to the second one, more of which anon.

Sent e-mail with attached MS and then sat back. I'm told mainstream publishing can take between 18 and 24 months, with the advance book lists and printing turnaround times. Self-publishing varies, but the prospect of 10-12 weeks by comparison makes it seem very immediate. Still, what to do next? Idle hands make for the devil's work. The devil's work huh...? Must mean marketing. Now I knew absolutely nothing about marketing. For years I had regarded myself as 'an artiste daaaarling', someone who could not possibly dirty his hands with corrupting commercial concerns. Well I knew as I was now solely responsible for sales, that attitude could no longer be maintained.

Now we're forever being urged in this brave new world of communications, to network socially. Where once we used to got to do's and events and try and work the room, now we can do it all hiding behind an avatar and a name that wouldn't look out of place across a CB channel. I have a blog other than this one. Calling it a blog is a bit of a misnomer really. Spasmodically I posted completely uncontextualised bits of my work. From different novels. Not in any order. Occasionally I commented on some news story that caught my eye. But other than that I couldn't really see the point. The reason I write fiction is cos I can't be doing with keeping a journal, so why would I start one online? Nor did I want to detail my creative process that led me to the final text as appeared up on the blog. That was too much navel gazing to my mind. Obviously this blog suggests I have had a bit of a damascus conversion. Again, all in good time we'll get to that.

Okay, a half-hearted blog read by about 4 people wasn't really going to scoop the sales. Back to the forum bush telegraph. Someone posted something about YouTube. I went to take a squint, having studiously avoided all things grainy, downloaded from TV adverts and Pop Idol. First exemplar was a children's book author (all these examples are from self-published authors). He voicedover his book, while all that you had to look on screen was the front cover and one other picture presumably from inside. Second was a high production value vid composed of animated stills, publicising a historical novel about the Romans. So there were Roman Busts revolving and flames burning and a musical soundtrack. Striking, but amazingly the writer didn't give a sample of the writing either on screen in print, or voiced over. A third was a writer sat in his bedroom reading from a MS in hand (I have seen a proper published author do exactly the same on Amazon).

Therefore what conclusions can be drawn? Firstly, remember this is the YouTube generation. They consume their visual content (and their music for that matter) very differently to our generations. That is, paunchy middle aged blokes reading from hand, a book cover that doesn't move and a repeated and somewhat contextless set of animations floating in mid screen, do not make for exciting viewing. IMhO, you have to give them the equivalent of what a pop video gives to the song it is made to promote. The Roman even neglected the 'pop song' it was supposed to promote sales of, by not having a sample of the text. So conclusion 1, it has to be visual, you have to give the viewer something to look at that complements and augments the words. Conclusion 2, one I chose to ignore intially, is that you can't make it too long. Apart from the fact that YouTube limit you to 10 minutes a video anyway, vocalised words without the viewer having the text in their hand are quite hard to pick up in their entirety. Missing words might fracture the narrative sense and lose your audience to go back to Susan Doyle. So don't over do the length of what you put on your vid. And remember, the words are what you are trying to sell. The rest are there to entice the viewer and draw them into listening to the words.

I needed to experiment never having been a video star before. I chose 5 various bits of text that were from works other than the novel itself. Some were short stories, some were snippets from other novels. One was a poem. Having an applemac, I had a built-in camera mounted in the laptop's lid. Okay, so what to do visually? Something that might make it stand out from the crowd. I decided on covering up my identity, be it balaclava, hoody, bandages or a stocking over my head. Each had a justification within the piece I was reading, but I was mainly after linking them thematically on YouTube; ie that nutter reading out literature with his face all covered up. I called the series "Guerilla Literature" and away I went. Each one was filmed in a single take as I had no means of editing beyond the opening and closing. I didn't want the MS in hand while I was reading, so I had it in the bottom corner of the screen, which means if you look closely my eyes aren't to camera, but squinting off to the left. Additionally, there is the slightest of pauses as I scroll through the MS and have to refocus. Also I had to be fairly close to the camera, since I am short-sighted and the various head coverings meant my glasses didn't sit flush on my face. Ah the technical problems to be overcome!

So, 20 minutes to prepare the script visually with colour-coded prompts for me acting it out and positioning it on the mac so I could still operate imovie. 10 minutes to sort out facial costume and maybe an appropriate slogan T-shirt. 10 minutes with the camera rolling. 15 minutes to play back and crop the lead in and lead out. About 4 bloody hours uploading to YouTube. But that was it. That's all it took. Suddenly I'm a film-maker, doing a video a week, it was that simple. I've garnered about 575 views across the various vids, which is a lot more than reads they may have got on the peer review online writing sites. Not exactly viral, but a decent enough bedrock.

Next I started to trawl through the novel itself to decide which bits to commit to vids. This time I knew I would seek to engage YouTube's visual language more directly. No blokes reading to camera (nor just to the left of it). I would get a professional actress to voiceover. She wouldn't therefore have to learn the text since she would be off screen. And each piece would be storyboarded for hand manipulated props that would tell a visual story just like a pop video. Since I would be manipulating the props, I needed someone to film it for me. So that's 2 people I'm committed to paying for their time. As of today, I think I've at least sorted the cameraman, but it's taken an inordinate amount of time and I'm behind schedule. I kind of think it doesn't matter, since the initial release of the book will be me badgering friends and family via personal e-mail and trying to get some press by sending out free copies with press releases. The YouTube campaign can come as a second wave. I've scoured flea markets and e-bay for the props. Having resisted joining up to e-bay until the book forced my hand, I proceeded to have a flame war with a seller for supplying me the wrong thing. We were arguing about £8 worth of goods.

So if you know where I can get an imitation gingham tablecloth made from paper, or some realistic but not real butterflies that I can mount on corks, I'd be very grateful. Now I have to get hold of my actress. Shouldn't be too hard seeing as I used to be a playwright.

Oh look, an e-mail from Legends Press (by now it's July). On Saturday I'll tell you what it contained.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How the hell did I end up here?

My name is Marc Nash. If you google the name, you get a Lower Division footballer who plays for Hartlepool United. As an aspirant writer, my stock is clearly lower than a minor footballer. If we both strike the big time, just as long as he doesn't have a ghostwritten biography, we should be okay me and him slugging it out in the search engine race.

I am about to self-/ independently/ print on demand, publish a book. Nowhere on this blog will I plug the book. This is a blog about my experience of the process of self/independent/POD publishing, offered freely to anyone else considering going down the same route. If you like what you read here as an example of my style so much so you want to buy the book, you can google in order to track down the selling outlets. Mind you it's not published yet. Hopefully this blog will build into outlining each stage of the pre and post publishing processes.

Anyhoo, how did I end up being responsible for publishing my own work? I had been writing stage plays for 15 years with limited success. My greatest achievement was self-financed and self-produced. I put my money where my mouth was. Not that it led to any progression along the professional path. For various reasons I turned from plays to prose. For 10 years I submitted unsolicited MS, mainly to agents and a sprinkling of presses. Over those 10 years, fewer and fewer presses would consider submissions that weren't through agents. As I had with my rejection slips from my playwriting days, I mounted the form letters on my wall by my desk to drive me on to prove them wrong. Some are now very discoloured with age, but that's by the by.

I had given up on the principle of cold calling through the anonymity of the mail and stock rejection letter in return. Online submissions seemed an easy and cheaper way to go, but despite receiving 4 acknowledgments of receipts from the 5 I sent to, a year on to this day I have never received any verdict. Almost for something to keep up the illusion I was still a writer, participating within my chosen profession in some meaningful way, I joined the Authonomy online writing community. Mainly lured by the pot of fools gold that was the offer of a professional critique from Random House for the monthly chart toppers. I left within 3 months, (if people are interested I can devote a post to the pros and cons of online peer review groups), but I knew I couldn't just crawl back under my rock, so I joined You Write

You Write is a peer review site, but one which provided the opportunity to be self-published for those who wanted it, through a tie in with Legends Press. Periodically, You Write On would invite people to apply for the service, and for £49.99 you could have your book published and available as a print on demand service, having been listed on the main online retail sites such as Amazon & Barnes & Noble. For £50, surely it wouldn't be beyond the wit of most to get a few friends to buy it in order for you to get your money back. Unfortunately, what remained beyond the wit of man, or me at least, was making head or tail of You Write On's blurb about the service. Legends Press' own website wasn't any more enlightening, so I dropped them an e-mail with a couple of queries I had.

Knock me down if I didn't receive a phone call from Legends Press head honcho Tom Chalmers to clear up my questions. In chatting, I realised that I had missed the You Write On deadline and would have to wait several months for the next round. It was then and there on the phone that I resolved to try and break out of the publishing malaise by going down the route of self-publishing. It was no different from mounting my own play. Though it offered greater longevity. The packages Tom was chatting to me about were a bit more than the basic £50 deal and completely through Legends Press rather than involving You Write On. I'll go through the package I plumped for in more detail below. At this point I decided I better do some research on what self-publishing involved, since I'd virtually made a spur of the moment decision.

I got the contract through from Legends and researched some other companies providing a similar service by getting hold of their contracts. Legends seemed competitive on price and offered 10 free copies to the author instead of the usual 5 elsewhere. That's 5 more that can be sent out to Press or Festival committees. There were claims about the superior quality of the actual printing, but in truth that was difficult to verify one way or the other.

The main variation seems to revolve around the cover. The YWO £50 package gives you no option of a bespoke cover; you have to choose from preset templates. The package I plumped for allowed me to come up with a brief for a professionally designed cover. In time I found out that this was a two bites of the cherry process. I sent off my brief, got a first version back, but only had one more stab at it since the package only allowed for one revision. I was a bit alarmed during this process, since although the designers had got all the diverse elements of my brief down pretty well, they had combined them all into one cover, despite the brief clearly stating that one set were for the front cover, the other for the back. I'll leave you hanging in suspense (or not) as to the outcome of this, since I have jumped ahead of the sequence of events in the process.

I signed the contract, put it in the mail and paid the fee online. Then I performed a final line edit on the text I was going to submit, over the course of a Bank Holiday weekend. Ready to go. Or so I thought...