The perils of a would-be author (Act II, creating a book)

Luck has a very uneven and fickle hand, one that no one can truly rely upon. Instead, if you wish to avoid the yawning jaws of defeat and grasp the laurels of success, you need to be prepared. And writing is unlikely to be any different to any other creative process.

Planning to be a self publisher

As I intimated in the first of this series of articles, charting my journey through the unfamiliar waters of writing fiction, I intend publishing my own works, rather than using the more standard literary agent and publisher arrangement. Why? Because I wish to maintain control of what I’m doing. Yes, I accept that I may well not enjoy the successes of being publicized by a well funded and marketing-savvy publisher, but I also retain more control and more of the fees per sale of book.

So this is a gamble, albeit an educated one, since I am already helping businesses market their services via the web through Octane, I have a better grasp than most of what’s required to market an intangible item, such as an electronic book.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, since we’re dealing with the foundational activities, right at the beginning of the process. And here’s where all of the skills and tools I use on client projects are brought together, because writing a book is just the beginning.

The process is write, build, promote, track and then analyse, in that order. However, we need to get the product in place first.

The anatomy of a book

Notice how I say creating a book, and not writing a book? Writing is just the beginning, and only one part of the whole creative process, which I’ll now discuss.

I’m not going to dwell on the aspects of writing, because that’s a completely different topic all its own, which is far too cumbersome for me to discuss here. Why? Because writing is such a personal and subject thing, I don’t think it makes sense for me to talk about what I do and expect those methods to work for or apply to you. So let’s assume you’ve written your book, now what?

Proofreading and copyediting

If you’re writing fiction like me, then the understanding (consensus) appears to be that readers of fiction are less likely to suck through their teeth and wince when they hit bad grammar or typographical errors. But if you’re writing factual, documentary novels, then expect to irk their displeasure. And the reasons are actually very simple, really; the former are reading for escapism, whereas the latter are more likely to use your work for reference, and accuracy is a legitimate yardstick they choose to measure you by.

Either way, at the very least, I recommend you enlist the services of a proofreader. However, if you’re writing factual literature, a copyeditor is essential. That said, if your fiction incorporates factual information, contemporaneous asides, flash-backs between dates et cetera, then you need a copyeditor, to weed out any continuity errors.

Okay, I can hear you mumbling something like “You’re as new to this as I am, so what the hell do you know?” I have form; I’ve written several ebooks, one of which, entitled: How to use WordPress to manage your company website, is rather popular.

Earlier yesterday, I received back my first proofread copy of Earth Day, my up-coming short story, with a sample copyedited version, for me to discuss with Stephanie, the woman of words I’m using to refine my book.

Book design and cover illustration

Mark of Asylumseventy7 also sent me a draft copy of the cover illustration, which we’ll be developing over the next week or so. Since then, I’ve taken elements of his work and created the book cover design for Earth Day. But do you really need a book cover illustration? If you want your potential readers to take you seriously, yes you do.

I come from a print design background, so I know the importance of design as a means of communication. Your book has to compete with a myriad other books on the same or similar topic, whether you’re on a bookshelf in W.H. Smith in Barnsley, or in a web page category listing for hiking & biking in Belgium on Barnes & Noble, the rules are exactly the same.

But even then, the illustration itself is only the first step, after which you will need to consider having your book designed, with the appropriate typeface, that combines aesthetic appeal with legibility, and a layout style that is subtly remarkable yet unobtrusive.

You see where I’m going with this? If you want your book to be a success, you need to speak with the right people and probably spend good money wisely. I can’t tell you who to choose, but I can’t overemphasize the importance of creating a quality book.

Having spoken with Clare from Self Publishing Advice earlier, I had a few suspicions confirmed. First of all, placing images or illustrations into documents destined for Amazon’s Kindle isn’t optimal, on account of the relatively poor quality display of the device.

Secondly, I’d be better served withholding the more elaborate book designs for other book stores, like Issuu, Lulu et al, and just use a simple textual format for Kindle and Apple’s iBooks.

On the issue of cost, I’d already done some research and found that £1.49 was about the right price for an eighty page short story.

Next, I’ll be going through the aforementioned building, promotion, tracking and analysis, which is going to be essential to my social media efforts.

Project Status — The Fly

I’m working on a kind of superhero story, provisionally called The Fly. The story is kind of a cross between Iron Man and Batman, but the principle character isn’t a multibillionaire; he’s just a guy caught up in the middle of a huge social upheaval that he’s trying to help fix, but isn’t as proficient as the aforementioned superheroes. Anyway, I’ve got what I call the “chronology” built to the half-way stage, and most of the villain’s criminal intentions built up.

The perils of a would-be author (Act I, the beginning)

After several years of thinking, I finally decided to act (or more precisely, leap) back into writing novels. But in the time between my last foray and now, the publishing game had changed, and self publishing is no longer the realm of the rich and resourceful. Now, self publishing is feasible, practical and accessible.

Why write?

Good question! I am a creative by nature, and I am continually imagining people doing extraordinary things in the most mundane of environments and places, or extraordinary people living out their lives amongst the more common place and restrained, like perhaps you and I are.

I am also a story teller, with a sense of theatre and the dramatic, which goes a long way towards conjuring up the fanciful, the fictitious and the futuristic.

And then there’s the fact that writing isn’t a terribly difficult thing to do (physically), I am removed from the discomfort of dealing with the whims and fancy of clients, and finally, there is money to be made.

In the beginning

Way back when I was .. ahem, younger than I am now, just after starting college, I had this idea for a novel, the principle theme of which was time travel, a subject that I find endlessly fascinating. And, having starting writing the novel Perditions End during the middle of the nineteen nineties, by the turn of the millennia, I had a first draft. While this draft is most likely to be scrapped and re-written, a crucial seed of inspiration had been sewn in my mind, one of a trilogy (or what now looks more like a tetralogy) about a lineage of unique people with singular abilities.

On the in between

Of course, I have been over-run by circumstance, which arrived in the form of several huge movie franchises, such as The Matrix, X-Men and Inception to name but a few, all of which touched upon many of the themes and ideas I would be exploring. That said, the ideas I have in mind are still very much original and worth exploring further.

I am an unabashed science fiction fanatic, but I am also a pragmatist and a practical thinker. I’ve been writing about science and technology for years now, over on Blah, Blah! Technology, which allows me to take the “What if?” and ground those ideas in the cement of reality. And so, here I am, writing about science fiction that will, to the best of my knowledge and abilities, be as grounded in scientific and technological fact as is practicably possible.

In the here and now

More recently, I’ve written Ascending Angels, which is the sequel to Perditions End. But this this is all part of a much bigger longer term project. I need to first write something I can sacrifice to the monkey gods of self publishing, and this is where Earth Day comes in. Earth Day is an eighty page short story that follows a woman living in rural Cumbria, in the north of England, in the aftermath of an alien invasion.

Unlike movies such as Independence Day, the fact is, we simply wouldn’t stand a chance against any alien species, should they wish to invade Earth. Instead, I deal with the aforementioned practicalities of what such an invasion might entail and what purpose it would serve, with shades of The Day The Earth Stood Still, in so far as the way the alien emissary Klaatu, played by Keanu Reeves, articulates the concerns of those he represents.

Anyway, that’s the book I’ve chosen to go with first, so all that remains is publishing, right? Wrong. And that’s where I’ll be picking up next time, offering a glimpse into the various processes and stages I went through, to actually write a novel and then to prepare for publishing.