Archive for June, 2011

June 30, 2011

Pretty Things

A break, if I may, from all this talk of Devils and Souls to sit back and revel in the pleasure of holding a copy of your book in your hand. Not an electronic copy, but a real, bound, litho printed paperback.

OK, so yes, I paid for it myself and this probably does fall under the banner of Vanity Publishing because I don’t expect to sell more than a handful of these.

But don’t imagine for a moment that the pleasure is diminished in any way. I’ve printed out copies of my books, bound them and sat them on the shelf, and very nice they were, very tangible. But this is different. This feels like a real book, and a hefty one, too.

It’s not perfect, there are a couple of typos to be fixed, and a tweak required on the front cover. It’s taken an age to arrive, due (it seems) to my stupidly requesting the cheapest shipping method – a mistake I won’t be repeating.

Of the whole process, the production of the paperback has been the most painful. CreateSpace, to their credit, provide detailed, clear instructions. Having followed these to the letter, I’m very happy with the results.

In the meanwhile, given the delay in receiving this one, I started looking at a more local POD service. To say the process has been a little more fraught is an understatement. Firstly, opening an account with them required much more detail (it’s clear that they are a more traditional printer branching out into POD rather than being specifically created as such), then the specifications of the interior file has been more demanding – whereas CreateSpace will happily take a PDF created using the “Save As” in Word, this company prefer a PDF created with Adobe Distiller. Which I don’t have. Attempts to create the file using other methods have, so far, been unsuccessful.

That they also charge considerably more for the proof, and there has been (until today) 3-5 days between uploading my new files and being told they were incorrect (compared to CreateSpace where I uploaded mid-afternoon, received confirmation the file was OK by late evening, ordered the proof and had the dispatch confirmation later that night) has really dragged out the whole process.

So it looks like I’ll be going back to CreateSpace. With apologies for complaining about the slow delivery (I checked earlier, if I ordered an actual print run and chose express delivery, I could have them by July 6th. Really not too bad).

I should say: I’m not being paid to compliment CreateSpace, just relating my experience. I’m also not specifying the name of the other company – again, these are only my experiences, you might have a much better time. And no, it’s not Lulu, I haven’t used them – I did consider them, but they don’t have the paper size I have chosen so that would mean another round of formatting and redesigning the cover.

Finally, back to the point, the Pretty Thing. This:

You can, of course, order a copy for yourself using the Buy Now link on the right, or you can trot off to Amazon and order a copy for your Kindle (and a copy of Broken – Book 2 – while you’re there!) – again, use the link on the right.

June 29, 2011

If Not The Devil, What?

Following on from yesterday’s post comes the question “If dealing with the Devil isn’t the way forward, what do I do now?”

It’s clear from recent Press coverage that there are authors enjoying success through other methods. Louise Voss and Mark Edwards are currently riding high in the Kindle charts with their two books – and Mark assures me that the methods mentioned in all the coverage played only a small part in their success (Amazon removed the clever subtitle after only four days).

He claims that it was more about word-of-mouth than anything else, but I can’t help wondering what it was that enabled Catch Your Death to reach the point where simple word-of-mouth is all you need to sustain such a high level of sales.

If there was anything else, Mark isn’t saying. And who can blame him?

I’ve yet to read either Catch Your Death or Killing Cupid – though they are on my list – so I can’t say whether their success is deserved. I’m sure it is, but what makes them more worthy than many other titles that lurk undiscovered in the Kindle Wilderness? Something kick-started them into the public awareness. Maybe it was the Amazon subtitle, maybe it wasn’t.

For me, the search goes on to find that magic bullet, preferably without annoying anybody along the way.

June 28, 2011

Selling One’s Soul

I’ve been quiet on here for a few days, testing out some things, watching and pondering.

And I’ve come to a conclusion: I’m not yet ready to sell my soul to the Devil.

It’s just not me, I’m not that sort of person. Every time I did it, I felt I was crossing the line into what was, frankly, unacceptable behaviour.

This could, of course, explain a lot. Too many good ideas, bubbling with enthusiasm, filled with promise, that have had brief moments in the spotlight before slowly fizzling out and becoming yet another “worth a try”.

This has not, and will not, fall into that category, but equally I’m not out to annoy, irritate or harass people. I just can’t do it. And if you’re one of that small number of people that I have annoyed, irritated or harassed over the past few days, then please accept my apologies. (In truth, I didn’t harass anybody, but that doesn’t mean that somebody out there doesn’t feel as if I did).

I’d already had reservations, but yesterday tipped the balance. Somebody, presumably because I’d annoyed/irritated them, tagged The Long Second with what were, frankly, offensive tags, as well as a couple of less-offensive but no-less incorrect one. Amazon UK have kindly deleted them but it served as a wake-up call.

And then, today, Catherine Ryan Howard posted this short piece, and (once again) seemed to get it completely right.

On the one hand, I’d love to sell a million books (who wouldn’t?). Hell, at the moment I’d be pretty damn happy with 1000. But my motivation is less to do with money (can’t believe I’m saying that) than it is to do with wanting people to read and enjoy my books. I’m hoping the latter aim will just naturally lead to the former over time. Without having to sell my soul along the way.

(Footnote: I’m not criticising anyone here. If you choose to sell your books that way, I honestly don’t have a problem with it, and wish you well. It just doesn’t rest easily on my shoulders. Which is why I’m an IT man working with computers that do as they’re told, and not a salesman, at which I would be rubbish).

Final word: None of the above stops me from saying, to you, Buy My Book! Look, the links are over there on the right. Or you could click this. (Or even, this. Sshh!) Go on, it’s less than a pound!

June 22, 2011

One Wish

On the day my son was born, my mother was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus. I called her early that morning to share the good news and could hear the underlying fear in her voice.

She didn’t know, at that point, what the diagnosis was, but I think she had a fair idea.

Later that afternoon, after the diagnosis and once I was home, I spoke to her again. Her overriding concern was that this special day would always be tinged with unhappiness for all of us. I laughed it off, assuring her I would remember the birth, not some doctor’s appointment. Besides, she’d be fine.

She died 4 months later. Cancer of the oesophagus is a sneak, it doesn’t let you know it’s there until it’s too late to do anything about it.

I’m not alone in losing a parent too young. She was only 66, and should have lived at least another ten years, long enough to see my children grow up.

My son is now 8. My eldest daughter is 14 and still misses her nan, because even at 6 she’d made an impact on her. She has kept the last Christmas card she received from her.

At her funeral, a colleague gave the most touching eulogy you could imagine, explaining how my mum had helped her through her cancer, how my mum would go out of her way to help anyone and how nothing was beneath her – despite having become the manager of the care home where she’d worked for over 20 years, she was just as willing to clear up an accident as she’d been the day she started.
Everybody should get one wish. For me, it would be to go back to a year or so before she died, persuade her to see a doctor. Maybe then she’d have received an early enough diagnosis.

My mum loved gadgets. She was the epitome of a Silver Surfer. She would love the Kindle, and she’d have been proud beyond measure that I was writing books and that the first was now available.

That this first book features time-travel is probably less of a coincidence than even I realised.

That I announced it’s availability on 11 June – the anniversary of her death – is also less of a coincidence than I might have admitted to.

The book is dedicated to 4 people who are no longer with us. But today it’s dedicated to Sylv (she hated that name).

Love you. Miss you.

The Long Second is available on Kindle now, from Amazon

June 21, 2011

>About Yesterday

>No new update today – I’m still harping on about what I think/thought was a brilliant idea yesterday (20 June 2011) but has, as yet, not captured the world’s imagination.

But I’m not giving up that easily. Go have a look, tell me if you think I’m on to something…
June 20, 2011

>Who says e-books can’t be signed?

>As a book-lover (obviously!) I really like having my books signed by the author, and my many connections on Twitter have allowed me to build quite a collection in a small time. You feel you have a connection with the author, however small, knowing they’ve handled the actual book you’re reading.

It’s a common criticism of e-books that they can’t be signed, a dilemma for which nobody (to my knowledge) has yet come up with a suitable answer. I’ve seen a few people have an author sign their Kindle in permanent marker, and I guess if you could get a whole list of authors to sign your Kindle that would be pretty cool, but then you’d be worried about rubbing the signature off (those permanent markers aren’t as permanent as you’d think). Plus, there’s no way of buying a book remotely with that signature (unless you splash out on a whole new Kindle).

I think I may have the solution.

Starting this week, I’m offering anybody who wants to buy the Kindle version of The Long Second (only Kindle for the moment, I’m looking into the other formats) to have either:
1. A personal dedication typed into the front of the book – it’ll be on the first page, immediately after the cover image – or
2. A personal handwritten message, signed by both Marshall Buckley authors, then scanned and the image placed at the front of the book.

The only caveats? The e-book has to be purchased via my website, not via Amazon, and there is a small extra charge for doing this (because I have to create a new Kindle file for each dedication). The handwritten dedication will be slightly more expensive than the typed one (there’s more work involved), but I’m planning to keep the cost sensible.
(I did have a third idea but decided to drop that as it would have been much too much work, and I would have had to charge a lot more).
Once complete, the e-book will be emailed to the purchaser, who can then copy it to their Kindle via USB or using Amazon’s email facility.

I could be wrong, but I think this is totally unique, and it’s something I can offer specifically because I’m self-publishing (and, to be honest, probably because I’m a techy at heart so the extra work isn’t too difficult for me – other less-techy authors might struggle).

So, am I blazing a trail here, or am I trying to sell to a market that doesn’t exist?

Edit: I’ve just seen this announcement on Twitter: http://www.geekwire.com/2011/kindlegraph-authors-sign-kindle-books
One the one hand, I can’t believe this has been announced just as I’m talking about it… but on the other hand, does it vindicate this as an amazing idea? Plus… KindleGraph doesn’t actually embed the signature inside the Kindle book like I will… do my idea is better, right?

June 17, 2011

>Hard Work

>I am genuinely struggling to find enough hours in the day at the moment. Don’t, even for a second, think that Self-Publishing is an easy option.

Yes, there are plenty of parts of the process which are pretty straight-forward – the conversion of the book to Kindle, for example – but there are other parts which will take days off your life, chew them up and spit them out. I genuinely have had no time to do any actual writing (excluding blogging, of course) for weeks.
It will settle down, over time, I’m sure. What it does, though, is appreciate the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes in the publishing industry. Of course, the people doing this day in day out have had a little more practice than me, and so won’t get bogged down with some of the unexpected tasks. Then again, they are probably working on more than one book at any given time, so it all balances out.
It doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it, though. I like a challenge – it’s pretty much what my day job is about, dealing with the unexpected – so it’s not a problem.
But, like everything else, it’s wise to go in with your eyes open, and expect that there will be some hard work (but then it probably wouldn’t be as satisfying if it were easy, right?)
June 16, 2011

>Travelling

>I’m not here.

Instead, today, I’m here over at Scott Pack’s (Twitter: @meandmybigmouth) blog. Do pop over and have a read, won’t you?
June 15, 2011

>Pause

>A short post today with no new information.

I’m taking 24-hours to pause, catch my breath and reflect on what’s been achieved so far and what’s still to be done.
At some point I need to start writing again, too. I honestly don’t know how to fit it all in.
There are still a number of things to be resolved, replies pending from various other third parties which might be important and might change the whole course of the next few weeks.
But please bear with me, and please keep spreading the word if you can!
I’ll announce the competition winner tomorrow – Thursday 16th – nobody guessed the correct result (a disappointing 6.2 – considering how much I’d done to try to reduce it from 6.4 that was a shock, but the doctor seems content, so I’m not worrying!) so I’ll do some kind of random draw and email the lucky winner. There will, of course, be a delay in dispatching the book seeing as I still haven’t received my proof copy (I’m looking at alternative printers). In the meantime, I’ll offer the winner a free copy in electronic form too (not signed, obviously).
June 14, 2011

>The Morning After The Night Before

>I’m really struggling with what to write today. Not because I don’t have anything new to report but because things are happening so quickly that I’m no longer certain I’m able to keep up.

You’ll have read many authors saying they have “news” but aren’t allowed to talk about it yet (it almost always means they have a publishing contract. I’m pretty sure I’m not revealing anything unknown there) and for once, I’m saying the same thing – and it’s not a publishing contract.
I’ve been very fortunate in having lots of people to turn to and ask for help, however small. Just spreading the word about the book is all I want from them, but some people are able to offer so much more. These people have so willingly and enthusiastically promoted The Long Second – in most cases without even reading it – that word is now reaching complete strangers, and new names are popping up in my Twitter stream and on the Facebook page.
To you new faces I say Welcome, I hope you enjoy what you find here and that it helps you with whatever path you choose to follow (or that you simply enjoy the book!)
Other things have happened because they’ve been made to happen. That whole “getting yourself out there” thing that I spoke about on Friday. Sometimes you tentatively pick up the phone, expecting nothing but ambivalence (at best) or blunt rejection (at worst) but end up speaking to somebody who is completely enthralled by your story, and then they make an offer which exceeds your wildest dreams (certainly this early in the process). Maybe nothing will come of it, but maybe it will… watch this space.
But it just shows: these are just ordinary people, doing what they do day in, day out. They don’t know how nervous you are about approaching them. Maybe they’ll be grumpy, maybe you’ll be a time-waster, but maybe not. Maybe yours is the story they are looking for that day.
But it’s given the whole process a second wind. I was honestly exhausted after the weekend. There were times I was struggling to keep up with emails – Facebook notifications, Twitter mentions and retweets (yes, I know I can turn them off, but I actually quite like them) and a flurry of general emails dealing with sales, potential sales and all the other things I spoke about yesterday.
I was almost happy to go back to work for a rest. Well, perhaps not.
One thing’s for sure: the journey has only just begun. If the momentum can be maintained, then who knows where it will lead.
But wherever it goes, it certainly looks like it’s not going to be boring. Come along with me, why don’t you?