Monday, 15 June 2015

Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure

 “Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.”   George E Woodberry
So following on from last week’s post I have decided that paying someone to format your manuscript could be well worth it. Having uploaded my manuscript to Createspace, I was told that automatic print checks could not be run on my file. It immediately sent alarm bells ringing! In the end – after speaking to a writing buddy – who I am sure is getting sick of my questions – I realised  that if I used Scrivener to compile to word and then saved it as a pdf, the file was accepted no problem! Phew- well there was a slight problem with the pdf size but I think Createspace will accept it if I say the layout is okay. 

Anyway, I used the Createspace interior reviewer and was pretty happy with what I saw, but then I showed H and he said – I don’t like the fact the paragraphs on the pages end at various lengths. Hmmm, he had a point. Clearly whatever template I had used was getting rid of Orphans and Widows – but hanging paragraphs as well. Personally, I don’t like the varying page lengths. I removed the function and have decided to tinker manually. Now, the ms I'm working with is a fully edited version and I don’t really want to start playing around with paragraph sizes but as someone pointed out on a Createspace forum – someone may  give you a bad review for it- not necessarily because they are a widow/orphan pedant – but because having widows and orphans can make reading difficult and therefore subconsciously someone may not like the book.

So, tonight I am going to have a look at house styles. What books have I read and liked -  and do they have widows and orphans? Then I am going to start the arduous task of formatting - which will change the size of the book, which will change the pages numbers and therefore the books spine and the front cover!!!! Who knew self-publishing could be so difficult. There is merit in having e-books only. But on the other hand if I master it now, it will be a doddle in future, or so I keep telling myself! Bring on publication date - I’ve got to get there at some point, right?

The following day: So I looked at the traditionally published book I am using as guidance for my formatting and in particular my widows and orphans issue(Alexander McCall Smith’s The Limpopo academy of Private Detection) and what I have discovered is that widows are acceptable! (When they are more than one line – say a line and a half). Personally for me I rather have widows than uneven ends to pages. Orphans too are acceptable (again a line and a half - maybe the length doesn't make it an orphan?!), although I don’t have any of those and runts are definitely a non-no. A runt is the last word of a paragraph on the next page.  So I’ve been through my manuscript and made sure it complies – my eyes hurt!!! Then I uploaded my new Pdf from a different computer and the page size was fine, but guess what? The fonts are not embedded – Createspace did this for me on the upload -  but what I have gathered is that if the font is not embedded then the font hasn’t travelled exactly as it should. I have two options: 1) Continue with the ms as is, checking for any changes in font or 2) use the pdf with the embedded font but the different page size – again an item that Createspace has corrected! Which is the lesser of two evils? And how beady are my eyes? They are tired - I can tell you that much. So, a bit more messing around, methinks, before I can give the final page numbers to the Cover Designer!


Friday, 22 May 2015

Self publishing? The questions you need to ask yourself.

Hello, it's  been a while. I have been busy getting to grips with Srivener to format Under the Coconut Tree for publication. With the help of Ed Ditto's book and Scrivener I'm pretty much there! I have even set up a Createspace account. Although I have self pubbed before (it was in 2011) things have changed and this time round I seem to be stressing over every minor detail. Perhaps I did last time as well, but conveniently blanked it from my mind.

Anyway I have deen debating a couple of things recently (all to do with paperbacks) and thought I would share this with you. So the first question was:

Do I want a printed book or not? - Yes. Why? Well because I think having a printed book (even if you don't sell anything) backs up your creditability. You are not just a e-book author. I also want a bit of vanity publishing here. Under the Coconut Tree is the book I am most proud of. I want a physical copy of it and why not? Say it like it is.  I also want to test the market with sales for this book. If I sell quite a few paperbacks and I cover the cost of the book cover designer (we'll get on to that in a mo) then I will consider having future books as paperbacks. If I don't sell any, I may not consider doing any paperbacks again.

Once that was decided I though- ooooh do I need my own ISBN or to use Createspace's free ISBN? I did some research and basically you need an ISBN for all formats or publishers. So You can buy a batch of ten from Neilsen and attach them to you kindle book, epub book, createspace book. The ISBN helps people find books and specifies the format at publisher. You don't need one for an  e-book (although ibook requires one if you want to sell it through this format) but you do for print. I chose not to buy any because I think e-book readers don't use them to search for books. they use the title or the author name.

I also decided to use Create Space's ISBN which is free.  If you have a Createspace ISBN bookstores may be reluctant to stock a book published in this way and the ISBN tells them that. But as I implied above my main aim is not to sell mountains of paperbacks (although this would be a nice bonus) so the Createspace ISBN was perfect for me.

What font, font size and size of book? That was the next series of questions. Well I like a decent font, my last published book had an 11pt font, which I asked the publisher to change to 12. They wouldn't. So this time round I wanted a size 12 font. I think it makes for a nicer reading experience. And what font? GT is New Times Roman (shouldn't have been apparently a writer buddy told me this is for newspapers!) Bittersweet is Bembo or something like that. Everyone said try Minion Pro but my computer doesn't have this. Book Antiqua made the spacing go funny and so I settled with good old fashioned Garamond. It has kept the spacing how I want it and so it was a win win situation. I can see how people can lose sleep over fonts and sizes and I was panicked for a few days, but once I made my decision I was happy.  So then there was the size of book. Most people go 6x9. I had this for GT and wasn't too impressed. For the lightheartedness of Under the Coconut Tree I wanted something smaller. My ideal is 5X8. Now this causes problems.

Primarily, the 5x8 is a smaller book, therefore more pages, therefore increased printing costs and apparently shipping costs and do you really want a lighthearted detective book at 375 pages? I spent many days thinking about this but ultimately I have decided to give it a go. To me a 5x8 book has a nicer feel than a 6x9 book. The handy price reckoner on Createspace tells you this is double in cost than printing a 6x9 book. However, I am sticking to my guns. This is my book, my way. You should probably do the same - unless you are super business savvy then I have to admit a 6x9 book makes more sense.

then it was open to the front cover. I had a stab myself and honestly I think if you are just e-book publishing you should give it a go. I personally don't think that front covers on e-book make a huge difference. So my ebook cover was basic but did the job, but I couldn't get away with it on a paperback. I decided to employ a company to do it. The downside is they cant look at it till the end of June - but I have put my impatience to one side and have decided this is the best way for me. This is at an extra cost (I'll provide details once the cover is finalised), but I think for this book, my pride and joy, it's worth it. I did consider publishing the ebook now with a different cover, but a writing buddy, as well as my friends and H (who never came through with my front cover in the end! - that almost ended in divorce) said two covers could confuse the reader.

Finally, I picked cream paper. I used white for GT and that just looks like a textbook. Although some people have commented that they really like it. 

I'll stop here for today, but there are lots of questions out there that I still have to answer. Some I have tackled - like should I use Smashwords or not - I have chosen to use it, but publish separately on Kindle, nook and Kobo.

My journey is far from over and I'll keep you updated on how I t's going. As I wait for my front cover I am working on the next book in the series and slowly setting up accounts on the various publishing platforms as well!


Monday, 27 April 2015

In this episode I attempt to use Scrivener

It has been a while, but I have been busy. I  finished editing Under the Coconut Tree (finally!), sent it to Storywork for editing and have just been through the final copy! Wooo hooo. It's taken long enough to get here. There wasn't too much red pen from the editor - but let’s face it face it – five grammar books and one course later my punctuation must have improved. And while we are talking about improvements I have also finished reading The Elements of Style. If you are a writer, you must read this book. It’s not an option. The book is, quite frankly, amazing. I have now started reading the Oxford Style Manual. I’ll let you know how it goes, but it’s more of a doorstop than a book. It may take me a year to finish (think bigger than Shantaram)

Anyway, back to UTCT. I heard of an editor from a writing friend and asked for a quote. The quote sounded reasonable so I’ve gave him a go and he was pretty good. So perhaps I will let him have Poison in the Water which should be ready for editing late summer – yes, I know my deadlines are slipping. I blame H for not going to the gym as much anymore – it has seriously cut down my writing time. So, now that my ms is back from the editor (along with the blurb, promo material wording etc- yep, I’m getting organised in my old age) my next task is to think of formatting the document for epub, kindle and paperback. – argh! Is a writer’s work ever over these days?

A writing friend recommended Scrivener as it can easily convert your work to Mobi and epub formats. A couple of you tube videos later, I bought the thing and tried it out. I have to say it is fiddly to use, but once you get the hang of it makes publishing pretty easy ( I say that although I'm not there yet). As I am a simple soul I bought Ed Ditto's ebook on publishing your book to kindle, Nook, Kobo, ibook,  Createspace and Smashwords. His claim is that you can do all this in an afternoon. I have to say it has taken me longer than that and I'm only half way through (but I'm easily distracted), but seriously the book is fool proof and simple to understand, plus he guides you through downloading Kindle gen and the reviewer. If you are feeling daunted by the thought and effort involved with publishing you need Scrivener and Ed Ditto's book in your life. I remember having to manually format my first book for kindle four years ago now and I was dreading it the second time around. Scrivener makes it all so simple! I reckon by the end of the month I will have all the formats I need.  H has stalled with my front cover, so I need to keep on at him to finish it!, but when that's done I am definitely going to try to upload directly to nook, kobo, kindle and create a paperback on Createspace, but I'm unsure if I need to go down the Smashwords route yet and I still haven't got my head around ibooks (but it's on my to-do list!). Perhaps I'll leave it till the others have been done.

Another bonus is that writing from now on, on Scrivener should be simpler. It has this great corkboard feature which looks like a great way to store a synopsis for each chapter and scribble notes while you are writing, and cross check two scenes at the same time – plus it’s compatible with Mac. In fact I hear it works better with a mac. My top tip is if you have a map download it from the app store, as it opens up straight away.

So I'm a couple of days formatting and a front cover away from a book launch. I'll let you know when I'm there - I'm thinking early June. The lack of  front cover means that I can't really publicise Under the Coconut Tree as yet (annoying), but I am hoping that old saying is true - good things come to those who wait! 


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

WIP Blog Tour

So here I am on another blog tour. You may know what it's about, but if you don't its basically a bunch of writers talking about their current work in progress. It's a great way for writers to talk about what they're working on and readers to find out information on upcoming new releases - basically a win-win situation for everyone!

The talented Tim Arnot nominated me for this blog tour. Tim is a prolific writer who has written several post-apocolyptic books, novellas and short stories set in 23rd Century Britain. You can read his post on his blog and you can buy his books on his Amazon page!

The rules for this blog tour are as follows: 

1 Link back to the post of the person who nominated you.

2 Write a little about and give the first sentence of the first three chapters of your current work in progress.

3 Nominate some other writers to do the same.

So what am I working on? I have three books on the go, but the one that I'm finalising and hoping to have ready for publication this May is Under the Coconut Tree. It's a lighthearted detective novel set in rural Goa (Something like The White Tiger meets Ladies No.1 Detective Agency) and it's also the first in the series of The Chupplejeep Mysteries. This book is particularly close to my heart as I was inspired to write  it when visiting my father's ancestral home in a tiny village in Goa - in fact the villages that feature in The Chupplejeep Mysteries are all loosely based on this village!

So here are the first sentences from the first three chapters :

Chapter 1

Lavita found his body at dawn on her way to clean out the chicken coop. At first she didn’t notice poor Sandeep lying there. She was just going about her usual business, humming along. His body lay limp, camouflaged by the thick hairy discarded coconut husks piled high under the tallest coconut tree in Utol.

It was the whites of Sandeep’s eyes that eventually caught the young woman’s attention. She took a step back dropping the kapai, brush, and the bucket of water that she had painstakingly drawn from the well. The soapy water seeped into the dry earth underneath the hardened soles of her feet. It wet the hem of her petticoat. Granny would be angry, having washed the hem only yesterday, but Lavita put her thoughts of Granny Monji to the back of her mind; Sandeep Shah was dead.

Chapter 2

‘Ohhhhh!’ Mrs Lalji let out a gasp when she saw the dead body lying on the ground next to her niece and Bala.

‘Mrs Lalji, madamji please close your eyes. It is not for women to see,’ Bala said.

‘Shut up, man. I’m the lady of the house, no? I have to see what terrible happenings are taking place in my own backyard.’

‘I’ll get Baba,’ Bala protested, ‘It really is no place…’

‘You’ll get Baba will you? Ok-ay be my guest.’ Mrs Lalji crossed her arms and smiled at Bala.

Bala weighed up the options. He had woken Baba up before, and the sight was not a pretty one. The baker certainly didn’t want a repeat of that belching man’s anger. Who knew how he would react to a dead man under his coconut tree? And what was the harm in Mrs Lalji dealing with the death in the first instance? After all, she had already seen the body.

Chapter 3

The telephone rang just as the detective was booking a houseboat in Kerala. Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile had been his inspiration for a romantic weekend with Christabel, on a riverboat. He was certain that this experience would make him more like the Belgian detective Poirot.

‘Stupid slow government machine,’ Chupplejeep grunted as he tapped the yellowing computer monitor, hoping for a response.

That's it from me. For more information about my books and other works in progress take a look a my website.

Now for the nomination of an author whose work I admire.

Olivier Bosman has recently released  the first in a series of novellas following a Dutch couple settle into life in Columbia.  I recently read the lighthearted Berta, the first novella in the Muchacha series and it instantly transported me to 1970's Columbia. With his striking book covers and his skilful way with words Olivier Bosman is the one to watch! 

Friday, 6 February 2015

A Question of Style

A Question of Style.

As you know I love writing, but the feedback I have been getting from my writing group is that although I tell a good story, my style needs to improve. I know it does and I have been trying to improve it, but sadly I don't think it has improved much.

Someone saying your style is not great is a difficult criticism to take - not really sweetened by the fact that I tell a good tale. I sat there thinking well- that's my style what can I do about that? It worried me too because whilst an editor can help with my flawed grammar, no one but me can improve my style.

To be fair if you self publish you can have whatever style you like.  And whether people like your books or not will depend on whether they like your style. That's fine because I have decided to self publish my next two novels.

But it's not fine, is it? If my style is not great then I owe it to myself and my readers to improve. The same way in which I have been learning about grammar from scratch and learning to touch type (nearly there now!), I need to learn about style. Any author will tell you that writing is a continual learning process - your writing will change (maybe not noticeably so) with every book.

Anyway, in my bid to improve I bought  The Elements of Style and dug out The Oxford Style Manual, which I bought a while back and subsequently never opened!  I've opened The Elements of Style and I can instantly tell I'm going to be able to get through it (It's a slim book unlike the Style Manual) and I feel like I want to recommend it already. Which is why I interrupted my reading to write this.

I shall keep you posted as to how I get on. I am also looking into purchasing Scrivner to help with the formatting and publication of Under the Coconut Tree - so watch this space!


Friday, 16 January 2015

Would ‘sorry’ have made any difference? Does it ever? It’s just a word.

“Would ‘sorry’ have made any difference? Does it ever? It’s just a word. One word against a thousand actions.” - Sarah Ockler

Well I would like to start this first post of the New Year with an apology. To my faithful blog readers, I am truly sorry for not blogging for over a month - perhaps more.  It breaks all the rules of those 'little but often' blog posts I was harping on about last year. 

I wish I could say had an excuse, but I can't. Basically, I've just been lazy. I can't even blame this lethargy on Christmas because too much time has passed. The fact of the matter is I think I'm burning out. For a couple of years now I have tried to stay on top of social media with goals and targets to hit. I installed Google Analytics on my webpage and I tried to tweet as often as I could. I even thought about setting some targets for 2015! But sadly this enthusiasm has left me. I feel a little guilty putting this statement out there for all to see, but that's what this blog is all about - my writing highs and lows (although I'm not sure which this is!). I can sense some of you shaking your heads at this admission. But I am sure there are quite a few writers and readers out there  that have found themselves in a slump of social media fatigue. 

So what have I decided to do? Well firstly, I am going to enjoy 2015 without immense pressure on myself to tweet, blog and what not  (I sound old!) and secondly I'm going to work on my three work-in-progress novels with some realistic deadlines for publication and perhaps start another.  You see I may not have been on-line but I have been furiously tapping away at the keyboard and making progress on my manuscripts.

  • Under the Coconut Tree - A Chupplejeep Mystery (my pride and joy) should be out in the spring. 
  • Poison in the Water - which I am currently re-writing (it's a painful process) should be out in the autumn and 
  • The Body in the Bath - A Chupplejeep Mystery (which I have written a skeleton first draft of) will be perfected by the end of the year.
  • I will also start the next Chupplejeep Mystery - Jetty Jalousie

H is under instruction to sort my website out too. You can see details on the first two books mentioned above here:

Details of  The Body in the Bath will be on there as soon as H gets organised. I've written the blurb and I'm as excited about this ms as I am about Under the Coconut Tree.

I will try and blog and I am sure as soon as my next novel is out I will find the motivation again to publicise my brand, but for now I'm just having some time out. It feels good saying it!  I will blog - when I can - I have some thoughts on the VAT changes, the demise of the blog (apparently people don't read them much anymore) and front covers! I will keep at my touch typing course. It's going slowly, but I think I will get there in the end (I'm still in the conscious incompetence phase) I will read to my hearts content (there is never enough time to read, is there?). I will try and improve my grammar (always on the list). I will see more of the world and I will write in my journal - a sumptuous brown leather bound one with a wrap. But mainly this year I  want to just be!  

Monday, 20 October 2014

Age wrinkles the body; quitting wrinkles the soul

Age wrinkles the body; quitting wrinkles the soul - Douglas MacArthur

I apologise now for the lack of blogging I have been doing of late. I have no excuses, life just seems to have taken over. That isn't to say that I have been sitting around doing nothing. I have enrolled in a touch typing thingy on-line. I say enrolled when in fact all I have done is registered so I can keep a track of my progress. Its free and it's called Typing Study. If like me you type entire novels with two fingers, give it a go. I'm spending half my lunch hour doing it and so far Im on lesson three. Hopefully by lesson 15 I'll be typing whilst looking out of the window or some such… and I won't get RSI, preventing my writing career when it finally takes off. 

Well today I am apprehensive. I feel like I should pack in the whole writing malarkey. Perhaps it's because I'm scared. Tomorrow my writing group is critiqueing my next novel: Poison in the Water and I think it's going to be brutal. It's kind of making me wonder why I spend hours a day writing. It's making me want to employ a ghost writer. Quite frankly it's making me want to give up. But You just can't be a quitter if you want good things to happen to you. Don't they say you give up right before the good stuff happens? (I'm sure Ive seen this at least a dozen times on Pinterest). Anyway it's just one of those days. I'm sure I'll be over it by tomorrow (well maybe the month after the critique).

 I keep telling myself we all have to start somewhere and I shouldn't be too down on myself - good things are happening. For instance last week was a good week. BBC Radio Oxford called me because they want me to do a call in on the morning show about self publishing. Did you get that? They called me… I was happy. The happiness was soon chased away by fear (If it's a call in, and I can't see someone will my mind drift? Will my mind go blank? - This happens to me a lot on the phone. (I find the more I write the less articulate I am verbally - Please tell me there are other writers out there like that?).

And then on the 16th October I went to the Society of Author's Writers in Oxford Event in Balliol college. It was a nice evening and I got to mingle and talk to other authors. I've just realised I should have taken a picture for my blog or my website!!! Always wise after the event. I've also sent out a submission for my first Chupplejeep novel: Under the Coconut Tree! Keep your fingers crossed. And I've hit 40,000 words on my next Chupplejeep book: The Body in the Bath.  It's going well - well it was before I hit this crisis of confidence. 

Until next time...