Five books ordered for Goodreads Giveaway!

The books are ordered, all five of them, ready for the giveaway and ready for me to sign. I’m still coming to terms with scribbling in books (I was always taught that defacing a book was hugely immoral), but I suppose that scrawling one’s John Hancock doesn’t really count. Then again, my ‘actual’ signature really can’t be counted as anything other than an irregular, scribbled mess.

Not so for my ‘author’ signature though – you know, the one you put in books – because I have been practicing on several scraps of paper to get something different than what I might scribble in a chequebook. Not that I expect anyone to forge said signature if I do include it in the leaves of my own book, but I’m sure that I once read somewhere that having an ‘artist’s’ signature is the thing to do.

What with my free trial of Amazon Prime, the books should all arrive via courier tomorrow; though I have experienced a certain amount of guilt as a result. It seems a tall task to print five copies of my novel, pack them up and then drive them over to their delivery destination in what is effectively 24 hours. I’m fairly certain that I’m not yet making enough sales for The Future King: Logres to be on the ‘print-and-stock-it-just-in-case’ list, so they’re probably being run off the printing press as we speak. With the novelty of being a published author still relatively new, I must admit that I am looking forward to handling so many copies of my ‘brain-baby’ at once.

In other news, I’m awaiting the moment when it’s appropriate to start spreading the word about my signed copy Giveaway on Goodreads (this will be a fairly labour-intensive task, I assure you), and have been struggling through writing the opening of book two (well, technically Volume One: Book Two, as Logres will be published as two instalments). It’s proving a challenge to get right. I think I’m going to have to accept that after all the polishing I did in the editing process of Book One, I can’t expect the prose for Book Two to be immediately as ‘perfect’. It seems I’m going to have to force myself to take my own advice, which is along the lines of, write and don’t stop. No looking back, no thinking it could be better, you can do all that later in your months of editing (which will inevitably take months) – just go for it, ignore that niggling in your head that it’s not quite there yet – ignore, ignore, ignore – until you get your groove back, get back into the flow of things, finish the story – only then can you go back and rewrite the whole not-quite-good-enough book (thrice, probably).

That said, it is natural to want to get the first few scenes absolutely right from the beginning so that you’re setting off at the right tone and pace. It’s exciting to be starting from scratch (despite the blank-page syndrome!), but writer’s block is still trying to unsettle me, and to top it all off a recent move means that I no longer have my old writing desk (everything is now done on the edge of a very cluttered dining room table).

But don’t despair, if you have read Logres: Book One and are looking for an indication of when Book Two will be on the proverbial shelves: the answer is soon, hopefully either the end of 2016 or near the start of 2017. To avoid the risk of getting myself into a George R. R. Martin-book 6-type scenario, I’m not going to promise too much too soon; but do keep checking back for progress, which I assure you I will undoubtedly post (probably in the form of word-count updates) as regularly as it’s worth.

In the meantime keep sharing The Future King: Logres, Volume One: Book One with anyone you feel might enjoy it, rate and review it on Amazon and Goodreads, enter my free signed copy giveaway on the 1st of Feb, and have a good, creatively embellished week. I will probably be sat at this dining table writing, then rewriting, and tapping out notes for The Future King: Logres, Volume One: Book Two.

Advertisements

10 things I have learned whilst exporting to Kindle

  1. There are many more file types than I thought. .rtf, .htm, .epub… but it’s .mobi that you want. According to Amazon, .mobi is the one.
  2. Making your book available on Kindle isn’t as straightforward as it seems. A quick conversion of your .pdf, and then you’re done? So. I. thought.
  3. Actually, the above requires a) removing all formatting from your original Word document that you exported for print, b) keeping any formatting as simple as possible, c) exporting your Word document as a .htm/.html file, d) running said .htm file through a converter, e) downloading Amazon’s Kindle previewer, f) downloading Amazon’s Kindle reader because the previwer doesn’t preview well, g) realising that your document hasn’t exported quite as you would like and, h) running through all the former to try and suss out where you went wrong.
  4. Oh, and on top of that you’ll read all sorts of blogs and tips about what you shouldn’t do (i.e., forcing a certain font type on your text), but do them anyway, because firstly you don’t know how not to do it, and secondly ‘Normal style’ completely undermines any alternative fonts you have made use of in your book (who doesn’t like Garamond, anyway?).
  5. At several moments, in desperation, you will break from your formatting to look into companies and services which promise to do all the hard work for you.
  6. You will bemoan, ‘but I just want it to look like a book!’. Specifically your book, which you just spent months perfecting in print.
  7. It comes to your attention at some point that perhaps you should have sorted out your Kindle file first, before your book launch, but then you remember that Createspace and Amazon told you that it would be easy.
  8. Perhaps this is easy, you then think, as you export your book for the third time wondering why your TOC (that you made in Word, as you were told), still isn’t working. Why? Why?
  9. After downloading independent software to export your book to .mobi for you, you realise that it is the conversion itself that has broken your TOC, and that you could have just edited your .htm document in Dreamweaver in the first place to fix all the links and the formatting issues instead.
  10. You find random things in the block of your book text (like a hyphen between two paragraphs) and then think, God, has that always been there…? then don’t want to look to double check just in case it is (you’ll do it later, or forget, or a reader will find it for you).

Blurb for The Future King: Logres

So! After blood, sweat and tears (not literally) I have finally completed my blurb for the back of my book jacket. Could I have a drumroll, please?

(Courtesy of http://freepercussionlessons.com/how-to-play-legato-drum-rolls-on-timpani/)
(Courtesy of http://freepercussionlessons.com/how-to-play-legato-drum-rolls-on-timpani/)

Here it is, my blurb for The Future King: Logres!

Britain, 2052. In a world of war, disease and hunger the UK stands alone as a beacon of prosperity under an all-powerful ruling party. Life at new school Logres seems promising for fifteen-year-old Gwenhwyfar, and quickly she falls for the school’s handsome catch, Arthur. When Arthur’s rival, Lancelot, returns after a suspension, her heart is immediately divided. Realising that behind the UK’s prosperity lies unspeakable cruelty, Gwenhwyfar sets off on a path to dismantle everything the government stands for. Suspenseful, raw and awash in a dystopian setting, The Future King: Logres is a story of identity and discovery against this backdrop, the second coming of the Arthurian legends.

The main thing is that it fits on my book jacket, right? Less is more, seems to be the resounding advice that I’ve collected from looking at various ‘how to’ sites. If anyone has any thoughts, please do share them. Meanwhile, whilst I’m waiting to hear back from my proof reader, I’m finishing off another project (a children’s book), which I’m hoping to release before Christmas. I won’t give away too many details just yet, but I’ve outlined the approach for the illustrations, and will hopefully be completing them (and posting updates) in the next few weeks. Exciting! (Well, it is for me.)

10 things I have learned whilst proof reading

  1. Unless you are a professional proof reader, it is inevitable that you will always miss something (but then I wonder, do professional proof readers miss things too?).
  2. It is surprising how one can read a manuscript multiple times, catching double-spaces, incorrectly formatted dashes and dots, missing words, extra words, and yet on the hundredth read discover an entirely overlooked error – in my case missing speech marks at the end of some lines.
  3. Relying on speech & dictation to catch things for you is a very useful method (particularly for spotting typos) – but it is not to be relied upon 100%. Only yesterday my reader Alex decided to add ‘that’ into my sentence. Clearly he thought the sentence was better with an extra demonstrative pronoun.
  4. A formatted manuscript is much easier to spot mistakes in than a non-formatted manuscript. I suppose it’s the increased space between lines, the fewer words per page, or something.
  5. Fewer words per page and a smaller page size means that you’ll have twice as many pages to proof read, yet somehow because of this the whole task seems to go faster (120 pages per day! Woo!).
  6. Knowing when to stop proof reading is a real issue. How many times do you go through it? With each change lies the potential for fresh mistakes. What if you have a blind spot to the difference between her and his? You meant his, but you typed her. You might not see you typed her until your book is already in print.
  7. I suppose the above is why I am asking friends and family to read through my manuscript for me (trusting, of course, in their superior ability to sense typos in a sentence – much like those who sense a formidable, horrible disruption when one digit is off in pi – can you? 3.141592653589793238462643383279
    50288419716939937510582097494459230781640628620899862803482
    534211706798214808651328230664709384460955058223172535940812
    848111745028410270193852110555964462294895492038196442881097
    56659334461284756482337867831652712019091456485).
  8. The fear of releasing one of those books that we’ve all come across – when you’re on page seven, and a word is missing, or wrong, or repeated – is quite possibly irrational, but also very real.
  9. Don’t try to proof read if you’re tired or hungry. Unless you’re in the right frame of mind whilst reading, you will approach the end of the chapter with the feeling you have not done as well as you could have, and then resign yourself to combing through the same pages again later, when you’re feeling a little less useless.
  10. With all the above taken into consideration, a novel can always be amended to fix any overlooked errors. After all, we all know that’s what editions are really for, right?

10 things I have learned whilst formatting a book in MS Word

  1. Apparently, if you’re going to be making changes to your book after formatting, MS Word is your best choice as it’s easier to edit content. That, and InDesign is just scary if you don’t know how to use it at all, really – so what hope would one have when it comes to formatting a whole novel?
  2. You’ll probably start with a font size which will make your book seem shorter. But then you’ll change the page size, line spacing and margins, and suddenly your book will seem longer. Much longer. Not good if you’re self publishing and more pages=less profit.
  3. It is surprising how bookish your book will look with only the things mentioned in (2) formatted. Because yes, surprisingly, there is more. Once you do get to the ‘more’ part, MS Word will start to seem like a living, thinking thing that does illogical things just to annoy you. This sense of working with a living, thinking thing will not deter you from insulting it frequently with all kinds of profanities, however, and you will feel no guilt in doing so.
  4. If you’re a first time self-publisher and have no experience in publishing, well, anything, you’ll inevitably have to refer to other (more traditionally published) novels to figure out what yours should look like. This is useful, and you should do it. Pick one book you like the look of and use it as a point of reference. Preferably something from your genre. After all, you don’t want your crime-thriller looking like erotic fiction (though if it’s all about tension anyway, what’s really the difference?).
  5. Referring back to point (3). You will format, you will think you are done, and then you will notice something that isn’t as it should be. For example, paragraphs breaking on the next page, thus giving you uneven line-to-page frequency. (Tip: if you have this problem, uncheck window/orphan control in format/paragraph for the whole document to fill your pages completely with lots of lovely prose). There will be other things, but at least you will feel accomplished when you fix them.
  6. Even if you do the above and check off window/orphan control, if you have inserted chapter dividers that look fancy, this will knock off your layout on your lovely new-chapter pages. Still trying to figure out how to fix that one without simply changing the font size of the empty line above said fancy chapter dividers (because, somehow, that seems crude).
  7. Headers and footers are important – format them well! Choose ‘different odd/even pages’ and make sure you mirror your margins through format/document. This does something else to make it look more bookish. From looking at various books I have determined that authors usually have their name on the even page and the title of the book on the odd page.
  8. Inserting Section Breaks is an absolute nightmare. Seriously, first you figure out that you’re supposed to inset a Section Break relative to whether it’s an odd page or an even page, then you figure out how to get the page numbers to start at ‘1’ on the fourth actual page, and then you realise through exporting to PDF that each new Section Break has skipped a page number and thus created a ‘phantom page’ with nothing on it before every chapter in your document. Huzzah.
  9. Confident in all the abilities you have learned (as listed above), you calmly go through the document to rectify the problem, only to have one Section Break change reset all the others into a paradoxical chaos of wrong numbers and jumps and gaps where your book is suddenly longer or shorter than it actually is (but not really, hence the number-paradox).
  10. You fix the above (9) without screwing everything else up. But you’re still editing or there’s a few things left to change. You now wish you had finished the final draft before even attempting formatting, because you’re terrified the slightest change might destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Who knows? Maybe a paragraph more or less will confuse everything and you’ll be stuck undoing everything you’ve done in order to redo it properly. Let’s hope not.

The Future King: Logres – book cover release!

TFKBookCoverMLMP2015
The Future King: Logres is due to be released in October of this year. Keep checking back for teasers and confirmation of a release date.

So today I am finally ready to post up the above design. This is my novel, this is my my book cover: this is what it looks like. It’s simple, it’s clean, and it’s a great start to the look and feel of the rest of the series.

The name of the series, The Future King, is born from the promise of King Arthur’s messianic return to save the country despite his downfall at the end of the original legends. Logres is the scene in which this second coming is set: the secondary school at which fifteen-year-old Gwenhwyfar Taliesin starts after moving from Swansea with her affluent parents. It is 2052, and the gap between rich and poor has never been wider. Immigrants are persecuted and dubbed ‘illegals’ while day-to-day life is becoming increasingly monitored: just another year under George Milton and his ruling party, New National.

Things are going well for the release of The Future King: Logres – the book has been fully formatted and I am just perfecting my final draft. It will then be sent off to my proof-readers (very kind friends and family who don’t mind checking for errors). I’m greatly looking forward to seeing Logres printed and in final book format – my full book design is waiting patiently in photoshop as a psd file for my confirmed spine width. Then I just need to write a blurb.

Feel free to let me know what you think of the chosen design if you’d like to leave a comment. It’s back to editing, here, but keep checking back for more news, updates and teasers in the weeks to come!

10 things I have learned whilst making a book cover

  1. Pre-existing book covers are your friend. Look at them, examine them and focus on studying books in your genre, but don’t be too disappointed if your self-publishing platform doesn’t support the trim size you inevitably fall in love with as a result (five by seven, five by seven!).
  2. Make sure the cover correlates with the interior feel of the actual novel (and then dance about celebrating your own brilliance when you think of something that looks really cool).
  3. Having twenty layers live at once in Photoshop will destroy your computer. No, really. The fan on mine has just… died, or something.
  4. After spending four hours trying to align font at the bottom of your page to font at the top of your page, your eyes will go funny and everything will look wonky anyway.
  5. The longer you stare at the block colour red, the more it begins to look like some whacky gradient.
  6. Apparently due to variations in book binding the artwork for the cover will sometimes end up on the spine, and spine on the cover. You will be advised to avoid sharp lines and complex patterns, so naturally use them anyway.
  7. You should (and probably will) print out your book cover and wrap it around some other less important novel just to see what it looks like on a bookshelf (mighty good, I tell you).
  8. An actual, real life plastic ruler can be very helpful when determining layout spacing on your screen for the less technically gifted of us.
  9. Asking (non-graphic designery) people their opinion on your artwork can be confusing. Just focus on the things they agree on, and ignore anything they don’t.
  10. Making a book on a template before you have your final page count is just asking for trouble. You think you’re finished, then a last-minute cut adds or subtracts a page or two. New spine thickness, new document! Yeah!

What I’ve been up to

Today has been busy. Impatient to get some idea of what my book might look like once it is finished, I have been fiddling about with formatting in MS Word. With no clue where or what to start with, I found a very helpful website (http://www.diybookformats.com/mswordtemplates/) and have managed to set my margins, my paper size, choose a font, and even make chapter dividers in photoshop which match the feel of my draft design for my book cover. Being an arty person, I am very excited by this small achievement (it looks really cool).

Less encouraging is my page count. Yes, I know my final draft is not yet done, and having carved through about fifty pages today I am fairly certain that it will end up being about 20 A4 pages shorter than it is now. In my new layout however, the book as it is (140,000 words) is close to six-hundred (5.25 x 8) pages. I had assumed that publishing your own book might give you greater freedom concerning word count, but after doing Amazon’s royalty calculator I have discovered that my novel would cost me 50p per book to print in the UK. Not the 30-70% royalties I had in mind!

Before settling on the decision to self-publish I did approach the crowdsourcing website, Unbound. Set up by writers Dan Kieran, Justin Pollard and John Mitchinson, Unbound purports to let the readers decide which books get published through a process in which authors present pitches on Unbound’s website. These pitches then receive pledges (payments) from future readers. Only the pitches that reach their target (of about £15,000 from what I can tell from their FAQs [please do correct me if I am wrong]) get published.

It sounded perfect. But, of course, to avoid being swamped by endless pitches, Unbound do have a submissions process. Great for the works that make it through, but that means those works have (ironically) been chosen by the publisher. There is an eight-week wait to get to the top of the slush pile, so percentage-wise not many submissions seem to make it past the selection process (my pitch was one of them). Basically Unbound seems to be a publisher with the best of both worlds – no upfront costs to publish their chosen author’s works, because the readers (may or may not) cover that for them.

Crowd-funding in publishing still seems to be relatively new, and whilst exploring my options I did come across several other sites that seemed to adopt the same concept as Unbound, with the difference that any pitch is posted. So far however, these websites only seem to publish e-books with a much lower crowd-sourcing target (for one of these sites the target was £500 per book). Others claimed to be free, but with the surprise of pop up adverts in your novel when anyone reads it, and (let’s be honest) no author wants their masterpiece repeatedly interrupted by weight-loss ads.

Unbound was tempting for me, because at 50% royalties as well as a paid-for investment in your book concerning editing, book cover and proof-reading it sounded like the best deal. It’s worth a go if anyone out there hasn’t tried it already, particularly if you have a large social media following – it’s one of the things they ask you when you apply because the more followers you have the more books you’re likely to sell. It is discouraging to find that yet another creative endeavour essentially boils down to a popularity contest (or, you could argue, a large social network), but this is already endemic in many artistic fields and is hardly new. Followers = distribution = wider market = more sales. It is becoming the case in the fashion industry, with models with higher numbers of followers getting booked for bigger jobs. Free advertising makes perfect sense.

Ultimately, the author knows what will be a good fit for them, but unfortunately for us writers we’re not usually the ones who get to choose. I am excited about self-publishing though. It’s a challenge, a test to see if I can do it. Can I be editor, designer, agent and writer all at the same time? We’ll find out when it’s released. I’ve already announced my intention on Facebook, and though my social network is modest I’ve had encouraging feedback (and great encouragement). They’re probably just pleased that I’m finally taking the initiative to get it out there – I have been harassing them all with novel-related updates over the years.

I’m half-way through my revision. I caught a scene that referenced something that had already been resolved earlier in the book, so I think as editor I am doing well. I will post up artwork updates as I create them and closer to the release. In the words of most people everywhere, ‘let’s do this!’