Most Indies shouldn’t ever publish. Well, most women shouldn’t have babies. #amwriting

That’s not a kneejerk yeah well you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny response.  Ask any writer, traditionally published or indie, our books are the children of our brains, and we’re protective of them.

A traditionally-published writer puts that baby into the hands of professionals who whisk it away, do cosmetic adjustments, dress it, raise it, choose its schools, and, sometimes, hand it back after a while saying hey, we’re as sorry as you are, but the kid ain’t gonna cut it. Of course quite often (not always) the kid does good and the publishers are yammering at the door – make more babies. Fast. One a year. Go go GO.

Traditionally-published book-parents are proud to the point of arrogant about their progeny being Chosen, and they are enraged when an indie book baby does better than their own Improved By Professionals offering because it just isn’t fair. The indie parent had all the fun of producing exactly what they wanted, AND success?

What generally happens is they write scathing blogs, as Laurie Gough did with ‘Self-publishing is an insult to the written word’.  No idea who peed in her cornflakes, but she’s cross.  She thinks indies bash out a book in 24 hours, read it through once and think ‘good enough’ and publish.

I’ll not lie to you, I sometimes wonder myself. Book parents do range from the over-processed squeeze-it-into-a-fashionable-mode through to those who pop out a book in a week and stick it out into the world in a dirty nappy, snot running down its virtual face.

But not all, Laurie Gough. Not all. Some work on their books as hard as you do. They write them, rest them, edit them, polish them, send them to beta readers,  edit and polish again, send them for professional editing, they find the money and they pour it in willingly and only then do they publish.  For an indie, that’s just the end of the beginning. There’s no handing over. There’s placing the book in the right places, trying to find the right readers.

There’s no easy publisher-provided dollop of paid reviews, no publisher-provided salesperson working the shops, nothing on tap.  Just a writer and a book, trying to make it in a largely indifferent world.

So when an indie does make it, when their readers loyally buy every book they put out, when they make a tiny niche for themselves in a giant market – suck it up, Laurie Gough. Don’t be ugly, because it makes you look ugly.

If no-one could ever sing unless they had a record contract, there’d be no live entertainment in pubs, no bands entertaining parties, no wedding singers.  Buskers, eek. You’d shoot them on sight.

If no-one ever offered their art without a professional contract with, random example, an advertising agency,  this would be a poorer world. The professional artists do a slick, pleasing, and efficient job, but the life and vitality poured straight from the artist’s eye into your brain, that’s the real deal. Love it or hate it, from piece to piece, you deserve the choice. Van Gogh wasn’t to public taste in his whole lifetime. Laurie Gough would completely approve of that. If he couldn’t find a dealer to handle his stuff, he was obviously useless. QED.

What if no-one ever had a baby unless it had been commissioned with high expectations and a mapped-out future?  Well, there’d not be 7 billion people on this planet, for sure. Yes indeed, we tend to be ruled by the elite who were propelled expertly through the system into the top jobs. And yes, some babies are a complete waste of space – for the most part, they live and die and their lives make very little impact. Sometimes, though, the elite fail horribly, and sometimes the great unwashed change our lives. Actually, very few inventions, very few of the things that change our world, ever came from the stuffed shirts taught how to think and behave from the start.

To be validated by a money-machine that sees potential for profit in you is wonderful, well done Laurie Gough.

To be validated by loyal readers is better. Had a look at your book sales. Hope they pick up soon, and soothe that anger of yours.

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Weddings and Seven Eight and chewing nails.

The wedding was great, such fun, and daughter and son-in-law are now getting thoroughly sunburned in South Africa, presuming they survived the dive with Great great whitesWhites which she’d set her heart on. I’m being very optimistic and assuming I’d have heard by now if they didn’t. They were going to be in a cage, after all, what could go wrong? (And yes, I saw Jaws too. Hush.)

So, once the excitement of the wedding weekend was over, and the hangover had finally subsided, I wasted a few days getting used to the silence and a few more listlessly doing some bits and pieces and have suddenly realized that my latest book launches in days and needs at least some help from me, eek. Apart from anything else, it had to go from the returned Edit-my-book version into Jutoh format, so the weekend has been spent doing that, and reading the Kindle simulation, and making changes, and re-reading, and making more changes, and today is the final final read-through and it gets loaded on Amazon tomorrow. How scary is that? Frankly, terrifying. I’d recruited more beta readers than ever before and two of them fell by the wayside. That’s not a good start! The ones who finished it, liked it and think it’s the best so far. Really? Five Six will always be my favourite, but then right at the moment Seven Eight is so familiar to me I have to do all the editing tricks in the book (reading it backwards, changing the font size, putting it in columns) just to prevent my jaded eyes from saying yeah, yeah, we’ve read this before, can we move swiftly on?

seven eight finalI do love the Festival, and the book is partly a celebration of the Festival. And Fiona Bentwood swears and smokes and is bitchy, she’s the antagonist but I sneakily rather like her. I really did enjoy writing the final third of the book more than any of the others, but I broke some writing rules with the opening scene and I nervously suspect that will come back to bite me. Keep it simple, the experts say, and quite rightly. The Festival is crowded, and lively, and the opening scene is crowded and lively, and those two beta readers faded on me (just never responded at all) and my nerves are shot. I’ve included the opening on its own tab in this website, and if you read it, and have some useful advice (other than, you know, ‘scrap the whole scene’ because it sets up most of the activity in the book so I can’t) you should definitely feel free to let me know. Preferably before I load it tomorrow night.

I’m doing a soft launch at a lower price up to the official launch, in the eternally optimistic hope of getting a couple of reviews on there, and will soon be twisting beta reader arms to post reviews, but the rest of the pre-launch promotion has pretty much been torpedoed by the wedding. Five Six got a proper planned detailed launch and outsold both the previous books in their respective first weeks so I have no-one to blame but myself if poor Seven Eight falls flat on its colourful little face. It is a book born in my first (and last!) NaNoWriMo, but most of the fifty thousand words written then had to be stripped away ruthlessly, scrubbed, and slotted back in new ways; if not discarded altogether. Writing under a deadline was absolutely horrifying and lends itself far too much to quantity over quality, the editing was a nightmare. It is still the longest book in the series so far and definitely rambles a bit too much in the Exposition but that’s to lull the reader into an easy doze as they are ushered gently past clues and red herrings. I want alert readers to spot the murderer, of course I do.  That makes the traps more exciting. But it can’t be too easy. Moving swiftly on . . .

(Ah, just seen the good news on Facebook—they survived the shark dive. Phew.)

Learning curves

Experience may be cheap at any price but grab a bargain, learn from the mistakes of others instead.

I had set my heart on publishing for the first time on 1st January and publish I did. Some of the people who have bought my book have said really nice things (some were people I don’t even know). Some have pointed out errors quite tartly and, oh dear, most have said nothing at all. At ALL. That includes some friends and family.

Things I have learnt from this include, first and foremost, do not rely on self-editing.  I copy-edit for others and I genuinely believed I could do it for myself and I was wrong. The brain simply self-corrects familiar work. (There are some hard-learned editing tips in the next blog)

Do not get wildly excited by your first book cover and accept it if you have the single tiniest reservation. My artist was and is very good, and uncanny at picking things out of my mind, but we don’t agree on lettering.  First cover, I let her lettering stay. Now it has been corrected to what I like and even she thinks it looks better. (It so does)

Get the manuscript read by others.  The ideal is to get it read by a professional pre-edit reviewer, or critiquer, but it took me two months to find one whose style I liked, and in the meantime I had really useful feedback from the friends who, bless them, had bought the book. REALLY useful. Just one example, I’d referred in my book to ‘the old purple hat story’. I genuinely thought everyone in the world knew the old purple hat story. They don’t. They do now, because it is added in at the beginning. (Go read it in the sample on Amazon, it’s a good story.) (viewBook.at/B00AVQDKXC)

Don’t rely on Kindle’s own HTML version of your Word document when you upload. They tinker with their software as often we tinker with our books and two or three changes down the line, your book will become peculiar.  Formatting will change and puzzled readers will find oddities, split paragraphs, centred text thrown all to blazes, and will think you are the idiot. Or that eBooks are rubbish.  I recently bought Jutoh EBook Converter and it is phenomenal. One unexpected bonus is that it creates the book exactly as it will be, in a format I can copy to my kindle.

So, nearly three months after the book was first released, it has been updated, the cover has been changed, but there are existing buyers out there who will think I am still the rankest of amateurs. I asked Kindle how I get the changes out to the earlier buyers.  They are going to review them (it will take four weeks) with one of the following outcomes –

  1.  If they consider the changes critical, they’ll send an email to every buyer to receive the update through the Manage Your Kindle page www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/manage
  2. If they consider them cosmetic, they will activate the buyers’ ability to update the content on the above but not email them.
  3. If they deem the changes to have caused critical issues, they’ll remove the book from sale, notify me of the changes which need to be made so I can fix them, and then go via route 1.

Doing things the right way round will save so much trouble.  Book number two comes out this week – fingers crossed.