Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Old Fart Wannabe Blog 12, Aargh. Panic

Hey, how did this happen? When did this juggernaut start rolling?
Let me tell you and strike a cautionary note for any other Wannabe self-publisher who is following this.

See, it’s like this. You know I wrote this book right? And the book became two books and the two books, which were actually written and under process of rewriting, revising, editing became conceptually a series of five books. If you have been following this blog you know all about that, ho hum.

Well I thought I had it all under control. I had a plan.

1.     Get trained, do some creative writing courses. OK, that’s in process and I’m learning. Diploma due, fingers crossed, in the summer.
2.     Edit the books --- In process. Give that a tick.
3.     Buy ISBN’s and nominate a provisional publishing date for July 2011 for the first one. This will be, The Axe, the Shield and the Triton (subject to quality checks by me and perhaps a partial airing on suitable websites, sample chapters on my own). --- ISBN’s are purchased and allocated to the ‘Triton’, publishing date nominated --- Give that a tick.
4.     Part of 3., of course, involved setting up the publishing house. Done. The books will be published by, Wyrd Sisters Publishing. Give that a tick. Wyrd Sisters has its own Websites at and
5.     The next steps, or so I thought, were:
a.     Get the web site up and running. Give that a tick
b.     Maybe publish a chapter or two and invite comment.
c.     Then, when totally ready, publish through Lightning Source.

Now that all seems perfectly rational to me, deliberate, unhurried, a plan proceeding step by careful step. When I bought the ISBN’s I gave my publication date as July 2011. I didn’t expect anything to happen before that date.

So imagine my surprise when, in the course of building the Wyrd Sisters Publishing web site on RapidWeaver, I paid the site a visit, just to check out the URL and found myself re-directed to Amazon. Imagine my even greater surprise to find that advance sales of The Axe the Shield and the Triton have already started. Aaargh!! That – puts – me – under – pressure!!

(Heh tutors! I know I’m not supposed to use exclamation marks but give me a break!)

So be warned all you fellow wannabe’s out there. This writing and publishing thing can run away with you. You can find yourself on a dump truck plummeting downhill fast.

Who did this you might ask? Well obviously I did, through ignorance of the system being a total Newbie to all this. I guess when I bought my ISBN’s from Nielsen they set the normal process in operation and part of this is notifying Amazon. Wonderful when you think about it. Also, I did have a reminder from the British Library that by law they are entitled to a copy on publication. I knew about that, no pressure there. But Amazon? With a price already set? Aaargh! Not a girl in the house washed and the street full of sailors!! And if you don’t understand that and the panic it implies, God Bless You.

Take even greater care out there, alligators are snapping at my ankles, how about yours?


Oh, by the way. This is the last post on this blog. You can now find book specific information and, soon, some sample chapters on my web site:

 If this link doesn't work then just cut and paste to Google. That'll get you there.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Old Fart Wannabe Blog 11 - The Plan Grows in Scope


Well a lot has been happening. At least to my sluggish system it seems a lot .
On the personal front the new eye lens is a triumph. I can see clearer than at any time since I was a child. I can’t wait to get the other one done.

On the book front I have received my ISBN’s and one has been allocated to the Axe, the Shield and the Triton,  duly notified to Neilsens, with a publication date set as the 1st July 2011. 

The application was of course through my publishing organization -doesn’t that sound grand- Wyrd Sisters Publishing. The website and e-mail addresses have been secured for this before someone nicks them.

The second title to be published will be The Axe the Shield and the Halig Rood. 
This, as it is already written as the second part of the original tome will be published shortly after the publication of the Triton

Editing for both of these is ongoing and my clever daughter has already produced the covers. So there we are. The hobby just expands through the Parkinson’s Law that if uncontrolled it will fill all available time ( 'It had better not,' says Herself).



 I just love the cover pictures. They are definitely the best part of the books and the only reason probably that anyone will click on Amazon to find out more.

The next part of the plan is to complete A215 Creative Writing and A363 Advanced Creative writing. Successful completion will achieve two things, I hope. The first is to give me the skills to finalize the editing of the above two. The second is the award of the Creative Writing Diploma.

These courses are about to start and I have been joining in with the pre-course discussions. The downside of this is that I have become aware that all of my co-students appear to have wonderful web and blog sites. These sites have great graphics and are lively and decorative. They make this site look really impoverished and so its development into something more professional is a must. I’m embarrassed.

Take care out there Folks.


Friday, 13 August 2010

Old Fart Wannabe Blog 10 - The plan takes shape

Old Fart Wannabe Blog 10 ,  August 13th
So what have I learned so far?
The life of a book, my book, your book, consists of a number of linked events.

     The first is the writing of the book. The product of this stage must be stellar; or as near thereto as you can possibly get.
To improve your initial production, to make it the best your ability will allow, take a course, link with other aspiring writers, get tutor and peer group feedback and keep working at improvement.
One book I would recommend here is Writing Dialogue by Tom Chiarella another is
Nigel Watts -- Write a Novel - And Get it Published.
Another source I found useful is the Ken Follett’s novelist master class at this website
The good news is that the craft of writing can be learned.
The bad news is that this is the easy part. Each following part in the process, with one important exception, increases in difficulty.

     The second event is the editing of the book. Most writers on this topic agree that a professional editor is essential. The exceptions to this, who I have come across in my limited reading, are
J.A Konrath, The Newbie's Guide to Publishing (Everything A Writer Needs To Know), who says the writer should never pay for any part of the publishing process, only for the selling part.
The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writer) by Caroline Howard-Johnson who whilst strongly recommending using a professional editor admits the possibility of self editing and gives many of the tools necessary for doing so. This book is gold and should be read at least 20 times and committed to memory before embarking on the process of editing the manuscript yourself. It contains some great time saving hints for those using MS Word.
I would have accepted the advice to get professional help until I discovered that a freelance, due to the size of the Axe and the Shield would charge me about $4500; way beyond the range of a UK Bus Pass holder.

     The third event is design. A manuscript to be submitted to an agent or a manuscript ready for self-publishing must follow the accepted design rules for the sake of credibility with the reader if for no other reason. A simple exposition of the basic rules is contained in the Kevin Sivils Create Space book mentioned below.
A much more detailed treatment is contained in Perfect Pages by Aaron Shepard ( see link to website below). This is a must read if like me you don’t want to invest in expensive design software but have access to MS Word.

     The fourth event is publishing. In order to even get a trade publisher to look at your manuscript, unknown hopeful that you are, you must have an agent. I have made my feelings on this known earlier in the blog but for those who feel they want to go the traditional publishing route read the Newbie’s Guide, there is some great advice on strategies to use. Be warned though. The author of the Newbie’s Guide collected hundreds of rejection slips before striking the rich seam.
     In the Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by J.A Konrath  the author mentioned self-publishing but didn’t recommend it. But then why should he? He is published through traditional routes and gets six figure advances. However for insight and wisdom about the whole business of writing and getting published he is gold. His book, e-published for Kindle, at a giveaway price is a truly enormous collection of his blogs on the subject. For those without Kindle this collection of really useful information and suggestions can be accessed through the hyperlink above or Google. Just Google the title The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing and enter the site. There are many advertisements, quite properly, for this authors prodigious output of published thrillers, but the gold is in the right hand column; the archive of the blog. Here you will find the 1100 page content of the book, in blogs going back to 2005. Go mining there are nuggets there.
By the way, the e-publication of the Newbies Guide appears to have led to an epiphany moment. Read this author’s latest blog on the virtues of  e-Publishing.

     My decision to self publish, arrived at early on, arises from my conviction that I don’t have the time, the energy or the optimism to go through the depressing traditional process.
I decided to opt for self-publishing but not what is called vanity publishing. Most folk would say the difference between the two is slight but it isn't to me.
     Vanity publishing is where the author hands over a big wedge of cash in order to have a room in her house filled with indifferently printed and produced books.
     What I call self-publishing is where the quality of the book rests with the author who is responsible for writing, editing and designing the book, soliciting reviews, writing the blurb and delivering the cover picture. The author obtains the ISBN and publishes through her own publishing house (Mine is Wyrd Sisters Publishing as The Axe the Shield and the Triton and its sequel The Axe the Shield and the Halig Rood are paired novels in which the Fates have a major role). --- Yes, I looked at the printing costs and likely sale price of the original and decided to split the two parts of the Axe and the Shield running to 600 pages into two separate novels of about 300 pages each.

     The publication can be as an ebook or a pbook printed on demand. The printing arm of a major distributor carries out the POD and the book is advertised and distributed by that distributor. My initial choice was Amazon, the biggest and most accessible distributor in the world. For me the most important part initially is that there are no significant up front costs. After reading POD for Profit by Aaron Shepard I changed that decision to publishing direct through Lightning Source which distributes world wide including Amazon.
Books that are must reads here are:
Aiming at Amazon by Aaron Shepard, POD for Profit by Aaron Shepard
( google him or go to his website ),  he will let you download and read the draft of this book-- be in no doubt, if you are serious about self publishing, you will buy it.
Self-Publishing with Amazon's CreateSpace: A Resource Guide for the Author Considering Self-Publishing [Paperback] by Kevin Sivils
The Step-by-Step Guide to Self-Publishing … by C.Pinheiro et als
Print on Demand Book Publishing by Morris Rosenthal
The Create Space and Kindle publishing pages on Amazon also give a optimistically clear view of the ease of publication through this source.

     And now we come to the really hard part. Getting people to buy your book.
     First as many as possible must know of it and be sufficiently intrigued to part with cash for the opportunity to read it.

     Secondly it must be a good and satisfying read so that they pass this on by word of mouth. If it is badly written or a boring read it will die right there.

     Lets assume it is a good book, which a buyer will feel was money well spent. The self-published author’s job is to spread the news and sell enough of her/his good book that word of mouth will take over and sell more. There are many good books covering strategies for marketing and selling your book. Here are a selection:
Self Publishing … by Dan Poynter ( the original SP bible but now a little dated by the fast moving changes that are overtaking traditional publishing).
Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing For Authors …by Steve Weber
JAKonraths Blog mentioned above.
There are of course many more excellent books on the subject but consider the above your starters, most of the others you will discover along the way and can decide whether you want them or not.

Sorry to have been so prolix but the subject is worthy of a book, which is why so many have been written on it. I hope my rather hasty prĂ©cis of  some of my readings over the last few weeks is useful to you.
Bessaruck as they say and take care out there.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

OFW Blog 9 - One Small Step - May 18th 2010

May 18, 2010 by captnjames

So where are we? Oh yes. One positive step towards the plan coming together has been taken. I finished Part 1 of the creative writing course with the OU. There were several positive outcomes from this.

The most important was that I learned a lot and am now into my fifth editing of “The Axe and the Shield”. I do believe that it is all the better for it and may be approaching the stage where I can, without feeling too ashamed, pass it over to a competent copy editor to sort out punctuation and grammar — hopefully without too much   hysterical giggling ( I’m not sure whether I mean mine, from nervousness, or the editor’s from incredulity).

I also used an edited chapter for my final assessment and got a not too shabby grade and the remark from my tutor that –In her opinion– the book would be of interest to readers of literary historical fiction. So maybe, once edit number five and the copy- editing is completed I will be ready to participate fully in Slush Pile reader and   other collaborative review sites.

The next step, while I am here in the USA, is to get a US Tax Identification Number so that I can ePublish through Amazon next year. This may, by the time I am ready to publish, not be necessary. Amazon already publish in the UK with CreateSpace so the pBook side of the process is covered but I am not sure about the eBook  side through Kindle — so belt an braces — I will get together all that I need to ePublish over here.

I am going through a total immersion period of study of self-publishing. I have, more or less covered the writing part of the process. I am working on the editing and rewriting part ( without a significant increase in words the Axe and the Shield has increased from 17 chapters to 25 as I reorganise and simplify). After that I will need to redesign the book itself. For that I will consult with my daughter the designer. So perhaps that can be done sometime between when I get back to the UK and when the Bristoi Eye Hospital fits me out with new eyes.

The final part is distribution and promotion. Amazon, I hope, will deal with distribution but cannot of course distribute where there is no demand. That publicizing and promotion will fall to me.

In October I will be starting on parts 2 and 3 of my Creative Writing studies with the Open University. These will finish next May and may all end in tears. Against their advice I am taking the two in parallel rather than consecutively as they recommend. The reason is that I wish to qualify for the Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing (because it sounds so specific to my purpose).This is being withdrawn by the end of 2011.

At the end of these studies, where I accept I may crash and burn, I will commence my last course, a level one course in Web design. Anyone who has read this blog will know that I desperately need training in electronic presentation. Everything I have read states that while writing is easy, publishing even easier, getting anyone to read what has been written is HARD and needs much work, some expertise and clear focus.

At sometime, in a future Blog I will list those Self Publishing books that I have found most useful.

Take care out there, watch out for alligators ( they found a 10 foot one in my local Gas Station last week). Who knows where you might find one.

Friday, 9 April 2010

OFW Blog 8 The plan progresses - 9th April 2010


     I haven't had anything to say for a long time I know.
Does that prove that only idle people blog, or merely that I only blog when I'm idle. I believe that it is the last.
     What I suppose I am slyly trying to work in is that I have been busy. Now there's a change. I am of course only talking about my bower of peace in the early mornings. For the rest of the day herself always does her best to keep me busy; it's a kind of religious duty with her. The last couple of weeks though the workday hours have been more peaceful than the early morning ones. That's because we are suffering from 'Plane Flu'. Have you notice whenever you come off of a long flight you end up feeling ill for some days. The airline companies have invented this fiction of jet-lag to explain it but it sure walks like flu, and talks like flu and feels like flu from breathing recycled germs from three hundred other people, so as far as I'm concerned its just another one of the many guises of flu'. Its plane flu. 
     I know that because herself has got it as well. As any man will tell you if she didn't have it and I did it would be  'man flu', the name women use to trivialize the living hell that men go through when they catch a cold.
     Anyway, enough of that; part one of my publishing plan draws to a close. My first course with the Open University is nearly over and will be when my last assignment has been received, marked and returned. The next two courses are already importuning me to pay my fees; once done I shall be ready for the really hard work to start in October.
     So what have I learned so far, other than that people who are trying to write are all really splendid, helpful people. I suppose the most important thing is that I am now much clearer about what I am trying to do. I understand why writing is harder for a writer than anyone else. I understand why writing is painting with words. Most of all I now understand I have a whole lot of editing and rewriting to do on the Axe and the Shield. I also understand the pain of writing and editing to word limits as I have excised and expunged much loved phrases of which I was proud, in order to meet limits. Oh for the days when it was not a sin to be prolix.
     I have also discovered much more about e-publishing an essential part of 'The Plan'. I would recommend for initial reading Steve Weber's book ePublish, I found it full of goodies.
    A good website for publicizing your book is There is also one where if enough members vote for publication of your book the sponsors of the site will publish it. This excellent and sociable site is:
     I would also recommend the Amazon site, where there is a stack of information on publishing through Kindle, how that relates to iPhone ( and presumably eventually iPad). There is also the Amazon Print on Demand service which means no real money up front and no room in your house stacked with thousands of unsaleable books. So even the 'e' hater, paper lover, market is covered.
     So that's a relief, no more walks through the park for me. I can put the raincoat away and bid agents goodbye, which isn't hard as they didn't talk to me anyway.
    So what happened to working to limits you might say. Well forgive me being prolix just this once, I've been let out of school.
     One last thing, for people like me who are having trouble breaking into blogging, the tip site I left on one of my blogs was dead for some reason. Here, I hope is a live one.

    Take care out there; watch out for alligators.

Hmm -- I still haven't figured out why the above links are dead. Well folks , copy and paste them into your search engine. Believe me they are both very worthwhile sites.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Old Fart Wannabe Blog 7 - Inside the OU

Entry for 10th February 2010

Have you ever seen Dr.Who? For those outside the U.K. who haven’t it’s a Sci Fi series where the hero travels around in a box, about the

size of a large dog kennel on the outside but with an inside about the size of a small cinema. I am now discovering that the study of the

“Craft” is a bit like that.
I am ploughing my way through my first course, a mere introduction, intended to prepare me for serious study later in the year and I keep turning up treasure. 

There is a quote running around in my head, I don’t know from where, maybe some old T.V. ad.” I didn’t know there was so much in it”. That’s how I feel about this serious, as opposed to casual, writing business.

 I didn’t know, for instance that my chunk of words, my pre-dawn brainchild has 
a wholelist of genre sub-categories to follow the main Historical one. There are, for instance, ‘action’, ‘adventure’, ‘magic realism’ and one I’d never heard of, ‘maximalism’. The
last one I couldn’t even find in my on-line copy of Webster’s, that’s how specialised it is; fortunately the OU has a glossary for all of these categories.
I also discovered, from the writings of ’proper’ authors, the difficulties experienced with titles. I’ll probably come back to this at a later date, when I get nearer to publication. If there is anyone out there I may even ask your advice, conduct a poll, whatever. For the moment I did an Amazon and Google search and, as far as I can see, my provisional title ” The Axe and the Shield” is untaken. My daughter, the graphic designer,in kicking around possible cover designs relevant to 

the text ( which she still hasn't finished reading) thought maybe “The Cross and the 

Hill”  ( two of the mute characters in the yarn)  might be a possibility. ‘Herself”, on the other hand, tends to refer to it as ‘That Damn Book”. I could see that, as an attractive possibility, but rejected it; that title would perhaps raise expectations of humour, doomed to disappointment. The tome is not
a funny book, not intentionally anyway.
The sum of my advice so far to wannabe-published authors? If you’ve already done it —well get you— if not, sign up to a writing course. You’ll be surprised how much is in it. And you meet some lovely people.
Take care out there,


Friday, 15 January 2010

Old Fart Wannabe Blog 6 - Enter the OU


Enter the O.U. ( Bless em)

So, the software problem resolved itself in two ways. In the first place the provided version of FirstClass (8.2) worked fine but    without ‘Bells and Whistles’. In the second place I downloaded a free upgrade of FirstClass 10.1 from the Internet, which came with  lots of coloured graphics.

This may seem simplicity itself for the completely computer savvy but what’s a small step for you is a giant step for the average old fart who needs to get a twelve year old child to set up his TV dibber. Anyway us old guys aren’t as quick as we once were, and some of us weren’t that quick to start with.

On the desk-top of this software is a ‘Practice Forum’ which gives new students a place to play and acquire and practice skills in on-line communication. I can see your eyes glazing again. Relax, I’m not going to go into the details of how I learned to do things you will probably consider achingly boring. You wanna find out? Pay your own fee and try not to look an absolute dope in front of a bunch of complete strangers, then you’ll feel your adrenalin run.

A couple of mistakes I did make that could be avoided. Checking out how to send attachments I didn’t pay attention to file size and to my surprise saw my memory allocation disappear; now I know what the baby feels like when the candy takes off. I got it back but it took me quite a while to figure it out. Now of course I will be careful to always use minimum quality and maybe the built in Mac compression.
The other mistake, which is ongoing, was not to appreciate that time on FirstClass is rationed. The site is so complex, there is so much to explore that time just slips away. I was surprised when I logged out to find that after a couple of voyages I had used over a third of my total allocation. I hope this is for the ‘Practice Forum’ and not for the course, or things are going to get pretty monosyllabic from now on.

So there we are: I’ve listened to the audio disc of successful authors talking about aspects of their work and works; I’ve read the printed folio of extracts from successful, even famous, novels; I’ve got a passing familiarity with the on-line system, a familiarity which will almost certainly desert me when I have to use it in real time with real people.

Now I suppose I had better go back and do it all again. The next Blog will be when I am well into the course and I will tell you whether my pulse has dropped back to its normal 150 a minute (just kidding its really 180, sorry I meant 80).
Take care of yourselves,