Welcome to the latest blog on March 26th 2021. Something a little different this week for all of us.
As many of you will know I published my first book, Just Passing Through, following our first three seasons on our boat, almost a year ago, on April 11th. I had hoped to follow up with a sequel but the pandemic has put paid to that idea for the moment. Having now become a compulsive scribbler, and unable to contemplate a life where I don’t write, I have spent the last six months writing a different book instead. It’s called A simple life – living in an off-grid cabin in the south west of France and yesterday was a big day for me as I finally finished it. Now it’s gone off to my copy editor to check spelling, punctuation etc and so I can forget about it for a few weeks and give my overworked brain a much-needed rest.
Many people dream of writing a book, and so I thought this week I would share an overview of my publishing process. There are two routes to getting a book published. The first, and conventional route, is to find an agent who likes your book, who will then find a publisher who likes your book. This can take literally years, most of it filled with rejections, followed by another long wait while it is edited and made ready for publication. Agents, publishers, copy editors, proofreaders, and numerous other parties all take a cut before the writer gets anything. The second option, to self-publish, has opened up a whole new world to the writer and this is the method that I have chosen. Without anybody to screen the quality of writing there is obviously going to be a wide spectrum, from amazingly awful to amazingly good, with most of us hoping to be somewhere in the middle, but it puts control back in the hands of the person who wrote it and means that a book can come to market very quickly.
Importantly, just because a book has been self-published is no reason for it not to be professionally presented. This latest book of mine has gone through four stages. Firstly I read it, and edit it, about a thousand times before I am happy with it. When I reach the point where I never want to look at it again – ever – I send it to my beta reader. The beta reader is someone who test-reads the manuscript and gives feedback as a typical reader of this type of genre. In my case this is done by my friend Helen, (and the fact that she is a very close friend doesn’t inhibit her from telling me when I am burbling). Helen is a professional translator and so she checks that my French is correct as well. Those amongst you of a logical mind will be wondering what happened to the alpha reader but I don’t use one. The alpha reader provides feedback on the first draft and I tend to do that myself. Moving on to the third phase the manuscript is sent to a professional copy editor, who will check for typos, punctuation, grammar etc. Some DIY self-publishers will miss out on this phase but I think it is vital and worth every penny. The fourth phase is to get it professionally formatted so it transfers properly to both Kindle and the printed page.
There are two other elements that go into the mix. The first is getting a book cover designed, again professionally, which is one of the most enjoyable parts of the publishing process, and finally the finished product is uploaded on to Kindle. I do that myself, and given my prowess at such things I was dreading it with Just Passing Through, but it proved to be a reasonably idiot-proof process so we got there in the end.
And then we just sit back and wait for the sales to come flooding in – or perhaps not. It doesn’t work that way. Books have to be marketed, and even if you were to have a publisher they expect the writer to get heavily involved in the marketing these days. This is usually the difficult part for a writer. Creative people don’t always have a business-head, are not motivated by the thought of telling everyone how good their book is but more likely are suffering a crisis of confidence and wish they’d never put their head above the parapet in this way in the first place. But it can’t be avoided. In this digital age it relies heavily on social media, and this provides a personal problem for me as I am not on Facebook or Twitter – I spend quite enough time looking at a screen as it is and would rather be out in the garden.
I didn’t do a great deal of marketing on Just Passing Through and yet it has done well, given a great boost in the early days by friends and family spreading the word. Now I have sales across the globe – UK, USA, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. With this second book, I understand the process a little better and will work harder on the marketing.
If any of you have ever been tempted to write a book, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, I have one useful tip for you. Treat it as a job. By that I mean write every day, regardless of whether the muse is willing or not. Regard yourself as a professional because that is what your readers will expect of you. Be critical of your work, but not to the extent where it is crippling you. Be supportive of yourself because being the one-man-band (or woman) responsible for the process from start to finish is a big achievement and daunting the first time you do it. But most of all – enjoy it, because writing is the best job in the world.
A Simple Life should be ready for publishing sometime in May and I’ll let you know when I have a firm date.
Otherwise I hope all is well with you. For those of you back in the UK who are slowly coming out of lockdown, enjoy your new-found, vaccinated freedom! See you all next week.