On Tuesday evening I went and saw Will Self at The Ropetackle in Shoreham as part of his book tour for ‘Shark’. I can’t remember how I heard about it but it was sold out when I checked the website at the weekend. I phoned Tuesday afternoon and it was still sold out so I asked if it was worth turning up and waiting to see if any seats remained empty…the woman said, maybe. So I went. The front desk said there were no tickets but the man in front had just asked about a refund on a couple of spares, so I approached him with a friendly smile and a crisp tenner, and bought one. That is what is commonly known in the trade as ‘a right result’.
I really wanted to go because it’s not very common for a top, respected, Man Booker short-listed author to come down to these parts, at least I didn’t think so. Turns out he’s been down here about 10 times, so I haven’t been looking hard enough. I like his journalism and his refreshing point of view on Question Time (not enough authors, too many actors), ‘5mm Barrel’ and I’ve read half of ‘The Book of Dave’. I feel bad. I loved his writing but at one point what I thought was a kind of moped turned out to be a some kind of cow-type animal and I thought, ‘Fuck this. If I can’t tell the difference between a cow and a moped what else have I missed.’ So I gave up. The concept of the novel has always stuck with me along with the writing. It’s so rich, and not just an interesting read but funny too. It’s not an easy read though and I think that’s where I went wrong, trying to read it last thing at night when all my brain and eyes want to do is shutdown.
The cover for ‘In A Right State’ won the Fiction Cover Award for self-published books over at The Book Designer for the month of July.
Against some good competition too, but when I submitted it I had faith in Emery’s skills – my mate who designed it.
If you want to utilise his skills too then you can get in touch with him at www.ripegraphics.com which is currently getting rebranded and overhauled.
Thanks again to Emery because I love the cover, but it’s nice that someone else recognised it’s greatness too!
Now go and BUY IT and see if the content lives up to the packaging.
‘In A Right State’ has finally garnered a couple of reviews and half decent ones too. Check them out on Amazon – a 3 star and a 4 star, I’m pretty happy with that for starters.
Plus they’ve been posted on the reviewers own blogs and on GoodReads;
I’m surprised by the quality and depth of these two reviews. I’ve been approaching book bloggers, offering them a free copy of the ebook so they’ll hopefully write a review on their blog and cross post on Amazon and Goodreads (I’m confident enough that no-one’s going to completely pan it) *crosses fingers*. So these two reviews are not written by ‘normal’ Amazon customers, they are by bloggers with their own websites, but I’m still pleasantly surprised by their breadth and insight.
Also, the fact they aren’t a gushing 5 star worship makes them more interesting. This doesn’t mean I’m after a 1 star review to make it even more interesting.
I’ve told my mum NOT to write a 5 star review on Amazon. Her surname would give it away. She’d probably sign it – Mum x - as well. And what if she didn’t give it 5 stars?!
I think getting reviews makes this book more real and means I can now start to kick off my other marketing plans. I don’t think anyone wants to buy a non-reviewed, self-published, debut, ebook-only novel. Some independent reviews adds some credibility to a previously unknown product by an unknown author.
Hopefully this will start the ball rolling in terms of sales which then generates a few more reviews and so on.
‘In A Right State’ is now live on Amazon and awaiting your hard earned cash! Buy it, review it, retweet this, tweet something else, Facebook it, GoodReads it, Google Plus it, Friends Reunite it, MySpace it, write it on a toilet wall.
It’s only the price of a pint. There’s no froth, plenty of fizz, a good body with subtle hints of corporate conspiracy. You won’t get a headache and you shouldn’t get the runs*
It’s available at your nearest Amazon.
If you’re a book reviewer and want a free copy, let me know.
* Not guaranteed.
OK, I’m really close to getting this thing launched, so here’s the cover.
Isn’t she a beauty!
My good friend Emery designed this and I’m so happy with it. It’s an illustration of an actual scene in the book but also gets across the general themes and ideas.
I’m no scholar of book cover design but just by looking at this you can get a pretty good idea of what it’s about.
Maybe I’m at an advantage because I wrote it.
Not only did Emery design a front cover, the cheeky blighter also designed a back cover! This is going to be the only ebook with a back cover too.
So this gives me the ideal opportunity to debut the blurb too…
This is coming together nicely. I love it when a plan comes together.
The editor has returned a copy-edited manuscript and the cover is well on the way to being designed, so D-Day is fast approaching. This has got me thinking about the nuts and bolts of the ebook itself.
First I need to put the ebook together as an HTML document, then think about getting it uploaded to iBooks and Amazon but what about extras? Ebooks are capable are containing content other than words and if I’m going to try to stick my head above all the other ebooks out there, wouldn’t some original, different content be one way of doing this?
I’ve only read one ebook novel that had content other than words, it was a collection of short stories by Kafka and each story was proceeded by a short video about Kafka’s life. I thought it was quite good but I don’t think this would work as part of a novel as it would keep taking you out of the story (You could have content during the story if it was part of the story but that’s another matter…albeit a very interesting one).
So the extra content has to be after the main event, not a distraction.
It’s surprising how little there is. I’ve read a few ebooks recently and most of them don’t even have a link to the author’s website let alone any specially created content. Right there on the last page you’ve finished the authors work, you feel a connection, you want to know more about the person who wrote it and then…bam! You’re dumped, left alone to simply find another book. Why not harness this positive feeling?
Here are some ideas I’ve come up with for extra content;
- Interview video – this is probably the most obvious one. Either someone interviewing the author about the book or the author responding to questions asked by readers online. How often do you finish a novel and wanted to know why X did Y, or why it was based in W, or why they named Z. If you really don’t want to be on camera then do an audio interview.
- Location tour video – this is one I’ve thought of as I’ve based my novel in Worthing which is an unusual location. It’s not really, but London gets so much attention that basing anything outside London is probably ‘unusual’. Anyway, name another story based in Worthing since ‘Wish You Were Here‘?
- Cover drafts – show how the cover evolved.
- Book Commentary – like a DVD commentary talking about stand out scenes, how something got completely changed, where scenes got deleted, easter eggs, go through handwritten notes too, etc. Probably best to avoid a Noel Gallagher approach until after you’ve made a couple of million.
- Twitter Hashtag – #IveJustFinishedInARightState, this can be added to as and when people finish the book and want to leave comments or ask questions at that vital moment – not a review on GoodReads or Amazon, or a blog post, just a simple comment. An interview that never stops. Readers can discuss the novel in an open forum, maybe the author can get involved too.
- A link to author’s website – duh.
- Jump Off Points – if your novel addresses issues, covers a period of history, an industry, a country, etc then point readers in the directions you took as part of your research.
Can you think of any others? What would YOU like to see from an author? From me?!
I’m betwixt and between writing projects at the moment. ‘In A Right State’ has gone to my editor for copy-editing and I’m not going back to my 3rd novel, ‘Blindsided’, for a second draft until I’ve released In A Right State into the wilds of Amazon, iBookstore, et al.
Saying I’ve nothing to write isn’t technically true (it never is for a writer I don’t think) I’ve got to write the blurb for ‘In A Right State’ but that’s proving to be a right old headache so I’m procrastinating…here goes…
The final book I read last year was ‘The Doors Of Perception’ by Aldous Huxley which, although starting off quite good, descended into too much philosophising and not enough ‘I just want to see what you wrote off your face‘.
Then I remembered. I’ve written whilst off my face on acid. I hunted through my storage boxes and found the papers and here they are below. 8 pages of A4 taking you through the journey of up high and then coming down.
The evening started off as another night in Sunny Worthing. Some ‘strawberries’ acquired, we queued for the cinema to watch Terminator 2 – Judgement Day. By the time we got to the front, it was full and we couldn’t get in, which looking back on it, was a fortunate outcome as the ceiling of the entrance hall appeared to contain drifting sand and we could swear there was a hunchback bloke ahead of us. I soon lost my mate whilst waiting outside a pub, so ventured home into a bubble of music, ciggies and a cup of tea, but mainly to keep out the way of ‘other people’.
This is the story of ‘Judgement Day’.
One of the first comments I got back from my editor on her critique of ‘Railroaded’ was; the title needs changing.
She put it better than that. For a near-future sci-fi novel with no trains, railways, railroad companies or the like, it sounds a bit antiquated…and confusing.
I chose ‘Railroaded’ because it’s about how everyone is getting led by companies into doing things that aren’t in their best interest. She stated the problem wasn’t the reasoning behind the title, it was that the title could be misleading on it’s own.
It all made terribly sound, good sense, so I was compelled to think of a new title.
Do you know how hard that is? It’s been known as ‘Railroaded’ since 2007, when the first draft was getting started, and now I had to change it! How?
In my notes I already had a few pages of potential new titles I brainstormed a few years ago when I made a half-hearted effort to come up with a new title. I looked through the thesaurus and kept my ears open for words I liked. I had the title, ‘The Acquiesced’, for a few weeks but wasn’t 100% confident about it. I’m not sure how I actually came up with ‘In A Right State’, it’s not on that list of brainstormed titles, I think it just came to me one day so I let it sit, mulling it over until it started to sit comfortably.
I double checked it with Sophie, my editor, and she said yes. So it’s a goer!
I like that it works on two levels. Firstly, in a literal sense of the story being about a country under a right leaning, very small government, controlled by capitalism. Secondly, the playful, humorous slang meaning of the country being in a mess.
Also, the title makes absolutely no reference to trains, railways or railroad companies…just like the novel itself.
Now I’m here with a new title, the bulk of the editing done, starting the cover design process and feeling a whole lot happier with the book than before. I also changed one of the main character’s names too, because, what the hell, when you’re editing, everything’s up for negotiating, right?
I’m in the middle of editing my first novel after getting feedback from my hired editor, and in a quest for some major procrastination, I’ve decided to take a pit-stop and write this post.
The project is to self-publish my first novel.
The goal is to self-publish it with some degree of professionalism, not just slam the 4th draft up on Amazon with a cover made in Paint.
To do this I’ve hired an editor to give me feedback and then complete a copy-edit. I’ve also got a professional designer to do me a cover (once I finalise the title). I’m going to put the ebook together myself as I used to be a web developer plus I’m interested in the process. I’ll also do the marketing myself as I used to work in internet marketing and I’m looking forward to this part almost as much as the actual writing of the thing. Ironically, my favourite ideas are all offline.
I’ve given myself a budget of £1000. I can’t really imagine doing this for much less unless you have friends who owe you big favours…see next… £600 for editing, cover for free because I have a wicked designer mate who I also did a website for, and then £400 for marketing and other sundries.
What defines success?
I have different levels of success in my mind;
Moderate Success - Releasing a professional ebook on Amazon is my No.1 goal and the whole point of this exercise. Even if I don’t sell one copy (well, two, my Mum will buy one…I hope) then I’ll be gutted but this whole process has already proven a worthwhile exercise in my writing development and gaining knowledge. Having an ebook to promote on my own website will look better than having none, plus being able to tell people to search my name on Amazon and for them to find something professional at the end of it is a noble cause (even if there is more than one ‘Ben Ellis’ on there).
Success – Selling 50+ ebooks and getting 5 or more 4/5 star reviews on Amazon would be great.
Blinding Success – Selling 250+ ebooks, getting 20+ good reviews on Amazon, getting some reviews and recommendations on other sites, some positive tweets and general good feedback.
Mega Massive Unbelievable Success – Breaking even.
I’m not even going to think about levels of success exceeding this. I did that when I first sent this novel out to agents back in 2009 and was half-heartedly acknowledged with muted indifference by only a handful.
I’m now a shell of hardened rejection encapsulating a colourless, humourless void.
I think I’m ready.
The first step in getting my first novel self-published was to find an editor to knock it into shape and make it half-readable and, hopefully, sellable.
But how? I’ve never done this sort of thing.
I searched the internet and got a kinda confused mess of all sorts, eventually narrowing it down to 3 really good starting points;
- Mediabistro – GalleyCat’s Freelance Editor Directory
- CreativePenn – list of editors
- SfEP – Society of Editors and Proofreaders
From this list I set myself a few criteria of ‘must haves';
- Sci-fi – my first novel is a near-future dystopian story (or so I thought, more on that in another post) so obviously I didn’t want a children’s editor, but I also wanted one who had actively listed sci-fi as an interest.
- British – my book is set in England, has British humour, British references, etc. I didn’t want to complicate the whole process by having a foreign editor come back with ‘I don’t understand bollocks’. Neither do I mate.
- Reasonably priced – not cheap, but I have a budget.
- A Developmental/Big Picture/Critique edit – there’s different types of editing. I wanted a critique of the whole novel and copy-editing, not necessarily by the same person though.
- SfEP Qualified – after some searching and learning more, I thought an editor with this qualification would guarantee some level of professionalism. It wasn’t essential but as a total stranger in this world, it did give me a little more confidence.