Three novels written and now I’m at that beautifully naive stage; the very beginning. Anything is possible.
I was last here about 3 years ago – Novel 3 is Go, Go Go! – so it’s been a while but the feeling overwhelming me the most is not the dread of the blank page but not having anything to work on at the moment.
I’ve titled this post with ‘Project’ rather than ‘Novel’ because 2 of my 3 ideas are not novels. A part of me is tempted to go elsewhere, stretch my legs and test myself with something different.
Plus I’m not exactly showering myself with success writing novels so far.
I have the experience of finishing 3 novels so cold, hard determination to get to the end doesn’t faze me. The day-to-day grind of sitting down to write, wrangling plot holes, giving life to cartoonishly and crudely drawn characters, is something I enjoy. I actually love facing a blank page and turning it into a story.
With this knowledge and experience comes confidence meaning I feel empowered to step into a new arena and challenge myself with something I’ve never done before. A new novel in itself is enough of a challenge so maybe a better way to look at it is; I fancy a bit of a change.
So my 3 choices are;
- Contemporary Novel – I’ve got an idea of a man and woman meeting through one committing a (non-violent) criminal act against the other. Odds = 50%
- Football Film – I fancy writing a football film script, mainly for the reason that, can you name a decent football film? If you can name a fictional film with at least passable (pun intended) passages of play, let me know. Odds = 65%
- Interactive eBook/App – I’ve written some novels, I’ve produced an ebook and I used to be a web developer so it only seems natural to try and create some kind of interactive story. I’ve got a few ideas and I’m currently reading ‘Her Story‘ and I’ve got ‘Black Bar‘ lined up to go next. Odds = 80%
I’ve got my pre-project rituals all set up. There’s only two. A new A4 notebook and a new playlist of deep house tracks collected over the past year. Now to spend some time thinking, making notes and exploring these 3 ideas until one grabs me by the balls and says ‘Create me!’.
A couple of weeks ago I submitted my novel, ‘Blindsided‘, to 5 agents. I upped my game this time and hired the services of an editor BEFOREHAND for a critique of the whole novel, to copy-edit the first 3 chapters and help with the synopsis and cover letter.
Overall I’m well happy this submission package is a lot better than the previous 2 I’ve sent out in the past purely because I’ve had an editor work with me on it. Comparing what I’ve put together for Blindsided with my 2 previous novels plus the fact I think this novel has more commercial appeal means I’m giving it my very best shot.
Also, because my previous 2 novels were speculative fiction and this current one is more of a contemporary novel, I’m also looking for different agents which makes the searching a little more interesting and also widens the net a little.
So now I’m in a little dead zone between finishing one novel and starting another. A welcome break until I crack open a brand new notebook and start thinking about what to write next. I’m going to catch up on some reading this month and maybe do some more blog posts if I can think of anything remotely interesting to write about, whilst I try to await responses from agents, patiently.
I recently got this handsome letter from ‘The British Library‘ informing me the paperback version of ‘In A Right State‘ is now taking up valuable space on their hallowed shelves. Well, it’s deposited, not yet indexed, so it’s probably propping a door open or straightening a wonky table leg.
So how can a self-published slice of speculative fiction end up at The British Library?
Go to – How to deposit printed publications – on The British Library website. Here it gives you a brief description of why and where to send it, there’s more in-depth information on ‘Legal Deposit‘ here. I simply wrote my address on a post-it note (sick of writing cover letters!) and stuck it to the front cover, signed the book and posted it off. No SAE required.
From posting my book off to receiving this receipt took about 2/3 months.
My book was published by Completely Novel so it’s good quality and has an ISBN number. The British Library doesn’t mention either of these points as being a pre-requisite but I doubt they accept stapled pages of A4 paper.
I was featured in last Thursday’s ‘Worthing Herald‘ on the ‘World of Words’ page which features local writers, poets, groups, events, etc.
10 questions to delve deeper into my writing life…leaving a few questions left over.
btw, my girlfriend’s son is not called ‘Hannibal’. The comma and apostrophe’s make it look like her son’s nickname is Hannibal leaving the reader to wonder, rather horrifyingly, “Why in God’s name is this young boy named after a cannibal psychopath?”. He’s not. We play Lego – he then goes to bed – then my girlfriend and I watch the excellent ‘Hannibal‘. Just wanted to clear that up.
The winner is the cover with the most votes, so go here – http://completelynovel.com/articles/vote-for-your-favourite-book-cover – and vote by clicking the tick box next to your favourite cover and then adding your email address.
Vote for mine if you want!
You can view it on the right hand column over there or click here, what a beautiful cover it is!
The closing date for voting is 11.45pm (BST) on Sunday October 18th.
I’m classing a ‘failed novel’ as one that has been submitted to agents and publishers over a year or two without having achieved a sale or any/much interest. This is what happened with ‘In A Right State‘.
‘In A Right State’ is my first novel and I sent it out to about 40 agents and 20 publishers, only getting a couple of sniffs – one agent wanted the complete manuscript but gave up after about 6 chapters, another publisher wanted the whole thing to read but then went ‘dark‘.
I started writing my second novel, ‘Broken Branches‘, whilst submitting the first and then after about 2 years I gave up on the first to concentrate on submitting the second and begin writing the third, ‘Blindsided‘. After finishing the first draft of Blindsided, I wanted to do something else before going onto the 2nd draft so I decided to self-publish my first novel, ‘In A Right State’.
So what led me to this decision?
This is more of an anti-blog post to counter all those how to market your book type blog posts which contain a lot of crap, a lot of obvious common sense and a lot of ‘what planet are you on?‘, eg. Spend £20,000 on targeted Facebook ads!
Here’s a few things I see other authors do and other blog posts recommend which I won’t do because I think they’re either a waste of time or crass.
Ain’t no quick fixes here.
Tweeting…constantly about shit.
‘Oh look, my cat just took a dump. Buy my book.’
Streams and streams of retweets.
Tweeting at famous people, writers, publishers, mags, etc in an incessant, needy display of ‘someone please acknowledge me‘…OK, *blocked*.
If your tweet is selling something and is the 2nd one you’ve done this week selling something, then don’t tweet. I give writers a free pass on the week of publication, they deserve to go on an adrenaline fuelled rabbit session when they’ve made it that far.
If your tweet doesn’t interest someone who doesn’t give a shit, then don’t tweet.
ISBN numbers are a big worry for a first time self-publisher, at least it was for me. They smell of officialdom and when you start looking into it, the smell intensifies with cost – Nielsen UK ISBN Agency – £144 for 10 ISBN numbers!
What is an ISBN?
Here’s the official answer from ISBN International;
An ISBN is essentially a product identifier used by publishers, booksellers, libraries, internet retailers and other supply chain participants for ordering, listing, sales records and stock control purposes. The ISBN identifies the registrant as well as the specific title, edition and format.
The first thing to know is that if you’re only producing an ebook then you do not have to have an ISBN. If you’re publishing a physical book, then you’ll need one.
The advantage of having an ISBN for any book is a common reference number across multiple online retailers. It allows the author to search Google with their ISBN to find places selling their book, whilst also allowing retailers to know who’s published a particular book and who to pay. This also allows customers to find their ideal retailer form which to buy your book from.
9781783016501 – In A Right State ebook
9781849145633 – In A Right State paperback
An ISBN may offer a slim sliver of security against lazy ebook pirates who haven’t deleted any ISBN info and gives the author tracking info via Bowker (extra cost + I’ve heard accuracy ain’t perfect), but I think the standardisation argument above is enough to convince me of the benefits of getting an ISBN.
Here’s a free online barcode generator for you to give your designer to place on the back cover – Bookow – the sight of seeing a genuine ISBN barcode on your back cover also derives an unexpected thrill too.
Anyway, here’s what I did and what I’ll do next time to get 100% bona fide ISBN numbers for my book at nowhere near the original costs.
With the eBook Partnership distribution service you can get an ISBN number for your ebook for free. The distribution service is $50 (£32) so get this for your free ISBN number and get your ebook submitted to all the major retailers too, bargain!
I used Completely Novel, a print on demand company, for my paperback version. Their ‘Plus’ plan (£8 per month) includes a free ISBN number and a few other features which make it worthwhile such as full online distribution.
So that’s it. How to get an ISBN number for your self-published ebook and/or paperback in the most cost-effective way.
A year on from self-publishing my first novel, what lessons have I learned? What would I do differently next time? What mistakes did I make?
Even though my sales have been pretty poor, I don’t think I made many mistakes. I experimented and as a result there’s a few things I won’t be doing again, but I don’t think I did anything to adversely affect sales. By the same token, I obviously didn’t do much to stimulate sales but therein lies the alchemy.
I did 4 drafts, gave it to about 10 beta readers, redrafted again, gave it to a professional editor for a critique, redrafted, then the editor copy-edited the whole thing. I wouldn’t drastically change that for the next time, I’m pleased with the words that came out the other end of that process.
Beta readers are hard to come by. I recently got my 3rd novel back from some beta readers, about half of which have beta read all 3 of my novels. My general rule is; if they get back to you, use them again. If they don’t, ditch them. They’re just too polite to ditch you.
Paying for an editor is expensive but worth it. The best money you’ll ever spend.
Once you’ve written a book, edited a book and published a book, you need to promote the book. We know this, but how?
You can go asking and begging for book reviews, you can try marketing/PR stunts, you can go on a social network and blogging frenzy to drum up some business and you can also try the old fashioned, uncreative method of paid advertising.
I’ve tried all these but here is my sorry tale of paid advertising, so you can save your money, or at least, better target it. Also, many, many ‘experts’ go on about the vagaries of online marketing, lovingly vomiting the latest buzz phrases to build up an impressive wall of hyperbole without actually nailing their colours to a mast. Here I’m skewering my colours to a sinking ship.
My budget was miniscule. I didn’t put a hard and fast rule on it because if I’d said, ‘£100’, that would’ve seemed a lot straight off the bat, so I kept my eye out for deals and experimented here and there. I could’ve put £100 into targeted Facebook ads but that was putting all my eggs in one basket, not as experimental and to be honest, £100 ain’t going to get you far on Facebook.
So here is a list of all the places where I paid for a text ad, a ‘banner’, newsletter or tweet. A combination of websites and Twitter accounts, in the vain hope of discovering those unrelenting hordes of hungry ebook readers;