Here we go…

I’ve started this website to promote my writing, specifically my novel: The Judge of the Dead.

Some of what I write now will no doubt end up on a sort of static ‘About Me’ page, once I’ve got the hang of the functionality of the site, but I wanted to get a first post out before worrying about the look and feel. My grandad would have been 95 today and I wanted to mark the occasion by doing something big (well, big for me). He always had a book on the go, from the local library, probably a Len Deighton or some sort of war or espionage type thing. I’ll have a drop of Irish later and raise a glass to him, and the site launch. Might have to have two drops then. Oh well.

I began studying creative writing with the Open University in 2010, gaining a distinction at second-year undergraduate level, before going on to gain a lower grade at the third-year level, no doubt because I chose to avoid hoovering up easier marks – by concentrating on short stories, which had served me well the previous year – and instead tried to test myself more fully by attempting radio and film scripts. Surely the point of learning is to attempt new stuff? I thought so. My final degree may be a grade down as a result of that decision, but it was the right call, I think.

I was long-listed for the 2012/13 Fish Short Story Prize, which as anyone connected with the organisation will tell you is a prize run by the Irish publisher of that name, not a prize for short stories written about fish. When I’m familiar with this website’s architecture I will attempt to post up my entry, which was called ‘Leave it to Bertie’, an attempt at a sort of modern day Wodehouse, set in a police station in Newport, Wales. If I get really cocky on the technology front I might even attempt to offer it as a free download off Amazon or whatever, but that’s a way off yet.

Looking through my hard drive, I can see that The Judge of the Dead was conceived around March 2010, though most of the files are dated 2013: a productive year. My lack of version control, just saving files as I went along, has meant the temporal story of the journey has been lost. Much of it was written in 2010, with a big push to finish in 2013. I must have done some of it during 2011 and 2012 too, but very much less due to working full-time. It’s a shame I don’t have a clear picture of the development of the story over the four-year writing period, if only to gauge how long it really took me, when I was ‘in the flow’. I might come back to ‘in the flow’ as a later post.

After I’d finished it in autumn 2013, I contacted about 15 agents, following the protocol set out in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook: query letter, synopsis, first three chapters. One agent encouraged me to send in the rest, which I did and then left it (because feedback can take months apparently). And left it. And left it. And months later found she’d left the agency to go to work as an editor for one of the major publishing houses. Sugar, or words to that effect. The ‘get published’ door had swung firmly shut, right in my face.

Then, this summer, I happened to mention I was thinking of self-publishing to a friend, who it turned out had another friend who already has been. I contacted this friend-of-a-friend, Emma – note to self: link her blog/site in later – who was full of advice, no pussyfooting about, do it and do it like this. Just what I needed. In a world full of options, some of which I’m not even sure I comprehend, the last thing you want is someone sitting on the fence.

Emma pointed me to Guy Kawasaki’s book ‘APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book’, which seems to be a sort of self-publisher’s bible of the times.

I could pretty much publish now. There is the apparently all-important matter of a cover to get designed, and the advice seems to be to at least get a copy edit, if no other types of edit, but the book is pretty much ready to send to the ‘printers’, which seems likely to be Kindle Direct Publishing at this point in time – a digital release, in other words – bar a major change of plan.

However, Kawasaki recommends focusing on the ‘E’ before the ‘P’, stating that the author needs to have created a demand for a book before publishing it. I’m not totally convinced by that argument, especially if I do get involved in some of what Kawasaki calls ‘guerrilla marketing’, but Emma seemed slightly regretful that she hadn’t followed that order of play, so I’m going to run with it, possibly for six months, and then if I decide it’s not the right way to go for me I can always bring things forward.

That’s where I’m at right now, in my head. The blog element of this site will act as a sort of diary (of me thinking out loud, bouncing some ideas off, erm, myself). Hopefully the entries might function as stepping stones for any self-publishers following in my footsteps. Early on it might contain posts that are focused on the pleasures or pains of using WordPress rather than writing, so might be a bit techy in places, but it’ll be a sorry day if my sense of humour ever deserts me so please read on…

How’d that go, Grandad? Time for a uisce?

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5 thoughts on “Here we go…

  1. Great start – get those links up! As usual, you’re ahead of me… note to self *start a blog*… 😉
    second note to self *change my WordPress photo* (well out of date)

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  2. You are most welcome – I really hope you get your book out there, as it is an excellent story, and I love your style of writing – it deserves to be read far and wide!

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  3. Thanks for following me at my blog, and leading me back to yours.

    I think the idea of taking six months to plan your launch is an excellent idea. I haven’t read Guy’s book (probably a slight prejudice; I’ve known many, many venture capitalists, and the idea that he could toss off a book that would be treated as gospel is a very VC thing to do – and hardly an indication it will actually have anything useful to say.

    Trying to figure out what does work is still, I think, pretty much of a black box. There are clearly some things that are “must dos” (like being sure that your book is professional quality and has a great cover), but those are table stakes, and not any sort of guarantee of success. And there are things that make intuitive sense to do. But others, such as having a FaceBook page and using Twitter, I’m inclined to think, will prove to be a total waste of time for most people.

    So figuring out how to most productively spend your time, money and effort is a smart move indeed.

    Best of luck!

    Andy

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