Publishing update

So.

The Painting is up on Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu, and is selling at a steady rate. All ebooks so far, no paperbacks, although I think the paperback royalties take longer to appear on the statement.

Stormwatcher 1 is up in both ppb and ebook versions, and Stormwatcher 2 as an ebook (just finishing the adjustments to the proof – more on that later)

Sense and Celebrity is up in ebook and ppb.

I’m back to working on A Season of Singing. I’m on the last few thousand words, wriggle room I leave myself in the final edits as I tend to underwrite and have to go back and do a lot of filling in between events, foreshadowing, making sure motivations are realistic, that kind of thing.

I never really thought about how much I write about disability until now. I assumed it was because I’m a doctor, but now I no longer think that’s the reason. I suppose it’s that firstly, I prefer to write about people who are disenfranchised in some way – gay men in Nazi Germany, for instance. In Pride and Precipitation (spoilers!) Stephen Rowan ends up the most seriously injured among a small group of people; not a role he has ever envisaged himself in, nor one he’s particularly well equipped to cope with.

Season of Singing follows a deeply religious man who’s the victim of a vicious, mistakenly homophobic attack, from which it has taken him a year and a half to return to independent living. He believes everything that happens has a purpose, but cannot square this with what he’s experienced.

And lastly, The First Time They Met, the most challenging (for me) book I’ve yet written. One character has a lifelong disability, the other has acquired permanent spinal injuries as a result of his own recklessness. One has had it all, and thrown it away, while the other has struggled to be normal, struggled to achieve and yet is still the outsider in her own life.

I’ve suddenly realised that I would find it hard to write without tackling these kinds of issues. I can’t imagine writing a book where all the characters are healthy, privileged people. I’ve often felt guilty about not including more POC, but maybe that’s just not my bag. And if any group of people needs a fictional voice that speaks of them as being fully human, then we certainly do.

Self Publishing, part 1

I’m not going to get into the should I – shouldn’t I argument about self-publishing. I’m going to assume you’re seriously considering it, and looking for tips. Here are the things I’ve learned; I’ll try and keep them in a vaguely comprehensible order.

Cover design

You know this is vital, right? And you know that unless you’ve got some great skillz, then using MSWord and clipart is out, yes?

So.

I would suggest you really think about what your cover is going to say, and I don’t mean the title and your name. Really look at how covers are designed, how images are layered, colours are chosen, what the fonts add to the whole thing.

Make sure you can output a file in the correct dimensions and dpi for whichever publisher you’re using.

Invest in some decent software; gimp and serif are free, but pretty good. I use fireworks; even older versions of this will probably have most of what you need.

Aim to spend several days fiddling with your cover design. Don’t forget the blurb on the back, and the spine text (which is what will be on display most of the time). Leave room for a barcode, and don’t forget to put the address of your website on the back.

And if you can’t do any one part of this, employ a professional to do it for you. Your book is unlikely to sell without a good cover. Don’t skimp.

Formatting ebooks

Learn how to put together a table of contents (TOC). No, really. Get on the forums and most readers will tell you they find a TOC vital. If you’re writing a non-fiction book, you really can’t publish without it. If you’re writing a non-fiction book for an ereader and you can’t create links so the reader can flick back and forward through the book, then you shouldn’t really be publishing until you know how to do it.

Paragraphing. A confession here. Amazon’s kindle software indents the first paragraph of every chapter and new scene, and I haven’t corrected it in my ebooks. There is a way of doing it (insert p=0 in the html at each and every para you don’t want indented) but it’s enormously time-consuming and freezes the software I use about every 8 minutes. I’ve decided that in this one case, life is too short.

Make sure each chapter begins on a new page. Check and recheck, especially if you’ve had to convert it to a different format. make sure the Text starts no lower than halfway down an ereader screen. I find that’s about 6 to 8 blank lines in 12-point font, then ‘Chapter XX’, then 2 blank lines, then the start of the text. Make sure this is exactly the same for every new chapter.

Put your cover image on the first page. (centered)

Title and your name on the second page.

Copyright info on the third page.

Dedications etc on the fourth page

TOC starts on the fifth page (Centered, may be several pages long)

Maps next. (centered)

Prologue after that.

Then the first chapter.

Easy, eh?

Formatting text – and don’t forget that your tab, or indent, in a Word document is often quite large. In a book it should be about the width of 2 or 3 characters.

Next time – how does formatting differ in a physical book?