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Is it me, or are there lots of people who want to help me sell my newly published book? Ever since I published my children’s adventure story, Splidge the Cragflinger, I have become very popular. I wish I could report that it was coming from children aged 9-12 and their parents, all eager to buy my book, but sadly I cannot. I have found myself the target of the self-publishing service industry.
In 2005, when podcasting hit the UK and I launched the Vobes Show (originally called The Radio Vobes Radio Show) the same thing happened. This time it was the podcasting service industry who buzzed around me like wasps round a cream cake. All of a sudden, experts came out of the woodwork, told me how I ought to podcast and what equipment I should use. New software to make it easy to record podcasts were rustled up and published. Manufacturers of microphones, mixing desks, pop shields, recorders, mp3 players jumped on the bandwagon. It seemed for a while everyone wanted to help me produce a better podcast; a podcast that listeners (the hundreds or thousands of listens who were going to be coming to hear me) would love!
Well, guess what? The people who made money out of podcasting were not the people providing the podcasts. It wasn’t the people who were researching their shows, writing scripts, making notes or gathering material to present, recording regular shows, uploading them to web based audio storage servers or spending time building the audience week after week.
The people making the money from podcasting were the people providing the services for the podcasters. Wasn’t it always thus?
And now with the huge interest in self-publishing, the services industry is back and just as eager to please. Oh, didn’t you know, everyone can publish a book? Didn’t you know, you should write one and get it published. Didn’t you know you can make MONEY by publishing your book?
So the promise is there. The lure beckons. Temptation is hard to resist, and just like on Youtube, you too can make a video and earn money (in their case through advertising), the good news it is really easy! And there are tons of people who will take you by the hand and help you do it!
Of course, they don’t say much money you will make. And they don’t say the making money part is the easy bit of the process. No, let’s be clear. The easy bit is getting your book, video or podcast published. Anyone can do that, and everyone does, and there is the rub.
It’s noisy out there. There are millions of books, videos an podcasts and all of them are saying ‘Buy my book, look at my video, listen to my podcast!’ But very few are actually making ‘real’ money from doing it.
I say again, the people who are making money from self-publishing are the ones selling the ebooks called something like ‘My guide to self-publishing’ or ‘Make money with ebooks’. Or the others who offer ‘ebook promotion’, ‘We Tweet ebooks’, or ‘You are too damn lazy to do your own marketing so we will do it for you’, etc And all for an oh, so affordable price.
For clarity, I am not saying these services are bad or that they don’t work. I just pointing out there are a hell of a lot of them and they will happily take your money. The question is, will you sell enough books to make it worthwhile? I don’t know. I haven’t been in the self-publishing game long enough to find out, but I do know, as a rule of thumb, the people who make money from this sort of artistic endeavour are the people providing the service. They are dream sellers.
My book Splidge the Cragflinger is a historical fantasy novel for children aged 9-12. Details and samples in ebook format and audio are available for FREE at www.Splidge.co.uk.
Posted in Blog
The digital revolution is everywhere. It is fast taking over the world. Maybe it has already. And generally it is a good thing. For children’s authors who intend to self publish their work, it is not so good and I shall explain why.
Children, as we know, go to school. There they experience, often for the first time, printed books. Some of these children fall in love with them and will become the next generation of readers and, no doubt, have their ereaders in their pockets ready to grab at a moments notice, perhaps while waiting for a bus or riding on a train. But at the moment, while they are children, they know and use printed books.
Children, of course, are attracted to bright and shiny things, and tablets, mobile phones and computers are marvellous playthings; games, videos and social media websites are enjoyed to the full, but I do not believe the majority of children in the ‘reading’ world use them to read books. Not yet.
Therefore if you are a children’s self-published author and you want your work to reach your audience you need to have it printed.
Fortunately there is such a thing as print-on-demand. The digital technology has made it possible to have printed a single copy of your manuscript in the form of a professional looking perfect bound book. Fabulous! Companies like Amazon and Lulu can do this for you and not only print them, but make the books available for anyone in the world to purchase.
The downside to this incredible never-seen-before instance book-print situation is the price. To me, as an author, the fact that I may order my printed copy for less than an English tenner and have it delivered to my door within a week is amazing, but to a potential parent looking on line, the cost, when compared to other children’s books, is pretty steep. Almost double the price!
It is parents that are going to be buying the book online. They have the credit cards. So to compete in an over crowded marketplace I need to make my printed book cheaper. But how?
There really is only one way. Have them printed myself and in quantity. It’s not cheap and is a big risk.
It isn’t as expensive as it once was, however, and the quantities do not have to be ridiculously high. The risk is that you do not sell them and end with stacks of boxes all over your house.
However, I think if you have the printed book you have a lot of options open to you. Here are some of them:
First, you can still put them on Amazon and let them fulfil the orders. It costs a bit, but it would still make the price cheaper than the print-on-demand books.
Second, you can sell them direct from your own website. This is great because you can personalise them and sign them for the buyer.
Third, you can sell them at talks, workshops, and literary festivals. For children’s books it extra cool, because you could give away some to school libraries, offer them as prizes and perhaps sell a few at school fêtes or craft fares.
All the other rules apply; have it proofread, edited with a good cover. But printing yourself is worth thinking about.
I am going to try it with Splidge the Cragflinger and shall report on how it goes.
Posted in Blog
It is a slow process, the editing of a book. I am working with an old friend who used to type up manuscripts for a publisher. She is brilliant and her attention to detail exceptional. Every line I have written for the first book has been questioned. It is so good for me. I am learning a lot.
Part of the journey to write my children’s fantasy adventure is to illustrate it myself. We are all good at something and terrible at other things. I had always believed that I was hopeless at drawing. I readily confess, I am not great, but the recent scribblings have surprised me and I am beginning to believe that I might even get away with adorning my story with my humble sketches.
I have found a style that I like and an approach that I enjoy. For me, watercolour with a pen outline is perfect for my book, Splidge, the Cragflinger and his adventures. I do not want to be too prescriptive on how he looks and the cartoon approach seems to fit. It is very reminiscent of Quentin Blake, but I do not think that is a bad thing. I hadn’t set out copy him, it just happened that he using the same materials and our styles are coincidentally similar, and there are plenty of others that are also the same – so who is following who?
I am still at the learning and practice phase as far as my art is concerned. I don’t suppose you ever become fully satisfied with your own work, but I am slowly getting better and to the point where I would feel comfortable with my pictures appearing in the final printed book, as well as versions of them for e-books too.
I have always doodled, like many people do, but not really spent much time trying to perfect the imagery. Now I am and I am encouraged by the nice comments and feedback I have been getting when posting the silly cartoons on Facebook and Twitter. All good fun.
The aim is to have the book ready by the end of January 2014. A second one is to follow and I am writing that in between the art practice.
Posted in Blog
My book has arrived. When I say my book, I do actually mean, my book – the one I wrote. I am talking about Splidge, the Cragflinger – a children’s fantasy story that I have been working no this year. It is set in the land of Gud where it always rains. Sounds terribly dull doesn’t it? It’s not!
I have had a few copies run off to give to a couple of friends to proof read. I have already spotted errors in the text myself while flicking through – that is a good thing – it is probably riddled with typos, grammatical mistakes and erroneous spaces. The point of these printed editions are to make them similar in feel and texture to the real thing so that it is easier for the readers to go through. And I have instructed them to take a red pen and mark in the books! Sacrilegious! I will be doing this myself.
The other point about having such an early edition printed is to examine the look and feel of the thing; how the typeface works, the size of the text and the number of pages produced – not to mention getting an idea of the cost to the customer.
It also legitimizes the book. All the time the text is on my computer or printed out on ordinary A4 copier paper it is just some nonsense that I have bashed out . There is no sense that the work is really a book, a story yes, but not a professionally produced thing you might buy in a shop; a something to be proud of real book. With the ability to self-publish and print-on-demand as few copies as you like, it makes it so simple to run off samples to see how it is looking. Now I can think better about the overall design, the layout of the chapters, the fly sheets and so on.
The cover is one of the most important things to give consideration to. The book is aimed at the 9-12 audience, although hopefully open to anyone who wishes to read my nonsense. I want to reflect the fun, the setting and the type of book it is (adventure/fantasy/humorous) by the cover – usually the only thing you have to catch people’s eye/attention online or in a store. To that end I have decided to try to illustrate it myself in pen and ink with a watercolour wash. Now, I am no artist and so this is probably a big risk, but like all things in life, I like a challenge and to push myself to see if I can do it. I certainly think at this stage, where I don’t have the budget to pay for a professional, that it is worth giving it a go – I can always revise it if and when it sells and I have a few pennies to give it thorough make-over.
I have a lot to learn about art, but I have been experimenting. I have mocked up a cover – this is far from the real thing, but it gives me enough of a glimmer that I might be able to achieve it reasonably well. I also has the right feel and tone about it. I also have plans to include additional drawings, and more interestingly Guddian advertisements, in-between the chapters – even a recipe or two. This will increase the page count by a little and consequently the price, but I shall release an e-book version (where it won’t) – but I would like this first foray into publishing (vanity or self) a special thing.
I am sure my writing and drawing skills have plenty of room for improvement, but you have to start somewhere, don’t you? Meanwhile, it is all a bit of fun!
Posted in Blog
I love making stuff up. Is it because the world around me isn’t enough, or too boring or does not fulfill my needs or ambitions? – I know not. I just enjoy taking myself off into a world of my own creation and having adventures. I think as a writer, you need another place to disappear to from time to time.
I have been fascinated with writing all my life, as I have with reading. I wholeheartedly agree with the maxim; to write, you first need to read. I love to read and my house is testimony to that. The joy of reading was learned from an early age and from it the desire to write my own stuff was born.
Telling a story and taking an audience by the hand and leading them on a journey of my own creation has been my pleasure over the years. As a child, the visual medium of television also caught my imagination and I started to write scripts for programmes that I wanted to see. I even wrote an episode of Dr. Who, although sadly, I no longer have the document. It was never published or sent to the TV people. It was enough for me to have written the piece.
In my early twenties I had my first article published. It was not a remarkable piece of work, but I was proud to be able to call myself a professional author – I had been paid fifty pounds and it boosted my much needed self esteem.
But I have always been a practical chap. It wasn’t enough to put pen to paper and leave it at that. I wanted to do something more adventurous with the nonsense I was producing, which is why plays and films in particular appealed to me. I had the luck to be a member of a few youth theatre groups in my teenage years, and this presented me with the opportunity to put on my work. It is exhilarating to have actors saying your words, reacting to your thoughts and becoming the characters you have invented and pulled out the air.
I am close now to completing my latest work, a young persons fantasy adventure. At 126,000 words and roughly 333 pages when in a printed book form, it has been a fun as well as hard labour and I hope enjoyable for others to read. I am sure I have a lot to learn about the format and it is by far a work of brilliance – how could it be? I am only at the beginning of my journey and I am too humble to think I am any good at the writing game.
I have tried not to ‘dumb down’ the writing or deliberately make it the language childlike. I have a story to tell and there is much detail to describe. It is not enough for me to keep the characters one dimensional. I want to find out what excites them, makes them laugh, worries them and brings them to tears. I need them to be believable – they have to live.
Also, I have tried not to copy another author’s style or fit it too much to a niche. I know that may be the way of the commercial world, but I honestly believe a story has its own way of telling – you can squeeze it into a box, but sometimes it will escape and go its own way, refusing to be tamed.
I also need to work on different projects at once, from writing a book to shooting a documentary, to travelling the country, to earning a living and bringing up children. I do not think you can legitimately call yourself an author if you sit all day at a computer and tap out words; to be inspired, to widen your experiences, to learn new skills, to weave magic into your stories, I believe you need to live away from the page. The internet is a helpful tool, but it is no substitute for meeting real people, going to real places and learning new things.
But what do I know? I have only been toying with pen and paper since I was ten. I need more time to perfect my skills – ask me when I am ninety. I may have improved by then, with any luck!
Posted in Blog
Did I say being 50? What? You mean, half a century? Is that old?
I don’t feel old. I don’t feel any different from when I was in my teens. I do feel more mature, sensible, responsible. I also feel I can be stupid, sensibly and responsibly – I don’t think I do that before. I may not be able to run a marathon, but then I didn’t ever try or want to before, so that hasn’t changed.
I have lost an eye, but that could have happened at any age.
So why, do I feel that I have to question who I am, and what I have achieved now that I have reached this midlife point?
I shall tell you why. It is every time I see some one of my age being interviewed on TV about their life and the things they have done. They are generally successful, or have been successful and made a bit of money and do not have to worry about where the next penny is coming from. Then, rather stupidly (I know it is my own fault) I hold a mirror up and ask, ‘And what have I done then?’
I have done a lot of things; I have trained in mime, laid professionally on a bed of nails, eaten fire, walked on stilts, written and directed – and starred in – a children’s television programme on one of the three main terrestrial channels, I have performed a stand up gig, traveled around the UK, paddled a coracle on the River Severn, made documentaries about British heritage and had them broadcast on TV. I have bought loads of books on British history and read at least 65% of them. I have written a book, scripts, podcast a 30 minute radio type show nearly every day for 9 years – over 3000 recordings, had an article published…
I had a good marriage for 14 years and best of all, I have three amazing children who I love very dearly and would do anything to keep happy.
But, I don’t any cash, have no fixed profession, can’t seem to achieve my goals, am jinx by the industry whose medium I love and lack a hell of a lot of confidence.
That said (the negatives), I am very tenacious, stubborn and assiduous – I wont stop trying and will continue to plod along.
For me – being 50 is merely a time check. I am here now, but I have places to go. I am not going to stop trying new things and make myself better at what I can do. I would love to have done a lot more comedy, more TV shows, written plenty more books and read the classics as well as contemporary fiction.
Fingers crossed, there is still time.
Posted in Blog
Some people thrive at it, others loath it and I am definitely the former! Give me a camera, a microphone, a typewriter and I will get on and make something. Please don’t stick me in a room with a bunch of media types and ask me to engage with them. It scares me witless. Yes I hate it.
Yesterday I was in London. I had to nip to Moorfields to have my eye polished. I have an ocular prosthesis in my left eye after a bug ate the cornea and replacements couldn’t be attached – so once a year I pop up to famous eye hospital at Old Street in London and they really do polish it. So, with a twinkle in my eye, I went off to a series of engagements I had set up that day to take advantage of being up in the smoke.
The first of these was lunch with the chaps from the Community Channel (they broadcast my TV show The Bald Explorer) and we had a chat about the future, the new things they were bringing to the screen and areas where there might be some funding for my programme. Next up, I dashed across town, to meet up with a lady from the BBC who had been part of the Presentable course I had been on last year at the BBC. The presenters week hadn’t been a great success, at least as far as my expectations were concerned, and this lady was keen to hear my issues and, because she had faith in me, wanted to see how she and the BBC might help get me either some production work and/or into some presenting. It is not and easy task it would appear.
Apart from the fire alarm, where the building we were in was evacuated, we had a productive chat – I say that, but I am not sure I am anymore forward in my oddball chosen career.
So on to the next event then – an invite to a launch with the Media Trust, the National Lottery and the Community Channel which was taking place at Channel 4 in Horseferry Road, near Victoria. Handy for me to grab the train home afterwards.
I walked there this time – it was a fabulous evening, even for October and Big Ben, the London Eye and Trafalgar Square was beautifully lit up. It was rush hour and consequently took and an hour and a half to get to the TV station offices.
Once signed in and passes received, I helped myself to a glass of red wine and inspected the various little exhibition stands that were set up. All very interesting and fun. Speeches and entertainment followed, which was great and then… horror for me, it was a chance to mingle and ‘network’ with one another. Now I am not good at this stuff. I get a panic attack. A room full of a hundred or more executives, all high up and knowledgeable, walking the walk, talking the talk – and me, not knowing anyone and feeling a prune and out of place, like a fish out of water. Too scary!
I slipped out and escaped to the southbound train and whizzed home. Not my thing at all. :)
Posted in Blog