No one said there would be questions…

No one said there would be questions…

I don’t know what it is about questionnaires, but they strike me illiterate. Maybe it’s because they resemble an exam paper (I have never been good at exams). Or job applications, where you have to answer hypothetical questions, and list your strengths and weaknesses.  Real questions are fine – like who was Prime Minister in 1973? That’s easy, you either know it or you don’t. And if you don’t you can look it up.

Question: “What aspects of your writing are unique and define you as an author?” Well, hell, I don’t know. You tell me (please).

Question: “Who do you envision purchasing and reading your book?” Honest answer? “No one really” or “I would”. I haven’t got that far with my ‘envisioning’. A few friends and family? A couple of other people if I’m lucky. “All women who like romance.” (CreateSpace example of the wrong answer: “All women who like cooking” – well it isn’t quite the same).

“Describe your target audience by factors such as age group, interest, education, gender, etc.” Sorry, I’m way out of my depth now. Is ‘education’ relevant to chick-lit romance? (That’s a question I’m asking – not one of theirs). I really don’t know the answer, maybe you do. Gender! Yes I know the answer to that (I can’t think of any men who read romances.) But the questions keep getting harder: “Describe the specific tone, themes, and mood you would like your book to convey.”

Surely, if I was able to write the book, I can come up with answers to these? Apparently not. Everything I’m typing in the answer boxes reads like hyperbole. I haven’t thought this through. I simply had a story I wanted to tell, so I wrote it down.

I am a typical, self-depreciating English woman. It goes against my nature to laud my own skills or blow my own trumpet. It has dawned on me that I will have to learn these traits if I do want to sell the book.

To the question “Describe any specific design ideas for the interior of your book.” I actually answered “None really. Clear and simple.” (I was getting weary by then). But I worked out later when I looked at examples, that I actually had quite a lot of opinions on the interior of my book. I possibly should have done more research. And viewed the examples before I wrote the answer. It’s that impatience thing again.

Similar problem with the cover for the book, and questions for the editor. My ideas for the cover were completely rubbish. But I didn’t know that until I saw it mocked up; and then I started looking at covers I liked and worked out what I wanted to achieve. Three steps forwards and two steps back. Every time.

I asked the editor for feedback on the title of the book. Working title “Circle of Trust”, alternative options “Mistrust” and “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”. Having already asked the six friends who had proof read the book, I received two votes for each. Which wasn’t very helpful. By the time I received my editor’s feedback the cover had been signed off and approved. I will get this process right, next time. (Ps. the book is called ‘Once Bitten, Twice Shy’)

One last comment about the dreaded questionnaire. When CreateSpace say “this page times out after 30 minutes” and “you may want to type and save your answers elsewhere”, it is good advice. The final question asks for a synopsis of your book, with as much detail as you can muster. Needless to say I couldn’t run that off in the 4 minutes I had remaining. Back to the drawing board. And learn some patience!

Setting my manuscript free (or sending it off to school)

Setting my manuscript free (or sending it off to school)

I did some more research, but Amazon CreateSpace was an easy choice for me. I felt a certain loyalty towards them, it was, after all, a programme about Amazon that got me writing in the first place. And if I wanted a broad platform to launch my book, it doesn’t come much broader than the mighty Amazon. A double edged sword, possibly. On the one hand giving me the potential to reach corners of the world I have barely even heard of, on the other I would be pitching my book against millions of others. Scatter the seeds wide, and hope a few take hold? Or cultivate a small patch of ground and nurture the seed along. I don’t know the answer to that yet, maybe future blogs will be able to share.

Several people asked me if I had considered pitching to a traditional publisher first. It did enter my mind, but you hear so many stories about manuscript rejection. I had visions of a single rejection stopping me in my tracks. My manuscript languishing in archive files for eternity (or until the computer died, and unnecessary backed up files were not transferred to its replacement).

So I opened a CreateSpace account. A rather cranky website, CreateSpace, I have to say. Given who you are affiliated with. Navigation is tricky and often not clear. And I was slightly surprised to be dealing directly with the USA. Scheduling calls for Eastern Standard Time, and suffering a lag on telephone conversations. Despite the fact that we talk the same language, guys, somehow we don’t quite do we? “Thank you for reaching out to us…” is definitely not a British English phrase. Having said that, the advisors were brilliant. No question was too stupid, each and every one of them has been polite, helpful and efficient. That is worth a lot, so thank you people. (And I’m sure there were several of my English phrases that they found slightly odd, not to mention my general vagueness!)

I checked my document for a final time, painstakingly changed all my asterisk passage breaks to fleurons and uploaded the manuscript. Then I found and read the guidelines on how to make your document ready for upload, and learnt that passage breaks should be indicated with asterisks. So I sent them a message, put the asterisks back and uploaded again. This has rather been the tale of my entire experience so far. In every task I do, I locate the information about how I should have done it after the job is done. I’m not a patient person (another character flaw), but guidance or tick-boxes which appear automatically on the site would have been very helpful. You have to search and dig for everything. My advice here would be to make sure you find the guidance for each and every stage – it is there if you look hard enough.

When I first started writing, the plan was to create an e-book without any financial outlay. But as the process went along and I did further research I realised this wasn’t the route for me. Possibly I could do it with a third or fourth book, but I definitely needed assistance this first time round. I didn’t have a clue about layout or font. No idea where to begin designing a book cover. And I liked my book enough to want a physical copy. Of course there are plenty of people out there offering their services in this regard; book cover designers, proof readers, copy-editors. I am sure that many of them provide a better, more specific service than CreateSpace can via long distance communication and the constraints of budget. Again, this is something I would definitely look in to further with a future book. But it cannot be argued that the editing package which CreateSpace offered me was ridiculously good value. The fact that it was a ‘package’ enabled me to see exactly what I would be spending, without the embarrassment of getting quotes from individuals or companies, and then working out that I couldn’t afford them.

My lack of experience and impatience (again) led me to purchase a CreateSpace editing package. I’m not saying this is the best way to go, but for me this time it provided the easy option. For those of you who are looking to do this yourselves, I purchased the ‘Editing Package’ (two rounds), ‘Marketing Copy Essentials’, and ‘Custom Cover Premier’ (two cover concepts).

Tune in next time to see if I made the right choices, and how I got on with the dreaded questionnaire!

Thank you family and friends (and indie bloggers who give advice so generously)

Thank you family and friends (and indie bloggers who give advice so generously)

With the manuscript finished, I thought I had done the hard bit. But no one other than me had read it yet, and the Husband kept telling me that someone else should. Scary stuff! I liked the story, but wasn’t convinced I was resilient enough to accept criticism (one of my numerous character flaws.)

Further Googling and Indie blogs (thank you, @JFBookman,, Derek Murphy @creativeindie) also informed me that traditionally published books pass through up to six rounds of editing before they go into print (and there will still be errors in them then).

CreateSpace suggested that if I was working to a budget, I should get as many friends as I could to read the manuscript and note any mistakes. Time to take my courage in my hands. As luck would have it, an annual ‘girls weekend’ was on the horizon. With half a dozen lifelong friends who have known each other since school. With sufficient wine inside me I managed to blurt “I’ve written a book, and I’m self-publishing it.” Their reaction was heart warming. Despite my self-concious apologies that it was far from high-brow literature, everyone wanted to read it. Each and every one of them was full of praise that I had even taken the task on. To be fair, we were all rather tipsy. One of my friends read a passage out loud – to much hilarity (one of the ‘naughty’ passages, this was a girls weekend after all). It was great to hear the words that I had written spoken out loud (she was a beautiful narrator!)

Five friends and my sister read the book and sent the edits back. Along with wonderful comments which made me start to believe I had actually written something worth reading. Although I had warned them that any criticism should be heavily sugared to avoid wounding me. Two of them read it twice, which was really gratifying.

Amendments made (along with a few of my own; I am still unable to work on the book without changing a word or a phrase here and there) the manuscript was finally ready to submit. Time to fully investigate my launch pad.