Diary of a hopeful author: My book’s soon out in paperback..!

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 My book is going into print! A paperback! This is not quite what it seems but to me, this week, it might as well be everything. ‘Your dark circles are getting bigger, mum,’ says my youngest. I give her a hug and sigh. ‘Sweetie, when you get to my age everything gets bigger – and it’s not my favourite thing.’ She narrows her eyes at me. ‘I want to get bigger.’ I smile. ‘I know you do. And that’s good! You are growing.  A big girl!’ I think of my dark circles. ‘Not quite the same for mum, I’m afraid, love.’ She looks at me then announces she’s going to play with her Lego.

I make a coffee, and, as the rain slams against the window (who knew this was July?) I think of the past few days and, namely, my growing obsession with Amazon’s Create Space. Yup, I’ve been on Create Space. If you don’t know it, but it’s a new venture, if you will, by Amazon, and it allows self-published authors to create print-on-demand books of their own, well, books.  It means that every time someone orders your paperback book, they print it off -there are no reserved stocks or need for reprint. So, for example, take my novel, The Boy Who Played Guitar – I can now stick it on create Space, get it all set up and ta-da! One book in print and, get this – in my hands! I know! I shake just at the mere thought. Having your own book, printed in your hands is well, like every hopeful author’s dream. What they don’t tell you though is that dream will consist of days of frowning, formatting and some occasional swearing. ‘Are you still on there?’ asks my hubbie as I frown away at the laptop, the Create Space website open.  ‘If I. Could just. Understand how to. Format….Ah! There’s some information!’ I tap away at a ‘how to’ guide on formatting your book ready for printing to Create Space. My hubbie tuts.’You’re mad – lovely – but mad.’ I scratch my head and my hair sticks up – I fear he is right.

The good thing about mad though is that it gets things done. My obsession with Create Space has now produced a book waiting to be printed. My book. Mine! Oh God, I feel sick. If you fancy going down this route with your book too, a top tip – download their word template which has all the formatting built in and then insert your book into it. I didn’t realise you could do this at first and it took me ages to sort out, I mean ages – I didn’t wash for 2 days and the discarded mug mountain next to my computer could have qualified for an art installation.

The Create Space format is prescriptive and if your book doesn’t adhere to its format, it’s not going to work. Take a look at a paperback book and you’ll see that each right and left page have different margin sizes. The font’s specific, too, plus the headers and footers. All that is pre-formatted for you if you use the template.  With the cover, back and binding, there is a full service of formats ready to use. You can insert your own artwork, which I tried, but it turned out the pixels weren’t high enough (it needs to be a minimum of

The new cover – what d’you think?

300 pixels – this is opposed to ‘pixies’, as my daughter read it. Not the same thing. Although, nice mental image…) This means that, sadly, I have had to change my book cover. I’ve stuck it on this post – see what you think compared to the old one. Let me know what you reckon to the new one. I swear I took at least two hours deliberating what to do about the cover. I know, daft, but it’s things like this you end up obsessing over, because, once it’s done and out there, it’s really hard to turn back.

After the cover was done, I switched to pricing and, drum roll, royalties. Before you get excited, let me tell you something – the royalties are tiny. Tiny! The minimum price you can charge for your book on Create Space is £5.30, which, is reasonable, but earns you peanuts. I opted for a steady £5.99, which equates to $7.99. This earns me a small royalty per book. So why not just stick to Kindle editions, you may think? Well, the great, great thing about a digital download of your book is that it is cheaper for the reader (mine just £2.48) and the royalties are much higher for the author. But,  there are still many people who either prefer or want a paper back (over 70% of global book sales are still print formats, even though digital sales are shooting up and print declining). So, it means by making The Boy Who Played Guitar available in print format, I am tapping into 70% (run with me here) of the market that I couldn’t access before. Crikey, no wonder I’m cream crackered.

The old cover…

Anyhoo, I can happily report that in the next few days you can buy a paperback of my book from Amazon. How cool is that? Mind you, if you see a sales increase it will probably be me and my very excited family and friends buying loads because we are, you know, very, um, excited. I really hope it works out. I’m off this week to do a blog tour, pushing The Boy Who Played Guitar to be reviewed, hoping to get it read by a wider audience. And then? Who knows? Maybe the whole thing will grow and get bigger. Just as long as my dark circles don’t expand some more. I think might go and buy some more concealer today. I need it. Nice to meet you, by the way.

Right – over to you. Which book cover do you prefer for The Boy Who Played Guitar? And have you used Create Space? How have you found it? Are your dark circles growing, too…?  We’ve all got to stick together…

Links: Amazon’s Create Space

 Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about green wheelie bins (honestly)…*

It’s Media Monday: What would your top 100 books be?

It’s Media Monday where I post my latest views on writing & publishing news…  Writing news

How do you know which books you should read? This is the question that I pondered the other day as I searched for some new summer reads for my holiday. In this search I stumbled across an article in The Guardian entitled “The 100 greatest novels of all time”. (You can read the list here) Great! I thought, there must be some I’ve read on here. On the list, the novels range from Clarissa by Samuel Richardson to Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. Hmmm. I’ve never heard of the first one and the only Tom Jones I know is the Welsh hairy bloke that women throw knickers at when he sings on stage – but somehow, I don’t think this list quite refers to this version.

Anyway, as my heart sank, it got me to thinking about these 100 greatest novels. I mean, what really does make a novel great? Does the fact that we can’t quite understand it make it great? Should it be a high-brow classic to be great or will a fast beach read count? Is it the theme it tackles? The way it is written? It’s complex characters or plot? I think different novels mean different things to different people – what works for one doesn’t always work for another (step forward Fifty Shades of Grey…)

So, in this quest for greatness I’ve decided to compile my own short list of best books, a top ten, if you will. Take a look and see what you think. For me, the books below are ones that I haven’t been able to put down and that have stayed in my head long after I’ve finished them – and that, to me, makes a novel great. Are these the kind of books you view as great? Or are the novels in the top 100 article more your thing? And what makes a novel great for you? Let the count down begin…

My top ten books (in no real order, sort of):

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – An all-time classic whose themes are still so relevant today.
  2. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen – Beautiful story and insightful account of old age
  3. My Father’s Glory and My Mother’s Castle, Marcel Pagnol – not strictly a novel, but an all time favourite of mine. It’s an account of Pagnol’s childhood in Provence, France – atmospheric, magical. You can almost hear the cicadas.
  4. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt – so well written, it was a book that stayed with me for a long time afterwards.
  5. Notes on a Scandal, Zoe Heller – sharp, dark, cracking plot, amazing characterisation.
  6. 1984, George Orwell – has to be on the list. ingenious, a book way, way ahead of it’s time and one that still influences society today. Big Brother and Room 101, anyone..?
  7. Keeping up with Magda, Isla Dewer – on the list because it’s a book I re-read  when I need some calm and imagine I am by the sea. Cracking characters, great writer.
  8. Tell no one, Harlan Coben – The master of a thriller, this is his best book, bar none. Fast, intelligent – and the film’s just as good (french with subtitles)
  9. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte – ahead of it’s time, Bronte devised a novel full of humour, sharp cultural observation and poignancy. It surprised me how much I loved this book.
  10. The History Boys, Alan Bennett – alright, so it’s a play, but I have the book of it. The script of the play reads so, so well in book format – I couldn’t put it down. Relevant themes, rounded characters, lashings of wit – highly recommend.

 What makes a book great for you? Do you have your own top ten? Or do you prefer to let your preferences change as you go along?

Link: The Guardian 100 greatest novels: a list

 **Look out for Wednesday Wafflings where I post my latest entry of my Diary of a Hopeful Author**