29 November 2012

Pile 'em High, Sell 'em Cheap

So, it's all over bar the shouting... and the production of some back matter. Taliesin is well under way. Three Chicago shadows novels are waiting their debut, nervously shifting in the wings. I'm still waiting for a beta reader to shout up that the introduction of the roller-skating flamingo two thirds of the way through number three is a genre-bending innovation too far. Even though there is no roller-skating flamingo two-thirds of the way into volume three.

Oh no. Maybe a beta reader is going to shout up that there aren't enough roller-skating avians across the trilogy. That's a schoolboy error: the failure to properly consider the inclusion of long-limbed pink birds with a penchant for recreating sequences from Starlight Express.

I'm just blathering, due to the fact that a show-stopper from a beta is about the only thing that will halt the e-publication of the first three shadow books next week.

In other news Galleycat is asking how much self-publishing should cost. The estimates given of circa $0-$500 are about right in my opinion. They describe two very different scenarios.

Your $0 self-publisher, like yours truly, is going to spend, literally, years learning to be not just a writer but also a typographer, web site designer, editor and cover designer. They will make their own style and stick to it, they will find a way of doing things that works for them and, fingers crossed, works for their fans.

The $500 deluxe self-publisher writes books, gets them up to a standard and then farms out the cover design, editing and other refinements to third parties. That's certainly a valid way to go. The basic answer is that the less you want to be responsible for, the more it's going to cost you.

Like I said, I think that's fair.

28 November 2012

Back Matter

Just a quick note of my final and utter completion (bar beta based show stoppers) of the first three books in the Chicago Shadows series. A typographical swoop over vols 2 and 3, the assembly of some front and back matter and the posting of the e-books to Amazon and we're all set for the launch.

I remember reading the words of a literary agent back in 2005/2006 whose one piece of solid advice was: polish, polish, polish. I believed the words back then but with the reservation that going over and over the same Office Suite Document/Text File/Hard copy over and over again would be a route to navel-gazing OCD insanity.

The true answer to this problem, aside from spending money on assistance, is to ensure that you continually change your perspective on the material prior to publication. This is the reason for me to compose in a text editor, edit in Manuscript and read the thing aloud from an e-book before giving it the rubber stamp. Final typographical flourishes take place in the final ODT file. Every fresh pass is a different look at the same material, every polish reveals mistakes that had hidden behind the previous format.

It is not enough to just comb through and through. It won't help, it will just make you blind. You have to find your own way to change your relationship to the finished article.

Also, as my beta readers have testified, my editing in Manuscript became better the more I edited. Editing has become a new skill set, a different type of writing, and I am pleased to have discovered it because it is its own type of creative process.

Not long now, exciting times.

22 November 2012

Postcard From Nano

It's November madness, as usual.

I've got really into Taliesin, I was concerned that if it wasn't a pastiche of a cop show the words might not come so easily but 22 days in and the finish line has been crossed. I would dearly love to plug on to the end but I have three books to publish, another to edit and, oh, check the sidebar.

So the remainder of the month must be spent marking up, fixing and finalising CS1. Then it's time for an early December release and time off over Christmas. Time off that will include a bit more blogging. Promise.

5 November 2012

Nano and Covers

Well, time sometimes just gets away from you, doesn't it?

I'm a little annoyed at myself for not being able to completely finish Chicago Shadows 2 to get it out to beta readers. On the up side for them I will probably manage to finish both 2 and 3 together so those that are going to plough on will get a double helping.

Now that I can consider the beta of CS1 dead and buried I can reveal something to my beta readers that they did not know. They were all part of a small experiment upon the effectiveness of my "Manuscript" software. It is not super-scientific but, of my seven readers, four were given a version of the file that had been through the extra editing layer of Manuscript. Three were given a file made from the manuscript before it had undergone the process.

I have received feedback from three out of the seven beta readers. All three had been given the manuscript that had been reworked using my software (the other person with the "genuine" beta manuscript thought I had written a game manual and apologised that he didn't know much about English so would probably not read it... I did try to explain that if it needed proofing I would have gone a different route but hey ho). None of the people who were given the "alpha" manuscript actually finished it at all. A couple said they were having some problems sitting down to it, time being what it is.

I can't say for certain but I do think that the difference in manuscript appears to have had an effect. I would definitely identify several things about the alpha manuscript that needed fixing, not least a profusion of things having "been" something else, "seeming" as if something being "just" something or being "like" something. In 55,000 words these four words occurred somewhere in the region of 200/250 times each in the alpha. None of them occurred more than 100 by the time I'd finished.

I do believe that sometimes a reader can't put their finger on why they're not getting into a book, they believe it's something they would like to read but they just can't seem to get their head round it. It is entirely possible that having repetitive use of tenses and concepts could well contribute to that feeling. I know that the text that came out post-Manuscript was more dynamic and purposeful. The feedback numbers would appear to bear that out.

Thankfully not all the feedback I received has been glowing praise (although it scored above average on all the scored questions), the chief bugbear is that even given the "Manuscript" spit and polish the manuscripts still need an extra pass purely for proofing. The other thing is that, over my time with my new editing program I have become a better editor. Now I can see all manner of grammar snafus that I couldn't see before. So vol 1 is back on the block for one final tread through, which is slow and painful going but all part of the process.

Nobody said self-publishing would be easy. In fact everyone says it is hard. Harder still if you have become determined to do everything yourself.

CS2 and 3 have had the benefit of a trip through Manuscript, then I read the finished article aloud to Sue and bookmarked in my e-reader any part where I spotted some heinous error. Then I did a final review until I have produced the beta. I know they're a lot cleaner than the supposed beta of Silent Majority that I put out there. Hopefully the proofing score on my next spreadsheet will be a bit higher.

I had better go and get on with Nano now but, to leave on a positive I have managed to design covers for the CS books which I shall now reveal in anticipation of their release, er, sometime before Christmas... Here they are, hope they do the job for which they were designed i.e. I hope you all now want to read them: