Tag Archives: author

Once again – I ain’t dead

Okay quick update. I’m currently in the middle of my post book launch flounder. I don’t know how it works for other authors but I find writing can be broken down into two distinct categories. The first and frankly most enjoyable is the initial writing – the first draft, where you take a blank screen and attempt to fill it. The second is the the re-writing, tweaking, changing  and editing, all with the aim of turning the diamond in the rough into… well a diamond. Once the book hits the digital shelves then it is time to return to initial writing and find getting back into the zone takes me a few weeks. So I’ve decided to prioritize work on the second Ships of the Fleet book mainly because unlike the other project I mentioned, this is basically a blank sheet.

Here’s a little taste of what is to come.


Protector MkIII colour bow closed

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Filed under Ship design, Ships of the Fleet, Writing

Onward… to glory!

The old blogging has taken a bit of a hit of late and this one isn’t going to be very long or profound. Currently busy doing (among other things [so many things] ) a read through of the first draft of Book Three.

You might be wondering why I would need to read through my own book. Well book one took me at least three years to get to this stage, while the second one, about two years. That was just the first draft stage1). The reason it took so long was I had a bit of tendency to start tinkering with early chapters, trying to make them ‘perfect’.

This time round I decided to try something different. Basically the don’t look back approach. I have deliberately forced myself not to look back at the chapters already done2), instead I have concentrated on just moving forward. So after just over a year, I’m done; it also means that I haven’t seriously looked at the early chapters in ten plus months. Thus making the read through a bit of a journey into semi familiar ground.

Definitely some weak areas but then that’s first drafts for you. Anyway, onwards and upwards!

1) The first draft of Book One came out at about 65K words – the second about double that. One of my characters was left floating out in space (literally as well as metaphorically) covering what he was getting up to is where most of that word gain came from.

2) Apart from occasionally looking up minor character names.


Filed under Book Three of the Nameless War, Self Publishing, Writing

Better to give than receive?

What is the hardest thing about writing? Coming up with an idea? Turning an idea into a coherent whole. Knowing what to keep and what to ditch? Nope, as tricky as all of those can be, compared to the task of getting an honest opinion of your work from someone, they’re mere child’s play. I’ve heard it said that friends are kind and family is generous yet a writer needs feedback. The reason I’m making this entry is in regards this post which concerns how NOT to give constructive criticism.

Personally I’m of the opinion that it is actually pretty tricky to write something with absolutely no redeeming features. Sure I’ve come across work with good ideas badly executed or that is well written but based on weak ideas. But something that is irretrievably rubbish, that’s hard to do.

So what are my tips for giving useful advice?

1) Find the bad and the good, at least one example of each.

2) Start with the bad. Yes I know every writer wants to hear their work is great but really if any of us are to grow then it is our weakness that need work. If there are a lot of weaknesses, better to focus on one, Rome wasn’t built in a day and no one became a great writer overnight.  If a particular aspect is good, well great then we don’t have to worry about that.

3) End with the good. Constructive Criticism is meant to be just that Constructive, you’ve broken them down looking at the bad, now you build them back up.

But what about the writer any advice there.

In a nutshell: Take it.

If people learn that the first word of criticism results in them either attempting to pry your teeth from their throat or you bursting in to tears, then you’ll never get an honest opinion again. Which will come back to haunt you because if or when your work gets out into the world, criticism it will receive and not all of it will be fair.

Until next time.

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Filed under Random Rants, Writing, Writing Group

Writer Beware

A celebrated children’s author-turned-publisher has left the country, with a trail of unpaid debts and angry authors in her wake.

It started so promisingly and ended so horribly. Twenty months ago Jill Marshall was a local hero, albeit an adopted one. In 2011, Next magazine chose her as its Woman of the Year (arts and culture), an honour still listed on her profile on internet site LinkedIn.

Marshall is now back in England, having left behind a posse of irate and disillusioned authors, a trail of debt and no forwarding address. A “desperately-seeking-Jill” message by one of the authors on Marshall’s Facebook page has gone unanswered, attempts to contact her by email and via the two vice-presidents appointed to her company have proved equally fruitless…

The above quote is take from the New Zealand Herald and the full article can be found here. Now I’ve talked quite a bit about self publishing and traditional publishing but now I’d like to say a word about publishing in general.

For the would be writer I believe we have entered a golden age. With the advent of e-publishing the writer has never had more potential routes to the book buying public. But while there are readers out there, there are also sharks. The vanity press industry has of course a long and inglorious history and somewhat inexplicably still exists. But they aren’t the only ones a writer should beware of.

In the case of the article at the top I would guess1) that the individual in question went in with honest intentions but found herself in over her head. What can be taken from that is that someone can be honest but that doesn’t make them competent.

So what I my watch out for points? Well…

1) Money. Lets start with the sordid one. If a ‘publisher’ can make money without you making money, that’s not a warning sign, it’s all the reason you should need to walk away2).

2) Know what level you’re aiming for and develop the necessary skills. Self publishing mean developing certain computer skills3). Traditional publishing means entering into business relationships4). Either way do the research to know what you’re getting into – do not assume it-will-be-all-right-on-the-night.

3) Research anyone/organization you deal with. There are plenty of places on the net where other writers will have reported the dishonest and inept. Find them.

At the end of the day if you have written a book, then what you have is probably the fruits of several years of effort. You have likely poured yourself into it and regardless to what it is, how good it is or how you would like to put it out to the world you are proud of it. Don’t you want to stay proud? You don’t want in a few years time to be looking back on it with anger and bitterness because you or someone else screwed it up.

So take a step back, engage what in the world of accountancy is called Professional Scepticism to take a cold hard look at your options, then proceed.



1) Emphasis on the word ‘guess’

2) Obviously there are a couple of qualifiers to that statement. If you self pub editors and cover designers are going to be paid before you make anything. But the point is these individuals offer only one service. Anyone calling themselves a publisher is in theory offering the full range of services needed to bring the book to market. If they’re looking for you to pony up cash… well then you’re effectively taking all the financial risks of self publishing without the potential rewards or put more succinctly – a sucker.

3) Which are surprisingly limited. I am not a computer expert and my first port of call when the computer acts up is to swear at it. After that I generally muddle through.

4) It is especially important that once contracts are mentioned you damn well read it. If it is over your head get someone with the necessary know-how and training to read it. Sign without knowing what you’re signing is just asking to be ripped off.

The Nameless War, available on Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo and paperback.

The Landfall Campaign, available on Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords and paperback.

The Job Offer, available on Kindle Smashwords and Kobo.

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Filed under Self Publishing, Traditional Publishing, Writing

I’m going to print this out, frame it and hang it above my computer.

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.”
Winston Churchill

My second book has now been slain and flung to public and thank God for that!


Filed under Self Publishing, Writing

Createspace Print on Demand – Pitfalls and Pratfalls PART II

A long break between postings and for that I apologize, I’ve been waiting for the proof copy of book two to turn up.

We left off at the final major hurdle – the cover art. While I’m not much an artist, I do have some talent so I already had an idea of what I wanted (basically a variant of the Kindle image file) and was hoping that a template type arrangement would allow me to drop the various components. No such luck. Oh such there is a template arrangement, but the results were going to be so blatantly amateur I never seriously considered them. There is the option to do it yourself and Createspace does provide a downloadable file to offer a guide on size for you see the cover has to be created as a single piece. Meaning front, back, spine and wriggle room all around the edges. Createspace does provide a file to help with this but due to the software I have access, to I couldn’t use this and had to instead had to measure very carefully. Once I had the file I then had to convert the file into a PDF, one that was both high resolution and relatively low file size and that was tricky. In fact so tricky I had to come up with a trick to do it. Basically Adobe have a facility to change image and information files in PDF’s, this is done for a fee. They also offer a free sample. I used the sample to turn my JPEG cover into a PDF that was the same megabit count as the original file.  So happy days.

Finally you send your draft files to be checked by Createspace. I hasten to add this does not mean they are looking for grammar errors or editing issues, this purely to see if the file will actually print. As long as you were careful and didn’t ignore any error messages, this shouldn’t be a problem. Certainly both of mine went through without any problems. You are offered at this point the chance to purchase a proof copy or you can just proof it online. Personally I think unless you are a publishing professional it is an act of insanity Not to get a paper proof. Sure it’s annoying to have to wait for it to turn up in the post but better to find out at this stage if something has gone wrong and you can bet your bottom dollar, that as soon as you have a paper copy in your grubby little fist you’ll find at least one typo that has slipped through. If alterations are made, then the file has to go through the proof process again.

Finally we come to the sordid topic of money. Namely how much am I going to ask for my work and where am I going to sell? Since I have a background in accountancy I take an unsentimental view of selling price. Yes, to me my work is priceless but to anyone else, it is worth what the market is prepared to pay for it, maybe less but never more (I’ve come across people who witter on about devaluing literature and generally I find myself struggle to control the urge to beat them round the head with an economic text book). So since I am an unknown self published author my pricing policy can be loosely summed up by the phrase ‘as little as possible’. The basic Createspace package means selling through their own site plus Amazon and affiliates. This is free. But there is also the option to go for what they call expanded distribution which gives for the princely sum of $25 the opportunity to sell through other sites like B&N. Well more exposure can’t be a bad thing? Unfortunately yes it can. Effectively it forces up the price of the book (in the US and those areas covered by Amazon.com). Given that POD already means higher per unit costs cost than traditional printing, anything pushing the unit cost higher still is unwelcome, so in short the expanded distribution means paying to make the book less competitive. It also puts a crimp on me making any changes to the file (such as another cover)  So for book two I won’t be making use of this.

There is also an option to make the work available to for Kindle. Personally I prefer to go directly through the Amazon system, which I am familiar with but does oblige me to contact Amazon to link the paperback and kindle additions together.

So there we have my guide to the Createspace experience. If anyone has any questions I will answer to the best of my abilities. In the mean time I will be taking a month off from writing to pursue other interests – or possibly huddle in a darkened room whimpering.

Book Two: The Landfall Campaign will be released in early October.

Cover of The Landfall Campaign

Cover of The Landfall Campaign

My next blog will be returning to Ships of the Fleet – The River Class Cruisers, until then regards.

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365 days in self publishing and what I’ve learned so far

The 20th of July 2012 was for me a small anniversary. One year ago with a cry ‘lets see what happens when you do this’ I published my science fiction novel The Nameless War on Amazon for the Kindle. So 365 days on where am I?


To date 5484 copies have been downloaded. Of these 2057 went through Amazon.com, 3420 through Amazon.UK with the remaining 6 via the European Amazon sites, finally in the past week the paperback version has begun to go live (one copy sold so far).  It’s been a fun ride and I would like to pass long my top three tips to any others who are considering taking the self publishing plunge.

1) Professional editing is a requirement not an option.  One of the huge advantages of the kindle self publishing is the capacity to reach the world without heavy upfront expenditure. It’s tempting to go solo or rely on the assistance of friends and family. It is also a mistake. Without doubt those last two are important but they should be viewed as a supplement to rather that replacement to professional help. Now when I say Editing what I mean is copy editing – error finding in short. Content editing is something different and for the first timer, I’m not entirely convinced of its usefulness. So make sure your editor knows they are there to find errors and what medium the resulting work is going to be published on. On the whole finding a good editor is a hassle and expensive but believe me, it is a necessary one.

2) Reviews are important but take them calmly. If you look around the net it isn’t hard to find writers who have managed to make a holy show of themselves by taking reviews badly. Yes there are Trolls in them thar hills but here are also people who honestly and without malice just won’t like your work. Accept it and move on or – as I have occasionally done – shout abuse at your computer screen until you feel better.

3) Niches are your friend, sub niches are close friends.Small niches aren’t to be feared, far from it. It is a lot easier to make a big splash in a small pond and the tighter the niche the smaller that pond is. I have in the past year noticed that while Amazon.UK has Military Science Fiction and Space Opera, Amazon.COM only has the latter. Which means on Amazon.COM my book is sharing digital shelf space with big names like STAR WARS. Which frankly is not to my advantage but for the time being there is nothing I can do about it.



Well I think that is enough from behind the curtain, my next post will be the start of a series on Ships of the Fleet.

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