In the beginning were the publishers. And they said, “Only we can determine if a book is good enough to be published.” And we all believed them, even though they published books that inspired a lot of us to think, “I can do better than that.”
Those of us who got fed up trying to break into the publishing houses sometimes resorted to ‘vanity press’ where we spent good money and acquired a room full of books we hadn’t got the ability to sell.
Then came kindle and Amazon had the clever idea of letting anyone publish on their platform, causing the publishers to laugh and point their fingers and say, “Look at the dross that gets published when we aren’t in control.”
Fortunately, the reading public soon found out how to sort the brass from the muck, although I do wish they had done so before Dan Brown was published. I know, I’m not a nice person.
Gradually the ‘vanity press’ idea became legitimised as ‘self-publishing’ and even the companies selling would-be writers the opportunity to see their work in print cleaned up their act. And things were nicely balanced until Amazon threw a spanner in the works in the shape of Create Space.
This is how it works. Once you’ve finished your masterpiece you open an account in Create Space and start to follow their menu system. Unlike the usual self-publishing firm, this doesn’t cost you anything. And you can take your time, you don’t have to get it all in place in one go. It took me three weeks between opening the account and entering the title to getting my first few books.
But, and it’s a big’un, You have to do all the work yourself. And that means editing, and editing and editing until the pips squeak and you start to hate your own book. I read my book, and it’s 153,000 words, at least seven times and I found errors every time. I’m still finding them.
You have to add your own page numbering and make sure it starts with the number ‘1’ about four pages in. You have to figure out how to put in different headers with your name on one side and the book title on the other. You have to work on the page size you will be using and the font you like so that you can make sure it all works out and the first page is on the right, except on your PC screen it will be the one on the left. You need to work with margins and figure out where the gulley goes. And then you need to edit the thing again.
If you are hoping to sell outside the UK then the big market is the USA. Funny thing this. We can watch US TV shows and understand what they are saying, they need subtitles to watch Corrie. And we can read American spelling, but they can’t.
I know because one of my beta readers is an American and she can read English English and not freak out when I mention stones as a weight, or even kilos. But her mother cannot say ‘aluminium’. So. you need to translate the book.
Just as you are ready for a nervous breakdown, you have to design your cover. There are several options, but none provided what I wanted. (A white ground with black lettering and a black and white image.) But, one of their covers has a panel for an image and a brown cover. What became clear was that I could alter the background colour and the panel colour to white and Hallelujah I had an all white cover. So it is possible to play around and get what you want.
Eventually the day arrived when I was ready for my proof copy and this was the first time I had to put my hand in my pocket. I wanted the physical copy and as the books are priced according to size mine was about $13.00. Also, proof copies come from the States, so can take a couple of weeks. I couldn’t wait that long and spent another $14.00 on express shipping and got it in three days.
For anyone who has never done it, the first time you actually get to hold your own book is something quite special.
Of course, as soon as I opened it I saw that spelling mistake on page one that I had read twenty times before. And as I went through the book the errors kept a comin’. After an hour or so I was wondering what sort of illiterate had written this book. I mean, I expect to find spelling and punctuation mistakes in this. It’s a blog, it’s just me talking to myself, so who cares if a few commas are in the wrong place or my two-fingered typing has caused the ‘b’ to be replaced by a ‘v’. Not I and not you.
But in my book? The one I had read and re-read and read again. The one my wife had read five times, and she’s an editor.
I despaired. But never mind, upwards and onwards and all that nonsense.
I set to work and corrected everything. I checked and double-checked. It was perfect. Never had there been such a perfect manuscript. It would find its way onto the desk of a major publisher who would exclaim, “This is the most perfect manuscript I have ever read, find this man and hand him this million pound contract immediately.”
I put in my first order for my tome and waited. Not long, I’m an Amazon prime member and a few days later six volumes dropped on the mat. Well, crashed more like, it’s a big book.
I opened up the first one. It was perfect. Apart from using ‘of’ instead of ‘off’ on page 5. Getting the dates wrong on the first three chapters and putting one chapter in the wrong place. You know, little things that nobody is ever going to notice. I watched as the publisher used my contract to light a Havana cigar.
But, the way I look at it, those first few copies might become worth a lot of money one day. Collectors will scour the Earth looking for copies of those books with the spelling mistakes and wrong dates and a chapter in the wrong place. It’s not quite as exciting as my publisher fantasy, but it’s still a fantasy and without them we wouldn’t be writers.