Thursday 8 February 2024

Easier than Expected

In my last post, I discussed the start of my efforts to re-size and re-factor my travel books into a smaller and more manageable format that would be both less expensive and more readily available on Amazon. In short, and just a couple of weeks later, this has proven to be easier than I anticipated. All nine books have been converted and everything seems to work out just fine.

I think I actually work in such a way that this is quite an easy project for me. When I make each new book, I simply collect possible images and draw them into the book as I go, often making them fit in with the written narrative. This means that I always have that selection of images available if I ever need them again. I also have the original Blurb-published master files and PDF copies available to reference and re-use as necessary.

It's also finally made me make real use of some of the Affinity software that I've ignored for years. Affinity Publisher is really very good - if a bit memory hungry when outputting PDF files. It has a few quirks, but I'm learning to deal with them and the interface and speed of use is pretty impressive. As mentioned in that prior post, however, I think I need another 32GB of memory for my system.

I've only managed to get a proof back from Amazon for the first volume that I tackled - Waiting for Water. Overall, I'm really delighted with the quality of the photographs and the overall format of the book. I've decided to wait until volume ten, as yet untitled, is ready and then I'm going to release them all in rapid sequence. Prices are likely to range from£30 to £40 on the Amazon UK store and relative world-wide.

Saturday 20 January 2024

Mixing Things Up

If you take a look at the link above to PHOTO BOOKS then you can see details of the nine travel books that I have done over the years - one for each of my trips to Africa. I love them, mostly because there is something very special about having a hefty 13" x 11" hardback to hold and enjoy.

The biggest downside of them, however, has always been the considerable cost of buying a copy. Obviously, I can get them at cost, but to retail them through results in a cost that is sometimes in excess of £100 per book. If you just want a copy for yourself, then this is quite a considerable outlay and one that I didn't ever expect anyone to make. I have, however, managed to sell a few copies of some of them over the years and this is delightful.

However, I've often wanted to do something about it and now I'm trying to. I have started making my first conversion of one of these books to a smaller and more cost-conscious format. I'm so happy with Amazon's printing of my recent small mammal books that I'm going to convert these larger books down. The first one is nearly ready now and I've settled on an 8" x 10" page size for this series. I'm not tackling them in any particular order, but the first one happens to be the biggest one - Waiting for Water.

Having to change the shape and size of the pages is a challenge. Each subsequent volume is becoming a little easier. I have a routine and system now that makes it about as easy as possible, but it is not a quick process. I'm going to concentrate on getting the conversions made and then go for a staggered publishing sequence once I return from trip ten. It also looks like I will have to get some more RAM for the new desktop computer. I thought 32GB was plenty, but Affinity Publisher is a hungry beast and I'm finding I'm getting low on resources when working with a 200+ page book.

The images show the same pair of pages in both formats, old above and new below at more-or-less the same sizes.

Sunday 31 December 2023

Publishing Updates

I guess I need to apologise. Firstly to my readers and secondly to myself. I just forget to do things in the right order sometimes.

This time I managed to publish a whole set of books on Amazon without actually properly posting here about them. I even created the page on this site to showcase them and promptly forgot to make a post about that as well.

So, take a look at the link to Shorts above and see what I've been up to. I'm loving this 8.5-inch square format for Amazon, but I do wish that they would do slightly bigger, even when I can understand the limitations that they are working to. The full-colour printing is really very nice and the price is basically impossible to match anywhere. I've a few more ideas for shorts like these, so I'll try and keep them coming. I'm only making them available as paperbacks for now. The photo-heavy nature of them doesn't really suit kindle.

In other news, I've finally completed my latest novel. This one has taken a long time to get there, but I am reasonably happy with it. It is a sequel of sorts to Hard-wired for Love and follows on about 300 years after that novel finishes. At very nearly 82,000 words, Another Horizon is the longest thing I have ever written by far and it might suffer a little for this, but if you get to enjoy the first novel, then maybe give this a try as well.

Take a look at the Novels page above to find out more and link to availability on Amazon. Kindle edition is always first, followed by paperback and hardback once I've checked a printer's proof copy.

I seem to have the bug again - it must be something to do with the time off over Christmas and New Year. The third novel in this sequence has already been started and I'm feeling good to keep up the momentum!

Friday 2 June 2023

Tapas - Episodic Publishing Logo

I've been reading stuff on for more than a year now, initially because that's the main place to see the latest episode of Heartstopper. Once there, I found plenty of other stuff to read my way through and I'm now hooked on "Through My Eyes" and "Soft Touch" among many others both novels and comics.

I'm not entirely sure that my work will work well in an episodic form that goes with such a sight, but I'm giving it a go and the first chapter of "Out of My Shell" is going online in the next couple of days.

I'm taking a slightly different route than the one normally used on the Tapas site. I'm going to publish a chapter every week, but they are all going to be free to read, always. Anybody who wants to read ahead or support me can simply go to Amazon and get the Kindle or printed versions that will be available right from the start. To that end, there's a new link in the menu above, that will always have my up-to-date list of published novels on Amazon.

Let's see how this hybrid model of publishing and promotion works out.

Saturday 20 May 2023

Self Publishing Choices

There seem to be more and more choices when it comes to self-publishing appearing all the time. I thought I'd give a bit of an opinion on my own experiences with just a few of them.

This is the company that I've used the most, using them to print and then publish my large-format travel books for almost twenty years. The quality is amazing, the printing times are short and the service, if you ever have an issue, is second-to-none. They offer excellent software with their own Bookwright and a range of templates and plug-ins for Adobe products. You do, however, pay for the quality and the support with relatively expensive per-page and per-book rates. Distribution seems to work well, but coverage is spotty.

I moved towards Lulu to start to publish more readable paperbacks. The pricing was one of the major factors in the decision. Print quality is good, turn-around is reasonable and document preparation is fairly painless. Simply producing a final PDF file from a word document is enough for the interior and then you just add a cover from the calculated sizes provided. If you choose to use distribution, you can set a retail price and your book appears on Amazon and other bookshops across the world. By more modern competitive standards, the prices are somewhere in the middle and distribution costs push the final retail price, even for a simple paperback, quite high.

Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing)

I'm still very new to this one, even though I signed up several years ago. I've now published my first novel using this service and it's been a pretty polished experience so far. It's too early to tell how well sales are managed, but the rest of the process is pretty much flawless. They encourage you to make your book available in all three formats, Kindle, Paperback and Hardback. This is made as simple and painless as possible with a mixture of their own software for Kindle publishing and simple PDF uploads for everything else. Print prices, despite upcoming increases, are the cheapest I've seen and turn-around times are fast.

Distribution and management is simple, they even allow you to pull together work published elsewhere. You can take advantage of their Kindle Unlimited reading program if you wish and they don't stop you publishing elsewhere. They even offer cost-priced author purchases.

Quality Comparisons

Here are the two proof copies of my first novel. The Amazon one is on the left, with the proof bar across it. Sizing issues with the cover are my fault. There really isn't much to tell between them, when it comes to the process and the quality of the final product.

Here are the insides, Amazon on top and Lulu below. I actually prefer the Amazon output just a tiny bit. The graphical header is slightly darker and more defined, but again there's very little to tell between the two, particularly in a photo. Paper quality is similar for both, a little thin, but acceptable for an inexpensive product. In both cases, the reproduction of my original file is pretty much spot-on. Text is clear and very readable for both.

My Recommendation

Well, unless you have an aversion to the Bezos Empire, then I think I'd go with Amazon from now on. I'm toying with the idea of a colour project for release at the end of the summer. Maybe then will be a good time to revisit this subject and take a closer look at the quality and the experience. 

Monday 8 May 2023

Proofs and Proofing

I tend to write at a breakneck pace, 10,000 words a day isn't out of the question. Inevitably, I make a lot of mistakes when charging along and this leads to many proof reading passes, alterations, expansions and changes. Then everything has to be proofed again.

I'm still very new to this and I've got to define and develop my own strategies as I migrate from journals and memoirs to fiction. Talking to a friend, more qualified that I'll ever be, I decided that I would be sensible to take a break from the endless rounds of re-reads and then come back to the manuscript with a fresher eye.

Out of My Shell Cover Proof

The solution? Start a second novel and work on that one for a while. Once at a similar stage of near-completion, switch back to the first novel and take a fresh look. I might even feel the need to start a third one, as my head is full of possibilities.

I'm still finding it hard to make the plot dramatic enough, or at least I think so, but I like a gentle slice-of-life story and it doesn't worry me too much. Not everybody needs drama and crisis in a book. The thread that binds the two novels together so far is my subconscious need to make them deeply, sensually, graphically erotic.

Hard-wired for Love Cover Proof

So, two very different potential novels in different stages of the process are keeping me busy when work takes a break. As you can also see, I take the time to work on the covers, finalize the layout and begin to navigate the intricacies of Kindle Direct Publishing. I'm sticking with Lulu for the printing and paper publishing, at least for the short term, but I'm happy to get Kindle eBook stuff sorted direct with Amazon.

Saturday 22 April 2023

The Writing Bug

 A Growing Addiction

Writing is one of those things that, for me at least, is highly addictive. When I first started writing about my travels, I would work feverishly to complete the text select the photographs as quickly as possible after my return.

Now, as the text for a typical trip has expanded to be anything up to 15,000 words, I find that I have to write it as I go. Or, at least write a first draft while it is fresh in my memory. I take my laptop and spend the hot African afternoons in the shade, writing a few hundred or, at most a few thousand words about the adventures of the day. When I return home, I read through this and make whatever corrections and changes that i feel it needs to be more coherent.

The thing is, though, once I'm finished, I'm left with this urge to write something else. Normally, I can push back against the urge and, after a few days it works out of my system and I can get on with other, more mundane everyday tasks. This year, however, I have not been able to do this.

Words, Words and More Words

Since I returned from Tanzania at the end of February, I've simply kept on writing, probably about 100,000 words so far, with no end in sight. I've written the book about my trip, both the coffee-table photobook and a smaller paperback version - they are both now published and available worldwide.

I've also written 'A Slice of Love', a deeply personal, frank, honest and explicit snapshot of probably the most important part of my life. I wrote it for myself, as a form of therapy, to help my ongoing need to rationalize and compartmentalize my thoughts and feelings. I couldn't settle until I had completed it, cover and all and had ordered a copy for myself. There will only ever be a single copy. I'll never order another and this one will stay in my publishing cabinet for the rest of my life. If someone happens to read it after I am gone, I think that'll be fine. The other person the book concerns will hopefully forgive me for my hubris and candour. I might tell him that I've written it when I next see him, giving him the option to have it left to him in my will.

I'm still not finished writing though. I'm trying to get out of my head that novel that I always thought I might have buried in there somewhere. It's a bit more difficult than biography - actually, a lot more difficult - and there might be still too much of me in it. It also might be a bit too graphically, erotically, explicitly gay, which limits any potential audience severely.

Whatever, I'm not stopping now and, If I don't like it at the end, I'll simply try again in a different genre. I've found something that I can do whenever I feel like it. I can pick up at any time and let go when I've had enough. It's equally taxing and relaxing and I think I love it.