Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Matho's progress

Final edit run through complete. One of the strange things I noted was my use of a certain phrase. I'm not going to say which phrase because then people will look for it and start counting when they read the book. Needless to say, I've removed some uses and changed others, so it should not be so noticeable now.

I'm so nervous about this that I keep hesitating about trying to load it on Createspace. What if I've missed something horrendous? Maybe I should do just one more run through, to be sure? We all know how correcting one phrase can shake two more loose somewhere in the manuscript and odd things keep happening as the computer tries to anticipate the word we want - and gets it wrong. But I could go on like this forever. So I've made the decision - I'm going to take the plunge very soon.

Autumn is creeping in and changing colours in the landscape. The days are still warm, up there in the 19s and 20s, but the nights are cold now. We've occasionally put the central heating on, and once or twice used the gas fire in the living room but on the whole we are fine. Our gas bill is going to be so much lower this year because we've used it so little.

All the good winter programmes are back on TV - Downton, Scott & Bailey, Strictly, Cilla. to mention but a few. Downton had better pick up its skirts and get going as the first two episodes have been a tad off the mark. Cora and her sickly sweet smile are flirting with Bricker the art critic, and Edith keeps visiting her love child and treating it rather like a doll. The child is going to get sick of that quite soon, I imagine. Cilla proved to be very good and Aneurin Barnard was a big surprise as Bobby Willis. He had played Richard III so woodenly in the White Queen that I despaired of him, but here he was all Liverpudlian and full on even if his dark roots kept showing.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Amazon and the first 3 chapters

There seems to be a lull in sales on Amazon. Initially I put it down to summer holidays, but now I'm beginning to wonder. We've had terrific weather, and reading tends to go by the board when everyone can get out and about and enjoy some much needed sunshine. And to be fair, here in the UK, we still have the sunshine and ridiculous temperatures for almost October. But I expected sales would have picked up by now, and they have not. If anything, they've declined still further.

Now it could be that I have not been promoting. I'll be the first to admit I haven't promoted anything for weeks. A quick look at my diary shows me that I haven't done more than a few spasmodic posts since June. So maybe it is my own fault. There is that one nasty review that appeared around early July. Could that have anything to do with it? Let's hope not!

There is also this new scheme Amazon has running, and I'm more than a little curious about it. My understanding is that people download anything free of charge and read up to 10% of the work before any payment is made to the author.

So that means  people can read the first three chapters (4,000 word count per chapter) of a 100,000 word count book. A tiny portion, you may think, though it seems much more if the word count is 80,000 or less. I wonder how long it took the author to write those words, and many people read those chapters and then decide they don't want to pay for the rest of it? I imagine many do. It doesn't matter how good the rest of the book is, if those first chapters haven't grabbed the reader by the throat, it is all over. I have downloaded a sample of a Mankell-Wallander book to see how it works as a reader.

It puts a hell of a lot of importance on the first three chapters. Remember how important they were to getting published the traditional way? Well, it seems to me that Amazon have just re-introduced the barrier we independent authors were so pleased to avoid! What do the rest of you think?

This is a link to a long, long article about Amazon I haven't had time to read yet, but looks good enough to go back to in the next day or two:
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/02/17/cheap-words

Friday, 19 September 2014

Work in progress

Now I'm at the stage of looking at Createspace. First impressions? More complicated than I expected. But then as you get to know it, like everything else, it doesn't seem so bad. First of all I tried to slot an A4 file into a 6 x 9 format book, so of course, it didn't work. Once I altered my original file, it went straight in - with no errors. Now I know that's not true. For a start it wasn't justified, and when I justified it all the indents and *** scene breaks altered. So I'll be going through carefully to see what else I can spot.

I think I may be stuck with the title I've put in -  Abduction of the Scots Queen. I debated calling it Abduction, but there are so many books using it that it didn't seem attractive. Perhaps The Scots Queen would be simplest. If I can't alter what I've input, I may stick with the longer version. I can always make the fore part smaller on the cover to give it more ooooomph.

I'm working on the cover when I get tired of proofreading. Makes a nice change. I'm quietly pleased with what I have at the moment, but there are no guarantees it won't change in the next few days!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Books and the Internet

Still hammering away on edits and struggling to find a title that hasn't been used before. The trouble is almost everything has been used already! Especially if you want to use the word Queen. Too many books flooding the market these days - that's something  Amazon has done. Not single-handedly, I admit, but it certainly helped. (Just as it helped me - Yes, I know! Pot calling kettle and all that)

Viking Magic went free for two days just to see what the response was. I remember the first book I put up for free was Fair Border Bride and it rocketed up to something like 15,000 takers, mostly in the USA. That was five or six years ago,  So how did Viking Magic do over two days?

A total of 124 downloads and still the biggest freebie takers are in the US - 86. The UK = 26, Germany 7, France 1, Australia 1 and Canada 3. (It would be nice if a couple of those people wrote a nice review for me! The only one I've received for VM was written by someone who was definitely having a bad day.)

So, as a way of gathering readers, going free doesn't seem like the tool it was. Times change, and they change exceedingly fast in Internet world. Twitter and Facebook seem the most obvious alternatives, but even there, marketing persons seem to be taking over and plugging the same titles over and over again.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Plot Points

Editing makes a person consider plot points.


Definition? A plot point is a turning point in the story for both protagonist and plot.
Start with your protagonist at a moment of  change - and this had better be a significant, life-changing change, rather than a decision to wear heels rather than flatties. Feed in a few general details to give us a grasp of normal life because then we will appreciate the changing incident more. This first plot point marks a change in and for the protagonist, indicates the direction the story is about to take, and hopefully engages the reader. The most difficult question to answer is the last one. How can we know if it strikes any sort of bell for the reader?

Once you have your protagonist marching in his new direction, he should run into conflict, both expected and unexpected. How he handles these is a learning curve for him and strengthens his character. As the climax of the story approaches the hero has to face his most difficult challenge of all. How he handles this will define the rest of his life - and sometimes if he has a life after this. 

It is easy to forget the emotional side of this last confrontation when writing the action. Don't forget the effort it takes, the courage, strength and persistence to keep moving forward toward a goal. I suspect I have skipped over this point too lightly in my story of Matho, but I will fix that as I reach the last chapters in what will hopefully be my final edit.

Afterwards, your protagonist and mine should be a different person. The same, but more so, with added strength and knowing what he can do when pushed to the absolute limit.The next question is, what does he do then? Go back to obscurity? Hardly.



Friday, 5 September 2014

Amazon v Hachette

Amazon is in dispute with Hachette book Group in the US. I've been vaguely aware of this for a while, but didn't think it affected me. Except perhaps that my Amazon sales have been very poor this last month. But then, August is a bad month as everyone, but everyone, goes on holiday and forgets reading.

The squabble is affecting writers like Stephen King, Lee Child and James Patterson. They claim Amazon is sanctioning books - I'm not sure what they mean by that, but I think it means they don't supply them in the usual way when asked - but it affects 2,500 Hachette authors and over 7,000 titles.

 Sales for these books have declined by between 50% to 90%. The struggle has been going on for six months and really hurts debut and midlist authors. 

In a nutshell, Amazon says it is fighting for lower prices which benefit the consumer. Yay! Authors United, who oppose what Amazon is doing, are seen as a group of  "rich authors who are seeking higher e-book prices." 

I don't know the rights and wrongs of this squabble, but I do know I won't pay £10 for a Kindle copy of any book. I'll wait. Eventually the price comes down. I'd hesitate to pay £5, but then maybe I'm mean. I'd pay £6, £7, even £8 for a paperback copy - but not a Kindle copy. I think I'm siding with Amazon.






Wednesday, 3 September 2014

All those words

Thirty-two chapters and that's my novel complete at 106k word count. Phew! Now I'm ready for the Big Read Through, and I'm a little bit scared of it. What if all those words add up to a rubbishy story that doesn't hang together, and worst of all - bores me?

It's possible I'll feel all of these things. OTOH, it is also possible I'll fall in love with it. I hope so. So, I've been out with the dog and the exercise and fresh air have woken me up and got my brain going. I have three critique chapters to do for writerly friends, but otherwise the whole day is mine - except for another hour's walk with Time at some point around midday. I don't want any major breaks now - I need to keep the continuity going.

Wish me luck!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Final edits and Createspace

I'm up to Chapter Thirty in my "final edit" of Capture a Queen. What I've discovered on this go through is that I'm getting really good at combining two sentences into one, and doing it more elegantly than I used to. Practice does improve one's technique, if not make it quite perfect yet! I've also found that around chapter 27 I've screwed up the time line. Things happen out of sequence, so that will need a major re-shuffle. I'm going to work it out on a paper copy and then transfer the finished result to the computer. Otherwise I'd always be afraid I'd deleted something instead of transferring it.

I've put final edit in quotation marks because of course this is a major operation. First of all it's on
the computer, and I have several runs at each chapter, tweaking and pruning as I go. When I'm finally happy with it, I print it out. The pages go into a file, and I'm not going to read them until I've got to the end. Then I'll sit down and read it as I would a Rebus or any other novel. Things are bound to leap out at me, even at that stage. I shall attempt to read it aloud but have to admit to feeling silly unless I'm sure I'm alone in the house. Tim doesn't mind. I think he even likes it. He goes to sleep, anyway!

Smoothing out the time sequence among three major characters is going to be difficult, but it has to be done, otherwise it will irritate the reader. I'm thinking about Createspace this time, to give me a paperback as well as an e-book, so I'm reading up on how to do it in between bursts of editing. I suppose I have nothing to lose except my time and effort, and who knows? It might pay dividends. It seems to be the way forward at the moment, and when changes in publishing are speeding up I'd better not miss the chance.