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Self-publish and be damned? Tags: writing Writers Abroad self-publishing Kindle Amazon

This year’s NaNoWriMo is approaching the halfway point. Congrats to everyone taking part. Even if you don’t make the 50K words, the commitment is still a great achievement.

Once the month is over, the dust has settled, you’ve added another 30K words, rewritten it, had it beta-read and edited it again for the nth time – what do you do then?

  • Chalk it up to experience and put it in the proverbial drawer?
  • Submit it to agents or to the rare publishers that accept unagented submissions?
  • Self-publish it?

The first option would be a pity after so much effort, but it’s your novel. We all know how difficult the second is. So what about the third option?

Self-publishing became a lot easier after the advent of e-books and print on demand. For some time, though, it was widely regarded as an option for work that wasn’t good enough to be published by traditional means. Fast forward to 2017 and some of the most successful authors are self-publishing their books. It’s not necessarily an either/or: some of those authors, such as our own Nicola (Nina to her fans), continue to be traditionally published as well.

The stigma that once applied to self-publishing has been largely dispelled. There is still a quality issue in some cases, but that also applies to traditional publishing.

I never thought I would self-publish a book, because I was afraid of everything that went with it. You are responsible for the whole thing: writing, quality control, editing, production, cover design and sales and marketing. This is not to say that you do all of these things yourself – in fact, I would always advocate commissioning professional editors and designers – but you are the driving force behind the project.

I dipped a toe in the water when I recently self-published via Amazon a collection of my short stories set in France. Having already been traditionally published, this was an experiment and I started off with something short (it’s 104 printed pages) and uncomplicated.

A great deal of advice exists, but sometimes you don’t find it until it’s too late. I learned many things in a short time, but these are the key ones:

Research as much as you can beforehand. Amazon provides guidance, but it’s always good to talk to other authors who have done it. This can save you from irrevocable mistakes.

Allow enough time to do everything and do it in the right order. I almost came a cropper here. For various reasons, I wanted my own ISBNs. Since I live in France, I had to apply to the French ISBN agency. They said it would take three weeks. This almost scuppered my already-announced publication date. Fortunately, after I pleaded urgency, they emailed them the following day.

Don’t try to do everything yourself. A three year-old has better design skills than I do. Amazon provides its own cover design templates, but it’s difficult to make them look professional. In my view, a professional-looking cover can make a lot of difference to potential buyers, so I commissioned a designer and was delighted with the results. As I said above, a professional editor is also a good idea.

Fortunately, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace (Amazon’s paperback production arm) allow you to amend and upload your manuscript and cover countless times before you hit publish. It’s still a scary feeling when you do. Then you have the nail-biting wait to see if anyone will buy it, but the marketing side is another story.

Clearly, there’s much more to self-publishing than I can go into here. But if I can do it, anyone can. Here's the result and it looks like a book!




This Week on WA - 13 November 2017
Category: Site News

Blog: Maggie pondered on that imponderable, time, with ‘A Microscopic Theory of Time’.

The Third Space: Monday 6th saw the publication of the 7th edition of the WA magazine ‘The Third Space’. Congratulations to all who contributed and special thanks to Jo for all her hard work in editing and producing such a professional journal.

Works in Progress: Bruce gave us a poem, which in only four lines, told of the death of a worker doing hard, dirty labour. Poignant.

The Poetry Project: Jo passed on details of the Hedgehog Poetry Press, who are seeking contributions for their magazine ‘A Restricted View from under the Hedge’, to be published in February 2018.

Ad Hoc: Chris, Sue, Angela, Crilly and Maggie all have pieces in the latest edition.  Well done to all!!

Bragging Stool: Many congratulations to Vanessa, whose ‘French Collection’ of short stories set in France is now on sale in both paperback and Kindle.

A Microscopic Theory of Time

Recently the word prompt for the Ad Hoc competition was “Time”.  I enjoy researching prompt words before I decide what to write about. I look at the definitions and the synonyms, scan the Internet for obscure usages and applications of the word, and then think for a few days on how I’d like to use it in the flash fiction. 

It’s like spending days of window-shopping before a purchase.

When I volunteered to write the blog this week I decided to choose time as a theme for the sake of expediency.  As I scrolled through the Google hits nothing caught my attention until I saw an article that summed up the current philosophies of time as seen by physicists.  

And down the rabbit hole I went.

In some of their theories the past and present are interchangeable, in others, they co-exist, but in most, the future is a done deal.  One of the most recent, and by far my favorite, is the theory that the future is unknown and determined by present events.

Not a new idea with the general populace, but this time, quantum physicists think they have the evidence to prove it.

In the article “Time’s Arrow Traced to Quantum Source”, the author, Natalie Wolchover, uses hot coffee to explain the idea.  It’s all about when the pure elemental particles of the steam encounter the pure elemental particles of the air.   These then mix and become entangled components of a new probability before equalizing with their surroundings, and becoming something different.

Why describe these combinations of elements a probability? Because this theory is built on the idea that nature, and the future, is inherently uncertain.

I wondered, what kind of air particles did the coffee steam mix with?  Maybe a bacon scent, or light particles from a patch of sun. But, who knows? In my sister’s kitchen, she has a boa snake in an open aquarium.  Maybe the steam particles are inhaled by the mouse cowering in the corner of the cage, which triggers it to leap out.  Then, while the breakfast eaters scream and jump the baby crawls out of his highchair, falls, and breaks his arm.

Which brings in child services, which breaks up the marriage, or seals it, or, gives the child a unique pitching arm that eventually lands him a job as a professional baseball player.

And all this because, unbeknownst to us, the mouse spent its first few months of life in a lab that tested the effect of caffeine on mammals. Their discovery? That the mere inhalation of coffee can release enough adrenalin in a mouse to jump ten times it’s height.

As a side note, my guess would be the project ran out of funds or they were busted for animal cruelty and had to get rid of the evidence quickly.  Why else would the poor thing end up at a pet store as snake food?

Consider the possibility a mouse really did jump out of a snake cage and the last story line came true.  People, and storytellers in particular, like to go back and connect the dots to explain how the child grew up to pitch in the World Series.  Some science would call this a whimsical desire to make order in a world of chaos that is created by random and unrelated events.

But what if the idea that the future really is determined by the present and can be shown in equations?

Physicists proposing this theorem explain how the intermingling of events begins on a microscopic level, and they have data to back it.  The evidence is not yet bullet-proof, but apparently there’s enough to rattle the cages of “the future has already happened” folks.  

Telling stories from this perspective might begin like this:

Once upon a time the particles of Jessica, now equalized and in the new, pure state described as Jessica, met the pure state known as Logan.  They were instantly attracted to one another. Logan sensed Jessica’s pheromones and absorbed these through his nose.  Jessica saw Logan’s red, curly hair and absorbed this with the photons entering her eyes.   These particles entangled with their hosts’ particles, then reached a state of equilibrium, which created new, pure forms of Jessica and Logan.

Perhaps the rest of the story would go on to say that although they never saw one another again, their new, changed forms prompted Logan to marry a woman who wore the same perfume as Jessica. Jessica married a man with red hair so she could have red-haired babies. All the while using words like entanglement and particles and so on, of course.

In the end, we’ll probably tell our stories the same way we always have, with the same innate understanding that the future is built from the present and that one thing leads to another. 

With one slight change-up. I think my stories will never be quite the same.  I foresee a new pure form created by my story particles entangling with particles drifting from my (regrettably smug) attitude of I-told-you-so.  



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Monday, November 13, 2017
This Week on WA - 13 November 2017
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