… it was a long time until I owned another vehicle. You see, I was back at sea, often for long periods and there is not much of a requirement for cars aboard a ship.
However, when I was home from leave I did have the opportunity to drive whichever car my father had at the time. It seemed each time I returned home a different car was in our garage. I cannot remember them all, but I do recall one I enjoyed driving, the Hillman Hunter.
The photograph shown above is about the closest example I can find to my fathers’ car, a gold-coloured Hillman Hunter with a vinyl (leather look) roof, (all the rage at the time), The car was an automatic, making it a very easy vehicle to drive.
The Hillman Hunter was probably one of the best vehicles being built at the time in the UK, whose motor industry was in total meltdown, from which it never recovered.
Today Morgan is about the only manufacturer still British owned.
Other famous marques, often still perceived as British, are all foreign-owned.
Aston Martin belongs to Ford, Rolls Royce to Volkswagen, Bentley is part of Tata as is Land Rover, Lotus is a division of Proton, MG is a Chinese brand, Mini is BMW, and Vauxhall is part of General Motors (GM).
This, the Hillman Hunter, is one of the cars I recall in which we, the family, travelled to the beach and countryside for ‘days out’ and picnics, something I have blogged about before.
Many of these trips, or instances from those journeys, are part of the various recollections I write about in one of my ‘works in progress’ On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion, which takes the form of a fictitious road trip, allowing me to share my thoughts and perceptions with you, “strung together as a collage of momentary instances, loosely stitched together by wisps of fleeting reflection.”
In a way, I feel I am cheating a bit by writing this book. You see, I am blending reality and fact, suspect and distorted, even selected memory, along with fiction and fantasy to create a platform in which I can share my personal observations and sideways views on life, society, culture, civilisation and humanity by way of a series of connected monologues.
The result, when completed, will be a book which is neither a factual piece nor a work of fiction but rather one of reflective opinion and personal contemplations. One which is far from accurate or objective, although it is both genuine and honest.
I find On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion difficult to classify or, as is the want with everything nowadays, to give a label. I wonder who may read it once completed? Is this book pure indulgence on my part, a form of catharsis so I can justify my own assessments and evaluations of life?
I am hoping people find the cover and blurb intriguing enough to buy it, so I can take them on a voyage where we can rattle along the twisted neural carriageways of my psyche and see where it leads.
We can but wait and see.
I shall have this book ready at some point during 2020… hopefully.
In the meantime, I have some news, there is a NEW blog, Electric Eclectic’s blog. Please, please, head over there and follow the blog today. You will love it… that’s a promise, not an order!
This week I continue with the ‘cars I have owned’ themed series of posts.
(Okay, I did not own the Vauxhall Viva in the first post, but that’s just a little technicality we can dismiss for the sake of this blog.)
So, where was I… oh, yes.
I was back from sea.
My trip from Portsmouth took me over to Lisbon, on to Keel, then up to Copenhagen and onwards to Oslo before heading back to England, via Scapa Flow and Inverness. After which my sailing schedule was halted for a short period and I found myself based in the small village of East Meon, Nr Petersfield in Hampshire.
Now, East Meon is not a well-known place by any stretch of the imagination. It is one of those villages that, should you blink while driving through it, you would miss it completely.
I think the village was served by two busses a week. One on a Tuesday morning and another late on a Thursday afternoon, which meant, apart from the old ‘Shanksy’s Pony’ I would be pretty well isolated from humanity.
Not an attractive prospect for a young man of almost seventeen years of age.
Thus, four of my friends and I rummaged around in our pockets and collected the sum total of £39.86 (GBP) pence. This is, at today’s exchange, worth around $52.45 (USD).
Now, back in late 1974 early 1975, this sum was worth a little more than it is today and, I think, the Pound to Dollar rate was about two US Dollars for each British Pound. Anyway, whichever way you slice the cake, it was not a vast sum of money.
But it was more than enough for the five of us to find ourselves the proud owners of a 1961 Vauxhall Cresta, with two new tyres, which were in the boot, (that’s the trunk in Americanese) awaiting to be fitted.
Our bargain car cost us the princely sum of £25.00, cash, from our pooled funds. That left us with £14.85 pence to buy some petrol, (that’s gas to you Americans), and beer at the local village pub; which is located at the foot of the hill, about three miles away, along a very twisty and dark tree-lined country road.
Now, before you think this tale is about some disaster concerning five young men, a vehicle without any documentation or roadworthiness inspection, two bald tyres, a very dark, twisty, rain-soaked road and the fact that not one of those young men, (except my few lessons which got me passed my test almost eighteen months ago, lessons and procedures now totally forgotten), had ever driven a vehicle of any description on any sort of road before, you are wrong… sort of.
Brian, (I’ll call him Brian because, after forty-six years, I have forgotten his actual name), got to drive Caroline first. Why we decided to call the Cresta ‘Caroline’ escapes me but I should think there was no good reason, at least not one which would make any sense today.
The trip was a simple one. We would leave the base and, once we were off the track and onto the road, we would allow the car to freewheel down the hill for the three-mile trip to the village. Once in the village, we would be able to coast to the filling station, which in fact was just a single pump garage, put a small amount of fuel into the car and then go to the pub for a few beers.
We reached the tarmac road at the top of the hill and began our descent, killed the engine and allowed the car to coast downhill, picking up speed as it went. In those days’ cars did not have power steering and the breaking was a matter of pressing hard, feeling the breaks fade, letting them off and jumping on them again, as sort of camber breaking to help the breaks bite.
However, as none of us were experienced drivers; we knew nothing of this technique and, as the car began to accelerate to breakneck speed, the four of us pressed ourselves further and further back into the leather seats with wide grimaces plastered across our fear frozen faces as we watch, unable to move as Brian, now a paler shade of white than an albino turd, stood upright planting his entire 7 and a half stone, that’s around 105 pounds, weight on the brake pedal and wrenched the steering wheel right and left as the sharp, blind bends rushed at us at warp speed.
Rounding the final bend, the road levelled out as it approached and entered the village of East Meon. By the time we were nearing the garage, the car had slowed to around thirty miles an hour and Brian realised he had been standing on the accelerator (gas pedal) and not the break. He now pressed the correct pedal and the car jerked to a halt, throwing the four of us forward.
I hit my head on the dash. Dave slid off the bench seat and disappeared under the consul. Jack became wedged in the passenger footwell and Mark landed on top of him, breaking Jack’s nose in the process.
Dave said, “What the fuck” as he extricated himself from wherever he had disappeared, climbed over me to get out of the car, ran around to the driver’s door and pulled Brian from the vehicle, throwing him unceremoniously into the middle of the road. He then jumped in, started the car and drove the remaining ten yards to the pump.
We fuelled the car with enough fuel to get us back up the hill and, we hoped, back down again but in a much more controlled manner. Then Dave drove to the pub, but not allowing Brian back in the car, so he had to walk. (It was a quarter of a mile at most.)
After a beer or three each. It is amazing to recall how far a few pounds would go back in those days. It was time to leave and make our way up the hill and back to base. I am unsure of how it happened, but I was the one nominated to drive back. I was both terrified and excited at the same time.
Now, as I said before, this car did not come with any warranties with regards to its roadworthiness or any guarantees as to what parts worked and what was defunct. We soon found out only one headlight worked, as did one windscreen (windshield) wiper and, guess what, it was not the one on the driver’s side.
The heaters power however compensated for both of these malfunctions. Whenever the headlights or the windscreen wipers were switched on the heater blasted out a stream of red-hot air akin to the afterburner of an F15 fighter aircraft. The heater was also automatically activated when the left turn indicator was used, as it was when reverse gear was selected.
If on occasion, the glove box was opened while the car was moving at over thirty miles an hour, the radio would come on at speaker shaking, window-rattling volume; tuned into some random station, never once the same as the time before. Other than that, the radio would not work at all.
So, I got to drive the three miles back up the hill in the pouring rain with illegal tyres, no clear vision, jets of hot air bonding my polyester trousers to my legs, all the windows wide open, to compensate for the lack of oxygen available to our lungs because of the same furnace, the persisting rain blowing painfully into my face by the gale-force winds and the radio ear-splittingly blasting the drumming jazz hit, ‘Skin Deep‘.
I must say though, this journey back was surprisingly uneventful if you disregard my searching for and getting the wrong gear on the column change as I struggled to understand the mechanics of controlling a motor vehicle whose controls were alien to anything… that one vehicle I took lessons in… oh, and the swerving, harsh breaking and full 180 degrees spin, on tyres so worn they were all but slick, I managed as I swerved to avoid the deer, which ran out from the almost pitch black shadows of the trees in the pouring rain.
How I did not hit the deer, the embankments or end up shitting my pants, I am unsure but I got us all back alive if a little shaken.
Over the next few weeks, we did get the headlight fixed and replaced all four tyres. No one knew what to do with the heater, so we simply put up with its furnace temperatures by driving most of the time with the windows wide open. As for the radio, we decided it was haunted and the soul of the car, so we left that well alone, just in case ‘Caroline’ was a relative of ‘Christine’.
A few months later it was time to move on, so we sold ‘Caroline’ to a group of ‘newbies’ for the heavenly sum of £50.00. That was a one hundred per-cent profit on our original investment.
I often wonder what became of Caroline. Maybe she continued to service the base’s personnel until they closed it down in 1993.
What, you may ask, has this post got to do with writing or being indie?
I like to think it shows one can create a story from even the most basic of events from our everyday lives.
The next time you feel stuck for something to write about, scribble a short article about what happened to you today, yesterday or twenty years ago. I am certain you will find you have an audience eager to read about those events in your life.
Try it. You have nothing to lose.
Keep Happy, Paul
If you liked this short story why not download one of my Electric Eclectic Novelettes, they are longer short stories I am sure you will enjoy.
Find my books, paperbacks and ebooks, including my Electric Eclectic booksHERE
Want a bit more? Then check out ‘Within the Invisible Pentacle’ a collection of short stories all with feminine titles.
You can find Within the Invisible PentacleHEREin the UKandHEREin the USA
On the Highway of Irrelevant Rumination and Delusion is my musings on life and living, taken from my old blog series of the same name and explored during a fictitious road trip, itself an amalgam of many, to create a captivating, informative and entertaining monologue.https://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white/works-in-progress
I am beginning this series of posts with a car from 1973 in which I first learned to drive, the ubiquitous Vauxhall Viva.
In its time, the Vauxhall Viva was the most popular car to come from Vauxhall’s Luton works. Once seen on every street corner The Viva was the first Vauxhall to achieve a six-figure production run and, by the early 1970s, was Vauxhall’s best-selling model.
None of that mattered to me as I struggled to master the necessary synchronicity between clutch, steering, mirrors, gearshift and acceleration while simultaneously looking ahead and in my mirrors. No mean feat for someone who never road a bicycle until they were eight years old!
However, the point of this series of post is far from riding bicycles or driving cars, its about life, the world, being an indie author and, at least for the first few posts, a little bit of nostalgia. A mix I hope you will find informative as well as entertaining.
So, without further ado, let me get started ‘proper’.
At the end of 1973, I was a young sailor in the Royal Navy. I had around six weeks left before I was to join my first ship and sail away to some far-flung shores. I was, to all intents and purpose a ‘whippersnapper‘. I suppose it was the start of me becoming me, becoming who I am now.
Did you know the word Whippersnapper was originally a “diminutive, insignificant, or presumptuous person?”
It was a term of reproach, here is the word used in a lengthy harangue by Edgar Allan Poe, from his story “Loss of Breath”:
“Thou wretch! – thou vixen! – thou shrew!” said I to my wife on the morning after our wedding, “thou witch! – thou hag! – thou whipper-snapper! – thou sink of iniquity! – thou fiery-faced quintessence of all that is abominable! – thou – thou –”
(The speaker in the story is then, gratifyingly, bereft of breath and stops speaking.)
Some may have preferred to call me a ‘Whiffet’ which has similar connotations and also means “a small, young, or unimportant person.”
But the cuteness of the word kept it becoming a term of reproach. Whiffet was used in the 19th century in relaxed and informal writing, such as this breezy passage from an early magazine movie review:
Particularly is this true in the case of William Haines. This cinema actor invariably plays the obnoxious, precocious whiffet who upsets plans, causes heartaches by his wilfulness.
—“The New Pictures,” Time Magazine, 10 October 1928
Now, back to my tale…
With little to do with my ‘off-duty’ time, I decided to learn to drive. (Not that I was going to get much chance to practise the skill once at sea!) Anyway, I engaged the services of a driving instructor and jumped into the driving seat of a shiny red car. The picture on this blog is exactly as I recall the vehicle.
Three lessons a week taught me the skills necessary for basic car control, well, enough to pass my test and gain a licence just in time to board my ship and sail away on the high seas.
My first ‘foreign’ port of call was Lisbon, Portugal; which is just across the English Channel and a little south. The fine city that it is, it was not the exotic tropical port of my boyhood dreams. (Thankfully I did get to visit those too.)
But tales of sailing the high seas and exploring foreign lands is not my premise of this post. It is about me taking those driving lessons although I knew it would be many months before I could use to use my newly acquired skills. Besides which, I still needed to purchase a vehicle.
You see, far too often we stop ourselves from undertaking certain tasks because of… well, whatever excuse we can find to convince ourselves. I could have so easily not taken those driving lessons because I was going to sea, because I did not have a car, because I… whatever. The point is it would have simply been an excuse with no real foundation of any matter.
It is making these excuses to ourselves so many of us authors and writers do far too frequently when what we should be doing is finding reasons to do something, making time to do something.
We must say to ourselves, “Yes, I can write another chapter today despite having to work late.” Or “I can watch the TV later, or tomorrow, but I must write this down now.” No matter your book may not be ready until next year; no matter your laptop is broken, you have paper and pen.
I got to drive later that year when I returned from my first sea draft. Since then I gained an advanced drivers’ licence. I have driven racing cars on various tracks around the world, from Brands Hatch in the UK to Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. I have personally owned some amazingly powerful machines like a Nissan Skyline GTR, a Toyota GT4 and an Aston Martin BD9.
I don’t think I would have done so had made an excuse to myself not to take those driving lessons. I am a firm believer that each decision we make forges our life path ahead for a length of time until our next pivotal decision must be made. Once each choice is selected there is no going back, no return, just differing routes to choose.
I think this is why I have several books and various art projects on the go at any one time, I don’t like saying no to myself; I don’t like making excuses to myself about why I can’t, or shouldn’t do something, anything.
I like to encourage myself to forge ahead, to do it, to say yes.
I encourage you to support and believe in yourself. I bet you will find you are a far more capable person than you give yourself credit for.
Okay, so the title of this post is probably not the best metaphor ever written. Maybe, I was just fishing for compliments, or reeling you in… okay, okay. Enough.
But relating your books sales, or rather your book marketing, to fishing is not so far off the mark as you may think.
I am sure you would have heard the term ‘hook’ used many times when referring to writing, particularly fiction
Most authors know and recognise the importance of having a ‘narrative hook’ in their book’s opening lines and at the end of each chapter, even in the closing paragraphs of books in a series.
The idea, of course, is to leave your reading wanting more, wanting to know what happens next or indeed, on ‘tenterhooks’.
Which, by the way, is an old English word deriving from the 14th-century wool making industry. A ‘Tenter’ was a frame used to stop cleaned woollen fabric shrinking, (from the Latin ‘tendere’, meaning ‘to stretch’). Hooks are placed around the edge of a frame, to which the fabric was attached, so it streached it enough to stop it shrinking whilst drying.
By the mid-18th century, the phrase ‘on tenterhooks’ came to mean being in a state of tension, uneasiness, anxiety, or suspense, i.e. figuratively stretched like the cloth on the tenter.
However interesting all that may be, these facts have nothing to do with fishing and by association, sadly nothing to do with my terrible metaphor.
So, let me get to the nitty-gritty of this post, which is about your book’s description.
For this blog post, I am including your back-cover blurb and the description you use on your sales page of online sites, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc. as the ‘description’ discussed.
It seems, by the requests for answers I receive and the social comments I read, the writing of your book’s description is an area many authors struggle with, which is, on consideration rather strange as, after completing an entire novel, pages upon pages of creative writing, authors should then struggle to write a dozen or so lines describing the very premise of the book.
Which is, in all honesty, probably one of, if not the most important few paragraphs of the entire work.
What I find is, as the creator of the story, authors tend to want to put every element into their book description. (Much the same is true in amateur cover design.)
The thing is, the description is not supposed to be a summary, or a report, or a review. It is simply an advert. The intent of which is to ‘reel’ in book browsers and have them buy your book.
Allow me to elucidate.
Someone will buy your book if…
Firstly, the little thumbnail image of your front cover catches their eye.
Then, when they enlarge, click, expand or whatever they might need to do to see your book as a larger image if they like what they see at the smaller resolution. (The reason you need a great cover artist. One like PeeJay Designs. PeeJaydesigns@mail.com)
This is the online equivalent of having a potential buyer physically pick up your book from a bookstore shelf and hold it in their hands. If they never pick it up they will never buy it.
The next step is, your potential purchaser will now read the carefully crafted and captivating description of your book. This could be the ‘blurb’ on the back cover or the description given on an online bookstore.
Reaching this point means the cover has done its most important job.
Of course, your book’s description will stop the reader in their tracks, intriguing them enough to want to…
One, buy your book immediately or…
Two, read some of the ‘Look Inside’. (If in a physical bookstore, flick through and read a few random samples.) and then they will, of course, buy your book, won’t they?
Sarah Gribble of The Write Practice, says. “I recently picked up a nonfiction book, which I don’t read many of, and almost put it right back down. But the description intrigued me. It got me to read the first couple pages, standing right there in the store. Then it got me to buy the book.”
However, if you have a lazy, badly worded and therefore an unsuccessful book description, they will simply move on to the next book, regardless of how wonderful your actual story may be, a story they, along with thousands of others, will never get to read.
This means you will have blown your chance, your opportunity to get the sale, all for a few lacklustre lines.
Okay, I hear you saying, “How do I make my book’s descriptions work for me?”
I’m glad you asked because it’s a little like fishing; you must bait your hook with the right lure, the right bait, for the fish you want to catch. (Yep, back to my metaphor.)
Perhaps, one of the best ways is knowing what to do and what not to do when writing your description.
The (basic) do’s:
Always write in Third Person
Use keywords, emotional words, like chilling or passion; they work well for both nonfiction and fiction book descriptions. You can Google power words to find some good ones. But do not overdo it.
Also, consider what people might be Googling that would take them to your book. This is especially true for nonfiction works. Think about employing those in your description.
Be succinct and to the point, no purple prose or verbose writing.
Be clear about the genre, the main genre, do not focus on sub-plots. i.e. if you have a thriller, say so, do not harp on about the romantic story which runs as a sub-plot.
Employ the proper utilization of grammar
Use eye-catching, powerful language. Just like your book needs a hook at the beginning, so does your book description. No one’s going to continue reading the description, let alone the whole book if the first line is as boring as dry toast. Plus, this is often the only thing an online shopper will see before they are prompted to click to see more, and you want them to click, don’t you?
Hint at the climax, never reveal it.
Tell your potential readers how perfect your book is for fans of… genre/style etc.
Mention any awards, high-class reviews, or serious ratings – (see notes below in ‘don’ts’)
Add any audience and age-appropriate.
Give trigger warning when it’s necessary. (These can have a positive effect on sales.)
The (basic) don’ts:
Never use shouty capitals.
Give too short a description.
Cut off words
Make false or misleading claims
Double/triple edit. Do not allow any misspellings or typos to get through. If you cannot write a short description without any errors, there is little hope your book will be error-free.
Do not employ ‘date language’ like ‘just released’ or ‘new novel’, in a week it won’t be and you will need to re-word your description.
Stay away from aggressive calls to action. Such as “You MUST buy this book”. Using such language lends a note of desperation and drives potential buyers away.
Do bear in mind retailers accept differing lengths of descriptions, so you may need to tailor it to each site’s requirements.
Surprisingly, some things you might think influence, do not, according to recent Bookbub research;
It seems it is irrelevant to include details of which type of bestseller you may have, i.e. New York Times Vs USA Today. Simply saying ‘Bestseller’ has far more significance.
Adding a question at the end of your description has no effect on your potential purchaser’s decision making. Which makes doing so a total waste of time.
Neither does saying the book is your debut novel, or your tenth novella, or your seven hundredth and fiftieth for that matter. It has no significant impact on the choice to purchase.
Therefore, use your description to tell people about your story, get them intrigued, wanting to know more.
Avoid telling them about ‘the book’. You may be proud of all those things, but readers don’t give a flying ***, they simply want to know if they will enjoy the story.
Including the series name in the description did not affect readers positively or negatively. Therefore, adding such information (in the description) is pretty much a waste of time and effort. It seems the cover, and the titles on online pages, already show that information; so potential buyers do not want the same information repeated over and again… they know, they get it already.
I now hear you asking how you get to a good description.
The easiest way is to create two versions of similar text, like this:
Both versions have the same information. They both start by listing the accolades which represent the renown of the book.
However, from there, description A focuses more on Nick Dunne’s perspective, while B hones in on Amy.
So, go ahead, create two versions of your book’s description, test them against each other and determine which works best for your book.
Use friends to help you decide. After all, their point of view will be far more accurate than your own; you will not be buying your book, they will and they know what attracts them better than you ever will.
Try using the following suggestions as an outline guide.
Start your description by using a bold opening sentence, possibly a statement to grab the reader’s attention.
Use at least one hook to grab readers’ attention.
Ensure the description does not contain any spelling or grammatical errors.
Make certain to ‘inspire’ your potential reader to ‘buy’.
While I do not suggest using direct comparisons to ‘famous’ or ‘renowned’ authors, (such as “…is the new Stephen King” or “Better than Sophie Kinsella…”) which is considered cheesy, desperate, egotistical and opens all sorts of avenues for negative feedback and bad reviews, it may be worthwhile making a statement your book would be “Perfect for fans of Lee Child” or “Martina Cole fans will love this gritty and convincing thriller“
Note, the words, ‘Gritty & Convincing’ are taken directly from the cover of Martina Cole’s book. Never be afraid of copying the methods and styles used by major publishing houses.
Once you have found a style and method which suits you, why not create your own template and use that for your future books?
After all, great fishermen have their own way of baiting their rod for the type of fish they want to catch. You can do the same, go get the readers you need, lure them in, hook, line and sinker.
See, fishing is not such a bad metaphor after all.
I have compiled a wealth of information to help authors of all capabilities and experience to know more about the publishing world, books and being indie.
Sort of following on from my previous post, ‘a Bit about Indies and Readers’, this article delves into the terms ‘Indie authors’, ‘self-publishing’ and ‘Indie publishing’ and is aimed at clarifying them… sort of.
“Five years ago, self-publishing was a scar. Now it’s a tattoo”….Greg White, Bloomberg News, 2016
Let’s not beat about the bush. I’ll get straight to the point.
This is the generally accepted definition of self-publishing.
Self-publishing is the publication of media by its author without the involvement of an established publisher. In common parlance, the term generally refers to physical written media, such as books and magazines or digital media, such as e-books and websites. It can also apply to albums, pamphlets, brochures, video content, zines, or uploading images to a website.
However, in recent years the use of the term ‘Self-Publishing’ has faded in use, along with its sister idiom, ‘Desktop Publishing’. Both have been superseded by the phrases, ‘indie author’ and ‘indie publisher’.
While both are often used as interchangeable titles, indie authorship and self-publishing are not quite synonymous.
Here is a breakdown of current publishing possibilities:
Authors do not pay any publishing-related expenses.
Well-established publishing firms include those often referred to as the ‘Big Five’: Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan. (Including their dozens of imprints.)
These large publishers historically prefer authors with mainstream appeal, particularly celebrity or ‘brand-name’ authors. Partly, this is to guard against ‘risk’, all of which the publishers bear.
Typically, they offer advance payment and, on occasion, authors receive a slice of the book profits by way of royalty. Frequently, whatever the publishers offer is based on a two to three book ‘deal’, tying the author to the publisher for a period of time.
Publishers own the rights and control most aspects of publication, especially the design of the cover and the choice of a title.
Mainstream publishers can get books into brick-and-mortar bookstores, with whom they have a historic relationship, as they do with prime book distribution organisations, national and independent libraries. The large publisher relationships with other media and the press often ensure reviews in mainstream mass media.
However, many established authors now chose to independently publish. This is one reason;
“My first book went through so many different changes that when it released, I no longer felt like it was the story I originally set out to tell.”Author Sarah Grimm, on why she chose self-publishing.
Many mid-size traditional publishers offer the same or similar arrangements as the ‘big houses’.
It is harder to categorise smaller and independent presses as these vary from well-established boutique presses to ‘mom-and-pop’ start-ups who have little experience.
Many of these smaller publishers accept first-time authors, often they do not require agents to approach them but are open to ‘unsolicited’ submissions.
With the smaller presses, authors may not receive an advance, or they may get a lesser amount than with a ‘mainstream press’, but often they receive a larger share of the profits.
It is harder for smaller presses to get books into bookstores. Which can depend if they specialise in a certain area of publishing.
As Judith Briles said in a 2014 article on the topic,
“Small presses make their profits by selling books to consumers, rather than selling services to authors or selling a small number of copies to the author’s friends.”
There are intermediate arrangements between traditional and self-publishing in which both author and publisher bear some of the costs of development, sometimes called ‘cooperative publishing’.
A hybrid publisher may offer selected services to help an author get a book published, such as story editing, copy editing, proofreading, marketing and public relations, and promotion through social media and search engine optimization strategies.
Many of these firms have their own online bookstores.
It is important for authors considering a hybrid approach to fully understand which services will be included and at what cost.
It is also advisable to seek legal advice regarding understanding the technical and implicit terms of any contract.
Some hybrids offer less-than-ideal contracts, which make it hard for an author to exit the deal later. They can also take a disproportionate share of profits; one adviser suggests it’s ‘buyer beware’ when engaging such firms.
With this model, the author funds the publication of the book, (and absorbs the risks), sometimes spending thousands to get the know-how and editing skills of the publisher.
The quality of the services offered and the terms of contracts vary widely. As a rule, royalties are less than true self-publishing but more than traditional publishing.
Hybrid Books rarely get into bookstores. Authors should try to keep as many rights with as much flexibility as possible. Some firms are nothing more than funky assisted-publishing services which overcharge.
Vanity press… (Some Hybrid publishers fall into this category)
The term ‘vanity press’ is considered pejorative since it suggests a person who hires such a service is unqualified or unable to have their book succeed in the market, and as such the author is printing the book only out of vanity.
Users pay to have their books published.
While a commercial publisher’s market is the book-buying public at large, the vanity publisher’s market is the author.
Some authors buy substantial copies of their own book, which are then used as giveaways or promotional tools.
In this business model, there are often elements of fraud; which is why some vanity presses masquerade as legitimate publishers, pretending to be selective and choosy in their book selections.
They prey upon a would-be author’s desire to be published.
If a vanity press charges a higher amount to print a run of books than a regular printer, it can be an indication of deception and fraud.
These are businesses who charge fees for various publishing-related services such as formatting, cover design and copyediting.
They make their money from these services alone.
Authors retain the royalties and control over editing and cover design and title.
These businesses can be helpful to those starting out in publishing as the author can learn the process from experienced people.
However, a word of caution.
Where the company’s profit comes from can be your first clue into what sort of company you are dealing with.
Companies which offer further services to assist the author with publicity and marketing are generally not a good deal, although there are exceptions.
If you do decide to go down this route, seek advice and recommendations from established authors.
Note:Organisations which have pushy sales tactics along with companies who masquerade as traditional publishers by having authors go through an elaborate process to make them think, or at least feel, as if they are being accepted, where the author pays to have the book published and/or sacrifices an inordinate percentage of their royalties for the privilege, should be given a wide berth.
The author controls the entire publishing process from start to finish.
They can hire freelancers to help with wherever, and whenever, the author requires. Such as cover designers, copy editors, story editors and with formatting.
It is necessary authors thinks like an entrepreneur and ensures their finished book is a professional, high-quality product.
All profits and rights remain with the author.
Except for a few independent bookstores, authors will find it difficult to have their books displayed within physical bookstores and major ‘bricks & mortar’ retail outlets.
Indie authors are pretty much restricted in offering their books via online platforms, personal and local social networks, visiting book fairs, conferences, organising book signings at selected venues and finding other ‘creative’ methods of distribution.
Why might an established mainstream author choose to indie publish?
Perhaps author James Altucher can give an indication. Here he describes working with an editor in 2013:
“Nils and I went back and forth on more than 15 different rewrites for my book. The difference between the original version and the final version is like the difference between chicken shit and chicken salad.”
“Indie authorship and self-publishing are not quite synonymous but an independent author will have self-published at least one book.”
Indie-Publishing… which is increasingly becoming the first choice for writers.
As self-publishing loses its stigma and its benefits via technology become more apparent, there are more instances in which new authors choose indie publishing as their primary route, as well as established authors leaving traditional publishers.
There are now greater instances of indie-published authors selling their books in major retailers, such as Barnes & Noble, Target, and Walmart, than ever before.
Partly this is because…
“Authors are no longer bound in their storytelling by what the traditional publishers think the market can bear… Instead, because we can go straight to the reader now, we can write exactly the books that we want to write and exactly the books that our fans want to read. We don’t have to worry about whether an agent can sell the book, or if an editor and publisher want to buy the book, or if a retailer wants to stock the book. Personally, I think this new open market can – and does – make for much more interesting storytelling.” Novelist Bella Andre in the Washington Post, 2015
The terms “Independent publishers” and “indie publishers” were until recently associated with small presses, to identify them as separate from larger, traditional book publishers. Over time, authors who wanted to maintain complete creative control over their books began to create their own small presses, which nowadays simply involves starting a business and little else.
Being a small press or an independent book publisher does not mean having a printing press in your basement. The rising popularity and ease of access to print-on-demand (POD) through such outlets as Ingram Spark and Kindle Direct Publishing have served to increase the number of indie publishers.
Of course, when mainstream publishers like Penguin announce their own self-publishing arm, it can be difficult to know what the hell is going on…. Except that we true indies now have them on the run… sort of.
“With self-publishing you don’t waste your time trying to get published, which can take years of query letters and agenting, and all this stuff. You go straight to the real gatekeepers, which are the readers. If they respond favourably and you have sales, you can leverage that into a writing career. If they don’t, you write the next thing. Either way, you’re not spending your time trying to get published, you’re spending your time writing the next work.”Hugh Howey, author of Wool
The real definition lies somewhere in between… sort of… and it’s not just semantics.
To end this rambling, here are few facts for you to mull over.
Historically, while most novels were distributed by established publishers, there are many authors who chose to self-publish, or who chose to start their own presses, such as John Locke, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Martin Luther, Marcel Proust, Derek Walcott, Walt Whitman, Janet Evanovich, Colleen Hoover, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe… along with Mark Twain, who also started his own printing company.
In 2010, according to a different analysis, there were 4.2 million new titles published. Much of the growth in new titles is because of indie-publishing.
In 2011, indie-published books made up 43% of all print titles, helping to increase overall growth of print production, according to Bowker market research.
Neither of the above figures relates to eBooks, whose increase in number were ‘radically higher’ due to independent publishing. (Bowker).
Some people say,“I only want to read books by professional authors because, in my opinion, they are far better quality compared to indie-published works.”
Others say,“People publishing through the big five primarily write useless, commercial drivel that the publishers demand, as it sells well. They are not real authors. It is the indie authors, the ones who are doing it for the love of writing, the ones who create original works that I love. They’re real authors.”
Being indie myself I must agree with the last statement.
As in most creative arts, such as music and film, original works tend to be far more creative, intriguing, thought-provoking and, let’s face it, enjoyable than mass-market efforts designed to create maximum profit by appealing to the lowest common denominator.
I am an ardent Indie Author who has written and Indie Published a large number of titles, in Hardcover, Paperback and eBook formats.
My books include a children’s tale, a glossy, music legends, coffee-table book; non-fiction books; semi-fiction stories; short story collections; poetry, and fictional novels.
Oh, and two special books just for Indie Authors & Publishers, both of which are waiting for you to download right now.
Do you believe your writing has been enriched and influenced by the books you have read?
If so, is it just the good books, the ones you love, the ones which made some connection with your soul?
Or… would you say the bad books have an equal hand in affecting your stories?
By ‘bad books’ I don’t mean the poorly written, but stories that aggravated, annoyed and even rasped on your sensitivities. The ones that you recall for the opposite reasons to those you loved, which means, in their own way, they too made a connection with your inner being.
So, did those bad books achieve the aim of their authors and if so, should we consider them good books for that very reason?
Something to ponder.
Here’s another matter for thought while on this topic.
I don’t write stories which have any direct connection with the books that made a mark on me. Like the historic African based fiction of Wilbur Smith; whose books I devoured as a teenager. My books are not based in history, in Africa or in any set time, as it happens.
Neither do I attempt to write like Criena Rohan, (Deirdre Cash), whose book, Down by the Dockside still resonates with me today.
While I enjoyed such wonderful works as Catch 22, Life according to Garp, and Do not go Gentle, I have never tried to replicate those authors style or attempt to write in their chosen genre.
In fact, I write the only way I can; by scribing the thoughts and feelings flitting through my mind at any given time. Oh, and as quickly as I can, before those very contemplations disappear into the amnesiac blankness of absolute… now, what was it, where was I?
So, I wonder how much and how many of those authors I read, the ones who pen compositions of illusion, write of their imaginary netherworlds and create the fictitious lives of the characters inhabiting them, find their way onto the pages and into my own work, without my being aware of their presence.
Are we, us writers and authors, part of all those who have gone before? Do we inherit, by some magic, some mystery, a trace of another, many others, literary DNA?
Are our own stories part of a continuous evolution of literary nature? Are you, in therefore my brother, my sister, my sibling or, in that context, my child?
If so, are you writing my words, is your hand guided, even in part, by that which I have written before?
Or are my words part of you?
Now, there is something to contemplate.
Thank you for reading this post on Ramblings from a Writers Mind.
I do hope you will read at least one of my books, either an Electric Eclectic novelette or one of my prime works. All can be found on my website right,HERE
We live in an ever-changing world, one where change is happening at ever increasing speed.
The truth of the old adage which says, “If you stand still long enough you’ll end up going backwards” has never been so evident.
This competitive hunger for transformation is affecting all areas of the publishing world, from the major players like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, to Random House, Harper Collins and Hachette Livre.
It is no surprise then, this onslaught of rapid change is influencing and shaping the future of the indie author and writer markets in ways never seen before.
The warning is, most writers are, “stuck in their ways.“
Too many indie authors have become comfortable and clearly reliant on the way they have been publishing, promoting and marketing their books over the past years. Free book giveaways, quickfire sales, time-limited discounts, paying for a service to give their books away with ‘spammy’ posts across the internet and unwelcome emails.
I know, I know it is unbelievable; but some authors actually do pay money to allow other people to give their books away, all for a loose promise and no guarantee of increasing sales. (Their sales never do increase by the way.)
It seems these authors are so entrenched within their ‘comfort zones‘ they have failed to move with the times, failed to notice the world around them changing and are, in all honesty, now ‘going backwards‘.
A sad thing is, they will argue the facts. They will fight to continue to spend time, money and effort on ineffective and unproductive promotions, even when they prove fruitless and futile time and again.
These same authors then post about bad sales, blaming the ‘crowded’ marketplace and Amazon’s algorithms, or the fact they can no longer pay someone to write a ‘review’ saying how wonderful their book is and that everyone should buy it. (It is impossible for any paid review to be totally honest because of the element of bias, human nature and fiscal gain involved.)
Some authors do, however, take the opportunity to move forward, some becoming pro-active with their book marketing strategies.
One such group of authors are those who publish a selection of their books under the Electric Eclectic brand.
Electric Eclectic began back in 2017 with the idea to employ unused short stories and ‘orphaned‘ material to create eBook Novelettes. The ensuing books introduce readers to an author’s work and writing style while promoting the author’s prime books.
A lot has changed since then, mostly in response to the major shifts in the publishing world mentioned above, but also because our readers asked us to produce longer books and paperback editions.
It turns out readers love Electric Eclectic books so much they now seek out the brand and look for the logo on book covers.
Electric Eclectic books range from those initial eBook novelettes through to larger and longer eBooks and full-length paperbacks.
One form of paperback which is special to Electric Eclectic are their ‘pocketbooks‘. These are fully-fledged paperbacks but produced to a smaller size, which makes it easier to slip them into a handbag or a pocket… hence the name.
Electric Eclectic authors are definitely not standing still, they are moving forward as rapidly as the marketplace around them.
Many of the original Electric Eclectic authors now manage areas of Electric Eclectic they initiated, such as Instagram, The Electric Eclectic YouTube channel called ‘Electric Press’ and the literary magazine of the same ‘Electric Press‘ name. Other services are the creation of a blogging network, @open24(an Amazon store), and an author services section.
The ethos of Electric Eclectic is to help indie authors create income, primarily through the sales of their books and secondarily, by using the Electric Eclectic brand to create other income channels.
Electric Eclectic is not a publisher, it is a book marketing brand authors share, in a sort of co-operative decentralised franchise.
Electric Eclectic takes no royalty. It is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to assisting indie authors in creating their own income.
During this year, 2019, Electric Eclectic are opening their doors and will welcome a small number of authors into their ranks.
If you would like to be one a few lucky writers to become an Electric Eclectic author this year, email, EEbookbranding@mail.com for details.
I do not use Ramblings from a Writers Mind for direct promotions because it is not the raison d’etre of this blog.
These ramblings are about sharing knowledge and experience. They are about in-depth consideration, informative articles, about highlighting the good and bad regarding writing, publishing and indie authorship.
It is not a place for advertising.
Considering the above, the following may seem directly opposed to this ethos. But read on, you will see I am seriously designing something to help and aid writers and authors like ourselves.
What is more, I am asking for your views and feedback on this project, a project I have called, @Open24.
@Open24 is an online Amazon store, my online Amazon store. (which is Open 24 hours a day, hence the name.) But… it is a store with a difference, a difference which I think will be of use to you.
Allow me to explain…
I have been an indie author for several years. Years during which I learnt far more than I could have imagined when I began to pen my first novel, ‘The Abduction of Rupert DeVille’.
In the early days, I struggled to find high quality, comprehensive information on writing, authorship, formatting, publishing, and all the sundry things which are part of being indie.
Do not get me wrong; the information was there, in libraries, on websites and, of course, on Amazon. My issue was and, to be honest still is, finding it.
For instance, if I want a book which covers sentence construction, I will have to carry out several searches, scroll down, past many irrelevant publications to find something vaguely, possibly akin to my want. That is for one single book. If I want to compare it with other books or find something similar, I need to repeat the search all over again.
I shall start this post with a quote attributed to that most literary of bears, Winnie the Pooh.
“The beginning is a very good place to start.”
I cannot agree more.
Knowing where the beginning is, is not always as clear cut as many may think.
You see, your story, any story, must start somewhere, but that start is often not at the beginning.
Take yourself. Take a tale you told about yourself the last day you did something… silly/forgetful/made a mistake… whatever it may be.
Now, consider how you began to tell your tale the first time you related it.
I bet it was not at the beginning, at least not the real, the true beginning of the string of events which led you to such an occurrence.
First, you would, by our very nature of communicating, have plugged it with a strong opening statement, or a soft lead-in, dependant on whom you were telling the tale, be it your Boss, you Mother, BFF or Lover.
You may have said something along the line of…
“You know, Sally and I often go to the bar on Staithes Avenue? Well, we went this lunchtime and, you’ll never guess what happened….”
“I’ve driven down that road for the over ten years and I have never before…”
MAYBE it was, “Oh, my goodness, you just have to listen to this…”
None of those are really the beginning of anything but are leads to an section which is part way through your story, one which, during its telling, you will flit back and forth in time, building your tale of joy or woe into as a believable an anecdote as you can manage/feel right in doing, according to the circumstance.
Therefore, the same story told in the office to your boss will differ slightly to the version you tell your colleagues, or your family, once you are in the comfort of your own home.
It will definitely not be as richly dressed as your recount of the occasion in the bar later that evening, or as detailed with the emotions you felt during its unfolding when you share it with your lover while lying in bed.
The same is true of our fictional novels and stories; because the way we perceive them as we write is only a version of the whole. What we feel today will alter by tomorrow. By the time we re-write ‘that’ section of the first chapter, our entire viewpoint has altered.
Therefore, what we once perceived as the beginning was, in fact, only a starting point for us to begin writing. The true beginning is still to reveal itself to us.
The matter is, we should never believe our own opinion during one sitting, but allow ourselves the opportunity to alter and change the picture we carry within our mind. Each time we reconsider our work we must see it in differing light, simply because we are not writing to entertain ourselves, but others.
Consequently, by revisiting our works and by teaching ourselves not to become immovably fixated on any factor of it, such as the juncture where we originally started to tell our tale, we can then see our story from the viewpoint of others, those who will read our story.
Once again, Winnie the Pooh says it well…
“When you are a Bear of Very Little brain, and you Think Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”
We want other people looking at our work, it is, after all, the whole point of writing; yet we want them to understand, to feel and to ‘live’ our story, empathise with our characters and lose themselves from the real world into our fantastical fictional world, we want and need them to believe.
To do so, we must see our books through their eyes, not our own. If that means starting the story from another place, be it a location, another moment in time, a different character’s perspective, then we must change the start of our story to this new beginning.
It may still not be the real beginning, you may alter it again before publication, write a prologue, an introduction, a prequel, or another book which leads on, even in an abstract fashion, to this one.
The point is, there is no true ‘right’ place to start your story, even the true beginning of your own life was far, far before any human existed, so where would you begin to start that story?
Now, while I much admire the genius of Winnie the Pooh and agree, “the beginning is a very good place to start,” I often wonder where the start actually is.
Looking for more literary insights, articles and short stories? Then look no further. The Electric Press magazine is available to read right HERE, for free.
A good writer has no need to look for inspiration and ideas, they will come flooding unto them.
The fact is, each moment of every day we are surrounded by a million and one stimuli which only need us to recognise their being. We must feel, hear, sense what is around us, what is happening in front of our eyes.
We must allow our perception to absorb, to let our mind create fiction and fantasy from implied interpretation. We must permit our creative seed to run wild.
I have written on this subject before, albeit from another perspective, in a post calledThe Curse of the Muse
This post is a little different.
A short while ago, possibly a good few months past, I read a post on a social media site from one of my connections. I think ‘friends’ is the general term used.
I was touched by the raw honesty of the post; so much I saved their words so I might use them as a basis for my own writing, either in situation or character creation.
I feel a little guilty for ‘stealing’ these heartfelt outpourings, yet, I am acceptive to the reasoning of creativity and the understanding of where, how and by what means we writers find our inspiration.
You see, most of my works, regardless of genre or setting, focus on our humanity, on social and personal interactions and on life itself.
The following is an edited version of the social media post mentioned. I am sure you will understand the reason it resounded with me, especially if you are a reader of my books and other works.
This is it…
“This isn’t poetry.
It’s not placed on a pretty post.
There are no pictures to pull you in.
This is just me needing to vent and I suppose those who want to know will read it through; there are a few thousand of you, maybe more and I’m just this sickly, tiny, thing who is easy to overlook.
My life isn’t an open a book, but should the play ever be released it will read like a tragedy of comedic design, one that tears the heart and rips the mind.
Irony, you’ll find, is the underlying theme.
I was everything I was told I would be; yet with time viewed through a rear-view mirror, I am nothing which holds value beyond the front door and those therein are on their way out.
I’d leave too, but domestic skills, they don’t count and writing words has yet to pay the bills; besides, without a degree to back up the lines, there are those who say I’ve spent the last three years wasting my time.
It’s pride, I know, but I’m pushing four decades old and I’m not sure I’m equipped to go back to the shit I did before I became a mom and wife.
I mean no offence, but I’m better than a burger to flip, or the next bag of groceries to sack, my mind knows too much to do that any longer.
I could go back to school, try and educate, but what do I do with the stack of debt that’s all late?
I have no resume. That’s the cost, the loss, of being nothing more than a stay at home mom.
Who am I without the domestic, the wife, the parental role to play, day to day?
So much needs to change and I’m scared to death I’ve waited too late.
Surely this cannot be my fate?
Even this, the sound of my self-pity makes me sick; but this decline of mine, it didn’t happen overnight.
It wasn’t quick.
My worth was stolen by minuscule measures, so slender the slices, I failed to feel the knife and yet looking at my life there’s nothing left but a bloodied mess.
I should find my way out of this.
I’m not as weak as I seem, but at this moment, I am on my knees.
This is not who I am, but damn, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be.
I’m a little lost and there’s no one looking for me.”
I titled this blog post, ‘Inspiration does not have to be Pretty’.
It does not.
Neither do the resultant writings. But I genuinely believe our words should be honest, open and emotional. After all, these are the driving factors of life, our lives. It is what we all have in common, it is what we all respond to… even in fictional stories.
Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings.
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