Publication day and the blood pressure challenge

Border Line 2Border Line will be released tomorrow… except that two days ago Amazon took the print book off the UK site. A friend who had pre-ordered the book had the order cancelled and received an email saying… ‘Our supplier has informed us that it’s been discontinued and is no longer available.’

I, the publisher, supplier and author, have sent no such information.

This came on top of increasingly frantic efforts to get a cover image for the print book onto the Amazon UK site. In the course of these efforts I discovered that Nielsen have been feeding out the image to Amazon since August, but Amazon are having problems with images and are still working on a fix.

At this moment, Border Line (print version), can be found by clicking on the kindle edition icon, then choosing ‘paperback’ from the list. This then shows it as unavailable, but you can put it on a wish list. If I had been trying to dream up a way to raise the blood pressure of a small publisher/author to danger levels, I don’t think I could have done better job than Amazon have achieved.Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 18.54.12

In the grand scheme of things these are trivial problems. So on the plus side, I have twice met the hedgehog outside the back door, either with his face in the trough, or waiting patiently by an empty one. We have had a visitation by a small flock of goldcrests, picking spiders off our window ledges. They were too swift to photograph, but they did reduce the blood pressure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATomorrow I shall have a peaceful day, signing copies of Border Line (or twiddling my thumbs) at the wonderful Gog Magog Hills farm shop.

 

Borders, borderlines and choosing when to die

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Border Line (as print and ebook) in the UK and ebook worldwide will be on sale from December 5th 2014

“Of course love is the ultimate luxury, but I am unwilling to continue the trek in the certainty of its absence.”

Eleven people travel across Slovenia in a small coach. Grace and the other nine members of the group all wish to die, while their leader, Daniel, appears only to want to help them. He involves them in actors’ exercises and therapeutic games. They tell stories, travel like tourists and surprise themselves with laughter. Daniel promises he will take them, at the end of the trek, across another border to die. Though they are free to change their minds at any time, by day twenty-one they must make their choice.

Border Line is written as  an entertaining and comfortable-to-read story about ordinary people. That said, its USP (Unique Selling Point – see, I have the jargon) is: ‘An upbeat love story about suicide’… So, any sane person may conclude that I have either trivialised a very serious subject by wrapping it in a love story, or the reverse; I have spoiled a decent love story by weighing it down with the heavy subject of how we choose to die. (I am long past judging whether it is either or neither).

Three things kick-started Border Line:

  • Some lines in a poem titled Rehearsal by Eleanor Green                                     … for an exercise/I look at his hands/to improve our relationship/onstage?…
  • A strange and wonderful day with a Frenchwoman, an American/Hungarian(?) woman and a taxi driver from Ljubljana, in which we communicated in many tongues while trying to see most of Slovenia. We got lost in a forest in fog.
  • Curiosity about people who feel a particular kind of guilt. We try to help victims, but what happens to decent people who cause bad events.

DSCN1906 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Borders in the story are Slovenia’s. This amazing country, about the size of Wales, and has four of them and, being at a cross roads in Europe, a lot of nations have tramped through it.                                                                          DSCN1940OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The borderlines in the title are also those of the mind. Suicide causes untold distress to relatives and friends. We all know this, and most people who contemplate it at some time in their lives recover and go on to complete their natural span. Yet living is, for some people, unbearably difficult and I personally have never felt I could blame someone who chooses the exit route. I also feel, ever more strongly, that we should have some choice about how and when we end our lives.

I also believe that there is much to live for and that the majority of people are kind, trustworthy, interesting and loveable and the world is an endlessly fascinating place that I will be reluctant to leave when my time comes.

eBook cover adventure

The last week or so has been too packed to blog. Happy family visit, soft proofs to check, print cover to approve and The Great eBook Cover Design Competition. I was the lucky winner of a free Book cover from the Writer’s Workshop. This came too late for the print version, but seemed like a good idea for the eBook. I was given £189 credit for a bronze cover design from 99Designs.

First, I had to fill in a Design Brief including images to give potential designers a direction. Being naive, my brief was misleading and my reduced heading read: ‘An upbeat story about suicide, love and Slovenia’. Then, the brief is opened up to designers worldwide online for 4 days. You select the best designers during that time and then go on to refine entries until you choose to award a winner (total 7 days for bronze).

To start with I didn’t have many entries (though there were things I could have done to increase this). The ones that did appear were often distressingly inappropriate. Prettily-coiffed girls with computers in meadows and mountains – sort of modern Heidi on Holiday style. I rated (stars) and commented on each entry, and updated my brief to explain that in my story a computer is only used at night in Devon and that the girl had unruly hair (difficult for designers with limited English). Some Wild Girl in Wild Landscape designs followed –teenage adventure style. I tried asking for something a bit more grown-up and got raunchy, steamy romance covers, then Airport Monumental, I asked for sad and got Noir (I wish I could show you). By this stage I was struggling between laughter and tears. One designer was particularly persistent and I worried that he was putting in so much work with only negative feedback from me. I assumed that he was on a different wavelength.

There are also ‘watchers’, that is designers who follow the competition, looking at the entries and the feedback. You can go and check their designs and invite them to join in. However, out of the blue, my persistent designer produced a perfect (stock) image for my story. With enormous patience, and feedback from me, he adapted it, tweak by tweak, until it was just what I had hoped for. Here is the winning entry from didiwahyudi.trend all the way from Indonesia. It links quietly to my print cover, while giving me the all-important figure I need for the eBook thumbnail. Hope you like it.

BL- COVER fix

My proofs and the print cover went back to the printers last night and my new eBook cover arrived on my desktop 20 minutes ago.

Now I shall go and cultivate my garden.

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Self-publishing progress?

Another week of mayhem and progress – of sorts. Having made my proof-readers’ lives hell by pressing them to complete as much as possible against the clock (with the rather minimal bribe of runner beans) I entered all their brilliant catches into my final file in InDesign and… pressed the button to send the text to the printer.

I then got my head round the file requirements of the cover picture, recreated the file with the correct dimensions (then correcting that when I found I had misunderstood) and sent it for checking to a great designer (whose time I can only afford by the minute).

BL Cover Finaljpgsmall

On Saturday I received an email:

Apologies for the s – l – o – w announcement of a competition winner, but the announcement (and my reasoning) can be found here:
http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/blog/win-a-free-cover-design/#comment-101835
Well done, Hilary. Commiserations everyone else. [there were all of 6 entrants]

Umm… although I have reservations about my cover (because it has no figure in it), I have grown fond of the beautiful image my daughter put together and I want it to go to the printers as soon as possible. (NB you are never sufficiently ahead of the game in publishing), so I felt I had to turn down this opportunity – something I would have lain in the mud for a few weeks ago. However, we have a compromise. I will now have a design by Bronze Design for my eBook version of Border Line.

CORRECTION: I now have bronze level design by 99Designs for my eBook version of Border Line.

I have also been in touch with the travel company, Just Slovenia, who, way back in 2009, helped me set up an itinerary to research many of the places that feature in Border Line. They responded and I have now sent them a PDF of the novel.

I’m not accustomed to so much progress up the ladder, I’d better get ready for another snake.

Web surgery – Kristen Harrison

It’s been a while since I put up a post, because I have been hard at work trying to update my embarrassingly old-fashioned website at hilarycustancegreen.comScreen Shot 2014-07-30 at 17.24.04

Today, through the Society of Authors, I signed up for a tutorial on my website and social media presence. I spent a generous and productive hour with Kristen Harrison of The Curved House.

My fear that I would be told to get onto various media outlets and advertise my books according to some hidden ‘rules for authors’ was unfounded. The session was unexpected for three particular reasons: 1) Kirsten had already checked out both my blog and my website and her first questions were designed to understand my work and interests. From there she swiftly showed me how to rearrange and redistribute the information on the web about me and my books. 2) She listened to, and understood, my concerns about cover design, about which she was extremely knowledgable (more about covers at a later date). 3) She aligned her advice with my understanding of the Internet and technology and with my needs outlined in a pre-session questionnaire.

How rare is that? All I have to do now is to put all this into practice…

I did manage to weed the vegetable plot and we have eaten the first runner beans.

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But there are 74 posts to read in my emails and I am going Lindy hopping tonight.

Unseen Unsung – eBook out now

Unseen ebook coverF

Luca, a brilliant and self-absorbed young opera singer, is buried in the rubble of a collapsed building. A girl crawls through the debris to comfort him and then vanishes. perhaps she died in the ruins or maybe she just a figment of his imagination. When he discovers the strange truth, he is unwilling to accept it.

This is a story of love between two people who would never have met and never have found common ground without one of the catastrophes of modern life.

Unseen Unsung celebrates the power of music and the force of human survival in a complex world.

The concept for Unseen Unsung started life way back in 1999 when I imagined people stuck under the rubble after an earthquake in Turkey. I was enjoying myself plotting, writing and character-building when 9/11 jolted the world. I found the axis had shifted; the story felt too light in the changed world and I set the project aside for over a year.

This is a book, not about disasters, but about life and music, about ordinary people coping with what life throws at them, big and small. In it I have allowed my passion for music, in particular opera, (fairly) free rein, but, as one reviewer wrote, “please don’t think you have to be an opera lover to read this book”.

Although Unseen Unsung was published as a print version in 2008, I went to talk to a reading group last year, who had obtained second-hand copies through the Internet, so I am hoping people will still find it enjoyable. I decided to turn it into an ebook in order to learn the ropes for the publication of my new novel Border Line, which will be coming out in December.

The ebook of Unseen Unsung is available at http://www.amazon.com/Unseen-Unsung-Hilary-Custance-Green-ebook/dp/B00LSRI2PO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405942187&sr=8-1&keywords=Unseen+Unsung and https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/unseen-unsung/id899213653?ls=1&mt=11

I hope some of you will try it and enjoy it. Correction. That’s supposed to read – Please buy my book!

 

 

Getting an eBook out there – a fast process?

The idea that you can upload an ebook and be on sale in 24 hours is a bit of a myth. I decided to learn about the process using my last novel Unseen Unsung (published as print book by Threadgold Press in 2008).

Step 1. The original printers, Antony Rowe, converted the novel into the two forms of ebook (.epub and .mobi files) for the ibook and Kindle platforms respectively. This entailed writing a new imprint page as a pdf and a remastered cover as a JPG (I wanted to keep the original cover by Anthony Furness, but sharpen up the graphics so they would be visible in thumbnail pics). This took 2-3 weeks. So far so good. Unseen ebook coverFStep 2. I could now see and read my ebook on my iPad and I could email it to anyone, but to sell it I needed to upload it to iTunes and Amazon KDP. Both of these are US-based and pay taxes in the US (see http://kareninglis.wordpress.com/paying-uk-income-tax-on-book-royalties-uk-authors/). If you live elsewhere you must have either an ITIN number (as a foreign individual), or an EIN number (as a foreign publisher). The first requires a complicated and lengthy process involving posting your passport to the US, the second can be done on the phone to the US. See http://catherineryanhoward.com/2012/02/24/non-us-self-publisher-tax-issues-dont-need-to-be-taxing/ though this is a shifting process, so read the post and the later comments.

In my role as Threadgold Press I opted for the latter, but it took up to a week of getting my head round the forms (SS-4 and W-8BEN), the process and choosing the right time and day to phone. Once I had got to this point, it went as planned and I obtained the magic EIN number for my SS-4, in order to fill in the W-8BEN, so I will not be liable to tax in the US.

Step 3. Try to upload to iTunes. This should have been straightforward, but for reasons still unclear, I am not receiving a verification email from them. I am in touch with their helpline and have had a call and several emails from the iTunes Support, who are on the case and will I am sure sort this out. This has lasted a week.

Step 4. Try and upload to Amazon KDP. I have spent a couple of hours filling in details and, rather importantly, reading their Terms, which are frankly alarming. I have now ‘agreed’ and waived my right to almost everything you can think of. I have filled in their online W-8BEN with my magic EIN number and now have to wait for approval of this. I have no idea how long this will take – but I understand it may be weeks.

This is the simplified version of events so far, it doesn’t include things like the revised W-8BEN having no box for an EIN number… I hope the next post will show the end of the process.

Threadgold Press, bees and a hornet

Threadgold Press logo

Threadgold Press logo

M-R, you asked what Threadgold Press is. Well, in 2002 I had my first novel published by a stupendously chaotic one-man independent publisher (he had a colleague, but she resigned). So with my second novel, after I had  tallied up a few rejection slips, I became a (fairly chaotic) publisher myself. Threadgold Press is a small thing, but mine own. You can be a publisher by giving yourself a name, and applying for ISBN’s, jumping through a whole load of hoops and publishing a book. I published Unseen Unsung (Hilary Custance Green) in 2008, I’ve sold around 400 copies, and reckon I have broken even. Amazon.co.uk currently offers 7 copies (used) for .01p and 1 (new) for £999. Uh? (I won’t see a penny from these either way).

On a different (more important) subject, I am deeply worried that I cannot go into the garden without stumbling over a dead bee. These are usually smaller bumble bees and I see one or two most days. Is anyone else finding these? We don’t use pesticides.

One the upside, a few days ago, my husband called from the glass area near the back door. He had heard what he described as a four-engine job. An enormous fat golden stripey hornet was bombing around in there. It looked magnificent and sort of new-born, metallic shiny; it also sounded very fed up. Sadly, I do not have a picture. I love bees, wasps, spiders etc but I’m an all-out wuss when it comes to hornets. I gazed in admiration from a distance as my husband wielded the butterfly nets we keep for such events. I am now steeling myself to look into the loft (not my husband’s territory). I saw a big ‘something’ flying around near the eaves and then popping in.