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.

Almost writing again…book cover queries… new arrival.

I have been utterly committed to the garden (and, of course, to our visitors) for the last two months and writing has been low on the agenda – but not forgotten. Just over a week ago I finally bought InDesign (publishing software) and my extraordinarily patient cousin has come all the way from Sweden and is walking me through the basics of setting the text of my novel into a printable format, and creating a cover.

He created the cover of my previous novel.
Unseen coverpic

We have also discussed (argued about) the desirable qualities of a cover illustration. How much should it indicate either genre or content? Do people really pick up a book (or reject it) because of it’s cover. All opinions welcomed!

The novel will be titled Border Line. I shall be glad to know if this suggests a genre to people… and if so, which?

As I will need to create an ebook too, I have finally justified the purchase of an iPad mini. DSCN5735

And it’s past midnight and my husband and cousin are asleep… oh for a few more hours in the day.

Readers react in Great Malvern

The pendulum has taken another couple of swings over the weekend. I arrived in Great Malvern (UK) on Saturday and discovered that the book group there were expecting to discuss with me my first book (A Small Rain, 2002, out of print) and not the 2008 Unseen Unsung, which I had prepared. I borrowed my hosts’ tattered copy of A Small Rain for a frantic revision before setting off for the meeting.

We were made very welcome in a member’s home, fortified with a drink and the fourteen of us spread out in her lovely sitting room. Under admirable chairmanship, each member talked about their reactions to A Small Rain and Unseen Unsung, which many had also read. I was able to give explanations and answer individual questions as we went along. After a break for sustaining and delicious nibbles, there was a more open-ended question and answer session about writing and publishing.

For me, to sit among a group of perceptive, enquiring people who have read my two published books and to talk about what works (and what doesn’t) was both a luxury and an immensely helpful experience. I was encouraged to find that they positively relished the complexity of the plots and the variety of subject matter and wanted more stories like this. Several also made a plea (as most book groups do) for a character list because, like many people, they read before sleeping and want to pick up again quickly.

The male protagonist of my first novel came in for some justified criticism for his saintly demeanour and his grating use of endearments. Lesson learnt! On the other hand the child coping with upheavals in his life met universal approval. It gave me great lift that a reader who had never taken to poetry found the selections I used wholly accessible. The writing in my second novel was seen as better paced – a page-turner. They warmed to the main character, a rather spoilt young man, as he lived through the events in the story. Even my dark portrayal of a mother had come off.

I realised with gratitude as I listened and talked, that these intelligent, curious, caring men and women are my readers. This has left me with a glow that will carry my writing forward, and with encouragement such as this, I will get Border Line published knowing that I will have (at least) fourteen readers.

Writing – the swinging pendulum

I have been feeling flattered that a friend across the country asked me to come and be quizzed by her reading group about my book, Unseen Unsung. This was published in 2008, so last week I started re-reading it. I was quite shaken by some aspects of the prose; too dense in parts, too many scene changes. I think if I hadn’t written it myself, I might have had trouble following the plot. I became puzzled, people I don’t know (as well as family and friends) have told me how much they enjoyed this story. Apart from one moment, when I forgot I had written it and the story brought me close to tears, I felt that this was not a book I would recommend to friends.

One outcome of this re-reading was an increased confidence in my new book, Border Line, endlessly revised and now going out to agents. Then, last night, I received an email from another writer – an old and trusted friend. She had been reading my most recent draft and she felt that the majority of my revisions were a disappointment and that I had thrown out what was best and unique about my writing.

Tomorrow night I will travel across the country to find out what a group of strangers made of Unseen Unsung. On Monday I will look at Border Line again and see if I can distil and replace the missing spirit.

Meanwhile Autumn is quietly going about its inevitable and beautiful business.

Acer palmatum Sengukako

Acer palmatum Sango-kaku

writing critique – real help

A couple of weeks ago I gave my non-fiction project (on Far East POWs) to a neighbour to read and got out my neglected novel Border Line. I’d had a four-month break from it and, as sometimes happens, this gave me the courage to make some radical alterations.

Now I needed someone with fresh, and ideally professional, eyes to read the changes. My options were limited. My writing friends, my other friends and even some relatives had read earlier drafts. I had already shelled out for Literary consultants (extremely useful but equally expensive). However, through blogging I had come across writer Sally Jenkins, who runs a critiquing service.

http://sallyjenkins.wordpress.com/first-impressions-critique-service/

So I sent her my agent letter and altered synopsis. Following this I sent my first chapter (i.e. all the material I would be submitting to agents). In a remarkably short time, for a very reasonable fee (and I like that I could pay through BACS if I wanted), I received clear, concise, pertinent feedback. Sally also spotted a very important gap in my letter – I’d not mentioned a potential market or similar publication.

This has led me to do some hefty thinking as this is a question I have tried, and failed, to answer before. I know well that my writing crosses boundaries. In Border Line I have written a love story with topical issues (suicide and assisted dying). It is between literary and commercial in style, and readers for my previous two books have been both sexes and mixed ages. Mulling this over and looking at another writers’ website that Sally mentioned, I trawled through descriptions by agents of the types of books they liked. This helped me to focus, as did the fact that I will be talking to a reading group in the autumn about my earlier book Unseen Unsung.

So, I think that the mixture of love, adventure and topical issues would make Border Line ideal for reading groups. Thank you Sally, I shall go into battle again perhaps a little better armed than before.

You might think that after 25 rejections from agents I should be throwing in the towel. However these rejections included 4 requests for the full manuscript, one resulting in some very positive work with an agent. This, in psychological terms, is called random reinforcement, and encourages persistence, and anyway I am too bloody-minded to give up.