This is the history of a book
Three years ago, October 2011, I posted the eighth chapter of Tito’s Dead a novel I began writing in 2004, finished in 2005 and put aside then, for the best part of six years, in Splinter4All, a writers’ website to which I contribute.
Then, following occasionally haranguing encouragement from a dear friend, Eamon O’Connor, I dug it out of its shoebox home and began a meticulous rewrite. After Eamon died, quite suddenly, on September 3 last year (2013), after a brief illness, I vowed to finish the book and see it published.
So I set to work, reading, re-reading, writing, rewriting, until I felt it was finished. Then I dispatched it to a select group of critical readers, each with their own unique viewpoint and geographical location and asked them to have at it, with pen, pencil or axe. One of those, a keen reader and a tour manager with a world famous heavy metal rock band, sent me back heavily annotated copy in batches of five to ten pages, at a time, by email, a copy proofer who could pick nits off a nitpicker. Another, a former Eastenders actress, gave me an insight to my characters’ flaws and accessibilities and another, an active policeman, gave me an insight to, well, police, and how they work. Along with them, there was a psychic in Spain, an accountant in Philadelphia, a lawyer in Italy and an inventor in Florida. Oh, and a paraplegic graphic designer in Dublin.
This was how I tackled the task of editing the book, since I couldn’t afford a freelance editor or proofreader. All of these people were recruited by me but their services were given, voluntarily. And believe me, they were vital to the process.
The next step was designing the cover. Now, I’m a keen amateur photographer but I haven’t had a decent camera for many years and have to rely, instead, on my trusty iPhone. So both pictures for the cover and back of my book were taken with an iPhone. as for choice of location, well, Tito’s Dead begins with the death of Tito, down a dark, wet, lonely laneway in Sarajevo…see if you can guess the location.
The next step was the actual design and again, the biggest problem was the cost factor. Other problems arise, too, once you decide to ‘design’ your own book. You worry about how many books get left on shelves because they didn’t scream, beseechingly, enticingly,intriguingly, at the casual bookshop browser, READ ME. And then you start to worry about the cost, again. So you study book covers, thousands of them. You begin to dream in thumbnails. I found a free iPad app called Publisher so that solved the design cost problem.
Then I decided to employ Facebook in my quest. I posted two proposed covers and invited comments. For three weeks I was inundated by suggestions, critiques, new designs and offers of help from artists and designers. It was a roaring success because a) it gave the book’s impending publication some free exposure and b) it raised expectations and anticipations.
That is the only the start of it, though, because without the marketing budget and contacts of a professional publishing house, getting your book out and into the hands of influential people, is an uphill struggle.
And in my hurry to get the book out, I missed one other trick employed by digital self publishers. Get your book on a pre-order list with whatever retail sites (iBooks, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony) you are using. Then recruit your friends, family and exhaust your complete list of phone, email and old school friends, asking them to ‘pre-order’ a copy of your book, starting three weeks before its scheduled publication. They don’t have to buy the book but these ‘pre-orders’ are registered as ‘sales’ and can put your book on a best selling list, the very list that could prompt others to follow their lead and keep you there, for real.
Another issue about self publishing is whether to print or not. Speak to people, in general, and they’ll say, ‘oh, there’s something about the feel of a physical book,’ while in reality, avid readers, these days, will, almost inevitably, have a Kindle or an iPad or some other tablet or e-reader. Printing books is not cheap. But help was at hand. Amazon have a service offered by a sister company, called CreateSpace that allows you to design your own book for print, for free, which is then available, from Amazon, on a print to order basis. And you can buy them, yourself, from Amazon, at cost price.
So, after launching the digital edition of TITO’S DEAD, in April with little or no fanfare, I launched the printed version at the end of October 2014, in Philo’s Bar, Bruxelles and managed to sell 120 copies of the book, that night. Since then I’ve been selling a copy here, a copy there but it’s early days, yet, and if anyone wants me in Splinter4All, I’ll be happy to accommodate you. Digital copies can be bought direct, from my website where there’s a special 2 for 1 offer, right now.TITO’S DEAD