On the shelf

authors, books, Dumfries, Ewart Library, fiction, libraries, novels, The Sleeping Warrior

THE journey of most debut authors – whether mainstream published or self-published – is a long and arduous uphill climb. Few are fast-tracked to the top of the world’s reading lists and even fewer make a good living out of writing.
So why do we bother to do it?
There was a time when I believed there to be no feeling more satisfying for authors than holding a real copy of their first novel.
The ability to thumb through the pages and recognise parts of one’s own work in tactile print creates a significant sense of achievement.
Although most authors would say they write books to satiate a personal need, there is also a necessity to share the work with others. Authors of fiction are storytellers and storytellers need listeners. There is little point in telling tales in front of an empty auditorium.
I’ve just received another five-star professional review of The Sleeping Warrior (http://readersfavorite.com/book-review/25265) in which the reviewer Danielle Pinzon described it as ‘remarkable’. It is little words like this from complete strangers that make all the effort meaningful and there is nothing better than a sense of worth to raise confidence in a writer and spur them on to do more and do it even better.
The highlight of the month for me was a visit to my local library where I saw a copy of The Sleeping Warrior placed in a prominent position on the shelves. Seeing my book displayed for public access can only be described as one of life’s true joys.
The success of a product lies in its potential value to the purchaser –  in an author’s case, the reader – and the only way to increase recognition is to give readers the means by which to spread the word and share their good experiences. That’s why reviews, libraries and bookshops are so important to an author: they provide the physical channel for public access to your book that no amount of social networking can compete with.
Although Amazon is the biggest seller of books throughout the world, its shelves are endless labyrinths of virtual words and books that don’t sit in the top one hundred of any particular list will normally fail to get noticed by potential readers. Amazon is also very fickle in that anyone who knows how to manipulate their way to the top of the lists can become an Amazon best-seller for a nano-second and then it’s all over.
There are, of course, many exceptions to this rule and I would never seek to underestimate the power of the mighty e-book nor the honest efforts of fellow writers.
I think I’ll put what’s left of my hard copies to good use and attempt to sell them to more libraries and bookshops: especially the ones with a geographical and genre connection to the book.
I will also try and find more professional reviewers to increase the list of candid, independent analyses.
How that will equate to more readers and sales in the long-term is yet another story to be told.

I’m an author … get me out of here

authors, BBC Scotland, book launch, book signing, books, Dumfries, Ewart Library, fiction, Giancarlo Rinaldi, Sara Bain, The Sleeping Warrior

I HAVE FINALLY done it.
I have just paid a Glasgow printers for a small print run of The Sleeping Warrior and they are due to arrive hot off the press in a few days.
I have also organised a physical book launch in my home town on 5th December: my very first venture out of Cyberspace and into the real world.
For those who don’t enjoy being under public scrutiny, there is a lot to be said about internet promotion. You only need to reveal that part of you that you want others to see; tell the curious what you want to tell them; and package yourself with a virtual smile on your face from a photo you are truly sick of looking at.
There is, however, nowhere to hide in the real world. The stammering, the self-doubt and even the warts all light up like the proverbial Beleshia beacons and, before many expectant faces, there is a tendency for even the most hardened of public orators to implode inwards or run screaming to the taxi rank.
A friend of mine, who is also a very successful writer and has made many a public appearance in her time, gave me the following advice:
“Remember to talk more slowly, have a plan. I either type or write about seven  or eight headings to keep me on track. If I’m doing a reading, I time it.
“Remember also that, if folk are sitting there, they’re already interested.”
She also says to be honest and chatty for the inevitable question time.
Although I may appear quite forthright and confident to most of my friends, I am actually quite shy of strangers and absolutely loathe the idea of selling myself.
To counteract this, I am fortunate enough to have enlisted the aid of another very good friend and a local BBC journalist, Giancarlo Rinaldi, who knows me well and will introduce me on the night. He is funny and interesting and will probably put on such a wonderful performance that people will forget about my book signing and ask him for his autograph instead.
In an ideal world, that would be fine for me as I could sneak out the back door and let out a heavy sigh of relief into the cold Scottish evening.
Debut novels, however, rarely sell themselves and, for the past few weeks, I have been printing out posters and placing them on strategic notice boards around the town. I have also been posting the launch on Twitter, Facebook, KILTR, my writing forums and anywhere else with a bit of blank space.The next move is a press release to the local paper and an interview for an article.
On the day, I’m going to find something to wear that the cat hasn’t been sitting on and brave my first public appearance as a new author.
I’ll report back on 6th December.

Writing, designing, editing and selling: The journey of a new book

books, fiction, marketing, promotion, publishing, reading, Sara Bain, The Sleeping Warrior, writing

The Sleeping Warrior by Sara Bain

MANY people believe that writing a book ends with the words THE END. How wrong can they be?
I’m in half a mind to update those last two words of my debut novel, The Sleeping Warrior, to read IT BEGINS because writing the book is only a fraction of the time and effort it takes to bring a new work to the attention of the world’s readers.
I decided not to go with a publisher. I think I’ve got the experience and skills to go it alone, so started up a small press where the first book on its lists is written, published and promoted by me.
Publishing is not as straightforward a business as people think. From the initial editing process to design, through to making the work available on all reading formats, is a long and often frustrating task.
No matter how many times you proof your own work, there is always something to change. Even after having The Sleeping Warrior proofed by two very excellent editors, who I trust to be pedantic and subjective, I still found some little bits and pieces that needed amendment.
The trouble is, there is no such thing as perfection in the world of publishing any more. Too often, I open a traditionally published book and find glaring typos on the pages. Cuts to staff and the freelance budgets as well as department restructures across the publishing industry have taken a large toll on quality, even amongst the publishing giants.
In addition, I’ve heard that marketing budgets are minimal, so publishers like their authors to be ‘pro-active’ in the promotion of their own works. Roughly translated, this means that authors (unless the name is a marketable commodity in itself) must develop a presence on the internet by social networking; find outlets for reviews and interviews by undertaking their own press work; get themselves a spot on the literary calendars by finding hosts for book launches, talks and presences at book events; and generally sell their souls to anyone they know who is able to help them spread the word.
If authors are being forced to become their own press officers and advertisement managers, then why give away the royalties to a business that’s not prepared to invest in you?
Apart from said time and effort, it costs nothing to put a book up on the likes of Amazon, Smashwords and FeedARead etc. It costs nothing to set up a print on demand service and have paperback copies made available across the world and it costs nothing to make the book available to the big bookshops and worldwide distributors.
Initial outlay costs are low. Anyone serious about self-publishing who wants to keep complete control over sale of his/her/their books will need an ISBN which can only be bought in blocks of ten for about £128: these are cheaper if bought in bulk, as the larger publishing houses do. Otherwise, for the self-published author who just wants to get that book out there, Amazon et al will provide a free ISBN but also reserve the right to publish a particular version exclusively.
Investing cash in a good editor is vital as is finding a good cover design. Most authors are not graphic designers but most authors also have an inkling as to what they want their cover to look like: one that’s eye-catching and tells the story, or at least part of it. I’m lucky to be an able graphic designer and so can keep full control over what I want the end product to look like.
I’ve developed a good following on Twitter and am working on my Goodreads and Facebook profiles while trying to get the websites up and running.
The eBook version is out but I’ve had a few problems with CreateSpace which have delayed the proofs so the paperbacks won’t be available until the end of the month (or when I get to see the proofs, whichever is the soonest).
I need to do a few booklaunches and send out a few press releases but need the paperback copies before I can set these particular wheels in motion. In consequence, I am organising a small print run with my local printers.
Trouble is, I’m so busy blogging and networking, that the author part of me has become lost.
Why be an author if no one reads your book. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation at the moment, but I’ll get there.