Yes I’ve finally done it. Those are my books (link for more information) and they are available through Amazon on Kindle. It’s been quite a journey. I can’t believe it is five years since I walked out of full time employment with a major Pharmaceutical Company. The organisation was changing in ways that meant I felt I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t made to leave, it was my choice. Although it was earlier in my life than I thought optimal it was too good an opportunity to miss. I drove out of the car park on that last day having handed over my laptop and pass and having said goodbye to those I had worked with, as always it’s the people you miss. Playing on the radio was a Paul Young song ‘Everything Must Change’. It seemed like an omen.
I’m too young for pipe and slippers and constant rounds of golf (although one or two do creep in), so like most early retirees I entered the world of consulting. Unlike most retirees I also had the ambition to write those science fiction stories I always said I would write. What’s more I now had the time and no excuse not to. As of today I have published the first two of those stories, Ancestral Dreams and Project Noah (see My Books). Has it taken longer than I expected ?-Yes, much. Has it worked out as I imagined? – No. Looking back I’m not quite sure what I expected. But I’ve made it, I’m hooked and I’m set to continue.
So how did it happen, what have I learnt?:
- You need help: My first book ‘Ancestral Dreams’ I wrote in ignorant euphoria. I knew my genre, science fiction. However, I knew little about writing. I wasn’t that naive that I thought it was perfect so I paid for editorial comment . That really did help me on my way. Having a story is one thing, being able to write is another. Apart from the comments themselves, it pointed me to where I could get more help (see Writers Resources)
- It is all about the rewriting: So I set about re-writing and rewriting. At the same time I was using the experience gained to start my second book (told you I was hooked).
- You do need a thick skin: You must be able to take constructive criticism. I would also add you need to be able to distinguish between constructive and non constructive – you will get both.
- People will not be queuing up to publish you: Well not most of the time. But at that point I still thought in a traditional ‘book on the shelf’ approach. Enter, the whole new world of ‘agents’. I did my research, on line and through the ‘Writers and Artists Yearbook.’ I girded my loins.
- What to expect from agents: Not a lot as an unknown, unpublished author (again unless you are very lucky). Everything I’ve read tells me it’s getting harder and harder to get an agent to take you on. I sent three chapters, synopses, SAEs, etc. to relevant agents. Most came back, ‘thanks, but no thanks’. Some didn’t even come back. Maybe, I thought, it’s not good enough (writers doubt). So I put it to one side. I get the second book, ‘Project Noah’ completed, revised and revised etc . Good comments back from those who read it. Again I paid for editorial input, some constructive, some not quite so constructive (I felt) this time. More revision of course. Then back to the agents. At least I got a few, ‘it’s difficult these days etc., good luck’, this time.
- You can do it yourself: The big change from when I started writing is that e-publishing has taken off. Everything I read on line convinced me that this was not rocket science (sorry!).
- Have faith in your work: I wrote short stories for fun (some are on the web site). I joined a writing group. They liked my work, my style. I reread ‘Ancestral Dreams’ and thought there was still a good story there.
- If you are going to e-publish it has to be right: And remember it’s all down to you. The first thing I did was, review my books yet again. I then found a proof reader who I trusted for that final polish, which of course turned out to be much more. More revision.
- I’m ready to publish, what now?: Well I need a cover, luckily for me I have a son who is a designer (but there are plenty out there who will do this for you).
- Next how do you actually, physically e-publish?: How do you format it? How does it need to look? What needs to be in there, apart from the story? You can, of course, pay someone to do all that. However, I downloaded a format from ‘thebookdesigner.com’. I recommend them – my books loaded into Kindle without a hitch, and I think they look pretty good. I’m not saying you don’t need to do a bit of work to load your manuscript into the template and check it etc. But for me it took out all the guess work.
- What did it all cost?: If I’m honest I have spent about £2,000 per book. Most of that is editing and proof reading costs. Is it money well spent? – most definitely. Remember your book is going to have to stack up against those from professional publishing houses. Are readers going to cut you some slack for being an ‘indie author’?, maybe a little, but only a little. I know I have stopped reading indie published books that I thought were badly written or littered with errors.
- What next?: Sales, self marketing and all that – I’ll let you know.
- So the big question is, was it all worth it?: In terms of what I might get back financially compared to the time I’ve invested, no. In every other way, most definitely YES!. This is what I want to do. As a writer I want people to read and enjoy my work. If that can pay a few of the bills then great.
I’m sure there’s more, perhaps another blog. All tips, help, gratefully received – and freely given. If I can help you, let me know. Good luck.