A matter of timing . . .

Strange times. Strange times indeed. Like the rest of the world I am largely in lockdown. Venturing out to walk the dog, heading into the garden for an hour to throw some weights around (I think the gyms closing hit me harder than the pubs).

I’m still working, although my regular crown and magistrates’ court beat is done and dusted for now – I’m largely writing stories about positive things people are doing for each other during the coronavirus pandemic.

Me with my book – A Garden of Bones

It is pretty much the only story in town at the minute, after all, and to be fair, people are doing some incredible things out there – from launching workout videos to help older people stay active, to donating masks and other protective equipment to the NHS, to cooking off all the fish and chips in their soon-to-be-closed chippie for the elderly and vulnerable and NHS workers.

It’s fair to say that we are living through ‘interesting times’.

‘May you live in interesting times’ is an ancient Chinese curse btw.

I’ve always loved apocalyptic fiction – from Stephen King’s The Stand through I am Legend, and Day of the Triffids, and if I can make any predictions on the back of all of this – aside from a baby-boom and an increase in domestic violence and divorce – it would be a massive spike in people writing ‘end of the world’ novels.

Might even do one myself. We’ll see.

But what is a bit of a dilemma as a recently published author – did I mention I’ve just published my book A Garden on Bones, which is now available to buy on Amazon? – is how do you keep the impetus going during such difficult and challenging times. And, actually, should you?

The answer, I have concluded, is ‘F**k, yes.”

I’m not in any way making light of the situation, really I’m not. But people are stuck at home. People are bored, crawling at the walls. I have never seen so many joggers running past my house. They need something to do, they need something to read.

To make it worse for people who love reading, the bookshops are closed, along with the libraries. Elderly people can’t even meet their friends to swap. I’m planning a book run to my mother’s house later this week – to effectively dump a load of paperbacks on her front lawn for her to collect later from a safe distance.

Problem is that I read a lot of crime, thrillers and horror, whereas her tastes tend to be Victorian romances/hard luck stories, and the only Victorian-based novels I’ve got in my collection are Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet – and I really don’t want to finish her off from any other causes.

So she’ll just have to make do with Robert Harris and Jo Nesbo for now.

But I am pushing my book all the same, and next month I’m going to drop its price on Kindle to 99p for a week (other currencies are available, depending on where you’re reading this from in the world) and I want people to be able to access it and enjoy it (hopefully) at a time when they may be worrying about making ends meet.

Selfishly, perhaps, I also want people to buy it . . . although mostly I want them to read it.

Kindle, in many ways, is the answer for readers through this sh*t-show . . . at least until the electricity does. I AM JOKING.

It takes 30 seconds to pick a book, buy it, or borrow it, and download it.

I don’t think my timing was in any way perfect . . . I’d have preferred not to have put it out their days before the 21st Century’s equivalent of the Black Death . . . but it’s out there. Buy it, read it, borrow it, share it . . . please.

It’s available on Amazon at the moment. I’ll put it out on IngramSpart in a few months, but I’m waiting until the libraries to reopen for that one.

I’M BAAAAAAAACK

When I first started this blog I was determined to put up something daily.

Then it became weekly . . .

Then, erm . . .

I have been a bit remiss of late. Sorry.

There have been reasons. I won’t go into the hours at work I’ve been doing, trying to ignore the coronavirus, then having to worry about the coronavirus, family commitments, life commitments, making sure I get my hours in at the gym (yes, I am a fitness obsessive) blah, blah, blahhhh.

You don’t care about any of that . . . apart from the coronavirus.

Firstly, let me sat . . . A GARDEN OF BONES IS OUTTTTTTTTT.

Yep. It’s available to buy in print and to pre-order as an ebook (out on Friday, November 20) – this far on Amazon but will be available on other platforms shortly. Principally IngramSpark, as they have the biggest ‘in’ with the library and indy bookshop market.

And it’s selling. A trickle, perhaps, but it’s only been out there for couple of days, and the majority of us independents sell most of our work digitally. Print is pretty much for those who have not been converted to the brave new world of Kindle . . . and your mum.

I’ve appeared on Hold the Front Page – a website dedicated to journalism news in the UK – and I’m going on BBC Radio Nottingham twice this week to plug it. I’m lucky. The Wycherley Murders was a very high-profile murder back in 2013, and earlier this year it was announced that Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman would be playing one of the killers in a major new TV drama.

Anyway, I’ve now got an author/book page on Amazon and I’m in the process of doing the same on Goodreads. All the essential marketing and PR stuff . . . again, I’m a journalist, so I know how it works, I know how to ‘get myself out there’.

Where I really hit a wall, and I’m putting this out there to anyone who is going through this process, or who is even thinking about putting a book out through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and the company’s Print on Demand (PoD) service . . .

Please note . . .

IT IS A F*****G NIGHTMARE.

I did everything right.

I ignored all the Amazon guidance on page shapes. They are basically aware that the majority of online readers access books through their mobile phones, so they recommend a page shape that is exactly the same shape as a mobile phone – tall and thin – which is fine for those who red your book on their iPhone, but crap if you buy it on a Kindle, or, shock-horror, prefer to turn a physical page.

I avoided their page formatting tools, their cover design templates.

PLEASE.

SERIOUSLY.

DO NOT USE THESE OPTIONS.

THEY LOOK CRAAAAAAAAP.

I hired in a cover designer and an interiors designer, and I’m so delighted that I did. Both Liam Relph and Andrew Tennant worked wonder. When my first copy landed through the letterbox the other day it looked like it could have been sent by HarperCollins.

The problem was loading the bloody thing up. And there’s nobody to help you at KDP, Nobody to get on the phone to and talk you through it. They’re currently not offering a phone service to writers in the UK. You have to email. And when you do email, you basically get an unhelpful response, basically telling you that you must have ‘f**ked up’ and to go back and work out what you’ve done wrong, according to the guidance that they haven’t really given you.

In the end, after calling my designers back in, weeping on a number of occasions and punching a table, we realised that I’d set the paper colour to white, and not cream. It makes a difference. Cream paper is thinner and by setting it to white it will mean that your cover design is out by a couple of mm – and therefore doesn’t meet KDP’s quality standards. It’s a crap system, and they don’t take any responsibility for the fact that it’s a crap system.

It’s a downside. They are an international company, and the bedrock for any independent author. But because of that, they really do not care about you or their sh**e system. If you don’t or can’t publish your book, there are plenty more in the queue.

Anyway, my book is out. Buy it please . . . on Amazon.