Getting closer . . .

Over the last few days ‘sh*t has gotten real’ as the saying goes. I now have a book cover, following a massive amount of input from friends and colleagues. There have been some tweaks and changes along the way, obviously . . . otherwise what’s the point of consulting people.

The book itself is almost ready to go – print pdfs are back and I’m just waiting on the digital versions to be returned. Over the next couple of days A Garden of Bones should also be visible to the world, after ISBNs were assigned a yesterday.

I can also reveal that the official release date for both print and ebook editions will be March 20

There is, frankly, a vast amount still to do before that date – I’m currently getting a media pack together, which I’ll be publishing on this site in the days ahead, hopefully a round of interviews with journalists and bloggers, an official launch event to put together and the ongoing marketing battle.

And that’s on top of continuing to turn up for the day job.

Hence the brevity of this post. More soon.

Almost there . . .

The most difficult thing I’ve had to deal with recently, in terms of getting A Garden of Bones out is deciding on a cover design. The problem, I think, is that I am a creative snob.

I’m going with this one, but changing the sub-head . . . because it’s too flippant.

I had two designs to consider. I loved one, although while, for me, it was more creatively fulfilling, I sort of knew the other one would work better in terms of selling copies. One looked like a true crime book, the other like a crime novel. I’ve said all of this before, so won’t go back over old ground.

I even went as far as asking for a mash-up of the two covers to see if that presented a solution. It didn’t. Everybody hated it and, in a nutshell, saw it as a weaker version (whether they were in favour of one design or another) of the cover they liked.

And I’ve got to say a massive thank you to my cover designer, Liam Relph, for his patience.

What I’ve come to realise, is that from where I’m at now, this has become a commercial over a creative process. It’s about flogging books. And while I initially preferred the other design . . . classier, referenced my involvement in the story, acknowledged me etc etc . . . that was my own ego messing with the process.

I preferred this one, but it was just too ‘true crime’

This is about the book; making sure that it attracts as many people as possible, gets as many people buying it as possible. And for that to happen, you have to take personal ego out of the equation. You have to think about the reader . . . your market, your target audience, and what will draw them in, what will make them click ‘buy’ on their Kindle or their phone.

My strategy, at present, is to offer it to Kindle on their 70 per cent exclusivity deal, and to access their services for print sales.

But the best thing about the KDP thingy, is that it only applies to e-books. They really don’t care about print copies. So you can sign up for this and get a massive 70 per cent on all digital sales, but also push it out to other providers.

So I’m going to go with IngramSpark as my second print supplier, because they supply print copies to a lot of libraries around the world, to a lot of independent bookshops; and because their print editions come out in a much higher quality that Amazon’s offering. Ultimately, if you buy a print book, you want it to sit with the rest of your book collection once you’ve finished it and not look like a cheap addition.

I’ve also resisted Amazon’s preferred manuscript shape. They’d prefer you to publish tall and thin so it works on smartphones.

This was the mash-up . . . and nobody liked it

Fuck that, frankly.

It’s a book, in my eyes, so it’s book-shaped.

This whole thing is running wild at the moment. I’m dealing with cover designers, I’m dealing with page designers, I’m setting up a publishing company, which I’ve called Crazy Dog Publishing (another post for another day), which is essentially for my writing, but wouldn’t rule out expanding.

I’ve forked out £170 buying ISBN numbers – block of 10 when I actually need two – although I may need more in the future.

There may be an audiobook (watch this space) and I sort of want to put out a large print version. My mother suffered a stroke a couple of years ago and is slowly losing her sight. I wanted her to b able to read it in a format that worked for her, but also saw the commercial potential in that market. Old people love a bit of crime, a bit of true crime, don’t they.

But it’s all very real now. It’ all a month away, at best. And I know I’ve got a winner. Afterall, it’s only taken half a decade to get to this point.

You can’t please everyone . . .

This is what I’ve discovered from sharing my book over on here and through various social media sites. I’m going to be honest here, when I first posted these two images a few days ago, my own firm favourite was the one on the left.

My cover design dilemma

I thought it would be a stand-out winner . . . an initially it was. Sorted, I thought. But then the other one started to grow in traction, and it grew big time. I initially thought it was a bit cheesie, for want of better word.

Perhaps being more analytical, I thought it looked a bit like every other crime novel that you see on the shelves, whether real or digital.

But people disagreed. They loved the spade. They thought it was a striking piece of imagery which got under the skin of the story like nothing else.

“If I as browsing for a book and I saw the one with the spade, that’s the one I would go for,” one friend said.

Although most of the people who commented in approval of the other one thought it looked a lot classier.

The one that I initially likes best

The snag, I have discovered, is that one looks clearly like a true crime book. The other looks like a crime novel . . . and ideally I want something that encapsulates A Garden of Bones’ uniqueness – not quite true crime, not quite fiction.

As an experiment at this stage, I’ve gone back to my designer and asked him to blend the two images. Take the spade imagery and impose it onto the other design, also getting rid of the newspaper cutting which runs along the right hand side. Keeping the ‘classy look’ but preserving that imagery that people love.

Will this work? I honestly don’t know. It could be the perfect blend . . . or it could end up being a weaker version of both designs. Time will tell.

But what all of this has brought home to me is the importance of sharing, and the importance of taking feedback on board. I did the same with the writing process, through its later stages. I sought out criticism to make the overall product as good as I could make it, and that process is still ongoing.

The one that I think will sell more copies

But ultimately, because I’ve written something I feel is unique in terms of where it sits on the fiction/non-fiction spectrum, if my cover design mash-up idea doesn’t work, I’m going to have to come down on one side of the fence or another. And because I want this to succeed, I’m going to have to go with the one that I think will attract more readers; sell more copies.

And if that ends up being the case, that will have to be the one with the spade. Sometimes it isn’t all about aesthetics. Sometimes it’s doing what you need to do to get the sales.

Because my book, just like yours, deserves to be read.

Just a quick one . . .

I think we’re almost there. My typesetting is almost there for the innards, and I’ve had a long chat with my cover artist today, so I hope that within a month A Garden of Bones will be good to meet the world.

Andy Done Johnson

I asked a number of people to read it prior to publication and write truly honest reviews. These are all people I know professionally. But the directive was simple . . . Do not suck my d!c$. Be honest. If you hate it, please say that you hate it. You will be doing me a favour.

“It’s a book that works on many levels . . .”

Jon Smart

Anyway, here is one of them, written by a guy who grew up and still lives in the town where A Garden of Bones is set.

AND I am eternally grateful.

“With a deft pen, Andy Done-Johnson gives a first-hand account of how he broke a true crime story which was gripping, shocking and bizarre in equal measure.

It’s a book that works on many levels.

First and foremost, it gives a journalist’s perspective on what it’s like to catch the story of a lifetime, then stay one step ahead of the press pack to keep it alive.

It’s also a study into the character and psychology of the story’s main protagonists, the perpetrators of such a chilling and callous crime, and the police officers tasked with tracking them down and piecing together the jigsaw of what happened.

Finally, it tells the story of the disintegration of a former mining town that has never recovered from its main industry and employment source closing down, and the devastating impact on the unfolding investigation of ever-tightening budget cuts on a force that’s already been stripped to the bone.

An assured debut.

Jon Smart.”

I’ll be sharing the artwork soon . . . and maybe a bit more of the book.