When is a writer not a Writer?

Answer: when they’re not writing!

I’m sad to say that for some time, that’s been me. It’s not writers block – if such a thing exists – just that I had to put my latest novel on hold when other things took over. First, I was so busy self-publishing, and then promoting, my last novel Moojara, that I didn’t have enough time to work on the new one. And then I was moving house. And not just house: I’ve moved all the way from South Wales to Shropshire. I can tell you that moving is definitely as stressful as has been reported. Stressful, and very, very time consuming.

The move is done now though, and despite being surrounded by still-to-be-unpacked cardboard boxes, I think it’s time to re-familiarise myself with the latest WIP (work in progress) and get back to work. And I’ve decided to try something new. While trying to find software for typesetting that doesn’t cost a fortune and require a masters in typesetting to operate, I came across a program call Scrivener. It’s really a writing aid, but I had hoped it might include some typesetting functionality (beyond the limited capabilities of MS Word). Having downloaded it for the trial period, I now know it doesn’t. But it does look as though it might be useful for the writing process.

Writing a book generates a  huge amount of information. Beyond the manuscript (which itself makes for a very large Word document) there’s notes and ideas for the characters and for plot development. You may need a  calendar to keep track of when things happen, to avoid continuity errors. For the locations you may have photographs, maps, train and bus times. I find myself switching from one Word document to another, then to file explorer to look at images, or Excel to check facts. The idea of Scrivener is that everything is kept as a set of documents within the same software, so you don’t have to keep flitting about from one place to another. Sounds good, but will it work? I’ve run through the long tutorial (they say it should take 2 hours, and it did). And now I’ve created a new project for my latest novel, and begun to load in text and reference material.

I’m a little bit lost at the moment, staring at the screen and struggling to remember what I learnt from the tutorial; trying to work out the right way to import text and images, and whether it’s actually possible to call in a spreadsheet. So far, the software is just proving to be a barrier between me and the writing, which is no good; no good at all. But it’s early days. Hopefully I’ll get to grips with the program soon, and  then I can properly assess whether or not it’s going to work for me. I’ll let you know how it goes…

 

 

Text © Graham Wright 2020
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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Marketing Your Novel

I’ve been through all the stages of publishing my novel, and I’ve done almost everything myself, from editing, to typesetting, to designing a cover. If you haven’t been following, you can read how I did it here: An Idiot’s Guide to Self-Publishing.

Actually, I did get some help with proof-reading and with editing, from friends and family. I called in the professionals for the actual printing of the books, which is the one thing it’s just not practical to do yourself. Up until now I think I’ve coped quite well. But I’ve hit a bit of a block when it comes to marketing.

It began well. I persuaded my two local bookshops, somewhat reluctantly, to take some copies. And their lack of enthusiasm melted away when I managed to get the local paper to run a story about the local author who set up his own publishing company Well, it’s technically true, even if the company so far exists only to sell my own books (that may change one day).  My article, complete with a photo of me printed frighteningly large, made page three (and I didn’t even have to take my top off). I sold a few copies off the back of that article. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept up the momentum. Two bookshops were never going to get me enough sales. So I made Moojara available by mail order, and also set it up as an ebook for sale on Amazon. But availability is not enough; people need to know it’s available, and that requires marketing.

It’s difficult. I’ve got a rough idea of what needs to be done, but it involves an awful lot of work of the kind I’m not really suited to, never having been a ‘people person’. I don’t like to impose on friends, because that’s not what friends are about (although the feedback I’ve had so far would suggest any unhappiness with being press ganged into buying a book would disappear when they started to read it[1.]) Although I don’t actually have many friends. To quote the Mark E. Smith song, I can count them on the fingers of one hand. Even my dog hates me. It’s OK, I’m only joking (I don’t have a dog).

I’ve given copies of the book to my local libraries (Penarth and Cardiff). I’ve tried independent bookshops further afield, in places like Brecon and Crickhowell, but they didn’t want to know. I haven’t even tried Waterstones, as I’ve read that self-published authors stand no chance with them (although perhaps I’m showing a lack of ambition – nothing ventured, nothing gained). Social media is, apparently, an essential tool for self-promotion, but to say I’m not great at social media would be an understatement. One of the most essential ingredients for social media success is time, and that’s something I don’t have much of.

It hasn’t helped that I’ve been distracted by an impending move from South Wales to the North West. We all know how stressful moving house is. I suppose I’ve sub-consciously made the decision to hold fire with the book promotion: it probably isn’t sensible to do a lot of work to promote my novel here, when I’ll soon be moving away. Perhaps my New Year’s resolution will be to take it up again with vigour once I’m settled in my new home. In the mean time, if anyone can offer some encouragement or advice, I’ll be very grateful. Only remember, this is very much a DIY affair – I don’t want to spend more money than I have done already…

 

  1. There you go – blowing your own trumpet isn’t so difficult after all – you just need to channel your inner Poirot.

 

text & image © Graham Wright 2019

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This Poem is Rubbish!

Or at least; it’s called ‘Rubbish’. As you can tell, I’ve been thinking about the environment quite a bit recently (maybe it’s the influence of the inspirational environmental protest group, Extinction Rebellion).

They say the oceans are full of plastic,
But you should see the front gardens where I live
On a windy recycling day;
Scenes of carnage and dismay,
The kind of heart-sinking mess
That’s sure to cause distress;
Make you feel like doing something drastic,
Like devoting your time to collecting it anew,
Something you know you’re not going to do,
Leaving you contaminated by guilt,
Blowing through your mind,
Like plastic bags blowing through the streets.

Where does it all come from?
The rubbish that accumulates in drifts,
Against fences and gates, under hedges,
That wedges in crevices,
Or flies aloft in the breeze,
Catches in trees, or floats in the canal,
Journeys along rivers,
Maybe all the way to the sea,
To wallow like jellyfish,
Be swallowed by many fish,
Seals, dolphins, whales and birds,
The situation is too absurd:
Should never have occurred.
But we human beings are profligate,
With no regard for the environment on which we, too rely.

I blame McDonalds – those golden arches get everywhere.
They don’t seem to care that they’re the cause of so much litter.
See, I reckon they view it as a kind of publicity;
All that discarded packaging is like free advertising,
A subliminal reminder that whenever we’re greedy for a cheap meal,
They’ll always be there with a special ball-burger deal.
But it’s too easy to look for scapegoats,
To blame governments and multi-nationals
For the degradation of the land, the air and the sea.
But while that may be rational,
We too must share the responsibility;
It’s not just the big guys who are tossers.

We need to change the way we live.
No excuse for single use;
Don’t take that plastic bag, for goodness sake,
One day it could spell the demise
Of something that lives in the sea.
Bubble-wrap, shrink-wrap; no way, sorry to be a nag.
They say’s there’s no planet B,
Actually, there is (probably)
But we’ll never see it;
Never bridge the millions of light years.
We’re trapped here, on our own planetary sphere,
Drowning in trash.

Better do what we can; eschew all packaging,
Re-cycle, re-use, don’t fling cigarette ends out of the window,
Dropping litter is a no-no; pick litter instead.
There’s something to be said for getting yourself in rubbish credit.
But when all’s said, it isn’t you and me,
But all the other buggers, who won’t see,
Who can’t be told; who won’t involve themselves
In the battle to save our world from free range plastic.
So where it will end, I’d rather not say,
But sooner or later, human kind will have had its day.


Enjoy your weekend everyone…

Text & NSW poster photo©Graham Wright 2019
Beach photo by Javardh on Unsplash

 

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Stupid Human Part One – Burning the Amazon

We are the third most intelligent species on the planet [1.] our big brains a miracle of evolution. We’ve developed vaccines to defeat disease, held nature at bay, created incredible machines, landed on the moon, and sent satellites out into space beyond our solar system. But this series of posts, which I’ve entitled ‘Stupid Human’, celebrates human kind’s greatest talent – our infinite capacity for stupidity.

We need plants. If someone tells you they’re more of a city person, that they really do prefer concrete, steel and glass, that they don’t do all that horrible green stuff; don’t believe them. They may think that’s how they feel, but studies have shown we have a profound psychological relationship with, and need for, plants. Without them we could perhaps get by at a psychological level. But physically – no chance. Those of us who are concerned about the environment, and particularly the effect that human activity/stupidity is having on it, have been bleating on for years about CO2, rising temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans, etc., etc. Could it be we’ve been missing the point; that the real threat is a little more direct, a bit more simple – oxygen?

We breathe oxygen, and expel carbon dioxide. Plants do the opposite. Without us, there’s more than enough CO2 in the atmosphere to keep plants supplied [2.]. The other way around is a very different story. The only reason planet earth has oxygen in it’s atmosphere in significant levels (i.e. sufficient to support large animals like us) is because we were preceded by plants. Before plants evolved, the atmosphere would have been toxic and could not have supported life such as ours.

The Amazon rainforest has been famously referred to as ‘the lungs of the planet (so famously, I don’t know who said it). It’s been estimated that it produces around twenty percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere. [3.] Burn the Amazon and, quite apart from all the other environmental problems it would cause, we will reduce the oxygen producing capacity of the planet by around a fifth. We could blame an individual, but it took the majority of an entire country of humans to elect a mad-eyed fascist as their president.

Here in the UK we throw our arms up in horror (well, some of us do…), but forget that, before us stupid humans arrived, our tiny island was pretty much entirely forested. Now, we’re down to thirteen percent (ten percent in England) [4.] And the plant loss isn’t just historic. Successive governments boast about planting large numbers of trees, but for the truth, look around you. Around the country, front gardens are being levelled for parking, street trees are being chopped down to save on maintenance costs, ever more green land is being lost to development. New roads in particular, and bonkers projects like HS2 (which stands for Holy Shit 2 – as in ‘Holy Shit, I can’t believe a government could be so stupid as to do that’) are resulting in what remains of our precious ancient forests being destroyed. We can’t in any way claim to be part of the solution.

As the quantity of oxygen producing organisms (i.e. plants) continues to diminish (because of us), how long before we begin to see a thinning of the air we breathe? Could it be that our great grand children/grand children/children won’t meet their demise (thanks to preceding generations) at the hands of rising seas and changing climate – they’ll simply suffocate for want of oxygen?

[1.] After dolphins and mice (according to Douglas Adams in his ‘Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy’)

[2.] Actually, thanks to us there is literally more than enough CO2 in the atmosphere!

[3.] Taylor, L. (1996). Saving the Rainforest. Retrieved 08 30, 2019, from The Raintree Group, Inc: http://csc.columbusstate.edu/summers/Outreach/RainSticks/fRainforestFacts.htm

[4.] Forest Research. (2019). Woodland Statistics. Retrieved 08 30, 2019, from Forest Research: https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/statistics/statistics-by-topic/woodland-statistics/


Text © Graham Wright 2019
Image © Igor Lepilin on unsplash

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Moojara in the news – the value of a good press release…

There are many ways to market your novel. Getting its release reported on in newspapers and magazines is a good way to potentially boost sales. But unless you’re an established author (or perhaps even if you are an established author) you need a good press release, with an angle that an editor can use. Mine must have been OK, because it got my story onto page four of my local paper,  the Penarth Times.

It isn’t the national press. To date, I haven’t seen any paparazzi hanging around outside my house. But it’s a start. And the local press are not to be underestimated. The publicity seems to have had some effect, as my local book shop, Griffin Books, have asked for more copies of Moojara to replace those they have sold following the article being published.

I’m quite a private person, so to open the local newspaper and see a photo of myself was quite disconcerting. I hadn’t imagined they would print the photo quite so big! For me, it’s about the book, but for the paper, I guess, it’s all about people, so the author is the focus. I’ll have to get used to that (if I’m lucky!) When you write a book you create something in your own mind which morphs into something slightly different in the minds of the readers. The author creates the book, but is also (particularly in the case of an author who self-publishes) the vehicle that delivers the book out into the world. So this might not be the last time I see my ugly mug staring back at me from a newspaper, magazine, or website.

The thing is, I think, not to stand still. I need to build on the momentum. This year local. Next year national. And maybe the year after that, global. I need to keep looking for new opportunities to publicise my novel. So if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

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Moojara – Book Launch

At last – here it is! It seems like a long time ago that I finished writing this book. The process of getting it into print has been almost as time consuming as writing it, and rather more stressful. I’ve edited, re-edited, and then edited again.  I learnt rudimentary typesetting and researched the publishing process till I was blue in the face. I designed a cover, set myself up as a publisher, bought a batch of ISBN numbers, and found a printer. And at last, I’m there!

What’s it about?

In the ‘blurb’, I say that ‘More than anything else, Moojara is an exploration of whether it’s possible to swap the life you have for the life you want.‘ It follows two characters who meet on the other side of the world (to the UK!) Two, incongruous individuals who are in Perth, Western Australia, for different reasons, living different lives, having had very different journeys. Or so it appears. But both are working towards a new life. Maya is in Perth by choice, focussed on what she wants; determined to get it. Alex, on the other hand, set out on an adventure without particularly knowing what he wanted to achieve, other than having an adventure. He had more of an adventure than he’d bargained for, or would have wanted – events have landed him in Perth, washed ashore by the currents, so to speak. But will either of these strategies lead to happiness? And what kind of relationship can be formed between two people who appear to have so little in common, and such contrasting personalities?

The book is first and foremost about people; their lives and aspirations, and the interaction between characters. But it also has a strong storyline, with drama, intrigue and suspense – there are a few surprises along the way.

If you’d like a copy, Moojara can be ordered direct from Strelitzia Publishing (£8.99 + £3.20 P&P), or from any bookshop. It’s also available as an ebook (£1.99)

If you’re in the area, Moojara is stocked by the following local bookshops:

Griffin Books, Windsor Rd, Penarth
Octavo’s Bookshop & Cafe, West Bute St, Cardiff Bay

Next: The joys of marketing…

 

Text & images ©Graham Wright 2019

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Novel number 2 at last, and how not to Design a Cover

Self-publishing a novel is a complex, time consuming and potentially expensive process. Paying for a designer to create a book cover for you is one expense you can avoid; if you have some basic design skills, and the confidence to do the job yourself.

You’ll need some design software. I used Adobe Elements, a cut-down version of Photoshop, with most of the functionality, but at a fraction of the price (I had this software already, so it cost me nothing). There’s probably some free software out there that would do the job. Or you could download a free trial version, but you’ll need to be quick, as you only get 7 days free with Photoshop, or 15 free with Corel Draw. If you’re not familiar with the software there’s a lot to learn in a short time.

There are really only two approaches. The easy way is to find a photograph you like, and which evokes the spirit and subject matter of your book. There are a huge range of professional photos available on the wibbly-wobbly-web. Sources such as Unsplash allow you to use images from their archive for free, for both non-commercial and  commercial purposes.  Having downloaded a photo, you can copy it into your cover file. You can just have it on the front cover, leaving the back cover and spine a solid colour. Or you can have it wrap around the spine and onto the back cover (but make sure it isn’t too dark/light so that the small text won’t show up). Then you just need to position and format the text (Title, author name, blurb, price and ISBN) and leave a space for the barcode. It’s an easy way to get a serviceable, professional looking cover.

And then there’s the hard way. Instead of using a stock photograph (which won’t be unique to you by the way, so it could potentially turn up elsewhere; maybe even on the cover of another book) you could use one of your own photographs. You could then start adding other effects, such as an opaque panel overlay. The author name could straddle this panel, with the first name above it, in the same colour (and opaque) and the surname cut out of the panel, in negative. You could draw the outline of a figure, shade it and blur it, to create a shadowy profile. And then, while you’re at it, why not teach yourself Aboriginal-style dot painting, so you can create some interesting dot-painted shapes to swirl around the figure, then wind their way round and across the back cover. I’m rarely one to take the easy option.

Creating the cover for my latest novel took me a long time, but I am pleased with the result. I think it looks professional, but distinctive. It looks as if it’s been individuality designed, as if some thought’s gone into it (which it has), which I hope will make it stand out, in a good way, from the generic, photo-based covers that are more usual for a self-published book. I’m hoping, in fact, that it doesn’t look like a self-published book. But you can be the judge of that. Next time…

 

 

Text and images ©Graham Wright 2019

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