Idiot’s Guide to Self-Publishing… Part Three

The range of services that self-publishing companies offer writers varies greatly. Some are straightforward printers, who will produce copies of your book from the cover image and manuscript you provide them with. Some offer everything you might need, from editing and cover design, to formatting and typesetting, to distribution and marketing. So how do you choose the right company to self-publish with?

The first thing is to know what you want. There’s no point paying for services you don’t need.


So, you need to find a company that provides the right services for you. Good places to start are the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book, and the Alliance of Independent Authors. My tips for ensuring you find the right company are: Continue reading

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Idiots Guide to Self-Publishing… Part Two

In Part One, I explained what I wanted to achieve – to self-publish my second novel – why and how I was going to go about it.  I talked about why, for most unpublished authors, paying a freelance editor to edit your manuscript is likely to be a waste of money, and how, with limited design skills, and the use of free guidance and software, you can design a passable cover yourself (again, saving money most of us can ill afford to spend).  In this post, I’ll go through the next stages and the various options that are available.

It’s been over two months since I posted Part One. I’m ashamed. Why has it taken so long? There are a number of reasons. Life, as ever, has got in the way. I said in Part One that I was going to save some money by designing the cover myself. As usual, rather than making it simple, I’ve been working on something a bit more elaborate. I’m confident it will turn out well eventually, but it’s taking some time.
A rough mood board for my cover design

I said there was a great deal of work involved in self-publishing. There are an enormous number of companies offering self-publishing services, from straight forward book printers, to those that will do pretty much everything (except write the book for you). The process (or rather, processes – there are various stages to go through) is quite complicated.
Continue reading

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An Idiot’s Guide to Self-Publishing… Part One

The idiot in question being yours truly! Having researched the subject, I’ve discovered that self-publishing takes a lot of work, time, effort, and can involve spending what to most of us is a significant amount of money. And all with no guarantee of actually selling any copies of your book, and generating some income. So am I an idiot?
Continue reading

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Royal Wedding? What bloody Royal wedding?

I’m sorry to rain on peoples’ parade (though the royals have been reigning on mine for as long as I can remember) but I’ve no interest in the royal wedding. In fact, not only am I not interested, I positively don’t want to hear about it.

Every time I switch on radio, TV, or internet and hear another royal correspondent fawning sickeningly over ‘the royal couple’, it makes me more irritated. And it reminds me just how out of tune with society I am. Sometimes I just don’t understand people. Actually, scratch that – I don’t understand people most of the time. And I’m sure people don’t understand me, so let me explain myself. If two people that I don’t know, and are not known to anyone else that I know, are getting married, I don’t see why I should be expected to show any interest in their wedding. Any more than I would be interested in any of the other weddings, between people I don’t know, that take place up and down the country every day. Oh, but this couple are special. What, because they’re privileged and wealthy? Sorry, that doesn’t endear them to me. But it’s the royal family, isn’t it!

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m not that keen on the royal family. In celebrating the monarchy we are celebrating a tradition whereby the ordinary people were subjugated and oppressed by a tiny, privileged minority. Oh, but it’s not the same now,  they don’t have the power they used to. No, but they still draw down huge quantities of our hard earned cash from the exchequer. Surfs [1.] like me are still expected to bow and to scrape, to use the prescribed sycophantic descriptors such as ‘your royal majesty’; to speak only when spoken to, and don’t whatever you do touch the royal person. And they still have some powers, even if they are only nominal ones. Above all, again I would cite the argument that we are celebrating the cruel and unjust way this country was governed.

People say ‘so you’re a republican then’, using the word as a pejorative, as if we all agree that wouldn’t do. But what does it actually mean? Would we really need a president if we lose the royal family? It’s only the queen who has any necessary parliamentary duties, and these barely take up any of her time. Give them to the character known as Black Rod (and make his job subject to equal opportunities and appointment through a standard recruitment procedure). And then we can give queenie a modest pension and a small house in the country, and let all the little royal  hangers-on support themselves.

So I won’t be watching the royal wedding today. Nothing could make me. I did get a bit interested when I heard Harry’s father might be giving the bride away. If the bride’s mother was doing it, I still wouldn’t watch. Maybe if it was a humanist wedding, with the ceremony conducted to a soundtrack of dub reggae (plus Handel’s coronation anthem, of course) with readings by Benjamin Zephaniah, I might be more interested. I do think it’s a good thing that the royal family is becoming more diverse (it’s great that they felt able to welcome a ginger person into the family).

At least you can wish them well, can’t you? No. Why should I? Any more than I should for any other couple I don’t know. I’m willing to believe they’re both very nice people, but I don’t know them. I don’t wish them ill. That’s the most I’ll concede…

 

  1. That’s ‘Surf’ not ‘Smurf’ – although thinking about the royals does make me blue.

 

Text copyright Graham Wright 2018

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Religious Intrusion in Perth

Mrs Literarylad and I have recently come back from a holiday in Australia. In Perth, we metaphorically walked our legs off exploring this city that we know well from previous visits, but which is changing rapidly.

Down by the waterfront, the walking got too much and, like a couple of toddlers that refuse to go any further, we just had to sit down for a while. It was a great place to stop, looking out across the water to South Perth, Heirisson Island and  King’s Park away to our right. But our peace was disturbed by an unwanted intrusion when two young guys turned up and made straight for us. Continue reading

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The Vegetarian – book review

Until now, the few reviews I’ve done on this blog have been of books, and films, that I’ve liked, the rationale being that if you can’t find something good to say, then don’t say anything. I don’t like to be critical, but sometimes, in the interest of balance,  perhaps I should be. This is the time, and The Vegetarian, by Han Kang, is the book.


Warning

This review gives away a lot of the plot so, as they say on the sports reports, if you don’t want to know the result, look away now… Continue reading

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Should writers really be using grammar correction software?

A few days ago, while I was looking at a website, a video advert appeared for something called ‘Grammarly’. I hadn’t heard of it before, but no prizes for guessing it’s an app that checks your grammar (as well as spelling and punctuation). I don’t know why, but I’ve never really thought that such a thing might exist. I have to admit I was appalled, and particularly concerned about the implication for writers, but should I have been?

Grammarly doesn’t have the market all to itself. As you might imagine, if one company is selling a grammar checker, others will be too. Two of the more imaginatively named competitors are White Smoke and Ginger. White Smoke says it will:

improve your writing by catching common grammatical, spelling…’ etc. ‘The result is elevated writing that conveys a command of the English language.‘ (1.)

But shouldn’t we all be able to write in a way that ‘conveys a command of the English language’? It hurts me to think that in the twenty-first century people are still coming out of school unable to do that for themselves. These apps target, amongst others, students. I can’t help thinking that giving students access to these tools isn’t a good idea, but it’s the application of this kind of tool to those who write for a living that concerns me most.

According to the website (and just in case you were wondering, I’m not getting paid for adding these links):

Grammarly helps you write mistake free…‘ it ‘corrects…grammar, punctuation, spelling mistakes, contextual errors, suggests style improvements.‘ (2.)

It’s that phrase ‘suggests style improvements‘. For anyone who writes for a living, whether you’re a journalist, you have to produce business reports now and then, or you come up with the rhymes that go into greetings cards, I’d call that cheating. I’d give you the analogy of putting a guidance system into a golf ball, so that however much the player slices the shot, the ball always stays on the fairway.

But for a creative writer – a writer of fiction – it’s even worse. Because ‘style’, surely, is what gives  a writer their identity; what the publishing industry, with its love of euphemism, calls the writer’s ‘voice’. It’s interesting that, as writers are increasingly expected to be adept in marketing, computing software is taking away the need for some of their more fundamental skills. Do grammar checking apps diminish the craft of writing? You could argue that fiction writing (or at least, mainstream fiction writing) is becoming ever more homogenised, with writers being trammelled into producing work that fits into narrow formulaic categories. These kind of spell-checker-on-steroids apps are unlikely to do anything for the diversification of creative writing.

Surely producing interesting prose that communicates effectively, has character, style, and is maybe even beautiful, whilst also being grammatically correct (although we have the prerogative to break the rules on purpose) is what makes a writer. If the process of writing involves being trailed by an app that changes the order of your words, or suggests alternative phrasings in real time, doesn’t that take away much of the satisfaction? Doesn’t it mean that the finished work is rather less your own work?

This is modern life. The machines allow us to achieve more and more that we couldn’t manage on our own. But there’s a price to pay. We are increasingly allowing ourselves to be moulded to fit the machines; the laptops, tablets, phones – the devices. It’s something of a Faustian pact – the computers offer us things we could only ever imagine, but in some respects, we’re giving up our souls in return. The machines allow us to fly, but one day they’ll stop, either because they’ve become so advanced they realise they don’t need us any more, or because our delicate, over-elaborate ‘tech’ infrastructure is rendered useless by a change in our circumstances. And then what are we going to do?

The Top Ten Reviews website (3.) gives Grammarly a gold award and says it’s their best performer. But at the same time, they give it an accuracy figure of on 60%, so perhaps these apps are not all they’re cracked up to be. And maybe these grammar checking apps aren’t actually much more than advanced spell-checkers. Or perhaps the damage they do in relieving us of the need to be able to ‘write properly’ will be outweighed by their ability to teach us how to write properly.

What do you think? Do they devalue our talents as writers, or are they just another tool to help us communicate more effectively?

Oh, and if you find any mistakes in this post, it will be because I didn’t use a grammar checker…

 

  1. http://www.whitesmoke.com
  2. https://www.grammarly.com
  3. http://www.toptenreviews.com/software/education/best-writing-enhancement-software/

 

Text copyright Graham Wright 2018

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