Right. Unfortunately, over the last year or so, the real world has intruded far too much… much as I enjoy the writing, I’ve got to put bread on the table.

But the feedback I’ve received over that period has been pretty overwhelmingly positive – and that includes input from professionals in the field – so I very definitely want to continue. I’d already been planning on making it a series of at least three, and one of the things I was told a couple of times at a writers’ seminar and workshop in York (England) was that completed sets are indeed more marketable than single books with vague plans for follow-ups. So here we go: a Christmas sabbatical to get the ideas for RED and GRN into shape.

It’s arrived!

It’s taken a while, but I’m delighted to say that several boxes of copies of YLO have arrived from the printer. And they look really good – just like they were supposed to. Brilliant!

Now for a correspondingly large bulk order of jiffy bags and I can start posting the advance orders off.

(The only fly in the ointment at the moment is that Tessera as the publisher still hasn’t been verified as a seller with Amazon, who seem unbelievably pernickety and distrustful.)

Getting it out there…

Although I’m not intending making any effort to advertise YLO until I’ve got a paperback version too, I’m still delighted to say that the book is now out there and available worldwide on Amazon… with the possible unfortunate exception of the US of A, where bugs and ISBN issues seem to have left it in limbo. But there you are: available worldwide!

Picking a printer

The first decision, of course, was whether I wanted the expense of a print run for YLO at all. Plenty of the authors I’ve been in contact with who are self-publishing don’t bother, saying they’re happy enough being e-books only (and insisting that they aren’t cheapskating!) or that there’s a perfectly adequate alternative for the few physical copies they require in the form of print-on-demand services from Amazon and the like. And I have to admit, shipping costs to countries outside Europe are so prohibitive for me that this may be the cheaper option for many readers.

I did want a print run of some kind, though. Vanity, perhaps, but after all the effort I’ve put in I want a physical book and I want it to look good. The cover by Mike Beckom is excellent, with the logo and author’s name just right for embossing as a nice extra touch.

So I went looking: two or three random picks off the net plus two or three recommendations from small publishers who I do translation work for.

  • The range of offers I got for exactly the same requirements was really quite surprising: a factor of three. So it’s definitely worth shopping around!
  • The unit price goes down as the number of copies goes up, as would be expected. It’s the way it positively plummets that is striking: the unit price can halve between a tiny print run and a small one, and halve again for a large one.
  • Extras like embossing on the cover, a four-colour full-wrap cover, using FSC paper and a laminated gloss finish are all available if you ask from pretty much all the printers. The first of these varied a lot in price, incidentally, from adding pennies to the unit price through to adding over 10% extra.
  • It may be a bigger thing in Europe than the USA and elsewhere, but I’d quite like to be able to put the FSC logo on the inside. State my green credentials. However, it turns out that this depends not on any agreement the publisher makes or on the use of FSC-approved paper of on the manufacturer of the paper, but on the printer having a certificate.

But the choice has now been made and it was sent to the printer yesterday!

The perils of the Amazon…

Wow. Marketing your work on Amazon was supposed to be easy. For some reason, it’s been a complete mess for me!

  • I wanted the cheapest plan, but somehow ended up with a professional one. No problem – you can change it after you’ve finished registering, before your credit card gets charged.
  • Ah, but you can’t complete registering because they need proof of ID and address and a bank account. So that’s thirty bucks off the card in the meantime.
  • Oh no, can’t be in Dutch. We need a notarized translation.
  • But the information’s there. Look: let me point out the non-translatable items like the IBAN code, my name, my address…
  • Hey, you can’t annotate documents like that and send them to us. That’s forgery. Your account has now been suspended. That’s another fifty bucks off the card too, by the way.
  • Oh yes, now we need a utility statement to prove the address, plus business licence details. (Whatever the equivalent of that might be: my Chamber of Commerce and VAT numbers?)
  • Finally I get the information they require in the requisite format. No JPEGs, but it’s fine to make a PNG from the JPG. Now I’m allowed to market in the USA!
  • Or I might be if it weren’t for the fact that their system doesn’t accept my perfectly valid Dutch ISBN numbers. Please submit proof on paper… but the Dutch system is entirely electronic.

This feels like it could go on for quite some time. Aaaaargh!

There are actually people out there who’ll skip a prologue!

Would you believe that there are lots of people out there who won’t read anything called a “Prologue” on principle? That came out of a discussion among a group of F/SF writers just recently. On the blatantly erroneous grounds that it’ll only ever be back-story and should therefore be covered somehow in the main body of the novel too. Staggeringly stupid, but it’s the attitude about half the respondents took! If it’s not relevant in YLO, why the hell would I have written it? I found it hard to believe, but nevertheless: if that’s the attitude people are going to take, then at the very least I’m going to rechristen my prologue to something else so that the plonkers do actually read it. Another last-minute editorial change…

Flexibility among copyright holders? No way.

When does a reference to something from another work stop being an attempt to raise a wry smile and become plagiarism or infringe copyright?

Three examples I wanted in YLO:

  • a drug called semuta, as in Frank Herbert’s Dune
  • a minor character’s name taken from a John Wyndham short story
  • mere hints that a long-gone society might perhaps have been the one from the Handmaid’s Tale

There’s no attempt to exploit the original, we’re talking single words and names (not chunks of text), it’s not fan fiction (not even in the same “universe”) and in no way denigrating the original. Just perhaps making aficionados grin.

At least I had the smarts to check whether these minuscule, innocent homage-style references were okay. Three strikes and out: blunt and unequivocal refusals from Brian Herbert, the agents representing the estate of John Wyndham and Margaret Atwood’s publisher.

Here comes the artwork!

Well, a couple of weeks ago I took the plunge and started working with a designer for the cover for YLO and I’m delighted to say that it’s already starting to look pretty good. Hence the provisional version that’s now gracing the homepage: great work by Mike Beckom, with a nicely revamped logo and a grunge texture over it that instantly encapsulates the fact that this world is no paradise.