With Proud Humility: From start to finish

With the first novel of mine finally finished and in print I thought I’d share the timeline of how things went in writing it. This is also my 100th blog and I figured a nice way to mark me actually being relatively successful at blogging.

6th April 2007

A discussion with one of my friends online resulted in me having an idea for a book (while in the shower)

I then wrote the first 600 words or so in a frenzy of writing delight. I hadn’t written in well over a year and it felt very good. I vowed then and there that I would finish the book.

9th April 2007

I uploaded a polished version of the first 600 words or so to the Wiki page for the society of the MMO I’m playing (puzzle pirates, yes I still play). I got 5 people in the society reading it, including the friend that sparked it.

Over the next month I wrote and uploaded 4 more chunks of approx 600 words each.

November 2007

I realised I had totally forgotten about the book again and needed to continue. I wrote another 2k words that month. I also attended a writers meeting and took what I had along. It’s the first time my husband took me wanting to write seriously. It’s was also the first time I really begin to take it seriously.

24th December 2007

I was bored and didn’t know what to do while waiting for Christmas to come so I wrote some more, bringing the total up to approx 7k words. I also told the first few other people that I was considering writing as a career. I’d finally realised I loved writing even if I didn’t understand what that meant.

January 2008

I started to take the book more seriously as a whole and renamed a bunch of characters as well as rewrote some really bad chunks. I also finally plotted out the rest of the book chapter by chapter.

February 2008

I handed my notice in at my job, wanting a less stressful one with less hours so I could spend more time writing.

April 2008-September 2008

I started temping in various locations, writing in between short term temp jobs. By the end of September I had got approx 20k words done and was introducing myself as a writer to people I met. I still attended any of the writers meet ups I can in Bath. I also made my first estimate on the final book count, around 70k words.

October 2008

I finally got a part time job and settled into a writing routine. Writing approximately 2k words per week on a good week and about 500 on a bad. I really wasn’t very disciplined but I was making progress.

January 2009

I had about 35k words and felt like half way there.

At this point I started researching publishing options from the traditional way, to Print on demand, to completely self funding a print run. I decided I didn’t really like any of them that much  which was typical me really. I always want to change a revolutionise things.

I did have a natural leaning towards print on demand though. I didn’t like the gatekeeper mentality of  the traditional route and I couldn’t afford to fund a print run large enough to make it worth doing. Unfortunately I also couldn’t find a Print on demand service that didn’t charge a huge amount for not a lot of actual gain.

29th January 2009

I had my first meeting with a guy called Chris Turner because I’d seen a film trailer idea of his on facebook and offered to help him write the script. I’d only met him once before at a wedding we had both helped at and I’m not entirely sure why I offered to help him, I just couldn’t stop myself.

We then meet up  at least once a week for the next 4 months which seriously cuts into my writing time because I typed up what we hand wrote together.

15th July 2009

I managed to scrape together enough money to stop working completely and live off my very lovely husband for a few months. He was by now very aware I was 100% sure not only do I want to be a writer but I wanted to be a entrepreneur of sorts. I still didn’t get any more writing done on my book, however, as I was too busy trying to raise  money for the new company I’d set up with Chris and get my head around my new role.

September 2009

Somehow my money was still lasting and I still didn’t have to go back to work so I turned my full time attention back to the book I promised myself I would finish 2.5 years earlier. At this point I still didn’t really know what I was doing. I just knew I wanted to be creative and write.

16th October 2009

I filled up my first A4 pad of hand written book (I don’t work well typing straight away) and moved on to my second, feeling very very satisfied with myself. I had about 55k words at this point and realised it was going to be a good bit longer than 70k words, more like 85k in total. I promised myself it would be finished before the end of the year.

31st December 2009 7:45pm

I finished the first draft of the book. It had a temporary title – All’s fair in love and war. I kinda liked it but not enough to keep it. It’s 88k words long. I also only had 15 minutes until the new year’s eve party I was hosting started. Needless to say I hit party mode full swing (I worked on Christmas day to get it finished).

8th January 2010

I emailed it out to three beta readers after having a preliminary edit myself. Over the next 6 months it got edited a total of 4 times and had a lot added and taken out.

July 2010

I finally felt I’d finished enough for my liking. I got back to researching ways to publish. Because I didn’t have the money for any of the other options I knew about I eventually decide on traditional publishing and went through the agonies of writing a synopsis of several different lengths as well as a query letter and email.

August 2010

I’d finally picked some publishers I wanted to apply to and finished fretting about my query letters etc. I applied to one by email only putting in a two sentence synopsis as they asked, nothing else. I got rejected. I found I didn’t actually care that much. I mean I know it’s not nice being rejected and I was angry they didn’t even bother to read a longer synopsis or even look at the book at all but I’m not actually that bothered.

I used the rejection as an excuse to get people to stop nagging me to apply to more publishers until I could figure out what I did really want. I think a lot of friends and family were a little fed up with me at this point. It had been ages since I’d started and I often had people asking leading questions about the book. To be fair I was equally as fed up. I couldn’t find the option I wanted and didn’t think it existed.

30th October 2010

Someone online overheard me telling someone else I was trying to get published and asked why I didn’t try self publishing on kindle as an ebook. I vaguely remembered hearing of the Kindle but I dismissed the idea as not being good enough.

31st October 2010

I couldn’t sleep. What I was told about ebooks kept coming back to me. I googled them and found several blogs and articles by people saying ebooks are revolutionising the way the world reads and even some traditionally published authors are now self publishing to kindle. Mostly Joe Konrath. I hashed this over with several people. Some I knew would say ‘no, go traditional’ others I thought would go for the ebook thing and some I thought wouldn’t give an opinion. Surprisingly all but one said go for it.

1st November-2nd November 2010

I spend two days thinking about and researching nothing else, trying to decide what I wanted to do. I didn’t like what the traditional publishing industry is, never had and really didn’t feel settled or happy applying to them. I also didn’t want to just self publish something that was rubbish and add to the stereotype that self published authors are crap and not worth considering.

Eventually my heart over ruled my head and I went with what I felt most peaceful about. Ebook publishing for the win.

I did know I needed to really make sure my book was up to scratch so I made a short list of people I wanted to help me get the book edited. I couldn’t afford a professional copy edit as at this point I’d been out of work for over 15 months. Fortunately I had a list of 2 other writers, someone that used to edit for a magazine, and a few good friends with a good eye for detail. In some cases I had a volunteer or two ask to help out proof reading and I thought more couldn’t hurt.

I also made a request to an artist I knew for a front cover.

The provisional launch date I had in my head was December 1st although the few people I said this to all laughed at me. They thought it was going to take me until the following year at the earliest.

27th November 2010

All the editing was finished and done and I sat and waited for all the cover art I needed as well as got my book formatted correctly for the kindle.

1st December 2010

I found out my front cover art wasn’t going well. I quickly emailed or facebooked every person I knew who was a graphic artist of any kind and asked them if they had the time and expertise I needed.

3rd December 2010

Keith Mountifield stepped in and we worked until almost midnight together making my ebook cover design.

4th December 2010

I got up early to upload everything and finally hit the publish button. The formatting was awful and needed to be completely re-hauled. I started totally over, stripping the book of all its formatting and reapplying all of it again. By 4pm I’d managed it.

The book was launched as an ebook.

December 2010-February 2011

I marketed the book like crazy. Trying to get reviews from review blogs as well as customer reviews. Lots of people wouldn’t review it because it was either an ebook only or self published. I had to admit I got very annoyed about this but persevered anyway. Cost so far £7.75 (sending printed manuscript to a reviewer, who then never reviewed it).

25th February 2011

I started working with Keith Mountifield on a website to help promote the book and the other stuff I was doing by then. Tony Mountifield kindly agreed to host it for me. (I love my in-laws, they are a very talented bunch of people) Cost so far £19.75 (registering domain name).

28th February 2011

Website was up and running, despite me having no internet for over 24 hours in between starting and finishing.

23rd March 2011

I researched ebook tips on marketing and getting reviews and it brought me back to Joe Konrath’s blog. The days blog was about his print books and how he prints them through a subsidiary company of Amazon.com – CreateSpace. I registered that he printed his books himself but thought nothing more of it, instead I looked for advice on how to maximise ebook sales.

24th March 2011

I couldn’t sleep again. I kept thinking about print books and Createspace. I had to check it out. I suddenly realised, not only are they the perfect Print on Demand company to go alongside my ebook choice but they didn’t charge (you can pay $39 for a higher chunk of royalties if you wish, but don’t have to). They were just what I had been looking for over 2 years ago.

I cried.

I then told a bunch of people. Including Keith Mountifield, who would be my person of choice for making the front cover, spine, and back cover (seriously this guy rocks). We talked about the things I’d need to do a much higher quality cover for a printed book and he gave me a list of things I’d have to get.

25th march 2011

I blogged a giveaway and began trying to get everything I needed. Lots of people helped. I also reformatted the book for print, deciding on a 5.5′ by 8.5′ book with 274 pages.

1st May 2011

I had my first completely independent 5 star review of the book from the Founder of the ePublishing Consortium. I was over the moon with this as it was the first person that didn’t know me in some way who had given me a 5 star. It also got me included on the reviewers Amazon list that was just for the top Indie books in his opinion. I then had many more reviews roll in over the next few weeks.

15th May 2011

The ebook was on promotion for the rest of the month at only 99 cents to help raise awareness. I had more sales during this period than the rest of the year to that date and was only 1 off doubling my total lifetime sales for the book.

June 2011

I decided to keep the price at 99 cents as an ebook as it kept sales at a slightly higher level than at $2.99, also had a few more 5 star reviews roll in.

1st July 2011

Made the print versions cover with my designer, Keith Mountifield. We also set up the publisher Red Feather Writing, it’s website and it’s logo. Cost so far £40.70 (the cover needed me to buy the gloves, rose and old cards)

5th July 2011

I uploaded everything needed to Createspace. Had the files rejected.

7th July 2011

Tried again. Got rejected because of the bleed not being obviously there. I then swapped a few messages with the Createspace support team and with Keith trying to figure out why it wasn’t working.

August 2011

Took a break from trying to figure out the files issues to focus on other stuff and have a holiday.

22nd September 2011

Continued trying Createspace’s review process, encountering many different problems after reformatting and reediting. A lot of it didn’t really make sense. Keith eventually redid the whole cover again in a different program.

14th October 2011

Finally gained approval for my file and ordered my proof. Cost so far £63.28

17th October 2011

My proof arrived. Checked it through and found everything to be in order, I believe I may have cried at this point too. I then approved the book for printing and publishing and ordered the first 50 books, due for delivery mid December. Started planning the book launch party. I also began taking pre-orders. Cost so far £278.64

11th November 2011

The first box of my books arrived and I began signing.

17th December 2011

I know this dates in the future but it’s when I’ve actually scheduled my book launch for. It’s going to be in the Starbucks on Bond Street in bath and anyone is welcome to join from 1pm onwards.

And that’s the whole journey. Well done to anyone who actually read the whole thing and made it all the way to the bottom here.

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