Category Archives: Writing

And a kindness of brother-in-law

As I have mentioned previously, my brother-in-law Peter – pedant-in-residence and all-round good-guy – was immensely helpful when I was writing King’s Ransom, carefully reading the draft, and picking up sundry mistakes and inconsistencies.

Unfortunately, I have not asked him to do a similar job on my blog, which is a pity because once I published the previous post he emailed me, pointing out that “awkwardly, a group of ravens is an ‘unkindness’ of ravens, not a kindness.” He’s correct, of course, so black-mark Wilson for not checking.

In my own defence, I am still going to cherish “a kindness” as the collective noun for all the people – including Peter – who helped me get King’s Ransom published.


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A kindness of strangers

As I am sure you know, “A kindness” is the collective noun for a group of ravens. But judging by my recent experiences in publishing and promoting King’s Ransom, I’d say the word is wasted on those somewhat sinister birds. It would be far more appropriate to talk of “A kindness of strangers”.

As I mentioned at the start of this blog, my son originally persuaded me to have a go at self-publishing when he sent me a link to the Kindle self-publishing website. I’m reasonably computer literate, and back in the day, I spent some years working for The (late, great and lamented) Monotype Corporation, which taught me something about typography and graphic design.

So once I found the original digital file of the early drafts, I thought “well, why not give it a  go?” And all went reasonably well until I came to format the novel for publication, which is when I found that, although the Kindle self-publishing site is fairly clear, it doesn’t tell you everything. Not by a long way.

I had all sorts of problems to contend with, and at one point I despaired of ever getting the book published at all. However, as I mentioned briefly in a previous post, I was given a tremendous amount of help by a number of people who I “met” online: complete strangers every one, but enormously kind and generous.

But that wasn’t the end of it. After I published, I realised that I had not pre-planned (as I should have done) my promotional activity, and I posted another crie de coeur on a LinkedIn group. Within a couple of days, I’d received advice from a number of people, including the incredibly knowledgeable and helpful Susan Barton who offers a huge range of services to authors. As with Jo Harrison, who I mentioned in my previous post, I wish that I had met Susan before I published because, like Jo, she could have saved me an awful lot of heartache.

I’m going to return to the subjects of book preparation and promotion in future posts, but for the moment, if you are writing an eBook, or even just thinking about it, don’t do what I did. Call in these delightful people first: you will not regret it for a moment.

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So far, so good…

Now that is a dangerous thing to say.

On the other hand, I’m four weeks into my life as a debutant novelist, and King’s Ransom just got its fifth review – and they’ve all been five-stars. Of course, there may be six or seven people who are, at this very moment, referring to their Thesaurus for equivalents of “rubbish”, “nonsense” and “tedious beyond measure”, but it really is so far, so good.

A few years ago I read an interview with a novelist who said that every good review filled him with dread, because he knew there would a budding iconoclast waiting in the wings ready to slap him down – and that is the review he would remember. I’m not at that stage yet, but I do know it is coming. Sooner or later, someone is going to feel cheated out of £1.53, or whatever their local currency happens to be. Not only that, they will want to tell the world how they bitterly regret downloading King’s Ransom.

If and when it happens, I do hereby solemnly promise to give it full coverage on this blog. I just hope I can be magnanimous about it, and not go into a sulk.


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A start-again job

I spent a lot of time yesterday getting this blog ready to roll, a job which involved transferring and editing bits from the blog attached to my freelance copywriter website. Now it’s time to write something new.

That’s less easy than it sounds. If you read through the other posts, you’ll see that they tell the story of how I came across the original manuscript of King’s Ransom and how I revised, updated and then published it. If I were starting this blog from scratch I could have told that story in more detail, and I did think about adding intervening posts explaining various processes that I went through. But I’m not sure that would have been entirely satisfactory, because they would have lacked any of the sense of discovery and excitement that I felt at the time.

In any case, as L P Hartley wrote as the first line of The Go Between “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”. Incidentally, isn’t that the most wonderful opening line? I think it’s up there with “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” and “Call me Ishmael”.

When I wrote the first version of King’s Ransom, the opening line – which is still the first line of the first chapter – was “The more something happens, the more you get used to it. That’s the theory. The theory is bullshit.” And the hero goes on to find out that he’s just been made redundant for the third time in his working life. I thought the opening was quite catchy, but someone who read it told me that an action-adventure story needed a bit more, well, action and adventure in the opening few words. So I wrote a Prologue before the first chapter, which starts “John Deacon handed in his security badge to the guard, smiled his thanks and waited as the electronic door was unlocked.” Catchy, eh? I can tell you are gripped already.

But back to the plot, or at least the plot of this blog. Over the coming weeks I’m going to write more about King’s Ransom (of course), about what I am doing to promote it, and – if I actually manage it – how I am getting on with my next novel. Among the fragments I found in the back-up CDs that I found last year was an outline of a romantic comedy that I originally wrote as a filmscript for a competition back in 1996/97. I didn’t enter it for the competition – someone close to me said they didn’t like my script – and I’d forgotten all about it. But I mentioned it to my wife Kate and she remembered it and said she thought it would make a lovely bittersweet and funny novel. So, I might do that at some point, and if I do I will write about it.

Meantime, I’ll be concentrating on King’s Ransom. In addition to writing about the book and how I am promoting it, I’ll also share the information I found about formatting and uploading to Kindle. A lot of Kindle books I’ve looked at seem to have formatting issues which would be relatively easy to solve with a few simple procedures. But that is for the future . Now, the sun is shining, and my overgrown garden is calling for me to come and tidy it.

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Reflections on a week of book promotion

[Originally published 16 April 2013]

Well, I am a week into promoting King’s Ransom. I’ve sent the link to everyone on my various mailing lists, and I already have a couple of friendly reviews. However, it’s now very clear to me that I should have put a lot more thought into the promotion planning before I published. Stupid really, because I keep telling clients that before a product is launched you need to have a clear idea of how you are going to promote it. It’s ridiculous to devote all of the available resources to production without thinking about the product marketing. Meet Mr Stupid.

Fortunately, it’s not too late. One of the key things is to get an author’s blog started, and I am going to copy all of these blogs from my copywriting website to a dedicated author’s blog. I’m also going to set up various other avenues, which I will talk about at more length in the weeks and months to come.

For all that, I am really pleased with the first week. Early days, of course, but I am getting there.


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We have lift-off – at last

[Originally posted 17 April 2013]

The past few days have been really stressful. I’ve had all of the elements in place ready to publish King’s Ransom for about a week now, but I had some problems using the Kindle online publishing system. Some of the issues were my own fault, I think, but others were because the online instructions missed out whole chunks of what was needed.

However, one of the great things about the internet is that it is all out there if you look and ask. I have “met” some really helpful people who’ve given me lots of free advice, including several on a couple of LinkedIn groups that I joined. If you are not a member of LinkedIn, I recommend that you join. I also chatted to a talented and helpful lady called Jo Harrison, who also lives in France and is a virtual assistant. I just wish I had met her earlier, because she could have taken on the whole job.

Soooo, on Sunday morning, I got everything lined up, and pressed the “save and publish” button on the Kindle publishing site. I had to wait about 12 hours until it was actually “live” and as soon as I saw the published book I realised I had made a mistake. Jo Harrison’s advice is not to use too many different type sizes, and I had done just that. Bugger! So I deleted (“unpublished”) the book, corrected it, and once again pressed the “save and publish” button.

Yesterday morning, after another 12-hour wait, I spotted another small formatting problem. It wasn’t a major issue, but having got this far I wanted it to be right, so I hit the delete button again, and went through the publishing process again. And this morning, there she is: King’s Ransom, my very own debut novel. I am ridiculously proud of myself!

I’ve been planning my promotion of the book for the past few weeks, and that’s my next task. Once I’ve got things moving, I will write a blog on the publishing process. Again, watch this space.

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Setting fire to paper in the name of art

[Originally published 4 April 2013]

It’s all getting terribly exciting. I’ve finished revising King’s Ransom, and I am going to give it one last go-through before I publish it. Well, assuming I can work out how to publish it, that is. I’ve been having all sorts of issues with Booktango, so I think I am going to have a go with Kindle directly.

Meantime, I have come up with a new cover idea, and one which I think will work. It’s also using the binary codes for the letters of King’s Ransom, but with a flame burning them. Today was a lovely sunny day, and I spent a happy couple of hours outside on the terrace setting fire to print-outs of the cover design and taking pictures. Not sure what the neighbours would have thought.

If I can find a way of embedding pictures in this blog I will post them. Meantime, I need to do some minor retouching and cropping before getting back to the book formatting.

Updated May 23, 2013: Below are the photos:

Cover experiment 1 Cover experiment 2 Cover experiment 3 Cover experiment 4

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