Having self-published Landsliding on Kindle, I described in my last blog the frustration of not having a physical book to send people to review, photograph or to give away as a competition prize. I had no publisher to help spread the word about my novel – it was all down to me – and so I decided the only way forward was to print some copies myself.
In theory this sounded easy but then I started researching the options and realised just how many challenges and decisions awaited me:
- how much did I want to spend?
- how should I go about choosing a printing company?
- what would I do about designing a cover?
- I’d have to select the book’s size, font, paper quality and even paper colour (who knew!)
- did I want virtual or physical proof copies?
- as I lived in rural France at the time, organising delivery wouldn’t be easy!
These issues were daunting, but I felt sure this would be the ideal way to make Landsliding more accessible to a much wider readership. I identified a company in Peterborough which had received rave reviews for its book printing services and started to plan with them the practicalities.
The path to the finished product wasn’t smooth. I won’t bore you with all the problems, suffice to say some were the company’s fault (eg. sending a proof copy with the wrong cover, causing a week’s delay in my carefully planned schedule) and others weren’t (eg. their print room being damaged by a lightning strike which led to another delay in printing).
Designing my cover was one of the more pleasurable aspects although I had no idea where to start. All I knew was that I wanted the word ‘landsliding’ to run downwards, mimicking a real landslide, and I wanted the cover to be pretty. So I went around my house photographing images or fabrics that appealed to me and soon found the right one; part of a picture showing a hazy rustic image of a sunset and some rolling hills.
I mocked up an image of how I imagined the cover to look and sent it to the designer employed by the printing company. In the end it turned out as colourful and appealing; I was delighted, ignoring the (rather vital) fact that the cover image had nothing to do with the story and gave potential readers no idea what they might expect from the book itself.
Once the copies were delivered, I was faced with the decision of what to do with them. Bravely I approached a few independent bookshops and sent a copy to each, asking them to read it and let me have their opinion. My first success was a bookshop in Yorkshire where the manager read the book and loved it, agreeing to take six copies on a sale or return basis. I thought I’d cracked it.
I held readings and signings at libraries near me in France which were enjoyable and gratifying – I sold around 50 copies at each one – and attended a UK book fair for self published authors which was a pretty dismal experience. Most of the public seemed totally uninterested in buying any books and had come in to ‘have a look’ before going off to do something more fascinating with their day.
As soon as it was printed, a kind friend of mine had sent copies of Landsliding to a few of his contacts in the media world but nothing had come of it. Most told him they were too busy to look at it, or it wasn’t their genre, or they’d get back to him if they felt there was anything they could do (a polite way of saying please go away).
Many months later, out of the blue, something totally bizarre and unexpected happened. In my email inbox I found a message from someone I’d never heard of but he mentioned that my friend had given him a copy of my book. To my amazement, he said he’d read the first few chapters and liked what he saw. Would I call him? This turned out to be Scott, my lovely editor.
We spoke a lot over the following year. He read the rest of the book, shared it with his colleagues and in the end told me he wanted Landsliding to be part of a new series of ebooks his company was launching. I thought about it for five minutes and realised I had nothing to lose; it was the perfect opportunity to get my book out into the public domain with the backing of a reputable company.
The next months were a blur of working through the text – Scott wanted a few additions and amendments but nothing major, luckily – and agreeing a new cover. My own cover, the one I’d designed and was so attached to, was deemed ‘terrible’ by Scott for the reasons already mentioned, so his own illustrator came up with a new image of a domestic scene (a barbecue in a suburban garden) viewed from the sky.
At first I wasn’t sure – it was a messy image and, to me, not remotely pleasing to the eye – but Scott loved it and so did all the people I showed it to. Descriptions included ‘intriguing’, ‘eye-catching’ and ‘totally different’ – all of which showed that Scott and his team were right. The cover really did grab attention and would help to attract readers.
Finally, on Monday 13 April 2020 – on what must have been the weirdest Easter Monday ever, with the country in lockdown – Landsliding was launched by Lightning Books as an ebook. Finally I had achieved my long held ambition of becoming a published author.