To those of you to whom I owe a book – TODAY IS THE DAY! They arrived yesterday so right now, 14.28, they’re in the post to you!
With the ebook online, with the paperback first edition delivered into my hands, that’s round one of the Dark Slivers saga kinda concluded. How to describe what’s been involved… Well, to speak to publishers one needs an agent. To get an agent one has to send a proposal consisting of multiple pieces of requested information, formatted precisely as each individual agent wishes and, of course, no agent wants to be mass mailed so each proposal has completely different requirements intended to show that you’ve put in the elbow-work just for them. I considered it a good day’s work if I managed to finish three proposals (this was my weekends draining away in May-July). The agents will reject 90% of what’s before them. That’s before a publisher sees anything and rejects another 90%. I gathered a beautiful dozen or so rejections – too niche a topic, too much of a fan’s book, too many Nirvana books.
The reason to acquire a publisher? Because only a registered publisher can acquire ISBN numbers. My publisher did consider whether to help me register as an independent publisher then we decided it was too much faff and came to an arrangement on his royalty rate. The ISBNs are curious too; you can only buy them in batches of ten – at a cost of £125 in the U.K. Oh, and did you realise ebooks need a separate ISBN to a hardcopy book? No, neither did we. So that’s two ISBNs needed – which given the cost of printing in the first place is another expense on top. Not to mention, can you imagine how irritating it is to be all ready to go…Then to have to lose a day returning to one’s incredibly busy designer (West Coast America while I’m in U.K.) to ask if she can change the ISBN on the PDF before upload.
But what the hey. With an ISBN, the printer can now (for a price) print a barcode on the back of the book. Without a barcode you can’t sell a book in a shop. Fifty quid. Speaking of printers, well, understandably they have their needs; 3mm bleed, margin sizes, file type, text aligned this way and that – two files, cover separate to text. And yes, if you have more than a certain number of pages in full colour then the cost doubles (we’re talking several hundred pounds), likewise, if you print above A5 size then the cost, again, doubles so my original funky size wishes (I admit it! Gillian G. Gaar! I loved the size of Entertain Us so much I wanted it to be that size…) had to drop. Plus, Jesus…Hardback printing is crazy. Out of sheer vanity I fancied having a set of 25 hardback copies but the costs were astronomical…It’s important not to lose your mind when doing this yourself. Unless you’re a millionaire. Which I’m not. So I didn’t.
In the background I had to speak to an intellectual property lawyer to discuss the legality of quoting song lyrics – the answer being that if you’re writing a musical critique then quoting lyrics is essential and therefore totally legitimate. If, however, I was to take an entire verse, and place it at the start of a chapter, without it being integrated into the text or the discussion THEN I’d have to pay a charge to whoever owns the rights. Are you keeping up with this? This is what my life has been full of for months now, that’s alongside writing the book (72,000 words) and the blog (35,000 and counting…) He also pointed out the tax rules and regulations to me – which was good to know. Turns out I’m unlikely to make enough profit here to need to declare anything – yay not being a millionaire (again)!
Oh, epublishing…Leaving aside that bit where Amazon take 30% of the revenue (and where whatever I set the price at they add the tax onto the price so you, the consumer, pay the tax on the ebook and the book ends up weirdly priced), their system is quite slick. Compared that is to iTunes – I would need to be a U.S. tax payer to place a book on iTunes. But what the hey, it turns out part of the agreement with Amazon is that the ebook on their site must be at least 20% cheaper than the hardcopy or any other version available. Plus there’s that bit where they hang onto any money for two months earning themselves some lovely interest on each ebook sold before handing anything to the authors, yep, Amazon has epublished neatly sewn up. I’m still sure the wave of self-publishing hype articles this year were all thanks to Amazon (and others) tapping up their media friends to write nice things…
My designer has been a superstar, above and beyond in every way – it did make me chuckle when we discovered that the super-sophisticated design package we’d used to create the PDF for the publishers was TOO sophisticated for Amazon (credit to Amazon, their uploading and previewing portal is really slick, genuinely impressive.) We tried PDF, we tried ePub format…And came to the horrible realisation that we’d have to go back to the Word file…Which meant taking a full weekend to insert each correction we’d made to the PDF back into the Word file. Then check each graphic, check each chart, reformat, review, do it again…Two days gone.
BUT. Rant over. Suddenly, Wednesday morning I log in and get to see my book up and running on the various Amazon sites and it feels wonderful. Thursday, sheer luck I’m in when the postman dials the flat and asks if I’d mind coming down and fetching the 40kg of books in two boxes because there’s no way his back will survive the journey up the stairs…And I run down barefoot and hump both up one after the other because I’m so thrilled to see them. And today, this lunchtime, when I hand over the postage money and, having signed, numbered and inscribed a message in each copy, I send out the first load of books to people have been good enough to support me…That felt good. And I truly hope they enjoy. I’ve got my fingers crossed.