My first book was non-fiction and specialist (‘Building Passions‘). It was self-published in 2019 and then I moved on to fiction.
My second book is almost finished. The text just needs a final proofing and the cover is designed for the e-book. The printed version may be print-on-demand. It is historical fiction based on the true life story of my grandfather.
My third project is a trilogy of novellas within the same theme about dictatorship versus democracy. All pure fiction but related to politics and philosophy.
My fourth book is a collaboration with three other writers. It’s a murder mystery where we have created our own individual characters and are writing from their different points of view.
I may need to restart the cycle with some non-fiction. This depends how things develop with my historical research. If I get PhD funding then it will relate to that topic within architectural history. If not then I will go wider to consider other areas.
I enjoy writing and experimentation with different genres makes it even more worthwhile – they all have their challenges and surprises.
Once lockdown started in the UK I stopped making print copies of my book ‘Building Passions’ available to purchase. This was because I couldn’t guarantee that I wouldn’t spread COVID-19 via the book and the postal system.
To compensate I have halved the e-book price in April. Since my goal has always been to sell mainly in e-format then this made sense. However no sales have taken place via Kobo.com .
Therefore I will resume with postal sales from the end of April and review how I distribute the book electronically. I dont want an exclusive contract with Kindle. I’m starting to dislike anything linked with Amazon, who seem keen on maximising profits at the expense of their workers and independent publishing.
I would have promoted the book more through physical talks but obviously the pandemic came along. I’m less safe at remote talks but I will try to develop these skills.
The National Health Service in the UK is opening a new emergency hospital today in London to handle the growing number of COVID-19 cases – it’s called the NHS Nightingale Hospital after the famous Victorian nurse with her lamp, a symbol of the Crimean War which had so many military casualties, many from diseases spread amongst the besiegers of Sevastopol.
I have visited the Crimea twice (prior to the illegal occupation by Russia) and seen the magnificent Panorama of the siege of Sevastopol. I’ve also been to the small port of Balaklava, better known for the woollen headgear named after it, where the British were based during that war. I haven’t yet been to the site of another temporary hospital, which served the needs of the ill and wounded many miles away on the other side of the Black Sea.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel was asked by his brother-in-law Sir Benjamin Hawes in the War Office to design a prefabricated hospital in Turkey – supposedly to placate Florence Nightingale who was pressing Hawes for more support. This he did rapidly and it was shipped out to Renkioi in the Dardanelles and assembled there.
Medical experts have since said that the unique modular design had an influence on the development of all hospitals subsequently. You can read more about the project at Brunel’s SS Great Britain website – the vast ship was used to transport troops to the Crimea. For more on Brunel read my book ‘Building Passions‘ which from today is available for only £2.00 as an e-book in the UK for all April (different prices for other countries covered).
Temporary or emergency hospitals have been pivotal in helping society to deal with major crises such as viruses and wars. When I worked at the Institution of Structural Engineers we developed a learning resource for students based on a military engineer’s rapid construction of an Ebola hospital in Africa.
It’s 17 days until I launch my book ‘Building Passions’!
The last time I used a countdown on this website was leading up to celebrating 125 years of Tower Bridge earlier this year. Before that I properly launched the website in January 2018, a hundred years after the death of Sir John Wolfe Barry.
A lot has happened since then and even earlier when I first sent in my application for a Blue Plaque for JWB. In 16 days time a plaque should finally go up on the front of the house where he died on Chelsea Embankment in London.
I am currently part of a local Kent group of writers who are aiming to complete 50,000 words of a novel n the month of November, as part of a worldwide charity called NaNoWriMo. It’s not easy, but more doable if you have others in the same situation.
I have promised the group that I will tell them more about self-publishing based on my experience to date so below are some brief bullets to whet the appetite:
- Plan, plan then plan some more – you can’t do too much!
- Seek out those with a greater expertise than yourself whether directly or via social media
- Be realistic about deadlines – they can shift as long as the end product is completed to a high standard, but not for ever
- Break down the project into streams and tasks so it becomes more manageable
- Don’t give up however bad you might feel on certain days – good news is just around the corner!
- If you want to use lost of images and fancy design features then be prepared to spend time and money on it
- Find reliable people to work with – they may not always be the very best, but at least they will deliver when you need it
- Imagine what your book will look like and try and stick to that dream, with occasional adjustments
- Above all, don’t even write a book if you aren’t convinced that people will want to read it!
Because I decided to self-publish my first book, I have become obsessed with every single stage of the process.
This may or may not be a good thing.
Currently, I’m fixated with marketing and distribution issues. This means trying to set up the Building Passions website for direct sales and all the associated technical and legal requirements. It also means working out the easiest and most cost effective way to mail books out to UK and overseas purchasers.
A simple example was what I did this week.
I mailed 2 proof copies of the book to a UK and and EU address to check delivery costs and duration. The EU one required a customs declaration. The UK one was tracked, but that may be a luxury.
I found a friendly, quiet Post Office where they are happy to process as many packages as I want, though they told me a No Deal Brexit could raise prices and slow down delivery times to the EU. Two large parcels arrived today with jiffy envelopes, so I just need the printed books to put into them, which should be with me from the week of 8 November.
I will commission others to do fulfilment for me assuming the orders come in regularly. It would be nice if people wanted to read the printed book enough to justify this, but they can do it electronically as well at www.kobo.com, and ultimately the environment would suffer less.
There’s always a silver lining …
It’s 38 days until I launch the hard copy version of my first book ‘Building Passions‘.
Between then and now we will have Diwali, Halloween/Brexit Day and Guy Fawkes Day in the UK. The lead up to Christmas has already started with cards and adverts.
The draft has gone off to the printers and once a proof is returned and corrected for any errors then that’s it, until delivery of the final soft backs in time for the 20 November launch.
I am firming up plans with English Heritage to promote a Blue Plaque for Sir John Wolfe Barry, which will hopefully be unveiled in London on the same day as the launch.
In some sense I will be relieved once the hard copy is out as it is the final piece in the lengthy jigsaw of self-publishing non-fiction. The e-book is already available on www.kobo.com and a temporary sale will start tomorrow for about a fortnight – if you have never registered on Kobo before then the book will be free for UK purchasers, as you will get an introductory discount of the same amount (in other countries this will depend on exchange rates).
Fiction looks easier to me … which is why I need to get more words down for my next book to be published in 2020 about an amazing story based on my grandfather’s ‘fantasy’ life.
Sometimes I wonder why it takes so much effort to self-publish a book!
I thought the writing part would be hardest, and at times it was a struggle for me. I had to start again with a new structure a few times until I got it right.
Then the editing, design and image search took me longer than expected. This pushed back the original finish deadline from July to end September.
But even the final run in was frustrating at times, including indexing and finalising the e-book version to hit a final publish date of 24 September.
I have been working on the print version in parallel, almost as a separate project, which in fact it is. There are still frustrations with simple things about getting the right page size and numbers, plus ensuring good quality print. And then there’s the launch on 20 November in London …
Would I want to do this again? Not for architectural history! But yes for historical fiction which is my next book due out in 2020 I hope.
So, I’ve been trying to nail down a venue for the official launch of my book ‘Building Passions’ in November.
I have a date/time and I want it to take place in the Westminster part of London. I also have a budget, an idea of numbers and the type of offering.
Fortunately, I have run many events in the past so am pretty familiar with the ins and outs of the process. My most stressful experience was organising a large conference on maths education, pretty much on my own, at a venue the Government officials funding it wouldn’t show me until the start of the event! They claimed this was best security practice for the Secretary of State for Education who was keynote speaking … oh and my wife was having an operation on the same day! It all went well thankfully.
I looked at two possible venues on Wednesday with my assistant, who is my daughter starting her English language and linguistics degree from this month. One was very nice and in a famous national art gallery, but over my budget. The alternative was more affordable but not in so respectable a location, though still pleasant. There are other options on the table.
I already have one sponsor for the event and am looking for others who would like to co-fund it with me. If you are interested please contact me at email@example.com .
The e-book should be published soon via the usual channels and then I need to focus on finalising the print version in time for November.
This is a brief post on self-publishing a book based on my experience to date since I started in February of this year. My first book, ‘Building Passions’ (short title), is due out by end September.
Firstly, you need to commit yourself and your loved ones to the fact that your life will be taken over by something else. The benefit to them might be your happiness and perhaps even some financial reward or recognition.
Secondly, you need to decide if you will write full or part time. This will depend partly on the way your finances play out, but as much if not more on the best way for you to write. In my case I needed a complete break from my day job and a sabbatical wasn’t available, so I had to resign.
Thirdly, you need someone to nudge you along when things get difficult. I was lucky to have an experienced friend who supported my initial plan and gave me tips along the way. But I also accessed a global network of editors and others through a great website called Reedsy.
Fourthly, you need to revise your plans and text as you go along and be realistic about deadlines. What matters is the final product of your efforts – there is no point in writing a book if hardly anyone reads it, or worse still they tell other how boring it is!
Fifthly, you need to understand the complexities of publishing, especially in non-fiction, but not be put off by some of the ‘curious’ professional practices that have existed for ages. If they don’t make sense, question them!
Sixthly, and finally, you need to invest in marketing your book in a way you feel is most appropriate. Social media is a great vehicle for this. If like many you worry about your impression as a public speaker, then only make short speeches or presentations with at least one joke to break the ice. Rely on key friends and networks to push out the good news for you.
Do it now!
I’m starting to hit the critical stages of self-publishing my book on the Brunel and Barry families of Victorian engineers and architects.
If you run projects you can do something called ‘critical path analysis’ to help determine the key deadlines across a range of ongoing tasks. Software programmes will now help you do it more easily.
Essentially, you need to decide, like a conductor, how all the different parts of the orchestra come together to produce the desired sound over a fixed period of time.
There has to be an element of ‘gut feel’ about it, otherwise what’s the point of having humans involved in the process.
To continue with the orchestra analogy, my desired ‘sound’ is an enjoyable and informative experience for a future reader of my book. I’d like this to happen pretty soon after they start the first chapter and come to a crescendo by the end of the book.
The parts are me the writer and image finder, my reviewers, my editor, my cover designer, my proofreader, my indexer, my printer and my distributors. Since I’m also the project manager as a self-publisher, I need to change hats all the time!
On top of this I am learning as I go!
Hopefully, when it comes to my next book in the stable of #buildingpassions publications it will be a lot easier and smoother for me.
But I will still need to wave the baton, smile, frown, urge, gesture, encourage and then take a bow for the team (even if raw eggs are thrown at me!).