Tag Archives: Stevenage

Self Publishing One Year On – Has it been worth it?

It’s just over a year since I took the plunge and published my local history book about Whomerley Wood Moat in Stevenage, and since then have made four more available to the book buying public.  Five paperbacks in a year, each one quite different. Probate – A Personal Journey is a diarised account of events during carrying out probate on my late mother-in-law’s estate. Three Courses is an anthology of twenty five short stories, Thinking in the Cloud is a compilation of thirty five poems and Twelve Dozen Limericks is, well, what it says it is! The limericks were written over a period of about three months, and to be honest I was lucky to get to 144 without running out of inspiration!

book covers - all five

The cost of self-publishing the books was quite low, the biggest expense being the purchase of a wedge of ISBNs. It is only possible to buy a minimum of ten, and that was a whopping £144. Apart from the monetary cost, there was also the time spent in preparation for publication. Having said that, it needn’t be a huge commitment.  For instance, for the Limericks book I decided to take advantage of a free shipping offer from Lulu which only lasted two days, uploaded the text and the covers on a Sunday afternoon, received the print copy for checking on the Tuesday morning and the print book was available for distribution that evening. From my computer to worldwide publication in two days!  Mind you, the text was already laid out and proof read many times over, and the covers were ready to go before I started with Lulu.

I chose Lulu as the Print on Demand house, mostly because of the transparency of their publishing process and because they are free to use. Their profits come from the sale of your books, rather than setting them up. Actually, they are not quite free, because once you have your book uploaded and ready to go, you have to purchase an author print copy to approve before Lulu will release your work to the world. That still wasn’t big bucks though, and the print cost of the book was mostly overshadowed by the shipping charge. It’s worth mentioning that Lulu are happy to provide a free ISBN when you publish through them. It’s a matter of personal choice, but I didn’t want Lulu to be the named publisher of my books, preferring to use my own imprint Cade Books.

My sales expectations were not high, mostly because I wasn’t planning to spend a lot of time and money publicising the books, but sales to date have hit almost 200. To think that all those people bought a piece of my writing and some even came back for more is quite a thrill. The best seller out of the print copies has been the local history book ‘Whomerley Wood Moat’, with 93 copies sold, and the ‘Probate – A Personal Journey’ book is second with 54 sales. It’s interesting that of the Kindle sales, the ‘probate’ book stands far ahead of all the others with 28 downloads purchased out of a total of 40 for all the books.

Although ‘self-publishing’ means you get to do much of the book distribution yourself, Lulu has been responsible for distributing over a quarter of the print books sold. All of those purchased from Amazon or in a bookshop have been supplied directly by Lulu. Kindle downloads are made direct from Amazon of course, but almost half of the copies sold have been ordered directly from me either by email or using my eBay selling page. This is what the distribution percentages look like.

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So, was it worth doing? The answer to that is a definite ‘Yes’. I realise that compared to best-selling authors, my contribution to the book market is very small beer, but seeing my local history book for sale in the local museum, and others sitting on the shelves at our town library and available on Amazon makes me break out in a huge grin!

Take a look at the Cade Books tab at the top of my blog if you’d like to find out more about the books.

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Losing the plot? Or not?

The flush of success from Whomerley Wood Moat is fading a little and, although I’m over the moon with all the interest shown so far, I need a new fix! A deep heart-felt thank you to everyone who bought a copy of the book, and if you didn’t it isn’t too late. Just click on the Cade Books tab above for details about how to get a copy. And to wrap up this topic, here’s the half page spread that appeared in the local paper.
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I’m feeling a little empty after completing my BA(Hons) with the OU last October. The degree was spread over five years (regular readers will remember I studied three Level 3 modules, so did the honours year twice. For fun). That was five years filled with reading, learning, completing assignments, interacting with tutors and other students, keeping to deadlines and generally stressing out (in a good way). Five months after finishing, I’m missing the studying like crazy.

So, am I losing the plot to even consider starting up again? There are two options on the cards at the moment. An MA in English is one of them. The reading list is peppered with poetry from Milton’s Paradise Lost to Byron, prose from Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre to Robinson Crusoe and Foe, and plays from Antigone to Coriolanus. To be honest though, I’m not sure I have the passion needed to get sufficiently excited about works such as these. But I could try, and would probably find the study stimulating and challenging.

On the other hand, there’s the option of a BSc(Hons). The whole point of the BA was to get stuck into arts and creativity after a lengthy career in engineering science and technology. But I could sign up for some science modules, of which there are sure to be many that interest me, for a few years.

The only downside to further study is the expense involved. My BA was completed under what the OU called ‘transitional’ fees (which is why I swung an extra Level 3 while the cost was at the old rate). From now on though, the module fees will be more than three times what I paid.

Studying aside, there is still plenty of writing going on. There are two novels on the go. They were both started during NaNoWriMo, and are in various stages of re-writing at the moment. Then there’s an anthology of prose and verse containing some of the writing from the OU Creative Writing modules. It is interesting to look back at some of these pieces and to perform some much-needed heavy edits. ‘Did I actually write that?’ And I have some ideas for e-Books as well.

So, it isn’t that I have no choices.

Perhaps I’m just looking for an excuse to get out of that long list of jobs around the house!

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Whomerley Wood Moat, Stevenage

My booklet about the medieval moated site in Whomerley Wood, Stevenage has been published.  Details about the book and how to buy a copy can be found under the Cade Books tab on my WordPress Blog, or go direct by clicking here.

cover 1e

In fact, if you’re in a hurry to get a copy, hit this button!Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

That was a shameless example of self-advertising, was it not?! But, with Lulu having probably hundreds of thousands of books for sale, and Amazon having millions, how else would anyone know about my little offering!

I went with Lulu in the end. The decision wasn’t easy, as there are so many different aspects to consider and each POD publisher had their pros and cons. Out of desperation as much as anything, I ordered a book from Lulu to see how they performed and promised myself that if it came back looking good I would take the plunge. The postage seemed a bit steep at £2.99, but like many Oldies I still compare prices to what they were in the sixties when half a crown bought a plate of pie and chips in the local pub.

The book was ordered last Monday afternoon, it was printed on Tuesday and it dropped on the doormat Thursday morning. That was pretty good service whichever way you look at it.  The quality of the book is far greater than I expected, with a fabulous glossy colour cover and clear easy-to-read text inside.

The physical act of publishing with Lulu was a piece of cake. They take you by the hand and lead you step by step through the whole process, and to be honest there wasn’t a single ‘gotcha’ that I can recollect. Even when I chose to use my own ISBN, that was handled easily and with no hiccups. The cover design would have been a bit tricky had I not realised it could be designed offline with MS Publisher and then uploaded as an image. A bit of form-filling and a few boxes to tick, and that was it.  My baby was on sale!

So, Whomerley Wood Moat is now out there for anyone to buy.  If you do, thank you, and I hope you enjoy reading about the moated site as much as I loved researching and writing about it.

Whoops, I nearly forgot to tell you which book I ordered for the test run. It was a copy of Nature’s Gold, by Penny Luker. I am an admirer of Penny’s writing, and this book contains a selection of her poems. Some of them are deeply emotional (Undeniable Love), others are light and easy going (Sneaky), a few bring a chuckle or two (Don’t Buy Me Apples). All of the poems are engaging, and it is clear they have been written from the heart with a profound sense of perception. If you think you might like Penny’s writing too, find her at her blog by clicking here.

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The House in the Clearing – Update

The booklet about the Whomerley Wood moat in Stevenage is coming along nicely, and has grown quite a lot since the previous blog. I am very conscious though that there is a delicate balance to be struck between including generalities about medieval times and topics specific to the moated area. So, it is probably time to stop writing and start editing.

I had some useful feedback on how to press ahead with publishing (thank you!), and decided to try out two Print on Demand providers, Lulu and Blurb, by working up a test project using what I had written so far.

Blurb, which started off life predominantly as a provider of photo-books initially looked promising. However, my hopes were dashed when I uploaded my MS Word file and most of the formatting was ignored. This would largely have been repairable, if a lengthy process, but Blurb had also removed all of the end-note references I had included. I’m not sure how much citations add to the booklet, but since they do at least give my writing some authority I wanted to leave them in. The process also removed all the images inserted in the text. I decided to leave Blurb for a while, and return to it after trying out Lulu.

What a different experience Lulu turned out to be. I uploaded the same MS Word file, and it was replicated exactly, including all the images and the references to end-notes at the back. Experimenting with the covers was an interesting experience though, and the limited range of formats made it difficult for me to replicate what I had in mind. Until, that is, I realised I could upload an entire page as a jpg file, and use that. So, opening up MS Publisher for the first time since buying MS Office 2007, it wasn’t long before I had the front and back covers completed (although they will be probably change). Both of these uploaded perfectly, and are just what I had planned.

cover 1d

Lulu it is for me, then.  At least for this first venture. They will have the booklet listed everywhere important, and can also source an eBook version using what seems to be a simple process. But there is one thing I’m not sure about, and I wish Lulu was a bit more transparent on this point. It concerns the choice between using a free Lulu-provided ISBN or paying for an ISBN of my own. I know that having my own is a Good Idea, as it allows me to be named as the publisher and take control of the publication’s metadata recorded against the ISBN so that searches on Google and the like have a stronger chance of finding it. Also, there would be no US tax liability on sales to the US which would occur with Lulu as the publisher.  What isn’t clear, though, is what the difference is regarding how Lulu’s various distribution options are affected.  Everything seems to be available whether you use a Lulu ISBN or your own, but nothing is mentioned about any charges that might be made with the ‘own ISBN’ option. Maybe I’m being over-suspicious, but there surely must be a penalty for not allowing Lulu to be named as the publisher?

I shall probably go ahead with a free Lulu ISBN this time around, but wish I knew if I’m missing a trick!

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OU Art of English E301 EMA and Spooky Stuff

Final assignment sent. That’s it.  Finished.

I was expecting to be celebrating at this point, but actually feel quite sad now it’s all over.  After an eclectic mix of modules, from science to book-keeping, from music technology to linguistics, from astronomy to mathematics, from creative writing to, well, more creative writing and then even more creative writing, it feels weird to have no assignment deadlines to meet !

Sometimes the modules have been hair-tearingly frustrating, intermittently mind-numbing, occasionally a trifle tedious, now and again downright difficult, but always personally challenging with barrel-loads of fun thrown in for good measure.   Such a shame it has to end.

Except.  It doesn’t.  Necessarily.  All end.  Well, it could.  I can lay claim to my degree, but unlinked my first Level 3 module last year because the result was a Pass 2.  To get a 1st, I need a second Level 3 module to come in with a Distinction and believe me, E301 – The Art of English is simply not going to oblige. So I might, just a teeny bit might, take another module.  But who would care except me if I got a 2.1 or a 1st?  What can an early-retired 64-year-old do with a BA(Hons), anyway ?

Watch this space!

In the meantime, we experienced a strange event last week.  We were walking the dogs at Fairlands Valley Park in Stevenage, as we do each day, when an evil-looking dog emerged from the woods.  Head low to the ground, deep rib-cage, hollowed belly, muscular hindquarters raised up high, straight out of a horror film.  Then a few feet behind, followed a middle-aged woman with long grey hair and wearing a red coat.  They walked slowly to the centre of the park, the dog laid down and the woman stood, quite still, watching us playing fetch with the Labradors.  After a while, we decided she might be waiting for us to move on before exercising her dog, so we did just that.  After a few yards, I turned around to see she was still watching us, and turned back the way we were headed.  Barely two seconds later, my wife did the same, but commented that the woman with the dog had gone. We looked carefully around the perimeter of the park, which is probably at least 75 yards in every direction from where the woman was standing, but neither she nor the dog was to be seen.  75 yards in two seconds?

Spooky.

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