Saturday, May 13, 2006

Have I bitten off more than I chew?

I have had three interviews for jobs this week, all of which turned out to be a complete waste of time, where the job description bore absolutely no resemblance to the actual job. All three were advertised as looking for someone with basic IT skills. This to my mind means the ability to know and understand the basic parts of a computer, with a bit of word processing. When it came to the interviews though, they all wanted Access and Excel, neither of which to my mind are basic. I knew pretty much as soon as I went into the room that this job would not be right for me, from the expression on the woman's face who was interviewing me. She seemed to turn her nose up at everything I said, and had I got the impression that she already made her mind up from the moment I sat down.
Still, what the heck, who wants to work with a load of toffee nosed know-it-alls anyway? They will be laughing the other side of their faces when my book sells its first 500 copies and makes me far richer and more fulfilled than they could ever hope to be.

When I got back from the park later on, Coran told me there was a message from the woman who interviewed for another job yesterday. I have left a message for her to ring me back, although it will probably have to wait until Monday now. I am wondering what it is about, since she phoned yesterday to say I didn't have the job, due to a lack of experience of dealing with foreign students (it was in the Basic Skills Unit of a local Adult Education Centre). Have they changed their mind and decided to offer it to me after all? I guess I will have to wait until Monday to find out.

Things have definately started to shift since I finished the book and delivered the final draft. I have had more offers of interviews these past 2 weeks than I have had during the entire previous 6 months - three of which were with the Council, whom I have been applying to for months. It is almost as if the universe were waiting for me to get the book finished before I was ready to go back to work.
The book though is progressing well, the proof reader has started work, and has already contacted me with a few queries. Yesterday I also received the preliminary cover design. There are a few changes that I have requested, before the final artwork is prepared. After that the scary stuff really begins - marketing it to different people, including book shops. Once I have the ISBN I will have to prepare my AI (Advance Information) sheet which will be sent to various people (Cygnus book club, Nexus, Kindred Spirit etc). Then I will have to open a business bank account and get stationary printed and all ready. Once I have a publication date, I can book the Church for a launch party, and send out invitations. I must check with the Inland Revenue whether I can claim for the cost of the drinks etc ...

It is finally beginning to hit me now I have seen some sketches of the cover, what this all means, and the way it is going to change my life. Namely forcing myself, in fact having to put myself out there, in public, selling this book. This will be different to anything I have sold at work, as this time it is my own product, and one that I have much more of a vested interest in. Since I have spent five years writing and nurturing this baby, and there is so much of me in there, it is in effect also selling me, something that I have never felt particularly confident about.

Yet at the same time I know instinctively that my whole life has been building towards this moment, when I get to see my own book in print, and hold a copy in my hands. I was told as a child that I would someday write a book, but I never beleived it, and forgot all about it until it actually happened. I wonder sometimes if I can really handle all of this, and have I bitten off more than I can chew, should I just emigrate to Lundy and lead a happy life serving food in the Tavern and cleaning cottages? I know that this would not be the answer either, as in time I would feel just as unfulfilled as I did at my old job. No, I have to write, and I have to do this, my soul has been crying out to me to get this done, and I cannot stop even if I wanted to.
I have to keep reminding myself that it is not the soul that is frightened, but rather the ego, and the personality self. This is not though who I am. The soul knows who I am and knows what I, what it needs to do. I do not intend to let it down, as otherwise I might have to come back and do it all over again!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

That was then, and this is now ....

Well, that was then, and this is now. Three weeks later the book is entering production. The cover is being designed as I write, and the proof reader is busy at work reading. I have moments when I have to stop and pinch myself that it is really happening after all these years of work, that my efforts will finally pay off, and I will see my name in print. What celebrations there will be that day.

My new website is almost complete, this blog being one of the last touches that I wanted to add. The idea is that people who log on to my own site, and also here, will be able to follow the entire journey to publication. If some of those who read these posts are also considering publishing, via any route, then all well and good. If what I write helps others that it will not have been in vain.

I have written the acknowledgements page

April 22

I have today written the acknowledgements page, which I hope doesn't sound too gushing and sentimental:

"First and foremost I would like to thank my partner Coran Foddering for his unwavering love and support, without whom this book would never have reached fruition. Thank you for persuading me that Nectar does not always smell sweet – you know what I mean. Thanks also go to Edwin Courtenay for the generous use of his material, and also for introducing me to crystal skulls; also to Carole Humber who so diligently organized and recorded so many of Edwin’s talks and workshops.

Grateful thanks to the trustees and all my friends from St Michaels Sanctuary in Ewell. I can’t believe that I lived literally around the corner for so many years, and did not realise you were there. I discovered the Sanctuary at exactly the right time, and it has been my spiritual home ever since, providing a welcome retreat and a comfortable place to rest, where I can truly be myself. Thank you for being there for both of us, during dark and challenging times, and for helping both of us to see our light. To Richard Scull and Paul Harrison for their wonderful crystal skulls at such reasonable prices through which much of this information was channelled; also to Shirley O’Donoghue, my crystal teacher, had I not done that course, and been forced to speak this book might never have started. To Diana Summer for your advice and encouragement from spirit, thank you for giving me a cosmic kick up the backside that I so desperately needed.

I also owe a huge debt to my friends at Phoenix Rising Forum, especially Gillyann Osborne, Amber Van Zyl, Wendy Grey and Yasmin Lawley. You are truly my rocks and the best friends I could ever hope to have. To Marion Howells and her Journey group, especially Kathryn Timms (my guardian angel), and Sheila Jolly, for helping me to find my voice. To the staff of Lundy Island and crew of MS Oldenburg for providing a haven from the stresses and strains of mainland life, and quiet place in which to write. I am sure that your love and dedication makes the island the wonderful place it is, truly Heaven’s Isle. Were it not for Lundy I would have gone mad a long time ago. To my friends Julie Ann Ross, Narguis Kheshavjee and Jon Swinscoe for their encouragement and support, but most of all, for being themselves.

I would also like to thank all those writers whose material has been so invaluable for the writing and research of this book; also David Tame and Tim Wallace-Murphy for their help and advice with copyright issues. Last, but no means least to Richard Fitt and his team at Authors OnLine, for helping the dream become a reality".

The Contract has been signed

April 21

I have just got off the phone from my publisher (doesn't that sound great) having ironed out the details re how much this is going to cost. He has offered me an unbelievable deal - the whole lot for £1105 - that includes converting the text to a PDF file, registering the ISBN, distribution in both the UK and North America, library deposits, uploading to the printers website, formatting as an e-book which will be available via the publishers own site, plus uploading to and .com, full cover design and proof reading. I can't believe what a good deal this is.
Richard who runs the company, has just emailed me the contract, so am off to the park in a minute for a cup of tea, and will read through the whole lot, then sign it, get the cheque and send it off. Then we are on our way!

I have signed the contract in the presence of 2 witnesses - Coran and my next door neighbour. It has then been signed, sealed, and shall very shortly be delivered. I was hoping to get to the building society today to get the cheque sorted out and what should happen when I got there - one parking space was free right outside, and I had exactly 40p in my purse for the meter. The countdown begins - three months and ticking.

Spirit are delighted with my choice

April 19

I have just got back from a reading with my friend Diana Summer. It seems that spirit are delighted that I have taken control with the book, and are thoroughly pleased with my choice. It is nice to have their approval!

I was told that people will use the book in a lot of different ways - but primarily as a reference work for their own research. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the only book that puts all these different themes together in one volume. There are loads of books that talk of different aspects that I have written about, but no one has brought it together under a proper time line the way that I have. Those publishers who said no will be kicking themselves I feel. Their loss will be my gain.

Some musings re book covers

April 15

I bought a copy of the Gospel of Judas yesterday, just so I could add some bits about it, which back up what a lot of channelled stuff I have looked at says. That way people will hopefully see that it is not a load of airy, fairy nonsense - not that I am aiming the book at people like that anyway. Having read through the Gospel last night, and some of the other notes in the book, I have this morning added a few paragraphs. Today and tomorrow I will hopefully finish reading through part four, weeding out the unnecessary words and details. I then have to check my Bibliography, to make sure the titles and publishers, plus dates etc are accurate, and add a few notes about which versions I have used (paperback or hardback, UK or US edition etc). After that it will be ready to be sent.

This will not be the final copy, but as close as I can get at this stage. None of the POD companies offer copy editing, but they do offer proof reading. With Authors OnLine Ltd it costs £350 for the first 80,000 words, and £1.50 for each additional 1000 words, which I think is very reasonable considering. I will need to get it proof read, as you cannot spot errors in your own work. You are too close to it, and don't see things that others might. The proof reader is bound to find a few things that need altering.
Once they have received the text, Authors OnLine will look through it and discuss with me what services I am likely to need. Once this has been agreed, they will pass me through to the production department and put me in touch with a graphic artist who can design the cover. I already know what I want - I was shown the image during a recent meditation at the Earth's Cycles course I am doing.

It is basically a plain black cover with the title and my name in gold lettering. Underneath will be the image of the Christian cross entwined with two serpents, if possible morphing into the DNA spirals. On either side will be a black skinned Adam and Eve wearing nothing but fig leaves. The serpents will appear as if they are talking to Adam and Eve.

Once that is done, they will get to work on the rest of the book, and I shall have to start work on my promotional plans, booking the Church for the book launch etc, and deciding who to invite, including which, if any local papers. National ones are pretty much a waste of time. I shall also have to register the name Pigsty Press with the Inland Revenue, and set up a business account in that name.
Phew, so much to do and think about. It will all be worthwhile though. I will show all those publishers who turned me down ...

Fortunately Authors OnLine offer distribution in both the UK and North America, via their printer Lightning Source. Anyone from anywhere in the world will be able a copy to buy it via Amazon anyway, and it will be available via all of their sites. I will have to set a separate price for the US, but I am sure they will advise me on that.

Sent the book off today

April 18

Sent my book off to Authors On Line today, so the process has now begun. Once he has received it and had a chance to look through will give me a ring to discuss which of their services I will need.

It looks like I will be self publishing

April 9

I must be one of the few people who not read any of Dan Brown's books, as being a non fiction writer, for the last few years I have been reading mostly from this angle. Perhaps I will have a better idea of whether I think this constitutes plagarisation once I have seen the film. I don't think there is any danger of me being accused of this though - for one thing those authors will not have the money to sue anyone else after this case, and I am small fry anyway.

It looks as if my book will have to be self published, making it difficult for them to even know about, since this will invariably mean virtually nil exposure in book retailers. That doesn't bother me though, since they take a 50 percent cut of the profits anyway - leaving all the more for me! It is a funny old world though when book shops earn more book than the publisher and author combined, especially the poor author, who more often than that has to put up with an 8 percent royalty, which earns them literally pennies per book. No wonder so many of us are turning to self publishing then.

Finally decided

April 13

I have finally decided which POD Company is going to get their hands on my book. I have humming and harring over this for weeks, looking at various websites, talking to loads of different companies, trying in vain to get comparisons with the different services they offer. This has been no easy task as they all offer such different things. In the end it was between two companies - AuthorsOnLine Ltd and Authorhouse.

The AuthorsOnLine site is brilliant with all the information you need on what they offer, how much it will cost etc, etc. The one thing it didn't say though was print costs. These turn out to be 1p per page, plus 70p for the cover. The Authorhouse site by contrast is next to useless with no information whatsoever. They invite you to send off for a publishing guide to their services, which is basically of copy of what is already on the site! I then got several American style emails wanting to know all about the book, what my plans were etc and inviting me to a seminar. I thought I would go along, as nothing ventured, nothing gained, and it was last night at the Hilton Hotel in Paddington, London. Last week I rang them up to ask a load of questions re print costs, royalty structures etc, and was promised an email with the information. A week later I was still waiting, so I though go to the conference and find out there. There they promised once again to send the info, and despite my emailing to remind them, still nothing has arrived.

Authorhouse are a big multi-national company based in the UK and US, who say they have published over 30,000 books, and last year alone printed and sold 1.1 million copies. I suspect that these figures are exaggerated, since Lightning Source; their printer printed a total of 28 million books last year - meaning that in 1 in 28 books would have been theirs - a very high figure considering that Random House and other large mainstream publishers also use Lightning Source for their low selling titles.

They also made a big thing about the Waterstones package that they offer - for £700 you can get the book formatted, cover designed from a databank of images etc, plus 3 copies of the book in Waterstones, Oxford Street for a period of 90 days, on a special Authorhouse stand. I went to Waterstones en route to the conference last night, and was dismayed to see that the stand is slap bang in the middle of the fiction area. My book is non fiction, so how are people going to find it. They will not be looking in the fiction area for a book like mine, but the non fiction area.

With AuthorsOnLine there is no bull s******* and no rubbish. They know exactly where you are and they make no false promises and do not give you unrealistic expectations. They have the same distribution and pay more royalties. So really there is no comparison and no competition. Everything Authorhouse can do, Authors on line can also do, including, they say, sending copies to magazines like Nexus and Kindred Spirit.
I had a bad feeling about Authorhouse right from the start, and all the way up there, and while at the conference last night felt very uncomfortable and uneasy. Now I finally understand why. Coran and I will have a read through the book then this weekend, and then it will be on its way. It is finally happening, and I really will get to see it in print. I can't believe it is actually happening.

With a bit of luck it will be in print by the end of the summer - and you can all have a signed copy at our get together in the autumn. Needless to say I will also mention you all in the acknowledgements.

Can't wait to get it all done now I have finally decided. Not sure what I am going to do with myself though - it has been my life for the last five years, so will be very strange.

I have decided that I shall be issuing it under my own name of Pigsty Press, in honour of the Old Light Cottage, which used to be a pigsty. Have loads of ideas as to how to sell it - through the Authors on line site, and also of course our own. It will also be on and .com, plus you will be able to order it from book stores and libraries (will have to register for public lending rights, so I still get paid!). I would rather people buy it from the publisher or myself if possible of course, because that way I earn more, but sales are sales. I have already emailed Cygnus book club to see what their policy is regarding books that they sell, and am waiting for a reply. Review copies can be sent to Nexus, Kindred Spirit etc, and also Paradigm Shift. I can maybe write another article to go in the magazine as well. My friend Michele who lives in Canada can put it on her website, and maybe I can persuade someone to post on HP as well, recommending it. I can also of course sell it through St Michaels and all those on our mailing list. One idea I also had was to get the local paper involved, maybe with a competition where people write in and first one out of the hat gets a free copy. The rest could maybe send in a coupon or something for £1 off. There are all sorts of ways to promote it when I think about it, and now I realise why I sold kitchens for all those years also - to give me the confidence and the expertise to go out there and do all this! Exciting times ahead then .......

The Da Vinci Code Verdict is in

April 8

The verdict finally came back today in the Da Vinci Code trial. Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent have lost their case, which was brought against their own publishers, Random House, and been ordered to pay Brown's court costs of £1.3 million, plus their own of £600,000. Both will no doubt have to re-mortgage their homes; in fact it will probably bankrupt them. I bet Henry Lincoln, the third author of the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail is glad that he chose not to get involved.

Random House are the ones who really benefit, not just in terms of publicity, but also through increased book sales. They are one of the biggest names in publishing in both the UK and US, who combined with the other big two publishers, control nearly 75 percent of book sales in both of markets. The ironic thing is that since all of this kicked off, both books have had a huge surge in sales. Dan Brown has gone back into the best sellers list, and HBHG has gone from sales of a meager 3500 a year to 7000 a week, with a special hardback edition recently brought out.

It is good publicity for the film as well, which is due for release next week, featuring Arthur, the husband of my good friend Gillyann, as an extra. Some of the more cynical reporters have suggested that the whole court case was a rouse by both authors for more publicity, but I can't see that, as to be honest, there are cheaper and better ways.

Enough of the sales pitch

April 6

It has been a busy and productive day. This morning I rang Authorhouse and had a long chat with them and asked them loads of questions about their service - what is included, what isn't, all about royalty payments, author discounts etc. They are supposed to be emailing me this afternoon with more details, but so far nothing. I am going to their seminar next week anyway, so any more questions I have can be asked there. The woman I spoke to will there so I can meet her in person.

Something they do is called the 'Waterstones package'. For a fee of around £700 your book can be added to the Authorhouse stand in Waterstones, Oxford Street. 3 copies will be on display for a period of 90 days (3 months). With Waterstones, decision making is done on a branch rather than national level anyway, so theoretically I could persuade the Manager of any branch to stock my book, if I offered a big enough discount and they thought they could sell it. I will certainly be approaching my two nearest ones, and may even try and do some talks and signings there. I will do the same with Borders, which I know are very local author friendly. The book though would so I am told, be given prime placement right by the door on the Authorhouse stand. Next week when I go to their seminar I will try and go via Oxford Circus so I can see for myself what this stand looks like and have a flick through some of their books to check the quality and what sort of prices they go for.

One thing this woman did suggest was getting an art student from the local university to design the cover, for maybe a small fee, or even free, in exchange for putting their name in the book. It may be useful publicity for them, and help them get work by adding to their portfolio. This afternoon with this in mind, I rang Kingston University Art department and had a chat. The students are all on holiday at the moment, and not due back until April 24, but she gave me the email address for the head of the art faculty and I can have a think over the next few weeks about what the spec will be, how I would want the work submitted, what payment (if any) would be offered etc.

I had the idea last night for setting up a Writers Circle at our local church, so knowing there is a trustees meeting tomorrow night, gave one of them a ring to see what she thought of the idea. She liked it, and is going to bring it up at the meeting tomorrow night to see what the others think. She mentioned that Cygnus book club are now doing publishing, so I gave them a ring. It seems that they have published 3 titles, all of which have been previously published, and are not not issuing new books. I also asked them about POD and whether they would stock self published titles. They asked me to email them with more details re the book etc, and the names of the publishers I am considering. It would be good if I could get my book into their catalogue, as I think it would sell really well. It depends what discount they buy them for - less than 50 percent and it would probably not be viable. I can only see what they say when they get back to me. Most book sellers would buy it for between 40 and 50 percent discount anyway (including Waterstones I presume), so you would have to sell an awful lot of books to make that Waterstones package worthwhile. I think I would sell more through Cygnus than Waterstones, since the catalogue is specifically aimed at mind body and spirit titles, and they have a huge circulation. All in all then an interesting and productive day. I am feeling knackered now though.

Going to Authorhouse seminar

April 5

This morning I booked a place for a free seminar held by one of the larger self publishing companies, Authorhouse. Their website and brochure is next to useless so thought I would go along and get a bit more information. It is at the Hilton Hotel near Paddington (London) next Wednesday night. It should hopefully be interesting.

It all adds up ....

April 1

Now that I have completed my book, I am considering self publishing. This entails certain costs, which will need to be offset against a sensible cover price. Once I have set the cover price I will need to work out how many copies I need to sell via each route (direct and via booksellers) in order to break even.

I think I have more or less decided that the price will need to be set at around £14.99. Anything less than that and I will not make money. It is not only print and set up costs that have to be considered, but all the other expenses - other books that I have to buy, stationary, phone calls, computer peripherals, the cost of buying my laptop, different courses and workshops I have been on, petrol and car expenses etc. I am not sure what it has all added up to (I will have to check my accounts), but is must be at least 4-5K. That is a lot of money to make up for. As it stands, it will difficult enough to cover the print and set up costs, never mind all these other expenses. I am confident that I can do it though, and make a succces of it. I will show all those mainstream publishers who turned it down. "Can't justify an offer for publication, as we don't think it will have sufficient sales" - they will all end of eating their words.

Doing the sums

March 31

I have taken the bull by the horns and rang a self publishing company - AuthorsOnLine Ltd to find out about their print costs. It seems there are 2 main POD printers - Lightning Source, who have distribution in both UK and USA and Anthony Rowe, who distribute only in the UK. Most companies use Lightning Source. Their print costs are 1p a page for books up to 9 inches by 6 inches, plus 70p for the cover (paperback). Seeing as the print costs are the same for pages less than this size, then it makes sense to have the largest pages you can get away with, as that way there will be less of them. Less pages means less costs!
They sound like a nice company. Net profits are split 60/40 in the authors favour, which is more generous than most I have seen. Some only offer 12 1/2 percent.

I have then been busy working out costs to see what cover price I need to charge, and how many I will need to sell in order to break even.

If I decide to go with this company, the set up cost will be around £1500. Print costs will be 1p a page plus 70p for the cover. For a book my size (about 270 pages based on 9 inch by 6 inch) that means £3.40 per copy. By the time booksellers discount is taken off (40 percent) this means that any books sold via this route will generate a net profit of £5.60. I will get 60 percent of this, or £3.36, meaning I will have to sell 447 copies to break even. Any copies that I sell myself at talks etc, I can buy at print cost plus 20 percent (£4.00). I then get to keep the balance of £10.91, meaning I have to sell just 138 copies to break even, a figure which I think should be easily achievable.
It seems that £14.99 would be a realistic price. You always have to be careful to charge a good price, bearing in mind the work that has gone in, but on the other hand, you do not want to price yourself out of the market either. This seems a sensible compromise at a few pounds more than commercially produced books, which judging by my library retail at around the £12.99 mark.

Would I better off self publishing ?

March 27

I received another rejection this morning - this time from Floris - no specific reason given, just a note to say they cannot make an offer for publication. I am still waiting on Watkins/Duncan Baird, plus Capall Bann and Hay House. I will probably try and send my proposal to the next one on the list this afternoon.

At this stage I am beginning to think about whether I should consider self publishing. I will have to pay for this myself, but the turnaround is so much quicker. The publication process via the traditional route can be agonizingly slow, with no guarantee that they will even publish the book at all even after the contract has been signed. It can take anything up to 2 years before the book reaches print even when it is published, with no publicity or marketing unless your name is Beckham or Rowling.

It seems to me that at this stage I may be better off doing it myself. There are 2 ways of doing this - short print run and print on demand (POD). With short print run, you oversee the whole process, sourcing printers and registered the book for ISBN's, legal library deposits etc yourself. Once the copies are printed, you have to distribute them all yourself, via talks etc, and if you are lucky independent, book stores.

Getting into book stores is problematic for most self publishers mostly because of the heavy discounts that book stores and even Amazon buy the book for. In the case of book stores, this is typically around 40 percent, but with Amazon Advantage 60 percent. This means that they buy the books from the wholesaler for that percentage of the actual cover price. So if for example your book is retailing at £10, they will buy it for £4. By the time print costs are taken off, there is not much left over. This is the main reason why the publishing industry is in the state it is in and why it is so hard for an unknown author to get a deal. Budgets are tight and resources limited, so publishers need to be certain that they will recoup their investment. Unless you have a good track record of past sales, or a captive specialized market, then you will be very lucky to get anything at all. Gone are the days of large advances and mega publicity, most books get nothing, and the author finds that they have to do all the hard work themselves in organizing talks, book signings etc.

What then is the incentive of publishing via the traditional route? None, other than the fact that you do not have to bank roll it. On the other hand, with self publishing YOU are totally in control. It can though be expensive. The first quote I have got, from a company called Upfront Publishing is for nearly £2500. This includes proof reading and editing (I may be able to do some of this myself, typesetting (more complicated to do yourself), writing of back cover blurb, bespoke cover design, ISBN registration, legal library deposits, uploading to the distribution network, plus marketing package (posters, postcards, business cards etc that you can give out to people). The first 25 copies of the book would be free, after that you have to buy them for around £7.79 a piece (minimum order of 25 copies). This is based on a paperback selling price of £12.99 for a book of up to 400 pages with no colour illustrations or photographs. For copies that you manage to sell yourself in this way you get to keep the full balance between print costs and selling price (i.e. £5.20 a book). Otherwise, for sales through the distribution network (Amazon, book stores etc) you get a royalty of 12.5 % of net receipts. This is the amount left over after the booksellers discount and print costs are taken off. In most cases this will leave you with literally pennies.
This though is the first quote I have received. There are plenty of other POD companies out there, who according to their websites and catalogues can do it for a lot less. One thing I have decided is that I want to work with a UK based company rather than one based in the US. The reasons for this are simple - time difference, ease of communication, freight costs to get the books shipped to the UK and currency conversions. I do not wish to pay hefty bank charges for converting my hard earned royalties from dollars to pounds.
I should maybe explain a little more about what POD is. It basically means what it suggests, that books are stored as a digital file and printed on demand, as and when they are ordered. The company will normally take care of all the ordering and delivering for you, paying you royalties typically every 3 months (as opposed to every 6 which is the norm with traditional publishers).

This is not to say that the books will be available on the shelves in book stores, as most stores would not want to pay upfront, but be invoiced later, after the books have sold. What it does mean is that anyone can walk into a book store and ask them to order a copy, the same with libraries. It is in the authors interest to sell as many books as possible themselves, as that way they earn more royalties and are more likely to make a profit. Shipping costs to the author have to be considered, plus the cost of generating publicity. After all, the book will not sell if no one knows about it. That is where my own website, Internet forums and places like our local church come in, as they are all potential ways of selling more books by letting people know that it exists. The next thing to consider then will be getting a website of my own; with my own name as opposed to the one Telewest have given us. I will keep plugging away.

More Da Vinci Code - what is plagarisation?

March 14

If Baigent and Leigh are successful in their claim, the film of the Da Vinci Code may have to be scrapped, since this would also be a plagarisation of their work. I thought the meaning of the term plagarisation was to pass someone else's work off as your own, but according to the Society of Authors, when I spoke to them recently about copyright issues, the term is much broader than that. Some writers have claimed plagarisation and won their cases on the basis of just a few lines, or even words. The key seems to be, do you rely on the skill of another in order to get the point across in your own work? I think to an extent all writers do, since we utilise other sources for reference material. The key seems to be how this is acknowledged and the way it which it is actually done. Like everything else, it is all in the wording, but then again that is what we writers do isn't it?

I don't think it is anything that I could be accused of, as when discussing these concepts in my own work I tend to use phrases like 'According to the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail etc'. This seems to be a good way of protecting yourself. One has to think of how you would feel if someone else were to copy copious text from your work and re-word it without acknowledgement.

The Da Vinci Code trial - elaborate publicity stunt?

March 13

I was discussing the Da Vinci Code trial today with friends on the Internet. This will certainly be one to watch, which will have ramifications for the entire publishing industry.

The ironic thing is that both books were published by Random House, but then most are, as they are the biggest name in publishing worldwide, with so many imprints they take up almost a whole page in the Writers and Artists Handbook. I cannot comment too much on this as I am one of the few people who has not read any of Dan Brown's books. He is right when he says The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail is not the only book to mention the so called Jesus bloodline, since many others do, notably Lawrence Gardner in Bloodline of the Holy Grail. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was however the first book to mention this. It was written incidentally by three writers, the third of which, Henry Lincoln has refused to comment regarding the lawsuit. I shall be watching this one very carefully.

No surprises there then

March 11

I received another rejection yesterday morning, this time from Thorsons - no real surprises there considering the conversation I had with their submissions dept a few weeks ago, when they advised me that they rarely take on projects from unknown authors without the backing of an agent. I was surprised that they sent it all back, as I asked them not to in order to save on postage. Still, it saves me printing it all out again, which means that this morning I had a copy all ready to be sent to the next one - Floris Books in Edinburgh. Looking through their list they have a few interesting titles which would I think compliment my book quite well. Let's hope that they agree.

Speculate to accumulate ....

March 12

Yesterday I sent off the submission to Floris in Edinburgh - they are not a big publisher, but have some very interesting titles, particularly on religion. This afternoon I have also sent a submission by email (as per their guidelines) to Hay House (the UK division). It is not their usual type of book, but it says on their website:

Nonfiction subject matter: MBS, Spirituality, Self-Help, Sociology, Philosophy, Psychology, Health, Complementary Medicine, Men’s/Women’s Issues. Subjects include social issues, current events, ecology, business, food and nutrition, education, the environment, alternative health/medicine, money/finance, nature, recreation, religion, spiritual growth. We are looking for distinctive and original books by authors who have the energy and passion to want to make a difference.

Tips from the Editor: “Our audience is concerned with our planet, the healing properties of love, and self-help principles. We’ve noticed that our readers are interested in taking more control of their lives”.

I think my book fulfills all that criteria, especially the bit about authors with passion and enthusiasm - I have loads of that - I must have or I wouldn't have spent 5 years writing this stuff.

More rejections

February 21

There were two more rejections waiting for me when I got back from Lundy - from Foulsham/Watkins and Green Magic. I received another this morning from Piatkus - no real surprises there. That leaves Thorsons and Capall Bann who are still looking. It is time to start sending some more out in the next few days (and reach for the tissue box and Green and Blacks chocolate!)

Warner Brothers - grrrr !!!

March 10

Unfortunately it looks as if I may have to ditch the idea of using quotes from Babylon 5 beneath all my chapter headings. Initially I contacted Warner Bros who produced the programme, believing that they owned the copyright. However, they referred me on to Michael J Straczynski’s agent. I emailed, but they advised me that he was no longer with them, and now had a new agent. What they failed to provide was this new agents contact details..... Luckily I managed to find him via the Internet. Imagine me writing to a Hollywood agent.....

A week later there was still no reply. What is it with these people? Coran suggested that I try and contact JMS via the site that is selling the scripts from B5, as I may be able to get permission that way. I received a very nice email back from a lady named Jaclyn informing me that his company, Synthetic Worlds will only grant permission to use 2 quotes from the series. The only problem is, as my book has 33 chapters, I use a minimum of 33 of these quotes. So, it looks now as if I will not be able to use any at all. I could still use just 2 of them, one at the beginning of the book and one at the end, but will have to go through them all again and think very carefully on which ones would be the best, and at this stage whether it is really worth all the hassle.

I had hoped at some point in the future, to begin work on what may become another book - the title I thought of was "Babylon Five - Science Fact or Science Fiction?" If this is true and I cannot use more than 2 quotes it will be damn near impossible to write a book such as this. I asked Jaclyn to let me have the contact details for Synthetic Worlds so I can check this for myself, as it could mean that you can only use 2 quotes free of charge, but she has not replied. Maybe I will try contacting some of the B5 websites who seem to use copious quotes, as they must have got permission for more than 2 of them from somewhere, so I find it hard to believe that I could not.

Got my first rejection today

January 26

I got my first rejection yesterday from Findhorn Press - no specific reason was given, just that the readers report did not recommend publication. It would be nice to have a more specific reason, but publishers are busy people, who get sent upwards of 100 manuscripts every day, so don't have the time to make specific comments, other than we loved it, or it is not suitable for our list. Such is life.

I feel a bit disheartened, mostly because there is so much else that I am dealing with, and this is one more thing on top of many. It is though a minor hiccup, and is not to say that the other 6 publishers who are yet to respond will also say no. Even if they do, there are still at least 30 others on my list, and that is just the UK, there is always the US and Europe and Australia, and for that matter, self publishing. I will just have to sit it out and wait, and try very hard to be patient. Patience though never was my strong point.

Unfair dealing

February 20

I got my first written permission back from Thorsons today to quote some of Marianne Williamson's stuff. I almost wish I hadn’t bothered, as it is valid for just one edition (first print run) of the book in English language throughout the UK and Commonwealth. I also have to send them a complimentary copy. Oh and permission is granted to reproduce the material in Braille, large type or audio only is no charge is made to the visually handicapped. There I was thinking the term publishing business had something to do with earning money.....

All of this for 11 measly words, which would probably be covered by fair dealing anyway. Oh well, you live and learn. I can't wait to see what Warner Bros say about all those B5 quotes I want to use.

Acting on instinct

January 23

Yesterday Coran had the feeling that I should email Findhorn Press and Capall Bann to check that my submission and queries had been received, knowing how unpredictable email can be. It was lucky that I did because as it turned out, Capall Bann did not receive my query. They asked that I send it again. The good news is that this one was received, and they like it sufficiently to want to see more. So first thing tomorrow it will be winging its way to them.

They would definately be my first choice of publisher if interested enough to make an offer.
As for Findhorn, it was received fine, and is being read by one of their reviewers. I should hopefully hear from them some time within the next couple of weeks. They would also be near the top of my list should they make an offer. There is a long way to go yet, as they have to request the entire manuscript first.

I am still waiting to hear from Warner Bros re copyright for Babylon 5 quotes, but then they do take their time.

Another busy day .....

January 12

I have had a busy morning - I sent two submsisions to Green Magic and Foulsham Press, also rang Thorsons and Piatkus to query the Editors name and check submission guidelines. Piatkus were very helpful, Thorsons less so - the man I spoke to was actually quite rude and trotted out the usual blurb about it being difficult unless you have an agent. It is difficult to get published even with one, and when they are as rude as they are (well the ones I have spoken to anyway!) I don't see why I should give them 10 percent of my hard earned income. I was not put off, and have sent all the details to Belinda Budge, their Commissioning Editor. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I have also sent a query Email to small but growing publisher, Capall Bann. They would probably be my first choice if interested, since they a family run business who do not bombard you with jargon, and seem very environment friendly. Their website says that if they like your initial query, to send details single spaced in order to save paper! Most publishers insist on double spaced, which not only uses more paper, but also costs a fortune to send. Each submission is costing me £1.48, plus return postage and of course the cost of the massive padded envelope to put it all in. It does mount up.

The waiting game

January 20

When a brown self addressed envelope popped through the door this morning I felt sure it would be my first rejection - but no, when I opened the envelope I was pleasantly surprised. It was a letter from Sue Wilkins, Editorial and Marketing Coordinator from Foulsham Press which says:

'Thank you for sending synopsis of your manuscript. We will consider the material and contact you again in 6 - 8 weeks."

By my reckoning, that should be sometime around the middle of March. It doesn't necessarily mean that it will be accepted, as it is probably just a standard letter that they send out. This is very unusual for a publisher though, as normally they don't confirm receipt of such things, just let you know whether or not they are interested. I take this as a positive sign, but won't get my hopes up too high. There are 6 others I am waiting to hear from too.

It's a kinda magic .....

January 11

So far today I have sent off one more submission; this time by email to Findhorn Press, and queried a small publisher I found via the Internet called Green Magic. I would have sent the deatils by post, but our Post Office closes early today, so I have printed out another copy of my proposal to be sent to Foulsham Press first thing in the morning. I will probably do a couple of more submissions before the day is out.

There are about 40 UK publishers on my list as possibilities - I will have to check their websites first to make sure they are really suitable, as in the Writers Yearbook many state that they publish non-fiction, but when you look at their catalogues, it is all stuff on gardening, cookery etc, which is not much good to me!

No sooner did I send that email to Green Magic than they got back to me requesting details of the book with a sample chapter. I have then printed it all out to be sent. How nice it is to be able to send a submisson through saying "Please find enclosed Book Proposal and sample chapters as per your request!" I know there is a long way to go yet though.

Sent my first submission today

10 January 2006

I have finally sent out my very first submission. It not really the first one, but rather the first one in three years. When I first began to write my book, I tried unsuccessfully for about a year to get it published and/or find an agent. I soon realised that it wasn't ready to be submitted. Now though it is, so my first revised submission one is winging its way as I write to Duncan Baird Publishers in London. I didn't realise until I checked their website that they also own Watkins Publishing, who run an esoteric book store in London. I have asked that if they consider the book as not suitable for Duncan Baird's list to pass it along to Watkins as they may be interested. I await the result with bated breathe.
More submissions will be sent in due course. There is no need to sit around waiting and sending one out at a time. I learnt that lesson the first time I did this, and won't make that mistake again.


January 3

I know that when you quote direct from someone else's work, copyright permission needs to be obtained in writing. Since there are only a few instances where I do this in my book, this has not presented me with a major problem. I am currently in the process of obtaining and waiting for these permissions to come through.

What I am less clear on is whether you also need permission, or at least clearance from the publishers of works that you paraphrase or use for reference material. I have checked on the Internet, and different sites say different things, hence the confusion. If you do need permission to paraphrase then this is going to leave me with a potential problem, since I have used various bits and bobs from well over 100 other sources. How on earth will I begin to wade through that lot, especially if they need to see the bits I have written. Help!!

In the end I decided to post on a few writers forums asking for advice. It seems that you can quote verbatim up to around 200 - 300 words without needing permission. Any more than that, especially with music, and you will need written permission from the copyright holder. That bit is fine, since there is not much that I do quote verbatim. Mostly it is quotes from Babylon 5. That is all in hand, and I am waiting for Warner Bros in California to get back to me, hoping and praying that they will not charge a hefty fee.

Paraphrasing and summarizing is generally fine as long as you credit the source (which it goes without saying I have) and it is largely in your own words (which in my case it also is). There are whole chapters where I utilise just one or two others works as reference material, paraphrased in my own words, with various bits added based on my own ideas and interpretations. Basically, my interpretation of their words, re-written in my particular style.

Sometimes it is best not to bother contacting publishers, since they will land you with hefty fees, whereas if left alone, they would probably not have heard of your book. Checking book covers in my own library, very few permissions are written inside, so I can surmise that most authors do not bother to do this. All in all this is a huge relief, since it will save me a fortune in time, stamps, letters and phone calls.

Just to make sure, I also checked in the Writers and Artists Yearbook, which says:

"There is no copyright in ideas or information. In general, anyone may use published ideas and facts provided they do not copy the precise wording in which they are expressed. But be careful, it is an infringement of copyright to rely on someone else's 'skill and labour' in creating a work. The second writer is expected to check all the facts at their original source".

What this seems to be saying is that it is the words that are copyrighted rather than the ideas. Re-writing in your words is then fine, provided you acknowledge the source. If one book says for example "apples are red" then you cannot just take their word for it, but have to go back to the source that they got this information from, tracking it to its source, to make sure that the information is accurate. This as far as possible I have done.

As a safeguard I decided to ring the Society of Authors since the stuff in the Artists and Writers Yearbook was written by them. I spoke to a nice lady called Lisa Dowdeswell, who seemed to think that I was fine, and would not need written permission, agreeing pretty much with what I have already been told.

My Book Proposal is Complete

December 30 2005

I have finally completed my revised book proposal, and only hope that the publishers are as impressed by it as I am. Reading through it in comparison to the original, I was struck by how much the book has changed in the last six months. I should give myself a jolly big pat on the back for all my hard work. To celebrate its completion I will crack open the box of biscuits my brother got me for Christmas, I may even crack open that bottle of mulled wine a day early too.