Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Black Art of Publishing

The first book one ever publishes has a magical quality about it. You spend many hours, weeks and a month slaving over a hot keyboard and then to see your brainchild appear in book form is quite thrilling.

The process of turning a manuscript into a book seems in itself to be quite magical. Until recently the traditional route to publishing was through an Printingestablished publisher. Depending on the genre and whether it is to be published as a fiction or non-fiction book, would determine the route that eventually ensures your book arrives on the shelves of various bookstores. In recent years, many more books are read as e-books, including the more traditional academic literature.

Historically, aspiring writers would be advised to find a literary agent, in the first instance, who would be willing to tout their wears within the publishing community, selling your masterpiece to the highest bidder. It may sound simple enough, but having spent a long time writing your book, it would probably take as long, if not longer, to secure an interest with an agent and then that of a publisher. The final decision whether a publisher is likely to risk publishing a book is, understandably, based on commercial factors in the first instance. The publishing team needs to estimate the possible sales to be generated against the cost of production as well as the reputation of the author, if they have published before. Finally, there is also an element of personal preference and house style of the publisher.

For the more academic type books, one would make contact direct with the Commissioning Editor, providing a fairly extensive book proposal and depending on the publisher, also a sample chapter of the proposed book. This is to provide evidence of the fact that one is actually capable of writing. It was through this route that I have successfully published my previous books. The traditional route to publishing is fairly lengthy and could take anything from 6 to 18 months.

However, with the creation of Kindle and their print-on-demand and e-IMG_1478platform, as well as other e-publishers, all that has changed. Any budding author is now able to publish their masterpiece on line with the control of the complete publishing process. It has both its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that the author can publish a book whenever they are ready without the lengthy process of finding an agent and publisher who might be interested in their book. The downside is that the whole process of publishing is quite complex, although doable.

Whether it is a case of ignorance is bliss, the Kindle platform appears to be relatively straightforward offering guidance along the way. As Kindle has the largest slice of the e-book pie, I thought it probably the best place to start my self-publishing experience. I have also found the book by Rick Smith, CreateSpace & Kindle: Self-Publishing Masterclass, incredible helpful. It has and continues to act as a reference to me along each step of the publishing journey. I may feel differently about the straightforward nature of the process when I actually get to the final stage of publishing my book. I will let you know!

True to my research background, I have carried out endless research as to the pros and cons of self-publishing versus the traditional route through an established publisher. The overriding advice is that no matter which route one decides to use for self-publishing, the product has to be good. Self-publishing does not mean that a shoddy piece of writing is acceptable; not if you’re serious about making any money with the book. As I mentioned in my last blog, the advice is that with an e-book the cover is even more important than with a paper book. An eye-catching cover can make all the difference to the eventual sales of the book. This is the reason why I am involved in some serious soul searching of what theme to select for the cover. As I have a number of professional designers and artists in the family, I might opt for their help in designing the cover.

Of course, irrespective of one’s motivation for writing and publishing a book, it would be nice to sell some copies. As I’ve discovered, there is also a science in deciding which price bracket to opt for and as I am still in the early stages of publishing, it is a decision I have not yet had to make. I am beginning to understand why it takes a long time to get a manuscript into book form. I am also beginning to appreciate why the royalties offered through a traditional publisher are so small.

The conclusion I am beginning to reach is that there is so much more to publishing a book than meets the eye! Who knows what other challenges I will encounter until my book is finally published.


DO Judge a Book by Its Cover

I imagine there are very few of us that have not been brought up with the adage not to judge a book by its cover. The words of wisdom, of course, refer to the notion that we should not fall into the trap of merely looking at people, ideas or circumstances from a superficial perspective, but to take the time to delve deeper before forming an opinion. Snap decisions based on such prejudice may deny us the joy of forming rewarding relationships and pursuing unexpected opportunities.

We are conditioned to believe that the most beautiful object or perfect person is better than those with blemishes and less than perfect characteristics. The large visual areas in our brains mean that not only do we respond favorably to the visually appealing wrapper but it also influences how we respond to its content. The conclusions we draw about people or situations act as filters through which we judge everything related to them. This serves to reinforce the prejudices, positive or negative, we have originally formed about a person or a situation.

These words of wisdom are without a doubt powerful reminders Bookswhen we encounter people or opportunities for the first time. However, I firmly believe that we DO judge a book by its cover. Most of us will respond adversely to a book with either an unattractive or amateur looking cover. We may therefore not give the book a second chance and thereby denying ourselves a possible rewarding experience.

Historically book covers were handmade and adorned with gold, silver and jewels. However, a book cover has become so much more than merely a protective cover to hold the pages of the book together. Despite its functional aspect, the book cover assumes the role of advertising and communicating ideas contained in the book itself. Following the commercially competitive nature of the book industry, the onus is on the cover to provide hints about the style, genre and the subject of the book. Furthermore, every author or publisher expects the book cover to generate sales through its visual appeal. The dawn of e-publishing has further challenged the traditions of book publishing and raises the question of the role of the book cover and whether it is even necessary to have.

An integral part of the book cover is, of course, the title of the book that is accompanied by a whole encyclopedia of psychology of its own. How does one distill the many thousands of words so painstakingly created over a period of months or years into a phrase of a few words? Atticus does not have the same ring as To Kill a Mockingbird, which was the title once considered by Harper Lee. The question that immediately comes to mind is whether it would have become the classic it did with a different title.

Just when I thought I had cracked the title of my book, I stumbled on the advice of a successful author of non-fiction who puts forward a good argument for the title to reflect the content of the book. Furthermore, he added that non-fiction books also have a sub-title that conveys a promise to the readers. The title has to succinctly convey what the book is all about. My book has a very clear purpose, namely as a tribute to Eugene and Pieter and its core theme of terminal cancer is immutable. Even so, the combinations of words that will describe this, is endless. The successful title is a combination of two elements, firstly to stimulate and secondly to inform. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? If only!

A good title should take a number of factors into account. The adage of simplicity has to be number one on the list. Like a name, the title should have appeal when uttered aloud. A title should be memorable and stand out from the crowd of many others competing for our attention. A title should not be too long and, in the case of non-fiction titles, be obscured by jargon.

This, my dear reader, is what has been sending my brain into spasms this week. It will no doubt continue to do so until I finally decide on both the book cover as well as the title. Having written my tribute to Eugene and Pieter, all I now need is a cover and a title.Rose

I am not sure whether to take comfort in the frequently referenced quotation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.


The Boundless Expression of Creativity

The experiences I encountered the last two weeks during my travels in China and Hong Kong once again made Hong Kongme marvel at the unique nature of individual creativity. The expression of creativity is as endless as the act of creativity itself and human nature continues to discover and define different ways and applications for their talents. The development and evolution of technology, a creative expression in itself, also enables many different forms of creativity to emerge.

I had the opportunity to spend some time at the premises of a particular firm in Shenzhen, China, who Frame 2manufactures eyewear in a very unusual way. Hitherto opticians and wearers of glasses have been at the mercy of the designers and creators of eyewear. It seems that it is only in recent years that there has been an awareness among manufacturers that glasses may have a purpose beyond being functional and allowing the wearer to see the world in its intended glory. Not only do they serve a practical purpose and are a necessity for many people, but they also have the potential to become an important element of the wearer’s attire. Above all they are capable of enhancing the appearance and unique facial characteristics of the wearer, expressing a personal signature.

FramesHowever, opticians and wearers of glasses have had to contend with what the manufacturers of these vital pieces of apparatus decided to produce. Historically the functional aspect has taken precedence at the cost of appearance. Finally, in recent years the concept of glasses as an enhancement to the appearance of the wearers dawned on the manufacturers. However, opticians and their clients have continued to be passive participants in the process, having to be content with what the manufacturers decided to produce.

Then, some ten years or so ago a creative and entrepreneurial young man had a vision to turn the design and manufacture of eyewear upside down and TD Tom Davies was borne. Tom Davies created a unique and innovative process that enabled the production of bespoke frames. This approach allows both the optician and the client to be co-creators with the manufacturer, TD Tom Davies. Together they are able to create a pair of frames that will not only fit the wearer perfectly, but which also takes into account their lifestyle and unique personality. TomThe result is eyewear that is unique to the individual from the colour to the shape of the frames. This innovative approach to eyewear design has meant TD Tom Davies is in a league of its own. For those with the means, the master himself offers a service akin to haute couture.

Continuing with the theme of creativity, I had the opportunity to visit the famous artist village in Shenzhen that attracts buyers from all over the world. What makes this particular artist village unique is the high concentration of artists with the ability to reproduce and copy unique works of art. Wandering around the streets of the village offers the surreal experience of coming face to face with variations of many of the original and famous masterpieces created throughout the centuries. The artists will also produce paintings from personal photographs from portraits to landscapes and many more.

The experience made me reflect on Eugene’s own creativity that shared a similarity with those of the artists I encountered. Like them he also started with a blank canvas, but instead of paint, pencil or other material, Eugene had mastered the art of using needle and thread with which to create his own works of art. His ‘paintings’ were unique pieces of embroidery reflecting a particular theme or view that had inspired him.

I also reflected on the fact that human beings are themselves unique individual works of art and no artist, no matter how skilled will be able to copy the exclusivity of each individual. It was Eugene’s particular individuality that served as inspiration for me to write my tribute and to share with others what made him the one off work of art that he was.