‘Gnaw’ is Published

'Gnaw' by Jennifer Brady

It’s the weirdest feeling. My first ever ebook is published. It is now FOR SALE. Pre-ordered copies have been delivered to peoples’ devices like Christmas morning, a surprise in the dgital ‘stocking’ (I hope!) for the adult-child within.

It’s the weirdest feeling. My first ever ebook is published. It is now FOR SALE. Pre-ordered copies have been delivered to peoples’ devices like Christmas morning, a surprise in the dgital ‘stocking’ (I hope!) for the adult-child within. Thank you those who pre-ordered because it completes my test phase 1. What a dull morning it would be without a purchaser. I am in-fact writing this post listening to Handel’s Messiah to celebrate before the house awakes. Handel takes the place of the champagne I will not have, the launch I will not party to, the speech I will not make because like most things with self-publishing (and digital), projects notoriously iterative and endless and lacking in glory except for the secretive little triumphs that mean nothing to the outside world. Oh well! The gains are so much more than donning party frock and the nature of the beast means that I am posting to the universe of binary, fitting, yes, fitting indeed.

screen grab of publication notification from Amazon

You could argue that every book should have a distribution ‘health plan’ and for certain books (digi-first, fan fiction, erotica, romance and singles) enrolling them in KDP Select first is a must to take advantage of promotions and countdown deals will give them critical visibility

I did it myself. Completely. Not just because I’m a writer and writers should be innovating here, but because I hate blindspots in a work process. This was a blindspot in my day-to-day job. Publishers are not individuals, they are ‘bodies’ and bodies don’t necessarily make tailored plans for every ‘limb’ (metaphor awful, apologies) or book that may not necessarily suit democratic distribution (ie iTunes, Nook etc). Amazon KDP Select which Gnaw is enrolled in, like many self-pubs, is very much an individual approach to a person (or publisher) who wants to preen and grow their book, learn data and analytics and then tailor the book’s distribution journey. Seems like a logical place to start for me. Like it or not we live in a culture where ‘the people decide’, say what you like but Amazon account for c. 90% of books sales for publishers (article ref to come) and to NOT know every twist and turn of this sales channel is remiss for any publishing person and this is where self-pubs lead the way. They are not supported by print income and need to get creative here, a mentality larger publishing houses could develop and innovate with too. You could argue that every book should have a distribution ‘health plan’ and for certain books (digi-first, fan fiction, erotica, romance and singles) enrolling them in KDP Select first is a must to take advantage of promotions and countdown deals will give them critical visibility and more importantly feedback for a tentative publisher trying to learn the world of digi distribution which is a very different and GLOBAL one to the print one. For Gnaw, a very Indie literary affair, there’s no real advantage for me to distribute elsewhere yet. I have 90 more days in KDP Select to figure out what next, but in the meantime, while my book is selling millions (!) I’m listening to the Amen Chorus about to start the day’s work and I’m happy with that.

Epigraph of Gnaw taken fromThe Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1, 1931–1934 ‘The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second … absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death.’  Many thanks to Ron Hussey, the Anaïs Nin Estate and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company,


Many thanks to Ron Hussey, the Anaïs Nin Estate and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company for permission to use Nin’s quote as epigraph for ‘Gnaw’. 

Buy Gnaw here for US and here for .co.uk realm. See Jen’s Amazon Author Page .You can get the synopsis, or what is called ‘Product Description’ here. Spread the word.  Note the very lovely permission from Anaïs Nin estate to use the quote for the Gnaw epigraph. That made my day some weeks back. Epigraph of Gnaw taken from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1, 1931–1934

‘The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second … absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death.’

Best Fiction and Writing Blogs

I’ve reached a milestone! This blogger M.C. Tuggle whose site is solid and excellent has curated me onto a list of resources to help people become literary superstars!

Blogger M.C. Tuggle whose site is solid and excellent has curated me onto a list of resources to help people become literary superstars.

Blogger M.C. Tuggle whose site is solid and excellent has curated me onto a list of resources to help people become literary superstars.

Deeply chuffed and yet I can measure up to the task too, there is  no vanity there. I am like the lady at the beginning of Fame from the 80’s saying ‘You gotta pay, in sweat’.

The best thing? The list is great, check out Cindy Harris 8 tips for editing a manuscripts and Nihar Pradhan’s lovely scientific take on writing, which I find oddly comforting.

Best Fiction and Writing Blogs.

It Takes a Village to Raise an Ebook

A fellow blogger and self-publisher to be asked me some very relevant questions.

Q. Is there a synopsis of Gnaw anywhere on here?
A. There is! I have just completed my Amazon Author Page see: Jen’s Amazon Author Page. You can get the synopsis, or what is called ‘Product Description’ here.

My Amazon Author Page, surprisingly easy to set up. Better to have it than not as most people searching books don't know you, your blog, your work.

My Amazon Author Page, surprisingly easy to set up. Better to have it than not as most people searching books don’t know you, your blog, your work.

Q. Is there a project plan/timetable that I can scrounge?
A. What I love about this community? A spade is a spade with bloggers. We are definitely a sharing community. So fellow bloggers and non-bloggers too or just interested persons…here is the best I can do… a handy free PDF printable and screen guide ‘Pre-Conversion Schedule and Checklist’. It’s the first of several I’ll put up as I find my way through the desert of project managing, well, myself!

Instructions on how to download/view the PDF

  1. Click here to open the file.
  2. This link will bring you directly to the PDF.
  3. The PDF will automatically open in your browser.
  4.  View on screen as is or download PDF for printing or keeping.

Just in case it’s not obvious how to download or print the PDF here’s how:

How to Download PDF from browser

Download tools on PDF. This icon will appear when you scroll down. Click the round one with the arrow and the rectangle (computer icon) and it should download to wherever you need it to go.

  1. On a Mac: Point cursor to the bottom of a page in the PDF.
  2. An icon will appear as per the image to the right inserted in this post to give you a visual of it.
  3. See the icon on the far right? The circle icon with a downward arrow and a rectangle? Well, click on this and the PDF will download to wherever you have specified your downloads to go!
  4. On a PC?  I use a Mac, so let me ask one of my PC pals but I’m sure it’s intuitive.

BUT bear in mind, when you are the author as well as everything else? You WILL thwart this plan!!!

Here is the thing — I learnt it’s almost impossible to be all roles and stay on deadline! Which is why publishers exist in the first place I suppose? They say it takes a village to raise a child, well, so too for books. Publishers get people like me, or you (author) prise the work off them for a fee (commissioning editor), improve the sense of it (development editor) craft and produce it (Editorial/Production/Design/Typesetting) then launch and distribute it (sales/marketing, warehousing/distribution/customer service/finance). So you are now 14 roles in one, 15 if you count the fact that you may be also the only reader after all of that heft. So let’s face facts, publishers are very useful villages indeed to produce books. How and ever, you for whatever reason, are crazy enough to do this yourself, so expect delays. All 15 roles will struggle for supremacy. The dominant role shall win.

ebook schedule for pre-conversion

Don’t know where to start? Print this out. It will give a bit of shape to the schedule where it can often feel daunting. This is a four page PDF document that outlines the steps and milestones preferable to take as you prepare your writing for ebooking!

I surprised myself. In the real world, the producer in me would stay firm on the deadline, usually because there’s money riding on it, a print date not honoured incurs fees, loss of publicity. In the ebook world Amazon will close rank if you put a title up for pre-order and then don’t supply by the agreed date. In my indie ‘Gnaw’ ebook, however, I let the author in me take priority. The writing simply wasn’t there yet by the appointed date! I even had it copy-edited and peer read. All I got from both actions was that I needed to clarify, tighten, cut. Producer and Author battled for time and the author won. In this case, from a production POV? Who was really waiting for this title? Me, I was, Production ego was, so after the Writer me explained that to the Production me we decided that it was a sensible luxury to break the rules in this case. My business, my decision. But I in no way would truck with this now that the title is on pre-order, it’s full steam ahead for 30 June. And under no circumstances would I recommend delaying if you were publishing another’s work and had money riding on it. But let’s assume your writing is finished and you are happy with your manuscript? Then handy free printout could help you on your way to organising your first indie ebook!

Q. I expect there’s some other stuff to do as well, like formatting, something called HTML?
A. There is. Too long to go into in this post. I feel another free printable guide sheet coming on. Check back here soon.

Q. SEO?
A. More on that in forthcoming posts.

Even the Flaws Must be Flawless

Draft 14 and Cameroned

Two different people, two different stances. They baulked in their own ways at the same things, things I thought were fine, until I read their reasonable assertions. The result? Draft fifteen and counting.

Two different people, two different stances. They baulked in their own ways at the same things, things I thought were fine, until I read their reasonable assertions. The result? Draft fifteen and counting.

I would have uploaded Gnaw by now if I didn’t have such a hang-up about perfection even though I know perfection isn’t possible. Yes, I was tempted to take Gnaw, published ten years ago, accept the flaws, pass them off as engineered and make it a quick repurpose job for ebook but I’ve learnt a lot in ten years. Readers deserve more than that. The characters themselves deserve more that that. When I wrote the male character initially, my protagonist did not need understand him. On re-read it nagged me. This guy could not just be a stooge for her musing; he had to be a real problem in his own right, an addition to the equation, possibly even a solution? It took nerve to develop Kenneth, who before was named after an alcoholic spirit (or pub), and make him more of a nuisance in his own right, but ‘our Kenneth’ is now firmly planted on the ground a spanner in the works for however long he lives in this format.

Rewriting it was like a piece of archaeological reconstruction. Like trying to conjure an urn out of a rim. I have excavated it, dusted it down and extracted the details. Perhaps I am less afraid of that story now because I am less afraid of love (Illustration: Jennifer Brady).

Rewriting it was like a piece of archaeological reconstruction. Like trying to conjure an urn out of a rim. I have excavated it, dusted it down and extracted the details. Perhaps I am less afraid of that story now because I am less afraid of love (Illustration: Jennifer Brady).

Another change: Gnaw was always a love story and within that, there was a metaphor for addiction. However while the metaphor was there, the love story was absent. I have put that love story in now. I had to be careful doing that. It was like a piece of archaeological reconstruction. In the weirdest piece of rewriting ever, I had to respect the original writer (myself in this case), and ascertain from evidence (ie the printed story), what that story was. It was like trying to conjure an urn out of a rim. Had I genuinely intended to leave the love story out back then? Or was I simply hidden to it? I have made a call on that now, excavated it, dusted it down with tact and extracted the details. Perhaps I am less afraid of that love story now because I am less afraid of love.

The title remains. There is no better one. The conundrum and solution is summed up in that title. I still believe that. It is the firmest artefact in the reconstruction of this particular rewrite.

So, after fourteen drafts of Gnaw in its new form, it did finally get to the copy-editor before Christmas (see previous post: Postcard to an Editor). I also sent it for a ‘stress test’ read with author and peer Janet Cameron. Two different people, two different stances, the result? They baulked in their own ways at the same things, things I thought were fine, until I read their reasonable assertions. Now, with draft fifteen incorporating editorial comments done, I realise I’ll need at least two or three more to get it close to flawless.

Postcard to an Editor

Cover B: Designer says ‘A response to the frenetic energy of protagonist…unravelling and of the tenuous hold she has on her life. The rope has not snapped yet, potential is there to stop the unbearable tension of whether to tame boredom or whether destructive contact will succeed.'

Concept agreed and on to Phase 2 of cover design; type size, positioning, technical issues explored etc.

From bungee jumping dragons to black vacuum tightropes and postage stamp anxiety, the poll returns the verdict 76.67% in favour of cover B. Cover B it is then.

I got some excellent comments and simulated samples from people who are busy in life and I thank you very much those who emailed me privately and those who commented online; Sean McCann, Laura Carpenter, Ferdia MacAnna and Recent Items. Very lucky also to have comments from Colm O’Shea writer and experienced bookseller, a wealth of awareness re categories, the mechanics of Onix and a justifiable wariness of self-pub. Also hats off to the designer now known as ‘The Sis’ for tolerating the dissection of her work while in beta form, not easy.

The Sis also gives us the shortest tutorial ever for any self-publisher embarking on a cover design, reiterated here as one in hopefully many of a series of 10 Second Soundbites* in case it helps anyone else out there commissioning artwork or thinking of doing it themselves. I’m all on for self-empowerment and doing things myself but the cover is the face of a book. Designers spend years in college qualifying and then years getting industry experience for a reason.

10 Second Soundbite* for self publishing — Cover Design

  • Stage 1
: Design presented. Concept is key.
  • Stage 2
: Design concept agreed. Amendments made — type size, positioning, technical issues explored etc.
  • Stage 3
: Artwork presented in medium required for publication

Cover for Gnaw is officially at Stage 2. Concept agreed! Enlarge title, move up on page slightly, enlarge author name, check that image is rights granted.

What Next?

Postcard back

The backbone of producing text is in the editing. Roughly edited or non-edited text gives self-publishing a bad name — I may sell only one copy of this ebook, but it’ll be an edited one.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing, or more to the point, rewriting the text itself,  creating the end-matter, copyright page, author bio and sundries and preparing to hand over to the most feared and respected person in the publishing world…no, not an accountant…why an editor of course! I have someone in mind for this. Someone I work with whose red biro would put the fear o God in you, a grammarian with a photographic memory and an unnervingly accurate factual recall and said recently at a Gill & Macmillan Finishing School ‘The best editors know what not to edit’. These are the words of an experienced editor for sure. Now, although Catherine Gough’s expertise is in trade non-fiction I believe she has the all-round experience and editorial agility for lit fiction and Gnaw in particular. But it is a tricky thing getting an editor who can accept odd things you come across in literary fiction like one-line paragraphs or absent punctuation…hold on… absent punctuation? Egad says Catherine on previewing this post (See? Already in good hands). I’ll have my work cut out thinking what can I offer in re-payment, this will be weekend time. You can but ask. Or send a postcard?

Postcard to an editor from Johanna Basford 'Secret Garden' art as coloured in by someone who appreciates detail very much.

The other side of the postcard to the editor: Johanna Basford’s ‘Secret Garden’ art as coloured in by someone who appreciates detail very much and evidently abhors a vacuum!

  • Hmmm, can text be a soundbite? Oxford and other dictionaries say it relates to speech or audio, however Wikipedia allows that in journalism a soundbite is ‘characterized by a short phrase or sentence that captures the essence of what the speaker was trying to say, and is used to summarize information and entice the reader…’ Maybe to be sure when Gnaw is done I could record the soundbites to make them truly soundbitey?

Cover roughs are in for ‘Gnaw’! Which one, A or B?

Cover B: Designer says ‘A response to the frenetic energy of protagonist…unravelling and of the tenuous hold she has on her life. The rope has not snapped yet, potential is there to stop the unbearable tension of whether to tame boredom or whether destructive contact will succeed.'

Cover B: Designer says ‘A response to the frenetic energy of protagonist…unraveling and of the tenuous hold she has on her life. The rope has not snapped yet, potential is there to stop the unbearable tension of whether to tame boredom or whether destructive contact will succeed.’

Behold! Cover roughs for upcoming publication of Gnaw. I understand why I reached out to my sister apart from cottage industry mentality. Our ideas of psychological disturbance are very different. As writer is to editor, author is to cover designer (if that makes sense?) Mand as designer is the filter and the foil. You see, in my head psychological disturbance is a gravid thing, fecund, panicky. What I would have come up with as a person of words would have been…more words? Or all of the ideas represented in one busy jam-packed image fest? However, Mand has read the text and come up with something far more compelling, something I could never even conjure up as a cover image because the vacuum is exactly what nature abhors (as they say) and what my protagonist avoids at all costs. The designer has correctly read the subtext of unmanaged existentialism in this piece and has presented something minimalist that unsettles me very much. Take away the noise and what is left —blackness and a last tenuous hold on life. So, cover ‘B’ is the one I favour. I vote for cover ‘B’

I like cover ‘A’ too BUT two things jump out as challenges:

  1. ebooks are viewed cover-wise as thumbnails on retailers’ noisy interfaces. White is not an ideal backdrop in this context and the flesh colour of the typography (which has a particular CMYK breakdown in print control) can’t be controlled on multiple devices with RGB filters. Basically, digital, for better or worse, has smashed through the legacy standards and I need to be optimising here for the digital bookshelf, not the book-shop shelf, or both if possible.
  2. I fear potential readers will be misled that it is thriller or a ‘slasher horror’. They will not thank me for bringing them into the more real and discretely apocalyptic terrain of the mind if that is not what they are suspecting.

 

Cover A:  Designer says: ‘A visual response to the protagonist’s description of the ‘gnaw’, flesh coloured…trickle of blood alluded to throughout (bloodstream, in her blood etc.)'

Cover A: Designer says: ‘A visual response to the protagonist’s description of the ‘gnaw’, flesh coloured…trickle of blood alluded to throughout (bloodstream, in her blood etc.)’

Interesting that the designer singled out blood however. There is blood in this piece, yes, and there are the deeper connotations of what blood means, what you are born with, human condition and DNA but the theme in this story — and blood in this case — is linked very much to the outward manifestation of life at its best and worst… sexuality. The protagonist will draw ‘blood’ incidentally as she tries to control her own passions, but the impact of the invisible ‘institution’ is always nearby in safe routines — work, religion, TV, alcohol and absent love, faulty love and impossible love — situations that will stymie real change. The ‘Gnaw’ is the leaking in of unbridled potency, in her case sexuality, to civilised thinking and is perhaps even a slightly criminal instinct as judged by society. The primal aspect is key here, the suspicion being that human beings are still trying to evolve into something else, but are still animals on some level. Savage instincts are still psychologically resident the way perhaps (physically) we still have tail bones or wisdom teeth, things we don’t need, but have as reminders that we were once something else. It’s how we manage this that defines what kind of human being we are, or where we are personally on the evolutionary line.  As a writer my hunch is that society,  institution and law is a thin skin on the face of more chaotic form. It’s suspension of disbelief most of the time that keeps the world in order or peace.

Sexuality is the protagonist’s poison and saviour, so if the theme of sexuality is prominent too in this work then it’s the only element missing from the cover ‘B’, yet was present (indirectly) in cover ‘A’. But I’m nearly sure that I cannot have blood as the image on the cover, the erotic maybe, but that would be misleading too as it is sacrificed in this case for survival. So, is the imagery of cover ‘B’ enough to imply the content? Does it even need to? I don’t know how you even could impose the other themes on this cover ‘B’ without destroying the integrity of it.

Sundries, need to play around with the title being bigger and up higher perhaps, though I’m aware that this is exactly because all that black space is making me edgy (the intention of the designer?) Either way the designer has nailed the tension here. I am arrested.

For sport, and because I value the opinion people who read this blog, let’s do a poll. Help me out here. Which cover? A or B? Make a comment if you can, this would really help, all this working with no team is really weird for me. Would you enlarge the title on cover B? Place it elsewhere? Do something completely different? What does this image mean to you? Would you buy this ebook based on the cover?

screenshot_for_JSB_2

Fellow writer/blogger Sean McCann has emulated the potential look of this cover in a sea of thumbnails. Food for thought. The title must increase, The first is at 'books' level. When you head down into genre fiction the thumbnail size seems to increase (so I magnified your image up a level, see second screenshot) 'making the case for quality, legible cover art more persuasive?'

Fellow writer/blogger Sean McCann has emulated the potential look of this cover in a sea of thumbnails. Food for thought. The title must increase, possibly author name too?