Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Moving House

I've finally moved this blog to the main Marshall Buckley website. You can find it here

This site will remain active for the foreseeable future, but all new posts will be on the main site.

One Wish

On the day my son was born, my mother was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus. I called her early that morning to share the good news and could hear the underlying fear in her voice.

She didn't know, at that point, what the diagnosis was, but I think she had a fair idea.

Later that afternoon, after the diagnosis and once I was home, I spoke to her again. Her overriding concern was that this special day would always be tinged with unhappiness for all of us. I laughed it off, assuring her I would remember the birth, not some doctor's appointment. Besides, she'd be fine.

She died 4 months later. Cancer of the oesophagus is a sneak, it doesn't let you know it's there until it's too late to do anything about it.

I'm not alone in losing a parent too young. She was only 66, and should have lived at least another ten years, long enough to see my children grow up.

My son is now 8. My eldest daughter is 14 and still misses her nan, because even at 6 she'd made an impact on her. She has kept the last Christmas card she received from her.

At her funeral, a colleague gave the most touching eulogy you could imagine, explaining how my mum had helped her through her cancer, how my mum would go out of her way to help anyone and how nothing was beneath her - despite having become the manager of the care home where she'd worked for over 20 years, she was just as willing to clear up an accident as she'd been the day she started.

Everybody should get one wish. For me, it would be to go back to a year or so before she died, persuade her to see a doctor. Maybe then she'd have received an early enough diagnosis.

My mum loved gadgets. She was the epitome of a Silver Surfer. She would love the Kindle, and she'd have been proud beyond measure that I was writing books and that the first was now available.

That this first book features time-travel is probably less of a coincidence than even I realised.

That I announced it's availability on 11 June - the anniversary of her death - is also less of a coincidence than I might have admitted to.
The book is dedicated to 4 people who are no longer with us. But today it's dedicated to Sylv (she hated that name).

Love you. Miss you.

The Long Second is available on Kindle now, from Amazon

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

About Yesterday

No new update today - I'm still harping on about what I think/thought was a brilliant idea yesterday (20 June 2011) but has, as yet, not captured the world's imagination.

But I'm not giving up that easily. Go have a look, tell me if you think I'm on to something...

Monday, 20 June 2011

Who says e-books can't be signed?

As a book-lover (obviously!) I really like having my books signed by the author, and my many connections on Twitter have allowed me to build quite a collection in a small time. You feel you have a connection with the author, however small, knowing they've handled the actual book you're reading.

It's a common criticism of e-books that they can't be signed, a dilemma for which nobody (to my knowledge) has yet come up with a suitable answer. I've seen a few people have an author sign their Kindle in permanent marker, and I guess if you could get a whole list of authors to sign your Kindle that would be pretty cool, but then you'd be worried about rubbing the signature off (those permanent markers aren't as permanent as you'd think). Plus, there's no way of buying a book remotely with that signature (unless you splash out on a whole new Kindle).

I think I may have the solution.

Starting this week, I'm offering anybody who wants to buy the Kindle version of The Long Second (only Kindle for the moment, I'm looking into the other formats) to have either:
1. A personal dedication typed into the front of the book - it'll be on the first page, immediately after the cover image - or
2. A personal handwritten message, signed by both Marshall Buckley authors, then scanned and the image placed at the front of the book.

The only caveats? The e-book has to be purchased via my website, not via Amazon, and there is a small extra charge for doing this (because I have to create a new Kindle file for each dedication). The handwritten dedication will be slightly more expensive than the typed one (there's more work involved), but I'm planning to keep the cost sensible.
(I did have a third idea but decided to drop that as it would have been much too much work, and I would have had to charge a lot more).
Once complete, the e-book will be emailed to the purchaser, who can then copy it to their Kindle via USB or using Amazon's email facility.

I could be wrong, but I think this is totally unique, and it's something I can offer specifically because I'm self-publishing (and, to be honest, probably because I'm a techy at heart so the extra work isn't too difficult for me - other less-techy authors might struggle).

So, am I blazing a trail here, or am I trying to sell to a market that doesn't exist?

Edit: I've just seen this announcement on Twitter:
One the one hand, I can't believe this has been announced just as I'm talking about it... but on the other hand, does it vindicate this as an amazing idea? Plus... KindleGraph doesn't actually embed the signature inside the Kindle book like I will... do my idea is better, right?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Hard Work

I am genuinely struggling to find enough hours in the day at the moment. Don't, even for a second, think that Self-Publishing is an easy option.

Yes, there are plenty of parts of the process which are pretty straight-forward - the conversion of the book to Kindle, for example - but there are other parts which will take days off your life, chew them up and spit them out. I genuinely have had no time to do any actual writing (excluding blogging, of course) for weeks.

It will settle down, over time, I'm sure. What it does, though, is appreciate the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes in the publishing industry. Of course, the people doing this day in day out have had a little more practice than me, and so won't get bogged down with some of the unexpected tasks. Then again, they are probably working on more than one book at any given time, so it all balances out.

It doesn't mean I'm not enjoying it, though. I like a challenge - it's pretty much what my day job is about, dealing with the unexpected - so it's not a problem.

But, like everything else, it's wise to go in with your eyes open, and expect that there will be some hard work (but then it probably wouldn't be as satisfying if it were easy, right?)

Thursday, 16 June 2011


I'm not here.

Instead, today, I'm here over at Scott Pack's (Twitter: @meandmybigmouth) blog. Do pop over and have a read, won't you?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


A short post today with no new information.

I'm taking 24-hours to pause, catch my breath and reflect on what's been achieved so far and what's still to be done.

At some point I need to start writing again, too. I honestly don't know how to fit it all in.

There are still a number of things to be resolved, replies pending from various other third parties which might be important and might change the whole course of the next few weeks.

But please bear with me, and please keep spreading the word if you can!

I'll announce the competition winner tomorrow - Thursday 16th - nobody guessed the correct result (a disappointing 6.2 - considering how much I'd done to try to reduce it from 6.4 that was a shock, but the doctor seems content, so I'm not worrying!) so I'll do some kind of random draw and email the lucky winner. There will, of course, be a delay in dispatching the book seeing as I still haven't received my proof copy (I'm looking at alternative printers). In the meantime, I'll offer the winner a free copy in electronic form too (not signed, obviously).

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Morning After The Night Before

I'm really struggling with what to write today. Not because I don't have anything new to report but because things are happening so quickly that I'm no longer certain I'm able to keep up.

You'll have read many authors saying they have "news" but aren't allowed to talk about it yet (it almost always means they have a publishing contract. I'm pretty sure I'm not revealing anything unknown there) and for once, I'm saying the same thing - and it's not a publishing contract.

I've been very fortunate in having lots of people to turn to and ask for help, however small. Just spreading the word about the book is all I want from them, but some people are able to offer so much more. These people have so willingly and enthusiastically promoted The Long Second - in most cases without even reading it - that word is now reaching complete strangers, and new names are popping up in my Twitter stream and on the Facebook page.

To you new faces I say Welcome, I hope you enjoy what you find here and that it helps you with whatever path you choose to follow (or that you simply enjoy the book!)

Other things have happened because they've been made to happen. That whole "getting yourself out there" thing that I spoke about on Friday. Sometimes you tentatively pick up the phone, expecting nothing but ambivalence (at best) or blunt rejection (at worst) but end up speaking to somebody who is completely enthralled by your story, and then they make an offer which exceeds your wildest dreams (certainly this early in the process). Maybe nothing will come of it, but maybe it will... watch this space.

But it just shows: these are just ordinary people, doing what they do day in, day out. They don't know how nervous you are about approaching them. Maybe they'll be grumpy, maybe you'll be a time-waster, but maybe not. Maybe yours is the story they are looking for that day.

But it's given the whole process a second wind. I was honestly exhausted after the weekend. There were times I was struggling to keep up with emails - Facebook notifications, Twitter mentions and retweets (yes, I know I can turn them off, but I actually quite like them) and a flurry of general emails dealing with sales, potential sales and all the other things I spoke about yesterday.

I was almost happy to go back to work for a rest. Well, perhaps not.

One thing's for sure: the journey has only just begun. If the momentum can be maintained, then who knows where it will lead.

But wherever it goes, it certainly looks like it's not going to be boring. Come along with me, why don't you?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Surprising Developments

So much happened this weekend that it's almost difficult to keep up.

Firstly, through a combination of devilment and throwing caution to the wind, I started telling people that The Long Second was now available on Kindle (UK and US/International) and Smashwords. I hadn't really planned on doing this for another couple of weeks, but I guess the excitement got the better of me (Catherine Howard will be so annoyed at my lack of restraint).

As of the time of writing, it's reached #21 in it's genre on - which is bizarrely exciting (even if the real numbers behind that figure aren't quite as exciting). Watching the sales is - unsurprisingly - addictive. I just need to try to remember to do some actual work in between checking...

Then the offer to produce the audiobook version came in. This is something I simply hadn't considered and, to be honest, am a little unfamiliar with. But it's too good an offer to pass by, so it's been grabbed with both hands. This will obviously take a few weeks to come to fruition, but I'll keep you posted.

Then, almost on a whim, a small Facebook advertising campaign was started. This is so appropriate, given that the book was conceived over Facebook. It's efficacy remains unknown, of course, but it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

The Long Second also gained its very own Facebook page - please do pop over there and "like" it. The plan is to offer some bonus content there shortly, so it will hopefully be worth your while.

I'm also planning on some guest blog posts, but need to work on those.

And I'm preparing a Press Release for the local papers...

Given my reluctance to engage in the publicity side, all this seems quite remarkable. Will it translate into sales success? I've honestly no idea. I really didn't expect to enjoy this stage of the process, but I'm actually having a ball!

And finally, on Friday I saw a post on Twitter which, during the course of the morning's journey to work, morphed into a new book idea, which then morphed again into the amalgamation of about 3 separate ideas... At least I remembered to write them down before they disappeared.

Of course, trying to make time to do some actual writing is another matter altogether.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Cover Design

(I wasn't going to post this for a couple of days but a small - possibly intentional - slip last night meant that I let the cat out of the bag so, what the Hell!)

One of the problems with publishing without the backing of a large company is that you come to a point where you need to make decisions on something you didn't think you would have much (if any) input to.

When The Long Second was being written, there was a clear idea of how the cover would look. And then it became clear that the cover design would be something over which, at best, I'd be able to approve with minor tweaks and, at worst, be created for me and presented with a "like it or lump it" directive.

Suddenly having the creative freedom again was exciting. And terrifying.

A basic theme was found quite quickly; I'm reasonably handy with PhotoShop and know how to take a decent photo (I'm far from expert in either field - enthusiastic amateur would be more accurate) so was able to put something together without too much trouble (and without having to resort to Design Wizards and Stock Photo sites).

It was okay but a bit lacking.

I was about to call in the experts and actually pay somebody to do it for me (through gritted teeth) when I was referred to a friend of a friend, a top designer at a major London company... he wouldn't actually design the cover, but he'd help turn what I had into something approaching professional quality.

It was brilliant and hard work and at times I completely failed to understand what he was trying to get me to do, until he provided examples. But we got there and I'm really pleased with the result.

So the cover for The Long Second now exists, in both Kindle and paperback form. And this is it (the full paperback version - click for bigger):

And... if you're still with me, I'll keep this low-key:

You can buy it on Kindle NOW!

Link for US/International readers here

Link for UK readers here

Link for non-Kindle/Kindle application users (Sony Reader etc) here

(If you would like a copy in paperback, please mail me for details - that's taking a little longer than expected).

Friday, 10 June 2011

The Hard Work Begins

You've formatted your book into multiple versions. You've uploaded them to the various sites, had them checked and approved and they're appearing on the sites as available to buy.

Now, you just sit back and watch the sales accumulate, a glass of wine at your side. Simple, eh?

Uh, no.

For me, this is the hardest bit. It's one thing to lock yourself away in a dark corner, lit only by the glow of your laptop screen, churning out the words of your masterpiece. It's another to go out there, stand up tall and say "My book is available! Please buy it!"

Well, OK, you could just go and stand on your doorstep and should that out to our street but it's probably not going to generate many sales.

Talking about yourself and your book is hard for everybody. I've heard many authors complain about this, but at least if you're traditionally published, you know that your publisher will do at least some of the work for you.

As a self-published author, you're on your own.

So, go out there. Shout about it. Tell all your Twitter friends, shout about it on your blog, mention it on FaceBook. And that's just the start.

You need to get the buzz going. You need to reach the people who don't follow you on Twitter, who never read your blog and who haven't become your friend on FaceBook. You need to reach those people who have never heard of you, for whom you are just another unknown, self-published author.

So, how do you do that?

At the time of writing, I don't have the answers (I'm writing this on Sunday 5th). Maybe by the time this is posted I'll have a better idea...

Catherine Ryan Howard's book does give some tips... I'll let you know if I have any success in implementing any of those.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Uploading the books

Now that you have your properly formatted books, in 3 versions, you have to upload them and have them checked and accepted.

For Kindle you upload the PRC file created by MobiPocket. Amazon tells you it will take about 24 hours for your book to be checked. It goes into "In Review" status and you can't do anything in that time. Then it goes to "Publishing" - during this stage it will appear on various Amazon sites (exciting, eh?) but won't be available to buy. Again, Amazon says this takes 24 hours - for me, the book appeared on .com and much quicker than that, and was available to buy long before the status finally changed to "Published".

For CreateSpace, you upload your files then it tells you to wait for what could be a few days while it checks and process the files. For me, it took about 3 hours before I received confirmation that it was OK. I then made a change to the cover file and uploaded again so had to wait for another few hours.
Once approved you then have to order a proof - you can't make the book available for publication until you order the proof. Again, CreateSpace say this might take some time, and estimated delivery might take up to 6 weeks to get to the UK. I was surprised, therefore, to be told the proof had been dispatched less than 12 hours later. Of course, I've not received it yet.
You have to approve the proof before you can continue. You could approve it before you receive it, but that would be foolish, so it's now a waiting game...

When you upload the file to SmashWords, it does some checking then converts to the various formats. You can sit and watch that happen (I did!) - it takes about 10 minutes or so and then you can download all the formats for checking. I found that the ePub version had lost many of the formatting changes I'd made. It's not a disaster, but not as good as I'd like. As yet, I don't know if I can correct that. The other formats, though, appear to be OK.

So, your various formats are now complete and available, that's the hard work over, right?

Oh no. The hard work hasn't even started yet... and I'll get on to that tomorrow.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Preparing the book - part 3

So, you have your Kindle version and you have your paperback version.

Creating the other e-versions should be simple, right?

Yup, pretty much. Again, follow the guidelines that SmashWords give you. They don't ask for much - you have to get another ISBN (again, free from SmashWords) and the Copyright page has to state that it's the SmashWords edition.

I used my CreateSpace version, made the necessary changes to the Copyright page, and reset the margins back to "normal" and that was about it.

SmashWords likes the file to be in Word format (not PDF or HTML) and the cover to be a JPG file (not PDF like CreateSpace).

And that's it. You now have 3 versions ready to upload. You're good to go, right?

Not quite... details tomorrow...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Preparing the book - part 2 (and a Competition!)

In yesterday's post, I discussed preparing the book for Kindle. Today, I'll discuss the differences in preparing for actual hard-copy.

At the start, I didn't intend to make a paperback version available, but it seemed daft not to, and the thought of having a "real" copy of my book was appealing and there was very little additional cost in doing so.

There are a number of Print On Demand services available - CreateSpace and Lulu are probably the best know. I chose CreateSpace, firstly because Catherine Ryan Howard's book recommended them (and gave instructions on how to set the book up for them) and secondly because the are an Amazon company and I thought it made sense to keep it under the same umbrella (in the hope it would be easier to make the paperback available on Amazon).

Formatting the book should have been much easier with CreateSpace. Once you decide what size you want your book to be (I chose 8" x 5") you can download a blank template and copy your content into it. Unfortunately, that didn't work for me: it wouldn't run paragraphs across page breaks, so some pages only had a few lines if the next paragraph was a big one. That may be a quirk with Word 2010 - if you have Word 2003 it might be fine for you (you have to use the 2003 .doc format anyway).

So I had to set my page size and margins manually. I did this by copying the settings from the template. You need to be sure you set "mirror margins" and the correct page size.

Then you have to add various essential pieces into the front matter (you have to create front matter - Copyright pages etc - for Kindle, too, so this is just adding a few things). You need ISBN numbers (CreateSpace will provide these free of charge). Without ISBN numbers, CreateSpace will reject your book.

Once you've created all the additional pages and pasted your document into the template, all you then do is save the file in PDF format (later versions of Word can do this, earlier versions might need an external converter program - you can find them by searching Google).

Finally, you need your cover artwork. Again, I'll discuss this later.

Tomorrow - creating the SmashWords versions.

Now... the competition. If you've been following me on Twitter (@MarshallBuckley) then you have a slight advantage, but only a very small one.

The prize? Well, unsurprisingly, it's a signed copy of The Long Second. Perhaps even the very first copy (when it arrives, unless I have to make any changes...).

The question: I had a blood test yesterday to check my cholesterol level. (Yes, I know it's totally unrelated to the book, but it seemed like a suitably daft thing to do). I don't get the result until next week, so even I don't know the answer at this point but, what will my cholesterol level be?

Answers accepted in comments below, or by email, or you can send it via Twitter. If more than one person gets it right, then I'll put the names into a hat. If nobody gets it right then... well, we'll just have to think about that!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Preparing the book - part 1

On the one hand, Amazon's site says that preparing the book for Kindle is easy.
On the other hand, the forums are full of people saying how difficult it is, how their book looks so awful, and so on.

Was it easy? Yup.
Did I stumble across any problems? Of course. I didn't expect it to be a one-click process.

Once again I refer to Catherine Ryan Howard's 'Self-Printed' which helped iron out a few gotchas. I'll be saying this time and time again: if you're thinking of self-publishing, you have to get yourself a copy of this book and read it before you start the whole process.

Firstly, Kindle: following Amazon's guide, I downloaded MobiPocket then downloaded the Kindle viewer (I have my own Kindle, but this just emulates it on the PC so you don't have to transfer the files by wireless or USB).
First conversion: Pretty good, but there were many strange characters which I had to sort out. Blank lines had acquired the underline character, and some odd non-standard characters had been replaced with &#8209 (for example).
One of these was easy to fix: in the original MS I'd included some Chinese characters which didn't convert well at all dropping them was simple, with no adverse effect on the book.
The others (the 8209s) were an odd Word formatting thing - where hyphens had become em-dashes (or similar). I just did a global search and replace: replacing ‑ with -
The unexpected underlines were actually simple too: my chapter headings were all underlined, which meant that when I inserted some blank lines above the chapter heading, the blank lines were underlined: not visible in Word, but certainly visible when converted to HTML.

There were also a few lines where the indent was incorrect. It's essential that paragraphs don't start with tabs - you must strip them all out before you begin. Thankfully, Word is very good at understanding that you just want first-line-indent on new paragraphs, so I didn't need to delete any tabs at all, but still some paragraphs indented incorrectly. These are easy to spot when you scan through the book on the Kindle previewer, but it does mean you have to look at every page.

The next step was to set all first paragraphs in every chapter, and all after a scene break to not be indented. Kindle formatting automatically indents every first line, so you have to get down and dirty with HTML here. It's not too difficult, but it is a little time consuming. Again, Amazon gives clear instructions on how to do this (you set the indent to 0).

And that was about it. All that was left was to design the cover (I'll discuss that in another post), but for testing purposes I just used a quick downloaded image off the web and put the title on it. (Note: you know, of course, that you can't use this for your actual book? You need to either buy the rights off one of the stock photo sites or take the photo yourself - which I what I eventually did).

With the Kindle version ready, it's time to move on to the paperback version...

Friday, 3 June 2011

Why Now?

I'd be the first to admit that the decision to self-publish was one I never expected to make. Indeed, right at the start of this process I was firmly against it, and the more blogs I read on the subject, the more certain I became of that fact.

The Long Second was first submitted to some seriously large publishers back in September 2009. For the first few weeks I jumped every time the computer said I had a new email, convinced that the news I was hoping for would be there, waiting for me.

As the weeks went by, I became more relaxed about the whole process, and started checking email only hourly...

During this time, the writing of the sequel - Broken - was a welcome distraction, and when that book was submitted to my agent in January 2010 I thought it would kick-start the whole process. After all, here was a new writer (me!) who was able to deliver two quality (!) books in little over six months. That had to count for something, right?

Broken, like The Long Second, was well received. Optimism was high. More publishers were contacted...

And then the rejections started coming in. Some said that The Long Second was "too sci-fi" for their list (it does contain some time-travel), others said it "wasn't sci-fi enough" (there's much more to the story than just the time-travel). It was beginning to look like a story that fell between two stools.

And then we heard that it had reached the editorial meeting stage of a BIG name publisher. Collective breaths were held... but then nothing. Nada. Silence.

You then fall into the stage of "just how often can I ask my agent if there's any news?" especially when you know that if there was any good news, you'd know about it.

And then this year, 2011, things became complicated. Mixed messages were received. It was a bad time (I won't go into details). I seriously considered quitting writing altogether. Sure, it had only been two years, and I know of many writers who have toiled for far longer than that before their first deal. I actually did stop writing for a while, but found myself at a loose-end night after night, with a void I couldn't work out how to fill.

And so an ultimatum was made. The books were still with some publishers (including the BIG name mentioned above). They had never said no, but they hadn't said yes either. My agent said that, in her opinion, given the time that had passed, the silence was as good as a no. But she chased them anyway, giving them a deadline to respond.

They didn't.

As I mentioned in "Eyes Wide Open", the publishing landscape had changed. Self-publishing (especially electronically) was now so easy literally anybody could do it. Sure, that meant lots of people were writing rubbish and publishing it, but there are also plenty of people like me. People writing good, worthy, sellable books that somehow never find the right publisher.

I ran the idea past my agent: should we withdraw these books from submission and self-publish (chiefly on Kindle, but in other formats too). I expected a degree of reluctance from her. In fact, she thought it a great idea.

By the time we reached the deadline, the seed had been planted and was already sprouting. I'd become so accustomed to the idea that I almost hoped nobody would say yes (okay, that's a lie, if someone had said yes I would have jumped for joy); I'd already started preparing The Long Second for Kindle.

I downloaded (to my Kindle) Catherine Ryan Howard's "Self-Printed" (highly recommended!). I found it saying all the things I'd been feeling: sometimes a book just doesn't find a home. It might be a bad book, or there might be other, more complex reasons. But, if you're going to self-publish, make sure you do it right. Don't rush into it. Don't just grab your latest version of the Word document and upload it. Spend time with it, preparing it, reformatting it, making it the very best book you can (yes, you should have done this already, but another look is always a good thing. I found a typo on the first page. Only a " where a ' should have been, but nonetheless...)

Did I follow her guidelines to the letter? No, of course not. But I stuck pretty damn close.

The result is what I believe to be an example of how all self-published books should be. They story and story-telling has been independently quality-checked. It's been thoroughly and repeatedly edited. The cover has been designed with input from a professional designer.

I'm very aware that I'm setting myself up for abuse once the book is available. Am I over-hyping it? Am I going to be deluged with reports of typos and formatting problems? I don't think so (though, as previously stated) there are bound to be some errors, but I'll be able to correct those really quickly.

Perhaps the biggest barrier is accepting the fact, being able to hold your head up high and say "Yes, I self-published". I'm still working on that, because two years of being determined that I wouldn't do it are hard to brush off overnight.

But yes, I'm self-publishing, because I wrote a book I'm proud of and I want other people to read it.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Book(s) That FaceBook Wrote

There may be a few new visitors to this blog who don't know the full story of Marshall Buckley - to be exact, I mean how Marshall Buckley came to be.
(If you are a new visitor, then that last sentence probably makes no sense at all).

Let's roll back about 3 years, to Spring 2008.

I had been doing the school-run for some time and was slowly getting to know the mums and occasional dads in the playground. One of the mums, whose youngest son was in the same class as my youngest, I'd known for some time as her eldest daughter had been in the same class as my eldest a few years before. Over some months we went from casual nods of hello to actually talking to each other. I'm sure many of you will be horribly aware of how lonely the school playground can be for parents if they don't have anyone to talk to.

Occasionally, her husband picked up her son and we, too, progressed from nods to brief conversations.

Then they announced they were moving to Canada. Soon. Off he went, settled, bought a house etc. A few months later and it's the final day of UK school for their children. He'd come back to collect them all and, as we parted, we exchanged pleasantries and business cards and promised to keep in touch, with the full expectation that it probably wouldn't happen (or, at best, would peter out after a few random emails).

I let them settle for a few months and then dropped him an email asking how things were going. His reply: "Great! Get on FaceBook, loads of pictures and updates there".

We kept in vague touch after that, odd replies to status updates, comments on photos, that sort of thing.

Then, one day, he posted an update: "I've a great idea for a book. Who wants to help me write it?"
All his friends replied along the lines of "Are you mad?", that sort of thing. I left it a couple of days and, having seen no sensible replies posted "I'll give it a go. Send me the details".

This is (part of) what he sent:
"Imagine a day where the choices you make determine how everything else progresses. Imagine having the ability to rewind to any given point in the day, to change the thing you did. Imagine having the power to affect something/someone else's life."

I was intrigued... a flurry of emails ensued and, three days later the story began. March 19 2009.

Two short months, a mass of emails and MSN conversations and 115,000 words later it was finished. Well, it's first draft anyway.
By the end of June 2009 it had been edited (repeatedly), tweaked and prodded and we began the process of finding an agent...

But that's for another time.

"THE LONG SECOND - The Book that FaceBook Wrote".

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Eyes Wide Open

(This is a long post, please take a deep breath, grab a cup of tea, and dive in.)

And so, here it is, the news I've been hinting at for what seems like weeks, and something I thought I would never, ever say (which just goes to show you should never say never):

The first in the series of books known as THE LONG SECOND trilogy will be published on Amazon Kindle in June 2011, to be followed shortly afterwards by other formats. Later in the year its sequel - BROKEN - and also a third, unrelated book will also be available on Kindle and other e-readers.

Hurrah! Shout it from the rooftops! Rejoice!

It's not, of course, as simple as that.

I'm proud, and apprehensive, to say that I'm publishing them myself. Yes, I know what you're thinking. It's exactly what I've been thinking for most of the past two years, but let me explain...

This isn't failure. This isn't vanity publishing. Nor is this a short-cut to "traditional" publishing or a get-rich-quick scheme. It's none of those things, and more besides. But it is publishing. And, and this is actually pretty important so I'll do one of those rare things and use CAPS for emphasis: I'M DOING THIS WITH THE KNOWLEDGE AND APPROVAL OF MY AGENT.

I've watched the publishing world change beyond belief in the last two years. Two years ago the e-book was little more than a distant possibility, considered by most industry insiders to be at least ten years away from having any significant impact. A year later those same insiders were still insisting that there was a good five years to wait before the e-book became mainstream.

And then Amazon released their latest Kindle and all bets were off. It's hard to say why the current Kindle captured the public's imagination as it has, but there's no longer any denying it. You might still read Amazon's figures about the sales ratio of e-books to paper books and wonder if they are a little manipulated, one way or another, but you can't deny the buzz that now exists. E-books have arrived, big time.

With this arrival has come the ability to easily self-publish in electronic form. I've read countless pages and blogs on what that means, and I know that there are plenty of people who won't touch a self-published book, and for very good reason. I've read some and, to be honest, they've fallen short of the quality I'd expect from a traditionally published work - usually in simple areas such as grammar, spelling and basic story-craft. (I've started reading some books, not knowing they are self-published, but within a few pages the niggles set in, strange formatting quirks that make me go off and check. I'll still finish the book - if it's good enough, of course - but I read it with a different mindset).

Without a doubt, there is an enormous mass of awful, dreadful self-published work out there, and that mass is only going to grow.

So, why am I prepared to join it?

There's one simple reason:
The Long Second trilogy has not been picked up by a traditional publisher and, it would seem that after two years of trying, it's not likely to happen.

Does that mean it's not worthy of being published?
In my (admittedly biased) opinion and that of my agent: no.

But... doesn't that make me as deluded as all those other self-published authors, the ones I've alluded to above?
Hopefully, no. Here's why:

The Long Second has been through at least some measure of quality control, a level which I believe many/most self-published books don't achieve. Of course, friends and family have read it and loved it and told me how wonderful I am/it is, but that's not what I'm talking about.

The Long Second secured me an agent (and had multiple "full" requests before that happened). This means that there are independent people, people with no vested interest in telling me that it's a good story, well written, "tight", cohesive, who have told me these very things. My agent, at the very start of the submission process, told me that "it was in need of very little editing" (that may have been understating things somewhat, I've done plenty of editing on it since).

So, why has it not been picked up by a publisher? That's anyone's guess. Timing, in this business, is everything. There's "no market" for this sort of novel, apparently, or at least not one that's big enough for any of them to take a chance on, because they'll have to invest heavily in taking that chance.

And that's where self-publishing comes in. My investment, relatively speaking - at least in real monetary terms - is tiny. I can afford to take that chance.

Point number 1, then: I've had independent verification that The Long Second (and it's sequel) are worthy and of sufficient quality to be published.

And so we come on to the title of this post: Eyes Wide Open.

What do I mean by this?
* I don't expect to get rich from this exercise (though that doesn't mean I won't dream about potential success and what I'll spend the money on);
* I don't think that this will be a short-cut to traditional publication (though I will continue to write to pursue that dream and, in the event that I do well out of this, it won't hurt);
* I am doing it to get feedback, and am prepared to take the bad and the good, in the hope that it will help me become a better writer;
* I do want other people to read the book - I've been told it's good enough and so it would be a shame to consign it to the virtual desk-drawer, never to be seen again.

So, I ask you to do what I've done: put aside your prejudices for a moment, stop seeing self-publishing as the last resort of the hopeless and talentless, and approach it with an open-mind. I know that there will be many of you who (if you would be so kind as to buy the book) will be acutely aware that it's self-published and will be looking for typos and formatting errors, and will see each and every one as justification for their opinion. I can only say this: I have worked really hard to make this book the very best I can, I have scoured it (more times than you would believe) for typos and errors but I don't doubt for a minute that some remain, I have tried to present it in a professional style - adopting (as best I can) the layout of "real" books.
(And if you believe, for one moment, that all traditionally published books are error-free, then I can give you examples including one, from a fairly major author, whose back cover contained a typo, and whose content contained errors. But I won't. I did, though, contact his publisher about the typo...)

I genuinely believe you will be pleasantly surprised. If you are, please tell me and tell your friends and the world. If, on the other hand, it reinforces everything you ever believed, please tell me, I'd genuinely want to hear what you have to say and, if possible, work to make it even better.

I've never believed I was about to be the next J K Rowling, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be the next Amanda Hocking, but I'd love to be able to say that Marshall Buckley published on Kindle and, you know, did a pretty good job.

Over the next few weeks (months?) I'll be going into more detail about how I got to this point, what was tried along the way - the highs and the lows - and what I've had to do to get the book(s) fit and ready for self-publishing. I promised to blog much more regularly than before. There's even a new website in the making... I have, you might have gathered, been quite busy of late.

I titled this blog Publishing Dreams right from the start. It's just that those dreams have changed a little.

Thank you. (I'll be sure to let you know when it's finally available).


Just a couple of days to go until the big decision is made...

Watch this space on 1 June 2011

Thursday, 12 May 2011

New Beginnings

So, it looks like the minor dramas of the past few weeks have come to a satisfactory resolution.

Not, in truth, the resolution I was expecting, but that's actually a good thing. I was half-expecting to be revealing some significant, but not especially good, news. That's no longer the case.

So, do I have any news to share? Unfortunately, no. At least, not yet. Things are afoot. Changes are coming. Decisions have been made and, overall, I'm pretty happy with them.

Just a couple more weeks to wait, just to cross some Ts and dot some Is, then all should be revealed.

The sharp-eyed amongst you may have noticed that the "Current" gadget on the right has disappeared. That's because I'm not currently writing, not while all this "stuff" is going on - there's to much other "stuff" to be dealing with. At the same time, I am writing, but I'm not. And yes, I'm perfectly aware that that appears to make no sense at all. Trust me, though, it really does.

More news in early June. Probably. And hopefully that will be significantly less cryptic.

Monday, 18 April 2011

A Short Interlude

The last few weeks have been interesting (in the same context as the Chinese proverb "May you live in interesting times"). That doesn't necessarily mean bad, just interesting.

I'm going to step back for a couple of weeks or so to consider everything that's happened and what that means, and what the next steps are. Not that anyone is likely to notice very much given the irregularity at which I post here; I'll still be active on Twitter as normal.

I'll probably have some sort of further updates towards the end of May.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Busy Times

This time of year seems to be very busy in the publishing world - especially in the UK - and this year I seem to have become more caught up with it.

Firstly, I have to mention Keris Stanton's brilliant Authors For Japan auctions. I'm not available as a prize/lot (that's probably a good thing) but there are some amazing lots available and it's a fantastic initiative. Get yourself over there now (unless it's finished by the time you read this. You can come back here when you're done).

While we're on the subject of good causes, and while I'm sending you off to other sites, why not also visit the Big Green Bookshop? A great little independent shop that needs our support to survive. There's a meet-up of fellow publishing tweeters there next week. I'll be there, but don't let that put you off as lots of other nice people will be there too. If you can't make it (or even if you can), please buy a book from them. It would really help.

And so we seamlessly segue into the London Book Fair. Seamlessly? Why, yes, because there's a bit of a tweet-up going on there too. And yes, I'll be there. This will be my first visit to LBF. I'm not really sure what to expect, lots of books, I suppose. Hopefully I'll bump into lots of people I know from Twitter and no doubt will end up buying lots of books and then drinking far too much later. There are worse ways to spend your day.

If that wasn't enough, the following weekend is Cambridge Word Fest. I didn't even know this existed, but as it's just down the road (and a short hop on the train) I'm going to pop along and attend a talk or two (one of which will be by Nicola Morgan. I'm going to try not to heckle, but I may pose a question which incorporates a Life of Brian quote. Or maybe not.)

If you're attending any of the above, give me a shout. I'd love to meet you.

If you don't follow me on Twitter, I'm @MarshallBuckley - do join in, it's a great little community: funny, smart, irreverent, helpful...

Monday, 28 February 2011

Look! Over there!

Oh dear. I'm very embarrassed. I had no idea it had been almost 2 months since I last posted here. I'm sorry for all those of you hanging on to my every word for the extended silence.

What have I been up to? Well, reading and writing mainly. I'm still loving the Kindle, but also have a small backlog of paper books to get through.

I'm persevering with MW. It's coming along in fits and starts, but the overall story is still very clear in my mind, I know pretty much all the things that are going to happen to the main character, though I'm now veering away from any personal experience, so things will likely slow down as I have to spend more time on research.

That probably means appealing to the hive-mind that is Twitter. So far I've already received some really useful information from Twitter friends, and I'm sure that will continue. Don't let anybody tell you that Twitter is just a waste of time. Absolutely not.

In non-writing news, I've also started another blog. It's very tongue-in-cheek and won't appeal to everybody. It's in the form on on-going open letters to the heads/designers of car manufacturers (so, if you have no interest in cars, it won't appeal to you). Posts are generally quite short and, hopefully, humorous. Feel free to pop by and have a look: Dear Mr Ford

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The future of reading?

Just over a week into the Kindle ownership experience and it's time to share my findings (along with a few thousand others who are no doubt finding exactly the same thing).

It's not perfect, not yet, but it's good. Oh yes, it's very good.

My first experience with an e-reader (e-book reader?) was about 18 months ago when a colleague won an early Sony reader in a competition. At the time I was quite impressed but unsure if I'd want to use one on a regular basis. The way the screen refreshed at every page seemed a major flaw.

The Kindle still has that same flaw. Is it irritating? At first, yes, very. But once you become absorbed into the story you become oblivious to it - as oblivious as the act of turning a physical page. It may seem unlikely when your first see it as it blackens the whole screen but you simply don't notice it at all after a few pages (or more, I guess, if the story isn't grabbing you).

The quality of the screen, on the other hand, really is remarkable and I can testify that the lack of back-light really does all-but-eliminate eye-strain. I've comfortably sat for hours reading it in the same way I would read a paper book. I didn't go for the case with built-in light as I never read in bed so chose the standard cover instead. It's fine, sits comfortably in the hand and never suffers from the problem that some thick paperbacks suffer: namely that the print sometimes runs so close to the spine that it's difficult to read, uncomfortable and prone to shadows from the surrounding pages.

The proof of the pudding, though, came when I switched to another book - in paperback. I had expected it to feel like an old friend and make me realise how imperfect the Kindle was. It proved to be the opposite: it served to illustrate how good the Kindle is.

I can't see me giving up on paper books, not just yet. For starters, not everything is available on Kindle, and how do you get a signed copy of an e-book? But the Kindle is mightily attractive, and the ease of purchase of a new book is compelling.

Finally, I'm going to focus on the iPad vs Kindle debate only briefly. They are not competitors: the Kindle is (to all intents and purposes) a one-trick pony, the iPad a multi-function device. As a techy-geek of course I want an iPad, but it's much harder to justify. The Kindle - apart from being cheaper - has a specific purpose. I've already used it to read and comment on another book and will use it in future to proof-read my own writing. I can't justify the outlay on a iPad as just another boy's toy.

The biggest drawback? We only have one, and when my wife want to read a book I've just finished it's going to be a dilemma as she won't use the laptop or the iPod to read it there, which means potentially relinquishing control of my new toy...