I’m not yet at a point where I hate my Cornish Detective series, but I’ve noticed a change in attitude to the stories. Starting out on Book 6, I’m still excited, loving how my thoughts are taken over by the plot and how my main character reacts. What I dislike about extending his character arc is caused by commercial considerations—will this be acceptable to readers? I’m bullheaded and outspoken at times but have moderated these traits to create what I hope will be popular stories. This means I’m starting to see Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle as a brand, making me feel trapped.
I’m fond of him, but I prefer other characters who appeared in short stories and novellas, such as Art Palmer, an American Civil War veteran travelling through the Deep South in the Reconstruction era. I’ll write his third story next spring.
I don’t hate my writing while in the process of creating an 80,000-word manuscript. If something doesn’t work, I don’t beat myself up, I change it. I’m less keen on the story when editing it, or perhaps less enamoured of myself when I see how many repetitions, excessive commas and typos I’ve included.
Querying literary agents is an exercise in being civil and enthusiastic while trying to describe my book as saleable. It’s not an enjoyable process being a supplicant, but I don’t doubt myself or hate my book.
It’s surprising how many famous novels were hated by their creators. Tolstoy with War and Peace and Anna Karenina, Peter Benchley with Jaws, Anthony Burgess with A Clockwork Orange and Annie Proulx with Brokeback Mountain. It’s not so much the story that they abhor, more how society reacted to it and how that affected their reputation as a writer. It’s a form of typecasting. Whatever genre J. K. Rowling may write in the future, she’ll remain famous for one character.
I recently wrote a chapter of my sixth Cornish Detective novel Kissing & Killing, in which my protagonist is swept away by a rip current while swimming in the sea trying to improve his stamina as he recuperates from being stabbed and losing a lot of blood.
He’s just returned to work, so is anxious to reassert his image as a commander and to take charge of his own life again after being dependent on others while hospitalised. Although Neil Kettle is a powerful wild swimmer, I’ve set him up for being dominated by the ocean, by having him acknowledge that “the sea is unopposably mighty” in the five preceding stories.
This fits with writing advice to place your main character in peril, not once but twice, just as it looks like they’ve survived. Having humility forced on him will be part of one of the themes of the story—loyalty to friends over principles and the rule of law—who do you trust with your life?
Writing this chapter was slightly disturbing to me, as I experienced such an incident when I lived in Portsmouth. Out for the day with my girlfriend and fellow college students on Eastney beach, I went for a swim alone. Fifty yards out in a flat sea, I was suddenly picked up by an invisible hand and moved at some speed westwards. I remembered advice not to panic when in a rip current, but to try swimming at 90 degrees to it to break free. I tried, but it didn’t work. I relaxed, watching the beach pass by. Thankfully, the current stayed parallel to the land, not carting me out into the Solent. As Southsea pier appeared, it released me. My muscles worked again! I swam to shore, then walked half-a-mile back to my friends…no one had missed me!
Being so powerless helped to inform my writing. I wrote humble.
I’ve written fight scenes while remembering angry thoughts I had when defending myself in muggings. I shed a few tears writing sad scenes summoning how I felt when a relationship ended. Writing funny is tough, but recalling amusing situations helps.
I gave up alcohol in 1996, but after being an alcoholic for twenty-seven years, I remember enough to write drunk.
How do you use memories to pen something that rings true?
Whatever you think of Amazon, as a customer or as a seller, there’s no denying their power and influence. Kindle Direct Publishing is a force that would be foolish to ignore, though I resisted fully committing to them by only using their basic KDP programme, rather than the exclusive Select operation—which pays double the royalties—but is more restrictive of the writer.
As I’ve described in other threads, I was preparing to sign with Select this summer, when a publisher I’d queried asked for a full manuscript. I’ve delayed my plans to self-publish The Cornish Detective series, but have still formatted the books for digital and POD paperback release. More of that later.
This article from The Atlantic is well-researched and worth a read, as it shows how irresistible KDP is as a publisher. It used to be, that one of the supposed stumbling blocks with KDP was that a writer’s books wouldn’t appear in bookshops, other than Amazon’s own, and supermarkets and libraries, but that’s slowly changing.
There are best-selling authors on Amazon, who you’ve likely never heard of, who outsell household names and have become millionaires from their books. But, one household name, crime writer Dean Koontz recently signed a five-book deal with Thomas & Mercer, the Crime division of Amazon Publishing. A sign of changing attitudes, surely? If a best-selling author has gone over to what was once seen as the enemy of traditional publishing, then how long before others join him?
I’ve decided to join Select with the 45 titles I’ve had on KDP and distributed to other vendors via Smashwords and Draft2Digital for the last six years. They are volumes of poetry and song lyrics, for adults and children, short stories and novellas. This will be as much an experiment to find how Select works, as it is a way of raising income from sales. KDP promote Select books, pretty much ignoring those on KDP.
All of my thinking since 2013 has been geared towards publishing eBooks. I wasn’t driven by seeing my book in printed physical form. But, if I’m going with Select, it makes sense to join their print-on-demand option. This used to be called CreateSpace, but now goes by KDP Print. The transition since 2018 has not been without its problems, as I found when attempting to format my Cornish Detective manuscripts.
I started doing this as an optimistic move, some light relief from attempting to recover access to my WordPress website, which was making me mad, so when I encountered resistance from KDP Print I swore a lot!
The pages describing how to edit your manuscript to conform with requirements about bleed, margins, headers, pagination, trim size, section breaks, front matter, end matter and lots of other things you hadn’t thought of, are helpful.
When I first looked at the templates they provide I was mightily impressed, for with a bit of tinkering, I could adjust blocks of text on the cover to suit and it’s easy to upload the image I designed for the eBook as a cover.
I was encouraged by several instruction videos on YouTube, including this one, which shows how your book could look:
Easy peasy, right? I followed the instructions, replacing the Latin placeholder text with my author bio and blurb, clicking on Save to move to the next step. Except, it didn’t save, it disappeared! I tried several more times, usually getting strange colourful horizontal lines instead of text, though sometimes nothing happened at all. Don’t you just love it, when sites ignore you?
Fed up with big companies that promise you the world but shove you in the ditch, I searched KDP help forums, finding that many others were also facing opposition from the templates. One user mentioned having success by switching from Chrome to another browser. I tried the template in Mozilla Firefox and it worked perfectly!
Despite this glitch, Amazon encourages a writer to produce the best-looking paperback possible, by an online preview service, and also, you can order proof copies.
Have any of you published your books on KDP, Select or POD?
As I languish in limbo, while deciding whether to go ahead with self -publishing, which I’ve been preparing to do for seven months, or to wait for a reply from The Future Bookshelf who are contemplating if my manuscript is worth publishing, I came across an outspoken answer on Quora.
The question posed was What are the hardest aspects an author has to deal with when trying to get their book published?
Michael Davies, an Australian writer, publisher and writing teacher, who answers first, doesn’t pull any punches!