Semi-colons and Apostrophes

You know, nothing is ever 100% right, even when you get to the point when you can’t do anything else at all, when there isn’t a second (or a heartbeat) left to change a single thing. Even then, you always find something isn’t quite how it should be. Right down to the semi-colon or the apostrophe.

Actually, punctuation really is a big deal when you want something to read in exactly the right way – to tell the story how you want it to be heard, what you hear in your head. This afternoon I have been editing, for the many-eth time, the Ebook manuscript of Almost Gone, as it’s just five weeks until it goes live on Smashwords. Oh, what a strange field of semi-colons I faced! In MS Word, you find things using Ctrl+F, which I repeated time after time, first with semi-colons. It’s like I have some kind of tic that makes me hit the key to the right of “L”, randomly spewing out ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; until my index finger is satisfied. What I ended up with, after hours of editing was a lot more full stops (thanks to Brian, an old school friend for repeating his mantra), quite a few more commas, a few more en-dashes (they have their place) and a manuscript that is just a bit closer to how it sounds in my head.

Then I decided to check for rogue apostrophes in the word “it’s” – you know, where you put one by mistake when referring to gender-neutral ownership of a thing. In this case I only found one, but also realised that word, “it’s”, was overused to the max. I got rid of about twenty, with suitable replacements, and again, it reads better.

That version has now been uploaded to Smashwords, and…yes, it’s uploaded fine, and their strange algorithms are all happy with it. You can read the first 20% for free by going to if you like. Don’t forget, the launch date is MONDAY 5th SEPTEMBER, and you can get the book for half price if you use the code MX73K when ordering in advance.

Taking The Plunge #2

almost_gone_cover_sp_72dpi_webWell, here it is, the front cover! You will probably notice a theme here – the wonderful photo that graces the Conorol website is also the basis for the cover, with a little text in a suitable font, and that’s it. So that’s the easy bit done.

Making the book visible to lots of people, pre- the launch date is the hard bit. There’s now an interview on Smashwords, which you can read here and maybe find out some things you didn’t know. It’s going to be a long summer, putting out feelers to all sorts of social media places and other more conventional places such as local papers (“LOCAL AUTHOR FINDS INSPIRATION IN THE BORDERS”) and whatever else I might dare to do. There’s even a discount code at the bottom of the website, which means you can pre-order the book for 50% of the normal selling price, which in itself is absurdly low, but as I say in the interview, it was never about making money, just putting some food on the table perhaps.

There will be lots of updates to come, but so you don’t get bored, I’ll try to keep them interesting – front cover of The Guardian Books anyone?

Taking the Plunge #1: Hello Smashwords

A long list of agents who all say the same thing is one of the most disheartening things for an author who aspires to be published in the world of mainstream books. My list is getting long, and the responses are pretty much all the same, along the lines of: “Sorry, I don’t think I can find a market for your book.” Of course, those words aren’t actually used, instead there are very polite template replies saying the agent didn’t feel in love enough with the book, or it didn’t fit their list, or they have to be extremely selective, but if you boil things down to the function of an agent – to sell a book to a publisher – then it’s really that.

It seems Almost Gone isn’t the kind of book any agent wants to spend the time pitching to publishers because, and I’m not just guessing here, it’s not heavily plot-driven (as you know, I don’t like plot – story is far more important) and it’s not the kind of story that has shifted millions of units in other guises. Try as I might, I can’t find anything out there that’s (a) quite like Almost Gone and, (b) well written. It’s probably best not to go too much into the latter for fear of getting cross…

I had resisted the idea of self-publishing, then on Saturday I was looking to run a few copies off using my favourite PoD site, Lulu, in an effort to get physical versions into the hands of a fewSmashwords logopeople, when I ran across Smashwords. It’s to my shame that I didn’t know much about the company, but after doing a little research I realised there was one very interesting option open to me: publish eBook only, giving lots of people a chance to read it, but leaving the physical book option still open to a conventional publisher.

Faced with the prospect of following their very strict (for good reasons) guidelines, I found someone who does a conversion service on Word documents, and paid them the small fee. In a few days the converted document will be getting back to me, and then I’ll have to start working out a strategy for a launch, set up pricing, and speak to all sorts of people who might be interested in promoting it. First, though, I need to design a cover…and it’s done.

Do you want to see it?