What does publishing a book on Kindle entail? Those of you who have already published an ebook will know - a considerable amount of work! And that is after you have you have written it! That alone is an almighty task as anyone familiar with the Ernest Hemingway quote: ‘All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed!’ will know. The idea, the plot, research, character
drawing, editing, re-writing, editing, proof reading etc is enough to make
anyone tear their hair out and why we writers should do it in the first place
is a mystery to me, except write I must! I think it’s in the genes! My father
Edward Benbow was a writer too writing scripts and plays for the BBC before the war and a great deal of other material, stories, novels and poems afterwards. In his last years he tormented his brain with words by writing the longest palindromic composition in the world (in fact long enough to be a book although not a very entertaining one!) at well over 150,000 words. So, writing and words chase and taunt me too - but back to Kindle!
I have published four children’s books on Amazon so far (many more to come)- the latest ‘The Kettle that Lost its Whistle’ this week. They are illustrated books so double the work! The sketching and watercolours are just the first part of the process. Once happy with the pictures (and being very self critical that is rarely!) I scan the images onto my computer. There, the colours and tones can be adjusted, the image enlarged and any small errors taken out. Modern technology is wonderful for this. Text is added under the pictures and then by a variety of means the images are converted to the right file types. I rely on my wonderful publisher son for this wizardry and just sit by nodding my head in the appropriate places! For the cover, the title header, borders etc are added and it is adjusted to the correct proportions for the Kindle format.
Now back to the text. Unfortunately when I originally started writing and formatting books for Kindle I still used double line spacing of text which used to be the standard and how I was used to presenting it. Digital methods have to be much tighter. Text has to run on neatly, no additional spaces are needed which can play havoc with uploading your book. Making your text look ‘nice’ on the page as you type it is not just un-necessary but unhelpful to your publisher and detrimental to the process. The use of pilcrows is essential for text and shows quite clearly any extra spacing’s etc. For a full length novel, such as the memoir I published last year, the word file is converted to a compatible one for Kindle and importantly I think the chapters are formatted in a table of contents. I read an awful lot of Kindle books and there is nothing more annoying, even in a short book, than not being able to click on the chapter heading and so skip in and out of chapters and backwards and forwards in a book! Having to scroll through page after page to find what you are looking for is annoying to say the least and a little effort in getting this right is much appreciated!
For my illustrated children’s books the images once digitally finished are placed within the text ensuring there are no additional page breaks which again can cause problems. All this then, along with the cover, can be uploaded to Kindle. Then there are all the other bits and pieces to fill in along with pricing (a blog in itself) but finally you can press ‘Publish!’ The book then goes off to 'Kindle land' where it is hopefully approved in a day or so.
So there we have it! I have added a few pictures through their various stages which you may be interested in.
They are from ‘Roly Moley Goes in Search of the Moon.’
Here is a pencil and ink drawing. I will have already done a rough sketch beforehand but at this stage it is hopefully the one that will be used in the book. Sometimes things go wrong though and I have to start all over again!
Starting to fill in with watercolour here
Owl nearly finished and the start of the tree trunk emerges. These are just photographs so the colours look wrong - sorry.
This is pretty much the final version as it appears in the book although there will be a few minor alters and the text caption underneath.
Roley Moley Goes in Search of the Moon
I have been thinking lately about whether an author can shock themselves with their own words and works. I have been writing all my life but only published The Ramblings of a Twenty Five Inch Man which is the memoir of an Ordnance Surveyor last year. The stories are extraordinary considering our hapless hero was simply trying to make maps, but they are not shocking in the sense I mean here. I am talking about the strange journey a writer takes putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. In my own case I always start off thinking I have a pretty good idea of what the storyline is.
I published Seymour Stephens Glasses and Other Stories a couple of weeks ago. The stories are in the Ghost/Horror genre and had been in my head for many years in some cases, just waiting for the right moment to unleash themselves on paper. Talking for myself, when I write, it sometimes seems that the words take on a life of their own Even though I think I know where the storyline and characters are leading me I quite often end up on a journey that is quite unexpected. It seems sometimes as my fingers fly across the keys (well almost!) that the words are being transcribed to me and not my imaginings at all. But of course they are and that is where the 'shock' comes. I surprise myself constantly at the thoughts that end up on the ends of my fingertips. It is almost 'Ah so that's how it ends!' when I come to finish a story. And of course some of the ends (and middles) of the stories DID shock me even though I wrote them! I even had to face up to a personal fear writing one of the stories in the collection.
I think if you have a good imagination (and most writers do) you are so wrapped up in getting the story down, being 'in there' with your characters and plot that it is only later that a sense of surprise can creep in at what you have actually created.
The story of Seymour Stephens Glasses came from a very old pair of glasses I inherited (they are the ones on the front of the book actually). I started to wonder what my ancestor had seen through them maybe a hundred years ago and as my imagination proceeded to carry on a route of its own the story of Seymour just came to me! Well part of it that is, because that is where the surprise comes in writing. It seemed I had only part of the story in my head - the rest appeared as I wrote it, the ideas coming quite easily as if they were just there - waiting in the wings! And these bits as it happened were the most shocking!
But talking of glasses it was just two days ago that I held Mahatma Gandhis glasses in my hands! Yes really! They were at an auction in Ludlow, so very close to my home, and I went along out of curiosity. They went for £34,000 of course but I did get the opportunity of holding them. They were the round metal framed glasses that he was so often seen wearing and placed in a rather rusty metal case. The merest of connections to me is that my grandfather was a stretcher bearer in the Boer war - as was Ghandi and that made the whole experience just that bit more interesting. It was amazing to think of the history connected to them as I held the tiny gold frames in my hands. I hope they have gone to a good home!
If you are a writer does your own writing surprise or shock you?
Don't forget to leave your comments on our contact page.
And if you are brave enough to read Seymour Stephens Glasses and Other Stories I hope you are not too shocked!
My next blog will be on illustrating childrens books. I hope you'll be back!
Welcome to my new website for those of you looking in for the first time.
I have to admit I have a certain leaning towards nostalgia, and childhood nostalgia at that, and for someone who grew up in the fifties and sixties having a website makes me feel as if I have been propelled into some futuristic sphere. But having lived most of my life in the last century as some would say, (now that does make me seem older than I really am) I remember the days of ‘Jubilees’ (a triangular bright orange lolly for those of you younger than me), lemonade and pop that came in returnable bottles, penny chews, fizzy flying saucers and scraped knees from climbing trees - I was a bit of a tomboy after all! One memorable Easter (I was about seven) I remember sitting high up in a tree with my best friend eating chocolate eggs. What better way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon? We were well hidden from adults of course, enveloped in our own private leafy world, but what a great memory - friendship and chocolate - something I'll come to later on too!
I also remember the wonderful illustrated story books of the fifties and sixties
and some hand me downs that were even older. Nowadays of course there are some great books about and there are wonderful children’s programmes on television too. The animation is just remarkable. The cinematography and artistry of films for example Toy story or Shrek are amazing, but the stories they tell too are importantly I think going back to an era of nostalgia where the morals were clear cut and everything rounded up nicely. Talking of rounded up isn’t Roley Moley just a lovely round portly, velvety chap? And although he is always getting into trouble of one kind or another, things always seem to come out alright in the end for him and his little friends!
You may be interested to know that the first story in the series, ‘Roley Moley's Christmas,’ was actually inspired by a true (ish) story. A couple of years ago in Canada we had dug the Christmas tree up, roots and all with plenty of soil, and on the way back to the house we saw lying in the snow a mole. I won’t spoil it by going into what state the mole was in but let’s just say he wasn’t moving very much! Anyway, that put the thought of a mole into my head and when that evening after the Christmas tree had been nicely (and firmly) potted up it started to shudder and shake we really did wonder whether we had brought something else into the house in the roots of the tree! I of course put two and two together and came up with five - or Roley Moley to be precise! The story just grew naturally in my head and I just had to write it that same Christmas. (We never did discover the secret of the shaking tree, perhaps Roley really was in there!) But persuaded and cajoled by my children I published it on Amazon the next year (2011) and when after just one promotional day over six hundred copies had gone I knew Roley was a winner. I rather liked the little chap. He’s rather naive isn’t he? But he always means well towards his little friends. He has all those good old fashioned values I was talking about but he’s adventurous and a little bit naughty too! I think children today actually like that and I think most parents do too. So having grown to know Roley a little more in my head I wrote ‘Roley Moley’s Easter Surprise.’ And there we have the relationship with chocolate and friendship! It must have been subconscious at the time but ‘Roley Moley’s Easter Surprise’ tells of just that- Roley’s chocolatey surprise for all his friends. It goes a bit wrong of course along the way as it always does but it turns out well in the end!
After ‘Roley Moley’s Easter Surprise’, ‘Roley Moley Goes in Search of the Moon’ popped into my head; and with his usual naive but daring spirit he had a great adventure along the way and I had a great time writing (and illustrating) it.
‘Roley Moley to the Rescue’ and ‘Roley Moley in Trouble’ will both be out very soon and at the heart of both stories, as always, is a tale about the friendship between our little round velvety fellow and all his little friends. And isn’t that what we all want for ourselves and our children - a few good friends with some adventures and laughs along the way?
Look out for the new Roley Moley titles coming soon and don’t forget you can contact me here via the website or write to me or Jonathan at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh and if you'd like any of the books they are just a click away on the home page!