My Seventieth Week as a Budding Author
See that title up there, week seventy. Just to recap if you’ve still got the will to live, around about week minus 12 I resigned from a proper job with a suit, tie, pension and as many bullshit bingo business phrases as you can fit in a large suitcase. The grand plan was to spend the following 52 weeks writing a book about cycling and then become a millionaire upon the proceeds. Like all grand plans, some tolerance needs to be applied. So if we take objective number one, I’m about 38% out on that already and objective number two is in a bit of a sorry state as well, hanging around the 0.005% mark.
Sadly Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder does not count as the book about cycling, as I’d written half of it before I even started and it’s mostly a series of chapters taking the piss out of me. A proper book about cycling needs to be all serious with lots of nice photos, interesting diagrams and some stern words about being safe and wearing helmets. But proper books about cycling are hard. I learnt a lot from self publishing OCCD which can be summarised in the sentence, “Writing a book is about one third of the work necessary to get it published”
There’s loads of other tricky things that need doing once you’ve got the words typed. You’ve got to lay it all out in a design package, then proofread it, then lay it all out again after you’ve bust your layout in fixing the myriad of spelling mistakes. Facts have to be checked, fonts have to be made consistent, photos need cropping, processing and editing to get the idiot’s thumbnail out of shot.
A few weeks back I had a bit of a cold sweat when it became clear that there was a scenario whereby I’d park the whole project and wait until I had more time to finish it. Thing is there’s never “more time” in the Barter household. Even if I made that million pounds mentioned earlier, it would soon be spent on tradesmen to complete the scroll known as “Dave’s DIY, gardening and general administration to-do list”. It became very clear that if I was going to get this cycling magnum opus to market I’d need quite a lot of help.
I’ve dithered before about publishers, naively put off by a fag packet calculation that showed I could make a better return publishing myself. Well OCCD taught me a stark lesson to the contrary. I’ve sold a fair amount of copies to date but the royalty share is shocking. Amazon hand me a mere 22p for the 77p list price of the Kindle book and even worse 53p for the £7.75 they take for a paperback. I need to sell millions of copies in order to pay for the groundsman and plasterers I require.
Raising prices won’t really work at my stage of the game either, “Who the fuck is Dave Barter?” narrowly loses out to “Oh, only 77p what can go wrong?” and people will take a punt which is what you need to do when your marketing budget only stretches to a lot of gobbing off on Facebook.
So, I decided to revisit the publisher dilemma. I wanted to find out whether they could help me with layout, proofing and marketing and what the commercials would look like compared to striking out on my own. Being bit of a fussy bugger I spent some time looking around for the types of books I’d like to buy along with the authors that I rated. The thinking being that these people and products would be attached to publishers who would understand my own personal cycling quest. One name popped up across several books so I took a punt and dropped them a long email going on about me and my various projects. Luckily they employ a resident psychiatrist and he was despatched to find out what this idiot was going on about and whether he had any good ideas they could nick.
We met in a cafe frequented by outdoor types. The owner nearly hugged me when I ordered the most expensive shortbread as everyone else was sat there with bread, jam, tea and body odour. I arrived first, all keen and eager with a few sample chapters and photos on my iPad. I kept this hidden under the table just in case any of the outdoors types were to spot it and make it known that these new fangled gadgets were unnecessary when all one needed were an elastic band, a few dead pigeons, the neighbours pigs and a rickety shed.
Anyway, the publishers psychiatrist saw through the pathetic beard growth (read back a few blogs) and pronounced me relatively sane. He seemed to like the photos (particularly the one above) and the concept hadn’t driven him to go and join the walkers for some jam. I was dead surprised when we loosely shook on a deal. Surprise turned to shock when this week an agreement dropped through the letterbox which read along the lines of:-
“We the undersigned slightly mental publishing company hereby promise to layout and check Dave’s book fairly pronto as long as he finishes the photography, dots the “i”’s, crosses the “t”’s and finishes off the statistics pages he’s been dicking about with. When it’s done we’ll make it and sell it and give Dave some cash”
I stared at the thing for ages. In the detail section was a deadline, I stared at this for even more ages but it was the deadline that convinced me to sign. The royalties and revenues section was all very nice but I needed a proper kick up the arse to get the project completed. Here was a bit of paper offering some help in return for a share of the spoils. Some furious calendar action showed that as long as I gave up weekends in June the photography could be done. Malcolm-over-the-road has been recruited for a long weekend of Scottish photo-bitching in May and as I type this the long suffering Helen is working on diagrams on the computer in the kitchen.
The liberation comes in the designer/proofreader working in the mad publisher’s office. He/she/it will do all of the really hard work for me that I’d convinced myself I could do but reality turned up with a big wet fish round the face and stated the contrary. My lot is done by August, then it’s over to them. We’re planning to have it published in October/November this year. It allows me to go back to what I do best, gadding about the place taking quirky pictures and writing some associated lunacy whilst some of poor mug tries to format some sense out of it.
The fiscal objective is still clearly out of reach as the agreement had a set of percentages, the largest of which was definitely not mine. But at least the publishing one is now achievable and it also allows me to be that annoying twat who comes out with the phrase “I was talking to my publisher the other day...”. Does anyone want to be my agent?
7th May 2012