libraryI was chatting to our local branch librarian at our monthly knitting group the other day. Colleen reminds me very strongly of librarians of my childhood. They actively encouraged my reading exploits, turning a blind eye when I took out extra books on my Mum’s library card and never questioning the speed with which I returned books and claimed new ones.

In many ways the library was my second home when I was growing up, a source of endless entertainment. It never occurred to me that there might have been a time when libraries didn’t exist or – oh horror! – when people might think that they’re no  longer of value.

Librarians fight an uphill battle to ensure that libraries continue to be perceived as relevant. It’s no longer just about books. In order to keep up with the times, libraries need to lobby for extra funds and show statistics as to why they need to update their infrastructure. They introduce on-site coffee shops, provide play areas for littlies, computer terminals, Ebooks, video, internet access, talks and activities, as well as training courses. It’s all about providing what the customers need – or they simply won’t come through the doors.

Colleen isn’t at our library much at present as she’s been temporarily reassigned to one of the other branch libraries to get it up to speed. She’s started that process by clearing out a lot of unnecessary clutter, opening the space up and making it more attractive to users. This included getting rid of a truly dire decorative installation that had been in place for years, rehoming the old vhs recordings that nobody borrows anymore (old technology!) and updating the window displays to be interesting and inviting. The staff’s been given a bit of a shake up by all the changes, but seem to be coping pretty well.

I find the my loyalties are now well and truly split as to which library to use… particularly since Colleen has decided to introduce a once-a-moth daytime knitting session at library #2, starting on the first Thursday in April…

Luckily, the smartest card in my wallet works at both libraries – and going to both knitting groups just might result in my current project being completed by the end of winter 🙂

After something of a hiatus, my epic-tome is finally moving forward again. My adventures in Tasmania have left me renewed, refreshed and only somewhat exhausted – but ready to focus on the final stages of production.

Since my plan is now to try self-publishing the tome as an eBook, there are a few hoops I need to jump through to get to launch point. First of these is to make some tough decisions about the cover design.

Given the number of eBooks in the market place, I feel that my cover image will need to be really eye-catching. This will (hopefully) get potential buyers to pause for long enough to become actual buyers. This sounds easy in concept but, for a first-timer in particular, it’s a little less so in implementation.

As is my way, I’ve spent an awful lot of time on the research phase, looking at book covers, both in book stores and online. Whilst there seem to be just about as many different styles as there are books,  only a fairly narrow range of these appealed to me and this had led me to the following conclusions:

  • there really isn’t enough space on a cover for more than a single image, the title and the author’s name
  • there needs to be a reasonably clear link between the cover image and the title – otherwise the potential reader is likely to move on to something less challenging/confusing (I certainly do)
  • the image needs to ‘pop’ as a thumbnail, to be sufficiently clear and eye-catching as to attract attention
  • the font selection needs big enough and clear. Crisp lines seem to work better, overall.
  • likewise, the cover needs to be one that can look good in colour (if used) and also in greyscale.

No presPhoto with permission, Lisa Ryesure, really…

Luckily it’s the end of the convention season, which meant that the creative talents of Lisa Rye have become available – much to my delight. Based on discussions over lunch at our first business meeting, she roughed out seven thumbnails and emailed them through for me to look through while I was in Tasmania. Super efficient.

Suddenly the tome has taken on a whole new dimension – it looks like a real book!

Choosing which image to run with took me much longer than expected, which is amusing since I ended up choosing the one I’d liked best when I first saw them! Lisa is currently developing the concept and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with. Watch this space for the grand reveal soon…

Of course, once a potential buyer has paused for long enough to admire the cover they need to find the text engaging as well. To this end, editiPhoto courtesy of Sandy Limng is all-important. I had the manuscript professionally assessed over a year ago and have had feedback from a number of beta readers since then, resulting in a number of minor revisions for clarity or consistency.

I think I’m on the home stretch now, with the help of talented writer/artist Sandy Lim. It’s been very interesting to have a fresh set of eyes on the manuscript. Sandy’s careful, professional editing and comments – some of which also reached me on holiday (!) – are proving to be most insightful and will result in a tighter, more readable product. No wonder she’s in demand 🙂

With all of this in mind, I’m off to a half-day self-publishing expo this coming Saturday. I’m hopeful that some gem(s) of information/insight will be forthcoming to push the process along. Maybe I’ll see you there…

writers expo_5dec2015

At what point does the seemingly endless round of editing and getting people to read your manuscript become self-defeating? The objective, no doubt, is to refine the manuscript so that the best possible product reaches a publisher or, in my case, potential publisher. Somewhere along the line, however, this quite possibly ends up sliding towards nitpicking, navel gazing and – essentially – procrastination.

A friend of mine has a simple mantra in life, one that’s borrowed without shame or compromise from the corporate world: just Do It! I admire her for this enormously and am often slightly envious at the capacity she has to live up to those words. She’s a great example to her many students and, indeed, to me. So whenever I start to debate the finer details of syntax, grammar, sentence construction, paragraph length and so on for too long, I try to haul myself back from disappearing down that rabbit hole and try to keep a sense of perspective. I remind myself that, whilst correct spelling, appropriate grammar and the position of a comma or apostrophe are all very important, so is finishing a product and getting it out there. Finding the balance between procrastination and a gung-ho attitude is the key to just doing it whilst doing it right.

In that spirit, I tidied up the final details of my epic tome this weekend – adding and captioning some photographs and scanned images – and have sent it off for some final line editing. Are these edits really necessary? Probably not, but I’m pedantic enough to want to be sure that the product I take for professional assessment by a publisher is indeed the best that I can produce. To an extent doing so will make rejection tougher than if I knew that it still needed a lot of work, but at least I won’t castigate myself unduly for not having done a good job upfront – whatever the outcome.

I actually have no idea how long other writers take to edit and tidy up their manuscripts prior to submission. My only benchmark is my thesis – and that took an awfully long time, partly because reference checking is exacting and very time hungry. This round of editing (by no means the first) started in September last year. Given that December was a write-off, that still means that this is the fourth month of nitpicking, of checking for consistency and formatting, along with everything else.

Things I’ve done that have worked:

Changimageing the font and colour of the text. This makes me actually read every word, rather than letting my eyes slide over them and not see typos. This is a real pro tip, by the way 🙂

Printing out a hard copy and reading it as though it’s a book by someone else – and being ruthless with a red pen whenever I find an error.

Reading sections out aloud to myself, since this often shows me where the errors lie more clearly than anything else does – particularly where the commas should (or shouldn’t!) be.

Things I’ve done that haven’t worked: Procrastinate. Yup, that’s about it really.

So – onwards (to victory, and beyond!). I await feedback from a couple of people and must then knuckle down and submit the manuscript as a book proposal to local publishers. Exciting times…