E-Publishing Weekend Conference - Avril Joy

          Several years ago now, myself and two colleagues: Wendy Robertson professional author of something like 26 or 27 published novels (it’s hard to keep track!) the latest being An English Woman In France and GillianWales co-author of three well received (and now quite valuable) books on mining art, the latest being The Quintessential Cornish,  founded the RoomToWrite organisation. Our aim was to work with serious writers towards publication.
          Our writers have had agents, they’ve had submissions come close to being accepted, they've had success in competitions, and I am quite sure, had the world of publishing been the place it was even five or six years ago, would have made it into the mainstream. I sympathise enormously. I consider myself fortunate to have made it into print before the tide turned. They are serious writers, serious about their craft and not just about the writing but about the editing of their work to the highest, professional level.
          With all of this in mind we decided it was time to launch our Beyond The Page  E-publishing Conference, empowering our writers towards building a platform in the e-publishing world. This was not about money – nobody thinks they are going to get rich quick. It was about ditching the depressing and negative take on publishing that has become the norm. It was about fighting back and refusing to be labelled as unworthy. It was about making the decision that no more time would  be wasted on submissions that disappeared into black holes or agents who despite their best efforts got nowhere and took eons to get back to you; communication having been quicker in the days of coach and horse.

Our weekend took place in the beautiful country house hotel, Whitworth Hall in County Durham. Whitworth is set in the heart of a 73-acre park, home to red and fallow deer, and is the former home of 'Bonnie Bobbie Shafto.’ The surroundings were luxurious, just what was needed for a weekend of hard work, as were the lunches of tartlets, cheeses and fresh fruit and the mouth -watering cream teas. And much to mine and Wendy’s relief Darren was always on hand just when you needed him to help with the technology.
           In her conference report Wendy says ‘Our ambition was to demystify  - for keen and talented writers - the disciplines and processes of producing high quality Kindle and hard copy versions of our novels and short stories…The challenge for Avril, Gillian and I is that we didn't just want to tell people how to do it, we wanted to show them.’
          And show them we did, with a programme that on Saturday included: preparing your work for Kindle publication, structural editing, copy edit, compiling the front pages and the live birth of a Kindle novel – LIZZA one of Wendy’s early children’s stories which was out of print. On Sunday we discussed and demonstrated the making of Kindle covers from bought or owned photographs or paintings, using Paint.net (A great free graphics programme for those of you who don’t have Photoshop).
           We also demonstrated the uploading of a novel onto Amazon Create Space including cover, for those also wishing to invest in a hard P.O.D. copy. We finished up with blogging for writers and for those not already blogging - how to set up your own blog . I have to say by the end we were all exhausted! But the feedback made it all worthwhile...

          Here's what some of our writers said:

          'It just gets better and better – nothing could have bettered the weekend. Thanks entirely to you Wendy and Avril and Gillian. Generous is the word to describe you with your time your know-how, your friendship – and we happy few are the lucky ones and we know how lucky we are. Rest of the week cancelled to get down to the nitty-gritty!'

          'To be in at the birth of a Kindle book was amazing. Wendy Robertson’s LIZZA emerged red-faced yet beautiful into the Kindle World. Thanks to Avril for passing on her wealth of knowledge and expertise on creating a hard copy of our Kindled books and Gillian saw to everything else. The usual wonderful food, company and ambience at Whitworth. Fantastic Weekend, Thanks for everything.'

          'Many thanks for the exceptional weekend. It was the best yet. My thanks to you and Avril and Gillian, you worked so hard and now I'm hoping to go ahead with Kindle and also create a blog.'

          'We learned so much about how to put our novels onto Kindle… it was fascinating to discover how you can produce your own cover and how to set up a blog. By the end of the weekend, I was inspired to set up my own blog and work hard to finish my first novel. Then I can put into practice what I have learned this weekend.'

          'Suddenly the world is simultaneously bigger and smaller! I have learned so much about e-books and am very enthused. I am keen to put my Scottish novel, ’A Breeze from the Storm to Come’ onto Kindle so people can read it. Print on Demand may also be a way forward. When I have a little more time I would like to explore the possibility of publishing some of my poetry on Kindle. Many thanks to Wendy, Gillian and Avril for an inspiring weekend.'

          'What an inspiring weekend! I have the confidence now to upload my work to Kindle and create my own hard copy book on http://www.createspace.com. As ever Wendy, Avril and Gillian have put the hard work in to save the rest of us time and money when learning and applying new skills. Many thanks to Room To Write.'

          'The presentations and handouts were excellent, and both yourself and Wendy gave unstintingly of your knowledge and expertise. Your demonstration of how to publish a book on Amazon and {the chance to} see Wendy undertake the process of  publishing a book on Kindle were fantastic. I can’t help but think how fortunate I was to be able to be with you.'

          It felt like democracy ruled and that was fine by me! So far we have one new blog and two new Kindle books and more, much more on the way.
          It was also very exciting to hear two of our group, both former librarians, seriously discussing the setting up of an e-book festival here in the North East next year - watch this space!


Susan Price said…
This is one of those 'wish I was there' moments! You may live to regret admitting that you're an e-publishing guru!
Avril said…
You're right Susan. I kind of did by the end of the weekend! But seriously it was great to help writers in this way - though I'm absolutely not a guru!
CallyPhillips said…
Sounds great, though I worry that it's all 'Kindle' oriented... there's a huge market place out there for epub books on other platforms (not just smashwords) and I think we should be trying to epublish as broadly as possible to get good deals rather than all just follow the Amazon bandwagon! The formatting is somewhat different BUT once you get to grips with it, not hard. Sigil is a great text editor which I use for all epub books. But it's great to see that writers are being encouraged to learn the epublishing skills - no one needs to be paying £70 or more for someone else to format their work.
Avril said…
Of course you're right Cally. We do need to be out there on all platforms and nobody needs to be paying someone else to format their work!
Susan Price said…
Maybe other platforms will take the hint and make themselves as user-friendly as Amazon has?
Debbie Bennett said…
I just want those cakes...
julia jones said…
An e-book festival sounds great but I don't think one has to feel totally pseud if one choses to pay someone else to do the techie stuff. Everyone to their own expertise.
murugan said…
I actually enjoyed reading through this posting.Many thanks.


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