Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Rubbish or recycling? N M Browne

One of the many things I worry about these days is recycling. I do hate waste. I  buy more
second hand clothes and books ( but still buy new too) and  I laboriously separate my rubbish. It is galling to realise that even this small attempt at being a greener citizen may be a waste of time. I am writing this listening to a radio report on recycling which reveals the British ‘recycling’ is often just shipped off to some poorer country, circulating round the world wasting even more resources and dumped as rubbish. I fear the same thing happens to ideas.  Nonetheless, I hang on to the notion that recycling is a good thing so here is a recycled but subtly repurposed ideas from January 2013 published on an ‘An Awfully Big Blog Adventure.’  It is still true, in the irritating idiom of the day ‘Nothing has changed:’ it is up to you to decide if it is recirculating rubbish.
From the window of my study I can see the top of a horse chestnut tree. (Actually that’s a lie because to my shame I don’t know what type of tree it is, but I know that in writing it is always better to be specific.) I spend all together too much time looking at this tree and yet I never spot the moment when the last leaf falls, or the day when spring arrives and it is finally, gloriously verdant green again. 
 I mention the tree for two reasons: it marks the passage of time, and it is a great metaphor  for writing.
  First things first. As a kid I remember watching the film of the ‘Time Machine’ in which time was indicated by the changing fashions in the window of a shop, hems rising and lowering, styles evolving until eventually there is no shop at all. The tree for me is like that shop. I look out and it is bare and then one day I look up and realise it is in full leaf. And all the time I am at my desk, in my own private time machine putting words on a page. I live in this insulated world, outside of time, in the eternal present of story. It is always a shock to realise that I can be several seasons adrift, that my time and real time don’t always run together. 
 And then I get to the metaphor part. Just as I never notice the moment of transition from Spring to Summer, Autumn to Winter, I never notice the exact moment a fleeting thought becomes a plot idea, a name on a page becomes a real person, a bare branch of a story buds and thickens into full leaf and suddenly there it is fully formed on the page. I work on it every day, just as I look at the tree every day and yet the moment of transformation from one stage to another always passes me by.
 I don’t know what that means, if indeed it means anything, unless that maybe when we are working we don’t see the wood or the tree until suddenly we do and we are finally, gloriously done.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Re-reading, Re- writing, and an Endless Convalescence, by Enid Richemont

Here is my annual garden surprise - the poppy we planted years ago, and which, once it's made its grandiose statement, dies back completely to near-invisibility until the following year. This was how it looked last year, but it doesn't look much different now. The difference is in me, because I can't yet risk walking round to the place where it grows in order to photograph it, due to what feels like a never-ending convalescence from ankle replacement surgery back in February.

I never expected it to take so long to get back to normality. It was major surgery, so I knew the deal - two weeks in bed with a heavy leg cast, followed by six weeks in a much lighter cast, then the dreaded boot, and then, at last, the thrill of being able to walk to the shops. Yes, the website said it would be a year before things would be really approaching that stage, but I didn't take that too seriously. My health was good, I wasn't sedentary, I ate properly, so hey! after the longest three months of my life, things would be looking up, wouldn't they? Well, it's nearly the end of May, we're almost into summer, but no, I still haven't made it to the top of my street.

Catch up on your reading, people said, and for God's sake, write. Reading has, as ever, been rewarding, especially re-reading. I re-read "The God of Small Things", by Arundhati Roy, and it took over my life. I re-read several old Margaret Atwood novels, Ruth Rendell's final thriller with its tragic final line which read like a premonition of her death, and the totally wonderful "Kingdom Come", by Bernice Rubens.

Writing, though, was something else. I had a simple brief from my publisher, to which I responded with no less than four possible scripts (after all, one had to go.) None of them did. I had two lengthy adult novels to read through and edit. Couldn't do it. Still haven't. I think on the hoof. If I'm stuck, I walk, or even swim, both impossibilities. Up the stairs (with difficulties) and down, and across the ramp my family built for me in order to circumvent a steep front doorstep yes, but that's not proper walking.

I was becoming depressed, so got into re-structuring an old a long-published children's novel, "Kachunka!" which has become a bit obsessive. Mrs Kachunka!, the cosmic dinner lady with her combination of ecology, quasi-Buddhism and other-worldly magic, was first published a very long time ago by Walker Books, but yes, you've guessed it, it's been long out of print. It ticks so many current boxes, but I've been told no one will touch it because it's 'been there and done that'.

Well, I've been revisiting the lady who's name sounds like a sneeze. Her name also looks and sounds Russian, which hadn't occurred to me when I first wrote it, so I've changed it to something equally sneezy but more abstract. I've also extended it. Its original ending would have made perfect sense to an adult reader, but might well have baffled a younger one. I went through a similar but much more elaborate and lengthy process writing a screenplay based on an earlier children's novel, and found it fascinating. These characters we invent have so many hidden depths that it's like discovering new things, or a past history, in a close friend you thought you knew, but didn't. I'd love your thoughts on this. And someone, somewhere, must have published a paper on the link between fiction writing and schizophrenia, because these characters are REAL!


Monday, 27 May 2019

The Moment of Maximum Anticipation and Optimism - Andrew Crofts

By the time I write my next Authors Electric blog my latest novel “What Lies Around Us” will be out, so at the time of writing I am watching as the publisher, (Red Door) and PR company, (Emma Finnigan), build up a head of steam.

The book has started to exist in the on-line world. If you google the title it comes up for sale in any number of different outlets, even though it is not out officially until June 13th.

The cover art pops up at the click of a button and advance copies have gone out to book bloggers, reviewers and all the rest.

What Lies Around Us by Andrew Crofts
What Lies Around Us by Andrew Crofts
Early reviews have started to appear on Goodreads already, so I am able to start extracting the juiciest phrases for the website, (and below) - and for future use on paperbacks etc.

I love this moment in the process when anticipation and optimism are high, before the backlash arrives.

Comments on Goodreads

“The ultimate summer thriller”

“Insights into the publishing industry and its bitter truths”

“So terrifying”

“Very funny and witty”

“Aching to find out what happens next”

“Strong and intriguing”

“Fast pacing”

“Poignant narration”

“Easy read to breeze through”

“Humorous at first and dark and deep later on”

“Such a pleasant surprise”

“The sense of wonder we all get from life”

“About the future of democracy, honesty, the impact of race, the power of family, and fame”

“The writing was so good”

“The idea that politics, tech and celebrity are connected is represented fantastically”

“I think many people could enjoy it.”

Saturday, 25 May 2019

The Walled Orchard: A Review --- Susan Price

The only real regret I have about growing so old is the fact that I shan't live long enough to read the scathing dismemberment of the clowns who presently infest our public life by a historian who has access to all the evidence and can expose every lie, reveal the source of every pay-off and back-hander, can trace the cause and effect of every stupid blunder. But then, if I could last long enough to read the book, the rage induced by it would certainly finish me off.

I've been taking refuge in historical novels. I enjoy them. I enjoy trying to imagine myself in a world different to mine in almost every way, and understanding that world from a different mind-set.

Tom Holt is best known for writing comic fantasies -- a Rhine Maiden twisting modern men around her little finger, a modern international company being managed by a dwarf from the Nibelungenlied. If you want to read a darkly comic satire on office politics and how they're merely a pale reflection of the true power struggle between immortal gods and nymphs, Tom Holt is your man.

The Walled Orchard, Tom Holt
After enjoying several of his fantasies, I came across his The Walled Orchard, which is very different. It's set in the Athens of Socrates (who has a minor walk-on part) and is an exceptionally good historical novel. On first reading it, many years ago, and reading it again recently, I was surprised that Holt isn't far better known as a historical novelist.

The thing that struck me about The Walled Orchard both times I've read it,  is that there's no gasp about it.  I think most historicals have a gasp: -- either a gasp of horror and thankfulness that things were so horrible then and aren't any longer, or else a gasp of longing for a lost age of more Grace, Grandeur, Freedom or whatever the author imagines the past had and the present doesn't.
Wikimedia: Frankie Boyle

But the narrative of The Walled Orchard does not gasp. I can't think of another historical novel that so completely envelops you in its time.  It finds ancient Athens completely ordinary and rather grubby, every day, annoying and disappointing. Just like today, in fact. The book cares nothing for the future or its judgement.  It's funny, scathing, angry -- reading it is like listening to some honest, forthright and witty person raging about the bunch of numpties that have somehow inveigled themselves into power in our day. In fact, think Frankie Boyle in chiton and sandals.

The narrator of The Walled Orchard is Eupolis, a gentleman farmer whose vocation is writing comedies for the festival of Dionysus -- he hasn't much time for tragedies, finding them tiresome in the extreme, but he does know Euripedes a bit and is willing to gossip about him. (He also knows Aristophanes, his rival in the comedy stakes. He hates him.)

Eupolis' stock in trade is making fun of Athens' famous democracy and its famously democratic politicians and much of the book is a great rant about the stupidity and greed of the politicians and the (possibly) even greater stupidity and greed of the citizens -- not the slaves or the poor or the women, of course. They don't have votes and don't count in this fine democracy. (And Eupolis is fine with that.)

Eupolis admits to his own stupidity -- it led to him becoming embroiled in Athens' stupid, greedy attempt to conquer Sicily, which ended badly. The Athenian citzen chosen to be the army's general is ill and has no military experience whatsoever, while the Athenian navy and army are complacent and over-confident, certain that beating the Syracusans will 'be easy'. Oh, so easy.

Eupolis gives us an account of the Syracusan war, of a battle fought by night, where the Athenian army gets lost (several times) and then attacks itself and its allies (several times) because it can't tell who is who in the dark. It's both funny and appalling.

You can't help but be reminded of another bunch of incompetent, complacent boneheads, much nearer us in time and space, who are clattering around in the dark, attacking the wrong people and blaming everyone except themselves. Holt wrote the book 22 years ago but it's suddenly taken on a very contemporary ring.

Eupolis manages to get himself back to Athens, arriving before the news of the Athenian army's extermination. On learning about the defeat, and about the men and ships that have been lost, the city reels in shock -- and then looks round for a scapegoat. Its gaze falls on Eupolis.

There's much more to the book. The small details of everyday life in Athens are thick on every page but placed so deftly that you don't notice the skill with which they're introduced -- until you catch yourself believing that you're reading the memoirs of a man who lived that life, in that city and actually saw and did all these things.

Among all the down-to-earth, everyday gossip about what Euripides was really like, and how to improve your soil and increase your olive yield, and how to farm between Spartan invasions, there are a couple of supernatural episodes, which are unexpected and chilling.

Eupolis tells us how, as a boy, he nearly died in the plague outbreak that did kill his immediate family. He wakes, weak and dazed, in his deserted street and meets Dionysus, with whom he has a chat (recognising Him by His theatrical mask and prop leather phallus.) The God tells him that He kept Eupolis alive because He has a purpose for him. We'll meet again, says the God, and tells Eupolis where -- and they do meet there, in a thrown-away moment, all the more chilling for its sudden matter-of-factness. At this second meeting, Dionysus also informs him of a third and final meeting, which Eupolis is still awaiting in the book's closing pages.

After the plague leaves almost all his family dead, the young Eupolis finds himself rich from inheritances, in possession of enough land to join the city's upper classes. He not unnaturally concludes that Dionysus wants him to become a comic poet in His honour -- and he sets about serving the God by mocking and lambasting the city, its people and its politicians.

He hates Athens, he hates her stupid populace, he hates Tragedies and all other comic poets; he hates democracy and he hates his wife -- and he loves all of them, can't leave them, can't give them up.

Eupolis mentions that the plague has left him bald and with a twisted face -- he has a permanent, involuntary grin. His wife, Phaedra, a fearsome and unfaithful termagant, is beautiful when he first marries her but is later involved in a cart accident, where she is kicked in the face by a mule. Her broken jaw, badly set, leaves her with a permanent grin. So not only are they like an Athenian Punch and Judy, a knockabout stage comedy couple but they both grin like a couple of Comedy masks. Both of them mask their own natures too -- and perhaps Athens' theatre of noble tragedies and tragic heroes is a mask that hides the city's true spirit, which might be thought closer to the phalluses, scatology, abuse and violence of the comedies.

Comedy is always about real life, baseness and failure, while Tragedy is about the sublime: impossible Gods and heroes. Eupolis lives and ends his life as a comic hero -- a failure as a husband and a father, a playwright who knows his plays will be forgotten and who didn't even mean as much to His God as he thought he did. He advises us to heed the one thing he's learned in life which is: While travelling, go and have something to eat immediately and leave the sight-seeing until later. Then at least you've had a good meal.

The Walled Orchard certainly isn't a failure. It's impressive and it achieves this difficult thing: it makes you see ancient Athens as clearly and realistically as it's perhaps possible for us to see it: as completely ordinary and a bit squalid. No gasp at all. 

Tom Holt's other novels set in ancient Greece are also well worth a read:

can be found here.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Who cares if I've never seen Game of Thrones? Jo Carroll

Ah ... Game of Thrones. It's an excitement that has passed me by.

Why? Well, it's not on Freeview, and that's the only television I watch. And even that is only turned on before nine in the evening if it's something special.

'Think what you're missing,' I hear you cry. 'It costs next to nothing to pay for Sky, or Virgin, or Netflix ... all gateways to a world of wonderfulness.'

'But,' I reply, 'I spend enough time with screens. I write on a screen. I do a lot of my research on a screen. I catch up with the News on a screen. I drop by social media occasionally. And when that is done I want to look up from the screen and read a book, or go for a walk, or simply sit on my balcony and listen to the birds sing.'

Does this exclude me from the mainstream? Possibly. It reminds me of my schooldays. Unlike almost everyone else in my class, we didn't have a television until I was 16. This meant I felt shut out of vital discussions about Top of the Pops or Ready Steady Go. But I had one ally - one other girl with no television who could discuss The Navy Lark or Round the Horn. We were in a minority of two and it wasn't always comfortable.

That was then. Now - I feel, at times, comparably excluded. But this time it's my choice, and I'm happy with that.

If there's a problem, I see it as lying with those who look astonished when I admit I have no idea what they are talking about when they launch into a Game of Thrones discussion. I have no problem with their choices, yet it seems that my choice to read a book is enough to brand me a Luddite. 

Oh well, so be it. I'm sure I'm not alone in never having seen Game of Thrones - and good luck to all those who love it. 

If you want to read what I've been writing while Game of Thrones has enthralled millions, you can find The Planter's Daughter here.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Lev Butts Lists the Best of Self Publishing IX

For the last year or so, I have been listing examples of books that prove that self-publishing does not necessarily mean low-quality, lazy writing. Over the past year a few things have happened that prove my point.

In response to the Georgia Writers Association deciding to no longer accept self-published books for their Author of the Year Award (despite their once being praised for doing so),  The Southern Pen Bookshop of Monroe, Georgia, decided to sponsor its own award: The Georgia Independent Author of the Year Award, geared to writers of self-published and small press books, as the capstone event to their first annual writer's conference geared mainly for independent writers.

The conference was held this past weekend in Monroe, and I was proud to present a workshop on creating effective antagonists (adapted from this earlier blog post).

The conference was very informative, covering topics ranging from writing to marketing to legal issues. I was particularly surprised to see how well attended the conference was for such a small venue and for a first-year conference. There were attendees from all over Georgia, of course, but also few from as far away as New York.

I was also excited to learn that not only was the third volume of my Western fantasy series, Guns of the Waste Land, a finalist in the Historical Fiction Category of the award, but that I received Honorable Mention for it once the winners were announced.

This conference and this award hopefully imply that things are getting better for self-publishers and independent writers despite the narrow-minded opinions of The Georgia Writers Association.

Anyway, as Casey Kasem was so fond of saying: On with the Countdown!

Or: "Like, Zoinks, Scoob! Here we go again!"
Dream Weavers & Truth Seekers (series) by Cecilia Dominic

I am a sucker for mythology-based fantasy. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite living writers (so much so I was going to tell you my favorite novel of his and literally just spent an hour trying to narrow it down and failing. They're all great), primarily because he deftly weaves mythology (both his own as in the Sandman graphic novels, and traditional mythology, as in American Gods, Good Omens, and Stardust). That is essentially the same thing that draws me to Cecilia Dominic's series.

The series revolves around a plot by a group of Faerie and other supernatural beings, to insidiously regain control of the waking world through otherworldly portals connecting all of the "real" world through a chain of popular coffee houses that have sprung up all over the world: "The chain's fairy logo should have tipped us off."
Yes, that one.
Opposing this cabal are the Truth Seekers, a group of immortal magicians, led by none other than King Arthur's counselor, Merlin, and Arthur's forgotten aunt Margaret of Cornwall (or "Maggie" but never "Mags"), who protect the mortal realm from malignant supernatural incursion.

Though they try not to include mortals in their plans, inevitably those mortals with "strong" perception inevitably find themselves mixed up in them, usually through their own blundering. For example, Emma, the protagonist of the first story "Perchance to Dream," unknowingly accepts an invitation to the Dream Realm (aka the Collective Unconscious) when she agrees to share a cup of tea with a psychic reader. Phillippe, the protagonist of the second story, the novella Truth Seeker, finds himself lost in the portals after sneaking into the back of the coffee house on a dare.

There are two things that I really like about this series. The first, of course, is the masterful blend of the modern, realistic world and the mythology, primarily Greco-Roman and Celtic with other supernatural folklore such as vampires and ghosts. I mentioned Neil Gaiman earlier because his work, particularly Neverwhere and American Gods, is exactly what I thought about after reading the first two stories in the series. So often when writers attempt to blend fantasy and realistic elements, it becomes either heavy handed and distracting or so subtle the fantastic elements get lost. Dominic handles both aspects of her stories like a master, making the magical aspects feel like perfectly natural if uncommon qualities of the mundane world.

The stories themselves are really good, and each volume is self-contained. A lot of series claim this, but they're usually not so much. Dominic's stories truly are, and that leads me to the second thing that really sets this series apart for me: While it's true that each one is its own, individual story with beginning middle and definitive conclusion, the "real" story, the plot that ties the series together, about the beings from the dream world invading the mortal realm, happens off stage and between books. In the first tale, the supernatural antagonists are attempting to find a way into our world by manipulating the protagonist Emma, and even though she appears to thwart them, by the beginning of the next story, not only have they managed a way into our world, they have created magical portals linking almost every city in the world in order to provide themselves a way to travel within the mundane realm. The clues to how this was accomplished are implied and revealed within each story if the reader reads closely.

In short, this series is well worth your time, especially if, like me, you enjoy a smart, modern fantasy incorporating ancient myths and folklore into the normal, everyday world. At present there are four stories in the Dream Weavers & Truth Seekers series: a short story prequel, "Perchance to Dream"; a novella, Truth Seeker; and two full novels: Tangled Dreams and Web of Truth.

Give them a go; you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

A Listening Project: Ali Bacon finds her audio book a bit too relaxing

Ali Bacon out and about
Time was when I regularly listened to audio books  that was when I had a part-time job involving a half-hour commute - perfect for picking up a story and letting go of home or work preoccupations. This was some time ago, of course and my audio books were on cassette - sets of tapes encased in big library boxes and taking several hours of listening. For some reason after I left that job,  and even though I still spent considerable periods driving, I somehow lost the habit of audio books. Possibly this was because I had started writing and spent most journeys worrying over my own characters.

Remember these?
I do remember the pleasure of those journeys and how the narrat out and aboutor was as important as the book. I discovered a penchant for a quiet American voice, perhaps because I also like quiet American books. and particularly remember losing myself in the cult hit of the time The Bridges of Madison County, to the extent of arriving at work a bit hot under the collar! But I think my choices depended mostly on what was available on the library shelves. So I listened to a travelogue about the Hindu Kush and a fairly dull (Anita Brookner?) novel which I enjoyed just for the sound of Anna Massey reading it.

Fast forward thirty (ouch!) years and with several of my friends heavily into the audio book habit I think it's time to partake of this forgotten pleasure. On the other hand I'm not sure if it will suit me so rather than taking up the eternal offers from Audible I plump for our public library service which quaintly involves borrowing for a limited period and and having to wait for a copy of a favoured title to become available. These restrictions seem odd but I assume there are licensing issues and hey, it's FREE! It's relatively easy to download the app for my Libraries West account and sign up to audio books. 

Libraries West Audio Book Service
The service is provided by a third party Borrow Box and I'm now sure what selection criteria are operating. It looks like browsing works better than searching but I don't immediately see anything I fancy. On a whim I search on 'historical' and get a very good selection embracing genre and literary historical novels. Although those I fancy are all on loan and have to be reserved, I click on Helen Dunmore's Birdcage Walk. Hurrah! I love Dunmore and this is high on my TBR list. A couple of days later I have a message to say it's available. So far so good!

The book arrives when I'm on holiday and maybe a period of down time after a strenuous walk is not the best time to begin. The soothing experience of being read to sends me straight to sleep - twice! I quickly learn the options for rewinding. 

Back at home I start again in the car and I'm glad to say this  goes much better with no falling asleep at the wheel, although short journeys mean I don't get much listening time. Of course my phone is always with me so when Mr B is watching something not to my taste on TV I can get on with my knitting and listen as I click my needles. Even so I had forgotten how long it takes to listen to a book unabridged. I note I still have 6 hours left and when I stupidly  put down the knitting and let the Eurovision Song Contest play in the background, the inevitable occurs ... I hear the Netherlands won, but where did this new character spring from in my book? Time to rewind yet again. So yes, listening is relaxing - sometimes too relaxing!

Or is it the book? Dunmore is a favourite author (The Siege and Exposure particularly memorable) and this one is set in my home town of Bristol, but I'm not sure it's doing it for me. The narrator strikes me as efficient rather than engaging and a few chapters in I'm interested but not enthralled. Most of all, the listening experience doesn't let me ignore bits that seem repetitive, or skim over the extracts from pamphlets and newspaper reports which remind us of the historical and political context somewhat at the expense of narrative pace. Of course it's common knowledge amongst writers that reading aloud is a great way to see flaws in your own work, and though it's too early (5 hours to go!) to say this book is flawed, I can see that the audio format is an unforgiving one.

So at this point in my life I have yet to be totally won over by the audio book, but whether or not I finish Birdcage Walk (a sneak peak at reviews suggests I should) I think I will keep one on the go, while remembering all the while to stick to the knitting! 

In the Blink of an Eye, Ali Bacon's historical novel, is available in paperback and e-book from Linen Pressonline stores and all good bookshops. 

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

KDP paperbacks - Katherine Roberts

Createspace is dead... long live KDP paperbacks!

I've previously used Createspace to publish indie paperback editions of my titles, but CS has now been retired by Amazon so this month I tackled my first ever KDP paperbacks with two short story collections Mythic & Magical and Weird & Wonderful, which up to now have only been available as ebooks.

Each collection contains seven of my short stories, so they both come in at around 125 pages, plenty long enough for a paperback edition. Being the same length also meant I could use the same KDP cover template for both titles, which made the design a bit easier. I'm calling this series 'Ampersand Tales' because the collections are additional to my novels, as well as being for older readers who might have enjoyed my children's books as young readers when they were first published. Some of these short stories helped inspire my novels, and each carries an introduction setting it in the context of my writing career, making Ampersand Tales of interest to authors, too.

But back to the publishing process. You'll need to format your book for print in exactly the same way as you did for Createspace, starting with choosing a trim size (I usually go for the American YA standard of 5.25" x 8", even though standard paperbacks are slightly smaller than this in the UK - I figure they're not going to be sitting on many shelves in a UK bookshop, anyway). You then add your front and back matter, make sure your title page agrees exactly with the title you've entered for the book on the KDP, and upload your interior. For simplicity, I usually upload my Word document, which then gets converted into a pdf by amazon's software, but if you are fussy about formatting you can upload your own pdf. KDP then prints the interior on either cream or white paper (you can choose... for fiction, I follow the standard and use cream). The paper is of a good quality, which makes the books slightly heavier than mass market paperbacks of the same length. Here's a sample page from the interior of Mythic & Magical.

Next you need to tackle your paperback cover, and again the process is similar to the one at Createspace. The KDP also has a cover creator tool for simple covers, though I prefer to do mine at Canva. You can use any photo editing software you like, including Photoshop if you have that, but you must get the cover exactly the right size for your selected trim, which means downloading the correct-sized template from the KDP and doing a small bit of maths before you start... if you're a beginner, I wrote a post about paperback covers for this blog. Take extra care to keep all your text - including the spine text - out of the red areas on the template. The KDP seems quite fussy about this (more so than CS, I think, since despite my experience it took three attempts to get my spine text the correct size on the first title I uploaded).

Remember you'll need smaller text for a narrow spine.

There's an online previewer at the KDP so you can check the results, although you'll need to upload both your interior and cover files before you can activate this, which I found a bit annoying. At CS, I used to check the interior file before designing the cover, because sometimes I decided to change the number of pages after previewing my first attempt, and if you're between different cover templates (which are provided in multiples of 10 pages), that could mean redesigning your whole cover to match. Also, be warned that the KDP previewer does not include the final page that gets added for the barcode on printing, so your actual book will be at least one page longer than it looks in the preview - again, this might cause a problem with your cover if you are near the maximum pages on a template. But once you know all this, it's fine.

You are then invited to do your pricing (the KDP handles the maths), and then you can either send for a proof copy (which has a 'NOT FOR RESALE' band printed across the entire cover so isn't much good for proofing your cover), or send your files straight for publishing. At this point, they will undergo a final manual check at the KDP - which I seem to remember CS used to do earlier in the process, before publication. You might get an email from the KDP alerting you to something wrong at this stage, in which case it's back to the drawing board... but if you did everything properly, your book will be 'published' (i.e. made available for order), although at this stage it's unlikely any actual copies will be printed. You can then order an author copy at cost price to check that it looks exactly as you expected it to look from the online preview... this is what I'd call a proof, but I suppose the pre-publication one with the 'not for resale' band on the cover would be okay for a final proofread of the interior, or if you want to send out nicely-bound copies to your proofreaders, The Devil Wears Prada style... although, Harry Potter aside, even big publishers rarely do bound proofs these days. More likely, your editor will send a pdf by email for the final proofread, and the 'proofs' sent out to reviewers are free copies of the actual book hot off the press, no doubt accounting for the large number that turn up for sale 'as new' on Amazon, sometimes before the actual book is officially launched (explaining that ugly NOT FOR RESALE band, I suppose).

The one thing missing on the KDP is the 3D 'spin' tool we used to have at Createspace, which showed your uploaded cover from the back, side and front as your 'book' rotated virtually on the screen. At CS, I used this spin tool to check my spine text was in the correct place - it's not quite as easy to check the placement with the guidelines on the KDP previewer, so you might need to use a bigger screen to do your online previewing, or send for an actual copy before you are sure.

One final thing: do not be misled by the colours you see on a backlit screen, as usually these print darker. My first attempt at Mythic & Magical arrived a darker blue than expected, and I struggled to read the black text I'd used on the spine and back cover, so I decided to change all the text to white. I also wasn't entirely happy with the contrast of the unicorn, so I've lightened the background slightly. I'm still awaiting the new version (which I just hope does not print too pale now) but the beauty of print on demand is that you are not stuck with a thousand duff books under your bed if you make a mistake. You simply upload a new cover, and within a few days the new version is available for sale worldwide.

Mythic & Magical - first attempt
(black text a struggle to read in dim light)

The result? Two short story collections, now happily available in both ebook and paperback... and as a special treat for reading this far, the Kindle ebook of my science fiction collection Weird & Wonderful is FREE FOR FIVE DAYS.

(free until 24th May 2019)
(not free, sorry)


Katherine Roberts writes fantasy and historical fiction for young (and older) readers. Find out more about her books at