A book is a magic carpet that flies you off elsewhere.
A book is a door. You open it. You step through it.
I make a point of trying to read a couple of classic children’s books each year. When I was little I adored the ladybird books. I still know some of the verses, which shows how many times I read them! The thing that always amuses me when I re-read classic children’s books is how unhappy, or just plain macabre, some of them were.
I will give you an example of my absolute favourite ladybird book, The Runaway. Fundamentally this is a terrible tale of a bored pet bunny who longs for freedom, escapes, has some marginal level of fun, realises it’s pretty scary outside his cage, and heads back home only to find out that he has been replaced by a new bunny!
And I loved it!
Read it hundreds of times!!!
I guess one of the things that children’s books teach us is that life is not always perfect. Yep, sometimes the prince and the princess meet and live happily ever after, but not always, and there can be a lot of trauma (and death) along the way. For all their failings, horror, and foes, I still love the classic children’s books. I love that they are totally unrealistic (who can feel a pea under a hundred mattresses?!), I love that they are sometimes sad (never leave a comfy cage with free food?!), and I love that sometimes they even have a happy ending.
World building was my first love. Or one of my first loves at any rate. Somewhere in a box from my youth are carefully drawn maps, sheets of paper filled with descriptions of flora and fauna, collections of census data from urban spaces that have never existed and will never exist. Part of the pleasure of writing has always been in figuring out details like this.
I’m sure that we all have our own ideal of world building. The creation of Middle Earth. The cultures of Westeros. The alternate realities found in many comic books. In fact, the impetus behind this post was a ‘travel guide’ to the worlds found in Marvel comics. The book itself was fine enough, but more importantly it reminded me just how extraordinary fictional worlds can be.
My favorite fictional world is not as well known as the ones that I just listed. It exists…
Today I have the pleasure of introducing author Cassandra Parker, who will be sharing her thoughts on reading and writing, and details of her new book Harley & Me.
Cassandra On Writing
I have always been an avid reader. I am here to write, to learn, to be creative, and to have fun. I write because that is who I am. I see inspiration in everything such as the falling of a leaf, a child’s laughter, etc. I write because I can remember and to keep those memories alive. I remember my mother’s voice calling to me to come in for lunch on a hot summer day. I remember the smell of fresh mowed grass in the early morning. I remember how cool the lawn felt with dew drops glistening from each green blade. I write for pleasure. I write because I must.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
To read, read, read. Study the genres you love to read. Write what you love to read. Never give up. Even if everyone tells you being a writer is hard and you will not make it, look these naysayers in the eye and tell them, “I am a writer. No one can take that away from me. I will always write no matter what.”
Practice the craft. Study it, look at how a story is “shown” and not “told.” Find time to write 1 page a day, everyday. At the end of a year you will have finished a book. Never believe what you have written is too good for editing. Edit brutally, but also learn, and know when to stop. Edit to tighten the story but do not edit so much you lose the heart of it.
What is your favourite genre(s)?
I love romance in all its multitude of forms. Romance is wistful, poignant, and classic. It makes the heart beat faster; it brings a twinkle to the eyes, a tear drop, and a smile. Romance is love, joy, pain, and loss. It is endearing and lasts throughout time for all eternity.
I love SF because it takes place in worlds different than our own.
I love dystopian novels because it explores our humanity and our struggle to remain human.
Have you ever skipped something important to stay at home and read a book?
Yes, I have. I was so engrossed in the story The Haunting by Shirley Jackson I completely forgot I was scheduled to work.
If you could have a singed copy of a book by an author (dead or living) What book would it be?
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. It was one of the books that drew me into a whole different world and created a love for books and ultimately for writing.
Are you a one book at a time reader, or do you jump between many?
I read one book at a time so I can savor the story. I become so completely immersed in the tale I lose track of time, location, etc.
Tell us what you are currently reading and your verdict so far?
I’m currently reading Girl on a Train. It is a hard read for me because it is not in one of my favorite genres.
About your book…
You are living in the your latest novel. Where are you living, and what is is like?
I am living in 1975-1977 Lima, Ohio. It is a small city with a branch of the Ohio State University and WOSL Radio has just started broadcasting. Gas is being rationed, the Vietnam War ended a few years previously and jobs are hard to find.
You are your most recent protagonist, What do you like doing for fun?
Riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, searching for aliens and playing pranks. Because I am a rebel looking for my soul mate.
Harley & Me by Cassandra Parker
When Mari met Harley little did she know he was her soul mate; the love of her life. This is a love story full of joy, laughter, heartbreak, and loss. The journey of Mari and Harley is wistful and endearing.
January 1st 2014 was a bit different to all my previous new years. I decided it was long overdue that I did something about my parked and buried writing dreams. I bought a journal, and I wrote stuff in it. I wrote down exactly what I wanted to achieve.
And what I wanted to achieve was publishing a book.
So, here I am, three years later . . .
The road to publishing a book is a long one, but for all that, an enjoyable one. With hindsight, publishing a book was both the hardest and the simplest thing I have ever done. Simple, because basically, a book is just a bunch of words written down. But hard because you drag those words out of your imagination and then go over those words many, many times before you feel anywhere near ready to share them, and after you do, you realize you were still not quite ready!
I will liken my experience publishing a book, to my experience emigrating from the UK to Australia. It took me a couple of years to make it happen, nine months to get the residency visa, another nine months to sell our house, cars, and most of our furniture, buy a plane ticket and leave. But once I did emigrate, I realized that it wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as I originally expected. Sure, it required planning, and effort, and there were a huge number of steps along the way, but it wasn’t impossible.
I didn’t know what I would find on the other side, I had no job, no home, and I knew no one besides my husband. Moving country, and especially to the other side of the world, requires a certain leap of faith, and so too with publishing a book.
I published my science fiction novel, Divided Serenity, on 8th December 2016, ten years and five months after I arrived in Australia.
There is no connection between the two events, other than they both happened to me, and that in some ways they were life-changing, and in some ways they were not.
I still get up every morning, go to work, enjoy my cappuccino, and the rewarding aspects of my day job, and then I come home and write. None of that changed because I am in a different country or because I published a book.
The difference is all on the inside.
I love that I was brave enough to move to another country and that I was able to start again, to reinvent myself, and to be someone new. Moving to another country is invigorating, and it instills a sense of self-belief. I still miss my friends and family in the UK, and I know I always will. I miss the funny, quaint little villages and the British sense of humor. I swapped my umbrella for sunglasses and factor 50 sunscreen, and if I ever leave Australia, I know the new list of things I miss will be just as long.
I love that I was brave enough to publish my book, even though I had no idea how it would work out or whether people would like it—I still don’t. Publishing a book is an amazing feeling, but what’s more amazing is the support I have had from my family and friends, and the encouragement from the writing community.
The funny thing about being brave is that it’s all kinds of addictive, and you realize that you can do this, whatever this may be. And you realize too, that whatever happens on the other side you will get through it.
I have learned something about the other side of life changing events, and that is, they don’t really change you, or your ideals, or who you are, at least not in my case. You still get up and do the same things, say the same things, laugh and love the same things, but inside there is this little happy glow that knows—I did it—and nothing can take that away. Not even a bad review, or a supersized bug 😉
So if I had one wish for 2017, it would be for all the people who have a dream or wish or hope that they have been sitting on, to be brave and make it happen.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH KDP PAPERBACK PUBLISHING (BETA)
There is a new option with Kindle direct publishing to add a print book along with your ebook through their site. Formerly, most people would add a print version of their book via CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon. Now you have the option to do this directly via KDP Paperback (beta).
I have no experience with CreateSpace, but prior to deciding to go with KDP Paperback (beta) I had looked at this option. In summary, CreateSpace is a separate company, although owned by Amazon. You need two accounts, one for CreateSpace and one for KDP, and if you are entering tax and personal information for payments, you will need to do all this twice.
It’s my understanding that not all KDP users have the ‘Print Book’ option yet, but that may have changed over the last couple of months (See KDP Print – Amazon is Beta-Testing a Combined Kindle and POD Dashboard). If you don’t have the KDP print option you may not be able to open some of the links supplied below. I really hope they do roll it out soon if they haven’t already, I found it easy to use and was delighted with the finished book.
FORMATTING THE BOOK CONTENTS
In my last article FORMATTING A PRINT BOOK, I covered the details of preparing my manuscript using the templates supplied by KDP Paperback (beta).
THE BOOK COVER
I had my cover created by a designer using 99 Designs (a topic for a future post). Whether you create one yourself or use a designer, here are some considerations:
You have a full wrap opportunity, so why not take advantage of it and select an image that goes all the way around.
You need to be mindful of the space for the binding…and the space for the binding will depend on:
Cover v format v trim size…which comes first: My cover was designed before I got into the details of formatting…not the best way round as the ebook page count can be very different to the print book page count depending on the trim size…but a lesson learned. I definitely recommend you format your manuscript for your preferred trim size before you get the cover design finalised, and better still, before you start designing in case you need to try an alternative to your preferred size as the picture can look very different.
My cover is 6″x9″ which is a large book, and if your book has a smaller number of pages this can look a little slim. At 320 pages on the 6″x9″ format mine looks fine, but at 75k word count you might want to consider a smaller book trim size. Once you have your final number of pages, the binding needs to be adjusted based on the page count / colour option you select.
The above amazon guide has details of the correct cover size and binding size for each book format.
If you are looking to create your own cover, I have always found Canva easy to use, but if you want an alternative, Amazon now also offers a Paperback Book Cover (Beta).
CREATING THE NEW TITLE
When creating a print book on your KDP virtual bookshelf, you have the option to add the Print version to the existing ebook (Select the ‘Add bar’ next to your existing ebook rather than the big ‘Add’ button at the top of the bookshelf page), and this copies all the book information across – bonus! All you need to add is the new ISBN if you have your own, and to select the print options.
KDP PRINT STYLE OPTIONS and UPLOADING YOUR BOOK
The main print options are:
Trim Size: There are numerous book size options, as I mentioned above I went with 6″x9″, which is fairly large, but the most common. Depending on your word count and whether your book is fiction or non-fiction, this is an important consideration and very specific to your own book.
Page colour: White / Cream: A personal choice, but fiction is more commonly cream, and non-fiction is more commonly white.
Cover finish: Matt / Gloss: From reading the forums, matt is a new offering both for CreateSpace and KDP print, and everyone seems to love it. The general feedback was that the matt looked more professional, but again this is a personal choice. I went with matt…and love it!
Bleed: For books with images or drawings that extend to the edge of the page.
Uploading: Once you have selected your print options, got your cover ready, and your manuscript formatted, you can upload. Both the cover and the manuscript (recommended) are uploaded in PDF format (unlike the ebook which takes a JPG for the cover and word, mobi etc for the manuscript).
It is pretty easy to upload the manuscript and cover, and if you have done the ebook version it is all the same. Just select the file and click to upload, and you are ready to preview your book.
KDP PRINT PREVIEWER
Just like with the ebook there is a print book previewer, and the usual spelling check on the manuscript. The previewer here is a little more detailed and throws up all kinds of checks and warnings…I guess the greater consequence of getting your print book wrong! In particular the cover and binding size. I uploaded several times before I was happy…and that was fine by me. You have to press ‘approve’ before you can proceed to publish, or return to the upload page if you need to tweak it. My advice is take your time, have a good browse around the book, zoom in on the font, and make sure everything looks good before you hit approve and move on to publish.
KDP PRINT COSTS
Before you get commission, there is a printing cost, and, Amazon set a minimum sales price. So even if the printing costs x, you can only sell your book for a minimum of printing cost /royalty %. It’s not huge, but just something to be aware of. Unlike an ebook that you can give away for free, the print book minimum sale price is the printing costs + extra. See Paperback Pricing (beta) for more details. From looking at the overall royalty received via CreatSpace for the same trim x page count, my book royalty earnings is exactly the same for sales through Amazon.
Author printing discount: At the moment there is no option to print your own book at less than this minimum cost. However, on CreateSpace I understand you can print your own copy(s) for just the print cost and the shipping. Since I am not intending to print a large number for distribution myself at this stage, I was Okay with the extra couple of dollars for my own copy (and since I live in Australia I get a hefty slug on the exchange rate and shipping anyway – we do not have a printing centre here). If you want to print a batch for friends, family, or personal distribution this is worth considering before you chose KDP Paperback (beta). I am hoping they provide this feature in the future on the KDP one, but will have to wait and see…but definitely worth considering before you commit.
Finally, as part of the listing, you have an option to let paperback purchasers have an ebook version for free or at a nominal 99 cent.
TIME TO PUBLISH
When I published my ebook it was available within a few hours.
The print book took several days before I could order it. It was reviewed within a few hours, appeared on the site but independent of the ebook the next day, and then finally sat in a status of ‘not available’ for 2 days. Once it reached this ‘not available’ status the two books were already connected.
I found KDP Paperback (beta) easy to use. There was plenty of guidance along the way in terms of formatting the manuscript and the cover. And now that I have a copy, I am delighted with the result!
Would I use KDP Paperback again? Absolutely. The worst part was the manuscript formatting, which took me a good day and half, but much of this was pausing to research the various options along the way.
Having no prior account with CreateSpace, publishing both versions of my book with KDP made the job easy, and I can now see all my earnings and sales stats in one place.