Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Kindle Direct Publishing Payments

This week sees the London Book Fair takes place, once again without our presence, and I find myself reflecting on our experience of publishing books.  Most sales of our children's publications are in paperback and this makes me very happy.  I like to think of children enjoying the tactile experience of a "real" book and its content.  In my opinion, too much of too many children's lives is spent staring at one screen or another.

The Itinerant Poet and I made the decision many years ago not to pursue any more publishing deals.  It was time-consuming, expensive and fraught with disappointment after several near misses.  The frustration was compounded by the knowledge that children and teachers in the schools he visited, really liked the books and wanted to buy them.  We needed stock to sell immediately, we couldn't wait many months just to see if someone would publish it or not - hence our foray into self-publishing in paperback format.  It may have been more polished with the editing skills a publisher could offer, and more widely enjoyed through their distribution, but our readership don't seem to care or even notice. 

However, I could not dismiss the entire digital publishing world out of hand.  I had read of people making a lot of money this way but I commenced my epubs without any pre-conceived ideas of making a fortune.  I just hoped that I could put together a file that could be read.  I have only gone down the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) route so far - dipping my toe in the proverbial water.

It's lucky I didn't have any great expectations of huge profits as, one year on from my first releases, I have yet to receive payment for a single copy.  I have sold two in the USA (total $6.10) and seven in the UK (total £14.50).  In the same time frame we have sold in excess of 500 paperbacks.  KDP pay 60 days after the end of the month in which your balance reaches $10/£10/10€ so I will wait with baited breath until the end of May.  It grieves me that Amazon are holding on the money paid in good faith by customers.  How many other people like us are awaiting their first royalty payment?  I bet it's a lot and I bet Amazon aren't paying tax on it.  Grrrrrr... don't get me started!

Am I disappointed in the digital flop?  Yes and no.  I am not surprised so I am not disappointed.  We don't have a budget to spend on promoting it on the internet.  There is a link on our website but, other than that, we rely on the Itinerant Poet spreading its availability by word of mouth - something he is loath to do as he is anti-electronic devices for entertainment.  However, it would have been nice to sell a few more downloads than we have done to date.

Family and Trees

The creative genes have evidently been passed down to the children.  The teenagers have written some amazing pieces in preparation for their forthcoming IGCSE English language exams.  One piece, on war, reduced me to tears... of emotion!  I hope they can deliver on the day but I hope even more that they continue writing afterwards.  The youngest two have been producing their own creations, illustrated too.  It has been one of those weeks when I love home education!

The school term resumed today and the Itinerant Poet has a hectic three weeks down in London.  Having had a great time with the family for the last two weeks, he was reluctant to leave.  Splitting the wood from the felled trees in the back garden and having the children barrow and stack it was wonderfully bonding, as was playing cricket in the garden with an old tennis ball and a garden spade when our older son came back from uni.

But "reality" beckons and, once again, to bring home the bacon yet preserve our meagre resources (and those of the schools he visits), he is going to camp in the back of the car near Wimbledon Common.  A host of lovely friends will be providing B&B from time to time as well.

Admittedly, we have had to update the car in the past week.  The fifteen year old Green Goddess has been traded in for the nine year old Red...Something.  Yes - operating at the bottom of the market once again... and proud of it!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Increase Productivity - Learn to Touch Type

Pen and paper may be anathema to many of the younger generation of writers however they are still the preference of the Itinerant Poet.  His creative urges demand the spontaneity the pen and notebook affords.  He can write anywhere without being dependent on booting up, battery life, drizzle or finding a place where the light does not reflect on the screen.  His battered and colourful notebooks are cherished and kept forever.  They are marvelled at by the pupils in the schools he visits like exhibits in a museum.  They contain doodles by our children (then toddlers), phone numbers, directions budgets and hastily scribbled ideas for future work.  They are intensely personal and fascinating.

The dog-eared tomes are handed over to me for input into Word.  I could not do this efficiently had I not learned to touch-type.  I would recommend that any author who does not have a willing assistant but who has basic computer skills, invest some time in learning to do so even if they still write manuscripts and poems in longhand.  There are numerous free typing tutors to download and even more you can pay for.  You probably only need to spend a maximum of half an hour each day and within a couple of weeks you will be able to stare at your notebook and type what you see without much more than an occasional glance at the screen.  You may also find you can do a basic edit as you go as well as benefitting from the spellchecker.

I taught myself to type in July 1987 using my grandfather's Smith Corona Portable, a vintage 1950s typewriter, and a copy of "Teach Yourself Type-writing".  The keyboards may have changed but the layout is still the same so the skills learned have stood me in good stead.  In fact my keyboard skills helped me talk to myself into my first "proper" job in August 1987!

With a fair wind behind me, I can manage a respectable 45wpm.  I am a little slower at other times.  Times for instance when the Itinerant Poet has chosen to start a poetry collection at the front of the notebook but a novel from the back cover and upside down and the two cross over midway.  The novel has frequent inserts that are written up and down the spine of the notebook or crammed in the tiny gap between a line and the one above it.

I shun dictation software - even the new internet-based Apple version built into my MacBook Pro!  You cannot speak naturally and you always have to go back and correct the inevitable errors:  "there" comes out as "they're" on a far too regular basis.  All this said, I personally can create directly via a keyboard.  This is largely because I can type faster than I can write and nearly as fast as I speak.  I still pause for thought but I can go back and delete without messy crossing out.  My digital desktop is littered with electronic sticky notes with ideas for my blog.  However, I still come down in favour of pen and paper.

Fountain Pens for better Handwriting

In the course of our home education journey, I have discovered that the children's writing improves in legibility and content when they are armed with a fountain pen.  They take more time crafting each word as they adjust their speed to the ink flow.  This seems to encourage better formation of each letter. They also seem to reflect more before they commit a sentence to the paper and consequently what they write is much tighter.  For the younger ones (9 and 11 years) the slightly thicker barrel of a fountain pen makes it easier to hold in addition to the above advantages.

The Itinerant Poet preferred tool is a fine point quality Pentel - he can squeeze in more words on a page and it dries quickly.  However, when he does not have one available, any tool will do including a blunt two inch pencil stub!

My choice of pen would be the one given to me for my 11th birthday but which was sadly lost about 20 years ago in a house move.  I was very attached to it as it saw me through O levels, A levels, a degree in French and Institute of Taxation exams.  The Parker 51 with solid gold cap.