Category Archives: making changes

2013 and all that – what to expect from the year ahead

2012 was a year of change for me. I left a job which I’d been doing for 10 years to concentrate on publishing the trilogy, I moved house…twice, studied a bit and learned a hell of a lot about an industry which I didn’t have much of a clue about before I started. It was a year for learning, for trying new things out, reaching out to new people, making friends, making mistakes, getting better at what I’m doing and figuring out how to achieve what I want in the future.
This year is bound to be different. It will be a year of building on the foundations which were laid last year, of learning from those mistakes I made, making the most of my new connections and moving the Cypress Branches project forward. It should be an exciting year, and I have high hopes for a successful and prosperous one, but my approach will have to be different.
2012 was kind to me in that I found myself in a position where I could afford to take time out of work to concentrate on Pegasus Falling. But I’m going to have to move forward with a lot less time and money available.
I have always been realistic and never expected to make much, if anything, from this project, and sure enough, I haven’t. The most important thing was to do justice to William’s work and get the books out there so that people could read them. I’m now well over half way to making that happen. 
Much as I’d love to, I won’t be able to work on the books full-time, as I have done this year. I wish I could, but if you think that publishing a book will lead to instant millionaire status and the easy life, then think again. It’s been a tough slog this year and there have been virtually no financial rewards to speak of.
The pot of gold which I found myself with last year was never going to last forever, and I no longer have the luxury of being able to treat the Cypress Branches as my job. I need to return to paid employment, which means going back to working on the books part-time.
The year I have spent foundation-building has been important and I’m certainly glad I did it. It means that there is an audience for the books, which will hopefully continue to grow, and that I’m now in a position – 10 months after the publication of Pegasus Falling – to publish It Never Was You. Considering it took the best part of three years to get Pegasus Falling off the ground, because I was doing it in fits and starts between work contracts, I’m very pleased with that kind of progress!
So, it’s hi-ho, hi-ho and back off to work I go. And I’m glad, actually. As much as I’ve enjoyed working from home and being my own boss, I do miss the work routine – especially the commute. (Call me mad, but it’s true. Honestly, last year was dire from a reading point of view. I always read on the train, and because I wasn’t commuting, I virtually stopped reading. I’ve now got a TBR pile that’s about to collapse and I’m looking forward to enjoying my morning and evening read again.)
But that doesn’t mean that the Cypress Branches project is on hold. Oh no, there’s plenty to look forward to! I’m now looking forward to building on those foundations laid in 2012 and starting to add bricks and mortar over the coming months.
So, what is the plan?

The blog

I’m planning to make much more use of the blog this year, and to create more exciting content for readers of the books. I’m hoping to post much more frequently – at least once a week, on average – and with content which is much more relevant to readers.
I’ve got plenty of ideas in the pipeline which I hope will allow readers and fans to find out more about William and his writing. There are plenty of themes to explore, characters to profile and history to delve in to, and my aim is to build up a collection of interesting articles and resources which readers can dip in and out of to enhance their reading experience.
To help readers find the posts, the pages (which you may have noticed popped up on the site just before Christmas) will be updated with links and I’ll look into adding “further reading” links to the bottom of posts, should readers want to continue exploring. The plan is that over the course of the year Pegasus Falling and It Never Was You will both have the beginnings of an extensive archive which (hopefully!) readers will find valuable.
I’ve got reading groups as well as individuals in mind here, and if any of you have got any suggestions, please do get in touch.

It Never Was You

I am on the cusp of announcing the details for the release of It Never Was You – part two of the trilogy. The paperback and ebook will be released in late February, but keep an eye out for posts in the run up to the release date which will include the cover reveal, extracts and an exploration of the themes.

Part Three

Although Part Three of the trilogy is still nameless and still requires a lot of editing, it is still my plan to release it later this year – hopefully in time for Christmas. That seems a long way off, but it’s actually a very tight deadline! I’m certain that when people have read It Never Was You, they’ll be baying for Part Three, and I don’t intend keeping them waiting too long. It will be an exciting day when I can say that William’s trilogy is finished, and I don’t want to wait either! Once It Never Was You has been published and the initial publicity push has quietened down, I’ll be ploughing straight on with Part Three. (The first job will be naming it!)

More interaction

I wish that William was able to interact with his readers personally, but alas, that is not possible.
As William’s grandson, and his publisher, I’m very keen to interact with more and more readers on his behalf. I’d love for readers to be able to get to know him better, and I’ll be writing a number of articles to allow that to happen over the coming year.
In the mean time, I would love to hear from you, so get in touch if you have a question, have something to share or if there is something in particular you’d like to know more about William and his books.
I’ll be keeping in touch with the brilliant bloggers I got to know in 2012, and I’m aiming to get to know even more over the next 12 months. The indie publishing game is all about networking, and I’m hoping that with the new content on the blog, more interaction on various forums, as well as the completion of the trilogy, I’ll be able to connect with more and more readers.

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads have all been brilliant for connecting with readers and other authors, and I plan to continue ploughing that furrow through 2013. If you haven’t already, please follow / like / add us wherever you find us.
So, that’s the plan. Now to put it into action!
First up, look out next week for a very exciting post. I’ll be revealing the cover image of It Never Was You. Can’t wait!
Happy reading…
Mike
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Well covered

It’s an obvious point to make really, but an important one. The front cover of a book can make or break it. In the days of old, the cover could mean the difference between picking a particular book up from the shelf and reading it and it languishing on the shelf, unloved, undiscovered and gathering dust.

In today’s world of online retail, it’s probably even more important that the cover stands out. You have to consider how it looks on screen, as well as on the shelf. Not only that, it must look good as a thumbnail as well as full-size.

It doesn’t matter how amazingly brilliant the content is, if the cover doesn’t “speak” to your audience, they won’t take a closer look. And I get the feeling that’s what’s happening with Pegasus Falling. Judging by the reviews, everyone who’s reading it is loving it, but I’ve felt that something is stopping people who are happening upon it by chance from picking it up, and I think it’s the cover.

Although I like the cover of Pegasus Falling, I’ve never felt 100% happy with it. The image, taken last summer by the talented photographer Dewi Clough with the help of a group of family and friends, is powerful and striking. But somehow, I felt that I haven’t been able to do it justice.

Out with the old – the original cover design

I’m no graphic designer – and I’ve never pretended to be. I’m operating on the tightest of budgets and can’t afford to hire one. So, I’ve put the cover together using Photoshop Elements and Publisher. I haven’t just thrown myself in to the project blind, though. At all stages of the design, I consulted book covers – hundreds of them – to see what worked and what didn’t, and have tried to emulate them. 

Oddly, the photo we settled on wasn’t the one we were going for, and was taken right at the end of the day as we were trying other ideas. We took this snap not really knowing what we were aiming for – we felt that we’d already got our shot in the bag and were just playing around, really. But it ended up our best shot, but that lack of planning is what’s lead to the problems with the cover. (A look at some of the other photos we took that day would make a good post – I’ll put one together soon.)

With the release of Pegasus Falling in the US last month, I decided to try and tweak the cover artwork to see if I couldn’t give it that killer “look”. I tried to highlight the text more, and took off a grain effect which was supposed to age the picture, but when printed just looked like it was pixelated.

The new, improved CreateSpace cover…better, but still not quite there

But the more I looked at the proof, the less I liked it. There was still something not quite right about it, and I’ve spent the last two days tinkering further with the design. 

I’ve been looking over other book covers, both mainstream and indie, and noted down what works and what doesn’t, and fixed upon two problems with our cover.

Firstly, the image is too dark. Colours on covers of literary and historical fiction books, I’ve noted, tend to be bleak and washed out wit the occasional splash of a single colour. I wanted to keep the motif of the red beret against the black and white background, but experimented with washing out the colours in photoshop.

Secondly, the text was all wrong. Everything from the font and the colour to the size and its position was all plain wrong. It felt tacky…not the impression I was going for! A problem with this image is that it takes up the entire cover – there aren’t many spaces to fit in the graphics – no dead space to fill with words. If we were taking the photo again, I’d re-frame it to take this in to account, but that’s not an option, so I’ve had to work with what we’ve got.

But the biggest difference has been changing the font. I used Lucida Bright before, a respectable classic typeface, but still too heavy. Now, I’ve gone for Trajan Pro – the graphic designer’s favourite. And there’s a reason for that. It works. Scale down the title and author name, fit both on one line each, place them both within the darker space under the hands at the bottom, remove the gold colour and hey presto, I think we’re on to a winner.

Finally, I think I’m happy with the cover. It may not be a design classic, and a graphic designer undoubtedly could do better, but I like it. It’s more sophisticated, somehow.

In with the new – the sophisticated look

And this time, I’m putting it to bed. It’s time I moved my attention fully over to It Never Was You. You can be sure I’ll have learned a lot of lessons from what I’ve gone through designing this one, and they’ll all be implemented for Part 2. I just hope I can get it right first time, next time. 

Come Monday, the new files will be uploaded to Nielsen, CreateSpace and the ebook retailers and that will be that for Pegasus Falling – no more changes! The paperback will not be available to buy for a day or two while it goes through the review process, so if you want to get hold of a copy with the original artwork, get in there quick (after all, there aren’t too many out there with that artwork, so although its inferior, you may find yourself with a collectable in years to come!)

So, what do you think of the new design? Is it an improvement? Was I right to make the changes? Let me know by leaving your comments below.

Happy reading,
Mike