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One small step for man….at least this man!

January 7, 2013

It was a long time ago when I set out to be a ‘writer’. How long ago is immaterial. What is germane is that in the time that has passed the publishing world has changed beyond recognition. In those ‘old’ days I was brought up on ‘letterpress’ printing, solid type, and sticking bits of paper onto other bits of paper to make up a page. Not much seemed to have changed since the days of Gutenberg or Caxton in the 14th century it seemed to me even then. And in Caxton’s day it still took Dr Johnson, the father of the first English ‘dictionary’ the best part of twenty years to get into print. Or Thomas Malory a similar time to see his literary masterpiece, Morte d’Arthur be published.

Some say ‘Thank God!’ its changed or is changing since then particularly for authors such as myself. For without this change most of us with a literary bent would have stood no chance. For in the world of yore writers such as me had to rely entirely on the serendipity nature of ‘luck’ in order to get published. And by ‘published’ I mean in ‘book’ form.

Actually I haven’t done too badly for prior to my latest and to date only work of fiction, SHADOW ON THE SUN ( there had been a couple of works of non fiction which by and large I had always discounted on the basis that ‘fiction’ was the only real thing. But by the time I got to where I thought I wanted to be such things as ‘literary agents’ and ‘publishers’  looked set to go the way of the Dodo  both replaced by something called ‘Amazon’ and its ‘end to end’ alternative.

I don’t want to blather on too much about this changing landscape as I’m sure there have been plenty of writers before me who have already given it a good airing and there’ll be plenty more afterwards. My only addition to the fray might be my observation that the changing nature of book publishing is adding a new dimension to the issue of  ‘marketing’. For as they say, the best products or services in the world will fail if no one knows about them.

I don’t mean here that conventional publishers have never done any marketing. Sure they have but usually only for the JK Rowlings on their author lists. The rest have by and large had to do it for themselves in the form of endless signings within such stores as Waterstones located up and down the motorways. Now with the rise of self publishing this has come even more to the fore.

As it happens I have spent much of my life in ‘marketing’, particularly in a sub sector they call ‘below the line’ so its going to be pretty interesting to see whether I can employ a lifetime’s experience in this arena for my own ends so to speak? A case of physician heal thyself huh?

It sounds easy, but there is much to learn as I go along although I think the essentials of ‘marketing’ remain as they have always been. I’m pretty computer literate too and so the ‘technology’ aspect of it doesn’t scare me. After all I was chairman of a largish UK computer company which as an aside did once lead me to shake the hands of the now sadly deceased Apple guru, Steve Jobs. It occurred when I was once in San Francisco at some computer exhibition or other. At the time I think he was unemployed or about to set up ‘Next’ on which ‘New’ Apple would one day be based. Funny how life sometimes works out isn’t it?

‘My book’ took a long time to write primarily because I had a full time and demanding  job to do during the day. The book was regarded by me as akin to a ‘hobby’: something to do to see if I could. Well I finished writing the book about a year ago then came the business of getting it edited and proof read by ‘professionals’. Then of course was the issues of turning it into hard copy format as well as electronic. It all took rather longer than I had originally thought together with a whole load more work. Then having accomplished it all came the issue of checking  whether in practice one could actually buy the the finished product via Amazon and others. It  should have been  easy. Suffice to say it wasn’t and it took time to sort out. Here I could go into detail about corporate machinations concerning plans for world domination but space does not allow.

But now I’m there. After a year I have taken the first step. And as the Chinese say, the longest journey starts with the first step. It is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones and a load more. The eagle eyed ones amongst you might have spotted that it is published by ‘Northern Lights Publishing Ltd and not self published. This because I suspected that liberalisation of the book market might have had an adverse effect on quality resulting in  a backlash from readers.

In short the shear volume of books coming down the turnpike has in its wake led to an attitude by their authors of  ‘anything will do’ when quite simply it won’t. There is much to learn and that certainly includes me.

Many books should not have been published at all on the grounds that their authors didn’t have a clue as to how to tell a story, how to structure it, and then finally the many who thought ‘proof reading’ the final copy was merely for the birds.

For proof of what I say look at the book blogs and reviewers who blatantly say no ‘self published books’ here mate! It’s a bit like it used to be in the old days when guest houses used to say ‘No coloureds’ or gates of private houses displayed a sign nailed to their garden gate stating ‘No hawkers or salesman’. The biblical saying ‘as ye sows, so shall ye reap.’ floats across the mind here.

So for the coming year Ive got all this ample flotsam to get through. But at least my hat is in the ring. The first step has been taken. Now to see where to go from here and whether progress can be made?

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about me as an author of 'techno' thriller books

Cathy Bell

writer | naturalist | lover of parks & wild lands

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