FROM time to time, people ask me how to get a book published. With great difficulty, I reply.
While everyone may think they have a book in them, the little matter of writing 80,000 words of fiction can put many off.
Not everybody has those ambitions, of course. Some may want to write short stories, children's books, poetry or their autobiography. Anyone’s life story can be fascinating because it is a slice of the past. It may not make the best seller lists, but it is a great asset to any family history.
And as silver surfers now often have access to computers, they should get writing and record for posterity the information and family stories that will be lost for ever once their generation has gone.
Until recently, it really has been difficult to get into print. Vanity publishing companies will print a set number copies for a fee, but this can be expensive and unsatisfactory.
And just because they have printed it, does not mean it will automatically be seen in W H Smith or Waterstone’s or on Amazon. That’s up to you.
But digital technology is making self-publishing easier than it has ever been before. You may not sell thousands of copies and retire to the Bahamas on the proceeds, but you can get a single copy of a book published these days at a reasonable price. Which is ideal for a short print run or just half a dozen copies of memories for members of the family.
The two companies at the forefront of this revolution are Lulu.com and, inevitably, Amazon. Both offer fairly simple instructions on how to go about publishing your book from your computer and are transparent on pricing. Amazon also offer the option of Kindle publication.
Kindle is the Amazon brand name for an e-book reader. There are other types available, as well, but the Kindle has taken the world by storm. My daughters bought me one for Christmas.
With a Kindle, you no longer have to go to a book shop but can browse on-line at the Amazon store, pick your mystery or romance, download it at less than the printed version costs, and be reading it a couple of minutes later.
I still prefer to handle books and have them on my shelf, and there is nothing like the feel of actually opening the parcel from your publisher and picking up your book for the first time. But Amazon are already selling more Kindle books than paperbacks in the US and their share of the market will inevitably increase. I have a book coming out in September and it will be published in both print and Kindle versions.
Let’s face it, the e-book reader is the future.
The attraction of publishing a book on Kindle is that it costs nothing. Writers who have never been published and want their work to be read, can publish this way and the Amazon site provides their market place, both here and in America. And if you haven’t got a Kindle, you can download them to your computer.
Some writers are so desperate for a reaction that they offer their work for free. I have tried a couple of them and they are, unsurprisingly, not very good.
Established thriller writer Stephen Leather, however, offers a couple of excellent tales for 49p each, presumably as a loss leader so readers will go on to buy his more expensive works.
I’ve entered the Kindle market myself with two thrillers – Deniable Asset and The Heydrich Sanction under my own name – and Flood, a novel about the Holmfirth disaster of 1852. This latter book – “passion and disaster in 19th Century England” – is under the pseudonym Emma Cookson.
If you have a book you want to publish, in print or Kindle, the means are there. The instructions are sometimes a little confusing and you may have to go back a few times to correct mistakes, but the outcome can be fun and, as far as Kindle is concerned, it’s free.
SHEILA Wrigley sent these notices culled from around the world in places where the finer points of English has not quite been grasped.
Cocktail lounge, Norway: Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.
Doctors office, Rome: Specialist in women and other diseases.
Dry cleaners, Bangkok: Drop your trousers here for the best results.
In a Nairobi restaurant: Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.
On the main road to Mombasa from Nairobi: Take notice. When this sign is under water, this road is impassable.
Tokyo hotel’s rules and regulations: Guests are requested not to smoke or do other disgusting behaviours in bed.
On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for. Hotel, Yugoslavia: The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.
Hotel, Japan: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.
Advertisement for donkey rides, Thailand: Would you like to ride on your own ass?
Airline ticket office, Copenhagen: We take your bags and send them in all directions.
A laundry in Rome: Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.
In a cemetery: Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.
I’VE had my grumbles about airports recently and John O’Flaherty adds his two quid’s worth. Literally.
“I was reading your column about the airport. My wife dropped me at Leeds/Bradford and picked me up again a few days later. Did you know that they charge you £2 to get out of the car park every time you drop off and pick up?”
Which seems a bit expensive to me, just for dropping someone off.