Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Books - yep, they're out in the soddin shed!

Ok, I'm going to work my way down the list and the first thing is books. I haven't read one for a while - I hate them. Actually I'm lying there, I have been reading a little book about a horse, written by a friend of mine. I say 'a little book', it's actually quite long, nearly 300 pages, and with very small type, so I'm guessing near 100,000 words.

The author is an Irish gal called Elaine Heney and she writes in what you might call an Irish style. Lots of short stories about life as well as horses, and some nice explanations of how she deals with various situations she gets into with her horse. If you meet El in real life you can hardly understand what she is saying - I think she comes from some remote part of Ireland that has lost touch with the modern world. I'm kind of reading the book hearing her speaking in her accent at the same time - so it's like talking to El and having subtitles, which actually I could do with when I talk to her in real life.

But what I really wanted to talk about, and what I also really like about this book is that it is self published. Hooray for El I say.
* * *

My wife has worked in the publishing world since before I met her (obviously I would have stopped her if I had met her before), and over the years I have come to despise books. Honest books are few and far between, and when you find one it is truly a joy. It doesn't happen often. Most honest books don't make it past the costing stage of the publishing process, and most don't ever see the light of day. Some of us are so desperate to get our names in print we compromise. We allow the publishers to use our ideas and bastardise them into some hideous commercial production, even down to having the title changed.

Some brave souls publish their books themselves and most of those books end up sitting in cardboard boxes out in the shed. I have 350 copies of my first book sitting out there myself. Sarah advised me to publish 500 but me, the eternal bloody optimist, went for a 1000.

My second book was actually commisioned by a publisher. My commisioning editor is a good friend and she allowed me to write my book as I wanted it to be. It was published a few years ago and I am happy to say, I love that little book. I am really grateful that I was given the chance to write it and if I'm honest, I have almost made my career out of it.

My third book sits languishing on my desktop. It's a great little book but it is about as commercial as I am. I originally planned to publish it through, which is a fantastic idea for self-publishing. You can get your book published and printed one copy at a time which hopefully ends the '350 in the shed' situation once and for all. I stalled in the production stages though - you have to produce the book in a pdf file which means you have to have adobe acrobat, I think (am I right?).

So don't back off from writing. The published writers aren't necessarily any better, in fact in a lot of cases they are obviously worse. It's kind of the same as blogging - in a lot of cases the bloggers are better than the paid journalists, and I guess that's why some journalists don't like bloggers. But what I am trying to say here is this - don't ever think writing is the preserve of the 'special few'!


  1. If this comment appears twice, then blame blogger.
    May I recommend Tom's first book to readers here? Still time to buy it for Christmas. It may be not as funny or fictitious as his equine nonsense (I haven't read that one) BUT there are very few references to horses. You can still read my review at Amazon.

    And, no, Tom you don't need to buy anything from Adobe. Most publishing products have an inbuilt PDF format output.

  2. You can create PDFs from Open Office, which is free to download and can load in Word files very easily.

  3. That was a marvellous posting. It was personal, informative, witty. I'd love to read your book and, I even know a few horse people who would be able to explain it to me.

    OK now what was the next topic on your list?

  4. Here we go, the next three are Music, TV, and Fashion.

  5. A fashion post, you say, Donn?

    I'd like Tom to model every outfit in his closet for us and we'll provide critique.

  6. I was won over by Vicus's review.

    One day I will publish a book (probably on Lulu when I retire).

  7. I'd certainly love to read your books too, but unfortunately the're not available at the Spanish bookstores. So I presume I'll have to travel to the UK to buy them.

    I really loved your post. It was honest, interesting and quite close. But I'm not impartial, you know the writing thing is a very sensitive point here.

    I think you can't complain at all -you did fine: you published 4 books, had a nice editor, best advisor at home and sales too-. WOW. Congrats. Why not writing more?

    I have written a few stuff and I went through a period when I tried to publish too, but i gave up. I think I had a too romantic idea about what writing and publishing are, so I just thought it was too much of a hassle going through contests, sending copies to editors etc etc so I decided to copyright everything and publish most of what I've written and translated in my blog and maybe Lulu soon, but I'm not yet a best seller, hahaha.

  8. Tom's first book is worth buying for the illustrations alone. Get them while they're hot people.

  9. Vicus - thank you for your kind comments - I promise I was not fishing for compliments with this post.

    Glenatron - ok, I'll try again and then the world will have the opportunity to read yet another 30,000 words about nothing.

    Donn - Thanks for the encouragement. I believe it's music so get ready for an in depth analysis of Chopin's 4th piano concerto in bflat minor.

    MJ - yes of course I will be using photos of myself modelling my latest outfits - stay tuned in!

    Geoff - Be sure that when you do publish your book, I will buy a copy ok.

    Leni - You are one person I truly would call a writer.
    My feelings about writing are these ok. If you want to write something then write it, but write it because you think it is worth writing, not because you want to be published - sod the awards, to know we haven't compromised our words - that's the prize we win.

    Henry - shameless self publicity , but yes the drawings you did were cool!

  10. I too am waiting for the fashion post - I would like to see you wearing all your clothes. all at once if you like! Then you can take them off one by one and amalgamate that post with the music post - lovely!

  11. I also like your book!

  12. I have a considerably bigger turnip than Yow. Your's is prettier x

  13. What is the topic of book 3? If it belongs in a niche there may be someone doing on demand publishing in that space already and perhaps attracting attention for that. For example, the work the Long Riders Guild are doing with their low-demand low-cost publishing branch is amazing.

  14. Oh lord........

    "If you meet El in real life you can hardly understand what she is saying - I think she comes from some remote part of Ireland that has lost touch with the modern world"

    I think that paragraph needs a slight edit:

    "When Tom met El in real life he could hardly understand what she was saying - surprisingly enough everyone else could understand her perfectly. Perhaps living in Devon has corrupted his hearing.... Though I will grant you the bit about Tipperary! :)"

    Cheeky bugger!

    The downside of not having a publisher editor is rambling, typos, questionable structure, unexpected chapter lengths and talking horses! So perhaps there is something to be said for publishing houses after all......

    Right enough bull, hey Tom, I found a great little boko though, just published if you can bear to read anotehr one. The guy is called Roxx Jacobs, and a lot of the book is influened by harry Whitney... its called óld men and horses´check out, I just LOVED it.

    Worth a read seriously. Cool little stories and bloody good horsemanship in it.

  15. Whats the 3rd book about?´

    Somehow, I can actually make PDF´s from Microsoft word - there´s a save as ´PDF´ function in my version in work which is quite handy. If you´ve got book 3 done, in the right size for printing on lulu or cafepress and want a technical genius to convert it to a PDF for you I wouldn´t charge you a HUGE amount........

    :)Seriously, its no bother.

  16. Feckin typos.

    Ross Jacobs is the author. The book is óld men and horses´.

    The book is definitely in the top handful of books on horsemanshiop I´ve ever read.

  17. feck it again.


    right will give up typing now!

  18. Hi El, I've heard of that book, and I've actually just read about half of it over on my horse blog. hehehe
    So listen - my other book is not about horses, it's a slushy cyber romance based on a game I got involved in a couple of years ago. I'm not sure it's actually worth manifesting in the real world, but thanks for the offer - I'll think about it. I'm going to pop over to the other blog and discuss, 'keeping the horse in the horse' now. xx