So You Want to Write a Book
About 18 years ago when my wife and I were in the middle of one of the busiest times in our lives, we had been retired for ten years but only from my regular work as a sales agent and manufacturer: we decided that retirement was pretty boring so I moved from handy man status to Innkeeper, to Flea Market owner as well as part time travel escorts and sales agents. This came about mainly out of necessity as our company was sold to Chinese interests, they went bankrupt and left us with little in the way of a retirement fund. At the time we were devastated but as in all aspects of our life, where one door would close, another would open and lead us into a whole new experience and life style.
My memory is pretty bad but I do know that because our two oldest grandsons are 18 this year, their birth moved me to start a book that I called “The Drummer”, with colored pictures and stories of our life and that of our parents and grandparents. What a wonderful keepsake to pass on to our family. I am sure that they do not appreciate the work and time put into that project. This stimulated me to write four more books to this point and perhaps one or two more if I have the strength.
I have many friends that have stories to tell that are probably far more interesting than what I have told. Perhaps they are the smart ones to avoid starting to write a book as this is a daunting task that has very little reward for most of us. The reward comes for me in the fact that I have relayed a little piece of my life experiences to my grandchildren and anyone else that might come across my prose. Of course there is a bit of an Ego trip involved but the ego is dashed by the hard work and disappointments along the way
“Victorian Garden” went back a couple of generations to the Journal my grandmother wrote in the mid 1880’s which I transcribed and published for my extended family.
To write a book, you must have some idea as to what you want to write about. It seems to me that no two authors have the same way of going about this. I am no one to take a lesson from because I believe that I am very unorthodox. However, before I sit down to write, I have a plan in my head from start to finish, which means nothing, but it gets me started. The purpose of this little piece is not a lesson in writing; God knows that I am the last one for that job, being a grade nine drop out. I want to describe my experiences however and the difficulties involved.
I write on the computer now but that is only a recent progression from the old fashioned way I did it for so many years, with a yellow lead filled wooden instrument pushed on a piece of paper to form a stroke or line, double spaced and only on the right hand page so that corrections and additions could easily be made on the left page. My impossible scratching would then have to be transcribed by my patient bride onto the computer. The writing for me has been the easy part. Thank God for Joan. She keeps slim or perhaps slimmer by having to jump to my assistance whenever I get into trouble. I am still not computer savvy by any means. Joan is going to help me with some of the tech. talk when explaining the procedures of readying the text for a publisher.
Joan here – when Paul turned his hand written manuscript of “The Drummer” over to me I first had to decide on the size we wanted this book to be: 8.5 x 11 inches was settled on and the set up was done allowing for the gutter on one side, the size of the header and footer, script and size of script, etc. The Drummer was by far the biggest job for me of his five books so far. After getting the whole thing typed I decided on the pictures that I wanted to include and inserted them: many had to be edited and sized in order to be included. After this you need to number the pages and put the Title line on the footer of each page. Next comes the construction of the Title Page, the Introduction or Preface for the Book and of course the Index. When working in Microsoft Word the set up for Header, Footer and Index are all covered in the program along with the choices for Page Layout, print size etc. You also need to design and create the Cover of your book.
When you get everything done you then make a PDF Document and this PDF file is put onto your USB Stick to take to the printer. It is wise to have more than one person read your manuscript and edit for spelling grammar and other errors and omissions. A self publishing house wants your work on a floppy disk or now a USB Stick is used. These people to-day are really only very sophisticated photography printers. With “The Drummer” we were pretty savvy as to what was needed and the more work you do and present in a finished USB stick, the less expensive the procedure will be.
After a short discussion with the printer/publisher we decided on a wire ring binding, this was a big book and this allowed it to be laid flat for viewing. Twenty minutes later we were presented with a full color 8.5 X11, 500 page book. Complete with a cover. WOW!
I thought that when I was ready to go to print, all I would have to do is find a publishing house and use my cousin’s influence to get me in the door. Not so! Cousin or recognized author friends would be no help. I was told that unless I had a record with a publisher or my book was irresistible because of sex and violence content, to forget about being published with a recognized house or any publisher. My cousin, who has had a couple of publishing companies print his books, suggested self publishing. You can make more money on your work and except for the lack of help in the marketing field, you are better off. It seems that even being with a large company you can’t be assured of their marketing expertise. Another author told me that he had two books published in one year by two very large houses and because he was not a big seller was asked what he was going to do to market his works. This gives a sinking feeling in your stomach when you learn that you have to put on your selling hat and market your baby to a mostly skeptical audience. One of the hardest things to hear is that your book is not very good. That is like saying your baby is ugly. However, that of course is your next step to get your work read.
This is where I am now. I was very lucky with my book about the 10 years we owned the Sir William Mackenzie Inn and the Flea Market. I had a great opportunity to sell my book “A Decade of Memories” through these venues. We sold over 1,000 copies and I even see my book for sale on Amazon. As I write this there are four for sale for as high as $40.00 each. That is more than twice what I received. Is it good to see your work re-sold on Amazon? Does that mean that people don’t like the book? Just asking.
I was very excited when the manager of a very large “Chapters” store in Canada would allow me space in the store for a day to sell my books; this excitement was squashed when the terms were explained. They only wanted 40% of the sales. That would have left me in a negative position of about $2.50 per sale.
If you still want to express yourself in the form of your own book after this story, you are as crazy as me. Welcome to the club.
Paul D. Scott