Epublishing and why not!

Like a good little author, I sat back and thought before sending out my last newsletter (if you’re interested, go and register for future ones at www.michaeljecks.co.uk on the home page).

The thing was, it had been some little while since my last newsletter, and I was aware that with all this modern, new-fangled blogging lark, I’d forgot entirely about the newsletters. And you know what would happen if I didn’t write one, don’t you? My admin manager would give me a really hard time. So, rather than wait for the phone call (yes, Jean, you know who you are) I thought I’d pen a quick newsletter. Just to keep folks interested.

A good cover. Glad I didn't have to think it up!

But it couldn’t be too dramatic. It had to be short, because I really am in the middle of book 32, and there are some tortuous plot elements that need tying off. A siege is a hard event to write about. So, this newsletter must be short, quick, and painless. That was the idea.

So why oh why did I write about publishing? I got more comments by email than about any other newsletter.

So, in response to some of the bigger questions, here goes.


Debbie summed up loads of comments when she said: ‘My biggest complaint with my Kindle is the number of spelling, wording, and grammatical errors that seem to slip through.’

Well, yup. And it’s what has been predicted by professional authors for a long time.

Michael Joseph it was who said: ‘Most people have a novel inside them. And most should leave it there.’ Or something very similar. Gimme a break: I’d have to get up off my backside to find the quote, and yes, I am busy!

In the past, there was a basic rule. If you sat down to write a book, there was a less than 1/100 chance that it would be finished. If you did finish it, there was a less than 1/100 chance it would get published. So, 1 in 10,000 was the likelihood of seeing your novel in print.

Many of the 9,999 people whose books didn’t get into print thought very seriously that theirs should have been the one that did. But I agree with Michael Joseph. I have had to sit in on meetings to look at and discuss the authorly merits of unpublished writers before now. And generally, you can see why the publishers didn’t pay for those books.

A novel needs to have a good plot. It needs real, believable characters and situations, it needs locations that you can recognise, even if you’ve never been there.

All too often unpublished authors fail on one or more of these criteria. And if one criterion doesn’t work, the book doesn’t either.

In the past, failed books just wandered off into the ether, never to be seen or heard of. Sometimes the author would go to a vanity publisher, and pay through the nose to get fifty or a hundred copies, which he would diligently sell around local shops. But authors in vanity presses never made it to the bestseller shelves.

But now, of course, there is the new option. Go epub.

Electronic is good. It means that the unknown author who can pay for a sexy cover will have as good a chance of a sale as – well, as me with my Simon and Schuster books THE OATH and KING’S GOLD.

It’s great, right up to the moment when you start to read.

Because, dear reader, there are one or two things that happen when a book is sent to a publisher.

Editors. Hah!

First, a professional reader takes a view. This is someone called an editor (or sadist), and he or she will read it and be (believe me, you would not believe just how) picky. They will tear the book apart. Probably because unlike me, they tend to have degrees in English and things. And they send the whole damn thing back with loads of comments.

And I write up all the amendments they want, before sending it off again for their approval. And guess what? Someone else goes through it. This time it’s someone even more bloody picky – the dreaded Copy Editor (who, I am reliably informed by my friend Bernard Knight, has usually been trained by the GeStaPo).

I’m lucky. Saint Joan has been my CE for most of the last sixteen years, and she knows me, my characters, my locations, and the period. She pulls apart my English (damn cheek) and corrects my (already perfect) grammar. And then, she sends me her deliberations and I groan, sigh, and correct my perfect book to suit her.

That, thank God is it.

Except then the Proof Reader has his/her go as well.

So, by the end of the process, the poor bloody book has been pulled apart, laughed at, sneered at, set aside contemptuously, and generally insulted, at least three times. That doesn’t include the number of times the poor ruddy author has sat down with his head in his hands wondering why the hell he thought finding a dead body in a peat bog/buried in a wall/lying in bushes (delete as applicable) was such a brilliant idea in the first place.

BUT, and it is a big ‘but’, the poor fellow typing a manuscript at home, thinking it’s great (because mum, step dad and the girlfriend all liked it), and who then signs up to Kindle and sees it in glorious technicolour on the computer screen a day or two later, doesn’t have the faintest idea how to edit.

Perhaps one in a hundred does?

Another glorious Simon & Schuster cover. How could I achieve this?

So for the reader, buying a book is now a lottery. You buy, you wince on page one, you wince again on page three, you wince twice on page four, and perhaps read to page thirty before grumpily turning the reader off.

If you buy books that are already published by a mainstream publisher, you’ll be OK. You’ll read a book that has been tortured and tormented already, so that you aren’t.

But that is the problem with Kindle and ebook readers. If you buy unedited books, you are buying something that is inherently liable to disappoint.

And that is why I haven’t written anything direct to epub yet. I won’t, until I can afford a copyeditor and editor so I know that the book is as good as it could possibly be.

4 Responses to “Epublishing and why not!”
  1. Carole Schultz says:

    I am not an editor, copy editor, nor a proof reader, just a humble reader…but…I am just as picky! I do notice poor grammar, so I am with you whole heartedly re the editing. If I might add just one pet hate, it’s the use of the word disoriented; when I see the word disorientated, I cringe! See, I am picky!


    • Ah, that’s one of those words like colour compared with color! Disorientated is the correct English spelling, disoriented is a more recent version. But the gulf of language is a biggie between the different English speakers!


  2. cornwer says:

    When you write of having to “sit in on meetings to look at and discuss the authorly merits of unpublished writers” are you referring to your time as organiser of the CWA Debut Dagger competition? Because an article you wrote at the time was very much the foundation of this advice still on the CWA website.


    • Partly the Debut, but also experience with others, too! Interesting, that list. I seem to recall I had ten deadly sins. I’ll have to look up my old copy. That could well be the basis of a follow-up blog!


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