Big Day Out – Saturday morning.

There comes a time when you have to drag yourself away from the staff who are selling books. Space at home becomes a problem, because we live in a small house.

A school near where we live has an annual ‘Big Day Out’ – food stalls, fairground, homemade jams, hand made jewelry and of course BOOKS!

All the books I saw where very good quality, even though they were second hand.

Five dollars for a plastic bag and you can fill it with books – only one book in the bag it is still $5, but for those who are bookies  . . . (not the horse racing kind), this was manna from heaven!

I had my list of favourite authors, just on the off chance that I might find one or two of their books that I hadn’t read. Under each author’s name I had listed down the books I  owned or had read.

Let the hunt begin.

My wife and I arrived to see boxes and boxes of books and long tables groaning under the weight of more books.

I bought my plastic bag (standard shopping size bag) and started checking the books, they were not in author order, which made the hunt more fun.

Lee Child –

LC        LC1

Daniel Silva –

DS    DS1

Before I found out about ‘Big Day Out’ I’d bought two of Daniel Silva’s books from Book Depository of the UK. Book Depository’s prices are half of the Australian price for the same books, and this included postage from the UK. The books I ordered haven’t arrived yet, but I expect them early next week.

I hoped that I wouldn’t find them today! – I didn’t.

David Baldacci –

DB   DB1

In the rush I bought two ‘First Family’ , now my son has a copy.

Michael Connelly –

MC1   MC

MC2  MC3

MC4

RFDIt is years since I read this author, but I have not read this book.

Archer_Sons_of_fortuneI have a feeling that I might have read this years ago, but at $5 a bag who cares . . .

Now for something new – (for me that is)

573460  922991

2358380 10446225

Stepping Stones is more for Maureen, because the story is set in Liverpool, where she was born.

Add in several children’s books for our grandchildren, and the hour we spent along with many others at the book stalls, cost us $10!
I am sure we will donate them back for next year and hopefully we will be as fortunate to buy a fresh lot at next year’s ‘Big Day Out’.

A great way to spend a Saturday morning.

 

Plant now and harvest later

I have been asked about the assessor that I used to advise me if I could write, and if my book was entertaining and worth reading. After all writing is a branch of the entertainment industry and fiction has to be entertaining if you wish to keep the reader’s attention so that he or she will keep turning the pages.

Thanks to the internet I was able to research a number of assessors before deciding on Tom Flood of  Flood Manuscripts.

Oceana

In 1990 Mr Flood’s novel Oceana Fine won the  Miles Franklin Award , which is Australia’s most prestigious literature prize. The prize is awarded each year for a novel of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases.
I checked the list of authors who have also won this award – very impressive.

During my investigation I found out that Tom Flood had also won the Victorian Premiers Award, the Australian/Vogel Award and the Orange Banjo Paterson Short Story Award. For my none Australian readers Orange is the name of a famous city in Australia. Flood’s writing was also exhibited in the National Museum of Australia.

I never did meet Mr Flood during all the time we corresponded via e-mails. His business address is a three hour train ride from my place so I stuck to e-mailing.

My original manuscript was over 160,000 words and with Tom’s guidance I managed to reduce it to around 120,000 words, which was still high for an unknown author.

Once I’d received the report from Flood Manuscript that in their opinion I could write, I started searching for an editor, and I wanted a female editor so to have input about the story from the opposite sex.

In today’s ‘enlightened age’ I suppose I was being politically incorrect by choosing an editor by their sex, rather than by their qualifications, but I was sure that I could find the right editor who just happened to have both qualifications. The other small detail was that I was paying!

It took me some time to find the ‘right’ person, because I’d never spoken to or had any dealings with an editor of either sex.

Eventually I found Louise Wareham Leonard, a writer who was born in New Zealand, moved to New York with her parents at the age of twelve, attended the United Nations International School and then Colombia. She has BA in Comparative Literature and Society.
Her first book Since you asked won the James Jones Literary Award,

Since you

and her second book Miss me a lot of was released in 2008.miss-me-199x300

Her third book was released in 2015, but this was in the future of the time that I was researching.

Once again all correspondence was via e-mail because ‘my’ editor lived in Western Australia and I live in NSW. The tyranny of distance was not a problem and we soon built a rapport and the manuscript was pulled apart, tweaked and rebuilt. Of course all this takes time, but as the title of this blog states – plant now and harvest later, which was my plan  once I’d finished writing Ice King

9413638

When Ice King was picked up by a UK publisher, and republished as Triangle Trade they had the manuscript edited once again by their own editor. I am happy to report that they only found five very small items in the manuscript to change and one of those was to satisfy the current PC brigade and had nothing to do with either Flood Manuscripts or Louise Wareham Leonard.

Triangle Trade

The importance of oil fades in to history for Dubai.

dubai_creek_1964

I wrote three months ago about out recent visit to Dubai, with air conditioned bus stops, very clean railways station and the largest shopping centre in the world.

The above photograph shows Dubai Creek flowing sluggishly towards the Persian Gulf in 1964 – I never dreamt that I would return as a tourist fifty two years later!

The Dubai of 1964, which was my first visit, was nothing like the Dubai of today. In 1964 cargo was unloaded in to dhows or barges, because they didn’t have the docking facility for ocean going vessels.
We went ashore in small dhows and walked up the beach or the bank of the Creek to get to the market. Our buying interest was for Japanese radios, record players, and Chinese toys which were made from tinplate with very sharp edges. I bought a mechanical cat requiring batteries to take home. I doubt that it would be allowed in to the country today – health and safety. The market and the town was always very hot and dusty.

 DXB marketThe local Dubai market or Souk in 1964

DSC06375rThe Souk in 2016 . . .contrast with or should I say without customers??

To put things in context, in 1964 it was two years before oil was found, and a year before the airport runway was asphalted. Dubai was a trading port, and had been for hundreds of years, but what a leap of faith for the people to build for the day that the oil will run out. Currently I think only five present of the country’s revenue comes from oil, the remaining ninety five percent is mainly trading and tourism – i.e selling sun shine (and snow skiing, would you believe), to sun shy Europeans, particularly in the European winter.

I think that Dubai is a destination that is on many ‘bucket lists’. If you do visit Dubai try Emirates Airline, which has been voted the best airline in the world for 2016 by Skytrax based on fare paying passenger ratings. Unfortunately I haven’t flown with Emirates, yet.

What did I see ? I don’t know.

Juna2

In 1968 I was third mate on the cargo ship in the picture, when we were sailing from Colombo (Ceylon, as it was then) to Muscat in Oman.

I was on the ‘graveyard watch’, which is the midnight to four AM and noon to four PM. I loved the time after midnight because the ship was quiet with most people asleep except for the helmsman and the lookout in the bow.

Cleaning out some papers recently I found a copy of a report that I’d written after an incident that I experienced one night during the voyage. It was the 09th June, 1968, which was the local time in the Indian Ocean, but 08th June GMT. The local ship’s time being 03.50 am.

Without going in to too much detail I thought I’d try and describe what happened.

I was in the chart room when I heard a single bell from the for’d lookout, who was stationed on the forecastle, at the bow of the ship – one bell meant that he can see a light on the starboard bow, two bells would mean the light is on the port bow and three bells would mean the light is dead ahead.

I walked out on to the starboard bridge wing and observed what looked like a moving star approaching from the North West – which is 315 degrees on a compass heading and we were steering 307 degrees, so it was just off our starboard bow. Most vessels in the 60’s had open bridge wings i.e open to the weather, and not part of the sheltered bridge area where the helmsman stood. Many ships today have enclosed wing areas, little if any open air area is available to the watch keeper.

I followed the strange light through binoculars because at first I thought it was a plane, but I couldn’t see any side lights or shape to the object. The light from the object was very bright. I checked the radar screen for targets, but the screen was blank, which wasn’t a surprise because the radar would screen approximately 40 nautical miles at sea level, but would not ‘see’ a flying object. The lack of target on the radar screen told me the light was not attached to another ship.

The light drew closer and as is curved over the ship and headed south I didn’t hear any noise. At no time was it moving fast, so I didn’t have any difficulty in following it through a telescope, which magnified better than the binoculars. It was brighter than any star. As it curved south I called the second mate to the bridge to witness this light knowing that he would take over the watch in a few minutes at 4.00 am.

We both observed the light, which was at an altitude of about seventeen degrees above the horizon. At this altitude the light stopped and appeared to hover. We watched it for about twenty seconds when we noticed a second moving light to the right of the first. It was not as bright as the first, but it was now moving towards our ship. It passed astern and headed in a north north easterly direction. I can not say if the second light was from the first bright light or independent of the first light.

The second officer left the bridge and I returned to watch the first light, but was unable to find it amongst the stars. I stopped looking and moved to the front of the bridge just in time to hear the bow lookout ring three bells, he’d seen a light dead ahead. I focused on a third light as it approached my ship from ahead. This light passed us on the starboard side and headed in the same direction as light number two.

untitledI downloaded the night sky for the Indian Ocean on the night of the 9th June 1968. The stars were so bright that you had the feeling of being able to touch them if only you could reach that high.

nt

The above is to illustrate the vastness of the cloudless sky, but I am not sure of which part of the sky.

I was unable to judge the height of the lights because the sky was cloudless, and the moon had set. Except for the occasional light from my own ship, aft of the bridge, the light pollution forward was nil. The night vision of the lookout and myself couldn’t have been better.

The weather at the time was as follows –

Cloudless sky, we didn’t have a moon (it had set), it was extremely clear with a westerly wind at about three knots. Air pressure was 1003.3 and the air temperature 83 f. Our course was 307 degrees true, at a speed of 14 knots.

I did report what I’d seen to the meteorological authority in the UK, but never heard back. It was also logged in the ship’s log.

Last week when I found the report this was the first time I’d read it since 1968.

 

 

Whether the weather is what we want . . .

According to some people Mark Twain said, ‘Everybody talks of the weather, but nobody does anything about it.’, but he didn’t make this comment, it was his friend Charles Dudley Warner who said Twain’s famous comment first.

When I was at sea in the 1960’s we tried to do something about the weather. We didn’t have the luxury of satellite communications which supplies immediate weather information. Nor did we gain information from floating sensor buoys radioing weather information back to base. They hadn’t been invented.

What we did have was a network of ocean going cargo and passenger ships reporting their local weather along with a set of climate readings every six hours to a meteorological station ashore. The shore based station would collate all the readings from various vessels and hopefully they would be able to forecast the local weather a few hours or a day or so ahead.

On most ships at set times, the officer of the watch would take the temperature of the sea water, temperature of the air, barometer reading for air pressure, estimate the wind force by comparing what he saw from the wing of the ship’s bridge to a photographic chart of the waves.

wind-at-sea

The chart above gives an idea of the state of the sea linked to the force of the wind. The chart that we used in the 60’s was not as well presented as the one above. The watching keeping officer would then record his estimate of the wind’s speed.

Once the wind’s speed had been decided he would check the clouds and use a ‘cloud chart’ to estimate the height of the clouds and the type of cloud.

cloudchart (1)

Again the chart above is far more detailed than the cloud chart that we had in the 60’s.

There are ten types of cloud and twenty seven sub types, depending on the height of the cloud above sea level.

The various types of cloud have Latin names – a few examples are

Stratus, which means, flat or layered and smooth

Cumulus, which means heaped up, or puffy like a cauliflower (sometimes called cauliflower heads.)

Cirrus, these are very high clouds and wispy in looks,

Alto, medium to high level

Nimbus,  a mass of cloud that can be jagged in shape, which can be a sign of rain or snow.

Once he had decided on the height and type of cloud, the wind direction, the force of the wind, and the sea temperature, the air temperature and the barometer reading he would then estimated his vessel’s position. All being well he would have known the exact spot at noon with a sun sight or early evening with a star sight and from that position he would have estimated his position for his report by dead reckoning. In the 60’s we found our way around the world much the same way as Columbus or Cooke. We used a sextant to ‘shoot’ the sun at noon, and we took star sights at dusk.
The one thing that Captain Bligh (of HMS Bounty fame) had in 1789 during his epic 3600 mile forty day open boat voyage, after the mutiny, was a good sextant.

sextantThe above picture shows a sextant – I had two when I was at sea – one I bought on passing my exams, and later sold when I got married (we needed the money), and the other (dated early 1930’s and similar to the one shown) given to me by an old sea captain, which I have kept as a memento of my time at sea.

Once all of the information had been gathered it would be radioed to the local meteorological office, as well as London – by Morse code, not by speech.

01

Other ships would be doing the same so with the help of Sparks (Radio officer) the officer of the watch could estimate the weather ahead of his own vessel.

radroomb
Times have changed, but I doubt that being at sea today is as much ‘fun’ as it was fifty years ago, before containerisation. I feel sorry for ship’s captains today – head office is only an e-mail away or a mobile call during his night, because someone at H/O doesn’t have the ability to work out time zones.

I’ve sailed in tramp ships that once we left a port we didn’t hear from H/O until the next port, and then only via the agent – sending messages, via the radio or telex (fax was still a little futuristic) was expensive, so bothering the captain half way around the world had to be justified to the profit and loss account!

On a recent cruise I asked the Captain if he, or his officers, still used a sextant in case of emergency. I was told that if there was an emergency, and he (the Captain) had to abandon ship, he would make sure that his phone was fully charged, so that he would find his positon via Google maps.

I wasn’t sure if I found this funny or not, and wondered if the coxswain of the lifeboat that my wife and I would be in, who might well be one of the hotel staff, be able to steer the boat by reading an old fashioned compass, or would the coxswain also be contacting Google for advice about which way is north?

Lifeboat

 

 

 

 

Part Two of Traditional or self publishing.

On receiving the contract I read it quickly and then read it again more slowly and then one more time, after which I decided that I needed help to make the correct decision.

I bounced the idea off Goodread, which is a book readers web site, and I was very pleasantly surprised to hear from  Stephen Leather, one of my favourite authors. He was kind enough to comment on my request for advice.

Chinaman   Long shotTunnel rtasDouble tap

 

 

Just four of the nineteen Stephen Leather books that I have collected over the years.

Stephen advised me to retain an agent before signing with a publisher. So the next thing was to find an agent willing to represent me. Funny how history repeats itself – I was unable to persuade any Australian or British agent to represent me, even though I had a publishing contract and their cut from my commission would be 15%. Many of the agents that I contacted stated that they were ‘full’ – and others failed to reply.

I still wanted the contract read by someone who was aware of the pitfalls in the publishing industry, so I joined the Australian Society of Authors and paid to have the contract checked by their legal department. I received an eight page report containing thirty four suggestions. Some suggestions where easily fixed with the publisher, but for other suggestions the publisher wouldn’t budge. Certain clauses were going to be ‘take it or leave it’ clauses.
If I rejected a certain clause the contract to publish would be withdrawn. In the end I accepted the contract, after all, I’d always wanted to be published by a professional publisher and this company had been in the business for a hundred and fifty years. A strong consideration for me living in Australia was that a UK publisher would be able to market the book far better than I could in the UK & USA. I even had some of their books on my book shelf at home, which I’d bought some years ago.

At the request of the Company I sent the publisher’s editor a copy of the manuscript and I am pleased to say she (another female editor) only requested five small changes to the manuscript. One of the changes was based on the perception of how a reader would accept my description of an urchin in 1805, which would be unacceptable today (un-PC). I explained that in 1805 it was acceptable, but in the end I lost the argument and the word had to be changed. Overall I was pleased that the editor that I picked to do the original editing was a very good choice.

Once they were happy with the manuscript they wanted to change the book’s title and the book’s cover. It took me some time to get used to the new cover. I must admit that it is more dramatic than the original cover. The title in the picture below shows ‘The’ Triangle Trade, but in the final production I managed to get rid of this word on the grounds that it made the title sound like a textbook. It was published as just ‘Triangle Trade’. Triangle Trade

9413638

I was then asked for suggestions as to marketing the book.

My suggestion was to produce the book in paperback, and I specifically asked that it not be produced as a hardback. I wanted it produced as cheaply as possible, and suggested that the publisher place copies in airport & railways stations book shops marketing it as an impulse buy for travellers. I was an unknown author, but with the new cover and at the right price, I thought that it would make an attractive read for a traveller’s journey.

The publisher already had a databank of customers to whom they could do a mail or e-mail shot.

Sales staff around the country where given the new book’s title and told to start marketing.

I was given a small advance on sales and the book was produced – in HARDBACK with a sale price of £15.99! I was sent six free books as the author.

At that time the exchange rate to the Australian dollar was $2 for £1.00, which made Triangle Trade one of the most expensive books in Australia, (and I think the UK) particularly for an unknown author.

I complained that Triangle Trade should have been issued as a paperback and I was told that they had been in the publishing industry for over one hundred and fifty years, and that they knew what they were doing. . . . . .I had my doubts, because I spend a lot of time in secondhand book shops. New paperbacks in Australia are expensive.

I buy new paperbacks from Book Depository because their prices are the lowest in many cases, as long as you don’t mind waiting a week or so for free deliver.

A year or so later the e-book version was issued at £4.99 (AUD $10.00), which is more expensive than the e-books from Stephen Leather, Lee Child, C. S Forster, Vince Flynn, Michael Connelly and many others.

Overall the sales have been disappointing. I receive a report of sales every six months, which includes details of my commission. My commission has not yet paid back the small advance.

On a positive side the marketing by the sales person working in and around Merseyside (Liverpool, UK) did a very good job by getting me interviewed by Radio City of Liverpool, the local Merseyside  radio station. The radio station rang me and the interview went for about thirteen minutes.

The same sales person also managed a full page spread in the Liverpool Echo on the ‘Book’ page, written by Laura Davis, the Executive Editor of ‘What’s On’, in the widest read newspaper on Merseyside. As you know Triangle Trade (Ice King) is centred around Liverpool in 1804 to 1807 so the radio and newspaper link generated a lot of interest, but few overall sales, which I put down to price again.

If a reader of this blog is considering self publishing and they are fortunate enough to be picked up by a regular publisher, be careful as to what you sign. I signed away my own work (Ice King) for ten years in a cloud of euphoria, plus I have to offer any further books to the same publisher.

I suppose I could write under a non-de-plume, but it would be difficult to write the remainder of the King & Co. series under another name, because I have possibly a total of three or four books in mind for the series.

I sold a few hundred paperback editions of Ice King, and also hundreds more as an e-book before it was re-published as Triangle Trade, so there are too many current readers asking for the sequel by Geoff Woodland rather than A. Another.

Over ride your wish to be published in the traditional way, maintain control and do it yourself. Only reconsider this approach if you have an agent.

Stephen Leather being a prolific writer, has managed to do both, much of his work is published by a traditional publisher, and he has produced additional e-books, which he self publishes. Check Mr Leather’s link for a great deal of information on self publishing.

 

 

 

 

Traditional or self publish?

Ice King cover

I like facts and figures so I collated some facts and figures about trying to get a book published.

After months of research and many more months of writing I completed an historical novel, called Ice King , all I required now was a publisher or agent who might be interested in my work.

Before sending Ice King to anybody I  had the manuscript assessed to find out if I could write, and if the story was interesting enough to hold a reader’s attention.

The initial word count was 150,000, and I knew that publishers would not consider such a large novel from an unknown author, so under advice from the assessor I reduced the word count to 120,000 words. I was aiming to cut it to 90,000, which is the breakpoint, apparently, for unknown authors. If I had managed to cut it to 90,000 words it would have destroyed the overall story, even 120,000 words was a struggle to keep the story together.

The assessor lived north of Sydney, so all our communications were via the internet – we never did meet. At the end of a few weeks, and taking in to account the assessors’ detailed suggestions, I had a novel of 120,000 words.

The next job was to have it professionally edited. I hired an editor, who lived in country New South Wales, Australia, and during the editing process she moved to Perth, so I didn’t get to meet my editor either.

The assessor was a male, so I deliberately set out to find a female editor because I wanted input from both sexes. My editor was born in New Zealand, educated in New York, and graduated from Columbia College, New York.
She won the American James Jones Literary Award for her first novel in 1999, so I judged that she would be the one to edit my novel.

Once the editor had finished I had the best possible chance of getting my book published – wishful thinking with hindsight.

Ice King is a trans- Atlantic centred story set between 1804 to 1807. The story takes place mainly between Liverpool in England, and Boston in the US, so I had my doubts of any interest in this type of story from an Australian publisher or agent, I was correct – unfortunately.

I sent out thirty five proposals, which generated a 45.7% response – all negative, I am sorry to say.

I was in good company Gone with the wind 38 Margaret Mitchell was rejected thirty eight times – I don’t consider myself to be as good as this author, but her number of rejections gave me hope.

This is the breakdown –

Australia – three companies approached – one answered – my work was rejected.
Of the other two, one asked for a synopsis & two chapters, which were sent. The agent didn’t communicate further. The other failed to reply to the initial approach.

ContestMathew Reilly was turned down by every publishing house in Australia before self publishing. His book was picked up, after he self published, by an Australian publisher and republished under the publishing house imprint. He is now in great demand with fifteen books to his name.

UK – twenty two companies approached – nine answered – all nine sent personal e-mails – which were polite, but they were all rejections.
Of the thirteen that failed to reply, three sent auto replies that they had received the submission. The other ten failed to reply to the initial approach.

watershipDown 26 Richard Adams was rejected twenty six time by British publishers

USA – Ten companies approached – six answered – all six sent personal e-mails – polite, but they were rejections.
Of the four that failed to reply, one sent an auto reply, one asked for additional sample chapter & didn’t communicate further, the others didn’t acknowledge the initial submission.

Carrie 30Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ was rejected thirty times by American publishers.

I only approached agents and publishers who were interested in new authors or  specialised in historical fiction. I didn’t wish to waste the time of a publishers or agent who focused on westerns, crime, horror, or fantasy books etc.

The lack of interest from traditional publishers and agents made me think of what to do next.

I decided to self publish. I hired an American company to format the manuscript so that I would be able to give a computer file to any book printer, and they would be able to produce a paperback edition of the book.

At the same time I had a web site created, Geoff Woodland, which included the front cover in an effort to market the book. My problem was that the sales of the book were of more interest to British and American readers than Australian readers. The postage charges from Australia killed the European and American sales, so I opened an account with Lightning Source of the US & UK for print on demand, and this worked reasonably well, but I was not selling as many copies as I’d hoped, which I put it down to price, because I had to include local US or UK postage.
Lightning Source issued a monthly catalogue of all their available books to booksellers. To be included in the catalogue there was a cost to the author, but competition between hundreds of authors for recognition swamped many small book sellers, and large booksellers only stocked popular selling books of well known authors. An author not living in the UK or US was at a definite disadvantage.

I looked around for an outlet that would allow me to sell Ice King at a cost that was not too expensive. I found e-books! Amazon & Smashwords would be my salvation. I had the Ice King Word file created in to a mobi file to upload to Amazon. I also uploaded to Smashwords, which was easier, because Smashwords had a program to auto convert Word to their own system.

Ice King became an e-book and sales picked up. Flattering reviews started to appear and I had a feeling that it had all be worth while – or had it?

A few months after the release of the e-book version it was picked up by a UK publisher, and they wanted to republish under their own imprint.

I was over the moon! A real publisher, who had been in business for over one hundred and fifty years, wanted to publish Ice King.

I was offered a contract, and with this under my belt I felt sure I would be able to secure an agent.  . . . . . .