The final countdown #breakingpassions

It’s 38 days until I launch the hard copy version of my first book ‘Building Passions‘.

Between then and now we will have Diwali, Halloween/Brexit Day and Guy Fawkes Day in the UK. The lead up to Christmas has already started with cards and adverts.

The draft has gone off to the printers and once a proof is returned and corrected for any errors then that’s it, until delivery of the final soft backs in time for the 20 November launch.

I am firming up plans with English Heritage to promote a Blue Plaque for Sir John Wolfe Barry, which will hopefully be unveiled in London on the same day as the launch.

In some sense I will be relieved once the hard copy is out as it is the final piece in the lengthy jigsaw of self-publishing non-fiction. The e-book is already available on www.kobo.com and a temporary sale will start tomorrow for about a fortnight – if you have never registered on Kobo before then the book will be free for UK purchasers, as you will get an introductory discount of the same amount (in other countries this will depend on exchange rates).

Fiction looks easier to me … which is why I need to get more words down for my next book to be published in 2020 about an amazing story based on my grandfather’s ‘fantasy’ life.

From drafting to print, it’s a long haul #buildingpassions

Sometimes I wonder why it takes so much effort to self-publish a book!

I thought the writing part would be hardest, and at times it was a struggle for me. I had to start again with a new structure a few times until I got it right.

Then the editing, design and image search took me longer than expected. This pushed back the original finish deadline from July to end September.

But even the final run in was frustrating at times, including indexing and finalising the e-book version to hit a final publish date of 24 September.

I have been working on the print version in parallel, almost as a separate project, which in fact it is. There are still frustrations with simple things about getting the right page size and numbers, plus ensuring good quality print. And then there’s the launch on 20 November in London …

Would I want to do this again? Not for architectural history! But yes for historical fiction which is my next book due out in 2020 I hope.

How to find a book launch venue #buildingpassions

So, I’ve been trying to nail down a venue for the official launch of my book ‘Building Passions’ in November.

I have a date/time and I want it to take place in the Westminster part of London. I also have a budget, an idea of numbers and the type of offering.

Fortunately, I have run many events in the past so am pretty familiar with the ins and outs of the process. My most stressful experience was organising a large conference on maths education, pretty much on my own, at a venue the Government officials funding it wouldn’t show me until the start of the event! They claimed this was best security practice for the Secretary of State for Education who was keynote speaking … oh and my wife was having an operation on the same day! It all went well thankfully.

I looked at two possible venues on Wednesday with my assistant, who is my daughter starting her English language and linguistics degree from this month. One was very nice and in a famous national art gallery, but over my budget. The alternative was more affordable but not in so respectable a location, though still pleasant. There are other options on the table.

I already have one sponsor for the event and am looking for others who would like to co-fund it with me. If you are interested please contact me at enquiries@buildingpassions.co.uk .

The e-book should be published soon via the usual channels and then I need to focus on finalising the print version in time for November.

How to self-publish a book in six easy steps #buildingpassions

This is a brief post on self-publishing a book based on my experience to date since I started in February of this year. My first book, ‘Building Passions’ (short title), is due out by end September.

Firstly, you need to commit yourself and your loved ones to the fact that your life will be taken over by something else. The benefit to them might be your happiness and perhaps even some financial reward or recognition.

Secondly, you need to decide if you will write full or part time. This will depend partly on the way your finances play out, but as much if not more on the best way for you to write. In my case I needed a complete break from my day job and a sabbatical wasn’t available, so I had to resign.

Thirdly, you need someone to nudge you along when things get difficult. I was lucky to have an experienced friend who supported my initial plan and gave me tips along the way. But I also accessed a global network of editors and others through a great website called Reedsy.

Fourthly, you need to revise your plans and text as you go along and be realistic about deadlines. What matters is the final product of your efforts – there is no point in writing a book if hardly anyone reads it, or worse still they tell other how boring it is!

Fifthly, you need to understand the complexities of publishing, especially in non-fiction, but not be put off by some of the ‘curious’ professional practices that have existed for ages. If they don’t make sense, question them!

Sixthly, and finally, you need to invest in marketing your book in a way you feel is most appropriate. Social media is a great vehicle for this. If like many you worry about your impression as a public speaker, then only make short speeches or presentations with at least one joke to break the ice. Rely on key friends and networks to push out the good news for you.

Do it now!

The orchestra of reading #buildingpassions

I’m starting to hit the critical stages of self-publishing my book on the Brunel and Barry families of Victorian engineers and architects.

If you run projects you can do something called ‘critical path analysis’ to help determine the key deadlines across a range of ongoing tasks. Software programmes will now help you do it more easily.

Essentially, you need to decide, like a conductor, how all the different parts of the orchestra come together to produce the desired sound over a fixed period of time.

There has to be an element of ‘gut feel’ about it, otherwise what’s the point of having humans involved in the process.

To continue with the orchestra analogy, my desired ‘sound’ is an enjoyable and informative experience for a future reader of my book. I’d like this to happen pretty soon after they start the first chapter and come to a crescendo by the end of the book.

The parts are me the writer and image finder, my reviewers, my editor, my cover designer, my proofreader, my indexer, my printer and my distributors. Since I’m also the project manager as a self-publisher, I need to change hats all the time!

On top of this I am learning as I go!

Hopefully, when it comes to my next book in the stable of #buildingpassions publications it will be a lot easier and smoother for me.

But I will still need to wave the baton, smile, frown, urge, gesture, encourage and then take a bow for the team (even if raw eggs are thrown at me!).

Mid year report

It’s getting to the mid-year point and here’s a quick summary of what has happened in 2019 in connection with Sir John Wolfe Barry.

I started the year with concrete plans to write a book about John Wolfe Barry, and probably his father and brothers as well.

To focus 100% on writing I quit my full-time job in February.

In March I restarted the book with a new structure to it.

In April I expanded the title to include the Brunel family.

In May I submitted my finished text to my editor who has just returned it with tracking.

Separately I commissioned a cover designer to start producing concepts for the book. We should have this finished by end June. One issue has been the title which has changed many times!

I’ve spent months thinking about and sourcing illustrations for the book. This was a bigger challenge than I had anticipated due to copyright law. The system seems weighed heavily against first time self-publishers, with some notable exceptions led by Creative Commons.

I started some marketing using social media and this website with the hashtag #buildingpassions . Once the book cover is complete I can do much more.

I’m still aiming for at least an e-version to be available before end September and I’m thinking more about a hard copy launch in early November at a suitable venue.

Next weekend Tower Bridge will be celebrating its 125 years. Not sure if I will be there in person, but I certainly will be thinking about the Barry-Brunel team that built the structure.

The end: you will know when you’ve got there

I’ve just about reached the end of drafting the text for my book on the Brunel and Barry families of Victorian engineers and architects.

I started in January of this year but only got into it properly from 12 February after I had stopped full-time work in London and the commute that went with it.

So it’s been about 3 months of writing with two restarts in March and April. The first one was on the back of an editorial assessment and the second when I decided to extend the remit to include the Brunel family. Until then it had focused on Sir Charles Barry and his son Sir John Wolfe Barry.

Where do we stand now?

Not as many words as I’d hoped for, but those there have been extensively self-edited and fact-checked – the problem with writing non-fiction rapidly I guess. Fortunately I had prepared some of the way with this website, as well as previous research, articles and talks.

I’ve also learned that finding minimal cost images for non-fiction publishing is a tricky exercise – in fact it makes me rather annoyed that some (inter)national museums, galleries and institutions are raking in large amounts of cash for image rights, when they should be serving an educational purpose through disseminating these as widely as possible, hence also luring people in to see the real exhibits. Enough said!

Next steps are reviews by trusted people and then the text goes off for a developmental edit by start June. At the same time I will start working with a designer on the cover. I’m still on plan to deliver as scheduled.

One upcoming date to note which is highly relevant to this website is 30 June, when Londoners will celebrate 125 years since Tower Bridge was first opened to the public. You can find out here more about activities this special year.