Last week I held in my hands a real copy of Book 1 of the French Summer Novels, Biarritz Passion. The relief was tremendous. Since uploading the manuscript from my PC on April 6th I had prostrated myself daily before the altar of Thoth, (scribe of the gods according to Wiki). Could it be true? Was there really a paperback out there, being virtually born? In between the click of an on-screen button saying ‘Publish’ and the emergence of a physical object with pages and a cover from a printing press in Eastern Europe, who knew what cyber- catastrophe might strike? The worst-case scenario popped up in a dream.
The book had finally arrived! I tore off the wrapping and looked inside. What was this??? The first dozen pages were covered in fading, fragmented hieroglyphics, a bit like the dead Sea Scrolls. As I recoiled in shock, these fragments grew clearer, became legible: regurgitations from the bowels of my computer, pleading letters to the taxman, links to internet sites promising instant weight loss, adverts for haemorrhoid relief. ‘Deep embedded code is never entirely deleted,’ droned a sepulchral Cyber-Inspector in a peaked cap. ‘It can surface at any moment. Anywhere.’ (OK, I’ve been watching a LOT of Netflix. )
Waking up in a sweat from nightmares like this is the moment you know that, deep down, you really belong in the 19th century. There’s something eminently normal and logical, eminently ‘in the order of things’ as the French say*, about the process of throwing down your quill, making a neat brown paper parcel of the ink-stained pages, tying the whole together with a length of butcher’s string and heading out to the publishers through the gas-lit, cobbled streets.
The first book I published was a text book. After many happy hours kneeling on the living room floor cutting and glueing and scribbling notes in margins I sent it off to the publishers who duly sent back proofs to correct and the next thing I knew I was holding a real book. Very hands-on, very touchy-feely. My first venture into e-publishing, six years ago, was a revelation. Not being of a scientific bent, I underwent the kind of mental torture necessary to acquire new (technological) faiths that ignorant 15th century landlubbers must have experienced, watching ships sail into the sunset and seeing them drop off the edge of the earth only to have them pop up somewhere behind them four years later.
The temptation of holding a real book in my hands was irresistible. Two years ago, I had a go at converting from e-book to paperback. But in spite of Amazon’s step-by-step instructions (which are now better than ever, and accompanied by amazing tools) it soon became clear that this was a much bigger alligator to wrestle. Help was needed.
So there are now two more people to go on my Red-Cape Rescuers ‘thank you’ list. Since that exciting day in 2014 when I uploaded the first e-book, this list has grown steadily–friends, advisors, beta-readers, bloggers, reviewers, generous authors and readers already mentioned in previous blogs and on Acknowledgements pages. All have made the writing adventure even more exciting and enriching, and, though I only know most of you in a virtual sense, in this particular instance I am totally convinced of your lovely realities.
For the paperback, Alligator Wrestler Jacqueline Abromeit at goodcoverdesign.co.uk produced two wonderful designs for the cover, making it difficult to choose which one was more impressive (thank you helpers). I finally went for the one with the lighthouse on the headland, and the setting sun streaming through a woman’s hair (‘weave, weave, the sunlight in your hair’). Alligator Wrestler Steve Passiouras at Bookow has a magic programme which allows you to put sausage meat your Word document manuscript in at one end and produces a Saucisse de Toulouse Label Rouge a paperback pdf at the other.
Thanks also to Jacqui Brown (no stranger to these pages) for permission to quote, and to a Wise Man from the East who helped with the very last steps of this particular miracle – he knows who he is 😉
As for the marketing mastermind who decided it would be a good idea to bring out a paperback just when the world is in lockdown and the earliest postal delivery date for non-essential items (like Biarritz Passion) is January 2021 – that would be me.
My next task is to learn to believe that an invisible, sputnik-shaped object covered in reddish warts really does have the power to bring the world to its knees…
Stay safe, stay sane, stay inventive, stop binge-watching The Walking Dead and hang on to your sense of humour 😉
Amazon paperback link uk here
Amazon paperback link US here
*little factoid for folk who like that sort of stuff: ‘dans l’ordre des choses’ – an illustration of this expression can be found in a letter written in June 1871 by the great Gustave (Flaubert) who says: ‘As (Adolphe) Thiers has just done us great service, within the space of one month he will be the most hated man in his country; it’s ‘in the order.’
(Comme Thiers venait de nous rendre un très grand service, avant un mois, il sera l’homme le plus exécré de son pays ; c’est dans l’ordre.’)
Thiers had negotiated a peace treaty with the Prussians who, after defeating French forces at the Battle of Sedan (September 1870), had invaded northern France. But many Parisians were against the armistice, and the famous Paris Commune was formed to resist it. Thiers sent in the army to put a stop to the revolutionaries, uttering his famous phrase: ‘The republic is the form of government that divides us (the French) least.’ The terrible fighting of Frenchman against Frenchman continued until the end of May, when the Communards surrendered. Flaubert’s Voltairean observation was right in principle if not in date: Thiers was president from 1871 to 1873 , but on May 23rd 1873, he was toppled by a vote of no-confidence and resigned the following day.