Who is Sylvia?

Sylvia is the character who is occupying much of my time recently. When I wrote Light at The End, it was intended as a standalone, but although it was a fulfilling story to write, there was more to say, and so it became the first of a trilogy.

In much the same way, I ended the third book in the LaTE trilogy feeling that the job was done, and then while working on something completely different I was nagged by the thought that Sylvia’s story ought to be told. She made several appearances in Dark to Light (LaTE – Book 3), but it was more of a cameo role. By implication, Sylvia continued beyond the main story, and so I feel justified in giving her a starring role.

I’ve shelved my other two new novels while I devote many of my daylight hours to Sylvia. To tell one person’s story might be fun for the author, but it’s the reader’s satisfaction which ought to be the author’s primary aim. With this in mind, I’ve created a well-rounded back-story for my leading lady and, of course, there will be interaction with old and new characters in the wider arena of the post-apocalyptic world in which she lives.

Other projects will be tackled whenever I leave Sylvia aside for a regular ‘rest’.

The frontrunner in other work, and my next anthology, is Next Steps: and other stories. I now have my seven stories written to first draft stage, and next week I’ll revisit them to see where any early improvements might be made. I’ll leave them aside again until March and revisit before they go to beta readers.

In March, I’ll give a heads-up to those authors who suggested the ‘dialogue prompts’ which I used for my seven stories. This will hopefully provide the impetus for my guests to check out the submissions they are offering for the new collection. Publishing date at present might be as early as April or May.

What else have I been up to since this new year got underway?

I’ve been working hard to produce my novels as paperback versions and I now have the job done. I’ll be writing a dedicated post about the process, or as it became for me, the ‘journey’, but for now, I’ll give you a look at a few of my efforts. I’ll display the full range of my paperbacks in March.

As always, thank you for taking an interest in my work.

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A Cover Story

Astute authors will recognise that irrespective of how good their story might be, it’s the cover which is the first point of contact with the reader (or ‘the customer’ if we’re honest).

I accepted early on in my writing career that if I wanted my books to be treated seriously then I’d have to part with cash, and not for vanity publishing—some people still do. In essence, I’d have to fork out before my hard work had produced any reward in royalties.

There are many more aspects which affect the success or failure of a book but for now, I’d like to stay on topic—covers.

It didn’t take much research for me to discover that poetry and short story anthologies attracted less interest than any other aspect of creative writing. Yes, as luck would have it, my first titles came into those categories, however, I’m a positive kind of guy and saw an opportunity. Here were two areas in which I could practice the dark art of cover design. Later, I would find another. 😀

My first novel took a year to write due to me also holding down a full-time management job. I produced my idea of a cover for Beyond The Law. Even with my artistic leanings, it was not an impressive sight, so let’s not go there.

For my next two novels, I bit the bullet, which is an option not many of my characters are offered. I paid a professional cover designer to cater for Ten Days in Panama and Amsterdam Calling. Both books sold steadily and a significant lesson was learned. I asked the designer to create a cover for Beyond The Law (later to be suffixed ‘Formation’. Like the other two covers, it was expensive, but the blow was softened when I saw the effect of a decent story married up to a good cover.

In less than six months, I received sufficient royalties from Beyond the Law to cover the cost of all of my first three covers. Needless to say, I went on to use the same designer for A Taste of Honey. When Beyond the Law – the trilogy was created with the addition of ‘Retribution’ and ‘Consequences I saw regular sales. 

I continued producing the covers for my short story anthologies as the books were published. Yes, they would sell, I thought, but not in sufficient numbers to warrant a hefty outlay on covers.

One interesting twist came when I wrote my magnum opus, A Life of Choice. This was a five-part, fact-based fiction series; a depiction of my military career, but I had doubts. I hoped it was written in an entertaining and engaging style, but it was simply a story I wanted to tell. I didn’t see it as a prize winner or a major money-spinner.

I designed the covers using the ‘Regimental Colours’ of the Royal Signals (my Corps), and I used a small representative graphic for each of the five stages. My theory was that the ‘colours’ would attract the eye of some of the thousands of Royal Signals soldiers past and present. Following a slow pick-up and a few good reviews, this series rapidly established itself as my top-selling story.

The only issue I had was the regular requests for it to be available in paperback. I experimented and it took several weeks but I managed to amend the end/beginning of the five parts to convert them into a paperback trilogy—the same story, in the same words but broken at different logical points in time.

I recognised a potential saboteur—overconfidence. I contacted my professional designer and gave her a simple brief, sending her photos of the three pieces of equipment to be featured, samples of the background colours and all the printed matter for front and back exterior. For example, apart from the blurb, each book in the trilogy has excerpts from three different reviews. It took a few weeks to get there and I was delighted with the designer’s solution.

An area that some indie authors fail to register is that paperbacks are formatted differently regarding the front and back matter. I took great care in presentation, as I’ve done with all of my paperback versions so that they mirror traditional books.

One aspect of this series I didn’t expect was how much it would be enjoyed by those who had never served. The primary target of any creative writer should be to provide entertainment and it gladdens my heart to know I’ve achieved my aim with this special story.

As if by magic, the paperbacks continue to sell. I’m delighted to report that they are a popular prize at the many military fund-raising events to which I donate signed copies of the trilogy. 

I recently felt that I’d gained sufficient knowledge and experience to try my hand again at the creative, challenging skill of cover design. It took a few days but I’ve refreshed the covers for the Beyond The Law trilogy. My versions are on trial for a couple of months.

Apart from poetry and short story anthologies, I said that later I was to find another area for which I could create the covers. Erotica is that area and not surprisingly there aren’t that many reviews although they are good. There are, however, plenty of sales. 😀

If you’re an author at whatever stage of your journey, please remember that a well-crafted book with a good cover is more likely to see a healthy return on the investment of your time and money.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you.