In the first book, Light at The End, we are introduced to a coach with tourists being caught at short notice by a world gone mad. Leaders have taken their national and social media threats and claims to the extreme and toys are thrown out of the various international prams.
Light to Dark is the second part of the story and looks at those same tourists six years after their initial dash for safety. We see how they’ve not only survived, but progressed in their new life. They can’t assess the outside environment unless they investigate it—and they do.
Dark to Light opens with a handful of the original group arriving at their latest objective. For a week they’ve put themselves out there. They’ve left the safety of the mountain to explore the wider world, smaller as it may now be.
I believe that in this third part I’ve brought the tale to what readers will find is an acceptable and fulfilling conclusion.
How many people will be happy to buy into the idea of a post-apocalypse story which has no zombies?
Time will tell, and the reviews, if any, will tell their own story. I’ll find out if my investment of time and my efforts were worthwhile. If the feedback is positive then I’ll feel justified in charging on with a spinoff story, but I’m not going to get ahead of myself and write it—yet.
Of course, there is no harm in having an idea in mind, just in case …
I finished writing Dark to Light: Light at The End – Book 3 recently. I reminded myself that it was the easiest phase. Having said that, I’ve now also completed the first full edit, which as any author will tell you can be a mind-boggling task.
You would think that having written a trilogy and two mini-series I would sail through completion of another trilogy–not so, and I don’t believe it should be easy.
Occasionally, when an author sets out to write a story, apart from the desire to create a new world where they have complete control, it’s sometimes not clear if the tale has ‘legs’. By this, I mean that in the early, exciting stages the idea might be to write a trilogy or a series. These multiple titles create an opportunity for an in-depth and ongoing tale with a cast of impressive and well-rounded characters. Authors must always remember that some story ideas don’t have the ‘legs’ for a trilogy.
What happens if the story doesn’t have ‘legs’?
The honest answer is, it becomes a book. Yes, it’s that simple. Any decent author will know as the plot unfolds whether that daydream of a saga with those interesting ideas was simply that–a daydream, and not a great prospect for a longer story.
What happens if the story does have ‘legs’?
Ah, now we’re getting back on track. In this case, the author will get underway with the tale and enjoy developing the plot, the scenario and, of course, the characters. This is what happened for me with Light at The End: Surviving the Apocalypse. My head buzzed with ideas and characters were falling over themselves to be involved. Some of the people I considered never made it beyond the first auditions. That’s showbusiness.
This particular story was intended to be a single book, an attempt at post-apocalyptic fiction. I had three main things I was aiming to do with my glimpse of a world after Armageddon.
Firstly, I wanted to portray the effect of survival on a disparate bunch of people who were thrown together and would be trapped by circumstances. Secondly, I wanted to do it without the use of zombies or any other ‘undead’, which seems to be a pre-requisite for some authors of the genre. Thirdly, I wanted to involve and explore the use of the ‘Hollow Mountain‘ and the hydro-electric power station created and operating from within.
When did I know my idea had ‘legs’?
Surprisingly, this happened about halfway through the first book. I invented two people in personal situations which are poles apart. The interaction which evolved in both cases when these two individuals entered the story was the turning point. I expanded my brainstorming sheet, which is something I create for all of my stories. I knew that if treated properly, the concept had the capacity to be bigger than I’d first intended.
Did I know it would become a trilogy?
No, and again, the reason is simple. I had to wait for the response to my initial tale. For example, the cover didn’t have ‘Book 1’ added until recently. Most of the feedback was good but there’s always going to be a zombie fan. 🙂 At this point, things changed slightly. I felt that I’d accomplished something with the first book and I’d absorbed so much background information which blended with personal experience and this was indeed a story with ‘legs’–a trilogy.
Light to Dark: Light at The End – Book 2was a tale specifically written to explore how far people might go when they’d come to terms with their ‘second chance’ and gained confidence. I believe it’s a plausible follow-up to the opening story and not a filler. There are extensions to the plot, further adventures, and character development, but for me, it had to feel that there were a natural progression, entertainment, and a satisfying ending.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey, and as I develop and polish the third part with many more drafts and in time send it out to beta readers, I’m feeling good about that initial daydream and my three aims for the 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.
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.
Light at The End, as I’ve said before, was an experiment. If it had been ridiculed by my beta readers I’d have shelved or abandoned writing a post-apocalyptic story. It’s also important to me that I enjoy telling the story because in my opinion, an author can generate enthusiasm in the telling.
I wrote a post some time ago regarding my first attempt at a trilogy and I’ll quote a snippet:
‘Originality is relatively easy when an author is working on a single title. When the title/premise goes to a second, third or more, the idea must be examined closely to see how far it can be taken without repetition.
Certain sub-genres can run for several books and if the author is careful and inventive the fictional world will remain exciting to the reader. This must be paramount in the mindset of the creator of the work. Reader satisfaction is everything.’
Now, here I am on that same road once again. I am close to completion of Light to Dark which will be the sequel to Light at The End. A few days ago while out walking in local woodland I was struck by inspiration, and no, it didn’t hurt. When I got home I made notes for the final chapter if the story were a trilogy.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. I was thinking about how to end Book 2 and I imagined how things could go after that point … and so was born the early ideas for Dark to Light … Book 3 in the Light at The End trilogy.
I aim to have Book 2 ready for beta readers in August.
For me, from the outset, the tale has been a departure from most other stories I’ve written but the genre offers so many possibilities. I’ve been finding that however things might be going for the characters there must be a sense of hope … that things can’t just end because of the ill-considered actions of a few.
After all, don’t we all need to believe that there is to be a tomorrow?
Beyond The Law was my first serious crime thriller and was so successful it had to be retitled, Beyond The Law: Formation as I learned the joys and pitfalls of writing a sequel, and ultimately—a trilogy.
The BTL trilogy titles; Formation, Retribution, and Consequences were published in 2013, 2015, and 2017 respectively, and I have to admit, I was satisfied when the job was completed. The characters and the ongoing story appealed to many readers, but as the author, I always had a soft spot for Rachel Donoghue.
Before I published the third book in the BTL trilogy I had a yearning to choose a character and create an individual story, so it will come as no surprise that I selected my personal favourite.
I wrote a few experimental passages and then shelved the idea—it needed a fresh start, and the best way I knew, would be to work on other projects and return to my ‘spinoff’ idea occasionally.
It’s two years later, and I’ve brought the various chapters together, many of which had been reworked multiple times. Before it reaches the standard for beta readers to chew it over, it stands at 117, 000 words, 37 Chapters and an epilogue.
If I can entice a few good people to beta read the manuscript sometime in mid-August, I would like to aim for publication by 16th September 2019.
Could I tempt you to be a beta reader?
I have the ‘rough’ drafts of the first three chapters here on my blog under Work in Progress, Codename: Nightshade. A few lovely people have left comments on Chapter 1.
Thank you for the visit and any comments or suggestions.
I can say with confidence that I will never apply as much effort to any other writing task as I have to ‘A Life of Choice’.
It was 49 years ago this week when I left home to start basic training with the British Army. My military career ended in 1992, after 23 years, and it was a couple of years later when I gathered information towards writing about that career as military memoirs. It would take many years before I’d gained sufficient writing knowledge and skill to produce an entertaining tale.
I tried the fact-based route first, both in the first-person point of view and in third-person. The end product was massive and carried far too much detail—it went into ‘storage’.
When I’d successfully written and published thrillers, romance, short stories and poetry, I turned once again to my magnum opus. I toyed with fact or fiction, and viewpoint. My choice was fact-based fiction, written in the first-person point of view.
By 2016 the first of five parts was published and was well-received. As each part went out, the reviews continued to be positive, so I sidelined my other writing projects. I still tried to read, review and help my peers with their projects. Apart from public reviews on my new series, I started receiving private messages via my author website—mainly from ex-soldiers (male and female), who wanted to pass on their gratitude for the accuracy and humour. Most of these guys were not comfortable writing public reviews.
My only concern was that many serving and ex-service personnel were not e-reader users and I have regularly received requests for a paperback version.
Five paperbacks would have been easy to produce, and would also be simple to ‘match’ on websites or outlets. Marketed as five paperbacks, the series would have been expensive to buy, so I set myself a series of tasks.
1. Perform a complete rewrite to tighten dialogue and deal with minor amendments.
2. Break the story to balance the chapters and create a consistent ‘volume’ for each of the five parts.
3. Select the appropriate places to break the story to make a paperback version as a trilogy edition.
4. Rewrite all blurbs for the five eBooks, and three fresh blurbs for the paperback trilogy.
5. Compose a disclaimer which could be used with internet marketing blurbs and within the books regarding the different editions having the same content overall.
6. Select excerpts from reviews to use on the back covers of the trilogy.
7. Build a catalogue of information to educate my book cover designer regarding the ideal graphics solutions. This was difficult because anything available now in photographic evidence is very different to the equipment I would have known in the ’70’s, ’80’s, and early ’90’s. We persevered, and the trilogy covers feature equipments which were landmarks in my story.
As I’ve done for my novels, I hired the talents of Aimee Coveney of AuthorDesignStudio–a designer who works tirelessly until the solution meets customer satisfaction.
8. Organise the sequence of publishing—all five amended eBooks and the trilogy, only when I had the bespoke covers for the trilogy.
9. Create graphics to market the two editions separately and together.
10. Prepare my author website and this blog for when the new trilogy went public.
I commenced this renewed labour of love in June 2018. Once again, apart from helping other writers on individual projects, and managing a major task for the Indie Author Support and Discussion group—most of my efforts went on the conversion process.
How did I relax when it was getting intense?
Several times I pulled out one of my erotica projects—as difficult to write as any other genre, but light relief in terms of content. Occasionally I’d draw, paint, or read, but not as often as I wanted because I felt a sense of guilt for not ‘working’.
In mid-October, I completed the conversion of five eBooks into three paperbacks. It was around 7th November, when I completed the final formatting sequence for the revised eBook versions … and then I had another coffee.
The pricing of the paperback trilogy is more than I’d have wanted, but I reconcile my concerns knowing that each book is around 570 pages. It was vitally important that nothing was removed from the story.
Who might find an excerpt from their reviews on the back cover of my paperback trilogy?
Apart from review excerpts by a selection of ex-Royal Signals personnel, and an ex-Army wife, I opted for snippets from fellow authors, namely: Frank Parker, Barbara Fagan Speake, Paul A Ruddock, John MW Smith, and Paul Rees—notably, all fellow members of the IASD.
Thank you for taking an interest, and passing a few minutes with me.
A Life of Choice is fact-based fiction, presently available as a five-part novel for Kindle. The story is the most popular title in my catalogue.
If my first attempts at this tale were included, A Life of Choice has been a work in progress for about twenty-twoyears. On the other hand if we were to treat my military service as research for the story—it goes back to forty-eight years.
Whatever else I published it was always important to me that I completed this project. It was heart-warming to see the first reviews from serving personnel and ex-Service personnel, of course, but to see glowing reviews from readers who’d never donned a military uniform—gratifying.
As with all of my writing, it was never my intention to publish in paperback, but like many things, I’ve decided to change course and take that step.
– Since the first part was published as an eBook (two years ago), I’ve had requests to produce the story in paperback. There are many people out there who either have difficulty using a digital reader, or simply prefer a physical book.
– It will give me the opportunity to use the paperback version as a gift, or on occasion a ‘prize’ in draws for various military charities.
Do I expect to make a profit from sales of a paperback edition?
– I don’t write to make money, which I like to think is reflected in the price range of my eBooks. My titles are competitively priced or they wouldn’t be treated seriously.
– By the very nature of indie paperback publication the individual books are expensive when compared to availability of the household names in any supermarket or bookstore.
– I’ve created the covers for my eBooks with a few exceptions—those being designed by a professional cover designer.
I produced the story in logical parts to publish as eBooks, but the individual books would not justify the price set by Amazon for paperback versions—in my opinion.
Due to the the process and use of the data provided by the author, the Amazon KDP system requires exact information when relating an eBook to a paperback. I’m taking a risk, but trying to think outside the box.
– For the paperback version, the series will be broken into three parts. They will still be ‘logical’ parts, but of greater substance than their digital counterparts.
– To ensure the job is done properly I’ve spent many hours selecting where to move chapters from one book to another in order to adjust overall length. This has entailed amending the Preface and the Epilogue in each part.
– As I did with Amsterdam Calling, and Ten Days in Panama, I am underway with a complete revision of the story. The tale will remain the same, the humour or more serious aspects will stay in place, but the writing will be tighter. I will also be adjusting the use of uppercase letters for certain instances.
– Instead of associating the paperbacks directly with the eBooks within the Amazon system, I will sub-title the paperbacks as The Trilogy Edition. I’m in the process of writing appropriate jacket blurbs to highlight that it is the same story but in a different format. This will also forestall any conflict with Amazon and their ‘Matchbook’ process.
Will the updated writing have a detrimental effect on the eBook version?
I will be using the rewritten chapters from within the paperback manuscripts to replace the chapters in the appropriate eBooks. In this way, the writing is updated but the front and back matter of each book remains constant.
How will I prevent issues with the publication of the ‘original’ and ‘updated’ editions of the eBooks?
I will prepare all five eBooks and update them in one session so that they’ll become ‘live’ on the Amazon system within hours of each other.
How will I ensure that ‘The Trilogy Edition’ paperback version is seen to be the same story?
– I will not publish any of the paperback versions until I have all three completed.
– As with the eBook updated versions, I will publish the three paperbacks in a single session, aiming for them to appear within hours. Paperbacks are not purchased as rapidly or frequently as eBooks so there isn’t as much pressure on timing.
– A Life of Choice: The Trilogy Edition – Part One is completed.
There you have it, people.
In my next post I’ll report on how things are going with my conversion of five into three, and I’ll explain why my eBook publishing plans for this year have been altered.
As always, I thank all of you who take the time to visit and read my blog.
No, it’s not a title for an erotic novel, although it could be.
As any author will tell you, apart from a good story there are a couple of other important aspects when creating a book.
Good formatting to make the book look professional and easy to read, and of course, a decent price to attract sales are two areas to think about. A catchy, accurate title is in the running of important things to consider.
Where do you first find the title?
Oh yes, on the cover.
I’ve been writing since 2007 and self-publishing since 2013. Yes, I know to some people it seems longer, but there you go – those are the facts.
How have I dealt with covers so far?
I produced covers myself in the early days and though I thought they were okay at the time, I never considered them to be good. I had this misconception that as long as there was a cover to bear the title and the title did its job – that was enough.
Not so, and anybody with experience of buying books or trying to sell books will know.
Would I buy a book with an amateur cover?
Not usually, so I shouldn’t expect anybody to buy mine if they have an amateur cover. Yes, there are some people out there who are not professional cover designers and they’re doing a good job, but many of the indie eBook and paperback covers are badly finished.
I paid for a professional book cover designer to produce a cover for Beyond The Law (as it was prior to becoming first in a trilogy). I later had the cover updated at no cost. The point is, that I saw my book sell and inside three months the price of the designer was covered by those sales. My return was such that the sales paid for the same designer to deal with Ten Days in Panama, Amsterdam Calling, A Taste of Honey and the other two books in the Beyond The Law trilogy.
Do I make exceptions?
Yes, I continue to work hard at designing covers for my short story and poetry anthologies, because those types of books are recognised as being low in the sales market. For the past three months, my five-part series A Life of Choice has been selling well. To ensure the series was spotted by a target audience I created the covers with actual photographs from my military service mounted on a background of the regimental colours of the Royal Corps of Signals. I also design the covers for my erotica titles because although they sell, I consider them an extension of the joy of sex writing.
My efforts may not attain professional standards but I aim to maintain a brandfeel by using continuity within any series. We all know that recognition plays a big part in marketing and it’s an area we should strive to understand.
What’s my next step?
Form the outset I’ve formatted my eBooks, although I have depended on beta readers to improve the end product. I recently bought a licence to use Vellum Press, which means I will now be able to format for a paperback.
As I write this, my cover designer is working on a paperback cover for Amsterdam Calling. I’m confident Aimee (the designer) will produce a good solution for me, and I’ve spent many hours working on a revamped version of the book’s formatting.
The results of our combined efforts will be here for all to see when I’ve got my first paperback in my hands. I’m nervous about taking such a step but I promised myself I would only go paperback if I saw sufficient sales of my eBooks. On top of the sales, I’ve had a lot of interest from people contacting me who for one reason or another cannot deal with eBooks.
I hope my words have sparked interest. Remember, if you do decide to pay somebody else to design your covers it will require effort from both parties, or as I suggest on another of my personal covers a little bit of Give & Take.
Thank you for visiting my blog and as usual, any comments are welcome.
My character Phil McKenzie aka Hawk, was born in an experimental poem in July 2008. Due partly to the nature of the writer’s craft and to the evolution of a story it has taken until now to complete this trilogy of novels.
The first book Beyond The Law: Formation (originally titled Beyond The Law), was intended as a standalone when published in 2013, but as I received feedback it was plain to see I should develop the idea and the characters.
In the second story, Beyond The Law: Retribution, in order to maintain balance and credibility I took the story beyond the streets of Glasgow, and introduced more characters on both sides of the fence which separates good from evil. I continued with the aspects of the original story which had appealed to many readers.
It will come as no surprise, to bring a successful story to a close is a difficult decision, and no less difficult than how it should be done. I spent many hours considering how to further develop characters and what might become of them in a final story.
As an avid reader I am aware of the empathy felt for the heroes in a story, and in particular an ongoing story. Who should die? Who should live? How will the survivors if any move on?
Sincere thanks goes out to Anne Francis Scott and Sarah Stuart who performed the task of beta reader for me, and gave me plenty of useful, insightful feedback. Every point highlighted and each recommendation was appreciated. My intention was to accredit these two fine authors in the front pages, but as many writers will be aware, the ‘cross-contamination’ of author names in Amazon can be lethal to all concerned.
I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Aimee Coveney of AuthorDesignStudio who designed all three covers for this trilogy. In each case Aimee provided a variety of solutions based on my brief. We worked together as she took my initial vision to what have now become established and successful covers.
Aimee is now a member of the team at a new venture called Bookollective.
As always, I thank you for taking the time to read my post. Now, how far have you reached in the BTL story? If you do take the journey, please consider leaving a review.