60. That Difficult Second Novel

SETTING A deadline is always a good thing. Without one you can keep tinkering for ever more or, worse, put the whole thing off until you “feel like it”. As a journalist, I pride myself on hitting deadlines in the day job, so I figured I should show the same dedication to my “difficult” second novel.

I was getting a bit bogged down a short while ago so decided that, come hell or high water, I would complete the first draft before my holiday in Spain, when I can go away for a while, lock it in a musty cupboard and forget about it before having to do all the dirty work (editing etc).

I am pleased to say the first draft of the new book, with a working title Headers, is now complete.

Originally, Crossing The Whitewash was intended as a one off. So many people said they wanted to learn a bit more about the characters, though, so I looked at some of the questions that may have been left unanswered.

I kept coming back to the Dolan’s – this career criminal family – and how they had developed. The Boxer Boys were Arnie Dolan’s invention, but he is only the third boy in a family of five.

What about Maurice Dolan, locked up in prison for most of Arnie’s life after a series of Post Office robberies, and his relationship with mum Beryl? What about oldest boy Chuck, the enforcer. How did he start on his journey to become the hard man of the family?

It was originally intended as a novella, but the story developed in such a way that when I finished the first draft this week it was 140,000 words!

Once I started looking into the early 80s, developing the characters and things, what I considered a really intriguing story started to arise – complete with a few twists and turns.

I’m afraid for those who loved the Welsh side of the story The Legend and Gary Marshall only figure briefly, while the Bard Guys don’t get a mention.

It’s possibly not as light-hearted and humorous as parts of the previous book but hopefully it is engrossing nonetheless, covering such important topics like the Falklands War, the Flying Squad, Police corruption and Ron Greenwood’s England Boys of ’82.

Don’t worry, though, the Welsh boys will be back, as will the Sunday Tribune Despatch and Arnie Dolan – you may just have to wait another year to see them.

Meanwhile, below is a sample of the new book Headers. Remember this is only the first draft and I will probably need to cut about 40,000 words, change things around, get it edited, proofread, have a cover designed, formatted… In fact, it’s unlikely this will bear any relation to the finished article! Hope you enjoy, and want to read more about Big Mo and the Dolans.


42. The Independent Author’s checklist

THERE are so many pitfalls you can experience as a self-published author, many of which lead to you hemorrhaging money.

Some organisations prey on your desire to market your book and sometimes it is easy to take your eye off the ball.

I must admit that when I first decided to go down the Independent route I suspected it would take a substantial outlay to get my novel into the hands of the people who might like it… my potential readers.

Fortunately I had some savings set aside for the purpose, but many self-published authors aren’t so lucky.

There are so many things people tell you that you need: structural and line editing, proof-reading, a professional-looking cover, a website, a blog, a presence on social media, reviews… a whole range of things that would be looked after by someone else (allegedly) if you went down the traditionally published route.

For that to happen, though, you need an agent who really believes in you and a book that glows like a beacon in the slushpile where it sits among thousands of other potential best-sellers.

Even then you aren’t guaranteed to find a publisher and if you do get that coveted deal, how quickly will the marketing budget be slashed if your book isn’t an instant hit? Not everyone loves your delicate prose as much as you do.

At least self-publishing means that if your first options don’t work out, you can approach the problem in a different way. You have too much invested both mentally and emotionally to give up at the first hurdle.

What I am starting to learn, though, is that it is easy to sign up for something and forget about it. If I was starting out again I would keep a book – an inventory of exactly what I’ve done, how I’ve spent my money and whether it has really benefited me. To be honest, I’ve been a bit scattergun.

This morning, for instance, I logged in to check my credit card statement to find I’ve been paying a company called Graphic Stock £32 a month.

I was mortified. I never use them. I don’t even make that much in sales every month, once all the overheads have been taken.

This came about because I was looking for images for my website and to promote my book with Facebook Ads. They had a monthly free offer which I signed up for but I never found any images I wanted. My free subscription lapsed and because I didn’t cancel, they put me onto a paid one.

Here, therefore, is my tick list of services I’m satisfied with and roughly how much they cost…

BOOK COVER: £250 – JD Smith Design. Very pleased with the professional approach. She can provide covers for physical books, eBooks and Audio Books and is always available to tickle them if you want to do a change.



EDITING: Fortunately I got mates rates from my wife Liz for the proofreading and an ex newspaper colleague did my editing for nothing.  If you wish to hire Liz get in touch through her website lizripp01.wix.com/heresproof and she will let you know her rates. FREEish for me (I would expect to spend money next time, though!)

IMAGES: BigStock Images supply high quality pictures on most subjects, and you can sign up for a batch at a time without over-committing, so you are actually paying for what you use. £20 a month.

REVIEWS: Net Galley may seem expensive, coming in at around £350, but I wouldn’t have 23 reviews and 15 five-star ones from independent reviewers had I not signed up. The confidence boost some of these gave me was invaluable, too. They do extra promotions, too, and Crossing The Whitewash is a featured book this week.

SOCIAL MEDIA: So many people offer to promote your books and I am just trying to get to grips with this at the moment, having signed up for Books Go Social and Ebook promoter. Neither is too steep an outlay but I will assess them later in the year and attempt to work out whether they have benefited me. For good advice on twitter strategies look no further than Ian H Sutherland’s book Advanced Twitter Strategies for Authors.



BLOG/WEBSITE: £25 A YEAR. It’s worth paying for a domain name if you have a website, provided you can get it pretty cheaply. For example my website is www.theripperfile.com. The free option involves using a longer name that isn’t as memorable or easy to find in a search engine. GoDaddy provide these fairly cheaply provided the domain name you want is fairly unique. These domain names are transferrable to your own website. I update my own website at the moment, but may need a web expert to take over eventually – it’s so time consuming and fiddly for a luddite like myself!

ORGANISATIONAL SUPPORT: ALLi £75 a year. The Alliance of Independent Authors is well worth joining. They have useful advice on their blog and Facebook pages, a showcase where you can advertise any latest news on your blog, and regular discount deals. Byte the Book, for around the same annual subscription, can provide you with free tickets to the London Book Fair and stages events throughout the year which can be very useful for authors.

That’s it for now, but I will attempt to add to my check list in future entries…