Second Suns – Novel

I’ve started writing a new novel. It is the completely true story about a fictional tribute to a fictional band.

I’ve decided to post chapters here and ask for feedback. Maybe if enough people comment, they may talk me out of it.

I will start with a brief history of the band “Surrogate Suns” (this is incidentally the real name of a band that I formed but which never got to do a gig, but in my story it is the name of a famous 70s rock band)

A Brief History of Surrogate Suns

The ‘Suns’ as their devoted fans call them were first formed in 1969 after the break-up of experimental underground band ‘Fruit Loop Explosion’. This had been a bizarre mixture of psychedlic rock and cabaret act. The singer performed with a live python down his trousers, while the guitarist wore nothing but skin-tight patent leather lederhosen and performed an ascapology routine during a keyboard solo. At one gig, the python attacked the singer, and the guitarist electrocuted himself. They were both unable to resume their roles and the remaining musicians quit leaving the drummer, Derreck Pilton, to fulfil a string of contracted gigs.

Pilton’s first recruit was the guitarist from sixties one-hit-wonders The Sugartones, Jerome ‘Jerry’ Morcock, who was wasted in that band. Nervous at joining the Fruit Loops, Pilton assured him he wanted to take a more serious direction. Morcock then suggested a singer, Andy Shyner, who was currently performing with a pub rock band called ‘Secret Salami’. Pilton and Morcock went to a gig in Bournemouth and both agreed that the band were terrible but the singer had a certain something that grabbed your attention as soon as you saw him. He also had a decent voice. Andy was keen to join the Fruit Loops but insisted on bringing his bass player with him. Michael “Ratty” Ratcliff turned out to be a solid rhythm man with a touch of flair when it was needed.

They completed a tour as a four piece. Although dedicated Loop fans were disappointed with the lack of stage antics and some people complained they were too loud there was definite promise. At a gig at The Gazebo Club in London they were watched by a shady man, in a sharp suit, sitting in a corner booth. At the end of the gig, he had the venue management bring the band over and he made them a proposition they couldn’t refuse. He signed them to his new record label, ironically named Cut-Throat Records. Their new manager had said in an interview, “The music business is a cut-throat business, so we decided to name the record company accordingly.” Few journalists wanted to ask many more questions after he looked them squarely in the eye.

The band began to organise a new tour approaching previous venues that had played host to Fruit Loop Explosion, but not getting a warm reception. A change of name seemed to be needed, although how the name Surrogate Suns came about nobody really remembers clearly. All that is known is that the manager locked them in a room with large amounts of alcohol and the name came from that meeting.

Surrogate Suns first gig was in Liverpool on 5th Jan 1970 and the band were paid £3-7s-6d They then criss-crossed the UK playing 3 – 4 gigs per week for the first three months of the year before continuing without a break to play a series of small theatres and concert halls in Europe.

Initially they played a mix of blues and rock and roll covers, plus one or two of Fruit Loop Explosion’s songs but rocked up to the max. At first audiences didn’t know what to make of them but there was a chemistry and the time was right for a really loud band. Led Zeppelin had led the way and Surrogate Suns followed closely in their footsteps. The first album “Supernova” (1970) was recorded in six weeks at a studio in London and was already selling in America ahead of their tour.

It was a raw collection of the regular stuff from the live set but it just blasted away the cobwebs and became a favourite with bikers and rockers in general.

The American tour began in September and they played a staggering 46 gigs in two months. Back in the UK the album had sold steadily but not spectacularly. It was enough to get them a headline gig in Bristol with a local support act. The support band were a strange fusion of jazz and prog and they didn’t really enthuse the audience, but the keyboard player was a bit special. He made sounds come out of the Hammond organ that nobody had ever heard before. He played with his back to the instrument, he climbed on top of it and even took his shoes and socks off and played with his toes. Backstage it was clear that this other band was falling apart arguing and bickering about everything. So Surrogate Suns felt no pang of guilt when they lured the keyboard player away.

His input was the making of the second album which bore the name “Second Sun” (1971) and contained one of their best known songs. “Wild About Love” was a crazy musical roller coaster ride featuring a lengthy solo with all sorts of strange noises made by using and abusing the instruments in bizarre ways.

“Sol Three” (1971) came next with a descent into uncharted waters of jazz/prog and Indian music influenced by the Beatles experiments with Ravi Shankar a few years earlier. Also included two acoustic tracks featuring an obscure blues guitarist from Scotland, Blind Willy MacTavish.

“Centaur Eye” (1972) took the prog ideas still further with the title track at nearly 15 minutes; and yet this was still hard rock too; much heavier than anything produced by Pink Floyd up to that time.

The first four albums appeared at six month intervals and, the whole time, the band were touring relentlessly, playing over four hundred gigs in the first three years. Eventually the heavy schedule caught up with them. They were selling out large venues and their albums were selling by the shed load. The money they were making was being spent on drugs and loose women, and soon it all came crashing to a halt as Andy Shyner was taken seriously ill and admitted to hospital. It looked like the end of the road for the Suns. However, by the end of 1972 the singer was pronounced fit to be sent home, although he immediately flew out to California and spent six months convalescing. The guitarist and keyboard player flew out as well and they spent the time relaxing round a pool and writing songs.

When the fifth album “Ra” finally came out in 1974 it was either the greatest work ever or an unholy mess, depending on which critics you read. They had spent almost a year in the studio and it was by far the most expensive album they ever made, but there wasn’t a single track on it that grabbed you at first hearing. One or two were quite jazzy but not in a good way. It was overproduced and inaccessible and yet it sold by the bucket-load to fans who played it once and then put it away for ever.

The tour was not well attended, and newspapers talked of the amusing sight of ticket touts offering tickets for the price of a bus fare home.

1975 saw the band take a hiatus while two of them went to an Indian retreat. Here they gradually got off an addiction to cocaine although they did experiment with a variety of other drugs.

On their return the band spent the first part of 1976 in a Scottish castle cut off from the rest of the world and honed what was to become, arguably, their best album ever.

The aptly titled “Sol Invictus” (the unconquered Sun) was released on Midsummer night at midnight. Loyal fans queued at record shops which were persuaded to remain open and the first run sold out before sunrise. The album was received warmly by critics many of whom had panned “Ra” Even as Punk was set to storm the British music scene, these old has-been rockers could pull something special out of the bag.

It contained eleven tracks ranging from the short and punchy opener “I’m Back” with wailing vocal over a fast and furious guitar riff that was a match for any punk song, to the amazingly ethereal progressive title track.  The Suns were indeed back and their next tour was the biggest ever; playing stadium venues in Europe, the USA, Australia, Japan, and South America.

Then at the end of 1977 Jerry Morcock died in mysterious circumstances. They were on top of the world musically and planning their eighth studio album when he died peacefully in his sleep.

The rest of the band refused to consider continuing under the name Surrogate Suns and they disbanded forthwith.

Seventh Son of a Seventh Sun was released posthumously

Discography

  • Supernova
  • Second Sun
  • Sol Three
  • Centaur Eye
  • Ra
  • Sol Invictus
  • Seventh Son of a Seventh Sun

Fast forward to the 21st century.

Tributes to Surrogate Suns (incomplete list)
  • Wild About Suns
  • The Surrogate Suns Experience
  • Surrogate Sons
  • Son of Suns
  • Surrogate Daughters (an all-female tribute)
  • Sol Invictus
  • Surrogate Surrogates
  • Surrogate Supernova
  • Surrogate Stars
  • Substitut Soleils (A French tribute)
  • Balls to Plasma (a bizarre punk tribute)
  • Ra Ra Superstar (an even more bizarre disco tribute!)
  • Second Suns

Second Suns – a Tribute to Surrogate Suns

  • Singer – George Pearce
  • Drums – John Briggs
  • Guitar – Steve Rowe
  • Bass – Barry Hodges
  • Keys – Carl Smith

Chapter 1 – Busted Clocks

Music was playing loudly, some sort of prog rock. A phone rang. George looked around for a flat surface on which to place his beer, failing to find anywhere, he scrabbled around one handed among the various items of clothing, books, papers, and empty packaging on his bed, searching for the cordless house phone.

“Hello?”

Where are you?” it was John, the guitarist from Busted Clocks, his band.

“Eh?”

Gig tonight? Are you still at home?

George looked at the landline through which he was speaking to the guitarist and pulled a face indicative of the ridiculousness of the question; the gesture, of course, was lost on John. He glanced at the clock. “Shit!” he muttered to himself, then to the phone he said, “I’ll be there is half an hour!”

For fuck’s sake!

George flung the phone down glanced at himself in the mirror, and headed out the door, beer still in hand. Back inside a few seconds later.

“Mum? Have you seen my gig back?”

A dislocated voice called back, “On the floor under the stairs where you dumped it last week!”

George looked down and realised he was practically standing on the handle.

“Thanks mum!”

He downed the last of the beer and dumped the can on the sideboard on his way out.

* * * * *

George pulled up outside the venue. Dave, Mike, and Sandra berated him over his timekeeping.

“You cock!” Dave began.

“Sorry guys, I lost track of time.”

“Pathetic!” Sandra added.

“I said I’m sorry!”

“You’re always saying you’re sorry George.” Mike retorted.

“Well I am sorry, alright? Where’s John?

“Getting a kebab.” Mike told him.

“He’ll turn into a kebab one of these days.”

“You mean he isn’t already?” Mike joked.

“Can we cut the chat and get this van unloaded?” Dave complained. “There’s people already here. We’ll have to sound check with ’em watching now.”

George grabbed a big speaker and lugged it inside followed by Dave, carrying a mic stand, Mike, who took a bag of leads, and Sandra, who brought her smile.

“You lazy buggers!” George said. “You could’ve brought the other speaker!”

“I’ve already brought my bass rig in.” Dave pointed out. “John’s brought his cab and head in.”

“Yeah,” Mike added, “you think these drums set themselves up do you? It’s about time you pulled your weight and stopped dicking us around.”

“Frankly, George,” Sandra smiled nastily, “we’ve been talking about stuff while we’ve been… waiting for you.”

“Oh really? And what have you been … saying then?” George mimicked her emphasis.

“Leave it Saan, let’s get set up and do the gig eh?”

“No! Shut up, Mike. Come on, Saan. Out with it.”

“Guys come on,” Dave tried. “We’re mates right? Been together with this line-up for, what is it? Six months now? Starting to come together; gigs lined up; people already here; be full up by nine o’clock.”

“Well he has to know some time,” Sandra sneered. “You’re not wanted in the band any more. This is the last gig with you.”

“Oh. So that’s how it is, is it? Dave? It’s Mike and Sandra’s band now is it? They make all the decisions? As I recall, you and John put this band together and it was all going fine until Mike brought Sandra in.”

Dave looked only a little apologetic. “Mate, it would help if you turned up on time occasionally.”

“Oh right, so now arriving on time is the criteria for a rock singer is it? Axl bloody Rose sometimes didn’t arrive until AFTER the audience had all gone home!”

“You’re NOT Axl Bloody Rose though are you?” cut in Sandra. “You’re George useless-moron Pearce. Pub singer and all-round prat. You’ld be late for your own bloody funeral and, by the way, nobody in the band likes Surrogate Suns, and nor do the audiences.

“What the fuck’s that got to do with anything?”

“You constantly going on about doing Surrogate Suns covers,” Mike cut in. “We already do ‘Wild About Love’, fair enough. That’s a classic, everybody knows it and can sing along. But what’s that shit you played at rehearsal last week?”

“’Sol Invictus. Its bloody genius is what it is. Not that you lot would ever be able to play it. Takes a drummer who can handle something other than four/four the whole night.”

“From the bloke who has to stop playing tambourine if he starts singing.”

“I don’t have to be a musician to know you’re a shit drummer!”

Mike threw a drumstick at George which bounced off his head. This amused Mike, at least.

“Ow! Twat!”

Dave attempted to calm the situation. “Chill, guys. Come on there’s people looking at us. Anyway, whoever said a drummer was a musician, right?” he laughed weakly. “Let’s get set up and do this gig eh?” This speech was about as much use as a kazoo solo at the Albert Hall.

“No. Fuck that. If you’re so keen to dump me, then let’s get on with it. Why wait until after the gig? I’ll fuck off now and leave Sandra in charge. I’m sure she’s more than capable of taking over all the songs I do.”

“Damn right I am. I’ll do a damn sight better as well.”

George hadn’t expected her to be so keen. “Yeah right! You got your lyrics written out then? You can’t even remember your own songs, you slag.”

“Oy you…” Mike began.

“Ignore him Mike,” Sandra said, turning her back on George. “It’s all sorted. some people come prepared. I knew you would flake out on us one day and I’d have to cover for you.”

Dave made another attempt to defuse the situation. “George man, come on, we’re mates, we don’t need all this aggro. Let’s get set up have a few beers smash the gig and talk about this at the next rehearsal eh?”

But George was already shoving his heavy speaker back into the van and coming back for the mic stand and cables.

“Bollocks Dave,” Sandra said. “He’s a dick and the sooner he’s out of our hair the better. What’s the deal for this gig? Hundred quid tonight? You can’t even divide that by five can you? Anyway, whatever it is, split four ways we get more each.”

Dave and George exchanged a look of despair at Sandra’s lack of basic arithmetic, and even Mike was a bit non-plussed as to how anyone could think you can’t split a hundred pounds five ways.

“Sorry Dave. This isn’t your fault, but I’m not hanging around if I’m not wanted. Good luck with this mental bitch and her boyfriend!” George glared at Mike as he loaded the remaining bits into his van and slammed the door.

Sandra couldn’t resist a parting shot. “If you love Surrogate Suns so much, why don’t you start up a tribute band to them? You could call it ‘Test Tube Babies’.”

George was in the driving seat by now, but he paused, almost lost for words. “What are you on about? That sounds more like a tribute to ‘Peter and the Test Tube Babies’.”

“The Who?” Sandra replied.  

Dave couldn’t resist. “Nah, not The Who; Peter and the Test Tube Babies.”

Sandra’s blank stare was a revelation She was younger than the others, but still…  

“Punk band,” Dave tried by way of explanation. “Zombie Creeping Flesh?”

Sandra continued to look blank.

“Rotting in the Fart Sack”?

Still nothing. George started his van and drove off, with a spin of rubber on tarmac. No mean feat in a twelve-year-old LDV convoy.

“You’re not familiar with their work then, I take it?” Dave continued.

It was at this moment that the guitarist, John, returned and said, “Alright Dave? Was that George?”

“Yeah.”

“Why’s he driven off?”

“He’s quit.”

“What? Why?”

Sandra interrupted, “Because he’s a dick. Don’t worry, I know all his songs, and got the lyrics written out… Some of us can manage to come prepared.” She flashed a brief, smug, grin and headed into the venue.

“Brilliant,” John said. “Well that’s all sorted then.” And then, because Sandra was moving away he raised his voice to add, “…and you’ve got a P.A. as well?”

Dave, Mike and Sandra all looked at each other as realisation dawned.

“Oh, fuuuuuuck!”

Bethany Askew and Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I appreciate that the headline looks rather like I am about to reveal news of a salacious affair between modern day author Bethany Askew, and early nineteenth century poet and philosopher, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and, in a very real sense, perhaps that is quite close to the truth. Because Bethany has spent an enormous amount of time in the company of the great man while researching for her twin novels about his life. Three Extraordinary Years, set largely in Somerset, and The Two Saras, set predominantly in Cumbria.

You wait ages for a novel about Samuel Taylor Coleridge and then two come along at once.

Deep Down Research

Bethany Askew has spent many hours entertaining visitors at the National Trust Coleridge Cottage (Still closed at time of writing 29th Aug 2020) in Nether Stowey. Here, before lockdown commenced, she could be found helping visitors understand more about the life of Coleridge and those three extraordinary years that he spent in the small drafty cottage with his new wife Sara, and their young family; a period in which he wrote some of his most famous works, including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. She also read copiously about the poet, as the long bibliography at the back of the book will attest, so you can be sure that while the books are written as fiction, they are deeply rooted in solid facts.

Three Extraordinary Years: The Coleridges at Stowey

Lockdown Launch

Her books were already well on the way to launch before the COVID situation developed and so we launched the books anyway. Despite not being able to have a proper physical launch when the time came, we did in fact see a very healthy flurry of sales, and now that bookshops are reopening we are seeing a continuation of sales that is respectable and solid.

The Two Saras: Coleridge in Cumbria

If you haven’t already got a copy of Three Extraordinary Years, and The Two Saras I would urge you to order them from your local bricks and mortar bookshop (in the UK). Alternatively ask your local library to order a copy for you to borrow.

If you can’t get to a bookshop or library (I feel very sorry for you) or you are not in the UK, then you can buy online from us (a flat rate P&P charge is applied so it’s worth buying a few books at once).

Sins as Red as Scarlet – by Janet Few

C17th Historic fiction from the author of Barefoot on the Cobbles

August sees the launch of the second novel from respected historian and genealogist, Janet Few. With a slew of acclaimed non-fiction books in her back catalogue, Janet sat down to write “Barefoot on the Cobbles” a novel based very closely on real events that took place in Clovelly around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Meticulously researched and beautifully written it has sold solidly since publication. We are now looking forward to another bestseller from Janet.

Sins as Red as Scarlet

Sins as Red as Scarlet is a time-slip historical fiction set in 17th century Devon and the present day. Janet Few knows more than most about the century of the English civil war and the Mayflower sailing since she spent many years as a historical reenactor at the Torrington 1646 living history exhibition (now sadly just a cafe) and she still forms an integral part of the Swords and Spindles living history group which came from that exhibition. She also maintains an excellent blog covering aspects of historical research, genealogy, and her writing including her other books on her History Interpreter blog.

2020 and the pandemic

While most of the story takes place in the 17th century, this also interweaves with the life of a modern day student, Martha, who is studying history and meanwhile having problems of her own in 2020 Devon.
Now, as Janet was putting the finishing touches to the story, events of 2020 overtook her, leaving her with a serious dilemma. The writing had to be finished back in May, to give sufficient time to go through two stages of editing, as well as formatting the book ready for printing, followed by proof reading the printed block, and then for the print run to be completed in time to be able to send out ARCs to key reviewers.
All this for a story set partly in the middle of the worst global pandemic in living memory. For consistency reasons, it was not practical to change the modern-day setting to 2019, therefore, a decision was made to largely ignore SARS-CoV2/COVID-19, and to state that the setting is an AU (alternative universe) 2020 in which the disease does not have the impact it does. We hope this small alteration is acceptable and can only apologise that we could not realise it in the real world.

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book.

The true story of a Devon town in turmoil

It is 1682. Across the land, the Age of Reason has begun; scientific thought is ousting superstitious belief. The menacing days of the witchfinder have all but gone. Nevertheless, in Devon’s county town, three impoverished women from Byddeforde are condemned to death for the crime of witchcraft. In Byddeforde we find the rich merchants, the flourishing tobacco warehouses and the bustle of ships setting sail for the Newfoundland cod-banks. Yet, barely hidden, are layers of intolerance and antagonism that have built up over decades. Sins as Red as Scarlet is the unfolding of the lives of those whose prejudices and fears were shaped by the turmoil of plague, of war and of religious dissent.
In an alternative 2020, sixteen-year-old Martha, herself a bullies’ target, undertakes a school local history project. Probing the motivations and beliefs of Bideford’s seventeenth century residents, Martha comes to understand how past events might lead ordinary people to become the victims, the accusers, or the accused.

Cover Design by the Branch Line

Janet had a very clear idea how she wanted the cover to look and she engaged local artist Robin Paul a.k.a. The Branch Line to create it. The dark and forbidding image in black, white, and red is striking and beguilingly simple. We chose a font called “Hamlet or Not” to give a suitably C17th feel and this was pillow embossed and bordered with a black stroke and a white outer glow to make it stand out. The result is appropriately sanguine.

Small section of a larger poster of bird pictures by Robin Paul. See The Branch Line for more.

In terms of art style, this cover is a big change from most of Robin’s work which is more obviously suited to children’s books etc. Things like birds and furry animals being common features, like this puffin for example.

Preorder special offer

Now, for those who love their history, both fiction and non-fiction, you may wish to head over to Janet’s blog and pre-order direct from her because she has a brilliant offer available. Here’s what she says.

The first 500 people who pre-order Sins as Red as Scarlet (RRP £9.99), to be sent to a UK address, by 28 August 2020, will receive a copy of my social history of the seventeenth century Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs (RRP £12.95) absolutely free. These will be signed copies. They will also have the opportunity to purchase the accompanying CD for £3 (RRP £4). There will be no charge for UK postage. So if you are interested in this, you need to go to her site here and contact her directly.

West Yorkshire History – Venturing From Our Comfort Zone

Blue Poppy Publishing Goes Beyond Devon

Just a Small North Devon Publisher

When I started Blue Poppy Publishing in 2016, I simply imagined it would add an air of respectability to my self-published fantasy novel, “Children of the Wise Oak“. I had seen the lovely imprint that Liz Shakespeare uses, for her Letterbox Books, and I wanted something like that.

However, once I had gone through the tortuous process of buying ISBNs (which are MUCH cheaper by the hundred and even cheaper still by the thousand) and setting up distribution through Nielsen, I realised that many self-publishing authors would want help with the process, and so the idea was born to publish other local North Devon authors if they wanted it.

Beyond Devon’s Borders

Fast forward almost four years to the present day, spring 2020 (in the middle of a global pandemic and lockdown) and we are publishing more authors and books than I can hold in my little head. And by no means all of them are from Devon any more. In fairness, one of the first authors I had the privilege to help publish was Joni Dee, who lives and works in London. His gripping contemporary political espionage thriller “And the Wolf Shall Dwell” is largely set in that great city with a vivid and harrowing depiction of terrorism which is written so well it walks a tightrope of conflicting emotions… well, read it you’ll see.

But apart from Joni, we kept it pretty much exclusively North Devon/Devon for a few years. But this year, we are pushing the boundaries and I am scared! Scared bcause it is MUCH harder to sell a book in Devon if the customer cannot relate to it. We do really well with “Barefoot on the Cobbles” set in Clovelly, or “A Breat of Moonscent” a memoir of growing up in wartime Dolton. But we don’t do half as well with my own books, set in iron-age Europe, or with something like “Ethereal Tenant” a tense speculative fiction novel about a child who develops an alter ego which begins to take over his life, but is set largely in Leicestershire and London.

So here I am now with books that are not only set outside Devon, but also written by people from outside Devon as well. So let’s do a quick rundown of what we have on offer.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Somerset and Cumbria

Three Extraordinary Years: The Coleridges at Stowey by Bethany Askew
The Two Saras: Coleridge in Cumbria by Bethany Askew

Not only are these two books both set entirely outside Devon, but the author, Bethany Askew, is from Somerset! Shock horror!

The first, “Three Extraordinary Years” is set in Nether Stowey, Somerset, at the cottage now known as Coleridge Cottage and run by the National Trust. The second, “The Two Saras” takes place in Cumbria when Coleridge lived at Blake Hall, Keswick. We have already enjoyed god success selling these books which I can only attribute to the combination of Bethany’s already well established author credentials and the broad interest in anything to do with STC and the Lakeland Poets.

Children’s Book from the Land of Jam-First

A Clattering Beneath the Woods by Sally Hubbard

Cornwall, or Kernow as I habitually call it, is the setting for “A Clattering Beneath the Woods”. This is a delightful children’s chapter book which is set on the banks of the Tamar River, the ancient boundary between Devon (cream first) and Kernow (jam first). The story is written in the style of the classics of children’s literature. I’m not saying it is in the same league as Winnie the Pooh, Swallows and Amazons, Wind in the Willows, or the Secret Garden. I am happy and confident to leave that comparison to you. I’m just saying that you won’t find a fart joke anywhere in the book and we didn’t go through the text and remove any words that a child might not have learned yet. (Because if you never read a new word, you will never learn a new word).

We are also working on another book for Children which is set even further into Kernow, but more of that later.

Portugal – Yoga – Rescue Dogs

A Dog Called Buddha by Steve Jamison.

We also have a book which, although written by Steve Jamison from North Devon, he now lives at least half the time in a place called Cha in Portugal. “A Dog Called Buddha” is the story of him escaping the Iberian wildfires of OCtober 2017 in an old Landrover with four rescue dogs. If I were to try and think of a book that was further from what we have previously done then I would struggle to come up with anything better than this, but I am pleased to say it is selling well. I must again presume that this is Steve’s reputation among those who know him, but I perhaps the appeal of dogs and true life stories is also driving sales. I do know that our editor, Sarah Dawes was sufficiently impressed to preorder a copy, and that’s always a good sign since she has of course, already read it several times.

Did I Mention Yorkshire?

Yorkshire Rebel by Ron Riley

So now we come to the book that inspired the title of this post. “Yorkshire Rebel – The Life and Times of John Lindley 1770 – 1850” (coming soon) is a straight up history book. Not historical fiction, not a memoir, but a proper well researched well writen history of the West Yorkshire revolt of 1820. The book was written by Ron Riley, a very meticulous amateur historian, who had some copies printed previously but just as ring bound A4 books. This edition is a 200th anniversary hardcover with brand new artowkr specially painted for the book.

The subject matter is the events leading up to and following the West Yorkshire Revolt, including covering the Luddite, and Chartist movements, with attention paid to social conditios in the industrial revolution, and of course covering the transportation of convicts to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania).

Yorkshire Rebel is now available to order in hardcover for £19.99 with Free P&P to UK addresses (£4 to EU and £8 to the rest of the world) ORDER PAGE

You can also buy a paperback version. I’m sorry, it is not as nice, but it is a little cheaper if all you want is to read the book. It is on Amazon UK for £15.99 and on all other Amazon sites for a (hopefully) similar price in the local currency.

Announcing the Birth of Twins During Lockdown

Blue Poppy Publishing is thrilled to be able to announce that author Bethany Askew has delivered twins. To be specific, we are talking here of non-identical twin novels.

In the early hours of 28th April we welcomed the arrival of Three Extraordinary Years: The Coleridges at Stowey, and The Two Saras: Coleridge in Cumbria. Both weighed in at a healthy nine pounds each (£8.99 to be exact) and will be available from all good bookshops just as soon as all good bookshops are able to reopen and Gardners wholesale distribution returns to normal.

In the meantime, you can still buy both books on our website through our fully secure shop and best of all, there is no extra charge for postage and packing.

Ignore Stephen King and His “Silly” Rules for Writing.

I’m actually not going to say very much on this subject because I have actually seen another blog post which sums up everything I want to say already, so I am just going to make a few points and then shsre a link.

Why you should ignore writing rules, especially when given out by famous successful authors.

Constantly, on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, I am bombarded with well meaning but useless advice about how to write well, or rather how NOT to write BADLY. Often these “rules for writing” are attributed to Stephen King. But you should ignore him and all the rules. (Up to a point).

Who am I to criticise the great Stephen King?

Good question, I am an unsuccessful author. Sorry, correction, I am a yet-to-be-successful author. Mr King is a giant of literature. So where do I get off dissing him? Wel I’ll tell you where, I don’t try to tell you how to write because how you write is YOUR STYLE. If you follow Stephen King’s rules then you might end up writing more like Stephen King but you will never BE Stephen King and you won’t sell a many books as him. Meanwhile you will have abandonned YOUR style.

There’s nothing wrong with Mr King’s muse. I’m not a fan of horror myself, but that doesn’t mean he is not good, just not my cup of tea. but regardless of anything else, there are 7 billion people on the planet and we don’t all want the same thing. If we did, it would be a funny old world as my mum used to say.

Write the Book You Want to Read.

This is a phrase which I believe I coined. I mean sure, plenty of people have said it before, but I didn’t hear it anywhere else. I just worked it out myself.

Write the book YOU would like to read, and then go and find people who are like YOU.

How to Become a Multi-Million selling Author.

So one last thing before I post this link fr the much better blog than mine. LOL

I saw a tweet about how you could sell X-million books just like Stephen King and I just shook my head in despair.

I mean what a crock. You can remove every adverb in your MS, use short words, and all the other twaddle he talks about, you can use every marketing trick in the book but the reason Stephen Kings sells millions of books is PARTLY because he is an objectively good writer and PARTLY because he sells millions of books.

If you or I wrote The Institute we would sell a few dozen copies. That’s because we didn’t write Carrie, or The Shining or any of the others. Also because we don’t have a million dollar marketing budget.

So, quit trying to be like Stephen King and concentrate on being like YOU.

Still not convinced, here’s that better blog item for you. https://publishedtodeath.blogspot.com/2013/07/on-writing-why-i-dont-listen-to-stephen.html

Because You’re Worth It! – Pricing your Self-Published Book

Why self-publishing authors should not sell themselves too cheap

My qualification for writing this is I have done it wrong in the past, and now I think I do it more or less right. I’m definitely coming at this from the school of hard knocks. My very first book was a short story for children, and I tried to keep it as cheap as possible, cutting the page length by cramming the words up and chucking out the pictures, I used the thinnest paper too, and gave myself almost no profit margin. I still have copies of that terrible book and I use it to warn others. Like the ancient mariner at the wedding, I stop one in three. I hope you are the third.

How much should I sell my self-published book for?

So you’ve written a book. It may be a novel, a collection of poems or short stories, a children’s chapter book or picture book, or perhaps it is non-fiction, a carefully researched historical work perhaps. Regardless of the subject you want to get it published and ‘out there’ for people to read. Sure you’d like to make money too, but you know that unknown authors rarely make much and right now you just want people to read your book and tell you what they think. Well, as long as they think it’s good, right? So you figure the best thing to do is make your book as cheap as you possibly can, right? WRONG!

Price your book at the right price.

No matter whether your book is self-published or the product of a big-name publisher there is a right price for it, and that price is never the cheapest you can possibly make it. But I’m not just going to pontificate; I am going to explain exactly why using logic and reasoning.

Price is NOT the only purchasing criteria

A potential reader must make an investment of TIME to read your book. They must provide space on their shelf for the physical product too. If they don’t want to READ your book, then even making it free won’t induce them to take a copy. If you don’t believe me, try standing on a busy street conrer handing out copies of your book for nothing and see how many people walk past. Some will even take it and then leave it on a bench somewhere or stick it in the bin when they realise it’s not their kind of thing.

The process of a customer buying a physical book goes in four stages

  1. Look at the cover. If they like that then;
  2. They pick up the book and turn it over to read the blurb. If – then etc.;
  3. They may read the first paragraph or so. If at that point they are still interested;
  4. They will get their money out and pay ANY AMOUNT … within reason.

Whether your book is £1 £5 £8 £10 or even more, if they
WANT TO READ it, they WILL BUY it. —

Don’t make your self-published book too cheap

There are several reasons why you should not price your book too cheaply:

As an unknown author your first customers will be people who know you.

I was going to say your first customers will be friends and family, but I have tried to say this to authors before now and they say, “My family never support me in anything I do” or, “Hah! My friends told me where I could stick my book!” The fact remains that your first sales will, inevitably, be to people who ‘already know you exist‘. You will discover people you scarcely know, social media friends, or an old school mate, who will support you to the hilt, and others who you thought were good mates who just say, “I don’t really read much, but I’ll share your link if it helps.” Either way, your first foray into the quaggy mire of book marketing will be to people who would buy your book at almost any price. So if you pitch your 70k paperback novel at them for a fiver they will buy it and think they are helping you out; but they will buy it just as readily at £8 or even £10 so why sell yourself short to the only people who care? (The same rules apply in Dollars, Euros, or Yen, and it’s the same for e-books too, but different numbers.)

Nobody will buy your book at ANY price, not even free, if they don’t know it exists.

Once you have exhausted your immediate circle of friends you discover the painful truth that you are not David Walliams, or Stephen King, and your books will not sell simply because of your name. More to the point, they will not seek out your book eagerly, anticipating the next great work from the pen of… who are you again? I’m not saying this from any smug superior position, this is literally the painful lesson I had to learn. The only way you stand a remote chance of getting your book read is for a potential reader to see it. And the only way that will happen (often enough to be useful) is if you pay someone else to tell people about it.

I am of course referring to advertising. And if you are going to pay for advertising, then you sure as heck need to make a profit when you sell a book. Unless this is just a hobby and either you or your rich dad/mum/aunt/boyfriend/girlfriend whatever, is going to pay for it.

When you run a promotion, where do you go from rock bottom?

Whether we are talking about a physical product, i.e. a paperback, or a digital product, i.e. e-book, the same rule applies. If you are not making any profit to start with, then you have nowhere to go when you want to give people a special incentive to buy.  

Big retailers know this. They know you want a bargain in the sales, so they often overprice things for a few months before offering a big 50% discount and selling it for the price they actually need to make a profit. You could call them cynical, but the customer is a part of this game too. If the shop starts with the correct price and you still wait for the sales, then they have no room to discount and could be left with unsold stock.  

So give yourself a decent margin from the start, and only offer a discount when you are running a special promotion. You will still have to pay to advertise that promotion, otherwise nobody will know. (see point above).

Your price sends a message about how you value your product.

If you price your e-book at 99p, or worse FREE, then you are telling the customer that is all you think your work is worth. Why not add something in the blurb as well? “This book isn’t much good, but it’s free…” No?

Maybe I am being too harsh, I have books priced at 99p, but that’s because they are short, and I actualy do think that’s what they are worth. My novels are all £3.99 ($4.99) and they are worth every penny.

Don’t overprice your self-published book either.

It is just almost as bad to overprice your book. Of course, you may still make the odd sale and if you do you made more profit.

But an exorbitant price will put off all but the most determined buyers, and you do want people to buy your book.

So how do I know what’s the right price?

OK, I can almost hear you screaming, “But you haven’t TOLD me how much my book should be yet!”

Well, this is where we get into linear dimensions of string territory, but there are some fundamentals that are going to affect your choice.

Let’s talk about paperbacks first, because they have an intrinsic cost to produce, unlike e-books. If you are using print on demand, there will be a minimum price you can sell your books for to cover the print costs and the platform’s cut. So clearly you need to add on some profit for you. With a print run the cost per book is cheaper, but you also have to consider capital outlay and possible postage costs. I need to sell my books for at least three times the print cost to justify printing at all.

You also want to avoid going overboard and asking silly money for your book. So a good start is to check the prices of similar books from big publishers, however, be careful to compare like-for-like.

You are not in competition with mass market pulp fiction!

Those racks of books that sell for £3.99 are not the same as yours. They are probably not as good as yours, and I’m not just being nice. They are written to a formula. Readers buy them because they devour books of that type and they know what they are getting. They are the MacDonald’s of the book world. Your book is more like a home prepared meal for a posh dinner party. You’ve put LOVE into it.

If we are talking about novels, then there is a rule-of-thumb which I have found stands me in good stead. Short novels (50k-70k) £7.99 – Longer novels (70k-90k) £8.99 – and epic tomes (90k+) £9.99 (or a tenner perhaps on Amazon, so the buyer gets free postage?) Yes, you can go higher still. I would reckon up to £11.99 might be the ceiling for fiction.

Shorter books can be less, but rarely less than £4.99  If you really think your paperback book is worth less than a fiver, then consider lengthening it or adding pictures. It costs £2 to post a small book (large letter 1st class, inland UK) and £3 for one of 320 pages or more. (small parcel 2nd class).

Non-fiction is a little more difficult to price and so you will need to do more research into similar books. One thing that is definitely the case is that non-fiction can be priced a LOT higher if the content justifies it. I have far less experience of non-fiction so you will need to do some more research but as a bare minimum, make sure you are making a healthy profit from selling your book at the regular price.

What About my E-book Price?

Your e-book price can be whatever you want, with the same rules as discussed applying. I tend to pitch all mine at 50% of the paperback price. If you are selling exclusively on Amazon and want the 70% royalty rate then you can’t go below $2.99 or above $9.99 so your options are limited there.

Whatever you decide, I wish you luck. Writing the book was the easy part.

Mrs Slocombe’s Bull at a gate Cookery Book

New Cookery Book by Tracey Slocombe (AKA Mrs Slocombe) from North Devon

Front cover of Mrs Slocombe's Bull at a Gate Cookery Book

Blue Poppy Publishing are immensely excited to be about to launch* “Mrs Slocombe’s Bull at a Gate Cookery Book on the good people of Devon and beyond. This is definitely not your run-of-the-mill cookery book. While there are plenty of great recipes for a wide range of dishes straight from Mrs Slocombe’s own personal repertoire, it also includes humorous stories of her misadventures in search of good food and convivial company. So if you like a full belly, and plenty of belly laughs then this is the book for you.

* At time of writing the book is due in a couple of weeks.

Serious Recipes – With a Fun Accompaniment

Mrs Slocombe’s Bull at a Gate Cookery Book is packed full of great tried and trusted recipes accompanied by mouth-watering photographs of the finished dish, so you know what it was supposed to look like. And then, interspersed with the serious stuff there are the funny stories, such as how Tracey Slocombe came to produce her famous chilli beef, or her lengthy recipe for rice pudding (the hard way!). Tracey’s style includes plenty of humour even within the recipes as she just can’t resist a double entendre if one presents itself.

Famous Guest Recipes

Simon Dawson

Tracey has called on one or two of her friends to make a small contribution to her Bull at a Gate Cookery Book.

  • Simon Dawson; smallholder, radio presenter and published author, has contributed his recipe for Beer Bread.
  • Oliver Tooley; former radio presenter, author and publisher, has contributed a tongue-in-cheek recipe for drunken cooking. (We don’t recommend you actually follow that recipe).
  • Julie Kingdom; has provided the recipe for her fruit cake, which was always a favourite of her husband, the late great Johnny Kingdom.
  • Julian Seager; the TV and film actor known for such things as Fisherman’s Friends, Poldark, Doc Martin, and Viking Legacy doesn’t have much time for cooking, but Tracey does create an easy Viking mead for him.

Gingerbread Montys

Mr Slocombe, as Tracey Slocombe’s other half has become known by default was involved with the All New Monty on ITV this year 2019, along with celebrities like comedian Joe Pasquale, and snooker ace Willie Thorne. In honour of the appearance, Mrs Slocombe cooked up a special batch of gingerbread. The book includes the recipe and takes a moment to extol the virtues of regular check ups for such things as prostate cancer.

North Devon Inspired Recipes

Ilfracombe Slammer

Included in Mrs Slocombe’s Bull at a Gate Cookery Book are several recipes which take a touch of inspiration for the Devon countryside that Tracey calls home. There are a couple of tasty cocktails, the “River Taw” and the “Ilfracombe Slammer”, the South Molten pudding, Milton Damerel Pork Pie, and Hartland Tiddy/Teddy/Toddy Pastries. There’s also Beef Torrington, which is inspired by the Torrington Cavaliers.

Speaking of Charity…

As well as the Beef Torrington there is a brilliant recipe, inspired by K9 Focus, called “Lickin’ Lips Liver Cake”.
This one is strictly intended for the beloved pooch or pussy in your life.

Where Can I Buy Mrs Slocombe’s Bull at a Gate Cookery Book?

You can buy this book from any bookshop anywhere in the UK. (Even if they don’t have it in stock they can order it. All Blue Poppy Publishing books are distributed via the standard book ordering system used by all book retailers and libraries.) There’s a list of bookshops in Devon in this blog post.

You can also order it direct from this website or in person from Tracey Slocombe, and there will be a long list of other outlets stocking it that I will try to post up for you at a later date. Before you buy it online, have a think about where you want the profit to go. If you buy it from us, we get the most profit which is nice for us, but if you want to support local business feel free to get it in your local bookshop. Use it or lose it, as the saying goes. Alternatively, if you are good friends with Tracey she will probably sign it for you, and she has worked like crazy on this book and she deserves to make something back from it.

Some notes on editing a self-published book.

As well as being a writer, and a publisher of other writers, I used to present a radio show called “Book Club” on The Voice, a local community radio station in North Devon
(as a volunteer).
I see lots of self-published books. Most are reasonably well edited, but one or two have come to my attention which appear to have been written for school homework and not even marked. One of the worst had an error in the dedication and multiple errors on the first page. That book and, many like it, are not just embarrassing to the author, they also give the world of self-publishing a bad reputation that the rest of us have to work twice as hard to shake off. Sorry if that sounds overdramatic.

I know a few authors who do a passable job of self-editing although I would never recommend it (few of us are blessed with the ability to see our own mistakes, as a cursory glance over the articles in this website will illustrate!) Many more will pass their manuscript over to a trusted friend or family member who has a talent for spotting mistakes, but by far the best option is to get a professional editor. It need not cost the earth, and is money well spent if you aim to sell beyond your closest circle of friends.

There are three broad types of editing as follows. Unfortunately, the terms used and their definitions are not universally agreed on, as a brief serach of the internet will reveal. I am using the following terms and will explain each below.

  • Structural/developmental edit
  • Line edit
  • Copy edit

A structural edit or developmental edit will look at the overall structure of the book. If it is a novel, the editor may suggest removal of entire paragraphs or even chapters, adding new chapters, changing the sequence of chapters, changing the ending, the motivation of the main characters, removal of excessive characters, speeding up the pace by removing description, changing “tell” to “show” etc etc.

N.B. We’ve never consciously done this at Blue Poppy Publishing partly because our authors are already pretty good at telling their story, and partly because we don’t work to a formula. That’s not to say we will never go down this route, but I don’t expect to any time soon. What almost always happens, however, is that the author will send their first draft to a few trusted Beta readers who will, sometimes, read it and provide feedback. If the author agrees with the feedback they will make changes, usually before we see the M/S.

A line edit is more about checking for things like overall sentence structure, e.g. avoiding run on sentences, clunky grammar, etc. , consistency, e.g. do the heroe’s eyes change colour, or does a supporting character change name part way through the book? The line edit will also correct spellings, grammar, and punctuation as it goes through but this is also considered in more detail at the copy edit stage.

The copy edit, also sometimes called proofreading, is the final nit-picking stage. This is where, we hope, the last stray spelling error, abberrant
or superfluous comma, and missing full-stop is corrected. I say “we hope” because while we aim for perfection, I suspect that typographical errors are a little like bacteria; you can only reduce them to an acceptable level, and never eradicate them completely. As an example, after three passes of editing, and during the formatting stage, I noticed that “St. Pancras Station” in London, had been rendered as “St. Pancreas”! I corrected that, but we still found four or five things that were arguably incorrect after printing. The book concerned currently has 55 reviews and an average 4.4 stars on Amazon, so I think we got away with it.

In the main, because we have to work to a tight budget, we usually get a general line edit and copy edit rolled into one.

You should anticipate costs of at least £10 per thousand words for a decent job of editing. More if your manuscript requires it and a LOT more if you also need a structural edit.

Most editors will edit a few pages of your MS and give you a clear idea of their costs once they know your style and the work likely to be involved. This will also give you a clear indication of the sort of improvements they are likely to make.

Recommended editors.

We have used a number of editors in particular Sarah Dawes thankthecat@gmail.com who edits all of my (Oliver’s) books.
Sarah is a member of the Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders and is always my first choice.
I can wholeheartedly recommend Sarah. She will not only pick up obvious typographical, punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors, as you would expect, but will also fact check all sorts of things, from historical details and anachronisms, to foreign words and phrases (she sent my Latin to her old Latin teacher for marking! Oh the shame!)
She will also pick up on continuity errors, and will frequently rewrite clunky sentences in vastly better prose than I could conjure up. (Her experience as a ghostwriter probably comes in useful here).

Helen Baggot edited “And the Wolf Shall Dwell”. Her website is helenbaggott.co.uk/
It is worth noting that Helen works a little differently from most editors usually doing a series of passes for a lower rate per thousand words, and then passing the MS back to the author for approval. This is a useful method for self-published authors on a tight budget because if they feel confident enough in their work that they can get away with only one or two passes of editing, then they may save money. It also allows them to spread out the cost of editing; usually the largest single expense apart from printing, over a period of time.

Another lady who has edited and helped to publish other authors, in Ilfracombe and North Devon, is Paula Good at PG Office Services who offers a range of services beyond editing including formatting and print services.

It is worth noting that all good editors are ruthlessly efficient, but don’t be afraid. They are on your side! I will add others here as and when.

In a perfect world, with unlimited money, you would have three or four separate pairs of eyes, one for each stage of the editing process, but we don’t live in a perfect world, and writers like to eat food just like normal people. You can get a good full editing job done with one editor for around £10-£20 per thousand words (at the time of writing).

Formatting

Formatting is still partly editing, but is also a separate stage in which the priority is no longer correcting mistakes. This is the part where your raw manuscript, possibly still typed out in double-line spacing and the default font of your word processor, is turned into a beautifully laid out book and exported as a PDF ready for printing. There is a cheap way of doing this which involves pouring your text into a formatting software app and accepting whatever comes out the other side. The better way is to format it properly by human hand and eye. You can learn to do this yourself, or pay someoen like me to do it for you. At the moment I cahrge £1 per 1,000 words, so even if it’s a massive tome of 100k words, you’ll only be forking out a ton. If money is really tight (I know the feeling) then I’ll be writing a “how to format” article soon.

Proofreading

Strictly speaking, the term “proofreading” refers to the process of reading the “proof” copy and checking for any last minute errors, in particular any errors which only manifest themselves when the book is printed. This could include abberrant punctuation or spelling errors that somehow got through the entire process of editing, but it is more about making sure the gutter is wide enough, the pages are all actually assembled correctly* and that everything looks as it should before we give the final instruction to the printer to proceed. This is a step which most self-published authors probably miss but if you can take the time at least to check every page and the front and back cover for any last minute inconsistencies then it may save you an expensive mistake on a long print run.

*Yes, we once had a consignement of books in which the last 64 pages were in the wrong order – not our error, thank goodness!

How do I Self Publish my book in the UK?

A famous quotation goes something like “Everyone has a book in them.” and, although the quote goes on to say, “…and in most cases that’s where it should stay.” we at Blue Poppy Publishing think that there are still a lot of great books, both fiction and non-fiction that could and should be published.

A bit about Blue Poppy Publishing, Devon.

I am at great pains to point out that we are not a vanity publisher, but also we are not a traditional publisher either. I guess we are really an “assisted self-publishing” company, suitable for someone who has already decided to self-publish anyway but needs a little extra help.

That means that if we publish your book, we don’t buy the rights, or guarantee sales, but we will help with those aspects of self-publishing that you either can’t or won’t do yourself and, while we try to keep costs to a minimum, it will be you paying the bills just as if you did it all yourself.

Blue Poppy PublishingTM

Of course, we do still have to make sure we don’t publish a book that isn’t well written, interesting, original and well produced. Every book that carries the “Blue Poppy Publishing” logo will affect the sales of our other books. If it is good, then readers may want to try our other authors. If it is awful they will never forgive us.

Also, we tend only to want to work with authors from our local area, and then again, you might just want to do it all yourself and not involve us at all. So as crazy as it may seem, I’m going to set out some of the things you need to know to self-publish a book in the UK.

This will then link to other articles giving you more detail on each area.


The Basics of Self-Publishing.

Cost of Self-Publishing

Anything from nothing to a few thousand pounds is usual.

You can publish a book for zero cost, but you should be careful. A great deal depends on what your hopes and aspirations are for your book, but even if you only want to print off a few copies for close friends and family, you should at least take the time to ensure your book has been properly edited, even if that just means re-reading what you have written and trying to correct obvious spelling mistakes. You will also need to format the book and create a cover. If you are good at these things already, or are willing to learn, you may be able to do them yourself, although there is an art to book cover design that arguably extends beyond what can realistically be taught.

If you have ambitions to be a professional or semi-professional writer, then you really do need to spend some money to make sure your book is up to scratch. But how much should you spend and who can you trust in a minefield of companies who are out to take your money?

We have certain trusted editors, illustrators, cover designers, and printers whom we have used on previous occasions and I will provide their details. We also offer formatting and cover design and preparation in-house, although I make no claim to being a top cover designer I don’t charge much.

Yes, but how much?

How long is a piece of string? Well here goes.

Basic editing costs, as a rough rule of thumb, £10 per 1,000 words.
If your book needs a structural edit and major rewriting then I don’t know because we’ve never done that, all our authors can write a good enough book to start with. For more on editing see here.

Formatting is something you can do yourself, but if you don’t want to learn how, we can format a typical digital manuscript in ‘Word’ for £1 per 1,000 words. If your book needs to be formatted using inDesign it will be more and depends on several factors.

For cover design, again, most people can do this themselves, but if you can’t or don’t want to, you can spend anything from £10 for a plain one-colour cover with the title and author name, to several thousand pounds on a fancy production from a famous cover designer. We would suggest you don’t spend more than £500 though. The most we ever spent was £600 for artwork.

Printing; of course you don’t have to do a print run at all. You can use a Print on Demand (PoD) service, such as Ingram Spark and or Amazon KDP. We like to do a print run if we can though because the unit cost per book works out cheaper; sometimes a lot cheaper.

UK book parameters.

How big should your book be? What type of paper? Which font should you use? These are all questions that plague new self-publishing authors. The problem is there is no single correct answer to any of these type of questions, but there are at least a few possible guidelines you might want to follow.

Size matters

One option is to take a ruler into a bookshop and measure books similar to the one you have written. I did that. I felt stupid.

Novels

If you are talking about a novel, there is one best size for UK distribution. It’s 198mm x 129mm (we also produce some books in 195 x 125 for cost reasons of which more later) Other sizes can be used, but this is the size of most paperbacks you can buy in bookshops.

While on the subject of novels, there is a lot of dispute about how many words constitutes a novel. NaNoWriMo accepts 50,000 words as a full length novel and I’m going to accept that, although a great many novels are from 85-100k words these days. I think that fewer than 50k is a novella, and 10k is a short story.

Non-fiction

There are a range of sizes in non-fiction which can include the standard novel size, mentioned above. This is ideal for memoirs and narrative non-fiction for example. Other sizes, such as A4, A5, 9″ x 6″, 10″ x 8″ etc. are also common. A lot will depend on things like how and where you expect people to read the book. A coffee table book will want a large format, whereas a pocket guide to cheese will need to be, well, pocket sized. Who you choose to do your printing may also be a factor in your choice.

Children’s Books

With younger children’s books (3-7+ years) all bets are off. They can be all sorts of sizes. That said, a square format 8″ x 8″ is a good starting point. 8″ x 10″ in either landcape or portrait can also work, as can A4 or A5.

Novels for older children (6+ years) will usualy fall into the same category as novels for adults. Rules for children’s non-fiction are equally reflected in those for adults.

Paper quality

If you use a PoD publisher like KDP then you don’t get much choice. You can’t uaully print hardback editions either. If you use a printer you have far more parameters. It’s a minefield of options for different purposes, but the first and biggest choice you have to make is whether to use white paper or cream (or beige or whatever they call it). The choice is relatively simple.

  • Novel? Cream
  • Non-fiction? White
  • Kids’ picture book? White

I like to use 90gsm instead of the standard 80gsm because a teeny bit more luxury is worth it for a nicer product feel. Will the customer notice? Not consiciously, no; but subconsciously they will.

For children’s books I tend to think 115gsm is preferable, and have even gone to 150 gsm, for example on the luxury edition of “Teeny Tiny Witch”.

Fonts

This begins to fall under formatting, which is a whole separate subject in itself. As a very rough guide, print books for regular readers should use a “serif” font. I use Garamond for adults and young adult books or Century Schoolbook for children’s books, although others, such as Times New Roman, Georgia, or Palatino are just as good. Note that different fonts look larger or smaller than each other for a given size. Of these Garamond is the smallest, which is why I usually use it at 12pt. Century schoolbook is the largest of those shown here, and I tend to use 12pt for older children (8-12) and 14 point for younger readers (6-10).

Different serif typefaces shown in size order from smallest, Garamond, to largest Century Schoolbook. The fonts shown are Garamond, Times New Roman, Georgia, Palatino, and Century Schoolbook.

For very young children, beginner readers, I prefer to use a simple sans serif font with ‘single story’ A, and G etc. however, following the golden rule of never using ‘Comic Sans’ I searched for alternatives.

Please don’t imagine there are any hard and fast rules for children’s books, but I like to try and give them a fighting chance of reading for themselves by using a familiar and fairly regular font which resembles how they are first taught to write.

If you want to get creative, do it in the headings.

Fonts for reading are clean and simple. It is never a good idea to use any fancy font for the main body text. If you want to use a fancy font on the cover, or in the chapter headings go for it. But even then, don’t go too crazy.