Saturday 15 November 2014

The joy of becoming a self-publisher

It's taken months longer than I'd hoped or expected, but I've finally achieved what for so many authors never happens - I've published my first book and have the proof copy in my hand. I'm ready now to accept orders. The "People of the Bird" are ready to fly!! The reason many never make it this far is simple - the process of publishing, or getting a publisher to accept your book, is too hard or complex or expensive.
I have to admit that I didn't even try and contact a publisher, for several reasons. Doing any publishing or printing in PNG, where my story is based, is going to make the end price too expensive. Traditional printers require minimum print runs which cost a lot up front. The more books they print though, the cheaper the unit cost. The down side is having to pay thousands up front and then having hundreds of books to sell. I didn't want either of those options.
So I looked for options for self-publishing using Print on Demand (POD) technology. It was easy to find information on the web by googling words like "self-publishing", with many helpful blogs listed. Two players emerged as possible, Createspace (Amazon) and Lightening Source/IngramSpark (Ingram). While emerging publishers like Pukpuk Publishing (who print the PNG Crocodile Prize Anthologies, for example - see "PNG Attitude" and "Crocodile Prize" web sites) are using Createspace very successfully, I chose to use Ingramspark. The main reason was that they have print presses around the world including in Melbourne. So I figured it would be cheaper on freight to source my books from Melbourne than USA, where Createspace prints. I believe both print quality products.
I registered myself as a business with ABN in Australia, as a book publisher under the name NENGE BOOKS. This didn't take long as Australian government departments conduct most business online these days. Armed with my new ABN, I was able to register with Ingramspark. This is the one aspect which may make Ingramspark unfriendly to those who wish to print but do not have an ABN, or wish to register as a business just to print.
The process of getting my manuscript into final form for submission was a but cumbersome, and I had several attempts which were rejected by Ingramspark on techincalities. I am not a computer whiz, and use a MacBook which I purchased in 2008. However once I figured out the rules, I was able to send in my manuscript successfully as a "print PDF" copy from WORD.
The cover was a bit more complicated, but Ingramspark sent me a cover template which was relatively easy to fill in with the details spaced where I wanted them, including the cover picture which I had painted.
I'll find it a lot easier to do my next book, the second in the series, or any others now that I know the rules for submitting files.
Once the files are submitted and accepted by Ingramspark, it only takes a day or two and the proof copy is ready to review. While they send it to you electronically as a .pdf, I also chose to order the first copy as a hard copy. I picked up a number of mistakes while reading the proof, and there is provision to resend a corrected text, which I did.
Overall I found the process easily manageable and very cost effective. For example, their initial $59 set up fee is refunded if you order more than 50 books on your first order. The value of POD printing is that one can order one or ten thousand books at a basic price, the book is stored electronically and therefore hard copies are only printed when ordered.
I am still working on getting an ebook version done, as my software does not convert to the format required. I am hoping my brother, who works in computer publishing in Sydney, will help me with this soon!
I'm really happy with the final product printed by Ingramspark in Melbourne. It has a strong laminated matt cover, my colour cover picture came out well, and the book feels really nice to open with good quality paper which turns nicely. I think readers will like the feel of it.
The main challenge now is how to distribute it without having to pay huge freight costs, especially into PNG. A bookstore chain in PNG has offered to sell it and I'll post more information about that on the website soon. I'm hoping that import duty and freight costs don't make the selling price too high!
Having gone this far now, I also hope I can be of assistance to PNG authors who are struggling with how to publish. Would love to hear from you if you are in that situation.

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Why blog about writing this novel about PNG?

Welcome to this blog. While I've written numerous articles, courses and sermons over the years, this is my first attempt to blog. So I'll see how it goes. I wanted to get someway to interact with people who are interested in my stories and to get feedback on the interaction they have with those stories. So I welcome your feedback on this site.

Writing a story like "The People of the Bird" has been on my mind for many years. Little incidents that have happened to me or that I have witnessed over the years began to form as possible scenes in a story. While it is not the story of my personal journey as such, every writer will draw on life experiences which make the narrative more real, more engaging. Whether it has been flying aircraft round some of the bush areas of PNG's remote provinces such as Western, Sandaun and Milne Bay, or engaged in meetings at Board level in a company executive office in Port Moresby, I am very thankful for the depth of experience and insights in PNG that I have gained. I hope that the reality of life in PNG comes through this story, and therefore its deeper message shines through.

I started flying in the 1970's and spent several years in the Western Province when Ok Tedi was starting up. There was no road between Kiunga and Tububil. But even by the late 1970's the people in the mouth of the Fly River were complaining about deformed fish in the river. I believe that some containers of deadly cyanide, used in the gold extraction process, had fallen off a barge. Whatever the cause, the negative environmental impact was already starting to appear.

In 1982 I flew from Wewak to Hoskins and then Kieta and Honiara in a light aircraft, returning two days later. Flying over New Britain I was appalled at the mile after mile of deforestation in some parts of the island. In recent years I have been equally appalled at the deforestation in the Western Provence. I used to fly over virgin jungle, with its untold species of wildlife. Now major parts of the province are or have been logged out, and ugly roads and scarred landscape is left. How much wildlife, critical to maintaining the ecosystem, has been eradicated in the process? What about the loss of useful land for future generations?

At the level of human culture, the impact of exploration and mining has not been all positive. Landowners have received some royalties, and there has been some educational opportunities offered, as well as jobs. But the social cost has been huge with families separated, and increased alcohol abuse and HIV AIDS issues undoubtably one result. I wonder if the social improvement projects by multi-nationals really do little more than pay lip service to the social destruction they may cause?

These are but a few of the impressions which left me with the desire to find a way to express a voice of concern - concern that this beautiful country is being stripped in the name of the dollar and greed. Concern that the cost to local communities may actually be greater than the benefits they receive once they have traded their land and its value as heritage for a few kina.

I am not the first to be concerned about this situation. There are many others from conservationists to political pundits. While I love a good story, I wanted to also use that story to convey a message. It is up to you to decide if I have been successful. I am preparing the book for publication by September but have put some samplers on the Nenge Books website.