Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Self-publishing an ebook #3: FLOWER IN THE DUSTBIN by Howard Thomas

Publishing is changing. With modern technology and ease of online communication many authors are turning to self-publishing ebooks as an alternative route to the traditional method via agents and traditional publishing houses.

In a three part series, three authors talk candidly about their writing journeys, experiences and their strategies for self-publishing an ebook.

Covering three different markets, my third and final post is from Howard Thomas, author of Flower in the Dustbin, a novel for Adults.


*  Hi Howard, and welcome to tall tales & short stories. Would you like to tell us about yourself?

Well, on the outside I’m a fifty something head teacher who runs a successful British school for Spanish children in the beautiful city of Córdoba. On the inside I’m a much younger writer bursting with ideas which often challenge common practice or ideas. I get immense satisfaction from the day job but as time passes the creative rebel within me has started to claim a greater part of my outer persona, especially now that I’ve published an ebook. It’s the third novel I’ve written but the first I’m remotely satisfied with. My plan is to continue writing in my retirement and to devote more time to my oil painting. I’m a restless, active person and I’ve kept on moving on, both physically and intellectually having worked in Peterborough, London, Turin, Madrid, Asturias and now Andalucía. I would also like to experience living in Africa before my time is up.

*  What made you self-publish your novel as an e-book?

I decided to go the e-route once I got control of my ego. My original plan was to take the traditional publishing route after the book became a bestseller on and earned a very positive professional review. It made me wonder if I was going to be the new Nick Hornby or Mark Haddon. I also sent the finished script to Hilary Johnson for an assessment. When Hilary’s feedback was very positive and she offered to show it round a few agents I started to plan where in the Caribbean I would be living next year. However, the agents all liked it but didn’t want to take it on.

I came back down to earth and decided to use the novel as a way of reaching out to as many readers as possible to learn about the market. I started to enjoy the experience and my relationship with the book changed completely when I stopped seeing it as a bestseller waiting in the wings. Of course, it is a bestseller waiting in the wings, it’s just that I’m prepared to be patient now.

It also makes sense to publish online when you live abroad. I couldn’t market a book in the UK very easily from Spain.

*  What has your marketing strategy been?

It’s early days yet but the first step was to set up my website using the Rapidweaver web design programme. It’s focused on the book and why I wrote it. I also signed up for Google Analytics which gives you detailed information about the hits you get. I love it when I have extended visits from far away places such as Gaborone or Saint Petersburg. I imagine some exotic diva drooling over the pages when the reality is probably that they changed a nappy on the keyboard and opened it by mistake.

A colleague at work brought my idea for the cover to life using Photoshop. Since then I’ve had enormous fun teaching myself how to use Gimp, a free photo manipulation programme. That means I can probably produce any future covers myself as well as airbrushing my photos if I want to, which, of course, wouldn’t even cross my mind.

When I uploaded it onto Amazon for Kindle users, I choose a low price as I’d heard that books over 2 euros, dollars or pounds struggle to sell. I also put it onto Smashwords where it made their Premium List. That means that the formatting conforms to their quite strict guidelines and makes the book available to owners of iPad, Sony and other electronic readers.

It’s out there now and it’s started to move, through more than anywhere. The reviews and the feedback are trickling in. It’s a character driven comedy that explores the importance of education during times of war. The most innovative aspect is the use of diary extracts of the semi literate main character as a narrative technique. One of the novel’s unique features is that you watch how his English improves as a result of what he is taught. The initial feedback is that it is easy and enjoyable to read.

I’ve been working away at getting it into the press. Also, I’ve been asked by the parents of the school where I work to give a talk about the book. They are Spanish and therefore not really potential readers but in order to liven up the event I’ve put together a few videos to explain what life was like in 1982 in the UK. I’m quite chuffed with the results and it’s led me to start planning a promotional video about the book in English to put on YouTube.

I understand that Friday is the best day to get on the forums and Amazon to promote your book because it’s when the weekly sales of ebooks peak. I’m too busy during the day and too knackered in the evening to manage it, but I would if I could.

*  Any other plans for the future?

I want to anticipate the market rather than follow it. I don’t think ebooks will replace paperbacks but I’m confident they will seize a sizeable niche. As ebooks are only just getting started over here I’m working on writing a book in Spanish. It’s complete madness. It’s a book for young adults about a boy who has a very unusual concept of how to use language. I’m either heading for market domination or complete and utter crawl under a stone ridicule.

*  Would you recommend self-publishing an ebook to others?

Yes, if you have the computer skills or are willing to learn. There are plenty of posts on the writers’ forums from people who have been frustrated by the demands of laying it out correctly. However, while my book runs to 106,000 words epublishing opens the door to selling quality shorter texts and stories that publishers don’t want to know about. Neither do I see any reason why a book published online should not go on to get a traditional publishing deal, especially if the electronic version sells well.

Advice on Self-Publishing for a Kindle


London 1982. 
When Vince signs up for adult literacy classes he gets more of an education than he bargained for. There’s a thief in his class, the racist BLP party is recruiting and just when he befriends two Argentinean refugees war erupts in the Falklands. 
The tensions spill over into violence that leaves a dead body on the street. When Vince becomes a target his improving literacy provides his best chance of survival in Thatcher’s Britain.




Clare D said...

Thanks for a fascinating series of posts on e-publishing, Tracy - I've really enjoyed reading about the experiences - and hard work - of your contributors and wish them all well with their books.

Clare D said...

Still can't post via Google account the way I used to - Blogger seem to have hijacked that option. Trying via name/url this time.

Clare said...

It works! :)

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