Thursday, 22 May 2008

Academy by Mick Rooney - June 2008

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I began writing Academy around 1992, at a time when we had witnessed the collapse of the Berlin wall, and the map of Europe was steadily changing. New political tyrants and despots emerged in the final decade of the twentieth century who very quickly reminded of us of previous troubled scars. My intention was never to make Academy a political novel; I even hazard to describe it as a novel of sorts.

The thread of the story (and that is what it was, a thread), concerned an Academy clerk, called Leonardo, and his life under the watchful eye of the Academy. The story is like a constant moving fluid throughout the book and no attempt is made to define where the truth and lies begin and end. The only certainty is uncertainty itself.

Academy, like much of my writing, is highly descriptive, almost cinematic, and I often write while also researching linked themes to the book. I wrote the first draft of Academy between 1992 and 1995. In that time, I was reading about the life and work of Leanardo daVinci, a book about the history and development of airships, books about the Third Reich and the Holocaust, Claude Lanzmann’s magnificent and poignant, ‘Shoa’ documentary, books on The Great Siberian Explosion of 1908, and several novels from South America in the magic realism genre. G. W. Pabst’s ‘Pandora’s Box’, a silent film from 1928 also features, as does the themes of photography and the cinema. Somehow in the writing of Academy, all this merged together. I undertook a second re-write in late 1997, and I put the novel aside until a year ago. On and off, I have gone back to it, considered another re-write, but I decided that I had done as much as I could do with it.

What strikes me as stark is the difference in style and approach when I compare it to my latest completed novel, ‘Trees’. It’s strange, books are like children. You give birth to them, nurture, develop them, and one day, suddenly, they are adults. You think back as a parent how your could have done something differently, made it all better, but, the fact is, the books become adults when published; and like adults, you cannot unlearn, forget the memories and the experience; once borne, once a child, you step forward, and you can never go back.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Booklocker Moves on

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The stakes in the current Amazon/Booksurge and POD Publisher situation appear to have taken a further development on Tuesday on this week.

As you will be aware Amazon announced last month that it was requiring POD Publishers to use its own in-company POD printer Booksurge, or face losing the 'first party' Amazon 'buy buttons' on their books available on Amazon US. Well it looks like one publisher, Booklocker, has decided to make a concerted stand against Amazon by filing a class action law suit on Tuesday of this week.

The details of the law suit can be found at this link,

Further details can also be found at

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Excellent Lynn Osterkamp Article on Self Publishing

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Lynn Osterkamp has today posted an excellent article on her blogsite, thepopulistpublisher, entitled "Fear Restricts Self-Publishing".

It really is one of the strongest and most honest articles I've seen on the subject to date.

Here is the link to it.

Adventures with Lulu-Part 2 - Update

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Just a quick update on my last blog article. The Raider Publishing new release hardback title I ordered from Amazon arrived yesterday morning on my doorstep. This book has the identifiable Lightning Source code on the rear blank pages. In short, this strengthens my suspicion that Lulu are indeed now using Booksurge for their printing.

Interesting, Angela Hoy has also touched on this subject in her latest Writersweekly update this week. She has invited authors/publishers to respond to her on the issue about what their experiences are.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Adventures with Lulu - Part 2

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On Friday morning the proof copies of ‘Academy’ arrived back from Lulu, or rather, Lulu’s printers. Now, before I talk about the quality of the proofs, I think I should mention Lulu’s printers. Quite frankly, I don’t know who did the printing for this book!

Most POD (print-on-demand) books, until recently have been printed by Lightning Source in the USA or their plant in Great Britain. What makes the POD book printed by Lightning Source identifiable is a code which appears on the final blank page, the ‘LV’ code. In my POD publisher research over the past year, I have amassed some thirty POD books from various publishers – all have borne the recognisable ‘LV’ code. ‘Academy’ has no such code on any of the final blank pages. Now, the copyright page may tell you it was ‘printed in the United States of America & the United Kingdom by Lightning Source Inc.’, but then, that was my presumption when I did the internal layout for the book. You see, my understanding was that Booksurge, in light of the recent moves by Amazon against POD publishers (see other articles on this blog), would not be supplying print resources for the UK and European market. So, that leads me to two possible conclusions; one, my book was printed by Booksurge, hence, no code (as it was shipped from the USA), or two, it was printed by Lightning Source, but they have taken the decision to omit the customary ‘LV’ code, for whatever ulterior motive! I will be able to shed more light on this in the next week as I have another hardback book on order from Amazon from Raider Publishing’s new release catalogue. It will be interesting to see if the code is on that one. Time will tell!

Let’s get back to the proof quality. If this book was printed by Booksurge, then stand up and be counted guys and gals; start putting your insignia on the rear blank pages, because you’ve done a superb job of ‘Academy’. In light of the recent negativity towards Booksurge’s print quality – this really has the potential to change my view of them, at least until next week.

When the box arrived through the post on Friday, I knew straight away what the package contained, and it sat on my coffee table for half an hour before I could force myself to leap up and open it. I was confident about the internal layout of the book, as I had been pleased when I viewed the PDF file on Lulu’s ‘My Projects’ page. My biggest concern was the cover art. I had taken considerable time trying to get the background colour on the spine just right to match as closely as possible to the front cover art, so it did not visually ‘grind’ or look garish. This was the key, and there can be some variable when artwork returns from a printers. However, I had nothing to worry about; the blend was subtle and almost impossible to see the difference. Overall, the cover was on very high, thick gloss paper, no blurring of colours, sharp focus on the text, and everything perfectly aligned. Internally, I was particularly pleased with the font I chose, Book Antiqua. The layout was perfectly reproduced from the original PDF file, no blank pages, and no smudged or faded print. The book is simply superb quality. So excellent in quality that the printed book could not hide my countless typos! I would say one out of every three pages had a typo (not spelling) error. Although many editors and authors alike will tell you how easy it is to miss these when you review the original file, it is amazing how the real published, printed page make them wave out at you like those annoying kids waving from the back window of the car ahead on the motorway. ‘Doh, how the f*xK did I miss that one!’

I actually ordered three copies of ‘Academy’, which was a mistake, as these can be consigned to the dud pile! So my advice, just order one proof copy until you are certain the proof will be as near perfect as you can get it. Resubmitting the revised file is straight forward on the Lulu site. Simply go in to your project page, click revise, and the software will guide you back through the process. It is a matter of selecting ‘Approve/deny’ and then loading up your revised word or PDF file. Always remember to delete the original ‘source’ file before you reload to your book project. When you then review your project, it should be clearly displayed as ‘Academy – revision 1, revision 2’ etc. You can revise as much as you like until you get it right. Only then, click the ‘Approve’ button.

After some four to five weeks, I actually feel quite confident using Lulu’s publishing site. It is not for everyone, particularly if you are not very proficient in using Word or Adobe Acrobat to its full potential. It is very much about the preparation work at this stage that makes using the site easier. Many of the problems I experienced were down to either the original source file formatting or using Internet Explorer instead of the more suitable Firefox.

The real work of POD publishing starts now for ‘Academy’. It will be some six weeks before the book is properly fed into the internet sales and book database channels, which gives me some time to work on the promotion. I will update in future articles. The next article, ‘Academy – The Novel’ will look at the novel itself, rather than the publishing process.

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