The first review of ‘What Are you Doing Here?’

How exciting! A five-star review of What Are You Doing Here? Reflections on Dementia on Goodreads.

I wanted to add a widget to this blog showing Goodreads reviews, but I can’t seem to do it on a WordPress blog.

Instead, I’ll quote the final paragraph of the review here:

‘I can’t help but feel the world would be a better place if ‘What Are You Doing Here?’ was recommended reading for anybody either working with dementia sufferers or responsible for making policies that affect their lives.’

Of course, I agree! There is a lot in the book about my mother’s experiences in residential care and in hospital—some of it good, some of it not. I discovered how easily people with dementia can fall through the cracks. They get overlooked, and sometimes ignored. Assumptions are made, reactions to confusion and stress are labelled as challenging behaviour and no one has the time to listen and reassure. There are some amazing people who work in dementia care and treat the people they care for as people, but we need more of them. And we need policymakers who realise there are people behind the statistics.

Cost estimates to book launch — it takes longer than you think

In my last post, I commented that the workload and learning curve don’t slacken off once a book is launched. This post looks back at just what was involved in getting as far as the launch. Back in January this year when I decided to go ahead and self-publish, I happened to see a post on author Catherine Ryan Howard’s blog where she listed all the steps in self-publishing one of her books as an e-book and a POD paperback.  I love making lists, so I immediately started my own, but mine is for a traditionally printed book.

Here’s my list:

  1. Make a rough estimate of unit costs for digital printing using the online calculator of a local digital printing digital firm
  2. Request estimates from other printers
  3. Request estimates from book designers (for cover and interior design and layout)
  4. Crunch numbers
  5. Visit a printer to discuss requirements and request a quote
  6. Receive quote from printer and re do numbers
  7. Start working on blurb (harder to write than the entire book)
  8. Arrange editing (editor can’t start until following month)
  9. Begin work on marketing materials
  10. Send draft manuscript to editor
  11. Receive edited manuscript
  12. Work through changes one by one (very time consuming)
  13. Response to editor’s changes
  14. Receive final version from editor
  15. Check to make sure no errors in edits
  16. Meeting with printer
  17. Meeting to brief the designer
  18. Apply for an ISBN
  19. Meetings with designer to review design suggestions for cover and interior
  20. Interior to designer
  21. Start work on website
  22. Arrange head and shoulders photo for back cover, website etc
  23. Receive PDF printout from designer and proof read it
  24. Apply for Cataloguing in Publication record
  25. Two more rounds of proof-reading
  26. Negotiations about design cost overruns that I wasn’t informed of until the work was completed; re-do figures and feel slightly ill
  27. Check final proofs before printing
  28. Prepare fact sheet about the book
  29. List book with Nielsens (best thing I did!)
  30. Start arranging talks and preparing presentations in anticipation
  31. Contact a small number of magazines, websites and organisations offering review copies (and defer sending review copies to bigger publications until I’m generating some sales)
  32. Arrange interview on local community radio
  33. More work on website and blog
  34. Send out launch invitations
  35. Pick up boxes of printed books from the printer
  36. Send two copies to National Library for legal deposit
  37. Launch
  38. Receive and process first orders (invoicing, packaging, repeated trips to the Post Office)
  39. Record radio interview
  40. Arrange a distributor

This is just a summary; it doesn’t take into account how long it took to complete some of the tasks or the hours of figuring out how to do some of them. And it doesn’t even hint at the previous two years of research and writing. The best thing about this list, for me, is I can use it as a starting point if I ever embark on another self-publishing adventure, although I probably wouldn’t do it quite the same way again.

Even though I stopped my list at item #40, the work is never-ending. Sure, having a distributor lessens the workload, but I’m still busy marketing and hardly a day goes past without me doing something related to getting word out about the book. Yesterday it was a presentation and today it’s a blog post.

What a difference a distributor makes

Such a lot has happened in the ten days since I launched What Are You Doing Here?  I thought the learning curve would flatten and the workload slow down after I’d launched the book.  Not so.

I expected marketing to take up lots of my time, and it has. I’ve arranged talks to community groups and recorded my first radio interview and started sending copies out for review.  What took me by surprise was how much time and effort is involved in distribution. I was dimly aware that this could be time consuming, but I underestimated just how much is involved in processing orders, preparing invoices, packaging books and running down to the Post Office.

An unexpected turn of events

Initially I decided not to try to get a distributor, partly because I didn’t think I could afford to and partly because I wasn’t sure that a distributor would be interested in a self-published book.

I sent a copy of the book to a buyer at a large bookseller and almost forgot about it because I expected that even if they liked the book, they would not want to deal with a self-publisher. It turns out they did like the book but would be interested in taking it only if I had a distributor. How long did it take me to arrange a distributor? Slightly over 24 hours.  A few days later I delivered a load of books to the distributor.

Loading books to deliver to the distributor

Loading books to deliver to the distributor

What’s so great about a distributor?

Far fewer boxes of books in the spare room. I know that just because the boxes are gone doesn’t mean the books are sold, but I kept my print run small, so I was never going to be left with a ridiculously embarrassing number of unsold books. Still, it was daunting seeing the boxes.

No more messing with paper, parcel tape and bubble wrap and no more hanging around in queues in the Post Office.

Simplified business procedures because the distributor will deal with the bookshops.

My book in bookshops!

I can get back to writing.

My very own book launch

I love going to book launches. I’ve been to a few over the last few years—mostly local authors—but on Sunday it was my turn when I launched What Are You Doing Here? Reflections on Dementia.  As a self-published author, this was very much a do-it-yourself affair—a morning of making sandwiches and savouries and chilling the wine, followed by a relaxed gathering on a perfect spring day.

One of the nicest things about the day was that some of the people I interviewed for the book were able to attend. They have all been involved in caring for people with dementia, and were unstinting in their time and willingness to talk to me when I was researching the book. It was a pleasure to see them again, especially as September is World Alzheimer’s Month and the theme is ‘A Journey of Care’.

I made a healthy number of sales and was delighted when the next day I made almost as many sales again. It’s starting to feel as if I’m gaining a bit of momentum.

Why I’m getting another Kindle after all

In my last post, I complained about my Kindle breaking down and said I didn’t think it was worth replacing and that from now on I was going back to paper books. I would have been quite happy to do so, but my technical advisor (husband) doesn’t like to be beaten by any piece of electronic equipment. He spent half an hour on Skype talking to a very polite, very efficient customer service person at Amazon, who concluded that my Kindle was indeed broken. She then offered several options to replace it with a reconditioned model with a full warranty at a discounted price. We decided to opt for a cheap, no frills model at a far lower price than we would pay retail for a replacement. She even offered free delivery, until she realised that New Zealand is a very long way from the United States (in fact, it’s a long way from everywhere).

My new Kindle arrived a few days later. Sadly, it doesn’t fit in the nice red cover I had for my old Kindle, but I now have access to the ebooks I bought in the past. This episode has made me think carefully about what I read in ebook format and what I read in print. I’ll keep my Kindle for lightweight reading and reading when I’m on the move.

We asked about the expected lifespan of a Kindle, and the helpful customer service person said at least four years. It didn’t seem long to me, and I suppose we were unlucky that my device didn’t even last that long. But then, I don’t expect other electronic equipment such as my laptop to last indefinitely, although I usually manage more than four years.

It made me think, though. To me, one of the advantages of print books is that you can put them on a shelf and they will still be there years later waiting to be read without the aid of any device, except perhaps, reading glasses.  It seems that with ebooks, you have to be much more active in managing the hardware needed to access your book collection.  What’s going to happen when large numbers of Kindles reach the end of their useful lives? Will people replace them or use tablets instead? Will today’s ebooks still be accessible in a decade’s time? Anyone else remember floppy disks?

Why I’m abandoning my Kindle

I don’t have anything against ebooks. I liked my Kindle, especially for reading in bed on cold nights—so much easier turning pages with just one hand poking out from under the blankets.  After a bit of experimenting, I found I would opt for an ebook if I wanted an easy read where I would start at page one and read straight through in a short time, or if I was travelling. I still preferred a print book for non-fiction or more challenging fiction. I liked to be able to go back when I suddenly realised the significance of something mentioned earlier. I also liked to flick ahead to see how many more pages to the end of the chapter so I could decide whether to turn the light out or keep reading.

Another advantage of ebooks is that they are cheaper, even if you’re like me and buy mostly $9+ range. Except they aren’t really cheaper, not when you look at the whole cost. An ebook is useless without a device to read it on. Yesterday I picked up my Kindle and was about to go on an ebook buying binge, and this is what I saw:

Dead Kindle

Nothing but vertical and horizontal white lines intersecting over the screen.  My technical advisor (aka my husband) was straight onto it and soon advised that the screen was munted (and in case anyone who’s not from New Zealand stumbles across this post, ‘munted’ means irretrievably broken, knackered, wrecked). And it’s out of warranty. Maybe it’s just bad luck that it stopped working, but I’d never really thought about the lifespan of these devices before, and by extension, ebooks.

Do I really want to spend $190 replacing a device that’s not even two years old? By the time I spread the cost of two devices across the cost of the ebooks I buy, it would be cheaper just to go down to a bookshop and pay for a print book. And that’s what I intend to do from now on. I might eventually get another device and start reading ebooks again, but I’m in no hurry.

Farewell Bubu

BubuBubu came into our house when he was three years old. He was already seriously overweight and simultaneously timid and aggressive. His face, paws and tail were dainty, and despite the fact that he wasn’t greedy and didn’t eat much, we could never get the weight off him.

He arrived almost by accident. When his predecessor died, we asked our vet to let us know if he had any cats come in that needed re-homing. Big mistake. Two weeks later the vet phoned and soon after Bubu moved in with us. We thought his name was rather silly, but he wouldn’t answer to anything else, so the name stayed.

He mellowed over the years, especially after we moved from Wellington to Christchurch. In Wellington our house was in the shade of a hill; here our house gets all-day sun. Bubu knew within minutes exactly where the sun was at any time of the day, any time of the year.  Although his temper improved, he still found it necessary to reprimand us at times with a swift whack or an unfriendly bite. In later years he took to stalking my father’s dog whenever he visited. He only once sat on a lap, but every night he would burrow under the cover on our bed and push his way into the best spot.

He went down-hill fast and the weight fell off him. Despite this, he seemed quite happy sleeping in the sun and snuggling up beside us, but never on us.  After a month of this he became lethargic and stopped eating. The vet told us he had almost no kidney function left. He couldn’t eat, couldn’t pee, so sadly we had him euthanised.

I didn’t think I’d miss the bad-tempered old fellow, but I do.