So like all good adventures, there eventually comes journey’s end.
After many years of planning, researching and then a good two years of writing, the book is now, well, a book having been published on 15th November 2017. For those of you who have been following ‘A Writer’s Journey’ series, I last wrote an update in the summer, as the editorial team at Amberley Publishing were busy working with me to edit my writing before sending the manuscript off for typesetting. Well a lot has happened since then.
The typeset manuscript came back in October, and I must say it was a very odd, and also very exciting feeling, to see my work in book format. Until that point I had been writing on Word and printing my manuscript on A4, so to see it on screen as a book was something altogether special. It was the first time the manuscript started to really feel and look like a book.
In the same month I also had the manuscript back twice to read through, after my editors had gone over it with a fine tooth comb. My earlier bit of advice (A Writer’s Journey #7) about avoiding the temptation to re-read the manuscript over the summer, paid off. When the time came to edit I had fresh eyes, and with the book in the new format, any typos or odd expressions immediately jumped off the page for amend. My top tip here is give yourself enough time to read through your work, even if you’ve read it hundreds of times already. I wanted to read it from cover to cover twice during the final check, and so knew I would need the full two weeks Amberley had allowed me. When you are editing like this against such a tight deadline, remember to have regular short breaks and keep your eyes focussed.
Top Editing Tips
Tip two: remember to not just focus on editing the main body of the text. You need to look at everything, because there can be errors in any of it. Here is a handy list of what I looked out for:
- Spacing of words – odd double spacing in particular.
- Unnecessary or incorrect capitalisation.
- Consistency in the spelling of medieval names and places.
- Chapter headings – upper case/lower case. The name of the headings – did they match the footnote section with the same heading titles? Especially if I had changed the name of a chapter at the last minute.
- Consistency across the work – eg. Do the chapter numbers run sequentially and do they correspond to the Contents Page?
- Footnotes – were they sequential, spelt correctly?
- Bibliography – was it in alphabetical order?
- Index – was it comprehensive? Test about 10% of it to see if it works.
- Spelling, punctuation and grammar generally.
- The glossy images – were they spaced out properly? Did they need further cropping? Were they too light or too dark and needed tweaking after the editor had laid them out in the proof?
- Did the image captions correspond to the exact images on the page. i.e. ‘Right. Caption 1′ – was the image actually to the right or did it sit on the left of the caption.
In all these areas I found last minute errors, so it really was worth being pernickety. Having spent years on the research and the writing, to not be so focussed or challenging with the manuscript now would have sold the book, and the readers, short. It is not just the job of the editors to find all the errors. You need to work as a team in all that you do in order to achieve the very best you can for the book. Some things, editors may not be able to amend, such as historical content.
In the end the two weeks, despite being full on 15 hour days, paid off and the manuscript was signed off by me and Amberley and then sent to the printers. It was a pivotal moment, as from that date, there was no going back.
Publication Day, Fabulous Readers & Reviews
The 15th November 2017 was a date had been inked in my diary for over a year since I was first awarded my publishing contract; publication day. It was another odd feeling, spending so long looking to a particular moment and woking towards the deadline, only to finally get there. My publisher sent me 10 complimentary copies which arrived a few days after the 15th and the feeling was overwhelming. To peel back the tape securing the lid of the box and remove the wrapping and finally hold in my hands the finished book – my first copy – was very moving. All the hard work, all the graft and hours spent poring over research, writing, editing and drinking far too many cups of tea and eating even more biscuits, had finally paid off. It is a moment I imagine that I will never forget.
This feeling only grew as I saw my book on the bookshelves of my local Foyles in Grand Central in Birmingham a day later, and then a few days after that in Waterstones. Readers have also been fabulous, really getting behind the book on social media, posting photos of them buying it across the UK. The reviews have also started to come in. On Amazon, a reader named Joseph Harris recently posted;
‘A superbly written and accessible account of Edward’s life and reign. The author presents a balanced and fair view of not only Edward’s career as king but also on his character that highlights both his strengths and his weaknesses. Edward II ultimately failed as a king and Stephen Spinks does not try to deny that, but he does highlight the fact that he was far from the incompetent and foppish figure we’ve seen him popularly portrayed as.
Additionally, the book has a rich appendix, colour illustrations and a complete bibliography for those who are keen for further reading on Edward’s life. This is a wonderful debut for Stephen Spinks, and I will be looking out for anything he may write in the future. Highly recommended’.
With reviews like that, it can only help to keep me writing. I have since discovered that writing is contagious, and so, to answer the question I am being asked a lot now, I do certainly intend to write another book and I am delighted to say that I am currently in talks with Amberley about book two. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
To celebrate the publication of ‘Edward II the Man: A Doomed Inheritance‘, I officially launched the book at the magnificent Gloucester Cathedral on the evening of 23rd November, thanks to the Dean and Chapter who kindly offered the cathedral to me. The evening event was magical. With 80 guests in attendance, I gave a talk in the Quire in the shadow of Edward II’s tomb, talking all about ‘Edward the Man’, his character and a brief insight into the more controversial aspects of his life story. There was a great Q&A session afterwards with lots of creative questions, followed by drinks and canapés and a book signing next to Edward’s tomb. It was my first opportunity – and a very lovely one at that – to meet many of my readers who have either been following my website or my profiles on social media, and to sign books for them. Such was the buzz, the night went on until late and the forty books I had taken to the launch with me sold out quite unexpectedly.
The launch of the book at Gloucester Cathedral was another special and memorable moment. I first visited Edward’s tomb in 1995 as a teenager, and it was in that year that I was determined to write his biography. To launch that book, some 22 years later, on the very spot which I had once stood and challenged myself to write one, brought everything full circle.
So is the adventure over? Well, kind of. If anything the hard work continues. Now the book is out there, the next job is to promote it, go and give talks, book signings and lectures in order to achieve my mission. That is to bring Edward’s story to the widest possible audience so everyone has the chance to read more about him and discover that he was far more than history has judged him to be. It’s the start of a whole other adventure.
As I have said in the past in this writing series, I started this journey with no knowledge about how to write and publish a book. I found out by bumbling along, asking curious questions, learning from mistakes and working with my publisher once I had secured a contract. I never thought I was good enough to write for publication, but my final tip for this current adventure is the same one I have given before…
…If you are starting out, or are unsure whether you can make it happen, just start writing. Forget the devil on your shoulder. In fact ‘keep writing, until the writing surprises you’. It will. Before you know it, you to will have a book and an adventure all of your very own.
Feature, Images 1, 2, 6 by Stephen Spinks
Images 3 – 5 by Cathy Stagg, Editor: Amberley Publishing