Thursday, October 19, 2017

The end of my story...

The fourth and final part of the story is the part about the writing of Grumpy Old Teacher's "A Friendly Guide to Exam Success". (Why I used that nom de plume - which I gave to myself, please note! - is a whole other story, and I won't tell it here!)

I was a teacher of ICT at my second school with no more than six years' experience of teaching and learning. But I saw the need for this book, and I started to write it. I could find no other like it. I put chapters of it on the school's intranet as each was completed, and I continued to refine it all, adding new content as it was conceived, and students read it and used it!

I don't know now how many years passed before I pulled the lot together into a book. Ebooks hadn't been invented at the time, so paper publishing was the only way to go. I didn't really have the time to hawk it around publishing houses. Furthermore, I knew what a difficult, soul-destroying task that could be. So it had to be self-published, and that looked easy enough. I signed up with, and uploaded the documents. I had to buy a proof copy, and I was really quite excited when it arrived, shiny blue and smelling new. I read it through, checked for errors, found it to be fine, and pressed the "go for it" button on Lulu's site.

Then I discovered the factor I'd left out of the whole process. In my enthusiasm, I'd overlooked the need to promote the book. I didn't have a publishing company to do it for me. And I didn't have a clue how to do it. It wasn't on to try to sell it to my students. I was already being paid to teach them, and, in fact, I was already passing on to them and developing with them the techniques that appear in the book. Getting anything reviewed in the Times Educational Supplement was nigh-on impossible. So I had to rely on Lulu members searching for books to help kids revise for exams, and on word of mouth.

I think I sold seven books altogether. And one of those was bought by a friend who felt sorry for me. One of the problems, I think, was that the price was far too high for the slim book it was. I can't actually remember now just how much it cost, but I do remember thinking it was too much to expect people to pay. I wasn't really in control of the price. Lulu set it entirely according to the book's size and how much it would cost to print it singly on demand. And my royalty was paltry. I didn't ever expect the book to make me rich, but what I earned on my seven books was laughable.

I withdrew it from print.

In 2015, Kindle was on my mind. I'd bought a Kindle Reader, and I was writing "Life with..." with Kindle publishing planned for that. I thought about my Friendly Guide, and I did the totally wrong, completely stupid thing. Convinced that Amazon's CreateSpace service would be far better than Lulu, with a bigger market, better author support, a better royalty... everything simply... better!.. I uploaded pretty much the same documents as I'd used for Lulu, and published it yet again, yet again as a paperback.

And I wrote and published my three boaty ebooks, as already told. And I looked at the paperback, and smacked my head again. I do that quite often. Paperback again? Why had I done that? I counted its sales on my CreateSpace dashboard - it didn't take me very long - and took it off their virtual bookshelves. Then I gave it a new title, a new cover, a new price, and a revised, updated, improved, and really pleasing rebirth as an ebook.

In truth, it was a difficult birth. The delivery was expected to be in the week before schools started their autumn term, but that was not to be. There was a defect. All of the pictures in the book had been replaced by a warning triangle with a ! in it. The midwives and doctors of the Kindle Support Unit had no idea what was wrong. When the birth was four weeks overdue, I finally managed to solve the problem myself. I quickly delivered the infant book to its Kindle shelf, very annoyed that it had happened so late, but relieved that the book was safe and unharmed. Mother was shaken and tired but recovering.

I sent Kindle my bill for services rendered on behalf of their staff.

And there it sits today, proud alongside the three boaty books on my Author Page. My first book, and very likely to be my last, because I'm really feeling booked out now!

Dear readers, if you have a son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, niece, nephew or cousin who is working towards GCSE exams - or even A-levels - then please take a look at this brand new book that's full of tried-and-tested techniques for studying and preparing for interim tests and final exams. And buy it for them! There's something in there for all exam students. Like all Kindle ebooks, mine can be read on any device - Kindle readers, smart phones, tablets, PCs and Macs.

One last word. A fellow writer and two readers suggested that I publish this one as a paperback! They said that it could be useful for kids to make their own notes in it as they worked through it, and I can't deny that. So the paperback version finally got its way. There was no keeping it down. It costs twice what the ebook costs, and my royalty is significantly smaller than that for the ebook. But I couldn't refuse the request, it was totally reasonable. So, you have the choice - electronic or good old-fashioned print. Whichever you go for, I trust the reader will put it to full use, and benefit enormously.

Me? I'm going to rest!


  1. I still use for paperbacks. I make less on them than ebooks, but there are those who still want a real book (as do I) and I use them as presents too. I shall definitely promote your exam tips book for you. Is it suited to universsity students too?

    1. Yes, I understand the love of paper, I share that love. But because of its size, "Life with our feet..." cost over £10 in paperback, and that makes me feel uncomfortable. I withdrew it after a friend bought it.

      Thanks very much for promoting the exam tips book. All of the hints, tips, techniques are suited to students of all ages, but the style and language are aimed at mid-teens. It'd be great if I could sell to adults as well, though!