Posted by Dianna Gunn
Today’s author is not only the self-published author of two novels in a murder mystery series, he is also a several time Nanowrimo winner and a dear friend of mine. Please give a warm welcome to today’s guest, Douglas McLeod.
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1. Can you tell us a bit about your books?
Both of my published books are in the hard-boiled mystery genre. They’re the case journals of Detective Gary Celdom, a 27-year veteran of the Toronto P.D. He tries to follow the proper letter of the law, but there are times when he doesn’t follow proper procedures, and ends up paying for it; whether he’s suspended, or gets injured in the line of duty; much to the chagrin of his superior officer. His partner of a couple of years, Detective Jessica Amerson, also doubles as his current girlfriend — they started dating at the end of my first novel, “Scarlet Siege.”
However, Gary is constantly haunted by the spirit his former fiancée, Karen Prairie. Karen and Gary were partners on a case 25 years ago, and they began a long-distance relationship (she lived in Edmonton, and they were assigned to be part of a Nationwide security task force for a major sporting event in Calgary.) Then, 20 years ago, they were to be wed, but the criminals they busted during the Calgary case returned, and sought revenge. The criminals would assassinate Karen on her wedding day, and she died in Gary’s arms. Nowadays, Karen appears before Gary and Jessica to provide advice and give her former fiancé a hard time.
2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?
I guess for me it was the allure of seeing my work in print. Usually, if you “win” Nanowrimo, one of the event’s sponsors, Createspace, will provide a special code that will enable you to transform what you toiled away all those days on into an actual paperback book. The first two years I participated, the code was for a free Proof copy, but in 2011, they changed it to 5 copies of the finished product. This modification in the reward made me think about wanting to turn this from a hobby into something that I could actively pursue. I’ve always had an interest in creative writing; since I was in grade school, but to see myself as a published author; it’s something I could only dream about all those years ago.
3. You’ve participated in Nanowrimo four times and also participated in Camp Nanowrimo this year. What do these challenges mean to you?
For me, it’s the thrill of pushing yourself to do wildly creative things in such a short period of time. Whenever I’ve told people about the premise of Nanowrimo and Camp Nanowrimo, they all think I’m crazy: writing 50,000 words in one calendar month. However, at the same time, they’ve all commended me for all of the effort I put into that first draft. I’ll admit I have had my doubts over the years; thinking the challenge is too daunting when life gets in the way. That was the case in August 2011 when I attempted Camp Nanowrimo for the first time. I was unable to finish that year, and I was dejected that I failed to rise to the challenge. But, I dusted myself off, got back on the proverbial horse, and prepared myself for the upcoming November.
What also helps is the camaraderie there is within the Nanowrimo and Camp Nanowrimo community. Yes, you’re embarking on a creative and insane journey; however, there are others out there who are making their own sojourn into this craziness, as well. As the month draws on, you learn to support them in their endeavour, and they will return the favour in kind. You develop a special bond — a kinship — with your fellow writers, and form friendships that last a lifetime. I have come to know so many wonderful people over the past four years I’ve participated in the month long challenge, and I look forward to writing alongside of them every November. Now, with the formation of Camp Nanowrimo, I can develop new friendships and reunite with ones I’ve already established during the spring and summer months.
4. What advice would you give to people hoping to participate in Nanowrimo next year?
Try to formulate an idea for your story a few weeks beforehand. Brainstorm possible novel concepts when you have the opportunity, and write them down. There have been times when I’ve come up with a premise and failed to get it down on paper, only to have it vanish from my mind a day or two later. Once October rolls around, go to your list, and start determining which one you would like to write the most for Nanowrimo. Remember not to discount all the ones you reject; you can use them for future Nanowrimos.
As soon as you’ve settled on your story use the balance of October to plot and plan it out. Develop your characters, formulate key plot points; your Outline will be your compass on the journey you’re about to set out upon. That way, you won’t be scrambling around; trying to iron out unresolved details once the clock ticks 12:00:01 a.m. on November 1st, because as soon as that moment arrives on your computer clock, “it’s Showtime.”
5. You self-published your books through Createspace. Can you tell us a bit about the process of turning your manuscript into an actual book?
The concept of turning what you’ve written, edited, and re-written into a published book may seem daunting to most, but Createspace makes the process quite easy. Once you set-up your account and log into the site, you can set up your book. They’ll ask you the specifics: the title, whether it’s part of a series, and to provide a brief synopsis of the book.
The next step, Createspace will ask you for an ISBN number. A book cannot be published without an ISBN number. If you’re lazy, you can get Createspace to generate an ISBN number for you, but you’re limited to selling it through them. Your best bet is to obtain your own ISBN number. Fortunately, since I live in Canada, obtaining your own ISBN number is free. You just need to register with the Canadian ISBN Service System (CISS) – which is free, as well – and you can apply for an ISBN number anytime you publish a paperback or eBook. Just remember, you’ll need a different ISBN number for each edition you publish; you cannot use the same ISBN for a paperback as you do an eBook. Once you’ve established your ISBN number on Createspace, you will be able to upload your actual novel, or “Interior.”
Here, you’ll have the option to print your novel on white or cream paper, and if you prefer the Interior to be done in standard black and white, or colour. Since, I don’t use photos in my Interior I opt for “black and white.” You have the option here to select your book’s dimensions (My paperbacks are in 6” x 9”), and adjust for whether or not you want your text to bleed towards the edge. However, as you’re setting this up, this is where you’ll need to adjust your Word document to reflect how it will be printed. After you’ve done the necessities regarding page size, margins, headers, page numbers, and throw in the title, copyright, and acknowledgement pages, you will need to convert that entire revised document into a PDF file. If you look hard enough, you’ll be able to find a free online converter, if you don’t have one already on your computer. Once your Interior has been converted into a PDF, you’ll upload it onto the Createspace site. Once it’s been uploaded, they’ll give you the option to review your Interior online to make sure it looks alright before it’s sent to printing. If you’re satisfied with it, then you can move onto the next step, and my favourite part: designing your cover.
If you have Cover Art already pre-made, you can convert that into a PDF file and upload it to their server. However, if you have no idea about graphic design, like I do, Createspace has an online Cover Creator tool that will walk you through the process. They have pre-made templates to choose from, and you modify it accordingly with back cover blurbs, front cover photo, change the colour to your preference; it allows you to be your own cover designer. As soon as you are satisfied with the cover design, you can submit it, and then comes the next step in your journey. If you have all the necessary files submitted, you will submit your entire project for review. The review process takes about 24-48 hours. If they find any issues, they will email you and let you know of any changes you need to make to get it approved. Once you’re approved, comes the second-last step in the process: the Proofing.
During the Proofing process, they will offer you two options: you can purchase a printed Proof copy of your novel and/or review the Proof online. Personally, I do both because having a physical bound Proof of my book gives me a hands-on idea of what the finished product will look like. But, depending on where you live, and the speed of shipping, it could take at least a couple of weeks until you receive it. That’s where the online Proofing comes in.
It allows you to virtually look at your Proof, and allow you to comb over every final, minute detail of your creation. During the Proofing process, Createspace will also allow you to set up your sale pages-to-be. Since Createspace is affiliated with Amazon, they will allow you to decide where your paperback book will be sold; whether it is through Createspace’s online store, Amazon.com, or European Amazon outlets in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. In doing so, you can set up the price for which your title will be sold for. The default for the European Amazon outlets is to base it on the U.S. price, but you can adjust the U.K. and Euro price to your liking. As soon as you’ve completed this step comes the biggest decision you will ever make regarding your novel since you started writing it: approving the Proof.
This is the final frontier you have arrived at; all of the days and nights, hours after hours of writing and fine-tuning have brought you to this particular moment in time. You are on the cusp of taking that final leap to changing your life as you know it. When you click the “Approve Proof” button, you will have done something that people will admire your guts and determination for accomplishing. You will have become a published author. The Createspace eStore listing will be instantaneous, but the Amazon listings take about a week to build. In that time, you can be content with the Paperback edition, or you can expand your horizons, tweak the formatting a little, and publish it as an eBook on Kindle, Kobo, or Smashwords.
6. Why did you choose to self-publish?
I’ll be honest it is tough to get published by the big publishing houses. Most places won’t take you seriously unless you have an agent, and combine that with the self-esteem issues I have, the fear of being rejected would prove discouraging for me in the long run. I have heard horror stories of people who have gone to some of the smaller publishing houses, and their experience ends badly. By going the self-publishing route I find it allows me to be more in control of the entire process. It enables me to decide where my books are being put up for sale. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to one day be able to walk into a Chapters and see one of my novels on their shelves. However, I do realize it is a process, and one that should only be progressed based on the author’s comfort level. The notion of being a published author can be overwhelming at times. I just feel that if I’m able to call some of the shots, I can enjoy the journey better.
7. How have you chosen to market your self-published novels?
Admittedly, this is one of the toughest parts of being a self-published author. When you decide to publish on your own, all of the facets are do-it-yourself, and I confess, when it comes to marketing, I completely suck at it. So far, I’ve been trying to advertise my novels on my blog at http://garyceldom.blogspot.com , as well as, on Twitter and my Facebook page. I’ve been trying to go via the word-of-mouth route, but alas, it can only take you so far. I’m hoping to expand that network through doing interviews, like this one, but we shall see.
8. What do you think is the most important piece of advice for aspiring writers to remember?
The best piece of advice that I could give to aspiring writers is to remember that to be a successful writer, you have to love and believe in the subject you’re writing about. I have found over the years that if I’m in the middle of writing a short story, a fan fiction, or a novel, and I’m not “feeling it”, I will lose interest and not see it through to its eventual completion. However, if it is a story that I invest myself in to its very core, then it helps motivate me to make sure that I see it through to the end. When I’m able to do that, I find it to be the most rewarding part of the craft, and the most fun in the long run.
9. What will you be reading in 2013?
I have quite a few books on my reading agenda in the next calendar year. A friend loaned me his copy of Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep,” and I confess I haven’t started it yet because of Nanowrimo. I also plan on reading the debut novel by my good friend, Hilary D. Slater, “The Bird People: Children of The Dragon,” and in a few weeks I should be receiving a copy of Joel Mark Harris’ “A Thousand Bayonets.” That reminds me, I have a plethora of books stockpiled on my Kobo Touch that are waiting to be read. 2013 is going to be a busy year regarding reading.
10. What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?
Currently, I’m in the midst of editing my 2012 Nanowrimo project, “Rouge Numbered Week.” It is the third novel in my Gary Celdom Case Journals series where Gary and Jessica are on the trail of a mass-murder that is causing havoc during the celebrations for a professional sporting championship. I’m hoping to have that available for sale by the end of June 2013. In between, I will be participating in both sessions of Camp Nanowrimo this April and July. The July edition will see me attempting to write the fourth volume in Gary’s series, but in April, I’m thinking of doing a different story all together. It’s about a bunch of fans of a professional football team’s journey through what is the final season of a venerable stadium that has seen its better days.
Bio: Douglas J. McLeod is a self-published author who resides in Toronto, Canada. He is a four-time participant in National Novel Writing Month and two-time participant in Camp NaNoWriMo. His debut novel, Scarlet Siege, was penned during the November 2011 campaign, and its sequel, Barbadian Backlash, was written the following June.