There was a stronger reason. When I wrote the novel (2002-2005), Ireland was booming. We had net inward migration, people were speaking out of the sides of their mouths about furriners coming in looking for Irish jobs. Some of these furriners were economic migrants. Shock! Horror! This all left me scratching my head. When I was growing up, every family in the country had someone living and working abroad, legally or otherwise. I’d done it myself: lived in London for two years and in America for ten. Was the nation in the grip of collective amnesia?
Writing Nothing Simple was fun. I played with inverting some of the things that were being said in Ireland at the time, directing them at a fictional Irish couple who emigrate to America in the early 80s. My family and I had lived that experience, so I knew what I was writing about – although I hasten to add that the novel is fiction. The places and the atmosphere are real, but the characters and what they get up to are another matter.
The novel was shortlisted for the Novel of the Year award, but it went out of print. In time the rights reverted to me. And along came the next wave of emigration, making it relevant all over again, to a new generation.
So: why NOT make it an ebook and give it a second chance?
Here are some of the reservations I had:
- A kind of internal snobbery about self-publication
- A fear that if I went back to the novel I would want to change everything – it’s 9 years since it was published: what would I do: ignore any flaws I came across and just put it out as it was? Try to fix minor flaws as I came across them? Rewrite the whole damn thing? (what would you do?)
- What if, having been back in Ireland too long, I edited the tones and atmosphere of Texas (where most of the novel is set) out of it?
- Certain unflattering reviews niggled – what if they were right?
- The title. This has always been an issue. It’s not a good title, no one can ever remember it. But if I changed it, would that give the misleading impression that it’s a new novel? I didn’t want to cheat anyone.
This is how I settled them:
- Because the novel was published in the traditional way first time around, it has already been curated. I can live with that.
- When I looked at it I saw small errors and tics that I couldn’t live with now, but they were on a level that didn’t change the structure or the mood or anything that happens. Cosmetic, I suppose – so I decided to do some copy-editing of my own and then to ask a professional copyeditor to come on board. (I was lucky to find Robert – the genius – Doran. I’ll be posting an interview with him very soon) robert-edits.com
- There are other vast areas of expertise I lack, but I live in a place where I’m surrounded by lovely talented professionals who are more than able to help, such as typesetting (Clodagh Moynan), developing social media skills (Elizabeth Rose Murray) ermurray.wordpress.com
- I opted for fully professional cover design from Chris Hamilton-Emery at The Cover Factory http://www.thecoverfactory.co.uk/
- I went to Texas (any excuse ….) and brought the novel with me, did my preliminary edits there, within earshot of that very particular humour-inflected drawl. Then I handed it over to Robert for copy-editing. I swear, you think a manuscript is perfect …
There are other ways to do it. You can hand over your file to a professional outfit who will steer it through the entire process. This can be an expensive option, though, so shop around. OR:
- You can do everything yourself if you follow the advice of helpful books like: Self Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard: definitely go to her website and read her posts on self-publishing http://catherineryanhoward.com/
- I’d strenuously advise everyone to find a copy-editor you trust and enjoy working with. And before you go to them, develop some editing skills for yourself. I’d recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne & Dave King – Actually, I’d recommend that book for all writers, my copy is never far from my keyboard.
- When the novel was ready, I went to the ebookpartnership http://www.ebookpartnership.com/
The eBook Partnership handle admin for you: money, distribution and so on. They can take you through the entire process – or just the bits you want help with. They were very helpful, and they’ll talk to you on the phone if, like me, you’re a bit of a wreck when it comes to technicalities. See their website for services, prices etc.
There are other books to consult, other websites, other companies to use, this just happens to be the route I took. It took longer than I expected and turned out to be more complicated this way – but hey, I was busy doing other things (launching Fallen, for instance)…