Thursday, 27 July 2017

Constructive Criticism is Always Welcome, but I Like My Book How It Is and Here’s Why

I was thrilled to bits when my first book The Best Year Of Our Lives received the go-ahead from the publishing company CreateSpace a week or so ago. Even more so when the ebook - a concept with which I had hitherto not been entirely familiar - was likewise accepted.

Getting it published was a modest achievement as achievements go. After all, CreateSpace is a self-publishing platform and all its approval meant was that the formatting of the book was of a sufficiently acceptable standard to allow it to be inflicted upon the wider public. As the book is self-published, CreateSpace passes no judgment as to the content. Whether the book is worth reading or not is entirely the reader’s to decide.

Nevertheless, after so much time had been spent on composing and compiling my magnus opus, my homage to my adolescence in 1976 and my tribute to all those dear friends - some still in touch, some sadly estranged - who shared that wonderful year with me, it was a magnificent feeling knowing that my work was finally going to be unleashed upon a world which had waited for so long with bated breath for its long-heralded appearance.

I am no expert in graphic design (to put it mildly), and being on a very limited budget I politely ignored all the advice which suggested that I should source some nifty up-to-date digital imaging software which would enable me to furnish my work with a piece of glitzy artwork with which to lure potential buyers. Being more or less proficient in the very old version of Microsoft Publisher which I had at my disposal I set about creating a few text boxes and importing some bog-standard basic background which was to comprise the bedrock of my front cover.


I ought to own up and say at this point that I am not a complete charlatan, or “bodger” as they say in the various strands of the construction trade. There was, I confess, a modicum of method in my madness. I had already persuaded my hugely artistic daughter Rosie to design the cover picture, which was to be eight young people drawn in a slightly cartoonish style against the very serious and sober backdrop of a real-life river scene, dominated by a bridge which by design looks not dissimilar from one with which fellow river-dwellers from the Isleworth/Twickenham/Richmond area will be familiar. Extremely satisfied with Rosie’s response to that brief, I took the decision that nothing about the background should be allowed to deflect attention from it. The plainer it could be, the better.

Then there was the choice of font for the book title. Try as I would, and did, for subject relevance I was soon compelled to admit that nothing out there did the job quite like good old reliable, dependable Cooper Black. I would invite anybody who wonders why to read Just My Type: How Cooper Black Became 2017’s Most Fashionable Font - “it is an Instagram filter for fonts - it just says ‘1970s’ the minute you look at it”. Quite. It is also the font that was used time and again on the covers of the legendary “Top Of The Pops” and “Hot Hits” LPs which used to be available for 50p at every respectable newsagent’s for the benefit of those of us who couldn’t always afford to buy the real thing.


Inside the book, those with a discerning eye will have noted my use of ragged right as opposed to justified right alignment in the paperback. What gives? Every author uses justified right - does this not just scream out “self-published” for every comer to hear? Possibly. It just looked better, to my eye, in consideration of the font that I used for the text and the general layout of the book. If I can be persuaded otherwise in the fullness of time then I’ll change it for future editions, but until or unless that happens the ragged right remains.

And what if the book does indeed betray its self-published origins? Is that a cause for shame? Self-publishing is without question the direction in which the entire literary world is heading. Fifty Shades Of Grey anyone?

I will never know whether my work was destined to suffer the indignity of rejection, or fatal alteration, at the hands of some faceless individual whose only interest was in the financial bottom line because I made the conscious decision not to even attempt to go along that route. The object of the exercise, for me, was to get the book out, and to let the reader decide.

Time will tell if I have done the right thing. I do welcome advice - I have even been known on occasions to act upon it. But I can say, with my head held high, that this work is mine and mine only. As will be any mistakes.


  1. Just so long as you aren't under-selling the content of this book, which is awesome. Seriously it is completely unputdownable.

  2. Phil, this is interesting reading! The book arrived yesterday and I was interested to look at it in terms of the things that you've said above. I also dislike justified text so good for you on ignoring the "right" way of doing things. I also agree with your comments about editors "improving" your work for you - I strongly believe there are occasions when the use of "bad" grammar will make for a better read. There is, in my opinion, a big difference between that and something that is just badly written - although that hasn't stopped some successful authors!

    Your doing it for yourself has really inspired me. I do have a book, that I think is finished (it probably does need another read through to correct things that are just mistakes, not creative grammar 😉), and am wondering if that is the way I should go. Was it really as easy as you say? Do I need a publishing package, though? I used to have Publisher, but have now moved to Mac so it will no longer work. Do you know if it can it be done in Pages or Word? I have both of those and also iBooks Author, although I have not yet used that.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading your book just as soon as I've finished the one I'm currently reading - which funnily enough is set in a similar period!

    Best wishes,


  3. Hi Bruce,

    Self-publishing is straightforward - not necessarily easy, but if you open an account at CreateSpace literally everything is there to guide you through it. It is also worthwhile searching the web for some "how to" articles, especially if you want to publish your work as an ebook too. The Creative Penn is a very good resource for this, and for much else besides.

    As for publishing, the easiest way is to use the template provided by CreateSpace although you will need to master the page numbering as it has a nasty habit of changing itself for no particular reason - even after you have supposedly saved it! I did the cover on Publisher but there are far better image editing programmes out there, I'm just a bit of a dinosaur plus I knew that in this instance I only wanted something simple. I'm sure it can be done in Word but even that is too complicated for me.

    Hope you enjoy the book, and if you like it and find the time to place a review on Amazon (and Amazon US) that would be really very much appreciated (the two have to be done separately but the same review can be copied and pasted into both).

    Best of luck with the book.