Saturday, 28 January 2012


Most books have an International Standard Book Number - an ISBN. You will find it on the back cover with a barcode, and on one of the front pages, along with the publisher's details and the copyright notice. It used to be 10 digits until 2007 when it increased to 13. The digits are in groups separated by dashes, like this: 978-1-84694-282-2. If you self-publish you will have to decide whether you want your book to have an ISBN, because they're not cheap as you have to buy 10 at a time.

The ISBN is simply a product number, but it identifies your book uniquely, including the version and edition. It is used by publishers, booksellers and libraries for ordering, listing and stock control. Without it, your book cannot be ordered except direct from you, if they know about it and how to contact you. Many bookshops will not sell your book without an ISBN because they can't add it to their stock list.

All ISBNs are entered into bibliographic databases, like BookData Online, which are used to provide information to customers. They also notify bookshops and libraries of new books. So it provides an additional set of marketing tools to help your sales.

The different sections of the ISBN indicate the national, geographic or language group, the publisher, and the version or edition (like print, ebook, hardback, paperback, or when you update it). When you buy a block of ISBNs from Nielsen, the agency for the UK and Ireland, the publisher is registered on their database as well as the details of the first book. This means that although people say that you can sell on your spare numbers, the books they are used on will have you listed as the publisher.

The publisher is defined as the person or business who takes the financial risk in publishing the book. If you self-publish, that's you, but if you want your book to look more professional, make up a business name and use that. It doesn't have to be registered as a company, just make sure there isn't a publisher with the same name. So for my book Alina: The White Lady of Oystermouth, my publisher is Alina Publishing. If I end up self-publishing my science fiction (although I hope a publisher will buy it), I can use my other ISBNs and Alina Publishing for them too.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Printer

Another major stage has been accomplished. Yesterday I went to see my chosen printer, Brynymor Digital Press. Richard Harper himself spent time with me discussing my requirements and answering my questions.

The good news is that the way I have formatted the book is exactly what he needs for printing, so there is no need for any changes, and no need to pay them to design the layout. I just have to save it as a PDF file. He will also convert my ISBN to a barcode and put it on the back. The cover should also be a PDF, and the price for colour is the same as for black and white, so I can tell that to the graphic artist and set him to work on it.

The other good news is the today I received the printer's revised quote for the job, and it is well within my budget. So it's full steam ahead.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Llewelyn Bren

Llewelyn Bren, or Llewelyn ap Gruffudd ap Rhys, was a Welsh nobleman of Senghenydd who led a revolt in Wales against King Edward II, in 1316. This was one of the last serious revolts of the Welsh against their English (Norman) rulers. His seven sons took part in the revolt too.

When Gilbert de Clare, Lord of Glamorgan, died at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, it left a power vacuum. The various people who took over treated the Welsh very badly, at a time when they were already suffering with a famine. Llewelyn appealed to the king, but the king accused him of treason, and he rose in revolt, attacking Caerphilly Castle.

Unable to capture the castle, Llewelyn and his men started a seige. They burned the town and slaughtered some of the inhabitants. As the revolt spread, Kenfig and Llantrisant castles were sacked and many other castles attacked. Towns like Cardiff were raided and buildings burned throughout Glamorgan and Gwent. The king called on Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Lord of Brecon, to put down the uprising. He gathered troops from a wide area, and the support of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster and Roger Mortimer. (These three figure large in the story of Alina and the rebellion of her husband in 1320 in my book Alina: The White Lady of Oystermouth).

The forces were so overwhelming that Llewelyn surrendered to Hereford and begged that his followers not be punished, taking all the blame on himself. This earned the respect of Hereford and Mortimer, who pleaded his case with the king. Most of his followers were indeed pardoned, and Hereford and Mortimer promised to intercede with the king on his behalf.

He was sent with his family to the Tower of London, but then became a prisoner of Hugh le Despenser the Younger, the king's favourite and rapacious land-grabber. In 1317 he had become the Lord of Glamorgan and the largest land owner in the Welsh Marches. Without consulting the king, Despenser moved Llewelyn to Cardiff Castle and had him hung, drawn and quartered without trial. He also imprisoned Llewelyn's wife Lleucu and some of her sons in Cardiff Castle.

Despenser's treatment of Llewelyn enraged both the Welsh and Marcher Lords, who joined together to petition the king against Despenser. When the heir to the Lordship of Gower rebelled against the king, the other Lords joined him. The rebellion which followed managed to free Llewelyn's family and get Despenser and his father exiled, until the king was able to raise a large enough force to counter-attack and put the rebellion down.

However, when the queen and Roger Mortimer landed in 1326 with an army of mercenaries the king, unable to command the loyalty of the barons, fled to Despenser's lands in Wales. There they were understandably unable to raise any forces and were captured. Despenser suffered the same fate he had inflicted on Llewelyn and was hung, drawn and quartered. One of the charges against him at his trial was the murder of Llewelyn Bren. Lleucu and her sons had their estates restored to them.

Thursday, 19 January 2012


Late last year I went to a Local History Fair held in Swansea Museum. The Gower Society had a stall, and they were selling note cards with drawings on. The drawings of Gower were done by a husband and wife in the 1950s, and printed in the Gower Journal. When the artists died, their children gave permission for the Gower Society to use the drawings to raise funds.

One of the drawings was of Oystermouth Castle, and I immediately knew it would be great for my cover, so I asked if I could use it. The copyright for the drawing still rests with the children of the artist, so I asked them for permission. The result was even better than I hoped.

They are delighted with the idea of my book and happy for me to use the drawing, but to ensure the quality of the cover, they insist that it is designed by the son, who is a graphic designer. Not only do I have a drawing for the cover, but I have a graphic designer to design it for free!

Saturday, 14 January 2012


If you don't want to pay someone, probably your printer, to format your book, you have to do it yourself. Luckily I bought an ebook on how to be an independent publisher, which, among lots of good, detailed advice, told me what to do. I still have to check the final details with my printer, but I've done as much as I can to keep costs down.

The ebook I mentioned is called Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author by Zoe Winters. She is American, but very little is different here in Britain. I plan to post a detailed review later, but you can link to the Amazon page for it from its title above.

I didn't know what size the pages should be - it is now formatted to standard paperback size. I hadn't thought about what they call 'front matter' - the pages containing the title, author, copyright notice etc., and the Contents page. Until I had done that I had no idea how many pages it would be and thus how thick the book will be. At the moment, it looks to be about forty pages, but I have allowed half a page for each illustration and that is subject to negotiation with the artist, also how many illustrations.

Thanks to Zoe Winters, I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


When I met with the men from the Historical Association, one of the things they suggested was that the book would be more attractive to tourists if it had illustrations. I started thinking out loud about photographs and such, and they said that because the book would be a small format, reducing photos made the detail difficult to see. They suggested getting an artist to do line drawings as illustrations.

It seemed a great idea, and they volunteered to speak to their contacts, one of which is Swansea Metropolitan University, which has art students. It would be an opportunity for an art student to add to their portfolio and get a published credit, so they would be willing to do illustrations for free. I knew 'people who knew people' who were into art in some way, so we all agreed to go and ask everyone and see what we could get.

The trouble is that when you ask people to do something for free, you have no means of enforcing deadlines. Also, my book is not as important to them as it is to me. The result is that after asking everyone I knew, I got two people to agree to look at illustrations. Everyone else never got around to asking their friends, or never got back to me, including the men from HA.

The result is the the book is ready to go, but I still have no illustrations. One of my artists finally said she couldn't do it, and I do understand. I am waiting for the other one to reply to my latest email. When I bemoaned my situation to my husband, he pointed out that the book wasn't going to have illustrations in the first place, so why was I worrying?

Maybe I should stop asking for advice.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Writing Wednesday: Publishing Preparation

I am astonished to see that my last post was in June. A lot has happened since, but maybe I haven't blogged because there was nothing conclusive. Two men from the Historical Association Swansea Branch promised support and help, but then disappeared. A publisher offered help, and then wanted to charge me £3000. And I have two artists looking at producing illustrations, but they are frustratingly slow at getting back to me.

I had no idea publishing a book would be so complicated. But I think I'm getting on top of it. The great find has been an ebook that told me all about it, and more. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking publishing their own book, either in print or ebook. Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author by Zoe Winters is available on Kindle here. Zoe is American and talks about publishing in America, but there is very little difference.

I have now designed a cover and formatted the book ready for the printer. I have a rough quote for printing, but have to wait for the illustrations before the book is complete. Once I know the final number of pages, I can talk seriously to the printer. In the mean time, I will be posting news, the story of my attempts to turn Alina's story into a historical novel, and more of the history that I found out during my research.