In late 2008, in resurrecting the two manuscripts that had lain dormant since the early 1980s, the first step was to retype them into the digital age. The process was valuable for several reasons. It gave me a refreshed view of the time-frame I had mostly forgotten, solidly in the era of Apartheid, and it was satisfying to see that I had not been totally blind to the injustices of the times, although obviously my view was very one-sided. I decided not to try and gloss over the past with the benefit of hindsight. From the writing viewpoint, I was able to proof-read as well as correct errors, and tighten the stories.
That done, I approached a company called The Writer’s Workshop in the UK to polish them up, if needs be. The Writer’s Workshop, brainchild of author Harry Bingham, with some thirty other published authors of every conceivable genre on tap to advise the aspirant author, is now called JERICHO WRITERS
I ordered Harry Bingham books from my library to see whether I would like what he himself had written, and was very impressed. He continues to write works of the highest order, and goes from strength to strength. http://www.harrybingham.com/harry-binghams-books/ (I had the delight of meeting Harry in person in 2010, but that’s another story.) www.amazon.com/Fiona-Griffiths-Crime-Thriller-Book/dp/B071XJ5G2G
My books were steered into the care of Dexter Petley (author of WHITE LIES) who praised what he thought was good and slammed my weaknesses. It was quite an ego-deflating experience, but absolutely invaluable when my pride would finally admit to the accuracy of the criticism. I would very strongly recommend their services to any seriously aspiring author.
Needing help with this self-publishing lark, on 28 August 2008 I contacted a man named Robin Stuart-Clark of Print Matters (http://www.printmatters.co.za/bumble_books). He also designs layouts and markets, as well as publishes, books, although not my genre. He suggested that I send him my thoughts on a cover for PURGATORY ROAD. He liked my attempt but made suggestions with regard to the fonts and the title positioning and the ‘teaser’. I was very excited about it and wrote, asking what I needed to send him to do the design. I also had to get stuck into writing an author’s profile and blurb for the back cover, and some alternate ‘teasers’. He also required a photo of myself, which I was reluctant to send, but Sheila and friend, artist Johan du Plooy, both thought that most people like to see what the writer looks like.
Once I had accepted his quote for the design and printing, including the reduced rate for printing 200 books from Digital Print Solutions, he got the ball rolling. Every step was new to me. It included things I’d naively never heard of, like Imprint, Tradesheet, and Blurb, never mind the ins and outs of establishing a Website.
Robin was peppering me with questions that I tried to answer, and any reviews or positive comments I had received, but I had difficulty justifying using Dexter Petley’s comments on Purgatory Road without his permission. I needed to come up with 20 meta tags for my web-site, whatever they were. I made a deposit into his bank account so that he can get on with the job, then sent him PURGATORY ROAD. Thumbs were tightly clutched.
There followed a tennis match of back and forth when I agreed to use his recommendation of Dr Eva Hunter as proof-reader.
Robin asked me to send him the name of my publishing company and suggested PJE Publishers. I replied okay. I really couldn’t give a damn; I just wanted to see my baby in print! So I now had a Publishing business too!
I received 4 alternate choices of cover for Purgatory Road and showed them to Sheila and Johan. We all agree which was the best but there were certain bits we thought needed to change. I also received the ISBN number. Robin sent me another cover choice and 2 text & layout choices.
I received proof 1 of Purgatory Road text, re-read it to check I agree with it, or not, then returned it to Robin. Back and forth…
By early October I completed the corrections in Text proof no. 4.
Robin sent me a suggestion for the PJE Publishing monogram and an improved cover where he had got rid of some shiny strips. Robin again asked about the PJE logo which was becoming a nuisance as I stupidly did not really care if it was there or not in the first place. Finally there was an improvement that I replied to accept. There was still one detail on the cover that bothered me – lettering that lay on top of a cartridge case, that I drew to Robin’s attention.
The general summary Dr. Eva Hunter gave was positive. She also liked the cover.
Dr. Eva Hunter’s Report on “Purgatory Road” by Peter J. Earle
The story is an exciting one, with excellent twists, especially towards its conclusion. Some of the scenes are especially vivid, including those set in Rhodesia and the cast of characters is an interesting one. The title is a terrific choice.
I input Eva Hunter’s contribution into Proof 5 and returned it. When it came back to sign off, I found 9 mistakes which I sent back to Robin to implement. Back and forth. Two mistakes corrected, okayed and finally sent for printing.
Robin sent me yet another proof after fixing the two (only) mistakes. I supposed they were washing their hands on any further errors that might exist, even if they made those mistakes themselves. I checked that those two were dealt with and asked him to send it off for printing.
By the middle of November, Robin had sent me a nice example of my web-page and tradesheet, (whatever that was!) On 21st. November, my 62nd birthday, I met up with Robin in Haarlem, on his way from Cape Town to Grahamstown. He brought my 180 copies of Purgatory Road with him, keeping 20 to distribute to whoever he wants to in Cape Town for promo purposes. Having a copy of my own book in my hand was a special triumph.
But, I was to discover, the biggest hurdle, one I have still not crossed ten years later, was yet to come. I still have not got a distributor; I was to discover that they take about 60% of the cover price, and are still not responsible for marketing! That’s yet another hurdle.
In January 2009 I had a few good words of praise from Dr. Eva Hunter with reference to the novel she was working on, The Barros Pawns. She said: “Peter is very good when it comes to describing battle scenes and landscapes – he creates vivid images and his plot successfully suggests the tortuousness of what goes on behind the scenes when power is being fought for – I have the impression this MS is even better than Purgatory Road.”
Robin Stuart-Clark, in writing to Brian Joss, News Editor of Independent Community Newspapers, sent him a copy of PR and finished: “PS – I am currently working on Peter’s second novel, The Barros Pawns, which is a remarkable follow up from a writer to be watched.”