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From Draft to Publication – My Novel Adventure

My name’s Nick Rippington. I’ve worked on six national newspapers, a myriad of local ones up and down the country and two sports news agencies. In the little time I have spare I like to write and I’m poised to launch my first book, the gangster suspense novel Crossing The Whitewash.

I currently work on the sports desk of the Daily Star and the backbench of the Daily Star Sunday, though to any prospective agents reading I am available for book deals and world tours.

What Is Your Blog About?

As the title suggests, I’m Going To Publish My Novel is the story of writing and self-publishing a novel. It comes with a sub heading From First Draft to Publication. It is designed to show would-be writers tips and pitfalls on the road to becoming a published Indie Author.

Why did you decide to blog?

One fateful day around 10 years ago, I made the astonishing assertion to a pal of mine at work who was into all the ‘new’ media like Facebook that the internet would be “just a passing phase”. As a dyed-in-the-wool hack I had worked on newspapers since the hot metal days when you wrote one paragraph of a story, gave it to a copy boy who would then carry it across to the sub-editor for “marking up” all the print instructions. He would then send it down a chute to the compositors who would start putting your piece together piece by piece with individual metal letters on what was known as “the stone”. Over the years I had seen them take away the middleman so we typed the story onto a computer and gave it to the sub who would then put it on the page personally. I had seen the introduction of colour presses, a ban on smoking in the newsrooms (which was almost compulsory when I started) and designing “on page” by journalists. Why I thought the internet wouldn’t be with us to stay I cannot say, though I already long for the days when newspapers become retro and popular again. Printing ink runs in my blood.

Anyway, I started reading about blogging and how you could put your own thoughts out on the World Wide Web, and thought I would have a laugh by trying it myself. My first post was almost 2,000 words long.

The blog was called What I Cooked Last Night and was a mishmash of half-remembered stories I heard in the pub when my work colleagues at Wales on Sunday and I got together to unwind after a hard day’s graft. I became addicted, and the blog ended up lasting four years.

I eventually gave it up when the Cardiff newspapers amalgamated under one umbrella (Media Wales) and the opportunity for having fun dwindled in exact correlation to the number of redundancies that were happening as the print industry slowly died. By the time I married Liz and had my daughter Olivia (who is now five), the chance to go out waned considerably and the blog lost its sense of purpose, most of the characters (who had been given nicknames, some very close to their actual names) having drifted off into different things and life changing, as it does.

I “formally” closed What I Cooked Last Night after four years, though I still have a great souvenir in the fact my close friend and best man Matt Withers (the person to whom I had made the astonishing claim about the internet’s short shelf-life) had it turned into a book and presented it to me as a present on my wedding day.

The whole episode got me into blogging, though, and I tackled another subject with Frankie Prince’s Bovver Boots, my weekly take on my favourite football team Bristol Rovers, which appears on the Bristol Post website.

I’m Going To Publish My Novel was brought about because of another down time in this rollercoaster life. Having moved to London to become Welsh Sports Editor of the News of the World, my dream job, I was made redundant when the paper closed down because of the phone hacking scandal.

As a result I decided I should really use all the skills I’ve picked up over the years to do something for myself rather than fat cat billionaire employers.

Thinking about writing, I started a novel, combining my experiences of national newspapers in London and regional papers in Wales.

Presuming I had finished the book I sent it off to various agents and publishers, in Wales and throughout the UK, in the hope of attracting interest. Unfortunately I just got the standard rejection slips, people explaining that my subject matter simply “did not fit into their lists”.

I began to realise that the only things publishers seemed to go for these days were either cast-iron certainties (follow ups by their best-selling authors) or subject matter that was tried and trusted.

Then came Fifty Shades of Grey. EL James’ soft-porn story of S&M debauchery had also been rejected but she had taken it upon herself to publish it anyway.

And we all know the rest… After that ANYONE who put a pair of handcuffs or a whip on their book cover and came up with a flimsy tale of Sexual Domination or perversion seemed to take up the shelves of the local WH Smiths or Waterstones.

I wanted to “do an EL James” – though not with the same subject matter – so I enrolled in a one-day Conference in Central London last November. It was called Self-publishing in the Digital Age and I found it amazing how many people turned up. There were well over a 100 people to listen to authors who had made it on their own, book cover designers, marketing experts and the like all imparting vital knowledge about the publishing industry.

I made the decision there and then. I would publish. And I would let everyone into the process from day one, when I wrote my first chapter of my first draft.

I would link to, perhaps, my first original chapter, then how I developed my writing. I would tell people of my experience meeting up with other Indie Authors, coming up with book covers and even formatting the book. I would also link to people who might be prepared to help – editors, designers, marketing people, the works.

What have I enjoyed most about blogging?

At times it can be a pain because it is pretty time consuming if you get it right. But I like sharing stuff and particularly when people I don’t know from the other side of the globe perhaps comment or follow me. I’ve like the process of putting together all the links etc, and enjoy it when people let me know what they think of my original writings. For example, in a very early chapter of the first draft I made reference to Goldie Lookin’ Chain. I put the link on Twitter and at some stage Eggsy, of that famous Newport spoof band, retweeted. It is then you feel a sense of warmth and accomplishment and think it isn’t all a waste of time.

What challenges have you encountered?

The biggest one is finding time to regularly update the blog. What with the writing, marketing etc of the book and with real life intervening either in the form of family or work (I am a sports journalist on the Daily Star and also work on the backbench of the Daily Star Sunday so for four days of the week I’m pretty much out of the loop). I think if I had more time I could have done a better job.

What do you hope to achieve with your blog?

I want to make people see that with enough willpower, effort and persistence you can produce your own book and don’t have to give up the ghost and feel down on yourself because an agent rejects you. Also to let people know that you don’t have to do it all on your own. Self-publishing itself has become its own little industry and if you do it correctly you can produce something of which you can be proud. I also want people, having seen my own journey, to want to read the finished product and to go and buy it in their thousands so that I can retire from the dying industry that is newspapers and become a full-time writer. Pie in the Sky, I know, but it will still be great to see how many books I sell, what feedback I get and whether I have managed to achieve what I set out to do, which was self-publish a professional-looking book.

Do you have any future plans for your blog?

Well, the story goes on and I think the blog does too. From my past experience I think I knew when to call it a day with What I Cooked Last Night, but there are so many things to learn every day with self-publishing. I want to see if I can get my book stocked in the big stores like Waterstones and Foyles, to learn about getting the pricing right, to see how my various attempts at Marketing succeed or fail. I am learning as I go along and so, hopefully, are my readers.

Read more of Nick’s blog at www.imgoingtopublish.wordpress.com

Nick Rippington’s novel Crossing The Whitewash, a tale in which gangland London collides with rugby-crazy Wales against the backdrop of the Rugby World Cup, is available on Kindle and paperback from Saturday, August 1.

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