Announcing… BACKPACKED!

So you may have guessed this already, but the new book I’ll be releasing towards the end of this summer, AKA Super Top Secret Self-Publishing Project No.2, is the sequel to Mousetrapped, Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America. Yes, a year after I kicked Mousetrapped out of The Dusty Drawer, I have finally made the decision to send Backpacked out there after it. (Although Backpacked was never in a drawer – I’m still writing it.) And here is the current version of the synopsis:

Catherine prefers bath robes to bed bugs, lattes to lizards and mini-bars to malaria. So why is she going backpacking?
Catherine Ryan Howard isn’t the backpacking type. Working for one of the world’s biggest hotel chains, she and her employee discount have become accustomed to complimentary bath robes, 24-hour room service and Egyptian cotton sheets. As for vacations, Catherine likes places that encourage lying – lying on the beach, lying by the pool, lying in bed…
She’s been on what feels like one long holiday in Florida when her fearless best friend, Sheelagh, announces plans to backpack across Central America. With Catherine’s US visa set to expire, no desire to return home to Ireland and her common sense, evidently, on a day off, she agrees to go along. After all, how bad can this backpacking thing be?
Um… very bad, actually. Catherine soon finds herself showering with the threat of electrocution, living with mutant cockroaches, sleeping on wooden planks, suffering from all but one of the side-effects listed on her anti-malarial tablets (liver failure, if you were wondering) and riding a horse up the side of an active volcano.
And that’s just the first week.
Picking up where her bestselling memoir, Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida, left off, Backpacked is the wry tale of what happened when one very reluctant backpacker hit the backpacker trail and discovered that beyond the mosquitoes, bad coffee and flea-infested hostels lay even bigger mosquitoes, even worse coffee and flea-infested hostels with no doors on their bathrooms.

Over the next few months I’ll be doling out little drops of Backpacked like precious stones (or common pebbles, depending on your viewpoint!) including such magnificent wonders as – kindly ooh and aah accordingly – the cover (ahh!), the dedicated book site (ooh!) and the first chapter (double aah!). The most exciting thing about this though, for me, is the opportunity to go through this entire POD/e-book self-publishing process again but while knowing exactly what I’m doing. This will certainly be a new experience, considering the last time I did it I couldn’t really have known any less.

So what am I going to do differently?

5 things I did with Mousetrapped that I won’t be doing with Backpacked:
  1. Having a book launch or selling copies through my website (because it’s a waste of money)
  2. Making a book trailer (because honestly I can’t think of what I’d do for it)
  3. Seeking coverage or other publicity offline (because the book is only for sale online and therefore this is a waste of time – and possibly money too)
  4. Getting my control-top knickers in a twist over the print edition (like freaking out because it’s on but not on, or because there’s no image on the Book Depository, or because – well, I’m just not going to stress about it. I’ll go with the flow and remind myself that print sales will account for a very small percentage of my overall sales. Relax.)
  5. Blogging about every step of the way – only because it’s the same way! If anything out of the ordinary happens, I’ll be sure to let you know, but otherwise it’s going to be the same old.
5 things I didn’t do with Mousetrapped that I will be doing with Backpacked:
  1. Making it the best it can be, straight out of the gate (so later editions are not vast improvements, just updates)
  2. Having it edited as opposed to just proofread
  3. Releasing the e-book edition first, ahead of the paperback
  4. Design a separate e-book cover (with no tiny text)
  5. Linking it to Mousetrapped by putting the first chapter, The Call of the Mouse, at the end of Backpacked, and then updating Mousetrapped by putting the first chapter of Backpacked at the end of that. This is probably the most exciting part of this: I will now have two memoirs available, doubling my promotional opportunities. There’ll be no escape! [Evil laugh]
5 things I did with Mousetrapped that I’ll be doing with Backpacked too:
  1. Designing a ‘white band’ style cover. Anyone who knows me knows how important Things That Match are to me – especially books by the same author and/or in the same series – and boy, are these two books going to match. They’re going to be soooo pretty… [Drifts off into matching book cover daydream.]
  2. Making a small number of review copies available to book bloggers
  3. Pricing the e-book at $2.99 and the paperback at $14.95
  4. Having a dedicated book site
  5. Using the same services: Createspace, Amazon KDP and Smashwords.

So that’s the news. I really, really, really hope there is at least five or six of you out there actually interested in reading about my reluctant backpacking adventures. If you’re not sure, that Us Versus the Volcano story is pretty indicative of what you can expect from – gulp – my second travel memoir, Backpacked.

Join me tomorrow to find out who won those signed copies of Mousetrapped (see below) and my second Big Reveal post, or Mousetrapped‘s sales figures, royalties, etc. one year on. I did that at six months too; if you missed it you can catch up here.

Don’t forget that you still have the chance to win a signed copy of Mousetrapped. To enter leave a comment on Monday’s post before midnight GMT tonight. I’m also looking for beta readers for my self-publishing project 1.5, Self-Printed. Find out more about that here.

Announcing… SELF-PRINTED!

So what was up until now Super Top Secret Self-Publishing Project No.1 is:

Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing

It has a tentative release date of May 14th and will be available in both paperback and e-book, priced $15.95 and $2.99 respectively. You can have a look at the (very long!) table of contents here, if you are so inclined.

Not the actual cover, but a mock-up is all I have for today.

This is what happened:

A few weeks ago I thought it might be a good idea to take the self-printing category posts on this site and put them together into a handy e-book that I’d price at 99c. I knew that if I was about to self-publish, I’d want something that was in chronological order (i.e. told me what I needed to know in the order that I needed to know it) and could be printed out or at least referred to whenever I needed it. Hence, a little e-book. Putting in some new content and the pain of formatting it would justify, I felt, the price tag. But then I sat down to start compiling the posts, and found that really, on their own they just weren’t going to do the job. So I started from scratch, and over 100,000 words (!) later only about 5% of the book has ever appeared on this blog. I basically emptied my brain of everything I knew about self-publishing like I did, and got it down on the page.

And that’s how this How To book is different: it’s just about what I did, i.e. publish a paperback with CreateSpace and e-books with Smashwords and Amazon KDP and then use social media to promote and sell it. I think some self-publishing guides are so comprehensive that they confuse people; this is the easiest, cheapest way (in terms of investment) to self-publish your book, so it’s what I think you should do.

It’s also not about getting rich or selling millions of books, although it would be nice if that happened. It’s about what can be realistically achieved if you work hard, which is that you can start earning money as a writer, build a readership, establish an author platform and, maybe, if traditional publishing is what you’re ultimately after, improve your chances of that happening.

And there’s one thing it is absolutely NOT about: bashing traditional publishing. I’ve told you before about some of the books I had the misfortune of reading; one of them asked why, if publishers weren’t in trouble, why did they ask for unsolicited submissions to include return postage? (!!!!!??????!!!!!!) In this book there’s no sticking it to the man, talk of Big, Bad Publishing, agent-shaped voodoo dolls or acting like self-publishers do it better. Spare me. We can all peacefully co-exist. No, really. We can.

Finally, it’s written in the same way all of my self-printing posts are, so you can expect some mild amusement, talking purple unicorns and things that look like piles of poo. (Those are covers made by CreateSpace’s Cover Creator, if you were wondering.) So even if you don’t like anything I have to say, ignore all of my advice and disagree with me at least every other page, at least you’ll be moderately entertained for the few hours it takes you to read it.

Interested in road testing/reviewing a copy? I’m looking for some readers who can give me some feedback on it once I have copies in a few weeks’ time. Ideally these readers would be:

  • regular readers of this blog and so my “self-printing” blog posts
  • considering, about to or in the middle of self-publishing (by any method)
  • prepared to answer a questionnaire about the book by e-mail after they’ve read it. (You don’t have to write a review.)

If you are interested, please contact me through the Contact page. In a few sentences explain why you think you’d be a good person to road test the book. Your geographical location is irrelevant; this is open to all. If more people are interested than there are copies available, it’ll be a names in a hat scenario. Please note that you will only hear from me if you are getting a copy; please don’t think I’m rude for not responding otherwise, it’s just that I’m already waaaaay behind with e-mail as it is.

So that is my (no longer) Super Top Secret Self-Publishing Project No.1, which is about self-publishing. Tomorrow I’ll be telling you about the other one, which is a) another travel memoir and b) effectively the sequel to Mousetrapped. Who can guess what it’s called?
Don’t forget you can be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of Mousetrapped‘s new paperback edition just by leaving a comment on Monday’s post.

Double-Spaced: Career Guidance

If you haven’t already heard I am now also blogging every Tuesday over on the newly-launched, under the title Double-Spaced.

Today’s post is about how well-meaning friends and family are always ready with alternative careers for the Aspiring Writer…

“I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

Once upon a time I may have wanted to be a writer along with something else (like when I was 13 and reading The Hot Zone convinced me I just had to become a virologist) but as soon as I realized that it was pretty much the only respectable job you could do at home while wearing your pajamas, I decided that I wanted to do it full time.

Fearing for my welfare, retirement fund and future mental health, family and friends rifled through my talents for suggestions of other things I could do. Better things. More stable things. Things that might actually have a chance of transpiring and, when they do, bring with them such wonders of modern society as health insurance, paid time off and – the holy grail – a pension.

Anything but…

Writing a novel, Catherine? Really?”

Click here to read the rest of this post on

More Mousetrapped: Night Ride on the Bee Line

There’s one area where I have officially flunked out of self-publishing school, and that’s the fact that here we are, a year to the day after Mousetrapped was released, and I don’t have another book. I will soon, but I should really have got round to doing it before now. To bridge the gap, I came up with the idea of More Mousetrapped: short little episodes or stories from my time in Florida that I didn’t put into the book, now delivered straight to your inbox once a month.

I wasn’t sure what the response would be like, but more than 100 people signed up and last night I nervously scheduled the first email – and story – to go out this morning. (So if you’re on the list, I hope you got it!) While this story is available to everyone, only members of  the mailing list will get them from here on in. You can still sign up here.

So without further ado, here’s More Mousetrapped Story #1 – Night Ride on the Bee Line.

I have a confession to make: I’ve told you a lie.

A lie of omission, perhaps, but a lie all the same.

In the “Mission Space” chapter of Mousetrapped, I talked about my first visit to Kennedy Space Center on a morning in March 2007, and how the hour’s drive out there was forty-five minutes longer than any drive I’d done before.

Strictly-speaking, those facts are true. But what I didn’t tell you is that I’d been out to Cape Canaveral once before – and had even seen the Vehicle Assembly Building – and  on that first occasion, I’d also been behind the wheel of my little Mirage.

The first time I drove to the Cape it was late at night, and so the gates of Kennedy Space Center were closed. I wasn’t alone; Eva and her friend Christine were with me. And instead of seeing a Shuttle lit up on the pad, as I had hoped, we ended up in not one but two situations that felt like we were the unwitting stars of our very own very scary movie.

Not everything that happened to me during my time in Orlando made it into the finished book, partly because of the need for a linear narrative and partly because, hey, some boring stuff happened too. But this particular night didn’t make it in because of space restraints; it would have needed a chapter of its own.

Because our night ride on the Bee Line Expressway?

Yeah, that’s a whole other story…


‘You want to do what?’

Eva’s voice, tinny on my cheap cell phone, rose with incredulity, but I’d been expecting this reaction and so was undeterred.

‘I think we should drive out to Cape Canaveral,’ I said again, ‘to see if we can see Atlantis on the pad.’

I thought it was a great idea. If you did too, then chances were you didn’t have all the information. It was past six; through my bedroom window I could see the sun was already sinking in the sky. By the time we got to the Cape, sixty long miles to the east, it’d be completely dark. The designated driver (i.e. me) had only been driving for a bare fortnight, and never on dimly-lit country highways in the dead of night. I’d also never been further east than the airport – a ten-minute drive away – and so had no clue what Florida looked like beyond the grey runways of Orlando International. Thus I was completely unaware that despite my romantic space-nerd notions of parking in fields beside vertical white spaceships bathed in beams of godly light (thanks a lot, Apollo 13!), getting close enough to see the parked Space Shuttle would involve binoculars, a NASA employee ID or having a pair of bolt cutters and the courage to use them. And when Eva had asked how I wanted to spend the evening, she hadn’t factored in my New Driver Restlessness Syndrome, which pretty much guaranteed that whatever I suggested, it would involve in going somewhere, and going there in my newly purchased car.

‘Come on,’ I said. ‘It’ll be an adventure!’

Click here to read the rest of Night Ride on the Bee Line.

Don’t forget you have to the chance to win one of three signed copies of Mousetrapped this week!

Join me tomorrow for details of Super Secret Self-Publishing Project No. 1!

Mousetrapped Birthday: Project X

So this week is all about celebrating the fact that a year ago I finally decided to stop submitting Mousetrapped to agents, editors, anyone who might possiblly perhaps read it, etc. and publish it myself, and that I didn’t then subsequently fall flat on my face, dig myself into hole of debt or produce a book that looked like something the cat threw up and then another cat threw up on.

This afternoon I’m sharing “Project X”, the book’s original second chapter that got cut because it didn’t really fit in with the rest of the book, and came too early in it for that not to matter.

Project X

In early drafts of Mousetrapped there was a chapter in between “The Call of the Mouse” and “Arrival” that gave a very brief overview of the history of Walt Disney World, from the origins of Walt’s dream right up until the day I arrived to take up a job there.

“On November 22, 1963, Walt Disney looked out the window of his borrowed plane and studied the flat expanse of land below him. He was just south-west of Orlando, Florida and about to decide on a location for his beloved ‘Project X.’

Walt and his team of Disney executives had been searching for a site on or near a good road network. It had to be inland and large enough to enable expansion. The climate had to be warm and sunny. With its newly built Interstate 4 and proximity to Florida’s Turnpike, Orlando appeared to be ticking all the boxes.

What did Walt see when he looked out that window?

Photographs taken at the time show a huge tract of swampland, scattered with clumps of trees and spotted here and there with lakes and rivers. While bordered on its west side by the freshly-laid asphalt of I-4, the site extended towards the east as far as the eye could see.

But that’s not what Walt saw.

He looked down and saw the gold turrets of Cinderella’s Castle.

He saw an intricate, futuristic city of skyscrapers connected by a Monorail.

He saw the realisation of his dream to build an amusement park that both children and their parents could enjoy, and he saw people coming from all over the world to visit it.

Walt saw Walt Disney World.”

Click here to read the full chapter.

Click here for your chance to win one of three signed copies of Mousetrapped‘s new edition.

Join me tomorrow for the first More Mousetrapped story!

It’s Mousetrapped’s Birthday Week!

As the title of this post implies… it’s Mousetrapped‘s Birthday Week!

A year ago (tomorrow, to be specific) I launched my little weird book and – phew! – it was a good idea, as it turns out, so I’m celebrating. I’ve already swapped my pink typewriter out for some fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle and now, for old time’s sake, I’m going to dust off my book trailer:

I’m giving away 3 signed (and personally inscribed, if you like) copies of Mousetrapped‘s brand new sparkly second edition, which has a snazzy new back cover and photographs inside. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning one is to leave a comment on this post. (A smiley face will do!) Entries are open to everyone; I will ship worldwide. You can only enter once, and to be in with a chance you have to leave a comment on this post sometime before midnight GMT on Thursday (March 31st). If you’ve already read it, well, you might still like to see the new edition, or have a signed copy, or maybe you know someone else you would. (There’s a little button at the end of this post that enables you to e-mail it easily, if need be!) Check back here on Friday to see if you’ve won. And good luck!

So here’s how the rest of this week is going to go:

  • This afternoon I’m going to share with you a chapter I cut from the finished book about the history of Walt Disney World, called “Project X”
  • Tomorrow is the first More Mousetrapped story
  • Wednesday I’ll be telling you about my – until then – Super Secret Self-Publishing Project No.1 which will be out by mid-May, all going to plan
  • Thursday I’ll be telling you about my Super Secret Self-Publishing Project No.2 which will be out by September, all going to plan with that too
  • Friday I’ll be announcing the winners of the giveaway and doing another “Big Reveal” post, breaking down my sales figures one year on.

What Her Dream Looks Like: Amanda Hocking Signs 7-Figure Deal

Sorry for the blog quietness but I’m busy getting ready for next week and catching up on my frighteningly long To Do list. Normal service shall resume on Monday – with free stuff!

Last week I wrote a blog post, What Does the Dream Look Like? Why This Self-Publisher is Still Pursuing Traditional Publication, in which I explained that, even if it means earning a fraction of the money I would self-publishing, I won’t rest until I have a traditional book deal because that’s what my dream looks like, has always looked like, will always look like.

Amanda Hocking, possibly the world’s biggest selling e-book author, has just signed a four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press reportedly for more than $2 million dollars. Seven major publishers were involved in the auction, with big names like Simon and Schuster, Random House and HarperCollins among the underbidders.

Normally when I hear of someone getting an astronomical deal, the jealousy strings in my heart tighten. Especially if there’s some story about how, up until last week, this Newly Signed Writer had never even thought of writing a shopping list, much less a book, and then she just got an idea (or, save us all, had a dream about an idea), scribbled three chapters on a napkin in a coffee shop and then accidentally dropped the napkin at the feet of a woman who happened to be a Major Literary Agent who, in the space of the second it took to put the napkin up, realized her potential and took her on, and then three days later she had a book deal, a movie option and my dream in her hands.

(Don’t you just hate those stories?)

But this is different. I think this is the first time I’ve heard of someone signing an enormous book deal and been 100% genuinely delighted for them. Hocking is a self-made success story. This is just a deserving reward for all the hard work she did by herself, the books she got out there, and the sales she won. But I also feel a bit sorry for her, because the self-publishing evangelists are already out for blood, stoning her with their “Down with Big Publishing! Death to the Big Six! You’ve gone over to the Dark Side!” rocks, presumably because they’ve forgotten in all of this self-publishing/e-book excitement that we’re only here because we want to write.

Hocking herself knows this, and has already answered some of the questions/accusations she knows is coming. I urge you to go read her post in which she breaks down why this is the way for her to move forward (more time to write, wider availability of print books, better editing, etc.). But it was when I read this bit that I realized just how far from the real reason we’re all here that the self-publishing evangelists have strayed:

“But it is crazy that we live in a time that I have to justify taking a seven-figure a publishing deal with St. Martin’s. Ten years ago, nobody would question this. Now everybody is.”

Well, I’m not, Amanda. I think you are doing exactly what you should be doing, and (for once!) I can say that I am 100%, genuinely happy for you. Congratulations.