Friday, 11 January 2013

Great Horse 16 – the ebook

Little did I imagine when I started this blog series that, more than a year later, I would be adding another post! But even as I was writing my earlier posts in the series, eager to let you glimpse the background work that goes on behind the scenes of creating and publishing book, the paper versions of “I am the Great Horse” were slowly going out of print. Eventually no copies were left in the warehouse, and since my publishers decided not to reprint, the rights reverted to me.

Bombarded by (well, sprinkled by) emails from people seeking copies of the book, I began work on the ebook edition in 2012. I quickly ran up against an important publishing decision: did I make the ebook look like a children’s book, since the original hardcover and paperback editions were published on a children’s list? Regular readers of this blog will be aware I already have some pictures of the horse characters, which I tried inserting into the text as illustrations. But I soon took them out again. Not only did they make the file very large (amazon charge for electronic delivery, you know!), they also made the book feel a bit too much of a “horsey/pony” book. That idea is not dead, however, just shelved... a condensed version of the text focused on the horses rather than the history might work quite well, so look out for post 17.
I was, however, keen to include the lovely illustrated map by artist Brian Sanders, which he kindly gave me permission to do. We worked out an image size that would zoom on the Kindle screen, and I inserted it sideways so the details are more legible if you're reading your Kindle in portrait view. (If you are reading it in landscape view, you might have to turn your Kindle upside-down… sorry about that, but can’t please all of the readers all of the time!) You can see Brian’s artwork much more clearly at

Since size is no barrier to an ebook, the rather lengthy text could stay as in the original print books, with just a few minor tweaks at final proofread stage (because the Great Horse insisted upon sticking his big hoof into the story again).

Then I came to the cover. An ebook's secret weapon - or curse, depending how successful it is in attracting readers.

The original print editions featured Bucephalas’ rather big head. I loved the classy silver cover of the American version, which also had an elegant interior layout to match:

Scholastic US hardcover
While the dramatic close-up of the Chicken House edition gave the paperback an edge of its own:

Chicken House UK paperback
But neither of these covers really suggested Alexander the Great to me.

This was a deliberate move on my publisher’s part to avoid putting off younger readers who might enjoy the horse element of the story without too much mention of history (remember the book was originally published on a children’s list). Older readers, my editor felt, would read further and realise what the book was about. I was a bit doubtful at first, but it must have worked because the book sold out. In the print editions, of course, we had the luxury of a back cover. So Alexander’s name went on the back to keep me happy, along with a ‘blurb’, and the book did eventually find adult readers interested in history and Alexander the Great, as well as people who liked horses.

Having already found its younger readership in print form, and knowing the Kindle is more popular with adults, I decided that for the ebook I would try a different style of cover, making it clear to potential readers from the outset that this is a quirky historical novel about Alexander the Great, and not merely a horse story.

My other ebook covers follow a silhouette theme, which seems to work quite well at thumbnail size online, and in black and white for older Kindles. So I hunted around for a suitable image and took my inspiration from an ancient coin featuring Alexander and Bucephalas, which appeared in several of the books I'd used for researching the novel.

Deciding on a gold and black theme, I created my own 'coin' of Alexander riding Bucephalas on a sheet of orange paper, using a dinner plate:

I then cut out a horse-and-warrior design from a sheet of black paper

I drew some black dots around the edge to suggest the outer rim of the coin, and added Greek-looking letters for the 'Great Horse' part of the title:

 Then I finished off the details on the silhouette with a silver pen:

Alexander’s lance head made an obvious “A”, which I inserted into the title:

I then photographed the result with my digital camera and transferred it to my photo-editing software to add the smaller text, along with my long-desired strapline about Alexander the Great. (Ha! The joys of indie-publishing!) A few tweaks to the contrast and brightness etc, a background photograph of a sunset to add interest, and the cover transformed into this satisfyingly fiery version:


“I am the Great Horse” Kindle edition is available for download now from:
amazon UK 
amazon US
other amazon stores (click on a flag)

This ebook is also currently available for loan from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.


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