I’ve recently had more test res­ults back fol­low­ing an oper­a­tion and found out that the thing that’s kept me busy all sum­mer wasn’t can­cer, merely some­thing that could eas­ily be mis­taken for can­cer. I feel exhausted. In an ideal world I’d now have a month cruis­ing between island para­dises in the South Seas, or at least a hol­i­day that could eas­ily be mis­taken for a cruise around the South Seas. In real­ity I’ll be using November to catch up on work that I haven’t done in March, April, May, June, July and August.

Douglas Adams also said he loved deadlines. "I love the sound of them wooshing by."

One thing I’ve meant to do this year is write an ebook and November is AcWriMo, Academic Writing Month. I’m using this as the hook to write the first draft of a quick intro­duc­tion to archae­oastro­nomy. There’s a few reas­ons for writ­ing the book.

1. I’m lazy.
Every so often I get an email ask­ing how the Sun or Moon moves in the sky, or else how to meas­ure align­ments at a site. Currently this means sit­ting down, some­times for a day, and writ­ing a bespoke response. 90% of what I get asked could be covered with the same text.

2. I’d like other people to do it too.
There’s lots of people who could write inter­est­ing things. Many aca­dem­ics do. Then they’re pub­lished by an aca­demic press who print 250 cop­ies at a massively high price so hardly any­one can read the book. The work in mak­ing the book, pro­du­cing camera-​​ready copy, get­ting print per­mis­sions etc, is the same as in mak­ing an ebook. It’s the short run cost that pushes prices up and — I sus­pect — the will­ing­ness of 250 lib­rar­ies to pay such high fees for a book.

3. I need the prac­tice.
I’m out of prac­tice writ­ing. I need to get back into the habit of sit­ting down and writ­ing for a stretch. It should be simple, just put­ting one word after another and sprinkle punc­tu­ation to taste. And a mara­thon is just a case of put­ting one foot in front of another till you reach the end.

What I haven’t exactly settled on is how I’m going to do this. One way would be to write as a series of blog entries. I could do this, but this will be rapid writ­ing and first draft mater­ial. I’m not keen on hav­ing this draft indexed by search engines and effect­ively being immor­tal. On the other hand, com­plet­ing the draft, talk­ing to a freel­ance editor about the cost of edit­ing it, balk­ing at the cost and put­ting it up online for feed­back is a slow pro­cess that’s easy to stall on. Ideally I’d like to put some­thing up every few days to keep myself on track and on target.

What I’m think­ing of doing is upload­ing the text as an ePub (and mobi?) file every few days. The ePub is read­able by Kobo, iPad and other read­ers. A mobi file would be twice the size of the ePub but would be read­able on a Kindle. I’m wary of provid­ing in pro­gress mobi files, but I can do if there’s demand. While I’m writ­ing the next sec­tion you can com­ment on the pre­vi­ous one. I doubt I’ll have time to make imme­di­ate changes in response, but I can cer­tainly make changes in responses to the earlier sec­tions after the first draft is com­plete. Does this sound sens­ible, or is it HTML or nothing?

Once I have the fin­ished work, I’d ser­i­ously like to see about tak­ing it to a freel­ance editor. It’ll cost, but I think it will improve the draft. The final file will then be uploaded for sale on Amazon and Kobobooks. The tar­get price is $2.99. For Amazon, the size of the file means that $2.99 will be the min­imum price they allow at the lower roy­alty rate. Kobo’s self-​​publishing sys­tem might mix that up a bit, but the pri­cing sys­tems are com­plex. It’s bet­ter to have the book fin­ished before get­ting lost in that. As far as mak­ing money goes, hah! It would be nice to make enough to pay for the image licens­ing fees, but the idea of selling enough to pay for the edit­ing of the book too is a pipe dream.

Both shops allow for DRM-​​free dis­tri­bu­tion, mean­ing you could take the file, con­vert it and read it on another device.

So that’s my plan for November. If you’d like to fol­low along and don’t have a mobile ereader, you can down­load Adobe Digital Editions as an ePub reader.

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