I’m embarking into the unknown world of self-publishing my first book, In The End, following the lives of Logan and his group of friends as civilisation falls apart around them. Here I document my honest journey, describing what I find as I research and try my hand, steering this way and that with my WordPress friend’s for guidance. I’ll repost each time I have any major update or when I learn something new, useful or uncover important information in the hope that those who follow me in their own journey can learn from my experiences.
It’s been a busy few weeks! I’m in the middle of a long edit following the manuscript’s review, but I can see the end in sight. If you’re already following along then you’ll see the updates in blue, unless you’re reading this through the WordPress reader.
This will be last post for a while as I’m off on holiday for a couple of weeks. I say holiday but I’ll be tweeting and completing the final edit on the plane I hope, plus I’ll be making a special trip.
Expected Publication Date – Autumn / Fall 2018
Write the book
Build a following. Build a community.
- Release chapters of the book to the world on WordPress: DONE– A new chapter was released each day. Season Two published in the same way.
- Blog about the world: Write blogs about all kinds of things to do with the world the book is set in. Our world, but there’s a terrible disease and life has just become a whole lot harder!
- Write short stories as snapshots inside the world:
- Blog about the process: That’s what this is all about!
- Cover reveal
- My Publishing Journey
- Conduct author interviews, both to share their word, get some insight into their journey and increase my following too.
- Author Interview Series: Suzanne Craig-Whytock
- Author Interview Series: William Ablan
- Author Interview Series: G. P. Avants
- Author Interview Series: Sharon E. Cathcart
- I’ve learnt a lot about these guy’s journeys, some of which has already helped me guide my way. I’ve posted four interviews so far, plus I’ll be doing a summary post of some of the more generalised things I’ve learnt from these and many more of the authors I’ve interviewed but not yet published. Plus I’ve got another little surprise interview up my sleeve!
- Posts about the writing journey:
- I’m tweeting very short stories, or paragraphs from the book’s world each day, plus I’m putting out some fun tweets, like excerpts from an upcoming blog post, 101 Survival Uses for Duct Tape. I’m also putting these on Facebook.
- Get followers: That’s WordPress followers (around 749 as we go to press) and Facebook followers (75 and count so far) and build excitement about the book’s release. I’ve been neglecting WP and FP for a few weeks now while I’ve been editing, but I’ve managed to double my Twitter followers up to 555!
- Commission a cover: DONE
Originally under my own rules of how I wanted this work to develop, I didn’t want to have any development editing of the work. I planned to just to read and re-read, taking in pointers from my beta readers. However because of these posts and some great advice from commenters who’ve been there, successfully and otherwise, through this movie, I decided to get the manuscript professionally evaluated. It costs a descent amount of money, but I’m invested in this project and I’ll only regret it if I missed some silly mistakes, or a major plot hole which I could have easily fixed. I know those who paid good money would let me and my potential buyers know and it would be too late.
It’s back and the verdict came five pages strong and I’m very happy with the conclusion. It’s clear there’s work to be done, I’ve pulled out thirty five points which either need clarifying or need me to make a decision, one of which is to stick with a literary fiction feel or fill out the emotions of the protagonist more to give a closer connection to the reader.
The great news is with the edits, including tweaking characterisations, filling a few small plot holes, clarifying some descriptions, the overall conclusion I get it that the manuscript has worth. With a strong plot (original, well paced, logical, well developed and full of danger and troubles, to use the exact words) and a narrative style which has great artistry and variation. I’ve got a good few weeks of work making these changes, but I’m happy to say this is one of the highs of this whole process and I’m walking on air this morning!
A big thank you to all those comments who helped me to choose this route!
As I power through the edit process I’m gaining more and more confidence in the work, but for a final polish it will be off for a line by line copy edit before it goes anywhere near the bookshelves.
It’s worth noting that after using their services for the manuscript review, I subsequently joined A Writer’s Path and for $1 a month they provide access to a wealth of free and discounted services for writers. I truly still cannot fathom the amount of services these guys provide access to for this tiny subscription (and no I’m not on commission!).
The Publishing Process
This section is all about figuring out where the hell and how the hell I’m going to get the work published. I’ve already decided I’ll self-publish. I decided long ago I won’t be even trying to go the traditional route with its long lead times and giving away control even if the lottery of a process ends with me as the winner.
After all my research the are the key decisions to make:
- Publishing format:Paperback or E-book – I decided both. I want to hold it in my hands, even if I’m the only one who ever does!
- Amazon – CreateSpace or KDP
- CreateSpace is the original service from Amazon for generating E-books and print on demand paperbacks. It is somewhat a legacy service and will be fully replaced by KDP.
- Kindle Direct Publishing – KDP – This is the latest Amazon service for E-book and print-on-demand publishing. It has many advantages for those authors in the UK who wish to get low cost proof paperbacks because they ship from the UK, whereas CreateSpace ship from the US. CreateSpace still has more features, but even since I’ve been writing these posts more and more of the CreateSpace features are being added to KDP. I’ve chosen to use KDP.
- Other Outlets– There are tens of other outlets for print-on-demand and E-books and there is a handy service called SmashWords which will allow you to publish your E-book to pretty much all of them by preparing your manuscript once on their platform.
- Kindle Select / Kindle Unlimited– When deciding which avenue to take, it is important to decide if you are going to enrol in Kindle Select in order to make your E-book available to the Kindle Unlimited Audience. Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s lending library where users pay a subscription and can read as many books as they want. The author gets paid a fee per page. The amount per page is dependant on the value of the Kindle Select Global Fund. The catch is, and there’s always a catch, in joining Kindle Select you are providing the E-book for sale only in Amazon’s outlets. This only effects the E-books, but you can’t even offer it for free or otherwise on your own website. You sign up for limited periods and you can always withdraw from the programme. Following comments from other authors I know people often make money on the Kindle Unlimited programme, despite not selling many books.
- For June 2018, Amazon paid $0.00454 per page read by a Kindle Unlimited user. To put this in context, that’s $1.30 / £1 per book read. Based on the pricing of the paperbacks, they’re about the same.
- Amazon – CreateSpace or KDP
- Book title: Does it fit the content? Does it provoke a reaction in the potential buyers mind?
- Strap line: Same for the above.
- Blurb: The few paragraphs which site on the back cover of the book and act as your description on the e-retailer’s shelves. This was a daunting task!! Amazon recommend around 150 words which are easy to scan. You can find what I can up with at the bottom of this post.
- Elevator Pitch: It needs some work but I have something in the bag and I wrote about it the crisis which forced me to put down some hard work here.
- Keywords & Categories:Come up with Keywords and Categories so people can find it when it’s sitting on the virtual shelves. Choose the category first as you don’t want to repeat the words in your categories.
- Categories– Research other books of the same genre. You can only pick two.
- I’ve looked at a few books I think my work is most like and you can see how well they are ranked against each category. I was surprised at what I found!
- It’s going to be difficult to make a choice. A lot of the popular books with Zombie’s or any of the other paranormal type creatures are sitting where you would expect.
- I’m leaning towards:
- Fiction > Science Fiction > Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic
- Fiction > Thrillers > Supernatural
- Keywords – Amazon is basically a search engine after all. The more I research about keywords the more I can see how much of a tricky decision it is. You want to make your book stand out from the crowd, unique even, but still you want to appear in popular searches and high up the ranking. My first thoughts were Zombie, Apocalypse, Survival, End of the World and Dystopian, but rather than keywords, I should be looking at phrases. There are loads of tools out there, at a cost, which will help you select your keywords. The keywords should be based on:
- What people actually type when they’re looking for books
- Test your keyword ideas and see what Amazon search auto completes and combines with other words. Do the same in google.
- Here’s what I got:
- Zom= Zombie Apocalypse / Zombie Science Fiction / Zombie Fiction / Zombie Survival Guide
- Surv– How to survive the end of the world / survivors
- Apoca– Post Apocalyptic Fiction / Apocalypse Culture / Apocalyptic Fiction
- These are pretty crowded spaces. More research to be done here.
- What they will be will to pay money for
- Where the returned list is not too crowded, i.e. you’ll appear at the top.
- What people actually type when they’re looking for books
- Categories– Research other books of the same genre. You can only pick two.
- Dedication: Who the book is for. Another tricky decision. I wrote this for Sarah so that’s who I should put here right? I need to include my wife, a no brainer. A double dedication will sort this out, but then I can’t leave my Mum out? I managed to get this done and I’m really happy with the result, but you’ll have to wait for release to see what I’ve written!
- Acknowledgements: Who helped me along the way? I have to make sure I mention those who gave their input, and maybe a few of those who didn’t! I’m happy with what I’ve come up with.
- Disclaimer:Normally inside the first page is a disclaimer identifying the manuscript as fiction. It’s not in the Amazon template and I only thought of this out of chance. I’ve tried to see what the law is around this but I haven’t come up with any solid basis. However as most of the books I’ve read have this in, and I’ve scanned the numerous books on my shelves and all have some version so I think I would be foolish not to include it. Here’s the wording I’ve plagiarised.
- This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
- Credits: Another area I originally missed out. I plan to credit James for the cover work so I want to do this properly, so the following will be added to the inside first page along with the disclaimer. It also brings out an interesting aspect. I commissioned and paid for the cover, but unless we agree specifically and in writing, James retains the copyright to the work. I’m not a lawyer, this is based on research conducted in the UK. This means that although James retains the copyright to the image, there is an implied licence for me to use it for the cover of my book. If I chose to use it elsewhere and in a different form I would need to ask his permission. I have no issues with this and will not seek the copyright from him. I wrote to James and received written confirmation of my licence to use the image for book cover and any marketing I see fit, plus confirming he can use the image but not for the same uses as he has licensed the work to me for.
- Cover Illustration Copyright © 2018 by James Norbury
Cover design by James Norbury, http://www.JamesNorbury.com
- Cover Illustration Copyright © 2018 by James Norbury
- Copyright Notice: Then of course, I need to credit myself and let everyone know I’m asserting my rights!
- Copyright © GJ Stevens 2018
- The moral right of GJ Stevens to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1998.
- All rights reserved.
- Copyright under the Berne Convention
- ISBN: You can either pay hundreds for an ISBN range (you can’t buy just one) and use it across all outlets, or use the free ones from each outlet but they’ll be different. I chose to use the ones from the provider, in my case Amazon. How exciting!
- Rear Pages Content:Figure out what i’m going to put in the back end of the book. Options include:
- A call to action for Season Two – It’s in.
- Short Biography – I don’t think anyone will be interested so I’m leaving this out.
- A link to my WordPress pages / Facebook – It’s in.
- Back page cover image: Until I started going through the dry run of the KDP publishing process I hadn’t thought of a back cover, but it turns out you need to supply the entire sleeve, including the spine, as one image, in a PDF document. Seems obvious now, but it wasn’t something I thought about. KDP provides the exact measurements for the trim size I’ve chosen so I had to send it back to my artist friend to work it up. A tip of his was to print out the finished product and wrap it around of book of similar trim size to get a better feel for how it will look. Wow I’m pleased with what he’s done!
- Price on Back Cover: All books you buy on the shelves in a physical store have a price on the back cover, but generally it bears no relation to the price you pay at the checkout. I hadn’t included one yet, mainly because I don’t see it ever selling a physical store. However, if I do plan to sell any physical copies it makes sense to have the price on the back, rather than make it up on the spot!
- Style Guidelines: Some outlets, like SmashWords, provide style guides which you need to stick to. This includes how to space the text, which characters to use for speech etc.
- Look and Feel of the Text:Research and make all those little decisions about how the book will look, like chapters, fonts, size etc.
- Trim:How big is the paperback going to be. The advice seems to be to stick closely to industry norms if you ever want to see your book on a bookstore shelf, albeit your local friendly store. I chose 5×8 inches.
For the KDP process, download the MS Word template from KDP and copy and past the work in. You’ll need to format the text in you font and size, add in chapter numbers, choose justification and page numbers. With mine it mostly went okay and is great to see the work in a format which is recognisable as a real book! Little things were a pain and needed quite a bit of research to get right, like page numbering and getting the page numbering to start from 1 on the first chapter. But it’s done now.
- With the cover uploaded and the proof approved (you can either check it online or download the proof to look at offline), I haven’t properly checked it yet as this is just a dry run, Amazon tells me the cost of printing each copy will be £3.58 on amazon.co.uk and $4.31 on amazon.com.
- This cost is effected by the paper choice, the number of pages (determined again by font and font size and spacing used etc), colour choice, if any etc. The printing cost is then used to determine the minimum sales price.
- The minimum list price for this book is £5.97, this is based on a royalty of 60% of the difference between the minimum list price and the cost of printing. If you set your sale price here you won’t earn any royalties.
- This part is a bit confusing, but the tool guides you through. In order to get a royalty of £1 per book I would need to have a list price of £7.64. This also factors in any VAT or sales tax which Amazon handles for you.
- My figures show in GBP because I chose the UK as my primary territory, but it also shows the prices for other territories too, in their own currency. You can independently alter each territory’s pricing.
- I’ve chosen £8.99 to go on the back of the book, so I can vary my pricing online between £8.99 and £5.97, should I choose. At £8.99, the royalty would be £1.82 per book.
- Author Copies – I just found you can order author copies, costing you only the printing cost. I previously thought about setting the price to the minimum and buying that way, but it looks like that’s not necessary.
- Author Copy Proofs:
- Now here is where you can order Author Copy proofs and where you’ll find the dreaded publish button!! We won’t be doing the latter yet. You can order up to 5 proof copies at a time and they charge you only the printing cost!
- I’ve submitted a proof request, the proof will be minus your ISBN and have a watermarked front cover. Within four hours I had an email with a link to add the book to my Amazon basket, then I just checked out, paying £7 of P&P on top. Shame it won’t let me use my Prime Membership to get it free. Although it’s likely the text inside will change following the edit, I’ve ordered one anyway so I can check all the other aspects. I can make as many changes as I want later on and before I press the publish button! Another exciting time!
- Note if you’re outside of the US and using CreateSpace instead of KDP, your proof copies will be charged for international shipping and you’ll have to wait a whole lot longer.
- Got the proof copy through and it looks amazing and already there are things I want to change.
- Finish– I went for a matte finish and it feels slightly velvet to the touch, I’ll have to look at the options again. The gloss finish doesn’t alter the price so for the next proof run I’ll try it.
- Cover– The cover needs some adjusting. Part of my name is darker than I like so that needs to change.
- Blank Pages –I haven’t left the right blank pages between the sections
- Spacing –Some spacing breaks need to be changed
- Chapter Number –I’ve justified all the chapter numbers to the left, which looks great on the left hand side but not on the right. They almost seem to be swallowed in the spine. Will have to review and perhaps centre them all.
- Page Numbers –The page numbers are bold, which looked fine on paper but stand out far to much when in the paperback. Plus I noticed the page numbering continued to the back call to action page. Inserted a new section break, unchecked the ‘Link to previous sections’ on both the odd and even pages numbers, then deleted them.
- Straight Quotes– In the copy process from Scrivener, all the quotes have been converted to straight quotes and the jar my vision on the printed page. I need to figure out how to update these automatically to Smart Quotes without having to do it manually. It turned out to be easier than I thought. All I needed to do was make sure the option Tools>AutoCorrect, “Straight Quotes” with “Smart Quotes” was selected, then find and replace all, double quote for double quote and the straight quotes were replaced with smart quotes. Phew!
- With all the changes made, that’s the second proof ordered so I can make sure the changes I’ve made work well in print. There’s still a few more tweaks to be made and it’s been edited loads since this proof so we’ll have to start this process again.
Continue to build the community and market the book, it doesn’t matter that it’s not ready to publish or doesn’t have a publish date yet.
Measuring success – It’s a question I’ve been asking in my recent interviews and I thought it good to turn it in on myself. Writing is a hobby, an all-encompassing passionate hobby which seems driven by some unseen being sitting on my shoulder, but a hobby nonetheless. That said I still want to measure my success. My key measure would be people’s enjoyment and I think reviews would be my main measure. I need to think on before I publish.
From the author interview process, I’m amazed at how many authors don’t have a marketing campaign in mind and just write the book and hope it will be such a great literary work it will find it’s own way. In my opinion it might happen that way, but I want to give my work the best chance to flourish.
So far my marketing strategy consists of:
- Amazon Product Page:Preparing a Amazon product / home page for the book
- Write a biography. Keep it short and make it interesting. Also the place to put in contact information like website and Twitter details.
- Authorcentral.amazon.com is the place to do this.
- It looks like you have to have released your book in order to start creating the page, but there’s lost of resources available to prepare for that time.
- Social Media Release Week Event:Contact all my personal and author page Facebook followers, friends not on social media, Twitter followers, WordPress follower and anyone who’ll listen to let them know the book is out and at a release week low, probably about £7, putting a compelling bit of text out there to get them to buy the book and more importantly, write a review. I have had others do this to me, people starting new businesses etc and I’ve been happy to help. If I can get good sales figures in the first week it’ll help get the book into the charts and hopefully build momentum.
- Blogging: World building and about the process. Plan to refresh and revamp the website to coincide with the release.
- Blog Tours:Had to look this one up! This one is post release.
- Guest Blogs:Cultivate relationships with other bloggers and see if you can get guest slots on their blogs. Anyone?
- Author Interviews: I’m going to be interviewing other writers and authors for more blog material and hopefully pull together some more advice for other people on this journey.
- Content Marketing:Offering content to other platforms free of charge, with your name and web address at the bottom.
- Social Media:
- I’ve signed up to Twitter @stevens_gjso I’ll be getting to know how it can work for me over the next few weeks. Currently I’m experimenting with publishing flash fiction, all in the book’s world, plus publicising my blog posts.
- Hashtags: These are a new world to me. Although I’ve seen them around for many years now I never really got them. Now I do. There’s a post in there somewhere. Here are some of the hashtags I found to be useful
- #VSS365 – Very Short Stories 365 Days of the year
- #FlashFic – Flash Fiction
- Plus I’ve linked all my tweets related to my book release to #InTheEnd, so when the Hashtag is clicked you get all my posts and some guy tweeting the lyrics to Linkin Park
- A great tip I read somewhere is always to search using the Hashtag you plan on using first to make sure it’s either not associated with something you don’t wish to be associated with, or the space isn’t already too crowded.
- Getting Love on Twitter: To show their love for your content, or to further their own marketing ends, people can show their appreciation for your content in three ways.
- Follow– Much like Facebook, users can follow your tweets. I currently have 126 followers, however as I discuss below, this is a pure vanity metric and a pretty pointless guide to people actually enjoying your content.
- Like Button– Much like Facebook, users can click a button to tell you they’ve enjoyed your work. I have 75 Likes so far.
- ReTweeting– Much like Sharing in Facebook, users can ReTweet your work onto their timeline and share the content with their followers. For me this says the most and is the clearest declaration of their enjoyment. I’ve had six ReTweets so far.
- Referrals– From my WordPress stats I can see so far I have had 4 users from Twitter take the time to click on my site address. I think that’s pretty poor seen as the whole aim is to engage them in the block and stay with me for the journey. I’ve updated my Twitter profile to see if that will help. See below, not it should be clearer what I’m trying to achieve and what I want users to do.
I write fiction. I blog fact. I love hearing how people react to my words. Releasing my first work of fiction ‘In The End’ soon. Follow my blog for my story.
- Getting followers on Twitter:Other than waiting for people who follow your work to find your Twitter handle and follow you, there are other ways to grow your following outside of these organic follows. These include retweeting other people’s work, I’ve been checking out aligned content and done this a few times, following other people and liking other people. So far I am following 731 people and I have 126 followers, so that’s about a 1:6 radio of followers to following. I don’t know if that’s good or bad but it seems to work. It remains to be seen if my likes grow with my following!
- I’ve just discovered TweetDeck, a different way Twitter provides to managing your Twitter content. It makes life so much easier in filtering the content you’re targeting.
- I’ve made updates to my blog settings to add sharing buttons for Twitter and Facebook, plus a Twitter feed. I’ve had my first share of my WordPress content on Twitter now!
- Prepare social media posts
- Always use images to illustrate the posts for greater engagement
- Business Cards – See below
- Blog about it and build a Season One landing page to compel people to click the link to the book’s page on Amazon.
- Write Season Three and release on WordPress as I did with Season One and Two.
- Find a way to get people to provide reviews of the published book
- Bloggers / Reviewers
- Check out what their requirements are, genre, copies etc
- Bloggers / Reviewers
- Print and send out author copies for review. It would seem a lot of reviewers will only accept paperbacks for review.
- Write Short Stories
- $0.99 promotions
- Promotion advertisers
- Freebooksy – Promotes free kindle books
- Promotion advertisers
- Paid Ads (Bookbub? / Amazon / kboards? / Online Magazines)
- Host AMAs (AMAFeed / Reddit)
- Email for interviewers from book podcasters / book sites / reviewers
- Promo sites (there’s so many of them)
- Local newspapers
- Other sites to look into for marketing
- So what about those not on social media?
- Book signings
- But people need to have a reason to come
- Local newspaper articles
- Local radio
- This would need a might more confidence on my part!
- Paid local advertising
- This would most likely be well out of my price range
- Google Adwords
- A very controllable way of using your budget
- Amazon Reviews and the Amazon internal marketing should also fall under this category
- Daily Deal Sites who advertise special offers on books
- Book Hippo
- Book signings
Other decisions to make:
- Investigate Goodreads as a promo platform
- Audiobook version?
I’ve had these low cost business cards printed as simple low volume marketing idea. One side shows the cover of the book and the other side shows the blurb and my site address. I can either hand these out when anyone asks me about my work, or I can strategically leave them in locations where I travel.
I previously had simple cards made up with the web address on one side and the first and last paragraph of the first chapter on. They worked really well and my friends would take great delight in handing them out and placing them in prominent locations on their travels. I think these will work even better and with the cost of internet based print companies I was astounded by the low cost.
Hit the publish button!
I’ll take Season One off WordPress and add in my own advertising to link to the book on Amazon. Lots more to learn here.
Some interesting aspects I’ve found out from commenters, one in particular, which have led to more research and this whole new step in the process:
- British Library:By law (last updated in 2003) a copy of every new UK publication must be submitted to the British Library within one month of publication. I always wonder what that part in the front of UK books was all about. I’m not sure what the punishment is, but you can read on more using the link below.
- CIP – The Cataloguing in Publishing Programme:
- The CIP Programme serves publishers and libraries: for publishers, the programme is a bridge to the library book buying market; for libraries, it is an alerting service enabling them to identify titles of interest to their user communities.[Taken from the British Library Website]
- You’ll often find the following note on the inside cover of a book
- A CIP record for this title is available form the British Library
- The CIP record is administrated by BDSLive and on their website you can find out about how to provide the data and then you must include the following statement on the left inside cover (Verso, is the word, apparently)
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication DataA catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
- Local Library – Gift Copies and occasionally pop in and see if it’s being being read. If people like it they may keep an eye out for your future work.
- Public Lending Right – Get paid when people borrow your book from the libray – https://www.bl.uk/plr/about-us#
- Neilson BookData – Need to look into this.
- EAN Number – This is mentioned a lot, but I don’t need one.
- Amazon’s own in house traditional publishing houses. If your work is any good you might just get scouted!
- Other legal issues
- I came across this great post
- Something I guess which should be included in the editing process
In parallel with all the above I’ll be doing the same for Season Two and writing Season Three. I’ve made a decision not to start working on Season Three until the book is released and I can put all my energy back in to writing again. I’m writing short stories to keep the itchy fiction fingers at bay and as a good promo material.
Want to read Season One before I take it down? Here it is.
In The End is being released as a stand alone book and not as Season One because I think that can put people off, but I might be wrong. So far Season One and Two have been written in the same setting and only link up at the end. With Season Three yet to be written, although the ideas are bubbling up in my mind, I need to make sure I keep each work as a stand alone novel if I’m going to publish book one in this way. More thinking to do and I guess I should start coming up with a title for what I’ve been calling Season Two.
If I’ve made some massive misjudgement, missed out any step or you just have some advice, then please let me know in the comments.
- https://www.ingramspark.com/ – Some great resources and tutorials here, especially their booklet on marketing.
What if you woke to find the electricity off, the internet down and the streets deserted? What if you were forced to run for your life, no longer top of the food chain? What if the government had no interest in keeping you alive, but you’d found a reason to struggle on, a new meaning to this life, those around every corner intent on hunting you down?
Could you survive the end of civilisation?
Meet Logan. That’s me. The first to believe the world had changed forever. The first to urge our friends to run. The first to kill, but not the first victim. I was the first to see for myself as nature bent before my eyes. With death surrounding, getting ever closer, they looked to me for answers.