Pleased as Punch!


Well, come on, I am the Queen of Cliche ;)

Seriously though, I am sooo pleased! :) Why? Because a friend and fellow writer has just released his debut novel earlier this week! *grins*

I’ve known Tony for a couple of years now (we initially met through Nano) so I’ve been hearing about this story from its first draft and I’m so thrilled to finally see it in “print” :) It’s been really interesting hearing Tonys adventures in “indie” publishing first hand at our writing meets, so I thought you guys might like to hear what he has to say… let me introduce Author (YAY’S!) Tony Benson…

20130801-132030.jpg
What made you decide to be a writer?
First off, thank you Vikki, for having me here on your blog. I’ve always kept journals and written stories. During my career as an engineer, strangely enough, much of my work involved writing of one kind or another. I’ve written more technical documents than I could ever count, but very little was ever published for general distribution, since it’s generally written for use by customers.
When I moved on from corporate life I found myself undertaking more ambitious creative writing projects. I started with a complete non-fiction manuscript, which will probably never see the light of day, then I went on to write more fiction. That was when I began to consider publication.
I enjoy the creative process, and to see my own work, complete and published, is exhilarating.

What genre do you write?
An Accident of Birth is dystopia. I also have manuscripts at various stages of completion for crime, science fiction and fantasy. I’m currently working on a crime novel, which will be my next release.

What inspires you?
I find inspiration easily. Sometimes perhaps too easily. I’ll be inspired by a news-item, an overheard conversion or some random idea that comes into my head. Almost anything can trigger that Aha! moment. I always carry a notebook, and when an idea hits me I write it down, otherwise I’ve moved on to something else and the idea is lost.
Also I read widely from pretty much all genres, and that keeps the imagination ticking over nicely.

Tell us about your début novel An Accident Of Birth
An Accident of Birth is a speculative story which confronts the question What would society be like if most people were not fertile?
It portrays a dystopian, polluted society in which fertility is rare, and being fertile is dangerous. The government holds twenty-year-old Francesca captive, forcing her to breed children for the infertile masses. Her boyfriend Dominic has failed to rescue her in four long years. By hiring Baron Drake to spring her, Dominic learns nobody is more dangerous. The handsome, charming, and fertile baron vies to win Francesca’s heart, and he’ll stop at nothing – not even mass murder – to expand his criminal empire.

20130801-132420.jpg
What made you decide to go down the “indie” route?
Indie can mean two different things. It either refers to one of the small press publishers, or it refers to an author publishing their own work. I chose the latter path.
When I had a completed manuscript, and my critique partners and beta readers had all made their contributions, it was time to publish. I reached this point at an interesting time in publishing. Indie publishing was really picking up, and there was a lot of rhetoric in the press about how bad that was and how good it was.
I found myself torn. On one hand the kudos of having my manuscript accepted by an agent and a publisher felt like a worthy goal. On the other, the case for self publishing was very compelling. I started down the road of seeking an agent, but soon I realised that I was wasting valuable time in an endeavour which would lead me to sign away the rights to my own work. In the end, I realised that my main reason for wanting to go down the traditional publishing route was to seek validation. It’s just not a good enough reason.

Any advice for anyone considering going “indie”?
Where to begin? Bear in mind that only a few days ago I published my first novel, so I’m not an old industry pro, or a well practised professional. There are, however, some things I have found to be crucial.
The big thing to remember with indie publishing is that publishing is a profession, and anyone who’s not willing to become a professional should be shy of indie publishing.
First things first, though. Like they all say, the whole thing will fail if you don’t write a great story. That’s the core to any publishing success. Once you’ve written that great story and been through it with all your critique partners and beta readers and worked on their comments, you’ve got a draft manuscript. You’re now ready to put on your publisher’s hat.
It’s crucial to have the manuscript professionally edited. Professionally produced cover art and formatting are also a must. With that done you’ll need a great cover blurb which makes people want to read your book.
The rest is logistics, promotion and marketing. The logistics are time consuming and require plenty of thought. Promotion and marketing is your job. Whether you’re indie publishing or traditionally published you’ll need to spend time and thought on marketing. It’s not easy, and you’ll constantly need to find creative new ways to market your work. The worst thing you can do is keep asking people to buy your book.
Indie publishing cannot be done without cost. Someone has to pay for editing, cover art, formatting and all the other sundry costs. An author who publishes solo bears the whole cost themselves and hopes to make it back in sales. There are, however, other creative ways to fund the project such as working with a small press publisher, crowd funding or working with one of the companies which are springing up with new business models specifically aimed at indie publishers.
There’s never been a better time to choose the indie route.

Tony can be found through his website, blog and author page on Facebook and if you’d like to download An Accident of Birth, it’s available through Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk I’ve downloaded it and started it last night :)

Ahhhh, yeah, marketing *gulps* I don’t know about you but if I go down this route I think that’s what I’m going to find most difficult, I wouldn’t know where to start! Lol… Sooooo, anyone willing to share some marketing tips? ;)

CONGRATULATIONS Tony! When you’re a HUGE success I can brag and say I had many a writing session with you :)

Faber Session 15 – The Publishing Experience


Because of the threat of snow I was determined to get up to London, so I went earlier. Got off the tube a couple of stops later and found myself in Fortnum & Mason
20130114-223745.jpg
As you do ;) This is one serious posh shop people. I just thought I’d have a wander lol. But I kinda found myself in The Parlour, the ice cream parlour!

20130114-224107.jpg

20130114-224234.jpg
After Welsh Rarebit crumpets it was cake time! This is apparently an Estherhazy cake which originates in Austria.

20130114-224347.jpg
Looks yummy yeah? Nope….it wasn’t! It was the most sickly thing I’ve ever had :( That white stuff isn’t cream, it’s buttercream! So there’s more buttercream than cake! I couldn’t eat it all lol. On the plus side, they give you a mini ice cream with your latte ;)

20130114-224541.jpg

Anyway, enough of the cake, onto class!

Our guest tutor tonight was Hannah Griffiths (Publishing Director at Faber & Faber) who came to talk to us about publishing. I really don’t know where to begin to be honest, she was brilliant. I learnt so much! So I guess I’ll just share with you some of my notes, some of the things that Hannah said that I found interesting or useful.

She will only read a MS subbed by an agent. For 2 reasons…1. She’s a busy lady, she trusts that an MS sent in by an agent will be worth reading and 2. because she only signs authors who have an agent. Why? because she doesn’t want to spend all her time talking to that author about the business side of things (because she’d rather talk to you about your novel!), explaining stuff to debut authors who don’t know all the stuff about contracts and rights.

TItle is really important! Books with a good, memorable title will often get read on that alone, so make it brilliant!

Polish your MS to perfection. You have a much better chance. Don’t submit before you’re ready to.

Most people over-write the first 2 pages, don’t! Read 10 opening paragraphs of novels considered to be good. Learn from them!

Great authors leave no trace of the turmoil it took to get there. I love that quote :)

Be original, assured and confident in your prose, but surprise.

People don’t know what to buy anymore, publishers need to get their shit together (regarding online sales).

A good agent will know the “tastes” of certain editors.

She talked about the publishing industry. Here in the UK our biggest Bookshop chain, Waterstones, are planning on closing a third of their shops in the next couple of years. This will have a major impact on book buying in the UK. Publishers aren’t really that worried about Ebooks. Their problem will be getting debut authors work “out there” and noticed in the years to come. The ordinary man in the street, who buys 4 books a year will be turning to the supermarkets, where there is no author loyalty. It’s just a case of buy what they have.

Hmmmm, it all seems a bit sad, the state of book buying in the UK, and doesn’t fill you with hope :( At the moment Amazon seems to have the UK online market sown up. If you walk into a Waterstones you have access to 1000+ books blurbs to make your selection from. You go on to Amazon and you have to scroll through pages of books to find something you might want to read (unless you’re on there for something specific). I know what I prefer, but it seems I’m beginning to be a part of a minority :(

Sooooo, I learnt that 1. I really should have an agent before anything else and 2. The chances of me becoming a successful novelist within the next 3 years is very slim (tongue firmly in cheek there). But, it does beg the question Where exactly is the publishing industry headed? It’s quite a worry :(

Professional Editing?


I recently attended a talk by Journalist Susie Steiner (at Faber) who told us that she had used the services of a professional editor to go through her novel before she started to send it out to agents. She urged us to do the same saying that she was confident that it was one of the reasons her novel had ended up in a bidding war between a handful of the top London Agents. She believes that it is a small price to pay to appear professional and serious about publishing your novel. I tend to agree. Why not try to make your novel the best it can be before submitting it to agents and publishers?

So today’s blog guest to continue our editing theme is The Proof Fairy AKA Alison Neale.

20121210-121552.jpg
I’ve known Alison for a few years now (going back to our BookCrossing days!) and have watched her start her own business and build up her clients. Alison has written me a short article which, I think, is very interesting, especially to those of you who are considering going down the Indie route :)

A Quick Guide To Editing For Self-Publishing Authors

It seems strange, but only a few years ago it was difficult to become a published author. There were two routes – you were lucky enough to be picked up by a publisher, or you paid a dodgy company to “vanity publish” your book.

Now, of course, it’s different. The introduction of e-readers – especially Amazon’s Kindle – makes it easy for anyone to be an author. All you have to do is write a book, upload it and wait for the sales to roll in, right?

Wrong.

Many self-publishing authors cut corners by missing out the editing and proofreading stage. The result? Thousands of books out there with fantastic plots and characters that make very few sales because they are badly written. If only those authors had employed an editor, it could have been a different story!

Part of the problem is not everyone understands what editing involves. It’s not just about checking the spelling – it goes a lot further than that. In fact, there are three distinct stages of editing:

Content Editing
A content editor will “sanity check” your book by looking for plot holes, inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Many self-publishing authors use “beta readers” for this stage of the editing and that’s probably the best way to go about it. Call on a dozen trusted friends to tell you – honestly – what they think of your book. Take on board their feedback and make the appropriate changes. Your book will be all the better for it!

Copyediting
A copyeditor reads your book line by line looking for spelling and grammatical errors, clunky text and more. A good copyeditor will create a style list that includes particular phrases, character names and locations – for example, whether you use OK or okay – to ensure styles are used consistently throughout. They’ll also raise any queries with you.
In mainstream publishing you’ll normally receive your manuscript back from the copyeditor, make changes and then send it for proofreading – but many copyeditors also proofread as they go along.

Proofreading
A proofreader inspects the final page proofs to check there are no missed typos, the formatting is consistent, page numbers are in sequence etc. However, proofreading can actually happen alongside copyediting, making the process quicker and less expensive. Bear in mind that you need to have your book (or parts of it) proofread every time you make changes, as it’s easy for mistakes to creep in.

Don’t be fooled into thinking editing is something you can do yourself. By the time you’ve planned, written, rewritten and edited your book, you will be so familiar with the plot and the characters you’ll overlook even the most obvious mistakes. For example, I once proofread a novel where a character’s name switched from Tracey to Tracy and back again from chapter to chapter. The author knew what the character was called but just didn’t spot the change in spelling – because he was too close to the book.

There are thousands of self-published books out there and you want to stand out from the crowd. Editing may be an expense you don’t feel you can justify – but when it makes the difference between a handful of sales and a best seller, it’s an expense you shouldn’t avoid.

Alison Neale, AKA The Proof Fairy offers professional proofreading and editing to authors and business owners. Based in Oxfordshire, she reads anything she can get her hands on! She is currently partway through writing her own book, about parenting a child with ADHD. Away from the office she loves football, food and family – not necessarily in that order!

Take a look at some of the books Alison has worked on.

Have you ever used or considered using a professional editor?

All E’ed Out – Swanwick Day Four


I can’t believe I forgot to tell you who our speaker was yesterday….shocking! Seee, brain dead already and it’s only day four *snigger*

Our speaker was the lovely Alan Samson from Orion Books. His talk was very interesting, and my favourite quote? “The book belongs to the author. An editor should be invisible.” which was said by Max Perkins, who is considered to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest literary editor ever.

So now I’ve got that out the way, what have I been up to?

I spent the early morning, writing, in my usual spot ;)

20120814-143101.jpg

Then after breakfast it was a talk from Rebecca Woodhead which was all about E Publishing. Fascinating stuff, in which she told us the secrets of her success, one of which is about building your “tribe” lol. What that actually means is that you need to build up your loyal following.

After a break for tea it was “Ask the E Panel”. A Q and A session with Alan Samson, Rebecca Woodhead, Jan Davison and Jonathan Telfer (both from Writing Magazine).

20120814-142834.jpg

One of our delegates asked the question “If you’ve already published an EBook, does that ruin your chances of getting a traditional publisher and agent?” The panel were in full agreement with their response, and the answer was a definite NO and that, in most cases, it actually enhances your chances, especially if the EBook sells well and you have good reviews! OOOOOOOOO!!!!!! :) I kinda thought that would be the case, but it was great to hear from this well respected group. Alan Samson added that he would never take an existing eBook that had been published elsewhere. So remember that people. If you want to go down the traditional route, please don’t post your WIP’s on your blog :)

We had the afternoon off, so I spent it catching up with online stuff, reading my book and doing some writing. I had a wander around the beautiful Lakes in the sunshine and actually managed to find a bench in the shade.

20120814-152300.jpg

The evening speaker was Sharon Kendrick who is a Mills & Boon writer. She gave a thoroughly entertaining speech and i’ll be attending her course today :)

The rest of the evening was spent watching plays that were written by, directed by, and starring my fellow delegates. Great stuff! And Simon Hall as the Song Police got my vote ;)

So my question today, dear reader, is…..will you be going down the EBook route, in the hopes that it will give you a publishing deal? I still can’t make up my mind lol ;)

Why Do We Do It?


There’s been an image floating around Facebook, have you seen it? This one……

20120518-153015.jpg
With a bit of investigation, I’ve discovered it’s come from The Weldon Owen Publishing blog and it seems to have inspired lots of debates.

One of my favourite bloggers, Roger Colby featured it on his blog a few days ago, and it made me ask my self the question….. If this writing and publishing malarkey is so goddam hard….why do we do it? Why do we put ourselves through it?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? Or is it just me?

I’ve been doing some Googling lol….from what I can tell (the figures vary) its less than 1% of all manuscripts that get submitted that actually find their way on to our shelves in book form. It’s a tiny amount when you consider the hundreds of thousands of MS’s that must land on agents and publishers desks every day.

So, here’s exactly why I put myself through it.

1. I LOVE writing and I love words

2. It’s escapism, a chance to get away from my own life and envelop myself in someone else’s lol.

3. To get down on paper the thoughts going round in my head.

4. It’s a chance to explore, learn and grow.

5. Because there’s still that tiny piece of me that hopes i might, just might, be in that 1% *snigger*

20120520-092034.jpg

So I’m determined to stay positive, determined to continue on my writing journey, and if I never get published, so be it….I’m doing something I really enjoy :)

So why do you do it?

I’ve Cracked It!


*drum roll* I have my name in print!!!!!!! *takes a bow* :)

Ok, ok, I’m embellishing the truth a tiny little bit lol. It’s not that brilliant lol, but, I can now say that I am officially, published *snigger*

Remember my tips for coming up with character names? No? Ok, it’s here, The Naming Game I decided to send one of the tips off to the Writers Forum Magazine and they only went and published it lol. They’ve called it “New Faces” lol

Soooo, this month I have a letter in their “Writers Circle” section. The really funny thing is though, is that my writing tutor at The Write Place, Elaine, also has a letter in the same section of the same issue lol.

I’m not gunna let fame go to my head, it won’t change me :)

20120322-104455.jpg

It’s a great feeling, having your name in print for the first time ever and I know that some of you who read my blog have had stories and even books published, but, for me, this is huge lol. Perhaps one day I’ll become blasé, but at the moment, let me revel ;)

What’s the first thing you had published (ie your name in print). And if you haven’t had anything published, why not? *wags finger jokingly* :)

I’ve had a busy few days really. Went to my writing class Wednesday night and had to read out a story I’d written. It’s soooo nerve racking lol. But I did it, and got some good feedback. Then last night I went to the 2nd session of Peter Jones How to Do Everything and Be Happy workshop, which was great fun :)

I didn’t manage to get the saxophone prompt done, in fact, I was so busy I didn’t do any writing at all *shock horror gasp* and I don’t even know what tomorrows prompt is because I’m sitting in bed writing this lol. I’ll make up for it tomorrow of course ;)

Book Launch


Last night I attended Elizabeth Haynes Book Launch for her 2nd novel Revenge Of The Tide

We’re all so proud of Elizabeth. Even only a few days ago we learnt that Amanda Ross has publicly announced that Into The Darkest Corner (Elizabeths brilliant debut) is one of the 4 books she recommends you must read this year! So what with that and being voted as Amazons Book of the Year 2011 and the The TV Book Club Elizabeth is hot stuff at the moment (and long may it continue!!!!).

I met Elizabeth through a writing group (just as she was getting a book deal for the first book) and she has been a wealth of information. Always eager to encourage and share information with those of us who aspire to be where she is now ;)

I went to the last launch (in Central London) with the ladies from the writing group, but this time, as it’s more local, hubby came with me. We read Elizabeth’s first book simultaneously (I bought 2 copies) so no doubt we’ll be doing the same with this new one.

The launch went really well. I got to meet up with the ladies from the Mermaids Writing Group and the lovely Maidstone Writers were all there. Plus, I met a BookCrosser from Essex who I’d corresponded with through email and it looks like I’ll be going to Colchester at some stage :)

So, if you’re reading this Elizabeth….CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! it really is much deserved. I wish you luck and success for the future, and can’t wait to be invited to the opening of “The Shed” lol :)

Elizabeth looking stunning with her pole dancing cake :)

20120306-215255.jpg

Yesterday’s prompt about the fog turned from a creepy tale of a woman breaking down in her car on an empty fogged road, to a romance, where along came a knight in silver armour….awwwww, perhaps happy endings aren’t so bad after all ;) Today’s prompt is write about your fathers eyes. Oooo, errrr, that’s a bit close for comfort….I didn’t even meet mine til I was 26! Lol