Sunday, 30 December 2007

Top Ten Writing Tips Supplied by Crime Writer Martin Edwards - author of The Coffin Trail

1. Study the market - read crime novels written by today's authors
2. Only write a crime novel if you enjoy reading them
3. If your story is set in the past, research the period thoroughly
4. If it is set in the present, give it a setting with which you are familiar
5. If you want to write a series, make your detective credible and likeable
6. Plan the story before you start writing
7. Aim for a strong first paragraph and first page
8. Keep building the suspense
9. Make the climax to the story as strong as you possibly can
10. Remember: writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. Don't lose heart half way through!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Getting the right title

This article has been contributed by acclaimed UK crime writer Martin Edwards. You can read his blog at

You shouldn’t judge a book by its title, but I still think that titles matter and I devote a lot of thought to picking the right title for my books. Probably The Devil in Disguise and The Arsenic Labyrinth are personal favourites, but I’m also pleased with Waterloo Sunset. The Harry Devlin series took its titles from 60s pop songs; the Lake District titles to date have linked in with the natural landscape.I’ve usually found that I just know when I’ve hit the right note with the title. The moment I came across the phrase ‘the arsenic labyrinth’ – quite out of the blue – I realised that it was perfect for the book I was writing, set in the rugged landscape above Coniston Water. When it comes to other writers’ titles, I have a weakness for humour. I love Subpoena Colada by Mark Dawson, and I Still Miss My Man, But My Aim is Getting Better by Sarah Shankman runs it a close second. One difficulty when picking a title for a Lake District Mystery is that all the obvious ones have been taken – sometimes more than once, sometimes for truly memorable novels. So I won’t be using Still Waters or Hidden Depths. Or The Lady in the Lake, come to that.The first Lake District Mystery originally had a different title. But it had been used before, for a book published thirty years earlier. I spoke to the writer of that book and she wasn’t happy with my using the same title. Of course, there is no copyright in a title, and I wasn’t sure the objections was entirely reasonable, but she is a pleasant person, and I certainly didn’t want to upset her - and so I came up with The Coffin Trail.

Writing Fiction Checklist

Here are some further tips from Pauline Rowson author of the popular marine mystery series featuring DI Andy Horton, Tide of Death and Deadly Waters and of the thrillers In Cold Daylight and In For The Kill.

When writing your novel every scene or linking passage must be there for a reason so ask yourself:

1. Why is this scene included?

2. What about it will make the reader read on?

3. Does it start at the right point?

4. Does it end at the right point?

5. Is there a good blend of narrative, description and dialogue?

6. Look critically at too long explanatory passages – show your readers what is happening and what your characters are thinking, don’t tell them.

7. Look carefully at viewpoint through which you describe a scene – whose head are you inside? How would he or she see it?

8. Look at wording and phrasing. Take each sentence one by one – does it say what you intended it to say? Is it elegant or clumsy?

9. Prune unnecessary words – e.g. George shouted angrily.

10. Watch for phrases and words you overuse.

11. Have you overwritten?

12. Does it entertain and interest the reader?

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Getting the right viewpoint and finding your voice

New authors often struggle with finding their 'voice' and the right 'viewpoint'. Crime writer, Pauline Rowson, whose thrillers include In Cold Daylight, long listed for the World Book Day Spread The Word Prize 2008, In for the Kill and her popular marine mysteries Detective Andy Horton novels, Tide of Death, and Deadly Waters talks about her experiences.

I'm often asked why all my novels are written from the male point of view. I didn't originally intend to do this, indeed my first attempts at novel writing were with female lead characters. But I should have known then that I had an inclination to write with a male voice because I found myself much more interested in the men's actions in my books and how that impacted on others. But it wasn't until I wrote Tide of Death featuring Andy Horton that I knew this was right for me. A little light bulb flashed in my brain, something went ping and I knew I was home. That doesn't mean to say that I don't have strong and sometimes quirky and evil females in my novels because I do, it's just that I find it more exciting writing with a male protagonist. I guess it's my love of heroes and being raised on Bond films and its ilk that's done it. And then being married to a fire fighter... need I say more!

But it takes a writer a while to find his or her voice and style, and it is only by experimenting with various different genres and techniques that you find what suits you. For example, when I first wrote In Cold Daylight, it was in the third person, but it wasn't until I was revising it that I thought this isn't working. Why? So I changed it to the first person and bingo it was spot on. My thriller In For The Kill is also written in the first person, and I believe this is what makes them fast-paced and exciting. The next thriller (which I plan to start writing in the New Year, after I have finished the fourth Andy Horton marine mystery) will also be in the first person.

The Andy Horton novels Tide of Death, Deadly Waters and The Suffocating Sea (published March 2008) are all written in the third person, and they are all from the single viewpoint of Andy Horton, the main character. Everything is seen through his eyes. You follow his story, engage with his emotions and experience his actions. It's interesting to write too, because nothing can happen off the page, or away from the character. And perhaps it's because I write from the male point of view that so many men as well as women read my books. One question I was asked, by a man and another author, was - do men have any problem with me writing from the male perspective being a woman? Well, I haven't found so yet.

Finding your voice and mastering viewpoint is often a matter of trial and error and of course it depends what kind of novel you are writing and in which genre. The best way to understand how viewpoint works, (apart from writing it and experimenting) is to study best selling novels in the genre you are writing, or those novels you love. Then ask yourself which style and viewpoint will have the most dramatic impact on the reader.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Getting Published

I have written a novel of approximately 130,000 words. It is a historical romance. However it is also quite gritty in places. I am now trying to find a publisher, and would appreciate any advice you can give me.

Congratulations on writing your novel. I am not sure how far down the road of trying to get a publisher you are, but here is some advice.

Make sure that the novel is the best you can possibly make it. Revise, revise and revise again. This is essential especially in today’s market where it is VERY difficult to get an Agent or Publisher. If you haven’t done so then I would strongly advise getting a literary consultancy to review your work and make comments on it. I recommend The Hilary Johnson Authors’ Advisory Service. Hilary will match your novel with the right editor . This will cost you, but it is a good investment, because you will get your MS returned with edits where it can be improved.

If you have already done this and feel you are ready to approach a publisher then you need to research which publishers publish in your genre. The bookshop or library can help here. Just look and see who publishes other authors similar to you. Many publishers today don’t take unsolicited MS and use Agents, so you might want to approach an Agent first. Either search online for ones that take your kind of work or use the Writers' and Artists' Year Book. Send them what they require and then wait. They take forever though so you might want to approach a few Agents at the same time.

There is lots more advice in Publishing and Promoting Your Book. It also covers self publishing if you decide to go this root. There are also some web sites now where you can pitch your book, or put your work on line and invite reviews and the ones with the best reviews could get picked up by a publisher. There is and Harper Collins have a site

Final piece of advice though, never stop writing, no matter if you keep getting rejection letters, and whilst sending this novel out get working on the next one, and then the next and so on, because believe me you get better and better.

Good luck to you, and you never know, your novel might hit the spot right away. Number one and you’re off…

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Marketing -the Publisher, Bookseller and the Author

The Pan Bookshop in London is to close after thirty-two years of trading. Waterstones too is closing the very first branch it opened in 1982 in west London. It's a tough time in book retailing and a tough one too in publishing, so where does that leave the author?

Books are a low cost item (generally) and not a fast moving consumer good (FMCG) so they don't generally fly off the shelves unless you happen to be a celebrity, or a big named author already. Selling books whether you are a bookseller, author or publisher is very hard work and usually for the majority of titles a slow trickle until hopefully (in some cases) that trickle becomes a stream, then a river and at last an almighty flood. But making that happen all takes time, persistence and marketing.

For the author it's a matter of getting his or her name out there and building readership. Unfortunately not all publishers will help you do this or allow you enough time to build your 'name'. If you're not selling from day one then you could find yourself being dropped after your two book contract is fulfilled. This doesn't mean to say that your book was bad or that your writing was poor. On the contrary both could be brilliant. But in a world that wants quick returns on investments you simply ran out of time. So here are five lessons:

1. Don't rely on the publisher to market you or your book .
Get off your backside and do it yourself. This is no time for modesty false or otherwise. Publishers don't have the time, resources or money to commit to marketing an unknown author but instead concentrate on their BIG names, their 'cash cows!' Draw up a marketing plan from the moment (or even before) your book is to be published and stick to it.

2.Keep marketing from day one and use every opportunity you can to promote yourself and your book.
This can be through a press release to the media, (even if it is just your local or regional press) on-line, through a blog, your own website or a social network like Facebook. Give talks in your local libraries, free, except for travelling expenses. Libraries are great at promoting new authors and have ready and willing readers. You can also sell your books at your talk and cover your costs. Contact your local bookshop if you have one and ask if you can do a signing. You will need to market it yourself, don't expect people to turn up, even some of the big name authors are left at book signings staring at the bookshelves with no one to talk to.

3. Keep it going.
Marketing is a long slow process. What you do today might not have an immediate impact but eventually it will begin to work. I always say give it eighteen months before you start to see any real benefits.

4. Be patient and persistent.

5.Always look for opportunities and seize them where you can.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Three (Writing) Traps to Avoid by Bob Burnham

Writing a book is a joyous time filled with satisfaction and, of course, a lot of hard work. As an author, there are many traps you can fall into that will not only affect your profits, they will affect your productivity. You want to get your book completed as soon as possible, right? Since finishing your book and making money from sales are two common goals, let us take a look at three traps you must avoid and how to avoid them.

1. Perfectionist trap
This trap catches every new author and many who have been writing for a long time. Let me just get this out of the way; perfection does not exist. There, I said it. Now you can let it go. Perfectionism slows you down. It causes you to spend an hour mulling over a paragraph. It makes you edit as you write, a major mistake because it blocks the flow of words onto paper and it drastically slows down your productivity.

So how do you escape this trap? Set writing goals every day and meet them. Look at your schedule. How much time can you commit every day to writing? Ten minutes? Twenty minutes? More? Grab a pen and paper, or your computer. Set the timer and write. Just write. Everything that enters your head lands on the page. Do not stop. Do not edit yourself. Do not delete anything–just write. When the timer beeps and your time is up, finish your thought and put your writing away. Editing is what you do when you are done getting your book on paper.

2. Procrastinator's trap
Oddly enough, the more you want to write a book, the harder it can be to actually do it. I think the biggest reason for this is fear. Fear of failure and even fear of success can keep us from getting our book done. The good news is that the solution is simple. You know how you clean the kitchen every day because it needs to be done? You feed the dog, you do your laundry, etc. You do all of these things not because you enjoy them, but because they need to be done. I assume you enjoy writing much more than you enjoy cleaning your kitchen, right? Set aside time to write every day. In fact, forget the kitchen. Your writing is much more important.

3. Passive marketing trap
Do not fall into this trap! You wrote and published your book, and now you are going to let it collect dust on the shelves? No matter how you publish your book, you must also market your book. If you want to sell books, you have to tell people about it. Press releases, book signings, Web sites, interviews, and a marketing strategy is just the beginning of the work you must have to do. It can be done, but only if you are proactive.

Bob Burnham is an entrepreneur, consultant, and author of 101 Reasons Why You Must Write A Book. Extract taken courtesy of BookMasters, Inc.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Sales and distribution of books in the UK

I am presently at the point of publishing in UK and I would like to know more about sales and distribution.

Gardners and Bertrams are the two main book wholesalers in the UK. They supply to the book trade, some libraries and the Internet booksellers. They will require a discount usually 50-55% of the RRP. For example if your book retails at £10.00 and you negotiate a 50% discount with them you would invoice them for £5.00. You would need to ship your books to them when they have orders as they do not carry large amounts of stock. You should also register with the Amazon Advantage programme who can place orders for your books direct with you. Again, they usually require a 50-55% discount.

If you have an ISBN number for your book then it will automatically appear on many Internet book sites, and booksellers, both on line and off line, will be able to order it direct from you. Finding a distributor for a single title is very difficult, so you might need to distribute and sell yourself. You might also like to look at setting up your own web site/blog and putting details of your book on this with a link through to Amazon, who can then take orders for you. To do this you will need to join Amazon Associates, but you will also get commission on your book sales if the buyer clicks through from your site to Amazon and purchases the book.

Monday, 3 December 2007

I am looking at the self publishing route and requiring advice

I have written an adventure on the high seas in a mid to late 21st century setting. I did it for fun and found that I enjoyed it. Now I am thinking about self publishing, any advice? D. Firth

Self publishing can be a very viable route. “Publishing and Promoting Your Book,” gives a great deal of advice on how to self publish and indeed promote your book.

One of the key things I would say is to ensure that your book is a professional product, which will be able to hold its own in any bookstore. Study those books closest to your genre and then imitate them in size, price, design and style.

Before production ensure that your writing is as good as it can be. Revise, revise, revise. Get the advice of a professional editor if possible and make sure that your plots hold together. I can thoroughly recommend the Hilary Johnson Authors’ Advisory service if you need a professional critique and edit. Hilary matches your MS with published authors in the same genre who give real practical advice and professional edits, although this will cost you.

If you feel that your novel is as good as it gets, then you could contact RPM who not only print books, including short print runs, but in conjunction with their other company The Better Book Company who can advise on editing, typesetting, jacket design, style and size of book and can also help you obtain an ISBN which will allow your book to be sold on line and in bookshops internationally. There is no commitment and no charge for an estimate, which would give you some idea of the costs involved and timescales. I hope this helps you.