Friday, 12 December 2008
"As the book industry awaits news of the sale of Bertrams, in a process that is taking longer to confirm than had been hoped, it is not only Bertrams staff and publishers who are eager for a resolution. With less than two weeks to go before Christmas, booksellers are desperate for normal supplies from the Norwich-based wholesaler to resume.
The supply by publishers to Bertrams on a pro-forma basis means that Bertrams cannot run daily deliveries to its customers. One independent bookseller told BookBrunch that he was waiting for more than 600 dues: "We're getting only one delivery a week from Random House, and two from Penguin."
At a time when sales are showing a double-digit decline on the same period last year, these delays are particularly troublesome.Switching orders to Gardners is not the simple solution it might appear to be. A bookseller's principal wholesaler will give a discount in the region of 45%; a wholesaler used for one-off orders will give some 10 percentage points less. Booksellers will not switch their entire accounts lightly. They want Bertrams to weather this crisis, as do publishers; but they are feeling increasingly nervous as the days go by.
Meanwhile, publishers are doing their best to supply a bestselling range to Tesco as news of a buyer for administration-bound EUK fails to emerge. Most stock is going through the Tesco-owned Oakwood, though millions of pounds-worth of books remain in the EUK warehouse."
Pauline Rowson, comments:
"This is such a shame as it is afffecting not only publishers and independent bookshops but also the authors who would dearly love everyone to buy their books. Of course, some customers will simply buy elsewhere, on line for example, but there are those like the elderly, who rely on their local bookshop. The bookshop could switch supplier to the other major book wholesaler, Gardners, but many won't have the time to do this before Christmas and for many it involves using a complete new on line ordering system which takes some time to implement and to train staff how to use. Come on Deloittes find a buyer and quick. "
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
"A buyer has still not been found for one of the city's biggest employers.Bertram Books is currently looking for a buyer after the group's parent company Entertainment UK - the distribution arm of Woolworths - went into administration last week.It was expected a buyer would be found by the end of last week but Michael Neil, managing director of the company, said the situation remained “unchanged”.Bertrams itself is not in administration but its share capital is now under the control of the administrators Deloitte, which has decided to put the Broadland Business Park-based business up for sale.The company employs 400 people at its Norwich headquarters and more than 200 distribution staff in Yorkshire."
The other major UK books wholesaler, Gardners based at Eastbourne, is rumoured to have taken over the Sainsbury's account, one of the supermarkets left without supplies of books because of the administration.
Friday, 28 November 2008
Good writing includes editing. Just look back at an email you dashed off in haste, and you will likely wince at something. Editing encompasses many levels of intensity from basic proofreading to substantial reworking and rewriting. To produce professional and effective fiction, the manuscript editing will go far beyond merely proofreading.Whether a short story or novel is being submitted to a publisher or headed for self publishing, it needs to be thoroughly edited and assessed from many angles.
Editing strives to create flow with smooth transitions, maintain clarity, cut out unnecessary repetition, and includes a variety of tiny to huge adjustments that make the difference between a block of stone and (hopefully) Michelangelo’s David.
Editing is commonly believed to best be done by a competent person other than the writer. Although the critical eye of another is great, any writer should also assess his or her work by switching gears and looking at the work from the editing perspective instead of the writing perspective. However, a writer is often emotionally attached to a work and reluctant to approach the creation with the attitude of an over demanding, never-satisfied father. Overcoming the protective impulse to cling to an original draft as divinely-driven art will serve any writer well.
Editing also takes much effort. A writer might thankfully turn over a manuscript to an editor like after laboring to plant a garden and then assigning someone else to weed and harvest it. However, many writers do not have the luxury of an available competent person who can polish work for an audience.
All writers want to be considered a good writer, and this requires editing. You may be trying to break into fiction markets with short stories and you need to submit your very best to get noticed. To do this you should approach editing as another and enjoyable part of writing. You will enjoy making your work better, sometimes much better. While editing, you will learn about how you write and you will see what you are good at and what you need to fix. For example, I often find when editing my initial drafts that I flopped through three sentences to say one thing. Usually I can harvest the good bits from each sentence and then combine them into one strong sentence. To do this, I weigh the nuances of each sentence and judge whether I am actually giving out good details or repeating myself needlessly. Having spent many years writing fiction, which includes editing and rewriting, I have developed a checklist that keeps me on track when editing fiction. I apply most or all of the questions on this checklist to every chapter during the editing process. Remember, the goal is for you to be your toughest critic and for all other critics to love you.
Fiction Editing Checklist
1. Is it bad? Be honest. Do you like what you wrote? Can you imagine others liking it? You really must be able to say yes to this fundamental question before being satisfied.
2. What is the lead like? Good, bad, indifferent? By lead, I mean how does the chapter or short story start? Is it compelling? Does it arouse interest or excitement? Don't let an otherwise great story start like assembly instructions for an entertainment center.
3. What is the action like? With this question, I analyze what is happening in the story. First of all, is anything happening? Do not let the narrative feel like being stuck in a traffic jam (unless the action is being stuck in a traffic jam). This is a very subjective question for the writer/editor. Basically, you need to decide if events are moving the story and thereby maintaining the interest of the reader.
4. Are you having a good mix of dialogue, narrative, and action? I use this question to avoid stringing together 80 lines of dialogue. Too much he said and she said in a row does not suit narrative fiction. Non-dialogue elements about the characters, setting, and action need to be mixed with dialogue in order to build the word pictures necessary for fiction.
5. Are you moving the plot along or are you fooling around? It's easy as a writer to start enjoying your characters and exploring tangents or minute details of their lives. Some of this might be essential to story and character development, but let it go too far, and the reader could become bored. Do not let narrative wanderings dilute a story until it is about as interesting as waiting for your number at the DMV.
6. Do the actions of the characters make sense? Readers need to understand or at least have some clues as to why a character does or says something. If a character does something completely out of character, does the story explain why? Characters are often like chess pieces. They can only move in certain ways. Essentially, I am cautioning against making a character do something just because the writer needs that thing done. It must come down to would the character do that and, if so, under what circumstances?
7. Do you think the plot twists and turns are acceptable? Do they appear contrived? You want a natural flow.
8. Are you appealing to the senses? Does imagery occur often enough to build a setting? Are you doing it too much?
9. Are you watching for places in the story that drag? Can you think of a way to pick it up? Does the dragging portion need to be cut? Or is a pause from the action necessary?
10. Is the dialogue necessary or should it be replaced with narrative? Sometimes you don’t need to write out mundane conversation with quoted character dialogue. Sometimes it’s much better and efficient to simply writing narrative such as: Becky asked her dad when her mom would be home. He said he didn’t know.
11. Does the dialogue match the character for language skills, vocabulary, intelligence, emotion and knowledge?
12. Can the reader identify with the characters in any way? Does anything ring true?
After analyzing and editing your work with the above questions, you have surely improved your writing. The last thing on my checklist is to tell yourself that you did a good job.
Tracy Falbe is the author of the fantasy fiction series "The Rys Chronicles" that has received good reviews since its publication in January 2006. To learn more about her fiction writing style, visit http://www.braveluck.com where a free ebook download of her first novel is available.
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
http://www.completelynovel.com/ is a free web application for everyone who loves books. Book lovers can use an online library to share their taste in books with others. They can rate, review and discuss books in clubs and they can read and buy a huge variety of books from up-and-coming writers. Writers can use Completely novel to share, promote and even sell their books. They can tell their readers a bit more about themselves, what they are up to and also get feedback on their books. For unpublished writers, CompletelyNovel provides them with the tools and opportunity to build up a profile for themselves which they can take to publishers. And publishers, printers and other service providers can use CompletelyNovel as a way to interact directly with readers and writers, find talent, create professional products and make the most of all of the latest online technology.
The interview is on the community page of the CompletelyNovel website - http://www.completelynovel.com/community. You will need to log-in to CompletelyNovel in order to see it there, but you can do so by going to http://www.completelynovel.com/ and using the following invite code: cnrowson
Pauline Rowson has wanted to be a writer since she was eleven years old. Now, she is a professional full-time writer, has her own company Rowmark, is the author of three marine mystery crime novels and two thrillers. Pauline's background in marketing has been a great benefit in spreading the word about her books. She offers some tips on what worked for her when it came to building her books into a business.
Pauline Rowson's marine mystery crime novels may feature the 'flawed and rugged' DI Horton but there's nothing flawed about her company, Rowmark, which she set-up as a Marketing Agency before branching into publishing. By drawing on her marketing skills and publishing her own brand of fiction and business books, Pauline has learned a great deal about the industry. We wanted to know more…
Before becoming a writer, you did some work in marketing, has this helped you when it comes to getting your book out to the right people?
All authors need to market themselves. I use my marketing skills in my 'business' as a professional writer. It has helped me to keep my name in front of people, to network and build contacts and to spread the word about my books.
Your Marine Mystery crime novels are quite different from the business books you have also written – what made you decide to start writing that kind of genre?
I started writing fiction seriously twenty years ago. I began with historical novels but it wasn't until I wrote my first crime fiction novel that I knew I was on the right track. In between writing fiction though I was running my own Marketing and Training company and I thought some of the training material I developed would make very good practical business books. So I wrote some books on marketing, which were extremely well received by readers. I set up a publishing division in my company. I learnt a great deal about the publishing world through doing this, and earlier this year I sold all my business titles to Crimson Publishing who are relaunching them in 2009. However writing fiction, and crime and thriller fiction, is my first love.
You are a very active blogger, and have a website and use other social networking sites. How important do you think it is for a writer to have an online presence?
Hugely important. It is such a brilliant marketing tool and so cost effective. All it costs is your time. It is such a great way to keep in touch with my readers and to meet new readers. It's also good for networking with other writers and sharing ideas and experiences. And it helps to spread the word about my books and raise my profile, not to mention stimulate sales. It is a must for all writers.
To begin with, you decided to start your own publishing company to publish your books. Many would consider that to be quite a brave decision. What made you decide to do things that way, and has it paid off?
I knew exactly how I wanted my business books to look and what they should contain, and because of my marketing background I wanted strong branding. Publishing them myself was by far the best option because it gave me complete control and it taught me a huge amount about how the whole publishing industry works. Therefore when my first crime novel was ready for publication I decided to launch it under a new imprint of my own company in order to develop the branding of Marine Mysteries, and to test the market place. It has paid off considerably. Because I could prove that my books were popular with readers, and I was generating sales, a publisher then approached me with a two book contract and I have sold translation rights, e book rights and audio rights. I am also now published in the USA and my novels are on sale worldwide.
What advice do you have for writers who are very determined, have received some good feedback on their books but aren't having any luck with publishers?
Keep going, keep getting better and NEVER EVER give up. Take advice from a professional editorial service and if you feel your work is ready and you can't get a publisher, consider self-publishing. For many authors who do not want to go to the expense of having many copies printed then I think CompletelyNovel is a good idea. Editing and typesetting is important and also ensuring the cover design is appropriate and good. The book size also has to be correct for the style of book. The most difficult part of self publishing is marketing. If the book is just for local consumption, or for friends and relatives, this isn't such a big issue but if the author wants wider sales then having a really good product (the look and feel of the book as well as the content) and learning how to market it, plus setting aside money to do so, is very important. I think sites like CompletelyNovel are going to be extremely valuable to authors in terms of promoting their books, and networking amongst reading groups and others.
From your blog it is pretty clear that you are a very busy person! Can you give us some insight into what are you doing at the moment?
I have just finished writing a murder mystery play, called Murder at the Pelican Club. I am revising three business books for publication in May 2009. I am seeing my new Marine Mystery crime novel, Dead Man's Wharf, through to publication with my editor for April 2009. I'm waiting for the Polish edition of In Cold Daylight to be published on 28 November 2008 and I'm revising the next DI Horton Marine Mystery for publication in 2010, plus I'm progressing some overseas deals, which are bubbling along in the pipeline. So quite a lot to keep me busy!
You can also read the interview on http://blog.completelynovel.com/
Friday, 21 November 2008
They've also announced their workshop timetable for next year so you might like to pencil something in your diary.
1-3rd April - Mixed Adult and Children's Writing - two day Oxon
13th May - Picture Book - one day, London
24th June - Are You Ready to Submit - one day, London
21-23 September - Women's Commercial Fiction- two day, Oxon
16-18th November - Mixed Adult and Children's Writing - two day, Oxon
All levels are welcome. Please contact them for a programme or to find out more. Tel: 020 8968 0777 www.cornerstones.co.uk
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
ASK THE AGENTS PANEL DEBATE AND Q&A: 10:00AM – 11:30AM
Have you got a grip of the market and its demands?
With Camilla Hornby (Curtis Brown); Anna Power (Johnson & Alcock) and Juliet Pickering (AP Watt) – assistant to Derek Johns and currently building her list. Chaired by Henry Sutton.
MANUSCRIPT CONSULTATIONS: 12:00am – 1:30pm (FULLY BOOKED)
GETTING THERE WITH ERICA WAGNER: 2:30pm – 4:00pm
Henry Sutton talks to Erica Wagner about how she "got there" in her career. Erica offers tips from the frontline and advice about how to make it in the current climate using her experience as a highly-experienced writer, journalist, author and poet. Including Q and A and book signing.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS WITH GILES FODEN: 6:00pm – 7:30pm
NB: this event takes place in The Oak Room, The Maidshead Hotel, TomblandThe author of The Last King of Scotland, delivers a talk on how writers can face up to the challenges and opportunities of the new landscape: how cross-media platforms affect writers; what digital rights consist of, and how the practising writer can protect themselves against the machine-like operations of big media. Including brief interview & Q&A with Henry Sutton.
NETWORKING SESSION: 7:30pm
Wine, nibbles and the chance to meet and chat to other participants, panellists, speakers, writers and agents.
PRICE: Day ticket: £45 (Deal! Students Only: £22.50)
Single panel tickets for non-pass holder: £10 (Deal! Students Only £5)
Book: www.newwritingpartnership.org.uk/season, 01603 877177
EDP Short Story Competition 2008
New Writing Partnership and Jarrold are sponsoring the third annual EDP Norfolk Short Story Competition which is open to adults and young people from Norfolk. We’re asking for a short story of up to 2,000 words on the theme of A County of Stories. Rachel Hore, author of The Dream House and The Memory Garden will judge the competition which has separate adult (17+) and junior categories (16 or younger). The two winners will receive £50 each in Jarrold book tokens, and will be published in the EDP, whilst two runners-up will receive £25 in Jarrold book tokens. Deadline: November 28. Please do not send entries to NWP – full entry details here.
Latest National News
The Christopher Tower Poetry Competition
The UK’s most valuable prize for young poets is open for entries, with students between 16-18 years of age in full or part-time education challenged to write a poem on the theme of ‘Doubt’. First prize is £3,000, second £1,000 and third £500. The students’ schools and colleges also receive cash prizes. www.towerpoetry.org.uk/prize, firstname.lastname@example.org, 01865 286591. Closing date:18 March, 2009.
NEW! Mslexia Women's Short Story Competition
£2,000 1st prize, £500 2nd, £250 3rd, 3@ £100. Closing date: 23 January 2009. Full details here.
For further information contact Katy Carr, Marketing and Communications Manager
New Writing Partnership
14 Princes Street
Tel: 01603 877177
Fax: 01603 625452
Monday, 27 October 2008
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
Cornerstones are offering for one month only - end date 22nd November – to consider your first five pages and synopsis with a view to passing you through to an agent.
MATERIAL is to be sent BY EMAIL to email@example.com (and please follow the below instructions otherwise the material may not be considered.)
Email material using the email heading ‘Are you ready to submit offer’
5 pages double-spaced, 12 font, times new roman
1 page synopsis single spaced
NB: Unfortunately, Cornerstones won't have time to give the usual detailed feedback you would get from a report, so will only be able to give a 'yes' or a 'no' response.
PHASE TWO (by invitation only)
If the answer is 'yes' they'll ask to look at the first 3 chapters and synopsis. Again, they won't be able to give you reasons for a turn down.
PHASE THREE (by invitation only)
If the whole MS is submittable, reading/editing and passing you through to an agent is a free process (and always is for the author with Cornerstones). If, however, you receive a publication deal Cornerstones receive 10% of the worldwide initial deal only, on a win/fee basis. Terms and conditions will be sent to you after Phase Two.
Saturday, 18 October 2008
In August I was commissioned to write a murder mystery play. More used to penning crime novels this is my first serious play and I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. By providing some background information here, I thought I might help those of you who are writing plays or who would like to write plays.
It began with an e mail in August asking writers for submissions for a new murder mystery play to be performed by professional actors and actresses in the autumn. Deadlines were extremely tight. I needed to know more.
What kind of play were they looking for? Was it to be a serious play or a comedy? What kind of audience were they aiming at? Where was it to be performed? And last but by no means least, was I going to get paid for writing it?
After several e mails between the producer and myself I knew I wanted this commission. It was a great opportunity to try my hand at professional play writing, and to pen something in the period I longed to write about - the 1940s.
I had many ideas but one stood out amongst the others and it was this one I worked up into an outline, which I duly submitted. The producers loved it and soon I was writing the script.
Your first script is not your final one.
There were many revisions and a writer needs to be open to suggestions by the producers. I had to cut down the number of characters from eight to seven and change dialogue many times. But each time the producers had their reasons. In novel writing you need to think like your characters and in play writing the same applies, but with the play you go one step further- you also need to think like an actor - what would work on stage or screen and what wouldn't?
The cast had their first read through on 13 October and it was a success. Now the rehearsals begin, and I am sure there will be further re-writes before 26 November 2008 when it will be premiered in the critically acclaimed Haymarket Restaurant in Liverpool where a stunningly professional cast of actors and actresses will bring my play to life. I find it incredibly exciting and obviously a little nerve wracking.
Play versus novel
I found many advantages in writing a play over a novel (although I love doing both). Firstly I loved the tight deadlines. In my marketing career I was used to working to very tight deadlines, responding to the client’s demands and to the media. I also found it really invigorating to be working with such creative people. I enjoyed the discussions about the characters and the dialogue. It is a totally different experience to writing a novel where you are alone with your characters, dialogue and plot usually until your agent or editor reads it. With a novel, feedback only comes when the novel is finished, but with the play I was able to try out ideas with the producers and vice versa. My marine mystery crime novels are written in the third person single view point – all the action is seen through my detective DI Horton’s eyes – my thrillers are written in the first person, so no activity can take place off the page, and I think that my style of writing lends itself naturally to a play and particularly one of this sort where there are no scene changes and all the action has to be played out in front of an audience.
About Murder at the Pelican Club
Murder at the Pelican Club is set in a restaurant in 1940s England. I’ve written it in the style of Agatha Christie’s Poirot but have chosen to feature a gruff, middle-aged detective called Doyle instead of the fastidious Belgian detective famously portrayed on television by David Suchet.
The fact that Murder at the Pelican Club is being performed in a non traditional venue was an added attraction to me for writing the play, that and the fact the producers wanted a serious play in the style of the great Agatha Christie. There is no curtain to rise or fall, so I had to think of ways to get the characters (and the dead body) off the ‘stage’. I also like the idea of taking the theatre to the audience rather than the audience going to a theatre.
Check out the web site…
There is a web site about Murder at the Pelican Club http://www.myspace.com/murdermysteryuk
which chronicles how the idea took shape and how Hall Lake Productions auditioned and cast the actors and actresses, plus more. It could provide helpful information to anyone reading this who wants to be or is a playwright or any actors, actresses, producers.
Here is a preview of Murder at the Pelican Club:
“Imagine being inside an episode of a classic TV Murder Mystery... The Haymarket Restaurant and Hal Lake Productions invite you to experience "Murder at The Pelican Club", a brand new and exciting detective play in the vein of the classic crime thrillers of the 20th century! With audience all around, this fully professional production lets its audience experience the feeling of being in the middle of the action in a show that can be compared to a "Poirot"-style detective drama, complete with twists and turns, a two-course gourmet dinner and an edge-of-your-seat, shocking reveal of the killer. You get the chance to try your hand at solving the mystery, discuss amongst yourselves and make your own guess as to who did it, why and how! Maybe you'll even be the evening's winner and walk away with the prize! The moment you enter the underground vaults of the critically acclaimed Haymarket Restaurant, time turns back to 1940. The new forces sweetheart is performing on the eve of a big European tour for allied troops. Suddenly an air-raid hits the city, and as the bombs get closer, the lights flicker and go out. They come back on to reveal the starlet lying murdered on the floor! The killer must have committed the murder during last few minutes right in front of all the diners. But who could possibly have killed her in a room full of witnesses, and why? The detective steps in to uncover a web of lies, deceit and dark secrets while solving the mystery where everyone is a suspect of this audacious murder...”
Bookings are now open…
The première is on Wednesday 26 November 2008 and the event will run weekly. The full Murder Mystery Dining experience at The Haymarket Restaurant including the murder mystery play and a two-course gourmet dinner with a glass of wine costs £35 per person. You can book by calling 0151 255 0588
The play is also available for private and corporate bookings, so if you fancy your own murder mystery experience call 07963 111730.
I loved writing Murder at the Pelican Club and I am keen to write more plays. The producers have been fantastic and it’s been really great to work with such talented and enthusiastic people, to discuss the play as it unravels and to revise and fine tune it and to have to continually think from the actor’s point of view. I can’t wait to see it performed. It will be a great thrill to see my written word come to life.
Sunday, 5 October 2008
The remit of the CWA is to raise the profile of crime writing by providing a forum for all writers and others connected with it. They administer and award a series of prizes known as the Dagger Awards and aspiring writers can enter the opening chapters and the synopsis of a proposed crime novel into the Debut Dagger. Membership of the CWA is open to anyone who has had one crime novel produced by a bona fide publisher - though I'm not sure how they define this! They issue a monthly magazine/newsletter called 'Red Herrings', hold an annual conference and various regional social events and produce a useful directory of members. Crime writers can also advertise their speaking engagements and events on the CWA website and promote their latest novels there.
The Society of Authors based in London, UK is a much broader based organisation as its title implies. I have found it extremely helpful by providing valuable information and guidance on publishing contracts and copyright issues. The SOA has (as its web site declares) been serving the interests of professional writers for more than a century, and has more than 8,500 members writing in all areas of the profession. These include novelists, textbook writers, ghost writers, broadcasters, academics, illustrators and translators. Being a member helps me to keep in touch with the current issues in the publishing world, and I also receive a very useful quarterly journal, The Author. The Society maintains a database of writers and their specialism, which can lead to writing commissions and talks.
Tomorrow, is the Society's AGM, there is book-trade question time with Jonny Geller, the Managing Director of the agency Curtis Brown; Alexandra Pringle, the Editor-in-Chief of Bloomsbury Publishing, (they of Harry Potter fame), and Graham Rand, Commercial Director of the book wholesalers, Bertrams/THE. He is also President of the Booksellers Association. Attending events gives authors the chance to network and swap gossip, as well as pick up one or two tips and pieces of advice.
The Society of Authors offers a confidential service helping with the individual vetting of contracts, and professional disputes. It administers a wide range of prizes, as well as the Authors’ Foundation, which is one of the very few bodies making grants to help with work in progress for established writers. A year’s membership costs £90 (£64 for those aged under 35). Visit their web site for further information.
Sunday, 28 September 2008
Masterclass: Two-day workshops, 10-5.30. Deal – Take two for £150 – save £50
Daycourse: 10-5.30. Deal – Take two for £100 – save £20
Taking the Fear out of Novel Writing Day Course with Tahmima Anam and Joe Treasure
Sat 25 Oct, 10-5.30, King of Hearts, Norwich, £60 (£40 conc)
Plotting and Narrative Structure Masterclass with Louise Doughty
Sat 1/ Sun 2 Nov, 10-5.30, King of Hearts, Norwich, £100 (£70 conc)
Writing 21st Century Fiction Masterclass with Matt Thorne
Sat 15/Sun 16 Nov, 10-5.30, King of Hearts, Norwich, £100 (£70 conc)
How to Make Poems Masterclass with Alan Jenkins
Sat 25/Sun 26 Oct, 10-5.30, King of Hearts, Norwich, £100 (£70 conc)
Poetic Forms Masterclass with Mimi Khalvati
Sat 15/ Sun 16 Nov, 10-5.30, King of Hearts, Norwich, £100 (£70 conc)
Page to Performance Day Course with Patience Agbabi
Sat 15 Nov, 10-5.30, King of Hearts, Norwich, £60 (£40 conc)
TV DRAMA, NEW MEDIA AND MEMOIR
Writing for the Small Screen Masterclass with Jonathan Myerson
Sat 25/ Sun 26 Nov, 10-5.30, King of Hearts, Norwich, £100 (£70 conc)
Writing and New Media Day Course with Kate Pullinger
Sat 1 Nov, King of Hearts, 10-5.30, Norwich, £60 (£40 conc)
Turning Life into Prose Masterclass with Aminatta Forna
Sat 1 Nov/ Sun 2 Nov, King of Hearts, 10-5.30, Norwich, £100 (£70 conc)
Poetry Manuscript Workshops with James Byrne and Clare Pollard
Sat 25 Oct, 10-5.30, King of Hearts, Norwich, £40 per half hour (double ups possible)
1:1 Manuscript Surgery with The Writer’s Practice (reduced price offer)
Full read: novels, non-fiction, radio play, screenplay, children’s book; 1 hour slot
Works in progress, short stories or resubmissions (5000-15000 words): ½ hour slot.
Sat 25/ Sun 26 Oct, Sat 01/ Sun 02 Nov, Sat 15/ Sun 16 Nov, King of Hearts, Variable prices.
CONNECTED, 22nd- 23rd November
The final weekend of New Writing Season will allow writers to get their work out there and take advantage of new writing opportunities. Featuring respected agents, international writers and online experts.
Day pass: £45
Two-Day pass; £75
Breakout sessions; unavailable to non pass-holders
Agent sessions; £40 (pass-holders only)
Individual panel tickets; £10 (for non pass-holders)
DAY ONE: CONNECTED
What Agents Want Panel Debate with Camilla Hornby (Curtis Brown), Anna Power (Johnson and Alcock) and Juliet Pickering (AP Watt).
Sat 22 Nov, King of Hearts, 10.00-11.30am, £10 (for non-pass holders)
Agents Manuscript Consultations with Camilla Hornby (Curtis Brown), Anna Power (Johnson and Alcock) and Juliet Pickering (AP Watt).
Sat 22 Nov, King of Hearts, 12.00am-1.30pm, £40 (pass-holders only)
Getting There with Erica Wagner
Sat 22 Nov, King of Hearts, 2.30-4.00pm, (Follow-up book signing: 4-4.45). Pass-holders only.
+ please note that Erica’s reading time is different to that stated in our booklet.
Connected Keynote: Know Your Rights with Giles Foden
Sat 22 Nov, King of Hearts, 6.00-7.30pm, (Networking session 7.30+). Pass-holders only.
DAY TWO: CONNECTED ONLINE
The Rules of the Game Panel Debate with Naomi Alderman (Disobedience), Steve Ince (Perplex City) and David Varela (Writing for Video Games)
Sun 23 Nov, King of Hearts, 10-11.30am, £10 for non-pass holders
The Rules of the Game Breakout Sessions
As above, 12.00-1.30pm, pass-holders only
Online Opportunities Panel Debate with Bill Thompson (BBC), Jeremy Ettinghausen (Penguin) and Tony Cook (ABCTales)
San 23 Nov, King of Hearts, 2.30-4.00pm, £10 for non pass-holders
Online Opportunities Breakout Sessions
As above, 4.30-6.00pm, pass-holders only
Go to www.newwritingpartnership.org.uk/season to find out more.
Marketing and Communications Manager
The New Writing Partnership
93-95 King Street
Tel: 01603 877177
Fax: 01603 625452
General email enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Children's writers SCBWI conference in Winchester.
Turning Pages: The Art and Craft of Story, November 22 to 23, 2008, West Downs Campus, University of Winchester. This is British SCBWI's first combined Writers AND Illustrators Conference. It will be an inspiring weekend of interactive seminars with award-winning authors and illustrators, editors and art directors, opportunities for one-on-one reviews with editors and art directors, and workshops on everything from writing series fiction to building your website. View the exciting programme now at www.britishscbwi.org/conference2008
Sunday, 21 September 2008
Social media can be a very powerful and effective tool in spreading word of mouth via the Internet. I find it helps me to connect with others who have the same interests as I do; it keeps me up to date with events and friends’ news and introduces my work to new readers, as well as allowing me to communicate with my loyal fan base. Social media and the Internet played a large part in spreading the word about my thriller, In Cold Daylight, which was shortlisted for the World Book Day Prize 2008 through an online vote. It also helps authors to connect with each other and provides support and a valuable exchange of ideas.
In the book industry harnessing social media is not just for publishers but for authors and readers. In fact it is for anyone who wants to search out new friends, new ideas, discover new authors, artists, musicians and businesses. So if you haven’t found me yet then check me out on Facebook (and don’t forget to send me a friend request) and you can also find me on You Tube, Crimespace, Shelfari, GoodReads, the RedRoom, LibraryThing and Twitter, not to mention my blogs, and my web site. I know there are more, but hey, come on, I have to find some time to write novels!
Monday, 8 September 2008
The revision stages are vital if you wish to turn out an accomplished, exciting and professional piece of writing.
Once I have completed the first drafts of my novels I then revise, revise and revise until I know it backwards, upside down and inside out. When I first started writing many years ago it was this revision stage that I skipped, and I now know the cause of so many rejection slips from literary agents and publishers.
When giving talks I liken writing a novel to painting a picture. First you put on the wash, and draw the outlines and then you begin to fill in the details until you are happy with the perspective, the colours, the composition etc. So here is a quick checklist when revising your novel or short story. The revisions will allow you to:
- flesh out the characters
- analyse the structure of your novel
- check if you have overwritten
- ensure your story has shape
- make sure that you are telling the story from the correct point of view
- check that there are adequate tensions, conflicts, rhythm and pace
- check your research and tie up any loose ends
- ensure you are using the correct words, sentence structure and paragraphs.
Friday, 5 September 2008
Helen Corner, founder and director of Cornerstones will be on a panel with Lee Weatherly, award-winning children's author, and Maxine Hitchcock, editorial director at HarperCollins, ready to answer all your publishing questions. Go to this link and sign up:
It takes place on 29th September at Adams Street, London, 7-9pm, £30.
NB: You need to sign up and submit two questions by 15th September.
Any commercial women's writers out there who want a publishing deal with Little Black Dress or lunch with Julie Cohen (runners-up) should enter this competition. Closing date for your short story is 15th September.
Listed by The Society of Authors, Scouts for leading literary agents
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Eve White is a UK-based literary agency representing internationally published authors of fiction (commercial and literary), non-fiction, children's fiction and picture books. Eve works with sub-agent, Diana Mackay at Melcombe International, who has twenty years’ experience in translation rights and sells their books in foreign territories. Eve is a solo agent, with in-house editors/readers, and set up the agency in 2003. Children’s authors include: Andy Stanton, Jimmy Docherty, Carolyn Ching, Rachael Mortimer, Gillian Rogerson, Tabitha Suzuma, Margie Hann Syme and Tracey Corderoy.
Authors writing for adults include: Rae Earl, Alexander Stobbs, Charlie Mitchell, Chris Pascoe, Vijay Medtia and Ruth Saberton and Shanta Everington. Details of their books and their many awards and nominations can be found on the website: www.evewhite.co.uk
For further enquiries or to book a place on the course contact Kathryn Robinson email@example.com
Thursday, 21 August 2008
Hilary Johnson says, “We are delighted to offer a special service for US and Canadian authors via our American affiliate, the highly-regarded editor and novelist, Caroline Upcher. Her 25-year career as Editorial Director for fiction with both major British and New York publishing houses has given her considerable experience of working with North American authors, a sound knowledge of the US fiction market and good connections with US agents and editors."
For full information about Caroline's background, her books and her editorial service, First Base , visit her website: www.carolineupcher.com To contact Caroline, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hilary Johnson Authors' Advisory Service provides a proven reading/criticism service for novelists, writers of short stories , children’s books and authors of full-length non-fiction. Specialist advice is available for romantic fiction, including HM&B, crime/thrillers, science fiction/fantasy, radio/film/TV scripts and poetry. Also copy editing.
Increasingly, the covering letter and synopsis are crucial elements of an unsolicited submission to a publisher or literary agency. If these fail to make a good impression, then it is quite likely that the actual typescript will not be read by hard-pressed agents/editors. Assessment of either or both as separate items is available.
Readers are mainly professional editors with wide experience of helping authors to bring their work to the best possible standard. They also have a sound knowledge of the publishing/book-selling industries. Some are also published authors, though it is their sympathetic and insightful editorial skills which are of prime importance when it comes to giving authors really solid practical guidance. For further information contact email@example.com
Monday, 18 August 2008
Waterstone's takes on eight Books Etc shops in London
Waterstone's is to take control of eight Books Etc stores in London from Borders UK for a small fee...
O'Hagan attacks Richard and Judy culture
The novelist Andrew O'Hagan has accused Richard and Judy's Book Clubs of treating their readers as stupid. The attack was made at an Edinburgh International Book Festival event where O'Hagan criticised the presenters' limited selection of titles and accused them of missing a unique opportunity to promote good writing to a vast audience.
Chinese print costs hit home
Print costs in China have reached "unprecedented" levels, raising concerns that new titles could be delayed or cancelled. UK novelty, gift and illustrated publishers are the hardest hit.
Saturday, 2 August 2008
Places are limited to 14 authors and the author's own work is used during class. It's fun and will leave writers buzzing with new ideas on how to raise the quality of their women’s novel and make it more commercial.
Cornerstones is based in London. Contact them for further details. Telephone: + 44 (0)20 8968 0777, mob: 07971 457358 e mail: Kathryn Robinson firstname.lastname@example.org mailto:email@example.com]www.cornerstones.co.uk They are listed by The Society of Authors and Scouts for leading literary agents.
Monday, 28 July 2008
The Espresso Book Machine, nicknamed the ATM, which will be installed in Blackwells, will allow customers to download and print not only rare or discontinued titles but many well known publisher's titles and also the customer's (author's) own self-published efforts. So not only is the line between publisher and bookseller blurring but also the line between publisher and author, making it much easier and more cost effective for authors to get their work to market. Is this a good thing?
For book lovers who are getting fed up with publishers constantly pushing only their big name authors, and bookstores being overwhelmed by piles of heavily hyped books from big publishers, while more unusual titles become harder to find, the answer has to be yes.
Initial signs from America, where a handful of on-demand machines have been installed, suggest they are helping to democratise publishing by opening it to writers and poets who do not have the backing of a multinational publisher. The machines are able to design and print books of reasonable quality in runs of 50 for as little as £200.
It works by the customer typing in the title they want to buy and after about seven minutes, the book is printed out, trimmed and bound, selling for the same price as its shelf equivalent at the shop.
Other chains are waiting to see whether it proves popular and if the machines become smaller. But it doesn't necessarily have to be a book shop. Second hand book dealers are an obvious outlet for these machines. And how about coffee houses? I can just see it: 'Coffee while we print, sir?' And perhaps a Danish Pastry or Doughnut while you read. Watch this space.
Monday, 21 July 2008
Before publishing your novel, or submitting it to an agent or publisher, it will pay to have it professionally edited. You can find a suitable editor through a Literary Consultancy. It will cost you but it could be an extremely worthwhile investment. An editor will help knock your novel into shape, correcting your punctuation if necessary, examining sentence structure and the overuse of certain words or terms (we all have them) and suggesting alternatives. He or she will suggest where you might need to re write, some may even re write for you, if you wish.
Some editors prefer to edit on line, using e mail as the means of corresponding with you, others prefer to work with hard copy. Ask how much they charge? Is it by the page or the complete project? How long will they take to edit? What is their workload and when will they be able to schedule in your book?
If you have decided to self publish here are some further tips to help you get the 'product' right.
Make sure you book is professionally typeset
A typesetter will set the book in a certain style consulting with you over this and preparing it in a format that is suitable for the printers, often liaising with the printer and ensuring that the finished text is sent to the printer on time and in the format they require. You can search for a suitable typesetter on line or in writing magazines. Alternatively the printing company helping you to produce the book might be able to recommend someone.
As with all relationships personal chemistry is important so ensure you find someone who understands what you are trying to achieve and who you can work with.
Size of book
When deciding on the size of your book take advice from the printer but also look for books that are similar to yours and compare sizes. Does your book need to be A Format – the standard paperback size - or B Format the larger size? Is it a large hardback illustrated book or a children’s book? There are all sorts of book sizes and most have a technical name, or at least a name given to that size in the industry. Don’t worry too much about this, just take a sample with you to the printer, or measure the book you are comparing yours with and give the dimensions to the printer.
WARNING - Do not agree on a special or unusual size.
This will not only cost you a fortune to print but will meet with resistance from the bookseller to stock your title as it might not fit neatly on their shelf space. It may also cost you more in envelopes if you are sending books out direct to fulfill customers’ orders or to bookshops; you could end up having to buy a larger size of envelope or worse having special ones printed.
Type of paper
There are so many different papers that it can be and is extremely confusing for the lay person, and sometimes for the printer. Again look at the type of book you are publishing and compare it to similar ones already published. What kind of paper do they use? What does it look like, is the paper cream or white? What is its weight - is it thick or fairly thin and limp? Smooth or rough? Does your book need to accommodate illustrations and photographs which will influence the weight and quality of the paper required?
Before speaking to the printer try to get clear in your mind how you would like the finished product to look and feel. Choose a paper that is suitable for your market and your book. In addition, choose a stock paper and not one that has to be specially ordered, as it will substantially increase your costs.
Ask to see samples, both loose leaf and bound into a sample book; that will give you some idea of the quality and feel of the finished product.
The printing industry has its own jargon when talking about binding which may confuse you, it certainly confuses me e.g. limp, sewn, perfect bound etc. Essentially you need to decide how you want your book to appear, is it a hardback or a paperback? Is it stapled or sewn into the binding? You do not necessarily have to produce a hardback copy of your book but can go straight into paperback if you wish; again this depends on the type of book you are publishing.
Ask the printer to show you samples of different bindings and explain them to you. Look at other books that are similar to yours and see how they are bound; do you wish to emulate that? Is it the norm?
Do I need an ISBN and what is it?
In order for your book to be found by a potential buyer you will need to apply for an ISBN. This is not complicated. Some printers and typesetters/editors may even do this for you.
In order to get an ISBN you need to apply to the ISBN Agency who will send you an application form to complete and some notes on how to complete it. ISBN’s are sold in a block of ten so you will need to purchase this amount even though you may have no intention of using any more than one. Any publisher is eligible to apply for an ISBN providing they have a qualifying product available for general sale or distribution to the public.
When you apply for an ISBN you will need to give the name of your publishing company. This does not mean that you have to form a limited company simply come up with a name. It usually takes ten working days for you to receive your ISBN so allow this in your schedule although there is a fast track service offering a three working day period but you will pay extra for this.
By registering for an ISBN you are ensuring that your title is available on a database that can be accessed by the bookseller, distributor and librarians. This information is also used by many online booksellers and you will find that your book appears on sites without you having to do anything
For further details on this in the UK contact the ISBN Agency. There is also a helpful FAQ on their web site. In the U.S.A., and to locations outside the U.S., Bowker assigns ISBNs. To learn more about the ISBN in the U.S visit http://www.isbn.org/.
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
More than a third of Britons (36%) will buy a book because of who has written it claims the research carried out by the Next Big Thing and sponsored by IBS Bookmaster. Reading the Future found that the author name is by far the biggest sales driver when it comes to book choice and this is particularly important to those aged 65 and over (44%) and to those in Scotland (77%) and the South East (49%). Perhaps the rest of the UK is more adventurous when it comes to trying new authors, or perhaps they don’t buy so many books! To crime fiction fans (my own field) 48% of readers buy a book because of the author, so building readership and spreading my name is an important marketing strategy for me. But it is equally important to those who write historical fiction (49%) and even more so for those who write poetry (56%). It has slightly more influence on women (38%) than men (33%). The author has less influence on how- to- guides (12%) and on those who prefer to buy their books from supermarkets (28%).
The next biggest driver of sales is the belief that the book ‘looks like the sort of story or material I like’ which is why cover design, title and description is so important. I once met a reader at a book signing event who told me she only bought crime fiction books if the word ‘dead’ or ‘murder’ was in the title. I got a sale because she bought Tide of Death. I think that’s a little extreme but she was rather eccentric.
Another little snippet of interest from this very useful research for authors and publishers alike was that the socio-economic group C2DEs are also more likely to wait until a book goes to paperback, rather than buying the hardback although the figures aren’t as high as I would have expected. Those who buy chick lit (36%) crime (29%) and historical fiction (27%).
I’ve met readers who like their books to be all the same size so that they fit neatly on their bookshelves. This is a bit of problem for me when different publishers bring the paperback out in different formats. The price of the book can also vary, and I get a bit twitchy when I have to tell them the new book is more expensive than the previous one. Where though I have avid fans of my crime fiction I find that they don’t care which format the book comes out in, hardback, paperback or which size. And I have yet to meet a reader who baulks at the cost. They buy the book because they are interested, or are crime fiction fans, or really want the next Inspector Horton and this is exactly in line with what this research found. So it's nose to the grindstone and keep building that author brand.
Wednesday, 9 July 2008
Self publishing means that you organize the editing, typesetting, printing and production of your book yourself, overseeing the whole project and ending up with the finished product. The books are yours to do with as you please at the end of the day. You become the publisher and remain in control of the whole process.
Vanity Publishing is where you pay a sum of money to a company who will produce the book for you and they hand over a specified number of copies for the money provided.
Self publishing could not only be a more cost effective way of producing your book but also provide you with greater control. In this article I focus on the printing aspect of self publishing. In future articles I will examine the other aspects of getting your book published and in the marketplace.
Finding a printer
There are now many specialist book printers who will help guide you through the self publishing process. Many can also help you with designing the jacket covers and book layout and can advise on typesetting, paper, format, obtaining an ISBN (International Standard Book Numbering) and ensure that the book cover carries a bar code. If they can’t help directly then they can usually put you in touch with others who can help you.
Some printers also provide distribution services, fulfilling your book orders, or they work with others to provide this. What most printers (if not all of them) do not do is market and sell your book for you. That is down to you.
Printers will print your book they are not publishers, you are the publisher.
But not all printers have an understanding of, or experience in, book printing. A simple telephone call to them followed by a visit (if possible) will help you check them out. Ask to see samples of their work. If they can’t show you books that they have previously printed then don’t use them unless you are a hundred percent confident they will do a good job for you.
How do they print?
There are two types of printing processes: lithographic and digital.
Digital printing is highly suitable for producing short print runs, cost effectively, and uses the latest in computer technology. This means you can test the market before committing yourself to huge print runs and incurring high costs. Or you might simply wish to have a small number printed to give to your friends and family. Digital printing allows you to print just one book, fifty, a hundred or more. It is capable of reproducing high quality colour photographs and can also produce jacket covers although these are generally printed using the more traditional lithographic printing.
With digital printing the unit cost is usually higher than if you were to have your book printed by the more traditional method of lithographic (litho) printing which can run into quantities of thousands to hundreds of thousands but there is no point in printing thousands and only selling a hundred. It will tie up your capital (cost you more) and you will have storage problems – where are you going to keep all those books?
Whilst digital printing will suit most people’s requirements lithographic printing can be an option if your book is mass market fiction. There are a number of printers who specialize in this area and the best way to track them down is to examine the inside pages of books that are similar to your own, where the name of the printer is given. Contact that printer for an estimate of costs. Generally the lowest quantity they will print is a run of two thousand ( although this has come down in recent months and they could go as low as one thousand).
Costs vary from printer to printer so it is advisable to get a few quotes for comparison purposes before making a decision.
It is easy to be over optimistic about how many books you think you will sell and go for large quantities when in fact it might be better financially to produce a smaller number.
Questions to ask a printer
Before agreeing to proceed ask the printer:
What type of printing equipment do they have –i.e. can they print digitally and therefore produce short print runs of your book. What is the minimum short run they can print for you – one book? Twenty books? Five hundred books?
What experience do they have of the book printing market? Can they show you samples of books they have previously printed?
Do they have in-house designers or illustrators, or connections with designers and illustrators who they can recommend? Can you see some examples of their work?
Do they have connections with editors and typesetters or can they assist you with this?
Do they provide any other services once the book has been produced? For example they might have a web site and offer to put your book on their web site with a link to your own web site.
What sort of timescales do they work to? How quickly can they turn around your book?
What sort of options are there on binding your book – should it be hard back or paperback, can they do either?
What are their charges? How much will it cost you for different print runs?
How do they like to receive the work? Many will take it in Word format or as a pdf file. If your book is hand written then you will need to build in the cost of getting someone to type it up for you.
Can they help you with obtaining an ISBN and can they insert a bar code on your jacket cover?
Printers can be found through advertisements in magazines like Writing Magazine and at Writers’ Conferences or through personal recommendation. You can contact the British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF) and ask their advice. Alternatively look at the title page of published books that are similar to yours and see who prints them. Look them up on the Internet or contact the BPIF for details and then ask them to quote.
Before we leave the subject of printers it might be worth mentioning here e books. You may decide not to print your book at all but go straight to producing an e book – considerably cheaper as there are no associated printing costs. Or you may decide to produce an e book as well as a traditional printed book.
e books come in a number of different formats and you will probably require the services of a specialist to make your material compatible. This will obviously cost you. There are e publishers who will help you with this and showcase your book on their web sites and possibly others for a fee. This is a new and growing market so tread cautiously before parting with any money, check submission statements and terms and conditions of contracts before making any commitment.
Monday, 30 June 2008
Gold Dust was founded by novelist Jill Dawson in response to frequent requests from writing students for more individual support. The scheme operates from London, Cambridgeshire, Manchester and Oxford. It is unique in offering new writers ten hours of individual consultation time with an established writer, usually spread out over a period of a year. Meetings take place in either London, Oxford, Manchester or Cambridgeshire. Travel is at the new writer’s expense. In between times the mentor writer reads work in progress, for a further total of ten hours.
The fee is £2000, payable on acceptance to the scheme. The scheme is competitive, and work is accepted on the basis of the promise shown. Judges assess the quality of the work submitted and mentors are involved in the final decision. Limited places are available; a writer who is not successful the first time may be asked to reapply. Gold Dust does not guarantee publication but mentors will advise about this and may suggest agents or further avenues to explore.
Gold Dust also offers help with screenwriting, for film and TV and have two hightly experienced mentors in these fields. For further information visit the Gold Dust web site.
Friday, 27 June 2008
The research, compiled by Next Big Thing and sponsored by IBS Bookmaster, asked consumers the question ‘How do you find out about new books or authors?’ Most people in the UK said they get their information from in store displays (26%). But how do you get an in store display? OK, so it might not be too difficult with an independent bookshop near you, for example, my local bookshop on Hayling Island prominently displays my titles with a photograph of me. But getting an in store display in one or more of the chain booksellers is another matter. These are bought spaces, purchased by the publisher who will only put money behind – yes, you’ve guessed it, their big sellers. There is an exception to this however, and that is your local branch of the chain store booksellers. For example Waterstone's have a ‘local authors’ display (well they do in my hometown of Portsmouth) and this is extremely valuable to an author. When, my thriller, In Cold Daylight was shortlisted for the World Book Day Prize this year, we were promised in store displays to promote the Top Ten titles, (which included In Cold Daylight) but the Waterstone’s stores I visited had no display. Instead the Top Ten titles were left to flounder willy nilly in the store with a three for two sticker on them. What a disappointment and a lost opportunity for the author, publisher, bookseller and of course, the consumer.
So if getting an in store display is out for the majority of authors what else can we do? In second place in the survey consumers claimed they got information from a newspaper or magazine book review (14%). Again, it is extremely difficult for a new author, or an author who has not made the big time, to get a review. Reviewers tend to favour non-fiction and literary novels. However, media coverage in your local and regional area, or in specialist magazines, might not be so difficult, but don’t wait for your publisher’s publicist to do this, because they probably won’t. Remember they are tied up with their big name authors. So build your own media list and send out your press releases. Look for unusual stories and angles to generate media interest. Give radio interviews wherever possible. If you don’t know how to write a press release or give a radio interview then get yourself on a course. It could be one of the best investments you make.
This is closely followed by celebrity mentions (13%), the ‘Richard and Judy’ effect in the UK and the Ruby Wax effect in the USA. Again it can prove almost impossible for a small publisher to get a title on one of these ‘book’ programmes, and if you’re contracted to a large publisher you’re competing against many hundreds of titles and authors. Perhaps review copies to personalities and celebrities might work.
If these two avenues are ruled out then where does that leave you? Well, take heart because the next biggest data driver, according to the research, is recommendations from friends and family (12%) followed by Internet recommendations (9%). Combined this adds up to 21% and in my calculation has got to be worth pursuing. They are both areas of marketing that are available and accessible to any author.
In the UK people are increasingly looking to their peers for information. So book specific and genre specific web sites are an important part of your marketing plan. And with the proliferation of bloggers they’ve also got to be a target area, not to mention creating your own blog and/or website to show case your work and interact with your readers and potential readers.
Generating word of mouth and raising your profile through the use of the media is cost effective and affordable. However, it takes time, effort and persistence, which can be frustrating especially if, like me, you think you’ve entered the sprint only to find you’re in the marathon. But it can be fun and rewarding. Sitting in your garret compiling your masterpiece, then letting your publisher get on with the business of marketing and selling your books is not an option for thousands of authors. If you want your books to sell, not only do you have to produce the work that people want to buy, but you also have to be a clever and persistent marketer.
"Reading the Future" is researched and written by consumer research and future trends consultancy Next Big Thing, and sponsored by IBS Bookmaster. The final full report costs £195.00 plus VAT.
Thursday, 26 June 2008
Pauline Rowson is author of the marine mystery crime novels featuring the ruggedly seductive Inspector Horton and of the thrillers, In Cold Daylight and In For The Kill. She regularly gives talks about her writing and runs workshops on writing fiction.
This article is also posted on Pauline's blog www.paulinerowson.com
What comes first plot or characters?
It's a question that I often get asked when I give talks and readings and it's a difficult one to answer or at least to explain. The two are so interlinked that it is impossible to say, well for me at least. This week has been a fairly clear week so I thought I'd crack on with the new Inspector Horton novel. The idea for the novel came easily, based on something I'd been told - more than that I can't say otherwise I'll give the game away. Beginning to turn the idea into a workable plot started well until about chapter six. Then I knew that before I could continue I needed to do more research and development on my characters. Until you have interesting characters then there is no plot, or it is weak or fizzles out. Why? Because characters drive the plot, it is their emotions and reactions that make the story. But you can't let them run around willy nilly otherwise your book would be wandering all over the place. You need a plot. So as you can see plot and characters often develop together or rather you can't have one without the other - bit like that song really, how does it go..."love and marriage... go together like a horse and carriage..."When I get stuck I always know it is because I haven't done enough work on my characters. So it's been back to the paper and pencil this week to map out who they are, why they are the way they are, their motivations and personalities and how this drives them to do the things they do in the book. I find it all incredibly fascinating.Of course I do some of this research before starting the novel but at that stage, although the characters might look fully formed on the paper, I know they are not. For me they don't really come alive until I begin to put dialogue into their mouths, so I have to start writing the novel even though I might have huge gaps in the plot at that stage. Then, after a while, it's back to the plot again and more research on the characters, (the paper and pencil bit) before refining the plot and then continuing with the creative writing process on the computer screen. And, of course, in a crime novel you also need to make sure the clues, red herrings or pink elephants (as my husband, Bob, likes to call them) are all in place. But I'll leave that for another day. Back to the novel. Now if only I could work out who done it!
Monday, 23 June 2008
Amy Myers has been a full-time writer since 1988, and has written a wide range of novels, from historical sagas and contemporary romance to crime. She is married to an American and lives in Kent. Many of her novels have been published under the name of Harriet Hudson. Her latest novel is Murder in the Mist.
By indicating the novel ahead in its style, I mean that a beautiful quiet line, perhaps for example that there is a gorgeous sunset outside the window, will indicate to the readers that a thoughtful quiet novel lies ahead, rather than a rampaging thriller or erotic romp. That sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many new writers begin with, say, the main character waking up in the morning and yawning, obviously with the intention of beginning on a quiet note before an exciting plot gets under way. With today’s busy life style, however, readers won’t give it that long before they put the novel down.
When indicating the novel’s content in the first line (or, let’s be generous, first paragraph) there are two points to consider. The first is that it should if possible indicate what’s often called ‘the inciting incident’, the point that kick-starts the whole plot. This doesn’t have to be spelled out, but it should suggest if possible that there’s a problem ahead. For instance, suppose a traveller gets stranded for the night with a broken down car (to use a hackneyed situation) and goes to a nearby haunted inn for board and lodging. Don’t begin with ‘Joe Bloggs was looking forward to his journey over the moors’, but with his desperate, if wary, knock on the door for help. His arrival at the haunted inn ignites the plot.
The second point dovetails with this in that it is more effective to begin a novel in the middle of an action, rather than with the lead-up to it. Readers always need to be taken forwards in a story, so don’t fall into the temptation of explaining in great detail after your first line how dear old Bloggs got to that point but concentrate on what he found when he stepped inside this mysterious inn. Then once you have the readers hooked in the first chapter by the exciting prospect of Joe meeting a headless Anne Boleyn’s ghost or whatever, you can then begin to slip in little by little the essentials (and only the essentials) of what the readers need to know of Joe’s background to understand the story ahead.
Lastly, genre. If readers are expecting a hard-boiled crime thriller, they won’t be thrilled to read a first line indicating that a romance lies ahead, e.g. As he knocked on the door, Joe Bloggs was wondering what Susan would say when he failed to turn up this evening. The memory of her luscious brown hair made him weak at the knees etc. These same readers would be disappointed in their hopes of gory scenes ahead on the mean streets of London, if the first line read: ‘Colonel Bloggs’ body lay on the tigerskin rug by the fireside in the library.’ Nor would that impress them if they were looking for a thoughtful novel about modern relationships. Maybe these examples are rather extreme, but I hope they make the point.
As always, Jane Austen had the art of the first line to perfection: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ Or try Dickens with his: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ I’m not suggesting that you spend ages trying to emulate Jane Austen or agonising over the first line, otherwise it will turn into a hang-up as you become self-conscious about it. I tend to use the first line that comes to me, edit it at the draft stage if it doesn’t strike the right note, and alter it again later if necessary. But it does most certainly need that TLC.
Sunday, 15 June 2008
Finding a publisher for your work is about as difficult as climbing Mount Everest naked and almost as impossible in these tough times. But you can improve your chances by taking some simple steps before submitting your manuscript. First, ensure that you do your research. What type of publisher takes your type of book? Don't waste your time and the publishers by submitting work that they are not publishing, for example sending fiction to a non-fiction publisher. Rather obvious you might think but it is surprising how many people ignore this.
Study the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and make a note of the publishers you’d like to try, or refer to Cassells Directory of Publishing.
Check if they will take submissions, they may even provide guidelines on how to submit your work to them.
Attend Writers’ Conferences where you are able to meet with publishers and literary agents. There are many of these worldwide. Find out what is happening in your district or area, ask at your local arts centre, or library, or search the Internet.
Subscribe to the trade press. Publishing News and The Bookseller in the UK or Publishers Weekly in the USA. This will give you news and information on publishers, the market, new works commissioned, contacts, information on best sellers plus much more.
Attend book fairs in your country. The London and Frankfurt Book Fairs are particularly lively and packed with publishers from all over the World. Browse the stands, pick up catalogues from publishers and see what type of work they publish. Don’t try and sell your work at these Fairs, the publishers are not interested because they are too busy selling existing works to overseas visitors and others.
Attend writing courses where you can improve your craft and meet guest lecturers, authors, literary agents and publishers.
Do I need an agent and if so how do I find one?
Sometimes having a literary agent can be the only route into a publisher. Many of the medium and larger publishing houses no longer take submissions direct from authors but only through an agent and finding an agent is as difficult as finding a publisher. Even when you do find an agent there is no guarantee that he or she will be able to find you a publisher. This is extremely frustrating for the author and disappointing for both author and agent. Although agents have contacts in the publishing houses, they are operating in the same publishing climate as you.
How do I make a submissions to a literary agent or publisher
Your chances of getting published can be ruined by a poor submission. Publishing houses receive hundreds if not thousands of submissions a year so make sure that your submission is professional.
Your work should be typed using double spacing and wide margins in Times New Roman point 12. This should be typed on one side of white A4 paper only. Do not use fancy coloured paper as it will make the typescript hard to read and will only annoy the editor. Do not staple pages together or bind them in any way, they will only have to be unbound and many editors (or submissions departments) and agents will not even bother to do this. Put a large elastic band around the bundle and a hard piece of cardboard to support it through the mail. Post in a jiffy bag or similar, only e-mail if they say submissions will be accepted by e-mail. Send a covering letter and enclose return postage if you want a reply and your MS returned to you.
Always comply with the publisher/agent's request when submitting your work, if they say they want only two chapters then send them two chapters not four. Also always send the first two chapters and not two chapters picked out at random. If they say they want a two-page outline/synopsis then send only this. (Read an earlier article on this blog by Amy Myers to find out how to write a successful synopsis.)
Make sure the copy you send is clean and tidy without coffee stains, and is not torn or dog-eared. If it has done the rounds it may look the worse for wear so print off a fresh copy. With word processing facilities there is no excuse for it looking tatty.
Be professional. Keep a record of your submissions and only chase by a polite telephone call, e-mail or letter after six weeks. You can send multiple submissions i.e. sending your work out to more than one publisher/agent at a time.
Put the title of your MS at the top of the page in the left hand corner along with your name, and the page number on the right. For example:
Tide of Death/Pauline Rowson 1.
Before you submit your work to a literary agent or publisher make sure it is the best it can possibly be. When writing you obviously get very close to your work and can find it difficult to be objective. This is where another opinion and a professional one can make a huge difference turning an OK manuscript into a good one. A literary consultancy can help you. You will have to pay for this service but it is well worth the investment.
A literary consultancy can offer you an unbiased critique on your work. The standard of literary agencies vary, some provide excellent feedback for the money line by line, others do little more than provide you with a brief letter of critique.
The Hilary Johnson Authors’ Advisory Service, (http://www.hilaryjohnson.com/) offers professional appraisals of typescripts for both unpublished and published authors including novels, full-length non-fiction, short stories, children’s books, poetry, radio/TV/film scripts, etc. They also have specialist readers available for Science Fiction/Fantasy, Crime, Harlequin Mills & Boon, etc. In addition, there is a copy editing/proof reading service, which could prove valuable if you decide to go down the self published route. Fees vary according to the type of material involved. They use readers to assess and critique the work and these are in the main former editors. They consider authors’ work from both the writing and the commercial points of view.
Beware the literary consultant who flatters you or offers unrealistic expectations. A frank assessment is not always comfortable, but anything less than this is unlikely to be helpful.
do your research - what type of publisher/literary agent takes your type of book?
don’t waste time and money sending your MS to the wrong people
ensure your submission is as professional as possible
do comply with the publisher/agent's request when submitting your work
always send the first two chapters and not two chapters picked out at random
send your submission with a brief covering letter and enclose return postage
keep a record of your submissions and only chase by a polite telephone call, e mail or letter after six weeks
If you don’t succeed keep trying, keep writing and keep improving.