Deepings LitFest and a Look Forward to May

Deepings Literary Festival 2017I have just spent a lovely couple of days at a Literary Festival not far from me in Market Deeping, Cambridgeshire. My good friend and fellow romance author, Ros Rendle (whose books you can find here), lives there and she alerted me to the festival early on so I was able to book to attend a couple of brilliant events before everyone else cottoned on! The Festival came about through the efforts of their Deepings Community Library. This library was threatened with closure by the local council until a group of community volunteers took it over and saved it. What better way to celebrate that success than with a Literary Festival?

And sBlack Water - Louise Doughtyo it was that I went trundling up the A1 from Bedfordshire to Cambridgeshire on Friday afternoon for my first session which was a Creative Writing Workshop with Louise Doughty, no less, the author who wrote the brilliant psychological thriller, Apple Tree Yard which was recently shown on the BBC. I was very excited to meet Louise of course – I’d loved the book and the TV series – but also to hear how she goes about plotting. There were about twenty of us there for the workshop and Louise asked us all to start by saying how much writing experience we had. Most people there were not writers but it was quite a surprise to find that I had sat down next to a new member of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme – how uncanny! You know what they say about ‘Birds of a Feather…’

Anyway, Louise was very generous with her knowledge and her handouts! She is about to start writing her ninth book and she said she always starts with a vision of a character in a situation. For Apple Tree Yard, she saw a woman (Yvonne) in the dock at the Old Bailey and she knew in her mind that the woman was about to be caught out in a great lie. She didn’t obviously know what that lie was yet but she knew it would be the character’s undoing. Louise also knew that the man standing next to the woman, was the woman’s lover not her husband. And that was it. She said she sometimes lets the idea germinate for up to two years before she starts writing and in that time, she will write the odd scene and collect lots of material from her research. She then works on the basis of three critical plot points at 25%, 50% and 75% – many of us will have come across that idea before – but Louise elaborated on it by saying that it’s not just about making something happen at each plot point  They have to be events which change the situation irrevocably for the character – there can be no going back from it, which has certainly got me thinking about how I might need to change my current work in progress…Louise Doughty signed copy

After the workshop, Louise answered questions for another hour and would have gone on longer, I think, had there been enough time. I had received a copy of her latest book, Black Water, as part of the workshop and was even able to get it signed before leaving. Louise was also given a gift by the organisers of the festival. I’ll have to tell you what it was because I don’t think you’ll guess. A local butcher’s had made some Apple Tree Yard sausages in celebration of Louise’s visit to the festival and she was given some to take home! I also bought some the following day and I can confirm that they were very delicious 🙂

Grasmere Butcher;s, Market Deeping

 

Erica James - Deepings Literary Frestival 2017My first session the next day involved lunch and conversation with bestselling women’s fiction author, Erica James. I have to confess that I’ve not read any of her books before but after listening to her speak and tell us about her writing career and her life, I’m looking forward to discovering this ‘new’ author. She’s written fifteen books as well so that will keep me busy for a long while! Her latest one is Song of the Skylark and it looks like a lovely story. Once again, I was lucky to be in the company of some good friends at this event, even though I went on my own. My friend, Ros introduced Erica, and I managed to sit at a table with another friend and romance author, Karen Aldous (who also has a bit of a thing for French vineyards!) and her husband on one side, and lovely book blogger and reviewer, Linda Hill of lindasbookbag.com on my other side. We had a wonderful lunch at Lilli’s Tearoom in Market Deeping, Lilli's Tearoom, Market Deepingwith dainty sandwiches, scones and cakes all taken with a lovely cup of tea! Linda’s husband took a super picture of us all enjoying our tea, which you can see on Linda’s post about the festival here.

And so I waddled back to the library for my final session of the festival. This was a Read Dating session where there were ten local authors with their books and you got to sit down with each of them for about five minutes before the bell rang and you moved on to someone else. A unique way to introduce readers to new writers. Most of the writers were new to me and it was really enjoyable to meet them and find out about their publishing journeys while sharing my own. But my best conversation of all was with my friend, Jane Isaac, who I ‘met’ almost as soon as I went online but have never had the pleasure of meeting in real life until this weekend. Jane writes crime thrillers and her latest book, The Lies Within, is coming out on Tuesday. It was such a pleasure to meet Jane in person and to chat together, albeit briefly, and such a wonderful reminder of the benefits of social media in bringing people together.

Bookmark - Jane Isaac

*****

My book The Vineyard in Alsace continues to sell well as it comes up to its third month since publication. I will be visiting the blog of another romance writer this month, Karen King, taking part in her Travel Thursday feature, so look out for that on the 18th.

I’m also going to be attending a craft fair on 21st May with my books and as a result, I discovered that I would need Public Liability Insurance (don’t ask!) Anyway, the cheapest quote I found was via The Society of Authors and while I was exploring their site again, I realised that I qualify to be an Associate Member of The Society. When I looked at the criteria previously, I obviously didn’t read the conditions properly. So I am now an official member of The SoA and will be attending my local writers’ meeting next month for the first time 🙂

I’m also off to the RNA’s Summer Party this month where the Joan Hessayon Award winner will be announced. A number of my friends have qualified for this award this year by having been given a traditional contract by a publisher after being on the New Writers’ Scheme. So I’m really looking forward to going and celebrating with them all, regardless of who wins.

After all that, I will need a holiday, which is lucky because I have one coming up in June!

Publication Day #2 and Lessons I have Learned!

thevineyardinalsacePublication Day of my second novel The Vineyard in Alsace has come at last and I have managed to co-ordinate the Kindle and the paperback versions to be published at the same time, something I didn’t quite achieve first time round. As regular readers will know, this book has been a long time coming but it’s here now, indie published again, and I couldn’t be happier.

Some of you may have read my interview with my good writing friend, Susanna Bavin which was posted this weekend. Sue has been such a good friend to me, always cheering me on and boosting my confidence. I am truly grateful to her for her support. If you haven’t seen the article, do pop over and have a read if you can.

On Friday 10th March, I will be appearing on the French Village Diaries website, talking about my love of France, which I am really pleased about. It’s so lovely to discover a new website dedicated to some of my favourite things. So if you like all things French as much as I do, don’t forget to pop on over and have a look. Jacqui will also be posting a review of my book a couple of days later so look out for that. You can always get your own copy now though, if you can’t wait! Just click here.

Next weekend, I will be on fellow romance author, Abbey MacMunn’s blog, talking about the inspiration behind The Vineyard in Alsace, and the Monday after, I will be on my friend, Sam Russell’s blog, talking about how I came to write a book about a vineyard from the rustic viewpoint! I have another couple of guest blogs coming up in the near future as well but no dates for those as yet.

Amazingly, it has only been seven weeks since I first spoke to the designer and proofreader I used this time round because, as my book was already edited, it was pretty much ready to go into the final phase. However, I have learnt a few lessons since last time and I thought it would be good to share them with you.

  1. In retrospect, it would have been better to get the proofreading done and out of the way before engaging the designer. This is because when you come to sort out your paperback version, you can’t get the number of pages of your book until you upload your final mansucript, and your designer needs this for the width of the book spine. It may sound obvious to some people but if I came across this last time, I’d forgotten!
  2. If you have a foreign language in your book, like I do, and you want your proofreader to check it, make sure the one you want to use is available by speaking to them a couple of months before. By the time I spoke to my original choice of proofreader, she was all booked up. To be fair though, I hadn’t planned this very much in advance so I didn’t even know two months before that I was actually going to indie publish again. I found another wonderful proofreader but she was very honest in telling me that she wouldn’t be able to check the French. I got round the problem but it’s a lesson learned for the future.
  3. As many of you will know, I write in Scrivener which is so great in terms of generating a .mobi file. It also generates Pdf files which can be uploaded directly to CreateSpace but I really couldn’t work that out last time so I uploaded a Word document instead. This time, I was determined to do the Pdf to save some time. However, a Pdf is like a photo of your file and you can’t adjust things, like empty lines at the top of the page or widows and orphans. I have reviewed my file using CreateSpace’s online reviewer tool (when it finally decided to work for me) and it looks acceptable but with hindsight, I wish I had just gone for the Word option. A proof copy is on its way to me and if I really can’t stand it, I will swap the files over. All this adds to the time it takes to do everything, of course!
  4. I put my book up for pre-order again as I did last time and was surprised to see that I can now see a report at any time on just how many pre-orders I’ve got and how that compares with last time. There’s a lot of talk about whether it’s worth putting your book up for pre-order and my conclusion is that it is worth it. It generates a bit of a buzz and a sense of expectation and even if you don’t sell many, at least you can see sales coming in 🙂 I’d be interested to know what you all think about pre-orders from a sales point of view and as a reader? Is it a Marmite situation or do you think it doesn’t matter either way?
  5. The other thing that I did last time was to create a book trailer using Stupeflix. I think a book trailer is a good thing to do but crikey, it’s so time consuming! I’ve looked at a few other software programs like Animoto for example but didn’t find them any easier so the date for the book trailer is TBC 😉

And so, there it is. All in all, it has been a bit of an easier ride this time round but it’s amazing how much you forget in two years. I really do hope to publish my FHTN novella this year so I hope it will all remain fresh in my memory till then!

Thanks for all your support and to everyone who has bought my book especially!

When Books get Turned into Films or TV Shows

I’ve recently watched both a film and a TV programme of two books I had loved reading so I had high expectations of what I would see on screen. Over the years, I have seen many such films or TV shows based on favourite books and the results have been quite hit and miss. It’s a fine line for production companies to please everyone but it’s one thing that’s guaranteed to get everyone talking.

The recent TV programme I’m talking about is of course, the BBC adaptation of Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty. There are no spoilers here by the way, if you want to carry on reading 🙂 So, here’s what happened. I read all the build-up telling us that this great book was going to be on TV and then I saw the author’s name, recognising her from when she had been on the celebrity version of University Challenge over Christmas. I remember liking her at the time but feeling a bit ashamed as I’d never heard of her and after the show, I went and looked her up on Amazon. And I was overjoyed to see that she has written a lot of books. I made a mental note to buy one of those books at the earliest opportunity. Then came the news that Apple Tree Yard was going to be on TV so I decided to buy that one – the premise looked so compelling – and I planned to read it before watching the show.

By the time the first episode aired, I was about a quarter of the way through so I decided to risk it and watch the show unable to wait while everyone else was watching. The book was fabulous and so was the first episode of the TV show, with Emily Watson in particular, doing a wonderful job of playing Yvonne as I knew her from the book. I did feel disappointed that all the nuances of Yvonne’s inner thoughts couldn’t be shown on screen and also I had to wonder why there was the need to change minor details, like the name of her husband but apart from those niggles, I felt it was very faithful, in fact shockingly so, to the story. I carried on reading, furiously trying to get far enough ahead before the next episode. When I watched the next instalment, I was so close to the story that I could pick out exact phrases from the book when they were used and I felt that Emily Watson did an amazing job of recreating Yvonne’s suffering.

By the time the final two shows were aired back to back, I had finished the book and I was looking forward to a thrilling ending in the programme to match it. Unfortunately, this did not happen for me. I watched it with my husband who hadn’t read the book and he thought the ending to the story was brilliant. And it was, but the TV version didn’t have quite the same brilliance for me as the book did. There were too many differences, some subtle and some huge and it was at this point that I wondered if I had perhaps done the book a disservice, and myself in the process. Maybe I needed to have read it some time before so that there was some distance between my reading of it and the TV interpretation of the same so that I could be objective. Having read some of the online reviews of the TV programme since then though, I don’t think I’m alone in the view that the TV programme just didn’t quite live up to the book.

Last night, we watched The Girl on the Train, which is the only audiobook we have listened to. We listened to it in the summer of 2015 when we were on holiday in France and were doing a fair bit of driving. I remember the book pretty well, maybe because we listened to it and it took us quite a long time to do so. The narration was brilliant, told by three different female narrators, and the story literally had us on the edge of our seats. After every chapter, we discussed what had happened and what we thought it all meant, and the shared experience was very enjoyable. Mind you, we haven’t listened to any other books together since then, but I don’t think we would be averse to doing it again if the circumstances were right.

When the film came out at the cinema, we decided not to go and see it because of the poor reviews we’d heard about the film. Set in America, you say? How would that translate? And Emily Blunt in the main role? Hmm, we’d just watched her in Sicario, which I really didn’t like although I do think she’s a good actress. We would watch it eventually we maintained, just not at the cinema. So I added it to our Amazon watchlist and last night we were in the mood for it. And do you know what? We loved it 🙂 Our daughter watched it with us as well and even she was drawn in enough by it to unglue herself from her phone! The change of setting worked well, we thought, and didn’t bother us at all and Emily Blunt’s acting was nuanced and empathetic. The tale unfolded carefully and as we approached the end, I realised that I couldn’t remember exactly what happened so the thrill of the ending was just as good for me as if I hadn’t read the book. So, perhaps a bit of distance does help, who knows?

Of course, there have been plenty of awful adaptations of books I have loved. The worst one of all time for me was the film of The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I loved this book so much and spent half the time I was reading it sobbing in anticipation of the ending so the film had a lot to live up to. And it didn’t.

I have tried the film a couple of times but the depth of the love story just isn’t there for me, no matter how much I want it to be.

In April, I am lucky enough to be attending a local literary festival where Louise Doughty is going to be talking and giving a creative workshop. I imagine that there will be quite a few questions about Apple Tree Yard, especially as I hear that a sequel might be in the offing.

Do you have a favourite TV/film adaptation of a book you’ve loved? Or worse, one you hated? Do let me know in the comments and keep the conversation going. See you next time, when I hope to have news about my second book – actual, definite news with dates and everything!

 

Moving on after a tumultuous year

dscn2089Well, I knew I hadn’t been blogging as much as usual but I was still surprised to see how long it actually was since my last post on this site. Last year knocked me for six in many ways, as I’m sure it did a lot of other people. I’m not just talking about the obvious stuff but personally and professionally as well. This had a knock-on effect on my writing and I feel I’m only just coming out of that funk…

So what’s happening? Well, my second book has been finished for a little while now and I sent it off to some more publishers to see if there was any interest. I first sent it out in December 2015 and had some responses but no-one wanted to go the whole hog. I then spent a fair bit of time trying to find an editor I could afford, to help me with the necessary rewriting. That took me till June of last year and I worked on it all the way through the summer with her, finalising it at the end of September. I then dithered about a bit, wondering whether a traditional contract was really what I was looking for. In the end, I did submit it again but I still wasn’t really sure that it was what I wanted. I have heard back from some of those publishers but I’m still waiting on one other and I feel that if I haven’t heard by now (nearly two months later), it’s most likely not going to be good news. If the answer is ‘no’ once more, I really am going to get on and self-publish. I recently finished my accounts for last year and I realised that sales of my first book would qualify me as an independent author of the RNA if I had only published two novels! I was almost there for the Society of Authors as well. So, it’s time to crack on, I think.

In the meantime, I have started work on editing my follow-up novella to From Here to Nashville, as well as beginning the first draft of my third book to submit to the RNA later this year. I still have lots of writing plans but the hesitation over whether to self-publish or whether to seek a traditional contract made last year disappear all too quickly for me. Part of the problem with self-publishing, as so many of you reading this will know, is that it costs a fair bit of money to do it properly and as I left my permanent teaching job at the end of 2015, I didn’t have much money to throw around for most of last year. However, I did have regular work all year as a supply teacher, tutor and web designer and this recently led me to a new part-time job for a local charity as a Communications Officer. This will obviously make this year a lot more stable for me. I will still do a bit of supply teaching but my freelance website work has really picked up as well and I’d like to explore that further in the coming months. Proofreading never really took off for me but every cloud has a silver lining, or at least some of them do 😉

So having said all that, I should be looking at publication of book two very soon, I hope, and possibly publication of the novella as well. I guess I’ll just have to see how things go and not beat myself up too much if it doesn’t quite go according to plan the whole time. As long as I keep writing, that’s the main thing. With that in mind, I have signed up to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme again, which will force me to write my third book and will also make sure that I stay involved with other writing groups and friends. Last year, I wrote about ‘The Brave New World of 2016’ and I have felt very brave at times over the year as I dealt with some very unexpected things. I can honestly say that I won’t really miss last year though. We can only hope that 2017 is better for everyone. I leave you with a quote from Alfred, Lord Tennyson: ‘Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.” Wishing you all the best that a New Year can bring.

 

If you would like my help with your website, whether to sort out a minor niggle that you just don’t have time for, or for a full-blown new website design, please do get in touch. My freelance site is here or you can just leave me a comment 🙂

Me and Bridget Jones

bridget-jonesThis weekend, we went as a family to see the latest Bridget Jones film in the series, Bridget Jones’s Baby. I say ‘latest’ in the hope that this isn’t the final film but I know in reality it probably will be. It’s been 12 years since the last one so we’ll all be in our dotage if another 12 years go by 😉 All the actors have remained the same over the years since the first film came out in 2001 and some of them are getting on a bit now, making it difficult to keep that same cast together for much longer.

The first film came out in the same year my youngest daughter was born. This weekend, as we went to see number three, she was watching it as a teenager! How time has flown 🙂 As we watched the film, and loved it too, there were some lovely reminders of other films we’ve shared as a family. Patrick Dempsey (swoon!) plays the other love interest in this film and there’s a moment when he helps Bridget put her shoe back on, saying ‘It fits!’ We all laughed at the joke and I knew everyone was thinking of Enchanted, a film we all loved and still enjoy watching to this day.

On the way home, we decided that Colin Firth has provided us with some of the best TV and film entertainment of our lives. Of course, I mentioned Pride and Prejudice. Where would I be without it? But no-one else in the family is that bothered about that one, strangely. Still, we have watched him together dozens of times in Love Actually and we all cry at his declaration of love for Aurelia, in Portuguese, no less. He has cornered the market in stiff, upper lip romantic leads we decided and our lives are all the richer for it.

By the end of the film, we were all in tears. It was a great film, with a perfect romantic plot, and it rounded things off nicely for Bridget, a character we have all grown up with and have wished the very best to for a good few years. It was also the end of an era, much like when we watched Toy Story 3 and High School Musical 3. Toy Story 3 was on the TV over the weekend and we happened to catch a bit of it as we were switching over to something else. My older daughter was desperate to carry on watching it (even though we have it on DVD and can watch it any time) but it was only a couple of minutes before tears were in our eyes and we moved swiftly on. It was too much to watch it when we know that she will be leaving home soon to go to university: the end of another era.

I’m glad that we have so many happy memories tied up in the hundreds of films we have seen over the years, even when some of them make us cry. It was especially sad this week to see that Charmian Carr, who played Liesl in The Sound of Music, passed away, aged 73. This film came out in the year my husband and I were born but I have loved it my whole life and introduced my children to it as soon as they were able to understand it. We know all the words to all the songs, still, and in happy times or sad, it is a great comfort to us all. I remember forcing my husband to watch it when we were first dating, many moons ago, and after kicking up such a fuss, he was soon engrossed in the story. Now, he will usually well up at the Edelweiss scene without the slightest hesitation (sorry, Simon!) It is a film that bears watching again and again. The music is wonderful and never fails to have me joining in.

It has been one of those weeks, as you can tell. September is a bit like that, even when you’re as old as I am. It still heralds the start of the new year as children go back to school, teenagers go off to university or to start college, or maybe even a new job. As a parent, of course, all you want is for them to be happy because that makes you happy too. I wish you luck with your new year, whatever it may bring and I leave you with one of my favourite songs from The Sound of Music.

How Music Inspires Me

DSCN0296This week, I’m taking part in a blogging event about music organised by my RNA writing friend, Elaina James as part of a series she has been writing for the Mslexia blog about chasing your writing dreams, told from the perspective of a lyricist with stage fright. Her final blog focuses on the unexpected chance to turn her words into an actual song with music. You can find Elaina’s Mslexia page here.

Elaina and I ‘met’ on Twitter only fairly recently but we’ve also had the good fortune to meet in real life when we both braved the Curtis Brown Discovery Day and pitched our books to agents. So we’ve already been through a lot together! I am honoured to be one of a number of writing friends joining in with Elaina’s blogging event so do pop over to her blog to read some of the other brilliant posts on this theme.

So how has music inspired me? Well, music has always played a very important part in my life. The radio was always playing in my house when I was growing up and I came to love many of the LPs that my mum and dad had collected and regularly played on their record player. This is how I came to love everything from The Beatles to Glenn Campbell to Marvin Gaye and Barbra Streisand and eventually, it’s what led me to start have singing lessons when I was in my early teens. I performed in all kinds of festivals when I was young and although I learnt to play the violin and the piano as well along the way, nothing came close to singing for making me happy. As I got older, my musical tastes widened and I remember playing Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’ album until I knew every word of every song and had a dance move to go with them as well so I could strut my stuff at the local disco on ‘Ladies Night’ every Thursday. Ah, those were the days 🙂

When I was around 17, I joined a semi-professional choir in London at my singing teacher’s suggestion and I had all kinds of wonderful experiences with them, including trips to France, Spain and Italy to take part in some fantastic concert performances. It was on the plane to one such trip in Rome that I met my husband and we bonded over our shared love of music. We still do now nearly thirty-one years later.

Both my children are musical and love music as much as we do. It is wonderful to find that we often like the same kinds of music as well, despite the age difference and that’s the thing. Great music is simply that. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, you can appreciate it all and it is that shared appreciation that brings people of different ages together. When we finally went to Nashville last year as a family, my two teenage daughters loved it just as much as we did. They both discovered Johnny Cash and Elvis on that trip, as well as soaking up the live performances by new musicians that we had never heard of.

It was really no surprise then that my debut novel From Here to Nashville was about a UK-based singer/songwriter called Rachel who longs to travel to Nashville in Tennessee and become a country music star. As a singer, occasional songwriter and, most recently, music teacher, I based Rachel very loosely on myself but her dream was entirely her own! However, it was my love for country music and specifically, the start of the TV series Nashville on our screens over here that gave me the idea for my first novel. As I began writing, I found it easy to write lyrics for Rachel’s own songs as well as to create a playlist of my favourite songs for her to sing. You can find that playlist here if you’d like to hear it.

Although I don’t listen to music as I write, the words of a song will frequently spark an idea for me that I will then use in my writing. For example, there is a particular Brad Paisley song that I love called ‘We Danced.’ This gave me an idea for my next book and I can’t wait to start getting it down on paper. I don’t think a day goes by without music being in the air in our house and although some of the songs might have changed, the feeling of contentment gained from listening to good music still remains.

coverYou can find my debut novel on Amazon, still priced at just 99p!

Thanks for reading. I’d love to know how music inspires you. Do leave a comment below if you’d like to share your inspiration 🙂

The Authors’ Compass

WP_20160423_004Last Saturday, I attended a conference organised by The Society of Authors in Manchester, the first event I have been to for a while. It was just the pick-me-up I needed and a chance to get out and about to network with old friends and new. The day focussed on the changing face of publishing and as a self-published author myself, I was really interested to see if I could pick up new information to take forward.

The keynote address was given by Kate Harrison, who I’ve heard speak before at one of the RNA conferences and who is both a romance author and a non-fiction writer. Some of you may know her, as I do, as the author of the 5:2 Diet books. Kate’s talk was called ‘Navigation for Authors’ and she took us through what she sees as the benefits of the three different models of publishing existing today: traditional, self and hybrid.

Traditional Publishing – she described this as a sort of employee model.

  • If you’re lucky, you might get an advance under this model but you will definitely get royalties on your book sales.
  • You have access to your publisher’s wider distribution network but your royalties will be quite a low percentage compared to some other models.
  • You have no control over the price of your work, your rights to it or the marketing of it.

Self-Publishing  – this is the entrepreneur model, according to Kate.

  • You have to invest your cash upfront.
  • You build your own team.
  • You will encounter distribution barriers but you will get a higher percentage of the royalties potentially for all your book sales.
  • You control the price, your rights and your marketing.

Hybrid Publishing – this model allows you to maximise your value.

  • You make a decision as to how you’re going to publish on a project-by-project basis. In Kate’s case, she already had an agent and a publishing contract for her romance novels when she decided to write her first 5:2 Diet Book. Her publisher rejected it and so she worked with her agent to produce an ebook of her non-fiction work. It did so well that the publisher then offered her a contract for the paperback version.
  • Your brand strategy is under your control.
  • You have the flexibility to respond to the market and your own instincts.
  • You build a team on your own terms.

Kate’s review came at a very important time for me as I have been sending my second book out to agents and publishers but with very little success so far. I know that’s to be expected but it’s still hard to take, as I’m sure many of you will know from your own experience. I can see though that the hybrid model could have benefits and I know of a lot of authors who are going down this route. There was a lot of food for thought from Kate’s talk and if you get the chance to hear Kate speak, I would urge you to do so. You can find Kate on Twitter @Katewritesbooks.

WP_20160423_006The next session was called ‘The Publishing Landscape’ and presented by Kate Pool and Sarah Baxter who both advise members of The Society of Authors on publishing contracts. As I have never seen a publishing contract (!), I found this a very interesting session indeed. They made a few general points before they started talking about rights.

Firstly, self-published ebooks now account for about 20% of Amazon’s sales. The most popular genres in fiction are romance and crime, as you might expect. In non-fiction, the most popular subjects are health, diet, wholefood cookery and travel writing. However, they did say that it is very much about timing in terms of what readers want. They also mentioned that their revised guide to self-publishing will be available on their website in the next week or so. It costs £10 for non-members.

Moving on to rights, they said that the rights and terms a publisher will usually want are:

  • Territory and language.
  • Formats and media.
  • Use it or lose it. This means that if rights are unexploited after a certain length of time, the rights could then revert to you.

In the discussion that followed, they advised authors to be careful not to give away their non-print rights, which would include things like dramatisation, TV, plays etc. This is not a standard clause so The Society looks out for this one particularly. They advised that in terms of money, authors should think about two things: What is the publisher doing for you, how are they adding value and are you, as the author, getting a fair deal? Their final point was very interesting. They said that it almost doesn’t matter what rights you give away as long as there is a mechanism in your contract for you to escape from it. Food for thought indeed.

The next session was a panel chaired by RNA member, Rhoda Baxter, discussing ‘The Publishing Process.’ We heard from Kevin McCann, a poet and author of a book called Teach Yourself: Self-Publishing; from Richard Sheehan, a freelance proofreader and copy editor, who explained about the different types of editing available to authors; from Kate Roden of Fixabook.com, a company that analyses book design and gives creative guidance on jackets, blurbs and spines; and finally, from Helen Lewis, director of Literally PR.

The main things I learnt from this session were to do with cover design and PR. Kate advised that you think long and hard about your design strategy and what you want your design to achieve before you even contact your designer. Her tips to make your design better were to:

  • Consider what your customers like and what they want. She advised that you find this out by going on reader platforms on Facebook for example.
  • Play to the strengths of digital design, for example by having no words apart from the title on the cover. She highlighted one particular cover of recent times that she thought was especially good.
  • Use your fans to help generate excitement about your cover design. Involve them in your process if you can.
  • Mirror the design of the cover inside your book, as chapter titles for example (I loved this idea and wished I’d done that with the Nashville skyline!)

Helen Lewis had a great many tips to offer about PR but could only squeeze a few of them into the time available. I would really like to hear her full talk some time, which usually takes an hour! Anyway, in the mean time, here’s a few pieces of advice she gave.

  • Concentrate on only one social media platform and your website (Hallelujah!)
  • Build your author platform online by blogging and guest blogging. She also said that blogging shouldn’t have to be something you do all the time though. You should consider only blogging when a new book is coming out for example.
  • Build your platform offline by speaking at festivals, schools, businesses, parties, book clubs and signings at bookshops.
  • Invest time in building up interest in your book before publication. The Bookseller has a 6 month lead time for example.

She drew our attention to an article by Jane Friedman on Facebook for authors, which you can find here. She also mentioned that Literally PR has a Review Club on Facebook which authors can join for free by emailing Helen to join. That page is here. It doesn’t have many members at the moment but the idea looks interesting. Helen can also be found on Twitter @LiterallyPR.

The final session of the day, chaired by Kate Pool from The Society of Authors, was about ‘Publishing Routes‘ and featured Dan Kieran from Unbound, a funding platform and publishing company bringing authors and readers together; Kristen Harrison of The Curved House publishing company; and Michael Schmidt of independent literary publisher, Carcanet Press.

It was another very interesting panel with some innovative ideas about what publishing means in the modern world. I found Dan Kieran very captivating as a speaker and his own experience as an author is an amazing story. However, I can’t ever see myself buying into the idea of crowdfunding a novel to be honest, although it may suit other authors. In the case of Unbound, you have to raise a minimum of £3,000 once you’ve been accepted on to their scheme and then if you make that, they will publish your book for you in the traditional way, taking a split of the royalties. I couldn’t help noticing that many of the authors featured on their website are well-known names who wouldn’t find it as difficult as an unknown to crowd fund to that level perhaps. Still, an interesting concept and worth reading more about if you think crowd funding could be for you.

My favourite tip in this session came from Kristen Harrison when she told us about another project she is involved in called Visual Verse. This is an anthology of art and words, as this about page explains, where they supply an image and you have to respond to it with anywhere between 50 and 500 words. The twist is that you must write your piece within one hour and submit it. It is open to published and unpublished authors and some of the pieces already written are very powerful. I thought this was a fascinating idea and was a very different way, as Kristen said, of giving yourself an online footprint without having a website of your own. She was really into the idea of blogging projects with a start and finish, giving authors a much narrower remit than the standard idea of writing a blog post every week. If you’ve every wondered what the heck you were going to write about on your blog this week and felt overwhelmed by the very thought of it, you might like to consider this idea 😉

Well, as you can see, it was a very interesting conference and I learnt a great deal. You don’t have to be a member of The Society of Authors to attend their events by the way. I found out about this one via the RNA but all you have to do is to email them at this address info@societyofauthors.org and they will let you know what they have coming up.

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