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Category: Blogging

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwK_WOXjfc0

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.

WP_20160423_005

Time to Celebrate!

photoYesterday was the first day in a week of celebrations for me as my debut contemporary romance, From Here to Nashville, reaches the first anniversary of its publication day.

I began by spending the day in London with the RNA (The Romantic Novelists’ Association) yesterday for a special workshop entitled ‘How to Make an Impact in Romantic Fiction.’ First of all we heard from Matt Bates, the WH Smith Travel Book Buyer and Lyn Vernham, Managing Director of Independent Publisher, Choc Lit about what the industry might want from us as romantic fiction writers based on latest trends.

Amongst other things, Matt explained that E. L. James’ book ‘Grey’ had 23% of market sales last year leaving everyone else a bit stranded in the romance market! If you take that book out of the equation, the first book in the top 100 sellers from last year, with only 4.93%, was ‘The Woman who Stole my Life’ by Marian Keyes. Interesting, eh? He also said that £7.99 was the average paperback publication price and that ‘nature’ seems to be a trend in the titles of current bestsellers e.g. Beekeeper, Dandelion, Sunflower, Nightingales, Sea.

Lyn said that romance remains a hard market to get noticed in. She said that series are very popular at the moment and that Apple were really pushing them at one point. On the day that the shortlist for Choc Lit’s latest ‘Search for a Star’ competition came out, she revealed that the one after this competition would probably be the last one. She told us that £1.99 seems to be the best price for an ebook and that contemporary romances still sell the most.

In the afternoon, Julie Cohen took over with an interactive workshop called ‘How can we deliver the right impact with the opening to our romantic fiction novel?’ We had all been encouraged to bring in our own work for discussion. So Julie collected these from us at the start of the day and after we’d analysed the first 100 words of her current novel ‘Where Love Lies’ and picked up some tips on what to include and what to leave out, she set off reading out each of our individual pieces of work. It was a bit daunting at first because she read each one out and then commented on it and invited us to comment too. She mostly kept the entries anonymous though and her comments were very constructive and thoughtful. Although mine broke one of the ‘rules’ by starting with someone waking up in bed, the feedback was really useful and I asked Julie for some more advice afterwards as well. So I came away feeling positive. It was great to go on another writing day and it gave me back my motivation to get going with my writing again.

Saturday, 13th February, 2016

When I got home, I found that my first guest post for this coming week had gone live on my friend, Susanna Bavin’s blog. Sue has been so supportive of me and my writing over this past year and so it was lovely to be asked to return to her blog to celebrate From Here to Nashville’s first birthday.

I’m also appearing on Elaina James’ blog this weekend, talking about the forthcoming Curtis Brown Discovery Day during which I will get the opportunity to pitch to an agent, something I have never done before! You can read all about how I’m feeling and how I’m preparing for it here.

Monday, 15th February, 2016

Tomorrow, I will be appearing on my Canadian friend, Tracey Weller’s blog, Never Too Late to Write but this is an interview with a twist because Tracey and I did the interview over Skype! We actually talked for three hours in total and the original interview was thirty minutes or so. Obviously, we didn’t want you dropping off in the middle so Tracey has edited it down to ten minutes. Once I got over my initial shock of seeing myself on video (!), I actually found I enjoyed it and I hope you will too.

Thursday, 18th Feburary, 2016

I will also be guesting on Zeba Clarke’s blog, That Reading Writing Thing on Thursday, answering some very interesting questions that Zeba sent me. I’ve not appeared on Zeba’s blog before and it is so wonderful to be meeting new writers all the time and to be able to take them up on their generosity of spirit.

On Tuesday which is the actual anniversary of From Here to Nashville’s publication day, I will definitely raise a toast to my debut book which has done me proud in its first year. I will also thank goodness for all my lovely writing friends and supporters who have kept me going throughout the past year and who continue to inspire me for the future. Thank you!

My First Week as a Freelancer

Clued Up PublishingMy husband started his business over twenty years ago and I always remember admiring his self-discipline when he first began as a sole trader, getting up at the same time as I did to get ready for my normal, boring job and usually at his desk before I left for my daily commute to Stevenage and corporate life. The fact that he is still running his (now limited) company today shows how hard he has worked at it during the intervening years.

As I began my first week as a self-employed freelancer last week, I worried that I wouldn’t be as self-disciplined, especially now there are all the distractions of the internet but I can safely report that I have probably never worked so hard in all my life. The reason is of course that everything I achieve is now going to be down to me and I will only reap the rewards if I put in the maximum effort. I don’t really know why I doubted my ability to be disciplined in my approach to this new life – I am one of the most organised people I know and everyone who knows me says exactly the same of me – but I suppose it’s all just new to me and I needed to see whether I could hack it.

So what did I do during my first week? Well, the first thing I decided was that there would be certain things I must do every day, specifically, three things:

  1. Complete and mark a new proofreading exercise from the book I am working my way through at the moment.
  2. Write at least 1,000 words a day of my current WIP.
  3. Edit my second book for at least an hour every day.

I am very pleased to report that I did these three things every day and felt happy with myself about that. I was at my desk before my husband left for work every day as well (it does help that my daughter has to leave for school at 7.45am and I always want to see her before she goes) and generally, I continued working till about 5pm, with breaks for talking to my daughter etc in between.

Apart from my three important things, I also set up a new website for my proofreading business. You can see it here: Clued Up Publishing, or just click on the picture above, and I created a poster on Canva as well. I used Canva for the pics on my website too and found it incredibly easy to use once I got going on it. I have had some really positive feedback on my website and it made me realise that it’s something I’m quite good at (if it’s okay for me to blow my own trumpet!) If anyone needs a WordPress website setting up or indeed, if you need a proofreader, please do get in touch either via the comments below or via the new website.

I am now the proud owner of two Twitter accounts as well! Crikey, I thought that would be much easier to set up than it actually proved to be but I got there in the end. If you’d like to follow me in my alter proofreading ego, I’m @Clued_Up_Pub. On my list of things to do this coming week is to set up a Facebook page for Clued Up Publishing as well so that will probably take most of the week to achieve.

I have signed up to a freelancers job website as well and hope that something may come of that in the future and I have kept my eye out for any part-time jobs I could apply for locally that would be less intensive than teaching but would ease the pressure on the finances a little. One job I saw looks very promising on the creative front so I’ll just have to wait and see 🙂

On the writing front, I also did some more research into writing short stories for women’s magazines, something I’ve wanted to do for a while but have never really had the confidence for. If I’m honest, I still don’t have a lot of confidence that I can succeed at this but I’m going to give it a try.

My husband popped into his accountant’s this week and brought them up to date on my new circumstances so I now have the form to fill in to register as self-employed to HMRC. It felt very good to receive that form, I can tell you.

All in all then, it has been a busy and satisfying week. I have realised though how lonely it can be being at home on your own all day. There was a time when I would have given anything to just be on my own for a minute, let alone a whole day but oh, how times change when your children have grown up and no longer define your identity. If you watched the BBC programme, The Age of Loneliness, this week, you’ll know what I mean. It was a very poignant programme and I shed quite a few tears watching it. I have gone from being surrounded by people in a very busy environment, yet sometimes feeling quite lonely amidst all the chaos, to being totally on my own. However, I think I just need to make sure that I socialise enough to keep that part of me ticking over and to that end, I have arranged a couple of visits with friends, family and the RNA to keep me going over the coming week 🙂

Thank you for reading, as always and do leave me a comment about how your writing life is going so far this year.

The Brave New World of 2016

DSCN1312After a good long break, I now feel ready to face the New Year and that’s just as well because a lot has changed for me in the weeks since the last post appeared on this blog.

The most important thing is that I left my teaching job to concentrate full-time on my writing! I know! This is both scary and exciting all at once. Just in case any of you might be sitting there wondering if I’ve hit the big time on the writing front, well, not quite yet but there’s always hope 😉 You can read more about what I’ve been up to in my goals for 2016 (see below).

You may remember that I took a proofreading course last year and since then, I have been getting in lots of practice and I’m ready now to start work as a professional proofreader, along side my writing. While I build up my new business, I’m going to do supply teaching as well and I hope that with various other writing related activities, there will be enough money in the pot for life to continue pretty much as normal.

As if leaving my job and starting my own business wasn’t quite enough excitement, I have also made some decisions about my writing life and where I want to take it this year. This all means that my writing goals are going to look a bit different for the coming year but first of all, let me review my goals from this time last year.

Here they are:
1. Publish From Here to Nashville in ebook form to Amazon, followed by a paperback version a few months later.
2. Finish the first draft of book 2 and send it in to be reviewed by the RNA.
3. Take part in NaNoWriMo with a full outline of book 3.
4. Keep blogging weekly about ‘My Writing Life’ and building up my ‘Cover Reveals’ feature for other writing friends.
5. Start sending out my newsletter to people who have signed up.

Looking back at these goals, I felt rather pleased with myself. The only one I didn’t achieve was number 3 and that was because I decided that the NaNoWriMo style of writing is not for me. As long as I have a good outline, I can write quite happily until my first draft is completed and so I still plan to do that for book 3 but in my own time. Number 4 went slightly differently because I changed my ‘Cover Reveals’ feature to my ‘Author Spotlight’ one instead but it was very successful as a feature overall. For the moment though, I’m going to turn the spotlight off so that I can get back into blogging regularly myself and I may just do the occasional spotlight instead.

So what will my writing goals be for 2016?
1. Publish Where My Heart Belongs. Before Christmas, I made the momentous decision to start querying agents with this book. This is because I feel I need help now to progress my writing career to the next level. I have also sent the book to one publisher so far, one that accepts unagented submissions. So book 2 will either be published traditionally, if things work out, or I will self-publish it. Now that I have had some experience and I know what I’m doing, I’m not daunted by this decision whatever the outcome is so all I can say is watch this space!
2. Write the first draft of book 3. I have a story idea, I just need to write the outline and then write the book!
3. Finish writing my follow-up novella of Sam’s story, one of my characters in From Here to Nashville.
4. Choose one of these 2 books to send in to be reviewed by the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme which I have rejoined this year.
5. Continue sending out regular newsletters to people who have signed up and trying to increase the number of subscribers. This has gone very well this year and it is a way of letting my supporters know little details that I don’t necessarily tell the rest of the world 😉

Tomorrow will be an interesting day for me then as I spend the day with my younger daughter rather than attending a training day at school for the first time in many years. Then on Tuesday, I will be taking my first steps along the road to my new working life. I will be setting up a new website for my proofreading business as one of my first jobs but if anyone wants to contact me before then, here is my business email address: woodbeez48@gmail.com.

Whatever you’re up to this year as far as your writing goes, I wish you lots of success and I look forward to talking to you more about it as the year progresses. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

Fancy Being The Author in the Spotlight?

light-67324_640PLEASE READ THE UPDATE AT THE END OF THIS BLOG POST!

This week, I’ve decided to revive the ‘Author Spotlight’ feature which I started on my blog a while back. When I first started it, it was a chance for debut authors to reveal the covers of their debut novels to the readers of my blog and to post an excerpt as well. I had a couple of guest authors but after that, it fizzled out a bit and so I’m going to change the purpose of the feature a little.

In future, it will be mostly for self-published authors or for those authors published by small presses to highlight their newest release. That doesn’t exclude anyone who doesn’t fall into those categories, it’s just that I feel that they might need more help. I would like to include the following as a minimum:

  • A picture of your cover.
  • Your bio.
  • An excerpt from your forthcoming novel.
  • Your buying links.

I would be more than happy to interview you as well if you’d like but we can discuss that in more detail once you make contact with me. Alternatively, you could write a guest post for me on a subject that we both feel might be of interest to my readers. I would be very interested to discuss unusual settings and musical connections, of course!

I propose having one of these features fortnightly at the moment starting on May 11th. I will not be running the feature in August though. I am planning to revamp my website this year and so I’d like to get this feature going now before I make some changes. The changes I’m planning revolve around the fact that I don’t feel the need to blog about every aspect of my publishing journey now, although I will of course keep those posts for readers to refer to in the future. I think it’s time to move on to a new phase for the website now that my second novel is well on its way.

I want to be able to help other authors gain some more visibility by featuring them on my blog in the same way that I have been lucky enough to be featured on other authors’ blogs. Many of my author friends have books coming out in the near future and they’re looking for blogs to host them as they make themselves known to readers. In fact, it was hearing one author’s request for blog visits that made me remember that this was something I’d tried to do in the past and wanted to revive.

If you think this would be of interest to you, please leave me a message in the comments below and I will get back to you to talk about it in more detail and to schedule a date. I look forward to hearing from you and would be grateful if you would share this with your writing friends if you think it might be of interest to them. Thanks for reading, as always. Have a good writing and reading week 🙂

PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM NOW BOOKED UP UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER! IF I HAVE ALREADY REPLIED TO YOU, I WILL TRY AND SQUEEZE YOU IN BUT WOULD BE GRATEFUL IF YOU COULD GET BACK TO ME AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. OTHERWISE, YOUR FEATURE WILL NOW BE FROM OCTOBER ONWARDS. THANK YOU 🙂

How to List a Goodreads Giveaway (and Post C2C Festival fatigue!)

AsIMG_0057 I mentioned in last week’s post, I was busy this past weekend attending the C2C (Country-to-Country) Music Festival at the O2 Arena in London. And what a great festival it was once again. We attended a special CMA Songwriters Series event on Friday night which was fantastic and a taste of what’s to come when we go to Nashville at the end of this month.

Then we went back to London again yesterday for a full day at the festival. I was really looking forward to seeing Lady Antebellum again, having been lucky enough to see them in a smaller venue last October but I also wanted to see as much British Country Music talent as I could as well. The singer I was really looking forward to seeing play live was Callaghan. I heard one of her songs on Bob Harris’ Country Show on Radio 2 a couple of weeks ago and since then, I’ve listened to her music as much as I can and also followed her to keep up with what she’s doing. She has been lovely and interacted with me a few times so when I was able to see her play yesterday and say hello, it was a real highlight for me. Her story is an interesting one: she’s from the UK originally but went out to Atlanta four years ago at the request of Shawn Mullins, an American singer-songwriter who specialises in folk/Americana music and she helped her record her first album. She’s now based in Nashville. You might see now why her story delighted me when I read it just a few weeks ago! I’m not sure if there’s any romance on the horizon for her though 😉

So I knew that I would be tired this morning and that it would therefore take me a while to get going on this morning’s blog post. I had not planned on it taking me quite this long though 😉 If you have ever tried to do anything on Goodreads as an author, you will probably understand why!

During the week, I received the proof copy of the paperback version of From Here to Nashville which comes all the way from the US to authors based in the UK. When it arrived, I was very excited of course, until I realised that the only thing I’d forgotten to include in the copy was the ISBN which I had paid precious pounds for the privilege of using. Doh! Anyway, I quickly amended it and uploaded it to CreateSpace fairly painlessly. It took a few days and then, hey presto, there it was, up on Amazon and linked to my ebook page as well without any problems. I had been expecting some difficulties but I was glad in the end that there weren’t any. If you want to go and buy your copy, here’s the link.

So I decided to write my blog post about listing a giveaway on Goodreads. Before doing anything, I read a couple of other blog posts about it first which were both very helpful and their links are here for you – Catherine Ryan Howard and Novel Publicity. I really would recommend you to read these and to mostly ignore the Goodreads advice on what to do!

Here are the main tips I would highlight for you if you’re planning to list a giveaway yourself.

1. Is your paperback book on Goodreads? The most important thing is that you must have your book in the database before you can list it. I had thought it would automatically upload to Goodreads once it was listed on Amazon but it didn’t so I had to add it as a new edition of my book first. You do this from the existing book’s page and make sure to add a cover file as well. Then you have to combine the editions, which I found I couldn’t do myself so I had to contact Goodreads and ask them to do that for me. They did this pretty quickly.

2. Where are you prepared to send it to? Catherine Ryan Howard’s advice is to list it for all countries which I have now done. This does mean being prepared to send it anywhere in the world but most likely, your winner will be in the US because that is where most Goodreads members live.

3. How long should you run it for? Goodreads suggest running your giveaway for as long as a month but this way, your giveaway will get hidden amongst all the others. The advice from those who have tried running one seems to suggest that shorter is sweeter.

4. How many copies? If you’re self-published, you will be thinking about every penny (or whatever your currency is!) Novel Publicity’s experience from doing a number of giveaways is that it’s not the number of books that matter. You can run several short giveaways (spaced appropriately apart) and offer a copy at a time. The thing to remember here is that the goal is to increase your visibility and you should do that regardless of the number of copies being given away. Do make sure that you highlight the fact that it will be a signed copy too!

5. When will it start? Schedule your giveaway for a few days ahead because it will take a couple of days for Goodreads to upload it for you and you may change your mind about the contents after you have time to think about it.

Hopefully, next week, I will be able to tell you that my giveaway is going really well because I’ve set it to run from Thursday this week to Tuesday of next week. If you’d like to enter the giveaway, the link is below. Remember though, it starts on Thursday.

Have you run a giveaway on Goodreads? What was your experience? If you have any questions or comments, do remember to leave me a message below. Hope you have a great writing week.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

From Here to Nashville by Julie Stock

From Here to Nashville

by Julie Stock

Giveaway ends March 16, 2015.
See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win