A Month of Milestones

When I wrote my last post, some time ago (ahem!), I told you all how pleased I was to have found out that I was eligible to join The Society of Authors as an ’emerging author.’

Since then, I’ve attended a couple of meetings of my local group in Hitchin and as a result, I am now going to be taking part in the first ever Open Book Literary Festival in Hitchin on the 29th of this month. I will be giving a talk entitled ‘My Journey from Complete Beginner to Self-Published Author – How and Why I Self-Publish my Contemporary Romance Novels’ and my books will also be on sale that day to festival visitors. I am both very excited and frightened to death by the prospect of giving a talk at a festival but I have to start somewhere and I’m really glad that I’ll have the opportunity to fulfil this milestone.

In the run-up to the festival, there’s going to be lots of publicity:

  • we’re on the SoA website as an event!
  • We’re going to be on display in Waterstones in Hitchin in their local authors window.
  • We’re going to be featured in Writing Magazine and also in lots of local press.

In the course of trying to arrange for my books to be available for Waterstones to order directly if anyone asks, I found that my first book, From Here to Nashville, is actually available on their website already! Who knew? However, The Vineyard in Alsace is not there. Both my books are listed on Nielsen and I’ve had orders for the first one through Gardners, one of the two main book distributors so I’m just trying to join up all the dots to see if I can make this happen for my second book too. All in all, it is going to be an exciting time. If you are in the area or nearby that day, please do come along – it would be lovely to have some support in the audience. Tickets are available here.

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I have just come back from a lovely holiday in Menorca, during which I really felt like I got away from it all, even though I took my computer with me and we had Wi-Fi access. I took my laptop mainly because I needed to carry on writing my next book whenever possible. I have reached a real sticking point with it around about chapter 10/11 and despite rewriting several times, I’ve just not been able to move forward. I spent a lot of time talking over the issues in the book with my husband on holiday and that did help to clarify the story. I was just about moving on when we came home again! I really need to maintain that discipline as we go through this month and next to get my book finished if I can.

The pressure behind this happening is because I have to submit it to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme by the end of August and I value the feedback I get from that report so much that I really want to meet that deadline. This is especially important this year because… drum roll please… I will be graduating from the NWS this year to become an Independent Author of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. My second book, The Vineyard in Alsace, has done so well that I have now met all the criteria in terms of books published, sales and profits, that I am eligible to leave the NWS behind. I am so proud of this achievement that I have reached all by my own effort and although I will be sad to leave the NWS, I will be very honoured by my new membership status.

This is yet another milestone for me, along with the fact that my second book has now sold more copies in just over three months than my first book has sold all together (although I’m still very proud of Nashville too). I have to confess to being a little obsessed by the data on my Kindle Publishing dashboard (the other reason I took the laptop) but it’s so satisfying to see those sales rising every day! Last month was incredible with my sales reaching dizzying new heights and there’s even been a knock-on effect with extra sales of Nashville, the like of which I haven’t seen since I first published it. I did also try my hand at a couple of Amazon Ads for Nashville which I believed helped things along. I have thought about doing a free deal but I just can’t bring myself to do this so I’m always exploring various book marketing ideas to keep those sales coming in.

I’m looking forward to seeing what July will bring in my writing life and will report back on that next time! I have a couple of lovely romance authors being featured on my blog this month as well. Firstly, Helen Pollard on the 16th, who was my very first guest on my Author Spotlight feature many moons ago, and then Karen King on the 23rd. I’m looking forward to sharing their news about their new books with you. Until next time, thanks for reading 🙂

Giving My First Talk as an Author

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Me in full swing!

My first author talk at my local library has now been and gone but I am still glowing from the wonderful evening I enjoyed there. The library staff were very kind in helping me set everything up beforehand and I had a good sized audience on the night with lots of friendly faces. The atmosphere was so welcoming that I hardly felt nervous at all, which I had really expected to. I ‘present’ all the time in my day job but it’s quite a different feeling when you’re talking about yourself. I know from speaking to other writers that the very idea of standing up in front of an audience scares them half to death! If you can do it though, giving an author talk really is worth it.

I had tried to get round my nerves by being very well-prepared and I think this paid off on the night. The plan was for me to talk about my debut novel From Here to Nashville and also my journey to self-publication. I wrote out what I was going to say over a couple of weeks, adding to the script as I thought of new things. Then I transferred it on to index cards, as advised by lots of other writing friends, and I practised to see how long it was, including me reading out an excerpt. All in all, it was 27 minutes long when I practised but on the night with a few questions, it was more like 45 minutes. I also videoed myself at home to see if I had any glaring habits that I wanted to avoid!

Once I had put the talk together, I had a chat with a writer friend of mine who also had a library talk coming up last week. She suggested playing some country music as people came in which I thought was a great idea and some of you may remember of course, that I even had a Spotify playlist already set up of the songs Rachel sings in the story so I added that to my plan. My friend also suggested asking the audience questions to involve them in the talk and to stop it from getting too formal so I did that too.

In the end, these were my headings:

  • How I started writing.
  • The Nashville TV series and how it inspired the idea for the story. Read out my blurb.
  • Writing as a ‘Pantser’ and discovering NaNoWriMo along the way, which led to me investing in Scrivener.
  • Discovering and then joining the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and my first report back from them.
  • Finding an editor, designer and proofreader.
  • Deciding to self-publish rather than trying for a traditional contract.
  • Publication to Amazon and later other platforms. Read an excerpt. Talked about trip to Nashville.
  • Marketing post-publication – social media activity, including this website and blog.
  • My next books.
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Talking to another RNA member who happened to come along!

One of the things I had to think about very carefully was what technology I would be able to use. The library is all set up for the internet but it isn’t working there currently. This meant I had to do screenshots of the things I wanted to show which could have been boring on their own. So I added in some content to my presentation to go with the shots as well. There were a fair few pictures of my books and I also had a table set up with my books and marketing materials on as well.

The library organised a projector and screen for me and we arrived early to set it all up and make sure it worked correctly. I had to take our bluetooth speaker from home so that we could play the music because the library didn’t have any speakers. I made a list of all the things I would have to take with me and checked and double-checked it before going!

As I said, everyone was so welcoming that I was fairly relaxed from the start. My daughter took some videos of me and my husband took some photos so we have something to remember it all by. I suppose I will have to give in and let you see one of the videos now!

I took a few questions afterwards as well over refreshments and I also sold signed copies of my books. In fact, I sold more copies than I have ever done before at an event of this kind!

So, all in all, as I said at the beginning, it was a very good experience. It was really hard to approach the library in the first instance but once I did, they were very encouraging and happy to help me with promotion and setting up along the way. As I hadn’t had the courage to send out a press release when I first published From Here to Nashville (I know!), this was a good opportunity to write one so that I know what to do next time round. So there were many benefits to doing this, not just the obvious ones.

I suspect that most libraries would welcome local authors with open arms as they try valiantly to keep people coming through their doors so if you love your local library as much as I love mine, then why not give it a try? You might be surprised at how much fun it is! Do leave me a comment below to tell me how you feel about the idea or maybe you’ve already done one so please share your experience 🙂

Kicking off 100 Happy Days with my Birthday

DSCN8244Well, yesterday was my birthday and it was such a lovely day with my family that I decided to start my 100 Happy Days Challenge. We have so many great things coming up that the time seemed right. We went to visit a wonderful National Trust property yesterday in Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, called Peckover House. The gardens were superb and the house was a little gem from the Georgian era, with an interesting history. I really enjoyed the visit and I felt I came away with a few new story ideas at least. My family spoilt me and we enjoyed a good day together, watching a soppy rom-com when we got home and then sharing a delicious home-cooked meal in the evening. My husband and I cuddled up to watch the latest episode of Nashville before bed, bringing the day to a perfect close. I have such a lot to be thankful for.

On the writing front, I have now finished the proper second draft of my debut novel. Yippee! It still needs so much work but I really feel I need help to complete what I hope will be the final draft. I’m going to send it to my writing friend, Cat, to read and to another of my friends who I know will give me an honest opinion. I expect them to have a lot of comments which I will have to take on the chin and try to incorporate before I send my manuscript off to the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA). As I have signed up to do Camp NaNoWriMo in April, I will have to manage my time very carefully to get all these things done. I do have until the end of August to send my manuscript off for the RNA New Writers’ Scheme Assessment but I’d rather send it before then if I can.

My aim then is to send my second draft off to my readers today and move on to some planning for Camp NaNo which starts a week tomorrow, eek! I can then work on my Camp NaNo project for ten days before we go off on holiday to New York and a further fourteen days when I get back which should be enough time to meet my goal of writing 25k in April. Then, in May, if not before, I should be able to do a final polish of my RNA manuscript, sending it off by the end of the month at the latest. Phew! It feels really good to lay out a plan like this to motivate myself to keep moving forwards.

I was lucky enough to receive two lovely writing related presents for my birthday which will also help to keep me motivated. One was a subscription to Writing Magazine which is full of all kinds of helpful articles for the new writer like me. The second was a place on another of Write Stars’ writing courses which I’ll be attending this coming Saturday. I’ve also signed up to ‘attend’ a webinar this Thursday on getting the most out of Scrivener which I’ve been using for a while but I know I could get so much more from.

So another busy week beckons and I think I’m ready for the challenge. What have you got coming up on the writing front this week? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trying to Write a Synopsis for the first time

forest-175221_1920The New Year started very well for me when I found out that I had been accepted on to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme. This means that I have until the end of August to submit my manuscript for assessment, which will follow by the end of the year. So I have plenty of time to get my first draft ready, right? Well, not if writing the synopsis is anything to go by 😦

I have written before about whether there is such a thing as too much advice:

https://juliestock.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/is-there-such-a-thing-as-too-much-advice/

There is no doubt that the internet is a wonderful research tool but sometimes, it is really difficult to see the wood for the trees. As you know, I finished reading my first draft aloud at the end of last year. Since then, I have been inputting those edits to my manuscript and now that I have finished, I have turned my attention to trying to write a synopsis in an effort to see where my plot-holes are. You may remember that I wrote my first draft as a ‘pantser’, which is why I now have plot-holes!

I have got into the habit of bookmarking all the useful articles I read about writing so I can come back to them later and today, I decided that it was time for me to pick out all the articles I had found about how to write a good synopsis. There were at least a dozen articles in total when I started re-reading them, although I am sure there are many more out there. There may even be a whole wood 😉 I have read them all and distilled them down to the ones which I found to be the most helpful for me (the trees). I really would encourage you to read these three articles at least. I have kept some of the other links on my ‘Website Links I find Useful’ page (see tab above).

http://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/dont-shrink-from-synopses/

http://janefriedman.com/2011/10/25/novel-synopsis/

http://www.caroclarke.com/synopsis.html

So now all I have to do is go and write it! I am starting with my scenes and trying to précis these down first. This was already a great shock to me because I have 157 scenes in total, whereas the received wisdom is that 60 – 80 is normal for a novel :o) And so the learning continues…

Tune in next week to see how I got on 🙂 I hope you find these articles helpful but if you have a tried and tested method for writing a synopsis, please do let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.