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Tag: self-publishing

5 Highlights from My Very Busy Writing Year – 2014

DSC_0503Looking back at the blog posts I have written this year, I am amazed at what I have managed to pack in. So, as the end of the year approaches, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the highlights.

1. The year began with me successfully joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme (NWS). There are only 250 places on this scheme available each year and I knew it would be hotly contested so I was very excited when I found out I had got a place. I went on to submit my debut novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’ to the NWS and received a very positive report back from my reader. There was still a lot of work to do but I had made a good start.

In addition to this though, I have made many new and lovely friends by joining the RNA and attending events like their Summer Party, the annual Conference, my local RNA group lunches and being invited to events by established authors like the lovely Phillipa Ashley. The support I have received from this network of writers has been wonderful and I can’t thank them all enough. I will be rejoining the RNA next year and look forward to another wonderful year with writing friends, old and new.

2. I finished ‘From Here to Nashville’ at last! When I say that, I really mean it as well. After I got my report back from the RNA, I rewrote and edited some more before seeking a professional edit. I finished those edits just a couple of weeks ago and now my beta readers and I are giving it one last read through before it goes to the proofreader in January. I am pleased with how it’s looking from my read through so far, with only minor changes looking likely. I have had a professional cover designed which I’m really happy with and I am cracking on with the formatting for Kindle. I know now that I will publish my debut novel early next year and I am so excited about that.

3. I have attended three writing courses this year, as well as taking part in an online course run by Future Learn. In February, I went on a course called ‘Passion on the Page’ run by Write Stars. It was a great course, run by romance author Katherine Garbera and I learnt a lot from it that I could use in my writing. Then, at the end of March, I went on another Write Stars course led by romance author, Sue Moorcroft, ‘How to Write a Romance Novel in a day.’ Once again, it was a very useful course and I learnt lots from Sue and the other attendees. I signed up for the Future Learn course ‘Start Writing Fiction’ in April and although this was a course for beginners, I found it useful. I also started a writing journal as a result of being on the course which was one of the best decisions I made all year! Finally, I went on a Short Story course, run by Woman’s Weekly magazine in October. The course was led by Della Galton, another experienced author of both short stories and novels and it was clear that she really knew her stuff.

4. I established my author platform this year. By this, I mean that I worked out which social media was proving useful for me. I started out on Twitter and I now have a solid following there of about 1,000 people. I’m happy to keep it around that number because I want to interact with my followers as much as I can and this number seems manageable.

I have seen my blog go from strength to strength this year, receiving no less than five awards and I love writing my weekly post and engaging with readers as a result of it. The #MondayBlogs has been incredibly useful for my blog and I really enjoy participating in it. There are a number of other hashtags I could get involved in but as I work part-time, I’m not sure I could keep up with it. I do use Tweetdeck on Mondays to help me manage all the retweets and faves. I like to thank people for being supportive and I know that they appreciate it so Tweetdeck helps me keep on top of everything (Thanks to Liz Harris from the RNA for that tip!) I have also enjoyed taking part in various blog tours and have recently started a Cover Reveals feature once a month to help other new authors, which has proved popular.

This year, I also managed to set up a Facebook Author page. It is building slowly and may not prove that worthwhile longer term but I have found having a personal page lots of fun and I enjoy supporting other authors at their virtual events. If you’d like to make contact on Facebook, do go on over and like my page so that you get my updates.

I do also have a Pinterest page but I know I’m not doing much with it yet so that will be one to work on for next year perhaps. Here’s the link though if you want to see what I pin and follow me. Beware though, you will waste hours on there!

5. I have learnt so much this year, I can hardly believe it. I have written posts about writing a synopsis, Point of View, rewriting, editing, outlining, show not tell, how to write a blurb, working with a cover designer, self-publishing, proofreading, formatting, creating a newsletter, Evernote and Scrivener! I feel exhausted just reading that list but I know it shows how far I have come in my writing life over the past year.

I’d like to finish with a big thank you to all those of you who read my blog every week and take time to comment and share my posts. It has meant a lot to me and I hope that you’ll join me as I move into 2015 and finally publish my debut novel 🙂 Merry Christmas to you all!

Decision Fatigue for the Self-Publishing Newbie

The-key-to-good-decisionAt long last, my friends, the moment has come – I have finished my final edits. It has taken me five weeks to do everything which was longer than I’d planned for but I needed that time to get my head round it all. Today was the day I had originally booked to send ‘From Here to Nashville’ to the proofreader but I postponed this as soon as I saw the extent of the final edits. I now have a new date for the end of January.

In between time, I’m sending my book off to my beta readers for one last read through. I am very lucky that I have two beta readers who are writers as well and not only that, I am proud to call them my friends. I have come to know both these people online and one of them even read my book in its very early form so her dedication to my little book is even more humbling. I am extremely grateful to them both for the final read they’re going to give my book.

I am also going to give ‘From Here to Nashville’ one last read through to check how well it reads after all the edits I have done over the last month or so. Although I have uploaded my second book to my Kindle before, I wanted this upload to be as correct as I could make it in terms of formatting. As some of you will remember, I write in Scrivener and I hope to format my book myself when publication day finally rolls round. Well, this is obviously going to take some time to get right as I spent most of yesterday afternoon exporting copies to my desktop, only to find that when I looked at them using the Kindle Previewer facility, something was wrong. I persevered though, reading lots of articles on the internet along the way, and finally, I managed to get close to what I was looking for. It was also the first time I had uploaded my actual cover with it and it was a great feeling to see that.

I hope to get my beta readers’ comments back by the end of the year and to spend January inputting their comments and mine before sending the book off to the proofreader. This will take a couple of weeks and then I will have the proofreader’s comments to deal with which would leave me looking at the middle or possibly the end of February as my publication date. I am still having to be fairly flexible about this though because so much could change between now and then. Once it goes to the proofreader though, I can feel fairly confident about the date of publication day.

I am considering a number of other issues at the moment. The biggest one is whether to aim for a paperback of ‘From Here to Nashville’ at the same time as I plan to publish the ebook. If I do want to do this, I have to consider whether to go with Amazon’s CreateSpace or whether to go with someone else, like Ingram Spark who seem to be the front runner otherwise. This will also involve having to make a decision about ISBNs, which I must have for a paperback but don’t need for an ebook. In the UK, ISBNs are purchased from a company called Nielsen at a price of £132 for a block of ten numbers minimum. They take ten days to come through so I need to think ahead on that one. In addition to this, paperbacks have to be typeset which will take me some more time to master!

I am also considering what to do in terms of marketing. It is so interesting to see what other authors choose to do in the run up to their publication day. For example, I want to do a cover reveal of course but I’m still not sure how long in advance to do this. I was thinking of doing it when I send my book off to the proofreader which could be three to four weeks before publication. Is that enough of a lead time or too much? Now that Amazon have the pre-order facility, I am wondering when to do that as well. Decisions, decisions…Apparently, there is a real condition known as decision fatigue – I can vouch for this!

As you can see then, there is no rest for the wicked 😉 My journey continues. Tune in next week to see whether I managed to make any more decisions 🙂 Thanks for reading as always and please do leave any comments or suggestions below.

10 Top Tips for Formatting your ebook before self-publishing #1

Learn-the-rules-like-aAs I continue to wend my way through my final edits, the issue of formatting my novel correctly for publication has started to weigh on my mind. This is mainly because my editor has been less than happy with some of my formatting and it has made me realise that I don’t know what the rules are or if there even are any!

For example, I have indented every first line of a paragraph or section in the novel. I did this simply because that was the advice given in a blog article I was reading about how to format your book in Scrivener. I didn’t think twice about whether this is the normal thing to do when formatting your book. So when my editor pointed it out, I went and had a look at some of the books I have read, ebooks, paperbacks and hardbacks and guess what? There was a mixture of approaches. Some publishers indent, some don’t and for ebooks, especially self-published ones, it seems to simply be down to personal taste.

I scoured the internet then for some guidelines and of course, there’s no single definitive list but there are some generally accepted guidelines that I thought it would be useful to reproduce here. Please note that this list is for ebooks. I have tried to consider formatting in both Word and Scrivener.

1. Use a 1″ margin on all sides (Done for you in Scrivener).
2. You don’t need page numbers in an ebook because technically speaking, there are no pages (Done for you in Scrivener).
3. Left align the text (not headings) but don’t justify it.
4. Make sure the text is single line spaced.
5. Start each new chapter on its own page about a third of the way down the page (Done for you in Scrivener).
6. The body of the chapter should start about four to six lines below the chapter title (Done for you in Scrivener).
7. Indent each new paragraph of flowing text but don’t indent the first line at the start of the chapter or after a section break.
8. Don’t put in asterisks to show section breaks. Apparently, these date back to the days when people used typewriters.
9. Use a standard font like Times New Roman, Arial or Courier and use 12 point size.
10. Make sure your hyperlinks work! (This will usually be links to your details so it’s very important!)

You will have noticed that I labelled this post as #1 because I know for sure that you will all tell me of other tips that I can add to the list in the future and I’m sure I will come across other things when I finally come to format my book. So let me have it if you agree/disagree/have other ideas and yes, in case you were wondering, I know that rules are there to be broken!

Good luck with your formatting if you’re tacking it yourself. Thanks for reading as always and I welcome your comments 🙂

P.S. I hope you noticed the snow!

Cover Reveal for ‘Fractured Immortal’ by debut author, E. L. Wicker

light-67324_640Welcome to this new feature on my blog where I focus the spotlight on a cover reveal for a debut author. If you are a new author and would be interested in being in the spotlight with the cover of your first novel, please do get in touch with me.

 

 

Today, it’s the turn of author, E.L. Wicker.
A weaver of words from a young age, I first started writing when we were given an assignment to do so in school. I can remember being called up to the teacher as she asked me (looking slightly annoyed) “What’s this?” I can’t remember the story but I do remember one of the characters had a stutter and so I explained that to the teacher and she let me go back to my desk. I guess six year olds didn’t write stutters into their work. Well, I did. And I haven’t looked back since.

Of course, over the years I wrote many more, none of which I finished, until last year when I read a book and loved it so much that I wanted to be able to do the same – write a book that someone out there would love. So I did. Whether it is loved by one or many remains to be seen, but I did it and I am so happy I did.

It opened the floodgates to so many, many more words. And while I am busy working on ‘Finding Immortal’ the follow up to ‘Fractured Immortal’ I am also writing another book. I just can’t seem to stop.

I love to talk to people, so if you ever have something you want to say, please do but be warned, it’s very difficult to get me to shut up again 🙂
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FRI Fractured Immortal is a New Adult Supernatural Romance. Packed full of action, friendship, jealousy, romance and a few steamy scenes to boot.
In 1810, an army of vampires tore through Bearwood on a terrifying rampage of death and destruction. Turned to a vampire that night, Ilia Rose fled the many painful memories soon after, walking the Earth for two centuries to seek revenge on army leader, Sol. When Ilia learns he has returned to her hometown, she follows. But the reason for his reappearance puts her life in further danger, and an unwelcome revelation about Sol’s ally, Nathaniel, means Ilia and Nathaniel must unite to defeat the enemy.

Thus Ilia begins a gut-wrenching battle to save her life and the lives of her friends, a battle which not everyone will survive.

A vampire tale like none other, love, pain, devastation and revenge, all weave together to create the first in a dark and unmissable new adult series.

EXCERPT
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Pre-order Fractured Immortal now! Release date is 21st December, 2014:
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Surviving my final round of edits

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Image courtesy of flickr.com

At long last, I am getting back to some kind of normal today. I have missed my last two blog posts and so it feels good to be writing one again. During my absence, I have been busy with my final round of editing of ‘From Here to Nashville’ and I have to admit that I have been finding it really hard. When I first looked through the edited manuscript, I could see that the majority of the edits were straightforward suggestions for improving the story but there were also some major issues which I knew would involve me in some lengthy rewriting. My immediate feeling was one of panic because I had already booked my proofreader for 8th December and I didn’t think I could keep to that schedule if I went ahead with the rewriting. I did the sensible thing and contacted my proofreader and thankfully, she was very understanding so I have now postponed the proofreading until the end of January to give me some more time. If I do keep to this plan, I could be self-publishing my book in early March.

However, one of the issues is that my description of settings is not detailed enough. This is a difficult one. I know that many writers write about places they have never been and so your descriptions need to be backed up with some good research if this is what you’re doing. I have done all this of course, for Nashville, but still my descriptions don’t seem to be quite good enough. So, is it something that would be improved by personal experience or is it just the quality of the description writing? As I’m going to Nashville next April, I have wondered whether I should wait till my return to finish the story so that I can add in description details from my personal experience but in the end, I’ve decided not to wait. If I delay any further, I won’t be publishing until the end of May and I will just be twiddling my thumbs, as far as this book goes, for the first five months of next year. This has been a very hard decision to make but, for now at least, I think it’s the right one.

One of the other major issues the editor has flagged up to me is the narrative voice I have used in the story. In fact, it’s narrative voices and this has been an issue I have worried about and blogged about all the way along this journey. Just to remind you, the first part of my story is written from the female character’s point of view in first person; the second part is from the male character’s point of view, in first person and the final part, alternates between them. The editor has suggested I rewrite it all in third person or rewrite it all in first person from Rachel’s point of view. After I’d got over the initial shock, I tried rewriting a section in third person and I didn’t like it at all, which leaves me rewriting it all from Rachel’s perspective. This would mean losing Jackson’s perspective on Nashville, which is quite a large chunk of the novel. It would have some advantages though, in that I could lose some of the minor characters who are stacking up quite high and it would allow me to lose a lot of words from the story, tightening the pace a bit too. I haven’t reached this part of the story yet to see what the effect of rewriting it would be but I am willing to give it a try and see what happens. The hardest thing is having to make these decisions on your own, without the benefit of advice from a publisher and I have really been struggling under the weight of that responsibility. I have talked it over with a number of people but in the end, it has to be your decision if you are self-publishing and I want to make the right one for my book.

The final major issue is that for a romance, the editor thinks it’s not sexy enough! Following the advice from a partial edit earlier in the year, I did try to inject more emotion into the story but apparently, I haven’t gone far enough. I went on a course last year about how to write passion on the page and at the time, we were given a handout on ‘The Twelve Steps of Intimacy’ by Desmond Morris from his book ‘Intimate Behaviours.’ I did try to use this to help me build up the sexual tension and I had succeeded to some extent with it but I only went so far, forgetting that I need to keep it going all the way through the story. This is another difficult one in that I like to read quite sexy stories myself but writing them is a completely different thing. I don’t want to go too far and alienate readers but nor do I want it to be a so-called ‘sweet’ romance. It needs to be somewhere in the middle and this is not as easy as it sounds. The research for this one is good fun though 😉

I have to admit that I have felt quite despondent over the past couple of weeks because every time I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it moves away from me again. Now that I have started working my way through the edits though, I know I can deal with them. I realised that I would need more time and I’ve built that in. I’ve had to accept that I’m the one making all the decisions, including whether or not I agree with all the editor’s suggestions and comments, and I’ve started making them. For the time being anyway, I can see the light again.

Thanks for reading. Do leave me a comment and let me know how you dealt with your final round of edits. I’d love to hear from you.

How much does it cost to self-publish?

DiceAs I approach the end of my path to publication, money has started to occupy my mind quite a lot. Having made the decision to self-publish my first novel, I have obviously had to think long and hard about how much it’s all going to cost me and the dilemma I have had to face is how to publish the best piece of work I can whilst having no real budget to speak of. I have read enough ebooks to know that many self-publishers just aren’t thinking about quality at all before they hit the publish button or maybe they were but they just didn’t have the money to spend on quality control before publishing their first book. Whilst I understand and sympathise with that situation, I could not do that myself but there is no doubt that it’s expensive and if, like me, you want to publish a high quality piece of writing, then you need to give some thought in advance to the potential costs involved.

1. Editing
It is generally agreed that if you want to end up with a high quality book, you will need to have it edited by a professional. I had my first professional edit done by the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) as part of their New Writers’ Scheme (NWS). I was lucky enough to get on to the scheme which includes a read through of your work in progress by an author. My reader sent me a three page report and made comments on my manuscript too. This was invaluable advice at the time. This edit equates to the developmental edit I guess in the round of edits that you could decide to have done. It cost me £120 to join the NWS for the year. Prior to that, I had asked a number of close friends to beta read for me and I had also made friends with a writer who beta read it for me, all of which was done for free.
As a result of attending the RNA Conference, I made contact with a couple of other professional editors too. When I approached them about editing though, I realised that I just couldn’t afford to pay for their professional services which started from £400 upwards. I felt caught then because I knew I had to have a professional edit and of course I wanted to pay people properly for their services but I couldn’t stretch to this. In the end, one of the editors was offering a special one-off deal of £90 and so, my problem was solved. In all, with some partial editing to my first three chapters, I have spent £150 on editing. With the fee to join the NWS added to that, this brings my total for editing to £270.

2. Cover Design
As you’ll know if you follow my blog posts every week, I have recently finished working with a cover designer for my novel. You can read the post here if you missed it. This service has cost me £187 but there will be a bit more (£50) when I go back for the print version of the cover. I know I could have spent less than this but I don’t think I would have ended up with a cover that I love as much as the one I have. I consider this to have been a very good investment and as you know, people do judge books by their covers and so it was important to me to get that right. Total cost then spent on cover design  will be £237.

3. Proofreading
This past week, I have been looking into proofreading as the final step before publication. Once again, I knew that this was going to be a fair expense because I was going to need a professional. I have joined the UK Society for Editors and Proofreaders myself because I wanted to do their Introduction to Proofreading course and so I had an idea of what sort of cost to expect. Last week, I also took the plunge and joined the Alliance of Independent Authors and I was able to seek the advice of their members for recommendations which was very helpful. Still, it has been a difficult decision when all the people I’ve contacted have been equally well-qualified and professional in their response. They all have excellent references as well. So how you do you decide? In the end, I’ve reached a conclusion based on qualifications, availability, costs and personal recommendation. This is going to cost me around £250. I don’t think I could have paid less than this and still felt that I was going to get a professional service.

4. Everything else
This final section would include things like formatting, which I’m going to attempt myself with some help from my friends (!) and it might also include marketing. I have just run a giveaway on my Facebook Author page and it got me thinking about the promotional materials I might need to get before I launch my book. This would include postcards, bookmarks, business cards etc at the very least but I can’t really commit more than £100 to this.

In total then, for someone who has no budget, it looks like I will have spent about £850 to self-publish my book to a quality that I will be happy with. As these costs have mostly been staggered, I have managed it reasonably well. My understanding is that if I price my book at £1.99 on Amazon, I can expect to receive 70% royalties from them for every book I sell. By my calculations, that will mean that I will need to sell 610 books in order to make my money back. Now all I need to do is make it visible enough for readers to know it’s out there. And that will be a story for another blog post!

Thanks for reading as always. I welcome your comments about your experiences 🙂

Choosing and Working with a Book Cover Designer (part 2)

9397638640_fb0f268225_mA few weeks ago, I wrote my blog post about the process I had gone through for choosing a cover designer for my debut novel ‘From Here to Nashville.’ At that point, I had only just started working with the company I had chosen and I promised that I would come back when the process was all over and tell you how it had gone. I now have a professional cover for my novel and I am really pleased with it. It was a learning curve for me though and as always, I would like to share with you the most valuable things I learnt.

1. Use of Photos
The first proof the designer sent me used a photo on the cover. Nothing unusual in that you may say and I was more than happy to have a photo on the cover. Unfortunately, it turned out that the same photo had been used on another book already and although that book isn’t well-known, I didn’t want to use the photo on mine and run the risk of it turning up in competition. What I learned was that you cannot get exclusive rights to the use of a photo without expecting to pay a huge amount of money for that privilege and although it doesn’t happen often maybe, you have to be prepared for someone else already having used the same photo. I realise that maybe I seem naive but I just hadn’t come across this situation before and so it did surprise me. If you want your book to look unique, then maybe it’s best not to use a photo unless it’s one you’ve taken yourself. For some of you reading this, this may not be a concern but it was for me and I have learned that lesson for the future.

2. Choose Three Key Messages
Before the next set of proofs, I had to think very specifically about what I really wanted to see on my cover. To help myself focus, I chose the three key messages I wanted the cover to convey. They were: romance, country music, the Nashville setting. The designer came back with three new proofs for me and the next thing I had to learn was that it’s best not to over-clutter your cover with too many messages. For example, I liked the idea of a silhouetted couple to show the romance element of the story but in practice, this was hard to achieve along with the other messages. So all three proofs had the Nashville skyline, two had a guitar and one had the silhouetted couple on. I can’t show you the proofs because they remain the designer’s property but what I can say is that I loved all three covers in their own way and so I had to choose the elements I liked best to combine for the final cover proof. You will have to wait a little while longer for the cover reveal but I hope you’ll agree that the designer did manage to include all three elements that I wanted in the final design and it was their vision that gave me the opportunity.

3. Have a Strapline ready to use
When the designer asked me if I had a strapline ready, I said that I hadn’t planned to use one as I’d looked at a lot of other covers and I’d seen that it wasn’t something every author did. However, as time went on, I changed my mind about it. I’d been preparing to enter a competition and was trying to distil the essence of my story into a tweet and doing this made me realise that I had actually written a pretty good strapline for the cover. This was my first attempt: ‘Two worlds, 4,000 miles apart, Can music bring them together?’ In the end, I changed it a little so that the words could fit into one line and I am really pleased with the final result. It also helped that I had written my blurb for the story by then because that gave me a starting point to work from.

The company I used for the cover design is called ‘Design for Writers’ and they can be contacted via their Facebook page here. I found them a professional company to work with and I learnt a great deal with their help so would gladly recommend them to other indie authors. In the end, I had to pay a bit more than I quoted last time because of paying for fonts and illustrations but this was all explained to me at the start so was not a surprise. I will be going back to Design for Writers for the print version of the cover because after consulting with a number of other authors, I now see that I should offer a paperback copy of the story as well. When I asked the designer what I would need to provide for this, I was amazed at just how much information they can include on a print cover. This is what he said: ‘The content you require on the back cover varies, but often includes a selection of teaser text, blurb, bio, author image, web url, twitter handle and Facebook page name.’ That will keep me busy for a while 😉

Thanks for reading as always and please do comment with any thoughts or questions.

Choosing and working with a Book Cover Designer

Nashville Book CoverAlmost as soon as I started writing my debut novel ‘From Here to Nashville’ last year, I had a strong idea in mind of what I wanted the cover to look like. As it’s a contemporary romance with a country music theme, I knew it had to have a guitar in there and something to suggest it was a love story but at that point, that was really all I had come up with. I found a photo on one of the stock photo sites that I liked, paid for it and downloaded it. My daughter helped me insert some writing on to it and lo, my provisional cover was born. Regular readers will be familiar with it and I have also asked friends and followers on Facebook for their view of the cover. I didn’t get many replies but those that did reply said they liked it.

However, one of the pieces of advice I picked up early on is that your cover has to be brilliant, especially if you’re going to self-publish and as much as I still like my own cover, I have known for a long time that it wouldn’t compare to a professional cover design. So, I started building a list of potential cover designers very early on. ‘Where from?’ I hear you cry! Well, one place I began to find the same names appearing was on Joel Friedlander’s ‘The Book Designer’ website, where every month, he holds an ebook Cover Design Awards ceremony. Here’s the link to last month’s:   I watch out for this every month because I love looking at all the covers and reading his comments about them. It is a very rare thing for a self-published cover to receive praise but they do sometimes and you can see what things he thinks they have done particularly well. I noticed over the months though that the same design companies came in for regular praise and I started bookmarking these companies for the time when I might need them.

In addition to this, whenever I noticed a book with a good cover, I would check the first few pages to see if the cover designer was mentioned and if they were, I would bookmark their company. I looked out for recommendations from others and read articles with interest about people’s experiences. So when the time came for me to choose a cover designer, I already had a good list of about 6 companies to choose from.
The next stage was finding out how much they would charge. Unfortunately, I am finding that self-publishing can come at quite a high cost and therefore, getting value for money is really important. I am obviously happy to pay for professional work but there is a limit for everyone and if, like me, you don’t really even have a budget (!), every penny is going to be important. What I found is that the larger companies wanted me to sign up to a package, typically priced at around £250 for just an ebook cover. This seemed like a lot of money to me for a service that didn’t look very personal. I wanted to work with someone that I could build a relationship with, as I thought that would be very important if they were to stand any chance of understanding what I want from my cover. This was why I didn’t choose the company 99designs.co.uk in the end, even though they are priced very competitively. I came across the site via a recommendation from Jericho Writers because one of their writers was holding a contest for the design of their book cover. It is a clever idea in that you submit your brief, choose how much you’ll pay and then designers submit their designs to your contest and you choose the one you like the most after 7 days. I just didn’t feel that this was personal enough for me but it might work for you so you should take a look if you like the sound of it.

After a fair bit of research then and keeping my ear close to the ground for over a year, I came back to a design company that I had bookmarked right at the very beginning. We exchanged emails a few times to clarify what I was looking for in the broadest sense and to finalise the price and I started working with them last week! Since then, I have filled out a very detailed questionnaire, which asked me very searching questions about my story, things like genre, setting, themes, tone, point of view, key words and target market. I have also been able to upload a file of images I have put together containing ideas and inspiration about my cover, as well as my synopsis. The hardest bit was specifying what I think is good design and what I think is bad design, with examples from Amazon. That took me absolutely ages! It was also hard to explain which sort of reader I feel would read my book in answer to the question, ‘Perfect for readers of….’ It probably took the best part of last week for me to answer the questions and upload my files. Now it’s on to the design process which will allow three rounds of revisions and be final by 17th September. The cost for the ebook cover is £149 and I have the option to go back for a print cover later if I need it. I know you want to know who the company is but I’m going to hold on to that information until the design is ready. When it is, you can tell me what you think and I’ll tell you who they are so do keep checking back and in the meantime, keep looking at other people’s covers for inspiration 🙂

Thanks, as always, for reading and let me know in the comments below, if you have any questions you’d like to ask.

Writing a great blurb for your contemporary romance novel

DSCN9080After a great break away, it’s time to get back to writing and I always find that this weekly blog post breaks me in gently on a Monday morning. I thought I ought to start with an update of where things are with my writing journey. This photo shows one of the mountains we saw whilst we were away in the French Alps last week and it reminds me a lot of where I am with my writing right now.

Before I went away on holiday, I got in touch with a freelance editor I’d met at the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) conference in July and asked her to do a partial edit on the first three chapters of ‘From Here to Nashville,’ my debut novel. I have sent her the final draft of those chapters so I hope that these represent as close to the finished work as I can make it on my own. I am nervously awaiting her feedback which is due by the end of this month. Dependent on what comes back, I may or may not have a lot of work to do to polish the rest of the story to the same standard as the first three chapters will be after her help.

The other thing I have done is to contact a cover designer and I am all set to go with them this week in starting work on an e-book cover only, in the first instance. They have a lot of experience in book cover design and also in the romance genre and I’m looking forward to working with them. The cover should be ready by mid-September and I will keep you up to date with its progress.

In the meantime, I am still implementing the revisions suggested by my RNA reader following my manuscript assessment as part of the New Writers’ Scheme. This should keep me busy whilst all these other things are going on. On top of this, I have started working on a blurb for my novel, just another one of those seemingly easy but actually quite difficult jobs you have to do as a novelist. I read an interesting blog post at the weekend by Tara Sparling called ‘What Makes People Buy Self-Published Books’ which you can read here on her blog. The three things that came out of her survey that encouraged people to buy were the cover, the sample and the blurb. As I’ve got going on the cover and the book itself is on its way to being professionally edited, I felt it was time to turn my attention to the blurb.

I have had a go at this in the past but found it quite difficult so I did some research and found an interesting piece all about it here, on Digital Bookworld’s site. Their advice is to follow four easy steps to writing your blurb: first, describe the situation your characters are in at the start of the story; then explain the problem; next, tell the reader what the ‘hopeful possibility’ is; finally, describe the mood of the story. I found this incredibly useful and have even managed to produce a first go which comes in at just under 150 words. It’s not as good as it could be yet but it’s a start. I also spent some time looking at blurbs for other books I’ve read and enjoyed on Amazon to see what I should be aiming for. Whilst doing this, I noticed that most blurbs start with a separate line of just a few words which aim to hook the reader in. For example, Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ blurb starts with: ‘What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?’ And ‘Can Baking Mend a Broken Heart?’ from Jenny Colgan’s ‘Little Beach Street Bakery.’ In keeping with this idea then, mine is ‘Can Music Really Make Your Dreams Come True?’ Once again, it’s a first go but it’s made me think about my story and how to hook readers.

Thanks for reading and if you have any thoughts about writing a blurb, do let me know in the comments below. Good luck with writing yours!

What I learned from Day 2 of the RNA Conference 2014

DSCN8845Following on from my post last week when I had only just returned, bleary-eyed, from the Romantic Novelists’ Association annual conference, I wanted to share some highlights from day 2 with you this week.

Liz Harris – The Path to Publication
I started the day with a session by Choc Lit author, Liz Harris, who I have come to know online and so I was very keen to hear about her ‘Path to Publication.’ Liz has a great sense of humour and she managed to make us all laugh while telling us some vital tips for running our own writing lives. The first was about using a social media management tool to help maintain your online presence without it having to take over your life. She recommended Tweetdeck for this, which I have looked at since, along with Hootsuite but I find them both quite difficult to use personally. I want to see my timeline and my notifications and at the moment, I just have both pages open all the time but I can see that as things get busier for me, I will need to give in to one of these tools to help me. Liz went on to advise that once you have submitted your book to publishers (if that’s the route you’re taking), you should get straight on with your next book. This is partly because most publishers will take a while to get back to you, at least a month but usually longer, and if they like your first book, they’ll definitely want you to have another one ready.

Ruston Hutton – Make your Book Better, Working with an Independent Editor
The next session I attended was by an editing company called Ruston Hutton. As I knew I would be looking for an editor soon, this was another session which I expected to find very useful and it was. As editors, they said they will tell you where your story shines and where it needs work because they want to help you get the best out of your writing. They advised writers to do their research before choosing their editor, to know what their tastes are and to get some references from other customers if at all possible. They like to build long-term relationships with their customers, knowing their goals for their writing and working with them to achieve it. They told us that they work to a one month turnaround once work is submitted to them and that they charge approximately £500 – £600 for an edit. I was very impressed with Emily and Jenny and their professional attitude to their work. Sadly though, my own budget doesn’t stretch to this cost. If yours does though, you should consider getting in touch with them.

Jean Fullerton – ‘Don’t Lose the Plot – Developing and Refining Successful Plot Structure.’
As a prolific author herself for Orion, Jean has had lots of experience and she imparted her knowledge with a good dose of laughter, making quite a difficult subject a lot easier to understand for the new writer, like myself. She told us that she sees stories as being made up of a rainbow of elements: characters and the relationships between them, plot, conflict, tension, sub-plot(s) and setting. She explained that once you have introduced your main characters, you should give them at least three problems, one major and a couple of minor ones. She said that your inciting moment should include what threatens your characters both physically and emotionally. She also recommended that you should limit your secondary characters, being careful not to have too many so that you take away from your hero and heroine. Another useful point she made as she went through the typical story arc is that your final turning point or ‘black moment’ should make your reader shout ‘No!’ I don’t think I have quite achieved this yet in FHTN but it was a good way to describe it and it made me think. The final point Jean made that I found especially useful was that there should be no more than a few pages from your resolution to the end of the story.

Debbie Young – ‘You Need Never Walk Alone’ – ALLi and support for Indie authors.
The last session I wanted to mention from the second day was led by Debbie Young from the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). Debbie talked about how ALLi can help you if you’re planning to self-publish. It costs about £40 to join as an Associate Member and once you join, you can access the details of partner members who are vetted before they can join. These include companies who provide professional services for authors, like formatting, editing, proofreading and cover design, making it much easier for a new author to find someone reputable without the risk involved in doing it on your own. There is also a private Facebook forum for ALLi members which is full of useful tips for newbies. Debbie is also responsible for writing the ALLi daily blog which you can subscribe to whether you are a member or not.

So, it was another fantastic day and just reading through my notes again has made me realise how much I learnt. You may not know that you can attend all RNA events as a non-member, with tickets only costing a little more than they do for members so if you think you might be interested in attending next year, when the conference moves to London, do look up the RNA website to find out all the details. Thanks for reading once again. Please  do leave a message for me in the comments or ask me anything you’d like to know more about from the conference.