The Authors’ Compass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paperback Writer – A Week of Good News

dfw-js-fhtn-cover-3d-nologo

Now that the ebook version of From Here to Nashville is well and truly on its way, I have been trying to sort out my paperback version. As I mentioned last week, I was about to order my proof copy from CreateSpace, Amazon’s printing arm. When it came to pushing the order button, there were three delivery speed choices. The cheapest, slowest one was going to cost me $10 so as I wasn’t in a rush, I went for that option, thinking it would probably come quicker than the date they’d given me of April 8th. Ever the optimist, that’s me 😉

Then something wonderful happened 🙂 I found out that there is going to be an Indie Author Book Fair in London on 17th April, 2015 for members of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).  This has been organised as part of Indie ReCon 2015, a global conference for independent-minded authors, being run this year with the support of ALLi. The great thing is that the book fair, which is open to everyone and is free, is taking place in Foyle’s, one of the largest bookshops in London and so, I took a leap and booked myself a table. The only slight problem is that I don’t have any books at the moment!

Cue my first email exchange with CreateSpace. Well, you have to wait 24 hours for a reply 😦 Then when it came back, the answer was that it had already been boxed so no, they couldn’t change the delivery speed and get it to me any faster. I decided to give them a call then, in America…yes, I know. Still, I spoke to a very helpful man and he confirmed that it was too late to change that order but he then said that as I was only ordering one copy, he would send me another one, free of charge, on super-quick delivery! So I will have the proof on Wednesday this week. However, I still don’t think they could provide me with books for a sale at a reasonable price so I went and had a chat with other ALLi members on their Facebook members page. They said that as I have used my own ISBN, I can go to a local printer to get books for my own use at fairs etc and I just happen to have a very good printer not far from me who seems very clued up about self-publishing. I am going to email them today to see if they can print the books for me in time and if they can, then this Cinderella will go to the ball! As you can tell, I’m quite excited about how it has all turned out and the thought of being able to sell books in a shop like Foyle’s is really wonderful.

I have also had a great time this week chatting with an Etsy shop owner who lives all the way over in Phoenix, Arizona. I love the internet sometimes! This has all come about because my husband went to a music convention in L.A. in January and came home with a little wooden guitar he’d received from one of the stands there. I thought this would be a nice promotional item for my book and set about getting in touch with the company who makes them. To cut a long story short, their costs were very high for my small order numbers so I couldn’t proceed with them but I wanted those wooden guitars! You know how persistent I am by now 😉 Then I went on Etsy and found this man making wooden guitar magnets and we got chatting like you do. Yesterday, I placed my first order for thirty of these lovely magnets and not only that but they’re going to be delivered to our condo in Nashville. How cool is that?

Etsy Guitars

So how can you get your hands on one of these? Well, I have asked my newsletter subscribers to tell me, when they’ve read From Here to Nashville, whose story they’d like to follow. All you have to do is read the book, sign up here and then send me a message! Alternatively, if you are in London around the Charing Cross Road area on the afternoon of 17th April, I’d love you to pop in and buy one of my signed paperbacks and I will give you a guitar magnet at the same time.

Thank you all for reading and I hope you have a good week. By the time I write my next blog post, I will have been able to enjoy a whole weekend of live country music at the Country to Country (C2C) Music Festival at the O2 arena in London so next week’s post may be just a little bit country, y’all 😉 Please do leave me a comment below and tell me something good about your writing week.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Julie Stock and My Writing Life, 2013 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Stock and My Writing Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Highlights from my first day at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference 2014

RNAI returned from my first ever writing conference yesterday evening, completely exhausted and with a bit of a brain overload from all the information I had taken in over the two days I was there. The main feeling I had afterwards though, was a sense of utter contentment from having been amongst like-minded, lovely writing people for a whole two days!

Naturally, I want to share with you some of the things I learnt over the weekend and today’s post is going to tell you about a few tips I picked up from the sessions I attended on the first day of the conference.

The Chemistry of Reading – Arousing your Reader by Nikki Logan, President of RWA Australia

Nikki gave a fascinating talk about this topic (she has even written a book all about it here). Nikki explained that people are becomingly increasingly addicted to experiences that arouse them and we are conditioned as human beings, to seek out this arousal again and again. A good example of this is when you read a good book and don’t want it to end. When it does end, you may experience what’s called ‘A Book Hangover.’ Women, in particular are experiential and seek the emotional experience that a good romance story can offer so if they read one good book by an author, they will go and look for others so that they can repeat the experience. Nikki explained that as writers, we need to write characters that the reader can connect with, giving them experiences that the reader can respond to. This is why a series of books by the same author can be so successful because the reader keeps coming back for more because they have come to care for the characters.

Self-Publishing Trends and Revelations – Alison Baverstock and Hazel Gaynor

This session revealed a number of interesting statistics. 65% of self-published authors are female and 60% of them are between 41 and 60 years old! That made me feel quite young 😉 In addition, 76% of them have an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. From her research, Alison suggested that most people choose to self-publish through a desire for control over the whole process from beginning to end. 59% of people surveyed used a professional editor. Some people were surprised at how low a figure that was. The average cost of self-publishing a book was £1,500 with most of that being spent on editing, formatting and a professional cover design.

Going Solo: Publishing and Marketing an E-Book – Ian Skillicorn, Corazon Books

This excellent session was full of good tips so I can only pick out a few points here. I wasn’t aware that e-books don’t need an ISBN to be published on Amazon and as they have 91% of the UK market, it is simplest to just publish with them to start with and keep outlets like Apple, Kobo, Nook and Smashwords for further down the line.

Ian suggested that although you should have a marketing plan in place before you self-publish your book, you shouldn’t do any publicity until it’s out so that readers can click on it and buy it at once. He said that book bloggers should be contacted about a couple of months before the book is going to be out.

These are just a few of the things I learnt whilst at the Conference but there were so much more and I know this will all be invaluable as I continue on my path to publication in the coming months. I’ll be back next week with my highlights from day two. Thanks for reading and as always, I welcome any comments or indeed, questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Julie Stock and My Writing Life, 2013 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Stock and My Writing Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Looking Ahead to My First Writing Conference

Julie - RNA 2014As many of you will remember, I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) this year on their New Writers’ Scheme and this means that I am able to attend their Conference which is taking place in Telford, Shropshire next weekend. Although it starts on Thursday, as I work during the second half of the week, I have decided to make an early start from Bedfordshire on the Saturday morning. It will take me about two and a half hours to get there so I’m going to stay until the Sunday evening so that I can make the most of it. It will probably take me that long to recover from the journey!

There are so many good workshops/seminars taking place over those two days alone that I really was spoilt for choice and there were several time slots when I could have happily attended every workshop that’s taking place.  Each time slot has three sessions, as well as the chance to book an appointment with one of a number of publishing houses/editors/agents who will be in attendance. I didn’t book any of those appointments (partly because I was too scared!) but also because I’m not sure I’m ready for that just yet. Maybe I’ll be braver and a bit more experienced about all that kind of thing next year!

I have focussed instead on editing, self-publishing, the path to publication and tips for newbies, as well as meeting up with other people on the New Writers’ Scheme. All in all, I should be attending twelve sessions so there will be a lot to take in but I know I will learn so much and that’s what I’m most excited about. I feel lucky that there were so many sessions to choose from to help me at this particular stage of my journey, especially about editing and self-publishing. I am really pleased that Debbie Young from the Alliance of Independent Authors is going to be there, as is Joanne Phillips, an independent author whose journey I have been following with interest since I started writing in earnest myself. I am also looking forward to a number of sessions concerned with improving my writing.

The other main focus of the weekend will of course, be getting together with new friends made on Twitter. When I attended the RNA Summer Party in May, I didn’t know if I would know anyone there at all but a lovely person started chatting to me as soon as I arrived, drawing me into a group of people she’d been chatting to and there I found Ros Rendle who I had been talking to on Twitter since joining the New Writers’ Scheme in January. It’s funny trying to work out if the person you’re talking to is someone you’ve met on social media and it’s lovely when you realise that you do know them! I am so looking forward to meeting other friends that I have only spoken to online.

There are many other writing conferences out there for people not connected with the RNA. Another one I had been thinking of going to is called ‘The Festival of Writing’ and is organised by The Writers’ Workshop. This one takes places in York in mid-September and has a similar selection of fantastic sessions and the chance to pitch to agents etc if you’re interested. It is quite pricey but they sometimes offer deals so do take a look if you think it might be of interest to you. I will be back next week with my review of the Conference. Until then, I will mostly be looking for a new pair of shoes and packing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Julie Stock and My Writing Life, 2013 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Stock and My Writing Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.