Category Archives: making money from writing

Self Editing: Eveything you need to know

I had planned a post at some point similar to this, but when I read the talented Sharon Zink’s page I decided to share it.

Sharon is an amazing writer and I have had her on my blog. She also does the same job as me in that she offers manuscript appraisals; the same level of detail.

So I decided to share this link because it really is a masterclass in writing and everything on here is exactly the kind of thing I say to clients all the time when I assess their manuscripts…

Take heed fellow scribes!

I am now about to write the homecoming chapter on Pelicans… this is exciting, it’s the final chapter when we reveal the last of the missing pieces… and it’s raining so I am loving the sounds of rain on the roof as I write! The morning goes pitter patter… ❤

Have a wonderful day everyone!



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Being Well Known Enough…

As a newly published debut novelist (albeit after several publishing successes with short stories), published by a respectable, but never the less small press, and even those published by the bigger presses, we all have to get our work and our name our there and that means a lot of doing it yourself. The sad fact is, even authors with agents and big publishers are often confined to the mid lists. They might have a good following and write full-time, but being a household name is something more elusive.

Talking to a successful novelist friend last night who is writing full-time and doing very well with his self-published crime series (he did have an agent for a while) a lot of his success is measured a lot in how much time he can give over to marketing. In fact he now pays for someone to do that for him. So how much of getting known comes from how much time and money can be invested in getting your name out there? And how much is purely based on the quality of the books?

I would like to be able to say how talent speaks for itself, and if you write well it doesn’t matter, but you can’t find fans if they don’t know you exist — right? He is a good writer by the way, but his background in marketing and business also helps!

I don’t write for fame or money but I do write for success, measured in how many people read and appreciate my work. I, like all writers, still have much to learn, but have also learned so much on this journey so far. While I don’t seek fame I do hope my work is recognised and awarded even and for that I will strive to always write the best I am capable of. And to do what I love doing every day is indeed an honour for which I am profoundly grateful — every single day. TRULY.

But even when you don’t seek fame as such, for your books but not you, maybe, it still involves a lot of self-promotion and contacting bookshops to arrange signings etc. In fact one of the large bookshop chains would not have me in one of their bigger flagship stores because I am not well known enough. I did so want to say a rude thing to that. Like weren’t all the successful authors once unknown? I guess I know which stores to decline when I am well known enough to draw a crowd. Flippancy aside, they have their reasons, they might just learn how to express themselves with a little more tact if they want an ongoing relationship with those they turned down who might just be the next BIG THING.

Luckily many stores have said yes and I will be signing, even if as the debut unknown I have to hand out bookmarks and smile a lot to get noticed. But I love it! I do. I love everything about this writerly life of mine. And while I wish I could afford to pay someone to market me more and get While No One Was Watching to a larger audience, I also have to focus on the writing and believe in that.

While it might be naive to hope if you write well you will get noticed anyway, there will always be a little naivety, like there has always been — that I will win big awards for my novels, that movies will be made … the same touch of naivety that got me this far — so I think I will hold onto it.

Dreamers Never Disappear. So don’t you.

Believe 2




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It’s really about the writing

A Writer’s Life for Me


As you will know I have covered many subjects here from the nitty-gritty of writing technique to publishing, reading, MAs, books, authors etc, etc. And a few things about something different.

Lately it seems like a bit of an ego trip (sorry!) shouting about my novel but it’s proof that getting it published might be the hard part but writers also have to sell books, especially with the smaller presses.

When I met Sarah Banham last week before the Saint FM interview she asked me what I wanted from this book and perhaps somewhat flippantly I told her ‘I want it to be a bestseller.’ I think it took her aback and maybe me too! At the end of the day it’s about being the best writer I can be and it has always been about the writing. I wanted this book to be recognised as worthy of publication and then my hope is people will get it and love it — so far so good.

But very few become bestsellers!

So does it have to be one? Well it would be nice. And I hope somehow it does spread beyond my family and friends and reach a much wider audience but I guess we have to wait and see. I will use The Secret and imagine it does make it. And weirdly to some it’s not a focus on getting rich (I honestly don’t care about that) it’s about the book being read far and wide, at airports and on trains. Really I just want my characters to meet as many people as possible. Is that weird, maybe but hey, that’s how I feel.

Sales so far have not been  bad for a small press but now it’s about getting that message further. So I appreciate all those who have helped with that and written those great reviews.

What I mustn’t do is get hung up on it not being a bestseller! I was thinking that last night. Very few books are so we need to focus on what this is really about, good writing, total immersion in  process and loving it. And I do. The success can be measured in many ways and I feel successful for sure.

I kind of feel guilty with all the book things like last week that the emphasis was more on talking about me and my work and less on the writing, but then I realised that is part of the job too and a long time coming so perhaps no apology should be made for indulging in that, for a while?

This week is more normal with writing and working, lots of editing and critiquing this side and the other side of Christmas all lined up, which feels great. So off I go.

I will return to more blogging about writing technique as well … I think we need more of that again as I knuckle down and just write! I still might publish an eBook about writing … pondering it at the moment.

But egotist that I am I will share the piece in this month’s Writing Magazine for those who might have missed it!

Oh and the paperback is on offer on Amazon this week and the Kindle version is 99p! Do get it while it’s HOT!


PS I have had lots of lovely writers on my blog, so I hope to be on some of their blogs soon! Anyone else want me on, send me some questions!

The Writing Magazine, January 2014, Members' News Section

The Writing Magazine, January 2014, Members’ News Section

Good being a writer, in it?

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Success is not measured by money …

“To believe in yourself and to follow your dreams, to have goals in life and a drive to succeed, and to surround yourself with the things and the people who make you happy — this is success!”

 Sasha Azevedo

I smiled when I read this, this morning, on a post by Living The Law of Attraction on Facebook.

I could not agree more.

I so believe that we create the life we live. How two people perceive the same thing can vary wildly — one can see something as setback, a reason to moan — someone else can see the same thing as an opportunity. The latter is me. Some want their dream to come true RIGHT NOW, others will work and refine and hone to make sure when it does happen they really deserve it and the product is BETTER than they ever imagined. Some enjoy to put people down and tread on other people’s dreams, other are the dreamers who WON’T GIVE UP — NO MATTER WHAT and IN SPITE OF THE KNOCKERS (people who tread on the dream and not large breasts — just to clarify! But if they help … ? Lowering the tone, Debz, lowering the tone!)

Life is hard sometimes and things happen we can’t explain that make us sad  or angry, even bitter although nothing good can come out of bitterness. Slough it off — trust me 🙂

There are times we want to crawl inside a hole and wait for the storm to pass, to revel in self-destruction. And these things are all normal. I am the born optimist and know, no matter how hard things get, I can always see a place where the light still gets in. And you can too if you open you eyes.

I am living proof that the sun is always shining somewhere. It’s a good way to live.

And above all I learned a long time ago you don’t make money your goal in life or you will never have enough. Success is not a measure of how much money there is in the bank. Some do nothing their whole lives and are born with pennies in the bank. Others have fulfilling successful lives without a penny.

The hope is that out of doing what you love the financial rewards will follow — but don’t make it the reason for what you do. I think that all ties into this need to have everything now mentality. Slow it down and measure success in other ways.

I can honestly say I have NEVER been more happy and I have NO MONEY in the bank! (Yet!)

Have a wonderful weekend all and if you care to look some great reviews are happening over at Amazon! Please add yours if you’ve read the novel 🙂 LINK

1391669_10151768472592781_368604278_nBe in it for the long haul — but enjoy the journey!

(Ps still looking for those Kennedy memories — had a great one from the US, need more!)

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Fingers in lots of pies …

Although I  see myself first and foremost as a writer, my editing and critiquing  job also plays very much into that and I am quite convinced that it has made me a better writer.

Editors  comes from all sorts of backgrounds, some have degrees in English, some studied journalism, some learned by being hired by a publishing house. And very much like writing, when I started to work as an editor I was lacking in self-confidence because a part of you always feels like a fraud! Am I really qualified to do this?

Scientific writing was very much a part of my job for a lot of years and creative writing was a hobby until the obsession took over. I learned to edit or perhaps first of all critique by being part of a group and later studying for my MA in Creative Writing. Working at Bridge House Gill kindly gave me free rein on a number of projects and taught me the basics of copy editing. I then did a course on copy editing and proof reading although ironically I found it hard to get the assignments done in time as I had too much copy editing and proof reading work! But the course taught me mostly what I’d already learned although the proof reading symbols were new and I often have to use with one of the publishers who hires me regularly.

I think the biggest validation has to be repeat business and I have so much of that both privately and with the small presses that hire me. My confidence has perhaps not soared to tackling a big publishing houses but then do I need to? I am a writer who edits and crits and publishers books and does workshops to fund the writing career and I don’t want a career solely as an editor.

I still feel like a fraud sometimes — as if I should have a degree in copy editing or something, if one exists, but I keep being re-hired so I guess the doing is the proof in the end. And like writing, I continually learn from the process.

I also worry about missing things but since I have also worked with an editor I see that to as humans we always miss some things. That’s why you have a copy editor and a proof reader and often you need more than one.

It is great though that so many clients say nice things — phew and of course a huge validation came from an agency’s approval of my work.

So I feel happy and confident in my role.

That said, I can not tell you how many times I have read the stories in the new Wild n Free book, even before the document went to the designer, to try to avoid lots of changes post design. I had another set of eyes on it as well and still when I read the PDF this weekend I found a fair few things I’d missed! And it also requires checking pagination, uniformity of headers, contents same headings with capitals in the same places throughout and in contents etc. There’s more to it than you realise! And I wonder if I looked at it all again today what else I might see? I hope nothing. But it went for the final stage with these corrections to the designer yesterday and I will have one final look before I sign off on it and send it to the printer! I worry about children’s names and check and double-check so many times it’s like checking you have your passport at the airport and I know the heart rate will be up when I finally press that button to upload the book and later when I accept the hard copy proof!

Sometimes I wonder about this phrase ‘jack of all trades’ and would love it if I could employ external editors and proof readers on projects like this where I am too close to be as objective as I might like. But since I lose money on this project usually I can’t afford to do that! I hope the end result will be perfect but I have  come to learn that nothing ever is quite perfect! Although I do beat myself up and have paid for revisions because I know there is a grammar error I missed!  I guess what being this ‘jack of all trades’ at least has taught me, on a small-scale anyway, is  how publishing works and I know this also helps a huge amount.

It is a busy old time for me as it seems there are FIVE titles out next month connected to yours truly! How’d that happen?

The biggie of course and enough in itself is the novel.

The same day I hope Wild n Free Too is out.

Around the same time I also hope the Springbok Anthology I co-edited and have a story in, is out.

Around the same time as well the eBook with my winning Bath Short Story (no not a story about a bath!) is out.

Oh and while it is supposedly out I am still waiting for my copy of You, Me and a Bit of We from Chuffed Buff Books that is out about now!

Woo hoo! November looks like one big launch party!

But I still have to work and do lots of marketing things and also at the moment, as well as sorting all the details for my launch events, our writing group has a showcase evening the week after my Bangor launch. So while I will take a lesser role and work with the team I did write a press release and am sorting copy for posters etc. And work out a running order for the event. It is all go but I love it!

Anyone who is in Wales or would like to come to my Bangor launch I am attaching the poster below. Also in Welsh on as I live in a bilingual society even though I have to confess to my Welsh being no more than a few diochs and panads! (Look it up!) So many thanks to a friend for the translation! Posters now in situ. A few more still to be walked around!

So yeah it is busy — but would I have it any other way? Of course I bloody wouldn’t!!! And Welsh friends — the Bangor Cellar Writing Group Showcase evening is October 30th, 7 pm at the Gwynedd Museum & Art Gallery (near the library) and all welcome to that as well! I will have a poster soon!

All this and I am also plugging the new Paws Competition! What fun!


Have a great week all!

Bangor flyer English


Bangor flyer welsh


Ps Essex people, the launch is on November 22nd a poster will be on here for that as well!

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What we have to say … and another first for me …

It was clear to me in the months after Lee, the love of my life, passed away (and so young too) that the profound effect of such a life-changing event was going to seep through into my writing. I had seen its effect in others, in the kind of poetry they wrote, the stories they wrote. Now it’s true to say, as writers, we often like to dwell on the sad and the painful and that’s why I so often suggest the use of pathos, the sad and the funny side by side.

So I guess the idea of missing someone did come into my writing a lot and probably still does, but it’s different now, less raw, more humorous.

Some of you will have read the story that won me the Bath Short Story Award, Learning to Fly, and indeed, as you may have read in my interview, it did take many elements from personal experience. Read the interview and the story here if you haven’t:


Of course I also made sure, as you’ll read, the story had a message — and one I will repeat here in case anyone reading this needs to hear it. Things do get better. They really honestly, truly, do. So the story itself is a metaphor for coming to terms with grief.

In the same way Rats In The Attic, that won the Sunpenny Press competition some time ago, also dealt with a child coming to terms with his sister’s illness with humour and hope.

When we have lost everything — we always have hope.

Hope is the last thing to die.

A story I also wrote around this time was one that has a darker edge but still ends with hope.

It’s called Rush Hour. It’s in essence how a girl deals with the suicide of her friend, but I like to think it’s a whole lot more than that. I felt, when I returned to work after Lee’s death, that I was trapped in a job and a life I was desperately unhappy with. But at such a difficult time it was hard and perhaps ill-advised to make life-changing decisions. Because we’d worked together, at least in the same place, I had a whole other hurdle to climb. But I always believed, and still very filmy believe, that life is too short to waste a single day of it doing something that not only doesn’t make you happy — but makes you  darn right miserable.

We need to eat,  we need to breathe. We need to pay the bills — so it’s far too idealistic to say walk away. It’s not Hollywood, it’s real life, right? And trust me I know what’s it was like when I once had a brief stint of claiming jobseekers. I hope never to have to do that again! But I hung in there, somehow, clinging to the dream I knew one day would be my escape. And it was.

In the words of a proverb that came of a fortune cookie (and found itself pinned to my notice board once): Success is your best revenge. And now, well  I somehow created the dream job for myself. Sure pennies can be so tight I live on beans on toast (I love beans on toast!) but gradually that is less and less the case and I am so happy. Richness is not measured in pennies, but in quality of life, right?

So, why all this preamble? Let me tell you. I saw that old life as being part of a rat race — I always had this crazy notion I wanted to turn around on a busy street and go the other way. Be the exact opposite to everyone else.

Rush Hour is the story of just that. Choosing to live. And like the girl in this story, she learns from what she saw happen to her friend — life really is short — so take a chance — while you still can.

So that’s my message for this Friday morning.

And why is today another first? Well Rush Hour was selected and TODAY has been published in a literary journal! And being published in such a prestigious place really is a great honour and a first! I hope of many!

Here is the link and you can read Rush Hour on page 65, my bio at the back. Looks like there are some great stories, poems and art pieces in here so there’s my weekend’s reading.

What a year 2013 is.

And the best is yet to come. That my friends, is my motto for life. Wave the banner, print it on the t-shirt. And the best is yet to come …

Cannot wait to see wait to see what 2014 will bring but it promises to be even better.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!




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Expectations and Book Sales …

A good friend and follower of my blog brought my attention yesterday to the following post about the latest revelation about J K Rowling’s pseudonym and I thought I would share it here this morning.

It is particularly interesting as I approach the release of my debut novel and what kind of book sales you might expect not only from an unknown author like myself but also one published by a smaller press than Harper Collins — albeit Parthian has an excellent reputation!

It’s hard work getting you work out there and even harder finding that indefinable quality that makes it sell, the ‘breakthrough novel’ as they say. And by makes it sell I mean far and wide beyond the scope of family and friends, the postman’s brother’s girlfriend etc. Parthian tell me they’d look for 1000 books as a good initial sell but hope for a lot more. Some books do far less than expected and some achieve sales not even the marketing people see coming. It comes down to a combination of good marketing which is finding the target audience and clearly the more universal that is the better the place you start, and then a good publicist who makes sure the world knows it exists. Fine with money being no object, much harder for the likes of the small presses and even harder for the ones going it alone. No wonder Twitter is full of people shouting their heads off about their books — can you blame them?

If we knew what that quality was I’m sure we’d all be bottling it! Who knows what touches people? It should be strong writing and a great story but since we all interpret that differently we’re already faltering. But that’s just it — we don’t and we probably never will define it exactly and there will always be surprises.

Many readers I know talk about loving a first novel and then being disappointed by the later ones which is another point and here I mean the ones that follow that ‘breakthrough’ book. I only bring this up because it kind of fits the theme in the sense that once you have your audience, as J K Rowling did with the phenomenal sensation that Harry Potter was, how easy is to strike gold twice? And how much of your name is what’s exploited in an attempt to do that?  How much attention do people really pay to the writing? Maybe with the agents and publishers pushing the name perhaps less attention is made to the quality of the next books — but that isn’t always the case and very often isn’t the case. But sadly it is a game of numbers. Welcome to the real world, I guess!

What this J K Rowling exposé  is — is an experiment in sales and why people buy books — is it the name — I haven’t read The Casual Vacancy but this is a figure I found on the Telegraph site — The Casual Vacancy’s first week tally of 124,603 copies , second only to Dan Brown. The article goes on to say:

A spokesman for Little, Brown, Rowling’s publisher, said: “Sales across print and e-book editions have exceeded our expectations.”

In total, £1.3 million was spent on copies of the novel, according to The Bookseller.

Jamie Oliver’s 15-Minute Meals, released on the same day, sold 20,682 copies over the same period and now tops the hardback non-fiction chart.

The record for biggest weekly sale of 2012 – albeit not in its opening week – is held by EL James and Fifty Shades of Grey, which sold 665,000 copies over seven days in July.

So by comparison the rather meagre 470 copies of The Cuckoo’s Calling sounds rather low but as James Smythe points out for the rest of us with a debut this isn’t a bad start. I does come down to expectations and the divide between best sellers and the rest of the authors in the world is a little like the way the earth’s wealth is apportioned to a fraction of the population with rest of us struggling. It’s a disparity that’s clear to see. But I agree 470 isn’t bad for an unknown and unlike unknowns like myself, she wouldn’t have been trying to sell it to all her family and friends now — would she? Are these genuine punters looking for a good crime read?

So maybe good writing isn’t enough on its own. It’s sadly true that luck must play a role. If J K Rowing had Tweeted/talked about this amazing new author  Robert Galbraith to all her millions of followers I wonder if that would have had a similar boost to sales. As a huge Manilow fan I once read that if he released an album of silence the die-hard fans would buy it and it would no doubt sell more than many artists. The power of a name and persuasion by respected leaders? Pack mentality perhaps? This reminds me of the power of Stephen Fry Tweeting about a YouTube clip of an unknown singer who became an overnight sensation. But I guess we live in a got to have it now world and the real test is longevity.

Some accuse the leaking of this information as a marketing ploy but I just see it as an extension of the experiment because how many copies of The Cuckoo’s Calling will be sold now? I think the effect is evident in a reported a 156,866% increase in sales over just one day on Amazon after the release (New Statesman.) Some of this will be blatant curiosity and some — die-hard fans who buy it because she wrote it which kind of knocks on its head the idea that you need to keep an author in the same genre or you lose readers.

Actually and on that note, many writers who are published in one genre are sold in another under a different name, so is she really that different? And in this game of numbers I suspect it’s a canny publicist who would leak this information — and why not? We are a fickle nation and very loyal to the writers we like. I kind of doubt, as accused, she leaked the information herself — does she need the money? And she must know the result — which says it’s not so much about her writing but her name and would she really want that?

Immaterial I guess if the book sells.

It’s a hard game and it leaves people like me shouting a lot about my debut and hoping it will be enough to breakthrough and create that loyal fan base of people who buy me when I release something very different under the name Jemina Jetsom leaked to the press by my talented publicist!

But what a position to be in.

I wonder what would happen if you took the experiment one forbidden step further and  lied that she also wrote my novel or your novel and while the writing is nothing like hers — would the book sell? And if it did – then the true power of the name comes to light, right? Interesting thought?

But then again, isn’t this experiment really only coming up with the answer we thought it would? Reminds me of my favourite section of Richard Adams’s  The Plague Dogs, where the men in the white coats decide to put dogs into tanks of water and submerge them for increasing lengths of time. The story is told by a dog to his friend and the friend says — “So what happened?” And he replies — “If you hold them in there long enough — they drown.”

Really? So  who knew if someone leaked that  J K Rowling wrote this book the sales  would increase?

It’s not rocket science. But it is food for thought.

What do you think?


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