Category Archives: The Publishing Priocess

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!

http://sharonzink.com/writing-tips/all-first-drafts-are-sht-so-heres-a-masterclass-on-self-editing/

 

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In The Zone… again

Last night I was interested to see in BBC4’s The Brain that many of our day to day activities are not under our conscious control. As we learn and develop new skills, continuous daily action hardwires the brain and brings about physical changes. So patterns that seem to require a lot of skill initially and fire up a lot of neurones, become fixed established brain patterns. This is why things like learning to drive can be challenging but once established and fixed in the brain, you can do it without thinking about it.

It’s how we move so apparently effortlessly, it’s how we do just about anything that we do a lot!

They talked about being ‘in the zone’ where time loses meaning and we just do things, seemingly on autopilot. I love this idea of how our brains get physically changed by things we do all the time. Mum thinks when I work I read fast, when I don’t think I do, but I am guessing since it’s my job I read faster than her and I also spot things I would never have spotted once by training myself to look for errors and incorrect spacing etc.

As I sit here now typing I barely look down at the keys and yet I was never taught touch typing but when it’s something you do every day and have for so long it’s amazing how competent we become.

I think losing myself in the creative flow is the thing I love the most about my writing life. I have struggled a little to capture the beating heart of the new novel but now I know what it is telling me it wants to be I am excited. It’s a process and one that once immersed in becomes a real joy. I wonder which part of my brain has been changed to accommodate the new story and its new characters. I wonder if fictitious characters create neural pathways of their own and implant memories that while not real in the usual sense, are real never the less. Are these pathways any different, I wonder, to real memories?

 

I will leave you with that thought as we draw closer to the weekend. I am adding model to my CV this weekend as I have been asked to take part in a charity fashion show, for my sins! I did think when they asked me to help that I would be needed to proof fliers or the like, but no they meant model the clothes! Now I have never seen myself as a model I have to say and I did say no repeatedly until I had no choice! It’s all in a good cause and I do not intend to strut my stuff on the catwalk (and yes there is one apparently!) too seriously! Me? Come on.

See you next week folks and thanks for reading!

brain

 

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In The Spotlight: Guest Blog by Sharon Zink

I met Sharon when we our short stories were published in Unthology 3 by Unthank Books and I was at the launch in Norwich. We since made Facebook a place to hang out and I very much look forward to a weekend in Brighton this weekend where she launches her debut novel — also published by Unthank Books. She is a literary writer and like me tends to write very American novels (so there is a kindred spirit there) — so I will be reporting on her launch, but I wanted to introduce you to her first by inviting her to the spotlight now her book is released!

So without further ado, please give a warm welcome to Sharon Zink … (pause of raucous applause!)

In the Spotlight …

spotlightoj-md                                                                                              …    Sharon Zink

 

Author Sharon Zink

Author Sharon Zink

Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book/story/poem published or your most recent success.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about five, scribbling stories and even an autobiography (weird kid that I was!) on the top step of the stairs. I was lucky to know what my calling was from an early age and even luckier that I had mentors who encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I dedicated my first novel, Welcome to Sharonville, partly to Bryan Ricketts, a brilliant English teacher who helped a messed up teenager become Young Poet of the Year and get my first collection, Rain in the Upper Floor Café, published when I was seventeen.

The transition from being a baby poet to a grown up one was hard though and so, once I went to university, I got caught in the grip of becoming an academic and creative writing was set aside for pretty much a decade. Bryan and I continued to correspond and he was proud of my studies, but he said to be once in a letter, “You should write” – meaning, real stuff, poems, stories. He sadly died before I started writing fiction – something I never imagined I’d ever do – but I hope he is happy now the novel is being published. I’m pretty sure he has been meddling from on high to make it happen!

My fiction writing journey is one of paradoxes really – of early successes and great luck (as with the poetry), followed by years of work and waiting. I was incredibly fortunate that the first ever story I wrote, “Lobsters” – which you can read on my website – won me the Writers Inc. Writer of the Year title and was published in their winners’ anthology. My novel, Welcome to Sharonville sprang from that story and there was a flurry of excitement as I nearly got taken on by an agent when the manuscript was only 100 pages long. But then – as is the way with my life (and probably every one else’s!) – lots of things happened which dented my confidence. Things unrelated to writing – such as multiple bereavements and falling ill with M.E. – and other more literary struggles, such as my uncertainty about dealing with the book’s opening chapter and rejections from agents, which finally led to me putting the book into a virtual drawer for a few years.

I completed my second novel (which is currently ‘resting’ and may stay that way!), but when I met Jacqui Lofthouse, the novelist and writing coach, she forced me to let her look at Sharonville (as it was titled then). I remember my relief and absolute joy when she rang me and said, “It’s brilliant! This is one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in years!”  She instantly breathed life back into a project I’d felt was permanently dead. After that, she began submitting to agents for me as a scout and I gathered courage and approached a few myself and had various near misses, plus the book was even shortlisted in the 2011 Mslexia Novel Competition out of 4000 entries. It was hard to face the rejections, but I told myself that I was getting mostly personal responses (which is unusual in the agent’s world of standard letters) and that near misses meant I was getting nearer  – but then I tried Unthank Books – the first independent publisher I’d approached – and they took the novel!

I felt like it was the perfect home for the book because of its reputation for literary fiction, but also because one of its founders, Ashley Stokes, had critiqued the first draft of the novel years before and had been so enthusiastic and positive about me completing it. I’m a writer and love symmetry, so this circling from the beginning to the end of this novel’s journey really tickles me.

Did that journey involve an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?

As Unthank Books is a small press, I didn’t need an agent to get my novel published and this seems to be the way many first time authors get their break. Independent houses are often more willing to take risks on newcomers and those whose work doesn’t fit well with the standard genres. Because of this, I think the independent houses perform a really valid role in terms of allowing innovative writing to find readers who are still hungry for something different and often challenging. The success of many writers from small publishers in recent awards, such as the Baileys, attests to the quality of the books they are producing.

I managed to find a publisher before an agent and it does often seem like it is as hard, if not more so, to find an agent than a book deal due to the increasingly cautious nature of the publishing industry and the sheer number of writers trying to get a book out. Although I would really like a great agent and a conventional publishing deal as it’s the dream of most authors, I also write primarily to be read, so if it is a case of having an agent, but my book never seeing publication (as has been the case with several of my writer friends’ work), I would rather go to the small houses and keep getting my novels out there in people’s hands.

As a literary consultant, as well as a novelist, I would say if you are serious about getting an agent or publishing through one of the small houses, you really need to make sure your work is tip top – I’d strongly recommend hiring an editor to look at your book and the submission package. Agents and publishers are very busy people, so you only get one shot at success – don’t give them reasons to reject you due to rooky errors.

Do or did you ever belong to a writing group? Crit group? Did you ever have someone professionally critique your work before first submitting? Or do you have friends or anyone else who sees it before you send it off? Has that changed since you became a ‘successful author’?

I am a bit of a lone wolf and so haven’t really even been part of an ongoing writing group – I have attended some wonderful courses over the years though which changed my perspective, such as one at City Lit in London which made me realise that, though I was 55,000 words into my first novel, I didn’t have a plot! (Even after doing an English Literature Ph.D.!)

Generally though, I like to beaver away in privacy and then show my work to people I trust, such as well-read friends and literary consultants. Jacqui Lofthouse has been invaluable to me as she offers much-needed ego strokes for the stuff which is good, but she also challenges me when my work could be improved.

I was lucky enough to have two Arts Council Free Reads for Welcome to Sharonville and one for my second novel and would really recommend people look into that scheme as critiques can be very expensive and this scheme allows authors to access editorial advice for free or at cut price. I honestly think no one should attempt publishing – whether self-publishing or through traditional channels – without a good structural and copy edit.

Who did you first tell when you heard your first book/story had been accepted?

I can’t remember who I told about my poetry collection as that was a while back, but I screamed so loud when I got the email saying Unthank were taking my book that my cat, Muse, ran away, looking horrified!!And then I texted all my lovely friends who kept me going through the years I was waiting for this to happen and danced to “The Eye of the Tiger” (complete with hand moves). Yeah, I know.

What happened next? Can you tell us something about working with an editor? How important is that to you now – is there a lot of discussion and does the editor make a real difference to your work?

The main reason I didn’t want to self-publish is because I wanted to work with an editor and learn from that process. Even though I am an editor myself, with my own writing, I can’t see the wood from the trees, so it was good to have Robin Jones at Unthank go through the book and pick up the points where the writing could be polished. I was lucky that the novel had been critiqued by multiple people before it reached the publication stage, so a lot of the roughest edges had already been sanded down, but Robin really got the vision I had for the book and was able to put it in words in a way I never could and I gained so much from that. It wasn’t until he described my novel as being “nuanced psychological fiction” that I realised how much of my writing is about the workings of the human heart – that is a hugely important insight to be given after over a decade of writing!

Tell us something about your writing day, routine.

I wish I had a routine, but generally, life and my health issues mean I seem to work more as a “binge” writer these days. I tend to write loads at one sitting or in a few days and then pause for a while. I’d like to get back into a more regular writing pattern though as I think it helps keep your style even and generate more ideas as your mind is constantly focussed on one project. I find afternoons the best time for me as I’m more awake. I am very fortunate and have a seaview from the desk in my new flat, so I’m looking forward to settling down there and getting books three and four finished after the summer’s promotional events are over. They’re exciting though, so I can’t complain!

What or who inspires you most? Any particular people, authors, books?

It’s hard to single out one book really, but I am mainly inspired by American literary fiction – I would love to be mentored by Richard Ford as he’s a genius and was totally lovely to me when we met not long after I’d finished the first draft of my first book. I also adore Paul Auster, Lorrie Moore, Raymond Carver, Annie Proulx – I could go on all day!

I also find myself really inspired by music, TV and movies. I find scenes coming to me from song lines – Aimee Mann’s “It’s Not” inspired the ending of the first chapter in my novel, for instance, but David Lynch also deeply affected the book as I worshipped Twin Peaks and just adore his quirky take on the world in general. I often use art as prompts in my creative writing workshops, so sometimes I will look at paintings or photographs and see characters or scenes appearing in them. Images can be helpful to me in terms of generating the atmosphere of a setting and are one of the most fun parts of research.

I think all the art forms can enrich each other though, even if only in terms of allowing us a sense of belonging. I remember being amazed when I heard Talking Heads and seeing David Byrne as I suddenly knew I was part of this bigger creative family, that I wasn’t the only weirdo in the world!

I’ve always been fascinated by Marilyn Monroe for her beautiful vulnerability too – an aspect most artists need, but which makes life harder too – and Madonna for her absolute determination. She’s been very important to me in terms of the way she conveys the sense that anything is possible if you work at it – something you have to believe if you are going to work in the arts, where rejection and self-doubt are rife.

Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?

Because I love words and the worlds created by them and I can’t imagine not doing it now. I could give up most things except writing.

I also write because I want to touch people with my work in the way that others’ books have touched me. Literature – especially poetry – has had a profound effect on the way I view life and helps me cope with its darker aspects, as well as bringing humour and enjoyment. If my novel could do that for one person, all the work will have been worthwhile.

How much marketing have you had to do? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?

Unthank Books provided me with a marketing assistant to help me with the legwork thankfully, but all writers – even my friends who write bestsellers – are expected to do the lion’s share of the promotional work. I’ve been very active in terms of working on the creation of websites, my new blog, The Book Diner, where I interview authors, arranging the making of the book trailer and organising the Brighton book launch and so on. I don’t think any of us is really that comfortable – at least at first – about pushing our books on social media and in other ways, but people are usually very generous when you have a big project coming out and tend to bear with you! I’ve had tremendous support from friends and others in the writing community and that makes this busy time easier.  It’s a steep learning curve as, like most writers, I don’t come from a marketing background, but I’m actually enjoying finding out more about it all and I know that, through this process, I will hopefully be much better prepared when my second novel comes out.

Tell us about the latest published work …

My debut novel, Welcome to Sharonville,  was published on June 15th —  it basically explores what happens when a young History professor, Toni Sorrentino, crashes her pickup in the Arizona desert a few days after 9/11 and the big secrets which come out in her small desert home town of Sharonville as a result.

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

I’m currently writing my next two novels – Empiness, a literary thriller about female astronauts I was lucky enough to research at NASA, and Low Tide, a bit of seaside-set literary noir, involving mental illness, destructive relationships and a murder on a beach.

I have no idea where I will be in ten years’ time, but I would hope I’d have published a few more novels by then and found a lot of lovely readers. I hope I’m travelling the world, having adventures, surrounded by love and being happy.  I’d love to win the Bailey’s Prize as it’s a prize I really respect, but we’ll see!

Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?

Don’t listen to the odds, don’t listen to the naysayers, don’t send out novels to the industry before they’ve really gone through the editorial mill. Find literary consultants or literary friends who are prepared to challenge your work as well as praise. Enter competitions to help get your work noticed. Seek out a mentor who is ahead on the path and can shout back advice about the hurdles of the writing life. Treasure role models who make you feel hopeful – they can be rock stars or movie actors, but just find figures who inspire you with what is possible as a creative person. Tell yourself good things are going to happen for you artistically. Tell yourself good things are going to happen for you all over as everything is connected to your writing. Envision your victories ahead of time. See yourself succeeding in your mind – it works! Get back up after every rejection or bitchy review – expect them to come and develop a non-stick coating! Don’t let the winds of praise and blame, which the Buddha discussed, define you too much – don’t depend on external success. It’s hard not to look for validation and books are meant to be read, but the writing is the main thing always – love that process and everything else won’t get to you so much. And read, read, read – without knowing how others have pulled it off, you will find it hard to learn your craft yourself. Some people light a candle or pray before writing – rituals are helpful. Do anything to make yourself feel as safe as possible as then you’ll take more creative risks.

Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it …

My family see ghosts – they’re like something out of a Marquez magic realist novel. My gran used to tell me how she’d told my long-gone grandfather about my school reports as if it was completely normal. That’s why one of the characters in Welcome to Sharonville, the Chinese American lingerie maker, Happiness Chong, is a ghost-seer – I had to do something with that craziness! I feel blessed to have grown up in such an interesting family – a writer needs that. My grandmother was an incredible storyteller and a lot of her tales are in the book. I just hope she is proud of me.

Which of your characters would you most like to be friends with and why?

I adore Uncle Franco, the central character in Welcome to Sharonville, as he’s basically a non-violent Tony Soprano – a huge Italian teddy bear of a man with self-esteem issues, an eating problem and enough guilt, as Tori Amos would say, to start his own religion. I love his compassion, warmth and loyalty to those he loves – loyalty is something I value highly in the people I care about and I know Franco would offer that, even if he’s prone to anger and impulsive actions. (I know it’s bad, but whaddyagonnado?)

Can we have a taster of your novel?

Of course!

Opening of Welcome to Sharonville …

Toni tapped her pickup’s cherry Kool-Aid-colored hood twice in greeting: her hand flew back, bitten by a coyote heat. Three months in New York had made her forget the egg-frying-on-the-sidewalk mood of late summer Las Vegas. She sucked on her stinging fingers and yanked the Redsmobile’s door wide with her still good limb, the enclosed heat smacking into her face like an opened umbrella. Clambering across the seat, she wound down the passenger window and set her backpack on the floor, before standing with the door ajar for a few moments, letting the truck breathe, letting herself breathe, though the difference between inside and outside was between Venus and the Sun.

She hadn’t driven for a long while, but, once seated, the pickup’s large white wheel, with its soft, rubbery indentations, felt friendly in her hands. She’d had the Redsmobile – her nickname for her 50’s Chevy truck – since she was a teenager, so there was something of comfort in gazing out over its humped dash, the ways its simple black and chrome dials eyed her as if remembering all their times together.

The engine churned  at the first turn of the key, the radio hurricaning to life–Toni punched it off. All the talk of what happened that Tuesday in Manhattan was too much and already too late, even if it was only three days ago. Those voices–grieving, bribing, selling their interpretations–reached her and yet they didn’t.

She was running home from the smashed Twin Towers, the broken city, from terrorism as never seen before, but it still seemed like she was moving under water, the blue surface jellying above as her own life’s uncertainties, like stones sewn into her clothes, dragged her down to a place where the world and its events–however bold and tragic–hardly mattered. After all, here she was, heading back to Sharonville, no nearer to finding the truth about her father or about who she really was than before she left. Some History professor she’d turned out to be.

 For all she knew, she could be the daughter of a Mafia mobster. Perhaps Uncle Franco was being honest when he claimed he’d lied to protect her, that he’d only sent her on that wild goose chase through New York’s hospitals and libraries to keep her safe.

She didn’t know who was dumber anymore–him for setting her up like that or herself for going along with it. But false names and false hope were possibly better than no hope at all.

 Toni squinted into the rear view mirror as she prepared to move off–her loose black molasses hair, usually so smooth, looped out at odd, static-stung angles following her flight from the East Coast—hours of turning and twisting in her seat to see whether hell was coming. Sleep had been out of the question, even though her eyes–usually such a dazzling amethyst-blue–were dull with exhaustion when she’d looked in her pocket mirror on the plane, a sadness which even kohl couldn’t cover.

God, she was so tired of wondering where her face came from. It was a beautiful face–even she could acknowledge that, at times–but it didn’t seem to matter when, over and over, she found herself returning to the same absence, the same lack of resemblance, the same failure of recognition. She was thirty-three and still didn’t know who she was.

Her best friend, Mila, was so similar to her mother–though you couldn’t tell her that. Mila and her mom, Aunt Happiness, were like Russian dolls, except they were Chinese American and the daughter was very much taller than the mother–the dolls going from small to large in this case. Still, in a way, she’d never really felt motherless–Betta had always been dead to her and her grief at that just walked quietly alongside her, only ever raising its voice when she witnessed generations of women shopping and laughing together in Vegas, or warm, apple-cream arms encompassing her students on the day of commencement. Uncle Franco loved her enough to assuage most moments of loss though–she even felt sometimes he loved her too much. Like his moving to Vegas when she went to college there, just to give her a home. It was generous, yes, but it also felt like she was running beneath his zeppelin-huge shadow.

And yet it wasn’t enough–even while she had this strong male figure in her life, with all his sheltering ways, she couldn’t silence the yearning to find her father. Perhaps the pull of biology was too powerful, the mystery of his name too irresistible for her inquisitive mind. Something kept tapping at her soul, gentle, but sharp, like a kitten’s playful paw. She wondered if he was alive, if he knew of her existence, if he would want to meet her and she was both terrified and electrified by the prospect , by the thought of this enigmatic man’s rejection or embracing. She needed to know the truth–and not just for herself, but for any children she might have some day.

But maybe she wouldn’t want reality when it finally came–maybe she couldn’t take it. After all, Uncle Franco swore he was ready to tell her the full story now, if only she would just go talk with him. Except now she couldn’t believe a word he said.

Toni pulled off, nodding to the security guard as the Redsmobile finally left the university parking lot after three long months, braking as she reached Tropicana Avenue. She should go to Uncle Franco’s place and figure things out–she should try to understand. That was the way he’d raised her–to be tolerant, to consider others. She loved him and so she should do this. Should. Should. Should. The accursed word of civilization, forcing people into forgivenesses they weren’t ready for, obliging them into lives which they never wanted. She “should” visit, but she wouldn’t.  That water she sensed around her–it boiled.

But she didn’t want to go back over the border to Arizona either. Mila would be working late at her office in L.A., leaving their apartment terrifyingly empty–the rising sounds and smells from the restaurant below would bang against her loneliness like a bell. And then there would be Buzz–he adored Uncle Franco and would try to persuade her to give him another chance and she was way too exhausted to justify herself again tonight.

 She pulled off in the direction of the Strip, jolting with the limousines and tour buses past Egyptian pyramids, glittering volcanoes, and the shrunken Eiffel Tower.  Her arm lolled against the side of the Redsmobile as she drove, absorbing the gaudy glory of neon names now emerging in the high desert evening which–if all else failed–would dry your tears.

Las Vegas apparently existed to prove that nothing lasts–hotels shape-shifted like aliens according to market forces; towers fell on film to become golf courses; stars lost their shine and were replaced by lions; boxers bled onto the canvas floor and crawled back up again. And that always made her feel more eternal. She remained while everything else changed–or, rather, everything changed and this told her, in its rough language, that whatever she was going through would become something else.

And if that impermanence failed to comfort you, you could always feel blessed that you weren’t the bird in the Chicken Challenge, tortured into playing tic tac toe, while being blitzed by color and the cock-a-doodle-doos of regretful gamblers. Although there were days when it felt like you were right there with them, chasing an elusive feed that would never come.

Toni took a right down Flamingo, looking into the as-yet-unleased office buildings, their empty white-lit rooms lighthouses warning of the city’s dangers. There was so much construction in Vegas, so many new beginnings. She wished she could start again. She wished she could flee through those rooms, screaming.

Toni eventually left Las Vegas as a violet dusk drifted down, the Redsmobile coughing its way toward the I-93 and the state border. It was her usual journey home, along the same road  Uncle Franco had taken before she was born. She didn’t want to see it that way, but she’d heard the story of her family origins so often, both from him and her now dead Uncle John, that it had bubblegummed to her memory. And so here it was, despite everything–a kind of dusty pilgrimage past careless trucks and distant mountains, a Passion she knew every inch of.

 

© Sharon Zink, Unthank Books, 2014. Can not be reproduced withour permission from the author and/or publisher

 

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Follow Sharon’s Facebook Page here: https://www.facebook.com/SharonZinkAuthor

Follow her on Twitter: @SharonZink

Also follow her Book Diner blog (I was a guest) http://sharonzink.com/thebookdiner/

Website:  http://www.sharonzink.com/

Thanks Sharon for the great interview and I can not wait to read this and see you at the launch!

If you want to be treated to some great writing folks, of the literary kind, get this book!

Over the next few weeks I have some more Spotlighters waiting in the wings, including the crime thriller writer, Richard and Judy selected … R J Ellory, as well as children’s writer Pauline Burgess and more … so watch this space!

Have a great day everyone!

 

 

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Getting into Character

I find myself this week back in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco and then climbing the dizzying heights of Pacific Heights and down to Pier 39. Contrasting neighbourhoods. No I have not jetted off to the states again (more’s the pity) but am back in the minds of Frank and Richard in the next novel. It’s already had a fair polish but needs some overhauling and the ending is in my head but not on a page. So here I am back there. What these characters are telling me is I know Frank’s voice really well (ex con, hard but soft) and Rich is more of a challenge as he is a bit of a bumbling prof recovering from a mental breakdown.

So for me to be suddenly back with these guys feels like a real treat. I have done a lot of work on this one but now I think it’s time to get to sorted. It’s pacey and psychological this one, darker too.

Because I’ve been to San Francisco a few times, one in particular on a fact-finding mission for this book, I feel more comfortable than perhaps I Am Wolf where I have never been to Alaska or Moscow. One of things we did in San Francisco five years ago (see I said I had been working on this for a while) was walk in Golden Gate Park, ride the amazing carousel that is in the novel and wonder where a body might be found near the carousel. Yep really. But what you can’t capture from Google earth are smells and the feel of the place. So I also had my notebook and asked what scents I could pick up on — get a feel for the place in the early morning. What I love about San Francisco is the fog, very atmospheric, right?

So I must leave you now to get back into character. While Frank has his issues — and so does Rich although I think your sympathies are with him from the get-go, Frank is the likeable rogue  and so I hope all of that comes across. Well — I will have to make sure it does. Being a writer is like being a character actor.

 

AlcatrazIsland

Have a great Wednesday, y’all!

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Small steps … how much marketing do writers need to do?

Well I had a lovely birthday and a rare day off in the week. Now I’m back and working.

I was pondering how much time writers need to spend on their social networking. I’ve been paying for a Facebook promo that’s been running since the new year and will for the final 2 days, hoping to reach 500 new likes.

I also promoted posts with the Kindle offer and I think it will have made a difference, unique likes and definitely, as we approach a reprint, and clock up over 1500 downloads, and a reasonable sales, we have moved beyond my sphere of friends.

Initially sales by unknown writers are friends, family, even friends of friends. The average self-published novel sells 200 copies — it’s hard selling books. Luckily I have a publisher, but again small presses do not have the resources for the kinds of massive print runs and marketing you see with the big presses.  But they do have avenues perhaps not open to the self-publisher. So it’s good to know at least my book is out there with people who don’t know me.

I remember when that news broke about J K Rowling and her altered ego, reporting sales of only 1500 books. Well to me these kinds of sales are good, but nothing when you examine the bigger picture. Of course then sales had a dramatic turnaround.

But what can we really expect as new writers and how much can we do?

A close friend self-published a crime novel and has had phenomenal downloads!  How did he do it? He claims that luck plays a big part, and he has targeted a very specific genre with a loyal following. He also works in marketing so has employed a range of software packages to follow the right people on twitter building an audience far larger than the one I have built through interaction. He also tells me about other sources (all for money) where you can locate the emails of reviewers, extracted using software.

Now at the end of the day all of this becomes superfluous if the book isn’t any good, and in this case I know the book is good. So the writing has to speak for itself!  But the question is — even if a book is GREAT can it disappear if not enough people get to know about it?

And how much do you, as the writer, need to do to make people know about it.

I have to make the time for a lot of this, after all I have to write, it’s what it’s all about and I have to work so I have to edit etc.

I am hoping a combination of my own marketing things (small steps) and those of the publisher (with 21 years of experience) will allow the book to start getting into more bookshops, airports, reviewed by broadsheets and so on.

I remember saying to the publisher in November — but “200 books is not enough sales”. He kindly told me that it had only been out for 3 weeks and everything takes time.

He is right.

But now I need people to spread the word, word of mouth does make a huge difference.

With people enjoying the book as much as they seem to be, I hope for more good reviews and that they will tell people who will tell people. And sadly I have to keep pushing.  This self promo stuff is tiring!

So I really appreciate all the support and I hope all this pushing and dreaming will get me that bestseller!

And if you have read the book and would like to review it, have me on your blogs as a guest, tell your friends, share the links, this will be greatly appreciated!

I will have the slightly tweaked cover to reveal next week! So sorry for all the promo things but since you have all been on the journey with me I am hoping that sharing the  journey with you will be helpful as you take your own steps towards writing success.

Dream big, but enjoy and celebrate in even the smallest steps. Count your blessings. I still pinch myself when I see how far I’ve come!

So all that remains  to say is — have a great weekend everyone!

Small steps, big waves …

Always believe ...

Always believe …

 

 

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Keeping the dream alive … responding to criticism

I was reading an article this morning about how we receive and how we give feedback and criticism and it made me think.

As a writer I am no stranger to having my work picked over. Fortunately those who have, have always been encouraging even if there was plenty to address.

I also give feedback as part of my day job and I like to think I have developed a style that is encouraging and empowering, but at the same time, honest. It has to be.

What I did was look at what I want from a critique, honesty first and foremost, but no point in saying what’s wrong if you can’t offer a fix, an idea, a suggestion. This is where I think various things combine — me being a writer myself, the fact I work in publishing (albeit on a small scale) but I have worked with lots of stories and lots of writers to know what works, being a reader helps, and my MA alongside numerous other courses so I have a strong grasp of what works and what techniques to use to make things work better. And like you, I return to books and I read magazines and I make sure the advice I give is as solid as it can be.

I once had someone critique my work who just said things like — nah, boring, cut, don’t believe you — and no offer of why or how. I found it demoralising. And I vowed I would never do that or make someone feel that way.

Yes I have worked on manuscripts by very new writers that need a lot of work, but handled right, the comments and suggestions and advice make it clear they have a lot to learn, but a good teacher empowers and makes the student want to learn, and doesn’t demoralise or make them feel like giving up forever.

It helps I am, a ‘people’ person, or I like to think I am, so I approach the job with passion and enthusiasm and do go the extra mile for people. I love it when they tell me they can see the improvement and when they start to have success.  And since I have my publishing contacts, the various projects I am involved in, like CafeLit, I do offer ways to kick-start careers where I can and have suggested they submit to various collections.

Not everyone can teach, I like to think I have the balance right between honesty and encouragement. All I can say is it seems to work and we start the official first full week of work this year, I have a full board of jobs and lots are new clients, as well as familiar faces — so I look forward to what we can do together.

2014 is going to be a great year, come along and see!

Have a great week everyone!

1455061_614034055330223_967283944_nPs the kindle version is still 99p!

 

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Looking back with a smile, looking forward with expectation …

Happy Christmas from The Jet-Set!

Happy Christmas from The Jet-Set!

 

Christmas has always been my favourite time of year and it seems to have taken ages to come this year. I guess with all the excitement of the book launch I already felt as if I’d had Christmas!

It’s been a whirlwind of busyness and now finally after working my little socks off I sent some work off and can sit back and relax for a few days with the family.

I see Christmas and New Year as a time to restore the default settings. The same way I have a day every week when the house is cleaned and the messiness of the week is restored to its rightful place to welcome in a new week, and perhaps the same at the end of the month, but paying myself too so finances are restored. And so the big one is the end of the year — when we all take stock and I get out my new journal and look at my list of goals.

I love the pages in a new diary and the look of a new calendar. I like to write what I have achieved as if I have. It’s something I leaned from The Secret. I wrote a press release announcing my success in finding a publisher long before it came true and I was able to use it!  Now the focus is bestseller, but that’s where word of mouth has to come in and where I need all of you!

For the last few years I have told myself soon — soon someone will want to publish my novel and it finally happened. And what a year 2013 has been — in every sense. And it started right at the beginning of 2013, early January when I had a message on my answer-phone from Parthian Books asking me if my novel was still available. Then it was the waiting game. March 11th was the day I started to dance and have not stopped. It was the day they said we love it and we want to publish it! The very words I had on my wall on one of my positive affirmations.  It was not so long after that I learned about being on the short list for the Commonwealth and then WINNING the Bath Short Story award.

This year I have also been published in three collections as well as having one of my stories in a literary journal.

It will be a hard year to beat, but I’m gonna try. Oh yes.

Of course you can’t expect that every year and I know it will be business as usual when I try to find an agent and a publisher for the next one — but onwards I go. Always believe. Always do what you love, and always celebrate every success, no matter how small. BUT dream BIG. And I do.

This year has seen much sadness in the world, but then what year has not? And Christmas is also a time that reminds of me the dawn chorus — when we have a roll call and remember those who did not make it this year and those we have lost in the past. So for us there will be tinges of sadness, but in all of that you must make sure there are plenty of places for the light to get in.

People live in unrest and war and every day can be a struggle so I am so so so grateful for the life I have. I mean this morning the only thing to irk was a  2-star review, and while my writing is my world,  in the great scheme of things, what is that but a blip, right? I am so thrilled with the response from my novel. I knew the run of 5 stars would not run forever but it interested me this morning to see someone say they thought Lydia was the most boring character ever and had far too much padding so they glossed over a lot of her parts. Then they missed the real crux of the story I guess. But we all have different tastes and you can’t please ’em all. I will accept her opinion with grace. Of course Lydia to just about everyone else is the character they truly loved and couldn’t wait to get back to and the reason we return to her at the end. But if you don’t like books that err on the literary side for depth of character, then I accept opinion is opinion. At least she bought the book.

In the great scheme of things this is what you have to expect in the arts — so long as people don’t think it’s badly written as that would hurt — and for what it’s worth, it’s not. Honest.

So I went to a lovely carol service last night at the church and I think this is the first Christmas in a long time when I have thought about the real meaning. I’m not religious. I am spiritual, however, and while I find it hard to believe in what I can’t see, I think like so many of us, I want to. And I have to say I really enjoyed the service. No matter what you believe, a time to look back and be THANKFUL and to gather close to those you love (and think about those you’ve lost) can be no bad thing, right? And it was all by candlelight.

So I look back at this amazing year with a HUGE smile and my heart does that flippy thing as I look forward to 2014 and write down what will come true then. It will be a GREAT year. BRING. IT. ON.

I will be having a rest from blogging for a week or so to just enjoy ‘being’ and relaxing with the family. So I want to wish everyone who has stuck by me, read my ramblings and listened to me talk endlessly about bookish things and indulged in some glorious self-promo — a truly WONDERFUL Christmas and a SUCCESSFUL 2014, in every sense.

See you soon. Debz x

This was a great year. You wait till you see what next year brings!

This was a great year. You wait till you see what next year brings!

 

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