A year end Christmas round up thank you thingy!

It’s the end of the year and before I enter the disconnected twilight zone that is trying to use any wi-fi connection with a first gen apple mini (I knew there was a reason why I’m not a first adopter) I thought I would do my version of round up for this year. It does feel a bit like navel gazing but then, blogging often can be. It certainly is the way I do it. Sorry about that. I hope that either you read my posts and think, ah yes, the navel lint of her life is the same as mine, I am not alone, or conversely that I find ways to describe the navel lint of my life that are so weird it seems interesting. Yeh… Moving on.

Before the close up examination of navel lint begins. There’s been a nice little whoop of reviews at the end of this year so I thought I’d share.

First up, Kate, over at roughseasinthemed has reviewed Few Are Chosen… extensively. You can have a look at what she wrote here. Kate wins a special award for being the first reader to use my scary artwork and for openly liking Lord Vernon. She is based in Gibraltar and writes a varied and interesting blog and there’s always lots of chat in the comments. Definitely worth a visit.

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Very much not rough seas in Shoreham-by-Sea

Next we have Jemima Pett – thank you Jemima for not only writing a lovely review of Few but also for turning up to a book signing I did in her home county of Norfolk. That was awesome! She, too writes a lovely blog! She has lots of giveaways, short stories and fun stuff. Please do pop over and say hello.

There is a definite need to get a page sorted for reviews but in its absence I would like to thank not only these two individuals but also the other lovely folk who have taken the time and effort to review my books. Honourable mention goes to Richard Bunning who has managed to post a review on pretty much every nationality of Amazon I’m privvy to AND Awesome Indies. Above and beyond the call of duty that so a big thank you to him, too.

What else…? Well, I guess two big things happened in the authorly arena this year.

  1. The K’Barthan Trilogy morphed into a Series and then stopped. Yep it’s done. Although there’s at least one more K’Barthan book in me maybe even two – the first of them will be the book after the book after next.
  2. After years of failing dismally at Nano they finally managed one that didn’t include a week of Mumzilladom in half term. This time I won. I have a finished 55,000 novella, or a novel I need to add 30,000 words to. Once it’s rested and I’ve read it again I’ll know if it’s worth bothering to flesh out – there’s definitely a whole strain of political intrigue I could put in and a couple of layers of subtlety. Or I could just leave it as a totally frivolous romp. Or I could, maybe, write it up as a screen play.
  3. With four books out, I took the plunge and made Few Are Chosen, K’Barthan Series: Part 1 perma free. An amazing thing happened. People started buying my books. Don’t get excited, we’re talking about 18 books a month but trust me, that’s about 17 more than my previous monthly totals.
  4. With a finished series, I’ve attempted to do more author events. OK, I did two author events, no wait, three. But they were great fun and more importantly, they earned me cash. I hope to build on that next year.

Hmm. I see I must work on my definition of “two”.

“Right Baldrick. Let’s try again shall we? This is called ‘adding’…”

So if there’s anything I can tell you about 2015 it’s that I’ll be quite busy. I hope to finish the NanoNovel next term and have it edited over Easter and ready to publish for summer. We shall see if I achieve this. There’s a shorter novel for youngsters, I’m thinking 6 to 10 year olds, which is provisionally titled Boldrort the Gargoyle Wrangler, although it might be called Tommy and the Giant, I’m not quite sure yet.

And there’s… a thing… which would be awesome… but I can’t talk about. Unless it happens.

So all that’s really left is to say two things.

First: Thanks.

It’s a very solitary job, being an author. You put your heart and soul into books that you hope people will love and you send them out into the ether. You do what you can to make them perfect and try to make them visible to readers without breaking the bank or behaving like a photocopier salesman. But the best way, by far, to sell books is if other people do it for you.

Therefore, there are no real words to explain how grateful I am to everyone who reads my stuff, enjoys it and then goes on to big it up and enthuse about it and encourage me and… um… ting. I am genuinely humbled by the way people have gone out of their way to help me and to introduce my drivel to new victims er hem, I mean readers. I love you and want to have your babies in a very much about big love and not about wanting to get it on with you kind of way.

Thank you.

Also to those of my fellow authors who support me thank you, too. I owe countless reviews on books I’ve read and countless reads of books I’ve downloaded by authors who have been unstintingly supportive of me in the face of bugger all coming back from this direction. I am very, very aware of this. I will read those books and I will review them but it will take a long, long time. Or I will try to find other ways to help and encourage you, the way you do me.

So the main points again: Reviews, yippee! Thank you, happy Christmas and New Year, and sorry – where applicable.

If I don’t get to blog again before it comes, I wish you a fantastic Christmas and New Year. I wish you the best of health and happiness for 2015. I hope you find your rainbow’s end and your pot of ‘gold’ next year – whatever that may be. I hope I do.

SussexDowns (7)

I leave you with a picture because every blog post should have a picture. But instead of something Christmasy I thought that, in these dark mid winter days, I’d put in some pictures of sunlight and summer and blue sky.

This is Sussex. Where I’m from. A small part of me is always there.

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Oh alright. I guess I’m not THAT much of a Scrooge. ONE Christmasy one then. Happy Christmas!* OK?

* Because yes, in my religion, that’s how you wish someone peace and happiness round about this time of year. I’m assuming that most people are grown up enough to be able to take the spirit of my greeting in the way it is meant. Because what I’m saying is, ‘have a happy and fulfilling religious, or commercial, festival of your choice over the next few days.’ I’m not going to wish you some half baked happy holidays bollocks that is so non specific that it’s hard to tell what holiday I’m actually referring to (for example, until last week, I thought ‘happy holidays’ was a special greeting for Americans pertaining to the mystical and incomprehensible to outsiders – like Guy Fawks Night – holiday of Thanksgiving). I have to say that when someone in Hounslow wished me, a white middle class bird, happy Diwali I was really touched. Maybe I’m just odd though.

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How did it all go? What I learned from doing a #booksigning

A little while back I write this post about my nervousness about taking a stall to flog my books at Bury Christmas Fayre. A week on, let me fill you in on how it went.

Stall with author in situ, yes, I buffed my nose with Mr Sheen.

Stall with author in situ, yes, I buffed my nose with Mr Sheen.

Truth is, I forgot to write down what I sold on day one, going solely on the amount of extra money. Looking back on it that was a Bad Idea. That said, I reckon on it being about 5 copies of book 1, a set of post cards and 4 sets of Christmas cards.

Nuff said, the next day I kept a religious tally of everything I sold: 8 copies of Book 1, 5 Boxed Sets and a copy of books 2, 3 and 4. I also sold 7 lots of art cards which I’d brought along, just in case. On the Sunday morning, one of the people who’d bought a boxed set contacted me by e-mail and bought another one. This netted me total sales of 11 packs of art cards, one pack of post cards and 40 books: enough money to pay for the stall, the banner, the stock and most of my outstanding credit card bill. I just wish I’d done the Sunday, too, and netted a profit!

So what did I learn? Several things. Here they are.

  1. Plan your stall in advance.
    Work out your bulk discounts, special offers, etc and make a price list. Print several copies of the price list, and get them encapsulated if you can, so that customers – or you – can spill coffee on them without fear. A calculator is handy and a cash box and some of those plastic stands you put books on (I got them off ebay too: 10 for £14). Make sure you’ve ordered enough books. Too many is probably better than too few.
  2. Make sure you have everything you need – or at least, the stuff you know you need.
    This can’t be stressed enough. Read the requirements given by the venue. Do they want you to bring your own table and chair? If they provide these remember to bring a table cloth. I used a dark blue cotton single sheet which cost me £7 on ebay. Bring water and some lunch (you will get hungry and thirsty no matter how unlikely it seems with all the adrenaline that is in your system). Write a list of all the things you are taking and tick off each item as you put it in your car.Life saving items for me were: plastic book stands, scissors, sticky tape, blu-tack, food, drink, price lists and a last minute purchase of some wacky sweets (more on that story later).
  3. Pimp your stall.
    Yes, make it pretty, bring a banner print off pictures of your covers so that if you have the good fortune to be in front of a wall you can pin them up – I did this but I didn’t bring enough. Make it striking so people are drawn to come and have a look.
  4. Have something to give away.
    I had two things: bookmarks advertising the series as a whole with blurb and e-mail address, plus sweets. You need the sweets to be wrapped because… well you’ve seen that e-mail that gets sent round every now and again about the wee on the bar nuts, right? So: wrapped sweets are good. It was my extreme good fortune to be in possession of some chocolate brussels sprouts. These were really just those mini chocolate footballs you can get but wrapped in sprouty looking green foil rather than the usual football foil.
  5. Provide something that will make people linger.
    In my case, it was two things. I had a tribble that people could pet – it cost me £10 at LonCon and it’s supposed to squeak but it broke on day two.*
    So I had the tribble for people to pet but what actually worked was the simple premise of providing a bin for the chocolate wrappers – in the form of a K’Barthan Series mug. That meant that the juxtaposition of the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘sprout’ was enough to get most of my potential customers’ attention. They then spent enough time diddling about trying to get the foil wrapper off the sprout for me to bend their ears about my books and cards. I also offered free book marks so if they were interested but not sure they had something to take away. Somebody downloaded a copy of all four books the following day, so I suspect this was one of the ebook users to whom I gave a book mark.Final note: When providing foil wrapped sweets of any description, at least three people an hour will eat the sweet with the foil on.
  6. Bring some bling. I read a post recently which gave excellent counsel against buying too much branded stuff off Vistaprint and the like. So… yes, you will get by on bookmarks and a t-shirt. However, if you do find an offer for reduced fridge magnets, post cards or the like and if your art work is really cool, it’s worth having a few things. One couple were humming and haaing as to whether they should buy the first book or the full set. I had discounted the full set so it was £39.99 instead of £46, which is what it would have been with all the books at full price. I had already added a set of three post cards to make the brown paper parcel more interesting. So I gave them a minute or two and then said, “look, I shouldn’t try to force you one way or another, but if you do buy the full set I’ll throw in a set of fridge magnets worth £3.” They bought the set.
  7. Enjoy yourself. Very important this one. Especially if being yourself, on the stall, is going to give them a sort of mini preview as to what the books are like to read. If you’re smiling and laughing with people and cracking jokes, others will stop to join in or listen. It also helps if you know the people on the tables around you and you can take the rip out of one another or just big up each other’s products.

*Incidentally, despite the fact it broke after two outings the company who sold it to me refused to replace it. Even if I’d used it every day we’re talking about my contacting them in October after purchase in August. Can you believe that? They wouldn’t sell parts for it either. This is another blog post, in itself, but basically, the moral of this story is: avoid giving your custom to http://www.tribbletoys.com or http://www.startrek.com – they are rip off merchants selling shoddy, over priced goods which break straight away and their customer service is piss poor.

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#BookReview of Myrddin’s Heir, Book 1 A Wizard of Dreams by Robin Chambers #rrbc

Cover of Myrddin’s Heir, Book 1 by Robin Chambers

To really enjoy the book, it’s important to understand that it is the beginning of a long series. That puts the style and action in perspective. I forget how long the series is going to be but it’s long enough to reach double figures of books and for the author to express concerns about living to finish it! I hope he does because once you get into the way the story is told it’s fun. Gordon and Zac, his ‘invisible’ friend – or at least, invisible to everyone but Gordon friend – are winning characters and I enjoyed spending time in their company. Indeed, when I had to put the book aside for a while, I missed them and wondered what they are getting up to. That, for me, is a good sign.

The book is laid out more like a text book than a novel – it didn’t surprise me to discover Mr Chambers was an ex teacher. The chapters are short and easy to digest with a glossary of words at the end of each one. What I didn’t realise was that this glossary links to a wealth of explanatory end matter – 20% of the book, no less, which kind of threw me when I got to the end of the story and discovered that the next 20% was… well.. not the story. That was odd and a bit of a surprise but not unduly bothersome.

This book is best read this with an open mind. Trying to construct, second guess or reason why won’t get you anywhere. Just let it carry you along. To be honest it felt like two books, a first instalment up to the point where Gordon and his mum spot a holiday cottage they’d like to go and stay in and a second story of the adventure they have while there. Big plus though, that didn’t bother me either. The writing is easy to read and because Gordon and his imaginary friend, Zac, are likeable and I was soon drawn in.

There are some lovely ideas in the book; the idea of someone existing in different times and places and even being different people all at once is a really interesting one and I look forward to seeing this expanded upon in future books. I love that it’s a take on Arthurian Legend, but so different to the usual.

Two things worried me slightly – first, I’m pretty sure there’s a Beano character called Gordon Bennett, which had me a little nervous, on the author’s behalf, of a writ from D C Comics. Second, there was a slight tendency to give accents to the bad or flawed characters: gossiping old eighteenth century ladies wanting to burn someone as a witch and a young bully in Gordon’s school. The main characters – for ease of reading, I suspect, have no accents. However, the result is an unwitting generalism that a well-spoken middle class boy like Gordon, who drops no aitches = good, while the lad with the strong local accent who beats up his fellows = bad. In a children’s book like this, I could imagine that might cause a few raised eyebrows among British readers. That said, it might just be me as I have to fess up to a certain amount of personal baggage about class (an imaginary concept which should be put into Room 101 and left there to rot).

So to sum up: once you’re used to the style then, if you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy this book. Minor quibbles aside, I’d definitely recommend it. There is promise of all sorts of adventures for Gordon as the series unfolds and I’ll definitely be following them closely. I hardly ever give a book five stars these days but I think I have to give this one 4.9 at least (so that’s a five as dammit on Goodreads and Amazon). I enjoyed it, I was caught up in it, I thought about the characters when I wasn’t reading and it’s very well written.

Recommended.

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Press and publicity. Could I? Should I? M T’s upcoming stall at #BurySt Edmunds Christmas Fayre.

McMini’s latest, as he looked out at the pouring rain and the dark, sub-aqueous sky this morning.

“Mummy, I think the sun has decided not to get up this morning and it is hiding under the covers with its underpants over its head, refusing to come out.”

Very succinctly put. Naturally a long conversation ensued about the specifications of inter galactic underpants as we discussed size, standard of flame retardancy would be required when constructing (make doesn’t reflect the size of the undertaking) underpants for a star.

To be honest, today, I’m feeling a little bit like the sun, myself. I’m doing an event at the end of the week, so I have been having a go at press stuff. I started yesterday – nice and early natch (not). I’ve got something going that reads a bit like this:

“Hello I’m M T McGuire, an author based in Bury St Edmunds and delighted to be taking part in the Fayre this year at Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre (just behind Moyse’s Hall Museum). Come and visit to see the wonderful crafts and gifts made by local artists and while you’re there, why not say hello to me too? You can pet Bob the voiceless Tribble, pick up a free bookmark, and if you want to sign up for my mailing list, your name will be entered a free draw to win a book related mug (no, I’m not talking about the one behind the table).”

It’s very difficult to market a funny book. It’s difficult to market any book actually and as you know I’d kind of decided to give up on the idea. Indeed, my strategy for all marketing has been this:

Marketing? Pfft, easy. Ignore it until it goes away.

Marketing? Pfft, easy. Ignore it and write books.

However, there are people locally who have actually enjoyed my books and with the Fair, sorry Fayre, looming I thought I should at least make a token effort to tell the local folks I would be there.

In this post, I’m going to give you some advice. I’m also going to share a powerful secret: i.e. the many and varied ways I’ve bollocksed it all up so that you don’t have to.

In theory I’m supposed to be good at this. I was a brand manager for a household name company. But when 98% of the population knows who you are you don’t exactly have to try. Everyone is agog to know what your brand’s view on x, y or z is or what it’s doing next. You are, basically, insanely newsworthy AND not only that, but you have half a million quid to throw at making the 2% of the population living under a rock which is unaware of your brand well… aware.

Interestingly, as the brand manager, representative of the corporate heavyweight, I developed various techniques for putting others at their ease, most of which involved humour. In the bus and coach company, they worked. Unfortunately, public passenger transport is not your usual public relations arena. I found that people wanted you to be able to do your job, but if you could be humorous about it at the same time, they considered this a bonus rather than any lack of professionalism. I remember lengthy conversations with a freelance representative from one magazine about a mythical agency we would found together called “we write shite” you get the picture.

Since then, I have learned – possibly to my detriment – that this is not how the rest of the business world works, indeed, it may be that the transport industry doesn’t work like that any more. It’s been 12 years and one child since; a lot of my brain has gone missing and I couldn’t possibly comment. Coupled with my genuine lack of professionalism (cf 12 years: one child: no brain comment) this has not done me any favours.

Yes people, even if you are marketing a humour book, for God’s sake, don’t try to be funny: not until the interview, anyway, then you can be as funny as you like because you’re talking to your audience. I think, if you are able, it’s worth waiting until there’s some point in the press talking to you, too. Until there’s something in it for them. As a very small time affair, I feel quite arrogant and jumped up approaching them now.

Press coverage will not necessarily win you fans but it will put your name in front of a lot of people. However, if you can win yourself enough fans, it might bring you some press coverage anyway. A lot of fans is reason enough for the press to write about you. And if you have a following, your hopeless ditzyness melds magically from unprofessional conduct to cute eccentricity.

If, like I am this week, you find yourself called upon to abandon your concentrate-on-the-writing-and-wait-until-you’re-established-enough-for-them-to-seek-you press policy, here are a few handy hints.

  1. Make the information as interesting and up beat as possible.
  2. Target it. Use a press guide like Willings (or Pimms Media Guide if it’s still going). You should be able to find one at your library. Obvious suggestions are to try your local press, if you think they will be interested as well as magazines or new sheets aimed at fans of your genre(s). It might also be worth looking into press dealing with any other area in which you have a hook. In my case, magazines for mothers or families might be the way forward because I’m a stay at home mum. If you’ve written a thriller set in the world of competitive hang gliding, then magazines aimed at people who enjoy hang gliding or are fans of hang gliding might be a place to start.
  3. Check it. Make sure all the dates, times etc are correct. If you have discalculia, take extra special care to avoid doing what I did and telling everyone that your event on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th November is on Friday the 29th and Saturday 30th. That doesn’t look cool. However, if you have done that. Accept you’ve stuffed up and move on.
  4. Send it to them. Yes, very obvious this one but you have to be in it to win it. Even if you are pretty sure, in your heart of hearts, that nobody is likely to tell their audience about your event, send in the info because you never know. Let’s face it all they can say is ‘no’… or nothing. But if the information isn’t with them, they can’t magically know about it. Try to imagine ways you can make it useful to them as well as yourself. If they can see an obvious benefit from using it they may be more interested. Avoid doing what I did, though which was suggesting topics I could talk about for a radio interview. I was unsure at the time, because it’s kind of teaching Grandmother to suck eggs, but a day on I am cringing so I reckon it was a bad move. Er hem, there are reasons my publicity for this event hasn’t gone too well and the biggest one, so far is me. Perhaps that could be Thing Five.
  5. Avoid being the thing that holds it back. Ask nicely: be as courteous, cheerful, pleasant and polite about approaching as you can and try not to do anything dumb.
  6. Give them time – I have failed miserably on that score too – remember they plan their stuff in advance and so a couple of weeks’ notice rather then ‘oh tomorrow I am…’ is always going to be more effective.
  7. Be patient. Sure you can follow up (once, possibly twice if they sound interested) but don’t hound them. They’re busy and you are not the centre of their world; they have a lot of other stuff to do, deadlines to meet etc.
  8. Accept their verdict. They know what their audience wants. If they think that news of your stall/book/appearance/existence is unlikely to be of interest, you’re just going to have to suck it up and accept it. They probably have a much better idea of what their audience wants to hear about than you do.
  9. If they do give you some coverage, thank them.

So to sum up:  firstly, if you have an event on, then, obviously, you must tell the local press and anyone else who you think will be interested. After all, all you can do is ask. However, if you’re an obscure nobody, such as myself, accept that your information may not be used.

Secondly, I believe, more and more, is that for obscure and little known writers, our efforts are best put into writing books, good books that people will love. I’m sure there is a tipping point, I’m sure there is a critical mass at which sales suddenly skyrocket and members of the press start calling us. I’m sure that some people hit that tipping point with their first or second book; through luck, hard work, judgement or all three.

However, I’m equally sure that for most of us, that stuff is years in the making. So you and I, how do we go about it? We just keep going. We do stuff, we courteously advise the press it’s happening, we follow up and we carry on. The best products sell themselves, grashopper, but it takes time. And for all the events, appearances, signings and publicity that you do, the place you’ll sell the most copies of your next book is between the pages of your previous one.

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M T McGuire will be at Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre, in Bury St Edmunds, on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th November. That’s the one behind Moyse’s Hall Museum and opposite McDonalds. She will be giving out free book marks and selling copies of books from the K’Barthan Series to anyone who wants to buy them. Should you wish, she can even devalue them by signing them for you. You can also purchase Christmas cards and there’s an alphabet poster on sale. You can pet Bob the voiceless tribble and watch him make a noise like an annoyed lawn mower. If you sign up for the mailing list your name will be entered into a free draw to win a K’Barthan Series mug (not the one who wrote it, obviously, I mean a thing to drink hot bevvies out of).

 

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What’s in a book cover? A change gives a different perspective on an established series.

Today I am delighted to share Tahlia Newland’s new, super-duper, improved covers along with some info on the why, the how and the wherefore of covers, cover changes and the reasons she made her changes.

One of the great things about indie publishing is that, thanks to ebooks and Print on Demand technology, covers can be changed at any time. But why would you want to? What’s in a book cover?

Changing covers after publication is not limited to indie books, either; mainstream books with a long shelf life often get new covers and some even have different versions available at the same time. Why? Are the publishers not happy with the original covers?

No. Looking at young adult titles, the original Twilight covers were stunning, but after the movie came out, those covers were replaced by ones with photos of the movie characters. The new covers appealed to a different (possibly younger) audience, and changing the covers opened the book up to a new market, those who had seen the movie but not read the book. They also highlighted the human element in the book and communicated more about the content of the books.

The Harry Potter series also had different covers, and each new look appealed to a different kind of reader, thus giving a boost to the established series. And now, Tahlia Newland’s Diamond Peak series has a brand new set of covers for the same kinds of reasons. The previous covers were graphic, symbolic and sophisticated, aimed at an older market; the new covers are dramatic and sexy and say more about the series in one glance.
Diamond Peak Series3

The use of faces and a Photo-shopped style of artwork is the more traditional style of young adult cover, and though many young adult books have moved away from this look, the style existed and was used for so long because it appealed to the target audience. The fact that it is less in use today will make these ones stand out all the more.

The covers highlight the action, the romance, and the strong female character at the centre of the series. Those elements have always been there, this cover merely emphasises them. The only thing the covers don’t hint at is the humour. The mysticism is there in the sparkle on the cover for Eternal Destiny.

Here are the previous covers – graphic, symbolic and sophisticated – though fabulous covers, they say little about the content, even if you take the time to read the symbolism. These will remain the paperback covers, at least for the foreseeable future.
Diamond Peak Series2
Which covers do you like best?
Find out about the AIA Seal of Excellence award-winning Diamond Peak series on the author’s website. http://tahlianewland.com/my-books/diamond-peak-series/ or visit her Amazon Author page.

All covers by Velvet Wings Design. What’s in a book cover? A change gives a different perspective on an established series.

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Forget selling. Focus on #writing.

A while back, I read this post, on Chuck Wendig’s blog and it got me thinking.

The basic gist is that there are gatekeepers for every writer. While, with indie publishing, it’s fairly easy to get your book out there, it gets much harder after publication than it is for trad published authors because most of the gates indies must go through turn up after the book is published.  So you get things like review sites that won’t touch anything self published; different gate, different place in the process but it’s still there. He explains how completely saturated the market is and links to an article from a fellow who has 150 books each day sent to his review magazine from trad publishers alone – which is why it only accepts trad pubbed books.

The message of Chuck’s article is, basically: there are gatekeepers in any part of the process, self published or trad. Know they are there. Accept they are there. Cease your raging against the machine. Deal with it. Write more books.

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Here, let me help.

As messages go, it’s spot on.

Except…

As a writer I’d like to think I can accept that nobody owes me jack.

As a human, I find complete stonewalling, or a terse ‘no’ rude. But then I haven’t 150 other people expecting more than a terse ‘no’ to try and deal with every day. If I did, doubtless I would soon be sending out photocopied ‘no’ messages with the best of them.

So, while I do not condone or recommend it, I understand why wannabe writers; self published or aiming at trad, get pissed off and throw a hissy fit. Because while, as a writer, I accept the stonewall as a sanity saving necessity for publishers and agents; as a human it still feels a bit off. And, of course, there’s the frustration. Whatever path you choose in writing and whichever set of gatekeepers you aim to deal with, you need to learn what unlocks them. You need to learn why they are closed to your book and then you have to learn how you can write a book that they will be open to. It may even be as simple as needing to know that the key is on that shelf up there on the left. Point is you need to know. And in the old days, when you sent your book in, chances were, someone’d point you in the right direction. These days the poor buggers don’t have time.

Where to find out these things then? There are courses, there is further education, there is the internet, if you have lots of time at your disposal. But for many of us there is also real life. Or where courses are concerned, things like child care, and no matter how much time you make, those things put stop to much of that before you start.

So, many of us have to learn how to write work that is commercially acceptable – in all respects, not just a good book – with only one word of guidance. An that word is…

“No.”

That’s OK, I know it’s the deal. As Chuck says in his post. Writing is hard. And it’s the only option they have because I’m one of millions.

But it is disheartening. Especially if, like me, you’re a bit dense and slow to learn from a whole plethora of words let alone one. Yes, it’ll take me a while to learn the things I need to know from the word ‘no’. Indeed, I have to be realistic and accept that it may never happen. So yeh, if you’re a wannabe writer, reading this, thinking, ‘AAARGH!’ I do understand how you might feel frustrated and cynical, or even angry, about that. But try not to. Because you’re a writer and sucking this up is your job.

These people have work to do, the relentless pressure of submissions to read and deadlines to meet and many operate under a constant barrage of interruption in the form of calls from writers. It must be like having their brains stirred with a huge wooden spoon. It’s worth remembering that the terse, ‘no’ or stonewall is probably quite impressive given the provocation some of these people must be under.

It’s not their fault.

It’s not yours.

It just is.

All the sales advice I was ever given talked about establishing dialogue – that’s why the cold callers always ask you how you are today. Then again, there’s little point in doing that if your attempts are going to piss people off.

So what to do? Well, perhaps the way to go is to avoid trying too hard. That surfeit of effort can be misinterpreted as a sense of desperation and that can make people wary or even get their backs up.

So to any writers reading this who are desperate to be heard, here are some pieces of advice that have stood me in good stead dealing with the frustration of learning from ‘no’.

  • Be patient.
  • Write a good book.
  • Avoid the hard sell.
  • Write more good books.
  • Forget about learning to flog books, instead concentrate on learning to write better and harder and with more soul.
  • Self publish and be damned!

You see, the way I look at it, if you get that second bit right, and your books are good enough, then eventually, if you self publish then, when enough people have read them, you won’t need to sell them. That’s right my young Paduan. Your readers will do that for you. This, I believe; passionately, wholeheartedly. Sure I wobble every now and again but I still cling to my deluded belief that cream rises to the surface. I’m going to ignore the words of whichever one of my characters it was who pointed out that scum also rises to the top and often ends up on top of the cream.

So if you’re feeling down, like you’re not getting anywhere, ask yourself, are you spending too much time learning to sell and not enough learning to write? Are you being unrealistic expecting to replicate x, y or z author’s strategy and hit the big time straight away? Because that way madness lies. This isn’t a straight away profession – and maybe that’s where some publishers are going wrong, too. The whole reason there are publishers in the first place is because most authors are a long term investment. They have to write a lot of books before they start to earn.

To my amateur (and probably very gauche) eye, the problem throughout the entire publishing industry seems to be the fact that because a few people have been overnight successes, there is now this daft idea that everyone has to be and that anything else is failure. Surely, historically, it has taken time and work(s) for authors to make money. They’ve needed someone who is prepared to believe in them, and pay enough money up front to prevent them dying of starvation while they art their arse off. Someone who’ll foot the bills (while the author writes enough books to get enough momentum) in return for a share in the profits, when they start to earn it back. A venture capitalist, in other words.

To be honest, I haven’t run across many venture capitalists, but the few I have are strikingly pragmatic. They take risks and spread their resources knowing that many of the businesses they invest in – however great the idea – will fail. Perhaps I’m wrong but I have this notion that there was once a time when, instead of giving a huge advance to one or two authors, or spending 90% on the marketing budget on a handful of big names, publishing houses spent a little less on several authors and hedged their bets. It’s like the football clubs who train up young players. It’s win-win for everyone when you sell them to Real Madrid.

Yes, success comes straight away for some of us, but for the rest of us, it takes as long as it takes. And that may be a very long time. Overnight stardom is the exception, not the rule. In a world of screaming noise, sometimes silence stands out.

Write those books, youngling. Create them with love, craft them with care and set them gently on the waters. They may float away to a far off place but if they are good and honest they will not sink.

As Mr Wendig says, ‘art harder motherfucker!’

Oh and did I mention patience?

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You can #win a #kindle (oh yes you can).

Weeeeee peps!

The new Awesome Indies revamped, rejuvenated, reinvigorated, redoubtable website is relaunched today! Oh yeh.

Do I hear you say uh?

OK, here’s a bit about Awesome Indies. Their aim is to sift through the indie book world picking out quality reads. The premise is that if you go to Awesome Indies and browse their catalogue you will get quality, properly produced stuff. In other words, they cut the crap so you don’t have to. Well… of course they do, two of my books are on there (phnark geez I’m modest). To be honest, there they have left off a couple of authors whose work I admire (David Staniforth and Jim Webster) but at the same time, for books of a certain type they pick well. I’ve not had a duffer off there yet, hence my recommending the site here on my blog.

Today, it being the relaunch and all, there are a whole raft of books on special offer and there is a kindle up for grabs on the site if you sign up to the readers club. So if you want to win one, just nip over here and sign up.

Or you can click on the lovely animated gif below (which says it rather more succinctly than I have).

aia_99_relaunch

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