Sunday, 30 September 2012

Guest Author: Griselda Gifford


I'm the author of 30 books for children, many of which are now out of print - so I decided to put House of Spies on Kindle.  It was originally published by Andersen Press and is still selling abroad. This is an exciting story set in World War 2.  Villagers are suspicious that a German couple living in the woods are spies.  After Pippa and her mother have to leave their cottage because of an unexploded bomb - Pippa meets a new friend and they become involved with the mysterious House of Spies in the wood.  The jacket for Kindle was designed by my husband, Jim, as I found it cost a lot to get the original.

Recently, I've written an historical novel for young teens (The Cuckoo's Daughter) about my great-great grandmother, Louisa,  who was the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Gloucester and a Lady in Waiting.  It's set in 1799.  I found it hard to blend fact and fiction - did lots of research and read old letters, becoming more and more sorry for Louisa, who was fostered by a farming family in Surrey but never told who her parents were.  When she elopes at 16 with handsome Godfrey Macdonald, she learns the truth.

Several agents and publishers have enjoyed the story but nobody so far has taken it on.  I know historical fiction is hard to sell to teenagers and I've no gory wars (although Godfrey later went to war against Napoleon) to make the story more dramatic and - with respect for the real Louisa and Godfrey and the time they lived in - there are kisses but no more!  If I can't get a publisher, I shall probably self-publish, both in paperback and on Kindle.  Any advice would be welcome!

I like going to schools - and have been to a great many over the years, including a fairly recent visit to a French Lycee and  - a long time ago - a spell in Fort Worth, Texas, going to schools in that area. I must say, requests for visits have gone down lately.

I've been working on a pure adventure story - Dangerous Secret - in which Freya discovers her father has another family and also is involved with crooks.  Her father is interested in Norse mythology - which has led me to an idea for a story based on the Goddess Freya and her cloak of feathers.

If anyone wants to get in touch - I am on Facebook and Linked In - also my Website is www.Griselda.co.uk and my email address is GriseldaGifford@AOL.com

Saturday, 29 September 2012

A year already - Some reflections


The trees are turning red, orange and yellow, their fallen leaves making golden carpets on the ground.  I hum Jeff Wayne's 'Forever Autumn' and wonder where summer went. Oh wait - it was on a Wednesday wasn't it? I remember now, I nearly missed it!


In less than a week it will be my Birthday, I'm an October baby! Even more momentous though is the fact that a year today I made my very first post on Authors Electric.

What a wonderful supportive Group this is, and I feel so happy and privileged to be a part of it.  I've learnt a lot from reading everyone's monthly post, and although I don't profess to be able to pass on the same level of  knowledge that some of the writers here do, I hope my posts over the past year have at least been interesting.
click here for link to NaNo

In another month it will be National Novel Writing Month again. An insane four weeks of writing furiously with the goal of achieving 50,000 words in thirty days.  I find it a great way to get motivated.  Somehow I seem to work better to a deadline.  I've completed it three times and now have one novel which I'm desperately trying to revise and polish, and another two on the 'back burners'. I really need to get organised and work on revising these stories which are complete but need a lot of polishing  NaNo is great for making one get the words down quickly but of necessity the end result is very rough.  I'm not sure whether I'll be doing NaNo again this year.  I might just use it to finish revising the current WIP. 

Click to go there
Then there is the Festival Of Romance in Bedford in the middle of November.  I'm really looking forward to attending this again, it's not only a spectacular event, now in its second year, but a wonderful opportunity to meet other writers who have previously just been names in an email or on Facebook or the various groups. Thanks to some amazingly hard work by the organisers the event promises to be an even greater success this year and is the nearest I'm ever going to get to attending anything like the American RWA conferences.

So, onwards and upwards, as they say. It's been an eventful year, what with negotiating the world of electronics self publishing with my story 'Dancing With Fate', originally published with a small American Press, a trip of a lifetime to the States, and some interesting happenings in the horse world in my 'other life'. Now I just need to focus on my writing again, stop 'reflecting' and get on with that darned revision!

You can find out more about Lyn and her books on her  WEBSITE
She also blogs at her own BLOG, and THE AUTHOR ROAST AND TOAST

Friday, 28 September 2012

Ten ebooks, so am I half a publisher? by Enid Richemont

It seems that to get classified as a 'publisher', by Waterstone's, rather than a writer, one needs to have at least twenty books out there as ebooks. Well, hey, I've currently got ten out of print books out there as ebooks, and I will shortly be adding more, including some which mainstream publishers rejected, so I might well reach that target some time in the next few months.

...and the tenth one The Enchanted Village


So might I be classified as a publisher? No, although my husband, David, might, since he's set up the whole process, and like any good and honest publisher (do they exist?) he loves my work. Unfortunately, personal relationships enter into this, and so you might well - and quite reasonably - think he might be a little prejudiced in my favour. However, eight of these books were published by companies I had no emotional relationships with, and were all very well received and reviewed (the only time I had a bad review was for THE GAME, which I haven't yet done as an ebook.)The rogue in the gallery is DRAGONCAT, which no one at the time seemed to want - it was 'too gentle', they said, and I will never know why. I did the research for the story via a very close friend who is Chinese, and an artist/illustrator, Mei-Yim Low, and our two families have always felt very involved in the book which is dedicated to Mei-Yim's London family, and also to her family in Malaysia. DRAGONCAT's a great read for people of around eight, especially boys.
 
So what is this curious picture on the right? It was my first image of THE GLASS BIRD - a collage made with mirror glass and fabric long before the actual book was written. Writers' mental images come out in all sorts of ways, and I'd long been enchanted by a short story I'd read as a child, called - guess what? - The Glass Bird. Childhood memories and loves surface in odd ways, especially if you paint or write, so I thought I'd share this very personal one with you. Again, this book's just right for people of around eight, especially boys (it was originally written for my son, Jeremy), and although we are not Quakers, its main character is Adam, a very lovely Quaker boy who finds something amazing.

In one of our blogs - can't remember which - someone talked about the ways in which Indie writers help each other. Recently, David's been helping Ann Jungman (of the late and much lamented Barn Owl Books) navigate the complexities of reincarnation as an e-author, and I've, even more recently, been helped enormously by John Logan, whose writing I admire. John has been exhorting me to tweet regularly about my work, which I have now started to do, but I am still perplexed by my sales figures. In eight days (of September), I have sold only one ebook in the USA, despite John's and other electric authors' retweets, and it's my youngest - why? (JAMIE AND THE WHIPPERSNAPPER )

I'm not in this for the money (although I do consider it part of any professional deal), and I don't do erotica (fifty shades of truly awful writing...) but I do want to be read, and the US of A is a mighty big country. Post Amazon ebook links into your blog, John says, so this time I have! And speaking of John Logan, I'm currently reading his stunning collection of short stories - STORM DAMAGE - impressive.

Finally, today's the first day of a two-day promotion on two of my books - in other words, you can have them for free. One of them's JAMIE AND THE WHIPPERSNAPPER (as above), and the other is: "A disturbingly sexy ghost in an ancient Breton house..."
http://www.amazon.co.uk/WOLFSONG-ebook/dp/B00846FYX0
ages 11+ Enjoy.
 



Thursday, 27 September 2012

Writing is just Gardening for the Mind - Andrew Crofts

There’s been a great deal of discussion lately about how writers, (and publishers), can market their books in the same way as mass-market commercial products, all of it leading to disappointment as inevitably as the purchase of a lottery ticket.

Most recently there has been the “sock-puppetry” controversy, the most startling element of which is that major publishers have been revealed to be writing glowing Amazon reviews for their own books under false names; (a) is this really surprising? and (b) is this really what publishers mean when they tell authors that their “marketing skills” are one of the reasons why they can do a better job of publishing than we can?

I’m wondering if it would be helpful to put forward an analogy for writing that looks less like the marketing plans of Mr. Heinz, Mr. Coca Cola or Mr. Simon Cowell.

Imagine that instead of deciding to write a book you decided to create a garden. You might have visited a few stately gardens, either in the flesh or in the company of on-screen gardeners such as Monty Don. These inspiring public gardens are mighty commercial ventures, bringing joy to millions – they are, in other words the “blockbusters” of the gardening world. I doubt that you would imagine for a moment that your efforts would ever be seen, (or paid for), by the same numbers of people, but I also doubt that that will put you off for even a single heartbeat.

I suspect that once you have decided to create a garden you will happily labour for many years, investing time, money and back-ache into the project to the point of obsession, with no financial motivation beyond a vague idea that you might be enhancing the value of your property or saving on your bills at the green grocer, (both of which are probably delusions). You will be delighted to share your garden with friends and family and maybe you will even open it to the public for charity. You might go in for local horticultural prizes, fill the house with cut flowers or sell a bit of produce at your front gate. Mostly, however, you will either be working till you ache or gazing contentedly at your achievements.

I am willing to bet that at no stage will you decide that you have been hard done by because the general public is not beating a path to admire your dahlias or singing the praises of your green-fingered genius, you will simply have enjoyed the process and the result of creating something beautiful.

If, however, you were to decide that you wanted to make a living from gardening, as opposed to doing it simply for pleasure, you would go looking for jobs that require gardening skills, (just as writers who want to earn a full-time living usually have to turn to journalism, ghost writing, copywriting or writing for genres that are popular but not necessarily their own favourites).

Is it possible that writing is really just gardening for the mind?    






Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A Summer of Very Little Growth



The photo shows me with our this year's beetroot harvest - the whole of it!

The carrots did slightly better, I'm pleased to say. We have some green beans. The onion harvest wasn't bad at all. The potatoes were pretty much a disaster...

This is no reflection on my partner, Paul, who did most of the work and is an experienced gardener of many years' standing (and kneeling). The fault lay with the weather, and I know that many vegetable gardeners all over the UK this year (and possibly beyond) have had similar crop failures. Thank God that we can afford to buy instead from greengrocers, markets and so on. Although the quality may well be inferior and we'll have to spend more, we won't exactly starve. It's much harder for the farmers and others who grow food for a living... and of course the problems in some places overseas put our disappointments firmly in their place.

It's been that sort of summer all round for me. I started full of optimism, working on several different books, all at various stages of being written and revised. Ground dug over, seeds sown, green shoots appearing everywhere. And then the rain began. Or in my case, my Dad died. I've spent the summer trying to deal with that, both the practical ramifications and the sense of loss. Yes, he was old (nearly 89), and it had been half-anticipated for some time. But you never really expect someone close to you to die - or you are never truly prepared for it.

For weeks, since Dad's funeral, I've been sorting through his things and clearing out his house in Pontefract - the home I grew up in, from the age of six. It's almost done now, and the house is about to go on the market. I drove away from there yesterday morning, heading south for home, with a strange sense of dislocation and a huge sense of guilt. Not just the guilt that you tend to feel when someone you loved very much dies - the 'if only I'd done/said/not done/not said...' feeling - but guilt from knowing that I have achieved very little else this summer. I'm lucky not to have a 'proper' job - or I'd have had to struggle on somehow. I've done a bit of proofreading, but I've done very little (make that almost no!) actual writing. I've mulled things over, I've made a few plans, and I chanced upon a wonderful discovery on holiday in Brittany for the setting for one of my books. But I haven't written any of the actual words, sentences and paragraphs that go to make up a novel.

Not since June, when Dad died...

I know I have to start again soon, after this summer's failed harvest - but I can feel myself resisting it with every ounce of energy I've got.

Why? Perhaps it's fear. Fear of sowing more seeds - what if next year's harvest fails too? What if I get all tied up in a new book and then something else bad happens? Superstitions, irrational fears - these things surge up in many of us, I think, at times of shock and grief. And there's the biggest fear of all - what if I never write again?

I will, of course. But please hold me to that. I'll give you a progress report next month - when I hope to be holding in my hand something better than a single straggly beetroot stem.

Best wishes
Ros

Rosalie Warren web page
Rosalie Reviews (blog)
Facebook Author Page
Follow me on Twitter @Ros_Warren





Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Authors Electric Sparking at the Conference



On Sunday September 16th, I took part in a short talk on e-books at the Society of Authors’ Children’s Writers’ and Illustrators’ Group (CWIG) at their conference in Reading. (And Dennis – it was good to see you in the audience!)
          Arriving after a two hour drive, I made immediately for the Ladies’. While I was shut in my cubicle, some other Ladies arrived, chatting together. It was very full on, they said, but very interesting. ‘I enjoyed that talk about websites,’ said one. ‘I shall have to look them up. The one I liked was ‘Dreaming Authors…?  Electrical Authors?’
          I shouted out, “That’s us!  Authors Electric! Do Authors Dream of Electric Books!
          Laughter from the sinks. I adjusted my clothing and emerged issuing business cards with the blog’s address.
          That was my first clue that this was going to be a rather successful outing.
          Our talk was scheduled for 9am, and my fellow speakers were Gillian McClure, the writer and illustrator, and Martin West, of Authorization.
          I was first up, and read my talk from my Kindle.


Susan Price
          Susan Price: I don’t need to tell the present company of the problems faced by writers today – the collapse of the mid-list, the difficulty of getting a contract, and falling advances and royalties as both the recession and large chain-stores squeeze publishers.
          We three met here are going to talk about some of the possible answers: Gillian set up her own publishing house; Martin ably aids and assists writers who want to go it alone –
          And I am part of the outfit known as Authors Electric.
Katherine Roberts
          The electric light first glimmered in the eye long ago. I am a member of the Scattered Authors Society, and I remember, 10 yrs ago, sitting in a sunny garden at Charney Manor – where the Scattereds have their annual shindig – talking to another member, Kath Roberts.
We talked about how the music industry had been clobbered by the internet and downloads, and how musicians were responding by learning to put their music on-line and sell it themselves.  We agreed that the same thing would inevitably happen to the publishing industry, and that writers would have to do the same as musicians – learn to go it alone
We talked about this with others at the conference, then and later, but I’m afraid the blunt truth is that, for years, Kath and I were twin Casssandras, wailing our prophecies of doom while no one listened.  The kind of reply we got was ‘Oh, I don’t need to worry, I’ve got an agent,’ and ‘Writers should write and publishers should publish.’
Yes, but for many of us, publishers weren’t publishing, and they weren’t publicising.
And it wasn’t because we weren’t good enough. [Coughs into hand: CarnegieMedal] (Laughter.)
We got rave rejections. (Laughter.)
Everybody loved us but the marketing department.
Kath and I looked into possible ways of going it alone, but they were all, at the time, far too expensive, with costs not only in producing the book itself, but in storing and distributing it – which is, of course, what made the publishing firms the ‘gate-keepers’.
The Wolf Sisters by Susan Price
And then this happened to us.  (Holds up Kindle.)  Kath emailed me: Have you seen this?  When I saw how easy Amazon made it to turn my backlist into e-books, for free – while Amazon took care of storage and distribution – when I saw about the 70% royalty -  that electrical light positively glared from my eye.
Kath then said: publishing is the easy part.  Letting people know that your award-winning book is among the 2 million plus on Amazon is a whole other game.
What we need, she said, is a blog to help spread the word, and multi-blogs are both more interesting for readers, and easier on writers, than  solo-blogs.  We can get set one up for nothing on Blogger.
And so we started what we originally called ‘Kindle Authors UK’ but after a 4am call from Seattle, we had to change that. For a world-bestriding Collosus, Amazon were quite nice about it: they pointed out that ‘Kindle’ was their registered trade mark, and we shouldn’t be using it, and that they didn’t want it to come to mean ‘any old device for reading e-books’. 
So we had to come up with another name, and after some argument, we decided on ‘Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?’ and called ourselves Authors Electric. Which is a better name anyway!
We aren’t publishers – or, rather, we’re a loose affiliation of self-publishing authors. We offer advice and moral support to each other as we tackle the challenges of putting our books onto Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo, CreateSpace etc, We’re very supportive of each other.
The Ghost Wife by Susan Price
But our purpose is to publicise our books.  Every day we put up a new blog by one of our 29 members – and the days at the end of the month are given to guest bloggers.  There are links to our individual websites, and to the Authors Electric website, which displays our books in what we hope is an attractive and tempting manner.
We tweet too, and we post on Facebook – and we talk at conferences and hand out business cards and do all we can to draw attention to our group and our books.
We started in January 2011, with hits at zero; and our audience has risen steadily.  At the start of August, we were getting 11,000 hits a month.  Our American audience is now equal to our UK one.
And we’re selling!  Several of our members have said they would be very reluctant to return to conventional publishing.  They relish the freedom to write what they like and choose their own cover. 
Although people come and go from the group there is a solid core group, and we’ve developed a great community spirit.  Members are constantly spotting new avenues, coming up with new ideas, and pointing the others in the same direction.
There’s no telling how it may develop in the future – especially after I’ve listened to Gillian and Martin – but I think, so far, we can count the venture a success.

Gillian McClure
Gillian McClure: The advantages of running your own publishing company are not all financial.

You can create a brand – your own list. 

You can have books coming out when there’s not much movement on the picture book front.

You can have new books and new workshops based on them for school visits
 
You can have new artwork which one day you can sell
 
You develop a much better understanding of the industry – something I wish I had had earlier in my career

          My initial reason for starting Plaister Press in 2010 was a creative one rather than a business one.
           In the first two decades of my career in the 1970s and 80s, when I was with Andre Deutsch, I had considerable freedom. I was allowed to be both writer and illustrator and I had a lot of say over design. I was allowed to take risks too.
           In the decades since then, when small publishers like Andre Deutsch were being bought up by big ones, I found myself becoming a smaller and smaller cog in a bigger and bigger business and I became frustrated. I was having too many new picture  book projects, which had had considerable editorial input, fail at the acquisitions stage or put indefinitely on hold.
           So when a friend gave me a sum of money to proceed with a book, I started my own publishing company.
           The creative rewards were great. I love the autonomy and control.  I love working closely with the typographic designer from the planning stages of a new book, deciding on flaps, paper weight, spine width and so on. I was never allowed to do this before
           But proceeding with a book means going way beyond an author/illustrator’s usual comfort zone if that book is going to end up on a child’s bookcase. A business sense is needed. I saw ahead of me a huge learning curve - dealing with :
Printers
Wholesalers & distributers – Gardners and Bertrams
Invoicing
Marketing
Selling
Bookkeeping – double of everything because you’re still running your self-employed business alongside all this.

'Selkie' by Gillian McClure
          And leaving enough time and space to create new books without losing the quality expected of you when published the traditional way
           So I cut my teeth on reissuing Selkie which had:

         a good sales record,
         had been on the national curriculum under ‘myths & legends,’
          had won an award in the States,
         and had good reviews.
           I had all the artwork for scanning except the UK cover, which was lost. Instead the US cover was used.
           Random House was helpful when giving back the UK rights and even helped me get back the North American rights, which were needed if the book was to be sold on Amazon. Random House retained the typographic design rights but then I was working with a typographer and we made improvements – a shorter reading line in places and small edits.
           My agent Stephanie Thwaites at Curtis Brown was happy with what I was doing, seeing it all as helping to raise my profile. (She’s still dealing on my behalf with Simon and Schuster on a possible picture book series where all they want is the text.)
           Stephanie had helped me deal with Random House over the reverted Selkie rights and tried to do the same with one of my out-of-print  Bloomsbury books, but Bloomsbury decided to bring it back into print themselves. It had just been bought by the Chinese.  This was a surprise and occurred shortly after I’d been to the Bologna Book Fair and had been in a dialogue with a Chinese agent over my Plaister Press books. Perhaps it was a coincidence – perhaps it wasn’t. Perhaps every bit of activity creates a ripple somewhere else.
          Another positive was I discovered – to my surprise – I really liked selling and meeting in person my type of customer during Waterstones’ signings: teachers, librarians, grandparents and the sort of family so keen on physical books and bookshops they start building up their unborn child’s library along with its layette.
          The first edition of Selkie sold out and I reprinted it.
           So now to the drawbacks:
          As time wore on I discovered the real drawback was being so small when everything in the industry was geared for BIG:
 Discounts were big
Costs were big
Print runs needed to be big
          Turnover and numbers of titles needed to be big to interest any sales agent
Plaister Press in the lay-by
           Even the lorry delivering the books from Felixstowe docks to my house was big – too big to get down my street. The driver phoned to say he would have to meet me in a layby on the outskirts of Cambridge. I had a vision of 1,500 books left unguarded on a palette in a lay-by on a damp autumn day as I made several journeys getting them back to my house.
          With physical books you have physical problems.
           So this is where I hand over to Martin West - his organisation Authorizations has solutions to many of these ‘big’ problems  and can help when you are too small to proceed beyond a certain point on your own.

          Susan Price: I’m afraid here’s where your reporter falls short – I don’t have notes on Martin West’s talk, but in short, Martin runs a company which will help you take your book from manuscript to beautiful object on sale in a book shop or on Amazon, among other places. He has answers to all those dilemmas: what format size? What paper quality? Where to find a printer – how to set a price – how to get it into shops…?
           He is very friendly, approachable, and honest about the costs and problems – I know, because I talked to him over coffee.  He is happy for you to print a run of as few as 50 books, and recommends that you don’t print more than 500.
          And he has writers like Gillian McClure and Bernard Ashley as clients.

 authorization!

working for children’s publishers
Authorization! Ltd
Martin West
Well House, Green Lane,
Ardleigh, Essex CO7 7PD
E: martin-west@btconnect.com
T: 01206 233 333 M: 07970 426279
For all rights enquiries please contact Petula Chaplin
E: petulachaplin@aol.com, T: 00 44 1647 252498

Zoe's Boat by Gillian McClure
          At the end of the talk – to my surprise – we had lots of questions, and something of a mob pressing round the table, asking questions and taking cards. In fact, the room had to be cleared because the next scheduled talk was waiting to start.
           At coffee I was approached by many people who said a similar thing in different ways: You are showing us the way. You were the one bright spot in the whole conference. Everything else has been doom and gloom – you’ve cheered me up!
          One writer said, “I’ve spent the whole weekend being told that the publishing business is falling apart and there’s nothing I can do about it except stand there and wait for the end – it was such a relief to hear someone say, ‘Look! You can do this instead!’
           So, despite the 5am start, I got home feeling pretty cheerful myself.