Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Self Publishing Report Part Two

As promised, part two of my report on the CBC self publishing event on 18th June 2013.

Gareth Howard - CEO of Authoright was a confident and engaging speaker. Originally a lawyer he wrote his first book and had it rejected despite good writing because the publishers thought it wasn't marketable enough.
Gareth disagreed and decided to self publish. This was in 2004 before ebooks existed but with the marketing campaign he ran his book became a bestseller and he was then signed by LAW agency.

He set up his own P.R company offering marketing services for authors and he works with self published and traditional authors.They also offer consultancy services for agents and publishers to help them adjust to the changes.

 Gareth was very positive about self publishing and believes that authors are now mobilising and becoming extremely savvy about the business. He said that lines were breaking down and this was leading to the democratisation of publishing.

He followed up with the idea that self publishing is becoming quicker and easier and the benefits of marketing that used to be offered by traditional publishers are no longer available for all authors. This is why many authors with publishing contracts are paying for their own marketing campaign.

He believes that debut authors need to think of their book as a start up business and that S/P authors are savvier than their counterparts in trad publishing. Gareth also thinks that  eventually the S/P system will work as an incubator for traditional publishing with authors proving the market is there for a book before being signed.

Authoright charge around £2000 for a marketing campaign and £400 for an original cover which he thought was excellent value.
He also warned authors to beware the sharks and do their research before using any company.

Two other company's that were recommended by Karen Inglis for authors were Silverwood Books and Matador

The final speaker was Emil Howard, the digital editor at Random House. He was also positive about self publishing, he thought it would provide more culture, more niches and more routes to publishing. However this huge explosion of books is still facing a finite number of readers.

He spoke a little about the role of trad publishers. The two pillars of a publishing company are -

1. Efficient purchasing services or getting stuff cheap! Paper, designs, even editors are all cheaper when bought in bulk.

2.Risk management - i.e the publisher takes all the risks and pays the author whether the book sells or not.

Emil said that it was interesting to see authors banding together to pay for services and to manage any risk. Also, by talking about putting quality stamps on S/P work, they were almost taking on the role of a publisher!

My favourite part of his talk was when he decided to take us back to the 19th century and related how expensive paper used to be because it was made from linen. This kept books out of the reach of most people, only the rich could afford them BUT when it was discovered that paper could be made from wood pulp it quite literally changed the world.

"Pulp" fiction was the result or "penny dreadfuls" as they were called over here and they made stories available to everyone. Much of it was trash but hidden away in there were diamonds, a little like the S/P market today.

Emil likened the disruption that occurred at this time to what is happening now - ebooks are changing the economy but he's not worried about the competition.

He thinks the changes will supply new literature, new niches and new genres and that's a good thing.

He finished by saying that publishers needed to demonstrate their value every day but he thinks that the different areas of publishing can all co exist. With regard to Random House he informed us that they offer their authors twitter workshops and help them build a blog platform and coming up in the future they will have author portals where they can check their sales and royalties in the same way as a S/P author.

Overall I found the event very useful, it has allowed me to consider self publishing with a little more knowledge and it gave me some idea of what to do if I decide to make the leap.

I'm not quite there yet however but who knows what the future holds?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Self Publishing - the good, the bad and the future

 I've always been slightly old fashioned when it comes to books, I like the real ones that come with covers and pages, that I can put on a bookshelf and stroke when I so choose but that's a personal reading choice. As a writer, self publishing is something I need to be aware of so I decided to find out what I could at the Children's Book Circle event last night in the Penguin Offices on The Strand.

 It is my intention to share what I learned with you all but there was so much interesting and important discussion that I've decided to split this post into two parts.

Part one will look at Self Publishing from the point of view of LAW Agent Phillippa Milnes Smith and author Karen Inglis.

Part Two will look at the perspective of CEO of Authoright, Gareth Howard and digital editor at Random House Emil Fortune.

Part One

Phillippa Milnes Smith from LAW agency was the first to speak. With a background in publishing and now working as an agent she thought that publishing at the moment was a very exciting world but also that it can be traumatic and disruptive and not somewhere that everyone currently writing will be comfortable with.

 She said that Children's digital publishing is slightly behind adult at the moment (except for YA) and that until devices become cheaper and stronger and perhaps a part of the education system it will remain that way.

 The Law agency is embracing the new but they think Publishers are still important, some of their authors like Stephen Leather and Kate Harrison are using both self publishing and traditional very successfully.

 She said that the best things about traditional publishing is the editorial work and the creativity that can occur  with the right partnership, the worst was that it can at times be slow, stale and untargeted.

 From an agent point of view she said their role had become both simpler and more complicated;

Simple because they are doing what they always did, representing clients in all media, responding to the market, finding new income and opportunities and most importantly managing their clients.

Complicated because authors now need certain technical skills, they need to be creative and yet savvy to marketing. For agents the contracts have become more complicated, the income strands and timescales have changed and they need new skills to help their authors compete in the current marketplace.

The second speaker was author Karen Inglis who has self published three books for children - The Lake House, Eeek the runaway alien and Ferdinand Fox's big sleep. Having written the books ten years ago and had them rejected for being too traditional or not marketable she put them away in a box.

 With the digital revolution however the next time she got them out she decided to self publish and get her stories out there for children to enjoy. She thinks that it's very empowering for authors but for serious S/P authors the importance of hard work, professionalism and quality cannot be denied.

 Karen spoke about the newly launched Alliance of independent authors which champions quality, is an excellent resource and a great community also.

After some serious editing Karen used Amazon Create Space and their free templates to design the layout of her books. She said it was very simple, fast and user friendly. The financial cost and risk of self publishing with print on demand is very low as you only pay for each book once it's been sold.

 She said uploading the finished book on to Amazon was easy and fast and up on the website within 48 hours. You can check sales and royalties plus control the pricing, adjusting it as often as you like to try and find the price bracket where your book sells best. You can also find out where your book is selling which is an interesting feature.

 Karen is a copywriter by day so she found it easy to do her own marketing for the book, getting features in her local papers and magazines and she said Waterstones love indie authors and she'd done several sell out signings there.

 She warned that there are many sharks out there who prey on authors desire to be published so do your research and be careful, but she finished with the belief that as the quality of self published books improves so too will people's attitude.

It's all fascinating stuff and Gareth and Emil have some great insights to share so come back for Part Two available to read next week!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Are you cut out to be a children's writer? Find out today!

Well are you?
Only one way to find out for sure - take my patented superquiz!
Yes, after months (minutes?) of research I have  formulated a test that will tell you whether you have what it takes to be a children's writer. Just answer the simple multiple choice questions and discover if you're destined to hit the bestseller charts or if you'd be better off retraining in accountancy or yak farming.

Question 1
How do you feel about children?

a) I love and adore them, each one is a little miracle and I would be both  honored and privileged to share my writing with them.

b) I'm a firm believer that kids should be seen and not heard. My books are designed to teach them the old fashioned values I myself grew up with.

c) They're horrid little monsters but they should be easy to write for because they're too stupid to know if something's any good or not.

Question 2
How imaginative are you?

a) Very! I'm always making up stories in my head and spend lots of time lost in an imaginary world.

b) Imagination! New fangled poppycock in my opinion that's led to the collapse of western civilisation. Discipline that's what every child needs and my books would provide it.

c) I'm very imaginative. I can imagine just what I'll do with all the money I'll earn when my children's books get published.

Question 3
What's your favourite children's book?

a) Oh it's so hard to choose! Something by Roald Dahl perhaps?

b) Enid Blyton. Although she was a bit lackadaisical on discipline. I'm sure I could do better.

c) Children's book? I've never read any. They're all the same aren't they?

Question 4
Do you think it will be easy to get published in the current climate?

a) I could self publish if I wanted to but I'd like to try mainstream first if I can and see how I get on. It won't be easy and it might take years but I'm determined to keep trying.

b)Well, it should be easy if you have a quality product like my own. I just hope the publishers aren't too stupid to see talent when it's under their nose.

c) Climate? You mean like when it's cold outside? Can't imagine why that should matter, I'm bound to be published straight away summer or winter. My stuffs much better then most of the s**t around. Not that I've read any but still, how hard can it be?

Question 5
Are you prepared to promote your work using social media like facebook and twitter?

a) I'd rather be able to spend my time writing but I understand how important it is to self promote so I'm prepared to give it a go.

b) Facebook? Isn't that what they use in police stations so you can pick out the criminals?

c) Why should I? The publishers should do all that b******s for me. I've got better things to do with my time. Like spending all the money I earn!

Question 6
How do you think you'll cope with rejection?

a) I'm sure it's not very nice but it's something every writer has to cope with so I'll just have to get used to it because I'm not giving up.

b) I'm sure that no one will reject me after I've turned up at their office, barricaded the door and read them my entire manuscript. If they're too stupid to see quality when it's pointing a gun at them then it's their own fault.

c) What rejection? I keep telling you my stuff is quality. It took me hours to write. Like, at least two.

Question 7
Would you be interested in joining a critique group to help improve your writing?

a) I think it would be great to meet like minded people and have their input in my work.

b) No. Other people are generally idiots and I wouldn't waste my time on their paltry efforts.

c) You mean let other people nick my ideas? No way. besides there's nothing to improve I keep telling you!

Question 8
Why do you want to be a children's writer?

a) It's been my lifelong dream!

b) Because children need to be taught how to behave. Their parents are obviously too stupid to do it so my books will give them a chance of turning out halfway decent.

c) So I can earn millions and become famous of course. What other reason is there?

 Okay then, count up and see if you've answered mostly a's, b's or c's and then check your results below.

Mostly A's 
Congratulations, you have a great chance of getting published one day!

Mostly B's 
Umm, accountancy might be fun?

Mostly C's 
Just go away please, you're very annoying and would benefit from ten years yak farming in Timbuctoo.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Book Memories

The SCBWI Ning group has been aflutter with nostalgic memories of the first books people have read and this has inspired me to compile my own list of books.
These are books that I can still remember reading, where I was, how I felt at the time and so these books contain memories, yes, it feels as if the book contains an actual nugget of my life and by re reading it or sometimes simply sniffing the book in question those memories are re awoken. One reason of many why I will always love books more than a kindle however useful and space saving they may be.

1. Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl.
This stays with me because it was one of the first books I ever bought for myself. Purchased proudly from the charity shop when I was six or seven I read it all by myself and gave it pride of place on my very first (but definitely not last!) bookshelf. I still love the story, devastatingly simple but completely brilliant. How can you go wrong with quotes like "Boggis, Bunce and Bean, one fat one short one lean."

2. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
I was  a few years older when this book landed in my lap and how I devoured it. The childlike perspective of a young girl whose family flees the Nazis it is so involving, I was utterly gripped by it all. I felt the pain of leaving Pink Rabbit behind and even if I didn't understand the background of the war completely when I read it I understood that little girl and I loved her. Recently I read the continuation of the series which I never realised was the first part of a trilogy. The sequels are great reads but don't have quite the same resonance as that book did.

3. Deenie by Judy Blume
If I'm honest all of Judy Blumes books belong on this list because each one affected me. "Are you there god it's me Margaret?", "Blubber", "Tiger Eyes", "Forever" how I loved them. So entirely honest and true I re read them all a hundred times. Going through puberty without them would have been almost impossible and I will be eternally grateful to Judy Blume for her skills. I picked Deenie in particular though because I remember how much I wanted to be her, the cover design showed a stunning young girl with long blond hair who was picked to be a model but ended up in a back brace due to scoliosis of the spine. As a not very attractive teenager I longed for beauty and all it's trappings but this book made me understand that looks aren't everything and accepting yourself  and all your flaws is the only way to go. Thank you Judy!!

4. Twopence to Cross the Mersey by Helen Forrester
I was given this book by my mum  when I was a teenager and was immediately drawn into Helen's world. An autobiographical tale of her growing up as part of a large family fallen on hard times and forced to move to Liverpool and live in the slums. I lived all of it with Helen, the bedbugs, the hunger, the shame, the anger at her parents for their inability to cope, for spending money on furniture they couldn't afford just to make a good impression even thought their children were cold and hungry...sorry. I can feel a rant coming on so I'll just say the injustice and hardship that she suffered and how she coped with it all was an honour to read and
I still have the original boxset containing all three volumes of her life on my bookshelf now. In fact i might just read them again!

5.Firestarter by Stephen King
Due to the lack of YA available in my youth I started reading adult books I found on my parents shelves and Stephen King was one of my favourites. I love his writing, the characters come alive and leap off the page and they're always completely memorable. Firestarter was one of my favourites because it has a young girl in the lead role, her parents were part of a secret government experiment that gave them psychic powers and Charlie as a result ended up with a very powerful ability, she could start fires with her mind. Just writing that reminds me how completely cool it was!

6.Stranger With My Face by Lois Duncan
One of the very few authors  for teenagers around Lois Duncan had a fabulously creepy way of writing and this book kept me up at night, devouring each word and then being unable to sleep because I'd scared myself. The tale of identical twins separated at birth and how one girl learns the art of astral projection and takes over the life of her much luckier sister it was so thrilling to my young self I remembered it for years and finally got hold of a copy from ebay.

There are many more books I could list of course but these six give a flavour of what I was reading growing up and from here you can almost see how my taste developed. I'm now a huge fan of historical fiction, fantasy and YA and it's been a huge pleasure reliving all those memories once again. A great reminder of why books are fabulous and how amazing it must be to touch someone's life as those authors touched mine.
Thanks for reading.