Tag Archives: independent publishing

How to Write a Bestseller

Electrik Inc is always on the lookout for good advice that helps us hone our writing skills. I loved this Ted Talk video with literary agent, Jonny Geller, about what makes a bestseller, and what agents/publishers look for in new writers. Think about his comments when you’re editing your own work because everyone wants to sell their books and the more we get right, the better it is for our readers as well as our bank balances.

There are lots of how-to-write-a-bestseller tips, from Dean Koontz to Matthew Sparkes writing in The Telegraph on how scientists developed an app in 2014 that analysed best sellers. The findings were very interesting but guaranteed success remains elusive. And so the advice is just that: advice. Remember, what works for one author may not work for you.

I especially like how Mr Geller looks for the “space between the sentences” in any piece he reads. There is often a temptation for writers to give too much description, too much information… I’m always advising my clients to trust their readers to fill in some of the blanks themselves.

Mr Geller’s five-word sentence example is excellent too – a fun way of learning the importance of varying sentence length.

Personally, I would add story to the list. Not the plot or pacing (though they’re important too), but the story: is it strong enough to hold the reader. I always think of that in my own writing. Will the reader care enough to keep reading to find out how this story unfolds – and ends. For me, story is vital. Of course great characters, tight prose and sharp dialogue help, but if I don’t connect to the story, I lose interest. Whether I’m assessing manuscripts, reading for a publishing house or writing my own novels, I keep that in mind.

Jonny Geller also mentions how it all comes down to us, the reader. That reading “makes us better people”, that original writing is so often harder to place because publishers find original material “very hard to market”. Yes, some of us have figured that out already. 🙂

The five things Mr Geller looks for are:

The bridge: does it take us from the familiar to the new?

Voice: the unique sound of the writer, which is nothing without the next part:

Craft: writing is difficult. Amateurs and professionals alike do draft after draft to get it right. Does it have resonance? Will it reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible?

The gap: the space between the sentences. The gap the writer leaves for the reader to inhabit.

There’s lots more. Jonny Geller has a natural style that’s easy to listen to without feeling you’re being lectured. Check it out.

KAY LEITCH   co-founder of Electrik Inccropped-electrikinc_logo3_colour1.png
Author of  Treasure This
kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

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Self-Publishing Grows Up

Cornelia Funke’s announcement that she’s turning her back on traditional publishing to form her own printing press, Breathing Books, is a sign of the times. Interestingly, in the article about her new venture in Publisher’s Weekly the words ‘self-publishing’ and ‘independent publishing’ are nowhere to be seen. This may be partly to do with her careful choice of words and the brand image she wants to create, but I think it’s also about the language changing as self-publishing grows up. I publish my own books through a small, limited company called Squawk Books; I employ professional illustrators, cover designers and editors on a freelance basis; my press has published a school anthology as well as my own work, and my books are available in independent bookshops as well as on-line . Am I a self-published author or a director of a small press? For me, the lines are becoming increasingly blurred.

Funke cites a wish to be free of restrictions on her artistic output as one of the motivating factors in her decision. Creative freedom is important to me too. In 2012, small presses also made up 50% of the Booker shortlist . Over the last couple of years, agents have become more receptive to taking self-published authors as clients as well. Agent Madeline Milburn says, ‘It is always advantageous for you to have someone to fight your corner, and to negotiate and help handle all aspects of the book’s publication (whether that be with a traditional publisher, or not).’ In my experience, the main weakness of the independent route has been that you have no-one to handle other rights. Hopefully this is changing. Milburn continues, ‘I handle all the translation rights and film & TV rights directly for my authors. A lot of self-published authors are unable to exploit these rights.’

The Publishers Weekly article ends with Funke saying, ‘Little, Brown and others are like ocean liners that can only go to certain places. I want to be a sailboat so I can fit into other places.’

Certainly, I’ve been on journeys that have taken me to new lands. For example, I’ve extended my product range to include literary quote cards . But, remember, the grass always looks greener on the other side. Traditional publishing still has a lot to offer. And whether you need an ocean liner or a sailboat will depend on the book you’ve written.

As far as I’m concerned, more choice for writers has to be good news.

Thanks for reading this post!

Kim

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PUBLISHING TODAY… AND TOMORROW?

PUBLISHING TODAY… AND TOMORROW?

Here are some excellent links I thought other writers/independent publishers might find interesting.

The first, from The Spectator, The Civil War For Books Where Is The Money Going   should be read by every writer whether committed to independent publishing or courting traditional publishers. It’s always good to know what tunes the devil is playing… 😉

The second, Publishing’s Digital Disruption Hasn’t Even Started, by Gareth Cuddy is an interesting comparison of the publishing industry with other creative industries that have suffered digital upheaval and where we might be heading.

Also, to add a bit of perspective, here is a link on What Authors Really Think of Publishers — some interesting facts and figures here too.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about publishing today and the big names that dominate it. Just thought these were worth sharing.

Kay Leitch is the author of Treasure This
kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

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Writing, Editing and Publishing

You know how sometimes you know what you want to say but then you hear someone else say it so much better than you could?

Well, that’s a convoluted way of saying I’ve found three blogs I think are worth sharing in this world of creative writing, independent publishing, traditional publishing and editing.

1) — Paula Hawkins didn’t have much success writing a variety of genres, including frothy romance stories. She wrote them to try and earn some money. A few years ago she decided to stop trying to second guess the market and decided “to try writing the kind of story she likes to read” and so she wrote The girl on The Train. And guess what? It worked. Good for her! She finally wrote what she wanted to write.

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/the-gamble-that-put-girl-on-the-train-writer-at-top-of-bestseller-lists-in-under-a-month-1.2088004

2) — Toby Young, writing at The Telegraph online with the headline These days, writing isn’t a career, it’s a rich man’s hobby mentions that a survey of 2500 professional authors found their median income in 2013 was £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/11349865/These-days-writing-isnt-a-career.-Its-a-rich-mans-hobby.html

Most writers need another job to supplement their income (that or a private income or an understanding — and rich — spouse). Interestingly, most traditional publishers and agents only need to hold down the one job… They make their money from writers.

So, it seems to me, if you’re going to be paid what amounts to pocket money for doing what you love, and need to keep the day job anyway… then you might as well write what you want to write.

Life. Is. Too. Short.

3) — Mandy Brett at the meanjin.com.au site gives an in-depth analysis of what being an editor means to her. She demonstrates how a good editor works and why they’re so necessary if you want your book to be not only professional, but better than it would have been. And you do want that, right?

http://meanjin.com.au/editions/volume-70-number-1-2011/article/stet-by-me-thoughts-on-editing-fiction

So that’s it. Three blogs that said exactly what I wanted to say. Here’s what it boils down to:

1)   Write what you want to write.

2)   You probably won’t make much money from writing anyway (although a lot of people will make money from you), so write what you want to write.

3)   Hire a good editor; they’re worth it. But write what you want to write.

There’s a theme in there somewhere  🙂

Kay Leitch

Author of  Treasure This

Originally published at kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

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‘Walking on Gold’ is here!

They’ve arrived! My first copies of Walking on Gold, all ready for the Bath Children’s Literature Festival, which opens on Friday 26th September. Bath Festival of Children’s Literature

Walking on Gold publicity picIt’s exciting after all these months of writing and editing to finally have the finished book in my hands, and it’s come a long way from the first draft that I began when I was sitting on a windy cliff, very like the one Effie climbs in my story.

Now I’m busy planning lots of writing workshops with local schools – and one on October 5th at The Roman Baths Museum, in their amazing Education Room. Its window looks over the misty, green Great Bath– a perfect place for beginning a writing adventure….

At The Bookseller Children’s Conference last Thursday, John Lewis (The Bookseller’s charts and data editor) reported that the UK children’s publishing market was up by 10% in the first eight months of this year – making it the fastest growing book sector, with most children’s categories showing growth. The Bookseller’s Y/A Book Prize was launched: the first ever prize for Young Adult books in the UK and Ireland. Y/A books published between 1st January and 31st December 2014 are eligible – the winning author will receive £2,000.

The Frankfurt Book Fair, traditionally the trade’s ‘grown-up’ fair and now only days away, is signalling its interest in children’s publishing, too. For the first time in its history the Fellowship Programme, designed to create networks between young publishing professionals, is choosing to focus on Y/A and children’s literature. The Book Fair says it is sending out a “global signal” about its commitment to children’s and Y/A publishing, recognising this sector’s “dynamic development.” 2014 Fellowship Programme

The 2014 Fair is also acknowledging the growing importance of independent author-publishers, with a two-day International Self-Publishing and Author Programme Frankfurt Fair self-publishing. And in 2015 the Fair will be expanding the exhibition area it is devoting to self-publishers 2015 Frankfurt.

Seems it’s an excellent time to be a children’s author – and an independent one, at that.

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting the Bath Children’s Literature Festival this week, do come along and say Hello!

Janine Amos

Co-founder, Electrik Inc

www.janineamos.com

Walking on Gold

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Interview with Kay Leitch

Check out Indie Author Land for an interview with Kay about writing Treasure This, the characters, and life in general. Here are parts of it:

Kay's debut novel.

Kay’s debut novel.
Buy here.

Treasure This is a murder mystery… whodunit… thriller kind of novel, for anyone over 10 who enjoys fast-paced stories that make you think.

I sat down at the computer one day, as you do, and an interesting first line popped onto the screen:

I swear I saw a dead body in Aunt Ellie’s garden shed…

I wrote a few pages and submitted them to my then writing group, who all said “Wow – keep it going!” So I did. I had no ideas WHERE the story was going until well into the second half, but I loved the character enough to want to know what happened to her and how she solved so many murders. I kept on writing, and I ended up with Treasure This.

Tell us about it.
Treasure This is about 12-year-old Addison, who finds a dead body one morning in her aunt and uncle’s garden shed. But by the time she drags her elder sister Caitlin and little brother Leaf down to see it, the body has disappeared and Uncle Harry and Aunt Ellie are cleaning the shed after a spill of red paint… then Harry starts burning everything.

Addy is determined to find out what’s going on in Aunt Ellie and Uncle Harry’s old Cotswold mansion. She discovers there’s another body buried under the lilac bush… and another under the holly tree… and who are the two horrible men watching the house?

Addy’s emotional journey teaches her the difference between good secrets and bad secrets, that people aren’t all bad or all good, but somewhere in between. More than anything, though, she learns to trust her instincts.

Sounds really interesting.
It’s fast-paced, so people who prefer a story to move along quickly should like it. Also, anyone who likes a bit of depth to their stories, something that’s multi-layered. The moral issues at the heart of Treasure This are meant to make you think – what would you have done?

What’s Addy like?

Addy is brave but vulnerable. Her dad is ill in hospital, and her mum is with him, which is why Addy, Caitlin and Leaf are all staying with their aunt and uncle at Roseleigh Manor.

They don’t sound very nice.
Addy loves Aunt Ellie and Uncle Harry. That’s why it’s all so awful for her. She can’t believe they’re murderers. And if they are, what will that mean to the family? When she meets the two thugs in the woods – two men who’re watching Roseleigh Mannor – she has another dilemma. Should she tell the police? What if the police dig deeper (literally!)? That would be the worst thing that could happen…

Have you written any other books that we should read next?
No, but I’m already well into writing the next one.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
akaycloseup1I like creating things. Whether it’s artwork or novels, I like the process of sitting down with a blank canvas, page or screen, and creating something worthwhile. I get a real kick when people tell me how much they loved Treasure This but I’m realistic. I don’t expect to make a million from writing, but I do know it makes me happy so I’m going to keep on doing it for as long as I can. I love writing into the early hours of the morning – it’s magical – even though I feel like a wilted flower all the next day. There’s something about writing at midnight. Nothing beats it…

… Do you have a website?

kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com.

What about Twitter?

Sorry, I don’t tweet. I decided to put more effort into writing than into social media so I keep it manageable. Yes, I know it means fewer people will learn about Treasure This. But, you know, there are only twenty-four hours in every day. Twenty-four. And I have to work, too. So all in all, I’d rather write.

What’s next?
Next, I’ll be finishing the book I’m writing now. Would love to tell you about it but don’t want to jinx it. With luck, I’ll be back here next year telling you all about it.

We can’t wait.

Read the full interview at Indie Author Land

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Commissioning Illustrations

I’ve been having a lovely time lately working with illustrators both near and far. Commissioning artwork can seem daunting to the uninitiated, so I thought I’d post a few lines with my top tips:

janinebooksChoosing your artist
As soon as I saw her samples online, I knew that Sophie’s quirky cartoon style and subtle palette would be perfect for my website. We began with a long face-to-face meeting which was important since she’d be capturing ‘me’ – and she certainly did, even down to the earrings. I think the picture of me writing on a mountain top is probably my favourite – or perhaps the one where I’m being rained on by books. www.sophieburrows.com

I used Dave Bain, another Bristol illustrator, for my Dancing Hare logo, after I’d seen his designs for the RSPCA. Again, meeting in person over a coffee or two (breaking one of the first ‘rules’ they taught me at Oxford Brookes: keep all artwork away from anything wet) helped to work out what we were aiming for. www.davebain.com

janineMaria Forrester, who created my fabulous cover artwork, lives 100 miles from me and we haven’t yet met, although I feel as if I know her through the many emails we’ve exchanged. I researched artists’ portfolios long and hard before I found Maria – I wanted someone who could capture the archaeology in my story. As the montage above shows, Maria used lots of interesting textures and techniques – rubbings of fossils and coins, drawings of grasses, watercolour, acrylic paint and even clingfilm. www.mariaforrester.co.uk

Communication

Illustrators are on your side – they want to get it right just as much as you do. It’s easier if you can meet up but not vital, as long as you manage to build up a relationship, as my experience with Maria shows. I’ve worked with artists in many parts of the world and distance has never been a barrier as long as they know why you’ve chosen them and understand what you want from them.

Illustrators don’t object to making ‘tweaks’ but they’re not mind readers. This means you need to have thought long and hard about what you want before you start talking or emailing. Put it down in writing (that’s your job, after all!), attach visuals if you can: photos, scribbles, even fabric swatches, and refer to examples of their work in the style you’re asking them to replicate.

Contract
Yes, every time! It’s always important to record your agreement in writing – with dates for: delivery of roughs; deadlines for approval; delivery/approval of final artwork; agreed fee (plus the agreed fees for rejected artwork at rough stage and at final delivery, just in case). You also need to specify in writing how you’d like the artwork supplied e.g. jpeg/dimensions.

Check out http://www.theaoi.com/ for their really helpful Guide to Commissioning.

All the illustrators were very generous with their time and attention to detail and were great fun to work with. Thanks, everyone, looking forward to next time.
J.A.
http://www.janineamos.com

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