Tag Archives: Kay Leitch

What Waterstones Can Teach Writers

Don’t you just love mavericks?

Stephen Heyman writes on slate.com about how Waterstones’ fortunes changed for the better when Alexander Mamut, described by one broadsheet as: “The most powerful Oligarch you have never heard of”, bought Waterstone’s (when it had the apostrophe, but no profit) and put James Daunt in charge.

Waterstones_WDaunt was already a very successful businessman. He founded Daunt Books in Marleybone High Street in 1990 when he was just 26, and ended up running six independent book stores across London, all of which remained profitable even in difficult market conditions. The first thing Daunt did as Managing Director of Waterstones – apart from getting rid of the apostrophe – was to tear up the existing business plan for the failing book store and implement his own, rather unconventional, ideas.

He took power away from publishers and gave it back to the book sellers, promoting what he believed would sell rather than what the publishers wanted to advertise. All those “Best Seller” spots in the window of big book stores didn’t actually mean the books were best sellers. The publishers paid for those spots.

The great thing about Daunt, in my opinion, is that he’s not an accountant, a marketing executive or a PR man. He trusts the book lovers he works with. One thing he said made me laugh out loud: when he discussed his individual marketing plan and how he wanted to shake up the business he loved, he knew publishers would not be happy with his decision to cut their advertising space in his stores. “But,” he said, “we had the advantage of being bankrupt…” Talk about turning a negative into a positive!

He also gave each Waterstones almost complete autonomy over how to arrange their merchandise. So, no more homogeneity, where Waterstones in Glasgow looked exactly the same as the one in Chiswick. Each Waterstones looks different, individual, inviting. The one thing they all have in common is good books, tailored to individual local areas.

What has this got to do with writing and publishing? Everything. Rules are great when they work, and lethal when they don’t. Sometimes we’re so used to following old rules and procedures we don’t realise they’re so past their sell-by date they’re doing more harm than good. Many publishers have been following restrictive rules for a long time: pay lots of money for advertising space in shop windows (take it out of authors’ earnings) … tick. Avoid risks … tick. Ooops, not making so much money – cut authors’ earnings a bit more … tick. Watch the rise of independent author publishers…

I love that as independent publishers we are the mavericks of the publishing world. We’ve stopped trying to second guess anyone, least of all fickle publishers, and write what we want to write. We make it the best we can. Yes, we follow the rules of editing, punctuation and good grammar. Yes, of course we’re aware of the market, but we don’t let it tyrannise us. We don’t jump on band wagons for the sake of a quick buck – we don’t let the bottom line dictate what we write. Where’s the joy in that?

We can’t all be the kind of maverick James Daunt is. But we can learn from him. If you make any resolutions for 2016, make them be to trust yourself, ignore the “rules”, and write from your heart.

Kay Leitch
Author of  Treasure This
kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

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Filed under Children's Publishing, Creative Writing, creative writing tips, Electrik Inc, Independent Publishing information, James Daunt, Kay Leitch, kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com, Waterstones

Using a Pen Name and How to Market Yourself

Great post by Frances Caballo in The Book Designer with some good tips on using a pseudonym and how to market yourself. It often makes sense to use a pen name if you want to write in a different genre, but there can be problems marketing yourself as a  new name or brand, especially if you’ve already built yourself up a fan base in one genre.

Still, lots of authors manage it successfully, so I thought I’d pass this on as worth a read, in case any of you are looking for ideas.

Kay Leitch
Author of  Treasure This

Originally posted on kaywriteshemretoo.wordpress.com

 

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Filed under creative writing tips, how to market yourself, Independent Publishing information, Kay Leitch, Publishing, Tips for Authors and Illustrators

Top Writing Tips for Children’s Authors

For all the children’s writers out there, the Guardian online has a great feature with excellent advice from editors shortlisted for this year’s Branford Boase award.

The award is for excellence in writing as well as in editing, so this advice comes from people who know what they’re talking about. Some of it is common sense (well, it should be by now 🙂 ): cut and tighten, don’t overwrite, and avoid long convoluted plots, but there are lots of gems in here for writers in general, not just those writing for children.

Check it out here, at The Guardian.

Kay Leitch
Author of Treasure This
This piece was originally published on kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

 

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Best-selling Author, Judy Blume

Want an insight into how a best-selling author’s mind works? The research, the rewrites, the editing? The highs, lows and insecurities that most writers feel? There are lots of gems about the individual writing process in this in-depth interview with Judy Blume, via Goodreads. It shows the kind of hard work and commitment that’s needed — along with a bit of luck — if you want to make a success out of writing.

Judy Blume’s new novel In The Unlikely Event draws on her memories of real events: three plane crashes in her home town back when she was a teenager. We may not all have such tragic events happening in our back yards, but I think every writer has their own tale to tell. We can all draw on personal experiences when creating our stories.

This author comes across as likeable, down-to-earth and honest. More importantly, she’s successful and is happy to share her experiences.  I love that she ‘hates categories’, uses ‘security notebooks’ and was discovered from the slush pile. I admire her for saying she’s a much better rewriter than she is a first-time writer. If only more aspiring writers realised that it’s ALL in the re-writing.

I know the world is different now than when she started out, but the interview is well worth a read, so I thought I’d pass it on.

Kay Leitch
Author of whodunit, Treasure This
kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

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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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Filed under children's books, Children's Publishing, Independent Publishing information, Kay Leitch, Publishers' Profits, Publishing, Uncategorized

Great Children’s Books — Or Just Great Books

What was your favourite book as a child? I re-read The Mountain of Adventure and The Valley of Adventure, both by Enid Blyton, till the pages fell out of the spine. I think I kept re-reading them because I wanted to absorb the scenes right into my bloodstream. Even now I’m not sure if I always loved mountains and valleys or if those books instilled in me a love of adventure and wild places.

The Guardian mentions one of the quiet secrets of literature: children’s books are underrated. Children’s laureate Malorie Blackman (http://www.malorieblackman.co.uk) agrees: “Call me biased, but I find the standard of storytelling in children’s books and books for young adults second to none. I find it telling that even now there are far more children’s books and books for teens that I’d like to re-read than books for adults.”

Whether the prize givers wake up to that remains to be seen. To be honest, who cares about prizes? Great books are great books and will remain so whether or not they come with a prize or the label ‘Adult’, ‘Young Adult’ or ‘Children’s’. Children’s and Young Adult books are great reads and more and more people are waking up to that. So perhaps the secret is out.

My personal fantasy favourites are anything by Neil Gaimon (Neverwhere is fab); Eoin Colfer (Artimis Fowel is excellent); Terry Pratchett (the Discworld Series, second to none); and Ursula K Le Guin (take your pick, but I loved A Wizard of Earthsea).

For classics, I could re-read Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain ’til the paper wore out. Huck Finn is not only one of the best characters in fiction, in my opinion, but Twain’s descriptions of that Mississippi river world, now long gone, are peerless. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce has a timeless quality, which is interesting as it’s about a boy who goes back in — oh, read it and you’ll see. You’ll like it.

There are also scores of contemporary YA and children’s writers whose work shouldn’t be stifled under one label. John Green, perhaps best known for The Fault in Our Stars (book and film) tells great stories, as well as being connected to teenagers and young adults in a way that makes his work authentic and very readable.

Bath Spa alumni from the MA WYP (MA in Writing for Young People) are well represented in prize listings for this and other years: check out authors Nicola DaviesJill LewisClare Furniss and Sally Nicholls, all long-listed for the Carnegie/Greenaway prize, all great authors for various ages. (Personal interest acknowledgment: I went to Bath Spa Uni and did the MA WYP, so yes, I’m biased. But no, I don’t recommend books I don’t like).

Also worth looking at: Patrick NessThe Knife of Never Letting Go (which was really good, but I got cross when I realised it was leading me on to a cliff-hanger ending so I’d buy the next book… which I didn’t. Proving that some marketing ploys don’t work with everyone, especially bad-tempered Scottish women 🙂  ). But he’s an excellent writer and his books are well worth reading. Among others, he also wrote A Monster Calls and More than This.

I could while away a happy afternoon or three reading David Almond, too, from Skellig to his more current works A Song for Ella Grey and My Name is Mina.

Other great reads are Half Bad by Sally Green, The Snow Merchant by Sam Gayton, the series Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver. The list goes on.

If you like wolves/werewolves, try Maggie Stiefvater’s, Shiver. Beautiful writing. Lots to choose from from this author too.

Janine Amos’s childhood favourite was The Borrowers by Mary Norton. For her, these were: “Teeny, tiny people living under the floorboards, making good use of all those little things we leave lying around. And when we’re really tired, we can just catch a glimpse of them out of the corner of our eyes, darting from under the sofa to the bookcase. My belief in them is absolute.”

Here are a few of Electrik Inc’s fantastic books, all of which can be enjoyed by adults or children. No secret there!

Unknown Walking on Gold by Janine Amos

 

 

 

 

Treasure This by Kay Leitch

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The Paupers of Langden The Paupers of Langden by Julia Draper

 

 

 

 

And for 7-9 year-old readers: St Vipers School for Super Villains I (The Riotous Rocket Ship Robbery); and II (The Big Bank Burglary) by Kim Donovan

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Kay Leitch
Author of Treasure This; co-founder of Electrik Inc
O
riginal posted on 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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Filed under Children's Publishing, Independent Publishing information, Kay Leitch, Publishing, Tips for Authors and Illustrators