Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Writing for children: point of view

I'm on a FutureLearn Course, Brand Storytelling, where in week 3, Al MacCuish explains how he overcame his struggles to write a successful children's book. This is a bit of the transcript from the interview. It's a great reminder to get into the head of the child and see the world from their point of view!

"I suddenly understood why I was struggling. I had never once tried to look at the world from a child's point of view. I didn't know, understand, or empathise with my audience. So I went back the one of the very first children's stories ideas that I'd had, and I started again. And this time, the approach was completely different. I was actually looking at the world through my son's eyes. And the key turned out to be making everything about discovery. It was a really simple idea, where basically every letter in the world was alive and worked for a top-secret government department called the Ministry of Letters. Through a kid's eyes, secret worlds are immediately interesting, especially if adults don't know about them. So to reinforce that, on the first page of the book, I wrote, 'The only people who know about this world are one, the queen, two, the prime minister, three, spies, and now you.'" 

This immediately engaged the children in tests. Then he added an evil moggy to create tension and extra interest. The kids loved it!

Credit: FutureLearn interview on the Brand Storytelling course. Why not sign up? It's free!


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Books for writers - a selection of reads


The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success

I love the approach of this book, which explains in a really honest, no-nonsense way, how the authors succeeded in freelance writing. I enjoyed the style so much, that when I came to write my own book on freelance writing, I endeavoured to emulate their style. It's frank, open, and hilarious in places, about the highs and lows of a writer's life. The challenges of getting paid - I have a vague recollection of the writer camping outside her publisher's offices! It was a while ago that I read it, so I'm not sure if that was just a suggestion or an actual event! It really is ridiculous, but in a fabulous way. It has been criticised for being too American, and that's where I felt that writing something more British, to emulate the style for a British market, was a worthwhile exercise. This book has been superseded by an updated version. If you want to know what it's really like working as a freelance writer, read this book - or even better, buy mine!

 * * *

Be a Travel Writer, Live your Dreams, Sell your Features

I picked up this book because I was curious to find out if I could learn more on the art of travel writing, as a practising professional writer already. It's aimed at beginners and gives some interesting examples of the diversity of travel writing. It includes details of interviews the author has written after meeting people in foreign countries, and how she's sold stories on poverty and abuse that she's witnessed, as well as the beautiful places she's seen. She tells you to look for the unusual element, to make your story stand out, and gives examples. I would have liked to have seen more on the markets for travel destination writing. I know the market is vast and lifestyle publcations often do travel, but I've found a lot of unresponsive or dismissive publishers, often saying they work with a set of preferred travel writers and there are no opportunities for new contributors. So a leg up on the best opportunities for new entrants might have been useful. But then I guess they might be inundated. Interesting read.

 * * *


Telling Life's Tales: A Guide to Writing Life Stories for Print and Publication

I read this book out of curiosity mostly. It's quite thorough, in that it covers how to tell your life story, how to help others tell their life stories, and how to approach these as topics for books, magazines, or other markets. I liked the bits that encourage the reader to think beyond the story itself, to setting the scene and exploring what life was like at that time in history: the music, the style of clothes, the TV shows, games, lifestyles, and little things that people remember. They help bring a period to life. I'm not explaining this as well as Sarah-Beth does, but hopefully you get the gist. She explores how to conduct interviews, and different routes to publication, including self-publishing. 

I didn't feel I learnt a lot, but as a professional writer, I have been telling people's stories professionally for years. For someone starting from scratch, this book could be a really inspiring. For me, the big take away message is to make sure I'm not missing great snippets of information that will help bring a time-period to life. Sometimes the smallest things can be quite impactful. 

On the downside, there were some annoying grammatical errors, that made me wonder what went wrong with the proof reading, but it's difficult to get a book perfect. On balance, it's a good read for someone who's interested in writing biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, real life tales for magazines, or indeed, any other form of life stories! 

 * * *


How to Write and Sell Short Stories 

I started off really enjoying this book, working through it with a notepad, and writing stories with an element of conflict. One turned into an actual whole story, which I submitted for review on a course, and had good feedback, although it needs more work. The book starts off really well and once you've got started, it goes into the nitty gritty a bit with dialogue, characterisation and settings. I enjoyed the first three chapters a lot more than the rest, but then on reflection, it might be the rest that I need to work on, so worth returning to at some point. Overall, it's a well written concise, and very accessible book on writing short stories, and it certainly helped me get inspired with some ideas from the outset, which is half the struggle.

  * * *

Freelance Writing: Aim Higher, Earn More: Build on your successes and take your writing to the next level

This book is my own title. It's designed for people who don't want all the basics explained, but are interested in trying new markets, and want to earn more from their writing. It explains how I started out in 2011 with no contacts in publishing and no experience in journalism. I grew my workload from nothing, to become a full-time freelance writer, with an impressive client list. It looks at how to grow your writing income, how to find new markets for your work, and how to keep going when it seems hopeless! The book looks at the writing discipline and organisational skills, for when your workload gets busy. It also explores new avenues for your work - it looks at blogging, writing for businesses, magazine publishing, writing books, photography, and other types of writing. The feedback has been very good.

  * * *


Easy Money For Writers And Wannabes  

If you want a book about writing letters and sending photos to the letters pages of magazines, this book is full of inspiration. However, the potential to make money from these markets has shrunk dramatically in recent years, since the majority now only pay for the 'best' contribution (e.g. star letter/winning pic) in each category. They used to pay for all contributions, and was a more worthwhile activity.

I found the book a bit dated, recommending sending letters to a magazine, which went out of print almost a year before the book was published. I did expect the book to include a bit more than how to write letters and take photos for letters pages, but it's nicely written and upbeat style, so if that's what you want, it's fine. Cheap and cheerful. 


 * * *

Easy Cash Writing

This is a beginners' book, providing an interesting look at different opportunities in writing, some of which I hadn't considered before. The title is a bit misleading, suggesting that it's easy to make cash writing. It isn't - it's a hard slog and some markets are very difficult to break into. That's something that the author admits repeatedly. It's hard work, not easy - but it's rewarding if you succeed. The author also admits that there are plenty of people who will ask you to work for nothing, and he encourages you to avoid these people and focus on the paying markets. He provides some useful lists of paying markets in different genres, and provides insight to some areas that I haven't worked in before, so I think I'll investigate them further.

 * * *


Photography for Writers

When I started writing for a living I quickly learnt how much editors value good photographs. Within a year I'd got myself onto a course and invested in a decent camera. This book looks at different ways of using photography to enhance your writing. It starts at the very beginning, looking at opportunities for photographic fillers in magazines. Then it takes you through ideas for more aspirational photography to accompany your writing.

Now, having been on a photography course and spent three years taking photographs for publications, I admit this book didn't teach me a lot of new tricks, but if you're a writer who's new to photography, then this is a great little tool! It's bursting with inspirational tips. It's also much cheaper than a photography course! Importantly, it highlights the money to be made from photography in writing, gives you lots of ideas, covers some technical details, shooting angles, storage and legal issues.


 * * *


Freelance Writing on Health, Food, and Gardens

OK I'm biased. I wrote it. I think this book is very good! Hopefully you'll enjoy it too. It talks about my rocky journey into freelance journalism - the ups and downs, the highlights and challenges. It also provides hints and tips on how to get an editor's attention, how to turn a rejection into a sale, and how to find inspiration from everyday life. It includes interviews with other professional writers in the field, and you'll get a little insight into each writer's journey in this competitive arena.

It's written to be helpful and accessible whatever your preferred genre as a writer, but the examples given obviously focus mainly on my experiences as a writer in the three areas of health, food and gardens. These are huge areas, covered in hundreds of magazines, so they represent lots of potential. Why not download a sample for Kindle and see if it piques your interest?

 * * *


Horror Upon Horror: A Step by Step Guide to Writing a Horror Novel

If you're interested in the history of literary horror, this book provides a great introduction. It looks back at the best of literary horror from the 1800s to the present day.

The depth of history presented in the book, gives a very thorough grounding to the horror genre. It wasn't quite what I was expecting from a 'how to' book, but none-the-less, it's interesting to see how the genre has changed and developed over the centuries. I particularly enjoyed the list of vampire rules for vampire novelists - some of them were new to me and if I ever feel inclined to write a vampire novel, this list will come in very handy!

Ideas for avoiding too much narrative are discussed, looking at how some novelists in history have successfully 'shown' rather than 'told' their tale. Characterisation is also discussed.

As someone who grew up reading contemporary works including James Herbert, Clive Barker, Stephen King and Dean Koontz, there was too much emphasis on 19th century literature for my personal tastes. I felt to me, like the product of an academic dissertation on classic gothic literature. But there is a discussion about modern literature nearer the back of the book, which I found more appealing.

The book is designed to help you draw inspiration and ideas from previous horror novelists. Each chapter ends with a practical exercise, encouraging you to apply the principles described to your own work.

On balance, if you love horror and are interested in the techniques used by some of the earliest horror novelists, you'll probably like this. If you enjoy reading about the history of the horror genre, this book could be right up your street too.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Helen Libby on inspiration, self-publishing, marketing, and other writerly challenges



Helen Libby releases her new book, Paris Actually, on Tuesday. Here she talks about her stories, her inspiration, self-pulbishing, and her career as a writer so far.



Helen says, "I write novelettes or long short stories if you prefer - my stories tend to average round the 15,000 word mark. I have always loved writing, enjoyed it at school, and continued writing stories as part of my degree (Literature/Imaginative Writing). Even when I graduated and started working full-time I continued to write, but somehow I could never finish a project.

"I started taking my writing more seriously just under 10 years ago, when I relocated and everything felt so strange that I found writing cathartic. I decided to write a novel about a young woman who was diagnosed with skin cancer. My sister had skin cancer, which gave me the idea for my book, although the story wasn’t based on her. I got to about 60,000 words when I stopped and put it away for a while. I was working full-time and had a stressful job; I couldn’t focus on my writing.

"A few years ago I had the opportunity to go part-time, which I grabbed! It meant a drop in salary, but it also meant I had more time to devote to my writing. I dug out my old manuscript and began editing. I was ruthless and cut a lot of it and eventually ended up with a story of approximately 17,000 words. I felt I’d found my niche writing novelettes.

"I have written four other novelettes since the first one, with a sixth well under way, and with ideas for at least three more. I have approached various publishers, but although I received some positive feedback, no-one wanted to take my novelettes on. I think they are very niche considering their length, and the fact that although they have a romantic bent, the romance is not usually the main focus of the story. There is another issue such as being heavily in debt, or adoption, or skin cancer, and so on.
 
"In November 2015 I decided to take the plunge and self-publish my work via Kindle Direct Publishing, and I have self-published two novelettes so far in e-book form. I have not yet released the first novelette I wrote, purely because it was appropriate to release the other two stories during the winter period due to the time of year they were set.

"Now I know what I’m doing with regards to formatting a manuscript before uploading it to KDP, I’m really enjoying self-publishing my work. I have some beta readers, I send my stories to a professional proof-reader, and my husband helps me design the covers. The hardest part for me is marketing - I have a lot to learn about this.

"Sales so far have been slow, which I’m not worried about at the moment because I’m in this for the long haul. I’ve had a mix of 4 and 5 star decent reviews, which is encouraging.

"Many people I know prefer to read a full length novel, not something that can be read in one sitting, like my stories. That said, I think the era we’re in means that many people are sometimes only looking for something short to read, especially if they’re reading a story on their mobile phone. My stories are compact, but they have layers, so I don’t believe they are one dimensional." 

Get Helen's new book, Paris Actually here

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Charles Naton: "Being fashionably obscure can actually be an advantage"

Getting a book deal is every new author's dream, right? Why then, are so many traditionally published authors now choosing the independent route? Charles Naton shares his experiences.

Charles Naton is the author of 'Section 12', a war-time psychological horror, telling the story of a traumatised WWII soldier, who ends up in an English psychiatric clinic after D-Day. He experiences headaches, nightmares, and supernatural phenomenon. Charles' dramatic supernatural tale was originally published through the small publisher, Can Write Will Write. He's since self-published the book and has a sequel entitled 'The Cronus Equation' due out in early 2016.

Charles explains, "My first step into publishing was when Can Write Will Write offered me a book deal. It was a new venture and we didn’t know each other, so I only signed a contract for the e-publishing rights initially. The publisher gave me some very useful editorial feedback, which was a great help in the early days. It taught me to look at my own work through the eyes of an editor as opposed to an author. I agreed to do my fair share of marketing, as they're a small publisher, and was committed to the project.

"Then things started to go wrong when I saw the cover design they'd produced. I hated it. This left me stuck in the strange situation of being reluctant to throw my weight behind my own work! I was also bewildered by the publisher's reluctance to make the book available on Amazon. I thought it was a poor business decision not to have any kind of presence on that mega-platform.

"So, keenly aware that one never gets a second chance to make a first impression, I made a conscious decision to draw as little attention to myself and my work as possible, until I got my electronic rights back, and could republish on my own terms. I wrote the sequel while I watched the clock ticking down!

"Following that disappointing experience, I wanted complete control over the publishing process, so I set up my own publishing company, Cordlant Publications. This enabled me to control my own ISBN series, which is important to me.

"When I got my rights back, I relaunched the book with a new cover, making it available in paperback too. The good news is that since striking out on my own, I’ve seen a significant rise in interest and in sales. At the moment I’m focusing more on building my reputation rather than shifting volume. That takes time and a lot of shoe leather if you’re working by yourself.

"Doing it all myself has been a real education. I've learned an awful lot about the subtleties of print layout - a couple of millimetres here and there can really enhance the reading experience. I urge any self-publishers to resist the temptation to cram their work into as few pages as possible to save a little bit on each sale. The thing to remember is that a book is more than just the words it contains. The way it looks and feels is just as important as what’s printed inside.

"I've done all my own techy stuff too. I built my own website, although the artwork was supplied by my long-suffering and extremely talented graphic artist. I’ve learnt how to collaborate with other creative folk, to listen to their specialist insight, and explain important decisions where it’s not possible to please everyone.

"Since deciding to self-publish, I’ve found word of mouth, via the internet, is the most successful way to sell books. Being fashionably obscure can actually be an advantage. Some people like to shop local and support 'independent' artists and content producers. At this early stage in my career, I have the ability to engage with readers and customers at a very personal level, which simply isn’t possible for established household names.

"We are living in fascinating times, where it’s possible to take an idea and reach out to literally millions of potential customers in ways that were never possible before. However, self-publishing still requires a lot of hard work, in addition to actually writing something good in the first place! Self-publishing isn’t for everyone and the results will be hugely disappointing if you’re hoping to be an overnight success, but for the able, the committed and the determined, it really can be a brave new world."

www.charlesnaton.com

Monday, 8 February 2016

Internet dependency: a modern problem



Is Aghabullogue nearer to Blarney or Cork?
Is Ireland supposed to have pixies as well as leprechauns?
What's the history of Cork Cathedral?
Is it even called Cork Catherdral, or does it have another name?
Does my editor want his reptile article?
How are my book sales doing this weekend?
So many questions. So few answers.

It's one of those frustrating weekends when I'm visiting the mother-in-law, wondering how she can survive without internet access. I already have a list of unanswered questions waiting for my return home, and it's only been 24 hours.

My husband has a smart phone, but the signal's often not very good. Here I am on Sunday morning, itching to make progress on various writing projects, and coming unstuck at every turn, due to lack of internet access. Meanwhile, hubby and mother-in-law are dozing in bed.

While I sometimes think the internet is too much of a distraction from work, it's easy to see how my work also depends on it, and starts to suffer the moment I'm not connected.

Back in the bad old days, I'd have to wait for the reference library to open, then spend hours trawling through books, looking for answers. I love the internet, but it's very frustrating to be offline when our modern lives are so dependent on it.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Cloud computing sounds risky to me. Am I stuck in the 20th century?

19 January 2016: Twitter went down this morning. Remarkable for such a widely used site. It made me think about cloud computing, and why, despite being on Windows 10, I'm reluctant to store my files in 'the cloud'.

It's a nice idea, but it puts someone else in control of your work. If their servers go down, how good are the backups? Do they exist? What if the whole thing goes down? What if stuff goes missing? What if a virus deletes everything on their server? What if a hacker steals my work?

Call me paranoid, but I like to feel in control of my files. Now in truth, my perceived control might be quite limited. My computer might break. My back up system is rubbish, but unlike Twitter today, my computer has never 'gone down'. It's reliable. It works. My photos are on external drives and when they're about to die, they usually clunk first, giving you a warning, to copy everything onto a new drive quickly! Although I do have a back up of sorts too.

My stuff doesn't go missing (I'm sure Windows 10 stuff doesn't either, but Twitter has just vanished off our screens for the time being). If my files do vanish, a quick file search usually solves it. If it doesn't, I have only myself to blame for inadvertently deleting something!

On that topic, knowing how to activate the 'Are You Sure?' prompt on Windows 10, would sure add a helpful layer of added security to my Windows 10 experience, which does seem to have an auto-delete problem on emails. Fortunately, my email filing is pretty good. It has much improved since auto-delete from the inbox became a problem.

How do other people get on with cloud computing? Do other people think it sounds risky. Am I stuck in the 20th century?

And can anyone tell me how to activate, 'Are You Sure?' as detailed above? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Monday, 4 January 2016

New Year Resolutions for 2016

The plans for this year include:

1. Juggling workload - keep the balls in the air, and keep the work coming in.
2. Maintain the income. Always a challenge!
3. Write more fiction.
4. Complete and publish the guinea pig book!
5. Complete the novel. And find a publisher.
6. Sell more books - did you notice I've got a new one out: "Pagan Journeys"?
7. Have lots of holidays.
8. Find new clients.
9. Develop and improve my photography skills.
10. Sell photos independently of my writing work.
11. Complete more courses: next up: Commercial Photography, starts 11 Jan. Free! Bargain!

That'll do for now. :-)

Happy New Year.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016!




2015 was a year of travelling, exploring, and trying to brighten up Charlie guinea pig's life, after his mate Alvin, died in the new year. While Charlie went to stay with his grandma, who always spoils him rotten, we went to the New Forest, Dorset, Devon, Somerset, Shropshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, and Kent in a caravan! It wasn't quite as adventurous as the Grand Tour of Scotland last year, but we had some great times and the weather was reasonably good most of the time.


In the process of seeking out new clients, I got work with a regional magazine and a health website. We've had free cinema courtesy of Tesco for the past year, so non-commercial writing in the evenings has suffered, although I did manage to complete a Start Writing Fiction course with FutureLearn, which I felt was a worthwhile experience.

Plans for 2016? Goodness knows! It's as much as I can do to keep work coming in and maintain the status quo. Although somewhere in the pipeline is a funny book on guinea pigs, and I have a few more ideas to flesh out. I'm starting to dabble in fiction, so perhaps this will be my first year of having short stories published. I also have a novel in the offing, which isn't too far from completion... although finding a publisher might be another story.


So I'll sign off with a Happy Christmas, and festive new year to all. See you in 2016! If not before.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Why didn't I think of that? Oh. I did.

I saw an article in Writer's Forum recently - an interview with a fantastically successful self-published gentleman from my writing group. I thought, "Talk about missing an opportunity. Why didn't I think to pitch that interview idea?!"

Then I realised that I had thought about it. Once in 2013 and once in 2014, when I pitched similar ideas to interview the same author, to the editor of the same magazine. At the time, both suggestions were met with rejection, and I hadn't given it any further thought since.

So was my timing poor? Was my pitch shoddy? Perhaps the other writer wrote a better pitch! That wouldn't surprise me. I was writing so many pitches, they couldn't all be fantastic.

However, I do recall the interviewee being coy about his achievements in 2013 and 2014, which made it difficult to convey just how fantastic his achievements were. Apparently by 2015 he'd overcome this modesty, or perhaps been persuaded it was good for business to be a bit less bashful about it all.

Anyway, the experience gave me a kick in the butt to resubmit some old ideas to the same magazines who'd rejected them before. I received two new assignments the very same day. I'm now grateful for that kick up the butt. Just because an article idea is rejected by a magazine one year, doesn't mean it will be rejected by the same magazine a year later. If you know it's a great idea, keep plugging away.

It seems to have worked for me!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Can I earn a decent wage freelancing, compared to a full time job?

"Can I earn a decent wage freelancing, compared to a full time job?" someone asked me recently.

Well, it depends! The Author's Licensing and Collecting Society did a survey in 2013, and the results, made available in 2014, said that professional writers only earned an average of £11,000 per annum. However, I think many of those were part time, and many were authors.

So the answer has to depend on your earning power in employment, and also whether you can get work with decent paying publications as a freelancer. Some businesses pay better for freelance work than magazines, but it varies enormously. Some publications pay a lot more than others.

Author's pay varies widely too, with debut authors often earning very modest sums, while famous authors might make millions.

Working for magazines is erratic and pay can be a long time coming, if you're paid on publication, as most magazine freelancers are.

For someone who has an aptitude for writing and a commercial mindset (you have to write what people want to read/buy) it's certainly possible to earn decent money. However, most writers work long hours, have to stay focused and motivated, and obviously you don't get perks like holiday pay or sickness. Also, in my first year, my income was low, but building up any new business takes time. If you work hard and stay focused, you'll hopefully be rewarded with growing profits year on year.

The Writers' Bureau published a blog on How Lucrative is Freelance Journalism? It's worth a look here

There are lots of books that might be helpful. I've got a book that sheds more on my own experiences here 

What do other people think about this topic? The ALCS is of the view that it's getting increasingly difficult to make a full-time living as a writer. Do leave a comment below.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Don't be a publisher's nightmare. One space at the end of a sentence is plenty!

My mum always taught me to put two spaces after a full-stop, just as she was taught to do in typing school in the 1960s. But when I started working in marketing and brochure production in the late 1990s, I quickly learnt to stop this bad habit. Times had changed and one full-stop is now sufficient for modern typefaces. Two full-stops cause ugly gaps in the text and creates more work for your editor or graphic designer, who has to go through your work, taking them all out!

In the modern world, publishers want just one full stop. Don't be 'traditional' and give them two. After I was told once, I didn't dare do it again, yet in 2015, some publishers are still battling to get the message across to their contributors!

The editors of Chicken Soup for the Soul have sent the following message to their contributors, in their September newsletter...

"Did you take typing in high school? We did, and we were taught to add two spaces after a period. It turns out that is very “old school.” Everyone over 40 was taught to add two spaces; many people under 40 were taught to add only one space after a period.

"Here’s why: In the old days, we didn’t have word processors and  fonts   that   automatically   spaced   themselves   nicely,   so   it  sometimes  wasn’t  clear  that  there  was  indeed  a  space  after  a  period.  Now,  with  most  fonts  it  is  crystal  clear.  And  that  extra  space  at  the  end  of   sentence wastes  space,  spaces  that  add  up  over the course of  a newspaper article or a 400-page book.

"No  matter  what  you  were  taught,  and  how  diligently  you  put  two  spaces  after  every  period,  stop  doing  it!  We  have  to  go  through  all  the  stories  and  remove  those  extra  spaces.  AP  style, Chicago style, and every other up-to-date source will tell you the same  thing—put  one  space  at  the  end  of   a  sentence! 

"Thank you."

I don't think I need to say any more! This is 2015, not the 1960s. Don't do what my mum did in the typing pool. Get up-to-date with the modern world! One full-stop is enough.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Is social media for authors a waste of time?


I've been writing professionally since 2011, and started using social media in 2014, pending the publication of my first book by Compass Books, called 'Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens'. My day job is writing magazine articles. I've also self-published a second writing book, a collection of WWII memoirs, and some inspiring Christian stories.

When I first joined Twitter, it struck me as a waste of time, but I persevered and have since come to enjoy some of the interactions with other authors. I've learnt some valuable things from people on social media. For example, I first heard about the Author's Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) from people I met on Twitter, and I've since made money from joining ALCS, which made the whole experience worthwhile! I've also picked up things about commercial book publishers, agents, and self-publishing, which have been useful.

I find Twitter infinitely more engaging than Facebook, perhaps because my Facebook author page rarely appears on anyone's feeds due to Facebook's policy of charging for exposure. Twitter, in contrast, results in some great interactions. I've met some really interesting people, and find the author community really supportive. I try to post links and tips that will help people achieve their writing ambitions.

My blogs help me engage with readers, exchange thoughts, and promote my work. Does my social media activity result in book sales? Well, writers like to read too, and some of those people I've met online have bought copies of my books. Some even told me how much they enjoyed the books or felt inspired by them. This and the other benefits, such as generation of feature ideas and positive interactions, make logging onto social media regularly, worthwhile.

Authors can be a generous bunch on social media, and will offer hints and tips, help promote your work, might give you an interview on their blog, or support you in other ways, so there are good reasons to be active on social media. My most memorable interactions on social media have been from readers who have loved my books, or been inspired by my articles, and have tweeted to say so.

The main thing to remember is that it's not a one way street. If your communications are all about promoting your work, to the exclusion of everything else, you're not making the most of the opportunities to engage with potential readers in a more meaningful way. Two way communication is more effective, more rewarding, and more likely to generate interest in your work.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Meet prolific book reviewer, Tracy Shephard



My latest guest blogger, Tracy Shephard, is a prolific book reviewer, with ambitions to have a novel of her own published. She has a decent following on her blog, which has surprised her with its success. I asked Tracy about her book reviews, her writing, her favourite books and her life as a book reviewer. This is what she said...


Q. How do you select which books to review next?

A. I always review books in order that I am asked to read them. If I have a blog tour I read those first. A blog tour is where a group of book reviewers all get a specific date to tweet our reviews. These blogs sometimes include a Q&A with the author, or whatever the blogger wants to include. My next tour is on the 9th June when I'll be reviewing The Spider in the Corner of the Room

Once the blog tours are prioritised, I read other books I've been asked to review, and then I read whatever takes my fancy.

Q. Does one book you've reviewed stand out above all the others?

A. A couple of reviews stand out. The Red Notebook by Antoine Lauren was one of them. I fell in love with this book from the first page and read it in three hours. It's a beautiful book and one I recommend. 

I also like reviews that include a Q&A with the author. My favorite review is with a rather unknown author, L M Krier, about her novel, Baby's Got Blue Eyes. It's a fab read and in my opinion should be picked up by a Publisher.

Q. How long does it typically take you to get through a new book?

A. I have so many books to read, but I'm quite an avid reader too, so I can read about four books a week. I am partially disabled so I can't do very much, which means I sit and read a lot. I usually read a book in one sitting, if its doesn't grab me then I read it in about two days.

Q. Do you only review novels or do you sometimes review non-fiction works too?
A. I like to read all books, but the ones I review are mainly fiction. This is because I only get sent or asked to read this type of book.

Q. Have you ever given up on a book? Why?

A. I have given up on books, mainly ones I read for the book club I attend. They are books that I wouldn't normally read. I have given up reviewing these books for my blog. I like to be honest in my reviews and I don't think my negativity is helpful so I don't review them. I'm sure the books would appeal to other people. They're just not my cup of tea.

Q. What's your background / career history / greatest achievement?

A. I was a manager in a department store but had to leave when I had an accident which badly hurt my back. I cannot work now as I am always in a lot of pain and sometimes, I can't move easily. My greatest achievements are my children. I take no credit for how they have turned out, but they are successful well-rounded kids and they are rather likeable.

Q. What are your personal writing aspirations and what are you doing to try and achieve them?

A. I have written a book called A Human Drama, which has sold a few copies on Kindle. however it has been turned down by two publishers. I am now writing a romance which I hope will be successful.

Q. How do you rate the success of your blog?

A. I am quite surprised by how well my blog has been received. I started it on Christmas Eve 2014. It has had 3500 views and I have about 30 followers. You can find my blog here https://tracyshephard.wordpress.com/

Q. Do you find blogging fulfilling?

A. Yes. I enjoy blogging. I like it when I receive comments that tell me how much someone has loved my review or when someone has bought a book based on my review. I also love being able to recommend a good read to the people I meet. I have seen the way I review change over the time since I started my blog, and I hope to continue with it  - and for it to be successful.

Q. What's your favourite book ever?

A. My favorite books of all time are anything by Agatha Christie. She was so plot driven and although I try, I can never guess the culprit. They are so cleverly written, Agatha really had a fantastic brain.

Q. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

A. I would encourage people to start a blog about anything they enjoy. It is a way of connecting with new friends and giving yourself a voice about something you are passionate about. I marvel at blogs I read, as each are different and interesting. I read as many as I can and follow almost all of them.

View Tracy's blog on https://tracyshephard.wordpress.com/ - you'll find plenty of inspiration on what to read next!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Insider Secrets For Successful Freelance Writing

I was interviewed recently by fellow writer, Tony Riches, for his blog. I thought I'd post a copy on here. You might enjoy it. :-)

How did you first start to make a living as a freelance writer?

I took redundancy from a career in marketing and had a couple of short-term jobs, one of which opened my eyes to the possibilities as a freelance writer. Basically, I was much better than the freelance writers that this company was using. So when that doomed job ended (and no-one else wanted me) I decided to set myself up as a freelance writer. Getting started was hard work, but I've never looked back. I'm really glad I did it.

I started pitching article ideas to the editors of magazines that I wanted to write for - all day long, relentlessly. I got rejection after rejection initially - and those that didn't reject me, offered 'exposure' in return for working for free. Well I was serious about a career, so 'exposure' wasn't enough. I needed to chase the money.

Among those offering 'exposure' was a glossy women's magazine called Marie Claire. I agreed to cooperate with a short interview piece for Marie Claire, just so that I could say I'd been published in that magazine (or on their website technically). But as a general rule, I was very focused on the money. I had to be. I'd quit my job, and this was supposed to be my new career!

My first paid commission came through from a military magazine, followed by a couple of assignments from gardening magazines and I was away! I kept pitching relentlessly, and the work kept coming in. The rest is history (or in my books if you want more detail!).

Where can new writers find the best opportunities to build their portfolio?

Among my first regular assignments was a column in the local newspaper about events happening in my town. That kind of opportunity is a reasonable starting point - it gets you focused on the writing discipline, meeting deadlines, developing a routine, ensuring a high level of accuracy, and complying with in-house style-guides.

I also had some work published in a regional magazine some years earlier, which meant that when I started writing full-time, I had a modest portfolio of work to show off. I did those early articles for free because it was promoting something that was in my interests. Doing the odd thing for free can help you get a basic portfolio together.

What can writers do to increase their chances of success?

I think it can be very easy to give up in the face of rejection, but if you want it badly enough, you'll keep plugging away, and improve your craft until you get there. I read lots of books, asked people for advice, and persevered. I pitched feature ideas all day, every day, for weeks before I got a positive reply. Tenacity and determination really help - but you've got to have a good command of English and some decent ideas too.

Where do you start to find the right contacts for magazines and newspapers?

The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, a magazine's website, or the editorial column inside a magazine itself, are all good places to start. Staff turnover can be quite high in publishing, so it's worth checking online if in doubt.

Do you need an agent—and what can they do for you?

I don't have an agent. I got a book contract directly with a publisher. I don't think you need one, but they can be very helpful if you have your heart set on a publishing deal with a large publishing house. Agents represent your interests. They can, hopefully, get your manuscript in front of the people who matter and get you a decent advance. Getting access to the big publishers is very difficult to achieve without an agent, as most of them refuse to deal directly with authors these days.

What are the biggest challenges to a sustainable freelance career and how can writers overcome them?


Getting paid quickly is one of the biggest challenges. You don't get paid until the article is published, which depending on the publication, can take months, or even years. There are also issues with many publications having their budgets cut at the moment, so some are cutting their fees, and others are taking less freelance material. It's a real squeeze.

I think it helps to have other skills so that you can diversify a bit. I intend to do more on the photography side this year, and I hope to do more writing for business markets, where you get paid more quickly.

What are your ‘top tips’ for new freelance writers?
  • Persevere.
  • Take notice of all feedback because it often provides valuable insight into how you can improve your writing skills.
  • Read books on writing, and meet others who write, for inspiration and support.
You'll find that my latest writing book, 'Freelance Writing Aim Higher, Earn More' is on special offer for Kindle at the moment. Why not grab a copy here?  http://Author.to/SusieKearley

Sunday, 8 March 2015

You know you're a writer when...


Having read a great blog called, "You know you're a writer when..." by Dylan Hearn, I thought I'd create my own!

You know you're a writer when...

1. You wake up every day bursting to get to your writing desk and start on the day's project.
2. You become fascinated with the differences between UK and US English - because you have to get it right when you're working for different markets. You're still in a bit hazy about which version the Australians use!
3. Friends and family think you should get a 'proper job'.
4. You scribble article ideas on scraps of paper as they come to you, and end up with lots of half-cut ideas that might make it into stories one day.
5. All your acquaintances appear in magazines at least once, telling their fascinating stories as interview pieces.
6. You take photos of everything, in case they can be used in an article.
7. Your compulsion to edit, over and over, can lead to silly mistakes if you're not very careful.
8. Your partner becomes an unpaid proof reader.
9. Your work schedule is erratic and unpredictable. So are your clients. A new editor decides your work is no longer suitable for his magazine, so that's a dozen articles that suddenly need a new home. You cry.
10. When that happens, you recoil and end up wondering if a proper job wouldn't be so bad after all!
11. Then things pick up and you get to write some amazing travel features. You have the best job in the world!
12. Your book publisher runs a 99p ebook promotion, which leaves you with 17p royalties per book. You never thought you'd get rich, but this is ridiculous!
13. If you're self-publishing, you check your Kindle ebook sales daily, and become slightly obsessed by it.
14. Your writing has taken you to places you never dreamed of visiting before, all in the name of research. You've met some amazing people and your eyes have been opened to all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff. Your writing makes life interesting.
15. You could probably earn more money working in a shop, but that wouldn't be as much fun, and you wouldn't learn so much.
16. You're often left wondering when pay will come through, two years after your article was accepted for publication. 
17. Your pets make regular appearances in pet magazines and women's weeklies!
18. You're slightly obsessed with English grammar and getting everything perfect.
19. Nothing is private: your whole life is laid bare in magazine articles and books.

Read the original blog that inspired me here: (For anyone who doesn't know... WIP=Work In Progress)

Please add your own ideas in the comments section below!

And please check out my freelance writing books here:

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

My first Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, Reviews, & Why I Prefer Paperbacks

I took the plunge before Christmas and bought a Kindle. Then come new year, with the offer of a month's free borrowing on Kindle Unlimited, I decided to dive in and explore the joys of Kindle Unlimited. The results were very mixed.

The quality of some ebooks was disappointing. Some were written by people who had clearly never practised what they were preaching, and many were clearly opportunistic exercises trying to generate sales regardless of quality. Others however, were surprisingly good - and I did those authors a favour by leaving reviews saying how much I enjoyed the read.

While I was glad that I hadn't paid out for some titles, I liked the idea of being able to borrow books. After all, if you like the book, you might buy a copy for keeps, so I'm not convinced it's a bad deal for authors. The author royalties on Kindle Unlimited are better than you might imagine too - approximately $1.40 per borrow last time I checked - so it's a good way for authors to get exposure without buyers taking too much of a gamble.

The key in the long run, I think, is going to be down to reviews. Reviews can help to differentiate the good from the questionable. They're also a great way to say 'thanks' to an author who has written a good book that you enjoyed, so do consider leaving a review when you enjoy an author's work.

My conclusion on the Kindle experience? I prefer paperbacks! Kindle Unlimited has been a bit disappointing - I seem to have downloaded a lot of dross. But with regards to the format - ebook versus paperback - I find paperback a more pleasant read. I have the attention span of a goldfish which isn't good on Kindle. When I'm reading non-fiction, I like to flick back through a book when I've forgotten something (or I'm simply confused) and I didn't find it as easy on my Kindle to flick back and clarify things!

I don't think ebooks are a real threat to traditional publishing, although my Kindle will no doubt continue to provide a comfortable way to read PDFs away from the computer, or to get e-copies of books that are otherwise prohibitively expensive.

What's your preference and why?

Friday, 9 January 2015

Freelance Writing: Aim Higher, Earn More



Check out my new freelance writing book. Here's the blurb...

Freelance Writing: Aim Higher, Earn More

In 2011 Susie Kearley quit a career in marketing to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a full-time freelance writer. She had no contacts, no real experience in the publishing industry, and no idea whether she would succeed. Yet through sheer tenacity, determination and hard work, she built a solid career as a freelance writer, in the middle of a global economic recession. Today, she works for some well-known publications and earns a living from her writing.

In this book, Susie discusses her approaches to getting published and answers many of the burning questions asked of any freelance writer:

- How much money do writers make? How much do you earn?
- How can I generate more income from my writing?
- Where can I find the best opportunities in freelance writing?
- How can I learn from rejection and increase my chances of success?
- How do I break into magazines and newspapers overseas?
- Do I need an agent? What can they do for me?
- What's it like working with a small press book publisher?
- What are the biggest challenges to a sustainable freelance career,
and how can I overcome them?

This book discusses writers' average earnings and the many challenges facing someone following a freelance career. It explains how to generate income from feature articles, blogging, books, photography, and content creation for business. It details the money to be made from associations that pay out secondary royalties on your articles, photographs, and books. It also looks at record keeping and organisational skills - essential requirements once your workload reaches a certain level.

This book is written for those writers who've seen modest successes in publishing, to help them take their writing to the next level. It will help anyone looking for new inspiration and insight, who wants to earn more from their writing.

There are many beginners books on the market. This book is different. It focuses on making a regular income from writing. It doesn't go into great detail on the basics like how to pitch, because that's covered in lots of other books, including the author's first book, Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens.

Part 1 focuses on different ways of making money from your writing.

Part 2 looks at working for magazines around the world and discusses the things you need to think about when you write for overseas markets.

Part 3 looks at opportunities in book publishing, a day in court, professional indemnity insurance, marketing, social media and writing as therapy.

Out in paperback and Kindle now.

Click here to buy

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Waddesdon Manor lit up for Christmas

I'm lucky enough to live close to one of the National Trust's most beautiful properties, Waddesdon Manor. This year I was invited to their press launch of the Lights and Legends Christmas display.

Bruce Munro, the famous light artist, was present to tell us about his inspiration for his latest creation. As dusk turned to night, he took us on a walk through the grounds to see the installations in all their glory. It's well worth a visit if you happen to be down this way! Here are some of my pics.









Monday, 20 October 2014

Thame Arts and Literary Festival

I was the official photographer for the Thame Arts and Literary Festival this month, and got some great pics of Michael Heseltine and Jonathan Dimbleby on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions. It was certainly a very varied and interesting festival, with a topical focus this year, on WWI. Among the better-known authors speaking, was the author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo, pictured below.

These kinds of events can be useful for inspiration. The Thame Arts and Literary Festival had writing workshops, film events, a Midsummer Murders Walk, speakers, music, a comedian, and a wide variety of authors present. Here are a few of my pics.





 

Friday, 10 October 2014

My wake-up call to the power of KDP

I was blown away when I heard that one of our Writers' Group members, Dave Sivers, had sold 5000 copies of his latest crime novel through Kindle Direct Publishing.

Having read reports saying that most self-published ebooks sell less than 100 copies (many less than 10!) I was skeptical about the whole thing, but Dave's work is always impeccable and his success with KDP made me think again. The sales are comparable to an advance from a traditional publishing house!



Of course I've also heard the self-publishing success-stories touted by KDP themselves, but I thought these were very much the exceptions, not the rule. Undoubtedly, for the most part, they are - but hearing Dave's success story so close to home has opened my eyes to the power of self-publishing. You can view Dave's literary collection here.

Or if you prefer something more on the trials and tribulations of freelance writing, why not download Amazon's free sample pages of my own book, Freelance Writing: Aim Higher, Earn More? And if you like it, go wild and buy a copy! The paperback is now available for the bargain discounted price of £5.96/$8.09. The Kindle version is cheaper still!



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