Current events – Writing Buddies 5th Anniversary exhibition at the Central Library, Southampton Civic Centre, 12-17 May 2014

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The Right Worshipful The Mayor of Southampton (Councillor Ivan White), centre, with Pam Whittington and Penny Legg, the founders of Writing Buddies, cutting the celebration cake yesterday at the opening of the exhibition. All photos: Lisa Scullard

I joined Writing Buddies back in 2010, having found them by chance while looking for a local writing group close to the New Forest.

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Writing Buddies is unique in that it isn’t a feedback and critique group, but rather a support group for the technicalities of living as a writer – where to take your writing, who can help, and if you are inclined, the technical details on how to publish.

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It’s free to join and we pay a couple of quid at the group meetings towards hire of the room at the Mercure Dolphin, Southampton, on the first Friday of every month.

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The 5th Anniversary cake was created by Christine Donovan, previous Rubery Book Award winner, who studied cake-making at Brockenhurst College

DSCF2382Members are from all ages, backgrounds and abilities, and as well as sharing progress on individual writing careers, they have supported other projects, including recording audio stories to be played on the radio for the visually impaired.

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Penny Legg discussing the work of Southampton Sight, with the Right Worshipful The Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Ivan White

Individuals can also volunteer to give informative talks at these monthly meetings. In June’s meeting, I’ll be giving a talk on copyright.

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The exhibition runs until this weekend, where you’ll be able to see examples of all of our work and other creative projects, in the main body of the library near the entrance.

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For more information on Writing Buddies, email Penny on penny@pennylegg.com

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Christine’s lovely cake went down a treat 🙂

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Until midnight Friday 16th May 2014, PST, you can download three of my ebooks for free from Amazon Kindle – Death & The City: Book One, Death & The City: Book Two, and One Stolen Kiss, written under my pen-name Lauren Boutain

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Enjoy 🙂

Another tutorial: Linking to multimedia in ebooks

Hello! Spring has sprung, the holidays have come, and hopefully we’re all outdoors getting some sunshine and healthy fresh air, not indoors with a TV movie marathon and a serious hand-blanket-stitching cosplay costume-making addiction. Just me on that one, I think…

Ok now, we all want to publish ebooks that stand out in the current market, and one thing you can do to perk them up is to add links to multimedia content:

Remember that you must own the content to share it (visual AND audio), and you must keep in mind that many of the more basic e-readers will not be running Flash player, or support video and audio content, and you don’t want their own enjoyment of reading the rest of the book interrupted with large blocks of non-functioning embedded content.

Check out the ‘Look Inside’ preview of this ebook that I formatted for a true-life memoir author, Sophie Neville: The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons.

She’d shown me some old home-movie footage her family had taken at the time the film was made, and I suggested editing it into short clips that could be linked to in the text inside the book, as well as create a book trailer from it.

You’ll see hyperlinks under the first two photographs on the title pages of her ebook, linking to footage uploaded onto the author’s Youtube channel. (I also edited the footage for her, and used music soundtracks available from the copyright-free libraries). I edited the ebook’s description on Amazon to include the line “contains links to behind-the-scenes home movie footage for readers with browser-enabled tablets” – so that customers would be aware of how this worked.

If you own one of these non-browser, non-Flash Kindles or e-readers, you can download the reader app to your PC or other internet device to read and view books with multimedia content, where the links will work on your PC or device with an internet connection and fully-functioning browser.

On the iPad or iPhone, for example, when you tap on the video hyperlink in this ebook, the video appears full-screen, ready to watch. When it has finished, you just tap on the Youtube prompt ‘Done’ – it closes automatically and you’re back on your page in the Kindle book. Neat stuff.

Here’s how to format and publish a standard text or illustrated ebook – click here.

Start with your content – you have to own it, as will become clear shortly, and also have permission of anyone (or their property, or music) who appears in your footage, whether it’s made using stills or video. Make sure you include a written acknowledgement of their contribution in your ‘Thank You’ list at the end of your book, for granting you permission.

Firstly, set up a Youtube channel in your author name, and upload your edited content.

In your video’s description on the Youtube edits page while uploading, include the words ‘(Book title) Copyright (your name) (year) Thanks to (names of contributors in this video). All permissions obtained.’

Copy the shortlink to share the video you want to link from the ‘Share’ tab under the video on Youtube, e.g. http://youtu.be/chXkQ8m8tKM Make sure you only have the link to your video copied. Don’t copy any longer links from the address bar, which may contain ‘play all’ loops or playlists, which prompt the link to include the rest of your videos, or ones with the same title or search terms in the content that plays when the link is clicked on. If you can only copy the link from your browser’s address bar, make sure that if it contains the symbol ‘&’ you first select the ‘&’ and anything that appears after the ‘&’ symbol, and delete that part, before copying the first part of the link only. Also delete the ‘s’ from ‘https’ at the beginning of the link – otherwise your link is set to ‘private browsing’ and will only work if the reader is also signed in to Youtube.

If your ebook is illustrated, you can do the same as I did for this particular author, and put links under appropriate illustrations. This means that folk with regular e-readers still get something nice to look at, and the video is just enhancement for readers with fully-functioning browsers. Don’t link the video to the illustration itself – this will mess with the ‘zoom image’ tap function on touchscreen tablets, and no-one will know it is there! It’s best for clarity to type the line ‘Click here for video’ or something similar as I have done, and hyperlink the sentence.

Highlight the phrase you want to link on your document in Word/OpenOffice etc, click on the ‘Insert’ tab, select ‘Hyperlink’, select ‘on the web’ in the left-hand sidebar of the control box that pops up, and paste your video’s link into the box saying ‘web address’, then ‘Apply’ and ‘Done/OK’.

Once you’ve added your video hyperlinks, whether they’re book trailers, vlogs, author interviews with yourself, you dressed up as one of your characters acting out a scene etc, finish formatting your ebook document, and upload and submit it for publishing as described in the Formatting Ebooks tutorial.

Your book will appear in the Kindle store. Now, at some point, you will receive an email from KDP stating that your book ‘contains content freely available on the web’ and to ‘verify that you are the owner’ of this material, otherwise your book will be removed and the rest of your author account as well. You must reply immediately, as they only give you a few days’ notice to answer. All you need do is send a polite and prompt reply confirming that it is your own footage on your own Youtube channel (see name on your Youtube channel) and has been uploaded for the purpose of marketing your book (see book title and author name in your video descriptions). The same goes for images if queried, or your own written blog posts, that you might have replicated in your published books. Also follow any prompts they have given you in their email to confirm ownership by re-submitting the book, by opening the edit menu of your book on your KDP dashboard, re-selecting ‘All territories’ on the ‘Rights & Royalties’ page, and re-submitting your book for publishing. They will later reply to your reply, confirming acknowledgement of your right to publish the content. These emails are not automated, and your content and written verification will be checked by actual people.

For the above reason, make sure that any video content you have created to link to in your ebook does not contain anything illegal, defamatory, plagiarist, obscene, or that could be interpreted as an actual declaration of war in our Universe or the next.

Also, be aware that browsers with some child-safety ‘nanny’ programs running to block adult content may be set up by readers with families on shared computers (to whom your own book and content might be perfectly safe and suitable, as is the one I formatted), but the fact that your book contains Youtube links will mean it does not appear on their home computers in online searches. This is because Youtube and other video sites overall contain content blocked by these programs, and there’s nothing you can do to get around parenting shields that detect and block Youtube and video links (I’d be very concerned if there was a way around it). If the parents have alternative access on other computers and tablets without these parenting shields, they will be able to find your book without any problems. Just because your book doesn’t appear on or is blocked on one family’s computer doesn’t mean it will be blocked on all of them. (One of my author clients got quite excitable when she thought her extremely tame book had been ‘banned’ after trying to look it up at a friend’s house and found it was blocked by their online family filter).

So it can be done, and managed effectively, and if it all ties together nicely it makes a really good transmedia reading experience for the customer – you only have to see what the Amazon reviewers have said about the video content in the book I formatted for Sophie Neville (although she has allowed one reviewer to give her ALL of the credit for technical wizardry, LOL!)

…If you are formatting a paperback version later on, change your hyperlinks to the original shortlinks as above. That way readers can find your video content by typing in the address itself, as there’s nowhere to click on paper yet 🙂

To learn how to format and publish a paperback or hardcover, click here.

Have fun, and good luck. And remember to get out more 😉 xxx

Q&A: Lisa Scullard – writer, editor, formatter, parkour enthusiast…

A surprise invitation from David Powning of Ink-Wrapped…

Ink-Wrapped

Today I’m delighted to welcome writer Lisa Scullard, who works across the zombie, parody and romance genres. She caught my eye recently after releasing a novel under a pen-name with no fanfare or marketing frenzy, and yet achieved surprising results. Lisa also works on the editing side of things, and is a font of knowledge when it comes to formatting.

I was intrigued by your blog post about releasing a book under a pen-name, in a genre that you hadn’t previously written in before, and with next to no promotion. What prompted you to do this, and how surprised were you by the reaction?

I’d dreamed of writing romance from the age of about thirteen, and had a very rose-tinted view of it – meaning I never felt qualified. I believed for a very long time that romance authors all led very romantic lives, whereas I’m more self-isolating and insular…

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…Apparently, I can…

Hey, happy Sunday 🙂

I’m not sure what I expected would happen, publishing an unknown pen-name into the most overcrowded genre, with no advertising or solicited support. A dive into the community pool of obscurity, most likely. The genre has the highest turnover of readers as well, who devour a book in a day and are in a hurry to pick up the next one, like a chocolate fixation. Interest at the most optimistic level is likely to be fleeting.

I jumped the gun too, having had the book requested in full by Harlequin M&B and waited three months for a response after submitting. As the novel, a stand-alone story, only took me five weeks to write (76,000 words, a cakewalk compared to some of my others) I justified that part as not thinking it decent that I should have to wait more than twice as long for a reply than it took me to write. And I’d started writing four more in the meantime, which if I finish this year to follow it up with, would be unlikely to find such quick slots to fill in a traditional publisher’s catalogue.

Anyway. From my previous experience of running repeating freebies as promotion, when I put it on KDP Select to release it as free in the first weekend after publishing it last week, I was expecting a few hundred downloads on Amazon.com, a few dozen on Amazon.co.uk and one or two elsewhere. After the freebie ended this time, however, I had 1732 downloads on Kindle UK, outstripping everywhere else almost three times over, and had reached the UK #4 in its category and #24 in the Kindle top 100 bestsellers in Free ebooks. Two 5* reviews had turned up from nowhere, and it has continued to sell (and be borrowed on Amazon Prime) at an average rate of 1 per hour ever since.

As I only tweeted it about a dozen times for the freebie, and didn’t solicit or advertise for any promotion or ask friends for help, all I can guess is that folk genuinely like this book and are recommending it.

That’s a writer’s dream. Still early days, but at the the moment I feel as though I should be pinching myself to see if it’s really me dreaming it.

Possibly in danger of giving myself a small identity crisis, but that’s nothing new. One audience for the zombie parody, one for the psychological introspection, and now another, under a new name altogether.

And it means the opportunity to invest more time in writing 🙂

It wasn’t a quick decision to write in another genre – I’d been writing experimentally in this genre for about twenty years, but never published anything. Writing and publishing my other stuff turned out to be relevant experience – the more you write, the more fluent you become. You can learn something new about language and prose every day, which I discovered when writing a novel as a blog in 2012. When you write in a fully-conscious state of mind, you’re less likely to repeat yourself or slip into stereotypes associated with writing.

But I found I also have to be aware of being a storyteller, imparting an atmosphere and emotional tone as a major priority – allowing the reader’s imagination to have as much control without distracting them with ‘wordplay’. There’s good writing that demonstrates the mental gymnastics and intellect of the author, and then there’s good writing that you forget is writing because you’re absorbed in the story. In this case, I was aiming for the second one – which meant switching off the part of me as a writer which wants to flash around some skills and intellect and behave as if I have something to gain by proving them. If being too clever makes your writing inaccessible, it’s like pricing your books too high – they may be praiseworthy, but only a few folk will invest in them.

For me, writing will always be a spontaneous activity, meaning that most of what I achieve is down to luck and enjoying the time spent by myself working on it, which includes any social media (I have a great deal of writer friends, but I’m not known for turning up ubiquitously on dozens of blogs or joining marketing campaigns and the review culture). One reason I enjoy writing as a career is it doesn’t involve any group effort or teamwork – and I’m not into competitive sports either 🙂

Genuine success will always be down to the readership in that particular genre and their judgement. It’s a very grounding and humbling thought, knowing that as the writer, you’re always outnumbered by the potential readers, by millions to one 🙂

L xxx

“Tell me honestly. Can I pull this off?”

Matt Lucas as Dongloor in Krod Mandoon

Switching styles, like Dongalor in “Krod Mandoon”, played by Matt Lucas

So yesterday I got bored, and to distract myself from watching my ‘selling’ items on ebay, I published one of my recent romance novels under a pen name I’ve been cultivating for a couple of months, Lauren Boutain.

This is the one that M&B requested the full MS of three months ago, and having just won round one of their Facebook and Twitter-based #TemptedToWrite contest pitching another idea, I have too many stories in my head now to sit around twiddling my thumbs waiting. For now, I’ll stick to self-publishing until something better comes along… (like I don’t know, having a life?) 🙂

I did get some encouragement from having had it requested, and a couple of good friends. Friends are very important when you’re venturing into anything new, and contemporary modern romance is definitely new ground for me…

Matt Lucas, Dongalor

Supposing Dongalor wrote the next romance blockbuster, who might he ask to take a peek? 🙂

And then there’s all the stuff I don’t usually write. The bedroom stuff… I found that was where planning to write under a pen-name up front really helped. Not by trying to distance myself from it – by getting inside the head of someone else while writing. And not just the characters, for a change. By being another author completely.

For the first time I started a Pinterest board for my muses and also a Facebook page early on.

However, I found that waiting to hear from publishers still didn’t really fit – I had momentum in my creativity, and didn’t want to let it drop once I’d finished the story, I wanted to get it out there and move straight on to the next. So I’m afraid to say that yesterday I decided I couldn’t wait for either the good news or a rejection, and published anyway 🙂

Matt Lucas as Dongalor

“Can I pull this off?” Chancellor Dongalor’s big, er, ‘reveal’

Ahem… probably the main relevance to Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire is I recently watched it all again on DVD, and the line “Can I pull this off?” (besides being bloody hilarious in this scene) is very pertinent to me as an author who has been writing contemporary romance mainly in secret for a long time, but has not yet put it out there for readers to judge. I’m feeling brave. Perhaps not quite brave enough to slap on a bearskin codpiece, but definitely to sneak a book out under the radar, in the deluge of self-publishing going on in the world today 🙂

If you want to take a peek, or a download for 77p (99c) and judge for yourself, you can check it out on Amazon Kindle here.

I promise I don’t do executions in response to criticism, unlike Chancellor Dongalor 😉

One Stolen Kiss

Does not contain zombies… 🙂

L xxxx

Only You – guest post by Dan Holloway

Happy New Year!

If your New Year’s Resolution is to self-publish for the first time, and you’re looking for a place to start – whether it’s writing your first ever piece or getting to grips with formatting the files and uploading them, there’s lots of advice out there. (There’s lots of advice in here!)

One of the most experienced indies around is Dan Holloway, who I first met when I went to witness the 100th International Literary Death Match live in London (see Dan’s author profile below). So when he announced the release of his new title last month Self-Publish With Integrity, I invited him to write a guest post for all the writers out there facing the New Year with that same ambition – to quit the gatekeeper waiting game, and get their work out into the spotlight of the world.

Since he founded the Year Zero Writers collective in January 2009, Dan Holloway has been a leading figure in the self-publishing community. Winner of the international spoken word phenomenon Literary Death Match whilst the only self-published author competing; writing the guidebook for the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Open Up to Indies campaign; writing about the very best of self-publishing across the internet including contributing regularly to the Guardian Books Blog, Dan has built a reputation for refusing to compromise his artistic principles for short term commercial success. (Amazon author profile)

So I’m very proud to welcome Mr Dan Holloway – links to find his book and his blog are at the bottom of the post…

L xxx 🙂

'Self-Publish With Integrity' by Dan Holloway

Only You

Spend a little time looking through advice for self-published writers and you will soon find yourself inundated by advice on what can best, if loosely, be labelled branding. How do I make myself discoverable? How do I appeal to the right readers? How will people respond to my cover? Am I saying the right things on social media? Does my writing hit all the points on the genre’s expectation list?

With respect (and in some cases with absolutely no respect at all), unless you are writing purely and simply to try and earn some kind of a crust, because having one day job isn’t enough you’d like two thank you (and if you’re only in it for the money 1. why would you be reading something I’ve written? and 2. following advice of people who made money but probably didn’t set out only to do that isn’t going to help), all of this is, erm, misplaced.

Most people who write are passionate. If not about “writing” per se, then about something – exploring the lives and worlds of a set of characters who’ve wormed their way into your head, connecting with people who share a fascination with a particularly kooky slant you have on the world, just reaching out to someone to let them know they’re not alone. Whatever it is they’re passionate about, all the best writers I know have that one thing in common – passion.

That right there, that passion, is your “brand.” It’s what makes you uniquely qualified to write the stories you write, and it’s what gives your stories their intangible magic, their ability to reach out and hook anyone who shares your passion.

Like pretty much any educational curriculum, most self-publishing advice starts out as providing a handy toolkit to help you bring your individuality to the world in a way that accentuates it, showcases it to its very best – and ends up very quickly becoming a sausage factory designed to squeeze that individuality from you in order to conform to some standardised notion of what is “the right way” that has been dictated by a group of opinion formers and discourse makers who represent the collective wisdom of every group that has stood on the side of every oppression in history.

If your goal is to hone yourself until every facet of what you do matches that expectation set, then why on earth would you self-publish? Why would you embark upon a course that has a glorious, grubby ability to free you from the shackles of being told how a story has to develop, how many words a book should have, what kind of cover “readers” will like, what kind of melange of genres and points of view constitute acceptable experimentation?

As a self-publisher, don’t ever forget that the true freedom self-publishing gives you is the freedom to be you. The freedom to have a vision, to believe in that vision and realise it and then bring it to the world.

Yes, you might alienate some people by writing what you have to write. You might alienate a LOT of people in fact. But you will make those who share your passion love the worlds you have made. Too much advice is about not offending. Too little is about stirring passion, about being true to your vision.

There are two fundamental problems with the “don’t cause offence” school of writing. The first is that it really doesn’t sell books. Not in the long term. Yes, by producing a cover that perfectly matches the expectations of a genre, you might well encourage readers in that genre to buy your book. But in the long term, one of two things will happen – either they’ll read it and never read another one because you just couldn’t keep the “you” part of your writing hidden and those readers don’t want “you”, or you will tailor a whole series of books so perfectly to match expectations that they remove every last shred of “you” from every single part. And then you will wake up one day and look at what you’ve “achieved” and the “enjoyment” it’s given you and shake your head in horror.

The second problem is that what’s inoffensive to one person isn’t universally inoffensive. And this is a fundamental problem for anyone who’s any kind of an outsider. The majority’s manila is assumed to be something that couldn’t possibly offend anyone. Take easy listening music. No one could be offended by it, right? That’s the point. Well, most people in the street will, indeed, react with suitable blandness (a further problem with this school of thought – you don’t want your readers to find your work agreeable – do you? Really? Don’t you want them to be so damn excited by your books they queue from the early hours to get their hands on your new short story and then go out and scream at all their friends that they *must* buy it? Do you really think anyone ever jumped up and called their best friend and said “OMG, you’ll never guess what I just discovered, it’s this incredible colour called beige that you just have to paint your whole house right now”?). But your friend whose basement is stuffed with bootleg punk tapes? Will they really say “mmm, not my thing but harmless enough?”

The point is this – if you’re an outsider, then your outsider passions are not your weakness but your strength. It might be a small group that shares them, but those who do share them will do so with an equal passion. If you standardise your work so as not to offend, they are exactly the people you will alienate – and for the sake of not actually winning any die hard fans from anywhere else.

So, the most fundamental thing for any self-publisher to remember is to be yourself. Know what it is you’re passionate about and be proud of it. Don’t change yourself to find readers who wouldn’t like who you really are anyway – you wouldn’t do it to find friends, so don’t do it to find readers. Be yourself, be proud of yourself, and let your passion be the first, second and last thing that flows onto the page. And then you’ll find a set of readers who really love what you do.

Self-publish With Integrity, my guide to steering your way through the long self-publishing journey and staying true to your creative goals, is now available for Kindle in the UK:
My bestselling thriller The Company of Fellows is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Company-Fellows-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B004PLMHYC
All kind of things including free downloads are on my website: http://danholloway.wordpress.com – it also has links to all my other books, and links to articles and shows.

Dan Holloway

Back to Basics: I, Wordbot – or, who is the author anyway?

Okay. So, you’ve started writing – let’s say, something.

Where do you see this expedition taking you, as an individual?

To the Oscars? To the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards? To a disciplinary at work? To the headmaster’s office?*

*Usually if you start by penning your work of genius on the walls and furniture.

A few writers do well. A few do very well indeed.

For the majority though, it’s the worst hourly rate anyone could wish for.

What person in their right mind spends 17 hours a day for weeks/months/years on a soul-baring project, for the small chance of grossing $10 from Amazon Kindle in the first fiscal year after publication?

  • Do you visualise yourself turning into a 24-hour book-pimping machine once you’ve completed the fun part (viz, writing the story)?
  • Do you plan to change the world by preaching your message to the masses with the concise summation of “Buy my book! And write me a review!”
  • Do you want social conversations around you to gravitate away from the fondly-remembered “What are you up to nowadays?” and more towards “Do you know, I have no time to read anything anymore. I can’t even keep up with the latest Terry Pratchett and Jeremy Clarkson…”

Perhaps there’s something to be said for keeping your new hobby a secret. That way, you can succeed or fail in private.

Maybe analyse your reasons for writing. Do you desire to be a more interesting or worthy person? Instead of inventing interesting and worthy characters, maybe go out into the world and do some volunteering. Or take up an adult education class.

People write for many reasons. Catharsis and therapy, for their own entertainment, because they simply can’t find books to read that they identify with… to learn, to share, to teach, to excavate old personal bones of contention, or to throw light on dark corners of their life. Some of those dark corners seem to contain many heaps of used tissues. Remember, what makes you happy (or sad) may not be viewed the same way by everyone.

Anyway. Selling is a different job altogether, and if you don’t see yourself as a salesman (I’m certainly not one) by all means write – but don’t let the business of being ‘an author’ take away the enjoyment of writing. Just write, publish, and move on.

Being an author doesn’t have to define you. Again, rather like that thing what may merely light your own candle in fiction being the complete witch-trial pyre in other people’s minds and cultures – what you picture the job description of ‘author’ representing in your own mind, may manifest itself differently in other people’s.

When I was very young, someone made it clear to me that their idea of a writer was a useless bum with no skills whatsoever. My own idea of a writer was Barbara Cartland in a pink frilly dress writing about men in tights and ladies swooning, or possibly Clive Barker with a pint of snakebite and blackcurrant, writing about dead things and the afterlife. But the thought of being useless and having no skills was also taken on board, and I’m proud to say I have avoided gaining any of the skills that I should have supposedly gained by not writing. I found that the opportunity to learn more interesting skills came my way instead.

Writing shouldn’t be your excuse for avoiding life, but rather a way of expressing your experiences and philosophies of it. If you don’t have any experiences that you want to write about, and can’t manifest them (either legally or physically, such as sprouting wings), like the best of us, make them up – but it’s your own slant and viewpoints which will tell your readers who you are, through the medium of your characters.

So let’s talk about the taboo subject of authorial leakage. Unintentionally, or otherwise, what private agendas and personal revelations may surface in the process of revealing your new talent to the world.

Writing is like any other art form – so far in the West, until recent history, held as being mystically separate from the laws of real life. Free speech, artistic licence, call it what you want.

There are different forms of art. Art that is life-affirming. Art that inspires criticism. Art that inspires debate, and art that instigates discussion on what constitutes art. However, in modern history, public concerns are voiced more frequently about art that inspires crime and atrocities.

The old-school art school tend to stand by their guns that art should be allowed to be art in any form, whether it’s a dirty unkempt bed or half a cow in formaldehyde. But if it’s a dirty unkempt child or half a pet dog, that’s the NSPCC and RSPCA notified.

With the advent of social media, and internet-based reality live-streaming TV, some people are sharing ‘art’ that should more accurately be described as ‘evidence’. And with certain art forms inspiring domestic violence and murder on a daily basis, now in the headlines with alarming regularity, the conscience of the artist has to be considered as much as the consumer.

For instance, compare the theoretical concept of a designer of a war propaganda poster that leads to an uprising and mass genocide, to the writer of a play that inspires a sick man to go home and shoot his dog. Both had a detrimental effect. One, you might argue, was only doing their job, and was not directly responsible. But which one?

That’s the worst case scenario that you might potentially face, at any point in your career. A crime of any scale being credited to you as the inspiration.

When the paranoia bugs strike at the heart of your art, and you find that your hobby has become a form of inadvertent disclosure about the deepest and darkest places where you occasionally hide the used tissues, it helps to examine and monitor yourself as you write. Um, or maybe seek counselling, and take a bit of a break until things normalise around you again.

At least, until your fantasy world is looking a bit more healthy.

What’s your basic need for recognition, as a writer?

Some examples of an artist’s basic needs:

  • To share an enthusiasm for a specific theme or genre
  • To exorcise a past event or relationship
  • To shock the audience
  • To make people laugh
  • To make people cry
  • To make people angry
  • To gain any reaction whatsoever, usually in as an obscure fashion as you can muster
  • To prove something
  • To disprove something
  • Revenge
  • To make money
  • To make someone love you (good luck with that, have you tried baking? Or giving them a lift anywhere?)
  • To win awards
  • To give your imaginary friends something to do
  • To brag about how clever you are

Note that ‘to be a book promoter/salesperson’ is not on the list! 🙂

The skill isn’t in what you can excavate from the depths of your soul. The skill is in filtering out the story and making it user-friendly, so that whatever inflammatory critique it inspires doesn’t also have the police taking an interest in your magnum opus appearing on a convicted felon’s Kindle, highly annotated and shared with members of his gang…

Don’t worry that writing your book will have your friends and family looking at you funny, talking behind your back, or avoiding you. They’ll be doing plenty of that when you start asking them to buy it and to leave you reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

And that’s BEFORE they’ve even read it 😉

L xxxx 🙂

‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons’ in the headlines

Here’s a success story example of a multimedia ebook I formatted and also helped to edit, which was released onto an unsuspecting audience last week and reached coverage in the national press.

As well as formatting the ebook itself, my work included editing the behind-the-scenes footage for inclusion in the text, and making the book trailer that appears online. It was featured in the Telegraph article last Friday.

I’ve prepared the print proof files for ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons” – currently awaiting publisher feedback – and my next job in the meantime is to start work on a feature screenplay based on the crew’s shenanigans.

Very much looking forward to seeing where things go with that 🙂

Lisa xxx

Sophie Neville

The Times Sat 23 Nov 2013

The Times. What author would not be thrilled to have their ebook profiled in a Saturday feature article? But look at the headline. I shall never live it down. Far from being scandalous, my story is appropriate reading for any age group.

Richard Kay’s piece in the Daily Mail seems to have sparked off quite a bush fire. A News journalist from the Telegraph rang, as mentioned in my last post. Before I knew it, there was an over-excited headline on the internet

I was told-off by our Church Warden, who then handed me a clipping from the Saturday Telegraph, which read: ‘Swallows and Amazons a debauched adventure’. I didn’t dare look in the tabloids.

I was worried that I would be asked to step down as President of The Arthur Ransome Society but some of the members think it’s hilarious. The Arthur Ransome Group on Facebook have been busy thinking up…

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Netiquette for the indie author

Schmoozin' cocktail

Okay. So you’ve formatted and released your books, and established who your target audience is.

The next dilemma you’ll face, is how to market your work.

First of all, make sure you’ve written the best book that you can pull out of your head and heart. Not any other part of your body. If you’re dredging it up from elsewhere, the strain will show in every paragraph.

Secondly, make sure it has a clear and attractive cover.

Third, that the blurb is appetite-whetting enough to attract readers – don’t give too much away, but don’t be so vague that you could be describing pretty much any book. Try to avoid tag lines in the form of a question. It’s very pulp fiction noir, but if you’re not skilled in that particular genre, you’ll just come across as a lazy tag-line writer. Below are examples of weak tag lines:

~ Will he/she succeed?

~ Does love conquer all?

~ What will they do?

~ In a race against time, can they beat the clock?

~ Will truth/justice/honour prevail?

The above are all too vague and over-used. Number four, in particular, basically describes everything from the school run to the TV quiz show Countdown. You don’t actually need a tag-line. Just write a decent story, package it nicely, and keep your fingers crossed that enough folk will enjoy it to recommend it to one another. That’s the best form of promotion, because it doesn’t actively involve you.

I have one opinion about asking for reviews:

How to lose friends and irritate people.

Amazon Kindle frowns on reviews written by friends and family. Reviews posted on request in exchange for free books have to state in the text ‘I received a free/gifted book in exchange for my honest review.’ Editors, formatters, publishers, cover designers, contributors and other people involved in the book’s development and production cannot post reviews of the book. Any reviews unearthed seen to be breaching their guidelines are unceremoniously removed without notice. You can say all you want about the practises of major publishers and their methods, but down at the other end with the indies, you have to play fair. And if the book itself doesn’t live up to a ream of glowing, paid-for or solicited reviews, it’s one of the best ways to attract a shed-load of bad ones.

I don’t ask for reviews, but I’ll happily give away books if someone thinks they’d enjoy a book I’ve written. I don’t set them homework afterwards. I’ve seen good friends of authors run at the sight of them approaching on social occasions, crying for mercy the familiar pleas of “I haven’t finished reading it yet!” or “I don’t really know how to use the computer or post reviews on Amazon!”

It’s crass to treat your friends and family as a marketing machine for your work. Do you promote them and their business? Do you give them any help or support with their dreams and ambitions, whether it’s getting them a make-over, working to create the house and garden they most want, helping them find a date, arranging for them to have the car they’ve always dreamed of driving, writing them endless job references and endorsements? Because that’s what you’re asking for, in a nutshell. There is a mentality among some authors that family and friends are there to be used. If you need private feedback or approval, or help proofreading your book, ask one or two to take a look BEFORE you publish it. Don’t ask them to do your heavy lifting afterwards.

Be dignified.

Mannequin

Remember – you are the front window for your writing.

Authors themselves are the best support network, many of whom now have learned, to their cost, that nobody close to them socially is interested in their new hobby as a self-promotion machine, and liked them better while they were still only writing in their bedroom after school with paper and pen.

I was once asked to post the same review on several sites, having genuinely written a nice one of my own volition, because I enjoyed the book. I said no, explaining to the author that having it pop up on every outlet or listing for the book would instantly imply that it had been an insincere, solicited review, possibly paid for as well. You have to put your foot down when approached about these things yourself – it turns the whole author support network into a protection racket of back-scratching. If an author then leaves you a sour comment on your book, with you having either declined to review theirs or having not read it, most likely, ignore them and move on.

Don’t sink to their level. It won’t endear you to the audience. Trolling the internet is time wasted that you could be writing a bestseller in.

Make sure you are always working on the next thing, and having new ideas. There’s nothing sadder than pimping your one solitary book for years, waiting for Hollywood to call. In the same vein, make sure that you have a life, and are taking a healthy interest in the people around you from day to day – and not in the desperate search for material for your own work. What are their dreams? What are their life stories? When was the last time they took up a new hobby? For that matter, when was the last time you did?

I’ve got to the stage now where I’m starting to receive unsolicited spam from ‘social media experts’ on sites such a FB, LinkedIn and Twitter, who haven’t looked at what I do and seen that it’s also my own job. All they trawl for is the word ‘author’ and send out a pitch for their services, announcing that I can’t possibly have the time to promote my own books as well as write and that the cost of their services is very reasonable. Which is true. I only teach others how to promote their own books, in between writing my own books. And I’ve never had to spam or apply for work. I get referred by word-of-mouth, and have to turn down or suspend jobs all the time because I’m too busy. And because my job is so easy I’m sure most folk could do it, my I.T. and technical services are damn near rock-bottom 🙂

That’s one of the reasons I’ve written these tutorials. So long as you can write a good story, format it nicely, present it in an attractive way, behave yourself online, and not alienate all of your family and friends in person, you could get lucky and sell a handful of books. The best way to sell more books, is to write more books. If your readers are keen on your material, they’ll come back for more of it.

Remember, in the real world, selling yourself online isn’t everything. Getting on with life and enjoying yourself is. Make sure you leave time for that. It’s scary how fast the time passes while following your book’s progress up and down the Kindle charts, and trying to influence it in any way possible 🙂

L xxxxx

‘Death & The City: Cut to the Chase Edition’ free on Amazon Kindle

Death & The City: Cut to the Chase Edition

Now available free through the next 5 days (promotion ends midnight 30 July Pacific Standard Time). Click below for regional product links:

Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukAmazon.deAmazon.fr – Amazon.esAmazon.caAmazon.itAmazon.co.jpAmazon.com.brAmazon.in

Monday 29 July 2013: 

Lara Leatherstone – not her real name, she got it from an internet Porn Star Name Generator…

…And Connor Reeves, also not his real name, as it turns out – how he came by his, is less clear…

Both are obliged to work their way through the To Do List of ‘Hollywood Hit-Men’ – a breed mostly preoccupied with gold chains, impressing barmaids, and shady contracts – erasing these unwanted pests with the minimum of paperwork. Or pay.

When she’s not under surveillance by Head Office, Lara spends her time juggling a night job in bar security, an only child with a zombie fixation, and what passes for a social life in the small hours in between. And the minor matter of ongoing internal scrutiny, by her own highly-self-monitoring personality disorder.

HOW THIS EBOOK WORKS: This version of Death & The City has been adapted for you to literally ‘cut to the chase’ and skip past Lara’s longer internal thought-processes. You’ll see the hyperlinked word SKIP in the right margin, which will take you into the next action segment. If you want to return to the top of the segment you skipped, the word BACK will take you there. So depending on your reader preference – for the times when you just want to stay in the action, and for when you want to know what’s going on in that mind of Lara’s – you can either jump ahead, or read the whole thing continuously – it’s up to you.

Death & The City (c) Lisa Scullard 2008

P.S. The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum is also still free on Smashwords for all devices with promo code SW100 until the end of July – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/262618

The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Hope you all have a great summer! So far in 2013 I’ve been a cartoon character, a vampire slayer, a pirate… I’ve successfully collected new eye surgery (yay) and some heavy duty sports injuries (ouch), and I’m looking forward to being a zombie again and maybe even a Doctor Who character for events later in the year 🙂 Enjoy! xxxx