Self-Publishing Tips from Hilary Custance Green

December 17, 2014 12 comments

Hilary Custance Green is the author of Border Line, recently published in both paperback and e-book format.Border Line by Hilary Custance Green

I was lucky enough to read the opening chapters of the novel last year when Hilary was still working on it. The idea behind the book is intriguing:

‘Grace, racked with guilt, is searching online for ways to die and she finds Daniel. Like a pied piper he leads her and nine other people on a trek across Slovenia. For twenty-one days they share stories and secrets, play games, surprise themselves with laughter… and make their final decision.’

I will definitely be downloading Border Line to my Kindle because I want to know what that final decision is.

Hilary self-published the paperback version of Border Line, doing all the work herself and not using CreateSpace. She’s very kindly put together some pointers to help anyone else thinking of doing the same:

Last December (2013), I found myself at a Christmas party explaining that yes, I had written a third novel and also a non-fiction book on POWs in the Far East, and no, neither had been published yet. The truth is I had been looking for an agent for both the novel and the non-fiction book for several years. I had had nibbles, but no bites. I resolved that no further Christmases would pass without a publication.

There are multiple self-publishing routes, mine was total DIY. This is a possible, but not necessarily a wise thing to do. I took the name Threadgold Press in 2008, for my second novel, and floated, rather liked flotsam, through the self-publishing process. Things have changed since then. Today, unless you are writing about food outlets in a three mile radius, or walking on your local hills, you are going to need both print and eBook. The simplified basics for print are:

• Give yourself a name and apply to Nielsen books to buy ISBNs.

Hilary Custance Green

Hilary Custance Green

• Allocate one ISBN to your print book and another to your eBook.
• Choose a printer and get estimates. A litho print run (min 300) is expensive up front, but cheaper per copy then Print on Demand (POD).
• Think of a publication date (ideally 9 months plus ahead), subtract the months that are bad for publishing books, add 2 months for things to go wrong (they will), and register with Nielsen book data. You will need blurb, price (when dreaming up the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) don’t forget the cost of postage), BIC code (category of book) etc ready.
• Set the text. I bought a soft version of Adobe InDesign and taught myself.
• Create cover – actually don’t – spend the money on professional design.
• Edit. Once again, professional is best. Failing that, find your most educated friends and bribe them to read with a red pen in their hands. Anything they have to read twice, or makes them gag, yawn or feel uncomfortable, needs your attention – listen and believe.
• Proof read. That means read it yourself and correct, print out a copy, hand it to a friend, make corrections, print again and find a new victim, and so on many times. Again, better still, pay someone.
• Send MS to printers, renegotiate number of pages, correct e-proofs etc
• Join Amazon Advantage – a nightmare and they take 60% discount, so you sell at a loss, but if you don’t join them, Amazon take many weeks to deliver your books.
• Create an Advance Information Sheet (AIS), with all the basic book data.
• Create a Press Release, an up-to-date website, cook up a launch party, find somewhere to sign copies on the publication date.

Finally, you are legally obliged to deposit a copy of any new publication with the British Library within one month of the publication day.

Remember, if you choose this route, writing will stall for some months. Almost every action, depends on information that is not yet ready. You become a designer, proofreader, editor, marketing manager, salesperson, IT consultant, office girl, driver… BUT you end up with a physical copy of your book for minimum outlay.

Hilary – I’m in awe of what you’ve achieved! It sounds like a phenomenal learning curve but what a feeling of achievement when you hold that physical book in your hand and then people start buying it!

Visit Hilary’s website to read about how she’s promoting Border Line.

E-Books and New VAT Rules

December 10, 2014 12 comments

Last week I (like all Amazon authors) received an email from Amazon about changes in the VAT rules for e-books. This change comes into effect on January 1st 2015.

Previously (i.e. pre-Jan 2015) VAT on e-books was calculated according to the seller’s country but under the new rules, VAT rates will depend on the buyer’s country. Previously, VAT on Kindle e-books was 3% because Amazon’s headquarters (Amazon are the sellers) are in Luxembourg. Now, for UK e-book buyers it will rise to 20%.

Amazon will automatically change all list prices of existing e-books to reflect this change. This means that Kindle e-book prices are on the rise. The British government will benefit but readers of e-books will lose out.

Previously the lowest price possible on Amazon UK for an Indie e-book, with the author choosing 35% royalties, was 77p. From the 1st Jan 2015 this will rise to 99p. The lowest possible price with the author choosing 70% royalties was £1.53, this will rise to £1.99. The Amazon information page on this is here.

The moral of the story for readers? Stock up on e-books before the end of the year, or face a steep price hike! If you were planning on shopping for a Kindle or tablet in the January sales, download the free Kindle app to your PC and buy your books now to read on your new Kindle later.

The moral of the story for Indie writers? I’m not sure. We’ll have to wait and see if the new, higher prices send the customers running back to print books. Let’s hope not!

Another word of warning – if you sell e-books directly from your own website, it is your responsibility (whether you are currently VAT registered in the UK or not) to implement the new rules i.e. you must charge VAT according to the buyer’s country and then pay the VAT to the relevant government. I’ve found two interesting links on this topic Rachel Andrew has written a blog post  and Juliet E. McKenna has put together another useful post.

Twitter for Writers

December 2, 2014 30 comments

At the weekend I attended the annual Writers’ Toolkit in Birmingham, organised by Writing West Midlands. One of the sessions was Making the Internet Work for You with Sathnam Sanghera and Kate Feld.

Many interesting questions were asked about making social media work as a promotion tool for writers. The outcome of the session was that Twitter is an essential part of a writer’s toolkit.

It shouldn’t be used to post family & friends stuff – Facebook is the place for that – and it shouldn’t be used to continually shout ‘buy my books!’ I get the impression it’s purpose is to engage in sensible conversation and to follow those who may be tweeting useful information such as agents, publishers etc.

I think I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve yet to dip my toe into Twitter and perhaps I’ve dragged my feet so much that by the time I string together my first tweet, everyone else will have disappeared off to the next big social media thing.

So, I’m asking all you Tweeters to give me your advice:

  • What do you tweet about and how often? Is it OK to repeat yourself on Facebook and Twitter (as long as it’s not a cat video or other ‘silly’) or do you attract the same audience on both platforms?
  • How much time do you spend tweeting and/or reading other people’s tweets?
  • How do you get followers?
  • Is it expected that you will follow everyone who follows you? (I believe there is a ‘mute’ button if you want to switch people off).
  • Do you think Twitter is beneficial and if so, in what way?
  • Anything else I need to know?

Please feel free to put your Twitter handle in your comment too.

On a different subject and to show that writers come in a multitude of guises, at the Toolkit I came across someone who used to write labels for museum exhibits and someone else who used to write Ceefax pages for the BBC.

Walk the Cleveland Way – Accommodation, Attractions and Advice

November 25, 2014 10 comments

Regular readers of this blog will know that I enjoy walking, especially long walks. Walk the Cleveland WayGetting outside in the fresh air for the day is a great way to unwind and a complete contrast to sitting in front of the computer all day (which I do for my ‘day’ job, as well as when I’m writing).

In August 2013, my husband and I walked the 109 mile Cleveland Way in North Yorkshire over ten days. It’s a fabulous route because the first half meanders over the deserted moors where you’re lucky to even find even a solitary tea shop but, in contrast, the second half is along the coast through bustling resorts like Whitby and Scarborough. This path is also great for beginners because the signposting is excellent – so you are unlikely to get lost (but a map is always advisable, just in case …).

I may like the fresh air but I’m definitely not a backpacker. We stayed in comfortable guest houses and small hotels and had our luggage transported. So we carried only day-sacks and our suitcases were waiting when we arrived at the next overnight stop. All we had to do was hop in the shower and wash away the weariness of the day before changing for our evening meal. And there was always a great cooked breakfast to look forward to the next morning …

Being a writer, I carried a notebook for the 10 days we were walking and I jotted down everything about our trip, from details of the English Heritage properties we found along the route to the tea shops providing good cakes and the display of knitting we found on Saltburn pier. It seemed a waste to keep all this information to myself – it’s all stuff we would have found useful when deciding if this was a holiday we would enjoy and would have helped us in the planning too.

So, I typed it all up into a coherent format, used one of the photos from our trip as the basis for the cover and published it on Kindle.

It’s now available for you to gaze at in awe, ‘look inside’, borrow for free (if you’re in Amazon Prime or  Kindle Unlimited) or even purchase. Simply click here.

If you fancy returning from holiday with a clear head, feeling fit and strong (despite eating many cakes and cooked breakfasts!) then I recommend the Cleveland Way to you.

Senior Travel Expert Writing Competition

November 18, 2014 9 comments

The Senior Travel Expert Writing Competition will open for entries on November 20th 2014. It’s free to enter and the prize is £100.

Don’t panic if you’ve been nowhere exotic. The theme is ‘City, Town or Village’ and the brief is:

“Submit up to 600 words, non-fiction or fiction, which will persuade the readers of this site to go and visit the city, town or village you have chosen.”

We’ve all been somewhere that we could write 600 words about – even if it’s only our home town. So pick up that pen and have a go!

Visit the Senior Travel Expert website for full details, which should be available once the competition opens for entries on Thursday 20th November 2014.  At the moment you can just see a brief paragraph if you scroll down the page.

Good Luck!

 

The Art of Receiving Criticism

November 11, 2014 22 comments

A couple of weeks ago my writing buddy, Helen Yendall, wrote a blog post about The Art of Giving Feedback. Today, I’m going to come at it from the other side and talk about the The Art of Receiving Criticism.

I am working on a novel, in fact I thought I’d done a reasonable job on it. But I know how hard it can be to look at one’s own writing objectively so I decided to seek the opinion of an expert. I chose published romantic novelist Patricia Fawcett. I have met her a couple of times at writing events and she is also a reader for the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Also, Patricia’s critiques are great value for money.

I received a comprehensive report on my novel suggesting several ways that it could be improved, starting with the first chapter where the pace is a ‘domestic crawl’. On the positive side, Patricia said that she liked my female main character who is ‘vulnerable and interesting’ but, on the negative side, my male main character comes across badly and I need to put in more of his back story so the reader gets to know him. Patricia also pointed out that part of the plot depends on a couple of unlikely coincidences that would ‘get up an editor’s nose’ – so they need taking out and/or re-working. She also suggested a different ending to the novel, which I think will probably be more plausible than the one I had in mind. There was much more in the report but I won’t bore you with it all.

So I’ve still got a lot more work ahead of me.

If I’d received this report a few years ago I would probably have stuffed it in a drawer and given up all hope of ever being able to write anything longer than a 1200 word short story. But as the years go by (and I get older and wiser) I realise that very few people get it right first time and there’s no reason why I should be any different. So it’s time to submerge myself in the plot again and learn from everything that Patricia has highlighted.

Patricia ended her report positively, she said, “If I have gauged you right, you will dust yourself down, shake this one up, and carry on to prove to me and to yourself that you can do it.”

Fingers crossed that I can!

Write an Epitaph for your Character

November 4, 2014 24 comments
Pets' Graveyardat Brodsworth Hall

Pets’ Graveyard at Brodsworth Hall

On Sunday, Andrew Marr was asking Scottish politician Alex Salmond what he would like on his epitaph.

Epitaphs were discussed again on the Today program yesterday and it got me thinking.

An epitaph is a couple of sentences epitomising the dead person i.e. summing up how they lived their life.

It struck me that writing an epitaph might be a good way to get to the heart of a character’s psyche.

I’m sure we’ve all come across those character-creation questionnaires which demand that you fill in everything about your protagonists such as date of birth, hair colour, favourite food, best subject at school and secret fear. I’ve tried doing this but find that I get distracted by stuff that isn’t relevant such as my heroine’s shoe size and what she carries in her handbag.

I feel that what I should be doing is getting to the heart of what my character wants from life, what is stopping him or her from getting it and how they are going to overcome this hurdle by their own efforts. It should be possible to do this in two or three short sentences to fit on a gravestone and then, from these few words, it should be possible to work out what else I need to know about the character’s background.

So I’ve had a quick go at doing this for the hero in my current WIP:

‘A devoted father removed from his son by divorce. He endured unemployment and poverty in order to fulfill his paternal drive.’

Alright, it probably needs polishing and editing before the stone mason gets out his chisel but it helps to focus my mind on what this character wants. Knowing this desire will help to shape his actions through the story and keep him on target to get what he wants.

What about you? Does the twenty (or one hundred) questions method suit your way of working or do you do something completely different to create believable characters?

For those of you who do like the questionnaires as a starting point, there’s a whole array of them here.

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