Friday, 2 December 2022

First two months of new book

Wow, interesting times! Instead of lamenting spending most of my advance many months ago, I'm getting advance warning of royalties to come. The downside is, I haven't seen a penny for the one million Kindle Unlimited pages that have been read. One million? OK, that translates into a very small payment of which I get - 45%, but still. Proper money at some point. The book has sold a few hundred paperbacks and about 4k ebooks, mostly at 99p. I don't put these numbers up casually to boast (well, maybe a bit) but because aspiring writers don't see enough transparency from other writers. Writing does not pay brilliantly but the advance system is a crap shoot. You either get offered too much, never pay it back and get dumped by your publisher, or you get offered too little but won't see royalties potentially for years. Because my previous publishers bundled my books together, I'll never pay out the advances even with good sales on the first books because the second and third sold less well. 

Publishers like Bookouture work differently. You write the book upfront. They work on the book, offering multiple rounds of edits and marketing and design work upfront. You all get a percentage of the final sales, which vary depending on their sales strategies. At the moment they are using Kindle Unlimited, a system I don't entirely understand but which pushed my book up to no. 51 in Kindle sales for a heady week. Before that they had a 99p countdown which generated lots of e-book sales. Because we share the costs (because I'm writing fast the editor has to do a lot of work and she has to be paid) we also share the profits.

It's not perfect for me, the main problem being I have only just received half of the royalties for the audio rights we sold back in the summer, and I haven't got a penny of royalties at all and won't until book 2 is already out. But if I was offered another deal, I could see how you would be able to predict your income to some extent and even (gulp) receive a regular income. Of whatever scale. If I hadn't become the sole breadwinner this year, it would have been easier...

Talking of book 2, it's already made reasonable preorders and has a very pretty cover. 


Wednesday, 12 October 2022

First two weeks of new book

I had some doubts about trying Bookouture, mostly because I would work all year and not receive any money - hardly helpful when you are living on your savings and have unexpectedly become the breadwinner! But I can see it unfolding. Book 1 came out and flew off, especially on a 99p promotion, reaching #51 on the Kindle charts. Very pleasant surprise. So was Monday, when my editor sent me the list of how many books I had sold in paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited, where I get paid for the page views. There will be some money, and I'll get it at the end of March, just over a year after I signed. It's not megabucks, and given the circumstances I would have preferred an advance. But nowadays, debut authors (which I am in this genre) would hope to get paid £3-8k for their first book, and I'm sure I'll be in that range. Not least because they sold the audio rights for book 1, too. 

So, why wouldn't I just self publish? Easy (for me) as I really need the wonderful, and free services of their editors. I'm building a working relationship with mine, Jess, and getting a feel for what she thinks will sell - and make me money as well as them.

I do have one complication though. I'm halfway through a new book. It's psychological crime, and I'm loving it. But I don't know if it would fit with the Bookouture model or if they would even like it. I would need an agent again to sell it outside, and advances are not what they used to be. I would get less editing but potentially more money up front. I'm wrestling with this one! Getting an agent actually seems one degree harder than selling a book anyway. I shall ponder while I rewrite the book with my new knowledge of my publisher's style of working... 

Meanwhile, I'm reading The Other Bennett Sister by Janice Hadlow, which I have read before. Still love it. It's about the plain and awkward sister of Lizzie and Mary Bennett.

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

All Change at Bookouture!

Well, you get all your ducks in a row... and then everything changes a week before publication. My new publisher has a very active marketing strategy. If sales appear low, they test the titles and covers and make changes. So my new title - and cover - are below.

I am a bit befuddled, but I am assured that whatever title a reader selects, they will get the new cover and name, so that's OK - and exactly the same book. But I have garnered a few good reviews, prominently displayed on Amazon, so that's encouraging!

The whole relationship with Bookouture is different from a normal publisher. They specialise in publicity and marketing, and everyone, debut or previous bestseller starts out with the same approach. They package the book, promote it and pay good royalties. On the downside there is no advance, but they are increasing their profits (and mine) by marketing strongly. There's less reason for them to give up on a book and write off the advance, as sometimes happens in traditional publishing. I've always felt that trad. publishers produce a big launch, like firing the book into the air, hopng it will burst into magnificent fireworks. Of course, very often, the book ends up in the trees. They have already moved on. Bookouture seems to take a longer view, seeing book 1 as a platform from which to promote book 2 and creating an author 'brand'. 

They aren't publishing hundreds of celebrity cookbooks, bios or novels. They are focused on fiction, and the selling of books. Wish me luck, it gets fired into the air on Friday 30 September, but I have confidence that they will go and find it if it gets stuck in a branch somewhere. I am doing a book launch at the Market Street Kitchen, Appledore, 6.30. Thursday, as a fundraiser for the Children's Hospice. Free tea and cake!

Saturday, 17 September 2022

Nine Months on - Three books later

Well, what a massive change. Having almost given up writing and instead, playing around with self publishing or just going over to art, this year has been about a three book deal. 

Three book deal, to be delivered in ONE YEAR! 

I pretty well thought it was impossible (although the publisher assured me it wasn't) but decided to give it a try. What was there to lose.

My sanity, for one. I had no idea how much hard work it was going to be to accelerate my leisurely writing pace (and I'm not a slow writer) by about five times. I signed the deal in March. I was to have structural edits, line edits, copy edits, proofreads and final polishes of book 1 done to publish on 30 September. Then (presumably in my spare time) was to write book 2, hand it in June 30th, repeat the above edits and start book 3 (presumably in the wee small hours of the night). I couldn't really see how it was to be done but got on with it, and apart from the emotional trauma of having to write three synopses, which I cannot do, it went quite smoothly. I have just finished book 3 in first draft!

That means I have done about a thousand words a day for 207 days, excluding rewrites and edits (which were huge for book 1). Every single day, birthday, Covid, sad days, happy days, babysitting granddaughter days. I wasn't sure I could keep up the pace but actually, the books are better for it, just very untidy in first draft. 

Secondly, I was working for free. 'How silly is that?' you might suggest. I sold the books to Bookouture, a largely e-book imprint of Hachette. They sell e-books and paperbacks but primarily online. They pay out after publication and with healthy royalties, but for the first year you're writing for free and hoping they sell. The large and welcoming stable of Bookouture authors was very reasuuring, many have come from mainstream publishers too. I was pleasantly surprised when they told me they had already sold book 1 for audio and they basically act as my agent, so I should get 80% of the audio advance. 

Thirdly, I was going to get fantastic editorial support. This is not always the case. I might be writing tatty first drafts, but an expert editor is doing far more work than I've ever experienced before, making broad suggestions, adding smaller ideas and even suggesting word changes. Then two more people faff about with language and punctuation (and they're also very good). 

I don't like the titles (The Island of Lost Secrets and The Island of Lost Memories, at the moment) and I wasn't consulted. But the covers are lovely, if unfamiliar in style because the commercial women's fiction genre is a bit new to me. To celebrate, I'm donating all my royalties for Kindle pre-orders to our local children's hospice in memory of my eight year old daughter, Léonie. 

Friday, 17 December 2021

Back to Writing after a Year of Art

After a couple of years of exhaustion and disenchantment with the whole publishing journey, I decided to relax and find the creativity and joy again. Of course I did - basically anything creative I do circles back to story and writing and novels. My lockdown novel, Northern Penguins has been on a journey. It started out as a heap of barely related scenes written compulsively and sorted itself into a book by May this year. I sent it off to a few agents and one gave me some invaluable advice - write the backstory as a historical strand about a baby in a carpet bag. I wrote and wrote all through the summer and completed and edited the book by September. I mocked up this cover so I could print off a few draft copies for the Appledore Book Festival. 

Feedback from readers was encouraging so I sent it out to Bookouture, which had been recommended by my last agent. They liked it and now it's travelling on its journey. I'm waiting to see if the book (and a couple of sequels) are needed. It's women's fiction (I think, I'm never really sure where to put a book in a genre) but has a male protagonist trying to rediscover his mother's history through doing up the house she grew up in. The historical strand tells the story of her mother Patience, and how she tried to have her cake and eat it, bringing home an 'orphan' baby and adopting it, keeping her job as a teacher. The whole book is set on an island (a lot like the Scillies) because my village felt like an island during lockdown! It feels like going back to writing is fun again, and I know better than to put my head in a creative head collar again. Ideas for books 2 and 3 are piling up in my journal, and I have basic outlines. If Bookouture don't want the books, I'm going to have a go at sending to big publishers, then some smaller ones. Ready to go!

Monday, 8 March 2021

Writing and Painting

So, I'm still writing but I'm now spending time on art! It feels very self-indulgent, and given my depressed state of mind, very therapeutic. What do I like? Why? I'm one of those people that could make a good guess at what all the family would choose in a restaurant but then have no idea when it comes to me. It turns out I love words in paintings and loads of turquoise. 

I started out with some new brushes, a box of elderly acrylic paints and paper and about a thousand YouTube videos watched over Christmas. With many thanks to all the generous artists who create tutorials online, like Louise Fletcher, Nicholas Wilton, Alice Sheridan, Lewis Noble and Pauline Jans. I signed up for a free workshop by Art2Life and was hooked. I'm now doing a 12 week course with Art2Life and it's a massive challenge, but hugely enjoyable. When it's all too stressful I remind myself that a) I teach creative writing and everyone who comes to the workshops has the same fears and b) I wander off and do some writing. My paintings are shit, but I think of them as early drafts since I work over them anyway. 

Northern Penguins is almost finished, slowed down by a general depression and lockdown but now coming to a lovely finale. I've really enjoyed being the with characters, many of whom (with their consent) are based on my actual friends. No wonder I like them. I'm going to have to find a new agent though - it's nothing like the genres I've written before. No murders, no supernatural, just a man discovering his own past in renovating a house in a friendly and small community. There's a proper love story and everything. But I'm able to write at my own pace before worrying about what someone else thinks.

Now I'm balancing writing with painting and my imagination is getting a proper run out. I hope my mental health will improve in the better weather, longer days and time taken for myself. This was my first week's homework, a collage of things that inspires me (it's not supposed to be art, just to remind me). It was terrifying to do and I kept adding to it. Roll on week 2's tutorials and homework, I loved week 1! PS I intend to blog a lot more!

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Evaluating the value of a blog

Years and years ago, when I started this blog (July 2009!) I had a clear intention. I was going to systematically work on my writing until I got up to a publishable standard - or at least, as far as I could take it. With the Open University's excellent courses and an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Winchester, I found an outlet for my imagination. I've loved it, I've honed my craft and am still enjoying writing and still learning. I've done well in competitions, got an agent, got books published. I wouldn't change that, it's been a great journey. I made all

And it was fun, and hard work, and frustrating at times. Because publishing is slow and I work fast. Most of my books are done, in first draft, in about 8-10 weeks. Which means I now have a backlog of books that haven't found a home, mostly because they are sat on my hard drive in second draft. I miss the guidance that a good agent can give you, a few pointers in the right direction that can make or break a book. So, January/February will come with more approache
s to agents, with the new book: Northern Penguins. I never thought I would write anything like it, it's about a new person in a settled community with all its traditions and tensions and secrets. As I can't come up with thirty distinct characters, I have broadly based some of them on people in the village (with their consent, of course). This is going to be interesting. I might be thrown out of the village next year, if they a) don't like the book or b) don't like the character they think is based on them.

In the meantime, I have taken up art again, which is hilarious. There is something very challenging about not knowing enough, being bad at something, making mistakes. I always learn as much as I can before I go on a course. I'm one of those people who hates the idea of being the idiot in the room.  So I think this will be very good for me.

So why continue to blog (especially as i haven't been very reliable at it)? I think a creative journey, with all that learning is always valuable to record, so I will continue to witter into the universe alone about all my artistic and creative endeavours, no matter how badly they turn out.