Tag Archives: book

Self-publishing Vs traditional publishing- author interview with Louise Walters

Self-publication_Typewritered

I am honoured to be able to feature author Louise Walters who is currently making the transition from the traditional publishing route to self-publication. Louise has written ‘Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase‘, published by Hodder and is currently self-publishing her second novel ‘A Life Between Us’ with Matador. Today I’m discussing with Louise her decision to self-publish and the differences between both publication routes. Thank you, Louise!


Louise Walters_TypewriteredAlthough I have an idea of the answer to this thanks to your wonderful blog, could you share with readers why you chose to go down the self-publishing route with this novel?
The main reason is I didn’t get a traditional book deal with my second novel. After a lot of thought I decided to have a go at self-publishing. I am using Matador Books, so strictly speaking my book will be published via “assisted” publishing.

What is this novel about?
It’s about family and the secrets that families keep from each other… dark secrets that can tear people apart. There’s also a supernatural element to this novel… or is there? Even I’m not sure.

Can you tell us where you are at with the publication of your second novel? How far into the publication of ‘A Life Between Us’ are you?
I have just sent the novel back to Matador for typesetting. It’s had all the edits done, including a copy edit. Once it has been typeset there will be proof reading to do.

You are self-publishing with Matador. What services does this company provide and what do you have to do yourself?
Matador basically provide as much as you need them to. That was really useful to me as I haven’t a clue about self-publishing and I felt I needed a lot of hand-holding.

What challenges have you faced taking the self-publishing route? Were any of them unexpected?
I think my big challenge will be marketing and getting the book into bookshops, libraries and the hands of readers. I am looking forward to marketing and have a few ideas to help make my book stand out – hopefully!

What have you found to be the advantages of self-publishing? Are there are certain aspects you are glad to be able to do by yourself?
For me, the huge advantage is control over the whole project. I set my own time scale, and I was able to pick and choose which tasks to do myself and which to delegate to Matador (most of them, actually!)

You are currently in the midst of choosing a cover for your book. How does this process work when self-publishing and how does it differ from the traditional publication route?
With traditional publishing, the author has very little say about the design of their cover. There are often good reasons for that, of course. But it was a pleasure to look for an image I thought may work. It’s also daunting, because I don’t want to be responsible for a ghastly cover. Fortunately, Matador books will veto designs or images if they are too duff! I have found an image I think would work and I’m waiting to see what the Matador designers come up with.

You have talked on your blog about being prepared for reviews that will call this novel a “self-published vanity project”. In your opinion, why do some people still have this negative view that self-publishing is “cheating”?
It’s grounded in snobbery. There’s no question in my mind. And to be truthful, there are some dreadful self-published books out there. Not everybody can write well and there are those who want to “be a writer” while having no idea of what “being a writer” entails. But I think the snobs assume that ALL self-published books are brought out by wannabes, and it just isn’t so. All self-published writers tend to get tarred by the same brush, ie, they are rubbish – which is as ludicrous as saying all traditionally published authors are great. Clearly it isn’t so!

What do you think is the main reason people choose to self-publish?
“Failure” to get a traditional deal; wanting more control; the thrill of seeing their name on the spine of a book; to get a fairer share of the money from the sale of their books. All valid reasons!

In terms of income, and keeping in mind the fees involved in self-publication, which publication route is the most advantageous? Does self-publishing mean you may earn a bigger percent of the royalties? I’m intrigued as to how this works.
A traditional deal is probably still the “holy grail” of publishing. At least, that’s how I felt before getting mine. But all that glistens is not gold, as I have discovered! My opinion is that publishers and authors are too pitched against each other… the publisher wanting to pay their authors as little as they can get away with, of course. Hence, a traditionally published author will only receive a 25% royalty rate on their e-book sales. The print royalty rates are usually much lower and it’s impossible to make a decent living unless you sell lots and lots of books.

On the other hand, a traditionally published book can attract foreign deals, and that’s what happened to mine, so I ended up making quite a decent sum on my first novel. But without those deals I would not yet have made up my UK advance money and therefore wouldn’t yet be receiving any royalties. I am looking upon my expenditure on A Life Between Us as my “advance” – if I sell enough books to earn that out and start getting royalties, I will count myself very fortunate. And of course I will receive a much higher royalty rate per copy sold than I would via a traditional publisher. So it’s swings and roundabouts, with financial advantages to both routes.

What advice would you give to writers who are considering self-publishing?
Take your time, look at all the options, be realistic about what you can and can’t do yourself. Don’t skimp on the editing. And be professional, do everything as professionally as you can. If you are asking somebody, anybody to spend hours of their life reading your work, then you owe it to them to make your work as good as it can be.

You can read all about Louise’s fascinating writing life and follow her publication journey on her fantastic blog.


Image credits:
1. Unknown via bookandnegative.com
2. © Oliver Smith

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan

Beside Myself

Ellie and Helen are twins, and decide to play a game. They switch places, exchanging their clothes and hairstyles, to see if anyone can tell the difference. The game is going brilliantly, until Ellie refuses to switch back.

Helen finds herself in a waking nightmare- all her belongings, her friends, the special preference her mother has for her- they belong to Ellie now. And nobody will believe the truth. She is driven to delinquency, while Ellie becomes a star pupil and the most loved twin. 25 years later, Helen has lost sight of who she is and fallen into a deep depression. Until a phone call pulls her back into the past, and forces her to face Ellie, the sister who stole her identity.

This is a dark and ominous novel, appproaching an idea that I haven’t seen explored before. Can you imagine having your identity stolen by the person closest to you? Being unrecognisable to your own mother? The situation is unthinkable and this is what makes the book so gripping. Forced to be someone else, Helen begins to lose herself. Ann Morgan makes Helen real, forcing us into her world and into her mental illness. She writes so convincingly that parts of the book actually made me feel depressed, but please don’t let this put you off. The author places us in the minds of her characters- if that’s not a sign of a good writer, then I don’t know what is.

“Sometimes I think I have made it up. Days come where it feels like the whole thing is a story inside my head and there was never any swap and any game.”

Beside Myself is a phsycological thriller that has the reader following Helen’s story on tenterhooks. The way the author highlights the difference between what people see in a mentally ill person and who they really are was an eye-opener for me. Helen has so much emotion and inner torment, she is desperate for help, yet none of this can be seen from the outside. The books leads us through the events that have broken this person, that have led her to the deepest state of depression, and we see that it is the actions of others that have made her this way, not her own mistakes. It explores the stigma that goes with mental illness, the lack of empathy often shown towards people who suffer from it, and was truly heartbreaking.

The characters of this book come alive on the page, and we can observe how they grow, see what changes and influences them. Helen and Ellie are at once very different from and similar to each other- I have loved and hated both of them at different times.The strong point in this novel is definitely its characterization.

Beside Myself is a story about personal identity, relationships and mental illness. It reminds us of the powerlessness we feel in childhood, of what it is like to be patronised, to be treated like a liar. It’s about a child who feels unloved. But it is also a story of hope. It’s a story that says that your identity can never really be taken away, because the true you will shine through the mask. You will always be you and you cannot pretend to be somebody else, because the essence of who you are, the traits you were born with, the things you love, can never truly be hidden.

Beside Myself will be released on January 14 2016. You can pre-order a copy here.


Image Credits: Bloomsbury Publishing



Thoughts on ‘Go Set a Watchman’ by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman Typewritered

This post contains spoilers.

I was thrilled when the news came out that Harper Lee had written a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird and that it was going to be published. I was even more thrilled and intrigued when I learned that this sequel was actually written before To Kill a Mockingbird but had been abandoned on advice from the publisher in a favour of a new manuscript starring younger versions of Lee’s characters. So Jean Louise the adult had existed before Jean Louise the child. Interesting.

I was relieved to read that Jean Louise the adult was just as plucky and fierce as her younger self. Obviously, it is difficult to read the sequel of such a famous piece of literature without having expectations. I loved the book and couldn’t put it down, although it wasn’t a thrilling page-turner like the first. The plot seems to waver in the second half and is replaced by Jean Louise’s train of thought, her inner turmoils and long interior monologues. It became a little less about action and more a debate, Jean Louise’s witty and sacrcastic reactions to the subject of racism, and to the fact that as she becomes an adult she is realising that the people she loves are a lot less accepting than she previously believed.

After  closing the book, I realised it’s not about who is racist and who is not. It’s about Jean Louise becoming her own person, and Atticus, who she puts at the same moral level as God, becoming human, with fault, fears, regrets and weaknesses. It turns out that the famous Atticus supports white supremacy. Atticus, who has always taught his children to be kind and fair, who always stood for justice, is joining white supremist groups and expressing his opposition to having black people in government. In To Kill a Mockingbird, he defended a black man against his white accusers, and although Atticus is a kind man, we realise that Scout’s childhood adoration of him depicted him as liberal, egalitarian non-racist man, when actually in defending this black man he was simply doing his job as a lawyer and making sure justice was served.

Although he is not a violent racist, Atticus is a man of his time. What he really is a white southern man raised during a time when black people were surpressed and whose father fought for the confederate side in the Civil War. Atticus is on the side of the law and will defend whoever is right, black or white, but ultimately sees black people as a threat to society. His ignorance creates the desire in him to “preserve” southern society because his view is and has always been that black people are not “ready” to take on the freedoms being offered to them. Another era of reconstruction was upon the South at this time and people feared how much their society was to change yet again faced with black empowerment, 100 years after slavery had been abolished.

Although I loved Atticus less for it, I am glad Harper Lee have him a daughter who inherited the better parts of him. Scout is not a racist, because her father never taught her to differentiate between black or white. Jean Louise is effectively “colour blind.” This suggests that Jean Louise’s children’s generation should have all trace of racism squashed out of them, if their parents had been raised the same ways as Atticus raised his daughter. We know, of course, that in real life this was not the case.

This was a beautiful, albeit different novel which gave insight to life in the postbellum South. It was one that made me think, and I loved going back to long-loved characters. I will never be able to read To Kill a Mockingbird in the same way ever again, but I think the way Atticus’s whole character in that first novel is actually just his child’s perception of him is genius. Harper Lee strikes again.

Book Review| Song of the Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull

Song-of-the-sea-maid

It is the 18th century, and a tiny orphan girl has just lost her brother. Filthy and starving, she attempts to steal a wig from a wealthy gentlemen. He takes pity on her and instead of sending her to the workhouse, drives her to the next best thing: the Asylum for the Destitute Wretches of the Streets of London. Dawnay is one of those characters you don’t forget. Ever. We know she is feisty and strong from the very beginning, when she is scrubbed down in the bath and they “find a little girl.”

Her hunger for knowledge and a lot of luck win her an education and an opportunity. At first I thought that Dawnay was so lucky that it was almost unrealistic. A beggar girl gets to study science and travel, financed by a man  who is no relation of hers. However, this goes to shows just how privileged a woman would have to be to get anywhere near doing what Dawnay did,  which was near-impossible for even the wealthiest and most high-born of women at the time. I think the author,Rebecca Mascull, really wanted to emphasise this idea: ask yourself how many extraordinary discoveries, intelligent theories and brilliant ideas have been lost to humankind over the years, purely because they were the ideas of women, or of people who weren’t “educated” or wealthy enough? Dawnay is given a chance, and the results of this chance will benefit the world.

Just like The Visitors, this novel is beautifully written. As Dawnay grows from an inquisitive and spirited child to an intelligent, headstrong woman, she develops her theories and defies all conventions by travelling abroad as an unaccompanied woman. The descriptions of some of the places she experiences and the creatures she encounters are wonderful and often full of colour. Dawnay talks of her discoveries so artistically yet always with the mind of an observer and with a scientific outlook: “There are variations in colour and pattern on the skin of each separate lizard, yet within each tiny landmass the lizards are all the same. For example, on one all the lizards are tan mottled with black patches. On another, they have a green tail and a dark brown body; others have aqua patches beneath the chin; one islet is home to only black specimens, while some are striped and more still are spotted. It is as if the Creator grew burthened with tedium at the idea of one single lizard species when painting the island of Minorca and thus decided to mix up His palette and experiment.”

Dawnays’s theories intrigued me. Bearing in mind that she didn’t have the range of scientific knowledge and proof we have now, it was fascinating to witness the workings of her brain and to read about how we came to understand evolution. It was her idea, an idea we would laugh at now, of a link between humans and “people of the sea”, that had me unable to put the book down. I kept asking myself “But what if?”

One of my favourite things to read about is the research that goes on in order to write a novel and I know that Rebecca spends a lot of time on this. Song of the Sea Maid was authentic but not stuffed with facts. Rebecca used just enough of her research to give the reader a feel for the 18th century. There are small, delightful details that make the book that tiny bit more special: a frost fair on the ice, quills, jars labelled ” Tongue-Stones- the Petrified Tongues of Sea-Monsters” and mouthwatering descriptions of food: “We eat a delicious stew made of lobster, served with thin pieces of toasted bread and small potatoes. There are clams too, eaten with lemon, and curious crustaceans that appear to be a barnacle of sorts […and] a kind of nougat mixed with almonds, and soft pastry cakes that melt of the tongue.” I liked that Rebecca used some of the spelling of the time, for example she writes “Menorca” as”Minorca”,  and words and sayings that make the characters’ speech sound realistic.

Constantly needing to prove herself, Dawnay is fierce and determined, which I sometimes found made her naive and selfish, too. But I felt she really grew as a character throughout the novel and I knew from early on that I had  found a fellow feminist in this character! A bitter-sweet love story revealed just a little bit more of her personality and the unexpected ending fit perfectly, asserting once more Dawnay’s strength as a woman and a scientist. Although I don’t pretend to know what Rebecca Mascull’s intentions were when writing the ending, I think that the direction the story took showed just how much would be lost if women were still confined to a life without knowledge, and the injustice of making women choose from a tiny smattering of choices offered to them. Dawnay Price is a fictional version of all those women who have paved the path for women of the present day.

Song of the Sea Maid is released on the 18th June 2015. You can buy your copy here.

The Miniaturist |Review

51lAebno-KL

I have to admit I bought Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist because of its beautiful cover. Not only is it beautifully designed and colourful, but it’s also soft and kind of waxy to touch. How could anyone resist?

Burton tells the story of 18 year old Petronella Oortman, who is sent to Amsterdam to live with her new, wealthy merchant husband, Johannes Brandt. Their marriage is an arrangement, and the house is big and unfriendly, also inhabited by Johannes’ strict sister, Marin, an orphan maid and a former slave. Johannes shows no interest in his bride, and barely talks to her during her first few weeks in her new home.

Yet, one day he arrives home with a wedding gift, a dollhouse made of tortoiseshell and intricately carved, with marble tiles and gold-embossed wallpaper. It is, in fact, an identical representation of the house they live in. With nothing else to do, Petronella searches for someone to make her furniture to fill the dollhouse, and finds an address for the miniaturist. What she doesn’t expect however, is for the miniaturist, an anonymous artist, to begin to tell her future through tiny carvings that she never asked for. Amsterdam is oppressed by the Burgomasters, and the people in Johannes’ house are keeping secrets. All of this is only a beginning to the surprising events that unfurl in this novel.

The book wasn’t a gripping page turner, as I found that events happened at quite a slow pace, but I couldn’t wait to get back to the story every time I put it down. Nella is definitely a girl ahead of her time for a 17th century wife- she is strong and quite the feminist. She grows as a character throughout the novel, becoming more headstrong and less delicate and naïve. She did frustrate me at times with her growing affection for Johannes, who I found quite selfish, although an interesting and vivid character. It is the mystery around a more inconspicuous character that added the depth to the novel for me, and I loved how the details of this character’s life were unravelled as I read.

You can tell a lot of research has got into the book, as Jessie Burton brings the settings alive. Her depiction of Amsterdam in the 1680s feels authentic, and there is even a glossary at the end. Burton writes in the present tense, which I usually dislike, however here it worked very well, as it gives a feeling of closeness and a sense of immediacy to the story. There are some beautifully written passages in this novel. Here are some favourites.

“Nella pictures her husband under boiled blue skies, upon hot sands laced with tinkling shells and shed blood.”

“Lions the size of ladybirds have been carved on their arm-rests, the backs are covered with green velvet, studded with copper nails. On each of the arms, sea monsters writhe in acanthus leaves.”

You look like a coin!’ exclaims Agnes – and the ridiculous comment, thrown hard and bright in the air, falls to the floor with a thud.

“Every woman is the architect of her own fortune.”

All in all, I loved this book, and it has gained its place on my shelf of treasured novels!