Tag Archives: fiction

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

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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

Philip Pullman’s resignation & why writing needs to be treated as a profession

writing needs to be treated as a profession

Author of His Dark Materials trilogy Philip Pullman has resigned from his position as patron of the Oxford Literary Festival due to the fact that they do not pay the authors appearing as speakers at the festival. Pullman, who is also president of the Society of Authors, which campaigns for speakers at literary festivals to be properly paid, felt that his two roles contradicted each other. He has been praised by numerous fellow authors for his action.

Why aren’t literature festivals paying?

Oxford Literary Festival claims they cannot afford to pay authors because, as a charity event, they receive no government funding. A spokesperson said “”We are very sad that Philip Pullman has decided to resign as patron of the festival. We are grateful for the support he has given over the years, and for his many appearances at the festival. The Oxford Literary Festival is a registered charity which does not receive any government or public funding. Each year for the festival to take place, substantial sponsorship and donations have to be raised.”

Other literary festivals such as Manx LitFest or Hay Festival subsist entirely off sponsorship, yet still manage to pay their authors. Manx Litfest pays authors a flat daily rate, expecting none of them, not even new, unknown authors, to work for free.

Literature festivals charge a fee to their visitors, and it is only right that part of the money earned should be used to pay guest authors. Without the presence of authors, these festivals would not exist.

Walking in an author’s shoes

A recent survey commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society revealed that the average earnings of a full time author come to a meagre £11,000 per year. It comes as no surprise then that authors need to earn from their books in other ways too. Few authors can afford the travel and accommodation expenses that come with an unpaid appearance at a literature festival. And they shouldn’t have to. “Good exposure” is not a good enough reason for an author to find him/herself out of pocket.

Authors who take time out of their day to attend a literature festival (more often that not bringing crowds of paying visitors with them) and who give talks and workshops at said festival deserve to be paid for their efforts. Yes, it is a chance to promote their work and connect with readers, but is this enough when there are bills to pay? After all, this is time they could be spending writing the next book… This isn’t to say that authors should never appear at events for free if they want to- literature festivals are about sharing literature and encouraging people to read- but if the festival is earning money, the authors should be too. As best-selling author Joanne Harris so perfectly put it: “You wouldn’t dream of not paying your caterers, so why would you even consider not paying the headline act?”

Why writing needs to be treated as a profession

Since Pullman’s resignation, a letter written by author Amanda Craig has been published in The Bookseller magazine, calling for publishers and authors to boycott literary festivals that do not pay their guest authors. The letter has 30 author signatures. Outrage at the lack of author pay has been appearing in other areas, too. The New Society of Authors want authors to receive 50% of e-book revenue, instead of the current 25%. Philip Pullman has said that if authors are not paid more then they “will become an endangered species.”

Similarly, many magazines decline to pay their freelance writers, asking them to submit articles in exchange for an opportunity to build up their portfolios and showcase their writing skills. These writing skills should be paid for! While exposure is beneficial to new freelancers, writers cannot be expected to give their time for free. Crafting an impressive piece takes effort- it’s not as easy as stringing a few words together. Would you employ a carpenter to make you a garden seat for your guests to enjoy, only to ask him to leave it to you for free, because his talent will be showcased in your front garden? It’s an unlikely comparison, but I hope you can see my point! Writers are the storytellers of our society. They create fictional worlds to escape to, bring history back to life, impart knowledge and teach, create discussion on moral issues, challenge certain viewpoints and bring awareness to issues we hadn’t thought of before. JK Rowling created a love for reading in children across the globe.

Writing needs to be treated as a profession. And Philip Pullman knows this.


Image credits:
Writer’s Block by Drew Coffman via Flickr.

2016 Reading List

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Yes, I am a book nerd and have a reading list for the year.

While I am looking forward to reviewing more new fiction on the blog this year, I also want to concentrate on enjoying some of the books that I have been meaning to read for so long, particularly a few classics. On top of that, I have a mental list of non-fiction books I would like to get through, so it looks like I’ll be reading at least one book a week this year. I wish there were more hours in the day…

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino
The Lark by E.Nesbit
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Loop of Jade by Sarah Howe
Millie and Bird: Tales of Paradise by Avril Joy
I Capture The Castle  by Dodie Smith
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
Sense and Sensibility  by Jane Austen
Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Shed That Fed a Million Children by Magnus Macfarlane-Barrow
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
Paris by Edward Rutherford
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Perfect by Nicola Davies
1984 by George Orwell
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Do you have any suggestions?

Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry

Church of Marvels Leslie Parry review Typewritered

The Church of Marvels was an enchanting read, following four people whose lives become beautifully intertwined. Twins Belle and Odile grew up in a circus, Church of Marvels, alongside a pair of tigers and a group of people with extraordinary talents. At the opening of the book, they have just watched it burn down, their mother and friends inside. Belle vanishes and Odile is desperate to find her. Sylvan is a night soiler whose life changes when he finds a newborn baby girl in the privies he cleans. Alphie, a former prostitute, wakes up in a living nightmare- she has arrived at an asylum for the insane with no recollection of how she got there.

The story is set in 1890’s Manhattan but it seems like a fantasy world of Parry’s own making. Her depiction of knife swallowing, underground rooms where orphaned children perform plays, opium dens where people of all backgrounds lie high in the dark and fights that are treated like spectacles in an abandoned pier come together to create a novel full of colour. Featuring an incredibly unexpected plot twist, it is about finding the marvellous in the ordinary, pulling together the themes of kindness, suffering, the love between mother and child and prejudice towards those who are different. The author slowly releases hints throught the plot to allow the reader to discover the secrets that lie in the hearts of these spellbinding characters.

“We assume that our sight is reliable, that our deeds are straightforward, that our words have one meaning. But life is uncommon and strange; it is full of intricacies and odd, confounding turns. So onstage we remind them just how extraordinary the ordinary can be. This, she said, is the tiger in the grass. It’s the wonder that hides in plain sight, the secret life that flourishes just beyond the screen. For you are not showing them a hoax or a trick, just a new way of seeing what’s already in front of them. This, she told me, is your mark on the world. This is the story that you tell.”

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Using Childhood Memories In Fiction

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A couple of weeks ago I attended a talk at the Bath Children’s Literature Festival by David Almond and Nadia Budde. The pair discussed their recent books and how they were influenced by incidents of their childhoods. The talk was inspiring and reminded me that I could use my own childhood experiences in my writing. Memories can be used to create a character based on a real life acquaintance, to borrow realistic settings and to craft a narrative that is a mix of real life happenings and fiction. David Almond’s novels take place in the area he grew up in, and Nadia Budde included elements of her childhood spent behind the Berlin Wall in her latest book.

It made me think about when you smell or hear something from your childhood, those memories come back to you and for a moment you feel like the person you were the exact second you smelled or heard those things. This happens to me when I open books I used to read, and younger versions of myself are still clinging to the pages, and I remember how that particular story made me feel and what sort of heartbreak or happiness I was going through at that point of my life. It is fascinating how the brain divides these sensations into compartments, locking away all these different selves at different ages, and the key comes in the shape of something familiar that triggers it all over again. If we can harness these fleeting remnants of past life, we can use them to create authentic stories with memorable characters readers can relate to.

The authors discussed why childhood experiences are so vivid, and how we can remember such tiny details, like the ripples on the water at the park or the tangy taste of the cat biscuits you knew should not be in your mouth.  Perhaps it is because when you are a child life is so new, and we are seeing things for the very first time.

A question brought up at the talk was: Do children romanticise adulthood the way we do childhood? Perhaps not, because childhood is something we miss years later, yet adulthood is rarely considered by children. They are without a sense of time, absorbed in fleeting moments that seem to them as forever lasting, and are too preoccupied to think about what might happen when they become  “grown- ups”, which seems light-years away. Childhood is a whole world of innocence and simplicity that adults cannot penetrate and that all children must eventually leave. One step out and they cannot find their way back in. And suddenly the place they used to belong to becomes hazy, and time takes on a different scale, and things are not magical anymore. The nagging feeling arrives, that one constantly reminding you there is something you have to do, something to worry about. Suddenly, all things must have a purpose, or else be a waste of time. Time. We suddenly look at clocks. Count the minutes. Have place to be. We are afraid of being late. And that blissful feeling and question “what shall I do today?” is gone. And you don’t get it back.

Children live with belief, not reason. Despite their tendency to question everything, they are happy to accept that a dragon lives at the end of the road and that Grandma is a witch (a nice one, of course.) Remember just how magical the world seemed? Their lack of reasoning gives the feeling that there are endless possibilities, and that you really can do anything. This fades with childhood, often giving place to a lack of confidence and pessimism.

I must share with you a beautiful book that takes us straight back to childhood, “The Night Rainbow” by Claire King. The story is from the point of view of five year old Peony, and I was struck by her ability to see minor details adults would never notice, her innocent way of saying things and the twist and the end of the book that shows us just how real childhood imagination is. The author gets into the heads of children and portrays their marvellous insouciance and pure viewpoint with thoughts like:

  • “She turns her back to us, starting up the stairs slowly, her legs shaking with every step.
    I think she forgot to put her skeleton in, says Margot.”
  • “Maman walks ahead, leaning back as she goes down the hill, walking so fast her hair can’t keep up.”
  • “Boys have to wear brown, grey and blue and girls have to wear the beautiful colours.”

Perhaps by looking at life through a child’s eyes, or through the eyes of the children we all used to be, we can appreciate the details and forget the trivial things that take up so much space in our lives. It could not also make us better writers, but also make us better at living, better at appreciating, better at empathising, better at believing. Perhaps it would help us bring a bit of magic along with us from the utopia we call childhood.

Summer Fiction Book List

I have a HUGE list of books I have been wanting to read for ages, and now I’m on summer break I might actually be able to read a few! Here are some I am hoping to lose myself in this summer, although I don’t know if I’ll be able to read them all as I also have a long list of non- fiction books (coming soon!)

The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull

visitors

This one sounds like a beautiful ghost story and the title is so mysterious!

The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark

 elizabeth pringle

I went to a talk given by Scottish journalist and television presenter Kirsty Wark (best known for BBC Two’s Newsnight) at the Bath Literature Festival, in which she talked about this novel, which is her first. I loved the reading she did and afterwards she was doing a signing, so I purchased the book. I started reading it and enjoyed it but I had to give it up during exam time, so I hope to pick it up again this summer!

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

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 This is a debut novel, which is always interesting, and dystopia is one of my favourite genres. It has been praised for its lyrical prose, something I absolutely love in a novel. I found this passage on the author’s website and I think it is breath-taking.

“I haven’t dared to go to the spring in seven weeks. Yesterday I turned on the tap in the house and held the mouth of the waterskin to its metal. I spoke to it in pretty words and ugly words, and I may have even screamed and wept, but water doesn’t care for human sorrows. It flows without slowing or quickening its pace in the darkness of the earth, where only stones will hear.

The pipe gave a few drops, perhaps a spoonful, into my waterskin.

I know what it means.”

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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I cannot believe I haven’t read this yet.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

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This is one of the Jane Austen’s I haven’t yet read, and I love that the two main characters are each represented by a word in the title. One of my lecturers who teaches Italian culture recommended this book, and Waterstones sells it as a part of the beautiful “Clothbound Classics” series.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

the ocean at the end of the lane

This book sounds fascinating and even fairy tale like. It is this sentence, from the book description on Amazon, that got me : “His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.” How magical does that sound?

The Three by Sarah Lotz

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I read a sample of this on the Waterstones’s blog and was so upset when I finished that first chapter! I want to read more! Again, it sounds very mysterious and just my kind of thing.

What are you reading this summer?