The Myths of Publishing

Self-Publishing is a Last Resort.

No. To self-publish or operate as an Individual Publisher or an Indie, is often the best creative choice. Without the shackles of commercial pressure, genre-blending or your own personal genre, is the new kid on the block! The author retains global selling rights across all platforms and retains the majority share of any royalties. Most importantly, the author is in complete control of the entire process, from designing the cover to organising events, to advertising and pacing the release of new material. The more you invest of yourself the greater the opportunity for growth, development, and experience, not only as a writer through valuable on-line networking but in all aspects of the publishing world.

Depending on your technical skills, it’s quite possible to design your own covers and 13735790_873470892758672_4699674544226635043_opromotional material using a range of high quality software, some of which is accessible for free. Learning to format for ebooks and paperbacks cost nothing more than your time. If you make a mistake, fix it, learn from it, and move on. There are many publishing platforms out there now – to produce both ebooks and paperbacks – all of which are user-friendly and free. Print-on-demand allows an individual to invest in small quantities of paperbacks which are easily manageable from a financial point of view, and allow the author to either produce copies simply for their own use or order in sizeable quantities for shops and events.

12339449_755681737870922_2320413221731760214_o However, not every author has the skill nor the inclination to want to deal with every aspect of publishing. Some authors find it enjoyable, some find it stressful. And it’s fair to point out that if you don’t have the necessary technical skills then of course, not every aspect of self-publishing is free. The material needs to be professionally edited, proofread, formatted and designed to a recognisable industry standard if you wish to compete with the traditional market and produce something to be proud of. There are many excellent, experienced freelance professionals working in the self-publishing sector to enable you to achieve this. The quality (both in terms of the writing and the book itself) of self-produced work can vary from mediocre, to a standard which is actually way above that of some small press publishers because quite often the editing and designing of your book is a bespoke, individual process. After this, it’s perfectly possible to approach libraries and independent book shops. 

Beware of: Experts. There are plenty of swish looking websites and unscrupulous folk willing to take your money for advice and services offered, from editing to advertising, from special award badges for your book, endorsements, amazing reviews, to everything in-between. Don’t pay for anything – unless the service offered comes from a reputable source and you are happy with their examples. Ask around on the many forums available and choose carefully. 

Self-Publishing is the same as Vanity Publishing.

No. Vanity Publishers have no selection criteria. Vanity publishing is a complete service to authors who have no wish to become involved with the nuts and bolts of producing a book as an independent, or perhaps they don’t possess the knowledge or inclination to send out endless applications to agents and traditional publishers. Maybe they’ve simply become worn down by rejection letters, and we all know how that can feel. Some flattery from an editor is all it needs to get you to sign on the dotted line…

dollarphotoclub_92155465-676x451You will more often than not relinquish all rights to the material. The author is expected to cover all costs out of their own pocket, usually upfront, and the publisher will collect the majority of the royalties on the book. It’s an expensive, often disappointing route – because quite simply the publisher has been paid for his trouble and has no further interest in the material as they’ve already made their profit – from the author! Vanity Publishers have no relationship with bookshops or suppliers.

Beware of: Huge costs (running into several thousands of pounds) and vague promises. Quite often these types of publisher come across as the real thing through cunning advertising (sometimes they refer to themselves as self-publishers). 

A Good Book will be Published by a ‘Real’ Publisher.

Not necessarily. There is still the belief that agents and publishers secure the best material out there, and you may wish to try this route first. Lots of smaller publishers can be approached directly without the need for an agent to represent the author. This is where signing a contract can be confusing and in some cases, detrimental. However, a genuine publisher will never ask for a financial contribution towards producing your book. If they do, you could be dealing with a vanity press.

Traditional publishers are mostly interested in commercial fiction which fits neatly into a genre they are familiar with. This makes the job easier for them and less of a financial risk. 

hoes_six-cylinder_pressYou will of course relinquish all rights to the material and the majority of the royalty payments will go first and foremost to your publisher. This is not necessarily a bad deal if the publisher is knowledgeable about the current market, is selling lots of books and is proactive in maintaining those sales. In a lot of cases though, this simply doesn’t happen. Publishers rarely promote consistently and effectively. The risk of taking on books that don’t sell isn’t much of a deal breaker to them because ebooks are remarkably easy to produce and who knows, your book just might take off without too much effort or investment from them. They can also control expenses by only publishing print versions on demand; exactly as per the self-publishing route, and many of them use the exact same platforms. The alternative to this is that you’ve negotiated a traditional ‘print-run’, in which case the publisher may be keener to recover those costs and work harder on your behalf to shift the copies. The finished product may well look exactly the same as a self-published book but will retail at a much higher cost because of course, the publisher needs to factor in his cut. In some cases, the print book may even be of inferior quality. You will probably be expected to pay for copies of your own book or to buy any stock at trade price, around 40% of the retail cover price.

Beware of: High expectations, grey hybrids and contracts which tie you in to several works, or years of commitment at a low rate of royalty. You won’t necessarily see your book in a major retailer on the high street for example, or in libraries. You may be expected to produce a novel every 3-6 months if the publisher is mostly concerned with commercial ebook sales in a current popular genre. They’ll want to catch the market trends and a steady stream of material will (hopefully) make money.

vader-litreactorSome small presses are blending traditional methods with services approaching those required by the self-publisher. It’s perhaps a way of capturing everything which is going on in a fast moving, constantly changing market. The material may be better treated from an editorial point of view and usually the author will retain all selling rights, but at the end of the day it’s the author who is footing the bill and choices can be limited. Additional services such as offering an author a Facebook page is an example of how new and confused authors could be attracted to a ‘gold package’ when everything seems scary and complicated. Making a Facebook page for example, is simple and free, and yet in some cases, this is listed as a service. This hybrid type of publishing is often the sister arm of a reputable publishing company, encouraging authors to submit under the impression that the experience of the genuine publishing house will spill over into the self-financed version. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t… grey area?

Do I Need An Agent?

literary-agent-commission-contractNot necessarily. You only need an agent if you intend to approach publishing companies who don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts and/or you wish someone to act on your behalf to wade through the legal jargon of a complicated contract. Bear in mind that around only 1% of manuscripts are selected in this way. An agent may be able to secure a good contract for you, but remember they take around 15% of whatever they negotiate. This could be well worth it if the agent has great connections and you have a great manuscript which everyone wants…

How Much Money Do You Make?

If you are looking to make money from your writing, then you may be shocked to discover that the profit on a paperback can be as low as £1. This is without factoring in the time spent writing the novel, paying for an editor, a cover designer and a formatter. This is based simply on the printing costs of a physical book. Nothing beats seeing your work in print, regardless of how you arrived at that point, but unless you’ve written a commercial best-seller and it’s handled by one of the ‘big six’ in publishing, then it’s unlikely you’ll make any cash from selling paperbacks.

how-to-use-the-internet-to-make-moneyThis is why the ebook market is so lucrative and why lots of small presses have popped-up offering contracts for material. Some of them are pretty good, but an awful lot of them are best avoided. If you self-publish an ebook and it starts to sell, then you can make a reasonable return, especially if you have the technical know-how to produce the book file to a good standard and you’ve studied the market for trends. While some authors fail to break even, some make a reasonable living from writing, usually supplementing their income with author services or non-fiction publications. There is a multitude of levels in-between, depending on how much time and effort you are willing to invest, but there are no guarantees.





In The Chair 78

Welcome, Amelia Chambers

11102784_844407928976852_7866671121152746412_nHow would you describe your writing style in only three words?

Amelia: Varied, with panache.

If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Amelia: Not wanting to sound trite but I feel I have a very close relationship with all my fictional characters because I make an effort moulding them, getting to grips with their background, their way of life and their inner selves.  However, I’d love to be good friends with Gladys in the It Out series.  She will be back in the New Year along with William, Laura, Oliver, Karen et al to experience more mayhem in the village.

I wouldn’t mind having a hot, torrid affair with Lance in Reprehensible, but then I’d have to dump him very quickly.  He’s really not my cup of tea for a long-term relationship.  I think the professor in Make All The Difference would be more dependable.

If you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

Amelia: Oh, I’d love to haunt the village near Bury St Edmunds in the Puzzling It Out series.  I wouldn’t want to live there or be a character, but drifting in and out of the pub, around the houses, into town and over the fields would be very entertaining and nobody would know I’m there.  I suppose that’s what authors do; be an ethereal presence in the setting they create.  I imagine myself as an invisible woman eavesdropping on conversations and watching events unfold.

Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

featured-alcohol-drinksAmelia: I am the world’s worst cook so I would have to hire caterers and discuss a menu with them.  It’s wonderful what some chefs can conjure up and make appetising.  Who’d have thought chocolate and beetroot muffins would be so yummy?  Many of my characters dine out and they usually eat what I’ve recently seen on menus in eateries I frequent.  Wine is important though and I’d make sure there was a fine selection of red, white and rose wines, as well as whiskies, gins and vodkas.  Oh to hell with it, I might as well have a fully stocked bar!

Now, who would I invite?  Well, William Shakespeare would be first on the list.  I’m a huge fan and I hope my guides to his tragedies are helping many students with their studies.  I’d have to ask Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie too as they were the first authors I remember reading in my youth.  Wilbur Smith is a must as Eagle in the Sky was the first book to make me cry and Robert B Parker as well.  I just love his character, Spenser.

shakespeareI suppose I’d be living dangerously inviting Steinbeck, Hemingway and Ian Fleming as I think they are all misogynists, but I do admire their work.  Hopefully Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy would put them in their place.  Hardy is my favourite novelist and the only male writer, beside Shakespeare, who has any clue about women.  He has to be a guest.

The table is getting full and I’ve invited too many men, better even up the numbers, so I’m dumping Hemingway and Fleming.  I met Jennifer Johnston fleetingly and didn’t get a chance to fully discuss her masterpiece How Many Miles to Babylon.  I’d think she’d get on with Hardy too.  A S Byatt and Margaret Attwood would be my final choices.  I know nothing about either but I loved the books Possession and A Handmaid’s Tale.  The former was very skilfully written, the latter gave me the heebie-jeebies long after I’d put it down.

If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?

Amelia: Sci-fi, without a shadow of a doubt.  I love it.  I just don’t know enough about science to write knowledgeably.  I’m a huge fan of Philip K Dick, who I really should invite to my dinner party, but then I’d have to get rid of Blyton and I don’t want to do that.  I’d rather go for a coffee with Philip and discuss conspiracies theories.  I watch all films with spacecraft in them, even if they are rubbish.  My favourite film is Blade Runner, a Ridley Scott classic, based on Dick’s story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  What a title!  A short story in the up and coming Take Another Ten includes my first attempt at sci-fi: Surviving Paradise.  I’d like to think it’s an homage to PKD.

amelia-chambers-bio-picWhat do you dislike the most about being an author?

Amelia: Editing, editing and more editing.  I don’t know how editors do it.  I really don’t.

Favourite word? Amelia: Panache.  Although I really like the ‘F’ word.  It’s so versatile.  It’s a verb, an adjective, an adverb, a noun and as an interjection, it just makes some things sound so much better or so much worse.  It’s a shame some people find it offensive.

Amelia Chambers was in the chair, author of: Reprehensible, Puzzling it Out, & several non-fiction titles assisting student study in classic literature.


#Conwy Mountain Ramble with @JanRuthAuthor ~ fabulous views #Photography


Having seen Jan’s posts about her 6+ mile hikes I admit to being a teensy bit apprehensive when we made arrangements to go for a walk on Conwy mountain. I’m more of a three (or four… possibly…on a good day) miles, and mostly on the level walker.

After going round, up and over, the pedometer app on my phone told me we’d done just over six and a half miles and climbed the equivalent of 79 floors! So, does that mean I qualify as a (mini) mountain climber?! ;-D  It was definitely worth it, and a walk I’ll do again.



The views were incredible from all directions.


Dwarfing the Great Orme…


Views over the Great Orme and Little Orme with Llandudno and the bay in the distance



Looking towards Snowdonia


And Conwy far below..


Jan’s photo of Finn to finish off. I think he enjoyed it too!


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In The Chair 77

Welcome, Rebecca Stonehill.

11102784_844407928976852_7866671121152746412_nHow would you describe your writing style in only three words?

Rebecca: Historical, thought-provoking, heartfelt.

If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Rebecca: Definitely Kamau from The Girl and the Sunbird! I must confess to falling a little in love with him! He is very kind, calm, intelligent, handsome and tender. He is the kind of man that, had he been born in a different time, would have gone on to truly great things.

I also became fond of Alberto from The Poet’s Wife. Whilst not a main character, something about the big, dark eyes and sensitivity was pretty appealing! I think I’ll stop there, because my husband is a little unsure about that question…

Nairobi2If you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

Rebecca: Living in the busy metropolis that is Nairobi, I would love to exist as a character in my second novel, The Girl and the Sunbird, so I could experience the emptiness of Nairobi a little over a hundred years ago. I wouldn’t like to be Iris, my protagonist, as the poor girl didn’t have an easy time of it what with her arranged marriage to a deeply unpleasant man. I’d much prefer to be another English woman living in Nairobi in 1903 who befriends Iris – but then again, had Iris had even a single friend, the plot would not have unfolded in the way it did!

Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

guest-list-1-alamy_2272670bRebecca: I’d invite along Maya Angelou, who had the most tremendous sense of humour, dry wit and sassiness and I know she’d liven up any dinner party with her stories. I’d also invite Isabel Allende as she inspired me probably more than any other author in my early days of experimentation with writing. I’d cook something from Isabel Allende’s book Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses. Part memoir, part cookbook, it’s filled with outlandish recipes that would be really fun to have a crack at. To drink? Lots of cocktails to begin with to get Maya & Isabel suitably merry and then some good Chilean wine to keep Isabel happy!

If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?

Rebecca: Children’s book, definitely, for around the age of 8-12. I think this is one of the hardest genres to achieve well in writing. Children are critical and discerning readers and any whiff that they are being talked down to, it’s game over. In the words of EB White, fantastic author for children: ‘Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.’ I am passionate about literature, storytelling and creative writing for children and would love one day to turn my hand to writing for children.

What do you dislike the most about being an author?

MeRebecca: With the internet and the explosion in digital and self publishing, opportunities abound for authors. This is fantastic as it’s more of an even playing field these days, but what it also means is that in this saturated market, it’s much more difficult to get your books noticed and read. For authors today, we have to think of new and original ways to get our books out there – this is time consuming and can divert considerable time away from the actual craft of writing.

Favourite word?

Rebecca: Chutzpah. This is a Yiddish word roughly translated as possessing spirit and guts. My father, who was Jewish, often used to say that I had chutzpah.

Rebecca Stonehill was in the chair, author of: The Poet’s Wife & The Girl and the Sunbird.



In The Chair 76

Welcome, Kate Frost.

KateFrostHeadShotHow would you describe your writing style in only three words?

Kate: Moving, heartfelt, honest.

If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Kate: Ooh, now there’s a question! I think it would have to be with Ashton from Beneath the Apple Blossom. As for why, not only is he good looking (imagine dark hair, defined cheek bones and a rugby player physique), but he’s also family orientated and wants to settle down, get married and start a family. However, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t go for me over Sienna, his feisty, confident and striking (both in looks and personality) girlfriend.

11102784_844407928976852_7866671121152746412_nIf you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

Kate: It would be in my time-travel adventure series for children, the first of which, Into the Past, will be published in October. In real life I’m someone who would always watch from the sidelines – I’m quite happy not being centre of attention, but I think if I got a week to exist in my book I’d be twelve year-old Maisie, the protagonist of the story who is up for adventure, fearless and welcomes new and exciting experiences with open arms as she time-shifts between 1471, 1666 and 1940 along with class bully, Lizzie, and her best friend, Danny.


Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

Kate: I’d invite George RR Martin, get him drunk on wine (or whatever his favourite tipple is) and see if I could get out of him how he plans to end Game of Thrones. I think Stephen King would be an interesting character to add to the mix and I would like the chance to pick his brains (so to speak) about writing. Geraldine Brooks and Leif Enger (who wrote two of my favourite books, Year of Wonders and Peace Like a River respectively) would complete the guest list. With such an eclectic mix of authors I think it would be appropriate to have a buffet where guests could choose what they fancied eating, although the focus would be on lots of Middle Eastern flavours (my favourite) – tagines, pita with homemade dips, salads, grilled meats and halloumi. 

If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?

Kate: It would be a dystopian novel. I love reading books and watching films about the end of the world and I like the idea of dropping a group of characters into a destroyed and dangerous environment and seeing how they would cope (or not).

What do you dislike the most about being an author?

Kate: Self promotion. I’m no good at talking about myself or my books but I know it goes hand in hand with being an author. I’m forcing myself to contact local radio for an interview and speaking in public fills me with fear. I think this is the hardest part of being a self-published author – having to make myself do these things, rather than have a publisher putting me forward for such opportunities.

13592599_1127236474014115_888177963847925978_nFavourite word?

Kate: Kapoozi. It’s actually the Greek word for watermelon (my husband is Greek and I’ve been struggling to learn Greek ever since we got together nearly sixteen years ago). I love the sound of it, and it reminds me of sunshine and happy times visiting family in Greece.

Kate Frost was in the chair, author of: The Butterfly Storm & Beneath the Apple Blossom.


In The Chair 75

Welcome, Sue Moorcroft.

DSC_3417How would you describe your writing style in only three words?

Sue: Flowing. Attention-grabbing. Pacy.

If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Sue: Sam, from my forthcoming book, The Christmas Promise. He surprised me a bit. He’s sophisticated and strong but his vulnerabilities are what make him unusual. He’s a real ‘go to’ ‘can do’ heroic hero. He’s highly imaginative and creative and that seems like it would be fun …

11102784_844407928976852_7866671121152746412_nIf you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

Sue: I’m going to say The Wedding proposal because it’s set in Malta and I love to be there! I’d watch the story unfold from the sidelines but it would be like watching a train wreck, seeing things conspiring against Elle. I’d want to warn her but I don’t know how she can act or react any differently as issues mount up against her.

Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

81f985c03b1cca527822783d2df8fcccSue: On my guest list would be Nevil Shute, Georgette Heyer, Stephen Fry, and some romantic suspense authors such as Suzanne Brockmann. I’m not too worried about the main course but I’d make a stonking chocolate dessert. (No calories at this dinner party, right?) And we’d drink champagne.

If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?

Sue: I always try and duck this question because all genres other than my own seem equally unlikely! I could probably pull together a fantasy because I like the idea of creating an unbelievable world for people to believe in.

What do you dislike the most about being an author?

Sue: My annual accounts. Sometimes I find first drafts hard but I don’t dislike them (much).

Favourite word?  Sue: Success.

Sue Moorcroft was in the chair, author of contemporary women’s fiction with occasionally unexpected themes. A past vice chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and editor of its two anthologies, Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a creative writing tutor.