The one where I talk about what World Book Day has made me think about

It’s World Book Day today and, if you or anyone you know has primary school aged children, then your social media is probably full of pictures of them dressed as characters from books. Some will be wearing shop-bought costumes and others will be be the result of hours of labour by a parent, probably late into the evening last night, sometimes to huge success, and sometimes not quite what they (or the child) had envisaged. Oops.

World Book Day 2019

This year, the munchkin is in year 7 – senior school – so it’s the first time in years when she hasn’t needed to dress up. I’m not particularly creative when it comes to costume ideas for World Book Day. My excuse is that all my creative juices go into my books and there are none left for making fancy dress costumes. I also very much come from the “We’re not spending loads of money on this so if it’s not in your wardrobe already or can’t be created from something in your wardrobe, it’s not going to happen” school of thought. What a meany, eh?

I’ve been trying to remember what munchkin dressed as over the years and I can barely remember what I had for breakfast most days so this is no mean feat. I’m pretty sure we did a few Disney Princess years – very easy – and we had a cute ladybird costume so she became the ladybird in Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. She wanted to be Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory one year although she refused to have her face painted. I do remember spending quite a bit of time making a golden ticket that year but the outfit must have been something blue or purple from her wardrobe. I’m pretty certain we’ve had Hermione from the Harry Potter books too. I think. Hmm. Told you my memory was bad.

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An actual picture of my memory. Seriously

17021935_10155145412889073_267558480815859199_nOne of my favourite costumes, though, was in her penultimate year at primary school. I did my usual “We’re not spending loads…” lecture and, after some sulking, she came up with the idea herself: Mia from The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, inspired by the outfit worn by Anne Hathaway in the film. We plaited her hair the night before but, other than that, the outfit took very little effort. Unfortunately she split her lunch down her dad’s silk tie and it didn’t look too happy after I tried to hand wash it clean but, seeing as he works from home and never wears shirts and ties, I decided we could live with that sacrifice.

16797661_10155145412614073_3285221170789970766_oThis year is the 22nd World Book Day and, although it is aimed at children: “World Book Day is a registered charity on a mission to give every child and young person a book of their own”, World Book Day is “celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading.” These quotes, along with a stack of fabulous information and images, can be found on the official World Book Day website. It’s been lovely seeing Facebook posts from authors celebrating their achievements and I couldn’t resist knocking together a quick post of my own, courtesy of a Canva template (shown at the start of this post) and this got me thinking…

I still have many dreams I want to achieve with my writing, including earning enough to make it my main job, but the first dream was simply to finish a book and see it published. I achieved that in 2015 and it’s a good reminder to myself that, whilst sales can be disappointing, high chart positions can seem elusive, news from publishers can seem slow, and rejections can be difficult, I wrote a book. Then repeated it 9-fold. Actually 10-fold but that’s the one doing the round of publishers. And I’m halfway through my current WIP with another two books started. It’s not that long ago since I wondered if I’d ever finish one. So I’ll raise my can of Diet Pepsi to World Book Day and feel proud that I turned my love of reading into a love of writing too.

Happy World Book Day to everyone, whether a reader, writer or both. Whatever genre you read, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, whether it’s eBook, paperback, audio or a combination, keep doing it. Immerse yourself in information, meet new characters, experience different worlds and keep learning.

Jessica xx

 

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The one where I have a very long rant about Amazon spoiling my Christmas

analytics-3268935_640Something really scary happened to me on Monday 14th December. At 5.19pm, completely out of the blue, I received this email from Amazon:

Hello,

We are reaching out to you because we detected purchases or borrows of your book(s) originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. As a result, the sales rank on the following book(s) will not be visible until we determine this activity has ceased.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N4AO78S 

Please be aware that you are responsible for ensuring the strategies you have used to promote your book(s) comply with our Terms and Conditions. We encourage you to thoroughly review any marketing services you have employed for promotional purposes.

Please be aware, any additional activity attempting to manipulate the Kindle services may result in account level action.

If you have any questions, please email us at kdp-sales-rank@amazon.com.

Best regards,

Amazon KDP

 

Certain key phrases leapt to me from the screen:

attempting to manipulate sales rank

sales rank will not be visible

may result in account level action

Searching for Steven NEW COVERWhat???!!!! What the heck did any of that mean?

I clicked onto the link they’d provided and it took me to my debut novel, Searching for Steven, on Amazon.com. Yes, that’s right, on Amazon.com rather than my home market of Amazon.co.uk. Weird. And even more weird is that:

  1. I had only sold ONE eBook in the USA in the past 90 days and that was nearly 2 months previously in late October. I repeat ONE copy. In 90 days
  2. I had a little over 1000 pages read in the USA in the same period. That’s the equivalent of 3 people reading the book in its entirety

There had to be a mistake, right? So I emailed the address given and nicely asked them to explain what this meant. They replied that same day with this:

 

Hello,

We do not sponsor or endorse any 3rd party marketing services. You’re welcome to promote your book through third-party websites and other services, but we encourage you to monitor the tactics they use to promote your books.  You are responsible for ensuring that no tactics used to promote your book manipulate the Kindle publishing service and/or Kindle programs. 

We advise against using any sites that “guarantee” a return on your investment. We support our authors’ efforts to promote their books worldwide, but at the same time, we work to prevent any manipulation of the Kindle publishing service.

If you have any questions, please email us at kdp-sales-rank@amazon.com. 

Best regards,

Amazon KDP

Amazon.com

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Did I have questions? Oh yes. I still had all the questions I’d asked in my first email that hadn’t been answered:

  • What are you talking about?
  • Have you seen my sales figures?
  • Surely if I was manipulating sales or pages read, there’d actually be some sales or pages read?

I begged them – literally begged – to explain what was going on in words that actually made sense.

So they replied in the early hours of Tuesday and, is it just me, or does this pretty much say exactly the same thing as the others i.e. nothing that makes a shred of sense? Computer-generated jargon that has ignored all of my questions:

Hello,

We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. As a result, your sales rank will not be visible until we determine this activity has ceased.

While we fully support the efforts of our publishers to promote their books, we take activities that jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors seriously. Please be aware that you are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions.  We encourage you to thoroughly review any marketing services employed for promotional purposes.

You may email us at kdp-sales-rank@amazon.com  with any questions.

Best regards,

Amazon KDP

Amazon.com

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So I wrote to them yet again – with questions – and they responded that evening with this even more aggressive email which basically told me I was STILL engaging in manipulative strategies but they refused to give me any information about this. There was no offer to get in touch with further questions. Case closed. Verdict: guilty…

Hello,

As we previously stated, we still detect reading or borrow activity for your books originating from accounts attempting to manipulate Kindle services. You are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions. We cannot offer advice on marketing services or details of our investigations.

Please be aware we will not be providing additional details.

Regards,

Amazon.com

 

Cue another email from me begging them for some help and I received no response.

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This is what rank-stripping looks like. There’s no information below the average customer reviews

After the first email, Searching for Steven was immediately rank-stripped across all the markets in which Amazon operates, all of which offer my eBooks. What does this mean? This means all visibility of my book was lost because I was no longer featured in any Amazon charts. It didn’t mean that Searching for Steven couldn’t be found; it just meant that someone would need to specifically search for the book by title/author as it wouldn’t come up in any other sort of search. And yes, the irony of the book title and this situation is not lost on me!

So where did this leave me? Nowhere really. Amazon had made a massive administrative mistake based on some faulty algorithm yet their aggressive, threatening emails were all computer-generated and the system was clearly set up to spit out 4 barely-different emails then shut down any correspondence after the final version.

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This is the same book without the rank-stripping. As you can see, there’s information below the star ratings showing where the book is in the overall and individual charts

I turned to the closed Facebook page of the Romantic Novelists’ Association hoping that there’d been some sort of technical glitch and loads of members were in the same boat as me but it appeared I’d been singled out for Amazon’s super special Christmas gift. I am very grateful to one member, though, for pointing me to a blog run by a writer called David Gaughran who champions and supports writers and investigated several cases well over a year ago where this has happened to other writers. The emails were exactly the same but the scenarios different. In those cases, they were all participating in promotions – absolutely legitimate ones – and the spike in sales on the back of that seems to have been what generated the scary email. Not in my case. I hadn’t promoted Searching for Steven since I participated in a blog tour to celebrate his 3-year-book birthday in June last year and, as already stated, sales were pretty much non-existent. You can read his blog post here.

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David responded to a comment I posted on his blog, asking for more information, and immediately contacted Amazon on my behalf using different email addresses that should help escalate the situation. All we can do was wait. And wait. And wait.

Back in December, how had this sorry tale affected me? It was pretty horrific. On the Monday night, after the first email, I couldn’t sleep. Would you be able to if you’d been accused of a crime that you didn’t commit and the punishment was already dished out (the rank-stripping) before you had a chance to plead your case? On the Tuesday night after the final ‘we’re not giving you any info so get lost’ email, I didn’t sleep either. Or on Wednesday night. By the Thursday, completely exhausted, I couldn’t stop crying all day and I only managed to get a bit of sleep that night thanks to David stepping in and a belief that something might happen after I’d had no joy.

You might think it’s not something to cry over but, believe me, it is:

  1. I was losing sales and pages read. Granted, not many because (a) it was Christmas and I had 4 x Christmas books out there which were the main sellers at that time and (b) I had barely any sales of that book anyway, particularly in the USA, although I did have a trickle of them in the UK and a steady 500 average pages a day read in the UK. These sales were likely to  disappear, though
  2. Sadly, I do not sell many eBooks or have that many pages read so I cannot afford to lose this visibility
  3. I secured an audio deal for Searching for Steven and the Thursday of my horrible week was the release day. It should have been a happy day yet I didn’t see the point in doing any promotion of a title that could be removed at any moment and felt far too emotional to ‘celebrate’
  4. I felt like I’d been found guilty and locked up but nobody would tell me what my crime was or allow me to defend myself despite being completely innocent. I mean, let’s face it, if I was going to do something to manipulate sales, you’d think I’d actually trigger some sales. Going from zero to zero isn’t exactly yelling criminal mastermind, is it?
  5. The threat of having my books removed (this is what “account-level action” means) hung over me. Amazon have the power to do this whenever they want
  6. The emails take the ‘guilty until proven innocent’ approach with a bit of ‘and by the way, we don’t care if you’re innocent because our algorithms tell us you’re up to mischief so you’re black-listed for life and there will be consequences’ thrown in for good measure. I’m back in the playground at school being bullied again. Or work. Take your pick as bullies lurk everywhere
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With all this hanging over me, I couldn’t concentrate on work

This all came at the end of a dire year for me writing-wise. Sales had started to look up in late 2017/early 2018 after I released Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Charlee and the Chocolate Shop. From selling hardly any eBooks and having very few pages read, the Christmas books got immediate attention and, whilst sales were still very low, they were steady. Hurrah! And this had a knock-on effect on the non-Christmas books suggesting readers had enjoyed my Christmas offerings and were seeking out other titles.

Then something happened in the spring of 2018. Sales dropped through the floor and so did pages read. My income from writing – which was never particularly good anyway – plummeted and, despite bringing out 2 x Christmas books in the November, this made little impact in November although December did see some recovery (not a patch on last year, though).

I write under a pen-name and the “real” me has a Kindle. I would regularly receive emails from Amazon promoting Jessica’s books but, cninciding with this plummet in sales, these seemed to stop. I have since had one for my novella, Raving About Rhys, but none with any my Christmas books on. Something strange is happening.

Alongside the plummeting sales and lack of promo was review-gate; the much-publicised situation where Amazon went through their system over a few months and removed all of the reviews that certain readers/reviewers has placed, accusing them of creating false reviews. Some noticed, complained and had reviews reinstated. Some probably haven’t noticed. Some will have spotted it and not have the energy to fight it. I lost up to 20 reviews during that time. As a struggling indie writer, this is a massive blow, especially when they were predominantly hard-earned 5-star reviews. I completely get that there are “rogue” practices out there and there are authors who pay for reviews. It’s right for these people to be stopped … but not to the detriment of those whose reviews are honest and genuine.

Then in early October, I think it was, a very successful author threatened me with legal action. All I’ll say about the situation is that it was very upsetting, especially as I was completely innocent again. Thankfully it went away, but it left scars.

And, on top of that, I had several rejections from publishers. They’re what we call ‘positive rejections’ i.e. they love my writing, my world, my voice but the story is not for them. I got a stack of rejections when I sent Searching for Steven out into the world and none of them hurt. These ones floored me.

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It was so frustrating being told I could contact them … and getting no response

I think you can probably see why Amazon’s accusations and subsequent sanctions tipped me over the edge. As Christmas approached, I felt mentally and emotionally drained. I had never felt so low and started questioning whether any of it was worth it. As an indie writer who still works full time because the writing income is so low I can’t afford not to, I struggle to make an impact on the charts but my love for writing and the amazing reviews I get have kept me going … until last year. For a few weeks there, publishing and me are not friends. I was hoping could find my optimism over the Christmas break and rise above all the crap that 2018 presented me. Something you love doing shouldn’t be so traumatic, should it? Sadly, that didn’t work and, if I’m honest, the Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company ruined my Christmas. I smiled, I laughed and I pretended everything was okay but it really wasn’t. They’d broken me.

The New Year arrived and clearly they weren’t going to respond to David’s chase email so I emailed ‘Jeff’; a general Amazon email address. I was thrilled when Jeff responded the day after (4th January 2019):

Hello Jessica, 

I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused.

I understand you have a question about Sales rank manipulation issue.

This issue requires input from another team. I’ve forwarded your email to them and someone will reply within 2 business days. 

Thanks for using Amazon KDP !!!

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Yes! At last! A human was going to deal with it. There was hope. So I waited two business days. I waited three. I waited several more. On 10th January, I chased Jeff again. And on 23rd. And on 30th. Jeff had obviously decided to blank me too.

So, on 4thFebruary, I emailed the 2 x addresses that David had used and tried a different tack; not forwarding the history on email in case fwd emails were getting kicked out the system.

On 7th February, they finally responded with this email:

 

Hello, 

We’ve restored the sales rank of your book and it will become available within the next 24 hours. 

Please review your account or any promotional services that you may have paid. You’re responsible for ensuring that no tactics used to promote your book(s) manipulate the Kindle publishing service and/or Kindle programs. 

 

No apology. No explanation. No offer of compensation for the inconvenience and stress. Just a factual statement and another telling off. Seriously. And by compensation, I don’t mean money but it would have been nice for them to do some promotion for me or even offer me a Prime deal.

I should have felt relieved but I was actually really angry that day because this is not how businesses should be run yet it happens all the time. I get that I am insignificant to Amazon. My limited sales make little financial impact on my life so they’re certainly not going to make an impact on Amazon’s billions but imagine if thousands of ‘little people’ are being treated in this way, with automated threats and no explanation. How many people are feeling low and have nowhere to turn?

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I was very grumpy that day. And if I was a cat, this is how I’d have looked!

The ranks have remained in the week that has followed and I’ve had no more threatening emails but I know it could happen again any time and that’s very scary. If anyone else is in this situation, please leave a comment. If you’re struggling, I’ll give you the email addresses I finally got a reply from. If you found a better way of resolving this, please let me know in case it happens again.

That’s the end of my story. It’s not a happy ever after. It’s not happy at all but it is an end … for now.

As an independent author, I am eternally grateful that Amazon exists. It has meant I can get my books out there without a publishing deal but a company that is so enormous that it has to operate on algorithms and automated responses scares me. There surely needs to be a ‘human’ way to have contact and get mistakes rectified without putting someone through what I’ve been through.

Jessica xx

The one where I reflect on my lovely trip to London

I’ve been on a little road-trip (or train-trip to be precise) this weekend, down to London. As Joey from Friends would say: London baby!

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IMG_5952Sporting my brand new hair colour – time to go a bit lighter again in an effort to reduce the impact of that pesky white badger streak that insists on appearing after a few weeks – I caught the train down on Friday morning and returned on Sunday afternoon, feeling somewhat shattered, having had a very busy and very lovely weekend.

The purpose of the trip was to attend an RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) meeting on Saturday afternoon. I don’t normally go to the London-based events because it’s so expensive to get down to London from oop north, even when booked well in advance, but I had an added incentive this time. Sara-Jade Virtue, Special Sales Director and Brand Director at Simon & Schuster was the guest speaker and I was really keen to meet her.

IMG_5954You see, each year, on 15th July, S&S run an un-agented submissions day: #OneDay. Last year, I decided to submit but, because the MS had to be finished, I couldn’t submit my work-in-progress, Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye. They were happy to accept previously-released works providing the author owned the rights, so I submitted the first chapter and synopsis of Bear With Me. I was thrilled, two weeks later, to be asked to submit the full MS. Woohoo! Bear With Me ended up being a pass but I had some amazing feedback about my writing and was encouraged to submit any other manuscripts outside of #OneDay so I submitted Wish… in December with fingers crossed and a little prayer.

I knew that the trip would be expensive, particularly when adding in hotel costs and meals, but I decided to go to the meeting to hear what Sara-Jade had to say and hopefully speak with her in person. I figured that, whilst meeting someone in person isn’t going to make them like my manuscript any more, it’s always great to have that personal contact. Even if Wish… is also a pass, I’d have more of a relationship than I would via email only.

dragon-253539_640The thing is, I’m not very good at networking. And by not very good, I mean terrible. I don’t have a problem talking to strangers. In my day job in HR, I’m a recruiter and trainer so I’m used to engaging strangers in conversation all the time but the big difference is that I’m the one they’re there to see so they need to talk back to me! When I’m not the “person in charge”, I have a huge problem in being the one to approach a stranger to to start a conversation. All sorts of worries and doubts fill me: Why would they even want to speak to me? What if I start talking and they walk off? What if they start yawning or looking at their watch? What if I turn into a jibbering mess, especially when I want to impress them? What if they turn into a dragon and start breathing fire on me? Okay, that last one might have been an exaggeration but the others are very real. Lots of people I know are terrified of public speaking and that’s how I feel about networking. Scary stuff. Even though I’d made the journey, I had a feeling I’d bottle it.

fear-2019930_640Sara-Jade gave us a fascinating insight into the world of publishing. I had no idea how many people and how many steps there in the process from reading a manuscript to getting (and keeping) a book out there. I was hanging on every single word and also to her responses to the many questions the group asked. I was quite proud of myself because I asked a question and got a detailed answer so, if I did bottle introducing myself, at least I’d drawn myself to Sara-Jade’s attention in some small way.

The good news is that I was brave and introduced myself afterwards. She didn’t ignore me, walk off or yawn and I didn’t make a mess of it. She was absolutely lovely, knew who I was, and said she’d be in touch in a few weeks’ time. She even followed this up with an email afterwards which absolutely made my day. A moment’s courage and all that …

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Before the meeting, I had a chance to meet two of my Write Romantic writing friends, Jo Bartlett and Jackie Ladbury. We met at Victoria and had the most amazing lunch in the Market Hall there. It’s like a food hall but with independent stalls rather than chain ones (or at least, if they were chains, I certainly wasn’t familiar with them) and it had a really relaxed atmosphere.

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Jo was unable to join us for the RNA meeting so Jackie and I caught the tube back to Tower Hill for the RNA meeting and met another Write Romantic, Helen Rolfe, for a drink first. The three of us then went out for a meal and drinks afterwards. We went to All Bar One and had the most amazing sharing platter and nachos although we were all starving and dived in so I didn’t get a picture of those!

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I have to say that it was a wonderful day from start to finish. One of the most valuable things I can ever do as a writer is to meet with other writers and talk about all things writing. It’s motivating, inspiring and incredibly helpful.

I’d decided to stay over on the Friday as well, giving me a chance to catch up with a university friend who lives in London so I had a chance to reminisce about our uni days and catch up on the latest news with him too. And I got to have a brief explore around a part of London I’ve never visited. I now want to visit The Tower of London for a proper explore and I’d like to walk across Tower Bridge too.

Wishing you a great week

Jessica xx

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The one where I come down with a nasty condition called itsapileofpapitis

Earlier this week, my wonderful writing friend and fellow Yorkshire Rose Writer, Sharon Booth, wrote a blog post about a serious condition from which she suffers, I suffer, and many other writers also suffer: comparisonitis. It’s the feeling of inadequacy brought on by constantly comparing ourselves to other writers. You can read her honest and entertaining post here.

But this got me thinking about the other ailment from which I’m suffering really badly at the moment: itsapileofpapitis. A bit like comparisonitis, it’s a really nasty bug that can creep up on you and floor you completely. Man flu? It’s got nothing on this little beast.

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It can overcome a writer at any point but here are the three main parts of the writing process where a writer is likely to be struck down with it.

  1. The very start
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Time to bang your head against a wall!

You have this idea. This great idea. It might have come to you in the shower, in the middle of the night, when you heard an item on the news, listened to the lyrics of a song, or overheard a snippet of conversation. Ooh, exciting! The creative juices start flowing. This could be it. This could have mileage. This could be a bestseller.

And then itsapileofpapitis strikes. Out of nowhere, it punches you square on the jaw and shouts: Are you mad? That’s the most stupid idea I’ve ever heard! It’s flawed. There’s not a full story in that. Go on, write it, I dare you to waste your time…

And that’s it. The doubts have set in. You convince yourself it was a rubbish idea and either abandon it or bravely attempt to write it, but it’s like wading through treacle because those nagging doubts are there and you can’t stop listening to them.

 

  1. Somewhere mid-flow

It’s going well. You’ve got a plot, you’ve got some characters, the dialogue is flowing, the
setting is coming alive when … oh my goodness … it hits you. A hideous dose of itsapileofpapitis. You look at what you’ve written, hold your head in your hands and sigh loudly. And that little voice starts again: What a pile of pap! It’s all over the shop. Full of plot holes.Your 5-year old/the dog/next door’s guinea pig could have written something better than that. You might as well give up. Stop writing right now. Seriously, stop.

And that’s it. But this time you’re stuck. You have already invested time, effort and perhaps a few tears in creating half/a third/quarter of a book. You believed in it enough to have got this far. But do you have the courage to go further? Will you be able to work through itsapileofpapitis and come out the other side? Or will your work languish on your computer, unloved; just a series of words that nobody will ever read?

 

  1. At the very end

This is perhaps the most dangerous form of this condition and it’s the one that takes the most out of us. You’ve typed ‘The End’. You smile, you sit back in your chair, and you silently congratulate yourself. You did it! You wrote your 1st, 8th, 97thbook. Wow! That’s some achievement. You know the hard work starts now because you’re about to embark on some major proofreading and editing but, for now, relax and enjoy this moment because you have finished writing a book. Amazing.

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Is this what those voices of doubt look like?

Then the edits start and … argh! Itsapileofpapitis takes its hold with the tightest of grips and that voice of doubt pierces your very soul: You’re kidding me, right? That’s your book? That’s what you’ve spent the last 6 months/year/10 years writing? Oh. My. God! Don’t give up the day job. It’s the biggest dollop of pap I have ever read. In fact, I didn’t even make it to the end before Zzzzzz. You’re never going to publish that/try to get it published are you? Ha ha ha. That’s hilarious. Get ready for rejection / one-star reviews. You’re finished as a writer. So much for improving with age and experience.

And that’s it. Those doubts, those worries, those fears smother you and you have to ask yourself some serious questions:

Is this genuinely a dollop of pap that should never see the light of day?

Is it actually boring?

Are there seriously lots of plot holes?

Is there really no character arc?

Have I honestly created one-dimensional stereotypical characters?

OR … and this is very likely the case … am I just tired/too close to it/having an understandable and quite human meltdown?

 

So what do you do when you’re still struck down with itsapileofpapitis?

I don’t think there’s anything you can really do except keep believing in yourself. If you put your heart and soul into this and can say it really is the best you can do, then I’d say it’s just the condition getting you down and you should do your best to quieten those doubts.

lock-44463_640I never used to suffer from itsapileofpapitis. I was really proud of my first book but I think that was me being a bit naïve about what lay ahead. At that point, the fact that I’d finished writing a whole book was pretty astonishing and I was very happy with what I’d done. And it was really well received. It received great feedback on the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, got two publishing deals and started to gather lots of four and five star reviews on Amazon. But that in itself opened up my susceptibility to itsapileofpapitis because, with each subsequent book, doubts started to creep in: Was it as good as Searching for Steven?

What becomes really weird the more books you release is that you want readers to say of your newest one: It’s amazing, my new favourite! Yet this then brings in the doubts again. Does that mean they didn’t really like the previous one and they were just being nice? Ha ha ha. Can’t win, eh?

 

So why am I bringing this up today?

Because I’ve come down with a bad case of itsapileofpapitis. I finished my tenth book, Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye, in September. At the RNA’s Conference, I received positive comments from four publishers but I decided not to submit it to one of them and it didn’t lead to anything with the others. So the doubts started which is ridiculous because I had something like 35 rejections before Searching for Stevengot two publishing deals. I have only actually had three rejections for Wish…so far but it’s still been enough to floor me with itsapileofpapitis.

I knew that I wanted to give Wish… one last read-through before indie publishing it in spring (assuming it hadn’t found a publisher home by then). On hearing that a new publisher would be looking for submissions from today, I decided to do that this week and, oh my goodness, I had three doses of itsapileofpapitis in the space of a few days:

Doubting the premise as soon as I started reading it

Doubting it was a gripping tale somewhere in the middle

Doubting it would do anywhere near as well as the others near the end

paper-3111146_640Then I read the last chapter and, even though I’ve read it so many times before, it made me smile, it made me cry, and it made me sigh in that way I sigh when I’ve reached the end of a really enjoyable book and feel satisfied with the ending. The story made me feel things.

And I reminded myself that the feedback I’d had from publishers was that it was a great story, great characters, great setting and that I could write … it just wasn’t for them.

And I reminded myself that my beta readers have unanimously said it’s the best thing I’ve ever written and they loved it (whilst trying not to question what’s wrong with my other books!)

So itsapileofpapitis can do one. I refuse to let it bring me down and I refuse to listen to it … although if I do start getting one-star reviews for it, maybe I’ll change my mind!

 

Have you ever suffered from this? I’d love to hear from you, particularly if you have ways of getting round it.

Have an amazing week. My plan is to return to a WIP I’ve been dithering with for the past few months because … you’ve guessed it … I’ve been hit with a serious case of itsapileofpapitis about it!

Jessica xx

The one where I did The Time-Warp (again!)

screenshot 2019-01-17 at 22.22.20

I went on a road-trip to Manchester at the start of this week to see The Rocky Horror Show at the theatre. It was hubby’s sister who suggested going as The Rocky Horror Picture Show is her son’s most favourite film ever and he’d always longed to see it on stage. I’ve seen the film a couple of times and I’ve actually seen the stage show too, about 20 years ago, and I confess that I like it rather than love it … but I loved the idea of a road-trip.

So, five of us piled on a train to Manchester on Monday morning: my two sisters-in-law, my nephew and a friend of one of the SILs. When we’d all said we’d go, there was a strong declaration that we wouldn’t be getting dressed up. Definitely not. Well, not fully. Maybe a token feather boa? But definitely not anything Rocky Horror-ish. But my nephew had other ideas. Being his favourite film, he was desperate to dress as “sweet transvestite” Frank. When I heard rumours of basques, wigs and heels, I knew that the bar had been set high. Very high.

And, therefore, somehow this happened….

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The problem with dressing up is that, when you’re not exactly svelte, it’s very hard to get ready-made costumes. And, with my figure, there was no way I was going to squeeze myself into a basque and suspenders, even if I could have found one to fit. I decided to make my own costume. One of the characters, Magenta, wears a French maid’s uniform. I had a plain black skater dress and decided to sew lace round the bottom and round the sleeves and make a net skirt to go underneath it. I ordered an apron and hair-piece from Ebay and picked up a wig from a joke shop in town.

img_5873Then I ran out of time. We were getting a train first-thing on Monday morning and I spent the duration of Dancing on Ice and Vera on Sunday night trying to sew lace onto my dress and create the net underskirt. I was gutted to discover I didn’t have enough lace to go round the sleeves so that scuppered that idea.

Next, I painstakingly hand-sewed the net to a petticoat (so it wouldn’t irritate me). I’d made sure that I didn’t sew onto the elasticated waistband but I didn’t think about the fact that the petticoat itself was elasticated. When I pulled it on, I heard that sickening crack of threads snapping. Eek! I just had to hope that enough of it would stay intact or I’d be trailing several metres of bright pink net behind me like some sort of crazed bride!

img_5876So why do I like Rocky Horror rather than love it? There are many parts I do love. I love all the crazy, flamboyant, campness of it. I love the premise. I love so many of the songs. I think Richard O’Brien’s imagination is incredible. But, near the end, I personally feel it loses its way and … sorry … I think it gets a bit boring. I’m sure there will be fans (my nephew included) shouting “Nooooo!!!!!” at this but, for me, it loses the momentum. If we divide it into the two Acts of the theatrical production, the first Act is superb: innocent Janet and Brad are leaving a wedding, he proposes, they (perhaps slightly randomly but we go with it) decide to tell their old science teacher their news, get a flat tyre on the way and walk back to a mansion they’d passed to seek help. It’s all fast-paced, gives us a great sense of the two protagonists, and thrusts them into impending danger. They then meet the residents of the house, dance The Time-Warp, witness the ‘birth’ of Frank’s creation, Rocky, meet biker Eddie. Going into the start of Act 2, Brad/Janet lose their innocence. It’s still all very fast-paced, with great songs, excitement, humour and, if you’re new to it, plenty of surprises.

img_5902Then, partway through the second Act, it gets a little dull. The songs aren’t as memorable, the science teacher appears, we discover the residents of the house are aliens, and three key characters get shot. As a writer, I find myself comparing this to a book and thinking that this is that occasion where you read a book that you’re loving, then it really slows down, and you think it could have just done with one more edit to make it fantastic all the way through.

Anyway, the pace picks up again with a finale and another dance to The Time-Warp and all is forgiven for that slow moment. I’m sure many love it all but this is just my opinion.

We were treated to a fabulous cast including former Strictly pro-winner Joanne Clifton as Janet, Ben Adams from 90s boyband A1 as Brad. Apparently Duncan James of Blue has been playing Frank in half the productions but not the Manchester ones which was a shame as I’d love to have seen him in the role. Our Frank was superb, though, so we certainly didn’t lose out. I wasn’t quite so enamoured with Corrie’s Liz McDonald (Beverley Callard) as the Narrator. She seemed uncomfortable in the role, bless her. But, let’s face it, it was hard enough getting dressed up to be in the audience. How nerve-wracking must it be to be on stage, knowing that the finale involves your trousers being ripped off to reveal stockings and suspenders? Respect to her.

So it’s goodbye from me and my feather duster. And I bet you’re now singing about jumps to the left and steps to the right in your head. Sorry!

Jessica xx

 

 

 

The one where I took my tree down a bit early

img_5809It’s Twelfth Night – 6th January – which is traditionally the deadline for taking your Christmas tree and decorations down, although there is a bit of debate as to whether it should be 5th January instead. It’s considered bad luck to keep them up after this deadline and I had expected to be spending this weekend removing all evidence of Christmas from our house. But I didn’t have to because I’d already done it. For the first time ever I took my decorations down early, starting on Wednesday evening, doing a bit more on Thursday evening, then disassembling the trees on Friday.

img_5690As I say, I’ve never taken them down early and I wondered why I’d done so this year, especially when Twelfth Night was nicely falling on a weekend. I’ve concluded it’s a distraction strategy because if I spent several evenings last week taking the decorations down, I wouldn’t have to do any writing. And if I spent Saturday cleaning up and putting things back to normal, I wouldn’t have to do any writing. And if I spent Sunday catching up on my MA coursework, I wouldn’t have to do any writing.

Yes, I’ve had a major wobble. My 2018 has got on top of me and my motivation seems to have disappeared, just like my Amazon rankings for Searching for Steven. But that’s okay. It will come back and, although I may not be writing, I’m thinking or ‘brewing’ as I call it. It’s still a vital part of constructing my plot and developing my characters and it’ll mean that, when I do finally put fingers to keyboard again, it will flow quicker.

Hope your first week of 2019 has gone well and, if you haven’t taken the decs down, you do realise that means they need to stay up all year, don’t you?! Fairy lights and a bit of bling all year round is no bad thing. Hmm. Might have to get them back down from the attic…

Jessica xx

The one where I’m a bit pleased to say goodbye to 2018

I wasn’t sure whether to do an end-of-year round-up but I read a couple of posts from writing friends of mine today and really enjoyed reading them so I decided to go ahead and do mine.

I wondered how to approach this: month by month, season by season, highs v lows, the good/bad/ugly … then I decided to approach it in a slightly different way, taking inspiration from my absolute favourite film of the year which hurled itself into the number two slot on my most favourite films ever (Shawshank Redemption is still my very favourite): The Greatest Showman. Have you seen it? If you haven’t, you really must, even if you’re not usually a fan of musicals. Hugh Jackman. Zac Efron. Need I say more?

Screenshot 2019-01-01 at 09.43.16

Please note that the songs aren’t presented in the same order as they appear in the film. Ooh, and on that subject, I must add that the soundtrack is my favourite movie soundtrack of all time. I play it every single day and was delighted to add the reimagined version to my CD collection (yes, I’m old school and still like to own CDs) this Christmas. I can even play A Million Dreams on the piano. Well, part of it. Badly. But it’s getting there.

The Greatest Show

Being an author is an amazing thing. For me, it really is ‘the greatest show’. Thinking up plot ideas, developing characters, and having their stories unfold is like creating a show for people to read, as opposed to watch. Sometimes the show receives a standing ovation, but sometimes things don’t quite go to plan …

A Million Dreams

Chill Logo READERS' AWARD 2018A few writing-related dreams came true this year and a few special things happened:

  • I passed Year 1 of my MA in Creative Writing with distinction
  • I received not one but two awards for Bear With Me: A Chill With a Book Readers’ Award and a Cover of the Month Award
  • Several of my books achieved that little orange bestseller tag for achieving the number 1 position in a category on Amazon. For some, this lasted days and, for others, it was only an hour or two but each was still a proud moment
  • Searching for Steven secured an audio deal and so did Bear With Me. I had to walk away from the one for Bear With Me as it had been shortlisted by a major publisher on a non-agented submissions day and I didn’t want to blow my chances of a publishing deal with them by tying it up in an audio deal. Unfortunately, it became a no from the publisher too so I could have had the audio deal after all, but it was one of those decisions I had to make. In the meantime, Searching for Steven is out now on audio format which is very exciting. You can get it here
  • Cover of the Month Award. MAYI completed 5 x blog tours organised by the fabulous Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources. Rachel makes me laugh because she talks about the ‘fans’ I have in the blogger community who can’t wait to read my work. Fans? My fans? I still find that a little astonishing
  • At the point of writing, three separate books have appeared in ‘Best of 2018’ Top 20 lists (actually a Top 18, Top 20 and Top 21) which wasn’t even a dream I’d had but would have been on my wish list if I’d dared to hope such a thing could happen
  • Blue LogoI joined forces with my very good friend, Sharon Booth, to create the Yorkshire Rose Writers, building on our brand as Yorkshire-based writers who write about Yorkshire
  • I attended some great writing-related events: the RNA Conference, the RNA’s York Tea, a bloggers/writers event in York, a social media workshop run my Anita Chapman and a Writer’s Retreat in Bronte country run by author Rowan Coleman. Through these, I met some very special and talented individuals and am very grateful for this

Come Alive

8. Callies Christmas Wish COVERThree books came alive for me this year. I released Callie’s Christmas Wish in October and Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Cafe in November.

I also wrote another novel which will be released in 2019 (see ‘The Other Side’). I’m very proud of all three of them. Callie and Choc Pot both went on blog tours and received some amazing reviews which came at a time when I really needed the encouragement to keep going because giving up was becoming very tempting (see ‘Tightrope’).

Choc Pot v1

The Other Side

IMG_5346.jpegI took another foray into ‘the other side’ this year: exploring traditional publishing. I wrote a novel called ‘Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye’. Told from three perspectives, it was a challenge to write and I was very excited about the story. My beta readers told me it was the best thing I’d ever written and I used various chapters for my MA in Creative Writing, securing a distinction each time. I pitched it at the RNA Conference and 4 publishers were eager to see the full MS. They all turned me down. I’ve had rejections before, when I sent my debut novel out for publication, but these rejections – and a few others – completely floored me. There were tears, there was massive self-doubt and, yes, there was a lot of consolation cake eaten.

Rewrite The Stars

Amazon decided to ‘rewrite the star’ ratings for a lot of authors this year. In spring/summer, there was an outcry on social media when Amazon’s algorithms were altered, resulting in a lot of individuals having all their reviews unceremoniously removed because they allegedly knew the authors. For a very successful writer who has hundreds of reviews for each book, this is annoying but for a struggling indie writer who doesn’t have anywhere near that number, this is pretty devastating. I don’t have an exact figure but I lost approaching 20 reviews and, typically, they were nearly all 5-star ones. Why couldn’t Amazon take one 2-star one? Meanies!

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Tightrope

During the later part of the year, I feel like I’ve been balancing on a ‘tightrope’ when it comes to my writing, with no safety net, no bar to balance me, and a long way to fall. The ‘stolen’ reviews were the start of it and, at about the same time, sales massively dipped and so did pages read on Kindle Unlimited, pretty much overnight. I stopped receiving emails promoting my books too. It felt as though Amazon’s changing algorithms weren’t favouring me. I reached out to them for some guidance on why I never got promoted anymore or selected for a Prime deal. They responded … with a standard email suggesting I might like to promote myself by setting up a Facebook profile, a website, a blog, Twitter and so on. Really? Wish I’d thought of all that!!!

Then I lost my footing on my tightrope. I woke up one Monday morning to a Facebook message from a very successful author telling me that her publishers were threatening legal action against me because one of my book covers was too similar to hers and I needed to change it. Turns out her designer and mine had used the same Shutterstock image; something that happens all the time and is a risk that all designers know they face when using stock images. The case was dropped when we shared Shutterstock’s stance on this but it was a horrible and scary experience and I’m still licking my wounds.

I clambered back on that tightrope and sent my MS out to be considered for traditional publication (see ‘The Other Side’) but the ‘audience’ didn’t like what I did and pelted me with rejections.

Searching for Steven NEW COVERPulling myself together, I tried to cross that tightrope once more and this time it was Amazon determined to make me fall. An email came out of the blue a week before Christmas accusing me of engaging in activities designed to manipulate sales of Searching for Steven in the USA. They rank-stripped me for that book in all markets (which means it can’t be found unless someone specifically searches for the title or for books by me) and have threatened further action. I have a separate blog post prepared about this which I’ll release when – if – the matter gets resolved.

On top of everything else that had happened in the second half of 2018, this left me emotionally and mentally defeated. I’ve never felt so low and, sadly, it ruined my Christmas.

Never Enough

As I continue on my writing journey, I’m a bit like Barnum in The Greatest Showman because each goal achieved just leaves me wanting more. I wrote a poem about it earlier this year which you can read here.

I am very lucky to be part of a couple of two writing collectives. The incredibly talented Sharon Booth and I have started a partnership as the Yorkshire Rose Writers, but I’ve also been part of the ten-strong Write Romantics for 5.5 years.

Being surrounded by writers is a double-edged sword because on the one hand it is such a joy to have regular dialogue with like-minded individuals who understand the highs and lows of being a writer and can support you through the lows, as well as it being inspiring to observe their successes and live vicariously through those. On the other hand, it’s very hard not to compare your success (or otherwise) with those around you, especially when everyone else seems to be doing so much better (more sales, higher chart positions, Prime deals, Amazon bonuses etc) and I’m the one with the weakest sales, being threatened with legal action, and being rank-stripped.

 

And so we move into 2019 and I turn to the final two songs in this amazing film.

This Is Me

Throughout my writing journey, I’ve always remained true to myself, writing the stories that I want to write and that my readers seem to want to read. When I sent my debut novel out to publishers, I was fortunate enough (after many rejections) to have two publishing offers on the table. The first, which I’d verbally accepted, wanted to make a lot of changes to the trilogy: more heat, shorter, focus on the romance and not the friendships. I was on the verge of walking away from it and going indie because it was no longer going to be the story I wanted to write, when the other offer came through. Sadly, that publisher ceased trading so it didn’t work out but it was still the right decision for me at the time to have chosen them.

IMG_5466This year, I have had publishers and other authors advising me to take my writing in a particular more cosy direction if I want to secure a new publishing deal … but that style isn’t me. It was when I started but my writing has changed over time. I would have called myself a romcom writer but I now write contemporary women’s fiction where the romance is not always the central thread. THIS IS ME! It’s my style and my voice and I don’t want to change it. I wouldn’t hesitate to do so if readers and bloggers didn’t rate it but they do … I just don’t reach enough of them as an indie writer.

I’m not giving up on the hope of securing a traditional publishing deal again because I do feel I need that step to get greater exposure. However, I’m not going to change the type of book I write just to secure a publishing deal. If it’s meant to be, the right publisher will like my approach. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying I can’t learn from a publisher and don’t want my work editing because I think I’m perfect. Far from it. What I’m saying is that I write a certain type of emotional story and I get a buzz from that so that’s what I’ll continue to do, even if that means I remain an indie writer because it’s not what publishers are seeking.

From Now On

IMG_5716From now on, I need to re-focus and, just like Barnum in the film, remember the important things in life: my family, my health, and why I started writing in the first place. This year has taken its toll on me in more ways than a loss of confidence. I’ve worked too many long hours trying to fit writing and studying alongside my day job as an HR Tutor. This has meant that my lardy backside has been pretty much welded to my office chair from rise til bedtime. I’ve not slept well for most of the year because I’ve not given myself any time to switch-off, which means I’m permanently tired and feel pretty grumpy. My diet has always been bad (I’ve battled with my weight since I was 10) but its been the worst ever this year and I don’t exercise at all. I daren’t get on the scales. I know I returned to my heaviest ever earlier this year, but my clothes still fit so, if I’ve gone over that, it can only be by a couple of lb. Lack of daylight has left me with a vitamin D deficiency (I’m turning into a vampire!) and bad diet has left me with a lack of iron and folic acid so I’m on medication for those as well as high blood pressure. When I returned from my holidays during the October half term, I started having heart palpitations but various tests and an ECG revealed (perhaps surprisingly given my weight) there’s nothing wrong with my heart and the palpitations were actually stress-related anxiety attacks. Eek!

IMG_5766Nobody starts a diet at Christmas but, by mid-January, I need to be back at the gym, eating healthily and spending some time each day outside instead of permanently sealed in my office. I need to organise my time better so that I get more writing done but also have more time with my family. And I need to shut down the computer and read or watch TV on an evening to give myself time to switch-off and hopefully get a good nights’ sleep.

And I need to be kinder to myself, accepting that everyone is on a different path towards their writing goals and mine appears to be the one that meanders, backtracks, and has a few dead ends along the way rather than being a direct route. But quite often a path that meanders has really stunning views so I need to stop and take those in.

From now on, it will be different. From now on, this is me, balancing on a tightrope where it may feel like what I do is never enough but I still have a million dreams and can rewrite the stars to achieve each one. 2018 was a tough year but I made it out the other side and will come alive again in 2019 because writing really is THE GREATEST SHOW!

Happy New Year to you all. I hope 2019 is kind to you and that you’re kind to yourself too. I’m going to try to be.

Jessica xx

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The One Where I Start Blogging Here Again

For the past couple of years, I’ve been blogging (very infrequently) on my website but I’ve made the decision to return to my wordpress blog. There are various reasons for this but they’re not very exciting so I won’t bore you with them. Instead, I’m in a reflective mood so here goes the first of what will hopefully be more regular entries…

Screenshot 2018-12-30 at 15.15.48It’s Sunday 30th December. Two more sleeps until the start of the final year of the decade. 2019 eh? Where on earth have the last 20 years gone? I clearly remember moving into 1999 and the panic about the approach of the new millenium a year later:

Could computers actually cope with moving into the year ’00 or would they be brought down by the Y2K bug?

Were planes going to fall from the sky?

Was the world going to end?

What did partying like it’s 1999, as per Prince’s 1982 hit, really look like?

Screenshot 2018-12-30 at 15.13.37Prince’s 1999. That was another weird nostalgia moment. When that record was released, I was only 10, and 1999 seemed so very far away. By then, I’d be in my mid-twenties at New Year, moving into my late-twenties on my birthday in May. I’d be married with two or three kids, a car, a mortgage, and a job. Wouldn’t I?

As it happens, I’d have the job, car, and mortgage but it would be another four years before I met “the one”, six before we were married, and seven before we started our family … and made the decision to stop at just the one.

And twenty years ago, I had no plans or aspirations to become a writer. I wasn’t even a big reader, having struggled to find time to read anything that wasn’t a text book whilst at university and very much getting out of the habit. I’d read on holiday and that was about it. Over the next couple of years, this was going to change thanks to several seemingly unconnected events that came together in a way that some might call destiny:

Screenshot 2018-12-30 at 15.14.15FINDING MY GENRE: I went on holiday with my good friend, Catryn, and she loaned me a Jill Mansell book called Millie’s Fling. On a previous holiday, Catryn had also introduced me to Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes and, through those two books, I rediscovered my love of reading and found a new genre: romantic comedy. I devoured Jill Mansell’s back catalogue and, as Millie’s Fling was her 12th book, that was a lot or reading. I also bought all of Marian Keyes’s books and worked through them. I have remained a huge fan of both authors ever since

FINDING MY INNER WRITER: My manager at work told me on several occasions that my reports read more like a story than a business report and joked, “you should write a book”. I liked that idea. A lot. But what on earth would I write about?

FINDING MY DREAM: I ended a toxic relationship and went on holiday again with Catryn, a mutual friend called Jackie and some of Jackie’s friends. One of Jackie’s friends had made a huge career change and, on the plane home, we were chatting about it. He said: “If you could change your career, what would you do?” Without hesitation, I said, “Move back home and open a teddy bear shop.” As soon as I said it, I knew that’s what I really wanted. I didn’t want to start over boyfriend-free in the same place and same job; I wanted to start over completely

FINDING MY PLOT: Having previously been refused voluntary redundancy from work because my role was too valuable, I was told that there weren’t enough volunteers so I could leave if I still wanted to. Ooh, yes please! But this was scary. The future was very uncertain – no job, no boyfriend, potential move home to start teddy bear shop – so a friend gave me a gift voucher for a telephone clairvoyant to help me get some clarity. It wasn’t really my thing but I decided I had nothing to lose. The conversation not only gave me courage to turn the bear shop dream into reality; it gave me the premise for my debut novel, Searching for Steven

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It’s amazing how quickly things can change. Roll forward a couple of decades later, and I’m an author who has written 9 novels and a novella (one of those novels will come out early next year) but I’ve also had a horrendous 2018 in my writing journey. I will blog about that in due course but, for the moment, I’m hoping for a more positive start to 2019.

To anyone who has followed my blog recently and found no content, I welcome you, and to anyone who did follow and wondered what happened to me, I’m back. Thank you for being part of my writing journey with its many ups and downs. Wishing you all the best for a great start to 2019.

Jessica xx

 

When will it ever be enough? A little poem for you

Followers of this blog will have noticed that I haven’t posted for a very long time. That’s not because I haven’t been blogging, but because I launched a new website a couple of years ago and I blog over there, albeit not nearly as often as I should. My website appears to be poorly, though, and while I’m waiting for it to be fixed at IT Hospital, I thought I’d take to my WordPress site because there’s something I want to say.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m part of a writing collective called The Write Romantics and we celebrated five years together in April. When we formed, a publishing deal was a very distant hope. For some of us, simply fiRaving About Rhys NEW COVERnishing our first book was the more immediate goal and we hadn’t thought much beyond that. Five years later with about 80 books released between us as a combination of indie releases and traditional publishing deals. We share our writing experiences – highs and lows – with each other and one of the things we’ve noticed recently is that we keep shifting the goalposts for ourselves. For example, that book we wanted to write became a book we wanted to have published by a small publisher which became a book that we wanted published by a big publisher. And cracking the top 100k in the Amazon charts became cracking the top 50k, then the top 10k, then … well, I think you get the picture. It can be so easy to keep chasing after the new goals that you forget how far you’ve come.

Yesterday morning, I was thinking about this as I loaded the washing machine (typical Saturday morning exciting task) and a poem started to form with these shifting goalposts in mind and I thought I’d share it…

Never Enough by Jessica Redland

Searching for Steven NEW COVERAll I want is one idea
How difficult could that be?
A plot that has some mileage
That would be enough for me

All I want is to write a book
What an achievement that would be
300 pages, a brand new world
That would be enough for me

All I want is for someone to read it
A friend or family
If they said it was good; that I could write
That would be enough for me

Getting Over Gary NEW COVERAll I want is an eBook publisher
How amazing would that be?
To believe in my story and share my work
That would be enough for me

All I want is to make some sales
Just one, or two, or three
A handful of readers to download to Kindle
That would be enough for me

All I want is some good reviews
How flattering would it be
For strangers to say they love my work?
That would be enough for me

Dreaming About Daran NEW COVERAll I want is to climb the charts
It would make me so happy
To see my ‘baby’ go up and up
That would be enough for me

All I want is a bestseller tag
In some obscure category
That orange flag would scream success
That would be enough for me

All I want is to break the top hundred
I know there’s no guarantee
But then I’d know I’ve got some talent
That would be enough for me

IMG_1212All I want is to be top ten
Can anyone hear my plea?
Side by side with my favourite authors
That would be enough for me

All I want is a number one
I’d barely contain my glee
That coveted slot and all those sales
That would be enough for me

All I want is a paperback
Something I can hold and see
To say “I wrote this”, oh my word
That would be enough for me

Searching for Steven (New Cover Design 3)All I want is to write full time
A lady that lunches? So me!
Full days in my office, creating away
That would be enough for me

All I want is an audio deal
Listening while sipping my tea
Those accents, those sounds, my world brought to life
That would be enough for me

All I want is my books on the shelves
Of a supermarket: big four. Or three
The sales, the success would remove all the stress
That would be enough for me

_MG_4712All I want is a top five publisher
The validation? My pants I would pee!
I’d finally know that I really can write
That would be enough for me

All I want is to make foreign sales
Australia? France? Germany?
Translations galore, the world at my door
That would be enough for me

All I want is the film to be made
The big screen for everyone to see
Amazing reviews, the compliments ooze
That would be enough for me

Charlee and the Chocolate Shop CoverAll I want is an Oscar win
I’d really be top of the tree
Best screenplay? Oh my, I think I would cry
That would be enough for me

All I want is some book two success
And the same for book number three
Doing even better than first out the grid
That would be enough for me

 

All I wanted was one idea
To write a book, just for me
But the goalposts kept changing, my life rearranging
And it’s never enough for me

11163942_10153485965149073_2015482777000081150_nIt’s easy to feel so overwhelmed
When sales aren’t what I’d hoped
And reviews are mean and personal
And very unprovoked
When all the writers that I know
Seem to do so great
And the day job takes priority
So my writing has to wait

 

So it’s back to the start to recapture that feeling
When first I typed “the end”
When someone said, “I loved it!”
Even though they were a friend
Christmas at Carlys Cupcakes CoverWhen I sat at my keyboard and laughed and cried
As my characters found their voices
When the publishing world was unexplored
But filled with exciting choices

The task once seemed impossible:
To write a full-length story
A big fat tick against that goal
I should bask in the glory
That I achieved what many don’t
And repeated it six-fold
I am a writer BECAUSE I WRITE;
Not for how many I’ve sold
I hope you enjoyed it. Granted, I’m no incredible poet (my novels are much better, I promise!) but I thought I’d share this as a reminder for anyone who keeps shifting their own goalposts to remember all the great things you’ve achieved so far – simply writing that first draft being one of them – and enjoy every moment of it instead of constantly reaching for the next goal.

I’m actually in a really good place with my writing at the minute. I’m coming to the end of the first draft of a new full-length novel and I have another shorter one nearly finished. Ideas are forming for a Christmas one and I have other works in progress. I had some successful meetings with editors at the recent RNA conference who are all interested in my latest WIP. Even if it doesn’t lead to anything, it’s been a huge confidence boost.

So, what do you think? Does the poem resonate? Would love to hear your thoughts.

All the best

Jessica xx

If you’re interested in finding out more about my books (or making a sneaky purchase), you can find me on Amazon here.

Getting to Know: The Write Romantics ~ an Anniversary Special!

Fabulous post from Sharon Booth in celebration of The Write Romantics’ 5th anniversary

Sharon Booth

On April 1st, it will be five years since The Write Romantics were formed by Jo Bartlett and Julie Heslington. At the time, only one member of the group – Helen Phifer – had a publishing deal. Now, all ten of us are published and our writing careers have taken unexpected twists and turns. Most importantly, though, we’re all still great friends. To celebrate five years as a group, here’s a special blog post featuring The Write Romantics.

Left to Right, back, Jo, Helen P, Sharon. Front, Jackie, Julie.

So who are The Write Romantics? In alphabetical order, Jo Bartlett, Sharon Booth, Julie Heslington (Jessica Redland), Jackie LadburyDeirdre Palmer (Zara Thorne), Lynne Pardoe, Helen Phifer, Helen J Rolfe, Rachael Thomas, Alex Weston (Alys West). 

Left to Right, Rachael, Deirdre, Helen R.

I sat down with the…

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