The one where Boldwood Books are celebrating one year of publishing

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Boldwood Books, my amazing publishers, are celebrating the one-year anniversary of their first published book and what a year it’s been for Boldwood as a publisher and for me personally as one of their authors.

They shared a graphic on their social media this morning which I’ve shamelessly stolen, summarising an amazing year:

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I was the 5th author to be published with The Secret to Happiness released on 3rd September 2019. My re-edited ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series came out in the first quarter of the year and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – the start of a new series – came out last month. Six of those 59 titles published are therefore mine. Greedy, aren’t I?

I’ve had such an amazing first year as a Boldwood author.

I’ve gone from languishing in the charts and failing to make an impact to being a Top 10 international bestseller… Woo hoo!!!! All of my books have been in the UK Kindle Top 200 with two of them entering the Top 100. Just yesterday, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (which has been in the Top 100 since the start of May, peaking at #14) and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow were in the Top 100 at the same time which was lovely. Five titles have been in the Top 30 on the AppleBooks chart and the other – Making Wishes at Bay View – only didn’t make it quite that high because it was on a free offer and #1 in the free chart.

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I’ve gone from days and days of zero sales to… well, watch this space as I should have an announcement about that next week when July’s sales figures are in. Eek! It’s something I could never, ever have dreamed I’d achieve until I joined Boldwood.

IMG_8440I’ve gone from having my titles in eBook only… to 9 formats. Wow! You’re going to ask me to name them all, aren’t you? Argh! I think it’s eBook on 3 platforms (Kindle, Kobo, AppleBooks), paperback, large print, audio MP3, audio CD, digital audio and one more format that I know about but there’s not been an official announcement yet so I’d better not say just yet). The Secret to Happiness has appeared in The Works stores around the UK and online and it is always a dream to hold (and sniff and stroke) your own paperback. It’s not just me. I promise. We all do it!

I’ve gone from having a demanding day job… to being a full-time author and I could not be happier to be able to spend my days chatting to my fictional friends and making stuff up. And procrastinating a bit on social media. Okay, procrastinating a lot! Although I did write 80k words of my second Hedgehog Hollow book since leaving the day job so I’ve got my head down too.

I’ve gone from feeling like a failure… to feeling like a real author who isn’t just wasting their time slapping a few words on a computer and hoping somebody will read them. If anyone asked me what I do, I’d always say I work in HR (true) and only occasionally add in an embarrassed voice that I also write books. Why? Because I dreaded the next question: Would I have heard of you? Cringe! Er, no. Only my mum has! Or the classic: I’d love to write a book… if only I had the time! (As if to suggest that I clearly had loads of spare time on my hands!) Or the glazed-over eyes/disinterest/disbelief and swift change of subject.

Now, I proudly declare I’m an author – or I did before Covid turned me into more of a hermit than usual – while trying to push that pain in the backside, Imposter Syndrome, back in his box. Ooh, he’s a little tinker.

Now, readers get in touch with me to say they’ve loved my work. Now, other authors ask me to read and endorse their books. I have to pinch myself every time these things happen and wonder if they’ve got the right person!

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So on Boldwood’s 1-year publication anniversary, my thanks go to so many people who have changed my life over the past year:

  • Boldwood Books for inviting me into their fold and believing in me – Amanda, Nia, Caroline, Sarah, Megan and Ellie (and welcome Emily!)
  • Our audio partners, Isis Audio, and Ulverscroft who run the uLibrary App and produce our large print books. Your work is fabulous and my audios, voiced by Lucy Brownhill and Emma Swan are brilliant
  • My superb, passionate, talented and lovely editor, Nia Beynon, whose support and advice I value so highly
  • My fellow Boldwood authors for being such a supportive community
  • My husband, Mark, and our daughter, Ashleigh, for being amazing and never moaning about the crazy hours I had to work trying to balance a day job with writing
  • My mum for being my number one fan!
  • The amazing book blogger community, some of whom have been with me since my debut release. You are such amazing champions of my work and I appreciate all your kind words and promotion so much
  • Any of my family and friends who’ve read/reviewed/promoted my books. You know who you are and I’m so very grateful
  • My writing bestie and super-talented fellow author, Sharon Booth, for tea, cake, advice, encouragement and sympathy
  • My other Write Romantic buddies for being there with virtual hugs during hard times and congratulations during the good
  • The Beverley Chapter of the RNA who are so much fun to be around. So glad we’ve managed to keep our meetings going virtually
  • A whole host of authors, some of whom I’ve met, some of whom I only ‘know’ virtually who’ve been so supportive and encouraging
  • And last, but absolutely not least, all you lovely readers. Boldwood say they’d be nothing without their authors and I’d be nothing without my readers. You are absolute stars, every one of you

If I had some cake, I’d be tucking into it right now but, instead, I’ll take a sip of Diet Pepsi (I so know how to party!) and toast Boldwood Books and their team of amazing authors.

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If you’re an author, Boldwood are currently closed for submissions but will be open again later in the year. I cannot recommend them enough as a home for your books so do follow them on social media and watch out for news.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

 

 

What’s on my wall (Part 2)? Monday Motivation

Happy Birthday Alice

Last Monday, I started a weekly #MondayMotivation blog post about what inspires me in my office and here’s the second post in the series.

In the UK, it’s evening now but the late posting is not because I’d forgotten (although with my sieve for a brain, that was very likely). I’ve actually been on a book deadline so needed to prioritise getting the manuscript for my second book in the Hedgehog Hollow series to my editor. Which I’ve now done. Eek! The anxious wait for the verdict starts now.

So, onto my wall and today’s choices is…

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I picked up the picture in a gorgeous independent gift shop in Derby in November 2017. I’d love to give the shop a plug but remember that thing I said just now about having a sieve for a brain????

I’m part of a writing collective of ten authors called The Write Romantics who were all members of the New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) when we met virtually. Seven years later and we’re all either independently published, traditionally published or hybrid with well over 100 books between us. We’re spread around the country so meeting up is a challenge but, a few years ago, half of us managed to coordinate diaries for a weekend away. None of us were familiar with Derby but it seemed like a pretty central point to meet.

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Half of the Write Romantics – L-R Me, Jackie Ladbury, Sharon Booth, Jo Bartlett, Helen Phifer

Being a huge fan of bears, the image immediately drew me in but the words were what made me buy the picture. BE BRAVE. Because, as authors, there are so many points in our writing journey when bravery is needed:

  • When we first ask someone – a friend or family member – to read our manuscript (MS) and prepare to receive their honest verdict … which may not be the positive response we’d have hoped for
  • When we submit our MS to a publisher or agent … which may result in rejection
  • When it’s publication day … and our book may fail to make an impact on the charts
  • When a negative review comes in … and we have to keep telling ourselves it’s only one person’s opinion/it’s not personal when it really feels like the world hates our work and it’s very personal
  • When we speak at an event … and hope someone turns up!
  • When we finish our next book … and worry it may not be as well received as the one before
  • And a whole lot more

At the time of our Derby meet-up, I was particularly trying to be brave about writing. I’d been indie for about a year after my original publisher ceased trading and it wasn’t going particularly well. Battling self doubt about my ability to make it as an author thanks to poor sales and weak chart positions, the bear spoke to me. Loudly. Yet gently.

The picture hangs above my desk and I look at it several times a day and draw strength from it. Be brave. Keep being brave. And sometimes that bravery will pay off and great things can happen. They did for me.

Wishing you a fabulous week.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where I talk about my lovely London trip

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At the end of last week, I had a very busy and very exciting few days in London. There were so many highlights but I nearly didn’t make it, thanks to our delightful train network.

Hubby dropped me off at Scarborough Train Station on Wednesday morning to catch the train to York where I’d connect to London. I was confronted with this…

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Whilst the new trains are lovely and the staff are delightful and often full of good humour, the actual service run by Transpennine Express is shocking. So many of the journeys I have made lately have been cancelled or running late. Apparently there was no conductor for the service so it was simply cancelled and no alternative provided other than the next train an hour later; far too late to make my connecting train to London.

I’m very lucky in that hubby works from home and I knew he wasn’t working on a deadline so I called him on the car hands-free and he had to turn around and come back to collect me. Our dog was in the car so we had to arrange to drop her off with his parents rather than dragging her to York and back (an hour each way). Just as well we did this because, whilst my London train was thankfully running on time, it took hubby nearly three hours to get home again. There’d been an accident on the main York to Scarborough road and both lanes were shut so there was a massive diversion in place. I actually made it to London fifteen minutes after he got home which is ridiculous.

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Me with my editor, Nia. No idea why I’m leaning like that!

I had a lovely afternoon in London, meeting my editor, Nia, and the CEO and Founder of Boldwood Books, Amanda. I’ve spoken to Nia on the phone several times and have had a Skype conversation with Amanda and Nia but nothing beats meeting them face to face. What a lovely lunch we had, talking about the first few months of The Secret to Happiness being out there, and marketing plans for 2020 and beyond. Every day, I am so very grateful that I submitted to Boldwood and my manuscript was chosen for representation because they really are an absolute joy to work with.

My hotel had a room with a view, ha ha ha! I posted this image showing Fenchurch Street station on Facebook and one of the Write Romantics, Deirdre, really made me laugh by asking “what’s that on the roof – ectoplasm?” Certainly looks like it!

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On Thursday morning, I had a very quick swim, jacuzzi and steam room before wandering over to The Tower of London and Tower Bridge, five minutes’ walk from the hotel.

I’ve been to London many times over the years and this is the second time I’ve been to this area but I don’t think the sights of London will ever bore me. I love all the history amongst the modern. It was a bit chilly by the river, mind.

Usually I find London several degrees warmer than the north but not last week. Brr.

After my walk, I took the tube to Kings Cross to collect my very good friend and fellow Write Romantic, Sharon Booth. I was early but Sharon’s train was running late so that gave me a great excuse to wander around the shops at Kings Cross and the ones at St Pancras over the road. How gorgeous is this Lancome Christmas tree? When you get up close, each light is shining through a bottle of perfume. That’s a heck of a lot of bottles of perfume!

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As well as meeting Boldwood, a massive highlight for me was having seven out of ten of the Write Romantics in the same place at the same time. I think we’ve managed six before so maybe one day all ten of us will get together. (From left-right on the 2nd picture below, it’s Jackie Ladbury, Jo Bartlett, Helen Phifer and Sharon Booth). Helen J Rolfe is in later pictures and I’m afraid I didn’t manage to get a picture with Deirdre Palmer as we weren’t sat together.

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We joined RNA members for a talk with bestselling author, Sophie Kinsella, who has just released another book in her shopaholic series after several years’ break. It was interesting to hear how she became a writer and more about her stories. Sorry about the poor pic but we were on the back row!

I love the Confessions of a Shopaholic film and am looking forward to Can You Keep a Secret? released soon. I’ve read several of Sophie’s books including that one.

After the talk finished, all but one of the Write Romantics gathered in my room for Prosecco and I grabbed a quick drink with them before changing and heading to a drinks reception with Boldwood.

This was an opportunity to see Amanda and Nia again but also a third team member, Megan, who is the Publishing Executive. Several of the Boldwood authors were gathered and it was so wonderful to meet them in person.

(L-R is Beth Moran, Amanda Ridout (BW), Lucy Coleman, Emma Murray, Diane Saxon, Jessica redland, Nia Beynon BW) and Fay Keenan). Megan (BW) was taking the pic.

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Next was the RNA’s Winter Party and Industry Awards. I’ve never been to one of the RNA’s London parties so this was a first. I had been looking forward to catching up with a few people I knew on social media but had never actually met but it was busier than I expected and, despite doing a few rounds of the room after the awards ceremony, I couldn’t see them! It doesn’t help that I’m vertically-challenged so trying to spot people in a roomful of people isn’t easy at the best of times but, when the lighting is dim and the room packed, I don’t think I stood much chance.

IMG_7344The highlight of the party for me was seeing two wonderful bloggers – Anne Williams and Rachel Gilbey – being nominated for the Best Blogger Award. Rachel reviewed my very first book and has read everything I’ve written since. I’ve been on several blog tours arranged via her Rachel’s Random Resources role. Anne has been a wonderful supporter of my work too more recently and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her a few times before. Anne won and I was pleased to be able to congratulate both of them and get a photo of them together.

One of the Write Romantics was heading off home soon but the remaining six of us decamped to Pizza Express and had a lovely evening, catching up on all things writing and non-writing. Helen J Rolfe is the one on the right on the 1st image above. And I had to show my pizza because, whilst you may not be able to see, it had potatoes on it. Yes, that’s right, potatoes on a pizza! And it was delicious.

It was pouring when we left but that didn’t stop us getting a couple of photos outside The Four Seasons Hotel.

Isn’t that a lamppost gorgeous? It’s like something out of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I kept expecting Mr Tumnus to appear at any moment!

A huge thank you to everyone who organised the Sophie Kinsella talk and the Winter Party as I know how much time and effort goes into coordinating events like this. Thank you so much to Boldwood for organising the pre-event drinks and to all the Boldwood authors. I’m sorry I didn’t get to chat individually to everyone during our short time together and then for not being able to find you to say goodbye.

My journey home was a bit fraught. I only had six minutes to make my connection in York and we were about 25 minutes late. However, so was my connecting train so I did manage to catch it. One time when I’m grateful for the poor service!

IMG_7295Have an amazing week.

Jessica xx

 

Some useful links:

The Romantic Novelists’ Association

Boldwood Books

Anne Williams’s ‘Being Anne’ Blog  

Rachel Gilbey’s ‘Rachel’s Random Reads’ Blog

 

The Write Romantics’ Amazon Pages (including those not in London):

Jo Bartlett

Sharon Booth

Jackie Ladbury

Deirdre Palmer (also writes as Zara Thorne)

Lynne Pardoe

Helen Phifer

Jessica Redland

Helen J Rolfe

Rachael Thomas

Alys West

 

 

The one where I talk about lightbulb moments and shifting goalposts

70339176_1400040106821488_6280215439226175488_nI had a lovely writing-related day on Saturday. It was the RNA’s annual York Tea and, as that didn’t start until 1pm, I arranged to meet a York-based writing friend on the morning. The last time we met was before the same event last year so we had a lot to catch up on. It was lovely to hear all about the next steps in her journey towards hopefully securing agent representation for her debut historical novel and she was keen to learn all about my publishing deal.

Then, on the afternoon, the event itself was fabulous and it was great to catch up with writing friends and chat to virtual friends for the first time face to face.

70641082_1400040126821486_3027867912644853760_nI could write loads about the York Tea but that’s not the purpose of this post which, instead, is about a lightbulb moment and a reminder of a poem I wrote a couple of years back.

When I was talking to my writing friend on the morning, she was keen to explore what made me move from being a “successful indie writer” to seeking a publishing deal. That made me laugh. Successful? Me? I explained that part of the reason for seeking a publishing deal was that I didn’t see myself as being successful at all. I talked about low chart positions and limited sales and she was genuinely astonished that I didn’t view myself as a successful writer. We talked quite a bit about this and it was illuminating to see myself through her eyes; the eyes of a new writer.

70928445_1400040553488110_2584542097021337600_nFor over six years, I’ve been part of a writing collective who provide support and encouragement to each other, celebrate successes, and offer sympathy during low periods. This is invaluable but, because we’re all published writers now, it’s easy to forget about the early days when typing ‘the end’ was a huge achievement and being published was the holy grail. I know that comparing yourself to others is the worst thing possible but it’s also a natural human inclination. When I compare myself to the other talented authors within my writing family who write for a similar market as me, I have always been bottom of the class. I’ve only vicariously experienced high chart positions, volume sales, Amazon Prime deals, and bonuses for pages read. Whilst thrilled for my friends and cheering on their success, the question has always haunted me: What am I doing wrong? I therefore wanted to work with a publishing expert who would get me the visibility/sales that have evaded me as an indie writer, despite great reviews.

My writing friend listened to all of this and she understood where I was coming from but she listed all the things I had achieved and how in awe of this she was as someone starting out on her writing journey. As I say, it was illuminating to see myself through the eyes of a new writer.

70455697_1400040296821469_3810547224698421248_nAt the RNA Tea, I was sat next to my fabulous author friend, Sharon Booth, and a wonderful RNA member we’ve met before had a conversation with us and expressed her admiration for how well we were both doing. A friend of hers who we’d only previously ‘met’ virtually came over and said the same thing. In fact, she called us both “inspiring”. You know those cartoons where a question mark circles round the character’s head? That was us. We were hearing all these words like impressive, inspiring, role-model, aspirational and felt such a disconnect. It’s absolutely not how we view ourselves so it was astonishing to hear others describe us both in this way.

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Why don’t we see ourselves the way others see us? It goes back to a poem I wrote a couple of years ago which I posted on my blog at the time but I’ve posted below again. IMG_6926I’m no poet (as you can see) but the sentiment is there. As writers, we’re so busy shifting the goalposts that we can easily forget to focus on everything that we’ve achieved so far. I’m doing it again at the moment. So far, Boldwood Books have released six books and mine was the fourth of these but the only one out of the six not to break the top 1,000 on release date. Several have actually broken into the top 300 which is beyond amazing and I am so thrilled for them because that is such a wonderful achievement and must be such a buzz. I still haven’t broken the 2,000 mark. When I should be doing a happy dance because this is way better than the positions of any of my other books, I’m worrying that I’ve let my publisher and me down. When did I become such an over-thinker?

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So, I’m trying to focus on the successes and the goals achieved instead of the ones that are (currently) out of reach. At the time of publishing this, I have:

  1. 16 reviews on Amazon and they are all 5-star and they are all amazing reviews full of wonderful words that make me cry for joy
  2. The number 1 slot in the ‘Hot New Releases’ category on Amazon
  3. 10 books published and have written 11, with another 3 part-written
  4. 49 reviews on NetGalley, 94% of which are 4 or 5 star (59% 5 star and 35% 4 star)
  5. Been offered 3 x publishing deals, the one from Boldwood Books being a dream of a deal that I still can’t believe I was fortunate enough to secure
  6. Amazing reviews on Amazon of all my other books: 395 reviews, 98% of which are 4 or 5 star (81% 5 star and 17% 4 star)

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And that’s just the facts and figures. Add to that a supportive family and a writing family and I really am very lucky. If somebody had tapped me on the shoulder when I was working on my debut novel, Searching for Steven, and told me that I would achieve all of the above, I wouldn’t have believed them because it sounded so awesome.

IMG_6925A few weeks ago, I arranged for all the females on my side of the family to meet for lunch in York. I met up with my mum, one of my cousins and my two sisters-in-law for a mooch around the shops first. One of my SILs told me how much she was looking forward to reading The Secret to Happiness and how proud she was of everything I’d achieved. I was really touched by that. Then, at the meal, Mum got everyone to sign a card for me and I was asked to give a speech about my new publishing deal. My family were so proud and keen to know more which made me feel like I had actually done something special.

Why haven’t I felt this way before? I think that, like so many writers, I’ve struggled over the years to admit that I’m an author because the response is either:

  • IMG_6927‘I’d love to write a book … if only I had the time’ accompanied by a clear judgement that I obviously have loads of spare time
  • Genuine disinterest/change of subject
  • ‘Would I have heard of you?’ and then disinterest when I’m not in The Times Top 100
  • ‘I don’t read’ accompanied by a change of subject

So it’s easier to stay quiet than face this sort of reaction. I don’t get why people behave like this because, by saying we’re authors, we’re not saying we’re special or better than others; we’re simply declaring our career choice. I have friends who will ask me about how my day job is going (I’m a freelance HR Tutor) and be happy to chat about my work and theirs but they never, ever ask me about writing. Why not? Writing is also my day job and one day I hope it will be my full-time day job. It upsets me and, as a result, I’ve  repeatedly put myself back in my box and stopped seeing any achievements as being special, focusing on the negative aspects instead. Not anymore.

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Perhaps it’s time for a different type of goal. Instead of focusing on the chart positions and sales figures, my goal is to do with the title of my book and what it is that makes me happy. Writing makes me happy. Creating characters and putting them in challenging situations makes me feel alive. As long as I still feel that way, then I have achieved success at being a writer. With a sprinkle of hope and luck, maybe the other things will start happening when I stop worrying about them. And, if they don’t, then I need to focus on what I’ve achieved and remember how I felt when an idea for a story was all I wanted and everything else wasn’t even a dream; never mind a reality.

I’ll stop wittering now and leave you with the poem which is just as relevant to me now as it was when I wrote it a couple of years ago. The only bit I’ve changed is how many books I’ve written. It was six before.

Have a fabulous week.

Jessica xx

 

Never Enough by Jessica Redland

All 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

All 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

All 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

All 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

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

All 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

All 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

It’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

When 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 eleven-fold

I am a writer BECAUSE I WRITE;

Not for how many I’ve sold

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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Back to the start again

A week or so ago, I was given the launch day for my debut novel, ‘Searching for Steven’. I knew it was going to be June but I’d got it into my head it would probably be late June. It’s Wednesday June 3rd! Eek! That’s only just over four months away!

PhotoFunia-6aa56c2Things are starting to happen. I’ve had my marketing plan from my lovely publishers, So Vain Books, and I’ve had a first draft of my book cover to check I like the concept. Either late next week or early the week after, I should receive my line edits. I have no idea what this will entail. I’ve been very lucky because my structural edits which I received in October last year required very little work. I was asked to address two points in the book where it seemed like the action didn’t quite end. This required an additional sentence in each case so very easy. I was also asked to tone down a chapter where a character was a bit under the influence. When I re-read it, I could see it was a bit over the top and my publishers suggested a slight tweak that I was able to run with. I think the chapter is much better as a result. The challenging part was the start. I thought I’d already blogged about this but I’ve looked back over my posts and I can’t see one. Please forgive me if I have covered this already and am just not seeing it!

Going back and re-writing the start of ‘Steven’ was my worst nightmare because it has been my nemesis in the decade I’ve been working on the book. I am not exaggerating when I say there have been about 40-50 different starts. In ‘Steven’, my protagonist Sarah moves back to her seaside hometown of Whitsborough Bay in North Yorkshire to take over her Auntie Kay’s florist shop. In early versions of the book, this was because Auntie Kay had died and Sarah had inherited the shop. I therefore had the book starting at a funeral, a will-reading, sitting in a cafe with her best friend reflecting on the loss, getting a phone call at home with the news of the death and about six or seven other variations around this theme. Then a writing friend read one of the variations and cried, ‘No! You can’t kill Auntie Kay!’ And I suddenly realised she was right. Although Auntie Kay was dead in my book, she’d become a real character in my head and I’d grown to really like her. But why else would Sarah move back home and take over the florists if her Auntie hadn’t died. Then it struck me: she could decide to retire and travel the world. Perfect. Auntie Kay was very happy to receive this news instead of a death certificate! Great news for her but not so great for me. How would I start the book now?

The answer was pretty much anywhere. I had Sarah at work missing out on a promotion, at home ending a rubbish relationship, travelling home to Whitsborough Bay after she’d split up with the boyfriend, or being in Auntie Kay’s shop and being told the news that she wanted to give the shop to Sarah to name just a few. I started the story when she was in primary school. I started the story when she was in senior school. I started the story in so many different guises that my head was spinning!

In summer 2013, I attended the RNA’s annual conference and pitched the book to two publishers. They both loved the premise and my voice which was incredibly flattering. They also both wanted to see the full manuscript. At this point, it started with Sarah travelling home to see Auntie Kay and getting the news about the shop. The MS had been way too long so I’d cut out a lot of what went before around ending a rubbish relationship in order to get on with the main story. One editor liked it but wanted to see a bit more action e.g. splitting up with the boyfriend (the chapter I’d cut) before going home. The other wanted more of a motivation as to why she was so keen to meet The One (it is a romance story, after all). Both their comments triggered a lightbulb moment and I came up with a start to the book that got the action and the motivation. Yippee!

PhotoFunia-6aa69bcProblem was, although So Vain Books loved it, they were concerned that it might set the wrong tone for the book with anyone dipping into the first chapter before buying. They were absolutely right. The book is fairly light-hearted and the beginning wasn’t.

I emailed them to say I’d be delighted to make a change to the start but HELP!!!!! I explained my million variations. At one point, I’d written a chapter that I did really love and I still had it. I felt it might be what they were looking for. I edited it a bit as some of the points made in it were no longer relevant to the rest of the story and sent it over. They loved it. Phew!

So now I wait to see what the final editing stage will bring. In the meantime, I’ve pretty much written the first draft of book 3. It needs a lot of editing as I’ve made a major change to it which I’ll talk about in another post but it’s been really timely because, as a result of finishing the trilogy, I know there are some minor tweaks I want to make to ‘Steven’. I want to change the job of a minor character in book 1 who’s a major character in book 3. I want to change the name of a village because I’ve really gone off my original choice of name. I need to change someone’s age. Little things like that. The great thing is that I have the opportunity to still do that. But there will hit a point when I can no longer tinker. Very scary!

I’m now really pleased with the start of ‘Steven’. It’s been a very painful process but I’ve got there. Funnily enough, the start to the two sequels has caused me no problems at all. I tinkered a bit with book 2 and book 3 hasn’t changed at all. Whether I planned it better because I didn’t want to go through the pain of book 1 again or whether it was easier to know where to start when the book’s a sequel, I’m not sure. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I don’t have to go through it again. Unless, of course, my publisher doesn’t like the start of either book. But we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.

Happy reading and writing 🙂 xx

The End of an Era

Today is 2nd January. Unless you’re celebrating a birthday, this is probably a fairly insignificant date for you; the second day in a row where you write 2014 instead of 2015, the day you awake with a hangover after too many New Year’s Day drinkies, or perhaps even the return to work after a Christmas break. But for many aspiring writers, 2nd January is one of the most significant days in their writing journey because 2nd January is the day they can apply to the RNA’s New Writers Scheme (NWS).

_MG_1520I’d post a link for the benefit of anyone interested but there’s no point because all the places will already have gone. You see, there are only 250 places a year and priority goes to those already on the scheme. However, each year, there are many who dip out. There are those who are celebrating the amazing news of a publishing deal and graduating from the NWS, those who’ve decided to dip out the NWS due to other priorities, and even those who’ve called time on their writing dreams. Hopefully the former are far greater than the latter.

This time three years ago, my writing journey changed course forever when I received the best email in the world ever: the one that told me I’d managed to secure a place on the NWS. This was a big thing for me. HUGE! Because I’d applied the year before and had missed out. It was 2011 and applications were via snail mail. I printed off the application form the moment it appeared online, completed it and posted it first class in the first post of the day. Except it took four days to reach its destination due to heavy snow blanketing parts of the country. And, by that time, the places had already gone. I was devastated. It’s funny how things turn out because 2011 proved to be a very challenging year for me. I was unexpectedly restructured out of the job I loved into a job I’d done before and, because I was the only experienced person in a new team that had been assembled, I ended up doing four jobs and working 14-16 hour days for several months. I had no time to write. I declared that enough was enough and left that job in the November and started writing again around my new job (which didn’t consist of silly hours). I resolved to try for the NWS again. To my relief, they’d changed the application system to an online registration of interest opening at midnight on 2nd January.

P1050687After a scary moment involving our internet going down and me making provisional arrangements to go to my in-laws just in case, the system came back on and I prepared my email and waited. The countdown was excruciating. Seconds ticked by like minutes and minutes felt like hours. Then my computer screen indicated 00:00 and I clicked “send”. Then panicked. What if midnight on the dot wasn’t good enough and it needed to be after midnight i.e. 1 minute past? I sent another email just in case. The organisers probably thought I was a right numpty sending two emails a minute apart but all I cared about was securing my place. And when I received my email later that day to confirm my place, it was worth it.

I’ve submitted a full manuscript for three years: 2012 and 2013 saw the submission of the same MS, ‘Searching for Steven’ as I made significant tweaks to it based on my feedback from my 2012 critique. 2014 saw the submission of the sequel, ‘Getting Over Gary’. This year I won’t be submitting.

It feels a little strange knowing that the deadline for being part of 2015’s NWS has well and truly passed and that the new “class of 2015” will have (probably) heard already that they’ve secured a place (or not). Before today’s deadline, it didn’t feel quite so real that I’d decided to give up my place.

So why did I give up my place? Securing a three-book publishing deal would normally mean graduating from the NWS and becoming a full RNA member. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for me. The RNA have rules about membership and one of these is that a publishing company must have been in existence for two years to be recognised by them. My publisher is new so isn’t yet recognised for full membership. I could have remained with the RNA as an NWS member for another year and become a full member in 2016 when So Vain Books will have been round long enough to meet the criteria but I made the decision that I didn’t want to stay in the NWS for another year when (a) I could release that valuable place to somebody else and give them the same opportunities I’ve enjoyed, (b) I could save myself the membership fee and put it towards a writing workshop instead, and (c) I’d still have the valuable support network of The Write Romantics.

_MG_6896The NWS and RNA have given me so much over the three years I’ve been a member. I’ve set up The Write Romantics with fellow-NWS member Jo Bartlett and the support, knowledge and encouragement from that group has directly secured my publishing deal. If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll recall I got two offers. The first was from a US company who Jo encouraged me to apply to when I was about to give up and So Vain Books, with whom I accepted a publishing deal, were highlighted to us by Alys who’d spotted an advert. Jo submitted to them and secured a deal but I didn’t submit as I wasn’t sure my book was a fit. Jo spoke with the publishing director about my book and I was invited to submit as a result. I would never have received either of these deals without the WRs and I’d never have met the WRs without the NWS. And I’d never have  been part of the Winter Tales charity anthology of which I’m incredibly proud.

Two of the three reports I’ve received (the two for ‘Searching for Steven’) have been incredibly helpful and have helped shape it into the book that it is today (the one that received two offers!) The review of ‘Getting Over Gary’ wasn’t so helpful but I wonder whether part of that was because it was a sequel and my reader really needed to have read Steven first. Although I could have paid the extra fee and stayed in the NWS this year, I didn’t really want to submit the 3rd book in the trilogy and receive a critique that suffered because the reader was trying to read book 3 as a stand-alone book when it’s designed not to be stand-alone.

Good luck to all those who are continuing with the NWS and all the best to those who have secured a place for the first time this year (or maybe re-joined after a break). I think it’s the right decision to have dipped out this year and given my place to someone else although it’s a shame that this means dipping out of the RNA too. This doesn’t need to be forever, though, as I may well re-join when I’m eligible for full membership.

Thank you to all my readers, the organisers, and the RNA for playing a vital part in making my publishing dreams come true. I can’t thank you enough xx

Indie Jules & the SP Quest

Tuesdays are normally a fairly harmless day. Perhaps they’re a little closer to a Monday than I’d like and not quite close enough to the weekend but, generally, they’re ok. Today was an exception. 

Today started off with the usual battle to get out of the house for work with the munchkin washed, dressed, brushed, fed and watered. But we managed it. We usually do. Today didn’t start with me having to clean cat mess up in the kitchen, dining room and hall thanks to Pixie clearly having a dicky tummy. No, that was yesterday’s pleasure so today was already looking much better than Monday.

So I arrived at work this morning with a plan of activities and priorities and was looking forward to a productive day. But the best-laid plans usually come unstuck and today they unravelled before my eyes. I won’t bore you with the details but I had to spend most of the day re-working some stuff that I really shouldn’t have had to re-work at the 11th hour because it had been out there for comment 2-3 weeks ago and nobody commented then. Grr.

Hubby picked me up from work and I had a little rant then felt much better. Next stop was Currys to return an iPhone dock that declared on the front that it was “iPhone compatible” but is actually only compatible with an iPhone 5. And I don’t have one of those. Cue sarcastic young chappie on the desk who says, “That’s why it says on the front of the box that it’s got a lightning connector”. Yes, young man, it might well say that. But if you don’t have an iPhone 5 and don’t have an interest in technology, how the hell are you supposed to know that a lightning connector is something that connects into an iPhone and not some technology that just makes the sound better or the connection stronger. He ignored me when I tried to point this out. Rude. But at least I got my refund.

We made it home a little after 6.30pm and I logged onto my computer while the munchkin had her bath and the day deteriorated even more …

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my decision to go indie and then, last week, a spanner was lobbed into the works when one of the eBook publishers I’d pitched to at the Conference got in touch, apologised for the delay, and said my book would be the next she read. For a few days, I was incredibly excited because this was the eBook publisher who, out of all my submissions, I believed I fit with best. And for a brief moment, despite them having taken nearly nine months to respond to my submission despite having asked for a full in person at the RNA Conference, I forgave them and started imagining what it would be like to receive “the call”. For me, “the call” has always been about that affirmation that I can write because a publisher thinks highly enough of me to take me on.

But then the doubts set in.

You see, I really did (and still do) believe that indie is the way for me. I consider myself to be pretty good at my day job which includes planning, organising, engaging with customers, promotional activities and many other skills that I could directly transfer from a company to myself as my own business. Why wouldn’t I do that? Why would I let someone else take control over deadlines, edits, promotion etc when I believe I have the skills (and would pick up the experience) to do it myself and buy in professionals to do bits I can’t do? I met my lovely writing friend and fellow-Write Romantic Alys, for a drink and a spot of sticky toffee pudding (would be rude not to) at the start of last week and we chatted about her wonderful news that she’s secured an agent (read more about it here) and my dilemma of indie v “the call”. We discussed the pros and cons. We even got out the calculator and did some sums. And everything still pointed to indie so I posed the question to the other Write Romantics and asked them what they’d do. Everyone admitted they’d struggle to say no to “the call” and I should accept it as a platform to get cracking, perhaps becoming indie later. Yes. Very sensible. Probably the right thing to do. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that indie was still for me and the longer I waited to hear back with a decision, the more convinced I became. Let’s face it, did I really want to work with an editor who had kept me waiting for nine months, then told me I’d be next, then kept me waiting another fortnight?

Let’s return to the bad day. I logged on to my computer and there was an email from the ePublisher, a day shy of two weeks since I was told I’d be next. And it was a strange email because it didn’t say “no” but it certainly wasn’t “the call”. Instead, it was a further apology for the inexcusable wait and a thanks for my patience (believe me, I have NOT been patient!) Then there was something nice about the premise and the setting. Then there was something not so nice about it needing further development and three tips to help me improve this book and “future ones”. I’m not going to list these and declare that I disagree strongly with these tips because that will sound like I’m being all defensive. All I’ll say is that feedback is subjective and the three points raised are ones that my NWS critique and beta readers also raised … but in the opposite way i.e. they think I’ve done those things very well. Who’s right? Who knows?! I’d like to go with the NWS critique and my beta readers. There’s more of them. My little army!

As for the end of the email, it just said to ask if there were any further questions. That was it. No, “so regretfully it’s a no from us but we wish you every success in your future writing” or “please do these changes and resubmit” or any other variation on these themes. It just ended. No offer. No rejection. No next steps. No good luck message. Have I really waited nine months to hear that?

Four submissions are outstanding. I’m sure one must be a no as this is the other ePublisher who I pitched to, who wanted a full, who didn’t respond and who hasn’t replied to chase emails despite a promise that everyone will hear either way. The other three will, I am sure, be rejections but I won’t prolong this post with the reasons why.

I actually cried when I read the email this evening. I cried lots. Those proper fast-flowing tears that drip down your cheeks and wet your blouse and feel like they’re never going to stop. And it wasn’t because I’m upset at the rejection. I’d believed I’d been rejected a long time ago and somebody just forgot to tell me. No, that wasn’t it. It was because I’d been built up only to be trampled down again. It was because I’m frustrated as a frustrated thing that’s really frustrated with this whole ludicrous dance we do to try and get noticed. And it was because, quite honestly, I’ve had a crap day and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I nearly cried at work so I was already teetering on the edge.

Have you ever been interviewed for a job that you don’t really want but you need a job because either (a) you hate your current job and are desperate to leave or (b) you’re out of work and desperate to be earning again? Do you find yourself hoping it’s a “no” so that you don’t have to make the difficult decision as to whether to accept or turn it down. I’ve been there several times with jobs and this situation reminded me so much of it because, deep down, I wanted a no so that the decision would be made for me and I wouldn’t have to push indie aside for fear of turning down a publishing deal. I got what I wanted, didn’t I? The decision has been made for me and that particularly publishing footpath leads no further.

But is it a case of be careful what you wish for? Watch this space …

 

I can’t sign off without saying thank you so much to the wonderful kindred spirits that are Jo, Alys and the other Write Romantics for their valuable guidance, support and advice and to honorary WR Sharon Booth. And to hubby who let me cry on him too. There may have been some snot in there too. Sorry about that! xxx

What happens when you make the wrong choice?

My last post, “To SP or Not SP: That is the Question” received a quite overwhelming level of support and I thank everyone who took the time to convey their support or pass on their comments. For those in a similar situation, I hope it helped you gather your thoughts on which road to take on your journey.

Today I’m going to continue with the theme of wrong choices but in a much lighter-hearted vein. My strapline for this blog is “writing, reading, life, chocolate and bears” yet I’ve only ever wittered about writing. I’m going to rectify that today and talk chocolate. More specifically a chocolate brownie.

Today is Father’s Day so I’ll just pause to wish all the best to my dad, my father in law and my husband, Mark, on behalf of the munchkin. We had a lovely walk along Filey Brigg (long stretch of rocks round the cliffs at Filey, North Yorkshire, just down the coast from Scarborough where we live) and then went for tea at a lovely pub called The John Paul Jones in The Bay Holiday Village just outside Filey. We’ve eaten there once before and it was delicious. It’s slightly more expensive than your average chain pub but the food is worth it.

I’m a bit of a pudding fiend. I have always claimed to have two stomachs; one for mains and one for desserts because I can always seem to fit in a dessert even when I’m feeling stuffed from my main course. Maybe this is the variation between sweet and savoury. Or perhaps it’s because I’m a pig!

Anyway, we got round to discussing pudding and recalled that I’d made a bad choice last time I was there when my dessert arrived and was really small but the munchkin’s had been huge. Unfortunately, none of us could remember the choice I’d made last time. I tend to be drawn towards cheesecakes and, as there was a white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake on the menu, I suspected this might have been the tiny dessert. So I avoided that. The munchkin liked the sound of it and I placed our order: cheesecake for her and a chocolate brownie for me. I returned from the bar confident that I’d ordered differently from last time. Until the desserts came out for the table of five near us. A couple of cheesecakes appeared and they were definitely a good-sized portion. Someone on the table had waffles: huge. And another of the party had a chocolate fondant thing which was enormous. And at that point, panic set in. Three desserts and all big. Surely I hadn’t picked the same one as before. Had I?

ImageA few minutes later, munchkin’s large cheesecake arrived. And so did my brownie. My tiny brownie. My three-mouthfuls-and-it’s-gone brownie. Yep, I hadn’t learned. Lightning had struck twice! To add insult to injury, the munchkin couldn’t eat all of hers! Grr. I DEFINITELY won’t make that mistake again. I hope. Can’t believe I made the wrong choice. I personally think that they should note the dimensions on the menu to manage the expectations of customers like me!

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The silver lining in this sorry tale is that I’d lost 3 stone last year and was a long way off my goal but very proud of my progress. For reasons I won’t go into just now, I’ve put a lot of that 3 stone back on and looking at the photos from today was a bit of a shock. With my 3 stone off, I was overweight but I didn’t hate photos of me. I hate this one. I hadn’t realised I looked so huge again. So it was probably just as well my brownie was tiny. Diet starts tomorrow! By the way, if you’re local or visiting, definitely go to The John Paul Jones. Fab pub, fab food but if you like huge puddings, pick anything but the brownie!

And just to tie this all back into writing which is, of course, the main theme of this blog, I’ve had an unexpected development. I was all fired up about indie after my post last week. A discussion with my hubby after posting it confirmed that it would be foolish to rush things and self-publish my debut for the summer market. In fact, Christmas may be ambitious and perhaps spring, summer and Christmas 2015 would be a very wise and sensible launch plan for my trilogy. But then I received a most unexpected Facebook message from one of the big eBook publishers to whom I’d pitched at the RNA conference last year apologising for the enormous wait, thanking me for my patience, and telling me my book would be next on the list to be read. I’d given up on ever hearing from them. The idea to go indie is logical and has many pros but it was driven in the first instance by the frustration at waiting for so long to hear news from any publishers and the refusal to put myself through that again with more and more rounds of subs. Suddenly the place I thought was the best fit for my books was back on the agenda. I’m now going to be on tenterhooks all week. The message came through on Wednesday evening so realistically I didn’t expect to hear anything last week although I did have a little fantasy about good news on Friday 13th and liked the contradiction that would provide. More realistically, I could hear this week. Searching for Steven could have been read over the weekend. Eek! I tell you what, I’m going to be a wreck any time my phone rings!

What happens when you make the wrong choice? It’s a very interesting question. Make the wrong choice on dessert and there’s a severe case of food envy but perhaps some saved calories. Make the wrong choice about the home for my debut novel and my whole writing career could change. I feel like everything is hanging in the balance pending this decision. If I get a yes, I’d be foolish to say no. If I went indie and things didn’t take off, I’d be forever wondering “what if I’d accepted the offer, where would I be then?” but accepting a publishing deal (if I got the call) wouldn’t stop me going indie at some point later when I’d (hopefully) be successful and established. If it’s a no, then nothing has changed and the indie plans still stand. Although I still have another 5 irons in the fire (I had a no from one of the US publishers 2 days after posting my last entry) so it’s not over until the fat lady sings.

And I’m not singing just yet, although I will be mostly eating fruit for the next few months … 

To SP or not to SP: That is the Question!

Self publishing. Indie publishing. Call it what you like but it’s the subject that has been going round and round in my mind for the last few months and I really can’t decide what to do. I’m not sitting on the fence on this one; I’ve been leaping back and forth across it from Traditional Crop to Indie Meadow and, quite frankly, I don’t know where my head’s at! So, in true writerly style, I’m going to put fingers to keyboard and try and write my way into a decision. Would you like to come on a little journey with me?

In the beginning …

When I first had the idea for Searching for Steven back in 2003 and decided to write, the dream was simple: to get a publishing deal and be able to hold a book I’d written. (If I’m being honest, the dream was really to dive into Waterstones, WH Smith or my local bookshop and be photographed grinning inanely whilst pointing to said book but let’s not go there cos it’s slightly cheesy even though I’m sure most writers long to do it!) When I say “book” I mean a physical book because this was four years before the first eReader came out and it simply wasn’t on my radar to even imagine a world where there would ever be a format for books other than paperback, hardback or audio. How things change!

ImageBack then, I had no idea that something called self publishing existed. But I hadn’t heard of vanity publishing either. In fact, I had little ideas of how publishing worked full stop. Then I met my husband and, as a freelance typesetter, he opened my eyes to the world of publishing. Sadly he mainly sets journals and text books so doesn’t have connections in the large fiction publishers so this isn’t going to be a short story with a happy ending where he introduced me to one of his clients and the deal was done. Instead, what I learned from him was the existence of self publishing. Local vicar-turned-writer, G P Taylor (Graham) had self-published his debut novel “Shadowmancer” that same year (2003) and Mark had picked up a 1st edition in Waterstones. The book took off and was picked up and re-released by Faber & Faber and became a New York Times No 1 bestseller. Graham’s books were cited at the time as being “hotter than Potter”. Imagine that! No pressure then!

In 2006 I attended a creative writing course run by Graham and, although I never thought seriously about becoming self published at the time, Graham’s success was always at the back of my mind. You can read more about G P Taylor on his official website

For several years I continued writing and learning my craft, always working towards the goal of being published in physical book format.

Then the eReader hit the market and the face of publishing changed forever.

I fought against owning a Kindle for some time. Books. That was what people should be reading. None of this new-fangled technology rubbish for me putting writers out of business. Except the reality has been quite the opposite. It’s actually opened up a world of publishing to many who would never have been in the right place at the right time with the right idea to secure a traditional publishing deal.

I succumbed and got a Kindle for Christmas 2012 and I confess I absolutely love it. It will never fully replace physical books for me. I’ll always love the smell and feel of an actual book but my Kindle is so practical. It’s with me all the time for those unexpected moments of waiting. I’m someone who can’t bear not being on the go and who hates wasted time so being unexpectedly stuck waiting for a lift, bus, child etc can suddenly be time well-spent by whipping out my Kindle and reading a few pages.

But this posting isn’t about the virtues of Kindles (other e-Readers are available!) It’s about the decision to self publish or not so let’s get back to that …

ImageLast summer I attended the RNA’s annual conference where one of my biggest learnings was that it is almost impossible for a debut writer to secure a UK publishing deal in my genre (note I said “almost”; some do, of course, achieve it but they are definitely the exception rather than the rule). For the rest of us debut writers, it became clear that a publishing deal would more likely be with an ePublisher. Many of the large publishers have set up dedicated ePublishing arms. I was lucky enough to secure a pitch with editors representing two ePublishers at the conference and, to my delight, they loved the premise of my story and my writing style and both wanted to see my full MS. The excitement I felt at this news made me realise that, even thought I will always like the idea of holding a book of mine in my hand, I would be very happy to secure an ePublishing deal. I think several factors contributed to this change of heart; my new love of my Kindle, the reality check that this was the way forward for a debut romance writer, the speed at which the book could be available to readers when compared to the traditional print market and also fellow Write Romantic, Helen Phifer, having secured a deal with Carina for her debut novel. You can read more about Helen here

Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing Helen’s journey with her and have observed what it means to be ePublished via a large publisher. In the meantime, I’ve been submitting my MS. I’ve submitted to both the ePublishers I met (would be rude not to when so politely invited), I tried a few agents (just in case; got to keep that traditional publishing deal dream alive) and a handful of other ePublishers, more recently a few in the USA.

As expected, I’ve had some rejections. I had a very encouraging “near miss” from an agent which was exciting but, for every positive response, I’ve been disappointed by the “if you don’t hear from us within 6 weeks/2 months/6 months, assume it’s a no” approach to decisions. My day job has seen me in many recruitment roles over the years and I have always, always, always had the courtesy of getting in touch with candidates to let them know their application has been unsuccessful. It takes a bit of time to do and it’s bad news for the candidate … but at least it’s news! They can move on. They can apply elsewhere. They don’t have to keep checking their email wondering if today will be the day they hear. In this day and age where most submissions are online or via email, there simply isn’t any excuse for not getting in touch to tell an aspiring writer they’ve been unsuccessful. In my mind, it’s downright rude and it’s also poor customer service because, don’t forget, those who are good at their craft should also be voracious readers and therefore customers you’d hope not to alienate. Phew! Relax. Deep breath. Rant over!

Back to the journey …

So, I waited and I waited. And I waited some more. And I’m still waiting. And, to be honest, it’s frustrating as hell. Where else in business would such a long wait be acceptable? Nowhere. It feels so out of control. And that’s where the appeal of indie publishing comes in. It’s in your control. There’s a line in one of my favourite films, Pretty Woman, where Julia Roberts’s character, Vivian, confronts Richard Gere after his lawyer, Stuckey, assaults her when she refuses his advances. She yells at Gere, “I say who, I say when, I say who …” Well, with self publishing, I’d say what, I’d say when, I’d say how much. I hadn’t really thought about the control thing until I had my recent lovely writerly afternoon with fellow Write Romantic Alex and our fellow NWS-friend Sharon. Sharon is quite keen on the idea of SP and one of the main drivers is the control. I’m someone who likes to be in control. I’m very organised, I’m usually a manager/leader at work, I’m a Brown Owl outside of work and generally I like to get things done … but within my timescales. I would only have that as an indie which makes indie very appealing.

I left my afternoon with Alex and Sharon with a spring in my step about self publishing. But then a couple of The Write Romantics received some really positive news that took them one step closer to their publishing dream and I had another reality check. I revelled in their news vicariously and was absolutely ecstatic for them. But feeling their excitement for them was a reminder of how excited I’d feel myself to get “the call”. Suddenly indie lost its shine and I was back to square one.

My current day job is a Learning & Development Advisor and, a couple of months ago, I was asked to be a facilitator, supporting a colleague running a coaching workshop. To give the delegates an opportunity to practice their coaching skills, they were broken into small groups and the facilitator of each group needed to present an issue they were dealing with outside of work and get the group to coach them. I choose “to SP or not SP”. I have to say the results out of this coaching session were quite fascinating. The only thing stopping me from going indie was me (often the case in any coaching situation) and the only reason I was stopping me was this slight doubt I have at the back of my mind (which I’m sure all debut writers have … and probably some successful writer too) is that I’m not good enough and having “the call” would be having someone in the know saying, “Don’t worry, Julie, we loved your work; you really are good enough.” But one of the coaches-in-training asked me the most enlightening question of the session: “Is there any other way you can get feedback that you’re good at writing.” OMG. Lightbulb moment. Sales. Reviews. Feedback. Of course!!!! (This lightbulb moment is worthy of several question marks even though I know that’s really a writing sin!)

Which brings my journey to present day …

I’m still waiting to hear back from 7 publishers. This is not me being either modest or down on myself but I absolutely do not expect to hear back from the three UK ones. I don’t think I have a chance with one of them as they did a submissions call and were inundated and I think they’ll be spoilt for choice. The other two have had my book way, way, way too long. Yes, it’s possible it’s going through a process and the length of time I’ve waited is a good sign but it’s equally possible it still hasn’t been read and, given that both editors specifically asked me for it, I feel that if it was really calling to them, I’d have heard by now so I have to conclude that the pull that was there in the summer isn’t there any more and I don’t know why. As for the US publishers, it’s an unknown for me. I want my book to be available to UK audiences as I want my friends and family to read it. Surely they deserve to after hearing me wittering on about being a writer for 11 years! I wonder if they’d publish in the US and I’d retain UK rights which would mean, what? SP is the only route in the UK again? I don’t know. As I said, it’s an unknown entity and a bridge I’ll cross if I ever get to it.

ImageThe final update on the journey is that, although at the start of this rather long post, I said Mark doesn’t have connections, that’s not strictly true. He has a local contact called Piers who has been in the publishing industry since the early 1970s. Piers writes fact and fiction, is traditionally published and self published and has published for others so he’s a wealth of knowledge and experience. I had a very useful phone conversation with him on Tuesday and he presented the indie route as a no-brainer, particularly financially. There’s no guarantee you’ll sell shed-loads but, hey, there’s no guarantee you’ll do any better if you have a publishing deal. Either way, you still have a lot of the marketing to do yourself and, with SP, you reap greater financial rewards for the same volume of sales. There’s formatting to do (cue expertise of typesetting husband). And a cover to design (cue expertise of amateur (but exceedingly good) photographer husband or his best friend (best man at our wedding) who happens to be a graphic designer). And there’s reliable experts to proof-read and edit the work (hello Write Romantics) and then voila! He also presented an idea I really hadn’t considered but which is pretty obvious if you think about it. The books he SPs, he does in both e-format and print format. He’s going to give me the details of a very good printing firm he uses and gave me an indication of costs. I love the idea of the credibility and increased market that potentially having eBooks and print books available on Amazon could bring. And if I didn’t want to invest in a large box of books, there’s CreateSpace who do POD (print on demand) so there are many options available to become indie AND still hold a physical book in my hand AND get that feedback from reviews and sales that my work really is good enough.

To SP or not to SP? I think I’ve answered the question haven’t I? I think the question really should be, “Do I have time to go indie for the summer market or do I wait and aim for Christmas?” Impatient by nature, there’s a part of me saying summer but professional by nature too, I believe Christmas may be more sensible. More time to plan. More time to network and build a customer base. More time to get the cover that’s really right for me. Plus, I’d like to do one more edit of Searching for Steven (just in case). After all, I haven’t read it for about nine months and a fresh look may inject new energy and life into it. And I suppose I would like to give that last few months to (hopefully) have the final decisions in from the 7 publishers who have Steven.

Although it would make a really great beach read …