Last year, I went to a Society of Authors event and got chatting to a lovely bloke called Paul. We discussed how I drifted from traditional publishing into indie publishing and the advantages of being a hybrid published author. The upshot of that conversation was a longer conversation that happened on his podcast.
We talked about my writing journey. He was most amused by the fact that my pen name is derived from Rhodobacter sphaeroides. I was most amused by the fact that he called me ‘cerebral’. We also discussed some of the self publishing courses I took so that I could learn the necessary skills.
Go listen to the episode. Sorry if I sound like a precocious ten year old. I need to work on my radio voice.
Oh, while you’re here, do you listen to many podcasts? If I interviewed, say, UK romance authors, would you listen to the interviews?
Since I have to write a lot of copy now that I’ve got a few indie books out – writing blurbs, writing emails – I figured I should read up a bit on how to write copy. This book is easy to read and concise (which is good, since one of the main pieces of advice is ‘be concise’!).
There are lots of useful pointers here. To be honest, a lot of what he says is what my English teacher taught me at O-level, but it’s good to have it reiterated. It’s also nice to see a book with UK examples.
If you’re looking for a book to help you write book blurbs, How To Write A Sizzling Synopsis by Bryan Cohen is better, but this is a pretty good guide to start out with.
It’s nearly December, so it must be time to break out a Christmas novella or two.
I have two Christmas novellas out this year. Girl At Christmas, which is set in the same world as the other ‘Smart Girls’ series books, and Snowed In, which is set in a fictional town in West Yorkshire. Here they are:
As you can see Milly Johnson and Jane Lovering have nice things to say about them, so you might like them too!
Both novellas have slightly geeky characters and at least one South Asian main character.
You can buy them separately or together in this handy ‘box set’. (Technically, it’s an omnibus edition because it’s not actually in a box … but there aren’t any wheels, so I’m going with box set as a description). You save a quid on the box set compared to getting them separately. Aha, you say. But they’ll be dropping down to 99p soon… except they won’t, because the book promotion sites tend not to take novellas, so it’s not worth the hassle.
I picked up this book because I wanted to know what to look for in a book cover – what was good practice, what info did a cover designer need. Also, since I was thinking of putting together some covers for short stories myself.
It is interesting and informative and gives me an idea of what goes into the design of a cover. With book covers the actual making of the cover (the messing around with image manipulation software) is the easy bit. The difficult bit is getting the design part right. This book covers things like font pairing, font placement, contrast etc.
If you’re working with a designer, it also gives you a good handle on what your cover designer is talking about.
It won’t tell you HOW to do it, but will tell you what needs doing. I now have fewer unknown unknowns about book cover design.
A useful book all round.
I should point out that this is a book about writing blurbs to go on the back of the book, not the synopsis that you send to a publisher/ agent.
I’d heard of Bryan Cohen and his ninja copywriting skills, so I thought I’d buy his book and see what I could learn. This book is clearly and concisely written (as you’d expect) and gives you a nice step by step guide to the art and craft of writing a book blurb.
I’ve tried to put these techniques into practice. It’s hard to do, but having some guidance helps, especially when you get to the ‘Okay, I’ve done a decent draft, now how do I make it better’ stage.
I’d recommend this book to self publishers who have to write their own back cover copy.
After five years of being a published writer, I’ve written four books, been published by two publishers andI now have an agent! I’ve signed to be represented by the fabulous Federica Leonardis. The book I sent to Federica is a slight change of direction from my usual rom coms and she’s already helped me tweak it to make it better.
I’m looking forward to achieving great things together.
In the meantime, there’s cake to be had! Cheers all!
A couple of weekends ago, I went to RNAConf17 in Telford. This was my 6th conference and, as always, it was fantastic. I was in a flat with the rest of the Naughty Kitchen and sat up until waaaay past my usual bed time, eating chocolate and drinking (tea in my case, because I’m sad like that) and chatting about all manner of things. My favourite moment was when a first time conference attendee suddenly said “It’s so nice to be in the company of so many women who UNDERSTAND what it’s like to have people living in your head.” Yep. We get that.
Oh, and I had a lovely fan girl moment when I ran into Sarah Morgan. I love her books. I babbled. She was very gracious and let me take a photo with her.
I attended talks on how to manipulate images, how to ‘do’ social media, the future of the industry etc. The most eye opening talk by far was by Dr Ria Cheyne who talked to us about her research project into the representation of disability in romantic fiction. Her talk about about things to be aware of when writing disabled characters in romance. This is something I’m interested in. I’ve written depressed characters before, which I’m comfortable doing because I’ve been there. I have an idea in embryo about a mobility impaired character, and, since I don’t have first hand experience of it, I know I need to do research to make her life realistic.
Anyway, here are my notes from the session. If you have time, please visit the DisRom Project and take their survey. Pass it onto friends who read romance.
They’ve only had 500 or so reponses to their survey so far, so not enough to draw conclusions from. But responses to the question ‘Would a disabled character on the cover or in the blurb make you LESS likely to buy the book’ were 1%! Most people said it made no difference. A few people (around 19% said ‘it depends’).
The advice for writing about disability was:
Do your research – look at forums, speak to people with similar conditions. Don’t assume anything. Eg. Wheelchair users aren’t ALWAYS in their wheelchairs. A person using a white cane isn’t necessarily a 100% sightless.
Don’t use disabled secondary characters as a way of showing how good a main character is.
Don’t make disabled characters mysteriously wise (make them real people).
Be wary of recovery narratives where the disability is suddenly cured by a bonk on the head or a new miracle treatment.
Be mindful of language. Eg ‘She was a wheelchair user’ is different to ‘she was confined to a wheelchair’.
Remember hidden disability – not all disability is obvious or visible.
The questions at the end were also illuminating.
We discussed why representation was important (everyone deserves a happy ending!) and talked a little bit about how people reclaim derogatory language and how someone in wheelchair calling themselves a ‘crip’ is potentially realistic and non-offensive, an able-bodied person calling them that would be offensive, just as it would be in real life.
We also discussed how it was a good idea to have people familiar with the condition beta read the book before it goes out. This is a sort of ‘sensitivity beta read’ to check for mistakes or misconceptions rather than to check if anyone is offended by anything (people are offended by all sorts of things, you’d never write a book that doesn’t offend someone, somewhere).
It was a really interesting talk. It made me think about a lot of things.
Here’s the link to the survey again. Please do fill it in (and share).
This post is a bit late, but hey, better late than never. As I may have mentioned before, my book Girl Having A Ball was shortlisted for Romantic Comedy of the Year in the 2017 RoNA awards. I was delighted with this. The RoNAs are run by the UK Romantic Novelists Association and are a pretty big deal. They’re the UK equivalent of the RITAs. Also on the shortlist were some well known authors – Cathy Bramley, Penny Parkes, Ali McNamara and Joanna Bolouri. Here we are (minus Joanna, who was poorly) looking all glamorous.
I rocked up at the fancy venue unfashionably early, so I got to take a picture of it before it was jam packed with glamour. Once people started arriving, I was too busy chatting take many more photos.
I’m always surprised at RNA events how many people there are to say hello to and how genuinely warm and friendly everyone is. Even people who are in competition with each other are friends – I chatted to my fellow shortlistees and liked them. It always takes the sting out of losing, if you like the person who won!
A number of my friends were also shortlisted, in different categories, so the excitement factor was running high.
I didn’t win my category (Penny Parkes won, with her excellenet, Out of Practice). But my mates Janet Gover (Epic Romance Category, with Little Girl Lost) and Kate Johnson (Paranormal and Speculative Fiction Category, with Max Seventeen) both won awards. After the official event finished, there was a mass trip out for pizza to celebrate.
I had a totally amazing time at the RoNAs. I might even go again next year.
The results will be announced on the 13th of March, so there’s over a month to wait to find out what happens. The other people on the shortlist are Cathy Bramley, Joanna Bolouri, Ali McNamara and Penny Parkes – all of whom write fantastic books. It’s an honour to be in their company.
If you have read Girl Having A Ball, I’d be super grateful if you could leave a review. The number of reviews a book has really makes a difference to how well it sells. I know I read reviews before I buy anything, I guess everyone else does the same.