Saturday 26 August 2017

Are Self-Published Writers 'Inferior'?

Cover 'proof' of new book

Scrolling through Facebook the other day, as you do when you are supposed to be working, I came across a blog post written by an 'anonymous' independent bookshop owner, in which he listed all the reasons why neither he, nor any of his profession would contemplate stocking self-published books.

His argument was that far too many self-published writers produce amateur and inferior books, and then have the cool arrogance to think, my God, that he is going to place their shabbily presented and badly-written volumes on his hallowed shelves! Quel horreur! (He made an exception for non-fiction books, which, he opined, were produced to a higher standard).The tone was snarky, the points generic, so I took one for the team, and responded in the comments column.

Scarcely had I crossed the i's and dotted the t's on my comments, when a friend on Twitter informed me that her husband was unable to order any of my books in their local independent bookshop, despite them having an ISBN, because I am not listed by Neilsons, or offered by Bertrams, Gardiners or other suppliers. Nor can I be, as I use Createspace (the publishing arm of Amazon) to produce my books. More horreur!

The attitude whereby self-published books are viewed by suppliers and bookshops as inferior, needs challenging. Contrary to Mr Anonymous' assertions of amateurism, many of us employ professional editors and proofreaders to check our manuscripts. We also shell out for bespoke covers, working for weeks with designers, to produce the very best and most eye-catching ones that we can. You may well find the odd typo in our work, but hey, I have found them in many a mainstream-published book too, (certainly in my own books, when I was published by a 'big name').

Now, I could, as a 'publisher' (see spine above) try to kick down the door, and get the Victorian Detectives into my local Waterstones, or one of the independent bookshops in the area, but frankly, m'dear, I can no longer be bothered. Waterstones' latest policy means that all books like mine have to be submitted to their HQ for approval, and I refuse to be treated like some kid who is handing in homework to be marked.

Even if I got an A on said homework, there is still the 'discount' hurdle to overcome. Bookshops expect publishers to offer them a 45% discount. It covers premises, overheads, staff etc etc. Fair enough. Large publishers can do this, taking a hit on some writers, while making big profits on novels by celeb writers, or hyped unknowns whose readability often seems in reverse ratio to their publicity. Subtract the discount from what a writer is paid in royalties, and factor in the sale or return policy most shops operate, and the faff of the paperwork, you end up with so little for your time and effort that it seriously isn't worth it.

Therefore, until Mr Anonymous independent book shop owner changes his mindset, and others their methodology, I am going to stay exactly where I am, mistress of my own little book and ebook empire, and enjoy the company of hundreds of other self-published writers, whose books are as professional, as well-written, and just as worth reading as many that you will find piled high in your local bookshop. What's not to like?

So what is your opinion? Are 'bookshop' stocked writers 'better'? Have you struggled to get your books into local shops? Please share your views and experiences ....

Saturday 19 August 2017

The Great Victorian Cover~up!

The NEW novel
Many people have been asking me (well, a couple ...) whatever happened to the Victorian Detective novels? So here's the answer.

For the past six months, the books have been undergoing a thorough re-edit. This was initially because the new book, Wonders & Wickedness tells the backstory of Lilith Marks, a character we meet in the first novel Diamonds & Dust. WARNING: If you intend to write a series (which I didn't), you need to keep a record of each of your characters' stories, so that you don't suddenly find you have committed them to something in Book 1 that you wish you hadn't by Book 5.

The Victorian Detectives Book 1

Thus the re-edit. And because I wasn't in charge of editing the first three books, it was a good opportunity to visit them all again and check everything else as well. Self-publishing is a never-ending journey, and it has been an interesting experience to 'walk back' through the books ~ sometimes going: did I write this? and sometimes: oh Gawd, did I really write this? in equal measure.
The Victorian Detectives Book 2

Five years is quite a long time for a set of books to be out there, so I took the decision that, along with a re-edit, it was time for a re-launch, and this would involve new covers. I envisaged the final product to be a combination of Steampunk, Victorian London and Crime Fiction. I also wanted them to be unique, slightly quirky and unusual. Given that brief, I went looking for the right cover artist who could work with my ideas and bring them to life.
The Victorian Detectives Book 3
I found her. Enter Gina Dickerson, of RoseWolf Designs ~ check her out at @GinaDWriter . Gina 'got' what I wanted from the first email exchange, and over the succeeding months, we came up with what I think are a fabulous set of covers. They are bespoke, and personal: Rack & Ruin has one of my photographs of Russell Square as a background. Wonders & Wickedness uses an amazingly evocative photograph taken by a Twitter friend Estelle Clarke @Legalimportant 

The Victorian Detectives Book 4
So here they both are: Detective Inspector Leo Stride and Detective Sergeant Jack Cully, two of Scotland Yard's finest. I hope you will enjoy their latest outing ~ it takes them to some very dark and mysterious places indeed, and if you haven't made their acquaintance already, why not dip into their very first adventure? Click on any of the Book links to find them.

Saturday 12 August 2017

The PINK SOFA meets writer Kelly Florentia

The PINK SOFA has long been a secret admirer of Kelly Florentia. It loves her name, her smiley disposition and the way she frequently posts pictures of what she is eating and drinking. So when the opportunity came to host her in the writer's attic, it jumped at the chance. So, legs polished (the sofa..) and upholstery plumped, it asked Kelly to talk about how she writes. And she did:

My Writing Style

''When I got my book deal, I immediately texted my husband and told him the good news. Naturally, he was over the moon for me. Texts flew between us with the final one, from him, saying he’d bought me a gift to celebrate. I waited anxiously for him to come home, wondering what it could be. I’d been eyeing a Michael Kors wristwatch in the shop window for quite some time. But no, that was too expensive. Maybe it’s a perfume, I thought, or a lovely bottle of something sparkling for us to celebrate with. When he finally walked through the door with a huge whiteboard under his arm, I must admit I was a little underwhelmed. Hmm…I thought, not quite romantic. But I was wrong to think this because it was a very romantic gesture. It proved that he listens to me and cares about my craft. Why? Because I’m a planner not a panster.

I envy authors who start with a blank page and go on to write brilliant novels without any sort of preparation because I can’t get excited about a story until I know the ending. I’ve always been like this, even with my short stories. Once I know what’s happening, created my cast and worked out the plot, then, and only then, will the words flow. Admittedly, the novel does often change as the story unfolds, but I generally stick to the original plan, editing as I go along.

I usually do about three drafts on each book. But while I used to scribble everything down in various notebooks, on post-its and scraps of paper, I now use my whiteboard; and everything is in one neat place. How amazing is that? I still use notepads and post-its but my main story is drafted on the whiteboard, chapter by chapter, scene by scene, which includes dates and times. It rests against the wall behind my desk.  So whenever I’m unsure about anything, instead of rummaging through drawers looking for sheets of paper etc., I simply spin round on my chair and voila, the information I need is right there in front of me. I used it religiously as I penned my second novel, No Way Back, which publishes on 21st September 2017 by Urbane Publications.  I then wiped it clean and used it again to draft the sequel. And I hope to get lots more use out of it in the future!''
Kelly's NEW BOOK (What a fab cover!)

No Way Back is available to pre-order from Amazon


Twitter: @kellyflorentia

Spotify Playlist:


Saturday 5 August 2017

Choosing the Write Name

One of the first big decisions facing any budding author hoping to publish their novel is deciding what to call yourself. There are two options.

Option 1: Be yourself.
Plus points are that it's easy to remember who you are (until dementia takes over, when you have to rely on friends and family). And it stops that look of vague terror crossing your face when being introduced as a guest speaker. Or seeing a poster with your face and stranger's name under it.  It also makes the banking of meagre royalties easier, and stops HMRC from going into meltdown every time you fill in a self-assessment form.

Option 2: Be someone else.
Initially, that's what I was going to do. I wanted a different name for the author of Diamonds & Dust etc. As it was going to be my first 'adult' novel, I thought I'd like to create a new identity to go with it. And I wanted something that would place my books at eye-level on the bookshop shelf - something that not enough writers factor in when choosing their author name. (Think supermarket and bottom shelves). Plus I wanted a name that suggested the book was a historical novel. Thus Victoria Collins was born: Victoria after the Queen; Collins after Wilkie Collins, writer of the first detective novel. Great name! Or so I thought.

Alas, just as I was beginning to develop a split personality and quite enjoying it, the negative aspects of my decision began to surface and niggle at me. To launch as an unknown historical fiction writer seemed a bit risky, didn't it? How would anyone who already knew me, find me? A quick trawl on the internet also threw up a couple of other Victoria Collins. Both established writers, both with blogs. My alter-ego had competition before she'd even started.

However, 'Carol Hedges' existed as a known entity, and had a presence on Amazon, Wikipedia and other sites. It seemed daft to turn my back on what was already set up and running. So sadly, Victoria and I parted company. Purely for commercial reasons. But I like to think that she hasn't completely gone away; that she is still out there, somewhere. A spiky, scatty version of me ... in a bonnet and crinoline. Causing trouble.

So how about you? Do you use your own name to publish your books? Do you prefer books written by 'real' people or doesn't it matter? Please contribute below...

STOP PRESS: The Victorian Detectives will be returning soon. And they've got a brand new mystery to solve!