Saturday, 18 November 2017

The PINK SOFA meets writer Jan Ruth

The PINK SOFA is a great celebrant of Christmas, and has already laid in stocks of food and bottles of mulled wine for its Christmas guests. Here is the first of them: Jan Ruth lives in Wales and has horses, something the PINK SOFA envies to the ends of its little curved wooden legs. She also has a new book out just in time for the festive season. So, sit down, grab a mince pie, and let's find out all about it:

The Story behind the Story...

"Away for Christmas is a novella about the joy and pain of fractured relationships, the joy and pain of Christmas itself – because the festive period is not always fun for everyone – and the joy and pain of publishing books! But perhaps most of all, this is a story about staying true to oneself and looking for the real Christmas spirit beyond the baubles and the glitter.

Regular readers will know that my characters tend not to be in the first flush of youth, and that the joy and pain of relationships are often par for the course. Christmas is very much a family time and can unearth a multitude of unwelcome emotions and in the case of my character, present plenty of troublesome hurdles before the festivities can be enjoyed. His ex-wife doesn't always make life easy, but Jonathan is determined to be a better dad, against all the odds.

And finally, the joy and pain of publishing books. There are some great publishers out there, ones who achieve results, look after their authors and understand the industry from the ground up. This story isn’t based on them.

It’s no secret that I’ve been round the houses and back again with regard to writing and publishing. Thirty years ago I used to believe that a good book would always be snapped up by a publisher regardless of genre, style, and content. In the real, commercial world, this just isn’t true. After several years of agents and self-publishing, a turning point came for me when a small press offered a contract for Silver Rain. This is it, I thought. This is the change of direction I need… but be careful what you wish for! Don’t get me wrong in that I had huge delusional ideas at this stage. I was simply seeking greater visibility and some respite from the nuts and bolts of self-publishing.

And all the outward signs were good: they took five back-catalogue titles and one new title, to make six contracts. This material represented several years of my life, several thousand pounds’ worth of investment in terms of editorial advisory, editing, proofreading, designing, formatting for ebooks and paperbacks, advertising… I could go on. Producing a quality product and promoting it to its best advantage doesn’t happen by accident. If you don’t have these skills yourself, then one needs to employ freelance professionals, as I’ve reiterated many times. Of course, we know there are a lot of ‘home-made’ books out there which don’t quite cut it, but this is certainly not the case for all self-produced work. What is slightly disconcerting is that I discovered (and so does my poor character Jonathan Jones) that this isn’t necessarily the case for traditionally produced work, either!

The process of trade publishing has less to do with the quality of material than you might presume, but it has a lot to do with what is or isn’t marketable at any one time. This isn’t bad business, it’s about making money to stay afloat. Small publishers are in exactly the same boat as the independents, but with far more overheads and problems with staff. Some of these staff may be inexperienced or learning ‘on the job.’

These small companies are up against the same fast-moving on-line industry as any independent but perhaps without the resources to manage it effectively, let alone build a lively following on Twitter; a following which has the power to engage. Traditional publishing, by its very nature, is painfully slow and this produces a massive clash with the shifting sands of on-line business. We perhaps don’t realise how fine-tuned independents have become in this respect.

Worryingly, new authors are often excited by offers from vanity publishers, or those who operate under the guise of assisted publishing, not realising the implications until it’s perhaps too late. Even contracts from those real publishers with seemingly no pitfalls or upfront costs, can dissolve into a horribly disappointing experience. Of course, my poor character thinks he’s landed lucky when a small publisher offers him a three-book deal. What could go wrong? If you’ve ever dreamed of writing a book or maybe you’ve just typed THE END to your manuscript, you might think twice about your next step…

Away for Christmas is set over three Christmastimes, and because I feel sure you’ll be looking for a few hours of warm and cosy escapism at this time of the year, I can assure you that there’s a happy ending by the time Jonathan makes it to 2017."

Jan's book can be bought at:
Find her on Twitter at: @JanRuthAuthor 


  1. Bought the book on the strength of this article ~ see, it works! I know I'll be wincing all the way through it ~ recently I read a book for review, published by a largish indie press (I refuse to call it traditional publishing, because it isn't!), and it had punctuation or spelling errors on EVERY SINGLE PAGE. And it didn't seem to have been edited, either. The company's website talks the talk, with most of their trendy 20-something type staff having degrees in marketing, literature, etc. Shame they couldn't put some of the money spent on the flashy website into hiring a professional proofreader. Another writer who used to be with them and has retrieved his books from their clutches, said to his new proofreader (who I, ahem, know!) that he thought they just bunged their books to one of the office staff and said 'see if you can see any mistakes in that'.

    As for the vanity publishers who call themselves 'assisted' or 'hybrid' publishers... recently looked at another book a friend had for review, from one of these. The author had written a dedication to the publisher, thanking her for 'believing in her work'. Of course she did; the poor writer was paying her two and a half grand to be believed in. It was not of publishable standard, and my friend had to decline to review.

    If only writers would research this business before they sign on the dotted line... I think some indie presses should be called 'vanity publishers' too ~ the authors clearly don't realise that anyone can set themselves up as and call themselves a publisher, and that they could be handing over what few royalties they receive for a badly presented book. Three cheers to your for writing about this, Jan!

    1. Thanks for such a full response, Terry. Couldn't agree more, I'm sure you'll have a chuckle at poor Jonathan's experience. But, yes, it's concerning that there's so much ignorance about self-publishing in general. There are options out there! So I hope my story manages to convey a special double Christmas message... Ho ho ho!

  2. Great article Jan, wishing you much success. Love the cover too

  3. What a wonderful article, Jan. I've just grabbed myself a copy of your book too as this is such an interesting topic to read about. I've just signed with a hybrid publisher who simply offer self-publishing assistance to some others and traditional contracts for others. Fortunately, I've worked with them for four years so know them well and appreciate all the hard work they put it. I'm lucky, but I've heard some horrific tales. Looking forward to reading this.

    1. Thanks Shelley; I'm always quick to point out that Jonathan's story doesn't represent all publishers out there - there are some doing a fine job, it's just a case of being aware of the pitfalls and researching the market before you commit. Thank you for hitting the click-to-buy - hope you enjoy the story (It has that festive feel-good magic in there too, after all, it is a Christmas novella.) All the best. x


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