Wednesday 31 July 2019

The Brexit Endgame: 3 Useful Tips

As the frenetic pace of 'Leaving the EU' increases on all sides, it behoves us all to take a step back and consider how we can best use our time and precious resources to maximum effect.

Little profit comes from shouting the odds and arguing on Twitter or Facebook ~ other than stressing ourselves out and becoming discouraged. There are other things we should and could be doing at this stage. Here are a few things I am doing. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section.

1. LOBBY a Democratic US Congress person.  Link:

Boris Johnson is desperate to sign a trade deal with the US, regardless of the threat to our food, NHS, environment. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) has clearly and categorically stated that Congress will pass NO DEAL if the Good Friday Agreement is put in jeopardy. There is a huge Irish lobby in Washington. So tweet a Senator.. ESPECIALLY if you have Irish blood in your veins!

2. Contact one of the 'REMAIN' MPs  Link:

Dominic Grieve, Phillip Lee, Anna Soubry, David Gauke, Rory Stewart ...I'm sure you have your own favourites list. Encourage them to speak out and vote against the Rightwing Extremists currently in Cabinet. Thank them for being 'tall poppies'. If you have a personal story of how a 'no deal Brexit' will affect you/your family, share it.

Bear in mind these MPs are being targetted daily and in very unpleasant ways by the ultra Brexiteers. It is good to remind them that we support them. While you are about it, make sure your own MP is aware of your views.

3. Write to your local paper/national paper 

This is an effective way of reaching a different audience. It costs nothing, and ALL MPs always check their local paper to see what is being written about them. National papers usually have letter sections, and many invite comments 'below the line' of articles. Register, log in and add your comments. I regularly post comments as 'Sagababe' in the Guardian.

I assume you are already a member of your local Town/City/County 4 Europe group, always appear in public badged and armed with a roll of stickers and that you have pro EU posters in your front window. Excellent. Then, apart from continuous prayers to the deity of your choice, you are doing a great job!

Saturday 27 July 2019

Can You Make A Million Pounds From Your Writing?

Yes, I thought that would get your attention.

Over the past few weeks I have seen several requests on social media forums from new writers or self-published ones asking if anybody knows a good agent, or can advise on submitting to top mainstream publishers.

I have blogged before about my experience of literary agents. Basically, they are there to make money for the agency, not you. They will take 10 -15% of your earnings, and unless you have an exceptionally good one (I am told they exist), they may well not bother to submit your stuff if it is not taken quickly. Small agents are in competition with the large established ones in a field that is decreasing all the time as publishers shave their margins and take fewer risks to stay in business.

Agents are certainly useful for sorting out publishing contracts and making sure your rights are protected: pre-agenting, I had a very bad contract from OUP (yes!) which my former agent was disgusted at. BUT the Society of Authors - well worth joining, can do that. Few publishers nowadays make you sign rip-off contracts - we are all too well lawyered for that to happen.

So, let's move on to the mainstream publishing trade. Forget all those 'X signed a 3 book contract and has been offered eight squillion in advances and a film contract with a top Hollywood director!!!' 
I now see these in the same category as those 'teaser' rates offered by big banks.

The sad truth is that 0.00000006% of writers submitting to 'one of the Big 5' will be taken.
These lucky souls are probably:

1. Very young, very attractive and with a very heart-tugging backstory (see JK Rowling)

2. Have an MA in Creative Writing from a university where one of the publisher's top writers tutors.

3. Is a friend, girl/boyfriend, employee of a publisher or is in the media business already.

4. Is a celeb.

5. Has just happened to write something that the publisher feels they can put out to compete with a rival's book that is just taking off.

6. Has been 'discovered' in one of those 'competitions' where the lure of publication is offered to unpublished writers. This is a useful way of getting round paying agency fees or having the hassle of dealing with them.

Then there is the vexed question of Royalties. This is the money you get as a % of each book sold via bookshops or other platforms. If you are a new author, you start at the bottom.

The Royalty rates offered by most standard (UK) publishers are:

10% on the first 5000 copies
12.5% on the next 5000 copies
15% over 10,000 copies

Yep. You are shocked. I checked my Usborne contract the other week and sure enough, 10% is the amount offered. Bear in mind that my then agent took 10% of that, which left me with 8% ... about 60p on every £6.99 book sold.

So why bother?

I return to my title. IF your only reason for writing is to make money, then go find a job in your local supermarket. Or do the National Lottery. Or find yourself a rich partner. If, however, writing comes in the same category as oxygen for you, then keep at it. Enjoy what you write, marvel at your luck in having such a wonderful gift. Start a blog. Enjoy chatting and sharing with other writers on social media. Self-publish. But do not hope or expect to make a fortune from it.

Of course, I don't expect you to listen to a word of this, because YOU have written the one book in the history of the publishing universe that defies all of the above. Good luck, fellow scribe. You may or may not believe me, but you are going to need it!

Friday 26 July 2019

Letter to My New Granddaughter (Reblogged)

Dear Avalyn Grace

They tell you so many things about being a grandma. They say: ''it's brilliant because you can enjoy them and you get to sleep at nights.'' They say: ''You get to give them back at the end of the day.'' They say, ''you have all the fun and none of the responsibility.'' It is now a week since you were born, my little granddaughter. Your name, Avalyn comes from the Hebrew for Eve, the giver of life. It is a reminder of your Jewish inheritance through the female side of your family. Grace means 'the free and unmerited favour of God', a reminder of your Christian heritage through your father's side of the family.

You did not have an easy birth - it took three days for you to come into the world, small, perfect and bright eyed, as you were when I held you in the hospital that day after you were born. Such tiny fingers and feet, each crease a miniature of what it will become.

What they did not say, could not say, was how as I held you, I felt such a strong overwhelming love for you, my little one

It was like a great golden wave, sweeping in, changing everything. I did not know that such a small person could generate such big love! Now you are back home in your parents' tiny flat in London. You have your cot, with its whale mobile, and its white muslin curtains. Your clothes, so small and colourful, are folded away in the drawer, waiting for you to wear them.

My beautiful granddaughter Avalyn

You know nothing of all this. All you know is your mother's voice, her scent, the touch of her hands holding your tiny body, the milk that sustains you. Already you are becoming a little person with your own funny quirks. You like staring at the headboard. You turn your head when your father comes into the room.You continue to have hiccups, as you did while you were in the womb.

Little one, the world that you have come into and will live in is a long way from where you are right now

It is a world that is not always kind, is not always caring. So as you grow up, I want you to know that wherever you go, there is someone who will always be there. Loving you, supporting you, and caring for you.

Someone who will always make time for you, to listen and understand. Someone who is on your side, cheering you on, encouraging you as you fight the battles that inevitably lie ahead, sharing your successes and comforting you when you feel sad.

I promise I will always try to fill your days with laughter and blessings and good things

I look at you, and I see so much potential. Who knows what path you will choose? Your life is waiting to be unrolled, like a beautiful tapestry. Right now, we only see the first tentative stitches, the pattern is not yet visible to our eyes. I am so glad you have come into the world and into our lives and I welcome you with open arms and a joyful, rejoicing heart.

Your Grandma