Writers, Readers & Self Publishing

Our community of self-published authors is generous with the knowledge they have gained on their writing journey. Here at Writers, Readers & Self Publishing, we will share with you their advice, their experiences and their ideas for writing and promoting award-winning books.  We will also share incites from our readers and others in the field of self-publishing such as editors, designers and successful best-selling authors who graciously share their thoughts and experiences. Our readers and writers have also contributed some fun and interesting stories that we hope you will enjoy!

“Lessons Learned from Radio”

                      I recently heard my first play produced on the radio, an experience as nerve racking as the publication of my first book some twelve years ago.  The project taught me so many lessons which I will apply to my novel writing that I thought I could usefully share them here. Before I submitted my proposal, I was lucky that a retired professional theatre producer visited my bookshop and complained that he was asked to read so many well written plays that remained uncrafted.  He emphasised the distinction between a play-writer and a playwright, implying a craftsmanship comparable with cartwrights and wheelwrights. I began to think of a sculptor who starts with a fully shaped form and posture, be it angry or meek, overpowering or tear-jerking, and then works on every inch of the detail.  My visitor, who left without knowing that I had ever put pen to paper, reminded me that the audience has no second chances.  Readers may choose when,  where and  even the mood in which to open a book;  they may reread a section, take time to consider it, put it aside for later or even…

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Lorainne Devon Wilke   “A performance marred by embarrassingly banal in-between song patter.” A sentence never to be forgotten. Not decades after it was written, not with hundreds of other (more complimentary) sentences since; not even with a lifetime of new experiences to create a buffer. Because that sentence was part of a milestone: my first bad review, penned by a critic for a premiere music magazine at my very first Los Angeles gig. Harsh. I never forgot it. And I’ve attempted to be neither embarrassing nor banal in anything I’ve said since! Let’s face it: bad reviews suck. We can get hundreds of good ones, countless accolades and acknowledgments, but regardless of the applause that accompanies our endeavors, we tend to hold onto the words that pierce our creative skin, hurt our fragile sensibilities; shake our sense of who we are as artists.  But, frankly, even with their potential for destruction, we need them. We want them. We seek them out; promote, push, and pander for them. In fact, the accrual of feedback-by-review has now become a demand. We’re told one must get reviews for any chance at marketing success. Independent artists are instructed to go after them with…

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Behind the Scenes: An Interview with the Other Half

          KRISTEN TABER Authors tend to be a solitary bunch. What can I say? We like to talk to people in our heads. But those of us on the self-publishing journey also recognize that we work in tandem with so many people outside the worlds we create. We source editors and artists, work closely with beta readers and bloggers, and rely on friends and family to help with the publishing process or get through the initial writing stages. When I finish my books, I make sure to acknowledge those who helped my manuscripts become novels, but the biggest thank you belongs to my husband, Joe. He does a lot that goes without proper recognition and since interviews generally focus on authors, I thought it would be fun to change that and get his bookish take on the world. What types of books do you like to read? What book are you currently reading? I typically read non-fiction books, on business, self-improvement, or technology topics. Currently, I am reading The Challenger Customer by Brent Adamson, a fascinating book about positioning a sale within a complex organization. Do you prefer eBooks or physical books and why? I love eBooks!…

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What inspires the story ideas and characters of Alan Bray

ALAN BRAY   I appreciate the chance to write about this. It’s one of the most difficult and important questions I can imagine. I certainly don’t claim to have any original techniques but I can describe how I use some of the time-honored ones. I will wake up in the early morning with a story idea, or more specifically, a character in a situation. It’s coming from dreams, I suppose. There’s that moment when I wake up and become aware of being in the bed and the light, and a strong memory will be there too. Sometimes it’s a development on a story I’m working on, sometimes it’s something entirely new. I don’t usually rush to write the idea down as it will stay with me through morning coffee, getting my daughter to the bus stop, and breakfast. I usually begin a story with one of these images of a person doing something—as opposed to first developing a plot. I know that some experts advise outlining stories before starting to write. If writers can devise a plot first and then develop characters and scenes, I admire them. My God, it would save so much time! I’ve tried to do it,…

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So where do ideas for a story come from? An event you witness? An overheard conversation? A dream? Or is there, perhaps, a parallel world of Imagination where a characters reside, their exploits and adventures leaking into our Universe via a sort of telepathic mind-link? Far-fetched? Yes maybe, but ask any author where a certain powerful scene originated from and I bet they’ll answer, “I don’t know, it just came.” There are scenes in my books that I have no recollection of writing – and I occasionally find my male protagonists suddenly immersed in dangerous scrapes,  and then relying on me to get them out of it (thanks guys). And what about the stories that, before you know it, have gone off at a completely different tangent to the one you’d planned out? Writing a novel is a bit like going off into uncharted waters. You know your starting point, you know the end point (probably), and have a vague idea of a mid-way encounter. The rest is a bit like they used to put on the old maps to indicate unexplored territory: “Here Be Dragons” (In some cases for fantasy writers – literally! One of my novels, Harold The…

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Blurb-Craft 101

AMBER FOXX It’s harder than writing the whole book! How many authors have said that about the back cover blurb? I know I have. At some level it can feel more challenging to get those few words right than it did to get the entire novel in satisfactory shape. It’s a different kind of writing. If you’re a plotter, you might write the blurb along with your outline and find it easier than a “pantser” or a hybrid plotter/pantser will. Those of us who work that way don’t know how the story works out until we’re done, so we usually have to create this short, tempting piece of reader bait after we have spent months to years immersed in the depths of the story. That adds to the challenge, because we have to step back from the details of the plot. Some of the least effective blurbs are like synopses. A good blurb A: Makes readers want to know what happens in the story. B: Helps readers decide if it’s the kind of book they like. The instigating incident for your plot belongs in the blurb. What sets the ball rolling? Like much of what goes in this description, it’s…

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Bad Review? Hmm, Is there Anything Good to Say About Them?

Helen Hollick Funnily, enough, yes there is! I look at reviewing novels with two different hats (and I do actually wear hats!) as Managing Editor of the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews, and as an author myself. As Managing Editor I have one main goal, and that is to improve the standard of indie-published novels. Indie (that includes all forms of self-publishing, whether using a company to help you produce your book, or completely Do-It-Yourself) has received a bad press over the years, with the assumption that if it isn’t good enough for traditional mainstream publishing, then it must be rubbish. Fortunately this out-of-date, somewhat bigoted view is rapidly receding because it has been proven to be wrong. Indie can, and often does, mean “darn good read”. I have a splendid US and UK-based review team and, as with Indie B.R.A.G., our criteria is to review novels that we would recommend people to buy. To this end, we will not review a self-published book that is incorrectly formatted: you’d be surprised how many books we receive that have such tiny font you need a magnifying glass, or the text is left-justified (i.e. ragged margin on the right… margins should be straight on…

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A Journey to Self-Publishing

Susan Appleyard A long, long time ago, in the days of yore, even before the internet and all its offshoots was anything more than a gleam in a mad scientist’s eye, I was traditionally published. The publishing company gave me a three book contract. Wow! And they actually paid me for the right to publish my book. Wow! Wow! I was very excited and perhaps a little smug. There were a number if people in my life who thought I couldn’t do it. Come what may afterward, my book had earned money and people would read it. So far so good. The book was about the favorite mistress of King Edward IV, and I called it The Merry Harlot because… well, that’s what she was. My editor didn’t like the title. She was afraid my readers wouldn’t know what a harlot was! She suggested The King’s White Rose. Who was I, a young housewife with three rambunctious kids, to argue with someone of such vast experience? So I agreed to the name change. After all, I consoled myself, a king figured prominently in the story and one of his heraldic symbols was the white rose. So there was some relevance.…

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Start at the beginning

ELISABETH MARRION The Night I danced with Rommel is my first book, and it was a long time coming. Over fifteen years, if I recall correctly. It was supposed to have a totally different title: 6 Married Children, don’t ask why. I actually started writing the story at that stage and thought it would be a good idea to contact Manfred Rommel, then the Mayor of Stuttgart, whether he still had the photographs my mother had sent him years ago, especially, the one of her dancing with Field Marshal Rommel. He searched his files, but I was out of luck on that one. I did receive, however, a private photograph of himself with his father and mother. I shelved the project for a while, fearing people might laugh about my idea to write a book. Eventually, I stopped worrying about that issue and joined a local writing group. Thank God I did. Otherwise, who knows what my writing would have been like? I destroyed my first draft and wrote a totally different novel. Which, to my amazement, wrote itself. I was totally clueless about the publishing world, believing publishers would queue for my story. Well, I soon learned the truth…

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An Author Needs YOU … yes, YOU!

HELEN HOLLICK I am an author. I know several other authors – some at the very top of the Book Tree, others setting out at grass-root level taking their first hesitant steps into the World of Publishing. Some are mainstream. Some are Indie. Some are fabulous, some are – well, let’s just say their book/s need a little extra polish one way or another to give that final shine. It takes a lot of effort – and hard work – to produce a readable, entertaining novel; especially if you are an Indie Writer with no agent or publishing house to back you up and help with sales and marketing. Being an indie author can be a very lonely occupation. There’s the writer’s block to wade through; the confidence to delete scenes you think aren’t working (the confidence to keep going with the ones that are!) The getting the first draft finished – then re-writing the second, third, fourth (how long is a piece of string) draft. Then there is editing by a (preferably) professional editor – and yet another re-write. The copy-edit. (and then doing the corrections) The proof-read (ditto corrections). Getting it published. Getting it noticed. Marketing and more…

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