Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2016

What does an agent really want?

I've had a few online conversations over the last few days that leads me to feel there is some confusion about what an agent is looking for in an author. I'm not an agent, or a specialist, so, as ever, this is only my own views etc etc but here goes:

1. They want a book they can sell. That's not quite the same thing as a book they really like (but see below). Agents only get money if they sell your book. The lovely agent who worked on Inish Carraig for 18 months with me but got unlucky with market timing - she got nothing. I got a shiny, edited book with a much improved storyline for John, the teen protagonist, that I then self published. I didn't lose much except time (and while she had IC I worked on other things) - she lost work time, and most agents are busy, busy people.

Note the codicil - that they can sell. It's so easy to see rejection after rejection as personal but a lot of the time, it's that the project is too hard to sell. The reasons are long and …

The End

I think I've started this blog about four times now.... Anyhow, today it's going up because today Abendau's Heir is up for pre-order on Amazon and the release date of the 24 October has been confirmed. Which means that my days writing Abendau are over, at least for the foreseeable future.

This makes this blog a little more personal and reflective than I usually go. Abendau has been with me for nearly 30 years. That feels a very, very long time. Without going into horrid, hideous detail my secondary school days were not happy ones. When we face times like that, we react in many ways. I created a world to escape into.

That, partly, explains the classic SF feel of Abendau - this was back in the early to mid 80s. Blake's Seven had been part of my early SF viewing, Star Wars wasn't that long out and I was just to embark on the joy that was devouring the Dune books and finding out what a hero could really be. It, possibly, also explains some of the darker themes.
 But wh…

Funding your writing

I now earn something most months from my writing. (Huzzah!) But it's often not very much (writers meet lots for coffees - it possibly covers that, now...) and my writing takes up an inordinate amount of my time. Therefore, I still have a day job.

I will, hand on heart, admit I've started to struggle a little in the last 6 months, for time, and for a balance in my writing-work-life triangle. Which led me to start asking questions of how I could even things out a little. As far as I can see there are four main funding streams for writers:

1. Sell enough books to earn a wage. Which would be lovely and is, of course, my aim. Of the hundreds of writers I know less than 20 in that position. Most are supplementing their earnings with editing, or coaching, or training, or serving coffees in Starbucks.

Most books sold earn the writer a pound or two at most - to earn anything coming up to a wage means sales of 1000+ every month - and writers need time to produce, so to get to that sort…

Collaboration, the good, the bad and the ugly

I've never collaborated on a story. I threatened to once, and then decided I liked the idea too much to share - it later became Inish Carraig. One of my forum buddies, Nick Bailey, has brought out his first novel, to great reviews, in collaboration with Darren Bullock, and I thought it would be cool to hear how it had worked for them.

Here are their hints and tips. 

Collaboration. Does the word fill you with dread? You wouldn’t be alone. Many writers wouldn’t work on a project with another person, and often with good reason. Would your manuscript have two distinct styles? Would your characters be consistent? Would you end up hating your co-writer? For Darren and I, it was never a question of whether we would collaborate on a series of novels, the question had always been: when would it happen? Having been very close friends since our early teens, we have a distinct advan…

Being different

And a few other musings, like blowing your own trumpet and confidence.

This has been a blog building for a number of days, from forum interactions, to reviews received, to just one of those dips in confidence all writers go through. It's been a rollercoaster week of thoughts and perceptions, leading me to a place where I'm on more solid ground.

That solid ground is that it is okay to be different. That, provided you're not looking to have a thousand people download your book on day one and Amazon to pick you out as the next sure-win in your category, it might even be a good thing.

That last is quite a big caveat - different is not an easy sell.

So, firstly, what's different about what I write? I write a Space Opera series that deals with a rebellion against a cruel Empress, has a chosen one as its main character and is, on the face of it, so far-so generic.

Then I got a timely review on it (from Leighton Evans) which touched on exactly what I tried to make my own in Ab…

Mailing lists - and why you might want one.

I’m not techy. Like, I’m really, really not techy. I use a very old computer on Windows Vista, can’t get on with Schrivener at all and whimper to the ever-patient Gary Compton when things like my website don’t work.
For that reason, I’ve steered clear of a mailing list until now. Because it’s, like, hard. But I’ve bitten the bullet and started one properly.
What will I put on it? Well, not things like go into this blog – it’s a different place for different musings. It's not the place to be putting up promo posts and what not – that’s never been what I’ve tried to do.
The newsletter will work alongside the blog. I’ll be putting things in like launch events, and announcements. I’m working on completing some short stories which will go up from time to time and will be exclusive to subscribers. Early notifications and offers on my books will pop up.

The why is easy. I, like most writers, have platforms all over the place. I have twitter followers and facebook friends, blog rea…

Promotion - why it's never too early.

On Paying It Forwards, and Backwards and Every which way
Some of my very closest author friends are bringing out their debut books this year. I also have many other author friends who have done the same thing over the last couple of years. Hey, I brought out my first book only last year. (Honest. I’m still a newby…)
One of the things I see – and did, to a certain extent – is promotion being left until the book comes out. It’s as if there is a belief that, until a product actually exists, promotion isn’t worthwhile.
I think this is very far from the truth (I think the argument applies to marketing, to an extent, but not to promotion.) The truth is that the day your book hits kindle, you want to have a lot of promotion already in place. You have a very small window to impress the Amazon algorithms.
My next book comes out in October. I have a list of promo activities in place, including two conventions (lucky timing, to be honest, but if it hadn’t been I’d gone off and tried to find …

The dreaded edit

After my mid-week rant, normal Friday service has been resumed, with number two of my how-to (or rather, how I do it*, which is as far from a definitive answer as it's possible to get) blogs.

So, editing. By this, I mean an edit by a professional edit, not self editing (although many of the same principles apply). I know so many people who find this stage a real nightmare and I can see why - a lot of information comes at you with a professional edit, and it's to be applied to 60000 + words (and for something like space opera, or epic fantasy, well in excess of 100,000).

I actually enjoy editing and rarely get bogged down. I'm now on my 5th manuscript undergoing the process, so I think I'm getting reasonably versed on the process that works for me. This, then, is what to expect, possible ways to approach it, and any tricks I've learned.


All the editors I've worked with (5 to date) give me an overview of their comments, and a returned manuscript wi…


A short little rant...

I spent last week at a summer school for writing, and found it an uplifting experience in pretty much every way. But one of the ways it was most uplifting was that it wasn't about how well anyone was doing, or what people had published, where. That was all mentioned, of course, but it had no impact on the value of the person at the school - they were a writer, I was a writer, and that was enough.

But, more than that - there was no one-up-manship. No touting of sales. No declaring where we had been listed or reviewed, or how many downloads we'd had.

It was utterly refreshing - and I didn't realise how much until I came back to the real world and got hit, straight away, by the competitiveness of the writing world (especially on facebook and twitter - I find forums less so.)

Now, I am very much the pot and everyone else is the kettle here. I have done all this, and worse. But I'm changing things.

My new 10 commandments of being a writer on social me…