Bathtime!

Since I last wrote, I’ve been to Bath with some friends. Lucky me. Have you been? It is one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit, especially as I am a fan of Ms Jane Austen who, (I’m sure you know), was a fan herself and lived in various parts of the city.

Mr Darcy et moi. A match made in heaven?

There was an unmissable opportunity to get dressed up in the Jane Austen Centre and stare stupidly at ‘Mr Darcy’ and as you can see, I took the mooning to a whole new level, which has made everyone laugh uncontrollably. I blame the hat. I do look rather ‘away with the fairies’, don’t I? Anyway, I thought I might as well show you too.

I got brownie points during the tour though (not for my dressing up) because I knew the answer to ‘How long was Jane Austen engaged for?’ My hand shot up faster than you could say ‘Northanger Abbey’ (prompting my friend in the next seat to whisper ‘Swot!’). I won’t spoil the surprise if you don’t know but here’s a clue: not long.

Novel News

It’s five weeks today until my ‘Highland Girls’ novel comes out on Kindle and if you pre-order, for the tiny sum of £2.99 it will appear on your device as if by magic on 4th November.

It’s had some mostly nice reviews on Netgalley, although one person did say they ‘didn’t see the point’ of it (but what’s ‘the point’ of any book, really?!).

And just to give you a heads up, if you don’t already have ‘A Wartime Secret’ on Kindle, I have it on good authority that it will be on special offer – just 99p – in October.

And in the meantime, I am slowly (slowly) making in-roads into novel #3.

I have been taking part in some of the London Writers’ Salon writing sprints that I told you about last time (usually the New Zealand one from 9pm – 10pm our time). I am very antisocial. I keep my camera off and I don’t engage in any of the virtual chat but I do find it useful to have an appointment to write at 9pm. In an ideal world, I’d do more than one a day but at the moment that’s just not possible. Anyone else out there doing the sprints?

Discoveries 2023 – Now Open

Submissions for the Discoveries 2023 writers programme are now open! All the details are here but in a nutshell, you’ve got until 15th January 2023 to submit your work and they will only accept up to 10,000 words, from any genre of adult fiction, from unpublished and un-agented women writers in the UK or Ireland.

The winner will take place in a bespoke writing course, get personalised mentoring, representation by an agent (Curtis Brown) and a £5000 cash prize. And in addition to that, all 16 longlisted authors will receive lots of goodies, so it’s Well Worth Entering, if you have anything that you could send (and I know some of you out there, reading this DO have something to send – or could write up to 10,000 words by January – so DO IT!) You’ve got nothing to lose. The worst that will happen is that you’ll hear nothing.

You are NOT required to have finished the novel. Hurrah for that! And it’s completely free to enter.

Right, that’s the end of my badgering and cajoling.

Have a good weekend everyone. Stay warm and dry!

Posted in Books, Competitions, Novels | Tagged | 1 Comment

Sad Times

Display in the lobby of my mum’s retirement village

Just a quick post from me at this strange and sad time.

It all feels a bit ‘rudderless’ without our dear Queen, doesn’t it? And as though everything has ground to a halt (especially for those valiant souls queuing for hours on end to pay their respects in Westminster Hall).

Talking of Westminster Hall, I had the slightly surreal experience of standing at the top of those steps once and reading out a poem I’d written. Honestly, this was not a dream. I wrote about it here.

And this is where the blog is quite handy for me – like an on-line diary – because I couldn’t remember when I did it or the name of the MP who made it possible but it’s all in the post, of course.

London Writers’ Salon

As I write this, I’m taking part in a London Writers’ Salon writing sprint (‘Writers’ Hour).

It’s a virtual, hour-long writing session held each weekday and free to attend. There are actually 4 sessions across 4 time zones and you can join in with as many as you like (they even email you with a reminder 15 minutes beforehand, that a session is about to start).

Friends had raved about the concept and how they were really getting some writing done, so I thought it was time I investigated. It’s on Zoom (of course!) and the idea is that you sit and write for an hour (well, it’s 50 minutes, once you take out the introductions and stuff at the end).

If you’re in the UK, the sessions are at 8am, 1pm, 4pm and 9pm (the 9pm one is actually the ‘8am New Zealand’ session).

Here’s the registration page and it’s free to join in (and you don’t have to ‘interact’ at any stage if you don’t want to. I keep my video off, so no-one can even see me).

Give it a go and let me know what you think!

RNA Workshop Day – Birmingham, Saturday 8th October 2022

The Romantic Novelists’ Association, of which I am a proud member, is holding a workshop day on Saturday 8th October in Birmingham and it’s open to non-members too.

I’ll be there and it looks like a good day (see the programme below). You don’t have to be a romance writer. I think it would be a useful day for writers of any kind.

Details below if it’s of interest. Sorry I can’t make it any bigger but you might be able to ‘zoom in’ to enlarge it. The venue is in central Birmingham about a 10 minute walk from New Street Station, tea, coffee & lunch are included, and there are three speakers on the day: Laura Deacon, from Bookouture, Fiona Lucas and Janet Gover.

If you’d like to attend, the booking form is here: https://forms.gle/woM7K4YPbW77LKsD6 and if you’ve got any queries, email rnabham@gmail.com Maybe I’ll see you there?!

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Autumn Vibes

My friend got married & look what she took on honeymoon to Greece!

You’ve probably noticed it’s September! And I’ve definitely got that ‘back to school’ feeling. You too? I’ve had a few weeks of summer R&R (much needed!) and now I have to get back to work.

We still have the builders here (*screams silently*). There’s a fine layer of dust across the whole of downstairs and it’s not worth wiping it off (I’ve tried) because the next day, it’s back.

While I sit in the lounge writing this, Smooth Radio is blasting out from the hall and I’m singing the occasional duet with one of the plasterers (“She’s Like The Wind” anyone?).

They’ve been here, on and off, for a few weeks now and it’s quite useful, as a writer, to think about their different characteristics.

So, for example, we’ve got:

* The good-looking, quiet one (clearly well brought up, she says, sounding about 104), who just gets on with it and never has a coffee.

* The two pals who chat (and sing!) all day. One of them doesn’t like dogs (but I’ve forgiven him because he has a nice singing voice) and the other swears like a trooper.

* The one who’s older than the rest, a bit cynical and grumpy.

* The smiley, jolly one who calls me ‘mate’, (as in ’ Yeah, I’ll have another cup of tea, thanks, mate’) and calls my husband ‘Big Al’.

That’s just a broad brush of their characters of course and they’d need to be fleshed out in a story but can you see how, if I was writing about a group of chaps, the different types of people in a real group, might help, when it comes to creating characters?

Even if you eventually expand on those characteristics or change them, it’s a good starting point.

Netgalley
My ‘Highland Girls’ book is up on Netgalley (as I, erm, may have mentioned) and the reviews are starting to trickle in, which is always a nerve-wracking time.

I know everyone says ‘don’t read them!’ but how can you resist reading people’s first impressions? You’d need amazing will-power not to look.

I had one that was a bit so-so (and also contained a plot spoiler which was annoying and ‘bad form’ from someone who is presumably used to reviewing books) but then I had a lovely one – so lovely, in fact, that it made me cry happy tears! Thank you Nicola W, whoever you are.

If you haven’t yet requested it on Netgalley, please do consider doing so! It would be great to get lots of reviews on there in advance of 4th November, when it comes out.

Mirthy

On a completely different subject, have you heard of Mirthy? It’s a website that offers an on-line programme of events (via Zoom). Everything from yoga and meditation to travel talks, cooking demonstrations and book clubs. There’s a monthly subscription of £4.99 which gives you access to everything but you can also sign up for free and get access to 4 free events a month. I did a standing Pilates class last week (actually I did it twice, because they email you the recording afterwards).

I did spot a writing group but I can’t find it on there now. Anyway, might be worth a look! I know someone who does travel talks for them and I think they’re always looking for new speakers, so if that’s your thing, it might be worth looking at it from that angle too.

HE Bates Short Story Competition c/d 5th December

Northampton Writers Group have just announced that their annual HE Bates Short Story competition is open. There are cash prizes (£300, £100 and £50 for first, second and third places).

There’s an open theme and it costs £8 for the first entry or £12 for two stories.

All the details are here and good luck if you decide to have a go.

Bonnie says, “Have a good weekend!”

Posted in Bonnie, Competitions | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Ten Things About My New Novel: ‘The Highland Girls at War’

1. It’s set in Scotland (yeah, I know, that’s pretty obvious from the title!) in 1942 – 3 and it’s about the ‘Lumberjills’, the Women’s Timber Corps. The Lumberjills worked in forests all over Britain, by the way but I’ve set my story in the Highlands of Scotland.

The novel also features the CFC – the Canadian Forestry Corps. Thousands of these ‘lumberjack-infantrymen’ also worked in the Scottish forests during the war.

2. It was, I’ll admit, tough to write. Not because of all the research or because I lacked ideas or enthusiasm but because I had no time! I have it on good authority (my agent) that everyone struggles with novel #2. It’s the first time you’ve written under contract and to such tight deadlines. I spent over two years tinkering with writing my first novel and I had 9 months to deliver the second. And lots of things happened that I wasn’t expecting (‘elderly parent care’, for example, which is still on-going), so I had even less time than I’d anticipated.

3. It started out as a short story, published in Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special back in 2015 as ‘Blood Sisters’. I actually sent it to The People’s Friend first but they turned it down. It was, at the time, the longest piece of fiction I’d had published (at 4,000 words). The novel it ‘became’ is a little bit longer: it’s 97,000 words.

4. I liked the cover when I first saw it but I asked for a) a beret to be added to one of the girls (she was originally bare-headed). The Lumberjills did wear headscarves but they also wore berets, which was part of their uniform and I also asked for the ‘bothy’ (little building in the background) to be made smaller. In the original picture, it looked like a ranch!

5. It might be the first in a series. But that’s still to be confirmed. Watch this space!

6. As my main character, Seffy, is something of a ‘princess’, I wanted her name to start with ‘P’ (that’s how you all choose names for your characters, right?!). I went through various possibilities and ended up with Persephone (‘Seffy’ for short). And although the name means ‘spring goddess’ it also means ‘bringer of chaos and destruction’.

7. And on the subject of names, by complete coincidence (I’ve never read the books or seen the TV series), my two main characters – Seffy and Callum – have the same names as the young couple in Malorie Blackman’s award-winning series ‘Noughts And Crosses’: Sephy (also short for Persephone) and Callum.

8. My copyeditor spotted that I’d used the words ‘wuss’ and ‘wussy’ (meaning wimpy, cowardly) – which weren’t actually in common usage until the ‘60s or ‘70s, depending on which dictionary you consult. (Whoops!). Obviously, those have now been removed. She left ‘teenager’ in the text but I took it out because although it was first used in the US in about 1944 but wasn’t used in Britain until later.

9. Luckily, I have a resident Scot – my OH – who checked the Scottish dialogue in the book and told me when I’d overdone the ‘ochs’ and ‘ayes’ and I have a Canadian friend who checked the ‘Canuck-speak’. Even if you’re still using English and not another language, I think it’s always worth getting a ‘native speaker’ to read it through, if it’s not a dialect that you use.

10. And finally, if that’s whetted your appetite, the e-book is out on 4th November and the paperback will be out on 22nd December and it’s available to pre-order now, should you be so inclined. And it’s also available to request from Netgalley.

If you do eventually read it, I’d love it if you would leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads or Netgalley (other reviewing sites are available). Thank you!

The Post Office recently issued a set of stamps commemorating women’s contribution in WW2. This should really say ‘Women’s Timber Corps’. They were a branch of the Land Army but they had their own uniform and title, after all!

Posted in Books, novel writing, Novels | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Cover & Title Reveal!

Firstly, I apologise if this all seems very boasty-boasty but if I can’t write about my forthcoming book on my own blog, I’m not sure where I can…! So, here goes:

You might be interested to know that the cover – and title – of my second novel have just been revealed! Whoop, whoop. And the book (even though I’m still working on it! Copy edits went back to the publisher yesterday and it’s now with the proof reader) is available to pre-order, should you wish to treat yourself (and erm..me, of course).

Yes, that IS a nice way of saying ‘please buy my book!’

It will be making an appearance on Netgalley at some point, so if you want to hold on and see if you can get a free copy that way, good for you but otherwise, the e-book will be released on 4th November and the paperback will be out on 22nd December, just in time for Christmas.

You may remember, a few weeks ago, I confessed that I wasn’t sure about the title that had been chosen.

My working title for this second novel has always been ‘The Lumberjills’ because that’s what it’s about (it’s the nickname for the Women’s Timber Corps, the thousands of young women who worked in Britain’s forests during WW2, doing an essential job of providing timber while the foresters and lumberjacks were away fighting).

Anyway, it was thought that ‘Lumberjills’ sounded too American and that potential readers wouldn’t be familiar with the expression and might be put off. Fair enough, I suppose. And there is a ‘tradition’ in WW2 sagas for books with similar titles.

Here are just some examples:

The Halfpenny Girls at War

The Goodtime Girls at War

‘The Kew Garden Girls at War’

Well, you get the idea. ‘Girls’ + ‘War’ = practically a genre in its own right!

And, as someone told me, publishers are all too aware that readers like ‘aspirational locations’ – hence the mention of ‘The Highlands’. So, there you go. It wouldn’t have been my first choice for a title but I must admit, it’s growing on me…! (And there’s plenty of scope for a series, should I be lucky enough to get another contract).

I will be telling you more about the book in due course (not least how it definitely lived up to the ‘second novel syndrome’ reputation…!)

But enough of all that. Hope you’re enjoying the sunshine and it’s not too sweltering where you are!

PS: And just so this post isn’t all about ME, ME, ME, those nice people at NAWG (National Association of Writers Groups) are running an open short story and poetry competition (£5 entry each) which closes on 31st August. There are cash prizes and if you’re interested, all the details are here.

Posted in Competitions, Novels | Tagged | 12 Comments

Novel & Short Story Competition

Dust, dust and more dust

As I write this, the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games is on in the background.

Hmm.. am not sure about it. But then, I’m never that sure about any opening ceremonies (apart from London 2012 when the Queen met James Bond and then parachuted in.. that was pretty cool). They always seem a bit of a hotch-potch. But never mind, perhaps you have to be there.

Ah, it’s the teams’ parade now. That’s better. (We keep saying ‘Ooh, I didn’t know THEY were in the Commonwealth!’)

It’s now 6 days since I came back from Norfolk and I still haven’t unpacked completely AND we have builders in – not sure whether I told you that, but they’ve been here, on and off (very off) since March and there is dust and big holes in the walls. And lots of noise, during the day.

First Novel Competition

So, I wanted to tell you about a chance to win a prize and get your novel published!

Hurrah!

But firstly, I should warn you that this opportunity comes via The Daily Wail and you might prefer to poke your eyes out with hot needles than have anything to do with that illustrious ‘newspaper’.

It’s entirely up to you, of course BUT it’s still a great opportunity and linked to a respectable literary agency too (LBA) and Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown, so at least have a look before you dismiss it.

The winner of the 2019 competition, Louise Morrish, whose novel ‘Operation Moonlight’ has just been published in hardback, had been turned down by 50 agents before she won the competition.

You have to be a UK resident, over 18, a first-time author (ie: not had a work of fiction published before) and not currently represented by an agent, in order to enter. And you don’t have to send a complete novel.

Here are the rules. Read them carefully before you enter (and you’ve got until 1st November, so lots of time but don’t leave it too late!)

Best Spooky Short Story Competition

And if short stories are more your thing, Best magazine is running a competition for ‘spooky’ Hallowe’en stories, with a first prize of £500 and 2 runners-up will get £200 and all three stories will be published in the magazine. All the details are here (you might need to zoom in/enlarge the page).

Good luck!

Posted in Competitions, Novels | 6 Comments

Out and About (at last!)

Since I last wrote, I’ve been a busy little bee. I have been OUT to places and met actual people, in real life. Hurrah.

I was invited to – but had to miss out on – the swish Harper Collins Summer Party on 29th June (at the V&A in London, no less), which was disappointing! BUT I did go to local author Sophie Flynn’s book launch for her second novel ‘Keep Them Close‘ on 7th July in Moreton-in-Marsh, just down the road from where I live (who needs to go to London, for swankiness and hob-nobbing, eh?).

Sophie Flynn’s book launch

I used to be with agent Kate Nash, who is, by chance, Sophie’s agent, so it was really nice to be able to meet Kate, finally (and Sophie, of course, who I’ve only ever ‘met’ on Twitter up until now) and thank her for the opportunity she gave me through the agency’s ‘book camp’ scheme back in 2020.

The launch was really well-attended and good fun and those cupcakes (with the edible little book covers!) were delicious. (*Note to self: if I ever have a book launch, have cupcakes too!*)

Romantic Nevelists’ Association Conference

Last Saturday I made a mad dash to Harper Adams University in Newport, Shropshire, where the RNA’s Annual Conference was being held. I’d have loved to have gone for the whole weekend but I had other things on – not least, a holiday in Norfolk which had been booked before the date of the Joan Hessayon Award presentation had been announced. So, I could only go for the Gala Dinner and presentation of the award (more of that anon). I stayed overnight in the student accommodation (very narrow bed!) so I was able to have a few drinks and relax for the first time in ages.

It was the first conference to be held for three years on account of You-Know-What, so everyone was in high spirits and there was a real party mood.

I met lots of people. Some that I already knew – like Katie Carr, who won the Elizabeth Goudge prize that evening for her fabulous short story and others, like Kath McGurl, who set up the womagwriter blog many years ago and who now writes timeslip novels, very successfully and who I feel as though I know but had actually, until Saturday evening, only ever ‘met’ on-line.

So, to the Joan Hessayon Award… the 9 contenders had been instructed to meet at the ‘Queen Mother Hall’ – where the Gala Dinner would take place that evening – at 5.15pm. Now, given that I only arrived on campus at 4pm and then got lost, once I’d picked up the key to my room, trying to find my accommodation and therefore only had about 30 minutes to shower and get ready, I think I did pretty well to get there on time.

And breathe…

For about an hour, we had photos taken (here we are, all lined up holding our books and with our posh frocks on, looking like something from a bizarre ‘70s beauty pageant!).

The contenders + books. I am standing next to eventual winner, Suzie Hull

There were individual photos taken too and videos and then at 6.15pm we filed into the hall, grabbed a (much needed!) drink and all sat at a large round table near the stage, to await our fate. It was all rather surreal and nerve-wracking, although Melissa Oliver, the organiser of the awards (ably assisted by Melanie Griffiths and possibly others that I’ve forgotten), did a great job of keeping us calm and smiling.

The books (and HUGE photos of each author) appeared on a big screen as the judges’ comments about each novel were read out. And I must admit, as soon as they read my comments (I was last, because it was done alphabetically), I knew that I hadn’t won because they were very gushing about some of the books.. and not very gushing about mine!

But never mind. To be honest, I hadn’t expected to win and as literary agent Jo Unwinn tweeted the other day, “Sometimes bad/sad/disappointing things make you feel better. More purposeful and determined.” And I firmly believe that’s true.

The debut novel that won the award, – ‘In Some Foreign Land’ a sweeping romantic WW1 saga, by the very lovely Northern Irish writer Suzie Hull – was the one I’d have put my money on, even though I hadn’t read any of the contenders, because it had a great title and cover and from the blurb, it sounded like a good read. (In fact, I am reading it now and I can tell you that it is).

Congratulations to Suzie (I have already congratulated her of course, in person, on Facebook and on Twitter but I shall do it again here!)

Norfolk

Having a paddle at Brancaster beach

So now I am chilling (ha!) in Norfolk in the hottest temperatures the UK’s ever known.

It was my husband’s ‘big birthday’ on Monday, so we’ve been celebrating with family and it’s been lovely (if a trifle too warm! I’m sure it’s been the same for you too).

Today is a little cooler but we have been getting up every day at 6am to walk Bonnie on the beach before it gets too hot.

Beach baby, Bonnie

Novel Writing

And on the writing front, my second novel is now with the copyeditor, which means I have delivered my 2 books and I am now out of contract! So, I’ve been having a chat about next steps with my agent and will do the same with my editor shortly. There’s no rest for the wicked, as they say.

And because it’s been a real struggle, timewise, to write book 2, I’ve had to resign from the Steering Group of the Evesham Festival of Words and will stop doing their Twitter very soon too. And other stuff may have to go .. but not the blog!

Book 2 now has a title and a cover, none of which I’m at liberty to reveal… yet!

But here’s a clue to the subject matter. (and yes, it’s WW2 again).

Posted in Books, Competitions, Cotswolds, Kate Nash Agency | Tagged | 10 Comments

All Better!

Look at me with crime author Vaseem Khan, pretending that’s MY book!

I am free of Covid at last (that blasted red line takes ages to disappear, though, doesn’t it?) and it feels like I’ve been released from prison! Hurrah. (Mind you, I’m not assuming I won’t get it again. I know someone who’s had it three times, so far…)

My OH got it a couple of days after me and managed to out-do me in the symptoms stakes by producing a bright red rash over his whole body, which looked like major sunburn.

We had to send photos to the doctor and she was very impressed by the scale of it. Apparently it is a (rare!) side effect of the coronavirus but after some anti-histamines and cream, it disappeared after a few days.

Evesham Festival of Words

The Festival was last weekend and it all went very well. My event with Jane Bettany was good! We’d never met each other before (although we’d Zoom’ed a couple of times) but we interviewed each other (and introduced each other) and a member of the audience said, afterwards, that it was like watching two old (old?!!) friends having a chat. I think that was a compliment!

I also ran the quiz on Friday night with my friend Chris, which was a laugh. (Think we were slightly hysterical as we’d put the questions together in a very last-minute manner, for various reasons!).

And I attended 2 writing workshops, led by Fran Hill and Simon Whaley, which were both excellent.

Just time to tell you about a couple of things:

The Secrets of Storytelling’ on BBC Sounds has been recommended to me by a reliable source and although I haven’t listened to any if it myself yet, I am passing this on. Let me know if you listen and what you think!

Avon Books & My Weekly Short Story Competition

There’s a short story competition open to un-agented, unpublished female writers over the age of 45.

Avon Books UK & My Weekly Writing Competiton

The first prize is £1000 and publication of your story.

You have to write a short story of 1800 words. Closing date 19th August 2022.
Read the rules carefully and good luck if you have a go!

Me, Jane and fellow author Amanda Reynolds, whose event was after ours.

Posted in Competitions, Events, West Midlands | Tagged | 2 Comments

Cursed Covid…

Every cloud has a silver lining, so they say and in this case, the cloud is COVID – which has finally got me – and the silver lining is, that as I’m stuck at home and everything’s cancelled, I’ve got time for a quick post.

We were in London at the weekend (first time in over two years, also first time on a train in that long too) and although we were as careful as we could be (no underground, we took taxis, for example), that is probably where I picked it up.

I don’t feel too bad, so it’s a pain more than anything. My mum’s ill again and I can’t go and see her, obviously, so I’m directing operations (two carers, my brother and OH) from here and I feel horribly guilty (and bossy!). But there you go, there’s nothing I can do until the little red line disappears and says I am ‘covid free’.

We went to London to see ‘Harry Potter & The Cursed Child’ at the Palace Theatre, which was brilliant. It was something we’ve wanted to see for years, so although it was very hot (last Friday, was a scorcher, as you may remember) and the play is in two parts – afternoon and evening – totalling over 5 hours – it was definitely worth seeing (if you’re a HP fan, I hasten to add. If you’re not, you’d probably wonder what all the fuss is about).

Joan Hessayon Award 2022

Since I last posted, I’ve been announced as a ‘contender’ (that sounds like the TV programme ‘Gladiators’. Do you remember? ‘Contenders, ready?’) in the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award 2022.

The award is for authors whose debut novels went through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and were then subsequently accepted for publication. So… shhh, I haven’t done much more than ‘qualify’ for this award HOWEVER, I am very happy to be one of the nine authors whose books are being considered for the prize (by published RNA authors and publishing industry professionals, no less!). If you’re interested in finding out more – and seeing all the contenders – they’re listed here, on Being Anne’s blog.

They all sound brilliant, don’t they?! I shall have to start practising my “No, I don’t mind at all and I’m thrilled for the winner!” face.

All being well (I have to keep saying that because everything keeps going haywire and I don’t want to jinx myself), I’ll be at the RNA’s Gala dinner in July, as part of the conference, when the winner of the Joan Hessayon Award will be announced. Eeek, my stomach just did a little flip at the thought of it! Scary but also fun to be involved.

Evesham Festival of Words

And finally, one last plug for the Festival, which is coming up very soon (1st – 3rd July). It’s the last one that I’ll be so involved in, as I’m stepping down from the Steering Group after July (no time!).

On Friday 1st Jane Bettany and I are talking about our paths to (novel) publication and how it’s ‘Never Too Late’. Getting published, writing novels, the highs and lows of being published, whether you need an agent, why it took us so long to write our first novels, second novel syndrome… we’ll be talking about all that kind of stuff and there’ll be plenty of time to ask questions, so if you fancy that, all the details are here (only £6 for a ticket!). And the venue is an easy walk from the station, if you want to come by train.

Following on from our event is an author talk with Amanda Reynolds, who wrote ‘Close to Me’ which was turned into a TV drama for Channel 4.

On the evening of Friday 1st, my friend Chris and I are running the quiz night and there’s still room for a couple more teams (max 4 people). And, for various reasons, we haven’t even started to put the quiz together but we’re not panicking at all, not at all…

And over the weekend, there are a couple of writing workshops – Write Funny, with Fran Hill – and a Travel Writing workshop with Simon Whaley – which might be of interest. No writing experience required, if you just fancy flexing your creative muscles and having some fun. It’ll all be very relaxed and there’s a max of 15 people in each session. I’m going along to both of those, so if you’re there too, say hello!

Posted in Books, Events, Television, West Midlands | 16 Comments

Some Thoughts on Book Covers and Titles

Local postbox with a knitted crown

Hello and I hope you’ve had a lovely Jubilee weekend!

Shame today was a bit damp, at least around here. (It rained so much overnight that our little gazebo – which, admittedly, we should have had the foresight to pack away – got so much water on the roof that it ripped and is basically dead).

And our village ‘do’, originally planned to be held on the village green with a steel band and BBQ and everyone picnicking, had to be moved inside, which was a real shame and I’m sure it was the same for lots of events.

But never mind, it was still a great weekend and although I’ve been working for most of it – I know, I’m starting to bore myself now – there’s been a real feeling of celebration and happiness which, let’s face it, have been in short supply for quite a while.

So I make no apology for sprinkling this blog post with Jubilee photos (no, I wasn’t in London at the parade. Some of these have been photographed from the TV!).

A decorated bike!

Covers & Titles

Not a lot of people know this – and I certainly didn’t until fairly recently, but authors have little control over either the title or the cover of their book.

This doesn’t apply if you self-publish, of course.

And even if you’re traditionally-published, the more successful you are as an author, the more power you will have. I’m sure, for example that Sir Ian Rankin and JK Rowling have the final say on both their titles and covers.

But for the rest of us, the publishers have the final say on both cover and title.

So, the next time you think a book has a weird title or an unattractive cover, bear in mind that the author may well have agreed with you but was overruled!

Does it matter if a book has a similar cover to yours? I don’t think so. It might actually help with sales.

For example, Kath McGurl’s WW2 novel ‘The Girl From Bletchley Park’ – has a cover that’s not all that dissimilar to mine. We are both published by HQ (Harper Collins), so the covers may even have been designed by the same person.

If someone likes Kath’s book, they’re fairly likely to like mine (and vice versa). So, seeing a cover that’s rather like Kath’s, might persuade someone to look at my book and take a chance on an unknown author.

I read a good tip on Twitter the other week, which was, (I’m paraphrasing), ‘follow all the authors who write books that are similar to yours and retweet their book tweets to your followers’.

That might sound counter-intuitive because my first thought – and perhaps yours, too – is that those other writers are my ‘competition’ but actually, they’re not.

Other WW2 saga novelists (and most of them are much more successful than me, so you could say I’m unashamedly riding on their coat tails), are actually more like my colleagues and co-writers.

Readers don’t buy one book, do they? They buy and read lots of books. And if they like WW2 sagas, they will be interested in books in that genre by other authors.

And within minutes of retweeting my fellow author’s tweets, some of them (most of them, in fact), retweeted some of my tweets, about my book, to their followers who like WW2 fiction, in a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ kind of way.

Cover Price

Apparently, lots of people (who even are they?!) think that the author of a book receives the cover price of every book sold. So, if the RRP on the back of a book is £7.99, for example, they think the author gets £7.99.

So, when I tell people (truthfully) that I have so far sold about 11,000 copies of ‘A Wartime Secret’ some of them must think I have earned almost £88,000.

Which is hilarious. And could explain why everyone keeps expecting me to buy a round in the pub (Joke. I actually can’t remember the last time I went to a pub).

Believe me, authors earn pence per book. Because there are all those other pesky people that have to take their cut, like: Amazon, the retailers, the publisher, the proof reader, the freelance editor, the cover designer, the printer, the audiobook narrator, the agent.

And those are just the people I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more.

Book 2 Title

I am currently in discussion with my editor about the title for my second book and I’ll admit (as I’ve admitted to her) that I’m not overly-enamoured with the title that she and Marketing/Comms team prefer.

But other – more experienced authors – have told me that:

1) It’s par for the course. They’ve all had covers and titles chosen by publishers that wouldn’t have been their first choice.

2) And very often, those titles and covers have proved to be their ‘best selling book’.

3) Because publishers know what titles and covers attract readers. It’s their job. And actually, they know it better than authors. As one author told me, “I defer to the marketing experience of my publishers.”

Leave it to the experts, seems to be the message! Fair enough. That’s what I’m going to do.

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