Lessons learnt from the 2017 NZ Book Festival in Auckland.Read More
I've been to Italy twice now, once on a school trip in 1992, where I was mostly interested in eating gelato and eyeing up the good looking Italian boys, and then again last December, where I finally appreciated the abundance of art and culture which Italy is famous for. And I'm more than happy to go a third time, should the need arise.
After Painted was published in June this year, I could never have anticipated that of all the Amazon platforms, my horror novel would take off in Italy. Don't get me wrong, it has done well in the other Amazon markets, but the success in Italy has taken us by surprise.
The French translation rights for Painted have been negotiated, and I'm hopeful that the French version will be available in time for Christmas this year. Now it looks like we need an Italian translation. That's something we'll be working on in the coming weeks.
Launching a standalone book is so different to launching a series. When Fifteen Postcards and The Last Letter were published, I knew I was writing a series and that I could tempt people to follow me to hear about the next instalment. But what about writing standalone novels? How do you get people coming back for more? How do you keep the momentum going?
As a starter, we decided we could increase my reach by actively targeting smaller markets, and having Painted translated into different languages will achieve that. Greater reach equals more sales, which results in more reviews, which results in more sales. Hopefully.
Secondly, write a good book to start with and hope that people want to read the next one. That worked for Stephen King, and still does. There are horror writers out there who don't write series and they seem to manage it just fine.
And finally, write another book. Which I'm doing. Slowly. I'm 15,277 words into book #4 so far - another horror. Although I also have 60,000 words of The Ruination of Art sitting on my hard drive waiting for me to return to my Florentine based novel. That needs about another 60,000 words written. Probably now would be a good time to finish that one! I must have subconsciously known Italy was going to be good for me! I started The Ruination of Art after I finished writing The Last Letter, so it's been percolating for a while now.
The goal was to publish one book a year. We've decided to contract that slightly, and I'll aim for one book every ten months. With a husband, two children, and a cat who thinks that they are a puppy, ten months is a comfortable time frame, although I did manage to write Painted in the space of eight months, So maybe it'll be one book every eight months. We'll see. Should I be required to travel to Italy to run a promotional book tour for Painted, I'm sure my writing would speed up. It's amazing how many words I could do sitting at the window of a Tuscan farmhouse, sipping my chianti, admiring the landscape as I ponder how my next novel may end...
I've found a small villa for sale. It might be a little out of my price range this year, but next year, maybe, so I'd better get back to my writing...
Choosing a book cover is akin to choosing the name for a baby. You mull it over. You sound it out. You might share it with a few trusted friends. But in the end the decision is yours. And that decision can make or break the 80,000 words you've toiled over for the past year, two years, ten years.
This week I commenced the scary but exciting task of choosing a cover for my next book, for my horror novel PAINTED. I put the pitch out to DesignCrowd, and waited for the designs to roll in.
And they are. And some of them are amazing! I want to launch PAINTED now, today. Right this very second. I want to show you all the designs, I'm that excited. Designs have come in from Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Azerbaijan, UK, Bulgaria, Spain, India and Romania. And there is still a week to go in the design period.
I keep refreshing the DesignCrowd page, looking for new designs. I already have my favourites, I've popped my top five down below. But I'll run a proper poll over on my Facebook page once the design period ends, and you can all vote for your favourite then - go here to be involved - FACEBOOK.
I'd still love to have your feedback now though! Comments below are welcome.
Looking at the original book covers Stephen King used, there wasn't a lot of blood and gore on those. In fact, if you look at the current top 100 books on the Amazon horror list, very few of them feature blood, guts or gore in any form (although some of the new Stephen King covers do...).
So tell me, what do you like to see on the cover of a horror novel? Minimalist? Blood? Black and white imagery? Skull and crossbones? Comment on this post, and I'll put your name in the draw to win a signed copy of PAINTED when it is published in June 2017.
My Top Five Cover Designs, so far!
NEVER EVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER...
ALWAYS JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER...
IT'S WHATS BETWEEN THE COVER WHICH COUNTS...
With the publication date of my second book, 'The Last Letter', looming, now comes the trickiest part of publishing. The cover design.
Writing the book was easy. Editing the book was fairly easy. Choosing a cover for the book? Not at all easy.
So far, we are up to draft #3, and I'm hopeful draft #4 will be the final version.
Before signing a contract with Accent Press, I'd paid for a cover design through the website Design Crowd. To this day, I still love their version.
Accent Press advised that this image wouldn't work when its shrunk down to Amazon icon size. So, after signing my first publishing contract with them, they proposed this cover:
After some discussion, revolving around a cover with less blood, we agreed on the fantastic cover which now appears in your bookcases.
And now we move onto the process of choosing a cover for my second book, 'The Last Letter'.
Without giving too much of the plot away, the story takes you back to New Zealand, India and England. With a splash of Roman antiquities, Maori carvings, and a hint of Spitfire pilots in WWII.
My publisher is based overseas, so understandably their knowledge of the appropriate use of Maori imagery wasn't as up with the play as mine. Especially when there are hundreds, if not thousands, of stock images of Maori carvings and taonga (treasure) available on the Internet. And while I did adore the first cover they designed, after taking advice from two trusted Maori colleagues, I had to veto the use of the Maori carving, which in essence, is the depiction of someone's ancestor, a high ranking chieftain by the looks of it.
So then we toyed around with the idea of a greenstone necklace, a Roman statue, pocket watches. I've now realised that pocket watches are synonymous with time slip novels, and adorn almost every cover out there. The designers at Accent Press then came up with an image of a hei tiki (tiki), which I loved.
After much discussion on Facebook and Twitter, it was roundly agreed that the balance of the two images was out. Do you agree?
So it was sent back to the designer, who tweaked the colour balance, removed an errant watermark off the tiki's hand, and deleted a random full stop at the end of the tagline. This was the version that came back:
Almost there. Almost, but not quite.
I compared a printout of the draft cover, with the cover of 'Fifteen Postcards', and was struck with the fact that my author name wasn't in the same position. Which, to me, looked peculiar. What do you think? Is this just my OCD, or do you agree that the author name needs to be in the same place on both books, and on the future third book in the series? So it was sent back for more tweaking!
My publisher is in the business of selling books, and they know which covers work, and which covers don't. I'm hoping to have the finalised cover back this coming week, ready for 'The Last Letter' to be released on the 1st of November, my birthday...
So there you have it. Choosing a cover is by far the hardest part of this whole process. So if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to writing another book in the meantime!
On the 15th March this year, I opened my email and found this:
Is there anything more exciting than the iconic image of the penguin from Penguin Random House? Well yes, a publishing contract with them would be more exciting, but I digress!
Now I'm not being greedy, I have a publisher, Accent Press, a fine publisher based in the United Kingdom, who I have just signed a second publishing contract with, but when you've grown up reading Penguin books, that little logo brings back so many happy memories.
I had written a short poem celebrating my beautiful mother, and Penguin had selected it for inclusion in their Mother's Day anthology, 'Thanks Mum', and I was so proud, and I couldn't tell anyone about it!
I'm not known for my secret keeping ability, I'd make an appalling spy, but I didn't want to tell anyone as I wanted to give Mum a copy of the anthology for Mother's Day, so this was a secret I kept. And it ate away at me. I told my husband, swearing him to secrecy. I told my hairdresser, and swore him to secrecy too. And that's it!
Finally Mother's Day brunch rolled around, and I presented Mum with her own copy. There were tears. So now I can share it all with you. And now I can also legitimately say that I have been published by Penguin...although they didn't use my surname...
THE SEQUEL TO FIFTEEN POSTCARDS IS COMING.
In late May I signed my second publishing contract with Accent Press, a publisher in the United Kingdom. The contract was for the sequel to Fifteen Postcards, titled The Last Letter. And now the work begins...
Now my manuscript is in the very capable hands of my editor, David Powell, and he'll massage it into something far better than what I sent him.
When I say he'll massage it, he'll make a few thousand notations down the sides of the pages, correcting grammatical errors, and querying a myriad of issues he'll no doubt discover in the 131,000 words I wrote.
Then we'll spend several weeks sending the document backwards and forwards across the Tasman Sea, via email, until we are both happy, and then the final product gets sent to the UK for my publisher to typeset, and massage into book form.
In the meantime, I'll also be sent a draft of the cover for approval, or comment. That may go back and forwards a couple of times. I suggested some concepts this time, and now I wait to see if those meet with favour on the other side of the world.
It's a scary thing putting your creative efforts into the hands of others, who then have the power, and the signed contract, to do with as they please! But this is the way of authors who have chosen not to self publish. There are pros and cons with both sides of the coin. I've chosen this side.
It's not a free ride, either way. Even authors with one of the big five publishers have to do their fair share of the marketing. Blog posts, guest posts, book signings, media articles, radio interviews, library visits, book club attendances, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, yes, even Google+. Don't forget LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram. I've drawn the line at Snapchat - there is only so much time in the day, and my family would like me to speak to them at times.
There's all this, and...you still need to write the next one!
In January 2016, Richard Schiver hosted me for a Q&A session on his website for Fridays5. These are my answers:
1.) When did you first get serious about writing?
A.) When my youngest child was about to start school, and my family started harassing me about what I was going to do with my 'spare time'. Although I was already working part time in my family's antique shop, I'd always wanted to write a book, to leave a little piece of me behind so to speak (other than children), so I sat down and wrote a book.
2.) What is the hardest part for you about writing?
A.) Avoiding the Internet. I sit down at my laptop, fully intending to write until my fingers bleed, but then I get sucked down the Twitter rabbit hole, something interesting pops up on Facebook, or I find a fascinating article about writing on a website somewhere.
3.) How did you feel upon publication of your first completed project?
A.) Surreal. It still feels surreal.
4.) What is more important to you, story, or character? Why?
A.) The story. The story has to be balanced between good and bad. There has to be a level of "Oh no!", and "Oh yes!" to keep the reader's attention. Of course the characters are equally important, but how can you fully love a character (or hate them), if the story doesn't grip you? A reader can overlook a clunky dialogue between characters every now and then, but they will never forgive you for writing a dire story, with no ebb and flow. Reader's want to be taken hold of, their faces glued to their pages or kindles.
5.) What is a typical day like in your world?
A.) Get up. Make coffee. Get the children up and off to school. Come home. Have another coffee. Procrastinate on the Internet. Do some laundry or housework. Have another coffee. Realise its lunchtime. Eat lunch. Followed by coffee. Panic that its 1pm already. Actually start writing. Get into the writing mood, then in a really frustrated way, save all the work I've done, and pick up the kids from school. Think about writing after they've gone to bed. Actually drink wine and procrastinate on the Internet.
On the 17th July 2014 I received my first rejection letter. It was from a small publisher in Scotland. I was surprised I wasn’t more upset, which may have been because even as I submitted my unsolicited manuscript, I was aware there were some factors against me being published by that firm. One being that I’m not Scottish, despite my surname. Two, I don’t reside in Scotland, or even near Scotland, not even in the same hemisphere. I presume publishers like their author’s to live nearby. Three, and perhaps the key point here, it was an unsolicited manuscript.
Yes I had researched which publishers accepted unsolicited manuscripts, and the type of books they normally published before I picked them to send my manuscript to. The firm that rejected me only publishes a tiny number of books per year, and I don’t really blame them for not wanting to take a risk with a new author, who has written a cross between the Antique’s Roadshow meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, with a hint of The Far Pavilions, all wrapped up as a love story!
The rejection lead me to research famous authors who had been rejected before going on to literary success, and I found this amazing site:http://www.literaryrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/
My all time favourite movie is Gone With The Wind. The fated love story between Rhett and Scarlett, and the inordinate amount of time she wastes on Ashley, tore me apart. I still want to give Scarlett a good slap for her stupidity. But I never knew that Margaret Mitchell was rejected by 38 publishers before she found one to publish Gone With The Wind, which went on to sell over 30 million copies.
What I am trying to say is, there is still hope! One rejection is one rejection closer to being published. If that makes sense!
17 July 2014