Saturday, 7 December 2013
But, and it's a bit of a ranty but.
Some of them are full of errors. Typos, spelling mistakes, incorrect grammar and punctuation, and endless formatting problems. I do find this very off-putting. In most cases these errors could have been spotted and corrected by a careful final proof-read. The formatting problems can be avoided by doing a bit of research on how to publish on Kindle, and formatting can easily be checked after an initial upload. I do feel that if you are trying to sell a product, you should make it the very best it can be. You've slaved over your plot, characterisation, dialogue and description so why not also ensure your manuscript is pristine, error-free and perfectly formatted? Don't you owe it to your reader?
I've self-published a couple of books as you know, and perhaps some of you are reading this and tutting, saying 'people in glass houses....etc'. There may be a few errors in my own books, and if there are, I do apologise (if you spotted any, email me and I'll correct them and re-upload the books). But I know I made a huge effort to ensure they were as error-free as possible. I proof-read on screen, then printed them out, read through and corrected more errors, emailed them to my Kindle and read through again to check formatting, corrected more errors and only when I could find nothing more did I publish them.
Some of the ebooks I've read this year cannot have been proof-read, they're simply too full of problems. In one, the name of a story changed between the contents page and the start of the story. In another, the first page on my Kindle alone contained about 4 errors. In a third, the formatting was so poor there were paragraph breaks half way through sentences. These books have received some great Amazon reviews, and rightly so because they are good books with fabulous plots. But the formatting and punctuation errors feel like the elephant in the room - the big problem that no one is talking about. I could bear it no longer, hence this post.
I should also point out that some of the ebooks I've read this year have been perfectly formatted, with not a single mistake throughout the book. And those are an absolute joy to read.
So this is a bit of a plea to all self-publishers and small ebook-only publishers out there. Spend the time and get it right. Or if you don't feel you have the skills yourself, get someone else to do it for you. If you don't know anyone who can proof-read and format it for you, pay someone to do it, for instance Soundhaven.com offer very reasonably priced services for formatting, cover design and uploading (though they don't proof-read).
A beautifully-presented book is so much more professional than an error-ridden book. People are much more likely to review it, recommend it, and buy your next book if your first book was a quality product.
Sunday, 1 December 2013
I am very lucky to live in Brighton where there are probably more writers per head of population than anywhere else in Britain. (A statistic I’ve just made up but it seems strangely convincing…) I was able to show the pre-publication manuscript of BACK TO CREATIVE WRITING SCHOOL to several highly successful contemporary novelists. This is what they had to say:
Julia Crouch, author of Cuckoo, Every Vow You Break and Tarnished
Recommended for new writers, and for old hands seeking new inspiration.”
Kate Harrison, author of The Secret Shopper, Boot Camp and The 5:2 Diet Book
Lizzie Enfield, author of What You Don’t Know and Uncoupled
Sarah Rayner, author of One Moment, One Morning
Susanna Quinn, author of The Glass Geisha and I Take this Woman
“Bridget has a lovely breezy, chatty style
that makes it a real pleasure to read. Whether you’re a novice or a published
writer the exercises in this book will educate, inspire and delight you.
Guaranteed to beat writers’ block!”
Cally Taylor, author of Heaven Can Wait and Home for Christmas
Friday, 29 November 2013
The money is coming in quickly but there is still a lot outstanding and an incredible amount of admin for the organisers to cope with. They are doing an amazing job.
Delighted to say I won some books and a 3-chapter critique of my novel. :-)
Thursday, 28 November 2013
Feeling vaguely violated. Should have trade-marked my name. :-(
Thanks to Sam Tonge for alerting me!
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
“Why not try some romantic writing?” my lovely wife suggested. “Romance. Women love to read anything about unrequited love and passion. I could help you out …”
“I’m a married man. What do I know about romance?”
The next three weeks were spent sleeping on the couch. My back was killing me and someone had used up all the pain-killer tablets.
Thursday, 21 November 2013
Monday, 18 November 2013
Eg Viv Hampshire's offer to critique two women's magazine stories (lot 363) is still at £10. You'll normally pay a lot more than that for a single story critique, AND this money is going to charity.
Also worth looking at lot 351 which is from Jane Wenham-Jones - copies of her marvellous how-to books plus a half hour's spoken critique of your chapters or story.
Wahey, just noticed I still have the winning bid on one lot. Not going to say which in case someone sneaks in and pinches it from me!
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Here's the link to the auction site but you might be especially interested in lot number 108 where Sam Tonge (she of the last guest post here) is offering a detailed critique of a womag story.
There are all manner of items offered, from books to full manuscript critiques from agents (high bids for this one already!) to offers to give talks in schools. Do go and take a look, and help out this very worthwhile cause.
Saturday, 9 November 2013
Thanks Sam! Best of luck with the book launch. I adore the cover, and will be buying this novel as soon as it's released tomorrow!
Doubting Abbey - the blurb
Swapping downstairs for upstairs… How hard can it be!? Look up the phrase ordinary girl and you’ll see a picture of me, Gemma Goodwin – I only look half-decent after applying the entire contents of my make-up bag, and my dating track-record includes a man who treated me to dinner…at a kebab shop. No joke! The only extraordinary thing about me is that I look EXACTLY like my BFF, Abbey Croxley. Oh, and that for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve agreed to swap identities and pretend be her to star in the TV show about her aristocratic family’s country estate, Million Dollar Mansion. So now it’s not just my tan I’m faking – it’s Kate Middleton style demure hemlines and lady-like manners too. And amongst the hundreds of fusty etiquette rules I’m trying to cram into my head, there are two I really must remember; 1) No-one can ever find out that I’m just Gemma, who’d be more at home in the servants quarters. And 2) There can be absolutely no flirting with Abbey’s dishy but buttoned-up cousin, Lord Edward. Aaargh, this is going to be harder than I thought…
Thursday, 7 November 2013
Here's the link to buy the paperback from Amazon.co.uk where it is currently selling at £5.85.
And here it is on Amazon.com for $9.25.
It's also still available as a Kindle book, and you can read more about the book, the authors and the stories in it here.
Monday, 4 November 2013
As I prepare to take over the page, I want to hear from you if you’re a women’s magazine writer who also writes for competitions.
I also want to hear from people who have any competition news, views or queries. Let me know about your competition wins, or any unusual competitions you come across. And if you’re a competition judge or organiser, I’ll do my best to list your competition if you can send details three months ahead.
If you want to get in touch you can email the competition pages at competitiveedge(at)writers-forum(dot)com
I look forward to hearing from you.
Edited - just found Writers' Forum on Facebook.
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
Here's Sharon Boothroyd's story:
Monday, 28 October 2013
Let's start with my own book - Ghost Stories and How to Write Them. To celebrate Halloween, I've scheduled a 5 day free promotion of this book from 29th October till 2nd November, give or take a few hours (Amazon works on Pacific Standard Time whereas I'm more a Greenwich Mean Time kind of girl.) So if you've not wanted to shell out £1.53 for this book, now's your chance to get it for nothing!
If you read it and like it, I would love you to leave a little review on Amazon. It does help with future sales!
Sally Quilford is giving away her book, A Collector of Hearts on Halloween. She's also scheduled a few other giveaways over the next week - go here to read about them all!
And Douglas McPherson is giving away his ghost novella, Forever Together, also on Halloween give or take a few hours (pesky time zones!) He's also written about the genesis of this story in the latest Writers' Forum, and how it started as a short story, became a novella (now self-published) then became a serial published by My Weekly. A good lesson in reworking a story to fit the market, and never giving up.
That lot should keep you going. Don't forget, if you haven't got a Kindle you can still get a free Kindle reading app for your pc, ipad, smartphone, ipod touch etc.
Friday, 25 October 2013
I've heard of a few cases recently where story submissions sent by post have been rejected and returned, and the writer has ended up having to pay excess postage.
This has happened for two different reasons:
- Lots of stories have been stuffed into a single SAE, taking the weight over the limit.
- An A5 SAE supplied by the writer has been taped onto an A4 envelope. The stamp supplied by the writer was only sufficient to cover small letter costs.
As you can imagine, it's very frustrating for a writer (or anyone!) to get one of those notes from the postman, saying they need to pay £1.50 or so to retrieve the letter. (You have to pay the excess postage plus a £1 admin fee.) The recipient has no idea what the letter will be until they pay the excess and collect the letter or have it redelivered.
So, please, if responding by email is not possible, please put a single rejection in the supplied envelope. If the writer has sent an A5 envelope, simply fold the submission. It will easily fit with one fold.
An alternative is for writers to stop supplying SAEs, and instead supply a stamped, addressed postcard marked with the story title and the word Rejection. The magazine staff could then simply post this and bin the story itself - if that would be acceptable to all?
Obviously none of this applies to those magazines who now use email only for submissions and responses, but there are still a few who prefer postal submissions (Take A Break, Woman's Weekly in particular). That's ok, we're happy to send by post, but we'd really prefer not to have to pay to get rejections!
Friday, 18 October 2013
In the summer of 2003 I had just begun writing. I'd started a novel, and then an idea for a short story pinged into my head. Actually these days I would recognise that the idea was not a story - more a monologue - but I was new and inexperienced and excited, so I sat down and wrote it. It was from the point of view of a woman with advanced Motor Neuron Disease. She could no longer move, and lived out fantasies in her head. A family friend was dying of MND at the time, and I had her in mind as I wrote the story. When I'd completed it, I liked what I'd written and wondered, in the naive way of new writers, whether anyone would want to publish it.
I thought that the well-known women's magazines were probably not the best place to send my first ever story, and that I should start with a smaller market. So I searched online for women's short story magazines, and came across Quality Women's Fiction (QWF), then edited and owned by Jo Derrick. They paid £10 for a story, and I thought that seemed reasonable for my first ever offering, so I emailed it to them. Sally Zigmond was the submissions editor at the time.
I had a quick response from her, pointing out that if I'd bothered to read the submission guidelines I would see that they only took printed, mailed submissions.
Well, that was news to me. Submission guidelines? What were they? Did all magazines have them? Who'd have thought it!
So I went back to the website, found the guidelines, printed and posted the story along with a covering letter, and waited a month for the response.
When it came, it was a rejection, but Sally had taken the trouble to write half a page of feedback. I no longer have that email, sadly (owing a computer crash) but I remember that in amongst the criticism, Sally praised my writing style. She also pointed out that it wasn't really a story - there was no resolution - and she included suggestions on how to make it better.
Even in my dreadful naivety I realised that it was probably not the norm to get this amount of constructive feedback, and I treasured it. I rewrote the story, using some of Sally's suggestions, then resubmitted it to her. Still a rejection, but again, a lovely helpful email, and this whole experience gave me confidence that it was worth me continuing to write, and also taught me that I had a whole lot to learn.
I don't think I ever submitted to QWF again - I bought and read a few issues and as I progressed with writing, I realised my style was more suited to the women's magazines. But I never forgot Sally Zigmond's name, or the boost she'd given me right at the start of my writing career.
Fast forward a few years to 2007. By then I was beginning to have some success with the womags, and I decided to set up this blog. I had two aims:
1. To put magazine submission guidelines in one, easy to find, place
2. To try to pass on some of what I'd learned to other new writers
And fast forward again to 2013. I still regularly read Sally's blog, The Elephant in the Writing Room, and over the years have learned a lot from Sally. (I loved her novel Hope Against Hope and can't wait for her to publish another one.) I'm also facebook friends with Jo Derrick who now publishes The Yellow Room magazine.
So you can see why Sally's review of my book meant so much. It feels like we've come full circle.
How did you get into writing? Who or what gave you early encouragement? I'd love to hear your stories - if you've got a good one please consider writing a guest post for this blog!