I'm delighted to welcome my mate, the popular pocket novelist Susan Jones to the blog today.
Hi Susan. Can you introduce yourself to those who don’t know you as well as I do?
Hello, Patsy and thank you for having me on the womag blog. I live in Warwickshire, born in Bloxwich, Staffordshire where my childhood was spent either on my Grandparent’s plant nursery, smelling the flowers and sitting with a book under the apple tree, or on Mom and Dad’s market stall. Or if the weather was bad, me and my sister would be in our other gran’s front room in front of a real fire listening to stories of all the naughty things she did with her sister as a child.
Telling stories runs in the family, so writing them down is a real pleasure, though this year I’m doing more actual talking and story-telling working in my parents’ shop they’ve had for more than 30yrs.
All four of my Pocket Novels have been for My Weekly. My first one accepted, Hats off to Love, had to be completely re-written as she liked the setting but not the era, and basically I had to change the story which felt a bit daunting, but seeing as becoming a Pocket Novelist was my ambition from the age of 17, I got stuck in to it, sending her a chapter at a time and crossing fingers! Genre was romantic drama with a touch of humour.
The second one was published by me first and she asked if she could read it and with a few tweaks, it was accepted right away. This is Redington a village in Norfolk, which was changed to Country Matters. The following year I wrote a follow up with same characters, but moving the story on. This one had murder and lots more drama, drugs and a kidnapping. As a rule, she doesn’t want follow up’s as it’s not what they do, so I was lucky on that occasion. I think it’s because the village and characters are strong and vivid. I almost took a trip over there one day when I fancied a chat with one of them.
The latest one published is a romance and pure escapism. This is Her Own Robinson Crusoe, which I’m really proud of. But saying that I’m really proud of all my pocket novels.
What exactly is a pocket novel anyway?
A novel that fits in your pocket and can be read on the train, bus or anywhere really. I usually carry at least four around in my bag at any one time. (Other people’s not my own). It’s a read that engages you and lets you escape for a while, and the ending leaves you feeling glad that you read the story.
What’s the best way to about getting started with writing one - do you write the whole thing first, just send in an idea or what?
That’s a question I wondered for a year or two before sending one in. It’s best to get the idea of thewhole thing down because if you’re serious about writing, then you would finish the story to get it published – somewhere – but I’m at the stage with my next one where I sent three chapters and a synopsis, the minimum amount of words you’d have to have before you even think of sending it in. Then if you’re lucky like me, and she says, ‘Yes,’ then you write and write until you have 50,000 words.
Do you get any help with the plotting and writing?
Maggie Swinburne who edits the My Weekly Pocket novels is a lovely lady to work for. She encourages writers and will speak on the phone and let you know exactly what she does and doesn’t want.
How long does each part of the process take?
Plotting takes place constantly when I might be sleeping, working or walking the dog, writing is the bit I like best when the words take shape and the characters get to do marvellous things and say whatever is needed in that scene. I write in chunks of 3,000 words which is my average chapter.
Where are the books sold?
Asda, Morrisons, Tesco, W.H. Smiths and most newsagents around the country.
I know you get a flat fee of £300 for writing one. Is that it, or can you claim ALCS or get other money?
Oh, yes indeed we get ALCS, and if you self-publish and do kindle versions, money comes in that way.
Are there any other benefits to being a pocket novelist?
Seeing your name and book on the shelves in Asda or newsagents is such a thrill. I even have my latest cover on a tee shirt, mouse mat and tote bag.
Once you've had a My Weekly pocket novel published you go onto the list of people who can sub them short stories. I did that and have been accepted.
Other advantages to becoming a pocket novelist are being able to join the Romantic Novelists Association as a full member. This gives you chance to meet up with other romantic writers and go the annual conference where you will be able to chat to agents and publishers and pitch your latest ideas. Which reminds me, I have another pocket novel to write.
How about copyright? Do you have to give that up?
No, the version My Weekly publish is edited the way they want it, that’s theirs, and then we can do what we want with our story after that.
Does that mean we can buy your PNs even though they’re no longer in the shops?
Yes, that’s right. You’ve reminded me that I need to get Hats off to Love in paperback and kindle now as well.
You run a Facebook group for those who write PNs - are you accepting new members?
Yes, for anyone who has written one or is seriously considering or presently writing one.
Thanks for having me on the blog, Patsy, it’s always good to talk about Pocket Novels as they’re a passion of mine, can you tell?
I can, yes! And I suspect you've infected others with your enthusiasm too – I'm very tempted to have a go myself.
The guidelines for My Weekly pocket novels are here and the People's Friend ones are here.
The guidelines for My Weekly pocket novels are here and the People's Friend ones are here.
Thank you, Patsy and Susan Jones. A very interesting and informative blog. I really hope to write a PN one day.
Thanks for having me on your blog for this Bank Holiday Monday, Patsy. A pleasure to be here.
Really interesting to read, and inspires me to have a go myself - thank you Patsy and Susan.
Thanks for sharing your experiences Susan, all very interesting, and to Patsy for hosting. I would like to ask Susan, if I may, if you have ever tried to go down the large print route with your pocket novels?
Hello, Elizabeth. Yes I have. With the first one I made enquiries, and they asked me to send in. Every time I enquired, they said it was in hand. I'm quite impatient and after 6 months, found it easier to publish myself on kindle and with createspace which has now moved to Amazon. It was only by self publishing my Redington that got me into the Country Matters series, which went well I heard. So sometimes, having a go yourself can lead to other things.
Thank you, Carrie, and good luck, everyone who has a go is in with a chance of getting published. Well worth it.
Hello, Alyson, good luck with the writing. Hope to see your name on a Pocket Novel one day.
Thanks Susan, that's very helpful information, I might have a try at that myself. Good luck with your future work.
Thanks, Elizabeth. I see you've recently had a pocket novel published in large print? Well done, patience pays off:)
I've never heard of a pocket novel. Sounds like a great way to break into the business and a good gig to get.
Hello, Alex. You're quite right, and lots more benefits than people first see.
Great interview and the Facebook group Susan runs is great! As for large print sales I've been lucky enough to sell all of mine (I think about a dozen now)on to large print - have good intentions of turning them into ebooks but it hasn't happened yet life keeps getting in the way.
Thanks for the information, Angela. I really should be more patient and try to find out a bit more about this. Glad to have you in the Pocket Novel Group as well.
I really enjoyed this interview. Thanks Patsy for arranging and posting. Susan, you have really inspired me to give this a try. What is the name of the pocket novel facebook group you run as I would appreciate being able to join if possible.
Hi Sharon. It’s Susan Jones group for Pocket Novelists and I’ll look for you to send an invite.
Will add this to the (long) list of things I'd like to write ... good to know you get such a lot of feedback and encouragement from Maggie along the way. All the best.
Thank you so much Susan, that was a lovely informative post.
I have a few ideas for Pocket Novels and have been reading them avidly over the last few months. I remember Woman's Weekly doing something very similar when I was little (well, younger, anyway) and my mum reading them. Would it be possible to have instructions to join the Facebook group?
Fantastic interview, Susan. I have just started on my Pocket Novel journey having been lucky enough to have one published and at the moment a couple in the pipeline. Hoping to have my first one going into large print but the waiting is lengthy so might go the self publish route if I am clever enough to know what to do.Also lucky enough to be a member of your Pocket Novel group where you gets loads of encouragement and lots of helpful information.
Thank you very much, Susan. For me this interview couldn't have come at a better time as I'm currently a third of the way through my first attempt at a pocket novel and I'm finding it much harder than I imagined. Your enthusiasm and advice is just the shot in the arm I need to keep going. Thank you, Patsy for arranging this.
Hello Cannycat, I'm here - Susan Jones Group for Pocket Novelists. Please put in a request to join, or like the page and drop me a comment so that I can find you.
Hello, Niddy. What a lovely thing to say, we're glad you've joined and great to have each other for support. It can be a lonely job but that's just part of it. Good luck with your next one. I still have your first on in my pile to read.
Great news, Patricia. Have you joined our Group? Do it in small chunks then it's not so daunting. Think of it as being a running race and doing a circuit at a time.
Thank you Susan and Patsy for an interesting interview.
Was delighted to meet up with Susan at last year's RNA Conference and had a good chat.xx
Yes Carol/ I was thrilled to meet you in real life and so glad you grabbed the lovely John to take our photos with Lynda. Hopefully we’ll meet again sometime x
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