Sunday, 11 April 2021

Updated womag guidelines database

I've updated my womag guidelines database with as many of the official guidelines as I can find. That was more difficult than you might imagine, as many editors seem reluctant to share this information. That's understandable if they're closed to unsolicited submissions of course, but when that's not the case it seems odd. It wastes everyone's time if writers send in work which is the wrong length or genre, or otherwise unsuitable for publication.

Oh well, I've done my best and put it all on a new page which you can find here. I hope it's useful. As always I appreciate your comments letting me know when posts are of interest, so I know which things are worth spending time on.

Something else you might find useful is this online workshop for creating and developing fiction writing ideas.

This post wasn't written in the campervan.  It's been a very long time since I've been able to properly use the mobile writing retreat. However the COVID restrictions ease tomorrow, so hopefully I'll soon be out and about writing in, and getting distracted by, scenic locations.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Reasons to be cheerful

It's spring, my favourite season, and the garden is looking lovely. The lockdown restrictions in the UK are starting to ease and I, and many of my friends and family have had their first vaccination. I've got a new book coming out this month. The audio version of Escape To The Country has been recorded and sounds really good. And it's Insecure Writer's Support Group day!

Free entry writing competitions

A reminder about the Erewash romance
. You can enter a short story or poem, or both. There's a small cash prize, plus publication. There are other competitions listed on the website.

For this competition you're asked to explain why you love your favourite book, poem or play. You can do that in up to 750 words, or via a short video. There are several categories with a £300 first prize in each.

This poetry competition is only for those aged 11 to 17. Apparently the prizes are 'amazing'.


This month's IWSG question is, "Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?"

My answer – I don't make a point of it, but it happens. If I come up with an idea I'd like to write I wouldn't shy away from it just because it was potentially controversial, and if I felt a story would work best written in a less usual format then that's how I'd write it. 

Most of my short stories and novels could be described as nice, cosy

and cheerful. They generally start at the beginning, go on to the end and look like a typical story on the page. But I've written and sold stories which don't. I've used second person, unusual layouts and non linear timelines. I don't do that for effect, but because it feels the right way to tell that particular story.

My published works include topics such as racism and homophobia. I've created transgender characters, and gay ones and those with mental or physical disabilities and
. I don't do this to shock or get a reaction. It's simply that I think of my characters as real people, and we're all different.

How about you? Do you take risks in your writing?

Womag news

If you've submitted work to The People's Friend and not yet had a reply, you can find out why here. And here's detailed info on their requirements for the annual.

I have a story in the current issue of Swedish magazine Allas – and it's nicely purple!

Other news

In May I'm presenting a workshop titled Creating and Developing Fiction Writing Ideas. It will be on Zoom, so you can take part from anywhere.

If you'd like to keep up to date with my latest book releases and news, get a free short story and be in with the chance of getting review copies of my audio books, you might like to sign up to my newsletter. I also have a website.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Publishing with Amazon

There are pros and cons to publishing with Amazon, but if you've definitely decided you want to self publish your book and have it publicly on sale, I think it's the easiest and most effective place to start.

Some of the advantages are –

You don't need to qualify or be accepted, and there's very little waiting time. It's entirely possible for you to start the process now and have a complete stranger reading your book the following week.

There are no up front publishing costs. Amazon take their cut of each sale before passing the remainder on to you.

You are entirely in control of all decisions such as book content, editing, cover design, title, pricing etc etc. 

The process isn't particularly difficult – and there are lots of online resources showing you exactly what to do.

The author is free to choose their own editor, proofreader, formatter, cover designer etc etc, or opt to do some or all of these things themselves.

Any royalties due are paid monthly (a couple of months in arrears) and you can check frequently to see

what you've earned.

You can see your sales figures promptly and as frequently as you wish.

You may publish an ebook (kindle) version, a paperback, or both.

Copyright remains with you.

If you wish to make a change to the book (because you've become aware of a typo for example) you can do so quickly, easily and at no cost.

You can buy 'author copies' at a cheaper rate to sell in person.

Amazon are probably the largest book retailer, so you have the potential to reach a huge worldwide audience.

Some of the disadvantages are –

There is almost no quality control. You may get alerted to some typos or the fact that you've spelled your own name incorrectly on the cover, but most errors will go through unchecked. If you accidentally upload only the first seven chapters not the whole book, that's what will be published. If you upload a story with huge plot holes or grammar so bad it's almost unreadable, that's what will be published.

You will be completely on your own. Unless you pay for help or can get support from a writing group or knowledgeable friends you will have to make every decision yourself and undertake every part of the process yourself. This includes marketing. You may have had adverts from Amazon suggesting you buy a particular book – they usually only do this for books which are already selling well, or if people have chosen to 'follow' you. They won't do that until they've heard of you.

Bookshops very rarely buy from Amazon. That's because they'd have to pay the full cover price and therefore can't make any money. (Some will buy from you directly, if you ask nicely, are a local author and a regular customer.)

Libraries very rarely buy from Amazon. It's easier and cheaper for them (and bookshops) to buy through book distributers – and these companies will be able to supply all the best selling and most frequently requested books.

If you decide to go ahead, here's a quick checklist of what to do...

1. Write a book.

Rewrite it, edit it, get feedback, rewrite it, edit it etc etc until it's as good as you can possibly make it. A professional editor, and / or experienced and reliable beta readers are advised.

Get the book proofread. I strongly advise NOT doing this yourself.

Buy or create a cover image. That's just a front cover for ebooks. With paperbacks you can create the front back and spine and upload as one pdf, or just upload the front cover image and use Amazon's cover creator to sort out the rest.

2. Choose whether the book will be ebook or paperback and format accordingly. If both you will need two files as ebooks don't have page numbers and headers and footers. Amazon provide templates you can use which will take care of things such as the correct page size and margins. Ebooks can be uploaded as a Word doc. For paperbacks you'll need to convert it into a pdf – you can usually do that easily using 'save as' or by selecting the pdf icon in your toolbar.

3. Create an Amazon author account. They might want to check you're really you, and you might have to complete tax forms. You'll need to give your bank details so they can pay you. This can take a while, so maybe do that in advance. You won't be committed to publishing with them if you change your mind.

4. Follow the step by step instructions for uploading your book. You can either use their free ISBN or provide your own. You'll be asked for a description – that's your blurb or sales pitch. Keywords are the words people might type in when searching for books like yours. Categories are the genre (or genres) which best describe your book.

5. Once the text and cover are uploaded you can preview the book online. I strongly recommend you do that carefully, even if you intend to buy physical proofs as it will be quicker to make changes at this stage and spotting mistakes now will save you money on further proof copies after you've made corrections.

You will then have the option to buy one or more physical proofs before you publish the book. Although that will cause a delay it's probably a good idea to see what your finished book looks like before you put it on sale.

6. Next you say where you want the book to be on sale, how much you want to charge and what percentage of royalties you want. There will be a price range to select from and there's an option to get a suggested price guide.

For ebooks you can choose 'KDP select enrolment'. If you do that, readers who subscribe to kindle unlimited can 'borrow' your book and you'll receive a small payment for each page they read. You can only do this if your ebook is available exclusively with Amazon. You enrol for three months at a time, with the option to automatically renew. You can take your book out and publish it other places later if you wish.

7. Press the button to publish your book.

8. Sit back and wait for the money to roll in – or do some marketing to give yourself a chance of that happening.

In case you're wondering ... All my books are available through Amazon. Some of my novels are also published through Ingram Spark (all my new books will be published with them and my entire back list will be added over time). My ebooks are currently available exclusively through Amazon and are enrolled in KDP select (meaning that if you subscribe to kindle unlimited, or sign up for a free trial, you can read them for free.)

If you have any questions feel free to ask. I can't guarantee I'll be able to give a sensible answer, but it's possible!

If you found this post useful or interesting please say so in the comments, as that will encourage me to make further posts on things such as publishing with Ingram Spark, book marketing, creating audio books ...

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

It's an age thing

Free entry writing competition news

Writers aged under 21 may be interested in this competition. There are cash prizes for the authors, plus book tokens for their school to be won.

It was my birthday yesterday (these gorgeous flowers are from Gary) and I'm not 21 anymore. (Not that I was at the start of the week!) Do you know any writers that young? I don't think I do.

I may have mentioned this crime writing competition before. My memory isn't great. It never was, and I don't suppose it's going to get better. Still, it looks like a great opportunity so it won't hurt to have a reminder.

I definitely have mentioned this sci-fi and fantasy writing contest before. The closing date is today – but don't worry I've not lost the plot and you've not lost your chance of winning the £1,000 prize as another one starts tomorrow. In fact there's a new one every quarter.

Good things often come in threes. which is why I try to include links to at least three free to enter writing competitions each week – and why there were three different types of chocolate chunk in my birthday cake!

You may remember that I was a finalist in a short story

competition run by Nottingham Writer's Studio last year. I've already had the cash prize, my paperback copy is on the way and the ebook is available here. I love the striking cover image and the way it references several of the stories – mine included, I think.

Womag news

Thanks to Carrie Hewlett for the following ...

"Just to let you and other members of your blog know, I'd been having trouble putting in the ISSN number for the PF Special on ALCS. Got fed up today so rang them and spoke to a lovely, helpful girl, who told me they use the same number for the specials.
It's called A People's Friend (not the!) for some reason and number for the special is 14790467
I tried it whilst the girl was on the phone and it went through a treat."

My news

Several years ago I won a novel writing competition and Escape To The Country was published (on my birthday) as a result.

Unfortunately the publisher didn't last long, but I got my rights back and re-published it. It's available as an ebook and paperback – and I've just got the cover for the audio version which will be released later this year.

If you've read the book, is this how you imagined Leah, Tarragon (the dog) Rosemary (the cow) and Aunt Jayne's home of Primrose Cottage?

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Publishing terms continued

More explanations of publishing terms. (Part 1 is here.) Once the list is reasonably comprehensive I'll find a way to put it together and/or make it easier to refer to. See here for the first part of the list. Please add any you can think of in the comments – both those you know the meaning of and those you don't! 

Cliff hanger A chapter or serial instalment ending intended to make the reader keen to continue reading, for example having your hero hanging onto the edge of a cliff by his fingernails. 

Do NOT have a cliffhanger at the end of a book, even if it's a series, unless you want your reader to feel cheated. I warn you now, if you do it in a book I read I'll give it a one star review and say it's not finished and whinge about it every time your name is mentioned.

Elevator pitch A short description or sales pitch for your book to be used in advertising and to deliver

to an editor or agent should you ever share a lift with one.

Filler A very short article or story used in a magazine or newspaper. Examples are news snippets, letters to the editor and useful tips. Writing these can be an excellent way to get used to submitting work and earn a little money.

Freebie A free book (usually an ebook such as this one) or anything else offered for free to potential readers in the hope of getting them interested in your writing. Some authors give away bookmarks, or offer prizes connected with their book as freebies.

Exclusive Having your work available through only one publisher. This may be temporary.

It's common for magazines (those which don't take all rights) to have the story on an exclusive basis for a period during which the author can't submit or publish it elsewhere. 

In order to offer books through Amazon's kindle unlimited service the ebook must be published exclusively through them.

Fair use In some cases, such as reviews or quotes, small sections of copyrighted material may be used without gaining prior permission. This does NOT apply to all written work.

Genre Classification in which a book or story falls. Eg romance, science-fiction, historical

Ghostwriter Someone who writes a book or article which is published under another person's name.

This might be because the person has enough knowledge, experience or fame to interest a reader but not the skill, desire or time to write. The ghostwriter is generally paid a flat fee, but might earn a royalty share.

Hook An aspect of the writing which sets it apart from other similar work and draws in the reader. 

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

A little collection of free to enter writing competitions.

Here's a free entry competition for short stories and flash fiction. It's all a bit complicated and you need to get people to vote for you – but there are several opportunities to win cash prizes and have your work included in anthologies.

This competition is for poetry and short fiction. "We are looking for entries that brings the world together. Entries that seeks for unification, exhorts love, harmonizes truth and portrays touching acts of kindness. We want entries that stands on its own as a collective voice of peace." The prizes are publication in an anthology, free copies and a certificate of distinction. It's free to enter.

Romance writers are invited to enter this competition. It's for interactive stories created using the site's writing tool – both things are explained on the site. There are cash prizes and the opportunity to earn a share of the subscription revenue generated. As usual with the competitions I mention, this one is also free.

Talking of little collections which are free ... Not A Drop To Drink, my collection of shorts with a liquid theme, is still free to download. If you read and enjoy it I'd very much appreciate a review on Amazon, Goodreads – or anywhere else.

Do you find the links to free entry competitions useful? 

My news

I'm delighted to have a story in The People's Friend Spring Special – along with several of my writing friends!

Congratulations to my issue buddies including Keith Havers, Liz Filleul, Gabrielle Mullarkey, and Eirin Thomson.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Publishing terms part 1

I thought it might be useful to have a list of publishing terms and their meanings, so am making a start on that. Please add any you can think of in the comments – both those you know the meaning of and those you don't!

Agent A person acting on the author's behalf to sell their book to publishers. They may also act for the author in other ways such as booking events. They usually work for a percentage of the sales.

A.R.C. Advanced reader copy. These are copies of the final, or almost final, version of a book which are given to readers in exchange for an honest review. They can be physical or ebooks and the reviews could be anything from a big feature in a prestigious newspaper to a few lines on Amazon or Goodreads. As the name suggests these are usually sent out prior to the official release date, so that reviews are available as soon as the book goes on sale.

Backlist Books produced by an author or publisher in previous years and still in print.

Bio Biography A short piece of writing about the author, generally composed by them and written in third person. Usually these will be adapted to suit the piece of work being published and/or the place it will appear.

Blurb Often found on the back of the book, these are short descriptions of the book (without spoilers!) to entice potential readers. 

By line The author's name or pen name on a published article or story. It's often preceded by the word 'by.'

Credit. The agreement to include your by line when publishing a piece of work.

Contract. The agreement between author and publisher (or service provider). The terms of these vary hugely. Always read them carefully, even if they look to be just like others you've signed. If there's anything you don't understand then ask. If there's anything you don't agree with then it might be worth asking if it can be changed. NEVER sign a contract until you're sure you understand, and agree with, all terms.

Copyright. This is ownership of the work. If you wrote it you're the copyright holder – until you sell or give away your rights. In order for your work to be published you will have to asign the right to do that. The rights requested can be anything from single use (the right to reproduce the work once in one format) to all rights (the author completely gives up the story and can never use it again in any way, profit from it, doesn't even have the right to be identified as the author (although usually they will be).

There are numerous variations between these extremes. It's in the author's interest to give up as few rights as possible, because those retained can be used themselves, or possibly sold to someone else. I do not recommend anyone ever give up all rights to their work.

Cover Letter Covering Letter  A letter (or email) sent with a submission to and editor or agent.

Deadline. This is the date by which work must be submitted. It may be the closing date for a competition, or the agreed date to supply a commissioned piece. Ideally deadlines should always be met. If for some reason it seems this might not be possible, contact whoever commissioned the piece as soon as possible and explain.

D.P.S Double page spread. A story or article displayed over two facing pages.

End notes. Anything in a book which comes after the end of the story, or main content if it's non fiction. Often these will be acknowledgements and/or a list of other publications by that author. You do not have to include end notes.

Writing on a self employed basis. You get a fee per published piece, but there's no guarantee of sales and no sick pay, pension scheme etc. Most womag writers work this way, as do many people who write articles.

I can see this will be a ridiculously long post if I keep going, so I'll stop for now and think of a sensible way to continue – probably by dividing it into alphabetical sections.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Over To You

 Do you have any womag news?

Are you researching, writing, subbing? Had any acceptances or rejections? Any other news?

Feel free to use the as a picture prompt. If you'd like other writing prompts, short exercises and story/scene suggestions then you might find this book useful.

I'd love to hear your competition news.

Have you entered any writing comps? Had any luck? Heard about interesting contests? Got any tips to pass on? (Although I only feature free to enter competitions in my posts it's fine to share news about other competitions too.)

Other writing news

Do you have writing tips to share, questions to ask, or suggestions for this blog?

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Harping on! (Free entry writing competitions)

Harper's Bazaar are running a free to enter short story competition and offering a two night stay at a hotel in Hampton Court. When I say it's free I do of course mean there's no entry fee, but this one is free in another way – you'll be giving your story away for free simply by entering!

By entering the competition and in consideration for Hearst publishing your entry, you assign to Hearst the entire worldwide copyright in your entry for all uses in all print and non-print media and formats, including but not limited to all rights to use your entry in any and all electronic and digital formats, and in any future medium hereafter developed for the full period of copyright therein, and all renewals and extensions thereof, any rental and lending rights and retransmission rights and all rights of a like nature wherever subsisting.

That means that even if you don't make the long list the story will no longer be yours. The organisers may print it, sell it to someone else, make it freely available online etc etc. I doubt they will unless you're one of those in the top few places, but that's not the point. Even if they never do anything with it, neither can you. Ever.

Does that seem fair to you?

I strongly advise all writers NOT to give up all rights to their work, even if they get paid for them. To give up all rights for no reward at all seems like an even worse idea.

This free novel writing competition by the similarly named Harper Collins (no relation!) is considerably better in that the author retains their copyright. The prize is an editorial review and editorial mentoring. They're not guaranteeing to publish the winning stories, but it does seem as though there's a reasonable chance of that happening.

They're looking for complete, or nearly complete, crime novels.

As we've got a campervan I don't have photos of hotels, and there is no photographs of me committing crimes (as I'm either good or careful!) Instead here are photos of some of the locations in my, not yet published, crime novel.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

It's the little things!

I've sold a copy of one of my books!

You're probably thinking that's not big news and if so you're right. Of course I've sold books before but those were all through Amazon. Earlier this year I decided to become a bit more serious and professional about this whole being a writer thing. That's very much a work in progress, but I have published a few of my books through Ingram Spark and it's one of those which has sold.

Ingram Spark don't sell direct to the public, but to book distributers, who in turn supply libraries and bookshops. The libraries and shops can order in copies to go on their shelves, or for customers who request them. It's this later scenario which is most likely in this case.

There are advantages in publishing through Amazon (and I can do a post on that if people are interested) but there are drawbacks too. One is that some individuals don't want to buy through Amazon. Another is that shops and libraries are all reluctant to do so, as they don't get the discounts they do from book distributers. Shops need to make a profit and they can't if they're paying the full cover price. Libraries are spending public money and need to make it go as far as possible. I've been fortunate and a few of my books are already in a few UK libraries, but from now on it's much more likely that libraries will get them in if readers ask for them. Bookshops almost certainly will if customers order them.

If you'd like to read A Year Of Ideas: 365 sets of writing prompts and exercises you can still buy a

paperback or ebook from Amazon or read it free with kindle unlimited. If you'd rather support your local bookshop they should now be able to easily order it for you. If you'd prefer to get a library copy, it's worth asking if they can get it in for you. Some libraries have a facility where you can 'suggest a purchase' online, or you can ask at the desk. There's no guarantee they'll get it, but the chances are now much higher than if it were only available through Amazon.

The same also applies to my novels Paint Me A Picture, A Year And A Day and Leave Nothing But Footprints. I'll be adding more titles soon. Please let me know if you persuade your library to stock any of my books – I'd love to know where they are, especially once we can travel again and I might pass by.

In case you're not sure if you'd like to read the little purple book, here's the blurb –

A YEAR OF IDEAS: 365 sets of writing prompts and exercises

All writers need ideas. We need topics and themes, prompts to get started and a little encouragement to keep going. New writers may be wondering where to begin, daunted by a blank page and want help to transform thoughts into fiction. Even the most experienced have dry periods when ideas don't flow, or times when they appreciate a push to try something different.

Patsy Collins' methods are proven to work. She's employed them at workshops where she's never failed to get her attendees, from brand new and nervous to burnt out, not just writing but producing interesting scenes, snippets and stories.

Each of the daily sets of prompts in this book have been used in some way by Patsy, to create her own

work. She needs a lot of ideas as she's completed six novels, co-written
From Story Idea to Reader (an accessible guide to writing fiction) and produced twenty collections of themed short stories, averaging two dozen per book. Hundreds of her short stories have been published – mainly in women's magazines. She blogs, writes articles, wins competitions and is always working on something new.

Whether you're a new writer, or a more experienced one temporarily out of ideas, have hours to fill or just five free minutes, you'll find something in this book to help get you writing – every day of the year.

(I'll be back with more free to enter writing competitions soon.)

Friday, 5 March 2021

Free to enter writing competitions

I didn't have room for the free competitions in my post earlier this week, so here are a couple now ...

This competition is for UK writers of poetry and fiction who are from under represented backgrounds. The list of people who qualify is long and includes things such as being from a working class background or having sensory impairment, as well as categories you'd expect to see. There's a great prize package including cash, mentorship, manuscript assessment and a writing course.

Thanks to Alyson Hillborne for passing me a link to this competition. You're asked to submit '3,000- to 5,000-word stories that envision the next 180 years of climate progress'. Twelve cash prizes are on offer, with £3,000 going to the winner down to $300 for other finalist.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Promotion, preferences and photography

It's spring! I know many people don't think it starts until the equinox, but it's my favourite season so I prefer to start it as early as possible. The garden is looking great and I've been taking lots of photos. Partly to share on social media, but also because I'm learning more about photography and need to practise the techniques.

A bonus from my photography training is that as it's Gary's job, and I'm acting as his assistant, we're allowed to leave the house occasionally, despite lockdown restrictions. Keeping socially distanced is easier at night ... Right, I think that's enough clues for you to guess which one wasn't taken in the garden!

If you'd like to see more of my photos, you can find them on Instagram. That's something else I'm having to learn! I'm sure it'll be easier once I have a smart phone...

Talking of early starts, it's the first Wednesday of the month, so time for an Insecure Writer's Support Group post.

This month's optional question is – Everyone has a favourite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?

My default reading choices are cosy crime, historical fiction and gardening books.

This year I'm taking part in a Goodreads challenge to read 52 different books, at least half of them in other genres, or on different subjects. My plan is to get through some of the books I have downloaded on my kindle – many of them by online writing friends.

How about you? What do you like to read?

Another thing I'm trying to learn more about is promotion for my writing.  There are several things I'm trying, and which I'll report on once I know if they work, but I'm very much in the early stages of the process. Helpfully tonight's #WritingChat topic is promotional tools. If you'd like to join in you'll be very welcome. Just tweet 8-9 UK time, using the hashtag.

This is already quite a long post, so I'll save the free to enter writing competitions for a few days time. Will you be back for them? 

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Walking quickly!

Hi! How are you? 

I'm well. I think it helps that I've been on a walk of at least four miles every day this year – the photos are all things I've seen whilst doing that.

Aren't I lucky to have all this within walking distance of home?

My usual pace is slow, but I'm trying to speed up to leave time for all the other things I have going on.

There's the latest novel of course and I'm preparing for a 'generating and developing ideas' writing workshop I'll be delivering via Zoom in May, I've been asked to submit some cheerful short stories for a sort of new publication, and write a guest blog post for Pent to Print.

Work is progressing on turning two of my novels into audio books, and a lovely new cover is being created for one of those.

Others are doing the work, but there are questions to be answered and decisions to make. Once the audio books are complete, I'll have some codes for free review copies which I'll offer my newsletter subscribers.

I've been well rewarded for my efforts this week – six short story sales and some nice book reviews. The latest is for my short story collection, Coffee & Cake.

Free entry writing competitions

Pen to Print run a variety of free entry competitions, with nice prizes. If you write audio plays you might win a kindle fire as well as the chance to have yours produced. Poets and short story writers could win a tablet pc. Would be novelists can win mentorship from a professional to help get their book ready for publication. There's even a competition for photographers!

Do, as always, check the terms and conditions to check you're eligible. The Pen to Print competitions aren't aimed at established writers.

If you do have a prior record of publication you could try the BBC short story award instead. That offers a £15,000 first prize and four runner up prizes of £600.

And finally ...

Tonight's #WritingChat topic is reading and writing crime. Do join us if you can – just tweet 8-9 UK time, using the hashtag.