Friday 28 May 2021

Something different

Writing isn't my only interest – I'm also a keen gardener and photographer. I've found a way to combine these into one project. There's even the possibility I could make a little money from it...

I'm publishing articles on herbs through Medium a website which delivers ad free informative articles, news stories and opinion pieces to paying readers. Visitors can read a few articles for free each month, but need to join up at a membership of $5 a month or $50 a year for unlimited access. A proportion of this money goes to the writers.

As I write articles for my local horticultural society I have a stock of pieces I can upload quickly and easily. They only allow three per day, so I'll be adding fresh content for the next fortnight at least. It's too soon yet to say if it will be worth my time to write new pieces after that – I'll update you in a couple of weeks.

The photos in this post are all ones I've used on the Medium website. Here are a few links to articles of mine –

I think this one has the best colour combination –

If there's a subject you're passionate about, or you have opinions you'd like to share, then maybe you'll be interested in writing for this, or a similar website. I'll be interested to hear which topics you'd chose if you did give this a try.

Saturday 22 May 2021

Free entry writing competitions.

There haven't been many free entry writing competitions lately. Either that or I've not been very good at finding them. I did spot these two though.

 Secret Attic have a free to enter short story competition. There's no theme and you can even submit previously published stories. Maximum word count is 1,500. All selected stories will be published in a booklet which will be available as a hard copy and online. The best story wins a £20 Amazon voucher and hard copy of the booklet. Other contributors will receive a pdf copy.

There is a theme of family for this poetry competition. The first prize is £150 and a 'large large, bespoke commemorative plate'. 

Family is also the theme of my latest short story collections, Happy Families.

Thanks to Alyson for the link to this competition. On the Premises are offering $35 for a story of 25 to 50 words. That's a heck of a rate per word!

Wednesday 19 May 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.)

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

My news – I now have a second book available in audio format as well as paperback and ebook.

Sunday 16 May 2021

Fiction guidelines for Woman's Weekly, Woman and Woman's Own.

Updated March 2023 – If you're looking for the current Woman's Weekly fiction guidelines, try here.

For other magazine's guidelines check the submissions database. 

To ask advice, please post a comment on the latest blog post, which you can find via 'home' at the top of the page.

These guidelines have been kindly supplied by fiction editor Andrew Shaw.

 Woman's Weekly Fiction Guidelines

Fiction is a vital ingredient of Woman's Weekly, the place where readers can escape and switch off. This doesn't mean predictable plots or old-fashioned romances. Escapism means getting involved in an engaging tale with believable characters. Above all, we are looking for originality and a wide variety of themes and moods, such as mystery, humour, relationships and family issues, with warmth and hope still an important factor. “Uplifting” is the word to keep in mind. We are not looking for stories about Covid, lockdown, or stories that dwell on death/illness/hospitals... Try to be subtle in your writing and remember the maxim: "Show don't tell".

We recommend you read several issues of Woman's Weekly to get a feel for our audience. Unfortunately, we can't offer feedback, but if your writing shows promise, we will contact you. Please be advised that stories may be edited as part of the publishing process.

WHAT WE ARE LOOKING FOR: For the weekly magazine: Short stories of 800 and 1,800 words.


  • Submissions should be my email.

  • Single quotation marks throughout.

  • Your name, address and contact details should be included on the first page.

  • The title of the story and the word count should be in the document name.

Please note that it can take up to sixteen weeks for manuscripts to be considered, and that we are unable to enter into any correspondence by email.

Please send stories to:

Andrew says, "The same guidelines apply to Woman and Woman's Own, however, we are only looking for 1800-word stories for those publications. All submissions should be by email. We are no longer accepting hard copy submissions.... All fiction stories for Woman's Weekly, Woman and Woman's Own are on an 'all rights' basis.

Thursday 13 May 2021

Feedback, families and the future.

Hi. How are things with you? We've been able to get out in the van a bit recently, and I'm trying to get back into the habit of using it as my mobile writing retreat. 

Feedback on your writing

One of the things The People's Friend mentioned in a recent tweet is that they can't critique stories or give detailed feedback. As far as I'm aware no magazine editor does this – please correct me if you know of any that do. This service is sometimes offered to competition entrants, either as part of the entry fee, or for a small additional charge. It might well be worth the money, especially for an ongoing competition.

Feedback, critiques, constructive criticism – whatever you call it, it's very valuable for a writer. That's especially true when we start out, but most experienced writers (myself included) also have at least one other person read their work critically before they submit it, as they've discovered how useful this is.

If you're really lucky there will be a local writing group which provides just the type of feedback you need. Often that's not the case – there might not be a group you can attend reasonably conveniently, or they might not be at the appropriate level for you, or might write in a very different genre. That's where online groups, forums, and critiquing partnerships can be immensely useful. If you know of an online group or site which is open to new members, please post details in the comments. And do the same if you'd like to swap critiques with someone else, or offer a feedback service, or are looking for somewhere to ask for feedback. Hopefully a few of you can find a suitable match.

You might like to consider joining the Facebook group run by Rosemary J. Kind and I in association with our writing book. We don't offer a full critique service, but you can ask for help and advice, plus there's sometimes an opportunity to post up a short extract for feedback.

Womag news

The People's Friend have given more information about submitting via email on their Twitter page. The gist of it is to only use the email address for short stories and that, just as with postal submissions, these must comply with their submission guidelines.

Following the guidelines is important with all markets. The magazines can only publish stories of certain lengths and they're sent plenty of these. If yours is too long, or too short, they would either have to request that you altered it, or do so themselves. Obviously this takes time, something no editor has lots of. I think you can see that they'd much rather buy a story from someone who has followed the guidelines and supplied something they can use without a great deal of further effort.

I've been in contact with Andrew Shaw at Future who has confirmed that fiction for Woman's Weekly, Woman and Woman's Own can only be accepted on an 'all rights' basis.  Stories submitted to him will be considered for all three magazines.  If I'm supplied with guidelines for any of these I'll share them in a future* post. Andrew doesn't deal with the 'Best of' magazine – that's a different department with different requirements.

*See what I did there? Future publishing, get it?

My news

I have a new book out! Happy Families is a collection of 24 family related short stories. The paperback can now be ordered from Amazon, your local bookshop, or in some cases your local library. The ebook is on 'pre order' and will be available in a few days.

I'll be back with more news, and some free to enter writing competitions soon.

Monday 10 May 2021

Guest post on self publishing with Ingram Spark

Today’s guest is Sarah Holroyd. She is the owner of Sleeping Cat books, which offers publishing services for independent authors. 

Thanks for joining me today, Sarah, and sharing some of your publishing know how! Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself, the company and your role as editor and book designer

Thanks for having me, its great to be here! Im American, and a native English speaker. I have a degree in archaeology, which obviously was very useful. [laughs] I started Sleeping Cat Books in 2010, but Id been doing freelance copyediting work since 2006. I provide copyediting, proofreading, and book design services to indie authors. But beyond that, I consider myself a bit of a guide through the whole publishing process. A lot of my clients are completely new to this business, so I try to provide as much guidance and advice as I can to help them navigate what is, admittedly, a very complex world.

You're right, it is complicated! 

I recently posted some information on publishing with Amazon, but of course they’re not the only option. I know you suggest that authors use Ingram Spark, can you tell us a little about this company and why you recommend them?

IngramSpark (IS) is owned by Ingram Content Group, the largest US book distributor. For many years, Ingram has operated a self-publishing company called Lightning Source, Inc. (LSI). As other platforms, like CreateSpace (later KDP Print) gained in popularity, indie authors began to find LSI as well, which had, until that point, catered mainly to small independent publishers. LSI wasnt really set up to deal with indie authors brand new to the business. So Ingram spun off IS for individual authors and small publishers with fewer than 30 titles in their back catalogue. LSI remains available to small publishers with more than 30 titles in their catalogue. So IS is like LSIs little sister. Since both print on demand (POD) platforms are owned by Ingram, they both benefit from the widest US distribution possible, along with a global distribution network through Ingrams Global Connect program.

IS publish ebooks, paperbacks and hardbacks. Would you suggest an author use them for all three?

IS is great for print books, but not so much for ebooks. They keep too much of the revenue from ebooks compared to going direct to ebook retailers or using a distributor like Draft2Digital or Smashwords. Also, some ebook retailers and platforms provide promotion opportunities (such as KDP and Kobo) that you can only access if youre direct with that platform. IS also doesnt give the publisher much control over ebooks on their platform. You have much more control through other distributors.

I'm pleased to hear that, as I'm currently using KDP for my ebooks! 

Would it be a good idea to put the IS paperbacks on Amazon as well? 

Absolutely. You can get the best of both worlds by using both KDP Print and IS for the identical paperback. But the key is to use the same ISBN for the same book on both platforms, which means you must own that ISBN. There have been cases recently of one or the other rejecting the ISBN as being in use with this method. My suggestion to avoid any such issues is to set up the project on both, through entering the ISBN and imprint information, and then saving your progress. Once both platforms have accepted that ISBN, you should be fine to proceed in whichever order you wish.

A good tip, thanks. I'll make sure I do that as like you I've heard of the rejection of ISBNs.

There are no up front costs with Amazon. That’s not the case with IS is it?

No, its not. IS does charge a $49 title setup fee, and a $25/file revision fee for any changes after youve approved the online digital eProof file. But members of some professional organizations may get an IS discount code as a benefit of membership, and its sometimes possible to find other codes to waive these IS fees.

Yes, I'm a member of Alli and they have a code members can use. 

Are there benefits to using IS that authors don’t get with Amazon?

Other than the widest possible distribution? True, KDP offers Expanded Distribution (ED), which lists the book in the Ingram catalogue. But the wholesale discount for KDP ED is fixed at 60%. IS allows the publisher to set the wholesale discount as low as 30%, so you can potentially earn a *whole* lot more through IS than through KDP ED. IS also allows the publisher to accept returns, which KDP doesnt do. So if your goal is to get on brick & mortar shelves, youll need to allow returns (and set a 55% wholesale discount) through IS.

I’m already a convert. I’ve begun uploading my back catalogue and will publish all my new books through IS as well as Amazon. For those who are thinking of doing the same, can you explain how to publish with IS? 

It can be intimidating using the IS website for the first time, especially if youre already familiar with the KDP website. The good news is that I have a step-by-step guide to the IS title setup and file upload process: And Im always interested in improving my guides, so if you see any gaps in my documentation, or theres anything you wish Id included, feel free to contact me through the website and let me know!

Wednesday 5 May 2021

My, it's May!

May already! Perhaps it's just that I'm getting older making it seem like the months are whizzing by, but I like to think it's because I've been busy. The first of my audio books is now available (here's how I achieved that) I have a new short story collection coming out soon, I've written new stories, had some published in magazines, been preparing for a zoom workshop I'm presenting tomorrow, tended my garden, baked and even managed a couple of short trips away in the campervan. 

That's all happened since my last Insecure Writer's Support Group post! And yes, I have felt a little insecure at times, but I've mostly managed to put that aside and keep going. Somehow I got up the nerve to make a cheeky request for promotion in one of the magazines I write for. I didn't get exactly what I asked for, but was offered a nice alternative! The lessons I've learned from this is to have deadlines so there's not much time for anxiety to strike, and if there's something you want to ask nicely and hope that sometimes you might get lucky.

This months optional IWSG question is – Has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn't expect?  If so, did it surprise you?

When it comes to beta readers / critique partners then, gosh yes! But also, crikey no! I expect to be surprised, as I know not every sentence will be perfectly clear, not every character's action come across exactly as I intended, not every clue, red herring or line of foreshadowing lead readers precisely in the direction I hoped. That's why we invite feedback on our work, isn't it? I've had some brilliant reactions and suggestions which have helped make my work much better than it would otherwise have been.

I used to be surprised sometimes by the reactions of editors. One might reject a story as predictable, the next accept it praising the great twist. The same thing happens with reviews. The characters which some reviewers found delightful, well rounded and completely believable have been described by one person as two dimensional and not worth caring about. The lesson I've learned there is that, as with everything in life, we can't please everyone. I've disliked books which have won awards or been highly praised, so it would be ridiculous to expect every reader to have the same reaction to my work.

Free to enter writing competitions

This competition is for writers aged 12 and under. They're asked for up to 300 words written to a monthly prompt and there are prizes.

Entrants can be a little older, up to 19, for this one. Entrants are asked to complete the story supplied. UK only.

Reedsy have a weekly competition for pieces written to one of the prompts they supply. You don't need to be a child for this one! There's a $50 prize, plus publication. You do need to create an account and sign up for the prompts emails, but that's free and so is entry.

If you're a woman who has written a comedy novel, or even just made a start on one, then this competition might appeal. Prizes include publication with a cash advance.

Womag news

I've updated my submissions database including the addition of the little I know about Woman and Woman's Own. I've requested full guidelines and submission requirements for both of these and Woman's Weekly. 

Here's some useful information about story lengths for The People's Friend. If you pick the right length it just might help your chances of success.

Saturday 1 May 2021

Producing an audio book

The audio version of my romance Escape To The Country is now available! The narrator is actress Claire Storey (you may have heard her voice doing those BBC intro things or voice overs) and she's done a fabulous job. As my main character Leah spends quite a lot of time eating the delicious food and drinking herbal concoctions created by her aunt Jayne on the small farm, it seems very appropriate to have someone who worked on The Great British Bake Off reading the novel!

I still have a few codes for review copies to give away. If you have an account with either or and are willing to leave a review then contact me, or leave a comment – saying which site you use. If you don't yet have an Audible account but would like to try it, you should be able to get a free 30 day trial complete with my book by using this link.

It's not too difficult to self publish an audio book. Several companies offer a service to help with this including Audible (Amazon), Findaway Voices and Tantor. There are a few things to keep in mind which don't apply to ebooks and paperbacks. The most obvious is the choice of narrator. 

If you have the right equipment, or hire a studio, you could read it yourself. That might be a good option for a memoir or non-fiction book. However not everyone is good at reading aloud in a clear, consistent voice, or at bringing different characters to life. I sometimes give talks including readings of a few of my short stories, but I couldn't narrate a novel. 

You also need to consider if your voice, or that of the narrator, is appropriate. In a first person story particularly, it would be confusing to the listener if the reader is clearly a different gender, age, nationality etc. It's best to listen to several 'auditions' (just short recordings of the person reading part of your book) to be sure you've selected the right person. It's common for the narrator to also be the producer.

Something else to consider is the financial aspect. If you use a narrator you can either pay them a flat fee (rates vary hugely – and some really are huge!) or do a royalty split. With the former you'll receive all the royalties and take all the risk. Sharing both might seem a better option, but you'll need to convince the narrator it's worth their time. Apparently each finished hour of recording takes about six hours to produce.

As with ebooks and paperbacks you also have the option of 'going wide' (making the audio book available through more than one platform) or being exclusive with one. The affects your royalty rates, and those of your narrator if you're doing a royalty split.

Even if you don't narrate the book yourself it will take up some of your time. The narrator may have questions about pronunciation, accents or tone. You will also need to listen carefully to the entire recording and note anything which isn't right, until you're happy with it.

You'll also need a new cover as those for audio books are square!

The blurb can stay the same as for the ebook and paperback. Here's mine for Escape To The Country

Leah is accused of a crime she didn't commit. Dumped by Adam, the man she planned to marry, she escapes to Aunt Jayne's smallholding in the Kent village of Winkleigh Marsh. Heartbroken and homeless, she strives to clear her name and deal with her emotions.

Jayne treats Leah's unhappiness with herbal remedies, cowslip wine and common sense in equal measure. In return Leah works hard for the delicious home-cooked meals they share. She wrestles with sheep, breaks nails and gets stuck in the mud – learning as much about herself as she does about farming. Soon Leah is happy milking cows, mucking out pigs and falling halfway in love with Duncan, a dishy tractor driver.

Back in London, steps are being taken to investigate what's happened to the missing money. It looks as though the real embezzler must soon be unmasked and Leah will have to choose between resuming her old life or starting a new one.

That's when her problems really start.

My novel Paint Me A Picture has also been recorded and is awaiting release, and one of my short story collections will follow.