My Lovely Blog Hop

My writing friend, Jo Bartlett, invited me to participate in the ‘Lovely Blog Hop’ (see her post here) in which writers pass on the baton to other writers to talk about what has shaped their life and writing under a number of headings. Jo is my kindred spirit of the writing world. She’s the co-founder of The Write Romantics alongside me, and we’re also publishing buddies with So Vain Books. Her debut novel ‘Among a Thousand Stars‘ is released on 17th June in e-Book and paperback formats, and will be available for pre-order within a week or two. Her novella, ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come‘ is still available. Although the start and end of the book are set at Christmas, the action spans a whole year so it can be enjoyed all year-round.

Jo kindly also nominated our writing friend Sharon Booth whose debut novel ‘There Must Be An Angel‘ is available now and is a fabulous read. You can read her Lovely Blog Hop here.

First Memory

P1060221I’ve recently written something about a first memory being pushing my pram around the estate I lived on until shortly before my 4th birthday so I won’t repeat that one here. Instead, a slightly later – but probably the next oldest – memory is of being in reception class at primary school. Mrs Wheel, the reception teacher, was the school’s pianist and, once a week, the rest of the infants (KS1 in new money?) would gather in her classroom and sing songs. The reception children would put the small chairs round the outside of the room and we’d typically get to sit on these and bag some spares for older siblings. I can remember sitting on one and saving one for my older brother Michael and one of his friends (also called Michael). Mark Readman who was in my class and who lived over the road from me asked if he could sit in one and I can remember looking at him, shaking my head, feeling very strange … then promptly vomiting all over the floor! Oops! I bet the teachers absolutely loved me for doing this minutes before three classes of children were about to merge. Especially as it was on the carpeted part of the classroom too! They used to then put poorly children in the reception area on a camp bed, tucked in with a ridiculous number of wooden blankets, until their parents came to collect them. I remember a couple of teachers walking past and one asking the other who was in the bed. The reply was something like, ‘It’s Michael Williams’s little sister and she just threw up all over the floor of the classroom!’ Even at the tender age of four or five, I was mortified by this and hid under the blankets willing my mum to appear and take me away from the humiliation! Did you enjoy that memory? 😉

Books

_MG_4519As a child, I played out a lot on my bike. There were lots of children on our estate of about the same age, give or take a couple of years, so there was nearly always someone to play with when I was primary school age. I used to go out on my bike a lot, dress up and parade round the streets with my female friends, and build dens in the fields at the bottom of our road with the boys. For me, reading was therefore more of a before-bedtime or on holiday activity. I loved Enid Blyton, especially The Faraway Tree series, Famous Five and Mallory Towers. I graduated to Adrian Mole, then Virginia Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic series, then I would say I had quite a gap when I barely read. I’d say these were my university years and just beyond when life seemed to be about studying, working, and socialising rather than reading. The discovery of chicklit in my mid-twenties got me back into reading. I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like to as I’m often writing until 10pm or 11pm and then I can barely keep my eyes open to read. I have a dream of being a full time writer one day and being able to incorporate reading as part of my day. I bet I don’t … but it’s a nice thing to imagine!

Libraries

I can’t remember what led me to first visit our local library. It might have been a visit with school, but I went through a phase of going down on a weekend with my mum and selecting some books to take home. The thing was, I rarely read any of them! I was a slow reader. I still am. Therefore I would struggle to get through one book, nevermind a pile of them! I think mum cottoned onto this and stopped taking me.

P1040080The munchkin goes to the local library where we live now. My mother in law volunteers once or twice a week on the mobile library so her link has helped Ashleigh get involved. She loves choosing her books and has completed a reading challenge the last couple of years – Spooky House then Myths & Legends – where they have to read something like six books over the summer. It’s promoted through her primary school and the librarians come in with certificates and present them in assembly which I think is lovely. She has these proudly displayed in clip frames on her wall.

I’m going to be involved with the libraries in the local area soon. I’m a Brown Owl and, as a celebration of my debut book launch in June, the Brownies are going to do their book lover and writer badges after the May half term. This will involve a trip to the same library that Ashleigh uses. I happened to mention in my email that the reason I was doing the badge was because I was about to release my debut novel and they’ve become very excited about that. My husband is an amateur photographer and has met someone through this who is a senior manager across North Yorkshire’s library so she’s also been keen to work with me. The consequence is that I’m going to the local library in a weeks’ time to discuss a library tour and signing. I’ve also been invited to join their book club which is all very exciting.

What’s Your Passion?

P1060143It probably won’t be a surprise to hear that it’s writing. If you’d asked me this question 15 years ago, I’d have struggled to answer. I’d have said I didn’t really have one and that my only hobbies and interests were reading and watching DVDs. I used to deliberately leave ‘interests’ off my CV as it sounded so bland and generic! I started to write twelve years ago and would say I loved it, but it’s really developed into a passion in the last five years or so. I couldn’t not write now. I actually struggle to remember what life was like without writing.

Linked to writing, I’m passionate about stationery. I could spend hours in WH Smiths, Waterstones and Rymans, stroking the notepads and oggling at the pens! Paperchase excites me too, but we don’t have one in Scarborough. We do, however, have one in Beverley where I read my writing pals Sharon and Alys every couple of months. I always arrive early to fit in a Paperchase visit!

I love running my Brownie pack. I love the organising element that goes in behind the scenes, and the satisfaction that my five leaders and I run meetings that give so much pleasure to the girls and make our pack permanently oversubscribed.


I am passionate about teddy bears, particularly proper collectible ones. I was so passionate about this that I packed in a well paid job twelve years ago to set up and run my own teddy bear themed shop!

P1030875And bootcamp! I rise at 5.20am three mornings a week (and I’m NOT a morning person) to do a bootcamp on Scarborough’s North Bay. I’ve massively increased my fitness, but I’m useless at dieting so I still need to get to grips with the weight loss part. I love the exercise, though, especially with the beach, countryside, and castle as a backdrop. Absolutely stunning.

And, of course, I’m passionate about my family, but I hope that goes without saying 🙂

Learning

I loved primary school (other than the humiliating vomiting incident), but senior school and I weren’t such good friends. I enjoyed the concept of school, but I was bullied a lot so I didn’t enjoy actually being there. There were subjects I loved like English, History and RE and others I hated and couldn’t do like Maths, Physics, Chemistry and French (although I got a Grade A GCSE so can’t have been that bad at it!)

My rather eclectic choice of GCSEs (e.g. Humanities, Typing, Commerce) didn’t naturally lend themselves to A Levels so I went to a technical college in another town and studied a BTEC in Business and Finance. I loved that qualification. It was very essay-based and I found most of the subjects (except Economics) fascinating. I worked hard on all my assignments and came out with 13 distinctions and 1 merit (was gutted by the latter!)

I then went on to Loughborough University to study a BSc (Hons) in Banking and Finance. I found university exceptionally hard and had to work my socks off to get anywhere resembling decent grades. Looking back, I feel really frustrated as it’s only in later life that I’ve realised that I was laying out my work wrong. I was losing marks from my style of writing and my improper references which was why I seemed to put heart and soul into assignments and scrape a 2:2. Grr. Why didn’t anyone tell me at the time?

Since then, I’ve done a professional qualification in Marketing and another in HR. I’ve taken work-based qualifications in Coaching and Career Development, as well as psychometric testing for recruitment and development purposes. But it’s been years and years. I feel ready to be challenged and developed at work again, but can’t see that ever happening. Of course, I’m always learning about writing but, again, would like to find more time to read my stack of ‘how-to’ books to see if I can hone my skills a bit more.

Writing

10527383_331005803724929_5378621437399779308_nAs alluded to under the passions section, writing is now part of me and who I am. I feel a bit twitchy if I don’t do any! It doesn’t have to be work on my book; it can be a blog post or even a bit of interaction on social media but I NEED to write. My dream is to write full time. I’ve been fortunate enough at work to secure a flexible working pattern where I work my full time hours across four longer days. The day I don’t work has given me a valuable insight into what being able to write all day is like and I love it. I don’t feel guilty that I’m spending time writing that I could be spending with the family because the munchkin’s at school and hubby’s working. I long for this to happen. Please buy ten million copies of my book so it can!!!

Thank you for joining my ‘Lovely Blog Tour’. I’m passing the baton to urban fantasy writer Alys West who is also a Write Romantic and local author. She’ll be sharing her experiences on Monday 11th May. Alys is currently working on the second novel of a series of three, and I’ve been lucky enough to read the first one, ‘Beltane’ and look forward to that being published soon.

Thanks again to Jo for nominating me xxx

A Tale of Two Contracts – Act II

_MG_5263Sorry about the tease at the start of the week. I couldn’t resist! Where were we? Oh yes, publishing deals being like buses. You wait nearly a year for one and two come along at once.

At this point, I hadn’t signed with the US publisher but I was close. I had to be honest. I emailed back the 2nd publisher (a UK company) and explained the situation and that I’d love to find out more but would understand if they didn’t want to pursue things. The Publishing Director was eager to chat to me and we caught up on the phone for about 30-40 minutes that evening.

What I was facing were two very different offers:

US publisher

  • Established (but only two years ago) so dedicated readership already
  • eBook only
  • Distribution rights around USA & Europe
  • 3-book deal
  • Launching summer 2015 with books 2 launched two months later and book 3 two months after that. Big pressure to have next books ready, even if the contract with them didn’t continue beyond the trilogy
  • Concern over wordcount reductions
  • Concern over the friendship theme; would I need to tone it down?
  • Writer community for all their authors with lots of support and guidance
  • Would set up a blog tour but marketing beyond that would mainly be down to me

UK publisher

  • Brand new with no track record in publishing books
  • eBook and print format
  • Distribution rights around USA & Europe
  • 3-book deal (once they found out more about the trilogy, they were keen to offer this too)
  • Launching spring 2015 (probably although could be summer) with a book a year in the spring (or summer) in order to maximise on marketing activities
  • Don’t want to cut any words at all – love the story
  • No issues over the friendship theme running alongside the romance
  • Lots of marketing activities planned because, of course, it was important for them to do what they could to make this a success
  • Lower royalties

When I write it like that, it does look like a no-brainer until we get to the last point of lower royalties which brought the indie debate back to the forefront of my mind: I’d earn far more by publishing that way but would I sell more copies just on my own? Probably not. Almost definitely not. I then reasoned that having my novel available in two formats – eBook and print – would surely mean more sales which would ultimately cancel out the lower royalties.

I asked lots more questions of the UK publisher on email the next day and all were answered in detail. I asked the US publisher to absolutely clarify the wordcount and theme issue too and was assured it wouldn’t be a problem. But there was still this niggle …

Initially my head had been saying to go for the originally offer from the US publisher – established, more money and they offered first, but my heart and gut were saying So Vain Books (SVB). On the Thursday evening after a day at work where my mind flitted back and forth between the two, I spoke to my husband. He’d been initially encouraging me towards the US offer and I was a bit concerned that he wouldn’t be as supportive if I said that I was leaning towards SVB. Unexpectedly, he’d changed his mind. He’d reflected on how I’d enthused about the conversation with SVB and how upset I’d been on Black Friday when I was so worried about whether the US offer would lead to me compromising my stories.

P1050675I ran it by my parents over the phone who felt SVB were the best option too. In my debut novel, ‘Searching for Steven’, my protagonist Sarah has some major decisions to make. She does this using colour-coded post-it notes stuck to her wardrobe door, highlighting the pros and cons. So that’s exactly what I did (any excuse to use stationery). This is my bear cabinet obliterated with my musings. Green for go (positive) and dark orange for stop (negative). As you can see, there’s pros and cons for each.

And, just to make absolutely sure there wasn’t anything I’d missed, I got my lovely colleague at work to coach me about the decision (thanks Joanna) and SVB came out on top!

So who did I go for? It’s probably not going to be a surprise after all that but I’m delighted to say that I have chosen to join So Vain Books, the UK-based publishers, and it feels absolutely the right decision.

I went to bed on Friday night with a churning stomach because my contract arrived in my inbox from my US editor and I couldn’t help but feel incredibly guilty at letting them down. I know it’s business. I know that. But I’m the sort of person who doesn’t like to let people down. It doesn’t sit with my values very well.

On Saturday morning I rose and had a shower. I’d made my definite decision to go with So Vain Books and, knowing that was going to be the case, I’d asked the Publishing Director if I could call her that afternoon to tell her in person. And if I had any doubts that I’d made the right decision, I turned the radio on when I came out of the shower and guess what song was playing? Carly Simon’s, “You’re so vain!” Now is that spooky or is that spooky? I’m a firm believer in signs and they don’t get much more significant than that! It was wonderful to make that call and be told that I’d made her day.

Emailing the US company was very hard but I was honest about the situation and, to be fair to them, I got a lovely email back saying I’d done the right thing to take time to weigh up the offers and that I had to do what was best for my career. It was a lovely email but I’d expected some reference to them being disappointed that they weren’t going to be representing Steven. Which just showed that it’s business. Always has been. Always will be. And that made me feel a lot better. But with SVB, it feels like it’s more than business; it feels like a partnership and I am incredibly excited about it. I’ll share my journey to publication on this blog as and when I can.

P1050687My parting words would be to say to any writer out there who’s still looking: never give up on your dreams. Believe in yourself and believe in your work. There are many options out there with eBooks and indie publishing so you can have the dream whether it’s via the more traditional route or by your own hand. For me, indie wouldn’t have been the “failure” option; it would have been my choice to not submit anywhere else and to take my future into my own hands. But my final round of subs reaped rewards and I knew that So Vain Books, in particular, could support me in a way I couldn’t support myself with regards to marketing so I’m absolutely delighted to be on board. A friend of mine makes signs. I got her to make me this one which fellow-Write Romantic Helen Phifer introduced to me. It feels very apt. It can be apt for you too.

Jessica xx

So many choices and so few decisions

I have a problem. My problem is that I’ve done a lot of writing recently … but hardly any of it has been novel-related. I’ve written a short story for The Write Romantics Anthology out later this year which I enjoyed and I’ve written several blog posts but I haven’t really progressed with my novels.

Why?

I think the fact that I say novelS – plural – rather than novel could be part of the problem.

By the end of November last year, I was absolutely storming it with my writing. I’d finished book 1 and it was out there seeking representation, I’d also finished my first draft of book 2 thanks to NaNoWriMo AND cracked on with about a third of book 3. (I cheated on NaNo. Officially you’re meant to start from scratch with a new book but that simply didn’t work for me timing-wise so I finished one and started the next and, let’s face it, my aim was to do 50,000 words and I achieved it. It made no difference to me whether that was on one, two or even twelve novels! Eek. Twelve. The thought brings me out in a cold sweat).

Fast forward eight months later and I’m in exactly the same position. Book 1 is out there seeking representation (still waiting on the final publisher decisions before going down the indie route), book 2 is no longer at 1st draft but it still needs work, and book 3 is still a third in and I’ve changed my mind about the order of events that I’d plotted out so carefully so change is needed. Problem is, the change is within the third I’ve already written. Typical.

So what I’m doing right now is dithering. I do a bit on book 2, I then move to book 3 and I’m now feeling I want to revisit book 1 again and all of this is not actually getting anything done.

A few thoughts spring to mind as to why a normally-organised and in control person like me is dithering so much:

  1. I’m bored of writing the trilogy, having worked on it for 11 years now and I’m ready to start something fresh
  2. I’m having a crisis of confidence thanks in part to my awful NWS critique on book 2 (where my reader kept saying there were lots of good bits then forgetting to tell me what they were)
  3. I’m genuinely not a good enough writer. I can see there are plot points to be improved upon and I’m not talented enough to do anything about them
  4. There is too much else going on in my life. Between a full-time job with a ludicrous amount of unexpected travel, family time, Brownies, keeping up with social media (as a good writer should) and life in general, I don’t have the time or energy to undertake the amount (or quality) of writing I’d like to
  5. I feel like my life is on hold whilst waiting for three final publishers to come back to me. One of these is several weeks overdue and the other two are due this week (specific timescales they gave me via email discussions as opposed to the general guidance provided at submission time). If I did get the call and if I did accept it, where I go next with the books may be quite different to what I’d do if I became indie so I’m in a state of flux not knowing at the moment

Or could it be all of the above? 

I’d say it is. Except perhaps 1. Eleven years is a heck of a long time to work on a trilogy but I’ve had significant periods within that time when I haven’t written at all (we’re talking several years when I had the munchkin) so it hasn’t been eleven solid, intensive years. I also love my characters, my setting, and believe in their stories so I don’t think I’d ever get bored of them. But perhaps that links into points 2 and 3. Because I love them so much and am so passionate about the stories they want to tell, I panic that I can’t do them justice.

Another problem is that my writing time is so snatched. I may get two hours one evening and then 2 days with nothing. This is hard for the thought process. Approx two months ago, I scrolled through book 2 and wrote on a set of post-it notes the main points of the chapters. I stuck them on a glass display cabinet next to my desk. As I was writing these out, thoughts were whizzing through my mind as to what I could link/change/add in/remove. The next step was to capture these but we were going out so my thought process got broken. A week later, I had time to pick it up again but the cogs that had been turning so well were now dormant and rusty. I tried to look at the chapter details and remember. But I couldn’t. So I put some token thoughts on in other pretty-shaped post-it notes and it all looks very impressive … but it’s not quite right because of that break. And because it’s not quite right, I’m putting off returning to book 2 because I’m still unclear what I want to do to it or why. What I really need to do is do that whole exercise again in its entirety. But where do I have time to do that?

Answer: Take a month off work (at least) and write solidly.

Likelihood of that happening: Absolutely zero.

So how do I overcome points 2-5 above and deal with the snatched writing time so that I can get this trilogy finished to the absolute best of my ability (ignoring the doubts of points 2 and 3)?

I don’t actually know.

One of my day job roles is a coach. I ask questions of others and I guide them to help them reach the solution that they have within themselves. I’m quite good at coaching myself and I like to do this in the form of writing. I’ve found that writing down my thoughts in a post such as this really helps. I explore the options and the pros and cons of each, coming to the conclusion that’s right for me. I’ve effectively coached myself through the problem. I did this with my recent decision to write under a pen name and the exploration prior to that around the indie route. When I started writing both those posts, I wasn’t really sure what I’d decide and the process generated my conclusion.

This time I can’t coach myself because the answers aren’t within me. I will put my hands up (or I would if I didn’t need them to type this) and say I honestly don’t know what to do.

Do I just hang in there and wait for no 5 issue to be resolved and hope the timescales given to me are met? What if they aren’t met, though? How much time might I wait? Time that I would be wasting. Time that I could have been writing. If I could get my act together and write!

Hmmm. Answers on a postcard please or, even better, in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your take on it. Do you recognise yourself in this post? How did you overcome it (assuming you did)? Help!!!!!

To SP or not to SP: That is the Question!

Self publishing. Indie publishing. Call it what you like but it’s the subject that has been going round and round in my mind for the last few months and I really can’t decide what to do. I’m not sitting on the fence on this one; I’ve been leaping back and forth across it from Traditional Crop to Indie Meadow and, quite frankly, I don’t know where my head’s at! So, in true writerly style, I’m going to put fingers to keyboard and try and write my way into a decision. Would you like to come on a little journey with me?

In the beginning …

When I first had the idea for Searching for Steven back in 2003 and decided to write, the dream was simple: to get a publishing deal and be able to hold a book I’d written. (If I’m being honest, the dream was really to dive into Waterstones, WH Smith or my local bookshop and be photographed grinning inanely whilst pointing to said book but let’s not go there cos it’s slightly cheesy even though I’m sure most writers long to do it!) When I say “book” I mean a physical book because this was four years before the first eReader came out and it simply wasn’t on my radar to even imagine a world where there would ever be a format for books other than paperback, hardback or audio. How things change!

ImageBack then, I had no idea that something called self publishing existed. But I hadn’t heard of vanity publishing either. In fact, I had little ideas of how publishing worked full stop. Then I met my husband and, as a freelance typesetter, he opened my eyes to the world of publishing. Sadly he mainly sets journals and text books so doesn’t have connections in the large fiction publishers so this isn’t going to be a short story with a happy ending where he introduced me to one of his clients and the deal was done. Instead, what I learned from him was the existence of self publishing. Local vicar-turned-writer, G P Taylor (Graham) had self-published his debut novel “Shadowmancer” that same year (2003) and Mark had picked up a 1st edition in Waterstones. The book took off and was picked up and re-released by Faber & Faber and became a New York Times No 1 bestseller. Graham’s books were cited at the time as being “hotter than Potter”. Imagine that! No pressure then!

In 2006 I attended a creative writing course run by Graham and, although I never thought seriously about becoming self published at the time, Graham’s success was always at the back of my mind. You can read more about G P Taylor on his official website

For several years I continued writing and learning my craft, always working towards the goal of being published in physical book format.

Then the eReader hit the market and the face of publishing changed forever.

I fought against owning a Kindle for some time. Books. That was what people should be reading. None of this new-fangled technology rubbish for me putting writers out of business. Except the reality has been quite the opposite. It’s actually opened up a world of publishing to many who would never have been in the right place at the right time with the right idea to secure a traditional publishing deal.

I succumbed and got a Kindle for Christmas 2012 and I confess I absolutely love it. It will never fully replace physical books for me. I’ll always love the smell and feel of an actual book but my Kindle is so practical. It’s with me all the time for those unexpected moments of waiting. I’m someone who can’t bear not being on the go and who hates wasted time so being unexpectedly stuck waiting for a lift, bus, child etc can suddenly be time well-spent by whipping out my Kindle and reading a few pages.

But this posting isn’t about the virtues of Kindles (other e-Readers are available!) It’s about the decision to self publish or not so let’s get back to that …

ImageLast summer I attended the RNA’s annual conference where one of my biggest learnings was that it is almost impossible for a debut writer to secure a UK publishing deal in my genre (note I said “almost”; some do, of course, achieve it but they are definitely the exception rather than the rule). For the rest of us debut writers, it became clear that a publishing deal would more likely be with an ePublisher. Many of the large publishers have set up dedicated ePublishing arms. I was lucky enough to secure a pitch with editors representing two ePublishers at the conference and, to my delight, they loved the premise of my story and my writing style and both wanted to see my full MS. The excitement I felt at this news made me realise that, even thought I will always like the idea of holding a book of mine in my hand, I would be very happy to secure an ePublishing deal. I think several factors contributed to this change of heart; my new love of my Kindle, the reality check that this was the way forward for a debut romance writer, the speed at which the book could be available to readers when compared to the traditional print market and also fellow Write Romantic, Helen Phifer, having secured a deal with Carina for her debut novel. You can read more about Helen here

Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing Helen’s journey with her and have observed what it means to be ePublished via a large publisher. In the meantime, I’ve been submitting my MS. I’ve submitted to both the ePublishers I met (would be rude not to when so politely invited), I tried a few agents (just in case; got to keep that traditional publishing deal dream alive) and a handful of other ePublishers, more recently a few in the USA.

As expected, I’ve had some rejections. I had a very encouraging “near miss” from an agent which was exciting but, for every positive response, I’ve been disappointed by the “if you don’t hear from us within 6 weeks/2 months/6 months, assume it’s a no” approach to decisions. My day job has seen me in many recruitment roles over the years and I have always, always, always had the courtesy of getting in touch with candidates to let them know their application has been unsuccessful. It takes a bit of time to do and it’s bad news for the candidate … but at least it’s news! They can move on. They can apply elsewhere. They don’t have to keep checking their email wondering if today will be the day they hear. In this day and age where most submissions are online or via email, there simply isn’t any excuse for not getting in touch to tell an aspiring writer they’ve been unsuccessful. In my mind, it’s downright rude and it’s also poor customer service because, don’t forget, those who are good at their craft should also be voracious readers and therefore customers you’d hope not to alienate. Phew! Relax. Deep breath. Rant over!

Back to the journey …

So, I waited and I waited. And I waited some more. And I’m still waiting. And, to be honest, it’s frustrating as hell. Where else in business would such a long wait be acceptable? Nowhere. It feels so out of control. And that’s where the appeal of indie publishing comes in. It’s in your control. There’s a line in one of my favourite films, Pretty Woman, where Julia Roberts’s character, Vivian, confronts Richard Gere after his lawyer, Stuckey, assaults her when she refuses his advances. She yells at Gere, “I say who, I say when, I say who …” Well, with self publishing, I’d say what, I’d say when, I’d say how much. I hadn’t really thought about the control thing until I had my recent lovely writerly afternoon with fellow Write Romantic Alex and our fellow NWS-friend Sharon. Sharon is quite keen on the idea of SP and one of the main drivers is the control. I’m someone who likes to be in control. I’m very organised, I’m usually a manager/leader at work, I’m a Brown Owl outside of work and generally I like to get things done … but within my timescales. I would only have that as an indie which makes indie very appealing.

I left my afternoon with Alex and Sharon with a spring in my step about self publishing. But then a couple of The Write Romantics received some really positive news that took them one step closer to their publishing dream and I had another reality check. I revelled in their news vicariously and was absolutely ecstatic for them. But feeling their excitement for them was a reminder of how excited I’d feel myself to get “the call”. Suddenly indie lost its shine and I was back to square one.

My current day job is a Learning & Development Advisor and, a couple of months ago, I was asked to be a facilitator, supporting a colleague running a coaching workshop. To give the delegates an opportunity to practice their coaching skills, they were broken into small groups and the facilitator of each group needed to present an issue they were dealing with outside of work and get the group to coach them. I choose “to SP or not SP”. I have to say the results out of this coaching session were quite fascinating. The only thing stopping me from going indie was me (often the case in any coaching situation) and the only reason I was stopping me was this slight doubt I have at the back of my mind (which I’m sure all debut writers have … and probably some successful writer too) is that I’m not good enough and having “the call” would be having someone in the know saying, “Don’t worry, Julie, we loved your work; you really are good enough.” But one of the coaches-in-training asked me the most enlightening question of the session: “Is there any other way you can get feedback that you’re good at writing.” OMG. Lightbulb moment. Sales. Reviews. Feedback. Of course!!!! (This lightbulb moment is worthy of several question marks even though I know that’s really a writing sin!)

Which brings my journey to present day …

I’m still waiting to hear back from 7 publishers. This is not me being either modest or down on myself but I absolutely do not expect to hear back from the three UK ones. I don’t think I have a chance with one of them as they did a submissions call and were inundated and I think they’ll be spoilt for choice. The other two have had my book way, way, way too long. Yes, it’s possible it’s going through a process and the length of time I’ve waited is a good sign but it’s equally possible it still hasn’t been read and, given that both editors specifically asked me for it, I feel that if it was really calling to them, I’d have heard by now so I have to conclude that the pull that was there in the summer isn’t there any more and I don’t know why. As for the US publishers, it’s an unknown for me. I want my book to be available to UK audiences as I want my friends and family to read it. Surely they deserve to after hearing me wittering on about being a writer for 11 years! I wonder if they’d publish in the US and I’d retain UK rights which would mean, what? SP is the only route in the UK again? I don’t know. As I said, it’s an unknown entity and a bridge I’ll cross if I ever get to it.

ImageThe final update on the journey is that, although at the start of this rather long post, I said Mark doesn’t have connections, that’s not strictly true. He has a local contact called Piers who has been in the publishing industry since the early 1970s. Piers writes fact and fiction, is traditionally published and self published and has published for others so he’s a wealth of knowledge and experience. I had a very useful phone conversation with him on Tuesday and he presented the indie route as a no-brainer, particularly financially. There’s no guarantee you’ll sell shed-loads but, hey, there’s no guarantee you’ll do any better if you have a publishing deal. Either way, you still have a lot of the marketing to do yourself and, with SP, you reap greater financial rewards for the same volume of sales. There’s formatting to do (cue expertise of typesetting husband). And a cover to design (cue expertise of amateur (but exceedingly good) photographer husband or his best friend (best man at our wedding) who happens to be a graphic designer). And there’s reliable experts to proof-read and edit the work (hello Write Romantics) and then voila! He also presented an idea I really hadn’t considered but which is pretty obvious if you think about it. The books he SPs, he does in both e-format and print format. He’s going to give me the details of a very good printing firm he uses and gave me an indication of costs. I love the idea of the credibility and increased market that potentially having eBooks and print books available on Amazon could bring. And if I didn’t want to invest in a large box of books, there’s CreateSpace who do POD (print on demand) so there are many options available to become indie AND still hold a physical book in my hand AND get that feedback from reviews and sales that my work really is good enough.

To SP or not to SP? I think I’ve answered the question haven’t I? I think the question really should be, “Do I have time to go indie for the summer market or do I wait and aim for Christmas?” Impatient by nature, there’s a part of me saying summer but professional by nature too, I believe Christmas may be more sensible. More time to plan. More time to network and build a customer base. More time to get the cover that’s really right for me. Plus, I’d like to do one more edit of Searching for Steven (just in case). After all, I haven’t read it for about nine months and a fresh look may inject new energy and life into it. And I suppose I would like to give that last few months to (hopefully) have the final decisions in from the 7 publishers who have Steven.

Although it would make a really great beach read …