Sunday, 25 September 2016

Publishing a Picture Book as a Kindle - by Susan Price

Three Billy Goats Gruff, £2-31
Last month I blogged about how to publish a picture book with Createspace.
     This month, I'll tell you how we also published the book as a Kindle ebook.

Once again, we found How To Format Your Picturebook For Createspace Without The Frustration by A. Olsen extremely useful.

Illustrator Andrew Price had already used a graphics programme to produce all the pages, with the text embedded in the images. He had saved all these pages several times over, in different folders. Once as huge graphics programmes, with all their layers, at four times the size they needed to be. Secondly, as equally huge jpegs, and finally as jpegs resized to fit our Createspace paperback. You can read about this here.

To turn these pictures into an e-book, we had to decide between two programmes:


Download here



Kindle Kids' Book Creator...









Download here


Or Kindle's Comic Creator.







They are both free programmes which you download to your computer. They make it easy to turn a book full of illustrations into an e-book.
      We tried both and, in the end, used Comic Creator, both because Olsen recommended it and because it seemed easier.
      When you open Comic Creator, you see this screen:


If you're creating a new book, you click on the 'Start A New Book' icon to the right. Then you see this:-



You have to click on the features that you want in your Kindle ebook. 'Kindle panel view' is a feature built into the programme which allows you to tap your screen and zoom in to a particular frame or speech bubble, making it easier to read. It isn't supported on all models of Kindle but you might want to add it. There's a similar feature in Kids' Book Creator.

The other boxes are fairly self-explanatory, though 'unlocked' refers to the abilty to read your Kindle in landscape or portrait format. Comic Creator assumes that you want your comic locked into whichever format you choose - unless you click this dot.

Down at the bottom, it gives the Kindle dimensions for your chosen format. Olsen gives them in her book too. They are:

Portrait     800 pixels wide       1280 pixels high          96 dpi

Landscape   1280 pixels wide     800 pixels high         96 dpi

This means, of course, that you are going to have to resize your images again.

Also, Andrew is not 'aving that 96 dpi (dots per inch). It's 300 dpi at least, for him. Because your image will shed pixels as you shrink it. The higher the resolution - the more dots per inch there are to begin with - the less difference this shrinkage will make to the final image.

So Andrew sprang once more to the graphics programme of his choice and created a blank background or canvas, to Kindle's dimensions, and 300 dpi.

He then used the programme to open the huge jpegs, the ones four times the size needed. They were all saved as separate, left and right pages, because we'd used Microsoft Word to make the paperback. Word wants the images inserted as separate pages, even when they are double-page spreads.

But the Kindle cares nothing for that, nor for bleeds or gutters. Each page has to fit within that 1280 x 800 pixels rectangle.

So Andrew resized the pages and sat them side by side on his template. The single pages sat side by side as single pages. The spreads required a little more work as the gap between them (where the paperback's central gutter had been) had to be joined together.

Tip: design your spreads so there are no hard lines to be connected across the gap. Suggest the line on the left and right hand pages and fill the gutter section with colour. Let the eye connect the lines.

As you complete each Kindle page, save it as a picture file in yet another clearly marked folder. It will make your job much easier if you name each file alphabetically. They will then arrange themselves neatly in alphabetical order. This makes it easier to find them, and easier to load them into Comic Creator.

Next, get your cover image ready, because Comic Creator will demand that you insert a cover image before you can move beyond the first step. If you've already made a paperback of your book, take the cover you designed and resize it to Kindle dimensions. Crop it to get rid of the back cover.

When you have all your pages saved, open Comic Creator again. Once you've filled in all the initial stuff about language choice and orientation, you come to this screen.
Use the browse button to find your cover image and upload it.

Once the programme has found your cover image, its name and location appears in the Browse box, and the greyed-out button at the bottom becomes active.

So you can start adding pages. The Browse box opens again and you navigate to the folder where you've stored your Kindle-sized jpegs. Here's where all the alphabetical labelling pays off.

Click on the first one, labelled 'a'. Hold down Control and continue to click through all your images/pages in alphabetical order. They will all become highlighted. When you've highlighted them all, click Upload, and Comic Creator will upload them all, in order, at once. It might take a few minutes.
       When they're loaded into the programme, it looks like this: 



 The big screen is the previewer. To the left are the individual pages. Click on any page and it appears in the big central screen.

If the pages have somehow got out of order (maybe, like me, you still aren't too certain of the alphabet), you can drag them into the right position. If one didn't get properly clicked and hasn't uploaded, you can upload it separately and put it into the right place.

Once all the pages are in, you click 'Build' in the tool panel at the top left corner.


You then have to wait a few minutes - or go and have a bun - while KCC converts your book into a mobi file.

Then you go to KDP, and upload the mobi-file as your new picture book.




And there you have it. Not half as much trouble as the paperback book.

I can see how you might use this method to produce a beautiful illustrated story book, with pictures scattered through the text and decorated margins. It would have to be short, though. Setting the text in a graphics programme would be too tedious for anything longer.  

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Let's Try Something Old by Lev Butts

The fight over the supremacy of ebooks or "real" books roars on. Everywhere I look (on my Facebook feed), people are arguing back forth with the same venom and aggression as mildly inconvenienced English professors in a faculty meeting discussing the proper placement of desks and lecterns.

In a straight damned line, Barry! I'm tired of your hippie circle crap! 
It's getting pretty nasty out there for real. Clearly, people have not caught on that I settled this question years ago.

Spoiler Alert: They're both equally good but for different reasons.
Despite that, recently I found yet another tiresome list of why "real" books are superior. I thought about countering each of the reasons with an equally good reason for ebooks, but that would pretty much involve copying and pasting the blog I've already hyperlinked. Instead, I want to make the case for a third format by countering most of the points listed in the article.

5 Reasons Stone Tablets Are Better than Books

1. Stone Tablets Are Durable 

Lets face it: Neither ebooks nor traditional books have the staying power of a good stone tablet. Ebook batteries die eventually, necessitating replacement of the entire device since most ereaders do not have replaceable batteries. Many ebooks require replacement even before the battery life expires: they are not water resistant worth a damn, and their screens can break sometimes if you just stare at them too long.

I knew I took too long reading Chapter Eight of Fifty Shades.
Books either moulder in damp or dry up into brittle tissue in the dry air. Their pages tear if you're not careful or if you just put them in your satchel or if you turn them too quickly. Spines break if you read the book too much.

Take a moment to appreciate the irony.
Not so with stone tablets. Stone lasts centuries. It requires no batteries. It requires no ideal climate (I mean sure it does, but it's only a problem for your million-greatgrandchildren, and we'll have long destroyed ourselves before then).

2. Stone Tablets Are Multifunctional

Ebook readers are ebook readers. Yes you can do other things with them: Check your email, read comics, look at Facebook, maybe even read this blog, but it's all essentially the same thing. You're still holding and reading them.

Books are even less versatile. You just read the one thing that's printed on them and that's it. And yes, I know there's this whole "Let's decorate our living spaces with pages from books" fad going on, But you're still not using books: you're destroying books to use the bits for something else.

And let's, face it: the only folks that really go out for this sort of thing are hipsters doing it ironically, and don't we have enough irony in the world without creating more of it?

And besides, what the hell even is that thing anyway?
Stone tablets are way more versatile: In addition to books, stone tablets can double as doorstops, paving stones, wall hangings, Fred Flintstone's wheels, stairs, benches, desks, bookends. Even weapons!

After you have beaten the blasphemers and infidels to bloody pulps,
you can sit down with a nice cup of tea and read the Good Lord's Rule Book.
3. A Shelf of Stone Tablets Is WAY More Impressive Than a Shelf of Books

I don't even have to explain. You know in your heart of hearts, that this is awesome.

Seriously, which looks more impressive:

This:


Or this:


4. No One Is Damn Sure Going to Steal a Stone Tablet

The author of the linked article above, implies that no one cares enough about books to steal them because they are not as expensive as ereaders. Well, this is patently false. I am no angel. I have done my fair share of unethical things. I have stolen things, and the most common thing for me to steal has always been books. The first thing I ever stole was a Star Wars novel, The Splinter of the Mind's Eye. I have stolen from libraries, bookstores, even Goodwill stores. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.

No one, though, is going to steal a stone tablet. Not even if they wanted to. Assuming they can lift it, they probably are not going to be able to slip it nonchalantly in their pocket as they leave.

What? I had these when I came in.
5. We Need to Support Stonemasons

The final reason the article gives for books being better than ebooks is that we need to support bookstores. I could point out that this is not really a point of superiority of traditional books as much as it is a separate reason to buy them. Booksellers don't make books inherently better. Twilight, for example, is just as horrid a book regardless of where I buy it or how I read it.

However, I'd like to make the point that if booksellers are a breed on life support, stonemasons are actively circling the drain. Imagine the boon to this ancient industry we could provide if we simply decided to bring back the stone tablet. This would serve double duty as the same booksellers could make money by simply switching their wares from paper to rock.  It would also cut down on inventory loss. Win-Win-Win.

And you can use your purchase in the coffee shop
as a coaster or table depending on the size.
Ebooks are too expensive and fragile. Traditional books are also too fragile and easily stolen. Clearly, then, we need to look to the past to preserve our future. Stone tablets are the only sustainable way to go.

I have already reserved my new copy of Star Wars.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Planning, for travelling and for writing - Jo Carroll

It's that time of year again. The nights are drawing in and our thoughts are turning towards the winter.

Which means my thoughts are turning towards a winter trip. Where shall I go this year? I've long since abandoned any soul-searching about why I go away in the winter, leaving the rest of you in the dark and the cold. Just as I've long since stopped trying to work out why I write. I just do.

And researching the trip has writing parallels as well. Firstly, to choose a continent: I want to go to Africa as it's the only continent apart from Antarctica that I've not visited on my own. (Would I explore a new genre for the same reason? Possibly.)

Africa is huge. So I need to narrow things down a bit. Firstly: I'll stick to sub-Saharan Africa. That's still huge. So the next exclusion is anywhere obviously unsafe. In spite of all the hoo-ha, a trawl through the Foreign Office website and a couple of travel forums show that that most of Africa is fairly safe. Though I think I'll give the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia a miss.

Next, how easy is it to get about? Things begin to get tricky here, as some countries are fine in the dry season but have impassable roads in the wet.

Then, is there enough to of a tourist industry for me to be able to find agents and hotels? Will there be stuff to do? I don't need to be entertained every day, but I do want to get out and about and meet people and see the countryside.

Then - and this is often my final question and often a deal-breaker - are there elections when I want to visit? I choose not to visit any country when there are elections (I'm glad I'm not in America at the moment!).

The result: I'm off to Malawi after Christmas, for six weeks. I've a hotel in Lilongwe for three nights, and then ... who knows?

I approach each new writing project like that. I love every minute of the research, the planning, the what if ... then ...

And you? Even those of you who hate planning, surely you have a process of preliminary thinking that sets you off? Or do you really just start with a blank page and go for it?

(Maybe one day I'll try I turning up at an airport and seeing where the next flight goes?)

If you want to read more about my previous trips, follow the links on my website: jocarroll.co.uk

Thursday, 22 September 2016

How to launch your book, by Ali Bacon (with help from Wendy Jones!)

Ali Bacon at the St Andrews Photography Festival 
We Authors Electric are a far-flung bunch, but this month, through a happy coincidence, Wendy Jones and I found ourselves in roughly the same place at the same time. 

On Friday September 9th I was reading a programme of short stories in St Andrews in Fife as part of the town’s first Festival of Photography. Wendy, who lives just over the Tay Bridge in Dundee – said she could make it to St Andrews – and by the way, she had a book launch in Waterstones in Dundee the following day. 
Some mutual writerly support was on the cards!

I won’t elaborate on my own event right now (more coming soon on my own blog) except to say that I had an appreciative audience (including Wendy!) most of whom were fellow photography fans and some of whom were movers and shakers of the early photography world. As well as getting some great comments from the audience it was a fantastic networking opportunity for me. 

Wendy Jones - yes, really!
Then next day it was over to Dundee. Wendy has already built up a following for her Dundee police procedurals, but this was the start of a new series with Young Adult sleuths Flora and Freddie ready for an audience of ten years and upwards in The Dagger’s Curse.

I arrived a bit hot and bothered after a dash to and from the bus station, and as I dragged my overloaded flight-bag into Waterstones, for a minute I failed to recognise Wendy, already holding court to an audience of families and young folk and more than suitably dressed for the occasion! 

She was also accompanied by an impressively brawny assistant bearing a silver case which was grudgingly (racking up the tension!) opened to reveal a dagger resting on a purple cushion and pulsating with violet light. Wendy – dead pan – uttered many warnings about the dangers of the dagger for anyone who got too near it, which of course made the audience pay even more attention. What a great opener that was to Wendy reading from her book.

Is this a dagger I see before me?

Throughout the event Wendy was engaged with the children all the time and introduced one who had been written into the book – cue envious looks from the others and requests for future roles!

After two readings there were plenty of questions – some of them from Wendy’s adult crime fans which I’m sure were spontaneous but of course could have been stage managed if need be. The whole event was rounded off with a serving of that irresistible confectionery, Scottish tablet!

This book launch may have been aimed at children, but it was an object lesson for me in how to do it.
  • Plan ahead .Wendy had lots of helpers, including children, the dagger-bearer ...
  • ... and the maker of tablet - refreshments never go wrong
  • Think of it as theatre - get as much drama in as possible
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously (Wendy was happy to abandon her Egyptian outfit and hold court in t-short and shorts  as time went on!)
  • Be flexible – the shop was busy involving adhoc arrangements for those needing seats etc

So all I can say to Wendy is well done and good luck with The Dagger’s Curse. 

If the launch is anything to go by, it will be huge. I only hope she found something useful or entertaining in my own small piece of theatre. 







Then it was time to go home!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Createspace and my Spelfall sequel - Katherine Roberts

It's taken me rather a long time compared to other authors here, but I've finally tackled Createspace and created a print-on-demand paperback version of my Spellfall sequel, Spell Spring... yes, look, it's a REAL book!

Reasons I am so late to the print-on-demand party:

1. Nearly all the books I've published indie so far have been reverted rights backlist titles, which have already sold x thousands of paperback copies while they were with their traditional publishers. I didn't see the point of producing a new print edition, while secondhand and 'new' copies of my backlist titles are still available on Amazon Marketplace and elsewhere for as little as 1p (plus postage). No way can a print-on-demand edition compete with that on price!

2. The cover looked tricky. Not only would I need to come up with a front cover design (a whole trick in itself), I'd need a spine of exactly the right width and a back cover with an ISBN barcode thingy and a print-quality file... ebook covers, in comparison, are easy-peasy.

3. Even after I had written my new book that did not have a previous print edition anywhere in the world, as a children's author with 16 traditionally published books so far, I still vaguely held on to the hope of selling it to my original publisher... and they did take a look at it... but in the end decided time (and my readers) had moved on... which is perfectly understandable after 15 years!

Anyway by early 2016, I had no contract for the Spellfall sequel that had taken me (slightly embarrassed cough, blame the fickle muse) 15 years to produce, yet I did not feel comfortable submitting the project to a rival publisher when Chicken House had put so much work into the original edition of Spellfall. My reasons to publish with Createspace suddenly started to look more attractive.

The first thing to get your head around after publishing ebooks is that pretty much everything is your decision, and if the book looks wrong then it's pretty much certain to be your fault - there's no clever e-device between you and your readers to sort out your formatting mistakes for you. When you set up a title, Createspace gives you a wide choice of trim sizes (size of the actual book), and on top of that you need to decide on your margins for the interior pages. I spent ages with a ruler and a stack of random books from my shelf, measuring things...

Random stack of books, all different sizes!

I soon realized that the standard UK size of a children's book is not the standard US size, and Createspace's suggested 6x9 inches is too big for both. After a bit of digging around on the forums, I discovered that 5.25x8 inches is the standard YA trim size in the US... that's the size of Amy Butler Greenfield's book "Chantress" in my pile, and since your book's official country of publication is apparently the country that provides your ISBN (in my case Createspace in the US), I decided to go with that. Also, at the set-up stage, you get to choose the colour of your interior paper. Novels I've seen printed on white paper always look rather strange to me, so I chose cream.

Interior formatting was a case of taking my original Word file and changing the page size to match my chosen trim size... at which point I noticed my word processing program works in centimetres, whereas CS works in inches, so that 5.25 is a challenging conversion (can we go back to inches and miles when we Brexit, do you think?)... then setting the margins according to my sample book measurements and remembering a gutter to account for the number of pages (Createspace will suggest a minimum gutter). Then you simply divide your book into sections - one for the front matter, one for the back matter, and one per chapter. Lay out your chapter headings to look like those in the published books you love the most, and add illustrations if you are using them... simples!

Well, not quite so simple maybe, but certainly possible even if you have an ancient Word program like mine that does not play nice with Createspace's interior template. Once my sections were set up properly, I found it easy enough to add my title, author name and page numbers to the various headers and footers. Then it was a case of going through the text and fixing any details that looked wrong, particularly paying attention to widows at the bottom of pages and orphans at the top (I think that's the right way around?) and the odd speech mark that can get separated across lines if your punctuation is strange. Close examination of my stack of published books showed that most of them don't bother too much about widows but you'll hardly ever find orphans at the top of pages. Unfortunately, there seems no way to do this properly except by going through every page by hand, since if you turn on Word's helpful widows/orphan control, you'll get decidedly unhelpful blank lines at the bottom of your pages where you don't want them.

At the end of the formatting process, you'll need to go through the book again and make a note of the page numbers for each chapter so you can add these to your contents page. Then simply upload your perfectly-formatted Word file to Createspace and they'll convert it to a pdf, which you can check using the interior reviewer where Createspace will helpfully flag any major formatting errors such as going outside the print margins, pictures that won't print well, missing fonts, etc. You can repeat this process as many times as you need to get the interior looking right, and believe me I needed to go round in several circles at this stage. You don't send the files in for official review until you're happy with this "soft" proof. (Note: you can only preview your interior file this way - there is no similar auto-generated preview for the cover, which might have saved the reviewers a few extra rounds in my case.)

Now for the fun part - the cover and interior illustrations.


Lord Hawk's familiar

Children's books for this age group often have small black-and-white pictures at the start of each chapter, so I drew some simple silhouettes, which I cut out of black paper and photographed on a plain background before transforming them into transparent backgrounds using online picture editor pixlr.com. I decided on a hawk (for my evil villain), a squirrel (for my young hero) and a unicorn (for the magic).


A squirrel called Chatterbox gets into the proof copy...

Then I got more ambitious and did the front cover art using pastels (because I wanted a dark background and they give a richer colour than watercolours). By pleasing accident, once this was reduced to book cover size, the purple background had a magical starry effect close up that fits the theme of my book. I then began a new project on canva.com (see Mari Biella's blog post about this brilliant online design tool) the exact size of the Createspace cover template for my book's number of pages, uploaded my artwork, added a dark purple background for the back cover and some star vectors from canva's free elements. I uploaded the Createspace cover template to canva and turned it slightly transparent as described in this helpful blog post from the YA-NA sisterhood so I could see what I was doing and get all the text and vectors etc. in the right place, before deleting the template, downloading a print quality cover and uploading that to Createspace. If all this sounds a bit long-winded, you can upload artwork straight to Createspace and design the whole cover there, but having already done the ebook cover at canva I wanted to use the same title font.

After ordering a proof copy from the US (Note: this took three weeks to arrive in the UK and you need to pay the postage), and getting someone else to read the book as well as reading it myself again, I made a few last-minute tweaks, corrected one or two typos I'd missed, and sent my updated files back in for review. I did the second proofing stage online, working with the original proof on my lap as a comparison and carefully checking all the pages I'd changed. I had not changed the page count so could use the same cover design... if you do change your page count at proof stage, watch that spine! As a final check, I plan to order a copy from amazon uk once this is available, mostly to compare this against the original US proof, since they'll have been printed on different machines in different countries. I hope that my book is perfect by now, of course, but the beauty of print on demand is that any boo-boos you've somehow overlooked can be sorted out quite quickly without going to the embarrassingly expensive lengths of having to pulp a whole print run. Also, no remainders... why not save trees if you can?

And that was it. I approved the proof and pressed publish earlier this month, which means you should now be able to order a paperback copy from amazon (still at cost price if you're quick!), and Spell Spring is on its way into expanded distribution for US libraries and possibly bookstores, though I took a free Createspace ISBN so don't be surprised if you don't see it in the shops.


A unicorn for the magic...

Conclusion? Publishing a paperback edition of a book, even as print on demand, feels much more real than publishing an ebook original. I was just as excited when I received the proof copy through the post as I am when a publisher sends me their first hot-off-the press copy of a book with a proper print run. This surprised me rather, since I'd paid for the proof copy myself, whereas when a traditional publisher sends you a proof they send it free and have also (hopefully) by then paid you a nice advance against your future royalties.

But, as ever with a creative project, it's not always about the money is it? I enjoyed learning some new skills to produce this book that should enable me to make print-on-demand editions of all my backlist titles available, such as "I am the Great Horse" where secondhand copies of the paperback will currently cost you about £150, and "The Great Pyramid Robbery" that brings in as much from photocopying fees each year via ALCS (Authors' Licencing and Collecting Society) than all of my ebooks combined. In the meantime, I hope that at least some of my Spellfall readers who wanted a sequel will get their hands on Spell Spring and enjoy returning to the enchanted land of Earthaven.

Buying it as a gift for a young reader? Look out for the matching print-on-demand edition of Book 1 Spellfall, coming soon...

*
Katherine's first print-on-demand project is Spell Spring, the long-awaited sequel to her popular novel Spellfall:


(don't worry, there is an ISBN barcode thingy on the real book!)
Paperback

Also available as an ebook for:
Kindle
Nook
Apple
Kobo


Find out more about Katherine's books at www.katherineroberts.co.uk

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Adventures in Theatreland by Sandra Horn


The seductive lure of the theatre...it’s been calling to me ever since I can remember. I used to round up the local kids for ‘shows’ at the end of the cul-de-sac and spent hours threading raffia onto string to make grass skirts for hula-hula dancers, cutting up acres of crepe paper, writing scripts. I wanted to be an opera singer, never mind that I couldn’t produce a single squeak in my audition for the school choir. A ballet dancer, at 5’9”. An actor. I did join the local AmDram group and was offered an audition for the National Youth theatre on the strength of something (I’ve forgotten what) I played – but my ‘A’ levels were coming up and I took the straight and narrow way. I’m glad. I now know that I couldn’t have sustained the life of an actor; it’s simply too tough.
          In more recent years, still under the old spell of glamour and greasepaint, I went for writing rather than performing. I submitted a script for Saturday Sitcom, and professional actors queued up to audition, for no money and paying all their own expenses, to appear in Westminster Library for 20 minutes, presumably in the faint hope that a director or three would be in the audience. It was the same for ‘Little Red Ella and the FGM’, chosen for the Siberianlights/Blue Ash showcase. I put out a call on Actors UK with under 2 weeks to go until the performance, and again with no pay or expenses, there were a good number of takers – young, talented actors, wanting to work. It’s not a profession for the faint-hearted, that’s for sure. One of the actors told me that in their profession it was easy to sit around feeling resentful because of the lack of opportunities, so instead, they decided to create their own. Hats off to them!
          For playwrights, there are missed opportunities and plenty of rejections, of course, but you don’t feel quite so nakedly exposed. Mostly. The biggest, scariest problem comes in having to hand over your work to a director. In a short and not exactly distinguished time as a would-be playwright, I’ve had them across the spectrum from clueless to weird to utterly brilliant.
          Clueless was the lad who had not a single clue what my play ‘Lost’ was about and didn’t ask. I didn’t see it until the performance. I have no idea what the audience made of it; it didn’t even make sense to me.
          Weird was a professional director who transformed my light-hearted sitcom ‘The Sweete Sisters’ into a Beckettian nightmare with all the props in a box onstage and the cast having to move chairs around to change the ‘scenery.’ I did sit in with him at rehearsals but was not permitted to have a voice.
          On the other hand, there have been some great times. I hadn’t been contacted by the director in advance of the first performance of ‘Little Red Ella and the FGM’, but she did a very good job. Natalie, the director for the second performance (for Siberianlights) was outstanding. Not only did she bring the play to sparkling life, she auditioned, cast and rehearsed it while I did nothing. I was wafting about in the sunshine listening to music and paddling in the sea (not simultaneously) in Swanage while she worked. For nothing, I say again, and she wouldn’t even accept expenses.
          Then there was ‘Six Characters’, selected by The Maskers as part of the RSC’s challenge to amateur groups to up their game and do something related to Shakespeare. They wanted a 10-minute curtain-raiser for Charlotte Jones' 'Humble Boy', using the same characters and linking the play back to Hamlet. The Maskers are a local group with their own studio theatre, wardrobe, armoury and workshop. Many of them have backgrounds in the professional theatre. Fran, the director, invited me to rehearsals and we made some adjustments to the script as needed, as we went along. It was a terrific experience and I learned a lot. The performance was spellbinding. I could hardly believe I’d written it. My words transformed by the actors - pace, pauses, inflections, movement - and clever use of props, into something other. Something magical. The old glamour I’d always been craving.
          Would I do it again? Like a shot (I have just sent off another script...) even knowing that I will be handing over my work to someone who might be anything from clueless to deluded to brilliant. It’s worth a go for the chance of working with another Natalie or Fran and watching them work the magic.


Monday, 19 September 2016

I Am Waving – Honest! by Jan Edwards



I recently was asked by a fellow writer exactly why it is that I take part in various events in the area when I could spending that time far more constructively at my computer; writing. The argument went that ‘writing of any quality should stand up on its own and in this digital world does not require time-consuming public appearances’.

It is true that events sometimes struggle to cover expenses. But in an ever expanding market where so many titles vie for attention across all of the various media platforms it seems increasingly important to me that I am out there in person. If nothing else it gives me far more reason to ‘mention’ my books on line.

Pushing my own work has always been the hardest part of publishing for me. I have a dread of becoming one of those writers who splatter the same ad across twenty sites in the same afternoon until people are so heartily sick of it that they delete all ‘links’ purely in the interests of self-defence! Overkill is a very real phenomenon and an easy line to cross.  Yet, in this digital era, every author is expected to blog and tweet etc on a weekly basis.

Gone are the days when a publicist did all the leg work for authors with heritage publishing houses. The biggest literary names are expected to trot along to a certain number of literary events and signings in addition to blog and tweeting; especially when they have a new title to flaunt.  

Those of us who are Indies or published by smaller presses are no different in the need to promote not merely our fiction but also ourselves. To that end regular blogs about cats, cooking, coin collecting or whatever your penchant happens to be are very useful in connecting with world at large and dilutes those weekly book promos – that hook, lying in wait, to snag the passing bookworm – amidst wider interests!

We are all aware of the value in reading and/or writing blogs but I am willing to bet every one of us struggles to come up with a fresh blog week after week. Each event you take part in, however, can offer at least three opportunities.

1/ When you book the gig.
2/ A gentle reminder just prior to the event.
3/ The report. 

Three distinct bites at same event, for the same title, but from different angles  - and when dispersed between blogs on your cat, a recipe for chocolate cake and a riveting article on how you discovered a Saxon hoard with your metal-detector, it hardly seems like pushing at all.

And here we come back to the reasons why we should make those public appearances:

1/ Networking – you never know who you might meet who could be of genuine help in your writing career.
2/ Profile – a reader will be more likely to take an interest in a writer they have heard of. They may not remember from where but that tickle in the back of the brains that says ‘I’ve heard of them’ is always a useful thing to nurture.
3/ Making a few more direct sales as the added bonus.

I have already taken part in a handful of events this year and have several still to come Going there and being seen as ‘A Writer’ is designed to make me that name people will recognise as they scroll through a myriad of book titles on a web listing.

I am that tiny figure in the writing crowd waving frantically at the metaphoric camera - trying to attract the attention of the readers.

Of course it could very well be that I’m not waving – but drowning.  But hey, a girl has to try!

(And now for the shameless self-promotional section.) I shall be appearing at:

Fantasycon by the Sea: 23rd to 25th Sept - annual British Fantasy Soc. convention in Scarborough.
6X6 Reading Cafes 13th Sept and 6th Dec at City Central Library, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent.
6Towns Radio slots in Sept and Oct
Live Age: 30th Sept Stoke on Trent. discussing how the arts are not just for the young and hip – we oldies also possess hips!
Fire Your Imagination : 8th Oct: Autumn reading event at the Gladstone Museum, Stoke

Jan Edwards can be found on:
Blog: https://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/
Twitter: @jancoledwards

Titles in print – all available in print and dig formats
As author: Fables and FabricationsSussex TalesLeinster Gardens and Other Subtleties


For details on recent short fiction credits go to Jan Edwards blog