Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Classic Rewrites for a Modern Reader

The American novelist Gillian Flynn has been signed up to rewrite Shakespeare's Hamlet. This comes courtesy of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, in which modern writers are being commissioned to re-write classic works. They claim the series is "for contemporary readers." You know, I always thought that the joy of Shakespeare was in the depth, complexity and beauty of his writing. Wanting to simplify it for modern-day readers, supposedly so much better educated than any other generation since the year dot, seems ludicrous.
Are publishers so desperate for revenue that they will stoop to this?

So far, this is the list of re-writes:
Scandinavian bestseller Jo Nesbo ~ Macbeth
Margaret Atwood ~ The Tempest 
Tracy Chevalier ~ Othello
Howard Jacobson ~ The Merchant of Venice
Anne Tyler ~ The Taming of the Shrew
Jeanette Winterson ~ The Winter's Tale.
It follows a trend set by The Austen Project which paired six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works: Sense & Sensibility ~ Joanna Trollope; Northanger Abbey ~ Val McDermid; Pride & Prejudice ~ Curtis Sittenfeld; Emma ~ Alexander McCall Smith. 

The new Shakespeare series will launch in 2016 to mark the 400th anniversary of his death. I understand Shakespeare himself is believed to have drawn from retellings of the Norse legend of Amleth, from around the 13th century) so maybe he won't mind if someone rewrites his play, but I can't help feeling that these long-dead authors - if they feel anything like authors today - will be searching for their scalping knives and planning a mass, if ghostly, visitation.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Give it away for Free?

Reading this article has given me food for thought. We all remember how Robert Galbraith published The Cuckoo’s Calling, gathered critical praise, but sold  a measly 1,500 copies during its first four months. (Actually, I think 1,500 copies sold in a month is pretty good....)

When the news broke that  “Robert Galbraith” was a pseudonym for J.K Rowling, sales of the book skyrocketed to 225,000 copies in a single month and proves how important Author branding is in selling books. With the recent shift towards digital publishing and online selling, it is now more important than ever for authors to build a strong fan base.

What can authors do to reach new fans and build their brand? Lots, it seems. Many authors maintain blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter and email lists, so loyal followers keep up with their latest news and releases. Using these channels, authors communicate with fans, listen to feedback, and even offer special contests.

Authors grab attention by offering a limited number of copies of their book for free. It is a good way of getting people to join your mailing list. (I must push my English reticence about self-promotion to the back of the cupboard under the stairs and get on with it. Grits teeth...)

Free promotions  attract the attention of those who browse for ‘free,’ and hopefully persuade them that your book is worth reading - and that they'll go out and buy something else you've written. Then there's something called "flash sales."

"In a recent article, branding expert David Vinjamuri called flash sales a “powerful tool” for authors looking to build a following. Many authors, for example, will discount the first book in a series, hooking readers early through a price promotion. Additionally, authors may use promotions to prime the pump for a new release by discounting older titles."

BookBub service works with authors to promote limited-time deals.
Bella Andre, an independent, bestselling romance author has this to say: “Limited-time price promotions — mine are often 24 hours — are a fabulous way to help gain visibility for my books.”  Read what she says by following the link: recent interview. And then read the original article that started me thinking about this:Why Bestselling Authors Give Away Their Ebooks For Free
April 7th, 2014

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Facebook, Twitter and blogging

Is it me, or does anyone else think that interest in blogs, Facebook and Twitter is dwindling? Facebook is less and less interesting but that is possibly because Facebook is narrowing down the posts that I see. Certainly the variety of posts is not there any more. If I click on something, I get more posts of a similar nature, and I'm now up to my nostrils in videos of cute animals doing cute things. Nothing wrong with them in and of themselves, but too many is just ... too many. Likewise the pics of cruelty to animals. I can do without those images haunting my dreams. If those pics help the animals by stirring the conscience of someone in America to help the poor creatures, then that's good, but there's nothing I can do from the UK.

Twitter seems to have been taken over by American authors advertising their books. Perhaps my choice of followers has something  so with it. I haven't exactly been active in seeking a wide variety of Twitterers. When someone follows me, I usually follow back, so I suppose I can only blame myself there. Must widen my circle of interest.

Blogs I used to follow seem to have tipped over into oblivion, with no posts going up for the last few months. There are less followers coming to my blog, but that might be because the blog posts are linked to both Facebook and Twitter. If people read the blogs on either of them, I don't see any record of it back on my blog. So I could be read by more and more people and not know it. Or I could be read by fewer and fewer people, and be aware of it. How can I be sure which is really going on? Anyone know?

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

What kind of audience do you want?

Richard Lea wrote an article in the Guardian way back in January - and I've just caught up with it! This, for me, is one of the many ways that the internet is Good. Google a topic, and up come many links. How much easier kids must find schoolwork these days! Naturally, I was interested in self-publishing. Books in general, of course, and where  the trends are heading  now. For most of us, the news is not good.

A post or two back I shared a survey that claimed  54% of traditionally-published authors make less than £600 a year. The Society of Authors found in 2000 that 75% of members earned less than £20,000, while in 2007 the Authors' Licence and Collecting Society cited average earnings for UK authors of about £16,000, an average which hides the true picture of a profession which is becoming steadily more unequal. The amount of money earned by the mid-list author dropped from £6,000 in 2000 to just £4,000 in 2004-05.

Self-publishing looked bleaker still, with 80% of the  go-it-alone authors in the recent survey dipping under the £600 mark. But nowadays it is easy to find an audience for your work via electronic means. Write it and put it on your website, or Scribophile, Wattpad or WritersCafe and see what results you get.

Scribophile -  "We're a writing group that works on a karma point system. Members spend karma points to post their writing for feedback from the community. To earn karma points, members submit thoughtful critiques for the work of others. Everyone has to earn karma points before they can post! This system ensures that every work you post gets awesome critiques from other talented writers. Forget about sites that are popularity contests, get spammed with work that sits unviewed, and "reviews" that say nothing but "good job." At our writing group every piece gets the full critiquing attention it deserves. Don't feel like critiquing? That's OK! Hang out in our busy writing forums to chat with other passionate writers, read our writing blog for tips and tricks, and meet and connect with writers from all over the world."

WritersCafe - " is an online writing community where writers can post their work, get reviews, befriend other writers, and much more.."

Wattpad - "the world's largest community of readers and writers - 25 million of them."

Friday, 16 May 2014

Team writing

Hugh Howey is a name I have recently come to recognise. He is American, a self-pubbed author who has been so successful he's earned himself a regular publishing contract with Harpercollins.  I have read a few of his posts, and find what he says thought-provoking. Today I found his post so important I have taken a chunk of his words from his website  and put them here because I don't want to try and paraphrase what he says in case I alter the meaning. If what he says comes to pass, then writing books is going to change big time.
Link to his website if you want the full post -
but here is the gist of it:

"In my fourth month at New Harpercollins, I’m going to do something both old and new. We’re going to hire a handful of talented writers who work for us. They come to the offices, sit in a room, and they don’t procrastinate. They are going to begin outlining a brand new IP. It could be an epic fantasy world, or a complex web of romances, or a gritty western, or a new spy hero, or technical thriller . . . but I’m going to go with a science fiction universe.

They’ll brainstorm as if they’re making a game world. A world rich with history and texture. And then we’ll outline the entire rough plot of the universe, figure out its heroes and villains, and structure the novels to come. With a dozen authors working in teams, the goal will be a new novel in this universe to release every two months. The investment will be for a dozen novels over two years, similar to how TV shows are given a chance to take root. If there is no traction during the releases, we’ll pivot or look at our marketing strategy. If no traction after two years, we’ll launch another world. Or we could employ a “pilot” model as TV does, though I think it would be better to publish a trilogy rather than a single book.

The goal is to build a vast library of material to draw from. Writers can come and go. These writers will be earning a solid living, working in dynamic teams, enjoying stability but also some creative freedoms. Publishers could exploit their most popular universes with film, video games, apps, comics, TV shows, cartoons. Decades from now, one of these worlds could have the richness of the Marvel universe. And the publisher would own that universe.

Again, the top earning worlds today work much like this. It makes the old system of waiting to discover a story, building that author’s brand up to the point that they have all the power, and then being unable to profit from the IP seem awfully quaint. It’s such a powerful idea that I’ve toyed with testing it out. A group of creatives could do this just as easily as a publishing house, as long as the IP was controlled by a company and not the artists, so the latter could come and go as they see fit. Hell, I’ve already got a new universe in mind. It’s fun to think how much more awesome that universe would be if it were in more minds. And how great readers would have it if books were rolling out every two months."

I have to add that I don'e know what IP stands for. I must hunt around and find out!
I shall certainly be reading more of Mr Howey's blog.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Let me introduce my main character...

There's a Blog Hop going the rounds and I've been tagged  by Laura Purcell to talk about my main character. 
1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person? The hero of my novel is Oli Ketilsson and he is totally fictitious! I see this as a dual-hero story. Oli is young, somewhere around sixteen or seventeen, no one is quite sure and although it is his story, he shares the pages with his foster-father, Flane Ketilsson, who is only ten years older and a fully fledged Viking warrior. Flane was the hero of Far After Gold, which some of you may have read. If you haven't don't worry, it's not necessary to have done so.
2. When and where is the story set? The story covers a couple of weeks during the summer of 1046, when the worst of the Viking raids were over and Vikings were settling down and farming their new lands.  Oli and Flane live in Ulli's Steading on Loch Broom in north-west Scotland (aka Alba at that time), but a good deal of the story takes place in Dyflin (aka Dublin today). 
3. What should we know about him? When Oli was six or seven, his father was lost at sea and his body never found. His mother died in childbirth soon afterwards. Oli lived in the Steading, cared for by "no one and everyone," as Flane put it. When Flane took Emer to the steading, Oli became her first friend, and when they  married they adopted him as their son. He has always idolised Flane.
4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?  There are not many girls of Oli's age in the neighbourhood, so when Gisla leaps aboard Flane's ship as they leave Dyflin, Oli falls head over heels in love with her. She is terrified, escaping from someone or something, and instantly Oli wants to protect her. Flane isn't so sure, especially when a Viking warship follows them home to Alba and demands that the girl return to Dyflin in order to marry Karli Olafsson. From then on, Oli risks his life for her.
5. What is the personal goal of the character? To be as brave a warrior as his foster-father Flane, and to save Gisla and have her all to himself. 
6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it? VIKING MAGIC was published on 8th May 2014, and it is available via Amazon Kindle
I’ve tagged the talented Heather King continue the blog hop. She will post on 21st May 2014.

Monday, 12 May 2014

How much do writers earn?

There is a survey that claims 54% of traditionally-published authors and almost 80% of go-it-alone writers earn less than $1,000 (£600) a year. You may have read about in the January 2014 press.

The 9,210 respondents slotted into four groups: aspiring, self-published only, traditionally-published only, and hybrid (both self-published and traditionally-published). More than 65% of those who filled out the survey described themselves as aspiring authors, with 18% self-published, 8% traditionally-published and 6% saying they were pursuing hybrid careers.

77% of Self-published authors make $1,000 (£600) or less a year;
Towpath at Crinan
 0.7% of self-published writers earn more than $100,000 a year
53.9% of traditionally-published authors make $1,000 (£600) or less a year;
1.3% of traditionally-published  earn more than $100,000  a year
43.6% of hybrid authors make $1,000 (£600) or less a year;
5.7% of hybrid writers reported making more than $100,000 a year from their writing. 

Put like that, it sounds a soul destroying exercise if money is the main object of your writing. However,  only 20% of self-pubbed authors and 25% of traditional authors thought making money extremely important. On the other hand,  56% of self-pubbers, and almost 60% of traditional authors, thought it extremely important to "publish a book that people will buy."

The top 2% or so of authors make a good living and the most successful authors – including self-published – make a tremendous amount of money. Maybe that is the lure. We all dream that we'll be one of the lucky ones.

Some writers look to money for validation. If you self-publish, without the prestige of being chosen by a major publisher, then the money is a good substitute. It isn't the only motivation, but matters on many levels. One self-pubbed author thinks the survey is  skewed (my words, not his) because it pits self-pubbed authors with a year or two's experience against traditional authors who spent twenty years in the publishing game. Self-publishing allows authors to learn and hone their skills, and he thinks many are paying bills with money they've earned by writing - and that should be celebrated. 

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Shepherd's Dene and websites

Crinan Hotel
Missed my entry yesterday because I was out all day at a Border Reivers Retreat Day. Ten of us got together at Shepherd's Dene and listened to Jan and Graham tells us how Jan has built up an astounding following for her self-published books. Later in the day we discussed adding emotional impact to our writing, and then tried our hand at writing a short story in 50 words. Easer than you might think. Everyone came up with attempts in only ten minutes. All very different, too!
Jan's website is here:

I enjoyed the day but came home very tired. One of the things about writing is that it is essentially a lonely life (unless the family is still at home and rampaging around you!) and a day talking and chatting is wonderful but leaves me drained at the end of it all. Toady I am exploring building a website. So far, I've made my blog do double duty as both blog and website, but perhaps the time is right for a venture into a website. We'll see.

Viking Magic, in its third day of life, has sold a few copies already, so now it is up to me to promote, promote, promote. I must spread the word!

This picture shows how close the hotel is to the water! The weather changed on our second day there, and the hills on the horizon have disappeared in the murk. But they are there, I promise you. The island of Jura shows up beautifully on a clear day.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

New Release - VIKING MAGIC

Yesterday I published by accident! VIKING MAGIC  is now on the market.
I had intended to download it to Kindle Previewer as a final check that everything was OK, but hit the wrong button. By this morning it was up for sale, so I bought it, hastily checked it and it looks OK. If there is anything wrong with it, I expect I'll soon hear about it!  So there we go - rush out and buy, everyone!

Now I shall give myself a well-earned rest and potter in the garden for a bit until the urge to write strikes again. These last few weeks have been a struggle to get the editing done to a high standard, and the cover gave me some tough decisions. I wanted something striking and simple, something that would stand out from all the covers that feature bare chested men and heroines with long flowing locks - but would still suggest romance as well as Viking adventures.

I could turn my attention to my other novel, the one that has been on the stocks for so long. Maybe it is time to self-publish that one as well. If I were twenty, I might persevere with the seeking-an-agent thing, but I'm not twenty and don't have time to waste. So, I think I have a plan - a few days well earned rest, and then focus on Matho and his pals.

The link to the new book:

Monday, 5 May 2014


Soon I shall be free! I'm on to checking the actual format of my book VIKING MAGIC.

Are all the chapter headings and Scene Breaks the same? Is the spacing correct? All that sort of thing. Boring but necessary. Once I load it up on Kindle previewer I'll see what tricks I've missed.

The woods behind us have sprouted dense patches of bluebells and the blue seems to get deeper as the days go by. Wonderful. There are butterflies zooming about and the days are warm even if the sun doesn't shine. Thanks to Tim, I get out and about every day, three times a day, so I feel deeply in tune with nature this year. We've had the delight of discovering snowdrops while crocuses bloomed in the gardens. Then the daffodils, followed by primroses, a week later the wood anemones and woodland violets. Now we have cowslips (said to be rare these days, but they've sprouted in my garden and in various places along the riverbank) speedwell, dandelions, celandines, forget-me-nots and now the buttercups are joining the daisies. All that rain has brought a riot of spring flowers. Any couch potatoes out there should get up and get themselves out into the coutnryside and enjoy it all.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Gruesome and Graphic

Ann Cleeves, who writes the Vera and Shetland stories, claims Scandinavian fiction treats women victims badly. She doesn't like graphic violence against women and children. Her work is less violent because "we tend to write what we want to read." 
There have been studies on violence against women in the thriller genre. Is it necessary, or for entertainment? Some say it reflects sexism in society. Others think if a strong female predominates, such as Gillian Anderson's character in The Fall, then it is OK to have such violence against women. What do you think?

I think there is graphic violence right through tv these days, and often it is so gruesome I won't watch. Luther was one of these, and The Wire another. Somehow it has become a race for tv shows to show more and more graphic violence, often but not always against women. I don't want to see a man or child or a woman - or an animal - tortured. I don't read enough thrillers to know if the violence is in the text before it translates to the screen. I do know it is labelled as realism, sometimes gritty realism. I now know enough to be very wary of programmes hyped with this sort of label. 

It is possible to buy and read, or borrow and read, non-fiction accounts of forensic investigations into murders which - you would think - would turn the stomach of the ordinary citizen. Yet murders and stories of murderers have always had a fascination. When I worked in a public library the murder/war crimes section was one of the most popular. It seems the general public wants to be horrified, or turned on by graphic violence in the same way they want to be scared by vampire and ghost stories. 

 "I'm aware families sit around the telly to watch Vera, which is making entertainment out of murder," said Cleeves. "But I don't enjoy reading about people's pain. I tend to put myself in that position and it's not somewhere I want to be."

 I'm afraid that Ms Cleeves and I buck the trend. A lot of people do enjoy reading about people's pain and watching actors deliver it on screen.  Until they start avoiding or switching off, it will go on being delivered and will very likely get even more gruesome, if that is possible.

Taking a Risk

  Poised on the cliff edge about to take the leap! No thoughts of suicide - oh no! Or perhaps only in terms of covers for my e-books. I am a...