writing


“It’s a token payment, obviously.”

“We’re a charity, so can’t offer a fee.”

“We’re offering exposure instead of expenses.”

“To speak at the festival, you’ll have to buy a full-price pass.”

 

Philip Pullman set off a mushroom cloud by resigning as patron of the Oxford LitFest because they do not pay authors.

p pullman

The principle is very simple: a festival pays the people who supply the marquees, it pays the printers who print the brochure, it pays the rent for the lecture halls and other places, it pays the people who run the administration and the publicity, it pays for the electricity it uses, it pays for the drinks and dinners it lays on: why is it that the authors, the very people at the centre of the whole thing, the only reason customers come along and buy their tickets in the first place, are the only ones who are expected to work for nothing?

 

This led to a call for a boycott by author Amanda Craig in an open letter to The Bookseller.

amanda craigFor too long, authors have been persuaded to give our services to the public for free – even though the public is paying in good faith to see us. We are the only people in festivals who are not paid, and yet without us the festivals could not exist. Writing is a vocation but it is also a profession, and it is time we all stiffened our spines, dug in our heels and said No.

 

This was not the first criticism of literary festivals and the treatment of writers in general – Nicola Solomon of The Society of Authors sounded the alarm last November and again in January.

illustration by @jabberworks

illustration by @jabberworks

 

We should ensure that authors are paid properly for appearances.

Making appearances involves preparation and travelling time and authors earn their living as freelancers, so it is only fair that time is paid for.

 

 

 

I agree.

I stand up and applaud.

As a writer, speaker and panellist, of course. But also as a workshop and conference organiser.

audienceThe Woolf pays people for their time and experience (not just the event, but the travelling and preparation, plus expenses). It’s only fair. Speakers are the main reason people attend the event and should be remunerated. In the early days, we gave our time for free and even shelled out for any shortfall, but the speakers were always, always, paid.

Photography by Libby O'Loghlin

Philip Pullman, Nicola Solomon and Amanda Craig deserve applause and support for exhorting all of us who benefit from writers.

We need to make a New Year’s Resolution:

So here it is.

Ideas underpin publishing houses, television series, literary festivals, bookshops, bedtime stories, erotica on e-readers, audio-absorption for commuters, escapism to another world or examination of this one.

Ideas provide private introspection and collective water cooler conversations; stories, tales, narratives we need to make sense of life.

Ideas would be impossible without the imagination of the artist.

Ideas are worth paying for.

Treasure the storytellers.

Credit the creators.

Cough up.

 

JJ Marsh, Susan Jane Gilman, Joanna Penn, Libby O'Loghlin and Emma Darwin

JJ Marsh, Susan Jane Gilman, Joanna Penn, Libby O’Loghlin and Emma Darwin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

theo fennellDecember 6 2007.

A hotel room in London.

An old friend and I sat chatting about life, work, family, friends and writing. We agreed the old adage is true – a friend in need is a friend in deed – but a true friend will still be there applauding from the sidelines when that same person achieves extraordinary success. No envy or green-eyed venom, just genuine joy for well-deserved recognition.

The world of writers is small and in my experience, warmly supportive. Other authors have taught me a great deal and many have become close friends. This is a community in which I feel at home. Not all my colleagues write the kind of books I want to read, and not all of them read what I want to write, but I respect and admire their talents.

Today, I was shocked and alarmed to read of truly vicious attacks on authors by fellow writers/publishers who should be above such behaviour. Sock-puppetry, fake reviews, sham websites, trolling and online abuse to a degree which requires official investigation – how do they carve out enough time in their days of spite to actually write?

I’m not going to link to these nasty stories, as I don’t want to promote them or their unpleasantness. Instead, I want to draw your attention to this:

EthicalAuthor_CodeofConduct

 

This is the Ethical Author Code, from The Alliance of Independent Authors

I’m an Ethical Author and I’d like you to be one too. It costs you nothing but bolsters the message that the majority of us are decent people. We support each other, rejoice in everyone’s successes and admire creativity with words. Sign up, whether you’re a member or not.

Sooner or later, the good will outweigh the bad.

 

First post of the New Year is from Angela Weinberger, on why and how she chose to self-publish her non-fiction work “The Global Mobility Handbook”. Angela is a professional self-starter who takes risks and shares the lessons learned. I’m delighted she’s agreed to appear as a guest poster with words of wisdom on publishing.

 

Headshot Angela WeinbergerSelf-publishing sounds like the ideal solution to many dilemmas self-employed consultants, trainers and coaches. A publication gets your name out there, establishes you as an expert in your field and differentiates you from other players in the market. What a lot of us underestimate though is the challenge of working with clients while at the same time running a book project. With this post I would like to raise your awareness to five challenges I came across when I self-published books in the past.

 

Why I decided to self-publish:

For me the main reason to self-publish “The Global Mobility Workbook – A Step-by-Step Guide to Managing International Assignments“ was speed-to-market. Once I had drafted the book I wanted to use it in trainings and refer to it. I did not want to wait another year until the book was out there. I had only approached one publisher and their feedback indicated that the book was too academic for them and not sellable. In the year before I had experimented with publishing a novella and understood how Kindle Desktop Publishing (KDP) works to a large extent. I thought I should give it a go keeping in mind that it could always be re-published by an established publisher later.

What I underestimated were five challenges and I thought it might help you to read about these so you are better prepared than I was.

 

1) Professional look-and-feel of your end product

One of the reputations self-publishing has is that you find a lot of badly written and even less well-edited books out there in the sea of electronic publications. This might be true. You have to invest a lot of time and money to make your publication look as professional as if it had been published with a well-known publisher. It is important that the editing, typesetting, artwork and all graphs and images are well done. You have to work with professional typesetters, editors and graphic designers to get that professional look-and-feel.

2) Investments before you make your first Euro or Franc

My upfront investment was about 3’000 CHF (around 3’000 EUR). I only work with professionals I know well. If your editor lives in Switzerland their rates are higher than anywhere else in the world. I also paid for artwork, graphics, typesetting, converting files and ISBN numbers. For me the investment was worthwhile because I got a lot of consulting work due to the book. However, you first of all have to have this amount of cash in your company or pocket. In another project I ran out of money mid-project, had to start with a new editor and probably will spend around 5’000 CHF before the book is published. As a self-publisher you have a higher royalty than if you work with a traditional publisher but you need to consider the upfront investment.

3) US Tax issues limiting your access to global platforms

Assuming you will decide to publish an ebook through a platform such as Kindle Desktop Publishing you will need to fill a few forms to ensure you are not liable for US Tax. KDP has a great process but another platform made it so complicated that when I got a letter from the IRS in the US (sent by post to Switzerland) and they requested further information by post, I gave up the process.

4) Technical hiccups

During the process of publishing an ebook you might come across technical hiccups. A famous one is the linked table of content. You need to have a graphic designer with programming skills who can help you through such technical challenges even if you are technologically savvy. A good tip is to read books on ebook publishing before you start editing your manuscript as a lot of formatting is required for ebooks. My persistence on this matter worked well for a text-based novella but for my workbook we needed a lot of tables and graphics. I gave this task to a graphic designer. You might want to read the KDP style guide beforehand.

5)  Managing a wild bunch of involved artists

It can feel a bit like in a circus when you are managing a bunch of involved artists across the globe for your project. Especially challenging when not all of them speak English and when you don’t sit in the same room to discuss graphics or editing rules. You might also need to agree rules of the game before leaving the manuscript stage. I have a rather high standard of English but sometimes I apply rules from German grammar and I cannot get used to certain style elements in English because they are contrary to German style. I recommend you work with the same team for different projects as with every book the team gets more adjusted to the process and has a better alignment too.

I recommend you read books on how to self-publish, such as the “Triskele Trail”, a book on self-publishing from Triskele to everyone who considers self-publishing ebooks and books on demand.

 

Angela Weinberger is a Global Mobility Expert and an Intercultural Career Advisor. She worked in Human Resources and Global Mobility during her corporate career. She started out on her own with Global People Transitions in 2012.

 

 

 

After a crazy couple of weeks – attendance at FutureBook in London, release of two magazines, the Triskele launch party, a trip to Spain and to crown it all, big fat birthday celebrations – I’m back at my desk.

And I have a bunch of delicious treats to share with you.

Firstly, Author Day. I reported on events at 30 Euston Square for The Woolf Quarterly, which this winter takes the theme of Money. As publishers, authors, service providers and industry experts discussed the role of the author, I kept my focus trained on the cash. Here’s my full report, plus many more fascinating articles on the subject of dosh.

author-day-lights

For Words with JAM literary ezine, the theme was Point of View. Using my theatre background as a springboard, I chose to explore five cultural reactions to a social issue: rape culture. Asking For It references play, novel, non-fiction, stand-up comedy and workshop.

asking for it jamie williams

Photo by Jamie Williams

 

Book publicists – what do they actually do? For the last three months, my colleagues and I at Triskele Books have been working with Literally PR, which has proved an educational and beneficial experience. Helen Lewis, director of the firm, shares her top tips for authors.

photo book

Photo by Libby O’Loghlin

 

literally PRThe launch party! You can read a full write-up of the event on Literally PR’s blog.

 

Or if you just fancy looking at a few pictures, Triskele picked some favourites to share.

triskele books 28.11.12

All the books are available in ebook or print and I’m happy to send out signed copies for £6.99/$8.99 plus postage. I’ll even chuck in a bookmark.

Human Rites Cover MEDIUM WEB

 

Today sees the first of our Triskele Books Twitter Chats #triskeletuesdays

Triskele Books is an author collective, founded by myself and two other indie authors in 2011. We now number five members with two associates. Tonight, and henceforth every Tuesday evening, we will be hanging out on Twitter from 19.30-20.30 GMT (20.30-21.30 CET) to discuss an aspect of writing, publishing, marketing or teamwork.

Triskele 2015 fiction

Future topics include cover design, writers helping writers, Celtic stories, stages of editing, PR & marketing lessons learned, breaking the writing rules, social media and managing rights. But tonight, mere days before our London launch of four new novels, we’re talking Book Launches.

Why? What’s the point? Pros and cons. Expenses and mistakes. Tips for success. Physical v. virtual. Event management.

We’d love you to join us and chime in with your thoughts. I know every single person reading this is more Twitter-savvy than me, but I am adding my colleague Catriona’s instructions here, just in case.

Want to join our first Triskele Twitter Chat tomorrow night, but have no idea how? If you have a Twitter account it’s easy!

1) type ‪#‎triskeletuesday‬ into the search function on Twitter
2) When the results come up, click on the ‘Live’ tab. That way you will see all tweets in the chat, as they are posted.
i3) Post your question to Jill, LIza, Gillian or Jane as you would any other tweet, remembering to include #triskeletuesday within your 140 characters
4) Keep watching the search results for more questions and answers. Join in with replies whenever you feel like it!
Our first conversation will be live between 19:30 and 20:30 GMT on Tuesday 24th November.

So come and share your experiences, ask questions, offer an opinion. We’re very friendly and may well be drinking some virtual fizz. See you there! @JJMarsh1

Triskele Books

Triskele Books

Ghost TownCatriona Troth, my colleague at Triskele Books, is the antithesis of the bang-out-a-book-a-year philosophy. Ghost Town was not an easy delivery. I followed the gestation of this book and couldn’t have been happier when it finally came out. I asked the author why.

Let’s start with the facts. How long did this book take – from start to finish?

I worked out that, start to finish, Ghost Town had taken me 14 years. My daughter, who was 18 when it was published, told me she couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t working on it.

What about the genesis of Ghost Town – why did you decide to tell this story?

I actually had in mind an entirely different story – a sequel to Gift of the Raven with Terry as an adult, finding his way as an artist. But I quickly worked out that I couldn’t write about being an adult in Canada in the 80s when I’d left as a teenager in the 70s. So I looked around for a different location, and thought about the time when I’d worked in a night shelter for the homeless in Coventry.

I remembered a little about the tensions that were around back then – as well as the joyous sound of Two Tone that synonymous with the city. But when I started to do my research, I realised that so much had gone on that I had been virtually unaware of. Coventry had taken itself to the brink of an all out race war – and then stepped back and said ‘not in our name.’ I became obsessed with telling the story of how that had happened.

How did you fit in the writing between motherhood and a full-time job?

KatActually, I was lucky enough, after my children were born, to be able to go part-time. But I was still commuting into London three days a week. And motherhood was full-time, as it always it. It was the commuting that made it all possible, actually. I’d bought a stack of A5 note blocks from Smiths, and spent that precious 40 minutes on the train filling them with scribbles and ideas and diagrams. Then in the evening, after the children were in bed, I would type up what I’d written, editing as I went.

Can you explain a little about the research process?

My primary resource was the archive of the Coventry Evening Telegraph at the city’s Central Library. They were the only newspaper to cover what was going on. Apart from that, I read everything I could get hold of, from the Scarman report on that summer’s riots, to books (fiction and non-fiction) about the British Asian experience. As it happened, the second inquest into the New Cross Fire (which is referred to at the start of the book) was happening as I was writing, and one of the legal teams was posting transcripts of each day’s proceedings as they happened. I read those from start to finish, even though it was barely relevant to the book, because it helped so much to understand what it was like to be Black or Asian in Britain at this time.

I’ve described before how I ended up with a timeline spread across my wall – with one line for actually events in Coventry, another for events in Brixton and London, a line for story events and finally a line for the progress of Maia’s pregnancy.

Two Tone Panel_cropped

Catriona on the Two-Tone panel, Warwick University

When you finally had a first draft, what were the next stages?

Well, before I had a first draft, I had another ‘tear it all up and start again’ moment. About half way through, I realised that the main female character no longer belonged in this story. She belonged to the one I had originally conceived, and now the story was focused on the clashes between skinheads and young Asians, she didn’t fit. So all her chapters up to that point were torn up. Maia emerged, and of course, as she was a different person, that affected the chapters I had written from his point of view too.

But I did eventually have a completed manuscript. I edited it using the ‘triage’ approach recommended by David Michael Kaplan in his book Rewriting (which I would still recommend to anyone, by the way). Basically you start by looking for big problems (whole sections that aren’t working etc) and then work your way down to the minutiae of word choice etc.

Once I’d finished editing and created a submission pack, I started sending it off to agents. The first three or four I sent it to all asked for the full MS. But all eventually turned it down. I’d just started a new job and the book ended up lying fallow for a couple of years.

In 2007, I discovered online critique groups and thought I’d test the waters. It was an eye-opening experience. The first chapters I posted were ripped to shreds and it would have been very easy to give up there and then. But I kept going, posting a handful of chapters at a time, listening to the feedback and acting on it. The hardest thing was the response I had to the female lead character, Maia, who in some ways is quite close to me. Time and time again, I was told she was unsympathetic. To me, it felt as if I were opening veins writing her, but that wasn’t how she was coming across.

That complete start-to-finish rewrite took more than two years. And even after that, a brilliant friend, who is now a distinguished creative writing tutor, took a scalpel to it and encouraged me to cut almost 35 thousand words from the MS.

Back to sending it out to agents. Even though I knew I had a much better book on my hands, the reception was much frostier. In those three or four years since I last tried, the industry had changed. I ended up being kept dangling for two years by someone who would have been my dream publisher, until I finally wrote them a rejection letter and joined Triskele.

One of the things that most impressed me was your thematic use of black and white – it’s a very visual book. Do you think it would transfer well to the screen?

cathedral

Coventry Cathedral

Thank you! Wouldn’t that be nice? It’s odd, because I don’t think I am a naturally a very visual person, but I have written one book with an MC who is an artist, and one about a photographer. Baz takes photos in black and white, and that forced me to look at the world in that way. The conjunction with that, and Two Tone music, and the racial themes, happened organically.

 

How different would this book be if you’d finished it in a year?

Gift of the Raven Cover MEDIUMI would have stuck with writing a sequel to Gift of the Raven – so the Coventry story would never have been told at all. But even if I take that as one year from when I started writing Baz’s story, then female lead would have been an entirely different person, the depiction of the background events would have been sketchy, unrealistic and with very little depth. And the writing would have been clunky as hell.

What are the benefits of taking your time over the work?

I wouldn’t recommend anyone to take quite as long as I did. I was basically teaching myself to write, and whereas saner writers have MSS tucked away in their bottom drawer that they have perhaps started and never finished, or written the first draft of then wisely abandoned – because I had become so obsessed with telling this one story, I kept writing and rewriting the same MS.

But it did enable me to burrow into the history of the events and into the characters, to give them a depth I could never have achieved in just a year. It allowed themes and symbols – like the black and white you mentioned – to emerge. And it gave me time to hone the use of language.

And how’s the next one coming along?

Slowly … again. I have three wonderful characters. And I have a premise. What I don’t have at the moment is a plot with enough momentum to drive the story forward. I’ve never been strong on plotting, and this time I don’t have a sequence of real events to piggyback on. Wish me luck.

 

Two tone

Members of the Selecter and the Specials at the Belgrade Theatre for the announcement of a new production of the Two Tone Musical, Three Minute Heroes, July 2014

Ghost Town

Ghost Town1981. Coventry, city of Two Tone and Ska, is riven with battles between skinheads and young Asians.

Photographer Baz—‘too Paki to be white, too gora to be desi’—is capturing the conflict on film.

Unemployed graduate Maia—serial champion of liberal causes—is pregnant with a mixed-race child.

Neither can afford to let the racists win. They must take a stand.

 A stand that will cost lives.

Website: www.catrionatroth.com

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/catrionatrothbooks

Twitter: @L1bCat

Pinterest for Ghost Town: http://www.pinterest.com/triskelebooks/ghost-town/

 

 

 

I’m an indie author and proud of it.
But I didn’t exactly go it alone.
I chose the collective route.
Here’s why.
http://www.triskelebooks.co.uk/home/4561070049

 

Triskele Books is an author collective spread over three countries and two time zones. So it’s no surprise that all Triskele novels have a strong sense of time and place.

How does it work? Answers from the gang.

How does an author collective differ from a small press?

Jill: It’s very similar to a small press, but the crucial difference is our independence. Legally, we wanted to retain our own rights, so we chose not to create a publishing house. Instead, we just act like one. We’re a group of people who can edit, proof, consult, advise, co-promote and market on a shared platform. Each of us works as an independent entity but we all benefit from mutual support. Financially, we contribute equally to any costs incurred, such as webhosting, print materials, etc, but each of us keeps the profits from our own books.

What factors triggered each of you to go indie?

Liza: We’d met each other via an online writing group, and found ourselves in a similar situation: Gillian and I both had agents, but they couldn’t find our books a home. Jill stopped trying the trad route after an agent called her work too cerebral. Catriona was left dangling by a publisher for two years, until she wrote them a rejection letter. And Jane (JD) loved the freedom of creativity found by going indie.

We got together and discussed our options. Going the independent route, as a team, felt more manageable. We established ideals: high quality writing and professional presentation, and committed ourselves to publishing the books we wanted to write, not what the market dictated.

Triskele_Group_018

Kat, Liza, Gilly, Jill, Jane

How did your publishing cooperative come together, and what made you decide to establish it? How many of you are there?

Catriona: I began reading about author collectives in the States. And I thought this has to be the way forward, the power in working together.
So four years ago, the original members of Triskele met in London to decide if the idea really had legs. Turns out it did. Ten of them.

Triskele has five core members and periodically we bring ‘associates’ on board, whose writing we feel we can develop. We were recently dubbed The Wu-Tang Clan of Publishing.

What elements of the publishing process are done collectively? How do you handle the finances, such as royalties and so on?

Gillian: We critique, edit and proof each other’s drafts before they go for professional proofreadings. If needed we all give advice on cover design too.

Finances have been relatively simple. We all keep our own royalties from sales of our own books. If we choose to market or advertise Triskele collectively, we all contribute equal shares. And for joint ventures, like The Triskele Trail, we divide initial outlay and profits go into our Triskele bank account to cover future overheads like webhosting, print materials, advertising etc.

triskelites

Where does the Triskele name come from? Does a Triskele book have an identifiable style that sets it apart?

Jane: The name came from the Celtic symbol of the triskele, which shows three independent circles joining to form something greater than its parts. It represents the concept of our collective – authorial independence balanced by mutual support. Going it alone, together.

Triskele books are top quality – they must be well-written, tell a good story and contain a strong sense of place, which is Triskele’s USP. They’re also thoroughly edited, proofread, carefully typeset and have a professional cover.

What about the design aspects? Do you share a designer? And do you try and go for a shared look or feel?

Liza: We’re lucky enough to have talented designer JD Smith on the team, so yes, we all use the same designer. We don’t go for a shared look since we range across different genres, but we try to harmonise all our visual material.

heads soft

Triskelites in Porto

You are located in three different countries. How do you manage the communication issue?

Gillian: Skype! And email. And we have our own Facebook private page. We communicate every day but only meet physically three or four times a year. But when we do, it’s brilliant fun!

What do you see as the key benefits of being in a collective? Any disadvantages? What advice would you give someone thinking of doing the same?

Catriona: Two huge advantages! Firstly, you are not a lone voice crying in the wilderness. These days, it can be pretty hard to keep thinking of new and original things to say, so you don’t become one of those awful people on social media who just keeps bleating, ‘buy my book, buy my book!’ Being part of a group means you can take turns spreading the word in your own style.

The second advantage is having someone to answer questions and give advice. Among the five of us, someone will have had the same problem and know a solution. And on a larger scale, there’s the Alliance of Independent Authors, an amazing source of information.

Disadvantages? The classic downside of being a team player – if you mess up, it’s not just yourself you’re letting down. That adds a lot of pressure. But the flipside is the others are there to catch you if you fall.

My advice would be to learn from those who’ve gone before, then find the path that’s right for you. There’s no one way to do this.http://triskelebooks.blogspot.co.uk/How do you know whether an author is a good ‘fit’ for Triskele Books? Are you actively seeking new members?

Jane: Writing good books is a given. We as a group need to ‘fit’. When working so closely as a team, it’s important everyone pulls their weight and believes in the collective as a whole. We share experiences, snippets of information, the highs and lows, opportunities for genres, news stories relevant to an author’s theme, place or period. We’re really supportive of each other and the group. We’re not seeking new members at the moment. We’ve found our ideal balance.

What are your plans for the future?

Jill: Every six months, we stop and evaluate where we’re going. What’s working, what needs to be improved, and how best to move forward. We’re planning The Big Launch Party for November 2015, writing new books and organising festival appearances; exploring formats, such as audiobooks, boxsets, translations and adaptations, and finding more ways to connect good books to discerning readers.

Triskele_Group_041 bw

http://triskelebooks.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.triskelebooks.co.uk/

 

Gillian E Hamer’s novels are set in North Wales, blending modern crime, ancient history and an otherworldly element.

JJ Marsh writes contemporary European crime. The Beatrice Stubbs series explores ethics, politics and justice – from Athens to Zürich.

Liza Perrat’s historical fiction novels are set in rural France against the backdrop of the French Revolution, WWII and The Black Plague from the perspective of extraordinary women.

Catriona Troth’s novella, Gift of the Raven, takes place in Canada in the 1970s while Ghost Town tackles the themes of race and identity in 1980s Coventry.

JD Smith’s retelling of the Tristan and Iseult legend brings ancient Ireland and Cornwall vividly to life. The Overlord Series takes the reader back to 3rd Century Syria to tell the story of Zenobia, Warrior Queen of Palmyra.

 

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