Monday, 27 July 2009

Persistence pays! (sometimes ...)

I've just been following Gonna Be A Writer's comments on her blog - about how many rejections a published author might have, before getting a novel accepted. It prompted me to check back in my files, to remind myself what happened when I was sending out 'The Trouble With Ally' - the first book I had published (as Sheila Norton, my own name).

It actually took even longer than I remembered! I first sent it out to agents in September 1999, and it was accepted by Piatkus in February 2002. I didn't keep all the rejection letters - I think I probably found most of them too depressing to keep! - but I did keep a few, including one from a major publisher which stated that I had 'a bright, confident style and a gift for amusing dialogue', and that the novel was 'quite publishable' ... but it wasn't for them! Even though they rejected the book, I remember being thrilled with that particular letter! But not, of course, as thrilled as I was with the e-mail dated 13 February 02, which told me there was an offer letter in the post to me. I remember sitting at my computer crying when I read it - I could hardly believe it was finally happening.

If that lengthy time span is depressing for would-be novelists, all I can say is that I didn't give up because (having already abandoned several previous attempts at novels which I knew weren't good enough) - I always had a feeling that 'The Trouble with Ally' was good enough to make it, if only someone would agree with me! And secondly, throughout that waiting period, I continued to write short stories, so that I had some acceptances to cheer me up and keep me going, and I also wrote my second novel, 'Other People's Lives'. I was glad I did, because Piatkus offered me a two-book contract, and I'd almost finished the second book by then.

On the subject of persistence, I've recently sold a couple of stories to magazines, which had been turned down several times already. You know how sometimes you have to accept that a story wasn't that great, and file it under 'given up' - but at other times, you think that it's worth a bit of tweaking, a bit of improving, lengthening or cutting, and sending out elsewhere? Well, both of these had been revamped and re-written to within an inch of their lives by the time they finally got accepted (by different magazines) - proving that it's still possible to sell something even when you've almost exhausted all the possibilities.

I'd like to say 'don't ever give up' - but I know, as well as anyone, the angst that can be caused by disappointments and rejections. I'd been writing as a hobby for several decades before having that first novel accepted - and have had some painful rejections since, too. It never gets easier!

But sometimes, the waiting game does pay off. So good luck to everyone out there who's waiting for responses!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Writing under a pseudonym

Sometimes it's such a relief to get something off your chest! That's how I feel now that my publisher has agreed it's OK to reveal my 'double life' as a writer-under-a-pseudonym.

It's been a well-kept secret for over two years now; during that time it's been fun, if at times challenging! - being two people at once. I'd already had five novels published under my real name (Sheila Norton) when I wrote 'Tales from a Hen Weekend' . My editor decided this was a particularly strong idea that could lead to a new series, so she wanted to 're-brand' me under a new name - without linking the two names, until the Olivia name was sufficiently established.

And now - with the publication of the third book in the series, I've been given the go-ahead to 'come clean'. It's good finally to drop the secrecy, and has given me the chance to do some promotion of the latest book myself, without having to wear a mask whenever I go out! (I'm joking, of course, but when the previous two books were launched I couldn't actually make any public appearances as Olivia in my local area where people already knew me by my real name).

It's been an interesting experience - one I never anticipated when I started writing, as I was always happy using my real name. But I've now given two talks on the subject of writing under a pseudonym so I have a new area of 'expertise'!

I'm sure there are lots of other writers out there who use a pseudonym - or maybe more than one pseudonym! - and probably for lots of different reasons. I'd love to hear from anyone who wants to share their experiences.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Books and Booze

Last night's launch party went well - if anyone who came along is reading this, thanks again for your support and I hope you all enjoyed yourselves! Jeremy from Swan Books in Upminster - who someone referred to during the evening as my 'tame bookseller' - did a great job selling books for me, taking the heat off me as I hate having to 'think money' while concentrating on signing books and (of course) socialising!
It's great to have a good relationship with a local independent bookseller - that's him with me in the pic - as it's so beneficial to both of us. Independent bookshops will do all they can to support their local authors, and of course the more of my books he can sell, the better it is for him as well as for me.

Signing books as 'Olivia' does take some concentration, as it's not my real name, and before becoming Olivia Ryan I was writing (and signing!) books under my own name. So far I haven't made any mistakes and signed a book with the wrong name - and to my surprise, the 'Olivia' signature flows quite well now - even after a couple of beers ...

It was great to celebrate with my lovely family and friends - including ex-colleagues from the hospital where I used to work, and two of my 'writing buddies' - Fenella and Fay who are fellow Essex Girls from the RNA.

Although I've had launch parties before, for my previous books, this was the first one I've done as Olivia, so all three 'Tales From' books were available and it was nice that we sold some copies
of the first two books as well as lots of copies of 'Tales from a Honeymoon Hotel'. So I'm happy to say it was definitely a success and I'm grateful to Irene and Ted at the Baker's Arms in Stock for letting me have the party there again.
Here's a nice artistic
picture, taken by one of my daughters,
that I think sums up perfectly the ethos of the evening:

Books and Booze! Not a bad combination!

Friday, 3 July 2009

The Winner Is ...

I'm delighted to announce that the winner of the competition for a signed copy of 'Tales from a Honeymoon Hotel' is Cara Leitch from Ballyclare in Northern Ireland. Cara's correct answer - which everybody got right of course! - was that Jo & Mark, and Ruby & Harold, are the other two couples in the book. There were a lot more entries than I anticipated, so thank you everyone who entered - it was a great response and it was very exciting doing the draw!

Everyone who entered will be receiving an e-mail from me over the next couple of days, and Cara's book will also be on its way to her. Congratulations, Cara, if you are a reader of this blog!
Everyone else - sorry there could only be one winner, but all is not lost, you can still get a copy of the book from the shops! - or from Amazon where (dare I say it) it's on a special offer price right now.

Meanwhile happy reading ... and writing ... everyone, and have a great weekend.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Today's the day!

Publication Day! It's always an exciting feeling, waking up and thinking: Yes! Today's the day my book will actually be 'out there' for all the hordes of excited readers to queue up and buy ... well, OK, that bit might only be in my wildest dreams, but hey, what's the point of being a writer if you can't dream up a few wild imaginings!

Actually ... nothing very much seems to happen on Publication Day. My launch party is happening on Monday night, because that's a quieter night at the pub where it's being held (otherwise there just wouldn't be enough space for all those hordes of excited readers queueing up for a signed copy, you see!). My talks at local libraries are on different dates, although fortunately they are close enough to Publication Date to make it possible to give the new book a little plug! And even my lunch date with my editor has been put back from today to tomorrow - although that's nice, in a way, as it's still something to look forward to.

Believe it or not, this time I haven't even got my order of books! Having given all but two of my precious six free copies to my closest family members (as I always like to do), I was anticipating the box of further copies I ordered to have arrived well before now. I usually have them in plenty of time for publication, so I phoned the distributors yesterday and was told they'd be sent out in about a week's time! I explained that I was the author and that today was the publication date - and they're going to see what they can do and get back to me later today. A tad annoying, as I ordered them a month ago, but what can you do? Quite amusing, really, as I know that people who have been ordering them from Amazon started getting their copies through last week!

Actually - something is happening today. A photographer from my local paper is coming to the house this afternoon to take a pic for a feature they're running about me. So when I come home from my swim later on, I'd better remember to comb my hair and put on a clean top!

And there's more good news. The competition I've been running for a signed copy of the book has attracted lots of entrants - it's your last chance today, if you haven't yet entered! Details on my post of 21 June.
Also, a local branch of Waterstone's have said they might be interested in having me do a book signing, probably in August - so fingers crossed.
And today, the new book is featured on the very first posting of the new RNA Blog - - together with other RNA members' books that are being published this month. Pop over and have a look!

So for now I'd better contain my excitement, get on with writing the next book, and try not to get distracted too often by checking my Amazon ranking! Have a nice day, everyone.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Library talks

It's been a while since I've given a talk at a library, so I was really looking forward to last night's one at my own village library. And what a lovely audience I had there! (If any of you from Galleywood find their way to this blog - hello (wave)! - and thanks again for coming! I didn't count the numbers, but the library ran out of chairs so that was a good indication! I mentioned last night that I once heard another writer say: 'It's always good to see more than one person at these events!' - and that's absolutely right. It's so nice that people make the effort to come out in the evening - especially a hot one like last night - to listen to a fairly unknown local author, so it really is appreciated.

I'll now tell you the original story behind the 'more than one' comment, because I think it's very funny. I heard it in a talk by Simon Brett, a very clever and funny author and excellent speaker. He described a situation encountered by a friend who arrived to give a talk in a huge auditorium in Finland, seating 500. Only one person was in the audience, right at the back. He waited until 10 minutes after the starting time, then stood up and suggested to this guy that, as there were only the two of them, it might be better if they went to the pub instead and talked in a more intimate environment. The chap responded: 'You talk.' So the author returned to the podium and began his talk. There was no reaction whatsoever from his one-person audience, so again, he suggested calling it a day and heading for the pub. Again, the response was: 'You talk.' So he carried on, but eventually, he couldn't stand it any longer and asked the guy why he really wanted him to continue to talk. He replied: 'You talk, I play piano afterwards.' He'd been hired to provide piano music at the end of the event - the audience was actually non-existent!

So you can see where we're coming from. Total lack of audience = humiliation. More than one = fantastic!

The new book's officially out tomorrow - I'll be back with a celebratory post then.