Wednesday, 27 April 2011

E-Books: E-sier than it looks!

Well, the new novel (the Huge Gamble, the Complete Departure from everything I've ever written before), having been read and approved and edited by my three daughters, has now been submitted for the first time. I feel too superstitious to say much more about this, but let's just say it's gone, in the first instance, to someone whose judgement I trust a lot, and who has actually expressed an interest in seeing it. More than that, I won't even speculate on. It could, as we all know, still be touted around for years and end up as another failure. Or it could, just possibly, be successful, and without that tiny flame of hope, none of us would ever bother to pick up a pen or tap another sentence onto our computers, would we!

Meanwhile, and partly to take my mind off the Huge Gamble, I've been embarking on another project. For some time, I've been considering trying to self-publish my older books - the five novels I wrote under my real name (Sheila Norton) - as e-books. The rights in these books have reverted to me, so I can do what I like with them, and they were never published electronically by my publishers. I've read loads of stuff on forums, in magazines and on other writers' blogs, about doing this, and to be honest it looked so difficult and complicated, I kept putting it off. I was even considering paying someone to do it for me.

Well, I decided I'd have a go, first, at creating my own 'cover' images. The cover illustrations of the original books are copyright, so I couldn't use them. None of my own photos really seemed suitable, so someone suggested buying images on the internet. I spent a pleasant day browsing various websites, finally settling on one that had thousands of images available on all possible subjects. It was fun choosing pictures to suit my books, and wasn't too expensive - at least, I thought it was money well-spent. I then had the problem of putting the title and my name onto the images I'd downloaded. I haven't got Photoshop and didn't want to have to fork out for it, but with the 'Paint' programme I managed to (eventually) work out how to add text to the pictures, and had some more fun deciding where to put the text! I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't make the text quite as large as I'd have liked, but all in all, I was pleased with the results.

Before I did anything else, I had to go through each book, checking my original file copy against the published books. There had been editorial changes made at the proof stage, and as these changes were made on paper, they hadn't been transferred to my file copies on computer. This was a bit of a long job but it's been quite nice to read the old books again, and it also gave me the opportunity to make any very little changes that I felt could improve them in the light of experience.

When I'd finished reading/correcting the first one, I suddenly thought - why am I being such a wimp? I know other writers who have done this. OK, so I might find it too hard and have to abandon the attempt, but why don't I at least give it a try? So I logged onto the Kindle self-publishing site at and just started following the steps. I had to write my own 'blurb' for the e-book as I was worried that the blurb on the 'paper' version of the book might have been copyright to the original publisher. And when it came to choosing a price for the book, I was a bit stumped as I had to price it in dollars, for it to be automatically converted to sterling on the UK Amazon site, so that was a bit of guesswork! But apart from that, the whole process seemed so straightforward, I was convinced I must have missed something or done something wrong! But within 24 hours, my first e-book was there on Amazon for Kindle. I couldn't believe I'd been contemplating paying someone to do it for me!

I wanted to show off about it straight away, but I was still nervous that the first book had been a fluke and that something would go wrong with the next one. (Lacking techno confidence? Me?!).
But last night I was ready to upload the next book, and this time I had the blurb written ready, and the price already decided, and knew how to go through the various steps, so the whole thing took about ten minutes! And I now have two e-books up there for sale! You can see them on

The other books will follow in due course, when I've read them, checked them, finished designing the cover illustrations etc. But I thought I'd share my experiences with you because I know there are other authors wanting to do the same thing, who like me were hesitating on the brink, worried that it would be difficult. Eventually, I'd like to put the books up on other websites as well as Amazon (I can't buy e-books from Amazon myself, because my e-reader isn't a Kindle), but I'll attempt that later, after I've finished creating the Kindle editions for Amazon! One thing at a time!

Meanwhile, I'd love to know what you think of the two I've uploaded. (And, of course, if you have a Kindle and haven't yet read the books ... I think they're a bargain!).

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Other writers' kindness

It was just a bit of a long shot, I thought - posting on this blog about the fact that I hadn't received the copy of 'The Weekly News' with my story in it. I was hoping someone would know how I might be able to get a back issue (and they did - thank you Bernadette!), but I certainly didn't expect Suzanne at come up with a copy of the very issue I needed, and to post it off to me so that I've received it already! It was such thoughtful thing to do, and I'm really grateful to have my copy of the story now. 'An Italian Wedding' was inspired by hearing about my friend's son's wedding - in a castle in Italy - and the fact that the castle was reputed to be haunted. I'd revised the story a couple of times after it was rejected by other magazines, and cut it quite a bit, so it was very gratifying that it ended up good enough to sell. I shouldn't have been surprised at the helpful responses to my query on the blog, or at Suzanne's kindness. Every time I give a talk about writing, I always tell people how generous and supportive I've found the writing community in general to be to each other. There's always a murmuring of surprise at this, and a few raised eyebrows. I guess a lot of people imagine that we're all jealous of each other's successes and are fiercely guarding our own 'territories'. If I'm honest, this is slightly what I expected when I first joined the RNA (Romantic Novelists' Association) when my first novel was published. I was a little in awe of the more successful novelists and 'famous names' on their internet forum, and sure they wouldn't waste their time talking to me or take any notice of me. I couldn't have been more wrong. Over the years I've had such an amazing amount of encouragement and advice from so many people: from the RNA, to other local writers in Essex, from other bloggers, to writing 'friends' on Facebook. One of the first writing blogs I ever read was where Kath has always so generously shared her advice and information for short story writers, including the latest requirements for all the magazine markets and any pertinent news about them. I think most of us have consulted her blog at some time or another and benefited from her postings. It took me a while to wake up to the fact that none of this should really surprise me. After all, it gives me a lot of pleasure myself, as a slightly-successful writer, to help new writers wherever I can with bits of my own advice and experience, such as it is. And if I don't find it irksome to do so (far from it - I'm flattered to be asked!), why would those far-more-successful writers feel any differently? So this is just a big pat on the back to all of us, for being (on the whole!) such a friendly, generous, mutually encouraging bunch of people, and thereby giving such a surprise to the audiences at my talks!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The Weekly News

A quick plea today - for help from anyone who writes for 'The Weekly News'. I had a story accepted by them last June, which was very pleasing as I'd tried them for a while without success. In February, I had an e-mail from the editor Jill, explaining that she'd had computer problems and listing all the stories whose contributors may not be aware that they'd already been published. Apparently mine was published in the 1 January edition. Jill promised that any outstanding contributor copies would be posted shortly. I haven't received a copy yet. I politely queried this with Jill a couple of weeks ago, but still haven't had a reply. I realise it might still be 'on its way', but rather than wait and risk not getting a copy, I've been searching the internet to see if there's anywhere I can buy a back issue, but I'm not having any luck. I feel quite sad about it as, in over 20 years of having short stories published I've never missed having a copy of one for my file before. I'm quite happy to pay for it, but as I wasn't aware of when it was published I'm afraid I might have missed out. Has anyone else had a problem? Any ideas how I can solve it? Thanks for your help!