Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Best of Times/The Worst of Times?

I've just received my new edition of 'The Author' magazine (the journal of the Society of Authors), and noted with some amusement that they're planning a discussion, after their AGM in September, on the subject of 'the best of times/the worst of times?'

Now, as it happens I'm giving a talk at my local village library (Galleywood in Essex, if anyone is down my way!) on Saturday 30th, and I'd planned to talk about the state of publishing these days (as I see it!), how much difference the e-book revolution has made to everyone, and where we might be going from here. And I might just pinch that title for my talk! 

I think it really sums up where we are today - in a state of flux. Some might say things have never been worse for authors; it's certainly never been harder to get a new publishing contract, with editors seemingly terrified of taking on anything, or anyone new, and agents just as wary. Unless you're already a best-seller (or a celebrity) it's also never been harder to make much money from writing. The days of big advances are long gone. And as for short stories, the markets have shrunk to almost non-existent and the odds of having a story accepted are diminishing all the time.

But is it all gloom and doom? As one of the many authors who have experimented with self-publishing on Amazon for Kindle, I do feel that this option has at least given us back some kind of control, in a world where we never had much before. Regardless of whether we earn very much from our sales, at least we can set our own price, choose our own cover image, publish when we're ready without waiting months or years for replies from agents/editors and stoically bearing the inevitable rejections.

Of course, I loved the kudos of being traditionally published, and despite everything this would still be my preference again. But meanwhile, I and many others are enjoying the freedom of having things our own way for a change! And publishers are waking up to the need for e-book-first lines, and the need to price competitively.

I don't know whether these times will turn out to be the best or the worst, but I do think they're exciting. And although I can't promise my talk at Galleywood library will be as exciting as the discussions at the Society of Authors' event, please do come along if you're anywhere in the Chelmsford area on Saturday 30th at 11am!

Meanwhile I've just been interviewed for the  'This Writer's Life' blog - pop over and learn a few of my secrets!

Oh - and I did write the 'Something Old, Something New' story eventually - and it's been submitted to W.Weekly. Fingers crossed. I haven't submitted anything there for a while, but I DO have a story coming out in their next 'Woman's Weekly Fiction Special' on 3 July.

Happy writing - and let me know what you think ... are these the best of times or the worst for writers?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Something old, something new

'Something Old, Something New' - as soon as I'd written the title for this blog post, I thought what a good title it'd make for a story. Why can't I think of snappy titles like that when I need one?!

I'll explain the Something New first.  Thanks to fellow short story writer Susan Wright, who shared the news of her own success with the new short story website I recently submitted four of my own stories, which have all been accepted and are due to go live on the site from 20 June.
Alfiedog is a pay-to-download site featuring only short stories - they're very reasonably priced and I think it's a brilliant idea - it's about time there was a dedicated site where we could go to buy short stories. Please do visit the site and take a look - you'll see some writers' names you recognise! My four stories are all previously unpublished, so remember to pop back after 20 June too, to pick up an original read!  I'll be submitting more ...

Something Old?  It's my 'Tales from a Hen Weekend' book (written under the Olivia name) - which was first published in 2007 - and since I published it as a Kindle edition on Amazon, it's out-sold all my others on there. (Five original Sheila Norton books plus one new one, and one other Olivia Ryan book). Now, I'm thrilled of course that it's doing well, but I've been wondering what it is that makes one book sell better than the others - and I've decided it must be the title. Titles are what attract us to a book first, after all, even more so than the cover, I think - especially with Kindle books where there's just a small image rather than a proper cover.  The 'Hen Weekend' in the title of this book tells you exactly what you're getting (although one reviewer from the USA mentioned that they're not called hen weekends over there - they're 'bachelorette parties' apparently. I prefer 'hen weekends'!).

Which brings me back to my original point - how to come up with a good title? When one of my Sheila Norton books, 'Sweet Nothings', was published, I didn't particularly like the title. I'd wanted to call it 'Penny's Passion Pudding' because it's the story of a woman who accidentally becomes famous for her pudding, which people believe is an aphrodisiac! But my publisher didn't like that, saying the word 'pudding' is stodgy and not suitable for a title. In self-publishing the book as a Kindle edition last year, I toyed with the idea of changing the title. But past experience has taught me it's a bad idea.

The American publisher who bought two of my earlier books published them both under different titles from the UK editions. It wasn't made clear on Amazon that they were the same books, and one disgruntled reader who'd bought the US edition, believing it to be a new Sheila Norton book, gave it a one-star review because she was cross that she'd wasted her money. (I wish she'd just returned it to Amazon!). A one-star review really hurts an author's overall rating average, and although I was fairly philosophical about it, it has taught me the dangers of changing a title!

We just need to come up with good ones in the first place! So ... 'Something Old, Something New.'
I feel a short story coming on ...