This is a permanent archive of my previous blog entries, in date order.
My original blog at Essential Writers is still there, and I hope to continue to use it once the commenting problems have been resolved, but for the sake of continuity I’ve decided to archive those earlier entries here for ease of reference.
I welcome comments on any of the entries here, but please ensure that you include the date and title of the entry with your comments. Thank you.
May 2, 2010: Hello world!
I’ve created this blog in preparation for my new journey.
Taking advice from established authors, I’m getting ready to declare myself a writer, and to share my first completed work of original fiction with a wider audience.
Actually, it’s not my first completed work: it’s my second. My first novel, written long-hand in a series of exercise books more than twenty-five years ago, has never seen the light of day and those twenty-five years have been laced with the regret of not even trying to do something with it.
This time, it’s going to be different.
In March, I launched part of my new novel on Authonomy, where it has attracted favourable and encouraging comments and a great deal of support from its membership.
Now, I’m taking the plunge: I’m going to start spreading the word myself. I’m nervous and still rather shy about it, but this is something I need to do because if I don’t, I’ll never know whether or not I’m any good. I need to know if my passion for writing – sparked in primary school by a much-loved English teacher and fuelled by winning two creative writing competitions at the age of eleven – is just a self-entertaining hobby or something I could make a living from.
So .. hello, world! I’m a writer.
Let’s see whether or not anyone agrees.
May 4, 2010: New Beginnings
My work of fiction spans two years in the life of Natasha Arden, a young woman who lives in a small town in Cheshire. At over 273000 words, it is in three parts and will, I hope, be published as three separate novels.
It can be categorised as ‘Chick Lit’, which came as a huge surprise to me as I rarely read anything in that genre and for the last ten years or so have written mostly sci-fi and fantasy short stories or fanfiction!
I have a title in mind – “Mine, Yours, Ours” – to reflect and encapsulate the novel as a trilogy, but the first part is temporarily entitled “New Beginnings”
A short summary of part one:
Six months ago, Tasha lived with her Mum and thought she was in love with boyfriend Gavin. When her Mum became too ill to live at home, Tasha moved into a rented flat and started a new job.
Now, struggling to move on after an acrimonious break-up, Tasha starts the new year with a new blog and plenty of plans. She has good friends, a great social life, and lots to look forward to.
Working for a children’s charity which provides short-term accommodation for teenagers with family difficulties, Tasha loves her job. She also loves music, food, sex, and clothes (not necessarily in that order), and she’s got a crush on her boss. Unable to tell anyone because he’s married, Tasha pours her heart out in the only way she can – in her blog.
Tragedy brings her what she’s been wishing for, but at a price. Heartbreak, doubts and misunderstandings pave a rocky road to true love and Tasha’s life brings a series of new beginnings … and some unexpected endings.
It has from the outset been written from Tasha’s point of view, in the form of her blog. Although I have completed all three parts in a Word document, I’ve started to upload it in blog form at Live Journal and the first entry can be seen here: Tasha’s Blog
A little more has been uploaded to Authonomy, which is open to members only. Membership is free, and registration is quick and easy. Once you have signed up, this link will take you to “New Beginnings. I would welcome your comments there, should you choose to read it.
May 7, 2010: Progress on Authonomy
The main goal of aspiring authors who join Authonomy is to get their book noticed by the Harper Collins editors: that way lies the possibility of a publishing deal, or at least some professional advice.
To achieve this, a book must reach the top five on the Editors Desk list, which is one of several charts that show a book’s popularity. There are approximately 7000 books on the site, and every book has a place on the list, but its position can rise and fall by the minute, depending on how many people comment on it or back it. The fluctuations occur because when someone backs your book it gains points and climbs up the list, but if another book gains more points than yours, your book falls down the list.
I keep an eye on my book’s rank, but I’m not buying into the “back for back” culture that seems to be prevalent. I will back a book if I enjoy it, but if it’s not for me then I will explain to the author why I have not backed it. I daresay that if I accepted every “back for back” invitation, my book would be much higher placed right now but I’d rather it gain points on merit.
When “New Beginnings” went live on 28th March, it’s starting rank was 6101. Since then it has moved steadily up the list, rising and falling with regularity, and it is now at 941. 136 people have backed it so far, and most of those have also left very encouraging comments. There have been some very constructive suggestions, too, which I’m taking on board when editing.
I joined primarily to gain feedback from other writers, with the hope that I’d learn enough to enable me to improve on my novel and to get an indication of whether or not it would meet the necessary standards for publication. Frankly, having read some truly dreadful offerings by other members – some of which have made the top five on the Editors List – I suspect that popularity is more important to many members than good writing, but I’m still learning a lot and am grateful for the advice that I’m receiving.
May 19, 2010: Spreading the word
Last week, I embarked on a miniature advertising campaign, which involved leaving a dozen home-made flyers on a number of trains as I travelled to and from London, and in a number of different locations that I visited in the city. The flyers were simply sheets of A4 paper, printed with my book’s profile page from Authonomy; I simply folded them in half and left them in plain sight.
Yesterday, I was busy on Facebook. I launched a page specifically for my book, with a Facebook advert and links to Authonomy, and this morning I’ve ‘advertised’ my book on my own Facebook page, with a link to its Authonomy profile. I have 130 friends on Facebook, so hopefully some of them will at least check out the link, and that will raise awareness of the fact that I’ve written a book! I hope some of them will take the trouble to actually read some of it, and give me some feedback, but at this stage I’m leaving that up to them.
Because the book is only available on Authonomy at the moment, and potential readers will need to register before they can read any of it, I’m not expecting much from either campaign but if it prompts the curiosity of just one person then I shall judge it as a success.
“New Beginnings” on Facebook
May 26, 2010: Raising my online profile
During the last week or so, I have been working on raising the online profile of my book.
As well as my profile on Authonomy, where a large extract of my book is available to read, I have a Facebook page (”New Beginnings“), a Twitter account (”JohannaNield“), and a LiveJournal version of my book (”Tasha’s Blog“).
I created an ad that ran for 6 days, purely as an experiment. It cost me £3.75 and generated over 40000 views, but only resulted in 6 clicks. I plan to repeat the campaign next month, and will then compare the results before deciding on whether or not to make it a regular feature. The ad linked directly to my book’s profile on Authonomy, and during its run I received a further 16 backings; that may or may not be connected (I’ve no way of knowing).
I also added more information about Authonomy, which I hope will allay readers’ fears – should they have any – about registering as a member. I’m aware that although I have 25 fans of my book’s page on Facebook, only one person has said that they’ve registered on Authonomy and read my book.
I’ve made another entry of Tasha’s blog public, and linked to it via Facebook and Twitter. I’ve also added a link on this blog.
All updates have been ‘advertised’ via Twitter
In addition to the above, I’ve applied to join Authors On Show, and hope to have my profile listed there shortly.
I’ve also created a signature stamp to add to all my outgoing emails, using Wise Stamp. It resembles a business card, with the same image as is displayed on Authonomy, and has links on it to my book’s Authonomy profile as well as my Facebook, Twitter, and EssentialWriters profiles.
May 29, 2010: Fingers crossed!
I have just sent off a submission of my work to a literary agency (AGAA), by email.
I’ve attached the first 9412 words of ‘New Beginnings’ – 28 pages in double-spacing – and I’ve copied the email to myself at three separate email addresses. Paranoid? Me? Whatever gives you that idea?
I cheekily opened my correspondence with this little attention-grabber:
“Bridget Jones’ net-savvy cousin has problems of her own …”
I don’t pretend to have any connections to Helen Fielding, but if Bridget Jones had a younger cousin, she’d probably be very much like Natasha Arden.
I hope they don’t think it’s too gimmicky!
An out-of-office response has told me that the proprietor is away until 7th June, but even then I don’t expect to hear anything for several months so I’m just going to try and forget about it. I will continue to research other agencies and publishers while I ‘advertise’ my book online, and hope that its popularity on Authonomy keeps increasing enough to catch the eye of the Editors.
I’m not particularly confident of success, but if I don’t at least try then I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering “What if …?” and I’ve already done far too much of that.
Jun 5, 2010: Widening the circle …
As well as profiles on Authonomy, Facebook, Twitter and WordPress, I have now joined three online communities which focus on new writers:
Authors on Show
This is a collective of published and unpublished authors who display their work and share a little about their journey and themselves.
My profile will hopefully be added in the next few weeks.
Slush Pile Reader
The workings of Slush Pile Reader are simple:
1. Writers submit a manuscript.
2. Readers read and collectively decide which manuscripts should be published.
3. Slush Pile Reader edits, publishes, distributes and promotes the manuscripts that have been selected by the readers
I will be uploading a large extract from my book within the next few days.
Dreams 2 Nighmares
Reading from light to dark, dreams2nightmares covers everything. From sweet and simple to dark and heavy. Dreams…to nightmares…
My profile has been added, with a link to my Authonomy page.
Whilst “Authors on Show” and “Dreams2Nightmares” will simply link back to my Authonomy page, they will at least (hopefully) attract new readers. The added benefit of “Slush Pile Reader” is that visitors can read the books on display there, without having to register as members. I’m fairly sure that this has been a negative factor with regards to Authonomy, because very few people who followed the Facebook and Twitter links to Authonomy have registered to read more. Of course, that could be because the book’s description put them off, but given the positive and encouraging comments I’ve received about it I’m inclined to believe that it’s the act of registering that’s been the issue. We shall see.
I’ve uploaded my contact details – links to this blog, my Facebook page, Twitter, Authonomy, and the extract from Tasha’s Blog on Livejournal.
I’ve also uploaded an extract (approximately one-third) from ‘New Beginnings’ and, of course, announced this on Facebook and Twitter.
It will be interesting to see whether or not I receive any more feedback this way.
Jun 14, 2010: My First Rejection; no doubt the first of many
Today I received an email from AGAA, the literary agent to whom I submitted my proposal a week or so ago. It’s a rather impersonal response – there is no salutation – and reads like a stock reply rather than something that’s been written spontaneously:
“Thank you very much for your enquiry regarding your work. We take on new clients very sparingly and in order to do so we have to feel that something is very special indeed. Having considered your enquiry we’re afraid we are not confident we could find you a publisher so we regret that we’re unable to take the matter further. We wish you the best of luck elsewhere.”
I’ve written back to ask for some feedback because I’d like to know whether it’s my writing, or my pitch, or both (or something else) that has put them off. They are under no obligation to reply, of course, but I hope that they do as some professional comments would be very welcome at this stage.
Amazon have priced it somewhat higher than I had stipulated, but I presume that’s something to do with whatever additional charges they perceive to be pertinent as I’m considered an international customer.
There’s a free sample available, too, so hopefully that will widen my circle of readers.
Having waited a few days until all the details are fully on screen, I’m now ready to start advertising it online.
I’m not particularly confident about attracting sales, but I hope it will encourage people to find out more about it, and to leave some feedback.
Jun 21, 2010: My first sales!
The Kindle version of my book, launched on 12th June, has sold three copies!
Whilst that will barely register anywhere, it tells me that three people have been interested enough in the free sample to want to read more, and that makes me happy.
I hope that at least one person will leave a review: I’m very keen to receive feedback and constructive criticism.
Jun 24, 2010: Progress …
Yesterday, I submitted an initial enquiry by email to another literary agency (SYLA). They responded, asking for a synopsis and the first thirty pages of my book, which I have submitted. Now I have a four – eight week wait for them to comment on my work.
I’m ridiculously pleased to have been given this opportunity: even if they don’t want to work with me, I hope that I will at least gain a professional opinion on my writing. That’s why I see this as progress – even if I’m declined, I will hopefully know why and will have something to learn from.
In the meantime, I will continue to look for other agents, as well as publishers who accept unsolicited proposals.
Jun 27, 2010: Submissions and Enquiries: keeping track
I have recently contacted several literary agents and publishers, with a view to getting my book(s) published.
I’m recording developments here, to keep track of their responses.
29.5.10 email enquiry sent to Annette Green Authors Agency
– Rejected 14.6.10
23.6.10 email enquiry sent to Susan Yearwood Literary Agency
– Synopsis & extract requested, sent 23.6.10
– Synopsis & extract sent again, 20.8.10
22.8.10 – “Thank you for letting me read your work. Unfortunately, your writing is not right for this agency. I hope you find an agent soon.”
27.6.10 Email submissions/enquiries sent to:
Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently: email@example.com
29.6.10 – Standardised “we do not feel we can effectively represent you” email received, but the salutation was addressed to ‘Caroline’ (and signed ‘Caroline’) which does not inspire confidence, so I’m somewhat unbothered.
8.7.10 – Email received: “Thank you for letting us consider this but I’m afraid that we are going to pass. We wish you all the best of luck in finding representation elsewhere.”
1.7.10 – Email received, stating “Unfortunately given the large number of submissions received, we are not considering new material at present.” Fair enough.
15.7.10 – Email received, stating “I am sorry to say that we feel that it is not going to be one for us. Of the hundreds of samples we receive each month, we do, in fact, only ask for a handful of complete manuscripts.” She provided links for a literary consultant and an online authors’ magazine, which both look helpful.
Jul 10, 2010: Authors on Show
Authors on Show is a website dedicated to promoting authors, published and unpublished, and their work. They have a very large membership and a wide readership, and hold regular initiatives to raise awareness of new writers and titles.
Each month, Authors on Show selects a number of new authors to promote on their blog, and I am very honoured to announce that this month (July 2010) I am one of two authors being showcased.
More information can be found here
Jul 15, 2010: Editing exercise
Nicole Scheller is an editor who offers a 500-word editing service via Authors on Show. I recently took her up on her offer, and she scrutinised the opening 504 words of “New Beginnings”, the results of which can be found here.
Nicole was kind enough to engage in some quite lengthy email correspondence during this exercise, and I’ve found it very helpful and enlightening. It’s difficult to see one’s creation “ripped apart” as she put it, but it’s essential to see the story from a neutral viewpoint in order to ensure that it makes sense to a reader with no prior knowledge of its content. Whilst it’s impossible for Nicole to get a feel for the whole book from this small example, she’s given me some valuable tips and her suggestions have prompted me to rethink my own editing process.
Whilst I have accepted many of Nicole’s comments and suggestions, which will be incorporated next time I revise my manuscript, I’m not prepared to change too much because (1) it would alter Tasha’s narrative voice and style, both of which reflect her personality, and (2) most of the queries become clear later on in the book. I feel that I have to remain true to my vision for this story, whilst picking out the suggestions that will serve to improve it.
Jul 20, 2010: Recent activity
Since my last update, I have signed up for an online writing course at Creative Writing Now. I have completed the first two of eight modules, with very positive feedback.
On the commercial side, I’ve sold another two copies of “New Beginnings” on Amazon, and have set up accounts with Ebay and PayPal in order to sell digital copies more directly, through my own website.
Last week I wrote to the production company who own the copyright on the image that I use online as a book cover for “New Beginnings”. To be precise, they own the original image; I have edited it so that (hopefully) the people in it are not instantly recognisable. Unfortunately, the production company have declined my request to use it, edited or otherwise, so I’m now searching for a replacement image.
My book’s ranking continues to climb at Authonomy, although I find that I’m spending less time on that site these days. With profiles on several other book/author/writing sites, as well as my own website and my Facebook and Twitter profiles, my online time is spread very thinly! I’m acutely aware that I have even less time for writing, and that troubles me deeply. I’ve decided to look at my time management over the weekend, and work out a schedule that includes prioritises work on my book.
Jul 25, 2010: Activity update
Despite my best intentions, I have continued to broaden my profile online.
I now have a profile on Good Reads and on Completely Novel. They’re both incomplete at the moment, but I’m already ‘advertising’ links to those sites in the hope that more people will join up and comment. With very few exceptions, I only seem to be getting feedback on Authonomy and for various reasons I’m keen to have that feedback confirmed through other sources.
I’m also looking at ways of getting some non-fiction work published, again purely to raise my profile for my portfolio, and to that end I’ve been researching sites that invite articles and blogs from aspiring authors. Hopefully I’ll be able to submit a few pieces in the coming weeks.
Today I’ve submitted my entry for the “1st Chapter Writing Competition” at Creative Competitor. I’m not entirely sure of the site’s credentials, or of the competition’s recognition in the writing world, but I feel that it’s a start: I can at least truthfully add “Finalist in the 1st Chapter Writing Competition” to my portfolio!
Jul 29, 2010: Keeping at it!
After reading an article on Essential Writers, I approached another agent by email on Tuesday, to ask if he’d be interested in representing me. I’ve received a short reply: “Thanks for getting in touch but I’m afraid I am very over-committed at the moment and unable to take on new submissions”
This week has continued to be a busy one online:
- I amended the ‘Product Description’ of my book on Amazon, to try and make it sound less chick-litty. I’m still struggling to categorise it, but it most definitely is not chick lit and the blurbs there and elsewhere – and, I must admit, my own attempts at advertising it – have been misleading in that respect. Unintentionally so, but still.
- I’ve registered as an individual entrant for the Brit Writers’ Awards
- “New Beginnings” was selected for the monthly poll at Night Reading (as is currently in the lead)
- I have another assignment on the go for the online writing course at Creative Writing Now
- I’ve been researching writing competitions, and have a few to look at in more detail over the next few days. I’m not entering them to win, but purely for the feedback and to add them to my portfolio as a writer.
Aug 5, 2010: Since my last update, I have …
- Completed two further assignments for Creative Writing Now
I like the idea of You Write On but so far, the extracts that I’ve been given to review have been less than inspiring: I’ve read over a dozen and not one of them has had anything near a ‘Wow’ factor.
The No Tree Bookclub is a blog for the promotion of new books and authors. My details have not yet been uploaded but I expect them to appear shortly.
- Made several initial enquiries with a view to entering some prestigious writing competitions.
- My first chapter won the monthly poll at Night Reading and as a result, I’ve received a publishing contract for the whole book with Night Publishing
“New Beginnings” will now be professionally edited in preparation for publication in paperback. It’s exciting, and a little bit scary!
More info about these sister sites can be found on their blog
This is a thrilling development, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have “New Beginnings” published in this way. However, I’m still waiting to hear from the agent who requested my synopsis and first 30 pages, and from several other agents and publishers who have not yet responded to my initial queries, so I plan to continue to persue the traditional route to publication for the time being.
Aug 22, 2010: Progress report
The e-book version of “New Beginnings” is now also available from Amazon in the UK. To date, I have sold six copies through Amazon, and whilst I acknowledge that that is extremely small fry in the grand scheme of things, it delights me no end that someone likes the sound of it enough to want to buy it and read more than the free extract
My manuscript has been handed to one of the editors at Night Publishing, and so commences the long journey towards publication. Mine is one of several titles undergoing this process so I know it will be a while before I receive any feedback, suggestions, instructions, etc, but I’m thrilled to bits all the same.
The search for an agent
Having waited a little over eight weeks for a response from the Literary Agent who’d requested thirty pages and a synopsis in June, I emailed her recently to ask if she’d had time to consider my submission. She replied that she’d misplaced it, and asked me to re-send it, which I did. Today she replied with “Thank you for letting me read your work. Unfortunately, your writing is not right for this agency. I hope you find an agent soon.” Since she states on her website that she’d comment on work submitted, I’ve asked if she will provide some constructive commentary on what she’s read. She’s under no obligation to do so, but some professional feedback would be very welcome.
If you’d like your blog to be featured on Authors on Show, please get in touch.
In other news …
- I’ve joined another writers’ resource site – the oddly named Author & Book Event Centre – purely to network with other writers and to raise the profile of my book.
- I’ve made a video trailer to advertise my book on YouTube, but I’m having trouble (a) saving it in the correct format, and (b) uploading it to YouTube, so it may be a while before it gets launched.
- I’ve cancelled my membership of ‘You Write On’ because, arrogant as this may sound, the quality of the projects that were assigned to me for reviewing was dreadful.
- I’m still working through the modules for the Creative Writing Now course.
I’ve also changed the book cover image on all my online profiles, so that I’m no longer using the much-loved colour screenshot which is copyright protected.
Speaking of copyright, I’m in the process of trying to contact The Script, just to check that they’re okay with me using their song in the trailer. I’ve used it because the song is mentioned – and the lyrics fully quoted – in book two, and is one of the reasons why the title “Mine, Yours, Ours” really fits my trilogy.
Aug 26, 2010: “New Beginnings” now on Ebay
Yesterday I launched “New Beginnings” on Ebay.
I’ve nominated 85% of the proceeds, modest as they’ll be, to be given to Headway UK, the charity that works to improve life after brain injury.
Find out more here
I’ve announced it on Facebook and Twitter, but I won’t be giving it the hard sell because I don’t want people to think I’m using the charity angle as a way of attracting buyers: that’s not my intention at all. Whilst I want to encourage sales in order to contribute to Headway, I’d rather people found it for themselves and spread the word that way, at least for the time being.
I plan to try and add a link to the Ebay page on Amazon, so that buyers will have the choice.
Sep 6, 2010: This week’s activity
- Interview: Selling Books
In July, I was interviewed via email for Selling Books, an excellent site that offers guidance on writing, publishing and marketing books and ebooks. The interview has now been published, and can be read here.
I’m a little disappointed that the interviewer didn’t remove my reference to the email signature stamp, which is clearly not visible in the interview. She also failed to add my news about the Night Publishing contract, but overall I’m pleased with the exposure that it gives my book.
- Guest blog feature: Authors on Show
If you have a blog that you’d like to see featured on Authors on Show, then check out the “A Reader’s Blog” page.
Each week, a different blog will be selected for featuring on this page. Those chosen will be asked to send a post of their own choice together with a photo of themselves (if desired) and any appropriate links; they can also send a small bio if desired.
If you would like to be in with a chance of having your blog chosen for this feature, please send a request with the link to your site, and any other appropriate information, to firstname.lastname@example.org
A link to Authors on Show on your blog or site would be appreciated, too.
- Interview: The Indie Spotlight
Earlier this evening I sent my Spotlight Questionnaire to The Indie Spotlight which is an excellent site for promoting new and independent authors. There’s quite a waiting list, but the blog is “syndicated all over the Internet, and distributed through Amazon Kindle” so it will be worth the wait.
Sep 7, 2010: Book Club review
“New Beginnings” has recently been the book choice for a reading group in Buckinghamshire. My half-sister, who is a member of the group, had offered to take a copy for the group to critique, without telling them of her connection to me. The feedback that I received can be read on the ‘Reviews’ page.
Sep 18, 2010: Another interview …
Writer and blogger Jennifer Wylie recently interviewed me for the “Featured Authors” section of her blog.
The interview can be read here
Please feel free to add your comments!