Competitions, why enter?

Have you ever read about a story competition and wondered why you should bother entering, when your main goal is to get your book published and sold in stores? Well story competitions of all kinds are not just good for your own personal practice, but they can also earn you feedback that is crucial to the overall success of your self-published book. What are the advantages of writing for a competition? Read on…

  1. Even if you don’t win a competition, you have the opportunity to gain feedback from those judging as to their thoughts on your story, and in the process you’ve got your name out there to other professionals.
  2. You might wonder why you’d waste your time on creating something just so that you can enter a competition, but if you have something you are already working on, you can often just edit it to match the theme that the competition is asking for. If it’s a short story competition, then most writers have something small up their sleeve that they can pull out, whether it’s an idea that has been formulating in your head, or something that you started work on years ago but never got around to finishing. Now is your time.
  3. There are so many free competitions to enter out there, so what have you got to lose by getting yourself involved? It costs you no money, and just an inch of your time, and you could earn some serious cash from it, with some prizes worth four figures.
  4. The exposure that you could gain from winning, or coming as a runner-up in a competition is more valuable than paid-for marketing. Those judging these competitions are always experts in the field, they might be publishers, established authors or editors. They know what they are talking about, and if they’re advertising your name and your writing, then you know you’ve come up golden. These people will remember you, they’ll look out for your work on the shelves, and they’ll be some of your biggest fans when your book finally does come to fruition.
  5. It gives you an idea of how your work will be received. If you don’t win, and you are not able to be provided with feedback from the judges, at least you know that this particular piece of writing is not going to be on a bestseller list. Take that silent feedback, run with it, and try again. If nothing else, it will give you good practice for getting your writing absolutely perfect, and you’ll be on the shelves, and those bestseller lists, before you know it.

If you want an idea of which short story competitions to enter, here is a pretty good comprehensive list that should help you out. Good luck!

How to self-publish a bestseller: more tips for success

You can never have too many tips, can you? It’s a been a little while since we published tips to get your book self-published, so we thought that it was about time you had some further encouragement to get that book off your computer and into the presses.

Most of these tips are about building your brand and getting your book sold, and surprisingly you might need to do a lot of these before you’ve even had your book printed, or before you’ve even finished it. Remember, this is about self-publishing a bestseller, not self-publishing something that will sell just a few copies and then you’ll move on and get back to your day job. I know that nobody really wants to do that.

Tip #1: Build your brand. By brand, I mean your name, you want people to know who you are, or at least have the opportunity to find out more about who you are once they hear about you and your book. This means building a twitter page, Facebook, Instagram and a blog, and gaining authentic followers on all of these platforms. It will take time, but if you are true to yourself, talk about real issues and things that affect you, and engage in conversation, you’ll get there.

Tip #2: Write and read. Even if you’ve finished your book, you should keep your creative juices flowing and try to write a least something every day. Similarly, read things by great writers to keep inspired. The more creative and inspirational you are, the better your overall output will be when you finally do come to self-publish your bestseller.

Tip #3: Get people to help you. And by people, I don’t just mean your other half and your parents, I mean people who really know what they are doing. Hire independent editors, designer or marketing executives to really steer you on the right track. If you’re not publishing traditionally, then you’ll need that extra edge that comes with the traditional publishing houses, and while it might will cost at the beginning, in the long run it will be a lot more rewarding for your brand.

Tip #5: Edit. Edit yourself, get your next door neighbour to edit, your old English professor, anybody you can. But also hire an editor. An editor is there for much more than spelling and grammar, they can turn your book from something that will sell a dozen copies to something that will sell thousands.

Tip #6: Pick your design and your title wisely. Thing about things that are going to jump out at people, and not just by making your front cover bright yellow. Make sure you like your cover, the spine, the fonts and the inside jacket, and make sure whoever is designing them really knows what they’re doing. Just because you used Adobe Photoshop at school doesn’t make you a graphic designer. Similarly with the title, make sure you like it, but make sure others do, too. Ask around, test it out, conduct market research, whatever you can do to make sure it’ll be well received.

Of course, self-publishing tips could go on forever, but if your book is going to be a bestseller, then you should at least start here.

5 reasons why you should attend a writer’s workshop this year

Have you ever taken a writing class, attended a workshop or even been part of a writing group? Do you sit at home by yourself and write in a dark room, staring only at your laptop screen? Everybody’s writing style is different, and we all write according to what is comfortable for us. But if you really are going to self-publish your book this year, maybe it’s time to get out of your comfort zone.

There are many different types of writing workshops, and they are often tailored for different genres, audiences and style or writing / writer, but they are all useful, and here’s why.

  1. If nothing else, a writer’s workshop gets you in the mood for writing and more often than not you will find yourself going home and writing solidly for several hours. It’s inspirational, and it will get you into a good habit.
  2. You’ll gain valuable ideas. No matter what you talk about in your workshop, whether you’re discussing how to write real life stories or taking inspiration from artwork, the ideas that you gain during the workshop will almost certainly drip into existing work that you have, or lead to something new.
  3. You’ll meet fellow writers and have people to test ideas out on, as well as other stories to listen to. Having people to talk to about your ideas before you put them to paper is invaluable, and the more people you network with during your workshop, the more buddies you’ll have who will be keen to read your book, review your book and help you with social media marketing once it’s published. Writers support their own, don’t you know, and what more could you ask for than a friend who will understand your trials and tribulations every step of the way.
  4. You might have the opportunity to gain professional feedback. Most people that lead writer’s workshops are published writers themselves, and not only will they give you feedback on anything that you produce during the workshop, but if you are lucky then they might also offer to give you some feedback on any continuation you have in the days following the workshop. An opinion from a successful, published writer is an opportunity too great to give up.
  5. You will learn something. Even if you think you’re a skilled and talented writer with no need for further training, you’ll get some, and you’ll be grateful for it. There is always more to learn, and no matter which workshop you choose to attend you will learn something that will help you going forward, and who can argue with that?

Let us know if you attend a writer’s workshop!

What are your writing resolutions?

New year, new you, right? Right? So this year, you’re going to finish your book, self-publish and watch as it climbs the best-seller list and you’re offered a publishing deal with one of the giants that you’ve only dreamed of.

So what are your writing resolutions, and have you kept to them so far?

Here are a couple of ideas, if you haven’t already thought of your own, besides finish your book, of course.

  1. Go where your books takes you. If you’re writing a book set in 15th century England, it’s not so easy, but if your book is set in Edinburgh, Stockholm or Panama, then go there. Wherever your location, you should know the location, and if your location is also back in time, then know the period and the location. Read about it, visit it, and know it. Then write about it.
  2. This leads nicely to my next point, read something amazing. Something that changed something. Something historical. From Shakespeare to the Bible or from Aristotle to War and Peace. All of these books are household names, but how many of them have you read from cover to cover? Educate yourself in the world of literary giants, and then become one of them.
  3. Learn English. Oh wait, you know it, right? Sure, you do, but have you ever actually studied it? Do you know the difference between the second and third conditional, the present and the past perfect? Could you tell a noun clause apart from an adverbial clause, or a participial phrase from a complementary phrase? If you know your own language like the back of your hand, you’ll find that there’s nothing you can’t write, no emotion, time period or action that you can’t convey, and your language will be so much better for it.
  4. While you’re at it, why not learn a new language as well? Learning about another language will help you to uncover secrets about your own, and it will also help you to analyse your writing and the way in which your brain works. And, if nothing else, it might provide for good writing material.
  5. Feel all the emotions. Allow yourself periods of doubt, worry, sadness, disbelief and surrender. But make sure you embrace the opposites, the happiness, the relief and the feeling of accomplishing something. You’re trying to convey the emotions of your characters, right? Well how can you do that if you don’t know what it feels like yourself? That’s right, you can’t. So feel it, and don’t be ashamed to feel it.

Good luck, and happy writing 2016!

Why you shouldn’t give up on self-publishing, even if you’re still not the next E.L. James

Self-publishing is a slow process, and getting your books onto the top of the bestseller lists and into the hearts and minds of readers is not an easy feat, but it’s not impossible. And if your heart is in it, it’s all you really want, and you are determined enough, then there should be nothing stopping you.

Some people look down on the idea of self-publishing because of the difficulty that it takes to become an acclaimed author. Of course, without traditional publishers taking 90% of your profits to market you, it’s not going to come as easily, but there are other methods. Things like social media and online reviews have long been belittled for their unreliability, but consider this.

Using a publishing guild with integrity, rather than a vanity publisher which will accept anything that is sent their way, an establishment such as Mereo Books for example, to publish your book will give you a guarantee of quality which purchasers and other publishers will recognise. Online imprints such as Mereo operate in many ways similarly to a mainstream publisher, only accepting those books that have serious potential, but they are not quite as discriminating as a traditional publishing house. So if you want your book to be published with integrity, but you don’t want to spend years sifting through rejection letters, then consider an online imprint that will really help you out.

I mentioned above that online reviews are not really cutting it in the efforts to sell self-published books, but suddenly new self-publishers’ review sites have started popping up and impartially reviewing self-published novels, thus granting them a rating out of five stars. These sites are in their early days, and therefore they have yet to have made a real mark on the world’s readers who are looking for the best reviews of the best books that they have to buy for their loved ones for Christmas, however sites such as Brag Medallion, Compulsion Reads, Nash Black and The Book Review for Fiction all have tens or hundreds of readers who objectively review self-published works and leave their comments out there in the ether for anybody to read.

It’s early days, but Dr John Yeoman, a successful commercial writer and lecturer in Creative Writing, predicted for Write to Done that “by 2020… the equivalent of Brag Medallion will be as well-known as Random House,” and those looking to sell their self-published books will go straight to these review sites to make sure their writings are seen, heard, and talked about.

Our latest #Awardwinning novel by #AnneB

Our latest #Awardwinning novel by #AnneBarnett is out now http://ow.ly/V1tJW http://ow.ly/i/f3Cz7

Can love survive in mid-ulster? #TheLarg

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The publishing world is not the same as it was

One evening last week, Ian Rankin, bestselling author of the Rebus series of crime novels, spoke at the Ottawa International Writer’s Festival in Ottawa, Canada, where he told budding writers, keen readers and super fans about his journey to becoming an author, a real author who could live off the books that he writes without working another job at the same time.

Together with host Peggy Blair, who also talked about her travels towards finally getting published, telling the audience that she “received approximately 156 rejections from publishers, not that I was keeping count,” before she got anywhere close to finding a publisher, the two crime writers talked about how getting published in the 80s, when Ian Rankin first tried to get his foot in the door, was a completely different game than it is now.

But both of them were careful to insist that it was never easier then, and it isn’t easier or more difficult now, but that it is equally difficult in a very different way. Ian Rankin, a world-famous author and writer of dozens of books, 20 of them a series about the same character, struggled immensely when he was first trying to get published, and told the audience in Ottawa that when his first book, The Flood, was published by a small Edinburgh publishing house, 200 hardcover books were printed and barely one of them was sold. But in that time, it wasn’t the end of the world. In fact, he soon found an agent, and his next novel was published by a London publisher who was able to distribute it further.

However, when asked by a member of the audience how long it took for him to be able to make a living from his writing and that alone. “I don’t want to discourage anybody,” he said, before answering that he was probably on his 15th or 16th novel before he finally found that he was able to live off his writing. But from the murmurs in the audience, it didn’t sound as if people were discouraged, it sounded like people were inspired, perhaps relieved, even.

Here is a bestselling author, one who is known and loved around the world, telling the world that he struggled, too. So it is okay if you are not successful right off the bat, and it is okay if it takes you a while to find your groove. Because if Ian Rankin can do it, then so can you.

Talking about the differences in the publishing industry today, Peggy Blair’s story was very different, and both of them admitted that today, with the rise of the eBook, they might have both chosen a different path had they been starting out at this time.

“I’d probably be self-published if I’d started out 25 or 30 years later,” said Ian Rankin, proving that he’s just one of us. So if you can’t publish, self-publish. You’ll get there.

Finding the time to write: it’s not impossible!

Writing the next great novel is everybody’s dream, and finding the time to do it is what is standing in everybody’s way. If I had the time, I expect I could have published more than a couple of novels by now, but unfortunately I just don’t have that kind of luxury.

So how can you fit writing your next great masterpiece around a full-time job, a family life and a social life on top of it all? Some of our best tips are below.

  1. Don’t get hung up on your word count. You can aim to write every day, every other day, or three times a week, but don’t set yourself word counts to aim for, because if you don’t meet it you will only get downhearted. Set yourself realistic expectations, and even if you only write for five minutes one day, then that is better than nothing.
  2. Make the most of your down time. Think about the points in your day when you are sitting around doing nothing. At the dentist’s office, on the bus, waiting for your kids to finish at swim practice? You could be writing! Get yourself a Bluetooth keyboard or a notebook and take it with you everywhere you go; that way your writing can be done before you even get home for dinner.
  3. Keep momentum going. If you have a great few days of writing, then keep it going, keep writing, and don’t stop. The minute you stop, the minute you take a break, that momentum slows down and so do you. Then it will be harder to get going again, harder to get yourself in the right frame of mind the produce fantastic prose.
  4. Turn off. Of course, you might need your computer to write, but you don’t need the internet, your phone, and your social media. Some of the best writing I have ever done was while disconnected from the internet and cell service for a weekend, and some of the best procrastinating I have ever done included both of those things.
  5. Finally, have faith in yourself. You can write, you are good at it, and you can finish. Don’t rush, don’t lose the quality, simply make sure that you stick to your own realistic objectives, and if you slip off, don’t be dispirited, simply pick yourself back up and get going again.

Get better habits: Get into the habit of reading more books

Mary McLeod Bethune once said “The whole world opened to me when I learned to read” and she wasn’t talking about how literacy can help your advance in education and in your career. No, she was talking about reading for pleasure. Reading books.

I once asked a group of about eight ESL students between the ages of 18-24 how often they read for pleasure, and the answer to that question, for every single one of them, was never. They never read for pleasure. I made them read the first chapter of Anne of Green Gables, and that task was met with as much enthusiasm as if you asked me to birth a calf every day for the next month.

Reading for pleasure is, sadly, not as common as it once was, but for many people that is not because they don’t want to read, it is because they don’t have time to read. Reading for pleasure is a pleasure, a treat, a sanctuary that many people simply don’t have time for any more. And as our lives get busier, it gets harder to make time for reading. I know that when I am on vacation, away from the distractions of daily life, I read so much more than I do on any given day when I’m at home. In fact, I have been known to blast through ten or more books in a one-week holiday. If only I had the time to do the same thing when I’m at home.

But it is possible. And here are a couple of tips to help you, and me, to start reading more during the week when you might not think you have time to do so.

First of all, you need to think about times in your day when you could be reading but you’re simply not doing so. You can tie your reading habits to those triggers, so that you eventually begin to automatically pick up your book when you’re having your breakfast, you lunch, dinner or afternoon coffee. Just before you go to bed, or first thing when you wake up in the morning. I don’t know about you, but those times are, unfortunately, where I have got into the habit of watching something on the television, and so exchanging those habits for reading can only be a good thing.

Make sure you enjoy what you’re reading. Don’t force yourself through something that you’re not enjoying after a few days, and don’t see reading as a chore. It should be a break, a relaxing part of your day, so make sure it is not a chore. It should also go without saying that your reading time should be a break from everything else, so leave your cell phone, iPad, laptop or any other distractions in the other room. Enjoy the action, and enjoy your book.

Take a book everywhere you go. This is where an e-reader can be your best friend. If you always bring your book, then any time you spend sitting in the doctor’s office, on the bus, waiting for a friend in the pub, can be spent reading, and before you know it you’ll have finished a book in three days that would previously have taken you four weeks.

Good luck, and happy reading!