Sunday, April 28, 2013

How Do You Write?

Have started writing a new story. These early stages involve plot points here and a burst of prose there. Some small character detail I think of on the way to work. Inspiration from an overheard conversation...

So, how do you write / take notes? I have come to prefer sketchpads to notebooks. I like the space on the page without lines. Sometimes I'll scribble a vertical note. Sometimes I'll draw a character though my skill in this area is lacking. I also like an elastic band around the notebook cause I can add other papers more securely. Other papers usually being a group of poems I'm working on.

And I like the binder type that binds down the left hand side, so I can fold the pages back neatly, while balancing the notepad on my knee - am usually writing during my commute, so do the circumstances dictate the utensil?

Size wise I need something that will fit in my handbag, so smaller than A4 but space enough for a paragraph of writing with notes jotted around it.

Writing utensil wise, I use a refill pencil. I find pencil softer and easier to write with than pen and the refill types mean you never have to worry about sharpening. Also, you can write upside down.

I'm curious to know if other people have their preferences and idiosyncrasies? Or have I just exposed my madness?...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The I.T. Girl on Promo

The I.T. Girl is free this week on Amazon, so step right up!

A modern tale about life, love and work in the city, it has reached the top 100 Free Kindle Reads! Maybe other people feel like I do that it's about time we had a heroine from the IT world?

You can get a copy from Amazon UK or Amazon US. Or read more about the story's background here

Here are some sample reviews from Amazon and GoodReads:

4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent romance novel 25 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Orla is smart, feisty and and flying-high in a high-pressured job in London's finance district. She has moved from Ireland and is taking a chance on a new city, and on a new love when she starts up a romance with one of her co-workers - the mysterious Columbus. She works hard and plays hard but when a mistake is made in one of her codes, her job is suddenly in jeopardy. Stressed out and desperately clinging to her career, she takes her anger out on `Columbus' - which threatens to ruin her love life as well as her career.

This is an intelligent romance novel for the 21st century - Orla is a successful intelligent woman, who is independent and able to live on her own, but who also comes to realise that life is better when you have someone to share it with.

Katherine Johnson
Apr 05, 2013rated 5 of 5 stars on GoodReads
Funny, modern and slick. As a young person trying to work and live in London I identified with Orla a lot!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cover Story

It's one month since the publication of The I.T. Girl and it's been an exciting few weeks! So far I have enjoyed good sales and great reviews! I've joined book websites such as GoodReads and Book Blogs and have made friends with fellow authors and readers; I've been interviewed by SilverWood Books here; I've been invited to a talk as a published author; It's been such a busy time and great to be a part of!

I want to take a look back at the book covers I created along the way, when I was considering self-publishing. It's so important to get the cover right but unless you use a professional, it's a matter of having a gift for design. I certainly do not and often worried whether my homemade book covers were a help or a hindrance. There are many website that give advice, such as 6 Expert Tips on Designing a Great Book CoverTop Ten Tips for a Great Book Cover and Top 8 Cover Design Tips and so on... but I fear there will always be blind sports unless you're trained in the area. Also it's hard to know, should you invest in professional software to create the cover? We all know very simply designed book covers that are extremely effective, so the answer to this is not straight forward. 

Thankfully I'm really happy with my final cover, supplied by my publisher. Love the view of Canary Wharf and that modern/old-fashioned chick standing in front with her laptop. A difference that strikes me between this and my own attempts below, apart from, obviously, the superior graphics and design, is the fact that this cover tells you exactly what's inside. Which is of course what good marketing is all about.

I think these two photos are great - both taken by my friend, Dr. Max who has captured some beautiful shots of London. The one on the left is supposed represent Orla's work place - the story is set in an investment bank. I added the 1940s lipstick colour to give it a feminine touch! The one on the right is supposed to represent a boat party that takes place in the story. But with both covers there's no hint of personality or atmosphere inside the book. They don't really suggest to you what this story is about, so, as book covers go, they're not great. I couldn't see that though at the time of designing them but I did always say that if I self-published I would probably get a professional to do the job. I think my instincts were correct! The same can be said for the name change. Although I liked Orla's Code because Orla writes code and also has a formula for how to live her life - see what I did there? - it's still a vague name. The I.T. Girl in contrast, tells you exactly what you're getting. Incidentally, I got the font for the cover on the left from which has thousands of fonts for download - some with commercial permissions, some for non-commerical use only.

The first talk I went to about getting your writing published, about two years ago, put great emphasis on creating a website to showcase your work. We were also encouraged, perhaps recklessly so, to create our own book cover. I set up my website after that with some of my poems and an intro to Orla's Code. I found my way onto Twitter and 'liked' all over the internet. I also tentatively started blogging, just short updates about the submission process (before I got a taste for it and started rambling about whatever was on my mind). But I felt making a book cover at that stage was getting ahead of myself. So I created this lovely visualisation, to the left, instead. That's Orla on the millennium bridge, running because she joins a running club in the story. And that mysterious figure hiding in the trees is Columbus (a reference to a fancy-dress party). Diligently I also added in some market stalls to represent where Orla lives - East London, near the city. Finally, the buildings at the top represent London's financial landmarks. The one in the middle with the crane sticking out of it is the Shard... It does too look like it!... I think we can agree that no one was going to buy my book based on this illustration though; fun as it was to do, it is not a professional design. Just take a look again at the final cover, also featuring Canary Wharf... Well, it was a crazy time.

Please feel free to link to helpful book design sites...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

SilverWood Q&A

One of the things we know for sure about the rapidly changing publishing world is that publishers want to spend less time on manuscripts. To increase book turnaround, some of the chores are outsourced to us writers. For example, I have often followed submission guidelines that require me to format my manuscript before an indication of interest is given. Actually, some of those requests seem a bit bizarre: Put two spaces at the end of each sentence but not at the end of the sentence that ends the paragraph - Okay, but is this some sort of fetish? Put 3 stars in between each scene change. Margins should be exactly 1 cm - Steady. At the other end of the process we are asked to take on more of the marketing. This is also indicated in submission guidelines, that ask for a marketing plan.

And then in between, the strategy is to put less time into the editing process, preferring manuscripts "ready to go". I went to a talk where an established author told how her first book was changed 50% under a publisher. But, everyone whispers, those days are gone. The turnaround of books has to be faster, as technology ups the pace.

With this in mind, I had my manuscript for The I.T. Girl professionally edited before going another round of submissions. The first round yielded some nearly-but-not-quite replies. I have found that this step is generally ill-advised. How do you know if an editor is any good? How do you know if the pricing is fair? Could you end up spending a lot of money and be no nearer to a publishing deal? Fair points but I think the answer is you have to have someone recommended or shop around to get an idea of what's out there. 

I used SilverWood Books; a self-publishing company who provide services like proof-reading and copy-editing. They had given a talk to my writing group and I was impressed with their approach, emphasizing support for writers. The process turned out to be a rewarding and learning experience. Here's the post I wrote about it at the time while the manuscript was still under its working title, Orla's Code.

I was delighted to be asked some questions by SilverWood for their newsletter, in light of The I.T. Girl being published. Here it is.