The murky world of ghost-writing

Grr. grr… Photo thanks to Keith Ellwood on Flickr and reproduced under the Creative Commons 2.0 licence.

Another day, another joke of an invite from Colorado Fluffies* to bid for a ghost-writing job. Note the marvellous budget they are prepared to pay you for 80,000 words of original copy you will receive no royalties or acknowledgements for… (I did the bolding and added the red text).

Check out the website – it claims to have four authors**, none of whom are pictured, presumably nom de plumes for a stable of writers and a lot more than four of them.

The modus operandi is, I’m guessing, the Amazon rapid release model – i.e. one book a month, which is obviously easier if you have many writers working for you on pitiful wages.  

I’m not against ghost-writing. As a copywriter, I’ve created LinkedIn posts, website articles, opinions and more for business owners in their names for years. It’s standard practice in the traditional publishing industry for celebrity writers, and I have no objection to that. But honestly, the money here is so bad, the attitude so disrespectful to the writing industry and the deadline for delivery so unrealistic, my blood boils…

Hi there! We need several romance eBooks written, of 80,000 words. We’re looking to create an ongoing business relationship with chosen freelancers. We run a big publishing company and we have many projects ready to be developed.

Short and sweet.

Themes of the stories include WESTERN HISTORICAL ROMANCE. The proposed budget for each book is $1.200 ($1.5/100 words). (Oof, you’re too kind!) We are 100% willing to increase this budget up to $1.8/100 words in case quality is of very high standards and adherence to deadlines is kept.

NATIVE English speakers only.

Content should be creative, HIGH QUALITY and 100% original.

It really needs to talk to the audience. Something that they can relate to. They need to identify with the characters.

CAPTIVATE THE AUDIENCE, stimulate thoughts in the mind of the readers. Must be experienced and have excellent spelling, grammar, and punctuation (so as well as delivering 80,000 words in a month, you have to proofread your own work too?) with this type of writing.

All material must be original content and written in your own words. Research the niche or topic (what, on top of meeting that unrealistic deadline?) that we give you in order to understand the MINDSET of the READERS. The project is divided into 4 parts of 20k words. Each part is expected to be delivered each week (a week and a half, max). This means we estimate a period of approximately a month for the whole 80k words. However, deadlines are open to​ negotiation.

The eBook should be delivered in .doc or .docx format. You agree that you will own no rights to the work or parts of the work and you understand/agree your name will not appear anywhere on the work. I would retain all copyrights to any of these stories.

Final Note: We have a big publishing online business, so we would like to hear only from determined and highly skillful​ professionals (offer decent money then) to apply. Thanks, hope to hear from you soon!

*Not its real name.

**You won’t find any of these authors on Twitter… Or Colorado Fluffies itself. 

 

Writing Resolutions for 2018

Image result for 2018

Write something that makes a profit?! Okay, if we count my copywriting business, that’s ticked off. But there are areas I want to move away from and plans I have for 2018.

Look for work elsewhere. Copywriting, and especially using job bidding worksites such as PeoplePerHour and Upwork, isn’t sustainable for me. The pay is dreadful, and most of the small contactors want too much for too little. I’ll stay on the sites, but I’m not going to put the same effort into pursuing work there as the ROI isn’t worth it.

Author services. This market can only continue to expand. If the robots are coming for our jobs, then more people will have time to write, and they’ll need accompanying services, beta reading, editing, formatting and more. I’ve done more paid author services this year and I plan to expand my offering.

Check out AI. Artificial intelligence is already writing factual articles and sports reports. It’s even produced fan fiction. You can rail against it, or accept that it will happen and look for how you can work with AI. I’ve done this already through jobs where I’ve worked on AI translations to make them sound more naturalistic. Again, this is an area that will continue to grow.

Workshops. A friend suggested I think about running workshops. I hate the idea, as I’m an introvert, but resolutions are about moving out of your comfort zone, right?

Publish four books. Every success story in indie publishing points to proliferation (I flippin’ love alliteration) and the Amazon algorithm rewards you if you can upload something every 30 days. This can include short stories. I’ve got four draft novels that need tidying up. Edit, go forth and publish dear gel…

Ongoing development. I’ve taught myself a lot about book marketing, and especially online marketing but I’m no master of it. If you want to stay ahead, you must keep learning about this subject.

Sell directly. This year, I want to offer direct sales of my books. There are plenty of options, Gumroad, for example, or e-commerce via WordPress if I upgrade my site.

Happy New Year and thanks for following my blog. What are your resolutions, writing or not?

Picture thanks to Max Pixel free pictures.

 

The Story of Her Name – an Author Unmasked

Layout 1Here’s a thought… Let’s say you publish a book that becomes a best-seller – if only! – selling in its millions and bringing you in plenty of money. Would that be enough, or would you also want the world to know who you were?

Elena Ferrrante, the Italian author of the Neopolitan novels, didn’t want people to know who she was. For those of you who haven’t heard of them, the Neopolitan novels are a series of four books, My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of a Lost Child. They were widely assumed to be at least semi auto-biographical, and beloved of book groups up and down the country.

Elena Ferrante herself remained a mystery. She had kept her identity secret since the publication of her first novel in 1992.

And then along came journalist Claudio Gatti, who searched for financial records related to real estate and royalty payments. He published an article this month, which drew the conclusion that the real author was a woman in Rome.

Writing in Stylist magazine this week, the fabulous Lucy Mangan said Ferrante had stated numerous times that she writes under a pseudonym so that her books could be read for themselves, and so her time and creative energy isn’t depleted through publicity activities.

Gatti’s reasoning was that her success made the search for her identity “virtually inevitable”.

In her piece for Stylist, Mangan asked: “‘Why did Claudio feel Ferrante owed him more than her books? Is unmasking someone (non-criminal) any kind of public good or a violation of privacy or consent? Why might a man feel able to go against a female author’s wishes on the very weakest of pretexts? Who did he feel she was hurting? Was it only his perceived right to know everything? When’s he going to dox Thomas Pynchon or A.N. Other reclusive male author?

“Discuss, animatedly, with reference to female agency, male entitlement and self-serving boll**cks.”

Hear, hear!

#SuperThursday

brilliant booksYes, #SuperThursday – it’s a thing… Apparently, today the market will be flooded with new books.

No doubt many of those books will have the might of the publishing industry behind them. They will have glossy covers and a big marketing budget so you will see the book or the author everywhere for a few weeks as they promote their book.

I’m self-published so I rely on kind friends and family (and they were very kind and generous indeed) and promoting myself via the medium of social media.

Anyway, as it is #SuperThursday, here is a little plug on behalf of independent artists… You can buy all of the above books via the Comely Bank Publishing website, and through Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords.

Here’s a little blurb on what each book is about:

Four Old Geezers and a Valkyrie by Gordon Lawrie is an entertaining romp set in Edinburgh. Brian, aka ‘Captain’ is a reiteed teacher who has split acrimoniously from his wife. A chance meeting with his best man encourages Captain to dig out his 40-year-old guitar and leads to a series of hilarious jam sessions in a back garden in Merchiston during which they record a couple ofptain’s own songs.

Posting these on YouTube, they prove to be surprise hits, sending the four ‘musicians’ and their lawyer into a series of encounters with a tiny manager, a boy-band and a female Polish dancer, a cigar-puffing earl and a famous rock band.

The Man from Outremer by T.D. Burke  is a swashbuckling tale of treachery and action. Set largely in Scotland at the time of the early Scottish Wars of Independence around 1300 AD, it follows Derwent, a Scottish Crusader-turned-clergyman, and his involvement first of all in the Fall of Acre in Palestine, then later as Prior of Roslin in Scotland.

Against Derwent stands his nemesis, an English spymaster who is desperate to conceal a dark secret from the Crusader days. In time, they will confront each other in battle at Roslin.

Katie and the Deelans by Emma Baird is the story of Katie Harper and her friends, ordinary teenagers who go to the worst school in the country. Life, however, takes a turn for the extraordinary when Katie and her friends take up magic lessons.

Taught by the fabulous Miss D’Azzler and the enigmatic Jazz, Katie and her friends find out that they are deelans – humans who can change into cats and who have magical powers. Katie and her friends enjoy the first few months of being deelans by practising their magical skills and trying to improve the school and life for those living in the sink housing estates nearby.

Our Best Attention by Jane Tulloch will be published in January 2016. Set in Murrays, a fictional Edinburgh department store in the 1970s, OBA tells the story of the store’s attempts to adjust itself to modern times through its various staff members and customers.

 

 

 

How Much Money Can You Expect To Make On A Book?

 

Power of Words

When you stumble clumsily into the world of writing, you soon realise that out there are a lot of people who want to help you. Thank you one and all…

That said, I am guilty 90% of the time of a great deal of naivety. “Ooh yes,” thinks I to myself, “writing’s the career for me. I’ll write a book and we’ll see how that goes.” Common sense reasserts itself on many occasions – ‘better have a plan B Ms B, don’t unsubscribe to those email job alerts just yet and remember just how many people attempt to write a book every year…’

100 hundred million? More? 200 million Americans?

Just to clear up some areas of naivety, I’d like to borrow some wise words of wisdom about the costs of publishing. I’m borrowing them from the excellent resources section of Comely Bank Publishing and its founder/owner Gordon Lawrie: just how much money can you expect to make on a book? (Or rather, just how much money can you expect to lose.)

The Finances of Books

Many authors don’t realise that it’s extremely hard to make a profit from “conventional” books, especially in the modern economic climate. Until around 1996, books in the UK – nowhere else, though – were protected by the Net Book Agreement, stipulating that books had to be sold at their cover price and not discounted.

This protected many small book shops, but it also made it possible to make large profits on best-selling titles and use the proceeds to cross-subsidise newcomers. The Net Book Agreement collapsed in the mid 1990s, under pressure from supermarkets and Waterstones.

So, good for picking up three for two bargains and £3 books with your groceries, but what did it mean for publishers and writers?

Take a 350-page fiction paperback novel, for instance, which is priced at £7.99 (rounded up to £8 for ease)…

Large chains such as Waterstones insist on buying only through one of the big wholesalers/distributors (Gardners). Every book on their shelves has to go to Eastbourne first, then to Waterstones hub and then to the individual stores. Gardners ask for a 60% cut of the book’s total costs, 40% goes to the shop and they keep the other 20% which pays for their costs of storing, distributing and profit. The remaining 40% goes to the publisher, which in the case of an £8 book is £3.20.

The £3.20 pays for:

The cost of printing, which can be anything from £6 per copy for a small print run, to 20-50p for a mass market paperback. The publisher has to guess how many books they are going to sell.

Storing the books. If you want them looked after properly (and who wouldn’t?), then storage costs are not cheap. A local example in Scotland is Booksource in Cambuslang, which stores books for £49 per month, plus 16% per copy of the cover price.

Getting books to their destination. Hold a book in your hand – is it really light and slim? No? Unsurprisingly, if Gardners will take them, doing it in bulk is good, but more often than not they’ll only order books one at a time. The current postage by Royal Mail is £2.60.

Publicity. People don’t buy books that they haven’t heard of, so that means advertising, leaflets etc or sending authors to do events all over the country.

The costs of giving books away. As many as half of your first print run might go for free – review copies, complementary copies and proof copies to check for errors.

The publishing company and their staff.

Oops, we’ve missed out the author’s cut… Ah, no we haven’t. Honestly, for a first book you will be very, very lucky indeed to get £500 in advance. And advances are just that – you are entitled to a percentage of each sale, but if the book doesn’t sell enough copies then you do have to return the advance. (Although in practice that doesn’t happen often as it is easier for the publisher just to cut its losses and run miles from your book flop.) And of course, as the author has been obliged to go through an agent in the first place, his/her gross earnings have to go there too.

So the likelihood of making money as an author who writes one or two books? Slim indeed. The real money is made on the extras – the film and TV rights, toys of your book’s characters, perhaps additional work as a journalist/reviewer, or making author appearances for fees and selling signed copies.

Ian Rankin, Edinburgh’s second best-selling author (after JK Rowling) famously sold about 250 copies of his first Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses, and not many of the next one either. It was only once he’d written a few more that his popularity took off and people wanted to read the earlier books.

This means that commercial publishers need to be very, very convinced of a book’s selling potential. They want to be able to sell 30,000 copies at least. If the book gets poor reviews, they might pull it and decide not to sell (this happens far more often than people think). In such a situation, the author is allowed to keep the advance, but the book is gone for ever because the publisher has the rights.

Can you imagine how awful that situation must feel?

Even if they decide not to withdraw it, the publisher can opt not to spend money on promoting/advertising the book – which amounts to the same thing.

This is why anyone in the business will tell you that there are three stages to any book:

1. Writing the book

2. Getting it published

3. Getting the book properly promoted.

Take a guess what the hardest bit is? Yup, number three. No matter how good you think your book is (and your lovely family and friends are sure to back you up with this), there are millions and millions of other good books out there too. Your book doesn’t just need to be good – and you could argue that there are plenty of turkeys out there which have still managed amazing sales – it needs to persuade plenty of people to buy it.

Are you filled with despair? Do remember that modern technology has opened up new routes. The first is ebooks, which generates good profits if you get lucky. 50 Shades of Grey is one of the better-known versions, but Amanda Hocking was a multi-millionaire at the age of 22 publishing her horror books as ebooks only. And you shouldn’t sneer at self-publishing, which isn’t the same as vanity publishing – you are in control. You pay for the costs*, admittedly, but you keep all the profits.

The whole publishing business changes almost weekly. It’s 2014, but who knows what publishing will look like in 2018? Close your mind to nothing at all.

It is very unlikely that the first thing you write will make you a fortune. Making a living from writing requires hard work, a willingness to keep going back to try again after repeated rejections but if you are good enough, you try hard enough and you are lucky enough. Your time will come.
©Gordon Lawrie.

*Comely Bank Publishing helps people minimise the costs of doing this, but the work has to be up to its standards.

The original article was first published on Comely Bank Publishing. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

 

How to Self-Publish…

If it looks like a book...

If it looks like a book…

OK, OK – this one is a bit of a misnomer in a blatant attempt to try and get more search engine hits. I am, in reality, a brazen, attention-seeking hussy who will stop at nothing in my quest to make the world sit up and notice.

(I should have called this post how to self-publicise, rather than publish really.)

Anyway, I am jolly excited today because publication of my own book is indeed imminent. It would be foolish to name a date, but the moment of holding a hard copy of Katie and the Deelans in my hands creeps ever closer. Excitement reigns in the highheelsandpinkglitter household.

Yup, the gent on the left demonstrates the ease of getting published first time.

Yup, the gent on the left demonstrates the ease of getting published first time.

There’s a saying about press & PR (it being dead an’ all) that companies or brands are no longer content trying to get published, they are publishers in themselves and the same can apply to writers. Why bother with the faff that is agent-hunting [cue: different submission versions required for each, plus the wait for replies, plus the generic rejection emails] when you can cut to the chase AND not have to hand over a fair whack of your sales?

Thanks to mywritingblog.com for this image.

Thanks to mywritingblog.com for this image.

Really, the title of this post is – why self-publish? There’s an excellent guide here as to the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing. Naturally, as it suits my purposes (and my efforts with traditional publishing have so far yielded a big fat zilch) I’ve chosen to focus on the drawbacks of traditional publishing (and thanks to Kevin Martin-Smith for this info):

Traditional Publishing Drawbacks

It’s slow: It takes somewhere between 9-18 months for a book to be released once it is submitted to a publisher, an infinity in the digital world.

It’s unfair: Publishers take the lion’s share of royalties, usually 85-92%. That means most authors earn about a buck per book, or less. Publishers hog roughly 70% of electronic royalties, for a product that has almost no production or distribution costs.

It’s outdated: They are not social-media savvy; they may have powerful inroads to traditional media, like TV and print magazines, but those things are increasingly irrelevant to book sales.

It’s ineffective: They do not give most authors a very big marketing push, or sometimes any marketing push at all.

It’s short-lived: Most authors’ books will be in bookstores for a few weeks and then get pulled from the shelves when they don’t sell very well, leaving it entirely up to Amazon sales. This begs the question: why not just use Amazon?

It’s not cost-effective: The vast majority of authors don’t make any real bankable money on their books.

Thanks to Kevin Martin-Smith for the above info.

My own route to self-publishing goes like this… Write a book. Phew – that’s the difficult bit over and done with, hmm? Ah no. Re-write book once. Re-write book twice (this time stripping out a lot of excess stuff, even though it made me want to cry).

Use social media. I found a publisher through LinkedIn, specifically the small and perfectly formed Comely Bank Publishing, a publishing firm aimed at creating opportunities for Scottish-based authors.

CBP’s modus operandi is:

Comely Bank Publishing aims to create opportunities for local Edinburgh-area authors to publish works of interest using twenty-first century publishing options, including ebooks and print on demand.

We genuinely believe that too many authors are failing to have their works published because publishers and publishing agents have become too cautious, grasping at poorer-quality work simply because it carries the name of an established author or a bankable name such as a sports star, and that the future of literature can only be saved if bright new talent is nurtured as it used to be.

[There are specific resources on this site designed to help new authors think about some of the issues surrounding publishing.]

Thirdly, find a professional proof-reader. I looked through elance. I work on elance so seeing it from the other side was interesting and enlightening (and I also picked up some tips for how to structure my proposals from now on).

And next? Well, next is apply the changes from the proof-reader, make a cover design decision and then… PUBLISH. And flippin’ self-promote like mad.

 

Additional image thanks to wikipedia. Mywritingblog.com available here.

 

 

Back Blogging!

back blogging

Oh hello! It’s been a while and I’ve sorely missed the company of you my fellow bloggers and those other dear people who once upon a time signed up here to keep up to date with moi…

I am back in the world of blogging for myself as well as others, which means lots of self-indulgent nonsense… And regular self-indulgent nonsense seeing as I make a living these days by writing regular blog posts and articles for other people and preaching the benefits of writing such items on a regular basis. You know the old saying of the cobbler whose children are always the worst shod, or that so many people teach what they want to learn…? Both sayings apply to me; time to start taking one’s own advice.

Anyway, for those who have managed to bear with me so far (muchos gracias), here is a quick re-cap of the last four months:

1. I have revised and edited my book numerous times – as per the advice of professional writing experts, and those kind people who have read the book for me. Despite snivelling and crying as I did it (awwww, I loved the bit where the teenagers got drunk and then changed themselves into cats to see what that would be like), I have cut out a lot of the dross.

2. I have met up with a publisher on a regular basis and taken on board all of his excellent advice.

3. I have written a synopsis several times (and there is excellent advice about how to write a synopsis here).

4. And I have approached agents. Here I would like to offer up lots of little-known help and advice – agent such and such, for example, really loves submissions which use the comic sans font, whilst agent other such and such goes wild for proposals which reach her in-box on a Tuesday at 11.16am precisely. If only! My only advice for writers approaching agents is – the first rejection stings, the subsequent ones, not so much.

5. I have had enormous fun contributing on a regular basis to Friday Flash Fiction (a website for 100-word stories), and also the Friday flash fiction blog site.  These websites welcomes regular contributions and I promise you writing 100-word stories is brilliant fun and brilliant discipline.

Anyway, a final development has been the creation of a proper professional website – jetcomms, a partnership with another professional blogger, and from this we are hoping to generate more writing and PR work. Here’s hoping…