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 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.

 

 

How To Deal With Rejection… Part 1

Chocolate is the best answer to how to cope with rejection.

Chocolate is the best answer to how to cope with rejection.

The astute amongst you may have noticed my absence from the blogosphere of late. I set myself up with a regular feature which was not that challenging to do – a regular 100-word flash fiction story published every Friday – and yet still I managed to skive off my (self-imposed) blogging duties…

Tsk. I suffered from something many people may identify with. When writing is the way you are earning your crust, anything that involves writing which doesn’t mean a payment at the end of it becomes a terrible chore.

The Christmas Card Fiasco

Witness, for example, dear friends the length of time it took me to write my Christmas cards this year. Despite the fact that I repeatedly vow that this will be the year those cards are completed on 1 December – or an announcement is made via Facebook that this year I am contributing a designated amount to charity and all Christmas greetings will be of the electronic, no-cost, no send variety – it took me until the last minute (today) to write actual cards and send them. Hey ho…

Part 2 of the writing aversion explanation – I naively thought myself immune from rejection. Years of job applications and many months of applying for freelancing jobs with middling success I foolishly thought to have created a rhino-like skin for myself. Rejection, I declared loudly and proudly, bring it on and I can scrunch up that little ball of ego dent, fling it behind me and emerge unscathed. I am writer, hear me ROAR…

Rejection? It’s To Be Expected

Yes indeedy, those were my thoughts. Three agent rejections of The Book later… Now, as all writers will know rejection is to be expected; indeed one might be a tad suspicious if the first novel writing attempt was welcomed with open arms. Dear lady, we at Dodgy Agents Ltd love your book – now just sign here, here and here and please do no expect to see any royalties ever or any kind of payback whatsoever. That kind of thing.

But, but, but. It still stings… I have taken to chanting myself a mantra of “One down, 26 to go. Two down, 25 to go, three down, 24 to go”*, etc etc. And then if that doesn’t work out, well the self-publishing route has worked out well for some. But it would indeed be foolish to think of the self-publishing route as the road to riches or even fame. Two or three marvellous exceptions (oh god, I’m going to have to name drop Ms 50 Shades of Grey here aren’t I? On a more positive note, there is Hugh Howey and the entirely fabulous Wool) do not prove the success of self-publishing, but it is still an option.

Sometimes, you need to go back and look at the original goals of your ambitions. I, like many people, said I wanted to write a book. I did not necessarily specify I wanted to publish a book – and for people to then buy said book, and indeed buy it in their thousands. No, no, the original goal was merely to write a book. Mission accomplished, hmm?

But Happily Publishing Still Does Happen…

On the plus side (and it is always good to cope with rejection by looking at other areas of your life), there has been a very welcome development in another project I got involved in. I started up a discussion on LinkedIn writers and editors group, encouraging people to contribute a regular flash fiction story of 100 words every Friday – the Friday flash fiction challenge.

The good people of the LinkedIn writers and editors group responded with gusto and this discussion thread has been running now since 27 September. Every Friday, there are new contributions. With almost 300 posts though, it was getting somewhat unwieldy so one contributor, Russell Conover, suggested a WordPress site for everyone to contribute to. That site is now up and running – feel free to take a look.

Content marketing is said to make publishers of everyone. The world wide web may well have its issues (loss of privacy, social media addiction, health and well-being problems associated with sitting in front of computers for too long, the ease in which our governments and large corporates can spy on us etc) but sometimes the loveliness of the internet just gives me a glow. Here is a group that started on LinkedIn, that grew and grew and that now publishes its stories on a regular basis. We are mini novelists one and all.

 

*Based on a rejection threshold of 27.

Amazon, Erm – Not so Bad After All?!*

No relevance whatsoever, but royalty and copyright free, so y'know...

No relevance whatsoever, but royalty and copyright free, so y’know…

An ambition was realised this week in the Highheelsandpinkglitter household… It was not that I finally managed to do a handstand (since childhood, I’ve always wanted to be able to throw my legs up into the air and perhaps even ‘walk’ a few paces on my hands) as, sigh, that has yet to happen…

…no, instead this week I am a published author finally! Now, I realise this is somewhat disingenuous. Words have been written on this blog about words I have written elsewhere; namely words that have made up my first entirely amateur attempt at fiction.

So perhaps a few of you got a bit of a jolt there – “Blimey lady! You told us that book – and a first attempt at that, mind! – got finished a mere six weeks ago or so. And now you’re saying it’s been published?! Who the heck is your agent/publisher or have you hastily attempted your own edits and rushed it out as a self-published e-book in an act of sheer, hasty folly?”

Sheer, hasty folly was not committed dear reader, I promise. The book in question was not THE BOOK, it was instead a commission I got as a freelancer to write e-books on diets. I bid for the job as I do read a lot about health, dieting and fitness and I thought I might as well write about something I might not need to do much research about. [I was wrong about the latter].

So this week, the book has been published on Amazon. Setting aside any qualms about Amazon and its employment policies in the UK (oh woe, my pitiful lack of principles is exposed once more), I have looked at the particular page quite a few times. [“C’est moi!! C’est moi name! C’est moi book – oh all right, I’ll stop with the awful, pidgin French]. I sent the link to my mum in an email, subject line: You are now the mother of a published author. Cheesy hmm?

[As my husband was not around that day either, he too got an email, subject line: You are now the husband of a published author. My sisters got one – You are now the sister of a published author. My aunt will get one – You are now the… OK, I think no further explanations of this sort are necessary].

With Amazon though, one runs the gauntlet of customer reviews. At this early stage, there are none. I’m debating whether getting no reviews would be just as terrible as awful reviews… Hmm. Double hmm.

Anyway, it was a terribly thrilling and hopefully (oh please) a taste of things to come. I’m now off to look up ‘how to’ videos on YouTube. Handstands specifically.

*Sincere apologies to zero hour contracts folks, and doubly sincere apologies to independent book sellers, video sellers and any other independent sellers whatsoever…

So THE END??

I don’t imagine too many of your thoughts are taken up by little ol’ me dear readers – my own mind, for example, has room for few thoughts that do not concern a group of imaginary folks, what I should have for dinner and if I have been attentive enough to family and friends – but perhaps you wondered to yourself today:

THE END

‘Do you reckon that daft blog woman who has yet to decide on her blog niche and who consequently witters on about any old thing has actually finished the book she is supposed to be writing…?’

Readers, I wrote this blog post in advance. It was to serve as a kick up the… well, you know what I mean. I would write a version where I finished the first draft of my book on the date I said I would with a vintage bottle of Veuve Cliquot acting as a carrot stick. Writing that I had finished it before I actually finished it would spur me on, I reasoned.

I closed my eyes, in best Paul McKenna stylee, and visualised what that would feel like. I tried to imagine what I would be looking at – a text document with THE END in bold black, I suppose – how I would feel (ecstatic with a faint sense of loss) and how I would move (away from the lap top immediately).

And then I wrote the version where I didn’t finish the first draft. It was a post filled with doom and gloom, fear and loathing, self-pity and hatred. Blimey, dear reader, the negativity radiating from that short article would have been enough to chill your very bones.

So without further ado… I FINISHED IT.

A little haste has perhaps crept in to my writing over the past week and there are plenty of ill-advised words and phrases sprinkled though out – not to mention bonkers plot lines, plot holes aplenty, inconsistent characterisation, more loose ends than the final The Returned* episode and weird happenings. I think too, that Uncle Fred (you remember, he was the poor guy who met with a freak, deadly ending thanks to a fruit bowl) may have resurfaced round about page 283, but finito draft one most definitely is.

[Thanks to the insomnia, I got up this morning at 5.15am and blasted out just over 7,000 words in pig-headed determination.]

And with one ending comes another beginning. It so does. I’m guessing all of the hard work now begins. I’ve got to take this monster of spelling mistakes, grammatical ghastliness and bonkers storyline and try to make it (oh please) publishable.

Hmm. Anyway, egotistical as I am, I wanted to end this post by inviting you dear, lovely and esteemed audience to share your achievements with me. In the words of the lovely Heather Small: “What have you done today [week] to make you feel proud?”

 

*Huh. I sulked for hours after the last episode of The Returned.

Thousands and Thousands of Words

Makes a great carrot, don't you think?

Makes a great carrot, don’t you think?

There’s a whiff of the self-congratulatory in the air this week. Part 2 of the book is completed and more than 64,000 words totted up. My mum likes it (bless her for her bias) and my nephews enjoy having it read to them – mainly, I suspect, because I have named characters after them.

So, two-thirds of the way through means the end is in sight, hmm…? Sadly not I fear. As my top of the range (not) printer is a little on the temperamental side, I haven’t printed out any of the book yet and I fear than when I do I will spot mistakes by the millions. (“Uncle Ted’s here in chapter 14? But he died in an horrific freak accident involving a fruit bowl in chapter 7.”) I’ve also been adding in bits to chapters as I go on, so there are parts of it that feel really disjointed and contrived. And as for my horrible mangling of sentences… grammarians would shudder in horror, I fear.

Tidying up a typo or two is only a tiny part of it though. The author Elizabeth Buchan writes her novels three times. Three times! But I do reckon that when I read over everything I’ve written, I will make decisions about material that needs to be added in – and hard decisions about what needs to be taken out. Even if I cry a bit when I press ‘delete’. And after all that, there will be the hell of trying to get published. And then persuading people that my little book is worth shelling out £6.99 (say) for.

But anyway, enough of my Brit self-effacement. Two-thirds of the way through – that bottle of champagne beckons. My sister bought me a bottle of Veuve Cliquot 2004 Vintage as a wedding present.* I joked that my husband and I would either drink it to celebrate our first anniversary or when I finished my book – whichever came first. Now it’s beginning to look as if that baby will be cracked open well before we’re trying to come up with creative gift ideas with paper.**

*I’d like to be a champagne connoiseur, but the pennies don’t permit it. If they did, Veuve Cliquot would be my tipple of choice.

**Paper is what you celebrate your first year anniversary with. Apparently.