Thursday, 19 May 2011

Writing Buddies, 13 May 2011

The Southampton Writing Buddies met at The Art House Café on 13 May for a discussion dedicated to self publishing and welcomed Ann, Jan, Veronica and Tony to the group, who were joining for the first time.

Penny had invited author Martin Baum along, to talk to the group about self publishing, but before Martin began, James Marsh shared his experience of self publishing his Davie Collins series of books. They were published by Lulu. Jim explained that the company do not charge for publishing but take 20% of all sales. The author is expected to lay out the book in the correct manner, set the selling price, print size, paper weight and decide on the front cover. Lulu do not provide an editing service, so no proofs are sent to the author for checking. Jim's advice is that anyone thinking of self publishing with Lulu should take care to ensure they are aware what is expected of them before embarking on this route.

Martin addressed the WritingBuddies, explaining that he is a satirist and wrote a condensed Shakespeare book in modern language, for his son, to make it easier for him to understand. After failing to get his book published through an agent he decided to self publish. He did his research in depth and self published through Richard Fitt at Authors Online. The company charges £750 to set up and publish the book, and the author receives 6 free copies. Authors OnLine send proofs, which need to be thoroughly checked. The company charges to have any mistakes corrected. Martin emphasised the importance of proof reading '7, 8, 9 or however many times it takes,' to get your work accurate, and he advised involving one or two people to help.

Following publication, the author will need to do much leg work. This will involve a press release and Martin advised that 200 words maximum be used, with bold letters in red. When his book TO BE OR NOT TO BE, INNIT ( was released, it invoked upset amongst the Shakespeare purists. This led to interest from the press and Martin found himself giving interviews on television and newspapers, and much more.

Martin's sources of advertising included information gathered from either the Writers' Handbook or Writers' and Artists' Yearbook. He contacted television and everyone relevant with press releases, including local radio and the Bournemouth Echo.

Martin recommended contacting the library service and provided the group with the website address for libraries nationwide As librarians from each library meet and select books, it is advisable to make them aware of the release of a self published book. Royalties of 6p per book are gained each time the book is taken out of a library (and even photocopied), but it is necessary to register for Public Lending Right and also with The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society. Perseverance is needed as it is very repetitive contacting the libraries. Martin advised the group to be prepared to be asked questions. He also stresed how important it is important to put everything on your website.

Martin explained that although he has written short stories for magazines and had them published, together with three plays, he had been unable to get his book accepted for publication by a main stream publisher. His view is that having short stories previously published held no sway when it came to trying to get a book published. On Martin's website he gives advice see: 60 second book break. His conclusion regarding Authors OnLine is that they are an honourable company. Martin suggested using google or flickr for pictures for a front cover of a book. Martin added that he is willing to answer any questions if you email him.

Tony, new to the group, has self published books through Authorhouse and has the impression that they are a genuine company so he can recommend them, but, just be cautious. Tony decided on the price and size of his book and found that the company gave a lot of advice. Previously, Tony had set up his own publishing company; with his son setting up a website. He visited bookshops and within two years sold his books on a sale or return basis. He used to publish other writers' books, but now prefers to have a publisher and limit himself to his own work.

Penny thanked Martin for a very informative talk and sharing his experiences with Writing Buddies. She also thanked James and Tony for sharing their self publishing experiences.

The Writing Buddies display will be arranged at the weekend, 14/15 May, in the front window of The Art House Café.

Penny will be giving a talk at Woolston Library on Friday 20 May at 7.00pm. Tickets £1.00 available from Woolston or Weston Library, or by emailing

The next meeting will be on 27 May 2011, when the group celebrates its second birthday.

Post by Elizabeth Streatfield.

Writing Buddies, 15 April 2011

The Southampton Writing Buddies met at The Art House Café on 15 April for a discussion on writing matters.

Elizabeth is still working on the second assignment for The Writers Bureau and has completed a little more of her book.

Sunida is studying magazine journalism at The Solent University.

Jacqueline is once more flowing with her writing and has had a letter accepted for Sainsbury's magazine. The current issue of Writers News has her short piece about World Book Night and she is about to be paid for her contribution to Peoples Friend magazine. Also, Writers Forum magazine has printed her letter. Jacqueline is currently reviewing a self published book and is finding many errors. Last but not least, Jacqueline has received an email from Yours magazine who would like her to write an article on sleep, for the July issue. The magazine has planned it out and expects 800 words by 1 June, for which they will pay £200.

Glen is continuing with her book on Eastleigh which she has been commissioned to write by The History Press. She has written about 13,000 words so far and the requirement is 30,000 plus photographs. She is finding it a little difficult transcribing her interviews but is enjoying writing the book.

Mike is a new member and is in his 3rd year at Chichester University where he is studying Counselling Psychology. He has written prose and poetry and is currently working on his dissertation of 12,000 words.

Jimmy has just completed a short children’s book which, when illustrated, will be dedicated to his grandson. He is working on chapter 5 of his latest book. His visit to The London Book Fair was productive as he was able to get two publishers interested in his books.

Mo also attended The London Book Fair and took three chapters of her book to Black Spring Publishers. She was particularly interested in the Russian section at the fair.

Catherine is editing her novel and is currently on the second draft. She aims to complete this by the end of April. Catherine has posted an interview with the author, Margaret James on her blog and the Writers in Southampton group have asked Catherine to do a talk on blogging in February 2012. Catherine was pleased to announce that she has been long listed for the Flash 500 competition she entered.

Penny went to The London Book Fair on the final day and was surprised to find some of the stands packing up. She visited The History Press stand to obtain feed back on her book sales and was very pleased to hear that her latest published title, Haunted Southampton, had achieved sales of 1,085 between 1 February and 31 March 2011. She has four further book proposals and on 1 May her Winchester book will be released. Winchester Cathedral, which will be stocking this book, have asked Penny to host an event. Waterstones have suggested to Penny that she hosts another ghost evening talk, following the great success of the last one.

General topics discussed ranged from the importance of a correctly composed covering letter to a publisher, to the need of double checking spellings instead of just relying on the spell check facility on your computer. As previously discussed, Penny confirmed that the meeting on self publishing would be arranged for Friday 13 May, which will be the next meeting of Writing Buddies. Jimmy self published through Lulu a few years ago and will be able to give some insight into the pitfalls that he encountered. Lisa has published on line and also John has self published his book of poems.

The Writing Buddies window display at The Art House Café was discussed and Penny will check if it is booked for 14th or 15th May. Mo will be able to contribute a laptop plus two posters, magazines and front cover of her book. Business cards and flyers will be needed and Jacqueline confirmed that she is able to contribute. Penny asked members to think about the display and requested help in dressing the window.

New member, Mike, explained more about his counselling services and that he has a website and would like to set up a regular blog. His website is He works privately and also with NHS referrals.

The next meeting of Writing Buddies will be on Friday 13th May. The meeting will be about self publishing and author Martin Baum will be welcomed as a guest.

Post by Elizabeth Streatfield.