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.

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