Friday, 2 August 2013

Writing Buddies March Onwards and Upwards

Southampton Writing Buddies met at the Mercure Dolphin Hotel on July 5th, with a good attendance.

We began with Good News, whatever members wanted to mention.

Jimmy is editing his first Sundance Gang novel which will then be published as an ebook along with his first preschool childlren's book. He is also working on the manuscript for a book about 1940s childhood. 

Janet was pleased to say that she has had a poem accepted for an anthology to be published by Forward Poetry.

Eileen reported sales of her ebook about a serial killer, Blood on God's Carpet. It's available also in paperback.

Lisa's book Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum is free until the end of July via Smashwords. May need code SW100.

Tessa is hoping for more reviews of her book Spellbinder - it has four 5-star reviews so far. A copy was available for Buddies to look over.

Penny reported on the recent launch of her and Jimmy's book A 1950s Southampton Childhood which involved a large number of people travelling in 1950s red buses to Victoria Country Park for a picnic then back to the Dolphin for a reception. The book is available as paperback or on kindle, or from Penny or Jimmy. They gave a talk together about the book at Bitterne library. 

Penny also mentioned that Jim Brown's book Southampton's Lucky Jim will be published by Mayfield Books in September - it's a memoir of his time in the local police force. She also reported back about Ray's recent very successful launch of Vol 1 of his memoir, From War to an Iron Fighter; the room was crowded and over 100 books were sold.

As well as the Southampton Childhood book, Penny has recently published Bloody British History: Southampton. Waterstone's currently has a large display of her books, which reminded her that her latest is the tenth that she's published. Not only that - she is currently working on three further books.

Jacqueline showed the latest printed issue of The Great War magazine which includes her article based on a family WW1 diary. She has been reading winning flash fiction pieces recently, and entered a flash fiction contest run by international site Writers' Carnival. Her piece was placed fourth with honourable mention. She also had a piece of flash fiction chosen to be featured on the online flashflood journal on National Flash Fiction Day.

Silma reminded the group about an online magazine for music and other arts, parkCulture published by Cultura Press; she has written an article for them and is working on another. The Christmas edition may be published in print. 

We then discussed points of interest. It's noted that many writers have uncertain confidence in their work, and praise from friends or family is pleasing but cannot be considered objective. Novellas were mentioned, as some publishers are beginning to accept this shorter form of the novel. An example is Harper(Collins) Impulse, inviting submissions of any length from short reads to sagas. It was agreed that writers need a significant internet presence with website and blog; potential publishers expect a digital presence so that they can easily check history and so on. 

One member mentioned a writing competition with a £25 fee; while the group thought this was very high, if the fee includes a sufficiently detailed critique then it can be worth while. Press releases were also discussed; members thought the information should be sent out to the appropriate magazines or press with details of the item, offers of pictures, and an accompanying letter with contact details and links to the writer's sites.

The next meeting will be at the Mercure Dolphin Hotel, High Street, Southampton on Friday August 2nd, 2pm to approx 4pm. Anyone with an interest in writing will be very welcome; although the blog mentions a good number of writing successes, many members have not yet published and may be just starting out, so wherever you are with your writing, do join us!

Blog notes by Jacqueline Pye.

Writing Buddies Meeting 7 June 2013

The group had lots of good news this month.

Tessa showed the group two new books published by her company The Thorn Press that we were delighted to see. The first is by Richard Warburg entitled Brush Strokes to Sponges and the second by Emma Lorant entitled Cloner. Both of these books are beautifully produced and the group congratulated Tessa.  

Eileen De Lisle’s book Blood on God’s Carpet is now out on Kindle.

Ray Dumper showed the Writing Buddies his new book From War to Iron Fighter The group were delighted to see this as Ray joined writing Buddies in order to gain advice about this book, which is his own life story. His progress through to having the book published has been remarkable. Ray will be having a launch for it at the Bridge Inn Woolston on 28th June.

Janet is writing a ghost story and was able to gain advice about this from the group members. We all look forward to seeing how this progresses.

Ann told the group she entered a poetry competition run by the Great Barn Titchfield Theatre Group. Out of a huge amount of entries Ann’s gained a highly recommended, which the Writing Buddies congratulated her on.

JPF is busy building content on his blog.  

New member John joined the group looking for advice on how to write the book that he has had in mind for some time. A bus company owner, John ferried a number of pop groups around and has many tales to tell about this. The advice from the group was to write it all down first then edit it afterwards. So far John has yet to start writing.

A lively discussion on marketing followed.  This is an issue we all find difficult and Ray in particular stated he would like to know a lot more. It was suggested that this topic could become the main subject of a meeting soon.
 The next meeting of Writing Buddies is on Friday 5th July.  Everyone is welcome.

Blog notes by James Marsh.

Glen Jayson

The Writing Buddies were sad to hear of the death of one of our most popular members, Glen Jayson.  It was not so long ago that Glen's book, Voices of Eastleigh, was published to great acclaim by The History Press.

Glen was an enthusiastic member of Writing Buddies, having acted as Competition Secretary when we ran our Anthology Competition.  She contributed regularly to meetings until illness forced her to slow down.

Several Writing Buddies attended her funeral and the group sent a donation to her chosen charity in her memory.

We will miss you, Glen.

Writing Buddies - 05 April 2013

Several new members were welcomed to the Writing Buddies meeting at the Mercure Dolphin:

JAMES - Has been going to writing classes in Woolston and has had short stories and poems printed in The Echo’s ‘creative corner’ spot.

JEZ - Poet and photographer, watercolour artist who has printed four different books to share with friends and family over the last few years, using Southampton Design & Print on London Road.

BILLY - Has been writing short dystopian/sci-fi stories of around 5-6k words and is now working on longer stories.

Good News announced at this meeting:

MONICA was sent a contract by an Austrian company ‘United Publishing Company’ ( who were interested in publishing her children’s book ‘Welsh Yeti’, but was unsure about the details and the terms as they stated ‘free to publish first novel’ and asked for advice.

JACQUELINE had attended a talk at Southampton Writer’s Circle and will be judging an article-writing contest next season. She had pitched a teddy-bear themed article to a magazine, which had accepted the idea, but only then revealed that they don’t pay for articles.

TESSA has released her new book ‘Spellbinder’ and is keen to get some reviews online to raise interest.

EILEEN has published a book on Smashwords ‘Blood on God’s Carpet’

JEZ has just printed his latest book of poetry ‘Lazy Days’

CHRISTINE tried out speed-pitching to agents at North London Literary Festival, where an agent said yes, and asked to see the first three chapters of her latest novel ‘Spectacular Times’

ANN currently has 3 pictures (2 prints and a painting) and a poem in Central Gallery

LISA has had an honourable mention in the Jeffrey Archer/Kobo/Curtis Brown short story contest and is being published in the free Kobo anthology along with Jeffrey Archer and the twenty semifinalists, the finalists announced at the London Book Fair.

Selma emailed with apologies as she is busy rehearsing the musical show ‘Ragtime’ at the Regents Centre in Christchurch.

The discussion around the table ranged over many subjects:

LONDON BOOK FAIR held on 15th-17th April at Earl’s Court. Very focused on indie and self-publishing this year, with a burgeoning Author Lounge and opportunities to meet editors, agents, and directors of Kobo, Amazon’s Kindle/Createspace, and Goodreads among others.

CHAOS Creatives in Southampton are based at Central Gallery.

PRINTING - George Mann outside Winchester will print books from £300 per 100 copies, and can provide ISBNs.

Self-publishing platforms offer an exciting opportunity to writers who don’t want to wait for agents and publishers to notice their work, and can be a way of raising your profile to the mainstream. Createspace offer free ISBNs, matte colour interiors if required, and no special requirements such as editing or formatting by a professional before making your book available. are slightly more strict in that area if you want an ISBN distribution, but you can publish a book and make it available as Print-on-Demand direct to customers through Lulu only (dispatching worldwide) without an ISBN or any paid-for upfront services, and link it to your website or blog for direct sales, including as ebooks in PDF or epub format (for which they also distribute for free to Nook and the Apple iBookstore). Lulu also pays more regularly via Paypal, even if your Royalty is less than £3.50 for that quarter! For LIGHTNING SOURCE, research suggests you need to set up a publisher name and official bank account in that name, and the file must be formatted by a professional, and then you pay at every stage of the title and upload process. Uploading a revised version also costs, if you then find typos in your proof. They have good distribution reach on all online stores as selected, can do matte covers for paperback, and cover prices are lower for the customer, but they do not market or promote your work to street bookstores for you - customers can order them in any bookstore, but it is up to the individual shops what they order in as regular stock.

Some publishers are folding and leaving their authors unpaid and unrepresented - DB Publishing, which went under in December 2012, was recently bought by JMD Media. JMDMedia can be contacted via their Managing Director, Steve Caron, at He will look at any book submitted (in digital format, "Word" files are OK) and consider turning them into Ebooks.

JIM BROWN - Writing for local history societies, which can have their own publishers e.g. Bitterne. They also publish as ebooks and take the first £50, thereafter pay 25%. No publishing cost to the authors. (Reviewed in the Echo)

SELF-PUBLISHING via blogs and websites: A blog is a good way of ‘copyrighting’ your work as it shows up with an exact date and time when you publish a post, which will always be searchable via Google etc and visible as your own work first, on the date you published it.

MONETISING YOUR BLOG - You can sell books directly on your blog, either by having print books that you package and mail yourself, or by offering PDF downloads that can be read on tablets and smartphones. Automatic downloads have to be set up using an automated ‘storefront’ code to set up your blog, of which there is a mind-boggling choice, and some are expensive to set up (just google ‘ebook sales storefront for blogs’ - e.g. storefronts start at £19 per month) - and if you are managing an open source-style code yourself from your site, you have to have the time available to deal with glitches, customer enquiries, file download problems, payment problems, and to manage your own Paypal or other online payment/receipt method. You also have no ranking or visibility on other online stores using this method. The alternative is to publish via a third party as above, and link to your Lulu, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, Apple, Diesel or Amazon products via a ’Books’ page, and not worry about the customer services angle, although you do have to wait for your (smaller) Royalties via your publishing platforms.

WRITING FOR FREE? Is there ever a time when it is OK to write for free?  The group was generally scathing about the increasing expectation that writers would be happy to spend time and energy writing for nothing, particularly if the market is large and expensive to readers.  However, it was recognized that there are several legitimate reasons for writing for free:
For charity
To get your name known
To test the market
For fun

Magazines and newspapers often don’t pay but there is a market for the determined and those who have done their homework. E-publishers give books away, often for reviews.  For more detailed advice about writing for magazines and newspapers, see the Help and Advice page on this blog site.

AMAZON REVIEWS: Amazon has blocked some established authors from leaving book reviews, or is working to remove them. However, they have just bought Goodreads (, which is free to join as a reader or an author. Just set up an account, search for your books already on the site (if they are on Amazon and other mainstream sales sites, they will usually appear already), send an email to admin and apply for an author profile. You will then be able to customise it rather like a Facebook profile page, and add your own books if they aren‘t already listed. It is likely that most of the reviews left on Goodreads will soon be migrated to Amazon, and Amazon will lose the ‘review mafia’ who have been complaining of too much ‘author activity’ in the Amazon forums, and reporting mutual reviews between authors.

LITERARY FESTIVALS & READING GROUPS are hugely popular. Reading groups are often quite welcoming of authors, especially if there are free books in it for them. Be prepared that comments will be honest, and reviews are given face-to-face in the group discussions, not on Amazon!

HarperCollins have set up a rolling (ongoing) direct submissions route for Romance authors (details on the loop). It is for a new digital-first imprint called HarperImpulse, and accepts unsolicited, unagented Romance novels in any genre or style, and of any length. Send full Word.doc mss and other details as on the Facebook ‘About’ page for HarperImpulse (not partial, proposals or incomplete works) to

Southampton Library is going to run a short story (up to 5,000 words) contest about Southampton (TBA).

Notes by Lisa Scullard