Friday, 2 August 2013

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

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