Thursday, 5 February 2015

Writing Buddies November 2014

The regular monthly meeting of Writing Buddies convened on Friday 7 November 2014, at the Mercure Dolphin Hotel, High Street, Southampton, at 2.00 pm. There were eighteen present.

Good News

Ray’s second book is due for launch on 4 December 2014, at the New Bridge Public House, Woolston. He is not fully decided on the title, but it seems logical to keep the same title as his first one, From War to an Iron Figher  but call it Volume 2. It was commented that the first book had had a successful launch at the same venue, with literally hundreds present. The group wished him well. One piece of advice was to keep the cover artwork the same, but to change its colour as this would indicate a new book in the series.

The group wished Jacqueline luck, as she is one of ten shortlisted for the Greenacre Writers writing competition for creative writers and tutors.  

Chrissie has sought advice from publishers in Cromer, Norfolk, about submitting a novel by the beginning of next year. Salt Publishing were very encouraging after her previous novella submission. She also met an agent at the University Theatre in King Alfred College in Winchester, who gave her advice.

Eileen submitted an e-book through Kindle, using Kingstar and later discovered there were margin problems, so she had to re-format. However, in the meantime, (about an hour) someone had actually bought one, so she had to apologise and send them a correct version. It was ironic because the book was based on a real life experience with a twist, about a builder who actually turned up, and came back when he said he would!

Jimmy mentioned that Aloejimmy Publishing was going from strength to strength. He has sold 53 copies of his children’s book, Jayden The Naughty Goldfish, as a Kindle e-book. (He gave a breakdown of global sales: 1 in Spain, 6 in the UK, 12 in Japan and 34 in USA). He has also sold 29 books in his Sundance Gang series. 

Jacqueline mentioned We Buy Any Books as a place to examine to buy and sell books. She put in a code for her own book, Bottles and Pots, which they were offering at £2, which is only 10% more than she is offering it at, and one of her Milly detective books at just £6, both of which she thought was good value.

Bill recently went to a talk about privately published books at Winchester Library. He recommended a visit to the Winchester Discovery Centre.  

Penny gave a talk about her book, Haunted Southampton, at the Shirley Women's Institute. 

Anne is nine chapters into her book and trying to get photographs for the cover. She has seen a style guide to formatting and is considering Smashwords and Kingstat software. Bill insists formatting software is unnecessary as it can be done through Word.

Christine went to a meeting of the new Southampton Chamber of Art, which is to support writers, authors and artistic and musical creativity. She said it may be good for offering support and networking, but it might be a case of going to several ineffectual meetings. She will monitor the group on Facebook and make a decision about whether to attend any further meetings. There was an Education Officer there who mentioned funding resources. One concept that may be of interest to the group was speed networking, where members briefly meet one to one to exchange contact details to promote their cause. It was suggested that Writing Buddies should leave some business cards with the group. Calvin warned of being beholden to the council after applying for funding, but it can raise a group's profile.


Crowd funding in general and organisations such as Front Row and Kickstarter in particular were discussed as a way of presenting an idea and asking for funds to make it a viable project. It can cover various areas of the arts, including book publishing. As the average writer earns very little they often have to obtain public funds elsewhere. Both Terry Pratchett and Paul Kibbie have used Kickstarter in the past. Money is pledged in return for a stake in the project, should it become profitable. It was pointed out that the project could flop, so investors could lose their money. Bill mentioned drawbacks for those proposing a project, such as financial targets not being met and the time lags that can occur.

Royalty free photographs and music were discussed. Flickr is a source of royalty free images. Penny mentioned that if a picture belongs to someone else (copyright) you must seek permission to use it. Bill said he has used software (photo publishing) that turns photographs into pictures, and then it can be edited into a variety of finishes (eg. embossed, sketch, oil painting etc.)

An aspect of self-publishing comes up regularly at Writing Buddies’ meetings and this meeting was no exception. Rob said he has a basic aversion to Amazon, so for e-publishing he uses Kobo, LuLu or Barnes and Noble, but Ray said that these cost about £120 and, as e-books can sell for as little £1 each, he claimed this was very expensive.

Guest Speaker – Calvin Smith, founding member of the Friends of Portswood Library

Calvin spoke about the challenges of setting up the Friends of Portswood Library, following a chance remark by his daughter who, when they were walking back from the library one night, enquired, "Where would we go if there were no library?"

The Friends of Portswood Library now has 40 - 50 members. The aims of the group are to promote, protect and modernize the library, in order to serve the community. The group hosts a variety of events, for example, children were invited to bake a cake based on their favourite book. Other events include charity coffee mornings, Armed Forces Day displays and author book signings. It also serves as a community hub and invites guest speakers to deliver talks to the members. Penny, Jacqueline and James have all given talks to the group.  The idea of a Friends group has now spread to three other Southampton libraries.

Calvin talked about the future of Portswood library, which loans about 500 books per day. All the libraries are under pressure from possible closure, merger, reduced staff and shorter opening hours. The group is continually frustrated at never being taken into the decision-making loop. They have enlisted the support of a local journalist, and they intend to lobby the Education Services department of Southampton City Council, by claiming that "some stuff can't be done off a spreadsheet." The group does not want decisions dictated by budgets, yet the council seems to see the libraries as being frequented by undesirable people. He pointed out how few amenities for adults with learning difficulties there are, which is one area where the libraries help.  The Friends of Portswood Library want to get their Reading Club back, but they see the spectre of the Isle of Wight hanging over them. Here there is a policy where the council never supports volunteers, only librarians and professionals.  Calvin’s view was that they should top-cut management and train volunteers to do more.

In 2015, Portswood library is 100 years old. A 99-year-old library user, who has been visiting the library for 79 years, will join in the centenary celebrations.

The next Writing Buddies meeting will be on Friday 6 February 2015.  Everyone is welcome.

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