Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Marketing e-books for children - update

In November 2012 I wrote a post exploring the problems for writers marketing their e-books for the 8-15 age group.

This week, I feel more heartened for two reasons:

1. My e-books Matty and the Racehorse Rescue and Matty and the Moonlight Horse are respectively number 28 and 29 now in the Amazon most popular category for Horses and Ponies.  When they were first published last year you had to scroll through pages and pages to find them.  So that's progress and a demonstration of how working damn hard on marketing can pay off.  At least I hope that's what it means!  I am fully aware that this ranking changes daily and also that is totally separate from the Kindle 100 Bestseller list (you would have to sell an enormous amount of books to get listed here.)

2. Since I read the following:

The number of children who have read an e-book has almost doubled since 2010 but children still prefer reading books for fun in print, according to Scholastic Inc's Kids and Family Reading Report, 4th Edition.

So there's good news and bad news.  But mostly good, I think when we also learn that:

Forty-six per cent of children responding to the survey said they had read an e-book, up from 25% in 2010. Meanwhile, 41% of the parents had read an e-book, a big leap up from 14% in 2010. Fifty-one per cent of children who have not read an e-book are interested in doing so.

You can read the full report here:

Children and e books survey

Related post

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Literary V Genre Fiction: A postscript

Further to my post last week about Literary Fiction versus Genre Fiction I came across an excellent post over at Jennie Coughlin, in which she suggests the term "serious fiction" is useful and comments:

Literary often involves playing with language in ways that are artistically pleasing, but perhaps veer too far into experimental for most people. And genre has taken on a connotation that is the opposite of serious fiction. More and more there are books out there that don’t fall into either category. If more people adopt the “serious fiction” category, maybe we can start to build a new genre.

I'd urge you to read the full post - very interesting stuff.

Related post:

Friday, 25 January 2013

Writing, publishing and disappointment

I'm still working through some thoughts around the theme of rejection and how we deal with it and read a wonderful post called The Seven Stages of Publishing Grief (or Hello Darkness, My Old Friend) which discusses dealing with disappointment as a writer; the way we so easily succumb to comparing ourselves to other writers who all seem to be doing so much better, with more reviews, more sales, more success. This can have a debilitating effect on our confidence and motivation.  

I think back to when I started writing and how my dream was to be taken on by a traditional publisher (this was long before indie publishing as we know it existed). Every rejected story was a knock-back, a disappointment to be weathered.  When I got my first ever publishing deal I assumed that was the end of my worries and the start of being a famous author.  Ignorance is bliss, they say, and I was in for a rude awakening from my naivety (nurtured, I have to admit, from reading media stories of writers becoming an overnight success).  The book was published (I think the print run was 3000 copies) and after a few years it was remaindered.  The publisher (a BIG one!) didn't want my next book and that was the end of my relationship with them. Back to square one, pretty much, although I did have the beginnings of a track record. My next UK publisher went bust shortly after producing my next book.  And so it continued.  

Pitches.  Some meetings with publishers. Variable success rate.  I soon realised that this is how it is, unless you are incredibly lucky.  Just keep on working and trying. 

This week I have sent 3 stories off to a website, and all have been published.  Which is lovely.  I also had a screenplay for a short film returned that I entered for a competition last year.  I really believe in this script so I now have to find another outlet for it.  They received over 1400 entries, but that's no consolation, even if it should be.  

With indie publishing, the pitching stage is missed out.  You go straight to the readers.  So far, so good. You are published.  But then you get disappointed for different reasons - not enough reviews, sales lower than you hoped, etc,  You get the picture.  

There's no solution as such to this.  That's just the way it is, as the song goes. If you want more, then do check this truly excellent post over at Writer Unboxed. Full of practical advice. 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Rescue Me

Today you'll find one of my stories over at e-zine Female First.  It's called Rescue Me.

Note for writers: Female First is looking for story and poetry submissions.  They don't pay a fee but it can be useful exposure for your work and add to your cv.  You can add a small bio but can't, unfortunately, include links to your books or blogs and at present it's quite hard to find the stories unless you know where to locate them! (which is a shame).  They are listed under Entertainment/Book Reviews, then scroll down to Get Published.  And they also want book reviews. Link for writers is

Monday, 21 January 2013

Writing,Therapy, Creatabot and Philip Glass

Today you will find me over at the art e-zine Creatabot talking about writing and therapy, among other issues....

Please check it out - I'd love to hear your comments.

On the subject of writing and therapy, I want to share with you a wonderful quote from one of my favourite composers, Philip Glass, heard on the documentary Portrait of Philip Glass in 12 parts:

I have a friend who’s a writer and he says that his writing is an anecdote to the chaos in the world around him…he retreats into that world.  That becomes more important than the world he sees. I suppose some people might not think that’s such a great thing but he thinks it is. It’s all real, it’s just what you choose to establish as the core of your being. He makes the core of his life an active imagination.  Is that escape or is that liberation? …..For him writing is a resolution of his life.  It makes his life solid and real.  Without that the world would overwhelm him with its chaos.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Stranger than Fiction or You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

The award winning American author E. L. Doctorow has been quoted as saying, “I am led to the proposition that there is no fiction or nonfiction as we commonly understand the distinction; there is only narrative.”

We all have different versions of the same events. So is truth a subjective concept? And how does truth apply to fiction, which is, essentially, make-believe?

In the essay called The Story of my Life in 3500 Words or Less* (by journalist and screenwriter Nora Ephron, who sadly passed away last year) the writer observed, “I can’t understand why anyone would write fiction when what actually happens is so amazing.”

Authors are frequently advised to write about what they know or from personal experiences.  When I was younger I used to think that the more real and true an incident or storyline, the more authentic and believable it would be to the reader.  It is only in recent years that I can see this was a fallacy. Self-delusion. The fact that something actually happens doesn’t make for a better, or for that matter, worse story.  What happened is almost irrelevant, compared to how the writer relates this to the reader.  The most outrageous propositions can be made plausible with a skilful writer.

In the 1970s, when I was a teenager, I got locked in the toilets at the local cinema with a group of my friends after the film had finished, as a result of staff negligence.  It was scary (all the lights went out, so we were in total darkness), spooky, and completely bizarre.  We managed to make our way to the main entrance, eventually, which looked out onto the street and we banged on the glass doors and shouted “Help” repeatedly before anyone would stop and listen.  The few passers-by ignored us, or hurried by.  When, eventually, the police arrived, they assumed we had deliberately got ourselves locked in to vandalise the place.  The Cinema Manager had to be called to unlock the doors,  and he drove back in a foul mood (he had been drinking and reeked of alcohol).  I pointed this out to the policemen, who appeared to have no interest in this fact, and our names and addresses were demanded.  We were terrified of what our parents would say if we were arrested, (and may have given false names) but we were finally left to walk home alone (having missed the last bus and not enough money for a taxi).  Four teenage girls.  Nearly midnight.  I was livid at the way we had been treated.  Our parents didn’t believe us, so I contacted the local press (I was a feisty little so and so!), who showed initial interest in the story and then backed down after speaking to the police.  That was the end of it.
Years later, I included the incident in the first draft of one of my teen novels, but was advised by my agent and publisher that this all seemed rather far-fetched, unrealistic and would I please omit it from the story. Initially I was frustrated, pleading my case. But I changed it. Many years later, I realised that they were right.  Including every detail of what happened didn’t add to the story. It wasn’t needed.

The book was Matty and the Moonlight Horse.  And the idea for the book came from that late night walk home after getting locked in the cinema and taking a short cut through the graveyard.  With me thinking, in the way that my pony-mad teenage brain operated, “What if we encountered a runaway horse by the tombstones?” 

Anyway, you will find in Matty and the Moonlight Horse that I modified real events so that Matty and her friends leave the cinema late because one of them insists on queuing for pizza, so they miss the last bus home, take a shortcut through the graveyard, and as the church bell strikes midnight……well, you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens next. 

*in the collection I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Amazon rankings: Matty Horse and Pony series in top 50!

Utterly astounded!

Just been browsing on Amazon and under the category Horses and Ponies for kindle, my Matty series is in the top 50 in terms of popularity!  Matty and the Moonlight Horse is at 41, Matty and the Problem Ponies at 45 and Matty and the Racehorse Rescue at 48.

I now have to think of ways to improve my marketing to get them even higher up the ranks, especially as all the royalties are going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me achieve this.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Literary Fiction versus Genre Fiction?

In a previous blog post ( ) I referred to work I recently had rejected and promised to develop this in a future post.  Today I am picking up the thread again, and will try very hard not to end up having a rant, because the topic I will write on has niggled me for a long time.

Literary (or serious) fiction versus genre writing (or commercial fiction).

When I started out as a writer in my teens, I won a few short story competitions at school and decided I wanted to be a journalist.  In fact, when I contacted some well-known writers, this was the career path they recommended to me if I wanted to see my work in print.  Interesting.  I wrote about what I was passionate about, which at the time was horses and riding, and, a bit later, I developed a fascination with the supernatural, often combining the two. I also enjoyed reading horror stories.  (Does anyone remember the Pan Book of Horror Series of short stories?  I used to read these avidly). In fact the first short story I had published in a national horse magazine was about a psychotic pony that goes unaccountably crazy at a horse show and kills another horse! 

After this, I wrote a large body of traditional pony stories and serials, which were all published in pony magazines and annuals, so I kind of pigeon holed myself in a way.  But I was doing what I loved and I felt like a proper writer.

In my twenties and thirties, I sent out a range of other short stories to a mixture of magazines, which included the women’s mags, and some of the small press (and bigger press) literary magazines.  I had limited success with both, faring better with small press.  

When your pony stories are usually accepted by the specialist publications but your non-horsey stuff is more frequently rejected, you tend to veer towards what experience shows you works, but I did persevere with my “other” writing for many years, winning a few more writing competitions and getting a fair bit of poetry (and lots of non-fiction articles) published.  On the whole, “literary” success eluded me, and I soon discovered that in the world of academia, there was far more respect for a writer who had achieved recognition in this field than one who had sold over 162,000 copies (translated into 7 languages) of their latest pony novel for teenage girls.  (This was Transitions, my best seller ever and which took me into the US market). I began to develop a bit of a chip on my shoulder and wondered if I would only be a proper writer if I won the Booker prize (or similar), because whenever I applied for an arts council bursary or RLF Fellowship Scheme, I never got a look in.  

So, back to the point, which was my recent rejection from a literary magazine.  I don’t often enter contests or send speculative work off these days but last year, I sent off 6 of my poems (all previously published) and a short story that I felt proud of, (which had won a literary short story award a few years back) to this magazine.  My work eventually came back to me in the familiar A4 white SAE (I used to spend a fortune on postage before emails were invented!).  It had been read “with interest and careful attention” but “the editors finally decided not to take (them) for publication.” 

Why did this sting so much?  Was it because it reminded me of those days in the past when this was a regular occurrence?  I am always telling other writers to develop a thick skin; rejections are a fact of life for a writer. Just keep going, there’s an element of subjectivity, someone’s opinion, wrong place, wrong time, etc.  But clearly this got to me or I wouldn’t be writing this long and rambling post.  I believed I wrote as well as many of those already published in the magazine.  Deep down, did I think my work simply wasn’t “literary” enough?  I suspected they did.  And does it really matter? 

As regards Treading Water, the short story in question, you can judge for yourself, because I put it on my blog a while back, before I (correction, it) got rejected. 

My question is, am I being paranoid?  Do I still have a chip on my shoulder?  Does a kind of snobbery  exist in some circles about genre and commercial fiction, as opposed to literary?  And what the hell is the difference?  And does it matter?  Phew.  Ranting again.  Can anyone give a definitive definition of what makes something literary?  Who decides?

There’s an excellent (non-ranty!) post about over at Jane Friedman called “Commodity publishing, self-publishing and the future of fiction”, which explores the role of literary and commercial fiction in the world of indie publishing, and it has some great insights into what can be a controversial topic.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Seeing and Change

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.............

Today's quote comes from my dear friend Jazmine Wolf.  Love it.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Digital Books Today Guest Blog: Vision for Readers

Meant to say earlier that my post Vision for Readers has been selected as the guest blog for Digital Books Today, which means it will appear in their top 3 posts most of the day, is on their Facebook page and shows in the RSS text feed on The Top 100 Best Free Kindle Books List.

So I am understandably thrilled!

Do check out this excellent site and if you leave comments on it I will be doubly thrilled.  Thanks.

How do you deal with rejection?

Rejection comes in many forms for writers. It can be that returned manuscript in your familiar SAE, (which happened to me today – more of this in a future blog),  an unwelcome email informing you that your grant application was unsuccessful, a one star review on Goodreads or Amazon  (or no reviews at all!), or simply an honest friend telling you that your book didn’t really do it for them.   Or disappointing blog stats!

When I started sending work out to publishers at the tender age of 13, I kept a paper log (which I still have) listing what I sent out, where, when and the outcome.  It was soon peppered with red crosses but that occasional black tick made the continuous struggle worth it.

When I eventually got an agent, many years later, I thought that was the end of rejection but of course the agent just fields much of that for you, and I still laboured over submissions that publishers eventually turned down, continued to enter writing competitions (most of which I got nowhere with) and sent speculative feature proposals to a range of magazines. Yes, every rejection thickens the skin (but still hurts) and yes, every acceptance still makes me whoop with joy.  You’re never too old to whoop!

Being rejected is part and parcel of being a writer, especially if you want to be published.  If you decide to go the indie route (by-passing the gatekeepers) then you are still at the mercy of your readers.  Some will love you. Some will hate you.  And some won’t give a toss. Which is kind of like life, isn’t it?

Canny writers have a positive approach to rejection – no sooner has their work been returned to them, than they are repackaging said work and sending it elsewhere.  I would recommend this strategy, because it means you always have plenty of work “out there” (at least 10 pieces if possible) so you continue to maximise your chances.  On several occasions where one editor has turned me down, another has accepted my article or story.  Subjectivity, timing and sheer luck all play a part. The trick is to keep moving forwards. Onwards and upwards.   

So, how do you deal with rejection?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Beware of the Horse

Short post today.  Just a sneak preview of the cover of my next new kindle release.  It's called Beware of the Horse and is aimed at young adults.  Due out later this month. Can't wait!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

My first pony and remembering

I've been reflecting, as you do when one year ends and another begins.  The radio is playing tunes from the 60s and I'm trying not to feel too sad as it reminds me of Mum and Dad and how much I miss them. While sorting through the mountain of old photos, I came across this one of me as a toddler. My fascination with horses obviously started at a young age! Looking at the picture made me smile.  Maybe you will too. 

Related posts:

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Vision for Readers

My partner is visually impaired to the extent that, last year, he virtually gave up trying to read the newspaper because the print was so small and difficult to see.  In an effort to help, I bought him special reading lights designed for people with sight problems, but he told me to stop buying him books, because he would never be able to read them now.  It upset me, because I love to read and couldn’t imagine how awful it would feel if that was taken away.  I tried to encourage him to think about audio books, and got him a cd of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami.  He explained that even before his sight problems, he had never really been much of a bookworm, preferring to be outdoors playing football or running. So we had a house clear out and gave more books to the charity shops. 

He seemed mildly interested when I started to rave about my kindle, and how you could alter the font size and lighting to make reading easier. He has always loved his Android phone, because the idea of having everything he needs in one convenient, small tablet, including his music, always appealed.  So when he recently bought a Kindle Fire HD,  I was rather surprised. Soon, he told me he had started to read a daily newspaper again – on his kindle.  I was really pleased that an activity he had enjoyed previously was now back on the menu.  Last week, he started to download some running books.  And the other day he revealed that he had started to read in his lunch hour at work, and, for the first time in his life, he was enjoying reading books.  Oh, and he can hardly be parted from his kindle.

When the first Harry Potter books became famous, lots of commentators asserted the series had enticed many previously reluctant or non-readers to discover books – especially boys.  I think it’s time someone did some research into how many people who had previously never read a book before have been introduced to this wonderful experience through their e-readers. I reckon they would discover that more – not less – folk are now reading books.  Whether they are ebooks or tree books,  why does that matter? A love of reading can only be a good thing.

Postscript: I’d just finished writing this post when the TV programme Room 101 came on, in which broadcaster John Craven chose digital books as the thing he wanted to ban.  Tellingly, there was a round of applause from the studio audience – I’d love to know how many of them possess an e-reader or regularly visit bookshops.   I’m glad that Frank Skinner, the host, didn’t agree with him and suggested they encourage more reading.  To paraphrase his conclusion; “It’s the words (not the platform) that matters.”

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Nigella Lawson and Me

Of the several resolutions I have made for 2013 (losing weight, writing more, running more, going to bed earlier, getting up earlier, etc – you get the picture!) I have also decided to be a bit braver on my blog.  Previously, I’ve tried to focus on being a writer rather than a person, almost afraid to reveal what makes me tick.  Of course, who and what we are is inextricably linked to the way in which we create our words and stories. 

Because of my life experiences, my fictional characters have to work for their positive outcomes.  I hesitate to use the word “happy” ending but prefer to opt for hopeful instead.  In Coming Home, my latest book, Kira, the teenage protagonist, undergoes a great deal of heartache and hardship on the journey to find her lost cats.  In the first of my Matty trilogy,  Matty and the Moonlight Horse, my impulsive female heroine falls in love with not one but two perfect horses.  By the end of Book One, she has neither,  but learns that if dreams don’t come true they can change and evolve – as we do.  

Imperfections, anxieties, flaws and fears are what make us human.  Experiences, both positive and negative, inform and affect our thoughts and creative processes.   So how, you may ask, does this relate to Nigella Lawson?

I am the total opposite of what is termed a domestic goddess.  I can barely cook, for starters (forgive the pun!) and maybe, just maybe, there is a tiny part of me that envies those who can.  I avoid cookery programmes on TV and consequently never imagined I could ever have anything in common with a glamorous celebrity such as Nigella Lawson.  Funny how, with the help of the media, we construct an image of a person we have never met and don’t know and make judgements.  As a writer, who is used to constructing fictional characters, I credit myself with a level of intelligence and awareness that should stop me falling into this trap but I can be as guilty as the next woman.   

Back to Nigella, who was recently interviewed in Red magazine.  Normally, I would have skipped this article but for some reason, I started to read.  I’m glad I did.  She is refreshingly honest and I found myself being unexpectedly moved.  Nigella “admits” to being a “catastrophiser.”  It is telling that I use the word “admits” as if it was a guilty secret.  I, too, am habitually drawn towards what my counsellor labelled “catastrophic thinking”.  Basically, this means that in certain situations, my mind will identify the worst possible scenarios and conclude their inevitability in a process that seems entirely logical.  While this can be useful as a fiction writer, it can stop me doing activities that most “normal” people would perform without turning a hair and can really interfere with daily life.  But I try to hide this behavioural trait since I know from past experience that the majority of people often regard it as weird and incomprehensible.  Certain life events, such as major bereavement, can reinforce catastrophic thinking, which Nigella reflects upon, having lost three of the people she loved to cancer.  Something else we have in common.  Dealing with catastrophic thinking can be an exhausting battle and she describes herself as a worrier and prone to being fearful, which I can totally identify with.   Her frankness resonated enormously and I have huge respect for this.  It was also a real lesson for me on stereotyping people as a result of media hype.  Reading the interview left me feeling inspired to acknowledge and tackle issues and emotions that I tend to hide from, and not to shy away from expressing these through my writing.

Oh, and another thing Nigella and I have in common too – a belief that calorie counting and dieting makes you miserable, “draining the pleasure out of life”.  Well said, Nigella.  I think women everywhere would agree on that!    Although this may make my resolution to lose weight in 2013 rather tricky…..

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Backlist signed paperbacks for sale

New for 2013!

I've been doing a bit of administrative housekeeping and have a very limited quantity of some of my backlist titles in paperback that I have decided to sell. I can sign these with a personal message as required. Most of these titles will be difficult to source in the UK.

For full details of how to order, please go to my new blog page