5 things that have surprised me about being a published writer by Jessica Redland

jessica-close-up-stripesWhen I started submitting my manuscript to publishers and agents back in 2013/2014, I have to admit that my only focus was on getting “the call” (or email) to say that someone loved my book and wanted to represent me. What I didn’t think about at any point during that process – or even at any point after I did receive “the email” – was what would happen next. Obviously I thought about my book being edited, a cover coming to life, and my ‘baby’ making his way into the world, but I didn’t really think beyond that. Therefore, there were some things took me by surprise and I thought I’d share them with you.

 

Surprise 1: Reviews

The surprise wasn’t that I would get reviews; the surprise was the content of the reviews. Before I became published, I confess that I never, ever read a review of a book as part of _MG_9715my purchasing decision. Quite simply, if I liked the sound of the blurb or the book was recommended by someone I knew with similar reading tastes to me, I’d buy it. Therefore, I had no idea that there are readers out there who will take the time and trouble to write an essay about a book they’ve loved. They’ll explain the plot in their own words, they’ll talk about the things they loved, they’ll share their emotional journey (laughter/tears) and there are even some who give their favourite quotes. Wow! That’s serious dedication. Book bloggers do this as part of their more detailed review process but it’s non-bloggers I’m talking about here. How amazing and incredibly flattering. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The downside is negative reviews, but let’s not dwell on those 😉

 

Surprise 2: Reactions of friends & family

My mum and a small core of friends have been absolutely amazing. They’ve provided Printbeta-reading services, have promoted the book to other friends and family, and regularly ask how the writing is going, desperate to get their hands on my next release. This is lovely. And some friends who I didn’t expect to be enthusiastic have been. I’m a Brown Owl and some of my leadership team aren’t big readers but they bought my first novel and sent me texts raving about it, begging for the subsequent books. Another wow moment!

 

Surprise 3: The valuable support from other writers

When the Write Romantics was established 4.5 years ago, only one of the ten of us had a publishing deal. Now we are all either traditionally or indie published which is conf 2014 10incredible. As we’re based all over the country, we have a closed Facebook group where we chat to each other about the ups and downs of writing. I have to say, I had no idea that this group would be so valuable. Advice is shared, encouragement is given, and there are lots of virtual hugs when things aren’t going so well. I’m not sure where I’d be without my writing friends.

 

Surprise 4: How the goalposts have changed

When I first started writing, my goal was simply to write a book. Then it became to write a trilogy because my story lent itself to that. Then it became to get a publishing deal. I achieved all of these things but the goalposts kept shifting which I suppose is inevitable; you achieve your dreams so you create new ones.

P1070015I wanted to break the Top 10,000 on Amazon and, when I did that, I wanted to crack the top 1,000, then the Top 100 … Actually, that one still remains a goal for me and, if I’m really honest (which I always am), breaking the top 10,000 is still a goal most days for my books.

For a while, I became quite obsessed with sales figures and chart positions and it started to really get me down so I’ve stopped looking. Okay, you’ve got me, I haven’t stopped looking but I don’t look very often and I don’t obsess about it because I’ve accepted that there’s not a lot I can do about it. I’ve changed my covers, I’ve changed my categories, I’ve run promotions (free and 99p), and I’ve gone all out on social media yet nothing seems to make any lasting impact. Yes, a 99p deal and particularly a free deal will get a flurry of downloads, but it drops back to ‘normal’ after that and, as ‘normal’ is nothing to write home about, the only way I’m going to shift more copies is to permanently make my work free. Hmmm. And this nicely brings me onto the final surprise…

 

Surprise 5: I still have absolutely no idea what makes a book sell

I’ve had a successful career and have always prided myself at being really good at my day job. I’ve managed large budgets, sizeable teams, and huge workloads successfully. I therefore thought that I’d be able to emulate the same success as a writer. *Pauses to roll eyes and shake head at extreme naivety.* It hasn’t quite worked like that.

Ad3 (2017)The more I read and the more I chat to other writers, the more it becomes apparent that most writers can’t pinpoint why their books sell when other equally good books don’t. Is it the covers? The blurb? The title? The setting? The categories on Amazon? The length of the book? The number of reviews? Social media presence? Promotions? Who knows! Nobody can seem to put their finger on what specifically has led to success.

This is linked to the previous surprise and, therefore, you won’t be surprised to hear that I became quite down to the point where I thought about giving up. This thought circulated my mind for probably about five minutes because, let’s face it, I couldn’t not write. It’s who I am and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t spend hours with my fictional friends, creating problems for them and then making it all better by giving them their happy ever after. However, I do think that I’m one of those writers for whom it’s not going to happen. Those who read my books and take the time to leave a review seem to love them so I’m obviously doing something right as far as the stories go. It’s just obviously everything else that I’m doing wrong! I’ll keep trying, though, and maybe one day I will be one of those who does achieve that chart-topping success and can’t pinpoint how or why I achieved it. Is it too early to ask Santa for this?

 

What about you? If you’re a writer, do you agree with my five surprises? What else has surprised you about becoming published? Even better, do you know the secret to why books sell? Please tell me. I promise I won’t tell anyone else! 😉

If you’re a reader, what makes you buy a book because I’d welcome any tips?

Thanks for reading my ramblings. Hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.

Jessica xx

You can access Jessica’s books on Kindle here.

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Confessions of a Trolley Dolly (or something like that!)

It’s finally here, the day that I’ve been anticipating for so long, and I’m already bowled over by the support and good wishes from my fellow writers and friends, new and old.
I can finally understand the ‘Squeeee, my books have arrived,’ and ‘It’s launch day,’ posts on social media when in the past, the less charitable side of me wanted to say, ‘Calm down dear,’ all Michael Winner like, at their gushing. After all, it’s only a book and there are millions of ’em out there.

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See? Tons of the buggers!

Go into any charity shop and the shelves are groaning with them. The M6 toll road used two and a half million copies of Mills and Boon’s to keep it stable: http://bit.ly/1nlenrB That kind of says something, don’t you think?
So why do I want to use up even more valuable trees for the paltry words I have to offer? The answer is, I don’t really know. It just crept up on me, really, this desire to see my name on the front page of a book and to write a novel that makes people say, ‘Ahh, that was lovely.’
At about the same time as I started to take my scribblings seriously,  I met a few real writers. REAL WRITERS- with proper books on shelves and everything–and they made money from these books.
That was probably the moment when I thought, ‘I can do that.’
Only I couldn’t–not then. I wasn’t good enough. And I wasn’t good enough for years, much as I hate to say it. Because it’s like any other job that requires diligence, attention to detail, a modicum of talent and an awful lot of long, hard slog: it takes time.
But finally it is my turn, and getting back to the point I started on (that’s the thing with writers- we never run out of words!) I now totally get the ‘Squeee’ moment, because when I saw my book on Amazon, it made me want to cry–and laugh–and phone up every single person I’d ever met in my whole life and shout, ‘Look I’ve done it–go and look on Amazon!’

HERE IT IS : http://amzn.to/2jLPZsU

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Mine! All mine!

So, yeah, it’s out there now and I hope you want to buy it, and then I hope you enjoy it, and then I hope you leave a review on Amazon–cos they really count for something. And I don’t want one of those pompous Amazon reviews that says ‘I had to give it one star because there was a comma in the wrong place,’ which actually just shows that you need to get a life! But you aren’t like that, are you? You’re going to LOVE reading my book on your kindle so much that you buy the paperback that comes out in a couple of month’s time, and you are going to give me a wonderful review on Amazon. A perfect Valentine’s Day read.

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Five-star reviews- yes, please!

Aren’t you?
Go on- you know you want to.  http://amzn.to/2jLPZsU
Much love,
Jackie.
(Squeee!)

 

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Chasing My Tail by Jessica Redland

10527383_331005803724929_5378621437399779308_nAs regular visitors to our blog will know, we post every Wednesday and Saturday with the occasional Monday post like Christina Hollis’s this week. And sometimes we completely rebel and throw in another random day. Because we like to mix it up like that.

As a group of ten, we all take turns to contribute to this blog. We all bring guests to the Saturday Spotlight and there’s a rolling ‘rota’ for the book group and for Wednesday posts. This week, Saturday’s guest has been organised by me and I’ve just received her article and pictures. I thought I might as well get ahead of myself and schedule them ready for Saturday.

While I waited for wordpress to load up, I glanced at the calendar on the wall by my Mac just to double check that I wasn’t a week ahead of myself. I have one of these family-planner things with six columns. There are only three of us in our family (other than the cat but he really doesn’t need his own column) but I need the other three columns to organise the other key aspects of my life – Brownies, Writing (mine) and Write Romantics. I am the ‘Keeper of the Calendar’ and keep on top of what’s happening when and by whom. I love this role and the other WRs jokingly refer to me as Brown Owl for keeping them on track with what’s coming up on the blog and when we have free slots. Organisation has always been one of my strengths.

Until recently.

P1040080You see, when I glanced at the calendar and assured myself that my guest was indeed this coming Saturday’s guest, I spotted my name in the Write Romantics column. Why was my name there? It honestly took me a good minute or so before I registered that my name was there because today is a Wednesday and today’s slot is mine! Oops. Between organising everyone else, posting the Wednesday Wondering (which I always pull together) last Wednesday, and keeping on top of my guest slot this Saturday, I clean forgot that I had a post to write. A post that I should really have posted this morning. Is it still morning somewhere in the world? Maybe. But that’s really not an excuse.

My excuse is, quite simply, that I’m chasing my tail at the moment and I have absolutely no idea whether I’m coming or going. Like several of the other Write Romantics, I have a day job. I work full-time hours as a Learning & Development Advisor at a factory, although I’m very privileged to have had a flexible working application accepted so I work my hours across four long days and have one day a week off to write. My job is pretty busy and sees me travelling to our Grantham site quite often, attending careers events at local schools, or running all-day training workshops. The days I’m back at my desk can be a frantic email-catching-up frenzy and prep for the next outing. This week has been one of those weeks with two days in Grantham then a day in the office today.

bootcamps-headerOutside of work and writing, I’m a Brown Owl running a pack of 25 Brownies and have done so for nearly five years. If I’m honest, I don’t have the time to do this (as it’s so much more than just the weekly meeting) but I love it and wouldn’t want to let it go. I’m also a bootcamper. On a Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, I get up at 5.20am and head down to the seafront for a 6am hour-long bootcamp. I’m overweight so this is a big thing for me. To try and motivate myself to control my diet, I maintain a blog about this which I update after every single session. I really enjoy doing this and it helps me. But it’s time-consuming. I have an 8-year-old daughter, a cat, and a husband. And somewhere in amongst all of this, I write. But there’s so much on my writing plate at the moment. I submitted the final line edits on my debut novel ‘Searching for Steven’ last night (published by So Vain Books on 3rd June), I’m a quarter of the way through a final edit of my second book, I’m working my way through a second draft of book 3, I’m writing a short story to give away free as a teaser to book 1 and I’m blogging on this site and my own. I attended a scriptwriting workshop on Saturday just to throw something else in the mix and I’m meant to be doing a distance learning professional proofreading course but I’ve had to completely let that slip as I simply haven’t found the time to do it. I will emphasise that most of this work is self-imposed. My publishers haven’t put any pressure on me at all to get books 2 and 3 completed but I want them done as, after twelve years of living with this trilogy, I’m so ready for new material.

My sacrifice up until now has always been that I don’t watch (much) TV. I have programmes I love like Strictly, Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge but I watch very little else (although I’m currently following Broadchurch). I gave up on the soaps years ago when I realised I couldn’t watch them and find time to write. It was quite liberating. If you don’t watch much TV, you don’t see adverts for programmes coming up, so you’re not enticed into watching something you’ve seen trailered. But now it feels like even giving up TV isn’t enough and I’m not sure where to go from here. My desk is a permanent mess although, surprisingly, I can find things. In fact, the whole house is a permanent mess with piles of stuff ‘to be organised’ or ‘to be relocated’ everywhere. This was all fine until I started dropping the ball. I double-booked a couple of guest slots and I missed my own slot today. This isn’t like me and I hate messing up in this way.

So what’s the answer? Well, my starting point is that I’ve booked a day’s holiday for tomorrow. My flex day is usually a Monday so I’m off next Monday but I worked on Monday this week so I have this week’s flex day on Friday. Which means I have five days until I’m back to work to get control of my life again. My daughter is staying with my mum for a few days which means complete peace and quiet tomorrow. On Friday, I’ll be collecting her but will certainly get at least a morning to organise myself and write. And she’s back at school on Monday so I have a full day then, although Brownies is back after the half-term break and I’ve just realised I have the newsletter to compile. Argh. Had forgotten about that too!

Hubby is out tonight so I’m taking advantage of an empty house and hoping to just get myself organised. If I can do the bitty stuff tonight (the internet banking, writing the Brownie newsletter, tidying my desk), then hopefully I can take a full day tomorrow to finish my edit of book 2 and put a big tick in that box. I can brew my short story a bit more over the weekend and then write that on Monday. Then all I have left is book 3. Piece of cake! What on earth was I worrying about. Chasing my tail? No. Not me. I’m in control. Always.

Now where’s that to do list I wrote about three weeks ago and what have I forgotten to do off it?

Jessica xx

PS Would love to hear from you on ways of balancing a huge workload, particularly if you work and write. How do you do it? Please click on the comments tag at the end of the words below this post.

All About America – Lynne Connolly Unleashes Lightning!

It’s our second visit of the week with prolific writer Lynne Connolly. Today Lynne talks to us about her latest novel, Lightning Unbound. As we’d already done the introductions on Monday, we’ll hand straight over to Lynne …

ImageRecently the first book in a new series was released. Lightning Unbound and the series, Even Gods Fall In Love has been close to my heart for years. To most people it sounds off the wall, but to me and one other person who saw where I was going with it, it was an exciting new project. When people ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” explaining the rationale, or lack of it, behind the series is a great example of how and where the creative process happens.

See what you think. Thirty years before the start of the first book, the Olympian gods were all but wiped out by the Titans. The Titans want to rule the earth, the Olympians want the earth to rule itself. The twist? It all happens in an accurate rendition of Georgian Britain.

See? I told you that it sounded crazy.

But it works, and how! Once I started writing the series, everything fell into place. The aristocracy of London were treated as gods by many, and once I read that off-the-cuff comment in a non-fiction account of the period, I was off and running. So what if the gods weren’t immortal, but their attributes were? So their elimination meant they were born again in different bodies? A bit like the way the Tibetans choose the next Dalai Lama (my ideas know no boundaries! They believe the essence goes into a new body, and they just have to find him.

In Lightning Unbound, Jupiter thinks he’s the son of a duke with a fatal disease. But the fact that his blood runs clear isn’t evidence of the disease, it’s proof that he’s an Olympian, because he has ichor and not red blood. When he finds a mortal woman trying to take care of her brother, he steps in and goes all knight errant on her. But he doesn’t want to pass on the disease, so he can’t marry her, or make love to her. Or can he? I’ll give you a clue – this is a romance.

I usually get inspiration from my surroundings, from snippets of news or place I visit. Take my recent visit to New Orleans. I already have a story forming in my mind, something with Cajuns and alligators in it. But Lightning Unbound? I have no idea where that came from. Perhaps it’s all real and I just picked something up, an overheard comment or a vibe deep in my soul. But really, my inspiration comes from all over the place. An overheard snippet, reading a text book, a bit of history or even a news item will spark off the question that is most important to a writer.

ImageThe question? “What if…?” That’s the one. It’s the exciting time when you marry two unlikely ideas, or you add one and one and get an infinite variety of answers. Which is probably why many writers don’t make good mathematicians! The kind of lateral thinking that goes, “Oh, that’s interesting…” and then something starts to work. Never say never, and during the creative process, never say “No.” Go with it until you either hit a brick wall, or, like Dorothy, you find yourself in a new world of colour and possibilities.

There’s also the author’s motto that goes along with the question. “I can use that.” Keep a notebook, mental, paper or electronic. It really doesn’t matter as long as it works for you. I’ve been known to jot ideas on my wrist with the nearest pen, too scared that I’ll forget it before I get home!

The other person involved in this project is my editor, Amy Sherwood of Samhain Publishing, who saw the concept along with me. I’ve already written the second book, about the god/ marquis Bacchus, and the third has been accepted. Amy is an aider and abetter, someone who loves myths and history as much as I do and can see the potential in blending the two.

Which gods would you like to see turned into eighteenth century aristocrats? And why?

 

Lightning Unbound is available from Samhain Publishing here. You can read an excerpt on Lynne’s website and buy it at Amazon here and all other good outlets. It’s currently out in eformat, and will be available in print shortly.

 

That brings us to the end of our US-themed week. Thank you to Rhoda Baxter and Lynne Connolly for their time and their valuable advice. We wish you both every success with your new novels (and back catalogues, of course). Wishing all our readers in the US or with links to the US a Happy 4th of July tomorrow with lots of fireworks and festivities!

Julie & Alys

xx

All About America – Lynne Connolly’s Successful Accident

The Write Romantics have a confession to make. We’re very excited about our guest today. To be fair, we’re excited about all our guests but we’re particularly excited to welcome Lynne Connolly to the blog because she is such a prolific writer with over 70 titles to her name. As aspiring and freshly published writers, can we pause to say wow. Just wow!

Lynne’s also a fellow RNA-member and is incredibly generous with her knowledge and advice on our online community, Romna. We’ve all lurked on Romna regularly and found her posts very informative and helpful so thanks, Lynne, from all of us.

ImageLynne writes romance and categorises this in three main areas of interest: paranormal romance, historical romance, and contemporary romance. So pretty much something there for everyone. She says, “I write hot and sensual, and my heroes and heroines are always to die for!”

On Thursday, Lynne will be talking about her latest novel, Lightning Unbound but, for now, Lynne tells us all about how she came to write for the US market.

Over to Lynne …

It was an accident that I ended up in the US market. I wrote a book, a historical set in the first person and it was clear from the end that there were more to come from the same couple. I didn’t end the book on a cliffhanger, because I hate those (too impatient!) but it was clear all their problems weren’t solved and they had a way to go. So, a potential series. Could I sell it? Not in the UK.

The British publishers didn’t want it. I got lots of “we love it but we can’t sell it” rejections, so when a friend suggested I tried the USA, I looked into it. In those days you had to send the manuscript by snail mail, the same as for anywhere else, but I thought it was worth a try. So I sent it off, and eventually a tiny publisher accepted it. They were an eBook company, but I thought, well, it’s experience, and I accepted the offer.

ImageI didn’t realise that “Yorkshire” would have such a rocky journey. The tiny company went under after a year, but by then my name was known and I’d been through the process, editing, cover art, all that. The first cover art was—interesting.

Eventually, after a foray with another, slightly larger, publisher, “Yorkshire” ended at Samhain. Not only was I dealing with a country I’d never even visited, I was in the very early days of epublishing. I’d never thought of myself as a pioneer! From there, it blossomed, and with a few setbacks, I’m still there with over 70 books to my credit, and going strong.

So that’s the very brief story of my journey. I fell into it. But it soon became clear that if I wanted to be a success there, then I had to work at it. So I set myself to learn.Image

Every year I go to the RT Convention. It’s one of the two largest romance conventions in America, so that probably means in the world. I chose it over the other one, the RWA Nationals, because while industry professionals go there, it’s reader based and I was helping to educate readers on the eBook market. That no longer has to happen. Over there, very few people don’t know about ebooks, and that goes double for the romance market. It’s really important to get in touch with the market, and while RT isn’t cheap, it’s the most efficient way for someone from abroad to meet the highest concentration of readers, editors, publishers, journalists and agents in one place. Plus, it’s the best fun! It is very welcoming and encompasses all aspects of the genre, from gay romance to deepest, darkest desires, to Christian romance.

The romance market in the USA is staggeringly huge. Nielsen says that over 50% of all fiction sold every year in the USA is romance. It’s much, much bigger than the UK market. Writers hardly known in the UK, like Nora Roberts, Sherrilyn Kenyon and JR Ward are superstar millionaires. And that means there are different genres. The clearer you can define yourself and what you write, the better. I write in three genres—paranormal romance, historical romance and contemporary romance, though I do urban contemporaries, not the small town romances that are sweeping the board right now. See what I mean?

To be considered as a romance, a book has to describe the developing romantic relationship between two (or more!) people. That isn’t separate couples, it’s one relationship. If more than two people are involved, we have a ménage. The book has to have a happy ending, either happy-for-now or happy ever after. That’s why some Young Adult books don’t count as romances, because they often come in trilogies with cliffhangers at the end. But many romance readers also love Young Adult and New Adult books.

Stories that don’t have that romantic relationship at the centre are not romances. They are women’s fiction, fiction with a romantic element, or something of that nature. If it’s a book about a woman’s struggle to survive in the slums, and oh yes, she happens to meet a man, then it’s women’s fiction.

There are also definite trends. Right now the trend is for self-published 99 cent books, but that is passing. Already its heyday seems to have gone and the Amazon bestseller list contains more than the cheap books.

ImageIt’s important to keep an eye on trends, but it’s more important to write what you love. EL James might have written a book that sold a staggering amount (when I chatted with her at RT, she admitted she never expected that much success – but who could?) but she loved her story and lived it with her characters. The readers respond to that. But for every breakout author there is a steady seller. And, sadly, even more who don’t make it.

There are no magic bullets to success, but if you want to try for the US market—and with the Internet, why not?—then take a close look at the market and decide where you fit. Find a publisher that specialises in what you write, or if you want to go it alone, study the self-publishing market carefully. Don’t just go in willy-nilly. In other words, don’t do what I did, do what I say! Go over there. Take the plunge and go to RT or RWA to actually meet people. Talk to them.

Since I started selling in the USA, I have had experiences I never dreamed I’d have. Hanging out with Lee Child and EL James, staying in some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and most of all making friends. It’s truly enhanced my life.

 

Thanks again to Lynne for joining the blog. You can read more about her journey and her books on her website at: here … or come back on Thursday!

 

Julie xx