Most UK authors’ annual incomes are well below the minimum wage.
Most UK authors’ annual incomes are well below the minimum wage.
Stickers (or more likely pretend stickers) are all the rage on book covers. Those little bright circles used to contain important additional information, such as a shortlisting for a literary prize, but now it can be almost anything including frequent claims that the latest release is the new Gone Girl or for fans of The Girl on the Train or Stieg Larsson.
Anyway, I can hardly complain since I have joined in with my own circular cry for attention, but why stop at one? Perhaps I could coat my entire book cover in circles filled with the best and most exciting quotes?
Up early: wake kids, wake kids again, wake eldest once again (probably shouting), walk dog (unless it’s raining – he doesn’t do rain), make massive coffee and check Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook. Write diary and plan day.
Write, rewrite, edit or blog until lunchtime. Brief break for lunch with other half (he also works at home). Watch the news – risking boredom, depression or incredulity depending on severity of news items.
Back to work: check Amazon Author Central, Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook and respond to messages and emails. Write, rewrite, edit or possibly format depending on where I’m at with a project, and keep going until there’s a need to shop for food (always out of something). Walk the dog again.
The teenagers return. Cup of tea (I am British), and more of the same until it’s time to cook, read or watch TV (choosing either low-brow or high-brow, but nothing in between), whilst checking Amazon (cue excitement if I have any book sales) and Goodreads (again, happy to gain any reviews). Take the dog out in the garden (I have to accompany him because he is so small and there are foxes that might eat him), read and bed where, in my sleep, I solve all plot issues and devise brilliant promotional campaigns (if only), and wake ready to start again.
Book reviews – the buses of publishing – can take a book elsewhere. The preferred destination: discovered, bought, read and enjoyed is clear, although there’s no guarantee any book (however good) will make it.
‘Bussing it’ – catching a bus and staying on wherever it takes you – has its fans such as teenagers with free travel cards, OAPs and even rock chick Chrissie Hynde. It’s more about the journey, the opportunity to travel and discover unexpected places along the way that may, and often do, prove to be more interesting than the final destination.
Independent book blogs are the bussing-it-style trips compared to the straightforward journeys on offer via the book review pages in the mainstream media.
Book blogs, through their willingness to read widely and without prejudice towards self-published works, offer the chance for other voices to be heard and new, possibly more unusual books to be discovered. As Haruki Murakami says, ‘If you only read the books that everyone is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking’.
The prophecy stated that following a spate of problems with my car, I’d sign a publishing deal in June. Well, that prediction came years ago.
I’ve had my palm read twice. Once when I was 19 and backpacking in India where a guy in a jewellery shop said I’d nearly die at 35 (I think he was irritated that I wasn’t buying his gold), and secondly by a friend’s hippyish dad who was visiting the UK from Australia.
Obviously, I was relieved to find the Indian guy was wrong as I made it through to 36 unscathed and happily alive, but not so thrilled to annually suffer the car issues without the longed for publishing deal.
Most years there have been promising signs that this could be “the” June – a shortlisting for a writing competition, inclusion in a literary magazine or website, or a book out on submission via my agent, but so far each June has drawn to a close with a hint of melancholy (which quickly dissipates with the arrival of my birthday).
Anyway, it’s a truth universally known that the road to publication is circuitous for most writers. Unless you’re Martin Amis, a footballer or celebrity, your average writer has to fight for his or her right to be published. I mean, I even thought about writing a novel about twitching and sending it to Jonathan Franzen so he could champion me, but someone beat me to it, so what else?
I’ve always sought publication via the traditional route. I have a charming agent who talks to the right people but still it’s not easy, and recently it hit home just how hard it is for writers to secure a deal. At the London Book Fair I attended a talk about the market for crime and thrillers. Sarah Hodgson, deputy publishing director at HarperCollins, revealed that they take on about three new writers a year. Three. And that’s in a hugely popular and commercial genre. And who are they taking on? Often it’s writers who are already doing it for themselves. They have self-published novels that are selling, or perhaps they are YouTube stars with millions of followers.
Anyway, whatever, YouTube is not for me, but I’m all for putting work out there, so that’s why this June is different. Yes, there’s been car trouble – tyres that needed attention, new car tax and a parking permit – yawn yawn – but then that is what the Australian fortune teller predicted -.
A well designed book cover will certainly improve a book’s chances in today’s crowded market, so what are the secrets of successful book cover design?
At the recent London Book Fair I attended a talk by Damian Horner, brand development director at Hachette, and this is a brief summary of his advice for authors:
1 Membership – look at the genre rules for book covers and ask, am I a member of that group?
2 Lust Factor – you have to look at it and love it. Does it stand out? If it’s fresh, you’ll look again.
3 Blink Test – is there one stand out thing that people will take away if they look quickly?
4 Title – Important for search engine optimisation and for design. Is your title strong and memorable?
6 Retailer – think about how the thumbnail sized version works, important for Amazon etc, and also think of how your book will sit spine out in a bookshop such as Waterstones.
7 Hierarchy – Title or author? It’s best to choose one or the other.
GOLDEN RULE – BE CLEAR BEFORE YOU’RE CLEVER
With all this in mind I got to work on my cover for LONDON TSUNAMI & OTHER STORIES which is a collection of 21 contemporary stories set in London.
After initially going in the wrong direction with several ideas (including a linocut that took me at least a week), I settled on a photograph of some flats that I have been fascinated by for years. By day the building looks drab while by night it’s transformed by its central pillar of glowing windows. There are so many different and equally vibrant lives being lived in that one building and my collection is a bit like that – 21 stories of different people, of different ages, leading different lives in west London.
I first heard about Scrivener at a Guardian Masterclass on self-publishing in London. It then began to pop up as the software of choice in various books and blogs on the subject, so I thought I’d take a look and downloaded the free trial from Literature & Latte. Within 24 hours I upgraded to the full package.
After years of using Word I’m not going to say the switch to Scrivener was easy. There’s a lot to learn and many questions arise daily if not hourly, but with the help of blogs, YouTube videos, and Scrivener for Dummies I’m muddling through to format my first scripts for ebook publication.
So far I’ve been particularly impressed by how it compiles a proof copy. It produces an easy-to-read script with lots of space for corrections.
Anyway, after much huffing and puffing and frantic searching for answers on great mysteries such as how to ensure all my paragraph indents match, I have managed to publish on Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords etc a dark, humorous short story called, SHOPPING AT TESCO. And, with even more effort I’ve managed to ensure it is available for free.