It’s head out of backside time for traditional publishing!

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I don’t know about you, but to my mind within the world of traditional literature, there is an inordinate amount of pretentiousness and snobbery, traits which I cannot abide.  Without exception the gatekeepers employed by the major publishing houses, whose job it is to weed out the dross when it comes to prospective new manuscripts are guilty of both of these thoroughly undesirable failings. There is also a growing number of trolls posing as traditional gatekeepers, lurking in every Social Media site, more often these days in plain sight, waiting to crucify a work once published. Always providing they get a free copy. Not one of them will ever buy a copy!!!

Most within the traditional publishing world would share the chairman of Hatchette, Arnaud Nourry’s contemptuous view that eBooks are stupid. They would also have you believe that all independent writers are by definition – talentless. Nothing could be further from the truth. While its true that thousands of prospective writers who currently independently publish via outlets like Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords (to name two options currently available) will never be able to produce a book that people other than their nearest and dearest will actually want to read, some of us are highly successful.

I look back to when I achieved best seller status a few years ago. Like me those whose work is published exclusively as eBooks, served their apprenticeship in literature while at the same time being paid through the act of receiving regular monthly royalty payments.

So you see some of us are professionals in every sense of the word despite the often regurgitated contention by Indie haters that people like myself are nothing more than mere wannabe’s. The fact that we prefer to publish independently is our prerogative. Several of us, myself included, left the sphere of traditional publishing to become Indies purely because we were not prepared to doff our metaphoric caps or be treated like low paid minions who should be grateful and know their place.

As for getting others to attempt to belittle and humiliate us by encouraging the bitter individuals that abound, most of whom tried their hand at writing and failed miserably for varying reasons, won’t put us off either. Most of us are made of far sterner stuff…

The time is long overdue for all conventional publishing houses to wake up and smell the roses if you want to survive. By insisting on blindly continuing to spend copious amounts of money on print runs, only to have them end up as pulp after they have been remaindered by the ever dwindling number of book shops through low sales, over the far cheaper and fastest growing area within literature today – the eBook, does you no favours whatsoever.

While it is true that many people still prefer to actually hold a physical copy of a book in their hands, millions of today’s readers do not. Accept the fact that the eBook is here to stay! If for no other reason, it never becomes dog-eared. It will never suffer the humiliation of its paper cousins by having the corners of its pages folded over, or have its spine broken by those individuals who fold a paperback.

The sooner you all accept that the Indie writer and the eBook are here to stay, the better. Instead of vilifying us and the eBook you should be embracing both. Finally, if for no other reason than a purely financial one I would have thought that all five publishers would have adopted the eBook concept long ago, simply because the cost of producing it is negligible in comparison to any printed product…

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Let’s face facts – these days many people simply can’t be bothered to read a book, especially here in the UK, particularly if its an e-book!

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There is an old saying – “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” The same applies when it comes to asking people to read your books, especially here in the UK where e-books still take a back seat to their paperback and hard cover cousins.

The one thing you can never do is force someone to read your book. All you can hope for is to make them aware of its existence by using all of the social media sites as well as word of mouth and emails to advertise its existence. Why is that? Because the numbers currently waiting to be read is quite literally in the millions. So, don’t be too surprised if after all your hard work writing it, plus spending money having it edited and marketed, that apart from the few taken for free on promotions by the growing number of tightwads who begrudge paying money for a book, that any and all interest in it will dramatically fall, often within a single twenty-four hour day once the promotion is over.

Don’t be tempted to beg potential readers to read your book with ‘buy my book’ pleas, or for that matter to bombard every book site you can think of on a daily basis with your titles. Both practices only highlight how unprofessional you are!!! All it does is turn people off, especially on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Unless your name is Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown or Stephen King etc,etc, like todays painters we have to have another source of income while we’re alive. When a painter dies, normally their works increase in value. In our case, our publishers continue to make money. In both cases neither the former writer or painter benefits.

So do you still want to write? If your answer is yes, be prepared for a hell of a lot of hard work for little gain, let alone recognition.

One thing you must do is maintain a high profile on social media at all times. The other thing I would also advise you to do is to operate a blog like this one. Don’t just talk about all things writing as so many tend to do. Your potential reading public want to know about you, what makes you tick. Your likes and dislikes. But don’t bore them to death…

During your writing career you can expect a hell of a lot of criticism, not only by the reading public, but also by some of your fellow writers, who think they know far better than you how to write your story.  TAKE IT FROM ME – THEY DON’T! If you want my advice – grow a thick skin. Turn the other cheek and never stop writing.

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What recognized qualifications do I need to become a published writer?

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This is a long post aimed at all current writers and those waiting in the wings, so please bear with me.

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A couple of days ago while perusing the latest posts on Facebook, I came across one that my friend and fellow writer, Stuart Aken, had found on a question and answer site called Quora (Google it if you want to find it’s location). Along with a couple of others in the game, Stuart and I added our comments to a query put forth by someone, on the subject of which qualifications were needed to be able to become a writer and to break into the publishing world – Click here to read it.

Together with Stuart’s initial comment on Quora, the ones John Yeoman, Karen Wolfe Whitchurch and myself added on Facebook, hopefully helped to back up Stuart’s views, and to quash the ridiculous notion once and for all.

Yes, you can go to the expense time and trouble to gain as many literary qualifications as there are stars in the night sky. But no amount of academic study will somehow infer that you are a writer. All any formal course related to the English language will inevitably tend to do, is to kill off any talent you may have thought you had, rendering gaining any qualification so-called, counterproductive.

In other words, as a potential writer you are completely wasting your time chasing any form of formal qualification. In fact even considering gaining any on offer under the headings of English Literature, or Creative Writing is guaranteed to be a monumental waste of your time. Why? Because all participating in any course designed to gain these academic qualifications ever does, is to burn the personal views and opinions of your teachers and lecturers into your subconcious, which all published authors, myself included, would argue renders you incapable of original thought, the absolutely fundamental requirement for any writer!

The following statement is a lose amalgamation of what we all said in our different answers to the article on Facebook:

“The best way to break into publishing is NOT to have an MFA in creative writing. Still less, a PhD. Academic laureates have no correlation with publishing success. Still less has ‘good writing’. All any writing course will do for you is to impart your teacher’s views and way of writing on you. Be a reader first. Be an observer and an eavesdropper. Your voice will come.”

And yet so many newcomers to our calling still fervently persist in clinging to the absolute myth perpetrated by those within the industry, who quiet frankly should know better, such as literary agents, editors, publishers and professional reviewers, that you need to be formally qualified, hoping that by doing so the vast majority of newcomers will be disuaded from ever writing anything other than their own names, now and in the future.

Yes I’ll grant you there are two notable exceptions to the rule. The difference being that both of them were brilliant academics in their own right, long before beginning to write. I refer of course to two of my literary hero’s – J.R.R Tolkien and his friend and colleague C.S Lewis. But without a natural bent for storytelling, no one beyond the academic world would ever have read anything written by either of them, other than their academic papers.

Remember this – Storytellers aren’t manufactured, they’re born!!! So let’s hear no more nonsense about which recognised qualification you need! The only way to nurture your natural talent for storytelling, always providing you have one in the first place, is to first of all become widely read. In other words read anything and everything. Peferably books not tweets!

Secondly, don’t believe for one minute that you need the help of any form of so-called professional editing service. If you are any damned good, you don’t!

The other point to remember about employing any editor, is that unless you are extremely vigilant your work will become coloured or contaminated by them. In other words the story is no longer solely your own. Instead it ends up being co-written by both you and them – something to think about!

Some of the more unscrupulous among their number see absolutely nothing wrong in adding their names to your book as co-authors. I tell you this from bitter personal experience. It was done to me years ago with my very first published work, before I finally saw the light and rapidly left the murky world of traditional publishing to become an Indie.

All any of us really ever needs, apart from the courage of our convictions, is a team of reliable beta readers to take a look at our latest MS and tell us whether or not it works. How? By pointing out things that you have missed or perhaps glossed over, as well as the inevitable spelling, grammar and punctuation errors.

I’ll spell it out for you one last time if it still hasn’t sunk in quite yet – you have to be born with a natural bent for storytelling to become a writer.

Turning your latest tale into a work worthy of publishing comes much, much later via nothing more or less than sheer bloody hardwork on your part in the form of endless re-writes – aka polishing. I suppose what I’m really saying here is that in the end, to be a successful published writer means quite literally that its all down to you and you alone. So in the meantime get busy reading every book you can lay your hands on, before you even begin to contemplate writing that future best seller. Why? Think back to when you were a child. Before you mastered walking, first you had to learn to crawl – right?

For what it’s worth, as a successful publisher writer, I’ll always tell you to go for it. Even though many online book sites like Amazon are currently choked with literally hundreds of thousands of badly written new titles by wannabes, making it practically impossible for anything we write to stand out from the crowd.

Just remember this – unless you possess a God given natural talent for storytelling, writing ain’t easy by any stretch of the imagination!

Instead it involves a hell of a lot of hard work often for very little gain, except for the personal satisfaction of having written an absolute belter of a yarn. As sure as eggs is eggs, while we all slowly gain a reputation for storytelling with each title we put out, the newcomer won’t gain one first time out!

So for now just take my advice – keep your head down and write, write, write and write some more. Oh, one other thing for those among you who think that writing will ensure overnight fame and riches, bear in mind that 99.999% of all writer’s annual earnings from royalties fall well below the poverty line.

Lastly, the world is full of wannabes who think that by rubbing shoulders with those of us who actually are successful, that they will somehow become writers themselves by osmosis. Just take note of the number of unpublished wannabies who currently inhabit the various social media sites, labouring under the misconception that by adding the word ‘Author’ to their name, it will somehow elevate them within the literary world, without partaking in all of the hard work being a writer entails. It won’t! Like everything else we do, it takes a lot of dedication and self-sacrifice on our part to gain a worthwhile reputation. Insisting on adding the word ‘Author’ to your name impresses no one. If anything it has the opposite effect! Think about it for a moment, it wasn’t the brightest move you ever made was it. Genuine published writers don’t do it. Neither should you.

None of us are in it for the money. Only the absolute joy of sharing our tales with the world through our writing…

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Once again silly season is upon us

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Ok, own up! Which total numpkin came up with the bizarre concept of daylight saving?

The clocks here in the UK went forward in the early hours of yesterday morning (Sunday 29th). Why it was decided that 2am is the appropriate time to make the change totally escapes me, let alone why it happens. But there you are. Until voters around the world demand their respective governments get rid of it, it’s here to stay, more’s the pity!

Truth be told, some bureaucrat probably drew a number out of his hat to decide what hour was best for the change over, after another of his kind had first decided that mucking around with time was a good idea. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the latter of the two received an award for coming up with the totally nonsensical notion!

Face it – we’re all idiots! Who actually benefits from changing their clock? No one! Those who swallow the myth that we somehow gain because of it, quite frankly need their bumps felt. The number of hours in a day remains exactly the same, no matter whether its during the daylight saving period or not – 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds, plus or minus a few thousandths.

Yes it is true that we gradually experience more hours of daylight during the summer months. But it has absolutely nothing to do with putting our clocks forward by an hour. Conversely, putting our clocks back in autumn does not change the number of hours in a day either. Instead, summer and winter has everything to do with the angle of the Earth at a given moment in time when it is rotating around the Sun.

I hate to point out the patently obvious here, but moving a clock back or forth by an hour achieves absolutely nothing, except to fool the totally thick among us into believing they are getting something for nothing. Think about it folks – does the Earth speed up as it travels around the Sun to comply with big businesses demands on you the worker? No of course it doesn’t. So why does every nation insist on doing it? Who actually benefits from this grand illusion? Certainly not the general public. Nor the business world, truth be told.

No amount of clock changing governs when we go to bed or wake up. We sleep when we’re tired. We wake up after we have rejuvinated ourselves in the arms of Morpheus. No amount of putting our clocks forward an hour in spring time and back in autumn, will ever change that! We still work the same amount of hours each day. Changing the clocks back and forth doesn’t change that either.

So, come on people wake up to the total absurdity of Summer Time. You know it makes no sense whatsoever. So why change our clocks for goodness sake? It is yet another pointless exercise which has become an accepted part of life. If you want to celibrate anything connected with summer and winter, observe the equinoxes, the time or date twice each year when the sun crosses the celestial equator, when day and night are of equal length, approximately on the twenty-second of September, and the twentieth of March each year. Now that makes total sense, unlike the clock changing codswallop!

What most people forget, especially bureaucracy, is that time is a constant. Mankind cannot change it to suit itself, no matter how much it kids itself, believing it can.

PS – if you are one of the half wits who actually believes the fairy tale known as daylight saving, I apologize for bursting your collective bubble with rationality – not!

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