High Praise Indeed!

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Bernard Cornwell OBE

The other day following the first Amazon review of my latest work Autumn 1066, its author Sally Cronin paid me the ultimate compliment in one of her comments below the post, comparing me to one of today’s finest writers of historical fiction – Bernard Cornwell OBE.

These days for most lovers of historical fiction on television, while they may not know, or care, who is responsible for the original works of fiction which television series are based upon, even the mentally challenged among them will at the very least be familiar with two of Bernard’s best known fictional heroes – Richard Sharp (Sharp’s Rifles) and Uhtred of Bebbanburgh (The Last Kingdom).

When it comes to Indie writers like myself, most of us count ourselves lucky that what we write is not immediately  panned, or heavily criticised by the army of armchair critics, pedants and literary snobs lying in wait for the next book written by one of us. Which is precisely the reason why I deliberately published my latest effort as a paperback only. Most attacks only occur when an Indie’s book is only available as an ebook (preferably free).

When someone does dare to speak up for a book written by an Indie, it makes an extremely rare and pleasant change. So now all I have to do is hope and pray that Autumn 1066 becomes a best seller, while I search for another moment in history to write about, probably once again from the Dark Ages, starting in a few month’s time.

PS – one of my favourite books was written years ago by Bernard – Stonehenge 2000BC. As I recall it was heavily criticised as being sluggish, boring and long-winded, which by the way it isn’t. But then again, what can you expect from utterly ignorant individuals who wouldn’t know a good book when they see it?

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I just had to share this with you…

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Autumn 1066 isn’t even ready for publishing quite yet. But that didn’t stop one of its beta-readers Martin Bradley from feeling he had to not only write the pre-publication 10 – 12 word advertising review I asked for, but also a full length one.

Here is what he said:-

In Autumn 1066, author Jack Eason gives a great sense of ‘place’, of detail. The reader is right ‘there’ in that poignant year, marching, shivering with September cold (as ‘…no warming fires were allowed lest ‘enemy spies would soon spot their approach.’) From the very first few lines, Eason, practising his unique drycraft, begins to weave his particular brand of magic on his reader. Eason glamours with well-crafted dialogue, drawing his reader into the time and into the action. To accomplish this, the author proffers a gentle blend of informative nomenclature coupled with familiar speech, to ease the reader into his story without distancing with words too unfamiliar, which is a criticism frequently made of Bernard Cornwell’s epics. I long to read more.
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If Martin’s reaction is any indication of how history buffs in general will hopefully receive it once its published. then maybe Autumn 1066 will become my magnum opus. Who knows?
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Here are all three of the pre-publication advertising reviews that will appear on the rear cover:-

The events are insightfully brought to life. Prepare to enter Dark Ages Britain . Andrew French, author of the Michael Prentiss series

A new look at a series of battles that changed Britain forever. Colin Noel-Johnson

Great sense of ‘place’. The reader is ‘there’, in that poignant year. Martin Bradley

 

I’ve just added the final elements to my historical novella before I sent it off to be professionally formatted, prior to publishing. Hopefully by the time the bill for the service arrives, PayPal will have stopped playing silly beggars. Some moron in Djakarta tried to gain entry into my account with them. Because I no longer have a telephone I had to email them. Nothing ever goes to plan does it? If it’s not one damned thing, it’s another.

PS – Grrr! It’s the following day and I’ve still heard nothing back from PayPal!!!

More later

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Now I wait…

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The weapons traditionally used by the Anglo-Saxons – the shield, the hafted axe, the double-edged Sweord, the single edged Scramasax and the spear

Well, I sent the text for my novella Autumn 1066 off to its beta-readers a couple of days ago.

In the process I picked up a third one – Martin Bradley, via ‘Writer’s Group’ on Facebook. When I told him that I was only planning to publish it as a paperback, he informed me that in that case he would not be able to read it. He has had books he bought and paid for, sent to him via the Royal Mail, go missing in the past. As a consequence he now only reads books in e-book form on his tablet. As I’m not publishing this one as an e-book, I decided to send him a read only .pdf copy of the text. That way, at least he could read it…

Now I wait to hear back from Martin, and Colin, not only for their comments, criticisms and suggestions, but also for their pre-publication reviews which I will insert inside the end product. Andrew got back to me yesterday in the affirmative. Now all I need from him is his 10-12 word pre-publication review. So, one almost down, two to go…

Chris The Story Reading Ape, bless his heart, sent me a link yesterday for an article in a historical magazine concerning the three battles in my book – Fulford, Stamford Bridge and Hastings.

The day before yesterday, my mate Jamie came round to mow my lawns for me. After he had done, I gave him the text to read through. His reaction was also in the affirmative.

Yesterday I received an email from a chancer in the US of A (no names, no packdrill), purporting to offer his services as a beta-reader. Needless to say, if I smell a rat, in other words I don’t trust the individual concerned, he won’t become one, end of story…

More later

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What all potential beta-readers, especially mine, really need to know

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The following edited description of what a beta-reader does is taken directly from Wikipedia:

A beta-reader is someone who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as to make suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. Beta reading is done before the story is released for public consumption. Elements highlighted by beta readers encompass things such as plot holes, problems with continuity, characterisation or believability.

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In effect, as a beta reader you are performing exactly the same function as a fulltime editor, not a critic. Some people simply fail to make the distinction, often unnecessarily taking the author to task, while completely forgetting that until its published, it is still a work in progress!!!

So far I have two volunteers, one English – the other American. When I’m not only happy with, but prepared to hand over my current WIP – Autumn 1066 for their close scrutiny, they’ll go to work. They are the novelist Andrew French (click on his name for his titles) and the prolific blogger here on WordPress, Colin Noel-Johnson.

As the novella is about a period in my country’s history which occurred almost a thousand years ago now, (nine hundred and fifty-one years to be exact). I’m not expecting to hear from many from across the pond wishing to volunteer. Or indeed anyone from the European continent come to that. Even so, should any of you care to take part in the exercise, your offer to help as a beta reader won’t be turned down.

Please email me at jackeason5@gmail.com if you wish to be added to the list. In cases like this, the more sets of eyes at work, the less chance there is of errors in the final product, prior to publishing.

Please remember that I have no intention of publishing the novella as an e-book. These days it’s the quickest way for any book to disappear from the public’s sight in Amazon’s cavernous slush pile, joining the millions of other e-books. To give it a fighting chance, it will only be published as a paperback.

PS – So much for my intended week’s break before beginning phase two. I’ve already begun…

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Phase one ends. Now for phase two…

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A reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon hall

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Yesterday I completed the historical phase of my current WIP Autumn 1066. As I said earlier, I will now walk away from it for a week before I begin phase two, the fictional side of the story. As I also stated earlier, this will be a novella. Or to put it another way, an extremely short book. Having written the historical side of things, means that the first phase stands at slightly over 6,300, or thirty pages in the standard 5×8 paperback size.

Once I have completed phase two, I will offer its text to my beta readers, either as a read only .pdf, epub or .mobi file, for them to offer their thoughts and undoubted criticisms (everybody is a critic – right?) But, only on the condition that they agree to write a pre-publication review, which I will add to the finished product when I publish it as a paperback, always providing its favourable and short – ten words or less.

If any of you wish to become one of my beta readers, partaking in the privilege of being able to read it long before the general public, please email me at jackeason5@gmail.com after reading this post.

When I have completed the story I will then email a copy to anyone who has requested to be a beta-reader for this my latest WIP. Think of it as your one chance to not only read it for nothing, but also to participate in a new book’s evolution. Definitely something to brag about to your circle of family and friends.

PSPotential beta-readers please note that as its as historically accurate as is currently possible, given the paucity of actual facts available, means that phase one leaves no room for expansion, unlike the fictional side.

Remember this also – all favourable pre-publishing reviews accompanying any book, providing they bear the actual name of the person responsible for them and not a pseudonym, are what always convince others to read any book these days.

I hope to hear from some of you in the next few weeks while I’m busy writing phase two…

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Avoid all the literary con artists on the Internet like the plague!

The words on the picture below reminded me yet again about something that sooner or later all writers come across – so-called litarary experts…18032992_1179548492167908_3489112258262059821_n

Somerset was, and still is, perfectly correct. When it comes to writing, no one knows what the rules are. I have no doubt that today’s literary experts, will vehemently disagree with that.

Which begs the question, why should you listen to them? You shouldn’t!

If one of them latches on to you by offering their help, ignore them with a vengeance. Why? Because without exception they are talking through their backsides. How many of them are failed writers? About ninety-eight percent. The remaining two percent have become so-called editors whose only aim is to take your money. Either by editing your MS at so much per word or line of text, or by offering to publish your book, once more at a price, in their capacity as the owner of a Vanity Press.

In the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, flim-flam merchants were easier to spot. People were always on their guard when it came to crooks and charlatans. Once the internet was born it opened up all sorts of money making opportunities for con-artists. Offering editing services was just one…

These days they tend to dazzle the unwary with their fancy internet sites promising to make you famous as a writer, but always at a cost. Some even claim to be professional editors, which is an out and out lie, because there is no such thing. As yet no universally recognised qualification has been devised within the academic world!!!

Don’t dismiss all small press publishers. not all of them are crooks.

Each of us old hands knows at least one good one, depending on the genre they specialize in. One who immediately springs to mind lives in South Africa. He goes by the name Joe Myndhardt. Joe is rapidly making a name for himself. He owns and runs Crystal Lake Publishing, specializing in publishing horror.

If ever there was ever an area where the words ‘buyer beware’ still applies, it very definitely is today’s literary world. If you enter with your eyes closed, I guarantee that you will be fleeced by the unscrupulous, and then some, believe you me…

Of course you are entirely free to ignore my advice. But don’t complain when you find you have been taken for a ride by yet another money grubbing fly by night.

Before you begin to write, take the time to talk to other writers. Those of us who have worked in the literary school of hard knocks for decades, are well worth your while listening to. Remember, we started out just like you as total innocents in what can only be described as the toughest market place there is. We’ve all made, and learned from, the same mistakes waiting in the wings to catch you out, long before you even thought about writing that book…

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Which is more important…

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…the cover or the book’s content?

Quite simply, if a story is not up to scratch, no amount of money spent on a cover and an ad campaign will help sell what is in effect, a lame duck! – (cardinal rule of publishing)

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If you listen to some writers who swallow everything they are told, hook line and sinker about spending money to market their books, the one thing they are adamant about is that it always takes precedence over the book’s content. This line of thought is nothing more or less than complete bulldust, designed to hook the gullible!

If your editing skills are not up to scratch, by all means pay to have your MS edited if you must. But that’s all you should be paying for!

All serious writers and bibliophiles know and have always known that the story is alway more important. Do you honestly imagine that the cover and marketing are the first thing reputable publishers think about??? These days there is far too much emphasis placed on how a book’s cover looks, as well as promotional video clips.

As I said in yesterday’s post – Let’s face facts, if a story doesn’t sell itself, there is no point whatsoever in pouring good money after bad by trying to improve its visual packaging in an attempt to make it stand out from the crowd in an already saturated marketplace! The only publications with pretty pictures I know that sell well are called glossy magazines or Bimbo fodder to you and I. When it comes to pictorial covers, those of us who have been in this game for several decades are all guilty of changing them in the past, hoping to shift more copies. Does it majorly improve any book’s chances? Rarely if ever…

Whether you like it or not the words contained within the book are what’s important, not the damned cover or how much money you spent on marketing! One last thing – before you see any financial profit from sales of your book, first you have to recoup your outgoings.

So if for arguments sake you spend the conservative figure of £200 on cover and marketing, and the paperback version is priced at £8.00, work out the number of copies you will need to sell, based on the bog standard royalty percentages shown below, just to break even.

Hardback edition: 10% of the retail price on the first 5,000 copies; 12.5% for the next 5,000 copies sold, then 15% for all further copies sold. Paperback: 8% of retail price on the first 150,000 copies sold, then 10% thereafter.

For god’s sake do the math!!!

At the risk of repeating myself yet again, ask yourself which is more important – the cover and the advertising, or the book’s content?

It’s a no brainer, always assuming you have a brain and know how to use it in the first place. Many independent writers never sell enough copies to recoup their outgoings. And yet they still insist on pouring good money after bad. Their completely unfathomable actions remind me of the old saying – “a fool and his money are soon parted”.

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