This is the aspect of publishing I hate…

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… particularly when you see your new book already on the slippery slope to oblivion while you wait for sales…

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I took delivery of six copies of my latest work yesterday, to hand out to friends here in the UK. I also took part in an advertising gimmick from Amazon to offer three people the chance to get themselves a free copy. While they were free to the recipients, they certainly weren’t to me. Not at US$11.40 each they weren’t!!! Was I ripped off by Amazon? Yes! will I be doing it again? No!

So far the only sales have occurred via CreateSpace. As yet my countrymen and women, the very people I wrote it for, as it’s our history, have yet to step up to the plate. What does that say about UK readers? From my point of view, not a lot…

As for actual sales, excluding the six copies I bought, so far the number stands at nine. Hardly riveting figures I grant you. But that’s still better than zero. Now if only people here would get their backsides into gear and buy themselves a copy. Meantime all I can do now is wait. I’ve never been any damned good at it, despite often being told to be patient! Oh, and the other old chestnut – hurry up and wait…

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I’m in a bit of a quandary at the moment…

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As far as I’m aware no one else has ever written a book encompassing the three final battles, two of which were fought between the Anglo-Saxon nation and the Viking invasion force, led by Harald Sigurdsson, alias Hardradå – the battles of Fulford and Stamford Bridge. Then just over a week later, the battle of Hastings when the force led by Duke William of Normandy, (also of Viking descent), finally ended Anglo-Saxon rule in 1066.

Consequently a thought, or rather a realisation occurred to me this morning. My extremely short novella Autumn 1066, is in essence a historical account of the last few weeks of England in the hands of the Anglo-Saxons. I’ve compiled it from second-hand accounts written fifty years later in 1116 – chiefly The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, which at best can only be regarded as political spin by the religious community of the time, in an attempt to curry favour with the new masters of Britain, the Normans. Unfortunately there are no creditable eyewitness accounts to be had.

Now here’s my question – do I treat it as purely historical or not?

In several places I’ve added small details to flesh out what I believe may have taken place from inferences made by those responsible for writing the accounts. When you read it, you can decide if I’ve taken liberties or not.

Meanwhile, I’m busy adding the involvement of the few fictional characters I’ve employed where relevant, as their involvement throughout is minimal.

When I hand it over to the two gentlemen who offered to be my beta-readers – Colin Noel-johnson and Andrew French, I’ve no doubt they will have something to say about whether or not they consider the fictional characters as being relevant. At the moment, I’m in two minds on the subject of their inclusion…

If anyone does know of any such book, apart from the one I’m currently writing, I would be most grateful if you could give me the title, and the name of its author. So far I only know of one extremely badly written book from back in the nineteen nineties. But that one only ever concerned the battle at Stamford Bridge…

More later

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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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At last I’ve got the historical characters almost sorted.

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As I’m now on the home stretch when it comes to the historical side of my current WIP Autumn 1066, I now have nearly all of the actual historical characters sorted. There may be one or two minor ones I’ve missed. Only further research on my part will determine that.

The whole story has led to one specific date in the history of my homeland, England. That date is October the fourteenth 1066, and the battle that determined our fate as a nation for many centuries afterwards. As I’ve mentioned previously (that’s if you have been bothering to read my past updates) it actually occurred seven miles northwest of the coastal town. Even so it is still referred to quite incorrectly by historians as the Battle of Hastings.

When I downed tools yesterday morning I had begun to assemble the players on both sides, led by Harold and William respectively, on the site in Sussex where it took place nine hundred and fifty-one years ago. This morning I begin writing about the battle itself, after I’ve posted this for you to read that is…

But what about your fictional characters, I hear the more inquisitive among you ask? You’ll just have to be patient won’t you. In other words wait until you get to read it for yourselves, when I publish it as a paperback.

Am I having fun with this one? Duh – what do you think? Of course I am. I can’t wait to begin the fictional side of the story. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

More later

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I honestly don’t know which is worse…

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…a story that moves at a snail’s pace, or one that has been deliberately padded out. Both are a big no no in my book, if you will pardon the pun. And yet many of today’s writers are guilty of using one or both practices, egged on by online proponents of both.

Anyone who has ever read any of my books can confirm that I wholeheartedly embrace fast paced writing. I for one do not want to wade through endless pages of off piste ramblings. So why should I make my readers suffer in the same way? Even my latest WIP Autumn 1066 is fast paced.

When it comes to a book’s characters, personally I do not need to know every minute detail about any of them. Just the salient points. Over the years many who have read and reviewed my books often complain about what they see as the minimal amount of information I disclose about my characters. Why is that? Because I tend towards the trickle method throughout the story. Why do I do that?

Ask yourselves this question – when you first meet someone new, do you insist on knowing everything about them? No of course you don’t. You want to get to know them gradually. Unless that is you are a nosey parker! In which case, the chances are that the other person will lose interest if you get too pushy, and move on. When you meet a character in a book, treat the encounter the way you would in real life. Be grateful for what I give you and fill in the rest by picking up clues in the book and using your imagination!

If you are one of those individuals who prefer to read pages and pages of agonising detail with little or no action, may I suggest that you stick to the writers of yesteryear.

I hate to break it to you but writing has moved on. We are now living in the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth! Today’s pace of life is such that before we know it, the world has changed beyond recognition and already passed us by. Hence the need for fast paced writing to capture the average busy modern individual’s fleeting attention span within two minutes or less…

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Two down, one to go…

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Saxon Scramaseax, halfway between a knife and fighting sweord.

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Two? Two what I hear you cry? Two of the three pivotal battles that occurred in 1066, resulting in the end of Saxon rule of these islands, which I’m currently writing about. Do please try to stay awake!!!

In this case I’ve been working my way through the battle of Stamford Bridge on the eastern edge of The Vale of York. While students of history will know that amongst the dead that day were two key historical figures, In my WIP Autumn 1066 I’ve had a little fun killing off a particular nasty fictional individual of my own creation.

Some scholars would have you believe that there never was a bridge at Stamford back in the day, and that the only way to cross from one side of the Yorkshire hamlet of Stamford to the other was via a stone ford across the river Derwent. But I see no logical reason why a wooden footbridge was not erected. It makes perfect sense for the safety of those trying to cross the river when it floods. So during the battle I installed a wolf-coat on it.

If you remember the BBC television series ‘Dad’s Army’ about the Home Guard in a fictitious town on England’s channel coast, you will recall Private Jones, played by Clive Dunn. Being a veteran of the Battle of Omdurman in Sudan (1898), Jones was fond of recalling the battle. He had a particular saying – “They don’t like it up em sir!” referring to being bayoneted. My wolf-coat would tend to agree…

Apropos of killing him off, I began thinking about an idea for anyone interested in crime writing. Imagine that your main character is a writer, just like yourselves. What if they wanted to creat the perfect undetectable murder? How would they go about it? What if they discover that whatever they write, people do? So all your character has to do is write about murdering someone, wait for a day or two, before deleting the words, leaving absolutely no evidence pointing any investigator in their direction.

So crime buffs, feel free to explore the idea. If you do write a book using it, please add the words – from an idea by Jack Eason. Hey ho, it’s back to work, writing about the Battle of Hastings and the few days before it awaits.

More later

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