Monday, 20 April 2020

Supporting Indie April

This month is Indie April during which we do our bit to support self-published authors, so I put out a call on twitter asking people to recommend their books and had an amazing response – almost 100 replies to my tweet, and nearly as many book links.

Obviously I can’t read all of them so I had to whittle them down and I’m going to share my process for doing this with you.

First off I specifically asked for UK Amazon kindle links. A large number of authors sent me US Amazon links or links to other sales platforms which are really no good to me so I’m afraid these books didn’t get a look in. However, that still left me with a long list of 40 books. A significant number to choose from.

Some authors included a pitch with their link, which was useful, but I still followed the links for those who hadn’t. My next step was to check them out on Amazon to see if they looked interesting. This was where personal taste comes in. I asked for Sci-Fi, thrillers and fantasy as these are the genres I enjoy most, but also anything else that people thought I might enjoy, and I received an interesting assortment, ranging from children’s books to romance to memoir.

My next stage in filtering through these was to look at them on Amazon to see if the book’s premise was of interest to me. Obviously this was subjective and I skipped over books that other people may love simply because they weren’t by cup of tea. A couple of things worth noting though that did put me off a few.

Firstly, shoddy covers. Most authors had put a fair bit of effort into their covers and some were simply gorgeous, but a few were really cheap and shoddy looking. If you can’t be bothered to make an effort with your cover why would I think you’ve made an effort with your writing?

Secondly the blurb – This does need to be gripping and to the point, giving the reader a clear indication of the book’s premise. Far too many were waffly and unclear. This is your sales pitch. Don’t waste it. I ended up with a shortlist of 12.

Next, I used the ‘look inside facility’. This is where the writing starts to matter. You may have a killer concept but if it’s poorly executed I’m going to pass. Fortunately this wasn’t too much of an issue so my selection was rather more subjective. I now have two amazing looking books lined up on my kindle to read and I’ll be posting reviews of them in due course.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Sale to Neo-opsis

The Canadian SF magazine Neo-opsis has been on my submission radar ever since I started writing and submitting SF short stories and every so often, when I have something I think they may like, I send it their way.

Well I’m delighted to say that my latest offering, ‘The Forgotten City’, has been accepted for publication in a future issue. The contract is signed and sent back and I look forward to sharing this story with you all.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Always check your SPAM!!

I’m normally quite good at this – keeping an eye on my junk or spam folders for any emails that might inadvertently be flagged up and side-lined. But this time one slipped through.

I’ve had a few computer issues lately. Well, when I say issues it’s really called ‘husband upgrading and tinkering’ and doing annoying things such as deleting all my contacts! And somewhere in amongst all this a short story acceptance was marked as junk and then deleted. Or maybe it never got through at all. Whatever the reason I never saw it.

The first I knew was when I checked my junk folder this week there was a message from a few days previously from a magazine editor asking had I received their email of acceptance back in December and was the story still available.

Well clearly I hadn’t and I promptly replied apologising and said that yes, the story was still available and I was happy for them to proceed.

I’ve not heard any more so who knows? But for now I’m marking this as a sale and hopefully I’ll be able to share The Relic with you all in the not too distant future.

Except it’s set during a virus outbreak so maybe they’ve changed their minds!

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Short Story Sale to NewMyths.com

My latest short story sale is a flash piece called ‘The Last Library’ which has found a home at NewMyths.com. It is due to be published later this year. I’ll let you know when it comes online.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Living in a Dystopian Novel

There is a blurring of fiction and reality. The world we live in has changed, in many ways not for the better. We thought we were safe, living in our technological bubble. But all that is changing.

It really does feel as if we are players – minor characters in a real-life dystopian novel. We didn’t choose these roles. But now we have to let the story play.

Over the years I have written about climate change – Cli-Fi – Climate Fiction it was called. Nobody reads it any more. Probably because it is real now. Climate fact. I wandered down to the harbour at Spring tide and the roads alongside the harbour wall were awash. Two weeks ago at the last spring tide it was the same. Cars were ploughing through, sending up plumes of spray. The salt water will rot their bodywork but the drivers don’t seem to care.


People have other things to worry about. There’s a virus spreading across the world, out of control in many places. Nobody bothers too much when it’s somewhere else. But it’s not somewhere else. It’s here. It’s happening now.

I went to the supermarket and the shelves were bare. Not all of them, but oddly people are stockpiling toilet roll. There’s a craziness about the world we live in. Historians of the future will study it in great depth, I have no doubt. Maybe they’ll puzzle over the toilet roll panic. I certainly did.

Maybe I need to brush up on my survival skills. Do I know where to forage for food? Could I skin a rabbit? Should I be building a bunker at the bottom of my garden? Or will a well-stocked freezer and larder suffice?

Will it all blow over and life continue as before? Will the summer be one of spritz in the sunshine, laughing at the craziness of it all?

Either way, I still get the feeling that I’ve been trapped in a novel. An oddly surreal novel.

The next few weeks will tell.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

The MG Sci-Fi void.


I’m currently pitching a Sci-Fi kid’s novel to agents, so I headed over to my local branch of Waterstones in order to try to identify comparison titles. (Similar books that I can reference in my covering letter to give prospective agents an idea of where on the shelves my story would fit.)

This particular book of mine is aimed at the 10+ market, the same market as Red Rock. It’s quite sciency but not science heavy and I’ve made sure that the science in it is accessible. It’s probably best described as a Girls in STEM story.

So I started searching in the 9-12 age section for similar types of books – and you know what – nothing. I couldn’t find a single book even remotely sciency or Sci-Fi! Nothing! Diddly-squat!!!

So I came home and searched on Amazon. I found a couple but nothing that would really work as a comparison title!

I did the same for YA and guess what? Yup. Apart from the hangovers from the Dystopia boom a while back – and yes, Dystopia is a type of Sci-Fi – but my book isn’t a dystopia, so they weren’t a good match either.

It’s puzzling. There’s a huge drive to encourage STEM subjects at school, and particularly to encourage girls into STEM – it’s nothing new – it’s been going on for a while – so why isn’t this being reflected in kid’s literature?

Then, yesterday I spotted an agent commenting on this very thing. Her inbox was full of YA Sci-Fi – which suggested to her that there were plenty of readers and writers of the genre out there - but editors simply don’t want to buy it.

Clearly there’s a mismatch here. There could be many reasons for it, but as a humble writer rather than an industry insider I wouldn’t know.

All I can say is it doesn’t bode well for the story I’m pitching. Or for my current WIP which has a definite YA feel to it – Maybe I’d be better off pitching it as Adult instead!

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Twitter Pitch Contests

Every so often twitter fills up with people pitching their novels in twitter pitch contests. I watch these with interest and sometimes take part. There are a whole raft of contests that run, the main one being #PitMAD but others like #SFFPit and #DivPit crop up at regular intervals.

Over the course of following several of these contests I have made a few observations which I thought I would share with you on the pros and cons of these types of event.

Pros:

1. Distilling the essence of your story into a single tweet is a really good exercise. It makes you think about what your novel is really about and what makes it unique.

2. Looking at the pitches that get a lot of love can help your develop your own pitch, and it’s useful to be able to pitch your book in a single sentence. You never know when that might come in handy.

3. You get a sense of what is popular, both within the US market and in what people are writing. This can fluctuate a lot as the market changes but seeing what’s popular gives an idea of what’s hot right now.

4. I’d never really thought about comparison titles before, but again, it’s a good thing to think about. Where does your book fit with the market? Where do you see it on the bookstore shelves?

5. There’s a lot of camaraderie among participating authors, retweeting the pitches that catch their eye. If you want to connect with other authors on twitter this is a good opportunity.

6. Going to an agent’s profile and looking at what sort of pitches they’ve liked gives you a good idea of what they are looking for. If they’re liking stuff similar to yours it’s probably worth submitting to them, even if they haven’t liked your particular pitch – they could quite simply have missed it in all the noise.

Cons:

1. The feed is public and there’s nothing to stop people picking up on that brilliant idea you just tweeted and going away and doing their own thing with it, so if this is something that worries you, best not to pitch yourself.

2. Not all agents and publishers are made the same and there are definitely some dodgy ones that follow these contests. So if you do get a like from someone you haven’t heard of spend a little time on research. You’re under no obligation to actually submit if you don’t like the look of them.

3. It’s very US focussed. That doesn’t mean International authors such as myself can’t submit but most of the participating agents and publishers are American so they’ll be looking for work that fits the US market.

4. The feed is incredibly busy so don’t overthink it if you don’t get any love. Concentrate on the positives you can take away.