The steps to getting published, and avoiding the traps!

I’ve said this before, in fact I’ve said it several times, but apparently it needs repeating because over the past few days I have seen numerous posts on social media from unpublished authors who have been offered “contracts” by “publishers”. Why am I using speech marks? Because you have not been offered a contract by a traditional publisher, you have been offered a service by a vanity press, and yes, there is a HUGE difference.

I’ve been in this industry for a long time now. I’m published both traditionally and self, and the only time I have had to pay for anything to do with getting my book published, is when I did it myself. I work with three traditional publishers: Tirgearr Publishing, Totally Bound Publishing, and Evernight Publishing, and not once have I had to pay for anything other than private marketing, which I have done off my own back.

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So what should you be paying for? Well, when it comes to publishing a book there are several steps that need to be taken before it gets put on a shelf:

Write your story

Now write it again. Honestly, the first draft should never be the one you send out. To anyone! The first draft of a novel is a secret that only you should read. Why? Because it’s likely to be filled with unnecessary paragraphs, chapters and even characters. Read over it, and you will probably stumble into a plot hole along the way. Write your story, leave it for a few days, then read over it and fix everything you can.

Self editing

If you’re experienced in editing, you might find this stage slightly easier than other writers. Don’t rely on spellcheck to pick up on all your mistakes. There are plenty of apps and software out there that can help. Personally, I use Grammarly to go over my work and pick up on typos and misplaced commas. Whatever your process, self editing your work is a skill that develops over time and will improve with practice. You need to be harsh with yourself and try to read your book through different eyes. If you picked this book up and had paid good money for it, does it meet up to your standards as a reader?

Beta reading

Time to get your book out into the world.  A lot of authors rely on their mums or best-friends, which is where they fall. People who know you and love you, and want you to succeed, are going to tell you it’s great. You need to find a beta reader, or four, who has experience reading your genre, and can look it without bias. I highly suggest joining your local creative writers group. Read snippets out and get their advice, or buddy up with another writer and ask them to look over it.

Edit it again

Now it’s back from your beta reader, it’s time to take their notes and re-edit. Did they pick up on grammatical errors? Was there a plot hole you missed? Was there something that jarred with them? Fix it, because if they picked up on it, agents and publishers will too.

How are you publishing it?

Do you want to self-publish or find a traditional publisher? Speaking from experience, both routes are hard work, but self-publishing is definitely harder. If you self-publish, you will need to pay for everything yourself. You will need to be ruthless when it comes to editing and fine-tuning and cover design. You will need to understand the industry, know how to market and promote your book and monitor sales records. But, if you want to be traditionally published, then you will need to grow a thick skin and be prepared for rejection.

For the love of all that is good, do not go down the self-publishing route because you’ve been rejected. If publishers and agents said “no thanks”, it’s because your synopsis didn’t catch their attention or your opening chapters weren’t up to par. People will tell you not to take it personally, but you should. I’m sorry if that seems harsh, but the fact is that your book just might not be good enough and sellable. Of course, it’s possible that it hit the slush pile and you got a form rejection letter, but take another look at it. Can it be improved? Don’t give up, just don’t throw your toys out of the metaphorical pram and decide you know better than people who have been working in this industry for a hell of a lot longer than you.

However, do not fall into the trap of vanity press. If your chosen publisher says they’d love to offer you a contract, and you only have to pay £X, run. Run fast and don’t look back. No good publisher will ever ask you to pay for editing, cover design, or put money towards printing/publishing costs. EVER.

Editing

Yup. Time to edit again. Traditional publishers will assign an editor to you, who you will work with for several weeks until it is polished and scrubbed. If you’re self-publishing you’ll need to find someone to do it for you. DO NOT do it yourself. DO NOT let your best-friend do it (unless they are trained and qualified). Pay for it. Don’t be an idiot and think you can do it without help, because you can’t. I’ve been working as an editor for 11 years. I spent four years doing my degree, on top of several years of training, CPD, and work experience. I still wouldn’t publish a book that hadn’t been edited by someone else, because there will always be something you miss.

Trust me, I’ve read self-published books that have been self-edited, and I can tell within the first chapter. I don’t care if you think you’re good or if you’ve been doing it for years. And I don’t care if I personally know you. If you think you can self-edit and have a well-polished book at the end of it, you’re an idiot, and an arrogant one to boot. Self-editing is why the self-publishing industry has such a terrible reputation, because people write a book, stick it up without a thought, and readers cry into their cornflakes at all the terrible spelling mistakes, excessive use of commas, unnecessary description, repeated phrases, and massive plot holes. Floating body parts, jumping POVs, and simultaneous actions are distracting and proof of bad-writing and a lack of editing. I know, because these are all things my editors pick up on, every single time I write a book, and they are things I’ve come across that have made me send a book back to Amazon and demand a refund.

Cover design

Again, traditional publishers will have this covered. And, again, don’t do it yourself unless you are actually good at it and experienced. If you do, you’ll end up on Tumblr’s list of bad covers. I’ll admit, I did do my own cover for ‘Later‘, but it took me a bloody long time, and I have done work as a cover designer. I’ve been using Photoshop for several years, editing images for my husband’s photography company. I’ve watched hours and hours of YouTube videos and studied books back-to-front. I’m still not 100% happy with it.

And, you have to pay for licenses to use images, fonts, brushes… the list is endless, and expensive. Oh, did you think you could Google an image and use that? Sorry, but no. Copyright laws exist, and using an image because it’s on Google is not good enough. As the wife of a photographer, I can tell you how heartbreaking it is to see an image that has been worked on, and posted on a public forum to show off your skills, to then be used by someone without your permission. Particularly if that person claims it as their own. Taking images you don’t have the right to use will lead to your book being taken down from sales sites, and your backside being sued by the original artist/photographer. There are sites you can use for ‘free for commercial use’ images, such as Pixabay and Pexels, but you still need to be careful and check the licenses.

It’s much easier (although more expensive) to hire a cover designer. They are professional and experienced. If your cover looks like it’s been made by a five-year-old using Paint, it won’t matter how good the story is, it won’t sell.

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Publishing

A traditional publisher will sort all this out, without charging you. Go and sit down and have a cup of tea. If you’re self-publishing, you need to look at your options. KDP is by far the easiest, and if you’re using Kindle Unlimited, you literally upload it to Amazon and boom. Done. Otherwise, upload to Amazon and somewhere like Smashwords, which will then upload it to sites like Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, etc. Self-publishing an eBook is not hard.

Print, is slightly more difficult. Personally, I just use Amazon. You will need to order proofs, which again costs money, to make sure your cover is straight and the words are in order, etc. But there are other options, and it really is best to look around. You’ll need to purchase an ISBN for print books, which is provided for free through Smashwords and Amazon, but many self-published authors prefer to buy their own.

Getting your book actually onto physical shelves is not so easy. In the UK, bookshops rely on Betrams and Gardners. If your book is not listed with them, it’s unlikely to be ordered by bookshops, and will remain online only. You also need to comply with UK law by sending a copy to the Book Depository in Edinburgh. See HERE for more details. This is a legal requirement, and not something you can skip around, if you’re based in the UK. Research your own country for their laws.

You will also need to price your book. Don’t be ridiculous and think your 30k novella is worth £4.99. It’s not. Equally, don’t price your 100k novel at 99p. This devalues all the other titles on the shelf. Price appropriately, and in according to other titles in your genre of similar size.

Marketing & Promo

Even if you’re traditionally published, you will need to pay for some marketing and promotional work. Some authors are able to hire a PA to help with this, but it is possible to do it yourself. Look around for sites like BookBub, eReader News Today, eBook Discovery, and Book Barbarian, who are all good, reputable sites, with guaranteed sales. Fussy Librarian and eBook Soda used to be good, but their reputation has dropped of late, with less sales during promotional periods. Remember you get what you pay for, so if you use free sites, it’s likely that you won’t see anything come back.

You can also use services that do blog tours and review tours. These, again, cost money, but guarantee reviews and a blog spot. It’s unlikely these reviews will be placed on Amazon though, and you do run the risk of being put on an unseen blog.

Marketing and promotional work should be done continuously. It’s not something you can do once and then forget about.

Getting published is hard work, and anyone who tells you it’s easy is either lying or has never been published. Do not fall for the lines of “oh, you can edit it yourself”, or “but all publishers charge”. If you truly want your book to be read and enjoyed by others, work your backside off, and don’t let your baby go until it’s wings are fully developed.

Needs Must… #amwriting #amediting

In 1996, I had my first publication. I was 14 at the time, and my grandma announced that she’d submitted a poem that I’d written for her when I was 10, to a regional anthology. To my surprise, it was accepted. Roll on three more years, and I was studying my A-Levels at Tuxford Comprehensive, Nottinghamshire. I definitely picked the wrong ones, focusing on science and maths rather than the arts. I knew I wasn’t going to do well, and stopped trying, instead spending my time writing short stories for my friends. The first one of any length was a 30k word novella titled ‘Can’t Buy My Love‘. God knows where it ended up, it’s probably on an old floppy disk in my mum’s attic.

I didn’t do well in my A-Levels, and for a while I flitted around from job-to-job, trying to find my way in the world. I signed up to the RAF and lasted 10 weeks, with old injuries flaring up to the point that I was left with little option but to leave. I worked at MacDonalds, I worked as a waitress, I worked in a bakery, I worked in retail, and eventually settled into veterinary nursing (although I didn’t qualify). Through all of this, the one constant was my need to write. Poetry, short stories, and first chapters were scribbled down and typed out, but I didn’t do anything with them.

2007. I was living in Jersey with my husband, and was pregnant with my daughter. It was an horrendous pregnancy, filled with problems that culminated in girl-child being born 8-weeks premature with health complications. I was on bed-rest, and started to find things to fill my time. I kept writing. I started to knit. I signed up to the Open University and completed a certificate in Creative Writing. I discovered content mills.

Content mills are a debatable topic amongst writers. Some think they are terrible – you don’t get paid what you’re worth, you upload articles to websites without the guarantee of sales, and a lot of the time you end up giving away the rights to your articles. I started writing for Helium.com. I began uploading a few of my poems, and sort of fell into writing pet care and health articles. I started to do really well, at one point earning $900 a month in affiliate sales alone. Then I started to find flaws in other articles, particularly ones giving incorrect advice. I was approached by a channel manager and asked if I wanted to become a fact-checker. I jumped at the opportunity, and this eventually led to proofreading and training as an editor, before becoming a channel manager myself. It was a full-time job, and through it, I made some amazing contacts and sold articles to private magazines & e-zines. I started ad-writing. At the height of it all, I was making $2,500 a month. But, my creative writing was being affected.

In 2011, the site began to fail. It was sold to another company, and completely dissolved in 2012. This gave me the opportunity to focus on creative writing, and I wrote The Final Straight, followed by Seven Dirty Words and Four Letter Words. I kept up with my freelance writing & editing, although I found it difficult to find a site that worked as well as Helium.

Jump forward to 2019. I now have 11 books published, both self- and traditionally, with a bad experiment currently sat on KDP unpublished. I’ve also completed my degree in Arts & Humanities, with a pathway in English Language, gaining an Upper Second Class Honours. I’ve worked with editors and cover designers for almost 7 years, either freelance or provided by traditional publishing houses.

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www.charlottehowardauthor.co.uk

But none of this brings in as much money as I was earning when I was freelancing, and my bills continue to come in and expect to be paid.

I’m taking a break from writing romance this year, while I focus on my pen name – C.V. Leigh, and writing paranormal and fantasy novels. However, I still need to pay those damned bills. So, I have set up a few things to try and help raise much-needed funds.

EDITING & COVER DESIGN 

A few years ago, I set up RW Literary Services but closed it down for a variety of reasons, which I wrote about on this blog. I’ve decided to re-open it, but with a few changes. I’m still offering blog spaces and reviews for free, but I have changed the prices, and now offer cover and graphic design as well. You can follow me on Facebook.

I’m still learning when it comes to cover design – I am not a trained digital artist. With a photographer for a husband, I have access to top-end editing software and unique photographs that I can use. All of this is reflected in the prices, keeping them low compared to more qualified and experienced cover artists… You get what you pay for!

I’ve also set up a Patreon site, originally under the name of C.V. Leigh, but now changed to RW Literary Services.

FREELANCE WRITING

I’ve also gone back to freelance writing. I’ve currently uploaded all of my articles onto Dot Writer, which can be bought directly from them. The articles focus mainly on pet care and health, but I have also written about friendship, beauty & health, and financial issues.

Paying bills sucks. But, with any luck, I might be able to scrape through 2019 and enter 2020 with a successful business!

Self Publishing IS NOT Bad! #selfpublishing #amwriting

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What is it about social media and the need to drag each other down? Seriously people, get a grip!

I recently joined a Facebook group that shall remain nameless. It’s not awful – there’s a lot of support in there, and you can promote your own books, helping you get seen. But, there is a lot of bitching as well. Recently, I commented on a post stating that even the likes of JK Rowling were not over-night successes. I dared to suggest that Harry Potter might not have become the franchise that it is without the aid of Hollywood. The lesson I learned was to not piss off a Potterhead/phile/fan/whatever, because I was absolutely flooded with insults, both publicly and privately. Most of it just rolled off my back – writer’s have to have thick skins – but what pissed me off was the idea that I might not have a clue what I was talking about because… wait for it… I self-published a book. Not only that, but my traditionally published books are done through small publishers and without an agent.

I think my favourite private message was:

You’re nothing but a f***ing self-pubbed c***. You probably don’t even own a DICKtionary. People like you are why real authors can’t get contracts.

Oh ha ha, you’re so funny. You’re also wrong and very, very blocked.

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To suggest that an author isn’t really an author because they’re self-published is… well… it’s bullshit. Sure, there are some seriously crap books out there, and sure there are books out there that really shouldn’t have been published. I’ve been guilty of self-publishing a God-awful book that should have been burned (it’s not available any more, I learned my lesson). But that doesn’t make the writer any less of an author! They published a book, and whether it’s a crap storyline, full of plot holes, never seen an editor with a cover was made using paint, or not, is irrelevant. It’s still a published book. And let’s face it, the people who are saying this shit haven’t ever downloaded that book and read it anyway so they really don’t know what they’re talking about.

How do you know that book is a pile of crap if you haven’t done anything more than checked out who the publisher is? What is it they say? Don’t judge a book by its cover… And, if I’m honest, there are some traditionally published books out there that have got covers my nine-year-old could have made.

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Yes, I self-published by book STRANDED. No, I don’t have an agent, and no, none of my books are published by any of the Big Five / Six / However many big publishing houses are left. But they are published. They are professionally edited, with professional covers. I paid to publish Stranded. I did not just throw it up on KU (it’s not available on KU, but it is still free) without thinking about it. I have worked in this goddamn industry for ten fricking years now, working as a freelance writer, editor, proof-reader and fact-checker before I started writing for myself. DO NOT tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to writing and publishing.

I stand by my comments, even though some high-and-mighty admin saw fit to delete them and back-up their precious little clan. JK Rowling was not an over-night success. Stephen King was not an over-night success. EL James was not an over-night success. These writers are where they are through hard work and luck. You’ve heard of them because they’ve made a franchise out of their books. But there are hundreds of authors out there that make a living from selling their books, and you’ve never heard of them. There are hundreds of self-published authors who have never even considered getting an agent or a traditional contract, who are doing very well for themselves.

Sitting on social media, slagging off self-published authors for ‘taking the easy route’ is not big, is not clever, and is not nice. Instead of hiding behind your screen, try congratulating them. Try being happy for them that they’ve reached a goal, followed their dreams.

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At the end of this rant, and having read back over what I’ve written, I’ve come to realise that I actually feel quite sorry for these idiots. It’s very sad that they feel threatened by someone else’s success. Trust me, my self-published short story did not stop you from getting that coveted your contract. It was probably your attitude.

Rejected!

I recently received a lovely email from a fan and an aspiring author asking for some advice, and while I have responded, I felt that I should share my experience with rejection with all of you.

The email:

Dear Charlotte,

I am a fan of all of your books and have been following you since you first published Seven Dirty Words. I’m an aspiring author myself and was wondering if you had any tips on how to avoid rejection. I submitted a manuscript to agents and publishers, but every single one of them has sent it back and I’m feeling very down. 

Thank you,

FAN

My response:

Dear FAN,

Firstly, I’d like to say thank you for reaching out to me. I always enjoy receiving emails and messages from readers. The next thing I’d like to say is don’t beat yourself up over a rejection, especially if it’s with your first piece of work. Yes, I’m published now, but I wasn’t always and I still get rejected. In fact, I had a new manuscript rejected by three publishers in the past month – two of them being publishers I already have contracts with! Why? Because the manuscript I sent wasn’t up to scratch. It really is that simple. It wasn’t of a good enough standard to be considered. I’m lucky in that two of the rejections came with feedback and constructive criticism, and I plan on taking those comments and re-writing my novel over the summer. 

As a writer, it’s important that you have a thick skin. You will receive rejections and 1-star reviews and negative comments throughout your career. Even well-known authors have to deal with it. However, while you need to let the negativity slide off you, you need to take the comments that professionals make and learn from them. One of the comments I received with my recent rejection was that there was too much too soon. My characters burst onto the scene with little or no build-up. I could take that comment and get huffy, but instead I’ve looked at the scene and found areas that could be improved on.

If you got a standard rejection letter of “thanks but no thanks” with little or no feedback, the chances are that your manuscript didn’t make it past the slush-pile. This is common when it comes to big publishers & agents – in fact if it came from a big publisher or agent, then count yourself lucky that you got a response at all! The slush-pile is the enemy of all aspiring authors. There is no guaranteed method that gets you past it, all you can do is craft an amazing submission letter and synopsis, and pray. Also, make sure you follow their submission guidelines to the letter!

With regards to the manuscript, I would highly suggest finding someone neutral to read over it. Don’t ask your mum or a friend – they’re going to say that it’s great. Join a local book club, writers group, or art community and find someone who is willing to read through and give you some good, strong feedback. The manuscript I submit is never the first one I write. I take chapters and snippets to my local writers group to read out, and I’ve buddied up with another writer who can be quite brutal when he wants to be! I then go back, completely re-write it from scratch, and then edit it about three or four times before submitting. Even then, I can guarantee there will be silly mistakes (slither vs sliver and jettisoned vs jetted are always mistakes I make), typos and grammar errors that I’ve missed.

My last piece of advice would be to find authors that in the same genre as you, and follow them on social media. They will give you insights into who they use for editing, who their publishers are etc., and you may find that you make some useful contacts along the way. When I started out, it was a chance meeting at a literary festival that led me to discovering small press publishers like Tirgearr Publishing. 

I wish you all the luck with your novel, and hope you’ll stay in touch. I’d love to follow you on your journey.

Charlotte Howard

New Release from Lucy Felthouse – City Nights: One Night in Budapest (@cw1985) #newrelease #erotica #romance #newadult #NA #tirgearr

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Blurb:

Hermione’s in Budapest on a romantic weekend break. Or at least it should have been romantic—an unexpected break-up means she’s visiting the Hungarian capital alone. Determined to make the most of it, she goes on a night-time river cruise, the perfect opportunity to see some of the city’s beautiful sights after dark.

On the boat, cute Budapest native Emil serves her cocktails. They chat a little on the journey, engage in some banter, and when Emil asks Hermione out for dinner, she’s seriously tempted. But she’s a long way from home, by herself—is dinner with a complete stranger a good idea? Hermione decides to take a chance, and what follows is an unforgettable night which will transform her life forever.

Buy links:

Amazon: http://mybook.to/ONiBudapest

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-night-in-budapest-lucy-felthouse/1123478763?ean=2940152889482

iBooks UK: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/one-night-in-budapest/id1088016111?mt=11

iBooks US: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/one-night-in-budapest/id1088016111?mt=11

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/one-night-in-budapest

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/618193?ref=cw1985

 Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29345184-one-night-in-budapest

City Nights Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CityNightsbyTirgearrPublishing/

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Excerpt:

Locating the correct pier, Hermione pulled her ticket from her pocket and showed it to the girl welcoming passengers onto the boat. The girl—the badge pinned to her blouse giving her name as Reka—glanced at the ticket, and smiled. “Thank you. Please take a seat inside until the boat arrives. Enjoy your trip.”

With a nod, Hermione gingerly headed along the gangplank and boarded the vessel, wondering what Reka meant. Surely this was the boat? She shrugged, smiling at the other members of staff she passed, and followed the buzz of chatter to find the other passengers. Maybe it had been a misunderstanding, her meaning lost in translation or something.

Heading up a couple of steps to a bar room full of other tourists, she quickly took a seat at an empty table by the window. She’d have a great view of Budapest’s riverside highlights from here—and she was sure they’d look different again once night fell. Already the sky was darkening—it was almost four p.m. on a chilly January day.

She was so intent on admiring the Chain Bridge that she didn’t know there was anyone beside her until someone said, “Excuse me, madam? Would you like to take advantage of our special drinks offer?”

Turning to the source of the voice, her fluttering heart the only indication that she’d been startled, she smiled. “Maybe. What’s the offer?”

Her smile widened as she studied the man who’d spoken. He looked to be around her age—early twenties, and damn cute. Dark, slightly overlong hair curled on his head, deep brown eyes gave him an intensity that increased the flutters in her heart, and the dimpled smile he flashed as he replied lit up his handsome face. “It is happy hour. Two drinks for price of one.” He paused, looked at the empty seat beside her, then glanced over his shoulder as though checking if anyone was coming to join her at the table. “But perhaps you would only like one? Maybe I can see if yours can be half price…”

“It’s okay,” she replied firmly. “I’m going to be on the boat for a while, I’m sure I can manage two drinks. I don’t have to have them at the same time, do I?”

He shook his head. “No. I will be serving on the other boat in a moment, so I will look after you and your drinks to make sure you get special price.”

Immediately following his mention of an additional boat, a loud voice rang out. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are now ready for you to board the tour boat. Please be very careful while stepping from one boat to the other. As soon as you are all seated, we will begin the trip. Thank you.”

It was then Hermione realised that as she’d been gazing out of the window to one side, a smaller boat had pulled up alongside the one she was on. Everyone was getting up and moving to the staircase. “Thank you,” Hermione said, glancing at the man’s name badge. “Emil. I would absolutely like to take you up on your offer.”

He smiled, and she returned the gesture, only allowing the grimace to take over her face once she was out of his view. She was glad of any language barriers at that moment—hopefully it had prevented Emil recognising the blatant double entendre in her words, inadvertent though it had been.

As she emerged into the main space of the tour boat, she worried there wasn’t enough room for her and she might have to share a table with someone else. Not that it would be the end of the world, but over the past couple of days in the Hungarian capital, she’d become accustomed to her own company, even begun enjoying it. And the beautiful city had been more than enough of a distraction, in any case.

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Author Bio:

Lucy Felthouse is the award-winning author of erotic romance novels Stately Pleasures (named in the top 5 of Cliterati.co.uk’s 100 Modern Erotic Classics That You’ve Never Heard Of, and an Amazon bestseller) and Eyes Wide Open (an Amazon bestseller). Including novels, short stories and novellas, she has over 140 publications to her name. She owns Erotica For All, is book editor for Cliterati, and is one eighth of The Brit Babes. Find out more about her writing at http://lucyfelthouse.co.uk, or on Twitter and Facebook. You can also subscribe to her monthly newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9

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