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Self Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

January 2017

Most budding writers wish to be the next J K Rowling, Stephen King, Harper Lee or even A A Milne, but how easy is it to get your work published in the 21st century?

The leading publishers such as Penguin, HarperCollins, Bloomsbury won’t accept any manuscripts as they simply don’t have the staff or time to go through them all. As a result, more and more authors are turning to self-publishing.


Self-publishing is just as it sounds, authors now have resources available to them to publish their own books without having to approach major publishers.

The advantages of self-publishing are many. The author will have bigger profits. Whenever a ‘middleman’ such as a literary agent or publisher is involved, the profits will automatically be reduced to pay for their work. Of course, unless the author buys the book direct from the printers (and even then, there’ll be costs involved!) and intends to sell to the public directly, there will always be some sort of costs such as retailers.

There’s no risk of being rejected. What if a person’s life’s work isn’t good enough? That can be heart-wrenching! With self-publishing you can just go for it, publish what you like. Sure, nobody could buy it, but that’s just because they don’t understand or haven’t heard about the, book. A self-publisher has the control for this, and also to oversee the whole process of the book from beginning to end. There’s no pressure to stick to a particular topic, or write more books.

However, self-publishing can be very time consuming, as the document must be formatted to the correct sizes and have perfect punctuation and grammar. No matter how good a writer’s spelling is, you can get blind to the mistakes you may make. Spellcheck can be a godsend, but what if you words r spelt write but r still un correct? Or imagine if autocorrect misunderstands what your soy is. Ideally, the least a writer should do is hire a good editor.

If the book is only for friends and family, then self – publishing is great as you can find companies that print on demand, but if an author wishes to make a living out of it then the book needs to SELL! There are self-publishing companies out there that can help, but fees can be high, around £2,000 per book, just for the printing. If an author is lucky enough to find anywhere cheaper, they should go for it, if they can afford it.

Traditional Publishing

With traditional publishing houses, there are expectations of a certain amount of books that authors must write, and deadlines to keep to. These deadlines may be to their advantage, to give them time to write their book, or may not be long enough, or not soon enough.

Some may give an advance on royalty payments, but these are usually small and take a while to recover. Your content may not be deemed good enough for them to publish, their time spent on the book may not justify what sales they believe it will achieve.

On the plus side, they deal with everything involved with the publishing, which means the writer simply has to write. They have the resources to market and promote your book, through digital and social media, book stores etc. As they work on a commission only basis (usually around 15% of the gross sales) it is in their best interests to ensure that their clients achieve as many sales as possible, so will work harder. A self-publishing author may move in the same circles and potential readers could become stale quite early on. There’s only so many times a person can promote their own book to the same people. Traditional book publishers will have a fresh outlook, new circles, new potential readers.

Once an author chooses the self-publishing route it can be very difficult to approach traditional publishers, so they must think carefully when choosing how to publish their work. They must consider:

• Control

o Can they let control enough to allow the publishing company to make major decisions?

• Longevity

o Do they have enough books ‘in them’ to write to the demands of a traditional publisher?

o Can they complete works within set deadlines?

o Do they want to publish more frequently?

• Target Audience?

o Are they writing just to be a published author or do they want to earn a living from it?

• Royalties

o How much do they want to earn?

• Marketing

o How much time can they spend promoting their book?

o How much money can they spend advertising?

o Do they have enough people to market to? OR are they relying on word of mouth?

Each style of publishing is down to the individual writer, and only they can decide, but hopefully this helps to make that decision. Whatever the decision, please don’t leave those magnificent works of art in your head, in a file or boxed away in a dusty attic.

How to Write a Best Seller

June 2017

What makes a book a best seller?

Firstly, content, of course. You may think that your life is worth telling the world about, but that doesn’t mean that its worth reading. If you really want to write an autobiography, pick out sections of your life that will be interesting, and make sure that it makes sense to others. “And then..” can mean the following minute, hour, day, week, month or a completely different period of your life, but to the reader they may not have a clue. Change names to protect the innocent (and guilty); you don’t want a lawsuit! When writing about a particular time in your life, back it up with events or other stories based around that time period. Maybe you are writing about when your Aunt Maud was in the WRENS, so include more details about the war time, as this will entice fans of that era to read your book. Remember, your life is known by you but not by others, so make sure you explain anything necessary.

Write out a plan before you start writing. Just a basic one may do, planning out each chapter and the contents within it. It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but can be a good starting block and point of reference. If you need particular facts in it, such as location details, knowledge of a career that your characters are working as, research it, ideally before you start. You may be able to stop at the end of each chapter and research the next one, or you may prefer to plough through the whole thing in a matter of days. Some find the planning stage tedious, but it really does help you keep on track. Of course, you can go off track too, as the story develops, but my need to refer to the plot to get to the end result.

If you are writing other fiction, such as sci-fi, it’s not so difficult to focus on facts as they can be as made up as you want them to be. Make sure that the details you add are consistent. Having the planet Xorb next to the moon of Xantol is very exciting, until you forget that the moon is not called Xantol, but the planet that it orbits is called that instead. Don’t confuse your readers. Readers can create their own misconceptions by themselves. For example, Frankenstein is the creator of the monster, not the monster itself. You would hate to read about Frankenstein creating a monster, who is suddenly referred to as Frankenstein itself, unless the writer has explained that it is named after its creator.

If you wish to delve into historical fiction, please research fully. This, along with any non-fiction work can be picked apart by anyone. Unless you have been sat next to someone watching a film, saying “this is wrong, a plane can’t actually invert at such and such angle and blah blah blah” you may not understand the importance of accuracy. The slightest detail, such as the fabric of an item of clothing not being invented or the mis-spelling of the name of a dinosaur, or indeed getting the wrong time period of said dinosaur, can get the backs up of any keen enthusiast. Know your facts, as much as any expert would do. Your editor can only do so much to check your work, and you can’t expect them to do the research for you (unless you are prepared to pay out a lot!).

Make sure there is a beginning, middle and end. This is primary school teachings! I was once given a book that a friend of my Dad’s had written and self-published. He signed it and I gave it to my son, who was around 4 at the time. The illustrations were fantastic, very appealing to a young child, but there was no storyline. It basically consisted of a farmer (or similar) who had a tractor. The farmer went onto his farm in the tractor every day. On the farm he saw X, Y and Z. At the end of each day he went home. Maybe if the book had included pop up pictures or had a hide and seek style it would have been better, but it was in the style of a story book. You don’t want your readers thinking “why?” “and” or “so?”.

The cover needs to scream READ ME! Make sure that it appeals to the potential reader. Bright and cheerful for children and young adults, for example, and relevant to the book, obviously. You can find standard book cover designs or your publisher may help with this, and sometimes they can be jazzed up to be more appealing, but be prepared to pay out a little extra for that cover that will attract your readers.

The technical aspect of your writing is also very important. I mentioned earlier about consistency, and now I will elaborate more. The consistency of events happening is essential to not confuse your readers, but also with your style of writing. For example, are you writing in first person, where your main character is the protagonist, or third person? Whichever you choose, keep it that way throughout the book. Keep your tenses consistent. Don’t state “I went to the shop” and then say “while I am at the shop I am getting the newspaper”. It would be “I went to the shop, and whilst I was there I bought a newspaper.”

Editing and proof-reading your document is essential. Spellcheck and grammar functions are a great asset, but they aren’t fool proof. They won’t find such mistakes as gender errors, and there will be times when you write He and the S doesn’t come through. He is a valid word, so there won’t be a red squiggly line under that!

Once in bed I felt a sense of satisfaction. I had managed to but both feet in a bath which had water in it. It may not sound a lot if you aren’t sacred of eater, but I was a step in the right direction.

How many mistakes did you spot there? Without even looking at grammar and punctuation there are already 3 obvious mistakes that should jump out at you.

Once in bed I felt a sense of satisfaction. I had managed to but both feet in a bath which had water in it. It may not sound a lot if you aren’t sacred of eater, but I was a step in the right direction.

These are all valid words in the English dictionary, so spell check wouldn’t find them.

and couldn’t sit still for long periods of time as my boy would seize up.

How about this one? Would your BOY seize up?

and couldn’t sit still for long periods of time as my boy would seize up.

These are all mistakes that I made in my book, and this is another issue I need to raise with you. If you wish to edit your book yourself, which I strongly recommend that you don’t, do it chapter by chapter, or sooner if you can. As a writer, you can become word blind, and not notice these simple mistakes. If you really don’t want to pay out for a professional editor, get a friend or family member to look it over. Trust me though, if you do this, be prepared for the “Erm.. did you mean to put this?” smug comments throughout, and be prepared to check it over again after them. You may disagree with mistakes that they have pointed out. If there is a difference of opinion, check it out.

If all this hasn’t put you off writing your dream book, great! We’ll discuss publishing, promoting, marketing and distribution next time!


Over the past few weeks I’ve been wanting to start blogging again but was really struggling to think of subjects to advise on without it seeming like I was preaching.

Today I sat in our local college ready for my son to enrol on his chosen course. It was so tedious being farmed backwards and forwards, with the staff totally not having a clue where the potential students needed to go to next; turning some away for not having the pink card (No not the hot pink form, the light pink card!), not being able to find people on the college system even though, in our case, some had been there previously or had at least completed all the procedures as instructed. We literally stood in a queue for around 5 mins just for the staff to circle 2 ‘yes’ boxes.

I was a little forgiving when I saw several staff dash to help someone who had a cardiac arrest in the queue for the Motor Vehicles course (and I was so happy that my son had completed that course last year and was opting for ‘Brickwork’ this year instead, as I have always joked that if I was in the vicinity of someone needing an ambulance that they may as well call 2 as I’ll need one too!) They really did an amazing job, meeting the needs of the patient with CPR (someone actually caught him as he collapsed and avoided him hitting his head), calming his relative (possibly his mum), cordoning off the area for privacy (and probably because they could sense my panic rising!), and by the time he was ready for the ambulance he was not only alive, but conscious, so I let them off the hook a bit.

By the end of the enrolment process I just crumbled when I saw a leaflet. Yes, just a leaflet. We had repeated information at least 6 times, and only had to sort ‘travel assistance’ out. On our way, we stopped at the NUS stand (now called Totem, for your information). My son had missed out of the student card last year, I think I had a ‘skint day’ (I’m sure we have all had those!) so made up for it by getting the deal of card and a goody bag for a slightly reduced price. The goody bag contained a pencil case with the usual bits, wrist band, re-usable coffee cup, and a couple of notebooks. The sign said, approximately,

“Buy the card today and receive a goody bag with stationary, both for £20.”

I couldn’t just leave it!

I had seen social media posts floating round today, GCSE results day, telling these poor 16-18 year olds receiving their results that it REALLY DOESN’T MATTER what your results are, you will always be fab. I even shared one myself on Facebook. I thoroughly agree. All 3 of my children hated secondary school and, like me, were bullied throughout their teens by school ‘friends’. The 2 girls had tried college, but that didn’t work, but do you know what? They are both beautiful and bright gir… uh-hum ‘LADIES’, don’t feel inadequate, as they aren’t, and are happy and healthy – what any parent could ever hope for. My son, is, of course, flourishing into a fantastic boy…uh-hum ’MAN’, and he has been comfortable in college, despite having bullying issues like his sisters. College is a much better experience than schools, and he has adapted and become a much more confident member of society.

But* you expect that people representing the college, as professionals, should know how to spell, to set a good example. Obviously, with a mother like me, my children had no choice than to know grammar, spelling and punctuation, as I’ve beaten it into them (not really of course, but made sure they can spot mistakes so that they can be cursed like me!) Don’t get me wrong – we all make little mistakes – and that’s ok, I’m sure I will slip up in my blogs, but when it comes to signs, posters and leaflets it is always better to get someone else to check. In fact, putting on my ‘author hat’ for a second (puts ‘mum hat’ down), I get my youngest daughter to proofread my own books before they are published. It is so hard to spot your own mistake (unless it is too late!).

So I decided to blog in the future about things I know. Simple as that (puts ‘author hat’ down and puts on ‘publisher hat’). I find that I’m learning every day with my job, so to share it seems logical!

Oh.. and what was the error that I found?

STATIONARY! StationAry roughly means to stay still, like a stationary parked car, whereas stationEry is pens, notebooks and so on… (my favourite things in the world – apart from cats!)

*I was taught at secondary school never to start a sentence with an ‘and’ or ‘but’, so this has been written under duress!