A Contract with The Book Guild

I am delighted to announce that I’ve signed a contract with The Book Guild! My novel, The Promise, will be published in the early part of 2018.

The Promise is a slice of British noir with dark undertones – a promise made in prison thirty years ago must now be kept on the outside, by the next generation.

I’m really looking forward to working with The Book Guild and excited to see the cover design they come up with – you’ll be the first to see it!

On that note, I’d also like to thank you, my lovely, loyal followers for the support, encouragement, comments, likes etc. that you’ve given me over the past few years. You all know that writing is a tough old business. We need skin like rhino hide to stop us sinking in a sea of rejections but also the ability to spot and act on constructive criticism when it’s offered. I hope you’ll stick with me in the coming months. It’s going to be an exciting journey!

To celebrate my good news, the Kindle price of my first dark, psychological novel, Bedsit Three, has been reduced to only 99p for a limited time!  Bedsit Three is a thrilling why-dunnit which twists and turns its way to a shattering finale! No one knows what goes on behind closed doors or in the darkest corner of our minds. Sometimes the threat is too close to home …

Bedsit Three

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Oppression by Dianne Noble

When Dianne Noble contacted me and said her third novel was about to be published, I was shocked – this was Dianne’s third book in fifteen months. Surely nobody can be that prolific?! So I asked Dianne to explain herself and this is what she told me:

I suppose it might appear prolific, three books out in fifteen months, Outcast first followed by A Hundred Hands and now Oppression which was published today, June 14th 2017, and is available for 99p for a very limited time. Oppression by Dianne Noble
But it’s not as prolific as it appears! I doubt anyone could turn out writing of any quality at such speed. The painful truth is that the first two had been written for a few years. I’d been doing voluntary work in India, teaching street children to speak English, and when I came home again had the idea that the journal I’d kept would be a good basis for a novel. Unhappily, agents and publishers thought differently and after Outcast had been rejected 32 times I stopped submitting, sat back and licked my wounds.
After nursing my bruised ego for several months, I decided to write another book, A Hundred Hands, also based in India, but with a different story line. I joined two writing groups and took my work in, chapter by chapter, week after week. Their critique was merciless and within a short time I felt tempted to abandon the whole idea. Whatever had made me think I could write? However, the stubborn part of me persevered and bit by bit every chapter was re-written, every word checked and evaluated, until I had a complete manuscript. I trawled The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook to find agents or publishers who 1) dealt in contemporary women’s fiction and 2) accept unsolicited manuscripts. They were very thin on the ground!
It took Conville & Walsh 17 days to refuse me and Curtis Brown 5 weeks. Some took months to respond, others never answered at all. It’s hard to describe how demoralising it is when everyone says no. You wonder if you’re totally deluded thinking you can write, and your skin seems to get thinner rather than thicker. 
When I received an email from Tirgearr Publishing my heart sank. I was at rock bottom and really couldn’t take another rejection. But it wasn’t! It was an acceptance and a contract. I don’t know how many times I read it, totally disbelieving that somewhere, someone (apart from me) thought I could write.
So when Outcast was accepted, A Hundred Hands already existed in draft form and Oppression then took around a year to write – not as prolific as it might first appear!

Dianne supplied me with an advance review copy of Oppression and it is well worth reading. It is a story of women fighting circumstance, men and religion in Yorkshire and Egypt. Dianne is brilliant at settings – sights, sounds, smells and dialogue are all authentic and her characters will have you rooting for them. Don’t miss the 99p offer!

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Self-Publishing for Charity

A client recently asked me to format an ebook that he intended to publish for charity. Then a writer friend of mine announced she’d published a short story anthology with the royalties going to a good cause. In turn, this reminded me of a book I’d bought in aid of charity at the beginning of last year.  It seems that writers are a generous breed and so I had a word with each these three writers to see what they personally had got out of the project and how their chosen charities had helped publicise the book.

Speak the English the English Speak is Colin Grey’s first venture in self-publishing and I think he’ll be the first to admit that it was a steep learning curve! Speak the English the English SpeakThe book contains the meaning and history behind 500 essential English idioms. The information will be useful for students and teachers of English as a foreign language as well as native English speakers who want to know more about phrases in everyday usage. For example, I didn’t know the origin of the expression, ‘Fill your boots‘, Colin’s book tells me that in the past, fighting forces’ alcohol was rationed and delivery was measured in long leather tubs that looked like riding boots.
Colin has chosen to give his royalties to the Maiastra charity, which helps young musicians. The charity has helped him publicise the book by mentioning it in their email newsletter which goes out to all supporters. I asked Colin what he, personally, got out of the project, “It’s fun! It gives me an interest and is a small achievement – something I never expected I would ever do.”

 

Paws for Thought

Sharon Boothroyd, of Ryecorn Digital Publishing, has produced a short story anthology, Paws for Thought, in aid of her local branch of the RSPCA. “Our project had to be passed by the RSPCA committee first, so it was an anxious wait for us, but they said yes and we were thrilled,” says Sharon. “Personal benefits to us are that it showcases our abilities and those of the terrific writers we’ve included in the ebook.”
The RSPCA gave the book a mention on their homepage and also allowed their logo to be used on the book cover. Sharon chose the RSPCA as their charity beneficiary because it was where her tabby cat, Buster, was adopted from. “The RSPCA are great to work with and if this book goes well, there might be a ‘Paws for Thought 2’ later.”

 

 

In 2016, proofreader Helen Baggott, wrote about her personal experience of breast cancer in Swimming With the Tide. Breast cancer experienceAll royalties from the book go to the Macmillan charity.
Helen is the only one of our charity publishers to produce a paperback version of the book as well as an ebook.
“I did the paperback,” she said, “because there was no extra cost involved  and I have friends who don’t use Kindles. I felt it was important that they could buy the book. Also, I wanted to give some people copies and paperbacks seemed a better way of doing that. Although Macmillan didn’t help with the promotion they did send some items that I could include inside the paperback copies that I sent out. These could be used as bookmarks.”

 

All the above writers should be applauded for using their talents for the good of others. Each one has also derived personal satisfaction from their project and probably learned something that will help them on their future publishing journey. I wish them well in their fundraising efforts.
If you’ve published something for charity, please give it a shout-out in the comments section below.

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PLR for Ebooks

Public Lending Right (PLR) is on its way for ebooks. Until now only ebooks downloaded on library premises, to fixed terminals and then taken away on loan have qualified for PLR payments. Legislation was passed last month (April 2017), in the Digital Economy Bill, which extends the UK Public Lending Right legislation to include remote loans of ebooks. These new arrangements are expected to apply to loans from July 1st 2018, with the first payments being made in arrears in February 2020.

I have written previously about how to get self-published ebooks into public libraries via the distributor Overdrive but there are a couple of things to bear in mind before rushing off to do so:

  • It is not possible to keep an ebook in KDP Select and make it available through other channels e.g. public library loans
  • Under PLR legislation, loans are collected using ISBNs. Many of the ebooks published through Kindle Direct Publishing have only the Amazon assigned ASIN.

So, this is good news for a lot of authors, who will, in the future, get recompensed for ebook loans. Others will have to take decisions about whether it’s better to stay exclusive to Amazon in KDP Select with its marketing/Kindle Unlimited benefits or go wide to other ebook distributors and obtain an ISBN.

Any traditionally-published/self-published authors have an opinion on this new legislation?

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Two Poetry Opportunities

A well-crafted poem is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately I’m not clever enough to create one but I know that several of you are capable of writing beautiful and clever poetry.

Here are two opportunities to get your skills noticed by a wider audience:

  • Tony Williams, the poetry editor of English: The Journal of the English Association, invites you to send up to six, previously unpublished, poems plus a 30-word bio to tony.williams@northumbria.ac.uk. Selected poems will be published in the journal. There is no payment but the journal has a large global readership who will see your bio. Poems on teaching/classrooms are particularly wanted before 31st May 2017. There is no deadline for poems on other subjects.
  • The Emma Press has a call out for submissions for poems about travel for an anthology titled In Transit: Poems about Travel. The anthology will be produced in collaboration with the Centre for Travel Writing Studies at Nottingham Trent University.  ‘Poems may describe journeys undertaken on foot, by bicycle, motorcycle, wheelchair, ambulance, bus, train, plane, boat or other mode of transport.’ The deadline for submissions is 28th May 2017 and In Transit is scheduled for publication in April 2018. Full details can be found on the Emma Press website.

Happy poetry writing!

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Bedsit Three Sells 1000 Copies

Last month total sales of the psychological thriller, Bedsit Three, passed the 1,000 mark.

Bedsit Three by Sally Jenkins

At this point it’s worth reflecting on the breakdown of sales across retailers. It’s not what I was expecting 18 months ago when the novel was first published.

Kobo                                                                                       764
Paperbacks direct from me                                                119
Kindle                                                                                       91
Createspace (i.e. paperbacks from Amazon)                   34
Overdrive (via Smashwords)                                                 2
Apple (via Smashwords)                                                         1

I expected Kindle to generate the largest number of sales because it is still, by far, the largest ebook sales platform. However, Bedsit Three was shortlisted for a competition organised by Kobo and Silverwood Books. On the back of this, I contacted Kobo and was able to get the book included in some promotions, which obviously paid off.

The lesson going forward? Don’t get obsessed by the benefits of KDP Select (which requires authors to keep their books exclusive to Amazon). Dip your toe in the water and try other ebook retailers as well.

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The Bees by Laline Paull

The Bees was outside my comfort zone – it was a book group choice. The Bees by Laline Paull

The novel is set inside a beehive and all the characters are bees. Flora 717 is the heroine. She was born into the lowest class of bee – the sanitation workers who are responsible for cleaning the hive and disposing of the dead. However, Flora is no ordinary sanitation worker and she shows a fierce bravery in protecting the hive, foraging for food and defeating invasions. She feels a great loyalty to the hive and its occupants but she also breaks the most sacred law of the hive …

Laline Paull is an extremely talented writer. Her descriptive prose made me feel like I was inside the hive with thousands of bees. She made me root for the underdog, Flora 717. And I wanted to find out what happened in the end (it wasn’t exactly what I guessed!). I learned a lot about bees and the impact our modern lifestyle is having on them. My only grumble about the book is that I found it hard to pick out the other individual characters amongst all the bees. The bees have generic names and, to me, it wasn’t always clear, for example, which Sister Sage bee had done what.

Laline’s inspiration for the novel came via a beekeeper friend. On her website, Laline says, “I knew I had a book when I found out about the laying worker, that one in ten thousand sterile female bees, who suddenly, and for no known reason, start forming eggs in their bodies and become fertile – the sole role of the queen of the colony.” Laline also has some encouragement for other writers, “Don’t give up. I wrote The Bees age 48, in complete obscurity. It can happen.”

So, would I recommend The Bees? Yes, if you want to broaden your outlook and experience some good writing. No, if you like human characters with whom you can identify.
I agree with Tracy Chevalier who said, “A rich, strange book, utterly convincing in its portrayal of the mindset of a bee and a hive.”

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