Updated statement… competitions will still go ahead.
In response to current circumstances, a decision at the University of Winchester to move to online delivery has meant that it is no longer possible for the Hampshire Writers’ Society to hold its meetings at the Stripe Theatre.
Sadly, it has been necessary to cancel the Society’s events scheduled for April, May and June. The competitions will still go ahead, but the adjudicators may change.
The current situation is being kept under review, such that the Society will consider ways of adapting to the new landscape in which we find ourselves.
We aim to launch our new season in September 2020 as previously planned, should there be a significant change to prevailing circumstances.
The Hampshire Writers’ Society sends very best wishes to all at this challenging time.
Dr Gary Farnell, Chairman of the Hampshire Writers’ Society
Genre was something set in motion by the ancient Greek playwrights who, followed by Shakespeare, categorised their works into three batches – history, tragedy and comedy. Satire, they used to provide some light relief in the midst of their tragedies. Google will tell us there are five main genres, each with its own rules, for example, length and character types. So, each genre has boundaries, but these are fluid. A story may be set in a dystopian future but have a strong romance at its core.
So, the rules of genre may not be hard and fast, but writers do need to be aware of them.
‘Think of the labels on tinned food,’ Christine Hammacott, graphic design consultant and self-published author of psychological suspense, told the gathered members and guests of the Hampshire Writers’ Society on Tuesday night, ‘you wouldn’t be impressed if you opened what you were eagerly expecting to be your favourite beans or soup, and you got dog food.’
A life-long book lover, Christine worked for a long time in the publishing industry. Determined to be the master on her own skills, she set up THE ART OF COMMUNICATION. Her first book, THE TASTE OF ASH has been a recommendation of the UK Crime Book Club.
‘A crime story can be written in a very light way.’ she points out, ‘Or it can be written in a very dark way.’
Many authors, when asked what their book is about, will launch into a twenty-minute, blow-by-blow account of their entire story. This is not what the question was.
The many writers who announce: their book is unique, doesn’t fit into any genre, need to do some more research – read lots, join Facebook and Twitter groups, sift through Amazon and Goodreads, resort to the Writers and Artists Yearbook and analyse exactly what it is that you have written. You could always talk to Christine at The Art of Communication!
The first thing an agent thinks: Is this sellable? And a publisher? Where does this fit with my current writers? If you’re self-publishing, what words will potential readers use to search for your book on somewhere like Amazon?
‘As writers, we don’t want to be pigeonholed, but we do want to sell our books.’ she reminds us.
Everybody talks about plot, so what is in the content of your book? Think of the theme; the theme being the overriding issue. If you’re not sure, then talk about your book and the theme will soon materialise.
Imagine that you have stepped into an elevator with the agent of your dreams, so you have only until the doors open to pitch your book to them. This elevator pitch is the one sentence that on-line sellers will use in their description of the book. You don’t need to give away the surprise or even the plot. Your pitch just needs to be punchy and promote the hooks, including where and when story is set.
Wherever you pitch your book, reader expectations are likely to be high. Potential readers want to know what they’re getting. You need to get to know the ‘nub’ of your book, talk about what it is ‘about’.
If you are self-publishing, consider your cover. A book’s cover will illustrate the genre to potential sellers and readers. The colour, font, imagery and focal point evoke an emotional response does it make the reader smile or gasp, frown or laugh out loud. For your e-book you can trawl through covers on Amazon, Goodreads, your Facebook and Twitter groups. Browse bookshops, but keep in mind, how your chosen cover will cope as a thumbnail.
At the last Tuesday night meeting of the Hampshire Writers’ Society, Glenn Fosbraey, the Head of Department for English, Creative Writing and American Studies at the University of Winchester spoke to us about the importance of lyrics. Glenn’s talk proved popular, and, as we’ve had Glenn to talk to use before, I am sure he will come to talk to us again.
“Lyrics enhance our emotional connection to a piece of music.” Glenn Fosbraey, Head of Department for English, Creative Writing and American Studies at the University of Winchester, told the gathered members and guests of the Hampshire Writers’ Society this Tuesday night.
An instrumental can instigate an emotional experience; Lyrics bring on more complex emotions: humour, irony. Glenn played us Paul McCartney’s Yesterday, which everyone knows was composed by McCartney during a dream. However, the song’s working lyrics were about scrambled eggs with bacon.
No real emotions are raised – “Unless you have a thing about eggs.” says Glenn. Lyrics, particularly at the time, seemed largely to be only for commercial use, the band connecting with the girl on the front row and songs were written to a “faceless you.” Neither were the Beatles in the business of producing instrumentals – Yesterday needed some proper lyrics.
Lyricist, Tim Rice described the song’s biggest success as its relatability. Yet, when you segregate, Yesterday’s lyrics, you find what Glenn calls the “shiver factor.”
“Why she had to go…” McCartney’s mother died suddenly when he was just thirteeen.
“I said something wrong…” at being given the news of her death, McCartney had blurted, “What will we do without her money?” He had said the “wrong thing” – a thirteen-year old’s way of dealing with grief.
Whether you agree with the way Yesterday was written or, indeed, who it was written for, you cannot deny that when you think of it this way, it gives you a “shiver.” Thus, lyrics also instigate a physical response from the listener. A connection which is impossible without words.
“The music industry is a place full of damaged people.’ Joel McIver, Bass Player, Editor and Co-writer of autobiographies with such people as Woody Woodmansey, Glenn Hughes and Cannibal Corpse, told the gathered members and guests of the Hampshire Writers’ Society this Tuesday night, ‘Being a geek is a good thing.’
After acquiring a degree in German, for no other reason than he was good at it, Joel began his career as a journalist on the magazine: The Record Collector. At the time, the publishers wanted a German speaking journalist! The Record Collector gave Joel a platform from which he could pitch book ideas whilst being taken seriously by the publisher. In 2004 his book, Justice for All: The Truth About Metallica, found a niche selling close to 50,000 copies and translating into nine languages. Joel left his job and became a full-time writer.
“It sounds weird,” he confesses, “when, at your writers’ circle, you say you’re writing an autobiography.” But the fact is, Joel’s subjects simply do not have the time to sit and write an 80,000-word memoir.
Co-writing differs from ghost writing in that, the writing and research is all the author’s work. This Joel does, using around 50-60 hours of interview, subsequently crafting it together, with a start and a finish. A ghost writer will receive no credit on the book’s cover.
“To sit in front of a blank screen and fill it with…anything…that’s where the burden comes in.” Joel declares. He has tried writing fiction: “It is bad sixth form!” he admits.
Entirely from the subject’s point of view, an autobiography must, in the same way a fictional character speaks with their own articulation, portray that subject’s voice. Joel conducts his interviews in an informal atmosphere, perhaps in a cottage deep in in the forest, sitting in front of a roaring fire with a bottle of whisky. Thus, the vibe of the interview is one of conversation, which when transcribed, comes through in the writing. Joel recollects writing an autobiography with a Brazilian rock star for whom English was not his first language: with no polishing, the subject’s strong accent was evident in the finished product; his voice was in the writing.
“It is an honour,” Joel announces, “to sit down with these people and talk about their lives.” These are the people whose faces were in the posters on his walls.
The autobiography writer must exercise judgement, steer the book. When tackling a project, Joel asks not only himself, but the subject as well; “Who wins from telling this story?” To get back at someone or for the money are not good reasons for writing the book.
He also makes a point of avoiding details, too depressing or disgusting; addictions can affect anybody and although this evasive action does not include the ‘sad’, most readers will have experienced bereavement. Not everybody wants to read about misery or debauchery, even for those that do, it will become monotonous, they will tire of it after a few chapters.
Joel went on to explain how he and Woody Woodmansey felt that whilst they were “committing history to paper”, they did so with the intention of surpassing the account that general media will circulate. “It may sound pretentious,” Joel said, appeasing us with: “But you guys will know what I mean…”
With a background in journalism, which is to entertain, Joel sets out to do just this with his writing. When writing an autobiography, you are trying to capture the person’s personality for prosperity.
Joel is currently working on an autobiography of whom he wouldn’t be persuaded to tell; suffice to say that “they” were a phenomenon in the Eighties…and have some juicy stories to tell. “Be patient,” he says, “it takes about a year to produce these books.”
Our special guest at the next meeting of the Hampshire Writer’s Society will be Head of Department for English, Creative Writing and American Studies at the University of Winchester, Glenn Fosbraey. You may remember that Glenn spoke to us back in 2016 when he waxed lyrical about his latest addition to the University – the degree on Popular Music. A month or so later, Glenn very kindly sent us his top five favourite song lyrics, explaining, in his very poetical way, why he liked and valued them so much. Still a huge fan of The Smiths, this is his favourite song of all and he tells us why.
‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ – The Smiths
It was on a gloomy winter’s afternoon at the age of fifteen, teenage angst and unrequited love in full-force, that I had my best Smiths experience. I had been infatuated with the band for a month or so by this point, started via a random purchase of Greatest Hits album Best 1 from the bargain bin at Woolworths, and I was ready to graduate to their masterpiece The Queen Is Dead. As I start the long walk back from HMV in town, I read the lyrics from the CD brochure and savour the anticipation of those words being set to music; hearing those first sounds coming out of the speakers; feeling the irresistible mixture of nerves and excitement as I get ever-closer to my house and CD player. At home, I close the bedroom door behind me and turn the lights off, cutting myself off from the bustle of family and TV downstairs, creating perfect Smiths-listening conditions. About half an hour in, I arrive at the penultimate track. ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’. I fall in love. The mixture of the everyday (‘driving in your car…’) with the philosophical (‘…a heavenly way to die’); the way Morrissey is able, in a couple of lines, to demonstrate the shyness, frustration, and confusion many teens encounter when faced with the objects of their desire (‘…and then a strange fear gripped me and I just couldn’t ask’); the mixture of the ugly (‘and if a ten tonne truck kills the both of us…’) and the beautiful (‘…to die by your side, well the pleasure, the privilege is mine’); it’s the slight pauses before the choruses kick in; the swirl of the strings in the choruses themselves; it’s Morrissey not quite being able to reach the highest note but not re-recording it, making the listener feel at one with him, as if it could be them in that vocal booth instead of him, missing perfection but making it somehow more perfect because of this; it’s the repetition of the title again and again in the outro. Love and loss, hope and despair, alienation and belonging, all crammed into four life-changing and life-affirming minutes. There is, indeed, a Light That Never Goes Out, and for me, it will always be this song, in that moment, on that CD player.
“What do The Martian by Andy Weir, 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James and Eragon by Christopher Paolini have in common?” Paul Newsome, writer and founder of The Self Publishing Studio asked the gathered members and guests of the Hampshire Writers’ Society this Tuesday night.
The answer is that they were all self published.
Paul’s story begins the same way as that of many writers. He’d written a book and he had a dream of becoming a published author. Naturally excited, he embarked on the next step — find an agent. He set about writing the perfect enquiry letter along with the perfect synopsis. Those were sent off and Paul waited for the replies. He waited…and he waited. Every now and then he received a rejection email, two or three lines long saying nothing more than thanks, but no thanks. Often, he heard nothing at all.
The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook! The almanack recommended by the agents themselves, the enchanted book of publishing spells. Now he was really excited – “What could possibly go wrong?”
Indeed, the Writers’ and Artists’ yearbook is crammed full of contact details, advice and useful articles.
Paul looked into using ‘Other Publishers’. “Confusion!” he recollects, “If you get an agent, they do it all for you. But some ‘Other Publishers’ do nothing.”
By now, Paul knew enough about” the publishing industry to smell a rat with the publisher who wrote to him, loving his work, promising bountiful opportunities and in the small print asking for a mammoth fee.
There are some genuinely helpful independent publishers. The list of things that they couldn’t do however, was too large.
Using the DIY approach, Paul published his book, Hamish. Followed by Hamish and the Vegetarian Crow. “Definitely,” he says, “publishing is 1% Inspiration and 99% Perspiration.”
Amazon is a minefield. There are many opt-outs within its obstructive contracts, an author just needs to find them.
Paul’s gap in the market gaped – the writer’s dream on one side and the reality on the other.
He set up the Self Publishing Studio offering the author all the publishing processes without the stress over the perfect enquiry letter. Paul knows his authors have passion, they must have, to have got this far.
“Think about your goals,” he tells us, “keep it simple, keep realistic and have clarity.”
It is up to the writer to cherry pick their requirements. The Self Publishing Studio will work to the author’s budget.
An editor can be found, one who will read your story and comment on flow, plausibility. They expect the author to return their comments, and they understand that they will have to explain themselves.
Assistance with marketing will be given too, advising the writer to find something different e.g. Andy Weir published The Martian chapter by chapter on a blog until he had such a large following who were all telling him to publish professionally.
“Not all writers want to be the next JK Rowling, it is perfectly fine to want nothing more than to see your manuscript, turned into book form, adorning your coffee table.”
First of all; we wish you the best of luck with all your new year endeavours.
Our speaker on Tuesday 14 January is Paul Newsome, founder of the Self Publishing Studio. So I thought I’d share my experience of self-publishing with you.
Publication date is so exciting, regardless of how you got there. Using a self-publishing agency an author could find themselves holding a
beautiful hard copy of their book; one that sports the cover that they have designed. Most agencies also offer a slot on Amazon, an e-book and an ISBN. That author, especially if they are a member of the Hampshire Writers’ Society,
could be attending book fairs where they’re the one standing behind the banner, signing and selling copies.
Perhaps this isn’t what you want from your work. Some authors simply want to hold their book and smile and say, “I’ve written it.” without a big, intimidating publishing house in sight! Or is there? If you self-publish then that big intimidating publishing house is you! You, in your three-bed semi. You in your mid-terrace two-up, two-down, or you in your studio, mansion or back seat of your car. Whatever your abode, you are the publisher.
Or perhaps you want to hand over your life’s work; well however long it took you to write, edit, redraft and edit again, to an agent, ergo a publisher, financiers, salespeople, marketeers and target-setters? You’ve worked hard on your novel, you’ve juggled your life and your treasured characters; found your voice, lost your voice, dragged your family around your research and then (leaving them out) wrestled it into you story. It is your novel and you, quite rightly, believe it is the best novel ever written. The answer’s in the question – “How should you publish your book?”
No, you don’t have to be a technological whizz. Keep an eye on your finances; you know your budget and use a self-publishing agency. The agency should offer you proof-reading services, along with some editing and the final answer of what exactly goes between the covers is all down to you. As long as you are keeping your eye on your finances, it shouldn’t matter how many times your manuscript goes back and forth to the editor. If you’re not happy with it; send it back again. You’ll get there eventually!
You do not have to be a photographer with the eye of David Bailey or the creativeness of Linda McCartney. Neither do you have to have the genius of Leonardo de Vinci or the resources of Banksy! When it comes to your cover, your agency will be able to advise you and, using examples of covers that you like, help you put it together. Then you can start the tooing and froing again. You’ll soon be on first-name basis, although I can’t guarantee you’ll make the Christmas Card list.
Type face is the same – pick one you like and leave it up to your agency. It is surprising and reassuring, how many times your agency will be in contact, chasing you for a yay or nay. You could opt for hiding behind the settee or under the duvet, but this is where that down-payment comes in handy. You both know you’ve paid for the agency’s services and you both know the agency will not want to let you down. So unfortunately, the settee or duvet will only obscure you, the agency will still be there when you come out for a comfort break.
So, you can’t add! Not all of us can be good with money. You are a writer and you move in the world of words. What you do know, is how much you are happy to pay for a book. Carry out your own research, find out how much books, the size and type of yours are selling for. Arm yourself with answers ready for the discussion with your agency when they want to know how much to tell Amazon to sell your book for.
It’s all a discussion and you can choose how far you are happy to be ruled by your agency. Be bold; you don’t have to agree. Okay so perhaps you aren’t a bold type. Remember though, they have done it all before to varying degrees of success, so they should know a thing or two about what they are doing, enough also to advise you who might be doing it for the first time.
And then, it’s all yours. So is the marketing and selling. You will probably find your agency has a handle on that too – if you let them. If not, there are many, many helpful hands out there willing for you to grab on. Not least of those is us, the Hampshire writers society. Check out our blog posts, previous and future. Deciding to self-publish, puts you in the driver’s seat. Our programme of meetings where you can meet and pick the brains of industry professionals is on the website and, of course, people like me with no other qualifications than, I’ve done it before.
“Editors are often thought of as gatekeepers, holding back the masses from Mount Olympus.” Caroline Wintersgill, editor for thirty years told the members and guests gathered for the December meeting of the Hampshire Writers’ Society.
An editor, specialising in non-fiction, for publishers large and small, corporate and independent, including Bloomsbury, Cassell, Routledge and now Biteback, Caroline sees herself more as a curator. A “snapper up of unconsidered titles”. One of the first books she snapped up, the uninteresting sounding ALMANAC OF BRITISH POLITICS was given an illustrator whose caricatures bordered on rude, along with scurrilous, unheard excerpts from the Alan Clark diaries. The Almanac became fun to work with. “We worked on the knowledge that MPs rarely sue”, Caroline smiles, “they look too silly.”
Publishing a book is a process, a honing of skills, developing of a craft and it will pass through many hands before it comes to publication day. The editor’s appraisal will be based, using their experience of similar works, on the authors’ use of their artistic craft.
Publishers tend to problematise taste, turning it into a literary issue. It is the story that counts. Like all other readers, an editor desires an emotional sometimes visceral response to the proposed book. This is where the author needs to start. “When the book makes them shake,” Caroline laughs, “then the editor wants to work with it.”
With a non-fiction book, the chance of publicity is higher. Non-fiction books are much more likely to be included in the review sections of magazines and newspapers.
Perhaps for some nature, art, music, current events or cookery books, Caroline points out, it is necessary for the author to have an agent. But, in general it is possible for non-fiction authors to settle a good publishing deal without an agent. The life of a non-fiction book being longer than that of a fiction, the author may only write one or two books; this may not be the length of career that an agent is looking for.
For a non-fiction author, media platform is important. Your platform may start small, but it will expand. “Consider the CHEESE MONGER’S HISTORY OF THE BRITISH ISLES; the author had little more than his being a cheese monger that ran tasting events to go on. When published, the book outsold the popular fiction titles.
The author should know their audience, where to reach them and what they are looking for. Taking a risk, Caroline used previously unrecognised language in THE PRECARIAT, this catapulted the book into the limelight. Then, recognising that the book’s audience was not likely to buy it, she took a leap of faith and made chapters freely available to read on the internet. The book became a best seller rocketing the author to two four-figure deals with Bloomsbury.
Non-fiction authors do not need to wait until the manuscript is finished to submit it. A proposal of the work will do; an editor will be looking for a chance to shape the book for the correct market. Also included must be your title; it must be clear and memorable and the contents page which needs an outline of each section. The author still needs to be able to write, so also include a chapter or two. “It is difficult,” Caroline agrees, the sample chapters should show your distinctive voice but also the book’s similarity to the editor’s list.
Site your book, know the editor’s list, motivate them too. With the growth and ease of on-line shopping, readers can buy any or every book on earth; so why should they choose yours? Think of the best-known person in your field; this is your competitor.
Often working against a deadline, time constraints on the editor are tighter. The non-fiction publishing process is “old fashioned” with salespeople touring the booksellers roughly twelve months in advance. Remember, that salesperson will have only thirty seconds to sell your book to busy booksellers.
Create a buzz! If there’s a society that appreciates your subject, then you should join it. Do this prior to publication. “Have a go,” Caroline urges; write your blurb and an elevator sales pitch, gain a clear insight into the selling of your book and go some way to showing you what the editor is looking for.
The Hampshire Writers’ Society December book fair will be taking place in just a few days –
Tuesday 10 December at 6.00 pm.
So here are 6 very quick ways to promote your stall from author and strategist EMMA-NICOLE LEWIS.
Emma’s tips are a swift and easy way to let potential readers know about your presence at the book fair:
ESTABLISH YOUR PROMOTIONAL HOOK
This is the first thing that you need to do. It will give you something to shout about that will attract attention and make people feel as though they’ll be missing out if they do not attend.
Is there something unique or special that you can offer on the night? Here are some examples:
‘Buy one book and get another half price’.
‘30% off on the night’
Everybody loves to feel like they have snagged themselves a bargain, so could you play with your pricing strategy? Use a pricing offer or a discount that works for you, without losing money.
Or, how about offering all those who buy on the night an entry into a prize draw for a 10 local bookshop voucher? If you are not successful, you can use the voucher in another promotion. You’re likely to only need sell a few books to get a return on that investment. If you feel confident that you are likely to break even through your sales, you can offer a bit more as a bigger hook.
Alternatively, you may want to lead with a message that focuses on supporting local authors this Christmas or lead with an offer that offers a personal touch. For example:
‘Give a unique gift to someone special this Christmas – a signed book containing a personal message from the author’.
It is up to you what kind of message you will use to draw people to the fair and your stall, but try and think of the sort of thing that is likely to appeal to your target readers.
When you have defined your ‘hook message’, ensure that this is exactly what you say on all promotional material. Consistency is key to reinforcing and reminding!
PROMOTE ON YOUR WEBSITE
People stumble across your website all the time. Ensure the message is on the front page and in your news/events section or blog, if you have either of these menu options.
You could always direct people to your website’s contact page inviting them to get in touch in order to ‘reserve a book’ so that you can ensure that one is kept aside for them. If you generate responses to this, you are creating a level of commitment for visitors to actually attend and buy one of your books.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA
There are a variety of ways that you can use social media to shout about what you are offering at the book fair:
Creating a banner to add to your Facebook and Twitter accounts will help keep the message front of mind for all your followers. Below is an example of a Facebook banner I have used for promoting one of my own books. It sits on top of my author page so that followers always see it whenever they visit my page.
Create an event on Facebook. You have the option to do this on your main Facebook page and followers will see it.
Create a post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram promoting the fair and what you are offering there. Ensure that you use hashtags to attract local people, but you can take the message a little broader by popping some more generic ones in too. For example,
I tend to check out which hashtags are trending and try and use them, if appropriate and relevant.
Publish an advert on Facebook, but ensure you refine it to only go out to UK Facebook Users and to those in ‘Winchester’. You may have to refine using ‘Winchester’ as part of the target audience’s interests. Cleverly work something into your copy in order to encourage people to comment on the post and share.
USE LOCAL VENUES TO PROMOTE
Can you leaflet drop in coffee shops, specific shops that your readers are likely to visit, or community centre noticeboards?
Are there local book clubs you can send an email to, advising of the book fair and your promotional offer there – particularly if you are leading with a message that offers a discount to local book club members?
A successful tactic I once used was to stand up in front of a very large gym class and use the instructor’s microphone to promote my book. I left a home printed leaflet behind too. A large WI book club bought it as a result and that led to more opportunities too. So, if you are a member of a club or a gym, enquire whether they will let you shout about your stall. Make sure you do leave behind a leaflet though, as people will forget if they do not have something with details on it.
TRY AND USE LOCAL PRESS
If there is time to get into a print run of a local paper and you think your message has enough stand out, then there is no harm in contacting the Daily Echo or the Chronicle. You are likely to have missed the opportunity with any of the Winchester magazines, but it is worth trying weekly publications.
WORD OF MOUTH
Ask your friends and family to share this message too. If you know anyone locally who has read your book, get them to recommend it and share the message. Word of mouth is a wonderful tool.