Christine Hammacott: Getting to grips with Genre – why understanding your genre is so important

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.

Report by L Nightingale.

Beyond the Creativity Bit

Paul Newsome

“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.”

 

Report by L Nightingale

A Bite of Success

First of all; we wish you the best of luck with all your new year endeavours.

My book

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.

Anne Wan

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?”

Catherine Griffin, Sally Howard, Maggie Farran, Karen Stephen

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.

Lisa Nightingale

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.

REPORT BY L NIGHTINGALE

Literary Agent, Lorella Belli Talks E-books, Publishing and Self-Publishing: an agent’s view

In just over two weeks, Literary Agent Laura Williams will be speaking to Hampshire Writers’ Society. Her talk, Myth-busting the Publications Industry will be live at the Stripe. So, I thought it would be good to resurrect the report of a talk from the Literary Agent, Lorella Belli. Especially as Lorella appears in one of this website’s banner photos, plus it’s Halloween time; resurrecting things is topical!
Lorella talks about the role of an agent regardless of whether the author has chosen to self-publish or the more traditional route of ensnaring the interest of a publisher.
Lorella Belli and Barbara Large
What are the pros and cons of getting a traditional deal or choosing the self-publishing route? In this rapidly changing landscape, what is the role of the agent?
It was Lorella Belli’s ambition to set up her own agency. She set out to know the publishing industry inside out. Her brief to discover ‘new blood’ gave her not just invaluable insider experience but introduced her to many unpublished authors.
‘An agent works for their Author.’ Lorella says. As an agent, her primary concern and something which she feels forms a vital part of the agent/author partnership is; ‘What does the author want from their writing?’
She is the first to declare that the agent’s role in the modern author’s career remains unchanged regardless of chosen route of publication – self or traditional. An area of particular interest is the protection and exploitation of the author’s rights and here, Lorella is well versed and diva.
For the most part, a writer wants readers, they want to see their work in a bookshop. Equally, it is important to recognise the financial aspects of a writer’s career. Both the traditional route and the contemporary self-publishing route provides remuneration, but in different ways.
It is her belief that an agent has a responsibility to be aware of the many platforms of publication available to authors both new and experienced, how those platforms work and therefore be able to fit the author to the best publisher.
Lorella’s agency is vocational towards the needs of an author. There is no room for the agent’s preciousness over writing. ‘So, what if the book is ‘trashy’.’ Lorella says, ‘If the writer is happy, then their readers are happy and so is the publisher.’
An author can retain some control over publishing decisions e.g. the cover even through the traditional route. An informed agent will know to insert such clauses into their contract. Similarly, self-publishing has given the publishing houses some much needed competition – authors now have an alternative.
However, authors must be aware that by choosing the self-publishing route, they are choosing to take on their career in its entirety and inevitably this will cut into writing time. A publishing house provides editing, a marketing department, a sales department and publicity.
The traditional route may seem like it is taking its time, whereas self-publishing can be a whirlwind. Of course, this is after the author has learned all the skills needed to be a publisher.
One huge pro for the appointment of an agent – they get the hurtful rejections! However, an agent of Lorella’s talent will believe in the book and wants to see it published. It is that agent’s job to spot the writer’s talent and therefore their target audience.
It is hugely important that authors remain professional. When an agent is passionate about a book and has an author that they can build on, they will stand more chance of promoting it, even if it does not appear to fit, or is the wrong length.
Even to an agent as talented as Lorella, the next big thing is a mystery. There will always be the wild card – who could have predicted 50 Shades of Grey? However, a writer can keep their eye on publicity to hang on e.g. the Olympics.
As a writer grows more successful, their chosen path can become more complex. Lorella suggests building a team – delegate, remember the AAA (Association of Authors’ Agents) and ask an agent for advice. That is the bottom line of their job – to work for the author.
Lorella Belli
An agent’s website will state what they are looking for. There is no divide between male and female, it is all down to what that agent wants to feel when reading a book. For Lorella, it is what makes her laugh and what makes her cry.
The members present were left in no doubt of Lorella’s message – the agent works for the author, no one else, not themselves, not the publishers. Just the author. They thanked her for her candid, refreshing approach and dependably constant open door

Secret Special Guests

Secret Lives of Chandlers Ford

 

 

secretlivesThe Secret Lives of Chandlers Ford is a collection of short stories, some contemporary, some historical and some Sci Fi. All are based around Chandlers Ford.

Karen Stephen, Maggie Farran, Catherine Griffin and Sally Howard, four friends with a passion for creative writing nurtured the idea for Secret Lives of Chandlers Ford in April 2015 whilst studying creative writing on a course run our own Barbara Large.

What, they wondered, are the “secrets” of Chandler’s Ford? What goes on behind the net curtains and leafy hedges? Chandler’s Ford is a quiet, respectable backwater. A suburb, although no one is quite sure whether of Winchester or of Southampton. It has clean streets, decent and kind citizens. Could it have any secrets?

Using Amazon, the authors have self-published the Secret Lives of Chandlers Ford. This means that the technical bits and the uploading of all their work to a software whereby it can be printed on demand had to be done themselves. There are companies that will do this for writers. At a price though. Luckily Catherine is ‘down’ with technology and took it in her stride. The book was published around May time 2016.

All four agree that writing and production of this book has been a most enjoyable Untitledprocess. In fact, were it not for much gossip, cake and tea, it might have been produced a bit quicker. However, this simply adds to its charm.

Book two is due to be finished later this year.

The four will be speaking at the September meeting of the Hampshire Writers’ Society which takes place on Tuesday 13 September in Room 303 St Elphege at 7.00 for 7.30pm

Lorella Belli – Literary Agent

 E-books, Publishing and Self-Publishing: an agent’s view

What are the pros and cons of getting a traditional deal or choosing the self-publishing route? In this rapidly changing landscape, what is the role of the agent? Report by Lisa Nightingale

It was Lorella Belli’s ambition to set up her own agency. She set out to know the publishing industry inside out. Her brief to discover ‘new blood’ gave her not just invaluable insider experience, but introduced her to many unpublished authors.

Mar 15 Lorella Belli and Barbara Larrge 2_1697‘An agent works for their Author.’ Lorella says. As an agent, her primary concern and something which she feels forms a vital part of the agent/author partnership is; ‘What does the author want from their writing?’

She is the first to declare that the agent’s role in the modern author’s career remains unchanged regardless of chosen route of publication – self or traditional. An area of particular interest is the protection and exploitation of the author’s rights and here, Lorella is well versed and undeniably diva.

For the most part, a writer wants readers, they want to see their work in a bookshop. Equally, it is important to recognise the financial aspects of a writer’s career. Both the traditional route and the contemporary self-publishing route provides remuneration, but in different ways.

It is her belief that an agent has a responsibility to be aware of the many platforms of publication available to authors both new and experienced, how those platforms work and therefore be able to fit the author to the best publisher.

Lorella’s agency is vocational towards the needs of an author. There is no room for the agent’s preciousness over writing. ‘So what if the book is ‘trashy’.’ Lorella says, ‘If the writer is happy, then their readers are happy and so is the publisher.’

An author can retain some control over publishing decisions e.g. the cover even through the traditional route. An informed agent will know to insert such clauses into their contract. Similarly, self-publishing has given the publishing houses some much needed competition – authors now have an alternative.

However, authors must be aware that by choosing the self-publishing route, they are choosing to take on their career in its entirety and inevitably this will cut into writing time. A publishing house provides editing, a marketing department, a sales department and publicity.

The traditional route may seem like it is taking its time, whereas self-publishing can be a whirlwind. Of course this is after the author has learned all the skills needed to be a publisher.

One huge pro for the appointment of an agent – they get the hurtful rejections! However, an agent of Lorella’s talent will believe in the book and wants to see it published. It is that agent’s job to spot the writer’s talent and therefore their target audience.

It is hugely important that authors remain professional. When an agent is passionate about a book and has an author that they can build on, they will stand more chance of promoting it, even if it does not appear to fit, or is the wrong length.

Even to an agent as talented as Lorella, the next big thing is a mystery. There will always be the wild card – who could have predicted 50 Shades of Grey? However, a writer can keep their eye on publicity to hang on e.g. the Olympics.

As a writer grows more successful, their chosen path can become more complex. Lorella suggests building a team, delegate, remember the AAA (Association of Authors’ Agents) and ask an agent for advice. That is the bottom line of their job – to work for the author.

An agent’s website will state what they are looking for. There is no divide between male and female, it is all down to what that agent wants to feel when reading a book. For Lorella, it is what makes her laugh and what makes her cry.

The members present were left in no doubt of Lorella’s message – the agent works for the author, no one else, not themselves, not the publishers. Just the author. They thanked her for her candid, refreshing approach and dependably constant open door.

Special Guests: Moira Blackwell and Liz Nankivel, joint authors of the Binky Bear books

Now on their third title, Binky Goes to London, Lizzy and Moira are completely self-published.

Mar 15 LIz Nankivell & Moira Blackwell _1698Being a parent reader at a local school, Lizzy acquired a good feel for what children like to read. This gave the two women confidence when the traditional publishing route closed to them saying; ‘stories with photograph pictures will not sell.’

As partners, every decision and every woe is shared. As are their venture’s financial commitments. Lizzy advised us that using grants from the European Structural and Investment Funds, they attended locally run business courses.

The two authors keep to a strict business type functionality when making decisions. Once they settled on their chosen format things moved quickly. Within a year they were selling Binky books from a stall at Arlesford. Moira admitted to having to become brazen about their sales – marching into bookshops and asking the manager to put the book on the shelves. ‘When you’ve done it once, it gets easier’, she says. They now have some prestigious outlets including Harrods, Selfridges, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

Binky Bear is one hundred percent British. He is printed using Cedar Press in Romsey and with the Union Jack branding, Moira and Lizzy now have an opening to sell Binky in Florida.

http://binkybear.co.uk/

Claire Fuller. Author of Our Endless Numbered Days.

Forty-seven year old, mum of two, HWS member Claire refused to be dissuaded from writing when she was advised by a writer less than half her age, who had met her agent at a party and been signed up, that what matters is not what you know, but who you know.

Claire is proud of her writing and enjoyed it. She began an MA in Creative Writing and Our Endless Numbered Days was her dissertation. But she cannot say that her consequent success was secured by the MA. However, she is adamant that a writer should find a good writing group who will critique constructively.

Our Endless Numbered Days was submitted to a lot of agents, many of which Claire did not hear from at all. Her pitch letter stuck rigidly to the requirements stated on the Agent’s website. ‘See it as a job application.’ she advises, ‘If the application is asked for in one way, you would not submit it another.’ She also listed her previous publications which gave her credibility.

The agent that Claire chose wanted a face-to-face meeting. This told her that the agent was checking her out to ensure that she was workable with. It is worth remembering that an agent must sell the author as well as the book.

Once signed, Our Endless Numbered Days was ready for publication in 19 months. Debuts are published in the Spring. Claire’s enviable deal is for one book, so although the publisher is harassing her for book two, she can relax – book two is passed draft one.

Claire and her publisher, Penguin will be hosting a workshop at the Winchester Writer’s Festival this year. We hope that success will not go to her head and she will return to keep us updated on her future successes.

http://clairefuller.co.uk/

Dai Henley, HWS Member, Author and Self-Publisher

Unwilling to let himself dwindle after the sale of his business, Dai enrolled on an Autobiography Writing Course. Following a four year schedule of writing, reading aloud, accepting constructive criticism and advice, he published his autobiography. His own advice is to remember your passion for your writing and to stand up for it.

As a reader of crime fiction, he found himself constantly struck by the lack of plausibility in many of the characters that he was reading. By then, he had caught the ‘writing bug’. So, he was determined to write his own crime story. At the same time a news headline caught his eye. He was incensed enough to imagine the horror of being personally involved in such an atrocity. “What if this happened to your own mother?” he says. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

dai with his latest novelphoto2

Well, Dai did think about it. He then embarked on a busily active and fascinating research project becoming learned in our legal system and our justice system. He likens the writing of a novel to the creation of a patchwork quilt – stitching scenes together and then unpicking and re-sewing.

Finally, Blazing Obsession was completed. When it came to publishing, Dai applied the same in-depth research into finding the best route for him. After having quizzed various agents at festivals and talks, he came to the conclusion that the odds on achieving acceptance by one of them and then their securing publication were slim. Very Slim!

So, Dai took the step towards self-publishing. But, he stresses, it takes investment. If a writer is chasing Best Seller’s lists and Top Tens then they must be prepared to source the best partnerships available. Satisfaction with the look and quality of his book ensured the natural step was publishing. Dai chose Matador to do this and has not looked back since.

One thing that self-publishing has banished to bad memories is the receiving of rejections. “I don’t care how thick-skinned you are” he says, “rejections hurt”. And of course, with self-publishing there are no rejections. Dai treated the members to just a couple of five-star reviews for Blazing Obsession. And he left us with one final piece of advice:

Invest in your writing. It is your passion.

Many thanks, Dai and good luck, although you don’t sound like you need it.

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