Monday, 5 November 2018

UNIVERSAL CREDIT THREATENS FUTURE WRITERS

According to the Society of Authors it has warned MPs that the changes to Universal Credit could silence working-class writers, impeding diversity in publishing and thus making it harder to attract different types of readers.

Speaking at the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group inquiry into authors’ earnings on Tuesday (30th October), the SoA chief executive Nicola Solomon cautioned MPs that Universal Credit - awarded as a single monthly payment to people who are on a low income or out of work (twice monthly for some in Scotland) -could be detrimental to some authors’ income, forcing them to give up writing all together.

The SoA further explained that under the old system, currently in the process of being phased out, some authors with low earnings are able to claim working tax credits to supplement their income, thus ensuring they continue writing as a profession. But replacing this with the Universal Credit means self-employed people have to meet the “Minimum Income Floor” (an assumed level of earnings, based on what the government expects an employed person to receive in similar circumstances) in order to receive benefits. This is a threshold many writers are unable to reach. "This is equivalent to the National Living Wage for most working-age people," SoA said. "Given that the median annual income of a professional author is about £10,500, well below the National Living Wage, many authors will lose their entitlement to benefits under the new scheme."

Ms Solomon highlighted to MPs in her testimony to the inquiry that authors, including the likes of JK Rowling and 2018's Man Booker winner Anna Burns, have depended on the benefits system to support their writing. In the acknowledgements of Milkman (Faber), Burns notably gave thanks for the support of benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions that - along with the support of her local food bank, various charities and the SoA - enabled her to write her acclaimed book; sales of which reached the highest volume of any winner in the BookScan era in the week after winning the prestigious prize.

Unfortunately, claims the SoA, changes to the benefits system risks driving such working-class writers out of the industry. "From JK Rowling to Anna Burns, many authors have depended on the benefits system to support their writing. But, the design of the Universal Credit fails to recognise the reality of the work of authors or other self-employed workers in the cultural sector," said Solomon told the inquiry.

"Universal Credit risks driving working-class authors and other under-represented voices out of the profession. This would have a shocking impact on the diversity of stories being told. If writing is seen as a privilege then, only the privileged will be able to write. This gives us an incredibly narrow group of people who can afford to write, which in turn will make it harder to attract new readers and lead to a narrowing of our readership base."

NB We all know that writers are not in it for the money but this action will destroy more than just the pleasure of writing as less books produced will be detrimental to our children, grandchildren and future great-grandchildren.

Courtesy of the Society of Authors

Saturday, 20 October 2018

5 REASONS AUTHORS FALL for VANITY PRESSES

Whenever we hear stories about authors being defrauded by unscrupulous vanity presses, sometimes for thousands of pounds, the reaction can often be unsympathetic:

                 “It’s their own fault for being so gullible.”             
                 “They should have done their homework.”             
                 “That was a stupid mistake. Don’t they read about these things?”

Whilst it is true that authors have more information at their fingertips than ever before we still question why some keep falling for these scams and schemes from the same exploitative companies?

1. High-pressure sales target author psychology
Vanity presses are quite notorious for being aggressive in their pursuit of authors. Once they have your contact information, vanity presses often flood you with inquiries and “reminders” to join them. One “manuscript referral service” tested resulted in over 120 emails from some of the worst vanity presses in the industry.

Throughout, these solicitations the push is to initiate a phone conversation with the author. A sales rep can apply more manipulative sales tactics when having a direct conversation with you. Remember, once a vanity press gets its hooks into you, the pressure can be relentless.

2. Vanity presses provide emotional validation
Flattering a prospective author is one way that Vanity presses can ensnare you. Usually by assuring you that only the best manuscripts are selected for publication by their “editorial board.” Having submitted a manuscript so epically atrocious it must have reduced more than one editor to tears of laughter, maybe just to tears?

A forty-page “autobiographical, metaphysical, self-help book for adults” was also submitted to eight of the most prominent vanity presses. Unsurprisingly, every single one replied to let me know they were interested in publishing my masterpiece? To a novice author who is uncertain of the marketability of their work and perhaps eager for validation, such a positive response from a perceived ‘authority’ can be powerfully seductive.

What you must remember is, it’s honesty and practical advice you need as an author, not ego stroking and half-truths.

3. Vanity presses prey on an author’s insecurities
Flattery is always seductive, but that’s not the only way a vanity press can work their way into an author’s psyche. Many vanity presses will try to persuade you that you are incapable of producing a professional book without forking out for an expensive, full-service, publishing package. This is especially effective if you are not comfortable with new technology. After all the idea of handing over the details of publishing to someone who can take care of it all for you must be enticing.

Vanity presses tend to bombard the author with the message that they cannot succeed alone, and that the fees are really only a “manageable investment.”
What most authors don’t realise is that the “manageable investment” could exceed £15,000.

ALLi authors can attest, professional quality is within reach of any author willing to put in the time and effort, and it doesn’t require a £15,000 publishing package to achieve.

4. Prejudices about self-publishing
Despite a decade of rapid evolution, the self-publishing industry still faces prejudices and unfair assumptions, such as:

           Self-published books are amateurish
           Self-publishing is prohibitively expensive
           Self-publishing requires the author to do everything themselves
           Self-publishing is a last resort for authors who couldn’t secure traditional publishing contracts

Vanity presses routinely exploit these prejudices, often trying to persuade the novice author that they can’t succeed without their company’s help. And, that their only other options are years of fruitless queries to traditional publishers, or a difficult and lonely self-publishing process that’s doomed to failure.

To the author, this sales pitch may strengthen their lack of belief in them self. Having encountered amateurish self-published books they often assume that is the state of all such published books, never having seen any evidence to the contrary.

Remember, a professional self-published book is indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. It’s only the amateurish books that are bad in the reader’s eye.

5. Reliable information is lost in the noise
Trustworthy sources of information about self-publishing companies are few and far between. ALLi’s Watchdog Desk has evaluated and rated hundreds of services, and other industry watchdogs like Writer Beware are an invaluable resource, but they are both limited by time and staff constraints. Authors may not know of these resources, or may lack the technical skills to find them on the search engines. The problem is further compounded by the volume and prominence of misinformation on the Internet.

Vanity presses purchase highly-visible ads for top searches, thus ensnaring unsuspecting authors looking for information. Supposedly respectable publications take ads for substandard vanity presses, legitimising those companies. Consumer watchdog charities like the Better Business Bureau sell out, whitewashing negative ratings for companies that purchase “accreditation.” (For example, notorious vanity press Author Solutions carries an A+ rating with the BBB, despite hundreds of complaints and a majority of negative reviews.)

Some Vanity Presses flood the Internet with glowing testimonials from authors they have deceived. Others wage despicable smear campaigns against self-publishing watchdogs in an attempt to discredit them. 

When searching for reliable information on how to self-publish, the deck is stacked against us authors.

However, you can help arm unwary authors against schemes and scams by sharing watchdog service ratings and alerts. In the end, it’s not the author who should be blamed for falling victim to a rip-off; it’s the deceptive vanity presses that have made an industry of defrauding authors.

Courtesy of John Doppler at ALLi (https://selfpublishingadvice.org/)

Friday, 21 September 2018

YOUR LIBRARY

How to help boost readership and earnings for writers, which could also mean you?
Libraries are full of stories in a whole range of formats that people can borrow, including you. They are ideal places for research and to get ideas, so go to your local library and borrow stuff. Especially stuff written by writers you like.

Even if you already own the books or have read them before, you don’t actually have to read them again? They could just sit in your car or on the shelf until you return. The point being, that having taken the book means it is registered as a loan for that author. And that, means they will earn a Public Lending Right (PLR) royalty. Plus, it also helps keep our Library Service operating. The old adage applies here - use it or lose it!

Did you know that most Library Services offer a free eBook/audiobook service which is easy to use? Firstly. you need to download the specified app to your device and register it to your library card to get started. After that you can download eBooks or audiobooks via the app. This actually takes less time and effort than visiting the library yourself, especially if it’s cold and rainy outside.

After years of campaigning by the Society of Authors, the law was changed at the end of 2017 so that eBook and audiobook loans now earn PLR royalties too. And again, it doesn’t matter if you don’t read/listen to the book as the author earns! Mind you it would be great if you did. Of course, remember if you are an author you can register your books with the PLR and start earning too if your books are borrowed?

Did you know if the library doesn’t stock a particular book you love, you can suggest they stock it – either physically or as an eBook. Don’t be afraid to speak to library staff or find the relevant link on the website to make any recommendations. You might always get what you want, but if you don’t ask you don’t get. And of course, you never know what the Central Reserve might hold. It is does have an extensive collection.

Readers are sometimes left with books lovingly kept but which they no longer read. Libraries are almost always happy to accept donations of new or good quality second hand recent books. And of course, as an Author you could can donate copies of your own books if the library doesn’t have any/many. Don’t forget, if you are donating books you have written, tell them you are a Local Author! Libraries buy lots of new titles every year but can’t buy everything. If you do donate something they don’t have and it proves to be popular, the chances are they will buy more copies.

Libraries are a great free resource. They run regular events help promote books and authors or have story-time reading sessions, especially for children. My local library is based in Central Cardiff. I am on their mailing list so get regular mail shots telling me what is going on or sending me invites to Author events. And they are usually Free. So, come on, make the effort and go check your local library out now.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

GREAT NEWS

Came back from a great day out with the other half to discover a large envelope waiting for me. Was delighted to discover I have been accepted as a Member of the Society of Authors. The comments on my Facebook page were encouraging especially those which said ‘You’ve arrived’ - what more can one ask from your fellow authors. I am so chuffed with the news as I have been wanting to join for sometime now. Shows perseverance pays.

Having been away ‘down under’ for nearly 3 months I have literally let things slide due to wanting a relaxing time with my family. However, I have returned with a new surge of energy to start catching up and progressing my writing.  The first thing being to meet with the publisher who surprised me by exceeding expectations and instead of only 6 picture books to review I had a 11 of the remaining 12. Luckily very few alterations so I am hopeful all 12 will be launched over the next couple of months. That means the end, for now, of the Little Friends Picture Story Book Series. However, I have designed a Colouring Book to go with the series so am happy with the results.

Whilst away we managed to launch ‘Can You Hear Me’ by Yami Gray. Yami (pen-name) is a young British writer now living in Australia. This small book is a collection of poems she wrote between the ages of 11 and 15 and is complimented by a small number of lithographic line-art images. The poetry is dark for one so young but makes excellent reading for those interested in unusual poems.


The next job on the list is to get the manuscript from another young writer I am mentoring completed ready for publication. This will be a fantasy story and may well be the start of a series of books relating to the heroine. Time and exams will tell.

After that I realise it’s time to concentrate on marketing and so I am setting plans in motion to start promoting the Little Friends Books and myself as both author and speaker. Interesting times are ahead. Watch this space.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

BACK IN THE SWING OF THINGS

So at last I am back in the UK after an extended stay 'down under' on the Gold Coast visiting family and friends. I had intended reporting back on the new people I was meeting but unfortunately circumstances didn't allow for me to do that so I am using today to catch up on what was missed. Apart from meeting the author Ally Blake I met quite a few other writers which was great, as well as linking up with fellow SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) Members from the Gold Coast, Queensland area.

It is surprising where some writers go to offer their books for sale. Two of them I met at a local market/craft fair across the road from one of the places I was visiting. Mind you it was warm so sitting outside for a few hours wasn't too bad. As one of these writers wrote stories about their dog she had her pet on the stall with her which certainly proved to be an attraction and drew the crowds to her stall.

Despite the size of Australia it’s surprising the number of writing groups there are in the country, especially around the Gold Coast. One long standing group was The Ten Penners. They started out as a group of ten like-minded writers in 2004 and have developed their group since. The ladies I met proved to be warm and welcoming and were delighted to meet a fellow author.

Another author I met was Ally Blake. She was doing a workshop at the local library (see the previous blog Ally Blake Workshop 8th August). Ally writes for Mills & Boon and has just released book number 36. She is a well-recognised speaker and her events (I am told) are always well attended.

The other authors I met via a local SCBWI group meeting. They meet once a month at a local coffee shop to share ideas and up-date each other on what is happening in their individual writing worlds. Much the same as we do here in Cardiff where I live. Again I was made most welcome and it proved to be an interesting afternoon. Remember, if you are ever away from home always check for a local writers group or your societies meeting group as people will usually let you join in and will make you feel welcome.

And so, now I am back, it's time to get into the swing of things once again. I am seeing my publisher regarding the release of the final books in the Little Friends Picture Book Series and will be discussing what comes next. I have even started making a list of the things I want to achieve. Maybe the break away from all things writing has refreshed me? Who knows? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

THE RIGHT WORDS

This is Part Three of a series of blogs I should have been writing from 1st June.

Over the years I have learnt that sometimes finding the right words isn’t always easy. Even as a writer we often struggle to express that moment or feeling in the way we want our readers to feel or understand what is happening. And, it’s even harder when you want to explain to someone personally, knowing that you are doing so in order to help them. Especially when that someone is a young adult. But more so when it is someone you care about.
Throughout my life I have always tried to offer suggestions or ideas to my children rather than telling them what they should do when a situation has arisen or where advice is required. My mantra has usually been: If you come with a question or problem I won’t tell you what to do. What I’ll do is give you a variety of paths with possible solutions and consequences. I can only listen and make these suggestions on how I think things might work out if you take a certain type of action. The decision as to which path you choose well, that’s down to you.
Besides, I never wanted to be the one who would say I told you so or was told why didn’t you make me do this. The decisions we take in our life affect us first but also many others around us. And it’s not easy.
I suppose that is why I write. Choosing the right words is far easier when you can write it down and then rub it out if they don’t make sense or its doesn’t sound right. Haven’t we all often wished we could have done the same in real life?
Unfortunately, with today’s modern social media we no longer have the option to delete. Once its out there in cyber space you are stuck with it. So, the decisions you make and what you say does affect a multitude of people. The damage you cause cannot be undone.
It’s also harder to accept when it’s being done to you. People who don’t think carefully before saying, writing or doing things that hurt others are uncaring and often selfish. And the closer to home it comes the more spiteful and hurtful the the perpetrator is. At least in the victim’s mind.
And so, just as you would when writing a story, think before you speak. Stop and read out loud before you click the send button as unlike the word document you cannot delete once it’s gone. 
And remember you may have had a few seconds of satisfaction but the hurt lasts and in the long run you will be the one who will suffer. From loss of friendship, loss of love and loss of self-worth. If you can’t respect others then you don’t respect yourself.

Friday, 10 August 2018

ALLY BLAKE WORKSHOP

This is Part Two of a series of blogs I should have been writing from 1st June.
Being ‘down under’ for nearly three months visiting family means filling my time when they are working or doing their own thing. This year I decided to make some pre-arranged meetings with local Gold Coast authors and members of Queensland SCBWI – the Society of Children’s Book Writers & illustrators.
Having made my links prior to leaving the UK I was delighted to meet up with a few of the ladies from The Ten Pennies writers’ group. They have been around a few years now and have written a collective of short stories for young adults with some success. One of the ladies, Marion, invited me to join her at Broadbeach Library where the Australian writer Ally Blake was giving a Romance Writing Workshop.

                                                                                        
Ally has been a Mills & Boon UK author for some time, having just written her 36th book and regularly does these workshops. She is a very popular speaker and at only $5 (approx. £3) the two-hour event, with a cup of tea/coffee was well worth the visit. I was, along with all those attending, fortunate enough to receive a copy of the workshop notes.
The workshop was open to all and was sold out very quickly with a waiting list. I was fortunate to attend but then I did plead the cause that I was a UK author visiting Oz. Maybe that helped a little?

                                                       
                          ALLY BLAKE & MYSELF               LADIES FROM THE TEN PENNERS GROUP

As a SCBWI member I regularly attend similar workshops in Cardiff with the members of the Welsh faction and find them both enjoyable and informative. Whether you are an experienced writer or a novice such events are a benefit. So, check your local library and internet for similar workshops and go along. Apart from learning a few things you also get to meet some fabulous people.