Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Will a good cover sell your book?

Jane Dixon-Smith now does all the covers for my e-books. A Most Unusual Governess and A Mistress for Stansted Hall are the next two novellas that I will be putting up on Kindle. My latest book from My Weekly (and possibly my last) House of Dreams has an excellent cover. Certainly this book sold really well because I was unable to buy a copy for myself – they had all gone in both Tesco and WHSmith. I have a feeling that the drop in sales for pocket novels could have been because of the dreadful covers. This is a classic example: all my books are Regency – heaven knows what period this is! I can remember that one cover had a man on a horse waving a sword, dressed like a Royalist in the civil war and the girl, riding pillion, was in mediaeval costume. The books I first published with Amazon had home-made covers – they weren't too bad but obviously not professional. However, when I got Jane to redo them my sales jumped by 50%. There was a lively debate on another blog about the kind of covers that seem prevalent in the US – you know the ones I mean – seminaked, musclebound men with long flowing hair, clutching maidens to their manly chests. The contents of this sort of book might be acceptable and a good read, but I would never buy a book with one of those "bodice ripper" covers. (I apologise for the huge size of my covers - for some reason I wasn't given the option to make them smaller.) Until next time best wishes Fenella J Miller .

Thursday, 23 May 2013

More on contracts

Shirley Blair from DCT has been responding on Womagwriter's Blog.

It's worth reading the comments too, for further clarification, especially in relation to pocket novels. We can send our original manuscripts to large print publishers, but not the printed copy. Now we just have to persuade large print publishers to accept the manuscript versions.

The good news is that if they do want to use our pocket novels again, they have to renegotiate terms. So they can't be re-used without further payment.

I know this has caused a lot of us stress, not knowing where we're going, but there are other publishers of romance out there. Perhaps it's time to spread our wings a bit so we're not reliant on one market.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Contracts (and the mystery that goes with them.)

What does a contract do for us writers? With DC Thomson, it seems to be an acceptance of the book followed by a remittance advice. With large print buyers, there is a contract that spells out the payment, the length of licence to publish and the number of copies they plan to publish. As they are a charity, Ulverscroft also state their plan for publication in large print and details of the writers name and where it will appear.

With other companies, contracts can be extremely long and detailed, running into numerous pages. The details include such things as guarantee that the work does not contain anything that can cause problems to anyone ... nothing libellous or obscene and a whole lot more besides. Reading through the fine print is important before signing but I must admit, reading it once was enough for me! With this company, I now give it a quick glance and then sign. One important detail however was a list of countries in which they intend to publish. As I wanted to publish in USA, it was important not to sign away those rights.

Some companies are happy with electronic contracts, with the facility to sign digitally. It certainly is very easy but once more, these contracts may hide something you don’t want to sign away.

There is a great deal of discussion about changes that may be made in our contract by DC Thomson. It may be just rumour but it is now looking more certain. They are forbidding us to sell our actual pocket novels on for large print. As the large print publishers don’t seem to have editors on their staff, it looks a bit like the end for us. I can sort of understand DCT not wanting their work to be sold on but it puts us in a difficult position for the future. They do not pay enough for this to be the only income we get from our sales and large print and subsequent PLR make it much more worthwhile. It may well be that large print companies will take manuscripts directly but we shall have to wait and see.

Watch this space!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Writer's Block

It is disputed whether this insidious condition exists at all. We have all experienced moments when the writing muscle appears to have gone on holiday and we must all have felt our writing is not up to scratch at times. Is a short break from writing considered to be ‘writer’s block’? Often writers torture themselves if they do not reach certain word count targets each day and feel they have failed. Some people say just write anything, whatever comes into your head. It can be thrown away, just as long as you write. Surely it’s better to have written something rather than nothing.
So what really stops us from writing? For Ruth it’s the thought of not being able to write something that satisfies her because it won’t be good enough. One solution is to write, but when you come to a difficult word, phrase or idea, leave it and come back later. Ruth often leaves a blank space for Mary to come up with the ideal word, sentence or paragraph. So the barrier is removed and the rest of the writing can flow. Frequently a fresh look solves the problem. But we always try to remember, ‘The best way to get something done is to begin’.
Mary nearly always finds it difficult to start writing because she knows that what comes out on the screen in front of her will not be what was in her head when she thought of the story. However, if something has a plan to it, it's much easier. It's important to remember that 'writing' isn't just about putting sentences and paragraphs together, it can also involve a development stage in which ideas are noted and then put into some sort of order.

Facing a blank page can be very off-putting. Therefore rather than finish a day’s work at the end of a chapter or scene, why not stop while ideas are flowing and make a note of them. This can make it easier to start the next day.
A change of environment can help too. For example if you usually sit at a computer, why not take a notebook out into the garden if it’s a lovely day and be inspired by your surroundings. Or, as has been said on this blogspot before, go to a coffee shop. Being close to people can be stimulating. Rest assured, writer’s block is a temporary blip which every writer experiences.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Location, Location, Location

Locations in novels. Hmm. Have I possibly been restricting myself to using solely Australian settings in my novels because that is where I live? But my outback novel is my bestseller. And as a reader I love learning about other countries and places.  So this certainly challenges the mould I have settled myself into.

Should a writer set a novel in a place they've never been? The logical answer is probably "Of course" because as writers we should extend our imagination and writing muscles. I recently read that write what you know is out-dated and that we should reach beyond what we know and grasp for what is beyond reach. Do we all do this? Perhaps I'm not.
So, what settings do you love to read about in novels? Please tell me. Me? I love anything English/Scottish/Irish. Probably a hill village in France or Italy. Something along an English or French canal in a houseboat. Japan in cherry blossom time. Cara's forthcoming serial The Lemon Grove set in Italy sounds wonderful.
I'm heading for Russia, Switzerland and the Italian lakes in May; the latter has been on my bucket list and I can't believe I'm actually going there now. It looks to be magical scenery among the mountains so I must think romance while I'm there, people watch, and see what stories I can imagine. 

These are romantic settings, right? So maybe I should broaden my location horizons and think foreign.

My current outback novel WIP has an Irish heroine and in the process of writing and her character's evolution besides doing some background research on Ireland, I discovered she loved cooking. So I googled some Irish recipes and found things like a Guinness chocolate cake. Have a can of the black stuff in the refrigerator to try that one! Already had a Barm Brack in my recipe book so I've just made that and, since its aroma is wafting into my study from the kitchen, I think I need to go test a slice with a cup of tea. Lots of positives in researching settings.
So bring it on. Fantasize. Let me hear where you would love to read about a romance.