Keep it Short, Stupid

War and Peace, when it was a 1,225-page blockbuster rather than a toothsome TV adaptation, was a by-word for long and weighty.

FreeImages.com/Davide Farabegoli

At medical school, one lecturer seemed bent on following in Tolstoy’s footsteps. Using ten words when one would do, he habitually overran, but did he cram more in? Was his specialism more vital than others? No.

Sadly, many speakers drone on at length, oblivious of their audience and of those scheduled after them, their numerous PowerPoint slides an accessory to their crime of disrespect.

alarm clock

Most topics, even Brexit, could be covered more succinctly. Going too long is blatant laziness. “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead,” said Mark Twain. Others, including Cicero, TS Eliot, and Blaise Pascal have expressed the same sentiment.

As the cliché goes, it would be easy for journalists from The Sun newspaper to write for The Times, but not vice versa. Guido Fawkes, who has done both, agrees. 

fabric tape measure

Keeping it short leaves little scope for nuance. On the plus side, readers won’t give up in droves, as if their team is losing 6-0.

KISS. Less is [word count exceeded]

***

You may like to read: 10 Tabloid Tips to Better Writing, from Writer’s Digest and my writing colleague Dan Holloway on Why Less is More When Reading or Performing Your Work in Public.

 

 

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How to Plan a Box-Set

Today’s post is from a fabulous British author called Jane Davis.

By fabulous, I don’t mean she writes fables. In case you don’t know, her six novels to date are all wonderfully real character-led stories. This Saturday, October 3, she’s at Barton’s Bookshop in Leatherhead from 10.00am to 4.00pm for the launch of the new ‘bookshop editions’ of her novels.

And let me tell you that when you get to Barton’s at 2 Bridge Street, Leatherhead, you know you’ve arrived.

Here’s Jane with her advice on how to plan a box-set.

Jane Davis

In 2014 I experimented with producing two box-sets, first releasing my own three novel box-set, and then collaborating with six other authors on a multi-author limited edition box-set.

I called my own box-set Second Chapter as it contains what I consider to be the second chapter in my journey as an author. My first novel, Half-truths and White Lies, was published by Transworld after it won the Daily Mail First Novel Award in 2009. Second Chapter contains three full-length novels, I Stopped TimeThese Fragile Things, and A Funeral for an Owl. The idea was simple. I wanted to attract new readers by offering three books for the price of two.

Second Chapter

Single author box-sets are the perfect solution for authors who write a series, and they’re great for readers too.

As JJ Marsh explains about her European crime novels in the Beatrice Stubbs Box Set: ‘Readers often say that after reading one, they immediately want the next in the series, so a box-set is a handy way to get three at once.’

My collaboration with six other members of the Alliance of Independent Authors was more unusual. While collaborative efforts have become more common among genre fiction authors, we weren’t aware of other multi-author collections of contemporary novels. Of course, several of the issues highlighted here also apply to single-author box-sets.

Why do it?

Simple. We wanted to explore the power of the group. A box-set aggregates reader bases and the theory was that our combined reader bases would result in cumulated sales. But we also wanted to demonstrate the tremendous quality of fiction that is being self-published.

These Fragile Things

Who to collaborate with?

The group needs to share the same values and aims. These should be set out in an agreement (more later) which, when the going gets tough, can serve as a useful reminder of why you started out on this journey.

Make sure you’re happy to champion the other authors’ books as you would your own. We were fans of one another’s fiction before we teamed up.

No two books should be too alike, but they should appeal to the same target market. Our decision was to focus on our characters and the boundary-breaking nature of our fiction.

Make sure that the other authors are eligible to participate. Better to discover sooner rather than later that they’re signed up to KDP Select.

Find out if all of the books have been professionally copy-edited and proofread. You will save time by asking this very simple question.

Do the books have a high number of 5 star reviews? You may find it very difficult to garner reviews for a box-set, especially if it is only available for a limited period, so it’s a good idea to have a stock of headline quotes to draw from.

I Stopped Time

Outline Agreement

Now comes the nitty gritty. Even though you may want to operate on trust, certain issues should be nailed down at the outset.

Set out your main aims. How else will you measure your success? 

Decide how you’ll work on a logistical level.  Will one person act as overall leader or manager, or will each author take responsibility for a different area? What issues will you put to the vote, and how will you make decisions if you are up against time limits?

There should be written agreement that each author will retain his/her own rights, but grants consent for the party taking responsibility for uploading the e-book to publish it. This really is a key responsibility. That same person will receive all of the proceeds from sales and must act as treasurer for the team. We are so grateful that Jessica Bell took on this mammoth task.

Release date – print magazines put their books and features pages to bed three months before publication. Newspapers have a faster turnaround, as do radio and TV, and two months’ notice may well suit them. While you may not have aimed for publicity via these channels when writing as an individual, don’t underestimate the power of the group. We featured in a number of major publications, The Guardian, The Sun and New Edition to name but a few.

Pre-orders – now available on most platforms. Our experience was that people want e-books instantly.

A Funeral for an Owl

How long will the box-set be available? Consider the appeal of a limited edition product v the benefits of having the product available in the longer term. If some of you have published only one or two books, they may be less keen for the box-set to remain on sale. We decided on a period of 90 days only.

How will the product be priced? Box-sets are usually value-priced, meaning that the box-set costs the reader far less than purchasing all the books individually. Generally, the more limited availability is going to be, the keener the pricing needs to be. We settled on a price that represented a discount of 75% off the price of the books if bought separately, which represented tremendous value.

What is each member is expected to contribute, both in terms of money and time? I was simply blown away by the skill-sets within our team. Having a cover designer, interior formatter and website designer in-house meant that we didn’t have to pay other professionals for these services. And there was surprisingly little overlap in skills, so we were all able to play to our strengths.

How each member will be paid and when (Pay Pal is useful).

A general statement of commitment to summarise what is expected of everyone.

Women Writing Women Box Set Cover_finalGIF (1)

Branding

Title – As well as capturing the theme that links the books together, it’s a good idea to mention the word “box-set” in the title, together with the number of contributing authors.  

Cover design – 2D v 3D? As instructed in the Smashwords Style Guide, Smashwords can’t accept ‘3D’ images (a digital rendition of a three dimensional box-set). And they are not alone. If you wish to publish on any platform other than Amazon, and you only want to have one cover image, it must be 2D. NB: All authors should be listed on the e-book cover image.

Your brand will extend to author photographs, memes, Facebook banner, website domain name and design, all the way to any Twitter hashtags you adopt. Ours also included video trailers and promotional giveaways. 

Formatting and Interior layout

You’ll combine the multiple books into a single e-book file. A Table of Contents becomes crucial for box-sets.

We listed each book and author name, and included a short bio, blurb and headline quotes after each title page. You might also add “Other books by Author Name” or “Connect with Author Name,” with electronic links.

Proof-reading – It is vital to ensure that errors have not been introduced during the formatting process. As a minimum, each author should proof their own book and one other novel.  Set a clear realistic deadline.

Communication within the team

We found it very helpful to set up a closed Facebook Group, as well as a shared Google spreadsheet which was effectively a diary of all of our marketing. This ensured that we didn’t duplicate efforts and that we weren’t all asking favours of the same contacts!

Joni Rodgers

Publicity Campaign

We were fortunate to have our product endorsed by respected industry professionals, including Alison Baverstock and Dan Holloway, who gave us amazing quotes which we were able to use on our cover and in press releases.

We utilised social media to full effect, adopting #womenwritingwomen as our hashtag, setting up a Public Facebook Group and targeting reader groups.

Press Releases – we designed three separate press releases with slightly different emphasis in order to suit the bias of the publications we intended to approach.

We wanted a fresh idea for giveaways that would cost very little but treat the winning readers to something of genuine value. Joni Rodger’s daughter (Jerusha Rodgers of Rabid Badger Editing) created a fabulous digital swag bag that included a critically acclaimed novel by Joni, a free music album download by Jessica Bell and a host of delightfully fun and artsy surprises. We also gave away a couple of Kindle Paperwhites. Giving away upscale prizes in a promotion builds awareness, and brought us email addresses and other benefits.

Joni is also experienced in audio editing, so she created our book trailer – again using one of Jessica’s songs. She also made a 60 second review for each book in the set.

Blog tours – we adopted a dual approach, pulling in favours and paying for a blog tour.

Jane Davis

What we will take away from the experience

Joni Rodgers: ‘I’ve learned a lot about marketing and production, and that’s something I’ll gratefully take with me when our 90 days is done.’

Roz Morris: ‘Certainly I learned that promotion in a group gives you more courage. I find it agonising to write assertive press releases on my own behalf, but it was dead easy for our ensemble. I’ll channel that when I start bumbling through a release for my next book.’

ooOoo

A big thank you to Jane. Here’s more about her:

Jane Davis’s first novel, Half-truths and White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award and was described by Joanne Harris as ‘A story of secrets, lies, grief and, ultimately, redemption, charmingly handled by this very promising new writer.’ She has since published five further novels.  Compulsion Reads describe her as ‘a phenomenal writer whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless.’

Visit her website: www.jane-davis.co.uk and subscribe to her blog
‘Like’ her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JaneDavisAuthorPage
Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/janerossdale
Follow her on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/janeeleanordavi/boards/

And don’t miss seeing her at Barton’s Bookshop on October 3.

 

Are You Ready to Venture Outside the Box?

Meet a cast of characters you’ll never forget:

A woman accused of killing her tyrannical father.

A young woman fleeing from the shadow of her infamous mother.

A bereaved biographer who goes to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of a celebrity artist.

A gifted musician forced by injury to stop playing the piano.

A prima ballerina who turns to prostitution to support her daughter.

A journalist who must choose between an easy life and a bumpy road that could lead to happiness.

The wife of a drug lord who tries to relinquish her lust for blood to raise a respectable son.

And here’s the best bit: you can get to know them all without leaving your warm and cosy home.

Apologies for the advert. I don’t normally have a whole post about a book, but I can’t resist because I’m so proud to be part of this project. In fact, grinning from ear to ear.  Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEG (1)Besides, it’s much more than one book. Outside the Box: Women Writing Women brings all these unlikely heroines together in a limited edition box-set of seven novels. It’ll be published in e-book format on February 20 and available for just 90 days.

Why mention it today? Because you can pre-order it from Amazon now (other outlets to follow).

Some have seen the anthology already. Dan Holloway, columnist for the Guardian books pages and publisher, says

The authors of these books are at the forefront of a strong cohort of ground-breaking, boundary-pushing women writing and self-publishing literary fiction. I cannot recommend this collection highly enough.”

The project is the brain-child of Jessica Bell, Australian novelist, singer/songwriter and Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal. There’s no one genre in this set. Each full-length book is a page-turner. 

Blue Mercy by Orna Ross

OrnaWill you identify with mother or with daughter? When Mercy Mulcahy was 40 years old, she was accused of killing her tyrannical father. Now, at the end of her life, she has written a book about what really happened that fateful night of Christmas Eve 1989 – and she desperately needs her daughter to read it.

Orna Ross is founder-director of The Alliance of Independent Authors. The Bookseller calls her one of the 100 most influential people in publishing.

Crazy for Trying by Joni Rodgers

joniIn 1970s Montana, a female voice on the radio is unheard of, but seeking to escape the shadow of her infamous mother – a radical lesbian poet who is larger than life, even in death – bookish Tulsa Bitters heads west, determined to reinvent herself as a late-night DJ.

Joni Rodgers lives in Houston, Texas and is the New York Times bestselling author/co-author of over a dozen books, including book club favourite Bald in the Land of Big Hair.

My Memories of a Future Life by Roz Morris

RozIf you were somebody’s past life, what echoes would you leave in their soul? Could they be the answers you need now? When concert pianist Carol is forced by injury to stop playing, she fears her life may be over. Enter her soul-mate Andreq. Is he her future incarnation or a psychological figment? And can he help her discover how to live now?

As a ghost-writer, Roz Morris sold over four million books writing the novels of other people. She is a writers’ mentor and a radio show host, and teaches writing masterclasses for The Guardian newspaper.

The Centauress by Kathleen Jones

KathleenBereaved biographer Alex Forbes goes to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of celebrity artist Zenobia de Braganza and finds herself at the centre of a family conflict over a disputed inheritance. She discovers a mutilated photograph, stolen letters and a story of indeterminate gender, passion and betrayal. But can she believe what she is being told?

Kathleen Jones is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. She is best known for her award-winning biographies, and has also written extensively for the BBC.

An Unchoreographed Life by Jane Davis

JaneBallerina Alison Brabbage turns to prostitution when pregnancy and motherhood forced her into retirement. Struggling from day-to-day, the ultimatums she sets herself slip by. But there is one time-bomb she can’t ignore. Her daughter Belinda is growing up. Soon she will be able to work out who Alison is – and what she does for a living.

Jane Davis won the Daily Mail Award for her first novel, which secured her a publishing contract. She has now gone on to self-publish four other novels and isn’t afraid to tackle the trickiest subjects.

White Lady by Jessica Bell

JessicaSonia Shâd, the wife of Melbourne’s leading drug lord, yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s separated from her husband and rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and mathematics teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats and raise a respectable son. Easier said than done. Especially when she discovers her husband is back in town.

Jessica Bell is an Australian novelist, poet, singer/ songwriter /guitarist who lives in Athens, Greece. She is Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and author of the bestselling Writing in a Nutshell series. 

One Night at the Jacaranda by Carol Cooper

Carol CooperOn a hope-fuelled night in London, lives intersect as a motley group of singletons meet in their quest for someone special. Undercover journalist Harriet is after a by-line, not a boyfriend, but soon she has to choose between the comfortable life she knows and a bumpy road that might lead to happiness.  

Me, you already know. I’ve only produced this one novel so far, so I’m honoured to have it included in such stellar company.

There’s more about the books, the authors, and the swag on Outside the Box: Women Writing Women.

Happy reading!

WWW head shot banner

Related post :

Self-Published Authors, eh? What Are They LIKE?

Easy tweet:

“7 genre-busting ‪#‎novels in a limited edition box-set OUTSIDE THE BOX. Avail just 90 days! http://goo.gl/D1fyqW #WomenWritingWomen”

 

Self-Published Authors, eh? What Are They LIKE?

Unless you’ve been in Siberia for the last few years, you’ll know that publishing has changed with the rise of self-publishing.  Indie authors, self-published authors, author-publishers – call them what you will. Their distinguishing feature is that their books bypass mainstream publishing houses.

Some publish themselves in the strict sense of the word, while others use small publishing outfits. What are they like?  ALLi LBF14

A number are hybrids like me: my non-fiction is traditionally published for good reasons. I can’t see a textbook for medical students gaining much traction without the backing of educational big guns like Wiley-Blackwell. On the other hand, I’m very happy self-publishing my fiction like my novel One Night at the Jacaranda.

One thing to make clear: self-publishing is not vanity publishing, where someone is so desperate to appear in print that they exchange a fat cheque and an unreadable MS for a garage full of books nobody wants to buy.   garage full of unsold books

Authors go the indie route for various motives. Most often there’s the desire to have full control over their work: the cover, the blurb, the price, the royalty rate, the timing of publication and so on. As Orna Ross, director of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), says, indie authors “see themselves as the creative director of their books, from inspiration to publication.

Orna at London Book Fair 2014

Orna Ross at London Book Fair 2014

When you read a book by an indie author, you’re getting what the writer intended.  If you’ve never come across a book by an author-publisher, you’re probably thinking “What, typos and all?”

No, of course not. That’s because ‘self-publishing’ is something of a misnomer – it takes a team to make a book the best it can be.

You can self-publish all on your own without spending a cent, but you need a bit more to produce a quality product fit for discerning readers (and your English teacher from college).

If you haven’t come across any of the 18m self-published books bought in the UK last year, you may still be thinking of indie-authored fare as pale imitations of ‘proper’ books.

Like, say, a cut-price Ian McEwan or a downmarket version of a Julian Barnes. Or maybe a Maggie O’Farrell with spelling mistakes. A Ruth Rendell minus the mystery. Gone Girl without any suspense. Perhaps even Jeanette Winterson with random capitals and grocers’ apostrophes. You know the type: potatoe’s, lettuce’s, Orange’s aRE Not The Only FRuit.   farmers' marketAs it happens, more than one commentator describes the indie scene as a literary farmers’ market (see posts by JJ Marsh  and Lynne Pardoe.

Tesco they’re not. These authors are individuals and they provide fare you can’t easily find elsewhere.

So it’s tough to generalise about what they’re like. Indies are poets, thriller writers, romantic novelists, and a lot more, but some things unite them.

Jane Davis' novel 'I Stopped Time'

Jane Davis’ novel ‘I Stopped Time’

  • Their books may defy genre, which is one reason why they may not sit well in a supermarket.  You’ll see what I mean if you check out the work of Dan Holloway, Orna Ross, Rohan Quine or Alison Morton). 
  • Author-publishers relish the control they have over their own work. They may have turned indie after their publisher insisted on changing the title of their book, or made the titling pink and loopy to shoe-horn it onto the chick-lit shelf.
  • They know readers deserve first-rate content and presentation, so they’re increasingly professional. The best author-published books are on a par with high-end products from big publishers.  And many of them have accolades that say so.
  • That’s because they take it on themselves to produce books with care, but they do so with the help of editors, designers, beta-readers and so on. No author, even an indie author, is an island.
  • As you might have guessed by now, they’re not all sitting by the phone waiting for one of the Big Six to call.  But indies aren’t all fed up with traditional publishing either.
  • Most write for love. Indie authorship is not a get-rich-quick scheme, though some have done spectacularly well.

I think all this choice makes it a very exciting time to be a reader.

So, what are indie authors like? Come and see. You’ll find about 40 of them at the Indie Author Fair in Chorleywood, Herts on November 16.

Indie Author Fair 2014

 You may also like to read this informative book from the Alliance of Independent Authors which gives a great overview: Opening Up to Indie Authors.

An Unchoreographed Life

Today there’s a treat for you: one great author (Dan Holloway) interviewing another (Jane Davis) on his blog. After the morning I’ve had (don’t ask), I’d make a hash of trying to explain any more. You may not have heard of novelist Jane Davis before, but that could be the world’s fault for not being ready for her. So I’m off to get myself a coffee and some ibuprofen while the interview speaks for itself.

dan holloway

jane pic

Jane Davis is one of my newfound heroes. A prizewinning literary author who tackles the trickiest of subjects and has turned to producing the very finest self-published literary works. She’s a wonderful writer I’m cheering on full voice. She also, as you will see as she discusses her wonderful book An Unchoreographed Life, gives the most wonderful interviews!

1. Let me start with your covers – how important is it for you to maintain such a recognisable feel to your books? If you could summarise that feel, what would you say?

jane half

Branding has become hugely important to me – although I’d be lying if I said that I was fully aware of its importance when I first self-published.

Transworld had the right of first refusal of my second novel, and they exercised it. Half-truths and White Lies was published under their women’s fiction imprint, and the manuscript I presented them…

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