Monday, 27 June 2011

WHIPPED INTO SHAPE: Story Arcs

Whipped Into Shape is a new regular feature. What happens is that you tell me something from Write to be Published that you found particularly helpful or inspiring or whatever, and explain why. I put it on the blog and talk a bit about whatever point you've raised so everyone can learn. If you'd like to do this, read the Over To You page at the top of the blog. You get a chance to plug your writing or blog. Or cooking skills if you wish.
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First to be Whipped Into Shape is Inkpen, talking about oddly shaped story arcs...

Inkpen said about WTBP: 
"I have found the section on story arcs really useful. I wish I could show you a diagram of my story arc picture page!
You wrote about arcs and spikes, so I obediently [NM: good, I like obedient] drew just that. Imagine, if you will, a landscape page in an A5 turquoise Moleskin notebook. There is a slightly mis-shapen rugby ball outline and inside it a series of spikes holding up the top arc, and between those, squiggly lines (my own fabulous invention!) descending to the bottom one. The top curve reaches its peak about three quarters of the way along, the bottom one a tiny bit earlier.
My WIP is a novel for the younger end of the teen audience – MCs are 14. In the novel they are both driven by situations at home which are making them act in a particular way outside. So the top arc represents the action, the main plot, the events which build to crisis point and then down as the story is – hopefully! - resolved. The bottom arc represents the rest - the inbetween bits of their day to day home/school life and their internal life – basically, their motivation for the action. The crisis point of the bottom arc is slightly earlier because it’s sparking off the pointy action bits on the top.
What all this showed me was that I had a clear series of plot events, so I had a structure, but the squiggly lines were too thin. I realised that my MCs were lacking sufficient motivation, and that’s the bit I’m now working on, with a sub-plot and a bit more background. Within this framework I could also start to place the scenes I’d already written, and I had some very specific areas to think about in planning and writing.
This is my first novel – not including the two historical romances I wrote as a teenager! – but I write for a couple of women’s weekly magazines. 

So, over to me.
For those of you who don't have a copy of Write to be Published so don't know which bit Inkpen is talking about, here is the link to the blogpost which inspired that section, though I should point out that the book expresses it more tidily and better.

Yes, stories have shapes. (And Inkpen has cheekily invented squiggly lines... Pfffth.) You may not have consciously noticed story shape in books that you've read but I can tell you you'll notice when a) there's no shape or b) the shape is flat and crappy. And you really don't want a flat or crappy shape. You honestly don't.

You don't want one in your story, either.
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Don't forget to let me know if you'd like to contribute to Whipped Into Shape. Details of this and other ways you can be part of the blog and showcase your writing and your own blog are on the Over To You page at the top of the blog.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Acquisitions Meetings

This is the crucial meeting in a publishing company, at which the Big Decision will be made about your book: to publish or not to publish. To get to this stage, the book has already seduced an editor. The editor believes that it is The Right Book For This Company. Now, she has to convince the scary sales and marketing people in the acquisitions meeting. This is when the editor's passion for your book has to translate into budgets and costings and projected sales figures. I have heard editors say they quake in their shoes before these meetings as they work out how to turn their feeling of "I love this" into "I know we can shift units and generate sufficient revenue." Gone are the days when the commissioning editors held sway at these meetings; now, it's down to people who haven't read your book and often don't particularly want to. Or need to.

For you, the aspiring writer, or me, the one who wants to continue to be published (please), it is very helpful (though uncomfortable) to know how the decision is made.

Let's look at all the things a sensible publishing company must decide:
1. Does it fit our list? (It's unlikely to have reached the acquisitions meeting if it doesn't, as the editor will know this anyway.) This translates into questions such as:
  • Which of our titles is it similar to?
  • But is it also sufficiently different?
  • Is this the sort of book we know how to sell?
  • Is there a suitable time-slot available for publication? Publishers have schedules and must not over-stretch themselves. Their schedule could be full for the next 18 months, and they are unlikely to want to commit further ahead than that. They also need to choose a month for publication and that month must not be too full, or have competing titles, or have bad astrological portents. (I jest. Slightly.)
2.  Do we have the budget for it? This translates into questions such as:
  • How expensive will this be to produce? Does it need illustrations? Will it be hardback, or paperback only? How long will it be and therefore how many pages? This, and such factors as thickness of paper, will affect other costs such as warehousing and delivery.
  • What sort of marketing spend will be necessary?
  • What sort of author advance will be necessary?
  • How soon are we likely to to recoup our costs? For this, an estimate of sales figures will be discussed.
  • What other books demand our resources, bearing in mind that no revenue will be generated till after publication, which may be well over a year away?
3. What is the likely market for this book? This includes:
  • Do we know how to get this book to its market?  
  • What is the history of books like this?
  • What is the competition for this book?
4. Is this book likely to gain critical acclaim (good reviews in good places, and perhaps award shortlistings) or commercial success? (Either is good enough!)

5. Are we likely to be able to sell foreign rights, if the author grants us those rights? (The advance and value of the acquisition will partly depend on which rights the publisher is allowed to control.) What about other rights, such as serialisation?

6. What about the author - how helpful and proactive will and can she be in promoting the book? This is where your online activity and "platform" come in handy. But if you are an aspiring novelist, don't fret excessively if you haven't done much about this yet, as the publisher really only needs to see your willingness and potential to engage in all the right promotional activities. For a non-fiction writer, your platform is essential as it will hugely affect how easily your book can sell.

Phew! What tough and nasty questions these are! Our gorgeous, passionate book gets picked over by the pointy-lapelled number-crunchers and ends up as a mass of figures and predictions. But we are best knowing this now, because if we try to put ourselves in the shoes of the people who make the decisions about our book, we are most likely to produce a book which will make them say YES.

How well-written your book is is for the editor to see - it's what will make her fall in love with it and allow her to make a judgement about its reception by readers. It's what will allow her to fight for it at the acquisitions meeting and beyond. But it's what the book sounds like when described pithily that is what will get it past the meeting. And that's why my previous post about hooks and pitches is so important.

There was also a previous post which explains hooks and pitches - please read it if you're at all unclear.

And talking about hooks and pitches, remember, you can pitch your story to your fellow blog-readers, if you wish. The details of how to do this were at the end of the more recent post on pitches. A great way to perfect it before you submit it to agents or publishers. Courage, mes braves!

Monday, 20 June 2011

PERFECT PITCH

Following last week's mini-post bringing you a wonderful YouTube lesson in how (not) to pitch your book to an agent, let's focus on this essential bit of the writer's kit: the perfect pitch.

The perfect pitch for your book is:
  • Whatever is the best way to show your book in its most compelling light. "Compelling" as in "compelling the listener to want to read it."
  • Perfectly devised for a specific situation. In other words, the perfect way to pitch your book in a covering letter is not necessarily the same as the perfect way to pitch it to an agent you happen to have met in an elevator. Or to a reader who is thinking of buying it.
The perfect pitch has one purpose and result: to hook the person who hears or reads it, making him think, "Wow, I absolutely must read that book." It has, therefore, "must-read" factor written all over it. That word "hook" is crucial. In fact, we can call our pitch the hook. A good pitch hooks the readers.

How short should it be?
  • As short as possible.
  • As short as the purpose demands.
For example, you might need a short snappy phrase for a strapline (the bit you sometimes see beneath a title.) Or you might be writing the blurb for the back of the book - authors often do this in conjunction with their editors. (Note, "blurb" in the US usually means the eulogising quote from a wellknown person, which is called the "puff" in the UK. We are not talking about puffs. We are not talking about praise, but something more objective and informative.)

When you are delivering an oral pitch (such as in the elevator pitch video), in a situation where you suddenly have the chance to tell someone about your book, you have as long as it takes for the listener's eyes to glaze over, divided by two - in other words your pitch must stop well before the eyes glaze over. You have to stop with them wanting more.

In fact, that sentence sums up your aim: the listener or reader needs to want more.And "more" is, ideally, your book.

Who needs your hook and when?
First, you do. Now. You need to know exactly what your book is about, what its core is. I find the best way to focus my mind and heart on this while writing is to have my hook honed from the start. Imagine you are writing the cover copy for your book before you've written the book.

Second, you do when you're pitching to an agent or publisher, whether in an elevator or in your covering letter or query. Again, in an elevator is different from in a covering letter.

Third, the agent does when pitching to a prospective publisher.

Fourth, the commissioning editor needs it when pitching to the pointy-lapelled sales and marketing people in the Acquisitions meeting.

Fifth, the pointy-lapelled people need it when pitching to bookshops, reviewers and key influencers, bearing in mind that the pointy-lapelled people often haven't read the book so they need to know what they should say about it.

And finally, the booksellers need it to explain to customers why they will love your book and must buy it.

Let's look at some examples of hooks.

THE HIGHWAYMAN'S FOOTSTEPS. Now, the title gives a substantial amount of information. It tells us that the book is historical and that it's an adventure story. So, my hook doesn't need to incorporate this. (NB If I was writing a covering letter, I'd still say that it's historical, because that's a rule of covering letters, but it does not need to form part of the hook.)

The cover blurb says:
When high-born William de Lacey saves a highwayman's life, he cannot guess how his own life will change. He may have escaped his father's sneering contempt, but has his easy childhood prepared him for the terrifying dangers that he must face now? The stark, ghostly moors are as hostile as the pursuing redcoats, and Will must make some difficult decisions if he is to escape with his life.
I've put in red the phrases that give crucial information, either about content or mood. They tell us what this book is like.

But that is not the only way we could have done it. After all, one hugely important aspect of the Highwayman's Footsteps is that the story is actually about two people, Will and Bess. And Bess's story is perhaps even more powerful than Will's, as she is the imagined daughter of the highwayman in the Noyes poem, The Highwayman. So, why didn't we include that?
  1. We could have done.
  2. But it would have been too long.
  3. The story is told through Will's voice, and hooks should focus on the main character.
  4. There is a possibility that saying that the book is based on a poem, and then only being able to mention it briefly in the blurb, without being able to demonstrate the vast power of that poem, could have put some people off.
So, a lesson is that you have to be ruthless. Also, that's just the hook for the cover copy - if I was pitching it in a covering letter, I'd have a bit more space and I would have mentioned Bess and her dramatic childhood.

But there was another sort of hook for this book, too. I came up with a strapline which, though not actually on the cover, was used for promotional materials: "Robert Louis Stevenson on caffeine." This hook worked brilliantly for the sales team because it was very memorable, very different and had an edginess to it that made people a) smile and b) take notice.

WASTED
Wasted is a hard book to describe in a short pitch, because it's about many things and I couldn't possibly exaplain them all briefly. Also, the title gives very little information. So, here's what I came up with, not for the cover but when explaining it briefly to anyone:
Wasted is about chance, luck, risk, danger, obsession, passion, alcohol - and why leaving the house three  seconds earlier could change your life.
There is also a strapline under the title:
When danger, passion and chance collide.
Do you see how the strapline works as a strapline but not as a pitch? It doesn't tell us enough to be a pitch. A strapline tells us a bit more about the title / book, but not enough to be a pitch.

The back cover copy reads as follows:
Jack is obsessed by luck. He lets the toss of a coin rule his actions, whatever the risks. Chance brings him Jess, a beautiful singer who will change his life, but their luck won't last forever. During a night of heady recklessness, they run out of choices. Now it is the reader's turn to take a risk: spin a coin and determine life or death.
See how both Jack and Jess are mentioned? That's because they are equally the main characters. Note the key words in red.

Photo by Andrew Culture
WRITE TO BE PUBLISHED
With non-fiction you need to make your pitch identify what is different about this book, compared with its competition - the USP, in other words. Here's the back cover copy:
You want to make a publisher say yes? First understand why they say no; then apply that knowledge to your book. Nicola Morgan - the Crabbit Old Bat of the renowned blog, Help! I Need a Publisher! - has made publishers say yes around ninety times. Now she offers her expert advice and experience, whipping your work into shape with humour, honesty, grumpiness and chocolate.
But this is too long for a press release headline, for example, so for that we have:
Honest advice from a proven expert.
Do you see how your pitch must fit both your book and the context of the pitch, giving something a little different depending on what it's for and who it's aimed at? It must hook the reader or listener, making him feel, for non-fiction, "Yes, that is the book I need." Or for fiction, "I'd love to read that book."

Try not to seek or be bound by rules such as ideal word counts. Try instead to focus on one thing: what is the best way for me to sell this book to this reader?

IMPORTANT POINT ABOUT COVERING LETTER PITCHES: in your covering letter, it's generally better to avoid big unanswered questions, such as, "Will Johnny save the world?" or, "Will they discover that love does indeed conquer all?" In the covering letter, the agent or publisher does need some suggestion as to how the book ends.

PITCH PITCH
And now, here's your chance! I used to do Submission Spotlights on this blog (and may do again), giving you the chance to send me your tailored submissions; I would then pick one and put it up on the blog for other people to comment on, in public. It worked really well and comments were very helpful and constructive. Well, I'm now going to do that with pitches.

Here are the rules (and NB I took down this post and changed / clarifed Rule 2 shortly after originally posting it).
  1. Email your proposed pitch to writingtutor@hotmail.co.uk in the body of an email, not as an attachment.
  2. Your pitch should be written as though taken from a covering letter to an agent. Omit everything else from the letter, such as the stuff about you, and the intro/closing bits. Simply include the one/two short paragraph pitch about the content of the book.
  3. There is no maximum word-count because you must use your own judgement, bearing in mind the task in hand. You will be pilloried if it's longer than it "should" be, longer than it needs to be. Shorter is better than longer, but you do need to get in enough info to entice and hook the agent or publisher.
  4. Do not state the genre. Instead, it should be obvious. (And anyway, in a real covering letter you would have done that at the beginning.) Do not state the book's length.
  5. Please also provide a title for your book, but this does not come into the actual pitch paragraph.
  6. Please put the words PITCH PITCH in the subject line.
  7. You do not have to use your real name. Please tell me what name you would like me to use if I select your pitch.
  8. Edited to add: NO DEADLINE - this is ongoing. You send them when you wish and I select and post when I wish.
  9. By sending your pitch you agree to the following:
    1. It may or may not be put on this blog - please do not be offended if I don't pick yours. I may be inundated.
    2. You are offering your pitch hoping for genuine constructive criticism, not merely praise. Commenters will be encouraged to be honest, without being hurtful.
    3. This is a serious exercise - please don't send a deliberately ridiculous pitch!
    4. You acknowledge that I bear no responsibility for any negative consequences to this exercise, although I will undertake to remove any defamatory or otherwise over-negative comment on my blog as soon as I see it. I bear no responsibility for the very remote possibility that someone might use your idea - as you know, there is no copyright on ideas. You take the same risk as you do when you pitch your idea or put your work up on any public forum. Your words are your copyight and remain so when published on this blog.
That's it! Now, get pitching. Meanwhile, do ask any questions or make any comments about hooks and  pitches below.

Friday, 17 June 2011

ELEVATOR PITCH - THE VIDEO

Thanks to scarily perceptive Louise Kelly who was at my Blackwells event last night, for reminding me that I said I'd post the link to the fab YouTube video about elevator pitches. Below.

I think that we need to do some bloggy work on pitches so be ready for some advice from me next week. And the chance for you to try out your own pitches on this blog. Don't pitch them yet, please - just get them brushed up and I'll tell you what to do next week.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

THE COURAGE NOT TO PUBLISH

I recently read something about having the courage to publish. Yes, it's true: if we genuinely want our work to be as good as possible, good enough to grip the minds of our readers, then the moment of sending it to a publisher or clicking the various buttons to self-publish, takes courage indeed. If we have any level of intelligence at all, we must know that our book may well not be as good as we hope it is.

However, I'd like you to consider the courage needed to delay publication or even not to publish at all.

I'm thinking of two sets of people I regularly come across or hear about:
  • the ones who are convinced that their first draft is good enough and either haven't a clue that it isn't or else don't care because they believe that an editor will sort them out later
  • and the ones who, having failed to find a publisher, decide to self-publish without employing the services of:
1. an editor
2. a copy-editor and
3. a proof-reader
 And please note that I said "and", not "or".

I have some self-publishing plans of my own - for some of my previously published books which are not in ebook format and for some new non-fiction - which is why I'm currently reading and completely loving Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard. But, despite the fact that I've had around ninety books published, I wouldn't dream of doing this without using all the above services from skilled professionals whom I had reason to trust.

And what about the courage not to publish at all?

Well, all I'll say is that in my bottom drawer is a heap of MSS that were never published. They were rejected and I am extremely glad of that now. If ebooks and self-publishing had been available, I might have been tempted to throw caution to the wind and chuck them at the unsuspecting public, who might even have bought them.

But I would regret it, because they weren't not good enough. Not good enough for whom? Not good enough for me. I wouldn't be proud of them now. (Not that I'm saying they are brilliant or I wouldn't change aspects.)

Would I have had the courage not to publish, to wait until I had written something good enough? I don't know. Proably not, because I knew sod all about publishing and not very much about readers. I hadn't practised enough.

I'm not saying that every multi-rejected book shouldn't be published. Nor am I saying that every rejected book isn't good enough or enjoyable enough - Catherine's Mousetrapped is very enjoyable and is well-written, but even she admits that publishers were right to reject it. But her book was something that she did absolutely the right thing in publishing. It found a market and established her as a good writer with an engaging personality.

Mine weren't right to be published. There were too many things wrong - things which I could quite easily put right now if I wanted to. So I'm glad my courage was never tested. But I won't be publishing them now either, even though they are there, waiting, staring at me. Those books were my practice books. They are part of the writer I became and that's enough for me.

Do you have to courage to walk away from your practice books and start another? Do you have the courage and patience to delay your planned self-publication until your book has been properly edited, copy-edited and proof-read?

Please say yes!
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I'm about to go away again - to Coventry, to receive the Read it or Else award for Wasted, and then to London. Back on Thursday and I hope the train isn't delayed because I'm doing my Blackwell's event in the evening in Edinburgh...  (6.30pm, FREE, with WINE - book by phoning 0131 622 822. Or go here for more details.) Edited to add - I think this is now sold out but do try, in case they've had cancellations. And if you've booked but can't go, please tell them.

On Thursday I will bring you news of my Edinburgh International Book Festival events - the programme goes live at midday. Hooray!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

STIRRING THE BACON AND THE BOOKS

Today, I have mostly been stirring things over at the Awfully Big Blog Adventure, on the subject of Sainsbury's being the UK's new Martina Cole General or Chain Bookseller of the Year.

Clearly, in my anecdotal exposition I have not given the whole picture. Not only have I not been aware of the no-doubt glittering and wonderful stats that informed the judges' choice, but I also haven't talked at all about the damage done to books and writers by slashing prices to below sustainable levels, which is my regular gripe. I am shocked, pure shocked, at my pathetic earnings from my books.

And I haven't mentioned that fact that, of course, if you go to Sainsbury's online, you'll find a huuuuuuge array of books, including Write to be Published at the cheapest I think I've seen it anywhere. Forgive me if I do not stop to work out my paltry income from that.

If, as is the case for many people, you feel you can't afford a full or at least almost full price for Write to be Published or any other author you wish to support, then there is a very good free choice which also helps me: your library.

Libraries, bookshops and authors - together we can do this inspiring reading thing. Sainsbury's, understand what it is you do. Please.

PS I will be drinking your fab pink Cava tonight at my book launch. Thank you. It's delish.

Monday, 6 June 2011

COMPETITION WINNERS

I have lots of competition winners to announce today! All the ones with the deadline of 1st June. (The Big WTBP Writing Comp is still open – deadline 1st July.)

Pick Me to Win a Crabbit Mug
The entries to this were a horrible mixture of emotional blackmail, wheedling, flattery, wit, creativity and plain desperation. You tugged at my heart-strings, all of you. I wanted to give you all a mug. I really wanted to give one to Dan Holloway, selflessly requesting one for his mug-collecting, artistically-talented, writer-wife. I was almost swayed by Bookmaven’s attempts to tick all the boxes, including telling me she wasn’t worthy. I so wanted to give one to Mikeyboro who does seem to need a mug very, very badly.

But in the end, how could I resist the clever approach of the person who managed to insert eight of my own book titles into her entry?

So, Eleanor Patrick wins with this:
“Blame my Brain for this bizarre thought, but if this mug doesn’t perch safely on my shelf, it might be Wasted, or given to a Chicken Friend, sold in the Fleshmarket, eaten by a Deathwatch beetle or shattered under The Highwayman’s Footsteps. Besides, I could use it when Sleepwalking. But I suppose I Can Learn to think better thoughts if you don’t like this one!”
But then, I realised that Dan Holloway really had to win a mug too, because over and above his own impressive appeal, someone else (Jo) appealed for him. So, Dan, I will find another mug for you :)

#lessinterestingbooks competition
This one was a “random” pick, thank goodness. And so, with thanks to everyone who entered and who helped my #lessinterestingbooks game be the No1 worldwide Twitter trending topic, I hereby announce the winner of a crabbit bag:
Fab children’s writer, Katherine Langrish!

Competition of competitions
Again, this was a random pick from all the entries to all the competitions, and the comments below the post. And the winner is:
Mikeyboro! (Choose mug, bag or book.)

Monthly draw
Each month, I take the names of all those who have ordered a signed copy of Write to be Published direct from me and pick one at random to receive a crabbit bag.
The winner of the May competition is: Jacqueline Pye!

If the rest of you would like a chance to win in June, don’t forget to order from me by emailing your request to writetobepublished@hotmail.co.uk and saying whether you’d like to pay by paypal or cheque. NB I do need to add postage and packing, so the total will be £10.49, and I can only post to the UK.

What Not to Say in a Covering Letter
This was the fun one. Do head over to read all the entries – they made me laugh a lot. I ended up giving two prizes, one for getting the answer most correct and the other for being most creative or amusing (in my opinion). And it was extremely difficult to choose. You were all very amusing and had so got the point about crappy covering letters.

The question was: What awful covering letter mistake have I admitted once making? The correct answer is that I wrote the covering letter in rhyme and in different colours. So, most exactly correct, and therefore winner of that prize, was catdownunder, who used grit and determination to come up with the answer:
“I prowled back through the COB's posts to 18th March 2009 looking for a clue. That is the post in which ma-am admits to sending a submission letter in rhyme. Do you realise that she makes this admission in no less than seven different colours and two different sizes of font. It makes me wonder whether these sins extended to her covering letter at that time?” Yup!
The winner of the “most creative wrong answer” is Sian, because although she was wrong, she did actually write the entry in rhyme, which got her an extra few marks. Sian also manages to cover a whole load of possible errors in the rhyme:
“You don’t have much time
So I’ll finish my rhyme
But before I bid you adieu:
A lock of my hair
In a brooch you can wear
Designed especially for you.

A holiday pic
(No, don’t take the mick)
That hat just slipped over my nose
My best autograph
(Oh please, please don’t laugh)
And a freshly picked red dewy rose.

Did I nick it? Well maybe
From next door’s old lady
(She won’t notice she’s seems to have squillions.)
But you and I, dear
Year after year
Will be making millions and millions.”
Wonderfully bad!

However, I absolutely must award an extra prize. Penwright, have I ever said that the book was about a heron? Or that I used that curly fake-handwriting font? Because both things are true. Perhaps I have said it somewhere but, if so, you are very observant. If not, you're a bloody genius. Can you please tell me how you knew that? And I’ll send you a crabbit bag for your cleverness!

I also commend Mark Anderson for also mentioning the curly handwriting font.

And Marina Drummond, who said, “There were colours: lettering and backdrop; hearts dotted about the paper. Wafts of perfume exuded from the lovely purple envelope, sealed in wax. The words stood out in stunning medieval calligraphy, with a few curls to add character. A photograph was glued to the centre of the page, tailored into a heart-shaped frame. Sparkles and gold stars adorned the masterpiece and fell out onto the grey table in the agent's office so as to remind him of the marvels of childhood. Flowers, patterns, hope, poetry: just before posting it, sending it off into the great unknown, there was a pause and a small pink lipstick kiss. The envelope looked beautiful, almost as if it was whispering back to you, 'And so, with a kiss, I die' - and you knew it was a good omen.”

Katherine Langrish also adds a cautionary tale for us: “One agent I was recently chatting with told me that he'd had an ms hand-delivered to his office door by the author dressed up in a full bio-hazard suit. The agent nearly had a heart-attack when he opened the door, and the ms went unread into the bin. So that's one to avoid, too.”

And I did like Mike Jarman’s entry: “And you'll also find enclosed a picture of my speciality handstand. No, really - I'm well known for them. If you accept my MS I can send you more...”

So the following need to send me their addresses, even if you’ve given them to me before:

Eleanor Patrick wins a mug
Dan Holloway wins a mug
Mikeyboro wins his choice of a book, mug or bag
Katherine Langrish wins a bag
Jacqueline Pye wins a bag
Catdownunder wins a bag
Sian wins a bag
Penwright wins a bag

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

PUBLICATION DAY: THE BIG CRABBIT INTERVIEW

Publication Day for Write to be Published is here! Where will I be? In a glitzy hotel being champagned? Being showered with flowers or gorged with goodies or snapped by paps? No. Well, not as far as I know. I'll be on a train to London in preparation for my FREE Foyles event tomorrow. I will have this bag with me, thanks to Lynn Price, who generously sent me one as a present to celebrate publication.

But fear not, as I have a very special interview for you. I can't reveal the name of the mysterious interviewer because otherwise everyone will want to be interviewed by her/him, but suffice it to say that I am deeply honoured. So, grab a coffee and a chocolate brownie and settle down for the Big Publication Day Crabbit Interview.

Mysterious Interviewer: So, Nicola, if this book is based on the blog, presumably all you had to do was to copy and paste the best posts. Easy, yah?

NM:



MI: Well, relatively easy?

NM:


MI: Well, at least easier than if you'd been starting from scratch?

NM:



MI: OK, so it was a difficult book to write. I think we've established that. Perhaps you could tell us about the differences between blog and book?
NM: Well, you can find things in the book, for a start. This blog is now huge and unwieldy, with maybe a million words on it, buried in posts that are in a non-logical order, with some material repeated. But in the book everything is ordered nicely and logically, with clear headings in the amazingly detailed contents list so you can find exactly what you want. You could also read it in the bath. And throw it at the wall if you don't like the truth in it. If you were to read my blog in the bath or throw it at the wall you'd do serious damage to your computer.
MI: So, you're going to stop blogging now, then?

NM:









MI: Seriously? You mean it's all over?
NM: Don't be silly! Do you think I could bear to stop haranguing everyone here? Where would the fun in my life be?
MI: Once people have bought the book, though, why will they need to come back to the blog?
NM:

MI: You're going to give them chocolate? That seems like a good plan.

NM: No, sorry, I was just taking a break. In fact:

MI: They are chained to the blog?
NM: Oh yes, indeedily. By invisible and unbreakable chains, which they have willingly wound around themselves because they know that being harangued is absolutely the best way to become a stronger writer. They actually do enjoy being harangued. Trust me. And besides, even though the book aims to be all-encompassing, there may still be some small elements of haranguing that I've forgotten to put in. What if they were to miss those? Their whole literary future could be in jeopardy. So, I must continue haranguing them here, because the consequences of an insufficiency of haranguing are too awful to contemplate.
MI: Yes, I think I can see that.
NM (cannot now be stopped and has mad look in eyes): So, they must come back here for more haranguing and rest assured that I will be here for them always, ready with my pointy haranguing boots and my crabbititude and my well known Withering Frown of Extreme Exasperation. Also, if they don't come here, I shall harangue them on their doorsteps and in Sainsbury's and at their places of so-called work and even from the highest mountains and deepest valleys shall I harangue them until, verily, the hills and all the citadels shall ring out with the trumpets and clarions of haranguing.
MI: Are you OK?
NM: Yes, I am very fine, thank you.
MI: Supposing anyone wished (or dared) to come and witness some actual live haranguing, such as you might offer in an event open to the unsuspecting public, where can they avail themselves of such an opportunity?
NM: Ah, yes. Since you ask, here is a little time-table:

  • 2 June: Foyles bookshop, London, 6.30-7.30pm, FREE but ticketed. TOMORROW - HURRY, tortoises....
  • 9 June: Edinburgh - private haranguing session, fully booked.
  • 16 June: Blackwell's bookshop, Edinburgh, 6.30-7.30pm, FREE but ticketed. With WINE.
  • 30 June: London Writers' CafĂ© panel.
  • 25 August: Waterstone's bookshop, Edinburgh George St, 6.30-7.30 - booking not open yet; timing may change.
  • ?? August: secret location in Edinburgh - I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you, which would defeat the object of my telling you. Details later. (About the event, not killing methods.)
  • 15 October, Waterstone's Cambridge - details later.
  • Elsewhere - UK tour currently in planning for autumn, once we've found a bus with a big enough fridge.
MI: Jolly good. But if all these events are free, does that mean you aren't being paid? (Please don't do that head-desk screaming thing again.)
NM: No, I'm not being paid, but this is absolutely fine, for one or two reasons. 
MI: Tell us. Tell us both of them.
NM: First, because I feel I have failed aspiring writers: I have sweated blood for them for some years now and I regret to say that agents are telling me that my very clear advice to submit work while sober still isn't getting through. Second, I have this vague hope that if I do free events for them, they might buy the frigging book. Because if they don't, I'm stuffed, tbh.
MI: You love your blog-readers, don't you?
NM: Absolutely adore them. No idea where I'd be without them.













MI: One more question. The cover of WTBP. That red stuff. We've all been wondering: blood or ink?
NM: Blood. Mine.


















MI: Thank you, Nicola, for answering these piercing questions. May I suggest that you have a glass of wine or something?
NM: Thank you. I don't mind if I do. Seriously though, I'm very proud of this book and well I might be, since it was a complete and utter bugger to write. Luckily though, as you can see, I preserved my sanity and came nowhere near any kind of breakdown. I have witnesses for this.
*    *    *
Write to be Published is published today and if you'd like to buy it, thank you! See this post here for a discussion about the various methods, or click the Buy page at the top of the blog. Or just head down to your nearest  bookshop and smile at them, saying how you think every aspiring writer would love to buy Write to be Published. I don't recommend haranguing them, though - that works well for writers but less well for booksellers.

Some big thank yous: fabulous publicity person and ace-brain, Corinne Gotch; equally fabulous assistant and wonder-brain, Becky Hearne; everyone who buys a book; and ALL of you, my lovely blog readers, without whom this blog would not have succeeded, and this book would not have been born.

One more thing. Lest I paint a falsely negative picture of my mood, I am in fact very, very proud of my new baby. It's had a wonderful reception from loads of you, including lovely Amazon reviews already, plus some trade response that's been fab, and I am very happy. Srsly.