Friday 17 November 2017

[Reposted from my main website because it's undergoing a HUGE change and posts about writing/publishing won't appear there once it's done.]

This is for authors, agents and publishers but book-lovers might well be interested.

Years ago, I came up with the term Fair Reading but failed to get very far with it. At the time, people seemed to think all authors were rich; now I think they realise we're not. Fair Reading echoes Fair Trade because it asks purchasers to consider that buying choices have consequences for the end producer. In Fair Reading, the end producer is the author. ("Author" means writer and/or illustrator.) Some purchasers will still choose to buy at super-high discount, of course. That's their right. But many, I argue, will choose to pay a fairer price when they realise the consequences. I don't mean to send anyone on a guilt-trip - it's entirely every buyer's choice. But I'd like it to be an informed choice and many readers just don't realise the next point.

When books are highly-discounted, the author receives much less money. (It can even be zero but it is routinely a few pence.) Our royalty % becomes a % of what the publisher receives, not a % of the cover price.

This wouldn't matter so much if the author had a say in the discount. There may be times when we would agree that there was good reason for one of these so-called Special Sales. (High volume, ultra-high-discount sale, often to a special outlet or book club.) It could be a temporary promotion; it could be to generate interest in a flagging book; it could have ethical benefit.

That is what Special Sales used to be for. Now, they are far, far too common. Which, again, wouldn't matter so much if the author had a say. Sometimes, authors do have a say. But not often enough. It is too rarely written into a contract.

So, the Society of Authors, on the back of a tremendous amount of work by the Children's Writers and Illustrators Group committee which I chaired until very recently, and at the instigation of James Mayhew, are starting a new campaign

This blogpost is my personal take on this. You can see the important piece in the Bookseller by SoA CEO, Nicola Solomon, here. There's a fantastic Seven Steps for Publishers, a call to action which you can show to your publisher/agent.

Part of wider Fair Reading, the Special Sales campaign is aimed at:
  • Authors (and agents) - to encourage them to negotiate appropriate fair terms into all contracts, and of course it affects agents very much
  • Publishers - to encourage them to understand that these sales can negatively impact authors on already small incomes and that it's right that authors should be part of the decision about such huge discounts.
We will also be working to find a way for Nielsen Bookscan to record all such sales. Currently, not only do authors earn often pitifully little-to-zero from these sales but also they are not recorded by Nielsen. Not only do we end up poorer, we also jeopardise future contracts because other publishers see our sales as far lower than they are. This can cripple a career and feels devastating.

Finally, we want to work with publishers to make sure that these Special Sales copies end up sold through the channels they were intended for. This is the topic of the "grey market". Having a special ISBN can help this. As can recording the size of a print-run on a royalty statement.

Publishers say, "But these special sales can be really good for you"

  • I'd say: Fine, so what is the problem with asking our permission? You explain your strategy and we might agree. But, please, make sure what you really mean is not, "This sale will be good for us, the publisher, because it will bring in guaranteed income (because these deals are "firm sale" rather than sale or return) and increase our volume sales, and it's just one book of the many that we are publishing this year so the fact that it hasn't earned much isn't a problem for us." It is very likely to be a problem for the author, who only has that one book to earn a living from.
It is my experience, and that of many of my fellow authors, that most (but not all) publishers don't really understand this. They think only that we don't understand publishing - and sometimes we don't, but I'm happy to learn - but the simple question, "With a royalty statement like this, how do our authors actually survive?" is one they too rarely ask. The fact that the publisher may be doing well with sales of their (very few) super-selling titles seems to blind them to the fact that the vast majority of authors are only surviving at all because they are doing other things than writing.  (I don't object to the fact that I do lots of other things, particularly well-paid events, because I would hate to do nothing but write and I think my other stuff makes me a better, wiser, more rounded person, but I do think my writing time is usually very undervalued.)

Publishers say, "But there is no evidence that these sales cannibalise your traditional sales. Look: your sales continued to rise during the period of the special sale!"

  • I'd say: Actually, there is no evidence that these sales did not cannibalise traditional sales. The fact that the sales continued to go up tells us precisely nothing. They could have been rising because the author did a fantastic job promoting the book through events, because the publisher did some good work in marketing, because it got some great reviews, because it's a damn fine book, damn finely published.

Publishers say, "But sometimes we have to make these decisions super-fast and we can't get hold of you."

  • I'd say: Often you don't have to make them super-fast. Even if you do, it's a rare author/agent who doesn't or can't respond to an urgent request the same day. And to cover the ultra-rare occasions where the request isn't answered in time, it is not difficult to build a buffer into the clause.

What can you do, as authors?

  • Be informed. See the Society of Authors Where We Stand page. This is the result of huge hard work by the CWIG committee and SoA staff. Particular thanks to James Mayhew, who began this conversation here. He and I have led a very onside team.
  • Show that page to your agent, if you have one, and discuss how you will a) approach this topic when you negotiate future contracts and b) open a conversation about existing contracts so that your publishers agree to discuss special sales deals with you. Opening a conversation is a very good start.
  • Be clear that you are not against promotional discounts; just that you want to be part of the decision-making
  • Be empowered. There is no such thing as a completely non-negotiable contract. There are two specific areas of your contract I'd suggest you focus on in this respect. Bearing in mind that there are some kinds of contract (such as those that are part of a publisher-generated series that you've contributed to) where there is less room for negotiation, here are the two areas:

Negotiate IN: The consult/refer clause

What you're looking for is the chance to be part of the discussion about a forthcoming high-volume ultra-high discount deal. Here are some wordings I'd personally like:
  • (My preferred) The publisher agrees to refer all such* special sales to the author for approval (*They must have been properly defined.)
  • (Failing that) The publisher agrees to consult with the author before proceeding with such special sales.
  • Also aim for: The publisher will make every effort to ensure that Special Sales are tracked so that data can be obtained.
Please do a) look at the SoA Guide to Publishing Contracts and b) refer to the SoA for individual contractual details, as every one is different.

Negotiate OUT: the falling royalty rate

When royalties are a % of net receipts, not cover price, tell me why it might be OK that a royalty rate should fall when the discount rises. I'd find it easier to argue that royalty % should rise if the discount rises, when it's based on net receipts!
  • If your % for a paperback is 8%, for example, try to avoid the royalty rate falling to 3.5% (not uncommon) for discounts over a certain amount. I'd argue for no reduction where possible.
  • Do appreciate, however, that there are books/contracts where such a result would be hard to achieve. For me, personally, it's a red line, but then I'm not writing within an existing publisher-driven series.
The good news is that publishers are listening. We have had a very positive response, with Hachette leading the way in committing always to refer Special Sales to authors. As per this article by James Mayhew in The Author, "Hilary Murray Hill, CEO of Hachette, told The Bookseller that they, as publishers, respect any author’s wish not to be involved in these promotions. Hachette confirmed to the SoA that they always consult their authors; ‘if authors don’t want a special sale’, they say, ‘then we don’t do it’." We know that individual authors with other publishers have been able to secure the same or similar commitment.

I'm very confident that others will follow because, in the long run, this helps us all. It raises the value of books, harnesses the positivity and passion of authors and the professionalism of publishers. They have the same aims as us: to sell more books and make a living in our chosen professions. It's just that we also each have some different pressures and the balance of power has shifted too far to the detriment of most authors.

We seek to rectify that and build stronger partnerships. With the help of empowered authors, writing great books, and decent publishers entering a genuine partnership with us, we can.

To remind you: What can you do now?

  • Read and share Nicola Solomon's Bookseller piece of today
  • Read, share and bookmark the SoA Where We Stand page
  • Share this blogpost - and please comment below
  • Talk to your agent
  • Talk to the SoA contracts people about what you can negotiate for your own contracts
  • Remember: the best publishing is a partnership
Remember that membership of the Society of Authors gives you access to free contract vetting and advice. They really are the experts. They also campaign for us, as our trade union, and the CEO regularly meets publishers at the highest level to argue for change and partnership on our behalf.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

New Year, new direction

In September 2012, I announced that I was laying this blog to rest. I'd said everything, many times; I was tired, and I needed to focus on other work, focus on trying to earn a living. I was also starting another blog, a more general one, though including writing advice, over on my main website.

A year later, in September 2013, three months ago now, I announced that Crabbit was back. That I'd be straddling two blogs, that I couldn't hold myself back from giving advice here.

I shouldn't have said it. Blogging is incredibly time-consuming, all-too-consuming. In December, I took a look at my workload for 2014, my hopes and wishes, and realised that this free advice for writers has to stop, much as I enjoy it. So, I'm stopping again. I've deleted a few posts, including book recommendations, but left all the advice here for you. It's all free.

A side-effect of giving advice is that people ask for more. The more one gives, the more people ask. My email box fills up with people who haven't read the blog but who've heard I give advice, and who ask me for free individual advice, disregarding the fact that actually, you know, I have to eat. And sleep. And work. From now, my reply will be, "I don't give free advice except for the million+ words on my blog. Or, perhaps, you could buy my books? Because if you want to be a writer, you have to understand the model: if people don't buy books, writers can't be published."

For me, 2014 is the year of The Teenage Guide to Stress, which will be published in the summer, and I'm focusing on big events/in-service training on the adolescent brain and stress, with bookings flowing in nicely. I'll also carry on critiquing manuscripts for Pen2Publication, though I'll only take one client a month. And, behind the scenes, I'm working on some fiction.

I'll also be working on my health. I'm not ill, but if I carry on sitting on my backside all day I will be. People who sit down too much die too young. I plan to avoid that. Actually, I looked into a standing-desk! But instead of a standing desk, I'll be 5:2ing my life, using Kate Harrison's book.

If you've valued my advice or enjoyed my fiction, do think about buying any of my books. You can do so from my website if you'd like a signed copy. I also sell most of my ebooks from there. Click the books covers you see on this page, or go straight to my shop.

If you've already bought all you want, thank you - very much! - or if you don't want to buy, that's fine; but do spread the word about what's here: all my advice, over a million words of it, free.

But I'm not.

I'm following my Heartsong. Do join me there, where you'll find me flying the flag for libraries and schools, supporting young people, shouting about the teenage brain and stress, sounding off about things that bug me, and generally being me. With chocolate, fizz and shoes. (I've got my eye on some new boots...)

If you want to be the first to know about competitions, free offers, special deals or where I'll be, then sign up to my brand new newsletter. It will only be once every 6-8 weeks and will focus on valuable information, often about our brains, stress, teenagers, or things to do with books. It won't just be about me! Head over to my website and click the link. The first issue will be in the next few weeks - and I'll be reviewing and offering a freebie relating to 5:2 Your Life.

Happy 2014 to all of you - may you all find time and space and strength and opportunity to follow your own hearts.

Thursday 5 December 2013

420+ writers and lovers of children's books protest to The Times

Lucy Coats, children’s author and friend of mine, recently wrote a letter to The Times (of London). They didn’t print it. So what, you might ask? Except that this letter was signed by c425 (I lost count!) people from the world of children’s literature, including 16 Carnegie or Greenaway Medal winners, the current Children’s Laureate of the UK, Malorie Blackman, the Children's Laureate of Eire, Niamh Sharkey, and recent Children's Laureate, Julia Donaldson, along with an extraordinary list of names.

We were complaining about the sacking of uber-expert children’s book reviewer, Amanda Craig, as you’ll see in a minute. We knew this protest wouldn’t get her reinstated but we wanted to make some important points. This is not about a reviewer; nor is it even about the number or quality of reviews that The Times might decide to commission from in-house staff or elsewhere. It’s about the frequent careless undermining of the importance of children’s literature; it’s about the need for champions of children’s books who don’t just review the books with the biggest marketing budgets but the books they believe children will love. It’s about the fact that we’ve lost a standard-bearer. Not the only one – and I hope not the last one – but importantly ours, one whose opinion parents and teachers valued and whom we trusted to support children’s literature as a whole.

We need to stand up and complain, in a world where children’s literature is often unthinkingly sneered at. Sometimes, it works, as this week when The University of Kent had to back down after a barrage of protest at the disparaging wording of its creative writing MA blurb. Sometimes, there isn’t a likely benefit other than the knowledge that one said what needed to be said, as with the indignation at Martin Amis’s statement, 'If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children's book…' 

This may be one of the latter situations. Anyway, The Times didn’t print the letter, but I have, with the names who signed it.

27th November 2013


We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned to hear of the recent sacking of your children's book reviewer, Amanda Craig.

During her years on your paper, Amanda has gained an international reputation as an outstanding reviewer, and as a unique advocate for children's books in general. She is as Neil Gaiman so rightly says, "a perceptive champion of good children's books", respected by all who care about readers and reading.   

By sacking a reviewer of Amanda Craig's stature, The Times is sending a very unfortunate message to readers at home and abroad.  The coverage of children's books in the UK print media is already worryingly thin - and to make this decision is incomprehensible. We export more books than any other country in the world, and, as the Olympics last year showed, the UK's children's literature is a national treasure. 

Amanda Craig spotted and championed J.K. Rowling, Anthony Horowitz, Philip Pullman, Francesca Simon, Cressida Cowell and many more of the UK’s now-prominent authors early on in their careers, inspiring uncountable numbers of children to become passionate readers.  She has never paid attention to hype, only to what is genuinely good. We need reviewers of her skill to be given the space to carry on doing the same for the authors and the readers of the future.

The Times should also realise that their own fate is linked to the fate of the children's book world. Readers of children's books become readers of newspapers.

We are all connected.

Yours faithfully,
Lucy Coats
David Almond, Carnegie Medal winner
Malorie Blackman, Children's Laureate
Tim Bowler, Carnegie Medal winner
Theresa Breslin, Carnegie Medal winner
Melvin Burgess, Carnegie Medal winner
Lauren Child, Kate Greenaway Medal winner
Frank Cottrell Boyce, Carnegie Medal winner
Cressida Cowell, Smarties Prize winner
Gillian Cross, Carnegie Medal winner
Julia Donaldson, former Children's Laureate
Neil Gaiman, Carnegie Medal winner
Sally Gardner, Carnegie Medal winner
Joanne Harris, MBE, Whitbread Prize winner
Anthony Horowitz, Bookseller Association/Nielsen Author of the Year 
P.J. Lynch, Kate Greenaway Medal winner
Patrick Ness, Carnegie Medal winner
Garth Nix, Aurealis Award winner
Mal Peet, Carnegie Medal winner
Susan Price, Carnegie Medal winner
Philip Pullman, Carnegie Medal winner
Philip Reeve, Carnegie Medal winner
Meg Rosoff, Carnegie Medal winner
Niamh Sharkey, Children's Laureate, Ireland
Francesca Simon, British Book Award winner
together with the following authors, publishers, literary agents, booksellers, librarians, teachers, bloggers, parents and readers:

Patrice Aggs
Judy Allen, Whitbread Children's Award winner
Laurence Anholt, Smarties Prize winner
Gill Arbuthnott
Arcadia Books, Sunday Times Small Publisher of the Year
Philip Ardagh, Roald Dahl Funny Prize winner
Michael Arditti, BBC arts critic, reviewer
Mary Arrigan
Trisha Ashley
Ruth Austin
Carina Axelsson
Jane Badger
Christine Bain
Susan Bain
Alison Baker, Primary PGCE lecturer, University of East London 
Sarah Baker
Christine Banach
Barbara Band, Vice-President CILIP, children's librarian
Gili Bar-Hillel, Editor in Chief Utz Books, translator, Israel
Steve Barlow
Emma Barnes
Margaret Bateson-Hill
Ian Beck
Juliet Clare Bell
Kit Berry
Julie Bertagna
Beverley Birch
Paul Black, publicist, Walker Books
Terence Blacker, Radio 4 writer & presenter
Carole Blake, literary Agent, Blake Friedmann
Anne Booth
A. T. Boyle
Helen Boyle, editor tBk Magazine
Susie Boyt
Tony Bradman
Robin Brooks
Rebecca E Brown
Elizabeth Buchan
Stephanie Burgis
Nicole Burstein
Jenna Burtenshaw
Catherine Butler
Moira Butterfield
Elen Caldecott
Edward Carey
Jane Casey
Ann Cassidy
Cathy Cassidy, Queen of Teen Award winner
Pauline Chandler
Leah Chin, Tales on Moon Lane Bookshop
Sue Chambers, Waterstones O2
Kate Charlton Jones
Emma Chichester-Clarke
Kirkland Ciccone
Alex Clark
Ann Clark, Literary Agent
Cat Clarke
Catherine Clarke, Children's Literary Agent, Felicity Bryan
Jane Clarke
Louise Cliffe-Minns
Elaine Cline
Brigid Coady
Catherine Coe, Editor
Marika Cobbold
Rebecca Colby
Steve Cole
Anne Colledge
Tim Collins
Victoria Connelly
Tamsin Cooke
Catherine Cooper
Imogen Cooper, Senior Editor, Chicken House & Director, Golden Egg Academy
Zizou Corder
Jo Cotterill
Joy Court, Chair, CILIP Carnegie and Greenaway Medals
Dave Cousins
Joe Craig
Alison Croggon, Australia
Nick Cross
Sarah Crossan
Kim Curran
Catherine Czerkawska
Annie Dalton
Jill Dancaster
Keren David
Veronique David-Martin
Jill Dawson
Susie Day
Liz de Jager
Emily Diamand
Lindsay Dickinson
Helen Dineen
Discover Story Centre
Mar Dixon, founder, Teens in Museums
Giles Diggle
Penny Dolan
Lari Don
John Dougherty
Jonathan Douglas, Director, Literacy Trust
Malachy Doyle, Smarties Prize winner
Gill Duane, school librarian
Sarah Dunant
Fiona Dunbar
A.M. Edge
Christopher Edge
Sabine Edwards
Madge Eekal
Laura B Main Ellen, Under the Greenwood Tree Bookshop
Laura Elliott
Odette Elliott
Patricia Elliott
Louise Ellis-Barrett, editor, Armadillo Magazine
Jonathan Emmett
Laure Eve
Annie Everall, children's librarian
Franzeska Ewart
Polly Faber, book blogger
Melissa Fair, Publishing Director, Egmont Books
Maria Farrer, ambassador, Dyslexia Action
Emma Ferrier
Dawn Finch, children's librarian
Daniel Finn
Pauline Fisk
Ruth Fitzgerald
Teresa Flavin
Leonie Flynn,  Ultimate Book Guide
Cathy Forde
Kate Forsyth, Australia
Janet Foxley, Times/Chicken House winner
Jo Franklin
Lindsey Fraser, children's literary agent, Fraser Ross
Hilary Freeman
Vivian French
Joe Friedman
Catherine Friess
Hannah Fuller, Book Happy Ltd
Clare Furniss
Nicky Gamble, Just Imagine Story Centre
Lucy Gannon
Lynne Garner
Kate Garnett, school librarian, Guernsey
Adele Geras
Alan Gibbons
Griselda Gifford
Ann Giles, Bookwitch blog
Helen Giles
David Gilman
Debi Gliori
Julia Golding, Smarties Prize winner
Cassandra Golds, Australia
Alysia W Gontier
Pippa Goodhart
Alexander Gordon Smith
Candy Gourlay
Annalie Grainger, Senior Editor, Walker Books
Gwen Grant
Linda Grant
Keith Gray
Caroline Green
Julia Green
Amy Butler Greenfield
Emma Greenwood
Lorraine Gregory
Sally Grindley, Smarties Prize winner
Kate Griffin
Ellen Grogan
Adam Guillain
Charlotte Guillain
Catriona Gunn, Australia
Alex Gutteridge
Jenny Haddon
Matt Haig, Smarties Prize winner 
Miriam Halahmy
Geroge Hanratty, Tales on Moon Lane Bookshop
Rachel Hamilton, Book Walrus blog
Sarah Hammond
Jane Hardstaff
Vashti Hardy
C J Harper
MG Harris
Michelle Harrison
Darren Hartwell, BookZone blog
Damian Harvey
Vicky Harvey
Carmen Haselup, school governor, book blogger
Rosemary Hayes
Rachel Heath
Kathryn Henderson
Judith Heneghan, Director, Winchester Writers Festival
Lou Heneghan
Diana Hendry
Diana Henry
Griselda Heppel
Catie Herring
Kathryn Heyman
Sophie Hicks, Managing Director, Ed Victor Ltd
Mary Hoffman
Dianne Hofmeyr
Antonia Honeywell
Mary Hooper
Caroline Horn, Director, Reading Zone
Sandra Horn
Justin Horton, Bookseller, Spain
Mandy Huggins
Lynn Huggins-Cooper
Barry Hutchison
Inbali Iserles
Rhian Ivory
Jessica Jackson
Ann James, School Librarian
Jamie Jauncey
Cindy Jefferies
Marie-Louise Jensen
Curtis Jobling
Catherine Johnson
Jane Johnson
L.H. Johnson
Colleen Cailin Jones
Jan Jones
Julia Jones
Ann Jungman
Savita Kalhan
Danuta Kean, Books Editor, Mslexia
Louise Kelly
Kate Kemp
Fiona Kennedy
Ally Kennen
Fiona Kenshole, children's literary agent
Liz Kessler
Tracy Kewley, freelance editor
Simon Key, Big Green Bookshop
Kate Keys
Matt Killeen
Diana Kimpton
Jane Kirwan
Elizabeth Laird
Dawn Laker
Victoria Lamb
Shaun Lambert
Margo Lanagan, Australia
Tanya Landman
Katherine Langrish
Helen Larder
Rhiannon Lassiter
Anthony Lawton
Julia Lee
Joan Lennon
Joan Lingard MBE (for services to children's literature)
Linda Owen Lloyd, Children's Book Illustration
KM Lockwood
Abie Longstaff
Anita Loughrey
Michelle Lovric
Mathew Lyons
Tamara MacFarlane, Tales on Moon Lane Bookshop
Susie Maguire
Manifesto Books
Rachel Mann
Sarah Manson, literary agent
Jackie Marchant
Zoe Marriott
Trevor Marsh
Cate Matthews, Book Happy Ltd
Emma Matthewson
Phil May, ReadItDaddy blog
David Maybury, Inis Magazine
Margie McAllister
Lesley McDowell, literary critic The Herald, The Scotsman
Sarah McIntyre
Melanie McGilloway, Library Mice blog
Anthony McGowan, Teenage Booktrust Prize winner
Stephanie McGregor 
Jane Benson McLoughlin
Cliff McNish
Catherine McPhail
Wendy Meddour
Jonathan Meres
Alison Messum, librarian
Liz Miller
Sam Mills
Jennifer Moore
Nicola Morgan
Jackie Morris
Cheryl Moskowitz
Fletcher Moss
Clare Mulley
Moira Munro
Tamsyn Murray
Sarah Mussi, Chair, on behalf of  CWISL
Natasha Narayan
Linda Newbery
James E Nichol
Sally Nicholls
Chris Nickson
Mo O'Hara
Sarah O'Leary
Samira Osman
Karen Owen
Kate Paice, children's fiction editor, Barrington Stoke
Emma Pass
Ellis Pendens
Barbara Pendrigh, Bookseller
Anna Perera
Sarah Perry
Rachel Petty, Senior Commissioning Editor, Macmillan Children's Books
Gillian Philip
Catherine Phipps
Helena Pielichaty
Saviour Pirotta
Annabel Pitcher, Waterstones Children's Book Award winer
Caroline Pitcher
Fiona Pitt-Kethley
Sally Poyton
Sally Prue, Smarties Prize winner
Diane Purkiss
Sue Purkiss
Lisa Redmond, children's bookseller
Celia Rees
Paul Rees, Lincoln Christ's Hospital School
Ellen Renner
Susan Reuben, Ultimate Book Guide
Enid Richemont
Judith Ridge, Australia
Hilary Robinson
Michelle Robinson
Mark Robson
Frank Rodgers
Anne Rooney
Elizabeth Roy, Children's Literary Agent
James Runcie, Head of Literature, Southbank Centre
Katherine Rundell
Rosie Rushton
Margaret Ryan
S.F.Said, Blue Peter Book Award winner
Miles Salter
Cate Sampson
Etta Saunders
Nicky Schmidt
Kate Scott
Marcus Sedgwick, Blue Peter Book Award winner
Sara Sheridan
Debbie Sims, Book Walrus blog
Steve Skidmore
Jane Smith, How Publishing Really Works
Julia Smith
Maudie Smith
Dr Shannon Smith
Boris Starling
Zoe Stead
Jane Stemp
Sarah Stewart, Editor, Usborne Books
Linda Strachan
Chae Strathie
Dave Sutton
Tabitha Suzuma, Young Minds Book Award winner
Gabriella Swerling
Michael Taggart
Melanie Taylor, Little Star Writing
Thomas Taylor
Frances Thomas
Zoe Toft, Playing By the Book blog
Piers Torday
Joanna Troughton
Ann Turnbull
Eleanor Updale, Blue Peter Book Award winner
Clara Vulliamy
Carmel Waldron
Pat Walsh
Ruth Warburton
John Ward
Peter Ward
Rachel Ward
Miranda Ruth Waterton, children's librarian
Laura Watkinson
Lee Weatherly
Holly Webb
Elizabeth Wein
Sarah Wells
Imogen Russell Will, children's reviewer Guardian Online, The Metro
vv Wilson
Leslie Wilson
Matthew Wilson
Yona Wiseman
Dawn Woods
Elli Woolard
Alex Woolf
Philip Womack
Damon Young
Louisa Young
Moira Young

(And, by the way, very many more of those names are award-winners than is indicated but it would have been impossible to identify them all. I know, because I was sitting at Lucy's kitchen table as the names came pouring in. A great deal of coffee was required as it was! And then I escaped, leaving Lucy to it.)

So there you have it. And in the spirit of carrying on regardless, Lucy Coats is in the Bookseller today with a new book deal. Congratulations, Lucy!

Onwards and upwards.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Online traps for unwary writers...

Imagine you're a writer or illustrator who one day hopes to be published. Yes, I know: most of you are, so it won't be hard to imagine. Or imagine you're already published, as many of you are.

Imagine that you've created a character, or a world, or whatever, and you're writing about it on your blog or wherever. Imagine you put some text or some pictures, sketches perhaps, on your Facebook page. People like them and give you lovely feedback. You develop the character (or whatever) and keep working at it, sometimes putting bits of material on Facebook.

And imagine you get a book deal out of it! YAY! Fabulous! Because that's what can sometimes happen through social media, isn't it? You put stuff out there and people see it and one thing leads to another and eventually, in your dreams and occasionally in reality, one thing leads to a publishing deal.

And maybe even a film deal.

Doubly yay with sparkly tassells and lots of fizz!

But, hang on. Who owns that content, those pictures, those snippets of text about your created world or characters? You do, don't you?

Really? As that article shows you, yes, but also no. You may "own" it, but Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Instagram/platformasyetnotinvented can use it for their own purposes. Because you said they could.

Now imagine something else. Imagine that the company wanting to offer you a publishing deal or a film deal for your story, with your fabulous illustration/character/world, discovers that you've put the image/whatever on Facebook. And they realise, because they know about silly things like the law, that now Facebook has the right, because you signed the Terms and Conditions giving them that right, to use your image/whatever as it wishes. And even to "transfer or sub-license its rights over a user’s content to another company or organisation if needed."

But you could remove the images/text, couldn't you? Delete the account. Well yes. But "Facebook’s license does not end upon the deactivation or deletion of a user’s account, content is only released from this license once all other users that have interacted with the content have also broken their ties with it (for example, a photo or video shared or tagged with a group of friends)."

If I were that publishing company or film company, I might think twice about offering you a deal. After all, Facebook has the rights to use your images so how can you sell the rights to me?

Not a pretty thought, is it?

Beware the internet, especially when bearing really, really long Terms and Conditions which you're not really going to read, because who does?

Friday 29 November 2013

What blogs have helped you in your writing/publishing journey?

On Friday, I came across this lovely thing. The writer FC Malby had mentioned my blog in her list of five writing blogs that had inspired her.

As you'll see from that post, the blog Write to Done has launched a search for the Top Blogs for Writers in 2013. That's a huuuuuuge US-based blog and I barely began to read the vast list of nominations in the comments so I've no idea if anyone has nominated me there but it would be such a lovely boost if someone did. It would validate why I re-started this blog a few months ago, as I couldn't hold back my desire to help sensible writers navigate the paths towards publishing success.

So, I'd be thrilled if you could find the time to nominate me, if you feel I deserve it. The deadline is Dec 12th.


Saturday 23 November 2013

Social Media Navigation for Authors

I'm doing a social media navigation workshop today for SCBWI at their conference, so I've blogged on Heartsong giving a load of resources, including my powerpoint as a pdf.

There's also a link to a brand new (published today) book called Blogging for Beginners. Emily contacted me about it just in time, because it means I can cut part of my talk today and just tell people to read her very neat book!

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Published authors self-publishing - all together now

Over recent weeks I've interviewed nine published UK children's authors who have also self-published. I asked them to give tips for any of you considering doing the same and they have come up with generous and wide-ranging advice.

The reason I wanted to focus on writers who have already been published in the traditional way is that this is a blog about getting a publishing deal with a high-quality selective publisher, not about self-publishing (which may also be high-quality but is not what I'm here to talk about.) I wanted to highlight the fact that published authors may have an extra understanding of the realities of being published in any form and that they are likely to bring this understanding to their own publishing. I also believe that all writers, whatever their aims and ambitions, would do well to listen to a wide range of views. There are few definitive answers and many grey areas, many things that will work for one writer/book and not for another. The more we know, listen and understand, the better we can curate our words.

As you know, I am a published author who also self-publishes. (See here for my forthcoming double ebook - and don't forget to enter the competition!) I have a great relationship with my main publishers, Walker Books, and have a book coming out with them next year, The Teenage Guide to Stress. Walker Books have done a brilliant job for me, with Blame My Brain in particular, and they have done things I couldn't possibly have done myself. People often say that publishers only focus on your book for the few weeks around publication. To an extent that is inevitably true; however, you should realise that publishers (good ones) behave like excellent business people (as self-publishing writers must, too) and will take opportunities to push books that have been around for much longer. Blame My Brain was first published in 2005, revised slightly in 2007 and revised again this year. And this year, Walker have really pushed the boat out for it, seven years after publication. Why? Simply because they see it doing well and see an opportunity to make it do better. That's sensible. They have chosen to put resources of time into it, which they can't do for every book. (And that's one of the advantages of self-publishing: you, the author, will continue to work hard for your book. But it's also one of the disadvantages: you have to continue to work hard for it to the extent that you will probably have less time to write your next book.)

Why was Blame My Brain doing well? Because Walker did a good job at the start, because I worked hard to keep promoting it and because the nature of the book meant that it became more and more popular, with more and more schools and parents seeing the need for it. So, partly me and partly the book, and partly the fact that the Walker publicity people took the right opportunities, being both reactive and proactive where there was a realistic benefit in being so. AND, crucially, luck. Publishers and authors often do a great job but luck is not with them and the book (most books) disappears, leaving a little tear-stained shape on an author's heart.

It's really important to keep your feet on the ground and be very realistic, hard-working and decent to work with. Attract the fairy dust.

For all the interviews with fellow published self-publishers, see:

Lynne Garner with Anansi the Trickster Spider

Katherine Roberts with I Am The Great Horse

Julia Jones with The Lion of Sole Bay

AT Boyle with The Typing Man

Diana Kimpton with There Must be Horses

Rhiannon Lassiter with Little Witches Bewitched

Miriam Halahmy with Secret Territory

Joan Lennon with Diary from the Rim

Daniel Blythe with Emerald Greene and the Witch Stones

All children's books, all ready to buy for your young readers. And advice for you, from all of us.

Work hard and keep the faith!

Don't forget that you can ask me a publishing or writing related question for me to answer on this blog. Contact me using the link at the top of the page.

Friday 15 November 2013

Caveat writer

A writer emailed me the other day asking for advice about a submission she had just made to a "publisher". She did not tell me (and I did  not want to know) the name of the "publisher" but she did mention one thing and that's why I have put the quote marks around "publisher".

She said the "publisher" had said in the "terms and conditions" that writers would be asked to contribute to the costs.

Please read my lips: "Proper" publishers do not ask authors to contribute to any of the costs of publishing, marketing, distributing, or anything. OK? Not ever. Yog's Law states that money flows to the author. Don't forget it.

With self-publishing, the author pays all the costs and receives all the income. With selective trade (which I mean by "proper") publishing, the publisher pays all the costs and pays the author a royalty on each book sold. The publisher works hard to sell as many books as possible because this is how they cover their costs and, with luck and skill, make a profit. The publisher is highly selective (unless stupid) because the publisher needs to make a businesslike decision as to which books he believes he can publish profitably. If a publisher is being supported financially by the author, the publisher carries less risk, is therefore less selective in the first place, and may work less hard to sell the books, because he has less to lose. This is precisely why selective trade/traditional publishers so often turn books down. They take on the number of books they can manage, according to their resources. That is wise behaviour. Anything else is reckless and doomed.

As a writer, you need to know that your publisher will really work to sell your books. Otherwise, you'd be better selling them yourself and keeping all the income. Of course, many published writers complain that their publishers don't work hard enough. That's a topic for another post

The heartache of seeing your book die through lack of expertise, energy and effort is worse than rejection, and the likelihood of this happening is far higher if the publisher is not carrying all the risk and costs.

Aim high, stay strong, become informed and be careful.

Note that Write to be Published is often described as a bible for writers. It is recommended by people in all areas of the industry as being a great way to understand every aspect of the publishing and writing businesses. If you read it, you will understand far more than I can say in one blogpost. I wrote it for you!

Monday 11 November 2013


First, it's my birthday.

Second, I'm going to the dentist for nasty things.

And third, I'm announcing a new ebook, to be published three weeks today!

Actually, TWO novels in ONE ebook. The Passionflower Massacre and Sleepwalking will be available in a single ebook three weeks today, December 2nd. I'm very excited about this and have wanted to do it for ages but struggled to find the time.

Both novels were originally published by Hodder and got great reviews and reader response. Both were read often in school book groups and between them they were shortlisted or nominated for various awards, with Sleepwalking winning the Scottish Arts Council Children's Book of the Year. I still receive lovely emails and letters - particularly about The Passionflower Massacre - and I'm delighted that they will be available again.

Why both novels in one book? To make it better value for you and because they appeal to similar readers. Both books are emotional, thrilling, and explore big ideas. They appeal to older teenagers (the target readership) as well as adults and deep-thinking younger teenagers.

I LOVE the new cover! Designed, of course, by Andrew Brown of Design for Writers. I don't think he'll mind me saying that this one was not an easy task... He had to come up with something that would express both books, and some interesting conversations were had while he tried to understand the complexities of my thinking!

And the giveaway/competition? Starting now and finishing at midday on Mon 25th November, a "pick me" competition with a Very Exciting Prize to a UK address.

The Very Exciting Prize? A package containing all of these:
  • An original print version of Sleepwalking - now very rare. I only have a small number of copies but I'm releasing one of them.
  • An original print version of The Passionflower Massacre. Equally rare.
  • An original print version of Mondays are Red. EVEN rarer! I've thought long and hard about giving away my precious print copies up but I think it's right that I should for this. I hope they go to a good home!
  • A hessian Blame My Brain bag.
  • One other book of mine - you choose.
Three runners-up will win a Blame My Brain bag.

What is Sleepwalking about? Language, life, passion and pain, choice, ambition, risk.
150 years in the future, and the Citizens drift contentedly in a world without wonder, where every emotion is regulated. There is no pain, no suffering, no evil. And no freedom. Just safety and drug-induced happiness. But a small group, the Outsiders, crave real emotion, real freedom, even suffering. To them, the power of ideas and language cannot die – or there is no point in being human. And they have a plan. For years, a group of young people have been raised to have the strength and knowledge to overthrow the system. Now, when a deadly virus strikes, four of these teenagers, Livia, Cassandra, Marcus and Tavius, must act quickly to infiltrate the sinister headquarters of the Governators and corrupt the system. But their plan carries enormous risk. If they can’t discover the chilling secret behind this saccharine dystopia, and overcome it, they will surely die.

What is The Passionflower Massacre about? Learning who to trust; retribution; forgiveness - or not. And an evil religious cult.
Matilda longs for freedom, to escape a painful childhood. Working on a Devon fruit farm after leaving school seems to offer the perfect opportunity. Heaven, in fact. Heat, strawberries, and the gorgeous Matt – what more could she want?

The super-friendly people who run the farm draw Matilda into their group, feeding her delicious cake and tea, seducing her with loving concern. These people seem to understand her and she lets herself be wrapped in their warmth. So when they want her to join them in the big house on the hill and meet their charismatic leader, Peter, she is ready and willing. She doesn't want to question, think or worry. But Peter and the Beautiful People have a shocking plan. By the time Matilda wakes up, and before she realises that Matt’s disappearance is suspicious and that she’s mixed up in a sinister cult, the passionflowers have bled their intoxicating juice and the plan is under way.

Entwined through the story, we see glimpses of Peter about to be released from prison twenty-five years later. An old woman has been visiting him. She has her own ideas of God's will, faith and justice. Who is stronger? Who is right? Who will win?

I'll serialise free chapters over the next few days, here on my blog. And I'll give you insights into the ideas behind the books or aspects of writing them.

So, for the chance to win those RARE prizes, please comment below. I'm running the same comp on Twitter and on my FB Author page, AND on my Heartsong blog - all entries will go in one random generator together. One comment per person on each of the four places - in other words, you can each have up to four entries altogether.

More details about both The Passionflower Massacre and Sleepwalking here.

Prepare to be drawn into the dark crevices of my mind...

Thursday 7 November 2013

Published self-publishers 2: four more children's writers speak

The rest of my published self-publishing authors are here today, with links back to their main interviews on Heartsong. You'll see range of different approaches, but all professional. All have been published in the traditional way before and have used what they've learnt.

First up, with a vast amount of advice, generously shared, Diana Kimpton, with There Must be Horses. I love Diana's realism, too, for example where she says: "I learned that self-publishing is fun and I love being in control. Sales build slowly with a self-published book so I haven't sold as many copies in the first year as I would have done if I'd gone the traditional route. On the other hand, it wouldn't be for sale at all yet if I'd gone with a traditional publisher, and I've got plenty of time to build word-of-mouth recommendations because the book won't go out of print."

A.T. Boyle's 'dual language' novels, one of which she wrote with her father, sound intriguing. She talks about The Typing Man here and explains her views of writer-publishing.

Julia Jones brings you The Lion of Sole Bay, one of a series of adventure stories for 9+. Julia sees herself mainly as a print self-publisher.

And finally, Katherine Roberts, with a book that should never have gone out of print, I Am The Great Horse, which had terrific reviews when it was first published. Katherine's main aim is to keep her backlist available. Glorious cover!

Edited to add: A late addition, Lynne Garner giving great advice surrounding her publication of Anansi the Trickster Spider.

Thanks to all these children's writers and great good luck to them. If you are looking for quality books for children, you need look no further than these and the four writers in last week's post.