My experience at a library event.

As I am a relative newbie to the writing world (now two years), so the invitation to join more experienced authors at an event in local libraries was too good to miss.

This was my first time talking to an audience in a library, and this was what happened.

The event was chargeable – and 1.30 hours held in the afternoon. It worked for me because I don’t like driving during the winter months in the dark. It was discussed afterward that evenings would be better to include a wider audience i.e. the workforce.

We brought our books along (of course!)

The aim was to share ‘between the covers’ our publishing journey and attempt to answer any burning questions.

As always, I like to involve my audience.  I am honestly interested to know what makes people tick. We started out with introductions and asking what our audience hoped they might get from the event.

AUDIENCE QUESTIONS

The questions posed to us were as follows:

Do you do research for your books?

How important is it to you to do research and what percentage of the writing is in the book?

Self publishing (Indie) versus traditional publishers?

Where do you get your character names from?

What inspired you to write the story?

How do you get published?

How much money do you make?

How do you write a sex scene?

ANSWERS

Below is the rounded version of answers, it may not be exactly what was said as I didn’t take notes, but they are as I recall and from the top:

RESEARCH:

All three authors answered pretty much the same. Yes, we do some form of research – the traditional routes like libraries, museums, then there are of course the easier routes, computers, people, and observation and so it goes on. Whichever floats your boat. I have personally looked up old film to get a feel of spitfires in a dogfight. I learned the language as I wanted it to be as authentic as possible.  I needed to immerse myself in the 40s 50s and 60s to ensure that I caught the mood and feel of the era. Of course, bear in mind I am writing historical romance and as I am a 50s baby and have some vague recollection of that time and can draw on some of those experiences.

The follow up question is what percentage goes into the book. The answer was around 50 50.

That said, I did a huge amount of research and I feel it is genuinely reflected in my novels. Though not everything has added to the novel, I just used what felt was important, added value, but not over egging as it could end up like a history book. The flow is important. In fact, I am pleased to report that readers have commented that they ‘feel right there’ so that’s fantastic. I am glad I struck the right balance and could ask for no more.

So writing, reading, researching in my opinion makes it more realistic and a better read because you understand what your characters are seeing and feeling in that period. It even applies to contemporary fiction. The types of places there are. What mode of transport, and so it goes on. I’m sure you get my drift. But of course, that is only my opinion.  I did hear that some writers don’t bother at all. It’s your story. You do what you feel comfortable with.

Self publishing (Indie) versus traditional publishers?

There are no straight answers to this question. I would ask ‘what do you want from publishing?’

The fame aspect is a clear agenda for some.

The perceived riches gained from a blockbuster another.

For me it was a case of ‘getting it out there before I popped my clogs’ Then came the amazement when I was offered a contract and resulting sales and fantastic reviews, wonderful.

FAME AND FORTUNE SERIOUSLY DIDN’T EVEN ENTER MY HEAD. Though I would be a liar to say it wouldn’t be nice to get some real money for my work, not so much the fame. I am shy. Honest guv. But those reviews feel like validation.

Just note: There are millions of authors out there. Excellent ones, and they are barely scratching a living.

I always wrote around the paid job until I retired.

Independent: (indie)

There are plenty of reputable indie publishers that you can enlist to help you through your dream to publish. You pay them to publish, they usually sort out the ISBN (you will need one) and copyright. The rest is up to you or you may choose to pay for their editing, proofreading and artwork on top.

You can upload your work on Amazon apparently and take it off whenever you want. I’ve been told its easy. It will be an epub and not a book. I have no idea if this is successful.

Going the traditional route you will need to submit to publishers that fit with your genre. Don’t bother sending erotica to a mathematical textbook publisher. Get my drift? Please do your research.

READ AND RESEARCH

Back to that research word again. Be sure you read and ensure you fill in all their questions, fully.

However, traditional publishers want you to check they are accepting submissions. Don’t bother to send if not. You are wasting your and their time.

Be prepared to fill in all the forms, jump through hoops and make sure (especially if you are brand new) to have your manuscript completed.

Ensure it is shiny, edited and proof-read to the best of your knowledge. If it is accepted, changes will be made, bank on that. So, if you are precious about your work, be prepared.

You can negotiate, but I’ll say it again, be prepared. I’m just saying. I had over 180,000 words in one novel and ended up with two books because it was too long for them.

That was hard work!

Rejections are hard as well. It can feel like a personal slight. Listen to Stephen King – as did JK Rowling and so many famous authors. Look where they are now.

I know I’ve said this before, but traditional publishers want:

a shiny manuscript. Not a half completed book or an idea, (well of course unless that is what they are asking for).

These words apply to the newbies like me, and MOSTLY LIKELY not to FAMOUS AND ALREADY ESTABLISHED AUTHORS.

They might get away with less paperwork. Trust me there is tons of it. Just roll up your sleeves, don’t be put off and get on with it! Think of it as an interview. You are selling your skills. You are the best. They will want you!

AGENTS

I didn’t get myself an agent. For some it might be a good idea if they feel they need to get your work hiked around the universe and get the best contractual deal. I wanted to do it myself.

A good agent will not ask for money from you until they have secured a deal. Make sure you ‘fit’ with your agent.

Marketing is a big deal. I won’t respond to that in this blog, as every publisher is different.

That was hard work!

Rejections are hard as well. It can feel like a personal slight. Listen to Stephen King – as did JK Rowling and so many famous authors. Look where they are now.

CHARACTERS NAMES

Personally, I like to feel comfortable with the characters names. They need to ‘fit’ their personality. Turns out that one of the authors said she always has a side character called Bob. She never realised this until someone pointed it out. So, more research. Credits on films, soaps, books, mixed up? Gravestones. People you know with different first names. I think it’s a dangerous route to take if you do use someone’s name you know. It could cause offense. Especially if they are the bad guy. 😊

WHAT INSPIRED ME TO WRITE MY BOOKS
Secrets, Shame and a Shoebox and The Twenty-One-Year Contract have several things in common:

The people I knew as a child. The courage of those who are survivors. The coincidences through life.

This may seem very light to you, but I can assure you that it goes far deeper. If you choose to pick up one of my books, and I hope you do, you will soon discover the why.

SEX SCENE

Oh, that was a great question. More research! Imagine me with a huge smiley face. The answer honestly is research. Think about it. Think about your own experience? Read other books that include sex scenes. See how they do it. Or, as the person who actually asked the question said she felt she would rather skip right over it. So you can allude and leave to the readers imagination. That’s sometimes just as titillating.

HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU MAKE

It is interesting to note that many people envisage massive earnings once you get a contract.

Yes, of course you can make money but let’s be realistic, first you need to have a great story and then, it needs to be bought!

Next you must have great promotional ideas, materials and confidence to get yourself out there to let readers know who you are.  This often costs you as the author. So it eats into any money you might make.

Of course, if you are famous, the world will love you, whatever you decide to write, (ghost written or not).

One of the authors said, think of this: Royalties are your earnings.

I love the idea of being given an upfront amount. Ha! That happens to other people, not me!

I heard the other day an author sold 4,000 books in one week and earned just enough to live on in that week. You need to do that week on week.

Well, that’s it for now folks. I enjoyed meeting those wonderful people and thank them for coming along and posing those questions. It has left me in a reflective, smiley mood. 😊

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