Saturday, 28 May 2011

Welcome to the Blog-hop

Greetings, I am Sj. I am a blogger, writer and general marketing 'puke' living my writing dream just south of London, England.

Together with my US-based writing partners, Jason and Mel, my life is very busy. I am a partner in Throwaway Lines, a new blog website which is the showcase for fast, fun, light fiction and reviews (coming soon). I partner with Mel on My Ink Project, which is a blog about the ink in our lives and in our souls.

I am passionate about all things independent. Creative arts should be free to explore, not hemmed in by the needs of advertising and the whims of the money men. I assist with the promotion of an independent film, Pig, and administrate their blog.

In a move that could be described as foolhardy, I prefer to think of it as adventurous, I have also signed up as an Apple Developer. I will be using my own blog to chart my progress. Having already selected my victim… er, guinea pig, from time to time my vic.. guinea pig and my long suffering partners will join me in blogging about my progress as I wade my way through code, while trying to up my exercise intake and learn how to be a yoga teacher at the same time.

I have a short attention span, and I am insatiably and incurably curious. I always need to know how things work… I hope you enjoy what is here, and join me in my journey going forward!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


My life revolves around writing, my friends, my pets, and the running repairs occasioned by my pets' multiple eccentricities. My mother also likes to add her political commentary to the mess, she watches the hour long news at 6, switches channels at seven to watch another hour long news session. She is also inordinately fond of Newsnight and Question Time. On bad nights, I have died and am floating in some kind of political hell as my mother prods me with the pitchfork of "the country is going to hell in a handcart!" It is times like these that I really do wish I was a Medieval Court Poisoner in the pay of both Channel 4 and the BBC!

Last night I went to bed at three am. Okay, it wasn't last night, it was this morning. And yes… I know (for those of you who are about to pounce on my lack of mattress time!) it was late… I have an excuse… two late phone calls, both of which made me smile… and a sudden flash of inspiration on the fourth life.

Seven am and reality bites. Or squelches. Between my toes. Stepping on cold yoghurt on a carpet before you have even broached the first coffee of the day… words fail me (actually, they don't… but I am sure you really do not want to experience my command of the vernacular).

I ignored the squelchy feeling and pressed on, which is when I noticed the green arched streak on the white paint of the bannisters. From its curiously blotchy appearance, I deduced spinach. (It also helps that spinach was in last night's dinner). Amongst Dan's many charming little foibles he likes to take dinner bowls and cutlery, despite being somewhat long and low slung, he can jump to an astonishing height.

The slimy green trajectory suggested that the knife which I found at the foot of the stairs had fallen over the bannister as he snagged the leftovers off the tray on the table on the landing. And wiping dried spinach off painted woodwork is a nightmare…

Having scraped the spinach off the bannisters I headed downstairs. First stop is always the kittens. Quite why I am still calling them kittens, when they are two extremely substantial cats is beyond me. I know we have a problem the instant I open the study door and I can hear the relentless whine of the water fountain pump motor. They had wedged something in front of the filter, creating a dam, and causing the water to get pumped out of the bowl… Five minutes to unwedge the object (one of their toys), and refill the bowl.

My days always begin with running repairs. Irritatingly, my day has continued with them. Something of the hunter non-gatherer variety has been playing in the garden, as testified by the very nasty pile of feathers. I deduced that the culprit was fox, first by the mess, and secondly by the green substance of a nauseating viscosity which my darling Daniel chose to lie down and have a really good roll in. EEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! My cup truly runneth over.

My sitting room which also fulfills the role of office, yoga space, rowing machine space… my rowing machine is a vast rosewood thing of beauty, overflow wardrobe space, miscellaneous collection of junk space and I could go on, but that would be a little tedious… my sitting room is now so cluttered that I cannot find anything. I have been searching for the power cable for my netbook for almost three months.

Through the midst of this disorganised chaos I shamble. Complaining occasionally at my complete inability to find anything. Crowing with delight when something rises to the surface which I had believed had gone forever. My life may have all the outward appearance of offcuts of the script to the film Avanti, but if I am being honest, I like it like that.

Now I have to go and retrieve the catnip mouse, before Solitaire proves he is scarcely a gentleman and pins Tizzy to the ground and takes it off her.

Monday, 9 May 2011

To Self Publish

Self publishing. The publishing world has changed out of all recognition in the last few years. With the rise of eReaders, and print companies like Lulu, Lightning Source, and Create Space providing everything an author needs to get their work out to the paying public there is little to stop anyone publishing anything.

However, a note of caution. Self publishing may give you 70% or more of your costs back, but you are going to have to work extremely hard to get there.

The traditional route is still agent, publisher, possible small advance (although this is likely to be a lot smaller than you might imagine, and is supposed to be spent on preparing the author for all the marketing you will have to do!) and into print. Your return is likely to be approximately 12% after publisher's and agent's cuts. You will have to work hard, but everything will be set up for you.

Self Publishing you have to do it all yourself. All the marketing, from scratch. Socialising your book, virtual book tours, maybe even a book trailer. All these things are time intensive and costly.

So, if you are going to spend time and money in all this effort you need to start from a position of strength.

Get your work into the best possible shape to sell. If you cannot afford a professional editor, cast around amongst your friends and acquaintances for someone (or several someones) who are prepared to beta and be real friends (pouncing ruthlessly on any and all errors).

If you are going into print, the cover is important. The cover has one job, other than holding the book together; that is to sell the contents to the buying public. The very best cover you can get for the money is a key factor to success. Cover art is something of a minefield. It is possible to purchase stock images from a supplier like Shutterstock or iStockPhoto and create a cover yourself for next to nothing. My advice - bench test. Make several different options and ask friends and family for their comments. Obviously if you can afford a professional this is the best option.

The composition of the cover should entice. Look to the elements you will need. Title, Author, back cover blurb, isbn and barcode (if you are planning to go that route), slugs. Eh? Slugs… those little bits of text like taglines for movie posters, offering a little intriguing nudge to purchase. Head into your nearest bookshop. Go straight to the shelf which contains books of a similar genre to yours. Examine them, what works for you, what doesn't work… Think about it. If you have a good product you do not want to let it down with bad packaging.

As a self-published author you will have to do all the work to get your book in front of reviewers and purchasers. A word to the wise here. The internet is not a private place where you can behave badly and no one will notice. People are entitled to their opinions. Their opinions are not always in sync with yours. Should you receive a poor review you will need to handle it with dignity. As a self-published author you are not alone, it is one enormous family. How we all behave reflects on our fellow self-published colleagues as well as ourselves.

Self-publishing is hard work. It is not for the faint-hearted and those unable to accept criticism. However, potentially it is a very exciting and rewarding endeavour if you have passion, enthusiasm and commitment.

To read more about self-publishing and why you can: