Friday, 12 January 2018

Writing Tips - Do I need to write more than one book?

This is something we here a lot here. It is asked in a variety of shapes and forms, but the intention is the same.

'My book is no longer selling well and it's been out for 6 months/a year/two years... why not?'

Before we get to that, there are a few other things to consider.

Firstly, the marketplace is chock full of books. All are of differing quality, size and shape. As an author, you want to write a good book; a great book that will stand the test of time. and that is not easy. Writing a good book is actually difficult. Take into account wanting it to stand out above the rest, be remembered and lauded for years to come... it becomes even more challenging.

An important thing to remember is you cannot only write one book and expect to make profits from it indefinitely, if at all. Unless you end up fortunate enough to wind up with one of the big five after securing a literary agent, then you have to acknowledge that it will take a lot of work, time and effort to make your book stand out from the madding crowd. 

This is of course, absolutely possible. Rachel Abbott, Mark Dawson, LJ Ross and Adam Croft are perfect examples of authors who have been extremely successful as self-published authors. It didn't happen overnight for them however; they had to spend a great deal of time and money to see a return of investment. Mark Dawson's debut novel in the John Milton series is excellent, but it didn't make him an overnight success nor did his previous published titles.

Of course, it depends if you only got into writing because you wish to make money. Correction, we would all like to be able to make a living from writing but the reality is that only about 11% of authors can and do.

The correct way to look at it is that you write because you love it and always wanted others to enjoy the stories you have in your head. If they happen to make you a few quid, then that is excellent!

Nor is it about churning out book after book necessarily. Yes, you cannot just write and release one title and rest on your laurels (notable examples of only one title being a hit or classic are Harper Lee with To Kill A Mockingbird. It would more than 35 years before she had another book published or E L James who made a few pounds here and there with the literary classic ' Fifty Shades of Grey'. Love it or hate it, it captured the zeitgeist).

You need to be releasing more books to keep your author name alive and in readers minds. Some put out three or four books a year (I'm not saying that that is the standard; I couldn't write four books a year and them be anywhere near good. Some might argue that I only release two a year and they are rubbish, but that is for another blog!); others release less. James Patterson releases 1002 titles a year and has sustained success (I'm exaggerating slightly, he only releases 964 a year), but the point is you cannot necessarily release only one book and then wonder why, 6 months to a year later it isn't doing as well.

Any publisher should continue to promote all their titles, but there will always be newer titles that take priority in regards to the scope of promotion. Here we afford all our titles promotion in a variety of guises; some with P.R support, some with book trailers, some with reductions in price, social medial advertising... but all of them are continuously promoted. After all, you can't promote every title at once, all the time. Even Peter James doesn't have Pan promoting his very first book. Readers buy his old books because they see his new releases.

The thing is, do you wish to write for the market or yourself? Personally, I think you should always write for yourself; write the books you would like to read. And if there is a market out there, eventually it will be found. Traditional publishers tend to focus on commercial viability and books that will win awards. We live in a literary climate that is perhaps too selective based upon the notion that good books are a rare commodity and only produced by notable publishers.

That is crap. So those who may choose self-publishing are advised to crank out title after title to increase visibility. If an author wishes to focus solely on Amazon rankings, how many reviews they have and the number of followers they have on social media then they are, perhaps, barking up the wrong perverbial. 

Don't get me wrong, social media is an invaluable tool nowadays and you can't market or even write a book without it. And yes, Amazon is important as are other book platforms; reviews are a good sign of the quality of your work but they are not the bee all and end all.

Your story should show it has taken time, have been proof read, copy edited, formatted meticulously. And that's before you get to the cover. Create (with professional help if necessary) the most beautiful, eye catching cover that will grab attention immediately. All the the aforementioned authors in the Mark Dawson paragraph write books that are professional, expertly written, edited and have the look of a bestseller (in fact, the majority of them are, locally and internationally).

But you focus should be on writing an excellent book, one that will still be ticking over of its own according in years to come. Be proud of the book you write and you will see it on social media from time to time and on readers bookshelves.

Everything else - the Amazon sales and rankings, the Twitter sharing and Facebook plugs, admiration and awards - will all come of their own accord if your book is good enough. Not only that, it will be well deserve and hard earned. It doesn't matter if it is with Harper Collins or Amazon KDP and self-published. If you write it, they will come.

Be a wordsmith, not a bean counter as one journalist once said. There is no one saying don't write multiple books and release them; just don't feel pressured into doing so as being made to believe it is the only way to success and don't be overly concerned with the financial mandate. 

Write a book that will stand the test of time or that captures reader's imaginations and sends them light years away on dangerous adventures or fills them with feelings of love and longing and the rest will come.

Trust me. I'm a nurse😉

Monday, 8 January 2018

Writing Tips - Characters

Writing is one of the most subjective art forms there is. For every individual that loves your story, two might hate it or at least dislike it intensely. That's not as bad as it sounds; you can expect diversity of opinion when your book leaves your hands for a publisher. 

Once out in the big, wide world your characters no longer remain your property. You have birthed them, raised them and learned their every characteristic and facial tick. Yet eventually, you know you have to let them go. 

For this first blog on writing hints and tips, we'll have a brief look at characters. For any of you who may find themselves a little stuck, these might just be the chock to help you drive out of the mud.

We’ve all been there – fallen a little bit in love with a character in a novel and been sorry to say goodbye to them at the end of the book. 
Chances are these characters embody some or many of these classic character archetypes; 

Writing characters is difficult. Do you make them realistic, larger than life, fantastical or simply a plot device? As with the above, chances are you have also followed this process when creating your characters and their arc - 

But how are engaging characters born? Chances are their creators knew them inside out before committing them to paper. Click here for a great exercise in getting to know your character. Try it out and watch your characters come to life over a matter of days!

But what makes a character likeable? It’s certainly not about being too good to be true. Readers want someone they can relate to. There’s got to be room for growth and flexibility. Alice Bradbury takes a look at creating sympathy without saintliness here;

You can also have a character who is the antagonist, yet someone 
that you can relate to or even sympathise with. Maybe you even end up cheering them on. Think Riddick in Pitch Black or Hannibal in The Silence of the Lambs. Unpleasant individuals, certainly. But likeable? Definitely. We love to hate to love them. A character such as those and many others can turn a mediocre storyline into a gripping page-turner.

Yet when you know your character, you have to make them come alive. Body language is a great way to show not tell when it comes to a character’s emotions. Take a look at Joanna Waugh’s body language cues for some good ideas -

K.M. Weiland talks about a simple way to make your characters ‘pop’ in her great video tutorial here. 

Physical descriptions can be useful but for novelist Sarah Painter, it’s not just about how the reader sees the characters, but also the characters see each other. What characters notice about other people shows a lot about their own personality -

Sometimes it’s all in the details – something as simple as coming up with an age-appropriate name for your character can bring them to life. Click here for a great tool for matching your character’s name and age.

The most important thing, however, is to enjoy them as you write and bring them to life. You never know, you may be coming across them in a later story (hopefully yours; if it's someone else's that's plagiarism and is a bit pants really).

The above article was written by Murielle Maupoint and expanded upon by David McCaffrey

Sunday, 31 December 2017

In the words of Tori Amos, a pretty good year

This time last year, Kelly and I had only recently taken the reigns of a publishing company.

Britain's Next Bestseller, the imprint of Live It Ventures LTD, the only publishing house out of 65 literary agent rejections that was interested in publishing Hellbound, my debut novel (I know a publishing house isn't a literary agents, but I didn't even get through the doors of the publishers!)

We had no idea what to do, we're nurses after all, but with the opportunity having arisen to publish Stephen Sayers first crime thriller within a three-week window, it seemed like a good time to be thrown in the deep deep end and see if we could swim. We wouldn't have chosen to do it that way, but you don't 'alf learn quick!

Fortunately, for our lives and business, BAMN was a success and Stephen was very pleased with it, a success to the point it was recently turned into an audiobook by Audible with the same narrator as L.J Ross!

Murielle Maupoint trusted Kelly and I enough to sell us her company, an offer that was both humbling and scary. A million thoughts were openly discussed between Kelly and I.

What if the authors are really unhappy with Murielle's decision?
How would we encourage new and unpublished authors to join us?
How would we manage a website?
What do we do about managing Amazon orders?
What if someone has a printing query?
How do you print a book?
What the hell is CMYK?
What in chuff's name is bleed?
How do you manage taxes?
I have no idea what a trim size is!
What the hell is pre-flight in Adobe and why do you need it?
Typesetting? That's easy. We can do that ourselves! (right!!!)

The list went on and on. Give Kelly and I an infection or an ischaemic leg and we'd be on fire (not literally, though that sometimes does happen). Give us a book back then and we'd be on the gin.

So, long story short, business deals are concluded, we have a Companies House registration and our first author; a Mrs Katie Budge with her lovely story, Percy the Pigeon.

We thought a children's book for our real, first book of 2017 would be an easy way to settle in.


Children's books are quite difficult and expensive to produce.

However, nice little learning curve about book sizes and the aforementioned CMYK and Percy flew very nice onto Amazon.

After that, we published books for Steve Wraith, Joey Pyle Jnr, Alan Robson MBE, Lucinda Lamont, Donna Maria McCarthy, Robert Enright, Charlotte Teece, Christine Grange, Peter Mann, Ocean Hillfon, Tosh McIntosh and Gilly Black, Sharon Hope, someone called David McCaffrey and Martin Marriott.

Every book was an honour, a challenge and a lesson. A few mistakes were made, I am not proud to admit (by me; Kelly does the financial side and there are never mistakes as she used to be an account. I was bought an Amazon Echo in order to for her to remind me of things. there is now one in all but one room in the house. It's like having Kelly... but everywhere!) but fortunately, we have the most wonderful, understanding authors and with them being corrected as quickly as possible, everything turned out okay (sorry, not mistakes; an educational opportunity).

But now, facing the end of 2017 we know more than I ever dreamed possible about publishing and given the fact that 2017 broke in a very mysterious way for us, BNBS and Live It publishing was a blessing. Maybe things happen for a reason...

Alongside the BNBS titles, we inherited the Live It titles, a fascinating range of self-help and inspirational books, all of which we recently re-acquire the ebook distribution rights for. These titles are amongst the many plans we have for 2018.

We sold 1668 e-books this year. Nowhere near the million that the lovely and talented Betsty and her husband sold this year with their company Bloodhound Books (which is fantastic by the way and has some of the most amazing authors), but not bad considering we started 2017 with little knowledge and no money to speak of.

In total, since it's conception in 2014, BNBS has sold 99516 ebooks, not counting the Live It titles nor paperbacks. If that figure didn't include free book promotions over the years... this time next year, Rodders.

But Murielle, Helen, Kelly and I didn't and don't do it for the money. We do it because it is a privilege. Kelly and I got to donate books to two charities this Christmas; Zoe's Place and Main; books that the children would enjoy. The looks on their faces when they were given books... your books... was indescribable and encompassed anything else you might receive from a business.

A good rule of thumb we started out with was surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are and that was what we did. We had the privilege to work with Karen Chilvers and Noelle Holten a.k.a Muffin and still have the joy of working with Lisa Eddom, Julie Timlin, Maxine Groves, Siobhan Marshall-Jones and most recently, Peter Mann who has many years of experience behind him when it comes to P.R. Add in the support from Tracy Fenton, Sarah Hardy, Emma Mitchell, Gordon McGhie and so many others and you have an exceptional melting pot of so many talented people who are excellent at what they do.

We have learnt and learned so much from them all and they are what makes and keeps Murielle's ideology of Live It and BNBS of being a family.

Some authors attended book events, we took Live It/BNBS to Comic Con in Birmingham (a feat we are repeating next year in London), we have forwarded names to the Edinburgh Book Festival, entered some titles for competitions, have an American domain name to launch sometime next year, have some amazing titles up for release in the first quarter of 2018 and so much more (spoilers!).

It has been a fantastic year for us, learning and working alongside you all. We always expected a few unhappy people due to the direction we took and that's okay. We never expected it to be straightforward and easy, but we knew it would be fascinating and never dull, exactly as it should be.

Thank you for being patient, thank you for trusting us with your most precious works and thank you for being the amazing people that you are, bloggers, readers and authors alike.

And thank you, Murielle... for everything.

Here's to a wonderful 2018 for you all!!

Goodbye to 2017... a pretty good year.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Crowdfunding the publishing industry - how the once frowned upon method is gaining in popularity

Today's blog sees the welcome return of the awesome Donna Maria McCarthy to the fold after a little siesta away.

And back she certainly is with the following piece that provides a fascinating insight into how crowd funding your novel is becoming less a begging mechanism to get your book out there and more a revolutionary way to become a published author.

Take it away, Donna!

Kate Bulpitt, a Curtis Brown Creative graduate, gives us the truth behind Crowd funding... how in a world of literary snobbery a book, wanted by the people, is realising success. This story is close to our hearts as with BNBS, crowd funding and fairness in representation is our mantra.
Read, absorb and enjoy!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

#talkabouttuesday Campaigning with BNBS

We often get quite a few questions from authors curious about BNBS concerning what it's all about and how can they manage their campaigns.

In order to answer some of these questions, we thought it might be beneficial to put out some points that those of you currently in the middle of a campaign or anyone remotely considering using BNBS to get published.

There will be more coming on the website over the next few weeks, but as a starter for ten...

And for those of you already in campaigns, there is some really useful information at the following link -

And you all always know if you need anything at all, you only have to ask Kelly and I and we will help as much as we can.

Next week for #talkabouttuesday, a very special guest author!!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

#talkabouttuesday THE HERO'S QUEST

Every story consists, in one form or another, of a selection of specific characters; archetypes interwoven into a specific story arc. And what I’m about to tell you isn’t new… Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler have already covered this, but I think they are amongst some of the most important writing lessons anyone could ever learn and should always bear in mind when constructing their plot. 

In fact, it's probably something you already do and don’t even realise. Don’t believe me? Okay, consider these:

1.) The hero is introduced in his/her ORDINARY WORLD


3.) The hero is reluctant at first. (REFUSAL OF THE CALL.)

4.) The hero is encouraged by the Wise Old Man or Woman. (MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.)

5.)  The hero passes the first threshold.  (CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.)

6.) The hero encounters tests and helpers. (TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES.)

7.)  The hero reaches the innermost cave.  (APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE.)

8.) The hero endures the supreme ORDEAL. 

9.) The hero seizes the sword. (SEIZING THE SWORD, REWARD)




Don’t think you can fit this around any story? Okay then…
We meet farm boy Luke Skywalker on Tatooine (ordinary world introduction). He meets R2D2, C3PO and Obi Wan Kenobi. Obi Wan tells him of his father who fought in the Clone Wars (call to adventure). Asked to accompany Obi Wan, Luke refuses until he discovers his aunt and uncle murdered which then persuades him otherwise (meeting with the mentor). 
Journeying to Mos Eisley, he meets Han Solo and Chewbacca (crossing the threshold) that leads to an encounter with Princess Leia, the Death Star and Darth Vader (tests, allies, enemies). He journeys deep into the Death Star (approach to the innermost cave) but loses Obi Wan to Darth Vader (ordeal). Returning to join the Rebellion, he joins them in an attack on the Death Star (seizing the sword). Successful in blowing up the gigantic space station, he receives his reward alongside Han and Chewie (the road back). Indeed, in Return of the Jedi, he almost turns to the dark side whilst fighting his father which is the resurrection. The lesson Luke has learned throughout the entire Star Wars saga is about the light and dark sides of the force and how powerful friends and family can be (return with the Elixir).

Everyone knows the old adage of ‘the villain makes the hero’. You need the evil so overwhelming that the most unlikely good can overcome it. Joseph Campbell knew this, which is why his construct for what makes the best stories can be seen in countless tales over countless years.  He also knew you needed specific character types, or archetypes as he called them, to make your stories truly come to life. And they were; heroes, shadows, mentors, heralds, threshold guardians, shape shifters, tricksters and allies. 

Using Sherlock Holmes as an example – Holmes is the hero, Moriarty is the shadow or villain, Watson is the mentor with guiding principles, Irene Adler could be the herald who calls the hero to adventure, Lestrade could be the threshold guardian standing in the way of important points, the shape shifter could be Stapleton in The Hound of the Baskervilles, the trickster, once again Irene Adler/Moriarty and the allies, well Lestrade again and even Adler on some occasions if the circumstances suit her. The character types can be interchangeable, but the fact exists that they are always there in some respect. 

Works with Doctor Who too…
The Doctor – hero. 
Dalek/Cyberman/Sontaran/Weeping Angel – villain. 
The Face of Boe– mentor.
Wilf (Donna’s uncle who ended up being the cause of the 10th Doctor’s regeneration)– threshold guardian
Captain Jack Harkness – shapeshifter
Missy/The Master - trickster
Amy/Sarah-Jane/Clara/Donna/Martha/Rose - allies

Think about it… it works with your story too though granted, as with anything, you may not have rigidly adhered to these guidelines. Stick too closely and your story will be stilted… deviate too far and your story will be lost in a mire of plot holes and inconsistencies. 
But use it as a skeleton framework to build your story around, and you can shuffle them about, retitle them, delete some, add others and discover the true power held within your story. Power to tell the most wonderful of tales that you hadn’t even realised. 

Recommended reading - 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

#talkabouttuesday - WHY RESEARCH FOR YOUR NOVEL?

When I began writing Hellbound in 2012, I made one huge, monumental mistake. 
I carried out no research, whatsoever.                                                                                                      
International bestselling author, Steve Alten, had taken me on as a writing coach client where he would act as a mentor of sorts, editing each chapter as I went along and offering narrative suggestions where appropriate. Upon discussion of Hellbound’s general plot, I opted to write 5 pages of the first chapter off the top of my head. You would think I would pay attention to a man who, as I mentioned at the beginning of this sentence is an international and New York Times bestselling author. 
Do I tell you this to boast? Not at all. Steve has taken around 14 clients under his wing since he started his writing coach programme and being a huge fan of his work, I got a huge buzz just out of him teaching me how to write basically... which is what it ultimately amounted to because, of course, I knew better!
These pages were immediately met with justified criticism because, as he rightly said, I was lacking research and perspective. Who was the antagonist? Why was I opening on him? His name didn’t work, it wasn’t creepy enough and sounded more like a rock star's  I had called him Cameron Brett Easton, in homage to the great author of American Psycho) Where was the prison? Was it real or fictitious? Basically, I hadn’t written anything that would hook the reader, which is probably the most important aspect of any book.                                                       
I quickly realised I was writing what I thought I knew about prisons and prisoners, when I actually knew nothing. 
I needed to learn it and then write it.                    
As an example, here is a sample from the opening of Hellbound before and after research being carried out:

Original draft
Blacktower penitentiary currently housed two hundred and eighty-seven prisoners who were awaiting execution for their various crimes, though it had the capacity to hold more than three hundred. It was divided into 3 levels, each self-contained with its own amenities and individual security measures. The upper level housed the murderers and rapists of the country; the middle level catered for those criminals with particularly exotic tastes in crime, such as contract killers and assassins who had had the misfortune of being caught in the act or just after. These criminals were awaiting the death penalty due to the nature of their crimes, which had either been performed for financial motivation or were their actual careers. This differed from those criminals on the first level, as it could be argued that, however repulsive their crimes may well have been, theirs were also crimes of passion and instinctual, and not necessarily premeditated. 
However, it was the lower, third level which held the piesta résistance of the criminal world. This was where, in virtual solitude and isolation, the country and possibly the world’s, most dangerous and unrepentant criminals resided as they awaited their day of reckoning. Here you could expect to find the serial paedophiles who took joy in murdering their victims and disposing of their once, innocent bodies in the most abhorrent of fashions. You may also expect to see the serial killers who had used new and unusual methods of taking their victims lives, which ranged from simple dismemberment to more extreme examples of culinary and gastrological cuisine. 
The being that Harrison Maybrick was coming to watch die today was of those people. He was known only as Erebus.

Not great, is it? Nothing of substance about it; dull, unimaginative and completely lacking in perspective for the reader. 
Below is after conducting a month of research into maximum security prisons and visiting Ireland - 
Final draft
ADX Absolom was unofficially referred to as Alcatraz of the Blasket Islands. The maximum security prison was situated on the Dingle Peninsular, an archipelago at the most westerly point of Ireland. Known to the Irish as An Fear Marbh, the land mass resembled a sleeping giant. To the guards who worked behind its stone walls, it was simply called “The Dead Man.”                  
The prison covered thirty-seven acres and contained four hundred and ninety cells, each one reserved for men convicted of the most violent crimes in need of the tightest control. Each inmate would spend their life sentence in their cell – essentially a concrete box with a four-inch wide sliver of window. Furnishings were limited to a concrete bench built into one of the walls, a toilet that stopped working if blocked, a shower that ran on a timer to prevent flooding and a sink missing its plug to prevent it being fashioned into a weapon. In return for good behaviour, the prisoners had the opportunity to have a polished steel mirror bolted to the wall. A radio and a television – all controlled remotely so the inmate did not actually come into contact with them – were additional rewards to be earned. Only recreational, educational and religious programming was permitted by the warden.
The man he was waiting for on this occasion was being prepared in a room adjacent to the death house. He had been transferred from Sector 17 – a group of cells designed to hold the most dangerous of Absolom’s prisoners. It currently held two prisoners. After this day was over, there would only be one.              

The first draft was sloppy, rushed and lacking anything that remotely resembled reality, despite the fact the story is fictional. The final draft was tighter, grounded, detailed but not overly so, and most importantly, believable.                            
  If you establish even the most fantastical elements of a story in some reality, the reader will follow you anywhere.                                                                          
Take Jaws for example. Peter Benchley didn’t think that audiences would buy the shark being killed by a gunshot to an oxygen cylinder. Steven Speilberg said that if he could keep them for the first hour and a half, they would buy the last five minutes. And it works. Due to the intricate and detailed nature of Brody, Quint and Hooper’s characters and the idyllic and homely setting of Amity Island, you buy Brody’s heroic last-ditch attempt to kill the shark with a rifle and a combustible oxygen cylinder (not to mention John Williams's epic score!)

Research is where Hellbound, any novel, begins to become something more than you originally envisioned. It is in this process that your story goes from just words on a page to a living, breathing world, populated with characterisation, locations that come alive and scenes that make the reader feel as though they were there with you as you wrote them. After all, you cannot shortchange the reader by ‘telling’ them what it’s like; you have to ‘show’ them. They need smells, terms and atmosphere.                                                                                                                    
They need to feel as though they are there. After all, they are going to hopefully want to spend more time in the worlds you create, so it pays to ensure that your world, the one you wish them to join you in, is as real as the one we live in now (though with all the research on my computer relating to serial killers and executions, Kelly is starting to worry!!)