Writing Realities

We asked Author/Publishing Editor, Robin John Morgan, if he would like to contribute a piece to our blog. he has provided an honest and humorous look at some of his experiences for new writers. 

 

When I was asked to do something that looked at my writing, and considering I write on a few blogs as well as work on manuscripts, I decided I would look not at myself and my experience of what I write, but thought I would write something more about what the book world is about from the point of view of a Small Indie Publisher and Author, and aim at those who have often thought about writing, and give a few facts based on my experience of my own work, and working with other writers.

One of the most difficult parts of what I do is talking to unpublished writers, who are looking forward to becoming published Authors.

With a good many years of being published behind me, and also as a publisher myself, I have fallen into every pit fall there is and have a much more grounded understanding of the book buying public, and so yes, I have been taught the hardest way of all through trial and error. So the problem I have when I talk to a writer about the prospect of working with them on a manuscript, is that knowing all the mistakes I have made in the past, it is hard to teach a new writer who is so filled with excitement that actually, their time as an author may be one of the most wonderful, yet hardest things they attempt.

Actually sitting down and writing a book is without doubt one of the greatest experiences of my life. I cannot deny that in those quiet moments where my mind is at its most focused as I bring together a tale, for me personally it is sheer joy, and I get a rush of adrenalin as I pound away playing the story in my head and turning it into the words on the page. When you finally choose that moment to say “I am Done” is such a rush, and it is very exciting and you simply cannot help but feel the buzz, I strongly recommend it to anyone who really does want to write something, be it with publishing in mind or not.

The thing here is, when you have finished and the manuscript if finally ready, the first thing you need to do is find some ground. It is vitally important that you ground yourself before you let anyone read it, and I will give the best advice I can in saying “Grow a thicker skin.”

There will be mistakes, I know you don’t want to hear it, but no matter how many times you have read it, subconsciously and because you have written it, you will have skipped over little mistakes and errors, and it is not because you are a bad writer, it is simply because this is your work and you know it so well, and for that very reason your mind will fill in the gaps and pass mistakes without noticing. It is actually the most normal aspect of writing, but here I will give a warning, everyone who reads it will simply love telling you that you made a mistake. The appropriate response to this as they smile with self-righteousness at you is “Thank you.”

I always say thanks and then say if you find more just note them down so I can add them in the final edit, because even though you think you are done, take my word for it, there will be more editing whether you want it or not. People love to pull you up on your mistakes, it makes them feel superior, because while you are filled with excitement and joy, I can assure you they are feeling a tad jealous that you wrote something, and it is at this point you deploy the thicker skin. Really good friends will absolutely love it, and if you made a mistake, you will find they will be embarrassed to point it out, keep those people close as they are your best tools, and after a little honest coaxing they will be blunt and provide you with some great points, so DO NOT TAKE OFFENCE, listen to them, and you will find that actually they are doing exactly what every good reader will do to your manuscript, so pay attention and learn, it’s all part of the process and again I will add very normal. Take notes and then go back through your manuscript and make all the changes that are needed, and even though you have done it a million times, go through it page by page and see if you can find more. Can I suggest you print the manuscript out and then work through it as follows:

Read the first page of each chapter, and then read the second and so on. Doing this you will not get as caught up in the story and you will find that your retain greater objectivity when spotting mistakes, I have found it to be a really good practice, although I will warn you, it is the longest and most boring job you will ever do.

If you decide to go ahead and publish, there are also things that will help you. Getting a publishing contract is one of the hardest things you will ever do, and actually most people blow it when they reach the stage of actually meeting a prospective publisher. The best advice I can give is be open, be honest, and wear a thick skin. A publisher will have read your manuscript several times, and possibly let others they trust read it, so they already have a good sense of the story, and let’s be honest this is what they do every day, so most importantly listen to them and make notes. Try not to be too ridged, they may offer a few good ideas, and yes they know this is your baby, and they are aware of those millions of feelings sloshing around inside you, but you must not be too demanding, this will be a partnership so treat it as so and take any and all positives you can from the meeting. No one likes to edit out things they love, so listen and also add your input as to why you think certain parts should stay and talk a well-reasoned argument for keeping them. A temper tantrum at this point will ensure your manuscript remains exactly that, so stay open and approachable and talk through each issue that raised.

A brief look at the different formats used by two very different Indie Publishers

So congratulations you got a deal, and your manuscript has taken its first step and enters production. Before I look at the life of a publish author let’s take a small pause and address a few myths of publishing, because you will find a lot of people in the big wide world actually believe this stuff, and at this point in time you may also be one of them. Firstly you may retain the rights to the book, and I strongly recommend you do this, but actually you will not own the rights to the format, and that is the most important point to rise when you first start out, because the format which you may be consulted on will actually belong to the publisher. They are the ones that will set the interior and page design, and that is their design and format, so as you can see this really is a partnership between the two of you. You can end your contract with them, but if you do, well what you are holding in your hand is no longer yours, you will have to change everything and re issue the story in a different formatted way, with a completely new catalogue number, even though your previous publisher will no longer be printing your book.

The second biggest myth in publishing is that if you do not have a big traditional publisher doing your book and you take a more self-published route you are simply using a vanity publisher and are not actually a real writer. Ok let’s kick this myth out into the grass and burn it once and for an all. I have seen too many good writers’ crash and burn because of this stupid myth. Thirty years ago things were different, most large publisher created their own household names, sadly today the bigger publishing houses only want well known writers and celebrity writers. A few years back in an attempt to face off digital publishing, the big companies cut most of their mid list writers leaving the market flooded with out of work writers, as they focused on celebrities to add more money to their coffers. What they actually did in their panic was change the game forever as out of work writers rushed to publish their own work, and that brought in the rise of Self and Indie Publishing Companies. Indie companies are small operations, and yes they do not have the advertising clout of the big boys, but in recent years they have worked very hard and done well to get books out, and in some cases they have been more successful for their authors. It will always pay to check out companies and size them up to see if they are the right fit for you, and I always advise writers to look around and see what they can get for their money, and I would say the same to you if that is a route you want to take. The most important thing to take into account is that there is no time table to publishing, if a company tells you they will have your book out in two weeks, I would be a little suspect of them. Talk to them and ask as many questions as possible, and if you feel they are talking your language, congrats you found yourself someone you can work with.

There is a myth that using a self-publishing company is an act of vanity. My personal point of view is that if you have spent years working on something you would want to share with the world of readers, using a big Traditional Publishing firm is no less vain than using a small indie. There is a little vanity in all writers, we have written it and yes we want to know what others think, and would it not be a wonderful thing to see your name on a book spine?

Ok now on to the more common stuff, firstly you will find that everyone thinks authors are all millionaires, they think the moment you put out a book, you are suddenly rich. Not true, selling books is bloody hard work and it is going to be trickle by trickle, and even though this is most important book in your life because you wrote it, at this point in time no one has ever heard of it. Not only that,  they have never heard of the other million books produced that year, so you suddenly find that you are in the centre of a pool filled with rival books, and somehow you have to make yours look better than everyone else’s. Depending on your publisher, you will be expected to promote and sell the book. Advertising in the book industry is massively expensive, and it’s hard to match the bigger publishers who throw thousands of dollars at advertising big name authors and celebrity writers, and you will be competing with them also. The thing here is that actually there is no special formula for a bestselling hit, and even though you are pitted against some big titles you have an even chance of having your book in the right place at the right time, and suddenly you could be an overnight success. It may take a year, it may even happen after ten years, the important thing to remember is that when it comes to sales, take the long view, sometimes small repetitive sales can gross more money over time, so make your game plan about a long term investment and do not expect instant fame, that is the rarest commodity in the book market if it happens at all.

Ok so here is the best bit advice I can give. Every man, woman, dog, and acquaintance you know will expect a free copy of your book. Now it is up to you, but that is the fastest road to bankruptcy, so work out who those special people are. I make a short list, and it is usually parents, wife and those who really helped out, after that everyone else pays, even if it is discounted to them. I honestly believe no one should write a book for the money, and if cash and fame are your incentive, I would say stop and go get acting lessons, because as hard as that is, you may find you will do better.

Big rule here, PEOPLE LIE. Yes sad as it is, if everyone who ever told me they were going to buy my book did, I would be ten times richer, I work on the average that if two hundred people tell me they are going to buy my book, I expect to paid for two, and that really is the case in the real world. People mean well and they probably do intend to when they tell you, but the reality of it is that most of the time they forget. It is also the same when they tell you they have read it and loved it, most people may buy a book and ask you to sign it, and that is good, but if you expect them to read it, I am sorry to say that for a lot of people a book is nothing more than an ornament these days, and it looks on good on their shelf or unit, as it gives them the chance to gloat about knowing the author, so yes, for many a book is a stroke for their ego not yours.

I am a bit twisted and actually love these kinds of people, and yes my evil side appears with my humour, I ask them questions about the story and watch them squirm whilst thanking them for reading it. I know I am bad man, but if you take it with a pinch of salt and do not take offence it can be really funny adding things that are not in the book and watching as they agree and telling you how much they loved it, I guess I am sick person but I see it as sport, and more importantly it stops me being depressed about it. There are a lot of sycophants out there and you will meet them as they ooze all over you and paint you out to be a glorious author, again keep grounded and do not let your ego go wild, being an author is about understanding that there is always a balance to be met.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the praise, and for some people you have written something that touched them deeply, and you should be very proud of that, for that is one of the best reasons for writing, you bring joy and inspire some people, it is a nice thing for any author to be recognised for their work, so enjoy those moments. Not everyone will like what you write, and some people (Namely Trolls) will take a lot of pleasure out of ripping your work apart, either on forums or in person, trying to defend yourself is pointless because these are the kind of people who fail at reason argument, I take a leaf out of Mark Twain’s life, he once said, “Never argue with an idiot, they will bring you down to their level, and then beat you with experience.”  I find it is the most apt approach to trolls, so try to ignore them and move on, because it really does not matter how you try to answer, whatever you put will be torn apart and used against you. It is not fair I know, but honestly take it from me and all other writers, at the end of the day they are not worth the trouble.

Robin john Morgan at a book reading of his own work.

Right the final point that I feel is important. There is a debate that authors should really throw themselves out there in this day of social media, and it is believed that readers want a much more personal relationship with authors these days. Now this is my own view point only, so you need to understand that before reading on. I am a publisher as well as an author, and in my role as a publisher I do look constantly for new and refreshing ways I can make my authors look good in hope of sales, but as an author I know there is a line to be drawn, so I always ask a new author just exactly what their expectation of being an author is, and you should ask yourself the same. One of my authors is not keen on too many personal pictures being out there, and I have respected that by taking the one and only picture that was printed in a newspaper and using that in all our publicity. That was his wish, others I have published have a broader view of what can be used, and so with their permission I only use what they are comfortable with, and I would suggest that you follow a similar principle. I know some people want to know everything about your life, and hey if you are happy to do that, then fine. With my own work, I control everything that is released, I actually write most of the personal stuff to ensure better control, and that keeps things balanced with my family. Just because some big boss somewhere wants to exploit everything you do for sales, does not mean it has to be that way. I have another author who is probably one of the best at selling his own books to others, which is actually something I don’t like to do, I much prefer someone else (Usually my wife) to sell the books. I must admit though this author I mention is really great at it, he has the perfect calm persona and friendliness and I have to smile as he has sold to his dentist and church vicar, as well as a long list of others he has met on his travels, I do agree that if you are going somewhere it always pays to have a few spare copies in the car with a pen.

Book sales are a tough business to be in, so take your chances as you can, and put out exactly what you feel is relevant to you and you only. When the books are selling it can be a wonderful experience, and when they don’t sell keep your chin up, all book sales come in fits and starts, do something to promote and push the sales whenever you can. If things are slow write, keep writing, because even if your first book does not sell that well, remember its always the roll of the dice, so keep writing and eventually put another book out. The golden rule is always write, write, write and remain grounded, but more importantly than ever, enjoy the experience of all of it.

 

 

Robin John Morgan, writes for VCP, and has published seven out of an eight book adventure/fantasy series, “Heirs to the Kingdom.”

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Another World for Book Day

20-logo-right-downNothing makes world book day better than discovering a new fantasy world to live in for a while. As part of World Book Day’s 20th year, we are introducing you into a captivating world of adventure and fantasy.

The Woodland Realm Comes Alive

Heirs to the Kingdom (HTTK) is described by author, Robin John Morgan, was one of those ideas that grew into an obsession. What started as a side project to occupy the author as a mixture of hobby and simply something to help pass the time in his quiet hours as a single parent, raising his daughter alone, grew over a period of twenty years into a filing cabinet stuffed to the brim with notes, sketches and diagrams, of the many ideas he connected to what we now know as his central characters of Robbie and Runestone. In 2006 during a spring clean, he made the decision to sort through all of his material and rather than have a cabinet stuffed with paper, he thought it would make more sense to sort it out and transfer it all on to his computer.

bowmanfrontWhat followed was a year of copying down all his notes of what had become a fantasy existence for his two central characters who lived in the year of 2038 and beyond. Having completed the task of getting everything on the computer in a rough sequence, Robin decided to use his free time to slowly put it all into an order than would create a timeline, and show an alternative way of life in his make believe world, and Heirs to the Kingdom, the fantasy series of books was born.

What began back in 2007 as the writing of one continuous story, should find its completion this year with the final book of the series, after ten years of constant writing back to back books. His series of stories all based around his two characters and their friends and family is based around two central ideas. The first being his love of old tales from the past, which always state the hero will rise up again to return and save the day, and his second idea of what would happen if the world was struck with a catastrophic disaster that wiped out the larger percentage of the population? With nature back in charge and small groups rebuilding their communities the basic premise of the story is set, and into the mix his two teenage lead characters are placed.

HTTK begins on New Year’s Day 2038 in the snow, and as Robbie one of the central characters rises to his daily duties on the farm, he faced with the monotony of his dull life. What he thinks is a boring isolated town in the middle of nowhere is far from the truth, and as the story starts to unfold, we start to learn of sinister figure in the south, Mason Knox, who claims to be a descendant to the line of the one true King Arthur.  The country is recovering from the deadly virus that killed most of the population, and the survivors are slowly trying to rebuild from scratch a life based on what surrounds them in the wild natural world that has swept over the destroyed remains of the once era of Modern Man. But it appears our sinister figure in the south has the idea that he alone has the duty to rebuild the world back to his view of things, and so begins the separation of the people and a struggle to fight to protect the lives they have built.

carnacfrontThis is a series that develops into a full and fascinating struggle between two ideas of how the world should be, mixed with a blend of fantastic characters. When our lead hero’s companions reveal that they have some odd and mysterious powers, the story starts to twist and turn into an adventure of fantasy, built on the foundation of a very realistic way of living away from modern life as we know it, and what is seen as the Woodland realm really does come to life with some fantastic and very well thought out and insightful writing. This is without doubt a gripping adventure fantasy series that has all of the everyday aspects of life mixed with fantasy in a way that really does draw the reader into Robin’s make believe world. It feels very real and timeless, and has many moments that have you caught within pages unable to put the books down. It is thought provoking and emotional, as well as action packed with a thread of humour throughout its core that draws you deeper and deeper into this wonderfully written tale. 2017 should see the final part of this slice of life fantasy adventure story reach its final conclusion, and so now is the perfect time to get the first book and walk into a superb fantasy adventure and enjoy a year of thrills, tears, and laughter whilst fighting for survival.

These are all good reads with a high word count that makes for an immersive reading experience, they are written in an easy to follow style, which will draw you quickly into the story and captivate your imagination. The books are available now and entitled:

dunnottarfrontBook One – The Bowman of Loxley

Book Two – The Lost Sword of Carnac

Book Three – The Darkness of Dunnottar

Book Four – Queen of the Violet Isle

Book Five – Crystals of the Mirrored Waters

Book Six – Last Arrow of the Woodland Realm

Book Seven – The Bridge of Sequana.

Book Eight the final book in the series should be out later this year and will be entitled, The Ravens of Berengar.

Start Book Day with a Play

20-logo-right-upIts World Book Day, which means it’s time to lift a book and enjoy yourself. Today VCP are featuring some of its best reads, and so why not do something a little different and choose a great and enjoyable play to read?

Heaven Knows.

Plays have become a fashionable read in recent times, none more so than the release of JK Rowling’s The Cursed Child, which has seen great success. When we were first asked if we would consider producing a play formatted book, it was new territory, but something we felt would be a good experience for us.

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, by Colin Smith, has seen a lot of local success around the Manchester/Liverpool area of the UK as a stage play, and so with a recognisable title for play goers, we started work with Colin to produce the book version.

To set the scene, this is comedy, which has darker threads woven into the humour. The scenario follows the story of Andy, whom having had three marriages and has been widowed three times, after a long life dies in bed without realising it. He wakes up in a strange place not really understanding what has happened, and at first is not aware he is dead, and his soul has passed into limbo, before being assessed for entrance to heaven.

Heaven knows I'm Miserable Now by Colin Smith ISBN 978-1-910299-16-6

Heaven knows I’m Miserable Now by Colin Smith ISBN 978-1-910299-16-6

The story line is a chuckle fest from the first page, as he encounters his guide into the afterlife with his trainee reaper, Eva. Much to his surprise, his reaper is an attractive young female dressed in rather sexy night attire, something she feels is more welcoming. Eva is to be honest very absent minded and forgets to instruct Andy in the ways of his reaping, which just leads to yet more comedic confusion as he arrives at the reception to Heaven and enters the selection process.

Whilst editing and formatting this book there was many moments where there were outbreaks of giggles and chuckles, as the humour intensified, and we must confess it made working on this book delightfully entertaining. The selection process for Andy, which is a very entertaining and hilarious process not un-similar to the bureaucratic process of a human resources interview, reveals that his three passed wives are all in Heaven and he will be given the option to meet them, and decided which one to spend eternity with.

Whilst making his decision he is taken to a safe house until he can adjust to his new circumstances of being dead, and reflect on the choice for a partner for eternity. Much to his surprise he finds his house sharing comrades to be none other than Adolf Hitler and Jesus. What follows is a wonderful mix of great one liners and side splitting hilarity, as his new house friends help him to decide who his ideal partner for eternity is. This though provides what turns out to the funniest twist of all, because unbeknown to Andy, in heaven you can choose the life you want to be for eternity, and so all of the three women he had been married to in his living life, are very different in their afterlife.

This is a very tongue in cheek look at life and what follows, and is very funny indeed, but not only does it make you have a really good chuckle and belly laugh, surprisingly it also provides you with the chance to think about your own ideas of an afterlife. We had a few discussions amongst ourselves as we worked on the formatting of the book, and it is surprising how it does make you sit up and think about your own life and also your beliefs, in a somewhat light hearted way.

The one dilemma our author Colin had was that in the early stages of developing this play for the stage, he had two very different endings, and during the process he was torn as to which one he could use. We suggested he add both, and so this copy of the play in print form, has the added extra bonus of two ending from which you can choose your favourite, either way we think you will laugh at both.

Colin Smith Playwright

Colin Smith Playwright

This really is a very entertaining play and we feel a book you should definitely pick up when you need a break and a space to chuckle. Having worked on the book and followed it through the whole process, we are really hoping a new stage production is put on in our local area soon, so we can actually see it performed on the stage. A wonderful, light and entertaining tale, beautifully written and presented in a play format by Colin Smith.

 

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Again by Colin Smith is available now on all online book retailer sites including Amazon.

Christmas In The Community

Brinnington Christmas MarketArticle supplied by Author Robin John Morgan.

Yesterday, Myself and the VCP team were invited to set up a stand at the Christmas Market at Brinnington, Stockport, Cheshire.

As with all the events that concern this small independent publishing company, it was a family affair, so with our children along bearing “Little Intern” badges, we all mucked in and by the opening time of 11am, we had our book sales stand, and our Jaded Opals stand built and laid out, not really sure as to what the events of the day would bring.

As part of the event, I had been invited to host a writer’s workshop, for any aspiring writers to come along and ask questions and get some positive feedback for their work. The event was scheduled to be held in the small library that adjoined the market square where the main stalls and activities of the day were being conducted. Part of the request that was made to myself by the Brinnington Events Team during our initial discussions over the writers workshop, was could I help advise some people on poetry also? Luckily for us we have a poet in our published author’s list, and so I invited Ted (Also my Father) to join me, which was actually pretty special as we have never really worked together in this kind of situation, so all in all I was looking forward to an interesting day.

Most importantly, the weather was very kind to us, yes it was a cold day, but it was dry, and in truth we have done outdoor events in colder, so for us with a little dancing behind the stall and a few hearty coffee’s, we began our day in high spirits, surrounded by the various stalls that provided food, gifts, raffles and face painting etc… it was not long before the square filled up with families, and the event swung into high gear to celebrate the communities Christmas, and I have say everyone was delightfully polite and treated us with a very warm welcome.

VCP Sales Table

 

I think the thing that struck me as I stood there behind the book stand, was what a wonderful community spirit everyone had, I think great credit should be given to the Brinnington Events Team, for what was a massive amount of effort on their part, in bringing together all the residents of the area. I have written often in the past of the way parts of our heritage has disappeared over the years and especially in the area of how our communities have become less important and isolated, so it was wonderful to see that there is indeed a small pocket where community still has a great relevance and importance.

The whole area was filled with laughter, and people talking and dancing whilst the children ran round enjoying themselves, it felt like a pleasure to see it. The community really got behind the event and gave it their all, and a lot of money was raised to ensure that more events like this one will continue in the future.

When it came to my time in the workshop, my father and myself headed in doors to the library and set up our tables, not really certain of the kind of response we would get, yet within minutes we had our first visitor with questions about poetry and also writing children’s stories. The young woman in question asked us both quite a lot, and we gave her some great advice and the option of talking to us whenever she needed to. She left feeling happy and showing a little relief that there was help at hand should she require it.

I have to confess when I was asked about this workshop, I was asked what age group I could cater to? My response was at the time, any writer of any age, but I still was surprised at the amount of children who came during our session to get a better insight into the writing process. The children were really enthusiastic and talked happily about the stories they write, one young ten year old girl in particular, who spoke with great passion and love of reading really caught both my father’s and my own attention. We hear so much today about how children have stopped reading, we have witnessed so many library closures across the country due to so called cuts, and yet here was a group of children all talking about the books they read, in a very beautifully laid out and well organised friendly atmosphere of their own library, I must admit as a writer and a publisher, I was delighted to see that my opposition to library closures over the past few years was indeed very well founded.

These children talked of how they came there once and sometimes multiple times a week, I have to say it was joy to my ears, as it reminded me very much of my youth where I almost camped in the library as a child. It gave me such a boost, not just as an avid supporter of the need for more libraries, but also as a simple writer myself. This community has a thriving spirit, and at its heart is great library offering so much to children, which is clearly demonstrated by the children who came to see us.

Mayor of Stockport, Chris Gordon talks to Robin and Ted of VCP

Mayor of Stockport, Chris Gordon talks to Robin and Ted of VCP

Once the session was over, and we returned to the stand I found several adults approached me with questions, and later during the day the Mayor of Stockport came round to support the event, and he stopped and chatted to both myself and my father for some time. I noticed his aide looked at little a frustrated as we talked, but as I mentioned my experiences in his local library that day, I found I was greeted with equal enthusiasm by him, as he too shares the very same views. It was wonderful to actually talk to a representative of the council and get my message across to understanding ears, and also have him speak with such passion about the importance of parents reading to their children and encouraging them to read more.

It was getting dark as we started to shiver, the Christmas tree was lit to great applause,  and we begin the long packing up after what had been a fun day in a great atmosphere. We came home cold and tired, well the grownups did, my children were still very much elated as they gathered their balloons, sweets and prizes they had won after a very exciting day for them, and VCP managed to make a profit and had successfully promoted their name and books to yet more people, so I consider it was a good day all around.

The Christmas Market was a wonderful family fun day out, even if we were working at the same time, and it is a credit to this small often unnoticed little community on the edge of Stockport. Well done to all of the organisers for doing something so many small communities fail to notice, simply put, you show everyone the importance of bringing all the community regardless of their status or creed together, and that really is a wonderful accomplishment. We had a fantastic day, and are thankful for your invite and hospitality, and I for one am looking forward to a return at some future point.