My review of @tonyriches ‘Jasper’ for RBRT
I recently wrote a bit of a rant about the quality control of some small presses whose books I had read. You can read it here.
If you are thinking of signing with a small publisher, then do bear a few things in mind.
- Do your homework – start off by Googling the publisher. You might find threads on writing sites that go into a great deal of detail about your chosen publisher. Read them – they can be incredibly enlightening.
- Ask questions – if your publisher is honest and genuinely wants the best for you, they should accept that you have a right to want to know about them. After all, you are placing your book and all the blood, sweat and tears that went into writing it in their hands.
- Who are they?
- How long have they been publishing?
- What exactly is their background and experience? You want specifics about this. Who have they worked for? Where did they get their experience? How many years?
- Who will your editor be? What experience do they have? Again, specifics here not vague assertions and statements.
- How many editors will be involved?
- Who else have they worked with? Once you know this you can see for yourself how well their books are doing.
- What can they offer you? Editing? Book cover? Promotion? What sort of promotion?
- What do they expect from you?
If you get through all this and still want to go ahead, then make sure you read the contract really closely. Look for things like cover design, for example – who has the final say? And how many editors will be involved? How does the editing process work? What about copyright? What happens if you aren’t happy further down the line?
Always get a lawyer to look at your contract. Always.
Some warning signs:
- Companies that state they don’t deal with agents or lawyers. Why don’t they? What are they afraid of? Surely it’s up to you if you want to have an agent.
- Companies that insist it’s like a family. Why do they think that’s a good thing? This is a business relationship and it should be treated as such.
- Staff that are vague about their experience.
- Companies that approach you. If they’re any good, they will be fending off submissions.
- Dreadful covers on current books.
- Glowing five star reviews on current books by other authors also published by the company.
- An insistence that you read and review their other authors’ books.
- Reviews of other authors’ books that mention typos, grammatical errors, poor editing and poor formatting.
Any one of these things should give you pause for thought. At the end of the day it is your choice, but do ask yourself what it is exactly these publishers are doing that you can’t do yourself. OK, so they might offer editing. You can hire a freelance editor. OK, so they format and do covers. Again, you can source that yourself. You can even learn how to format and do that bit for nothing. They promote? How much? And how much will you have to do?
Now be truly honest with yourself. If you can do, or can learn to do, what they are offering, if their books aren’t really selling that well, if they’re vague about their experience, then why are you even considering signing with them? Is it because you’re flattered? Is it because someone is actually interested in your book? I do understand, after all, we all want to be told that someone loves our work, that they value it, but unfortunately that’s what some of these companies are relying on. Don’t waste your time. And do do your research!
I have some more information for you about the essentials of self-publishing over on Rosie Amber’s blog today.
Any fantasy readers/reviewers out there who can help?
I found out over the weekend that my planned 1 day book blitz had fallen through. I sulked for a bit (a few days if I’m truthful), drunk some wine, contemplated giving up, and then today I had a breakthrough – why not arrange my own mini tour. With indie publishing anything is possible, isn’t it?
I know it won’t have the reach of a properly organised tour, but I’m hoping all you lovely bloggers and retweeters will help me spread the word.
The plan (which I am making up as I go along) is to have a week where people agree to post their reviews of Visions of Zarua.
I’m looking for – book reviewers, book bloggers and readers who enjoy fantasy and would be willing to offer their time reading my debut book.
I’m offering – a free ebook of Visions of Zarua and my eternal gratitude.
In exchange for – an honest review…
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I reviewed ‘I Promise You This’ for Rosie Amber’s Book review team.
Suddenly single after twenty-two years of marriage, the calm of Katherine Price’s midlife has turned upside down. Seeking to find her true self, she took a chance on starting over. A year later, she is certain of this: she’s in love with Philippe and adores his idyllic French homeland, where he wants her to live with him.
But all that feels like a fantasy far removed from Toronto, where she’s helping her friend Molly, hospitalized after a life-threatening accident. Staying in her childhood home full of memories, Katherine wonders: Is she really ready to leave everything behind for an unknown life abroad? And if all her happiness lies with Philippe, will it last? Can she trust in love again?
Searching her heart, Katherine finds the pull of the familiar is stronger than she thought. An unexpected meeting with her ex, the first time since his cruel departure, and a stunning declaration of love from an old flame spur her introspection.
With sunlit backdrops and plot twists as breathtaking as the beaches of Antibes, author Patricia Sands brings her trilogy about second chances to a provocative and satisfying close that proves that a new life just might be possible—if you’re willing to let your heart lead you home.
I read the first in this trilogy ‘The Promise of Provence’ last year and very much enjoyed it. Although I haven’t read the second book, the author does a good job of letting the reader know what has happened since the end of Book One, so it wasn’t too difficult to pick up the threads of the story.
Katherine is back in Toronto, taking care of her friend Molly who has suffered severe injuries in a car accident. Being back in her home city with her family and friends and her memories, and being away from Philippe makes Katherine begin to doubt her certainty that France is where she belongs. She loves Philippe, but she wonders if that is enough.
What I really enjoyed about the first book was that Katherine had a humanity to her – she wasn’t perfect, she didn’t find things easy, and she suffered, like we all would, when her world came crashing down. I was happy that she was happy at the end of the novel. She deserved that happiness. In this book, however, I felt that the relatable and human side to her wasn’t as well-drawn. She was a bit too perfect, a bit too wonderful and kind and desirable. It didn’t feel real. Her relationship with Philippe, despite her cold feet, was also too perfect; he was too perfect. While I enjoy a bit of escapism, I do like to be able to identify with, sympathise with and relate to characters. I found that quite difficult to do here. The other characters all seemed far too kind-hearted and generous and supportive too. While people can be all these things, they aren’t all of them all of the time, and for me that meant the book lost the edge of the first in the trilogy.
I also felt that a lot of the dialogue was unrealistic. There were a few occasions, particularly at the beginning, where it seemed to be used to pass information to the reader.
That said, the descriptions of France, as in the first book, were wonderful and engaging and very enjoyable to read. The ending, while sentimental and beautifully soppy, was lovely, and absolutely perfect for the trilogy. I may even have had a tear in my eye. But for me, the book didn’t work as well as the first.
My post for Rosie Amber’s blog – some advice on publishing an eBook
In honour of National Vegetarian Week I’m re-posting a review of one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.
A caveat before I begin this review – a very long time ago I worked for Compassion in World Farming. I’m also a non-dairy consuming pescatarian (occasionally eat fish but definitely no meat and no dairy or eggs) and am still a supporter of CIWF. Philip Lymbery is the CEO of CIWF, a charity that campaigns to end factory farming and to improve the welfare of farm animals around the world.
‘Farmageddon’ is a thought-provoking and very readable account of what is going on in the farming industry worldwide and how that not only has consequences for the animals but also for all of us. I have to be honest, I have a lot more respect for livestock farmers than I do for the majority of meat eaters who pop into the supermarket, buy a £2.99 chicken for dinner and don’t for one second think about how that chicken was raised and killed so cheaply. The type of people who put their fingers in their ears and don’t want to know where their food comes from. People seem to still believe that pigs and cows and sheep and chickens all live on Old MacDonald’s farm, happily chomping away at grass in the fields or pecking in the farmyard, despite all the evidence that’s now available to the contrary.
The consequences of humanity’s reliance on meat are far-reaching and potentially devastating. This book explores in a thoughtful and intelligent way the disasters that have already been caused by our appetite for cheap meat – the decline in the number of birds, for example (in the last forty years the population of tree sparrows, grey partridges and skylarks, among others, have plummeted), the threat to bees, and the pollution caused by the need to get rid of the huge amounts of waste produced by the millions and millions of animals now being farmed.
I know from experience that people don’t want to be preached at – and this book isn’t preachy at all. The author isn’t trying to make you vegan – he is just telling you what he has seen, from China to the US, to South America and though Europe, and gives options and alternatives that could see an end to the suffering of those millions of animals (and they do suffer) and better health and a better environment for everyone.
This book is, in my opinion, an absolute must read. It isn’t always comfortable reading, but it’s time we pulled our fingers out of our ears.
A updated post from a previous Friday the 13th, back in 2013.
So it’s Friday the 13th again and many of the more superstitious among us will have greeted the day with trepidation. But why is the day considered to be unlucky, and is there any truth behind the fears placed on this date? Here are thirteen things you might not have known.
1) Friday has long been thought of as an unlucky day (despite that often gleeful refrain ‘thank God it’s Friday). In pagan Rome it was traditionally the day on which executions were carried out – and of course Jesus was crucified on Good Friday. There are lots of stories behind the evil of poor old number thirteen – more of which later. So putting the two together gives us this most unlucky date.
2) Some people are so superstitious and so terrified of the day that they actually have a phobia. If you are affected you can proudly tell people that you are suffering from Paraskevidekatriaphobics – that’s if you can pronounce it of course.
3) Friday the 13th is not traditionally considered unlucky in Spanish speaking countries or in Greece. Rather, Tuesday the 13th is a bad day…
4) …and in Italy, you should be very afraid of Friday the 17th. In fact, when it was shown in Italy, the film Shriek if you know what I did last Friday the 13th was called Shriek – Do you have something to do on Friday the 17th (not a very catchy title, to be honest).
5) So why does thirteen have such a bad reputation? It seems this comes from an amalgamation of myths and legends. In the Christian faith, thirteen people sat down to the Last Supper, and one was a betrayer. This could have led to a belief in the number signifying bad luck.
6) Prior to this though, the ancient Vikings have their own version of the Last Supper. Twelve gods were apparently invited to a banquet at Valhalla. The evil god Loki was not invited but he turned up anyway, bringing the number of guests to thirteen. Loki then persuaded the god of winter, Hod, to attack Balder the Good, who was well-liked by the other gods. Hod threw a rod of mistletoe at Balder and killed him – hence the idea that thirteen guests is bad luck.
7) Witches also come into the picture (obviously). The Norse goddess of marriage derives from a deity worshipped on the sixth day of the week (Friday). This goddess was known as either Frigg or Freya, hence Friday. Friday was considered a lucky day, especially to get married– however, with the advent of Christianity, the goddess was recast as a witch and she and her day took on a darker and wholly unwarranted association (she even had a cat). One legend has Freya herself joining a gathering of twelve witches at their Sabbat – bringing the number to 13. Since then a proper coven traditionally should have 13 members.
8) If you still persist in being scared of a date, then 2016 isn’t too bad for you – today is the only Friday 13th this year.
9) You’ll fare worse in 2017 however. There will be two Friday the 13ths – in January and October.
10) Despite the fact that the connotations of the day are based on twisted tales, myths and superstition, a survey by the Daily Mirror found that three-quarters of people claimed to have experienced bad luck on this date…
11)… and 34% said that if they had the choice they would prefer to spend the day hiding under the duvet!
12) The makers of the hugely successful ‘Friday the Thirteenth’ film franchise probably have no superstitions about the day though. In fact I’m sure they adore it. According to ‘The Numbers’, the twelve movies have grossed more than $460,000,000 worldwide.
13) And if you make it through today unscathed – don’t get too complacent. If you’re still around in 2029, then hiding under the bed rather than the duvet might be the best place. Apparently that’s when the asteroid ‘99942 Apophis’ will come closer to the Earth than the orbits of communication satellites. When? On Friday the 13th, of course!
My review of ‘I Promise You This’ for #RBRT
As well as writing and editing, I also read and review a lot of books. I try to read a variety of genres and read indie authors, traditionally published authors, big names, small names, complete unknowns, new writers and established writers. So I read a lot of books published by small presses.
Now before I get a load of flak, I do appreciate that there are a lot of really excellent small presses out there who do a fantastic job and who look after their authors. I also know that there are big, traditional, well-known publishing houses that don’t look after their authors. However, as the problems I have come across have all been with these smaller presses, those are the ones I want to talk about here.
I have read several books recently, for the most part eBooks, where the author has been published by a small publisher. Being rather nosy, and being an author always looking for opportunities, I have looked into many of these organisations. They all have lovely websites, all have lots of authors they are working with, all say they have plenty of experience in the industry, all say they are offering authors more than other publishers. Most also provide editing, formatting, book covers etc.
So why then are the majority, and I mean at least 75%, of these books not of publishable standard? Why are they full of typos and formatting errors? Full of spelling mistakes? Why, when they have supposedly been edited, do many contain basic writing no-nos such as ridiculous dialogue tags, exposition, stereotypical characterisation, unnatural dialogue, and information dumping?
Why also do so many of these organisations insist that authors promote each other? Why do I often look at glowing five star reviews for a book I can’t bear to finish and find those reviews are written by authors publishing with the same company? I’m all for authors helping each other, but I smell a rat, particularly when a publisher’s website states that the organisation treats its writers like family. All very nice I’m sure, and I’m very fond of a lot of my clients, we talk about stuff other than writing, we even occasionally meet up for coffee, but when they’re paying me their hard-earned money for my hard work it’s a professional business relationship, not family, and that’s how it should be.
I’m not suggesting that these companies are deliberately misleading authors, or that they aren’t trying their best. What I am suggesting though is that they aren’t up to the job. And OK, they might not be charging their authors up front – they’re not vanity presses – but they are taking a cut of the writers’ earnings (if there are any) and for that an author deserves professionalism, deserves an editor who knows how to edit, a marketing manager who has experience in marketing.
I think a lot of this has to do with people thinking they can publish books just because they can. And on closer inspection, a lot of them, despite vague statements to the contrary, don’t have any RELEVANT experience.
So please, please, please lovely authors – beware. Don’t let the fact that a publisher wants to publish your book go to your head. You deserve more than what some of these people are offering. You can probably do what they do better yourself. I shall be posting soon on what you should be careful of and what you should look for if you are considering a small publisher. In the meantime, do be cautious, and do your homework.