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Places to Write When You’re Fed Up with Working at Home

Do you ever get cabin fever? If you’re a full-time author, I bet you get fed up with working at home and want to find other places to write in. Here are five suggestions you might find interesting as alternatives. So, what are you waiting for? Get out and about!
1. Libraries
This one is rather obvious. You would be surprised how many authors and writers don’t consider going to their local library to work. Libraries, often have desks to work at and even a passable (free) Internet connection.
Visiting these institutions can be pleasurable as their working areas are equipped with desks, reading lamps and comfortable chairs. It can sometimes get busy, especially if your area has students close by who are using it to study (or flirt!). But if you get there early, or apply for a Reader Pass, you can find your perfect, quiet working space.
2. Theatre Cafés
A lot of authors have at some time or other used various cafés to write their masterpieces. J K Rowling wrote large parts of the Harry Potter series in The Elephant House Cafe in Edinburgh.  However, many establishments are now quite savvy (and a bit fed up) with freelancers who turn up at nine am, buy one coffee and occupy a table for the whole day. Not so in most theatre cafés.
Many Theatre Cafés can be functional, with airy architecture, and because can you stay there for any amount of time, you might spot a famous actor arriving or leaving rehearsals. It also exudes artiness with posters and works of art on its barren walls. A theatre is a useful place for a few hours uninterrupted working.
There may also be other Café’s which offer quiet places for writers. You need to investigate your local area. In mine of Cardiff Bay there is Sunflower & I, a café which offers a unique experience. Having a Bohemian style and atmosphere it is the ideal place for a writer. And it has a 16+ rule which means no children to disturb that inspirational flow.
3. Formal Gardens
This is probably not such a useful tip, especially in the midst of winter in the UK. But, if you’re on the other side of the world, or it’s summer where you are, then get to a garden to write when you’re fed up with working at home. Find a shaded bench or a leafy tree to sit under, take out your notebook or laptop and start writing.
A public garden is ideal as there’s something about the sound of nature, be it birdsong, the gentle flow of water from a pond, or the rustle of the wind in majestic trees that never fails to inspire. You can also write on the decking of your home, or in your own garden. And, if you are close to the sea, this is another special place to write.
Remember, writing places can, in themselves be inspirational.
4. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
OK, so you can’t really write in a car unless it’s a huge motor-home. However, trains and planes are absolutely the best places to get a lot of writing done. I’m not sure why this is, but I guess it’s the lack of distractions. For the number of minutes or hours, you are stuck in a seat with a table in front of you not doing anything, and poor wifi (if any), it is perfect!
5. Other People’s Homes
‘What?’ I hear your shout. Now, bear with me. We are not suggesting you sneak into other people’s homes and settle down to write a few words of your manuscript. No, no, no!
Imagine this. You are invited to a house party for the weekend, but are in the middle of a manuscript. You want to go, but are thinking of refusing the invitation.
Instead of being a party pooper, and saying, “I’d love to come for a visit, but I have to work.”
Instead say, “I’d love to come for a visit, but as I have to work would you mind if I spend a few hours writing while I’m there?” Most people won’t mind, honestly.
I know of one author’s friend who is keeping an early draft of a manuscript she wrote in her house, in case (she said ‘when’ – a true friend), the author becomes famous.
I hope I’ve given you some ideas on what to do if the walls are closing in and you are fed up with working at home.
So, what’s your favourite place to write? I’d love to know!

MONEY SHOULD FLOW TO THE AUTHOR

Popular advice states that in any publishing relationship, money should flow toward the author. It’s easy to see how that applies in the case of notorious vanity presses like Author Solutions, Austin Macauley, and Outskirts Press, companies with a reputation for extracting as much money from authors’ pockets as possible. However, the idea that paying for any publishing service is inherently bad is emphatically not the case.

So, when should you pay to publish your book, and how does the ‘money flow toward the author’ rule apply?

A La Carte Services:
The term ‘self-publishing’ is a bit of a misnomer. Few people have the aptitude or experience to handle every aspect of a book’s production, and so most authors rely on outside help. Whether that’s hiring an editor, a cover designer, a marketing service, a distributor, or any other service.

For money to flow toward the author it doesn’t mean you should never pay someone as part of your book’s production. It only means that those services must be cost effective and add to the author’s bottom line. Authors must be confident that any money invested will return in the form of sales.

A la carte services can be essential to maximizing your book’s sales. It easy to see the value of these services when they are part of an isolated transaction. You pay a company x, you receive y, and the value received for your purchase is determined. It’s that straightforward. If the work pays for itself in a reasonable time, then money is flowing toward the author, and you have received value for your investment.

Publishing Packages:
A full-service publishing package carries a daunting price tag, and should provide a level of service that justifies the cost. Before you invest your money, look for evidence of other successful books the company has produced. Are they selling well? Do they have ample reviews? Have they reached and sustained a relatively high sales rank on Amazon?

Don’t purchase a publishing package without a clear idea of how many copies of your book you’ll need to sell to recoup the cost. And the evidence that you’ll be able to do so in a reasonable amount of time. If most of a company’s books are tumbling into the bottomless pit of obscurity, question if you can trust them to elevate yours?

All-in-one publishing packages are frequently padded with high-cost, low-value fluff, which complicates the task of evaluating whether a package is worth your investment. Watch out for items like:

  • ISBN numbers - These should be owned by the self-publishing author, and are obtainable directly from registrars like Nielsen (in the UK), Bowker (in the US) and Thorpe-Bowker (in Australia).

  • Copyright filing - There are a number of Copyright Service Companies available in the UK for copyright your draft manuscripts. Once published your work is automatically copyrighted to you. For Authors selling in the US you can register a formal copyright online for a $35 fee, in under 15 minutes. Some companies may charge hundreds of dollars for this service, then hide the cost among the rest of the publishing package services so be aware.

Inclusion in catalogues and websites:
Few services have the reach and fan base to promote your book this way, particularly an obscure small press or relatively unknown service provider. But keep in mind that quantity isn’t everything as the ultimate goal of any marketing is not just to reach large numbers of people, it is to reach the specific audience most likely to buy your book. 3 million Twitter followers won’t make a difference to your book’s sales if those followers are not interested in your genre. Or they are spammers and bots looking for a ‘follow back.’

If the publishing package you’re considering is holding these services up as valuable considerations, reflect on how much of the fee can be broken down into the discrete services whose value you know. You may be better served by an a la carte service where you can shop for the best value, and know exactly what those services are costing you.

These services may be a useful investment in the production of your book, but being able to determine whether money is indeed flowing back to the author is the key to separating a good service from a substandard one.

Pay-to-Publish Schemes:
Readers pay little attention to the publisher or the imprint of the books they select. Factors like cover appeal, description, and reviews carry far more weight than the publisher’s name, particularly a smaller imprint that’s not widely recognized.

Under no circumstance should an author pay solely for the right to be published under an imprint. This is the essence of vanity publishing, and a key difference between a contracted self-publishing service provider and a traditional publisher. Whereas a service provider is simply performing a service for payment, traditional publishers have a greater responsibility for the works they issue.

If the ability to pay is the primary criteria used to determine whether someone will be published under an imprint, then that publisher cannot make any claim to the prestige of their imprint. And if they are curating what they publish on the basis of profitability, and are confident in the success of the book, why are they demanding the author pay?

Which brings us to the final category…

Subsidy/Hybrid Publishing:
Subsidy publishing, also known as hybrid publishing, claims to offer the benefits of traditional publishing arrangements, but requires the author to pay some or all of the publishing costs. In theory, the author receives a greater percentage of royalties in compensation.
Because there are countless bad actors attempting to reframe vanity publishing as ‘hybrid publishing,’ the ALLi Watchdog Desk advises extreme caution when presented with this type of arrangement. There are some reputable hybrid publishers and small presses operating in this way, but distinguishing this ethical minority from the exploitative majority can be quite a challenge. The ALLi Watchdog’s chief concern about hybrid publishing is that it can disproportionately shift the burden of risk onto the author without there being any compensation.

In traditional publishing, the publisher bears the responsibility for ensuring that a book is profitable. They undertake the cover design, editing, the production, distribution and other publishing responsibilities, but keep most of the book’s sales as compensation. If the publisher fails in their responsibilities and the book does not sell, it’s the publisher who takes the loss. Therefore, they have a strong incentive to ensure the success of the book.

In self-publishing, third-party service providers are responsible only for delivering the services they are contracted to perform. The transactions are clear-cut, and the provider’s obligation generally ends once the service has been delivered. The author retains overall control of the process and bears responsibility for the success, or failure of the book. They reap the rewards of their investment in the form of much greater royalties.

With hybrid publishing arrangements, the author pays the publisher up front, and thereby assumes nearly all the risk. If the publisher fails to deliver on their promises, and the book does not sell, it is the author who bears the cost, and the loss. Worse, the publisher already has their profit in hand, so has that much less incentive to invest in the book’s success. And to cap it off, many hybrid publishers also retain a significant chunk of the royalties. The author is financing the production of the book and absorbing the risk, just as they would in self-publishing, but is giving up a measure of control, sacrificing royalties, and may not receive value commensurate with the risk they’re undertaking.

Hybrid publishing is an important example of why the ‘money flows toward the author’ statement is a crucial guideline. In traditional publishing, that assurance in built into the contract. Money either flows from the customer to the publisher then to the author, or it doesn’t flow at all. And, the publisher’s profit is dependent on selling the book. But in hybrid publishing and self-publishing services, there is no guarantee built into the arrangement. And a one-way flow of cash from the author is a real and omnipresent danger meaning the author must take great care to verify that money flowing away from them will return, multiplied.

YOU ARE AN ARTIST





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Dear Writer,

You have a story that is worth telling. But maybe your writing hasn’t caught up yet to the inspired idea you’ve been working out in your mind as you sit and recover from your day job.

What you must remember is that writing is a process.

At the moment, you are probably still at the drafting out stage. Drafts, particularly first drafts, aren’t perfect. They are messy. Often riddled with grammatical errors and sentences which appear to be in a language of your choosing but which sounds foreign. You question if this is exactly where your writing is supposed to be?

Well yes! When you start to write it is usually in clichés and flat lines of dialogue. Mainly, because you are only in the beginning stages of unveiling what your story is all about. You haven’t reached its true potential as that is still some way down the road. What you need to do is think of yourself as an artist, sketching out the shapes of a landscape. Adding detail and colour will come later, with patience.

However, you will experience failure. Often due to self-doubt which occurs during the drafting stage. As you read your first draft you will consider that the inconsistencies and poorly structured sentences deem you unfit to continue writing. Making you feel a disgrace to the art of composition. But, remember the artist. Just because he sketched a shoe instead of a foot doesn’t mean he can’t draw toes. No. He is waiting for the right moment. And it is the same for a writer. One has to accept that one is imperfect to be a writer. Like an artist accepts that the first line he draws won’t be the straightest.”

Ask any author to review their first draft and they will all confess to being embarrassed. It could be by having a number of identical characters, or a main character who doesn’t know what he/she wants? The author probably didn’t know either at the time. But that first draft, however horrible it was, serves them as a reminder that having the draft of a novel, is a lot better than having an idea for a novel. You can revise a draft, but you can’t revise an idea. After all, an idea is just hot air and not where the draft physically exists.

You must be willing to be imperfect to be a writer. As an artist, accepts that the first line he draws won’t be your straightest. Luckily, however, there are tools to help you reshape your work, but that will come later.

You’re a writer and an artist even though your novel is not finished.

What will separate you from others is that, while they have ideas for stories, they have failed to do what you do every day? You write.

Writing is not a competition. It is an art which should be practiced. You should have one goal, and that is to complete what you haven’t had the courage or time to do in the past. Remember, you don’t need to outdo someone else, or make your partners, friends, and family members proud. They can cheer you on, but don’t let yourself believe that when your word count slips you are letting them down in any way. If you can write for a minimum of 20 minutes a day, you are doing great. Of course, anything longer is a bonus, so revel in the journey of discovery.

Ann Brady

Mentoring Writers


Tips for your Book Signing

Having recently launched my latest novel and despite having done quite a few of these I am still often left wondering what to do to prepare for the event. Regardless of what we think not every signing is the same although there are similarities.
Having talked to other authors and based on my own experiences I have come up with a few ideas and tips which may help you get through your first signing event.
 Don’t be timid! Everything come to those who ask? One of the best ideas is to approach your local bookshop (if you have one) and ask if they will schedule an event. It’s always a good idea to make sure you have a copy of your book, even a review one to give to the person who is organising the event. Maybe you could sign it for the person? Besides it will give you some practice especially if this is your debut book.
 Be imaginative! Remember that bookshops aren't the only places to hold a book signing. Perhaps your novel is historical based, in which case you could look for a venue or setting that matches the theme of the story. Always consider contacting such venues. You and your fans will be so happy you did!
 Always be professional! I’m sure your mother always told you to ‘mind your Ps and Qs’. Well, if she didn’t then I will. Good manners - ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ - go a long way toward making allies of booksellers, even if they have not agreed to your polite requests to hold an event.
 Be thorough! Make sure you send out notices of your book launch and signing event. Remember press releases to your local media, and of course, online contacts.
 Check back! Keep in touch with the events organiser especially a couple of weeks prior to the event just to make sure everything is on track for The Big Day. Some booksellers will provide posters and/or other advertising, but don't be surprised, or upset, if you are asked to provide these materials. Co-operate as much and as fully as you are able to. Always remember to be professional in your responses.
 Be presentable! There is an old saying that first impressions are important so I would think this goes without saying. I would never tell anyone how to dress although it’s a good idea to look clean and tidy. Many authors like to co-ordinate their attire with their book's cover, or the theme of the story. I realise this approach isn't for everyone but whatever you choose to wear, personal comfort is always a consideration.
 Punctuality! Allow plenty of time to arrive at the venue so make sure you're clear on your directions, traffic patterns, and the availability of parking spaces, etc. There is no shame in being "directionally challenged," so if all else fails, ask. Better early than arriving late. But, if you do happen to run late, a courtesy call to the event organiser is a must.
 Be prepared! Make sure you are prepared and have everything you need on the day with. Even turning up with too many items is better than running short of forgetting something important.
Here is a list of items you might wish to take with you:
o Your favourite signing pen but make sure it’s working. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's far better to check before than be disappointed later.
o A seat cushion. If your event is scheduled to last more than a couple of hours you might find a cushion useful. You want to bring, a favourite drink or snack, check with the bookseller first to make sure it doesn't violate store policy.
o If you have a mailing list, provide some paper (and a pen) for fans to sign up. Don't forget to include a space for email addresses.
o Promotional items such as bookmarks, fliers, copies of great reviews or other promotional goodies people can take away with them. Even if they don’t buy your book during the event they could come back later and buy.
o "Autographed by Author" stickers. The bookshop might provide these, but if not, you can purchase or design your own. Try and match them to the book's cover text and place where it doesn't hide any of the important elements.
o Have your press kit and business cards. These don’t need not be on display unless you want them to be but, they're handy to have as you never know when someone from the media might wander by.
o Bring anything else you feel is eye-catching and ties in with the theme of your book. For my historical novel I had a red velvet tablecloth with a beautiful lace one over the top. For my children’s picture books, I have sticker, bookmarks and novelties that matched the theme of the stories on the books.
And if you're selling as well as signing, don't forget a receipt book and cash box with plenty of coins, including small pound notes, for making change. Remember to keep any receipts for items you purchase safe as well.
 Be knowledgeable! You would be surprised at some of the questions you be asked that have nothing to do with your books? Such as “What time is it?” and “Where are the toilets?” I once overheard someone ask an author, "Are you really allowed to write in those books?"
 Be appreciative! The event is over and there are some books left. If they have been provided by the bookshop why not politely ask them if they would like you to sign the remaining stock. Or, if you feel so inclined and your budget permits, ask to purchase some of the copies. Bookshops usually buy books at around 50% of the cover price, so try asking to purchase extra copies at, say, 40% off? It's a win-win deal for you and the bookseller. If the answer to any of these questions is no, remember to be professional! Of course, if you have provided your own books ask the bookseller if they would like to purchase any? The percentage you will give will be dependent upon your base cost per book.
 Thankyou! Remember to follow-up after the event with a letter of thanks to the organiser. This is a thoughtful touch.
 And, last but certainly not least: relax and be yourself! With organisation, forward planning and being relaxed on the day your event will truly be a success.

How to Write a Book Synopsis That Stands Out

You’ve written your book but what to do next? Well of course, it needs to be published but how? You decide to approach an agent or a publisher, and after reviewing their submission guidelines you see they want a full synopsis and a few sample chapters of your book!
An author creating a book synopsis is a lot like a marketing writer having to put an advertisement or online landing page together. Both messages are usually short, sweet, and designed to instigate interest and hopefully, some action in the reader. But where new authors tend to fall down is in knowing their audience.

Let’s talk about a synopsis in the strictest sense. In other words, a complete, condensed insight of your story. Image it as being a snapshot of your book. Perhaps a trailer you’d watch if your novel were a movie, except in this case, the ending is revealed. And the intended audience?

Prospective agents and/or publishers.

When preparing a synopsis for these prospects, lots of authors think they need to leave the reader with a cliff-hanger. Keeping them in suspense! After all, this is about getting them excited and willing to take the next step. Right? Wrong.

Actually, the reality is totally different, as no-one is going to financially back a piece of work if they don’t know how it ends. So, what are the nuts and bolts of preparing a synopsis that is likely to grasp the interest of those on the business side of publishing?

Step 1: Creating a strong synopsis might give you some surprises. You should in theory do it before you write the book. What I hear you saying. But yes, it’s true. Writing the synopsis before you begin isn’t technically writing a synopsis – it’s creating a rough outline of what is going to happen, but it can form the basis of what is required to explain what your story is all about.

Few publishers are interested in helping you bring an idea to market (unless you’re already signed to a multi-book contract). They are looking for a finished product they can bring to the market, so you should be offering them something that has shape and which allows them to do it quickly.
Step 2:  Always follow correct synopsis formatting. You can rarely go wrong by using the standard manuscript format. A caveat there, however, is to always keep an eye on the publisher/agent’s specific demands. If they ask for something different in their guidelines, then that will beat any standard conventions for the industry.

Step 3: Make sure you write in the third person, using present tense, and regardless of what *POV or tense the book is written in. Also, put the first occurrence of each character’s name in CAPS so they can easily be picked out as the reader skims down the page.

Step 4: Moving on to content. The meat of your submission. Firstly, reduce the beginning of the book down to just a couple of sentences. Remember, you have pages and pages where you have introduced characters, settings, and conflict in the actual novel.

What you need to do is pick out what’s essential and present only the bare facts. Don’t go for atmospheric vagueness more a concrete foundation for the reader. You’ve reached a pure business stage in communication between publisher and writer, and your synopsis is a functional outlay of your story’s plot. It isn’t the blurb on the back of your book, and therefore isn’t meant to act as an end-user sales piece. Teasing the twists and turns and speaking directly to the reader aren’t techniques that fit in well here.

Stick to a direct and professional method of revealing your story’s structure. And, leave out any details or subplots that aren’t essential to the main narrative(s). Focus more on chapters than individual scenes. This is a concise breakdown of your story. Often no longer than 800 words but sometimes even less. So, always keep in mind that you are providing an overview rather than a blow-by-blow account.

Step 5: Read your synopsis through once more with your eye on character arcs, and make sure you’ve included your protagonist’s journey from the person they were at the beginning to who they become at the end. This is where you’re most likely to realise you’ve accidentally created a plot hole by omission. Show off your protagonist’s goals and actions, and your villain’s counter-actions. Look for defining moments in your characters’ journeys, and highlight how they change the course of the narrative.

When you’re done with that, read it through again for clarity, flow and rhythm, and then just one last time for spelling and grammar. You’ll probably be sick of reading it over by this point!

Trim as many words as you can. Use descriptive phrases sparingly, and choose words that carry a lot of weight instead of packing your synopsis with fluffy fillers.

In the end, you’re likely to have roughly a page to a page and a half of writing. A hard-fought distillation of your entire novel, ready to hit the desk of an agent or publisher with professional, no-nonsense aplomb. And, if it’s got to be shorter then you need to start cutting.
To help you why not try and write a synopsis of a book you’ve recently read and see if you can match the storyline? Remember, perfection comes with practice.

*POV - Point of View

WHAT IS A 'PALKANA'?

It is surprising how one can travel to the other side of the world only to find oneself sitting next to someone who actually lives not far away from you. This proves the world isn’t as large a place as we think. And can also often lead to interesting conversations. Travel is also an adventure which will open one’s mind to many new and exciting experiences. And, in truth, as long as you don’t look with your ‘eyes,’ (ie your prejudices or ideas) then it will.

As an author you can benefit from the joys of travel as it will give you the basics for your writing. It can generate new ideas, scenarios, characters, plots etc. Each adventure is a new story, or part thereof, in the making. As the author you are in control. Make of it what you will.

Recently I spent some time with my family in Australia. If you’ve never been ‘down under’ then let me tell you, like most places anywhere in the world they have some of the most unusual names for things. Particularly when it comes to naming their towns and villages. Perhaps it’s something to do with their Aboriginal heritage. Think of ‘Palkana’ or ‘Yileen.’ Most unusual.

While out driving my daughter and I began to put the names of the places we passed against the characters of different animals. The intention being that I could use these in one of my future Little Friends children’s story books. We even discussed what each animals’ individual characteristic feature would be. The exercise proved not only to be a lot of fun but also quite informative. It just goes to show that inspiration for writing can come in many formats and from a variety of ways.

So, remember, whenever you get stuck and need some new ideas for your writing, stop, look around and observe what is happening in the world around you. It may surprise you what is happening and how it will inspire you to write.

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HOW LIFE AFFECTS AN AUTHOR

I recently attended a workshop about writing for young people - MG and YA groups.One of the subjects raised was how to incorporate the actions of youngsters (or indeed anyone) who write about their feelings on social media.
This of course, led to quite a  discussion. Strangely, a long-distance friend (met through social media) had recently asked for opinions regarding the behaviour of her daughter’s friend. In a nutshell this friend had written something about the daughter which was only half truth. She had also slanted it to put herself in the position of being the ‘victim,’ even though there had been independent witnesses to the contrary. As expected both the daughter and the mother were upset. However, they didn’t want to ‘lower’ themselves to the same level by reacting hastily and responding in kind.
As you can imagine there was a lengthy and contrary discussion over the matter resulting in the majority agreeing on the sort of advice we, as group, would have give the Mother. Our comment was that the daughter should ignore the comments even though it was hurtful as her friend was only showing her true colours by lashing out. Many believed the girl was so wrapped up in the belief of her own hurt (rightly ot wrongly) that she has failed to see the wrong she has done to her friend.
It was also felt that the girl was showing how immature she is as she is unprepared or incapable of discussing the problem face on. We hoped she would see the damage she has done before it is too late as she will obviously lose the friendship. This led us on to discussing the harm that social media does to our young people. But some commented how it also shows how immature they are.
Our discussions went further as we discussed the ways in which we could utilise our writing skills in teaching young people through our stories not to be so judgemental without good cause. It goes to show how life can affect what we authors write about. And of course gave the workshop leader the perfect subject for an exercise in writing about how to include such behaviour within our writing.
Just shows how everyday life affects what we authors do.
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Identity Theft

This week I experienced a form of identity theft on Twitter. This is the first time in 30 years of dealing with the internet and computers that I have had this happen. So, I suppose I have, to some degrees, been fortunate.

It appears someone had taken my image, my name (minus the 'y') and the bio details of my long standing Twitter account and used them to create a new account which had over 160 people following it. Strangely some of them were already following me on my official account. What was worse was that the person tweeting on the account was leaving a phone number purporting to be offering writing services but she was in fact soliciting for men? I actually discovered her personal email by following the phone number through Google and finding an advert for her in an online American Newspaper!

After many emails shouting (literally) at Twitter, and having proven who I really was who I said I was, they finally accepted that the new account was bogus and removed it. I have to say how frustrating and annoying the whole process was but thankfully it is finished with.

Of course, the only problem now, is that it has left me feeling slightly paranoid which is something I normally never feel. So much so, that I have been double checking my name on every social media, search engine etc etc I can find. Just in case!! And, I've been going through all my accounts and resetting my passwords as well. Very time consuming to say the least. It's surprising, as an Author and Writer, just how many accounts one accumulates?

So remember people, take extra care and regularly check your details out there in the floating cloud! This internet can be lethal at times.

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UNIVERSAL CREDIT THREATENS FUTURE WRITERS

According to the Society of Authors it has warned MPs that the changes to Universal Credit could silence working-class writers, impeding diversity in publishing and thus making it harder to attract different types of readers.
Speaking at the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group inquiry into authors’ earnings on Tuesday (30th October), the SoA chief executive Nicola Solomon cautioned MPs that Universal Credit - awarded as a single monthly payment to people who are on a low income or out of work (twice monthly for some in Scotland) - could be detrimental to some authors’ income, forcing them to give up writing all together.

The SoA further explained that under the old system, currently in the process of being phased out, some authors with low earnings are able to claim working tax credits to supplement their income, thus ensuring they continue writing as a profession. But replacing this with the Universal Credit means self-employed people have to meet the “Minimum Income Floor” (an assumed level of earnings, based on what the government expects an employed person to receive in similar circumstances) in order to receive benefits. This is a threshold many writers are unable to reach. "This is equivalent to the National Living Wage for most working-age people," SoA said. "Given that the median annual income of a professional author is about £10,500, well below the National Living Wage, many authors will lose their entitlement to benefits under the new scheme."

Ms Solomon highlighted to MPs in her testimony to the inquiry that authors, including the likes of JK Rowling and 2018's Man Booker winner Anna Burns, have depended on the benefits system to support their writing. In the acknowledgements of Milkman (Faber), Burns notably gave thanks for the support of benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions that - along with the support of her local food bank, various charities and the SoA - enabled her to write her acclaimed book; sales of which reached the highest volume of any winner in the BookScan era in the week after winning the prestigious prize.

Unfortunately, claims the SoA, changes to the benefits system risks driving such working-class writers out of the industry. "From JK Rowling to Anna Burns, many authors have depended on the benefits system to support their writing. But, the design of the Universal Credit fails to recognise the reality of the work of authors or other self-employed workers in the cultural sector," said Solomon told the inquiry.

"Universal Credit risks driving working-class authors and other under-represented voices out of the profession. This would have a shocking impact on the diversity of stories being told. If writing is seen as a privilege then, only the privileged will be able to write. This gives us an incredibly narrow group of people who can afford to write, which in turn will make it harder to attract new readers and lead to a narrowing of our readership base."

NB We all know that writers are not in it for the money but this action will destroy more than just the pleasure of writing as less books produced will be detrimental to our children, grandchildren and future great-grandchildren.

Courtesy of the Society of Authors
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5 REASONS AUTHORS FALL for VANITY PRESSES

Whenever we hear stories about authors being defrauded by unscrupulous vanity presses, sometimes for thousands of pounds, the reaction can often be unsympathetic:
               “It’s their own fault for being so gullible.”              
                 “They should have done their homework.”              
                 “That was a stupid mistake. Don’t they read about these things?”
Whilst it is true that authors have more information at their fingertips than ever before we still question why some keep falling for these scams and schemes from the same exploitative companies?
1. High-pressure sales target author psychology
Vanity presses are quite notorious for being aggressive in their pursuit of authors. Once they have your contact information, vanity presses often flood you with inquiries and “reminders” to join them. One “manuscript referral service” tested resulted in over 120 emails from some of the worst vanity presses in the industry.
Throughout, these solicitations the push is to initiate a phone conversation with the author. A sales rep can apply more manipulative sales tactics when having a direct conversation with you. Remember, once a vanity press gets its hooks into you, the pressure can be relentless.
2. Vanity presses provide emotional validation
Flattering a prospective author is one way that Vanity presses can ensnare you. Usually by assuring you that only the best manuscripts are selected for publication by their “editorial board.” Having submitted a manuscript so epically atrocious it must have reduced more than one editor to tears of laughter, maybe just to tears?
A forty-page “autobiographical, metaphysical, self-help book for adults” was also submitted to eight of the most prominent vanity presses. Unsurprisingly, every single one replied to let me know they were interested in publishing my masterpiece? To a novice author who is uncertain of the marketability of their work and perhaps eager for validation, such a positive response from a perceived ‘authority’ can be powerfully seductive.
What you must remember is, it’s honesty and practical advice you need as an author, not ego stroking and half-truths.
3. Vanity presses prey on an author’s insecurities
Flattery is always seductive, but that’s not the only way a vanity press can work their way into an author’s psyche. Many vanity presses will try to persuade you that you are incapable of producing a professional book without forking out for an expensive, full-service, publishing package. This is especially effective if you are not comfortable with new technology. After all the idea of handing over the details of publishing to someone who can take care of it all for you must be enticing.
Vanity presses tend to bombard the author with the message that they cannot succeed alone, and that the fees are really only a “manageable investment.”
What most authors don’t realise is that the “manageable investment” could exceed £15,000.
ALLi authors can attest, professional quality is within reach of any author willing to put in the time and effort, and it doesn’t require a £15,000 publishing package to achieve.
4. Prejudices about self-publishing
Despite a decade of rapid evolution, the self-publishing industry still faces prejudices and unfair assumptions, such as:
           Self-published books are amateurish
           Self-publishing is prohibitively expensive
           Self-publishing requires the author to do everything themselves
           Self-publishing is a last resort for authors who couldn’t secure traditional publishing contracts
Vanity presses routinely exploit these prejudices, often trying to persuade the novice author that they can’t succeed without their company’s help. And, that their only other options are years of fruitless queries to traditional publishers, or a difficult and lonely self-publishing process that’s doomed to failure.
To the author, this sales pitch may strengthen their lack of belief in them self. Having encountered amateurish self-published books they often assume that is the state of all such published books, never having seen any evidence to the contrary.
Remember, a professional self-published book is indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. It’s only the amateurish books that are bad in the reader’s eye.
5. Reliable information is lost in the noise
Trustworthy sources of information about self-publishing companies are few and far between. ALLi’s Watchdog Desk has evaluated and rated hundreds of services, and other industry watchdogs like Writer Beware are an invaluable resource, but they are both limited by time and staff constraints. Authors may not know of these resources, or may lack the technical skills to find them on the search engines. The problem is further compounded by the volume and prominence of misinformation on the Internet.
Vanity presses purchase highly-visible ads for top searches, thus ensnaring unsuspecting authors looking for information. Supposedly respectable publications take ads for substandard vanity presses, legitimising those companies. Consumer watchdog charities like the Better Business Bureau sell out, whitewashing negative ratings for companies that purchase “accreditation.” (For example, notorious vanity press Author Solutions carries an A+ rating with the BBB, despite hundreds of complaints and a majority of negative reviews.)
Some Vanity Presses flood the Internet with glowing testimonials from authors they have deceived. Others wage despicable smear campaigns against self-publishing watchdogs in an attempt to discredit them.
When searching for reliable information on how to self-publish, the deck is stacked against us authors.
However, you can help arm unwary authors against schemes and scams by sharing watchdog service ratings and alerts. In the end, it’s not the author who should be blamed for falling victim to a rip-off; it’s the deceptive vanity presses that have made an industry of defrauding authors.
Courtesy of John Doppler at ALLi (https://selfpublishingadvice.org/)