Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Too Good to be True!

Like quite a few people, it seems I was taken in rather by the wonderful opportunity (see previous post), an opportunity said to be supported by the Arts Council, for unpublished authors to get into print. So taken in, in fact, that I spread the word amongst the members of my writing group and posted the details here on my blog. I am therefore extremely grateful to Jane Smith (a) for her helpful comment on my blog and (b) for giving other bloggers permission to reproduce her own post on her wonderful blog How Publishing Really Works.

This is what Jane wrote.

The UK-based writers’ website, YouWriteOn, is offering publication by Christmas to the first 5,000 writers who submit their work. That’s right: 5,000 books. By Christmas.

Writer Beware has already blogged about this in an article called 5,000 Writers. Unsurprisingly, Writer Beware has come down pretty heavily against the scheme. I’d also advise everyone to steer well clear of this, for all the reasons that Victoria gives in her article and a few more besides.

If you think that this will be a route to a commercial publication, think again. These books are going to get no editorial screening, editing, sales, distribution, marketing, or promotion; there’s a significant doubt over what the writers will actually earn; and by signing up to this scheme, writers will lose the first rights to the books involved, and so make it far less likely that they’ll ever manage to sell them to a commercial, mainstream publishing house.

Regardless of the sales talk I’ve read on YWO, publishers are usually only interested in acquiring first rights to a book: if it’s already been published, in whatever form, then those first rights are gone for good. Lynn Price, the rather perky editorial director of Behler Publications (a very well-regarded independent press in America) has blogged about this in some detail: you can find her post by following the links here.

If you’re determined to give up those precious first rights then bear in mind that this deal does not appear to give you anything more than you’d get if you directly approached Lulu, Lightning Source, or any other POD printer, and had them produce your book via the POD route. You download your book; you sell your book; they print up what you downloaded and send it out. Doing it yourself via a POD supplier gives you the opportunity to correct and amend your book’s text, cover and layout at any time, and at no cost to yourself—something you’ll not be able to do via YWO.

But apart from all of those issues, which most writers with any experience of proper, commercial publishing could spot from a mile off, I’m just flabbergasted at the idea of one person (because as far as I know, YWO is a one-man team) coping with downloading 5,000 books onto a POD server in time for Christmas. Even if YWO ignores its own submissions deadline of the end of October and starts downloading the books right now, there are only about ten weeks to Christmas; so that’s 500 books a week, or 100 per working day. The last time I downloaded anything to Lulu it took me a couple of hours to get the text formatted properly and the cover on right: assuming that there’s one person at YWO working an eight-hour day, taking no breaks at all, then they’re going to have to download one book every five minutes. I just hope they have better bladder control than I do.

Remember: it’s better to not be published at all than to be published badly. You only have to speak with people who have been skewered by Publish America, or some of the other vanity presses, to discover that.
So – be warned. If something seems too good to be true it usually is.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

YouWriteOn.com - Too Good to be True?

NB - PLEASE READ THE COMMENTS BELOW BEFORE DECIDING WHETHER TO RESPOND TO THIS YouWriteOn OPPORTUNITY!

Arts Council funded YouWriteOn.com will publish the first 5,000 writers who contact them for Free - Fiction & Non-Fiction

To participate follow these 2 steps:

1) Email youwriteon@googlemail.com, and inside your email add your name, address, telephone number, book title, genre, length of your book, and a synopsis up to 50 words

2) YouWriteOn will contact the first 5,000 people who email them by 31st October 2008. Your book will be ready to order by readers as a paperback by Christmas. Open to UK and US residents.

YouWriteOn.com - Free Publishing Aims
YouWriteOn's declared aim is to give the opportunity to new writers to help create success for their books. Since YouWriteOn began in 2006, they have seen their authors achieve success through both mainstream and alternative publishing. This summer’s member successes include a six figure publication deal with Random House for Caligula author Douglas Jackson, and member Keith Mansfield achieving a three book deal with Costa Award winning publisher Quercus with his children’s novel Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London. Many other YouWriteOn writers have received rave reviews from fellow writers and readers onsite, and having a book available to order gives new writers an added opportunity to try to achieve success.

Books will be available to order through the YouWriteOn website, and members will be able to get in touch with readers and reviewers who have enjoyed their book excerpts on site. YouWriteOn authors will receive 60% royalties for each copy sold to the public, compared to 12 to15% royalties that authors usually receive through mainstream publishing. Your book will be of the same quality as a bookstore paperback. You retain all rights to your book at all times. Open to UK and US residents only.

If you achieve success with your book and a publisher offers you a good deal, you can take up their offer straight away without any obligation to YouWriteOn.com. In Autumn 2007, YouWriteOn published Bufflehead Sisters by member Patricia J. DeLois – available to order online as a paperback - and the successful author achieved a 2 book deal with Penguin this summer. This was after bookstores contacted them so that they could stock the novel, and after thousands of online sales through them. Publishing is completely free through their setup process when writers send them their completed books.

Should you wish to potentially achieve a much higher readership through being available to order through all major booksellers throughout the UK and US, such as Waterstones, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and WH Smith's, then you can do so for £39.99 through YouWriteOn's separate partnership with Legend Press. Legend Press has been shortlisted for five publishing and business awards over the last 18 months, and in 2008 one of their titles Salt & Honey by Candi Miller was named as one of World Book Day's 'Top Ten Books to Talk About'. You retain all rights to your book. Email YouWriteOn@legendpress.co.uk to take advantage of this offer. Open to applicants of all nationalities.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Carol Ann Duffy comes to Deal

Split the Lark Poets

PRESENT

CAROL ANN DUFFY
Tickets £12. 00 (no cancellations )
Sunday
2nd November 2008
7.30 – 9-30 pm

Town Hall,
High Street,
Deal,
Kent CT14 6BB


Wine and Nibbles will be served

TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS
EMAIL LIZ TURNER: lizturnerdeal@hotmail.com

Monday, 22 September 2008

SAVE AS POETRY and PROSE COMPETITIONS (2008)

POETRY
Deadline: October 31st 2008
The inaugural Save As poetry competition is for poems on any subject with a maximum of 40 lines. Entries limited to 3 poems per entrant. Judge: Lynne Rees.
There is a £2 per poem entry fee (£5 for three) and there will be a cash prize for the top three entries.
Winner will be announced in November and will automatically go into the Save As anthology.
Entries can be either hard copy or electronic. If submitting hard copies either hand them to Luigi at a Save As workshop or post them to:
Luigi Marchini, 35 Spillet Close,Faversham, Kent ME13 8QP
All hard copies should be totally anonymous but should be accompanied by a separate sheet piece of paper with name, contact details and title of poem(s).
Electronic copies must be sent to saveas@hotmail.co.uk and headed as "poetry competition".
Payment for electronic or hard copies must be sent to Luigi Marchini at the above address - cheques must be payable to ‘Luigi Marchini’.
PROSE
Deadline: October 31st 2008
The inaugural Save As prose competition is for short stories on any subject with a maximum of 4000 words. Entries are unlimited. Judge: Patricia Debney (Canterbury’s poet laureate).
There is a £3 entry fee for each piece (£8 for three) and there will be a cash prize for the top entries.
Winner will be announced in November and will automatically go into the Save As anthology.
Entries can be either hard copy or electronic. If submitting hard copies either hand them to Luigi at a Save As workshop or post them to:
Luigi Marchini, 35 Spillet Close,Faversham, Kent ME13 8QP
All hard copies should be totally anonymous but should be accompanied by a separate sheet piece of paper with name, contact details and title of piece(s).
Electronic copies must be sent to saveas@hotmail.co.uk and headed as "prose competition".
Payment for electronic or hard copies must be sent to Luigi Marchini at the above address - cheques must be payable to ‘Luigi Marchini’.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Stubborn Mule Orchestra

To Deal Library last night to attend a performance by the Stubborn Mule Orchestra, a trio of local poets who recently collaborated in the self-publication of a rather good collection of poetry. There was a good turn out for the event, which was held in the gallery, a corner of the building set aside for displays of work by local artists. Gary Studley, a member of Deal Writers as well as SMO, Canterbury Poets, Save As and several other local literary groups, emceed the evening.

First off was Luigi Marchini with three poems from the SMO collection including David (Before Goliath), a poem that effectively distils both the sense of Biblical destiny and the poet’s trepidation at opening the show: - today is that future./I rise to meet it/lyre in one hand/sling in the other.

Chris Hobday then read three of his poems, including the excellent Swamp Work, about the process of writing poetry: With a shovel and a good arm/you can shift the leathery top-slop/and get underneath, like a peat bog. Reminiscent of Seamus Heaney’s Digging, but without the Irish accent.

Then Gary performed his three poems. Of the three, Gary is the more confident performer and his poems are better suited to performance poetry. They are, perhaps, less subtle than those of his two colleagues, but in the delivery they acquired a gutsy passion. The highly personal Dear Grandad, Wish You Were Here is case in point: on the page it seems a peculiar piece; in performance it sparkles.

During the interval, members of the audience were challenged to write a poem of their own, inspired by several ‘unusual’ objects brought along by members of SMO, and quite a number did so. The second half of the evening was then a repeat of the first, with each of the SMO members reading three poems, but it was finished off with poems from the floor.

A good evening of contrasting but always entertaining poetry. Copies of the Stubborn Mule Orchestra collection are available at £4.00 from the following bookshops in Canterbury: Blackwells, Christ Church University Bookshop, Castle Arts Gallery. They are also on sale in Deal (including the public library) or direct from Luigi: luigimarchini@hotmail.com.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Photocall

The East Kent Mercury will be writing a feature for their next edition on Deal Writers following the success of our anthology View from the Pier. As a result, all the group members who contributed to the collection were summoned to the bandstand on Walmer Green, overlooking the Channel, for a photoshoot with the Kent Messenger Group photographer. While we were posing, friends and family were also snapping, and this shot is probably the best of the bunch.

Back row, l – r: Venita Dickens, Jane Clarke, Jane Findley, Harry Harris. Front: Anna Hannah, Ros Beresford, Paul Curd, Bettine Walters, Lorraine Lloyd.

A few copies of View from the Pier are still available from bookshops in Deal and Sandwich, or can be ordered through the Deal Writers website. Our new anthology, Another View from the Pier, is due out in November.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Success on a Plate

This time last year I was cursing the time I was spending editing an anthology of work by my writing group, Deal Writers. It seemed a lot of hard work for little reward. But in the end, it was worth it. View from the Pier, as we called it, was eventually published in November last year. It was so successful it had to be reprinted by the New Year and is still selling well.

Now I have learnt that View from the Pier has been awarded the Denise Robertson Silver Trophy for the best group anthology of the year. The award was made by the National Association of Writers Groups at a Gala Dinner in Durham. Sadly I couldn't be there, so the presentation was made to me this morning by my postman. What a fantastic surprise.

Naturally enough, everyone at Deal Writers is thrilled and delighted to have won this award. View from the Pier was our very first publication, and for it to have come first in such a highly-regarded national competition is an honour for everyone involved. It just goes to show what good writers we have here in East Kent!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Writing like a painter?

Last week, The Secretary and I went to the Royal Academy to catch the Vilhelm Hammershøi exhibition before it closed this weekend. Hammershøi is best known for his sparse and enigmatic views of the interior of his Copenhagen flat, often featuring a woman with her back turned to the viewer (the model was usually his wife Ida). The exhibition, 'The Poetry of Silence', was the first British retrospective of the Danish painter whose paintings are full of emptiness (and if you think that’s a contradiction in terms then you should take a closer look at his work). Hammershøi's ‘trade mark’ includes a restricted, almost monochromatic palette and an uncanny sense that all is not as it seems in his pictures. What at first sight appears naturalistic turns out, on closer examination, to be ambiguous and not quite right. Uncanny, in fact. I found myself standing in front of the paintings with the hairs on the back of my head bristling. And it made me think how great it would be to write stories the way Hammershøi painted pictures. Does that make sense?


Take this painting, for example. A woman sits alone in an empty room. From her demeanour, it appears she is reading or sewing. Through an open door right in front we can see an interior of more empty rooms and open doors. Why is she sitting so close to the open door? Is she waiting for someone and, if so, who? Why is there an empty chair behind the door? What is going on here?

Hammershøi never explains. To him, the narrative of a painting was less important than the atmosphere – an atmosphere of silence, of subdued lighting, of subdued colours – a sense of unease. In a gallery packed as full as a London tube train, I found myself being drawn into these pictures of silence and emptiness, as if into another world. Just like a first-class short story, a Hammershøi painting refuses to explain its meaning immediately, but demands that you stop, look and think, and then look and think some more.

Saturday, 6 September 2008