My Own Silver Linings PlayBook – The Road to Recovery and ReadWave.

Silver Linings

Firstly, I’m so pleased that after weeks of having blog technical problems, everything is sorted. So, hello again my lovelies! ūüėÄ xx

Secondly, I simply cannot get my brain to accept that it is November already. All Hallows Eve has passed in a haze of heightened sugar and badly written hammy horror and suddenly the nights are full of smoke from blazing bonfires and the familiar shrill whizz of fireworks.

We’ve had a mild Autumn, a thankful tiding¬†given the rare and gloriously sun-drenched Summer we enjoyed this year, with its bounty¬†of flowers, butterflies and bees, its¬†azure skies and hard-baked earth. Ah…what bliss!

But, as the clocks have now gone back, reminding us that Winter is truly at our doorstep, and the dull days linger less and less, with darkness descending earlier each day, there is no escaping that yet another year is drawing to a close.

So, where has it gone?

Have you achieved the goals you set yourself at the beginning of the year? – in those heady moments of New Year’s Eve, when everything¬†is exciting and fresh¬†and the year ahead seems like an endless Pandora’s box¬†of possibilities and opportunities? Or, has the year passed you by in a blur? pandora's box

For me, it’s definitely been the latter, but I have optimism for the next year, after all, 13 has never been a lucky number for me, so 2014 should be fine, eh?

But, there have been some good things this year, apart from the lovely Summer, and the support of family and friends (you know who you are!) and my adorable white wolves… earlier in the year, while on Goodreads, I was contacted by a rather nice chap called Rob Tucker. He had just co-founded a new website, ReadWave,¬†http://www.readwave.com/¬†dedicated to showcasing new writers and the best short stories for readers to enjoy and share. He kindly invited me to join ReadWave as he liked my work and asked me to spread the word, which I did, diligently telling all my mates about this amazing new site which many of them have now also joined. readwave_full_logo[1]

The beauty of ReadWave, unlike other writing sites, is that there are no forums to get embroiled in petty arguments with infantile minded trolls cruising the net to pick a fight because they have nothing better to do. It’s just all about the stories. Read what you want, comment if you want, like and share if you want, it’s entirely up to you. They have some truly great stuff on there. I’m thrilled and rather humbled that all my work seems to be popular and is well received, http://www.readwave.com/sophie.e.tallis/¬†and I’ve even had the honour of having a piece ‘Staff Picked’, they now call it the ‘Editor’s Choice’, reserved for the very best work. Woo hoo!

This has been a particular solace to me this year, as due to this damn illness and the strange mental effects it has, my short-term memory and concentration are totally shot to hell, which means that I really am incapable at the moment of being able to focus on anything long enough to sustain¬†a thought through to its conclusion. (I won’t tell you how long it takes me to do each one of these posts, it’s truly embarrassing).

In other words, novel-writing is totally IMPOSSIBLE. The plain truth is, that since I got sick back in Jan/February, I haven’t been able to touch any of my book projects. As weeks became months, I stopped crucifying myself over it and just had to let the frustration and anger go, I could no sooner do it than fly to the moon. My physiotherapist told me to take things slowly, in my stride, that part of¬†my re-cooperation after such a huge vestibular collapse,¬†was to do small things. Try to read. Try to write a sentence. To take the mental challenges as slowly as the physical rehabilitation. Walk before you can run kind of thing. walk before you can run

Reading was impossible for the first couple of months due to swirling text, then I simply kept zoning out, reading the same page over and over like some zombie or a toy whose battery had stopped. Over the summer though, I had a breakthrough, I was able to read my first book since February, it took me a LONG time, but I did it and I retained what I read…well, most of it. Then I read another book, and another, and another, all great mental exercises (also my friend Lindsey Parsons fantastic debut novel, Vortex, was such a pleasure to re-read). Again, over the summer I tried writing and kept zoning out again. A simple thing like¬†writing a letter, would take hours and hours of stopping and starting and resting. But weirdly, one thing I found I was able to do, as I had done before I got ill, that somehow didn’t require that heightened level of concentration but just simply flowed naturally out of me, was write poetry and short stories!

And so, after the frustration and failures of not being able to do anything, I found after many long months, that I could still do one thing and do it well. So, I have a HUGE thank you to say to Rob Tucker. That unexpected encounter on Goodreads gave me a creative life-line, like this blog,¬†which in turn has helped me in my recovery. Rob doesn’t know any of this, but if he reads this and I hope he does, THANK YOU!

The icing on the cake, was when he recently asked me to become a Staff Reviewer on ReadWave, which I gladly accepted. Then finding out that another short story I’ve written is going to be published next year by a lovely UK-based publisher (unlike my last one!) and that I’ve been asked by several authors to provide illustrations for them for their books, all wonderful small things I can do!

All this has taught me, that although times can get very tough and bleak, there is always a silver lining out there, you’ve just got to keep going and look for it!

ūüėÄ xxxx

English: Silver Lining The end of a cold storm...

Biting nails, book signing and the road to publication – Part 4

Okay, you’ve written, edited¬†and honed¬†your masterwork. It’s publication ready.

You’ve joined many writer’s sites, built some contacts and hopefully a lot of friends, learned not only your craft but as much as you can about the book business – and believe me there is SO much to learn! I’m still very much¬†a novice myself!

Are you ready?

Well, while I certainly don’t advise rushing to send your work off or¬†sitting on your¬†novel as long as I did, there always comes a time, an¬†indescribable time when you HAVE to take the plunge and just GO FOR IT!

This time is different for everyone.

If there’s one piece of single advice I can give it’s this – every writer’s journey is different.

Your novel is unique, as unique as you, and therefore your journey to publication will also be unique.

Yes, there are times when you find yourself doing that dangerous thing of comparing yourself to others especially those examples of wildly successful writers with inferior books (something shades anyone?), but not only is that dangerous (as it can deflate your confidence) it is also a totally futile exercise like comparing apples to aircraft!

Your writing, your novel cannot be compared directly, neither can you. By all means take advice, look at what fellow authors do, what works, what doesn’t, but in the end the path you chart¬†has to¬†be your own.

So, that next shaky step is approaching publishers and agents. There is a plethora of information out there regarding the good, the bad, and the dodgy.

Do your homework! You’ll regret it if you don’t!

Query letters are arduous but far worse is the waiting process involved, especially if you’re impatient like me, so be warned.

Some publishing houses want to know if you’ve sent submissions off to others. If a house is picky for goodness sake approach these first so you can honestly say that you haven’t approached anyone else…yet!

There is great advice in The Writers & Artists Yearbook on how to write a good letter and examples of bad ones. What I would say though, is use this but also make the letter individual to you. Publishers will know the standard letter, they’ll get hundreds maybe even thousands of them a week. Make yours stand out!

Give yourself the best possible chance!

There is a huge debate as to whether you need an agent or whether you should pursue an agent first or a publisher. Well, certainly I think writers DO need agents, especially if they are hoping to make writing a long-term career, but grabbing one is an entirely different matter. You will find as I said in my previous posts, that trying to get an agent is not only as hard as getting a publisher but is actually harder! A catch-22 scenario – you need an agent to send your ms off to most publishing houses but most agents won’t look at you unless you have a publishing house! Go figure!

My advice for what it’s worth, is that if you and your novel are ready, go for a publisher first. Now, that doesn’t stop you from pursuing agents, but try and get that publishing contract if you can.

Again remember the statistics…¬†Less than 1% of all fiction published in the UK is by new authors‚Ķless than 1%!

Now is as hard a time as ever for getting published. The goal posts are continually changing. Guidelines that publishing houses wanted ten even five years ago, will not be the same now. Certainly I know when I was first writing my novel, some of the Big Six (now Big Five) were accepting unsolicited manuscripts, that certainly is NOT the case now.

Product DetailsBut it’s not all doom and gloom. Some new authors do still manage to breakthrough and snag a major house. One of them most notably¬†is Mark Lawrence, a fellow Bristolian¬†and fantasy writer and all round really lovely guy. His wonderfully epic and visceral¬†novels, Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns, are¬†published by Voyager, HarperCollins¬†and is available in Waterstones, WHSmith’s, Amazon and everywhere else, including my bookshelf…but you can’t have those! ūüėõ

However, for the rest of us the main benefit of the Big Five¬†shutting their doors to all unsolicited (unagented) manuscripts, is¬†that their rigidity has given rise to a whole new breed of publishers.¬†The indie or small press publishing house. This is both a good and bad thing. These independent publishers are invariably quite new on the book scene, but don’t see that as an automatic¬†disadvantage, it hugely depends on the individual house.¬†Some are young, full of energy and often way ahead of the publishing curve and the big houses. They want their books to be a success because they have had to invest in them personally and risk their own money, so they should work harder and go that little bit further than those Big¬†Boys who may have deep pockets but are also spread pretty thin and tend to ignore ‘mid-list’ authors who don’t bring in the big bucks.

BUT you must DO YOUR RESEARCH!!!!! Remember, anyone nowadays can set up a publishing house, without the merest sliver of real book publishing experience. The new author must be wary.

I’m afraid for every decent indie publisher, there is a whole sea of unscrupulous presses, which are either wildly inexperienced, incompetent, lazy, fraudulent or a mixture of all. Finding the good ones is not easy. So DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Some¬†indie publishing houses will make highly exaggerated claims, so check the facts. If they say they have offices in London, New York, Paris or Germany, do they? Are these real addresses, real offices with staff and telephones, or are they bogus, merely a post office box in a building which has several thousand other businesses operating out of it? Remember, an¬†‘office’ can be someone’s living room, know what you’re getting yourself¬†into before you sign the contract.¬†What about their contracts? If they don’t pay advances, then the percentage should at least be good. Don’t accept anything under the standard¬†7%, many other houses such as Wild Wolf Publishing give 10% to all their authors. Look at their sales record. Do they have a specific sales and marketing team or are they expecting you to do everything? What about covers? Covers are¬†SO important. Never sign with any house who doesn’t employ professional qualified cover artists. Just because someone¬†in the company¬†dabbles in art, doesn’t mean they’ll have the talent, skills or know how to produce a professional looking cover. So check. Check with the authors too, have any authors left them, if so why?

It is¬†a shark infested sea out there for the inexperienced newbie, so be careful which boat you put your trust in, if it has holes, you’ll regret it!

Having said all this, don’t be afraid to take the plunge. By all means send your¬†MS off to the Big¬†Five and try your luck if you want. If your novel is great but you want it published before you collect your pension cheque, then¬†try for an indie.

Then of course, the other route is also the self-publishing. Now to be honest, I really can’t give much advice here as I really don’t know that side of the book business BUT I can tell you that there is NO shame in pursuing this path and don’t let anyone try to tell you¬†otherwise. Writers are writers, books are books, no snobbery please! Again, remember this is your creation, your journey, you must follow the path that best suits you, your needs and your masterwork.

I personally have some of the most astonishing works of fiction on my bookshelves which happen to be self-published, because the author knew their vision and knew that they wanted complete autonomy over their creation and its birth in the marketplace. I tip my hat to those venturers and their wonderous creations!

Thank you to all those writers, published, self-published and yet to be,¬†for creating fiction that you wish was real! May your dreams continue to take flight…

Good luck! ūüėÄ xx