Why I’m an indie author…

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I gave my mother a copy of Wish You Were Here for Christmas. There’s something quite confronting about your mother reading a story where the occasional swear word is uttered and sex happens.

It reminds me of the story when my brother was really young and we were on the farm just outside of Bombala (in southern NSW) helping with the lamb marking. If you don’t know what lamb marking is, I’ll explain sometime much later. Anyways, my brother was wrestling this lamb that was almost as big as him – it was one of the early born lambs that season – and he said ‘F’n hell, you’re an idiot, lamb!’

We all went silent. Ummmmm aaaaaah.

Tearfully, my brother apologised, ‘I’m sorry Mum – I didn’t mean to say idiot!’

Given that Mum’s reaction to my potty mouth is usually something like, ‘ you’re better educated that that, Joanne,’ it’s fair to say I was concerned that Mum was reading my book. I even joked about redacting the spicy bits. As one of my sisters said, I can’t believe you used the word “cock”.’ Really? What else was I going to call it. Hi Leese…

As it turns out, Mum loved the book and said the sex was nicely done. I’m not sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing…in fact, I don’t want to know. I was, however, thrilled that she liked it – and was prepared to tell all of her friends that she liked it. She asked me, though, why I’d decided to self publish this book. ‘Surely it’s good enough to be published, Joanne,’ she said.

Yeah, I think it is – which is why I published it.

The thing is, after I self published Baby, It’s You, I made the decision to continue to self publish. I’m still not making a living – or anywhere near a living – from my books, but I’m proud of them, and I’m proud to be an indie author. It’s what I want to continue to do.

Why did I go indie in the first place?

I’d sent Baby, It’s You off to a few publishers. It got through the slush pile with one – who asked to see the first three chapters. Then three months later they asked to see the whole book – and requested that I not show anyone else while they were deliberating. Three months later the answer came back: sorry, like the story, like the voice, but not enough romance for us.

Disappointed, I repeated the process. Can we see the first three chapters. Sure. Three months later: we’d like to see the rest of the book – you’re not showing anyone else are you? After six months I got the same result: sorry, like the story, like the voice, but too much romance for us.

At that point I figured that if it was good enough to get through the slush piles and good enough to be considered for acquisition, the bones of a good story were there. It was then that I decided that I was tired of waiting. It was then that I decided that it was time to back myself and take control of the process.

What happened next?

A lot of research.

I sat down and worked out what it was that a traditional publisher would do. They’d hire a structural editor, a copy editor, a cover designer, and there’d be someone to do marketing and promotions. At least.

So that’s what I set out to do. Hire the same people that a traditional publisher would hire. Except for the marketing part – although, I’ve since done that too.

That means an investment?

Absolutely. Publishing costs money – especially if you want your book to be the best version of itself that it can be. When you’re publishing independently, you’re making the investment that a publisher would normally be making for you and in you. You’re also reaping a larger proportion of the royalties – assuming, that is, that you’ve done your marketing and sell books outside your immediate circle of friends.

If you’re with a traditional publisher, they hire the editors, organise the cover, and do your marketing (although many first time authors have been disappointed with the amount of marketing they’ve had to do for themselves). If you’re lucky you’ll be paid a small advance, and will be paid a portion of the royalties once their investment has been repaid. It’s basic business common-sense. If you’re successful, you have the support of the publisher for your next venture, and your next, and the one after that.

So why self-publish then? Surely it’s better to have someone do all of that for you?

The easy answer would be to admit that I’m a control freak. The longer answer is that as much as I love the creative process, I really enjoy the business of writing –  and I’m prepared to make an investment in my business.

I’m in this for the long haul, so the team I’m building around me is one I trust to help me achieve my publishing goals and to help me be a better writer.

Do I secretly yearn for a publishing contract?

Man, yes! Especially when I get great feedback about the books, but the sales remain slow – even though they are improving with each release. Would I go out looking for a publisher? Not at the moment – but I wouldn’t rule out doing that in the future. At this point I’m enjoying being the CEO of my writing career, although there’s no denying that I’d love to one day see my books in an airport – and have the instagram to prove it.

Can you keep the costs down by skimping on an editor and doing your own cover design?

In theory, yes, but would a traditional publisher skimp on an editor or a cover designer? No, they wouldn’t. And when you’re an indie, you’re your own publishing house. Just saying.

Is indie publishing for everyone?

No. You need to be prepared to be responsible for your business, treat your creative output as the product or assets of your business, and manage it in the same way as a traditional publisher would.

If you want to simply create and leave the business to someone else, then indie publishing is not for you.

Welcome to Brookford…

Stunning vibrant Autumn foggy sunrise English countryside landsc

If you’ve read Wish You Were Here, you’ll have been introduced to Brookford. But where is Brookford? Unlike Queenstown – which is, of course, a real place – Brookford is mostly from my imagination.

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Burford

Essentially it’s an amalgam of any number of quintessentially Cotswolds villages. It has symmetrical streets lined with old yellow stone-walled cottages similar to those in Burford and Broadway and many other Cotswolds villages. It has a village pub – like all good Cotswolds villages do – named The Lamb.

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Given the Cotswolds tradition of wool and fortunes made from wool, there are a number of pubs with similar names, although The Lamb in my story is actually based on the Crown Inn – a 16th century pub in Frampton Mansell.

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As an aside, The Bell at Sapperton (mentioned in Chapter 1) does exist – and does have a fabulous wine list, great food, and even a place to tether your horse. If you’re in the area, I’d recommend both it and The Crown Inn for a good meal.

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As for physical location? If Brookford were to exist outside of the pages of Wish You Were Here, it would be located roughly somewhere between Stroud and Cirencester. It’s a gorgeous part of the general gorgeousness that is the Cotswolds. It’s an area with sweeping green hills dotted with sheep, dry-stone walls, and views that go for miles. According to Instagram, those fields are dotted with buttercups in the summer- although I’ve never visited in the summer. Max and Richie’s bluebell wood is a figment of my imagination, but could very easily be there. Somewhere.

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Cockshutt Cottage

Max and James’s cottage in Brookford was inspired by Star Cottage in Burford, and Old Balwil in Buchlyvie, Scotland.  Curlew Cottage is modelled on a cottage we stayed in last December – Cockshutt Cottage at Westley Farm, Cowcombe Hill, near Chalford and Minchinhampton. Don’t you just love those names?

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It was in that cottage that at least 10,000 words of this book were written. And yes, the donkeys down the lane exist – as does Bella the collie. I recall watching a group of kids attempting to herd a gaggle of geese up the dirt road one grey morning.

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Just up the road at Frampton Mansell is Jolly Nice – a farm shop, café, butchery, and maker of great coffee and (in the summer) ice-cream. When we were there in December, the area behind the shop was dedicated to Christmas trees – real ones – and the yurt out the back was full of produce for Christmas. The sorts of food that made you wish you had an old stone house with a huge fireplace – lavishly decorated for Christmas – and a long wooden table with enough photogenic family (who got along with each other) to make it all look like an ad from a Christmas catalogue.

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I remember that when the owner of Westley told us they had Jolly Nice food shop up the road, I thought she was saying that the shop up the road stocked some jolly nice food. Anyways, Blossoms & Buds – the garden centre that Max and Richie work at – is partly modelled on Jolly Nice; and partly on a nursery we bought firewood from in Aberfoyle (near Buchlyvie in the Trossachs); and partly on Woodhouse Farm Shop at Kippen on the road to Stirling (in Scotland) where I bought a journal with a spaniel on the front cover.

As for Queenstown, the other major location in Wish You Were Here? Obviously it does exist, and I’m heading back there on Friday to tramp Milford Track – and to get some more location ideas for a future bookie project. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for some pics and posts as I show you around this vibrant and remarkably picturesque city.

Reviews and why I don’t read them

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Ok, here’s the deal: I tend not to read reviews. I’m one of those writers who can’t – I’m scared that I might accidentally read one that’s not so good, downright bad or non existent.

My skin, you see, is paper thin – and yes, I’m aware that in the game I’ve chosen to be in, that’s not a good thing. I’m the type of person who could read 125 reviews and dwell only on the one that said something like ‘chick lit is crap’…or ‘your character was a whiny, spineless individual.’

I’m the same in the partition. I’ll work my arse off on a presentation to get everything just right – making sure that every box is ticked, every i tittled (that was on my omgfactoftheday calendar as a fancy pants word for dotting i’s), every previous piece of feedback is incorporated. Then, when a new box is created to be ticked, a new i needing tittled, I’ll beat myself up for not anticipating it.

I know that the way I feel is not rational. I know that not everyone will have the same sense of humour, like the same books, the same movies or the same TV shows as I do. I know that what I find likeable (or amusing) in a friend, in a character, in an attitude, in a situation could be the opposite for someone else. they might find that trait just plain annoying. I know that people will read into things what they think they should. I know that some people are never pleased, and others are pleased only when they are identifying faults. I know that some people can take offence at anything and everything. I get that.

The number of times I call blog posts back for editing – just in case someone reads something the wrong way is incredible. I think I edit 90% of the words that come out of my mouth and my keyboard. I allow the remaining 10% to keep me awake at night.

So I don’t read reviews – in case no one has left one, and in case I don’t like what I see.

I do, however, leave reviews – if I’ve enjoyed a book, a restaurant, a hotel. If I have a problem, I address it first with the restaurant or hotel before going to town about it on Trip Advisor.

As for books? I’ll leave stars on Goodreads for those I’ve enjoyed, and nothing at all if I didn’t. Much of the time if I don’t like a book, it’s because I don’t like the genre – and to review on that basis isn’t fair. If it wasn’t my cup of tea, why should I leave something soul destroying for the author?

It’s like the supernatural buff who complains that there were no zombies in the literary offering. It’s like the couple who love French fine dining who leave a scathing review for the local Thai: ‘the food was too spicy and the service wasn’t what we’re used to.’ Or maybe the honeymooners who chose a family friendly resort during the school holidays: ‘it was impossible to get any privacy, and there were too many noisy children in the pool and at the buffet.’

I’m not great at reviewing. I either enjoyed it or I didn’t. I generally don’t know why I did or I didn’t (unless I’m reading outside my genre). It’s why I enjoy reading balanced, well thought out, intelligent reviews by people who do know why they did or didn’t enjoy something. Debbish, I’m looking at you.

Having said that, when you’re tagged in a post there’s no avoiding it…which was why I was thrilled when Debbish reviewed Wish You Were Here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: she’s super clever when it comes to pinpointing issues and I respect her opinion more than I can ever tell her- and that’s not just because I was ecstatic and relieved and all those other words with her review. Anyways, here it is. I’m stoked.

Of course, having said all of that, if you liked Wish You Were Here, I’d love it if you could leave a review. Not that I’d read it, but you know what I mean, right?

Wish You Were Here…It’s OUT now…

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With very little fanfare and more than the usual amount of release day nerves, Wish You Were Here is now out and available on Amazon.

To celebrate the release, it’s available for $2.99USD (I think that converts to $3.99AUD) for a short time only. In fact, you can also get Big Girls Don’t Cry or Baby, It’s You at $2.99.

What’s it about? It’s got a little bit Escape to the Country, a little bit Bake-off and a touch of Gardening Australia…and maybe even a touch of River Cottage. Wish You Were Here is for anyone who loves great fiction with a dash of travel, gardening, cooking and, of course, romance.

Sometimes home is a person not a place …

Max Henderson loves her life in the idyllic English village of Brookford. Her family is nearby, and her job allows her to indulge her passion for growing, cooking and writing about food.

When Max’s husband, James, tells her he’s been transferred to New York, Max is thrilled for him ‒ it’s the role he’s always aspired to. But as excited as she is for James, she’s torn between the thought of leaving her home, the people she cares about and her own ambitions, and the possibility of a new start for her and James. To complicate matters, the New York move is just the first in a series of blows that leave Max reeling.

If Max follows her heart, will she have to leave her dreams behind? Or can they guide her home to the man she loves?

Interested? The link to the Aussie Amazon store is here and the US store is here.

Am I in it?

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Am I in it?

It’s one of the most common questions I get asked- although one of my closest friends doesn’t bother to ask…he tells anyone who’ll listen that he’s the lead character in each of the books. Life is full of disappointment.

The people who ask this question assume, incorrectly, that they are in the story…or that they know someone who is. I suspect some are worried that they are- especially the ones who know they’ve pissed me off. What did the coffee mug say? Something about not pissing off a writer- you could end up in a book. Dead. The thing is, they’re not either- yet.

It is, however, a reasonable question. It’s also a question that my husband has never asked. Part of him, I think, doesn’t want to know. For the record there will never ever ever ever be any part of my husband in anything I write. Ever. Probably. Maybe. Some of his qualities are, however, in each of my heroes. Naturally, they’re the qualities I fell in love with all those years ago. Good answer?

It’s safer to say there’s more than a little of me in each of my heroines. There’s a little of me in Emily, my heroine in Baby, It’s You. Like me, she’s a Pisces, has a thing about daggy pop music, will never ever ever run again, and is prone to blisters. There’s also a little of how I’d like to be in Emily- I’d especially like her hair and her waist.

There’s only a little of me in Abby from Big Girls Don’t Cry. Abby is the most complex, damaged and inherently strong of my leading ladies (to date). Abby was not (especially at the start) a particularly likeable character, but by the end of the story, I hope readers could connect with her.

Of them all (so far), Max from Wish You Were Here is most like me. Not physically, of course, but for much of the story, she’s the most passive of my girls and also the least damaged. Because she isn’t damaged, her flaws are possibly going to be more frustrating.

Like me, Max has a habit of drifting along and falling into decisions rather than making choices. I suspect this is because she hasn’t really been challenged before. Not really. Max needs some pretty drastic things to happen to her and around her before she makes the changes she needs to make, sees what she needs to see, and goes in the direction she needs to go. She has an almost immature and self-contained view of her own world and doesn’t see what’s even slightly below the surface or how her action (or inaction) can impact others. In a way, she’s oblivious to all of that.

The similarities between Max and myself didn’t occur to me until I was finishing the copy edit for Wish You Were Here the other day. Although most of this book was drafted between November and February, the layers were added since. Coincidentally (?) I’ve had some pretty chaotic stuff happening to me personally in the last 6 months- much of it in the same theme (although not the same events, of course) as what I’d written in for Max all those months before.

Although I tend to go with the flow, it’s only been in response to the (increasingly heavy-handed) hints that the Universe has dished out that has prompted me to start making the decisions that need to be made- rather than drifting on pretending that it will all go away and life can go on as I know it…or knew it.

I don’t know whether subconsciously Max responded in the way that I would or whether I wrote her that way because of what was happening in background of my life. I’m not even sure that the distinction matters. While Max shares these traits with me, she is also a very different person, with very different motivations and trigger points- and is a much better cook.

The thing is, writing what we know doesn’t mean that we write who we know.

As a writer, it stands to reason then, that our characters will say things we’ve heard others say, or do things we’ve observed others do. Then we exaggerate it. In the case of my “villains” or antagonists, I exaggerate an awful lot. All of my friends have been warned that anything they say could be taken down and used later by a character who will probably bear no resemblance to them.

Likewise, it would also be easy to say that the starting point when writing about relationship is what you know. Or what you think you know. Or what you imagine you know. Or what you want to know and experience. The rest comes from your imagination- and the characters themselves. As it should.

Before Baby, It’s You was published I lay awake worrying about what people would think of me when it came out. Would they read too much into it? Layer me into Emily, layer what they thought they knew of me into the rest? And that’s exactly what some people did. ‘Oh, I didn’t know that you felt that way,’ someone said. ‘I don’t,’ I replied, ‘but Emily does.’

It was only a few months down the track when I realised that I hadn’t exactly sold that many copies that it occurred to me just how arrogant I was being. It’s not something I even thought about when Big Girls came out. It’s not something that’s worrying me this time around either- even though, as I’ve admitted above, it could be reasonable this time to draw some similarities between Max and myself.

As for the other characters in Wish You Were Here? I’m sorry to disappoint, but they’re completely made up…even my “villain”… especially my “villain”…

Wish You Were Here will be available from the end of October, 2016

Wish You Were Here: a sneak peek…

 

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Below is a sneaky peek into my new novel Wish You Were Here…on sale at the end of October…

‘When that kettle comes to the boil, can you move it to the window for me, please?’ I asked, fiddling with the arrangement in front of me.

Outside the rain was pelting down. It was cold enough that on higher ground it was probably falling as snow.

‘Won’t it make the glass fog?’ Richie asked.

‘Uh-huh.’ I checked the styling through the viewfinder on my camera, and moved the jam jar I’d filled with woody herbs to the opposite side of the plate. ‘That’s the whole idea: I want the condensation on the window in the background. It says that it’s still cold outside without me having to spell it out.’

Richie nodded his understanding and obligingly moved the kettle away when the required level of fogginess had been achieved.

My subject was a plate of the peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies I’d made yesterday afternoon after James had left for London. I’d decided to shoot what was left of them before Richie demolished the lot. They were much more photogenic than the bowl of parsnip risotto I was intending to feature in the February newsletter. Even though I’d styled the soup with a drizzle of chilli oil, I was running out of creative ways to make beige food look appealing.

Richie smiled at me. ‘Are you right now? Can I go back to what I was doing before you decided you needed a photographic assistant?’

‘Yes, you’re released from your duties. And when these little babies are released from theirs, it’s your turn to make the tea.’

‘You’re on,’ he said, returning to the papers on his desk.

The centre was empty of customers and I cursed everything about January that made work so quiet and gave me more time to think about the New York bombshell. I looked out the window. Yep, still raining. I sighed.

Richie looked up. ‘That was a heavy sigh.’

‘I hate January.’

‘I thought you hated February more. Next you’ll be telling me that you’re bored.’ He grinned.

‘Well, I am bored and I hate them both equally: January and February.’

‘Okay, I’ll ask the question. Why do you hate January so much?’

‘That’s easy. Because I love December, and you’re as far away from December as it’s possible to be in January.’

He laughed. ‘You just like being able to drink mulled wine at 10 am while wearing a Christmas sweater.’

In the lead-up to Christmas I wore a different Christmas-themed sweater each day.

‘What’s not to like about that? And don’t forget the Christmas markets ‒ even you like those.’

‘True, but January means a new year and you like new starts. Your birthday’s in January ‒ surely you like that?’

‘The problem with new starts is that something else has to end ‒ and I don’t like that. Plus, my birthday is just for one day, and it’s not something that anyone other than me looks forward to. Not like Christmas. That’s so everywhere that the day itself is an anti-climax.’ I paused to nibble the edge of a cookie. ‘And the problem with February is that it’s so in-between. You know that spring’s coming and you have lots to do to be ready for it, but you can’t do any of those tasks because the weather’s terrible. It wouldn’t be like that on your side of the world. I bet it’s sunny and gorgeous.’

‘It is down south. Up north, though, and across the ditch to Sydney, it’s hot and uncomfortably humid.’

‘It would still be better than this.’ I sighed again. ‘You stay there ‒ I’ll make the tea.’

I reboiled the kettle and popped teabags into mugs, then rubbed at the window to look out. Yuck.

‘What are you working on?’ I asked as I placed Richie’s tea on the coaster on his desk and looked over his shoulder at the drawings he’d been concentrating on.

He spread the sketches across the workbench. ‘My garden.’

‘The one you’ll do for Chelsea?’ Although his plan was to eventually go home to Queenstown and work in the family business designing gardens, his dream was to one day have one of his designs exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show. ‘The way you’ve drawn it, the garden looks almost like a lake ‒ or a flowing river. What are you using? Flax?’

He looked impressed. ‘Nice. New Zealand flax. The way it flows in the breeze sometimes looks like wind moving across water. I want the whole thing to look like Lake Wakatipu makes me feel.’ He paused, embarrassed, and focused his attention on the pages in front of him.

‘Don’t stop. I love listening to you talk about it. It sounds wonderful.’

‘It is. It’s home. I’d like you to see it one day. There’s an area outside of town, on the way out to Glenorchy, where the lake and the mountains seem to go forever. When you’re there and seeing it, you wonder how you can ever want to be anywhere else. It’s magnificent on a blue day, and intense as all hell on a grey one. It’s almost as if the mountains have their own story to tell. In a way, I guess they do.’ He gazed out the foggy window into the soft drizzle, but I knew that wasn’t what he was seeing. ‘The lake breathes, you know ‒ in and out. The Maori say it’s the beating heart of the giant who created the lake when he was killed. They say the heart of a giant can never be stopped.’ He turned to look into my eyes and said softly, ‘You’d love it ‒ I know you would.’

I felt something shift in my tummy and hung my head to hide my confusion.

Then I blurted it out: ‘We’re moving to New York. James told me on Saturday night.’

Richie turned away and gathered his drawings, sliding them back into the pages of his sketchbook. I watched his back, waiting for a reaction.

Finally he said, ‘What about you? What do you think about it?’

I shrugged. ‘I don’t know. It’s a great opportunity for James ‒ he’s really excited. On the bright side, it means I’ll see more of him. That has to be a good thing, right?’ I forced a wide smile. Richie didn’t smile back. ‘Besides, what am I doing here? Sitting around in a potting shed playing at being a gardener, writing a silly little newsletter and taking photos of plates of food and vegetables while I wait for my husband to come home? I’m not like you ‒ I don’t have an ambition or a plan. I just have James.’

‘What about your dream to have a cafe selling food sourced from your garden? Soups, salads, muffins, all-day breakfast, mac cheese of the month … what about that? And the cookbook and recipe cards?’

I shook my head. ‘That’s just a fantasy.’

‘It’s more than that. You’ve planned the fit-out in almost as much detail as I’ve planned my Chelsea garden. Light and airy with polished concrete floors, you said. Local art on the walls, plants hanging from the ceiling, and the whole space opening up to a sun-filled pergola with wisteria providing colour and shelter in the spring and summer, and letting light through in the winter. A herb garden out the front so you can wander out and snip from it as you need to, and raised vegetable beds. Like a potting shed, but with food, and stock from local producers ‒ like we do here. Nothing matching, you said. I’ve been listening.’

He certainly had been. ‘I know, but it’s all a bit silly when you think about it. James is a management consultant ‒ he belongs in cities. I’m his wife, and I belong wherever he is. Anything else is unrealistic.’

He nodded slowly. ‘You’re right, of course.’ He looked at me closely and I felt my tummy flip again. ‘I’ll miss you. It won’t be the same without you here, Hendo.’

I felt him watching me when I turned away to look out the window.

He paused, then asked, ‘When will you go?’

‘Not for a few months. It’ll take that long for all the visa and transfer paperwork to be done, so James will continue to commute until then. I’ll need to find a tenant for the cottage. James is sorting out an apartment over there for us, and we’re leaving the London flat as it is for when he needs to come back.’ I didn’t look at him as I spoke. ‘James wants me there for summer, so I guess I’ll go sometime in May or June.’

‘What will you do there?’

‘What does any woman do in New York?’ I plastered a bright smile onto my face. ‘Shop, sightsee and lunch. It’s most women’s dream come true ‒ to be a lady of leisure in the best city in the world.’

‘But not yours,’ he said quietly. ‘That’s not you, Maxi. That’s not who you are.’

‘Maybe not,’ I conceded. ‘But James is my husband and I love him. My place is wherever he is.’

Wish you were here will be available from Amazon at the end of October. Sign up to the newsletter for details of release day specials.

Wish You Were Here: the copy edit…

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So anyways, my copy edit* came back during the week and, as always, it looked scarier than it was.

My editor (Nicola from ebookedit) marks up the document in word, inserts comments here and there, and even occasionally makes me giggle with some of the remarks she pops in. My role is to review and accept (or reject) the grammatical and spelling changes, tighten any text that needs tightening, consider any comment that’s been made (and write the suggested alterations), and come up with alternatives to eyebrow raising. Man, my characters did a lot of eyebrow raising in this book!

Wish You Were Here has been a little more challenging to write than my previous two, in that Max, my heroine, is English, and most of the story is set in England. To get into her character and write in her voice, I had to write in more of an English voice.

Some things were no-brainers: courgettes instead of zucchinis, supper instead of dinner, football instead of soccer, flip-flops instead of thongs (although my hero, Richie, is a Kiwi and he wears jandals…just saying). Max also drinks more tea than coffee. Others weren’t. As an example, people tend to talk about going up to London, but is that strictly correct when the Cotswolds are north-west of there? Nicola also asked whether Labrador puppies appear in tissue commercials in the UK- as they do here. I’m pleased to confirm that the appeal of Labrador puppies in tissue commercials seems to be universal.

I used doona instead of duvet, paddock instead of field, and undies instead of boxer shorts (for that last one I browsed the men’s underwear section of the H&M UK catalogue…and the Marks & Spencer catalogue too…just to be sure…). Another time when Max wondered whether Brad (remember him from Big Girls Don’t Cry?) was game enough to make a particular comment. Nicola reminded me that this was also something an Aussie would say. In case you’re interested, Max wondered instead whether Brad was brave enough…

When Richie thrust his hands into his pockets, strode out of the room and shut the door more quietly than he probably would have been warranted to, Nicola wondered how he managed to do so with his hands still in his pockets. Yep, never under-estimate the value of a good edit.

Other than lots of grammatical stuff to correct (my attention to detail is seriously bad) and comments like those above, there have been minimal changes I’ve needed to make- perhaps some extra strengthening of a couple of closing paragraphs. As far as copy edits go, this one has (so far) been relatively straight-forward. My biggest challenge has been to come up with alternatives to that eyebrow raising my characters do- and they all do it! If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them…

What’s next?

I need to finish the copy edit, complete the proof-read (probably twice), play around some more with the blurb, and write my acknowledgements. Then it will be time to send it all away to have the file converted for kindle, ibooks, kobo and print.

We’re nearly there…

*If you want to know what to expect from a copy edit, check out this post

 

 

Wish You Were Here: Unveiling the Cover

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It’s here: the cover for Wish You Were here.

I love it- and when you get to know Max better, and get to know Brookford better, I hope that you’ll love it too…

Jacinda May has done a fabulous job- both in the design and in dealing with my requests for revisions: picture changes here, font changes there.

The challenge of getting the emotional feel of an entire book into a cover design is a tough one. Although there are some emotional scenes in her story, Max is, overall, an optimistic person- and I wanted that to come through in the cover. Likewise, although there is physical movement, Brookford and the countryside is part of Max. I wanted that to come through too. I think it does.

Now I have my cover I can pop it on Amazon for pre-sale, but there’s still plenty to do before publishing date. I should get my copy edit back soon, then it’s proofreading, file conversion and number allocation (ISBN and CiP- I’ll tell you about them later) to go.

The best ever chocolate bread and butter pudding…

Sweet Dark Chocolate Sauce in a Bowl
Photo courtesy of deposit photos…

Max (Maxine) Henderson is the protagonist in my upcoming novel Wish You Were Here. She writes a monthly column for Blossom and Buds- a garden centre in Brookford- about what’s in season and what you can do with it.

I invited Max along today to share with us her chocolate bread and butter pudding- actually, it’s the one that her mother makes whenever she needs to break some bad news, help Max feel better about something, or stimulate conversation. Max says it’s a little like a chocolate-y truth serum. Sadly, my food styling and photography isn’t a patch on hers, but  bad photos aside, this is seriously one very good chocolate bread and butter pudding.

Over to you, Max…

As we know only too well, we can still get the occasional cold spell at this time of the year. To cover you for those inevitable early spring grey days- or just if you need some deep comfort, I’ve managed to convince my mother to part with her chocolate bread and butter pudding recipe. If possible, it’s best to start this one the day before you intend to look it, but let’s be honest- when these moments hit, they don’t tend to come with prior notice. You’ll need some bread- about half a loaf. White bread is the most obvious choice, but torn up croissants or brioche would work well too. Mum does hers with fruit bread to give the end result a sort of rum and raisin taste. Cut it in the usual way that you would for an ordinary bread and butter pudding- halves or quarters- and put aside.

For the chocolate, you’ll need most of a 200g block of dark chocolate- allowing a row for taste testing, of course. Chop it roughly and place it into a bowl with a 300ml carton of thickened or double cream, a good slosh (or three) of rum, 75g butter and around ½ cup caster sugar. If you want, you could even add a pinch of orange zest or a shake of cinnamon to jazz it up some more. Melt it all over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir it until it’s silky smooth. Now it’s time for the eggs- you’ll need three. Whisk them in a separate bowl and then pour the chocolate over the eggs, whisking as you go.

Pour a thin layer of the chocolate over your pre-greased tin and layer the bread evenly over this. Now add more chocolate, and another layer of bread, plus the last of the chocolate. Press the bread down until it’s all covered with chocolate. Don’t worry too much if some of the bread pokes up- it adds an extra texture once it’s been cooked.

Now, pop some cling-film over it and place it into the fridge for as many hours as you can. This is the part that you’re supposed to do the day before.

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Before you wash the bowl, sneak a taste. Isn’t that the best chocolate sauce you ever tasted in your life? It’s always reminded me of the rum balls Mum makes at Christmas.

When you are ready to cook it, do so in a moderate oven for 30-35mins. All it needs now is a few minutes to sit, and some pouring or ice cream…or custard…for the top.

You’re welcome.

Wish You Were Here will be available for pre-orders from September 30 on Amazon and itunes.

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What To Expect From A Copy Edit…

closeup of a pencil eraser correcting an error

Wish You Were Here is about as done in the structural editing stakes as it can be. I’m doing a final pass through for the big stuff and then it’s off for copy edit. I’m also sending it off to my beta (or first) readers at this time too.

I remember when I first got the copy edit back for Baby, It’s You. It was terrifying- this marked-up document full of deletions and comments. The page was full of them. Every page was full of them. I started to sweat. Seriously.

As I plodded through the first chapter though, it got easier. Most were minor grammar and punctuation changes- commas instead of semi colons, quotation marks the wrong way round (something scrivener tends to do for conversations where the sentence starts with S) that I hadn’t picked up on. Others were style changes to keep things consistent. Some were comments with suggestions to tighten the words.

It’s a detail and consistency thing- and I’m the first to confess that I’m crap at both detail and consistency.

When it came time for Big Girls Don’t Cry to come under the attention of the track change equivalent of the red pencil, I had a better idea of what to expect.

So, what exactly is a copy edit? The difference between them is a trees and forest thing. In a structural edit, the forest is of interest; in a copy edit, it’s the trees.  A structural edit looks at the big picture: plot and flow and characterisation etc. A copy edit, however, is about detail, style and consistency.

In a copy edit, the editor will go word-by-word, line-by-line, page-by-page through the manuscript,  looking critically for errors, issues, typos, clarity, repetition, cheesiness etc. As an example, at one point in Big Girls my leading lady, Abby, says something like ‘I had plenty of leave up my sleeve.’ Really Jo? Really? I’d completely missed it.

Then there’s the pacing and clarity thing- a tiny rearrangement of words can sometimes make a whole sentence read so much better. Occasionally, Nicola will suggest a change: ‘re-worded, edit ok?’ – at other times she’d leave a comment: ‘I think this sentence needs work.’ It’s about placing the words in the location and order where they will be of the most service.

Putting all of this together, the process of copy editing is time consuming- and that’s why it’s also the most expensive part of the self-publishing process. If you’re even half as detail-challenged as I am, it’s also a step that you can’t afford to miss- especially if you’re an indie author.

As an aside, I was reading a book the other day- traditionally published, where I counted no few than around six errors- jarring errors. Ironically, one was in a chapter about editing. The book was beyond fabulous, and I forgive easily, but given the money that traditional publishers have for editing and proofreading, it’s also not a good look.*

I use the same editor- Nicola from ebookedit– for the copy process as well as structural editing- but you don’t have to. I do- partly because I’m lazy and don’t have the time to go out and look for another editor and go through the whole getting to know you and your work business. Mostly though, it’s because she “gets” what I’m trying to do, the story I’m telling, and she understands my voice- and that is invaluable.

Because most editors charge by the hour, you can make it cheaper by ensuring that your work is as clean as it possibly can be before it goes out. Ebookedit have some suggestions to help you through this. The link is here.

If you’re working with someone for the first time, most editors will ask you for a sample of your writing so that they can quote you an approximate figure. Some will set a maximum price, some will not. Before signing the contract with your editor, make sure that you know (and have budgeted) for the maximum charge.

Check also whether your editor is doing one pass or two of the document- it does make a difference to the cost. If your manuscript is non-fiction, there could be a lot of fact checking required- in addition to the grammar, spelling, style etc. A second pass will pick up the details missed on the first round.

When she was working on Baby, It’s You, before proceeding too far down the track, Nicola sent me a sample chapter she’d edited- just to ensure that I was ok with the style and method she was using. I was. This step wasn’t necessary for Big Girls Don’t Cry.

A lot of authors will say that the best way to copy edit is by printing out the manuscript and going through it manually. This doesn’t work so well for me- I like to work straight from a document with all the changes marked up. I can then deal with each change in order. The whole idea of a red pencil and a manuscript is evocative, but not practical for me. You could be different. My point? Check how your edit will be done, and the method by which it will be returned.

What’s next?

While Wish You Were Here is off being copy edited, I’ll work on the cover. I have some ideas to send the designer, but more on that next time.

*If this post contains typos or grammatical errors, please see this as a reason why I invest in a good editor!