Review of Gollancz Writers’ Day and tips to enjoy a writing conference #SFF #fantasy #writerstips

I had a wonderful time at the Gollancz Writers’ Day last week. There were 32 aspiring authors attending, all of us writers of fantasy, sci-fi and horror. I chatted to some lovely people and swapped details with a couple of them. I’d like to have done more mingling, but I’m still very shy and find it hard to put myself out there. Now that I’ve done this though, I’m hoping to go to more events tailored to my genre and will try harder to make connections with other writers.

A brief overview of the day

We met the editors and learnt about the life of a book, from the moment an editor loves your book (and they have to love it to take it on), through the acquisition meetings and all the editing stages involved. A few other areas they discussed were titles, book covers, royalties and rights, and audio books.

I was really surprised to learn Gollancz try to have a book ready a year before its publication date. I was also surprised how much time an editor will invest in the book before the copy editor and then the proofreader get their hands on it. It sounds like an exhausting process, but all with the aim of making the book come alive to the reader.

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We then met the sales, marketing and publicity team and learnt a great deal about their processes including how they reach readers and gain reviews. This was really interesting for me as a self-published author to compare with my own attempts at marketing.

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After lunch we met two lovely Gollancz authors, Pat Cadigan and Adam Roberts. Their talks from an author’s perspective were both informative and entertaining. I was also able to chat to them during the coffee break and at the pitching event at the end of the day. Both were friendly and had some great stories and knowledge to share.

Note – Right at the end of the day, our small group were with Pat Cadigan. She talked about making it as a writer and sticking at it. She said something that will stay with me, ‘…I don’t know of any author who hasn’t made it in the end…’ That gives me hope!

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Finally, top agent Juliet Mushens gave a presentation on submitting to agents and then held a Q&A session. I made plenty of notes to refer to later and it was very insightful to learn how she deals with submissions from that first contact to negotiating the deal with the publishing house. It was also daunting to hear she receives around 500 submissions per month.

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After a short break, we split into small groups. Each group had 15 minutes with either Juliet Mushens, one of the Gollancz team or the writers mentioned, to take turns practicing our pitches. There was also an unexpected appearance from Ben Aaronovitch – author of Rivers of London who gave our group some personal tips on the life of an author on tour.

After 15 minutes, each group moved along to the next professional to pitch to. Imagine speed dating and you’ll get how it went.

This pitch session was my most anticipated part of the whole day and I jumped at the opportunity to pitch to Juliet Mushens who has been an agent on my ‘wish’ list since 2013 when I first looked into the possibility of finding an agent. I also managed to pitch to Marcus Gipps the Editorial Director of Gollancz. Both seemed impressed by my pitch for Visions of Zarua and gave me some great pointers to improve it. That kind of experience is priceless and I hope to put what I’ve learnt into practice very soon.

 

Conclusion

The people at Gollancz were warm and friendly. The writers’ day has helped demystify the agent and publishing industry, and I can now appreciate how incredibly hard it is for a debut author to get published. I won’t give up on the dream though, because it’s got to happen to someone.

I highly recommend all writers take the opportunity to attend a day like this, especially if it’s specific to your genre. Although I was nervous leading up to it, I would jump at the chance to do it again!

One other thing I wanted to mention – I may have been the only one to have self-published in this group of aspiring authors, I don’t know as no one I talked to mentioned it, but I wasn’t made to feel inferior as I have done at other conferences. The people were all supportive of each other, no matter what stage anyone was at in their writing careers. I’m proud to have self-published and to have realised my dream on my own terms, and I would recommend it to other authors if you have the time and money to invest in your book, but there’s no denying it’s hard work. I can see the many benefits of having the backing of an agent and a publisher behind you, and how if you were an author for Gollancz you might feel like you were joining an extended family.

Having the Czech publishing deal for Visions of Zarua and attending the Gollancz Writers’ Day has inspired me to start subbing again.

It was also really interesting listening to the panel talk about the acquisition meetings and how many stages a book must go through before it’s accepted by a publisher. It gave me a warm glow to realise that Visions of Zarua has gone through that process at Fragment / Albatros Media. Just yesterday I saw the cover proof for the hardback edition and it is amazing – very close to the image I had in mind before I found my own cover back in 2015 – I still love my version too!

 

My tips for a successful day at a writing conference

Arrive early – It take away the stress of bursting in late when you’re hot and sweaty and panting like you’ve run a marathon. It gives you a chance to settle your nerves and meet the others who also managed to get there early. Plus it’s so much less daunting than being the last to arrive and everyone else already appears to have made friends.

Sit at the front – Don’t be shy. It’s good to make eye contact with the speakers and you can hear everything being said. Plus it feels easier to ask questions when you don’t have to shout to the other end of the room.

Come prepared with a list of questions – You may or may not ask them, but it’s better to be prepared with something. And though you may be filled with nerves, it gets easier each time you force your hand up and step outside your comfort zone.

Make notes – You’ll never remember everything that’s said, and it’s great to go back over the day and remember those little nuggets of info you’ve scribbled down.

Mingle and make connections with the attendees – Some great advice we received was to remember that the SFF crowd is a small community and that we may well keep bumping into the same people at these events. They suggested making friends now and growing together, supporting each other. That’s such an important part of developing as an author and I feel more confident about doing this now.

Speak to the speakers – From the audience you may see the speakers as confident professionals and feel awed by them, thinking you could never be in that position. But if you get the chance to speak with them during a break or at the end, it can really help you see them as normal people and help your own confidence levels. I loved the opportunity to speak with published authors, to know that maybe none of us are really that different.

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I hope I’ve inspired you to try out a writing or publishing event and if you were at the Gollancz Writers’ day please contact me and say hello.

If you know of any SFF events in the UK please share them in the comments. I’d love to get a list together and try to attend some.

I’ll start with this;

The British Fantasy Society have just announced their BFS London Social on 7th December at Central Station Pub. Here’s a link to the BFS website.

And

Gollancz have promised to bring back Gollancz Fest in 2019 (something I’ve heard of but never attended). I am making a promise to myself and to you that I will attend in 2019. Who knows, maybe I will meet you there.

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#Tuesdaybookblog mini #bookreviews of my favourite #fantasy books in Rainne’s Five on Friday feature

During my blogging break I shared some mini book reviews of my favourite fantasy books over on Rainne’s Rambles. Please pop over to take a look at the Five on Friday feature and see what books inspired my love of all thing fantasy.

Rainne's Ramblings

5onFriday

Five Books – Five Authors – One Reviewer

Looking for a new fantasy to read this weekend?
Try one of these books, reviewed by Suzanne Rogerson


I finally have space to bring back my Five on Friday feature and I’m kicking off with a guest reviewer:

Suzanne Rogerson is a self-published author of epic and heroic fantasy, who loves reading books almost as much as she love writing them.

“When Rainne asked if I would like to take part in her Five on Friday, I was excited to have a go and share some book love. But after many false starts, I just couldn’t work out which books to showcase. It’s so difficult to pick just five. In the end, I’ve opted for five fantasy books I’ve loved but never reviewed on my blog. Here they are…”

Title: Dream-weaver
Author: Jonathan Wylie

2030986As civil war threatens the land of Ahrenia…

View original post 1,578 more words

#Tuesdaybookblog #bookreview Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine #Fantasy #YA

This is the first book review I have written this year and what better way to start than with Book 3 in the YA fantasy series The Great Library. Originally thought to be the last book in the trilogy (at least by me) I was delighted to hear that Book 4 is due out later in 2018.

For those of you who don’t know the series, I can highly recommend it. Please see my reviews of Book 1 – Ink and Bone and Book 2 – Paper and Fire.

Here’s the blurb for Book 3 – Ash and Quill

Held prisoner by the Burner forces in Philadelphia, Jess and his friends struggle to stay alive in the face of threats from both sides … but a stunning escape guarantees worse is coming. The Library now means to stop them by any means necessary, and they’ll have to make dangerous allies and difficult choices to stay alive.

They have only two choices: face the might of the Great Library head on, or be erased from life, and the history of the world, for ever.

Win or die.

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My review

Ash and Quill picks up where book two finished, with Jess and the gang captured and transported to Philadelphia. It was interesting to get to know the Burners and there are some explosive moments in store!

It is harder to review books from a series without spoilers, so I just want to say that this is another exciting read, full of action, intrigue, plotting, double-crossing and a touch of romance. I love the interaction between the characters, especially Jess and Morgan, and I just want them to save the world and have their happy ever after. Of course that’s never going to happen until they take down the Great Library who have upped the stakes and will do anything, even commit mass murder to stop them.

As with the other books in the series, this is a fast paced story that drags you along and keeps you interested to the last page.

This is a 5 star read and I cannot wait for book 4.

Goodreads link

#tuesdaybookblog The Writer’s Lexicon by @KathySteinemann #bookreview

The Writer’s Lexicon should be on every writer’s desk! Read on to find out why.

Blurb

You’re a writer. You just read your manuscript and discovered your characters nodding like marionettes in every chapter. When they’re not nodding, they’re rolling their eyes.

Oops.

Time to slash the Pinocchio strings and turn them into real live people. Award-winning author Kathy Steinemann will provide the tools. She cuts through the so-called rules and offers simple solutions.

Too many repetitions of “little”? There’s a cure for that. Do you rely on “very” too often? There’s a cure for that too. You’ll find the remedies in this book’s dispensary.

Should you ever use anything other than “said” to attribute dialogue? Are exclamation points taboo? The answers might surprise you.

Learn how to harness body language, cut hackneyed adjectives, and draw on the environment for ambience. No more wooden characters. You’ll transform them into believable personalities your readers will learn to love. Or hate.

Get in the driver’s seat, relax, and enjoy your journey—with Kathy Steinemann’s book as your GPS.

My Review

The author contacted me about reviewing her book and I’m so pleased she did. When I read the line ‘…characters nodding like marionettes in every chapter’, I knew this was a writing resource book I had to read.

It couldn’t have come at a better time for me as I’m in the process of fine-tuning the second book in my series Silent Sea Chronicles. I know I’m guilty of creating nodding, grinning character who laugh and cry far too much. There are plenty of other examples of words that you may not even realise you are overusing (that being one!), and a multitude of alternatives to try.

Kathy Steinemann uses imaginative examples of how not to write sentences, along with examples of how to improve your work. There are A-Z lists of alternative words, and story prompts throughout. The book gets you thinking about why you have chosen particular words, and she helps you think of ways a few well placed words can bring your story to life. There are also chapters on punctuation, how to include the senses in your writing, and a list of 400 redundant words.

I think it’s a brilliant book for every writer to have on their desk. Unfortunately, I’ve only read The Writer’s Lexicon on kindle (I highly recommend a paperback). I can imagine my paperback copy would have post-it notes stuck all over my favourite chapters. It has certainly got me thinking, and I will be using this as a guide to help me tighten the writing in my books.

5 well deserved stars.

Amazon UK  Amazon US  Goodreads

writerslexicon

The KDP Countdown deal Results are in! #indie #indieauthor

Well, I’m astounded by what a little advertising can do. These aren’t the massive results others have achieved, but it is the BEST I have ever done, and the best Visions of Zarua has ever done. I’m ecstatic, and my self publishing verve has been restored!

So how did Visions of Zarua do during the 99p / 99c countdown deal?

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The deal ran 20th to 27th July 2017

Day 1 – My efforts consisted of Tweeting, blogging, Facebook, Instagram – the usual suspects.

COST = MY TIME. SALES = 0

Day 2 – BKnights

COST = $11. SALES = 3

Day 3 – My Facebook Ad: Aimed at 15-30 age group male/female in UK and US with interests in reading, fantasy etc. Total of 9 interests.

COST = £6. SALES = 0

Note – I picked this age group as they had shown the most interest in previous ads. There were 1,169 people reached – 16 likes and 1 link click (to Amazon book page). 12 photo quote clicks were recorded – obviously having the photo quote took away from the amazon link click. (A few days later I invited these people to Like my facebook page.)

Day 4 – Bargain Booksy Ad

COST $40. SALES = 24!

Finally making progress, although I haven’t covered my costs. There were 21 sales in the US and 3 in the UK. 

Day 5 – Facebook Ads attempt 2

This time I ran two ads, 1 US and 1 UK. I upped the age range 16-65+ male/female. I reduced interests to 4.

I also used the Amazon book page as the direct link for the Ad, rather than have the universal link in the wording of the ad as before.

US 14 likes, only 2 link clicks (234 people reached)

UK 2 likes, 21 link clicks. (470 people reached) No idea if these resulted in sales.

COST = £8. SALES = 10 (5 UK / 5 US) – Maybe a result of Bargain Booksy and / or facebook ad?

Day 6 – Booksends

COST $35. SALES = 28

Very happy with these figures!

DAY 7 – Bookrunes.

COST = $25. SALES 9.

I was interested to give Bookrunes a shot as they advertise to UK, US, Australia and India. Even though the deal doesn’t run in all those countries, it’s still very much needed exposure.

And guess what,

Day 8 = 3 sales in Australia!

Extra: Amazon Marketing Services

I also ran an AMS ad throughout the whole KDP countdown deal. The results take a few days to finalise, but so far it looks as though it received 1847 impressions, 1 click and 1 sale. That sale cost so far $0.07. I have a profit WOOHOO! However, that’s the worst an AMS ad has ever performed for me. It was a sponsored product ad with 48 keywords, but they would not let me mention anything to do with the sale or price in the ad so that doesn’t help matters. I also still have an ad running for Visions of Zarua all the time, so the two ads will have been very similar.

The deal has ended, but I have my fingers crossed that more sales will trickle in over the next few days / weeks.

Final Thoughts

Over 8 days Visions of Zarua sold 77 copies. 17 UK 57 US and 3 AU.

I may be out of pocket but it doesn’t matter because 77 new people own my book and countless others have seen it! Even though I haven’t hit any bestseller lists, I’m still happy with the results.

In the past I’ve sold in Canada, Germany and been read in India – so I really can say that Visions of Zarua has been read Worldwide. If I hadn’t had the guts to self publish back in 2015, no one would have seen my work, and no doubt I’d be out in the real world right now trying to find a job that fits in with school hours and term times – boring!

Instead, I’m fully pumped and ready to get on with book 2 in the Silent Sea Chronicles so I can start this crazy business all over again.

P.S – Thanks to my blogging friends who gave me words of advice and encouragement when I had a wobble a few weeks back.

P.P.S – I’m still desperate to get some reviews for The Lost Sentinel (and Visions of Zarua). I want to try a repeat experiment with countdown deals for The Lost Sentinel soon, but it only has 4/5 reviews on Amazon and some ad sites require 10+ reviews. Can you help?

If you’ve read either books, please consider reviewing them on Amazon. If you would like a reviewers copy, please get in touch.

Now I’m planning a whole week without the internet – well almost. I’ll still be checking my emails, wordpress comments etc, so please add your thoughts and comments. I love to interact, that’s what makes this whole thing worth the effort.

Thanks for reading!

Visions of Zarua Amazon link

The Lost Sentinel Amazon link

My favourite reads of 2016 #amreading #greatreads

I’ve read more in 2016 than I have in years thanks to taking up the Goodreads reading challenge and joining Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Here are some of the books that have stayed with me long after I finished reading them.

Favourite Children’s book – Fire Bed and Bone by Henrietta Bradford

My review & My Family Review

Featured Image -- 3569  I loved this book and shared it with my family. It was an interesting experiment to get the different opinions from a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old and my husband (whose age I’m sure he wouldn’t want me to mention!).

Favourite YA book – The Sapphire Legend by E.L. Tenenbaum

My Review

26248087 This fantasy book took me by surprise and I have been longing to read the sequel. I definitely will in 2017.

Favourite Indie and fantasy – The Crown of Stones by C.L. Schneider

My Review

20319844 I was drawn to the cover of this book from the start and the book didn’t disappoint. A great fantasy, and another trilogy I hope to finish in 2017.

Favourite Thriller – Distress Signals by Catherin Ryan Howard

My review

distress signals cover image This book led to some very late nights! A compelling thriller and I bet you won’t see the twist coming!

Favourite Romance – Late Summer in the Vineyards by Jo Thomas

My Review

51qenardljl I loved this book for the atmosphere and the wonderful feel good factor it had.

Favourite Audio book – Look Behind You by Sibel Hodge

My Review

51fbBPM9h9L._SY346_  This was a thriller I just couldn’t stop listening to. It had that all important mystery element, and like the main character I didn’t know who to trust. It reminded me of ‘Before I go to Sleep’. Both truly great reads.

In all I read 33 books during 2016. Now I can’t wait to see what books 2017 has in store.

Have you read any of these books, and if not have I inspired you to add them to your TBR lists?

 

#Tuesdaybookblog #bookreview The Sorcerer’s Garden @Dwallacepeach #RBRT #Fantasy

The Sorcerer’s Garden by D Wallace Peach

Genre – Fantasy

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Blurb

Recently fired and residing with her sweetly overbearing mother, Madlyn needs a job—bad. In a moment of desperation, she accepts a part-time position reading at the bedside of adventurer and amateur writer Cody Lofton. A near-drowning accident left the young man in a vegetative state, and his chances of recovery wane with each passing day.

Cody’s older brother, Dustin, and eccentric grandmother aren’t prepared to give up on the youngest son of Portland, Oregon’s royalty.

Dustin’s a personable guy, bordering on naïve, and overwhelmed by familial corporate duties and cutthroat partners. Grandmother Lillian’s a meddler with an eye for the esoteric, dabbling in Dustin’s life and dealing out wisdom like a card shark. One innocent conversation at a time, she sucks Madlyn into the Lofton story, dubbing her the princess and bestowing on her the responsibility of both grandsons’ destinies.

And all Madlyn wanted was a simple reading job.

Uninspired by her self-imposed stack of literary selections, Madlyn opts for Cody’s work-in-progress. Fantasy isn’t her favorite, but with only four chapters completed, reading The Sorcerer’s Garden should be no sweat, right?

Little does she realize, the story will begin writing itself and, by the hand of destiny, become her own.

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My Review

Wow, this was a breath-taking adventure that barely stood still.

I was intrigued by the title and the blurb really stood out for me, anything to do with writing and writers and I’m sold! As I started reading, possibilities whirled through my mind…

The start of the story felt a little over the top in the action sense. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but then I realised this was the start of Cody’s story – his tale of slaying the dragon with his brother. I thought this was very cleverly done by the author. This larger than life action helped to distinguish between Madlyn’s real world and Cody’s work in progress. However, as the story developed everything becomes more complicated for Madalyn and soon the two worlds are colliding and you have no idea what is real and what is part of the world within Cody’s story. I was as confused as Madlyn, but that wasn’t an issue, it made the reading experience more exciting. The only complaint I have is that the action was so full on and constant, sometimes I just needed a breather.

I liked Madlyn, but I really liked the two brothers, Cody and Dustin, and their mysterious grandmother, Lillian.

I loved the end. Everything came together and not as I was expecting it too. I was very happy with the conclusion, and the fact this was a standalone novel. But there could easily be more to this story and these characters.

My final thought – The author showed great skill weaving this tale. It was a very enjoyable read, if not a little exhausting!

I recommend to anyone who enjoys fantasy and loves a story with relentless pace.

4 stars

Check the book for yourself on Goodreads.

Update – 15/12/16 I reviewed this book as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Visions of Zarua Blog Tour Schedule #WWWblogs #fantasy

Last week I put out a call for help to set up my own blog tour. I’m overwhelmed with the support I received and couldn’t be happier to announce that I’ve drawn up a schedule of sites I will be visiting during the 2 week tour.

Visions of Zarua Blog tour Banner

Here are the dates and links to the sites if you want to check out the lovely bloggers who’ve agreed to get involved.

Visions of Zarua Blog Tour

Monday 27th June – betweenthelinesbookblog  Promo Post

Tuesday 28th June – rosieamber  Review

Wednesday 29th June – bookwraiths  Indie Wednesday feature, guest post & giveaway

Thursday 30th June – aliasfaithrivens  Review & Interview

Friday 1st July – TheTattoedBookGeek  Novel extract & guest post

Saturday 2nd July – teripolen  Promo post

Sunday 3rd July – alinefromabook  Review

Monday 4th July – barbedwords  Review & Q&A session

Tuesday 5th July – baubtaub  Review, interview and giveaway

Wednesday 6th July – shelleywilson  Promo post

Thursday 7th July – jenanita01  Review

Friday 8th July – TBC spookymrsgreen  Guest post/promo

Saturday 9th July – thehappymeerkatreviews review/post

Sunday 10th July – To celebrate the last day of the tour I hope to have two posts going out;

color me in Cyanide and Cherry Review/post

Luccigray – TBC

(Helen Jones journeytoambeth hopes to post a review at some point during this two week tour.)

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Exciting isn’t it! Please feel free to join in and comment, and if you want to post your own review during the blog tour, I’d be very pleased to have you involved.

Note – This is the starting line up and things may change, but I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for agreeing to help me. It has been a really uplifting experience and I look forward to starting my tour in a few weeks time.