Thursday, 7 December 2017

Advice from Floris Books

This is the second overview I promised from the recent Society of Authors weekend conference, although it's taken me a while to post it! Hope some may find it useful. Meant to add that I was honoured to be invited to speak to some of the classes in wee granddaughter's school last week and I saw how enquiring and interested they are in all sorts of subjects - and they loved a 'real' author visit!

Floris Books is a well-established Scottish publisher based in Edinburgh and they produce some wonderful books for all ages of children. The best way to approach them for a couple of the age groups is to enter their annual Kelpies Prize, as they read all submissions for that. All books must have a strong Scottish theme but the author can be from anywhere!

I greatly enjoyed the talk Sally Polson gave at the conference as it was straight from the horse's mouth, if you excuse the expression. As well as showing us covers of their different range of books, Sally gave us very useful pointers for writing and submitting a book suitable for Floris.

Who is the Reader?

It is essential to decide to what category or age group you are aiming the story and ensure it is pitched at the correct level as below:

Picture Books: aimed at ages 3-6, these are usually 24 or 32 pages and under 1000 words

Young Readers: aimed at ages 6-9, these stories have a strong concept or theme and are around 100 to 150 pages long and about 10,000 words. They also tend to have line drawings to help a child move on from picture books.

Middle Grade: aimed at ages 8-12 and often submitted through agents. They should contain strong adventure and be around 30,000 to 60,000 words.

Teen/YA: aimed at the 12+ age group, with more adult content, danger and emotional impact

How do they Choose Books?

How does the writer get the editor excited? (Wouldn't we all like to know that!) Sally suggested the following:

  • Great concept
  • Beautiful or unique quality of writing
  • Memorable characters
  • Do we want to read about them again?

Editorial Questions

  • Who is the book for?
  • How can they sell it? For example: author events and promotion
  • Does it fill a gap on their list? They might have a similar one already
  • Is there a hook running through the main plot that could be marketed?
  • Is there series potential? A series with strong themes is good for the 6-9 age group.
  • Children like to read about other children saving the day so limit adult characters
  • Do the characters speak and act like a child of that age?
  • Is the content and language appropriate for the targeted reader?

Subbing to Floris

Sally kindly shared the following tips for submissions:

  • They accept unsolicited manuscripts
  • For the Kelpies range, about half the submissions are unagented and come straight from the author
  • The Kelpies Prize is a good way to get noticed - submissions are open for books targeted at the 8-11 age group and 12-15 age group and you can download the guidelines on the website
  • Read the submission guidelines on their website
  • The Synopsis does not need every detail - sum up the story in a couple of paragraphs and focus on main points
  • Include a letter with author details

All great advice - we just need to write the books now! I actually submitted a picture story recently and had some lovely feedback from the assistant editor. Although she said it was a lovely story with excellent writing, it wasn't quite Scottish enough in a crowded market where they have to be choose carefully.

This particular story is already included in an American anthology of Princess and Dragon books but I'd love it to be published as a stand-alone, and I completely understand that response as it could really be set anywhere, although I have castles and lochs in the story.

One of my writing colleagues, Elizabeth McKay, is the author of the brilliant Wee Granny books and that is exactly the kind of 'Scottishness' they are seeking, for picture books at least.

Good luck if you feel like submitting!

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

St Andrew's Day in Scotland

November 30th is St Andrew’s Day up here, a celebration of the patron saint of Scotland. Although it is not generally a national holiday, there are a few events going on around the country.

St Andrew is very well integrated into our culture. He was said to have been crucified on a diagonal cross, depicted on our flag, the saltire, as the white cross of St Andrew on a blue background. The ancient historic university town of St Andrews on the east coast was named in honour of the saint whose final resting place is supposedly here.

Known as a fair and generous man who desired to help those less fortunate, he has often inspired such generosity of spirit and friendliness amongst Scots over the years. This year on St Andrews Day, we are being encouraged to #BeLikeStAndrew by sharing an act of kindness with someone. Perhaps I could get away with mine being today (29th) when I bought coffee and chocolate for a homeless man in Glasgow!

If you’re around any of the venues on November 30th mentioned on the site, you’re guaranteed a great time.

And if you’d like to read a Scottish novel, two of mine are set around the beautiful west coast and are available on Amazon!


Sunday, 12 November 2017

Indie Authors as Entrepreneurs

One of the most interesting and helpful sessions at the recent ScotsWrite Conference run by the Society of Authors in Scotland was the one from online guru Joanna Penn. I've been following Joanna's blog posts and podcasts for a few years and no one is more helpful to those authors who are creative writers but also want to run their own self-publishing business.

I've outlined some of her talk below but you can also follow Joanna at the Creative Penn where you'll find a wealth of advice. Joanna writes both fiction and non-fiction and it's fascinating to see how her career (and income) has grown over the years

Change of Mindset

  • entrepreneurs should create value from their ideas, such as publishing e-books, print books and audio books. Some even create workbooks to do with their subject

Focus on the Customer

  • for writers, it's all about the reader and not ourselves. What do they want to pay for? 
  • use Amazon to research and understand your target market - what are competitive titles? What are the sub categories for your genre?

Intellectual Property Rights

  • if with a publisher - what rights have you sold? If e-books, then investigate using the print rights, audio and translation rights yourself. 
  • write more books; alternate fiction with non-fiction
  • write a series and hook readers with the first one
  • try novellas - from 25,000 to 40,000 words
  • create a box set by offering a few similar books or series in one file for a bargain price
  • some authors only use Amazon to self-publish but you could also publish with Kobo and Apple yourself.

Multiple Income Streams

  • as well as writing novels, try short writing for magazines 
  • offer online courses (through teachable) 
  • try affiliate commission on your blog or website (where readers click on Amazon or whatever, earning you a small affiliate fee if they buy)

Take Action

  • schedule time to include the business side of writing and to set goals
  • decide what you want (hope?) to earn from your business - when (by next year?) and what you could do to achieve it.
I was so busy scribbling away while absorbing Joanna's lively talk that I've probably missed a lot. We might not all want to be entrepreneurs to such an extent but one of the simplest things I could do right away is to set proper goals - so I can finish all my ideas and fragments of stories!


Monday, 30 October 2017

The Story of a Cover (and Special Offer)

We've all heard it many a time in the world of indie publishing: the cover art is very important and we must leave it to the professionals or at least get it right!

I love doing my own covers where possible and can spend hours enjoying finding the right photograph of my own or sourcing a suitable one elsewhere. However, I've never had such difficulty with one as I did with my latest Victorian novella: Pride and Progress.

Part of the problem was my usual impatience to get it done and dusted, both the writing and the cover. But I forgot one simple, important lesson I learned from my Crooked Cat publisher (among others): the cover should only reflect the genre and period (if relevant) and not the whole story.

So, I first tried to incorporate a steam train into a Victorian looking background, as well as a Victorian lady. Some of you were kind enough to tell me you liked it, but I was never completely comfortable with it, especially trying to add that train in such a way.

Then I decided to change all my books to my full name which meant historicals were no longer under Romy - why did I not decide that before publishing the novella?! And so I tried another version of the cover, without the train this time. But again, I instinctively knew it wasn't good enough, and I preferred the original.

Finally, I did what I should have done before now and took a small subscription to one of the best photo image sites where I have much better choice if I don't have an image of my own. And it was third time lucky, as far as I'm concerned. No train, no Victorian image that had to be incorporated into the scene. I took note of the kind of covers being published now on historical novels and I really like the girl with cameo brooch.

Rather than leave it in its original state, I played around with it until happy with the portrayal of my heroine, Emily, in the hope it gives the impression of a romantic novella about a young Victorian woman. Although the steam train plays a big part in the story, it's basically a romance and thus is aimed at that readership.

Hopefully, I'll be more patient in future until I get it right first time!


P.S. I've now put Pride and Progress on an Amazon Countdown at 99p (99c) to run from Saturday 4th November until Wednesday 8th!

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Celebratory Offers!

Now that I've finally changed over most of my books to my full name, I thought it was a good time to put three different types of book on a special countdown offer for a few days, while I'm also about to celebrate another birthday!

The following are on Amazon countdown from 21st to 26th October. You can find them on my Amazon Author Page UK and USA.

Mischief at Mulberry Manor

A Victorian novella with romance and ghost story set around Twelfth Night.

When Maryanne Robertson visits her cousins’ old manor house for the Twelfth Night Masked Ball in 1859, she does not expect to find the manor haunted or to fall in love. But mischief is afoot and one of her cousins is missing as frost covers the ground outdoors. 

Is the mischief caused by a ghostly presence or someone more human? 

End of the Road

Twelve quirky short stories from fantasy and black humour to light crime. Ideal for Halloween!

Return to Kilcraig

First time price reduction!

The legacy of her beloved grandmother's cottage in the Scottish village of Kilcraig seems like the ideal solution after Christy Morrison’s recent trauma. Until the threats begin. Can she trust her heart and allow herself to fall in love again?

When Ross McKinley reluctantly welcomes Christy back to the village, he has hardened his heart against love, until they begin to renew their childhood friendship. But someone is determined Christy should go back to London. Will they find the culprit in time?

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Changes Afoot!

Well just after releasing a new Romy novella, I've now decided to make major changes to my writing career!

Courtesy of Pixabay

I've been thinking for some time about the need to have all my writing under my full name and I've now set this in motion. It doesn't make sense to have three names for novels: Rosemary, Romy and Ros. Everything will be so much easier if confined to the one name - once I change everything over.

So guess what I'll be doing for the next few weeks? As of today, I've taken my two tween books (as Ros) out of circulation while I changed the covers and author name etc. Fortunately, I had redrafted them when I took them over from the publisher so I was able to upload the new versions today and they should soon be available again - and will then reappear on the side of the blog.

The rights for some of my Romy books are reverting to me in the next week so they too will be changed along with those I already own (including that new novella!). It's exciting but daunting and I'll have to sort out Amazon author pages, Facebook author page and anything else I can remember. At least twitter is under my full name and I shall be revamping my newsletter when all have been changed over.

It's a good excuse to take general stock at the same time and see if anything can be improved or enhanced. I'm very glad my two full length Scottish novels were published under Rosemary, as are all my short stories and articles, so they can remain in circulation.

So watch this space! Once all the books are wearing their new covers and have been republished, I'll do an update on here. Meanwhile, you'll notice some of the covers at the side disappearing now and then until ready. At least I'll be able to streamline any publicity for conferences from now on.


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Progress of New Victorian Novella

At last, my new Victorian novella, Pride and Progress, is now published! This began life as a short story which was shortlisted in a national competition. One of my writing friends loved the heroine, Emily, so much that I decided it needed to be a longer story. However, life, procrastination, other writing and a house move got in the way of progress until I finally finished it.

Brand new (and different) cover!

Set in the 1870s, the railways play a big part in the story as I absolutely love steam trains. Although many of the British railway lines had been built by the end of the 1840s, some more remote areas had to wait until the 1860s/70s to be connected. Many people were against such progress at first and that gave me the conflict between the heroine and the Scottish station master, Arthur.

Steam train at Bo'ness

The husband and I have been on most of the steam trains in North Wales, as well as the West Highland Way and Aviemore in Scotland. Since our move, we've finally been for a journey on the one at Bo'ness which is not too far from us so we'll be going again later this month with granddaughter. My lovely father-in-law was a station master and we were delighted to find the actual ticket office from one of the stations he worked at is the one they brought to the preserved line at Bo'ness! In homage to him, I've used his first name for my hero.

So, although this is a sweet, feel-good novella and a quick read, it's one that is close to my heart and I'm just glad to see it finished at last.

Short blurb for Pride and Progress

Miss Emily Morton is content with her village life as a teacher in the north east of England in the 1870s, until the new railway arrives along with the handsome Scottish station master, Arthur Muir.
Emily detests the railways, while it is Arthur's passion.
Each is challenged by the other but will pride allow for progress?

It's now available on Amazon UK and Amazon US and worldwide

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

ScotsWrite17 Conference

Well, what a fabulous weekend conference we had at the excellent Westerwood Hotel just north of Glasgow. The Society of Authors in Scotland pulled out all the stops, with generous support from Creative Scotland among others, to make ScotsWrite17 a resounding success.

From Friday dinner until Sunday afternoon, it was non-stop with inspiring speakers, very helpful break-out sessions, one-to-ones with agents and publishing editors and even a few wellbeing opportunities. The whole weekend followed the Japanese concept of Ikigai, meaning 'a reason for being' with its four themes: passion, profession, mission and vocation - all necessary to writers.

The four keynote speakers, Joanne Harris, Jane Johnson, Charlie Higson and Joanna Penn wowed us with their empowering talks while break-out sessions gave us many choices including Denise Mina, Caro Ramsay, Jane Johnson, Francesca Main (Picador), Joanna Penn and Sally Polson (Floris). Some were so popular that numbers were limited and we were forced to try something else - not a bad idea as it turned out.

I decided to make use of the wellbeing aspects of the weekend as an enhancement to creative talks and sessions. Caro Ramsay is a highly sought-after Osteopath as well as a crime writer (and very entertaining) and she explained how an ergonomic workspace should lead to pain-free writing, especially with using our core muscles and keeping the monitor at the correct height. There was much more but probably a bit rushed in the time limit to take it all in.

I've long wanted to try Tai Chi so I managed to get to the morning class before breakfast both mornings and I loved it - it's such a gentle form of exercise and wakens up the body. As music affects me deeply, the soothing ethereal notes were a bonus and made it quite a moving experience. We even had CPR training available in another room throughout the Saturday from a doctor involved with Save a Life Scotland. An excellent 'drop-in' idea which only took five minutes of our time and might help someone one day.

Apart from the excellent food, meeting old and new friends, non-stop chat and learning, there was a special Botanist Gin-tasting session before dinner on the Saturday. One of my friends would have appreciated this more than I did, but I noticed it was well-attended! Much more my kind of thing was the ceilidh after dinner on the Saturday evening, with a live Scottish band. Great fun, though an hour of riotous Scottish dancing was enough for me after such a full-on day.

Even on Sunday, we had Joanna Penn's fabulous keynote talk, followed by two break-out sessions of 50 minutes each, then after lunch we ended with an 'Insider Secrets' panel of speakers. A great way to end such a memorable conference.

I'll try and give you a flavour of two of the most sessions in subsequent posts as they are so interesting and deserve their own space: Floris Books and Joanna Penn.

Now to put all that inspiration into practice!


Friday, 15 September 2017

Inspiring Short Break

Now that we're well settled here, we took the chance of having a short break across in the Kingdom of Fife, one of our favourite places in the east of Scotland. We've been many times before but are so much nearer now which allowed us to drive over the new bridge, the Queensferry Crossing, then all the way up the East Neuk.


Most of the fishing villages are still as picturesque and traditional, with their fishing boats, creels and fresh lobster and crab for sale at various small booths. This time, we found a new-to-us village where the empty long sandy beach and wild sea and cliffs was only enhanced by the cold windy day! Most exhilarating.

Before heading home on the Monday, we stopped at historic Culross, where much of the Outlander series was filmed. It is one of the most intact 16th/17th century villages in Scotland and I could picture the past with ease - even the streets are mostly still cobbled.

I'll let the photos do the talking on this post!


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Welcome to Autumn!

It's the time of year I most love: summer is more or less over, the days are fresher and the nights are drawing in! I haven't quite got as far as rearranging clothes and footwear yet but it won't be long before the cosier tops and tights, and boots, take a more prominent place. Already I can feel my energy levels increasing and look forward to a more productive time without the lethargy of summer.

Fortunately, we're more settled in our new house and area, with only a few small things still to fix or change. I'm enjoying seeing more of granddaughter and helping out with the school run a few times a week - it's a privilege to hear about this exciting new time in her life. Her parents are grateful too, as it takes a bit of pressure off them.

I've now started an inspiration (or vision) board that sits at one side of my desk as a reminder of what I enjoy or want to achieve. It's a work in progress and it's good fun, looking for images or quotes to add. As a visual person, this suits my work space very well so hopefully it will inspire me!

Since yesterday was probably one of the best days for getting out and about up here, sunny at times but with a lovely fresh breeze, we headed off by train to the beautiful east coast town of North Berwick. I've never been before but have heard so much about it that it was the perfect distance for a whole day out without having to drive. And I was not disappointed. I expect this was the first of many such trips and I'm not surprised that many people spend longer breaks there.


Bass Rock

As well as lying along a very pretty stretch of coast, the town is full of those small shops that entice passers-by to browse. Then there's the attractive harbour with the Scottish Seabird Centre overlooking the rocky area down to sea and beach. And one of the most impressive sights is the famous Bass Rock which hosts the world's largest colony of Northern gannets. I definitely need to go back to take one of the boat trips on offer as they also cruise around the Isle of May to see the biggest colony of puffins on the east coast of Britain - and I'm sure there are many more interesting sights along the coast.


I was intrigued to see the remains of an ancient church sitting near the Seabird Centre and of course I went in to investigate. The photo is shows most of what is left of the chapel but I took note of its interesting history - the area was one of pilgrimage in the past. Being right on the Firth of Forth, fresh seafood is available in many of the eating places - there's even a little lobster hatchery at the end of the harbour where you can find out exactly how they grow (I won't be eating any of them!). It was certainly good for the soul being in such beautiful natural surroundings and I can't wait to return.

All I need to do now is get stuck into redrafting the novella so I can return to another project that needs completing! Hope you're feeling inspired wherever you are.