Friday, 11 August 2017
Writing conferences are part and parcel of a busy writer’s life. They release writers from their self-imposed solitude and confirm there is life outside the writer’s cave. It provides an opportunity to expand our knowledge, find out how other writers work, meet other writers who are household names and others who are less well known. Above all, it’s about networking.
Normally I am simply an attendee and sometimes a speaker but I’ve never been involved with organising a conference. Until now.
After the Society of Authors in Scotland (SOAiS) made the decision to organise a conference we were gripped with excitement. We wanted it to be the best conference ever, particularly as it was going to be a one off and wouldn’t be repeated. Well, at least not for a long time. Find out all about the conference at http://www.societyofauthors.org/Events/ScotsWrite
Our committee, headed up by our wonderful chairperson, Linda Strachan, got to work. And as a committee member, I was in the thick of it. We soon realised it would be of benefit to have additional SOAiS members join the committee to help with the planning and implementation of the conference. These extra members were a boon and things were soon merrily chugging away although at the beginning things were a bit chaotic for me. That was soon to change when our events organiser, Jenny Kumar, joined our working parties and soon whipped us into shape. I reckon Jenny is Wonderwoman in disguise.
Anyway to cut a long story short. We have our venue arranged, the luxurious Westerwood Hotel, in Cumbernauld, which is central and easily reached from all parts of Scotland. The food is to die for and if there’s time in between listening to all the great speakers we have lined up, there’s always the spa or the golf course.
Our speakers are booked and the line up is stupendous. The speakers include Joanne Harris (Chocolat), Caro Ramsay, Denise Mina, Charlie Higson, Joanna Penn and a host of others too numerous to mention including publishers and agents. Plus, if you want to know about Scrivener we have sessions devoted to that. And there is optional Tai Chi if that’s something you fancy. If you want to see the full programme check it out here http://www.societyofauthors.org/Events/ScotsWrite/Full-Programme and if you want to know more about the speakers check them out here http://www.societyofauthors.org/Events/ScotsWrite/Speakers
It’s going to be an exciting weekend and we have a delegate bag full of fascinating goodies for everyone who comes along. But don’t delay because places are selling fast. And don’t think if you miss it this year you can come along next year because you can’t. This is a one off conference and there will be no repeat next year.
A final word before I finish. As well as special rates for SOA members there are special affiliate rates for the conference if you belong to any of the following organisations such as: ACW; ALLi; Borders' Writers Forum; Federation of Scottish Writers; Historical Novel Society; ITI; NUJ; Playwrights' Studio, Scotland; Royal Literary Fund; SAS; SAW; SCBWI; and WGGB. So, be sure to claim your discounted price.
This conference is something you can’t afford to miss and it is open to everyone, not just SOA members so make sure you book. And make it soon so you don’t miss the event of the year.
I’ll see you there.
Amazon: Author page
Saturday, 8 July 2017
I recently attended a Nielsen Book Publisher Seminar which supplied lots of information about the publishing business and the use of ISBNs. Among a lot of other things, they covered electronic trading, the use of metadata, and digital marketing. All useful information which applies to the crowded business of publishing. Did you know there were 178,000 new titles published last year alone, and that 488 new books are published every day? The mind boggles.
One thing that grabbed my attention at this seminar was the session on Book2Look widgets. I’d vaguely heard about these widgets but hadn’t paid much attention. However, as the presentation developed the potential became obvious although I wasn’t sure whether the outlay for the widgets would have any economic benefit for an author. You can find the web presentation on You Tube. Click here to view. You will also find some other shorter You Tube videos. Click here to see a selection.
Promotion and marketing do not come easily to me. It comes from being Scottish and being taught from an early age that you shouldn’t, in the words of my Gran, ‘blow your own trumpet’. So the fact my books are popular does not come from any great efforts on my part. I dabble a bit with Twitter and Facebook but not to any great extent. But even I could see how attractive these widgets were so I decided to give it a whirl and bought a stack of widgets, enough for all of my books.
They came with enough information to get me started. A video webinar, a Quick Guide, and a more in-depth online manual. I found it relatively easy to create my Biblets (that’s what the widgets are called) and instantaneous email help was provided each time I had a query.
Inside the Biblet, which opens like a book, you can access sample chapters (you choose how many), audio clips, You Tube Videos, a selection of your chosen reviews, plus it automatically inserts information from Goodreads so there is no need to include this yourself. It also includes any shop links you indicate you want included and this is done before you create your Biblet so it automatically links in each time a new Biblet is created.
So, once my Biblets were created I tested the links. All the shop links worked and I was amazed to find I had reviews on Amazon in Germany. Who would have thought? Everything else worked perfectly, the audio, the video and the book sample. I then tested the sharing links and posted to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest from inside the Biblet. Every single share worked and the Widgets opened in their media destinations.
Why don’t you have a go? Open the widget above and have a look around. There is a menu down the left side of the open widget although once you have clicked one thing it will collapse. Just click the icon with the three dots at the foot of the page and it will open again. If you are using a browser on your PC there is also a tab on the right side of the screen that says ‘Did you know?’ If you click that it will pull out the menu bar. Be my guest and have a play around and let me know what you think of it.
Now I’d compiled and published my Biblets I needed to add them to Blogger, and you can see them all down the left sidebar. If you click on them they will open but I was unable to figure out how to get them to open in a new window (a Blogger thing) so once you’ve opened one you’ll have to use the back button to get back here.
I still have to add them to my website. That’s going to be a major task but I think it will be worth it.
I’m really impressed by the Book2Look widgets. Whether they will pay off for me is another matter but I don’t care, I like them and I think they look good. If you want to check them out this is where you will find them https://www.nielsenisbnstore.com/Home/Book2Look
Do let me know what you think.
Amazon: Author page
Thursday, 25 May 2017
Another year and another Crimefest, and no matter where I turned this year I kept bumping into Scottish authors. They were all over the place. You can’t keep a good Scot down!
So, this year I’m not going to write about all the various panels and what a good time I had. I’m just going to entertain you with a rogues gallery of the writers who weren’t fast enough to escape from me. So, here goes, in surname alphabetical order:
Lucy Cameron. It was great to see Lucy on a panel this year after many years of attendance as a spectator. Lucy has just published her debut novel Night is Watching and I have it on my reading list. I talked to her before she took part in her first panel Nightmares and Trauma and she admitted to shaking in her shoes. But she put up a brilliant performance and I’m sure by her second debut authors’ panel she would have been in her stride.
Mason Cross. I often meet Mason at CWA (Crime Writer Association) lunches so it’s always a pleasure to see him take part in these events. His Cat and Mouse: Playing with your readers on Friday, was a delight.
Doug Johnstone. Author, journalist, and musician appeared early in the programme on Thursday, talking about the dark side of human nature in the panel What are you hiding?
Michael Malone. It’s always good to catch up with Michael whom I’ve known for many years and it’s great to observe his success as an author who now has eight books to his name. I read his most recent one A Suitable Lie and it was a cracker, joining the relatively new domestic noir category of crime fiction.
Wullie McIntyre, who currently writes as W. S. McIntyre. I’d never met Wullie before although I’d brushed shoulders with him on Facebook, and I hadn’t realised he was a criminal defence lawyer. You would expect someone in this career to be somewhat formal but his presentation was humorous and it led me to start reading one of his books Present Tense, and I must say that although it is quite definitely crime fiction, I haven’t stopped laughing since page one.
Caro Ramsay. Another author I’ve known for a long time and count as a friend, floated past me a couple of times with the promise from both of us that we’d meet up. But it didn’t happen, we both seemed to be spiralling in different directions. Next time, I’ll nail her to the floor.
Anne Randall. I haven’t known Anne quite as long. I’m not sure whether it was last year or the year before we met. But she’s a lovely person and generated enough interest on her author panel, when she spoke about her books and writing, for me to download her first book Riven to my Kindle. I’ve made a mental note to myself that I must read this one ASAP.
Of course, I was also there having a whale of a time and, naturally, I’ve already paid my deposit for next year.
Amazon: Author page
Wednesday, 26 April 2017
|How do you like my new friend from the CWA Conference|
I arrived in Edinburgh for the Crime Writers' Association conference with a suitcase that weighed a ton. However, once I’d offloaded books to Blackwell’s Bookshop it was a lot more manageable.
Hotel check-in went smoothly and I popped up to the seventh floor in the lift only to be faced with a small downward flight of stairs to get to my room. It reminded me of the time that SAW had their conferences in Blairgowrie, odd sets of stairs all over the place. Went down one set and then up another all on the same floor. The Queens Hotel in Harrogate was like that as well. Maybe it’s a feature of old buildings.
|I think the poor duck is traumatised|
by what he is seeing!
The room, once I got there was lovely. But why do hotels put masses of cushions on their beds. I only wind up heaving them on the floor. Oh, and because it was an Apex Hotel I had a room share with one of their plastic ducks! I found him perched in the shower soap tray
I was on the registration table and it was great meeting everyone as they arrived, ticking them off on the list, and issuing them with halyards while an army of volunteers presented everyone with a goody bag. Inside were some lovely books and a posh notebook as well as lots of other stuff.
As soon as registration was over it was off to the welcome reception with drinks and canapés and Ian Rankin in conversation with Alexander McCall Smith.
|Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin|
Ian and Alexander had a wide-ranging conversation about Edinburgh and its influence on literature and crime fiction. They mentioned the grave robbers Burke and Hare, Deacon Brodie who was a respectable alderman during the day but who turned to burglary during the hours of darkness, the Stevenson family of lighthouse builders and the author Robert Louis Stevenson who preferred writing to joining the family business. And, of course, Arthur Conan Doyle who was heavily influenced by his time in Edinburgh.
Saturday morning arrived, bright and sunny, and after a superb breakfast, in the company of some of the other delegates, we embarked on the activities of the day.
|Tom Halpin and Alex Gray|
Tom Halpin, who was formerly the Head of CID Operations at Strathclyde Police and Deputy Chief Constable at Lothians and Borders Police, gave an entertaining talk which he called “Reflections of an optimistic detective”. The audience was spellbound as he regaled us with his experiences of various murders and the conflicting interests that arose during the course of investigations, plus his problems with the police hierarchy. Aly Monroe described his task as “a realistic and moving account”.
After the talk, there was a chance to mingle with the other delegates during the coffee break and to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. The atmosphere was electric and the room buzzed with voices.
|Lin Anderson and Lorna Dawson|
Professor Lorna Dawson, Scotland’s top forensic soil scientist was on next with “The application of earth science to the criminal justice system”. Once again, this was an interesting and informative talk amply illustrated by slides.
Saturday afternoon was free time with two excursions on offer. One group set off for the Real Mary King Close which was a guided tour of the underground streets that lie below the High Street, otherwise known as the Royal Mile. The tour gives a flavour of what life was like in these narrow alleyways and is known for ghostly presences.
The second group was taken to the Writers’ Museum, a seventeenth-century residence close to Edinburgh Castle, which commemorates Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and Robert Louis Stevenson. They then visited The Museum on the Mound which is part of the Bank of Scotland. On this part of the tour, there was the opportunity to see what a million pounds looks like and to try to crack a safe.
Others explored Edinburgh to suit themselves and there is certainly plenty to see in Edinburgh. I think all the delegates were impressed by the city and they certainly seemed to be enjoying everything Edinburgh had to offer.
|Creasey Bell presentation to Martin Edwards by Susan Moody|
Martin Edwards chaired the AGM which went smoothly. Following the AGM the Creasey Bell was presented to Martin by Susan Moody former chair of the CWA.
The gala dinner was the perfect ending to Saturday. The food was excellent, the company was good, and the evening was rounded off by the guest speaker, the Rt Hon Leeona, Lady Dorrian, Lord Justice Clerk, who entertained the company with an informative and witty after dinner speech.
I staggered up in the lift and then down the stairs to my room and collapsed into bed where I slept like the proverbial log.
|Chris Longmuir with James Grieve|
Sunday started off with a talk by James Grieve, professor of forensic pathology. He is a brilliant speaker who was highly entertaining, describing the highlights as well as the lows of his profession.
After the coffee break, Tom Wood, former Deputy Chief Constable at Lothian and Borders Police talked about “The Legacy of the World’s End Murders”. It was a fascinating account of an investigation which took 37 years before the killer was convicted of the murder of two girls in 1977. His partner in crime was by that time dead. I have a copy of Tom Wood’s book The World’s End Murders. It’s next on my list to read.
Tom Wood’s talk was the last thing on the agenda for the CWA conference, but we weren’t finished. An additional event had been arranged at Blackwell’s Bookshop where 26 authors met readers. It was speed dating with crime fiction authors. I was on a table with the Mulgray Twins and Wendy H Jones, and it was great fun.
Finally, it was time to run for my train. It was the London to Aberdeen train which is about two miles long and, of course, I was at the wrong end of the platform for my carriage. I never knew I could still run!
Absolutely exhausted, I left Edinburgh behind. Roll on the next conference!
Amazon: Author Page
Sunday, 5 March 2017
Recent posts on Facebook indicate a great deal of confusion over Legal Deposit. Some self-publishing authors have never heard of it, while others question what it means to them. Combined with this is a misunderstanding of where the books have to be sent, mainly because a lot of the Depositories are National Libraries. To many people, writers included, a library is a place which lends books, and the distinction between Legal Deposit libraries and public libraries is not clear. So, it might be best to start off with a clarification of this issue.
Public libraries can be found in every town. They provide a free book lending source for the general public. These libraries should not be confused with the Legal Deposit libraries which I will discuss in the next section. A public library buys the books it requires to stock the library and is not entitled to free copies of an author or publisher’s book after publication, although an author may gift books if they so wish. However, library contacts have informed me that not every library will accept free copies and if an author sends them they will not be added to the library shelves and will probably land up in the next library book sale. The reason for this is related to health and safety because many donated books are not in good condition.
Legal Deposit of publications is a requirement in every country. Legal depositories are mainly National Libraries which also includes University libraries in some countries. In addition to National libraries, university libraries are used as depositories in the UK, Russia, Poland, Slovenia, and Sri Lanka. Books acquired for Legal Deposit are archived and not available for lending, although they can be viewed and accessed for research.
What is Legal Deposit
Legal deposit is a statutory requirement to submit copies of publications to a repository. This has been limited to printed publications but the system is currently under expansion to include digital publications. It is referred to as Legal Deposit in most countries, however, it is referred to as Mandatory Deposit in the United States.
Most countries have their own legislation setting out the statutory requirements. In the UK the current legislation is the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003, although the legislation originated in 1662. Secondary legislation was brought in to deal with non-print publications (electronic) with the Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013.
In the Australia legal deposit is embodied in the Copyright Act 1968. In Canada, it is the Library and Archives of Canada Act 2004. In China, it is article 22 of the Regulations on the Administration of Publication 2001. Each country has its own legislation.
The Legal Requirement
This varies from country to country, ranging from one copy of each new publication in Brazil, to nineteen copies in Poland. As I reside in Britain I will restrict this discussion to UK requirements.
The legal requirement in the UK is for six copies of each new publication to be submitted for legal deposit. The legislation states that one copy of a new publication should be sent to the British Library within thirty days of publication. The British Library will not ask for it and the publisher is expected to send the publication within the allotted time scale. If the book is not sent they will send a reminder informing you that you have not complied with the legislation.
The five remaining books do not need to be sent unless a request for them is made. But once the request is made by the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries the same time scale applies.
It is important to note that the British Library legal deposit of one book and the five books required by the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries are sent to different addresses. If you combine the six books into one parcel and send to either one or the other address it will result in lost books.
The addresses are:
Legal Deposit Office, The British Library, Boston Spa, Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS23 7BY (one copy)
Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries, 161 Causewayside, Edinburgh EH9 1PH (five copies)
Agency for Legal Deposit
As mentioned previously, the Agency for Legal Deposit is separate from the Legal Deposit Office at the British Library. The agency’s role is to collect and disperse the remaining five copies of the new publication to the various legal deposit libraries. These libraries are:
- the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford;
- Cambridge University Library;
- the National Library of Scotland;
- the Library of Trinity College, Dublin;
- the National Library of Wales.
Who has to comply with Legal Deposit?
The statutory duty to comply with the legislation rests with the publisher. This is another area of confusion with self-publishers. They sometimes find it difficult to determine who is the publisher. The term self-publish can lead to the assumption that everyone who self-publishes is liable for Legal Deposit, and in many cases that is the correct assumption. However, some self-publishers accept the free ISBN that Createspace and similar companies offer, and if they do this they are not the publisher of their self-published book.
So, to clarify the position, it is the person or company who buys the ISBN who is the publisher. So if a free ISBN has been accepted this makes Createspace, or the company supplying it, the publisher. Therefore, the responsibility lies with them. And, of course, if Createspace is the publisher the book is a US publication. If, on the other hand, you have bought your own ISBN and are using Createspace as a printer, rather than a publisher, and you reside in the UK your book is a UK publication. If you reside in a different country it is the country of residence of the publisher.
I have tried to include everything in this post but if anything is missing, or you have a question, please put it in the comments and I will try to answer.
In the meantime, I suppose I should mention that I have included a section on Legal Deposit in my new book the Nuts & Bolts of Self-Publishing: How to Self-Publish Ebooks and Paperbacks. There are also other sections on PLR (library lending), ALCS (secondary royalties) and loads of other information as well as step-by-step guides to formatting.
Where to buy Nuts & Bolts of Self-Publishing
Amazon.co.uk – paperback
Amazon.co.uk – Kindle
Amazon.com – Paperback
Amazon.com - Kindle
Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Normally, with a new book, I’d be treating you to a tale of murder mystery, something to make you frightened to turn out the light, and to make you look over your shoulder as you walk down the street. But, I’ve left my life of crime behind in my new publishing venture to bring you a comprehensive guide on how to self-publish. ‘The Nuts & Bolts of Self-Publishing: How to Self-Publish Ebooks and Paperbacks’.
I’ve been writing professionally for the best part of twenty years now. At first, I concentrated on articles and short stories, and then several years later, after I’d served my apprenticeship, I started writing novels. Like almost every other author I went through the wilderness years of constant submissions and rejections, but after winning a major book prize I eventually broke through the wall I’d been trying to batter down for several years. This was in the heady days, not so long ago, when ebooks had not yet made their mark and publishers looked on them as a passing phase.
|Dundee International Book Prize|
Fast forward a few years to 2011 when I decided to publish the first book in my Dundee Crime Series, Night Watcher, to Kindle. After a bit of trial and error, I succeeded and soon followed it up with other novels. What I didn’t realise was that I was building up my expertise and knowledge of the electronic publishing business.
You see, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I’m also very curious. I like to know how things work. I’ve even gone to the lengths of building my own computers because it’s not enough for me to simply use a computer to do what I want it to. I need to know how it works. The same applied to electronic publishing. It wasn’t enough to simply format and upload my books, I had to understand everything it was possible to know about the process.
A year after I started to publish ebooks I branched out to publish paperbacks. Once again, I studied the processes to become as knowledgeable as it was possible to be. But it still didn’t dawn on me that I was becoming something of an expert in the field of self-publishing, even though I was by now being contacted by other authors seeking advice on how to go about it.
The turning point came last March when I was asked to do a workshop on self-publishing at a writers’ conference. I took a deep breath and agreed. What I produced and delivered was a workshop called the Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing, and at this stage, I still wasn’t thinking of writing a book on the subject. Well, the workshop was so successful I had great difficulty winding it up and we overran. It would have continued all day if the participants had had their way.
However, it was only after I returned home and looked at my notes and handouts that I realised that these were the synopsis of a book. And now, almost a year later the book is written. It has involved a lot of research as well as calling on my expertise in this area, and I hope the result will be helpful to all aspiring writers who might be thinking about self-publishing.
You can buy the book here:
Amazon.co.uk – paperback
Amazon.co.uk – Kindle
Amazon.com – Paperback
Amazon.com - Kindle
Monday, 23 January 2017
This month is the centenary of the Silvertown explosion which provides a dramatic opening to my latest Kirsty Campbell mystery, Devil’s Porridge. In this book, I have mixed fact and fiction to fashion a story guaranteed to keep readers turning the pages.
On Friday 19th January 1917, at 6.52 pm, a massive explosion destroyed the Brunner-Mond munitions factory and destroyed most of Silvertown. This explosion has been described as the biggest explosion ever to have taken place in London.
Silvertown, in the east end of London, was an industrial area on the north bank of the River Thames, opposite the Greenwich Peninsula, and south of the Victoria Docks.
The Brunner-Mond factory at Silvertown was an old established chemical works which had been adapted, at the start of the First World War, to manufacture TNT (trinitrotoluene) a highly explosive substance.
The explosion occurred after a fire broke out in the melt room shortly after the workers had finished work for the weekend. It destroyed the factory and obliterated a large part of Silvertown. It is recorded that the sound of the blast could be heard as far away as Sussex, and red-hot lumps of metal rained down on other areas, starting fires wherever they landed. A gas holder, across the river on the Greenwich Peninsula, was hit and shot 8 million cubic feet of gas into the sky in a massive fireball. This gas holder was in the area now occupied by the Millennium Dome.
A local reporter, writing in the Stratford Express, wrote: “The whole heavens were lit in awful splendour. A fiery glow seemed to have come over the dark and miserable January evening, and objects which a few minutes before had been blotted out in the intense darkness were silhouetted against the sky.”
It is estimated that between 60,000 to 70,000 properties were damaged, 73 people were killed, and over 400 were injured. The toll would have been even greater had the explosion occurred during working hours.
Rumours were rife about the cause of the explosion. Some thought it was a Zeppelin attack, some said it was sabotage, but these were ruled out and the cause was confirmed as an accident.
But, of course, an accident doesn’t make for gripping fiction, and Devil’s Porridge is not a history book, it’s a murder mystery story. One of the knacks of writing historical fiction is the ability to blend facts into the fiction, perhaps twisting them a little, without distorting the historical reality. So, in Devil’s Porridge, the explosion is the result of sabotage with a murder thrown in for good measure.
Similarly, I touch on other historical facts for the back story, like the invasion of Belgium by the Germans in 1914, the German spy network operating from Rotterdam, MI5, King George and Queen Mary’s visit to Gretna in 1917, the Easter Rising in Ireland, and the imprisonment and ultimate release of the Irish revolutionaries from Frongoch. And, of course, Kirsty Campbell is one of the pioneering policewomen of the time.
I enjoyed the historical research for this book and although fictional elements have been woven into the facts, for example, there was no assassination attempt on the King, at least as far as the history books tell us, I trust this will not spoil the story for the historians amongst my readers.
Sunday, 1 January 2017
I said it at the beginning of my Christmas post - Where has the year gone? and I'm saying it again. But, it's now time to stop wondering about that in order to look forward to 2017 and make our resolutions.
Resolution 1: Send my nonfiction book 'Nuts & Bolts of Self-Publishing' off to be published before the end of January. It should be a piece of cake (I hope), the first draft is complete, the cover designer geared to go, and there's only the editing! Groan! That could take forever.
Resolution 2: Finish writing my next Kirsty Campbell mystery, Bloody Murder, I'm five chapters in. It should be a piece of cake (I hope). I'm being optimistic here because it all depends on Kirsty and whether she'll share the story with me.
Resolution 3: Promote and market my books more. Nah! That won't work. I'm not very good at the 'Buy my Book' spiel, nor would I want to be because I write my books for the pleasure of writing, and the pleasure of pleasing my readers. So, scrap that resolution.
In the meantime, Happy New Year to you all and I wish you joy and success over the coming year.