Monday 27 October 2008

What New Writers Need to Know - Part 3 - Blogging.

I'm not going to give away all of my secrets, but one that I feel all new writers need to know is ... learn the art of blogging.

Blogging helps you connect with your readers. It's a valuable tool to help you build your online presence which will hopefully lead to book sales - and if not, then it will definitely lead to making some new and interesting friends who may have the same take on the world as you.

What should you blog about?

Well, that's the interesting part. You can blog about anything at all. It doesn't have to be about your writing all the time, or your latest book/story/poetry collection release - although you certainly should keep your readers informed of those things. It can be about a disasterous day, thoughts as you do the work/school run. Interesting people you've met. People you'd like to meet (Richard Gere springs to my mind ...). Places you've visited. Holidays. Sports events. Buying shoes! Get the picture?

One thing you should do of course is look at some of the more successful blogs out there. Like Neil Gaiman for example. Neil writes about all sorts of things and his narrative is very engaging. Or if you are looking for an example of a specific topic or theme, then try David J Howe's, Howeswho blog on the Doctor Who TV series (as well as writing and horror films and other subjects).

So what are you waiting for?

Get to work and keep in touch with loyal fans, friends and anyone else who comes across your page! You never know, they might all be waiting for you to speak your mind.

Friday 24 October 2008

Sex Sells Recording - NewCon 4 Panel.

Reading before the panel Well here's a nice surprise. Derrick Lakin-Smith sent me a link to his live recording of the 'Sex Sells' panel at Newcon 4.

This features Storm Constantine, Ken Macleod, Ian Watson (moderating), Roberto Quaglia, Allyson Bird and myself.

Apologies in advance for my terrible poetry recital at the beginning. It was freezing in there and I was just shivering the whole time. Partly the problem was that I had a touch of food poisoning and didn't know it; I was out of sorts all day and ended up in bed at 9pm that night because I felt so very ill by then. (But that's enough whining from me about that - and enough excuses).

The panel was very well received and a lot of intelligent and articulate comments were made throughout.

Here's the link if you want to listen.

Sex Sells: But Should We Buy

Tuesday 21 October 2008

What New Writers Need to Know - Part 2

Have you ever wondered how a book or writer gets a publishing deal?

How many times have you picked up a book and thought - How the heck did that ever get in print?

Not all literature out there is good unfortunately. And the discerning reader will know when they've been had. But for writers who have genuine talent and original ideas, then this is a real bug bear.

Writing is very hard work. And the pay is poor unless you are one of the lucky few - for example J K Rowling or Stephen King. I was once told that 90% of the money paid by publishers to authors in the UK goes to 10% of said authors ... leaving just 10% of the money to be shared among 90% of the authors!

But success in the writing world is not determined soley by talent. What? You look surprised. It's partly about what and who you know. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Ms Rowling had to attend conventions and network like crazy, working her way up the ladder with each book forming part of a long rise to success - she's quite the exception. But its an open secret in the industry that often books listed in the 'Best Sellers' are not in fact that at all. It often just means that the publishing house has bought the placement from the bookshop as part of a marketing deal.

I often ponder on this. How the small presses are struggling to even get one of their very high quality fiction novels into the shops when the shelves are crammed with so-called 'celebrity' books of all shapes. It's a real dilemma. The top stores and online book sales sites are writing their own paychecks. All publishers are held over a barrel. Amazon, Waterstones, Borders - you name it - all the big boys these days expect to be paid for everything. You want a book in a 3 for 2 promotion, then that apparently costs the publisher around £1000 per week per book. You want your book in the window of the shop, then that costs. You want it up front in the store, on a table near the door, then pay up please. You want it face out on the shelf? Pay please. You want it in the 'Bookshop Recommends' catalogue, then send your money here ... Heck, they can even demand a 60% or more reduction on the rrp of a book, with full sale or return. When you consider the costs of producing the book and promoting it, there isn't a lot left in the pot for the author, especially when you then factor high volume discount clauses into their contracts (which basically say that the bigger the discount the publisher gives on the book, the less of a percentage of the money received the author gets).

Don't get me wrong, the top publishers are being stiffed too. I heard it said that for any book to make any sort of impact in the bookshops these days, the publisher must be prepared to spend £50,000 on marketing to back it up. But ... what if they stopped pandering to the bookshops? Refused the demands and took a stand - were united for once, then would the stores have to back off and revert to publishing based on quality and true saleability rather than the depth of the publishers' pockets? Of course that will never happen. Simply because there will always be one publishing house who will pay to ensure that their latest writer is a best seller. Given that the bookshops only tend to stock and promote a limited range, then what is available in them is all that the general public can therefore buy, hence it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that what is on the shelves and is promoted by them sells, and therefore becomes a bestseller, whether that be top-notch fiction or celebrity endorsed, ghost-written pap.

These days the industry is about publicity and manufacturing success and not quality. Celebrity sells and so those are the books which cram the shelves. As they are the only ones there, then the public buy them, perhaps thinking that they are in some way good because lots of other people have bought them ... and so the cycle continues.

Of course there are some publishers who constantly champion new talent, bring new names to the fore in the hope that they might be tomorrows best-seller. These are the books which really deserve support and acclaim, which should be reviewed and promoted in the newspapers and magazines. Unfortunately I feel that so long as the bookshops have this commercial stranglehold, and the publishers feel there is no choice but to pay for the success of their titles, then we will continue to see a steady stream of books by the likes of Jordan, Jade Goodie and Geri Halliwell stacking the shelves for some time to come.

As a final coda, it occurs to me that of course some of these celebrity tomes do sell very well indeed, and make a lot of money for the publishers, money that they can then use to publish - if they so wish - original fiction from original voices.

So if you are reading this and are a published writer, then your next book may just have been funded by Jade! What a thought.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

NewCon 4

Arriving at the Park Inn Hotel on Friday afernoon it looked as though Sharna and I were the only people there! It was like entering the old hotel in Silent Hill - you knew something was going to happen but you weren't sure if the anticipation was for something good or bad.

Me reading poetryAround 4 we were joined by Literary Agent John Jarrold in the bar and there ensued a very good start to an exciting evening. Ken MacLeod came in, rapidly followed by Paul Cornell. (Name dropping to continue shortly ...) I'd never met either of these guests before, but I had seen Paul in the Green Room at Orbital EasterCon, where we had passed like the proverbial two ships on our way to do panels. I can truly say that both Ken and Paul are really fun and extremely interesting to talk to - and yes, I did ask Paul about Doctor Who ...

The evening rapidly descended on us and arriving guests streamed into the venue. These included, Iain M Banks, Storm Constantine, Chaz Brenchley, John Clute, Cardinal Cox, Donna Scott, Neil M Bond, Roberto Quaglia - to name but a few. Also arriving were organisers Ian Whates (NewCon Press) and his lovely partner Helen, as well as Ian Watson.David J Howe reads some of my poems

We - 32 people in total - all decided to go for a Chinese Banquet. And at this time Terry and Liz Martin from Murky Depths arrived and also joined us. Absolutely great fun! The wine and conversation flowed easily.

In the true style of these things, we all spilled back to the hotel bar. I met Iain M Banks properly for the first time and spent a fair portion of the evening talking to him and his lovely lady. And then Paul Cornell introduced me to John Clute who is working on updates to his fabulous encylopeadia on all things science fiction. (And what a delightful man he was too!!) Alison Kershaw appeared and ... well the rest of the evening is a bit of a blur ...

Saturday brought us to the beginning of the convention and the opening ceremony at 10.30 was great fun, aided by Kevin the Jester of Northampton, who was a very effective Master of Ceremonies. Panels began. My first duty was to read extracts from Killing Kiss with Storm Constantine (Reading from her collection Mythopedia) and Allyson Bird reading from Bull Running for Girls. I'd met Storm once before at FantasyCon 2007 and it was nice to catch up. She and Allyson both read beautifully from their books and I was the last to read - It all went well - but boy was it cold in that Workshop room!!!

I was then free to attend panels, chat to people and take a look at the dealers tables over the afternoon until 5 - when I was appearing on the 'Sex, Sells. Should we Buy it?' panel. This was moderated by Ian Watson and the participants were myself, Ken Macleod, Storm Constantine, Allyson Bird and Roberto Quaglia. I read two of my erotic poems to start the discussion - which was really challenging because I was freezing to death and then Ian kicked off the discussion by changing the focus and the title - He asked - sex sells, but should we SELL it?

What followed was a very detailed discussion on sex and eroticism in literature. In which everyone on the panel gave a very clear view of their opinions. I particularly enjoyed the excellent comments made by Storm. And some of the questions the audience asked like: 'What is the difference between Erotica and Pornography?' Thankfully everyone on the panel had a lot to say on the subject.

Saturday evening I got sick. Don't know what was wrong but I felt weak and fluey and ended up in bed at 9pm. Unfortunately I then missed out on the Bar-B-Que and evening socialising. :~(

Me and Cardinal Cox at the poetry readingSunday was a great day. At 12 noon I read some of my poetry with Cardinal Cox (Poet Laureate of Peterborough 2003), aided by David J Howe, who read Demon Lover and Phoenix beautifully for me as he does on the Demon Lover CD. I also met up once more with Rob (Author of The BLack Flame) and Will Mackellar and their friend Katherine Branton (who is also a poet).

Unfortunately the whole convention just went by way too quickly.

Memorable moments: Paul Cornell's discussion spot. He was very witty and entertaining when he told us about all the work he's doing currently (I don't know how he manages it!); The Sex Sells panel, when a sex therapist stood up and asked a series of complicated questions and Ian Watson looked at me to answer ... but I'd forgotten what the man asked in the first place! Lol! So I said 'I'll have to think about that for a moment ...' Fortunately Storm took up the challenge - you rock girl! Friday night when Paul Cornell asked me to rescue Iain M Banks from a rather intense fan. And finally, seeing my friends and loved ones at the event as always. ;)

Congratulations to Ian Whates, Ian Watson and the committee of NewCon 4, for doing such a tremendous job of the convention! Here's to NewCon 5!!!!

Oh, and Ian, you still owe me a drink for selling raffle tickets!! But, I'm sure I'll catch up with you at the next event ... :)

Monday 6 October 2008

Being in Birmingham ... And NewCon 4

I have considered the fact that I am becoming a bit of a convention geek - before you say it.

I made a flying visit to the Birmingham International Comic Show on Sunday. I went along for 4 1/2 hours to Birmingham because my publishers Murky Depths were there promoting my book as well as their fantastic quarterly magazine (for more info on that, check out

The bottom line, and this is a very brief update (sorry I have no pics), is that I again met up with some interesting people. And for that no trip is ever wasted. Top comic writer Tony Lee gave me a fab signed book for my daughter Linzi - owe you one Tony! It's called Midnight Kiss and she's delighted with it I have to say. (Terry Martin said: 'Bet you charmed it out of him.' Hmmm... No idea what he's suggesting at all. I smiled and was very polite though, good manners go a long way.) I bought The Mammoth Book of Best New Manga featuring manga from my Facebook friend Jay Eales, and his partner Selina Dean, who are regulars at conventions. Wandering round I also met Grant Perkins who is a new artist and writer on the scene, with his fiancee Eva.

It was brilliant to see people making the effort and dressing up. I saw many very authentic looking costumes, including Lara Croft, Batman, Superman and a brilliant Joker - dressed in the nurse's uniform from the latest film.

And, yay! We even sold some books - which always helps!

So a worthwhile and fun trip as always.

Looking forward to next weekend ...

NEXT EVENT - NewCon 4 - 11th/12th October.

I'll be there from Friday evening, and will be reading an extract from Killing Kiss on Saturday at 12 noon, with the lovely Storm Constantine and equally delightful Ally Bird (who I met this year at FantasyCon). At 5pm I'll be on a panel with the topic of 'Sex sells' - I'll be kicking this panel off with a reading of two pieces of my erotic poetry. Also on this panel, Ken Macleod, Ally Bird, Roberto Quaglia and Ian Watson.

Sunday lunchtime I'll be reading some of my poetry with the charming Donna Scott, and Cardinal Cox (Poet Laurette 2002) - this will take place from the stage (and I'm hoping to have a surprise male reader join me to read at least one of my poems). Time permitting this will feature a selection of poems from the Demon Lover CD and some of my love poetry.

The House of Murky Depths will be there selling Killing Kiss, along with bargain subscriptions for the Murky Depths quarterly magazine. (Oh, and the latest on MD's continuing success - the magazine is now available in Forbidden Planet and several other stores. Killing Kiss has been accepted by Waterstones and Barnes and Noble in America - where it will not only appear on their website but in selected stores as well. More on this another time ... hopefully including some in store signing dates.) The image here is the cover of the latest edition which I can assure you is well worth a look-see.

The rest of the time at NewCon I hope to be attending some of the fantastic panels they have listed. And - obviously - in the bar as well!

With any luck I'll exchange a few words with the guests of honour which this year include Paul Cornell, Storm Constantine, Iain M Banks and Ken MacLeod. What a fantastic line up!

If you are coming along though, please check the times on your itinery, just in case any last minute changes have been made that I don't know about ...

So catch up with me at NewCon 4 this weekend and please come and say hello! I don't bite - I just look scary.

Sunday 5 October 2008

What New Writers Need to Know...

Driving from Manchester yesterday in the pouring rain, I was crawling along in traffic on the M6 and my mind was wandering to the questions I've been frequently asked in the last two weeks. There are many new and aspiring writers out there. It wasn't that long ago when I was 'aspiring' myself. I'm still a newbie by the industry standards having only been around since January 2007.

Reflecting on the past year I have learnt quite a bit about the industry. Been on the receiving end of some bigotry (nothing new there) and I've made some amazing friends that have the same interests as me.

The world of a writer no longer belongs in an ivory tower. It's not just about writing that masterpiece, but you have to be prepared to follow through with promotion. Promo takes many forms. Online networking is an excellent way of establishing a presence. And all writers should have an online presence because we cannot any longer rely on book sales always occuring in shops. (Partly because the shops are fleecing the publishers and it's always the writer who ends up not getting paid - but that's another blog entirely!). So. First step - get your book in print (gosh, that makes it sound easy doesn't it). Second step - make friends on Myspace, Facebook, Bebo ... wherever you want. And before you sigh and say 'I don't have time for all that, I'm too busy writing...' then consider this - One hour a day checking them all instead of watching TV will be boosting your career (I borrowed that from Darren Turpin (Orbit Books) at the self-promotion panel at FantasyCon - but it's not plagiarism because I'm telling you he said it). It's good advice.

I spend more time online than that though, perhaps several times a day - because it isn't enough to go and make thousands of friends, you need to be nice to people too - and believe me they can tell if you're fake and are just promoting. The bottom line is - as a writer you should be interested in people - especially those who like your work. One, you get feedback from them, which I like to receive personally, even if it isn't always what you want to hear. Two, you make some interesting and diverse friends from all over the world. Three, if you're loyal to them, they will be loyal to you.

My latest online site is - this is fantastic because it is all about reading. People on there are looking for new books to enjoy and you get some really interesting and intelligent emails from them. I'm forging some nice friendships and enjoying receiving some great recommendations to add to my reading list too.

And for those writers who have books on shelves already you can develop a writer's profile. So people immediately begin to associate your books with you - that nice person who replies to their emails. (The marriage proposals were, however, ignored for obvious reasons :)).

More on this subject to follow ...

Saturday 4 October 2008

Birmingham International Comic Show

Well this weekend sees the Birmingham International Comic show which runs for 4th & 5th October. My publisher Terry Martin will be there selling copies of the Murky Depths quarterly magazine and of course Killing Kiss. Therefore I've decided to drive down there on Sunday for the day and be around his stall to sign copies of the book!

So, if you're anywhere near and want to drop by and say 'hello', then I'll be happy to sign a book for you. And I'll also post a brief blog and pictures covering the event.

Here's the link:

I wonder what to wear for tomorrow ...?