Writing for Children & Young Adults Workshop

Like all the Brian Henry workshops I’ve attended, I came home motivated and raring to write. More so this time because I got a critique of my first chapter from him! Yippee!

So once at home I began making the changes he suggested. There are more yet to come, but I didn’t have my printed copy with his notes in front of me at the time because I was using my laptop and there just wasn’t room for everything.

Writing Workshop on Sunday

On Sunday I’ll be attending another Brian Henry workshop. This one is Writing for Children and Young Adults. I want to be able to take the first chapter of my YA work-in-progress but it’s a bit too long for Sunday so I’ll have to get my skates on and get it tightened up and down to the maxium number of words Brian wants us to bring.

Conversation with Janice Horton – Author of Bagpipes & Bullshot

I discovered Janice Horton on a friend’s Facebook. The picture of her book cover and link to her blog were there. I was intrigued from that point on. I sent her a friend request saying that I was as good friend of the person whose page I found her on.

I offered to promote her Amazon launch by passing the information on to the guys and gals in the writers’ groups I belong to, by posting on my own blog and buying a book on “launch day”.

I joined her Followers on her blog and visited all the blogs she guested on during her launch.

Then I decided why not ask her if I could interview her about the process she went through to publish her book on amazon. I was thrilled when she agreed to answer my questions.

So, without further ado… my conversation with Janice.

Why did you decide to self-publish for the Kindle on Amazon rather than seek out a traditional publisher?

Two reasons: the first was that having been previously published in paperback by both traditional and self publishing methods, I couldn’t resist the challenge of having a go at indie e-publishing, especially on Kindle, because distribution and marketing on Amazon are all well established. The second reason was that I unexpectedly fell in love with the Kindle my husband bought me for Christmas and wanted to have my books available for it.

Tell me a bit about the process you went through to put your book up on Amazon. Did you have to pay for someone to edit your book first?

I kept costs to a minimum by edit checking the book several times myself before asking one of my sons, who is at Edinburgh University reading Literature, to edit the book. I then asked an astute writing friend if she would give the book a ‘once over’ before publication. I was amazed how many errors they both picked up which I’d completely missed – proving it is impossible to edit your own work – as your eyes see what your brain tells them to and not what is actually on the page. I hope the book is now error and typo free!

To publish onto Amazon, I read the Amazon guide to formatting and also watched some helpful You Tube videos to give me an idea of what I was letting myself in for. I also opted for the simple route. You can get involved with writing your own HTML if you like, I didn’t.  Preparation is key, so do make sure you edit your manuscript with formatting ‘activated’ which will help you check that tab stops and page breaks are correctly placed. If they’re not, then transferring your file will move your paragraphs all over the place. You do get a chance to preview before you actually publish but that should just be for final checking. I had the manuscript on Word, saved it as a HTML filtered file, and uploaded it to Mobipocket Creator (downloaded free from the internet). This created a stable file recognised by Amazon Kindle.

I set the price for Bagpipes & Bullshot at a very affordable $1.95 / £1.38.

Have you been able to translate the success of your Bagpipes & Bullshot launch and climb up the Amazon ratings into an actual number of books sold?

Yes, as well as the Amazon rankings, which are updated hourly, the Amazon author account gives actual sales figures on a monthly basis. So I will be able to see how many books I’ve sold. I’m very excited about that – and nervous at the same time – I hope all those lovely people who bought my book enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Will you also make your book available on Smashwords to take advantage of the other e-books that are out there (Kobo, Sony, etc.)? If so, will you have a launch similar to your Amazon one?

My next step with Bagpipes & Bullshot will be to upload to Smashwords. I have not done it already simply because I wanted to focus on assaulting the Amazon chart with my launch promotion. Other e-book authors have advised that currently 80% of their sales revenue comes from Amazon. I’m sure this is simply because Amazon has marketed the Kindle e-reader and their free Kindle App so successfully recently. However, no e-book author can afford to ignore a 20% share of the market which is likely to increase. As for more promotion, I will do a follow up promotion but will likely spread it over several weeks rather than one day. I’m couldn’t possibly ask for that level of support all over again and expect the same results.

Electronic publishing typically pays higher royalties than print because of the lower overhead. Do you mind telling us what % you’re receiving through self-publishing with Amazon? Do you know if you’ll receive the same rate from Smashwords?

The royalty from Amazon Kindle Publishing depends on the price at which you set your book. Books priced under $4.88 or £2.99 get a 35% royalty with no delivery costs on every sale. Books priced over $4.88 or £2.99 get 70% minus delivery costs – and that is why lots of indie authors pitch lower (to encourage more sales and therefore readers) and the publishing houses mostly set a higher price for their books. Bagpipes & Bullshot is priced at $1.95 or £1.38 – so I am in the 35% bracket. I don’t know for sure yet but I would expect Smashwords to offer similar royalties.

I love the Bagpipes & Bullshot cover. Who did the art work for it? Did you have to pay for the cover art? Did you incur any other expenses?

I did the cover art entirely myself. I gave a lot of thought to how I wanted the cover to look – it had to convey the premise of the book –  it had to say ‘Scottish’. I decided I needed a small castle and so went to www.istockphoto.com and searched for an image. I struck lucky and paid for the image. This is a very inexpensive way to make sure you have a great cover picture and also the legal rights to use it for your purpose. I imported the picture to Microsoft Publisher, overlaid my title and name, and I had my cover. Total cost of putting a book on Kindle – less that £30 /$50.

What other methods of promotion have you employed?

The on-line blog promotion and blog tour for Bagpipes & Bullshot was a first for me and therefore a learning curve. I had no way of knowing if it would succeed. In the past, I’ve had paperback books published (both by traditional and indie methods) and I have had a big launch party, held book signings in book stores, done book readings in libraries, and had articles in newspapers. I’ve even done radio and TV promotion. On-line promotion was entirely unknown territory for me. Thankfully it all went well, and I must admit to feeling completely overwhelmed by the response and support I received, which on the day put Bagpipes & Bullshot in the Amazon Top 20 Bestseller Chart.

Growing up, who were your favourite authors?

Enid Blyton, Ruby Ferguson, Jilly Cooper, Jackie Collins, Anita Burgh, and the list does not stop there!

Which author do you think had the most influence on your writing or inspired you to write?

I was inspired to write by the authors I listed in the previous question, but I am influenced by none. This is because I’m pretty independently minded. I can take advice, in fact I actively seek it, but I don’t think that is the same as being influenced. I tend to adopt ideas only if they meld with my own mindset or help me to achieve a predetermined goal. I admire others and have great respect for people who can do things better than I – but I’d rather innovate than imitate.

Coming up with a title is the bane of many writers. Do you have problems coming up with titles for your work?

Well, it was a matter of finding something jaunty that reflected the humour and the theme of the book. The story starts off with a prologue set in the US but the novel itself is set in Scotland. Innes, the hero of the tale, does indeed play the bagpipes and quite beautifully too. Bullshot is not a typo or a clever play on words but a drink: it’s a bit like a Bloody Mary and is favoured by those who swig from a hipflask and shoot from a shotgun. To me the word ‘bullshot’ epitomises the Scottish country estate!

My next book, another humorous contemporary romance, has the title of Reaching for the Stars and it seems an apt title to me because the stars my characters are reaching for are the culinary ones. It’s the story of a disillusioned celebrity chef who gives up his hard won accolades – three stars – and goes into self imposed exile in a castle on a Scottish country estate.

For an indie author, choosing the right title, cover, and selling price are important decisions and ones a traditional publisher would normally monopolise. I thought the cover of my first traditionally published book was ‘just okay’ but the first time I ever saw it was the day it went on sale – that felt weird. The publisher assured me they’d sent me an advance proof copy – but I never got it.

What advice to you have for aspiring authors?

I would advise them to write from the heart. To trust their own inner voice. Not to imitate others but to be unique and to just do it – write – and learn the craft.


Bagpipes & Bullshot can be downloaded from Amazon.com through this link: http://www.amazon.com/Bagpipes-Bullshot-ebook/dp/B004PLMI4G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=A7B2F8DUJ88VZ&s=digital-text&qid=1299943327&sr=1-1 

or from Amazon.co.uk through this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bagpipes-Bullshot/dp/B004PLMI4G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=digital-text&qid=1298719741&sr=1-


Will you share your recipe for Bullshot?

Certainly – take two mature bulls…. Erm, no, not really!

Bullshot is a drink very much like a Bloody Mary. If you prefer it, you can use vodka, but the traditional Scottish version and the one favoured by the characters in my novel, Bagpipes & Bullshot, has whisky in it. However, if you are planning a trip across the grouse moors later or doing a bit of stalking on the hill, you’ll certainly need your thermos and the extra ingredient of hot beef stock with your bullshot. Mmmmm….warming.

First take a whisky tumbler – and put in it a bit of ice and a slice of lime. Then add a good measure of finest Scotch whisky. Fill to the top with tomato juice; add a good dashing of both Tabasco pepper sauce and Worcester sauce and half a teaspoon of grated horseradish. Stir and enjoy! Mmmmm…delicious!

A bit more information about Janice for those who don’t yet know her work.

She lives in Scotland and writes entertaining and humorous contemporary women’s fiction novels which are, for the most part, inspired by the romantic beauty of the heather-filled glens around her country cottage. When she’s not writing novels she writes lifestyle articles and has had work published in national magazines and regional newspapers. She’s also been involved in BBC Scotland’s ‘Write Here Write Now’ project. Her website is at: www.janicehorton.co.uk, her blog is: www.janicehortonwriter.blogspot.com and you can follow her on Twitter at @JaniceHorton

Traditional Publishing vs Self (indie) Publishing

It’s a really tough decision. The publishing industry is changing every day and it’s getting tougher as an unknown to break down the barriers and get that elusive YES from a traditional publishing house – whether they publish physical or e-books.

If you decide to indie publish, then do you go physical or electronic? How much money are you willing to put in? You have to remember, there’s no guarantee you’ll recoup your investment. How much time are you willing to put in to market and promote your product? How aggressively will you do it?

Even with traditional publishing houses, the onus is falling more and more on the author to promote themselves.

On April 1st, Janice Horton launched a successful marketing campaign for her indie published e-book for the Kindle, Bagpipes & Bullshot, on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. While her book had been up on their site for some time, she asked everyone to hold off purchasing it until the official launch day. She built momentum with her blog, facebook posts and asked others to blog and post on facebook, twitter and other social media sites. Throughout the day, she was the guest blogger on a number of other blogs. If you look at my Successful Launch post, you’ll see how things turned out for her.

Decisions, decisions. The only thing that is constant is you need a quality product no matter which road you choose to travel down.



You pick up a book on the shelves of your local bookstore. Why? There could be a number of reasons behind it. The cover art, the author name or… drum roll, please – the TITLE. Stop and think of the way the book was placed on the shelf. Did you see the entire cover or just the spine? If it was just the spine, I’m willing to bet it was the title that jumped out at you and cried “Pick me! Pick me!”

Coming up with a title for my fiction pieces drives me to distraction. A magic wand or some sort of incantation would be wonderful for conjuring up a title… Hocus Pocus and poof! When the smoke clears, the title is there.

And after you’ve agonized over your title and think you’ve finally hit paydirt with it, there’s still no guarantee your publisher will fall in love with it like you did. Chances are, it will be changed. Why? Maybe they don’t find it catchy enough. Maybe there’s another book out there with a very similar title. They know the markets and what they’re talking about.

So we will continue to agonize, scratch our heads, compile long lists to choose from, enlist the help of others and just maybe, we’ll come up with a winner.



Wonky “S” problem is solved

You’ve heard of the KISS method? Well, had a known solving my wonky S problem was going to be this easy, I would have done it ages ago.

When I had my nails done yesterday, I finally broke down and had them cut them back a bit. I loved them as long as they were but have to admit, not terribly practical. Anyway, when I fired up the laptop for the first time yesterday with shorter nails, the wonky S was no longer wonky. Looks like before, I wasn’t getting enough fingertip/nail on the key for it to strike.

Life is once again good so I’ll have to watch my language… $hoot.



Alarm Dog Strikes Again

Shortly after 6:00, the scratching on the bedroom door and the whining started. Crazy animal doesn’t know it’s the weekend and that lie-ins are permitted!

I mean, he does the same thing 7 days a week for at least 20 hours a day – lies around and sleeps. But for those of us who have to get up at 6:00 or earlier (Mon-Fri) we enjoy that extra half-hour to an hour’s shut eye.

But look at the face… How could you stay mad at a face like that?



Successful Launch

I just checked in at Janice Horton’s Bagpipes & Bullshot blog. Her book entered Amazon.co.uk’s Bestseller charts yesterday morning and got up to #19 (Books/Fiction/Women’s Fiction). It reached #25 in the Kindle/Romance/Contemporary Bestsellers. And up to #34 in Amazon Books/Romance/Adult Contemporary.

Wow! What a day!

Congratulations Janice!