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Friday, 27 May 2011

Escaping from the Genre Box

I want to talk a bit about the different genres of my published books. I have 3 published novels on sale, one paperback and two e-books. Dead Wood and Night Watcher are dark crime novels which some readers describe as scary, although I don’t necessarily agree with this. Maybe I’m immune. A Salt Splashed Cradle, published yesterday, is a historical family saga.
An author who is lucky enough to acquire a publishing contract is immediately put into a little box that defines which genre he or she will publish. So if the first accepted book is crime, you become a crime writer, and vice versa. Many authors are dissatisfied with this but find it impossible to climb out of their genre box, which publishers keep firmly locked. With e-publishing, however, the situation can change. An author has the freedom to write in several genres, and provided their book descriptions do not mislead the reader, this can be quite successful. A word of warning, the author should ensure the book that is on offer is accurately described. After all, a reader might be a bit miffed if they buy a family saga only to discover it is contemporary dark crime.
Up until yesterday, I was firmly in the crime writer box. My first novel, Dead Wood, was published as a paperback after it won the Dundee International Book Prize, so that decided the genre that publishers would be expecting. My second novel, Night Watcher, was published as an e-book and has been doing reasonably well. I’m already 20,000 words into a third crime book with a theme of internet predators. So what happened to make me do a side swerve into historical family sagas?
It really wasn’t a genre changing moment for me. You see, A Salt Splashed Cradle was the very first novel I wrote. At the time I was part of the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) New Writer Scheme. This scheme allows unpublished writers to submit a novel each September for them to crit. If they think the novel is good enough it will get further readings and then submission to a publisher. Well, A Salt Splashed Cradle, almost made it, however it got a rave rejection from the publisher. I think my timing was bad, because that was the year that sagas went out of fashion and several well-established saga writers were dropped by their publishers. So that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
Anyway, I remembered this novel I’d written, way back in prehistoric times, and thought I’d have another look at it. So it was dug out of the bottom drawer, the place where all unpublished manuscripts languish, and I read it. At that point I realized it was a good story and started on the rewriting, revision, editing process. The result was, I published it yesterday, and was then flabbergasted to discover it had reached Number 41 in Amazon’s Family Saga best selling list by that same evening. No doubt it will go up and down the lists, fall off the bottom and then make a comeback, similar to what is happening with Night Watcher.

I must admit I have a soft spot for this saga, probably because it was the first book I wrote. It’s a story about a fishing community, and the effect a young bride has on it when she infiltrates it as the young bride of Jimmie Watt. Back in the 1830s these small fishing communities were insular, they married within their own community and ‘incomers’ were not welcome. So you can imagine the impact that Belle, a town girl who dresses in silks as opposed to the rough woven fisher clothes, has on this community. She does herself no favours when she falls in love with the laird’s son, and becomes ostracized as well as unwelcome. The story encompasses fisher life and traditions, as well as whaling, and the setting moves between the fishing village of Craigden and the Arctic. And that’s all I’m going to tell you.

But if you’ve read my dark crime books and want to check out whether I’ve been successful in switching between genres, check out A Salt Splashed Cradle. I think it’s good, but do you?

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Seven things: Work, Writing & Research

Thank you to Janice Horton, author of Bagpipes and Bullshot, for passing me the Versatile Blogger Award – the rules of acceptance are to tell you seven things about myself that you might not already know.

A writer looks for inspiration in lots of different places, but a fertile ground to base research on is a person’s own life experiences. So I thought I’d give you a peek at some of the things that have formed me into the person I am. I’d love to know what work and life experiences you have had which have contributed to you as a person, and how you’ve been able to use them in your writing. Please leave a comment and let me know.

1) One of my earliest memories is the unexploded bomb behind my granny’s cottage. We were evacuated to a big posh house and slept on the floor of the front lounge which was as big as a dance hall.

2) I’ve worked in a variety of jobs. I was a salesgirl in Woolworths, an office girl in a local grocer shop, a spinner in a mill, and a clippie (bus conductress). In my social work career I've worked in criminal justice, medical social work, child care, and I've been an adoption officer and an assistant principal office responsible for interpreting the law, writing guidelines and operational instructions for workers.

3) I once owned a small shop selling wool, needlework, crafts and babywear.

4) I left school with no qualifications but later got an Open University degree and a Post graduate qualification in Social Work from Dundee University.

5) I worked in Social Work for 20 years and took early retirement to concentrate on my writing career.

6) I got my first rejection at the age of 22 from the Sunday Post. Being totally ignorant of writing procedure I did not realize until many years later that it was actually what is called a ‘rave rejection’, and if I’d worked on the story it might have been accepted.

7) I entered the Dundee International Book Prize competition three times. The first two entries sank without trace before I hit the jackpot with my third submission, Dead Wood. It was a case of third time lucky, and it also proves that perseverance pays off.

Well, that’s my seven things so now I’d like to pass the award on to anyone willing to accept it, but please let me know if you are taking this offer up because I’d like to visit your blog and read your seven things.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Publishing to Kindle

When I published Night Watcher to Kindle I had to do a fair bit of research on the procedure. I read loads of blogs giving instructions, and watched oodles of You Tube videos. Some of the advice was conflicting but I managed to work out a procedure that worked for me. So now I want to share it with you.

Okay, there are a couple of things you need to do before getting down to the nitty gritty of formatting your document for Kindle.

First of all you need to download two software programmes. Don’t worry, they’re free:-

I’ve provided the links but won’t insult you by giving instructions on how to download software, although I do that in the illustrated guide I prepared specially for my technologically challenged friends.

Next you need to ready your file for conversion by formatting it. (Please note these instructions are for an indented paragraph prose style document.) The first thing to be done is to turn on your formatting so you can see all the paragraph ends, returns and tabs etc. If you don’t know how to turn your formatting on, Word’s Help section should instruct you. The reason for this is to ensure your document is free of things like tabs and space bar returns, these can really screw up a conversion. Then delete headers, footers and page numbers. I will now take you through the conversion in steps.

Step 1

This is optional, but I always do it to ensure my document is clean. Click on the option <Select All> from the <Edit> menu. This will highlight your document. Then select <Styles and Formatting> from the <Format> menu and click on <Clear Formatting>. This strips all formatting from your document. You can miss Step 1 if you are sure you do not have any fancy formatting in your document, no tabs and no space bar spacing to make tabs etc.

Make sure any further formatting to your document remains based on <Normal> in the menu bar. Check the document for any tabs that have not been removed and remove them. Turn off <Autoformat> in your <Tools> menu. You are now ready to reformat your document.

Step 2

Highlight your document the same way you did before. Open the <Paragraph> dialogue box which you will find in the <Format> menu.

(a) Alignment  <Left>

(b) Special  <First Line> By <0.5> - (Smashwords prefers 0.3 in this box)

(c) Line Spacing <Double> - (Smashwords prefers <Single> here). It is important to make sure that there is absolutely nothing in the <At> box, apparently this can really muck up your document. Click OK.

This will give you an appropriately formatted prose document. Note however that the title pages and headings are no longer how they should be. These will have to be formatted.

Highlight your title and anything else on the title page. In the format menu, select Paragraph to open the paragraph box.

Change Alignment to <Centered>. Change Special to <None>. Click OK.

Place a <Page Break> to separate your title page from the rest of your document.

Now go through your document and centre Headings, Chapters or Titles in the same way you did your title page.

Depending on whether you want your chapters on new pages it is okay to use page breaks for a Kindle file, however if you plan to upload your books to Smashwords then page breaks are a no no because this will result in blank pages.

If you are happy with your formatting it is now time to make your document into HTML and that is the next step.

Step 3

Click on <File> then <Save As>. The default save is to a Word document. You will have to change this.

Bring down the drop down menu by clicking on the arrow at the end of the <Save As Type> box.

Select <Web Page, Filtered>. This will save your document as HTLM.

If a dialogue pops up saying it will remove Office features, just click Yes.

Once you have saved your HTML file close it down and your Word file as well.

Now for the next step. The conversion.

Step 4

Open Mobipocket Creator

Click on <Import from Existing File - HTML document> In the Window that opens click on <Browse> and locate your HTML file. Leave all other settings as they are.

When you locate the folder with your file you will notice that the other Word files do not appear, only the HTML one, so no chance of loading the wrong file.

Click on your file and then click <Open>. Your file location now appears in the <Choose a File> box. Click on <Import> Your document will appear in a new window.

Click on <Cover Image> (I trust you have a cover image) A new page appears.

Click on <Add a Cover Image> Browse for your cover image on your computer.

Select the image and then click <Open> and your image will be imported into Mobipocket Creator.

Click <Update> and you will be taken back to the page that has your document file, on this page click <Build> from the top menu bar.

In the page that opens leave the options as they are <Standard Compression> and <No Encryption> then click <Build> which is in the lower half of the page.

It doesn't take long and when it is complete you will get a new window. Just click the option <Open Folder containing eBook> You could view it in Mobipocket but Kindle Previewer is better.

The folder that contains your eBook can be found in <Documents> <My Publications> on your computer.

Congratulations, you now have a mobi file eBook.

Step 5

Before you upload to Kindle check your book in Kindle Previewer. When you open it, it will be a blank page.

Click on File, then on <Open Book>

Locate the <My Publications> folder in <Documents> on your computer. Open it, then open the folder containing your book.

It should then open in Kindle Previewer. Check it over, make sure your formatting is okay, and then upload to Amazon following Amazon’s instructions.

I hope these instructions are understandable and helpful.