Awesome Indies Approved!

I don’t often use my blog to talk about my achievements when it comes to my writing – it’s usually my sounding board when things are going less well!

On this occasion however I have decided to change things up.

My debut novel The Flower Seller was released in June 2016. I worked hard to make The Flower Seller the best version of the book it could possibly be. As an indie author I was keen for my novel to stand out so I put a lot of thought and effort into how the cover would look and engaged a fabulous cover designer to assist. Step forward the wonderful Berni Stevens http://www.bernistevensdesign.com/index.htm

I also made sure I didn’t stint when it came to the story inside the covers – I worked with an editor and a proof reader to make sure the book was as well presented as it could be.

It was at this stage of the process that I became aware of Awesome Indies. If you are unfamiliar with them here is a link to their site http://www.awesomeindies.net/

Their Mission Statement as stated on their site is as follows:-

“Our editors award the Awesome Indies Badge of Approval to indie books that meet mainstream standards of quality. Readers buy our books safe in the knowledge that every one is a professional product. We are the unique voices of quality independent fiction.” Tahlia Newland, founder.

Their approval is the equivalent of a Kite Mark of quality.

Details of how to submit your novel for consideration are given below:-

http://www.awesomeindies.net/for-authors/submissions/

I approached one of the AI Assessors, Debbie Young, to see if she would be willing to read and review The Flower Seller. She kindly agreed and you can read her review here:-

https://debbieyoungsbookblog.com/2016/09/07/the-flower-seller-by-ellie-holmes/

Having received the requisite level of review from Debbie, I was able to formally submit to Awesome Indies and see whether my novel could achieve the necessary second high scoring review.

I am proud to say that The Flower Seller has achieved that and has therefore been granted Awesome Indie Status. You can read the second review here:-

http://www.awesomeindies.net/awesome-indies-approved-the-flower-seller-by-ellie-holmes/

Whilst it is nice to be independent, it is still wonderful to be given the approval of your peers.

And I believe anything that can distinguish good quality, well produced indie books from those that are thrown on to the market with very little thought or care has to be a good thing for all writers and particularly for all readers. Don’t you agree?

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http://Author.to/EllieHolmes
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The Indie Author Fringe Event

Learning
Learning by India Edu courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/cJHGxJ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The Indie Author Fringe Event at the London Book Fair takes place online across this Saturday March 18th starting at 10.00 a.m. London time and continuing for 24 hours.

Here is a link to the speakers and topics being covered during the event:-

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/indie-author-fringe-march-2017-agenda/

If you are interested in registering (registration is free) or want to find out more about the event itself here’s the link:-

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/what-is-indie-author-fringe/

I have signed up for previous fringe events and have always found them helpful and informative. So why not give it a go?

This is what ALLi have to say about the event on their website:-

“Indie Author Fringe is a three-times a year, online conference for self-publishing authors, brought to you by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), fringe to the major global publishing fairs. 

 ALLi brings together the most up-to-date self-publishing education and information available and broadcasts it to authors everywhere. 

Running 24 sessions over 24 continuous hours allows our members, and other authors round the globe, to attend some live sessions, no matter where they’re located. (But don’t worry, we don’t expect you to stay up all night! You can always catch up later.)

Over the course of the year, we take authors across all stages of the author-publishing journey: writing, editorial, design, production, distribution, sales, marketing, rights licensing, money matters and living the indie author life.  And thanks to the generosity of our speakers and sponsors, it’s free.”

Can anyone be an indie author?

Technically, the answer to that question is yes. Not everyone, however, is cut out to do it and fewer still can do it and enjoy it.

As with so much, it comes down to how much you want something and how much time and effort you are willing to put in to achieve it. Too many people say they want something but baulk at the work it takes to accomplish it.

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From affirmation to reality by Joanna Penn courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/akqpa3 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Being an indie author is not easy. Whilst you can build up a support network, you need to have a strong sense of who you are as an author and where your books sit in the market place. You need to be able to trust your own judgement. You are the only one who has your back.

As an indie author, even if you hire others to do some of the work for you, the ultimate responsibility for what they produce lies with you. You have to check and recheck and check again to ensure a quality of output is achieved that you are happy with. You are the Managing Director, the CEO, the buck stops with you.

The boss
The Boss by GDS Productions courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/aWS8c2 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The glory, however, needs to be shared. Remember to thank people for the work they have done. It costs nothing to be nice. If people pay you a compliment on your cover, don’t forget to mention your cover designer. If people praise the professional look of your book, namecheck your editor and others who have contributed their time and talent to making your dream happen. Always, always acknowledge and thank and pay it forward.

And Don’t rush things. Your goals should be to produce the best books you can and build a sustainable career for yourself. That won’t happen overnight. Have patience and plan out a schedule that is achievable. Remember there are only 24 hours in every day and you should be sleeping for eight of them! You might want to do it all, you may even succeed for a while but eventually you will crash and burn. Remember that story about the tortoise and the hare from when you were a child? A slow and steady approach is better both for achieving longevity and for your health.

http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

 

 

 

Out of Character?

Before Christmas I blogged about wrestling with the rewrites of my current work in progress. At the time I was using the term “work in progress” in its loosest sense you will understand.

work-in-progress
Work in progress by Kevan courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/auuCWk    https://goo.gl/NoSi5F

I had been worrying away at trying to make a section work and failing spectacularly to understand why the piece wasn’t coming together.

My time away made me realise what was wrong. I was trying to make the characters act out of character to suit the plot.

It was so obvious when I went back it. Suddenly I could see that shoe horning the characters into the boxes that the plot dictated took away what made their characters work in the first place.

It was a salutary lesson. As soon as I stopped trying to make my characters act against their will, the scenes began to come together and the writing started to flow.

No plot is written in stone. It can always be improved upon. As soon as I made the necessary changes and allowed my characters to act in a way that suited the personalities I had built for them I stopped trying to push a boulder up a hill.

pushing-a-boulder
Pushing a boulder by ((Brian)) courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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Don’t fall into the trap of thinking just because you came up with a plot it must always remain as originally thought up. Adapt it, play with it, experiment.

upside-down-world
In an upside down world by Craig Sunter courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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And the next time you are struggling to make a scene sing, ask yourself if you are making your characters act out of character just so that you can preserve the plot and if the answer is yes don’t sacrifice your characters, change the plot.

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http://Author.to/EllieHolmes
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http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

 

You’ve got to have heart

I’m watching a thriller on TV at the moment. I won’t name the show because I’m not here to trash other people’s efforts but it has been such a disappointment. The set up to the story was intriguing. The cast is outstanding and the backdrop to the story is atmospheric and adds to the sense of mystery and intrigue with a hint of danger. It has even had a few twists and turns that I didn’t see coming and yet even those were not enough to ignite a spark of excitement in me about the show.

bored
Bored by Whateverjames courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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Why am I still watching it? Good question. I held on for a few weeks thinking it needed time to grow and it would get better. When it didn’t achieve that, it got relegated to what I call my ironing/cooking programmes i.e. it gets watched with less attention than a show I am really into because I’ll clear the ironing pile or batch cook whilst it’s on. Shows that get relegated to ironing/cooking programmes rarely make it back to the must be watched with full concentration list.

When I realised it wasn’t going to get any better I continued to watch it because one of the leads is hot and everyone loves a little eye candy and I was at episode 5 by then and figured it would put us all out of our misery with the final instalment at episode 6. Imagine my distaste when I realised they had dragged this poor show out for 8 episodes in all.

Anyway, you may be wondering why this treatise on my viewing habits is part of a Flower Seller Thursday writing blog. The answer is I wanted to be able to put my finger on why this particular show isn’t working and it was an interesting exercise. As I said at the start so many of the classic elements of a good story were there. When you add into the mix that the characters themselves are, for the most part, believable you should have TV gold and a happy viewing public. If this programme had been a book I would have wall-banged it and given up long ago.

So what went wrong?

In a word – heart. In another word – soul. In yet another word – likeability.

heart
Heart by Nghiem Vo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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The characters might be believable but they are also flat. None of the emotional set ups, and there are plenty, worked for me because I wasn’t moved by the characters’ plights. You have to be able to engage with a character to be able to invest in them and what happens to them and that is true whether we are talking about books or film or TV. If there’s no heart and soul, there’s no story, however good the rest of the set up is, however competent the twists and turns of a thriller. If you aren’t investing emotionally, it will leave you cold.

frosty
Frosty by Costel Slincu courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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I mentioned likeability. You don’t have to like every character but there needs to be something there that sparks your interest in all the main characters even if it’s a character you love to hate. For the heroes and heroines of a piece, however, likeability is essential. You have to care about them. If we present a character that the readers like they will follow that character across hundreds of pages of heartache, turmoil and trouble, just to see how the story ends and writers forget that simple rule at their peril.

floating-heart
Heart by Seyed Mostafa Zamani courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/7uZPny  https://goo.gl/VLaJaI

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http://Author.to/EllieHolmes
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http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

Setting a Schedule

When you take the plunge and become an indie author there are lots of things to plan for but having a publishing schedule can sometimes slip down the list.

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Schedule by Tzuhsun Hsu courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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If you were with an agent or a traditional publisher one of the first questions they will ask you once they have expressed an interest in your work is what you are currently working on and what other manuscripts you have. Some careers are built on one book alone but most are not. The professionals want to be assured that there is plenty more coming down the track from you which will make you a viable entity from their point of view.

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Bibliography by Alexandre Duret-Lutz courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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For indies, there is no one to ask that question but us and so it can slip off the radar but it shouldn’t and here’s why. Caught up in the excitement and terror of indie publishing your first novel it can be difficult to look up from the myriad elements you are juggling to take a moment to look ahead but one of the most popular questions I was asked when I did my blog tour for The Flower Seller was ‘When is your next book coming out and what is it about?’. Trust me when I say you want to have the answers to those questions and the only way to do that is to plan ahead.

whats-next
What’s Next? By Crystal courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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In an ideal world we would have all the time we needed to write, the stories would fly from our minds to our fingertips and out to the big wide world. We would be multi published authors in next to no time. Back in the real world not many of us have that luxury. Writing is something that has to be fitted around family and friends, hobbies and often a day job that pays the bills.

It’s good to have high standards and expect a lot from yourself but you also need a reality check. Consider how many books you can write, edit, polish, publish and market in a year. Don’t skimp on the estimates. In fact over estimate to allow yourself time for the emergencies that crop up in all our lives.

Hopefully before you indie publish your first novel you will have a pretty good idea of the genre you want to write in and that will also help determine the probable length of your books. This will also help you decide on a realistic writing schedule to produce new material and a realistic publishing schedule to turn the raw manuscripts into a lovely, shiny new books. I would recommend you set a publishing schedule across a period of two years at a time – any longer and it starts to lose its relevancy.

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Paperwork by Chris Belcher courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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Conscious that the more books you have in the market place, the higher your visibility should become, I set a year one target of one full length novel (100,000 words) and a novella (50,000) which is the first in a three book set. I felt that was a doable target for year one. For year two I have my sights set on one full length novel and, if I can manage it, books two and three in the novella series. Thus reaching my two-year target of two full length novels and one set of novellas. Will I achieve it? I’m going to give it my best shot so watch this space!

the-flower-seller-cover-small
http://Author.to/EllieHolmes
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http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

 

Time to Write – Part Two

The thing about writing is you have to sit down and get it done. There are no shortcuts. Just you and the keyboard in harmony or despair – sometimes both in the same half an hour.

I have discovered the key to finding time to write is not to go looking for it in the first place. Your life will already be filled or else your natural instinct to want to relax will kick in. There is no free time to write. That is why you have to carve it out of your everyday routine. It is the only sustainable way to achieve your long term goals and call yourself a writer unless you have invented the ability to stretch time in which case call me.

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Woodpecker by Andy courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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I happen to be a morning person. I love mornings! I am an early riser, the earlier the better. I love the solitude the new day brings when it is just me, my dog and a cup of tea as the world wakes up around me. I find writing early in the morning easy. Mentally, I get out of the way and just let the words flow. I do keep one eye on the clock because I have a forty-five minute window to make the magic happen. The reason I have a wonderful forty-five minute window? I get up early just to write.

It’s no good asking an evening person to do what I do. It would be like asking me to write good stuff at ten o’clock at night. It’s not going to happen.

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Tired by Nick Harris courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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Once you know what suits your natural rhythms you will know the best time of day (or night) to write. Then you will need something to aim for – a set period of time or a word count target. I have both. I try for 1,000 words in my forty-five minute window.

If I have had a break from my morning routine I know that the first few mornings back in the saddle will take some adjusting to. I did this a couple of weeks ago – the first day I managed no more than 300 words, the second day it was 750. By the third day I had hit my stride. I didn’t beat myself up about not reaching the target on the first two days. I was simply pleased with the quality of what I wrote and the fact that I had SHOWED UP.

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One Step at a Time by Kitt O’Malley courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

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Sometimes writing is all about demonstrating your commitment to the project and in yourself as a writer. Showing up for a writing session, day after day, is what gets a book written. We can all hit a rich seam of creativity for a few hours at a time but it is the sheer slog that pushes a writer over the finish line.

So my tips for getting the writing done are simple:-

  1. Find the time of day or night that suits the rhythms of your body best and carve out writing time from it.
  2. Set yourself a realistic limit on time and/or word count for your writing sessions.
  3. Show up, day after day, week after week.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall short of your word count target, just be pleased you still showed up.
  5. If you break the routine of showing up, get back to it as soon as you can.
  6. When you reach a milestone in your work in progress choose a little treat for yourself.
  7. Keep showing up until the book is finished.

Before you know where you are, you will be ticking milestones off your list and your writing sessions will be incorporated into your days as if they have always been there.

the-flower-seller-cover-small
http://Author.to/EllieHolmes
the-tregelian-hoard-cover
http://Author.to/EllieHolmes