Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

timely advice from editors

September 9, 2010

I should like to pay a special tribute to Nik Morton and the Torreviejan Writer’s Circle. I am writing my next book about my husbands dementia. I had been advised that this is the kind of book that is needed. I had written 22 thousand words describing life with my husband and his slow decline into the conditions. I concentrated on trying to make my writing clear and easy to read. I was getting there. Well I thought I was.

Then Nik kindly sent some advice from an editor – what an editor is looking for. It was nothing like the prose that I had been churning out. How could I have forgotten?

I now have a little paragraph at the top of my script: a paragraph that I read again and again before I ever try to write anything.

It is:
“Is there conflict?

Is there a pressing story question?

Does the pace keep the reader turning the page?

Are the character defined through dialogue and action not narrative?

Are the characters’ feelings shown not described?

Does each scene have a location in time and space, is there action and dialogue and tension?”

Many times I have to admit the answer is “No.” so I re-write…. again and again …

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Go ahead, publish your book, you won’t regret it!

June 21, 2010

If you are thinking of publishing you own book – one that you think you would like to read yourself – go for it I say! It opens up a new world. You might not become a millionaire over night, but the rewards from positive feedback you get are well worth giving it a go.

At first you feel you are out on your own, indulging in a bit of vanity, being a self-indulgent eccentric. Your friends and family show mild kind interest because they know you, not necessarily because they are equally enthused.

Then someone insists on buying the book. It is just what they are looking for they say. Finally, they write to you to say how much they enjoyed it. You are not alone anymore. All your efforts have been worth it. Someone out there thinks the same way as you and really appreciates your efforts.

I received such an email today and I hope the author does not mind my sharing some of her comments. She was writing about “Out of a Learner’s Mouth” (available at Burrows Bookshop in Ely tel: 01353 669 759).

 Her comments: “I can not find the words to describe how I feel about your book, it is the best read I have had in ages. It is such fun, whilst at the same time a lot can be learnt from it.

 I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed it, every word, although I will never get to GCE, C grade! I relate so much to the way in which you, go and have an early coffee! Any excuse to stop studying, we were on parallel lines almost all the way through, even down to reading Joanna Trollops’ A Spanish Lover, except you are two years and ten grades ahead of me! And I have not bought an apartment in Spain.

 I have just returned from a short Spanish course in Palma, Majorca, which was great fun but debatable as to how much Spanish I can speak, I can order a coffee and a glass of red wine so all is not lost! I am going to return next year for an intensive two week course, but in the mean time keep listening to my CDs and re-reading my book, that is when I can get it back from my friends, I should have made them buy their own!

 Thank you so much for writing and having the book published, it is an absolute joy.”

Talking helps when promoting your book

June 16, 2010

Yesterday I gave a talk about my book “Out of a Learner’s Mouth” written as an amusing series of diary entries describing my trials and tribulations of learning Spanish as a mature learner. I gave the talk at the Institute of Education in London – where I completed by PhD. I thought it would be good practice for me, a chance to flog a couple of copies of the book but  little more. However, with Anita Pincas in the chair, her people management skills made it much more than that. She had encouraged a fascinating group of people to attend. I asked them to interrupt if they wished and I am glad that I did for as I chatted my way through a number of these learned people interrupted, supporting my stories with what they knew about how we think and learn from their study and research. I certainly found what they had to say fascinating.

Learn from my mistakes when publishing your own book.

March 26, 2010

It is very exciting when your first real book is published and you have a stack of the books in front of you. Now you have time to reflect and you can get down to the publicity.

No one is perfect and the more I try to write, the more I appreciate criticism. I no longer see it as a personal slight, but rather a benefit for someone is taking the time and effort to read what I have written and is trying to help me overcome my mistakes to improve.  In a similar way, while I freely admit I have made mistakes this time, these mistakes are part of the learning process. Hopefully, as I continue my writing career, I will avoid making the same mistakes the next time I publish.

I knew that paying for someone to publish my book would be costly but I thought selling the book would be a doddle – after all I have SO many friends who have been asking about my writing. Then reality strikes.

The cost, for your info on this the 26th March 2010, for my short paperback was about £315 for copy-editing, £210 for the cover design and £400 for the 100 copies I rashly ordered. I estimated the cost would be about £9.23 per book.

Then, I did not take into account the freebies that were expected – 6 books to be sent to the copyright libraries, one to the publisher, the copy-editor, the cover designer, the voluntary publicity  officer, the friends who wanted to read it…. Now I have come to the conclusion that you are very unlikely to cover costs with you first book. However, the NEXT one should be another matter. (I can hear you say “You reckon?”)

Deadlines are another issue. I had created a deadline of about 4 months to have the book copy-edited and published – far too short. I was very lucky to have a copy-editor and publisher who could get the job done in time. Then I let myself down. I was given a first proof copy and being over excited about the whole thing and ever so keen to have the first completed copy in my hand I said everything should be fine, I did not need to read it through again and the books were printed.

The books arrived! How wonderful! How exciting! Then I read through one of the books, and I found, to my horror, there were mistakes, mistakes that had previously been spotted by the copy-editor that I thought I had corrected! I have no idea how it happened – perhaps I thought I had saved my corrections but I hadn’t. I am left with the certainty that next time, I will allow a year for the completion and I will check again and again during the process. However, I know that when I read proper, published books I find mistakes in them too so I hope that my readers will understand.

At the moment there is the problem of publicity. I have emailed my friends and attached the first few pages of the book. They have been very kind and positive. One friend who has just completed an MA in Creative Writing pointed out some errors and clichés. One of the errors he was right about – it was one of those I distinctly remember correcting. Otherwise, I explained that I had deliberately made ‘bad’ choices – like clichés because I wanted to show that I was a cliché kind of person. This is the joy of publishing the book yourself – you can deliberately stray from the narrow path of writing according to a plethora of principles for ‘correct’ writing. Fortunately for me, now, criticism is very welcome and I am determined that next time I will encourage as many different people as possible to read the book before I start the publishing process.

Now comes the embarrassment of trying to sell the idea of the book to possible purchasers. It is difficult trying to talk about your personal ‘baby’ in a way that does not sound like self aggrandisement. I think the best thing would be to get someone else to write your press release and I am very lucky this time for a kind friend has written it for me. Maybe I can use this as a model for the press release for my next book. It reads as follows:

“Lacking foreign language skills didn’t stop Witchford resident Dr
Rosemary Westwell from hopping on an aeroplane, introducing herself to
a stranger in a Spanish pub, and purchasing an apartment with her
credit card.
After realising owning property abroad may require her to have some
local linguistic skills, Rosemary, in her sensational silver years,
decided she was going to master the language – at any cost.
From her experience came Out of a Learner’s Mouth The Trials and
Tribulations of Learning Spanish
her first paperback novel on the
subject.
It is a hilarious account of the real challenges faced by anyone
attempting to negotiate another language – at any age.
Written in diary form, Rosemary documented her experience as part of
her PhD studies at London University.
Rosemary’s determination to acquire a foreign language was partly
driven by her interest in teaching English as a foreign language in the UK.
Despite having five university degrees, and a belief that she could
teach herself anything, Rosemary said learning a second language was a
surprising challenge.
“When I was actually trying to learn this language I was so fickle and
changed so quickly. There were a lot of things I learnt about
myself as a learner and that has helped me teach others,” she said.
“I used to expect far too much from my students in class.
“It certainly changed my attitude to teaching.”
Rosemary will present a seminar at the International Association of
Teachers of English as a Foreign Language conference in Harrogate
April 7 – 11, where she will talk about her experiences and officially
launch the book.
Out of a Learner’s Mouth will be available from April 7
For more information about the book contact Rosemary Westwell on
rjwestwell@hotmail.com”

Now I am proposing to visit relevant bookshops to see if they will stock a copy or two. One local shop has kindly agreed to stock one, (yes, only one) and their reaction was so different to my friends’ – “It won’t sell” was the first reaction. “Why not?” I wanted to ask, for I reckon that it would suit no end of people – learners of Spanish, teachers of a language looking for a light read that gives ideas, people designing courses, anyone thinking of going to a Spanish-speaking country for a holiday, retired people who want to be inspired to learn a new language… no end of people. I try to reassure myself that the Beatles and JK Rowling had similar problems when they started.  I have even put the book on ebay (www.ebay.co.uk) and when I searched for my name (Rosemary Westwell) it came up immediately. I have only just put it on ebay, but you would think that someone at least would have looked at the entry and maybe one or two even bought it – but the list of visitors remains ‘nil’. .

I guess the main thing is to develop a thick skin, believe in what you are doing, accept that everyone is human (including yourself) and get on with it – remaining positive no matter what. After all, as they say, overcoming mistakes can be the making of someone – you agree?

I would be very interested in your comments (and I mean it!)

Writing the blurb on your book is not easy

March 18, 2010

Writing the blurb on your book is not as easy as you might think. What are other people really interested in? – mainly themselves, you might answer. How do you relate the book to other people’s interests? People are so varied; their interests are so different. Perhaps the only solution is to write what you are interested in yourself and hope that others feel the same.

Is it safe for you to write without a copy-editor tidying up your language? Probably not, but they are busy people and sometimes it may be worth the risk…

Here is the blurb for my recent book Out of a Learner’s Mouth. The blurb has been tidied up – perhaps it could serve as a model..? (or not! What do you think?)

Out of a Learner’s Mouth

Picking up a stranger in a pub in Spain and buying a flat from him is an unusual way of starting a new relationship with the country and its language. However, this mature lady casts caution aside and gives the stranger her credit card to pay a deposit for her dream flat by the Mediterranean Sea. When the contract is signed and she first enters the building, she is unable to communicate with the electrician who is still fixing the wiring. She realizes she has to learn Spanish.

In a series of amusing anecdotes she records her feelings about the language and the Spanish way of life. She struggles with new vocabulary and with interference from school French. As her exposure to the language increases, her attitude alters; she makes drastic changes to her approach when teaching English as a Foreign Language to students in the UK.  

She describes the new Spanish words she acquires and shares the trials and tribulations that all language learners have with concentration, memory, personality differences and interfering life events. 

A developing awareness of the benefits of image, humour, other language associations and her past learning and teaching experiences give insight into the nature of the process.        

The book is an essential companion for those contemplating learning Spanish, or planning a holiday in a Spanish-speaking country, and for those in the language learning, researching, teaching and teacher-training businesses.

self-publishing in the Telegraph

February 24, 2010

A friend gave me a cutting from the Telegraph Weekend (Feb 13th, 2010) about self-publishing. Three websites are mentioned: http://www.blurb.com, http://www.lulu.com http://www.amolibros.com and www.vanitypublishering.info. Otherwise the article does not give a lot of hope. I will find it difficult to sell my self-published book – I am not surprised.

I tried to use the format of blurb some time ago. I could not get my book to fit into their framework. After a couple of hours I’m afraid I gave up. I have settled on a local small publisher – Rodney Dale at FernHouse in Haddenham, Cambs.

The article did alert me to copy right issues. It was much cheaper for me to have the ISBN number under the publisher’s name. I see that this gives him copyright. I will have to check on this!

Jonathan Clifford’s website (www.vanitypublishing.info) might also be worth checking

I have found something that may improve my writing (I hope).

February 23, 2010

I have found a great book that may improve my writing. Style by Joseph Williams, published by Scott, Foresman and Company ISBN 0-673-38186-2, gives ten lessons in ‘clarity and grace’. I am not sure about the grace bit, but he certainly helps to clarify. I have not finished reading the book, but I have already come across some brilliant ideas.

New to me is the notion of placing an important idea at the END of a sentence. While he agrees that you try to put the central idea at the beginning of the sentence/paragraph I never thought of leading up to a main idea and placing it at the end.

I always have a problem with too many adverbs and he shows how to avoid these. In the chapter on cohesion he provides lists of joining words that I can use when teaching. He provides exercises for you to try and answers to some of them in the back. I really need answers to any exercises I do, so I skipped those that had no answers.

 I have decided to buy a copy for myself for I think it will be very useful if I teach advanced English as a  Foreign Language in summer as planned.  

And no, nobody is paying me to say these things!

Positive proof: You can’t write without help

February 19, 2010

Previously, I posted my first attempts at writing my blurbs for my forthcoming book: Out of a Learner’s Mouth. The publisher (Rodney Dale of Fern House in Haddenham) asked me for the final drafts of my blurbs for the front cover of the book (about the author) and for the back of the book (about the book).

I did my best, but felt very uneasy because it had not been through the hands of a copy editor. I asked the publisher to edit, please – and he did. It was clear editing was needed. This is proof that you really should get others to edit your work. Hopefully I will continue to learn from this experience.

I am even tempte4d to contemplate going on a copy-editing course. Does anyone know any good, reliable copy-editing courses I could sign up to?

Here are the finished blurbs. What do you think?

Blurb about the book for the back cover:

Picking up a stranger in a pub in Spain and buying a flat from him is an unusual way of starting a new relationship with the country and its language. However, this mature lady casts caution aside and gives the stranger her credit card to pay a deposit for her dream flat by the Mediterranean Sea. When the contract is signed and she first enters the building, she is unable to communicate with the electrician who is still fixing the wiring. She realizes she has to learn Spanish.

In a series of hilarious anecdotes she records her feelings about the language and the Spanish way of life. She struggles with new vocabulary and with interference from school French. As her exposure to the language increases, her attitude alters; she makes drastic changes to her approach when teaching English as a Foreign Language to students in the UK.  

She describes the new Spanish words she acquires and shares the trials and tribulations that all language learners have with concentration, memory, personality differences and interfering life events. 

A developing awareness of the benefits of image, humour, other language associations and her past learning and teaching experiences give insight into the nature of the process.        

The book is an essential companion for those contemplating learning Spanish, or planning a holiday in a Spanish-speaking country, and for those in the language learning, researching, teaching and teacher-training businesses. 

 and the final blurb about the author:

Teacher, writer and adventurer Dr Rosemary Westwell made her first move overseas from Tasmania when she flew across the Bass Strait to study School Music at Melbourne University. After returning for a short bout of teaching in Tasmania, she sailed to England and eventually settled in a Cambridgeshire village where she acquired successively an English husband, two daughters and a number of grandchildren.

As she neared retirement, she inherited a house in Tasmania – rather a long way to go for holidays, so she exchanged it for a flat in Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. Learning Spanish from scratch, she recorded her learning experiences as the data for her PhD research thesis. Out of a Learner’s Mouth is a frank and humorous account of her experiences.

In the UK, she reviews concerts, teaches Piano, Singing and English, and entertains local societies with talks about her life in Tasmania. She runs The Isle Singers, a ladies’ choir which gives regular concerts, and may be found carolling at Ely Station at Christmas. .

She has had a number of articles, short stories and poems published. Her book Spontaneous Survival Lessons in English is published by Zigzag Education. Future books in the pipeline include her first novel Tassie Rebel, and its sequel Teaching Language Learners, and a course for IGCSE.

Contact: rjwestwell@hotmail.com 

www.elyforlangauge.wordpress.com

What do you think?

Publishing your own book 4

January 30, 2010

One of the major problems with publishing your own book is finishing it.  

I set aside three weeks for that purpose and the book was written. It is called “Out of the Learner’s Mouth” to accompany a presentation I will be making at the IATEFL Conference at Harrogate on April 8th. I am still trying to think of an addition to the title. At the moment it is “Out of the Learner’s Mouth: the diary of a mature language learner learning Spanish as a beginner”- which is not very catchy or impressionable. Your suggestions would be most welcome.

 After finishing writing the book you have to do the boring bit: checking it through. I believed that I had checked my work thoroughly and that I had corrected every mistake.

 I asked around for a recommended copy editor.  I contacted her and we agreed on a tight schedule of completing within three weeks.

In the first week, I wrote the first section and sent it to her as agreed. She then said she had another project she had to finish first – the agreed schedule went out the window right at the beginning!

The copy-editor sent me the corrected version of the first section. I was completely amazed that I had made so many mistakes. When I combed through the corrected text, the copy editor was right.

I am now convinced, you cannot produce a book without a copy-editor. The current rate for work corrected online is £22 per hour (in January 2010) which makes it difficult to know how you will be able to recoup the costs. One thing is certain, schedules are made to be broken, so more time should be allowed for this to happen.

On publishing your own book 1

December 3, 2009

After waiting months for a publishing company to come back to me about publishing one of my books, after discovering that one firm’s ‘editing’ was worse than my own and after so many salutary rebuffs or complete lack of response from reputable publishers, I have decided to bite the bullet and publish my own book.

It seems more and more important that it is the people you approach that makes the difference – not the particular firm. I asked a local publisher I know and he offered me the name of a copy-editor. When I emailed the copy-editor I got an immediate response – wow!  Not only that, she addressed me personally and set out what she could offer clearly. For the first time I feel we will be able to work together and negotiate a sensible way forward. The only problem will be the cost of getting the book into shape and published. I cannot see how I would ever cover costs, but maybe as a long-term investment it might still be worth it. It might also be worth investigating the tax implications.

I guess the next thing is to write the book – so with renewed vigour I leave this piece of writing to get down to it. I plan to add more about what happens in the process of publishing my book but I have learnt to be realistic – plans initiated by human beings are not necessarily carried out as intended! Until next issue, perhaps …