Saturday, 24 December 2011

Could your publisher give your book away free?

The answer sadly in many cases is yes they can. And the real kicker is that they can do it without even telling you.

And you thought your relationship with your publisher was a partnership. At least I did.
Here’s my tale of woe –
I found out through a message board I belong to that two self-help titles I wrote for Need2Know Books on bullying and caring for dogs were being given away free. This was news to me because I had a contract stating how much ebooks would cost and what my royalty percentage was.
Note it wasn’t at the price of zero, royalty zero. Hey, I worked hard on those books. It was my name next to the copyright symbol. It was my hard toil that crafted the words, did the research. And in the case of my bullying book: spilt my guts.

Hey, I even worked hard to get reviews and some press coverage. Worked hard, when I could have been doing something else – like doing paid work to pay my bills that land on my doormat like bricks.

I contacted the Society of Authors and got advice. I was hoping they’d tell me that the publisher had no right to 1, give away my book free and 2, not tell me.
The news wasn’t good. Apparently the clause in most publishing contracts that allows the publisher to set the price of the book also means they can give it away for hee-haw, nae money, feck all, free.
So, what have I learnt from this? Apart from the fact that this publisher showed a complete lack of common courtesy to their authors (I know of at least another dozen of their authors who were not made aware that their books were being given away free, including one who didn’t even agree to their book being turned into an ebook) I can’t stress this point enough -

Get it stipulated in your contract how many books can be given free and under what terms.

Footnote – when I contacted the publisher about what they were doing they claimed giving every one of their books away free was a ‘marketing tool.’ They had no idea how long they would give the books away gratis, but hoped it would boost sales of the traditional paper books.

I disagree with that. Why if people are getting books free will they pay for them? The answer is they won't. Not unless you're an author writing a free book as a taster (say it's a book in a series or a short story featuring series characters like Freaks by Tess Gerritsen, which features Rizzoli and Isles).

Me? I feel like my pocket had been picked and it’s pretty empty these days anyway.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Enemies of the writer

There are so many things that can stand in the way of your writing time. Know what they are and beat 'em.

The Internet
Do you really need to find a present for Aunt Betty online, right this moment? Do you even have an Aunt Betty? If you really, really need to do research online, write a list of the things you need to know and tick them off as you answer them. Then turn the Internet OFF. Unless you do the Internet will eat away at your writing time.

Why is it always a case that when you actually have to sit down and write you suddenly decide to clean out the refrigerator/do the vacuuming/take a duster to the cobwebs that have been at that corner of the ceiling for years?

Perhaps if you’re avoiding writing so often, you should ask yourself if you should be writing at all. A writer is someone who has a compulsion to write.

Reading other writers who make you feel like you don't deserve to kiss their pen.
Hence the reason I'm not reading Stephen King's latest novel. He tells a great story and writes it well. I try to. I try to.

Games computer games, Internet games, card games, games you play in your head.
Do you want to waste time that you could be writing finding hidden objects or getting solitaire out? Yet, we've all been there. Just don't get sucked in. If you must play games do it to give yourself a break after some kick ass writing.

Social networking
Are you genuinely making friends and sharing your writing woes or just killing time? Set yourself a decent amount of time to tweet, Facebook, Google or whatever. DO NOT EXCEED THAT TIME.

Is it really too difficult to get notepads, pens and station them around the house? Too much good writing and too many ideas are lost because you never wrote them down. If you're outside the home make sure you have something to capture your ideas. Many mobile phones have note functions and voice recorders. Use them.

Being a perfectionist
Stop expecting every word you write to be perfect - I have a habit of doing this. Get it down then edit/perfect it later. You can’t expect to get your writing to flow if you keep on stopping every sentence to rewrite and rewrite.

I recently discovered (by accident) that the publisher of two of my self-help books, were giving them away free as ebooks without my knowledge. Whilst I was okay with them giving away e copies with the paperback version, I thought giving them away for heehaw was a step too far. I'm now taking legal advice.

Finding out about my hard work being exploited like that cost me a day's work and a week's worry. Then I realised that I was allowing this publisher to steal my writing time and I put a stop to it by sending off the corresepondance I needed and forgetting about it.

Note – Always make copies of every contract or commission form your received and keep them in a safe place. Also scan copies into your computer. It can be so easy to lose contracts when you move home.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

What Katy did next

I was delighted to be asked over to Katy O’Dowd blog as a guest blogger where I talk about how research for books can put a strain on your relationship.
Katy’s honestly one of those people for whom the phrase ‘I don’t know how she does it’ is made. Mum, journalist and fiction writer, she's so busy I don't know how she does it all.

So far (and I say so far because there’s loads to come), Katy has 3 books coming out in 2012 -
The Lady Astronomer, Doctor Fantastique Books, 2012

The Scarlet Ribbon, The History Press Ireland, 2012 (writing as Derry O’Dowd)

Nasty Snips II, Pendragon Press, 2012 (Co-Editor)

Thanks Heath

I was delighted to be a guest blogger over at Heath Lowrance's Psycho-Noir. Heath is the author of the brilliantly titled The Bastard Hand.

If you fancy a gander at his awesome blog, why not mosie on over to

You won't regret it.

Monday, 5 December 2011

The Point by Gerard Brennan

You know you're in a shed load of trouble when Mad Mickey wants a wee word, and that's the predicament scallywag Paul Morgan finds himself in at the start of The Point. Given a week to get out of Belfast by the 'hippy-gangster,' Morgan gets his brother Brian to flit with him to a place called Warrenpoint, hence the book's title.

He makes one wee mistake: pinching Mad Mickey's van and setting it alight. After he does that you know the Morgan boys are in for some bother.

The Point rattles along a good pace. The characters are well drawn, especially Mad Mickey the 'hippie-gangster' who sits cross legged on a beanbag in the back of a carpeted van, menacing folk under the glow from some lava lamps. And there's ballsy Rachel who's under 'court ordered' counselling for turning a mugger's Stanley Knife on him. Thank ye gods for a kick ass woman in a book who isn't cast in the victim role or as the eye candle.

The dialogue is crisp and realistic and at times you’re chortling away to yourself like an eejit. Like when beleaguered Morgan asks what kind of mood Mickey is in. Go on, you know you want to say it.

Hats off to the writer too for not trying to anglicise/poncify his dialogue. His characters are from Northern Ireland, so why should they sound like they're presenting the news on the BBC?

The Point was an enjoyable read and I look forward to reading more from Mr Brennan.

Note – with its short chapters, The Point is perfect for reading on your Kindle.

The Point is published by Pulp Press both in traditional book form and on Kindle. Available from Amazon.

DI Duncan Waddell - Detective in a Coma Book 2

What to do when your phone is stolen

I've been lucky in that I've never had my phone stolen, at least until last weekend. At first I thought I'd droppe...