Monday, 31 August 2015

Secrets to getting published - from someone who knows

You can have a love in with your book or send the damn thing out.

Okay, you've written the best book you can. What next?

You could shove it in a drawer, gathering dust, until you’re dead and a relative finds it, gets engrossed in the wonderful words you've created and says, "Wow, great Aunt Matilda or Grandpa Harry could really write."

Or, you could actually send it to a publisher or agent. What have you got to lose - your dignity, self-respect and confidence? But, hey you won't get published without putting your work out there.

So, you will feel defeated if you get a flurry of rejection letters, but what is defeat? It's never trying and never putting yourself in a position to fail.

Repeat after me - Defeat is never trying and never putting yourself in a position to fail.

When it comes to sending out your work, up your odds of success by -

Sticking to the word count. They've asked for the first 2 chapters or first 5, 000 words, don't send 70, 000 words.

Sending it to the right publisher. If a publisher is looking for quality, literary fiction, don't send them erotic fiction or horror. They don't want it.

Yet you'd be amazed how many writers waste their time and the publishers by sending completely unsuitable manuscripts either because 1. They haven't done their research, or, 2. They think their writing is so blindingly brilliant that the publisher won't care that the book's a fictionalised account of a dog's life when the publisher's looking for historical fiction.

Making sure your work is laid out properly. Check out the publisher's guidelines. If it says to use Times or Arial point 12, then do that. Make it double spaced, typed on one side of the paper only with wide margins in case its printed out.

Make sure your work is printed out legibly so it can be easily read. No fading print, toilet roll thin paper or words written in using felt tip pen, because the ink's starting to fade.

Don't get fancy or wacky. No coloured paper, cut into fancy shapes or fancy paper clips. No weird gifts for publishers, like cakes or a chapter written on a piece of toast using jam (the submission was a crime novel).

Come up with one sentence that sums up what your book's about. For How KirstyGets Her Kicks, I had - A one-legged Glasgow barmaid goes on the run with a gangster's cash and gun after she kills one of his henchmen. One publisher said it was the best one line pitch they'd ever read.

Footnote - Sometimes, no matter how good your work is or how well presented, you will still get a "no" or no reply at all. This could be for a number of reasons; none of which you can do anything about.

Stick in there. The difference between a published writer and an unpublished one, is the former never gave up. I know that can be you:)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The wacky world of the pop out cake

Hopefully the person jumping out of your cake won't look as bored as these two!

For a major scene in my book, How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks, I wanted my main character Kirsty to try and get close enough to someone who would immediately have her killed if he saw her.

I racked my brains about how to do this without her being found out and when it emerged he was having a birthday party, I thought it would be awesome if she could hide in a cake.

I don’t know about you, but I have never seen anyone jump out of a cake before, so I didn’t know where to start.  That’s when the good old Internet came to the rescue.   

Here are some things I discovered -

  1. It's actually quite straightforward to hire a pop out cake, as cakes designed for jumping out of are called. 
  2. Pop out cake are usually three tier cakes that resemble wedding cakes, you can even make your own. They can also be square.
  3. Note, I said make and not bake your own because the only similarity between these cakes and real ones is the edible frosting they may have on the outside. 
  4. Quite often, a table cloth is placed over the bottom of the cake to hide the fact there is no bottom and that’s how the person inside gets inside. Other cakes sit on a kind of platter like this one - and have wheels so that the cake can be wheeled in with the person inside. A section of the cake can be like a door to allow the person to get inside with ease.
  5. The top comes off and that’s how the person inside jumps out.
  6. A pop out cake even featured in Xena Warrior Princess. You can watch the footage by clicking here
To hire a cake, it’s best to approach a prop hire company like this one
I'm delighted to announce that How Kirsty Gets Her Kicks about a one-legged Glasgow barmaid who goes on the run from with a gangster's cash and gun, will be published soon. Details to follow. 

Stay tuned for details, including the cover reveal, as you finally get to find out why Kirsty jumps out of a cake and how she gets on:)

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Everybody Say EE - my Nightmare with my EE mobile phone

Finally, after a nightmare three years with Orange after they became EE. Or, was it longer?

When they were Orange, the mobile phone company's service was good, then EE came along. Uh, uh. Cue the horror music.

1. Topping up became almost impossible. Couldn't do it by text. It wouldn't recognise the credit card I'd been topping my phone up with for two years.

2. Getting a balance became impossible. "Sorry, we can't tell you your balance at the moment" became the stock response.

3. Their website where you can top up and check your balance was ALWAYS down. It never worked properly in 2 whole years.

4. I was on the Dolphin plan. Regularly top up by ten pounds and you're meant to get free texts. On too many occasions to count, I didn't get my free texts. Sometimes they were days late.

5. My boyfriend's phone (bought under my name) was stolen. I reported it to EE and they cancelled it. They were meant to transfer the remaining balance to his new phone. They didn't. He had £7.50 left. Not tonnes of money, but £7.50 is better in his pocket than EE's.

Think about how much cash EE must have in their bank account from the phones of customers whose phones have been lost or stolen. Say 10, 000 customers lose/have their phones stolen with a balance of £7.50. That's £75k they've got of OUR MONEY!

6. I phoned to top up my boyfriend's PAYG phone. I got the Indian call centre, explained his phone had been stolen and he had a new phone from EE and I wanted to top that up. THEY TOPPED UP THE WRONG PHONE!

I got my own Nokia 5800 PAYG phone unlocked from their network, but only after a big song and dance.

After a week, they told me I didn't have enough credit in my phone to cover the unlocking fee when I did. TWICE. I topped up before I put in my order. So, two weeks were wasted because of EE's mistake.

I contacted them on Twitter and through the form on their website. Twitter EE were hopeless. I had to wait two weeks to finally get a reply.

I had to phone customer service. Oh no! I got their overseas call centre (India, I think). After several times of being cut off by them or waiting 30 minutes and losing the will to live, I finally got through.

The person didn't know what unlocking meant. When I explained, he couldn't believe I would want to leave their "fine network." Finally, after lots of waiting, he said he'd email me the unlock code.

The code didn't arrive.

They sent me the wrong code. They missed out vital instructions.

Everybody say EE!