Thursday, 17 September 2015

Time the Gotham haters buzzed off

The brilliant Robin Lord Taylor

And here he is in The Walking Dead.
The new season of one of my favourite shows, Gotham was starting (isn't Walking Dead star Robin Lord Taylor great as Penguin) and I couldn't remember what happened in the season finale so I decided to look for a recap.

I came across this recap
Titled a recap, it was more like a hatchet job.

Honesty, you'd think the show had slept with the writer's mamma and he had his dad had caught them at it, because they tore into the show in what was meant to be a recap and not a review. 

The main beef seemed to be that it wasn't real to life.

Of course, the writer forgot one key thing - GOTHAM IS FICTION!

It's not a documentary, or a self-help guide: its fiction. It ain't real!

I had a similar experience when Throwaways first came out, when a prison officer reviewed it and complained that my two intrepid detectives would never have been allowed to interview a prison teacher in the prison. Of course I do my research, but I'm writing fiction. 

I'm currently working on Cannibal City where a serial killer is abducting men and eating their livers. Once its published maybe the person who savaged Gotham will read it and realise its not meant to be a manual aimed at cannibals! 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

My Nightmare with John Hunt Publishing

You might as well burn your books than be in publisher hell.

I was advised by other writers not to write a blog about my experience with John Hunt Publishing.

"It could ruin your future writing career," a writer friend said.

"It might make you sound like you're a nightmare to deal with," said another. 

Of course I thought about it. These guys know what they're talking about. They were concerned about me. But, in the end I decided that I had to write this blog because other authors deserve to know what they might get into if they sign up with this publisher. And how can they know anything if authors don't share information? 

Besides, I know the points I make are valid. I didn’t just write the books and sit back and expect them to sell. I put my heart and soul into them and worked 100-hour weeks to promote them. I felt let down that I was the only one trying to sell my books. At times, I felt like John Hunt Publishing were sabotaging me.

When John Hunt Publishing offered me a contract, I looked around the web for information and found very little. I wish I'd known then what I know now because my relationship with them was a nightmare. 

It started off well enough. Their readers' reports were extremely positive. Comments like "what's not to love here" and "this could sell in the thousands." And, I had a right to have high hopes. I’m an award-winning writing and have been writing for 20-odd years.

Then the reality started to bite and what I found is the most disappointing experience I’ve ever had in 13 years of getting books published -

JHP make a big thing about their marketing and their author database, both of which sound impressive, but they didn't deliver.
- The database had important details missing like email addresses, phone numbers and contact details.

- You had to pay for any real marketing - You had to pay for any marketing that went beyond sending automated press releases that are cobbled together with the words authors put in their proposals. Yes, in my case and many other authors, the press release was generated word for word by the words I put in the proposal. The way the online system worked, you could see the proposals authors inputted and their press releases. There was no effort on the part of the staff. In my case, a basic spell check wasn't even done. This marketing cost 150 for 6 hours of work, which seemed to involve them doing pretty little.

Valuable marketing and promotional opportunities were wasted
For example, over a number of months I worked towards getting my book Hell To Pay featured in a top newspaper with a 250, 000 readership. I knew 2 weeks in advance that my book would be featured and told the marketing department. I stupidly thought because the book was set in Glasgow and the newspaper was based in Glasgow that the publisher would contact the big bookstores in the city, including Waterstone’s and say, "Hey, one of our books will be featured in the country's bestselling newspaper, would you like some on a sale or return basis?"

They did absolutely nothing and wasted the opportunity. Yes, free publicity that money can't buy, that they were notified about two weeks in advance and they did nothing. 

I felt demoralised. That my time had been completely wasted. That my publisher they didn't care about whether my book sold or not. 

I was contacted by several people who saw my book and told me they tried to buy my book in a store and it wasn't for sale.

John Hunt Publishing missed a golden opportunity to sell more books.

Note - I could have contacted bookshops myself, but my royalty on paperbacks was 10 percent and the publisher's was 90 percent. 

There was a catalogue of errors in the book listing.
They wrongly spelt my surname on all the book sites and I had to get it changed myself. That was made more difficult because it was the publisher who were meant to make changes, not the author.

They didn't even check sites had my books and others correctly categorised.
For instance, Throwaways, my novella about murdered Glasgow sex workers was listed as erotic fiction and also as true life, which was news to my family.

There was a pattern of disrespect, pithy and aggressive behaviour from staff.
They have a closed online forum for authors and after repeatedly being ignored about certain issues, I started to post on the Facebook page - a few posts, written in a friendly way - that's when without a word I was kicked off FB and the JHP forum with no explanation after one of the head honchos at the publisher accused me of "aggressive and bullying behaviour." I asked others on the page if they thought that had been the case and nobody did.

Seven authors sent me a message saying that their experience of JHP had been very poor and they wanted their rights back. Eventually, I was given ALL my rights back, but only because I suspect they wanted rid of me. 

When I politely asked why my books imprint didn't appear on their fiction blog alongside a few others, I was told my imprint was MBS even although over half the books were fiction and my books were CRIME FICTION.
When I asked why certain marketing tasks weren't done, I'd get answers that were more "go away" than "we want to sell books."

Contracts offered were often contributory. 
Before they signed me up, they made it sound like they only asked for contributions when the book in question was niche, but once I was allowed onto the forum I discovered there was a very high amount of authors who'd paid huge sums, despite what the publisher claimed. And those books were far from niche. One was even entered for a fiction award by the publisher. 

Many authors queried their contracts on the online forum and those contracts seemed to average 2-3 thousand pounds. Note - that was just for editing. They also paid for marketing. One author I know spent over £4, 000 in total.
To me, that's a publisher taking advantage of an author's dream at a time when very none of the big publishers accept contributions unless you have an agent.

They charged for your book to be converted into an eBook.
No, I'm not kidding. Both my novellas cost around £60. It was deducted from royalties.

Later on, they came up with the bright idea of charging £100 to put your book into print. Yeah, really. After complaints they decided not to go ahead.

In conclusion -
- I believe John Hunt Publishing take advantage of the lines being blurred between vanity presses and self publishing. They charge for many authors’ services like editing and marketing.

- They should tell you BEFORE you submit the initial query that they may charge you for services that every other traditional publisher does gratis. Things like editing, proof reading and marketing that goes beyond sending automated press releases that are cobbled together with the words authors put in their proposals. Yes, in my case and many other authors, the press release was generated word for word by the words I put in the proposal. The way the online system worked, you could see the proposals authors inputted and their press releases. There was no effort on the part of the staff. In my case, a basic spell check wasn't even done.

- Many awards are not open to people who paid towards the cost of being published, which many authors did. Because the lines between self-publishing and vanity publishing are so blurred, authors who paid towards the cost of their books being published often thought that they would still be considered to be traditionally published and could enter these awards. 

Truth was, they were ineligible.

What have I learned?
1. If a publisher has contracts where you contribute financially (on any level) avoid them like the plague. They're a vanity publisher.

2. If a publisher talks about their wonderful marketing, have a look at what they actually do. Do they have a strong social media presence? Do they have a list of blogs who review their books? Do they have readers groups - something JHP promised on their home page, but never produced?

3. If they charge fees for eBook conversion, they're a vanity publisher. 
I was charged for both my books. A genuine publisher shouldn't charge you a penny. A vanity publisher will.

4. If a publisher charges you a penny for marketing/promotion, avoid them - JHP did very basic marketing. So basic in fact, that press releases were simply lifted from authors and in my case, not even given a basic spell check. The very same publicists who did the promo for books wanted £150 each time to do 6 hours of publicity. That included things that most publishers did as a matter of course. A genuine publisher shouldn't charge you a penny. A vanity publisher will. Note - before I signed my contracts I didn't know they charged like this.

In conclusion, I would advise anyone to self-publish rather than sign up with John Hunt Publishing. Before you know it, like many of their authors, you could end up with a huge dent in your bank balance as you pay for editing and marketing and promotion. All things a traditional publisher should be providing for free.

Thankfully, although they published Hell to Pay and Throwaways, I didn't give this bunch a penny and when I self-published the books, I sold 6 times more books than they ever did.

Note - this is my experience with John Hunt Publishing. Other authors may have had a more positive experience.

TMJ and the problem with Baclofen - it can cause leg pain

I suffer from TMJ which is defined as "temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, commonly called TMJ, are a group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movement."

The cause of my jaw problem is stress. I clench my teeth when I sleep. The more stressed I am, the worse it gets. My jaw clicks, one jaw joint moves in and out, I wake up with headaches and neck pain and the pain can be excruciating.

TMJ saps me of energy and I have to take pain relief every day. A few times my jaw has locked and the condition means I have to stick to a soft diet. No baguettes or chews. 

One of the many medications I've been put on was Baclofen. It's a drug used to treat many conditions such as strokes and multiple sclerosis. What it does is stops the spasms and involuntary movements associated with these conditions. The reason it's prescribed for jaw pain is it theoretically stops you clenching your jaw when you sleep. 

At first, the Baclofen worked fine. My jaw pain eased, although I still had to take few painkillers a day. I was allowed to take up to 6 Baclofen a day.

I started to notice that when I got up in the morning my right leg was painful. It would also cramp up. I'd wake up screaming. I was terrified that I had arthritis even although I'm only 42 and have an almost dairy free diet (dairy has been linked to arthritis and you're meant to restrict dairy in your diet if you have the condition). 

I didn't immediately attribute this leg pain to the Baclofen until one morning I woke up and I couldn't move my right leg. I managed to roll myself out of bed and spent fifteen minutes rubbing my leg trying to get the circulation back into it. I'd taken 4 Baclofen that day because my jaw was so painful.

I haven't taken any Baclofen since and I'm now on new medication and guess what, I've had no leg pain since. When I mentioned this to my doctor, she told me that because Baclofen stops spasms it can stop your limbs moving whilst you sleep. Hence the leg pain I experienced.

Monolith by horror giant Shaun Hutson is a scary read

Was this book scary? Well, put it this way, I was reading it at 4am and I became convinced there was a dark entity like the one in the book in my house.

I was preparing to defend myself when I discovered it was my partner up for a glass of water.

And that folks is Shaun Hutson. He writes horror that gets under your skin and raises the hair on the back of your neck and you don't realise until 4 in the morning when you think one of the monsters in his books is out to get you.

Monolith is available on Amazon and published by Caffeine Nights. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Don't Let the Bullies Win - How to Get your confidence back is out now

Don’t Let the Bullies Win: How to get your confidence, back is aimed at a much neglected group, the adult survivors of bullying, whether that bullying took place at school, in the workplace or in the confines of a relationship.

This book was written by a bully survivor and is part misery memoir/self-help and will aim to do exactly what the title suggests.

The emphasis is firmly on dealing with the aftermath of bullying, whether it’s still going on or happened years ago, and making the bullied person feel more confident using a mixture of chatty advice, humour and fun exercises.

Inside this book there are tips and strategies on:
•           How to stop blaming yourself for what happened
•           How to stop bullying and bullying behaviour from ruining your life and your relationships
•           Learning to like yourself 
•           Standing up for yourself, including how to say no to people
•           Learning to let go of what happened to you
•           Helping yourself to feel better without relying on others
•           Facing up to the bully

Also includes tips on dealing with difficult people.

Note - to keep the cost down so the book can help as many people as possible, Don't Let the Bullies Win is currently only available in eBook form. 

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...