Wednesday, 18 May 2016

How much info is too much when it comes to an author?

As a reader, I don’t want to know anything about the people who write the stories I love (sorry Stephen King, not even you). I just want them to write and keep writing. Knowing stuff about them, including their writing processes – especially their writing processes – detracts from my enjoyment.  I think what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want the author intruding on the story. I simply want the story to be, rather than think about why it was written, how it was written, or if the author has a penchant for wearing odd socks while typing, or anything else about him or her.

As an author I tend to hold the same view – why should whether I am married, drive a bus, or live in a tent, matter to my readers. Surely it should all be about the story and nothing but the story? Who I am and what I have experienced affects my writing, of course it must, but does the reader need to know all the gory and mostly boring details – do they have a right to know?

It could be argued that the public has a right to know if their beloved author has murdered someone, evaded their taxes, or any committed any other crime. Readers might not want to buy his books again, and that is understandable.

But is also begs the question of: where is the line drawn? At a criminal record? Maybe…

What about moral issues? You may not like that your favourite author has slept with hundreds of women, or cheated on his wife…

What about religion? Politics? Sexual orientation? He’s a vegetarian? He hates guns? He doesn’t recycle? He wears a Wee-Willie-Winkie nightcap to bed?

Where does it end? Where should it end?

Should it even start?

Sunday, 1 May 2016

A Year of Being Single - Fiona Collins

IMOGEN is supposed to be on the most romantic weekend of her life and instead she’s quickly realised that her current boyfriend definitely isn’t ‘The One’ and actually One Big Mistake.
FRANKIE is fed up. Fed up of her good-for-nothing husband and her four, unappreciative children. Well, they hardly notice her anyway, maybe it’s time to shake it up a little…
GRACE thought she had the perfect life. Gorgeous little boy and perfect, hardworking husband. Or rather, she did, until she realised her husband was shagging his ‘work’.
It’s time for a change – and to ditch the men who are dragging them down! It’s time for A Year of Being Single. Swearing off men, these single ladies don’t need to put a ring on it…right?
Perfect for fans of Jane Costello, Helen Fielding and Fiona Gibson, A Year of Being Single is the laugh-out-loud debut that everyone’s talking about!
I loved this book! It's a laugh-out-loud read, the author's style is easy and engaging, and the premise is intriguing. Great for curling up on the sofa on a rainy day, or one of your holiday reads on the beach. 

I really do hope to see more from Ms Collins.

A solid 5 stars

Thursday, 21 April 2016

She’s a bit too old to be writing erotica, isn’t she?

I was in a bookshop-cum-coffeehouse the other day, when I couldn’t help overhearing a conversation between two ladies at the next table. Okay, couldn’t help is an exaggeration – I was actually earwigging.

They were discussing an author who publishes erotica and trying to guess her age from her photo. They appeared to be a little disconcerted that she writes candidly and graphically about sex, yet was at the older end of life’s age-range.  One of them was so disgusted that she swore she would never read another thing the author wrote. ‘It’s like thinking about your grannie doing it,’ she said.

It has long been a tradition to put author photos inside the back cover of hardbacks. I remember seeing an early shot of Stephen King and feeling a little disappointed that he wasn’t more….more. I could happily have carried on reading his work in ignorance of his appearance. And ignorance about any other aspect of his life, for that matter.

This got me to thinking about the wisdom of readers knowing too much about authors. Surely it’s enough to enjoy the books they write?  As readers do we have to know how many kids they’ve got, or whether they like oats for breakfast?

 And does it matter how old they are? Sex sells sex – I realise that. And maybe if said author had posted a photo of a young, lithe, thing dressed in skimpy underwear and wielding a whip, in place of a real headshot of herself, then maybe readers would relate more to the idea of her, than to the reality of her. But shouldn’t her writing speak for itself? Does she have to be young and sexy to write about youth and sex?

Of course not! In the same way that authors can write young adult when their teenage years are long behind them. In the same way that an author can write about loss and heartache, and death and love, and envy, and rage, and altruism, and kindness – and all the other human emotions and conditions we all experience to some degree or another.

Yes, it does help an author’s writing if he or she has experienced what they are writing about for themselves, but that is what sets a good story-teller apart from the rest – they can imagine, they can empathise, and they can put all those emotions into words and get them down on paper.

It’s the story and the way it is told that counts.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

So you want to be a beta reader?

Great! Authors love beta readers. We can’t get enough of them, good ones especially.  In an earlier blog I talked about at what stage in your manuscript you might think about sending it to betas. Now let’s look at things from a beta’s point of view.
I’ve been on both sides of this particular fence and this is what I feel a beta should bring to the reading table:
·         Be realistic about the time it’s going to take you to read a manuscript. Beta reading can take longer than reading for pleasure. If the author wants it yesterday, be honest if this ain’t gonna happen.
·         Keep in touch – if you’ve said you’ll have the book read by a certain date and can’t, then let your author know. They depend on you for feedback and will probably be working to a timescale.
·         Give decent feedback. Even though ‘I loved it!’ is great and gives the author a boost, tell them what bits you particularly liked and why. It’ll help them when they’re writing their next novel.
·         And vice versa – but try to be kind. Even if you hated it and thought a three year old could have had a better go at writing than your author, try to find something, anything, good to say.
·         If you can’t complete the beta read, please let your author know – again, they might be depending on you for feedback before they move forward.
·         Be honest – an author is looking for genuine reactions to their work. Being nice to not hurt an author’s feelings isn’t what an author needs.
·         If you feel you can point out grammar and spelling mistakes, then great. But that’s not what beta reading is all about. And don’t forget, you’re probably not reading a polished manuscript. You will most likely be reading an uncorrected proof ie – needs a final proof read.
·         If an author provided specific questions, try to answer them.

Remember, betas are readers - not editors, not reviewers.  You don’t need to provide your author with suggestions to improve plot or character development. You are there to give the author a reader’s opinion to their work. And better they discover that betas think their main character is unlikeable now, than when the book is published and reviewers get their hands on it!

From authors everywhere – we thank our betas from the bottom of our hearts!

Monday, 25 January 2016

When to send your manuscript to beta readers?

After doing another round of beta reading for several authors and being sent manuscripts in various stages of completion, I’ve been considering which is the best point in the life of a manuscript to send it out to beta readers, bearing in mind that an author may also be sending out ARCs at some point, too.

Here’s the conundrum, as I see it:

a   a)    When it’s totally, utterly, finally finished, polished to within an inch of its life and proof-read to perfection. It’s cost the author a great deal in time, and possibly money. He or she may have hired an editor and a proof reader and as far as they’re concerned it’s ready to be released into the big, wide world. But is it?  What if the betas come back with lots of issues? What if they think the plot is weak, or the main character is unlikeable? You could argue that a good editor should have picked up these kinds of issues well before the proof reading stage, but not necessarily. An editor is only one person, and they might love the direction your plot takes, but five out of seven of your betas don’t. So then it’s back to rewrites and the whole process starts again.

Or -

b   b)  When it’s got past the rough first draft stage, but it still has errors? Will your betas be forgiving of these, or will it affect their enjoyment enough for them to report back that the book isn’t for them? The obvious advantage to this option is that the author hasn’t invested too much time (and money) in the project before he/she knows they’re on the right track plot wise and character wise.

 Personally, I lean towards b), and am quite happy to accept a less-than-perfect manuscript from an author myself when I’m beta reading. In my opinion beta readers aren’t the same as reviewers and therefore perhaps shouldn’t expect a manuscript which is ready for publication. 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Is Amazon deleting reviews?

It’s been batted around for ages that Amazon is deleting reviews from books if it suspects those reviews are written by friends of the author. I have no knowledge of this personally, however the issue seems to have been gathering speed over the last few months so I decided to take action when I realised Amazon owned Goodreads.

Yes, I know, slow on the uptake…

I’m not sure how Amazon makes the decision that a reader is known to an author, but most people who have an opinion on this believe that social media is involved. Goodreads allows their site users to link their Twitter, and other, feeds, so it seems perfectly reasonable to me that Amazon is able to connect the dots. I have no idea how, and there could possibly be magic involved, but I’m not taking any chances. I came to the conclusion to disconnect my Twitter from Goodreads. Then I took it one step further and unfriended all my friends on Goodreads. Just for good measure!

All you lovely Goodreads friends who suddenly realise I’m Billy-No-Mates (nope, not one friend left) I’m only doing this in the interests of preserving the few reviews I have. It’s nothing personal – honest! And if anyone wants to connect with me outside of Goodreads, then I’d be more than happy to chat.

If you want to learn more about the issue of Amazon pulling reviews check out the links  to see what other people are saying:

Friday, 1 January 2016

Free book for you to enjoy

Okay, I admit it, I'm spamming. But at least I'm not asking you to buy it - it's free. All you need to do is tell me which email address to send it to.

Click this secure link to let me know your email address.