Are you an author?

In answering the question, pretend that you have to choose one of the following statements. Which one best applies to you?

  1. No, I write books for pleasure, not for publication.
  2. Yes, my books have been published.
  3. No, my books have not yet been published.

It is a trick question, but the reference to books is pertinent because anyone who writes a book, be it fiction or non-fiction, whether published or not, is an author.

The Oxford English Dictionary’s (OED) main definition of author states:
A writer of a book, article, or document.

“The word author is based upon Middle English (in the sense ‘a person who invents or causes something’): from Old French autor, from Latin auctor, from augere ‘increase, originate, promote’.”

Clearly, there’s more to being an author than just writing. I’m informed that when referring to novels, the author is a writer who has the imaginative skills to invent stories by creating plots and characters, and with a degree of originality.

Whilst it is argued that there are no original stories now, just different adaptations, the publishing world is often led by trends. All it takes is one blockbuster to hit the market and, for months or years afterwards, alternative versions of the story scribed by different authors are taken up by publishers. Trends are a lucrative business.

Recently, I was chatting with a lady who works in a library. She said that a current trend of young adult fiction is to include the words “Secrets or “Lies in the book’s title. Recently, in general adult fiction, the word “Girl” was a hot favourite.

Since publishers are looking for new talent, perhaps it now pays for the author to create a story as original as possible; however, given that the BBC has just started to show an adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, could that genre set a publishing trend in 2020? My library friend suggests it will. In that case, writers: prepare for the long haul! Then again, maybe 2020 will bring that long-awaited blockbuster that the publishers are waiting for.

Book writers – no, authors – it’s up to you! 🙂


My latest project

I’ve been quiet lately, busily working away on my  latest project: Rupert’s Diary, written by Marilyn Saunders, a local lady from Portsmouth.

Marilyn is an independent writer who decided, after my encouragement, to go ahead and self-publish the novel.  Not only did I carry out the structural edit and copy-editing but also the typesetting. I have two people to thank for the cover design, and proofreading: Christine Hammacott, and Sarah Freshwater.

Rupert’s Diary is an amusing tale told from the viewpoint of Rupert, a Norwegian Forest Cat – or so he believes – who lives in the city with his ugly furless human and his fluffy-but-dim cat sister, Meg.

It is not a tale for young children!

Marilyn has left me a glowing review, which can be seen here:

The book is available from Amazon and directly from Marilyn.



My top ten tips for successful self-publishing

It’s time to upgrade my desktop computer; it’s getting on for eight years old now and I think it’s coped well. Whilst sorting through my documentation, and deleting anything that’s no longer relevant, I came across this. I think it’s useful so I’m posting here.

Here is a list of my top ten tips for a successful route to self-publishing.

  1. Shop around
    Take the time to find a good editor. Remember: “Good service, cheap, won’t be fast. Good service, fast, won’t be cheap. Fast service, cheap, won’t be good!”
  2. It’s never too late to learn
    Make sure you understand the different stages of professional editing (structural, copy-editing, proofreading) and where they fit in to the overall publishing process. Never assume that your manuscript is error-free; you’ll soon be eating humble pie!
  3. Patience is a virtue
    As with traditional publishing, self-publishing takes time. Do not rush it! Allow months rather than weeks, and do not impose too strict a deadline on yourself or your editor. Rushed work means sloppy work.
  4. Make your voice heard
    Be prepared to put some work in during the editing process. Be wary of editors who suggest rewriting large chunks of your text. The story belongs to you – not to the editor – and should be presented in your voice.
  5. Give the people what they want
    Publish your novel in both e-book and paperback formats, to appeal to both markets, but bear in mind that they do require two separate preparation processes.
  6. Look after the pennies…
    Do not expect to make a living, or retire, from the royalties you receive from self-published book sales. The reality is that you are likely to receive pence, rather than pounds, every time you sell a book, but these will add up over time.
  7. Don’t let ’em get to you
    Try to develop a thick(er) skin. Friends and family may have been kind about your creation, but the general public will be different, and there are always people who will give negative reviews, however good the story and whoever you are.
  8. Sell, sell, sell!
    Market your work as much as possible. Create a website and/or blog page, use social media, contact local newspapers/radio, relevant magazines, and give talks. Order a small stock of books to sell privately.
  9. Make sure the price is right
    Don’t price yourself out of the market; there is far too much competition. Work to the suggested retail price advised by your self-publishing provider.
  10. Reap the rewards
    Finally, sit back, relax, and reap the rewards from all your hard work. Ensure that your editor is on hand to update your source documents, or to make any amendments, if required.

Good luck! 🙂

Do your characters wear night-vision goggles?

This happens so regularly, it has become one of my editing bugbears. To make matters worse, I recently read a traditionally-published novel (where the main character spends Christmas at a beach hut), printed by a well-known publisher (think star constellation with a belt), that had the exact problem. The exact problem being that when it is dark and there is no moonlight, street light, torch, candle, or any form of illumination, a character can see exactly what they are doing and where they are going, in great detail!

Although it’s obvious that we humans cannot actually see much in complete darkness, this simple fact is constantly overlooked by writers, and in straightforward genres where nothing unusual or different is taking place. In fact, the last couple of novels I have read have all had the problem. If I’m not careful, it will become an obsession.

What’s worse, though, is when the author, in realising the problem, has their character pulling out a lighter, torch, hurricane lamp, from their pocket that had never previously existed before… and the editors have not spotted this! But let’s not forget the torch app on the smartphone, which has now become the answer to every character’s tenebrous needs. The battery life on some mobile phones is amazing!

I urge all writers whose characters perform an activity or make an observation in scenes of darkness to first carry out some research of their own. Try running through a forest without so much as a glow worm. Stand on a shoreline looking out to sea – what can you actually see?  Walk into an unknown house in the middle of nowhere and not only find your way around with ease but also describe what’s there…

While I’m ranting about light levels, I do feel the need to mention sunrise, sunset, and the various stages of twilight: civil, nautical, and astronomical.

  • Civil twilight is the brightest of the three. The sun is just below the horizon, so there is generally enough natural light to carry out most outdoor activities.
  • Nautical twilight is the second phase. Both the horizon and the brighter stars are usually visible at this time, making it possible to navigate at sea.
  • Astronomical twilight is the darkest of the three. It is the earliest stage of dawn in the morning and the last stage of dusk in the evening. Before and after astronomical twilight, it is night.

The bullet points were taken from a great website: You’ll find more information on the above, as well as other celestial matters. There’s a useful chart that provides sunrise, sunset, and twilight times for any given day during the year. Just type in the city and off you go. Very handy for calculating whether or not your character can see what they are doing!


Starting Afresh 2019

Having deleted all my previous entries (backed up), and decided that the blog tool on my website isn’t as proficient, I have decided to continue it here, for the time being at least. (I hope I haven’t lost my twelve followers in the meantime!)

Although I am no longer advertising my editing services on the Internet, I am still editing for existing clients, and local authors. I am also updating my website, which does contain useful information about the editing and self-publishing process.

I currently have two projects on the go; both for local authors. The first involves the full edit of a story about a private investigator, which follows on from a series of earlier books.  My second project entails the full edit of a diary written from the point of view of a cat, and assisting with its self-publication on Amazon’s KDP platform.

I usually work on one project at a time, but given the diary is quite short, at around 27,000 words, I am confident that I can manage both projects with equal care and attention! The detective story is about 87,000 words.

So, just a short post for the New Year, and I shall aim to keep up with regular entries!

Thank you for reading! 🙂