Leave a Comment · Posted on November 3, 2015
A couple of weeks ago I was at the Off The Shelf Festival Words festival in Sheffield, where I sat on a panel along with Marina Lewycka (of Ukrainian Tractors fame) and Virginia Macgregor, who were both lovely. I got to hear Marina read from We Are All Made of Glue, and Virgina read from What Milo Saw (which I’m reading and very much enjoying). I read from Not So Perfect (as you’ll see below) and there was much interesting discussion (mostly, as a result of what I read below, on character age in fiction – and how old is old).
I had a great time and the audience were terrific – and a huge thanks to all who’ve been in touch afterwards – especially the ones I made cry (all four of you!). And thanks too, to all who chatted afterwards and who bought books – I hope you like them.
I also read, for the first time in public, from Beautiful Trees and – and this is probably the best bit about being an author – people really liked it. I know I’ve mentioned on here before, many times, how scary it is publishing a new book. Seeing that people like it – that they’re getting it – that they’re buying it as presents already makes me feel really, really proud. There seems to be a real buzz around this one (he says, knowing full well he’s probably jinxed it!) and that’s not something that happens very often at all. And it is released, officially, on Thursday. I’m still terrified, but I’m very excited too.
Leave a Comment · Posted on November 1, 2015
As it’s my favourite time of the year (autumn) and as we’ve just celebrated my favourite thing that people celebrate (Halloween), this seems incredibly timely – especially as it’s got everything to do with my favourite form (the short story): a short story competition judged by Stephen King.
I love what he said here: There’s something to be said for a shorter, more intense experience. It can be invigorating, sometimes even shocking, like a waltz with a stranger you will never see again, or a kiss in the dark, or a beautiful curio for sale at a street bazaar.
So there you go. Get writing or editing or sending. Good luck!
Leave a Comment · Posted on October 29, 2015
And here’s something a little different. Those who know me well will know how music is important to me. They’ll also know that, before this writing career I’ve managed to get myself, the Big Plan was to be a musician. I wanted to be a rock n roller, it’s true. And I can still be seen, every now and again, doing a spot of singing and guitaring when I’m home. Anyway, it turned out that I was better at making stuff up than I was at singing so here we are.
And when I think about it, there’s definitely been a soundtrack to my life. Songs and pieces of music I associate with certain people and places and ways of feeling and moments. And there have definitely been soundtracks to when my books have come out. And, as a bit of fun, here there are (redux). I hope you find something you like in there. (There’s actually an interview I did with 3 :AM about this a few years ago – my top 5.)
So, starting from the most recent, and with just one song representing each book (do check out their other stuff – it’s all all kinds of wonderful) here is the music I think of when I think of them coming out…
It’s the marvel that is Emmy The Great
I still maintain that this is one of the most beautifully sad songs there is. And Nitrogen Pink is, I think, my favourite ever.
Loads. (And this could so easily have been Bad Romance by Lissie.) But this was on a lot and it’s a firm favourite from when I was young.
Not So Perfect – this was on an awful, awful lot. It’s Emmy again.
And this reminds me of touring I Met a Roman Last Night…
So there you have the top (first?) 5 that come to mind. Anyone else feel like that? Anyone got any suggestions? Memories? Share and suggest in the comments…
2 Comments · Posted on October 27, 2015
I am delighted to be able to tell you all that my story, Carmine’s Fruit, won the Artificium short story competition. You’ll be able to read it very soon. And it’s something that makes me very happy – not only that someone’s liked my story, but also because it’s only the third (I think) competition I’ve entered. I usually don’t because all the editing work I do means that, invariably, I’ll have edited something that has been earmarked for one competition or other. So yes, I’m very, very pleased about that.
Tomorrow I start my three days working with younger writers at Ecclesall Library in Sheffield which I can’t wait for.
In the meantime, and until I get chance to go through all the photos from the event, here’s me reading at Off The Shelf festival (from Not So Perfect). You can see Marina Lewycka to my right, and, next to her, Virginia Macgregor, and then the very lovely Trisha Cooper.
1 Comment · Posted on October 26, 2015
Just a quick one today because I am busy and there are many things that need to be done before I install myself in Ecclesall Library for a few days to work with some young writers there. Very pleased to hear that the event sold out a couple of weeks ago. I’m looking forward to it very much.
So, a re-cap:
The Poised Pen flash fiction competition I’m judging closes on the 31st. Get your entries in!
Beautiful Trees has had its first review.
And here’s the wonderful display that the brilliant Alexis at Sheffield Central Children’s Library magicked to celebrate the work that we did there over the summer. Here I am, in a new scarf, being impressed.
Leave a Comment · Posted on October 23, 2015
I’ve said it many times before, I know, but there’s something unique about having a brand new book out. There’s the obvious excitement and pride. That’s normal. And there’s a real joy in knowing that people will read it. But – and I don’t think this will ever change – there’s also an enormous fear – fear that it’s no good, fear that no one will like it, fear that you’ll be found out as a complete imposter who should be banned from ever writing anything for public consumption ever again. And I know it’s not just me who feels that and I’d argue that that very human fear is what makes good authors; I’m not saying that I’m one, but I do know that it makes me try that extra bit harder. High standards are important.
So when you’re able to see that people really, honestly, enjoyed your book, it’s one hell of a relief. Especially when that book’s a kind of weird picture book for grown ups. And that’s when you allow that joy and pride back in, if only for a few moments.
Last Saturday I was on a panel at the Off The Shelf Festival of Words in Sheffield (more on that very soon) and I read from Beautiful Trees in public for the very first time and the response was incredible. People liked it. And bought it for themselves and for presents, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. As I said, more on that soon.
And a little while ago – just as I was leaving to head to the city centre to do errands I saw that the first review of it’s actually up here on the internet. It’s from Dan Powell, someone whose own work I love (I was delighted to give him a quote for his excellent collection a little while ago) and who’s a great person – and he liked it too. You can read the full review here. Here’s a snippet:
“I leaped from tree to word and back again. And now I can’t wait to explore the final instalment. In the mean-time I will continue to follow the advice of my previous review and keep these books on the coffee table, in the glove-box, or on a shelf in the kitchen, so that I or someone else can return to it in a spare moment and climb once more through the twisting limbs of its narrative and verdant foliage of the illustrations.”
Of course, that makes me very, very happy.
So thank you, all. Not just to those who came along on Saturday, and not just to Dan – but to everyone who’s spent their hard earned money on my words and especially to those who’ve gone out of their way to say nice things about them.
Leave a Comment · Posted on October 21, 2015
It’s a great pleasure to welcome Samantha Tonge to the blog. I’ll be honest, it’s absolutely beyond me why she’s not been here before (but maybe that’s had a lot to do with her ridiculously prolific publishing schedule or the fact that I have been pretty busy myself). But she is here and that’s all that matters. And she has a new book out – My Big Fat Christmas Wedding.
I’ve known Samantha for years – we were members of the same online writing group once upon a time, so I’ll have known her since before my first book came about – so getting on for ten years then. And I remember, when I was touring that book, her coming along with her lovely family at an event I did at a library. Samantha’s definitely one of the nice ones. And on top of that, she’s a great (bestselling!) writer. So here she is, to talk about the world of digital publishing. Sit back and enjoy. I did…
Down and Dirty with Digital Publishing.
In September 2013 I signed a digital-first, 3-book contract with CarinaUK, an imprint of Harlequin – now under the HarperCollins umbrella (it’s complicated!) And yet I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Over the years I had dreamt of a traditional deal, where my books would also be available in paperback and in all the shops. So two years on, I thought I’d share my experience with you (which might, of course, be different to another digital-first author’s).
Firstly, I’ve had to get to grips with promoting myself and my work pretty speedily – I am fortunate in that I love Facebook and Twitter. It’s harder if you don’t. I did initially dabble with Pinterest and tumblr as well, but my advice is to concentrate on the social platforms you really enjoy. Recently I’ve discovered Instagram and have made sales and connected with new readers that way as well – plus the photo-shopping facilities make for far more pleasant promo pictures! I probably spend as much time networking and promoting, as I do writing. To me, it is equally as important.
How do I manage that? I am lucky – I write full-time and my children are older now. However, I am in awe of some writing friends who have jobs and a young family… I imagine they are highly organised and work later hours. My website and social media accounts were already set up and growing before I finally got that deal, which saved a lot of work in the first instance. I schedule tweets using HootSuite and in the evenings am often on the sofa, in front of the television, using the Photogrid and Photolab apps on my phone to put together fun promo posters to share online the next day.
It’s a full-time job – a vocation – no doubt about that. My books are not in shops (or weren’t until recently – more on that later) so to achieve visibility I have to advertise them online, for example in suitable Facebook reader groups. I use the appropriate hashtags on Twitter to reach my audience, such as #chicklit #Kindle #bookboost. I spend time cultivating relationships with readers, reviewers and bloggers. Over the last two years I’ve learnt a lot – and connected with many generous people, having organised a total of five blog tours. Above all, I’ve grasped the fact that you can’t be apologetic about promotion. It’s part of the job and about getting your products in front of customers’ eyes, end of. The key is to mix it up with content that is not just promotional. As a romance author, cake, cats and cocktails seem to work!
Some might say, if you are doing all that self-promotion, what is the difference between digital-first and self-publishing? Well, certainly at Carina, I have access to the editorial and digital-pricing expertise of Harlequin and HarperCollins and my work is launched from their huge platform. And whilst I might do a lot of the front-of-house promotion myself, there is a strategy behind the scenes. Carina is excellent at getting its books into Amazon promotions. My debut, Doubting Abbey, is currently in the Amazon autumn sale, for example, so is once again bringing in income. Plus the editors are keen to build brands and always looking to your future.
That’s the other thing about digital-first… five blog tours, five books in two years… The turnaround is very fast and that has plusses and cons. It’s exciting. You create a brand and backlist very quickly which is great for you the author and your pocket. And what a whirlwind to hand in your manuscript and two months later sometimes, see it on the virtual shelves, having been revised, edited and given a gorgeous cover. But it is incredibly hard work. You need to be able to meet deadlines in a way you never have before.
Admittedly, I’ve been fortunate in that my books have achieved decent sales. Romance is very well suited to the digital form and market – it doesn’t necessarily suit every genre. Before signing with a digital-first publisher I would study their backlist and see how well your particular area has performed. Cheap prices rule in the ebook romance world, which can lead to a much wider audience, higher volume of sales and bigger profit. My summer novel, Game of Scones, at 89p reached #5 in the overall Kindle AmazonUK chart and stayed in the top #20 for several weeks. And with the digital-first imprints the royalty rates are excellent – 40% with Carina. Bookouture is another successful digital-first imprint with a great royalty rate and a good number of its books in the Kindle top #100.
What’s more, eventually, your books might end up in shops. Doubting Abbey, is currently in The Works and last year’s Christmas book. Mistletoe Mansion, will be there later this month. What a thrill!
So, in hindsight, I am incredibly grateful that my then-agent helped me keep an open mind and grasped the digital-first opportunity firmly with both hands – even though it wasn’t what I had originally aimed for. It has helped me create a brand and given me a reasonable income (touch wood) and the excellent editors I have worked with have taught me more than I ever imagined possible. My writing has, in my opinion, grown, and it took a slightly different direction with Game of Scones and my latest release, the standalone sequel My Big Fat Christmas Wedding. This, I believe, is partly the result of so many rounds of revisions in such a short space of time with different books. Above all else, at Carina, I would say the editors (and covers – very important when most customers will only see a thumbnail of your book -) are superb.
As a final plus, although I did have an agent, you don’t need one to submit your work to most of these imprints.
If you decide to go ahead, best of luck. There are negatives – publishing dates can be unexpectedly changed and a fast-turnaround can bring its own stresses. Not every author’s experience is the same as mine. But if I was back in September 2013, I wouldn’t be able to sign that contract quick enough.
About the author…
Samantha Tonge lives in Cheshire with her lovely family and a cat that thinks it’s a dog. When not writing, she spends her days cycling and willing cakes to rise. She has sold over 80 short stories to women’s magazines. Her bestselling debut novel, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award in 2014. Her summer 2015 novel Game of Scones hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart.
About the Book…
Things don’t always run smoothly in the game of love…
As her Christmas wedding approaches, a trip back to snowy England for her ex’s engagement party makes her wonder if those are wedding bells she’s hearing in her mind, or warning bells. She longs for the excitement of her old London life – the glamour, the regular pedicures. Can she really give that all up to be…a fishwife?
There’s nothing for it but to throw herself into bringing a little Christmas magic to the struggling village in the form of a Christmas fair. Somewhere in amidst the sparkly bauble cakes and stolen scones, she’s sure she’ll come to the right decision about where she belongs…hopefully in time for the wedding…
Perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk and Debbie Johnson. Don’t miss the Christmas Wedding of the year!
2 Comments · Posted on October 19, 2015
I was lucky enough to be asked to run a series of writing workshops at the BBC recently. I went to their studios in Birmingham a few weeks ago and to Media City in Manchester the week before last and I had a really wonderful time. The workshops went really well, and were really well received, and some really cool work was produced – and I got to meet some pretty fantastic people. And, of course, I got to feel honoured and important to be working there so even my ego was happy.
And I got to meet a Dalek. And be next to an actual TARDIS. And I’m still not sure what the best bit was.
Huge thanks to all who came, and to those who’ve been in touch since, and to everyone who organised and looked after me – it was ace and I’m looking forward to what’s next already.
And here are some pictures..
Leave a Comment · Posted on October 13, 2015
Just a reminder that this Saturday I’ll be doing this with Marina Lewycka and Virgina Macgregor (we start at 3pm). I’d love to see you there.
An afternoon of reading heaven for fiction lovers with the chance to meet six super authors as well as other people who love books and reading as much as you do. Authors taking part are Natasha Pulley with her historical fantasy debut The Watchmaker of Filgree Street, Simon Toyne with his original and compelling thriller Solomon Creed, Stevan Alcock with his unforgettable coming of age debut set in Leeds during the Yorkshire Ripper murders Blood Relatives, Virginia Macgregor with her beautiful engaging debut which looks at the treatment of the elderly What Milo Saw and Sheffield based writer Nik Perring with his unusual and captivating book Beautiful Trees.
Joining them will be Sheffield based, best-selling novelist Marina Lewycka. Her novels include A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, Various Pets Alive and Dead and We Are All Made of Glue.
The afternoon will also include fun quizzes, competitions and giveaways for everyone who attends.
Thanks to Bloomsbury, Harper Collins, Fourth Estate, Little Brown, Roast Books and Penguin Random House for their kind support.
2 Comments · Posted on October 12, 2015
Here’s the blurb as, somehow, it’s not showing up over at Amazon
Combining brevity with an overarching narrative, Nik Perring’s unusual storytelling is touching and captivating. His Beautiful series follow the lives of Lucy, Lily, and Alexander through words, trees and shapes.
In the second edition of the series, Beautiful Trees, the narrative continues to unravel amidst the branches of some of our greatest trees, brought to life by the rich and playful illustrations of Miranda Sofroniou.
Beautiful trees was released in April 2014 and Beautiful Shapes, the third books in the series, is due to be released in 2016