BY MANDY BAGGOT
I always had a passion for writing. When I was at senior school I wrote an on-going EastEnders’ style saga featuring my school friends, various members of the Italia 1990 England football squad and New Kids on the Block. They would eagerly grab the daily four or five A4 pages to read what was happening to them next. When it eventually came to an end it was over 4,000 A4 pages long! It was a bit like an early Footballers’ Wives I guess! I was robbed!
After I left school I didn’t write that much and the bits and pieces I did write I never thought too seriously about. It was a hobby and that was all. I had my dream romance (yes they do happen!), I got married and then I had my first daughter.
After having my daughter I started to write again.
I wrote my first novel Excess All Areas, a holiday romance about a large, feisty girl called Freya and a Hollywood heartthrob. I don’t really know why, but I sent it off to Headline publishing. Their response was really positive, but ultimately they turned me down. At the time I put it down to experience (after crying for a couple of days!) and put the novel away. However, another baby later, despite advice to the contrary, another novel written (Breaking the Ice) and I stumbled upon a website called Youwriteon.com. They are funded by The Arts Council of England and were creating a scheme to get a certain number of new authors published before Christmas 2008. You had to pay £49.99 to allow your book to go on Amazon, Waterstones etc. but they would do the rest. I saw this as my chance to get my book out there. And on December 8 2008 Excess All Areas was published and showing on websites for people to buy. It was a landmark moment but I wasn’t fully satisfied. I had got the writing bug back but I knew Excess All Areas wasn’t as polished as it could be and I wanted more.
I made a decision then to keep sending manuscripts out to agents and traditional publishing houses knowing that if they all rejected me I could fall back on self-publishing. I am still agentless, but now the industry is changing that doesn’t seem such a daunting position to be in.
In 2010, when my eldest daughter was going to need mum at home for the long summer holidays, I made the decision to give up my job as a Probate paralegal at a firm of solicitors and be a full-time writer. I didn’t go into this lightly. I knew I wasn’t going to suddenly be able to create a Booker prize winner and lie back and reap the rewards, but I knew I had to concentrate on my writing if I ever wanted to make a career out of it.
In February 2011 Knowing Me Knowing You was published, again by Youwriteon.com, but it was really in preparation for launching Strings Attached in November this year, that I stepped things up a gear. I knew I had to do something to attract people to my book. I was serious about this, I wanted to make a living from it, I needed to be professional.
I found an amazing cover designer and together we came up with a fantastic cover that people love. But the cover alone wasn’t going to be enough. I needed more and it needed to be different. So, I set up a Twitter profile for the male lead. He can be found at @quinnblakemusic. It was amazing how many people responded to his tweets and enjoyed interacting with him. I also set up a blog and website tour for launch day and the two weeks after, on sites in the UK and Canada and I really pushed my novel to book review sites and bloggers. I also created a trailer for Strings Attached to increase interest and get anticipation going.
And then there are the singing videos! Yes I love to sing and perform. This year I joined a local vocal group called Raise the Roof. We are a group of all different age ranges, male and female, who sing an eclectic mix of songs from Lady Gaga to The Everly Brothers, from Take That to The Beach Boys, from Alexandra Burke to Frank Sinatra. Well, I had to make use of singing to promote my books didn’t I? So I loaded up a video of me singing Poker Face and left links to my novels. To date it has had 477 views! Not exactly viral but a lot more than I would ever have dreamed of. I don’t know whether this has directly affected sales, but it has definitely attracted interest! Around the time the video was put on Twitter The Hoff began following me! Now that is A-List!
So I sing for promotion and I dress up. This year I dressed as a chicken at The Festival of Romance in Watford, to represent my character The Love Dove who stars in my Mr and Mrs meets The Generation Game novel, Knowing Me Knowing You. I was probably the most photographed individual of the weekend and the great writer Carole Matthews was also in attendance. It’s all about the outfit Carole!
There have been other bonuses to promoting my book. I have made loads of new friends and supporters on social networking sites, through book websites and blogs and I have also joined two websites helping self-published and new authors raise their profile and connect with readers. These are Loveahappyending.com and Famous Five Plus. We work as a group to proactively support each other and our writing.
At the moment I am self-published, using a new website called FeedARead.com. I would really recommend them for anyone who wants to self-publish their novels. It costs £88 to have your book published and made available on Amazon and Waterstones etc. Presently they only deal with paperback versions so I upload my books onto Kindle myself.
So what’s next? Well, I am signing copies of Strings Attached at Waterstones Salisbury on 8 December from 5.30pm-8.30pm and I have numerous other store signings booked in for 2012. Waterstones have been extremely supportive to me as a self-published author and this year I have approached stores further afield. I just dropped them an email with a press release and had a fantastic response!
And as far as the actual writing goes, I am doing final edits for my summer 2012 release Taking Charge and have put the trailer on YouTube.
It’s amazing what you can achieve when you have a great book cover, a great story and you’re singing and blogging royalty! Watch out Jackie Collins, Lady Baggot is on her way!
Mandy Baggot is the author of four novels, Excess All Areas, Breaking the Ice, Knowing Me Knowing You and her latest novel Strings Attached is out now in paperback and on Kindle. She lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire in the UK with her husband, two daughters and two cats. When she isn’t writing she likes to read, sing and travel – sometimes all at the same time!
Find out more here: Mandy Baggot’s website
The news that Pippa Middleton, younger sister of Royal Kate, is to be paid £400,000 by publisher Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books, to write a guide to being the perfect party hostess is bound to irritate many authors. After all, as far as we’re aware, Pippa isn’t known for any writing talent – although as previously she worked in the family business, Party Pieces, she must have picked up some tips there.
But it seems her publishers are already predicting big things for her book, which is likely to be launched next Autumn after the Queen’s Jubilee but in time to catch Christmas sales.
A report in The Telegraph quotes one literary agent as saying of the advance: “It is a massive amount of money, particularly in the current environment.” Indeed such an advance shows Michael Joseph, the Penguin imprint that won the auction over her book, is expecting high sales.
Apparently ‘everyone who was anyone’ in the industry was after the book. The Daily Mail says there was a ‘fierce bidding war’ and others who wanted the book included publishing giants such as Harper Collins and Random House.
One reason is privately educated Pippa, who is apparently not going to use a ghostwriter and is already immersing herself in writing the book herself, is impeccably placed to be an expert on the subject of parties. As well as working for the family firm Party Pieces, she also worked as a professional party planner at another company, Table Talk.
And undoubtedly the book will sell well. It is bound to be the sort of inspirational must-have book for anyone giving a party – from the mum who wants to give her child a birthday to remember to a corporate event. Parties – particularly childrens’ parties – seem to be one of the only things to have escaped the recession. A recent survey revealed four out of ten parents think nothing of spending between £100 and £500 on their child’s birthday party. And what to do for a party, who to invite and how to make that party special is one of the most discussed topics on parenting websites, such as Mumsnet.
Although Pippa is reportedly keen to not be seen to be cashing in on the fact her sister is the Duchess of Cambridge, one glance at the publisher’s other bestsellers clearly shows it believes celebrity does equal sales. After all, on the Penguin website, Michael Joseph is described as ‘being principally interested in publishing Top Ten Bestsellers’ and other authors include Stephen Fry, Michael McIntyre, Jamie Oliver, Jeremy Clarkson and Ant and Dec.
Generally of course, over the past decade, the publishing industry has been busy tightening its belts, dramatically reducing the number of new concepts or authors – particularly unknown ones – it takes on. Instead there has been a rise in celebrity-led books.
The reason of course is it is much less work – and is much less costly – for publishers to promote a book written by a well-known celebrity than it is for them to push forward a previously unknown author.
And it’s another reason why for most unknown authors – who might well be extremely talented – getting a book deal is proving even harder and why so many are now turning to self-publishing.
You might also like: How I published my own Chick-lit novel
For years author Nicola May tried mainstream publishers and literary agents to get her chick-lit book published. But then she decided to go it alone and self publish Working it Out – and incredibly it’s turned out to be a huge success. Here, she tells Sell Your Story UK how she’s now sold over 1000 copies…
How I Worked it Out for Myself
BY NICOLA MAY
It has taken a lot of blood, sweat and Sauvignon Blanc to get where I am today, and I won’t lie in saying that getting a book published in the traditional manner is easy because it’s not. It is really very hard.
In the first instance, most importantly, your story has to be compelling. Your own life story may seem interesting to you, but unless you are in the public eye, or have something different to tell, why would anyone be interested?
In my debut novel, Ruby has a plan – 12 jobs in 12 months until she finds the one of her dreams.
I actually started writing Working it Out four years ago. Once I was happy with it, I submitted to loads of publishing companies to no avail. I’m a great believer that every ‘No’ brings you closer to a ‘Yes’, so I took all the rejections on the chin and just kept going.
All the comments publishers gave me were positive, but publishing is a business and taking on a debut author is always a risk, however good they think the book is.
I received one comment from a large publisher saying they hoped it wasn’t a bit regret turning me down, I knew then the book was good enough. Encouraged by my copy editor, who edits for Milly Johnson, Jackie Collins and Emily Barr, to name but a few, I decided to publish myself.
Through sheer determination and working on my own PR, I have now sold over 1000 copies. I’ve done this via my own website, Amazon.com, WH Smith, The Book Depository and Waterstones online. I am also now on Waterstones stocking system (evidently a difficult feat for a self-published author) and I am signing at their stores almost every Saturday this year.
It wasn’t until I got my first signing at Windsor Waterstones and this subsequent quote from Waterstones’s Carol Dixon-Smith that I began jumping for joy.
Working It Out appears on the surface to be a straight forward romantic comedy, but it is awash with some very unusual, eccentric, and highly entertaining characters, and is filled to the brim with love in all its many and varying forms. People who’ve read it tell me it’s highly entertaining, surprising, hugely funny but very touching.
Most recently I have been interviewed by Anne Diamond on BBC Berkshire and on 19th October I am sharing the stage with fellow bestselling author Emlyn Rees at The Big Reading night at Maidenhead Library.
Also, on 22nd October I have going to be talking on a panel about men and chick lit at the Festival of Romance. I am delighted to be sharing the bill here with one of my favourite authors, Carole Matthews.
I am going to carry on marketing the book myself but am still on the lookout for a major publishing deal, so watch this space!
For more information about Nicola May and her books go to www.nicolamay.com. And if you purchase her book through this site, she will personalise your copy.
Would you like to contribute an experience to SellYourStoryUK – do you have words of advice in any field allied to journalism, writing, PR and the media? If so you might be interested in this: Write for SellYourStoryUK
Many people, often having sold their real-life story to a newspaper and magazine through Featureworld want to write a book. But what if you’re not a writer? Well, you could employ a ghostwriter. Here, author and ghostwriter HARRY BINGHAM, who runs The Writers’ Workshop, a consultancy for first time writers, tells SellyourStoryUK how employing a ghostwriter could turn your real life story into a bestselling book …
How to work with a ghostwriter
BY HARRY BINGHAM
Every now and then we come across people with amazing stories – but without the skills or confidence to write a book. In such cases, it can make sense to get a ghostwriter involved, but if you’re to be successful you do need to know what you’re doing.
The first thing is to be sure that the story you have to tell is a book-length one. (If it’s better suited to a newspaper or magazine, then you’re on the right website already!) If you’re not sure that your story is big enough to fill a book, the easiest way to check is to buy a few (non-celebrity) biographies and read them. Your story also needs to be remarkable – literally a 1 in 100,000 story. If it’s not unique, it’ll already have been done and publishers won’t be interested.
We had one top ten bestseller which was a hard-luck story about a boy who spent several years at a violent reform school for boys in the early 1960s UK. We had another top ten bestseller about a woman who worked as a prostitute’s maid in Soho from 1948-49. Both those stories were really special, not just for the tales they told, but for their scale. You could read the whole three hundred page book and still be left wanting more. Your story needs to feel that way too.
The Writers’ Workshop can help tell you if your story is right for ghostwriting. If it is, we can supply the ghostwriter. You do need to realise that in nearly all cases, you’d need to arrange to pay the ghostwriter yourself. You’re getting a skilled person to devote possibly months of their time to this one project, so the money involved can be fairly large. On the other hand, there’s no point in taking half-measures, because publishers won’t want a badly written story – so this is something worth doing right or not at all.
Next, it is very important that your ghostwriter feels passionately about your story. We’ve had bestselling works that we’ve helped to ghostwrite … and sadly books that haven’t found a publisher at all. Nearly always, when things have gone wrong, part of the problem was the ghostwriter wasn’t truly passionate about the story. It’s very hard to fake that passion, so you want to make sure it’s authentic from the start.
And finally, when you come to market your story, you will need a UK literary agent to help you make the sale. The Writers’ Workshop can help source literary agents for you and can explain exactly what they do and why they’re so essential. Even better, it’s sometimes possible to recruit a literary agent for a project before it’s completed. For example, we have the first few chapters of one ghostwritten book currently in the hands of a literary agent right now – the agent is going to see if he can find a publisher based on the material we have. As the client, that’s really helpful because you can check to see if there’s a market for the manuscript before you have to commit to the time and expense of finishing it.
Harry Bingham is the author of six novels and four non-fiction books – including The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook Guide to Getting Published – see this book and more here: Harry’s books.
Are you an expert in a field allied to the worlds of journalism, TV, writing and gaining publicity? Would you like to write for Sell Your Story UK? Find out how here: Write for Featureworld.