It turns out Infographics, not Orange, are the New Black. It also transpires there’s a knack to their creation. And it is something that Writers, Designers and Marketers should all learn. CopyPress does a great infographic guide where we learn how to turn boredom on its head, with the same stats that caused us to yawn in the first place.
Look at this article graphic on the right here, now, that’s clever.
The data visualisation on the left’s not bad, either.
So these infographics things, aren’t they just graphics and charts?
So, haven’t they been with us since before the Flintstones went to school?
So isn’t this just putting a spin on things?
The answer is a resounding ‘No, No, No’. And here’s why: It not only simplifies, it captivates and brings the information to life. It creates in us an interest that pushes the information into the brain. That’s right, we learn, we acquire, we curate for the cycle to begin again. And we enjoy it. We beg to be allowed to pass it on to someone else.
Oh, I almost forgot, search engines love infographics! They tick the boxes and rock the boats of those word-thirsty robots crawling for interesting topics stated in a unique way.
Have you heard the one about the SEO expert who walked into a bar, grill, pub, public house, Irish, bartender, drink, beer, wine, liquor…, (but I digress).
Once we understand what infographics are it comes as no surprise to learn they are 30 times more likely to be read than text articles, that Publishers’ who use infographics grow traffic on average by 12% and that 40% of people respond better to visual information than to text.
Be it data visualisation or an article graphic, infographics are here to stay. Enough said.
First, decide if you wish to SelfPublish or go Mainstream. If it’s the latter, and it’s fiction, most Mainstream Publishers will not accept unsolicited MS, so do you want an Agent or will you go straight to an Independent Publisher (Indie)?
It’s OK to submit to both categories and to a few agents/Indies at the same time, but keep a record and keep it personal. No-one likes beauty parades and after spending so long writing the novel or memoir, check that you are submitting to people who are going to be interested. Just a little more research can save an awful lot of time and remember, most agents live in and around the publishing hub, London. And yes, of course they talk to each other…
So, who does what?
Sell and license rights to a variety of media (not just book publishers) at home and abroad on behalf of their client authors with whom they have a contract on each book for the full term of copyright. Agents receive a commission on authors’ earnings, typically 10 to 15 per cent on earnings from home sales but rising to 20 per cent on deals made abroad.
Once an agent has taken on an author, it’s their job to pitch the book to the right editor in the most suitable publishing house. This includes Indies, in fact some smaller publishers do not accept non agented MS and Amazon’s White Glove Program can only be accessed by agents on behalf of their clients.
First let’s understand the process. Once a book is acquired from an author, it has to be edited, designed, produced, marketed to the book trade and readers, and sold to bookshops or the end- purchaser. Once the book has been printed, it has to be stored, orders are taken from retailers or consumers, and the book is then dispatched from the warehouse.
These days it’s a pretty straightforward choice: agents can submit your MS to Major Publishers’ something you alone are not able to do. If you go to an Independent Publisher, you don’t necessarily need an agent, but they can be useful. There’s no harm in trying both options. The main requirement is that you notify those you have applied to if an offer is made to represent you. This is surely common courtesy and can also perhaps persuade others to consider making you an offer, too. An agent manages the commercial aspects, for example by placing the author’s work with the right publisher or fuelling competition between publishers (on major books by holding auctions); negotiating deals to secure the best terms; by submitting their own contracts to licensors weighted in the authors’ favour; checking or querying both publishers’ advance payments against royalties, and royalty statements, and chasing debts. Most authors are unable to market the rights on their work worldwide so they mainly allow publishers to do so on their behalf. An agent representing an author may limit the rights granted to a publisher, and their territorial extent, and license the rights retained on behalf of the author to other firms at home and abroad. But, as with everything, it depends on the individual circumstances. A publisher investing a large amount, for instance in a new writer on a two-book deal, has a strong case for acquiring wide territorial rights and the sharing of other rights.
Going it Alone
Help is always on hand. Once you have received an offer you can, for example, join The Writers’ Guild, or The Society of Authors. Both provide a contract vetting service.
According to their website they have: nearly 5,000 contacts for the book publishing industry, over 500 online-only entries, plus 35 literary agents from European and non-English speaking countries.
(It also has 125 self-publishing providers, which may or may not prove useful.)
You can search by name, location and keyword e.g. ‘romance’, by entering your search terms in the boxes;
browse by category on the Explore Categories page e.g. Literary agents UK and Ireland or Literary agents overseas; and save your favourite entries – a great tool for creating a target list for your submissions.
It costs £19.95 for twelve months, but there is no doubt that links are a whole lot easier than typing in the address each time which you had to do with the printed lists.
Full Disclosure: The Agent Hunter offered us the chance to review the site in exchange for a free subscription and as it is something we had already recommended to some of our members, we decided to check it out.
This is another searchable database which has compiled details of agencies and agents, their likes and dislikes and submission policies. It also offers lists of independent publishers. Provided this is kept up to date it can do a lot of your sifting work for you. Fees start from as little as five pounds, making it better value than the W&A and there are no adverts (or attempts to offer Solutions Providers/Vanity Publishers.)
There is no doubt that the filters available can help narrow the search down quite substantially. Choose from amongst the following:
Client List – open to new clients, looking to add to list
Opportunities to meet
Key Entry Search Value
Agent Hunter is new – which means it should be relatively up to date, but as with all databases, there is no guarantee it is error free, something the site acknowledges and is transparent about:
“We do try very hard to stay comprehensive and up to date, but mistakes will creep through. If you spot any omission or error, please let us know. We check/update every entry at least annually, but the key entries are updated more often than that.”
Information is compiled from a number of sources:
“We get our data from agents’ websites, published directories, the Bookseller magazine, the Association of Authors’ Agents, the Publishers’ Association, other public sources of data, our own contacts, and from agents themselves.”
Personally, I’d like an additional filter added: whether they accept submissions from outside the UK, but that aside, I really like it. Another great feature is the ability to dovetail between agents and agencies and then check out Independent Publishers, too.
This is a great jumping off point before diving into the agencies’ or Publishers’ own websites and, for as little as a fiver, offers great value.
Mainstream Publishers are more than just middlemen in the contract between author and reader. Publishers take the writer’s work and add to it creating more value in the final book. After all, a large Publisher has to report to shareholders and create profit for everyone involved, including itself- so that it may pay its staff and carry on. Costs include the advance that was given to the author: recouping this is not always possible and where there is a limited number of sales, some published authors receive only their advance.
As Clark and Phillips point out, traditionally, a Publisher’s role is all encompassing.
‘The publisher, aiming to make a profit for the owners/shareholders and to carry on publishing:
researches the markets in which it specializes and builds contacts,
seeks authors (in competition with other publishers) and is sought by them,
matches marketable ideas to saleable authors,
assesses the quality of the author’s work (sometimes externally refereed), costs of production and sales prospects,
decides whether to risk its investment funds in projects to appear under its brand,
edits and designs books to meet market needs,
specifies, buys and oversees the work of print suppliers (in the UK or abroad) which manufacture the books,
exploits new technology to reduce costs and stock levels, develop new products, and expand its sales and marketing techniques,
builds a worldwide sales network,
promotes and publicizes books to their intended users, the media, and to the intermediaries (retailers, wholesalers, and overseas firms) – the channels through which the books are mainly sold,
sells the books face-to-face to intermediaries,
holds bulk stock of titles, where necessary, to satisfy demand, and
fulfils orders, distributes the books and collects the money, paying royalties to authors on sales made.’
When you are the Publisher you compete, then, against a well-oiled machine and Print on Demand (POD) is often the only feasible option for you. POD costs more per book but is cheaper in the short term for small prints. Off-set is for much larger volumes and the price per unit savings arguably only become worth it when distribution and storage are already part of the printing process.
There is nothing in theory to stop you Self-Publishing and going for, say, a 1,000 book off-set print, but factor in the storing and distributing of those boxes. Don’t let the damp and mildew get at them.
This is not to say you cannot go it alone, but you need to be aware of your aims and the target market before you begin. One business model is to garner sales of an EBook before moving on to the next step, that of ordering and distributing the POD books into book stores.
One major player that still prefers the Mainstream to the Self-Published is the Bookseller. This person also needs to survive and one traditional distribution method involves a ‘sale or return’ policy. Ingram Sparks has tried to plug the ‘delivery and returns’ gap. If you publish with them they operate a distribution and collection policy which can help persuade the Bookseller to stock the book, although a professional cover is also important. Ingram Spark’s ‘sale or return’ works better logistically for US based Self-Publishers, and I’ll explain why. You can opt to have the book physically returned, paying for the price of the book and $2 delivery costs. Or you can have the book returned by the Bookseller, then destroyed, by Ingram Sparks and only pay for the cost of the book printing. In theory the same arrangement exists for non US addresses. But with each book costing $20 return delivery on top of paying the book price, there is really only the option of asking Ingram Sparks to destroy it on return.
Do not despair- should you choose to go it alone build a social media platform, market your book online, show proof of sales, line your pockets and then go for the POD with all its distribution wizardry. And who knows, a Mainstream Publisher may just come a knocking.
When you compete with the professionals make sure your copy is professional too. Don’t invest in a decent cover and opt for a sale or return plan only to get rejected by Booksellers because of grammatical and structural errors. Pay for a copyedit. Or if you can’t afford it, learn how to do it yourself: brush up on grammar rules, understand copyediting conventions and don’t cobble together various parts written at various times in various moods and voices. Not if you want only one voice and for that to come across well to the reader.
By the way, can you see the ant in the title image?
Copyright 2014 Tracy Thomson
 Inside Book Publishing. Fourth edition, Routledge (2008)
The second blog of the month is by Dexter Petley, a successful author who also works as an editor and adviser for new writers.
Amongst his acclaimed works are a literary noir whodunnit, Little Nineveh (Polygon 1995), Joyride (Fourth Estate, 1999), and White Lies (Fourth Estate 2003). He’s a regular on the cult website www.caughtbytheriver.com
TIME AND MOTION
Time is the novel’s greatest enemy. The time it takes, the time it occupies and even the time it represents. We often read that so and so is a “full-time” writer. And then we read their novels and wonder why, therefore, they didn’t take that luxury of available time to get it right instead of rushing it out. I don’t know if it’s rat-race ethics or just the cruise control on the Microsoft treadmill, but when I urge clients to take their time on the re-write they seem to hear a starting pistol. Three weeks later, whizz-bang-pop, they send me a wonky new version that’s still smoking.
There are very understandable reasons for attempting to write faster than your own shadow. Encouragement is a wonderful thing. It’s a life-saver to the struggling writer. When it appears, we tend to think of it as fickle, ephemeral, a light which will fade. Struggling writers are not used to attention. So when we get it, we act like dogs chasing a stick.
In my own apprentice days I too was eager and trigger happy. I can categorically say it got me nowhere. It merely rejected the encouragement given by ignoring the details, the small print, the wisdom. I had all the time in the world too; in the 1980s you wrote novels on the dole, hammering holes in scrap-paper on great iron framed machines.
Time has not changed; the time a novel needs to be written doesn’t change. Whatever you hear, the ability to rattle off twenty-thousand words a day is no more useful than being a pie eating champion. What may have changed is that today we can write at miraculous, reckless speeds. But it’s like writing on a simulator. Cut and paste is an illusion. When I say re-write, I mean word by word, sentence by sentence.
Why, when much of the novel might remain unaltered?
Well, the same reason a singer performs the whole song night after night. Voice, and because there is no short cut to the whole story.
In the typewriter age we had no choice. It was an honest job, typing; we sculpted those damned novels with bleeding fingers. But the beauty of it was the focus and concentration to be had; the intimacy we had with our text. The tactile engagement we had with our craft. We felt like writers, not IT users. That craft, the progress of it, was visible and satisfying. I fear that’s missing these days. You’re supposed to be writing, but between sentences there’s shopping on Ebay, someone’s cursed Youtube link, an email to read… In other words, it’s not just distraction, it’s squandering the writing time. It shows up in the finished work. Making up time with cut and paste or a few days spilling the midnight oil is no substitute for the slow fuse, the whole song.
Re-writing a novel from scratch is to reclaim it. Just fixing the leaks doesn’t prevent it caving in later. In typewriter mode (unplug the bloody modem at least) you recover the voice, and control the dogs pulling at your leash. Suddenly a year is well spent. And it should be a year at least. Good fiction needs time in the bottle before drinking. That time includes, just as essentially, time off; time for gaining distance and a cold heart, or just forgetting. It takes me between 5-10 years to write a novel. In that time there might be 14 drafts of the word for word kind. Each novel leapfrogs over the other, so one novel finally come out every four years.
The simplest advice is often the best: don’t ignore professional advice for a start. Take your time. If you haven’t time, all the more reason. I know many writers have full-time jobs or demanding commitments which make writing time a rare luxury. The temptation to be over-productive is an attractive one. It so easily becomes a race with time. When a novel is finished, no one will praise it because you bashed out the first draft in 3 months and the re-write in a week. Remember, a novel is a two headed monster. The first breathes white heat, sleepless nights, death-pacts with the muse. The second is a cold blooded surgeon, a waiting game, the playing hard to get. Successful writers have two heads; they’re the difference between interesting and great.
Reblogged from http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/blog/time-motion-by-dexter-petley/
As an editor, I know when I am reading someone’s first novel. I have nicknames for the four give-away faults beginners make: (1) Walk and Chew Gum (2) Furry Dice (3) Tea, Vicar? (4) Styrofoam. I see at least one of these in every manuscript where the author has not mastered the craft of writing before submitting his or her work. What are these four faults and, more importantly, how can you cure them?
(1) Walk and Chew Gum
The writer has not integrated action and dialogue, internal monologue and action, or internal monologue with dialogue. It is as if the characters can do only one thing at a time. An example:
“If you think you’re going to town you’d better thing again,” said Ralph. He put down his can of beer. “I’m not having any daughter of mine going to a Cantrell boy’s party, and that’s final!” “Oh, Pa! How could you be so cruel!” JoBeth cried. Then, hunting in her pockets for a tissue, she dried her eyes and stared at him defiantly. “If I want to go, how can you stop me?” she demanded. Ralph knew this would happen. She had always been independent, like her mother. He half-lurched to his feet. “You little hussy!” he bellowed. Running up the stairs, JoBeth turned at the landing. “I am going, do you hear? I am.”
Not integrating action and dialogue makes for jerky, lifeless prose. Combine, combine, toujours combine:
“If you think you’re going to town you’d better think again,” Ralph snapped, putting down his can of beer. She was too damn much like her mother. “I’m not having any daughter of mine going to a Cantrell boy’s party, and that’s final!” “Oh, Pa! How could you be so cruel!” JoBeth hunted her pockets for a tissue, dried her eyes and stared at him defiantly. “If I want to go, how can you stop me?” Ralph half-lurched to his feet, bellowing, “You little hussy!” But JoBeth was already upstairs. “I am going, do you hear? I am.”
This might not be award-winning prose, but it reflects the reality of the action and feelings better by having action, thought and dialogue knitted together.
(2) Furry Dice
Adjectives, adverbs and prepositions are furry dice hanging from a car’s mirror. They don’t do anything for the car’s performance, they simply clutter the place. I once stripped a fifth of a novel by removing words and phrases such as ‘very’ ‘up’ ‘down’ ‘over’ ‘about’ ‘some’ ‘a little’ ‘a bit’ ‘somewhat’ ‘whole’ ‘just’ and other modifiers. For instance:
She picked up the gun and aimed it straight at him. His smile disappeared as he lifted up his hands into the air. She waved him over to the wall, saying, “Spread ’em out, and no funny business, you hear?” She checked all of his pockets for the money, then stepped back. “Okay, I’m convinced. You haven’t got it.”
This would be better without the modifiers, and with the tighter language you’ll have to write to replace them:
She snatched the gun and aimed. His smile disappeared as his hands climbed. She waved him to the wall, saying, “Spread ’em, and no funny business, you hear?” She checked his pockets for the money, then retreated. “Okay, I’m convinced. You don’t have it.”
59 words have become 44, and even then the passage could be trimmed. But the first, necessary action, before you seriously begin to rewrite, is to grab that swimming pool net and remove clogging, unnecessary modifiers that muddy the water. Hemingway didn’t need them; you don’t need them.
(3) Tea, Vicar?
“More tea, Vicar?” Angela asked, taking his cup and placing it on the tray beside her. “Don’t mind if I do,” said the Rev. Phelps. “That was two sugars, wasn’t it?” she asked, pouring the fragrant liquid from the heirloom pot into his cup and stirring in the milk. When he nodded, she dropped in two sugar lumps, stirred again, and handed him back the cup. “Thank you, my dear,” he said, accepting it with a smile.
How often have I read loving descriptions of cups of tea being poured, pots of coffee being made, even whole meals cooked and eaten? Or rooms cleaned or decorated, or journeys made? Too darn often. Writers get a high out of conjuring a tableau from thin air, and in the white heat of creation forget that tableaux of mundane details are not exciting. The reader will not share that euphoria.
Reading about a cup of tea being poured is about as exciting as watching paint dry. How does this scene help further the plot or character development? It doesn’t. The writer simply got carried away with describing everything. Fiction is supposed to be like life, but with the dull bits removed, not spelled out in excruciating detail. Examine your work. Test every scene. Is there anything that you think of as ‘setting the scene’ or ‘capturing the atmosphere’? If there is, cut it. Every scene needs conflict and movement to give it life, and tea for the Vicar has neither.
This is related to Tea, Vicar?, but it arises not from self-indulgence, but panic. Styrofoam is the padding novice writers stuff into their novels because they haven’t enough story to tell (or think they don’t) and need to create word count. Padding is distinguishable because suddenly the forward movement of the story stops dead. Nothing happens for a few pages. I read, I read, and at the end I’ve learned nothing about the characters I needed to know, nor have the characters done anything essential to the story. Every scene has to propel the plot to the crisis that will resolve the story. Styrofoam does neither.
If you fear you haven’t enough narrative, add more conflict. Don’t give me tours of the countryside, long rambling chats, the characters making travel arrangements, or any other lifeless block of prose. I want action. I want inexorable movement towards the crisis. I want to be gripped. So cut the padding. If that makes your novel too short, re-think your premise, your plot, your primary and secondary characters, and rewrite.
If you want to be published, you’ll have to cure these faults yourself, because your editor won’t do it for you. She’ll just send it back.
Copyright Caro Clarke reproduced by author’s kind permission
Guest blogger Adelaide Godwin talks to Tracy Thomson about the launch next month of her new children’s book.
Is this the first novel you have ever written? Yes
What about when you were younger at school? I enjoyed writing but I am not sure the examiners felt the same when marking!
Was your first language French? No, this is why at the age of 9, I had to start from scratch, having lessons in French and abandoning my limited knowledge of English grammar!
Did you shine at English composition or find yourself naturally more steered towards images and painting?
I loved to draw but we did not have art classes at the school. I took my Art O Level for a joke and got an A grade. I never had any tuition until attending art classes, here, over the last 4 years. I never really shined at anything academically, I was more sporty, I like to think.
How did you conceive of the novel? We saved a feral cat (he had been missing from our Urbanisation for a month) returning with a bad leg injury. He is now a three legged cat living with us as part of the family.
Did you see images of a little cat and then let your imagination flow with a journey, friends and morals? Yes, my imagination took over and I set to painting his journey at my art classes.
You said you saw the book first in images and then came up with the joined up writing part, could you perhaps elaborate on that? Once I had completed the paintings, I then put pen to paper to write the story as I imagined it. My Publisher, Digital Leaf, said that was completely the wrong way round.
Initially you saw the reader as being older than the eventual age chosen. Yes, I thought perhaps with mentioning a cat being neutered it might be for a slightly older group. But then again I have a talking tree! So I can see how the publisher’s thought differently.
Did any differences between the Publisher and you cause problems? No, I was happy to go along with whatever the publisher’s thought. I was just so pleased they were as passionate about my story as I was.
Who or what served as inspiration for you on your writing journey? Our dear pussycat “Pooka” (Poohka in the book) We bonded with him when he was living outside and he would walk around the Urbanisation with us on a daily basis. So when he went missing we were most concerned for him.
How long did it take? From starting with the paintings then the writing just under 2 years. The actual writing took approximately 6 months, but I did not have a routine. I wrote when I had the time and that was not as frequently as I would have liked.
Why did you decide on a nom de plume? I always thought I should have used a different name when acting but never did, so this time I decided I would for writing. I have chosen my grandmother’s two middle names.
I understand more than one Publisher was interested, what helped you to decide which one to go with? No only the one. When sending off submissions I had 13 refusals but a number of them came back with complimentary responses, saying it was not for them, but someone out there will take it! It is finding that someone, sadly they never guide you. Anyway, I was most fortunate.
Have you started the next one yet? Yes, the first two chapters, it is just finding the time to shut myself away and get on with the rest. I need a routine.
The publishing process can seem arduous do you have any advice for others out there who are taking their own baby steps? Never give up. I understand JK Rowling found an agent on her 12th attempt. Geoffrey Archer on his 27th. The lady who wrote The Help on her 61st attempt. So there is hope for us all. Basically if I can do it, anyone can. I have absolutely no writing background at all.
What is the best approach for negotiating with the Publishers along the way vis a vis book jacket and illustrations. I was lucky I liked the front and back cover. The internal illustrations had to be changed because they were too English, so with a bit of coaxing and gentle persuasion they were altered.
How will you keep track of book sales? Will you access Amazon sales via the Amazon account set up or is that all being done by your Publisher? This is all being done by the publisher. They will be sending me quarterly accounts of sales and so on.
Below is a brief bio of the author (in her own words):
Adelaide was educated at an Ursuline convent in a remote Belgian village before attending Winkfield Place Finishing School, famous as Constance Spry’s school. There she achieved a Cordon Bleu Diploma and went on to work for Prue Leith in London and as chef at the Little London Restaurant in Chichester.
Adelaide then joined British Airways and took to the skies, working as Cabin Crew for fifteen years and travelling the world extensively.
Adelaide has also worked in the television and film industry doing small acting roles, as well as some photographic and voiceover work.
She now divides her time between the UK and southern Spain where she cares for animals, writes, paints and enjoys the Mediterranean sunshine.
So with a vivid imagination Adelaide picked up a pen and a piece of paper and started to write!
The result is:
Landing on my Feet; the Adventures of Poohka the Cat by Adelaide Godwin
This is the incredible tale of Poohka a feral cat from Sotogrande who through an error of judgement ends up on a landfill site many miles away from home. Seriously injured and left for dead, this story takes you on his epic journey of survival.
With courage and determination Poohka starts his amazing journey with the assistance of some very unexpected friends he makes along the way. With highs and lows, twists and turns, the story leads you to a heart-stopping conclusion.
A taster from my book:
Chapter 2 – No place for a siesta
In August, the hottest time of the year in southern Spain, Spike sat motionless in the heat of the sun. He was perched on a decaying branch of an old cork oak tree. The week had passed too slowly for Spike, a mature and splendid looking vulture. Spike longed for Wednesdays to come around, and waited impatiently.
There was a gentle but obvious roar of a lorry in the distance. Spike jumped up, stretched his scaly neck and flexed his claws. ‘It’s coming!’ he cried joyfully.
Señor Arbol, the once majestic cork oak tree, groaned loudly. ‘For goodness’ sake, Spike, if you carry on with this behaviour you will break my weary old branch. Then you will lose your prime spot here at the rubbish tip.’
‘OK, OK!’ he yelled with excitement, struggling to contain himself. ‘I’ll try my best, but my tummy is rumbling so much, and my food is on its way!’
As if in reply, the decaying branch beneath Spike made a big creaking noise. Spike gulped and immediately stopped bouncing up and down. Spike liked his vantage point closest to the dumping area, and he’d fought hard to get this prime position. He had no intention of losing it now!
“A roller-coaster ride of a book for young animal-lovers everywhere.”
Age: 8 + Digital Leaf “A claw-biting journey of bravery, persistence and unusual friendships set atmospherically in southern Spain” Heather Hacking Bestselling Author-Illustrator