Thursday, 24 March 2011

Pay me and I'll publish your book - yeah, right!

Alexandra from Manchester told me she was delighted to have her crime novel accepted for publication, but was later asked for a considerable contribution towards the costs. She asked: Is this normal in today’s tight economic climate? I have been assured that this isn’t a vanity publishing venture.

Sadly, all too often authors get caught out by vanity publishers who are posing as traditional publishing houses. Sometimes unwary authors are encouraged by a vanity publisher's praise of the work submitted – we all want to hear that ours is the manuscript that has somehow made it beyond the slush pile and into publishing heaven. This is what vanity publishers rely on.

Such publishers refer to their business model by a variety of names, including partnership, joint venture and subsidy publishers. But the bottom line is this, if you are charged anything towards the costs of publishing your book - you are using a vanity publisher, even if they assure you that their business model isn't vanity publishing.

If you decide to self-publish, there are many reputable companies who charge reasonable rates, but they are upfront about the fact that they are not traditional publishers. If a company hides the fees until after the manuscript has been accepted – say thank you, but no thanks.

The Writer’s ABC Checklist

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Flash 500 - nine day countdown

The closing date of this quarter’s Flash 500 Competition is fast approaching -- only nine days left to get your entries in.

While you’re there, have a look at the new Resources Page. You’ll find lots of useful links to help with various aspects of your writing life.

I’ve been approached by quite a few writers recently asking for private critiques. I haven’t advertised this service as most requests have come via ‘word of mouth’ recommendation. However, I thought it would be useful to create a webpage explaining the services I offer and the related charges. Critique Service

The Writer’s ABC Checklist

Monday, 21 March 2011

Foreign Flavours Anthology

Call for Submissions - Short Stories and Non-Fiction Articles

Organised by expat writers group - Writers Abroad
Writers Abroad will be publishing their second Anthology entitled ‘Foreign Flavours’.
We are seeking submissions of short stories and non-fiction pieces on the general theme of food, drink and cooking from around the world. The anthology will be published as an e-book and as hard copy via Lulu Publishing.

This year Writers Abroad will be donating any profits made to The Book Bus ( charity. Rhodesian-born novelist Alexander McCall Smith, creator of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series, ( will be writing the foreword for the Anthology.

To see our first Anthology (2010) please visit Writers Abroad

Title: Foreign Flavours
Genre: Short Stories and Non-Fiction
Theme: Food, drink and cooking - around the world.
Contributions: Expat writers, or those writers who have been an expat at some time or another
Word Count: Fiction – up to 1700 words (flash fiction is welcome) Non-Fiction – up to 1000 words

Submission and Entry Rules:
● All submissions must be previously unpublished
● Submissions should be received by midnight Friday 9th September 2011
● Submissions must be in English
● References to pornography or racism will not be accepted
● Manuscripts must be submitted via the link at
● The approximate word count should be inserted at the end of the submission
● Author name and title of the story or non-fiction piece should be placed in the left header of the document and page numbers in the right footer
● Manuscripts should be presented with double spacing and Times New Roman Font size 12.
● Queries only can be made via the contact button on the Submissions page
● Entries are free, only one entry per author, plus a short bio of 30 words
● Successful authors will be informed within two weeks of the closing date
● It will not be possible to provide feedback on submissions but successful stories will be edited and authors may be required to undertake minor changes for publication purposes
● Copyright will remain with the author and the stories will be published in an anthology in a number of formats.
● All proceeds from publication will be donated to the chosen charity.

Friday, 18 March 2011

What is Flash Fiction?

As most of you know, I run the Flash 500 Competition and offer an optional critique service. I received this query from an entrant who had received a critique and asked some follow up questions. Below are the questions and answers. I hope the exchange is of interest.

I'm not entirely sure of the definition of 'Flash Fiction' - hadn't heard of it until I started writing, a couple of months ago. Is it Flash because short (gone in a flash), or is the hidden twist an essential part of the genre (flash of insight)?

Flash fiction is a complete story of extreme brevity. You may have seen terms such as micro-fiction, micro-story, postcard fiction and short short story – these are all names for flash fiction. It has to contain the classic story elements: protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications and resolution. However, the word length can mean that some of these elements are only hinted at or implied in the storyline.

Have you read the judges’ reports and winning stories on the site? All the stories are unique in some way, either in structure or resolution, but they all comply with the need to tell a complete story.

If a super smart judge guesses the outcome before the end, does that mean the story is 'no good'?

If a super smart judge guesses the ending, that will not work against you. However, if the ending is obvious from the outset, that will count against the story.

If it is well written, is it not enough sometimes to 'enjoy the journey'?

Yes, if the story is well written, then the journey can be enough. There is no compunction to have a twist ending, but if the author includes a twist, then it has to work. The only way a twist can work is if it takes the reader by surprise. You have to send them off on a false trail, only to confound them at the end by revealing the truth. This means that on second reading (by now knowing the ending) the reader can see the carefully planted clues. You can’t come out of left field with something that hasn’t been cunningly hidden within the text. The reader has to feel satisfied that the clues were there if only they had known what to look for, not that they were cheated.

Here is some advice on writing fiction (not just flash fiction) Top Tips for Top Stories, published by E-zee Writer, the online magazine for the Writers Bureau.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Payment Matters

Sean from Liverpool has an identity problem. He asks: I want to enter a competition using a pen name, but how will I get paid if I win or get placed? Do I have to open a bank account in my pen name?

It isn’t necessary to open another bank account. When you enter a competition or submit stories to a magazine, using a pen name, you can request payment under your own name. If you are entering by email or post then state in the covering letter that you are using the pen name of A.N. Other, but that your real name is B.A. Writer. If entering through one of the online systems that don’t deal with pen names (some have a place to enter an alternative name) then when you are notified about your win simply explain that you have entered under a pen name, but would like payment made out to your real name.

I have many entrants to the Flash 500 Competition who submit their stories under a pen name, but also give their real names to use for payment should they win or be placed.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Residential Writing Course

I will be tutoring a residential writing course in France from 24th September to 1st October 2011.

About the Writing for Magazines holiday
Whether you’re looking for a source of additional income, hoping for a new career as a freelance writer, or simply want to establish writing credits to mention to agents and/or publishers, this is the course to teach you how to get articles and photo-features published in magazines.

Day 1:
Developing ideas for articles
Magazine analysis

Day 2:
Learning the difference between a photo-feature and a feature with illustrations
Magazine guidelines for photography
Camera use and permissions
How to take good photographs
Use of graphics

Day 3:
The right way to approach an editor
Query letters/emails that work
Writing an outline that grabs the editor’s attention

Day 4:
Structuring the article
The opening hook
Keeping the reader interested
Entertaining and appropriate closes
Use of humour

Day 5:
Professional manuscript presentation
Feedback on articles written by course participants

This residential writing course will be held in a beautiful part of France. For more details visit the website: Perpigne - Writing Course