You have written a book you want the world to read, but now you must find a publisher to help you produce your book and sort out the publishing contract. The idea of negotiating contract details with a publisher can seem like a daunting prospect, but as the author it is your responsibility to make sure you fully understand the publication contract which is presented to you.
What is a book contract?
A book contract is the legally binding agreement between an author and their book publisher, which goes into minute detail about who owns the rights to what, highlighting what is expected from both parties during and after the book production, whilst mentioning how much money the author will receive in royalties.
What should a book publishing contract include?
All of these aspects may seem like they are things that your publisher handles, but as the author you have every right to know the process your book is going to undertake, the legal aspects and more crucially what your rights are. In any sort of relationship trust is key, so when you are looking for a publishing company who can help you with your book production, find out who they are and make sure that this publisher is the right one for you. Why not do a little research before you contact them, check out their website, check out their reviews on Amazon and take a look at what other sort of publications they have dealt with in the past.
Recently more stories have emerged regarding publishers who say they can help you publish your book: you are given a contract to sign and then you pay the amount specified for the production of the book, once this is complete you are unable to contact them or find out where they have moved to, or determine how many copies or your book they have sold, and you have no idea what to do or what your rights are. So, please take your time, research all the possibilities and make sure you know your rights, because even though it may take a little while you will eventually find your perfect publisher.
Book fairs provide an excellent chance to learn more about the publishing industry, booksellers, publishers, distributors and marketers. You will also learn a great deal about what readers want and how to reach them. While acquiring knowledge about the book industry you can also take advantage of the chance to expose your name to a new audience - leaders who are interested in meeting new authors. You may not walk away with a book deal but you will have made yourself known and that has long-lasting benefits. Word of mouth is one of the strongest promotional tools available and those mouths are at book fairs, conventions and conferences.
Book fairs also provide an excellent opportunity to encounter media reps in search of a story. TV and radio programme producers, newspapers editors, magazines, book reviewers and online media producers all attend these events in search of stories that they wouldn't otherwise hear about. Never pass up on the opportunity to meet the media. Keep an eye out for small I-phone-sized cameras too as they shoot broadcast-quality footage whilst out and about. If you see somebody using one then invite them over and give them a bit of a pitch - you never know who they may be working for.
The major book conferences and conventions often involve travel expenses and over-night stays but local events are just as useful - easily accessible by car and you could reach a good percentage of readers, a reporter, editor or reviewer.
At a book fair, just as at a signing event, take your promotional literature along to pass out. This is a great way to generate future sales. The give-away should contain your contact information, book title, front cover artwork if you have it, website address and where the book can be purchased including any other online details.
Book fairs also often need speakers. By volunteering you can gain not only great exposure but also add that appearance to your CV and any press releases. Plan ahead though as these events are arranged months in advance.
Book fairs are often attended by best-selling authors too who will be willing to spend time you sharing their tips on writing, success and other advice.
To summarise, these events are wonderful places to meet-and-greet with fellow authors and publishers and to network with industry leaders. There are plenty going on throughout the country - the most obvious being the Hay Festival but there are many more such as Latitude at Hensham Park in Suffolk, Port Eliot in Cornwall, Theakston's Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, Voewood at High Kelling, Norfolk, Edinburgh International in August, York Festival in September and Cheltenham on October to name but a few.
Scribes were an extremely important part of society - they didn't have to pay taxes, join the military or take part in any form of manual labour.
It took up to 10 years to learn and cost a lot of money, hence it was usually middle class children that undertook the training but quite often the job was hereditary.
The Egyptian word for scribe is 'sesh' which actually means 'to draw'. The highest level would be within Pharoah's court and the most well-known village of scribes and skilled craftsmen is at Deir-el-Medina in Thebes. They were fed by the people and treated very well - houses were often provided. Scribes were also one of the earliest 'jobs' and many positions within the administrative sector of Ancient Egypt required their specialised training. Very few of the population could read or write and the hieroglyphic language is extremely complex with over 700 unique signs that could be combined to give different meanings.
Most students would begin at age 5 with formal training at 9. Not only hieroglyphs were studied: hieratic, demotic and maths were also on the curriculum - many jobs included doing work for the architects, tax collectors and treasurers. Students spent a lot of time practising by copying onto papyrus, pottery pieces or even flakes of limestone. Hours were long and discipline harsh, beatings were common.
Everything that we know about Egypt comes from these people, stocks of food, legal documents, magic spells (i.e. The Book of the Dead), court proceedings, proclamations - everything was recorded.
Experience is extremely useful when writing and, since writing this blog a short time ago, I have discovered that one of our most well-read authors used his to the full. He didn't like to acknowledge this and was very reticent when asked about his past but his books are full of autobiographical events.
In Great Expectations, Pip, like Dickens, dreams of becoming a gentleman; Marshalsea Prison features in Little Dorrit and Dickens' father had been sent there for three months when unable to pay his debts; Dickens visited the United States twice and came back largely unimpressed using his opinions in Martin Chuzzlewit; in Nicholas Nickleby he used his own mother as the model for the always confused Mrs Nickleby - fortunately this lady didn't realise; in the Old Curiosity Shop Dickens used the trauma of the death of his sister-in-law Mary Hogarth when writing about Little Nell and David Copperfield contains many autobiographical elements.
His early influences:
Mary Weller had been employed to look after Charles and his siblings and she was always telling stories about people such as Captain Murderer who made pies out of his wives.
Money was always an issue and, at the age of 12 Charles was sent to work in a shoe-polish factory whilst his father was in prison. He met a man there called Bob Fagin.
His other jobs before becoming a well-known writer were a law clerk - Bleak House - a court stenographer - David Copperfield - and shorthand reporter which led to the publication of the Pickwick Papers.
He was heavily involved in charitable and social issues which led to assisting in the writing of A Christmas Carol as he was very concerned with poor children who had to turn to crime in order to survive. Like himself, he wanted to introduce them to education and was a part of the Ragged School Movement.
His home life also contributed - he had 10 children, had a very public marriage breakdown and a mistress!
As I mentioned in a previous blog - no home, and definitely author, should be without one so I thought I'd do a little research and find out where it originated.
In Greek the verb 'tithenai' means to put or to place and the Latin 'thesauros' meaning treasure (also in the Albanian Language). However it was Roget who used it to mean 'collection of words arranged according to sense' in his original edition published in 1852.
His wasn't the first however as Philo of Byblos authored the first script that could now be called a thesuarus and in the 4th century a verse form was written in Sanskrit, the Amarakosha.
Peter Mark Roget collected words and phrases in a simple notebook to assist him in his work as a writer and lecturer. He then spent four years of his retirement expanding and systemizing this material, the purpose being 'to facilitate the expression of ideas and assist in literary composition.' Still, not everyone recognized the purpose of the work and reactions were mixed as to how exactly it could be used. One reviewer did say that it would one day rank as important as Samuel Johnson's Dictionary and that prophesy has certainly come true with over 30 million copies sold and is one of the best-loved reference books in English. Possession of the book has been used as a mark of good character - J.M. Barrie described Captain Hook in Peter Pan as 'The man is not wholly evil - he has a Thesaurus in his cabin.'
The book is now not only used to assist people with their writing as, over the past century, a new market has developed, the crossword puzzle - the New York Times naming Roget as the 'Saint of Crosswordia'.
Not very many changes have taken place within the structure of the book since its inception. the layout was in columns but now entries are in units as these are easier to follow. The vocabulary content has increased hugely as few entries have been deleted since Roget's edition. Some rare or archaic words have been dropped but the advances in both science and society mean that new words have come into common usage, especially those connected with computing and the Internet, as well as beauty treatments, biotechnology, tourism, lifestyle, climate changes, etc. In the up-to-date editions there are sections on literary quotations and text boxes.
The thesaurus must keep up with all the latest developments and has stood the test of time for a publication begun almost two hundred years ago by a man who had worked with Dr Beddoes and his laughing gas experiments, working with Jeremy Bentham and being influenced by his Utilitarianism ideas. He went on the Grand Tour and got trapped in Geneva when the Peace of Amiens collapsed. He was a qualified doctor working in both Manchester and London, being elected as a member of the prestigious Royal Society. He set up the Northern Dispensary charity and gave lectures to medical and science students as well as being one of the doctors involved in the Millbank prison epidemic investigation. He read voraciously in several languages, was married with two children and wrote for the Encyclopedia Britannica. Science and mathematics remained his true interests and he was Fullerian Professor of Physiology, lecturing at the Russell Institution for thirty years. His Bridgewater Treatise prepared him for the work of creating the Thesaurus as he had set out Natural History in all its variety as well as assisting with the classification of the Medical and Chirugical Society and Royal Society libraries. He loved organizing knowledge and for that we are truly grateful.
After the last entry I wondered what, in fact, constituted a 'classic' and, according to my Oxford English, a literary classic is a 'work considered first-rate or excellent of its kind, and therefore standard, fit to be used as a model or imitated.' 'Classicism' denotes the deliberate imitation of works of antiquity and is qualified as 'neo-classicism' which flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries. Romanticism, prevalent in the 19th century, saw itself as a 'revolt' against Classicism, which in turn led to authors such as T.S. Eliot at the beginning of the 20th century, being more concerned with man's limitations rather than his perfection and Hugo wrote as a conscious rebel against classicism.
I love the fact that there are many styles and 'types' of writing - they are what makes reading exciting - so I looked up a few:
Gothic novel - these are tales of the macabre, fantastic and supernatural usually set amidst haunted castles and sinister landscapes such as graveyards and ruins. Reaching their height of popularity in the late 1800s and early 1900s the word 'gothic' originally implied 'medieval' but later its emphasis was upon the macabre, the medieval element being totally disregarded in many cases. The first of the true gothic novels was 'The Castle of Otranto' (1764) by Horace Walpole.
Limerick - I love these and didn't realise that the first instances occur in 1820 (The History of Sixteen Wonderful Women) and then popularised by Lear in his 'Book of Nonsense'. The name derives (allegedly) from a custom at parties where each guest sang a 'nonsense-verse' followed by a chorus containing 'Will you come up to Limerick?' Lear and Rosetti both wrote limericks, but, as they are usually a form of facetious jingle, most are anonymous.
Romance - originally from the Latin 'romanice (in the Roman language) and the word 'roman' in Old French was used to describe the popular courtly stories dealing with heroes such as Arthur, Charlemagne and Alexander. From the 15th century romances are usually in prose, during the 16th century examples were Spenser and Shakespeare's inspiration and then, of course, Romanticism in the 19th century. Used to cover sentimental novels from the 18th century onwards it is now a popular genre for paperbacks.
Sonnet - is a poem consisting of 14 lines with rhymes arranged according to a definite scheme. Milton Shakespeare and Wordsworth were adepts. Introduced to England by Wyatt and developed by Surrey, most are amatory in content. D.G. Rosetti, E.B. Browning, Milton, and Keats were also prominent.
Villanelle - is a poem consisting of five three-lined stanzas and a quatrain with only two rhymes throughout. These were usually pastoral or lyrical in nature and have been used in light verse by writers such as Lang, Dobsen, Auden and Dylan Thomas.
Find a style you fancy and have a go.
An A-Z of literary and poetic terms that I discovered last week made me think about what and how work is written. When writing do we know we are producing iambic pentameters or alliterative verse? I thought alliterative verse - as an example - was a whole poem full of same sounding words but it isn't. Alliteration is the commencement of two or more words in close connection with the same sound as in 'Monday morning murmurings' but alliterative verse is the native German tradition of English poetry and the standard form in Old English up to the 11th century, recurring in Middle English as a formal alternative to the syllable-counting rhymed verse borrowed from French. The Old English line was unrhymed and made up of two distinct half-lines each containing two stressed syllables. The alliteration was always on the the first stress of the second half-line which alliterated with the stresses in the first half-line. Nothing after Middle English, apparently, can be said to be alliterative verse, although Auden and Day-Lewis did attempt a revival of the art.
Here are a few more terms that I found interesting:
Assonance - is the correspondence or rhyming of one word with another in accented and following vowels but not in the consonents - such as in Yeat's 'Byzantium' - 'That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea' and in Keats' 'Ode to Autumn' - Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn/Among the river sallows, borne aloft/Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies.'
Ballad and Ballade: A ballad was originally a song intended as a dance accompaniment. They were often printed on a single sheet and sold at fairs. Now it is used as a short spirited poem in short stanzas narrating a popular story. Keats (again), Morris, Hardy and Yeats used this form often.
A ballade, on the other hand, is a poem of one or more triplets of seven or eight-lined stanzas, each ending with the same line. It was dominant in 14th and 15th century French poetry, Villon being one of its main users.
Canto - is a subdivision of a long, narrative, epic poem such as in Dante's 'Inferno'.
Clerihew - is an epigrammatic verse-form that was invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. it consists of two rhymed couplets that usually deal with a well-known person's character or career, for example:
Sir James Jeans
Always says what he means
He is really perfectly serious
About the Universe being Mysterious
Concrete poetry - experiemtental poetry developed and flourishing during the 1950's and 1960's dealing with typography, graphics and the 'ideogram concept'.
Foot - is a division of verse consisting of a number of syllables, one of which has the principal stress.
Heroic couplet - Introduced into English by Chaucer, this is a pair of rhymed lines of iambic pentameter.
Metre - This one could have a section all of its own as there are feet, dactyls, elegiac couplets, iambic trimeters and lyric metres involved. Basically it is the sound pattern on whose recurrence the rhythm depends throughout the poem. The most popular in ancient poetry was the hexameter. The 5th century brought about a radical change as stress became the determining feature rather than shape of the classical 'feet'. I need to look further into this one!
Palindrome - This is from the Greek 'running back again' as the word or line of text can read the same backwards as forwards, for example: Lewd did I live & evil I did dwel (Philips).
The first one here is that no-one can proof-read or copy-edit their own work. You know where the story is going, you know what should come next and you know your characters. It needs someone who can give impartial, constructive advice and who can say, "Excuse me, but what happened in between you jumping off the cliff and appearing in Harrods in carpet slippers?" without causing offence.
Try to use life experiences - your imagination may be fantastic but for emotional pieces you can put in your own understanding and empathy and make your readers do the same.
Use a Thesaurus - keep one with you at all times whilst writing. Try not to use the same words repeatedly. I have just finished a book by a well-known author who used 'therefore' three times in the same sentence on more than one occasion.
The same author also used 'And' at the beginning of almost every sentence throughout the book. This is useful if you are writing media/advertising material and need to get a point across quickly in limited space but in a novel? As the late Terry Pratchett said, "Let grammar, punctuation and spelling into your life! Even the most energetic and wonderful mess has to be turned into sentences."
Here are a few more:
Tina Fey - "It's a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. You can't be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide overthinking it .. You have to let people see what you wrote."
George Orwell had a few - Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print; never use a long word where a short one will do; if it is possible to cut a word out then cut it out.
James Patterson - "I'm always pretending that I'm sitting across from somebody. I'm telling them a story, and I don't want them to get up until it's finished."
But most of all - enjoy your writing! Again, as Terry Pratchett said, "Writing is the most fun anyone can have by themselves!"
As chosen by the Mayor of Ely:
First prize ‘In Our Time’ by Francis Woods writing as Lisa Woods
My grandsons are playing on the lawn. They circle Louise and the baby, whooping in delight, spraying water from their plastic guns. The baby girl leans forward and squeals at them, little hands clasping and feet kicking in excitement. It’s a beautiful summer day and my garden is looking its best. I wonder for how long. But after all that’s what a visit to Granny’s is all about, having lots of space and being treated to the things they’ve always wanted.
My cat makes the mistake of jumping down into the garden from the neighbour’s fence. I’m surprised he hasn’t heard the singing and shouting. Too late, he realises that there are visitors, but not before a spray of water has hit him. It’s surprisingly accurate, leaving a furrow of fur that ends in a quiff between his ears. Disgusted he heads for the tree before there’s a second shot. The boys are after him but, knowing where he’s going, he disappears up into the leafy branches.
I’m watching this from the kitchen unable to do more to help the unfortunate feline. Drinks for the boys are already outside and I have come in to prepare squash for Louise and myself. I feel in need of something stronger.
'It’s lovely to see Louise and the children here.’ It’s my husband, Paul, who’s crept up on me. ‘Has
Ben come with her?’
‘No,’ I reply. ‘He’s like you used to be, too busy to get away from work.’
‘If I’d known what I know now, I’d have spent more time with you all,’ he replies.
‘I know. We always missed you.’ I don’t want to dwell on this, now’s not the right time for sad reminiscing and ‘what ifs’.
‘They’re beautiful children.’ He’s looking through the window. ‘What a gorgeous little girl.’ He chuckles. ‘She’ll be a handful if she ever catches up with them.’
‘Tell me about it.’ I pause for a moment. ‘From what Louise says I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide to go for another one.’
The ice is melting in our drinks. I’d prepare something for him, to stop him from leaving, but he doesn’t need a drink. I don’t want him to go, not just yet. He starts to move towards the door and I can’t think of
anything else to say that will keep him.
‘See you later?’ I ask.
He nods, ‘I’ll be waiting for you.’ And he’s gone. I pick up the tray and carry the drinks to the garden. Paul died four years ago. For a while he visited me frequently but not so much now. Time moves
differently on the other side and it’s hard for him to know that our lives have moved on without him. I expect he picked up the happiness of children singing and it brought him home for a short while. I wipe
my eyes, fix a smile and walk out into the dazzling sunlight.
Filled with emotion - somehow manages to be heart-warming and heart-wrenching at the same time. I love the description of the scene in the garden - I felt I was standing in the kitchen with the
protagonist, looking out of the window, enjoying the children and feeling for the poor cat. And I loved the naturalness of the dialogue with Paul - the protagonists simple acceptance of his presence makes it
believable to us too - and we feel with her, as she struggles to find a way to make him stay, whilst at the same time sadly accepting that he cannot.
"The differences between British and American English involve not just spelling but also style, grammar, punctuation, typography and vocabulary as well as cultural" - Josephine Bacon
How true is that! Because of Word and Spellcheck we Brits needs to make sure that all our text has the correct spelling i.e. colour instead of color, behaviour instead of behavior throughout our documents.
Dialogue is noticeable because of the influx of American films (movies) - during the Second World War subtitles had to be used as we had never heard an American accent before and couldn't understand it.
Differences aren't confined to dialogue, and the most noticeable is the date - whereas we write dd/mm/yyyy the Americans write mm/dd/yyyy and no 'th' after the number. Full stops, as in 2.12.97 might not even be recognised as a date. Confusion can also arise as 1/12 in England is 1st December but in America it is 12 January!
Vocabulary-wise there are words used on both sides of the Atlantic that have different meanings, for example the pavement in England is the sidewalk in America. The pavement in America means the roadway or blacktop and there are many more: fieldstone (crazy paving); diaper (nappy); shade (blind); shades (sunglasses); dust ruffle (valance); valance (pelmet); faucet (tap) are just a few. The major differences occur in areas where the two cultures have diverged such as law, construction, architecture, banking and finance where for example a private ledger in the States is bought ledger in England.
Style and punctuation - such as can't, don't, etc - in England these abbreviations aren't used in advertising but Americans consider them too formal. Commas are more lavishly used in America as is the use of the single 'l' whereas we would use a double, i.e. dialled/dialed; travelled/traveled.
There are also regional variations in speech, however many Americans are amazed at our regional differences over what, for them, are such short distances.