Monday, May 22, 2017

Carol Cooper: Making your self-published book as good as it can be

Who wouldn’t like to make their book as good as it can be? We welcome Carol Cooper to the blog to tell us how it can be done.

I’m delighted to brag that my second novel, Hampstead Fever, finds itself in bookstores alongside the
best in the business - right next to David Nicholls on a table in Waterstones, and in a front-of-store promotion in WH Smith travel shops.

People often ask me how that can happen to a self-published book. My answer? Produce a book that won’t disgrace itself in such company.

Compared with my current novel, my fiction debut One Night at the Jacaranda should have hung its head in shame and quietly slunk out of the back door when I first published it in late 2013. Its cover alone exposed it as a gate-crasher into the publishing party. I’d imagined that a photo of red suede heels, accompanied by a lipstick tossed nonchalantly onto a carpet, would scream, “Sexy story about relationships”. In reality it screamed, “Amateur!” As did a lot of the contents, because I had also made poor editing choices.

I can distil much of what I’ve learned since then into half a dozen tips.

Tip 1. Self-publishing doesn’t mean doing it all yourself.
It can be a solo operation, but just because something’s possible doesn’t make it a good idea. To look professional, a book needs professional editing and proof-reading.Yes, beta readers can help shape a manuscript, but it’s almost impossible to edit your own work. Shop around before you commit to an editor or proof-reader. Many of them will gladly mark up a short sample of MS to give you an idea of their work.

Tip 2. Whether you’re indie or not, always check the page proofs yourself.
I see no end of trade-published books with elementary mistakes, but publishing is not what it was, and a lot more work is farmed out, with fewer people around to take the time to check its quality. The reality is that anyone can miss things. After no fewer than three proof-reads, my Hampstead Fever still had four typos. But I had the luxury of another print run for the WH Smith promotion, so went back and got rid of them.

Tip 3. Be realistic about your abilities.
A great cover is possible using Createspace or other templates, but it’s a lot harder, especially if, like me, you have no discernible artistic talent. That’s why I commissioned a professional designer for the cover of Hampstead Fever, as well as for the reissue of my first novel. I’m thrilled with what Jessica Bell came up with. Even then, however, it took a few goes to get right. Apparently I’m fussy (who knew?). The final cover is a little different from most contemporary fiction or romance, but it’s eye-catching, suggests a summer read, and is a good indicator of what’s inside.

Tip 4. The book must look and feel like a quality product.
Print-on-demand can be excellent, but, if you want your book to be up to publishing industry standards, then think about paying a bit more. I used Clays, who’ve been printing in Bungay, Suffolk, since long before I was born. Established over 200 years ago, Clays print some 170 million books a year, including those for leading publishers, and luckily they now offer short-run printing that doesn’t break the bank. Spend a little time deciding on the format of the book, the type of paper, and the finish of the cover. Maybe you even want to add a little bit of embossing or foil to the front? They’re far from essential, but many popular fiction covers now have these embellishments.

Tip 5. Be obsessional about how it’s shaping up along the way.
This book is your baby so of course you love it and think it’s wonderful, but try to be objective about its flaws. If you’re trade-published, work closely with your editor as much as you possibly can, and be open. One of my recent non-fiction books had several style inconsistencies and other annoyances, plus I didn’t think the doctor pictured on the cover should be shown wearing nail varnish. There’s always a way of expressing honest opinions in a pleasant manner. Or so I’m told. I just haven’t found it yet.

Tip 6. Keep learning.
A commitment to improvement is essential in making any book as good as it can be. That’s ultimately what helped me create something that could earn its place on a shelf of the best offerings from the Big Five.

And you can do that too.

About Carol:
Hybrid author Carol Cooper is best known as a doctor, journalist, and president of the Guild of Health Writers. She contributes to The Sun newspaper, broadcasts on TV and radio, and has a string of trade-published non-fiction books to her name. Now she writes and publishes novels, the latest being Hampstead Fever, a contemporary tale of urban life.

Blurb for Hampstead Fever:

Ex-con Dan has it all. The perfect job and a new baby with his dream woman. So why is he still an outsider?
Laure had baby Jack late in life. It’s only natural she’s a little over-protective. Motherhood is terrifying.
After surviving serious illness, Sanjay’s got his life back. Now he wants adventure. Where does that leave girlfriend Harriet?
Karen’s love life is reduced to casual sex with the football coach. As a divorcee with four kids, romance is on her to-do list, just below the laundry.
Doctor Geoff’s relationship with actress Daisy is bound to be a bit dramatic. But why all the mystery?
A slice of contemporary multi-cultural London life to make you laugh, cry, and nod in recognition.

Twitter: DrCarolCooper
Amazon author page: Carol Cooper
Hampstead Fever on Amazon: Hampstead Fever

Thank you for a most informative article, Carol. You’ve certainly given us some interesting tips. Good luck with your next publications. We will be watching with interest.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Bloggers and Reviewers: Linda Hill – Linda’s Book Bag

Ellie Holmes brings us another in her excellent series, Book Bloggers and Reviewers.

We are delighted to welcome Linda Hill to the RNA Blog’s monthly series where we speak to book bloggers and get an insight into their world. Welcome Linda, tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog.
I'm a blogger over at Linda's Book Bag. I used to be an English teacher and local authority adviser
before I went over to the dark side as an independent consultant and OfSTED inspector but I loved that as my work took me all over the country and to Jersey, Paris and New York to work.
 I live with Steve, my husband of almost 34 years, in the Lincolnshire Fens where it can feel like being in a Tupperware box at times with vast grey skies. I adore cats and used to have four at one time, including a diabetic one we had to inject with insulin twice a day, but have none now as we go away so much.
 I'm mad about Bryan Ferry, having met him twice and been to 21 of his concerts and you won't find me more than a few feet away from chocolate, fudge or toffee and preferably all three.
When I'm not blogging or reading I'll be planning a holiday! Thanks so much for inviting me to appear on this wonderful blog.

What made you start to review/blog?
 I've always been a bookworm - or rather, I was once I got glasses at the age of almost 8 and realised those strange smudges on a piece of paper were actually magical words that could transport me somewhere else. I loved inspiring youngsters to read for pleasure when I taught English and then when I left teaching and became an Educational Consultant I was asked by Hodder to read and review KS3 aged children's books with a view to them being used as class readers. Imaging my delight at being paid to read!
After that I looked for online reading groups and found Love Reading who were looking for review panel members so I applied and was taken on as one of their reviewers. At the same time, I retired (life is too short to work!) and joined my local University of the Third Age (U3A) reading group where the members encouraged me to share my thoughts. It suddenly dawned on me in 2015 that I could actually blog and so Linda's Book Bag was born.

What’s your review policy?
I don't have one! I've thought long and hard about it and whether I ought to have one and although I avoid anything offensively sexual, racist, homophobic etc, I'll consider most things for review. I don't much like horror as I'm a wimp and don't like being scared. If an author would like me to consider a book for review I'll always do a bit of research and see if I think it's for me.
 Trouble is, the TBR is now huge so my current 'review policy' is that I have to decline an awful lot as I know I'll never get to the books.

I saw on your blog that you won the Best Book Review Blog Award 2016. Congratulations!  Tell us a little bit about how you came to be nominated and what it was like to receive the award.
I'm not sure how I came to be nominated and it was a complete shock to me and even more that I actually won! A few people since have told me that they nominated me and I'm so grateful. I was in a field at Burghley House waiting for Bryan Ferry to perform (which is why I wasn't at the award ceremony) when I got a Facebook message from fellow blogger Shell Baker telling me I'd won. I was so thrilled.

How many times a month do you blog?
 It varies. I'm trying to cut back as I spend too much time blogging and not enough time reading. Last year which was so awful for me personally meant I didn't have as much time as I would have liked, but I still blogged most days.
 Unless I'm on holiday, or taking a break as I did in April this year I rarely have a day when I don't blog and many days have two posts.

What’s the best and worst thing about running a blog?
 After the sheer joy of reading, the best thing has to be the people. I have made real and virtual friends including other bloggers, authors and publicists. We all try to support one another and it is a delight when I get to go to events and meet these people face to face.
The worse thing is the time it takes up and the occasional lack of understanding about what goes in to setting up a blog post that some people seem to have. I wrote a bit about that when I explained my reasons for going AWOL in April and I'll be doing the same and being absent in August too.
This week, for example, I didn't receive the extract I was supposed to have for a blog tour on the Monday, even though I'd reminded the publisher to send it. I really didn't have time to read the book but I didn't want to let down the author so I got up at 5 on Sunday morning and read solidly for five hours to be able to write a review so that I had something to post. If I'm honest, I was very annoyed and could just have posted a spotlight but I felt it wasn't the author's fault and they still deserved as much coverage as possible.

You are a Netgalley member – can you tell us a little about that.
 Honestly? I try to avoid Netgalley if I can. Partly it's because I always seem to get in a pickle when posting reviews and feedback but mostly because I tend to forget I have e-books. I have over 900 physical books that have been sent to me unsolicited and awaiting review so I rarely request a Netgalley book unless I have been sent a specific widget for a blog tour.

What do you like to do in your spare time when not reading?
I love to be outside. I love walking and I garden as much as I can and have an allotment so I can grow our own fruit and veg. I run a local U3A gardening group. I write a little bit and have a novel lurking in the background. However, my biggest passion is travel, especially if it combines with wildlife. One of the most exciting things I've ever done was snorkeling with sharks in the Galapagos. My husband and I have been all over the place from Antarctica and Australia to Zambia and Zanzibar. We are going to Uganda in the hope of seeing gorillas and India to look for tigers in 2018 and I haven't quite decided what we're doing this year although we've already been to Wales (very exotic), Lapland and Spain.

We often ask agents and publishers what they consider to be the next 'big thing' - what do you hope to see in 2017?
I'd like to see some of the quiet books that get overlooked picked up more. One of the books I've really enjoyed this year so far is The Words in My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd as it is exquisite but I've hardly seen it mentioned.

Thanks for having me Ellie. I've really enjoyed taking part.


About Ellie
Ellie Holmes writes commercial women’s fiction with her heart in the town and her soul in the
country. Ellie’s debut release was The Flower Seller. A member of the RNA and the Alliance of Independent Authors, Ellie’s latest book The Tregelian Hoard, set in Cornwall, is the first novella in her Jonquil Jones Mystery Series


Thank you, Ellie and Linda for such an informative interview.

Would you like to write for the RNA Blog? Do you have a book about to be published and want to tell members of your journey? Contact us on

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Joan Hessayon Award Winner: Kate Field

 Joan Hessayon Award winner Kate Field triumphs

with debut novel The Magic of Ramblings

LONDON 18th May 2017: Lancashire-based author Kate Field has triumphed with her contemporary novel The Magic of Ramblings published by Accent Press, for which she has been awarded The Romantic Novelists' Association’s (RNA) prestigious Joan Hessayon Award for new writers. Kate was presented with her award and a cheque for £1,000 at the RNA’s Summer Party, held today at the Royal Overseas League in London.

The Joan Hessayon Award is generously sponsored by gardening expert Dr David Hessayon OBE, in honour of his late wife Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and a great supporter of its New Writers' Scheme.

The judges for the award, which included new RNA Chair Nicola Cornick and outgoing Chair, Eileen Ramsay, were unanimous in their decision to crown The Magic of Ramblings the winner. The book was selected from a list of eleven contenders, all authors whose debut novels have been accepted for publication after passing through the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers Scheme. Each year 250 places are offered to unpublished writers writing in the romance genre.

"The judges agreed that the winning novel was outstanding, and selected it for its warmth and insight. The Magic of Ramblings is a very appropriate title for this book,” said new RNA Chair Nicola Cornick. “It has a beautiful quality of being both poignant and uplifting at the same time. It is totally charming and we loved it.”

Author Kate Field's decision for her heroine, Cassie, to start a community library in the remote Lancashire village of Ramblings was inspired by her own volunteer work with the community library held in her local village hall. She enjoys writing contemporary romance with "a touch of Northern grit", and said, “I’m thrilled to be included on a shortlist that features such talented writers, many of them good friends I have made through the RNA.”
Outgoing RNA Chair Eileen Ramsay said of the shortlist, "This year's list of contenders delighted and engaged us with their writing, and are all to be congratulated.”
She continued, “We offer our special congratulations to Kate Field for her winning novel, a heart-warming story, and worthy winner. "

The full shortlist for 2017 is:

Victoria Cornwall             The Thief’s Daughter                                Choc Lit
Kate Field                              The Magic of Ramblings                        Accent Press
Terri Fleming                       Perception                                                     Orion
Jen Gilroy                              The Cottage at Firefly Lake                  Forever, Grand Central, Hachette
Morton Gray                        The Girl on the Beach                              Choc Lit
Vivien Hampshire            How to Win Back Your Husband      HQ Digital
April Hardy                           Sitting Pretty                                                Accent Press
Emily Kerr                              Who Does He Think He Is?                     Crooked Cat
Abbey MacMunn              Touched                                                           Tirgearr Publishing
Arabella Sheen                  Castell’s Passion                                         Beachwalk Press Inc
Lynda Stacey                       House of Secrets                                          Choc Lit

About the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) and the New Writers’ Scheme

The RNA was formed in 1960 to promote romantic fiction and encourage good writing and now represents more than 700 writers, agents, editors and other publishing professionals.