Like the Queen, I’m fond of an end-of-year address. I may not sit on a throne and wear a crown – but I think sat on my sofa in a onesie, is much more appropriate. And looking back on our 2014 I feel much warmer and happier than the Queen ever seems to, to be honest. What a year!
We relaunched our beautiful website on Valentine’s Day, which also happened to be our 3rd birthday, with a plethora of buns and fizz and kicked off the celebrations with some incredible competitions, courtesy of our fabulous partners, including afternoon tea at our favourite 5* London hotel and a £500 beauty bag and £500 worth of high street shopping vouchers from Cosmopolitan.
We’ve had cracking competitions running all year round haven’t we? I mean, who wouldn’t want to win a 2 night stay in a hotel, or a designer handbag, a year’s supply of make-up, VIP days out to Clothes Show Live, a holiday to France, tickets to see The Saturdays on tour, a goody bag from the Literary Gift Company and not on the high street vouchers? And as you will know, if you follow us on twitter or facebook, we regularly run giveaways and special #WIN opportunities.
And content? Don’t get me started. We’ve bought you exclusive features and articles from the very best women’s fiction authors including Paige Toon, Jane Costello, Patricia Scanlan, Clare Furniss, Ali Harris, Sandra Howard, Melissa Hill, Jodi Picoult interviewing Jennifer Weiner, Richard Madeley, Andy Jones and Santa Montefiore.
We launched our fabulous #TeamMilly gang, which hopefully if all goes to plan; we will be able to expand next year – so even more fans of Milly Johnson can share the joy!
We’ve managed to grab 5 minutes here at Books and the City HQ to podcast with Rebecca Chance, Paige Toon, Ali Harris, Milly Johnson, Melissa Hill, Richard Madeley and Isabelle Broom – and you can listen to these, and all of our soundclouds here on the site.
Our newsletter goes from strength to strength, and we are now offering exclusive chapter samplers, videos and competitions to those lucky chaps who’ve signed up….
We’ve highlighted some of our very favourite Star Books, cracking titles we have published that offer stories to pull at the heart strings, characters to fall in love with, a touch of mystery and intrigue, laughter, loss and happiness….
And we’ve been out and about as well… to the RNA Awards with Milly Johnson and Susan Elliot Wright, taking our Girls on Tour events to Waterstones in Birmingham with Milly, Paige Toon and Ali Harris, a fabulous Stylist event in the City of London with Jane Costello, a very exclusive afternoon tea with Melissa Hill, Literati events at Grosvenor House hotel with Santa Montefiore and Richard Madeley and we even slipped on our heels and slicked on the lipstick to visit Red Bar for a cracking Glitterati event with Ali, Paige and Jane.
And let’s not forget we launched our brand new digitaloriginals project – the search for the next and very best stars of the commercial women’s fiction world… and we literally CAN’T WAIT for you to read The Two of Us, the very first title publishing under this banner. A very limited run of exclusive proofs are on their way to Books and the City HQ, so if you would like to get your hands on one, make sure you look out for #TheTwoOfUs shout outs soon!
And, AND, our latest venture, our Creative Writing Masterclass session that we held here at Books and the City HQ last weekend, where our panel of industry experts – Milly Johnson, agent Lizzy Kremer, Publishing Director Jo Dickinson, Editorial Director Clare Hey, Peter Saxton from Waterstones, Lindsey Mooney from Kobo and Isabelle Broom from heat magazine – offered some brilliant advise, hints and tips for our audience of new writers.
We’ve also hosted a Summer Reading Satisfaction Guaranteed feature on here, asking for your recommendations for the best Summer Reading books to tuck into – you can watch our own video here.
And as well as all that, we’ve also published – from manuscript submission to finished copies on the shelves – some of the best and bestselling women’s fiction titles you’ve enjoyed this year. That’s an awful lot of editing, type setting, jacket designing, planning, branding, scheming, organising, selling, positioning, marketing, publicity and promotion… and it’s been an absolute blast let me tell you!
So, thank you to all our wonderful authors, every single member of @TeamBATC, and YOU for a fabulous 2014. Thank you for seeking out our books on the shelves, for buying, reading and loving them, for sharing your book love all over social media, for connecting with us and our authors, for listening to our podcasts, for coming to our events, for opening our emails, for entering our competitions, for writing your blogs, for filming your vlogs, for reviewing, for requesting, for reading, reading, reading. We would be nothing without you.
So as a thank you treat, I added a gift to my Dear Santa letter, to give to one of you! Santa kindly popped down my chimney early, and delivered this fabulous white Nikon 1 camera to me. And YOU can win it.
So all you need do is this: tell me the one thing you love most about booksandthecity.co.uk. That’s it. I KNOW! Tell me on twitter, tell me via email email@example.com, tell me over on facebook, shout from the rooftop, make me a vine, whisper in my ear, post me a photo, write me a love letter…
I will feature all your comments here on the website during December and the name of everyone who sends me one will be put into The Big Hat of Chance, ready for us to randomly pick a winner on 19th December.
That’s it. Simple. So Happy Christmas you lovely lot. And if you want me, I’ll be knee deep in mince pies, with a pint of Baileys on the go. In a onesie.
The Boy I Love
A Tribute to Lynda
Lynda Bellingham meant so many wondrous things to so many people. Beloved wife, adored mother, loyal friend and a remarkable actor on stage and television, sustaining a wonderful array of roles over several decades.
To us, at Simon & Schuster, Lynda was an author, a novelist at the beginning of an exciting career. She was born to write. She realized her characters and plots and settings with an utterly compelling imagination and vivacity. She wrote of joy and sadness, conflict and union, old and young, past and present, with tenderness and wisdom. Tell Me Tomorrow, her first novel, has three generations of women at its heart – a grandmother, a mother and a daughter – and Lynda dedicated the novel to mothers everywhere. These wonderful characters shone out on every page, to be joined, in The Boy I Love, by an equally memorable and delightful cast.
How fortunate we are to have the full and edited script of The Boy I Love to publish before Christmas. How desperately sad it is that Lynda is no longer with us to unwrap the very first finished copy, then to see the book rise high, high, high in the fiction bestseller list on publication. To smile that wonderful smile, to savour the knowledge that she was being read and appreciated and adored as a writer of fiction. Lynda was a joy to work with, so willing to learn her craft, so full of ideas for future novels. She left us with two superb novels to read and to treasure, and she left us her dreams and hopes, too.
Creative Writing Masterclass
On Saturday 15th November we held our very first (but hopefully not our last!) Creative Writing Masterclass here at Books and the City HQ, aimed specifically at writers of commercial women’s fiction. The day was split into two, with morning one-to-one sessions with editors Jo Dickinson and Clare Hey and afternoon panels for a wider audience with uber literary agent Lizzy Kremer, bestselling author Milly Johnson, Peter Saxton (Publisher Liaison Manager at Waterstones Head Office), Isabelle Broom (Book Reviewer at Heat Magazine) and Lindsey Mooney (Content Lead UK & Ireland from Kobo).
We all had a fabulous time, our Panel Sessions were brilliant – with some cracking hints, tips and advice from the very best in the business, all topped off with fizz and cake at the end of the day. Perfect. Here are just a few of my favourite snaps from the day…
As a very special treat, our VIP Guest Milly Johnson has kindly jotted down her Top 20 Tips for aspiring authors…
- Don’t procrastinate. Dive into that book and make a start on it. Feel the fear and do it. The first 2000 words of a book are easy, the next 98,000 are harder but every word you write is one nearer to that 100,000 target.
- It doesn’t matter what routine you have writing a book; just make sure you have one. Find a system that works for you. There is no right or wrong way.
- Every chapter should progress a plot. There should be no ‘treading water’ just to make up the word count.
- Never start your book with a description – your reader will be comatose before line 10.
- Regional dialect can be really annoying. If you need to use it, sprinkle odd words through the dialogue as if you are seasoning a soup with sage. You don’t need much of it to know it’s there.
- Beware of sloppy research. If you don’t know something find it out and don’t guess it – you will alienate readers.
- If you don’t respect your writing time, no one else will. If you are working, your friends and family should treat you as if you are in an external office. Get them used to thinking like that.
- Make sure that when you are writing dialogue, your characters listen to each other and react to what is being said as they would in real life.
- Always carry a notepad to record interesting words or plots or thoughts or observations. Memories are unreliable and distort.
- Writer’s block? Don’t do a crossword or listen to your iPad or anything that engages your brain. Do some ironing, go for a walk – something that frees up your brain and lets it roam, not occupies it.
- Read. Always have time to read. Read for pleasure and sometimes read analytically. You’ll pick up so much vocabulary and style without even noticing.
- Beware that sometimes characters develop a mind of their own and however much you try to write them doing something, they rebel and say ‘I wouldn’t do this.’ It sounds bonkers but it happens. Listen to the monsters you have created.
- Sometimes big chunks of your work has to be cut out because it doesn’t fit anymore. Better that than have to force it to fit because it won’t read right. Nothing is ever wasted when you’re a writer – it will come in elsewhere. The phrase is called ‘Killing your darlings.’
- Write what you want to write and not what you think will sell. Chances are if a new craze comes along, by the time your book is done, the hype will have died down about it. And don’t pander to foreign markets either by doing things like forcing a transatlantic romance when your heart isn’t really in it. If you’re bored writing, it reads that way. If your home market sales are strong, that is the best way for the foreign markets to show interest. They like success stories.
- If you are writing to an agent – keep your introductory letter relevant. If you won a regional prize for writing – that’s relevant. Telling an agent that you are a middle-aged housewife who loves doing jigsaws is not. Don’t even bother saying that you want a book deal more than you want to breathe – that’s always taken as standard.
- And if you read that an agent should be initially approached with an introductory letter, don’t send them a full manuscript. They won’t think you are an admirable maverick, they’ll think you’re an arrogant idiot who can’t follow a simple instruction!
- Try to make your book fit nicely into a genre box for marketing purposes. A woman who travels through time and has an Edwardian vampire lover whom she accidentally murders with a poisonous mushroom stroganoff… well is that sci-fi, romance, crime, historical or romcom? That will cause everyone a headache, from the booksellers trying to place it on a shelf to the people trying to find it in shops.
- If you get a publishing deal, network network network. Join the RNA, meet other authors, tweet, facebook – get your name out there. Write articles for the local newspaper for free (you have to do everything for free in the beginning). Get in touch with local WI people – they are always looking for speakers. They pay you, feed you scones and buy your books – and spread the word to other WIs.
- If you are published, register as soon as you know what your ISBN number is for PLR, Irish PLR and ALCS (authors licensing and collecting service). It can be a nice chunk of bonus money arriving in your bank account every year.
- Do not go into this job expecting to be an overnight success. It is very hard work, mad, underpaid for years and you are always under pressure to be better than your last book. And if you thrive on that kind of challenge – you’ll never want to do anything else because this is the best job in the world.
The Two of Us
So. Remember we announced our Digitals Originals project a few months ago? And how we were looking for brilliant new novels that we would publish in eBook first?
Well. We are delighted to be able to announce that the first novel we will publish as part of this project is…. wait for it…. drum roll please…. The Two of Us, by Andy Jones, in Spring 2015 – first in eBook and then in paperback a few months later.
And, trust me. You are going to LOVE IT.
The Two of Us tells the story of Fisher and Ivy and is about falling in love and what happens next. It’s a heartbreaking emotional story of love, life and everything in between and manages to be both funny and warm… it’s captivated everyone here at Books and the City Towers, and we just can’t wait for you to read it, and fall in love with Fisher and Ivy.
More news will follow soon, including the cover reveal, sneak peak at the opening chapter and a very exclusive event to meet the man himself!
Stay tuned, follow Andy on twitter and look out for the #TheTwoOfUs news alerts.
Digital Originals news
On 15th July my inbox went into meltdown as #digitaloriginal submissions aplenty pinged through at a rate of knots. If there was a Reading Challenge associated with our #oneday initiative to find the next eBook star of the commercial women’s fiction world, Clare Hey and I would be up on the podium holding aloft a well-deserved Gold medal, as we probably read more novels in the space of six weeks than many people read in a year.
It has to be said, we had to make some difficult decisions regarding the number of novels we’re in a position to acquire as part of this project, as we were completely overwhelmed with entries, but we’ve now responded to everyone who took the time to send us their novel.
Many of the novels we read showed potential, but weren’t quite what we are looking for at this time. Many had an interesting hook and a good cast of characters but didn’t quite fit into the genre. We read a handful of novels by authors with a strong and unique voice, but ultimately the story didn’t grab us in the way we want to be grabbed. We sincerely wish those authors the very best of luck for the future, and we will be keeping a beady eye out to watch their careers flourish!
Some made us both chuckle, or reach for a Kleenex – so we have emailed all of the authors of those novels with, what we hope will be, some useful and constructive feedback.
And a handful of novels blew us both away. They were shared with the wider team and we invited those authors in to @TeamBATC HQ for a chat over a cup of tea and a biscuit.
So thank you to everyone who submitted their novels. And watch this space for some brilliant new authors for you to fall in love with over the next few months.
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I love Christmas. For me it’s always been a time for family, relaxation and reading and if I could go back and live a part of my childhood again I’d choose Christmas time. I’ve got four brothers and a sister and my parents made Christmas the most magical time for …
October 24, 2014. Writing ‘Last Voyage of the Valentina’
October 17, 2014. Andy Jones on ‘The Two of Us’
October 7, 2014. Richard Madeley’s Literati Event on 17th October
August 28, 2014. JODI PICOULT INTERVIEWS JENNIFER WEINER!
August 18, 2014. Paige Toon on next week’s Glitterati evening!
August 12, 2014. Jane Costello on our ‘Glitterati’ Evening!
August 4, 2014. Ali Harris on our first Glitterati evening!
July 7, 2014. New York research for ‘A Gift to Remember’!
July 1, 2014. On Writing ‘Tell the Girl’
June 4, 2014. ‘Have you ever looked back and wondered… “What if”‘?