The Charm Bracelet – Cover Reveal Day!

Hello my lovelies,

I know it’s been a while – because I’m heavily into writing the next book, and mostly vlog nowadays – but I am SO excited today to finally share the cover of my next book with you.

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What do you think? It’s my first novel writing under the new name of Ella Allbright, and is commercial women’s fiction set in Dorset.

Here’s the blurb: –

A moving and heartwarming love story perfect for fans of Me Before You and One Day in December

Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope.

This is the story of her … and the story of Jake.

When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.

So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…

I love the cover so much that I even had my nails done in the same design ❤

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The novel will be published by One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins UK, and while it isn’t out until the summer, it can be pre-ordered now at several retailers. If you do pre-order now, you’ll get it for the displayed price even if it increases between now and publication day. And the ebook is currently ONLY 99p!

 

Ebook: Out 21 August 2020

Amazon – https://amzn.to/3a1kroG

Kobo – https://bit.ly/2w0e32r

Google Play – http://bit.ly/3a4wjpQ

 

Paperback: Out 12 November 2020

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Charm-Bracelet-Ella-Allbright/dp/0008386579

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-charm-bracelet/ella-allbright/9780008386573

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the cover and blurb 🙂

In the meantime, happy reading & writing,

Nikki xx

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The Decade That Rocked (aka Don’t Give Up!)

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Hello my lovelies,

I hope you had a great festive season and are all hyped up about 2020! It’s that time of year again when we look back over the past 12 months, think about our achievements and then about our dreams for the coming year. The end of 2019 was all the more poignant as it marked the end of a decade, and I’ve seen loads of Facebook posts about 2009 vs 2019 and how the decade unravelled for people.

For me, the last decade has held it’s ups and downs, whether personal, professional (the day job) or writing wise. I’m the type of person who likes to think of set backs as opportunities for growth, and the 2010’s have been no exception. In that time my son has finished primary school and is now in Year 10 of secondary school, and my daughter has finished education, pursued a career in childcare and turns 20 this month (!!) Luckily my children are happy and healthy, and I’m proud to have played a part in that. I have gone through a separation and divorce, suffered significant bereavements, moved house twice, moved jobs four times for promotion, met my Fiancé Mark and celebrated his 30th birthday with him in Miami, turned 40, got engaged, attended weddings, christenings, dinners (basically seen the lives of my family and friends flourish), holidayed in Florida and Malta, had road trips across Europe, and added a gorgeous beagle to our family. The list goes on… but what has been constant are my writing dreams, which I am close to fulfilling.

 

 

It was in 2010 that I started writing seriously to get published. That year, I won two writing competitions and sent my first manuscript off to the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme. From there I carried on writing novels and refining them as I got critiques, started this blog, started making connections with the writing community until at the RNA Conference in 2013 I met my now Editor at HarperCollins, Charlotte Ledger, who later offered me a four work contract. Since then, I’ve had three short stories, five novellas and two novels published. In 2019 I signed with a literary agent, Hattie Grunewald at The Blair Partnership (the agency who represent none other than J K Rowling), and set up a YouTube channel to start vlogging about getting published. I finished full edits on my next book just before Christmas – a women’s commercial fiction novel set in Dorset – which will be published by One More Chapter in 2020 under the pen name Ella Allbright.  I’m currently working on my next book with Hattie.

But I’m not boasting. None of this has happened easily; it has taken blood, sweat, tears, a good amount of angst and many hours to write those stories and get them published, especially around a full-time day job. I have still not achieved what I want to, which is earn enough from writing to reduce the day job to part-time hours. I am hopeful that with enough hard work and a bit of luck, I’ll manage that this decade. For now I say this to you; if you have a writing dream, don’t give up. Keep going. Write that short story, or novel, polish it, get advice, submit it, and take every knock as a sign of success, because it means you’re trying. And when it comes to fulfilling your dreams, that is half the battle. Be strong, be determined, be brave. Good luck!

 

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Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

Until next time, happy reading & writing. Love, Nikki xx

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year 2019! What Will You Do?

Hello my lovelies and a Happy New Year to you,

I hope that your Christmas and New Year was amazing and that 2019 has been kind to you so far. What are you hoping for this year? Love, health and happiness, or that seemingly unobtainable publishing contract? Or maybe you simply want to complete the 100 book challenge, or just get started on the story that’s been prodding your brain for a while? Perhaps like me, you’d settle for finally typing ‘The End’ on the current manuscript that’s been your life for the last two years!

Early January is always a time for reflection, for looking back over the past year and looking forward to what the next one will bring. When I started thinking about what 2018 held for me, I initially thought it had been a year of highs and lows. But in reality, when I went through all my social media time-feeds and saw all the photos of the things I’d done or been a part of (thank god for Facebook, otherwise I’d forget half of it) I realised it was a brilliant year, full of far more highs than I’d imagined. Sure, I’m kicking myself that I sadly neglected this blog over the past few months, and that the latest book is still not finished, and we sadly had a bereavement in the family a month ago, but overall it was SO positive. And I’ve realised I have a lot to be thankful for.

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During 2018: –

  • We saw six lovely couples get married (Nick Frost was at one of the weddings, yes, Nick Frost the actor. Btw, he was a gentleman.)
  • Welcomed several friends’ new babies 🙂
  • I went on an incredibly fun hen weekend to London (got to be a Spice Girl and do a bus tour, singing at the tops of our voices)
  • The lovely boyfriend and I had more of the great trips that we’re famous for amongst our friends – Isle of Wight; Brownsea Island; Newquay (it snowed in March!); Port Isaac; Southern Italy and France…
  • Had an incredible family holiday in Florida
  • I moved jobs (and am VERY happy)
  • We moved house on 22nd December (yes, I know!) and had Christmas in our new home
  • The #LOVELONDON series was published as ebooks in Italy during May & June
  • I went on a writing retreat and wrote 25,00 words in 5 days, bringing my total word count written in 12 months to 40,000
  • Went to Birmingham German Christmas Market (annual tradition)
  • I was in the December issue of Dorset Living talking about my new book
  • Celebrated my daughter’s 18th birthday and my son’s 13th birthday (yes, it made me feel old)
  • Took my boyfriend to Miami to celebrate his 30th birthday
  • Went on a Jaguar driving day
  • Read tons of cracking books, including (my aunt) Sue Moorcroft’s A Christmas Gift and One Summer in Italy 
  • Went to the Romantic Novelists’ Association Winter Party in London
  • Helped my last employer win a national award

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Having realised what an exciting year 2018 was has made me even more excited about 2019. Generally, I don’t make new years’ resolutions because invariably there are too many and after two or so weeks I let them lapse and then feel guilty. So instead I’ve simply decided that I will achieve the following this year:

  • Be an even better friend, daughter, mother, girlfriend to those around me
  • Strive to take notice of my happiness more often and be thankful for what I have, and what I get to experience
  • Blog more often
  • Finish my book

Simples, right? So, what about you? What will you do in 2019? I hope you get everything you wish for.

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki x

 

 

Writing Tip #15 – Preparing for Submission

Hello my lovelies,

It’s another glorious sunny weekend and happily I get to spend the day writing 🙂 In the last blog post, we talked about whether to go the agent or publisher route when deciding who to send your beautiful baby aka manuscript (MS) off to. As predicted, this caused a lot of debate (particularly on the closed RNA group on Facebook) and it’s been fascinating to hear about the different journeys that authors have been on to get published, whether it’s agent first or publisher first, or in some cases no agent or publisher at all, and simply going it alone (aka self-publishing) and happy to stay that way…

So now that you’ve decided who to send your manuscript to, and it’s fully polished and perfectly presented, here are my top tips for submitting: –

  • Do your research

You need to make sure that when you send your MS off (a) it’s to someone who is open to submissions (b) that they’re looking for something in your genre/publish your genre and (c) that you send them exactly what they’re asking for (see point below).

You can Google this if you want, and track people/companies down, however this could take a long time. To minimise hours spent online, The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook is a great help as it contains listings of publishers and agents, along with useful essays and articles on writing https://www.amazon.co.uk/Writers-Artists-Yearbook-2018-ebook/dp/B071ZJBNT8

Writing Magazine normally also has listings of publishers currently open to submissions in their ‘Writer’s News’ section. Looking in the acknowledgments section of the books written by your favourite authors/the best-sellers in your chosen genre can be a great shout, as authors will often thank their agents or commissioning editors. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, you can follow agents and publishers to get a flavour for what they’re looking for, or if they’re looking at all. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help and recommendations for publishers or agents on social media. On the whole, authors are open to questions and happy to help others who are at the beginning of their writing journey. There is room enough for everyone, and readers will devour thousands of books in their lifetime!

Finally, when you have found the right people and have shortlisted 5 – 6 people to submit to (unless you’ve decided to send off to only one at a time; but in this case be warned you could be waiting a long time to get published!) then find their website and have a read. If there are any tips or hints they’ve posted about submitting to them, read these carefully so that you can…

  • Give them what they want

Traditionally, the submission package you need to send out, whether by email or hard copy in the post (though email is much more common nowadays) is made up of three elements (a) covering letter/email (b) synopsis (outline of the whole book) and (c) first three chapters (or occasionally, the first xx pages).

It’s so important when submitting that you stick to whatever guidelines the agent or publisher has supplied. On the path to publication, you will have enough hurdles to jump over as it is without getting in your own way by sending them the wrong information/overly long submissions etc and annoying them. Ignoring their guidelines may look like either a lack of discipline or a lack of care, and that’s not what you want them to think of you!

  • Be brave

Getting ready to submit is also about mindset. Putting the practicalities aside, it’s a scary thought – and exciting too – that someone you’ve never met before, who knows their business, is going to read your book. So you’ve got to be brave to do this – I also call this ‘putting my big girl pants on’ 🙂  I’m not afraid to admit that I always used to find submissions daunting, and even now if I’m discussing a new book idea with my lovely Editor, I still get nervous. I think that’s normal and healthy. We are so heavily invested in our books because we put so much time, energy and emotions into them, that of course we want everyone to love them. They are deeply personal and we want to world to coo over our beautiful book baby. Knowing this might not be the case, and that an agent or editor may come back with a ‘No’ (if you hear anything back at all) can be a bitter pill to swallow… BUT if you want to be published, that’s part of the package. And if you don’t try, you’ll never know. So you have to push yourself, and send those submissions out. If you don’t want to tell family, friends or colleagues what you’re up to, then don’t. Do what feels comfortable for you. Hopefully you can then stun and amaze them all with some great news!

  • Be prepared for rejection

Along with the need to be brave, you also need to accept that you may get rejected. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to make you doubt yourself. It’s going to frustrate you, and let’s be honest, when you read about someone’s new six figure publishing deal, it’s going to make you seethe silently and grind your teeth. But you can’t let it cripple your confidence. Rejection is a natural part of being a writer. How many stories are there of best-selling authors who received rejection after rejection before making it big? Stephen King used to paper his walls with rejection letters.  J.K. Rowling is no stranger to this; Harry Potter was rejected by c. 36 publishing houses before Bloomsbury picked it up. And look at it now – movies, spin-offs, theme parks, merchandise…

So, however long it takes to recover from a rejection, whether it’s a day, week or month, you MUST keep going. You can’t give up. You have to keep sending that submission out; one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt along the way is that persistence pays.

So, are you ready to take the next step? Do you think I’ve missed anything? Comment below!

Look out for some future blog posts on writing a brilliant covering letter, and writing a synopsis (in my experience, you’ll either love or hate the latter!)

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki x

Writing Tip #14 – Agent or Publisher?

Hello my lovelies,

After a great few sunny weeks, the sky has turned grey, but I hear that summer will be back soon 🙂 In the last writing tips post, I covered the wonders of constructive criticism, in order to make your book baby as brilliant and beautiful as it possibly can be. And let’s be clear, you should definitely NOT submit your partial manuscript (MS) to anyone until you’re totally satisfied with it’s quality and presentation.

So, once it is ready, what do you do before sending it out? Well, first you should decide whether you want to get an agent who will do the legwork for you, or if you’re going to approach publishers directly, usually through a commissioning editor or submission inbox. I think it’s better to pick one rather than submit to both at the same time. This is because you run the risk of either: –

  •  An agent taking you on and then approaching publishers, only to find that they’ve already seen the partial MS (and potentially rejected it), leaving nowhere for them to go;

Or

  • If you’ve approached a publisher directly saying you’re unagented, and they ask to see the whole MS and later make you an offer, but in the meantime you’ve found yourself an agent who suddenly steps into negotiations, you run the risk of annoying said publisher…

Agent or publisher is probably one of the most talked about topics among authors; the timeless debate. It’s rare that I’ve been to a writing event, or been part of a Fb group or forum, and not heard a discussion about this. To be honest, there are pros and cons to both, and as with everything writing related, it’s a matter of personal style and what you’re looking for.

Agents are (in summary) professionals who spend their days submitting books, negotiating contracts, meeting with publishers, and building relationships in the publishing world. They can be seen as ‘gate keepers’ aka only putting the best and most relevant manuscripts in front of editors/publishers. The best agent will work on your manuscript with you, and give you advice on your writing career and the direction to go in. They’ll always think about the bigger picture, and see you as a brand to be marketed – they’ll be aiming for longevity, so not just this book but the next five – and will care passionately about your stories, and believe in you. They’ll get you the best deal they can, in terms of rights, royalties, and PR/marketing. They should be your champion and your advocate, but above all they should be confident in what they do and be honest with you. They should also be willing to work on future manuscripts with you, even if they can’t sell the current one. It’s a partnership, and you must be able to work professionally together, so getting on with your agent is a must. It’s a bit like a romantic relationship – you have to fall a little in love!

In return for their hard work, they’ll take a percentage of any money you make from writing (normally 10-20% although I’ve seen other figures quoted). They may also expect you to move your career in a direction you weren’t planning on/might not be comfortable with. This really does come down to individual agents, because as in any industry there’s a range of okay, good and amazing.  So, if you decide to follow this route, do your research before you start submitting. (More on this in the next writing tips post). Also, be aware that at the moment it’s very difficult to get an agent!

On the other hand, if you approach publishers directly and get offered a deal, any money you make (the percentage of the royalties as agreed in your contract and the advance if you get one [which is usually offset against future royalties]) is yours to keep. You can also deal with your editor directly without anyone else being involved, and may get to know more about your publisher’s future plans etc. A few of the major publishers are currently accepting direct submissions, (including quite a few of the HarperCollins imprints) and most of the smaller publishers will have a submission inbox. BUT be aware that you will be up against hundreds, if not thousands, of other people who are directly submitting to the ‘slush pile’ – a derogatory sounding but commonly used term for unrequested submissions – and it can be tough to stand out from the crowd. (Tips on how to do this will be in my next post). The other thing to consider is that when you’re negotiating with the publisher directly on any contract, as an unagented author you are more likely to get a ‘boiler plate’ contract with standard terms, which aren’t as good as an agent may have secured for you.

Personally, I don’t think there’s any right or wrong. My writing path to date has been unagented. My first commercial publication (in the RNA Mills & Boon anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply featuring best-selling authors such as Katie Fforde, Adele Parks and Miranda Dickinson) came about through a submission process through the Romantic Novelists Association, and my HarperImpulse titles because I submitted to my lovely editor Charlotte as part of the RNA summer conference (which offers 1:1 appointments with editors and agents).

I’ve been very happy with this to date, although I’ve had a few near misses with agents wishing to represent me, where ultimately I decided against it because of the genre they wanted me to write in. Sometimes it’s a question of head versus heart… However, at the moment I’m seriously thinking about finding an agent, because I’m ready to take the next step and branch out in different directions, so I’ll let you know what I decide and how I get on 🙂

Lastly, don’t forget that your writing career is flexible. If you decide to get an agent first, you don’t have to stay with them forever, and likewise if you go with a publisher first, you can always look for an editor later on.  I know lots of authors who are published under different pen names for different genres, and are agented for one genre and unagented for others. The thing is, if you’re willing to work hard and persevere, doors will open if you go and knock on them!

So what do you think? Agent or Publisher? And if you’re already published, have you done one or the other, or both? Share your experience below…

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki x

P.s. in case you’re wondering, the building in the photo on the left is the HarperCollins news building, taken when I met my editor recently 🙂

 

 

The Best of Florida (in Pictures)

Hello my lovelies,

the time is flying by and I can’t believe it’s already ten days since I got back from Florida. It really was amazing and we had so much fun staying in a villa (with a pool and hot tub) in Kissimmee, with numerous visits to the Disney Parks and an unforgettable afternoon at Universal Studios (including three of my personal favourite rides – Transformers, Harry’s Potter: The Forbidden Journey, and the Jurassic Park River Adventure; the latter is must scarier than it sounds).

We also visited Cocoa Beach a couple of times, and it was balmy and beautiful with clear blue waters, and for my boyfriend’s 30th birthday I rented a Ford Mustang GT and we drove to Miami for a couple of days to take in the nightlife, art district and go on an unforgettable speedboat ride, where we saw jaw- dropping celebrity houses on Star Island. We had an absolute blast and if you ever have the time (and the money) I highly recommend a trip to Florida. Alternatively, if you’ve ever been, what are your favourite places and memories?

Here are my best bits of Florida in pictures, from the first sunset to Disney Springs to waving goodbye to Cocoa Beach (I won’t lie, I nearly cried when we had to come home!)

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki x

Publication Day – #LoveLondon Novellas come to Italy!

Hello my lovelies,

I’m very excited this morning because I get to blog about a publication day! It’s been a while since the last story in the #LoveLondon collection was published in the UK and made available across all the English speaking platforms, so I’d almost forgotten the thrill you get when your book is released. I must confess that during the years leading up to securing a publication deal, I never dared to dream that I’d ever sell foreign rights, so I’m still pinching myself 🙂

So, what’s going on? Well, the five novellas from the #LoveLondon collection are in a volume 1 ebook released today under the HarperCollins Italia eLit brand (including on Amazon Italy and Google Play) under the title Innamorarsi a Londra – doesn’t that sound wonderfully romantic? Loosely translated, it means ‘fall in love in London.’ And the fact that these stories are in a new language in a country I have my origins in, makes this extra special. My maternal grandmother was Italian and moved to France when she was young, so it’s nice that my first foreign rights deal is for Italy. France next, please! 😉

The five novellas, in order, although they can be read as ‘stand alones’ are Skating at Somerset House, New Year at The Ritz, Valentine’s on Primrose Hill, Cocktails in Chelsea and Strawberries at Wimbledon. They each have a slightly different twist on love stories i.e. the one that got away (aka Strawberries at Wimbledon), love that grows from friendship (aka Valentine’s on Primrose Hill) and are set in my favourite places in our gorgeous capital. Hopefully these stories are going to find a brand new batch of readers and they’ll fall in love with London as much as I have.

I’m delighted to reveal the cover here – it’s very similar in tone to the newer UK covers for the novellas and I absolutely love it. Thoughts please?

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The novel that finishes the collection, Picnics in Hyde Park, will be released as volume 2 as an ebook in Italy later in June under the title Picnic a Hyde Park (I’ll refrain from translating that for you!) and I’ll be revealing the cover closer to the time 🙂

Until next time (when I’ll be back with a blog post about the wonderful sights and sounds of Orlando and Miami, before reverting back to my usual writing tips posts), happy reading and writing.

Love, Nikki x

P.s. if you know anyone who reads in Italian and want to give them a nudge, I’d appreciate the sale! The amazon link is https://www.amazon.it/Innamorarsi-Londra-eLit-London-Collection-ebook/dp/B07D4MCH56 – thank you!

 

 

Writing Tip #1 – Read a lot!

Hello my lovelies,

I don’t know about you, but I was so glad to see the sunshine yesterday; I always feel much happier when it’s sunny, and find it easier to write too 🙂

Following the lovely response to my last blog post about when to say no to a publishing deal, I thought I’d do a series of blog posts for aspiring authors. I’m by no means a bestselling author, and I haven’t hit the dizzy heights of a mass paperback deal, but I have done my time as a budding author trying to get that elusive publishing deal, so I thought I’d share the benefit of those experiences with others to help them along the way. The support of other writers has always been really important to me, and I have no doubt that all those titbits of advice I absorbed over social media, through conversations in closed forums (such as the Romantic Novelists Association forum ROMNA), and by chatting at writing industry parties, helped me massively on my journey to publication. So, here goes…

Tip #1 – READ. A LOT.

I know this might seem counterintuitive – after all, if you’re reading all the time, when are you going to have time to write? – but don’t underestimate the importance of reading widely and well. This will expand your thinking as well as improving your vocabulary and grammar (as long as you’re reading quality books!). I’ve always been a massive bookworm, and love to read. If I can transport my readers into another world in the same way that my favourite authors can for me, then I’m happy. My bookcase is heaving with a mixture of genres, from non-fiction writing craft books to romance to psychological thrillers to literary fiction. I honestly think that my love of reading has made a big difference to my writing, injecting my books with passion and colour.

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More importantly, you should read in the genre you are going to write in. This will help you understand what a successful book in that genre looks and feels like. I’m not talking about reading books in your chosen genre in order to copy them, or steal ideas or emulate them; no-one wants a carbon copy of a book they have read before, and if you don’t then inject your unique voice and passion into it, it’ll fall flat. What I’m talking about is reading books in order to grasp what the important elements are, such as: –

  • Plotting – What is the story about? What are the core elements?
  • Structure – How is the story structured? I.e. long or short paragraphs and chapters; use of devices such as diary entries, emails, tweets; flitting between current day and the past, or between multiple viewpoints etc.
  • Pacing – How does the story unfold? What tools does the author use to slow down or speed up the story?
  • Description – How does the author create a vibrant atmosphere so that you feel you can step into the pages? I.e. visuals, use of the five senses etc.
  • Characterisation (including point of view) – How does the author make the characters three-dimensional? How do they create a main character that you can live inside the head of, and are rooting for?
  • Dialogue – How does the author create natural sounding dialogue that carries the story forward, instead of bogging it down? How do they use dialogue tags to create action i.e. rather than just adding ‘he said,’ and ‘she said’ after every bit of dialogue? How do they use dialogue to add depth to the characterisation?
  • Showing not telling – On the whole, how does the author communicate the story to you? I.e. ‘Jack slammed his fists on the worktop’ (rather than, ‘Jack was angry.’) etc.

The above isn’t an exhaustive list, but should give you a starter for ten 🙂

Personally, I read books on two levels – one with my writer/editor hat on, ‘That’s an interesting way to do it, that works, I can see what s/he has done there, I didn’t like that bit of description – why not?’ and one with my reader hat on, ‘Wow, I’m hooked, what a great story, I should be going to bed but I’m going to keep reading instead.’ (BTW, I know that a book is particularly good if my writer/editor hat disappears altogether and I stop noticing the writing techniques). Try it and see how you get on; I’ve been amazed by the useful things I’ve come up with that I’ve then applied to my own writing. In fact, after reading a brilliant book by Lisa Jewell, Then She Was Gone, I have just changed one of my character’s viewpoints from first to third person in a multiple viewpoint book, to help create a different ‘voice’ and it now works much better.

Let me know how you get on 🙂 I’d love to hear from you if you found this post useful, and I’m around on Twitter if you fancy a chat via @NikkiMoore_Auth

The next top tip is coming soon! Until then, happy reading and writing.

Love, Nikki x

When to say ‘No’ to a Publishing Deal (A post to #AspiringAuthors)

Hello my lovelies,

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I hope you’re all well. Spring has sprung and we’ve dealt with some ridiculously surreal snow over the last few weeks, but I’m pleased to say that the daffodils are out and more daylight is beckoning.

Over the weekend, I was talking to a friend about my journey to publication. In the course of that, thinking about how I started writing short stories during my English GCSE with great encouragement from my teacher, before moving onto A ‘levels with the prospect of reading English at Loughborough uni looming in the background,  I realised that the publishing deal I ended up accepting was actually the third offer I received. Which got me thinking about when it’s right to say no to a publishing deal, and how I might share that advice with aspiring authors. So brace yourselves; it’s a long post…

I first started writing seriously when I was in my early twenties, as a single mother sitting up with a word processor in the small hours of the morning to get some quiet time. I joined the Romantic Novelists Association for a year and wrote a couple of shorter category romances aimed at Mills & Boon (I don’t say that lightly; it was blood, sweat and tears and I had very little idea of what I was doing) and got some lovely feedback with a ‘thanks, but no thanks, but please send us your next book,’ to both manuscripts. So, being the impatient novice that I was, I repackaged one of them and sent the first few chapters off to a new publisher I’d just heard off, headed up by an author from a well-known romance publishing house. Following my submission, she gave me lots of positive feedback – which believe me, when you are trying to get published is like absolute GOLD DUST – and suggested that if I rewrote the book in line with her many suggestions, a deal would be on the table. This was it, I thought, stardom beckoned, I was going to be a world-wide best seller! Except… except…

Look, I’m not precious about my writing; it’s part of a writer’s lot to get feedback and act on it, when it feels right to. I went through the fantastic Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme for three years which included some bracing constructive criticism (which after a bit of weeping and wailing, I totally took into account, later resulting in my much improved debut novel). I’m always eager to hear my lovely editor Charlotte’s thoughts on the latest work in progress and I’d say I use at least 85% of it to make changes to the manuscript, and would have to feel very strongly about something not to take it on board. However, the changes that first publisher wanted me to make to the book to get a deal, in terms of character and storyline, were so radical that it wouldn’t have been my story anymore. I felt uncomfortable and worse, that I would be miserable rewriting it. And if there’s anything I’ve learnt from being published over the last four years, it’s that while you need to write to market and consider the commercial angle, more than anything you have to write what makes you happy. So, I kindly and politely thanked the publisher for the feedback and declined the rewrite. She thanked me in turn, and asked me to send her any future manuscripts.

Was it a mistake to turn down the rewrite and potential deal? Was I being a literary snob or a difficult author? I wondered at the time, but intuitively felt I’d done the right thing. There were no hard feelings and the door was still open. However, the books I later saw published by them weren’t the best quality and I seriously disliked the covers. The publishing house went out of business a year or so later, so I’ve never actually regretted the decision.

Fast forward a few years, during which I’d put my writing aside to pursue a Human Resources career, gain more qualifications and have another child, I started writing again in 2010 after a serious illness. After rejoining the RNA New Writers Scheme, and being finalist in a few writing competitions, I submitted a partial manuscript to a small American romance publisher in around 2012. Receiving some great feedback from the editor, with a request for some small tweaks which I made without hesitation, a deal was on the table. They wanted to publish my book! This was it. Best seller stardom, royalties, fans etc. As you can tell, I had a massively naive view of publishing back then 🙂 The feeling of elation was incredible… But at that point, my sensible side kicked in. I’ve always made my decisions based on a mixture of research and facts, and considered reflection, with a little dollop of gut instinct. So I did some digging on the publishing house at a writing festival I went to, speaking with their published authors and other aspiring authors who’d heard of them. The feedback, overwhelmingly, was that the publishers were lovely people and nice to work with, however the sales of books would be extremely low, potentially non-existent. My gut instinct was that this wasn’t my time and this wasn’t the route to take. If I had poor books sales, it might hurt my ability to sell future books to other publishers or agents. So, I took the stupid/brave decision to decline very politely and moved on.

Another two years passed, in which I attended RNA parties and conferences, worked on the next book, submitted manuscripts to the New Writers Scheme, read books about writing craft and the publishing world, wrote small articles for the RNA’s magazine ‘Romance Matters’, and utilised my lovely aunt’s huge writer’s brain and generous spirit in the quest for more constructive feedback (Author Sue Moorcroft – she has given me SO much brilliant writing advice over the years, and if you haven’t read any of her books, you’re missing out. Go and buy one. Now!). Then at a Romantic Novelists Association conference in July 2013, I met Charlotte Ledger, who was part of newly created HarperImpulse, the digital first romance imprint of HarperCollins. I’d sent her the first chapter of a book ahead of my 1:1 meeting with her on the Sunday of the conference, the ‘hangover’ slot, given that the Saturday night always includes a fancy dinner and lots of wine. I had the best 10 minutes with her that morning, in which she told me she loved my voice and would read anything I wrote, really liked the book and wanted to see the rest of it. I was amazed, delighted, gobsmacked. We talked about the book, and where it was heading, and we got on as if we’d known each other for years. I confessed that the book wasn’t quite finished, or as polished as I’d like it to be, before she saw it. I asked if I could have some time to work on it, before sending it to her, and Charlotte said the magic word – yes. And then, because she and Kim Young had said in a HarperImpulse presentation the previous day that they’d consider any length of story, so long as it was great writing, I pitched two romance short stories to her, and she told me to send them over. When I left the conference I was floating on air. I had the best feeling.

I sent Charlotte the short stories in the week I got home, and worked hard over the next few months to finish the book she’d seen the first few chapters of. It was a difficult time, during the breakdown of my marriage; I was doing everything I could to make sure my kids were okay, and to hold down my demanding day job. But we were slowly getting through it, when in the October Charlotte sent me an email I still have saved in my inbox, asking when would be a good time to talk? THIS was it. It was The Call I’d been waiting for, I knew it 🙂

When we spoke a few evenings later, she offered me a four work deal (any four writing pieces, whether novel, novella or short story), and said lots of lovely things that I promptly forgot because I was so excited. We agreed she’d email me the contract and all the details, and I asked for a couple of days to consider it all. It was probably a bit of a gutsy move, but at the end of the day you’re entering into a business relationship and legally binding contract, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into and if you can be happy together.  Charlotte was great, and encouraged me to talk to other HarperImpulse authors. I promptly did so, and was thrilled with what I heard. I was also impressed with the fact that authors got input into their book covers, which is rare, and also spoke to my aunt about the terms they were offering me. The next day, I emailed Charlotte to accept the contract, and I have never regretted it. It was the best decision I could have made. Two short stories, two novels, and five novellas later, I’m currrently working on the next book, an epic love story, and looking back on it, my writing journey makes complete sense. Now I think that maybe it’s a bit like a good romance; the main character often has to say no to a few Mr Wrongs, before finding Mr (or Mrs) Right.

So, if you’re trying to get published – work hard, keep writing, take the knock backs in your stride, consider your options, and don’t be afraid to say no. Who knows what you’ll end up saying yes to?

Until next time, happy reading and writing.

Love, Nikki x

 

No to New Year’s Resolutions

Hello my lovelies,

it’s been too long! As ever, life gets in the way of all of my good intentions to blog more often  – but I hope you all had a great Christmas and a very Happy New Year with your loved ones, and that 2018 (still can’t believe it’s 2018) has been amazing so far.

I made a conscious decision not to make New Year’s Resolutions this year. I’ve done it so many times in the past, and usually by the third or fourth week of January I run out of steam and am then disappointed in myself and feel demotivated – which is then an easy excuse not to bother having any goals at all… Anyone else?

I got to thinking more about it after a conversation with my colleague in the day job, after asking if he had any New Year’s Resolutions (thank you, George). His response was that he didn’t set himself any, because if he wanted to do something he would just do it. I thought it was a great reply, and thinking about it, why should you set yourself rules for your dreams or aspirations? Why should they only be tied into January for the year ahead? As Nike would say – Just Do It!  In terms of my writing journey, It’s certainly a value I’ve lived by.  I’ve pushed myself, worked hard, picked myself up and in some cases have been in the right place at the right time… Basically, I’ve just kept going until I’ve got to where I want to be – honestly, I still have a way to go – and I can definitely say that it’s been an ongoing effort and none of my writing achievements can be attributed to New Year’s Resolutions in any one year.

Living by values that I believe in – respect, compassion, hard work – has always been a big thing for me, and so I’ve decided that if I just keep living my values in everything I do,  then I’ll be living a life I can be proud of, and can follow my dreams. I’ll keep writing, and reading, and loving. That thought fills me with excitement. The consultancy I work for have some great values – Committed, Caring, Courageous – and I caught Cinderella (2015) over Christmas and love the scene where her mother instills some life lessons in her, ‘Have courage and be kind.’ You can watch it here if you like 🙂 https://youtu.be/9zaHst0aNCU

What about you? Any New Year’s Resolutions? Or any values you might live by instead? What do you want to achieve, and how are you going to get there? Good luck 🙂

I’m off to keep working on the new book, and hope to be using the #amwriting hashtag a lot this year…

Until next time, Happy Reading & Writing.

Love, Nikki x