Tag Archives: authorship

The trials and tribulations of a Welsh writer

I have often been exasperated by the way booksellers classify my books. They tend to work to set parameters and the Reso can easily fit into several categories, so in some book listings it appears as fiction: young adult, in others as general fiction. I’ve even seen it in a section on social issues: young people!

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In truth, all of these are technically correct. Others would be equally appropriate such as  fiction: Wales, fiction: historical (it is disconcerting to realise that what appears to you as your short life to date, is now generally considered as an historical time span!) fiction: the sixties.

Unfortunately the way a book is classified can also have an impact on sales because readers tend to concentrate on the sections they know and will never find books in other sections, unless by recommendations. This is what makes recommendations so powerful and valuable. Thank you so much to all those people who took the trouble to write something on a website about how they enjoyed the books, it is biggest compliment you can pay to an author and keeps me positive and writing.

A back-handed compliment which really frustrates me is the reader who tells me that they enjoyed the book immensely, and that they have passed it round the family and everyone enjoyed it immensely as well! I’m not looking to make my fortune from writing, so few people do, but I would like some recompense for the hundreds of hours spent researching, writing, re-drafting and publishing the books. If you love a book, any book, try to encourage the author a little more by buying a couple of copies for birthday or Christmas presents.

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Regarding making my fortune from writing, a few statistics will soon disabuse that notion. If you take all the fiction books published in the UK in a single year it amounts to almost a million. The average number of copies sold per book is 18! That means from J K Rowling, who sells millions, down to me who sells a few less, 18 is the number of copies that the average book sells.

There are few fortunes to be made in publishing your writing – so it is best to write because you enjoy doing so or because you think you have something important to say about humanity. I am in the first camp.

The top-selling books tend to come from established writers with agents, big publishing houses and massive marketing budgets. There are also the best sellers from ‘celebrities’ ghost written for them to give them another income stream and promoted shamelessly on television chat shows. Not that I’m bitter!

For the rest of us, it is rather like the lottery… you have to be in it to win it, but the chance of making a living, let alone a fortune from writing, is very remote indeed. I console myself with the thought that when I die, something will live on beyond me and will consistently fail to provide an income stream for the beneficiaries of my Will. 

Having originally gone through a publisher to have a professional endorsement of my writing, I made the decision to self-publish through a company called Lightning Source, part of the Ingram Group. This allowed me to cut costs and to take out the publisher from the trough. Even so, I receive about 1.40 in pounds sterling for every book I sell, the rest is accounted for from set up and production costs.

There is a line of reasoning that suggests you should set the book cost level as low as possible so as to maximise sales.   5 pounds is often seen as a critical price point for fiction books, which is why so many retail at 4.99.  However, this assumes that you have a budget to promote your book so that it can compete in the crowded 4.99 market. I don’t have a marketing budget. I am in the Catch 22 situation of knowing that to maximise book sales I need to market the book but I can’t market the book until I have generated enough sales to justify a marketing budget, which I can’t do until… round and round it goes!

That leaves this blog and sites such as Linked In on which to promote the books. The secret here is to segment the market by exploiting the different categories a book will appear in. My books are time bound to the sixties, the seventies and the eighties respectively so I would do well to find niche markets for such writing. Similarly my books have a Welsh setting and there are active Welsh communities overseas to which my writing is recounting their youth, or making a wider cultural connection.

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In this context, no-one has been more helpful than Ceri Shaw and the team at Americymru  and Eto magazine for bringing my work to a large expatriate community in the United States and Canada. The Welsh appear to be great networkers so that the Americymru  connection has led to Australian, New Zealand and South African sales – just leaving the Patagonian  market to crack!

There is support for Welsh writers in the form of bursaries and writing camps under the auspices  of Literature Wales, but these, quite rightly, focus on writers writing in Wales and debut authors. I wish I had known that when starting out on my debut book!

For the most part this has been a dismal article of trials and tribulations, so I feel I muse end on a positive note. Nothing quite prepares you to have people share their memories with you and tell you that you brought back to life things half-remembered or forgotten.

My favourite reader comment was from a Principal of a Welsh primary school. He could not have pleased me more when he said, ‘I see a lot of young Dylan Thomas in your writing.’ I’m assuming he was referring to stylistic qualities and not plagiarism!

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Where to find the Reso Trilogy Books

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If you are looking to buy a Reso Trilogy book, ake sure the publisher is JLB Learning Innovation.

If it shows Kings Hart Books, my former publisher, the company stopped trading a few years back and the book will be unavailable through them.

Probably the cheapest route to buying them is through Amazon marketplace, but nothing beats ordering them from an independent publisher.

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Having been vindicated by a publisher picking up the books, which for me suggested there was some value in them, and it wasn’t simply a vanity project, I decided to embark on self-publishing on a print on demand basis. I would recommend it for new writers as the big players like Ingram Spark cover all the incidental costs and help with marketing.

In theory, my books should always be available as long as you look for them under the publisher JLB Learning innovation. If you look under Kings Hart, you are likely to be disappointed.

The Reso - A Sixties Childhood

 

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Letter to home…

 

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It is October 2nd 1975. Carrying heavily laden cases, I’m on my way to University in York for the first time. The A level results had gone particularly well and I managed to get into my first choice of University.

My mum insisted on coming with me as far as Manchester on the train, in part to check I don’t leave my cases anywhere, also to make sure I eat the stack of sandwiches she had made early that morning. My mum, in my lifetime, had never felt the need to travel to Manchester for some urgent shopping, but on this day she does. Perhaps it is the thought of the second born flying the nest.

I can’t work out if my trepidation trumps my excitement. I’m assuming the next few days will be difficult. The torrential rain as we arrive in Manchester Victoria does little to improve the mood and we both get soaked as I see my mum off the train. She is crying, which she claims is the rain. I have butterflies but try to sound breezy. In the minutes before the train’s departure she reels off a list of things to remember, of which the old chestnut of changing my socks and underpants every day features, together with the command to ring that night after seven, to be sure she is home to hear about my progress.

I wondered if my dad had received such lavish attention when he left home to fight in World War Two. I doubt he had as many corned beef and pickle and egg and tomato sandwiches as I was carrying, unless he was expected to feed his whole regiment.

All this comes to mind as we were discussing family history with my uncle Glyn this weekend. In honour of his and Janet’s arrival, I had blitzed the attic trying to find artefacts and photos from my parents, as he is the family historian. Eventually I was able to find a biscuit tin from my youth which dates from about 1960 and shows a little girl in a snowy scene wearing a red scarf and hat. The girl’s face has outlived its usefulness as it has been covered by my mum’s faded, yet distinctive writing on a heavily sellotaped piece of yellowed paper.

The Premium Bonds alluded to on the cover note have long since disappeared, but all the other contents, Army Records, Important Letters and the catch-all Bits and Bobs, were present and correct.

Amongst the salubrious company of the Important Letters were two written by me in my first weeks of University. As my mum had provided stamped letter cards, all I needed to do was to find time to write the one page letter and locate a letter box. It would have been churlish not to have completed those two tasks.

I had not seen the letters in over forty years, and did not remember writing them. Immediately on reading them though, I was back there on my first morning as a student following a restless night’s sleep in my new room. I can remember the emulsioned breeze block that cooled my back from the incessant heat of the central heating system, which had a default position of breathlessly hot, even when turned off. I’d grown up with ice on the inner windows of my bedroom and this central heating would take some getting used to. The letter was the first task after the morning shower as it gave me the opportunity to wile away some time with some purpose.

The letter was inordinately positive and breezy, which was not quite how I felt in those first few days away from home. I was going to be able to fully enjoy and indulge myself in student life, but for now the butterflies had not subsided and I was already exhausted from the charade of looking positive and confident when I felt the opposite.

It was a relief when I teamed up with my first university friend, Davy from Belfast,  who seemed to have both direction and momentum and was patently not lacking in confidence. I must have come across, or at least I hoped I did, as mean and moody in those first few days as I tried to re-orientate myself to this new life. In fact I was melancholy and disorientated in my new surroundings.

I suppose we have all experienced similar feelings on our first forays away from home.

What were yours?

 

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Easter Monday at Rhyl Fair!

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Easter Monday was our traditional family visit to the fairs in Rhyl.

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My dad didn’t hold with it as he reckoned the ride owners were testing their rides after the winter break and that they were looking for, and I quote, “local tatty heads to act as ballast on rides that were in the process of being serviced.” I didn’t listen to my dad on this occasion as the visit, led by my indomitable Nain was a family tradition. Nain had led the family to the fair every Easter Monday that I could remember. We went in all weathers with in-dampened enthusiasm, rain showers, high winds, even snow in the Easter of 1963, it didn’t matter.

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The tradition was that we all had half a crown from Nain, which meant we could go on five rides. I tended to be averse to anything that went up high as I had a morbid fear of heights. I always made out that I was saving my money for an extra turn on the dodgems when the others, including my younger cousins went on the Roller Coaster, Mad Mouse and the Rotor.

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Everyone went on the little train around the lake and the sulphuric smell of the well lubricated engines stays with me now as does the impression of the wooden slatted seats in the blue coaches as we wend our way around the Lake, being covered in smuts.

I remember the best Easter was probably the last. Fifty years ago today. My cousins and I gathered in the morning in the clinic field as it was a windy day and we wanted to fly our kites – the craze of 1968 as I remember it.

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Everyone gathered at Auntie Doris’ in Clwyd Ave by lunch-hour and the adults seemed keen to spoil the fun by sitting in the garden chatting endlessly. This state of affairs was only broken when my mum, managed to fall through a deck chair. My first thought was horror. Firstly  that she might be badly hurt as I knew the agony those deckchairs could inflict when I caught my hand in the scissor action of one as it collapsed on itself, as they seemed inclined to do. Secondly I was worried that she would do what she did when she fell over in Vale Road carrying the shopping home from Kwik Save in Queen Street. On that occasion, despite me carrying six bags of shopping  she jumped up and slapped me on the legs saying “Why didn’t you stop me falling!” It was the only time she had hit me and I understood that it was more about embarrassment than anger. Luckily she was unhurt and everyone burst out into a fit of the giggles as the children urged the adults towards the gate and away to the fair.

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Eventually we were there, revelling in the fresh breeze off the sea and the golden sunshine – Sunny Rhyl indeed.

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The rides and stalls transported us in all directions, spinning and whirring us at impossible angles and promising us magnificent prizes in exchange for our expertise with darts, ping pong balls, hoops and air rifles.

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It was all over too soon and we were corralled around the prams of the younger cousins and made our way down the Walk back to O’Hara’s for shared bags of chips. Along Wellington Road we ambled, past the Gas Works where my Taid had worked, past St John’s Church where we had attended the Good Friday service, past the Army Cadet base which seemed so enticing. We passed the new telephone exchange which seemed a picture of the future- all glass and clean lines, and arrived at the old stalwart… Sidolis.

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As every year, we pretended to lick the massive ice cream near the entrance and took possession of a large table  in the corner whilst Mrs Sidoli carefully went through the ritual of making the frothy coffee for the adults whilst the youngsters drooled waiting for their heavenly vanilla ice cream and a part share of two packs of Cadbury’s fingers.

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After half an hour we retraced our steps and made our way over the H bridge to our house in Gwynfryn Avenue. We children played out in the garden with water pistols and tennis balls while the aunties and Nain made the first salad of the year… and bugger the expense. Ham, tomato and cheese  sandwiches never tasted so good.

 

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