Weekly writing prompt: Glitter

This week, write 100 words about glitter. As ever, how you choose to interpret the prompt is completely up to you. Fiction, non-fiction, description, character motivation… the possibilities are endless.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Write a post, including your 100-word response to the challenge, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  2. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  3. That’s it! Super easy.
  4. If you don’t want to write a blog post, or you don’t have a blog, feel free to write your 100 words in the comments of this challenge!

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

What happens after a publisher accepts your work?

There are millions, if not zillions, of articles for unpublished writers, but what about for those people publishing their first novel, who don’t know what to expect? There are a lot less people whose work has been accepted by a publisher, so I guess less people can write about that with any degree of authority, not to mention the fact that less people want to know about it. I thought I’d start with talking about what happens after a publisher accepts your work for publication, giving people an insight into the publication process.

If you start by sending in a proposal, they will read over the proposal and they should either accept your proposal or decline it. If they’ve accepted it, they may suggest changes to make it more marketable. Mandatory changes should be made clear. After you have your proposal back, you can get on with writing (unless you’re really naughty like me, and start writing the bits you know will be fine while you’re waiting to hear back from them).

If you didn’t send in a proposal, you’ll either send in a sample first, or just a complete manuscript. If you did send in a proposal, the next thing you send them is the full manuscript. Make sure you’ve done as much editing as you can to the manuscript before you send it to them; I found this very, very difficult with my first book because I had no idea what needed doing to it. After they’ve got everything, it gets sent to a line editor. The line editor’s job is to go through your work and write notes on any improvements you need to make to your work; some improvements are optional, but some are mandatory. If you’re unsure about whether a change is mandatory or not, ask your editor and they will tell you one way or the other.

Once they’ve written those notes, they will send you back the annotated manuscript, or they’ll send you back the notes separately, and your job as the writer is to make the changes and improvements to your work. Some places give you deadlines for this, others don’t mind. After you’ve made your improvements, they will send your work to a copy editor.

The copy editor is the last person from the publishing house who will see your work; they go through it and format it to in-house style guidelines, and they generally use the Merriam Webster dictionary and the Chicago Manual of Style as a reference for anything that’s questionable. They will also flag up typos and spelling and grammatical errors, inconsistencies (one minute she wears a red hat, the next minute she wears a blue bonnet), and factual errors. After they’ve done that, you should get your work back, at which point you either have to make the copy-editor’s changes or you have to have a damn good reason (“I don’t like that change” isn’t one) to reject their changes – the Big Five Publishers, and some of the smaller ones, will usually expect you to give references to support your reasons for not approving every change made by the copy editor, but check this before sending back reams of information, because some places don’t want that (my current publisher doesn’t). When the copy editor gets it wrong, you need to raise that with someone at your publisher (or get your agent to do this, if you have one).

Once you’ve approved or rejected (with references) the copy edits, you send the work back to the publishers and they start work on the cover. After you’ve seen the cover, it’s natural to get very excited about your forthcoming book. If you like the cover, let them know, and they will get the blurb written and the proofs made up, or if they’re an ebook publisher, this is when it will be prepared to be made available online.

At some point before the book is made available online, you should receive a contract (if you haven’t received one, let them know). The contract is the only thing that protects you from getting royally screwed over by your publisher, so read it carefully and get a lawyer (one who has seen other book contracts, not any old lawyer) to read it over if you’re unsure about anything. Sometimes publishers try it on with their contracts but you have to stand your ground, otherwise you’ll regret it when the book’s a bestseller and you’re not making any money. I got taken for a ride by one publisher, a few years ago, who published my unedited work, lied literally every step of the way, and never paid me the advance. Later, when I tried to get that sorted out, I discovered that I would have to go to somewhere on the East Coast of America to take them to arbitration to get my money back, and that I had to do this within a certain time period, which I’d missed, because they’d spent so long delaying in answering and I’d been too patient. If I’d understood this beforehand, I would have acted sooner to get it resolved, but it was my first book and I didn’t know what to expect from the publication process (hence this article).

If you’ve signed the contract AND RECEIVED THE ADVANCE (if you are in the habit of accepting advances – I am not) then you’re good to get excited about the release date. Many contracts have a clause stating the author must do their best to publicize the novel – there are a bunch of ways you can do this and I’ll talk about them in a future article.

Has your experience of the publication process been different? Let me know in the comments!

Weekly writing prompt: Party

This week, write 100 words about a party. This could be a celebration, a political party, a party wall, “I shall not be a party to it”… the choice is yours!

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Write a post, including your 100-word response to the challenge, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  2. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  3. That’s it! Super easy.
  4. If you don’t want to write a blog post, or you don’t have a blog, feel free to write your 100 words in the comments of this challenge!

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

The editor ruined my book! How to deal with a toxic publishing environment.

Ninety-nine percent of all copyeditors are professional, intelligent and work focused individuals who add to your book and help it shine before publication.

At publishing houses, the copyeditor is usually the last person who sees your book before it is published. This means they have a huge responsibility to ensure your work is top-notch. I’ve worked with some amazing editors and publishers in my career as a six-figure author across five pen names spanning four genres.

This is a story about a time when that didn’t happen.

It was my second published book through this specific publishing house, and I’d already had some issues because the publisher himself was an arrogant, woman-hating a-hole who sycophantically gave all the advantages and promotional opportunities to older women who (I guess) reminded him of mommy dearest, and sidelined all other books.

He was a white supremacist conservative Christian hypocrite who didn’t drink or have sex before marriage but ran a small-time erotica outfit. Go figure. He even whitewashed my books, transforming black characters into white ones and telling me what skin tone my characters had to be. He rejected any story idea with a strong female character or a plot that wasn’t a rewrite of the three most successful books that publisher had ever released. And he was a control freak.

Naive and desperate to succeed as I was, I thought I had to accept all of this. I also didn’t really know that I could send my books elsewhere, because I’d had a terrible experience with another publisher, too.

Hilariously, I know of at least two novels where he was portrayed as the main antagonist. I wrote neither of them. The working environment ticked every single box in this article. Basically, the only way to leave was to go non-contact with him and his brainwashed fan authors, all of whom are presumably either old, high, or pretending they adore his work to get better marketing for their books. Or scared of being eaten alive by each other.

Sadly, I also know of more than a handful of authors who stopped writing completely because of his attitude and behaviour, and that of the people around him. They simply lost confidence in their (profound) abilities and gave up.

Dealing with a toxic publisher is a lot harder than dealing with a toxic boss, because in the author world, your work is contracted for a fixed term, whether you like it or not. No matter what fallings-out you have, short of spending a lot of money finding a legal loophole in your contract, you are at the mercy of the publishing house and they will keep your work and screw with it if relations turn sour.

There is no way to prove how much your books are making across various sales channels, Amazon will not release those figures to authors, and publishers can basically report whatever they like, a practice that goes on much more than anyone knows, especially when currency exchange and Paypal are involved.

If your publisher doesn’t like you, depending on your publishing contract, they can decide your work goes out of print (so it’s no longer on sale) while they still retain the rights. Far easier for them is making your book look so unprofessional and boring that no one buys it. This is the preferred MO of most toxic publishers.

It’s not hard to publish a book when it’s your job and you release 10 or more in a week. It’s not hard to design a cover for a professional graphic designer. It’s not hard to write a blurb for anyone who didn’t write the book which the blurb is about.

But the easiest job of all for someone who can spell and owns a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style? Copyediting. If you’ve ever wondered why some genres of books (namely, romance and steamy romance) are so badly written, it’s not necessarily the fault of the author. Bad copyeditors introduce errors into books and they even rewrite passages to revert your writing to a clichéd, hackneyed load of rubbish.

But the very worst editors only skim your book, miss large parts, and somehow still see fit to comment to say your continuity doesn’t work when actually it’s all correct. And the hopeless ones don’t want to know they’re wrong. In fact, hopeless anyones don’t want to know they’re wrong.

At that point, you know it’s a waste of time bothering with them because you’re not going to inspire them to suddenly give half a hoot about their work. They don’t care, they’re making it obvious. They’re probably also high. It makes you wonder why they’re being paid to do anything. I still haven’t figured that out.

In the worst copyedit I ever received, “sit” was changed to “shit” (she was absolutely sitting, not using the bathroom). “Hare in the headlights” (semi-fresh) was changed to “deer in the headlights” (cliché) and two character names were arbitrarily swapped around for a whole scene. That was the tip of the iceberg.

The copyeditor had completely rewritten large parts my book after I’d last seen it (which was at the end of the line edit) and because this was a small press, they didn’t follow normal procedure and I never found out about any of this until 2 months after the book was published, when I opened it to check a scene for something I wanted to write in a subsequent book in the series.

In some places, the copyeditor had reverted things that the line editor had told me I had to change in order for the book to be published. She was a loose cannon, just doing her own thing, and no one stopped her.

I’ve read a few books from that publishing house and honestly, all of them have random big errors like character names changing for a chapter or sentences stopping half-way through then jumping to a new scene.

If you’re in that situation, you have two options. The first choice is to say nothing for an easy life with that publisher, then go indie or switch publishers as soon as you can. For some people this will be really straightforward. Others might struggle.

The second choice is to make a complaint to the publisher and inform them of every errata in your book, requesting it to be fixed. If the publisher is the sort that I was dealing with, they won’t want to know. The one I had this problem with actually did not know what the Chicago Manual of Style was. Nor did the copyeditor, apparently.

I genuinely regret trying to address this but I stupidly thought any publisher would care about the quality of work they were putting out. Since my experience, I’ve come across other publishers where similar things have happened. One cut down a 25,000 word story to a 10,000 word story and left in random scenes from a story arc that now no longer made any sense. Another simply published the books unedited, which is another common practice in steamy books.

It can be troublesome when you’re hiring an editor for an indie project, too. I had one editor who added “ossicones” (despite it being so far out of that character’s ken that it was ridiculous) but missed “jumper” instead of “sweater” and other Britishisms (wardrobe, trainers) in an American story set in America.

I worked with another who didn’t start editing until the day before my preorder locked on Amazon, despite having been given the manuscript and payment in full two months earlier. She thought actions needed dialog tags. I had to go back through and change them all back.

These people charged me money for these edits and I had to pay them because editors have a lot of power in the writing community. Their anonymity means they can write fake one-star reviews of every book you ever wrote if you annoy them. As can publishers, editors and their friends and relatives. Amazon doesn’t care when this happens, despite what they claim whenever fake Amazon reviews get news coverage.

Some people are completely reprehensible human beings.

But at least in the indie market, I’m not handing over half or more of my book money to a scammy “publishing” outfit whose sole purpose seems to be to write the same book over and over again with different titles and covers.

My advice to anyone trapped with a toxic editor or publisher is to smile, nod, and fulfill the bare minimum of your publishing contract then flee. If you haven’t signed a contract yet, withdraw the book and run for the hills as politely as possible. If they are a narcissist, let them think they have won. As hard as it is, let them have the last word in any exchange that can’t be resolved to your satisfaction. But give them nothing more.

And if you’re looking to become an editor, if you can spell correctly and know how to check the Chicago Manual of Style, you’re ahead of the crowd when applying for jobs with a small press.

Have you ever had a copyedit from hell or dealt with a scammy publishing house? I firmly believe it’s a rite of passage for all authors, as sad as that is. Let me know about your experiences in the comments!

Weekly writing prompt: Lazy

This week, write 100 words about a lazy character, laziness in general, or something else to do with this prompt!

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Write a post, including your 100-word response to the challenge, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  2. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  3. That’s it! Super easy.
  4. If you don’t want to write a blog post, or you don’t have a blog, feel free to write your 100 words in the comments of this challenge!

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Weekly writing prompt: Moss

Write 100 words about moss.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Write a post, including your 100-word response to the challenge, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  2. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  3. That’s it! Super easy.
  4. If you don’t want to write a blog post, or you don’t have a blog, feel free to write your 100 words in the comments of this challenge!

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Note: This week’s post is pre-scheduled as I’m expecting to have a new baby within the last two weeks. I will reply when I can.

Weekly writing prompt: Smile

This week, write 100 words about a smile. Is it crooked? Sardonic? Warm? Joyful?

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Write a post, including your 100-word response to the challenge, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  2. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  3. That’s it! Super easy.
  4. If you don’t want to write a blog post, or you don’t have a blog, feel free to write your 100 words in the comments of this challenge!

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Note: This post is prescheduled because I’m expecting a baby sometime this week or last week (today is my official due date).

Starting a side hustle for stay at home mums

Starting a side-hustle can seem impossible when you spend your day working small miracles and solving big problems for tiny people. This guide will show you exactly how to start a business you can run from home, and how to fit it around milk and nap times. This is the first in a weekly series of business advice for stay-at-home mums that will update on Tuesdays.

Choose your business

First, find what you want to do. This can be the hardest part or the easiest, depending on whether you’re turning a hobby into a fully-monetized business or if you’re still trying to figure out what you love.

It doesn’t have to be the one and only thing that clicks with you, sometimes, a business that makes you some good money is the next best thing!

Check out next week’s post, 180+ businesses you can start at home today, for some inspo, or keep reading if you already have an idea in mind.

Set up a website

There are many different options for setting up a website. Are you technical? Do you want to learn how to take control of your own site and customize it down to the last applet? Or does the idea of learning HTML make you balk? Most of us fall somewhere in between the two extremes. I love custom sites but I don’t have time to hand-code my own site. And that’s okay. I did a full HTML site once, and now I always use a WordPress installation (five successful sites and counting…).

These days, there are website options for every technical ability, and every budget. If you’re flat broke, or unsure whether your business idea has any mileage in it, you can even start a website for free using a site such as Blogger or WordPress.com (not to be confused with WordPress.org which is a whole different kettle of fish).

A basic website only needs four pages: Homepage, About Me (where you talk about your experience in your chosen side hustle), Examples of work (e.g. you’d call this “Books” if you’re an author) and Contact Me, so people can connect with you and give you money!

A four-page website works fine if your site isn’t your main source of business, for example, if you’re an author or offering offline services such as plastering or cake design, however, it will never reach its true potential unless you set up a blog and commit to posting weekly. Your time is finite, so choose wisely.

If you’re setting up a digital side-hustle, you’ll need a more sophisticated online presence. Getting your site to rank in Google is a whole separate topic on which there’s already boatloads of information (rule number 1 of entrepreneurship is never re-invent the wheel, you don’t have time), but the main thing you’ll need is content. Lots and lots of content. You need to write relevant blog posts at least weekly, or Google will think you’re not updating your site regularly, but these don’t need to be complicated posts. Check out my Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to learn more.

If your side hustle is blogging, you literally need to blog every day! Until your site has about 100 well-written articles, you won’t rank in Google. I have a successful blog which has been going since 2014, so I know a thing or two about how to get a blog off the ground. You also need killer photos, a sleek and on-topic website design and social media hookups. The only way to do this job justice is to get a WordPress site, but many people these days use Blogger. Some people also wear T-shirts to job interviews. I wouldn’t recommend that, either.

Choose your social media wisely

Once you have set up your website, it’s time to set up social media. Do you need to be active on every social media platform? Absolutely not! Just go for the one that is best for your industry. Food writer/food business? Pinterest! Beauty blog? Instagram. Author? Facebook.

Knowing your audience is key to a successful side hustle. Each social media outlet attracts a different crowd. Younger people are on Instagram and Youtube. Mommies are on Pinterest and Instagram. Businessmen are on Twitter and Linkedin. Everyone is on Facebook, but most people aren’t using it effectively for their business and it can become a liability, fast.

Making physical products as a side hustle

One of my many businesses is soapmaking and handmade cosmetics. It’s really empowering to work with real ingredients and transform them into finished cosmetics. I find it a great activity for the end of a long day of baby-wrangling, when my mind isn’t in the right place to do books.

Making physical products has some different considerations to other types of side-hustles. You need a space to make things, and it has to be far away from small children who love to put things in their mouths.

Some people will tell you the market is over-saturated for certain homemade products, like jewellery, but that’s not true. I mean, there’s evidence that people have been making jewellery since the palaeolithic period and Tiffany & Co still managed to gain a foothold when they launched.

From a sales point of view, all you need is a strong brand, a really good product (good, not unique), some stunning photography and canny social media marketing and you too can succeed at making physical products.

When setting up a homemade company, you do need to stay on the right side of the law. There are laws on food hygiene, trading standards, how to deal with defective products and more. You may need to register with your local council in the UK, depending on what you sell. You also need to comply with Distance Selling Regulations which state that customers have 14 days to cancel an order or return a product without needing a reason, if they bought online.

The other way to run a business involving physical products is to sell them offline. You could get a regular market stall, hire a table at craft fairs and maker’s markets, or even book a stall for a Christmas market at a major city like Edinburgh or Manchester. That eliminates the need to deal with postage.

If you have lots of capital to invest before you get a return, or if you’re running a business that can get a loan, you could even open your own shop or office for consultations. If you’re doing this with borrowed money, either a business loan or investment in exchange for a percentage of the profits, you’ll need a cast-iron business plan and financial forecasts.

Writing books as a side hustle

Busy mums can also write books. Maybe you’re a voracious romance or mystery fan? Or perhaps you did a degree in English Literature before the job market told you that wasn’t good enough for [insert crappy desk job here]. I stopped doing English at age 16 and did science degrees before I became a successful romance author, writing via four different publishers before striking out into self-publishing. An English degree would have been an advantage but I had a library card and work experience in academic publishing where I learned a lot of the same things on the job.

The biggest challenges for writing books is that you basically have to do three times as much work as any other entrepreneur.

You have to write the book, which takes time (I had this down to 2 weeks before I had a baby, now I need at least 1 month).

Then you have to edit the book. Even if you pay an editor, you still have to go back through your work after they’ve sent it back, and make the recommended changes and improvements to your work. If you’re going through a publishing house, you may have to do this four or five times before it’s where they want it to be (and they want it to be near-perfect to start with, or they won’t take you on).

After that, you’re at the same point as mummypreneurs in every other area of business, and you need to set to work on marketing, blogging on your author site etc, to spread the word about your book.

Authoring can be rewarding, but being a SAHM to young children, it’s definitely not the optimum career choice and I found baby brain zapped me of inspiration to write a book for about 9 months. Your release schedule will never be as prolific as younger or older people with no dependents.

That’s not to say you can’t be an author and a SAHM, and some people say it fits well around their mom life, but I suspect there’s no pressure on those people to be main breadwinners in their house. Or even to break even on their Facebook Adspend.

Selling Digital Services/Products as a side hustle

This is a tried and tested way to make money online, and the best way to do it is to structure your business from day 1 with the three-tier system.

Tier 1: A free “taster” product, e.g. a five-day Facebook challenge or a 4-piece course, or a free short how-to book that’s designed for your ideal audience. In the author world, this is called a newsletter magnet. That’s because you would usually use this one to build your mailing list so you have a pool of fans who love your stuff and want to buy your book.

Tier 2: A book. This is your entry-level product that lots of people will buy, but the profit margin is fairly low. For most industries, this will be a how-to book or other nonfiction.

NOTE: No one wants your autobiography until you have a million followers (for doing something other than talking about yourself), so put that aside and plan to deliver quality information in a book that helps people (no, reading your life story really, truly, honestly doesn’t help people even if you stopped drinking/gambling/eating squirrels. Put on your business hat and take the personal down a notch).

Tier 3: A comprehensive online course or personal consulting. This is your big-ticket item. Far fewer people will go for this (until you’re a mummy mogul with people beating a path to your inbox) but it will make a lot more money.

Your goal is to get as many people as possible from tier 1 to tier 3. This is called a sales funnel and works for basically every industry that is monetized online. The really hard part is crafting top-quality products that appeal to your ideal audience, completely solve their problems and make them eager for more.

Write a Press Release

Whatever industry you’re in, writing a press release to bring media attention to a new product or service can be worthwhile.

If you’re an introvert, you might prefer to just join HARO (Help A Reporter Out) and respond to direct queries about your industry to get media coverage. Extroverts should join here, too. 

Writing a press release needs to hit the right notes to get the attention of a journalist. I’d suggest doing some Googling beforehand to get your pitch spot on.

Monetize, Monetize, Monetize There are a ton of other ways to monetize your site. Affiliate links and advertising are two of the most popular. The goal is to create a passive income, i.e. money that keeps rolling in even while you sleep. You still have to work on your business but it means there are more avenues for money to find you.

Weekly writing prompt: Remember

Today is Remembrance Day in Britain. November 11th 1918 was when World War I officially stopped. This week, write 100 words about “remember”.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Write a post, including your 100-word response to the challenge, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  2. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  3. That’s it! Super easy.
  4. If you don’t want to write a blog post, or you don’t have a blog, feel free to write your 100 words in the comments of this challenge!

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Weekly writing prompt: Squash

It’s the right time of year to eat squash. In England, you might drink squash (or pop). In Shanghai, the metro might be a squash. What will you write 100 words about this week?

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Write a post, including your 100-word response to the challenge, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  2. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  3. That’s it! Super easy.
  4. If you don’t want to write a blog post, or you don’t have a blog, feel free to write your 100 words in the comments of this challenge!

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

%d bloggers like this: