Monday 14 December 2015

Writing and Money: The Reality is...

The First Book! Is it the One?
Self-pity is so unattractive. When I feel a dollop of the stuff, I get very annoyed with myself. Even more so with the world in the state it's in, and poor little me living in paradise* (*Mallorca) with a roof over my head and my belly full. But bear with me, because if you're a writer too you might recognise what I'm feeling.

The thing is I thought that once you'd written three books you'd be making money from writing books. Alas, far from it. The reality is, the time involved in writing and selling the books, and how much you make from each book and the quantities you're likely to sell, mean that it's more like a very expensive hobby.

When I feel demoralised like this,  I turn to my favourite podcast The Creative Penn. It's a podcast in which self-publishing guru, Joanna Penn, interviews other writers with entrepreneurial spirits like hers who have worked their socks off and now make a comfortable living from their writing 'business'.

Listening to them blows me away. These people are machines. They don't write one book a year like traditional authors tend to, but raise the bar to four books, five, even six books a year. They're full-time writers setting big goals each day and achieving them. I don't know how they do it. Are these books ten pages long? No, they're full-length novel. Are they terrible quality? Put it this way, they're good enough to have attracted lots of loyal readers! 

Today, listening to the interview with  Russell Blake, I found myself hearing exactly the message I needed to hear. Artists have always had lousy odds of success, that's how it is, and the best thing is not to have great expectation. His advice? Work really hard! 

"I have friends that write in the movie industry and in TV and I have friends who have been professional musicians and make good livings at it and they all say the same thing. They all work their asses off, they work long hours, and they all say it’s not rocket science.- Russell Blake

The amount of books that need to be written in order to make a living out of writing books is a point that has been made time and again on The Creative Penn podcast. You can't earn a living from one stand alone book. Yet most of us writers dream of just that. It's what Blake refers to as 'magical thinking'.

I'm guilty of tons of magical thinking - and before you start with the 'but what about JK?' - we never get to see all the books and all the work these famous authors did before they finally got their big deal.

Some people spend years polishing that one book, getting excited when they get a book deal (a book deal doesn't necessarily mean getting money upfront - I have yet to be paid an advance!), and then they inevitably feel disappointment when it doesn't sell as well as they fantasised it would. Because the odds are a new writer only sells a couple of hundred books, of which they make less than a pound a book, which means earning a couple of hundred pounds for a year's work! Crazy, right?

It makes so much sense that you're not going to make money from one book. I was brought up in a shop and my Dad was always obsessed with increasing our stock. The more stock you have the more likely you'll sell. Having one book to sell is like having, well, a book shop with one book in it. If you sell ten books in a day, congratulations, you've made £10.00, you'll be able to pay for lunch and the bus home.  

Basically, if we want to make money from writing novels, then we've got to forget about writing one novel, and think long term. Think 8 novels. If you can write a series, then lucky you. I'm still not sure I could write a series...and besides the other message writers leave on the podcast is, you've got to write what you would want to read!

Instead of complaining about how hard it is, I think I had better knuckle down and get on with stocking up my book shop, don't you?

Thank you for reading!  

Thursday 10 December 2015

5 BRILLIANT Christmas Gifts which are not pointless at all

Yay, Christmas! The time of year where we spend loads of money on stuff we don't need while half the planet struggles to make ends meet. God Bless us everyone! Well, not everyone obviously, just the ones lucky enough to be born in the right place at the right time. All I'm saying is, why not let us buy sensible presents? You know it makes sense.

After careful research I've selected five simultaneously fun and practical gifts for the Christmas seasons. I know you're bound to fall in love with one of them...


How many times have you heard parents say it? Oh, little bubs here, he has more fun with the box than the really expensive present we bought him! 

SO WHY DON'T THEY EVER JUST BUY THE BOX? Every year parents waste money pimping up the box with really expensive brightly coloured plastic bits, when for a couple of quid they could just buy what bubs really, really wants. Wrap it up of course. A present isn't a present if it's not wrapped up.


If your cat is scratching your sofa it's because it's trying to tell you something, you're just being too thick to understand it. 

YOUR CAT WANTS TO BE A DJ. No, it doesn't want a boring old post. Would you want to scratch a stick? No! Buy poor kitty some decks and let her fulfill her dreams this Christmas.


Most parents with small kids are knackered. This is because they are not delegating properly. This present helps parents feel less guilty about getting their baby to chip in with the housework. Dribble. Polish. Dribble. Polish. This present will light up their lives and their living rooms.


I'm not taking the piss. I am one of these organic-free-range-save-the-world people. But if like me, you've grown bored of trying and *failing (*forgetting) to cultivate the chili seeds given to you free with your bill at Wahaca, then maybe it's time to sweeten up your horticultural experience with mini donut seeds. 

You'll benefit from the gift too because the donuts should be ready in time for Christmas next year when your organic friend is bound to invite you to a mouth-watering meal! RESULT.


For your friend who is OMG so busy, accept it, it's probably too late for them to change. If you buy them roses they'll be too busy to smell them. These bread gloves may be enabling their hurry hurry lifestyles, or it might stop them in their tracks, and think, maybe I should stop and eat a proper lunch because maybe life is too short to eat sandwiches every day. 

Either way, it's definitely memorable. Who can forget their first bread gloves?

If none of these are suitable, then you could buy my book instead. It's suitable for reading, holding a door open or starting a fire on a cosy Christmas evening. Unless its the 99p kindle version, in which please do not burn but dispose of responsibly.

If you'd like a signed copy, you can buy direct from me via Paypal. All books will be sent out 1st class on 19th December. Book plus UK postage cost £9.99

I should put a button here but it's not working plus it charges me money and I'm trying to keep things cheap for you. If you're familiar with paypal then you know all you need is my email to transfer £9.99 for each book. I will reply immediately. Promise.

For a less commercial Christmas post, take a peek at Emily Benet's Advent Calendar

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Death's Lesson is: Live!

Nothing prepares you for the death of a loved one. It's been three weeks since my father-in-law died so unexpectedly and I still don't really believe he's gone.

I'm heading home from Colombia tomorrow. I want to slide under soft sheets and sleep until the New Year. But the universe has made this impossible by presenting me with an innovative writing project which involves deadlines and actual payment. Life it seems, must go on, however unbearable it seems to those grieving. 

My father-in-law's passing has shaken me. He was only 73. My grandfather, who died in February, lived to 91. My grandmother celebrated her 92nd birthday with us in Mallorca a couple of months ago, and laughs like she'll live forever. I always assumed everyone I loved would live at least to their nineties.

In September the four of us, my husband and my parents-in-law, spent a wonderful month together in Spain. In Mallorca we swam in the sea, ate delicious food every day and made up for all the distance that had been separating us. In Jerez we became experts in sherry; in Seville we caught a rare peek of street Flamenco.

Everyone tells us now how happy my father-in-law had been after that trip. He returned home renewed and with a fresh enthusiasm to travel and enjoy life. He told his wife, my brilliant mother-in-law, that she should give up work and that they should spend their next years together having fun.  How cruel it seems. The only comfort is that his death was swift and painless, and he was a healthy man until the end.  

I miss my father-in-law. He was a kind man. A calm man, who didn't fuss or stress. He was curious about life and always learning; interested in what you were doing and supportive. If you didn't know something, he would be straight on Google! 

Like my husband, he always seemed to weave his way through the bureaucracy of daily life without getting flustered or angry. 

Patient. The only thing that threatened his calm was Bogota traffic, but after experiencing Bogota traffic, you would sympathise. He was better at organising a trip than any travel agency. He knew that life was for living and he lived it with a great appetite. All these qualities, he's passed onto my husband, for which I'm so grateful.

I look at my husband now and I want to engrave each moment in eternity.

If my father-in-law's death has taught me anything, it's that we must live life fully now. Enjoy it. Don't waste it all thinking and planning for the future. Choose experience over possessions! Don't wait until you're retired to embark on the life you dream of. Don't put off what you could be doing today if it's something important to you.  

It seems to me that the lesson of death is to live. To live with all your heart.

Rest in Peace my dear father-in-law