In support of hybrid publishers

If you’ve been looking to get copies of the Strange Sagas of Sabrina Summers from Amazon or Kindle recently, I’m afraid you’ll have been disappointed, but for a great reason. I have just signed a contract with Morgan James, a well-established hybrid publisher based in the States, who have agreed to publish The Uncooperative Flying Carpet!
So, why Morgan James? Why not a traditional publisher? Well, that takes me back to why I chose indie publishing in the first place – generally speaking, a traditional publisher does nothing to make books available to readers who are dyslexic. Morgan James have not only let me keep the copyright of my own books, but are happy for Shropshire Lass to continue to publish the way I am consulted during a weekly phone call about marketing, editing, the cover, sales etc. They’re keen to actively support me, but best of all, when I was talking to their lovely Fiction Acquisitions Editor, she said they wanted to work with writers who, like them, wanted to make the world a better place.
So, why Morgan James and why not continue publishing independently? Indie publishing is tough (especially the distribution side), lonely and it’s very easy to put things like earning money first! With MJ, I’m in a partnership where not only am I given the support to give me the confidence to get out there myself, they actively promote my books in bookstores throughout the States and the UK (leaving me to focus on NZ and Australia), send copies to be reviewed, provide promotional materials and have a supportive community of authors who have shared beliefs and goals. Of course, they are in publishing to make money, and good for them because so do I, and the cost of having a book edited well, a decent cover designed and promotions is a shared burden with a hybrid-publisher. With so many small publishers going under or being taken over, and with the big publishers being reluctant to take a chance on a new author, they are doing something different to respond to a very fast-changing environment.
Their Morgan James Kids imprint is fairly new, and they only take 12 titles a year, so I’m incredibly honoured to have made the cut this year. I’m looking forward to the journey – watch this space!

Have laptop, will travel

They say that whatever book you are working on, writers still believe that there’s a better one waiting round the corner, and I know just how that feels. Although I am currently finishing off the formatting and launch of the final Sabrina Summers’ Saga and have the planning and writing of the first Autumn Pugh book scheduled to work on next, I am also preparing for my first ever travel book.

This July, I head back to the UK for an extended trip. As well as spending time with my family, I will be researching my book on the homes of the authors of some of my favourite, classic British children’s books. I’ll get to visit some of the settings and inspirations for these wonderful books too. I’m so excited about this project! I don’t have a working title yet and the structure is still developing in my head, but I’ve started planning my itinerary. Well, sometimes directions are difficult if, like me, you have trouble with left and right, so my lovely step-father is helping me 😉 I’ll be blogging as I travel, so watch this space!

Great advice from J K Rowling

I really love this story from Fairfax Media’s on life tips from J K Rowling. I admire her not because she’s a successful author of children’s book (I’m just jealous of that ;), but because of how she respects her success and uses it.

The link to the original is:

In short:

  • she believes in paying taxes because in the past, she’s benefited from how taxes are used; she is paying forward to those less fortunate.
  • she knows she has enough and doesn’t care about making more and more money.
  • she never, ever gave up on her dreams and went for it. It’s easy to think ‘this is too hard, it will never get anywhere,’ believe me. Go her for being so staunch.
  • after winning the prestigious Nestle Smarties book prize three times in a row, she withdrew to allow other upcoming authors (hopefully like me 😉 a chance.
  •  she’s fine being a little dark, talking about death etc. I agree – kids are interested in dark stuff, some more than other. Some might find some of the scenes in The Uncontrollable Slingshot a little grim, especially the scene I am working on right now where Sabrina battles rats, but that’s how life can be – books are a great way for young people to ask questions.
  • she’d rather be a grown up than a teenager. Um, well I quite liked being a teenager – I had very different worries then than I do now (mortgages, cleaning toilets, that kind of thing) but I was lucky to have such a great family. I also thought that it was possible to change the world, and I’ve lost some of my mojo there!
  • she battles on and finishes stuff, even though it’s a ‘chore’. Hey! I am writing this blog instead of book 3 in the Strange Sagas of Sabrina Summers and yesterday I tweeted and Facebooked about the Emmy red carpet fashion!
  • she loves books. Enough said.
  • she knows it’s hard to stand up to our allies – family and friends in particular. I have Olive in particular standing up to Sabrina, and I’m glad to say Sabrina appreciated it.
  • she believes in being kind to those who are seen as our inferiors. Watch this space for the ending of book 3. I absolutely endorse this belief and take it even further and say why stop with people when we can make such a positive difference in reducing suffering by being kind to animals too.
  • she says we shouldn’t worry about the future. Having lived through the Christchurch earthquakes over recent years, I know that whatever comes our way, we generally cope.
  • she says we shouldn’t care what other people think of us. Easier said than done, thanks to social media, but I’m working on it. People who try to cut us down are generally jealous, and they’re jealous because they are unhappy so perhaps compassion is the key.
  • she gives a lot to charity. We sponsor a child through Childfund and contribute to World Animal Protection. I recently was privileged to hear Peter Singer, the great philosopher, speak about ‘effective altruism’. He suggested we put our charity dollars where they will do most good globally.
  • no matter how smart we are, fate can still make fools of us.
  • we can’t please everyone. So please the ones who matter – yourself first.



Putting it off

Today I have to start to re-write the first quarter of The Uncomfortable Glass slipper, not my favourite job as an author. Although I’m much happier with the new plan and know it’s the right thing to do, I’m putting it off. Writing from scratch is much more exciting to me. So, instead of my revisions I’ve done three loads of laundry, gone on Facebook a few times, checked my emails a few more times, and looked up articles on why writers procrastinate. Interestingly, there are lots of articles, so I feel a bit better about it. When I watched a radio interview with David Walliams recently, he said that he has to refuse himself treats until he hits a target eg he won’t have a biscuit or go to the bathroom until he’s finished a chapter. This technique works really well for me, but I’m out of biscuits today! One theory is that writers tended to do well in English classes so didn’t have to really work hard until the last minute while our classmates worked steadily throughout, and we have continued that habit into our working life. That makes sense to me, and I know that when I have a deadline, that’s when I’m at my best. That’s why I am so thrilled that my wonderful editor is expecting my completed manuscript in only a few weeks. Better get writing!

A Writer’s Companion

I am well underway with writing Sabrina Summers’ Second Saga, and having great fun plotting things to do to the Beast and to Witchy Wu. I am being kept company by Cleo, who has taken over the best chair in my study, and Twinkle, who has made a nest from the brown paper that wrapped up a delivery of the dyslexia-friendly version that arrived yesterday.

I recently wrote a short story for the New Zealand Society of Author’s Canterbury branch’s upcoming anthology on Cats. It was a diary of a typical day in the life of a writer who is kept company by her cats (I didn’t have to stretch too far to think of a subject matter!) But it started me thinking about how perfect cats are as companions for writers. They are someone to talk to (because I think it is slightly less crazy to discuss plot points with a cat than to talk to thin air, don’t you?); they add interest even if it is sitting in tiny boxes or standing next to a closed door and then walking away when you open it; and they love and appreciate you. Cleo and Twinkle were rescue cats, and as I say in the print versions of  “The Uncooperative Glass Slipper”, animal rescue centres are desperate for kind and loving homes for their charges, and I am sure that my two cats are happy to be with their forever family. And, because my cats are on an expensive diet food from the vets, they keep me working hard at my writing to pay for their needs!

Indie publishing for dyslexic readers

Having taught for some years, I am aware of the difficulties that dyslexic readers face and while I try to make my handouts accessible for my current creative writing students, including those who are dyslexic, I needed some up to date advice when it came to indie publishing. E-publishing was easy, as readers can change the font and screen to suit them, but when it came to print on demand hard copies, it was a different matter. I approached the Christchurch NZ branch of the Dyslexia Society, who are funded by Cookie Time, a local cookie company, and was given really helpful advice. Because of that, this post should be in comic sans, blue ink, size 14 font and  be in double line spacing. A specialist font called Dyslexie is also available, which was developed in the Netherlands.  I also contacted the team at Create Space, Amazon’s print on demand arm, who could accommodate almost everything I wanted to do so that I could have a dyslexia-friendly version of “The Uncooperative Flying Carpet”. That book will be available soon!

100 Twitter Hashtags Every Writer Should Know

I found this article from last March really interesting. I’m definitely going to start using it – as all indie authors know, building an on-line presence takes about a year but is absolutely vital if you are serious about making any kind of a living from your books.

Click on the link below for great hashtags on books and reading, book industry news and publishing, hashtags to connect with other writers, epublishing and promotion and marketing.

Happy tweeting!

Getting a US Tax Number for NZ Self Published Authors


The set up at Amazon to self-publish is fantastic, and much easier than I thought it would be. My first book – The Uncooperative Flying Carpet is now available to pre-order, and because it was my first, everything took ages as I worked it out. However, I made life more difficult for myself than I needed to. At first, I thought I needed an ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number) which apparently takes months to process. Unless you have circumstances where you need to do that, then don’t. This will result in you paying 30% withholding tax in the States before you even see any royalties. Then I thought I needed an EIN (Employee Identification Number) which was far easier. I completed an SS-4, rang the IRS in the States on 0012679411099 and waited for 25 minutes. A very helpful lady took my details, recorded the fact that I would be completing a W-8BEN (another very straightforward form), and gave me my EIN over the phone. Fantastic. Then, I completed the payee information on Amazon and thanks to recent updates, only needed to give them my NZ tax number! So, the moral is, you don’t need to do anything that I did, just use your NZ tax number and you’ll only have to pay 5% withholding tax on your royalties, yay. I have left in all information on getting an EIN because you may choose to merchandise from the US, like I have on CaféPress, and you need it then. Now all I have to do is wait for the royalties to come rolling in 😉