My Top Five Highlights from London Book Fair 2014

On Wednesday this week I got on a train and went to London for LBF. It was the first time I’d even considered going along to this mammoth book event – until very recently, LBF was the province of publishers and agents and other industry professionals, but writers, while not exactly barred from attending, weren’t encouraged.

Last year all this changed when Author HQ saw some of the most popular seminars of the entire fair, with standing room only in many events. The Alliance of Independent Authors were key to this, having launched at LBF the year before. When I saw the photos of fellow Alli members at LBF 13 I knew I had to make the effort and attend this time around. And I’m really glad I did.

There are gazillions of blog posts about LBF doing the rounds, so I’m going to keep mine short and relevant. Here are my top five highlights of the day – and photos!

#1 – Meeting so many people in real life that I know so well on Facebook and online. This was easily the best thing to come out of the day, and I was amazed – genuinely gobsmacked – at how many people seemed really excited to meet me too :)

Selfie of me and Debbie Young

Selfie of me and Debbie Young

I met (in no particular order) Anne Allen, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn (already a great friend in ‘real life’), Debbie Young, Alison Morton (over from France), Jessica Bell (all the way from Greece), Jane Davis, Roz Morris, Charlie Plunkett, Orna Ross and Karen Inglis. And each and every one of them was lovely.

Me and Charlie Plunkett

Me and Charlie Plunkett

The fantastic Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

The fantastic Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn

#2 – Which brings me to highlight number 2: I met High Howey!!! He was standing behind me at one point, and I said to Lindsay, ‘I’m just going to go over and talk to him and get you to take a photo.’ He is such an incredibly nice man – humble about his own achievements and so supportive of other writers. And he was lovely, asking me all about my books and appearing genuinely impressed when I told him my figures to date. He was also lovely to Lindsay, and interested in all the prizes she’s won for her fiction.

You don't need a caption for this one! I'm a bit star-struck, though.

You don’t need a caption for this one! I’m a bit star-struck, though.

Incredibly, Hugh made a reference to the chat we just had when he went on to give a seminar in Author HQ. Okay, I’ll just go on and say it: He referenced me twice! Not by name, but if you watch the video of Hugh’s seminar on Wednesday with Kobo’s Diego Marano you’ll hear him talking about a conversation he just had with an author here in the UK who has sold 20,000 books and is doing an MFA (US speak for Masters in Creative Writing). That was me!

Hugh's seminar on Wednesday

Hugh’s seminar on Wednesday

#3 – My third amazing highlight of the day was the moment when Mel Sherrat said, ‘Joanne Phillips? I’ve heard of you. That book with the legs on the cover, right?’ (Or words to that effect, I was a bit dumbstruck at the time.) To understand the magnitude of this moment you have to know that Mel was in my Prima magazine this month and is a bit of a hero of mine, with her self-publishing story and down-to-earth honesty. (And her amazing hair cut – she looks fantastic.) She reacted to my flustered amazement with typical self-deprecating humour, but it was definitely a highlight of my day.

#4 – Lots of info and inspiration. When you attend a lot of seminars and workshops on a day like this – as I did – there’s a hell of a lot of information coming at’ya, and if you’re already fairly well immersed in the world of publishing – as I am – a lot of it will be stuff you’ve heard before. You can find yourself thinking, Yeah, yeah. Marketing plan. Reviews. Get on with the next book. Whatever. BUT, there will always be some nuggets of gold if you allow yourself to listen. You can read a lot of the same stuff on author’s blogs, but there is no substitution for the sheer energy of events like this, or for hearing the right thing at the right time said in the right way. For me, the nugget of gold was a point made by Paul Andrews of Andrews UK about book bloggers. It was like Boom! and I knew what I need to do next to market my books.

Oh, yes – and write a marketing plan. And get more reviews. And get on with the next book :) Just because you’ve heard it a million times doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing it all.

My LBF montage - with a little note from my daughter

My LBF montage – with a little note from my daughter

#5 – Highlight number 5 is: I was there. Last year, when I was looking at the photos on Facebook and on the Alli forums I really wished I’d been there too. This year I’m in the photos, I’m writing my blog about it, I’ve had the experience and I know first-hand what it’s all about. It was a challenge for me to even get there for a number of reasons (stacks of indexing work so restricted on time, family commitments competing for attention, sheer logistics of being away from 7am till 10pm and sorting out childcare etc, plus I really hate to travel and the underground is anathema to me). But I did it. It would have been really easy to not go – and cheaper, and less tiring – but I’m so glad I went. Will I go again next year? Maybe. Probably ;) If Hugh Howey’s going, then so am I.

7 Comments

Filed under Books, Writing

The Summerhouse is Finally Finished!

I’m lucky enough to have a small office at home (which doubles up as the spare room), but last summer I found myself feeling frustrated at being stuck in all day working while the sun shone outside. We came up with the idea of buying a summerhouse – one that I could use as a home office, but also a relaxing space to enjoy the garden even when the weather wasn’t quite so good. Now, finally, my summerhouse project is finished and ready to go!

Here is my summerhouse journey, starting with the before picture …

Summerhouse beforeThis was the spot where we used to keep our chickens a while back, so it needed to have a brand new base …

Summerhouse base

And then the summerhouse arrived …

Summerhouse

This was quite late into the year, though, so I didn’t get around to painting it until recently. My lovely brother-in-law put in some electrics for me and I started collecting old bits of furniture out of the garage ready to go in my new office.

And finally, on Sunday, the summerhouse was completed and ready to go!

Summerhouse completed

 

Summerhouse close up

 

Summerhouse desk

 

Summerhouse relaxing

The only brand new thing I have in there is the comfy chair from Ikea – the desk is an old one that didn’t make it into my office make-over last year, the glass bookcase used to be in hubby’s shed, and the wicker chair I’ve had for years and years. I can’t tell you how lovely it feels working in there. I used to stagger out of the house and walk to pick up my daughter from school blinking in the daylight and feeling bleary-eyed and dazed – now I feel as though I’ve been outdoors all day, and it’s so lovely to have the garden to look out on …

Garden

Plus, it’s amazingly quiet.  I can hear birds singing and bees buzzing around but not much else. Wonderful! And of course, it’s warm and cosy, with a radiator and lots of blankets, so I’m sure I’ll be using it all year long. Cupid’s Way will be finished in there very soon too :) It was a project well worth waiting for, and now I can’t wait to get to work in the mornings. My commute is about twenty five steps, which isn’t bad at all when you think about it.

So what do you think? And what kinds of lovely working spaces do you have?

 

14 Comments

Filed under Miscellaneous

Two Books in the Top Six

This weekend I’m venturing into Kindle Countdown territory, with my very first Countdown promotion. Early results are promising, with sales of my second romantic comedy, The Family Trap, increasing massively.

The Family Trap (TFT) has always been a reasonably steady seller, and it’s just over a year now since its release. Sales are usually around 6-10 a week, and I imagine most of these are by people who discovered it after reading Can’t Live Without. I reduced the price of Can’t Live Without a couple of months ago (to 99p) and took it out of KDP Select, publishing it on Kobo via Writing Life and through other channels via Smashwords. Sales of CLW have increased on Amazon since then, and I think 99p is a reasonable price for a novel that has been out almost two years and had over 70,000 downloads already :)

As a quick aside, I have sold exactly zero copies of Can’t Live Without on Kobo. (I just checked again – still nothing.) If anyone reading this has a Kobo reader and 99p to spare and fancies making me very happy here is the link http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/can-t-live-without-1

So, back to Kindle Countdown. TFT has jumped from the obscurity of the 30,000-50,000′s to a whopping position of #1,300 in the overall charts, and is currently #1 in humour for parenting and families – perfect for the Mother’s Day weekend. Apart from talking about it on Facebook, the only additional promotion I’ve done is a sponsored Facebook post, which cost £15 and allowed me to target ideal readers. I did have ideas about a mini blog tour but these didn’t pan out unfortunately; I don’t imagine it would have made that much difference, although it’s impossible to know for sure.

So far, since the Countdown started, TFT has had 75 downloads, which is fab! And there are still 2 days to go. The great thing about Countdown is that you get 70% of the price, instead of the usual 35% you’d get if you had your book priced at 99p. Sales of CLW have jumped up too, which is also a bonus – and at the time of writing I have both books in the top 6! Check it out:

TFT & CLW top 6

It’s so nice when they meet in the charts like this, really makes my day. So here’s hoping all you mums out there have a great day tomorrow, and that loads more people download TFT during my Mother’s Day Countdown promo :)

15 Comments

Filed under Books, Marketing & Promotion, The Family Trap

10 Best Things About Being A Writer

Today I’m lifting the lid on the best things about being a writer. Well, the best things from my perspective, anyway ;) If you’ve ever dreamed about being a writer you probably have a few ideas about the benefits you’d enjoy. Read on – you might be surprised …

#1 – Fan mail. Oh yes, this jumps right in there at number one – there is nothing quite so lovely as receiving an email or message from a reader who loved one of your books. I hear from readers quite a lot, partly because I make an effort to encourage it, and it’s always such an incredible buzz. These days authors need to be accessible in lots of different ways – email, Twitter, Facebook – so that readers can engage with them in the way that suits the reader best. I always answer messages from readers, and fellow writers of course.

#2 – Revenge. Come on, you’ve never thought about this? The number of people I’ve put in my books so I can carry out some kind of revenge must be in double figures by now. Even though the people who’ve offended or hurt you in some way will probably never know (usually they’re far too obtuse to care anyway), it’s still hugely satisfying to cast someone from your past as an unsavory character, or to kill off a person who wronged you – in your imagination, of course. Not in real life.

#3 – Stationery. Yes, one of the big loves of my life – stationery. I love all of it: notepads, folders, paper, envelopes, paperclips, post-its, those see-through plastic wallets you put in folders. I could spend hours in stationery stores, and becoming a writer finally gave me a good excuse to buy tons of the stuff. (My first job – hairdresser – had to go because it just wasn’t stationery-related enough.)

#4 – Sitting. I am very, very lazy. I can be incredibly industrious, but I can also be astonishingly lazy, expecting other people to wait on me hand and foot, and if I had the choice I would just sit for hours in a comfy chair. And oh! I do have the choice. I’m a writer.

#5 – Working in your PJs. To be honest, I don’t actually work in my PJs – I do tend to get dressed for the school run in the morning. But the point is, I could if I wanted to. Working from home is so wonderful because it really doesn’t matter what you look like. Unless I’m doing a Skype call, I can literally chuck on any old thing and not worry about make-up. Bliss!

I'm currently painting my summerhouse to make a little outdoor office for myself.

I’m currently doing up my summerhouse to make a little outdoor office for myself.

#6 – No colleagues. Linked to the above point, not having to go to a place of work means no colleagues. More bliss! I wouldn’t call myself anti-social (although I am), but I really dislike enforced social contact. And working in most non-home environments calls for chatting and interacting with people you might not feel like interacting with just then. I don’t have to do any of that. It’s wonderful. Does it get lonely? Well, I live in the middle of nowhere so occasionally I do go a bit stir crazy and go out to the big town. Or meet a friend for coffee. But not often.

#7 – Books! I love to be surrounded by books, and have always had a house full of bookcases and shelves. And there really are few things better than holding your own books in your hands. That’s why I’ll always endeavour to have print versions of my books. It’s not really for readers who don’t own Kindles – it’s for me.

A 'shelfie' I took for World Book Day - one of my book shelves with some old favourites.

A ‘shelfie’ I took for World Book Day – one of my book cases with some old favourites.

#8 – Being bossy. Basically, when I’m writing I’m in charge. My characters have to do exactly what I want them to do – it’s such a buzz being in control of the whole world, even if it is just the world of the novel. They are my creations, out of my imagination, and the natural control freak in me just loves being in charge.

#9 – Other writers. An amazing thing happens when you connect with people through your writing – you discover that other writers are lovely too. There is an amazingly supportive community out there (in the main – there are always people who take, take, take without giving, of course, but I try to ignore them), and I count a number of fellow authors among my close friends now. I even meet a couple of them on a regular basis, which considering point #6 proves I really do like them.

With my great friend Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn and Debbie Young. But why do I have balloons coming out of my head?

With my great friend Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn (centre) and the incredibly supportive Debbie Young. But why do I have balloons coming out of my head?

#10 – An active mind. I could have had lots of things for my last in the list – I haven’t mentioned freedom or money, for instance – but I couldn’t finish up without mentioning the wonderful benefits of using your mind in a creative way. As people get older they often take to crosswords or puzzles to keep their minds active. Writing uses your brain in lots of different ways, and older writers tend to be more engaged, more inquisitive, and actually brighter than their non-writing counterparts. So there’s another great reason to take up writing if you don’t already. It’ll help you stay younger.

Feel free to add to my list! What are your best things about being a writer?

19 Comments

Filed under Writing