How To Write An Ebook Series by Cathy Bramley

Today I’m handing my blog over to bestselling author Cathy Bramley. Cathy is the hard-working, super-talented author behind the phenomenally successful Ivy Lane series, currently occupying top spots on Amazon. Find out what it takes to write an ebook series, then ask Cathy any questions via the comments box below. Over to you, Cathy …

Cathy Bramley Profile pic lo

My Ebook Series – Ivy Lane

The lovely Jo has invited me to talk about my ebook series Ivy Lane which is being published in four parts throughout this year. It follows the journey of a young woman, Tilly Parker and her first year on her allotment. It’s a light-hearted, feel-good story with plenty of smiles and quite a few tears along the way.

It would never have occurred to me to write a serial, had I not been asked by Transworld Books to do so. Up until that point, I hadn’t even noticed the trend towards releasing books as serials. There are oodles of them this year: some simply novels split into chunks and released every couple of weeks and others designed specifically as a printed version of a soap-opera.

All 4 covers - Ivy Lane

I suggested to my editor that we followed the seasons and released each part in its correct season. Next spring we will be releasing the complete story, with all four parts as a paperback.

When I began plotting the book, I was very conscious of the reader and what their experience would be when reading Ivy Lane. I didn’t want them to get to the end of part one and think, ‘oh, what a nice story.’ I wanted them to be intrigued and wonder what happens next and speculate as to what Tilly’s secret might be.

In short I suppose, I wanted to end each part on a bit of a cliff-hanger so that readers are chomping at the bit until the next part is released. So far it seems to be working and the feedback has been fabulous. In fact, last weekend one particular blogger was threatening to drive over and try and bribe me to find out what happens next!

I realised that in order to do this I would have to write each separate part not only as a stand-alone short story but also as part of a bigger story arc to carry through the whole novel.

So each part has a three act structure which fits into an even bigger overarching three act structure.

I was a bit daunted by this at first, but then remembered a session I had been to at the Writer’s Workshop Festival of Writing last year run by best-selling author Julie Cohen. (Julie runs a lot of workshops and if you ever get chance to attend one – do!)

She demonstrated how to use the three act structure to plan your novel by following the format of Disney Pixar’s film Cars. I love this sort of visual reminder!

Julie Cohen story arc

I plotted out the events of each part of Ivy Lane, making sure that there was enough conflict and build-up of tension throughout the story. I then did the same for the whole novel. The only difference for me was that at the end of parts one, two and three; instead of a resolution, there is a partial resolution and cliff-hanger ending to keep the reader guessing about what happens next.

I enjoyed writing the Ivy Lane series so much that it ended up being the fastest book I’ve ever written and I finished the first draft in ten weeks. It’s also quite addictive – I’m now in the middle of a new series for next year and have got an idea for a third!

Ivy Lane Spring and Ivy Lane Summer are now available and Ivy Lane Autumn will be available on 4 September on Amazon, iBooks and Kobo.

My links:

www.CathyBramleyAuthor.com

Facebook.com/CathyBramleyAuthor

Twitter @CathyBramley

 

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Have You Heard About Future Learn?

Today I start a new online course called Talk The Talk – it’s all about giving presentations and talks and is run by the Open University. The brilliant thing about this six week course is: it’s absolutely free!

future learn

When I was checking out the range of courses on the Future Learn website it occurred to me what a fantastic resource this is for writers. There are courses on topics as diverse as science, medicine, history, geography and business – along with journalism, creative writing and English. For research purposes, some of these courses look fantastic! I’ve already signed up for Web science: how the web is changing the world (fascinating!), Psychology and mental health, and Shakespeare and his world. You get to study in your own time, there’s a certificate of completion at the end, and did I mention the courses are free? :)

Well, you know I’m a learning junkie, so of course I couldn’t resist. For budding writers there is the excellent Start Writing Fiction as well, similar to the 10 credit Open University module I studied a while back – this was a brilliant course. You learn through a combination of videos and text, and interact with other students and tutors via forums. Right, off to get started on Talk The Talk now :) I’m determined to master those nerves one day!

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A New Look For A Life Unpredicted

I released my first collection of short stories back in 2012, wanting to offer something else for readers while working on the follow up to Can’t Live Without. The collection has been well received by readers, gaining some great reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, but recently, when I looked at the six titles I now have available on Amazon, I realised that the cover of A Life Unpredicted didn’t ‘fit’ with my contemporary look. It was a little bleak, and didn’t really reflect the mood of the stories contained within.

I made a quick call to my ace cover designer and a few days later a brand new cover arrived …

GIRL_SITTING_V2I love it! Eagle-eyed readers who have been on this journey with me for a long time may recognise this image from a former incarnation of Can’t Live Without – I always loved the picture and I’m so glad I’ve been able to use it for one of my books.

If you haven’t read it yet, A Life Unpredicted and other stories is available on Amazon for only 77p/99c. Here is the blurb:

Love, loss, joy, regret and the perils of parenting – all these themes and more are explored, touchingly and bravely, in this collection of ten short stories, including:

A Life Unpredicted – The key to your future might be hidden in the past … Shortlisted for the Grace Dieu Short Story competition.

Parenting Class – “‘You need help,’ Gina had said, ‘and I know just the place.’ Gina was my social worker, and the place was Parenting Class, Tuesday afternoons, free to those desperate enough to need it.”

One To Keep – A story for everyone who’s ever made – or broken – a new year’s resolution.

“This new volume contains all the hallmarks of her novels: sensitive observation, eloquent phraseology, a kind heart, a quick intelligence and a generous nature.” Debbie Young, author

“Ms Phillips’ writing is spare and direct, with scarcely a word wasted. This is just how short pieces should be written.” John Dolan

My cover designer and I are also in the process of redesigning the cover for my Flora Lively series, ready for the release of the audio book of Murder at the Maples. Watch out for news of that very soon!

 

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The RNA Conference 2014 – An Indie Author’s View

On Sunday I went along to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual conference. Regular readers might remember my open letter to the RNA in 2012, where I queried how I might join this wonderful organisation as I seemed to fall between the cracks of their membership rules, as neither an author-under-contract nor a ‘new writer’. It did cause a bit of a stir at the time, which wasn’t my intention to be honest – I’m the kind of person who pushes for inclusivity wherever I find that a group are being excluded, no matter what the context or whether or not I’m personally affected.

An-y-way, the RNA contacted me back then to let me know that I could still attend their functions as a non-member, which seemed fair enough really. As the conference this year was taking place practically in my own backyard, it seemed an ideal opportunity to go along and suss out the general feeling of members and also to attend a range of brilliant workshops and lectures.

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I’m so glad I took the plunge and went along, even though I’m not a member – yet. Everyone I spoke to was really warm and welcoming, and I met some lovely writers who have (I was stunned to discover) been following my indie progress for a while. There was an awesome moment when Julie Stock dragged me over to meet a group of RNA writers – members of the New Writers’ Scheme – and introduced me as ‘The one I’ve been telling you all about!’

The lectures were totally worth the day’s fee, covering topics such as using setting more effectively and keeping a grip on your novel’s structure. But the lecture that blew me away came from Catherine Roach, a visiting academic from the University of Alabama. She gave a talk about the differences (or similarities) between US and UK romantic fiction, including universal themes of love and the narrative of romance in popular culture. While I sat there taking it all in, I realised that this is an area I’m passionate about. This is why I’m doing a Masters; this is the direction in which I want to aim in terms of my writing career. Catherine confidently asserted that romantic fiction shouldn’t be looked down upon – and nor, by extension, should writers of romantic fiction. The narrative of love weaves its way through literature, religion and art, and serves a purpose for women that is hugely important. I had a light-bulb moment where I realised that I am going to write a romance novel for my MA, and not be pushed into writing something ‘literary’ just because I think that is most likely what the examiners are looking for.

Off to email my supervisor and probably ask for a transfer ;)

Debbie Young, Talli Roland and me catching a selfie!

Debbie Young, Talli Roland and me catching a selfie!

So, back to the becoming-less-thorny topic of self-publishing and the RNA. What is massively heartening is that the people behind the RNA held a ballot of their members this year, asking whether they were for or against changing the organisation’s constitution, which at present does bar anyone who has solely self-published (I’ll come back the ‘solely’ part later) from joining as a full member. Out of the 509 members balloted, 331 voted. 24% voted to keep things as they are, 52.7% voted to allow self-publishing authors who meet a certain criteria, and 23.3% voted to create a new category for self-publishing authors. Because a majority of 66% wasn’t reached there will be no change.

Now, to put this in perspective, all of this is brilliant news. Yes, it is. The RNA actually held a ballot and tried to change, which is massively encouraging. They would like to be inclusive and move with the changing times, but have to abide by their constitution, and take into account the views of their members. However, 76% of members DO want self-published authors to be able to join the RNA. “52.7% voted to allow self-publishing authors who meet a certain criteria” plus “23.3% voted to create a new category for self-publishing authors.” When you add these figures together it smashes their own 66% criteria. With no disrespect to the folks behind the ballot’s wording, this was not exactly a masterclass in questionnaire design. Voting for change where a majority of 66% is required calls for a Yes/No question, worded clearly and unequivocally. This was not a ballot, it was a survey, which is a totally different thing. Giving three options made this designed to fail, because there was confusion over which of the ‘yes’ categories would be the best option. If the ballot had been a simple matter of: Keep things as they are (no change), or Change to allow self-publishing, with a further ballot to decide how, the result would be very different indeed. And – I must add – would have soon been earning the RNA a massive uptake in full fees as successful self-published authors flocked to join.

Even though this ballot has not led to a change of joining rules, I still think it’s a great move – and anyone who looks at the figures and thinks for half a second can see that 76% of the members who voted are open to indie authors and happy to have them among their ranks.

When I was explaining all this to my husband, he said, ‘Why do you want to be a member, anyway?’ I told him this: Because I am a romantic novelist. Because I write good books that are professionally edited and proofread, that look beautiful, are stocked in book shops and libraries, that sell in their thousands and win competitions and prompt enthusiastic emails from readers. Because I’m proud to write romance and I want to align myself with like-minded writers. I know there will be those of you who don’t get it, and that’s fine – you don’t have to understand, or care. I care because on Sunday I spoke to talented writers who are coming up through the RNA’s own New Writers Scheme who have already decided to self-publish. They are excited about it, they are passionate about reaching readers, and I wish I could tell them that they won’t be treated like outcasts amongst their peers.

I did a little research when I got home. Many RNA members self-publish. They self-publish their backlist through Amazon KDP, they self-publish new titles that they can’t place with existing publishers. Some of the members have titles currently for sale only via self-publishing, but clearly they had a traditional contract at one time. Others came to full membership after starting off as indies. There is already a blurring of the lines, and the 24% who voted against changing are going to have to justify their point of view one day. Readers – the most important people – don’t care how a book came into publication. And neither do I. The RNA’s equivalent in Australia has already taken the step to be more inclusive, and I’m sure others will follow suit.

But let’s forget all that and focus on the positive. Rules or not, indies are welcome to join in events and get involved in other ways. We can join the RNA through the New Writer Scheme – which I might do next year because you get a valuable critique with your membership. Yes, the wording of ‘new writer’ doesn’t fit, but I’m going to practice what I preach and keep an open mind. And, as a member or not, I’ll be there next year at the conference having a great time with an organisation full of passionate, enthusiastic romance writers.

PS

I’m adding a little post-script to this a couple of minutes before the post goes live, after reading this article in the Guardian this morning. Reflecting on the fact that so many RNA members already self-publish, or are planning to, or may well find themselves having to at some point in the not-too-distant future, it makes me feel really sad, actually, that the indies who are at the forefront of self-publishing aren’t being welcomed in with open arms. If I was feeling less generous than I was when I wrote this post I’d say this: You’re happy to learn from our mistakes, to read our blogs and pick our brains about printers, formatting, marketing, distribution, but you still want to hold on to the myth that the only ‘proper’ type of publishing has a contract. It’s a shame, that’s all.

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