Monday, June 3, 2013

Today's the day!

Yes, it's out now, L'Amour Actually is now available in a bookshop near you. Here it is in my local Waterstones

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Four days to go!

Only four days to go until the official release of L'Amour Actually.  Cheeky Amazon has already sent out copies to people who pre-ordered but on the plus side it means I've had my first review before the book is officially released. And it was a 5 star one.

And for your delight and delectation, here it is:

He held up the X-ray to the light, so I could see it.
"Look, you have a mobile phone embedded in your brain. No wonder your head hurts," he smiled.

L'Amour Actually is a fabulously fun frolic which gives the reader a delightfully humorous portrayal of the reality of living the "French dream" through the eyes of our hapless yet hopeful heroine, Melanie Jones. Despite having the good fortune to snap up the only good looking farmer in France still in possession of all his own teeth, Melanie lurches from one farcical situation to another, often in an unfortunate state of undress. Disappearing elderly cats, semi-naked morbidly obese chickens, bulbous-bottomed line dancers, myriad medical mishaps, an Essex girl with a lethal right-hook and a frighteningly true-to-life eccentric British ex-pat community - combined with a liberal sprinkling of sublimely witty one-liners - make this compulsive reading. Crack open a nicely chilled bottle of rosé, curl up on your favourite armchair and enjoy...

You can order your copy here

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nearly there!

It's just over three weeks until L'Amour Actually is launched on an unsuspecting world with its new cover and hopefully no typos!

Today the lovely people at Summersdale sent me a photo of my book as a real, proper book. My own copy should be with me in a few days. I can't wait. And just so you don't have to, here it is!

and in some fine company too!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Available to pre-order on Amazon now!

Available to pre-order now on Amazon. If you want a funny,  lighthearted read on the beach or on holiday, this is for you or your wife/sister/girlfriend/any other female you might know (and men too of course). And I will, of course, love you forever if you buy it!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Writer Development Day

Yesterday I was lucky enough to go to a Writer's Development Day organised by Literature Works, a charity set up to support and encourage West Country writers. The speakers were Clare Wallace, Head of Rights at Darley Anderson, literary agents to the likes of Lee Childs, Jane Costello, Clare Dowling and Martina Cole,  and popular Women's Fiction author and the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Bath University, Sarah Duncan, writer of five novels, two of which have made the lists for Romantic Novelists Association book of the year.

The idea behind the day was to learn more about how to approach agents, how to pitch your book and just what level of flattery is acceptable when writing a query letter.

Sarah gave some great tips on telling your story and some excellent advice on dos and don'ts; for example, agents don't tend to like books that start off a) talking about the weather b) waking up with a hangover or c) looking in a mirror.

Clare talked about the role of an agent, what they do, how many submissions they get (300 a week) and how to get your book noticed. She also gave advice on writing your query letter, what to say and what not to say. Don't for example tell an agent it will make a good film, or worse still, send them a Hollywood cast list, don't come across as an agressive loony but do include a bar of chocolate - that was a tongue in cheek comment. Don't make a grand gesture, such as one aspiring author did, and leave your manuscript, wrapped in a blanket in a Moses basket on the doorstep of the agency.  It spent a few hours sitting on the step while they tried to decide whether or not to ring the police and the author wasn't signed anyway. They do still have the Moses basket though.

For someone like me, who was lucky enough to be signed by a publisher on my first book, without ever having had to write a query letter, it was invaluable, should I need to find an agent in the future.

We were all asked to bring along the first page of our book, so, having lots of ideas but no firm plans I did a quick Facebook poll on two ideas I had, one for a more serious, literary book and one for another lighthearted, Popular Women's Fiction one in a similar tone to L'Amour Actually. The vote was overwhelmingly for the latter, so I quickly banged out a first page. Everyone present had to vote on their three favourites then Clare and Sarah gave quick feedback on each. I was delighted that my first page was the second most popular of the thirty on offer and Sarah picked it out as one of her three favourites. Now, to write the other 300 pages!

I would highly recommend events like this to other authors. It was a great opportunity to network with other writers and find out more about other opportunities in the local area. I'm so glad that I discovered Literature Works and look forward to more events in the future.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It's all negotiable...

When I was offered a contract to publish L'Amour Actually my immediate reaction, apart from disbelief, was to just sign on the dotted line. I mean, someone wanted to publish my book. How fantastic was that?

But a few well placed words from The Husband made me realise that, like any contract, it was worth looking at it in detail.  I suddenly realised how little (read: absolutely nothing at all) I knew about contracts. Was my contract a good one? What were all these rights and should I keep them or not? What did all these clauses mean?  Would my publishers think me a bit of a diva if I told them I wanted to get it checked out? Surely I should just be glad that they were interested in me. In the end, I spoke to them about it. They were very supportive of my wish to have my contract checked and certainly didn't feel affronted in any way. They did warn me that some things are negotiable but others just aren't. That seemed fair enough.

I belong to a few writing groups so I started off there. And that was when I hit my first barrier. It seemed that people were actually very reluctant to talk about their contracts. In some ways, of course, I completely understand that, but then for me, trying to research them, it wasn't much help.

For a first time writer, the advance, unless you are exceptionally lucky, is unlikely to be enough to afford the services of a lawyer so I needed to look at other avenues. With the help of Mr Google, I found several independents who would take an impartial look at your contract. The cost was around the £100 mark. Not huge but not insignificant either.  I then came across the Society of Authors. As an author in possession of a contract I was entitled to join and one of the services they offer their members is a free contract vetting service. This is in addition to a quarterly magazine and all sorts of other useful information - and I won't pretend that the membership card with my name on wasn't a teeny bit of a draw too. I am so shallow!  And it was a bit cheaper.  It seemed a no-brainer.

So, membership form and subscription duly paid, I sent my contract off to them. They told me I would have it back within a week with their recommendations. It eventually came back two days later along with several fact sheets about various elements of publisher's contracts. It was hugely useful in helping me understand the document that was in front of me.  It is worth remembering though, that their recommendations are sort of 'in an ideal world' and publishing is anything but so it should be used as a bargaining tool, not a mallet to bash your publisher over the head.

I was pleased but not surprised to see that the contract I had been offered was very fair and the changes suggested by the SoA were really quite minor but they enabled me to negotiate  a slightly higher advance and  slightly better royalties. The publisher even threw in a couple of things I hadn't asked for.  One interesting thing that the SoA advised was not to sign away merchandising and film rights. The royalties per book are eye-wateringly low; JK Rowling only gets 90p per book so you can imagine where the average author's royalties are pitched. But there's money in them there merchandising and film hills if you hang on to the rights. That's not to say that selling your book to a film company is easy but there are professionals out there who may be better placed than your publisher. And who wouldn't want to dream of their story on the big screen with Cameron Diaz playing the lead?

If you are fortunate enough to be offered a contract I would say always get it checked by a professional but be realistic. No publisher is going to stake huge sums of money on an unknown author. Ignore press reports of six figure sums for debut novelists; they are definitely the exception rather than the rule and use any contract report as a starting point not the finishing line.

Good luck!

Smug moment!

Monday, January 7, 2013

I'm back!

Happy 2013 y'all!  Blimey! I hope you weren't holding your breath for instalment number two. If you were...breathe in, now, quickly.

Well, what did happen next? What happened next was that I sent off my completed 22 chapters to Summersdale who commissioned the book. God, I hope they like the rest of it as much.  It's actually quite daunting being commissioned on the basis of an incomplete book (yes, I know that sounds horribly patronising when so many people are flogging themselves half to death to get published) because there is always the worry that they'll read the rest and thing, 'well, that's a load of crap.' Then what? Hopefully that's not going to happen but I'll be very pleased to get it back for the next edit.

People that have followed the incredibly journey of this story from my old French blog will know that I had an agent a few years back who wanted me to write a counter-intuitive book about life in France. However, from my experiences with the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, I had discovered that, whatever we might like to believe, in general people don't like to think you are writing about them, even if you aren't, and I wasn't, so I had a major problem writing the sort of book the agent wanted. In the end we agreed to part company for a while so I could work out how best I was happy to write the book.

In the end, I wrote a book that was part real life, part fiction. The people that feature in it aren't real people, they are amalgamations of many people I met, both in France and elsewhere. No doubt, there will be those who will scrutinise every single word looking for themselves in the book but I'm afraid they are in for a disappointment.

In some ways, the book has gone full circle now as it's being published as a fictionalised travel memoir. Some of it happened, some of it happened but not exactly in the way that I've written it and some of it didn't happen at all. The reader can decide - and they may well be surprised. As a travel memoir, I've now become the central character although it's not the me of today, rather it's elements of the me of my twenties, who was far more fun. That led to some other problems, for me at least. The mother in the book was a put-upon 1950s wife, who had given up everything for her husband and his career, only to have him leave her for a younger woman. That couldn't be further from the truth for my parents, who have been happily married for over fifty years and my mother is one of the most inspirational people I've ever met; a woman who challenged the constrictions of the time and refused to accept that a woman's place is in the home.

And then there was the sex.  I doubt that E L James's teenage sons whooped with joy when their mother wrote a soft porn novel and likewise, my own children would be far from amused at reading bedroom antics with their mother as the central character. So I toned it down. I didn't remove it completely, it's two thirds love story apart from anything else, but I made it more acceptable to my teenage kids.

And then there was the title.  I'd chosen not only the title of a book that already existed, but one that the same publisher had brought out a few years ago, so that clearly wouldn't do. I had a poll among my Facebook friends and it became, briefly, Everything's Coming Up Rosé before we finally settled on 'L'Amour Actually,' thought up by my friend Victoria, who will not get a thank you in the acknowledgements.  I've now seen proofs of the book cover, which is fab, and we've been hard at work producing marketing material for Waterstones, which was needed much earlier than originally thought.

So, for the past two months I've been on a writing marathon with little time for anything else - and the perfect excuse to avoid doing the ironing. It's not a healthy occupation, this writing though, sitting on your backside eating biscuits instead of healthy meals and delegating all physical activity to other members of the family. The end result is I have a fine case of  Writer's Arse, characterised by a strange increase in the size of the derriere due to inactivity. Now that the final manuscript is in, it's time to try and shed the stone I've put one while I've been writing it. Yes, one whole stone! Shocking.  I have a family wedding in 18 weeks and if I'm not going to look like a giant citrus fruit in my lime green dress, I must take myself in hand and get fighting the Writing Flab. Wish me luck.

I'll be back soon to have a little chat about negotiating contracts.

I'm doomed......!