Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Themes, motivation and making book bloggers cry...

I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to everyone for their best wishes and support re my recent dabble in self-publishing. Loads of people bought the book the day it came out (Sunday 18th August) and I was really excited when it shot up to #2 in Amazon's Women Writers Short Story chart:

It's currently #20 in the charts so, while it's not riding high any more it's still doing okay and I'm delighted that people are buying and enjoying it. Well, when I say I enjoying it seems like a couple of stories have made book bloggers cry their eyes out!

 Kim the Bookworm tweeted "Am reading @callytaylor's Secrets and Rain. Only read 1st story but was a blubbering wreck! T'was fab!"

Then Tishylou posted a lovely review and called the collection 'Heart-breaking, heart-warming, tender, sweet, sad' and gave it 5/5 which made my day. 

It's funny, it's been two years since I last had a novel out and, writing in isolation, it's so easy to start doubting yourself and thinking that everything you write is poo, so when someone tells you that something you wrote made them 'sob into my brew' it gives you such an amazing lift. I don't write for myself - if I did I'd never publish anything - I write to connect with others, to entertain or scare them, to get them thinking or make them cry. Hearing feedback that you did just that has to be one - if not THE - most rewarding parts of being a writer. 

I haven't done much promotion for my short story collection. To be honest it wasn't until I pressed the 'publish' button that I thought, 'I guess I should tell people about this.'

Dizzy C was kind enough to contact me to ask if I'd do a guest blog for her so I wrote one about why I've got such a soft spot for short stories here: 


I also wrote a blog post for Sally Quilford on 'theme' and the amazing revelation I had in Julie Cohen's workshop on theme at this summer's RNA conference:


And a 'how to publish a short story collection' post for womag writer:


And that's it! Nik Perring got in touch to ask if I fancied visiting his blog so I'll probably put together a post for him in the next few days but that's me pretty much done with promotion for this book. Unless, um, you'd like to buy it! It's not a complete sob-fest, I promise! There are some amusing and romantic stories in there too (Tishylou totally fell for the male character in 'The Woman Who Became a Tree'). 

So here it is again, 'Secrets and Rain' - twelve prizewinning and previous publishing short stories by me, for just £1.53 (for a limited time). 

Buy it on Amazon.co.uk
Buy it on Amazon.com

Search for it on the other Amazon sites, it should be there. 

Thank you! x

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Dipping my toe into self-publishing - just how warm IS the water?

So, I've just published 'SECRETS AND RAIN' - an ebook of 12 of my short stories (8 published, 3 prize-winners* and a brand new one) - on Amazon and now I'm waiting to see what happens.

That makes it sound like it was a speedy process doesn't it? That I just uploaded a Word doc, pressed 'publish' and...DONE!

Unfortunately that's not quite true.

I've been thinking about self-publishing some of my short stories for a while. I even ran the idea past my agent last year to check she was okay with it (she was, publishers rarely buy short story anthologies unless you're an uber bestseller) but it's taken me until now to finally do it.


If I'm honest I was a bit scared. I know these stories are have merit - they wouldn't have been published in Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman's Own and/or won prizes if they were awful - but it takes a hell of a lot of guts to self-publish something on your own because it means you have to take total responsibility for the success of the entire project. From the cover to the content to the blurb to the sales. It's totally down to you.

I've seen Mel Sherratt, Talli Roland, Kirsty Greenwood and Tracy Bloom do it brilliantly but I assumed they were braver (not to mention more organised) than me. Then there's the fact they've all published novels and my self-publishing offering is a lowly short story anthology. What if no one bought it?

Actually sales were the least of my worries - the main one was time. How the hell was I going to find the time to put it together, get it proof-read and formatted and design a cover AND do the day job, look after the Spudling and write my psychological suspense novels?

Hello outsourcing!

I've spent nearly £250 getting a cover designed, proof-reading done and formatting sorted and two of those (proof-reading and formatting) were done as 'mates rates' so god knows how much it would have cost me if I'd done it full cost (actually I do - about £400).

I tried to save some money by designing a cover myself but, no matter how hard I tried they just looked a bit too 'homemade' to me (you'll see I changed the title several times too!):

As well as being a RUBBISH cover this attempt doesn't set the right tone for the collection. It's too chicklitty and some of the stories are quite sad (my proofreader told me that two of them made her cry!)

This cover is a bit better but I don't like the font I chose for my name and the feel is too summery for the collection. Some of the stories are set in the autumn or on a rainy summer's day.

I gave up after my second attempt (I was spending a fortune paying for images I rejected the second I tried to mock them up in Photoshop) and decided to pay for a professional cover to be designed. I didn't have a clue what I wanted but knew I'd know it when I saw it.

Luckily for me the amazing team of designers at Designs for Writers asked me a series of questions about the book - including what the themes of the stories were, whether there were any particular images or scenes I could imagine as a cover, what book covers I liked, what book covers I didn't like - and when they presented me with the final cover they had it bang on. They'd totally nailed the feel of the collection and they hadn't even read it. Amazing!

Here's the professional cover, what do you think? About a million times better than my efforts, right? And they've nailed the theme of the collection which I think is 'hope' (it's raining and the woman is sheltering under an umbrella but she's walking towards the light).


So yes, back to price. I don't think for one second that I'll make a profit with the anthology, never mind cover the £250 costs, especially not with a selling price of £1.49 but that wasn't why I decided to bring out the anthology.

So why did I?

- as an experiment (I've read and heard SO MUCH about self-publishing over the last few years I wanted to have a little dabble myself)

- so there's a physical 'bundle' of the short stories I'm most proud of (I'm going to publish a CreateSpace paperback at some point and will buy a copy myself so I can put it on my shelf alongside my novels)

- so I've published something this year (Home for Christmas came out in 2011 which feels like FOREVER ago)

- for my readers. I don't exactly have an army of them - more like a couple of sentry guards - but there might be someone out there going 'I've read 'Home for Christmas' and 'Heaven Can Wait' and I so wish Cally had something else for me to read' (well I can dream...)

So there you go. I've done it now. I've published an anthology of my short stories and, so far, it hasn't been that much of a hassle or overly time-consuming. In fact, the bit that probably took the longest was deciding which stories should go in it and what order they should go in.

I'd like to say a huge thank you to Design for Writers for their amazing cover, a massive thanks to Laura Barclay for doing the proof-reading so quickly and so thoroughly (do please contact Laura if you'd like a proof-reading quote, she really is excellent: laura.j.barclay@hotmail.com), to Tamsyn Murray for formatting for me (contact her via her website if you'd like her to do yours: http://www.tamsynmurray.co.uk/), and to Kate Harrison, Scarlett Bailey, Miranda Dickinson and Holly Hepburn for taking the time to read the anthology and for giving me such lovely quotes about it.

'Secrets and Rain is a treasure trove brimming over with captivating stories of life, loss and love. A truly wonderful collection that you won't want to end!' Miranda Dickinson

 'A magical collection of stories packed full of charm, humour and pathos. Delightful.'  Scarlett Bailey

'Each one of these stories is a wonderful glimpse into a moment in someone else's life. Poignant, moving, funny and always uplifting - Cally's stories are the perfect escape.' Kate Harrison

'Secrets and Rain is like dipping into a box of handmade chocolates - some stories are sweet, some are dark but each one is a perfectly-crafted pleasure!' Holly Hepburn

And big thanks to you  too -  for reading this mammoth blog post (and extra special thanks if you buy it! ;))

So here it is - my first (and possibly not my last) self-published effort:
Click here to buy it on Amazon.co.uk at the rock-bottom price of £1.59


Here to buy it on Amazon.com for the rock-assed (see what I did there?) price of $2.99

It's also available on all the other Amazon sites - .de, .es. .ca etc.

* The prize-winning stories are 'Wish You Were Here' which came second in the Woman's Own short story competition, 'My Daughter the Deep Sea Diver' which came third in the Writers' Bureau short story competition and 'Under the Waves' which came first in the Bank Street Writers short story competition.  

*** GIVEAWAY *** 

To celebrate the launch of 'Secrets and Rain' I'm giving away FIVE £5 Amazon vouchers to my newsletter subscribers. To enter just:

1. Subscribe to my newsletter here: http://www.callytaylor.co.uk/blog.html

2. Send an email saying 'Pick Me' in the subject to taylor_cally@yahoo.co.uk by midnight tonight (17th August 2013)

On Monday I'll get the Spudling to pick 5 names out of a saucepan and I'll announce the winners (with a photo of his selection) in the Newsletter (email).