Learning from mentors helps us to improve and evolve in our chosen field, and I still recall the advice given to me at the start of my writing journey.
To help other writers, I started a feature whereby established authors shared their words of wisdom and top ten writing tips.
It was a huge success and I was delighted to bring the feature back for a second season! You’ll find all the Top 10 Writing Tip articles here.
Meet Paula Roscoe
P.J. Roscoe is the international award-winning author of supernatural and historical fiction for adults and the Adventures of Faerie folk series for young children. She lives in North Wales with her husband, Martin of 28 years, where she walks in nature every day with her dog, Sidney and is butler to their three cats! Paula believes in living life to the fullest and yes, she believes in faeries! Paula is a Pagan, as well as a medium who works with her angels and spirit guides to help lost souls find peace. It is these experiences that have helped create her books and produce stories that readers find ‘unputdownable’!! She has recently finished her sixth novel titled, ‘Realms’ due out 2022 and her historical novel, ‘Diary of Margery Blake’ is out now as an audio drama through http://www.storymore.com
“Top Ten tips I wish I’d known when starting on this journey!”
Book covers ARE important!! I really wanted to believe in the early days that people wouldn’t judge a book by its cover – but they did and still do! I thought I was being clever with minimal book covers for my first book, Echoes, which you can see on my website. Don’t get me wrong, the artwork has meaning and I didn’t have the money to invest and I loved the artwork a friend had done for me. – Judges loved the story so I won awards – but readers did not even look at it. – Invest in a reputable book cover designer if doing it alone – make sure it is in your contract to work ‘with’ the book cover artist if with a publisher.
Hiring a decent editor is essential – not just your best friend who says she is better at English than you! With ‘Echoes’ then known as ‘Ruined Echoes’ I self published through LULU and sold 13 books! As my first language was Welsh, I struggle with English grammar and punctuation, but a friend said she was pretty good – and she was in my eyes, but she was NOT an editor. It needed an expert to see the flaws and point out alternative ways of putting forward the story. In other books I have worked closely with each editor and even re-writing a whole chapter in ‘Between Worlds’ as her suggestion made much more sense to create the character in a far better light. Build trust with your editor – work closely – and make sure you can work with them and you’re both on the same page. I am lucky. Both of my publishers have fantastic editors.
You don’t have to be part of the literature club – that’s a different style of writing and its okay not to have ten degrees to your name! I see this all the time – sadly. Even in writing books there is snobbery! I don’t have degrees in English or history. I have a CSE grade 1 in English language among other ‘O’ levels, but that’s it. But, I write a damned fine story. So much so, I hear from readers all the time, telling me they cannot put my books down once they begin, and THAT is worth more to me than any degree. If you can write…They will come…!
Don’t expect your family and friends to buy EVERY single thing you publish. I learned the hard way on this one. My first book signing – I had no books!! I was too shy and uncomfortable asking people to buy one of my books. I had no confidence, so why should anyone else? My husband whom I adore, married 28 years, has read two of my books – the others, are not his thing. I’m not sure who else in my family have bought anything, and extended family…??? Many friends have been kind and bought a few, but I never expect them to buy anything. I am honoured if they enjoy it, but what if they don’t…? Not had that yet, but it hovers over friendships and family gatherings like a black plague!!!
Book signings are NOT always like you see on films! When I first began, the internet was none existent and so word of mouth and good old paper posters and small adverts in the local newspaper were all I had to work with. My first ‘proper’ book signing I held at Theatre Clwyd – 29 people came. I held a raffle, read from the book, had a Q&A and sold about 20 books. I felt elated. I have been to book signings where nobody came, and it was just me, a cup of coffee, a load of my books and an embarrassed librarian or book shop owner – these are disheartening, soul destroying and for me, hard to bear, as I felt embarrassed, I’d somehow let the person taking a chance on me, down. But that is the reality. If you aren’t ‘famous’ don’t expect a line of people excitingly waiting to meet you OR I am just not good at advertising myself, and I need to get better??? Be creative too. My last book signing for ‘Where Rivers Meet’ in 2019, I held at a country park in a small gallery for local artists. Had a raffle, and I had created a small bag of interesting goodies with each book sold that included things from the actual copper mines etc. Think outside the box. It doesn’t have to be in a book shop.
Sadly, there are fraudsters out there who hear your desperation to be published and WILL use it against you if they can. ANYONE who asks for money upfront is a fraud. I knew that, but I was still suckered in and lost over £350. Other authors I have since spoken to lost a lot more. This particular fraudster is now in jail and was notorious to the FBI. Personally, I loved the book cover she did for ‘Echoes’ the editing wasn’t too bad, but I received no royalties for two years and never will. I got the rights back easily enough, while others had to fight her for it, losing even more money on lawyers. I have heard so horror stories, so learn from me – pay nothing
Research, research and more research if you intend to go down either of the published roads – traditional or self published – both have their ups and downs. I meet a few authors who ask me about the traditional route and how much the publishers do for my books. Not much anymore! It isn’t like the old days when you’d be offered a five book deal and have business lunches and huge press releases etc (Well, not me anyway!) They accept the book – edit it, book cover – press release – advertise it on social platforms – BUT, YOU, have to do the rest. YOU have to advertise, build up the interest, organise your book launch, book signings, in fact, EVERYTHING! It is the same if you self-publish. And this is my downfall. I am a writer, not a marketer so I struggle with building interest, and getting sales and advertising etc. I have done so many courses and followed the advice and nothing has created huge sale – if any? I think, for me, it has been word of mouth, and if I’m lucky, book talks/signings etc that generate interest.
Be seen and be heard – let go of your shyness and go get ‘em! Which brings me to being seen, and heard. Being an author, you want readers to find you, hear about your work, so you have to get out there. I offer a variety of talks and workshops on being an author, faerie workshops, medium ship and psychic abilities, haunted locations, women’s rights and the Suffragettes and more. All based around my books and the genre I write in. I was busy attending WI’s around North Wales and women’s groups before 2020, and offering a variety of talks and workshops in libraries and shops big enough to hold people. Again, think outside the box and offer something connected to your genre to the public.
Always, Always, ALWAYS make sure you back up your back ups! Computers are not your best friend and WILL lose everything if it can. As I write this, I am aware that I haven’t put ‘Echoes’ the audio book onto a usb – that will be done immediately! I have lost so much work over the years with crashing computers, that now, (most of the time!) I remember to put everything on usb for safety. I lost half of ‘Freya’s Child’ once when our computer died in mid sentence and I lost nine chapters. I was inconsolable, however, I am lucky to have a brilliant husband who is a computer whisperer, who did finally manage to find the old versions of the chapters, so I could write them again, and who knows, possibly they were better second time around? When I first began writing, it was an electric typewriter – feel my pain…!
Make sure you are enjoying the journey – if not, then stop – even if it’s for a short while. Trust yourself and listen to your inner voice. If you have one book or one story in you, then give yourself a big pat on the back and be proud that you achieved it. No need to keep pushing yourself to create another if it’s not enjoyable. Life is to be lived and loved, never endured! I have met people who tell me they loved writing their first novel, but their second was a chore…? Why on earth did you do it then? Do what you love. I am not just an author, I think that would be boring. I am a narrator – (hence putting my books in audio amongst many others!) a voice actress for audio drama’s, a counsellor, holistic therapist, medium, Angel Voice healer and so much more. Life is to be enjoyed, and I also think, different experiences bring more to the writing table.
Thanks to Paula for sharing her top tips with us. You can connect with her here:
LinkTree – https://linktr.ee/PJRoscoe
Twitter – https://twitter.com/PJRoscoeauthor
Take a look at Paula’s books on her website