Discovering my author brand

picture of people on the course

Here’s the course photo. I’m the one in the blue top.

Last week I spent an enjoyable day on a course in London organised by Usborne, who publish my Pony-Mad Princess books. There were only four authors (including me) working with Justin Somper and Phil Norman from AuthorProfile so we all got plenty of individual attention. And I needed that when it came to deciding on my author brand.

The other three authors were all on their first book so the themes of that story helped decide their brand. But I had a trickier task because the range of books I’ve published is so wide. There are more than forty so far including picture books, early readers, chapter books and a novel for older readers plus non-fiction books on subjects ranging from rainbows to special effects.

Justin encouraged me to focus in on the core of a selection of booksmy writing to see if I could find a common theme in my fiction and, to my surprise, I did. I now realise that all my stories are about  family, friendship and the power of love. So that was the first part of my brand sorted out.

The other part involved thinking about me rather than my writing. As soon as I started focusing in on myself, I immediately came up with the animals I love most – horses. But Justin encouraged me to think more deeply, asking lots of searching questions about my relationship with my favourite animals and how that relates to my writing. By the end of the session, he’d picked out three important phrases for me to remember. So I am:

  • the little girl who never got a pony
  • the author who bought a horse to help research her novel
  • the author who deliberately chose an imperfect horse

So I was able to come home confident that I now I know who I am. Thanks Justin and Phil for a great course. I loved every minute.

 

 

Any progress with Author Solutions?

It’s now well over a year since I blogged about Penguin taking over Author Solutions. At that time, I was wondering if the takeover would improve the way Author Solutions treats authors. It hasn’t. If anything it’s made matters worse by giving the company a sheen of respectability. But at least there has been progress on one front – the Bookseller has decided to stop taking advertising from them.

Congratulations are due to The Bookseller for acting ethically and to David Gaughran for highlighting the issue in the first place.

You can find out more at David’s blog.

Exciting news for Pony-Mad Princess fans

cover of Princess Ellie's Perfect PlanI love getting letters and emails from fans of my Pony-Mad Princess series, and many of them ask when I’m going to write another book. Until recently, I’ve said that the series was finished. I’d run out of ideas so there weren’t going to be any more Princess Ellie stories. But I was wrong. There’s now another book on the way – Princess Ellie’s Perfect Plan comes out in the UK in July.

The first Pony-Mad Princess books were published in 2004 so 2014 is a very special year for Princess Ellie. To mark her 10th Anniversary, Usborne are re-issuing all twelve books in the series with new covers and extra pages at the end that we’ve filled with quiz questions and pony facts. They also persuaded me to write a brand new story – a special Anniversary book will be published in the UK in July.

As soon as they explained what they were doing, I was keen to write the book. The only problem was deciding what it should be about. I’d used so many ideas that it was difficult to think of something completely fresh and different. I had long conversations on the phone with my collaborator, Anne Finnis, who came up with the original idea for the series. We thought about having an anniversary celebration in the book, but I’d already done that in A Surprise for Princess Ellie. Then we thought about having a royal baby, but it was difficult to work the ponies into the story and Will and Kate got in first by producing their own royal baby.

Finally, we decided to give Ellie a real problem to solve. The first book in the series brought Ellie and Kate together. Maybe this one should threaten to pull them apart. Desperate not to lose her best friend, Ellie would need to find a perfect plan to stop that happening.

You can tell from the title that this is the storyline we chose to develop. But I’m not going to tell you what happens. You’ll have to wait until the book comes out. If you want me to remind you when that happens, please join my mailing list. I’ll give you a free story to say thank you. (It doesn’t feature Princess Ellie – it’s an alternative version of Sleeping Beauty.)

 

 

 

 

Google v Authors Guild – a decision at last

It’s eight years since the Authors Guild first sued Google about scanning books and displaying snippets. During that time, the Guild claimed to be representing all authors, not just their authors, and attempted to sell us all down the river by entering into a deal with Google that would have given them permission to produce and sell our books without the copyright holders permission and would also have prevented us suing Google ourselves. The Google Book Settlement was over 200 pages long, hard to understand, very one-sided in Google’s favour and a nightmare for authors. It took a  great deal of effort and hours of time to fight but fortunately we won.

The judge who threw out the dreadful Google Book Settlement was Denny Chin – the same judge who has ruled that Google’s scanning and display of snippets is “fair use” under US copyright law. Judge Chin listened carefully to authors comments on the Google Book Settlement, even those like me who wrote him ordinary letters because we couldn’t afford to pay lawyers.

I’m sure Judge Chin was right in his decision over the Google Book Settlement so I’m happy to accept that his decision on the “fair use” issue is equally right.

The new Kobo pricing strategy

This morning I had an email from Kobo telling me they had changed the payments section of their agreement. I clicked the link and was horrified to see exactly what the changes were.

In order to continue to qualify for 70% of the sale price, the price of my book had to meet a set minimum for each country in which it’s for sale. That doesn’t sound so unreasonable until you realise Kobo wants me to charge at least £2.99 for There Must Be Horses  in the UK although it’s happy for me to charge the lower price of $2.99 in the US.

I was upset and took my books off Kobo as a result. But they have now contacted me and told me there was a misprint and the price should have been £1.99. That sounds much better and shows why proof reading is so important.

If you are interested in self-publishing, you’ll find plenty of information to help you on www.helpwithpublishing.com.

The Price of Shoes

Last week I was a victim of credit card fraud. The fraudster spent almost £2000 on  a coach ticket, a stay in a hotel and some shoes. “That must have been an expensive hotel,” I can hear you thinking. But it wasn’t. The bulk of the money was spent on the shoes – £1600 for two pairs!! The fact that footwear could cost so much shocked me almost as much as being cheated.

Praise must go to MBNA for sorting everything out at top speed. It only took one phone call to get my card cancelled and the money refunded. So I’m no worse off, and the insight into how the rich live may come in handy one day in a book. No experience, however bad, is ever completely wasted for an author.