Partying with Princess Ellie

Ist July was publication day for Princess Ellie’s Perfect Plan, the much requested 13th book in my Pony-Mad Princess series. So I’ve had a double celebration recently – the publication of the new book and the 10th anniversary of the series itself. To mark both occasions in an appropriately horse way, I sponsored the first ridden pony class at the Royal Isle of Wight County Show and invited Anne Finnis (the person who originally thought of the series) to come down from London to watch the event with me.

IMG_20140627_162708925Anne and her husband arrived on the Friday evening, so we started celebrating with cake and champagne. I’d baked the cake myself and, although I’m not the world’s best cook, it tasted okay.

We had to be up early on the Saturday because I was giving Princess Ellie books to the competitors in the leading rein class which started at 8.30. I really admired them for managing to look so smart so early in the morning. This is the young lady who came second. For some reason horse and pony classes at the County Show gives blue rosettes for first and red for second, although most places do it the other way around.

IMG_20140628_085909581Next in the ring were the two competitors for the First Ridden Pony class. Everything went well until a tractor starting up near by and frightened one of the ponies so much that he misbehaved and dumped his rider on the ground. Luckily she wasn’t hurt and I gave her a book to cheer her up. That left the one remaining pony as the winner, but he was so lovely that I’m sure he would have one even if there had been a dozen other ponies. His name was Huey and he also won the leading rein class too so he ended up with a championship rosette as well. You can see it on Jack’s jacket.

IMG_20140628_091908749IMG_20140628_091950875His sister rode Huey in the first ridden pony class and you can see her rosette on her jacket. It had “The Pony-Mad Princess” on the ribbon tails because I’d sponsored the class.

After the two classes were over, I’d finished my official role of handing out prize books so we went to explore the rest of the show. It was a lovely event, full of animals and country activities. The falconry display was fascinating – one of the birds flew so low over my head that its wing brushed my hair.

We thought it would be good to try some of the activities but pole climbing looked much too scary. I felt much safer  milking a cardboard cow.








My publisher, Usborne, had asked us to post pictures of the day on Twitter, but it’s difficult to look at photos on a mobile phone in full sun. In the end, we solved the problem by hiding under my coat which earned us some strange looks from passers-by.

tweeting in sunshine

Tweeting in sunshine



Let’s get the facts straight about Hachette and Amazon

Amazon and Hachette are currently locked in a dispute over how they work together and, as part of that dispute, has increased delivery times and reduced discounts for Hachette books. No one outside the two companies knows the exact details of their negotiations, but there is no shortage of articles complaining about the way Amazon is behaving. Many of these are presenting the situation as a David and Goliath battle and painting Amazon as a monopoly that acts against the interests of authors and literature in general.

These articles ignore a few basic facts:

  1. This is not a battle between David and Goliath. This is a negotiation between two multi-national companies and Hachette is definitely not a David. It’s one of the five huge companies that dominate traditional publishing, and it’s as capable of cut-throat negotiations as any other business. In fact, it’s already been pulled up once by the US Department of Justice for illegal collusion to raise the price of ebooks.
  2. Amazon is not a monopoly. We can all buy books from a multitude of outlets, and anyone anywhere can start their own online bookstore whenever they like. Amazon’s power doesn’t come from a monopoly situation. It comes from being very good at what it does so customers like to shop there.
  3. Like all shops, Amazon can choose what it sells and it is under no obligation to stock any particular product. Supermarkets sometimes drop lines because they don’t like the terms from the supplier, and Amazon is allowed to do the same. So they don’t have to stock Hachette books at all if they don’t want to.
  4. Similarly Hachette is under no obligation to sell their books through Amazon. Not all publishers do. If they can’t agree terms, Hachette can withdraw their entire list, although their authors might be a bit peeved if they do.
  5. Amazon is not anti-author. On the contrary, it has opened up the possibilities of profitable self-publishing and freed authors from the dominance of big publishing companies like Hachette.
  6. Amazon is not anti-literature. It enables readers to enjoy backlist titles they may never have discovered any other way, and it risked its own money to develop the Kindle and the resulting ebook market.
  7. Amazon has not raised the price of Hachette’s books – it has stopped discounting them. This may sound a nit-picking difference but it’s not. The price Hachette is complaining about is the price that they themselves set. If that price is so high that people don’t want to buy the books, that’s Hachette’s fault, not Amazon’s.
  8. Publishers have complained for years that Amazon’s discounts devalue books, but they are now complaining that those discounts have stopped. So it looks as if Amazon is always wrong whatever it does, at least as far as publishers are concerned.

Hachette can muster many people to support their side of the dispute, but that doesn’t mean they are right. It just means they can shout louder. This is just a business negotiation so let’s allow them to get on with it without taking sides.


If you’re interested in writing and self-publishing, visit my Help with Publishing site.

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 to be one of the first people to read Princess Ellie’s Perfect Plan, you can pre-order it from Amazon now.



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

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.