Author marketing tips: 10 simple things that you can do

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You’ve written a book. You’ve got it all the way through production, either with the help of a traditional publisher or on your own, via self-pub. And all that seemed like plenty of effort, did it not? You’d think that … Continue reading

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The Life-Changing Festival of Writing a Guest Blog from Roz Watkins

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Roz attended the 2015 Festival of Writing. Whilst walking our dog in the Peak District, I found myself wondering what it would be like to discover a corpse. This, together with a long-suppressed desire to kill off some of my … Continue reading

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Exciting Festival of Writing News: Announcing THE GOAT BURSARY AWARD

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FoW16: THE GOAT BURSARY In the (many) interviews I’ve done since THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP was published, one question seems to come up again and again: Our readers would love to know: are you a sheep or a … Continue reading

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The determination gene. A guest post from Katherine Hetzel

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My association with Writer’s Workshop began late in 2009, when I sent them a novel called ‘The StarMark’ for a professional edit. I’d been writing stories for a few years by that point, and my first attempt at a children’s … Continue reading

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The author and the Zeitgeist: chasing the shadow

What happens when you miss the Fashion in Fiction because you arrive too early? A guest post from author and director, Claire Seeber. (see fuller bio below. Claire’s book, The Stepmother, is available now.) Once upon a time, I started … Continue reading

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Plot, Pace and Punch: What Crime Writers Can Teach the Rest of Us

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‘You write well,’ Harry Bingham told me. ‘But your plot is a mess.’ This was a telephone conversation I had with Harry in 2014 after coming second in AM Heath’s Criminal Lines competition. Although it was hard to hear it, … Continue reading

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From Madonna to Publication – a writer’s journey

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A guest post from Julie-Ann Corrigan, describing her journey from the Festival of Writing to publication. More details about Julie-Ann at the bottom of this post. After years of saying (if only to myself) that I wanted to write, finally … Continue reading

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London Creative Writing Courses & Classes

Friday 24th June: Point-of-view: The Writer’s Invaluable Friend. Tickets Only £45 Point-of-view may be one of the less frequently discussed elements of the novelist and short story writer’s process, but there’s no doubt that it’s also one of the most … Continue reading

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Isabel Costello’s debut novel Paris Mon Amour was released in June 2016 in digital and audiobook. She also hosts the Literary Sofa blog, where you can find her selection of recommended Summer Reads 2016.  Isabel attended the The Writers’ Workshop … Continue reading

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The Roller-Coaster Route by Jane Davis

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There’s a graphic that regularly does the rounds. It’s made up of two graphs. The first goes under the caption, ‘what you think your career will look like’ and it’s upwards all the way. The caption for the second is … Continue reading

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From Critique to Book Launch – Kate Armstrong looks back on the journey

It was 2013. Summer. I was a nervous management consultant who had once, a long time ago, been an English student. I was opening The Writers’ Workshop report on the draft of my first novel. I’d sent it off for … Continue reading

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Diversity in genre fiction

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When is a book ‘not Asian enough’? There’s been a lot of discussion about diversity in publishing lately – a lot of people lament the fact that there aren’t enough diverse characters in fiction. There is diversity in the people … Continue reading

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This Friday’s London Literary Salon: Showing and Telling and Storytelling. With Andrew Wille, Jo Unwin and Jenny Savill.

LiterarySalon16Friday 27th May: Showing and Telling and Storytelling. With Andrew Wille, Jo Unwin and Jenny Savill.

Show, don’t tell – or so we’re told. But once upon a time we told stories, didn’t we? And in practice, any successful piece of storytelling needs to balance both showing and telling. Through an interactive evening of inspiring discussion, and practical advice we’ll look at examples of both narrative modes, and find ways to blend them into our own writing.

Andrew Wille was a senior editor at Little, Brown UK, acquiring and editing critically acclaimed and award-winning works of fiction and nonfiction. He has tutored for Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and Falmouth University, and is a book doctor and freelance editor.

 Following Andrew’s workshop, we will be joined by Jo Unwin of Jo Unwin Literary Agency and Jenny Savill of Andrew Nurnberg Associates for an Agent Q&A Panel.

Jo&JennyJo Unwin started off writing for television shows such as Byker Grove, My Parents Are Aliens, Fry and Laurie, and Casualty, as well as dabbling in some acting work, but then moved to Aardman Features as a scout, where she would seek out books that could serve as the basis for new animated films. This then led to Jo joining Conville and Walsh Literary Agency in 2008, but shortly after she set up Jo Unwin Literary Agency.

Following an MA in Mediaeval History at St Andrews, and a stint in the theatre, Jenny Savill joined Andrew Nurnberg Associates in 2002, and is now a Senior agent. Her strong and respected list of children’s and YA authors features numerous award winners, and she met her client Deborah Install (A Robot in the Garden, 2015) at our Festival of Writing in 2013

Location: Waterstones, 203 – 206 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HD. Time: 6.30-9.00
Price £45 (including drink on arrival).

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The Festival of Writing – Good vibes and Good advice

Virginia Moffat came to the Festival of Writing in 2012 – here is her story:

In 2012, I booked myself a place on the York Festival of Writing. As a busy working parent, it can be difficult for me to get away, but I’d decided earlier that year, that the time was right for me to attend. I was half way through the third edit of my novel ‘Echo Hall’ and at a stage when I felt professional feedback would be helpful. The fact that I was a student at York (way back in 1984) was an added bonus; I was very excited to be going back.


The minute I got on the train to York I was filled with good vibes. Not only did I manage to increase my word count by resisting the internet and writing for three solid hours, but  as soon as I stepped onto the platform and gazed up at the familiar iron arches on the ceilings I was right back at home. The evening only got better from there. After a lovely nostalgia-filled run around the campus I enjoyed dinner in a relaxed setting where it was easy  to meet writers and publishing professionals. After dinner, we were entertained wih readings from the six winners of Literary Live, and the chance to vote on the one we liked the most. Although my favourite didn’t win, the standard was very high and the whole evening was very enjoyable.

I was up early on Saturday for a stroll around some of my favourite haunts, before wandering down to Central Hall for the keynote speech from Jo-Jo Moyes. Last time I was in the building I’d been sitting my finals exams, so it was much more pleasant to be sitting back and listening to her describe her journey into writing. It was a great speech – witty, warm, honest. So much of what she said resonated with me: write the best book you can, write what you have to write, stay with your novel. Much of her experience was laced with failure and disappointment, and yet she could so clearly demonstrate what she had learnt in such a self-deprecating manner, it was terribly heartening. It was totally and utterly inspiring and well worth the entire conference fee just to be there.

The rest of the day was equally brilliant. I met some fabulous authors and then had my first one to one with an agent. Waiting for my slot was a bit stressful as it reminded me of some of the less helpful tutorials on my writing course. But I needn’t have worried. My chosen agent was encouraging, supportive, interested, picked up on some weaknesses I hadn’t seen and gave me some useful pointers. The fact that she liked the premise, she liked the title, and appreciated some of the bits that worked well was more than enough, and I could immediately see a way to improving the material.

Saturday night concluded with an excellent Gala Dinner, more fascinating conversations with a bunch of talented writers whose novels all sounded great and the presentation of the winners of the Opening Chapter Competition and the Greenhouse Literary Agency Funny Awards.

The following day, I had two more 1:1s (which included an extra one for booking early) both of which were as helpful as the first. I left for home invigorated and full of determination to complete my novel. I may not have won any prizes or found myself an agent, but those 1:1s had built my confidence no end. Not one, but three industry professionals liked my work, felt I was a good writer and that the novel had potential. It was enough for me to press on till completion.

Four years on from my trip to York, and ‘Echo Hall’ is well on its way to publication. The book tells the story of three generations of women experiencing love, loss and conflict during times of war. Set against the backdrop of the 1991 Gulf War, World War 2 and World War 1, it asks whether such conflict is inevitable or can we find another way? I began it in 2004 in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, and twelve years on, with conflict continuing in Iraq, Syria and Libya, I’m convinced it is more relevant than ever.

Thanks to the feedback from York and a couple more years of editing, in 2015 ‘Echo Hall’ was longlisted for two competitions (The Bridport Prize and the Retreat West Opening Chapter Competition). Even better this year, I was signed by Unbound, the innovative crowdfunding publisher. Unbound is an unusual publisher, in that it is prepared to work with un-agented writers, and offers a 50% royalty share. The only slight drawback is that in order to get to publication, I have to raise the costs. This is not for the fainthearted as it requires a colossal amount of ego, social media interaction and networking to make it happen. I am a debut writer with a small audience, and am finding progress slow.


Go to Virginia’s Unbound page to watch her video and find out more about the project.


So if you are thinking of going to York this year, please do take the plunge, it really is worth the trip. But also, be realistic! We would all love to have the dream experience of winning a competition and landing an agent and a book deal. It does happen – in recent years Shelley Harris and Joanna Cannon were both discovered at the Festival – but it won’t for most of us. The real value of going is to have the chance for constructive feedback from industry professionals who know what they are doing. It is an opportunity to learn from writers, publishers and agents about how to improve your craft. Above all, it’s a real joy to meet writers, agents and publishers and talk about what we love about writing and reading. I made many friends at the festival who I am still in contact. Had I stayed at home I would have never met them.

York happened to me at a stage when I needed some encouragement to keep going with a novel that had been possessing me for a long time. It was critical to my development as a writer and to finding a publisher. I can’t recommend it highly enough and hope the same happens for you.

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A Guest Post: Breaking the Glass Slipper: Women in science fiction, fantasy, and horror

Hosted by Megan Leigh, Charlotte Bond, and Lucy Hounsom, Breaking the Glass Slipper is a bi-monthly podcast (publishing every other Thursday) available on SoundCloud and many other podcasting platforms.

Hosted by Megan Leigh, Charlotte Bond, and Lucy Hounsom, Breaking the Glass Slipper is a bi-monthly podcast (publishing every other Thursday) available on SoundCloud and many other podcasting platforms.

Breaking the Glass Slipper: Women in science fiction, fantasy, and horror

I have long been entrenched in the SFF fandom in the UK, consuming as much content as I could get my hands on, talking to everyone who would listen about my passions, and attending as many events as possible. But the further I dug into that world, the more gender inequality issues I spotted. At conventions, women were recipients of grotesque, sexual innuendo or ripped into for not being ‘real fans’. According to some male fans, women only ever ‘pretend’ to be SFF fans in order to ‘hook’ their geeky dreamboat. Wow, I think they caught me out there!

Then came the Hugo awards of last year. Campaigners wanted women and anyone else who dared write equality and diversity-minded SFF tales to be kept out of their precious world of boys and rocket ships. We women were apparently destroying all genre fiction, turning it into another of our crusades. I’m not one to take such accusations lying down. As a woman who writes and reads SFF, I took issue with such immature and outdated views. There are some wonderful female writers out there, as well as great female characters written by both men and women.

Gradually, I have seen more and more people discuss the gender issues in the SFF community – from prejudice against female writers to having female characters as little more than love interests in a novel. But the conversation needs to be brought more into the open. More people need to be talking about it. It was high time we had a podcast discussing women in science fiction, fantasy, and horror – which is where Breaking the Glass Slipper comes in!

If people are starting to talk about gender inequality issues in SFF writing, why do you feel the need to make a podcast about it?
ML: I follow a lot of female genre writers on social media, so I feel that the conversation amongst them is covering these issues more than might be felt in the wider community. My hope in creating Breaking the Glass Slipper was that we might be able to bring the discussion further into the open and embed it in the public consciousness. With groups like the Sad Puppies still managing to get a lot of traction, we need to ensure we give a voice to women in these areas as much as possible.
CB: Personally I found that the issues of female genre writers was generally brought up as a part of a reactionary discussion, such as in response to the Sad Puppies debacle. After that had blown over, it would then be sidelined again until the next crisis. I wanted to be part of something that kept it ticking over; I wanted discussion that would be sensible and thoughtful, rather than the heated comments that are often involved in the aftermath of a controversy.
LH: It’s all about getting people talking and keeping the conversation alive. Like Megan, I spend much of my time preaching to the converted on Twitter, and feel as if I’m not targeting the wider readership where these issues most need to be highlighted and addressed. There’s an informality to podcasts; that element of lively debate can be so much more accessible than blog posts or essays.

What are some of the biggest issues you see facing women writers in genre writing?
ML: I find discoverability is a huge issue. The books I see talked about the most are almost always by men – is this coming from publishers not publicizing their female writers? Or are fans changing the messaging once books are released? Whatever it is, we need to make sure that books by women are as talked about as their male counterparts.
CB: I think genre can be a bit of a “boys” club – not that most of the boys in the club aren’t very welcoming to girls, of course! A lot of genre fans are very welcoming, even chivalrous. It’s just that it’s naturally a boy’s club simply because there’s more men involved in the genre than women. I don’t know whether the bottleneck is in the ratio of books published, the number of manuscripts submitted by men versus women, or whether there’s a marketing bias, but whatever reason, like Megan I think women writers need to be more discoverable.
LH: Discoverability, old prejudices, gender stereotyping by both publishers and readers. No genre book should be aimed exclusively at a certain demographic; that’s continually reinforcing the idea that there should be ‘books for girls’ and ‘books for boys’. Amazingly, there are still men who refuse to read a book authored by a woman – a decision often based on one bad experience, or merely inherited bias.

What problematic characterization tropes do you see recurring when it comes to female characters?
ML: Women as romantic objects. Hate this. Too often a novel will only introduce a female character to add a love interest for a male hero. Give me a barf bucket! I’m not interested. Women are worth so much more than how they are defined by a man in their lives – fictional women should be given the same courtesy that real life women have (or should).
CB: In contrast to Megan, I like a bit of romance! But I don’t think male or female characters should have that as their only purpose, unless it’s a proper romance novel. Personally I take issue with the “chosen one” trope: why can’t women (or men for that matter) just be great as they are? Why do they have to have some secret, hidden power to make them fabulous? I think a lot of female characters, especially YA ones, are characterised in that way. It’s one of the reasons I like George RR Martin’s writing – generally everyone gets by without magical powers and is portrayed as kick-ass just as they are.
LH: Now I like a bit of chosen one heroism, but you don’t often see women in the starring role. I grew up on a diet of epic fantasy and some books had great supporting female characters. Very few, however, took the lead. Another trope that’s grown up more recently is the need to give a female hero the attributes of a male. As in, they use traditionally masculine abilities like physical strength to best their foes. I would like to see more women using their minds and their natural intuition to solve problems in addition to their fists.

What great female writers do you wish everyone had read?
KindredOButlerML: I finally discovered Octavia Butler last year after the bookstore had put a hand-written recommendation card below a copy of Kindred and I now recommend her to absolutely everyone I meet. I’ve become quite intense about it. Though another reason I wanted to champion reading women in genre fiction was because I realized that I have read so few! So as much as I’m out to recommend great books by women, I’m also on the lookout for great recommendations!
CB: Sarah Pinborough is receiving a lot of praise for her recent novels “13 Minutes” and “The Death House”, but I really think her Victorian crime/horror novels “Murder” and “Mayhem” deserve more recognition. They were fabulous. Also Naomi Novik’s “Uprooted” was just astounding, and I’m looking forward to seeing what she produces next. Jen
RebeccaLeveneWilliams is a new favourite of mine too, thanks to Lucy Hounsom!
LH: Rebecca Levene is a brilliant writer who does epic fantasy in less than four hundred pages. The Hollow Gods series displays superb characterisation and originality in a genre that sometimes feels as if it’s been milked dry. And the first book only has one notable female character (remedied by book two) – so male readers will have plenty of company!

Hosted by Megan Leigh, Charlotte Bond, and Lucy Hounsom, Breaking the Glass Slipper is a bi-monthly podcast (publishing every other Thursday) available on SoundCloud and many other podcasting platforms.


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