“There’s none so queer as folk. . .”


Sometimes, after selling books at a craft fair, I am dying to tell you about some of the people who I’ve met—sometimes because they were very odd, sometimes just because our conversation was interesting. But I try to hold back, and not say too much, because it feels like an invasion of privacy to tell you too much about people who do not expect to be written about.

However, as I have attended more and more fairs, there is a general pattern of types of shoppers emerging, and so, in general terms, I feel I am safe to tell you about them. (If you have ever spoken to me at a fair, then you might recognise yourself, but I am writing in very generic terms, so my descriptions will apply to several people rather than a single individual.)

First of all, there are the Rebuffers. These are the people who really do not want to buy a book, they are generally in a hurry, and will rebuff my initial approach briskly. Sometimes they manage to do this nicely, with a smile and shake of the head whilst not breaking step.

Sometimes they are rather rude, and will reply to my: “Hello, do you like reading?” with a curt: “No!”

I have even known people say: “Not those kinds of books” or, “Not books by a woman!”

Secondly, there are the Chatterers. These people consider that as I have approached them, I must be lonely and want to chat. They will talk, for a very long time, about the kind of book that they would write, if so inclined. It is sometimes difficult to move these people on, and I have watched with despair as several potential customers pass by while a non-buying woman launches into the year after her second child was born when they went on holiday to Paris and there was a man on the ferry who. . .

Thirdly there are the Predators. These people will ask lots of questions, they will examine my books in detail, asking who published them, how I sell them, how many I have sold. By the time they have asked their 57th question, I am beginning to realise that they have no intention of buying, they are simply checking out the opposition! Invariably they turn out to be authors themselves, who have never considered asking bookshops if they can do a book-signing, or taken a table at a craft fair, and they are trying to decided whether they should copy me. I will link these people with the authors who think that as I have told them about my books, I will now be interested to hear about their own. They tell me at length about the plot of their book, and who published it, and how I can buy it—without considering that I have paid £40 for my stall, and really I need to SELL enough books to cover my costs, not look around for other books to BUY!

Next, we have the Investigators. Some of my books are about psychopaths, and they were written after months of research: I read papers by neuroscientists, bought books by neurologists, listened for hours to convicted psychopaths, and found two mothers who would talk to me about raising a psychopathic child. So, although I am a lay-person, I felt sufficiently qualified to write novels about psychopaths. However, I find that some people—often but not always, health professionals—are deeply suspicious. They will start to ask questions about my research, and the questions turn into an aural examination/inquisition as to my understanding of the subject. Generally, I manage to answer satisfactorily, and they often go on to buy a book (one even asked me to write an article for a mental health magazine) but it is uncomfortable. Actually, it is often most uncomfortable when the person has no scientific knowledge themselves, but considers themselves to be an expert because they have read an article or watched a television programme, and often their own understanding is somewhat flawed, which makes it difficult when being ‘tested’ by them.

What if…you were the mother of a psychopath? The story of Joanna and her family – an exciting novel.

What if…a psychopath managed to do something good. Can psychopathy ever be a strength?

This is the story I always promised myself I would write ‘one day’ while I was teaching in an infant school. A light-hearted novel about 3 teachers.

These people contrast well with the Defensives. These people ask questions about my novels set in a school (Hidden Faces) or a farm (Ploughing Through Rainbows) and then go on to explain that they too could have written a book about their past employment. Perhaps they are a nurse with a lot of funny stories, or a teacher with more experience than me, or a prison warder. They inform me, fairly grumpily, that their lives are just as interesting as mine, and that their book, if they had found time to write it, would be much better than mine. I’m sure that in some cases this is true. However, they haven’t written a book and I have, so it is bit of a non-conversation in my mind. Nor am I quite sure why they are telling me this—am I meant to agree with them and pack up and go home?

A hilarious family saga set on a farm. Being a parent has no end-date, as Susan discovers when her adult sons begin to make unexpected choices in life.
A warm-hearted, feel good novel that will make you smile.

Finally, there are the Lovely people. These people show a genuine interest in my books, whether they buy a copy or not. They are polite, and interesting, and it is always nice to meet them and have a conversation.

I will leave it for you to decide which category you fit into—I’m sure it’s the last one!

I hope you meet some lovely people today. Thank you for reading.

Take care.

Love, Anne xx

Thank you for reading.
You can follow my blog at:
anneethompson.com

 

Have you read any of my books? Available from bookshops and Amazon. Check out my author page Here!

A Book Worth Reading. . .


Three more weeks of #lockdown. An excellent time to read one of my books.

All my books are available from Amazon, some of them are free if you have a kindle. Which one will you choose?

UK Amazon Link Here

US Amazon Link Here

Australian Amazon Here

Amazon India Here

Publishing a Book – Part two


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All the characters in my book had the same names as my cousins. I have a lot of cousins. This was completely unintentional. When I write a story, it’s like watching a film, I see what is happening in my head and write it down. When a new character arrives, I pluck a name quickly from the air and continue. Obviously somewhere deep in my subconscious, my cousins’ names popped up. I didn’t even notice until reading the manuscript a few weeks after I had finished it. None of the characters were like my cousins, they just shared names. I changed them (the names, not my cousins.) I now use the internet to find ‘the most popular names in’ a certain year, and choose a surname from the telephone directory. It is safer.

My point is, it is difficult to always see what we have written. We are too involved. This is why I think an editor is an excellent investment. Someone unconnected with the book can point out that you use ‘that’ five times in a sentence and that it isn’t always that essential. Plus all those split infinitives that want naughtily to creep into your writing.

Finding an editor was not altogether easy (nothing was, to be honest.) To begin with, anyone can call themselves an editor, so how do you know who is worth employing? It will be a major outlay before you can even think about recouping any money – about £750 for a 100,000 word manuscript. If an editor is worth having, they will be busy, so sending them samples of work as a ‘test’ is unlikely to be possible unless you intend to pay them for that. You can of course ask which other books they have edited and buy them. However, how do you know if the splattering of unnecessary commas and the split infinitives are because the editor didn’t spot them or because the author/publisher rejected their editorial points? We decided on two editors eventually, one for Hidden Faces and one for Counting Stars. We figured that whichever one we preferred could then edit my other books (which had now grown to four, as I had finished writing Joanna, my story about a psychopath.)

One person (who had better remain nameless) was an editor by trade, did a lot of work for mainstream publishers and was very busy. So busy in fact that we had to wait three months before she would start work on my book. This was annoying, but I felt she was ‘a professional’ and therefore worth waiting for. The other editor we chose, was a writer himself, a writing lecturer and had edited various other books.

I think you need to decide what you want the editor to do. I thought I wanted them to simply proof read my work. This is a confusing term. A proofread is the final thing that happens, after the work has been edited and type-set, before it goes to the printer. What I actually wanted is called ‘copy-editing’.

My use of English is not terrible, I have taught English, I know most of the ‘rules’ about using possessive apostrophes, using fragments of sentences, all the usual stuff. I also knew that it is very difficult to notice mistakes in my own work. I tend to read what I meant to write. I also tend to miss things if I have rewritten something, and perhaps the tense is now different, or the possessive comma is now in the wrong place because I have changed to a plural noun. There is also lots of formal English that I do not know. I am hazy on when you need an Oxford comma, when to use “had -plus -verb” in past tense, when “leant” should be “leaned”. I would guess that most of my readers would also not know, however, I find badly written books irritating to read. I did not want my book to irritate someone who was better educated than me. I did not want to be embarrassed by my book (letting strangers read my work is embarrassing enough as it is!)

Editors will also check for continuity. It is easy to lose track of days in a story, and then you find that you have a nine day week. Or a character enters a room wearing a blue sweater and leaves wearing a red one. The editor should spot these mistakes. I also wanted to be told if the book was too long, or had boring parts, or was confusing. It is difficult to know yourself, because you have written it, you know everything about the story, someone else has to tell you if you have communicated it effectively.

The final thing an editor will do, is prepare the file for the type-setter. So, when everything is edited and all the words are perfect, they will prepare a file that shows where the time breaks are, which paragraphs should be indented, things like that.

As a separate point, do you know where paragraphs are indented? I thought a new paragraph was always indented. My editor pointed out that actually, the first line of a new chapter or after a time break, is NOT indented. I had never noticed that before! This is the sort of thing that makes paying for an editor worth the money. If I had simply printed my book (the “vanity press” label) then I would have started the chapter with an indented paragraph. Then, when someone pointed out to me that actually, ‘proper’ books do not have this format, I would forever be embarrassed by my book. (In case you haven’t noticed, this is a big fear of mine.)

Now, the actual process of editing was also unexpected. Editor 2 took my manuscript immediately and in roughly two weeks, returned it, with comments put in using ‘track changes’. This allowed me to read his comments and either accept or reject his advice. It was good advice, I accepted it. He told me things like, I had built up a lot of tension, and then immediately let it go, I should keep the reader in suspense for longer. Or, I had used “then” four times in a paragraph. Or, Max had put a drink into his bag but the next day he took out a snack. He pointed out split infinitives that I had missed, some dodgy spelling and suggested I lengthened some descriptions. All very helpful, well worth the money.

Editor 1 was a different experience. As a rule, I try to not criticise people on my blog – I think there is enough negativity in the world. But I want to warn you, so you don’t make the same mistakes. Some of her recommendations were valid, but many were just frustrating. She changed things that made the text clunky to read, changed the flow, made it feel like a school essay, not a novel. I spent many hours going through my manuscript, mainly changing her additions to what had been there originally. This is a definite bonus with self-publishing. If someone else was publishing my book, they may have accepted all her suggestions, changing my work into something which I myself would never want to read. I’m not sure how you would initially avoid this. People have different writing styles, so unless you have worked with an editor previously, you will not know if their style suits your own.

This makes choosing an editor difficult. If they do not actually write themselves, will they be aware of emotive writing, making the words flow easily, building atmosphere – or will they just plonk down full-stops where they were taught to in school? If, however, they are writers themselves, will they necessarily know what a split infinitive is? Will they have the discipline necessary to catch every error?

Then, when I returned the manuscript to editor 1 for the next round of changes, she informed me she had received a lot of work from Random House, she would let me know when she had time to pick up my script again.

This was a shock! I had expected that, having waited three months for her to start, my manuscript would then take priority. I felt like the person who hires builders, watches while they dig a lot of holes for foundations, and then doesn’t see them for months because they have gone to build something else. Please learn from my experience. If you hire an editor who works for mainstream publishers, those publishers are likely to take priority. If time is important to you, discuss that at the outset and put it in writing.

Also, someone who is using all their energy editing other work, will not necessarily be as thorough with yours. I found grammatical mistakes in my returned manuscript. True, I had missed them myself, but my misconception was that an editor would find and correct them all. This is not the case. I sometimes read books that have occasional errors in them. It doesn’t much bother me, they are easy to pass over, and I have always assumed they were printing errors. I now realise they might not be, they might be mistakes that neither the author nor the editor nor the proofreader picked up prior to printing. No one is perfect and three checkers do not guarantee perfection. When I queried this with the editor (and in fairness, she did lower her final bill accordingly) she said that no editor would expect to pick up every mistake, that is the job of the type-setter and author and proofreader. So, be warned, employing other people does not mean your own work is finished!

Eventually, your work will finally be edited. It has been back and forth several times until it is exactly how you want it and this takes time. It is a full book. A book takes a few days to read and every time it is returned you need to read the whole thing, from beginning to end. Hours of work. By the time I had read it for about the eighth time straight, it was beginning to lose some of its appeal. I was finding it hard to enjoy the story. This is where you need good family and friends. My sons pointed out that authors often dislike their own work when it’s first published, that actors and directors are renown for not wanting to watch the films they are in. This was normal. I should keep hold of my first conviction and keep going. (Sometimes my family are nice to me.)

After the editing, you also need to consider the cover, the blurb for the back, the type-setting, the final proofreader. Then of course, you will need to sell your book, which involves some marketing. Son the Economist has studied Marketing, he had a LOT of advice. I will continue this another time.

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Thank you for reading.

xxxxxx

HIDDEN FACES by Anne E Thompson

Available from bookshops and Amazon. Strong characters and light humour wrapped up in an easy-read novel.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hidden-Faces-Anne-Thompson/dp/0995463204

Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016

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Letters to a Sister : 39


 

Have you read any good books lately? I have just finished’ All Quiet on the Western Front’ by Erich Maria Remarque. Have you read it? It’s brilliant, some bits made me cry. I wont tell you the ending because you should read it if you haven’t already.

It’s about a group of boys, aged 18 or 19, all from the same class at school, who are called up during the first world war. It’s fictional, though Remarque was at the front during the war, so I’m guessing it’s fairly realistic. The thing that makes it even more interesting is that they are German, so you glimpse how they saw us, the enemy. It is very well written. I read a translation by Brian Murdoch and it was very easy to read, didn’t feel like a translation at all.

I think the aspect that touched me most was that the soldiers all knew each other so well. I think of young men being killed and it affecting their parents, sisters, wives. I had never really appreciated how they had sometimes grown up together, they were watching their friends die. There’s one part, when one of the characters dies and Remarque writes:
“After a few minutes he sinks down like a rubber tyre when the air escapes. What use is it to him now that he was so good at mathematics at school?”

You cannot read this book and escape how awful war is and how pointless it can seem to the young soldiers who are actually fighting it. They often discuss why they are there, what they are achieving and they never really solve it. It’s interesting because they have no hatred for the enemy, they are just doing their duty, what is expected of them. They are angry but the anger is directed at the governments, the powers that caused the war. They see it as pointless.

I read a version I bought from Amazon which is part of ‘The Collector’s Library’. They are tiny hard backed books – perfect for having in your bag when forced on shopping trips with your family. I have a few of them. Have started reading ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ now. I have too many books really but I might want to re read them so am loathe to take them to the charity shop. Perhaps I will start loaning them to people, just to get them out of the house for a while. Everyone I meet I will take a book and tell them I thought they would like to read it. That should clear a few. Husband is keen to do the same with the cats….

I discovered that Husband has been sending son ‘how to be a good boyfriend’ advice. So much I could say here. Apparently he recommended he should start the relationship with a questionnaire, find out what she was expecting/willing to offer. Said he wishes he had thought of that thirty years ago. Ha!

At church yesterday, our Pastor started to introduce a new initiative for Lent. I find that Pastors like new initiatives. If you scratch the surface, they are exactly the same things that our mother and grandmother did, just in a different wrapping. But maybe we need to be reminded to keep doing the old stuff. Anyway, his idea is that instead of giving up something for Lent (no chocolate for forty days and so on) we should do something – specifically one act of random kindness for someone each day. I felt there might be potential in this, instantly thought people might find it helpful if I let them know in the weekly bulletin that I like Fruitgums. Husband said I was missing the point.

The examples given were things like giving a stranger loose change in the carpark, or buying a coffee for the next person in the queue. To be honest, if a stranger bought me coffee next time I’m in Costa, I would find it a little freaky. Do hope the whole church isn’t added to a police ‘watch’ list. However, I can see that being kind for no reason is a good aim, one we should probably do even when it isn’t Lent. Pastor then said we would share how we were getting on during Sunday services. Might be going to St Nicks during Lent.

I like your article about Parliament (http://ruthdalyauthor.blogspot.ca/2016/01/the-palace-of-westminster-tour.html) You managed to find out lots of facts about the building – unless you made them up? Hey Ruth, we should do that. Let’s do a tour of somewhere and then just make up our own facts, both put them on our blogs and wait to see if they ever get copied. Would be so funny. Aren’t you tempted to do that when you’re writing your educational books? I know I would be – maybe I should stick to writing fiction.

I had better go. I wanted to tell you about the book so am writing this in my pyjamas.

Take care,
Anne x

 

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Letters to a Sister are posted every Monday.
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