Welcome to the Cornerstones Blog, keeping you up to date with the latest information on literary workshops, advice on how to write, a general look at the publishing industry today and, perhaps most importantly, ways to finally crack it!

For more information on how we help aspiring authors, visit our website http://www.cornerstones.co.uk/

Thursday, 22 November 2012

How Easy is it for Self-published Books to really Make a Splash?

If you’ve ever typed ‘self-publishing’ into Google, you’ll know there are around 14,000,000 results. Click on almost any one of them, and you’ll be forgiven for becoming slightly high on the premise of how simple the process is; how endless the possibilities are. You might nod in agreement with the comments regarding how the industry was in need of a shake-up, how the notion of ‘gatekeepers’ had had its time, and the suggestion I particularly like, ‘quality will always rise to the top, however it’s published’.

Well, it’s around two and a half years since I started working with Helen at Cornerstones on Watermelon, and around two years prior to that when I began writing it. Throughout this time, I have put hundreds, possibly thousands, of hours into writing, learning about writing and improving my writing. And like many authors, I swing between having an absolute, deep, unshakable devotion for my books, and wondering if they’re actually worth the space they take up on my hard drive.

But other people tell me they’re good, not just my mum (actually she’s a nightmare, and I rarely get more than a, ‘it’s alright’ from her). But people who know. Industry professionals describe them as, ‘compelling, strong, powerful, haunting, incredibly authentic’.

And more importantly, my target audience. I’m in a very privileged position; I work with young people, and they don’t ‘do’ tact. It wasn’t unheard of for one of my earlier readings to be met with that well-considered and insightful comment, ‘Miss, that bit were crap.’

So my books have been re-written and reworked, until I’ve reached a point where the kids don’t say they’re crap anymore, in fact, they won’t stop reading when the bell goes for break, and that ultimate, heart-warming compliment has been uttered several times, ‘Can I take this home to read?’

On the back of this approval, my new titles, Watermelon and Someone Different, have recently been launched into the big, wide, open-sea that is self-publishing (as ebooks initially and with paperbacks following). In an innovative move, my immensely talented writer friend, Wendy Storer and I, have joined forces to form Applecore Books www.applecorebooks.co.uk; an independent writing co-operative, publishing contemporary fiction for children and young adults. And I am so excited I might pop!

But am I right? Are my books good? And if they are, will they rise to the top?

Currently, I have a modest following on Facebook and Twitter, and not much else in the way of marketing. I am up against novels that are advertised on buses and billboards and in supermarkets. Novels that will be reviewed in national press, novels that are written by ‘celebrities’. Can my little old books make a splash anywhere near the surface? Will they find their way in that stormy sea, amongst all those luxury, corporate liners? Ultimately, is writing good books, combined with amateur but tenacious marketing, enough?

Well, it’s fair to say I’m about to find out. And in part two of this blog, which will be coming soon, I will be sure to let you know.

You can visit Kate Hanney's website at www.katehanney.com

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Seller Beware

The canteen buzzed with writers who were taking part in the York Festival of Writing last year.  I happened to be standing in the queue next to Helen Corner of Cornerstones, and of course we got chatting.  I told her about the book I’d almost finished called Seller Beware: How NOT to Sell your Business.
            ‘Or another strapline,’ I said, ‘is One Woman’s Road to Ruin and Recovery.’
‘I like that,’ Helen said, ‘but don’t put and Recovery on the end, else you’ll give the game away.  Let the readers wonder.’
I hadn’t thought of that.  Later, I picked up Cornerstones’ brochure.
I decided to let Cornerstones give me a professional critique.  Positive I’d written a winner, I wanted it to have the best chance before I approached a publisher.
Brett sent me a full report with excellent advice, mainly on restructuring.  She also wanted further details of the characters and dollops of emotion.
I took her advice but because I’d written half as much again I still wasn’t confident enough to submit without another professional eye.  But I’d paid Cornerstones once already. 
Still, I rang them, and after a lengthy chat (and promised discount!) I decided to go ahead.  This time I had Ed Handyside read it—the perfect choice as he’d gone through something similar.  He gave me heaps of encouragement, saying it wouldn’t come amiss if some thriller writers emulated my style!  Many of the suggestions he made were nit-picks and I was ecstatic he’d ‘thoroughly enjoyed’ my story.
I was talking to Kris, my Polish decorator, a few weeks later about the book (as you do).
‘I don’t suppose you know any publishers?’ Tongue firmly in cheek.
‘Actually, I do,’ came the surprising answer.  ‘Iain Dale is a presenter on LBC radio every evening.  And he’s a publisher. Why don’t you listen and phone in when there’s an interesting subject?  Then he knows you.  Afterwards, you email him and ask if he’ll read the book.  And,’ he finished, ‘he lives near you!’
Iain began with a topic close to my heart.  Should the government allow people to add a 25 foot extension to their house without planning permission?
I rushed to the phone.
The next day I emailed him, thanking him for allowing me to voice my opinion, and asking if he’d look at my book.
He agreed and three weeks later we signed the contract.
This would never have happened without Cornerstones.  (And Kris’s brainwave!) Cornerstones are a super company to deal with and worth every penny for such a brilliant result. 
Seller Beware: How NOT to Sell Your Business will be published by Biteback Publishing in April 2012.

Denise Barnes