Tuesday, 23 October 2018

A Day in the Life of Author Susan Elliott Wright @sewelliott #ADayInTheLife #AuthorFeature

In June 2018, the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) published the results of their latest survey on author incomes. They do not make for happy reading, yet despite this, there is still a myth, believed by many, that ALL authors earn as much as people like JK Rowling, or James Patterson, or EL James.
I speak to lots of authors and I know it's not true at all. Look at the facts:
  • The median annual income of a professional author is £10,500, which is well below the minimum wage.
  • The equivalent figure in 2013 was £11,000 and in 2005 it was £12,500.
  • In real terms, taking inflation into account, this represents a fall in writing income of 42% since 2005, and 15% since 2013.
  • Just 13.7% of authors earn their income solely from writing. In 2005 this was 40%.
  • There is a growing gender pay gap, with the average earnings of female professional authors only around 75% of those of the average male professional author, down from 78% in 2005. This finding is worrying, however we are reluctant to comment on it until we see a detailed breakdown of the figures, which ALCS will release in the autumn. We do not know how the figures compare across age and genre and whether this is a true like for like comparison. 
So, I decided to invite authors here to Random Things to talk about their average day, and I'm delighted to welcome my first guest; Susan Elliott Wright here today.

A Day in the Life of Author
Susan Elliott Wright

Thank you, Anne, for inviting me to be part of this exciting new blog series!

A little background: I’m luckier than many of my fellow authors. I’m published by Simon & Schuster, and my first two books The Things We Never Said and The Secrets We Left Behind sold well. The third What She Lost (the best of the three, in my opinion) was well-reviewed – ‘Recommended Reading’ status from both Good housekeeping and Waitrose – but didn’t sell well.

When I was first published in 2013, I was cheffing for an outside catering company alongside my writing. Sadly, severe RSI in both hands made working in a commercial kitchen impossible, and I had to give up in 2015. I write using dictation software because I can’t type for more than an hour or so, and then only if I wear wrist splints.

So, a typical day. I stagger downstairs at 7-ish for breakfast – fruit, egg on toast and green tea. I listen to the news on Radio 4, but no more than once a day – too depressing. I read over breakfast for half an hour, unless it’s a real page-turner, in which case I might still be sitting there two hours later. Next,
I’d usually walk the dog (incorporating a 10-minute sit and read) but we recently lost our beloved Henry after a sudden illness, so we’re dogless just now.

By 9-ish, I’m at my desk. We live in a small terraced house in a student-y area of Sheffield. The house was built as a ‘two up, two down’ but now has a converted attic, which I
use as an office/study.

Most of my work is writing-related – planning and teaching workshops, preparing critiques, or mentoring new writers.

I’m technically an Associate Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, but it’s a zero hours contract, and as the permanent staff seem to all be healthy (which is good, obviously) and to have stopped having babies or going on sabbaticals, I’ve had no teaching work there for ages.

So, first job is social media. It is part of my job, although I’m sometimes distracted by cute animal videos – who isn’t? I post on my Facebook page when there’s book news, a blog post, or
info about my workshops or critique services. I’ll respond to any messages or comments before moving on to Twitter, where I dip in and out throughout the day, reading and retweeting things that grab my attention – and of course anything to do with my new novel The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood (out in Feb). When my publishers tweeted recently that they’d had to do another print run of proof copies ‘due to high demand’, I woke up to 63 notifications!

Emails next. I save lengthy personal emails until the evening, but most of my emails are teaching-related – advertising workshops, taking bookings, or discussing content with my fellow tutor Russ Thomas.
We have a workshop coming up, so my day might involve a preliminary planning meeting with Russ and, depending on whose turn it is, typing up a draft lesson plan or writing a new handout. Planning sessions gobble up half a day, so for the purposes of this post, let’s say I’ve only got the typing up to do. Making a new handout can take ages, but for the forthcoming session, I only need to tweak handouts we’ve used before. We’ll meet again just before the workshop to make any final adjustments. Teaching the session is the easy bit!

By the time I get round to writing anything creative, it’s usually late morning. I used to head over to a local coffee shop to write, but even though they’d let me sit there all day nursing one drink, I can’t afford it now.

Our only regular income is a small weekly payment from Working Tax Credits.  (I am the main earner just now, by the way – Himself earns very little at the moment due to ill health)

Until I write a new book, one that my publisher (or another publisher) actually wants to buy, I’m ‘out of contract’, so we live on the WTC, whatever I bring in from teaching, and rapidly dwindling savings. I still receive a tiny amount of royalties, as well as few hundred pounds a year from PLR – the payments made to authors in respect of library loans of their books.

Since I became a published author in 2013, my gross income from writing, teaching, and catering, was £72k over the five years – an average of £14,400 before tax. 

Just over half of that is from writing – and I know I’m lucky!

Few people realise what a tiny percentage of book sales authors receive. I receive 59p for every book retailing at 7.99 (a bit more for e-books.)
If I sell more than 20,000 copies, it goes up to 79p.
Each 59p goes towards chipping away at the advance, and only if the book ‘earns out’ do I receive anything on top.
Most books never earn out – I’m thrilled that my first did, devastated that the third didn’t, and hopeful that the fourth will! There was no ‘fat cheque’ – never is, for the vast majority of authors, even when you’ve written a ‘bestseller’. And 15% (+VAT) of everything goes to your agent.

Back to my day. If I’m writing a blog post, I usually do that first. I write a draft, then edit thoroughly – I did a quick edit on this post last night, and have spent the whole of this morning on a second edit.

If things go smoothly, I’ll have lunch at 1.30-ish. I take about 45 minutes for lunch and eat at my desk, either faffing about – funny videos are legit at lunchtime – or watching something on iPlayer.

After lunch is when I tend to run errands, go to the library, or whatever. On days when I don’t need to go out, I walk around the block – I have long-term back problems and sitting at a desk all day is a killer. Some days, I take a nap. I’m a huge fan of ‘controlled recovery periods’ as recommended by Nick Littlehales in his book on sleep. Fortunately, my office doubles as a guest room, so I have a handy sofabed to curl up on for 20 minutes.

By now, you’re probably wondering when this novelist ever works on a novel. How I’d love to say I go straight to my desk each morning and write until three in the afternoon, but who has time for that if you’re not Lee Childs or JK Rowling? If I don’t do the other stuff, we don’t eat!

I’m currently at the planning stage with a new novel, so I look at a time commitment rather than a word count, usually a minimum of two hours trying to move the outline forward. I’m not a natural planner, but I promised my agent I’d at least try to plan a bit more.
Once I start the first draft, I aim for 1000-1500 words a day, but I don’t allow myself to go to bed unless I’ve written 300. I may end up deleting them all, but the point is that it keeps the story in my head.

If it’s going well, I’ll carry on until 7pm or 8pm, but three or four times a week, I’ll knock off at 6.30 and walk over to the local M&S Food.
Hot tip: the final reductions – about an hour before they close – are amazing.
Last night, I got two loaves of bread for 15p each, a cheese and onion sandwich (today’s lunch) for 20p and a whole chicken for 1.25. I do my main shopping in Aldi (I love Aldi) but I rely heavily on M&S reductions.

We usually eat at about 8pm. I cook from scratch (unless there’s a bargain M&S ready meal!) as cheaply as possible. Fortunately, I love cooking. We eat lots of lentil or bean dhals, pasta with tomato-based sauces, quorn curries, and mushroom or butternut squash risottos. I still drink wine at home three – oh, all right, five or six – nights a week. I justify that by only very rarely going out for drinks.

If I have a critique to do or a submission from one of my mentees, I’ll do my reading and preliminary notes after dinner. If not, I’ll watch a bit of telly with Himself before bed.

Obviously my day varies according to what’s happening. For example, I’ll be promoting Cornelia Blackwood leading up to publication. It stands a good chance of doing well, it seems, so I’ll be shamelessly urging people to pre-order in paperback (apparently e-books don’t count for the bestseller lists).

Or things can go wrong – like when my PC started playing silly buggers and turning itself off – I lost hours. And last week I lost an entire morning trying to sort out a problem with a Facebook ad. Trying to contact the Facebook team is like trying to communicate with Martians! Anyway, it varies, but this post should give you the overall feel of a typical day.

So that’s me – luckier than most, but still skint despite a 50-hour week.

Thanks again, Anne, and I can’t wait to read the other posts in this series!

About Susan -from www.susanelliottwright.co.uk

Although I’ve been living happily in the North for twelve years, I was born in South East London. I left school at 16 and married unwisely at 18. At the age of 30 I took my two children, left my unhappy life and started again, reinventing myself with an education and a new surname, which I chose by drawing up a shortlist from the telephone directory and sending off for brochures so I’d receive mail in those names. I settled on Elliot; Susan Elliot sounded like ‘me’. Soon after changing my name, I met Mr Right, or in this case, Mr Wright. Within a few weeks, we decided to marry (although it took a couple of years to get round to it). We became the Elliot-Wrights, but we’ve dropped the hyphen now.
For most of my life, I’ve managed to avoid a full-time ‘proper job’, although after leaving school I did put in five years as a civil servant – talk about a misspent youth! Since then, I’ve been a cleaner, barmaid, washer-up, market researcher, cake decorator, FE English tutor, chef, freelance journalist, features editor, non-fiction author and creative writing tutor.
Now, as a novelist, I’m doing my dream job, but if I wasn’t an author, I’d be a chef. There’s a wonderful camaraderie in a commercial kitchen, and cooking with other people can be great fun, but professional cooking is hugely physically demanding and sadly, I no longer have the stamina. I loved cooking professionally, and I still miss it, though I remain passionate about cooking at home.
I now live in Sheffield with my husband. I have two grown-up children and a smattering of grandchildren.
I’m the author of three published novels and I’m currently hard at work on my fourth. 

Twitter @sewelliott
Author page on Facebook

Monday, 22 October 2018

So Here It Is by Dave Hill - Blog Tour - #SoHereItIs - @unbounders

'No Slade = No Oasis. It's as devastating and as simple as that' Noel Gallagher
With six consecutive number one singles and the smash hit ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’, Slade were unstoppable. Now, the man whose outlandish costumes and unmistakable hairstyle made Slade one of the definitive acts of the Glam Rock era tells his story.
But there’s more to Dave’s life than rock 'n' roll and good times. So Here It Is also covers the band’s painful break-up, Dave’s subsequent battle with depression, and his recovery from the stroke that threatened to cut short his performing career.
If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be a working-class lad from the Midlands suddenly confronted by unimaginable fame, So Here It Is is the definitive account, told with heart and humour and filled with never-before-seen photos.

So Here It Is by Dave Hill was published by Unbound on 18th October 2018.

Features a foreword by Slade singer Noddy Holder and an afterword by Noel Gallagher.
Slade were the biggest band in the UK in the 1970s, with 23 Top 20 hits, six number one singles. They ‘own’ Christmas with their classic anthem, ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’, which has sold over a million copies and charted every year since 1973.
Sold in excess of 5,000 copies in hardback. This paperback edition contains an exclusive new chapter.

This is the first full account of the original Slade’s painful break-up.

Here's a sneaky extract from So Here It Is ....

You can all picture the scene, you’ve all been there. The little bedroom in your parents’ house, all your gear in there, your clothes, your records, your coat hanging up on the back of the door. That was where I was still living at the age of twenty-six, not all that unusual in the 1970s, I suppose.
Only my story is a little bit different. I’ve got the number one record in the UK. Again. I’m in Slade, the biggest pop group in Britain, maybe Europe. I’m on the front cover of Melody Maker. I’m on Top of the Pops all the time. I’ve sprayed a halo of silver paint on that bedroom door around that coat – my dad’s not best pleased with that! I’ve got my Jensen with the YOB1 plate parked in the road outside the house.
It’s not all sweetness and light though. My mom is in hospital, the nut house as we called it. She’s in and out of there a fair bit. My dad is devoted to her, and to me and my sister Carol, but Mom takes up a lot of his time. I suppose that meant we were left to our own devices a bit, that we could follow what we were interested in without
 anybody getting in the way, because Mom wasn’t up to it and Dad was busy. Maybe that’s why we both end up us as performers, looking for a bit of attention, not that I ever felt short of that 
In a lot of ways, that bedroom, that house sums up my story. For all the success I got, the places I went, the things I saw, it was never about escaping from home, which in my case was Wolverhampton. In fact, I’m still there now, pretty much a stone’s throw from where I grew up – mind you, I wasn’t bad at throwing stones as a kid! 
It’s not just a geographical thing. I don’t think I’ve changed much from the kid who grew up on that council estate. For all the money and the fame that’s come and gone and come again, I’ve still got the same values I had then. My family means the world to me – wife, kids, grandkids now, they’re the foundation of everything. 
And then there’s the guitar. I still love picking it up, having a play, getting up in front of people and seeing them having a great time with all those songs. Fifty years and more since I first got on a stage, there’s still no thrill like it when I walk on stage with Slade now, still me and Don Powell together after all we’ve been through.
Then there’s my mom’s depression, which has haunted me all my life, certainly later on. I don’t know if it’s genetic, if it was the fame and the life I led, or whether I just didn’t fall very far from the tree, but I fell prey to the same problems later in my life and had to fight my way out of that. And then I had to get over a stroke that hit me while I was up there on stage.

It’s been some journey, a lot of extremes. Life has taught me a lot on the way, mainly that you can’t have everything at the same time! In the end, getting everything in balance is what really matters, that’s what makes it all work out, and I think I’ve recently got closer to that than I ever did before, even when I was in that bedroom and on top of the music world.
Like I say, it’s been some journey. So here it is…

Dave Hill was born in a castle in Devon and moved with his parents to Wolverhampton when he was a year old. 
As a teenager he taught himself to play guitar and in 1966 formed the band Slade.
After the break-up of the original band, Dave eventually re-formed Slade, and twenty-five years later, they are still regularly touring the world, playing to hundreds of thousands of fans. 
Dave married his wife Jan in 1973, and they have three children and six grandchildren. They still live in Wolverhampton. 

Friday, 19 October 2018

One Thousand Stars and You by Isabelle Broom @Isabelle_Broom @MichaelJBooks #OneThousandStarsAndYou

One spark will light up both their lives
Alice is settling down. It might not be the adventurous life she once imagined, but more than anything she wants to make everyone happy - her steady boyfriend, her over-protective mother - even if it means a little part of her will always feel stifled.
Max is shaking things up. After a devastating injury, he is determined to prove himself. To find the man beyond the disability, to escape his smothering family and go on an adventure.
A trip to Sri Lanka is Alice's last hurrah - her chance to throw herself into the heat, chaos and colour of a place thousands of miles from home.
It's also the moment she meets Max.
Alice doesn't know it yet, but her whole life is about to change.
Max doesn't know it yet, but he's the one who's going to change it.

One Thousand Stars and You by Isabelle Broom was published by Michael Joseph on 23 August 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. A version of this review was published in the Daily Express.

Alice always does her best to make everyone in her life happy. She doesn’t take risks and whilst she’d secretly love to throw caution to the wind she knows just how much her boyfriend Richard and her very protective mother worry about her.

However, Alice will turn thirty very soon and a trip to Sri Lanka with her two best friends is something that she cannot resist. Ignoring, for once, the protests of Richard and her mother, she sets off, determined to have one last adventure before settling down forever.

Max is also determined to shake off the image that he’s had since he suffered a devastating injury. He wants to re-discover the fearless Max that has been hiding behind his disability and a holiday in Sri Lanka with his good friend Jamal feels like the perfect way to prove himself.

When Alice and her friends meet up with Max and Jamal, there’s an instant spark, all of them recognise something in each other that seems to bind them together. Previous plans are abandoned and the five of them decide to spend their holiday together. They don’t just discover new and exciting places, they learn more about each other.

As Alice and Max grow closer, they find themselves opening up to each other; revealing more about themselves and their hidden inner selves than either of them have admitted in the past.

Isabelle Broom’s writing sweeps her readers away to a exotic destination, her sense of place and wonderfully evocative descriptions are beautifully done. One Thousand Stars and You is an irresistible love story, made up of an eclectic and loveable cast of characters. Unashamedly romantic and touching, reminding us all that love and relationships are never as easy as they seem.

Isabelle Broom was born in Cambridge nine days before the 1980s began and studied Media Arts in London before joining the ranks at Heat magazine, where she remains the Book Reviews Editor. Always happiest when she off on an adventure, Isabelle now travels all over the world seeking out settings for her novels, as well as making the annual pilgrimage to her true home - the Greek island of Zakynthos. 
Currently based in Suffolk, where she shares a cottage with her dog Max and approximately 467 spiders, Isabelle fits her writing around a busy freelance career and tries her best not to be crushed to oblivion under her ever-growing pile of to-be-read books.

If you like pictures of dogs, chatter about books and very bad jokes, you can follow her on Twitter or Instagram @Isabelle_Broom or find her on Facebook under Isabelle Broom Author

To find out more about her books, visit her website www.isabellebroom.com

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Dead In Venice by Fiona Leitch @fkleitch Blog Tour @audibleuk - My Life in Books - #DeadInVenice

 Bella Tyson is a famous 40-something crime writer suffering from writer's block ever since a bitter divorce two years before. When a fan offers her the use of an apartment in Venice, Bella jumps at it, hoping a change of scene will have her writing again. Once there, she soon meets Will, a charming Englishman, who shows her around the city. 
Enchanted by both Will and her new surroundings, Bella decides to write a supernatural murder mystery and begins researching local legends and the city's more sinister side, including an illicit visit to the island of Poveglia, spooky former home of Venice's asylum. Soon Bella uncovers more than she has bargained for and finds herself enmeshed in a series of gruesome real-life murders that uncannily mirror the legends she is researching. 
As she and Will join forces to investigate, real life and local lore merge disconcertingly - for nothing in Venice turns out to be what seems, including Will....

Dead In Venice by Fiona Leitch was published as an audiobook on 11 September 2018 by Audible.

As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I'm delighted to welcome Fiona Leitch here today, she's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life in Books.

My Life in Books - Fiona Leitch

‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon    A fantastic gothic mix of romance and intrigue set in Barcelona in 1945, during the fascist regime. It’s such an evocative story it made me pack my bags and go to see Barcelona for myself! I hope my book will do the same for Venice.

‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman   A wonderful book that made me laugh and cry, sometimes both at once. Eleanor is an amazing character and the ending is very satisfying.

‘Wyrd Sisters’ by Terry Pratchett     Terry Pratchett is one of my all-time favourite writers. He manages to write about worlds that are both fantastic and at the same time, completely recognisable. Hard to choose just one of his books (‘Good Omens’ is another brilliant one) but out of all his characters, the three witches of ‘Wyrd Sisters’ have to be my favourite. I’d like to say I’m clever and a natural leader like Granny Weatherwax, but I’m far more likely to be found singing dirty songs and wearing my knickers on my head like Nanny Ogg… 

‘The Stand’ by Stephen King     Never trust anyone who doesn’t own at least one Stephen King book. That’s all I’m saying…

‘The Crow Road’ by Iain Banks    A great writer who left us too young. Iain Banks wrote novels full of macabre wit. Great characters, great plot and I do love a Scottish accent, even on the page.

‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen   In my other life as a screenwriter I specialise in romcoms, and this is the original! I’ve loved every screen adaptation of the story as well, even the Bollywood one (Bride and Prejudice). If I’m feeling down, Elizabeth and Darcy always cheer me up.

‘The Number One Ladies Detective Agency’ by Alexander McCall Smith    I’ve read so many of his novels; they’re full of warmth and wit and humanity, but none more so than his tales of Botswana’s premier (only) female detective Precious. She’s a wonderful, completely original character, the sort I would love to be able to create.

‘Five Quarters of the Orange’ by Joanne Harris    Another of my favourite writers. Everyone knows ‘Chocolat’, of course, and this is set in similar territory. But here the story spans two very distinct periods in the main character Framboise’s life – her wartime childhood and middle age. It’s an intriguing story that keeps you guessing, and it’s bound up with food and family loyalty and finding love late in life. I would love to adapt this into a movie!

‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’ by Susannah Clarke     Harry Potter written by Jane Austen. What’s not to love?

‘A Room With a View’ by E.M. Forster    I read this after falling in love with the Italian countryside in the film version, and fell in love with it and the heroine Lucy all over again in the book. I love the fact that everyone is very staid, but underneath it all passion lurks – sometimes in the unlikeliest of characters!

Fiona Leitch - October 2018 

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. 
She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’d at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. 
After living in London, Cornwall and New Zealand she’s finally (for the moment) settled on the sunny South Coast of England, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.
Her Westminster-set romantic comedy ‘Parliamentary Affairs’ was recently optioned by an up and coming LA producer, and her action comedy ‘Lost In Berlin’ was a finalist in New York’s Athena IRIS Screenwriting Lab 2017. 
She’s also been shortlisted for the BBC Writers Room. 
Her debut novel ‘Dead In Venice’ has just been shortlisted for the Audible New Writing Grant, while her short horror story ‘Tinder’ was selected for the Twisted 50, volume two anthology, published Spring 2018

Twitter : @fkleitch