7 ways to differentiate your novel

writing idea

Image reproduced under creative commons license. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/massimobarbieri/


Picture this. You’ve spent weeks, months, possibly years pulling together the first draft of your novel. Having let it sit for a month or so you finally read it through. You discover poorly written passages along with gems that make you wonder if you actually wrote the words yourself. There are slow, dull passages that need removing along with scenes that race through so fast you can hardly catch your breath. All of these problems can be dealt with during the edit but there is one issue troubling you more than any other, it’s just not original.

According to Christopher Booker there are only seven basic plots. This is open to some debate but it’s true that many stories follow a similar structure, and with so many stories having already been written, the challenge for any writer is how to make their story unique?

The good news is that just because your basic structure is the same as other stories, it doesn’t mean you can’t make it unique. Most western music from the last 300 years has been written with just seven basic notes (twelve if you include semitones), yet the level and diversity of that music is vast. And you don’t have to change everything to differentiate your work. Sometimes just a few tweaks here or there can turn a generic piece of work into something different.

In recognition of the seven notes and seven plots, here are seven changes you can make to your novel to help it stand out, whatever stage it’s in. The list is by no means a comprehensive list but hopefully will get your thinking about potential improvements to your work in progress.

1 Change your protagonist’s gender or sexuality

There are few gender specific roles left in life yet many of us, especially us men, start writing with the old gender roles in mind. When plotting Second Chance, for example, the politician was originally a man. There was no reason for this, other than I’m male and I didn’t really think too much about it. It was just laziness on my part. However, I realised very early on that the character would be a much more interesting if it was a woman. With the addition of one letter, he became a she and Stephanie Vaughn was born.

And you shouldn’t necessarily be restricted to male or female. According to research there are over 700,000 people in the US alone who identify themselves as transgender, ranging from people born with both male and female genitalia to those of a mind of one gender trapped in the body of another. Each situation can bring variety and interest to your novel.

Then there is a character’s sexuality. A significant section of the world’s population isn’t purely heterosexual and there is no reason for your characters not to reflect this.

The danger here, as with other suggestions I make, is to either take a tokenistic approach to these choices or to make the gender or sexuality the sole focus of the story as opposed to being just one part of who the character is. It’s tempting to overly highlight any differences, or try to have the character revert to heterosexual male behaviours in an attempt to show they are the same or as capable as the gender stereotype (I see this a lot with male writers looking to write strong female characters for example). Unless you have first hand experience of what you’re writing, I urge you to be sensitive and do your research, but don’t be afraid to improve your story by including a more diverse cast.

2 Think Location

Where is your novel set and why? Did you make the choice because it was somewhere you felt comfortable with, or because many other novels have similar settings. A great way to make your story different is to set it somewhere different to other similar stories. Some novels add in exotic locations for a bit of spice, but having your story set in a completely different culture or location can make your story unique.

Many fantasy novels are set in a quasi western medieval world, yet I’ve just finished reading The Lions of Al-Rassan, a unique and fascinating book made so partially by being set in a fantasy version of the fall of moorish Spain.

Location doesn’t just have to be a place. Second Chance is a dystopian novel, but I didn’t want it to be set in an apocalyptic setting like many others. I have faith in humanity to pull back from any self-made disaster, so I wanted to set it in a world returned to ‘normality’ after coming close to destruction. The truth of how that came to happen is the central idea of my novel.

3 Subvert genre tropes

In many fairytales the handsome prince rescues the princess. But why can’t the princess rescue the prince, or the prince rescue a prince for that matter? Why does the prince have to be handsome, or even a prince?

Every genre has its tropes. With horror the victim always goes down into the cellar alone, in fantasy it’s the common boy fated to save the world, and we’ve all heard of the maverick cop or the introverted computer geek. Look at your first draft. Does it fall into the same trap? Understanding the tropes of your genre and turning them on their head is a great way turning the mundane into the exciting.

4 Change your protagonist’s race or nationality

The majority of writers create characters of a similar race or nationality as themselves, especially with their first book. However, as with gender and sexuality, this is mostly done as default rather than as a specific choice. Look at your characters again. What if your main characters were of a different race or nationality? Would this improve anything or increase interest? If your book is set in the UK and your main character was white, what would happen if you changed that to somebody of Indian origin, or Lebanese? What would this add to your story?

5 Swap violence for intelligence

One of the easiest ways of adding drama into a book is to add action and violence, especially in some genres, but action doesn’t have to be physical. The sparring of minds can be just as entertaining. Columbo was an incredibly successful, long running television detective series but not once did it resort to car chases or shoot-outs, yet millions watched it each week.

Resolving conflict with methods other than violence can be an incredibly effective tool, especially when writing in a genre where violence is the norm (like thrillers, fantasy etc) and there is the threat of violence hanging over the scene. It also means if and when something violent does happen, it has more impact.

6 Play with point of view and tense

Majority of novels are written third person past tense, although first person present is becoming more popular. Many of us choose our point of view and tense by default, but there is no reason why you can’t change this.

Changing point of view or tense within a novel can be a very good way of giving the reader a different experience, and although this should be used with caution it can add major dramatic effect. If you want to make it even more personal, write in the second person (you did or you do). The danger is you’ll put readers off but if done well you can trick the reader into believing the book is all about them.

7 Change the style and tone of your novel

Some of the most successful novels of recent years became so because the author wrote in an unexpected style. The late Sir Terry Pratchett combined fantasy with satirical comedy to great effect. The zombie horror novel, World War Z, stood out partly because it was written in the style of a diary, rather than as a straight out novel. We need to talk about Kevin is written as a series of letters from Kevin’s mother to his father.

What about your novel? Does it follow the style of all the others in it’s genre? Changing a novel’s style, as with changing its tense and point of view, is not a small task, but it may be the one thing to make your novel stand out from the rest.


So what have I missed? Do you have any tips on ways to make your work stand out from the crowd? I’d love to hear from you.


Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 


Morality – a writer’s best friend


Image source: brucemctague.com/rediscovering-the-moral-compass


One of the things I enjoy most about writing is exploring morality. At its most basic level, morality is just a question of right and wrong. It’s a black and white issue. Take theft, for example. The definition of theft is:


The dishonest taking of property belonging to another person with the intention of depriving the owner permanently of its possession

Not many of us would disagree that theft is wrong, but is it always wrong?

To punish a thief?

A young woman is caught stealing from a store. Theft is wrong and she should be punished. But what if it was food she was stealing for her hungry children? Is it still wrong? What if she had recently lost her job and had no way of feeding her children? What if the job she’d lost was at the store and the sore owner owed her a month’s wages? What if the the reason she’d lost it was because she’d turned down the unwanted advances of the store owner?

With each new piece of information, the case for punishing the woman decreases. As a writer, this is a simple but effective means of drawing a reader deeper into a story, turning what appears to be a unsympathetic character on the surface into one the majority of readers could identify with. But even in such cases there will still be those who say the woman should be punished for theft and others who believe she should be let off.

But surely in every situation there’s a right and wrong?

It is very easy to create a situation where one person is in the right, another in the wrong, but this doesn’t necessarily make great dramatic tension. Take murder, for example. For most people, the definition of murder is the premeditated killing of one person by another. To murder someone, you plan to kill them, then act upon your plan. It’s black and white. However, the actual definition of murder is slightly different.


the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another

The key word in the definition is ‘unlawful,’ killing somebody outside of what is allowed by law. What is legal and what is moral are two very different things. You only have to look at the controversy surrounding the recent film, American Sniper, to understand that what to one group of people is a completely understandable act can be seen by others as unjustified murder.

Morality is subjective, and it is this subjectivity that makes it such a useful tool for writers.

Would you kill a child?

Most of us would see the killing of a child as abhorrent, the worst type of murder. There couldn’t possibly be any justification within the law for doing such a terrible thing.

But what if you’d been sent back in time and had the chance to kill the young Adolf Hitler? Would you do it? Could you kill what was at the time an innocent child to save millions?

Clearly, this an extreme hypothetical situation unlikely to happen in real life, but it shows that morality is never a simple black and white issue. There are people who would say the killing of the young Adolf Hitler would be justified, others horrified that anyone would think of doing such a thing. From a human perspective this type of dilemma is the stuff of nightmares, but from a writer’s perspective it’s gold dust.

How I use morality to fuel my writing

Second Chance is set in the near future where humanity has pulled back from the brink of environmental disaster. Those terrible events are now in the past and the people live in what many of us would view as a Utopia, with plentiful clean energy, a stable climate and relatively little crime. However, as the story advances it starts to become clear that there is a hidden price to pay for such stability, a price some would find too high and others happy to pay.

One of the moral areas I wanted to investigate was around ‘the common good.’ It’s a great phrase, meant to represent doing what’s best for everyone. In this case, saving the world from disaster is a good thing, but what about the price? The problem with the common good is that it’s often used to justify terrible actions. Those in power tend to decide what is the common good but power distances individuals from reality. Power corrupts, yet these are the people who define how much bad can be allowed in the name of the common good. And if the benefit is saving the world, who could argue with a bit of bad?

When creating characters or plotting stories, playing with these types of moral quandaries can give real depth to your work. While some authors use these situations to promote their own ideas and thoughts, I much prefer to keep myself out of the story. To me, the best books are those where all characters are portrayed realistically, protagonists and antagonists alike. It doesn’t mean you have to root for the antagonist, but you should be able to clearly see where they are coming from. What’s even better is when the countries blur until it’s difficult to know who’s right and who’s wrong.

What about you? How have you used morality in your writing? Or what the best moral quandaries from your favourite stories? I’d love to hear from you.

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

Recommended Reads: Claudia Must Die by T B Markinson


The Blurb

Claudia doesn’t feel like herself anymore–she feels like prey. Her husband’s hired goons have stalked her all the way to Boston and will only stop their pursuit once she is dead.

Divorce is not an option. Instead, she has stolen a bunch of her man’s money to disappear into another life.

In order for Claudia to live, someone else must die. A lookalike college student becomes the target capable of freeing her from an awful marriage.

The plan goes horribly awry. Instead of murdering Claudia’s double, the assassins shoot the woman’s lover who is the cousin of a powerful Irish mobster. Claudia becomes hunted by all involved. Can she survive. Should she?

The Review

You’re married to the mob and you want out. What do you do? Run away, find a double and arrange for them to be killed instead of you, of course! But when the wrong person is killed in error, the actions of the mob wife, and her ex-husband, will come back to haunt them.

Claudia Must Die is a fun read with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. While the title focusses on Claudia, the wife, the true protagonists are Parker, the student and double of Claudia, and Francis, the ex-military cousin of Parker’s lover Ida. When Ida is killed, the two look to gain revenge on those responsible, but that’s just the start of their journey.

The book is well-written and mostly believable, although Francis’s mysterious contacts manage to get them out of one or two scrapes a little too conveniently for my liking, but the real strength of this story is the change in dynamics between the victims, the middle men and the perpetrators as the story unfolds. How the relationships ebb and flow is at the heart of what makes this book an engrossing read.

The only part where I felt let down was the ending. It was all a little too safe for my liking, I prefer my stories a little darker. However, overall this is an enjoyable read that I would recommend to any thriller fan.

To buy Claudia Must Die from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Claudia Must Die from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

The Secret to Writing That Nobody Tells You

I love this post. I’m not sure ‘nobody’ tells you the secret, but far too few do.


When I coach people, there is an ugly truth about writing that I often hold back from them. It’s something you can only learn through gut-wrenching, razor’s edge, shard of broken glass experience.

There is no magic to writing, none at all. It’s nothing but grueling

No magic, no easy formula, no genius algorithm. There is no “secret” that is going to make everybody love your work, buy all your books, tell their friends about you, and get stars in their eyes when they hear your name.

It is simply monotonous, repetitive work.

I recently finished the manuscript for my first novel. For eight years I struggled to finish it. And do you know what finally helped me finish it?

Monotonous, repetitive work.

I did it by sitting down (almost) every day and writing a minimum of 500 words.

Some of those days were pretty good days. I would say…

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How To Take Charge And Write Your Own Way

A great post* from Sacha about the importance of discovering ‘your’ writing process.

*And no, I’m not just reblogging this because I’m mentioned 😉

Sacha Black

How To Take Charge & Write Your Own Way

I love reading blogs written by other writers, editors, publishers and general creative bods. I particularly love reading blogs on ‘writing’ and how to write better. That’s why in my own blog I like to explore the lessons I’m learning as I progress on my journey to be a writer.

But there’s a snag. In reading all those posts, without realising, I got myself caught up in thinking I should be doing something a certain way. Using a character template for example, and then getting caught up in which specific template I should use, whether I should be using one for scenes or settings, having to outline, or not outline, style of note taking, being a pantser or a plotter, editing as I go or writing to the end and then editing… the options are endless and I wrapped myself up in a big knotty ball of stress trying to figure out which was the…

View original post 673 more words

Reedsy: a new resource for writers


As most indie writers know, self-publishing is a misnomer. Along with the moral support of friends and family, most of us need the help of beta readers, editors, proofreaders, cover designers and a whole host of others to produce a quality book. But as a new writer it can be incredibly hard to know where to start when looking for professional support.

This is the gap Reedsy is looking to fill. It is an online marketplace where authors can find the best freelance editors and designers. This is from their Press Release:

Publishing startup Reedsy has launched the first tightly curated online marketplace of publishing professionals, enabling authors to find and collaborate with top book editors and designers. Since the site launched in 2014, over one thousand authors have already signed up. The site has transformed current indie publishing models, creating a system whereby freelancers are approached by authors based on work and experience as opposed to price.

Authors sign up for free, and can then search for whichever freelance service they desire. The search can be refined through type of service offered and genre specialisation. Once you have selected a freelancer, the site lists an overview of the person and services they offer, any relevant qualifications, professional accreditations, work experience and portfolio.

If you decide to go ahead and use their service Reedsy take a 10% fee on each transaction, but that is all.

To me this looks like something that could be of interest to many authors, as well as freelancers looking to increase their customer base. At the moment the site has 200 freelancers listed, predominantly under editorial and design, but I expect to see the list grow as word starts to spread. At the moment there are over 1000 authors registered, although I don’t know how many transactions have taken place.

You can see from the site that a service market place is only the start of what Reedsy would like to offer. There is a lot of functionality which has yet to be brought online, but if the team deliver what they say they want to, I think it will be an important resource for both writers and freelancers in the future.

As an author, I would like to see an indication of pricing, or price banding, to prevent a lot of wasted time as authors contact suppliers only to find they are out of their price range. It would be good for those that have used the freelancer’s services to be able to leave comments or a rating, as at the moment there isn’t a great mechanism to distinguish between one freelancer and another. However, with the demands from readers for an ever more professional product, I can see real value in this type of service.

To find out more about Reedsy, you can visit their website here: www.reedsy.com

Disclaimer: I have only used Reedsy to investigate their site; I’ve not purchased any of the services on offer. Reedsy approached me to talk about their site and future plans but the choice to produce a blog was mine and Reedsy had no editorial input. I did not receive payment or incentives to write this blog.

Recommended Reads: Rogue Genesis by Ceri London

Rogue Genesis

The Blurb


Major Niall Kearey is split between two worlds.

He lives on Earth, but his mind can visit Astereal, an alien world across the universe.

He’s just discovered his fantasy planet is real. To the telepathic race on Astereal, Niall is a legend and military leader. Now the dueling forces of the dark stars are tearing Astereal apart and prophecy says he can save them from an apocalypse. On Earth, Niall’s growing psychic abilities attract unwanted attention putting his family in danger, but his attempt to rescue them has horrific consequences. With alien invasion a real threat, the US government designates him a security risk while a secret political conspiracy seeks to control him and this first contact with extra-terrestrials. Now Niall is torn between protecting his loved ones, saving an alien race, and his duty to Earth. As history opens his eyes to the full potential of his psychic powers, he finally confronts the disturbing scale of his dilemma. Will his attempts to save one world end up destroying two?

One man. Two worlds. Psychic powers and an alternate world view that rewrites history.

The Review

Major Niall Kearey is an all action hero with an edge, he can sense danger before it happens. By allowing his subconscious to escape into an imaginary world he’s known since he was a child, Kearey is able to identify a way out of danger and then act. But then he discovers a shocking truth. The world he’s known for so long isn’t imaginary but real, and they need his help to save their population before the planet’s consumed by a black hole.

If you like your science fiction big, full of action and ideas, then this is the book for you. In Rogue Genesis, Ceri London successfully combines the raw excitement of a military conspiracy thriller with the ideas and scope of a space opera, taking the two separate storylines, one on earth, the other on Astereal, and intelligently drawing them together to a satisfying conclusion.

The two worlds, the dystopian conspiracy on Earth and the collapsing civilisation on Asetreal are very well put together. You cannot help but be pulled along by Kearey as he tries to do what’s best for his family, his country, and his friends on another planet. The action scenes are tough and visceral, and there are enough twists and turns to keep

This is a big book and it’s unsurprising there are the occasional missteps. At points the action slows as each of the elements are brought into alignment. Sometimes there is too much reliance on the science behind what’s happening, making the story more, rather than less confusing. There is also an issue that Major Kearey reaches the peaks of desperation quite early in the story, meaning emotionally he has nowhere else to go, which can be a little draining. However, for the quality of the writing, the scale and ambition of the story, and the sheer breadth of ideas make this a book worth reading. I can’t wait to read the next. Recommended.

To buy Rogue Genesis from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Rogue Genesis from Amazon.com click here


Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

My top 10 blogging tips on building an audience

blogging wordcloud

image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barnett/ licensed under creative commons


It’s been a week of milestones for my little blog. Firstly, I passed the 30,000 views mark. For a blog that’s been going less than two years, where I post on average once a week, I’m both thrilled and humbled by this achievement.

The second milestone is that this is my 200th post. It has been quite a ride since I first posted about a cat that defecates in my garden and I’ve learnt an awful lot along the way. My blog has changed from being a platform for me to play around with writing to a blog about writing, and specifically self-publishing. During my blogging time I’ve published two books, met many wonderful people, been introduced to the wonderfully supportive writing community, as well as discovered some fantastic books by new and exciting authors.

Thank you to all of you who read, comment and share my posts. You are a wonderful group of people and it’s a pleasure knowing you.

In order to celebrate these milestones, I thought I’d pass on my top 10 tips on building a blogging audience. Of course, if your blog is very personal, building an audience may not be your goal, so many of these won’t apply, but if you are looking to increase your readership then these tips are a good place to start.

1. Post regularly

The more regularly you post, the more likely people will find you and follow you. I see a significant drop in my weekly visitor averages if I post less than once a week. If I post more than once a week those averages not only rise, but grow week on week. It’s hard work (which is why I usually write just one post per week) but the response is worth it.

2. Have a purpose

When I first started blogging it was purely as a medium to play around with writing. I wrote about all sorts of things, some of which people found interesting, others that were barely read at all. However, as my blogging became more about one subject – writing and self-publishing – I found an audience – you! That doesn’t mean I post solely about writing and self-publishing, but the majority of my posts are in this area.

3. Keep posts to under 1000 words

This is a great rule of thumb. It doesn’t mean every post should be under this limit, but the shorter the post, the more likely it will be read to the end.

4. Don’t think what you would like to write but what you would like to read

This is based on a lesson I learnt while writing fiction. During the first draft, an author will often include lots of back story and explanation. It’s an important part of the writing process and enjoyable to write, but it’s as dull as hell to read and often gets culled during the editing process. Just because something is fun to write, doesn’t make it interesting to read. Make sure your posts offer your readers something, whether it’s knowledge, insight or a different perspective.

5. Interact with your readership

Except for my Recommended Reads, I always end my posts with a question (there’ll be one at the end of this post too). Sometimes this can be ignored but often it starts a debate which generates further interest in the subject. If somebody is kind enough to comment on your blog, answer them, promptly if possible. I’ve met many of my favourite bloggers and writers this way, as we discuss the topics raised, but even if it’s just a plain ‘thank you,’ it will mean a lot and encourage them to visit again.

6. Be yourself

The best blogs develop a little community of regular readers, based on a shared view, love or experience. The only way you can do this is by being yourself. That doesn’t mean you can’t exaggerate or suppress aspects of your personality as you write, but to be effective there has to be a core part of you within your blogging.

7. Don’t be afraid to be opinionated

I’m not suggesting that every post should be deliberately provocative, but people like a good argument. If you have an opinion on a subject, give it. You will never be able to please everybody with what you write so don’t try to. Rather than avoid subjects or opinions you feel could be controversial, embrace them. Sure, this may turn off some readers but at the same time you will get to find your audience.

8. Be gracious when people disagree with you

If you are going to give your opinion, expect people to disagree with you. When this happens, read what they have to say and see if it makes sense to you. If it does, then don’t be afraid to concede the point. If it doesn’t, be gracious in your reply. Some of my favourite readers disagree with me often. Occasionally they have a point. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

9. Use social media to promote your blog

The WordPress reader is a lovely tool to discover new blogs but it has a limited audience. It was only when I started to actively promote my blog via twitter that my numbers began to grow. WordPress have a great system called Publicize, where you can link your blog to social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) and each time you post it is shared on the social media platform of your choice. Using the right tags and hashtags also helps to promote your blog outside your existing audience.

10. When in doubt, use a list

Can you see what I did there? There’s nothing better than a large block of text to turn readers off. Instead, structure it into a way that’s easy to digest. By far my most popular posts are structured around lists. This is no coincidence. With lists, people are able to quickly discover the gist of the post and decide whether to read further or not.

So, these are my top 10 tips, but what are yours? I’d love to hear from you.


Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

The benefits of publishing through a publisher 

shaking hands

licensed under creative commons. Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/89228431@N06/


I’ve written many times about why I decided to self-publish and the pros and cons of going down this route, often by comparing a positive of indie publishing compared to a negative of going through a publisher. Because of this, I may occasionally come across as being against anyone trying to gain a publishing contract. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Publishing isn’t a black and white issue. There is no universal right or wrong. When you are looking to get your book published, all routes should be investigated and only once an author understands the positives and negatives of each option should they decide which route is right for them and their book at that particular time.

Below I’ve listed the benefits of publishing through a publisher. This isn’t meant to be a definitive list and is written from the perspective of somebody who has decided to go the indie route for his current series of books. Also, the level of benefits will clearly differ depending on whether you are being published by one of the Big 6 (or 5) publishers, a specialist publisher or a small publisher. However, compared to indie publishing there are plenty of benefits to publishing through a traditional publisher.

No financial risk

When an author signs up with a publisher, it is the publisher who takes on the financial risk of whether their book succeeds or fails, not the author. The publisher takes on the cost to get the manuscript into shape, all physical (and digital) production costs, organises and pays for the promotion of the book, and pays the author an advance. If the book flops, the author isn’t responsible for recouping these costs. Taking on this risk is why the the publisher expects such a large percentage of the profit from each book sale.


Most good publishers pay the author an advance for the rights to publish their book. While these advances may not be as large as they once were, they are still much larger than the advance you get as an indie author – $0.

It’s also important to realise that many books do not pay out their advance. That’s to say, despite having the support of a large organisation behind it, the book doesn’t sell in enough volume for the author’s royalties to exceed the amount of the advance. That doesn’t mean the publisher necessarily looses money on the book, but the author receives more money than they would have done through royalties alone.

Access to professionals

One of the great benefits to going through a publisher is that you have access to a number of professionals. There are developmental editors, to help shape the story, line editors to help smooth prose, and a number of copy editors to pick out those nasty typos and grammatical errors. Then you have book cover designers and book interior designers, there to give your book the best chance of success. To pay for all this support would cost an indie author many thousands of dollars, and many of us have to choose just how much to invest at each stage, but if you have a publishing contract you get it all as part of the price for giving up some of your profit.

Marketing support 

There have been many articles written by traditionally published authors bemoaning the declining marketing support from their publisher but even if the marketing budgets are at a lower level than before, an author still gets access to marketing professionals help support their book launch. These professionals develop adverts, create and produce point of sale, send out arc’s to generate reviews and organising book signings. On top of this you have the publisher’s reps who push the author’s book when at bookstores.


Probably the biggest benefit, and one that us indies look on with some jealousy, is that when going through a traditional publisher, an author has access to all distribution options. There have been some indies that have negotiated contracts with distributors or wholesalers, but the majority will tell you that they do well just to get their book in a local store.

Traditional publishers can get your book into the major stores, independent stores and supermarkets (if you are very lucky). This gives the traditionally published author a massive advantage in the area most difficult for an indie author, being seen.

Sense of validation 

This point isn’t true for everyone, but some authors feel as if they haven’t ‘made it’ until they win a publishing contract. The fact that publishing professionals have selected their work out of the many thousands of manuscripts they receive each year is a major boost to the author’s self-esteem. I’m sure there is nothing better than having friends and family see your book in their local store.


As I said before, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to publishing, just what suits you at the time, but to say publishers don’t have anything, or even enough, to offer writers is way off the mark.

For those of you who publish through a publisher, what are your thoughts on this? Have I included everything? Am I viewing publishing through a publisher with rose-tinted glasses? Is there anything I’ve missed? For indie authors, what out of the points above is the one thing you wish you had access to? I’d love to hear from you.

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You don’t have to be selfish to be a writer

writing life

image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/simplybike/ licensed under Creative Commons


Writing is a selfish act. Writers lock themselves away, often for long periods of time, day after day while you live other people’s lives. Even when they are with loved ones, their thoughts are often elsewhere. Writers can very easily stop participating in life and instead become an observer, separating themselves from others to better capture the big picture, or the tiniest, most pertinent detail.

It takes writers a long time to write a book, hundreds of hours of solid effort to craft and shape their story so that it comes close to the image in their mind. For writers of a series, those hundreds of hours can turn into thousands of hours, often spread over many years, if not decades, of time. Most writers, even traditionally published writers, have jobs on top of their writing, so their writing time battles with time spent with loved ones, friends, or pursuing hobbies they may enjoy. The struggle between the need to create and the need to have a life is one all writers understand all too well.

Then there is the time needed for promotion. Blogging, social media, managing adverts, sending out review requests, taking part in interviews; the list goes on and on, all eating into that precious commodity, a writer’s time.

It’s no wonder people see writers as selfish people.

But it’s been my experience that writers can be the most giving, considerate and empathetic of people.

Writers understand more than anyone how tough writing can be and love to support other writers, whether that is to provide helpful tips, to beta read or critique the work of their peers, or to simply provide encouragement when a fellow writer is feeling low.

Writers are also readers. The most amazing thing about writers is that most don’t see other writers as competitors, but as brothers-in-arms. Clever writers think nothing of promoting books we’ve read and loved by our fellow authors, because they know that promoting good books helps all writers, not just the author in question.

Great writers celebrate the successes of other writers because they know just how much work has gone into creating that success.

Just because writing is a selfish task, it doesn’t mean writers have to be selfish people. What kind of writer do you want to be?


Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here.