Sunday, 26 May 2013

Ellen Whyte: Top Tips For Book Proposals And Manuscripts

Ellen Whyte, who also blogs about her cats at Katz Tales, has published a dozen books with various print publishers including Pearson and Marshall Cavendish.  She writes full time for newspapers and magazines.  In this blog post, used with permission, she talks about manuscripts. 

A manuscript is your book.  In the old days manuscripts were hand written.  Now you can't get anyone to read anything that's not in a Word or Text document.

A typical manuscript (MS) is written in a clear font like Courier or Times New Roman, is double spaced and has inch wide margins.  You need to offer blank space so that readers can scribble on the page.

You must also put a header or footer with the book title, your name, and a page number on every page.  This is in case your publisher drops a pile of MSs in her office.

Don't staple it all together and don't bind it - unless your publisher asks you to do so.  Loose pages is best.

MSs must be "clean" meaning you should have no spelling mistakes, no grammar errors, no last little bits of messy plot to fix up etc etc.  Publishers do work on MSs after they've accepted them, but too many problems on the initial approach will make them think you are sloppy - and they won't want to work with you.

An MS submission should be accompanied by a letter and your writing credits.

The letter should say (very briefly) why you and your book are the best thing since instant pot noodles.

There are books written on the subject of approach letters.  I write really simple ones: because I'm in the trade I drop the names of some of my clients, tell them I'm a published author already (and I mention the publishers I work with), and then I sum up the project I want to talk to them about in a few simple sentences.

As writers and publishers want the book to sell, I like to sum up the book in terms of marketing.

For example, I might describe Wildcat in Moscow, one of my ebook romances as,

Wildcat in Moscow is a 77,000 word contemporary reality romance set in London and Moscow.  Along with strong characters and a powerful storyline, this novel is rich in cultural detail, transporting readers into modern Russia.

In view of Russia’s burgeoning economy that has renewed the nation’s political power, and launched a new set of colourful billionaires and leaders onto the world stage, I think there is a growing market for stories set against this exciting backdrop.

I also include the back cover blurb, a one page synopsis of the book and first three chapters - or first 10,000 words if the publisher prefers that.

My best advice is to think of your MS as a pitch for a new client.  Show them you are keen, competent, and a winner and then they'll take you on if they can.

Don't let rejection depress you.  Publishers get tens of thousands of approaches so the competition is very keen.  Frank Herbert's Dune was rejected by 20 or more publishers and went on to become the best selling sci-fi book in history.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Mule: An Erotic Romance in Colombia is out!

My latest book, The Mule, is out.  It chronicles how Cleo, an exotic dancer from London, who is duped into becoming a drug mule in Colombia, finds her true love.

Although the story is fiction, the characters have a basis in real life.  Connor was inspired by an ex SAS officer I used to know.  Some of the things Connor says come straight from him.  Unlike Connor, my friend wasn't lucky enough to find his Cleo. He was a mess, poor thing, and I really hope that these days we look after our retired military people better.

Cleo is an amalgamation of various club workers I know, although admittedly the character is considerably softened. In real life girls who earn their living by nude dancing and stripping tend to be rather burned out, not sweet and always optimistic like Cleo.  If you prefer a more accurate portrait, see how Star, the rather more tough and cynical heroine in Chocolate, found her true love.

The Mule is available from Smashwords right now and from Kobo and other quality online bookshops from next week.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Perils of E-publishing

So a few years ago a start-up ebook publisher in the UK wrote to me to ask if I'd like to work with them. I was curious about epublishing so I said yes, and gave them a romance novel (not a Storm Chase, another pen name).

It was a disaster.  They sold about 6 books.

So last year in August 2012, I wrote to remind them that our contract called for a month's notice either way to quit, and said we'd better call it quits.  No response.  I wrote again, and again, and finally wrote to in December 2012 to say that Ink-slinger appeared to have gone bust, and please remove my copyright material from their site.

Suddenly I got responses.  "Oh very sorry, blah, blah, blah.  We'll remove your book this week." That was Ink-Slinger.  Amazon said, "Right, we'll remove your book too."

Today my book is STILL up on Ink-Slinger and!

I have written to them both AGAIN today telling them to remove my books NOW.  Does anyone know what I can do to stop these buggers selling my work without permission?

If you want a Storm Chase novel, please go to Smashwords, Kobo, BarnesandNoble or other store.

Lost Weekend: An Erotic Romance in Wales
By Storm Chase

When Micah accidentally kills a drug dealer, and Bryony is the only witness, Micah decides to keep an eye on her while he makes plans to leave the country. However, when Micah and Bryony start talking, things don't work out quite as either of them expect. Lost Weekend is a love story with a hint of murder and a heroine who decides she likes it best when she's on top.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Guest Post: Jenn Roseton "Can You Get A Decent E-Book Cover for $5?"

Is it possible to get a decent e-book cover for five dollars? If you’ve heard of, then yes, it is possible. is a site similar to Sellers (providers) advertise their services on Fiverr. But the seller only charges five dollars. What is available on Fiverr? Just about anything you could think of: e-book covers, Photoshop retouching, article writing, press releases, social media campaigns - the list is endless.

One of the easiest ways to find a top rated e-book cover designer is to select Graphics & Design from the menu on the right hand side, then click on E-book Covers & Packages. Just above the list of providers you’ll see “Filter gigs by”. 

If you click on Rating you’ll be presented with a list of top rated sellers in that category. You can see how many positive and negative reviews they’ve received, and samples of their work.

However, if you decide to use a seller on Fiverr to design your e-book cover you need to be aware of a couple of things:

1. Read their description very carefully of exactly what they will do. E.g., minor Photoshop editing may not mean changing the color of someone’s hair or clothes. If you want to clarify exactly what the seller can do for five dollars, message them first before you click Order Now. Once you order a gig, you’re expected to pay for it right away.

2. If you’re not providing the seller with your own image for your e-book cover, then make sure you know where they’re getting the image from and that it has a license that includes using it as part of your e-book cover. You don’t want to run into copyright problems down the track.

If the seller is providing the image (and you may have to pay extra) ask them to show you where they obtained it so you can see for yourself that it was obtained legally (e.g. from a stock photo site that the seller has a subscription to). If you want to be sure the image is safe to use, it may be better if you buy it yourself from a stock photo site such as, or and read the license carefully, so you know it’s okay to use it on your e-book cover.

3. Be prepared to be disappointed with the first mock-up you receive. Usually, the seller will say they provide one or two mock-ups. If you dislike the first mock-up they give you, be polite but point out why you don’t like it. Maybe they didn't do everything you asked for or the shade of green you thought would look great doesn't. If the second mock-up still doesn't deliver what you wanted, try to pinpoint exactly what is wrong with it and how it needs to be fixed. A great tip I picked up from is to hire three e-book cover designers at the same time. You’ll be paying a total of $15 instead of $5, but you may have a greater chance of receiving a wonderful cover for your e-book. You can read this very informative article here.

I’ve used Fiverr four times, but ended up making the cover for my latest Kindle book, Hot and Sexy 2: Bridal Jitters myself (although I did use a seller on Fiverr to change the model‘s hair color).

Jenn Roseton is the author of seven short erotic romances available on Kindle, including her new two part series, Hot and Sexy. Hot and Sexy 1: Seductive Persuasion is available as a free download. You can find out more about her books at or reach her on Twitter at @JennRoseton

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Editing and converting for Smashwords

The biggest pain I find with self publishing is that you don't get a pro to hold your hand and correct your punctuation, discover spelling errors and other boobs.  I've paid for a freelance editor and found it didn't work - too many errors just weren't picked up.  Now I have a friend who proofreads (thanks Julie!) and I've developed an editing system.

First I write my MS in Word.  I don't use headers, footers or page numbers.  Just plain old text.

When I'm done, I run a spell and grammar check through it.

I go through it again, looking at the dialogue for punctuation mistakes.  It's very easy to see a full stop where a comma should be and visa versa.

Then I run thought it again and put in a global change that replaces every full stop and two spaces with a full stop and one space. This is one of my "best" errors.

I highlight the entire text and click on Format, Auto Format. I fix any visible errors.

This is the end of the first edit.  Now I convert it to an epub (thanks Calibre!) and I read it on my iPad, highlighting any errors or changes that have to be made.

I wait two days, then do it all over again.

Now Julie gets to have a go.  She picks up the rest of the problems, and sends it back to me.

I accept or reject her suggestions, and put together a table of contents, front matter and other sexy stuff.  I convert it, and read it again.

Then I upload to Smashwords.

I know my books will have the odd mistake.  Hey, I find them in books put out by Penguin, Harper Collins, Norton and other fantastic publishing houses!  I don't think a tiny errors here or there is a disaster but it is better to avoid them.

Blackmail Bride had the attention of a paid editor, but Julie and I found several mistakes.  Do read it!  And if you see a mistake, email me?