Playing both Sides by guest author Jane Risdon
I am delighted to welcome my good friend and fellow author, Jane Risdon to the blog today to discuss the challenges of getting books published and the tasks required when self-publishing. I am thrilled to have Jane share her knowledge. Thank you for brining such an interesting article to my blog.
My first piece of published writing was back in the days when I was still working in the international music business and I ventured to write an article about song-writing, recording, and ‘pitching’ to record companies and music publishers: ’So you think you want a Record Deal,’ I think it was called.
I managed recording artists, song-writers, record producers, and even a few actors until I began writing some ten years ago and being married to a professional musician who’d never received any guidance or advice when he was first in the business as a musician, I felt the need to get these – mostly – young hopefuls thinking about the business they were so desperate to join.
The article appeared in an industry magazine and completely blew the whistle on what was (then) believed to be required to obtain a manager, recording contract, and a publishing contract, and it got a lot of musicians re-thinking their approach to the ‘business’ of music. The clue is the word business – over-looked in favour of the be-all and end-all to a musician: the music.
At that time musicians were working hard on their live shows and gathering a following but the actual ‘business’ of their chosen profession often passed them by; they were in it for the music and the business side – the men in grey suits mostly, back then – did whatever they did at some point to release records yet many musicians hadn’t a clue what, and anyway if they worked hard, got their following and made loads of demo’s (tapes and CD’s) and sent them out, someone would ‘discover’ them. And of course, musicians and artistes were sometimes ‘discovered’ because A&R (Artiste and Repertoire) guys still went to gigs to search for talent. But they were few and far between and other musicians often wondered why the hell so-and-so got a deal when they had a bigger following and better material. Good question.
I’ll not bore you with the details of what was in my article and what my advice to aspiring recording artists and song-writers was. The reason I mention it is two-fold: one, apart from school essays that was my first memorable foray into being a published writer – well, sort of. And two, ultimately the way the record business was run back in the late 1980s, early 1990s, led to the formation of hundreds of independent record companies and musicians recording and producing product at home – technology was suddenly changing everything.
You can see where I am going with this, I am sure, in relation to writing and being published.
When I began writing short stories, flash fiction, and my many novels – I still have loads of these awaiting the light of day – I never really considered being published. I was a bit like the musicians who did what they did for love and not for glory and if it happened (somehow) well, that would’ve been cool. I’d always wanted to write since childhood. I loved reading and imagined one day I’d have a book of my own. But that is all it was, something I imagined but never thought would ever happen, especially to me.
Long-time friend, Christina Jones, is an award-winning, best-selling, romance author, and has always encouraged me and my writing. We always wanted to write together but she was successful and I was a ‘nobody’ messing around with crime stories – so how it might happen, we couldn’t imagine. Besides, I was never in the same country let alone any town long enough for us to do that.
To cut a long story short I eventually found myself with time to write and I began writing more determinedly – mostly for my own entertainment. Christina got to read most of it and she kept telling me to ‘do something’ with them. I heard her, I just didn’t have any confidence or any clue how to go about it.
Meantime, I started a blog on WordPress mostly to put my own thoughts and scribblings in one place. After a while I dared push ‘publish’ on a story called ‘A Walk to Destiny,’ and then wondered if I’d lost my mind. Well, I had so many visits to my blog and such fab comments from complete strangers I was encouraged to write more, and after a while I was asked to be a guest author on other blogs. One thing led to another and I was asked to contribute to anthologies – mostly in aid of Charity – and I really felt I’d accomplished my dream. Those who encouraged me and gave me a chance know who they are and I’ve thanked them many times.
Meantime Christina kept telling me to ‘do something’ with my stories. I’d written several novels as I mentioned earlier, including a non-crime novel set in the late 1960s UK music scene, in addition to over a hundred short stories, and I began to look at what publishers were seeking and how to submit. Talk about panic attack. Publishing was another planet!
I sent one story off to a small publisher and never heard back. I felt my life was over. No-one wanted me! But after another panic attack and confidence melt-down I thought back to the days of producing records and pitching musicians and their music to record labels, and had a re-think. I’d approach my writing the same way as I’d approached record companies, movie studios etc., on behalf of my artistes. Easier said than done.
In 2014 I saw that a small traditional publishing company, Accent Press Ltd, was asking for submissions from authors. I decided to submit several short stories to begin and to cut a long story short I was accepted for two anthologies, Shiver and Wishing on a Star, and they also signed me for all my writing. Unreal. I thought it was supposed to be harder and it would take years. Both my stories were crime-related and not what I thought they’d want. But, I had a publisher.
In 2012 I’d completed a novel called Only One Woman set in the UK music scene of the late 1960s, and sent it to Christina to read as I wondered if it needed another POV (point of view) and another main character – I’d written Renza and most of the characters but felt it needed another voice. Christina loved it and wanted to write the other character, Stella, and her related characters. We agreed to do it.
I’d no idea just how much hard work promotion would be. Cripes, it took – and still takes – most of my time promoting it. I thought a publisher would do all that and all I’d have to do was write blog posts, do books signings, and talk about the book to everyone and anyone in the press, on the radio or whatever, and of course it was/isn’t like that.
Publishing has changed, just like music has, and it’s now up to the author to really push their book and boy, it stretches the imagination. It’s the music business all over again – just replace promoting artists and music for authors and books.
We authors are all in the same boat, traditionally or self-published, as far as I can tell.
I’ve many novels and short stories awaiting publication and I assumed that they’d be taken by my publisher, but that was somewhat naive I guess.
Accent have first refusal on my work but couldn’t take my short story collection, Undercover: Crime Shorts, because they only publish anthologies with several authors contributing – not solo authors.
I didn’t want to waste Undercover so I decided to self-publish it – I just couldn’t face hiking it around publishers for ages – hoping. My goodness me, I’d no idea what it would involve. I bulked at doing the whole thing myself, life is too short – I really would like to have time to do other things. Besides, I am writing the sequel to Only One Woman and Ms Birdsong’s two other novels are almost completed. So I decided to employ Plaisted Publishing House to format my collection and help me get it published.
Working on it has taken months and if I ever do it again I shall be better informed and prepared for what is involved. Claire Plaisted has been a star, poor woman, how she coped with my lack of knowledge and stupidity I’ll never know. Had I known I’d have to self-publish one day I’d have clued up much earlier and faster.
Remember, my only real experience of being published is with a company doing the editing, the formatting, and so forth, and it seemed a breeze. Why I thought it wouldn’t be different going it alone for this collection, I’ve no idea. The only similarity is promotion – that flipping word sounds so harmless, but it is immense. Promotion, promotion, promotion, is key, and it is so difficult without a company behind one with their supplies of books, covering some costs, and having their credibility – but even so it is still basically up to the author to push the book.
I did, at least, get to pick my own book cover for Undercover: Crime Shorts, and no-one prevented me from using it. Yay!
I decided to promote the way my publisher expected me to promote: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. I didn’t go for a blog tour, possibly a mistake but I felt (and still feel) embarrassed asking bloggers to host me. I haven’t done any book signings – but I never did any for Only One Woman because none was ever arranged. It’s expensive after-all and with a co-author to consider, schedules can be difficult. So for me nothing much has changed going it alone for this book.
I’ve a lovely following of friends and crime readers who’ve kindly been waiting for my crime stories. I’d never planned on having a Women’s Fiction novel published but my readers don’t seem to mind my deviation from the expected – so far.
Publication was set for May 5th and what happened? I got put in Facebook jail. My collection came out and all the platforms my publisher expected me to use to promote Only One Woman, which I’d planned to use to promote Undercover, vanished. A lesson there I feel….eggs and baskets!
Undercover: Crime Shorts amazingly went into the Amazon ratings at #18 – out of the box as we’d say in music – and #333 in the USA – but without means to promote it fully, having not thought about being prevented from using Facebook, it has gone down the ratings considerably, naturally.
I’ve been incredibly lucky in that many fellow authors have rallied around me and have gone out of their way to assist me with retweets, blogs, and sharing for me. Which brings me to another lesson learned from music days: always help others. Share your success, pay it back. It’s rewarded me – I’ve always tried to help fellow authors by sharing and Tweeting etc. Make friends, help them when you are able, and in your hour of need they may well surprise you by giving so much of their time and energies helping you. I’ve discovered I have some wonderful writer friends and readers and I am eternally grateful for their unexpected, continued generosity.
Going indie does not necessarily mean going it alone. I really should’ve called upon my music marketing experiences and applied them to self-publishing. I seem to have fallen into the same trap as my young musicians did back when – I just didn’t think beyond writing. I’ve played both sides now, and next time I shall be better prepared.
Undercover: Crime Shorts
Under one cover for the first time a collection of crime shorts from Jane Risdon with more twists and turns than Spaghetti Junction – a must for those who enjoy gripping yarns.
Undercover: Crime Shorts features new short stories written with strong female protagonists at its heart and includes Sweet Sable – a redheaded nightclub singer with sex appeal and a sting in her tail, and The Look – a hit woman with an agenda for revenge and a talent for hire.
There is an extract form the first novel in the series Ms Birdsong Investigates Murder in Ampney Parva: Operation Matryoshka – where former MI5 intelligence officer, Lavinia Birdsong, is asked to look for a missing woman and finds herself embroiled in murder, the Russian Mafia, and Ukrainian gun-runners.
My readers say:
Roger A Price: former detective and crime author says: Crime Shorts is a wonderfully satisfying anthology of seven short stories which transcend above the crime fiction genre providing a ripping yarn irrespective of the reader’s crime fiction preference. Jane Risdon has cleverly stitched together a mix of tales to suit all fans of the genre.
Gloria Clulow: reader says: As with all Jane’s stories I find them intriguing and unpredictable, leaving me wanting more; I don’t want them to end.
Professor Margot Kinberg: Associate professor and author of the Joel Williams crime novels says: Undercover, what a gripping story, so well written. You’ve packed so much ‘punch’ into it, loved it. I really felt the rising tension and suspicion! You’ve captured the suspense of it beautifully and it is such a great set-up with good characters.
Fast-paced, well written, page-turner that had me so engrossed my train journey flew by. The author clearly has done a lot of research, these short stories all felt very authentic and each had me gripped and on the edge of my seat wondering how they would play out. It’s been a long time since I read anything quite so intriguing and twisty. It certainly got my heart beating faster and I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great murder, mystery.
Jane Risdon – my pleasure lovely, praise where it’s due, you have written a fabulous selection of short stories and I will definitely look out for Ms Birdsong.
Jane Risdon – Bio
Jane Risdon began her working life in the international music business where she managed recording artists, songwriters, record producers, and where she has been instrumental in placing music on to soundtracks of many TV series and Movies, working alongside her musician husband.
After years of promoting talented young artists Jane decided it was time to do what she’s always wanted to do: write. She began writing in earnest some ten years ago starting with flash fiction and short stories – mostly crime/thrillers – and her writing was soon included in various anthologies – to date 15 different publications, some award winning. She has written for numerous online newsletters and magazines and is a regular blogger.
She has also written a best-selling novel with author and lifelong friend, best-selling, award-winning author, Christina Jones, set in the UK music scene of the late 1960s. Only One Woman is published by Accent Press with whom Jane signed in 2014.
With over 100 short stories needing a home, Jane has recently published Undercover: Crime Shorts with Plaisted Publishing House, which went into the UK Amazon ratings at #18 and into the USA Amazon ratings at #333 upon publication.
She is writing the sequel to Only One Woman and is completing a series of novels about a former MI5 intelligence officer; ‘Ms Birdsong Investigates.’ These crime/thrillers are set in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire, and Jane digs into her early career with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the height of the Cold War for her inspiration and knowledge of Britain’s Security Services.
Jane’s interests include photography, history, and science, and she and her husband enjoy walking and visiting places of interest – something they never had time to enjoy when ‘baby-sitting’ singers and musicians whilst travelling all over the world.
For Jane’s Books: most digital platforms incl. Amazon worldwide, and in paperback
Undercover: Crime Shorts
Only One Woman:
5* reviews from guys and gals. Available in most countries
Paperback and eBook on most digital platforms
Paperback Waterstones and good indie stores.
Jane’s Social Media: