Reporting from her base on the Isle of Skye, Anne Stormont brings encouraging news for indie authors from the recent Scottish Association of Writers (SAW) annual conference, which welcomed both trade- and self-published authors.
Judging books by their covers was just one topic at the 2015 SAW conference…
This year's annual conference of the Scottish Association of Writers (SAW) took place last month in Glasgow, and I made the long trek south from Skye to be a part of it. It was definitely worth the effort. I caught up with old friends and made some new ones, I was inspired, encouraged, and I learned such a lot.
The keynote speaker was Alexandra Sokoloff, an award-winning thriller author and Hollywood screenwriter. Her talk was both inspirational and motivational. If story structure's your thing, she's your woman. She's written a book on the subject if you want to know more.
Comprehensive Workshop Programme
There were workshops on several topics including writing non-fiction, writing for children, writing drama, writing dialogue and writing for women's magazines. All of them included advice and information sharing on getting our work published. All of them embraced both traditional and self-publishing and in the case of non-fiction all of the workshop participants were encouraged to find their markets, no matter how niche and were also advised on where to look.
One of the workshops I attended dealt specifically with getting published. It was delivered by Allan Guthrie. Allan is a literary agent at Jenny Brown Associates in Edinburgh, the biggest literary agency in the UK outside of London. He is also an editor and an award-winning author of crime fiction. And as well as all that he's a co-founder of publishing company, Blasted Heath. He began by acknowledging how publishing has changed in the last decade and he also pointed out how self-publishing has evolved and how the quality of books produced in this way has improved.
He then went on, in an excellent workshop, to point out why having an agent is a good thing if you're going to be traditionally published. He offered advice on how to get an agent and gave us copies of both good and bad query letters. He also gave us a ‘skeleton hook' – that is a brief (less than 75 words) agent-slanted blurb containing all the essential information about your book.
It was refreshing and reassuring to hear that he, and in his opinion, other agents are open to taking on previously self-published authors. Although he did say that the first thing a prospective agent will do will be to do an online search of the author's profile with a particular interest in level of sales.
New Acceptance of Indie and Self-published Authors
Of course not all self-published authors want an agent or to be traditionally published. But for those who do, and for those who are hybrid, it was good to see how the conference in general, and the guest professionals from the traditional wing in particular, now accept the indie route as legitimate and of an acceptable standard.
Also on that note, this was the first year that there was a competition for self-published novelists, included along with the other dozen or so annual conference competitions. I entered my own novel, Displacement and I'm proud to say I was runner-up. (Yes!) First prize went to Dundee International Award winner, and ALLi member, Chris Longmuir. The adjudicator of this competition was Michael Malone.
Book Cover Design Advice
Michael is both an author and a sales rep for a major publisher. His job as a book rep involves him going round bookshops and getting the store buyers to give shelf space to the books produced by his employer. In his adjudication speech, he emphasised the importance of the book cover for getting a book into bookshops. He advised a matte finish, saying that for booksellers gloss equals amateur, and the same goes for not using cheap, white paper.
He said how bookshop buyers will often neither look at the blurb nor the inside of the book, but will make a judgement based purely on the cover.
Food for thought there – and in the conference as a whole.
Oh and PS – my review of ALLI member JJ Marsh's crime thriller ColdPressed was highly commended in the conference book review competition.
A longer version of this post and my review of Jill's book can be read on my blog.
OVER TO YOU
- If you were at the SAW conference, please feel free to share your impressions via the comments box.
- If you would like to report on a writers' conferences or book fairs in your home territory, please contact Debbie Young – we love sharing this news from all around the world, so that we may all gain from them.