Top Ten Publishing Myths by Erin Brown


  1. Editors and agents aren’t looking for great writing anymore … it’s all about the almighty dollar.
  1. Self-publishing will make an author a bestseller.
  1. “I don’t need an agent.” 
  1. Publishers take care of all of your marketing and publicity.
  1. Talented authors get huge advances.
  1. Editors will be able to devote most of their time to your book. 
  1. An author should never give up on the submission process, no matter how long it takes.
  1. All published authors should expect to hit a bestseller list or their publishers have failed.
  1. The bigger the agent, the better.
  1. Once your book is sold, you can give up your day job.

Erin Brown worked as an editor in New York City for over eight years. She recently left Manhattan to start her own freelance editorial business. To learn more about Erin, visit her website at

Read the full article here: – an on-line magazine for writers and readers….

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Interview: Shelagh Watkins

Susan Whitfield, author of three published novels, Genesis Beach, Just North of Luck and Hell Swamp, interviewed Shelagh Watkins on her blog on Monday 12th October:

Shelagh Watkins is writer, editor and publisher at Mandinam Press, and author of three books: Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, Mr. Planemaker’s Diving Machine and The Power of Persuasion. She set up the Children’s Fiction group on LibraryThing,  and the Published Authors Network group on LinkedIn and is administrator of the Published Authors forum. There are over five thousand members in the combined groups and networks. When she is not networking, administrating, publishing or editing, she miraculously finds time to write!

Susan: Welcome to my blog, Shelagh.

Shelagh: Hi Susan, Thank you for inviting me to be your guest.

Susan: When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Shelagh: I began writing in 1998 and wrote my first novel, The Power of Persuasion. The book, a work of literary fiction set in Scotland, takes the reader around the world from Europe to the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore, and then back to Scotland. I wrote my second novel, Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, in 2002. Although a work of children’s fiction, the book is aimed at a wide audience: from nine-year-olds to ninety-year-olds! I wrote the sequel, Mr. Planemaker’s Diving Machine in 2011.

Susan: When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Shelagh: The Power of Persuasion, which I submitted to all the major London publishing houses, was well received but failed to attract a single publisher. Along with the rejection slips, the advice from all the publishers was the same: I needed to find an agent. However, finding an agent proved to be as difficult as finding a publisher so I stopped writing. I did not write again until 2002 when my brother died and left two young children, then aged five and eight years old. I began writing again and, this time, I found a publisher. The second book, Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, was published in 2005. Two years later, the publisher, PublishAmerica, gave me joint print rights and exclusive electronic rights to my novel and I self-published the book through and as an ebook on: Amazon’s kindle.

In 2007, I rewrote The Power of Persuasion, which took twelve months to complete. In January 2008, I set up Mandinam Press to publish the novel. Having learned how to self-publish, I used the experience to publish Forever Friends, an anthology of short stories and poems written by members of the Published Authors forum and network. The book was published in September 2008 and, this month, appeared in Today’s Chicago Woman magazine.

The only message I would pass on to anyone setting out with the idea of becoming a published author is to be realistic about expectations and do not have a preconceived notion about the number of sales a first time author should make. For some new authors, the number of books may be in the thousands but, for the majority of newcomers, the number of books sold is more likely to be in the hundreds. This means that royalties will be small − small enough to be disregarded as an increase in yearly income. It is far more likely that the expenses incurred in selling a few hundred copies of a book will far exceed the amount earned in royalties.

This situation is no different to those facing most talented individuals who pay traveling expenses and teaching/coaching expenses when pursuing their chosen career. It is the same with writers. Everyone has to learn and, as such, new writers should accept that the learning process will involve some costs.

Susan: Briefly tell us about your book(s).

Shelagh: Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine is a story of flight, fantasy, adventure and courage. Although Emmelisa Planemaker is a strong-willed little girl, she misses her dad, who died when she was only five years old.

Emmelisa and her brother Dell have a happy and carefree life until their father becomes ill and is forced to retire at the age of forty-three. After retirement, Mr. Planemaker decides to build a scaled, model airplane because he wants to build something lasting for his children but he dies before completing the task.

Three years later, Emmelisa is being seriously bullied at school by a group led by the notorious school bully, Mayja Troublemaker. When Emmelisa becomes increasingly withdrawn and unhappy, she seeks help and advice through the computer her father had used to locate specialist model aircraft companies in his quest to build a model airplane.

The computer is more than just a computer and full of surprises: Mr. A. Leon Spaceman being one of them! He guides the two children to Hardwareland, where they train to become astronauts and take on an extraordinary mission into space: to follow their father’s TRAIL OF LIGHT.

Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine was a top ten finisher in the Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll 2005.

The Power of Persuasion is a tongue-in-cheek work of literary fiction set in Scotland. The title is taken from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The satirical fictional story is about a journalist who stalks a reader (as opposed to a reader who obsessively reads everything written by a particular journalist). The reader, Beth Durban, is aware that she is being followed around and is totally bemused by the unwanted attention:

Beth Durban is persuaded to write a letter to the editor’s page of a national Sunday newspaper in response to a film critic’s prejudice against adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. When she receives an unexpected visit from the newspaper’s critic, F. William D’Arcy, she is bemused but, after several sightings of the inquisitive journalist, she’s neither pleased nor amused.

Beth is so distracted by the unwelcome interest from such an arrogant man she fails to see that a close work colleague is falling in love with her. As a scientific researcher in a Scottish University, she has led a varied life travelling the world, spending time in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, America, Singapore and Israel. With such a full life, she has had little time to form any serious, romantic attachments that might lead to a permanent relationship.

When she decides to take driving lessons, Beth opens up new opportunities for herself and realises that perhaps she isn’t too old to find love after all.

The Power of Persuasion was a top ten finisher in the Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll 2008.

Susan: What’s the hook for the books?

Shelagh: There is an underlying philosophy to Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine that is left for readers to figure out for themselves. The opening chapters lay the foundation for the philosophical underpinnings of the book. Mr. Planemaker is dying. He knows this as do his family, friends and work colleagues. They are all trying to help in this last stage of his life.

In his dreams, the Dream House is his final resting place. In his first dream, when the children approach the door, the house disappears because the time is not right for them. They will not be stepping inside the house for quite some time. Bill Dare, who built the house, tells Mr. Planemaker that no one lives inside the house and no one has ever lived inside the house – this is the house of the dead, not the living. The door to the house is missing and cannot be closed or reopened: a one-way passage. Mr. Planemaker asks about the missing door and Mr. Dare explains that the door is actually there and those who can see it won’t be able to walk into the house. In other words, the door is always closed to the living and only open for the dying.

In all his dreams, Mr. Planemaker asks about the children because every waking minute is spent thinking about his son and daughter and what will happen to them when he has gone.

At first, Mr. Planemaker is afraid and he doesn’t want to step inside the house. It is grey and gloomy and unwelcoming. To allay his fears, the people who built the house – the architect, the builder and the workmen – are always cheerful and reassuring. They know the house is bleak and uninviting but the love and care they put into it overshadows the dull, plain appearance of the grey house.

When Mr. Planemaker meets Joy Nair, he is given his first glimpse of light inside the house. The light is warm and soft, and makes the prospect of stepping inside the hallway more attractive. However, he doesn’t step forward because his thoughts are interrupted as he remembers the children. He still wants more time with them.

At the end of chapter five, he finally gives in and his last dream takes him through the door, not into darkness but into light. Before he finally slips away, he asks about the children and is told that they are going to be okay. With that last thought, Mr. Planemaker lets go of his grasp on life and steps into life after death. Now you must read the story to find out what happens to the children.

The hook for The Power of Persuasion is on the first page:

“Do you wake on Sunday mornings feeling bright and cheerful before you step out to buy your favourite Sunday newspapers, and spend the next four hours reading the print off the page? Does this weekly ritual result in a change of temperament – signs of irritability, aggressiveness and a distinctly argumentative frame of mind? I do. To be more accurate, I did. Everyone around me suffered from my inability to avoid the very thing that caused the Jekyll and Hyde mood swings. The news items didn’t affect me much, but the journalists with a point to make were my Achilles’ heel. To a man and a woman, I disagreed with all of them. We were as black and white to each other as the printed page before me. There was no grey area, no common ground and no compromise.

How could there be compromise in a situation where they wrote and I read? In order to see one another’s point of view, I would need to explain mine. To inflict regularly my own half-baked ideas on my family would have been unfair, and yet they probably suffered more from my silent fuming than they did if I succumbed to soap box outbursts.

The more thoughts I kept to myself, the greater the irritation, but at least I did eventually begin to recognise all the symptoms of Sunday paperitis.” If you like the style of writing, you will want to read on …

Susan: How do you develop characters? Setting?

Shelagh: My characters are composites of people I know. I take characteristics of someone I know well and put those characteristics into a completely different character. A teenage girl with a bad attitude might be transfigured into a difficult young boy with a surly disposition. The appearance of the character will be very different to the real person.

Most settings are taken from real life where possible, otherwise I do extensive research to make the setting as real as possible. This was extremely important in the Power of Persuasion where every location had to be accurate whether I had visited the region or not. The reader must not be able to detect the difference.

Susan: Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Shelagh: Cosmos, by a mile. He is so bright and all-knowing. He is always there if he is needed but he is never under anyone’s feet. He is the perfect companion. By the way, Cosmos is a cat, but an extremely bright one!

Susan: Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Shelagh: No. The plot drives itself. All my brilliant ideas away from the word processor soon lose their brilliance when I begin to type. Writing seems to release a creativity that cannot be evoked any other way.

Susan: Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Shelagh: Yes. My style of writing for children is very different to my style of writing for adults. There is a sharpness to my adult writing that is absent in my children’s novels.

Susan: Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Shelagh: My best reviews are all for Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, which appeals to just about anyone. The Power of Persuasion is really aimed at Jane Austen fans and not everyone is a fan! Consequently, I found these few words encouraging:

“I read your book some weeks ago and hope you do not mind, put some thoughts on paper:

I was intrigued the way you set out your book with the link of the mysterious appearances of D’Arcy. My very early and mistaken assumption was that Beth’s letter was equivalent to Elizabeth’s refusal of Darcy’s proposal of marriage by Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. If you saw the production with Colin Firth, he became frustrated at this and was obviously haunted by her.

I was particularly interested in the ‘snapshots’ – I could see where the university scenarios came from and those concerned with human interaction showed your perception of how we mortals behave. You must have done a lot of research on some of the geographical visits – I have been to most places so recognise the authenticity. Many of these could be expanded into short stories and then you could have your own anthology. Well done!”

Susan: What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Shelagh: I was amazed when a presenter from Preston FM community radio asked if I would be interested in a serialisation of Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine. The book was aired over ten weeks from May-July this year. Daily excerpts and a Sunday Omnibus edition totalled over thirteen hours of air time. It was quite brilliant. The narrator, Mike Gardner, did a superb job.

Susan: What are your current projects?

Shelagh: I am about to ask for submissions for the third anthology in the Forever series.

Susan: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Shelagh: On my website:

Susan: Shelagh, I wish you the best with all of your many endeavors!

Shelagh: Thank you Susan for allowing me this opportunity to talk to your readers. It has been a real pleasure, and thank you to all the readers who dropped by to read this blog post.

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Self-Published to Published Author and Vice-Versa

I promised Jeff Rivera that I would write an article about how he self-published his first novel, Forever My Lady. Problem is, I promised over eight months ago. Other things took over and this remained waiting to be written until today when I finally made a start. So, how did I meet Jeff? I sent him an email after I read a post on a teenage forum asking members to check out his website and download a PDF file of Forever My Lady.

I had joined the forum to post the opening chapters of my novel, Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, to ask for feedback and Jeff was doing the same thing with his self-published book.

Jeff replied to my email and asked if he could add my name to his newsletter list and I said okay. In one of his newsletters, he wrote:

“…I guess I ought to tell you all the good news that been happening in the Forever My Lady world. Well first of all I’m happy to announce that thus far over 3000 people have downloaded the book …”

I wondered to what extent giving away a free e-book would pay off. Over the following months, I found out just what a good move this had been.

In his May, 2005 newsletter, Jeff wrote:

“So things are really coming together for the book. Over 1000 people downloaded the mp3 audio book in the last 3 weeks, thanks to the help of Sal from And in addition to that over 6000 people so far have downloaded Forever My Lady from the website since January. Pretty cool, huh?”

In the same newsletter he announced:

“Now here’s the big news … are you ready for this? I just signed a contract with a company that is going to distribute my books to stores. If you’ve ever read any of Vicki Stringer’s books or Nikki Turner’s hip hop fiction books, they also handle them. They’re one of the biggest, if not THE biggest urban fiction writers on the planet.”

Forever My Lady was about to gain access to a greater audience. Jeff had worked hard promoting his book and website and it was all starting to pay dividends.

While things were starting to happen for Jeff, what was happening to my novel in May 2005? Well, it was released on May 23rd and started to show up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all the other online stores. I did not have a marketing plan or any clear ideas of how to promote Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, but one thing that I had done, before I even submitted the book to the subsequent publisher, eventually gained some recognition for the book. I posted an announcement on the Leyland (my hometown) forum that I had written a novel and I was trying to raise money for cancer research and cancer care (an objective I have yet to achieve). Since I knew nothing at all about forums, I asked the administrator to set up a thread for me with a link to my first make-shift website. That thread has now been read over nine thousand times!

While my book emerged slowly onto the scene, Jeff’s book was about to take off in many forms, including a translation into Russian:

“I was just approached by a young lady named Kate from Belarus (if you don’t know where that is neither did I at first but it’s right next to Russia). Anyway, she offered to translate the entire book into Russian. In fact, she’s in the process of doing it now and it should be ready by the Fall!”

The sales of Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine never took off but the thread on the Leyland forum grew in length as I posted all its minor achievements, including the book’s cover art “Top Ten Finisher” award in the Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll, announced in February 2006.

That same year, Jeff was moving on to much better things! He acquired an agent who secured a contract from Warner Books. This is from Jeff’s website:

“When literary agent Jenoyne Adams from Levine Greenberg Agency got her hands on the novel she knew she was in the midst of something very special.  She quickly signed Rivera and sold the book to Warner Books within 7 days.”

How did Jeff accomplish this? With a great deal of hard work and persistence over a number of years. The book was released in July 2007. Here is a brief description:

Dio Rodriguez grew up on the streets and knew all too well the hard, cool feeling of the barrel of a gun tucked down the back of his jeans. But his hard exterior softened when he met Jennifer. Jennifer understands Dio like no one else and makes him want to be a better man. Suddenly a drive-by shooting lands Dio in a prison boot camp and sends Jennifer to the hospital. When Dio learns that Jennifer is pregnant, he realizes that he must find a way to turn his life around and return to his lady. But can trainee Rodriguez get his act together among the hardcases in prison? And will Jennifer be waiting for him if and when he does?

Forever My Lady by Jeff Rivera can be bought from any bookstore or online at

Earlier, I mentioned that I gained recognition on the Leyland forum. One of the members left this message on the thread about Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine:

“How would you feel about Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine being serialised on local community radio (perhaps read by the author herself?)? It sounds like an intriguing story. Our Friday presenters do a regular children’s story feature and I have been thinking I would like to do the same on Wednesdays.”

After several email exchanges, the serialization is about to go ahead on Preston FM. Daily excerpts will be broadcast on the early morning programme, Chat City, at 8.20am. All the episodes for that week will then be repeated in an omnibus edition at 5pm each Sunday. Listen live online: Preston FM.

Jeff’s book was originally self-published and, now that I share the print rights with my publisher, Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine is available as a self-published book on, selling at £7.55 – half the price (£15.50).

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Self-Publishing: not an Easy Option

Many aspiring writers and authors set out to write a novel in the expectation that a publisher out there might be interested in their manuscript. Often, their drive and enthusiasm stems from the enjoyment they receive from writing their stories.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of a request from friends to listen to a new piece of music in the expectation that we’ll love it as much as they do. Often, those who gain a great deal of pleasure from any form of entertainment feel a desire to share that enjoyment with others.

Unfortunately, readers rarely share the same kind of enthusiasm for works of fiction by unknown authors and, although new writers may be engrossed in the process of writing, this doesn’t spill over to readers. Enjoying the whole process of writing a novel is no guarantee that readers would love to read the novel if only the author could get it out to them.

I say unfortunately because many writers start to write the novel they want to write and then try to attract the interest of a publisher, which leads to an endless stream of rejection slips and disappointment.

In order to succeed, new writers must be prepared to research the market thoroughly before they start to type anything into their word processors. Although I know this now, I didn’t know when the first few ideas for a story began to form in my mind, which meant I was no different to thousands of other aspiring writers and, as such, I encountered exactly the same problems as all first-time writers.

Although I failed to do any research about the business of publishing, I did locate the information for the novel that had started to take shape. The location of that information was in the newspaper archives of the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, Scotland – one of the largest reference libraries in Europe. But first, I had to pass my driving test.

Ten years ago, when I began the research for The Power of Persuasion, because I did not have the Internet at my fingertips, all the information I required was stored in the Mitchell library and there was simply no alternative. I booked driving lessons and, four months later, I passed my test. The following day, I drove into Glasgow and circled the library for twenty minutes until I found a parking space. My journey to the library was over but my journey into writing had only just begun.

Two weeks later, after spending my days in the library, I was in a position to make a start. When I finally hit the keys on my computer, I wrote two thousand words every day for six weeks and completed the manuscript in less than two months. I didn’t edit, polish or change the initial draft in any way before I sent out the opening chapters to London-based publishers.

This was absolutely the wrong thing to do. I thought that publishers would read the synopsis and use the opening chapters to see if I had a feel for language and an aptitude for telling a story. To that extent, I did accomplish something. Although every submission came back with a rejection slip, it was clear from my communications with the publishers that they had enjoyed reading the samples I sent. That was the upside. The downside was that they also said they rarely, if ever, accepted unsolicited manuscripts. Without exception, the advice from the publishers was the same: I needed to find an agent. They did tell me it would be as difficult to find an agent as a publisher and they were right. It was.

After a stack of rejections, I stopped searching for agents and publishers and put the manuscript in a drawer and forgot all about it until January 2002 when my brother died of cancer at the age of forty-three and left two young children, then aged five and eight years old. Two months later I began writing again and wrote a children’s novel, Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine. The novel was published in 2005 by Publish America.

After the novel was published, I decided to dust off the first manuscript and rewrote The Power of Persuasion. Throughout the rewriting of the novel, I knew I would have to make a decision about whether or not to send the novel to Publish America. I’d plenty time to think about it; I may have written the initial story in six weeks but it took almost twelve months to rewrite. After considering all the options, I decided to contact agents first rather than sending out anything to publishers. Not unexpectedly, the outcome was the same as the first time I contacted the agents. So, I decided to self-publish.

I could have sent the manuscript to Publish America but I had received a very mixed, and sometimes hostile, reaction from readers on the Internet in general, and members of forums in particular. Many of these critics had been published by Publish America themselves but many had not. None of the critics had been published by Publish America and then gone on to self-publish, though many Publish America authors did go on to self-publish but they weren’t the critics. I now understand why.

The whole process of being published – from the first submission, through acceptance, sending of the author’s questionnaire, receiving of proofs, approval of the cover art to the final receiving of two free copies sent to Wales all the way from America – was a joyful experience. Even those published by Publish America, who went on to become their sternest critics, enjoyed the process of seeing their first book published. The stress they felt came after they were published not before.

With self-publishing, for me, it has been completely the opposite. I wanted my self-published book to be of the same standard as my published book and, in order to achieve this, I had to learn a great deal. I did all the editing, which took three months on top of the year I’d spent rewriting. Then I had to decide about layout, headings and page footers, and how to gutter the page text. I also had to learn about pdf files and creating a book cover. This was hard work and stressful.

When Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine was finally published by Publish America, I experienced an enormous thrill and surge of happiness. When The Power of Persuasion was published, I was so tired and worn down by the whole process I was simply relieved it was out of the way.

Does any of this reflect on my novel? No. The novel is well-written, humorous, entertaining and a darn good read. I would recommend it to anyone. Just anyone. Even you.

Description: Beth Durban is persuaded to write a letter to the editor’s page of a national Sunday newspaper in response to a film critic’s prejudice against adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. When she receives an unexpected visit from the newspaper’s critic, F. William D’Arcy, she’s bemused but, after several sightings of the inquisitive journalist, she’s neither pleased nor amused.

Beth is so distracted by the unwelcome interest from such an arrogant man she fails to see that a close work colleague is falling in love with her. As a scientific researcher in a Scottish University, she has led a varied and interesting life travelling the world, spending time in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, America, Singapore and Israel. With such a full and demanding life, she has had little time to form any serious, romantic attachments that might lead to a permanent relationship.

When she decides to take driving lessons, Beth opens up new opportunities for herself and realises that perhaps she isn’t too old to find love after all.

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