Wilkie Martin - Surviving Publication

Author of the unhuman series of addictive comedy cozy mysteries set in the Cotswolds. This documents my encounters with publishing and includes things I hope will be useful later. It also covers some local writing competitions and reviews some writing events.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Writer's workshop

I went to the above 3 hour workshop on 16 October 2009. As I have recently obtained a copy of Alison's useful 'Marketing Your Book', I originally booked for a workshop with Jo Herbert, editor of the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, in order to get a different perspective. However, Jo was unable to attend and Alison Baverstock's stepped in. Alison knows the publication industry better than anyone else I've come across and was generous with her advice on how to pitch one's book at agents and publishers.

She pointed out that for an agent or publisher, both the book and the author are important, Both have to be promotable and interesting. Their decision on a book will depend on their view of the potential prospects for it.

She stressed that the manuscript must come first. It must be good enough or everything else an author does is a waste of time. It is important to make a good first impression, you only get one chance. Therefore, don't rush into things.

Ensure your approach to an agent is well considered. Try a little flattery but don't grovel, suggest which genre your book fits but don't tell them - they are the experts.

If a publisher's details say no unsolicited manuscripts, it is worth writing them a letter asking for the name of the commissioning editor. Then a letter to this august person may result in your manuscript being solicited. It still might not be published though.

Be polite and never slag off agents or publishers to others in the industry. It is a close industry in which everyone knows everyone else.

Make each approach personal and specific and don't try too many at once. It is permissible to write that you would like to know what they think within -say- 6 weeks or 2 months. Keep track of who you approach.

In letters, aim to be succinct but incorporate hints that you are interesting and quirky. Don't give you age away unless it is relevant.

Authors nowadays have to have an author's platform. That is a presence on the internet, such as a website, a blog, a twitter stream and a facebook page. Authors have to be open but Alison warned about putting anything onto the net that you might regret later.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Add blog to website

I wanted to include my blog page(s) within my webpages without having to retype the contents or change my webpage every time I add a new post. I was already setup on feedburner (see CREATE A BLOG) and, as one of the features on there will provide a summary or the whole content of some of all of the blog entries, this is the method I used.These are the settings I used:

  • 1. Logon to http://www.blogger.com/.

  • 2. Select 'My Accounts' on the top right.

  • 3. Select Feedburner.

  • 4. Select 'Publicize' .

  • 5. Select 'BuzzBooster'.

  • 6. Set Number of items to display = All

  • Open Links in = Same window
    Display feed title = unticked
    Title = completed
    Display favicon = unticked
    Display item author name = unticked
    Display item content = unticked
    Display item publication date = unticked
    Display link to feed = untick

  • 7. When the page redisplays copy (Ctrl+C) the commands gived at the top of the screen in the 'Your BuzzBoost is ready' area.

  • 8. Go to the web page source, select html and paste (Ctrl+V) the code selected above.

Add Blog titles to Blog

  • 1. Logon to http://www.blogger.com/.

  • 2. Go to 'Layout' .

  • 3. On the left click on 'Add a Gadget' .

  • 4. Enter the title ' Blog Headings'.

  • 5. Paste (Ctrl+V) the feedburner code from above.

  • 6. Save.

  • 7. Drag and drop the new gadget to the postion wanted.

Let us know how you get on.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Starting an author's platform

Everything we’ve read about getting published has suggested creating a presence on the internet. When I attended Alison Baverstock's workshop at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature on 16 October 2009, she mentioned that US publishers expect an author to have a complete ‘author’s platform’ on the web. This would include a website, a blog, twitter and facebook.

Since we required a web presence, we created a website. Then, a few weeks ago, our next step was to create a blog, to catalogue the procedures and different steps we are following.
Below are the most useful things we have found in setting up the website and blog. There may be other or better ways of doing it.


  • 1. We registered the website id with http://www.discountdomainsuk.com/

  • 2. We built the website using MS Frontpage. (I did a useful course on website generation with the Open University using Netscape. However, my partner built the site for me using Frontpage).

  • 3. Once the website was loaded we registered it with search engines. We loaded the website url at the following:



  • 4. We added key words to each individual page to reflect the contents of the page. We used Page Properties to do this, but it can be done directly in html



    and after any entries for


    but before the


    we could have added

    <meta name="keywords" content="your,keywords,separated,by,commas,keyword1,keyword2">

  • 5. We added hyperlinks between pages and some relevant hyperlinks to external pages, and made sure they worked. We check these regularly.

  • 6. We added a robots.txt file to the website to tell robots what they shouldn’t look at and where our sitemap was kept.

    Example based upon our robots.txt:

    User-agent: Googlebot-Image
    Disallow: /

    User-agent: *
    Disallow: /anydirectorynottobeusedbyrobot1/
    Disallow: /anydirectorynottobeusedbyrobot2/
    Disallow: /anydirectorynottobeusedbyrobotetc/

    Sitemap: http://www.yourwebsiteaddress.com/sitemap.xml

  • 7. We added a sitemap.xml file to give details of each web page, when it was last changed, and how often it changes (we keep it up to date when any changes are made).
    we set <changefreq> to weekly, monthly, or daily,
    and set <priority> to between 0.5 and 1, where 1 are the most important pages,
    and set the date in <lastmod> to reflect when that page was last changed.

    Example based upon our sitemap.xml:

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">






  • 8. We added a favicon.ico file to the website with a very small picture to be used next to the webpage address when the site is opened.


  • 1. We created a blog on http://www.blogger.com/. We started with the Settings->Permissions set so ‘Blog Readers’ is set to ‘Only Blog Authors’ so we could adjust the format and content until we had something that looked ok.

  • 2. We added a feed for RSS (Really Simple Syndication – used to create links to the blog and to send consolidated entries or summaries to anyone who subscribes) using http://www.feedburner.com/.

  • 3. We added a reader so we could check it though a different blog viewer using http://www.googlereader.com/.

  • 4. We found a list of blog readers and aggregators here http://blogsite.com/public/item/79250, although there are lots of them we only ‘pinged’ this one http://www.technorati.com/ to announce the new blog and to see what effect it would have.

  • 5. The blog only started appearing in google searches after we added the meta content. In http://www.blogger.com/, in the blog ‘layout’, and in ‘edit html’, we added the meta content


    <b:include data="'blog'" name="'all-head-content'/">

    and before


    we add

    <meta content="'your" name="'description'/">
    <meta content="'your,keywords,separated,by,commas,keyword1,keyword2'" name="'keywords'/">
    <meta content="'your" name="'author'/">

  • 6. We added a set of labels to each blog entry.


If you find any other steps/settings useful then please let me know. Or, if any of this helps you, let me know which bits were most useful. Good luck.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Decide on a genre

An approach letter to an agent should usually include the genre of the book. In my book this is not very easy to identify – is it ‘crime’, ‘comedy’, or ‘fantasy’? Publishers will not create a new genre for my book no matter how much I’d like it to fit ‘fantastic realism’.
We are following these steps to help identify the most appropriate genre.


Bookshops normally display books by genres. Sometimes they change them (for instance our local Waterstones has recently combined ‘fantasy’ and ‘science fiction’ under one category of ‘sci fi’, so we will look again on our next visits to see what genres are going in and out of vogue).
Checking through the shelves under the genres we think the book might fit has helped identify if this is the right place, or the wrong place (and also shown which publishers are active in that genre). For instance, ‘fantasy’ may not be the appropriate genre (especially if the local bookshop doesn’t use it anymore). Perhaps it now fits better in ‘crime’. Looking at the best sellers in the area helps get a feel for the market, as does identifying similar writers.


Amazon also lists books by genre. These are broadly similar to those in bookshops. However, Amazon has user defined tags that break the genre into more specific topics (ones that mean something to the person adding the tag, perhaps the name of a key character, or location, or anything that would help find that book or a book like it). Looking through Amazon's tags is also helping us decide on an appropriate genre.

Amazon tags

To see the Amazon tags:

  • 1. Choose any book (Dan Brown’s latest for instance).

  • 2. Open the book page.

  • 3. Scroll down to the bottom and there is a tag area called 'Tags Customers Associate with This Product'.

  • 4. Click on the right on 'See most popular tags'.

  • 5. At the bottom of the list there is ‘see more’. Keep selecting ‘see more’ until the option isn’t offered anymore and you will have a long list of many (though not all) the user defined tags that have been added to books (not just the one you are looking at).

  • 6. The tags vary in size and in colour intensity. The bigger and darker tags are the more commonly used ones.

  • 7. Review this list of tags and identify ones that might be assigned and see if this alters our view of the genre.

  • 8. Select on the main tags to see which books are best-sellers in that area and to see if their content is similar.

  • 9. Open the details for a selection of these books and see what other tags have been assigned and see if any of these apply.

  • 10. Build a list of 'potential' tags that someone might assign.

  • 11. Keep reviewing the list of tags and books under these tags, because users can change them at any time.