I just wanted to pop in and let you know about my new book: DON’T LIE, which will be released on Monday 8th of May. The eBook is currently available for pre-order (99p), but it will also be released on Kindle Unlimited and in paperback form. I’ve been describing it as ‘Breakfast Club meets Friday 13th’. It’s an 80s-style slasher but for the modern age.
I’ll include the link here, if any of you are interested in checking it out. If you do choose to give it a read, I can’t thank you enough. As a self-published author, I rely on people deciding to take a chance on me. If you have any questions, or want further updates I am mostly active on my Instagram: @sarahjuleswriting
I’ve been really shitty at updating my blog. Apologies for that. BUT LOOK WHAT I’VE DONE!!
🎉 DON’T LIE will be released on the 8th of May 2023. 🎉
It is available for pre-order (eBook only) now. And the paperback will go live on the 8th. It will also be available on Kindle Unlimited.
I want to say a huge thank you to everybody who read Found You, especially if you’re considering reading DON’T LIE too.
I’m incredibly proud of DON’T LIE. You’re in for a wild ride with this one.
A young adult horror novel for fans of Karen M. McManus, Holly Jackson, Stephen Graham Jones, and Adam Cesare
It was a prank. Nobody was supposed to die.
Five university housemates go on a final blow out to The Cabin before they all go their separate ways. The trip is a cover for a vindictive prank. When the prank goes wrong and one of the housemates dies, the final four find themselves trapped in the middle of nowhere, tormented by an 80s-style horror villain, complete with machete and mask.
All he wants is the truth. But some secrets are worth dying for. And others are worth killing for.
The second book from author Sarah Jules offers edge-of-your-seat thrills, gore, and twists you’ll never predict.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ‘So many twists and turns. Definitely couldn’t predict the ending.’
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ‘Absolutely amazing book! Diabolical!! (And I mean that in the best possible way.)’
‘The queen of the twist!’
‘This book will really make people think. You never know what is going on in the minds of others and what they secretly think about you.’
Let’s celebrate with some of my favourite books by women authors.
This blog post is going to be short and sweet – here are some of my favourite books written by women authors. You should check them out, they’re well worth a read. #girlpower
In no particular order…
1. The Outsiders by SE Hinton 2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett 3. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding 4. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid 5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte 6. Labor Day by Joyce Maynard 7. A Little Life by Hanya Yangihara
What’s your favourite book written by a female author?
With the rise of gig culture and the freelancer revolution, I thought it would be a solid idea to set some ground rules on how to work with freelancers. There’s some etiquette, some dos and don’ts, that I think everybody considering hiring a freelancer should know, to ensure a smooth and satisfying transaction. I’m not for a single second placing the onus entirely on the client. In fact, my next blog will be ‘The Golden Rules of Freelancing’, so don’t come for me.
In my four years of freelancing, I’ve had some absolutely incredible clients and I’ve also had a handful of shitty ones. It’s part and parcel of being a freelancer but I think that if there were some ‘rules’ or at least ‘guidelines’ on how to work with freelancers, many of the shitty experiences can be avoided for both the clients and the freelancers. In this blog post, I won’t go through the actual process of hiring a freelancer, if you want a blog post about that, I can certainly do one. So, fast forward and pretend you’ve found a freelancer that you want to work with, how can you ensure a good experience? By following my Golden Rules of Working with Freelancers, duh.
Ensure that you both have a clear understanding of the project and what it will/won’t entail prior to starting.
Before I start a project, I ascertain exactly what a client’s ideal outcome is. So many unnecessary problems can arise when there is a misunderstanding about the outcome of the project. Be clear with your instructions and your outcome. If you’re not sure what the outcome of your project will be, then ask to discuss it with the freelancer first. We can be very helpful in advising you on what a realistic and ideal outcome is. You might wish to consider a contract to set out the exact parameters of the project.
2. Set Communication Expectations.
Decide how often you would like to be updated and to what extent you’d like to be involved in the project.
This is very similar to the previous point, but with a major difference. The previous point was about understanding, this one is about communication. If you expect an update at the end of each day but don’t communicate that with the freelancer, then how on earth are they supposed to know that? Similarly, if you want to provide feedback and request edits throughout the project, you need to be explicit with this too.
3. Be Timely.
Respond to the freelancer in a timely manner.
This is a pet peeve of mine. I’ve had clients in the past that expect an immediate response from me, but won’t answer my emails/messages for days. A freelancer’s time is just as valuable as yours and it is only fair that you treat them with respect. As a general rule, I will always respond to clients within 24 hours, but in reality, it is usually far sooner than that. This is something I communicate with clients prior to starting projects. I expect the same courtesy from them unless we’ve come to a prior agreement.
4. Be Respectful.
Treat freelancers as the professionals they are.
Thankfully, the majority of the clients I work with are incredibly respectful and professional. However, I have had a couple that believe their time is worth more than mine, or that I’m just any old dog’s body that they’ve hired to do their bidding. I’m not a servant and I’m not going to be at your beck and call. What I will do is provide you with a quality and professional service.
5. Be Open.
Be open to their advice, they usually know what they’re talking about.
You’re considering hiring a freelancer to do something you can’t do yourself (for whatever reason). The thing that you’ve hired them for is, hopefully, something they’re experienced in and knowledgeable about. If they advise you that something won’t work, or of a better way to do something, listen to them. I’m not saying to accept everything that every freelancer says to you but, usually, their advice comes from a good place and will help you to achieve the best possible outcome for the project.
6. Be Ready.
Consider whether you have the capacity to take on the project at this time.
What I mean by this is, if you’re hiring a freelancer for a project that you want to be super involved with, but you work full-time, have a bunch of kids and are training for a marathon, consider whether it is the right time to start the project. Most freelancers are happy to be flexible with their diary and timelines, but only reasonably so. You can’t expect a freelancer to change their whole diary each week because your life is continually changing and getting in the way. It’s not fair on them, and you’re not going to get the outcome you want. Maybe wait until after marathon training has ended to start the project, unless you’re ready to hand over the reins 100% to the freelancer.
7. Be Courteous.
Treat the freelancer how you would expect to be treated.
We’re all human beings, at the end of the day. We all have other things going on in our lives. Just be kind and treat others with respect. Manners cost nothing and being kind to the people you’re working with will make for a much more pleasant project, I promise.
I think the main thing to remember is that the freelancer at the other side of the computer screen is a human being too, and they should be treated with respect. Technology has made it easier than ever to connect with expert/professional freelancers all around the world, which is an incredible asset for businesses as they’ve got a wealth of knowledge and experience at their fingertips that they might previously not have had. So, the moral of the story: be respectful, courteous, and set clear boundaries.
I’ve been ill this week and it’s been difficult to get back into the swing of things again, now that I’m feeling better. Instead of slogging away on a project that I didn’t have to do today, I decided to do something I’d been putting off for a while; sorting through client testimonials and collating some of my favourites. It’s been the boost I needed and my face hurts from smiling. I’d love to share them with you because I think celebrating our successes is an important part of life. So, here we go…
This is your reminder from me to keep track of the praise you receive. It put a smile on my face today and I really needed it.
What’s the best compliment or praise you’ve ever received?
When you stumble into the big scary world of freelancing, the last thing on your mind will be continuing professional development (CPD). Your priority is to make money, to make freelancing a viable option for you. And, in the beginning, this is fair enough. The only way to make freelancing a feasible career choice is to make money from it. Because of this, you spend all hours of the day (and night, sometimes) working on projects. After all, it’s the projects that bring you money. I know what it is like to feel like you have to take every project thrown your way. I know what it feels like to feel that any time you’re not working on actual projects, for actual people, is wasted time and doesn’t ‘count’ as work. To this day, I still struggle with the idea that if I’m not writing or editing for a client, then I’m not working.
As a freelancer, you have tasks that you HAVE to complete in order to keep your business up and running, tasks that are not projects for clients… answering emails, writing blog posts, networking, researching, and a whole bunch of other admin tasks that, let’s face it, we’d rather not do. I swear, when I’m doing these tasks, even four years into freelancing, I still feel like I’m skiving or procrastinating. That these things are preventing me from doing my ‘work’. However, if you had an employer, you would be paid for doing all of these tasks and you wouldn’t bat an eyelid about calling it ‘work’.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:
IF YOU’RE A FREELANCER – EVERYTHING YOU DO TO FURTHER YOUR CAREER COUNTS AS WORK.
You don’t have to feel guilty about working on things that aren’t projects. This is where CPD comes into the equation.
As a freelancer, YOU are responsible for your continuing professional development.
Unfortunately, nobody is going to come along and tell you that you’re booked on a course on such and such a day. No employer is going to fund it for you. It all comes back to you. Now, I had no idea how expensive some CPD courses were, before I turned to freelancing. This is part of the reason why I chose to do my own research, from books and from the internet from the get-go.
Back when I was teaching, I loved courses and inset days. I’ve always loved learning new things. I went on to do my MA (part-time, while I worked) immediately after finishing my degree because I just loved that side of university. The teaching practices, I didn’t love so much, but being in lectures and experiencing people who knew a hell of a lot more than me sharing their knowledge, I just loved. On a side note, I’ve always joked that if I won the lottery I’d become a perpetual student doing random degrees that sound interesting until I die.
If you are a freelancer YOU ARE YOUR BIGGEST ASSET.
If you don’t continue learning, developing, and progressing, then you’re going to stagnate. When you stagnate, you lose business. I came into freelance writing and editing from a teaching background. I had no formal training in ghostwriting or editing, so it was up to me to learn the basics.
Initially, I kept my rates low while I was getting the hang of things, but once I was confident that I knew enough to do a damn good job for clients, I upped my rates and got down to business. Because my background isn’t in writing/editing, I find that I work harder than most to ensure that I do know what I’m doing. I’m constantly researching – watching lectures from industry titans, reading books, learning from other freelancers, and trolling the internet for new insights and information into my chosen profession.
The funny thing is when I started freelancing the idea of sharing that I knew hardly anything about writing and editing, other than the fact that I could write a damned good essay and had a fairly good grasp of the English language, was terrifying. Now, I’m more than happy to shout from the rooftops that there’s plenty I don’t know about writing and editing. It’s like the more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know. I’ve been doing this job for about four years now and so I’d like to think that I’m pretty damn knowledgeable about this industry. However, I’m at a place in my life where I feel comfortable admitting that there’s also a lot I don’t know.
As the writing industry evolves, goalposts move, and new expectations are set.
If I don’t do my best to stay ahead of the curve, then eventually I’ll become redundant. Of course, I’ll always be able to write a cracking manuscript for a client or edit/proofread to a high standard but that’s not all there is to my profession. I am a solo-entrepeneur. If I’m not at the top of my game, there are plenty of other people who will be at the top of theirs.
The way to set yourself apart from the crowd of freelancers doing the exact same thing as you, is to continue to learn and develop your practice.
Sitting on your laurels and accepting that you know ‘enough’ will ultimately lead you to fall behind. Now, I’m not suggesting that you need to spend thousands of pounds on additional degrees or whatever, unless that’s an industry standard for you. What I am suggesting is this…
Take matters into your own hands. The internet is a valuable tool to support your continuing professional development. Yes, you might not get a certificate out of internet research, but self-study is a valid form of professional development.
Find courses that work for you. There are so many sites out there where you can undertake free courses on virtually any subject. There are many more where you pay a small amount per course, or pay a subscription fee.
Refreshing existing knowledge is always useful. I’m doing a course at the moment where a lot of it I already knew, but there are also new bits of information scattered amongst this.
Remember that CPD is ongoing. It’s a cycle that never ends. Regularly reviewing your practice, and reflecting on what would help you further your practice/understanding of your chosen profession, can help you to put a plan in place to keep moving forwards.
Plan and track your CPD. Keep a log of all of the courses you do, the self-study you undertake, the professionals you shadow. All of this helps you to demonstrate your commitment and capabilities. It also helps you to see where you may have gaps in your knowledge. Plan a space into your diary, every week or month or whatever, where you focus solely on your professional development.
You are the only one who can take charge of your professional development.
You are the only one who can put in the effort to stay ahead of the curve.
That’s the thing about being a freelancer, it all comes back to you.
To summarise… CPD doesn’t have to be formal. It doesn’t have to come with a certificate at the end of it. CPD is anything you do to develop your knowledge and further your practice. Hell, it could even be something as simple as reading a magazine about your chosen industry. All these little acts of research come together. CPD is a culmination of everything that you do to further yourself and your knowledge. Be open to the fact that you don’t know everything. Be curious. Be willing to learn and take advantage of the wealth of information out there. We live in unprecedented times, where everything we could possibly ever want to know is at our fingertips. Make the most of it.
One final thing… CPD COUNTS AS WORK. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Gatekeeping in the Reading Community: An Angsty Essay
Before you say anything, yes, I am a reader. I love books and all things book-related. However, there seems to be this pervasive judgement that is rife within the world of books. It’s not everybody. In fact, it seems to be the loud minority, rather than the majority. However, it is there, and it is palpable. This will be a blog post of two halves, because this is a problem of two halves. The external: readers having an issue with non-readers. And, the internal: readers having an issue with certain genres, platforms, or types of books.
Take this quote, for example, from actress Emilia Clarke, “My father always told me: ‘Never trust anyone whose TV is bigger than their bookshelf.’”
On the face of it, you might think it’s fairly innocuous. Essentially, to paraphrase, Emilia is stating that reading is a considerable part of her life, as you would assume for somebody who portrays characters for a living. However, the quote goes deeper than that. It states, outright, that people who do not have a large bookshelf (or at least one that is bigger than their TV) cannot be trusted. I too have been one of those people who shares quotes about how books are an integral part of my life. I may well have even shared this quote before, as I live and breathe books. But I know that this isn’t the case for others. There is a general air of superiority on the part of readers (I am guilty of this too) where they appear to judge those who are not readers, as though not reading is a character flaw that should be rectified. But why is that? Why does it upset readers so much to find out that others don’t enjoy reading? I believe the answer to that is fairly simple, on the surface of it. Essentially, as a reader, we love books so much that we can’t possibly imagine anybody not feeling the same way. Take the quote by JK Rowling, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”
What if somebody just doesn’t like reading?
As a reader, it can feel impossible to even consider that a person just doesn’t like reading. But consider this… I know that I don’t like running marathons. It’s not that I haven’t found the right marathon, or the right trainers, or anything else. It’s simply that I don’t like running. Or, there may be somebody who just doesn’t like dogs, and therefore doesn’t want to own one. It’s not that they haven’t found the right dog for them, it’s just that they don’t want to own a dog. Simple.
There’s this misconception that people who read are the most intelligent, that they’re the most cultured or knowledgeable.
This, in my opinion, can be traced back to the fact that only certain people were taught to read and write in our history – similar to the misconception that having a university education means that you are automatically deemed to be ‘smart’ etc. Some of the smartest people in my life don’t like to read. They didn’t graduate university. I love to read, and I have a first-class BA degree and a MA (with distinction). Why does this signify that I’m ‘smarter’ than another person? Spoiler: it doesn’t.
If a person doesn’t want to read, they don’t want to read.
If they happen to pick up a book and find that they like reading, that it enhances their life in some way, that’s awesome. If not, that’s awesome too. We all have to find the things we love to do, and do these things as much as we can. For me, that’s reading, it’s watching scary films, working out, spending time with family and friends, going on holidays, and writing. For somebody else, it might be running marathons, playing video games, or listening to podcasts. Reading is just one part of my life, just as playing video games might be just one part of yours.
I’ve recently come to the realisation that reading is a significant part of who I am, it’s part of my personality, it’s something that both my career and my life are based around. And that’s my choice.
Reading is not ALL of me, but it is important to me. This doesn’t make me any more academic, any more intelligent, any more cultured than another person. It just means that I like books. I have, in the past, tried to push other people towards reading more books. My poor partner, Danny, has borne the brunt of this. And then I started to think, what if somebody tried to push me into doing something, telling me that it would make me smarter, make my life more fun, etc etc, but I knew that it wasn’t for me. I’d be annoyed as hell. I’d want that person to take my word for it, that I knew what was best for me, and that I was going to continue doing what was best for me, despite what they said.
So, while I might not be able to imagine my life without books, that’s just fine. My life is my life, just as your life is your life.
If you don’t like reading, that’s neither here nor there. As long as you have something in your life that you love, that enhances your life, and maybe teaches you a thing or two along the way, that’s fucking awesome! Go for it!
Gatekeeping Within the Reading Community
Not only is there a judgement of non-readers from within the reading community (AGAIN, IT IS NOT EVERYONE, SO DON’T COME FOR ME) but there’s also a judgement of the type of content readers consume.
When I was researching for this blog post, I came across a great blog post written on the website Books Are Our Superpowers [Blog Post] which had the sub-heading, please let readers read what they want. I want this to be our main take away from this blog post, but let’s make it a little wider: please let people do what they want, whether that’s reading-related or otherwise, you do what makes you happy, end of. There’s this unspoken hierarchy within reading circles, that I vehemently disagree with. In a nutshell, it says that ‘classic literature’ is at the top of the hierarchy, this is what ‘serious readers’ read. And that smut, or erotica, is at the bottom of the list because it’s well, not as ‘meaningful’ or ‘distinguished’. So, not only are non-readers judged for not reading, but there’s also a hierarchy of ‘appropriate’ books for them to read, if they choose to start reading.
I went through a phase of only reading classics because I thought that was what I was supposed to do.
Back in my late teen years, a decade ago (if you must know), I decided that I had to read the classics in order to become a proper, serious reader. Do you know what I found out? That the majority of the ‘classics’ suck, in my opinion, of course. If you genuinely love reading classics, then that’s awesome for you, but they’re not for me. Out of the many that I read, there were maybe three that I actually enjoyed: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. That was it. Around this time, I began to fall out of love with reading. It felt like a chore that I had to complete, rather than something I wanted to do. So, do you know what I did? I started reading the books that I wanted to read; whether that be young adult fiction, sci-fi, horror, romance or whatever else. I fell back in love with reading. Over the years, I have dabbled with reading classics a few times but I’ve always found myself desperate to go back to reading something that grabs my attention, a good thriller, perhaps. Also, on a similar note, who decides what is classified as a classic or not? Does just the age of the book make it a classic, or is there something more?
Not only is there gatekeeping around the genres of books that are the most superior, but there’s also gatekeeping around the format of the content.
You hear it all of the time: audiobooks don’t count, graphic novels, comic books and manga don’t count, eBooks aren’t as good as paperbacks (I was guilty of this one until recently!), you shouldn’t read young adult books if you’re an adult. The list goes on and on. It is reductionist to think that the only correct books to read are the ones you hold in your hand. What if a person has limited sight and prefers to listen to the book? Or, god-forbid, THEY ENJOY LISTENING TO AUDIOBOOKS. They’ve still consumed the exact same content as you, just in a different format. How does that make a difference?
I think part of the problem is that society tells us we need to be a certain way, and it can be easy to get caught up in what we think we should be doing, rather than doing what makes us happy.
I am a huge believer in the phrase ‘you do you’. If that is reading, awesome. If it’s running marathons, well, rather you than me, but if that makes you happy, that’s amazing too! We, myself included, seem to spend a lot of time looking at what the people around us are doing. What are the influencers on social media doing? What are our friends, family, co-workers doing? Rather than looking at ourselves. What do we want to be doing? Maybe, for you, that is reading classic books. Maybe it’s reading erotica, or exclusively vampire novels, or manga.
Not to make this whole thing about me, but I’m going to anyway, I’ve been reflecting on myself, on who I want to be and how I want others to see me, which is what inspired this blog post.
This is what I think… It’s easy to judge others. It’s easy to make assumptions. It’s easy to pretend to be something we’re not, especially on social media. By taking a step back and focusing on ourselves, rather than what other people are doing, we’ll be happier because we can be authentic. Let others do what makes them happy, and focus on doing what makes you happy. That’s what I’m going to do, moving forward. Rant over, thanks for listening to my Ted Talk!
“A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it; or offer your own version in return.”
Picture this… it’s 2023 and you’re scrolling through the ‘gram and you see hundreds of those wonderful bookstagrammers you follow talking about how many books they want to read this year. Or, if you’re younger than me (or far cooler than me) you may be scrolling through BookTok and the same thing happens. You’re bombarded with figures that seem insurmountable. You ask yourself, how the fuck am I supposed to read a thousand books this year?
This time of year, the first week of January, is a double-edged sword for setting goals and resolutions. It’s natural to want to be better than you were this year, or do better than you did this year, but it’s easy to feel a bit shit about the fact that there’s no way on the planet you could possibly read a thousand books. I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. I look at these book goals with eyes widened and mouth agape, wondering how it is possible to read so many books in a year. Of course, there are extraneous variables to consider… maybe a person is unable to work and therefore spends their time reading, for example. However, for the majority of us, we cannot spend all day everyday reading, as much as we might like to.
For the most part, numerical goals are perfectly fine. Say you read fifty books this year, and you’d like to try for sixty next year. In and of itself, that’s awesome. However, in my mind, the problems begin to seep in when you find yourself rushing through books and not enjoying them just to tick another number off the list and to reach your goal. I will always be of the opinion that there’s no point reading a book that you don’t enjoy. If you’re skim reading and rushing through a book, instead of enjoying and savouring it, then is there any point wasting your time with it? It’s because of this that I’m not the biggest fan of setting a number as a reading goal. That, and the fact that you can get into disagreements about what length of book counts, what format of book, whether anthologies count as one book or multiple, etc. What I’d rather do, is say that I’d like to read ‘around X books’, rather than have a specific number that I feel I NEED to hit. I read 57 books last year, and I was happy with that because my target was ‘around 60’. I didn’t feel the need to squeeze in three short books over the last day or so of 2022 or anything like that.
What I’m proposing is a move away from number-based goals towards more habit-based goals. Here are some examples…
Set a portion of time aside each day to read.
If you are short on time, this is a great goal for you. Perhaps set yourself something like, ‘Read for 10 minutes before bed each evening.’ It will soon add up. Anything is better than nothing, especially when it comes to reading.
Read across more genres, or more non-fiction books.
If you only read a certain genre or author, you could take a leap of faith and try something different. This is a great opportunity to visit a library or bookshop and see what else takes your fancy.
Read more from under-represented authors.
The majority of books I used to read were written by white male authors, they seemed to dominate the horror-thriller genre. However, times have changed and there are so many diverse authors to choose from. You might decide to read more books written by women, or from authors within a certain culture.
Join a book club – whether online or in person.
This can be a great way to meet new people and also to try out some new authors/books. A quick Google search should tell you if there are any book clubs local to you. There are LOADS of internet-based ones to choose from too. If there isn’t one that takes your fancy, maybe you could be the one to take the plunge and set it up.
Set yourself a book-buying ban.
If you’re anything like me, you accumulate books quicker than you can actually read them. Setting yourself a goal to only read books you already have (or which are free to borrow on Kindle Unlimited or from the library) can stop your house from getting out of control.
Organise or declutter your bookshelf.
I did this a couple of months ago and managed to donate about 300 books to my local charity shop. Some of them I’d read, some I hadn’t. The point was that they were in the way. Now I have two bookcases filled with books and I’m operating on a one-in, one-out policy to keep things from spiralling again.
Listen to more audiobooks.
Audiobooks are still new to me. I know that loads of people absolutely love them. They’re a great way to read more books, without having to sit down and read. You can listen to them while you drive or clean or workout, time that would otherwise be ‘wasted’.
Only read books you want to read.
I LOVE THIS ONE! I used to think that in order to be well-read, I had to read certain kinds of books that I really didn’t want to read. Now, I only read what I want to. Life is too short to read books that you don’t enjoy. Not that there’s anything wrong with reading books because you want to experience them, but know that you don’t have to read certain genres or certain authors just because they might have previously been seen as ‘classics’ or ‘must-reads’.
Track your reads.
I have to confess, I started tracking my reads back in 2010. I’ve been using the same notebook ever since then and I write down the dates, the titles and the authors. The notepad is a little bit ratty now, but I can’t bear to not use it to track my books. It’s a little old school, but it works for me. There are plenty of different apps, such as Goodreads, that will help you track your reads too, if you’d prefer this kind of approach.
Leave book reviews.
This is something I’m trying to get better at. If I read a book on Kindle (which I got back in October) it automatically prompts you to leave a review and so it’s easy to remember. When it’s a physical book, I often forget. As a new, self-published author, I know the power that reviews can have. Making a resolution to leave a review, or even just a star-rating, after you’ve finished a book can make all the difference for an author and it only takes the reader a minute or two. This year, I WILL DO THIS FOR EVERY BOOK READ. You can hold me to that!
Read more self-published authors.
Yes, this one is a bit self-indulgent to include, I know. The thing is that self-published authors are often left by the wayside compared to books published under big companies because self-published authors tend not to have the marketing budget to do a huge book launch. There are a lot of misconceptions about self-published books – mainly that they’re poorly written and edited. Of course, some are, but MANY of them are well-written and well-structured and you wouldn’t actually know it was self-published unless you looked. I’d like to think mine falls into this category. Setting a goal such as reading one self-published book per month would open you up to so many wonderful new authors and also, likely, make an author’s day!
So, there we have it. Essentially, it all boils down to ‘you do you’. You don’t have to make huge numerical goals that you will never achieve just because that’s all you see online. Make reading work for you. Use your goals to further your love for reading, not detract from it. It shouldn’t feel like a chore. If it does, maybe it is time to re-evaluate how you’re approaching books. The new year is the perfect time to take a look at your reading goals and reflect upon whether or not they work for you. I’d love to hear your reading goals for 2023 – numerical or otherwise. You do you, and don’t concern yourself with what others are doing. I think that’s generally a good rule to live by anyway, even if you’re not specifically talking about books. Don’t you?
I used to go into each year hoping that the next year would be perfect. I’d set all these goals and envisage what the year before me would hold. The start of a new year holds a lot of symbolism. It’s an end, and a beginning. It’s a closed door and an open one. I used to get bogged down by all of the things that had gone wrong in the last year, and hope that the next would be unmarred by anything negative. The sad fact is that I often summarise each year by the things that went wrong. That was the year I left my job. That was the year I had a mental health crisis. That was the year that I [insert negative thing here]. I was almost of the thought process that if something went wrong, then that year was a right-off and there was no redeeming it. Which seems insane when you think about it. It’s like there was some part of my subconscious that was telling me if everything wasn’t perfect, then there was no point. I’ve had this mentality since I can remember, and I think it was exacerbated by my education choices, and then career choices. It was only since leaving teaching that I realised my self-worth was based entirely upon what others thought of me. I used to say that I didn’t care what people thought of me, and I did genuinely believe that at the time. But, looking back, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Moving away from a career where I was being constantly judged all of the time, and usually by people who did not practise what they preached, and into something where I am my own boss has been a learning curve. This year had been my fourth year running Sarah Jules Writing Services. It started by accident as a way to stay the hell away from teaching, but became something I could never have imagined being lucky enough to do. I am surrounded, constantly, by the things that I love, stories and lessons.
Over the last year, I’ve met some of the most incredible people because of the work I do. I’ve supported people from all walks of life to share their stories and experiences with the world. I’ve also worked with some people that I would definitely rather not work with again. This is part and parcel for any career. I am lucky enough that the vast majority of my clients are amazing to work with, but there are always one or two difficult clients that slip through the cracks. While the nature of my job means I can’t thank my wonderful clients by name, if you’re reading this and you’re one of my clients, know that I am truly grateful to have worked with you. I’ll include an infographic summarising the work I’ve completed over the course of 2022. I’ve worked on some inspiring projects, some fun projects, and some challenging (in a good way!) projects. Without meaning to, it seems that I’ve moved more into the ghostwriting side of Sarah Jules Writing Services, which is what I absolutely love to do! Ghostwriting is my passion – fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, I love them all.
The start of this year was challenging for me, personally. Those of you who have been around for a while will know that my mental health has been difficult over the last few years. I was diagnosed with depression and generalised anxiety disorder just over four years ago, and since then it’s been a trial and error regarding treatments and medications. We had a stressful time towards the start of the year; I won’t bore you with the details, but times of stress impact my depression and anxiety and I didn’t cope very well during this time. I had a mini-mid-life crisis, as I’ve come to call it. The good thing was that I was able to go straight back to the doctors and discuss other treatment options with them. I got put on a different anxiety medication and since then, things have been awesome.
A highlight of the year was my brother’s wedding. It was an absolutely fantastic day! And, not to make it about me, but I nailed my speech. A couple of years ago I was too much of a wreck to be a bridesmaid for one of my best friends, but my brother’s wedding gave me concrete proof that I’ve come a long way since then, which was very needed.
As a long story short, otherwise I’ll continue my self-indulgent rant for ages, you have to take the good with the bad. One ‘bad’ thing doesn’t taint a whole year. I am going into next year knowing that there will be things that I’d rather not happen, but also knowing that I’ll cope with them as best I can (which is all a person can do). I also go into next year knowing that I will make tonnes of awesome memories with the people I love. I will continue doing what I’m doing with Sarah Jules Writing Services, because it seems to be working, and I WILL FINISH AND PUBLISH BOOK TWO: DON’T LIE. Did I mention that I published my debut novel this year? No? Ooops!
FOUND YOU was published in October and has been doing better than I could have ever imagined. People I don’t know, and who have never interacted with me, are giving it 4 and 5 star ratings, which is incomprehensible to me. 2022 has been a year of ups and downs. It’s been a year of self-growth, of rebuilding my self-esteem and self-confidence, and even in the difficult times, I can look back and see what I learned from those experiences. I am very lucky to have family and friends (including Buster) who love me, a partner that is 100% better than I deserve, a job that I love, and my health.
My Goals for 2023 are a continuation of what I’ve been doing this year…
To learn from (but not dwell on) past mistakes.
To put my mental health first.
To do more things that make me happy.
To spend more time with loved ones.
To write and publish my second book.
Take the good with the bad. Remember that life doesn’t have to be perfect. Do the best you can with the tools you have available to you. And try to make some decent memories along the way.
I’d love to hear what your goals for 2023 are, and also what you’ve learned from 2022. Thank you again for your continued support over the years. I wish you all
A Top-Tier Procrastinator’s Guide to Finding the Time to Write Your Book
Before we start this, there’s something I need to confess. Hi, I’m Sarah and I’m a procrastinator. Much to the annoyance of my long-suffering partner Danny, who likes to joke that I could do twice as much work in a month if I’d just get on with it, I tend to procrastinate more than I probably should. I’d also like to point out that I also run my own business (a writing and editing service called Sarah Jules Writing Services, which you already knew) and I manage that perfectly well (I can hear Danny laughing as he reads that, but it’s true, ignore him).
A bit of background, because you all know I like to set the scene…
I work from my home office, which is what should be the dining room in our house, but the dining room is in the conservatory. Anyway, as such, I’m constantly surrounded by things I should be doing. Those of you who work from home know that the distractions are real. When I’m feeling particularly procrastinatey, I tend to go and do a load of washing or hoover up, you know how it is. Once that’s done, I get back to work and everything gets completed. I NEVER miss deadlines, ever. Never have. I think that proves that my procrastination issue is under control when it comes to my work.
My procrastination is not under control when it comes to writing my own books.
I sit at my desk all day, for five days a week (give or take) staring at my laptop screen while I write books for other people, or edit books for other people, or write… you get the idea. By the time I’m done with my actual work, which I have to do because we all need money, the last thing I want to do is sit and write my own book. I get that I’m in a privileged position. I’m self-employed, I work from home, and I love my job. My job just happens to be writing books (or editing them) and when you’ve done a full day of it, sitting down to work on your own can feel like a chore. The same goes for my days off. I’ve sat in front of a computer screen for five days, do I really want to spend my time off doing the same thing?
It’s because of these factors that it took me about two years to write my first book (FOUND YOU), when I complete books for clients that are around the same length in 2-4 months, depending on the topic.
And here we come to the question of the blog post, finally… How on earth do you find the time to write?
We’re all busy. We all have things in our lives that have to be a priority – whether that be family, our ‘real’ job, or whatever else consumes your time. Finding the window of time that works for you, where you can get some (hopefully quality) words on a page, can feel like an impossible task. Know that you’re not alone.
As I was struggling, I turned to the internet to try and find what worked for other people, and see if by the grace of god, they worked for me. My first port of call was to ask in one of the self-publishing Facebook groups that I am a part of to see if fellow indie authors had any advice, and boy did they deliver. I won’t waste your time with loads of little suggestions that may or may not work for you. Allow me to lay down the game changers…
SCHEDULE THE TIME INTO YOUR DIARY
WRITE IN SMALL POCKETS OF TIME
GET RID OF DISTRACTIONS
Easier said than done, right? But the fantastic thing about these three steps is that you can make it work for you. It’s all about finding what works and sticking with it. What works for me, I hear you ask.
I’m currently 20k words into my next book (DON’T LIE). My favourite thing about this book is that it has short, snappy chapters (approx. 1000 words) so this gives me a good target to aim for each day. Remember, you can’t edit an empty page and as Terry Pratchett once wisely said, the first draft is just you telling yourself the story, so just write. It might be shit, but at least it will be down on paper and you can fix it later.
I try to get my one chapter out of the way before I start working. You see, I know myself well enough that I am 100% sure I will complete whatever work I need to do that day, irrespective of what time I finish. However, if it gets to 6 pm and I’ve finished working, the chances of me writing a chapter of my own book are slim to none.
Another thing that works for me is a countdown or reward chart type thing. I used to do this back in university when I had a shit teaching placement. I’d draw a chart of the days I had to spend on that placement and cross them off as they went. In hindsight, that should have probably told me teaching wasn’t for me. So, with DON’T LIE, I already have the whole plot planned out. I know a lot of people don’t work like this, but this is what works for me. As such, I know exactly how many chapters there will be, and so I made a countdown. Each time I finish writing a chapter, I cross it off on the chart. It’s a really great way to see and monitor progress.
Do you know what else I do?
I leave my phone upstairs. Absolute game changer.
Of course, sometimes life gets in the way and I might not get my chapter done, that’s okay. As long as I manage to write a chapter most days, I’m still moving in the right direction. It all adds up. Whether you can only fit in five minutes a day, or you only have time at the weekend, it doesn’t matter. You have to make it work for you. Anything is better than nothing and for every five minutes of time you spend writing, you’re a step closer to a finished manuscript. What works for you? How do you find the time to put the metaphorical pen to paper?
CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY OF TWO SIGNED COPIES OF FOUND YOU!!
FOUND YOU IS AVAILABLE THROUGH AMAZON! TREAT YOURSELF.
This isn’t the blog post I planned to do, but it’s the one that I’m doing anyway. I’ve had a right morning of it, and I needed to vent, so fuck it. Here we go…
I ordered some author copies of my book last week from Amazon. Author copies are the same as regular copies, but I only pay the printing costs and it doesn’t impact my ‘sales’ rates. Anyway, when they arrived, I opened the box, and I could have cried. I didn’t, but that’s beside the point. Honestly, the quality of the books I received was dire. They were covered with smudges that looked like grubby fingerprints. Honestly, they were disgusting.
So, my first thought is, ‘What if these are being sent out to customers like this?’
Self-published books are not cheap to buy and I would be mortified if people were receiving them in the state that I received these. I truly appreciate every single person that has bought my book. So, if you received a copy that looked like those in the photos, please do let me know and I’ll get that sorted for you ASAP.
My second thought was, ‘I wonder how many other people have experienced this?’
I did the thing that we all do, and posted on FB about it. I’m in two fabulous self-publishing support groups and posted photographs there. When I tell you that SO MANY people have experienced the exact same thing as me, you wouldn’t believe that it was possible books are still going out looking like this. I received some great support and feedback from the lovely people in those groups. One lady told me to switch the covers from ‘matte’ to ‘glossy’ until the issue is resolved, which I have done, so fingers crossed that works.
At this point, I got in contact with Amazon Customer Services.
And from this moment onwards, it was a wild ride. It’s always the luck of the draw when you’re talking to Amazon Customer Services. Not that I have anything against them. I couldn’t do their job and I think that they’re treated like shit, most of the time. However, the first person I spoke to was useless. I asked for a refund and replacements to be sent to me, preferably fast-tracked, but I was told this wasn’t possible as, get this, Amazon print through a ‘partner’ service called AEU Sarl UK, meaning that they have no way to get new copies sent out to me ASAP. I would have to order again.
I want to point out here that the reason I ordered author copies in the first place was to send them to Barnsley Libraries, and now this is super delayed. Obviously, I wasn’t happy.
So, the customer services rep said that I could send the copies back for a full refund, which I agreed to do. I asked for contact information for AEU Sarl UK and, get this, I was told that they couldn’t give that information out. Like, what? She said that the best she could do was to put a note on the system that tells them I was not happy with the quality of the books. I said to please do that, but I’m fairly certain she was just appeasing me. After a little toing and froing about why they couldn’t give me the information of the people printing my book, I was told that she’d pass my email on and they would be in touch. I thanked her and decided to go about my day.
During this time, I’m reading comments from other self-published authors on my FB posts and I’m learning that other people have been allowed to keep their marked, gross copies, and still receive a refund.
Now, I will not sell these shitty copies, because they’re, well, shit. However, sending them back to Amazon means taking them to the post office and I’m far too lazy for that. Plus, what the hell are AEU Sarl UK going to do with my returned copies? Send them out to customers, more than likely. So, I tootle back over to Amazon Customer Services, and I’m put into contact with a fabulous customer service rep, who restored my faith in humanity. Shout out to Alwin!
Anyway, the customer services rep listens to my rant and says that he is sorry for my experience. Awesome start. Second, he says that he has a link to get into contact with AEU Sarl UK. Sounds promising? Nope. The link takes me to AEU Sarl UK’s page and then, when you ask a question, guess where it sends you? BACK TO AMAZON CUSTOMER SERVICES BECAUSE AMAZON FULFIL THE ORDER. I almost died. I explained this to Alwin and he apologised again, not that it was his fault at all. Long story short, Alwin checked with his lead and was able to allow me to keep the author copies AND receive a refund. So, I still don’t have contact information for AEU Sarl UK, but they should be contacting me soon. If not, I’m sure I can dig out some way to contact them in the meantime.
My question is this… Why the hell are Amazon not allowed to give me the contact information of the people printing my book?
It feels like I’ve walked into this strange parallel universe. This is so bloody weird to me, that I can’t wrap my head around it. Somebody suggested going through Kindle Direct Publishing to ensure that they are aware of the quality issues with the paperback. I did that. The response was astounding… “By looking at your recent order I am able to confirm that the books associated to this order were printed using a third-party printer. On some instances, when the ordering volume is high, we use third-party printers so that we can fulfill orders in a shorter period.” They did apologise for my experience and have said that my feedback will be used to further improve the service, but who knows?
This has not only been a huge waste of my day so far, but I have lost faith in the ability of KDP to publish books that are actually of a decent quality.
I NEVER thought that I would have to worry about the quality of the books being sent to customers. It never crossed my mind. I wonder whether this is something that traditionally published authors have to worry about too. I was considering self-publishing my second book without even putting it to traditional publishers, but now I am not so sure. For those of you out there, both self-published and traditionally published, what are your thoughts on this? Have you ever been through something similar? I look forward to hearing your thoughts. So that’s it. That’s my rant. Believe it or not, I tempered the language I used. It’s really frustrating to put yourself, and your book out there, only for the self-publishing service (THAT SHOULD BE RELIABLE) to fuck up. Anyway, here’s to my new glossy covers. Happy Holidays!
Here are the self-publishing FB groups for those interested:
Something I’ve been asked quite a lot over the last few weeks, is why I chose to publish FOUND YOU, under a pen name, or ‘pseudonym’ if you’re feeling fancy. It’s a good question and something I don’t believe I’ve talked about before. Authors use pen names for many reasons, but for me, the answer is fairly simple…
I started Sarah Jules Writing Services almost four years ago, which makes me feel really old. I’ve talked a lot about why I started my freelancing business so I won’t go into the gory details here, but I will do in another blog post if you’d like to know more. Essentially, the basics are this… My last job made me very poorly. I’d suffered from depression and anxiety for a few years but my last job pushed me to a full-blown burnout. As such, when I started freelancing, my mental health was at (what I thought was) rock-bottom. I was terrified of my business failing and everybody laughing at me, which seems silly now, but at the time it was a real worry. So I decided to start the business under Sarah Jules, rather than Sarah Mosley, just in case it failed.
Fast-forward to three-ish years later. I’d written a book and I was deciding how/where to publish it. I could have published it under my real name, but the thing is, that ‘Sarah Jules’ is now associated with my writing business so it made sense to publish under that name. As such, if prospective clients want to research me, they will find my book. My novel reflects directly on my freelancing business, and vice versa.
As a ghostwriter, it is so difficult to find samples of my work to share with clients who want to get an idea of my capabilities. I have a few examples I can send to them, but it’s not the same as being able to point them towards a full-length book. So, that’s it. My book is published under a pen name because that pen name is associated with my business. Essentially, they are now one and the same.
But that’s just me. Plenty of other authors publish under pen names. Their reasons are vastly different to mine. Here are some famous examples…
GEORGE ORWELL – Eric Arthur Blair.
“I suppose the thing is to have an easily memorable one – which I could stick to if this book had any success.”
GEORGE ELIOT – Mary Anne Evans.
Women writers were not taken seriously at the time.
RICHARD BACHMAN – Stephen King.
Stephen King is well-known as the ‘master of horror’. You all know how much I love that man. He wanted to see if his novels could stand alone, without the help of his name.
ROBERT GALBRAITH – Joanne Rowling (JK Rowling).
“Historically, writers have used a different name when they’re going to write a different kind of book.” The Robert Galbraith books are a far cry from Harry Potter, it has to be said. 
There are far more, of course, but you get the idea. Authors use pseudonyms for many different reasons: to hide their identity, to be taken more seriously, to move into a different genre. Mine isn’t quite as exciting as the above examples, but I do have my reasons. Also, fair warning, if I choose to write in an entirely different genre, romance, for example, I’ll have a further pen name because, why the hell not?!
So, there we go…
A nice quick blog post about why I chose to write under the name ‘Sarah Jules’.
Stay tuned for more blog posts about how self-publishing is going. My god, has it been a learning curve!
I’ve been running a little giveaway for my novel FOUND YOU. I realized that I’d never posted it here but, don’t fear, there’s still time to enter! All you have to do is comment on this blog post, or over on my Instagram giveaway post, with your favourite thriller book, and the country you live in, to enter.
An honest reflection on how self-publishing is working for me, so far.
FOUND YOU by Sarah Jules has been live now for two weeks. Well, almost two weeks. It will be two weeks tomorrow evening. Self-publishing has been a massive learning curve for me. I stupidly thought that once FOUND YOU was released into the world, I’d be able to move on and focus on BOOK TWO. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case at all with self-publishing.
I have one word for you all… MARKETING. Two, if I say ‘fucking marketing’, which is what I really wanted to say. Getting your bookish baby out there into the big wide world so that people know about it is a bit of a nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fairly thrilled with how my sales are going so far. For the nosy people out there, I’ve sold 55 copies of the book and have a few readers through KU, which I think is pretty good going for a first-time, self-published author. Could it be better? Of course!
I think the main issue is that there is so much self-published crap out in the world, that people are scared to waste their time on a new self-pub author, and I totally understand that. I am 100% the same. I see books with barely any reviews and think, ‘Nope, not for me.’ It is something I’m working on, trust me. At the minute, I’m just trying to push the book out there. I don’t care about profits, I just want reviews (and hopefully decent ones), which is why my book is as cheap as chips.
So far I’ve been promoting the book on FB and Insta, with mixed successes. At the moment I’m doing a Halloween International Giveaway on my Instagram (@sarahjuleswriting) if you wish to check it out. A signed copy of the paperback of my book could be coming your way, if you do.
One annoying thing that is happening, which I anticipated, is that I’m getting a shit-tonne of cold messages about marketing my book, or giving me exposure on different platforms. Essentially, paid-for reviews. Now, if you read my previous blog post, you know how I feel about paid reviews. If you haven’t, here it is. Basically, paying for reviews is a load of shit unless you’re somebody with an authority in authorship. https://sarahjuleswriting.com/2022/08/16/should-authors-pay-for-reviews/ What annoys me is that they never get straight to the point. They always flirt around the subject first. I always offer a free eBook to them, just to see if they bite, and they never do. They want payment for a review and, funnily enough, they only give 5-stars. Which, as you know, is completely unethical and the reason a lot of readers don’t trust reviews.
So now I’m looking and different ways to market my book. Any ideas are greatly appreciated! I promise you’re in for a well-written, well-formatted and well-edited manuscript, not something thrown together in a week or so.
I downloaded TikTok to try out the dreaded BookTok, did a single upload, panicked and deleted it. I have now realised I’m old and unable to learn new technology.
FOUND YOU is only 99p in eBook format. AND FREE ON KU. What have you got to lose by giving it a try? Paperbacks are also as cheap as Amazon would let me price them. Like I said, I’m not in this for the money. Not at all. I want people to want to read my book and I can’t do that unless people give it a try!
I am so grateful to everybody out there who has given my debut book a try. And, I’m especially grateful to the people who took the time to leave such gorgeous reviews. I feel so incredibly lucky to have people in my life that will push for my success. Every person that has bought a copy, or told a friend about it, or posted about it online, it means the world to me.
Now, a quick favour, please tell your friends and family to give my book a try. If they love thrillers, anything by Lucy Foley, Ruth Ware, or Gillian Flynn, then FOUND YOU will be right up their streets. I promise. If you’re able to, leave me a review too.
My book is finally live! Full disclosure, it went live on the 13th Oct, but things have been manic. Now that Amazon has finally linked the paperback and eBook versions of Found You together, it is so much easier for me to share the link with you!
Found You is an ideal read for the spooky season. Full of psychological drama and some good old twists and turns. If you’re a fan of authors such as Ruth Ware, Lucy Foley and Lisa Jewell, then Found You is right up your street.
At the moment, Found You is only 99p on Kindle, so make sure you grab it! If you like it (or if you don’t) I’d love to hear from you. The fact that you’ve taken the time to try out a new author is very much appreciated. If you’re able to, tell your friends, family and anybody else you think might like Found You. Word of mouth is everything in this game.
Now that Found You is out in the world and the apron strings are well and truly cut, I can get back to work on Book 2. So, if you do like Found You, there shouldn’t be too long to wait for my next book which will be spookier, sexier and twistier.
You have two choices here: do it yourself or hire a cover designer. If you’re an arty person, maybe you have a penchant for graphic design, then you’re a lucky old thing. If you’re like me, and don’t have an artistic bone in your body, then you may find that you’re starting from scratch. I chose to design the cover myself, for reasons I will explain later, but before we get to that, let’s quickly talk about hiring a cover designer, if that’s the path you choose to go down.
Hiring a Cover Designer
There are a few reasons you may choose to hire a cover designer for your book. If you have no experience, no ideas, and feel generally lost, hiring a cover designer might be the right thing for you.
They can make a professional and eye-catching cover.
It saves you time. They know the sizing, the formatting, and all the other fiddly stuff that comes with creating a book cover, meaning you don’t have to figure all that out.
If they’re skilled, they know the market and can make your book stand out.
You can hire great cover designers through a lot of freelancing platforms. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Make sure you read through their information carefully so that you know exactly what to expect when working with them. Also, check their reviews. Always, always, always, read a freelancer’s reviews. They may ask for some ideas, some covers you like etc, so have something in mind before you contact them.
DIY Cover Design
Designing a book cover is a tricky business. We’ve all seen the shitty self-published covers that look like they’ve been made by a kid on Paint, this is the last thing you want to do, right? You want to show your book in the best light, and sometimes that involves passing the baton to somebody else. My plan was to have a go myself, get feedback, and then decide whether to pay a cover designer. This is what I did…
I Googled ‘How to design a book cover’ and these videos came up…
I needed somebody that was going to explain it to me like they were explaining it to a child. And that’s what this guy did. His name is Keith Wheeler and I think he’s a fabulous starting point for all things self-publishing. The videos are old, and they look a little like they’ve been filmed on a toaster, but he explains everything wonderfully. He spoke about using Canva to design the covers. This is something I felt fairly comfortable with as I use Canva a lot for work anyway. I had nothing to lose by giving it a try.
I did my research. I looked at the covers of authors in the same genre as me, particularly ones with fairly simple covers. I noted what I liked, what I didn’t, and went from there.
Start with the eBook cover.
You’ll either need to pay for the images you choose to use, or opt for royalty-free images. I love www.unsplash.com for royalty-free images. If you want to learn more about this topic, let me know and I’ll do a separate blog post on it. Essentially, you need images that are free to use without paying the original photographer or artist. Or, you need to pay them for the image. I used royalty-free images and I’m thrilled with the outcome.
I started with the eBook cover because that’s by far the most simple and, after a couple of hours, I had something I was ready to get feedback on. I posted what I had on the Self Publishing Support Group and asked for honest feedback. If you don’t have a thick skin, then doing this isn’t for you. You have to be able to look at the feedback critically and objectively, and also know that you will never please everybody.
After I received feedback, I changed what I had until I had something I was happy with. eBook cover = complete.
Then move on to the (far more complicated) paperback cover.
To create the paperback cover, you have to know how many pages your book will be, in order to know the thickness of the spine, which is why I suggest formatting the manuscript document first. In the video linked above, Keith talks you through how to do all this, so I won’t do it here.
Something I will say, take your time. Figuring out the bleeds, the borders and the images can be tricky.
You will be able to use your eBook cover as a jumping off point which is why I suggest making it first. Once they’re done, you can upload them onto your KDP profile to see how they look. At this point, you may want to make some tweaks and reupload. For your paperback, I highly recommend ordering author proofs so that you can see what the cover looks like in real life.
With that, we’ve come to the end of this series of blog posts about the self-publishing journey BEFORE I publish. I’ll do an update after so I can talk about all the things I’ve learned, what I’d do differently next time, and all that jazz. That’ll likely be a long one!
Thank you for your support, as always. I love hearing from you so please do comment or get in touch with any questions or stories about your self-publishing experience.
Formatting… I was way out of my depth! When I researched self-publishing, it seemed like there were two schools of thought when it came down to formatting your eBook or paperback.
Pay somebody to do it for you.
Learn how to do it yourself.
There are valid reasons for each. By paying for a professional to do it, you can ensure that it is done properly and to a (hopefully) high standard. You can find book formatters on freelancing websites such as Fiverr, if you wish to explore this option further.
I went with option number two. Learn to do it yourself. The thought process behind this was so that I will be able to make any edits/changes to the manuscript whenever I want. I won’t have to get back in contact with the formatter, pay again, and wait for it to be returned. Plus, I figured that it’s one of those things where if you learn the skill, it’s something you always have. Not only will I be able to fix my own manuscripts as and when I need to, but I will be able to support clients through formatting their own manuscripts too.
There’s a reason I named this blog post the ‘F-Word’. I said the naughty word (and I don’t mean ‘formatting’) at least thirty times while figuring out how the hell to format my book. For clarification, I chose to use Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. It will likely be different through other platforms.
I started with the eBook because I figured that would be the most difficult. Boy was I wrong!
There are loads of websites/blog posts out there that talk you through, step-by-step, how to format your manuscript for eBooks. There’s no point reinventing the wheel, so I won’t. Here are some links to help you out…
One thing to consider, and it is a huge thing… PAGE BREAKS! I didn’t know that Kindles are magical, you can change the font and the size while you’re reading. As a result, any of your nice formatting, page numbers, font selection, goes straight out the window. Because changes in fonts and sizing moves the document around, page breaks are a must if you’re going to keep your chapters organized. They’re your best friend, believe me.
And then the fun began… F-ing paperbacks!
Confession, I’ve never owned a Kindle (I do plan to join the dark side in the Black Friday sales) and so I knew that I wanted my book to be released in a physical copy too. Had I known how irritatingly annoying it would be to get the manuscript ready for paperback, I might have thought twice. At this point, I’m not even sure if that’s a joke or not. I always thought that I was a fairly intelligent person, most of the time anyway, but this made me want to pull my hair out.
The only advice I have at this stage, is to follow the KDP guidelines to a T. Do everything they tell you to and pray to whatever gods you believe in. In all seriousness, it took a lot of trial and error. I’m so glad I did it myself because now I (sort of) know what to do the next time around. The links below are 100% a necessity in formatting your manuscript for paperback.
The first time you’re planning on formatting your paperback, I suggest you leave a good few hours to do so. I thought it would be quick and easy, but it took a lot longer than I thought. For example, depending on the number of pages you have in your book, you have to change the gutter margin (which is the margin in the inner of the book, where the pages join together) to accommodate for extra thickness. It was something I’d never considered before.
PRO-TIP: HAVE A GLASS OF WINE WAITING FOR YOU WHEN YOU’VE DONE.
I’m a huge believer in learning new skills and, if you’re able to learn to do it yourself, I think that’s fairly cool! It saves time, money, and you can go in and out and make any edits you want, which makes life easier in the long run.
Something to consider, you are able to preview both your eBook and paperback on your KDP account. I suggest that you go through page-by-page to check your formatting is as you want before you decide to go ahead with releasing your book. I found a couple of things I didn’t like and was able to change them and reupload the manuscript.
I ordered author proof-copies too.
Kindle allow you to order paperback author proofs of your book so that you can see what it will look like in real life before you hit the big-red (it’s not actually red) publish button. I noticed something I didn’t like on the cover by doing this and was able to fix that.
You might be wondering why I’ve not mentioned book covers in a formatting blog post. Well, dear reader, that deserves a blog post all to itself.
Thank you for your support, as always. I love hearing from you so please do comment or get in touch with any questions or stories about your self-publishing experience.
I ummed and ahhed about whether to get my manuscript proofread. I’ve been running Sarah Jules Writing Services for almost four years now, so I’d like to think I know a thing or two about proofreading! The thing is, proofreading your own writing is actually very difficult because you know what you meant to write, and so that’s how your brain reads it. The read-aloud function on MS Word is a godsend, but I didn’t feel it was quite enough. As an add-on here, for those of you who haven’t used the read-aloud function on Word, you’re missing a trick. It reads the document aloud to you and you, therefore, are able to catch a lot more errors.
I knew I didn’t need a copy-edit or anything that in-depth. I just needed somebody to do a final read-through and spot any errors that I missed. A proofread. People tend to get copy-editing and proofreading confused, which is fair enough. When you enter the world of writing, there’s loads of jargon to deal with.
A copy-edit ensures that the manuscript is formatted correctly. It involves checking for spelling, grammar and consistency errors. It also covers making deeper (sometimes stylistic) edits to improve the readability of the manuscript.
A proofread is undertaken on a ‘completed’ manuscript. Ideally, there should be no (or very few) actual errors for a proofreader to catch. It is, in essence, the final check of the document.*
*I often get asked to proofread manuscripts for clients and when I ask to see the document, it is very rare that they’re ready for a proofread.
I saw a great quote on Scribe Media that said, ‘Copyeditors catch all the mistakes the author missed. Proofreaders catch all the mistakes the copyeditor missed.’ And, always, some pesky errors make it into the final book! We’re human beings, we’re not perfect, and sometimes we miss things.
Back to my manuscript…
I did all the right things. I did my own copy-edit, got feedback from beta-readers, and proofread the document as many times as I could without wanting to throw my laptop across the room. And then I went in search for an actual proofreader. Now, I’ve worked through the www.fiverr.com platform for nearly four years, so I know that there are some incredible professionals available through the platform (myself included: www.fiverr.com/sarahjules). I came across this profile… Susan Keillor1 and knew that she was the one for me. She found more errors than I would like to admit, and did an incredible job.
The manuscript I received back from Susan was clean and tidy, with no errors (we hope, please let me know if any have sneaked through). I feel confident that what I am putting out into the world shows my story in the best light.
The moral of this story…
If you can, hire a proofreader. If you need an editor, hire an editor. * I’m always available for copy-edits and proofreads, give me a shout. * You want to put the highest quality work out there. I do understand that this isn’t always a viable option. Let me tell you, I understand the struggle of deciding whether it is worth it to spend money on an editor/proofreader. If you can, it’s worth it. If not, download Grammarly, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing. Use the read-aloud function on Word. Rope in friends or family to read through the manuscript for you. Try to find a willing beta-reader. None of these options are infallible, but they’re better than nothing at all.
Once I had the proofread manuscript, I felt more than ready to start the next phase of my self-publishing journey… Formatting!
Thank you for your support, as always. I love hearing from you so please do comment or get in touch with any questions or stories about your self-publishing experience.
I’ll be the first to admit, when it comes to self-publishing, I always saw it as a bit of a cop-out for the people ‘not good enough’ to be traditionally published. My perspective shifted over the last couple of years as I watched clients of mine go through the process themselves. There’s a misconception that self-publishing is only for people who cannot get a publishing agent or publishing contract and that is far from true.
My plan was always to reach out to traditional publishers and agents and see what happened. In one of my previous blog posts, I talked about what it was like to receive rejection emails and what that meant for FOUND YOU, my debut thriller novel. You can access that blog post here if you’d like to: Dealing with Rejection. There are some agents I never heard back from. They could well have not yet gotten around to reading my manuscript but, at this point, I’m tired of waiting. I want to get my book out there and self-publishing was the best way for me to do that.
I’ve spoken to a lot of people about self-publishing and done a hell of a lot of research. There are some fantastic eBooks on Amazon on this topic, as well as plenty of websites and blogs too. I would highly recommend joining this Facebook group if you’re considering self-publishing as I’ve received some great feedback and support there: Self Publishing Support Group. I’ll also link some resources at the end of the blog post.
Once I made the decision to self-publish, I knuckled down to figure out the best way to do it. If I’m going to do something, I don’t do things by halves. I wanted to know exactly what would be expected of me in order to show my book in the best light possible. Publishing was never about making money for me, although I know everybody says that. For me, it’s about getting my book, and my name, out there. Self-publishing means that I can publish on my terms and I’m excited about what this means for me, and for FOUND YOU.
In the next few blog posts (I’m envisioning three, but who knows) I’ll talk about what I did in order to get my manuscript ready for publishing. It’s been a learning-curve and, hopefully, by talking through the process of self-publishing step-by-step, I’ll be able to save some of you from having to figure it out as you go. On that note, who knew there was so much maths involved in self-publishing a book?!
I will post an update here when FOUND YOU is available for purchasing. Stay tuned for the rest of the series on my journey to publication.
Thank you for your support, as always. I love hearing from you so please do comment or get in touch with any questions or stories about your self-publishing experience.
I’ve been terrible at updating you guys on my journey towards publication, but with good reason. Over the last few weeks, my book has been proofread both by myself and by a wonderful proofreader I found on Fiverr. I made the cover, asked for feedback, made edits, and here we are. I will do a proper blog post about each stage soon, I promise. But for now, this will have to do.
Having spent the last seven hours wrestling with KDP, everything is ready to go. We’re cooking on gas. I’m waiting on the proof copies, but once they’re okayed, FOUND YOU will be released into the wild.
I’ll be posting updates here and will let you know when it goes live. Thank you to everybody who has supported me on this journey, it means the world to me.
I promise, promise, promise, I’ll talk about what I did at each stage of the self-publishing journey. I don’t want to half-arse it, sort of like this blog update. I want to make something really useful that will support you all through your self-publishing journey.
Here is the official blurb of FOUND YOU:
A text leads to the murder of an innocent.
When Cameron gets a text from an unknown number, his life is thrust into unimaginable chaos. Things come to a head when he begins to receive graphic photographs of himself being tortured.
A schoolgirl fantasy spirals out of control.
Savannah has just pulled her life together, only for it to be unravelled by a drunken one-night stand.
Love, lust and revenge collide with terrifying consequences. Is anybody truly innocent?
It could happen to anybody. Could you be next?
It will be available exclusively through Amazon, in paperback and eBook initially.
Please skip ahead if you’re not interested in why I decided to write this blog post. Although, the preamble does provide useful background information.
Recently, I had an interaction via the old Instagram machine that thrust me down the metaphorical rabbit hole of paid book reviews. If you follow me on Instagram, (@sarahjuleswriting) then you will know that I occasionally post about the books I am writing, as well as the books I am reading. Now, I can only assume that the person who reached out to me follows one of the tags I placed under a post about Book 1, a manuscript that I have written and which I’m currently exploring publishing options for, and this is how they knew to reach out to me.
Now, let me start by saying that I’ve been in the ‘bookstagram’ world for quite a while now, a good few years, and so I’m more than familiar with the practice of authors sending free copies to readers in exchange for an honest review. I’ve had authors send me books before in exchange for an honest review, and I’m also a fan of the website www.readersfirst.co.uk where you are sent advanced review copies (ARCs) in exchange for an honest review. There’ll be more on this later. What I’m trying to say, is that I have experience in the review arena, so I know how the whole thing works.
Let me paint the picture… I’m scrolling through my Insta feed, as you do, and a message pops up. I’ll include screenshots below, but the gist of it is that this person says that they review books across various social media platforms and they would like to review my upcoming book. I reply saying that would be fantastic, and that I’d be more than happy to send a copy their way when I get to that point. The person then responds with pricing information, and I’m floored. I was more than happy to send over a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, but would not pay for the privilege. That’s not to say that paying for a review is always, always a bad thing, as we’ll discuss after this preamble. I immediately wrote back and said, ‘No, thank you,’ and then decided to take a look at this person’s page, to see what qualified them to review my book as anything other than a ‘reader’. Essentially, were they a professional within the industry, and what forms did their reviews typically take?
Three things stood out to me:
None of the reviews on their page seemed to disclose whether they were paid reviews or otherwise. All the reviews I read were positive. And, in my own opinion, nobody likes every book they read. Red flag.
They didn’t have any professional qualifications in their bio. Red flag.
They had 12k followers. Which is a bloody huge amount in bookstagram terms. Yet, many of them had no comments and only a few hundred likes, suggesting that many of their followers don’t interact with the profile. Red flag. Red flag. Red flag.
So, what’s the problem?
If you are being paid to review a product, whether a book or otherwise, you need to disclose that.[i] If not, there is a significant chance that you are in direct opposition to the terms and conditions of whatever site you are using, as well as being in violation of trading standards.[ii] A paid book review is an advertisement, especially if it is falsely positive due to the exchange of money. (More on this later).
Paid reviews should come from a person of authority within the field. For example, you will see quotes from famous authors on the covers of books. This is an advertising strategy, but one that draws on a person whose opinion is respected within the world of writing. Paying a random influencer to say your book is fab, is a false review, even worse if they don’t disclose they’ve been paid to do it. It’s worth noting here that many prominent figures within the industry don’t charge for reviews either. The books are gifted to them via a publishing house or the like and they write a review of the book if they liked it. If not, no review, essentially.
A couple of things on the follower comment. First, why should I pay for a review from somebody whose audience doesn’t interact with their content? Second, do they legitimately have 12k followers? One more time… Paying an influencer for a review is paying for an advertisement. Would you pay for an advertisement from somebody who doesn’t have an audience?
As you can tell, this exchange rubbed me the wrong way. Here it is, if you wanted to read it first hand.
If you skipped ahead, start reading here!
I knew that false reviews were a significant problem for companies like Amazon, who appear to be cracking down on the practice. However, I didn’t know that many influencers on Instagram, and the like, are giving dishonest reviews for payment. Not only does that violate so many rules of advertising, it makes a mockery of the review system. Authors NEED reviews to sell their books and many readers presume that the reviews they are reading are genuine. Paid reviews detract from the honest reviews many authors receive. Their honest, good, reviews don’t mean as much because other (arguably shady) authors are paying for people to say their book is good. Even if it isn’t. Every person isn’t going to like every book. This is part of what makes reading so special and personal. Negative reviews are to be expected.
As I’m not yet published, I don’t know how I’ll handle negative reviews, but I know that I’ll get some. I know that not every person who reads my book will love it. But do you know what I’m not going to do? Hire people to say my book is awesome and attempt to wash the bad reviews away because that is dishonest, morally and ethically questionable, and a very shady business practice. So, now that I’ve spilled the tea, as the youth of today say, let’s get to the heart of this blog post.
Should Authors Pay for Book Reviews?
In order to answer this question, the question that I postulated a thousand words ago before my little rant, we first need to outline the two key types of review, something that I alluded to earlier.
There are two main types of book reviews.
Now, there are some blurred lines between the two. But for me, it’s simple.
Trade reviewers are professionals within the publishing industry.
Reader reviewers are your consumers, the reader.
The blurred lines come from the definition of ‘professional’. You’ll find a good few people attempting to monetize their reviews, claiming to be professional book reviewers, or freelance book reviewers. So, what criteria makes one person capable of giving professional book reviews, while for another it would be a misnomer?
Essentially, in order to professionally review a book, you should be a person of influence and respect in publishing circles. Other, successful, authors, publishing houses, newspapers, or influential people within a field associated with your book are likely candidates for trade reviews. There’s an air of separation between the author and a trade reviewer, somebody who is genuinely professional, and therefore there is no coercion to provide a ‘good’ review.
A reader review is somebody with no professional qualifications or experience within publishing. They are, essentially, a reader. A consumer. Somebody who reads books and may write reviews or post about them on their social media. This, in no way, makes them a professional within this industry.
As a quick disclaimer here, before we move on, there are some legitimate trade companies who may charge publishing houses or indie authors for an honest trade review. They are able to do so because their opinion is respected and honest. They will provide a review for your book that is accurate and justified. They are well-known and trusted. However, it may not be flattering, but that is what makes these services legitimate. While I won’t post links to them here, as I am by no means an expert on these companies, I simply wanted to acknowledge that they exist and are a different thing entirely to a randomer on the internet, with a few thousand followers, who claim to professionally review your book despite no industry experience or professional qualifications.
More on Reader Reviews
Reader reviews are a great way to get your book out there, especially if you are a self-published author. Essentially, they are a way of reaching a wider audience with your book. There are two different types of reader reviews in my experience: ones where the author has approached the reader in some capacity to ask for a review, and ones where the reader has picked up a book of their own accord and has written the review off their own back. The latter is completely, one hundred percent, legitimate and unproblematic. The former, however, is where issues can arise.
Often, the reader may be given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Hopefully, there is some clarification in the exchange between either the outside company that disseminates the copy of the book, or the author themselves, that the review should be honest and that there is no pressure for the review to be exaggerated or ‘good’ simply because they have received a copy of the book. Self-published authors will often trawl through social media and find users that seem to have a similar taste in books to the one they’ve written and ask for the book to be reviewed in exchange for them being sent a free copy, either electronically or physically.
However, websites such as Readers First, which I mentioned earlier, and Net Galley (www.netgalley.co.uk/) are essentially a middle-man. They push the books out to prospective readers in exchange for reviews. By removing the author interaction, not only does it save time, but it can also be considered to be more valid, as a further element of bias (a perceived relationship of sorts with the author) is alleviated. However, it should be acknowledged that companies such as these are not always accessible for authors. If you want a blog post on this, please do let me know as that is a whole can of worms just waiting to be opened.
By providing a free copy of a book (whether physically or electronically) it is therefore expected that a review will be provided. This doesn’t always happen, and nothing can be done if the review doesn’t take place, but the general consensus is that if you’re given a free copy of a book, you are then expected to review it.
If payment is exchanged, you’re paying for an advert, not a review.
Marketing, especially for self-published authors, is a bloody tricky business. One way to get your book out there, is to place adverts on social media and approach different (sometimes prominent) figures within these platforms to advertise your book. I have no problem with authors paying for advertisements. Let me repeat that, I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH AUTHORS PAYING FOR ADVERTISEMENTS. Not only is it completely necessary to market your book, but it is also a valid thing to do. What I have a problem is, is so-called ‘professional book reviewers’ preying on both authors who are scared that their book will fail, and the readers that deserve honest reviews when choosing whether to spend their hard-earned money on a book. Not only does this cheapen and degrade the industry, it is false, and misleading, advertising. If a consumer doesn’t know that they are seeing an advert, this is underhand and unethical. At the very, very least, a ‘professional book reviewer’ should disclose that they have been paid to write their review and that it is an advert for the book.
As I said, I’ve been on Instagram for a few years now, and some people I’m fairly close to and respect on the platform review books that have been sent to them for free, in exchange for an honest review, and do you know what they do? THEY DISCLOSE THIS IN THEIR POST. And their review is honest. No money exchanges hands, only a copy of the book, and yet they write something along the lines of ‘this book has been sent to me by [insert author, publishing house etc] in exchange for my honest review’. How easy is that? Nowhere do they claim to be a professional reviewer, because they’re not. They review books from a reader’s perspective, and share their reviews, usually with an aesthetically pleasing photograph of the book.
People Can Smell a Rat
If you notice that an instagrammer you follow, or a Tik-Tokker, is consistently sharing fantastic reviews of new releases, this is a concern.
If you see ‘professional book reviewer’ in somebody’s bio, but no professional qualifications or industry experience, this is a concern.
Most book review platforms have very stringent rules in place for both authors who pay for reviews, and readers who write paid-for reviews. Most social networking platforms have mechanisms in place to spot false or misleading advertising, and so it’s only a matter of time before the author or the reviewer are bitten in the arse if they engage in these practices. By doing this, you risk alienating your audience. They lose trust in you, they distance themselves from you, and they stop engaging with you.
People are not stupid. Your readers and followers deserve to be treated with respect and integrity. Structure your advertising and marketing in a way that is not deceptive, and if your book is good, hopefully it will reach your intended audience. Rather than lying, look into marketing practices that can help push your book out there in an honest way.
I did a poll on LinkedIn last week to see whether the views of others in the industry matched my own. Here’s a screenshot of how that went…
To answer my original question – Should you pay for reviews?
Should you pay for honest marketing?
The only exception is if you are going to one of the legitimate trade companies out there, that have gained traction and respect by writing honest reviews. While there’s loads more I can say on this topic, I think it’s time for me to shut up. I’ve already waffled on for nearly 2.5k (hopefully useful) words, and so I’ll leave you with this thought…
If you knew that a company was paying for false reviews on their new product, would you buy it?
I know that I’m going to have to do more blog posts around this subject so stay tuned for those. This is one of those topics that people are sure to land on either side of the dichotomy, so I’d love to hear your views. Please do comment or reach out to me via chat or email if you’d like to discuss this further.
As always, wishing you love and books that make your heart skip a beat,
The world of publishing is something I am relatively new to. I have always hidden behind my clients, in that respect. I write the manuscript, make it something they are proud to hold, and then bid them adieu, kind of. What I’m trying to say is that, typically, as a ghostwriter, I don’t have very much to do with the publishing side of things. I know the basics of publishing, but not a lot more. Therefore, the challenge of publishing my own novel is entirely new territory to me. Learning how to research agents, write query letters, write a synopsis and all that other stuff has been completely out of my comfort zone. However, I know that in doing this, not only will I be a published author for sure (hopefully sooner rather than later), but I have gained a lot of skills and experience that will help me to help my clients in the future.
I’ve always been told that dealing with rejection is part of the process of becoming a traditionally published author. I was certainly anticipating a few rejections along the way, and as of today (19/07/2022) I’ve had rejections from four agents. I know that this is perfectly normal, and I did expect to handle rejection quite badly. I’ve always had an issue with ‘authority’ figures and criticism, but when the ‘rejections’ from agents aren’t at all negative, it’s hard to take it badly, in my opinion.
From the start, I’ve been very selective about the agents I chose to query, and knew that they were probably slightly out of my league as an unpublished (at least not as a ghostwriter) author. For example, I’ve queried Ruth Ware’s agent, so I wasn’t expecting a miracle there. The thing is, I know my book is good, and that it’s worth reading, so it will be published either way: whether self-published or traditionally published. As a first-time author, I thought I’d try the traditional route first and see what happened. I still have a fair few agents that I’m still waiting to hear back from, as many of their reading timeframes are around three months (and some as much as six months).
On three out of the four rejections, I was given a lovely email detailing why I wasn’t the perfect fit for their agency. I won’t name the publishing agencies here, because I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. However, I will share their reasons, as I think it might be useful to those of you who are considering traditional publishing or going through a similar thing.
They already had a similar project on their roster.
They did not feel passionate enough about the book.
This wasn’t the book for them – but they loved my ‘strong commercial writing’ and would like me to consider sending my next manuscript to them, if I don’t get picked up in the meantime. This one was my favourite rejection, and was from a huge literary agent so I was chuffed!
Each of these agents gave fabulous and supportive emails. They listed the reasons why authors might not get picked up by certain agents, and wished me the best of luck going forward. These emails left me feeling really positive. Writing is subjective, and being an agent is subjective, it’s all about finding the perfect fit for you. That being said, the fourth rejection was pretty much just a ‘no’, which didn’t sit right with me. To me, it isn’t difficult to have an email template ready to go saying ‘thank you for choosing to send your manuscript to us, unfortunately…’. However, you live and learn, and I’m wondering if maybe I dodged a bullet there!
In terms of what’s next for me… I still have a good few agents that I’ve not heard back from yet, so fingers crossed on that front. It did say on a few that they might not contact you if you’re not being picked up, which I think is a little bit shitty, but that’s just the nature of the game. I decided today that I’m not querying any more agents. Instead, I contacted three publishers directly with my manuscript, so we’ll see what happens there. Also, and this is kind of exciting, I’ve set myself a deadline…
I’m getting bored and impatient, so here’s the plan… If I don’t have an offer from an agent or a publishing house by the middle of September, I’m going to self-publish! Self-publishing is still relatively new in the publishing game, and it is certainly a very viable option for many people. It was always something I considered doing, and by giving myself a deadline, I have a sensible cut-off point where I need to start formatting, editing, getting a cover designed, and doing all that other fun stuff!
Dealing with Rejection from Publishers and Agents
As much as I want to give loads of advice here, I’m still so new to the game that I don’t feel it’s particularly my place to, especially because I’m dealing with it very well at the moment. I don’t feel disheartened or stressed, angry or hurt. This is, possibly, because it is expected for authors to face so much rejection before they find a home with an agent or publishing house. I also know that I have other options if traditional publishing doesn’t quite work out for me.
I’ve done a little research on the subject, and I’ll link my sources below, but if you’re struggling to handle rejection from publishers or agents, here are some things that might help you out…
Understand that not every person is going to love every book. You might love non-fiction books about fighter planes. Whereas, I prefer a good horror story. Finding the right agent/publishing house for you is what querying is all about.
Take on board any constructive criticism. But, at the end of the day, you know what is right for your book so don’t feel like you need to change everything around just because one agent, or publishing house, didn’t like something about your manuscript.
Give yourself a break. If you’re struggling with rejection and you’re finding it hard to get back in the groove of writing, take a break. Be kind to yourself. Rejection can be tough, but so are you!
Further to that, don’t give up. If you’re ready to query more publishers and agents, bloody do it. If you want to self-publish, do that too. There are so many options out there for authors, more so than ever before, empower yourself to bring your book to market in whatever way you can.
Know that you are not alone. I don’t think there’s a single author out there that hasn’t been rejected a good few times. Or, if they have, they’re a rare breed. Being rejected is just part of the process. Handle the rejection with class, too. Don’t go off on the agent just because they’re not the right fit for you. Agents are people too!
Reconnect with other writers. Join one of those fabulous groups on FB, LinkedIn, and Instagram. There are plenty of other people who have been through the same situation as you and are more than happy to give advice and a shoulder to cry on.
Remember, rejection is an inevitable part of both life, and becoming an author. Know that no matter whether your book is traditionally published or self-published, you are still a published author and that is incredible. One final thing to add on that note, if Stephen King was rejected 30 times before Carrie (arguably one of his most famous books) was picked up, then you’ll be fine.
As always, wishing you love and books that make your heart skip a beat,
I was speaking with a new client today who said something that really got me thinking. He said that ghostwriters are simply mercenaries and I suppose, to some extent, he is right. This is part of the reason I love my job so much. I get to hear so many different viewpoints, and meet people that I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. Allowing ourselves to explore ideas that are different to our own is how we learn and grow, and conversations such as this facilitate that.
The dictionary definition of ‘mercenary’ is a person ‘primarily concerned with making money at the expense of ethics.’
Now, I would argue, first of all, that all of us work to make money.
We may all enjoy our job (or not) to differing degrees, but we wouldn’t do it unless we made a living from it. Right? Now, I’m among the lucky few who absolutely love their job. I’ve worked in some shocking places and I’m finally in a job that I love, working from a place that I love (my home). At the end of the day, all of us are concerned with making money. That’s just the way the world is. Without money, we can’t survive. So, yes, I am primarily concerned with making money. However, that is not the be-all and end-all of my job.
It is the second part of the definition that I take issue with, ‘… at the expense of ethics.’
I wrote a blog post a while ago titled The Ethics of Ghostwriting, I’ll link it below. I know that many people dislike ghostwriting and ghostwriters on principle. I always welcome opposing views and if you’d like to chat about ghostwriting, then please do reach out.
However, I will defend ghostwriting until the cows come home. My clients, for whatever reason, are unable to write their own books. Maybe they suffer from dyslexia, or they’re not fluent in English, or they simply don’t have the time to do their story justice, and so they come to me. I help them to do justice to their ideas and deliver something that we are both proud of. Yes, they put their names on it, but they are as much a part of the project as I am, so why shouldn’t they?
The question of ‘ethics’ is one we could debate tirelessly. I know that my clients benefit from the work I do. For many of them, they are able to achieve something that previously seemed out of reach. There are many clients that I now class as my friends. Is ghostwriting ethical? I would argue yes, while some would argue no, and that’s just fine. If ghostwriting isn’t something you can support, then you don’t have to.
Historically speaking, the definition of ‘mercenary’ comes from the military.
‘A soldier who will fight for any country or group that offers payment.’ I kind of think that the term mercenary is cool, in the regard to creative disciplines, not war. I feel like an outlier, like some gunslinging rogue or rebel. In terms of the definition included here, it is not strictly applicable. Of course, I’m about as far from a soldier as you can get. But I also don’t work for everybody who offers me money. I am very picky about the projects I choose. If your project is not something that I personally align with, whether ethically, politically, or whatever else, then I won’t take it on. I know, shock-horror, the ghostwriter has ethics! In a similar way, I don’t take on projects that I don’t find interesting. I’m lucky enough to be in a position at the moment where I can be picky.
While I would never claim to be altruistic or philanthropic, I would also argue that I’m not void of ethics either.
Part of the definitions of mercenary fit with my ghostwriting career, namely I work for clients who pay me for my services (as do all freelancers) and that some people may find this field to be ethically ambiguous. On this note, something I will say is that I’ve never once had a client contract me for ghostwriting services who I would argue had bad ethics or was corrupt in any way. Every client had a valid reason for choosing to hire a ghostwriter and I truly respect their decision for exploring an option that many people fail to do, simply because they have preconceived notions about what it means. I do believe that the term ‘ghostwriter’ is outdated. You’d be surprised how many famous authors have people work alongside them to make their books as fabulous as they are, doing very similar things to what ghostwriters do, without the label.
Not a mercenary but rather a facilitator or advocate.
Unfortunately, both of these words don’t sound anywhere near as cool as ‘mercenary’ but that can’t be helped. A ghostwriter is a person who enables somebody to create something they otherwise would never have been able to create, for whatever reason that is. Writing is tough. It’s full of rules and nuances that some people just struggle with. Why should we miss out on their ideas because they are unable to phrase them in the correct style and format?
To summarise, yes, ghostwriters do their job because they get paid, but it is also so much more than that.
It would be reductionist to assume that all ghostwriters think the same as me. Maybe some do consider themselves to be mercenaries, and more power to them. There are many reasons I do this job… I love writing. I love reading. I get to meet fantastic people from all over the world. I get to work from home. I feel that I am doing something that benefits others. The list is endless. But, yes, I also do it to make a living. So, if that’s the definition of mercenary we are sticking to, that a person does a job purely for monetary gain, then perhaps we are all mercenaries to some extent.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my new client for planting this idea in my head, and for the very philosophical and thoughtful conversation that ensued.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. If you’re considering hiring a ghostwriter to facilitate and advocate for you, then maybe reach out. I’d love to discuss your project further.
A while ago I wrote a blog post about writing the book you want to write, rather than the book you think other people will read. I’ll link it below if anybody is interested. However. recently I’ve been thinking…
Do you think some genres are better received than others?
I seem to get the impression that people make automatic assumptions about an author’s capabilities based on the genres they write.
For example, I’ve witnessed some readers judging writers who write erotica or horror, based on nothing other than their chosen genre. I get that some genres aren’t for everyone. But I’m intrigued.
Do you judge an author’s capabilities based upon the genre they write?
It’s been a while since I posted an update on my journey to publication. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to give the traditional publication route a go. After another round of edits and proofreading, my manuscript was ready to go. At this point, I started to seriously research which agents I’d like to work with.
When choosing agents to query, you should consider…
1. Whether they’re open for submissions.
2. What genres they specialise in.
3. What type of manuscripts are they looking for.
4. What type of agent you are looking for.
You can research all of these things by looking through the agents’ profiles. I found a really useful blog post that included a list of loads of agents open to submissions: https://blog.reedsy.com/literary-agents/ and from there, I took some time looking through their websites and profiles. I shortlisted a few that I thought aligned with both my book and my attitudes towards reading and publication. There were a few agents where I really liked the vibe they put out: friendly, approachable, yet knowledgeable and determined. These were the agents I queried.
What do literary agents want?
Different agents ask for different things. Some want to see the full manuscript. Others only want a few chapters. Some want to see a full synopsis, including spoilers. Others want no spoilers at all. It is really important to look for what each agent wants. I am no expert in submitting manuscripts to agents, clearly, but from my research, I have learnt that it is incredibly important to provide the information the agent asks for, in the format they would like to receive it.
Writing a synopsis for your manuscript is hard work.
I’ve submitted my manuscript, along with whatever information the agent asked for, to a handful of agents who I would like to work with and who I think are a good fit for my manuscript. Now all I can do is wait to hear from them and see what happens. In the meantime, I’ll be working on my second novel, which I’m about halfway through at the moment. It is both exciting and extremely nerve-wracking to think that my manuscript is being read by literary agents who work with some incredible authors. Wish me luck!
As always, wishing you love and books that make your heart skip a beat,
P.S, for those who are interested, here is a quick teaser of my book…
Told through two perspectives, FOUND YOU, is the story of lust, love and revenge (with a smattering of torture). Savannah is a student who becomes the victim of a vicious smear campaign orchestrated by her friends. A drunken one-night stand changes her life forever, leading to deadly consequences. Cameron is a perfectly boring school teacher with a new, insanely hot, girlfriend. When he begins to receive photographs of himself being tortured, his life falls apart. Although the stories take place over a decade apart, the two timelines collide, resulting in the murder of an innocent person.
Your book doesn’t have to be the next Pulitzer Prize winner.
There’s this fallacy that the only books worth writing are the ones that are going to win awards. I hear it all the time, “My idea isn’t anything special, so what’s the point of writing it?” First of all, how do you know your book isn’t going to be an award-winning masterpiece if you haven’t written it yet? Second of all, just because a book doesn’t go on to be the next big thing, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth writing.
This is something I’ve been thinking more and more about recently, as I dip my toes into writing my own books (rather than ghostwriting books for other people). As writers, many of us dream of our books making us rich and famous, with accolades and awards coming out of our ears. I know I do. I’ve even got the house I’d buy saved on my Zoopla app. But I know it’s just that, a dream. And do you know what, the fear that my books wouldn’t be good enough almost stopped me from writing them in the first place.
When I think back on all the books I’ve read, many of them achieved no awards at all.
Some didn’t even achieve any recognition. Does that mean they weren’t worth writing? Of course not. You don’t have to be some literary genius to write a book worth reading. Some of my favourite books haven’t been works of literary revere, they’ve just been damn good stories that allowed me to get swept away by the narrative. Whatever story you have stuck within you, somebody wants to read it. There’s a reader out there for every writer, no matter the content or style of writing.
Would I love my books to be the next best-sellers, bringing me money and fame? Hell yes!
Will it happen? Probably not.
Does that mean I’m going to stop writing? Nope.
I’ve come to the realisation that how a book is received is down to the opinions of others.
Your influence on their opinions can only go so far. You can ensure that your story is well-presented and edited, and that you’ve told it in the best words you can muster. But, at the end of the day, if you’re writing a book with the sole purpose of it winning prizes and making you rich, then you’re basing your happiness on the actions of other people. And that is never wise.
There’s also a snobbery among writers that is hard to overcome. A hierarchy of different genres. Not every author is this way, not every reader is this way, but it’s still prevalent. Every single time, horror and romance writers seem to end up at the bottom of the pile. Why is that? This seems to add to the new author’s fear of writing the book they want to write. Trends come and go in waves… For a while it was teen fiction that reached the top spot, then it was fantasy fiction, then it was thrillers, next it may be something else entirely.
Write the story you want to write.
No matter what genre. If you want to write erotica, write erotica. If you want to write ‘chick-lit’ (a term I despise by the way), write that. If you want to write Harry Styles fanfiction, do it. It breaks my heart to think of all the books we won’t get to read because people thought that their ideas weren’t good enough, or that they’d be judged for writing a certain genre.
The best thing you can do is get some words down on the page. As Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” It’s trial and error when you first get started, finding what works for you. We’re all different. Some people like to write straight from the top of their heads, others need a detailed plan. The thing is, that you won’t know which one you are until you start writing.
Writing a book is nothing to be embarrassed about.
This is something else I’ve noticed. People say that they’re writing a book like it’s a confession of sin. They whisper it in hushed tones, behind closed doors. “I’m writing a book, but don’t tell anybody.” Why should you be ashamed that you’re doing something as incredible as writing a book, sharing your story with the world? Of course, it’s deeply personal and that plays into it, but I think there’s also an element of ‘but what if it’s not successful?’ and, at this point, you have to consider what success means to you.
If you’re writing a book for the sole purpose of becoming a world-renowned author, then the odds are not in your favour. Your ‘success’ is based on others’ actions. Instead, perhaps focus on writing the book you want to write and sending it off into the world. Isn’t that success enough? Think about how many people fail to complete their manuscripts. For whatever reason, they gave up. Imagine being able to say that you didn’t give up. You succeeded and your book is out there, available for people to read. That, to me, is a triumph.
What is your definition of success?
If you were to write your own book, or maybe you already have, how would you define whether it was successful or not? I’d love to hear from you, whether your opinions are the same as my own, or different. Imagine me, standing on a soapbox, preaching, “Your book doesn’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize winner to be worth writing. Write the book you want to write, not the book you think you should write. The world will be a better place for it.”
 Anna Todd’s bloody incredible After series started off as Harry Styles fanfiction. I finished it a few days ago and I’m still reeling. #teamhessa. It also gave me the idea for this blog post.
As promised, welcome to the ‘ask me anything’ blog post. I want to say a huge thank you to the people who reached out with questions. It means a lot to me. I had some really awesome questions, so thank you for that. I also wanted to mention, I’m always happy to ask any questions at all, so do feel free to get in touch if you’d like to know anything further, ghostwriting or otherwise. My friends always joke that I’m too ‘open’ anyway, so why not open that up to all of you.
Mental Health and Me
Let’s start as we mean to go on. I had a particularly brilliant question regarding mental health. I’m not shy about talking about mental health and my own struggles, as you’ll probably have realised. I think talking about mental health is so important when destigmatising it, so I’m always more than happy to talk about my past and what I’ve been through.
What’s your biggest mental health concern and how did you combat it effectively?
I have to admit that I was flattered that it looks like I’ve combatted mental health issues effectively, and that I’ve got my shit together! It’s been a long road, and I’m definitely getting there. My main struggles are depression and anxiety, like a lot of people out there. I worked in some not very nice places and this took its toll on me, which is why I turned to freelancing and ended up here. Ghostwriting, content writing and editing was definitely never something I planned to do, but I cannot be more thankful that I stumbled into it. Therefore, I think my answer to this question, would have to be something along the lines of, I got out of the situations that were negatively impacting me. That was the first step. There’s the misconception that to leave something or to ‘give-up’ is a bad thing. When in fact, it’s a very brave thing to do.
Removing myself from the situations that were causing me harm, while difficult initially, made all the difference in the long term. Once I left, I was able to put the focus and time into getting better. I reached rock-bottom before I got the help I needed. I went to the doctors and got medication that help me massively, as well as started therapy. For me, every day is still a conscious effort to take care of my mental health, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
For anybody having a bad time with their mental health, my inbox is always open if you want to chat.
Freelancing and Ghostwriting
I had a few questions about my job. Just to recap, I started Sarah Jules Writing Services just over three years ago. I offer ghostwriting, content writing and editing services to clients across a range of niches. I absolutely love my job and every day I have to pinch myself that it’s real. I know that freelancing and the gig-culture is a fickle business but nothing is without its issues. Simply put, I know how lucky I am to be doing a job I love.
How do you find ghostwriting clients?
This is a great question. If you’re thinking of getting into ghostwriting, then there are a few different ways you can find clients. First of all, your best point of call is to join a freelancing platform. I joined a few different ones to start with but found that Fiverr worked the best for me. I still gain clients through the platform to this day (three years later). I am a huge advocate of Fiverr. Of course, they’re not perfect, no freelancing platform is. However, I have to credit them with what they’ve done for me. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have realised that freelancing is a viable career. I wrote this blog post a while ago if you’d like further information about the platform: https://sarahjuleswriting.com/2021/12/08/freelancing-on-fiverr/. It can take some time to establish yourself on a platform like this, but in my experience, it is well worth doing.
Alternatively, you can find clients through social media. This is still something I’m getting to grips with and learning about because I don’t have a background in marketing or social media, so take this with a pinch of salt. Places like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/sarahjuleswriting) and Instagram (@sarahjuleswriting) have been really useful for me, as well as Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/sarahjuleswriting). They can help you get your services out there and show people what you are capable of.
What is the best part of your job?
This is another question I loved. There are so many awesome parts to my job that I don’t really know where to start. I love that I get to work anywhere, on a schedule that suits me, but that’s freelancing based, not specific to Sarah Jules Writing Services. So, the very best part of my job, is hearing clients’ stories. I have the best clients ever (not that I’m biased). I’m very lucky that I am now able to call some of them my friends too. The stories that clients come to me with never cease to amaze me. I feel privileged that my job is to help them get their stories out into the world. I hear so many stories and meet so many people that I wouldn’t have otherwise met, and that is the best part of my job.
What is the worst part of your job?
This one was difficult. Not because there aren’t any negatives to my job. In fact, there are quite a few, but the positives certainly outweigh the negatives. Honestly, I think, perhaps, the worst part is that my job is somewhat unsafe. As a freelancer, I’m not guaranteed a pay-cheque every month. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. I don’t get the benefits of sick pay or anything like that. I have been lucky so far in that I haven’t had many dry periods of work. There are months when I seem super busy, and other months that are more chill, but the worst bit of my job is definitely the uncertainty of experiencing periods of time without work. I know it will happen at some point, and I’m planning accordingly. It’s just one of those things about being self-employed.
Do you listen to music or podcasts when you’re working? If so, what?
Another fantastic question! Despite loving podcasts, especially true crime ones (shout out Last Podcast on the Left), I can’t actually listen to them when I work because they’re too distracting. Instead, I listen to music. I love anything rock, punk or country. Spotify is always on in our house and it’s usually: Pop Punk/ Punk Rock, Hot Country, or some kind of coffee house playlist.
I had a couple of other questions that I wanted to answer that didn’t quite fit into the other categories above.
If you could only read one genre of book forever, what would you choose?
This question! I thought about this a lot, and settled on fantasy fiction. I think this may be cheating, but hear me out. It covers a lot of other genres in there too… romance, action, thriller, horror. That’s something I love about fantasy books, they’re so diverse and include a whole range of niches, you can likely find something for everyone.
How is your book going?
There’s a long answer and a short answer to that. The truth is that I’ve been so busy over the last few weeks that I’ve barely had time to get stuck into it. I’m currently on my last read-through/edit before I send it to some friends/family for their take on it. I’m hoping for it to be ready to either self-publish or to submit to publishers by the summer. Watch this space!
Thank you for taking the time to read my little self-indulgent blog post. If you have any other questions or would simply like to chat, please do reach out. I appreciate all of your help and support, reading my blog and sharing my business with your friends. It really does make all the difference.
As always, wishing you love and books that make your heart skip a beat,
Making the decision to hire a ghostwriter is a tricky one for a lot of people. There are many misconceptions about ghostwriting that can truly sway you away from hiring a person that could make a huge difference for you. Whether you’re an author or business person (or both!) taking the first step to reach out and find a ghostwriter can be difficult. If you’re not entirely certain, reach out to a few ghostwriters and explore the concept of ghostwriting further. You should never feel under any pressure to go ahead with the process if you don’t think it’s the right fit for you.
The short answer is ‘yes’, for most people.
In order to keep this blog post short and sweet, let me give you my top five reasons for hiring a ghostwriter.
1.Ghostwriters ensure that your content looks and sounds professional. They keep everything on message, on-brand, and of high quality. Typos and grammar errors look unprofessional, rightly or wrongly, and hiring a ghostwriter takes away that element of worry. You don’t need to be an amazing writer, you have other skills and knowledge under your belt, so why not leave the writing to a professional (and somebody who loves to do it).
2. Ghostwriters save you time. At the end of the day, you have something else you need to be doing. Your skills are better focused elsewhere, so outsourcing the writing side of your business (whether authoring books or blog posts) can be a massive help. Not only will a ghostwriter save you time by writing the content, but they should also edit it for you too, ready to be published.
3. Ghostwriters can help you stop procrastinating. Perhaps you want to write more content for your website, or a memoir, or even an epic fantasy fiction book, and you just never seem to have the time to get around to it, a ghostwriter removes the procrastination element from the equation. You can provide all of the information and it’s the ghostwriter’s job to get it written for you. Easy peasy.
4. A ghostwriter can tailor the process to you, acting more like a mentor or writing coach. Perhaps you need help with a few chapters, or fleshing out your ideas, a ghostwriter can pick up from where you’ve left off and turn your work into something spectacular. Essentially, a ghostwriter is your best-friend when it comes to developing ideas you already have, and ultimately getting your work of art finalized and ready for the world.
5. SEO and brand awareness are two things ghostwriters of blog posts are known for. In order to drive traffic to your site and have customers engage with your content, SEO is something that needs to be considered. Hiring a ghostwriter can remove a lot of the guess work, keep your content on brand, and bring in prospective clients.
Overall, it’s entirely down to you.
There are many benefits to hiring a ghostwriter, as you can see. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my bias towards ghostwriting (being a ghostwriter). I understand that there are some ethical considerations to take into account and that people often feel like ghostwriting is ‘cheating’, but in my experience, that is not the case. Ghostwriting is a collaboration in which I help you to achieve your goals for written content. Some people just aren’t naturally gifted at writing, and that’s totally okay, they’re likely super gifted at other things. I don’t see why we should miss out on people’s ideas and dreams just because they’re not amazing at putting their thoughts down on paper. Check out my blog post on the ethics of ghostwriting if you’d like to know more… https://sarahjuleswriting.com/2020/09/16/the-ethics-of-ghostwriting/
If you have any questions about ghostwriting, please do reach out. I’m always happy to answer questions about ghostwriting. Also, if you’d like to explore the idea of hiring a ghostwriter further, get in touch and I can talk you through the process.
As always, wishing you love and books that make your heart skip a beat,
Let me tell you, finding the motivation to revisit my novel and add in new scenes is tough. I know my book needs it, and I want it to be the absolute best it can be, but the whole process is so bleurgh (that’s the best word to describe it). Anyway, it’s my day off today and I decided to get my arse in gear. At first, I procrastinated by cleaning the whole house, and then I sat down and got to writing.
My story is told in two different time periods by two characters.
I decided the best approach would be to separate each character’s story into different documents. That should allow me to focus on making changes to one story at a time, and really get back into it. This approach has certainly worked, so far, and it has been far easier to see the story and character progression this way. I’m making the changes in a different colour so that I can go back and proofread these sections separately, saving a little time.
As I’m fleshing out the story, I can see it all coming together.
It’s exciting to see how connections are made between one storyline and another. I’m finding little plot loops here and there that I think bring everything together nicely. It’s difficult to be objective about your own work, and so I’m trying to be as systematic with the changes as I possibly can. This has never been an issue when ghostwriting because I’m able to separate myself from the project.
I’m going to spend a little time each day working through the document and adding scenes.
This is my plan from now on. No exceptions. An hour each day, hopefully. It will all add up. And then it will be back to my long-suffering beta readers to see if they approve of the changes.
There’s still a long way to go, but we’re getting there.