Tag Archives: stratford literary festival

Navigating your way to publishing success

Phil: While might be blisteringly succesful with our writing, I banked another £1.56 from sales earlier, we are both still interested in the whole publishing world. With this in mind, I attended a seminar at Stratford Lit Fest last week looking at the continuing changes in the industry. An interesting hour, which provided some welcome pointers.

  • Series sell better than 1 off novels. Readers prefer to invest in something that isn’t a one-off story.
  • Sales don’t really kick in until book 3 or 4. This seems pretty consistent – it worked for Harry Potter after all.
  • Differential pricing works. Price book 1 cheap to get people hooked and then offer the follow-ups at full price
  • Publishers are using e-books as a slush pile and picking up the best-selling ones. Traditional submissions still exist but more and more they are letting sales on-line handle some of the filtering process for them. Why read a thousand poor manuscripts when you can just cherry pick something other people already like and has a proven track record of sales?
  • The biggest trend is authors selling direct to readers. 9 out of 10 members of the Independent Publishers Group are doing this at events.
  • To sell non-fiction, try relevant special interest groups or sports bodies. They may be willing to offer grants to help pay for the work. At the least, they will offer a route to a potential audience.
  • Authors can go to the London Book Fair in April, it’s not trade only any more and there are seminars worth attending.
  • Quality matters. Do not launch without a professional edit. Likewise, get someone who knows the market to design the cover and don’t get upset if they reject your ideas on this.

Of the 40 people in the room, 1 had traditionally published and 2, including. me had self published. Only half the room seemed to be working on a book at the moment which makes me wonder why they had given up a Wednesday evening to find out about publishing.

Anyway, from this, I took that we are doing the right thing. Once Kate vs the Navy launches we are another book towards big sales. The point about the covers was well made too, long-term readers will know that we changed ours at the suggestion of our publisher to something more market-friendly. As a bonus, it’s more bloke friendly too, I’ve been reading something with an overly chick-lit cover recently and couldn’t bring myself to finish it on a train ride…

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Seeing the whites of their eyes


Phil: Regular readers of this blog are probably a bit tired of our rattling on about the Stratford Literary Festival, I promise this will be the last time but I can’t resist telling the story from my point of view as you read Candice’s on Tuesday.

I arrived at the venue far too early, or so I thought. It was a cold and damp day and having perused the second-hand bookshops of Stratford, I decided to wander in to take a photo of the attractions board for the day. We were on it and I wanted a record of the fact in case it never happens again.

Seconds after I walked in however, a lovely steward called Gail asked if I was attending one of the sessions. I explained I was but as the bloke at the front. Suddenly I was hauled off to the green room. I protested that I really ought to wait for Candice but to no avail. There I was trapped in a room with cakes and wine – what could I do?

Anyway, there were official photos to be taken and the man with the camera used me to set up the lighting. That’s what he said anyway, it might just be that the dozens of shots were to find one in which I don’t look too stupid. Suffice to say the Nolan was only in the studio for a couple of minutes when she arrived.

My plan had been that we would run through our cue cards before the show. As it was, we got chatting to people and never quite managed this. Time came and were led down to the Drawing Room where we were to perform. As we settled at the front, I was received to see some people arrive in the audience. OK, not many but at least we didn’t have to scuttle off in ignominy.

Now, I’m used to presenting in front of people, but as was said last time, bigger crowds. When there are 50 people staring at you, it’s not possible to focus on a single person, unless they insist on sitting in the front row eating chocolate cake but that’s another story. With a small audience you can see all the reactions at once.

My plan had been to introduce our talk with a short (1min 32s – I timed it in advance) reading from the book that describes the scene where we were told the place was closing. As I did this, I felt myself warming up and had the terror that I was going bright red.

Eventually we settled down and the second problem appeared. The lack of cue card run through meant that neither of us knew when the other was going to stop. Add to that my ability to waffle for England and I had to keep reminding myself to let Candice get a word in. Fortunately, she is more than capable of interjecting and we quickly bounced between us, bantering like we do.

We’d thought that simply talking about us would be dull but as it turns out, people are interested in people. Our attempts to  stick in some stuff about writing as a team hopefully helped the lady who is struggling to complete a novel. Half an hour isn’t long once you get going though so we had to pack everything in. We wanted people to go away feeling they had value for money even though it was free.

Our small audience really enjoyed themselves and we handed out flyers to everyone – if you are reading this because of one, thanks for coming, you made our day!

Afterwards, it was back to the green room to collect our belongings and a bit more chat then we escaped to the HR Coffee bar, supplier of the excellent cakes for a calming cup of tea.

So, we’ve done it. A proper literary festival. They looked after us the same as any of the stars and for a few minutes we felt like real authors. If we one day make it big, part of this is going to be down to Annie and her team running the show. Oh, and Rupert Barnes who took the superb photos of us both in the green room and putting on a show – in which we actually look like real authors. We’ve got a taste for this, now we want more!

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No, you are NOT wearing a codpiece!

cuecardwritingPhil: The big day is here. I spent yesterday evening sat in a coffee shop writing my cue cards.  We’ve four each, which seems a very small number until you realise that we’ll only have 3 minutes 45 seconds for each. We’re going to have to talk fast…

By now, every surface of Nolan towers will be covered in clothes as decisions are taken on the most suitable outfit for presenting at a literature festival.

In this respect, I have things easy. Men, especially authors, aren’t judged on what they wear.

It being the 400th anniversary of ma homeboy Billy S’s death, I wondered if I should mark the occasion by dressing in full doublet and hose. Checking the fashion press, it seems that “doublets were padded over the belly with bombast in a “pouter pigeon” or “peascod” silhouette” and what with that being my natural shape, it seemed a look ripe for a comeback.

I checked with my fashion advisor and asked where I might purchase the required codpiece, not being familiar with stores stocking high fashion.

An e-mail response told me I am not wearing traditional Shakespeare costume. Something to do with an unpleasent mental picture.

So, it’s back to the wardrobe to see if I can find anything with leather elbow patches.

Of course, if you want to see what we did wear, and more importantly, pick up some suggestions on how writing as a team could help you complete your novel, get yourself down to:

New Voices – Romantic Comedy at the Stratford Artshouse 3pm today!



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Nerves of steel…?

CaptureCandice: So D day is nearly upon us. Phil and I will be hanging out with the Shakespearean lovies on Thursday and doing out bit to talk  about the trials and tribulations of writing a book at Stratford Literary Festival.

To be honest even the thought of it makes me fell slightly sick.

I don’t mind getting up in front of audience to talk.  Over the years I’ve done a lot of drama and presentations and once I get going I’m fine.  But is the build up I hate.  Thursday morning I will be a wreak and am trying to fill it with other things so I don’t think about it all.  By the time 2.55pm comes about I’ll probably be being sick in the loo.

Saturday night I was watching RSLive.  It was a brilliant show celebrating 400 years of the Bard with a raft of stars showing how many ways he has influenced people, from Duke Ellington to Cole Porter.  It was very clever in showing us the breadth of Shakespeare’s catalogue and its not all the boring text that you had to study at school.

However, the show went on for a few hours and as the actors came on to do their bit one of the things I thought of was, ‘they must get nervous waiting in the wings’. Lets face it, does Dame Judi Dench still get stage fright?

But I have learnt over time that sometimes adrenaline does you good.  I have literally been throwing up back stage before going on to do a play, and then once I am on stage I can remember every line because I need the adrenaline to help me.

Luckily, Thursday is more off the cuff but we have our cue cards ready and have planned a talk that we hope people will find interesting.  Roll on 3.30pm and I can relax with a cuppa.

And  if you are coming don’t hesitate to come and talk to us after, when I’ll  be feeling much more chipper!

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Partners… in name only!

startlitfestCandice: I’ve just come back from a weekend away and was surprised to see a text from Phil yesterday while doing the big car unpack with my little assistant.

Apparently, Phil and I are married.  Though I am not sure my husband is aware of this….

A few weeks ago we had the luck of being signed up to talk at Stratford upon Avon Literary Festival in April.  Yes, we are famous… well actually we were just cheeky and asked.

However, the person who has written our bio has assumed that we are a ‘husband and wife writing partnership’.  Um… not sure about that one.  This is not the first time this has happened, as Adele Parks made the same assumption when we met her at the Lit Festival last year. I suppose; we hang out together, have written a book, blog and do other things together so they have put two and two together and made five!

So, just to set the record straight.  I am married but not to Phil, and have a lovely two year old that is also not Phil’s! Phil, I assume, is married to his work…

However, we are great buddies who enjoy bouncing ideas off each other. And we look forward to talking to everyone at the Lit Fest about our writing partnership. (Tickets available now)

Does this make me a bigamist?

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The importance of research

Candice: Last week Phil and I went to an event as part of Stratford Literary Festival.  Billed as ‘Adele Parks and Jill Dawson – researching for fiction’ we thought it would be worth attending for two reasons: one I’d read some books by Adele so was curious to see what she was like, and second we’d just had a long conversation about whether we needed to get something factually right for the book, so I thought it would be good to see what they said.

I was the last one in as had had to get there by train and it was running 15 minutes late.  So I snuck in the door, sat down, and off they went.  If I’d been a minute or so later I could have been replacing Adele and been ushered into the front !

Settling in to listen we had an introduction to the two authors, one a regular historical writer and the other usually a writer of romantic fiction who had decided to explore something else.

Both ladies had similar but also different approaches.  Jill was more of a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ writer, she planned some of her work but admitted that she didn’t really know how the end would work so just let the writing flow.  Adele was more of a ‘post it note on the wall’ kind of girl, working out her year so she’d finish the book in time to go on the family holiday.  This has obviously worked as she’d turned out 15 books in as many years.

Both admitted to researching as they went, writing some and then going off to find out something they didn’t know.  This might also mean trips to the places they are actually describing, though in Jill’s case it seemed the place and historical story she based her book on often came first, and this is what drove her writing.

It became very clear, particularly in Adele’s case, that she had become extremely engrossed in her subject.  As a first time writer of a fictional book based on fact she’d wanted to get the true story across of the ‘spare brides’, those left behind after the first world war.  She’d delved into the detail so much that she now had a house full of posters and knick knacks from that era.

Some of the best points from the interesting hours talk were:

  • Your readers need to stay in the moment.  Detailed research is good but only if we, as a present day reader, understand it.  ie don’t use a term that means nothing today
  • Also, they need to be unaware that you have researched, the story feels natural to them
  • You need to know when too much research is a step too far.  It might be nice to include that point, but only if it adds to the story.
  • And finally, it doesn’t have to be true as long as you, the reader, believes.  Going back to Phil’s last post about action books, they are terrible for this, putting someone in a situation where they would die but miraculously the come out unscathed.

I’m still unsure about this last one, but then I am a terror for picking flies in story lines or looking for mistakes in films so perhaps I am the extreme.  I just want to make sure with this book, as we are talking about things I know nothing about, that the reader doesn’t get put off by us getting our naval terms wrong.

Anyway, I got a lovely signed book at the end and had a brief chat with Adele who also seemed lovely!

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Stratford Literary Festival: Discover New Writers

Festival CakePhil: Stratford Literary Festival is upon us again and looking through the guide, we spotted a few sessions that appealed to the Nolanparker team.

First up was a solo trip to a “Discover New Writers” event for me. Unaccountably, Candice wasn’t able to skive off work on a Wednesday afternoon. This seemed unfair, so I helpfully texted her a picture of the really excellent tea and large slice of delicious cake I enjoyed while waiting for it to start. I’m sure she enjoyed that as much as I did.

The new writers to be discovered were:

Paula Coston – Her book “On the far side” must have required one of the most difficult elevator pitches ever. It revolves around an Englishwoman seeking out a Sinhala boy in Sri Lanka who she sponsors in lieu of having had children herself. There are many themes running through the book with the civil war and it’s settlement being juxtapositioned with the main characters feelings on childlessness.

If I’m honest, I got a bit lost myself with the description but when Paula read from the text, I could see how it would be interesting to watch things develop, the story is partly told in a series of letters between the child and sponsor with the youngster unable to understand how a woman could reach her mid thirties unmarried and unable to understand the importance of cricket.

Charlie Garratt – “A Shadowed Livery” takes a double suicide and murder from Limerick and transplanted it to a little north of where I live in Warwickshire. Set in the last days before the Second World War, it has become a detective novel taking place in a world of political extremism and anti-Semitism.

Rob Sinclair – Strictly speaking, Rob only just squeaked in to this event as his second novel “Rise of the Enemy” was being launched the next day. For those who wanted to be ahead of the game, he’d brought some copies in for sale as well as his debut “Dance with the enemy”. Unlike the others, Rob isn’t (as far as we know) writing from experience as a secret agent or taking inspiration from real events. Instead, he was inspired by dissatisfaction with existing thrillers.

I was keen to talk to Rob as he has self-published his books and learned a lot about the process. We want to pick his brains especially on the publicity front and I’m pleased to say he’s agreed to take part in an interview on this blog in the future so we can all share the experience.

One shock was that he knocks out the first draught of a novel in 2 months – and works part-time as a forensic accountant. Something tells me we need to pull our fingers out!

Paula and Charlie enjoyed a much more traditional route to being published. Paula’s background in publishing was both a help and hindrance in that she endlessly edited the text before sending it off. Both enjoyed quite a bit of support from their publishers, something we are told has vanished in a puff of accountancy but it seems not.

Our small audience enjoyed themselves and the half hour planned session lasted over an hour with plenty of questions afterwards too and (hopefully) some books sold. It was good for the Festival to put this on for free too – how many people will be pleased they were able to make it when some or all of these authors are as big as Brown, Rowling or Archer in the future?

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The Next Chapter in writing

CakesandTicketCandice: Phil and attended another Stratford Literary Festival event tonight ( I wasn’t on holiday this time) titled – The Book: The Next Chapter.

Obviously we’ve been to a few of these how to get published events over the years, so I said to Phil let’s try something different.  They did also say it included tea and cake which was a bonus.

The event was chaired by Tim Davies from History Press, who we’ve seen before at Lit Festival events.  He was accompanied by Sam Jordison, Journalist and author, and Charlie Warburton from a digital marketing agency with a publishing bent (though he looked like he’d be just as comfortable on the rugby field).  The premise: where are books going now.

Tim opened with a discussion of an article from this weeks Bookseller magazine about the death of the paperback. They discussed about how discounting was affecting the market, how Amazon and their Kindle was having its own impact and that it was a hard world to be a writer or publisher in if you wanted to make money.

Then we got to the nitty gritty of the famous ‘how to get published’ question.  It all came down to things Phil and I have heard before, that its 50% the book and 50% what you have done to promote it and you; be that social media, blogs or even being able to put yourself in front of a camera and talk turkey. Yeah, yeah we know this – we just need to get signed or self published and get a product out there.

However, the more interesting part of the discussion was about using independent publishers.  Now this lot are all going to biased as it’s their bread and butter (Sam is a publisher as well) but they all said ‘independent is best’.  And they backed this up.  Big publishers need to make big bucks to cover their overheads.  People are reluctant to pay for anything this days, Tim and Charlie used the example of apps which are much better received when they are free.  The same goes for books, people struggle to part with a quid to buy a new book.  So bigger entities need the JK Rowlings of the world to shore them up.  And if you fail you get unceremoniously kicked out.  However, a smaller publisher can nurture you, give you time to develop and be happy with a 1000 sales from book number one.

Now. we’ve said before we would love to live off the proceeds of our writing but realistically that’s not going to happen.  In our world its all about being published and appreciated.  So this idea works for us. We are already in talks with a small self publishing company, I think its time to give them a good push and get this ball rolling.

One thing I will add, as an aside, Phil and I dropped the age demographic by at least 20 years.  So when Charlie started talking about html 5, only Phil understood him!


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One for the road?

Candice: This time of year I always like to give a plug for Stratford literary festival organised by a very nice lady called Annie. (Who is actually a published author – jealous me ?)

I have been involved in the festival for two years now, this year through organising sponsorship of one of the talks and a poll.

The poll is all about what book you would take on a journey. It’s a bit like desert island discs but you can only have one book in your case. Now with this I’m in a quandary, as I can’t think of just one book.

A lot people have a book that they go back to time and time again. I’m not a re-reader. Once the book is read I move on to the next and don’t pick it up again. I’m the same with films mainly, I own about four DVDs. It’s funny because I’m not with music, I love going back to music from 10, 20 years ago.

So, I’ve been looking at my bookcase to see which books I’ve actually kept to identify which one I would choose. But then I have another issue, the books I like are all part of a series. So, can I say ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ trilogy, or ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ trilogy? With the ‘Hitchhikers’ it’s actually five books so that’s a real cheek! But they are all real short books so you’d need all five if it’s a long journey.

I think I’m going to give it a try as I think they are great books and deserve some recognition.

Why don’t you vote?

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An unashamed plug for Stratford Literary Festival.

 Candice: Last year Phil and I went to the Stratford Literary Festival and enjoyed a talk from three recently published authors.  I work in Stratford upon avon so was pleased to see that my work has decided to get involved in this year’s festival. Why, because it means I might be able to blag some free tickets!  Seriously, its nice to be involved in something local and give them some support, the same reason I do my best to attend shows or plays that friends of mine are in as if we didnt all experiment in these things the world would be a boring place.

Anyway, work is sponsoring at talk by, and I quote, ‘Python, adventurer, travel writer and all round national treasure, Michael Palin‘.

COOL!  I love the Palin.  Even though he is old enough to be my Dad he has a certain something that isn’t exactly sexy but just makes you love him a little bit.  Girls, you understand.  Even more confusing that one should feel like this as he is often seen dressed as a woman or making a tit out of himself trying to dance like the locals.

Anyway, Michael is not the only one appearing at this month-long event, there are lots of other writers of all styles and other events all about things writing.  Phil and I will be doing our best to pop along to a few events and get some more insight into the hallowed world of writing and publishing.

As part of my conversations with our writing buddy Daisy Waugh I’ve mentioned the festival so I’m hoping she might be able to get involved.  If that’s the case we might get to meet her (not stalk her, promise) which would be extra cool.

If you want more information have a look at their site. http://www.stratfordliteraryfestival.co.uk/

Go one, branch out and give it a try.


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