Good morning to you all and a happy Thursday, she says, crossing her fingers that it is Thursday. We’re almost at the weekend again and we’re now on the home stretch with the A to Z Challenge. Today’s letter is the letter N, and N stands for:
When I first began writing, I dabbled with the idea of using a pseudonym, as the thought of putting my work out for public scrutiny under my real name filled me with horror. A new name, it seemed to me, would be the perfect shield – something to hide behind. In the end, I didn’t change my name, for reasons that are totally impractical and highly emotional. But that’s me in a nutshell. You can read about why I stuck with my own name here.
I know many authors who use pseudonyms for various reasons. One believes that her own name “dates” her, as it’s of a particular era. She wanted a name that didn’t mark her out as a product of the decade in which she was born. Another chose a different name because she didn’t want her non-writing professional life to be affected by her writing world. She has a very serious sort of job that doesn’t blend well with the books she writes, so a name change enables her to keep her two lives separate.
Whether you write under your own name or not has to be your decision. It’s also worth noting that some authors have more than one pseudonym. Some have several! I have no idea how they manage to keep track of who they are on any given day, but they manage it somehow. A change of name is definitely worth considering if you plan to write in more than one genre. For instance, I write feel-good romantic comedies and uplifting women’s fiction. If I started writing dark horror or chilling crime stories, my readers would be a bit surprised and would probably lose their trust in me. As things stand, when they pick up a Sharon Booth novel, they more-or-less know what type of book they’re getting, so if I was going to change track I’d definitely use another name.
I did briefly consider using a pseudonym for the Witches of Castle Clair novels. Some of my readers admitted to feeling nervous about reading a book that featured witches. The reason I didn’t was because, on reflection, I decided that the series was similar enough to my other books not to warrant a name change. My heroines may have magical powers, but the stories are more about family, and romance, and the ups and downs of modern-day life in a Yorkshire town. They’re full of humour and kindness, and have happy, feel-good endings. Messages from readers have confirmed that they agree with me. Thank goodness!
Other names you need to consider, of course, are character names. If my characters are secondary, or I don’t need any particularly meaningful names, I tend to Google lists of baby names from the year they were born for inspiration. When I was writing my Witches series, though, I investigated popular names of the seventeenth century for the sisters’ ancestors. Wow, there were some corkers there! I am quite particular about names for my main characters, and even my place names, and go to quite extraordinary lengths to find some of them. I recently wrote a post about naming characters for the lovely Samantha Henthorn’s blog. You can find that here.
I mentioned yesterday about mailing lists. Well, one of the purposes for collecting email addresses is to send out newsletters to your subscribers. I resisted newsletters for ages because I honestly couldn’t see what I would have to say to anyone that could possibly interest them (ironic, since you’re reading this on my blog!) and thought it would just be another time suck, where I sat scratching my head and wondering what on earth to write.
It turns out I really enjoy having my newsletter. I enjoy writing it and collecting images to go with it, designing it, buying little presents for giveaways, and I especially love when readers reply to my emails! That’s brilliant, even if I do have to bribe them to speak to me! 🙂 I’m trying to build up a relationship with my readers, so it’s important to me that they talk back. One day I’d love to set up a private readers’ group so they can post their own stuff and start conversations with me. That’s definitely on the cards at some point.
It’s actually not that difficult to set up a newsletter. I use Mailerlite and they’re brilliant. There’s an easy drag-and-drop system to create the newsletter, and it’s not that hard to figure it out. Once you’ve got a template you’re happy with you can reuse it. Just change the text and images each week. And if you’re sitting there thinking, as I did, that’s all very well, but what do I say to them? Well, try reading this book, which is a really useful guide to preparing newsletters and becoming a Newsletter Ninja!
Novels, Novellas and Novelettes
I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of a novelette until fairly recently, but when I released The Other Side of Christmas last December, someone asked me if it was a novelette. I had to check. It turns out that, no, it isn’t. At just over 23,500 words, it sits comfortably in the range of novella.
Apparently, a novelette is anything under 20,000 words. A novella is 20,000 – 50,000 words. A short novel is 50,000 – 80,000 words. A novel is 80,000 words plus. Oh, and if it’s less than 7,000 words it’s a short story! That’s according to The Writer Magazine anyway, and you can read a post about the subject here.
I never set out to write novellas, but it seems I’ve written quite a few of them. Not only TOSOC, but the first four books in my Bramblewick series would be classed as novellas by that reckoning. To be fair, I intended New Doctor at Chestnut House (and also All Because of Baxter) to be fairly short because I was aiming them at the People’s Friend pocket novel market, but I never thought I’d manage another three novellas on top of those two. That’s because I tend to write “big”. My main novels all come out at over 100,000 words – except for Belle, Book and Christmas Candle which just topped the 80,000 word mark. Being Emerald was huge! It ended up as 177,000 words, which is practically a doorstop.
The beauty of indie publishing is that word counts don’t matter so much. The book is what it is. I know I’d have struggled to get Emerald published traditionally, as it’s just too long, but my view is that the story is as long as it needed to be. I had several characters’ viewpoints in that book, and there was a lot to get through. I wouldn’t have wanted to cut it down to the standard 100,000 words, even if it were possible.
I might even have had difficulty publishing my Bramblewick series if I hadn’t done them myself. At between 45,000 – 50,000 words they may have been classed as too short for some publishers. Then there was the added inconvenience that Summer at the Country Practice finished at over 70,000 words, and Christmas at Cuckoo Nest Cottage at over 80,000 words! I suspect traditional publishers might have wanted a more uniform approach to the series. Like I said, the stories were as long as they needed to be and I have no regrets about them.
The main problem comes with paperbacks. Because of the pricing system, it was cheaper for readers to obtain the Bramblewick series in three volumes of two stories, rather than six separate ones. With The Other Side of Christmas being so short, I withdrew the paperback edition of Baxter’s Christmas Wish and bundled the two stories together to make the Home for Christmas Volume One paperback instead. Better value for readers that way. I try very hard to keep paperback prices as low as I possibly can, which is why my books are slightly larger than standard paperbacks. It’s because the fewer pages in the book the cheaper I can make them. Emerald will be in paperback at some point – hopefully later this year – so if I’d stuck to standard size it would be massive, and ridiculously expensive! As you can see from the photograph above, word count makes a big difference to the appearance of paperbacks. See the difference in sizes? Also note that My Favourite Witch is approximately 100,000 words compared to Belle at just over 80,000. And the final two Bramblewick novels were much longer than the first four, hence the thicker final volume. Eventually, all my books will be that standard height.
The ebook is the ideal format for novellas, novelettes and even short stories. You can publish a “Kindle Single” on KDP, which needs to be between 5,000 and 30,000 words. If you have several short stories you could publish a short story collection. In these times when concentration might be lapsing, short stories and novellas may be exactly what people want to read!
That’s all for today. Enjoy the rest of your day and I’ll see you, same time, same place tomorrow, for the letter O.