John Baird: Your new book is called Tomorrow’s Guardian. Please explain the title?
Richard Denning: The story is about time travel: its opportunities and its dangers. If you could travel in time you might use that ability for self gain. Maybe pop back and steal an original Da Vinci painting, a scroll written by Plato or the sword of Julius Caesar and then come back and sell it. You might decide to change history and mould it to your will. Perhaps you admire Napoleon and decide to warn him not to fight Wellington at Waterloo. Or you could use the ability to protect history from those who would use their talents to change it. In Tomorrow's Guardian there is an organisation whose objective is to do just that- to protect time and make sure it progresses along the path it should do into Tomorrow. The motto of the Hourglass Institute is - more or less - "Tomorrow's Guardians". The book is about a boy who having discovered he has these powers must choose how to use them.
John: Is this book for boys?
Richard: Well I would have said yes, it was a boy's book for 10 to 14 year olds BUT that said I have had several readers who are ladies in their 40s, 50 and 60s! So I guess I am aiming it at the Young Adult market but with the knowledge and hope it will appeal to the wider audience who read that type of book.
John: What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve been given?
Richard: I think the way I will answer this is to talk about some things I did wrong. Firstly I rushed to get some of my books published back in 2009. The initial result was poorly presented books. It is well worth getting the books edited and a nice cover and taking your time. Next I wasted a lot of time on sites where you put up your manuscript and other readers come and comment. Most of the time these sites work on the basis that “if I review your book favourably will you do the same for me”. You can spend hours on these sites hurtling out book reviews hoping that you can get to the top of the lists to get some attention and maybe get a publisher to take notice. You can also waste a lot of money on similar sites that talk about “this is where you can get your work read by readers”. By experience these many websites are full of writers trying to get attention. It is far better to be active on sites where real readers are – Amazon, Good Reads, Shelfari maybe but also to get links to book blogs. Get your readers who have told you they like your work to post reviews on these sites. What you need to do is engage the reader. If you get readers who enjoy the books then the word will spread.
So I think the worse advice I had was to spend many hours on sites which I later learnt were inhabited only by writers and not real readers. That is not to say you won’t learn from writers – of course you can and will. But you need to be making contact with the folk you hope will read your book the priority.
John: And your best advice for new writers?
Richard: This I will split into three: How to write a book, how to get it published and how to promote it.
Firstly, focus on your characters. Characters make books. It is their beliefs, their motivations and their desires that drive the plot. Work out first what the main characters want, what the obstacles to getting it are and what they will do to get it and actually the plot sorts its self out. I would also encourage you to get the book edited. When I first published my books they went down OK but later I learnt that a good edit of the book can move it from a decent story to publishable. For that I firmly believe you need an editor. In my case this has been, these last few months, Jo Field (a NWUK associate member). I strongly encourage other writers to contact her and see about her editing their work. This goes further than just checking typos. A good editor will spot continuity errors; she will tell you when you have someone running down a street who got shot in the foot ten pages back. She will tell you when you need more description here or have a factual error there.
Next: about getting published. I have not (yet) got a publisher. I do have work away with some and I am hopeful I will get one. Getting an agent and a publisher is hard. Most writers will not get one because publishers will only take on a small number of new authors each year. That does not mean you are poor. What I want to say is if you don’t get a publisher that this is not the end. Not these days in particular. Self publishing is really very easy. I went the whole hog and registered with Nielsen as my own publisher, got my own ISBN numbers and via Lightning Source published my books. If you are not very IT savvy you can get companies to do it for you of course. Producing E-books is also very easy (check my blog for some guidelines on that). The hard part is not getting a book printed to sell it is SELLING the book and marketing it.
Marketing your book is where you need to focus a lot of attention. You can't just print the book and expect it to sell. You need to be active out there on forums, on Facebook and Twitter. You need to get reviews and you maybe need to do a Blog Tour like I am doing right now. I am doing a Guest post on Helen Hollick's Muse and Views on 10th February if you care to find out more. There is a lot of material on the web on this subject of course so read about it. Make a plan and put it into practice. Oh and get a good website. I can recommend Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics who not only did my sites (and book covers) but did them at a decent price too.
The publisher site is Mercia Books: http://www.merciabooks.co.uk/