Friday, October 30, 2015

Frankfurt Book Fair 2015: a view from the inside

RNA members followed news avidly as it arrive online from the recent Frankfurt Book Fair. 
Jan Ellis attended the event and has come along today to report on this important event in the publishing world.

Publishers and booksellers have been flocking to Frankfurt to sell their wares since the middle of the 15th century when Johannes Gutenberg developed moveable type and created the publishing industry.

Nowadays, about 7,000 exhibitors gather each year at the Messe where the core business is selling rights rather than actual books. Sometimes what is for sale is just a concept: a company will buy the rights to publish a novel that is not much more than a highly polished synopsis and a twinkle in the agent's eye. Most commonly, though, we meet each other to buy and sell translation rights to books that have already been published somewhere in the world.
Author event

My background is in illustrated books and it is always a thrill to see a title that I have created appear many months later with the text translated into Kazakh or Japanese!

So how does it work? Well, the publishing year is topped and tailed by London Book Fair in April and Frankfurt (FBF) in October: as soon as one event is finished, we begin thinking about the next. Was our stand in the best location? Should we change the display this year? Which of the many ideas we have discussed should we work up into a book dummy?
Penguin Random House had 140 table

Publishers start setting up October meetings in July, aiming to fill as many half-hour slots as possible over the fair. (My record was 58!) At the end of each day, there are drinks parties and dinners to attend, and this is where the best plans are concocted and deals done.

It is impossible to convey the vastness of FBF to anyone who hasn't been there, but the numbers provide a clue: there were 25,000 attendees at London Book Fair in 2015, but over 280,000 visitors to Frankfurt. Whereas the UK event is held in one place, the German show fills several massive halls.
Comic-book characters

Another huge difference is that members of the public are allowed into the German event and every year we marvel at the number of children and young people who visit. Most eye-catching of all are the fans of manga and anime who come along dressed as their favourite comic-book characters. At the weekend it is impossible to walk through the German hall, so dense are the crowds there.

Should you come if you are an author? Yes, if you want to experience the phenomenon of over a quarter of a million book lovers in the same place at almost the same time, and to visit what is a beautiful and ever-changing city. No if you expect to meet a publisher or introduce yourself to an agent because everyone is busy with meetings.  London is a
Hall 4
much better place for that, but do try to make appointments first.

It is a mad, exhausting week and we often sit around at the end of it wondering whether it was worth the time and the huge expense, but it is those late-night conversations and Sunday morning encounters with teenagers dressed as aliens or wolves that makes it all worthwhile.

Hall 3
Sunday in the German hall

Jan Ellis (right) with her German
publisher, Kathinka Nohl of
Endeavour Press, Germany
Jan Ellis began writing fiction in 2013 and has had three books published by Endeavour Press. As her non-fiction self, she has a number of roles including working for part of The Booksellers' Association and selling foreign rights for an independent book packager. You can follow her on Twitter @JanEllis_writer, on Facebook and at

Thank you for this fascinating insight into FBF 2015, Jan.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Liz Harris: RNA Library Liaison

Its great to catch up with Liz Harris and chat about her roll as the RNA’s Library Liaison.

Many thanks for inviting me on the RNA blog today to talk about the post of library liaison, Elaine. I have always loved losing myself in a library so it’s not surprising that I jumped at the chance of being the RNA Libraries’ Liaison when offered the post in June of this year.

From a very early age, full of enthusiasm, but absolutely no know-how, I offered my help every Saturday morning to the librarians in the Finchley Road Central Library. The long-suffering staff used to set the little me in front of the fiction shelves at A and leave me to straighten them up to Z.

Years later, I worked in the Central Camden Library, Swiss Cottage, during my university holidays. Best of all was to work on a Saturday morning until it closed at 1pm, and then start again at 9.30am on the Monday when the library re-opened. It meant that we could read a reserved book over the weekend. We probably shouldn’t have done – but it happened.

Equally good was to work in the Reference Section first thing on a Monday morning. It was before the days of computers, and the crossword enthusiasts would flood in as soon as the doors opened, brows furrowed, a folded Sunday paper under their arm, seeking help from the Reference staff. This gave birth to my lifelong love of cryptic crosswords.

These days, I still enjoy going to the library. I live in a small town in Oxfordshire where there are only 2700 inhabitants, but we have a library. The library’s now run by a scaled-down number of paid staff and by enthusiastic volunteers, but it’s as warm and welcoming as ever. As Erasmus said, ’Your library is your paradise.’ I consider myself very lucky to live so close to such a paradise.

What does the role entail, I hear you ask.

Before June, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you, but now I can answer it.

There are two parts to the job:

1)  Every three months, I write a newsletter for the libraries and send it to our library contacts across the country, along with a list of the new releases by RNA members during the previous three months. 

2)  To keep a list of authors throughout the UK who are willing to talk at events organised by libraries. Going into a library to talk to the readers in that area, or to work with them, can be the start of a great relationship between the library and the author, which would be to the benefit of both.

Well, I think that’s it! Again, thank you for inviting me to join you today, Elaine; I’ve enjoyed doing so.

Liz Harris

twitter: @lizharrisauthor
Facebook: Liz Harris

Thank you for the great job you are doing, Liz!

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Focus on Chapters: with Chapter Liaison, Jean Fullerton

Today we welcome RNA Chapter Liaison, Jean Fullerton to the blog.

Welcome, Jean. There has been much discussion recently on the RNA Facebook page about setting up chapters in areas where members are thinly spread and don’t have access to a group locally. Can you give any advice to people who live, for example, in the far west or east, north of south of Scotland, or in Cornwall?

The main problem people have in setting up new chapters is that of transport. Sadly there aren’t enough members in each and every town so unfortunately people have to travel. I don’t have a simple answer to this but one way might be to change the venue for each meeting as the Border Reivers do, or to plan your meeting to account for winter weather like the Marcher Chapter do. My best advice is to engage at some level with your local group. Many chapters like Leicester’s Beaumont Belles have Yahoo loops and Facebook pages, so link in with those and if possible go to a Christmas or special event. If there is really no other way you could start your own chapter with just two or three of you.

For the rest, I am aware that you have visited several chapters. Presumably each has its own ‘personality’. Have you ever found anything that really surprised you?
Jean on a visit to the
Beaumont Bells
I have visited all the chapters at least once, except for the Yorkshire Terriers when the train was cancelled at the last minute, and I’m in the process of starting my tour again. Natalie, each chapter has its own personality, but one thing all the chapters have in common is their warm welcome. The thing that most surprised me as I travel round the chapters is the number of long-standing RNA members who I’ve never met at Conference, a party or an award event. This has reinforced my believe that the chapters play a crucial role in supporting members who, for whatever reason, cannot get to the London based events.

For the past two years the RNA has very generously given groups a donation to ‘put on’ something special. If chapters are not sure what form this should take, do you have any suggestions? What have you seen so far?

The chapters have been very creative with the Committee’s generous donation but for the most part the event has taken the form of a craft or mini-industry day with speakers. Last year the London and SE Chapter put on a workshop day and I was able to twist the arm of my agent, Laura Longrigg, and my editor from Orion to take part. It can be something like a write-in, which the Yorkshire Terriers organised. We’re not prescriptive but it is designed to provide funds for an internal writing related event rather than external promotion.

I know from my own experience at the London & SE Chapter that the support and advice given and received within this sub-section of the RNA is invaluable and can be instrumental in moving forward a writer’s career. What have you found?

Absolutely the same, Natalie. I’ve said it before but it’s true. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the RNA, the NWS and the London & SE Chapter. It’s because I’ve been and still am so supported by the organisation as a whole and the London & SE Chapter in particular that I’ve taken on the role of chapter liaison. My vision for the future of the chapters would be for them to have a greater voice and to see more regional events taking place like the recent and very successful York Tea.

Thank you for joining us today, Jean. I’m sure many of our members will be inspired and, for those of you reading this who don’t belong to or have access to a chapter, start one. Even with only one or two members you’ll be surprised where it will lead you.

Would you like to join an RNA Chapter? A complete list along with Jean's contact details can be found inside Romance Matters.

If you would like your Chapter to be featured here please contact Natalie on

The RNA blog is brought to you by

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sue Fortin: Writing Retreat Alternatives

We are thrilled to welcome Sue to the blog today. Both of us love attending writing retreats and enjoy one day retreats as well as our weeks away to the Kent coast with fellow writers, where we drink wine, write and drink wine…  

Over to you, Sue.

Many a time I’ve clicked the ‘like’ button on someone’s Facebook status which says something along the lines of ‘Off to Devon for a writing retreat.’ or ‘Just back from a great writing retreat weekend.’ or ‘Can’t wait to meet up with the lovely [insert author’s name] for a writing retreat’. You may have
detected the common theme here of a writing retreat. Yes, I’d love to go on one and have wished it were me making those sort of status updates. Alas, family commitments, time and money all thoughtfully merging together to make it possible, is a rarity, if not an impossibility, for me.
However, it got me thinking of some possible alternatives to try instead.

Micro Retreat
Change in writing space – sometimes when I’m under a deadline or a bit distracted or have a specific goal for the day, I move from my desk and take my laptop to the dining table. It’s a very small difference in physical space but it can make a lot of difference in head space. It’s surprising how this small change can have a big impact.

Mini Retreat
Phone a friend, a relative, a neighbour – see if you can commandeer their spare room/table/study/office for a couple of hours or, better still, a whole day. When I visit my mum, I like to sit up in her spare bedroom which she has set up as an office. Like the Micro Retreat, it’s the change in space that helps. I can be away from distractions there, I don’t have to answer the house phone, the door or even have any housework calling me.

Day Retreat
Get together with some local writers and hire a village hall for the day. You could all bring a picnic lunch or something towards a group picnic, then allocate a table each and spend as much or as little of your day writing. Break it up nicely with said picnic. Set a word count or some sort of goal and then, at the end of the day or session, compare notes on how well you did.

Friends Retreat
Hire a cottage for the weekend with some friends. At off-peak times of the year, you can get accommodation at very reasonable rates. You could even just hire a mobile home or a lodge at a holiday park for a long weekend. You can set your own pace and goals between you. Or if you want to save some costs, maybe one of the group can put everyone up for a couple of nights. Everyone can chip in with food and drink to help keep costs down. In fact, I did this last year with The Romaniacs. We had a mini Sparkle weekend at Debbie Fuller-White’s in Shropshire. It was great fun and we did actually get some writing done. We enjoyed it so much, we’re doing it all again this year.

It’s an ambition of mine to hold a writing retreat over in France, where we have a second home, and it was this notion that inspired me to write my novella The French Retreat.


Sue, we love your ideas and France sounds ideal! Good luck with your book.

The RNA blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Lin Treadgold: Home and Away!

Welcome to Lin Treadgold who has returned to these shores after a long spell living in Holland. Lin tells us how her world has changed since settling back in England.

After travelling around the world, several times, I can honestly say I’ve probably done it all and have the t-shirt to prove it. My life has been a wonderful journey. However, after fourteen years of living in Holland, I couldn’t get my head around not working any more. I owned a successful business, but with time it was a case of ‘have husband – will travel’ and I had to leave it all behind. 

I gave up my instructor training profession in 2001, with the news that Corus Steel was closing its doors in research and my husband had limited choice. However, there was a job waiting within the Dutch company and a higher salary. How could we refuse?

Writing stories has always been second nature. Writing a novel gave me the chance to sit at a computer and relax in my own fictional world; I found it therapeutic and relaxing. I could shut out all the ‘Dutchness’ in my life and have my characters lead the way. 

My first novel, Goodbye Henrietta Street was published in 2013. Despite problems with the publisher, I had much support with my RNA colleagues and was encouraged to write my second book. The Tanglewood Affair has had a couple of rejections but only two? I have to keep trying as I had a wonderful report from Cornerstones. My editor said the opening is vivid and engaging and I have drawn the reader into the setting and characters really well. She said I have created a subtle layer of emotional conflict and a sense of anticipation. She emphasised my ability to describe the imposing scene and loved the way the characters are drawn into the story. So I know a professional editor likes it. I realise, that based on this report, I have to keep going. This is what writing is all about. Unless you are lucky enough to be famous and talented anyway, then it’s an uphill slog and also a good excuse to get out of doing the housework because you have to get a book out on time. I actually love writing. What I like best is the ability to change things around and think about what I write. When I speak I can often say the wrong things in the wrong place, but with writing I get a chance to change all that and not offend anyone.  My third novel is a work in progress based on life in a prisoner of war camp and the girl the solder left behind in Yorkshire.        

In March this year, my first book was republished with Silverwood Books. However, I did find it hard to start promoting my novel. I had lost enthusiasm because of having to edit the book all over again for the umpteenth time, which has paid off with a new cover and helpful publishing staff. I am good at promotion, having owned by own business. The problem came when I found a house in England and we decided to buy it in preparation for my husband’s retirement. I reckon it takes a good six months to put your life back on track after moving countries; book promotion had to go on hold.

Someone asked me about life in Holland. Did I belong to a writer’s group or the library? I lived in a remote part of Holland where English was almost a third language and the second language was German. Joining in with the Dutch society was more difficult that I thought it would be. Although I speak the language now, I have found it very hard-going, as Dutch is not an easy language to the untrained ear. I think I was a very lonely writer in need of British support. If it hadn’t been for Facebook and the RNA parties, I don’t think I would have survived as well as I did. The Dutch people rarely invited me into their homes during my fourteen years of living in Holland. If you live in Amsterdam or Haarlem, it’s more of an expat society, but in the North of Holland, they are farmers and villagers and I had nothing in common and only had writing to keep me sane. I tried opening a new writers group, but we only had two people who were Dutch and lost interest.  The English Book shop is in Amsterdam and I did manage a book signing there, but it was almost a two hour journey to get to my destination and didn’t do anything for my book. Looking back, the only good thing for me was that I had time to sit and write a novel.

In January this year, we came to England in preparation for retirement. We found the most wonderful barn conversion in Devon on the bank of the river Taw. When I saw it, I realised the potential for a writing retreat. It was going to be far too early to buy it, but what if we bought it sooner rather than later? I could prepare for when my husband retires at Christmas. In May this year I moved in and by June all the furniture had arrived and it seems I have been unpacking boxes ever since. I have now had to learn how to be British again; it’s been too long. 

Since my return, life has changed beyond all expectation. I have joined the local community and become an amateur actress with the local drama group, playing the part of Edna in Slim Chance, a comedy by Peter Gordon. I have received far more phone calls inviting me to events and everyone is so friendly and helpful. I have two venues for book signings. 24 October at Okehampton Library 10-12.30 and on 5 November I am at Bow Garden Centre during the early afternoon.

Devon is a wonderful place and I feel my life has changed. I can’t wait to begin promoting my second novel when I find a publisher and my third book is presently with an agent awaiting perusal. This is all thanks to the RNA and their wonderful networking parties. If I was asked for my advice I would say, if life isn’t working for you – change it!


Thank you, Lin. We hope you enjoy your new life in Devon.

The RNA blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you wish to write for the blog please contact us on