Interviewing my Audiobook Narrator

To celebrate the release of the audiobook version of my debut novel––Full Term, a Young Adult Contemporary––I have the great pleasure of interviewing my narrator, Eleanor Acquah.

I found Eleanor via ACX, Amazon’s service for linking independent authors and audiobook producers. I typed in my preferences (a female English voice who could speak casually and do a couple of accents) and then scrolled, hoping to find someone who had the same background as my main character.

Eleanor immediately jumped out, A. because she had a good audio sample, and B. because she was one of the few black people on the site. My main character, Mya, is half Ghanaian, and as it turned out, Eleanor has Ghanaian heritage too. It was important to me to cast a person of colour in the role, where possible.

Here’s what she had to say about it all:

Can we start with you telling us a little about yourself?

I live in South London. I am a family support worker and have been working in this field for 18 years. I love spicy food and shopping!

What made you decide to narrate audiobooks and how did you get started?

From a young age, I was always doing impressions of the people around me; at the age of seven whilst watching TV, I had a lightbulb moment and wanted to be a voice-over when I was older. I have always had an interest in TV production and I actually wanted to be a camerawoman but choose the career path of helping people as it appealed to me. The voice-over was always in the back of my mind so decided to do it on the side for experience and to earn extra money. My first gig was doing jingles for a Christian radio show Omniscient Radio. When I got the message from Ellie about Full Term, I was in shock as most of my experience was from radio and projects for young people and animation. I had auditioned for audiobooks six years ago without success; thankfully my profile was still active!

So, Full Term is your first full audiobook. How do you feel it went? What did you learn? Anything you would do differently?

I feel it went okay, I was just so happy my audition went well, I just wanted to read! I learnt that producing an audiobook is not just about reading; it’s about trying to get the right pace and essence of the characters; the editing is a long process as you have to take out the breaths, listen to the playback whilst listening and reading along to ensure all of the words are said. If I had to do it again, I would ensure that the requirements to record are set prior to recording! And extra padding in my recording corner in my bedroom as the neighbours upstairs can be noisy.

Was there anything about the story that drew you in?

What drew me into the story was Mya could of had the baby at school considering she didn’t tell anyone about it. As I support children, young people and stories like this are very familiar to me. I actually have a young mum on my caseload who is in a mother and baby unit.

Do you have a favourite character?

Mya. I love her inner thoughts and her determination and she wants the best for Emma.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I am keen to find out what happens in the second instalment!

Thank you so much to Eleanor for answering my questions, and of course recording the book in the first place! If you would like to buy a copy, it’s available on Amazon, Audible, and via the Apple Store.

Launch Week Happenings

At the time of writing, it’s less than twenty-four hours until my debut novel, Full Term, is finally, officially out.

You can read the first chapter for free over on Jo Zebedee’s blog today, tomorrow (Tuesday 30th) Kelly Creighton is sharing a Q&A I’ve done over on her blog, and on Wednesday my good friend Vee will be posting a review of Full Term on her book blog.

But that’s not all!

Also tomorrow, I’m having a mini party over on Zoom just for friends and family (which will probably be shared to YouTube, after the fact), there’s going to be a giveaway on my Twitter (UK only), and between 8 and 9pm (BST) I’ll be answering questions for this week’s #UKTeenChat.

If you want to pick up a copy of the book, electronic versions are available for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Google Play and more––all linked here.

Paperbacks can be ordered from Waterstones in the UK, Barnes & Noble in the US, and Amazon around the world. Libraries should be able to order the book in for you, on request, and independent bookstores should also have it in their wholesaler catalogues.

There’s also an audiobook currently in production.

Plenty to celebrate, I’d say!

Crowdfunding Stats

If you were ever curious about how the crowdfunding thing works behind the scenes, I’m here to lift back the curtain. Purely because I think transparency is important and the taboo around money needs to die.

So, let’s dive in.

On the surface, the crowdfunding campaign for my novel raised six-hundred-and-twenty (620) pounds. What I actually got in my bank account, after fees, was £535.51.

That’s a lot of fees, you might say to yourself, and I agree. IndieGoGo (my crowdfunding platform of choice) has two different types of campaign. Why I picked them is because they offer an option to get the funds you raise, even if you don’t reach your target. I think that if you picked the more standard method, of only getting funded if you reached your full goal, has a different set of fees. So there’s pluses and minuses to both.

What is the same with both is that the minimum goal amount you can set is 500, whether that is euro, dollars, or pounds––you choose whichever is most relevant for your country.

Charges deducted from my total were a £31 platform fee, a £28.49 payment processing fee (2.9% + £0.30 fee per transaction), and a £25 bank delivery fee, which I believe varies depending what country you’re in.

If I’d had over £1,000 pledged, the site would have also held some of my funds in reserve.

As you can see from the pie chart above, the funds came from four different countries: £280 from the UK, £250 from the US, £50 from New Zealand, and £40 from Canada.

When I set the campaign up, I think the guidance notes said, on average, most people get 30% of their pledges from family and friends, but for the 23 people who backed my campaign, 22 of them were my friends. There’s just one person who’s identity is a mystery to me, though likey I do know them, too, just don’t recognise their username. (The campaign page says I had 24 backers, but one of my friends contributed twice.)

My campaign had 260 total visits, with viewers coming from Facebook primarily, via a direct link in the second instance, and thirdly from Twitter. None of my funds came from people randomly scrolling through IndieGoGo, which I believe is uncommon.

The majority of contributions to my campaign came at the beginning, trailing off towards the end, which I understand is normal. And I think that’s basically all the info. I have to share. I hope it was interesting (I know I love these kinds of breakdowns), but if you have any questions, please let me know.

Thanks again to everyone who helped make my campaign a success.

What Happens Now

I said in my last post that at various points in the journey towards putting my debut novel out in the world, I was faced with variations on the question ‘and then what’ll you do?’

Originally, people were questioning the specifics of my grand plan for submitting the book via traditional means. Then the questioning turned to contingency plans, as the original plan didn’t go to… well, plan. (How many times can I use the word ‘plan’ in one post? Let’s see!)

Well. Plan A was a bust, as was Plan B, BUT Plan C is working.

Just in case you didn’t see the news elsewhere on social media: the crowdfunding campaign for Full Term was a success!

As of right this second, it is 113% funded.

So, you might be wondering, what now?

There is still time left to donate and/or claim perks, so if you had been planning to support the campaign but now thought there was no point, please don’t let the fact that the original target has been reached put you off. That goal was only the minimum amount needed.

As the funding deadline creeps closer (twenty days to go, at the time of writing!), I have been looking into funding to cover the editing costs of books two and three in the series, been finalising the cover design for the trilogy as a whole, designing a couple of other marketing images, and looking into a few legal and admin-y things.

The final edits of book one are starting fairly imminently, and so my main task right now is figuring out who I can get to write me a nice quote for the front.

I’m fully planning to document these behind the scenes things here, for anyone interested, so stay tuned!

On Having Finally Made a Decision

There comes a day when enough is enough.

So many times on this blog I debated the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing. Both generally, and in terms of trying to decide what was right for my own books, in particular.

Having announced last week that I was making a leap and starting a crowdfunding campaign to put my novel in print, I wanted to delve in and explain how I finally made the seemingly impossible choice.

May this year was the most recent time I approached the topic publicly. In my post ‘Thoughts on Legacies in a Time of Lockdown‘ – in which I was discussing how living in scarier times gave me new perspective and had me questioning what to do with my extensive body of work – I said, “I talk about choosing between self-publishing and traditional publishing like it’s a decision, but obviously it’s not as simple as that. If I could just decide to be traditionally published, I would. It is what I prefer, but whether someone else publishes me or not is ultimately out of my hands.”

At that point, I also said I wasn’t ready to self-publish, but was leaning ever closer to the idea of doing so in the “next six months.”

It was following this post that I had an epiphany; a brainwave so simple and straightforward that I felt like a complete idiot for not having it before, instead wasting literal years torturing myself over this decision that, as I’ve said, isn’t really a decision for me to make. Continue reading

Nice Things Agents Have Said to Me

A number of people have read my first, so far unpublished novel (Full Term) at this point. Friends and beta-readers, mostly, but in the process of submitting it various places at various times, some agents have read it too. In the video above is a small selection of their thoughts, from when I pitched Full Term at last year’s SCBWI conference. And below are snippets of feedback I got when submitting traditionally.

All such lovely, wonderful comments that made my heart happy.

You might wonder why, if they liked it so much, I still don’t have an agent, so for context, I will also put in their reason for turning it down, too. As is often the way of things, it’s usually not an actual fault with the book. Marketing reasons. Timing reasons. All things out of my (and their!) control.

I just thought it would be interesting to collect the comments and decisions here, in one place. So have a look – and then read right to the very end, where I have an announcement.

Here’s the very first one I got, containing both praise and reason for rejection succinctly in one sentence:

I really like your writing and found this very engaging, but I’m afraid in the current YA market I’m not confident of being able to place it with a publisher.

Side Note: I thought about putting names beside each of these quotes, but then thought it might be considered bad form. If you’re really interested in who said what, you could turn it into a very difficult guessing game (that I’ll never admit the answers to).

Agent Two:

The writing is pretty good, pretty strong. You’re a good writer but with the YA market not as strong as it was and the amount of competition out there….

Agent Three – a matter of personal preference: (This one read and requested the full manuscript)

I think you have a really gripping premise and setting here, and that you are a very talented writer. Despite this, I am sad to say that I am going to pass on this. I appreciate that Mya’s experience is realistic of a vulnerable young person but it is simply a bit too dark for me.

One agent read my submission and was really positive about it, but told me the subject matter hit too close to home. Which is fair.

Here’s another one: Continue reading

The Numbers Game

I think about submissions a lot. Not just figuring out what I will send where next, but bigger picture stuff like how many submissions is “normal” or “enough.” How many acceptances equals success. Torturous questions like that, that don’t really have a real (i.e. definitive) answer. I adore definitive answers. Objective feedback. Hard and fast rules that tell me when things have worked and when they haven’t. With such a mindset, it’s hard to know why and how I ended up writing for a living – where I’m not sure certainty ever happens – but, you know, such is life.

Further to thinking about submissions a lot, I have this one particular friend (hi, Elizabeth!) I talk about submissions with a lot. She’ll come over for tea and a chat, and that chat will almost always turn to which journals are open, who has a good reputation for replying fast (or at all), and whose guidelines are completely incomprehensible.

Even further to this, it has not been unknown for me to start making notes during these chats or periods of intense thought. I will often look up my submission folder in my email inbox, or pull up one of my many spreadsheets. But in all this, I wondered, has anyone else perhaps looked into the submission process more thoroughly? Has anyone ever sat down and researched the stats behind this seemingly mysterious process of firing your word babies out into the void, hoping one of them will land somewhere and… I’m not honestly sure where I was going with this metaphor, ‘word babies’ is maybe one of the worst phrases I’ve ever written and I apologise, but I’m sure you catch my meaning.

It’s all well and good to torture yourself, wondering if the five submissions you made yesterday were “enough,” or if that one you spent two weeks on a month ago was “worth it.” I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be much more effective to torture yourself by the cruel and unusual means of comparison? Continue reading

Thinking

I’ve been thinking again about my past projects (pictured above), now have a bit of distance from them. They haven’t been out in the world for a while – I unpublished them over a year ago – and, in fact, one of them never even made it out to begin with. I killed my micro-poetry project before it ever really saw the light of day.

But anyway, I’m thinking about it because… because I’m kind of itching to start something new.

And I’m nervous.

I don’t know if anyone has been able to tell, but I’ve been finding it hard to blog, recently. Hard to motivate myself to do it. The words you’re reading now are the first ones I’ve written this month. Maybe I’ve lost momentum. Maybe I’m burned out. Maybe both?

Either way, I think I need a break. Which is funny, actually, because I’m not sure if I know what one looks like. A lot of the time, a break for me just means switching gears to do something else rather than stopping entirely. And it’s kind of the same here. I don’t want to stop entirely so much as I… well. This might sound weird, but I want to draw.

I’m not actually good at drawing, but I want to learn. I want to try.

I actually think I want to try Inktober, and I’m itching to put together a somewhat rough and ready zine from what I create.

…reading back over that last sentence, I am relieved that I still want to create. Maybe it means everything isn’t so bad as it feels right now.

I’m just tired.

I don’t know when I’ll blog again, but words will most certainly return in some way at some point. Maybe it’ll be in a month. Maybe it’ll be a few hours and I’ll then feel silly for having written this. Regardless, I’m gonna doodle in the meantime.

A zine is a fun idea, but I’m playing with it as just that; not committing myself to anything just yet.

I have mixed feelings about putting another thing out into the world, because of the aforementioned past projects. They all took so much time and energy (some more so than others) but, ultimately, I was unsatisfied with them. My standards kept rising and the books kept falling short.

No wonder I’m a little gun-shy.

…I’m not really sure where I’m going with all this. Maybe that’s my point.

I’m just thinking. Musing. Having a little doodle.

I’ll be back.

Thoughts on Legacies in a Time of Lockdown

Content warning for mention/discussion of death. 

This is a post about publishing, about career-making (or breaking) decisions, and about having a life’s work to leave behind you. In the grand scheme of things, it’s perhaps not the most important topic, but I find importance to be a fairly relative thing.

I feel the need to justify talking about publishing decisions at the minute, given the current state of the world, but I’m not sure how logical that is. What I can say is that it matters to me, personally, and I’ve found the current global situation has given me a little perspective.

Previously, I’ve spoken about my thoughts and feelings about mortality, and I’ve written here ad nauseam about publishing and self-publishing and hopes and dreams. Now I find all these topics overlapping in my brain, mixed in with an unhealthy dose of anxiety.

My thoughts about wanting to see myself in print have gone on a journey from wanting to get really far really fast, to finding folly in being ill-prepared, to slowing things right down and waiting for the right time. And I’ve documented pretty much all of those thoughts as they evolved.

Well, now they’ve moved onto this new place where, on the one hand, I still want to be cautious and careful about making the right decisions but, on the other hand, am worried about what happens if I wait too long and I lose all my opportunities through indecision.

I guess what I’m looking for is a middle ground. I haven’t found it quite yet, but am writing this post as a means to help me do just that. Continue reading

What To Do When Offered A Publishing Contract

Some people might rightly assume there are only two things you should do when you finally get that precious publishing deal: sign on the dotted line and open the bubbly.

I understand this impulse, but I have five other steps you should also maybe consider.

  1. Read the fine print
  2. Have the Society of Authors read the fine print. This is a free service they offer to members. Because of their expertise, they will be able to see any potential red flags better than you.
  3. Contact the other places you’ve had your manuscript on submission to let them know about the offer. This is courtesy but, aside from making you a good person, it might also net you a second (or third) offer.
  4. If the contract you have been given is by a publisher directly, ask an agent to come in and broker the deal. Even if you’ve previously submitted to agents with no luck, they will likely reconsider given this new circumstance and can probably get you a better deal.
  5. Consider your options. While you don’t want to leave your interested party waiting indefinitely, lest said offer expire, you do want to to give the people contacted at stages three and four of this process long enough to get back to you. Also consider, in the case where you’re given multiple offers, that the largest cash advance might not be the best deal for you/your book. Ask your publisher/agent what vision they have for marketing it and what level of edits they expect.