Sunday, 10 July 2011

A Competition from Nicola Morgan

Straight to the point: I bring you a competition. The prize would have been chocolate but somehow I ate it. Instead I have something which will last longer, be more useful, and give you pleasure. And engender no guilt whatsoever.
The prize is a copy of Write to be Published and a gorgeous, sought-after, limited edition, hessian, multi-functional, “Crabbit bag”. Obviously, the book is also gorgeous and sought-after, but it’s not limited edition – I hope – or hessian. As to being multi-functional, well, you could use it as a drinks mat or to fan yourself in a moment of undue excitement, but its true destiny is to help writers write better, understand the weird minds of publishers and agents, and become published. Then stay published. Even if you’re not a writer, you might enjoy the insight it gives into just what makes a publishable book and a publishable writer.
So, how do you enter?
Well, you may know that I am more than occasionally known as the Crabbit Old Bat. (To the left is my appropriately strident avatar on Twitter, where I tweet as @nicolamorgan.) I should explain, because I realise that it is hard to believe in connection with my laidback personality, but “crabbit” is a delicious Scottish word meaning grumpy and tetchy. Google the phrase “Crabbit Old Bat” and you’ll see just how supremely I reign supreme in this field. (*boasts*)
Sometimes it’s cathartic to let one’s grumpiness hang out and have a good old moan. It may not be attractive but then things hanging out rarely are. So, here’s your chance to join me in liberated, unashamed crabbititude.

Tell me: what bugs you in the book world? What really gets your goat and ruffles your tail-feathers? It could be something about being a writer or a reader or a customer in a bookshop or an internet-surfer or a word-lover or anything remotely connected to the world of words and books.
Add your gripe (or gripes – don’t hold back!) to the comments below and I’ll put all comments into a bag and pull out a winner. Apart from spam – now there’s something that bugs me…
Deadline is midday British time on 20th July. I’ll need your email address if you win, so if you don’t want to put it in the comment you’ll need to keep an eye on my blog at Help! I Need a Publisher from July 20th, where I’ll announce the winner and put all the entries for your perusal.
Meanwhile, a very, very happy 3rd birthday to ABBA and my huge thanks to all who work so hard to organise it and the Scattered Authors Society. Being a children’s author is a privilege and a pleasure and one of the things that makes it so is the community of writers and readers all wanting the same thing: great books for young people.
And now, after that happy message, back to being crabbit. Join me!


serendipity_viv said...

I have two things that really bug me lately.

One huge cliffhangers at the end of the book. When so much is left unresolved and you have to wait months to find out what happens next! Grr!

The rise in Claire Bears in books. Ever since Heroes was shown on television with the cheerleader being fondly known as Claire Bear, has caused a huge amount of YA books to include the name too as one of their characters. Enough already!

OK. Finished my whinge.
OK finished my
OK finished my

Elen C said...

Ooh, Vivienne's is a good one.

But, I'd have to say my biggest grip would be pink, glittery covers. I know the words and stories inside are probably wonderful and entertaining. But pink glitter doesn't equal girl. Not for me, anyway.

Unknown said...

People who don't write who constantly ask you about what you're writing... and then, when they don't think you're writing quickly enough, they ask you why you haven't finished yet. Of course, the next bit is the worst bit because, no matter how many times you explain things to them, they never get it. And what's the next bit?

"Why haven't you got it published yet? It doesn't take that long to write a book. I have plenty of ideas that you can use. Just get an agent. It's not that hard. I would have finished it by now. Just send it to a publisher."

After this you try to explain about the publishing industry - that it's not that easy to 'just get an agent' or 'send it to a publisher'. You tell them that you have enough ideas and you don't need any more because you already have drawers full of things you haven't gotten around to yet. The reason it's not finished isn't because you slack when you have time to write, it's because everytime you sit down to write the person (and I'll tell you that this is even happening as I'm writing this comment) who constantly asks you about your book starts giving you chores to do that have only been made possible by THEIR inability to clean their own house, look after their own things/pets or feed themselves!

And just after you've finished being Cinderella, a pet nanny and a personal chef all rolled into one, you get that question again...

"Have you finished your book yet?"

I have to thank Nicola for the opportunity to get that off my chest. It's been festering away for some time. I'd also like to point out that all of those things are said to me pretty much everyday by my parents (I'm unfortunately still living at home) and that I'm now going to complete the demands I was interrupted by whilst typing this very comment.

My email address: msrebeccaclaresmith[at]gmail[dot]com

Leila said...

It bugs me a lot when writers in different genres are unsupportive and antagonistic towards each other. We are all writers, we all try to do good work, we should respect each other and try to learn from each other.

Unknown said...

More of a request than a gripe - I haven't found a bookshop that presents picture books in both a fun and practical way to help children and adults choose books.

Our old library had a book train that children could climb aboard - with books on the dashboard so you could read while you drive and in the carriages where you never got travel sick. We spent many return trips on this train and always brought back 12 books!

Emma said...

What bugs me in the book world is celebrities who get to write books or put their names on books, just because their celebrities.

I could go through and list all the culprits, but I'm sure we all know who they are.

I would just like to add that I am aware some people are good writers who just happen to be (or have been) celebrities, yet still write good books (that is, write them themselves), it's the writers who just put their names on someone else's work that annoy me!


Nicola Morgan said...

Ooh, lots of good gripes! I'm glad I don't actually have to judge between them and that I had the foresight to make it a random draw! Good luck everyone, and keep the comments coming.

Nicola Morgan said...

Vivienne - Claire Bears? Euuw. Never heard of it/them. I must read the wrong books!

Leah A said...

Hi my names Leah and my email is The one thing that truly bugs me about the writing and reading world is people labelling you with the type of books you should read. For example, some people might think that just because they are popular and where lots of makeup, they might not like reading, or only like reading magazines. However often lots of peoples image on the outside is completely different to how they feel about books. This person could right this second be reading Harry Potter. It just goes to show that even in the book world, some people just can't seem to get rid of the phrase, dont judge a book by its cover :D x

Daniel Blythe said...

It's got to be the utter yawning gulf between the public perception of "the writer" and the reality. The number of times I have been asked "going to be the next JK Rowling, then?"... And people often don't make the connection between your supposed fortune and the purchase of your work - I have been told, cheerfully, by acquaintances that they've picked one of my books up in a cheapo remainder shop, as if I ought to be pleased by this!... Linked to this, there's "Is your book out, then? I've not seen it." Turns out they have gone to WHSmith in Doncaster, say, somewhere which would not stock one of my books in a million years (apart from the Doctor Whos). And they have walked out without asking for it.

(To be fair, the "perception/reality gap" also applies in other artistic spheres, especially the music business - most working musicians will be playing steady, low-paying pub gigs, not quaffing champagne on U2's private jet or being offered shocking sexual favours by The Saturdays.)

Trafalgar said...

My bugbear of the moment, is being told that, as a would-be author, you have to have a brilliant hook in your first page or, preferrably, your first paragraph or, better still, your first sentence. Without it, you're told, you'll never catch the eye of an editor, agent or publisher.
A quick trawl through my local library the other day revealed - in five books chosen at random - the following first pages:
a description of the weather
ditto of the countryside
ditto of a male character
a question about the nature of life
and a brief history lesson on the Cathar heresy.
In other words, all the things we are instructed not to do. The nearest thing to a 'hook' was a mention of coat hangars in the description of the male character.

So how did these authors get past the gatekeepers? Maybe because they were already published but how I long for a level playing field.

Nicola Morgan said...

Hi Trafalgar - it's a fair point but there are a few extra things to consider. (Maybe I need to blog about this, actually, as it *is* interesting.) Some points: a) no, it only needs to hook the readers of that actual type of book - so, a brief history of the cathar heresy could very much be a hook to some readers and as long as it's the right readers, that's fine. b) Some writers have the knack of making the weather sound interesting. There's a real subtlety of tone that can be unidentifiable and yet hooking. c) Hardly any of us really feel we have to hook with the first sentence - the first paragraph, yes, or the first page - those are enough. d) What generally happens (with publishers AND real readers) is that the reader takes in the first para (eg) and then the eyes skim the page for other clues of a hook, so you actually get more than the first sentence/para. e) ALso, remember that all readers carry the meaning of the blurb from the back cover in their heads when they begin to read the book - so that's already informing their reading of the start.

It is a level playing field, to be honest - except when celebrities skew the pitch... On the other hand, if a reader has already read and liked an author's book, it will be given more chance - so, I agree that a published author has an advantage sometimes, UNTIL you take into account that the published author whose last book didn't sell well has *less* of a chance! Yes, the whole thing is horribly frustrating and deserves its place as a crabbit moan!

Wendy Meddour said...

I would like to make an official complaint against Time:

1)There isn't enough of it.
2)It fills up too quickly.
3)It won't go backwards.
4)I can't keep up with it.
5)Last week, it ran away with me - and that made people cross

Signed: Wendy Meddour

Ahhh. Now I feel better. Thank you crabbit x

maryom said...

Mine's more of a gripe about reading habits - specifically my Teen's. I get a LOT of teen/YA fiction for review but if I say "you might like this" I'm ignored (mother of course knows nothing. But if she's offered books by my friends, she sits right down and reads non-stop! Maybe it's more of a gripe about teens' attitudes to parents actually....
I also dislike my local librarian's attitude when I order YA - "you know that's a children's book..." Grrr.

Maryom -

Katy Lassetter said...

I'd say that one of the most irritating things about writing books for children is the lack of respect that you get. Just consider the attitude of Martin Amis who is under the impressions that a brain injury is necessary to write for children – charming! Surely it’s a gift to be able to communicate with a reader, no matter what their age.

There’s also the assumption that writers choose to write for children as a starting point and many are asked when they will start to write “proper books”?! I think that these critics forget children’s books are instrumental in developing the reading skills of many and so should most definitely be valued as “proper books.”

Writing part-time can be belittled too but I, like many writers, do what I can, when I can. My main job is as a copywriter and marketer as I need to keep a roof over my head and I’m not in a position where I can write full time.

Rant over, that was cathartic! Katy Lassetter:

hilary said...

I would like to suggest three things which would improve the state of the literary world.

1. Covers. (I know it's been mentioned already but I think I'm allowed to do so again because in this respect I have suffered more than most.) If they must be pink (pause to lie on floor and howl) then it would surely be a kindness to the customer to offer at the point of sale an optional sheet of brown paper.

2. No person employed by any publisher, no matter how charming, thin, well travelled or nicely handbagged, to be allowed near the ms. of any book without a proven, active membership of at least ten years of a public library.

3.Any interviewer who asks any form of the question "When (and always supposing your intelligence is up to the job) will you start writing for adults?" to be instantly by law sent off to do community service entertaining school children during wet breaktimes with no resources beyond paper, pencils and one story book.

Kyler Rose said...

The most annoying thing I fing when reading is when there are typos - they come few and far between but when I spot them it drives me crazy that the publishers/editors didn't check thoroughly enough before the book was published.

ME said...

One of my pet peeves is book snobbery. I have eclectic tastes in books and there are some things which don't take my fancy, but I'd never look down on those who DO like the genres that I don't!

How can the words which inspire me, entertain me, move me and hold me be the wrong words?! I've read the classics, I've read every Stephen King written, I've read gory horror, period drama, plays and I've read YA fiction. I've read more than whole gaggles of book snobs! However, some people seem to think that one "popular" book cancels out a hundred classics.

Why do some people seem determined that if a book is popular, it must be tripe?!

*Takes a deep breath*

Ok. Calmer now.

*Grits teeth*

Kath McGurl said...

Two things annoy me.

1. People who refer to almost any book written by a woman as 'chicklit'. We don't refer to male-written books as being all lad-lit do we?

2. Books where the point of view changes mid-paragraph. I've just read one, by a best-selling author, where the POV changed constantly. In one short paragraph it went through about 4 different POVs, including that of a dead kitten.

My email address is

ME said...

@womagwriter, I feel that if female authors have their work referred to as "chicklit", then surely the male equivalent is "cocklit"?

Is it isn't, it SHOULD be!

Nicola Morgan said...

Womagwriter - usually I agree with everything you say but actually... Yes, we do talk about ladlit. Nick Hornby, for example, is wellknown for it. And pov-switching can be wonderful when handled correctly and fluently. Neil Gaiman does it; and Eva Ibbotson, and in fact the best storytelling masters do it beautifully. If it's done badly it jars but one of the problems with a blanket rule is that it then becomes a straitjacket. I'm really sorry that it bugs you because I plan to do it as soon as I have a story that needs it! Sorry! In WTBP you'll see that I caution against it but point out it can be done.

catdownunder said...

I am not entering this but may I leave a comment and say that I detest it when an adult writes a book with the sole purpose of teaching the child about a social issue - and then manages to get it published.
Social issues are fine in themselves. They may well be an essential part of the plot - even the main issue in the plot but there still needs to be a story. It needs to be a story you can believe in. Kids do not want to be lectured. They do not want masses of extraneous detail about the social issue as if it was a lesson at school.
Sorry, I will now purrowl off and leave you to it...I might even re-read a bit of WTBP to cheer me up.

Rebecca Emin said...

Ideal timing for this question, I have to say. Something that sets my teeth on edge is the good old-fashioned typo. I think typos should be banned from the face of this earth. I've already spotted one in my own book and it's made me SO cross!!

Unknown said...

What really bugs me in the book world is that it takes me so long to pick a book to share with my class. I mean after all how difficult can it be? It's not like there aren't millions of books out there? But they have to have that certain je ne sais quoi. I wish I did know what it blooming well was, because then it would be easier to pick them, but it's something along the line of length, interesting MC, length of chapters, strength of writing, durability... And then when you've picked the one ELUSIVE read, then the kids go and change and they're different kinds of readers so that book doesn't quite suit all of them and you have to start all over again...PFFFT foo.

none said...

Amazon swallowing up Book Depository and thereby limiting my buying opportunities even more than when they ate Abebooks for breakfast.

Helen Jones said...

The only thing that bugs me about the book world is that I don't have time to read all the ones I want to read, and write all the ones I want to write. Don't suppose there is anyone I can actually blame for that though ...

Kathyw7 said...

Hi my problem is that I haven't time to read all the books recommended on Twitter never mind any where else.
Also why do I feel silly reading YA books at my age. I do find them really enjoyable.
E mail.

Unknown said...

OOhhh the chance to moan and whinge? How can I resist?

What really bugs me are E readers, I mean why?
Why pay a hundred pounds for an e reader when you could buy a hundred pounds worth of books?

Why give up the texture and smell and joy of books for another bit of rotten plastic?

Why use electricity for a task which requires none?

Why give up looking at the beautiful page of a book to spend even more time looking at a screen?


Okay, deep breath, calm....

Thanks for that Nicola.


Unknown said...

Can I really gripe? Really be crabbitty? Oh good!
1. Celebrity authors who really can't write.
2. Explaining to people that you're a writer but no, you're not yet published and no, you don't know when you will be and then having to look bright and cheery while they look awkward and sorry for you - I could just bite them!
3. People who just don't get YA books and their importance - and who think gritty YA is too depraved. You know what I'm talking about...

Anonymous said...

Bogies in library books. Now that's something that really makes me crabbit!


Anonymous said...

I am sick of walking into a book shop and seeing shelves upon shelves of vampire fiction for young adults. Ever since the evolution of Stephanie Meyer's series (which, before I am shot down by Twilight fans, I absolutely adore) there has been a crazy upheaval regarding 'bite fiction'. Now that's alright if you like vampires and blood and nightmarish reads. I just happen to feel sick whenever I see a cover encompassing any blood related element. This dark, gothic craze is never-ending! So at the moment, I walk into a shop full of dark, eerie covers with bite marks on the front cover and I just want a beautifully written, compelling story that DOESN'T INCLUDE VAMPIRES! I'm SICK of every single book being about the same old thing. Why do writers have to conform to a specific best-selling genre, trying to replicate another author's magnificent ideas and themes? Why can't writers think about something fresh and rich which isn't about vampires or werewolves or some other blood-sucking creature? I want something new to pique the interest of readers - an entirely new concept! I want publishers to embrace difference and readers to not set their sights on a marketing consistency created by a film fan base. I wish all young adult writers could find the courage to break away from the dominating Harry Potter/ Twilight style muses and breathe life back into the bookshops.
Please, please, please let this vampire fiction obsession end soon. I am not saying that these novels are pointless or insignificant but I am merely dying for originality and something which is not on track to give me nightmares.
Writing should be from the heart. It should not be based on what is already on the market or on other authors’ books. Writing should be a crafting of UNIQUE ideas. So why are all the books on the shelves following practically the same formula?
From Jessica

Gillian Philip said...

Hi! Not entering the competition (Nicola gets QUITE ENOUGH of me moaning) but just wanted to reassure Jessica after her last comment. I know how maddening it is to see all those Identikit covers - but to be fair, Jessica, that's not all, or even most, of the market. There are loads of original, smart, beautifully written YA books out there in every genre you can imagine. All you have to do is walk past those 'Dark Romance' shelves. And the positive point is that Dark Romance is (or has recently been) a money-spinner for publishers, and hugely popular - and that (together with annoying celeb books, so long as they sell well) is what pays for the original, daring, surprising books. So they do have a good purpose - even beyond being fun and gripping reading for Dark Romance fans! :-)

Kath McGurl said...

Nicola - yes, we talk about ladlit but no one refers to ANY book written by a bloke as ladlit. But sadly some people do think that if a book's written by a woman then it must be chicklit, and that's what annoys me.

madwippitt said...

Not being able to afford half the books I really want to read until they're available secondhand on Amazon is irksome ... but what bugs me most of all is having to wait years for sequels in planned series of books to appear. So cruel, especially when you're on a cliffhanger. It should be compulsory for all authors planning trilogies, quartets or whatever to have written the whole lot before the first one is ever published!

Inkpen said...

The thing that drives me crazy is ...
The people who think that picture books are only for the under fives and only there as training for Real Books which have words and no pictures.
Can they not see the enchantment and skill and subtlety present in so many picture books? The interplay of words and pictures and how that creates an extra dimension? The way they create a world that works on so many different levels and in which big ideas can be explored? I could list so many names, but just for one, have they never seen what someone like Shaun Tan can do with a picture book? And if adults can visit an art gallery, why is illustration not an equally valid form of art?
I have just put my 11 year old to bed, reading three picture books to her ... we both had a lovely time, thank you.

Inkpen said...

That should, of course, read 'three picture books WITH her ...'

Ness Harbour said...

This is not about being a writer or about publishing but about schools. Schools that insist on plastering books with the label 'SPECIAL NEEDS' in huge letters and kept in a box well away from the 'normal' reading books. It is hard enough when you are struggling with reading without having to advertise to the whole class that you can't do it. As a writer I want children to read books because they love reading. It may take them a while to get started but I don't want anything to happen that might discourage them. *sigh* rant over

April said...

Although i'm only young, i like to write and express myself through words but one thing that bugs me is when i can think of really exciting, emotive scenarios that happen and write then but can't join then together.
Another thing which bugs me is when i notice spelling mistakes, or sentences just don't sound 'right' and you have to read over them a few times before they begin to make sense.
One more thing, and then i will stop harrasing the comment box :) i don't like all these Kindles and other things you can read on, i understand it's easier than carrying around lots of books, but the whole point in reading books is something that makes you want to turn the page, with these electrical books you can't literally say that it's the book is 'a page turner'.
my email:

Unknown said...

I hate the way most ebooks are the same price (or more) as the print version. You have to pay vat on ebooks, I know , but come on - publishers have no print costs.

Ramblings of a bake-aholic said...

Ok my gripe is as a readr, I have my favourite authors like everyone, but my absolute favourite that I have read since a teen has decided to use more and more 'reader suggestions' that he gets sent mountains of, so that now 80% of his books are now crammed with incidental reader ideas.
Im not buying your books to read rubbish other readers have sent in, im buying to read YOUR work! I too have ideas for characters and talents you can use but if im that sure that they are brilliant id write my own fatasy book, tell your readers to do the same!!

Thank you for that, its been bugging me for years

Sandy Hill said...

Cover crits written by people who clearly haven't read the book!

Sooz said...

I don't want to mention the C word already but since the buyers have already picked their Christmas stock . . . I really wish less throwaway rubbish was published for the Christmas market and that great authors with great ideas were given a chance over a plethora of nonsense with titles like "Comedy Lamposts" or "Teach Your Dog Kung Fu" . . .

Beth Kemp said...

Wow, these comments make an interesting read!

I'd like to second (or possibly third) the annoyance of other people's attitudes and general snobbishness about books. As an English teacher to post-16s, I'm 'supposed' to only read the classics and reading the YA that the kids read is a disgraceful letting-down of the side. Clearly, my job is really to get them off 'that stuff' and onto the real books...

I believe that REAL readers enjoy a great big range of stuff (including contemporary novels) as well as, perhaps, the classics. I hate that I'm made to feel lowbrow for enjoying current YA novels (fantasy and edgy realism), crime novels and Discworld. And as for admitting I'm writing for kids/teens as well...!

Katie B said...

I find it annoying in sci-fi books when the characters have really indecipherable do you say that?!

val_s said...

My sadness, rather than peeve, is that so many books now are all different and yet somehow the same - offering a few hours of escape perhaps, and then passed on to someone else to read.

I search the new books for something to keep, to reread, to enable me to be more than I was before I read it.

And perhaps I find one or two that will do instead, and there's a 3 for 2 offer, and I'm there for the next few hours trying to find that elusive third book.

val_s said...

Oh, and pink covers!

Pretenna said...

I have quite a lot I think my main ones would be:
1. Cliffhangers at the end of a book
2. Typos in books
3. Ebooks costing the same as paperbacks/hardbacks
4. People who look at you with pity when you say that you're a writer but haven't had anything published, they seem to think that it's really easy to do!


Nikki Hartley said...

All these books that are published by authors who think they can write books. Books are published far too easily these days; there are far too many poor writer's and mediocre literacy. Bring back the greats, older Literature will help children and adults learn to read and write properly!!! bah humbug!!

Flixton Mum said...

I really don't think I'm crabbit enough to deserve this prize. Maybe I need to be more crabbity?

My daughter is just discovering the joy of reading and everything is a delight for her (and by association, me) at the moment.

Books are wonderful and reading is a joy. I just can't bring myself to be bugged by any of it. But I'd still love a book and a bag.

Johanna Nield said...

My biggest gripe with the book world? The vague generic rejection responses churned out by so many agents and publishers.

Whilst I appreciate the polite tone, being told "this is not what we're looking for at this time" is neither use nor ornament. When will you be looking for it? Next week? Next month?

I would much rather be told that my writing is crap, or that I've completely misread the submissions guide, or that you've decided overnight to drop my genre and move into the scientific text book field - just give me a clue as to why my work does not meet your current requirements.

And whilst I'm in this (rare) crabbity mood - a little bit of feedback on my pitch and query letter wouldn't go amiss, either.

Wow, thank you, Nicola! I've been muttering this to myself for months, and it's lovely to finally get it off my chest ;)

Johanna Nield

Emma said...

I would just like to correct myself and apologise for using the wrong form of 'their/there/they're' in my comment. Not sure how I mixed it up, but I did.
I'll go away now and die of embarrassment.

Nicola Morgan said...

Johanna - I have to say that if you read Write to be Published you will understand this a lot more! I know it's obvious that i would recommend it but to be honest the whole book was written for people in just your situation and frame of mind. It will help you.

Emma - don't worry!

Nikki - "Books are published far too easily these days; there are far too many poor writer's and mediocre literacy. Bring back the greats, older Literature will help children and adults learn to read and write properly!!!" Um, I beg to disagree... The ABBA authors are pretty great and it's really not easy to become published. Really really not.

Thanks for all your comments everyone. Lots I disagree with and lots I agree with but that's not the point and it will be a random pick. And now I'm off to do the picking!