Val Wineyard Publishing

Val Wineyard Publishing

Publishers Blog, January 2014 to June 2014

8th January, 2014

Happy New Year to all, and many more of 'em. 

Don't forget the big date at Rennes-le-Château soon - 17th January.

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The blue apples on the wall;  St Anthony the Hermit; and Henry Lincoln with Veronica from Paris, last year.

That's when the "Blue Apples" appear in the church and the world and his wife come from all over France to see them. It's also St. Anthony's day, the day that Bérenger Saunière became ill in 1917 and it is also Ste Roseline's day, remember in Pierre Plantard's "Roseline." All the "celebs" will be there - including me and Trebha!  Later there is a celebratory meal at Rennes-les-Bains - really looking forward to it.  I'll be meeting up with Kris Darquis, who has nearly finished the translation into French of Claudia Procula, we will all have so much to talk about the day won't be long enough. 

  But this week?  It's really hard work!  Nowadays, in the "virtual" days in which we live, most of my book orders are through the Internet, but these are real books, not virtual books, and they all have to be packed (in reality!) and posted.  Luckily the post office is not far away but I'm exhausted!  The wine bottle in the background is nearly empty . .

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 My Bestseller.  One thing about New Year, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?  Many people are planning their holidays now, and so we have had a sudden rush of orders for Mary Magdalene's Sacred Journey.  It's now in its second edition and the odds are, that it will prove popular again this year, for it is on sale in various bookshops in the Rennes-les-Bains area.  This is my best-selling Mary Magdalene book and I'm proud of it.  Here's one of my favourite pictures from those I took while researching; the harbour at Fitou where Mary Magdalene and Jesus arrived in France.  So peaceful.

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  My next little book about Mary Magdalene is getting rapidly bigger!  It is a Yearbook, with a space to write in for everyday, but full of anecdotes, unknown history places to go etc.  At first I wondered if I would find enough interesting things for every day, 365 mini-articles, but I'm already having to decide which items of many are the most important.  It will also be Languedoc as you never knew it with more than a few hidden secrets revealed in this fascinating part of the world.

  And for all of you looking forward to some new spiritual adventures for 2014, read this;  One day I was in Rennes-les-Bains, leaning on the bridge from which one can see the benitier, and thinking.  My friend Scarlett had heard from two different sources that a lady in white had been seen, walking beside the river, heading towards the Source de la Madeleine.  The source was originally called Source de la Gode, gode being an old Occitan word for cup or goblet.  And Blanche of Castille at Peypertuse lost her goblet in the water of a sacred spring and then came to Rennes-les-Bains to be cured, the Bains de la Reine were named after her.  (I wrote in The Sacred Journey.)  And I looked up the white lady legends in the books by the French Celtic author, Jean Markale.

  So now you know what my blockbuster for 2014 will be!

  20th January

  The blue apples were there in the church at Rennes-les-Château and the "Rennies" were out in force.  The atmosphere was tremendous, everyone was entranced by the magic, one lady called me "The Legend"! and many hugs were exchanged.  Trebha wore his special Blue Apples hat.

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We went to the celebratory meal in Rennes-le-Bains and Kris and myself were interviewed by the local paper; she has translated "Claudia Procula" into French and we are going to launch it in Rennes-le-Château at Easter.

  Another book not forgotten on that day was "The Mayor That Was Me."  I was so delighted to sign a copy for my dear friend Richard Stanley.  You may remember, he and Scarlett took me and Sarah to research Sebairou, during Sarah's "visit to her publisher" last year.   Click here to see Sebairou.

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  It was so ordinary somehow to go back to packing sailing books but now all have been despatched, I got back from the post office to find that two more orders had arrived!  Sarah is investigating printing in Turkey for us where the English-speaking community is agog for her books - she is going to write another about Turkey - and then we will have a branch of Val Wineyard Publishing in Turkey.
  And lastly, I'm really looking forward to meeting Cindy later in the week to discuss her book about natural remedies and other things.

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Meanwhile, you can read more about Cindy here.

 20th February 2014

  It's been a month since I last wrote!  The days have whirled past.  People are starting to think about next summer and so they are researching Mary Magdalene and the Languedoc and ordering books.  Sometimes people like to meet me, and so of course, they like to meet me in Rennes-le-Château.

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  I am up and down to the High Valley of the Aude on the 1€ bus like a fiddler's elbow and I thought; wouldn't it be nice to have a little house in Couiza, so I could stay over and if they wished, my friends could stay there too?  It would be a holiday home; I would keep my main residence and office in the Narbonnais, because Rennes-le-Château country can be a bit quiet in the winter.  I found a delightful village house in Couiza, I "fell in love with it."  It was in the village centre near the church and perfect for the needs of myself and friends.  But . . .  although I have many blessings and a generous heart, my material possessions were a little lacking; maybe friends would like to share the cost too?

 

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   Amazon - what an amazing company that is!  I have placed many of my books with them and they are actually reaching people.  The system is quite easy once it is up and running; one receives an order, one prints out two copies of the order, one to go with the book to the customer and one for one's own records, then Amazon informs the customer that their book is on its way.  Then Amazon pays the seller - that's me! - within two weeks.  It all runs very smoothly.

  Many book-buyers prefer Amazon to Paypal buttons - if that includes you, then have a look at the book you fancy and click the link.  And did you know any reader of any book can post a review, you don't have to have bought from Amazon?  So if you liked any of my books, let the world know it!

  Sometimes all it takes for success is a little bit of advice.  Author Cindy le Sauvage Guilbert took mine and is now well on her way to publishing her book - click here for more details.  I am always happy to look at people's book ideas and don't charge for an introductory meeting, it's a pleasure for me to discuss publishing with interesting people.  (Depending on the project, some fees might be agreed later.)  Cindy gratifyingly picked up on my ideas and has learned design skills and is now looking for a printer.  A lovely success story! You can also see her on Facebook.

   Lastly, there's a new kid on the block in the self-publishing world, who will make you into a publisher, they say.  (Just make sure you know what they are selling you.)  But it was an interesting site with a free pdf to download.  Click here.

 9th March

 I've had a week of petty irritations.  I hate needless delays. For example, we needed a set of proofs to correct for the French version of Claudia Procula. No problem said my printer, I'll send them tonight by Chronopost.   After two days I found, in the murky depths of my letter box, a tiny chatty-chitty telling me that I was out and that the packet could be picked up in Lézignan - next door to where the printer had sent it from!  Argh!  

  Readers will know that I am addicted to Couiza at the moment and my article about Couiza was circulated on the web.  I need to do some more research into the church there, which is quite special.  Dedicated to St John the Baptist it is unusual inside, being even more brightly painted than the church at Rennes-le-Château.  Meanwhile, the official book about Couiza informs me that the annual fête (end of June) to John the Baptist is "basically pagan."  Oh I DO hope so!

  As well as the Duc Anne de Joyeuse being remembered in the bar at Couiza, someone sent me a picture of St. John the Baptist on the same building; here it is.

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 For my article about Couiza - click here. 

Lastly, someone sent me a personal memoire that they wanted to publish, but were nervous to do so.  I do understand - I thought for a long time about publishing The Mayor that was Me.  Anyway, here's a link to encourage people to be brave; it's personal to you but the reader doesn't know you, he or she just wants a good story;  click here.

 29th March   Expanding the Office

  At home in the Narbonnais my office is rapidly expanding into the dining-room (especially as the French version of Claudia Procula is now done) so this is all the more reason to expand into Couiza.  Here's a resumé of my office-hunting adventures . . .

   Way back in early January I thought; all this going up and down to Couiza is fine, but I could do with a stopover place there.  Maybe I could pick up a one-up, one-down village house or something?  I saw an advert for a whole house for 20000€ and went to look at it.  We stepped through the door into a room with a hole in the ceiling!

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  The building had once been used for agricultural purposes, but I quite liked this hole.  I decided I would make a bookshop on the ground floor, put in a staircase, and then make a tea-room above; the hole would be a feature and the sun would pour in the two south-facing windows above. 

   The rest of the house was spacious living accommodation, quite pretty with rooftop views from the windows BUT - the big problem was that half of the roof needed replacing which would double the cost.  "Let me show you something else," said the agent.

  Fresh that week on the market, I walked in and thought;  "One could move in without doing any work, and the total cost was no higher than time-consuming roofs."  Go for it.  Number Ten, Couiza.

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My only thought was, those blue window-frames will have to go! 

   I said I would check my finances and return.  It was my plan to take out a mortgage on my main house, or an equity.  I never thought my house is not worth enough and I am too young!  No loans for Val.  So I asked around for possible partners to share my house/office purchasing venture - Number Ten, Couiza.

   I found an American couple interested and they liked travelling by public transport.  Kindred Spirits!  I was really looking forward to taking the 1€ bus in company.  So they arrived and at 8am we set off from the Narbonnais.  This gave us an hour in Carcassonne to look around before getting the bus connection to Couiza.  At first we thought we'd got so absorbed in sight-seeing we'd missed the bus.  It must have gone early.  What to do?  Well, we had this pressing house-viewing appointment so we got a cab with a lovely chatty driver who told us that the buses were on strike! 

   Oh no!  Just when I wanted to turn people on to the 1€ bus!

  Well, Number Ten, the house I thought one could move into right away was apparently far below American standards and the kitchenette and shower room would have to be completely re-done.  "But it's only for holidays, a fridge and a corner shop is all you need," I said. 

  "Yes, but we want to let it out and it's no good as it is."  Oh.  (Sorry, Number Ten.)  So we went for lunch in the Café de France, across the road from the Bar St. Anne, then begged a lift to see Rennes-le-Château, and arrived back at the bus-stop to see three or four buses there!  One of the drivers said he would be going to Carcassonne in about an hour and he would return to pick us up.  "Wait here!"

   A superb bottle of local rosé and two hours later the evening weather grew chilly and the joke had worn thin, so I ordered a cab to take us back to the Narbonnais.  Eight buses had passed; the drivers managing the strike had rustled up a service to get the school kids home from school.  I told the Americans that if another bus passed I would have a nervous breakdown. I think they thought I was serious.

  The next day the agent rang.  A super house in Couiza for 60000€ - it had a courtyard - yes!  She offered to run us, that was amazing, from Limoux to my home, then back to Limoux and onwards to Couiza, AND return - I was impressed.  And by the house too, which I called Church House.

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The church tower is a local landmark in Couiza, the second picture is part of the courtyard from an upstairs window.  There were five bedrooms but bathrooms and kitchen were not very American.  Groan.  I liked the house a lot, except that the brown wallpaper would have to go.

   In the office in Limoux, the Americans asked for quotes for fitting bathrooms and kitchens and meanwhile I discovered there was a train from Limoux to Carcassonne, so I insisted the agent needn't take us back all that way.   The next day the Americans departed, full of plans for their future.  I really thought all was straightforward and I would soon have my stopover, yippee!

  Fast and furious e-mails soon changed that.  They wanted to let the house commercially, and all must be re-done to American standards, when they had all the information about costs (not to mention registering as a French business) they would put in an offer and had already contracted a manager.  All this for a 60k€ village house.  My idea of course, was for a group of friends having a little house, even with blue window-frames, where we could stay over and have some fun.  I don't want to start a holiday letting business.  I'm a writer!

7th April  Launch of Claudia Procula - in French

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  What a good time we all had celebrating this book at Rennes-le-Château!  We were a French/English group, from as close as Rennes-les-Bains and as far as Montreal, Canada and the conversation ran thick and fast in several accents. Kris is a delightful person, she is from Nice but passionately loves our region of Languedoc.  She was so warmly delighted to see herself in print that a true party spirit prevailed in Le Jardin de Marie. 

  I had given Kris a free rein with the book because, although I can speak enough French to socialise, the subtleties of literary French were "une autre chose."  We decided the book would be by Kris Darquis "from an idea by" Val Wineyard and Kris did some research of her own to very effectively reinforce various aspects of the book.   It all came together so well, thanks to her drive, subtle intellect and her enthusiasm. Orders are already pouring in.  (Sorry that's such a cliché but it's how we felt!)  It's a short book with previously unknown information (Kris tells me) and lovers of "the mysteries" are delighted with it.

  It was a beautiful sunny day, a magic day, as we sat in the sunshine at Le Jardin de Marie restaurant, which is now in new hands with a new menu, more French in style - like the book!!!

  We had barbecued chicken from their chef's barbecue, with baked potatoes, stuffed tomatoes and green salad.  Then we investigated the church to pay our respects to Mary Magdalene, and then popped into the Porte de Rennes bookshop - and there were the books on sale.  We felt very proud.

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   We were well presented indeed and Lily and Hélène were as happy as we were - more magic!   

  Kris is very interested in the Roman history of the region especially as there is much in the book about Rennes-les-Bains in Roman times.  Not many people know how splendid these Roman baths were; from Narbonne, which was Claudia's home-town, when one went to the baths one went to Aquae Calidae, as they called Rennes-les-Bains at the time.  So Kris got an interview with the mayor and the Tourist office, among others, and the village is so pleased that we are writing about it and adding a little bit of history to this much-loved town.

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 The next day the lady in the Tourist Office was immersed in the book . . .

  Kris is also researching her own book, under contract from a French publisher, about the Templars.  Here she is beside a cross in Montferrand above Rennes-les-Bains.

COPIE 8.jpg  A Star is Born!  Meanwhile, if you would like to see more about the book in English - click here.

  And if you want to buy the French version, perhaps for a French friend?  Click here

10th April  Researching

Now "Mary Magdalene and the Secrets of Languedoc" is at the printer, there's time for a day out researching with my visitors!  Yves was French Canadian from Montreal - so we went to see Montréal near Castelnaudary.

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I was very impressed.  The Collegial church to Dt. Vincent was a training school for priests, it is on the very top of the hill and can been seen from miles around, in the centre of a medieval town full of half-timbered 17th century houses.  In these narrow streets I was half expecting to the hear the swish of black robes and the trainee priests swept by, and to hear the learned discourses - did the Calvinists REALLY not believe in the Trinity?  How shocking!  The church was open and completely dark inside, my camera could hardly focus on anything.  It was a bit strange - behind the altar was a circular space for the choir and all the walls were huge oil-paintings of a naked man towards whom people were doing unmentionable things.  It was the martyrdom of St. Vincent.

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  There is also a font supported by the Devil!

  It was good to be out again in the sunshine. 

  Montréal (pronounced mon-ray-all) reminded my of Campagne-sur-Aude, where there was a Templar perceptory, that is, an administrative building, rather than a fort.  Nonetheless, they were both inside fortified enclosures and both had narrow entrances in medieval walls, and wells inside. The church at Campagne is dedicated to St. Sébastien, although there were no pictures of him.  But there was a tiny statuette that was most unusual - Jesus lives at Campagne!

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 14th April  Perils of Publishing!
I have just seen a rather slick copy of Sarah's sailing book that I published now published by someone else!  I
t's got a new cover, turquoise lettering and is filled with photoshop-ed images and was published on Amazon Create-Space.  Sarah gave the pdf of the book, that I sent her for corrections before Christmas, to someone who has hacked it and is claiming it is published by him.  (I know who it is.)  She seems to think he will do better than I will.

  I've seen this sort of thing before.  The root cause is that authors think their book is so brilliant it will sell in millions and if it doesn't it is all the publisher's fault. 

  I did wonder why the orders to Val Wineyard Publishing suddenly ceased . . . .But my shoulders are broad, my back's wide enough to give someone a ride, and life's meant for enjoying.  So I hope Sarah and her companion become millionaires.  If they don't, it will be their own fault and not mine!

  What a laugh eh?  especially as they are selling their re-vamped version at nearly twice the price - they will learn about publishing the hard way.

East, West, Med's Best! was an interesting experiment, to test the waters outside the "mysteries of Rennes-le-Château" market, and it was financially successful. But now I will stick to what I know best, with my friends "The Rennies."  And Mary Magdalene still loves me!

  (PS  a few books still left for any sailors out there, here.  Everything must go!)

  Later I unravelled this and called it  The Saga of Sarah or the Value of Contracts 

   Generally publishers issue authors with contracts on acceptance of a manuscript.  An advance might or might not be paid and around a year after publication royalties on the first three months of sales would be paid.  Authors are expected to contribute to publicity themselves by having a "platform" and a visibility on social media, that is, even with a big-name publisher, at their own expense without any financial rewards until some 15 months after the book comes out.

  Around a year ago my friend Sarah Edwards sent me chapters of her book, and I said I would help all I could, and so I prepared a synopsis on her behalf to send to mainstream publishers.  This incorporated her biography and research into the sailing market.  I gave the book the working title of "East, West, Med's Best!" and it stuck.  Even the title was my idea!

   After months of no response from the big boys, I suggested that I published for her.  I explained it would be small publishing because I am a small publishing company.  It was better to publish small and then print more if the sales warrant it.  If the sales are REALLY good, then a mainstream publisher will grab it; the industry keeps an eye on self-published books.  First-time authors start selling to their friends; Sarah had a mailing list of about 350 people and all the advice columns say that if you sell to friends, about 10% of your friends will buy; this figure, as it turned out, was devastatingly accurate. 

  Sarah came to see me to discuss editorial changes and gave me a collection of old and yellowed snapshots to use.  We didn't do any work because Sarah is not used to our red wine here in Languedoc!  I told her writers are expected to contribute towards publicity but she told me she "didn't like" Facebook and "didn't have time" to do a blog for the book.  After she'd gone I spent months sorting her photos to make them fit to use and finalising a lay-out.

   Was it time to publish?  She didn't want a contract and I myself believe that it's a shame if old friends can't trust each other.  I was paying the printer and I felt the publishing decisions were mine to make, and said so, and she agreed.  Then it was proof correcting-time and her friend who lives on the boat with her, she told me, "insisted" on helping with the corrections when she had to go to England for family reasons.  Within days I got a  long letter from a pompous elderly gent telling me that I must learn more about publishing, he knew all about it, not me, AND he re-wrote whole sections of the book in his pompous style, not Sarah's, which I refused to incorporate.  When Sarah got back she told me she was disgusted by what he had written to me.  

   I had never expected anyone to take over the project that was between myself and Sarah, neither was there any hint the deal might be between three people and not two.

   So I got the book out the first week of January 2014 and sent out all the orders.  I had promised Sarah to send some books to Turkey, completely at my expense, so she could have some to sell herself and keep the money.  I sent four (the standard number of freebies to authors) in separate packages, the postage was more than the value of the books, and only one arrived, so I gave up on that idea and suggested Sarah paid for printing herself in Turkey, to sell to her friends, and she agreed.  I also sent numerous copies around the world "for review," including to Sarah's friends in the sailing world, at my expense, none of which has actually been reviewed, or if they have I have not been told. 

  She asked me if I would do an e-book for her.  I said it was too early after print publication but I would do it in the autumn.  She said, do you mind if I do one?  Not at all, I said, all best wishes to you.  An e-book for Kindle appeared on Amazon and was so badly done with huge turquoise headings - one never uses bigger than 14pt for an e-book - that I thought Sarah had done it herself.  No, it was the elderly gent.  My pdf had been hacked and a crude copy made.   I had assumed Sarah would re-format her own story herself and never dreamed that my lay-out and design that I had worked on for so long, would be used in this way to someone else's profit. 

   Meanwhile, she had to go to England yet again, where the post is better than Turkey, so I sent a bundle of books by first class post for her to pick up in England, as a gift, so that she could give  or sell them to her friends in Turkey.  "Thank you," she wrote.  "Please send more!"  She said she was looking for a printer in England but Create-space was too dear, however, it was not such a big surprise when a Create-Space book shortly appeared, once again a copy from my original design.  It was written, apparently, jointly by Sarah and her elderly gent and I was merely the editor! 

   Then Sarah begged me to be friends and implied she had never given permission to the elderly gent to publish her work, even though he is a "brilliant graphic designer."   OK, I said, let's see if we can sort something out.

  And now?  A black-and-white paperback with very low quality pictures has appeared of the same book for a tenner, still to my design, but now dotted about with black Cockatoo bird logos! That elderly gent is still at it!

   So I have given up being friends with Sarah, who tells me she has always helped people all her life and will do anything for anybody, and I have said goodbye 4ever.  I have lowered the price of the book to clear my shelves!  Click here.  I have learnt a lot from all this and been greatly amused and it will help me draft contracts in future!

10th June

 This week I found that the book most looked at by people who went to Val Wineyard Publishing was "East, West, Med's Best!"  I was surprised because as many of you know, Sarah published her own version of the book.  And I thought we were working as a team!  Then I saw the following picture;

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  She and her friend were celebrating with champagne the publication of their respective books. 

  Sarah did not "self-publish" with me, I published her book in the conventional way and paid all the expenses for it because I believed in the title, just as I did with Roibeard's book, and both were successful within their niche markets.

  And efforts are starting to pay off;  Val Wineyard Publishing is now a domain site, with many extra features, such as translations into several languages.  Tell your European friends!

  Meanwhile, does nationality matter?  NOT when you are self-publishing.  For a most interesting article from a site with much of interest for international authorpreneurs, click here.

  Meanwhile we have already sold 36 copies of the new Alet book!  Howzat!  Don't forget to get yours - click here.

 15th April  Pizza-Eater!

 I once described myself as "Val Wineyard, Writer and Pizza-Eater."  The English found this quite amusing but the French thought it a bit strange, so you see, there are lots of subtleties which makes translation a battlefield.  Anyway, the pizzaria at Rennes-les-Bains was open and the sun was shining.  There I met Ani Williams, who is staying for a while, as well as Kris and her friends, and we had a really good time.

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Ani is here for the season to play her sacred music.  Click click here for my favourite film of her, playing in the church at Rennes-le-Château.  Quite moving.

17th April  We are a dream team!

   And we are indomitable!

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   A friend of Kris's took this picture of us while we were researching at Serres, which is a Templar place.  I love this picture absolutely!

  We are on such a high with the interest shown in the little book, Claudia Procula, published in French. The French people are discussing whether it could be true, the people of Rennes-les-Bains are fascinated to think that Mary Magdalene and the grand-daughter of the emperor Augustus could have visited their town.  It has blown us both away!  It is early in the season yet, but the Porte de Rennes bookshop is selling several copies of the book  every day.  We are doing a second edition with extra photos and hope to hold another party and celebration in the last week of May.

   I must add here that I am quite a francophile, and although I cannot write professionally in French, I do nearly all my research from French sources.  The difference in approach and writing style is quite subtle and it is Kris's work that has made the book so popular.  She is the star.

 19th April  It's Out!

Just in time for Easter!   

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To order, click here.

 5th May  Riding a wave!

 Both Claudia Procula in French and the Mary Magdalene Year Book have been well received by an unsuspecting public, Kris has received many glowing reviews in the French Rennes-le-Château literature.  I was asked to supply copies to the Galerie du Cité at Esperaza, and as my friend Gabi fancied a run out, off we went, boxes of books and delivery notes filling up the boot of the car.  I had the address, Avenue de Perpignan and the phone number of the Galerie . . . Neither of us had been to Esperaza before, I had looked everything up on the map, AND looked at Google Earth, but on the day there was no single street marked Avenue de Perpignan.  Groan.

  We asked a passer-by and she sent us back the way we came.  We rang up to the consternation of a complete stranger somewhere in France; I later found the number I'd been given had a digit wrong, or else I'd copied it wrongly, but 90 minutes from home one cannot pop back to check.  What to do?  Nothing.  So we gave up and looked around the market - here's Gabi.

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I was so depressed.  Then - a miracle!  I couldn't believe my eyes - a friend of Kris's, Philippe, was walking around the market.  God exists!  So Philippe told us about where the Galerie was - it is just across the the river Aude; cross the bridge leaving the Café du Pont behind you.  Easy when you know how.  The Galerie is open on Sunday mornings, as is the market.  So call in next time you are there.

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I'd been quite busy over Easter, when of course the trains nearly stop, but a friend delivered some copies to the Angel Galerie in Alet-les-Bains on Easter Sunday and I went myself the following Wednesday, Trebha gave me a lift and we had a drink at The Dragon in Rennes-le-Chateau, very pleasant in their courtyard with its view of the château.

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  And so?  Well, when I was returning last night with Gabi, we stopped for a rosé (almost obligatory) at the bar/café of St Anne and the proprietor said;  "Is it you that wrote the book about the region with a picture of my café?  Some English people who brought the book called in and showed me the picture!"  He was so pleased.  And so was I, the book was already selling well!  Here's the picture of this café which is so popular with the English at Couiza.

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I guess it's not so bad being a publisher in the High Valley of the Aude!

 8th May  Summer's getting fun!

  There's still talk in the publishing industry about all those porny e-books and now a group in New York want to make reading more sexy!   Click the link for some delightfully sexy readers.

  Meanwhile, a young lady is VERY concerned in the workplace - should she tell the boss?  Click here for the story.

  For me, visiting and research is continuing, I passed a delightful time with Eugene and Lorrie at the Angel Gallery - bet you don't know what I found written on the lion!

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  All will be revealed as soon as we've got a cover picture designed.

  16th May 2014  The pace of change

  News came through this week that Barnes and Noble bookshops in the States were shutting down.  (Click here.)  Well, that wasn't quite true; about one third of their shops might have to close within the next year and the range of goods on offer might change.  Meanwhile, of course, Barnes and Noble are also great book distributors.  In effect, they are adapting to change.

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Open-air book-selling event.
The book and publishing industry is rapidly changing rapidly.  When we look at the state of things in the UK, yes, bookshops are closing but many others are adjusting and adapting.  They might specialise, like Watkins bookshop committing itself to "spiritual" titles, and other bookshops concentrating on increasing "soft" selling techniques, such as more book signings with visiting guest speakers, in France book fairs in the open-air.

  The biggest change is of course, the rapid rise of "self-publishing companies" - companies offering services to writers and authors.  As there are only about six mainstream publishers left, publishing nowadays IS self-publishing.  So many books now are published by their authors, with or without professional help, that we might as well drop the "self" and just talk about publishing. The old discussions about "vanity publishing" are fading rapidly.  There was a time when people in the business were distainfully picking up book and saying, "Oh, typically self-published" causing many new writers to lose self-confidence.  For just one idea about how to value what you do and your work, click here.  It's interesting that here in France, at Rennes-le-Château, French readers often prefer something obviously done at home and stapled together - this presentation implies that the information is unique and not available anywhere else.  Companies selling publishing services will advise you to spend a fortune on a cover, yes, but with a cult market I am not sure this is the case.

  There is also a market for self-publishers to write about self-publishing for those not sure how to do it.   Click here for a blog with some really good ideas.

  Meanwhile, everyone seems convinced that e-books will soon overtake print books, but I am not yet convinced.  (The "dinosaur" in me?)  The figures prove it though.  Click here.  Later in the article is much positive comment.  The total number of books in increasing, people have much more choice, authors can get their work out there easier than ever before and many shy roses are blooming.

  However, coupled to that, there is a world-wide economic crisis.  Everyone is selling, no-one is buying.  Although printing, in real terms, is decreasing in price with improved technologies like Print on Demand, print books are selling less, and so prices have to come down. It is quite a challenge to get together a well-designed book with a limited budget to spend but sales of my books are slowly increasing; it can be done.

  So how does all this, changes to publishing linked with the economic climate, affect "indies" or "authorpreneurs"?  Writers new to the game think they are going to make a fortune once their first book is actually published.  They post it on Amazon then sit back waiting for the money to roll in, not realising that once all their friends have bought a copy, where do they go from there?  So many people have piles of unsold books in a garage somewhere, and the vast majority of sales figures are very low; they say that only 1 in a 1000 books sells more than 1000.  How does one jump that gap from selling to one's friends to selling to one's public?  I'll tell you that in my next post.  Meanwhile see this!

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  And the future of publishing?  With more choice for readers both in books and all other ways of communicating, one appreciates the sheer richness of opportunities today for anyone who has got anything to say.  No longer will the book world be led by academics in ivory towers or by the "fast-seller" market, the Dan Brown's and John Grisham's who put out a book every year.  There's space for everyone now and that is exciting; writers in fact have more power than they have ever had before.  And the control over their own work is heady indeed.

  Here's me on a high at Couiza!

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 22nd May 2014  Having a go!

  I had a go recently when I went to give a talk at Pézenas, the other side of Béziers - quite a way from where I live near Narbonne.  All had been arranged some months in advance; I was to give a talk about Mary Magdalene, yes, I could sell books, no, I wouldn't charge.

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Here's about half my audience, and me on my best behaviour.

  We arrived at ten for a talk at half-past. It was a British ex-patriates club, they gave me a microphone and off I went.  I had thought of something NOT in my books, so I talked in fine spate for about half and hour about how Mary M and Jesus had lived in the Holy Land and how to analyse the Bible for the real story.  A lady put her hand up.  "Did Mary Magdalene go to Stes Maries de la Mer?"  "Not as far as I know."  "Then if she went to Languedoc, tell us about her going to Languedoc."  "I'm sorry I - "   "Well, we were told the talk was to be about Mary Magdalene in Languedoc, they sent us flyers saying that."

  Was my face red!  After 4 months I had forgotten it was to be about Mary M "in Languedoc."  Also, I hadn't known how long I was expected to talk and they were closing in five minutes!  Apparently I "handled it well" because many people bought books and the club has invited me back in the autumn to tell them all about everything that I hadn't told them that I should!

  On this blog I promised last time that I would tell writers how to bridge that gap between selling to their friends and family and selling to people they don't know.  This talk at Pézenas came about because I had written a short article about self-publishing in an ex-pat magazine and then been invited to give this talk.   The answer of course is publicity, publicity and more publicity.  As well as having a handful of books for sale at the talk, I had picture postcards to give out, with pictures of the book covers and details of this blog, plus my business card.  Be more professional than I was.  Confirm the subject of the talk AND how long they want you for; in short, be professional as you can be.  You'll be forgiven as I was, for a genuinely admitted mistake, but try not to make it.

  Publicity is exponential, that is, one thing leads to another, and you cannot evaluate every single thing you do in terms of number of books sold.  Think of it like a tree - one branch leads to two events, which each put out two branches leading to other events, etc. but it might be many years before the tree is full-grown.  In my personal case of course, I write about a cult market which fascinates people; if you are writing, for example, e-fiction, you would have to publicise in e-markets on the Internet, which is a different thing altogether.

  Do think about your "genre" - it's easier to compete in a "cult" market than in a broad one.  I've recently calculated I've sold more of each my Rennes-le-Château books than I sold of all East, West, Med's Best!  The latter was about sailing,  and because sailing was a larger market I thought I would sell more, but that's not the case, there is so much sailing stuff out there that the competition is overwhelming. 

  I've been thinking for a while now that personal stories are popular and something I saw on the Internet confirmed it. Have a look at this site.   Many readers were more interested in the personal side of things in my book The Mayor That Was Me than in my discovery of Occitan literature - click  here to see more.  It was reincarnation that "grabbed" them;  I must write more articles about it.

  One does spend a lot of time on "publicity and promotion" but it has to be done.  Go to your local bookshops and libraries, ask them if you can do a signing.  Do a blog for your book, as I did for the Mayor book, and name the blog with the title of the book, so search engines pick up on it.  Put links to it everywhere on the Web.  Make cards or flyers to advertise it, leave them on the underground and in local shops.  Ask your local paper to interview you.  Sell the book on Amazon and ask people to write reviews. 

  But mostly - don't worry.  It all takes time. 

  The best suggestion for increasing sales and increasing publicity?  Write another book and include in it details of your first book.  Someone in publishing has proved this works.  The first  book, for example, sells 100 copies in the first year, then the second book sells 100 copies in the first year, but this is the second year for the first book which might sell another 50, so your sales are up 50%.  It's exponential, and one day you'll be too busy to analyse how you are doing!



30/08/2014
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