Monday, 20 January 2014

Judge a book by its cover - guest post

Peter from has written a guest post on the thinking behind some of their recent book covers. Anyone who has self-published will know how hard it is to produce a good cover for their books and I think you'll agree, Soundhaven have done a great job on these. hasn't been around long. About two years give or take. But in that time we've published twenty four titles under our own imprint, and helped several authors start their own. We've learnt a fair bit in those two short years, particularly when it comes to designing covers.

That age old advice, "never judge a book by its cover", is as ignored today as it's ever been. Perhaps more so. In a world where book-covers are more likely to seen as thumbnails on a screen, than through the window of a bookshop, it's never been more important to make sure the cover of a book stands out from its competitors, and in that briefest of moments communicates some semblance of the wonders that might lay within the pages it enshrouds.

Just for fun then, here are a handful of covers that we've designed, and what we were thinking when came up with them.

cover paperback

Ice And A Slice by Della Galton

Popular magazice Author Della Galton had some pretty clear ideas about what she wanted for the cover of her latest full length novel. From our perspective it was important that the cover worked just as well in print as it does on the screen - for this reason we were keen to find an image we could wrap round the spine and continue onto the back. We're particularly fond of strong photographic imagery, but sometimes the image needs a helping hand communicate what the book is about, which is why we played around with some of the words and letters in the title. Does the word 'and' seem out of focus to you? And did you happen to notice what the pink letters spell out?

toolshed1 kindle cover
toolshed2 kindle cover

The Writer's Toolshed Series by Della Galton

Sticking with Della, The Short Story Writer's Toolshed was one of our earliest titles. This short book is a based on a series of articles Della wrote for the rather excellent Writers' Forum magazine, so it seemed logical (to us) to give the cover that authentic 'magazine' feel in an effort appeal to those same readers that the articles had originally been written for. A year later we persuaded Della to bring out a follow up book, and again we went for that magazine look. However, even though Della is wearing a different jacket, and standing in front of a different shed(!) in retrospect I wish we'd made the covers more different, perhaps by changing the colour of the font, or the overall layout. I still wake up in the middle of the night fretting about whether her readers have figured out there's two books!

RGB versionFITI kindle

How To Start Dating And Stop Waiting Series by Peter Jones

When it came to our most recent 'series' we went all out to try and make sure that whilst the titles are clearly related (same font, similar layout, similar colour pallet), they're very different (if anyone confuses them I think I might just cry). It was important too to come up with a design that could be used to brand the associated website and a facebook page. And finally we were keen to continue the graphical theme that Harper Collins established with Peter's first book and pick icons that give you some idea what each book is about. Have we succeeded? You decide.


Shadowman and Meltwater by Della Galton

Our two most recent covers are amongst our all time favourites. And whilst the titles aren't related (they're not even the same genre) we rather like how they look together. Fiction titles don't generally have a subtitle, which is partly why we're strong believers in the importance of an intriguing 'movie-style' strap-line.

We hope you like our covers as much as we do. You might be interested to know that even if you're not one of our authors for a small fee we can be bought! We offer a number of publishing services of which cover designing is just one.

'How To Start Dating And Stop Waiting' comes out February 14th 2014.
'Meltwater' will be available in the coming weeks.
Visit for details of both.

Hmm. Think I may need to use Soundhaven's services for my next publication...

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Lovely new review!

I'm delighted that the prolific blogger and reviewer Morgen Bailey has reviewed my Short Stories and How to Write Them on her blog today. I've often spent a comfortable hour or two browsing her blog which is stuffed full of writerly goodies, and it's an honour for me to now appear on it. Thanks, Morgen!

Friday, 10 January 2014

Let's Talk Tax

I predict at least half my blog readers will read the title of this post and quickly surf onto something different, and to be perfectly honest, I really don't blame them.

Samantha Tonge of Doubting Abbey fame, posted a question about tax on her facebook page today. (If you're FB friends with her, do go and read the whole thing.) She got a lot of responses, and there's some very useful information in there which she suggested ought to be passed on to the wider writing public. That's you lot, dear blog readers!

This applies to UK residents only. If you're elsewhere in the world, breathe a sigh of relief and consider yourselves excused to leave this blog now. The rest of you, if you're earning from your writing, either read on or emigrate before the end of January.

So the question is, say you've sold a couple of stories and had no other income so are well below the tax threshold, do you need to register for tax?

And the short answer is, Yes.

You won't have to pay any tax if your profits (plus any other income) fall below the tax threshold. But you still need to register for tax, fill in a tax return, declare all income from writing (and anything else unless you're employed and on PAYE), claim all expenses, and if the overall profit is over the threshold pay any tax due. Failure to do so could result in a fine, plus big tax bill when HMRC catches up with you.

I'm absolutely no expert on tax - I have a day job, I'm on PAYE, I do a tax return and include any writing income (ie nothing really since I switched to writing novels!) and include the family allowance income since they changed the rules, and don't claim expenses (but I should).

I've read through the post on Sam's FB page, which includes some great input from full time, well-organised writers such as Simon Whaley, Geraldine Ryan and Emma Darwin. Here's the gist.

If you earn anything from writing, you need to do a tax return. This needs to be completed by the end of January, to cover the year up to the previous 5th April (so the current tax return would cover 6th April 2012 - 5th April 2013). You can do a tax return online but need a government gateway id which has to be sent to you via the post, so if you don't have one, go here now to register for one, as time is running out. (You can also do tax returns on a paper form, but that has to be submitted before 31st October so way too late for this year.)

You need to declare all income from writing - sales, competition prizes (I think), payments for critiques or writing courses etc.

You can claim for all writing-related expenses - paper, ink, stamps, your computer and printer if they're not used for anything else, and for a percentage of them if they are, course fees, travel if writing-related eg to a course, books, possibly a percentage of your heating/lighting bills as your home is your workplace. Basically you're self-employed and anything which is a business expense can be claimed for.

All expenses are added up, and subtracted from your writing income. This gives your profit. Profit is taxable.

If your profit is over the threshold you need to pay tax. If your expenses exceed your income (ie you made a loss) then this loss can be carried over and set against any profit made next year. So if you're earning sod-all this year but are expecting this to go up substantially (eg you've just ensnared an agent and are expecting to sell a novel for a large advance) then completing a tax return this year and claiming expenses may actually reduce your tax bill next year.

Ideally you should have receipts for all expenses. Where this is not possible eg claiming driving milage, a note in a diary should suffice - anything to help you prove you really did incur the expense.

If in doubt, phone the tax office. They will help you do the right thing in the right way, and will help ensure you pay the right amount of tax, neither too little or too much. Lots of useful information here.

And if you're becoming serious about writing, do get yourself organised. Start keeping receipts - maybe an A4 envelope for each month. Tot up expenses and income in a spreadsheet as you go. The more you do during the course of the year, the easier the tax return will be. Employ an accountant if you need to and can afford to, but it's all really about being organised, keeping records, adding and taking away. We all ought to be able to do that!

Note to self: must start keeping expenses receipts for next year's tax return. Very important because I have actually earned something from writing during 2013-14 tax year, thanks to my two How To books! 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

New Year, new blog to follow, new articles to write

A good friend of mine, now blogging under a new name of Millie Bowen, has started a new blog - The A-Z of Writing Romance. This will be a great one to follow if you are considering writing romances. Millie, under a different name, has had dozens of romances published (and the ones I've read have all been excellent.)

If your new year resolution includes writing more non-fiction articles, check out Douglas McPherson's column on article writing in Writers' Forum. He's always looking for questions to answer for this column, so if you have any, send them to him at

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

At this time of year I traditionally write a post making my New Year Resolutions public. It really helps me keep to them! This year I've put that post over on my personal website - here.

I hope you all had a good time celebrating the New Year last night. Happy New Year to all my blog followers - may 2014 bring you everything you've worked for!