To YA or Not to YA, That is the Question

After much deep and profound brain things inside my head, as King Julien would say, I have come to the conclusion that what I really need here is your opinions. As many of them as possible, in fact, although ideally not more than one each. (Unless you can support them with reference to the text, as my first-year Shakespeare lecturer would say.)

Lemur catta 3
The brain-thing which is currently circulating inside my head is this question: what constitutes a Young Adult novel? More specifically, was I mistaken in not classifying Restoration Day as a YA novel?

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Plan D Success!

Now some of you may be wondering, what’s Aunt Eller got to do with it?

Karl Emanuel Jansson - Old Woman in a White Bonnet - Google Art Project
Well let me tell you, if you want to be self-published – in fact, if you want to do anything in this world different from the way the world’s used to doing it – you gotta be hardy. Allow me to illustrate…

Plan A for Restoration Day ebook distribution was to go with the same people who are distributing the paperback. The author’s share wasn’t great, considering the low overheads associated with ebooks, but for width of distribution it would be hard to beat. And then I read the terms and conditions, and discovered… DRM – Digital Rights Management, also known as Digital Restrictions Management; or as Chuck Wendig calls it, the Devil’s Restrictive Manacles. If you’re looking for a less colourful explanation of why it’s bad, check out Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran.


Moving on! Plan B looked very promising. Indeed, Plan B went from pretty good to almost perfect overnight, when they added one of the biggest marketplaces in the world to their distribution network. I was all ready to go… until I found that they don’t accept Creative Commons works.

Why? Because the retailers allegedly won’t take them, apparently because some people have complained after finding that they paid money for something they could have downloaded for free. I tried to reason with them, but to no avail. Plan B was dead in the water, so I laid out my options with their pros and cons and dealbreakers.

Plan C… Ah, Plan C. Sell on our own website, with a couple of natty plugins. It could have been the best yet, but tragically it turned into a sort of pass-the-Tardis-parcel of paperwork, where as you remove a layer, you discover an even larger layer inside. The straw that broke the camel’s back was not the requirement of setting up a new bank account, or even setting up a formal partnership between myself and my husband, with all the paperwork that entailed.

David - Portrait of Monsieur Lavoisier and His Wife
Both prematurely greyed by paperwork.
It wasn’t their insistence that we publish our home address and phone number online; nor even that they have access to our workplace (i.e. home) at any time during working hours. No, the final straw was the terms and conditions you have to read and accept before you are allowed to read the standard of website compliance to which you will be held.

Now, let’s be clear: I’m not against web safety, not at all. I’m all for people not having their financial information stolen and used to benefit a bunch of crooks (because who else steals financial information?). I just don’t see why you need dozens of policies and procedures to protect the credit card information which isn’t being processed on your site.

That’s right: all that to protect the information which we wouldn’t even have. Enough is enough – and who is to say that that was the last layer? Apparently the first rule of the financial world is Don’t Talk About the Next Layer – in fact, don’t even suggest there are layers. It’s super simple! You’re nearly there…

Information Security Wordle: PCI DSS v1.2 (try #2)
You gotta be hardy. You just gotta be.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends and supporters of all shapes and sizes, I am both happy and relieved to announce that the Restoration Day ebook is finally available to the world.

Yes, if you visit this Givealittle page you can make a donation towards my ongoing existence as a writer and Person Who Eats, and receive in return a download link for the ebook. Yay!

And while you’re there, check out some of the other pages – there are many deserving causes up for support on Givealittle. Because some people have got it much worse than Plan D.

Helpful Books for Writers

Being a passionate reader as well as a writer, I have inhaled a large number of books about writing over the last (cough) years.


Here are ten I have found particularly helpful – though it’s worth remembering that your process may be different and therefore Your Mileage May Vary.

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
This book isn’t about writing per se; it’s about being a writer, a person who writes – and how to not be a person who wants to write but doesn’t. It’s not by any means a new book, but in my opinion it is darned good stuff. It’s encouraging, it’s practical, and it’s one of the books which frequently appear in the pile under my bedside table.

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
Technically a screenwriting book, it is worth reading if only for the wit and enjoyment. Though fiction writing can be looser in structure than screenwriting, a lot of the lessons carry across (the Pope in the Pool is my personal favourite).


Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
If you feel you are lost in a swampy thicket of “I don’t even know where I am or what I’m doing here or what this book even is” then this is the book for you. I was first drawn to it by the structural aspects, but got a healthy dose of all the other essential elements of a successful book.

Plot versus Character by Jeff Gerke
How to plot for character-driven writers and how to character for plot-driven writers. A painless extraction. I feel it improved both my project in hand and myself as a writer in general.

Please Understand Me IIDavid Keirsey
A handy tool for when you’re mulling over your characters, considering each type’s values and how they function as leader, spouse, parent or child. I don’t advocate using it as a tool for creating your characters out of whole cloth, but it can help you fill out the dimmer corners.

Don’t: A Manual of Mistakes & Improprieties more or less prevalent in Conduct and Speech
The Irresistible Novel
by Jeff Gerke
You will never come to the end of people telling you how every last detail of your writing should be done: rules, rules, rules. Jeff Gerke cuts through all that by pointing out that the only must is that you must keep your reader’s interest. And then he lays out a whole range of choices you need to make and gives you the information needed to make those decisions yourself.

Revision and Self-Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell
You get to the end of your epic first draft. You celebrate. You take some time off to let it settle, maybe work on something else for a bit. And then you come back and you look at that massive indigestible mass of paper. And what do you do then? You make yourself a cup of tea and you settle down with this book, is what.

Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran
Basically the best book on self-publishing I’ve read to date. Currently in its third edition, but the first edition (2011) is freely available for download from his website if you want to get a feel for it (it’s under a CC-BY-NC-ND license). Mostly about ebooks (hence the title) but with a helpful section on print-on-demand as well.

The Kindle Gazer, after Lilla Cabot Perry
How to Market a Book
by Joanna Penn
What I like most about this book is that it doesn’t make you feel guilty for not being the world’s top salesperson. She lays out the many and various options for marketing your book and then lets you decide what will work best for you.

Rise of the Machines by Kristen Lamb
The how and why of blogging and other social media for authors. I haven’t necessarily implemented everything in her book, but it’s encouraging stuff and makes it all seem possible.

So there are my recommendations – what are yours?