Get Your Book Published: Guardian Masterclass, London

The new place/no broadband saga continues, but I’ve found a bit of a stop-gap solution. It involves me getting up extremely early and renting a hot desk for a week or so (a hot desk=a desk in a shared office that usually comes with internet access) but it’s better than trying to keep up with all things blog, Twitter and Facebook using only my phone. Normal service should resume shortly…

In the meantime: a reminder. I’m off to London in a couple of weeks for the Guardian’s Getting Your Book Published Masterclass (and, of course, a mini-spree in my beloved Paperchase!). It’s a great event because it recognizes that in the current publishing climate, there’s no such thing as one size fits all and that, for many writers, a combination of both traditional publication and self-publication might be the ideal path to pursue. All the details are below and hopefully I’ll see you there…


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Writing a novel is tough, but the labours of getting it into print are tougher still. You’ll need to find the right agent and to write a pitch seductive enough to make your work stand out from thousands of other submissions. And that’s just the start.

Literary agent Kerry Glencorse, crime novelist Dreda Say Mitchell, agent Hellie Ogden, self-published success Catherine Ryan Howard, PR expert Tory Lyne-Pirkis and publishing expert Danuta Kean – as well as Liesel Schwarz to tell you what it’s like to go from unpublished hopeful to a major three book deal – are among a the industry insiders who will show you what it takes to go from pitch to publication.

During this weekend course you will receive practical advice on how to find – and impress – an agent, alongside tips on writing trends, networking, self-publishing and much more. You’ll leave the course knowing how to draft the crucial pitch letter and write your synopsis, and with a clear understanding of how to get your book into print.

Dates: Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 June 2013
Times: 10am-5pm
Venue: The Guardian, 90 York Way, King’s Cross, London N1 9GU
Price: £350 (includes VAT, booking fees, lunch and refreshments)
Event capacity: 18 (except keynote where capacity is 36)

Click here for more information and/or to book your place

Notes from ChipLitFest

You may have noticed I’ve been missing for a few days. Well, for the first couple of them I was strolling around Oxford’s cobbles with my brother, wondering how I could possibly get the entire stock of Whittard’s home on Ryan-‘ONE piece of cabbin baggage’-air, and hoping that the strolling was at least contributing to the burning off of the calories consumed at afternoon tea. After that, I was at ChipLitFest.


May contain cucumber sandwiches. 

With big names splashed all over the program, military-level organization (in a good way!) and five-star accommodation for authors, it’s hard to believe that this was only the second year of ChipLitFest. I was delighted to be invited to do a ‘ChipLit Chunk’ — a two-hour workshop on self-publishing followed by half an hour of coffee and cake with my participants afterwards — and since my big regret at Waterford Writers’ Weekend was not having enough time to attend anyone else’s sessions, I made sure to grab some ChipLitFest tickets as well.


The main house at Heythrop Park.

ChipLitFest are famous for looking after their authors, which is how I ended up at the stunning Crowne Plaza hotel at Heythrop Park. On 400-hundred-and-something acres, it was like waking up on the grounds of the palace of Versailles in the morning—especially since on Saturday it was all clear blue skies and warm sun. I checked in at the (well-stocked!) authors’ Green Room, collecting my ‘Author’ badge to wear for the day. And there was a even little thank you card from Clare Mackintosh, the founder of ChipLitFest, who invited me. Such a lovely touch!


No, thank YOU!

My event, The Art of Self-Publishing,took place in one of the most adorable bookshops I’ve ever been in: Jaffe & Neale. In my daydreams about one day opening my own bookshop/cafe, it’s the interior of Jaffe & Neale’s that I’d hope to recreate: plenty of books yet plenty of space, and coffee tables not collected in a far corner but actually dotted around the bookshop. I couldn’t help myself; I picked up Stranded by Emily Barr and We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver while I waited for the previous event to finish. (It being one of my all time favourite novels, I already have a copy of Kevin, but all my books are piled in boxes in a storage unit at the moment and I fancied a re-read.) Then the lovely staff took my coffee and cake order for later—coffee, cake and sunshine? Can’t all book festivals be like this?—and then it was time to start.


Jaffe & Neale bookshop & cafe, Chipping Norton.

The event went really well, mainly because I had such a lovely group, and afterwards I ran around the corner to the theatre because I had tickets for Lionel Shriver’s talk about new book, Big Brother. Shriver has long been a favourite writer of mine so it was thrilling to see her in the flesh, but honestly: there’s clues in her books, but I didn’t appreciate just how clever and fascinating she is. The hour flew by. I would’ve happily sat there and listened to her for another two after that.

I also had tickets to Peter James, in conversation with the lovely and hilarious Jane Wenham-Jones. James has amazing access to seemingly all branches of the criminal world and the authorities who strive to put a stop to them, and his anecdotes were worth the ticket price alone. Another truly fascinating hour. I snapped up Wannabe a Writer? by Jane (again, another copy, since I have it already—this one was so she could sign it for me) and Perfect People by Peter James, who signed it and wished me luck with my writing.


A souvenir and great reading for the journey home…

Heading back to Heythrop Park I had a bag weighed down with books and a heart full of love for all those who write them.

Thank you to Clare Mackintosh for a wonderful weekend!

Bit of housekeeping: due to a recent surge in spam, I’ve reverted to the comment moderation setting that means first time commenters must be approved, and thereafter will have their comment published immediately. So sorry if this is a bit annoying but waiting to see your comment appear is better than me having to delete tens of spam comments per post—trust me! 

Social Media for Publishers

I’m just popping in this Monday afternoon to tell you that on Friday 26th April, I’ll be in Dublin talking Social Media for Publishers.

Self-publishers are publishers too, and all the same general principles, ideas, strategies, etc. apply, so I thought I’d share the details here in case any of you lovely blog readers would like to attend.

Here’s the pitch from Publishing Ireland:

Tw€€t This: Social Media for Publishers Half-Day Seminar

Ever wondered what social media is all about? Ever wondered how relevant it really is for your business? Ever asked yourself how far all that tweeting and facebooking would actually get you in terms of sales — real sales? How can publishers best take advantage of the wealth of opportunity this new world holds? How can they identify these opportunities? And in an environment where information is everywhere and attention is short, how can they create the kind of content that will stand out and get shared?


Self-published media expert Catherine Ryan Howard is here to tell you that social media for publishers really IS that important! Word of mouth is more important now than ever and using social media tools right can not only turn your recommendations into sales but also raise your profile in a very real way. Come join us on Friday, 26 April as Catherine takes the jargon and the mystery out of what has become the fastest and most efficient sales tool ever developed.

When? Friday, 26 April, 12-4pm.

Venue: Publishing Ireland offices, 25 Denzille Lane, Dublin.

Price: €100/€75 for Publishing Ireland members. Tea and coffee will be provided.

* * * * *

As this is a Publishing Ireland event, please note that although anyone can attend, only Publishing Ireland members can view the full website. So if you’re a non-Publishing Ireland member and you’d like to attend this event, please e-mail Stephanie at

And if you ARE a Publishing Ireland member, you can read an interview with me here.

Follow Publishing Ireland on Twitter

Plans and Goals and Stuff

Happy New Year!

I love fireworks, and here is a video of my favorite fireworks of all, Wishes at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Honestly, nothing can instantly improve my mood like watching this video. Because I recorded it, you can also hear me giggling with pure delight from time to time, and the crowd around me oohing and aahing. (And also cheering because they think it’s over, when it’s not even properly started yet.) The whole thing is about 12 minutes long, so if you just want to skip to the finale, go to 10:45.

So I thought I’d use this, my first post of the New Year, to tell you about what I intend to do with this blog and my whole self-publishing misadventures for the next twelve months, and then you can use the comments section to tell me what you think.

Blogging Bits

1. Write one blog post a week

At the end of every year I use Lulu to make a little hardback book of my blog posts just for me to keep and hopefully look back on sometime in the future with a warm, fuzzy feeling (as opposed to embarrassment and regret), and a by-product of this is I get to see how many words I’ve blogged in the last twelve months. I haven’t done 2012’s book yet, but I know it won’t be anywhere near as thick as 2010’s or 2011’s. I was a lazy blogger. (This wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t also a somewhat lazy writer, but we’ll come back to that in a sec.) So in 2013, I plan to write one blog post a week, except for the weeks when I’m traveling.

Or busy.

Or catching up on The Walking Dead.

2. Start a Sunday morning coffee break link fest

As my Twitter followers will have copped by now, I use my favorite social media-related app ever, Buffer, to tweet interesting links when I’m otherwise engaged, not writing and/or watching The Walking Dead. (While we’re on the subject, I’ve “gone awesome” on Buffer, paying $10 a month for unlimited buffered tweets and multiple accounts, and it is so totally worth it.) But there’s an awful lot of interesting stuff out there, and so I have to have some kind of system or I’d waste (more?) hours reading every interesting blog post or article that comes my way. So what I tend to do is check Twitter a few times a day—in the morning while I’m waiting for the kettle, while watching TV, etc.—and I mark anything interesting as a favorite. I also “star” items on my Google Reader and if all else fails, e-mail a link to myself. Then on a Sunday morning I go through everything I’ve marked for the week and read it, buffering what I think other people should read too, while drinking lots of coffee. It’s like my version of the Sunday papers.

But over the course of 7 days it’s a lot of reading, and some things are more interesting than others. So I’ve decided that in 2013, I’m going to post my favorite links of the past week—found in the past week, not necessarily posted—on a Sunday morning, so we both have something to read with our coffee.


Come on, new Scrabble mug. LET’S DO THIS THING.

3. Find the fun again

Blogging about self-publishing and I nearly broke up in 2012. Honestly, I just got so fed up with it. The whole “Why I Unpublished My Novel” post was a low point. I made a business decision—not to waste time on a product that wasn’t selling—and was accused of being shallow or all about the money. Dark corners of the internet told me I wasn’t “cut out” for self-publishing, without knowing a single other thing about me other than that post. I make part of my living from delivering workshops on the subject, and I started imaging scenarios where the organizers would ring up and say, “Nah, Catherine. Forget it. This anonymous person on the internet who hasn’t as much as published a Post-It says you’re not cut out for this, so…” And what’s funny is when self-publishers make bad decisions that are detrimental to the bottom line, they’re accused of being silly romantics who don’t understand that publishing is a business. (?!?!?!?!?!?!) I just felt like I couldn’t win, and I definitely wasn’t having fun.

If I’m doing something in life that isn’t fun, I stop doing it. That’s my rule, credit card bills permitting. So I either had to rekindle my blogging fun, or put an end to it. What had made it fun in the beginning? Figuring out how to do this self-publishing thing, having the proof copy arrive or seeing an Amazon listing of mine for the first time (the night Mousetrapped went live, I stared at it for nearly an hour) and getting messages and comments from other self-publishers saying I saved them time or a migraine. So this year, this pink blog is going back to being about me, to my experiences with self-publishing. There’ll be no commentary on the Us Vs Them debate, analogies involving the Irish potato famine or calls to action. There never was, really, but I felt I might have been creeping towards that place, or that people were expecting me to. So, no. It stops. The blogger who wrote this post is back.

Self-Printing Plans

4. Mousetrapped in hardback

I’m struggling to believe this, but on March 29th Mousetrapped will be out three years. THREE YEARS. What the…? Seriously, where does the time go? Since Mousetrapped basically changed my life, I feel it deserves a little celebration to mark its anniversary, so I’m investigating releasing in hardback via Lulu, perhaps with a new introduction. It will really be for me more than anyone, but I think it’ll be an interesting experiment—and make for good blog fodder. If it goes well, Backpacked might get the same treatment on its two-year anniversary in September.

5. Travelled in bits

As I detailed in this post, my next self-published travel book, um, Travelled, will be released in four parts over the next twelve months: 3 e-book only installments of 3-4 essays a few months apart, and then the completed book in both e-book and paperback just before Christmas.

6. Operation Full Distribution

I’ll be blogging more about this in the coming weeks, but in 2013 I’m taking some of my eggs out of Amazon’s basket and going for full distribution (Amazon, Smashwords, my own website, anywhere else that’ll have me) with all my books. It was this post that really got me thinking and when Smashwords announced that they were starting to accept ePub files, well, logic prevailed. The fact that spent Christmas dumping 20p traditionally published books into Kindle owners’ hands didn’t exactly warm my heart towards them either. (You might not see the 12 Days of Kindle page on Amazon if you click that link; it depends on where you are in the world/whether or not you’re signed in.)


I picked the Erin Condren Life Planner with the most suitable quote. (I hope!)

7. On the road

I’m a very busy girl in 2013. Workshops and speaking gigs in London, Dublin, Waterford, Chipping Norton and London again, it looks like. Last night I was planning a trip in February that will have me on four different flights and staying in four different hotels in eight days. (And I can’t wait for it. Think of my travel document wallet!) You can find out more about all that in this post.

Writing Goals

8. Writers write, don’t they?

2012 was a shameful word count for me. SHAMEFUL, I tell you. If that whole 10,000 hours before success thing holds true, I should be getting published…. hmm, sometime in December 2067. And writers are supposed to write. Talking about it doesn’t count at all, and thinking about only counts a little. (Also not counting: perfect notebook hunting, file re-arranging, index card coloring, how-to book reading, plot planning, etc. etc.) On St. Stephen’s Day—what we Irish call The Day After Christmas Day—I saw Joanna Penn tweet about Rachel Aaron’s book 2k to 10k, so I downloaded it (yes, I read e-books now), read it and then felt something stir deep down inside…. is that…?… do you think it could be…?…that feels like… well, hello there MOTIVATION! Can you even imagine a world where you’re writing 10k words a day? What would that world look like? I think it’d be like the Gumdrop Forest in Elf, but that’s just me…

So I will be writing a lot and, as per Aaron’s advice, keeping track of what I write and how long it takes me to write it. (Blog posts, too. I’ve been at this for about an hour now and I’m up to 1,391 words.) There will be a spreadsheet. There will also be a year planner above my desk, with red marks (a la Don’t Break the Chain) on the days I’ve written, and nothing but white space FILLED WITH GUILT on the days I don’t.

For the record, in the next twelve months I want to:

  • Write a blog post most weeks (approx 60k words, let’s just say)
  • Finish My Current Novel Project, proper draft (totaling 100k)
  • Write A Second Novel, rough draft (100k)
  • Write Travelled, for publication (60-70k)
  • Write a new introduction to Mousetrapped, for publication (2k)
  • Write a new non-fiction project that I’m thinking about, rough draft + proposal (70-80k).

And sleep and eat and travel and finally watch The Killing, of course.

Come to think of it, when’s Dexter back on FX?

9. Writers read, don’t they?

In 2012 I did the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and managed 48 books out of my goal of 52. This year I plan for the same—52 books—but I want to be more organized about my reading, now that a Kindle is involved. I also need to sort out the two Amazon wish lists I’ve had going for years (one on and one on, totaling about 1,500 books) and decide what I’m going to buy in Proper Book and what I’m just going to read in Pretend Book. We’ll see how that goes.

10. Remember why we’re doing this writing malarkey in the first place

My best friend lives in New Zealand and after her recent visit home, we decided to get back into letter writing. She’s not big on e-mail or Facebook (I know—how are we friends?! The answer is, we met when we were 13!) and so we used to send actual hand-written letters, but we hadn’t been too good at it of late. So when I was in London shortly before she came back, I went to Paperchase on Totterham Court Road and bought us both ample supplies of pretty letter writing things, and we’ve got back into it. When I was in Nice I sent her a letter in which I described my novel-writing anxiety… and then went on to talk myself down off the ledge I’d climbed up on. And I did it by telling her the story of why I want to do this whole novel-writing thing in the first place.

In Ireland, you start school around age five, in what we call “Junior Infants.” (Cute, I know.) When I was in Junior Infants, my teacher—who may or may not have been called Ms. O’Sullivan—would sit up on her desk at the top of the class with her legs on a chair and read to us, holding the book open so we could see the pictures. When I’d get home in the afternoons, I’d line up all my Barbies and teddy-bears and basically anything with a face, on my bed, all in rows and all facing front, climb up on my dressing table with my short little legs swinging above a chair, and “read” to the assembled toys, holding a book open so they could see the pictures (which I totally believed they could, because I was convinced toys had a secret life we didn’t know about, which Pixar have since confirmed). But I couldn’t read yet, so I had to make the stories up as I went along. And that’s how I started telling stories.


Me, Christmas morning, age 7/1989 (I think).

Which is what this is all about. Forget, for a minute, the submissions and the query letters and the manuscript formatting and the e-books and the author platforms and the workshops and the word counts and the beta readers and the advances and the twenty-year-old with a seven-book deal and how the latest ghost-written pile of celebrity crap sets your teeth on edge and what the Randy Penguin merger will mean for your writing dreams and your favourite authors. FORGET ALL THAT FOR A SECOND. Or try to. And think instead of what this about, what this is really about, why we want to be writers and entertain readers and see our names on the spines of books.

It’s because we want to tell stories.

And that, more than anything, is what I’m going to try and keep in mind this year.

But seriously—does anyone know when Dexter is back on FX?

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Come See Me in 2013!

My calendar is filling up for 2013, which is quite exciting. Here are the events already in the diary, if you’d like to experience the live version of this blog (only with more coffee…):

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Bring Your Book To Market (London)

What’s this then? A 3-day workshop that covers everything you need to know to self-publish your book and master social media. I do the self-publishing bit and then the super smart Ben Johncock does the social media. We did this last February too and it went really well, if we do say so ourselves.

When and where? It runs Friday to Sunday, February 22nd to 24th, at Faber Academy in Bloomsbury, London, i.e. the spiritual (and actual…?) home of publishing.

What’s the coffee situation? Not only is complimentary coffee provided throughout the day, but there’s a Starbucks around the corner too.

Consider me convinced! Where do I sign up? Visit the Faber Academy website for more details and info on how to book. Places are limited to 15 and it’s only a few weeks away so… *looks at you pointedly*


How To Self-Publish (Dublin)

What’s this then? A one-day workshop that is basically Self-Printed: LIVE!, i.e. how to self-publish and then sell your book while consuming a lot of caffeine. It’s me, fifteen or so of you and a really good lunch.

When and where? Saturday 2nd March in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. It’s about 25 minutes outside the city centre by DART.

What’s the coffee situation? There’s an Insomnia, like, directly opposite. I’ll be running on flat whites.

Fun fact: I did this last year too, only I stayed in a haunted hotel room the night before and got about two hours sleep. If it wasn’t for the Lucozade Sport and Dairymilk bars—and the coffee—I’d never have made it. But the haunted hotel story will be in Travelled

Consider me convinced! Where do I sign up? This workshop is being run by Inkwell Writers and the event page/booking info is here.


Talking Self-Publishing (Waterford)

What’s this then? The Waterford Writers’ Weekend takes place in Waterford, Ireland, between March 21st and 24th, and I’ll be doing two events: Making Social Media Work For You and Going Indie: Self-Publishing Success. They’re both on the Friday and they’re both panel-style events with other Irish writers/self-publishers.

When and where? Times and venues are yet to be confirmed.

What’s the coffee situation? To be determined. Google Maps says there’s a Costa though.

Consider me convinced! Where do I sign up? The website hasn’t been fully updated yet for the 2013 weekend but once it is you’ll be able to access all information and book through there.


The Art of Self-Publishing (Chipping Norton, UK)

What’s this then? Well I can still scarcely believe this, but I’ve been invited to Chip Lit Fest to give a workshop on The Art of Self-Publishing.

When and where? Times and venues are yet to be confirmed.

What’s the coffee situation? Who cares? I’m at the same literary festival as Jane Wenham-Jones, Richard Dawkins, Peter James, Jojo Moyes and Lionel Schriver. I’ll be the one giggling like a tween who’s just met Justin Bieber.

Consider me convinced! Where do I sign up? Tickets go on sale in January on the Chip Lit Fest website. Again, this workshop is limited to 15 places.

Hope to see you in 2013!

Mountains to Sea Festival 2012

For the first time, the wonderful Mountains to Sea Festival will be holding an independent publishing panel (or self-publishing, as I prefer to call it; if we call ourselves independent publishers then what will independent publishing houses call themselves, eh?), and I’m on it, along with Arlene Hunt and Adrian White. Vanessa O’Loughlin of will be chairing the “full and frank discussion” on Saturday September 8th, and it should be a great event. I’m really looking forward to it and I hope that if you’re in the area, you can make it.

The Mountains to Sea Festival has a jam-packed program of author events, workshops and discussions that have me tempted to relocate to Dun Laoghaire for the week to see how many of them I can attend. The full program is available on their website, along with booking information.

See Catherine’s News page for more upcoming events, or sign up to her newsletter to get random and sporadic notice of same.