Tag Archive | self publishing

Nanny and New Technology


Part memoir/part short story

It was raining heavily. So what, you might say but for someone still stuck in the Eighties, babysitting requires mastery of new technology not to mention the bravery of using public transport.

They did offer to collect me but their town house sits resplendent, devoid of parking and one journey out of Band D on a Friday evening ensures a lost spot for the weekend.

Why don’t I drive, you may ask? I hold a blemish-free licence and a not-too-old car but these days I easily decline.  Driving is no fun anymore.  Drivers are getting younger, have less hair and shiny heads which dazzle one in the headlights.  This same breed drives faster and switches lanes without warning. Tailgating is illegal but how does one shake off these nuisances when they persist in filling the rear mirror?

The one-way system in the town centre requires three circulations before I find Linden Gardens. Finding no parking space, I am unable to turn back and am then required to drive headlong into a maze of narrower one-way streets, with those irritating small humps every five metres and myriad No Entry signs.

Even if I do, on a rare occasion, find a space near enough to their home, parking is not a straightforward ‘jump out and slam your door’ job, as completing the scratch-off details on their residents’ parking permit is impossible if you have a) forgotten your glasses and b) forgotten the permit. No wonder I have little compulsion to use my car,

The first time I used the train, I arrived bright-eyed and fresh at the station, marvelling in my discovery of stress-free travelling, only to be confronted by an ‘Office Closed’ sign. How, I screeched at the blank glass, am I to get a ticket?  No problem said the greasy-haired cyclist leading me to a large machine on the platform.  Having disclosed my destination, name and address (now sure to be burgled and bereft of my analogue tv), he forces cash from my hand, feeding it into the contraption’s hungry jaws.  “How much?” I squawk as the ticket drops down minus any semblance of returned loose change.

“It’s cheaper online” he says as he pedals away.

My heart sinks at the reference to technology. At this rate, the car could return to favour, but, no ……, the prospect of driving headlong onto the pier haunts me.

This time, despite the rain and the dark of winter, I have conquered the internet but am informed my ticket can only be collected from the same self-service machine. There is no escape.  Neither is there a manned office, a guard with a flag (as in olden times) or the greasy haired cyclist of last week.  However, I manage the ticket machine, the trip and the taxi ride to be met at the door by the departing parents keen to see the start of the show.  I hear words like oven, microwave and dishwasher as Hannah provides a lightning tour of her new kitchen, a wall of white behind which these items lurk.  Then it’s mobile numbers, Sky, baby alarm (she won’t wake up they say), automatic sliding doors, windows, kitchen cupboard doors and entry phone each with its own separate hand control – “It’s all very simple” Hannah assures me, and they are gone.

I am left in a sparsely but expensively furnished room with a blank TV screen, a white wall at one end behind which somewhere is my dinner and the curtainless wide patio doors. Another door leads to the hallway and the baby’s bedroom.  Baby will not wake up was manna from heaven to my ears.  I attempt to locate my lasagne using the remote control on the breakfast bar.  After several failed attempts at tracking down and starting the microwave, the oven is purring and the dishwasher door is opening and closing only not slow enough for me to grab a cup and plate.  I give up the idea of eating and try to obtain BBC 1 via the TV remote.  What I get is not BBC 1 but a recording of Deal or No Deal, my television pet hate.  My attempts to change channel result in volume overload and unbeknown to me the baby alarm can work in reverse – not a good thing with an eight-week-old.  Blaring TV, crying baby and failed attempts to stop oven and dishwasher working in tandem result in an element of panic during which I pick up the wrong hand control which operates the sliding patio doors.

As I said it was raining heavily and little did I know that the control for the doors also activated the windows (open) and the interior lights (off) – easily done without my glasses to read the display. I decamped quickly to the nursery where for I sang nursery rhymes and was rewarded with a smile.  The simple things in life don’t change do they?


Grandma’s  Poetry Book is available by post via dcastle32@talktalk.net or on my website http://www.dicastle.co.uk

This poetry collection spans sixteen years capturing the experience of a first-time grandmother on her sometimes wobbly journey in her new role. It includes many facets of unmissable moments and childhood milestones, some humorous and others more poignant, even sad.  Such treasured times can easily be forgotten so the book acts as a nostalgic memoir. Touching and funny in turn, readers will be reminded of the joys of witnessing childhood development and the effect on their own lives. Even those yet to reach grandparenthood including fathers, aunties and primary school children have already enjoyed reading this book. Grandma’s Poetry Book makes an ideal gift for new grandparents, birthdays, Christmas and Mothers’ Day and many readers have returned to buy more copies for friends and relations. Each poem has its own laugh-out-loud illustration by an artist who has been likened to E H Sheppard.

Some comments have included ‘Pam Ayres meets Winnie the Pooh’, ‘made me laugh, made me cry’, ‘charming book’ and ‘every grandparent should have one’.


Our new book, Should I Wear Floral? And other poems on Life Love and Leaving will be out shortly. Follow me on twitter @dinahcas and on Facebook – Di Castle – Writer to hear of updates and see sneak previews of illustrations and poems.





On 10th of March 2002

I send this little rhyme to you.

To thank you in a special way

as we celebrate Mothers’ Day.


This message comes right from the heart.

Through prayers and travel from the start,

from daughter, sister, girlfriend, lover,

you found yourself as Amy’s mother.


Now you know a mother’s pleasure

interacting with her treasure –

listening to each coo and sound

fun and laughter all around.


Motherhood is life’s first-class,

as every day new milestones pass.

A special smile, a special word.

She’s talking now – what’s that you heard?


Those sleepless nights, the teething tears

Helping them dispel their fears.

The jabs, the spots, each dirty nappy,

so strange all this can make you happy!


But childhood passes in a flash,

as through our busy lives we dash,

to earn a crust, keep fit and feed,

homework to do, books to read.





Mothers’ Days will come round fast.

Quicker each year than those long past.

They evoke in us a reflective mood,

gazing proudly on our brood.


So make the most of all those days –

let her linger in childlike ways.

Remember she’s on loan to you.

In God’s great plan she’s more to do.


First give her roots and wings she’ll grow

and very soon before you know,

she’ll fly the nest like you before

and you’ll not have her any more.


Grandma’s  Poetry Book is available by post via dcastle32@talktalk.net or on my website http://www.dicastle.co.uk If you pay with PayPal it is free postage.

This poetry collection spans sixteen years capturing the experience of a first-time grandmother on her sometimes wobbly journey in her new role. It includes many facets of unmissable moments and childhood milestones, some humorous and others more poignant, even sad.  Such treasured times can easily be forgotten so the book acts as a nostalgic memoir. Touching and funny in turn, readers will be reminded of the joys of witnessing childhood development and the effect on their own lives. Even those yet to reach grandparenthood including fathers, aunties and primary school children have already enjoyed reading this book. Grandma’s Poetry Book makes an ideal gift for new grandparents, birthdays, Christmas and Mothers’ Day and many readers have returned to buy more copies for friends and relations. Each poem has its own laugh-out-loud illustration by an artist who has been likened to E H Sheppard.

Some comments have included ‘Pam Ayres meets Winnie the Pooh’, ‘made me laugh, made me cry’, ‘charming book’ and ‘every grandparent should have one’.



Grandma’s Poetry Book – the book signings


‘Did you write this?’ Another shopper stands with a copy of Grandma’s Poetry Book, eyes shining, mouth twitching with giggles. She removes her purse from her bag and I lift my pen.

‘How shall I sign it?’  There is the usual pause but quickly I am told whether to write To Nana with one ‘n’ or To Nanna or to Granny from Lewis and James or to many other combinations. Last week I was asked to write ‘To Nana from Benson’. Benson is the family dog.

This is my first, full Christmas season of taking my book to Christmas markets and fairs and I am so busy with events I cannot remember when I last did any housework. I have chosen a selection of local fairs to support schools and charity organisations and also attend those further afield where the area may bring more visitors of the type who will buy the book.

The promotion of my self-published book was not something I looked forward to a year ago but the book has been so well received, the comments via face-to-face and email are warm, the reviews 5* and many of last year’s buyers are returning for more to buy for new grandmothers, friends and relatives that I am proud to display the product. I chose red table covers as my website has a scarlet background specifically to show off the cream cover and to complement the red balloon. In the summer as I attended summer fetes and fairs I bought two hessian bags. One holds the books, up to 20 if necessary, and the other one holds stands, plastic wallets of business cards, flyers and the slip that asks the buyer to leave a review on Amazon. So many buyers don’t do this, especially as they often give the book away as a present. I now suggest they read it before wrapping it and leave the review themselves. After all, the recipient may leave one too if I am lucky.

When I enquire to book at an over-subscribed event, I can often squeeze in by saying ‘I don’t need much space. Half a table will do.’ A further joy is that I can set up my table in 10-15 minutes. We see crafters who arrive at 8am for a 10am market start while we have had an extra hour in bed. Likewise, taking down my display takes minutes. As I live on the first floor of a Victorian building, the lack of boxes, crates and other paraphernalia, makes me pleased to be a writer rather than an artist or ‘maker’ especially as OH and I are of the ‘older generation’.

We have met many interesting, lovely people at our events this season. My memory is sorely tested each time as stallholders I met at a previous venue stop to say hello. Others attending our events are always willing to share their wisdom on where my book may sell and venues I can try. I always return home with a notebook of ideas and websites to Google. What I have learnt is that the book signing experience is a never-ending journey. The only problem is when to find time to write the next and subsequent book. While I am willing the next book to be available, I know that I should not take short cuts. Grandma’s Poetry took many hours of polishing and editing over a period of sixteen years with a final frenzy in the spring of 2014 before I uploaded the final manuscript. To hurry the process of our next book, Should I Wear Floral, and other poems on Life, Love and Leaving, could leave us with a less-than-perfect product which would disappoint our existing readers who are now eager to see the next book.

Hopefully, when Christmas has passed, I can get down to some serious editing. Once ‘Should I Wear Floral’ is with the publisher, I will be able to concentrate on the final work on my memoir of growing up in the Fifties, another gift for my grandchildren who think we have always watched tv, used the internet and had mobile phones. I can’t wait to deliver the surprises that Red House to Exodus holds for them.

Today, one buyer asked, ‘Is this just one book?’ and I realised that the sooner I can have two books on my table the better. Meanwhile, I have ideas for making my table more interesting. I will be putting ‘free poems’ on A5 or A4 sheets as I have seen the interest from youngsters, especially those around 9 or 10 years of age and I am keen to engage children with poetry.  I also have some wonderful snippets from the reviews which I will be framing.

For now, it is back to Facebook and the internet to find more dates and events.

Hope to see you there!

Grandma’s Poetry Book, written by Di Castle and illustrated by Denise A Horn, is a humorous, sometimes wobbly, journey of a first-time grandmother charting childhood development and family life from the grandparent’s perspective. It is available through bookshops and on www.dicastle.co.uk with free postage for orders via PayPal.

A sad day for Grandma’s Poetry Book

Cover of Grandma's Poetry Book by Di Castle

Grandma’s Poetry Book is collection of poems charting a nostalgic journey taken by a first time grandmother as she adapts to her new role and views her daughters becoming mothers and witnesses the changes in parenting styles when compared to the 1960s and 1970s.

The book begins in 2 years BG (before grandchild) with the author and her friend sharing shopping outings, meals, coffees and undisturbed chats as they disclose confidences such as their reluctance to have their lives changed in any way, particularly with regard to grandchildren. Tongue in cheek the first verses illustrate a time when we could not imagine how addictive the whole grandparenting experience would be.  The three illustrations for the first three poems reflect this reluctance which, of course, is soon set aside once the babies arrive. The third poem – All Change – was inspired by the day when my friend announced her daughter-in-law’s pregnancy.The poems refer to ‘my friend Mo’ and readers of Grandma’s Poetry Book will know the character. Mo was actually a real life friend but I will call her Mo here as she was and is such an important part of my life especially in the days before I became a grandmother myself. When I was seriously ill in 2013 she asked me to go to stay with her but I could not drive and would not have managed to pull my wheelie case on the train. So she came to me and we shared precious times over a few days. She asked about Grandma’s Poetry Book and she read the early drafts, giggling appropriately. ‘I remember that day’ she said. When the book was published last year, hers was the first complimentary copy I posted out. She was always smiling, laughing, feisty and witty. Her daughter-in-law described as ‘nuts’ which is probably why we got on so well.

At the time of publication (November 2014) my friend had been fighting ovarian cancer for well over a year, a struggle which she appeared to be winning. Hair loss did not bother her and did not temper her shopping habit as she accumulated several hats and wigs for the last two winters. Her positivity was unbounded, her humour untarnished, her love and affection for me unstinting. She was the friend everyone should have. We could pick up the phone and the intervening months or years would melt away. It was as if we had spoken only yesterday. Despite great distance we met up a few times a year and were in touch on email. After her diagnosis I telephoned more often. I sought out humorous emails I had stored on the computer and sent them to her. I posted the occasional bar of chocolate.

Over the last six months there was less contact and several hoped-for meetings did not happen as she spent more time in hospital. We did exchange emails and I would try to imagine her smiling at something silly I wrote that had happened. ‘You always make me laugh’ she answered not so long ago and she referred to the strong love she had for me. At the time I did not realise she was having ‘the conversation’ but I too began unwittingly to unwrap our friendship in my emails, praising her for her positivity and humour. I told her that, should I be struck down with something similar, I would be led by her example and buy hats and wigs. It was early summer, very warm and she answered that it was now too hot to wear them. ‘A scarf’ I suggested and without asking I sped down the road and browsed an array of lightweight scarves in a local shop.  I chose one I felt would go with most outfits, stuffed it in one of the padded envelopes I use for posting Grandma’s Poetry Book and headed back to the post office.  In my hurry I forgot to say who it was from but she remembered that I had mentioned it and texted me to ask if it had come from me. Whether she wore it or not I am not sure but I like to think that she did like my choice and wore it when out and about.

Mo lost her fight quite suddenly on 10th October this year. I was on holiday when she passed but knew that she was failing fast and not eating so I expected to hear the sad news on my return. I dreaded to hear that I had missed the funeral but I needn’t have worried. Ten days ago Other Half and I travelled up to say our final goodbyes. My body was racked with sobs punctuated with laughter as her son related humorous incidents from his mother’s life. I learnt things I had not known about her and a friend and I exchanged alarming looks when he mentioned some whacky photographs he had found in an album dating back to the late seventies and eighties.

Afterwards the son told me his mother ‘thought the world of you’ and my voice cracked when I said ‘I thought the world of her too’. There are photographs in the albums of our children playing when young he said. I promised to write at length to the two brothers but have only just felt I could put words on the page with this blog. I think of my friend every day and she will always be in my life. I picture her as she was

But, more than that, her memory lives on in the first three poems of Grandma’s Poetry Book. I have her to thank for those experiences.


Grandma’s Poetry Book is published by Matador and is available on http://www.dicastle.co.uk or direct from the author

Follow me on @dinahcas


When Grandma’s Poetry Book was published by Matador in November, I must have been the greenest, most self-absorbed, self-published author on the planet. So I had a website www.dicastle.co.uk and my book was listed on the Troubador site. I had paid for basic marketing packages on both paperback and ebook and I just thought …..

It would all happen …………..

Ha ha, big joke. Briefly, I mused how much better it would have been if I could have secured an agent or a publisher. Then it would have been so easy. They would have done it all wouldn’t they?

Well …. actually no, that is not the case. Even mainstream traditional publishing houses cannot give close attention to every book they publish and it is up to authors to do their own promotion and to ‘get out there’ and sell books.

So there I am last October with some books delivered to me and some waiting in the publisher’s warehouse. I have a website and I do twitter much to the amazement, scepticism even abject horror of my friends. I actually have about 150 followers at the time but I don’t understand hashtags, other author posts with weird abbreviations and I have never seen a DM – isn’t that something to do with being tied up? Well I had some when I was hacked about two years before. To my horror ‘porn’ messages purportedly from me went to my followers but thanks to posting an apology and explanation, several twitter acquaintances helped me out. Change your password, ignore it, get on with life. Yay, thanks all!

In October 2014 I do have a Facebook page with about 100 friends and a writer page with about thirty likes. I have tried getting on LinkedIn without success. I think I am quite a wily bird until I look at the number of followers some authors have – whaaaaat! How do they do that?

I am fortunate that staff at Matador patiently answer all my newbie questions and provide advice about how to increase likes on my writer page and how to get more followers. They tweet my website when it is launched and tell me that if I put @matadorbooks in my tweets they will RT. What is an RT? No, I don’t really understand retweets either and it is some time before I link RT to this.

I begin tweeting, and finding people to follow and my list of followers begins to grow – slowly, very very slowly that I could easily fall asleep at my computer. I follow everything! Regardless.  A few days pass. Suddenly Twitter stops me following anyone. No reason given. Ugh.

Then I remember 2012 at Winchester Writers’ conference when I attended a workshop run by Sally Tickner http://www.sallytickner.co.uk/workshops.html . I had been in contact soon after. I resume contact and she looks at my twitter page. I can only guess at her initial reaction. I suspect she may, in her next workshop, use me as an example of the dumbest way to use Twitter.  I am following too many people. I need to prune my following and up my followers, produce good content and interact with potential readers. So I trawl my tweets and unfollow all those I deem unnecessary. Oh all those holiday places, tourist offices, publishers, famous authors, actors, Jonathan Ross, Stephen Fry!! Hoards of accounts which are NEVER going to follow back. A daily trawl takes time. There are about ten accounts connected to the Edinburgh Festival, several for the Lake District, more for the Peak District and anything to do with Swanage doh. I am also following several accounts connected to the Deaf community. I AM passionate about raising deaf awareness but in October I wanted to get people to buy my Grandma’s Poetry Book. I need to get followers who may spread the word, read the book or buy for a relative. Sally gives me a link to justunfollow.com which tells you who is not following you back. I spend evenings tweeting some, pleading ‘pls follow back’ followed by a link to my website. Much later, I learn it is important to provide the link to the BUY page on the site. Keep learning. Gradually my following numbers drop. Good thing as Twitter stopped me following new people once I was up to 2001. I have to get more followers before I can add. So shed a few and add a few.

I am now in twitter fog, my head spinning, my rear end stiff from sitting on my chair. I dream about the @ symbol. I haven’t found notifications. I can’t find my way around my own twitter account let alone someone else’s. Whatever happened to writing? I haven’t written anything for weeks. My blog is about to die. But I want to sell books. Ha! I read that to sell books I should write a second as quickly as possible. I have millions of words on my computer in various manuscripts, drafts and redrafts. But I have lost the will to live where writing is concerned. Actually I have a severe case of Writer’s Block. My life is consumed by Twitter.

Training. I need training. I put myself on any available social media course. A morning here, a full day there. I learn what social media means and write snippets in my notebook which might be useful. Good for networking and handing out my author cards if nothing else. I learn about interaction!  Hmm. I read blogs about spreading the word and using social media. I read advice that I should start conversations but I am not quite sure how to do it. There is a reply button, yes? Where? One of my followers on twitter begins a conversation about my book and Amazon. Interesting but what do I do about it?

Ah the Purbeck Literary Festival, February 2015; an opportunity for a morning course in the hotel a few doors up the road from where I live in Swanage. I sit numbed and braindead. I don’t understand this Twitter stuff and what is ‘Call to Action’? Oh that’s on Facebook, But the speaker Andrew Knowles begins to get through my fog and his wife explains about scheduling tweets on sites such as https://hootsuite.com/. I leave with her words ringing in my ears that one should not write a blog and tweet it only once. Waaaa that is what I’ve been doing since 2012 when I began blogging. Tweeting it once and getting a couple of likes and one follower if I’m lucky.

Scheduling? It means you can go on holiday and your Twitter feed still churns out tweets as if you are at home. Good for keeping burglars at bay if nothing else. It takes a while to get my head round Hootsuite but boy when I get going there is no stopping me. The same tweet at different times of the day, over the next week or ten days, change it slightly and re-schedule. It is such fun! I slow down when one of my much pasted tweets has an incorrect link – typo! I have to work through the schedule and delete but not before the wrong link has been retweeted to some 100K twerps. Ugh.

Andrew also teaches us Twitter etiquette. Do this or get unfollowed! Do that and get more followers. I begin slowly with a Thank you for following message that I paste into tweets of new followers. It includes reference to Grandma’s Poetry Book and gives my website.

Marketing at Matador suggest asking on twitter for people to LIKE my FB page so I try it. Twenty identical tweets sent at different times. Change the hashtags – yes I do understand them now – and do it all again.  I join a few author forums and friend a few authors. Some have twitter handles (yes I am getting the language now) and I tweet them. They begin to retweet my tweets about my book. I search local organisations, organisations of which I am a member and follow.

Sudden inspiration! An IDEA! If I can follow mothers with babies I might be able to persuade them to buy the book as a present for the grandparents. I now add Ideal gift to my Thank you tweet and I find they are favouriting my tweets as well as retweeting. What’s favouriting you ask. I don’t know. Perhaps so they can find it again? Yes!  I trawl my Facebook friends list as I have been friended by a few people who might spread the word. I message a baby photographer who puts a post and a link to my website on her Facebook page. She has 1600 likes!

Then the realisation that everyone who likes a page gets an update. So her post is reaching out to new parents and new grandparents who may also like the page. She herself buys two books from Amazon for the two grandparents for Christmas and puts glowing comments on her page. She reads them before gifting them. She puts a review on Amazon. I am getting there. I AM finding my readers.

In Part 2 of Finding Your Readers I will own up to getting rather pushy and cheeky and the fantastic results I had. And those hashtags! Great fun!

Grandma’s Poetry Book was published by Matador in November 2014. There are 16 4 and 5 * reviews on Amazon. A nostalgic memoir of a first-time grandmother’s sometimes wobbly journey with laugh out loud illustrations by Denise Horn.


My book, Grandma’s Poetry Book, self published by Matador came out in November. Officially the publication date was 28th November but the books arrived a month early and I began doing signings and taking it around to outlets and cafes to rustle up interest in signings.

I had 500 copies printed, 300 for the publisher and 200 for myself. Five hundred is a cost effective number as the unit cost of the book is lower, the more copies that are printed. If the publisher holds more than 300 copies some shelf storage costs are incurred so it makes sense to have some come to me.  Around mid November I was running short so I asked for another 100 to be sent to me and then at the beginning of December I requested a further 50.

That is when I realised how successful my book had been. The head of the warehouse told me they were running short of copies so I deferred on the 50 I had requested and, as he suggested, arranged for a further print run of 500 copies.  There is still considerable interest in the book and it makes an ideal gift for birthdays and Mother’s Day as well as Christmas. Also many purchases have been for ‘new grandparents’ and these are popping up all the time. However, I am aware that at the moment I have about £800 of expenditure sitting doing not much. There has not been the opportunity to do much promotion and signing at the beginning of the year and there is a lot of illness about.

When I tell people I am on a second print run they assume that I made 500 sales which is not entirely true. A few were sent out for review by the publisher, I gave complimentary copies to each of my seven grandchildren and to my two step grandchildren, the twins in the book, as well as a couple of complimentary copies to my illustrator and one to my partner. As our local adventure farm is featured in the book, I took one complimentary copy to them and gave a few cafes and our local dentist copies for display with their reading material. I sent out some books for review and when I asked outlets to stock the book I always left a copy so about ten copies have been left in shops and stores with the order information. The National Trust have responded by sending me forms to complete so hopefully sales there will follow.

Another route I took was to leave ten copies in local bookshops on a sale or return basis. Our local bookshop has sold almost twenty copies that way but I am not sure she will stock now that the Christmas season is over and the first flurry of sales has passed, especially as shelf space is short. An idea to donate free copies for local charity raffle prizes was welcomed in my home town and about eight found their way to the table of raffle prizes for all to see before the raffle was drawn. This has generated interest wider afield.

I attended a few of the larger Christmas fairs and local Christmas lunches and usually sold between 8 and 10 at each event. It is surprising how this mounts up over a period of a week or two.

The remainder have been sold at signings and through the post. My illustrator has a wide network of fans. They have bought the book because they know the illustrator and want a copy of her work in print which I now see has opened up the market.

Obviously friends and family have been the main purchasers but the field has widened since the book came out with Amazon orders doing well and reviews on Amazon and Goodreads showing five stars with a couple only giving 4. One or two of the comments, while giving praise in part, make points which, if the whole book had been read, they would see do not apply. One comment was that it is too personal to my family and yet this is what other readers love. Also I make it clear that the book is inspired by my love of A A Milne and his Christopher Robin series was based on his own family.

An unexpected outcome has been that the book is being bought in twos: one for each grandmother. This was not something I had anticipated. Of course, I am delighted.

I have not calculated my takings as yet but I pay in money about twice a week to my ‘writing’ account. I always have two or three books on my person and can sell if they ask. I am still getting requests on email and as a result of my Christmas round robin letter which included details.

The promotion of the book has brought much work and takes time but we are looking forward to brisk sales in 2015 and by next Christmas I hope the book will be well known.

We press on!

Signed copies of Grandma’s Poetry Book are available from the author by post. Send an email to dcastle32@talktalk.net for instructions.  I can post to America, Canada and Australia and other destinations overseas.

My website gives more information www.dicastle.co.uk

Grandma’s Poetry Book. What I’ve learnt so far

So it seemed so easy … and it was, eventually. After a year of agonising and researching how to self publish my poetry book I thought I was ready.

I am self -publishing with Matador. Why Matador? While they are the only self-publishers recommended by the Writers and Artists’ Year book, I had other reasons. My decision was partly based on the fact that, for a beginner and someone with little computer expertise save for basic social media, internet, email and Word, Matador undertakes as much or as little of the publishing process that you require. While other self-publishing companies or printers want PDF files and ready-to-go layouts, Matador will accept a Word document uploaded by email and take it from there.

After talking to staff on the Matador stand last year at the Winchester Writers Conference and browsing their sample books, I was impressed by the superb quality of their finished product so there was no doubt that I would use their services.

So what have I learnt? The importance of seeing in advance what a finished product is like is at the top of my list. I have seen several other self-published books which appear amateur and cheap. Matador like professional covers and do not guarantee to use author-provided images. Fortunately, after a nail-biting wait, they agreed to use my illustrator’s drawing after a plea from myself that if my illustrator had 57 illustrations in the actual book then her cover picture should be used. Initial feedback about this cover is excellent and I know this was the right choice.

Lesson two was to look carefully at the publisher’s website. Matador has a sample quote which I found extremely useful as I knew immediately what costs would be involved. Some of these attract added VAT and, I have to say, I initially forgot this when doing my maths. My final quote, when it did arrive, was identical save for the number of pages and unit cost. Other costs such as marketing packages are standard.

Lesson three </was to post questions on author’s Facebook ages or pages linked to the Independent Authors Association. I received plenty of feedback indicating good experiences with Matador even if the author had not used them subsequently. I also looked through their list of publications to see if I recognised any author names. I did. There were a few who were linked to some of my author friends via Facebook. This seemed recommendation enough.

Lesson four was to have a list of questions to ask prior to the signing of the contract. Also, I have been proactive about asking questions during the process. Matador staff respond quickly and helpfully.

Lesson five is to have the manuscript polished and pristine. If using their marketing services the publication date is set six months down the line, something to bear in mind, although my own copies should arrive earlier. While I have obtained offers for book signing venues I am advised to wait until my books arrive before making firm dates.

Lesson six was to allow plenty of time to read through all the written information, procedures, and guidelines. Once I had uploaded the final document and signed the contract indicating which services I would use, I received acknowledgements and further information. Being of a certain age, I do not trust my memory so I printed out all the attachments and emails.

Another milestone is when the Type Set proofs arrive. These initially came via wetransfer, a file sharing program, and while I did manage to view the files on screen, I asked for hard copies. Paper copies enabled me to see how the final pages will look with the left hand page aligned with the right hand page. This is particularly helpful when images are placed in the work as get a view of what the reader will see on turning the page.

The final lesson and probably the most important. I paid for a proofreader.

It would seem we are almost ready to roll.
Ps As I post this blog, the proofs are at the printer’s!
Grandma’s Poetry Book, written by Di Castle and illustrated by Denise Horn is out in November.

What Rubbish!

What rubbish! I can hear them now – the purists and the proponents of free verse commenting negatively on my soon-to-be-published poetry book. While there are two non-rhyming poems, the remaining fifty-seven bounce along in predictable rhythm and rhyme.

The title, Grandma’s Poetry Book, came easily and, once it resonated frequently in my internal chatterbox, it helped me create the essence of what my book would portray. In real life, I am not called Grandma but other titles did not work so well. ‘Nanny’s poetry book’ does not have the same ring somehow. The word Grandma, with its similarity to grandmother, seemed apt.

I began this collection about ten years ago although many poems had already sat idly in my writer’s notebooks for a few years. While browsing these old books full of jottings, ideas, short story drafts, chance remarks and chapter headings, I realised I had enough material to produce a book. These notebooks represent my writing life. It is in these notebooks that I plan future writing and empty my mind of the dialogues and descriptions churning through my thoughts. And so it was with Grandma’s Poetry Book. I was never short of something to write under this heading. Shortly after the birth of my first grandchild I had blurted lines of rhymes on to the pages, albeit they were not completed or polished until weeks, months or even years later.

Most poems are in the voice of the grandmother who is invariably feeling at sea and ill at ease with her new role while simultaneously relishing the delights of a new baby in the family. Other poems are in the voice of the child as she expresses her own view of what the grandmother is witnessing. One poem is as spoken by the baby’s auntie. ‘Sis’ expresses the feelings of the loss of that special sibling relationship as the proud new mother transfers her attention to her new role and talks of little else.

Unless you are Carole Ann Duffy or dead you are unlikely to obtain an agent or even a publisher for your poetry and I am not a veteran performer or Pam Ayres and trying several small presses resulted in being rebuffed because I was not already published with them. ‘We have our own writers’ they said or I was told they were ‘not taking poetry at the moment’. As I am pushing seventy I do not have time left to spend sending out work for several years.

Therefore, I decided to go for what the Writers and Artists call ‘serious self publishing’ with Matador, an imprint of Troubador Publishing. While I know many may wrinkle their nose at the term, the more popular description in 2014 is Indie publishing, short for Independent Publishing. I am not sure I can call myself an Indie author as I have not formatted my own copy, uploaded it to the likes of Create Space or taken it to a local printer and had several hundred copies delivered for storage in the corner of my bedroom. Matador do all this for me. While there are numerous online self publishing companies these are subject to a variety of complaints. So far all is going well and I cannot speak highly enough of the Matador staff. They are fussy about which manuscripts they take on for their self publishing business as they pride themselves on high quality content and keeping their good name. They are the only SP Company recommended by Writers and Artists and I can well understand why. They certainly aim to avoid the ‘what rubbish’ reviews on their books.

Critics of self publishing abound. Only this month in Writing Magazine the letters page contains a vitriolic attack on SP authors which could be re-titled ‘what rubbish’. The writer has clearly not learnt to read reviews prior to purchase. She mentions typographical errors despite the author’s pernickety editing. Indeed, in this regard I find myself in agreement, although her other harsh remarks about self publishers are totally unfounded. But only last year, a self-published friend was horrified to see her own book in print with errors she had missed. For this reason I am pleased I paid Matador for a proofread. This offered far more than picking up incorrect punctuation or minor errors. There were suggestions on re-positioning of some information. Here’s hoping this will result in few cries of ‘what rubbish’.

This leads me to my fear of a bad review. Writers are quick to let their inner critic attack their creative efforts and minimise their better stories and articles or trivialise the plots in carefully crafted novels. We don’t actually need a bad review to tell us our work is not up to standard as we are constantly reminding ourselves of our limitations and weaknesses. We may fear the bad review will stifle sales and lead our books by the hand to the publisher’s pulp shelf but history shows that many best sellers have initially suffered a bad review. Elsewhere in October Writing Magazine we are told that a bad review can actually increase sales especially in these online times when social media can spread the bad as well as the good and bring about ‘chatter’ which brings a title to the fore. Some readers may buy or borrow from a library in order to establish whether the bad review was justified.

So with all this in mind, I hope I shall remain focused and optimistic when I see a review citing my precious collection as ‘what rubbish’.