Monday, April 18, 2016


This posting started off in error as I meant to post on Blackbird Digital Books' Press Release blog. As I have had no time at all to update here lately I decided I'd post it anyway. It's a magical story.

Last week was the London Book Fair and tomorrow I go to Ukraine. Blackbird author Diane Chandler and I will be on a mini-book tour, appearing at the Arsenal Book Fair, Kyiv and at several private book events. Diane's book The Road To Donetsk is a finalist in The People's Book Prize and The Beryl Bainbridge First Time Author Award. It's a beautiful love story about an overseas aid worker set in Ukraine at the end of Communism in the 90s.

LONDON 18 APRIL: Blackbird Digital Books' new imprint, Nightingale Editions, launches today with news of its first signing, a debut novel Dark Water by Sara Bailey.

On the day Orkney resident Sara received her contract with Nightingale in the post, a visit to her local library brought an auspicious surprise. She was settling down with her library book group to discuss The Cuckoo's Calling when the author JK Rowling walked in. She had heard about the group after Orkney's chief librarian Stuart Bain had jokingly Tweeted an invite to her for some lemon drizzle cake. She stayed and chatted with the group for over an hour and posed for photos.

As Sara only had a digital version of the book with her, she asked if JK would autograph her Moleskine notebook, a brand favoured by writers the world over.
"She smiled," said Sara, "and looked at the notebook,
'Are you a writer?' she asked.
'I just signed my first book deal this morning.' I blurted out, my face going a deep shade of beetroot. She gave me a huge hug and looked round the room,
'Do they know, you're a writer? You must tell them?'
I hushed her and went even redder. This is Orkney we don't shout out things like that in public.She signed the notebook and wished me lots of luck. I didn't read what she'd written till I left the library. Good job too. I nearly cried when I did."

Dark Water, a psychologically intense portrait of adolescent yearning and obsession set in the Orkney Islands, will be published in ebook and paperback in October 2016. Nightingale's founder, author and writing coach Jacqui Lofthouse, says: "The Nightingale, of course, is a bird which sings in the darkness, and is considered symbolic of beauty and immortality. We aim to publish unique, original voices, voices which will endure. We believe in nurturing writers' careers and will publish only those who are deeply committed to their craft, to honing their own talent and thrilling readers with their 'song'."

CONTACT: Stephanie Zia, Blackbird Digital Books 2/25 Earls Terrace London W8 6LP
tel: +44 (0)7816 491189 Email: 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

It's London Book Fair Week: Some Public Speaking Tips For Shy Authors

It's London Book Fair week (12 - 14 April). I'll be on two seminar panels at Author HQ, the vastly expanded author area of the Fair.

The first is on Tues 12th April at 12.45. Accent Press author Jodi Taylor sounds like really good fun, and I know Diana Morgan-Hill is a natural in front of an audience so it's looking good for an entertaining and informative session. I'm also looking forward to finding out more about our hosts, Byte The Book. The second, on Thurs 14th April at 09.45, is about book prizes for new writers, hosted by Steven Gale. We have 3 authors in the finals of The People's Book Prize 2015/16 which, if that wasn't enough excitement, also includes the possibility of a publisher prize.

Industry spotlight: independent publishing - Is the future hybrid?

TUES 12 Apr 2016, 12:45 - 13:30

Author HQ
In a rapidly changing marketplace what is the best way to get your book published? There are advantages and disadvantages to the different routes to take, be it working with mainstream publishers, independents or self-publishing.   
Accent Press is an award winning independent publisher which has become a major name for dynamic trade publishing, with a range of fiction and non-fiction titles published across four imprints. They have just launched a new company, Octavo Publishing, for independent authors, alongside their existing business.  Author Stephanie Zia created Blackbird Digital Books in 2009 to self-publish a collection of her Guardian cleaning guru columns and now has a number of successful writers on her books. As mainstream publishers and agents began digital-only imprints, Blackbird went the other way, going from digital-only to digital and print books.  They have a strong belief that the hybrid author is here to stay, and that authors should keep control of their career options, a view reflected through their non-binding contracts.  Join Stephanie and Hazel, along with two of their authors, Jodi Taylor and Diana Morgan-Hill, as they discuss the pros and cons of the various routes to market.


  • Justine Solomons


    Byte the Book
    Justine founded Byte the Book , a writing and publishing collective in 2012. Her organisation helps authors and publishers make useful connections...
  • Hazel Cushion


    Accent Press
    Hazel Cushion founded Accent Press in 2003. The company now employs twelve staff with a turnover of over one million pounds. She has won numerous...
  • Stephanie Zia


    Stephanie Zia created Blackbird Digital Books in 2009 to self-publish a collection of her Guardian columns. Her first author, the ex-Transworld...
  • Diana Morgan-Hill


    At the age of 29, Diana Hill fell under a train. In 7 seconds the tall, glamorous businesswoman went from successful woman of the world with...
  • Jodi Taylor


    Jodi Taylor wrote her first book, Just One Damned Thing After Another in 2010. Unsuccessful in her attempts to interest an agent , she originally...

Book Prizes for New Writers

THURS 14 Apr 2016, 09:45 - 10:30

Author HQ


  • Dotti Irving


    Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers’ Award
  • Louise Lamont


    Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Stephanie Zia


Stephanie Zia created Blackbird Digital Books in 2009 to self-publish a collection of her Guardian columns. Her first author, the ex-Transworld...

Time for some public speaking panic, I mean prep. A friend said over the weekend that it's impossible to be nervous if you are smiling. Hmmm. Not sure rictus grin is a good look. By coincidence I have just been sent this infographic...

How to Master Public Speaking

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A New Writing Group, A Bookshop Talk & More Events

The Publisher Hat continues to rule over the Writer Hat. Busyness reigns but it just keeps on getting more absorbing and fun. Like most writers, being in the background suits me very, very well. 

I did get to be an author again for an evening at a writer's group in the New Forest. I was invited to join this (literally magical) group by Blackbird author Diana Morgan-Hill and this was my second visit. Sue and Mike are extraordinary hosts, they do B&B too, check out the Tripadvisor comments on them and you'll see what I mean about magical. This is the perfect place to bookmark for a writing retreat. 

Love & Justice author Diana is working on her first novel, A Jackie Collins-type romp, which is sounding so good. Diana is great company and her writing is just the same, intelligent, funny and you never want it to end. We drove there with author Christine Aziz, who is also well on the way with her new novel. Christine won the Richard & Judy Novel Writing Competition a few years back with The Olive Readers. She's a huge talent right at the literary end of the spectrum. I read a few pages from my children's fantasy novel, Trees, (um, working title), which suited the setting well in a big old house, deep in the forest. It prompted a conversation with Mike about his pet rescue owl which refused to go back to the wild and would sit watching the TV holding his hand with its claw. Trees is the writing I'll return to when time permits. 

Diane Chandler & I

Meantime back in London, this was a fun evening. The Chiswick Bookshop, London W4 is a new bookshop that has local authors and events at the centre of its ethos, as well as a chocolate shelf (with samples!) and other amazing goodies. Blackbird author Diane Chandler and Susan Lee Kerr talked about writing fiction from fact. Diane's book, The Road To Donetsk, a finalist in The People's Book Prize 2016 and the Beryl Bainbridge First Time Author Award, is set in Ukraine. Susan's book charts the life, real and imaginary, of her great grandfather Ephraim in The Extraordinary Dr Epstein

Wine, present and correct
Susan and Diane in full swing

Every bookstore should have a LOCAL AUTHOR shelf AND.....
...a chocolate shelf - WITH SAMPLES
plus a 10% discount on book orders 

Susan and Diane will be giving the same talk & opening the discussion to the floor again on Thurs 16th June at Richmond Adult Community College, Richmond, Surrey. 

Diane and I will be taking The Road To Donetsk on the road in April. One of the main events will be the Arsenal Book & Arts Festival, in Kyiv, Ukraine. Diane will be on the international stage on Thursday 21 April at 14.00. 

This will swiftly be followed by the London Book Fair, back home in Olympia. Diane isn't appearing there but I might be (PH, publisher's hat), am waiting for confirmation. It's a major event for authors, agents and publishers alike with so many seminars and events to enjoy. Author appearances this year include Jeanette Winterson, Marian Keyes, Tracy Chevalier, Meg Rosoff, Judith Kerr and Howard Jacobson. See the full programme of seminars and events, all included in the 3-day ticket price, here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Out And About

Some photos from a busy few months. Mostly with my publisher's hat on but also a very interesting writing break. First off, chairing an event at Richmond Adult Community College:

This was with authors Jacqui Lofthouse, Diane Chandler, and Susan Lee Kerr. We talked about the various publishing options now open to writers. Richmond is where I started. I loved it so much I did the beginner's writing class for a 2nd year before moving on to their Writers At Work workshopping course, which I also did for 2 years. From there, a few of us formed a writing group that met fortnightly for over 10 years. Happy days! Find out about Richmond writing classes here.

Photo c. Susan Lee Kerr

L-R Jacqui Lofthouse, Susan Lee Kerr, Stephanie Zia, Diane Chandler

Every publisher's dream: the queue for our mailing list! Photo c. Susan Lee Kerr 

Over 50 writers came along to RACC's beautiful theatre space Photo c. Susan Lee Kerr

Susan Lee Kerr on the L
Then I became a writer again for a day at The Writing Coach's 1 day Developing Your Novel workshop at Wallacespace, Covent Garden - a bespoke Central London venue for meetings. They not only provide rooms but also meals, smoothies, choccies & nibbles throughout the day. 
The Writing Coach UK Developing Your Novel class
I had a bit of a problem deciding on which of my pile of unfinished novels to go with (NanoWriMo last November only added to the turmoil). In the end I went for my completely out of the box epic fantasy novel. About 30,000K in the bag but has to be started all over again. An exercise where we had to pair off, become our main character and interview each other was very revealing. My story is full of story but little character development.
The Writing Coach UK Developing Your Novel class (see the sweeties!)
No time for writing just yet, though. 

Then it was on to Bath where I spoke about self-publishing to a lovely group of Women's Fiction authors at the London Book Fair's Write Now! weekend event. This was arranged in association with Harpercollins new digital imprint Carina. The lucky writers had a whole weekend of seminars, pitching events and networking with publishing insiders in a beautiful country house hotel

Unused to this sort of thing, I didn't prepare a Powerpoint presentation. I had enough planning to do alongside a few sleepless nights caused by public speaking anxieties. But now I do know why they're so useful, as much to keep the speaker on track as for extra audience info. It's good to see that mainstream publishers are opening up to direct submissions from authors for their new digital-only imprints. And slightly ironic that I am travelling in the opposite direction from digital only to digital and bookstore print books and am not accepting any new authors myself. We do have a wonderful new Commissioning Editor, Rosalie Love, who is reading submissions at the moment.
With the Harpercollins Carina team and author Fanny Blake

My brush with the exotic mainstream publishing world over, it was off to Portcullis House, Westminster, the heart of British politics, with Blackbird author Diane Chandler for a talk on tackling corruption and doing business in Ukraine by the rather glamorous Andy Hunder, the Head of the US Chamber of Commerce, Kiev. 

Facebook was mentioned several times. It seems that the digital revolution is doing its bit in helping to tackle the corruption problems. International investment is starting to take off again in Ukraine with companies like Vodaphone and Virgin competing for contracts. Diane had arranged with the organisers, The British Ukranian Society, for her novel to be featured at the event. More information about the Society and their events here. 
Photo c. Danielle Philomena Photography
Diane Chandler - Photo c. Danielle Philomena Photography

On the following day we were back in Westminster for an event centred around Diane's novel at DIFD, The Department For International Development in Whitehall. The novel's heroine is a young overseas aid worker, sent to Ukraine just after the fall of communism in the 90s. Diane drew on her experiences in Ukraine when she worked at DIFD. She came together with other alumni to discuss the impact of aid at that time compared to the current renewed programme, drawing on events described in the novel. 

Diane Chandler's Presentation at DFID 
Andy Hunder, President of the US Chamber of Commerce, Kiev with author Diane Chandler
Next stop Kiev...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Speaking at London Book Fair Women's Fiction Event & Richmond Adult Community College Author Event

It has been a busy start to the year. I am presently gathering together my latest self-publishing hints and tips for two fabulous author events I will be speaking at this month.

In case you happen to be in the same part of the UK as me on either of these two dates, here are the details.

The first is on Wednesday, January 20th, 7-9pm at

RACC Theatre
Richmond Adult Community College

Richmond underground station is nearby. It's suitable for all writers or those thinking about writing or taking a course at RACC. It's free and there's no need to book. I will be speaking alongside authors Jacqui Lofthouse, Diane Chandler and Susan Lee Kerr about the various publishing options now open to writers.

This is the college where I started writing back in the 90s and I can't recommend it highly enough. I loved my beginner's course so much I enrolled again for a second year and those Monday afternoons were the highlight of my week. For my third and fourth years I moved on to the Writers At Work more advanced sessions where I met authors (and teachers) who have become lifelong friends. A big, big plus is the creche, catering for babies and children from 6 months to 4 years.

The second event is a whole weekend in a beautiful Bath, hotel in Somerset. Tailored specifically for authors who write in the Women's Fiction genre.

Sat/Sun 23/24 January
Write Now!
Bailbrook House Hotel

Powered by The London Book Fair in partnership with HarperCollins' new Carina imprint, this is a unique opportunity for authors to mingle with and learn from some influential publishing industry figures. Speakers include Victoria Oundjian, Commissioning Editor, Carina, HarperCollins; Caroline Sheldon, Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency, Sam Missingham, Head of Audience Development, HarperCollins, Author Fanny Blake and more.The programme includes a pitching competition. I will be sharing all I've learnt about self-publishing on Saturday afternoon. The £300 cost includes accommodation and food (with a gala dinner). Have a look at the gorgeous hotel website here. From the London Book Fair booking page:

Who is it for?

This event is aimed at the London Book Fair's ever-growing author audience, whether self, or traditionally published, new to writing, or already some way down the writing path, but wish to learn more, and network with like-minded people. 

What does it include?

Sessions will include an introduction to publishing; marketing and pr; using social media to develop your audience; rights, contracts and important legalities; case studies that inspire; and all important networking and sharing sessions with other attendees, plus publishing and agenting professionals. 

It will kick off on Saturday morning, with an action-packed programme and includes accommodation, refreshments and lunch, plus a gala dinner with a big name author after-dinner talk. Speakers include: agents; publishers; authors; marketers; and consultants.


"The Bible of Ebook Publishing"

 "Stephanie Zia tells you what you want to know, and need to know,
and what you never realised you needed to know. If you only ever buy one book on ePublishing, this is the one to buy."

"This book is a gem. I can't believe how much information is packed into it."

"I started out the year knowing absolutely nothing about publishing an e-book. Now I have 2 e-books under my belt, and I never could have done it without Stephanie's book. I used a few other resources, but Stephanie's was the most thorough and the easiest to understand. Thank you for all of your hard work on this excellent book!"

"Well written, contains masses of useful stuff, dead easy to follow & costs less than a cup of UK coffee. Highly recommended. eCommerce at its best."

"Filled with interesting, informative, and up-to-date material, and the author somehow conveys the feeling to the reader that "You can do it!"

(That's enough, ed..)