News from my desk

Screenplay and film news

Here we are heading into another weekend and what’s the news from my desk? As readers of my day-to-day blog about my life on the Greek island of Symi ( may already know, I’ve been a bit involved with the London Greek Film Festival. The recent news there is that our film, ‘The 13th’ won three awards. Best Actress for the wonderful Rebecca Grant, Best Music for the very talented Michael Bishop, and a Special Award for the whole film itself. Basically, as far as I can make out, it came second in the Best Film category. All great news for the film. There is also a distribution deal in the offing which will see it released to the public in time. My novel, The Judas Inheritance, is the original story based on my original script for the film. The film is now being considered for the New York Greek Film Festival; fingers crossed.

My ‘Without a box’ bio; this site is where films are put when they are being submitted to film festivals.

Novel writing

As for the next novel… Where do I start? Since finishing The Saddling, (seven five-star reviews now, the latest one being: “A real page turner. From start to finish a great read. Right up to the last page the ending couldn’t have been predicted”) I have plotted out two new novels, started work on an adaptation, and written a few first draft chapters for two others. As you can see, I am not sure where to go next. The one I started talking about in a recent post has been put aside as another idea crowds in, and I think what’s happening is this: I’ve finished one major work, 100,000 words (The Saddling) and so my mind is free to create more worlds and characters, situations and plots. Trouble is, there are so many to get out. I am aiming for 2,000 to 3,000 words per day on something, but need to focus on one idea at a time. That’s always been my problem, knowing what to leave for now and what to work on next. Maybe next week I will settle down to just one thing.

The Saddling


I have also been trying to get to grips with publicity and have put out a few feelers for someone to do this for me. It’s not because I am lazy, though I can be, it’s more to do with not understanding the process. Every time I look at a site that says it will publicise your books, I start to switch off. It’s not the cost, though I don’t have a budget for publicity, it’s all the fiddly bits and pieces you need to understand. So many sites, all with their own rules, so much advice, and so many ways to do things, I’d rather be writing than worrying about keywords at Amazon, freebies, Insta-something this, and book-blurb that, weekly deals and giveaways and all those other marketing tools. It’s a nightmare without a team and budget behind you, but we press on.

The Judas Inheritance


I have also commissioned a new cover for Lonely House, one of my more gory horror stories, and I am again using Red Raven Book Design in Portugal for this. I highly recommend Diogo and his work and am looking forward to seeing what he comes up with over the next week or so. He’s also pretty quick and asks in-depth questions about your book and your vision before giving five mock-ups. He also builds into his price some extra work for edits and changes, and still the cost comes in at under €200.00 (depending on how many changes you want.) Check out his website and see what he can do for you.

Lonely House, James Collins
Original cover – looking forward to seeing the new one soon.

 And onwards

So, it’s the weekend now, and I have 101 things I want to write and so little time to do them in. I’ll leave this post here and go back to my notebooks and maybe roll a die. I have six project ideas, some started, some plotted, and maybe I should number them and then roll the die and settle on that one.

Awards and reviews

Here’s a new update. I’ve been writing a lot this past couple of weeks, so have not had much time to attend to the blogs I also write for. Every day seems to be about typing, which is no bad thing, but there is some news to impart.

The Saddling’, my latest mystery/thriller set in the wilds of the Romney Marshes in Kent, has picked up three five-star reviews on Amazon already and has been going reasonably well in the sales department. Not enough to retire on yet, not enough even for a decent dinner, but well enough. Me, being me, have already plotted out a follow-on story and am now thinking of having a series of four (earth, wind, air and fire themed, vaguely). The Saddling, with its climactic storms and floods, would cover the water element, now I just have to create the following three stories.

The SaddlingThe film that I co-wrote, ‘The 13th’, had its world premiere at the London Greek Film Festival last week and picked up three awards at the awards ceremony at the end of the film festival. Best Actress, Best Music and its own Special Award. Great news there!

I made a list of what I am working on right now, and it goes to show how the mind works. It’s in one of its creative phases at the moment which means, for me, lots of ideas and not many actual chapters. I keep flitting from one idea to the other and need to tie myself down to work on just one. At the moment I have, on my list of things in the planning and plotting stage, with some chapters drafted for some, we have: An adaptation of a musical I wrote years ago, telling the story as a novel. A follow-on for The Saddling, called ‘The Witchling’ (fire theme). A short YA romance novel, or novella. A full-length comedy/farce as a kind of follow-on toRemotely, again featuring the mysterious Miss P. A story about old school friends meeting up after several years for a camping trip that has a few twists and turns in it (thriller). And an idea where the narrator talks to people from his past in letters, called ‘Letters To The Past’; that one is along the lines of, ‘What would you say to people from your teenage years if you could go back and speak to them now as they were then? So many ideas, not enough time.

So, it’s back to the typewriter.

The Saddling

The Saddling

It was quite appropriate that I took a morning walk yesterday (when I was finally able to release my latest book for publication) and saw the sun coming up. Perhaps this will herald the start of a ‘best-seller’, though, without a massive publicity machine and the finances to distribute the book to shops myself, I rely totally on my friends and blog readers to share the news and sell the books.

Symi Greece Symi Dream
A new day dawns on a new book release

Finally, it’s out there. My new novel, ‘The Saddling’ is now available to buy. For a change, we were able to get the Kindle version ready and published before the print version, you should be able to get hold of that today or tomorrow from Amazon. It will start to show up in other outlets in a few weeks. Click here for the Kindle copy of ‘The Saddling’ by James Collins.

I just searched for it on Amazon and was amused to be asked, by their search engine, ‘Did you mean The Paddling?’ No, actually, I didn’t. The Saddling came up first in the list, closely followed by the alarmingly tempting ‘Saddling Her Stallion’ by Olivia Myers, then a record called ‘Saddling Up’ by Darcy Slade, and ‘From Haltering to Saddling’ which looked like it had something to do with horses. I am in good company. Well, I am in the company of a heroin who ‘finds her heart fluttering for the dangerous bandit with stunning eyes’, a guitarist, and the English translation of a German book the cover of which shows a woman kissing a horse. None of which has anything to do with my mystery thriller set on the Romney Marshes in Kent, I am pleased to say.

Symi Greece Symi Dream
About 6.30 yesterday

As I have mentioned here before, having reviews of books put up on Amazon does a great service to the writers. The more reviews, the more likely Amazon is to promote the book. Also, sharing posts like this on Facebook or Twitter, or anywhere else, is an excellent way to help the authors along, so please feel free…

As usual, there will be a drink for the first person I see reading a copy on Symi – a print version, I should add. Something you can buy and bring with you and then, when you have read it, leave it at an airport, or a hotel, or somewhere where someone else can read it and, hopefully, be interested enough to buy a couple of my other titles.

Here are the back blurb and the book cover, so you know what you are looking for the next time you go book shopping.

The Saddling full cover - SMALL

“Their faith was stronger than his reason.”

To inherit his aunt’s fortune, Tom Carey must unlock a one-hundred-year-old family mystery. The solution lies on the Romney Marshes where the village of Saddling lives by an ancient Lore. Unknown to Tom, the villagers set in motion a chain of calculated events that will ensure that the winter solstice will witness their last ever ‘Saddling’ festival.

Unaware that his life is in danger, Tom befriends two village youths. Through the mists of fear and confusion, their friendship forces Tom to confront a secret of his own.

Tom finds himself the unwitting hero in a struggle between superstition and sense, denial and love, with no escape from either.

Meticulously imagined in the eerie mists of Romney Marsh. A wonderfully evocative landscape of mystery.” Ann Butler Rowlands (Author of ‘Heaven’)

Praise for James Collins:

“Comparable with the best of Stephen King.” Charles Allenden

“Very gripping, imaginative read.” Amazon

“He has mastered that technique of forcing you to start the next chapter as you really care what happens to these people.” Derek Stephen

“A real page turner and kept me guessing right to the end.” David Hendry


Book covers: Worth The Money

Book covers: Worth The Money

Unless you are an established name with thousands of fans who will buy anything you put out, you need a good book cover for your novel. Covers sell books.

But how do you find a good cover? What makes a good cover? There are plenty of questions surrounding this issue and, for a lot of us starting out in e-publishing, the main worry is the cost.

What did your novel cost you?

You can see from the two cover images below, what €140.00 meant to the look of my book. The first cover was done by me, the second by a professional designer that I found through People Per Hour.

the judas inheritance
My attempts at a book cover for my horror-thriller, ‘The Judas Inheritance’

If you add up how many hours you have spent on your novel and then multiply that by a decent hourly rate, let’s say a very modest one at only €3.00 per hour, you will come up with a surprising figure. I don’t keep a log of how many hours I spend on a novel, I think of it in terms of years. ‘The Saddling’ (due out in May) took four years from initial idea to now, the final reading of proofs and checking the layout. I once took a week out of my usual routine to work on it and in just that one week I worked for seven hours a day, so let’s say 35 hours for that one block of writing. I also spent two hours per day on it in the second draft stage, a further two per day on the third, and a few hours a week on editing. I am currently spending around two hours per day on the proofing and ‘fiddling’ — that’s slaughtering the windows and orphans and looking at the final look of the pages. I’ve already lost count of the hours, but I’m going to guess at 1,000.

The Judas Inheritance
My designer’s professional cover for the same book

So, we can say that ‘The Saddling’ took me 1,000 hours. Incidentally, that works out at ten words per hour. ‘Remotely‘, my gay/straight body-swap comedy, took me a little longer, as it’s a longer story, say, 1,300 hours; and these are very rough guesses. So, I have put in at least €3,000 per book of my own, unpaid time. At least. Some of us take longer, and some less time, but the point is, when you’ve invested so much in the writing of the thing, it’s pointless not to sell any of the work. Leaving aside marketing, usually the biggest budget in any book sale, how much do you actually then spend on a cover? I know you don’t pay out any money to yourself for the writing and even a publisher’s advance won’t cover the work. When it comes to a cover, you’ve actually got to either do it yourself or pay someone. Unless you have a friendly designer who will do it for free or for a share. The trouble with using friends is that, if you don’t like what they do, you’ve got the tricky problem of telling them you are not going to use it.

My advice? Save up and pay someone who knows what they are doing, which brings me to where to find designers.

People Per Hour

I was put onto People Per Hour by an author friend of mine who had been looking for an illustrator for a children’s’ book. It took a matter of minutes to register and have a look around. There are excellent instructions for ‘Buyers’ as you will be known, as you are seeking to buy someone’s services. I got the hang of it very quickly and prepared my posting in advance.

Fairfield, Romney Marsh
The church at Fairfield, Romney Marsh, that inspired ‘The Saddling’

You will need to know what you are looking for, and have an idea of what you want to pay. You can either set a top budget, or leave it open. You can choose the level of the expert, in that those with more experience will cost more, newbies will cost less, and you simply make your job open to offers. The designers then tender for the work. You’re able to check their profiles, read any testimonials from those who have used them before, and see what their hourly rate is. Post your request, sit back and wait for the offers to come in. I had loads of tenders for ‘The Saddling.’

Be cautious

Here’s where you need to be professional. Some of the replies I had for my first cover were along the lines of: ‘I am designer, do great work, please, I will be good for your services. Like me.’ Which to me immediately shows a lack of professionalism. I can understand my language not being their language, but that reply told me nothing about the designer except that English was not his first language.

the saddling, James Collins
My designer’s cover for ‘The Saddling’. As you can see, it incorporates the inspirational church

I was much more drawn to those who wrote a full reply that outlined their prices and those who showed me examples of their previous work. You also have to look out for those who are mainly web designers etc., who show examples of that kind of work, but who have no book cover designs. The person I used not only showed me a variety of designs for already published books, but showed me his website, and told me there would be an Author’s Form to complete where I could put own all my ideas in detail. He would then produce five mock-ups, his price, and the estimated hours which took into account the to-and-fro discussion process that would inevitably follow. I knew his hourly rate in advance and got a good estimate of how long he would take. It was an honest reply and not the cheapest, but I still think, the best.

By the way, there are also protections built in. You can withhold money if you don’t get the service; you pay into an escrow account, so the designer sees that the money is there, but you don’t release it until you are happy; the site will help you if there are disputes. And there are loads of other artists with different specialities on the site checking for work and making offers. You can find someone to do you whole e-book layout and preparation if you want. I already have an editor and layout artist working with me on those things, so I make sure the inside of my books is as professional as they would be if prepared by a publishing house. As that’s the case, why not the cover also?

A good cover design is worth paying for

All I am saying is: you’ve spent hours on your work, you should be able to save and pay for a few hours of a professional designer to get the cover looking perfect too. And, in my experience, you can do that through this site, People Per Hour. There are others, of course, but this is the one I used. I think you will agree, the difference is outstanding.

The back, blurb, layout to fit Create Space specs – all included in a one piece cover


James Collins authorWriting Thoughts is about just that: my thoughts on writing.
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News: 11/06.2017 ‘The 13th’, the film that I co-wrote, will be showing at The Cyprus International Fiolm Festival on Saturday 17th June.
11/06/2017 ‘The Saddling’, my latest novel, is now available on Kindle and Amazon and already has nine five-star reviews.