Thursday, August 31, 2023

Dear O'Abby: How do I get blurbs? And do I need them?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm publishing my first novel early next year, and looking at other books in my genre, they all seem to have blurbs from other authors on the cover.  Is this something I need to do, or is it one of those "nice-to-have" things that aren't actually that important?

If they are critical, how do I go about getting them?

Best wishes,


Dear Blurbless,

I wouldn't say blurbs are essential, but they do give another layer of authority to the fact that your book is good.  Not everyone reads them, of course, but certainly, having a great quote on your cover from an author well known in your genre can elevate your book in the eyes of readers.

In terms of getting them, it's really just a matter of asking.

If you're with a publisher, there may be other authors in their stable who you can reach out to.  Your editor may even have an idea already who might be a good fit.  If you're self-publishing, you're going to need to do this on your own.

Find the authors you think would be a good fit and reach out to them.  Make sure you give them plenty of lead time and be gracious and polite if they decline the request.  Reading a whole book is a big time investment, and not everyone has that kind of time.

Make sure you choose writers whose work aligns with yours.  A horror writer is unlikely to want to blurb a romance, and if they do, the blurb is likely to confuse readers more than if there wasn't one there at all.  A writer whose work is similar to your own is far more likely to be interested in reading your book and therefore blurbing you.

Make sure you're clear when you need the blurb, and offer to send the author a copy of the book when it's published.  Small tokens of appreciation go a long way.

And that's really all there is to it.

X O'Abby

Monday, August 28, 2023

Week #35 – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #35 – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, 1876

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is about a an orphan boy growing up along the Mississippi River. It is set in the 1840s in a town based on Hannibal, Missouri. Tom Sawyer has several adventures, often with his friend Huckleberry Finn. It’s 1884 sequel is Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It was one of the first novels to be written on a typewriter.

Mark Twain quotes, like “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

The Mississippi River begins in Minnesota and ends in Louisiana, a total of 2340 miles. It takes a drop of water 90 days to travel from the beginning to the end. At the beginning, the river flows 1.2 mph, and at the end about 3 mph.

The Missouri River [considered a tributary of the Mississippi River because it doesn’t lead to the ocean] begins in Montana and joins the Mississippi River in Missouri, a total of 2466 miles.

You can take a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi River

Have you been on a Mississippi River cruise? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Dear O'Abby: Do I need to copyright my work?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm about to start querying and I was wondering if I need to copyright my book before I start sending it out.  I've heard some horror stories about writers having their books stolen and published online under other names.  After spending close to ten years sweating over this story, the last thing I want is for my work to be plagarised if a copy of my manuscript ends up in the wrong hands.


Not A Copy Cat

Dear Not A Copy Cat,

No, you don't need to copyright your book before you start querying.  

As soon as you started writing that story, it is copyrighted as your original work.  And every subsequent draft is also copyrighted.

What you are actually asking is if you should register your copyright and the answer is still no. 

Copywriting your work costs money and if your book gets picked up by a publisher, they will then need to pay more money to amend the copyright.  Copyrighting your book is part of what a publisher does - it's part of every standard publishing contract.  If you have already done this yourself, the publisher will then have to amend the copyright and that cost even more!

Not to mention, copyrighting your work before querying shows both a distrust for and an ignorance of the publishing industry and that's not how you want to come across when querying. Would you really want to start an important business relationship knowing the other party thinks you might steal from them?  And showing that you don't understand how publishing works is a red flag that might make an agent think you're going to be way too much work as a client.  Copyrighting your work may also open you up to questions about whether or not this story has already been published, which you don't want while querying.

I know there are stories out there about writers having their work stolen, but they are more urban myth than reality.  Agents aren't looking to steal anyone's work.  They're looking for compelling stories, strong voice and evocative writing that they can sell.  I would worry far more about whether I'd achieved that, than about having someone steal my book out from under me..

Hope that helps!

X O'Abby 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Week #34 – Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #34 – Moby Dick by Herman Melville, 1851

Moby-Dick, or The Whale, is the narrative of sailor Ishmael, who tells the story of the maniacal quest of Ahab, captain of the whaling ship Pequod, for vengeance against Moby Dick, the giant white sperm whale that bit off his leg on the ship's previous voyage. It was a commercial failure in its time, but gained a reputation as the Great American Novel in the 20th century. Its opening sentence, "Call me Ishmael", is among world literature's most famous.

Moby Dick was made into several movies, including in 1956 with Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab

The sperm whale is the largest toothed predator. Mature males are more than 50 feet long, with the head comprising one-third of that length. It can dive more than 7,000 feet. It is the loudest animal on earth (as loud as 236 decibels [a nuclear bomb is approx 250 decibels]) and uses echolocation underwater. Sperm whales can live 70 years or more. Sperm whaling was a major industry in the 19th century and is depicted in the novel Moby Dick.

How loud is too loud for humans?

The loudest possible sound in air is 194 decibels. Louder than that is experienced as shock waves. When the Krakatoa volcano erupted in 1883, the sound was estimated at 310 decibels. It blew out the eardrums of sailors on a ship 40 miles away.

Have you read Moby Dick? What did you think of it? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Dear O'Abby: How do I come up with ideas?

Dear O'Abby,

I've been writing for several years and am finding it increasingly difficult to come up with original, new ideas for my stories.  Do you have any advice for someone struggling to come up with something new?



Dear Clueless,

There's nothing worse than staring at a blank page and waiting for inspiration to strike, yet sometimes it is difficult to find that first spark of an idea.  

When you're struggling to find a story, there are a number of places you can go to try and find inspiration.  You can try using writing prompts.  Websites like have daily contests with prompts and I've used prompts to spark short stories and even to guide the plot of a (still unfinished) novel.

Reading the newspaper can also spark ideas, especially if you juxtapose two very different stories together.  But sometimes a single story can be enough to start a story.  One of my novels was born from a newspaper article that made me so darn mad, I just had to write something against it.

Reading books and seeing films can also help shake good ideas loose.  I can't tell you how many great story ideas I've had come out of documentary films I've seen.  And I sometimes read a book where I like the premise a lot, but not the actual story the author wrote to the premise, so I then write my own story around that same basic premise.

You can also use your own life and experiences to spark a story.  Think of an event or a person important to you and use that as the basis for a story.  Unless you want to write a memoir, you can fictionalise this story a lot and I'd advise changing real peoples' names to avoid getting in trouble.

Or what about re-telling a classic story? There are hundreds of stories, plays, poems and legends you can make your own while using the original text as the framework. The book I'm currently working on started off as a lesbian re-telling of Romeo and Juliet. Admittedly, it has veered away from the original plot a lot in the writing and most people don't seem to know that's what it was based on...

Hopefully one of those might help you find the inspiration for your next story.  If not, maybe you just need to take a writing break, do something else to exercise your creative muscle.  I often find that doing something different gives my brain the break it needs to find the next story or character I'm interested in exploring.  So grab some paint, or knitting needles or a lump of clay and see what happens.

X O'Abby

Monday, August 14, 2023

Week #33 - Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #33 – Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, 1970

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, illustrated with black-and-white photographs, is an allegorical fable in novella form, about a seagull who learns about flying, freedom, and self-realization. By the end of 1972 it had sold over a million copies, reaching the number one spot on bestseller lists mostly through word of mouth recommendations. In 2014 the book was reissued as Jonathan Livingston Seagull: The Complete Edition, which added a 17-page fourth part to the story.

Seagulls are actually just “gulls”, and there are several varieties

They can live for 20 years or more, generally mate for life, have 2-3 eggs each May, and are VERY aggressive when protecting their young [dive bombings are common]. They can drink both salt water and fresh water.

They are scavengers and will eat just about anything, including whole rabbits and squirrels [and small dogs].

They are smart and generally not afraid of people

Are seagulls dangerous? [hint: yes they can be]

As stated in the movie Finding Nemo, they are “rats with wings”!

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Dear O'Abby: What the heck is a book packager?

Dear O'Abby,

I've recently been alerted to an opportunity to audition to write a book for a packaging company.  I've never heard of something like this before, and wondered if it is legit?

Do you know anything about book packaging companies?  Should I do the audition, or is this another scam?

Kind regards,


Dear Skeptical,

I actually do know a bit about this.  I've auditioned to write for packaging companies a couple of times - I never got the gig, but both times it was a good experience and definitely stretched my writing muscles.

Basically, a book packager comes up with a concept for a book, generally something they see as being marketable, and then hire a writer to write the actual book.  This is something that might be initiated by a publisher who sees a market for a particular type of book, but isn't getting that type of book submitted, or the publisher of a super successful series where the original author either doesn't want to write more, or can't keep up with reader demand.  Think Sweet Valley High or Goosebumps, in the case of the second example.

In the situation where you might have the chance to write more books in a successful series, it's unlikely that you'll get your name on the cover or any acknowledgement of your work other than a paycheque (which isn't bad, in itself).  Generally, you'll get a one-off payment for the work and won't receive royalties on sales.

In the case where the idea is an original one (and this is the type of book I've been approached to write in the past) you may get a lower up-front fee, but a piece of royalties as well.  And generally, it will be your name on the cover.

The first time I auditioned to write a packed book, I was given an idea of the world the book was set in (it was a fantasy or alternative history story) and and idea of what might happen in a very broad sense.  I was then asked to write the first two or three chapters as I saw them.  I wasn't given much in the way of plot to follow; just a general gist.  I think I would have received a more detailed outline had I made it through the audition.

The second time, I received the full outline, with a detailed chapter by chapter breakdown of the plot.  Again, I had to write the first three chapters as an audition.  This was a contemporary thrillere, so more within my own wheelhouse than the previous attempt.  But I didn't get that job either...  

Interestingly though, I stumbled across the book that was written just the other day.  I was browsing my local bookstore and picked up a book, read the blurb, and was puzzled about why the plot sounded so familiar.  It was only after a few minutes that I realized this was the book I'd auditioned to write!  Obviously I had to read it and it was actually quite funny to see how this other author had filled out the story.  The plot was pretty much identical to the outline I'd been sent, but the characters were developed in different ways than I had planned to.

So to get back to your question...  Yes, this is a legit thing.  If I were you though, I'd find out the deal terms before I jumped in to audition.  While something like this is probably less work than coming up with an original idea and plot, it's still going to take up some time, and you need to know it's going to be worth it financially, or that it's going to benefit you in terms of name-recognition and reader numbers.  But I certainly have never regretted the time I spent on the audition chapters - both stories were fun to play around with, even if I didn't get the opportunity to write the whole book.

Hope that helps!

X O'Abby

Monday, August 7, 2023

Week #32 – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #32 – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, 1818

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, was written by Mary Shelley when she was just 18 years old. Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist, creates a living creature by piecing together body parts of cadavers and then giving it life in an unorthodox scientific experiment. He is then horrified by what he made and does not give it a name. The monster initially seeks affection and acceptance, but inspires loathing and fear in everyone who meets it.

In Greek mythology, Prometheus is best known for defying the Olympian gods by stealing fire from them and giving it to humanity. In some versions of the myth, he is also credited with the creation of humanity from clay.

You can read the story here

The 1931 movie with Boris Karloff as the Monster is the most famous film adaptation

Robert De Niro played the Monster in 1994

It has a fan page's_Monster_(Frankenstein)

Here’s an analysis of the book

An interesting article in The New Yorker

Have you read Frankenstein? Did you know the name was the scientist and not the creature? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Dear O'Abby - Will I ever make a living as a writer?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm a published author with several novels available in both print and digital.  Yet each time I get a royalty statement I want to cry.  I put so many hours into my writing and do my absolute best with marketing and publicity, even with my oldest titles.  And all of this is on top of a demanding day job.

I always thought that by the time I had four or five books in print, I'd earn enough to either quit my day job, or at least reduce my hours to give me more time to devote to writing and publishing.  This is not the case, and I'm wondering if it is actually possible to make a living as a writer.

Do you know?



Dear Despondent,

Yes, it is possible to make a living as a writer.  But I think you're actually asking if it's possible to make a living as an author.  That is also possible, but very few people actually manage it.  I think even authors who look successful on the surface probably have other side-hustles or a partner who is earning a good living and can afford to support the family.

If you really want to make a living as a writer, you need to think about other avenues than just writing and publishing novels.  Writing is a skill and one that is very much in demand. If you're good at it, there are numerous ways you can use your talent to make a living from writing advertising copy to social media to internal office communications and external documents like annual reports.  You can also freelance, writing articles on whatever you're interested in and selling them to publications.

There is also the option of ghostwriting or working with a book packager, academic writing or journalism.  All of these things will allow you to flex your writing talent while making a living.  Sure, some of this writing may not be as creatively exciting as writing a novel, but writing for a different audience is good practice and will strengthen your writing in the long run.  Even something like writing funding applications for a charity can be a good way to earn a living from your writing.

The one downside I've encountered as someone who has done this kind of writing to earn a living is that sometimes you write so much during the day, it's hard to find the energy or inspiration to write fiction after work.  It's like there are no more words left in me at the end of the day.  So to mitigate this, I tend to get up early to do my own writing before the work day steals all my words.

So the short answer to your question is yes, it is possible to make a living as a writer.  You may just have to alter your perception about what that actually looks like.

Hope that helps!

X O'Abby