Wordcount Woes: Ten tips for Cutting your Manuscript

Do you often find yourself facing a first draft (or even a second or third!) that is ridiculously over your target word count? Do you struggle to delete even the smallest of sentences from your manuscript? Do you feel attached to each word as though it is a beloved pet or child? If so, you are not alone…

If you are lucky enough to get into your stride and the words are pouring from your pen/your fingers are furiously typing away, rejoice. This is often how great first drafts are written: naturally and freely, coming straight from the heart.

However, once you finish your hefty first draft, the task of cutting it down to size can seem daunting, if not impossible. We are here to help! Read on for some top ten tips for cutting words from your manuscript.

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  1. Avoid telling what’s not happening. (e.g. ‘He didn’t respond.’ ‘She didn’t say anything.’)
  2. Delete repetitions of all kinds in your manuscript (imagery, plot points, ideas, descriptions, phrases, words).
  3. Delete all/most of the character backstory in the first few chapters and add the essentials as you go along, on an “as-needed” basis.
  4. Consider deleting one or two strands of subplot, without taking anything essential away from the novel.
  5. There’s no need to use great detail when describing characters or scenes. When two adjectives are more than enough to qualify a noun, why do you need seven? Just give the most obvious/interesting details & let readers fill in the rest.
  6. Wherever possible, use the contracted form of verbs. However, be aware that contracted verbs don’t always flow well. There is a time and place for ‘it’s’ and a time and place for ‘it is.’
  7. Avoid clichés, idioms and proverbs. For example, instead of saying, ‘”I have bought a new car,” he said, looking like the cat that got the cream.’ you could say, ‘”I’ve bought a new car,” he said, looking smug.’
  8. Use action tags instead of dialogue tags where possible. If done cleverly and clearly, this can move the plot forward whilst saving words!
  9. Eliminate redundant words and passages. The word ‘that’ can often be removed without changing the meaning or clarity of a sentence. Also, if you find yourself writing snippets like, ‘the armed gunman’, you can cut ‘armed’, as it is already clear that the man is armed with a gun from the use of the word ‘gunman’.
  10. Reconstruct sentences in passive voice into active voice to shave a few words from your wordcount.

Remember, if you can cut 10 words per page in a 300-page manuscript, you’ve already shortened it by 3,000 (unnecessary) words! Now, pick up your literary scissors and be ruthless. Happy snipping!

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5 Easy Steps to Build Your Fan Base Before the Book is Even Finished!

If you, like so many other writers, worry about getting to release day and finding that nobody is interested in a first-time, unknown author, then we have the answer to your problem!

You can build up a dedicated fan base in just 5 easy steps, and one that will be anxiously awaiting the release of your book long before it is published. Creating a fan base before release day means that you’ll no longer need to be stressed about disappointing sales or a lack of readership, because you know they’re already there!

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You’ve spent countless days, months (and even years!) writing and redrafting your masterpiece, and you want it to receive the recognition you know it deserves. After all, you know the story is good, because you’ve probably written the book you’d want to read. And we completely agree – that much hard work deserves reward! Just think about it: if you’d love the book, there are definitely other people – and probably a lot of them – that would love it too! But these people don’t appear out of thin air – how can they read your book, and love it, if they don’t know about it?

That’s where the easy steps come in! Follow these 5 stages to connect your book with its rightful readers!

  1. Post sneak peaks and snippets. 

The first thing anyone will tell you about marketing is to find your target audience and market primarily to them. That’s absolutely right – but how are you to find your target audience when you don’t have a finished product to test among readers? You have no market research because you don’t have a book to market yet!

The answer to this? Samples! Whether it be online, among colleagues, friends and family, or at events, you need to share extracts from the book (maybe the first couple of chapters, or a particularly strong set of scenes) as early as possible to see how your readers respond. Some people start with family and friends, but this often means you’ll get a biased ‘we have to gush about it because it’s Auntie Maureen’s sister’s cousin’s book’ approach.

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What you actually want is cold, harsh truths about who does and doesn’t like it. The key to honest feedback? Post your samples online!


2. Start a professional blog or website for uploading your snippets. 

Note we say professional here, because as an upcoming author, you don’t want to be penalized for having a haphazard website with a lengthy, hard to remember URL. And trust us, people do take note of this!

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It’s very easy to register a domain name i.e. JohnDoeAuthor.com, and so it’s best to snatch up your author name before somebody else does! This not only makes you look more professional and established as a writer, but is also far easier for people to remember, should they ever want to search for you. You can create blogs and websites from places like WordPress or One.com, and once you’re all set up you can regularly update the site with new extracts, interviews, and sample chapters ready for potential readers to sink their teeth in to.

Remember: always encourage feedback and comments! If the reader doesn’t already know you, they are far more likely to give an honest opinion – they will stick around (and maybe even comment) if they do like your writing, and they’ll disappear if they don’t. And that’s your first step towards understanding your target audience. 

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3. Include a newsletter.

Alongside or underneath each post, have a very bold and visible newsletter sign up for those who may want to be reminded of new content being added, or any updates on the book’s release. If a reader is engaging with your work, the chances are they’d like to hear about any additional chapters they could read for free – and eventually the chance to actually pick up a copy of the book. Advertise a quick and easy sign up for updates on free content and let your target audience come to you.

Once you have their email addresses, you can let them know each time a new extract is added (and get more feedback on your work) and can give them updates on when the book is to be released, where it will be and how much it will cost. Again – always ask for responses and engagement so that your readers feel involved and welcome!


4. Publish a free eBook on sites like Amazon and Kobo. 

In the days of social media marketing and touch-of-a-button downloads, people generally expect to get a little something for nothing to pique their interest. If you want someone to sign up to your blog, read your book, or listen to your album, they’ll want to try it out first, so that they don’t have to take a risk and spend their money hastily. It makes sense, right? Why purchase something before you can guarantee you’ll like it?

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And you might be thinking that you’re already posting free content on your website, but in actual fact these are only reaching one section of your audience. You have to work hard to drive traffic to your website, but on sites such as Amazon and Kobo, the readers are already there, primed and looking for content! Don’t get us wrong, your website is still incredibly useful as it’s the only place you can get newsletter sign ups right next to your content, and so these platforms work in unison together – one without the other just wouldn’t be as effective!

Try writing a short eBook in a similar writing style to your upcoming release – perhaps you already have some short stories that you never did anything with? Many eBook sites require completed work rather than samples, so this is where a short story fits in perfectly. If somebody likes your writing style for one story, it’s very likely they will be interested in reading more from you. When it comes to target audience, it’s often far more about the author and their style of writing than it is about a certain plot or character.

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Later on, if you’re writing a series, you can try making the first book free for readers to test out before they commit to the next installments.


5. Promote. 

Whenever you post anything, promote it on social media! It’s no good releasing a goldmine of free content if you’re not making readers aware of it. Follow readers of your genre, and anybody you feel would be interested in your writing, and build up a network of people that might like the content you’re posting. Then, once you have a handful (and rising!) of followers, let them know about the free goods! But don’t just limit yourself to advertising your wares, because followers may tire of it. Try commenting on others posts, replying to people and really engage with as many accounts as you can to help people understand why they would love your book.

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Remember, happy readers mean good reviews! And the more reviews you receive, the more new readers will be willing to take a chance on a book they’d previously never heard of. And so it goes on! Before you know it, you have a dedicated fan base, and a stream of passive income coming in that really takes the edge off when it comes to writing the next in the series.

That’s a wrap on our marketing tips this week – if you have any topics you’d like us to discuss, or ideas for future posts then do let us know and we’ll have them up soon!

For more help with book marketing, visit our Marketing Advisor page.

10 Tips to Write that Romance

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and what better way is there to celebrate than getting stuck into a good romance novel?

Fancy trying your hand at writing a romance? Check out the following top tips on writing a romance novel, grab your laptop – and maybe a glass of vino – and see what you can create!

 

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  • Conflict is crucial! The elements of your characters that are stopping them from living happily ever after are the driving force behind your story. Know what these elements are and figure out how your characters can overcome them, together. The obstacle should be significant, one that is not easily overcome.
  • Really know your characters. Who are they? What do they want? Why do they want this? The romantic relationship between characters must be realistic, unique and, above all, interesting.
  • The key is to start on a point of action, hooking your readers from the very first page. What are your characters doing on the very first page? Is your heroine on a terrible first date in a restaurant with a guy she has only met once, when suddenly your hero starts choking across the room and she has to save him? Picture how and when your main protagonists will meet, then dive into the action.
  • Use secondary characters with caution. You’re writing a romance, so readers are going to be mostly interested in the main romantic couple.
  • Read romances. Lots of people think they can write a romance who aren’t actually fans of reading romance novels. If you’re not interested in the genre as a reader, that’s going to come across in your writing.

  • Follow the formula. Romances typically have characters that readers can love and relate to, a believable conflict and a happy ending. Start writing with these elements in mind to get the basics down, then play around with making your work original and unique.
  • Focus on feelings. Readers of romance want to feel something when they read. You can have some dark moments, some challenges, in your story, but the narrative should be positive and life-affirming at its core.
  • Avoid writing about sex for the sake of it. It’s important to write about physical attraction in romances, but this doesn’t have to involve sex. It could just be a kiss. Or the sex could happen implicitly behind closed doors. If you want to write a sex scene, there needs to be an emotional reason behind it. First ask yourself, ‘What might this scene show readers about the characters’ relationship? Is it believable? Do my metaphors/euphemisms work?
  • Be sure to create characters with flaws. They need to seem human to readers. If characters have real faults, readers will find the to be more believable and striking.
  • Know your subgenre. Are you writing a historical romance? A contemporary romance? A paranormal romance? Read widely and do your research. Take notes on where big plot points occur – what are they?

 

5 Key Steps for Aspiring Authorpreneurs

It was once the case that traditional publishing was the only viable option for authors, but today the rise of self-publishing has allowed authors to take full control of their work. Authors often receive higher royalties by this method and no longer have to wait years until their book is released, and the increase of freelance cover designers and editors means that self-publishing is no longer a last resort after a long process of submissions and rejections. It’s a first choice.

With the rise of self-publishing and the shift of the market to the web, authors have to work hard to build their own platform. They’re no longer just expected to write, but have to sell, and in most instances authors must now be prepared to work harder at marketing than at writing. As a result, writers are no longer just authors, but are becoming ‘authorpreneurs’.

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It may feel unnatural at first, especially following such a creative process like writing a book, but it’s becoming essential for authors to adapt to the savvy ways of an entrepreneur, building their book as they would a business. Thinking like an authorpreneur is essential in becoming a success, and will help to make your writing no longer just a hobby, but a full-time living.


1. Determine your audience

Establishing your target audience is essential in becoming an authorpreneur. What is your book about? Who would enjoy reading it? It’s really important to know as much as you possibly can about your potential fans, as this will make it much easier to reach them. Once you narrow down your target audience perfectly, you’ll find sales so much easier.

Marketing to anyone and everyone, posting on social media to anyone who will listen, and advertising your book on Google, etc. can be a very laborious and time-sucking method for finding your buyers. Whereas finding your target audience, as a tiny little niche, and marketing directly to them, means you are hitting that target in one quick, calculated shot. You’ll have a much higher success rate with marketing if you focus on growing a very specific fan base and marketing only to them.

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 2. Build a brand

When thinking like an authorpreneur, it’s important to keep in mind that you are a business, not just a writer. A key part of this is branding yourself. Focus on building an author brand by establishing how you want to be seen online. Like any successful business, you’ll need a well-designed website and a strong online presence across social media platforms. Sticking to consistent topics, using consistent keywords, and even using consistent colours (e.g. red and yellow – did someone say McDonalds?), can show off a huge level of professionalism, which is invaluable when attracting a readership. So, just as a company has consistent branding, using strong colours, fonts and images, authors should emulate this to give off a professional air.

For help in setting up your own author website, visit our website page.


3. Plan a launch

As with any business, promotion needs to be considered well in advance of release-day. Authors should take advantage of the pre-publication months by planning a launch event in the lead-up to a book release. Launch events can build momentum, excitement and a real buzz around your work at a critical time. Not only do you deserve to do a bit of celebrating after all that hard work, but it will kick-start your marketing campaign in style.

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4. Forming a friendship circle

By following step #1, it should be much easier for you to find potential readers online. Let’s use Twitter as an example. Assuming you follow (and receive a follow back) a hundred or so people that come under your target audience on Twitter, you then need to start reading over the tweets from your followers. What you’re looking for here is the potential for conversation, and for a mutual relationship. You don’t need to juggle too many at once – try aiming for a small and comfortable amount of correspondents, and gradually build it up. These friends become your loyal marketing team. They will endlessly promote you – they will be your brand ambassadors – and all because we always love to help out a friend.

Just as businesses gain loyal customers, you have the opportunity to build a loyal following online, and it’s important to remember to give and take. Social media is a conversation, not a lecture, so always be sure to respond to your followers and take an interest in them. Keep your new circle of readers happy by giving them an inside look – run free giveaways and show them sneak peaks of the inner workings of your writing to create a feeling of exclusivity for your followers.

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5. Enjoy!

Most important of all – have fun! Enjoying the marketing process will allow you to be a resilient authorpreneur, and you’ll become more proactive, more knowledgeable and more satisfied with your writing.

For help with your book marketing, check out our Marketing Advisor page and learn more about how to use these methods to improve your book sales and become an authorpreneur!

Ahem

Literary throat-clearing. ‘What is it?’ you may ask. For those of you who don’t know (and I apologise to those who do), literary throat-clearing is a term for that expendable ‘beginning’ of a story which is not actually the beginning of the story at all. You know, the pages where you do nothing but set the scene, describe the characters, waffle on about their traits and backstory. Description is great and throat-clearing can be useful, but both need to be controlled.

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Throat-clearing can help you as the writer when working on a first draft, as it can help cement the character’s backstory in your head and enable you to visualise the scene more clearly. It will then be easier for you to convey this to your readers; after all, no author can really write well unless their ideas are clear in their own heads. How can you expect readers to understand something that you as the author only have a vague idea about? Description, if done well, also serves to pull readers into the world of your novel.

However, always bear in mind that throat-clearing doesn’t really have a place in revised drafts. Waffle on for as many pages as you like about backstory, scene, character traits etc. if it helps – just be sure to cut and change as much as necessary when rewriting. Some bits of information from throat-clearing may make it into later paragraphs in your revised drafts; see what feels natural to you. The best novels start by either jumping straight into the action or by briefly describing the scene/character/backstory then jumping into the action. In other words, action is the driving force of the novel. Don’t make readers wade through paragraphs upon paragraphs of irrelevant information before you start saying what you really want to say. 

You don’t want to be the author equivalent of Dolores Umbridge! Hem-hem. 

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Re Post: Interview with Michelle Path

Promote Me Please

 

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Michelle Path Talks About Her Books

Today we welcome Michelle Path to Promote Me Please to talk about her children’s books.

Q1 Hi, Michelle; while trawling about on Twitter, I found my attention attracted by some wonderfully funny and individual illustrations. So… would you tell our readers about these?

A I like to come up with characters that are unique and fun for children to get to know. I think the best way for children to learn to love to read is by being able to identify with the characters in some way. Incorporating these into stories that are weird and whacky is something that I love to do as an author. The illustrations really bring my stories to life. I am fortunate to have been able to work with such talented artists.

Q2 Sham Subterranean and Xalien and a pirate scared of birds are just three of your characters. Please describe Sham Subterranean in three words.

A Unique, mysterious and likeable

Q 3 OK, who is the pirate and why is he scared of birds?

A The pirate is named Crackskull Jack. He is the captain of a raggedy crew and sails on his ship The Eye of the Storm. Everyone has something they are frightened of and Jack’s phobia just happens to be a fear of birds. Fears are not always rational and logical and Crackskull Jack’s is ironic to say the least. He is on a quest to find a cure for his fear.

Q 4 Which is your favourite of your own books so far and why?

A, I have two favourites. Firstly Xalien the Purple Alien: Xalien Goes to the Zoo. I love animals and one of my main messages as an author is about caring for animals. Xalien is so fun to write about that she almost writes her own adventures.

Secondly Suki and the Seedling. It was the first book I have had published and it is a Chinese based fairy tale with an environmental theme. Caring for the environment is another issue that I am passionate about so it is a book I am incredibly proud of. I wrote the story a few years ago. Jyoti Di Cola really worked her magic on the illustrations.

Q 5 What’s next for Michelle Path?

  1. I have seven books coming out this year (2016) including my first chapter book Rory Aqua Adventure Man. I also have a short story book to be released towards the end of the year titled Phantasmagorical Phobias which includes The Pirate Who Was Scared of Birds and another 5 stories which all deal with ironic phobias. I also have a book called Cody the Pony which I wrote based on my own experiences with my pony Cody. The other books are mainly sequels including a new pirate book and the second Subterranea story.

Thanks, Michelle! And here are some links for readers to follow.

website www.michellepath.com.au

Facebook

Twitter @mimilovesu

Goodreads

Amazon Page

Promote Me Please blog is associated with Affordable Manuscript Assessments

It is open to anyone with a family-friendly creative endeavour to promote. Comments are welcome. To read other interviews at Promote Me Please, choose from the menu on the right of this post. The direct url for this post is http://tinyurl.com/pathtomichelle

RE POST. Characters in Hook Up: Macy

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Now where do I begin? At the beginning of course! Macy – who is she, what is she ? Let’s take a look at her.

All Macy’s life she has been, shall we say, large. Yes that’s Macy, bullied at school for her size, not much in the way of boyfriends or real friends, a loner in a way – possibly because of being an only child with older parents.

She left her loving parents to work with horses. It was her passion and the only time she was ever slim. Her relationships with men were scarce even then, until she met the farmer’s son and then her first taste of love blossomed. They enjoyed riding naked, swimming in the streams, and Macy came alive.

She later met her husband to be who courted her lovingly and her made her happy, until the wedding ring went on her finger. She then learnt how lonely a marriage could be. Her husband drank and abused her both mentally and physically. Eventually, in desperation, and with two children in tow, she up and left him with the help of Emma, her best friend.

Macy became a carer, and with her parents’ help she brought up her two boys. She had learnt to live with herself and for the first time was completely happy with her life, her work and children. As a carer Macy learnt how to appreciate life and met an array of people. She was very good at seeing how people felt and could read them almost like a book , understanding their needs implicitly. She was very well liked by all she met.

After a time Macy met Mark, who at first was seemingly sincerely appreciative of her for how she was, a large curvy woman who was now quite confident in her own skin and also financially secure due to the traggic death of her parents on one of their holidays. She had been seeing Mark for a year and was now 55, but something was not right, Mark had changed; his habits, his attitude, it was like her ex husband all over again. He also demeaned her or tried to. But Macy, being older and wiser, had had enough. She caught him out on his computer and set a trap –  it was the greatest feeling ever and it opened doors she never knew existed – and with Emma’s help she started to live a life that she had not thought possible.

She learnt about herself she became empowered by feelings previously alien to her and she met her soulmate. At 55 Macy was transported into a whole new way of life and she loved it and lived it.

Jan Harvey & Sian Jones

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Follow Macy as she learns about her new – found freedom and finds her soulmate in HookUp and Legacies

http://getbook.at/AmazonHarveyJones

http://mybook.to/Legacies-kindle

http://mybook.to/Legacies

http://www.rowanvalebooks.com/books/hook.html

Thesauritis

Admit it: at least once, you have found yourself frantically scanning the thesaurus, trying to find that reclusive perfect word to use in your writing.

While this is an understandable reaction to the highly frustrating tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon, it can be a bad habit to slip into. Now, we love a good, meaty adjective as much as the next person, but there is much to be said about not compulsively reaching for the thesaurus every time you get tongue-tied.

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There’s nothing worse than reading a text where the author has obviously tried too hard and abused our friend the thesaurus. Have you ever come across a text that reads something like this:

 ‘Sally! Come back!’ Megan squalled.

Sally took no notice, but simply enjoined her horse to press on though the dank, unilluminated wood.

Excruciating, isn’t it? ‘Squall’ in the first line does not make much sense in the given context, as ‘squall’ usually refers to the noise a crying baby makes (or a gust of violent wind or the falling of heavy rain). To write this, we simply looked up the word ‘shout’ in a thesaurus and picked this one at random as an alternative. As you can see, it doesn’t really ring true to the original meaning.  In the second sentence, the words ‘enjoined’ and ‘unilluminated’ may mean the same as ‘urged’ and ‘dark’ fundamentally but they lose the tone of the text itself, hindering the narrative style and making the text cumbersome to read.

We would suggest sticking to a 10 second rule: if you look up a word in a thesaurus and can’t find the perfect alternate word listed in under 10 seconds, put the thesaurus down and think long and hard about what you want to convey to your readers. Chances are, if no word is jumping out at you after 10 seconds, there’s a reason for it. Perhaps you haven’t fully worked out what you want to say. Perhaps you need to take a step back and simplify things in your writing. Sometimes simple wording really is best. As Jonathan Franzen once said, ‘Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.’

To sum up: the thesaurus can be a writer’s best friend or worst enemy; it is up to the writer to decide which it is to be. Get back to the basics, but don’t neglect your thesaurus; use it to enrich your text rather than burden it. Don’t suffer from Thesauritis!

The Benefits of Book Awards for Self-Published Authors

Discoverability is the word on every self-published author’s lips. Book awards are part of your arsenal to achieve discoverability. The majority of book purchases are made from existing authors who are known and trusted by readers, or through recommendation from friends, family, book clubs or the media.” – British Novelist James Minter (http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org/50-book-awards/)
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Out with the old, in with the new. Traditional methods of publication are being eschewed in favour of self-publishing, where individuals are now given the opportunity to instantly promote and publish literary work. With the increasing readership of self-published titles, more and more newspapers and magazines (including The Guardian, Writer’s Digest, and National Best Book Award) have noted its popularity and introduced this category to writing competitions.

If you’re considering self-publication (either independently, or with a publishing company), it’s worth putting book awards and competitions at the top of your marketing list. Novelist, James Minter, explains why:

  • They create interest in your book. This leads to more sales and opportunities.
  • An award displayed on the front cover may encourage someone to pick up your book while browsing.
  • A book award will give you an edge and may be all the difference needed to propel your book into bestseller territory.
  • When you win or get placed, you can say you are an ‘award winning author’. It sounds great, and gives the book a magic little lift that comes from third party endorsement.
  • Book awards give your book a seal of excellence unequalled by other forms of media exposure. No reviews, nor articles, nor TV or radio interviews can compete with having an ‘Award Winning Book’, selected from hundreds of competing titles by experienced and professionally-trained judges.

For those interested, a full list of upcoming Book Awards for self-published authors can be viewed here: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/book-awards/.

A select few include:

  • The National Best Books Award
  • The Next Generation Indie Book Awards
  • Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Awards
  • ForeWord Reviews Books of the Year Awards
  • The Benjamin Franklin Awards
  • The Reader Views Literary Awards

If you’re interested in self-publishing but aren’t sure about how or where to start, visit our Paperback and eBook Publication pages today:

http://www.rowanvalebooks.com/pbackpub.html

http://www.rowanvalebooks.com/ebookpub.html

Bandits, Bank Robbers & Three Smoking Hot Bananas – A review by Frances Turpin

Despite the warning in the prologue of “the more debase outbursts of the human body” being featured (and certainly judging by the detailed descriptions you’ll be pleased this book isn’t scratch and sniff!), BB&TSHB has a certain sophisticated humour that will appeal to kids and their older siblings/parents alike.

With caricature characters along the lines of Roald Dahl and David Walliams, and interspersed with illustrations as detailed as the narrative, reading about Moan-and-Groan-Upon-the-Sea and its inhabitants feels like a hyper-realised visit to every small town in Britain. Albert Grunge is an anti-hero with a grudge with plans of revenge against the town that wronged him that you can get behind despite his general appearance, attitude, personality and, by all accounts, scent. His bumbling nephews Tag and Cal prove themselves to be prototype comic sidekicks-slash-motor vehicle geniuses (sort of…), who inspire Albert on his journey to right the wrongs of the past.

Easy to read but with a fun and complex enough storyline to keep you gripped until the bitter, car-chasing end, this will be a perfect read to inspire many games of banana-bank-robbery in the future.

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Bandits, Bank Robbers & Three Smoking Hot Bananas is out now, and can be purchased from our book store here.