Guest post: E. Rachael Hardcastle (Author of Finding Pandora)

6016f2_1e64bbd333624e3da9900739929e2dbc-mv2_d_1280_1214_s_2.pngToday we’re delighted to welcome supernatural fantasy novelist and West Yorkshire lass E. Rachael Hardcastle to the ideas4writers blog. Her box set Finding Pandora – The Complete Collection (Books 1 – 4) is out this week.

Naturally, we wanted to know all about her, her ideas, and her writing and publishing experiences, and to see if she had any useful tips to share. Here’s what she had to say:

How do you find and evaluate ideas for characters, plots, dialogue, etc?

It’s an overused response but ideas just come to me. Sometimes after watching TV or reading a book I wonder what new swing I could put on that premise, so I’ll write it down and explore it later on. I never base characters on real people – I like to let the characters develop into who they need to be and usually fill in a profile sheet (as seen on my blog) to make sure I cover everything.

How did you get your latest idea? What made it good enough to write about?

My latest idea came to me after watching Jurassic Park and reading a book called The Great Zoo of China. I wanted to explore the theme park idea further, where the guests have to escape for some reason. I know the idea is popular because the movies do well, and to the best of my knowledge the books have done well too, so I thought I’d note it down and brainstorm some ideas. I haven’t started writing yet, but I know it’s a golden nugget because it crosses my mind every day.

How did you expand the idea?

  • Use brainstorming and mind mapping ideas

  • Use story beats to note everything down and build a story/characters

  • Note down the cliches I wanted to avoid and why

  • Watched the movies, read the books etc for research and to see how I can make my story unique

How do you do your research?

I prefer to use reference books rather than the internet, though I do often mix the two. I write fantasy, so some of my research is on myth, legends, signs and symbols, etc, which is fun, so I don’t actually mind this part of the process. I then keep notes in a ‘story beats’ outline document in OpenOffice, which I refer to whenever it is needed. I tried Scrivener but haven’t yet made friends with it.

Would you be willing to share with us some of the ideas you’ve rejected?

I very rarely reject ideas, I just note them down for use in a future project. I think my advice would be not to reject anything because even if it has been used before, there’s always a new way to approach it. They say there are no new ideas and I believe this is true to some extent – it’s what you do with them that counts.

Which book marketing ideas would you recommend?

I offer free content to prove I am trustworthy and helpful. I think marketing can be creepy when you’re posting ‘buy my book’ on social media. Your posts will be ignored and you might lose followers by doing this. Post free content on your blog, helpful notes and resources, and then offer your book at the end. For example, you could advertise your book at the end of a YouTube video that is free and offers the viewer a solution to a problem.

How did you get published?

I self-published my work after coming close to traditional publishing and turning down two offers. I decided I wanted to be in control and give it a shot myself. That way, I could learn the ins and outs and possibly turn hybrid later.

Have you had any really bad/bizarre rejections or reviews?

I once received a postal rejection (with my manuscript enclosed) and on the title page was the comment ‘We don’t publish poetry’. I had submitted my 50,000+ word high fantasy novel…

How do you find the time to write?

I think I steal the time to write after work and between chores at home. If you want to be a writer, you should write, and those who are serious will make the time.

Where do you write?

I have a home office. I keep all my reference books, tools and notes in that room so I can access anything I need quickly and easily.

Can you recommend any software or apps that help with your writing?

And finally, where can we find out more about you and your books?

My website is at

Thank you! Good luck with the box set and for your future writing success.

Thank you!


Why Nielsen’s book sales figures don’t add up

There was an article in the Daily Mail newspaper last week that talked about the 77 million books that were pulped in the UK in 2009. [You can read the article here]

The books that were pulped were mostly “celeb” ones, and I’ll talk about that next time, but today I want to focus on something else that was mentioned in the same article. It stated that around 59,000 books published in the UK in 2009 sold an average of just 18 copies each.

But this is something that I have an issue with. Where exactly is Nielsen Bookdata getting these figures from? I would imagine they are only able to track sales through bookshops – those which order their books through wholesalers such as Gardners and Bertrams.

But take one of my own books as an example. Since only about 1% of people order The Fastest Way to Write Your Book from bookshops, the number of sales Nielsen has recorded for that book in 2009 will be pretty low. If those were the only sales then I’d be extremely embarrassed (and looking for another job). But they’re not.

Because Nielsen is ignoring the 95% of sales that came through the ideas4writers website. I know they’re ignoring them because I’m the only person who knows how many we sold, and Nielsen hasn’t asked me.

They’re probably also ignoring the 4% that Amazon shifted (since Amazon orders them direct from me, not through a wholesaler). And they’re also ignoring the copies I sold myself when I was out and about, though admittedly that was only a handful this year.

If those authors who (according to Nielsen) only sold 18 copies are actually selling them through other routes – online, schools, talks, fairs, conventions, conferences, magazine ads, etc – then their true sales figures are much (much) higher than Nielsen says they are. And therefore book sales (particularly self-published ones) are much healthier than Nielsen is reporting.

It’s the bookshops that are dying, not book sales (apart from “celeb” books). Authors and self-publishers are simply finding other places to sell them. Quite right too – that’s exactly what they should be doing. But those sales aren’t being counted by Nielsen.

Those authors who did only sell 18 copies (or fewer, or anything less than several hundred in fact) should give themselves a stern talking to (and that’s very much the polite version). They either need to learn how to do marketing properly (which really is enormous fun) or write better books that people actually want to read.

Half a day spent doing a bit of market research (which involves nothing more complicated than asking a few people) would save them months of work followed by crushing disappointment when it turns out that nobody wants to read their book.

Dave Haslett,

The fastest way to get ideas – more info

Some of you are asking about our latest book The Fastest Way to Get Ideas – 4,400 Essential What Ifs for Writers.

Q. Can I get the e-book version now and upgrade to the paperback version when that comes out?

A. Yes. The upgrade price is 2 pounds + postage. In the UK, postage is 1 pound so the total upgrade cost will be 3 pounds. When the paperback is ready (late May) I’ll announce it here in the blog.

Q. Are these new What Ifs or are you recycling your old ones?

A. Both. About 3,000 of the What Ifs have previously appeared (but in random order) in the members-only section of the ideas4writers website, and in our old ezine. (The ezine was discontinued in 2007 and replaced with this blog.)

Another few hundred originally appeared as bonuses in our old newsletter (also now discontinued and replaced by this blog). And, more recently, they’ve been appearing here in the blog. But, again, in random order.

The book includes all of those, plus the 480 that will appear here in the blog over the next 4 years. And then there are a few hundred more that are exclusive to the book and won’t appear anywhere else.

This is the first time that the whole collection has been brought together in one place and organised into proper categories for easy reference. (And if you get the ebook edition, they’re also fully searchable.)

What’s not included in the book: A few duplicates, and some that were quite similar to each other – which I hadn’t realised until they were sorted into categories and I could see them all clearly for the first time. I also left out the 200 that were included as bonuses in the appendix of The Fastest Way to Write Your Book.

Q. Will there be a printed version, when will it be published, and will it be available on Amazon?

A. Yes, there will be a paperback version. We don’t have a definite publication date yet, but it will be towards the end of May.

Yes, it will be available on or by special order from any UK bookshop. However it will cost more to buy it from those places than direct from us.

The ebook edition is available right now from the ideas4writers website.

Q. You mentioned previously that you were considering using for the printed editon. Is that still the case?

A. No. After careful consideration we decided to use our regular printing company. Lulu’s formatting requirements were too restrictive for us – it would have meant doing the entire 256-page layout all over again and using a smaller font that we weren’t happy with. Also the amount of money we would make per book (if we sold it to you at a reasonable price) was far too low. We have to try and stay in business, after all!

Lulu is fine if you’re planning on selling a small number of books or publishing books as a hobby and don’t expect to make a living from it. But it’s not for us. If we get them printed by a litho printer in a large batch we can get them for a fraction of the cost of what Lulu charges – and we can use whatever formatting and layout we like.

The disadvantage of using our regular printing company is that we need to order a large print run to get a decent cost per book. And that in turn means finding somewhere to store them, and being (reasonably) confident that we have the marketing skills (and enough potential buyers) to sell them. That’s a bit of a gamble in the present economic climate, but we like  a challenge and the book won’t go out of date – and of course it’s a great book too!

Q. Will there be any more books in The Fastest Way series?

A. Yes. We’re currently working on The Fastest Way to Publish Your Book and The Fastest Way to Sell Your Book. Hopefully at least one of these will be published before the end of 2009. After that we might extend the series to cover other subjects – but that will probably be in 2011 or beyond, as we have some other interesting projects planned for 2010.

Those were the main questions we were asked, but if there’s anything else you’d like to ask us, we’ll be happy to answer it.

You can find out more about The Fastest Way to Get Ideas here:

Dave Haslett, ideas4writers,

Wizard’s Woe

The latest book from our ethical publishing division i4w2 is published today.

Wizard's Woe

Wizard’s Woe by Marion Athorne and Osbert Norman-Walter is a magical fantasy for teens and adults.

When writer and journalist August Autrey disappears while covering the story of the Forest of Weir and its mysterious wizard and dragon, the villagers believe he has paid the price for being too curious. Two weeks later he returns and furiously types a long manuscript in which he describes the amazing adventures he had in an elfin world hidden within the forest. But why was he in such a hurry to get the manuscript finished? Why did he send it to his landlady’s niece? And where is he now?

Click here for full details and to order your copy for just £5.99 + postage.

Dave Haslett, ideas4writers,

3-D book cover graphics for free

If you take a look at our sales page for The Fastest Way to Write Your Book here you’ll notice that we’ve changed the cover image from the standard flat look to a 3D book-like look. Very nice it is too. But not only is it much nicer, sales have actually doubled since we changed the image!

As this is obviously a very important tip, I thought I’d share it with you. It should also work for e-books, magazines, e-zines, software, CDs, DVDs, etc.

Getting the 3-D look only took a couple of minutes and didn’t cost anything.

You will need a copy of Adobe Photoshop (version 6 or later). Photoshop is at version CS3 now (which I think is equivalent to version 10). You can get older versions quite cheaply on eBay or Amazon – I got my copy of v6 on eBay. Or you can download the free 30 day trial of the latest version from and use that instead.

Then download the free e-book cover script from here and follow the instructions to install and run it.

I’ll be using it a lot from now on!

Dave Haslett, ideas4writers,

Your book published for free!

Have you joined the ideas4writers associates scheme yet? Here’s something that might encourage you:

If you manage to sell 1,000 copies of The fastest way to write your book by 30 June 2009 we’ll publish your book free of charge via our i4w2 ethical publishing service!

That includes professional editing, our full publishing service, printing 1,000 copies, and cover artwork that’s yours to keep – we’ll even frame it for you. Your book will be featured on our website, listed on Amazon, made available for all UK bookshops to order, and supplied to Waterstones. You’ll also receive a copy of The Fastest Way to Sell Your Book (not yet published) and we’ll put you in touch with our team of book marketers and PR specialists. Total package worth £2,500 – £3,000.

But there’s more…

We’ll be publishing The fastest way to sell your book later this year and you’ll be able to count sales of that book towards your total too.

This is not a competition or a draw – every associate who sells 1,000 copies by 30 June 2009 (which is less than 3 copies a day) will get their book published. All you have to do is encourage as many people as you can to click on your link. We’re doing all we can at our end to convert those clicks into sales for you.

How the ideas4writers associates scheme works

Sign up with us as an associate at (no charge for joining)

We’ll send you a special link that you can add to your website, blog, forum postings, articles, e-books, business cards, email messages, or whatever you like. That link takes people to the sales page for The fastest way to write your book (and The fastest way to sell your book when it is published). If they buy the book from us after clicking on your link, we’ll reward you.

You get £1 for every sale. We’ll double that to £2 a sale if you reach 100 sales in any quarter (the current quarter runs from 1 July to 30 September 2008). And if you reach 1,000 sales by 30 June 2009, we’ll publish your book free of charge.

Once you’ve joined the associates scheme you’ll have access to the associates centre where you can track your clicks and sales and pick up some extra tips on how to encourage people to click on your link and buy our books.

For full details about our associates scheme go to

Dave Haslett, ideas4writers,

Why You Should Learn How to Write Books Quickly (and How to Do It)

OK, this article is a fairly shameless (but hopefully very useful) plug for The Fastest Way to Write Your Book. If you’ve already bought it (thanks!), it might inspire you to dig it out and read it again, and maybe get started on a new book or two. If you haven’t bought it yet, I hope this article will persuade you that you should – after all, a man’s got to eat! Please forward this article to your friends, family, work colleagues, teachers, writing tutors, tradesmen, and other acquaintances – anyone who has ever mentioned within your earshot that they might one day write a book. They’ll thank you for it in the end. (And so will I.)

Why You Should Learn How to Write Books Quickly
(and How to Do It)
By Dave Haslett

You can easily learn how to write professional full-length novels, non-fiction books and e-books in a fraction of the usual time, without compromising on quality, quantity or your artistic integrity. In fact the words in your book will be exactly the same, whether you spend two weeks or two years writing them. Here are 12 reasons why you should learn the fastest ways to write good books. And at the end of the article I’ll tell you how you can learn to do it.

1. You can fill a gap in the market as soon as you spot it, and beat your competitors into print

In a case like this, time really matters. The first book to reach the market is usually the one that dominates it, and if you can write your book in days or weeks while everyone else takes months, you’ll have the market to yourself for a very long time. Not only will yours be the only book available, it’ll have plenty of time to establish itself as the “industry standard”.

2. You can latch onto current trends before they go out of fashion

If you start writing about something that’s in fashion now but you take a year to finish it, by the time your book is ready the market will have moved on and you’ll have missed out. Once again, time really matters – you need to hit the market while it’s still growing or at its peak, not when it’s waning. You can also write books about forthcoming events and have them on sale in plenty of time.

3. You can make a lot of money in a short time

This is especially true of e-books. You can quickly write a ton of e-books and sell them on your website. Or make them available on where thousands of people are looking for great products to sell on your behalf. And the great thing about e-books is they cost you nothing!

4. You can produce a lifetime’s work in a couple of years

The average writer takes an entire lifetime to write one shelf of books, and most don’t even manage that many. They soon come to realise that one lifetime just isn’t long enough to write all the books they have plans and ideas for. Frustrating isn’t it! But if you knew how to write books ten times faster, that wouldn’t be a problem. (You still won’t run out of ideas though!)

5. You can fit your writing around your busy lifestyle and reclaim your freedom

Many writers shut themselves away from their friends and family for months at a time and give up much of their social lives completely. (I’ve done it myself.) While everyone else is out enjoying themselves, the poor writer stays at home and slaves over a hot computer*. And they only write one book a year. By learning the fastest ways to write your book you won’t need to shut yourself away at all. You can reclaim your social life, rediscover your friends, and still write several books each year. Do you remember what life used to be like before you became a writer?

(*By the way, your computer will run a lot cooler – and often less noisily – if you clear the dust from the air vents and fan once a year.)

6. Freedom from guilt

Are you missing out on quality time with your children or other members of your family? Did you miss your child’s first steps or first words because you’d shut yourself away to write? Do you feel guilty about not being able to spend as much time with them as you should? Do they ask you to read to them or help with their homework, but you’re too busy writing? If you knew a much faster way to write your books you could start putting things right before it’s too late.

7. You’re never too busy to write a book

You can easily find enough time to write several books a year if you go about it in the right way, no matter how busy you life is. Seriously. You don’t need to make any drastic changes to your lifestyle, and any small changes will only last a few weeks at most until you’ve finished your book. For example you can cut down on the cleaning, record TV shows, save up your newspapers and magazines, and skip a couple of gym sessions. Catch up with it all when your book is done.

8. Massively increased chance of getting published – or becoming a bestseller

Some of your books will undoubtedly sell much better than others. Some might not do very well at all. But if they only took a few days or weeks to write it really doesn’t matter – it’s not as if you slaved over your book for a year or more only to have it flop. You’ll write plenty of others that will more than make up for it, and perhaps even have a couple of bestsellers. With all those books on the market you’re vastly increasing the chances that one or more of them will hit the big time. If you haven’t yet found a publisher, all those books circulating between publishers and agents will also increase your chances of being discovered and accepted. And of course you’ll be adding more and more books to those in circulation as you write them, which will certainly get their attention! Even if you don’t find a publisher, you can always publish them yourself or turn them into e-books.

9. Increased rate of learning

As any writing tutor will tell you, the more you write the better you become. You’ll get better a lot sooner if you learn how to write your books ten times faster.

10. Readers will buy more of what you write

Each book acts as a sales tool for the others. If you have two books on sale, you double your market exposure – someone who comes across one of your books might well buy the other one too. (This is why publishers like signing up authors for multi-book deals.) But what if you had ten or twenty books out there? Or more? Readers will be far more likely to discover you, and many of them will buy several of your books, if not the complete set. If you don’t know how to write books quickly then writing this many books could take you a lifetime. But if you know the secrets you could easily have the whole lot written and on sale within a year or two.

11. Writing quickly buys you the freedom to write slowly!

Many writers enjoy the luxury of taking their time over their books. They like to let their characters find their own way without following any kind of outline, and if things don’t work out they can scrap it and backtrack. They like to tinker endlessly with the text, rewrite it over and over, spend days finding the perfect word or phrase, try out different writing styles, and so on. But this really is a luxury, and something you can only do if you have another source of income. If you want to write like that, my suggestion would be to learn how to write books quickly, get several books out in the marketplace earning you money, and then use that money to fund your more leisurely writing.

12. There’s no time to get bored

Thousands of people start writing a book each year, but most never finish it – or even get close to finishing. Why? Simply because it takes so long that they get bored with it and want their social lives back. The story might actually be an excellent one, the writing insightful and the characters compelling. But the world will never know. If they knew about the fast way to write their books, they’d get their books finished, they’d enjoy writing them, and they wouldn’t get bored – and they might even write some more!

By now I’m sure you’re eager to learn the fastest ways to write great books, as well as how to come up with good ideas, combine them into a workable outline, edit your books quickly, and sell them – while avoiding writers block, finding plenty of time to write, and perhaps even persuading other people to do some (or all) of the work for you.

The fastest way to write your bookWhat you need is The Fastest Way to Write Your Book. This entertaining, inspiring and very readable book tells you exactly how to do it, and is available in paperback or e-book versions from, or from, or can be ordered from any UK bookshop.

(Be sure to check out the reviews!)

Dave Haslett is the founder of (the ideas and inspiration website), and (the award-winning ethical publishing service).

You are welcome to reproduce this article anywhere you like as long as you use the entire article including the book and author details at the end.