Saturday, 30 April 2016

SHORT STORY ENTRY: Write Invite, Saturday 23rd April

This week, out of the three prompt options I picked, ‘The Road’. Again, I found it hard to settle straight in to an idea but there is a road not far from me where a lot of hitchhikers (yes, they still do) try to thumb a lift, usually heading down to the coast and at first I thought I could use that, but there was something too easy, as if I shouldn’t allow the first thing that pops into my mind as that is probably too common a suggestion and pops into other minds first too. Then from that idea of thinking about what sort of person would be thumbing a lift I thought of what it would be to describe someone walking past a hitchhiker and perhaps discussing person and the reasons why they didn’t stop. But I didn’t like that either so I then thought about just staring at someone on a road which changed to following someone on a road and that ended up getting my mind geared up for describing someone walking down a road. Then from nowhere the suggestion of being in a work van stuck in traffic came to mind, as that would allow me to have the time to study a person, i.e. if we are not moving fast then it seems realistic to be able to use that time to describe a person. And that was that. I started writing and the below came out. However, I panicked when I realised I only had two minutes left and I hadn’t picked a title. I was stuck! I couldn’t think of one, then as two minutes became one, and then thirty seconds I thought I may actually mess up and not submit in time so I wrote ‘Destination’ without knowing why and not being happy with it but managed to submit the story in time. Afterwards, when I had calmed down I thought that actually, that’s not too bad a title. It sort of describes the fact that the people didn’t just know who the person walking was, but they didn’t know where he was going either, and knowing that may have made them think entirely differently about the man and I wonder then how they would have described him?

Luckily for me, this entry was shortlisted this week! Which is very nice. I didn’t win but being shortlisted in the top three for the first time was a rewarding feeling, even if I didn’t think this was my best piece, yet it gives you the spur you need every now and again.

As a reminder, this is a weekly competition where the online entry opens at 5.30pm and closes at 6pm giving you thirty minutes to think of, write, edit and submit a short story from one of three given word prompts. £4 entry and £50 first prize. Here is the link to the site: They also have other competitions and services that may be of interest.


The man in the white shirt with long grey hair and thin, sharp features had been walking ahead of them for at least half an hour.
Ron and Tony were stewing in their hot, sweaty seats. The work van's cabin was full of empty water bottles, crisp and biscuit packets which were all cracking loudly in the humid air. Both windows were fully open but it was one of those summer evenings where the pollution of city roads and low clouds combined to make it feel like the air had been sucked from the atmosphere. Ron was fidgeting more, shoving his feet amongst the piles of rubbish to try and get a decent stretch. Tony was fiddling with the radio.
'Where do you think he's going?' Ron asked. Tony looked up from the dashboard.
'The hippie?'
'Pfff, who knows. Looks like he's scrabbling about for butt ends and pennies to me,'
'We've been behind him pretty much all this road and he ain't stopped once, just keeps traipsing along like he's stoned or something,'
'Maybe he is, looks like he knows how to roll a fat one,'
The van crept along. The car in front was a new looking Mercedes with an average fifty something suit and tie tapping on the steering wheel to Magic FM. Ron and Tony had the luck of a pretty young thing for a few side roads, low cut top in the heat and small round sunglasses. They didn't quite manage to get her attention despite their heads bobbing up and down and left to right to catch her in the mirrors. Now it was the suit and they had turned their attention to the man.
'It's funny, he sort of looks like he's got money, you know what I mean? Hair's a bit, like, ageing rock star, don't you think?'
'Yeah, he does a bit,' Tony was still messing with the radio and wasn't paying full attention.
'Sad really,'
'You would have thought someone who looks like that would be doing well at his age, he's sixty at least I reckon,'
'How d'you know he's not doing well?'
'Well, just look at the clothes. And the way he walks,'
'Leave the poor bastard alone, maybe he's just had a hard day, he don't need you going on!'
The traffic let up and they managed a good spurt forward. A minute of constant movement and they had nearly caught up with the man again.
'Nah, look at him, unshaven, rough as mate,'
'You're being a bit bloody harsh, let's see how your doing at his age,'
The man's pace hadn't altered. His face had kept front and the occasional beeping from frustrated drivers and pedestrians passing him hadn't bothered him.
'He's gonna make it to the junction before we do, bloody traffic,'
'See, there you go. He knows what he's doing,'
'Hope I have better things to do than wander the streets when I'm older,'
'Give it a rest, you don't half go on. What's got you so interested? He's just a normal bloke walking up the road,'
'Something different about him,'
'When you've got as many miles clocked up on the road as he has, the last thing you want is some young cocky bastard looking you up and down. How do you know he ain't a rock star walking back home after a three day bender? Huh? He could be a millionaire, how would you know?'
'No chance, he's a scruffy drunk who's been kicked out the bookies,'
The last section of road before the traffic lights cleared and Ron and Tony speed up and past the man. They took a quick look in their mirror before a convertible BMW with two women drew up next to them waiting to turn at the lights and they forgot all about the man. The lights turned green and Ron and Tony talked about the attributes of the BMW driver and never saw or thought about the man walking and minding his own business again.

Have a great week,

R.G Rankine

Friday, 22 April 2016

SHORT STORY ENTRY: Flash 500 Flash Fiction Competition

Dear all,

The long-list for the Flash 500 Flash Fiction competition has been announced so I am now free to post my entry. You can find out details about the competition here:

As the title indicates it is for flash fiction with a maximum word count of 500.

You can find my entry below in blue but to repeat myself (which I do often) I will post this ‘disclaimer’ whenever I post a short story entry: I decided that 2016 would be the year I enter competitions and at present I have around four or five a month on my list. Every time I enter one I will copy the story as a blog post ready to go and share it with you. Let me put my hands up in surrender now, I do not expect to be shortlisted or win any of them. That’s not an easy excuse, it’s just being honest. I don’t think these will be my best work and I have a lot of years ahead of me in which to improve my writing but this is my reasoning… it’s more of a compromise. I have two main objectives this year, to grow my company (a little bit) and complete the first draft of my novel. They are ongoing projects that occupy my mind night and day, however, I have a lot of scraps of ideas that I have set aside (as I won’t be spending time developing any short stories to self publish this year) and I felt bad at just leaving them to rot. They are playing on my mind so why not use them to enter short story competitions? The ones I self publish are always a minimum of 10k words (up to around 20k) and take me weeks to work on but the competitions can be as short as 500 words. I think that by allowing myself to spend a few hours (at most) on these entries I will firstly feel better than I am keeping myself busy when not working on the novel (which again, is often), secondly improve and test out new ideas or techniques (that may come in handy later) and thirdly reach out to new people and new content which is naturally a frightening thing because you are exposing yourself to people who are better than you. That’s the only way to learn though and I have never shied away from that. The only negative is that I know I won’t be spending enough time on the stories to show off the best I can do, but that’s the compromise isn’t it? I get a lot out of it without spending huge chunks of time. You can’t have both. So, is that a good enough excuse for you? (By the way - Blogger simply refused to 'justify' align this paragraph, sorry.)

The Mound

A walk past the mound sorts things out. Puts things in perspective.
I stopped myself from calling Sandra. It would have been the third, no, fourth time today. That’s plain ridiculous. Could I be any more embarrassing? Crying all the time. Manage two words… then tears. God, it’s humiliating. In fact, it’s more than that, it’s… sad. Am I really that much of a loser? Enough is enough. Today is the end of it! When that dark cloud chases me I’m going to walk around the block and talk to the mound.
There’s a small patch of grass by a road near my house. It’s vivid green and peppered with little yellow flowers. That’s because it’s fenced off and no one can walk on it. There are four-thousand-year-old bodies buried there. In a way it’s like a secret… out in the open! Hardly anyone knows. People think the fence is for the house next door, but it’s not. It’s the Bronze Age helping me out. How’s that for calling on a long distance friend! I wonder what memories are buried with them? Was there a twenty-four-year-old girl crying over nothing just like me? What was her everything and her nothing? That’s what helps. Those bodies put me in my place. They look up and tell me there’s nothing to worry about. Do they see me crying over things they can’t understand exist and wonder why I am torturing myself? I have food and water at my command; I must be a queen! What a view it must have been. All forest? What do they think of me? Do they understand it wasn’t me personally that enclosed their resting place as if a caged animal at a zoo? It wasn’t me that made London what it is! Concrete and wires and electricity and pipes with the poor people there and the rich people there. Would they be proud of me? What does it matter after four thousand years? We’ve taken away their view. I wonder if they care about what this land is called now? When did patriotism start? That’s why I like talking to them. They are my family, my connection to old England… well, who knows, France, Spain or Germany? Vikings? When were they? Where did they come from? Not that they would have known anyway. That’s why it cheers me up. The ridiculousness of it all. A simple mound of earth and grass reminds me of what matters. Underneath the houses and the roads, all our signs and markings… the earth is still there… we forget that, but it is, still there, always has been, always will be. We take refuge in the precious moments we squeeze time for in the parks and the woods thinking our real life is within concrete… but why?
Yes, a walk always makes me feel better.
Who’s going to put a sign up and enclose me in four thousand years? No one.
That’s why I love it so much.

Have a great weekend,

R.G Rankine

Sunday, 10 April 2016

SHORT STORY ENTRY: Write Invite, Saturday 2nd April

Dear all,

Here is my entry to last Saturday's weekly short story competition over at Unfortunately I couldn’t enter yesterday’s because the competition starts at 5:30pm and there was the small matter of the Grand National at 5:15pm… No, I didn’t pick the winner. 

Anyway, there is no doubt I had a panic with this one. I could not find the right way to finish it. Strangely, as I was making a cup of coffee a few minutes before the competition was about to start, I looked out of my kitchen window and saw in the wall opposite a brick that seemed out of place with the others, much lighter as if it had been replaced. It was on my mind when I sat down and when I saw the three ‘theme’ options I immediately knew I would pick, ‘The Face’ as I had the idea of using that brick I had just seen as a face in a wall. So, I started well enough, and took up nearly 25 minutes with continuous writing… but the ending eluded me. I just couldn’t work out what I wanted to do so I wasn’t particularly happy with it, but there we go, 30 minutes well spent regardless.

There’s always next week...

The Face Behind the Hedge

'Why do you think they done it?' John asked. He stood with hands on hips, his head leaning to the left and squinting with his right eye, as if the surprise required a matching actor's pose.
'I have no idea,' replied Vicky, 'I like it though,'
'I mean, yes, I guess I like it,' John said, nodding. He took his hands off his hips and placed them in his pockets. He kept the squint. He watched as Vicky moved closer and took a careful look. 'Do you think it's been here all this time?'
Vicky's nose was nearly touching the wall as she moved her head up and down and left to right examining the brickwork. She wasn't entirely sure what she was hoping to find but it seemed like the thing to do.
'Well, it must have been,' she eventually replied, stepping back and standing next to John.
'Well I never,' John said, his squint had gone and he had levelled his head.
'You're sure we didn't plant these hedges, absolutely sure?' Vicky asked, gently shaking her head.
'Certain,' John replied with a firm nod, 'We tidied up a bit, I remember that but all of this side was more or less as it was. Do you remember it was further up, where the roses are that we dug up and replaced? Before the kids,'
'Yes, I think you're right, yep, yep.'
The couple remained side by side looking at their garden wall. After a week of trimming, cutting, pruning, digging, planting and all other manner of green fingered tasks they had finally got around to chopping down an out of control hedge that ran from their kitchen wall several metres along the wall until it abruptly ended and the main lawn took its place. Ten years of retirement and this was one of the only outstanding tasks to tick off their to-do list.
'Have you got the camera?' Vicky asked.
'Oh, good idea. I'll go get it,' John hobbled to the back door, the week's efforts taking its toll on his back, and went inside to fetch their camera.
Vicky stood still and continued to look at the wall. A minute later John rejoined her and passed the camera over. Vicky had always been the one with the artistic eye. She took some photos, moved to one side to take some more, then a few more from a different angle before stepping back to John and nudging him forward so she could take a photo with him in it.
'Pretend you're putting your arm round it,' Vicky chuckled.
'Dear me, how do you know it won't cast a spell on me or something?' John said back.
Vicky took the last photo and walked forward the few steps to meet John and show him the shot. She turned the camera around and pressed the button that brought up the most recent photo on the screen. It had come out quite well.
On the wall that had been hidden by a hedge for as far as they were aware, at least twenty years, was a patchwork of light, sand coloured bricks arranged to look like a face. At some point in the past the original wall must have been knocked down and whoever built it had played a trick and put in the contrasting bricks. The rest of the wall was a deep, rusty brown-red tone.
'I can't quite believe we've never seen it before,' John said, it was the third time he'd said it in fact.
'Beyond me,' said Vicky.
They went inside to rest and put the kettle on. They continued to debate the oddity into the late afternoon. It turned into a fun game, guessing who it was for, why they had done it and that had led into making all sorts of assumptions about the previous owner and who may have lived there over the years. It was fascinating to think they had been sharing their home with another human face all this time and they looked forward to checking their emails to see what their children made of it.


R.G Rankine

Saturday, 9 April 2016


I sometimes use this blog as a way to force myself to admit certain things. I don’t use it professionally, or as professionally as I should rather, and I dread to think how many poorly written blog posts I have in the archive. I also dread to think how many new-year-resolution like promises I have set myself on here. This post is a cross between resolution, confession and statement.

It won’t come as any surprise to people who drink alcohol that as you age, hangovers increase in their ability to render one totally bloody useless. If you’re reading this aged thirty or under, you may have had your fair share of shocking hangovers where your head is suffering 9.0 Richter scale devastation and you lose track of a day or two, yet no matter how horrific the cramps, shakes, sweats, paranoia and guilt, should there be an un-missable party that very night, mere hours after you were contemplating religious conversion or emigration, then the chances are you would be capable of dragging your backside out of bed or off the couch and after one or two drinks, of which the first few gulps are similar to downing battery acid barely preventing instant rejection through the nostrils, you are back on top form, shouting at the barstaff for tequila shots and busting out the caterpillar that the night before nearly resulted in a broken jaw. It’s amazing how we do it, how we put ourselves through the cycle of pain-euphoria-fear-joy. For the most part, despite occasional humiliating/violent/financially ruinous/emotionally traumatizing experiences, we have a great time and after a few days of feeling sorry for oneself, plenty of water and cold showers, questioning looks at work and trembling glances at bank balances, we look back with enormous fondness and spend the rest of our lives retelling with gusto. It's not quite so clear cut trying all that when you are closer to 40 than 20.

Forget for now all the reasons why we go out and have a good time and the consequences we are prepared to tackle, except one – to suffer the loss of the following day. That is the single point of my blog post today and what I want to talk about. I could write a thousand blog posts on the highs and lows of drinking as there are innumerable subjects to discuss, yet today, this one is important to me because it has been creeping up on me for a while now and is something I have changed about my life.

I am no longer prepared to lose time because of hangovers. I am thirty six years old and have no intentions of stopping drinking. Hopefully, should I avoid the reaper for a while yet there will be lots of birthdays, Christmases, stag do’s, Grand National’s (I’m writing this five hours before the race, come on Silviniaco Conti you son-of-a-gun!) and other celebrations in which I’ll be having a drink so this isn’t about giving up booze, no way. What it is about is taking a serious and honest look at the way drinking is impacting the single most important thing in my life, which is improving my writing.

Forget watching how much coffee you drink, vegetable consumption, whole meal instead of plain ratio, omega five intake and all that other stuff which is vitally important but rendered useless in its fight against a Margarita & Whisky Sour overload. Also forget about how much sleep you should get, going to bed early and sticking to a routine business, again vitally important and what I am trying to do, but also speared straight through the heart by the fatal just-one-more-syndrome. Forget exercise, which I also love and take seriously, albeit in fits and bursts (sorry for pun) because that too will only turn into the game of find-a-big-enough-tree-to-vomit-behind-so-the-dog-walkers-can’t-see when trying to do your hill dashes on a Sunday morning.

Yeah, I'll have another one, thanks. It may be early morning but after this last beer and a good four hour sleep I shall be in perfect condition to write my masterpiece!

The truth is that nothing is more disruptive to me today, than drinking too much. It spoils not just the next day, but because I am trying to be a responsible and well organized writer, the week. You play catch up for days. That’s why this is a bit of a confessional, I have to admit that I have a problem with drinking. Before you private message me the number for a branch of the AA, I don’t mean in that way. I mean, I still think I can drink and get away with it. I don’t drink a lot, and that, although a good thing, is why I am still living in denial. I can’t handle a session anymore yet I still think I can. It’s a lie! Alcohol, the great deceiver!

Here is the core of it: If I drink two pints or more then I cannot write the next day. You may laugh, you may think that two pints isn’t much, and within my society, my friendship group, my own sense of what I used to be, it isn’t! Which is why I keep falling for trying it!

It’s become very clear to me over the course of the last year that I need to up my game in terms of the amount I write everyday. I am still struggling to be as serious as I want to be and a lot of that is general procrastination issues and so on, yet there is another element that I need to be honest about. I need to be able to wake up every day and be in a clear-headed frame of mind in order to produce decent work. There is no way around that, I am not writing enough. I will not get anywhere at my current rate. I’ll use this very blog post as an example. I’m currently at 900 odd words and it’s taken me twenty minutes, I’m not editing as I go or going to re-read like I normally would with my fiction, but it’s a rate at which I am comfortable at, and at which I know I can replicate. I didn’t drink last night and I don’t have any upset stomach or cloudy head as a result and I can simply get on with it. If I had a hangover, I may not even have got myself to the laptop, but if I had managed it, my concentration span would be reduced and my nervousness and self-consciousness at what I was typing increased. I wouldn’t be as quick in referencing facts, events, words, synonyms or terms online and there is a good chance I would have given up. I wouldn’t be able to think straight about the plot and character, where I am going and my objective for the chapter or short story I am on. It’s sounds so ridiculously obvious but it is something that actually gets me very down. I am upset with myself if I don’t get any writing done in a day, and that is made doubly worse if it is a self inflicted reason such as drinking.

Listen, Christopher Hitchins or Charles Bukowski I ain’t.

I don’t feel ashamed saying that. To compare yourself to others is a futile task and as much as there is a certain aura with people who have iron cast constitutions, there is no point chasing it if you haven’t got it! It’s a fool’s errand that will lead you in to a bad way. I have no intentions of trying to keep up with the people around me in social terms, it is not a point of reference for me anymore. The only thing that is important to me is creating something meaningful with my writing and to complete something as quickly as a I possibly can. Things that block my writing have to be examined, as they should be considered my enemy.

I like going out and meeting my friends. I really enjoy sitting at one of my local pubs and drinking a pint while reading. I don’t want to miss out. I must be truthful and I must confront the issues in my life at the same time though and this year has taught me an important lesson. I don’t want to turn 40 and still be talking about writing my first novel. I must put a stop to all the things that are blocking my writing as otherwise I will be.

So, please excuse the poor-me type reflection of this blog post. It's nothing serious really, just another part of growing up and trying to be more responsible, being aware of how quickly time goes and using it to your best advantage. The subject has been playing on my mind for a while now so I thought I would share it with you. If I could wake up every day bright as a button with a clear head and sprightly step and jump on to the laptop ready to go then brilliant. The thing is, I can. If I do a number of things that enable that, I have the capability, but I am harming my opportunities. I will blog about the huge number of other things that are in my life and go towards negating my writing output another time, but for today, I will admit something that every adult (and rascal teenager) already know. Hangovers are the bloody worst.

Come on Silviniaco Conti!

Have a great Saturday everyone,

R.G Rankine

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Thinking Plainly Self Publishing Package

Dear all,

Below is text taken from my company website, which I added as a separate tab on my blog (above) so I thought I would share it as a post too. It is primarily aimed at people in London but if anyone would like to critique or give feedback on the offer then I would welcome your message. You can reach me at

As you will see I am not in anyway trying to compete in the UK self publishing market. I am offering a local, personal and face-to-face service that will only benefit people who are interested in developing an author platform on a long term basis. I make it quite clear what I can and cannot do and I also make it quite clear that people who are already in-the-know about self publishing, are literate in social media, marketing and the work involved should a) do it themselves, or failing that, b) use one of the big national or global companies. I only want to work with people who want to be part of a team, rather than simply having an account, or purchasing an off the shelf process, and see themselves at the start of a very long journey. It seems a lot of money up front and of course, it is. However, as I have learnt and developed on my own journey I know that there are certain things that should no longer be thought of as optional or desirable if you want to produce a good product, and as an example half of the price goes towards a copy edit and manuscript report. Some people may feel confident in their work and do not feel the need for further examination or editing, and that is partly what self publishing is about so I don't blame them, I think that is great, but it goes back to what I said above, they should feel ready to do it themselves in that case. I want people who still need to develop, who know there is more to learn, but want to do so with others and aren't quite there yet... they have not been selected by agents or publishers and aren't capable of starting on their own. Hopefully by working with like minded individuals, even if it is just for one book, we can enable new writers to go it alone or build up their confidence and author platform so that they have success with contacting agents and publishers with future works. 

I will be adding photos and video to this package over the coming weeks and months and will tailor the offer as it develops. I know it is a lot of text but as I have said, I am quite specific about what I can offer. I hope it doesn't come across too bluntly but I believe in being open and honest with people's expectations and that is exactly what I would have wanted when I first started thinking about self publishing. 

Do You Want to Self Publish with Thinking Plainly?


My name is Robert Rankine and I am the director of Thinking Plainly Limited. If you are considering self publishing let me take this opportunity to explain in more detail the issues you should think about and whether or not self publishing with Thinking Plainly Limited is for you.

I formed Thinking Plainly Limited in 2012 as a way to be involved in the rapidly developing self publishing industry. I - like the majority of people - had always wanted to write and - also like the majority of people - had put it off for years but I was also interested in the business side of writing and what it meant to be ‘independent’. I was determined to learn more and I forced myself to stop procrastinating and complete my first short story and make it available on Amazon’s Kindle.

Four years later… the company has its own website and social media presence, I have been joined by two other writers and together we have self-published 15 novels, novellas and short story ebooks & paperbacks on Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Google, Scribd and Apple, with more in the pipeline. I have a learnt a lot along the way but by no means is the journey complete, in fact, it is just starting. The publishing industry is a vast and complex animal and there are no easy short cuts to success but with hard work, passion and commitment we have the opportunity to build the foundations of a writing future.

What these four years have taught me is that one of the most important resources is time. A common response I receive when speaking to people about writing and self publishing is that you simply do not have the time to spend hours and hours learning the ins and outs of all the various distributors, how to convert text to ebooks or layout a manuscript, set up correct margins and page dimensions, connect with editors, design a cover, build a website, create an author Facebook page and so on… all of which is vital… but indeed, takes up a lot of time. Like many things, at first it seems a simple proposition but when you look a bit closer the range of options and the scale of work involved can be overwhelming.

All you want to do is write and build an audience.

That’s why I am now offering a ‘Self Publishing Package’. I want to take the burden of the basics away from you and allow you to focus on writing… but more than that I want to foster a community of writers who can rely on each other for help and advice. I always wanted to grow the company at some stage but in a way that helped us all to become better writers, which is why I haven’t rushed into anything up to now and I’m still in no rush. I have no inclination to be a big company for its own sake, by selling a service simply to become a faceless factory that churns out works but doesn’t have any sense of community. There are some brutal truths to be learnt in the creative arts and one of the most important is to be honest with yourself. I am not as good a writer as I want to be… but one day I will be. You are probably not the writer you think you are… but one day you could be. No one likes being rejected and if you have gone through the trials of submitting works to publishers, magazines and websites only to be told that you are not what they are looking for then you have two responses… give up… or work harder and try again. That’s why self publishing a book as a stand alone process has never appealed to me, nor do I want to sell someone a stand alone service.

Is Thinking Plainly right for you?

I am of the mind-set that if you want to write, it is because you love writing and not because you think it is a good way to become famous and earn your fortune. There is space in this world for everyone and if you want to write because you want to become famous and earn your fortune then good luck to you! I wish you success and there is no reason why you cannot achieve those things. There is also space for people who write for a specific audience because that is what’s popular right now and are happy to change genres or styles when a new audience appears. There is space for people who only want to write a single book for their child’s birthday and have no intention of writing another. There is space for everyone and anyone because I firmly believe you should be able to do what you want to do and no one has the right to criticize or get in your way. However, as much as I encourage you to follow the right path for you and it is great that you know what you want, there is only a limited amount I can do for someone who is looking for quick results and I would much prefer to guide you to another company that can satisfy your needs. There are many very good companies out there with fantastic resources and I encourage you to research them. If you are looking into self publishing for any of the reasons above then I do not have the size or scale of resources you require. Rather, I am interested in people who enjoy writing for its own sake, think they have something to say, and want to improve. I want people who are looking to grow and develop. I want people who are honest in their expectations and know there is improvement to be made and ready to work extremely hard. I want people who want to be part of a team and move onto bigger things when the time is right.

Why do I keep saying ‘team’ when you are paying for a service?

Although you are paying for a service you are also joining a team. It’s part of the deal. I want Thinking Plainly to consist of individual writers all working hard on their own particular works but with the confidence that comes from having a group of like-minded people around them they can call on for support. It is a collaborative effort. Your success is our success. Every single person I meet I learn something from and by sharing our experiences and knowledge we can all improve. Let’s be honest, if we were all writing Man Booker Prize winning material we wouldn’t be self publishing (well, actually, I have something to say about that later if we ever meet…) You may not be aware that marketing and promotion are arguably the biggest keys to growing your audience. Your job doesn’t finish when the book is finished. This is where self publishing can be a disappointment. People feel discouraged when they don’t receive hundreds of reviews and big sales. If you have investigated the publishing and self publishing market you will understand the vast number of works put on sale every year and the field of competition you are diving head first into. It can swallow you up, keep you under and without investing serious time and effort you’ll disappear without trace. The majority of self publishing authors don’t have the marketing budgets or industry contacts to get on television, advertise on the sides of buses or in radio spots. It is an entirely personal endeavor… you are responsible for marketing your own work… but by joining with us and growing the team you can have the foundations of an author profile ready to go and importantly, have the support of others with your writing; my view is we can do so much more together. If every person that joins us promotes all the other writers on their blogs, websites, tweets, social media posts, mailing lists, etc. amongst other things, we can reach far more people than we could on our own. Yes, it is difficult to reach an audience, and yes it will be a lot of work for you, but it is the most rewarding feeling to see your work available and being read. After all the warnings I have just mentioned, it may seem like I am purposefully putting you off! In a way I am! I just want to be honest with you. I have met such wonderful people through my journey in writing and self publishing and despite the seemingly constant angst that comes with the creative process it really sets a determination in you to progress and improve… isn’t it great to be able to call yourself a writer! I want to work with people who see Thinking Plainly as joining a team of developing writers, in all aspects, not just the act of writing a story, but improving your editing skills, your communication skills, your publicity skills and your business skills.

One Stop Shop & Do You Need Us?

It is a lot of money to buy a one off product but perhaps not so much if you consider it a long-term investment. I want you to become a confident writer and one that eventually gets a literary agent and a book deal from a mainstream publisher. Or at the very least feel you are able to self publish on your own and go your own way should you wish to. If you think you are capable of that right now, then you don’t need me. Let me give you a few more examples of why you may not need me… if you are a whiz at social media, if you are a whiz at self publicity, if you are a whiz at dealing with designers, quite frankly, if you have the time, energy and resources to self publish then I would recommend doing it yourself! That is why the price for the Thinking Plainly Self Publishing Package is fixed and not a menu pick-and-mix. It is for people who need assistance in every aspect of self publishing, not just a helping hand with one specific task. I believe that every work requires a copy edit, it is essential, not a choice. I believe every work requires an original cover, it is essential, not a choice. I could go on. I have set up this offer because I think it forms the basis of what a professional writer needs to be. I want to offer the tools to people and hopefully watch as you build. Again, if you are someone who is willing to work with several different contacts, one for editing, one for artwork, one for typography, one for website design, one for social media design… then you don’t need us! That is what self publishing is all about, doing it yourself! Go for it. It is how I started. However, if that hassle is something that makes you apprehensive or fearful then working with us will help to take away that stress and anxiety. For instance, you may feel strong in your commitment to writing but hopeless when it comes to social media, or you may feel you have lots of ideas but don’t know how to turn those ideas into a finished product. Or as I started with, you simply may not have the time to invest and want help. I have been through the process of self publishing many times and fully understand the frustrations and pitfalls that independent writers go through. Think of Thinking Plainly as the ‘launch-pad’ from which to build your author profile. We are friendly, approachable and interested in being a team that makes sure we never give up, and you in turn may be the person that contributes to other people not giving up!

Our 2016 Price:


We will:
Provide a copy edit and report of your manuscript
Create an original cover
Convert your manuscript into an ebook and put it on sale with the major distributors:
{ Amazon (Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Google, Apple, Kobo & Scribd }
Convert your manuscript into a print-on-demand paperback for sale through Amazon
Add your author profile to our website
Provide an ISBN for your paperback
Set up your author social media platforms and blog
Create your own author website (*but please note there is an annual renewal fee for this*)

There is a lot more to go into, those are just the headlines to make it easy to understand our offer. If you decide to get in touch then we will discuss in much more detail all the stages and tasks involved before you make a decision. All of the above is undertaken with a personal approach. We want your opinion and for you to feel part of the process so nothing is done without your input.

Please be warned though! As I have explained, there is a lot of work involved in self publishing and you are responsible for the marketing and promotion of your book. We will work as a team for all the reasons I have explained above but ultimately it is up to you to get out there and promote yourself. Self publishing can be very disappointing if you do not take this seriously. I want you to be as informed as you possibly can so it is important you know what we can’t do.

We cannot:
Put your works in bookshops
Produce hardback versions of your books
Get you an agent
Guarantee you sales!

These are long-term aims for Thinking Plainly Limited and something we will be working on in the years to come but it is vital we set out our package clearly and honestly so you can set yourself realistic expectations. Again, as I have already said, if you are confident about working on your own then you don’t need us and there are many great companies out there to investigate. If you are interested in self publishing in order to get your books in front of sales and literary agents as part of the process and undertake a short or long print run then you need to approach one of the larger national companies, or simply persevere with approaching established traditional publishers. I have some questions listed at the end of this text that you should read, and it ends with: What do you want from self publishing? Consider that now. What do you hope to gain by self publishing? What outcomes are you looking for, or expecting? What are the reasons you feel you want to spend money on this venture? Really think carefully because the answers will inform you as to which company you should approach.


For the immediate future I am looking for people based in London, UK. I want to meet people face to face and talk directly about your situation. I want this to be a personable journey for you, no formal office hours or contact forms, let’s start as we mean to continue, with an honest conversation. We can meet up for a coffee or talk over the phone without any obligation on your part. However, I do not want to discourage anyone based outside of London from contacting me, sorry if you have read up to this point thinking that this could be an interesting opportunity for you - if you want to talk anyway then please get in touch. I know that technically we can set up all the things you need without meeting in person and discuss things over the phone or by Skype but again, I have to be honest and ask you to double check whether or not the other larger and more established self publishing companies out there would be better for you. Part of the joy of this journey is physically interacting with people. Marketing and promotion via social media can be extremely isolating (not to mention the actual writing process itself!) and getting together with people to explore ideas, discuss suggestions and debate your work is a fulfilling activity. If you have ever been part of a reading group or book club or attended a writing course or study group, you will appreciate that the buzz of engaging emotionally with the creative process is enormously motivating and pushes you on. That’s what I want Thinking Plainly to be.

What is the next step?

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you appreciate my honesty in setting out our offer. It’s not for everyone and is certainly not intended to compete with the larger companies. I am not interested in setting up false hopes in people, you need to be realistic, honest and most of all, prepared to put in some hard work to further your writing.

If you are interested in our ‘Self Publishing Package’ please send an email to explaining your situation, what you are working on and your contact details. We can arrange a telephone call, a skype call, or even better a coffee meeting as I would love the chance to meet you, show you our current publications and discuss in person if we are right for each other.

Before you commit we will talk through your situation and your project. My colleagues and I will read an excerpt of your manuscript and tell you whether or not we feel it is ready. If it is, then great we will move forward, but if not I will encourage you to work at it and come back to us later. The argument that all self publishing is vanity publishing is one that will continue for some time yet, and I have my thoughts on it that I will be happy to share with you, which will help explain why even though we are a small collective we won’t be taking everyone that gets in touch.

R.G Rankine
Thinking Plainly Limited


Novellas or Short Stories?

If you are not self publishing a full length novel but have a novella or short story with a word count under 40k and still want to contact us then please do. Depending on your situation we can negotiate a reduced fee that reflects the reduced editing and manuscript formatting time. It is unlikely a short story will be financially viable to produce a print-on-demand paperback although a collection of short stories might be possible.


We will take 10% of your sales after all distributor costs have been accounted for. We spend this on marketing the company with the intention of increasing your following. To confirm: you keep 90%. Keep in mind distributor royalty rates may change and we will update these changes with you immediately. You are responsible for complying with, and declaring, all legal tax requirements from this income.


You retain copyright of your work.


You are not an employee of Thinking Plainly Limited but we do have a non-binding agreement. It is there to make clear what we can expect from each other. You are under no obligation to stay with us and there is no notice period for either you or the company. Should you wish to do things on your own in the future, or if that global publishing house you love decides to give you a deal then fabulous. Remember us in your memoirs...


We will consider all genres, it is the quality of the work and the shared ethos we are interested in. Although we want work that is challenging and demanding we will not progress with any works that promotes hatred or prejudice of any kind.

Sales Figures?

You will receive a breakdown of all sales from all distributors showing the calculations for royalty rates. We believe in full transparency (except seeing other writers’ figures, that’s private of course) so what the company knows, you know.

What does a copy edit mean?

We do not want Thinking Plainly to simply be an automated business. We want it to be a community of writers all supporting each other so we won’t simply accept any manuscript to self publish, it has to have artistic merit. That is why a copy edit is compulsory. We will undertake a spelling and grammar check and offer unbiased opinions on the main elements of your work such as the characters, plot, dialogue and overall structure. There is a certain level of negotiation with regards editing because you may argue a stylistic approach to some elements… but then again, sometimes things are just wrong! You will receive a detailed manuscript report and will be expected to make the recommended changes or improvements before we move on (That doesn’t include formatting the manuscript, we do that for you, so don’t worry if it’s in a messy state).

Cover Design

We want our books to look professional and stand out which is why we will create an original artwork and layout. Pre-designed templates can be amazing but they’re just not for us. If your story is original then we believe your cover should be too. Like everything, there will be a discussion with you first before we commit to any one idea.

Author Website

As well as having a page on our company website we think it is essential you have an individual author website too so your readers can learn more about you. The first year is included in the package price but the annual renewal price with our web hosting company is currently £99 plus VAT.


Blogging is an important activity to express yourself, build up followers and have a discourse with your readers. We want to make sure all authors are writing a regular blog. It will be set up for you along with the social media platforms.

Social Media?

Social Media is the single most important resource for a self publishing writer to build up an audience. We will create your author profile on all the major sites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest as well as the book site Goodreads and any available distributor author pages such as Amazon Central). It is then for you to run but always with the support and advice of Thinking Plainly Limited. We have lots of ideas and suggestions on ways to promote yourself using social media and will be recommending you undertake tasks such as contacting book bloggers and reviewers. As I said above, you are part of a team and are not left to deal with this on your own.

Filmed Interview

If you would like to have a ten minute author interview for use on YouTube or your website then I can arrange this for you with a professional filmmaker for an extra £300. The digital file will be yours.

British Library Legal Deposit and Nielsen UK Book Agency

If you are self-publishing a paperback we will provide an ISBN from the UK Book Agency for your book and deposit a copy with The British Library and other national libraries as required by law.

Second book… or third, fourth and fifth!

The whole point of building up a community is that it is ongoing. Once you have self published your book the work has only just begun! As well as progressing with your social media following and building an audience we want you to keep writing too. We all want to write - it is our passion - that is why we are taking this terrifying leap in showing people our work. We want our writers to have the confidence of showing their ideas to each other and asking for their thoughts and advice. That is what collaboration and teamwork is about. As a company we will offer a reduced fee for your second (and third, fourth and fifth…) book so as to only cover the expenses of the core processes such as editing and cover design. We want you to grow and develop as a writer while still sending your work to mainstream publishing companies and building your following.

Moving on?

We want you to send your works to established agents and publishers and we wish you all the best with it. That is why we are joining together… to improve. Once you have the basics, you can build! Very rarely does your first attempt result in a success and you shouldn’t be discouraged. We all read about the exceptions, those people who win awards and become ‘overnight’ sensations… but we often don’t see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. We don’t see how many times that person has tried and failed and the years of hard graft they have put in, if we did then I am sure we would see that an ‘overnight’ success is not an accurate description. Being rejected or having poor first (or second or third or fourth…) works doesn’t mean you stop and give up. It means you just have to work longer and harder. We are interested in being better writers, and in truth, writing is a lonely and isolating enough task as it is. That is why we want to grow a network of writers to foster encouragement and just that right amount of competitiveness! We want to see people succeed and it would be humbling if Thinking Plainly were the company to help you along the way.

Questions For You!

Have you contacted any literary agents?
Have you worked with an editor before?
Do you have any experience in social media?
Do you understand what Print-On-Demand is?
Have you read the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook?
Have you researched any self-publishing authors?
Have you researched any self-publishing websites?
Do you follow any self-publishing blogs or podcasts?
How much do you know about the self-publishing market?
Have you considered what your ‘Author’ profile would be?
How much do you write? Have you other books/stories planned?
Do you understand the term ‘Vanity Publishing’ and its implications?
Have you considered the marketing effort required with self-publishing?
Are you prepared for the amount of time needed to grow your social media presence?
Have you sent your work to any traditional mainstream publishers and what were their responses?

Most importantly…

Is this a passion or a financial endeavour?
Are you being realistic in your expectations?
What do you want from self publishing?

If you would like to question and discuss any aspect of self publishing then please feel free to get in touch without any obligation:

Thank you for your time and best of luck with your writing.

R.G Rankine