This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 366 With Book Author Paula Sheridan.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #366 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing book author, Paula Sheridan, who runs the Page Turner Awards, which is a book contest. She comes on the show to talk about her own career as an author, how she got some of her books into print and to introduce us to her contest. Again, it’s called the Page Turner Awards. So if you do write novels or ever thought about writing a novel, definitely check out today’s episode. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving me a comment on YouTube or re-tweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking or sharing it on Facebook.
These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast, so they are very much appreciated. Any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcast, show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then look for Episode Number #366. If you want my free guide, How to Sell a Screenplay In Five Weeks, you can pick that up by gonna www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks, along with a bunch of bonus lessons.
I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write a professional logline and query letter, and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material. Really it’s everything you need to know to your screenplay, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. So just a couple of words, a few words about what I have been working on. I’ve been working hard this week to launch SYS’s Six-Figure Screenplay contest. It actually launched last week, February 1st. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. The early bird deadline is through March 31st. After that, it goes up by $10. So if your script is ready, definitely submit early. The contest is pretty simple.
I’m trying to find the best low budget scripts, and then present them to the industry. We’re looking for all types of low budget scripts, all genres. I’m defining low budget as less than $1,000,000, in other words, six figures or less. We have a shorts category this year. So if you have a low budget short script, we’re gonna be reviewing those as well. Every submission will get read by at least two professional readers who will do a short assessment, which you can actually purchase if you’d like to see those assessments. I’ve lined up about 50 industry pros to read the scripts that move into the later rounds. We’re giving away thousands in cash and prizes to the winners.
Once again, if this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, or perhaps enter your screenplay, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. If you’re listening to this podcast after the contest has closed, we are planning on just running it every year. So just keep checking back. And again, if you go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest, if the contest is currently running, you’ll see the entry page right there. If not, we’ll put a little message on that contest page telling you when the next dates are available. So again, www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing author Paula Sheridan. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Paula to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Paula: Thank you very much for having me Ashley.
Ashley: So to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in being a writer?
Paula: Well, I’m originally South African. I moved to England a long time ago and now I actually live in Spain. So I’ve kind of jumped all around the world. I started writing a long, long time ago and I had my first, I published my first book about six or seven years ago. I started the awards because in 2017 I won The People’s Book Prize and I was invited to come to a very fancy do in London. I went along and I was there amongst loads of different people. Some people who were just breaking out into sort of indie publishing as well as very sort of very elite as in the mainstream publishing world. And I had, I got my book award from Sir Frederick Forsyth, and it made me started thinking about what if, lots of ‘what if’ questions.
What if I could, if there was an awards that could help writers get their work discovered by literary agents and publishers? What if there was a great indie award that would give writers and authors very high value prizes? So I started looking around to see what kind of awards there were. I kind of got a very clear distinction that there were awards that were either awards that indie authors couldn’t actually enter, very much the mainstream. All the awards that were for indie authors and that it wasn’t anything to do with publishers. I thought, there’s very much a very clear distinction that the two of them are not linked. The two of them are not associated with each other.
I felt that it was a bit sad because both sides have a very good future and both sides have got very good things going for it. So I thought, well, why don’t I just try my own award? So I kind of just started last summer, just writing out. Not this last summer, sorry, the year before, 2019. I started writing to some literary agents and some publishers asking if they would be interested in judging the awards. If I did something like this, if they were interested in judging my awards. Yeah, I got a fantastic feedback. Very, very good feedback. And so, because I got four to five really good judges that really buzzed me, and I started thinking about getting more judges. In all, we had loads of judges. I think we had about 15 judges, very good judges.
So we launched the awards in sort of late January, early February this year. It was an inaugural year and I was actually stunned by the time judging came in the summer months, and we, already, we had a couple of literary agents who were looking at some of the… because we had two writing, we had two awards, we had the writing award and we had the ebook award. The writing award was for unpublished work, the ebook award was for published work. So we already had literary agents asking to see some work, some full manuscripts of some of the writers. We already had an audiobook production company were very interested in awarding some of the indie authors an audio book production. So already were having all this buzz going on. It was very exciting.
All in all, Ashley, it was fantastic because we had three unpublished writers won a literary agent, five unpublished writers won a publishing contract and 13, amazing number, 13 indie authors won an audiobook production, which for indie authors, it’s very, very expensive to pay for and create your own audio book production. So from that point of view, it was highly successful. And during the awards, we also did lots of… we did lots of questionnaires. How could we make our awards better? What could we do to make our awards better? A lot of people said, “Well, you’re not… you haven’t got any awards for screenwriters. There’s nothing for scripts, what can can you do about that?”
So this year, so when we started, when we kind of closed this year’s awards, we started looking at judges for next year, 2021. And of course were going to do the writing award. We’re also doing for next year a writing mentorship award, we’ve still got the ebook award, we’ve got a young writer award, and we also are very, very happy to have a screenplay award. So I started in sort of the last couple of months, started writing around asking various production companies, some actors. I’ve got an LA film scout. We started asking lots of people who would be interested in judging a screenplay award. I was very, very excited to first of all get probably about three or four production companies who are actively looking for scripts to option.
They’re looking for film script projects, between film scripts and documentaries. So they’re looking for projects to option. I’ve got about three or four judges. I’ve got a film scout who’s looking for stuff. We’re just kind of always looking for stuff. Then amazingly enough, I wrote off to Paul Michael Glaser from Starsky and Hutch. And I was just bowled over when he just said, “Yes, I’d love to be a judge.” I was just completely and utterly shocked. I was just writing to some fantastic people thinking they could offer these awards and these writers entering these awards, they could offer such good value. And here we’ve got this fantastic array of judges. We’ve got the brilliant lineup and I still have some more.
I’m still contacting some more before we launch, we’re gonna launch between mid to late January next year. So I’m still hoping to get some more. So yeah, that’s kind of where it all is, you know?
Ashley: Yeah. Perfect. Well, that’s a great description. I’ll definitely round up those links and we’ll put those in the show notes. Let’s talk a minute about your own writing. When I started to just research our interview, I was googling you. The Grotto’s Secret kept coming up as something that you had done. You just mentioned you won this People’s Book Prize. It sounds like that was with The Grotto’s Secret. How did you make The Grotto’s Secret a success? Maybe just briefly in a nutshell, what did you do to actually take that novel…? Obviously you wrote it and you got it out there. But what did you do to win the award and just make it a general success?
Paula: Well, it’s quite funny because when you have your first book out and especially from an indie author’s point of view, you have your first book out and you’re sitting there waiting for reviews to come in, you’re asking family and friends, “Please buy my book, read it, give me some reviews.” You’re kind of just waiting, waiting for something to happen. And especially if it’s your first, first book. You don’t know that you really, you have to work very hard. You can’t just sit back and wait for things to happen, and you can’t just sit back and wait for family and friends, as much as they love you, and as much as they will buy your book, it’s just not gonna happen. So what I started doing, is I started looking around.
My background is funny [inaudible 00:10:47], it is actually marketing and it is PR. But it wasn’t book marketing. It wasn’t, I haven’t… I did work for Oxford University Press where I did PR. I was a press officer for many years and I did PR for books and lots and lots of PR. I was doing lots of PR for children’s orders. But I had no idea how to actually market and promote my own book. So I had to go back to basics and say to myself, “Okay, I’m not gonna just sit back and wait for this to happen. I really have to do something about it.” And because my first published book was published by Wiley, a mainstream publisher. They published my first book, which was all about, it’s actually called Pimp My Site.
That’s all about online marketing, digital marketing. I said to myself, “Okay, I know all about digital marketing. I know about online marketing. I just have to apply exactly the same rules, the same methods, all of the same activities, I have to apply to marketing my book.” So I kind of kicked myself and said, “Okay, let’s get this going.” Then I started doing loads and loads of online marketing. I did cross promotions with authors, I started getting onto author groups and forums and saying to them, “Hey guys, would you tell your readers about my book and I’ll tell them about your book?” So I just started doing a lot of these reciprocal swaps. That was very successful. By doing that, I started getting lots more readers coming in.
And then I also started giving, doing lots of giveaways. Just kind of doing either a Kindle giveaway or pile of books. Let’s say, okay, my book is historical thrillers, a historical mystery thriller. So I found, I went on to Amazon and said, right, these are the same kind of books that are similar to mine, so I’m gonna buy a whole lot of those books and then offer them as a prize to readers. So I started doing giveaways and competitions. Then I started, by doing these kinds of things, I started building my own mailing list and I started building… by building my own mailing list, I was really in effect building my own reader platform. I was building people who would read, not just Grotto’s Secret, but the books thereafter, because The Grotto’s Secret is the first in a trilogy.
So I kind of started building that thinking, okay, the next books down the line, these same readers would be interested. So yeah, it took a good while I have to say, but I really had to get myself geared back into doing book marketing and all of that kind of stuff. Then I started thinking, okay, I wanna try and see where my book gets to for an award. I put my book forward to various awards, and then when The People’s Book Prize said to me, “You’re kind of very close. Would you be able to come up…?” because I had told them at the time I was, I’d said to them I was living in Spain. I’d just moved out to Spain. And yeah, and I just said, “Yeah, I’d love to come along, what’s the deal?”
Then I found out that I was a finalist and because I was a finalist, obviously they wouldn’t tell me if I had won, I just had to go along to the event. Yeah, so I went along to the event and I was absolutely delighted to have won. That was 2017. So I won the 2017 by getting the most votes. So basically people just voted my book as being the top book in the year. So yeah, that was very exciting.
Ashley: Yeah. So let’s talk about some of your other non-fiction books. I noticed a title A-Z Writers’ Character Quirks. That sounds like something that screenwriters could use. But just talk briefly about some of the, you mentioned Pimp My Site, obviously there’s some SEO and some just marketing things that probably can be useful to writers. But it seems like some of your other non-fiction writing is really geared towards writers. What are some of those books and how can they help writers?
Paula: Yeah, so the A-Z is character habits and quirks, and that’s really just listing out loads and loads and loads of things that I’ve kind of looked at, various, just sitting, watching people really. Trains on the underground in London and concerts or places I just kind of watch. And I would always sort of make little scraps of notes and stuff. Then when I started getting really into my fiction writing I started thinking, where’s all those notes on these, and I found I had like a shoe box full of notes and stuff. So I put that together into a book which really just helps writers to come up with quirks and habits that people, real people do. Real things that real people do. So I put that one together and I’ve got another one which is called 101 Scene Settings.
So again, that’s again for writers to help writers to set a scene. So if you set the scene, if you, in this particular place, and I’ve actually listed 101 different places where writers could go from anything from kind of really rural, way out of, in the middle of nowhere kind of places, right up to very city, busy city kind of places. And then I’m actually showing writers how to put the character into that scene and say, “Okay, if my character loves this place, what would they smell? What would they see? What would they hear?” These kinds of things about, when you put yourself into a setting as a character, so you really are putting your fictional character in to that setting and then deciding if that character loves that setting or hates it.
And because that character would love or hate it, that would then determine what sensory writing you could use. So you could really find things that either they hate the smell of the city, or they love the smell of the city, you know? So I kind of gave writers like, look, here’s 101 places that you could use for your own settings, but then don’t just use these, use the concepts that I’ve used in each of these 101 places, now go off and find your own by using these kinds of things that you could… the weather in the place, the setting, how to describe it and how to really all about sensory writing. So those two books are for writers. That’s my author, my sort of my writers series.
Then I’ve also got a book marketing series which is really all about how I started doing my own book marketing and how I came to realize that authors cannot just sit back and wait for things to happen. They really have to do a lot of marketing themselves. Whether you’re an indie author or a published author, you have to really get on and do a lot of book marketing yourself. So I’ve got a series of promoting your book. So, you know, how to work with other authors and cross promote your book, how to do book marketing from the beginning, when you’re writing your book till the middle of when you start launching the book until after you’ve, you know, post launch. Then I’ve got a third book about email marketing and email marketing is really just to help authors to show them authors and writers that you really should be building your own mailing list.
You should be building a reader platform and start, really start getting lots and lots of readers who would be interested in hearing about you and hearing about your writing and hearing about your books. And that’s if you’ve got one book or if you’ve got ten books. Yeah, so again, just really building a reader platform as such, and then you can take whatever you’re doing in the email marketing, and then you could also use it across your social platforms. So it’s kind of a little three set, a three book set just all about promoting and marketing your books.
Ashley: Yeah. So, perfect. We can link to some of those, but if anybody just wants to find you just go to www.amazon.com type in Paula Wynn and all your books do come up. So a couple of questions I have…. I get a lot of novelists coming to me that say, “Hey, I wanna turn my novel into screenplay.” And obviously I have screenwriters that say, “Hey, could I turn my screenplay into a novel?” I have this canned response that I send back to people, and I just wanna give you sort of my take on it, and then you can give me your take. Feel free to totally disagree with me. So when I get these emails from novelist, my advice is always, basically what you just said, which is you can’t sit around and wait for something to happen, go and spend your time and money learning how to market your book.
Don’t spend time trying to hire a screenwriter or turn into a screenplay because it’s gonna be the same thing. At the end of the day, it’s about marketing that piece of work. And if you’re passionate about novel writing, spend your time learning how to market novels. Don’t go spend a year writing a screenplay, which will just be sitting on your desk, like the novel, if you’re not gonna get out there and market it.
Paula: Absolutely. I agree with you completely. And because of that, what we’re doing with the Page Turner Awards is, and especially now we’ve got the screenplay award, we’re actually saying to people who’ve got a novel, “If you’ve got a novel, don’t just sit back and enter a novel, go ahead and try, look up the…” There’s just so many fantastic pieces of screenplay, script writing software and it’s so easy to use these softwares, and you just… and it’s formatted for you. So just go along find, a piece of software that you can download, use that software and then turn your novel into a screenplay. Even if it’s not perfect, even if it’s not… no matter what happens when you submit it to, whether you submit it to a film production company, or if you’re gonna submit it to an awards to try and see if a film producer would take it on.
No matter where the starting point, no matter what starting point you’re at, it’s going to more than likely get lots of work afterwards because the company, the film production company would work with it, they’ll probably put as screenwriter on and they’ll work with you or they’ll option it. When you’ve got actors jumping on board, they will want a bit of work. So there’s gonna be lots of work going forward. You must never think, oh, it’s not perfect. It’s not perfect. I can’t submit it. You can really turn your novel into a book, submit it to something like the screenplay award or any other awards. And here, I mean, we’ve got fantastic judges. We’ve got, at the moment we’ve got eight, nine judges and we’ve got another three or four that are coming on board.
So we’ve got these judges who are looking for scripts and looking to see what screenwriters can, what fantastic work screenwriters can put in front of them. So here you have a chance and not just our awards, but other awards, you have a chance to get your work in front of people who are in the industry who want to be able to look at projects. So yeah, exactly as you were saying, they can’t just sit back and wait for it. They can’t just think, oh, I’ll see one day maybe I’ll get an agent or something. That’s really, you can’t do that. You have to start learning how to write log lines, start learning how to get your own, your novel or your idea, even if it’s only an idea and it’s not actually a novel yet, get whatever is in your head, the story, just get the story into some sort of format and enter it into an awards and see what happens.
I mean, this year we had such fantastic success that we’re very, very hopeful next year that we might get a script option because there’s a very good chance that that will happen. And we are saying to our writers, “Pitch your work to these people that are looking at your work. We’ve got fantastic people in the film industry, looking at your work. Pitch your work to them. Show them a fantastic logline and show them, capture them in your first 10 pages and your first 50 pages. Show them how good you are as a writer and see what happens, and fingers crossed we get some scripts optioned.”
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, sure. So a few months ago I had on a fiction writer on my podcast and he was making a living from pretty much writing exclusively for the Amazon Kindle market. What’s your take on this? I mean, should authors in this day and age even spend time trying to find a traditional publisher, do they go to Amazon and try and build a following for a few years with a few novels and then go to a traditional publisher? What’s just sort of the gist of your strategy in the year 2020?
Paula: I think it really depends on the person because they really need to decide where they want to go with their writing. If they really are fixed on going down the mainstream, getting a publisher, then they should look at which… because obviously most publishers are not gonna accept them most publishers only accept work through agents. If that’s the case, they should look for an agent. They should try and see which agent would represent their kind of writing, their genre, and write out to agents. Or they can enter awards like ours. There’s not many awards are like ours that do what we do. So we are quite unique in that. Our awards actually put unpublished writers in front of agents and publishers, but look for opportunities either like our awards or find opportunities where that you can put your work in front of a literary agent.
Hopefully that literary agent would then like your work and then offer to represent you and take it forward to a publisher. If the person… For a lot of people wanting to go down the indie route and self-publish, it could be for two reasons. It could be because they’ve tried and tried and tried, and they’re just not getting anywhere with their work. That doesn’t mean that their work isn’t good. It doesn’t mean that their writing is bad. It really doesn’t mean that. It might be that they are not contacting the right literary agents. It might be that their work is in a huge, big slush pile, which most literary agents admit that they have. So their work could be just sitting there not getting noticed. It might be so many reasons.
I’ve interviewed all the literary agents that we’ve had on our judging panel and they all say they choose work for so many different reasons. Some could be that just on that particular day, they weren’t in the mood for that particular piece of writing. So a lot of writers feel like they failed because they haven’t got down the road of getting their work to a literary agent or a publisher, and then they actually feel well, I’ll self-publish. It’s not because they’re failed. They shouldn’t look at it that way they should actually look at it as, okay because I haven’t got an agent and I don’t have time, I wanna get my work out, you know, I’m either old and I don’t, I haven’t got much time or I’m young and I just wanna go great guns and get my work out. I wanna build myself a reader platform and hey, why can’t I do this myself?” If that’s the attitude, go for it.
I mean, just look at the Amazon platform. They don’t only have to go through Amazon. There’s a company called Draft2Digital, which they can also use. There’s lots and lots of companies that they can self-publish with. Just look up, join some groups and find out this information. But the most important thing is if that’s the route that they want to go, they have control over the book cover, the visuals, the story. But what I do definitely recommend is that if people do go down the route of, as you were saying, you interviewed somebody and he’s just going for the Kindle market. If that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. There’s no worries about that. My only concern is a lot of indie authors don’t have the money to get very good book covers and to get a proper edit done.
And if they don’t have it, then they think, okay, I’m just gonna go for it and just do the book cover myself, or just get my auntie or my mother to do, yeah, to edit it. I do recommend that they, if anything, if they can put a little bit of money aside to… and a lot of companies, you don’t have to get a very high cost. I mean, if you go to really good book cover companies to design… I mean, you can get a book cover for like anything from a hundred to 200. You could get one up to a thousand, but you don’t have to. You just look around, do your homework, find some companies that will fit into your budget and choose a really good cover. Get somebody to get you a good cover, and equally make sure that you get a very good edit.
Because at the end of the day, we all, we as writers, we’re very passionate about what we’re putting down. We’re not seeing just the typos and the grammar. We might also not be seeing little inconsistencies. We might not be seeing character inconsistency. We might not be seeing little areas that our characters can grow, we can use that to find these little spots to have our characters grow. And one thing, because I know this is so important and I’m very lucky I’ve found a very good editor. One thing I do on Page Turner Awards is I allow the entrants to have the option they don’t have to, but they can have the option of getting a development edit before it’s judged, and they can also have a proofreading edit.
I think that’s important because if they can put their work in front of the judges when their work has had a development edit or a proofread, and we also do a feedback option. So these are just optional extras. They don’t have to take it. They can just enter the awards, put their work in front of the judges. Fine. No worries. But we just offer these little extras because we just feel that to really enhance your writing with feedback or development or proofreading just gives the writers the chance… and a lot of writers who who’ve used these services have actually gone away saying, “Wow, thank you so much. I didn’t realize I could do this, or should do that with my writing or my characters or whatever.”
So we’re just kind of wanting writers to see that there’s lots of good things that you can do with your writing and your writing, whatever you’ve got now in front of you that you might wanna enter it into any kind of writing award or book awards, it doesn’t mean that’s the end. There’s lots of ways that you can enhance it even just with feedback, by asking people to comment and read and look at it. And beta reader feedback. We offer beta reader feedback. There’s lots of things that authors can do. So going back to your original question, yes, if they wanna go down the Kindle, the Amazon route fine, there’s no problems with that, but make sure that you kind of make sure that your story is really, really a good story, and you’ve got a good cover.
If you wanna go down the mainstream route you can just plug away constantly at finding the right agent or find opportunities like an awards that offer the chance of getting your work discovered and then enter into awards. Because gee, if you are lucky enough to be discovered… I mean, one of our writers… there’s two that have got a very good possibility of a very lucrative career. One of them is the agent is possibly putting this particular writer forward for a two or three book deal. We’re just hoping and we can’t wait to hear the news if it comes back as that’s the news that will be fantastic for us because it just gives us so much satisfaction to know that we’ve helped that writer on the writing journey.
Ashley: So just a little inspiration here. It sounds like back in the day you were working a PR job, a marketing job, probably had a busy life. How do you find the time to write and how did you keep the motivation to write? You know, rejection is a big part of being an author, sending your stuff out and frankly never hearing one way or another most of the time. How do you make it through? I have a lot of people listening to this podcast, they’re working a full-time job, they might have a family, they’re trying to get themselves ahead as a screenwriter or just an author. How did you persevere through those darker days or those tougher days?
Paula: Well, to start off with finding the time to write. I mean, for all of us writers, when you’ve got a family and you’ve got to go out and work, you’ve got a family to feed, you’ve got animals to sort out, all of that, you just have to fit it in. I remember many, many, many years of taking my son to cricket and sitting on a little blanket on the side and watching every now and then, if somebody screamed and shouted and I realized, oh, somebody hit wickets and hit, a six or whatever, hit runs, I had to quickly look up and to… The rest of the time I was kind of scribbling away writing. I just found opportunities, and I think most writers do this. You just have to find the opportunities wherever in your life that you can fit it in between all the stuff that’s going on.
You just have to kind of fit that in. Then you have to really believe in your work. You have to believe in what you’re doing. You have to believe in your writing. And as you said a minute ago, the rejections are heartbreaking. They really are. I remember one time, one author, I mean, one, an agent said to me, “Yes, send me your work. It has to be double-spaced and it has to be this and that big, big margins.” I ended up printing this huge, big fat water papers, sent it off to London, to this agent. The agent went to the post office and then emailed me saying, “Why…?” oh, sorry, they phoned me saying, “Why have I got this huge, big parcel?” I said, “Because you asked me to send you my work and you told me, this is how it has to be.”
They said, “No, I didn’t do that. Maybe one of my colleagues did it. But I’m on my bicycle and I can’t take this work home. So I’m sorry, but I’m gonna have to send it back.” I was just, I was just heartbroken. Then she said to me, she said, “Well, actually, sorry…” She went back into the post office and said, “Sorry, the post office won’t send it back. So I’m gonna put it in a skip around the back of the post office. You can’t imagine how I felt. I’d spent two or three weeks of going back over it and editing it and then printing it exactly how they wanted. And then this huge, big wad of papers that I had to send it exactly the way they wanted. Then all they did is put it in the bin, in the skip. I just, I was heartbroken.
So I know how these things happen. The rejections are heartbreaking. You just have to, you get down on your knees, your knees are scraped, full of mud and you’re aching and you have to… and sometimes it’s hard and it might take days. I mean, that particular thing that happened to me, it took me days, probably a week. I just had to drag myself up off my knees and I just had to say to myself, “You believe in your writing, you believe the story’s good. That particular agent on that particular day had a bicycle and she couldn’t take it home and the post office wouldn’t send it back. So it’s now in the bin, get over it.” You just… it’s hard, but you just have to carry on. You just have to… I think the most important thing is you…
I think most writers are only writing because they feel a compelling reason. There is something inside them that’s driving them to write otherwise they wouldn’t be. They wouldn’t be giving up their time. They wouldn’t be finding all these little moments in their life to go and do this thing called writing. A lot of people call it very… sort of, it’s very, an isolated way of doing a job or a thing that you do, a hobby, or activity, but you do. You write alone and because of that, that’s just how it is. So I think a lot of people just have to know and they have to say, “I believe in what I’m doing. I believe in my story. I will do all I can to learn writing techniques.” I think that’s another very big thing.
I have a blog site, which is called Writing Goals, and I read a huge amount. Every time a new writing book’s out I just devour it. I absolutely read it from cover to cover. I chew it and chew it and take it into my heart and my soul and my mind. And I learn. I’m always wanting to learn about writing and how I can improve my own writing. I think that’s a very important message for writers as well. If they do have this passion to write, they should also have the passion to teach themselves and to learn about writing techniques. Because it’s not just about going to write a story and that’s whether it’s writing a novel or a screenplay, building characters, everything to do with writing a story, whatever format it is, writing a story needs certain techniques.
You’ve just got to learn to do writing. What I do is I read all these fantastic books about writing techniques, and then I blog about it on www.writinggoals.com. That kind of thing is very important for writers as well. Because if you do this and you learn so much and you believe in what you’re doing there’s just nothing that’s gonna stop you. You’re just gonna keep going until your work gets discovered. That’s what I’m trying to do with Page Turner Awards. I want to show writers that there is ways of getting your writing discovered, and it doesn’t have to be down the old traditional routes. It can be down, can be through an awards, it can be through publishing your own work, and then getting it discovered by having judges think, “Gee, this work is fantastic. You’ve published this book and it’s brilliant. Here, I’m gonna offer you some fantastic [inaudible 00:36:03],” or, “I’m just gonna celebrate your writing by announcing you as the winner.”
There’s such a very healthy atmosphere, even though the world at the moment is just not in a very healthy position. I think there’s a very healthy thing going on and I think writers they should be very motivated and very inspired to learn, teach themselves and to just get that book down, get that story out of the head and out of the heart and soul and write it. Just write it.
Ashley: For sure. So what’s the calendar look like for the Page Turner Awards in 2021? I think you mentioned you’re gonna open up for screenplays in late January, 2021. But how about book authors and some of the other contests that you’re running?
Paula: So all of them, we’ve got five awards, the ebook award, the young writer award, the writing award, screenplay and writing mentorship award. All five of the awards will be mid to late January. I will let you know the exact date when we… definitely by the end of January, the awards will be open. So from February, March, April, and May, any writer can come along and enter. The way that it works, they can enter straight away or they can wait till just before the deadline. But the way that we do it is that they enter their work online, but then what they’re allowed to do, which other awards so far, we think were very unique and I don’t think any other awards do this. A lot of writers who’ve given us testimonials have said they really appreciated this is that we allow them to make any changes.
They can ask for feedback, they can get a development edit. They can ask for all these optional extras, they don’t have to but they can leave their writing up until the last minute, but they can make changes to it, any changes to it up until the judges and the judges will start, at the very end of May, the judges will then start first of June to judge. Then we’ve got judging over June and July. Some judges will then need a little bit more time, if they don’t need more time we’re hoping by August, we’re hoping to announce the finalist list and the shortlist and winners will be announced in September. So it’s almost a year. This year we had our award ceremony, which was a fantastic success. We had that online in October. So it’s kind of almost a year. It’s a big calendar.
But it’s very exciting because all the time from the day that it opens, there’s lots of stuff going on. It’s just exciting because we’re always communicating our authors and just really motivating them and showing them there’s so much that they can do with they’re writing and keep going.
Ashley: Sure. What’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing, both in terms of the Page Turner Awards and just your own writing, Twitter, Facebook, a blog? Obviously you mentioned Writing Goals, I’ll get that one for the show notes. The Page Turner Awards website, I’ll link to that. Are there some other things, are you active on Twitter, Instagram, anything like that, that people could learn more about you and your work?
Paula: Yes, yes. I can give you the links. Yeah, Page Turner Awards and myself, active on Twitter and Facebook. And yes, I’ve also got a site which is called Book Lover, which is really a reading site. What I do there is I help authors to promote their books. It’s just really a way of getting, helping authors, especially indie authors to showcase their books and getting their books out to various readers. So yeah, I can give you the links, but yeah, really even with Page Turner Awards, we’re on social and we’re online. Yeah, we try and make ourselves as available as possible.
Ashley: Perfect. Yeah, I’ll get all those and I’ll put those in the show notes. Paula, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today. This has been a great interview, fascinating, and good luck with the Page Turner Awards.
Paula: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me and lovely to talk to you. And yeah, everything you’ve said has really resonated with me and I love what you’re doing, and I love the fact that you’re helping screenwriters and I’m hoping that I can sort of follow you and emanate you and do something very similar. Hopefully Page Turner Awards will get a fantastic story discovered, a fantastic script discovered and maybe start a screenwriter’s career. Fingers crossed.
Ashley: Yep. Exactly. Fingers crossed. Well, good luck, Paula. I really appreciate it.
Paula: Take care. Thank you very much.
Ashley: You too. Bye.
I just wanna talk quickly about SYS Select. It’s a service for screenwriters to help them sell their screenplays and get writing assignments. The first part of the service is the SYS Select screenplay database. Screenwriters upload their screenplays along with a logline, synopsis and other pertinent information like budget and genre, and then producers search for and hopefully find screenplays they wanna produce. Dozens of producers are in the system looking for screenplays right now. There have been a number of success stories come out of this service, you can find out about all the SYS Select successes by gonna www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/success. Also on SYS podcast Episode #222, I talk with Steve Deering who was the first official success story to come out of the SYS Select database.
When you join SYS Select you get access to the screenplay database along with all the other services that we’re providing to SYS Select members. These services include the newsletter, the monthly newsletter goes out to a list of over 400 producers who are actively seeking writers and screenplays. Each SYS Select member can pitch one screenplay in this monthly newsletter. We also provide screenwriting leads, we have partnered with one of the premiere paid screenwriting leads services, so I can syndicate their leads to SYS Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner, recently we’ve been getting five to 10 high quality paid leads per week. These leads run the gamut.
There’s producers looking for a specific type of spec script to producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas or properties. They are looking for shorts, features, TV and web series, pilots all types of projects. If you sign up for SYS Select, you’ll get these leads emailed directly to you several times per week. Also, you get access to the SYS Select forum where we will help you with your logline and query letter and answer any screenwriting related questions that you might have. We also have a number of screenwriting classes that are recorded and available in the SYS Select forum. These are all the classes that I’ve done over the years, so you’ll have access to those whenever you want once you join.
The classes cover every part of writing your screenplay from concept to outlining, to the first act, second act, third act as well as other topics like writing short films and pitching your projects in person. Once again, if this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, please go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com. On the next episode of the podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing Eli Daughdrill, who just did an indie drama feature called Faith. He comes on the show to talk about his career and how he got into film production. It’s a personal story to him, and we talk a bit about where this idea originated and why he put it into a screenplay and eventually made a movie. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. That’s the show. Thank you for listening.