An Author Event

img_4169I had an author event this past weekend. That sounds rather grand, doesn’t it? Three of Hertfordshire’s busiest libraries are running independent author events over the next six months, and the first one was this past Saturday, at St Albans Library.

When I arrived I was given a table on which to set up my books – there were five other authors as well, and it was interesting to meet them and discuss the different ways we had all approached self-publishing. Three of them had worked with printers to produce their work – the quality of illustration and the type of book they wanted to produce meant that this was the best option for them. The other three, myself included, had gone the Amazon/Createspace route, with varying degrees of success.

We discussed a lot, in fact – they were a great group of people and I was happy to meet all of them. We bought books from each other, talked about different kinds of social media, of how to find our desired audience, exchanged contact details and ideas. It was worth attending for that alone.

img_4172The event was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of sales. I think it’s great that libraries, certainly in my area, are starting to get behind independent authors, and I really appreciate their support. I’ll be doing one of the other events, and I’m looking forward to meeting more people there. However, it seemed there might have been some crossed wires with the promotion, as most of us spent our time talking to people who wanted to publish their own books, rather than purchase ours. I even had a lady sit down, pull out pen and paper, and ask me to take her through the process of publishing! Still, I did make a few sales, and I remembered how it was before I published, and the people who so generously shared their knowledge with me.

I don’t much enjoy public speaking, nor do I like being the centre of attention. However, I really enjoyed being part of this event. It made me realise that I don’t mind putting myself out there when it’s to talk about something I enjoy, and writing is definitely something I enjoy. In some ways, blogging has helped too – letting me put my words out there for an audience, and figuring out that maybe, I might have something to say. I’m planning on doing more events now, going out into the real world to find my reading audience, as well as trying to connect with them online.

So, I think the day might have been a success, after all. 🙂

 

 

Published! A Thousand Rooms

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-09-25-592Yay! I’ve made my way through the tangle of formatting and emerged on the other side ready to hit the big red Publish button. A Thousand Rooms, my fourth novel, is now available to purchase through Amazon.

A stand-alone novel, A Thousand Rooms follows the story of suddenly-dead Katie and is set in Sydney, Australia, where I lived for a couple of years.

You don’t wake up expecting to die…

Katie is thirty-two, single, and used to work in advertising. She’s also dead. A lost soul hitching rides with the dying, trying to find her way to… wherever she’s supposed to be.

And whoever she’s supposed to be with.

Heaven, it seems, has a thousand rooms. What will it take to find hers?

I’m thrilled to finally have A Thousand Rooms out, almost two years to the day I started writing it. I’ve had a lot of help along the way, and really do appreciate all your support. I’ll be visiting a few blogs in upcoming weeks to talk about the book a little more and in the meantime, if you decide to treat yourself to a copy, thank you and I hope you enjoy it!

Playing with Prisma

Publishing independently costs money – there’s no getting around it. A professional edit, typesetting, a cover design – while you don’t have to pay for any of these things, they can make a difference to the look and feel of your finished book. However, independent publishing doesn’t, for the most part, make much money – the majority of authors these days, whether traditional or independently published, rely on secondary sources of income to keep going. So, if you can save money here and there, it’s a bonus.

I’ve written before about using photography, including the potential pitfalls of using images without permission, the different types of stock images available and the effects you can create using your own images. I still believe that, as independent authors, using our own photography wherever possible is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to promote our work. So, when I heard about the Prisma app, I knew I had to give it a try.

IMG_2622This is a photograph I took with my phone the other week, of the ruined cathedral in Coventry. Not a bad photo, if I say so myself. However, when I put it into the Prisma app, it changed completely:

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Another Marketing Foray

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The other week, I wrote a post about a free promotion I ran for a limited time on my first book, Oak and Mist. It was a pretty successful promotion, increasing my readership and leading to further sales, so I was happy with the result.

I decided to test out another marketing option by placing an ad on Goodreads. It’s a pay-per-click ad, where you set a price to pay each time someone clicks on your ad (I bid $0.60 per click, a little above the average of $0.50) . There were three things I liked about the set-up:

  1. Control. I wrote the ad, set the price-per-click and the maximum number of clicks I was willing to pay for each day.
  2. Budget. The ad is pre-paid, so will run until my maximum number of clicks is reached, and I won’t be charged any more. There is an option to automatically renew once your credit runs out, but I opted out of that.
  3. Flexibility. You can change the copy or appearance of your ad whenever you choose, or change the cost-per-click or maximum number of clicks per day. When you do this the ad needs to be approved again, but this happens fairly quickly.

So far, I’m going to be honest and say that it hasn’t set the world on fire. I’ve only had a few clicks so far, and garnered a lot more interest when I ran my Goodreads giveaway. However, it’s been a great opportunity to test different taglines for my book and see which ones gather the most attention. Goodreads sends me a daily report listing how often the ad was viewed, how many clicks for that day, whether any one added my book as a result of the ad, plus my remaining credit, so it’s easy to see patterns when you change any aspect of the campaign. This is invaluable information that will be very useful when putting together future campaigns, as I’m essentially testing my ideas on a huge live audience and getting immediate feedback.

When you self-publish, it’s important to choose your promotional avenues wisely, as they are all part of the brand you are building in order to sell your books. There’s also an enormous amount of learning on-the-job, and I’ve been extremely grateful to the many writers out there who share information about their experiences.

And how about you? Has anyone else out there had experience advertising on Goodreads? And how successful was it?

 

 

Spin Like The Spider

Ideas can take you by surprise...

Ideas can take you by surprise…

This morning, as I wandered home from school drop-off, a scene came into my head. ‘A-ha!’ I thought. ‘Here we go.’

The scene is for book three of my Ambeth series, Hills and Valleys. It came to me complete, and was just the scene I was looking for. Hills and Valleys is already written, as I’ve mentioned, but I’m now starting on the structural edit. So that means the new threads I added into books one and two need to be drawn up and woven into this story.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’d dropped into a bit of a writing lull. This happens after I publish a book, all the editing and rewrites and formatting and fingernail-biting making a break from the keyboard necessary. Plus my brain sort of stops giving me ideas for a few days.

So it was nice to take a trip back into Ambeth this morning. I went home and typed up the scene and it reads well, so far. It will need some work, maybe expanding a little, but I’m happy with it and the direction it is taking my character.

IMG_2344Outside my kitchen window is a large rosemary bush. For some time now, an orb-weaver spider has made it his (or her) home, stringing a large web between the bush and the nearby wall. We’ve all grown quite fond of this spider, greeting it as we come into the kitchen, taking an interest in its doings. For it is a hard worker. Each day, it seems, the intricate web is dismantled, rolled into a ball and discarded. Then another web, just as large and intricate, is woven in its place. Yesterday, it hung heavy with raindrops, like a crystal garland. Today’s web is tight, fresh and new, ready to catch lunch, or dinner, after a hard morning’s work. It perseveres, this little spider, because there is no other way. If it wants to eat, it must spin.

And this is a little lesson for me. To persevere with this writing and publishing game, even though sometimes it can be daunting. For it is what I want to do. If I want to be read, I must write. And so like the spider I spin each day, writing stories and blogs, making connections, promoting my work in increments, a fresh start each morning. And I’ve had some wonderful surprises along the way, made new friends, had new opportunities. And I feel very lucky to be on this journey.

Well, from the looks of this post it seems my Pantser writer brain is back in action! Watch this space…

 

A Marketing Experiment – Follow-up

Oak And Mist final cover

Last week, I wrote a post about a marketing experiment I was doing, the main objective being to increase my readership and, hopefully, generate some interest in my upcoming new release, No Quarter. I decided to offer Oak and Mist, the first book in the series, free on Amazon for a limited time, hoping to capitalise on some positive reviews.

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I took advantage of the free five day promotion from Amazon, part of being enrolled in KDP Select. You get five days out of every ninety to list your book as free – you can either run the days all together, or break them into separate promotions. I chose to run the five days together, hoping to maximise my exposure. I also ran three paid advertisements during the promotion – one with Booksends, one with E Reader News Today, and one with Robin Reads.

So how did it go?

I ended up having 4415 people download Oak and Mist for free. Even if only twenty per cent of those people actually read the book, I’ve still substantially increased my readership, and potentially will be able to sell subsequent instalments in the series. I also noticed a large increase in my KENP pages, for which I get paid royalties, and sold several paperbacks as well. I received a new 5 star rating on GoodReads, and several more people on GoodReads marked Oak and Mist as ‘currently reading.’

Screen Grab #8 on Amazon

In terms of the paid advertising, I ran ads on the first, fourth and fifth day of the promotion, and on each of those days my downloads increased dramatically to over a thousand per day, propelling me into the top ten Amazon free books (I reached number 8). The days on which I did not advertise averaged at about three hundred downloads. I supported the promotion with a couple of tweets per day – most of which were picked up and retweeted. I was also fortunate to receive some wonderful support from fellow bloggers (you know who you are, and thank you once again!). Chris The Story Reading Ape was kind enough to post a promotion on his site, which was then reposted by several other bloggers.

In conclusion, this was a successful marketing exercise for me. I’ve increased the audience for my books and, hopefully generated some momentum for No Quarter, the second novel in my Ambeth series. The KENP and paperback royalties I received as a result of the increased exposure have already covered much of my advertising costs, and it was wonderful to get another five-star rating. I believe the complete results of this promotion are yet to be seen, and will be keeping an eye on reviews and reader stats over the coming weeks.

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I write books because I want people to read them. I love Ambeth and the characters who live there, and it gives me great pleasure when other people enjoy the books. I had no problem in offering my work free for a limited time, and will definitely be employing a similar promotional strategy when I release Hills and Valleys, the third book in the series.

I’d love to hear about your own marketing experiences, and whether they were successful or not. I think our blogging community is such a great and generous resource for self-published authors – I know I’ve learnt so much already.

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

Counting Words

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When I write freelance, I usually have to work to a word count, especially for printed material. Copy is usually the last thing to be added to the page – the design and layout are already set before my words are added, so it can’t be re-worked if I decide I need to write fifty extra words.

Writing too many words has never been a problem for me – to be honest, I’m usually the opposite, writing well over what I’m supposed to and then paring it back, line by line, until it fits the required space. The key is to reduce word count while still retaining content, which can be tricky at times.

When I started writing books for myself, I realised very quickly that writing fiction is quite different than writing copy – for one thing, there’s a whole lot more showing in fiction. Emotion, dialogue and actions tend to drive the narrative, rather than information and references, and it’s something I still have to pull myself up on from time to time. The other thing I had to contend with was the idea of word count. Instead of a 500 or 1000 word article, I was free to write in the thousands, something that was a little daunting at first. But once again my propensity to over-write came to the fore, with the result that the first draft of Oak and Mist was a whopping 165,000 words (once again, apologies to those I asked to read it at that point!). I did an edit, taking it down to about 145,000 words, then blithely sent it out to a handful of agents, not realising they would most likely discard it unread after seeing the cover letter, where I stated word count in the first paragraph.

What I hadn’t realised was that there is a recognised set of word counts for different genres of literature, and I had exceeded all of them. YA fantasy, which I was writing, usually comes in at about 70,000 to 90,000 words, though some imprints, such as Bloomsbury Spark, cap that at 60,000 words. Other genres have their own average word counts and the recommendation is to stick to them as closely as possible, so as not to give a prospective agent or publisher any reason to discount your work before reading it. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, just as there are with most things, but they are few and far between. These word counts have not been arrived at arbitrarily – they are based on sales records, readers surveys and translation costs, as well as production costs – the more words you have, the more costly your book is to produce, a major consideration at a time when print books and bookstores are fighting to retain their market against e-tailers and digital books.

Of course, when you self-publish, the world is your oyster. You can write as much as you want. But once again I believe you need to look at what your market will support – more pages does not always mean better value for money, especially if the story rambles on for twice as long as it needs to. And, while there is no cost difference to produce e-books of different lengths (other than editing), if you choose to have a print version, more pages means your production cost will go up, potentially affecting your royalty payments.

I’ve just spent the past few weeks working through a structural edit on No Quarter, the second book in my Ambeth series. It was a bit of a struggle at times, but I think I managed to sort everything out, covering all the plot holes and making sure everyone ends up where I want them to be at the end of the book. But when I finished, I realised the story was a little longer than I wanted it to be. I couldn’t (didn’t want) to cut any scenes, but I needed to reduce the word count somehow. So I went back to my old freelance method and, though it took me the best part of a day, I went through the book line by line, seeing if I could cut 12 words per page. I didn’t think about plot or structure or pace or character development – I simply looked at each sentence to see if I could say it in fewer words. At the end of the process, I’d cut almost 2000 words from the story without sacrificing any scenes, plus I’d tightened up the prose in quite a few areas.

So if you are going through an edit and need to reduce word count, consider looking at the words, rather than the story. You might be surprised!