Talking about my book…

Talking about my book…

That is what I have to do now. Blog tours, author interviews and a couple of local speaking/signing events lurk on my horizon. I will have to talk out loud, in front of people. Yikes.

Numerous niggles are harrying my mind. The blog tour sounds fine; I can sit at my computer, happy in my space, editing and re-editing my words as often as I like before I send them out. Viewers can glance at my post and move swiftly on, or they can read every sentence. I cannot be offended because I will never know which of those actions they have taken (unless they drop a comment or a reassuring ‘like’ – lovely gifts from cyberspace which let you know you have actually connected).

My issue with author interviews is that I’m not sure I’m getting the answers right. This belief is confirmed when I read the interviews of proper, grown up authors. Those familiar with my blog will surely remember that my response to a straightforward query about my favourite books resulted in total brain freeze. (I felt only empathy for Natalie Bennett after that train crash of a radio interview). Also I did not study journalism at the University of Brilliant, I cannot quote Shakespeare (at least not knowingly), I have never written for the National Shout it Out, and there are zero awards to my name.

My author bio is a desperate little paragraph with few writer credentials, and zero proof of wordsmithery:

Left school at 16 ( I couldn’t wait to get out). Worked with horses. Got married, had kids, wrote a book.

There is more of course, but little of relevance. Various eclectic jobs, study and hobbies. You’re taking a gamble on me as an author, but hey, live dangerously. Oh, I’ve just remembered, I won the poetry contest at our village fete – for three years on the run! How the hell did I miss that out? They even gave me a cup (it had to be given back at the end of the year, of course). My poem about the Queen’s Jubilee was an absolute cracker. I would love to share it with you here but it is sadly lost in the mist of obsolete PCs.

Now the book, I can talk about, as friends will verify (whilst rolling their eyes to the heavens). Here are some great sample questions on author interviews which I can’t wait to get my teeth into:

Describe your hero in five words” – Hunky, bloody gorgeous. Bit of a sod. (Oops that’s seven)

Was your novel inspired by real life events?” – No! But no one believes me (mates who have read it are eyeing the Farmer in very different light). Some of the horses and dogs existed in real life…does that count?

“Can you remember where you first saw your book on the shelves” – I can promise you I.WILL.REMEMBER.THAT. When it happens.

And now the biggest Frog – PUBLIC SPEAKING. I’ve yet to find out if I can pull this off without my voice going weird and squeaky. I used to read the lesson in church as a child. That didn’t bother me. In my twenties and thirties I became adept at lecturing my offspring. Do either of those qualify as public speaking? I have hollered across a windy field whilst teaching people to ride, so I know the voice can carry when it wants to.

Luckily I have two secret weapons in my armoury.

  1. The lovely, helpful people on the “Alliance of Independent Authors” Facebook group, who have been amazingly generous with hints and tips.
  2. Gin and tonic.

Wish me luck.

Self-published Author? Ten Reasons Why You Should Register For IndieReCon – April 15th-17th

Self-published Author? Ten Reasons Why You Should Register For IndieReCon – April 15th-17th

Want to make self-publishing mission possible? Here are ten reasons why you should get involved with IndieReCon, a three-day global event to promote quality and craft in indie publishing.

1. IndieReCon is FREE to attend. Yes you read that right. The best thing about IndieReCon is that it’s 100% FREE to attend the sessions.

2. IndieReCon is a conference for authors by authors.

4. Get the nitty gritty details on self-publishing basics like pricing, distribution, and formatting from top industry professionals.

5. You will learn to build your marketing and publicity skills.

6. You can chat with NY Times bestselling authors Barbara Freethy and Belle Andre.

7. Fun contests and HUGE giveaways.

8. It’s online. You can attend in your PJs. Need we say more?!

9. You will discover some great new indie authors to read…

10. You will learn about all the communities and tools that are out there for indie authors. Every single blog post, chat, webinar will be packed with all the information you need to help you on the self-publishing path.

IndieReCon will help you learn all the dirty secrets about the indie publishinging industry, and help you succeed. Hang out there all day and all night. Hourly posts. Tons of chats, vlogs and webinars. What are you waiting for?

Running at the wall. Early marketing efforts

Running at the wall. Early marketing efforts

Firstly an apology for my hastily posted previous blog, which was nothing more than a shameless ad for my Goodreads Giveaway. My intention that day was actually to link the ‘Goodreads Giveaway’ widget to the book page on my website. Three hours later (dehydrated, in need of sustenance and losing the will to live) I worked out that I can’t do that on my freely hosted site. On the plus side I did learn something about Java script, HTML and plug-ins (there must be a rap there somewhere). On the minus, all you lot got was an alert that RussellRomance had posted a blog, only to view a hurriedly pasted clip of the view of my Giveaway which you would have got, if I could have linked you to it. Technical frustration dogs every stage of this process.

Anyway I digress. My marketing efforts so far (all work-in-progress):

  • Beg mates to buy the book. Positives: Hugely successful – 99% hit rate. Generous, gushing reviews resulting in warm glowy feeling. Negatives: Something of a short term policy. Few mates left (less than I started with?)
  • Social media pedalling. Positives: Make new mates (to replace the ones you lost banging on and on about your book). Success rate – not a clue but hopefully aids awareness that your book exists. Additional warm glow (so many nice people out there who are happy to help you along). Negatives: Time and life consuming. Distraction levels at an all-time high. Original thought used up trying to invent interesting posts/tweets.
  • Feature in a magazine. Positives: Great day out! Whole new experience to bang on to the friends about. Book brought to the attention of thousands of potential readers. Negatives: I haven’t seen the photograph that will feature. (Oh, weak vanity). There may be others…I will let you know.
  • Plead for reviews from strangers and book review bloggers. Positives: I don’t know yet, my pleas have not been answered. One potential blogger lined up – I have all my fingers crossed. The reviews will be honest (this could be listed under negatives too, but I’m quietly optimistic). Negatives: See previous sentence (safest to hedge your bets).
  • Run a Goodreads Giveaway of your book. Positives: Raises awareness of book among confirmed bibliophiles. Potential for reviews on respected site. Negatives: Yet another statistic to obsess over – ‘number of people requested’ (I bounce between Goodreads, Amazon, Kindle, CreateSpace, Facebook, Twitter and WordPress in a never-ending quest for approval. Sad, but strangely addictive.)
  • KDP (Kindle) Select. I’m still considering this option, but haven’t signed up yet. Positives: Book has potential to reach thousands of readers for free. Negatives: Royalties per read considerably reduced (not such a problem if your readers quadruple in number). Your ebook becomes exclusive to the Kindle store (I currently publish on Smashwords too). I would be really interested to hear your comments and views if you are either an author signed up to KDP Select or a reader who subscribes to Kindle Unlimited (you may be both of course!)

Other ideas still bubbling in the pipeline: Local press, bookish coffee mornings, appearance on Richard and Judy (yes, I jest. But I have been asked why I can’t just go on there. What a wonderful world to live in.)

Wishing you all a happy, fruitful week. You’ll find me running at that wall, lobbing copies of my book over the top.

This week’s shenanigans – and there have been a few!

This week’s shenanigans – and there have been a few!

Great word shenanigans – “silly behaviour, mischief” or “dishonest manoeuvring”. I hope I haven’t been doing any of the latter.

SO! Tuesday the major magazine contact me to confirm travel arrangements to Friday’s photo shoot. It is actually happening then. Yikes. Travel expenses paid. Hair, make up, clothes and lunch all laid on. This does begin to feel a little bit like dishonest manoeuvring. I am not a celebrity. I am alternately grinning at the mischief and questioning my silly behaviour. The word fits, you see. Friends are beside themselves with the excitement of it all. I cannot count the number of messages I have received this week that include the word famous, or allude to my non-existent celebrity status.

“From farmer’s wife to international superstar!”

“Will we see you Saturday or are you too busy now that you’re famous?

“Just remember we knew you when you were nothing.”

Sarky buggers my mates. But in truth they’ve been great. Every single one of them, friends and family both. Openly delighted for me. Sharing the adventure with gusto. It’s all a bit humbling really, I’ve only written a book.

“Bring a copy of your book.” The magazine said, “We’ll try to get it in shot.” Ridiculous luck on my part (the luck of ED being a smoking hot PR and pulling out all the stops for her ma). Or it would have been luck, if I had a copy of the book. Said elusive treasure was currently winging its way across the Atlantic with no tracking process that worked. I gazed despairingly at my mocked up ‘Guardian Careers’ with my front cover stuck on it, and wondered if I had the gall to turn up clasping that.

On Thursday, mid-Tesco-shop, I received that very rare thing – a text from The Husband. “Book is here” (the farmer uses words sparingly). A few hurried and unusual grocery purchases later and I was charging home to meet the new arrival.

I’m in love. I can’t stop grinning. Even the battered corner (it was a long and arduous delivery) cannot dampen my adoration. My words inside a book cover. I accept that I’m biased. I am sure we all think our babies books are the cutest on the planet. Pre-Friday photo shoot the book remained firmly inside its bent cardboard packaging. Wrapped in a polythene bag. Beneath a lap top and the Oxford Reference Dictionary (in an attempt to correct the very minor birth defect). I cradle it protectively and let interested parties view from afar. Even I dare not open the pages for fear of despoiling its beauty before it has been photographed.

On Friday I’m at the station, ticket in hand, twenty minutes early. Chilly morning, Friday, but the book was fine inside its personal suitcase, swaddled in thee layers of bubble wrap (OK, I’m exaggerating now. But it is true that the handle of the bag did not come out of my hand for the entire journey, so great was my fear of leaving it on the train). Beautiful ED, my home-grown PR is lounging outside the studio in wait for me, looking every bit the part. I worry that the magazine will be sorely disappointed when they work out which one of us they have got to photograph. YD (you work it out) wanted to cancel riding and uni to join me too. I put her off in case the studio wouldn’t let her in. Bless my girls.

What an experience! Lovely group of women. I was pampered and coiffed by the beautiful Juan who could not have been kinder. ED is networking furiously, and throwing my book under the noses of anyone who looks important. I am in 6” heels (the hip is still complaining), wearing individual false eyelashes and £140 pink jeans (I photographed the label and looked them up). That isn’t me in the picture above by the way. I am considerably wider and shorter than your average model. Not to mention twice the age. When the photographer looked through her lens and called “sad crease” I thought she was talking about my face. She was actually referring to the fall of my jeans. Much easier to rectify. Make up, hair, and fashion rushed on between shots to adjust my fringe, straighten my clothes and add lipstick. I am not usually adept at smiling for the camera but my rising levels of hysteria at the situation I found myself in helped considerably on this occasion.

A lovely end to the week; family lunch at the farm to see the Gallivanting Granny off to Oz, with copious amounts of Australian fizz to toast her on her way. We’ve been attempting to connect her back to us by way of Hudl and a Facebook account. I could tell you more about our efforts, but I think that’s a whole other blog, and GG is on the phone. Telling me that airport WIFI doesn’t work.

Dodging bullets and double identites

Dodging bullets and double identites

I appear to be on the back foot. Again. Mad, hectic week moving The Mother in to her new house. The fantastic, gallivanting granny is off to Oz in a week and if she can cope with what she’s been through in the last year and a half, then move home, take off across the world, and still come up smiling…well! I would like to hold her up as an example of dogged determination in the face of adversity. At the age of 79. They can teach us all a thing or two these olduns.

The paragraph above is in part a forward apology for my ramblings on about the minor, insignificant obstacles that continue to trip me up on my self-publishing path. I am going to ramble anyway, of course. That is the purpose of this blog.

This week’s surprises fell in to three camps:

  • Publishing
  • Marketing
  • Farm Life

The publishing bullet came in the form of Amazon dropping a ‘minimum pricing’ requirement on my book. How on earth did I not know about that? Of course it makes sense, a monkey could work it out. If I want the book to be in print, with a nice shiny cover, they have got to print it. And it can’t be sold for less than the cost of that. Strangely though, I have managed to get through the entire self-publishing process without stumbling over this relevant fact. I even had a conversation with my CreateSpace editing team about pricing and where to place the book. They helpfully gave me a suggested range and ‘similar book comparison’ exercise to follow, but failed to tell me that Amazon would play a major part in the decision. Bullet narrowly dodged by the minimum price being only pennies higher than the figure I had in my mind. Lucky that.

Marketing has been a rollercoaster. Twitter is going swimmingly, followers up and some great moments of banter. I’m loving the blogging community, and following so many people now that it is a miracle I get anything else achieved. I am hopeful that I have a book review lined up with one of my fellow bloggers (I will mention names when confirmed, but wouldn’t want to presume) and an author interview on another site (likewise).

The golden bullet came when ED (eldest daughter) informed me of the possibility of an interview and photo shoot with a major magazine. Way, way, way out of my comfort zone. At the same time just too big an opportunity to turn down, if it comes off at all. Part of me hopes it doesn’t… When said magazine called me for a chat (pre-booked and fully warned) I couldn’t remember the name of a single author or book in response to the standard questions “Which authors have influenced you?” and “What are your favourite books?” Where is that monkey, and can I use him as my stand in? ED was unimpressed.

Which leads me on to Facebook, author profile pictures and double identities. Specifically the pen name. Author Me now has a Facebook account and page, but all my regular, actual, real life friends are callously rejecting my invites because they don’t know who the hell I am. The Brother generously offered up his photography skills to do me some author profile pics. He has taken some great shots. Of Real Me. Do I share these on my Author Me sites? And if so what was the point of a pen name in the first place? The magazine, if it comes off, will be featuring Real Me. Not Author Me. Sorry, confusing I know. Welcome to my world. I should have bitten the bullet, and put my name on the cover. (Far too many bullet analogies in this post. Apology number three.)

The comic twist to my author profile pics, is that my physical proof book didn’t arrive in time for the shots. The Brother lives three hours away and was actually here to help The Mother move. In desperation I ‘mocked up’ a copy of the book (my cover image, stuck over the top of ‘The Guardian Guide to Careers’ with sellotape). The book is decidedly bigger than I had envisaged, despite the fact that I have known the measurements for at least five months. I dare not release any of the pictures until the actual book arrives for fear of being prosecuted under the trade descriptions act if I have messed up again.

To top off the week, the opportunity of changes on the farm have found us locked in often fruitless, circular debate around the kitchen table. For more hours than I care to count. Life’s rich tapestry is asking for bold colours. I’ve armed myself with a thimble and I will keep stitching. I have the example of a gallivanting granny to follow.

Networking or making friends? Ever increasing circles.

Networking or making friends? Ever increasing circles.

One of the nicest things about my writing and publishing journey is the connections I have made with others.

Just when the process of marketing my book is becoming underwhelming (when only 3 people have read my blog and my clever tweet has passed unnoticed) someone really nice pops up and lifts my spirits. Just yesterday for example, a fellow author who I met on twitter helped me out with my ‘smiley faces’ (emojis – yes I know that now. I really was that ignorant when I entered this brave new world). The same gentleman has offered his assistance with my webpage (when I have girded my loins in preparation for that task). I have also traded pictures, gossip and book reads (“you read mine and I’ll read yours”- that sort of thing), discussed variations in landscape, language and weather between the UK and Canada, followed no end of interesting blogs and shared the experience of publishing a book with others following a similar path. I have connected and interacted (awful word) with countless colourful new characters, some of whose traits may appear in future novels.

As a marketing and networking experience I can’t tell you (yet) if my efforts to create a ‘media presence’ have had any success. But I have made friends, so regardless of sales figure outcome, it has been worthwhile. The downside if there is one, is that you do get drawn in. The distraction factor is massive. I am no longer sure if I am marketing or just being nosy. Furthering my knowledge or chatting to friends. I might simply be procrastinating. And then there is that disturbing comparison thing. I think you know what I mean: “Their blog page looks better than mine.” “They’ve got so many followers.” “Now that looks like a well thought through marketing campaign” (as opposed to my vague and confused meanderings). I try to fight it, but I don’t always win. I am naturally competitive. Character flaw number ? (does anyone who has been reading my blog since the beginning recall the tally? If not, please do some revision.)

This week’s motto: Learn, don’t envy.

A reminder to myself to put in the work. It would be easier if I knew exactly what I was supposed to be working on. Three new books in progress; the sequel to A Bed of Barley Straw, a brand new romance, and a shorter work of fiction. Launch and marketing for A Bed of Barley Straw is high on my priority list. Meanwhile, the farm accounts are in disarray, housework is nagging and the dogs need a walk.

But I’m busy blogging. And when I’ve finished here I probably ought to check in on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Amazon. Ho hum.

What a journey it has been!

What a journey it has been!

The book is nearly there. About to be released. Final interior approved. Ticked off, achieved.

I found one typo in the final proof, and stressed over-much about whether I ought to go back for yet another round of changes. For $79, on a book that has yet to sell a single copy. I can’t of course, but that error is troubling me. I have promised myself that the first $79 dollars of profit (if I’m so lucky) can pay for the correction. And in the meantime, a prize to the first person to locate the surplus ‘was’.

I am excited, terrified and knackered. Not by the writing or editing, but by the terrible thought of releasing the book to the world and having to market it. Marketing is exhausting, and uncomfortably needy. My inner voice is screaming “read it or don’t, I couldn’t care less.”  But there is a subversive whisper. “All that effort for a book that nobody knows exists. Bit of a waste of time wasn’t it?”

I am not yet convinced that Twitter is a useful platform. Interesting and quirky, if you are not trying to sell something. Possibly hugely productive for established VIPs, who have ??million followers awaiting their every tweet. Less so if you have to strive endlessly to get so much as a favourite, and haven’t even mentioned the name of your book yet (about to be remedied with the title of this post!)

My twitter feeds me endless plugs for books. I have registered the titles of two of them, and they were written by authors I have chatted with. I flick past the others carelessly, and I do not want to insult my small but friendly band of followers by plugging away relentlessly in every tweet. I will have to think of something. Original thought is sadly lacking at present, all used up my attempts to tweet something clever.

Next stage – I await a physical copy proof in the post. Can’t wait to see it and hope against hope that I love it when we meet.

I need to crank up my Goodreads and Facebook presence. Some progress made, I have accounts with both! And a page, work-in-progress, for the book. I do believe that lovers of romance will enjoy my book. The story is good, and I should know I wrote it. Plus, I must have read it close to twenty times. I know how it starts, develops and ends, and it still makes me smile.

Just the elusive customer to track down then. Final push, ultimate effort, fingers crossed. Meet me on Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads – I will be there – soon!

Blurb – strange word, strange process

Blurb – strange word, strange process

Blurb. It is not a word that rolls easily off of the tongue. Nor is it a process that flows from the mind. The definition in my Oxford Reference Dictionary:

Blurb n. descriptive or commendatory matter, especially a description of a book printed on its jacket. (Said to have originated in 1907 by G.Burgess, American humourist, in a comic book jacket embellished with a drawing of pulchritudinous young lady whom he facetiously dubbed Miss Blinda Blurb.)

Pulchritudinous! Now that is a word. Maybe I could use it in the blurb for my sequel (when I have looked it up… [definition: (literary) beautiful]).

I can’t, of course, because my blurb must use its maximum-200-word potential to good effect. Grab the reader, sum up the flavour of my book, entice you to hit the ‘buy’ button in the few brief seconds spent reading it. Using words that require definition would possibly deflect from that purpose.

CreateSpace’s explanation of my blurb:

The Book Description displays on your book’s detail page and in your eStore. This Book Description is a marketable synopsis of the main plotlines or key messages in your book. In conjunction with being commercially appealing and written with the main marketable theme in mind, it should also be a clear representation of what your target audience will receive upon purchase of your book.

Easy then? No, it isn’t. I read some very good advice recently; that you should complete the blurb for your book early on in the writing process. Long before the book is finished. That, as with your manuscript, you should take the time to read it, re-read it and read it again, throughout the process. Amending and improving as you go. Live with the words for a while, sharpen the phrasing. I didn’t do any of that, of course. I handed the job of writing my blurb over to the CreateSpace marketing team. And then I changed it. I showed it to the PR-employed Eldest Daughter, who changed it some more.  So it now bears little resemblance to the original blurb, created by the marketing team, which I had paid for. My feeling was that they had revealed too much of the story line. Hinted at secrets which unfolded within the chapters and should wait to be discovered by the reader.

If you are a writer, you are the person that knows your book best. Every twist, turn and development is there because you imagined it, constructed it and wrote it down. Consequently you, and you alone, are the person best equipped to write the blurb for your book. By all means, let other’s proof read it and consider suggested changes. Run it past anyone you know with experience in relevant fields – friends who buy books in your genre, mates who work in marketing or PR, librarians or bookworms…the list goes on. Then go with your gut and follow your instincts. Opinions are great and should be listened to, but they are only opinions. And you are allowed to have your own. Keep the faith when five different people are telling you five different things. You can work it out you know.

I hope that my blurb (partial view above) is “descriptive or commendatory matter”. That it is “commercially appealing” and “a clear representation of what my target audience will receive upon purchase of my book”. But that’s a hell of a lot to fit in to maximum-200-words. Time will tell if the words entice complete strangers to put their faith in me and spend their hard-earned money.

I hope that they do, but I hope even more that when they have, they really enjoy the book.