Resources for Authors

When people find out I’m an author who originally published independently, they often ask me how they can get started. I therefore thought it would be useful to put a few suggestions together in a document. I’m reproducing them here on the blog in the hope that they might help other new authors.

KDP Select – This is the Amazon site for authors, which enables you to publish your book independently. The help pages https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200798990 have a wealth of information about the whole process and the way in which Amazon works. They can be explored from the menu on the left-hand side of the screen.

price-tagPrice Point – I used to price my books at £1.99 as an independent author and that seems like a popular price for books published independently although some are priced at £2.99. For Amazon promotions books are usually priced at either 99p or free for a day. There is a qualifying period for how long the book would have to have been at full price before the promotion so it is best to check this out via KDP Select where you will find all the other details of how their promotions work.

Proofreading and Editing – This is really important before you begin to get your book out to a wider audience. Some reviewers are really picky, and they will find any excuse to give a bad review. You don’t want negative reviews of an otherwise great book just because of proofreading or grammatical errors that can be easily corrected.

Editors are useful for giving you an objective view of your book and pointing out things that you might have missed. Publishers usually appoint a structural editor, a copy editor and a proof-reader so the book goes through a series of checks and improvementsresearch before it is published. If your budget is tight then I would say you need your book proofread as an absolute minimum.

NB You should also ensure that all text on your book’s Amazon page is proofread as this is the first thing the reader sees, and it could affect their purchasing decision.

David Gaughran – I can’t recommend this guy enough. He publishes books on Amazon (the Let’s Get Publishing series). These cover the entire journey from publication to promotion and advertising. He also has a blog at: https://davidgaughran.com/blog and publishes regular newsletters, which you can sign up to on the home page of his website.

Readers in the Know – When you run a promotion with Amazon you need to shout about it, and there are promotion websites specifically for this. Readers in the Know points you to numerous websites of this type but if you pay to join you can also promote your books on this site. The page with a list of promotion websites is at: https://www.readersintheknow.com/list-of-book-promotion-sites.

Sandra Beckwith – Similar website to David Gaughran but with a US bias

The Publicity Hound – Similar website to David Gaughran and Sandra Beckwith but with a US bias and not just for authors. NB These two are easy to find in Google search.

Amazon Exclusivity – In order to run promotions with Amazon you must publish exclusively with Amazon, but I think the advantages of doing this far outweigh the disadvantages as they have more than 80% of the digital market. Exclusivity is only for a limited period though and you can deselect this option once you reach the end of the qualifying period for your promotion – details are at KDP Select.

Going Wide – If you want to publish on more digital platforms e.g., Kobo, the easiest and quickest way to do it is with Draft 2 Digital (https://www.draft2digital.com/) which enables you to publish to several different platforms at once.

TrilogyPrint Books – It is also possible to publish print books via Amazon. Their print publishing arm used to be called CreateSpace, but I believe it is all now done via KDP Select. However, as their print books are print on demand, they are expensive to produce so you have to set a high sale price to make any profit. For example, my print on demand books are priced at around £12.99 on Amazon whereas my books that have had a mass market print run are priced at around £7.99 or less. You used to be able to calculate price, profit etc. on CreateSpace but I’m not sure how this is now done as it was 5 years ago when I published my own.

Facebook Ads and Amazon Ads – It is also possible to advertise your books on Facebook and Amazon. However, to advertise your books on Facebook you will need to set up an author page first. David Gaughran’s articles often give details of how to do these things.

Social Media – You can also shout about your books on social media. I have a Facebook author page and a Twitter page, but other authors have other social media platforms such as Instagram.

I hope you find these ideas useful but apologise if any of them are out of date. Now that I’m with a publisher, most of this gets taken care of for me and it’s a few years since I had to take care of everything myself. Good luck with your publishing journey.

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Changing the Way I Write

Recently I experienced a problem with extremely dry eyes. It took day and night drops as well as using a heated eye mask twice a day before the problem improved. They have tended to be dry for a long time now, but I think the problem was exacerbated by increased screen use during the pandemic. As well as using a PC all day, I was also attending Zoom events and chatting to family and friends by video call.

Consequently, I have had to change the way I work in order to reduce screen time. I have also stopped the Zoom events and video calls apart from the odd exception.

Obviously, as an author who spends most of the day typing on the computer, this has presented some challenges so here is how I got round them. 

  1. I basically type with my eyes shut. I’m a touch typist anyway, which is fortunate, but it still means I have to peek at the screen every now and again to make sure the text hasn’t misaligned.
  2. I no longer check my work as I go along. I used to recap each day by reading over the previous day’s work and editing it as I went along. As well as enabling me to correct my work, it also put me in the right frame of mind ready to write. Now, I just refresh my memory by having a quick scan over my sequence of events document where I list what has taken place in each scene.
  3. When I reach the end of the document, I review it by using the speech function on Word. This means I don’t have to look at the screen constantly. If I hear something that doesn’t sound quite right, I pause the speech and check the document, making any necessary changes. It still means I have to look at the screen but I’m not looking at it as often. It has its disadvantages because sometimes a word sounds in context even thought it might be spelt incorrectly, and the pronunciation on the speech function isn’t always spot on. However, I have the back-up of the spellchecker.
  4. With my latest novel I am putting it to one side for a few weeks, as I always do, ready to make a final check of it before sending it back to my publishers. Again, I won’t be reading it on screen. Instead, I will use Calibre software to transfer it to my Kindle and read it through while making notes with a pad and pen regarding any changes I want to make. My Kindle is one of the old types that doesn’t have a backlit screen and is therefore much kinder on the eyes. 

I was hoping to take a two week break over the Christmas period to give my eyes a total rest but, alas, I have just received the proofread version of my forthcoming novel. I’ll therefore be thinking of ways to tackle it without wrecking my eyesight in the process.

Of all the screens I use, I have found my phone to be the worst of all, even though I have changed the settings. It has made me realise the damage that modern technology has on our eyes. I’m hoping that my experience acts as a warning to others. If you’re suffering from dry, sore or itchy eyes, cut down on your screen time before the problem gets worse. 

 

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Amber Cover Reveal

I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover for my next novel, Amber, which is book four of The Working Girls series. It’s my favourite cover so far of the series. I love the amber colour of the title and the way it complements my protagonist’s hair colouring, and the girl on the cover is perfect for the character of Amber. My publishers have even included the archway in the background, which has a lot of significance in the novel. 

So, here is the cover in all its glory:

Amber

And if you want to check out the fantastic blurb too, here it is: 

NOBODY TO CALL

With a mother unfit for purpose and a brother who despises her, working girl Amber can rely on no one but herself – until the meanest pimp in Manchester, Kevin Pike, offers her his protection. Unfortunately, this attracts the fury of Cora, a prostitute no one wants to get on the wrong side of…

NOWHERE TO HIDE

When Cora is found strangled to death, the late-night city streets feel increasingly exposed with a killer on the loose. And as Amber grows closer to Kevin, she realises his security comes at a price she might not be willing to pay…

NOTHING TO LOSE

Amber is frozen in fear, knowing one wrong move will risk her life. But then she discovers a horrifying secret that forces her to choose: stay or run?

Amber will be out on 1st April 2021 but is currently available for pre-order at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08GV1CYX6 in the UK and https://www.amazon.com.dp/B08GV1CYX6 in the US.

Some Writing Tips

Here are a few writing tips I’d like to share with fellow authors and aspiring writers:

Google Images

I find Google Images invaluable for helping me to picture scenes in my mind. For example, if I had a character who lives in squalid conditions, and I was trying to describe his surroundings, I would do a search for ‘neglected living room’ in Google Images.

It also helps with things like describing the fashions for the year in which your book is set. Try entering 1990s fashions, for example, and see what you come up with.

The MirrorMirror

If I am trying to describe certain facial expressions I will look into the mirror and try to recreate them. For example, furrowing the brow, sticking the bottom lip out etc.

I also use the mirror for certain moves so that I can see how they work in practicality. This is helpful for action scenes to make sure that what you’re creating is believable in terms of how far your characters’ limbs will reach, for example.

It’s fortunate that I have blinds at the windows of my office so that people can’t see me carrying out all these strange moves and facial expressions.

Shut your Eyes

It’s amazing how shutting your eyes can help you to visualise a scene because it cuts off your surroundings and enables you to focus solely on what you are trying to create in your imagination.

Google for Names

When I am creating characters, I like to give them names that suit them and that are age appropriate. I therefore enter ‘girls name + (the year)’ in Google, which enables me to see a list of the most popular girls’ or boys’ names for the year in which my character was born.

researchResearch Contacts

When I first started writing novels, one of the things I struggled with was finding contacts who could help me with my research. Gradually I have come across people who I have met through friends etc. However, at first, I was keeping a separate list of contacts for each novel.

Recently I amalgamated the list and created a separate folder specifically for research contacts. It saves me time in having to wade through several files if I am looking for help from the same contact in the future.

Recap Scenes

Whenever I start writing for the day, I always go over the previous scene I have written. This has two benefits. The first is that it enables me to edit the previous day’s writing with a fresh mind.

The second benefit is that it puts me into the right frame of mind to start my writing day. Often, by reading the previous scene I will be fired up with ideas of where I want to take the novel next.

If you’re anything like me, I’m a massive procrastinator so this method helps to give me a push.

laptop-1512838_1280

Notes re Plot Development

On a good writing day my thoughts can run away with me and sometimes they come to me faster than I can type them. I therefore find it helpful to pause the actual scene I’m writing while I jot the ideas down in note form. I use a different colour font for this and italics so it’s obvious they’re notes rather than forming part of the text.

This method is also useful at the end of the day when you want to finish work, but the ideas are still flowing. It’s great to sit at the PC the following morning and find that you’ve already got the bare bones of a chapter on screen and you just have to flesh it out.

Although we all have our own writing techniques, I hope that some of these ideas might prove useful to you.

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Blog Tour for Crystal

Today sees the start of the blog tour for Crystal. Although the book was published on 7th May, 4th June was the original intended publication date. 7th May was the scheduled date for the print publication of Vendetta, which has been delayed due to the Corona virus. My publishers therefore decided to publish Crystal on that date instead.

Here is the schedule for the blog tour:

As you can see, Aria have lined up some fabulous reviewers and I’m looking forward to checking out their posts.

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Conversations with my Brain

‘Here we go again,’ I think, looking across at the clock. ‘For God’s sake! Its four o’clock in the morning. Can’t you just let me go back to sleep?’

But my brain is having none of it. ‘I’ve thought of a great idea.’

I tut. ‘Shut up and leave me alone.’

‘But you’ll like it, I promise.’

‘No! I’m tired.’

‘Come on, you’ll love me for it in the morning.’

‘No, I won’t!’

‘OK, suit yourself, but you’ll be cursing when you wake up and you’ve totally forgotten that brilliant idea I gave you, and all because you couldn’t be bothered writing it down. You’ll be sitting at that machine again, getting frustrated because it all sounds rubbish. And here I am, giving it away for free.’

‘Alright!’ I snap. ‘But make it quick. You know I find it hard to get back to sleep again once I’m fully awake.’

brain-1773892_1280

It’s at this point that I decide my brain must be male. What woman would put me through this night after night? I picture him bouncing around with anticipation.

‘OK,’ he says, his voice full of enthusiasm now. ‘It’s about that bit you were struggling with?’

‘Oh yeah,’ I say, warming to him.

‘Yeah. I’ve thought of a brilliant way you can get round it.’

I try to shake off my sleepiness. I’d love to just turn over and go back to sleep right now but I know I daren’t miss this opportunity. I flick the bedside lamp on, the light stinging my tired eyes. Then I turn the light down low and reach for my notepad.

‘Come on then, but just this once and then I’m done. What have you got?’

‘OK, here goes. You should go back in time in the next chapter and keep the readers waiting for the denouement. There’s a bit you left unexplained anyway so it will keep them interested while they’re flicking through the pages like they’re swatting a fly.’ I can feel the excitement oozing out of him as he adds, ‘Ooh, they’ll be so eager to get to the next chapter.’

I must admit, I’m quite impressed with the idea and I quickly jot it down in my little notepad in the semi-darkness, hoping it will be legible in the morning. It’s not long before I fill in two pages then I switch the lamp back off and try to relax.

But the brain is fully awake now and it’s not long before he disturbs me again. ‘Eh, I’ve thought of something else.’

‘Don’t push your luck! I only agreed to the one idea.’

‘But I’ve thought of a great cliff-hanger. Chapter 41, the one you’ve just written, it ended a bit drearily, didn’t it?’

‘It wasn’t that bad.’

‘Oh, it was! And it wasn’t half as good as chapter 40. But I know a way you can spice it up.’

I try to ignore him and carry on with my quest to get back to sleep. ‘You’ll thank me for it in the morning,’ he whispers, tapping at my skull.

‘You’re such a pain in the arse!’

‘Yeah, but you love me for it, don’t you?’

Emoticons-Sleeping-face-11150-large

I can’t resist a smile as I switch the lamp back on and scribble down some more notes. Again, I’m impressed. My conscious mind would never have thought of that. This time I switch the light off quickly, turn over and wrap the duvet around my head, in a vague attempt to drown out the constant interruptions. But it’s no use; he’s soon making his presence felt.

‘Psst. Me again. Have you thought about what you’re going to put in the chapter after next?’

‘No, I’ll deal with it in the morning.’

‘You sure?’ he asks, sounding hurt. ‘Only…’

‘Stop it! You’re giving me bloody writer’s cramp.’

‘I’m worth it though. Go on. Write it down. You know you want to… Please… Pretty please.’

I swipe the duvet viciously away, feeling myself weakening into submission again. ‘For God’s sake! Why do you always get your own bloody way?’

‘Because you love me.’

‘You wish! And stop being so bloody cute!’ I say resignedly as I switch on the lamp for the third time.

The thought occurs to me that if there are shift workers living across the way, then they probably think I’m practising Morse code. This bloody lamp has been on and off so many times, and it was the same last night. What I wouldn’t give for a decent night’s sleep! But I know that will be impossible until I’ve cracked it with this novel.

After the fourth interruption, I finally settle down to sleep. But I wake up in the morning feeling groggy with the after-effects of a restless night. I switch on the lamp one more time and swing my legs out of bed.

Then I notice it. The pad on the bedside cabinet. I pick it up and quickly flick through. Five pages full of notes, both sides. Wow! I’m ecstatic.

‘Y’know brain, you’re not so bad after all,’ I admit, grudgingly.

‘It’s only because I care. I did it all for you.’

I smile. ‘I know. I suppose it was worth it.’

Then I rush downstairs, determined to overcome my grogginess and get this lot down on the PC while I’m still buzzing.

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My Lockdown Launch

Today is publication day for Crystal, the third book in The Working Girls series, and I must admit it is the strangest book launch I have ever had. Usually, I would go for a meal with friends and/or family to celebrate but with everybody in lockdown due to the Coronavirus, that isn’t possible. I therefore intend to celebrate online instead.


The Coronavirus has affected the launch in other ways too. Publication date has been brought forward by a month to replace the scheduled launch of Vendetta in paperback. This is because digital books are selling much better than paperbacks at the moment due to the book shops being closed. Also, the blog tour will be going ahead on the dates that had already been scheduled i.e. from 4th June through to 17th June. This is because this had already been arranged with bloggers.


Here is the book blurb for Crystal:


THE PIMP.
When Crystal’s pimp, protector and former lover, Gilly, dies of a drugs overdose Crystal is bereft. She refuses the paid protection of a rival pimp, determined to go it alone. But a vicious beating from a client leaves her feeling vulnerable and angry.
THE JUDGE.
Meanwhile, Crystal’s daughter, Candice, is asking difficult questions about her job. Crystal decides it’s time to make some changes, and, when a high-profile judge offers her payment to keep schtum about his nefarious activities, it gives her an idea. Perhaps other clients will also pay for her silence…
THE REVENGE.
Crystal engages on a revenge mission to rob, blackmail and expose her most depraved clients. But some of these men are highly dangerous and, if Crystal wants to exact her plan of revenge, she must accept the risks that go with it.


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Thank you to everybody who has bought a copy to date. I hope you enjoy Crystal’s story. If you haven’t yet bought a copy, you can grab one at: http://viewbook.at/Crystal or, if you prefer to read on the Kobo, you can find the book at: http://bit.ly/2GSlhZp.


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Changes to Publication Dates

Due to the Coronavirus my publishers have decided to make some changes to the publication dates for forthcoming books in order to cater to market demand. This will affect two of my forthcoming publications, Crystal (digital) and Vendetta (print).
I’ll start with the good news – we could all do with some of that at the moment. The publication date for Crystal is to be brought forward from early June to 7th May, which means it’s less than four weeks away – yippee! This is because book demand at the moment is predominantly for digital books rather than print due to book shops being closed. Here’s the Amazon link for pre-orders:
http://viewbook.at/Crystal, and the Kobo link is: http://bit.ly/2GSlhZp.
Here’s the not so good news.
A print version of Vendetta was previously scheduled for 7th May and was due to be stocked by book shops. However, due to the closure of book shops print demand has fallen by 80%. Therefore, the print launch date has been deferred. Currently the new date is August but this might change depending on the effects of lockdown. I will let you know as soon as I have updates.
It is still possible to order a print version on Amazon at: http://bit.ly/2GSlhZp by following the link and selecting the ‘paperback’ option.
Take care, stay safe and happy reading.

Reasons to Stay Positive

In a scary couple of weeks that has seen me and both of my adult children become ill with Coronavirus symptoms, I thought I would try to draw some positives out of the current situation.

While I appreciate that the position in the world right now is dire, I always find that positive thinking helps me to fight off anxiety and depression when I’m going through bad times. With concerns over mental health issues during the lockdown, I’m hoping that this post will also help other people to think of their own positives.

  1. Although there is a good chance that me and my two children may have had Coronavirus (due to the fact that my son has been in contact with Coronavirus patients) the good news is that we all displayed mild symptoms and we have all fully recovered.
  2. As a home worker I can still work and don’t have to face the additional worry of financial hardship.
  3. We are going to have one hell of a party when this is all over.
  4. If a similar situation should ever arise again in the future, hopefully the world will be more prepared and we may have such things in place as vaccines, testing and protective equipment.
  5. Even though I’m still working, I have a bit more time on my hands. It’s a refreshing change not to be constantly rushing around.
  6. The time spent on lockdown will give us all time to reflect on how we live our lives so that we can hopefully make changes for better in the future.
  7. Humanity is a wonderful thing. I believe that current events have brought out the human side in so many people and it’s great to hear tales of people offering support to one another.
  8. I have had the same bit of cash in my purse for about three weeks and not had to rush to the cashpoint.
  9. I’ve not had to fill the car with petrol either.
  10. Many people staying at home are reading more, which is a good thing for authors.
  11. We can all watch holiday programmes and plan for the wonderful trips we will make when everything is back to normal.
  12. I’ve not had to do any ironing because who sees (or even cares) what I look like at the moment.
  13. I am currently focusing on diet and exercise to build myself up in case I haven’t had the virus and also to look after my general wellbeing. I am not eating out, having takeaways or boozy nights out. The upshot of this, I hope, is weight loss.
  14. I’ve found some online software that enables me to have a virtual party with my friends – maybe I should put the weight loss on hold for the time being.

I know that not everybody can draw the same positives and that some people are suffering real heartache and hardship because of the Coronavirus. However, I’m hoping that many people are able to draw some positives out of the current situation and I hope this post helps.

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The Work and Social Impact of Coronavirus

Watching recent news and social media posts, it’s easy to get swallowed up by all the mass hysteria surrounding the Coronavirus. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not playing down its effects but it’s sometimes best to stop, take a breather and try to take a more positive approach to what is happening.

I must admit that I succumbed to a bit of self-pity this morning. In recent weeks I lost my father and added to that is the fact that my children might not be able to make it home for Mother’s day because of the virus. As part of my coping mechanism when my father died I decided to get out and keep busy as much as I could knowing that I couldn’t afford to revisit the chronic depression I suffered when I lost my mother.

But, recent news announcements suggest that I would be irresponsible to go out any more than necessary and I don’t want to do anything that will place either me or other people at risk. I therefore thought that as a homeworker and asthmatic that lives predominantly alone I might be faced with weeks on end stuck at home feeling bored and depressed.

I think that when something catastrophic like this happens we all look at how it will affect us as individuals and how it will affect our loved ones. Most of us are innately self-interested but I think it pays to look outside of that sometimes. That is what I did this morning and I found that I can draw some positives out of my own situation, and I’m hoping that other people will be able to do so too. These are just my immediate thoughts about my own situation but I’m sure others will come to me:

  1. As a homeworker I don’t have to worry about not being able to work unlike a lot of bar, restaurant and other workers who will be faced with weeks of no pay or even redundancy. My heart goes out to them – it must be a really worrying time.
  2. With today’s technology it is easier than ever to keep in touch with people, not only by messaging but also by video link using the various apps available. I usually only do video calls with my children and partner but I’m considering extending this to other friends and family.
  3. I can do as many exercise classes as I want via You Tube on my TV – Step, Zumba, Tai Chi, the possibilities are endless. And exercise is a great way to lift mood because of those endorphins. I can even extend this to as many friends as I can fit in my lounge while keeping a safe distance and, because we’re all friends together, we could take whatever measures we wanted to protect ourselves without feeling self-conscious. (I’ve got a mental image of us wearing masks and latex gloves, carrying our own bottled water and disinfecting the door handles.) We might even have a laugh while we’re doing it.
  4. The weather is picking up so it’s a good time to get out in the garden – working or relaxing. There are so many things you can do including giving it a facelift by painting fences etc.
  5. It’s also good to go out for a walk or a bike ride if you have an outdoor area that isn’t too populated, for example, if you live near the countryside.
  6. I’m also looking at my diet, trying to eat healthily and take my vitamins to build up my immunity. As part of this I’m trying to cook more healthy meals that I can stock in my freezer.

These ideas have led me to think about other people and steps they could take to help themselves. If you’re facing reduced hours or redundancy then it might be an opportunity to focus on a skill that might prove lucrative in the future. I know the situation is grave at the moment but some good might come out of it in the long run. My own writing career started after I spent a period as a stay at home mum and decided on a complete career change. I can honestly say I’ve never looked back as I wasn’t very happy in my previous career.

There are also opportunities to make money online. You could sell hand-crafted items on Etsy on unwanted items on Ebay, Amazon or Facebook marketplace. You might even have a skill that could make you money online via sites like Upwork, Guru and PPH or even by shouting about it on social media.

I have also been inspired by a couple of news items such as the one regarding the family of a Coronavirus victim in Manchester who have asked for no flowers at his funeral, just acts of kindness. Then there are the two ladies in Altrincham who are making sure that elderly and vulnerable people in their area are not left isolated or in need of shopping etc. This kind of community spirit is needed at a time like this.

Most of us can also draw comfort from the fact that the vast majority of people survive Coronavirus. Currently the mortality rate in the UK is just over 2%. Although it will be difficult for those affected, many of us can look forwards to a time when the virus is behind us and we have survived it.

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