My First Radio Interview

I have avoided radio interviews up to now as public speaking isn’t really my thing. However, deep down I realise that, as part of the publicity for my books, it is something that I will have to confront eventually – just not quite yet. Press interviews, on the other hand, I’m quite comfortable with, having done quite a few to publicise both books. I’ve also been on the other side of things, conducting many interviews in order to write case studies and magazine features on behalf of clients.

Although my books have been featured in a number of parenting magazines, websites and blogs, they haven’t been covered by local press until now. When I approached the Tameside Reporter they replied asking if I would also do an interview for the local radio – ‘Oh dear, the day of reckoning has arrived,’ I thought. I was then told that the interview would take place in my home and recorded with snippets of it being used for radio. This put my mind at ease knowing that I wouldn’t have to speak live on the radio.

When the day of the interview arrived I wasn’t particularly nervous, because I knew it wasn’t going out live. However, the minute the microphone was placed inches from my mouth I immediately Microphonebroke out in a sweat. The microphone was so near to me that I felt as though not only my voice would be picked up but also every sharp intake of breath, clearing of the throat, cough, mumble, fidget and maybe even the sound of my thudding heart – or so it seemed. It was a good experience though as it forced me to ‘get over myself’ and concentrate on the matter in hand. So I tried to focus on the interview and forget the presence of the microphone, although it wasn’t easy as the menacing little machine was positioned in the forefront of my field of vision, looming threateningly between me and the reporter.

On the day when the news item went out I cringed as I listened to myself talking about my book (I actually hate the sound of my own voice). As proud as I am of my Manchester roots, I don’t think the Mancunian accent is the most appealing in the world. Anyway, my piece went out at the end of the news every hour from 14:00 till 18:00. They used a couple of quotes from the interview and rotated them in two sets. I have to say that the second set sounded better than the first where I was a little repetitive. All in all though, it wasn’t too bad for a first time. You can catch the item on the Tameside Radio listen again feature by selecting 4/2/14 then listening to the news at any time between 14:00 and 18:00; my piece is at the end of the local news items.

The day after I’d listened to my piece on the radio I dashed out to buy this week’s Tameside Reporter so that I could read the accompanying feature. I quickly flicked through the newspaper twice before concluding that the item wasn’t being featured. ‘Oh no,’ I thought, ‘Was I really that bad?’ Curiously I scanned the front page to see what type of stories make the local press. And there it was, in small letters at the end of the feature headings, ‘Next week – local author’s kids’ party book release.’ So, next week will see me rushing out for my local newspaper once again.

Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK) is available to purchase in both a digital and print version from Amazon.
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Book Promotion Continued

It’s been a busy week with the ongoing promotion for “Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK)”. Here are just a few of the exciting things that have been happening:

Book Reviews

“Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK)” has already received some favourable reviews on Amazon. Here are some of the comments:

“Great ‘dip into’ resource for harassed parents with shallow pockets! Well researched, well written and easy to use. I would recommend this book to all parents/carers in need of inspiration in organising kids’ parties with a difference without breaking the bank!”
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“A real gem, I would recommend this to anyone, the possibilities for its use are endless. There are also exclusive offers and discounts available too, which is amazing. Me being a neat freak means that this book greatly appeals to me as it is so organised and informative, and parents who are more fly by the seat of your pants people will love this book for its simplicity and ease of use. A great idea.”
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“Who knew there were so many choices for birthday parties in the UK! There are some great ideas I never would have thought of. This guide is full of useful tips too, the detail the author has gone into is fab. A great one stop shop, will save me plenty of time trawling the internet for ideas.”
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The book will be featured on a couple of parenting review sites and parenting magazines over the next few weeks. The first of these is already online at the book reviews for mums website and you can see it here. Big thanks to Becky Goddard-Hill for kindly featuring a review of my book on her website.

Local Press InterviewRadio Interview

I’ve got my first local press interview on Monday for a feature about me and my books, which will appear in next week’s edition of the Tameside Reporter together with a competition to win a copy of the book. The interview will be recorded for local radio as well, which will be a bit nerve-wracking, but it’s all part of the author experience. Additionally, I’m waiting to hear back from a local magazine about the possibility of a photocall at my local bookshop.

Stockists

Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK)” is available in digital and print versions at Amazon and can be ordered online from Waterstones. I have also arranged with a couple of book/gift shops to take initial stock of a few copies of the book. However, at this point it isn’t a long-term arrangement so fingers crossed that the books will sell well with them.

If you have any questions or tips on book promotion for independent authors, please feel free to share your comments in the box below.

New Year Writing Plans 2014

What an exciting year lies ahead! As well as doing the promotion for my second parenting book I hope to publish my debut novel at last. In fact, in some ways this year may see the culmination of many years of writing effort for me. Read on to find out what I have planned.

Book Promotion 

My second parenting book “Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK)” was published to the Kindle at the end of November. Since then I have been absorbed by a mixture of working on client projects and arranging to have the book printed cost-effectively. The latter has proved more challenging than I anticipated as the book is in colour, which is expensive to print. Thankfully I got there in the end; my book is now with the printer and I hope to release the print version very soon. However, time spent searching for the right printing arrangement together with my client workload have meant that my promotional efforts have been virtually nil.Emails

As we go into the New Year I intend to remedy this situation. My first port of call will be with the parenting magazines and fortunately I have a list of contact details that I used when I marketed my first parenting book. Because many of the regional parenting magazines are issued quarterly, they have quite lengthy lead-in times. This means I need to approach them now if I want to secure any editorial in their Easter editions. If I manage to achieve this it should coincide quite nicely with the special offers featured in the book as they start to become effective from April onwards.

As well as approaching parenting magazines I will be contacting various parenting blogs and others involved with childcare, children’s parties, family days out and additional related topics. Hopefully they will be interested in guest blog posts, interviews or features related to the book. Once I receive my shiny new copies of the book I will also be hauling it around various book shops and gift shops. So, it looks as though the promotion will be keeping me busy for a few weeks yet.

Debut Novel

I know I’ve been promising this for some time, but I will definitely be publishing my debut novel this year. It has already been written – it just needs, fact-checking, editing and proof-reading and then I’m ready to run with it. In fact, it was written many years ago. At the moment though, I want to concentrate on promoting “Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK)” as much as possible. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that it is a quality product that will appeal to book shops and others. I therefore owe it to myself to continue my efforts now that I have reached the promotion stage.

Schedule NovelOnce I feel that I’ve given it my all I will start to shift my focus onto the novel. One thing I will say though is that novel writing requires a different writing approach to non-fiction writing. I therefore intend to brush up on some of the techniques that I learnt on my writing course as I’ve become a little rusty. If I come across any valuable writing tips I’ll share them via the blog. It will be interesting to view my own work from yesteryear and see what I think of it now that I have the benefit of a few years commercial writing experience.

Website

As well as doing a bit of snagging and general tidying up of my main website (http://www.dianemannion.co.uk/), I also have other plans for the website in the long-term. These plans will involve an extension of the book page (http://www.dianemannion.co.uk/books.html) by adding book excerpts and other book related information and functionality. I’m also planning to host interviews of fellow authors on the blog. (N.B. My WordPress blog is imbedded into the blog page of my main website so you can also access it from there.) These plans are all for the long-term though. I figure I’ve got enough to concentrate on for now.

I have to say that the Christmas break has enabled me to relax and refocus. Prior to Christmas I was becoming totally encumbered with work and more than a little frustrated as I seemed to be ‘chasing my tail’ and not getting very far. Thankfully I am now feeling more refreshed and ready to face the challenges and hopefully the joys that 2014 will bring. How about you? What are your plans for the coming year – writing or otherwise? Please feel free to share them using the comments box below.

Colour Printing Options for Books

When I decided to publish my second parenting book in colour I knew that the colour printing costs with CreateSpace were extortionate. The same applies to Lulu. This basically relates to the fact that they charge for full colour even if only a small proportion of the book is in colour. So, that was the easy alternatives out of my reach. I therefore started to do some digging around in order to find more cost-effective solutions. I knew from reading Joanne Phillip’s marvellously informative blog (http://joannegphillips.wordpress.com/) that she had used various printing options so I asked her for some advice which she was more than happy to give – thanks again Joanne.

Becoming your own Publisher

Book PublishingBasically, because I had applied for my own ISBN numbers the first time round I was effectively acting as my own publisher. This meant that there were less restrictions and I could go direct to a printer. Lightning Source (LSI) are a good option in the UK because they will list your book with Amazon, Gardners wholesalers etc. for a fee of just £8.40 a year. However, it is possible to get your book listed yourself. To do so you have to register as the publisher with Nielsen’s PubWeb service.

I had listed my previous book on Nielsen’s BookNet so that I could receive any orders that came from wholesalers but I didn’t realise that I needed to register with PubWeb too. The link to PubWeb is http://www.nielsenbookdata.com/pubweb. If you click the ‘Not a registered user?’ link you will go through to a screen where there is a further link to a downloadable registration form. Once you have registered you can add your books and make updates to them such as adding the cover images etc. For BookNet the link is http://www.nielsenbooknet.co.uk. Select the Publishers & Distributors option from the menu and there are links further down the page for smaller self-distributing publishers. Self-distributing basically means that you hold your own stocks.

Once you have listed your book with PubWeb there is a good chance that booksellers will pick up your book details from the PubWeb records and list them on their own records. The PubWeb website warns you that it can take up to twenty weeks for this to happen but I found that the print version of my book was listed in the Amazon store within a week and with Waterstones online shortly after. One of my next tasks is to register as an Amazon seller so that I can receive orders directly from Amazon once the print version is available.

Staying Local

Joanne also kindly recommended a UK-based printer that would print in colour at reasonable cost. However, I also decided to shop around for others. There are now many printers offering a print on demand service for books and some will allow you to obtain an on-screen estimate. Just try entering ‘Book Printers UK’ into Google to see a good selection. I’m not sure what the position is in other countries but I have a feeling it will be similar because printers will want to cater to the demand prompted by the ‘Indie revolution’. As with CreateSpace, the charges per book usually become lower as the size of your order increases. Additionally, because I could obtain online quotes this enabled me to narrow down my options for orders of different sizes before making further enquiries.

Buying Local

One of the advantages of having a printer in your country of residence is that the staff are more accessible. That makes it easy to pick up the phone and address any concerns and get answers to your questions. I find that by speaking to the staff you can often get a feel for how efficient they are. The other advantage is in terms of postage and packing. Not only are the costs much cheaper but I’m not expecting the inevitable delays that I get with CreateSpace orders that are shipped from America.

I didn’t go for the lowest priced printer in the end. I chose Biddles because they were reasonably priced and Nigel Mitchell has been very efficient up to now as well as really helpful.

Typesetting

Joanne Phillips has previously written a blog about doing your own typesetting (gosh that lady should be wearing a halo by now). Seriously though, if you aren’t already reading Joanne’s blog, I can’t recommend it enough. I wasn’t brave enough to attempt the typesetting myself. As I want to place this book with book shops and gift shops it’s very important to me that it looks as professional as possible and I was frightened of making a complete hash of it. Nevertheless Joanne’s blog did come in extremely handy.

PrintingThe one drawback I found with a lot of printers was that they charge a lot for typesetting and as colour printing is still expensive (even if it’s only part colour), these additional costs would reduce my profit margins considerably. I therefore decided on a cheaper alternative by advertising the job on People per Hour and specifying my own budget. The guy I chose seemed to have good credentials, 30+ years’ experience in the printing industry etc. etc. However, it soon became evident that his experience was more with posters, brochures etc. rather than books. Some of his design features were great but he placed less emphasis on paragraph alignment, spacing, margin sizes etc.

I think I would go for a low cost option again but I would be sure to check that the person I employed had specific experience with typesetting books as this would have saved me a lot of time. Thankfully, I knew enough to point him in the right direction and my printer was very helpful and supportive. Eventually we got there and the finished document is now with the printer. It looks stunning, especially the images, and I can’t wait to see the book in print. The Kindle version also has colour pics and you can see an interior view at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00GXHQ02G.

It’s on with the promotion now while I wait for the print copies to arrive. I hope these tips have helped others. If you have any questions or any tips of your own to share, please feel free to comment in the box below.

Cover Reveal – “Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK)”

Here it is at last – the cover for my new book “Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK)”. I’ve finally reached the formatting and proofreading stage so I should be publishing the Kindle version soon. Following that, I’ll be making arrangements to have a print version published. If you want to be informed of the launch dates you can subscribe to my mailing list. I promise not to divulge your details to any third parties and will only use your email address to send you updates regarding my books.
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You may have noticed the starburst so I’ll tell you a little more:
There are 13 special offers in the back of the book from 11 organisations and they’re all exclusive to people buying the book. Some of the organisations are big, well-known companies so it’s well worth buying the book to save money on your children’s birthday parties. In my next blog post I’ll be listing the organisations that are featuring offers in the book. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you.
The book has a similar cover to my first book, “Kids’ Clubs and Organisations” because they are part of a series of parenting books that I will be writing. However, each of these books can be read separately as well. There are 23 organisations featured in the book altogether. The three photographs shown on the cover were supplied by three of the organisations featured in the book: Wacky Warehouse, My Pamper Parties and Tameside Sports Trust. You’ll also find lots of lovely colour photographs throughout the book, which most of the organisations have kindly supplied. Co-ordinating all the information, photographs etc. was a challenge so it’s good to have reached this stage and I can’t wait to finally complete and publish the book.

Are Amazon Revealing too Much?

I’m referring specifically to Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature. “A great idea”, many may say, both from an author’s and a reader’s point of view. For novelists it gives them the opportunity to display the quality of their work. Hopefully they will also be able to hook the reader so that he or she will want to read more and will therefore purchase the book.

From the reader’s point of view this feature is also advantageous. Often readers can tell in the first few pages whether they will enjoy a book. So, this facility gives readers the chance to sample the product before making a purchasing decision.

A situation where everyone wins, you may think. But what if you are a non-fiction author?

Amazon Look Inside FeatureThe Disadvantage for Non-Fiction Authors

This feature can cause problems for non-fiction authors. I will cite my first book “Kids’ Clubs and Organisations” as a specific example to illustrate my point. I think that the ‘Look Inside’ feature was detrimental to my first book and I remember feeling displeased when Amazon automatically added it. Although I had a good look around the author area I couldn’t find a way to opt out of this, but I am a self-confessed technophobe so it may just be that I couldn’t find the instructions. If anyone knows how to remove the ‘Look Inside’ feature I would be eternally grateful for your guidance.

The reason why I feel that ‘Look Inside’ has been detrimental to my first book is because one of the book’s selling points is that it introduces parents to kids’ clubs that they may not have realised existed. The contents page describes exactly what type of clubs they are, so some people, having been given the idea for free, could decide to do their own research. Of course, there will be many details that they won’t find on the Internet as I gained a lot of input from the organisations involved with the book. However, this is something that people won’t realise when they view the contents page. I think this disadvantage may have influenced the fact that I sold far more books outside of Amazon than I sold through the site.

I am not saying that this is the only factor that influenced my Amazon sales. Another factor may be because the title is quite formal and may make the book appear more like a library reference book rather than a book that parents and children can read together. I have addressed this factor with my new book by making the title more parent and child friendly. I also hope to include lots of lovely colour images. There is no doubt that self-publishing teaches you a lot and I have taken on board all the lessons that I learnt during the publication and promotion of my first book.

How my Second Book will address the ‘Look Inside’ Issue

With my second book I am avoiding the above situation by making my chapter headings more cryptic, then putting a sub-heading inside the book, which expands on the main chapter heading. The cryptic headings are also intended to add to the fun factor so that the book will appeal to parents and their children.

I have noticed that some authors put the contents page at the back of their Kindle books and I wonder if they do this so that readers don’t see the contents until they buy the book. From a reader’s perspective, however, I prefer to see the contents page at the start of the book, and this is the reason why I have decided not to follow this path.

N.B. My second book is nearing completion and I will be sharing more information about the book on this blog and on the books page of my website in the coming weeks.

If you have a view regarding the Amazon ‘Look Inside’ feature, I would love to receive your feedback in the comments box below.

When the Going Gets Tough for Authors

It’s a fact that an author’s job is not an easy one. To start with you have to keep coming up with original ideas that will appeal to readers. You also have to make your books engaging so that people will want to keep reading them. Then there’s the research, outlining, drafting, re-drafting and endless edits. If you are an independent author then your job is even more demanding as there are so many other jobs to add to the list: proofreading, cover design, publication and promotion are all your responsibility.
While it’s possible to hire help for some of the work, the costs can soon add up so most Indies choose to do the bulk of the work themselves. With all that to consider, it’s not surprising that many of us get more than a bit disheartened from time to time. So I thought I would explore which elements of the job get to us and what we can do about them.

1) Writer’s Block

This is a common problem for many writers but it is often only temporary in nature and allowing yourself some time out can work wonders.

Plan of ActionOverworked Brain

My previous post on writer’s block included many tips so I won’t repeat the same points here. The important thing to bear in mind though is that it’s your brain’s way of letting you know that it’s tired and needs a rest. Therefore, you shouldn’t feel guilty if you take some time out to concentrate on other things, then return to your writing when you’re feeling refreshed.

2) Bad Reviews

Getting bad reviews is one thing, and I think that most of us can accept a little constructive criticism, but there certain reviews that can only be described as toxic. These can really shake your confidence and leave you asking yourself, ‘Is my work really that bad?’ However, it’s important to put things into perspective; the type of people that write ‘nasty’ reviews are probably ‘nasty’ people that are perpetually angry with the world, or prone to complaining – think ‘Victor Meldrew’. Unfortunately, people can be far more eager to leave a bad review than they are to leave a good one. This can be said of most of us; if we have a great holiday then we just accept it, but what if the hotel has poor service with faulty air conditioning and tasteless food?

Plan of Action

If your good reviews far outweigh the bad ones then I think you can safely assume that it’s a one off from someone who has a grudge against the world in general. Although it can be hurtful, potential readers will be far more likely to judge a book by the percentage of good reviews received. Therefore, if your book has dozens of glowing four and five star reviews then it’s highly unlikely that a reader will be swayed by one negative one.

What should you do though if you’re receiving a lot of bad reviews?

To start with try to look at the reviews dispassionately, perhaps when you’ve recovered from the initial shock. What are the readers criticising? Is there a common theme? Are there errors that you can put right? Whilst I would hesitate to make changes because of one poor review, I would certainly consider them if the same point is being made repeatedly.
Another way to counter the pain of a poor review is to think about your achievements so far and re-read your positive reviews. The fact that you have been able to self-publish is a feat in itself. Although it may seem like the world and his wife are self-publishing, especially if you spend time on social media, when taken as a percentage of the population, self-published authors actually make up a very small number.

3) Slow Sales

Slow SalesBuilding up a regular readership is something that the majority of Indie authors struggle with especially if you started out after the Amazon algorithms changed. When you see other authors having huge successes it’s important to bear in mind that there may be a number of reasons for this: they may have had to work at it for several years, they may have good contacts that can gain them a lot of publicity, or they may have done a free promo through Amazon before the algorithm changed. In the case of the latter, this propelled many authors to huge successes, but unfortunately it’s a little more difficult now.

Plan of Action

Although promotion takes up a lot of time, there are always other avenues that you can explore. Social media is a good promotional avenue in itself but it can also lead to contacts with book bloggers, reviewers and magazine editors. It pays to do a bit of lateral thinking as well when it comes to promotion; what is the topic of your book and could there be a promotional avenue that is linked to that topic? This is particularly advantageous for non-fiction authors but there can be outlets for fiction authors too. For example, if your book has a particular setting, could you contact the regional press in that area with a view to featuring either you or your book?
As you establish contact with other independent authors on social media, you could share ideas regarding promotion methods that have led to an increase in sales. Take a look at successful independent authors and find out what techniques they are using to promote their books; most of them will put links from Twitter or Facebook to any reviews, interviews, blogs etc. Another thing to bear in mind, however, is that different methods work for different genres. There is a wealth of information about book promotion on the Internet so do some research and find out what promotional avenues will work for you.
Going back to some of the points made in section two about bad reviews, it is also worth considering whether your book is doing enough to sell itself. Does the cover stand out and let readers know what the book is about? Will the book blurb draw readers in, and have you ensured that it is free of spelling and grammatical errors?

4) Volume of WorkVolume of Work

Yes, there’s no doubt about it, us Indies are a busy lot. One of my personal frustrations is that I spend too much time doing ‘other things’ and not enough time actually writing. To reiterate the points made in the introduction to this article, it is possible to hire help if you feel overwhelmed with the volume of work, but what if your budget won’t stretch to that?

Plan of Action

Prioritise – alright so it might seem a drag making a ‘to do’ list or putting notes in a diary but unless you set yourself targets, how can you hope to achieve them? Make sure that the daily list of tasks is achievable but don’t be too disappointed if you don’t finish everything on it. There are always other things that can crop up so it’s best to allow for contingencies. As well as daily lists you could also set yourself some long term goals, for example, you may aim to finish writing a specific chapter by a certain date. Again, there will be other tasks that will crop up but setting yourself a target will give you a focus and stop you spending too much time on worthless tasks. One of the things that writers find challenging is self-motivation, and setting yourself targets is one way of motivating yourself.

5) Social Media Addiction

Although social media is a very useful tool for independent writers it can also be time consuming. You can get so carried away with it that before you know it you’re halfway through the day and haven’t even begun to tackle your workload. I must confess to being guilty of this and I continually admonish myself.

Plan of Action

Social MediaAlthough I feel guilty if I feel that I’ve spent too long on social media, I really shouldn’t. As stated above, it’s an excellent promotional tool in itself and can also lead to establishing lots of valuable contacts. Aside from that, the life of a writer is a very solitary one and it can be good to have some online interaction with others. After all, you would expect to have a chat with your colleagues when you arrive at work, wouldn’t you? However, if you feel that you are getting too carried away you could always set yourself a time limit. A handy hint is to switch off your Internet while you’re writing unless you need to use it for research. I use ‘Outlook’ for email and it’s too tempting to react to the little yellow envelopes that appear at the bottom of the screen whenever I receive a new email. I therefore shut it down if I’m working on a piece of work with a tight deadline, to avoid temptation.

In terms of general tips to get you through the tough times, try thinking of all those famous authors that had multiple rejections prior to becoming successful. Additionally, as Indies we no longer have to rely on literary agents and publishers, and thankfully we have found a platform for our work to be published. The fact that our work is out there and being read by people is a wonderful achievement!

Thank you for reading this post. If there are any other tough elements of the job that you can think of, please feel free to share them. I also welcome your tips and suggestions for coping with the problems that authors encounter.