New Aria Contract

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve just signed a new three book contract with Aria at Head of Zeus. Again, it’s for a series of three books but I’ll probably extend the series to four books in the future. Although all of the books have a common background they will each tell a different story. Book one will introduce the characters and setting, and each subsequent book will focus on one of the characters’ own story.

I’m already making progress with the first book, which will be available next summer. In the meantime, Vendetta, book three in my Manchester trilogy is due to be published on 2nd October, and is currently available for pre-order from Amazon. If you haven’t yet bought your copy, here is the link: http://viewbook.at/VendettaMcr.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Ritherdon, Editorial Director at Aria. Sarah has worked closely with me virtually since I signed up with Aria for my previous contract. She is brilliantly supportive to work with and a great editor who is able to spot areas of my novels that can be improved and make useful suggestions. It was lovely to be able to put a face to the name.

During our meeting we discussed Aria’s plans for my writing career, as well as my ideas for future novels. Aria have some very exciting plans in terms of promoting my books and getting them into the hands of even more readers. In fact, as part of ongoing promotion, both Slur and Born Bad are currently on sale. Slur is available for 99p at the moment and Born bad at £1.87, giving readers a chance to try the first book in each of my trilogies at a bargain price. If you would like to take advantage of the sale price, here are the links:

Slur: http://getbook.at/Slur.

Born Bad: http://viewBook.at/BornBad.

I’m very excited to be working with Aria again, and will keep you updated regarding the publication of new books.

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My New Office

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time. It’s now eight months since I moved house and I’ve set up an office in the back of the house so I thought I’d share some pictures with you. The room is actually a small conservatory which was lovely and cosy in the winter but has been too hot in the current climate. Fortunately I’m on Google Drive so I’ve been able to upload my work to the cloud and work on my laptop in a cooler part of the house.

Although I’ve had blinds fitted to all the windows in the office and a screen guard to stop glare from the sun, what I really need is a roof blind. It’s on my list of things still to do/buy in my new home and I expect that by next summer I’ll be sorted. Then, if it’s still too hot I’ll probably add a small air conditioning unit. Apart from that the only other thing I want to change is to swap the large cabinet for a smaller one as it dominates the room at the moment. However, that would mean yet another clear out and I’ve had enough of those for the time being.

I’m one of those writers who is happiest having a separate area of the home where I can work uninterrupted. There is always so much to do when you move house but at least for now I’ve got a work space which is comfortable most of the time, and which has the potential to be a pleasant, self-contained work area in the future.

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My First Year with a Publisher

It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since I signed my publishing contract with Aria Fiction at Head of Zeus. A lot has happened in that time and the year seems to have flown by. So, I thought it was a good time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to what is in store in the future.

Progress so Far

At the time of writing Born Bad is currently ranked 82 on Amazon UK out of over 5 million books, and for the last couple of weeks it has hovered around the 100 mark. The highest rank it has achieved so far was 58 on two occasions. It has also received some excellent reviews. Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled as it has exceeded all my expectations.  

I am gaining a growing fan base which is wonderful to see. People are going on to read my other books as well as signing up to my mailing list and following me on social media.

At the moment I am polishing up book two so that I can send it to my publishers in a few weeks’ time, and it will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon.

What I’ve Learned

Working with a publisher means that there are lots of tight deadlines to meet. However, this is good for me as I am usually a massive procrastinator and it has made me become more self-disciplined with my writing routine.

It is wonderful to have the knowledge and support of a professional publisher which has been brilliant in terms of editing, marketing and promotion. Marketing encompasses a whole spectrum of activity from cover design to the book blurb and everything after that. At every stage it is specifically tailored to reach the target readership.

In terms of promotion, I have found that ads on large reader websites do work provided they are targeted, and this is one aspect in which my publishers have a wealth of knowledge and experience. A good publisher can also reach areas that I couldn’t have reached as an independent author e.g. the Amazon Summer Sale, which features only a few hundred books out of the millions available on Amazon UK.

Support

No matter what questions I have, my publishers are always on hand with help and advice. I am also connecting with other Aria authors who are a friendly, supportive bunch and I am discovering some great books that have been written by them. I still also keep in touch with some of my Indie author friends who have been very supportive over the years. 

Future Plans

The second book in the trilogy will be published at the end of this year/beginning of next although it will be available for pre-order on Amazon long before that. The third and final book in the trilogy will be published next summer.

After that, I would love to work with Aria again provided we can agree terms. I have a lot of ideas for other crime novels which I am looking forward to writing in the future.

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Why do you Love Being an Author?

During a recent email chat with an author friend we were discussing how frustrated we become when other work pulls us away from writing our novels. I commented that it was probably because other work didn’t give us the same sense of satisfaction as writing novels. This led me to thinking – just what is it about being an author that is so satisfying? So I thought it would be interesting to try to pin down some of the reasons:

Escapism – When writing a novel you can escape into your own world which can be anything you want it to be. That does beg the question – why is my writing world full of violence, bad language and warped characters, and why does that give me so much satisfaction? Hmmm!

Creativity – I gain a sense of fulfilment in having created something from nothing and I’ve no doubt it’s the same for other authors. Your book is like your baby that you feel proud of and it gives you tSatisfied Readerhat special feeling of having nurtured it from start to finish. A lot of us are familiar with the buzz of holding the print version of our own book in our hands or seeing it on the shelf in our local book store or library.

Reader Satisfaction – It’s lovely to receive feedback from readers and know that somebody has enjoyed one of your books.

Organisation and Planning – In the (non-writing) world of work, good organisation was always one of my strengths and I think that both non-fiction and fiction books require good organisation skills. You have to be able to plan the chapters, and carefully interweave the main plot and sub-plots. Organisation and planning are also important in achieving a good balance with the pacing of a novel. Because of my organised nature I actually enjoy these challenges.

Kudos – If I’m honest it’s always flattering when people take an interest in what I do although I also get a little embarrassed sometimes. Even though there are increasing numbers of people publishing books, it still attracts a lot of attention when you say that you have written and published a book.Money Pile

Huge Potential for Financial Gain – Yes, there’s a golden carrot dangling on the end of that metaphorical piece of string. The trouble is, every time you try to grasp the carrot, somebody yanks the string and you find you’ve got a bit further to go until you reach your reward. But as long as we can see the carrot, we’ll keep trying to grab it.

I’m speaking for the majority of authors, of course. There are some who are already reaping large financial rewards, which provides further encouragement for the rest of us.

Now for the things I don’t love so much:

I don’t think I’m very good at the whole marketing and promotion thing. I’ve never been one for selling myself. I’d rather shy away and get on with my writing but I expect a lot of authors are like that, which is probably why we choose to do what we do.

TimeThe other negative aspect for me is that there aren’t enough hours in the day. This is another one that I often hear other authors complain about, especially independent authors. It would be wonderful if we could devote all of our working hours to writing and have somebody else take care of all the promotion, editing, proofreading and formatting etc. but for most of us that isn’t feasible.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. What is it about being an author that you love or are there any aspects of being an author that you’re not so keen on?

Anyone fancy a carrot?

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Using Editing Software to Improve your Writing

At the moment I am immersed in the final edits for my debut novel “Slur” and I am using some editing software that an author friend recommended. I have found the software particularly useful so I thought that I would share my findings. The software that I am using is called Prowritingaid. I haven’t used any other editing software so I can’t comment on other products but this specific product offers a number of features.

Editing Software

The main problem that I wanted to address is that I suffer from adverbitis. By that I mean that I have a tendency to overuse adverbs. I also default into using the passive at times when it would be better to use the active especially for a crime thriller, which should be fast paced. I think this is probably down to the fact that I am used to proofreading student theses, which are written in a formal style in accordance with university requirements and therefore use the passive rather than the active. Unfortunately, if you are used to working in a particular style then it can become hard to break the habit. I therefore invested in Prowritingaid at my friend’s recommendation.

You can choose from six main styles of Creative, Academic, Business, General, Technical and Web Copy. Once you have set your preferred style you can then choose what you want to check for. I chose Writing Style Report, which flags up adverbs and use of the passive but you can also run a full analysis or various other checks such as repetition, overused words, consistency, plagiarism etc. depending on the writing style you are aiming for. In fact, there are a total of 23 Highlightingdifferent types of reports/checks to choose from.

Prowritingaid makes it easier than editing your work yourself because when you are working so close to your work you can fail to notice things. The software pinpoints instances in embarrassing, brilliant highlighting so you can’t fail to notice them, and at $35 per year it’s substantially cheaper than hiring an editor. It also means that you retain control over your work. I must admit that I cringed at the number of times I used ‘quickly’, ‘forcefully’, ‘really’, ‘slowly’ and ‘quietly’. I had also used more powerful adverbs such as ‘maliciously’ and ‘subconsciously’, which can make an impact if used sparingly, but overuse lessens their impact so a good trim was necessary to improve the quality of my work.

Another good thing about this software is that you can upload a sample of your work to the site to trial it before buying. Here’s the link if you want to give it a whirl: http://prowritingaid.com/. I’d like to add that I’m not being paid by the suppliers to write this blog post. I just wanted to share this useful discovery.

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.

Writing Plans Update

A couple of weeks ago I outlined my writing plans for the future. I had returned from holiday all fired up and ready to get my books out there. Well, it’s been a busy couple of weeks since then so I thought I’d share my progress with you.Free Book Promo

Free Book Promo – I’ve set the date for 21st August and here is the link that you need to visit to get your free Kindle download www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008IG41DU. Since I set the date I’ve been working very hard on getting the word out. Free book promos do not have the miraculous results they used to have on Amazon so I realise that it’s important to let as many people know about it as possible if it’s to be a success. In addition to that, my readership for “Kids’ Clubs and Organizations – A Comprehensive UK Guide” is UK only, as confirmed by the sub-title. This means that I have to work extra hard on spreading the word as my readership is substantially smaller than that for novels etc., which sell worldwide.

So what have I been doing up to now to publicise the promo?

Sending emailsWell, to start with I’ve notified over 20 websites that advertise free book promotions. I’ve also emailed a couple of sites that specialise in parenting promotions although I’ve not had any response from them to date. A few of the book promotion sites have kindly agreed to feature the book though. Next, I’ve mithered the life out of friends and relatives and asked them to share any posts on their Facebook pages. I was really pleased with the response and send a big thank you to everybody who offered to help.

I’m currently scheduling lots of tweets to book tweeters and parenting groups to try to build up a big buzz in the couple of weeks preceding the promotion. I’ve also joined Facebook groups and Google+ communities that will allow promotional author posts, so I will be adding mine a few days before my promotion. I really need to get more active on Goodreads as well so that I can utilise it to greater advantage. For those of you who are non-authors, Goodreads is a vast writing community with a massive following. Consequently, independent authors are constantly advised that having a presence on the site is an absolute must.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank my lovely author friend Alice Huskisson in advance for showing me the way to manage my free book promo. This will be the first one I’ve done so all the information I found through her blog and her one to one advice have really helped. Alice is the author of the brilliant The Man in a Haystack. If you read and enjoyed Bridget Jones’ Diary then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book, which logs Alice’s experiences of Internet dating. You can find out more about Alice at: http://alicehuskissonauthor.wordpress.com/.Writing Books

My Second Parenting Book – As I’ve been so focused on the free book promo and client work, my second book is still 70% complete as it was a couple of weeks ago. However, I have now received information from all but one of the 23 organisations that will be featured in the book. This means that once I get back to writing the book, it shouldn’t take too long to finish. I’m so looking forward to publishing my second book and I’ll update you as we get nearer to publication date. For this parenting book I plan to include colour photographs but I haven’t quite ironed out how that will work in practice so I think there will be fun and games ahead.

My Debut Novel – I originally planned to publish my first novel “Slur” towards the end of 2013, but it may now have to wait until early 2014. It’s difficult to predict at this point as it depends on my client workload and how long it takes to complete my second parenting book. Again, I’ll keep you updated via the blog.

I enjoy receiving feedback from readers of my blog so if you have any questions or comments regarding any of the above, feel free to let me have your comments below. If you’ve enjoyed reading the blog, please let me know by hitting the ‘like’ button.