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.

Self-Publishing Facts and Figures

Following on from last week’s blog in which I stressed the importance of supporting independent authors, I decided to find some figures to back up my claim that independent publishing is a growing trend. I’ve also included some other interesting facts and figures relating to self-publishing, which I’ve gleaned from various Internet sources. For simplicity I have used the term ‘self-publishing’ to refer to all publishing that isn’t through a traditional publisher, including independent publishing. For a fuller explanation of the terms ‘self-publishing’ and ‘independent publishing’ please refer to the paragraph at the bottom of this post.

Pie chart

1) According to figures published by Bowker Market Research, self-published books accounted for 2% of all UK book sales in 2012, but 12% of all digital UK book sales. However, in the crime, humour and romance genres self-published UK book sales reached more than 20%!

2) Between 2006 and 2011 the number of self-published titles produced in the US tripled, reaching a combined total of 235,625 books and eBooks in 2011.

3) In 2012, 17 of the top-selling 100 Kindle books were self-published.

4) Included amongst the growing list of famous authors that have self-published some of their work are: Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf and John Grisham.

5) If authors use a traditional publisher they can expect to earn between 17.5% and 25% royalties on an eBook, whereas by self-publishing they can earn up to 70-80% of the sale price of the eBook.

6) The total number of books produced by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers in 2009 was a whopping 764,448.

7) In 2009 CreateSpace produced 21,819 books and Lulu produced 10,386.

8) Apart from financial gain, self-publishing offers a number of other advantages to authors; the self-published author sets the price, retains all rights and decides the release date.

9) There are more self-published eBooks than print books, which contributes to the overall trends although the publication of eBooks is growing generally. From 2006 to 2011, total US eBook production rose 129% compared to a rise of 33% for print book production.

10) 39% of all self-published print books were produced via CreateSpace in 2011. This represents a total of 58,412 titles published using CreateSpace in 2011 compared to 21,819 in 2009.

Bar chart

Self-Publishing or Independent Publishing?
There is some confusion about the terms ‘self-publishing’ and ‘independent publishing’ with many people using them interchangeably. Self-publishing is the term that has been used for many years to refer to any publishing that isn’t through a traditional publisher. At one time the only way to do this was through vanity publishing where authors would have to make an upfront payment to the vanity publisher. However, the publishing platforms available nowadays give authors more freedom, especially with the growth of digital publishing. This enables authors to be listed as the publisher as well as being able to obtain their own ISBN numbers. This is what is known as independent publishing. Through their own publishing businesses many authors also choose to publish books for other authors. When figures are quoted regarding the publishing industry, many people use the term ‘self-publishing’ to refer to both independent and vanity publishing.
If you have enjoyed my fun facts please let me have your feedback below or feel free to add your own interesting facts relating to self-publishing.
N.B. This information was drawn from a variety of Internet sources and I cannot give any guarantees regarding its authentication.

Why it’s Important to Support Independent Authors

You may have noticed on Twitter and other social media sites that there is a growing breed of independent authors and publishers (or Indies as we’re affectionately known). You can spot an Indie author as they’ll usually be doing all their own book promotion and will often accompany their promotional tweet with ‘#indie’. You can also check their books on Amazon or other book websites to see who is listed as the publisher; you’ll find that many are listed as both the publisher and the author.Book

Even if the name of the publisher is different from that of author, it may still be an independent especially if it’s a publisher you’ve never heard of. This is because many authors that self-publish choose a different name for the publisher when they list their books. For example, I publish my books under the name ‘DM Writing Services’.

As the number of independent authors continues to grow it’s important to support us for the following reasons:

–       It is harder than Ever to Publish through Traditional Channels – You may have heard the stories about bestsellers (and resulting blockbuster movies) in the past that were initially turned down by the major publishers. This is increasingly the case and it deprives the book-reading public of some excellent books. Traditional publishers rarely take a chance on an unknown author no matter how good the book is. This is because they have to finance the publishing and promotion, and they want guaranteed returns.

Sadly, this means that talentless celebrities are far more likely to get published than talented authors just because they already have a following. Ironically, once an independent author proves that they can sell shedloads of books, publishers then vie for their attention. Time for the two finger salute I think.

Pulling a Tongue –       We’re not Pigeon Holed – Most traditional publishers want books to fit into specific genres, which stifles creativity. Generally they don’t like to take a gamble and often prefer something that has been tried and tested. However, not all books are mainstream and some can spread across a number of different genres. For example, my forthcoming novel could probably be described as ‘crime thriller meets 1980s chick lit’.

–       We’re Raising Standards – We’re now combatting concerns over poor standards in indie books through organisations such as IndiePENdents and Awesome Indies. These organisations have volunteer readers who review books so that the organisations can give the books their seal of approval if they reach certain professional standards.

Just because a book is self-published doesn’t necessarily mean that it is of poor quality in terms of spelling, grammar, flow, plotting and all the other essentials. In fact, I seem to be finding a higher incidence of grammatical errors with traditionally published books and even some by major well-known publishers. I wonder if other people have also noticed this. Could it be that they are cutting corners to enable them to compete with the rising poweMoneyrs of the Indie army?

–       We Don’t Have Big Marketing Budgets – Most of us do all our own promotion. We contact magazines, newspapers, radio, websites etc. in the hope of having our work featured, and we ‘shout’ about our books using social media and blogs. Word of mouth is vital for our success.

–       We’re the Future – More and more writers are choosing to self-publish their books and there are several reasons for this:

a)    Digital media makes it easier.

b)    We don’t want our creativity to be stifled because of restrictions imposed by the traditional book publishing industry.

c)    It’s now cheaper to print books due to the availability of platforms like CreateSpace.

d)    We’re disillusioned with the traditional publishing industry.

e)    Certain promotional tactics can make it possible to compete with big publishing companies and, consequently, a few independents are making a good living from their writing.

How you can Support Independent Authors

Here are a few quick and easy ways that you can lend your support:

Supporting Authors

1)    If you have read and enjoyed a book by an independent author, be sure to leave good reviews on websites such as Amazon and Goodreads.

2)    Help us to spread the word by sharing any promotional comments that we post on social media.

3)    Read and respond to our blogs and share them too if you like what you see.

4)    If you have a blog, offer guest post opportunities to writers whose books fit your business niche.

5)    If you run a magazine or newspaper that features book reviews, include more books that are written by independent authors.

I hope that you have found this blog enlightening. If you have any comments to add, or if you are an author and there is something I have missed, you are welcome to leave your feedback below.