A Message to Aspiring Authors – Don’t Give Up

As the end of another year approaches I thought it would be good to write a blog post which might give encouragement to other authors. I recently read a post about famous authors who were initially rejected but then went on to be successful. Most of us have heard of authors who were initially rejected but it’s always encouraging to find out more about them. You can read the post here.

It made me think of my own journey. Admittedly, I’m nowhere near in the same league as the authors mentioned in the above post but this past year or so has seen a big turnaround in my writing career. In August of 2016 I signed a contract with Aria Fiction at Head of Zeus, and subsequently published my first book Born Bad with them on 1st July of this year. They have been excellent to work for and I’m looking forward to the launch of my second novel with them in March 2018, which is entitled Blood Ties and is already available to pre-order from Amazon.

So, back to the beginning. I started writing in 1999 when I began studying for a writing diploma with the Writer’s Bureau in Manchester although I had dabbled in a bit of poetry prior to that. The course was very comprehensive and took me until 2002 to complete.

As part of the course, students were encouraged to submit their work to agents, magazines etc. depending on the particular module being studied. It was during that time that I submitted the first three chapters and a synopsis of my first novel Slur to various agents except that, at that time, the novel was called Nightclubbin’ and had a chic lit feel to it.

Despite rejections I continued working on the novel and completed it. Then, becoming a bit disillusioned with the number of rejections I received, I put it on the backburner but swore I would return to it one day.

It actually took me 15 years before I eventually returned to my first novel. In the meantime I had changed the title and a lot of the plot and it became a crime novel.

I have documented much of the journey towards getting Slur published in previous blog posts entitled The Story of Slur and My Favourite Rejection Letter if you want to take a look. Throughout that period I read as much as I could about the craft of writing, the publishing industry (which has undergone many changes in that time) and how to promote your work.

Prior to publishing Slur independent publishing really took off and I decided to publish two parenting books. I had already drawn up an outline for one of them as part of the studies for my writing course, and I thought it had potential. It was called Kids’ Clubs and Organisations and I followed it with Great Places for Kids’ Parties.

Both of the books took up a great deal of time and effort especially the second one, which I published in colour. Unfortunately both books bombed despite one of them being featured on a well-known parenting site. They sold less than a hundred copies each, most of which were through public libraries and entailed a lot of effort in getting to the right people then sending the copies on. Apart from the library sales the books sold no more than a handful each, and left me feeling deflated after all the effort I had put in.

After I published Slur, I instantly saw a different reaction amongst friends and families and it was much better received than the two parenting books. Feeling encouraged, I went on to publish a further two novels, A Gangster’s Grip and Danger by Association, and the three books form a trilogy. I eventually made the decision to withdraw the two parenting books from the market, which I wrote about in the article entitled Why I’m Withdrawing my Parenting Books.

Despite being well received, Slur wasn’t a success straightaway. I held a promotion at the end of 2015, and made Slur free for a few days. I paid to advertise the promotion on various sites and, to my delight, this led to a dramatic increase in sales of Slur and the two other books in the trilogy. Subsequently the rank of the books improved on Amazon making them visible to more readers and also to publishers.

The improved rank only held for about six months, after which time the sales slipped again in a matter of weeks. I tried subsequent promotions but wasn’t able to emulate the success of the first one. Fortunately for me, however, the temporary improvement in rank had enabled my books to come to the attention of my publishers who approached me to discuss my work. This in turn led to me signing a three book contract with Aria Fiction in August 2016.

If you are an independent author and want to find out how to promote your books, there is a lot of information available on the Internet and in book form. In particular, I recommend Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran as a very useful guide. Sandra Beckwith also has a very helpful website at: https://buildbookbuzz.com/ where you can sign up for a newsletter with lots of free tips on book promotion. You may also find the ALLi website useful at: https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/.

It has been a long journey to gaining that publishing contract but ultimately a very gratifying one. And it isn’t over yet. On 1st March I will be publishing my second book with Aria, Blood Ties, which is already available for pre-order and is the second part of a trilogy. Then I’ll be publishing the third and final novel in the trilogy later next year.

Once the three books are published I have no idea what lies in store but I have many ideas for other novels and hope to continue writing and publishing books for many years to come. The future is a bit scary as I now depend totally on writing books for my income. However, the future is also tremendously exciting.

If you’re currently feeling disillusioned, having written a book or more and not yet seeing the rewards for all your hard work, don’t give up. Immerse yourself in as much information as you can relating to both the craft of writing and the promotional side of things. Then keep on going until you reach your end goal.

I’d like to end this blog post by wishing a Merry Christmas to all my blog readers and a very successful 2018.

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Born Bad on Sale

Born Bad is currently on sale so if you haven’t yet got your copy now is a good chance to grab it at a bargain price. Please also feel free to spread the word if you know anyone who might enjoy Born Bad. It will be featured in the following sales:

Amazon Summer Sale
The Kindle version of Born Bad is currently on offer for £1.49 in the Amazon Summer Sale, which is a 50% reduction on the normal price of £2.99. Here’s the link: Amazon: http://amzn.to/2niPMew.

Kobo Buy One get One Half Price
Born Bad has also been included in the Kobo Buy One get One Half Price sale. Here’s the link: Kobo: http://bit.ly/2o6awKj.

I’m thrilled to see Born Bad zooming up the Amazon charts. It is currently around the 400 mark in the UK, which is an excellent achievement out of all the millions of books for sale on Amazon UK. I know that I have my readers to thank for this as well as my publishers who are doing an excellent job on the promotion side of things.

If you would like to obtain a print version of Born Bad, it is also now available from Amazon at: http://amzn.to/2niPMew.

Big thanks again to everyone who has downloaded a copy of Born Bad and to those who have spread the word.

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Free Short Story Book

First of all, I apologise for being quiet lately both on the blog and on social media. The reason is because I’ve been working hard towards meeting my publishing deadline for my next book, which will be the first book in a new trilogy. More news will follow on that later but in the meantime I need to continue promoting my existing books.

As part of my book promotion, I’m pleased to announce that my short story, Crime, Conflict & Consequences is now permanently free on Amazon UK and Amazon.com. Here is the Amazon link: http://viewbook.at/Consequences. There is also a preview of the first chapter of Slur in the back of the book so if you haven’t yet read any of my books, here is a chance to sample my writing free of charge.

Crime v3

Crime, Conflict & Consequences is also free to download at Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, 24 Symbols, Thalia and Inktera. I don’t have a link for Apple but here are the links for the other stores.

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

24 Symbols

Thalia

Inktera

To give you a preview of Crime, Conflict & Consequences, here is the book blurb:

This entertaining collection of 10 assorted tales explores a variety of genres with stories of crime, love and family dilemmas. There are also a few twists and surprises along the way. The common thread running through each story is – consequences.

  • In HELD UP our heroine is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes a witness in an unusual bank robbery.
  • In ISLAND OF DREAMS Joe and Bev are looking forward to returning to the island they visited on honeymoon 34 years previously. Will it still be the same?
  • In WELCOME ABOARD find out how Helena copes with the job from hell.

These short stories are a great introduction to the work of Heather Burnside. Each one makes an enjoyable quick read with a satisfying conclusion.

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It’s only fair to warn you that my novels are quite different from the short stories. Whereas the short stories cover a variety of genres and writing styles, my other books are gritty crime novels. However, the excerpt from Slur, which is in the back of the short story book should give you an idea of what is to follow.

Bye for now and happy reading.

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SLUR on Special Offer

I am pleased to announce that SLUR will be available for the special promotional price of 99p (or 99 cents in the US) from 13th May until 20th May. If you want to grab a copy while it’s on special offer, here is the link: http://viewbook.at/Slur.

SLUR is the first part in a trilogy. The second part will be released late summer/early autumn of this year followed by the final part in summer 2016.

Book Cover

If you haven’t already read SLUR, here is the book blurb:

How would it feel to be accused of a murder you didn’t commit? To believe your friends, family and colleagues had turned against you. Would you reach breaking point or fight to prove your innocence?

Julie Quinley finds herself in this position following the events of one fateful night. She has to bear the slights and accusations of colleagues and acquaintances, and life becomes unbearable. Eventually, thinking that she has lost the respect of everyone around her, Julie plunges into a deep depression.

However, unknown to Julie, those closest to her are rallying support. She reaches a turning point when her friends reveal that they may have found the real killer. Realising she must act in order to clear her name, Julie joins them in trying to find evidence.

But proving a vicious murderer guilty is never going to be easy, especially when the police remain unconvinced. Will Julie and her friends succeed? And is their suspect really responsible for the crime?

I hope you enjoy SLUR. If you want to find out more about future books or receive other free gifts and special offers including a free copy of my short story collection “Crime, Conflict & Consequences”, please sign up to my mailing list here.

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Free Promotion – Crime, Conflict & Consequences

Here’s a chance to grab your free copy of my short story book, “Crime, Conflict & Consequences”, which is on free promotion from today on the Amazon Kindle: http://viewbook.at/Consequences. There are 10 stories in a variety of genres, writing styles and themes so there should be something to suit a wide range of reading tastes.

Crime v3

Here is the book blurb:

This entertaining collection of 10 assorted tales explores a variety of genres with stories of crime, love and family dilemmas. There are also a few twists and surprises along the way. The common thread running through each story is – consequences.

  • In HELD UP our heroine is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes a witness in an unusual bank robbery.
  • In ISLAND OF DREAMS Joe and Bev are looking forward to returning to the island they visited on honeymoon 34 years previously. Will it still be the same?
  • In WELCOME ABOARD find out how Helena copes with the job from hell.

These short stories are a great introduction to the work of Heather Burnside. Each one makes an enjoyable quick read with a satisfying conclusion.

I hope you enjoy the stories.

 

Are Big Publishers Compromising their Authors?

I read a book recently by one of my favourite thriller writers but was disappointed because it wasn’t up to his usual standard. The book extended to 500 pages in print but I felt that it should have been no longer than 250 – 300 pages. At 250 – 300 pages it would have been a good book but for me there were too many forced twists that were unconvincing.

To illustrate my point, here is a brief synopsis:

The protagonist worked for a protection agency in the US and he was assigned to protect a family from someone who wanted to obtain information bypolice-man-standing-smiling-12425-svg violent means. At first it was suspected that the father would have the requisite information as he was a law enforcement officer but it transpired that it wasn’t him. It may have been a convincing twist if played only once but that twist was carried out repeatedly. The author worked his way through each member of the family, four of them altogether, until eventually the person holding the information turned out to be the 16 year old daughter. Without all these unnecessary additional twists it could still have been a very good plot, which leads me to believe that the fault doesn’t lie with the author.

It isn’t the first time I have noticed this; the same thing has happened with other good authors. When I checked out the reviews of this particular book they reiterated what I was thinking and cited examples of other popular and talented authors where this sort of thing had happened. I’m not convinced that it’s because the author has run out of ideas. Take the above example; it would still have been a good book if it had been much shorter. No, I think the problem may lie with the publishers and here’s why:

When I studied for my writing course many years ago we learnt the way in which the major publishing houses operate. Once an author has signed up with them they will require the author to produce a set number of books over a certain time period and will also specify the required minimum word count per book. Therefore, on occasion authors may be forced to stretch a plot beyond the bounds of credibility.Clipartsalbum_16620 Books

At that time (about 15 years ago) I was informed by my tutor that publishers wouldn’t consider any novel of less than 80,000 words. In fact, the trend was for novels in excess of 100,000 words. I don’t know what the current requirements are but, in view of the above, I wonder whether these are still the same.

While I would be I liar if I said that I wouldn’t consider going with a traditional publisher if I was to be given the opportunity, the above is one of the factors that I would have to think long and hard about. Here are some other factors that are worth considering should you decide to follow the traditional publishing route:

  • How do the royalties compare to the rate you receive as an independent author?
  • Would any increase in sales compensate for the fact that this rate would be substantially less than the rate of 70% (in most cases and after VAT) currently enjoyed by authors independently published through Amazon?
  • How much promotion would your publishers undertake on your behalf?
  • Would your book be stocked by major book store chains?
  • Would you have any say in the choice of book cover design and the book’s title?
  • How much advance would you receive?
  • How long would you have to wait for your royalty payments?
  • What would the time lapse be between completion of the book and publication date?
  • Would you be expected to make public appearances etc.?

What ifFor anybody who is offered a contract with a major publishing house it is easy to become so carried away with the excitement that you lose objectivity and don’t think about all the implications. As independent authors we have autonomy and are used to making all the decisions ourselves. I therefore think it is important not to lose sight of this and I wonder how it would feel to have all of these decisions taken out of our hands.

On the one hand it would perhaps free up more time to focus on writing because you might get more help with editing, proofreading, formatting and promotion. However, on the other hand, how would it feel to be told, for example, that you couldn’t use your own title for your own book?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this one.

My First Kindle Countdown Experience

From 20th November until 22nd November I had my first Kindle Countdown promotion for my novel SLUR, pricing the book at 99p in the UK and $0.99 in the US. My objective was to increase visibility, particularly in the US as the bulk of my sales to date had been in the UK. I also wanted to sell more copies of SLUR. With this being my first KCD I made a few mistakes but learnt a lot as well. I am hoping that by sharing my experience, other people may be able to learn from it too.

Visibillity

In order to raise awareness about my KCD I put notifications on social media including a few readers’ groups. I also posted notifications on several sites offering free advertisements and took out two paid advertisements. As far as I am aware only two of the free advertisements were posted during the KCD and unfortunately one of those advertised the book as free.

A Few Problems

On the first day of my KCD there were no sales at all and I managed to work myself up into a frenzy when I noticed that Amazon.com were advertising the book at $1.55. As I didn’t want to mislead any potential purchasers I quickly wrote to the advertising sites and asked them to change the price. At the same time I queried this with Amazon and was later told that the reason the price showed at $1.55 was because I had set the start time for my UK promotion a few hours earlier than my US promotion. I honestly couldn’t remember because I had set up the KCD several weeks before, but I had obviously done it because of the different time zones. Amazon had therefore adjusted the price in line with the UK price.

Even when the start of my US promotion kicked in, I was still viewing the price on Amazon.com as $1.55. Amazon assured me that it was because I was viewing from the UK and they sent me screenPanic shots to verify that the price showed at $0.99 in the US. Although this was a relief it meant I had to send another email to the advertising sites telling them to keep the price at $0.99.

The other problem that was stressing me out was the fact that the screen (Amazon.com) was constantly trying to reload when I attempted to view the Kindle version of my book. I was obviously concerned because I knew that this would make it extremely difficult for anybody to download the book, and I felt that most people would give up.

I want to thank Martina Munzittu, Pauline Wiles and Alice Huskisson for putting my mind at ease. Martina was particularly helpful and I hope she didn’t mind fielding my constant panics. Big thanks too to Pauline for checking the US site and reassuring me that there was no problem with uploading the book there. Thanks also to everybody who retweeted about my promotion.

Paid Advertising

DollarsIt wasn’t until the end of the second day that my US sales started to kick in. This was in fact the day when my advertisement on the most popular site went out. I won’t disclose which site it was because different things work for different people and genres, so I don’t want to push anyone into something that might not work for them. If anyone wants to email me (dianewriting@gmail.com) for the details though, I’ll happily oblige.

My second day was a Friday and I was actually out in the evening (I needed a drink after all the stress). When I returned home at 12, I checked my downloads a couple of times. The books were downloading at a rate of four every half hour and had reached 35 by the time I went to bed. I therefore expected them to reach over 100 by the time I checked again the following day. I knew that the advertising site sent an email newsletter out late in the evening and thought that perhaps some UK subscribers might open it on the Saturday. However, I was a little disappointed to find that the total downloads for the Friday reached 58. I can only assume that they slowed down as it reached evening in the US with it being a Friday.

Saturday was the last day of my promotion and although I didn’t have any advertising that day I had a further 18 downloads and one borrow. However, these were all from the US and none of them were from the UK. I mistakenly thought that the advertising sites had subscribers from both territories but apparently not.

Sales Rank

In terms of rank, the book did very well. The best overall rank that it achieved in all paid books in the US was #3456. For individual categories, the highest ranks that SLUR achieved were as follows:

Kindle> Mystery, Thriller and Suspense> Thrillers> Historical #10

Kindle> Mystery, Thriller and Suspense> Thrillers> Crime #67

Books> Literature & Fiction> Genre Fiction> Historical> Thrillers #28Sales Slump

The day after my promotion ended I had one sale and one borrow in the US followed by another sale the day after and another borrow the day after that. SLUR then dropped out of the top 100 for all categories and I haven’t had any US sales since. However, I’m still getting the odd borrow so my sales spike must somehow have meant that SLUR is now visible in the Kindle Lender’s Library. I have no idea how that works or how it impacts on rank. N.B. All these figures refer to US downloads. None of this promotional activity affected my UK sales at all.

Lessons Learnt

1. Don’t panic. Amazon.com looks completely different from the UK than it does in the US.

2. Not all paid ads are useful but some of them really pay off. With time I will learn which ones give the best returns.

3. I need to find more advertising sites that are specific to the UK. Tips anyone?

4. In my opinion social media is not near as effective as it was a couple of years ago for book promotions. Perhaps this is down to the fact that it is becoming saturated with book promotions, or perhaps people respond more readily to free book promotions rather than promotions for cut priced books. It may also be down to the fact that in fiction terms I am still relatively unknown.

5. A KCD alone will give a short-term spike in sales but for long-term gains it has to be combined with other promotional efforts.

6. It would have been better to run my most fruitful paid ad at the weekend.

7. To maintain a top 20 position in even one of my chosen categories in the US I would probably have to be selling about 50 copies of SLUR a day. Unfortunately there aren’t any less competitive categories that fit my book’s genre.

Thought Sharing

I would love to hear your views on Kindle Countdowns especially if you are experienced in running this type of promotion. What was your experience like and do you think KCDs are effective as a promotional tool?

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