Slur Chapter 2

Here is chapter 2 of Slur. If you missed the blog post showing chapter one, you can find it here or read the pdf, which you can find on the books page of my website at: http://www.dianemannion.co.uk/books.html. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the box that reads, ‘Read a sample chapter’.

I have now fixed my official launch date as Friday 19th September and I’ll be throwing a big online launch party with competitions and great prizes. For those that can’t make the Friday, I’ll be re-running some of the competitions on Saturday 20th September, because most of the competition answers don’t have to be in straightaway.

If you’re tempted by the first two chapters of Slur and don’t want to wait till launch date, the book is already available to purchase online at: http://viewbook.at/Slur.

SLUR – Chapter 2

Friday 20th June 1986Make-up

It was Friday night, the big night out of the week. Julie was sitting at her dressing table putting the finishing touches to her hair and make-up. When she was satisfied that she had achieved the desired result, she pouted her lips and kissed her reflection in the mirror, saying, ‘you’re gonna knock ’em dead tonight – you sexy beast.’ She was disturbed by the sound of a, ‘tut tut’ coming from the doorway of her room. It was her mother, Betty.

‘Julie Quinley, I don’t know. You get dafter by the minute. When you’ve finished dolling yourself up, Rita’s downstairs waiting for you.’

Julie took no offence at Betty’s comments as she was accustomed to their friendly banter. She turned in her chair, gave her mother a beaming smile, then dashed across the room and planted a kiss on her cheek, saying, ‘Here I go, don’t wait up!’

She headed downstairs to find Rita in the hallway. As they greeted each other, Betty passed them on her way to the living room. Julie stepped away from Rita, allowing her mother to pass. As she did so, she noticed what Rita was wearing. “My God, she’s really gone to town this time!” she thought, observing Rita’s white lycra mini skirt, low cut red top and towering, white stiletto heels.

‘You look nice Rita,’ she commented politely.

‘Oh thanks,’ Rita replied, preening herself.

Julie then heard the sound of voices coming from the living room. She put her fingers to her lips, motioning Rita to keep quiet as she led her towards the living room door while they listened in on Bill and Betty’s conversation.

‘She’s at it again, is she?’ Bill asked.

‘Aye, she’s only kissing the bleedin’ mirror now. I swear she gets more puddled by the minute that girl,’ replied Betty, in an amused tone.

Julie looked at Rita and managed to stifle a giggle as she heard her father grumble, ‘I can’t understand it me, young women out till all hours of the night up to God knows what, and with all these dubious characters hanging about.’

‘Yes, I know your feelings Bill, you have mentioned it once or twice.’

‘Well, she’s twenty years of age for God’s sake! She should be married with a family now, not stuck in some nightclub getting drunk, with a load of riffraff!’

Julie held up her hand for Rita to see as she formed the shape of a mouth opening and shutting, in imitation of her father’s familiar complaining.

‘She’ll have plenty of time for settling down when she’s had a bit of fun and built up a career for herself,’ Betty replied. ‘A lot of women don’t even think about having children until they are in their thirties these days. Anyway, she’s got her head screwed on the right way. She won’t do anything daft.’

‘Huh,’ was Bill’s response, followed by silence.

Julie and Rita backed away. Julie then opened the front door and they stepped out into the street, shutting the door as quietly as possible so that Julie’s parents would be unaware of their eavesdropping. As soon as they were outside, they gave in to uncontrolled laughter.

‘I bet your mam was a right one in her day!’ giggled Rita.

‘She might have been, given half a chance.’

Julie thought about her mother and the tale she had told her many times about her married life. Times had been hard for Betty when she got wed and their finances were fully stretched after Julie’s birth. Therefore, they decided to postpone extending their family until they could afford it.

When Julie was in school, Betty found herself a job in a store in order to bring in some extra income. After a few years of being stuck at home, Betty was a bit apprehensive at first, but she soon settled in and made lots of new friends. This in turn improved her social life and she began to relish her newfound freedom. After that, there never seemed to be an appropriate time to have more children.

However, as Betty reached her thirties and sensed her biological clock ticking away, the desire grew to extend her family before her time ran out. This resulted in the birth of Clare, twelve years Julie’s junior, and now a likeable, sweet girl of eight.

Although Betty was immensely proud of both her daughters, at times she regretted not doing more with her life, and every time Julie thought about her mother’s lack of achievements, she was determined not to make the same mistakes.

As Julie and Rita made their way up the street, on the way to their friend Debby’s house, the familiar clickety clack of high heels reverberated on the pavements.

Julie’s home was in a street full of three bedroom semis in a Manchester suburb. Many of the houses looked dreary and run down, a result of the poverty in the area. The home of Bill and Betty Quinley, however, was one of the more presentable houses in the street. The front garden was well tended and baskets of bright blooms hung at either side of the front door.

Julie’s sister, Clare, and her friends, who were playing further up the street, paused in their play as Julie and Rita approached. For a group of eight year olds, the image of Julie and Rita dressed to go out was a sight to behold, and they gazed in awe as the two older girls walked by.

‘Bye our Julie,’ shouted Clare.

‘Bye sweetheart. I’ll see you in the morning and don’t forget to be a good girl for mam and be in at eight o’clock.’

‘I won’t,’ said Clare, full of respect for Julie who she saw as a role model.

Julie couldn’t help but swell with pride as she sensed the idolatry glances of the young girls, and caught snippets of their conversation on passing.

‘Wow Clare, I wish I could go out all dressed up like your Julie, wearing make-up and everything!’

‘Our Julie lets me wear her make-up sometimes.’

Julie turned to Rita and they smiled at each other on hearing these childish comments. They looked an oddly matched pair: Julie, tall and elegant, and Rita, who was just a year older than Julie, smaller, brasher and louder in every sense of the word. Julie, although slim, was also curvaceous and well proportioned. Her features were sharp but nonetheless attractive.

She usually opted for the sexy but sophisticated look, and tonight she was wearing a shortish pale blue skirt with a matching fitted jacket, which bore the popular shoulder pads of the eighties. She wore the customary white stiletto heels and had a white leather handbag to match. Her make-up was subtle and served to define her striking features, and her blond hair was naturally wavy.

As they rounded the corner at the top of the street, Rita opened up the conversation, by talking about her day at work, which was at a food factory.

‘Me and Debby were talking to Charlie at work today. He’s a card! He told us this joke…What’s white and slides across the dance-floor?’ Then, pausing for effect, she added, ‘Come dancing,’ the double entendre being a reference to a popular TV dancing show around that time. ‘Well, that was it! We couldn’t stop laughing after that. The slightest thing set us off.’

They both laughed at this and Julie replied, unwittingly. ‘Oh I wish I worked somewhere like that Rita. It sounds as though you have a great time.’

‘Why not?’ Rita replied enthusiastically. ‘I can let you know when there’s any vacancies. You should get a good reference from your place and you’ll soon learn the ropes. There’s not much to it really and I can put in a good word for you so it won’t matter if you haven’t got any experience.’

Julie was a bit taken aback by this as deep down she saw herself as being a bit above factory work, but she didn’t quite know how to put her thoughts into words without offending her longstanding friend. So she replied with caution.

‘I’d love to, but I don’t want to waste my qualifications.’

‘Come off it Julie, what’s a couple of ‘O’ levels? Besides, if you decide you don’t like it at the factory, you can always go back to office work. Anyway, you’re a bloody receptionist for Christ’s sake. You’re hardly gonna qualify for the High Achievers Award, are you? I mean to say, I earn more than you do.’

Julie resented Rita’s views concerning her choice of career, but tried not to show it. Despite her resentment, she appreciated Rita’s open and frank manner, which she had been grateful for in the past, so she maintained a cautious approach.

‘It’s what it can lead to that matters. I could do a course in computers or something.’

‘Like as if. You’re too busy enjoying yourself to stick a college course. Besides, I could do a course in computers, come to that.’

Julie didn’t wish this to escalate into a full-blown argument but felt that she must assert herself, so she replied, ‘You haven’t got the ‘O’ levels or the office experience.’ Then, realising that she was now becoming a bit confrontational, she tried to lighten the conversation by joking, ‘Anyway, the talents always a bonus.’

Rita, however, was not so easy to pacify. ‘Come off it. All men who work in offices are bloody wimps! You can’t beat a bloke with a good trade. That’s what my dad says and it’s true.’

‘What’s the use of a good trade if there’s no work around for them?’

‘Oh that’s just temporary. They’ll be all right now we’re getting over the recession. It’s all down to that bleedin’ Maggie Thatcher anyway.’

‘Well while all your blokes with a trade are still busy looking for work, there’s blokes being promoted at our place.’

‘Yes blokes, exactly! Anyway, Vinny’s a builder isn’t he and there’s nowt wrong with him?’

Knowing the mood that Rita was in, Julie guessed at what was to follow, and she was reluctant to discuss the subject of her boyfriend Vinny.

‘Yes, he’s all right, I suppose.’

‘But?’ prompted Rita.

‘Well, I just wish he had a bit more ambition, that’s all.’

‘You know your trouble Julie? You don’t know when you’re lucky. Vinny’s gorgeous. Loads of girls fancy him. I wouldn’t kick him out of bed myself! He’s got his own place, and he’s good between the sheets, from what you’ve told me.’

Julie smiled, amused at her friend’s audacity. ‘Well he does know which buttons to press and when to press them, but there’s more to life than sex you know Rita.’

‘Oh yeah? Well when you find it let me know, and I’ll have a double helping,’ Rita quipped.

As Julie laughed, she turned to Rita and said. ‘Let’s stop being so bleedin’ serious! It’s Friday night for Christ’s sake! We’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves, not putting the world to rights.’

Rita decided that she had made her point anyway, so there was nothing to be gained in pursuing the matter. ‘Yeah, you’re right Jules. Come on, let’s go for it.’

They carried on walking for a few moments before Julie asked Rita, ‘What time are we supposed to be at Debby’s house?’

‘Dizzy Debby?  Oh I said it would be about seven by the time we got there.’

‘Don’t be rotten. She can’t help being a bit slow at times.’

‘It’s all right, she’s used to being called Dizzy Debby. It’s her nickname at work. Anyway, there’s an offy on the way so we can grab some booze and have a few before we go and meet your friends. Eh, I tell you what Julie, we’d better make sure we give your friend Amanda a good time, seeing as how it’s her birthday night out.’

‘Don’t worry, we will,’ replied Julie with a smile.

When they reached Debby’s house, it was Debby who answered the door and led them straight up to her bedroom. Her home was in complete contrast to the one that Julie had just left, and the décor was shabby and dated. Julie recoiled as they passed the bathroom and smelt the pungent aroma that emanated from it. She looked at Rita for her reaction, but Rita didn’t respond. Julie wondered why; could it be that Rita was used to it so it didn’t bother her. “No,” she chided herself. “Rita’s home might be a bit untidy, but it was certainly a lot cleaner than this one.

Julie could see that Debby was excited about the forthcoming night out and was anxious to get started. When they entered her bedroom she noticed Debby already had three half pint glasses ready and the sound of Luther Vandross was blasting out of the stereo.

‘Don’t your parents mind you having your music that loud?’ asked Julie.

‘No, they have the bloody tele so loud, they can’t hear it anyway.’

‘Mine are as bad,’ said Rita. ‘Ever since my dad came home from the pub with that dodgy VCR he’s been like a bleedin’ kid with a new toy.’

LagerThe girls seated themselves and began to pour the cans of lager. Julie pretended not to notice the greasy marks that covered the glasses. She inwardly cringed on observing Debby’s choice of clothing, accessories and make-up, but was too considerate to comment. Everything about Debby was overstated, from her fluffy bright blond hair to her fashion sense. All of her clothes were in vivid colours, uncoordinated and clung perilously to her large breasts and rotund hips.

The girls settled down with their drinks and began to discuss music, fashions and other topics of mutual interest. At eight o’clock, in a more animated state than when Julie and Rita had arrived, they set out, giggling, towards the nearby bus stop in order to make the trip to the city centre which was just a few stops away. When they got off the bus they had a short walk to the pub where they had agreed to meet two of Julie’s workmates, Amanda and Jacqueline, at eight thirty. While they were walking along, they spotted two policemen just ahead of them.

‘I think it’s time we had a bit of fun!’ said Rita.

 ———————–

I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be publishing the agenda for the online launch party a couple of weeks beforehand. We’ve got lots of fun lined up so if you can’t make the full day you might want to choose which events you want to take part in.

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.

What’s on your Kindle?

I have had my Kindle for about a year now and I am amazed at how much content I’ve managed to accumulate. I can’t resist all those free or bargain books that I see advertised on Twitter, or books that I see recommended on various blogs. There are so many great independent authors out there as well as authors that are published through traditional channels. I thought it would be fun to give a quick rundown of what is on my Kindle then invite readers to share what sort of books they have on their Kindles (or other digital readers). Here goes:

Reader

Books by Indie Authors
I have tried a variety of genres including chic lit, romance, crime thrillers, humour, historical, westerners, true life stories and parenting books. Some of the authors whose books I have enjoyed include: Geoffrey West, Joanne Phillips, Terry Tyler, Georgia Rose, Guy Portman, Rose Edmunds, Anne Renshaw, Romy Gemmell, Clare Davidson, Lizzie Lamb, Anne Coates, Taylor Fulks, Peggy Bechko, D J Kirkby, Mark Richards, Yasmin Selena Butt, Jess Sturman-Coombs, Charlie Plunkett and Alice Huskisson. There are some great authors there and I’ve also made some lovely online friends along the way.

Apart from novels I have found a couple of Indie books about independent publishing, which have proved useful. They are “Let’s Get Visible” and “Let’s Get Digital” by David Gaughran and “My Way” by David Perlmutter. “Let’s Get Digital” by David Gaughran is great for new independent authors as it teaches them the basics of how to get published. The follow up book “Let’s Get Visible” then focuses on promotional methods that authors can employ to help ensure that their books get noticed by readers once they have published, and it gives many details of how Amazon’s system works. David Perlmutter’s book also focuses on promotional methods but he takes a different approach, concentrating instead on social media, blogging etc. This is another handy book for newly published independent authors.

Other Authors
I mainly buy the print versions of books by authors who are traditionally published for a couple of reasons. The first reason is because I still like the look and feel of a printed book from time to time. The second reason is because I cannot resist grabbing a book bargain either when I am in the supermarket or from the second hand book stalls when I am on holiday. However, I do sometimes buy books by mainstream authors for my Kindle if they have been recommended to me, especially as I am now becoming more active on Goodreads. This means that I now have even more books on my Kindle that I’ll probably never get round to reading.

Research Books
I do most of my research online these days although I have a selection of trusty old printed books that I still use. Nevertheless, I have recently purchased two research books for my Kindle. One is “On Writing” by Stephen King as it was recommended on a writer’s blog. The other is a book about the gangs of Manchester because I intend to use it when I carry out my research for a future novel.

Reading Holiday

Apart from the content that I have personally loaded onto my Kindle, my husband also loaded a lot of content onto it when he first bought it me as a present. Much of the content relates to books by popular authors and classics. So, I now have a total of 194 items on my Kindle as well as a double cupboard full of books. I think I need a reading holiday. Over to you; what type of content do you fill your digital reader with?

Use of Symbolism in “Slur”

Symbolism in literature is the use of symbols to represent ideas, which gives them added significance apart from their literal meanings. This can create depth as well as underlining the broader implications. It also helps the reader to gain an insight into the writer’s imagination.

As I have recently been editing my debut novel “Slur” and have returned to it after many years, I have been surprised by a lot of the content. In some cases I have been pleasantly surprised but in some cases I wasn’t so happy with what I had written and have therefore rewritten some sentences and passages. I’ve also removed a couple of scenes and added a couple of new ones.

Revisiting your work after a few years can definitely help you to put a new perspective on things. I was pleased to find that I had made good use of symbolism in the following passage:

The school environment is in many respects similar to other working environments in that, when a topic becomes the subject of gossip, it is discussed indefatigably for several weeks until people tire of its contents or are unable to embellish Firethe tale further.

However, should a new element of the tale be discovered, it will quickly re-ignite public interest in the story. Such was the case with the Julie Quinley scandal, and this latest revelation spread ferociously through the school with its libellous flames enveloping everyone in their pathway. It was only a matter of a few hours until Clare Quinley became engulfed in their fiery force and had to bear once more the consequences of the scandal to which she had become a central figure.

In the original wording, however, I had used ‘add fuel to the fire’, which I swiftly replaced with ‘re-ignite public interest in the story’ to avoid using such a cliché. By replacing the wording I have still managed to conjure up the image of a rumour spreading ‘like wildfire’ but I have avoided using a cliché whilst doing so.Conveyor Belt

Here’s another line from “Slur” that makes use of symbolism:

Julie felt as though she was on a factory conveyor belt; being forcefully transported through the various painful stages of her own destruction.

One of the things I love about creative writing is the chance to experiment with the many skills that I have learnt over the years. It’s what makes it fun I think. I always get a really good buzz if I feel that I have written a well-constructed passage. Alternatively, if I’m not particularly happy with something I’ve written, editing gives me the chance to change it and often an idea that eluded me during the first draft will suddenly present itself at the editing stage.

I would love to hear from other writers about what techniques they like to use or what elements of their writing they particularly enjoy.

How the Police Have Been Helping with My Inquiries

One of the things I still hadn’t done when I last worked on my debut novel ‘Slur’ was to check police procedure from 1986. Because I don’t like to halt the flow when I am writing I often highlight sections to be researched later so I knew I had a few areas of investigation that I had to revisit. As mentioned on this blog previously, I returned to my novel after several years, and I was amazed to find how things have changed from a research point of view. Oh the wonders of the Internet! It makes me wonder sometimes how we all coped before.

PolicemanIn order to look up some details on police procedure I approached a wonderful organisation called the Police History Society. Their website is at: http://www.policehistorysociety.co.uk/ and, as well as providing a wealth of information, the website has links to the websites of regional police forces.

My novel is set in 1986 so I required information that is specific to that era. I therefore sent an email to the contact email address on the website on the off chance that someone would be able to help me. To my amazement, not only did they take the trouble to reply, but one wonderful retired officer took time out from his visit to family in New Zealand to contact ex colleagues and search the web for the information I needed.Police hat

I am happy to say that I have now finished the research for my book. I have clarified the wording that the police would have used when they read somebody their rights on making an arrest back in 1986. It was important to me that I got it right because I want my book to be as accurate as possible. I’ve also clarified a few other points of law.

In terms of court procedure, I found the following link useful: http://www.cps.gov.uk/victims_witnesses/going_to_court/giving_evidence.html.

I thought I would share this information because I am sure that other UK authors writing in the crime genre will find it useful. Additionally, it would be interesting to hear from other authors how you approach research. Do you carry out all your research before you start writing, do it as you go along or leave it all till the end? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below. Incidentally, does anyone remember the old style police hats that UK police used to wear (per the above images)? It’s making me all nostalgic.

Refreshed, Reinvigorated and Ready to Go

I probably should have preceded this blog post with one headed ‘Fatigued, Frustrated and Fed up’ as that’s exactly how I felt just a couple of weeks ago. It’s a good thing that my holiday came when it did as I was well in need of it.

Hols 3

‘Why was I feeling so FFF’d up with everything?’ you may ask. Here’s why:

Fatigued because I’ve been working weekends for the last seven months as well as working Monday to Friday. Basically, me and my husband have been renovating my mother-in-law’s former home as she sadly passed away last September.  Although the work was mainly cosmetic we underestimated just how long it would take to complete. We also didn’t realise how much the continuous weekend working would take it out of us, especially as we have both been fully stretched in our Monday to Friday occupations recently.  Plus, we’re not as young as we used to be and at times like this it really shows.

Frustrated because I desperately want to publish the novel that I wrote several years ago. Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy lately that I can’t even find time to edit it let alone put all my promotional and marketing plans into effect.

Fed up due to a combination of the above two. I do tend to push myself too hard at times, to the point where I feel extremely tired but I still find myself dissatisfied if I don’t achieve all of my goals. I planned to launch my novel in May or June and it galls me to have to accept that I will probably need to postpone the launch date.

Hols 1

Hols 2

On a more positive note, two more weeks should see the end of the house renovations and then I’ll get my weekends back – at last! I’ve also spent two blissful weeks lazing about in the sun so I’m feeling much more refreshed and ready to tackle the mountain of client work that is waiting for me. Not that I’m complaining about my client workload – it’s always good to have plenty of paid writing, proofreading and editing work. Getting my weekends back, however, will be an absolute bonus. It means that I’ll be able to take some time to chill and recharge my batteries at the weekends. I might also manage to squeeze in a couple of hours on my novel if I’ve been too busy during the week. Bring it on!

I’d love to hear how other authors find the time to organise a heavy workload particularly those who have other commitments as well as being authors. Please feel free to share your thoughts 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.

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.