‘Born Bad’ now Available for Pre-order

I’m thrilled to announce that my new novel is now available for pre-order on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XGY9YHG, priced at only £2.48. It has changed its title from the working title of ‘Bad Brother and I’ to ‘Born Bad’. The novel will also be available to purchase from other eBook retailers.

I’m really pleased with the cover that my publishers, Aria Fiction, have produced. The image of my protagonist, Adele, is just how I pictured her in my mind, and I love the tagline that Aria have added. Here is the cover:

The book blurb has changed too and I’m really happy with the new blurb that my publishers have written. Here it is:

Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.

Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.

But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there’s only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. Afterall, blood is thicker than water…

I hope you agree that it really pulls readers in and makes them want to find out more.

Big thanks to Aria fiction for a sterling job so far. My publication date for ‘Born Bad’ is 1st July and as the date draws nearer I’ll be taking part in my first blog tour, organised by Aria. I’ll keep you up-to-date with links to blog posts, interviews etc. once I have the details.

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Why I’m Using a Prologue

I’ve just been doing some rewrites for my latest novel, which is book three of the Riverhill Trilogy. Although (to me anyway) this novel screams out for a prologue, originally I didn’t include one. The book’s opening is a departure from the rest of the book as well as from the first two books in the trilogy. It takes place in a different year and setting from the rest of book three, and a different setting from the first two books. However, its relevance is revealed as the book progresses.

Trilogy

Feedback from my beta readers was mixed in relation to what was then chapter one. They commented on its detachment from the rest of the book but said that it was an effective device in terms of what follows later. This reaffirmed my belief that it should in fact be a prologue rather than a chapter.

So, why didn’t I go with my gut instinct and make it a prologue in the first place?

I’m embarrassed to say that I bowed to outside pressure. You see, prologues are on those lists of things to avoid, which the publishing industry are fond of producing. Although I’ve already sounded off about this topic in my previous blog post Breaking the Writing Rules, I still avoided having a prologue when it was clearly the right thing to do. Silly me.

In fact, the publishing industry are so emphatic when they set these rules that I was still hesitant. I therefore carried out some research about prologues. Apparently, the reason they fell out of favour was because many authors weren’t using them to good effect. One of the cited examples of poor use of prologues includes using an excerpt from a later part of the book to stimulate reader interest. Publishers and agents have now dubbed prologues as ‘overused’.

Researching

During my research I read several articles about how and when to use a prologue. These all agreed that prologues can still be effective if used in the right way. And the good news is that my prologue fits in with many of the stated guidelines for effective prologues. It is set in a different time and place and it carries additional information which is relevant later in the book.

Once I had established all this, I felt more confident about using a prologue. But really, I should never have doubted it. After all, I’m an independent author and therefore don’t necessarily have to bend to the will of traditional agents and publishers. Isn’t that part of what being an independent is all about? My prime considerations should be my readers and what works best for the book.

In terms of readers, those who have read the first two books in the trilogy are used to reading books about feisty females from council estates battling against the extreme challenges life throws at them. Therefore, they will expect similar from the third book.

Soldier

My readers aren’t necessarily into reading about all action heroes in war zones. So I don’t want to put them off by giving them the impression that the whole book is about a group of soldiers in Iraq. Therefore, the way to achieve this is to use a prologue. That way, it will be more evident to readers that the opening of the book is additional background information rather than part of the main setting. It comes into play later in the book as it helps to explain the motivations of one of the main characters.

I’d love to hear views from other authors and readers regarding prologues. Do you like prologues? If not, why not? Have you used a prologue in a book? If so, what made you use one?

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The Importance of Beta Readers

For independent authors, beta readers play a key role in getting a book ready for publication. If you become traditionally published, you will have an editor (or sometimes a team of editors) assigned whose job it is to help bring your book up to market standards. However, if you’re an independent author you won’t have this advantage. So it’s great to know that there is a willing bunch of volunteers out there who will act as beta readers.

Essentially this means that they will read through your book before it goes to market and give you valuable feedback. This enables you to make any necessary adjustments and bring your book up to as high a standard as possible before publication.Magnifying glass

What they do – Some of the tasks that beta readers will carry out are to check for inconsistencies (plot holes) and errors, and problems with character development, continuity or feasibility. They could also make suggestions on ways in which to improve the story, for example, if there are areas of the novel in which you need to show more of the action rather than just telling the tale.

When you’ve been working on a book for several months it’s sometimes difficult to be objective. It’s therefore invaluable to get the opinion of an unbiased third party who will notice things that you may have overlooked.

Sometimes beta readers will also highlight proofreading errors, but this depends on the beta reader. On most occasions, proofreading is undertaken as a separate task and it doesn’t generally fall under the remit of the beta reader.

Man readingHow to get them – There are various ways of getting the message out that you are looking for beta readers. You could try putting a request on your blog, or put a message up on social media to let people know. Goodreads is another good way to make people aware and there are Indie author threads in many of the Goodreads groups, which will allow you to put up messages about your books. If you have a mailing list, you could also try adding a request for beta readers to your newsletter.

Who they are – Sometimes fellow authors may offer to beta read for you, and it’s often useful to have a reciprocal arrangement whereby you help each other. You may also find enthusiastic readers, book reviewers, people who are interested in your work, or others who want to improve the quality of published books on the market.

It’s great to have a good balance of beta readers to offer different perspectives. My current beta reading team includes male and female, authors and readers, and people from both the UK and the US.

It’s probably not a good idea to ask family and friends to be beta readers. It’s difficult for somebody to be totally honest when they share a close relationship with you. They may hold back or, on the other hand, if they give you some unwelcome criticism it may cause ill feeling between the two of you.

How many? – As each beta reader will concentrate on the aspects of a book that are important to them, it’s useful to have Woman readingseveral beta readers. I would aim for at least four, but more if possible. I personally think that five or six is an ideal number but other authors may disagree.

Dealing with feedback – It can be difficult when you realise that your book isn’t at quite as high a standard as you thought it was. Bear in mind though that it’s best to have it brought to your attention at this stage rather than have reviewers point out any failings.

Each beta reader will have their own preferences and their own point of view, and because you will write your book in your own particular style, you won’t necessarily want to act on every single one of their comments. It’s up to you as the author to decide which changes you want to make to enhance your book. It’s also worth bearing in mind, though, that if more than one person brings something to your attention, then it’s probably something you need to address.

I want to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful team of beta readers for the excellent job they do. I value their input and appreciate all their helpful suggestions.

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The Indie Author’s To Do List

Now that I’ve finished an early draft of my third novel, and sent it off to my beta readers, I’m thinking about the other tasks that I have to complete before publication. I’ve taken a look at the ‘To Do’ lists that I prepared for the previous two books and, to be honest, I could easily become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work still to be done. There’s the front and back matter, cover design, editing, proofreading, listing with Nielsen and BDS (for libraries), formatting etc. etc. And that’s before I even think about marketing.

The job of an independent author isn’t just to write a novel, but it’s similar to managing a project. However, unlike business projects, which may involve huge teams of people, the independent author is responsible for the whole project from start to finish. Although it is possible to hire help for certain tasks, ultimately, the overall responsibility for delivery rests with the author.

To Do List

I therefore thought it would be interesting to share a mock-up of a typical Indie author’s to do list. I hope that it might be helpful to others, especially new authors. I personally find a ‘To Do’ list invaluable because you can keep track of exactly where you are up to, and mark off your tasks as you complete them. I use grey highlighting to cover the areas that are completed, and use either bright highlighting or red italics to draw certain items to my attention. In this way I can tell at a glance what jobs still need to be tackled. By breaking tasks down in this way, and keeping track of them, the process will seem less daunting.

The following ‘To Do’ list includes only those tasks that have to be undertaken once you have produced your first draft of the book. Therefore, it refers to those activities that I would normally start organising once my book is with my beta readers. Here goes:

Task Done
Arrange cover design asap. N.B. Need both a Kindle and a print version.
Front and back matter.  

 

Write online press release.  
Allocate an ISBN number and register the book on Nielsen Title Editor website for the print version (takes 3 working days to show), (for the Kindle version Amazon allocate an ASIN number).
Libraries – Register with BDS once book is on Nielsen database: http://www.bibliographicdata.co.uk/ before I publish.
Write a series of blog posts related to the book, which I can publish at regular intervals until publication.
Re-read ‘Slur’ and ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ to make sure there are no inconsistencies in the three books (as it’s a trilogy).
Draw up a list of quotes from the book and from early reviews that I can add to Twitter.
Do a newsletter for people on mailing list announcing the launch (once available for pre-order), telling them about the Goodreads Giveaway & any other launch promotions.
Deal with feedback from beta readers once I receive it (deadline is 11th April).
Edit using editing software.
Arrange proof-reader in advance then do final proofread myself when he has completed it.
Arrange eARCs to all reviewers. Try to give them at least three weeks before I launch. Arrange any interviews.
Format for Kindle, upload, make available for pre-order and announce via newsletter.
Format for CreateSpace – Refer to typesetting instructions under ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ folder.
Upload to CreateSpace. Then approach bookshop with launch date (once I know when I will receive my print copies) & set up promo activities. N.B. Have to order a print proof first and check that before ordering my copies.
Organise a Goodreads Giveaway as soon as the book is published (make sure that the Kindle and print versions are linked together before I do this).
Send for personal copies from CreateSpace once the print version is available (this should cover friends, libraries and book shop signing).
Organise book shop signing. Make sure I have all the promotional materials ready for the signing e.g. A4 display stands for book posters, and that I have sufficient stock of the two previous novels.
Add the book to Booklinker to get the short form link.
Change profiles on WordPress website (all relevant pages), Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads and Facebook to include the new book, and replace old author photos. N.B. Must include the Amazon link once it is available.
Notify everyone about the launch – Twitter (pin launch tweet), schedule a new release tweet for next few days, FB, mailing list, blog, text friends if not active on FB etc.
Organise any ads in relation to any launch or pre-launch promotions (see below).
Once the book is available, possibly organise a book promotion in relation to one or both of the first two books in the trilogy.
Make up a marketing list for any additional promotional activities that may prove fruitful e.g. book trailers, radio interviews etc.
Do sales to libraries – Would have to approach re AGG at the same time as I haven’t done yet.

 

Your own ‘To Do’ list might vary depending on, for example, whether you are producing a digital or a print version of your book, or both, as well as other factors. However, the above list will hopefully give you some ideas to consider.

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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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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.

A Change of Plan

Now that I’ve published my debut novel, ‘Slur’ and my short story book, ‘Crime, Conflict and Consequences’ I’m pressing ahead with my second novel. I originally intended the second novel to be a disturbing psychological thriller called ‘Bad Brother and I’. Having already written about 10,000 words of this book, mostly in outline form but with the opening and concluding chapters drafted, it seemed the logical next step. In fact, I had also published the blurb for ‘Bad Brother and I’ in the back of ‘Slur’.

Then something happened.

As I was writing ‘Slur’ I thought of a great idea for a sequel. I had grown attached to one of my main characters in ‘Slur’, called Rita, and through my debut novel I had alluded to the fact that she hadClipartsalbum_31410 Child a rather colourful home life with a father who was a petty criminal and a sister who hung about with some dubious characters. Rita is feisty, foul mouthed and brash but she’s also loyal and has a strong sense of right and wrong as a result of her grandparents’ influence when she was a child. Therefore I thought it would be interesting to explore her character further and place her in an extremely challenging situation.

I decided that I would push on with ‘Bad Brother and I’ once I had published my short story book, and then write the sequel to ‘Slur’. My reasoning behind this was that I was much further forward with ‘Bad Brother and I’ than with any of the other novels I had planned. However, whilst I was getting ‘Slur’ ready for publication, additional ideas for the sequel were forming in my mind. I already had the plot roughly sketched and I was adding notes to it daily.

I was so excited about the idea for the sequel that I also typed up the opening chapter in draft form. Then, one morning I woke up at 5 am after a dream and I had the whole of the ending in my head. I couldn’t wait to get it down on paper. Fortunately, I have a notepad at my bedside because of my overactive imagination (these ideas always seem to come to me in the middle of the night – sod’s law!)

Clipartsalbum_57330 Clock

The following day I typed up the ending in draft from my handwritten notes and I could see the novel starting to take shape. I knew then that I didn’t want to put it off until I had written ‘Bad Brother and I’. After all, I was still immersed in the world that I had created and the characters were fresh in my mind so I decided to go for it. I changed the blurb in the back of ‘Slur’ and started work on the sequel as soon as I had launched the short story book.

I am now four chapters and 10,000 words in and I’m so glad I made this decision. There is no way I could have focused on ‘Bad Brother and I’ when all my enthusiasm was for the sequel. I’m really enjoying working on this book although it may have to take a back seat for a couple of weeks as I’m currently organising a couple of client jobs.

Although I was further forward with ‘Bad Brother and I’ than with the sequel to ‘Slur’, I actually think that this book will flow more quickly because I’m full of enthusiasm for it. There’s another advantage in writing this book next, and that is the fact that it is similar in type to ‘Slur’. Therefore, I can target them to the same readership.

Clipartsalbum_16620 BooksMy husband actually came up with an idea for a third book in the series. At first I wasn’t sure if it could be developed into a full-length novel as it was just the bare bones of an idea. However, the more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me and I began fleshing out the plot and adding detail. It is now definitely workable as a novel and, as a result, ‘Slur’ has become the first part in a trilogy.

So I think my Bad Brother will have to wait a while longer before he gets his turn in the limelight. Sorry Bad Brother but my female characters are just too dominant. I will get back to it one day though and I think that once I’ve taken the characters from ‘Slur’ as far as I can, I’ll be ready to work with a new set of characters and give them my undivided attention.

Authors, have you ever had a writing dilemma that has caused you to make a complete change in your writing plans? Or, perhaps you’ve had a character who has taken on a life of his or her own. I’d love to hear your comments on this.

 

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