Two things caught my eye in the world of poetry this week:
Firstly, NASA is asking for Haiku to make a trip to the planet Mars. This is a real opportunity to get your poetry to a wider audience!
The spacecraft will launch in November to study the atmosphere on Mars. Three poets will have their haiku put on a DVD that will be placed in the craft. Everyone else that submits a haiku for inclusion will get their name included on the DVD.
“The Going to Mars campaign offers people worldwide a way to make a personal connection to space, space exploration and science in general, and share in our excitement about the MAVEN mission,” said Stephanie Renfrow, lead for the MAVEN Education and Public Outreach program at University of Colorado, Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.
There is no entry fee (and no prize other than the honour of sending your work to Mars). Entrants must be 18 or over and all Haiku must be written in English. The deadline for submissions is 1st July 2013. From the 15th of July the public will vote for the three Haiku that will go off to the red planet. The winner will be announced on August 8th 2013.
Full details are available here.
Thanks to Nick Daws for bringing this opportunity to my attention.
Secondly, The Emma Press is now open to submissions for ‘The Emma Press Anthology of (Mildly) Erotic Verse’. This got my attention because I went to a workshop last week on writing erotic e-books. It was quite an eye-opener when we were told about the various different sub-genres in the market – or maybe I’ve just led a sheltered life!
But The Emma Press isn’t looking for anything explicit or hard-core. They say, “The erotic element of the poems can be as apparent or barely-there as you like, but the writing has got to tick all the boxes: metre, pace, form and language.”
It is envisaged that 15 poets will be included in the book and there will be a £25 advance for each poet.
Up to four poems can be submitted and there is no entry fee. But be quick – the deadline is 17th May 2013.
Full details are here.
Enrol your e-book in Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select program and you get two advantages:
- Amazon Prime members are able to borrow the book for free and this will generate a royalty payment for the author
- The book can be offered free for 5 days in every 90. Offering a book for free is supposed to generate large numbers of downloads which will then convert into reviews of the book on Amazon, which in turn will drive an increased number of sales.
There is also a downside to joining KDP Select – the e-book must remain exclusive to Amazon i.e. it cannot be sold on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo etc.
Many e-book authors swear by KDP Select and its advantages. They don’t see exclusivity as a disadvantage because Amazon is by far the biggest retailer of e-books.
I’m not sure. I’ve had e-books available in KDP Select for just over three months now and I’ve had only one Amazon Prime loan (it was in the US). So that doesn’t seem a massive benefit. Are any of you Amazon Prime members? I don’t know anyone who is.
I’ve run one free promotion. In the five days that One Day for Me was free, I had 135 US free downloads, 93 in the UK, 2 in Germany, 1 Japan and 1 Canada. As far as I can tell, only one review (it was in the UK) was written as a result and I noticed no increase in sales. This was despite spending an age adding my book to the many websites and Facebook pages that offer to list free e-books.
But I didn’t remove that book from KDP Select after the first 90 days, mainly because whilst I was dithering about what to do, the Amazon automatic re-enrol swung into action.
Looking on the bright side – maybe next time I’ll do better!
Which brings me nicely to my next KDP Select Promotion.
My second anthology Old Friends is free on all Kindle platforms for the next three days. Old Friends is a collection of 13 short stories. There are tales with a twist, stories about the ups and downs of family life plus a little romance. Perfect to enjoy with a cup of coffee and a biscuit! If you’re in the UK click here or in the US click here, otherwise search for ASIN B00BJIKIBI on any Amazon platform.
And as a special treat, One Day for Me is half price for the next three days too. One Day for Me is a collection of 8 short stories that have either won or been short-listed in UK writing competitions. If you’re in the UK click here or in the US click here, otherwise search for ASIN B00B4XCYJC on any Amazon platform.
I look forward to the reviews rolling in, followed by a tsunami of sales!
Recently, I’ve been turning my hand to crime-writing – inspired by some of the competitions mentioned on Helen’s blog.
I’ve sent my entry into the M.R. Hall competition (by email after the on-line form kept insisting that my entry was longer than the required 2,000 characters, but I think that glitch is fixed now).
My entry for the Cremona Hotel competition has been drafted – but will no doubt need a generous dose of spit and polish before it’s ready to go on its way.
Now I’m turning my mind to brainstorming ideas for the GKBC competition (stands for Giving Kudos to Brilliant Content) and after that there’s the ‘Win a Book’ competition in the May issue of Writing Magazine (write 250 words in which someone pulls a gun on a bank cashier).
Alongside this, and to get me into the mind-set of a crime writer, I’ve been reading Crime in the City - the Official Crime Writers’ Association Anthology 2003. I’ve just looked on Amazon and only second-hand copies are available now - so maybe I’ve got a rarity here!
Like all good stories, these tales are character-led and usually contain no great detail about the mechanics of the crime involved or the police procedures used in solving it. The latter often puts people (including me) off penning crime fiction for fear of getting the investigative procedures wrong, so short stories could be a good starting point.
The best way of finding out about police procedure is to make friends with a policeman but failing that, there are resources available on the internet. After a quick trawl I’ve found:
- Crime and Clues - the Art and Science of Criminal Investigation
- Writers Write - this page lists several websites that might interest crime writers
- Writing.ie -Really Useful Links for Crime Writers
Now, time to decide how my next victim’s going to die …
Since starting my own adventures in e-publishing I’ve started reading more self-published e-books. I’ve been doing this for two reasons:
- I want to see what types of thing people are publishing
- I want to support other writers in the same way that I’ve been supported
Taking the second point – the best way to support self-published authors is to give them a review. It doesn’t have to be a full-on 5 star rave about the book – just a few words to show that the book has been read and enjoyed (if you have enjoyed it, obviously).
A while ago I read and reviewed something which I enjoyed. The book had held my attention from beginning to end and I looked forward to picking up again each night (I generally only read at bedtime). There were some formatting errors in the text but they didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the narrative. So, when I left my review I didn’t mention these errors, I concentrated on the book’s literary content.
Now a comment has been added to my review, indicating that I should have pointed out the formatting problems and downgraded my star rating accordingly.
My first reaction to this was anger that someone had dared to criticise my opinion and I had to restrain myself from commenting back and thus getting into a public argument.
Now that I’ve had chance to calm down and think about it, I realise that I was probably wrong not to mention the formatting issues. However, my review was the first one for that book and I didn’t want to give it the kiss of death – but I did want to leave a comment to say that I’d enjoyed it.
What would you have done?
I’ve recently tried another book and found it contains several punctuation mistakes. So, I’m not going to leave a review at all, regardless of the quality of the story, because I don’t want to get a reputation for dishonest reviews.
I’ve learned a lesson from all this - ’Look Inside’ or download a sample of the book before buying to ensure that formatting, punctuation etc. is up to scratch.
Any tips on getting the most out of Goodreads, either as an author or a reader, would be gratefully received.
After all the wonderful advice I got on my previous post about cover design, I thought I’d got things under control in that department. But my attempt at a cover for my third book was so abysmal that I daren’t even show it to you here. Compared with similar books already on Amazon it looked very basic and most definitely amateurish.
I think this is because the book is non-fiction and therefore requires a very business-like cover to get anywhere near competing with the hundreds of other books on the same subject.
So I decided to call in the professionals. I used the website Fiverr. This site features hundreds (or maybe thousands even) of sellers offering their services for just $5. The range of services is vast from personalised greetings cards, translations and bespoke bedtime stories. But there are also lots of e-book cover designers on there too.
I picked one of the top-rated designers (like on EBay, buyers have to leave feedback on the service they received) and told her the title of the book, what it was about and a brief suggestion about the type of image that might be suitable (it is also possible to send the designer a specific photo if you have one that you want to include on the cover).
Two days later my cover design was delivered and you can see it on this post. It’s much better than I could produce. I’ve borrowed the title from a ‘column’ on the Open Writing website which runs an extract from this blog each week (the site includes lots of other writing from around the world, too).
A Writer on Writing is a compilation of 14 of my articles that have appeared in the UK writing press, such as Writing Magazine & Writers News, The New Writer, Writers’ Forum and Freelance Market News. They cover subjects as diverse as generating ideas, writing articles with an anniversary ‘hook’ and flash fiction.
As I did with my other books, I have set an introductory price of 77p - with a view to increasing it when I see how sales go. Setting the perfect price point to encourage buyers without devaluing the work involved in producing a book is very difficult. 77p is the lowest price point available to independent authors.
I’ll keep you posted on how my e-publishing empire is growing (or not as the case may be!).
Has anyone ever been on one of Lois Maddox’s ‘Relax and Write’ weekends?
I’m feeling excited because I’ve just booked ‘Writing the Mystery Novel’ with Eileen Robertson, in Leeds. It’s a birthday present from my mum (I had a big birthday a couple of weeks ago) and I’m really looking forward to it - even though it’s not until October.
A fellow Midlands writer, David Gough, has just been on a ‘Discover Travel Writing’ course with Lois’ organisation and gave me a glowing report about it.
So why did I choose mystery novel-writing? Two reasons:
- I enjoy crime/thriller/mystery novels and most of my TV viewing is in the same genre – anything from the ‘cosy’ crime of Midsomer Murders through New Tricks to the grittier Scandinavian dramas of The Killing and Wallander.
- I saw some interesting statistics on BookBub (a site which advertises special offer e-books to thousands of email subscribers). These showed that many more of their readers are interested in buying mysteries and thrillers than any other genre. At the time of writing they have 410,000 subscribers interested in these types of books compared to Romance, which is the next largest genre at 310,000 subscribers. If you’re interested in how other genres fare, have a look here.
I know that I won’t come back from Leeds a fully fledged mystery novelist but I hope to be inspired both by the course itself and the chance to mix with other writers (as well as having the chance to stay in what is described as 4-star venue).
Roll on October!
Who doesn’t like something for nothing?
So here are a few bits and pieces that won’t cost you a penny:
- Nick Daws is running a competition on his blog to win a copy of his new course ‘Blogging for Writers’. All you have to do is send him a guest post of between 500 to 1000 words for his writing blog. The winning entry will be published on his (high-traffic) blog along with any others that he feels are of sufficient interest to his readers. The closing date is Sunday 31st March at 5pm.
- Ideas Tap are running a competition for stories on any theme between 1,200 and 5,000 words in length. Up to 12 stories will be chosen to receive expert feedback plus publication in an e-anthology. The closing date is 28th May and full details are here.
- My first e-anthology One Day For Me – 8 Award-Winning Stories is free across all Amazon platforms until 25th March.
… like another writer.
Everyone knows that writing is a lonely business, a solitary pursuit that is not for those who need other people around them.
I don’t mind being alone with my computer or notepad – I quite like my own company. But some sort of evolutionary process has made us humans into social beings who, occasionally, need interaction with like-minded people.
And ‘like-minded’ can be the difficult bit. I have a lovely family but they are not writers and have no interest in the literary world, bar a library book to read before bed. So it’s difficult to share with them the ups and downs of a writer’s life.
I don’t tell my husband about every rejection I receive or every competition in which I fail to even make the short-list. He’d probably ask me why I was bothering to write anything at all. But, to justify the time I spend at the keyboard, I do tell him in great detail about every success, however tiny. But that doesn’t count as an interaction with a like-minded person.
That’s why it’s so liberating when I get to meet up with another writer, especially one who shares the same interests as me. How good it is to talk to someone who knows the difference between a story for People’s Friend and one for Take a Break. How nice it is to see the sympathy in someone’s eyes when you tell them about the rejection of a story that you were sure had been absolutely perfect for your chosen market. And how great to share news of a success!
And it’s absolutely wonderful to talk to someone who doesn’t see writing as your little ‘eccentricity’ that you are indulging in now that the children are almost grown-up.
I’m very lucky in having a great writing buddy in Helen. Last week we had our quarterly catch-up and target-setting. Back home I’m thinking I was too ambitious in my targets – probably caused by the over-enthusiasm generated by talking to another writer. But never mind – it will do me good to aim high.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a virtual friend in person for the first time. I got to know Sharon via this blog and discovered she lived in the same town where I was brought up. So last time I was in the area we met for coffee. Sharon runs Fiction Addiction – an online critique group for womag writers – and A Quick Read - a short story app for Android phones. It was good to put a face to a name and share the trials and tribulations of trying to get published!
So how do you feed the need to share the frustrations and joys of writing? Are you lucky enough to have a like-minded partner or maybe you let off steam on a writers’ forum?