Today I’d like to introduce you to psychological thriller writer, Jordanna East.
Her first book, Blood in the Past, is scheduled for release on June 19, 2013. Blood in the Past is the prelude novella to her debut Blood for Blood Series, which follows three lives entwined by deaths and consequences, revenge and obsession.
Like so many of us, Jordanna is publishing independently and I’ve invited her to guest on my blog because I like her marketing strategy. It started way before she had a book ready for sale. I’ll let Jordanna explain in her own words:
As an Indie Author, it’s kind of hard not to want to climb to the top of the tallest building in your city and scream “Take me seriously!” until your throat is raw. Self-published works are rapidly gaining ground, don’t get me wrong, but there are still some stubbornly ignorant people out there. These same people are the ones who will turn their noses up at your books. They won’t oblige you when you approach them for a review. And they’ll damn near laugh you out on your ass when you ask them to carry your book in their little bookstore. So what’s an author to do? Obviously, you want to write the best story you can. Of course, you want to hire a professional freelancer to create your cover art. And you most definitely—and I can’t stress this enough—want to hire a PROFESSIONAL EDITOR.
But these bullet points are pretty well known now, aren’t they? What if I told you there was something else you could do? There is. You can create your own publishing label. I did. I came up with Blood Read Press (pronounced Blood Red Press) last October. And it was so simple. I registered the name of the business with my county and state. I got myself a business checking account. And now, when a reader peruses Amazon, or some other retailer, they’ll see that Blood in the Past, the prelude novella to my upcoming series, has been released by Blood Read Press. It looks worlds better than the publisher being listed as Amazon. Or CreateSpace. It looks PROFESSIONAL. When I offer the book to a reviewer, they’ll take me seriously as well. So will bookstore owners. And that’s what this is about. Appearing (and actually being) professional so that the people out there with your career in their hands take you seriously.
Take a look at Jordanna’s website (scroll down her pages to see everything) and see how she’s branding both herself and her books in the build up to the launch date. In this way she is already creating an audience curious to buy and read her books.
Her website has a facility for interested people to sign up to her mailing list, in order to receive advance notification of book release dates. I’ve just joined it so that I don’t forget to have a look at her book on Amazon on launch day.
And, just to wet your appetite, here’s Jordanna’s book blurb:
The Blood in the Past.
Jillian Atford falls for an older man, a handsome Philadelphia cop, he’s married, a reality Jillian refuses to accept.
Lyla Kyle finds her mother dead on the floor from an apparent suicide. She blames her philandering father and wastes no time taking her revenge.
Detective Jason Brighthouse Sr. is in the wrong place at the right time to attempt to save a colleague from his burning home. When neither of them make it out alive, his teenage son can only harp on their last argument. He shoots himself in the head…with his father’s gun.
Three lives. Three deaths. One story. To understand the future, you must visit the past.
The Blood in the Past.
I’ve been reading Pride and Prejudice in preparation for entering the Writers’ News subscribers only January 2013 competition – the brief is ‘a story based on any of the characters or events in that famous novel – but set firmly in the 21st century’.
It’s the first time I’ve read the book and it’s taken me some time to get into it. I suppose it’s the old-fashioned language and often long paragraphs used to get a point across. But now that I know the characters I’m quite engrossed - although I’ve no idea how I’m going to capture its essence in just 1,700 words of a contemporary story.
In Jane Austen’s world people seem to marry barely knowing each other, with background and financial position counting far more than the compatibility of the couple. They get little time alone together and the height of a woman’s ambitions (and those of her parents) is to make a good marriage. Equally, the less well-off males are looking for a bride of independent means to make up for their own financial shortcomings.
Of course, today relationships are conducted quite differently so I think I’ve got quite a brainstorming session to think up a modern-day equivalent story! There is a wealth of Pride and Prejudice fan fiction on the web such as here - so I’m going to have a trawl through and see how it’s done.
In case you’d missed it, 2013 is the bicentenary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice – Austen held her first printed copy of the book on 29 January 1813. Today Pride and Prejudice is The British Library’s ‘most adopted’ title, in a fund-raising campaign where supporters are encouraged to sponsor a book of their choice.
I wonder which of today’s books will still be popular in 2213? Any suggestions?
By the way if you know any young writers (or are one yourself), there are details of a Jane Austen writing competition here, open to school years 7 to 11.
Romantic novelist Carole Matthews has produced a collection of 3 short stories available for free (possibly for a limited time only!) download. The collection is called ‘Winter Warmers’ and is available from Amazon here.
It will be published on the 26th November but you can pre-order it now for free and it will be automatically delivered to your Kindle on the 26th.
- With Love At Christmas by Carole Matthews (readinginthesunshine.wordpress.com)
Last weekend I was in Haworth and heard that it was lucky to touch the old wooden post office counter, over which the Bronte sisters‘ manuscripts were sent on their way to London publishers. The counter is now in a gift shop (with a very friendly and obliging owner) and here is a photo of me trying to generate myself some luck! It was a shame I couldn’t actually send one of my stories over the counter and off to ‘success land’ - but perhaps a little bit of the Bronte success might rub off on me…
The highlight of this trip to Haworth was a guided tour with BronteWalks. I was brought up in West Yorkshire and had many trips to Howarth when I was younger but all that stuck in my mind from those visits was the tiny handwritten books that the sisters made as children and the drunken lifestyle of their brother, Branwell.
Our guide, Johnnie Briggs (no, not Mike Baldwin from Coronation Street!), soon put that right. For instance, I didn’t know that:
- There were 2 older Bronte siblings who died in childhood.
- The Bronte sisters disliked their work as governesses and dreamed of opening their own school.
- It was the precarious state of the family finances that gave the sisters the final push they needed to complete novels and submit them to publishers (that reminded me of Jeffrey Archer who wrote Not A Penny More Not A Penny Less to rescue himself from bankruptcy)
- Charlotte was pregnant when she died
- Branwell painted himself out of his famous portrait of the sisters – see it here.
- The sisters’ father, Patrick, outlived his wife and all 6 of his children. He died aged 84.
Following the tour I visited the sisters’ Parsonage home with my eyes newly opened. I imagined the sisters discussing and critiquing each others work in the dining room and saw the room where Branwell died, with his family gathered around him. The Brontes lives were shadowed in sadness and beset by difficulties but despite this (or maybe because of this?) they produced world-class fiction.
So no more excuses – get writing and submitting! (A little bit of luck wouldn’t go amiss though…)
I came across the following competition on the blog Aiming For A Publishing Deal - many thanks to Charlotte C for highlighting it!
The competition is being run by Hampshire County Council and is asking for short stories (up to 1000 words) on the theme of Charlotte Mary Yonge. Charlotte was a best-selling Victorian novelist and her memory is kept alive by the Charlotte Mary Yonge Fellowship.Your story could be inspired by Charlotte’s life, one of her novels or maybe, a present day character discovering one of Charlotte’s books. There are 2 prizes of £50 Waterstones’ vouchers, one for under 16 and one for 16 +. Closing date is 12th December 2012 and you don’t have to live in Hampshire to enter. The full details are here.
Obviously this is a competition that will require some research but, on the plus side, that could deter many entrants – meaning that the field is smaller than that for many other competitions. And you may discover that you like Yonge’s books!
First of all she gave us 3 good reasons for choosing to write crime fiction:
- Crime accounts for 1/5 of all adult fiction sales
- In 2011 crime dominated the top 10 library loans
- Agents and editors are actively taking on new crime writers
Then she listed the essential elements of a crime novel:
- A good plot
- A gripping pace
- A satisfactory resolution
Suspense also forms an important part of a crime novel and the reader can be kept on tenterhooks in two ways:
- Wondering what has happened - for example, What dark secrets are the characters hiding? How did the victim meet his death when he was in a locked room?
- Wondering what is about to happen – for example, What will the killer do next? Will he be caught in time?
As well as the theory behind crime writing, Claire shared her own method of writing – which can be applied to any genre. She said it’s important to start with a one sentence ‘high-concept’ of what the book is about but it’s not necessary to plot every detail in advance nor to write long life histories for each character. Claire says she gets to know her characters as she goes along – a bit like getting to know someone in real life.
By writing 1,000 words a day for 3 months you can finish a first draft – and that first draft doesn’t have to be good! Claire repeated this last point several times. Once the first draft is complete, you can work on it and improve it. And Claire writes her first draft without research, to avoid getting side-tracked. She checks her facts later.
Doesn’t that make it sound easy?! So what are you waiting for…
Like me, many of you may recognise Vivien Hampshire’s name from her monthly column, ‘Book Deal or Bust’, which appeared a few years back in Writers’ Forum magazine. As Vivien wrote and edited her novel, ‘Losing Lucy’, she shared her experiences with the magazine’s readers.
‘Losing Lucy’ is about the abduction of a baby and the impact this loss has on the adults in the baby’s life. Vivien tackles this difficult subject well and the story takes an unexpected turn towards the end (you’ll have to read it to find out what happens!).
The novel is now available on Kindle via Amazon.
I asked Vivien about the process of publishing her book in this way:
Without the backing of a traditional publisher and editor, how did you know when your work was good enough to be published?
The suggestions, advice and encouragement I received from the readers of Writers’ Forum (largely struggling authors themselves) were wonderfully helpful! The manuscript also received a full critique from the Hilary Johnson Authors Advisory Service, whose positive comments gave me added faith in my book and the confidence to carry on, even when traditional agents and publishers kept turning me down. As for self-editing, I have been writing magazine fiction, teaching creative writing, and producing a small magazine as part of my ‘day job’ for years, so I have a good feel for what looks and feels right. Having said that, I did re-read my manuscript many, many times to eliminate even the tiniest errors!
How did you decide between uploading the book onto Kindle yourself and using a paid for service?
I am not the most technical person, and felt that the e-book uploading process, although relatively straightforward, might just be beyond me! I paid a modest fee (less than £100) to a company called New Age Publishers who really held my hand throughout the whole process, reformatted my Word document so the layout of the book was right for Kindle, made sure my royalties went to the right place, and gave me the opportunity to check and make changes for up to three months after the book went ‘live’. They did a grand job, well worth the fee.
How important do you think the cover is for a digital book?
Ebooks without covers look very unappealing, and I certainly wouldn’t look twice at one, let alone buy one. As professional artists can be costly, I took my cover photo myself, and New Age tweaked the wording for me. The cover is not perfect but it serves its purpose. (See Vivien’s cover here).
What are the pricing considerations on Amazon?
Very fair to the author – but then, there are no paper or storage costs, so Amazon’s cut is actually quite easy money! By pricing at around the £2 mark, my readers can buy the novel much cheaper than the average paperback, and I get 70% of the sale price. Royalties drop to only 35% if the price is set at less than £1.49, so I may think about lowering the price some time later if sales start to flag.
How did you go about marketing ‘Losing Lucy’?
Marketing is by far the hardest part, and that’s where the absence of a big publisher’s budget really tells. I used my own blog, writers’ groups and Facebook to publicise the book. Talks and book signings are difficult, if not impossible, without a physical pile of books to sign. I recently took advantage of Kindle’s 5 day promotion offer, and more than 800 free copies were downloaded – no royalties for me, but at least the book is being read, talked about and reviewed, which should help future sales.
Many thanks to Vivien for sharing her experience. E-publishing has made it so much easier for writers to self-publish and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t all be doing it – as long as we are absolutely sure that what we are about to release on the world has been edited to within an inch of its life and is absolutely the best it can be!
The blurb about the book is tantalising:
Alex discovers the secret passage through a Grandfather Clock which leads to a fantasy world on the island of Serendipity. Desperate to help rescue little Amy, he and his friends are captured by trolls in the underground caves. How will he escape?
“Despite being part of a series the book can be enjoyed as a standalone novel,” says Lorraine. ”The story is reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and it will appeal to readers aged around 7 to 11 years.”
Lorraine is a retired dental therapist and now visits schools encouraging children with her reading and writing workshops. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and also attends the same writing group as me – Lichfield and District Writers.
“The advice and encouragement of other writers is invaluable,” she explains. “I would recommend anyone new to writing to make contact with other authors for support.”
Having finished the hard graft of producing the book, Lorraine is now busy organising events to make sure it reaches as wide an audience as possible.
“I’m also working on the second draft of book 5 in the series,” she continues, “and preparing activities for children at my author events and school workshops. Plus, I’m making notes about other ideas before they take over my head!”
Lorraine will be promoting her book between 10am and 3pm at Lichfield library on the 8th September 2012 and also at Burntwood library on the 22nd September at the same times. If you live in the Staffordshire area why not go along and meet her?
Signed copies of Lorraine’s books are available via her website and the novels can also be bought through Amazon. They would make the perfect present for junior school children (and don’t forget, Christmas will be upon us before you know it!).
Could you co-write a novel with your teenage daughter? That’s what Jodi Picoult did when her daughter Samantha pitched an idea to her for a young adult novel.
The result is Between the Lines. It is based on the idea that the characters in a book can live their own lives when the book is closed. When the book is opened they must jump back into their pre-ordained story roles, like actors who appear in the same production night after night. But what happens when a teenage girl falls in love with the illustrations of Prince Oliver in a fairytale book and the prince wants to live a life outside of the story pages?
Jodi and Samantha came to Birmingham Library theatre last week to talk about the novel and I went along to hear them. Samantha is 16 now and suggested the idea to her mum 3 years ago. They spent 1 school summer holiday talking about the concept, the following summer writing it, the next summer editing and this summer they are promoting the finished book.
Jodi was the disciplinarian, setting the number of hours per day they would work or the number of pages that must be completed. She also did the typing, just because she’s got quicker fingers. The two of them sat side by side in Jodi’s office and literally spoke the story aloud to each other, often coming out with exactly the same words and ideas – I’m sure this is only possible if you have an extremely good relationship with your teenager!
Despite being only 16, Samantha was a very confident young woman and gave a reading from the novel as if she were a born actress.
The audience at the Birmingham talk included several school parties who asked Samantha for advice on becoming a writer. She urged them to write to a set schedule in order to get it done. Jodi added that taking some sort of writing course was also extremely useful.
Finally, Jodi says there are 2 skills which are essential to any writer:
- Be able to write on demand
- Be able to self-edit
So, it shouldn’t be too difficult to produce that bestseller if those are the only 2 things we need to master!
Don’t forget you have until midnight tomorrow (Monday 16/07/2012) to enter the draw for a copy of Writing the Paranormal Novel by Steven Harper. Click here for details.
- Samantha van Leer and Jodi Picoult spill the beans (bookwitch.wordpress.com)
A few months ago I won a copy of Writing the Paranormal Novel by Steven Harper in one of those ‘Win a Book’ competitions in Writing Magazine. It’s sat unopened on my bookshelf ever since. That’s no reflection on the book itself - it’s just that I’m not into the paranormal. I prefer to read and write about reality.
But there is a booming market in paranormal tales so I’d like to give my copy of Writing the Paranormal Novel away to someone who either already writes in this genre or someone who is interested in trying it out for the first time or someone who just wants to know more about it.
The strap line for the book is ‘Techniques and Exercises for Weaving Supernatural Elements into Your Story’. The chapter headings include things such as:
- Magic and the Superhero
- The Paranormal at Large
- Arc, Plot and Subplot
And that last heading sounds like it could be useful to any writer.
Steven is an English teacher in Michigan, USA and has written several novels. He also uses the pseudonyms Steven Piziks and Penny Drake.
All you have to do to win the book is leave a comment on this blog post before midnight on Monday 16th July 2012 and indicate that you want to be included in the prize draw. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, ‘Please put me in the draw’ will suffice. Unfortunately postage costs mean that I have to restrict entries to UK addresses only.
On a completely different subject, any mother who has ever torn her hair out trying to concoct a suitable ‘literary’ costume for her child to wear to school on World Book Day, will love this link to a mother who dressed her child as a Kindle – click here.