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!
I have a paperback copy of See Jane Write : A Girl’s Guide to Writing Chick Lit by Sarah Mlynowski and Farrin Jacobs, to give away.
This is a very easy to read book from the US, and ideal if Chick Lit is your genre, or a genre you’d like to know more about. If you’d like to win this wonderful prize, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post indicating that you want to be put in the draw. You have until midnight on Saturday 16th February 2013. One comment will be chosen at random (so you don’t have to be witty or clever – but if you can be, all the more entertaining for the rest of us!). When I have made contact with the winner, I will announce her/his name on this blog.
BUT this is a competition for my email subscribers only. So, if you don’t already receive my blog posts via email, just stick your email address in the box on the right and follow the activation instructions in the email that you receive – then you can take part in the competition.
Sorry – prize can be sent to UK postal addresses only.
Do any of you do morning pages? By this I mean: write longhand immediately on waking each morning.
Julia Cameron advocates this in her book The Artists’s Way. I haven’t read the book but heard about it from someone who has done morning pages for many years. This lady scribbles down everything that is going on in her head, things she has to do that day, negative thoughts about whatever is going on in her life etc. She finds it clears her brain and enables her to start the day in a better frame of mind. Sometimes it produces something that can be used in a story or elsewhere.
I know that other people get up early to work on their novel or another project, either because it’s the only way they can make time in their day to write or because they just enjoy the quiet at dawn before the rest of the family erupts into activity.
Up until now I’ve lacked the willpower to set the alarm any earlier than absolutely necessary, just to write. But my husband has changed his job and needs to be at work by 7:30 am – forcing us to set the alarm for 6:00 am, and therefore giving me the opportunity to try morning pages.
So I’ve been writing for 25 minutes each day before getting up (with a cup of tea brought to me!).
I decided that I wanted something positive to show for this time so I’m drafting a longer piece than I normally write. I never read back more than a sentence of what I wrote the previous day and I don’t edit anything. I don’t pause to think of the right words, I’m just trying to get the flow of the story down on paper.
It’s a positive experience because I get up knowing that I’ve already ‘achieved’ something and the number of completed A4 pages is growing.
Does anyone else do this – or, as Julia Cameron envisaged, do you write about whatever is on your mind?
There’s no right or wrong in this. Different things work for different people.
Last week I went to an E-Publishing seminar with the lovely ladies (and one gentleman) from the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. It was run by one of our members who has been successfully publishing her erotica in e-book form for the last 12 months (unfortunately we didn’t have time in the seminar for her promised session on erotica - so that treat is still to come!).
I came away with my head buzzing with jargon such as .mobi, .epub, Smashwords, US Tax Identification Numbers and lots more. I was tempted to throw up my hands and pay a professional to format, design a cover and distribute the modest project that I have in mind. But I’ve decided to have a go myself for three reasons -
- I doubt that I’ll earn enough from the book to recoup the costs of a professional
- E-publishing is definitely the future and therefore as a writer I ought to get to grips with it
- I’m a computer programmer by day, so if other people can master e-publishing – why can’t I?
So the other day I started. The first thing I did was download the Smashwords Style Guide to my Kindle. This is the e-publishing ‘bible’ and, as well as giving lots of background information, it describes how to format a Word document so that it is acceptable to Smashwords. This is supposed to mean that the format will be acceptable for Amazon Kindle too.
Although Amazon still has the largest share of the e-book market, it’s important to make your work available on Smashwords as well. Smashwords sell e-books directly to the public and they also distribute to many of the other e-book retailers such as Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple.
I found the Smashwords Style Guide very useful. It shows how to get first line paragraph indentation correct (get rid of those naughty tabs and spaces if you’ve used them), how to ensure that the whole document is the same style and how to do a linked table of contents . One thing slowed me down – the Guide gives instructions for different Word editions up to 2007 but doesn’t mention 2010, which I am using, so sometimes I had to play around for a bit until I found what I was looking for.
Now I have my document formatted (I think – I won’t know it’s right until I try to upload it), so it’s time to do the cover. I’m feeling nervous about this. The Guide recommends hiring a professional cover designer (and will even send you a list of low-cost cover designers) because first impressions of a book are important. But our wonderful seminar leader does it herself and gave us lots of tips.
So that’s my next step …
By the way, if anyone’s got any e-publishing tips, I’d be most grateful!
I hope you’re all fully recovered from the festive season and ready to write again.
Here are a few bits and pieces that might be useful for the new year:
- ‘Don’t Break the Chain’ – nip over to Vikki Thompson’s blog to read about a great method of encouraging you to write every day. It involves using a chart to mark each day that you’ve written something. Hopefully, all these marks will form a long chain that you will do anything to avoid breaking. Follow the link on Vikki’s blog to down load the chart for free. And it doesn’t matter when you start because there are no dates on the chart. So no excuses - you can start any time of the year!
- Prima magazine have changed the word count for their monthly ‘Your Winning Story’ competition. It is now a maximum of 1000 words. The prize is still a Kobo eReader. Email your entries to email@example.com and include your name, age, address, phone number and a recent photo. You’ll have to buy the mag. for the full rules plus the address for postal entries.
- Uniquely Dublin International Competition wants entries that ‘celebrate Dublin today’. There are categories for all the arts (music, animation etc) including the written word – and you only need to write 100 words about Dublin to be in with a chance of winning the category prize of 1,000 Euros or the overall prize of 10,000 Euros. Closing date is Jan 28th 2013 and entry is free. Full details are here.
And finally a couple of thank yous:
- I would like to thank Maria’s Book Blog and Jenny Schwartz for my prize of a Kindle copy of ‘Drawing Closer’ – Jenny’s contemporary romance. Maria regularly hosts author interviews and book giveaways, so if you want to win – pay her a visit.
- Last but certainly not least, I would like to thank Susan for nominating me for an Inspiring Blogger Award, which she did before Christmas. I’m supposed to tell you 7 things about me but I’m sure your eyes are glazing over by now so maybe I’ll leave that for another time. But do have a look at Susan’s blog - she’s a lovely lady.
The museum contains exhibits that each recall the breakup of a relationship. Each object is accompanied by a narrative telling its story such as:
- A lover’s mobile phone, given to the girlfriend he’d just broken up with, so that she couldn’t call him anymore
- An axe that was used on the furniture of an unfaithful partner
- A garden dwarf that was thrown at an ex’s windscreen on divorce day
The place sounds like a building full of writing prompts with a whole wealth of relationship stories, just waiting to be written. There’s a cafe there too - so somewhere to sit and jot down notes whilst enjoying mulled wine and pepper cookies (the house specialities according to the website).
The museum also accepts new exhibits from people wishing to get rid of stuff that reminds them of a painful breakup. What would your hero or heroine donate?
Look out for the museum’s touring exhibitions, there was one in Lincolnshire earlier this year and one in London in 2011 – if only I’d known I could’ve collected enough ideas to last a lifetime! Instead I’ll have to save up for a flight to Zagreb …
P.S. I had an acceptance from People’s Friend this week – hurrah, a great way to end the year!
Many writers worry about the time-consuming nature of maintaining a presence on social media. What is the best platform (blog, Twitter, Facebook etc.) to concentrate on?
On Radio 4 alone there are plenty of magazine shows that need topical, expert material for their programmes – Woman’s Hour, Money Box, the Today Programme, PM. Your book and the knowledge or experience that enabled you to write it might give you viable ideas for an article, or an engaging comment to follow up a programme.
Approach your target programme’s production office with a well-thought out idea, backed up by your credentials as the author of a book on the subject, and you may get lucky. (Other national outlets can also be approached in this spirit – the nature of your book will dictate what should be your priority, e.g. a special interest national magazine in your field.)
Debbie Young is one such person. Debbie is an absolute expert on book promotion and marketing. She has 30 years experience in the industry and runs Off The Shelf Book Promotions which offers a bespoke marketing and promotion service to self-published authors (she also maintains a very useful blog of book promotion tips here.)
Debbie’s book Sell Your Books! has just been published (I’ve read it and it’s excellent – well worth buying if you want to give your book the push it deserves). I asked her a few questions about selling books and her answers were so comprehensive that I’ve split them into two blog posts. Here we go with number 1:
It’s often said that a writer needs to build a potential readership before their book is published. Do you agree and if so, how would you recommend doing this?
Try to define your potential readership, so that you can bear them in mind whilst writing the book. But don’t let it distract or divert you from actually getting the writing done nor from writing the book you want to write. Be true to yourself.
Always be on the look out for practical ways of reaching your target audience. Keep a note of useful websites, interest groups etc that you can come back to when you are ready. Watch out for what others in your field are doing to promote their books.
By all means engage with your potential readership but don’t show them your hand before you are ready – your book may evolve into something quite different to what you expected!
Consider also: other influential writers who you might ask to review your book; book reviewers; book bloggers; local booksellers; interest groups for your genre or topic. Follow their blogs and comment on their blog posts. Follow them on Twitter, befriend them on Facebook and GoodReads. Write reviews of their books. Comment on their book reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. Post worthwhile comments on their websites. Go to their public events. When commenting online anywhere, include a link to all your contact details (website, Twitter, email etc) so they can track back to you and the relationship can be a two-way thing. Then, when your book is published, you will be a familiar (and hopefully respected!) name to them and they will be well-disposed towards your new book.
Secure your own website address (URL) in advance so that it can be printed on your book jacket. But don’t be tempted to promote the book before it exists. This can be counter-productive. You’ll have much more impact on a bookshop, for example, if you can go in with actual samples of your book, a fully functional website and a few reviews, than with nothing physical to show. These things give you much more credibility as an author whose books are going to make a profit for the store.
There’s a lull between finishing your manuscript, proofing it and it being on sale as a finished product – that’s a really good time to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. But don’t rush things. In this digital age of e-books and on-demand printing, there’s no rush to start marketing your book, because it’s never actually too late. Your book doesn’t come with a sell-by date, and it won’t be remaindered or de-listed by your publisher (i.e. you!). There’s more about this on my blog here.
On the other hand, don’t err on the side of sloth! You do HAVE to put in the effort sooner or later if your book is going to be successful, because no matter how good it is, it won’t sell itself if you don’t promote it at some time.