Antisocial media

I saw an advert / call for submissions from a traditional publisher recently, requiring the author to submit a detailed marketing plan with their manuscript.

Really???

Now I get that authors are expected to take a more active role in promoting their work than in previous decades, but unless you hail from a background in sales or marketing and have any knowledge of the publishing industry then where do you start? They might as well have printed ‘Beg, little author, beg!’ right? Well, quite frankly, f*** you Mr Publisher! Without us you’d be out of business. No wonder that more and more authors are turning to self-publishing, even the ones who’ve been traditionally published historically. If we have to do all the work ourselves then where’s the sense in wasting time seeking representation?

OK, so I know there are numerous advantages to having a publisher and many probably don’t require the aforementioned marketing plan – I don’t mean to tar them all with the same grouchy brush.

But.

We authors are, on the whole, inherently solitary creatures. We’re never more content than when we’re locked away, engrossed in our imaginary worlds and conversing with characters that live in our heads. Creating is the fun part of writing. None of us set out to write a novel with the thought of ‘Oh gee, I just can’t wait to market this’ in mind.

As I said in previous posts, it was always my intention to self-publish The Riley Pope Case Files, so promoting them myself was part of the package. I didn’t (and still don’t) expect to make a fortune from the venture. Aside from telling family and friends, my promotional work has solely taken place via social media – my dedicated author page on Facebook, my Twitter account, my Pinterest feed where oodles of gothic loveliness abounds, and Goodreads.

As I made the (sadly wrong) decision to subscribe to KDP Select, I am tied in to selling the first three books via Amazon exclusively, for a period of 3 months. It offers higher royalties in Japan, Brazil and Mexico, (none of which I’ve sold a single book to) and India (total sales: one), and allows you to earn via the Select Global Fund which calculates royalties based on the number of pages read via Kindle Unlimited (these take 3 months to show, so I don’t know what I’ve earned yet – probably a pittance). You also get access to promotions, either Kindle Countdown deals or a Free Book promotion which allows you to offer your book for free for up to 5 days.

I went with the Free Book promotion for all three books. The Case of Walutahanga sold well in this period, reaching No.16 in the Urban Fantasy Top 100 Free chart. As soon as the promotion was over, sales didn’t so much dwindle as dry up completely. The Case of Ahuizotl and The Case of the Brollachan had more modest sales during the Free Book period, and likewise went down to zilch post-promotion. As I write this, my Kindle Unlimited page reads are showing at 659.

I can attribute most of the sales to promotion via social media. On the days that I advertised, sales went up, so it definitely helps. On the flipside, I’m now pretty bored with repeating myself via updates and tweets and creative little JPEGs of book quotes, so I’m damned sure the rest of my audience is. As part of my sales drive I joined up to groups on Facebook and followed other folk on Twitter who either wrote or read urban fantasy, or had a keen interest in cryptozoology. A couple even followed me back, which was nice, but now both my Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of other people promoting their ebooks! Good for them! But am I paying them any attention?

Well… no.

The thing is, I don’t respond well to adverts, TV, online or otherwise. I know what I like and if I want it then I’ll actively seek it out. I don’t like being bombarded with commercials and little flashing GIFs, advising that I NEED to get this or that I MUST own that, hence I find myself cringing every time I post an ad, imagining all of those people going ‘God, not HER again! Sod off!’

It doesn’t help that I’m not very happy with the price that I’ve had to set the books at: Amazon won’t let me sell below 99p, which some might find pretty steep for a 9,000 word short story. The answer is to find other platforms to sell on for a lower price BUT – I’m now tied in to bloody Amazon until mid-March!

Gah!

The most consistent feedback I’ve had concerns print books and whether The Riley Pope Case Files are available in print. Sadly, they’re not long enough to print via CreateSpace. The plan is to release an anthology of Books 1 to 10 (when they’re written) in print, which won’t be for a year or two. I have seen a lot of other authors admitting their print sales are much, much higher than their ebooks, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. I personally own two Kindles and can’t remember the last time I used either. It’s not that I have anything against ebooks, but I just love print books more. I like to line them up on my bookshelves, I like the feel of a book in my hand and the smell when they’re new.

That’s right. I sniff books. Don’t you?

Liar. 😉

X

 

Three things to do over Christmas that’ll freak out your family

I recently watched the last ever episode of Banshee. For those who haven’t seen it, WHY NOT? I challenge you to watch the first episode and not be hooked by the time ten minutes is up.

As the final episode drew to a close and all of the characters I’d grown to know and love went their separate ways, not a happy ever after but a happy-ish for now, I found myself in tears and wondered WHY I was in tears! Nobody had died (well a lot of folk had, but not anyone I cared about). The fact is I’d come to feel close to the characters, to care about their lives and what happened to them afterwards. Except I wouldn’t know, because this was the end, and how daft does THAT sound when they’re only actors playing roles on the screen?

It got me to thinking just why I cared so much. The lead is an ex-con thief who assumes the ID of a murdered sheriff and goes on a quest to win back the love of his life, who’s now happily married to the mayor (but just happens to be an ex-thief herself, and the daughter of a mob boss who they lied to and swindled). On the surface there doesn’t seem much to root for – but, from the outset, we see our shady lead put himself in harm’s way to save a total stranger’s life. And he keeps on doing it, and keeps on doing it, and other shady characters join the party, and the plot keeps twisting and turning and thickening, and suddenly, just like the book you can’t put down, you’ve lost a whole day in your eagerness to find out what happens.

The strap line for Banshee is’small town, big secrets’, but even though it is a small town, it’s peopled with extraordinary characters. I know that in my current (never-ending) WIP, I’ve been guilty of not getting to know my characters well enough, and now am playing (soul-destroying) catch-up. So, to get to know my cast better,  I’ve come up with a trio of exercises aimed at really getting into their heads, discovering secrets even I didn’t know about, and finding out what their lives were like before they stepped into the pages of my novel. Feel free to try them out, or share them, but please keep a struggling author in biscuits and link back to my site- every little helps!

Exercise 1 – Correspond with your characters!

Everyone has secrets, even the people who live in your head! So why not invite them to spill a few? Write them a letter and let them respond, or, if you’re not entirely comfortable posting letters to imaginary people, then set up an email account for them. If you’re finding it difficult to switch between author and character then try corresponding as author at your desk, and replying as character in a coffee shop / on the commute / in your PJs from the sofa (you could go as far as dressing up as them if that helps!).

So what is the point of this exercise, other than freaking out your partner / parents / dog when they wander in and find you in full period costume, writing to a fictional entity?

Well, that depends entirely on what you want to know. I tried this exercise out with the antagonist of my current WIP, keeping the following questions in mind:

  • Why are you determined to kill my hero (you numpty)?
  • Why did you end up so bloody evil?
  • What drove you to do what you have done / are threatening to do?
  • What’s your motivation and is it rational?
  • What is your background?
  • Are you really all that bad or is there a chance of redemption for you?

I really have written the entire first / second / ninetieth draft of my WIP without knowing any of this important (imperative) information. No one is ever as simple as good guy / bad guy, though. Round out your characters by asking them to tell you a little more about themselves, and you might be surprised by the answers!

Exercise 2 – The Job Interview!

This can work for any character: protagonist, antagonist or secondary character.

Firstly, decide which position you are interviewing for. Secondly, write a brief job spec. For example: ‘Aspiring author seeks heroine for gritty urban fantasy debut. Must be industrious, tenacious and have a few skeletons in the closet. Supernatural qualities desirable, etc etc.”

Write up your own list of questions or pick from the selection below, then put on your best suit and tie and prepare to interview your candidates!

  • Name, age, sex, where do you hail from (these are mostly always essential)
  • List your strengths and weaknesses
  • Where do you see yourself five years from now?
  • Why should I consider hiring you for this position?
  • What motivates you?
  • Are you a team player or more of a lone wolf?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?

Or how about some more outlandish enquiries?

  • You win a million quid on the lottery: what would you do with it?
  • What do you think about when you’re alone in the car?
  • What were you like in high school?
  • How would you convince someone to do something they didn’t want to do?
  • You’ve been given a giraffe. You can’t sell it or give it away. What would you do with the giraffe?

What will you learn from doing this? Well, assuming you have a great plot and your protagonist is now up the tree, you’ll know exactly how he or she is going to react when you start throwing rocks at them, and how they might intend to get themselves down.

Exercise 3 – Let’s go shopping!

This is another time-consuming exercise, so make sure you have at least a few hours spare.

We challenge our characters with endless choices: the choices they make decide the route the story takes, but they also say a lot about the character.

Decide which character you’re going to get to know, then head off to your nearest town centre / supermarket / mall and take them shopping!

You can, if you wish, grab a basket or trolley and physically collect all the items that your character would buy. It does mean, eventually, you’ll have to put them back though. Or buy them. Or dump the trolley or basket in the shop for someone else to clear up, but even if your character would do this, I don’t recommend or condone it!

The easiest method is to browse as your character would browse. Would they go for the Heinz baked beans or the Tesco Value option? Would they eat baked beans? And what about alcohol? Are they a drinker or do they avoid it, and if they avoid it then do they have a reason, perhaps one that they’re hiding?

Champagne or Lambrini? Have they ever had champagne? How about fashion? Are they more of an All Saints or a Matalan girl? Do they even follow fashion or are they more of an alternative type? How about thrift shops? Do they rely on them to make ends meet, or would they rather walk around naked than wear other people’s cast-offs?

Hopefully, by the end of your shopping trip, you’ll have learned a little more about your character’s likes and dislikes, background, attitude, strengths and flaws (and hopefully you haven’t been arrested, or disowned by your partner / mother / best friend for acting like a weirdo – because they know we are anyway, right?)

If you try out any of these exercises, enjoy! I’d love to hear how you get on!

Blessed Winter Solstice to you all, happy holidays, and don’t forget to check out The Riley Pope Case Files, just 99p each from Amazon now!

The story behind Walutahanga…

Where did the idea for the story come from?

I’m not exactly sure – where do story ideas come from??? The original suggestion to set the story in a pub was – unsurprisingly – made in my local, inspired by a bottle with a snake inside that lives on a shelf behind the bar.

Where is the story set?

In my home town of Coalville, Leicestershire (well they do say write what you know). The pub in the story is based on my local, the Vic Biker’s Pub.

So it’s a real pub?

Yes! And you can go and look for Walutahanga if you like, she’s still behind the bar! There’s nothing supernatural about the bar staff, though (as far as I’m aware!)

What about the cat in the story?

Helen is real, known to the locals as Helen, Queen of the Vic. She turned up as a stray many moons ago and is now part of the Vic family. I didn’t intend to include her in the story but there’s tons of intriguing feline mythology to draw from so I thought, why not?

Who is Riley Pope?

Riley is a Remnant – a being possessed of magical ability. She uses her talents to seek out cryptids who are trapped in the human world – referred to as the New World – in order to relocate them to the world beyond The Rift, and safety. The magical powers of cryptids can be, and often are, abused by humans and Remnants alike, so this is why the work that Riley does is important.

And who is Bastien Cort?

Bastien Cort is the human vessel of the fallen angel better known as Azazel. Many, many years ago, Azazel was sent to Earth to watch over the humans, but soon began to lust after human females. He and a number of Watchers became the Fallen, and were banished to Earth for their sins. As for how Bastien and Riley became lovers, and how it all went wrong for them, well, you’ll just have to read the books to find out!

Download ‘The Case of Walutahanga’ now!

Available NOW! Books 1 – 3 of The Riley Pope Case Files!

Woohoo! I’m officially a published (indie) author!

Books 1 – 3 of The Riley Pope Case Files are now available to download exclusively from Amazon, or if you’re subscribed to Kindle Unlimited you can read them all for FREE! I’ll be running a free book promotion on ‘The Case of Walutahanga’ from tomorrow which lasts for five days, so please spread the word and drop me a review, good, bad or indifferent. Here’s a little overview…

The Case of Walutahanga

Riley Pope inherited her talent for cryptozoology from her father. As for her penchant for vice and a weakness for dangerous men, well, she can’t blame that on him. Now that Riley is young, free and single, she’s determined to clean up her life and make amends for the sins of her past; if her past will let her.

When a small English town is beset by unusual weather, Riley’s employers, the enigmatic Firm, despatch her to investigate. She soon discovers that a cryptid is involved, but the creatures holding it hostage won’t give it up without a fight, and thanks to a charming but deadly fallen angel, Riley isn’t sure how much fight she has left…

 

The Case of Ahuizotl

Riley Pope has seen some strange things in her life – as a cryptozoologist, it comes with the territory – but this could be her strangest case yet.

When the bodies of two naked men wash ashore on the sands of Whitby harbour – both missing parts of their anatomies – Riley is despatched to investigate. The only scrap of evidence of cryptid involvement is the drunken account of a local trawlerman – who quickly disappears.

Riley finds herself in a race against time to identify the cryptid and save it from the murderous intentions of The Firm’s hired kill squad, but Agent Mulhoon, commander of Alpha team, has other ideas, putting Riley in the kind of danger she’s been trying to avoid since escaping from her fallen angel lover. Bastien Cort is never far from Riley’s thoughts; but this time he might be even closer than she fears…

The Case of the Brollachan

Cryptozoologist Riley Pope is used to tracking down otherworldly creatures: from serpents to shapeshifters, boggarts to Bigfoot, she’s pretty much dealt with them all. But this time, it isn’t a cryptid she’s hunting…

Riley’s employers, the clandestine Firm, have received reports of terrifying creatures frightening the children of Castlebay, Scotland. Sent to investigate, Riley confirms the presence of a malevolent spirit of the otherkind that preys on its victim’s worst fears… and Riley has a lot to be scared of.

Out of her depth and in fear of what’s lurking in the hills beyond Castlebay, Riley does her best to contain the situation – only to draw the attention of Mulhoon, commander of Alpha team, who ends up putting his life and that of his team in mortal danger. Faced with leaving the reckless Mulhoon to his fate, or confronting her own private fears, Riley must make a decision… whatever the consequence.

Expanding my genres – I found a new favourite!

So I started reading Tenderness of Wolves on Sunday. I chose it because of an article in last month’s Writing Magazine on the author, Stef Penney. It’s not my usual fare and I wasn’t sure what to expect from a novel that was set in 1860’s Canada without a wizard or vampire in sight.

350 pages later on Sunday evening…

Wow, what a novel! I only stopped reading when I did because my eyes refused to work anymore. I finished the rest in two sittings and now I’m off to go and buy her other two books, because sod buying Christmas presents, I need more fiction by this lady.

Tenderness of Wolves is filled with characters you probably shouldn’t like but can’t help falling in love with. The lead, Mrs Ross (you never learn her first name), is a complicated woman who you end up rooting for. Her son, who disappears the same night that a murder takes place, has a secret that is slowly uncovered as the search for the murderer unfolds. The harsh, remote setting just leaps off the page – I feel like I just spent the last four days in a remote, snowy wilderness, living amongst trappers, voyageurs and Indians – but still found the prose to be pleasantly uncomplicated: the author uses every word to maximum effect.

Long story short, gush, gush, gush, go and buy the book!

So now this little experiment is over. I’ve discovered a new favourite author and reaffirmed the suspicion that crime fiction isn’t for me, and if I took nothing else from reading One Day then at least I now know which date St Swithin’s Day falls on. I’m sure it will be useful for something.

So back to writing. It’s December, the month in which the first three Riley Pope stories (technically novelettes but I bloody hate that word) will be released on Amazon. I’ll be sending out an update (or ten) just as soon as they’re available.

Have a happy ‘Chocolate for Breakfast’ day folks

X

 

Expanding my genres – another update

I finished reading I Let You Go last night. As promised there is a brilliant twist half way through the book, which had rave reviews in WM and beyond. The switching between first and third person viewpoints was unusual, and I saw the final conflict coming a mile away. It’s the second crime novel I’ve read, (the other was a Val McDermid, so who am I to criticise) and the fact I had to make the effort to read to the end of both of them means the genre probably isn’t for me. Onwards to The Tenderness of Wolves then.

Expanding my genres – an update

So I finished One Day in three sittings. Downside, it was a bit London-centric for the tastes of a girl from the Midlands. Upside, it made me laugh (several times), made me cry (a couple of times) and made me shout out loud at one stage, “No! You can’t do that!” which was aimed at the author for… well, if you’ve read it you’ll know which part I mean and if you haven’t then go out and buy it!

A Kate of many hats!

I was talking with a friend the other week. She’d seen a couple of posts on social media that I’d made of some Riley Pope cover art and asked me when the books were out (December, if you’re interested). I won’t go into detail, but long story short she was surprised that I had to get involved in the editing, proofreading, cover art creation, etc etc. “I thought all you had to do was write and someone else did all the other stuff.”

I chose to self-publish my Riley Pope series for a number of reasons:

  1. They’re coming in around 9,000 words each and I wouldn’t know where to try and get that length of work published (outside of competitions and magazines where there are no guarantees of publication)
  2. I’ve been messing around with comps and the never-ending novel long enough now and just want to get my work out into the public domain.
  3. I’d quite like to make a little cash, no matter how small an amount, from the hours and the effort I’ve invested.

I don’t think there’s quite as much stigma around self-publishing these days as there used to be. There’s a lot of work out there of equal quality to that of the traditional publishers, and I’m betting that the authors are all the more better off for it. There’s also a large pile of poorly written, unproofed, badly designed dross that’s the fuel for the stigma that I mentioned, and whilst it’s no excuse for publishing substandard products I can sort of understand why there are people that do it.

Hats that I have worn in the last two months:

  1. Author hat
  2. Editor hat
  3. Proofreader hat
  4. Cover art designer hat
  5. Blurb writer hat
  6. KDP manuscript converter hat
  7. Website design hat
  8. Twitter hat
  9. Facebook hat
  10. Curl up in a corner and cry hat

Some of these hats are easy to wear; they fit me and suit me and I’m happy to wear them. Author hat needs no explanation. Editor hat, ditto. I’m a recently qualified proofreader, and whilst it isn’t easy to proof your own work, I’m confident enough in the process to feel like I did a good job. I don’t very much like Twitter hat; probably because I don’t much like Twitter. My Facebook page is brand new and shiny (and just waiting for your shares and likes, hint hint) but I’m on there all the time so it wasn’t so difficult to set up a page. Website design hat? I’ll leave that up to your interpretation (please be nice!).

Cover art design hat was a learning curve. I’m not a designer and I’ve no skill at all in programs like Photoshop. Where, then, could I create my ebook covers? Which option should I choose? What size did it need to be? And graphics. Where did I get those from?

I ended up on Canva, which is free, and found they had a ready made template for Kindle ebook covers. They offer free graphics and images but none were what I wanted so I headed over to Shutterstock and spent whole days browsing graphics for my covers. I eventually settled on a theme for the series and sought out suitable artwork. I then bought a licence that allowed me to download five images. If I use one image per book then I think it works out about £7 a book. It took me some time to get my cover art just how I wanted, especially when I realised how unreadable the font was when shrunk down to icon size.

Blurb writer hat – I imagine its about as painful as wearing synopsis writer hat. I haven’t had to wear that one yet, and I am not looking forwards to it either. Blurb? Bleugh! Enough said.

I’m still getting over my stint wearing KDP manuscript converter hat. If you’ve never had to do it, I envy you. If you have then I sympathise. I’ve gotten used to writing my drafts in 12 pt Calibri, l.5 line spacing, tabbing to indent paragraphs and holding down the enter key to start a new page.

But KDP doesn’t like that. You must entirely strip your poor MS of all formatting and start again from scratch, inserting page breaks, removing any white space longer than three lines, and changing all the thousands of paragraph indents from tabbed to first line indents. There’s probably a simple way to do it, but I was learning, so I did it step-by-step. By step. By torturous step. I now have a Kindle template saved for just such a job, so wearing my KDP hat in the future shouldn’t be such an issue.

I had no intention of wearing my curl up in the corner and cry hat, until I realised just how close I was to having published work available for purchase. Assuming there are people out there good enough to buy my work, then self-assessment tax hat is looming in the distance.

“I thought all you had to do was write,” said my friend.

If only!

Later! xXx