How to make the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists: Jasmine Walt (one to watch)

Interview with Jasmine Walt by the Self-Publishing Roundtable

If you can spare just one hour out of your life to watch one video that could influence whether or not you ‘make it’ as an author (in the really, really BIG sense), watch this one.

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Jasmine Walt has made both the NYT and USA Today top 20 (including top 10) bestseller lists twice in the last month – firstly with her curated/co-authored box-set ebook Magic & Mayhem, and this week with the first in her new paranormal series, Shadow Born, co-authored with fellow HarperCollins ‘Authonomy’ site alumni Rebecca Hamilton.

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As Jasmine explains here, it’s not simply a case of luck. It’s a lot of marketing via social media and mailing lists, a huge advertising budget (hers doubled in the three month pre-order phase for the box-set ebook release of Magic & Mayhem, in order to have the desired impact) and endless navigating of the restrictions and regulations by the ebook publishing platforms, and criteria of the bestseller lists themselves, when pushing for this kind of exposure.

Because you need to watch the interview to get to the real nuts and bolts of how it was done, I’m not going to discuss the interview content further or give you my opinions, other than tell you, this is tried and tested, it happened, and it worked. If you have the time and financial resources to try it for yourself, and achieve the same initial sales figures in the process, there’s no reason why this business model shouldn’t work for you too.

One prerequisite: You do need to have written the book! And as Jasmine says “It does seem to work best with new releases” – so think carefully before republishing something that’s been lurking on Amazon already for the last five years. Look at the current market interests, and get those brain cells in gear – you’ll need every last one of them.

You can find Jasmine Walt on Twitter as @jasmine_writes

🙂 xx

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Poetry Slam – Dan Holloway ‘How to Write a Bestseller’

Dan Holloway, super-genius 🙂

You can find more of Dan’s writing on danholloway.wordpress.com

(If you want to write and self-publish, you can find my advice by clicking here)

L xx 🙂

The ‘Writing Process’ blog hop

Jill Pennington, the entrepreneur true-life author of Diary of a Single Parent Abroad asked me on FB the other day if I had a blog, and if so, would I mind following up her guest post on Tottie Limejuice’s blogspot as the next author to answer the same three questions as her?

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After telling her yes, I have maybe eight blog sites scattered around, and hadn’t done this blog hop thing yet on any of them, I said sure, why not. Pretty much everyone else I know has done one already, so I’m probably the last one ever. (Hooray, I hear you all cry).

Anyway, without further adon’ts, let’s get this mess over and done with, so we can all move on with our lives and never speak of this again… 🙂

Question one: What are you working on?

I’m working on a Toshiba M400 tablet laptop upgraded to Windows 7. I bought it off ebay. Highly recommended 🙂 Oh, the real answer? :/ More Zombie of Oz books for YA, more Lauren Boutain romance for the definitely adult, some sci-fi (including designing an open-source planetary setting that anyone can write about), some more parody/steampunk, and some more introspective stuff, which may or may never see the Kindle-fuelled light of day.

Question two: Why do you write what you do?

Because it’s there, in my head. If I don’t write it down as a creative outlet, it tends to manifest itself in other ways. Life would be unbearable with all those zombies turning up in reality. Me and Junior yell ‘Money should be falling from the sky!’ at least five times a day, because our nonsense creative conversation gets echoed back to us from the TV or by something occurring in real life. So writing down the nonsense is the safest place for it to go. Still waiting for the money to fall from the sky. That’s the real joke 🙂

Question three: How does your writing process work?

I switch off my ‘external monitoring’ and transcribe what I see and hear in my head. But I don’t need soundproofing or isolation to switch off my outside awareness. I like background noise, or TV, even doing laundry at the same time. Writing is just part of my normal life, and has been since I was 7 years old. I was doing it to kill time while waiting to make friends, did that, then later to kill time while waiting to have my first relationship, and I’m still waiting, so still basically killing time. There’s nothing really technical or methodical about it. I don’t need to ‘get into’ author mode, or put on a writing hat or anything. When I was younger I would have loved to grow up and be Barbara Cartland wafting around in a pink dressing-gown writing a book every day after lunch, now I don’t see being an author as having an idealised image attached to it. I can write for fun, and still be me, especially as all I’m doing for a living now is writing, since I’ve given up freelance IT support due to sports injuries that I’m awaiting surgery and rehabilitation for, so there’s nothing to hide and nothing to prove about it either.

I find I’m a more interesting person when I’m not talking about my writing, so I’m going to end there before I bore myself to sleep 🙂

I haven’t asked anyone if they want to be tagged, because they’ve all done the godforsaken deed already, so I’ll just recommend a couple of authors I know, for their indie inspiration:

Robert Rankin – also on Facebook

Sophie Neville – also on Facebook

You should check out what they’re up to, and how they market themselves and their work. Everyone’s different, but even though these two have a genuine hook they can exploit, they’re still working tirelessly to get out there in the real world and meet the public to promote their writing, rather than just banging away on social media.

Enough already – time for bed!

🙂 xxx

Q&A: Lisa Scullard – writer, editor, formatter, parkour enthusiast…

A surprise invitation from David Powning of Ink-Wrapped…

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Today I’m delighted to welcome writer Lisa Scullard, who works across the zombie, parody and romance genres. She caught my eye recently after releasing a novel under a pen-name with no fanfare or marketing frenzy, and yet achieved surprising results. Lisa also works on the editing side of things, and is a font of knowledge when it comes to formatting.

I was intrigued by your blog post about releasing a book under a pen-name, in a genre that you hadn’t previously written in before, and with next to no promotion. What prompted you to do this, and how surprised were you by the reaction?

I’d dreamed of writing romance from the age of about thirteen, and had a very rose-tinted view of it – meaning I never felt qualified. I believed for a very long time that romance authors all led very romantic lives, whereas I’m more self-isolating and insular…

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Opening Doors Inwards and Going Outside: Writing v. Parkour

My blog exchange piece for Dan Holloway, on an unexpected pairing of pursuits, posted this week 🙂 x

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about my experience of endurance rowing training, and the effect it has on my creative life. As I wrote, I found myself thinking about more and more of the creative people I know
(and those, most famously of course Haruki Murakami, about whom I know) who do something similar, training hard (I won’t indulge in transferene and say obsessively) at a particular kind of individual, repeetitive, non-competitive, endurance based physical activity. And I realised I really wanted to find out how it affected them.

And so I decided I’d love to have those people write for me about their experience. I am delighted to start with Lisa Scullard. Like many of my writing friends, I met Lisa on the writers’ site Authonomy about 5 years ago. We have since met in person several times and I have had the privilege of hosting…

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Only You – guest post by Dan Holloway

Happy New Year!

If your New Year’s Resolution is to self-publish for the first time, and you’re looking for a place to start – whether it’s writing your first ever piece or getting to grips with formatting the files and uploading them, there’s lots of advice out there. (There’s lots of advice in here!)

One of the most experienced indies around is Dan Holloway, who I first met when I went to witness the 100th International Literary Death Match live in London (see Dan’s author profile below). So when he announced the release of his new title last month Self-Publish With Integrity, I invited him to write a guest post for all the writers out there facing the New Year with that same ambition – to quit the gatekeeper waiting game, and get their work out into the spotlight of the world.

Since he founded the Year Zero Writers collective in January 2009, Dan Holloway has been a leading figure in the self-publishing community. Winner of the international spoken word phenomenon Literary Death Match whilst the only self-published author competing; writing the guidebook for the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Open Up to Indies campaign; writing about the very best of self-publishing across the internet including contributing regularly to the Guardian Books Blog, Dan has built a reputation for refusing to compromise his artistic principles for short term commercial success. (Amazon author profile)

So I’m very proud to welcome Mr Dan Holloway – links to find his book and his blog are at the bottom of the post…

L xxx 🙂

'Self-Publish With Integrity' by Dan Holloway

Only You

Spend a little time looking through advice for self-published writers and you will soon find yourself inundated by advice on what can best, if loosely, be labelled branding. How do I make myself discoverable? How do I appeal to the right readers? How will people respond to my cover? Am I saying the right things on social media? Does my writing hit all the points on the genre’s expectation list?

With respect (and in some cases with absolutely no respect at all), unless you are writing purely and simply to try and earn some kind of a crust, because having one day job isn’t enough you’d like two thank you (and if you’re only in it for the money 1. why would you be reading something I’ve written? and 2. following advice of people who made money but probably didn’t set out only to do that isn’t going to help), all of this is, erm, misplaced.

Most people who write are passionate. If not about “writing” per se, then about something – exploring the lives and worlds of a set of characters who’ve wormed their way into your head, connecting with people who share a fascination with a particularly kooky slant you have on the world, just reaching out to someone to let them know they’re not alone. Whatever it is they’re passionate about, all the best writers I know have that one thing in common – passion.

That right there, that passion, is your “brand.” It’s what makes you uniquely qualified to write the stories you write, and it’s what gives your stories their intangible magic, their ability to reach out and hook anyone who shares your passion.

Like pretty much any educational curriculum, most self-publishing advice starts out as providing a handy toolkit to help you bring your individuality to the world in a way that accentuates it, showcases it to its very best – and ends up very quickly becoming a sausage factory designed to squeeze that individuality from you in order to conform to some standardised notion of what is “the right way” that has been dictated by a group of opinion formers and discourse makers who represent the collective wisdom of every group that has stood on the side of every oppression in history.

If your goal is to hone yourself until every facet of what you do matches that expectation set, then why on earth would you self-publish? Why would you embark upon a course that has a glorious, grubby ability to free you from the shackles of being told how a story has to develop, how many words a book should have, what kind of cover “readers” will like, what kind of melange of genres and points of view constitute acceptable experimentation?

As a self-publisher, don’t ever forget that the true freedom self-publishing gives you is the freedom to be you. The freedom to have a vision, to believe in that vision and realise it and then bring it to the world.

Yes, you might alienate some people by writing what you have to write. You might alienate a LOT of people in fact. But you will make those who share your passion love the worlds you have made. Too much advice is about not offending. Too little is about stirring passion, about being true to your vision.

There are two fundamental problems with the “don’t cause offence” school of writing. The first is that it really doesn’t sell books. Not in the long term. Yes, by producing a cover that perfectly matches the expectations of a genre, you might well encourage readers in that genre to buy your book. But in the long term, one of two things will happen – either they’ll read it and never read another one because you just couldn’t keep the “you” part of your writing hidden and those readers don’t want “you”, or you will tailor a whole series of books so perfectly to match expectations that they remove every last shred of “you” from every single part. And then you will wake up one day and look at what you’ve “achieved” and the “enjoyment” it’s given you and shake your head in horror.

The second problem is that what’s inoffensive to one person isn’t universally inoffensive. And this is a fundamental problem for anyone who’s any kind of an outsider. The majority’s manila is assumed to be something that couldn’t possibly offend anyone. Take easy listening music. No one could be offended by it, right? That’s the point. Well, most people in the street will, indeed, react with suitable blandness (a further problem with this school of thought – you don’t want your readers to find your work agreeable – do you? Really? Don’t you want them to be so damn excited by your books they queue from the early hours to get their hands on your new short story and then go out and scream at all their friends that they *must* buy it? Do you really think anyone ever jumped up and called their best friend and said “OMG, you’ll never guess what I just discovered, it’s this incredible colour called beige that you just have to paint your whole house right now”?). But your friend whose basement is stuffed with bootleg punk tapes? Will they really say “mmm, not my thing but harmless enough?”

The point is this – if you’re an outsider, then your outsider passions are not your weakness but your strength. It might be a small group that shares them, but those who do share them will do so with an equal passion. If you standardise your work so as not to offend, they are exactly the people you will alienate – and for the sake of not actually winning any die hard fans from anywhere else.

So, the most fundamental thing for any self-publisher to remember is to be yourself. Know what it is you’re passionate about and be proud of it. Don’t change yourself to find readers who wouldn’t like who you really are anyway – you wouldn’t do it to find friends, so don’t do it to find readers. Be yourself, be proud of yourself, and let your passion be the first, second and last thing that flows onto the page. And then you’ll find a set of readers who really love what you do.

Self-publish With Integrity, my guide to steering your way through the long self-publishing journey and staying true to your creative goals, is now available for Kindle in the UK:
My bestselling thriller The Company of Fellows is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Company-Fellows-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B004PLMHYC
All kind of things including free downloads are on my website: http://danholloway.wordpress.com – it also has links to all my other books, and links to articles and shows.

Dan Holloway

Another word count…

Lauren Boutain

Two days into the next novel in my series, and the word count is just over 5100. I’m excited about this one too. I’m picking up the story of two characters who played a small supporting role in the last one.

I spent my ‘rest week’ doing final edits and corrections to the first book in the series (the one currently out on submissions) which brought it up to 76,000 words – not bad for only five weeks’ work for the first draft, plus one week for revisions. I’ve never worked so fast. Steadily, but not necessarily fast. Six to eight months was the norm for me previously, to write a novel from scratch.

I’ve found it’s the new limitations I’ve set myself for writing Romance. A specific genre and style, with no more than two central characters taking centre stage, with very limited air-time for background characters. Not allowing…

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Guest post: Jillian Brookes-Ward

Today’s post is brought to you by my friend Jillian, who is the only writer I know to incorporate fly-fishing and raunchy romance.

I asked her to send me something about her observations of fly-fishermen, along with a sample of her novel On the Fly to share with you, to go with my otherwise strangely out-of-place videos of fly-tying that have appeared here recently… and she sent this lovely article which she had previously written for the now allegedly-defunct Fishkeep.net. Over to you, Jillian…

~ OF FUR, FEATHERS AND FLUFFY BITS ~

It is now officially Spring, and as we have changed the clocks to British Summer Time, I decided it was high time to encourage the sun to come out by packing away my winter woollies and getting out the cotton frocks. But wait, what’s this, a bald patch on the fur collar of my best suede gilet?

Could it be that moths have invaded my wardrobe? Have the pernicious little buggers munched their way through anything else – the cashmere sweater I got for Christmas for example?

Close examination of every item at possible risk showed there to be no sign of damage to anything else. It seemed that these were peculiarly selective moths.

The truth revealed the blame lay not at the chomping mandibles of an innocent insect, but much closer to home – in the thieving hands of my other half who, in an attempt to while away time in the close season, had been scouring the house looking for suitable materials with which to tie himself a new breed of fly. He thought it might be a good idea to try and invent a new pattern all his own. That way he was certain to become not only rich and famous, but renowned throughout the angling world and the envy of his peers.

‘I didn’t think you’d notice,’ says he, ‘it was only a handful.’

A handful! I now have a piece of clothing (a favourite to boot) that looks like it’s developed mange! What else had he been helping himself to? The list, not to put too fine a point on it, left me gobsmacked.

‘Remember when you thought the dog had snagged himself on the barbed wire fence and ripped off the end of his tail?’

I did, and he hadn’t. The missing chunk of tail hair had been unceremoniously hacked off with a pair of kitchen scissors and used to tie a new experimental pattern, none too successfully as it happened, and the poor hound had been forced to sport an embarrassingly naked tail tip for nearly three weeks for nought.

An effort to produce a deadly lure from mixed colour/texture human hair trimmings was just as unsuccessful. He had purloined it from the barberfest I hold in my kitchen every three months when, in order to save a few precious pounds, I use the Braun clippers on all the male heads in the household, leaving them looking like a row of short-bristled brush heads.

In the quest for ever more colourful materials, and unbeknownst to me, the male spousal unit had made an arrangement with a neighbour who kept two parrots.

‘Should they by chance happen to moult,’ he’d suggested, ‘could I please have the cast off feathers? Any colour, from any part of the bird, it doesn’t matter, I’ll think of something to do with them. Oh and by the way, if your rabbit should happen to die in mysterious circumstances, could I possibly skin it before you put it in a shoebox in a hole in the ground? Waste not, want not, you know!’

I was aghast and said, jokingly, ‘I’m going to have to keep my eye on that red squirrel when he comes for his nuts from the bird table, lest you set out after him with a pair of pinking shears and lop off his tail.’

‘No need,’ says he. ‘There’s already one in the freezer. It’s wrapped in newspaper and tucked between the peas and the battered fish portions.’

The creature had been found dead by the side of the road, he did hasten to add, as if that would excuse its present resting place under a bag of frozen vegetables.

‘There’s a pair of heron wings in there, too,’ he admitted.

‘But herons are a protected species!’ I cried, ‘You can’t have them!’

OH did explain he had come across the bird while walking the dog. The poor thing had apparently come to grief on the riverbank, having succumbed to the recent devilishly cold spell. As it was already dead, he smuggled the frozen corpse home, only to find he couldn’t get the whole bird into the freezer because its beak stopped the lid from closing properly and so had to resort to taking just the choice feathers. He didn’t say what had happened to the rest of it and I thought it best not to ask.

It is rather disturbing to think it could have ended up served for Sunday lunch, roasted with a pound of sage and onion up its Parson’s Nose.

What next for this intrepid hunter of all things furry, feathery and fluffy – yeti hair?!

Come to think of it, he did mention something about wanting to develop his own updated version of a Tupp’s Indispensible*…and he has been spending rather more time than usual in the bathroom!

*For those of you who are not familiar with this fly, a Tupp’s Indispensible is traditionally tied using hairs plucked from the scrotum of a fertile breeding ram. Yes, you did read that right. Attempt collection at your own risk!

…And now, from On the Fly ~

He grasped her by the waist, pulled her to him and kissed her. She threw her arms around his neck and returned the kiss, and as she did, he felt all his tension drain away.

‘Very nice,’ he said, smacking his lips with appreciation.

‘You weren’t on the river much today,’ Lily said.

‘I’ve been spending quite a bit of time up the House doing some paperwork and sending out brochures and the like.’

‘Oh really?’ She took a step back and placed her hands on her hips. ‘You are such a fibber, Brian MacDonald.’

‘I don’t know what you mean.’

‘Yes you do, because I know exactly where you were. Did you have a nice time with her?’

The question caught Brian off guard. ‘What…I mean who…eh?’

‘The pretty blonde woman?’ Lily prompted.

Brian’s mouth fell open with astonishment. ‘How the hell…? Bloody hell, Lily, have you been spying on me?’ He was both alarmed and irked in equal measure.

‘Yes I have,’ she said, plainly. ‘And most amusing it was too, watching you squirming out through her bedroom window like a greased weasel just as her husband came in through the front door. You did cut it a little fine I have to say. You were lucky to get away with your skin still on.’

Brian was staggered. ‘But…how…where? Flaming hell, Lily, that’s a bit beyond the pale.’

‘What can I say, I like to watch,’ she said. ‘I learn quite a lot by watching.’

She passed her tongue over her slightly parted lips, moistening them, and then sucked seductively on the lower one.

‘Don’t you like to watch, Brian? Wouldn’t you like it if someone were to watch us?’

‘No of course not.’

‘Are you sure about that?’ She ran a fingertip over his lips. ‘Wouldn’t it turn you on?’

He gulped audibly. ‘Well…I…er,’ he stammered. ‘I’ve never…never really thought about it.’

‘Maybe you should. And don’t you think it might be fun if someone were to…join in? Another woman…or a man?’

Brian’s mouth moved, but no words came out. For once, he had nothing to say. Lily’s eyes sparkled with mischief and she suddenly burst out laughing.

‘I’m just teasing you, you silly man,’ she said with a smile. ‘The look on your face…’

Brian puckered his mouth and frowned. ‘Aye very funny. My sides are splitting.’

‘Made you think, though, didn’t I?’ she said, and chucked his chin.

He had never considered a threesome, whatever the combination, he always favoured the one-to-one approach. Although…

~ On The Fly, a raunchy tale of rods, flies and sex: