Happy new year! I hope you’re all looking forward to 2015, like I am, and to the opportunities and changes it may bring to your creativity.
This was originally going to be a tutorial post, but I didn’t want to overload your New Year’s Eve inboxes and blog readers with something you’ll need a hot water bottle and supply of endless coffee to get through… so I’ll try and keep it on the shorter side 🙂
In a nutshell, when you set out to write for an audience, a target market, remember there’s still time (and a need) to continue to write and be creative for yourself alone.
Whether it’s therapy, or relaxation, or just for entertainment. Whether it’s recording your dreams or memories, or making plans for the future. You need to keep that part of your writing alive – the part that inspired you to write with a purpose in the first place – because nothing tries to suck the joy out of writing more than constantly thinking about deadlines, sales, and financial returns.
If you’re a compulsive writer and it’s something you’ve always done, it’s particularly important to keep writing for yourself, to preserve that feeling of serenity and the internal insights that arise from it. You will find yourself picking up inspiration along the way, and using elements of it in your commercial writing, but allowing yourself to BE yourself in your creativity, and taking time out from the ‘author’ side of it, is what will help prevent any disillusionment, doom and gloom taking over.
You don’t ever have to make your personal creativity public. Like a diary, you can write it in quill and ink in endless notebooks, or record them aloud using your phone, tablet, or computer. Keep your spontaneity going! It will do your mind and spirit good, as well as positively enhance your professional efforts.
Although I put quite a lot out there commercially, most of my creativity is still personal – I’m still developing my skills and different genre styles away from the marketplace. I still experiment and play with ideas, counsel myself with writing, and use other art forms like sewing, knitting, customising and painting to relax.
One of my longest writing therapy projects did eventually end up in novel form, and because I feel silly/embarrassed promoting it commercially – to me, it’s therapy I wrote for myself, in the guise of narrative fiction (written nearly seven years ago now!) – I give it away in regular Kindle ebook freebies, so a few times a year you’ll find it listed as free:
This is the version I made more reader-friendly by including shortcuts through the text, meaning you can skip through the internal monologue as prompted and read it more as an action novel, or read the whole thing in linear fashion as a semi-literary one. That was one of my technical experiments in ebook formatting that I’m quite proud of – you can see how it works by checking out the description and the ‘Look Inside’ preview on Amazon.
I’m still in two minds as to whether publishing it (unedited) was the true outcome or purpose, but in terms of the therapeutic side of writing, I definitely came out the other side feeling better for it, both internally and creatively. And having it out there, rather than filed away and forgotten, is a small reminder to me that writing therapy and self-analysis is worthwhile to some of us artistic types – even if no-one else reads it 🙂
I hope you all have a very happy and creative new year, and remember to make time for yourself in the process!
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Hey, happy Sunday 🙂
I’m not sure what I expected would happen, publishing an unknown pen-name into the most overcrowded genre, with no advertising or solicited support. A dive into the community pool of obscurity, most likely. The genre has the highest turnover of readers as well, who devour a book in a day and are in a hurry to pick up the next one, like a chocolate fixation. Interest at the most optimistic level is likely to be fleeting.
I jumped the gun too, having had the book requested in full by Harlequin M&B and waited three months for a response after submitting. As the novel, a stand-alone story, only took me five weeks to write (76,000 words, a cakewalk compared to some of my others) I justified that part as not thinking it decent that I should have to wait more than twice as long for a reply than it took me to write. And I’d started writing four more in the meantime, which if I finish this year to follow it up with, would be unlikely to find such quick slots to fill in a traditional publisher’s catalogue.
Anyway. From my previous experience of running repeating freebies as promotion, when I put it on KDP Select to release it as free in the first weekend after publishing it last week, I was expecting a few hundred downloads on Amazon.com, a few dozen on Amazon.co.uk and one or two elsewhere. After the freebie ended this time, however, I had 1732 downloads on Kindle UK, outstripping everywhere else almost three times over, and had reached the UK #4 in its category and #24 in the Kindle top 100 bestsellers in Free ebooks. Two 5* reviews had turned up from nowhere, and it has continued to sell (and be borrowed on Amazon Prime) at an average rate of 1 per hour ever since.
As I only tweeted it about a dozen times for the freebie, and didn’t solicit or advertise for any promotion or ask friends for help, all I can guess is that folk genuinely like this book and are recommending it.
That’s a writer’s dream. Still early days, but at the the moment I feel as though I should be pinching myself to see if it’s really me dreaming it.
Possibly in danger of giving myself a small identity crisis, but that’s nothing new. One audience for the zombie parody, one for the psychological introspection, and now another, under a new name altogether.
And it means the opportunity to invest more time in writing 🙂
It wasn’t a quick decision to write in another genre – I’d been writing experimentally in this genre for about twenty years, but never published anything. Writing and publishing my other stuff turned out to be relevant experience – the more you write, the more fluent you become. You can learn something new about language and prose every day, which I discovered when writing a novel as a blog in 2012. When you write in a fully-conscious state of mind, you’re less likely to repeat yourself or slip into stereotypes associated with writing.
But I found I also have to be aware of being a storyteller, imparting an atmosphere and emotional tone as a major priority – allowing the reader’s imagination to have as much control without distracting them with ‘wordplay’. There’s good writing that demonstrates the mental gymnastics and intellect of the author, and then there’s good writing that you forget is writing because you’re absorbed in the story. In this case, I was aiming for the second one – which meant switching off the part of me as a writer which wants to flash around some skills and intellect and behave as if I have something to gain by proving them. If being too clever makes your writing inaccessible, it’s like pricing your books too high – they may be praiseworthy, but only a few folk will invest in them.
For me, writing will always be a spontaneous activity, meaning that most of what I achieve is down to luck and enjoying the time spent by myself working on it, which includes any social media (I have a great deal of writer friends, but I’m not known for turning up ubiquitously on dozens of blogs or joining marketing campaigns and the review culture). One reason I enjoy writing as a career is it doesn’t involve any group effort or teamwork – and I’m not into competitive sports either 🙂
Genuine success will always be down to the readership in that particular genre and their judgement. It’s a very grounding and humbling thought, knowing that as the writer, you’re always outnumbered by the potential readers, by millions to one 🙂
Switching styles, like Dongalor in “Krod Mandoon”, played by Matt Lucas
So yesterday I got bored, and to distract myself from watching my ‘selling’ items on ebay, I published one of my recent romance novels under a pen name I’ve been cultivating for a couple of months, Lauren Boutain.
This is the one that M&B requested the full MS of three months ago, and having just won round one of their Facebook and Twitter-based #TemptedToWrite contest pitching another idea, I have too many stories in my head now to sit around twiddling my thumbs waiting. For now, I’ll stick to self-publishing until something better comes along… (like I don’t know, having a life?) 🙂
I did get some encouragement from having had it requested, and a couple of good friends. Friends are very important when you’re venturing into anything new, and contemporary modern romance is definitely new ground for me…
Supposing Dongalor wrote the next romance blockbuster, who might he ask to take a peek? 🙂
And then there’s all the stuff I don’t usually write. The bedroom stuff… I found that was where planning to write under a pen-name up front really helped. Not by trying to distance myself from it – by getting inside the head of someone else while writing. And not just the characters, for a change. By being another author completely.
However, I found that waiting to hear from publishers still didn’t really fit – I had momentum in my creativity, and didn’t want to let it drop once I’d finished the story, I wanted to get it out there and move straight on to the next. So I’m afraid to say that yesterday I decided I couldn’t wait for either the good news or a rejection, and published anyway 🙂
“Can I pull this off?” Chancellor Dongalor’s big, er, ‘reveal’
Ahem… probably the main relevance to Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire is I recently watched it all again on DVD, and the line “Can I pull this off?” (besides being bloody hilarious in this scene) is very pertinent to me as an author who has been writing contemporary romance mainly in secret for a long time, but has not yet put it out there for readers to judge. I’m feeling brave. Perhaps not quite brave enough to slap on a bearskin codpiece, but definitely to sneak a book out under the radar, in the deluge of self-publishing going on in the world today 🙂
If you want to take a peek, or a download for 77p (99c) and judge for yourself, you can check it out on Amazon Kindle here.
I promise I don’t do executions in response to criticism, unlike Chancellor Dongalor 😉
Does not contain zombies… 🙂
Click on the photo for my author interview by Hannah Warren!
It’s been very exciting in the past month!
I’ve attended three book events on all levels – the publishing house London hotel soiree, penthouse Royal suite, small invited crowd, free signed books for every guest (HarperCollins/Avon for Miranda Dickinson’s It Started With A Kiss):
The British movie-star celebrity house-party, decadent gourmet food, books selling as quickly as they could be handed out (Sophie Neville, Funnily Enough – whose childhood pets even stole the screen, on shows such as Animal Magic and All Creatures Great And Small):
And the intimate Oxford bookshop in steampunk fancy dress, great company, cups of tea and beer, open to the very friendly browsing public (Eight Cuts presenting both myself and Raven Dane reading from our books):
What I’ve learned from this is that there’s no wrong way to go about it. Whatever your budget, whatever your intentions, and whatever your personality, you can have a book launch or live event to suit you. Whether it’s busking on the street fielding the heckles, or gold-leaf invitation-only, Gucci dark glasses and red carpet compulsory – a book event is memorable. It puts a real person, the author, behind the world of the imagination.
Today I’m having another book promotion event of my own – online. I don’t have a pet celebrity, but I can give away free books for all you Kindle appsters!
FREE on Amazon Kindle today (Sunday 11th December), you can get both the full-length crime/humour/romance/lit-fic ebooks of Death & The City: Book One, and Death & The City: Book Two. (Click on the cover images for the Amazon Kindle Store links – promotion is valid in all Kindle stores worldwide).
If you miss today’s promotion – never fear. There’s another longer free listing, 48hours, for both Kindle ebooks again on Christmas and Boxing Day (time from midnight to 23:59 PST, or starting about 08:00a.m. Christmas Day GMT). So if you get a Kindle for Christmas, you know where to find a pair of good chunky free reads to get you started!
And if you miss any of the free promotions, all hope is not lost. You can still buy the 2-in-1 version (plus bonus feature screenplay) DEATH & THE CITY: HEAVY DUTY EDITION for only 0.86p/0.99c.
You can read the blurbs on my eBooks page above.
I wish I could be there to give you a sample reading in person, so to make up for the loss of laughs and chat, here’s a couple of tasters…
The Mills & Boon New Voices contest (Football sentiment not included!)
Yay! I did it! I submitted a first chapter into the contest. Neptune’s Island is my first stab at direct romance writing.
And I found a suitable category – warm and fuzzy. I mean, Warm and COSY. As I can’t switch off my wit when writing, I was really pleased to see that romantic comedies come under this roof. Mine’s a rom-com with a sense of adventure – the holiday-read chick-lit.
No zombies in this one. Although at least one of my other outlines that I had in mind involved zombies, in the paranormal scheme of things, I’m saving those for later.
I’m surprised there aren’t more entries in this category yet. I thought chick lit was hu-u-ge. I love a sense of humour with my romantic stories. I read a few straight ones, mostly paranormals, and a few romantic dramas – but I have to be careful because quite often I’m inserting my own jokes into scenes at the back of my mind. Like that person in the cinema you can sometimes hear, who has a comeback occasionally funnier than the one Dwayne Johnson just said.
There are some great plot lines on the site already – fab identity mix-ups, awkward situations, and some great suspense openings. It’s very inspiring. The busiest category is Contemporary Romance, which I guess has the scope for everything that involves complex webs in relationships, skeletons in closets, old flames, and up-to-the-minute issues alongside the more traditional ones. I avoided that one, I suppose, because I haven’t had a relationship in real life, and wouldn’t know or identify with a real-life scenario or complex issue if it bit me. Biting is very boring in my concept of real life – it comes under Common Assault in nightclub incident reports, or ‘abuse of staff’ in a hospital ward. Extraordinarily dull.
I ended up with four ideas, but you only get one entry – and since I’ve found the door is open to chick lit and romantic humour, I’ve had more ideas arriving all the time. So I’d definitely be interested in writing more romance in future.
The www.romanceisnotdead.com competition entry website is a bit glitchy, and every time I click on a link or try to post a comment it crashes at the moment, but they’ve got ongoing maintenance to try and keep it afloat!
It’s nice to have freedom of imagination, even if nothing romantic has happened in real life yet. My friend Sophie Neville was discussing the age-old issue of husband-hunting with me at work the other day, and how she worries about her acquaintances currently in the market and the problems they face. She knows I’m also permanently single with no history or boyfriend experience, and when she asked my age, there was a full minute of rather horrified silence 🙂 I heard that life begins at forty, but I didn’t realise it meant literally ‘begins’ – I’ve had one blind date morning coffee since my 40th back at the start of July, and it’s lucky I’m more interested in dieting and writing at the moment, because dating so far has possibly been the biggest waste of petrol I’ve used in my life. The only other thing dating does so far is add to my caffeine intake 🙂
It is true that basically it just means I haven’t met the right man yet. It is really bizarre meeting up with guys you don’t know, and chatting over coffee. Perfectly normal and pleasant conversations, usually. But no chemistry. I know what a crush on a guy feels like, or regular physical attraction, but so far those things have completely failed to turn up on dates. Quite a few I’d have been open to second dates or longer chats – to see if it’s true that you’re meant to let someone grow on you first – but as it turns out, I haven’t been asked by any of those guys for second dates.
Luck of the draw, I guess. I’m not looking for dates any more because I’m too busy – but it isn’t the case that ‘not looking’ means you suddenly get asked out all the time. It just means guys click on the next online profile.
I could try just going out where there are people, but I don’t have any friends nearby because nobody else wants a 40-year-old single woman around either 🙂
So I’ll just fantasise about romance instead for now, and write it down – it’s much easier than finding it in real life.
This one broke my world speed record for deciding whether or not to buy the book when I saw it in the bookstore. I think my exact decision-making process was “FWORRR!”
It’s staying where I can see it while writing. I might even read more than those pages in the middle when I get time…
Send him round. I’ve never had a real live muse before 🙂
Had a discussion about book covers yesterday after getting some constructive criticism on mine. As an indie author – covers were the last thing on my mind. Until seven or eight months ago, I seriously never intended to self-publish.
But as an artist, over the years I used to think a lot about covers. Covers on published books attracted me all the time, although it was blurbs and first paragraph reads which dictated whether or not I bought a book. I realised that as well as covers, I’d never really thought about blurbs either. For me, the important thing was getting my interiors up to scratch, spellchecked and edited. Rarely when I do a drawing or painting does it come up to my own expectations, and sometimes themes in the books require more than a flower, a puddle of blood, or a cleavage…
My favourite book covers of all time always contained real art, especially fantasy art – science fiction book covers in particular featuring spaceships, alien landscapes and adventurers. Some of the best artwork on covers appeared in the 1980’s, mostly on historical romance covers, oozing classical portrait talent and dripping with Fabio.
I could look at just the covers for hours, purely for the artist’s skill – I would study Boris Vallejo and attempt to imitate every line in pencil form. Nowadays, sadly, those style of covers are considered ‘cheesy’ and it’s all about graphic design and branding, creating a cover more simplistic and iconic, like a Coca-Cola label. I can recognise many of those ‘designer’ covers, but could tell you nothing about the story between the covers, or the genre, or the author – but with realist fantasy art, it was easy to understand what the genre and story was – especially if it was science fiction, romance, a pulp detective novel, or an early Ian Fleming.
In a way, these ‘brand’ covers tap into a form of label marketing which goes along with clothing, soft drinks, and fragrances. You don’t have to know what it stands for, what the story is. It’s an accessory, a lifestyle choice. The reader who buys Alexander McCall Smith might also wear Alexander McQueen (ahem, if they’re lucky). The same goes for movie posters – but luckily, movie posters haven’t moved on as far as book covers. The most iconic artist posters include Star Wars and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and the films represented didn’t disappoint. You saw the poster, and the film lived up to it.
In Death & The City, the protagonist Lara has issues with personality and the way people market themselves, and their motives, and likens it to book covers. You see a big title and it represents a catchy blockbuster title, or a big author name and it represents a celebrity author. Pathway at dusk equals mystery. Pastel colours equals chick lit. Fangs and cleavage equals vampire horror. She compares the way one of her subjects of investigation was drawn unawares into prostitution by saying: Like she’d unwittingly bought a book about the sex trade, based on a misleading cover claiming to be a supernatural spy detective novel.
So I was aware of this ability for covers to be ‘misleading’ when designing my own, and also didn’t want to misrepresent myself as a publishing-house-style author while I’m currently an indie – no quotes from reviews on the covers or in the introduction, although I’ve had hundreds of comments from friends and peers, none that would qualify with the job description ‘Guardian Books’ or ‘TV Book Club’ – so I left them out.
Although I only have MS Paint to cobble them together, luckily Lulu.com on the hardcovers had an online formatter in which you simply upload images of the right quality – had a fun time searching for some I could use – until I can get the right images and artwork out of my head and onto paper, I’m happy with what I’ve done and feel that although amateur, it’s not misrepresenting anything.
But going by my taste in art, I have a feeling my own ideas brought to life won’t have any place in the contemporary market. 🙂
(Also on Amazon Kindle UK/DE. Paperback available from Amazon US, or Shalini Boland)
Went out for a birthday lunch today to meet the effortlessly fabulous Shalini Boland, rising Young Adult fiction star and author of Hidden, and the forthcoming futuristic/dystopian novel Outside. We did a book exchange – I got a paperback copy of Hidden (paranormal/vampire romance), and I gave her a hardcover of Living Hell, and threw in a paperback proof of Death & The City: Book Two to follow up the first one she already has at home. I told her about my own ‘challenge’ I’d set myself, to write a romantic novel à la Harlequin/Mills&Boon, and she shared some of the promoting tips she’s learned around indie publishing.
One of the things she’d heard about is running temporary freebie promos on eBooks. I thought this sounded like a fun idea. She also submits queries to book blogs for reviews/interviews and promotion, and is doing well out of it. In comparison to me, who hasn’t put together a press kit at all, and sells on average one Terrible Zombie Of Oz per week, she’s proof that marketing yourself a bit in the right places can definitely work.
I’d already dropped my Amazon Kindle prices, having bought an Android-based eTouch Toys’R’Us tablet (it’s fantastic, and has the added bonus of a rounded shiny silver rear cover that looks as though you’re perusing the inside of a tiny Smeg refrigerator – and almost as heavy). I realised that for my £49.99 investment in this electronic toy, and downloading the free Kindle app, what I mostly wanted was to benefit from amazingly cheap books.
So I’d swallowed my pride and put my own prices down, from a few bucks to amazingly cheap as well.
When I got home I checked out Smashwords, and had no new activity in the last month – but noticed they were running a July sale list, with vouchers which you could apply to your books to make them either discounted or free. So I signed both of my Smashwords epub/html/LRF/RTF format books up to it (Apple/Sony/Nook etc versions), and almost instantly sold two, and then two more. It was definitely worth doing – as it’ll be a while before I see any royalties anyway, gaining a readership in the meantime is definitely up there in my list of preferences.
I’d already decided to give myself a year, from publishing the first two in the Tales of the Deathrunners series (Death & The City: Books One and Two – combined in the hardcover edition, and in the Heavy Duty Edition eBook, which also includes an original feature screenplay), as well as Living Hell and The Terrible Zombie Of Oz. One year will be enough to gauge reader interest in whichever sequence of books is likely to be strongest – at the moment it looks like the title containing the most Z’s is winning – and I have sequels already in progress. In the meantime I’ll work on giving this Romance Fiction challenge a shot, and try and keep the zombies at bay – until appropriate for them to be unleashed 🙂