September Brings a Fresh Challenge

My Indie Writing Life

I’m going to be trying a different format for my posts from here on, making them a bit more like a diary of what I’ve been up to between posts. I hope you find it useful 🙂 You may also have noticed that I’ve changed the title of the blog – it seemed like as good a time as any!

 

 

Writing

This is what I imagine Sam to look like *swoon*

The good news is that, as promised, I started editing Sam’s Story this week, one of the sequel novellas I’ve written to From Here to Nashville. I don’t really enjoy editing as I may have mentioned before (!) because I find it much harder than writing the first draft. When you’re writing the first draft, you can let your imagination run wild but once you get to the second draft and you already have a story in place, it becomes much harder to make changes without it having an impact on lots of other parts of the story.

This was the first book I wrote in third person so it was always going to be a challenge for me and I sent this one in to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme for its first read in 2015, two whole years ago now. My writing has changed a lot since then, improved even and so it is hard to deal with some of the simple mistakes I was making back then. For example, head hopping, where you switch from one character’s point of view to another’s right in the middle of a scene, making it unclear who’s talking. My RNA reader mentioned this and so did one of my beta readers so I didn’t have to wonder about whether they were right – if more than one person mentions it, it’s clearly an issue and you just have to accept it. And for the most part, it wasn’t actually that hard to deal with but I was annoyed with myself for having done it. However, I think I have moved on from this now and will be able to spot it more easily in the future.

The hardest thing to deal with has been the fact that, as always in my happy ever after world, my characters fall in love far too quickly. As Sam is only just getting over the loss of Rachel to Jackson, it’s important that he doesn’t come across as shallow when meeting someone new, and perhaps falling in love on the rebound. This means that I have to make it all take a bit longer – I have this problem all the time – and in having to do that, I have to change lots of other things as well.

Unfortunately, what I find when I reach a difficult point with editing is that I just stop doing it altogether. It’s simply too hard and I will never be able to master it, is what I tell myself as my excuse for not doing it. I have been trying to do an hour a day but honestly, by the end of the first week, I have the attention span of a gnat and I’m starting to get very frustrated with myself. I’m forcing myself to stick with it because I want to get it finished but it really is proving hard!

Upcoming WI Audition

The other thing I’ve been working on this week is my 15 minute talk for my WI audition next Saturday. They are very strict about timings and I won’t have a full 15 minutes so obviously, I can’t do the full talk I would normally do. I started off by paring down my usual talk about my self-publishing journey to the bare bones confident that this would be more than enough. Then I practised saying it out loud using a stopwatch only to find that I had the grand total of just three minutes! So I have spent the whole week adding content back in – this was only supposed to be a flavour of the talk, not the whole thing! I have now reached seven minutes and I am desperate to get to 10 but I can’t think what else to put in. I never thought I would struggle to find words 😉 Anyway, I will have to plod on as best I can and finish it because the audition is next week and I want it to go well of course.

Marketing

I have been experimenting with Amazon ads again this week for From Here to Nashville with some success but it’s not been brilliant. It is a constant challenge to keep the momentum going with sales of both books really and I feel that I am now approaching the end of the peak for The Vineyard in Alsace so I need to think carefully about what to do next.

Social Life

I am looking forward to another meeting this week of my Society of Authors group, where we’ll be discussing the topic ‘What Makes a Good Story?’ I will also be attending my first RNA AGM this week now that I am officially an independent member. The meeting also includes a talk by Julie Cohen on Pacing and how not to let your reader get bored, which I’m really looking forward to as Julie is always interesting and helpful. I’m travelling down to London with another RNA friend so it will be good to catch up and be writerly for an afternoon 🙂

Freelance Work

Finally, I started a proofreading job this week for an author who writes courses on Teachable and who contacted me as a result of seeing my name in connection with the Open Book festival. It’s funny how you make these connections quite out of the blue but I’m very glad I did.

 

Thanks for reading. Please do leave me a comment if you’d like to talk about anything I mention in the post. It’s always good to chat 🙂

An Eventful Summer in my Indie Author Life

As always, it has been a busy time since my last post. I have an update about the talk I gave at my first literary festival which took place at the end of July; news of how book 2, The Vineyard in Alsace, continues to do well; progress with book 3, and finally, what I have coming up.

Open Book Literary Festival, Hitchin

It has been a bit of a while since my last blog post because I have had such a busy summer in my writing life. As I told you then, I was going to be taking part in my first every Literary Festival in Hitchin, near where I live. Before the event, I was incredibly nervous, not knowing whether anyone would turn up for my talk about my self-publishing journey. Well, the day dawned and it was rainy, just for a change. Our festival was mostly indoors but it would have been nice to have a bit of sunshine! Still, my talk was a great success with lots of people attending and a knowledgeable, interested audience who asked good questions.

We had a good turnout for our first ever festival and I spoke to a lot of people on the day. I definitely noticed an impact on my ebook sales afterwards too, and it looks like we will be doing the festival again next year. So all in all, a good thing to have done to raise awareness of my books. And look at this lovely cake made by Carol Deacon especially for the occasion!

 

The Vineyard in Alsace

My second book continues to sell well and if you are a regular visitor to my Facebook page, you’ll know that I’ve had some wonderful guest posts and interviews over the summer. First of all, I was on the lovely Tara Greaves’ website in her excellent A Look Behind the Book feature. You can read it here. Shortly afterwards, Tara posted a glowing review of my book on Amazon, which I was delighted with:

A story that warms you, like sitting outside in the late evening sunshine

More recently, I was on Linda Hill’s blog here, with a post about why I write Happy Ever After endings. I got a lot of feedback about this post because I think it struck a chord with a lot of readers. One of my writing friends even chose this theme for his MA in Creative Writing! Linda has also very kindly offered to read my book so I’m looking forward to reading her review sometime in the near future when her TBR pile has gone down a bit!

I also heard this month that my book is going to be featured in Living France magazine’s October issue as a result of me sending a paperback copy to one of their editors for review. I have absolutely no idea whether they liked it but I’m keeping my fingers crossed! I’ll let you know when I find out.

I had another milestone with The Vineyard this week when I woke up one morning to find my book in the top 100 Holiday fiction list on Amazon. It’s still hanging on in there for the moment, which is wonderful to see.

Book 3

Once the LitFest was over, I had to knuckle down in my writing cave to finish the first draft of my third book by the deadline of 31st August. It was a bit touch and go at times but eventually I did it and sent it off to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme for its first professional read. By the time I got to the end, I honestly felt it was the best first draft I’ve ever written but only time will tell! It will be interesting next year when I’m no longer a member of the NWS and I will have to find someone else to fulfil that function. I will be a fully fledged Independent Author member by then and will have to find my own way with that first assessment of each manuscript. There are no shortage of people offering that service but they want a lot of money for doing so. Anyway, that’s something for another day 🙂

Coming Up

Next week, I will begin editing (I will, I will) the follow up novella I wrote for From Here to Nashville some time ago. I have booked this in with my editor so I really can’t afford to put it off any longer. Anyway, I do want to get on with Sam’s story now because I hope to publish it before the end of the year – ambitious, I know. Ideally, I would get it off to my editor before book 3 comes back and demands my attention. When it’s ready to go out, I have a plan for its launch that I’ll be looking for people to get involved with so keep an eye out for my next post!

 

I think that’s all the news for now, and is probably quite enough to be going on with. Do leave a comment here on my website if you’d like to or alternatively, contact me on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks for reading. And if you’ve recently read either of my books, do please take a moment to leave a review – they’re so important for indie authors especially 🙂

 

A Month of Milestones

When I wrote my last post, some time ago (ahem!), I told you all how pleased I was to have found out that I was eligible to join The Society of Authors as an ’emerging author.’

Since then, I’ve attended a couple of meetings of my local group in Hitchin and as a result, I am now going to be taking part in the first ever Open Book Literary Festival in Hitchin on the 29th of this month. I will be giving a talk entitled ‘My Journey from Complete Beginner to Self-Published Author – How and Why I Self-Publish my Contemporary Romance Novels’ and my books will also be on sale that day to festival visitors. I am both very excited and frightened to death by the prospect of giving a talk at a festival but I have to start somewhere and I’m really glad that I’ll have the opportunity to fulfil this milestone.

In the run-up to the festival, there’s going to be lots of publicity:

  • we’re on the SoA website as an event!
  • We’re going to be on display in Waterstones in Hitchin in their local authors window.
  • We’re going to be featured in Writing Magazine and also in lots of local press.

In the course of trying to arrange for my books to be available for Waterstones to order directly if anyone asks, I found that my first book, From Here to Nashville, is actually available on their website already! Who knew? However, The Vineyard in Alsace is not there. Both my books are listed on Nielsen and I’ve had orders for the first one through Gardners, one of the two main book distributors so I’m just trying to join up all the dots to see if I can make this happen for my second book too. All in all, it is going to be an exciting time. If you are in the area or nearby that day, please do come along – it would be lovely to have some support in the audience. Tickets are available here.

*****

I have just come back from a lovely holiday in Menorca, during which I really felt like I got away from it all, even though I took my computer with me and we had Wi-Fi access. I took my laptop mainly because I needed to carry on writing my next book whenever possible. I have reached a real sticking point with it around about chapter 10/11 and despite rewriting several times, I’ve just not been able to move forward. I spent a lot of time talking over the issues in the book with my husband on holiday and that did help to clarify the story. I was just about moving on when we came home again! I really need to maintain that discipline as we go through this month and next to get my book finished if I can.

The pressure behind this happening is because I have to submit it to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme by the end of August and I value the feedback I get from that report so much that I really want to meet that deadline. This is especially important this year because… drum roll please… I will be graduating from the NWS this year to become an Independent Author of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. My second book, The Vineyard in Alsace, has done so well that I have now met all the criteria in terms of books published, sales and profits, that I am eligible to leave the NWS behind. I am so proud of this achievement that I have reached all by my own effort and although I will be sad to leave the NWS, I will be very honoured by my new membership status.

This is yet another milestone for me, along with the fact that my second book has now sold more copies in just over three months than my first book has sold all together (although I’m still very proud of Nashville too). I have to confess to being a little obsessed by the data on my Kindle Publishing dashboard (the other reason I took the laptop) but it’s so satisfying to see those sales rising every day! Last month was incredible with my sales reaching dizzying new heights and there’s even been a knock-on effect with extra sales of Nashville, the like of which I haven’t seen since I first published it. I did also try my hand at a couple of Amazon Ads for Nashville which I believed helped things along. I have thought about doing a free deal but I just can’t bring myself to do this so I’m always exploring various book marketing ideas to keep those sales coming in.

I’m looking forward to seeing what July will bring in my writing life and will report back on that next time! I have a couple of lovely romance authors being featured on my blog this month as well. Firstly, Helen Pollard on the 16th, who was my very first guest on my Author Spotlight feature many moons ago, and then Karen King on the 23rd. I’m looking forward to sharing their news about their new books with you. Until next time, thanks for reading 🙂

One Month Since the Publication of Book 2

As I’m writing this, it has been a month since I indie published The Vineyard in Alsace, my second full-length novel. It has been a really good month with sales reaching higher than those for From Here to Nashville in its first month two years ago. While I’m really pleased about this, of course, I wish I knew how it had happened so I could do more of the same!

I’ve been a guest on some lovely blogs again but no more than last time, although perhaps the reach of those sites is greater than the ones I guested on last time. I have tweeted here and there about my book but I hate the idea of constantly tweeting about my book so it hasn’t been very regular. I’ve taken part in the RNA’s weekly hashtag on Twitter though which leads to an incredible amount of RTs from the generous members of the group so that has probably helped somewhat. I haven’t written a blog post myself in the past month so that can’t be it! I have shared my Facebook Author Page posts a bit more to my personal timeline and I also tried boosting one of my posts for a while. I have also sold some of my paperbacks independently but not that many. I’m starting to get a few reviews in now but again, not that many yet. I did get into the top 10,000 ranking on Amazon, which was a lovely feeling.

So I am at a loss as to what is helping the book to sell so well. It is only for sale on Amazon at the moment so I guess that Amazon’s algorithms must be doing something for me. It may be them showing my new book to readers who have bought Nashville and perhaps that’s leading them to buy The Vineyard in Alsace as well. It’s tempting to say, whatever it is, I don’t care as long as it’s selling. But you can guess that I’m not going to. I’ve been giving it all a lot of thought, as you can tell. Conversely, sales of my first book have stopped dead, which is understandable but still makes me feel sad. I recently updated the back matter in From Here to Nashville to include the detail of my new book and I think it might be time to put Nashville up for a Kindle Countdown free deal. At last, all those articles I’ve been clipping about running a free book promotion will come into their own!

My prime reason for doing this would be to try and get more reviews for From Here to Nashville. It’s said that when you get to 50 reviews, the Amazon algorithms kick in somehow and start to promote your book more for you. Whether this is actually true, I don’t yet know but I’d love to get more reviews anyway. I have 30 at the moment and have been stuck there for a long time – if you’ve read From Here to Nashville and haven’t yet reviewed, please go and write one for me now! Just click here.

So I’m going to spend some time doing some research into the best approach to running a free deal on Amazon. Then I’ll upload the new version of From Here to Nashville and see what happens. In the meantime, I shall keep my fingers crossed that the good sales continue. If you haven’t bought your copy of The Vineyard in Alsace yet, you can get your copy here. So many people have told me that they read it in one sitting, they were enjoying it so much so you might like to go and see what all the fuss is about!

Thanks for reading and do leave me a comment if you have any advice from running your own Kindle Promotions. All advice gratefully received 🙂

Publication Day #2 and Lessons I have Learned!

thevineyardinalsacePublication Day of my second novel The Vineyard in Alsace has come at last and I have managed to co-ordinate the Kindle and the paperback versions to be published at the same time, something I didn’t quite achieve first time round. As regular readers will know, this book has been a long time coming but it’s here now, indie published again, and I couldn’t be happier.

Some of you may have read my interview with my good writing friend, Susanna Bavin which was posted this weekend. Sue has been such a good friend to me, always cheering me on and boosting my confidence. I am truly grateful to her for her support. If you haven’t seen the article, do pop over and have a read if you can.

On Friday 10th March, I will be appearing on the French Village Diaries website, talking about my love of France, which I am really pleased about. It’s so lovely to discover a new website dedicated to some of my favourite things. So if you like all things French as much as I do, don’t forget to pop on over and have a look. Jacqui will also be posting a review of my book a couple of days later so look out for that. You can always get your own copy now though, if you can’t wait! Just click here.

Next weekend, I will be on fellow romance author, Abbey MacMunn’s blog, talking about the inspiration behind The Vineyard in Alsace, and the Monday after, I will be on my friend, Sam Russell’s blog, talking about how I came to write a book about a vineyard from the rustic viewpoint! I have another couple of guest blogs coming up in the near future as well but no dates for those as yet.

Amazingly, it has only been seven weeks since I first spoke to the designer and proofreader I used this time round because, as my book was already edited, it was pretty much ready to go into the final phase. However, I have learnt a few lessons since last time and I thought it would be good to share them with you.

  1. In retrospect, it would have been better to get the proofreading done and out of the way before engaging the designer. This is because when you come to sort out your paperback version, you can’t get the number of pages of your book until you upload your final mansucript, and your designer needs this for the width of the book spine. It may sound obvious to some people but if I came across this last time, I’d forgotten!
  2. If you have a foreign language in your book, like I do, and you want your proofreader to check it, make sure the one you want to use is available by speaking to them a couple of months before. By the time I spoke to my original choice of proofreader, she was all booked up. To be fair though, I hadn’t planned this very much in advance so I didn’t even know two months before that I was actually going to indie publish again. I found another wonderful proofreader but she was very honest in telling me that she wouldn’t be able to check the French. I got round the problem but it’s a lesson learned for the future.
  3. As many of you will know, I write in Scrivener which is so great in terms of generating a .mobi file. It also generates Pdf files which can be uploaded directly to CreateSpace but I really couldn’t work that out last time so I uploaded a Word document instead. This time, I was determined to do the Pdf to save some time. However, a Pdf is like a photo of your file and you can’t adjust things, like empty lines at the top of the page or widows and orphans. I have reviewed my file using CreateSpace’s online reviewer tool (when it finally decided to work for me) and it looks acceptable but with hindsight, I wish I had just gone for the Word option. A proof copy is on its way to me and if I really can’t stand it, I will swap the files over. All this adds to the time it takes to do everything, of course!
  4. I put my book up for pre-order again as I did last time and was surprised to see that I can now see a report at any time on just how many pre-orders I’ve got and how that compares with last time. There’s a lot of talk about whether it’s worth putting your book up for pre-order and my conclusion is that it is worth it. It generates a bit of a buzz and a sense of expectation and even if you don’t sell many, at least you can see sales coming in 🙂 I’d be interested to know what you all think about pre-orders from a sales point of view and as a reader? Is it a Marmite situation or do you think it doesn’t matter either way?
  5. The other thing that I did last time was to create a book trailer using Stupeflix. I think a book trailer is a good thing to do but crikey, it’s so time consuming! I’ve looked at a few other software programs like Animoto for example but didn’t find them any easier so the date for the book trailer is TBC 😉

And so, there it is. All in all, it has been a bit of an easier ride this time round but it’s amazing how much you forget in two years. I really do hope to publish my FHTN novella this year so I hope it will all remain fresh in my memory till then!

Thanks for all your support and to everyone who has bought my book especially!

Thunderclap anybody?

Thunderclap_logoAs you’ll all know by now, if you are regular readers of this blog, I like a challenge and so this week, I decided that my next challenge would be to set up a Thunderclap campaign. What’s that, I hear you cry? Well, a Thunderclap campaign, if you’ve not come across this before, is a way of encouraging all your friends and supporters on social media to rally round to help you spread a certain message on a certain day.

So what led to this new challenge? Well, every Tuesday, the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) uses the hashtag #TuesNews to promote members’ good news, blogs, sales etc on Twitter and last week, as I didn’t have a blog post to share from this site, I promoted the fact that my debut novel, From Here to Nashville was nearly one year old. The RNA is a wonderfully supportive group and my tweet received lots of shares and retweets and it reminded me of the Thunderclap idea.

So I have now set up my own Thunderclap campaign using the step-by-step guide on their website. It was relatively painless. To be honest, the only real difficulty was choosing the right size of photo but I got there in the end. You do need to be prepared to write a short bio of yourself and also a message about what you’re trying to do with the campaign. For me, the message was simple – my book is one year old and I would like people to help me spread the word about that in the hope of encouraging more people to buy it on its actual birthday.

Now I just need to persuade 100 people to support it! This bit is really important as well because in order to support my campaign, you have to go to this link: Julie’s Thunderclap Campaign Page and then click on either the Facebook, the Twitter or the Tumblr button to give your support. Some people go to the page and look but don’t realise that they actually need to click on a button as well. When you give your support, you are just agreeing to a tweet/post going out from you on a given day using the words that are shown in the blue box on the page. If I get the full number of supporters, that tweet will go out all across Twitter/Facebook etc at the same time giving the message greater impact. If I don’t get the support, then the tweet simply gets binned 🙂

Why am I doing this? Well, it’s another means of marketing to see if it has any impact and a bit of fun too. I have supported a number of Thunderclaps because it doesn’t cost me anything except a moment of my time and a tweet or a Facebook post. I’m not sure what impact it has for the person trying to spread a message but I think it’s worth a try. I am very pleased with the fact that my book has been out for almost a year and it is a great way to celebrate it.

It only remains for me to ask you if you would mind popping over to my campaign page and clicking on one of the buttons to say you’ll support it for me. I would be very grateful and of course, I promise to come back and let you know how it all goes.

Giving My First Talk as an Author

DSC_0352

Me in full swing!

My first author talk at my local library has now been and gone but I am still glowing from the wonderful evening I enjoyed there. The library staff were very kind in helping me set everything up beforehand and I had a good sized audience on the night with lots of friendly faces. The atmosphere was so welcoming that I hardly felt nervous at all, which I had really expected to. I ‘present’ all the time in my day job but it’s quite a different feeling when you’re talking about yourself. I know from speaking to other writers that the very idea of standing up in front of an audience scares them half to death! If you can do it though, giving an author talk really is worth it.

I had tried to get round my nerves by being very well-prepared and I think this paid off on the night. The plan was for me to talk about my debut novel From Here to Nashville and also my journey to self-publication. I wrote out what I was going to say over a couple of weeks, adding to the script as I thought of new things. Then I transferred it on to index cards, as advised by lots of other writing friends, and I practised to see how long it was, including me reading out an excerpt. All in all, it was 27 minutes long when I practised but on the night with a few questions, it was more like 45 minutes. I also videoed myself at home to see if I had any glaring habits that I wanted to avoid!

Once I had put the talk together, I had a chat with a writer friend of mine who also had a library talk coming up last week. She suggested playing some country music as people came in which I thought was a great idea and some of you may remember of course, that I even had a Spotify playlist already set up of the songs Rachel sings in the story so I added that to my plan. My friend also suggested asking the audience questions to involve them in the talk and to stop it from getting too formal so I did that too.

In the end, these were my headings:

  • How I started writing.
  • The Nashville TV series and how it inspired the idea for the story. Read out my blurb.
  • Writing as a ‘Pantser’ and discovering NaNoWriMo along the way, which led to me investing in Scrivener.
  • Discovering and then joining the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and my first report back from them.
  • Finding an editor, designer and proofreader.
  • Deciding to self-publish rather than trying for a traditional contract.
  • Publication to Amazon and later other platforms. Read an excerpt. Talked about trip to Nashville.
  • Marketing post-publication – social media activity, including this website and blog.
  • My next books.
DSC_0353

Talking to another RNA member who happened to come along!

One of the things I had to think about very carefully was what technology I would be able to use. The library is all set up for the internet but it isn’t working there currently. This meant I had to do screenshots of the things I wanted to show which could have been boring on their own. So I added in some content to my presentation to go with the shots as well. There were a fair few pictures of my books and I also had a table set up with my books and marketing materials on as well.

The library organised a projector and screen for me and we arrived early to set it all up and make sure it worked correctly. I had to take our bluetooth speaker from home so that we could play the music because the library didn’t have any speakers. I made a list of all the things I would have to take with me and checked and double-checked it before going!

As I said, everyone was so welcoming that I was fairly relaxed from the start. My daughter took some videos of me and my husband took some photos so we have something to remember it all by. I suppose I will have to give in and let you see one of the videos now!

I took a few questions afterwards as well over refreshments and I also sold signed copies of my books. In fact, I sold more copies than I have ever done before at an event of this kind!

So, all in all, as I said at the beginning, it was a very good experience. It was really hard to approach the library in the first instance but once I did, they were very encouraging and happy to help me with promotion and setting up along the way. As I hadn’t had the courage to send out a press release when I first published From Here to Nashville (I know!), this was a good opportunity to write one so that I know what to do next time round. So there were many benefits to doing this, not just the obvious ones.

I suspect that most libraries would welcome local authors with open arms as they try valiantly to keep people coming through their doors so if you love your local library as much as I love mine, then why not give it a try? You might be surprised at how much fun it is! Do leave me a comment below to tell me how you feel about the idea or maybe you’ve already done one so please share your experience 🙂