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.

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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

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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.
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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 🙂

Promoting Your Book with a Library Talk

V__CAE9A few weeks ago, one of my work colleagues saw my debut novel From Here to Nashville on the shelf in our local library. She very kindly took a picture for me which I shared on my Facebook Author Page. It was a very exciting moment for me, as you would expect.

I decided that I should go into the library as soon as possible and see it for myself but when I said that’s what I was going to do, everyone told me to ask if they would be interested in me giving a talk about my book and my self-publishing journey at the library. I knew that this was a good idea but the very thought of it filled me with dread. Taking that step meant really ‘announcing’ to my local community that I am an author and although people who know me wouldn’t believe it, I am actually quite shy.

So I let a week or so go by and then one day, when I was feeling brave, I just went in and introduced myself to the manager and she was so friendly and welcoming that I was glad (as well as relieved) that I had summoned up the courage to do it. She was delighted when I asked whether she would like me to do a talk and we exchanged details with the aim of scheduling it in before C20151108_093552hristmas.

After a flurry of emails, we have now settled on a date and the manager has produced some wonderful promotional materials too which you can see here. Around this time, someone on our RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) members forum asked for advice about writing press releases. This is something that I should have done for my book when it came out of course but once again, I was afraid of doing it in case I was shot down in flames. Well, I got in touch with another lovely member of the RNA who was offering help to anyone who needed it. I have now written a press release which Linda has checked for me and it is ready to be sent to some of our local newspapers and I even have an idea (with Linda’s help) for sending it to the local radio that might just grab their attention. Even if it all comes to nothing, at least next time, I will know what to do.

So now all I have to do is to work out what I’m going to say! I am very used to standing up and talking in front of people (children and adults) but of course, I have never been talking about myself before. I have already decided that the Power Point approach is not going to work for this sort of talk. It’s not a presentation after all. The whole event is going to be an hour and a half long in total but I think that a half hour talk by me, followed by time for questions should be enough. The library is then offering refreshments while I will be signing and selling lots of books (I hope!)

For my talk then, I am going to use index cards and tell how I started along this journey with the idea for the story followed by a summary of the steps along the way to self-publication. I will have my computer there so that I can show my website, amongst other things because I think this will be of interest to some members of the audience. I plan to finish up with a bit about my new book Where My Heart Belongs which is now in the final editing phase before it goes off to a professional editor.

I hope that if this talk goes well, I may be able to interest more libraries in the area, as well as other organisations like the WI. The library manager also contacted me the other day to ask whether I could lend her some copies of my book for a display they’re doing about my talk because the copy they have has now been taken out! This prompted me to get on and apply for a Public Lending Rights account which has been on my to-do list for a while. If you don’t know about this, it is a free service provided by The British Library for authors whereby you are paid for all the times that someone borrows your book from a library. It really is marvellous 🙂

I will of course let you all know how I get on and I hope that if, like me, you have been hesitating to get out there and promote yourself, the library may be a good place to start. If you have already given a talk at your library or somewhere else, please do let me know how it went in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

My First Audiobook Experience – The Girl on the Train

AudibleMy husband recently took the plunge and decided to sign up for a free trial of Audible. As he had read an early review in The Times of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins which had got us both intrigued, it was an easy choice for our first audiobook. We had decided that we would listen to it together to share our thoughts as we ‘read’ something at the same time. We started it on the plane journey to France in the middle of August, listening on and off during that week and then on the way back. We just finished it, a month and a half later, on a long car journey to Oxfordshire and back.

This was the first shock for me. I am a fast reader. My husband is not. If it had just been me, I would have finished it much more quickly and at first, the slower pace drove me a bit mad. Not only the pace of our ability to listen to it at the same time on any kind of a regular basis but also the pace of the actual narration. There are actually three female narrators in this story and I found at the beginning that I kept forgetting little details that I couldn’t easily go back and check. We did get used to the narrators and the pace though and in time, we came to enjoy the whole experience.

GOTTThis had a lot to do with the quality of the story as well, which was one of the best psychological thrillers I have ever ‘read.’ As a writer myself, I found I was constantly listening to the vocabulary and to certain turns of phrase in a way that maybe I don’t take the time to when I’m reading as quickly as I usually do. The constant twists and turns of the plot kept us guessing until we were almost at the end…when my husband guessed and told me what he thought. Hmmm. We enjoyed listening to the story together though and over the time we were doing so, we listened on a plane, in the car, while making dinner and even in bed…but we both fell asleep! I’m not sure if we did ever listen to it on the train but the options are endless 😉 It is an excellent story and one I wish I could have written 🙂

I have already considered whether to have an audiobook created for From Here to Nashville but not gone any further with it than that. First of all, after your free trial runs out, your subscription costs you £7.99 a month and for this, you have one credit, equal to one book. This is a fair amount of money – for a fair amount of work, I know – but compared to an ebook, it’s a lot more. As I don’t drive anywhere long distance on a regular basis, I don’t think I would prefer it over actually reading a paperback or an ebook. For those who do, I can see it certainly would have its benefits, especially when you’re stuck in traffic, although it could easily be a distraction at times. However, how many people would be prepared to pay that amount of money for an audiobook by an unknown (still!) author? Paula Hawkins was also unknown at the time but she’d already got her book deal and as I said, we read a review of her book in The Times. I’m still waiting for them to get back to me about the one they’re writing for my debut 😉

It was interesting to note that in The Girl on the Train, the male voices are all narrated by the female narrators. This made for an interesting take on the sound of different men’s voices from the different female characters’ perspectives. For me, this would be tricky. I have a British woman and an American man, from Tennessee so I would have to have at least two narrators which would undoubtedly be difficult to find and also would affect the cost dependent on which path I chose – a one-off payment to the narrators or a share of any subsequent profits. As a new author, the cost would be prohibitive to pay them upfront before any sales, so I would probably go with a share of the royalties option. There is a lot more information about this whole process on Joanna Penn’s helpful website, The Creative Penn if you would like to read about all the options in more detail.

So while I enjoyed the experience as a reader, I don’t think it would be my preference in the future. This makes me reluctant to do it for my own books, especially when I am still so new to all this self-publishing lark. This is another job to add to an already very long list of jobs to do as an indie and one that can perhaps wait a while.

How about you? Fan of audiobooks or not? Do leave me a message in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

Picture Credits: Amazon and Doubleday Publishing.