Writing Your Second Book

DSCN7835Well, as many of you will know if you’ve liked my Facebook Author Page, I have been stuck in my writing cave for some time now trying to finish writing my second book. For those of you that don’t know, this is the one that I wrote during NaNoWriMo in November 2013. I had no problem writing my 50,000 words that month and was so pleased that I’d got a second story on the go, even while I was still editing From Here to Nashville. In April 2014, I came back to Book 2 and while I was a bit unsure about the story so far, I was still pretty happy with the idea and so I wrote another 30,000 words. Yay!

Then From Here to Nashville  took over and I had no time to look at book 2 again until much later in 2014. When I did, I was certain that I no longer wanted to tell this story. I liked my main characters and a few of my minor characters but apart from that, not much else. I couldn’t even contemplate scrapping it so the only other option was to rewrite it, picking out what I liked from the 80,000 words already written and dumping what I didn’t like. Having made that decision, I then buried my head in the sand for the best part of the following five months because I couldn’t face the prospect of sifting the right words from the wrong ones.

As an indie author, I can make my own schedule so you’d think that this decision was a sensible one. I thought I could take my time, publish and promote From Here to Nashville and when things were a bit quieter, I could just go back to book 2 with a clear head. However, in the meantime, I signed up for my second year on the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme which meant that I could submit this second book for a professional report just like I did with From Here to Nashville. The only problem being that the deadline for submission is the end of August. In January, that seemed like loads of time. At the start of May, it seemed like a hair’s breadth.

It was at this point that I realised it was make or break time. So after our Nashville holiday, I made myself a plan. I would finish working through all the old material by the end of May and then I would commit to writing at least 1,000 words every day with a deadline of completion by the end of July. This would give me time to at least read it through myself before sending it off.

Suddenly, I felt set free to just write, even though I still hadn’t written a detailed outline. I had got something in place though and I just kept refining it as I went along. I am very pleased to say that I have been able to write a minimum of 1,000 words a day, sometimes, as many as 3,000 words in a day and I feel exhilarated to have reached this stage. I finally broke 80,000 words yesterday, something I honestly thought might never happen when I decided to rewrite. Still, I have made it and I am steaming towards the end now, well ahead of schedule.

I had hoped that I might finish the first draft before attending the RNA’s annual conference next weekend and it is still possible but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I still have plenty of time 🙂 When I read Michael Cairns’ guest post for my blog last week, I realised that this is what writing professionally is all about: building a habit. If you can do that, preferably (in my case) with an outline along side while you write, it can only get easier to write more.

Once the report comes back from the RNA and I have dealt with those edits, I will begin my editing process going through the drafts which I hope will be a bit quicker this time round. Then it will be time once again for professional editing, proofreading and cover design!

Thank you so much for reading as always and if you have any tips for the writing of your second book, do let me know in the comments below. Have a great writing week!

P.S. You can now buy signed paperback copies of From Here to Nashville from me directly! Just click on the sidebar 🙂

Post Goodreads Giveaway Analysis (Part 1) and A Gold Star!

star-407747_640As you know, I ran my first Goodreads Giveaway this past week. I’d set it up to run from Thursday last week until Tuesday of this week but when the approval came back, I realised it wouldn’t have started until midnight on Thursday so I changed it to start at midnight on Wednesday. When I got up on Wednesday morning though, it was already live! This means that it will have run for a week in the end.

As I’m writing this, 735 people have entered the giveaway and of these, 349 people have added my book to their ‘Want To Read’ shelf. When you enter a giveaway on Goodreads (just in case you haven’t ever entered one yourself), the book is automatically added to your ‘Want To Read’ shelf unless you deselect that option. As only half of entrants have added it to their shelf, I’m hopeful that those people are genuinely interested in reading it. However, from everything I’ve read on the internet about Goodreads giveaways, they don’t tend to increase sales for the author but I will have to wait and see on that front.

I am really pleased to see that so many people have entered though and would count this giveaway as a great success in raising the visibility of my book amongst readers on the Goodreads site. At the moment of course, I don’t know who will win the book but when I send it out, I have decided to send a hand-written note with the signed copy, asking the reader to leave me a review once they’ve finished the book. I have to hope that they will read it of course and that their interest in my book is genuine. I have read some horror stories of people who enter lots of giveaways just to resell the books themselves! This is why I’m pleased that I’ve only offered one copy.

And so what of the other people who entered? What can I do for them? Well, the answer to that is nothing it would seem. Goodreads has rules forbidding authors from contacting readers who have entered a giveaway. I also tried to put in the link to the Amazon page on the giveaway to prompt people to buy it if they wanted to but they removed it. A lot of authors are keen to offer a discount voucher for a copy of the ebook to those giveaway entrants who didn’t win and have contacted Goodreads with this suggestion but to no avail. This is such a shame and really does seem like a wasted marketing opportunity. The other option is to include a message on the book’s Goodreads page once the giveaway finishes saying that there is a special offer for giveaway entrants who didn’t win and if interested, those people should contact you to find out more. You could then offer an Amazon gift voucher to them to purchase your book at a reduced price. The only problem with that is that you can’t dictate what people use the voucher for 😦 I can’t think of any other way round that problem.

In summary then, I would say that it is a good way to raise visibility for your book but as to what happens after the giveaway, I don’t know yet and will have to wait and see.

In other news, I found out this morning that the cover for From Here to Nashville has been awarded a gold star in the prestigious Ebook Cover Design Awards run by Joel Friedlander on his website, The Book Designer. He said it is ‘A beautiful cover with typography that evokes the country music theme of the book, and a great color scheme. It sings.’ Wow! You can read more here.

Finally this week, I wanted to mention that as it’s my big birthday next Monday (eek!) and the week after that, I will be on holiday in Nashville, normal service on my blog may be a bit out of kilter for a few weeks! I will be posting bits and pieces here and there, if not on here, on Twitter and on Facebook, so if you don’t already follow me there, please do go to those profiles and click to follow or like. When I return, I will do a big catch-up post about it all and I will be able to tell you more about the Indie Author Book Fair I’ll be attending on 17th April in London.

Thanks for reading, as always. If you have any feedback on the Goodreads Giveaway issue, I’d love to hear from you. Have a good writing week, y’all 😉

5 Highlights from My Very Busy Writing Year – 2014

DSC_0503Looking back at the blog posts I have written this year, I am amazed at what I have managed to pack in. So, as the end of the year approaches, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the highlights.

1. The year began with me successfully joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme (NWS). There are only 250 places on this scheme available each year and I knew it would be hotly contested so I was very excited when I found out I had got a place. I went on to submit my debut novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’ to the NWS and received a very positive report back from my reader. There was still a lot of work to do but I had made a good start.

In addition to this though, I have made many new and lovely friends by joining the RNA and attending events like their Summer Party, the annual Conference, my local RNA group lunches and being invited to events by established authors like the lovely Phillipa Ashley. The support I have received from this network of writers has been wonderful and I can’t thank them all enough. I will be rejoining the RNA next year and look forward to another wonderful year with writing friends, old and new.

2. I finished ‘From Here to Nashville’ at last! When I say that, I really mean it as well. After I got my report back from the RNA, I rewrote and edited some more before seeking a professional edit. I finished those edits just a couple of weeks ago and now my beta readers and I are giving it one last read through before it goes to the proofreader in January. I am pleased with how it’s looking from my read through so far, with only minor changes looking likely. I have had a professional cover designed which I’m really happy with and I am cracking on with the formatting for Kindle. I know now that I will publish my debut novel early next year and I am so excited about that.

3. I have attended three writing courses this year, as well as taking part in an online course run by Future Learn. In February, I went on a course called ‘Passion on the Page’ run by Write Stars. It was a great course, run by romance author Katherine Garbera and I learnt a lot from it that I could use in my writing. Then, at the end of March, I went on another Write Stars course led by romance author, Sue Moorcroft, ‘How to Write a Romance Novel in a day.’ Once again, it was a very useful course and I learnt lots from Sue and the other attendees. I signed up for the Future Learn course ‘Start Writing Fiction’ in April and although this was a course for beginners, I found it useful. I also started a writing journal as a result of being on the course which was one of the best decisions I made all year! Finally, I went on a Short Story course, run by Woman’s Weekly magazine in October. The course was led by Della Galton, another experienced author of both short stories and novels and it was clear that she really knew her stuff.

4. I established my author platform this year. By this, I mean that I worked out which social media was proving useful for me. I started out on Twitter and I now have a solid following there of about 1,000 people. I’m happy to keep it around that number because I want to interact with my followers as much as I can and this number seems manageable.

I have seen my blog go from strength to strength this year, receiving no less than five awards and I love writing my weekly post and engaging with readers as a result of it. The #MondayBlogs has been incredibly useful for my blog and I really enjoy participating in it. There are a number of other hashtags I could get involved in but as I work part-time, I’m not sure I could keep up with it. I do use Tweetdeck on Mondays to help me manage all the retweets and faves. I like to thank people for being supportive and I know that they appreciate it so Tweetdeck helps me keep on top of everything (Thanks to Liz Harris from the RNA for that tip!) I have also enjoyed taking part in various blog tours and have recently started a Cover Reveals feature once a month to help other new authors, which has proved popular.

This year, I also managed to set up a Facebook Author page. It is building slowly and may not prove that worthwhile longer term but I have found having a personal page lots of fun and I enjoy supporting other authors at their virtual events. If you’d like to make contact on Facebook, do go on over and like my page so that you get my updates.

I do also have a Pinterest page but I know I’m not doing much with it yet so that will be one to work on for next year perhaps. Here’s the link though if you want to see what I pin and follow me. Beware though, you will waste hours on there!

5. I have learnt so much this year, I can hardly believe it. I have written posts about writing a synopsis, Point of View, rewriting, editing, outlining, show not tell, how to write a blurb, working with a cover designer, self-publishing, proofreading, formatting, creating a newsletter, Evernote and Scrivener! I feel exhausted just reading that list but I know it shows how far I have come in my writing life over the past year.

I’d like to finish with a big thank you to all those of you who read my blog every week and take time to comment and share my posts. It has meant a lot to me and I hope that you’ll join me as I move into 2015 and finally publish my debut novel 🙂 Merry Christmas to you all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How much does it cost to self-publish?

DiceAs I approach the end of my path to publication, money has started to occupy my mind quite a lot. Having made the decision to self-publish my first novel, I have obviously had to think long and hard about how much it’s all going to cost me and the dilemma I have had to face is how to publish the best piece of work I can whilst having no real budget to speak of. I have read enough ebooks to know that many self-publishers just aren’t thinking about quality at all before they hit the publish button or maybe they were but they just didn’t have the money to spend on quality control before publishing their first book. Whilst I understand and sympathise with that situation, I could not do that myself but there is no doubt that it’s expensive and if, like me, you want to publish a high quality piece of writing, then you need to give some thought in advance to the potential costs involved.

1. Editing

It is generally agreed that if you want to end up with a high quality book, you will need to have it edited by a professional. I had my first professional edit done by the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) as part of their New Writers’ Scheme (NWS). I was lucky enough to get on to the scheme which includes a read through of your work in progress by an author. My reader sent me a three page report and made comments on my manuscript too. This was invaluable advice at the time. This edit equates to the developmental edit I guess in the round of edits that you could decide to have done. It cost me £120 to join the NWS for the year. Prior to that, I had asked a number of close friends to beta read for me and I had also made friends with a writer who beta read it for me, all of which was done for free.

As a result of attending the RNA Conference, I made contact with a couple of other professional editors too. When I approached them about editing though, I realised that I just couldn’t afford to pay for their professional services which started from £400 upwards. I felt caught then because I knew I had to have a professional edit and of course I wanted to pay people properly for their services but I couldn’t stretch to this. In the end, one of the editors was offering a special one-off deal of £90 and so, my problem was solved. In all, with some partial editing to my first three chapters, I have spent £150 on editing. With the fee to join the NWS added to that, this brings my total for editing to £270.

2. Cover Design

As you’ll know if you follow my blog posts every week, I have recently finished working with a cover designer for my novel. You can read the post here if you missed it. This service has cost me £187 but there will be a bit more (£50) when I go back for the print version of the cover. I know I could have spent less than this but I don’t think I would have ended up with a cover that I love as much as the one I have. I consider this to have been a very good investment and as you know, people do judge books by their covers and so it was important to me to get that right. Total cost then spent on cover design  will be £237.

3. Proofreading

This past week, I have been looking into proofreading as the final step before publication. Once again, I knew that this was going to be a fair expense because I was going to need a professional. I have joined the UK Society for Editors and Proofreaders myself because I wanted to do their Introduction to Proofreading course and so I had an idea of what sort of cost to expect. Last week, I also took the plunge and joined the Alliance of Independent Authors and I was able to seek the advice of their members for recommendations which was very helpful. Still, it has been a difficult decision when all the people I’ve contacted have been equally well-qualified and professional in their response. They all have excellent references as well. So how you do you decide? In the end, I’ve reached a conclusion based on qualifications, availability, costs and personal recommendation. This is going to cost me around £250. I don’t think I could have paid less than this and still felt that I was going to get a professional service.

4. Everything else

This final section would include things like formatting, which I’m going to attempt myself with some help from my friends (!) and it might also include marketing. I have just run a giveaway on my Facebook Author page and it got me thinking about the promotional materials I might need to get before I launch my book. This would include postcards, bookmarks, business cards etc at the very least but I can’t really commit more than £100 to this.

 

In total then, for someone who has no budget, it looks like I will have spent about £850 to self-publish my book to a quality that I will be happy with. As these costs have mostly been staggered, I have managed it reasonably well. My understanding is that if I price my book at £1.99 on Amazon, I can expect to receive 70% royalties from them for every book I sell. By my calculations, that will mean that I will need to sell 610 books in order to make my money back. Now all I need to do is make it visible enough for readers to know it’s out there. And that will be a story for another blog post!

Thanks for reading as always. I welcome your comments about your experiences 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing and Working with a Book Cover Designer (part 2)

9397638640_fb0f268225_mA few weeks ago, I wrote my blog post about the process I had gone through for choosing a cover designer for my debut novel ‘From Here to Nashville.’ At that point, I had only just started working with the company I had chosen and I promised that I would come back when the process was all over and tell you how it had gone. I now have a professional cover for my novel and I am really pleased with it. It was a learning curve for me though and as always, I would like to share with you the most valuable things I learnt.

1. Use of Photos

The first proof the designer sent me used a photo on the cover. Nothing unusual in that you may say and I was more than happy to have a photo on the cover. Unfortunately, it turned out that the same photo had been used on another book already and although that book isn’t well-known, I didn’t want to use the photo on mine and run the risk of it turning up in competition. What I learned was that you cannot get exclusive rights to the use of a photo without expecting to pay a huge amount of money for that privilege and although it doesn’t happen often maybe, you have to be prepared for someone else already having used the same photo. I realise that maybe I seem naive but I just hadn’t come across this situation before and so it did surprise me. If you want your book to look unique, then maybe it’s best not to use a photo unless it’s one you’ve taken yourself. For some of you reading this, this may not be a concern but it was for me and I have learned that lesson for the future.

2. Choose Three Key Messages

Before the next set of proofs, I had to think very specifically about what I really wanted to see on my cover. To help myself focus, I chose the three key messages I wanted the cover to convey. They were: romance, country music, the Nashville setting. The designer came back with three new proofs for me and the next thing I had to learn was that it’s best not to over-clutter your cover with too many messages. For example, I liked the idea of a silhouetted couple to show the romance element of the story but in practice, this was hard to achieve along with the other messages. So all three proofs had the Nashville skyline, two had a guitar and one had the silhouetted couple on. I can’t show you the proofs because they remain the designer’s property but what I can say is that I loved all three covers in their own way and so I had to choose the elements I liked best to combine for the final cover proof. You will have to wait a little while longer for the cover reveal but I hope you’ll agree that the designer did manage to include all three elements that I wanted in the final design and it was their vision that gave me the opportunity.

3. Have a Strapline ready to use

When the designer asked me if I had a strapline ready, I said that I hadn’t planned to use one as I’d looked at a lot of other covers and I’d seen that it wasn’t something every author did. However, as time went on, I changed my mind about it. I’d been preparing to enter a competition and was trying to distil the essence of my story into a tweet and doing this made me realise that I had actually written a pretty good strapline for the cover. This was my first attempt: ‘Two worlds, 4,000 miles apart, Can music bring them together?’ In the end, I changed it a little so that the words could fit into one line and I am really pleased with the final result. It also helped that I had written my blurb for the story by then because that gave me a starting point to work from.

The company I used for the cover design is called ‘Design for Writers’ and they can be contacted via their Facebook page here. I found them a professional company to work with and I learnt a great deal with their help so would gladly recommend them to other indie authors. In the end, I had to pay a bit more than I quoted last time because of paying for fonts and illustrations but this was all explained to me at the start so was not a surprise. I will be going back to Design for Writers for the print version of the cover because after consulting with a number of other authors, I now see that I should offer a paperback copy of the story as well. When I asked the designer what I would need to provide for this, I was amazed at just how much information they can include on a print cover. This is what he said: ‘The content you require on the back cover varies, but often includes a selection of teaser text, blurb, bio, author image, web url, twitter handle and Facebook page name.’ That will keep me busy for a while 😉

Thanks for reading as always and please do comment with any thoughts or questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing and working with a Book Cover Designer

Nashville Book CoverAlmost as soon as I started writing my debut novel ‘From Here to Nashville’ last year, I had a strong idea in mind of what I wanted the cover to look like. As it’s a contemporary romance with a country music theme, I knew it had to have a guitar in there and something to suggest it was a love story but at that point, that was really all I had come up with. I found a photo on one of the stock photo sites that I liked, paid for it and downloaded it. My daughter helped me insert some writing on to it and lo, my provisional cover was born. Regular readers will be familiar with it and I have also asked friends and followers on Facebook for their view of the cover. I didn’t get many replies but those that did reply said they liked it.

However, one of the pieces of advice I picked up early on is that your cover has to be brilliant, especially if you’re going to self-publish and as much as I still like my own cover, I have known for a long time that it wouldn’t compare to a professional cover design. So, I started building a list of potential cover designers very early on. ‘Where from?’ I hear you cry! Well, one place I began to find the same names appearing was on Joel Friedlander’s ‘The Book Designer’ website, where every month, he holds an ebook Cover Design Awards ceremony. Here’s the link to last month’s:   I watch out for this every month because I love looking at all the covers and reading his comments about them. It is a very rare thing for a self-published cover to receive praise but they do sometimes and you can see what things he thinks they have done particularly well. I noticed over the months though that the same design companies came in for regular praise and I started bookmarking these companies for the time when I might need them.

In addition to this, whenever I noticed a book with a good cover, I would check the first few pages to see if the cover designer was mentioned and if they were, I would bookmark their company. I looked out for recommendations from others and read articles with interest about people’s experiences. So when the time came for me to choose a cover designer, I already had a good list of about 6 companies to choose from.

The next stage was finding out how much they would charge. Unfortunately, I am finding that self-publishing can come at quite a high cost and therefore, getting value for money is really important. I am obviously happy to pay for professional work but there is a limit for everyone and if, like me, you don’t really even have a budget (!), every penny is going to be important. What I found is that the larger companies wanted me to sign up to a package, typically priced at around £250 for just an ebook cover. This seemed like a lot of money to me for a service that didn’t look very personal. I wanted to work with someone that I could build a relationship with, as I thought that would be very important if they were to stand any chance of understanding what I want from my cover. This was why I didn’t choose the company 99designs.co.uk in the end, even though they are priced very competitively. I came across the site via a recommendation from The Writers’ Workshop because one of their writers was holding a contest for the design of their book cover. It is a clever idea in that you submit your brief, choose how much you’ll pay and then designers submit their designs to your contest and you choose the one you like the most after 7 days. I just didn’t feel that this was personal enough for me but it might work for you so you should take a look if you like the sound of it.

After a fair bit of research then and keeping my ear close to the ground for over a year, I came back to a design company that I had bookmarked right at the very beginning. We exchanged emails a few times to clarify what I was looking for in the broadest sense and to finalise the price and I started working with them last week! Since then, I have filled out a very detailed questionnaire, which asked me very searching questions about my story, things like genre, setting, themes, tone, point of view, key words and target market. I have also been able to upload a file of images I have put together containing ideas and inspiration about my cover, as well as my synopsis. The hardest bit was specifying what I think is good design and what I think is bad design, with examples from Amazon. That took me absolutely ages! It was also hard to explain which sort of reader I feel would read my book in answer to the question, ‘Perfect for readers of….’ It probably took the best part of last week for me to answer the questions and upload my files. Now it’s on to the design process which will allow three rounds of revisions and be final by 17th September. The cost for the ebook cover is £149 and I have the option to go back for a print cover later if I need it. I know you want to know who the company is but I’m going to hold on to that information until the design is ready. When it is, you can tell me what you think and I’ll tell you who they are so do keep checking back and in the meantime, keep looking at other people’s covers for inspiration 🙂

Thanks, as always, for reading and let me know in the comments below, if you have any questions you’d like to ask.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing a great blurb for your contemporary romance novel

DSCN9080After a great break away, it’s time to get back to writing and I always find that this weekly blog post breaks me in gently on a Monday morning. I thought I ought to start with an update of where things are with my writing journey. This photo shows one of the mountains we saw whilst we were away in the French Alps last week and it reminds me a lot of where I am with my writing right now.

Before I went away on holiday, I got in touch with a freelance editor I’d met at the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) conference in July and asked her to do a partial edit on the first three chapters of ‘From Here to Nashville,’ my debut novel. I have sent her the final draft of those chapters so I hope that these represent as close to the finished work as I can make it on my own. I am nervously awaiting her feedback which is due by the end of this month. Dependent on what comes back, I may or may not have a lot of work to do to polish the rest of the story to the same standard as the first three chapters will be after her help.

The other thing I have done is to contact a cover designer and I am all set to go with them this week in starting work on an e-book cover only, in the first instance. They have a lot of experience in book cover design and also in the romance genre and I’m looking forward to working with them. The cover should be ready by mid-September and I will keep you up to date with its progress.

In the meantime, I am still implementing the revisions suggested by my RNA reader following my manuscript assessment as part of the New Writers’ Scheme. This should keep me busy whilst all these other things are going on. On top of this, I have started working on a blurb for my novel, just another one of those seemingly easy but actually quite difficult jobs you have to do as a novelist. I read an interesting blog post at the weekend by Tara Sparling called ‘What Makes People Buy Self-Published Books’ which you can read here on her blog. The three things that came out of her survey that encouraged people to buy were the cover, the sample and the blurb. As I’ve got going on the cover and the book itself is on its way to being professionally edited, I felt it was time to turn my attention to the blurb.

I have had a go at this in the past but found it quite difficult so I did some research and found an interesting piece all about it here, on Digital Bookworld’s site. Their advice is to follow four easy steps to writing your blurb: first, describe the situation your characters are in at the start of the story; then explain the problem; next, tell the reader what the ‘hopeful possibility’ is; finally, describe the mood of the story. I found this incredibly useful and have even managed to produce a first go which comes in at just under 150 words. It’s not as good as it could be yet but it’s a start. I also spent some time looking at blurbs for other books I’ve read and enjoyed on Amazon to see what I should be aiming for. Whilst doing this, I noticed that most blurbs start with a separate line of just a few words which aim to hook the reader in. For example, Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ blurb starts with: ‘What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?’ And ‘Can Baking Mend a Broken Heart?’ from Jenny Colgan’s ‘Little Beach Street Bakery.’ In keeping with this idea then, mine is ‘Can Music Really Make Your Dreams Come True?’ Once again, it’s a first go but it’s made me think about my story and how to hook readers.

Thanks for reading and if you have any thoughts about writing a blurb, do let me know in the comments below. Good luck with writing yours!