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Tag: country music

How Music Inspires Me

DSCN0296This week, I’m taking part in a blogging event about music organised by my RNA writing friend, Elaina James as part of a series she has been writing for the Mslexia blog about chasing your writing dreams, told from the perspective of a lyricist with stage fright. Her final blog focuses on the unexpected chance to turn her words into an actual song with music. You can find Elaina’s Mslexia page here.
Elaina and I ‘met’ on Twitter only fairly recently but we’ve also had the good fortune to meet in real life when we both braved the Curtis Brown Discovery Day and pitched our books to agents. So we’ve already been through a lot together! I am honoured to be one of a number of writing friends joining in with Elaina’s blogging event so do pop over to her blog to read some of the other brilliant posts on this theme.
So how has music inspired me? Well, music has always played a very important part in my life. The radio was always playing in my house when I was growing up and I came to love many of the LPs that my mum and dad had collected and regularly played on their record player. This is how I came to love everything from The Beatles to Glenn Campbell to Marvin Gaye and Barbra Streisand and eventually, it’s what led me to start have singing lessons when I was in my early teens. I performed in all kinds of festivals when I was young and although I learnt to play the violin and the piano as well along the way, nothing came close to singing for making me happy. As I got older, my musical tastes widened and I remember playing Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’ album until I knew every word of every song and had a dance move to go with them as well so I could strut my stuff at the local disco on ‘Ladies Night’ every Thursday. Ah, those were the days 🙂
When I was around 17, I joined a semi-professional choir in London at my singing teacher’s suggestion and I had all kinds of wonderful experiences with them, including trips to France, Spain and Italy to take part in some fantastic concert performances. It was on the plane to one such trip in Rome that I met my husband and we bonded over our shared love of music. We still do now nearly thirty-one years later.
Both my children are musical and love music as much as we do. It is wonderful to find that we often like the same kinds of music as well, despite the age difference and that’s the thing. Great music is simply that. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, you can appreciate it all and it is that shared appreciation that brings people of different ages together. When we finally went to Nashville last year as a family, my two teenage daughters loved it just as much as we did. They both discovered Johnny Cash and Elvis on that trip, as well as soaking up the live performances by new musicians that we had never heard of.
It was really no surprise then that my debut novel From Here to Nashville was about a UK-based singer/songwriter called Rachel who longs to travel to Nashville in Tennessee and become a country music star. As a singer, occasional songwriter and, most recently, music teacher, I based Rachel very loosely on myself but her dream was entirely her own! However, it was my love for country music and specifically, the start of the TV series Nashville on our screens over here that gave me the idea for my first novel. As I began writing, I found it easy to write lyrics for Rachel’s own songs as well as to create a playlist of my favourite songs for her to sing. You can find that playlist here if you’d like to hear it.
Although I don’t listen to music as I write, the words of a song will frequently spark an idea for me that I will then use in my writing. For example, there is a particular Brad Paisley song that I love called ‘We Danced.’ This gave me an idea for my next book and I can’t wait to start getting it down on paper. I don’t think a day goes by without music being in the air in our house and although some of the songs might have changed, the feeling of contentment gained from listening to good music still remains.
coverYou can find my debut novel on Amazon, still priced at just 99p!
Thanks for reading. I’d love to know how music inspires you. Do leave a comment below if you’d like to share your inspiration 🙂

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 🙂

Our Holiday Adventure From Here to Nashville (part two) and a Week of Book Fairs!

This week, I promised to tell you about the other things we did on our holiday that I didn’t refer to in my book but which were all amazing and well worth doing if you’re ever in Tennessee.

The first thing I wDSCN0149anted to mention was The Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville. This was my favourite museum of all the ones we visited, with The Ryman and The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum coming a close second. First of all, the café and shop were quite small and clearly not the main focus of your visit (this was to prove very important when we went to Graceland a few days later). This meant that the museum took up all the room and rightly so. There were so many fantastic exhibits, ranging from Johnny’s birth certificate to a piece of wall from his house!

DSCN0175There were lots of music items too, like his guitar and his boots, along with other outfits he’d worn. There was a whole room given over to his platinum and gold records and beyond that, an exhibition devoted to Sun Records where he started out. One of our favourite things was a stand where you could listen to one of his songs in all its different formats – a 78, then a 33, then a 45 record, a cassette, a CD and finally, an MP3 version. It was great listening to the difference in ‘hiss’ on the different formats. Strangely, the 78 record seemed to offer the best quality.

If you like Johnny Cash, you will love the museum of course but even if you don’t know his music much at all, you will come out eager to go and find one of his albums and listen to it again and again. My older daughter felt just like this and it was great to see how much she enjoyed it.

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We did so many musical things while we were in Nashville, going to The Bluebird Café, singing with a Live Band at The Hard Rock Café’s weekly karaoke (there are videos but you’ll have to pay me a lot of money to let you see mine!), listening to some Honky Tonk music at Robert’s Western World and we ended our week with a trip to The Grand Ole Opry House for their Saturday show. The Grand Ole Opry started out as a one-hour radio show on WSM dedicated to country music and has had various homes around the Nashville area. It is now housed in a building east of downtown Nashville near the Opry Mills shopping mall and the show we went to lasted for over two hours. It’s a curious blend of traditional and contemporary country music, interspersed with adverts from their sponsors and some quirky acts like square dancers! It was a bit cheesy at times but we spent a lot of time laughing along with the rest of the audience. It is a part of Nashville’s history and we loved it. One of the best moments for me of course, was seeing Charles Esten who plays the character Deacon in the ABC TV series, ‘Nashville.’ He was the inspiration for my character, Jackson, and so it was fantastic to see him perform on stage.

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A week after arriving in Nashville, we set off on our first road trip of sorts, travelling three hours west to Memphis. People had joked with us when we told them we were going there next about how it is one of the most dangerous cities in the US and we’d need some luck to make it out again safe and sound. We then made the mistake of looking it up on the internet so that by the time we did arrive, we were all feeling a bit tense about it. I’d booked a hotel near Graceland so that we could get there easily and I tell you, they did a fantastic job with their photos on the site. We had an interstate on one side and a cement factory on the other but curiously, neither of those details is included in the sales blurb on the booking site 😉 Here’s a pic of the view from our window for you to get the idea.

DSCN0498Our room was pleasant enough though and everyone was really friendly so yes, it was functional but it served its purpose for two nights. We ventured into Memphis the first night to eat out and apart from a very persistent but friendly panhandler, we survived! It was very similar to other cities we’ve been in the UK and we adapted fairly quickly. It was very different from the atmosphere in Nashville, a bit more edgy I guess but I think that was to be expected.
So the next day, we went to Graceland which was the main point of the trip to Memphis and somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. It was a real operation, starting with the price! We then had to wait for a shuttle bus to take our tour group across the road (!) and while we waited in line, we all had to have our photos taken in case we wanted to spend $40 later on a souvenir photo pack. We were given iPad audio tours and eventually made it across the road to the home of Elvis Presley. We had no time to take a photo outside before being hurried inside to start the tour of the mansion. It made me sad to see the big tourist operation that this visit has become. I enjoyed the visit in that I liked hearing the story behind the house and the life Elvis had lived inside it but I didn’t like being herded along with no time to appreciate the finer aspects at my leisure. When we went back across the road, every exhibit we went in brought us out into another shop as well. Apparently, in 2011, Elvis was one of the top three grossing celebrities who have passed away which for me, says it all. I wouldn’t have missed the experience but I think it could have been so much better.

And so we reached our last night and we wanted to do something really special so we saw that there was a live band on at BB King’s Blues Bar on Beale Street so off we went. We had a great table, right next to another British couple (shut up!) and we sang along to a whole host of our favourite soul songs. It was such a great way to finish our holiday and a memorable way too. I can’t recommend this trip highly enough as I hope you can tell 🙂

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WP_20150414_001The week or so since we’ve been back has been crazy for me so I wanted to share the highlights with you. Firstly, I went to the London Book Fair on Tuesday. It was a great, if exhausting day and I attended lots of useful seminars and met up with some other lovely authors.
I was just about recovering from this by Friday when I attended the Indie Author Book Fair organised by the Alliance of Independent Authors as part of Indie Recon 2015. Along with about 60 other indie authors, I had a stand at Foyles Bookshop in the Charing Cross Road in Central London. It was a wonderful occasion and really busy, giving us all the chance to engage with readers face-to-face and to draw strength from each other. I was scared to death beforehand but I’m so glad I went and once it started, I just got talking and then I was fine! So here’s a couple of photos of me and my stall.

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As a result of my sale last week and the great success of the Indie Author Fair, I have had a good number of sales this week and today, I found out that this had all pushed me into the the Amazon Top 100 Bestsellers’ List for Romance Literary Fiction. I might have only been there briefly but for me, it was the crowning glory to a wonderful couple of weeks 🙂 Wishing you all a great week and thanks for reading, as always.

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Our Holiday Adventure From Here to Nashville (part one)

And so it’s back to life and reality now that our big holiday adventure is over. Oh, but what an adventure it was 🙂 I checked out all the places I referred to in my book and I’m pleased to say that I think I did a good job. For today’s post, I’m going to share those places with you and to tell you some of what we got up to while we were there.

The Journey From Here to Nashville
DSCN0039The first photo I took was at Heathrow where I was pleased to see a branch of Tiffany’s. I spent quite a few minutes with my daughters looking at all the beautiful jewellery there but didn’t find the exact pieces that Jackson buys for Rachel in the book. It didn’t matter though, it was just good to be in there 🙂

We were slightly delayed on the journey from Heathrow to Chicago and then sat on the tarmac when we got there, watching the window for our connecting flight to Nashville get smaller and smaller. We decided to go with the flow though and not let it bother us too much. We knew there were flights later that evening so we were sure it would all be okay. Some very kind people fast-tracked us through immigration and security but by the time we’d picked up our bags again, we thought we had definitely missed our connecting flight. Then, just as our bags were being retagged, we were told that our flight had been held for us and so we ran all the way to meet it and finally arrived in Nashville about half an hour after our original arrival time. Sadly, our luggage didn’t make it on time but we did get it  before the night was out!

Nashville
Day 1
On our first day, we walked towards the Nashville Farmers’ Market and after some breakfast there, we made our way downtown.
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I had no idea when I wrote my book that the 7th President of the United States was from Nashville. His name was Andrew Jackson and by pure coincidence, his wife’s name was Rachel Jackson, a lovely combination of the names of my two main characters 🙂

 

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And as we continued on our way down the hill from the Capitol building, we came across The Hermitage Hotel (named after Andrew Jackson’s Presidential home), and Rachel’s bolt-hole when everything goes a bit awry. The clothes shop in the hotel is called ‘Rachel’s Boutique.’ Such a delight finding out these little things along the way.

 

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And here is our first view of The ‘Batman’ building as it is affectionately known in Nashville. Everywhere we went, the AT&T building rose high above the skyline and I thought of Jackson describing it to Rachel every time 🙂

 

And DSCN0105after we’d had a play around at The Visitors’ Centre, walked the length and breadth of Broadway and had some tasty Tex-Mex for lunch, we went on The Music City Hop On, Hop Off Trolley tour. On our way back to our condo, I led the way past the inspiration for Jackson’s loft.

 

Day 2
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And so on to the iconic Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. A wonderful building on both the inside and the outside and we spent hours just marvelling at everything there was to see and hear. We loved the history and the variety of exhibits and memorabilia. Our girls focussed mainly on the Taylor Swift exhibits, of course but they had fun and that was the main thing!

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It was soon time for our trip to RCA Studio B where so many great musicians have recorded songs over the years. It was a great experience, full of history and memories from another musical era.

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And here’s the piano that Rachel sits at, sensing all the greats that have sat here before her, including Elvis Presley.

 

Day 3
DSCN0185We were all very excited about this day because I’d managed to reserve us a table at The Bluebird Café where Rachel sings her first ‘Open Mic’ session. It is a very small venue, just about 100 seats in all and I’d been lucky enough to get us a table on my second try at using their automated reservation system. The night we attended, it was an ‘in the round’ session organised by ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers). This meant that the four performers were sat in the middle of the audience and they took turns telling us about their songs before performing them. It was a fantastic show, with such talented performers that you will never have heard of I’m sure but I really hope they all get their moment one day soon. If you want to look them up, they were: Ryan Shea Smith, Austin Jenckes, Andrea Pearson and Jonathan Kingham.

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Day 4
I haven’t told you as yet how beautiful the weather was while we were in Nashville but on this day, it actually rained. It was only a quick shower though and we were soon able to get on our way to visit the Parthenon as we had originally planned.
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It is a replica of the real Parthenon in Greece, of course, built for the Centennial celebrations in Nashville and then rebuilt once again at the request of the people who couldn’t bear to see it torn down once the celebrations were over. It was meant to represent Nashville as ‘the Athens of the South’ on account of all its veritable educational institutions. We had a fun time visiting it and reading all about the history of the celebrations.

Next week, I will post about all the other wonderful things we did on our trip which I didn’t refer to in my story, including our days in Memphis. If you haven’t read my book yet though and now feel moved to do so, it is on sale this week at 99p! Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/FromHeretoNashville

Lastly, if you’re in the London area on Friday, April 17th, I will be attending the Indie Author Book Fair, hosted by Triskele Books and the Alliance of Independent Authors at Foyles’ bookshop in the Charing Cross Road. It starts at 4.30pm and it’s free. It would be lovely to see you and sign a book for you.
Thanks for reading as always and do please leave me a comment below.

How to List a Goodreads Giveaway (and Post C2C Festival fatigue!)

AsIMG_0057 I mentioned in last week’s post, I was busy this past weekend attending the C2C (Country-to-Country) Music Festival at the O2 Arena in London. And what a great festival it was once again. We attended a special CMA Songwriters Series event on Friday night which was fantastic and a taste of what’s to come when we go to Nashville at the end of this month.

Then we went back to London again yesterday for a full day at the festival. I was really looking forward to seeing Lady Antebellum again, having been lucky enough to see them in a smaller venue last October but I also wanted to see as much British Country Music talent as I could as well. The singer I was really looking forward to seeing play live was Callaghan. I heard one of her songs on Bob Harris’ Country Show on Radio 2 a couple of weeks ago and since then, I’ve listened to her music as much as I can and also followed her to keep up with what she’s doing. She has been lovely and interacted with me a few times so when I was able to see her play yesterday and say hello, it was a real highlight for me. Her story is an interesting one: she’s from the UK originally but went out to Atlanta four years ago at the request of Shawn Mullins, an American singer-songwriter who specialises in folk/Americana music and she helped her record her first album. She’s now based in Nashville. You might see now why her story delighted me when I read it just a few weeks ago! I’m not sure if there’s any romance on the horizon for her though 😉

So I knew that I would be tired this morning and that it would therefore take me a while to get going on this morning’s blog post. I had not planned on it taking me quite this long though 😉 If you have ever tried to do anything on Goodreads as an author, you will probably understand why!

During the week, I received the proof copy of the paperback version of From Here to Nashville which comes all the way from the US to authors based in the UK. When it arrived, I was very excited of course, until I realised that the only thing I’d forgotten to include in the copy was the ISBN which I had paid precious pounds for the privilege of using. Doh! Anyway, I quickly amended it and uploaded it to CreateSpace fairly painlessly. It took a few days and then, hey presto, there it was, up on Amazon and linked to my ebook page as well without any problems. I had been expecting some difficulties but I was glad in the end that there weren’t any. If you want to go and buy your copy, here’s the link.

So I decided to write my blog post about listing a giveaway on Goodreads. Before doing anything, I read a couple of other blog posts about it first which were both very helpful and their links are here for you – Catherine Ryan Howard and Novel Publicity. I really would recommend you to read these and to mostly ignore the Goodreads advice on what to do!

Here are the main tips I would highlight for you if you’re planning to list a giveaway yourself.

1. Is your paperback book on Goodreads? The most important thing is that you must have your book in the database before you can list it. I had thought it would automatically upload to Goodreads once it was listed on Amazon but it didn’t so I had to add it as a new edition of my book first. You do this from the existing book’s page and make sure to add a cover file as well. Then you have to combine the editions, which I found I couldn’t do myself so I had to contact Goodreads and ask them to do that for me. They did this pretty quickly.

2. Where are you prepared to send it to? Catherine Ryan Howard’s advice is to list it for all countries which I have now done. This does mean being prepared to send it anywhere in the world but most likely, your winner will be in the US because that is where most Goodreads members live.

3. How long should you run it for? Goodreads suggest running your giveaway for as long as a month but this way, your giveaway will get hidden amongst all the others. The advice from those who have tried running one seems to suggest that shorter is sweeter.

4. How many copies? If you’re self-published, you will be thinking about every penny (or whatever your currency is!) Novel Publicity’s experience from doing a number of giveaways is that it’s not the number of books that matter. You can run several short giveaways (spaced appropriately apart) and offer a copy at a time. The thing to remember here is that the goal is to increase your visibility and you should do that regardless of the number of copies being given away. Do make sure that you highlight the fact that it will be a signed copy too!

5. When will it start? Schedule your giveaway for a few days ahead because it will take a couple of days for Goodreads to upload it for you and you may change your mind about the contents after you have time to think about it.

Hopefully, next week, I will be able to tell you that my giveaway is going really well because I’ve set it to run from Thursday this week to Tuesday of next week. If you’d like to enter the giveaway, the link is below. Remember though, it starts on Thursday.

Have you run a giveaway on Goodreads? What was your experience? If you have any questions or comments, do remember to leave me a message below. Hope you have a great writing week.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

From Here to Nashville by Julie Stock

From Here to Nashville

by Julie Stock

Giveaway ends March 16, 2015.
See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Paperback Writer – A Week of Good News

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Now that the ebook version of From Here to Nashville is well and truly on its way, I have been trying to sort out my paperback version. As I mentioned last week, I was about to order my proof copy from CreateSpace, Amazon’s printing arm. When it came to pushing the order button, there were three delivery speed choices. The cheapest, slowest one was going to cost me $10 so as I wasn’t in a rush, I went for that option, thinking it would probably come quicker than the date they’d given me of April 8th. Ever the optimist, that’s me 😉

Then something wonderful happened 🙂 I found out that there is going to be an Indie Author Book Fair in London on 17th April, 2015 for members of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).  This has been organised as part of Indie ReCon 2015, a global conference for independent-minded authors, being run this year with the support of ALLi. The great thing is that the book fair, which is open to everyone and is free, is taking place in Foyle’s, one of the largest bookshops in London and so, I took a leap and booked myself a table. The only slight problem is that I don’t have any books at the moment!

Cue my first email exchange with CreateSpace. Well, you have to wait 24 hours for a reply 🙁 Then when it came back, the answer was that it had already been boxed so no, they couldn’t change the delivery speed and get it to me any faster. I decided to give them a call then, in America…yes, I know. Still, I spoke to a very helpful man and he confirmed that it was too late to change that order but he then said that as I was only ordering one copy, he would send me another one, free of charge, on super-quick delivery! So I will have the proof on Wednesday this week. However, I still don’t think they could provide me with books for a sale at a reasonable price so I went and had a chat with other ALLi members on their Facebook members page. They said that as I have used my own ISBN, I can go to a local printer to get books for my own use at fairs etc and I just happen to have a very good printer not far from me who seems very clued up about self-publishing. I am going to email them today to see if they can print the books for me in time and if they can, then this Cinderella will go to the ball! As you can tell, I’m quite excited about how it has all turned out and the thought of being able to sell books in a shop like Foyle’s is really wonderful.

I have also had a great time this week chatting with an Etsy shop owner who lives all the way over in Phoenix, Arizona. I love the internet sometimes! This has all come about because my husband went to a music convention in L.A. in January and came home with a little wooden guitar he’d received from one of the stands there. I thought this would be a nice promotional item for my book and set about getting in touch with the company who makes them. To cut a long story short, their costs were very high for my small order numbers so I couldn’t proceed with them but I wanted those wooden guitars! You know how persistent I am by now 😉 Then I went on Etsy and found this man making wooden guitar magnets and we got chatting like you do. Yesterday, I placed my first order for thirty of these lovely magnets and not only that but they’re going to be delivered to our condo in Nashville. How cool is that?

Etsy Guitars

So how can you get your hands on one of these? Well, I have asked my newsletter subscribers to tell me, when they’ve read From Here to Nashville, whose story they’d like to follow. All you have to do is read the book, sign up here and then send me a message! Alternatively, if you are in London around the Charing Cross Road area on the afternoon of 17th April, I’d love you to pop in and buy one of my signed paperbacks and I will give you a guitar magnet at the same time.

Thank you all for reading and I hope you have a good week. By the time I write my next blog post, I will have been able to enjoy a whole weekend of live country music at the Country to Country (C2C) Music Festival at the O2 arena in London so next week’s post may be just a little bit country, y’all 😉 Please do leave me a comment below and tell me something good about your writing week.

It’s Publication Day and I’d like to say Thank You.

DSC_7271Today, I can celebrate, at last, the joy and wonder of being a published author with you, the readers of my blog. I started celebrating yesterday with my family, as you can see from the picture of the cake on the left. Doesn’t it look amazing? It was very difficult having to cut into it but we forced ourselves! We have raised a glass today to my book as well and it feels very good to have made it this far.

I couldn’t have made it this far though without some help along the way and some of those people are thanked directly in the acknowledgements section of my book. However, I have also been lucky enough to make so many new friends on social media and whilst I can’t thank everyone individually, I would like to thank everyone who has got to know me through this blog or via Twitter or Facebook, or indeed via any other social media site. It has been an absolute pleasure to make so many new friends.

Some of those people have also been kind enough to host me on their own blogs both in the run-up to my publication day today and during this week to come and I would like to thank them so much for their time and their generous efforts on my behalf. I am truly grateful to them all. I would like to thank Heidi-Jo Swain for hosting me on her blog last Monday and Rebecca Bradley for hosting me on hers last Friday. Please do go and take another look if you get the chance. Every guest post has been slightly different and there may be something you still don’t know about me yet!

In addition to these interviews, I have set up a small blog tour for this coming week.

  • This kicked off with my first proper review on my lovely writing friend, Cat’s blog yesterday. Cat is one of my beta readers but she has always offered me up-front and honest, constructive criticism and I respect her opinion. Here’s a quote: ‘This novel isn’t just about love blooming, it’s also about the risks involved in following your dreams, being honest with yourself and daring to go where that dream might take you.’ Thank you, Cat.
  • Today, I am honoured to have been asked to visit author, Lisette Brodey’s renowned Writers’ Château in Los Angeles, for an interview with her about my book. When Lisette first asked me, I couldn’t believe my good fortune and it was a super interview, with some brilliant questions. So do go and have a read and see all the other fabulous authors who have gone before me. Thanks to Lisette too.
  • On Monday/Tuesday, my host is Tracey Weller in Ontario, on her fabulous website, Nevertoolatetowrite.com. Tracey and I have only just ‘met’ through Twitter and this blog but we are already firm friends. Go and see what a fantastic post she has put up about me (around lunchtime UK time) – it has tweetable quotes and everything! Tracey has a great take on this writing life and I would really recommend you to take a look, especially if you are new to writing and you’re in what Tracey calls your ‘second act,’ like me 😉 Many thanks to Tracey.
  • On Wednesday, I’m in Kentucky with Dena Rogers, who I met through another Twitter friend, Emma Wicker who is hosting me later in the week. Dena is another romance author and despite the fact that we only know each other virtually, Dena has been kindness itself in sharing her knowledge of the writing and publishing process. She shares my love of country music too and that has strengthened the bond of friendship between us. Thanks to you too, Dena.
  • On Thursday, I’m being hosted by Brooke Cottage Books. I contacted Debbie there about advertising my book cover when I saw that she was offering a special 4 week deal for just £10.00! There are some fabulous deals on the site all the time so you should really take a look. I’m doing a promo post with a rather special giveaway on Thursday so don’t forget to go on over and take part! Thank you, Debbie.
  • Finally, this week, I am on Emma Wicker’s blog again. I met Emma on Twitter, through another mutual friend, Bill Cunningham and she has already hosted me on her blog just a couple of weeks ago but she’s so generous that she offered to do it again. Emma has just published her own debut, ‘Fractured Immortal,’ which I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a great vampire novel with a modern twist to it. So please do go and look up my post on her wonderful site. Thank you, Emma 🙂
  • I have a P.S. – On Friday, I will also be featured on Bodicia’s website at awomanswisdom.wordpress.com. I am so lucky to have met all these wonderful people online who are so generous with their support of authors and Bodicia has kindly offered to promote my book on her site a week earlier than we had planned. So please do go over and take a look later in the week. Thanks to Bodicia too 🙂

All that remains then, is for me to offer you a virtual slice of cake and to raise a glass to you. Thank you for all your support everyone and wishing you all a fabulous week. Please do leave me a comment. I always love to hear from you.

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Word of Mouth Marketing for Authors

logoI took part in this year’s online Romance Festival again this weekend organised by Harper Collins and the really wonderful thing was that this time, I was able to do so as an author! I was able to submit an author Q&A for display on the Romance Festival site and I also submitted one of my blog posts entitled ‘5 Things I Have Learnt from Writing my Debut Novel’ which you may have read on my blog recently. They were both viewed and shared many times and that felt really satisfying.

Not only that but from 2 – 8pm on both days of the weekend, there were Twitter and Facebook chats, virtually every half an hour by famous authors and industry people with tips to share, and there were also Google Hangouts with a number of different authors. I learnt so much from all these people but most of all, I had a lot of fun! I was struck again and again by how much time these people were willing to give up to help aspiring authors or to talk to their readers. It was not at all sales orientated but you can bet that sales will go up for these authors or business will go up for the trade people who took part because people like me will talk about them to others, just like I’m doing here today.

One of the Twitter chats was actually about Word of Mouth marketing and was run by a lady called Molly Flatt. Her Twitter page is here. She began by saying that WOM marketing is about getting other people talking about you, inspiring their thoughts, rather than just throwing messages at them. She went on to say that an author talking about their book on their Twitter feed isn’t WOM. Others discussing it on THEIR feeds (or at their dinner tables) is. Her main idea is that WOM marketing isn’t really even marketing at all. It’s about building relationships with people and that has to happen over a long period of time of course, it can’t just happen overnight. The phrase that really struck me was ‘You have to give to get’ because I think that so many of us are doing this without maybe even realising it! Just look at #MondayBlogs for example. I have met so many wonderful, supportive friends through having my blog posts shared on Mondays and by sharing those of other people.

So how would this work for the readers you are trying to attract? Well, she suggested that the first step is to find people online or offline who share your subject matter. You can do a Twitter search for this if you’re starting with an online approach. Then tap into their shared passion. I have met a few people because of my love of country music, for example. Once you meet them, let them get to know you and they may check you out as a result and find that you’ve written a book and hey presto! After this, you can think more about what would inspire them to engage with you. I haven’t really explored this yet because I’m really worried about hassling people so this is something I’m going to take slowly but I like the idea of it very much.

There is now only one week to go until my debut novel From Here to Nashville is published and I want to tell you how lucky I’ve been with some of the friends I have made online. Firstly, Emma Wicker, another Indie author featured my book on her blog last week and she’s doing it again for me next week. Then I was able to get a feature on the Alliance of Independent Authors Members’ Showcase which goes up every Saturday. Then I was featured in Sonya’s round-up of book news on her website here. As I’ve mentioned, I also had a lot of exposure through the Romance Festival this weekend too. Today, my RNA friend, Heidi-Jo Swain is featuring me on her blog for #MondayBlogs and I really can’t tell you what a good feeling all this support gives me. I have quite a few other blog posts lined up in the coming weeks and I count myself really blessed to have made so many good friends via social media. This is what word of mouth marketing means to me right now and I look forward to being able to do the same for these friends in the future.

Thank you all for reading and I’ll see you next week on Publication Day!!! Please do leave a comment below if you’ve tried WOM marketing in another way that’s worked really well for you. Have a great week everyone 🙂

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 Jericho Writers 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.