Tag: self-publishing

Cover Reveal for Over You (Sam’s Story)!

Cover Reveal

I am very pleased to announce that my new book, Over You (Sam’s Story), my first sequel novella to From Here to Nashville, is now ready to publish! And here is my beautiful new cover! I hope you will agree that my designer has done a stunning job.

This is a new designer I’ve been working with this time and she had the difficult job of matching this cover to the style and branding of From Here to Nashvilleas well as coming up with something that worked with this new story.

I am so pleased with the final result. I hope you like it as much as I do, and that you’ll agree it sets the scene well for the story to come.

Over You (Sam’s Story) is now up for pre-order – just click here – at the amazing price of just 99p. It will go on sale officially on 12 March, 2018. With the publication of this novella of about 35,000 words, I have turned From Here to Nashville and Over You (Sam’s Story) into a series – the From Here to You series. The final novella telling Jenna’s story will be out around May time, and then I will have to say goodbye to my Nashville characters 🙁 Mind you, I did wonder about writing a prequel the other day as well…

Here’s the blurb for Over You (Sam’s Story):

Can the magic of Cornwall help two lost souls to heal?

Heartbroken after seeing the love of his life marry someone else, Sam Andrews wants to escape all the painful reminders of her and to try and move on. Remembering his happy family holidays surfing in Cornwall, he travels to Newquay to help him forget.

Following a tragic event at university, Jessie Pascoe has abandoned her course and returned home to her mum’s B&B in Newquay. But after months of counselling, she’s no closer to being healed, and she’s lost her faith in ever finding her happy ending.

When Sam and Jessie meet, there’s a mutual attraction, and they begin to see a chance of finding happiness together, if only they can both let go of the past. But can they risk opening their hearts to someone new and falling in love again?

A story of heartbreak, love and healing.

Once again, you can pre-order your copy of Over You (Sam’s Story) by clicking here. Don’t worry if you haven’t read From Here to Nashville. You could definitely read Over You as a standalone but if you want to know how Sam got to this point, it might be worth giving From Here to Nashville a read too! All my books can be found here. Happy reading!

Improving Your Writing Craft

The Punishment of Sisyphus

At the beginning of October, I had my first round of edits back on my From Here to Nashville sequel novella, Over You, with suggestions as to what I might rewrite before submitting it for the final, final edit. As I wrote this book some time ago, before The Vineyard in Alsace in fact, there were a lot of things that I thought I had improved on since then. So I got to work and sent it back to the editor again, hoping that I had put most of those rookie errors right.
Then while I was waiting for that one to come back, my latest novel, let’s call it The Bistro, came back from the Romantic Novelists’ Association. This is a first draft that I had sent in for my final New Writers’ Scheme assessment. I told one of my writing friends that I thought this was the best first draft I had ever written. Famous last words! The report I had back is nine pages long and very thorough, and also very supportive, but I was gutted to see the same comments coming up about where my writing isn’t quite hitting the mark. You know: show don’t tell, ‘goal-motivation-conflict’, make sure you describe the setting etc. And my heart sank because I really thought I had worked on all those things and cracked them. Still, I left it for a few days while I tried to think positively about where I stand with my writing craft four years down the line.
And just as I was getting there, Over You came back with its final edits as well. Many of the comments are about things I really should have got to grips with by now – or at least, I feel I should have. Everything I have to do is manageable but it still leaves me feeling like I’m not making any progress, and that is so disheartening. It has left me wondering whether if I was traditionally published, with an editor guiding me, I might actually be a better writer by now. Don’t get me wrong, I know in my heart that I am a better writer in many ways, but the progress really does seem slow sometimes 🙁 I keep reminding myself that a first draft will need work, and so will the second, third etc, and that the final draft is the one that needs to be the most polished, so if it’s not perfect yet, it doesn’t matter. And that’s what we use an editor for of course – to help us produce the most polished version we can. I can at least say that I have been very lucky with the majority of editors I have worked with.
I have picked myself up enough to make a start on the novella edits from tomorrow and then I’m going to push on and write the next, and final, From Here to Nashville novella which will tell Jenna’s story. Then I hope to publish them both together early next year. After that, I will come back to the next novel and hope that with the passage of time, I will feel better about my report and not so vulnerable about my weaknesses as a writer.
I’d be interested to know whether anyone else feels like this when they get their edits back and whether, if you’re traditionally published, you have an editor who is more like a mentor for you?

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News

As you know, in September, I auditioned to be added to the WI’s directory of speakers in my region. At the audition, I was really nervous but it seemed to go well. I have heard back since the last time I posted to say that I have been accepted into the directory and I am really pleased about it. I have also received my first booking but incredibly, it is for January 2019! I thought it was a mistake at first but it’s not – they just like to plan ahead! Still, I’m looking forward to it and I’m glad I applied.

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Marketing

As you may know, I did a Kindle countdown deal last month for From Here to Nashville, which saw my debut novel reduced to 99p. I tried to get a BookBub featured deal for it but to no avail – apparently, they only accept 5% of the submissions they receive so that did make me feel a bit better! I did have some success with some smaller promotion companies but although I sold a fair number of copies, it wasn’t earth-shattering. Many people supported me though, especially on Facebook where I also did a promotion, and for that I was very grateful. I also sent out a newsletter to my subscribers (you can join it here if you’d like to be kept up-to-date with what I’m doing), and this was well-received and widely shared.
I have now taken FHTN off its automatic re-enrolment to KDP Select and towards the end of the month, I’m going to expand distribution to other platforms again to see what happens. However, I should say that this year, since The Vineyard in Alsace came out, I have sold five times as many copies of From Here to Nashville as I did last year, so that is good news.
I have had a number of guest appearances on other blogs since my last post was published here. I was featured on the Love Books Group blog for their #FavFive feature and I was also on Delightful Book Reviews talking about a typical day in my writing life as an author. Not only that but The Vineyard in Alsace was also reviewed in France magazine and it was a favourable review too!
 
 
 

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Social

Next week, I will be giving a talk at our monthly Society of Authors meeting about how I use Scrivener in my writing. Scrivener’s not for everyone but it works for me and our group of writers is very interested to know more about it. If you’re engaged in NaNoWriMo at the moment, Scrivener is usually offered as a prize if you make it to the end. I bought my copy for my half-price way back when I did NaNoWriMo and it has been worth every penny.
I’m also meeting up with my local RNA group for lunch this coming week. Next week, I will be attending the RNA Committee’s Christmas lunch to which I’ve been invited as the Deputy Editor of our quarterly newsletter, and after that, it is our Winter Party in the evening. The week after that I’m meeting another RNA friend for a writerly catch-up as well so will be keeping myself busy, and full (!), with all these social activities.
In the final week of November though, I’m going to The Society of Authors’ AGM because they’re holding some workshops as well, one on ‘Building Your Brand’ with Joanne Harris no less (swooning already!) and one called ‘Beyond the Book’ which is about innovative ways to market your book and reach new audiences. I will report back on all this activity next month.

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As always, another busy month lies ahead and that’s all before we even get to Christmas. I hope all is going well for you with your writing. Please do leave me a comment below and tell me how you’re getting on. Thanks for reading!
 

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 🙂

Moving on after a tumultuous year

dscn2089Well, I knew I hadn’t been blogging as much as usual but I was still surprised to see how long it actually was since my last post on this site. Last year knocked me for six in many ways, as I’m sure it did a lot of other people. I’m not just talking about the obvious stuff but personally and professionally as well. This had a knock-on effect on my writing and I feel I’m only just coming out of that funk…
So what’s happening? Well, my second book has been finished for a little while now and I sent it off to some more publishers to see if there was any interest. I first sent it out in December 2015 and had some responses but no-one wanted to go the whole hog. I then spent a fair bit of time trying to find an editor I could afford, to help me with the necessary rewriting. That took me till June of last year and I worked on it all the way through the summer with her, finalising it at the end of September. I then dithered about a bit, wondering whether a traditional contract was really what I was looking for. In the end, I did submit it again but I still wasn’t really sure that it was what I wanted. I have heard back from some of those publishers but I’m still waiting on one other and I feel that if I haven’t heard by now (nearly two months later), it’s most likely not going to be good news. If the answer is ‘no’ once more, I really am going to get on and self-publish. I recently finished my accounts for last year and I realised that sales of my first book would qualify me as an independent author of the RNA if I had only published two novels! I was almost there for the Society of Authors as well. So, it’s time to crack on, I think.
In the meantime, I have started work on editing my follow-up novella to From Here to Nashville, as well as beginning the first draft of my third book to submit to the RNA later this year. I still have lots of writing plans but the hesitation over whether to self-publish or whether to seek a traditional contract made last year disappear all too quickly for me. Part of the problem with self-publishing, as so many of you reading this will know, is that it costs a fair bit of money to do it properly and as I left my permanent teaching job at the end of 2015, I didn’t have much money to throw around for most of last year. However, I did have regular work all year as a supply teacher, tutor and web designer and this recently led me to a new part-time job for a local charity as a Communications Officer. This will obviously make this year a lot more stable for me. I will still do a bit of supply teaching but my freelance website work has really picked up as well and I’d like to explore that further in the coming months. Proofreading never really took off for me but every cloud has a silver lining, or at least some of them do 😉
So having said all that, I should be looking at publication of book two very soon, I hope, and possibly publication of the novella as well. I guess I’ll just have to see how things go and not beat myself up too much if it doesn’t quite go according to plan the whole time. As long as I keep writing, that’s the main thing. With that in mind, I have signed up to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme again, which will force me to write my third book and will also make sure that I stay involved with other writing groups and friends. Last year, I wrote about ‘The Brave New World of 2016’ and I have felt very brave at times over the year as I dealt with some very unexpected things. I can honestly say that I won’t really miss last year though. We can only hope that 2017 is better for everyone. I leave you with a quote from Alfred, Lord Tennyson: ‘Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.” Wishing you all the best that a New Year can bring.
 
If you would like my help with your website, whether to sort out a minor niggle that you just don’t have time for, or for a full-blown new website design, please do get in touch. My freelance site is here or you can just leave me a comment 🙂

The Authors' Compass

WP_20160423_004Last Saturday, I attended a conference organised by The Society of Authors in Manchester, the first event I have been to for a while. It was just the pick-me-up I needed and a chance to get out and about to network with old friends and new. The day focussed on the changing face of publishing and as a self-published author myself, I was really interested to see if I could pick up new information to take forward.
The keynote address was given by Kate Harrison, who I’ve heard speak before at one of the RNA conferences and who is both a romance author and a non-fiction writer. Some of you may know her, as I do, as the author of the 5:2 Diet books. Kate’s talk was called ‘Navigation for Authors’ and she took us through what she sees as the benefits of the three different models of publishing existing today: traditional, self and hybrid.
Traditional Publishing – she described this as a sort of employee model.

  • If you’re lucky, you might get an advance under this model but you will definitely get royalties on your book sales.
  • You have access to your publisher’s wider distribution network but your royalties will be quite a low percentage compared to some other models.
  • You have no control over the price of your work, your rights to it or the marketing of it.

Self-Publishing  – this is the entrepreneur model, according to Kate.

  • You have to invest your cash upfront.
  • You build your own team.
  • You will encounter distribution barriers but you will get a higher percentage of the royalties potentially for all your book sales.
  • You control the price, your rights and your marketing.

Hybrid Publishing – this model allows you to maximise your value.

  • You make a decision as to how you’re going to publish on a project-by-project basis. In Kate’s case, she already had an agent and a publishing contract for her romance novels when she decided to write her first 5:2 Diet Book. Her publisher rejected it and so she worked with her agent to produce an ebook of her non-fiction work. It did so well that the publisher then offered her a contract for the paperback version.
  • Your brand strategy is under your control.
  • You have the flexibility to respond to the market and your own instincts.
  • You build a team on your own terms.

Kate’s review came at a very important time for me as I have been sending my second book out to agents and publishers but with very little success so far. I know that’s to be expected but it’s still hard to take, as I’m sure many of you will know from your own experience. I can see though that the hybrid model could have benefits and I know of a lot of authors who are going down this route. There was a lot of food for thought from Kate’s talk and if you get the chance to hear Kate speak, I would urge you to do so. You can find Kate on Twitter @Katewritesbooks.
WP_20160423_006The next session was called ‘The Publishing Landscape’ and presented by Kate Pool and Sarah Baxter who both advise members of The Society of Authors on publishing contracts. As I have never seen a publishing contract (!), I found this a very interesting session indeed. They made a few general points before they started talking about rights.
Firstly, self-published ebooks now account for about 20% of Amazon’s sales. The most popular genres in fiction are romance and crime, as you might expect. In non-fiction, the most popular subjects are health, diet, wholefood cookery and travel writing. However, they did say that it is very much about timing in terms of what readers want. They also mentioned that their revised guide to self-publishing will be available on their website in the next week or so. It costs £10 for non-members.
Moving on to rights, they said that the rights and terms a publisher will usually want are:

  • Territory and language.
  • Formats and media.
  • Use it or lose it. This means that if rights are unexploited after a certain length of time, the rights could then revert to you.

In the discussion that followed, they advised authors to be careful not to give away their non-print rights, which would include things like dramatisation, TV, plays etc. This is not a standard clause so The Society looks out for this one particularly. They advised that in terms of money, authors should think about two things: What is the publisher doing for you, how are they adding value and are you, as the author, getting a fair deal? Their final point was very interesting. They said that it almost doesn’t matter what rights you give away as long as there is a mechanism in your contract for you to escape from it. Food for thought indeed.
The next session was a panel chaired by RNA member, Rhoda Baxter, discussing ‘The Publishing Process.’ We heard from Kevin McCann, a poet and author of a book called Teach Yourself: Self-Publishing; from Richard Sheehan, a freelance proofreader and copy editor, who explained about the different types of editing available to authors; from Kate Roden of Fixabook.com, a company that analyses book design and gives creative guidance on jackets, blurbs and spines; and finally, from Helen Lewis, director of Literally PR.
The main things I learnt from this session were to do with cover design and PR. Kate advised that you think long and hard about your design strategy and what you want your design to achieve before you even contact your designer. Her tips to make your design better were to:

  • Consider what your customers like and what they want. She advised that you find this out by going on reader platforms on Facebook for example.
  • Play to the strengths of digital design, for example by having no words apart from the title on the cover. She highlighted one particular cover of recent times that she thought was especially good.
  • Use your fans to help generate excitement about your cover design. Involve them in your process if you can.
  • Mirror the design of the cover inside your book, as chapter titles for example (I loved this idea and wished I’d done that with the Nashville skyline!)

Helen Lewis had a great many tips to offer about PR but could only squeeze a few of them into the time available. I would really like to hear her full talk some time, which usually takes an hour! Anyway, in the mean time, here’s a few pieces of advice she gave.

  • Concentrate on only one social media platform and your website (Hallelujah!)
  • Build your author platform online by blogging and guest blogging. She also said that blogging shouldn’t have to be something you do all the time though. You should consider only blogging when a new book is coming out for example.
  • Build your platform offline by speaking at festivals, schools, businesses, parties, book clubs and signings at bookshops.
  • Invest time in building up interest in your book before publication. The Bookseller has a 6 month lead time for example.

She drew our attention to an article by Jane Friedman on Facebook for authors, which you can find here. She also mentioned that Literally PR has a Review Club on Facebook which authors can join for free by emailing Helen to join. That page is here. It doesn’t have many members at the moment but the idea looks interesting. Helen can also be found on Twitter @LiterallyPR.
The final session of the day, chaired by Kate Pool from The Society of Authors, was about ‘Publishing Routes‘ and featured Dan Kieran from Unbound, a funding platform and publishing company bringing authors and readers together; Kristen Harrison of The Curved House publishing company; and Michael Schmidt of independent literary publisher, Carcanet Press.
It was another very interesting panel with some innovative ideas about what publishing means in the modern world. I found Dan Kieran very captivating as a speaker and his own experience as an author is an amazing story. However, I can’t ever see myself buying into the idea of crowdfunding a novel to be honest, although it may suit other authors. In the case of Unbound, you have to raise a minimum of £3,000 once you’ve been accepted on to their scheme and then if you make that, they will publish your book for you in the traditional way, taking a split of the royalties. I couldn’t help noticing that many of the authors featured on their website are well-known names who wouldn’t find it as difficult as an unknown to crowd fund to that level perhaps. Still, an interesting concept and worth reading more about if you think crowd funding could be for you.
My favourite tip in this session came from Kristen Harrison when she told us about another project she is involved in called Visual Verse. This is an anthology of art and words, as this about page explains, where they supply an image and you have to respond to it with anywhere between 50 and 500 words. The twist is that you must write your piece within one hour and submit it. It is open to published and unpublished authors and some of the pieces already written are very powerful. I thought this was a fascinating idea and was a very different way, as Kristen said, of giving yourself an online footprint without having a website of your own. She was really into the idea of blogging projects with a start and finish, giving authors a much narrower remit than the standard idea of writing a blog post every week. If you’ve every wondered what the heck you were going to write about on your blog this week and felt overwhelmed by the very thought of it, you might like to consider this idea 😉
Well, as you can see, it was a very interesting conference and I learnt a great deal. You don’t have to be a member of The Society of Authors to attend their events by the way. I found out about this one via the RNA but all you have to do is to email them at this address info@societyofauthors.org and they will let you know what they have coming up.
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The Brave New World of 2016

DSCN1312After a good long break, I now feel ready to face the New Year and that’s just as well because a lot has changed for me in the weeks since the last post appeared on this blog.
The most important thing is that I left my teaching job to concentrate full-time on my writing! I know! This is both scary and exciting all at once. Just in case any of you might be sitting there wondering if I’ve hit the big time on the writing front, well, not quite yet but there’s always hope 😉 You can read more about what I’ve been up to in my goals for 2016 (see below).
You may remember that I took a proofreading course last year and since then, I have been getting in lots of practice and I’m ready now to start work as a professional proofreader, along side my writing. While I build up my new business, I’m going to do supply teaching as well and I hope that with various other writing related activities, there will be enough money in the pot for life to continue pretty much as normal.
As if leaving my job and starting my own business wasn’t quite enough excitement, I have also made some decisions about my writing life and where I want to take it this year. This all means that my writing goals are going to look a bit different for the coming year but first of all, let me review my goals from this time last year. Here they are:
1. Publish From Here to Nashville in ebook form to Amazon, followed by a paperback version a few months later.
2. Finish the first draft of book 2 and send it in to be reviewed by the RNA.
3. Take part in NaNoWriMo with a full outline of book 3.
4. Keep blogging weekly about ‘My Writing Life’ and building up my ‘Cover Reveals’ feature for other writing friends.
5. Start sending out my newsletter to people who have signed up.
Looking back at these goals, I felt rather pleased with myself. The only one I didn’t achieve was number 3 and that was because I decided that the NaNoWriMo style of writing is not for me. As long as I have a good outline, I can write quite happily until my first draft is completed and so I still plan to do that for book 3 but in my own time. Number 4 went slightly differently because I changed my ‘Cover Reveals’ feature to my ‘Author Spotlight’ one instead but it was very successful as a feature overall. For the moment though, I’m going to turn the spotlight off so that I can get back into blogging regularly myself and I may just do the occasional spotlight instead.
So what will my writing goals be for 2016?
1. Publish Where My Heart Belongs. Before Christmas, I made the momentous decision to start querying agents with this book. This is because I feel I need help now to progress my writing career to the next level. I have also sent the book to one publisher so far, one that accepts unagented submissions. So book 2 will either be published traditionally, if things work out, or I will self-publish it. Now that I have had some experience and I know what I’m doing, I’m not daunted by this decision whatever the outcome is so all I can say is watch this space!
2. Write the first draft of book 3. I have a story idea, I just need to write the outline and then write the book!
3. Finish writing my follow-up novella of Sam’s story, one of my characters in From Here to Nashville.
4. Choose one of these 2 books to send in to be reviewed by the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme which I have rejoined this year.
5. Continue sending out regular newsletters to people who have signed up and trying to increase the number of subscribers. This has gone very well this year and it is a way of letting my supporters know little details that I don’t necessarily tell the rest of the world 😉
Tomorrow will be an interesting day for me then as I spend the day with my younger daughter rather than attending a training day at school for the first time in many years. Then on Tuesday, I will be taking my first steps along the road to my new working life. I will be setting up a new website for my proofreading business as one of my first jobs but if anyone wants to contact me before then, here is my business email address: woodbeez48@gmail.com.
Whatever you’re up to this year as far as your writing goes, I wish you lots of success and I look forward to talking to you more about it as the year progresses. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

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.

Author Spotlight – Michael Cairns

Today, it is my absolute pleasure to welcome my friend, Michael Cairns to ‘My Writing Life.’ Michael writes science fiction, horror and fantasy novels.
13 Roses 1-Before
Thirteen Roses Book 1: Before – Michael Cairns
The flower seller sets up his stall on Embankment every day. Every day, he will serve only one customer. That person will be on the edge, teetering between heaven and hell, and it is up to him to steer them in the right direction.
But this week, it will be different. Because this week, someone is screwing with the flower seller. While he struggles to figure out who it is, and why they are doing it, something far bigger is occurring, something that will change the world forever.
A plague is about to strike mankind that will reduce them to mindless zombies, bent on nothing more than the regular consumption of flesh. The flower seller is charged with the task of saving humanity, a task he neither wants, nor cares about.
Without him, mankind is doomed. With him, they might just be worse.
But who is the flower seller? Why does he try to save the subjects? And how the hell is he going to save the world?
Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

*****

Please read on to find out more about how Michael has built his amazingly productive writing habit.
Julie and I met through Twitter and she’s been lovely and super supportive of my challenge – no surprise there – so I jumped at the chance to guest on her fabulously useful and practical blog. I have some strong opinions about creativity and art, but I’ll try to rein them in today and just stick to the useful stuff.
First, a teensy bit of background. In the latter part of 2014, I met for coffee with a friend of mine. We both write, though she struggles with the first draft and I struggle with the editing. I mentioned, in passing, that I had 15 unedited manuscripts at home, idling away on my hard drive. Once she’d finished kicking my butt, she suggested I do something with them.
Over the following month I came up with the entirely suicidal idea of releasing all fifteen of them in 2015. It would mean a great deal of editing and a complete shift in my writing and publishing systems, but I decided to give it a go. To make things interesting, I decided I’d also write a million words of original fiction, publish a short story every week on my blog and vlog every day throughout 2015 to track my progress.
I’m still alive. I’m still sane, mostly, and progress so far, is good. But the challenge has only been possible because of my habit. No, not that sort of habit, though I’ve felt driven towards one a few times this year 🙂
Today I’m going to share my process for becoming a successful writer and creator.
This all begins with one simple step: Build the Habit.
I cannot stress enough how important this is. Habits come in many guises. Some authors will tell you to put aside a safe period of time in which to write. Others will assert the necessity of writing every day. I agree with both of them, but writing things like that down on a piece of paper doesn’t make them happen. Just like trying to get my four year old daughter to clean her teeth, I can ask her a hundred times but it won’t happen spontaneously until it becomes a habit.
So, begin with one month. You don’t have to choose the same time every day. You don’t have to choose a certain amount of time every day. All you have to do is sit at your keyboard/typewriter/cave wall and write something. You have to do it every day. For a month.
Easy, right?
Below are four key steps to making the above happen.
1. Enjoy it: So you begin to build the habit, but something’s getting in the way. Every time you sit at your keyboard, you want to bang your face against the desk until the blessing of unconsciousness relieves you of the terrible burden of writing.
There’s a really simple way to get around that. Write something you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be serious. It doesn’t have to be ‘literature’. It doesn’t even have to make sense. It can be that cosy murder mystery you’ve been secretly dreaming of. You won’t always be writing it. You’ll write many things in your life, but while you’re building the habit, make it fun. Enjoy it. There’s a hidden upside to this as well. You might have your heart set on a romance – sorry, couldn’t resist – but discover that you love writing something completely different. If all you write is romance, how will you know?
2. Start small and be persistent: As authors, most of us have grown up reading books, paper bound and of a certain thickness. We all dream of creating something similar. Few of us, upon deciding to write, have simply finishing as our greatest goal. And yet, for so many people, finishing is where it goes wrong. So, in this first, habit forming, month, start small. Start simple. Two people. A conflict. A deeper conflict. A solution. A resolution. Maybe a dragon. Okay, so the dragon isn’t strictly necessary, but the rest is all you need. That might take 1000 words, or 10,000 words or 100,000 words, but I’d aim for making it at the small end. Get to the end, even if what you’ve written feels slight and breezy. You’re forming a habit, not writing “Gone With The Wind”. And hey, if you do, you probably don’t need to worry too much about the habit.
So start small and finish it. The habit will be cemented through the sense of completion. ‘I have a habit and it’s led to me creating this.’ That’s a much more powerful statement than ‘I have a habit and it’s led to a bunch of half-finished short stories and the first three chapters of this mad Victorian/cyber punk mash up that’s gonna be awesome in a couple of years…’
3. SMART targets: Boring perhaps, but essential. Just in case you’ve missed the wonders of SMART targets, you’re looking to create a target that is:
Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Relevant and
Timebound
You have a month, so your time limit is already set. As for the rest, my advice would be to remember point three. Start small. This isn’t NaNoWriMo. It’s a great idea, but for me it fails in execution. Why try to write a novel in a month? You’ve got all the time in the world. What NaNo should be instilling is a writing habit, but because everyone’s rushing so hard to reach that magic 50K figure, the joy is swamped by the pressure.
So how does 500 words a day sound? That’s just over a page in Word. It’s achievable, you can measure it simply enough, it’s specific and it’s entirely relevant. You’re writing every day and you have something clear to aim for.
I’ve plucked 500 words out of thin air. You can set your own target. I do somewhere between 4 and 5K each day, but I’ve been writing every single day since 1st Jan 2013. Every. Single. Day. I don’t have superhuman powers, I have a really militant, wonderfully fun, creative habit. That’s all.
4. Be militant: I know you have the willpower to achieve this habit, but do you have the necessary cruelty? 🙂 I’m kind of joking. What do you do when someone comes into your bedroom/workspace/classroom/cave and says ‘Can I just check something with you?’ How about when your child comes and says ‘Please play with me, I’m wasting away from a total lack of fun.’ That’s a tough one, but I say to them the same thing I say to everyone. ‘Can’t play, creating.’ Actually, I don’t say that at all. I normally manage a strangled cry accompanied by much hand waving. It’s that or, ‘I need a name, give me a damned name, any name that isn’t Dave.’
The point is, this is writing time. If they don’t get the message, lock the door. If they come at it with axes, flee to a coffee shop. Or the park. Or your car. Anywhere you can be undisturbed. That goes for phone calls, texts, tweets, Facebook, all social media, too. Be antisocial and write! Just to give you an idea, I write 500 words in about ten minutes, so it’s not long. To begin with, it’ll take you much longer, but not that much longer and it’ll get quicker. Be militant, be strong. Buy ear plugs if necessary. I couldn’t honestly argue against the purchase of a scary clown mask and a chainsaw as well, though maybe that’s just me…
Those are the key points. This will work for any form of creativity. Whether your dream is to be an author, a painter, a musician or anything else, building that habit is key to success. I hope it’s helpful, and thanks again, Julie, for having me.
I’d love to know what you think of these points and if you have any to add. Also, if you decide to start the process now, please let us know so we can cheerlead and send you virtual chocolate.
Cheers

About Michael

Michael-Cairns-headshot-low-resMichael Cairns is a science fiction, horror and fantasy author, teacher and musician. He was born at a young age and could write even before he could play the drums, but that was long ago, in the glory days – when he actually had hair.
Michael loves pineapple, chocolate, playing gigs and outwitting his young daughter (the scores are about level but she’s getting smarter every day).
Michael is currently working hard on writing, getting enough sleep and keeping his hair. The first is going well, the other two…not so much.
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