Saturday, 3 October 2015

Book marketing for SPA

Here's a new name - Squarespace 7 - which I will forget the moment I closed the page on screen....

The self-publishing landscape is shifting and, as ever, authors struggle with marketing.

You'e probably noticed, like me, that Facebook has been overtaken by marketing people, which explains why Fb is using more and more sophisticated algorithms to filter out what they call “less-relevant content.”

FB’s advertising options now are easier, cheaper, and often more effective for authors. An author can “boost” a post for a few dollars which helps, though does not guarantee a popular post will go viral.

Social media is a much more visual medium now. Authors may find Pinterest, Instagram, and even Snapchat can help them. Instagram is great for author visibility, but does not lead to sales the same way Pinterest does.

There are many New Marketing Tools. Email newsletters, paid advertising, a compelling author website are all very well, but an author can build on this foundation.

There are opportunities for cross-pollination between marketing platforms and tools. “For example, Squarespace 7, launched last fall, offers enhanced social media integration for cross-posting blog posts and book news, as well as an Amazon Block for authors to more easily add a link from Amazon to their site. It also offers authors new Cover Pages that allow for a splash page to promote a particular new book or offer.”

There is a move toward a “less is more” approach: basic pages on social media, viewed on a mobile device, promoting the book and its key offerings—but little else.

NewMedia keeps the message basic in order to stick out in a crowded market. It is just a “four-screen site” for the book, with a home page to capture attention, the next screen with more info about the book, a third screen about the author, and a final screen with reviews and testimonials.

Integrate SumoMe into a WordPress site and it offers plug-ins like List Builder (which promises to increase daily email list signups) and Heat Maps (which help an author see where their site visitors are clicking. BookGrabbr offers an easy way for authors to share selections from their books through social media accounts, making it easier for followers on LinkedIn and Facebook to learn more about the title. The tool also offers in-depth analytics, such as how many impressions (friends of friends or followers of followers) the book received, how many people clicked the “Buy Now” button, and the demographic and geographic information of the readers.

Email marketing gives you a direct conduit into your readers. Entice readers to your list by offering a free novella or novel, and then get as much traffic onto the page where you’re making the offer as possible.
Read the longer piece:
Marketing self-published books requires leveraging both new tools and tried-and-true strategies
By Alex Palmer |
Sep 25, 2015

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Glorious autumn

I love autumn. I think I love it more than summer because it's cooler and the flies have gone, the leaves are starting to turn glorious colours and a walk is so pleasant. If I think of the summer I remember batting flies away and sweating when I walked Tim - even if I went at a snail's pace.

A couple of days ago we went to walk at Allen Banks so early we were nearly the first ones there. Near Ridley Hall and Bardon Mill, its a National Trust property with glorious wooded banks following the River Allen, a tributary of the South Tyne. We scrambled up the hill away from the river, because most people amble along beside the water towards Plankey Mill and the old bridge that got washed away in last winter's floods. It is beautiful, but we have a more peaceful walk if we meet fewer dogs, so we opt for the high road.

 The video clip is of me  playing with Tim, and if you think I'm very delicate with my throwing of a stick for him, it is because the banks suddenly drop off like a cliff and I didn't want him suddenly disappearing over the edge! We plan to return in a week or so when the leaves have more colour and I finally have a fully charged up camera. DH chides me for not charging it, and I insist I have been; but the last few times I've taken the wretched thing out, it has calmly informed me its battery is low and then it refuses to work. when we got home we found the instruction book and discovered I hadn't been doing it with the right bits of wire and plugs. Duh!  How complicated life is these days!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Free speech and PC

The week has flown by and I'm overdue with a blog post!  

There's an interesting discussion going on one of the yahoo groups (it may be over now) about whether or not to use certain words in historical novels. I am surprised that anyone would think about re-naming Guy Gibson's dog in order to be politically correct, because surely that is changing history. I use that example because it is fairly straightforward: the dog, a black Labrador, was called Nigger. Gibson's dog, his choice of name and surely a reflection on his character and an interesting sidelight on the man and his culture of almost eighty years ago. Change the dog's name and you "sanitise" the story.

How far does this censorship go? For that is what it amounts to. We used to have a nice little word that described happy people but now it is never used except to describe people of a certain sexual persuasion. The allowable words to describe those with physical or mental problems, people of colour and/or a particular religious habits change almost every week, making it nearly impossible to keep up and be correct - if you subscribe to the idea that you should. It is even hard to describe some of these situations without getting the language in knots. PC-ness is tied up with gender and sexism, too; I notice more and more actresses don't want to be anything but actors, as if the word itself conveyed something special on them. Waitresses are in danger of becoming terribly Americanised "servers," which I think is a rather more demeaning concept than being a waitress. But there you go. what do I know? But I have to ask, before this all goes silly:

What happened to free speech?

Some thoughts that bear thinking about, discovered while researching the topic;

We recognise bullying as the most unpleasant form of physical abuse by someone who wants to wield power of some sort over someone else. Political correctness is the most insidious form of bullying where the bullies attack the psychology and thinking of another for their own satisfaction, even though something is said in complete innocence (and ignorance) of its origins. We should recognise the politically correct brigade as nothing but bullies in another form, trying to twist the minds of others to satisfy their own inadequacies.

Political Correctness: Only saying what one is allowed to say - by whom? Didn't the Nazis practise something like it, or the Soviet Union especially under Stalin. Double talk, double think results in lies and deception. Sweep away PC once and for all.

These kinds of regulations are completely insane, and yet they exist. Has anyone asked just why it is that in Britain today, faceless bureaucrats, whose names aren't even known, apparently have the power to impose legal restrains on the speech of other citizens. And they can apparently do this with any law being passed through Parliament, and in complete defiance of the will of the vast majority, without any form of accountability.

I don't want a sanitised language, and I really don't want history sanitised. History was often brutal and unkind, but that is part of the reason it is endlessly fascinating. Trying to whitewash the language is like trying to say that no wars ever took place and Henry VIII never executed two of his wives, that so-called heretics were never burned at the stake. 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Autumn masterclass

 Joyce Maynard seems pleased with the James Patterson MasterClass in writing fiction. You know - the one I've received adverts for - and I'm sure you have - over the last three weeks.

Patterson covers where he gets his ideas, designs his characters—and what makes a character compelling. Villains. Creating tension. Writing Dialogue that doesn’t sound like real life—which would be tedious. He writes dialogue that’s wittier, tighter, more filled with dramatic tension and suspense, than anything ever said around the dinner table.

He believes in the importance of a great outline which is the thing he actually writes before he turns it over to his "stable of co-authors." (The guys who actually write the books.)

He believes in research, surprises, action, and claims that if a story isn’t galloping along, it’s sinking. Fast. The first sentence must be a killer, every page needs to contain some drama and intrigue; suspense and excitement that keeps the reader in the chair.

“I’m not that concerned with style," Patterson says. "Don’t think about the sentences. Just keep that train roaring along.

Write in such a way that words “turn on the movie projector” in a reader’s head,”

Can James Patterson’s MasterClass turn out an accomplished author? Not if a person doesn’t have some natural instincts. The MasterClass has not been created—nor will it be—that can impart talent, or originality, or simply a good ear. For the three hours it takes to listen to all 22 segments of his MasterClass, students may actually get to feel like writers. And that in itself is a bonus.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Third time lucky

Finally, on the third attempt, Createspace has accepted my covers. Now all I have to do is proof and publish. Was it all worth it? That's doubtful, since as far as I can tell I've sold very few paperback copies of Abduction, and I doubt the sales will suddenly streak up the charts now. It was certainly an interesting exercise getting to know Createspace, and it was a thrill to hold my paperback copy - the sort of thrill I didn't get with the Kindle books I've published. The cover is slightly different; I decided to do away with the "archaic" font on the cover and went for a plain, bolder style and colour in what some will call a sickly greenish-yellow. I may follow suit with the Kindle cover.

I'm also toying with experimenting with a bought cover and using it on Dark Whisky Road, but it is hard to find anything that will suit a Victorian story. Maybe the dark winter days will seduce me into trying to do one of my own - who knows?

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Createspace ~ Unexpected trouble

I have just got myself into a lot of trouble. Deciding I wanted to carry out two corrections to the Createspace copy of Abduction as well as the Kindle copy, I went ahead and made the changes to the interior file. Then a message pops up telling me I have to reload the cover art as well. Duh. I hadn't expected that, and a terrific hunt ensued among the many versions of the cover to locate the correct cover pic. Finally found it, uploaded it and breathed a sigh of relief. Then this morning I find a post that had gone into my spam box telling me that I had failed to upload the back cover, so now my book would be available with a plain white back cover.  Just what I didn't want!

I'm beginning to think that though doing corrections on the Kindle version was easy-peasy, I wish I hadn't bothered with the Createspace paperback copy. The two correction were minor - a surplus "and" and a surplus "her" which would be a hangover from when I changed the structure of a sentence, and if anyone noticed them, the sense would have been clear. Or perhaps Amazon should put a warning note on the website so that authors are prepared to reload the entire cover as well as making changes to the interior text. Now you must excuse me while on go on a further hunt to find out exactly how I get the entire cover uploaded.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Writing sequels

Guess what I saw on my bird feeder yesterday?
I know the picture is fuzzy and that's because
I took it through double-glazing. The last time I tried to open the window the mouse was gone in a flash! He lives under the sink-pond and no doubt shares accommodation with the resident frogs who inhabit said pond every spring, have orgies and produce hundreds of tadpoles. The level of nuts goes down very quickly, but it is not just the mouse; we have flocks of young sparrows and bluetits who have taken up residence in the garden this year - or if not our garden, then one very close by. The fly in in squadrons; one day they were closely followed by a sparrow hawk which crashed into the Virginia creeper never to be seen again. It survived, but I bet it got a fright.

Busy with the sequel to Abduction of the Scots Queen and trying not to get tangled in the politics of the time, or to fall in the trap of assuming that every reader will have read Abduction and have net the basic characters like Lennox and Meg Douglas. Tricky to get it down on paper without giving info dumps or confusing the reader. I'm also looking into the best ways of PR, which I abandoned at the beginning of the year. Now things seem to have changed. The online groups are not so busy as they used to be and don't seem to be where the promotion is taking place, whereas Twitter seems to be full of it. I'm re-visiting old links hoping not all of them are now defunct. Owners and moderators all have lives outside the group, of course, and "life" may well have got in the way of running it for a while.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Rebecca Tope

I've discovered a new author - Rebecca Tope.

She writes about Thea Osborne who house-sits in the Cotswolds and usually manages to get involved in a murder investigation. I suppose they are the same genre as the Euphemia Martin mysteries except that the Cotswold stories are contemporary and the Martin mysteries are Victorian. Sometimes the Tope mysteries leave me with questions (such as what happened to Jimmy, and what did the owners say when they came back from Hong King and found their dogs had been shot?) and often the murderer comes out of left field at the end of the book, but I'm reading number nine in the series at the moment, and have only missed the very first and number five, so you could say  there is something about the stories I like. 

There is an element of peering into lighted windows as darkness falls to see how other people live. Each book has a new setting, a new set of characters plus some we've met before and of course there are the animals that Thea must care for until their owners return. The dialogue is entertaining because Thea is nosy and sometimes people dislike her; the topics briefly cover all sorts of modern issues such as the right to suicide and often I find myself in agreement - and that's always nice! My local library has a raft of Tope paperback sitting on the shelf, so my reading is assured for a few weeks to come.

Monday, 7 September 2015

MacGuffin and Open analytics

Autumn is on its way
James Bridle reports that Manchester’s Comma Press, which specialises in short stories, has launched something called MacGuffin. It is a self-publishing platform that gives detailed analytics showing when readers get bored.

Read the whole article: here

“The clean, minimalist interface echoes popular blogging platforms, and visitors are encouraged to search for something to read by theme and length: trending tags at time of writing included #crime, #humour and #10minuteread. Currently in beta on the web and launching mobile apps in the next couple of months, the site already contains plenty of stories from Comma’s own authors.
Alongside every story published are its open analytics, visible to both author and readers. Mercilessly, these detail the exact number of people who have opened a story, and the number of people who actually finish it. They even display a chart of exactly when each reader stopped reading: which, while painful, does give writers the chance to test their narrative structure. Whether this will prove a digital innovation too far for more sensitive writers remains to be seen, but if MacGuffin does take off, mining this data for insights into human attention might be one of the smartest things any publisher has done in some time.”

I’m half-tempted to try it.... except that I might not like what I see!

Thursday, 3 September 2015


Self-publishing still attracts hostility and an assumption that any self-published work is sub-standard.

Alison Baverstock, writing in the Guardian recently, did some research and discovered that 65% of self-publishers are women. Nearly two-thirds were aged 41 to 60, with a further 27% aged over 61. Half were in full-time employment, 32% had a degree and 44% a higher degree. Self-publishers tend to be educated and busy.

It cannot be denied that there is much dross out there. Baverstock cites three main reasons for so much tosh – and also a "case for a cultural value that is less easy to quantify."

1. The author has not thought about what self-publishing means 
2. Making content available is not the same as making it readable 
3. Success is not defined by the number of books downloaded or sold 

Baverstock's definition of self-publishing is “the process of taking personal responsibility for the management and production of content”. I agree with that, but beg to remind her that Marketing and selling have to be self-published author's concern too. No agent or a traditional publisher to hold her hand and wave a magic wand as she says We'll do the cover and sell it for you while you write the next book.

"Material made available without sufficient thought damages not only the writer’s reputation but that of self-published work in general. Typing is not the same thing as writing. "I can't disagree with that.

"Most of the material  from traditional publishers is so well handled that it’s only when we see badly-presented content it strikes us that publishing is more difficult than it looks. For some, the penny never drops.'

The other thing she does not consider is that many readers today actually want what Baverstock would call tosh. The short story of 40k words or sometimes less, with a vague storyline and two long chapters of sexual encounters, often race up the bestseller lists on Amazon.  Somebody out there wants to read that sort of stuff. 

"Publishing is a different skill from writing, and laying out content to ensure it is easy to read takes research and practice. Effective publishing is not just pressing a button." That's true also, but it doesn't mean self-published authors don't strive to publish well.

Self-publishingauthors tend not to get in included in surveys of authors’ earnings, but Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, says: “Many of the association’s members are earning significant salaries now. I’m not talking here about the outliers, like the Kindle millionaires, but the many who are earning enough to leave their day jobs, feed their families, pay their mortgage, afford comforts and luxuries. And let us not forget that sales doesn’t just equal money, it equals readers. It’s one of my great delights to witness what this does for their confidence in themselves and in their work.”
 Amazon does not make its results public. If they did we would have a better idea of how things are going. There are signs now that self-publishing is being seen as part of publishing in general. "At its best it offers the traditional industry a new source of writing talent and a chance to take on material with readerships already established. In the process, it cultivates the kind of author proactivity that publishers need if they are to reach markets that are no longer predictable, due both to the proliferation of new media and the challenge to reading of so many other alternative leisure activities."

"But it also allows people to create products that bring huge personal pride, even if they include a few spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. As a process, the value of self-publishing to communities who want to share or preserve material is huge. But for its reputation to be assured as a medium for reading pleasure, the desire to go public straight away must be resisted. Just because you can share immediately does not mean you should. There is a world of difference between attention and approval."

• Dr Alison Baverstock is Associate Professor of Publishing at Kingston University and author of The Naked Author, a guide to self-publishing (Bloomsbury). 

Saturday, 29 August 2015


Here's a link to an article about a very important sequel - not mine!

Plus a picture of me taken when outdoors in the winter time which I think is fast approaching. Leaves are falling  and starting to turn already, and its not September yet.

My good news is that I have just published THE MAGICIAN'S BRIDE on Amazon Kindle. I've been working on it since I went to France in May right up until last night when I published the last few updates. (One person had already bought it from Amazon US within hours of it going live, so I can only apologise to that person because I made upwards of 25 tiny corrections after I'd bought a copy and read it through on Kindle. I thought it was perfect, obviously, or I wouldn't have gone ahead and pushed the Publish Now button. The corrections were tiny things, like deleting or adding the word 'of' or 'it' and certainly not altering the sense of anything. But we want perfection, don't we?)

So I've done a lot of work on it. The storyline is stronger, with more fantasy to prop up the magician element;  most importantly I have given the heroine a first person POV right from page one. she is now a character who allows readers into her thoughts and feelings. In the previous version she was denied any voice at all; I wanted people to judge her by her actions, but sadly it didn't work at all well. I think the quality of the writing is better too, because once I had the storyline down pat, I found I could embellish the style much more easily. So, there we are; the book is out in the big wide world and now I'll just have to see how it goes.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Kippers, anyone?

I'm pretty close to releasing another book and wondering how many checks I'm willing to do on the text to make sure it is perfect! Once the plunge has been taken, I'm going to concentrate on PR and Marketing my list because I have ignored the need for it for so long. Most of this year, in fact. I am writing a second draft of a sequel to Abduction of the Scots Queen, but that will take some time and I don't envisage publication until next year at the earliest.

I'm also investigating the possibility of a week's holiday in a cottage on the Northumbrian coast in the autumn. It seems such a long time since we came back from France, and change of scene would be nice. The weather can be really good in the autumn, too - bright, cheerful days full of colour. I have to check carefully  before I book, because not only do we want somewhere nicely furnished and not too Spartan, but we want to take Tim. Some places won't take dogs at all; some charge for them. Some say they must be comfortable on the lead because of livestock and wandering cats and hens which is fair enough but not for us. Tim still pulls like an express train on the lead. What we want is wide open spaces where he can run to his heart's content. Then there's the internet/wi-fi situation to consider, I'd want to take my laptop and keep up with writing and all its attendant responsibilities, and dh will want to be in contact with the off-spring in Australia plus his interests. So, the coast seems a better option for us than the countryside with all its cows and sheep, and I'm looking at the area around Craster and Embleton. Craster is famous for kippers and not far from Dunstanbrough Castle and there are some gorgeous beaches along the Heritage coast. Might be windy, but it certainly won't be crowded!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

First person POV

For me, this pic captures all the colours of high summer - blue sky, dense foliage and long dry grasses blowing in the breeze. Lovely. If only people wouldn't throw empty water and juice bottles around in such pretty places. Not to mention the crisp packets, sweetie packets, cigarette packets....have these people no appreciation for their surroundings, or are they just mindless?

Had a busy fortnight, but it has come to an end, as all things do. The back lawn, wrecked by dog pee, has been replaced by artificial grass and looks terrific - so no more mowing the lawn! It took a while to do the changeover; the best part of seven working days as the lawn was a fair size and I designed it (cough cough) with curved edges which the lads followed faithfully. In fact they evened it up a bit. All we have to do now is infill with soil around the edges and put in some little plants and settle down to some pruning, weeding and getting control of the garden again. Going to France for almost two months is fine but the garden does get out of hand while we're away.

Also it is time to work on my writing and start moving along again. I've spent the last few weeks re-writing one of my books. Viking Magic never did well and it took a while to figure out why - I wanted a heroine who would be judged by her actions, but it didn't work well.  She was misjudged, I think! Now I've re-written the whole thing, tweaking the story line into something better than it was, and now the heroine reveals her feelings right from page one. She is my first, first-person POV character and was surprisingly pleasant to write even though it limits what she knows at any given time. In some cases that actually helps the plot along. The changes have made MAGICIAN'S BRIDE a much better book than the original.

Sunday, 16 August 2015


There are bunnies who are not happy about the new payout system from Amazon Kindle.  I must be honest and say my payout is on the plus side when compared to what I've been earning over the last few months. Now the big question is if this will be sustained over the rest of the year.

There are authors complaining bitterly that their books are not earning anything via the pages read system, which means, basically, that no one is reading their pages. or put another way, the book has been downloaded but not read. One of my titles has been downloaded but not a single page read. Who knows why this happens? (Though I must admit I've downloaded books, even ones I've paid for, and then left them to one side unread. Usually it is because something better comes along and I read that; or life gets in the way of reading for a spell.)

I'm not sure if the download for free system - you know, the Top 100 Free Reads - racks up any payment on the pages read system. Looking at my July account, I can't be sure, but I suspect it might. Certainly there is one title where only 3 copies were purchased and only 10 pages read; but 70 free downloads were made and  the pages read, which earned me money, were far more than three times the number of pages the 3 purchased copies would have generated. If anyone has a definitive answer, let me know!

In general it seems to be the authors of short books who are complaining loudest. A lot of authors have discovered that writing a short book and publishing quickly earns them more money than publishing longer books at longer intervals. One argument is that a download is a download and should be paid as such; the counter to this is that if it is never read, then it should not. What puzzles me is why people download books and then never read them  - and do this on a regular basis. I'm sure there will be more information coming out over the next few months so watch this space!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Eight times more responses

Alison Flood in the Guardian has written a piece about author Catherine Nichols finding that submitting her manuscript under a male pseudonym brought her more than eight times the number of responses she had received under her own name. “In an essay for Jezebel, Nichols reveals how after she sent out her novel to 50 agents, she received just two manuscript requests. But when she set up a new email address under a male name, and submitted the same covering letter and pages to 50 agents, it was requested 17 times.”

Responses from agents to Catherine Nichols included comments such as “beautiful writing, but your main character isn’t very plucky, is she?”; responses to her male pseudonym were “polite and warm”, even when they were rejections, describing the work as “clever”, “well-constructed” and “exciting”. One agent who sent her a formal rejection as Catherine asked to read “George’s” book, and then asked to send it to a more senior agent.

Nichols’ essay comes at a time when the literary world is under scrutiny for its attitude to female writers, with Vida’s annual count of the paucity of female reviewers, and female authors reviewed, added to in recent months by the novelist Nicola Griffith’s discovery that novels featuring male protagonists are more likely to win literary awards. The novelist Kamila Shamsie has called for a “year of publishing women” in 2018 to “redress the inequality”.

The Flood article goes on at some length but ends with the comment: “Nichols has since used the comments she received as “George” to rework her novel – and now has an agent.” So the book needed work, the work was done and then accepted.

I saw the headline to this article and felt outraged. Then I got to thinking about it and I have the feeling there will always be personal bias in the selection of anything, from sweeties to flash cars and everything in between. I also suspect, but cannot prove, that there are fewer men writing than women these days, which might be one reason the so-called male submission was taken up so readily. Women write about things women are interested in, and men do not find them so engaging. Yet male readers must be catered for in the bookshops and it seems the agents are busily looking to fill that need. 

Perhaps women writers need to invade the literary world; to start writing literary reviews instead of putting a paragraph on Amazon and Goodreads. It takes time to write a fair review, to put forward an argument and back it up with facts. Perhaps more women need to write about something other than simple romance, tackle bigger topics. Then the recognition might come. I wonder how people feel about War and Peace v Gone with the Wind?  Me Before You v Anna Karenina? Is one more literary than the other?