Friday, 30 October 2015

A new cover reveal

Had a great birthday yesterday - lunch out at Bradley Hall Gardens ( followed by an afternoon walk with Tim where he met a new friend called Lucca and ran himself silly with her in the sunshine. Then dh and I went out for the evening and had a meal at the Black Bull in Corbridge. 1755 is inscribed in wobbly hand carving over a window lintle, and it certainly looks old inside - in a good way!
Our meal was good. Not fancy haute cuisine, but satisfying in a homely way.

One way and another I had a fair amount of  sauvignon blanc over the day, but felt wonderful  on it, both last night and this morning.  It's a good thing I felt OK this morning because I've already been out for a walk in the rain with Tim and it is only 9.30. Its a grey, grey day and fit only for doing lots of work inside. The washing machine is already purring away as I write.

Loaded a new cover onto Magician's Bride yesterday.  I paid money for this one ! so we'll see if it has any effect on sales.  I have two versions; one has no rose petals to signify the romance element. There's also a little less colour throughout, but I went with the more colourful cover. It is growing on me. I like it more and more each time I look at it.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Puzzling PR

Like a book, I suppose the first words of a blog post need to catch the attention of passing readers. Is it the words, or the picture that grabs attention?  Who knows? Different things for different folks.

Today I decided I need to be more professional in my approach to promoting books. So I'm exploring the dizzy world of graphic artists, with a view to (gulp!) purchasing a cover picture. When I have time I intend to do a few courses on learning more about doing covers, but for now I'll see what a bought cover can do for me.

Promotion has not been high on my agenda for ages, and though it might not be the only one, it is probably one reason why sales are going down. (Personally I blame Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, but that's something I cannot prove!) When I went back and visited a lot of my old haunts, I found that the state of yahoo groups has changed while I haven't been looking. Some have changed their slant and no longer take selling posts, others just seem to have dropped way down in popularity, others have vanished or gone into limbo. Some are still there, but I get the feeling that they're struggling.

It's a puzzle. Something must have taken their place, but I don't know what it might be. Paid advertising? Possibly. Other social media have sprung up recently and though I recognise the names, I've never joined or even looked to see what they offer. Perhaps it is time I rectified that. Some research is required.

While I do this research, my work on the second draft of Matho's Story is coming along nicely. I have a working title at last - The QUEEN'S COURIER, and only fifty pages to go before I reach the end for the second time. I've taken out a chunk of the middle section, diverted the story line to a better trail, and wrote one whole new chapter as well as cutting and pasting three others, juggling placements and characters as necessary. The result is pleasing - definitely a job worth doing. I finished a chapter this morning, and these were the last lines I wrote today:

When her shoulders rounded in dejection, Matho saw something inexpressibly tender and youthful in the gentle curve of her spine.

‘No,’ she said in a tired voice. ‘She wouldna want to be moved.’ She left his knee and bent over the cauldron. Dipping a wooden ladle, she filled a bowl and brought it to him. ‘Eat. Ah didna make it to waste it.’

Saturday, 24 October 2015


Judging by the Twitter feed #The Last Kingdom, the show is a hit.

So this is what the audience of today likes to watch - people stabbed through the back of the neck, nailed to a tree, a young lad blinded. I spent a good deal of the show flinching and closing my eyes, not because I didn't know what was coming  but because there's a huge difference in reading about violence and watching it. At least, I think there is.

The ingredients of the stories can all be found in the sagas out of Scandinavia and Iceland. Reading them, I'm safe in the knowledge that it all happened a thousand years ago. The same applies to the Cornwell books which I read because Bamburgh is local for me. (Though I think I never got round to the last in the series.) Maybe it applies to a bit of psychology I heard on television the other night - that we all love to be scared (via films) to prove that we're alive and safe. Maybe like everything else it is a stage we go through, for I can remember paying to go to cinemas in my youth and watching all manner of frightening films from Dracula to Omen and the Exorcist - and loving it. Now I find I don't feel the same. I doubt audiences today would find those films particularly frightening. Which in a way is  sad. Does it mean their perceptions of the world are less secure than mine were, or are they just more hardened to violemce than I was?

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The truth about covers

It is a good thing that Amazon Kindle allows changes of information such as price and book cover because I need to change the cover for The Magician's Bride. I ventured into an American group online recently and received the news that my cover was - well nobody actually said it, but I gather the operative word would have been one beginning with an S and ending with a T. They weren't unpleasant, just honest - brutally honest! To be fair, once I asked why, I received answers and saw my mistakes -  they were glaringly obvious - once someone pointed them out! I also received help in the guise of names and websites, of people who could help, which was good.

In a way it is sad, because I enjoy using Photoshop, have spent hours on a potential cover only to have it shot down. What it really means is if I want to do it, then I have to take some courses and progress what skills I have. I know there are graphic artists out there ready, willing and a lot more able than I am to do a good cover for a reasonable price. It isn't the price - I simply enjoy doing it! It makes a welcomes relaxation from struggling with words and commas.

I don't think I'm arrogant to try. If we never do anything new, we get nowhere, do we? To be honest, I didn't think Kindle covers, which many people see as a thumbnail, were so vitally important. I have learned a lesson. Anyone got the humble pie and a knife handy?

Friday, 16 October 2015

Second drafts

Has anyone else discovered what an odd feeling it is to check the Kindle stats  and see how many pages (of your book) people have read overnight?
I get a little kick of pleasure every time I see a good number up there. OTOH, there was the time someone  grabbed Abduction while it was free for a day and read one page and never went back to it! Odd insights we get these days from Amazon's technology.

I feel as if I'm really getting to grips with Matho's sequel, but wish I could think of a decent title for it. I'm up to chapter twenty-two in my run through and enjoying the chance to enhance the tale by all sorts of things: taking out redundancies, combining two separate sentences into one more interesting one and generally adding stronger verbs and more interesting descriptions. (Some were pretty mundane, I have to admit!) I've tweaked the plot-line around chapter 15, too. I suppose that would be the sagging middle everyone talks about. I decided what was happening was too similar to what had happened before, so I took Matho off in a new direction and the story works much better for it.

The good thing about doing this a couple of years after I did the first draft is that I know the ending and I know my characters so much better - and of course, as we all know, practice makes perfect. My writing has improved - not that I'm perfect yet, but I'm better than I was!

Monday, 12 October 2015

What shall I call this?

Northumberland 1544

   ‘You haven’t heard the news?’ Harry Wharton lounged against the fence post, one ankle crossed over the other and regarded Matho with mock surprise. ‘The King of France was clapping his heels so loud you could hear it from the cliffs of Dover on a windy day.’

‘There’s nowt new about siring bairns.’ Matho’s long muscles moved easily as he continued the rhythmic grooming of his horse. ‘Hereabouts folk manage it wi’ nae trouble.’

‘It’s taken Dauphin Henri and Catherine de Medici ten years. People say witchcraft is involved.’

‘Aye, a new French prince will put everything on a different footing. There’ll be new plans hatching.’ Matho hooked one arm across his horse’s back and regarded his well-born friend. ‘The Dowager Queen of Scots will marry her daughter back into France. That will send King Henry into a rage because he wants her to marry his son. Arran wanted the bairn for his own son, so he’ll be annoyed. Cardinal Beton hates the idea of being under French control, so he’ll be stamping and spitting around the Scots court.’

‘You appear to know her well, this Dowager Queen.’

Matho looked down at the brush in his hand and pulled a few tufts of hair from the bristles. ‘Aye, well. Ye tend to remember a woman when she gives orders to take yer head off next morning.’

These are the opening words of my as yet untitled sequel to Abduction of the Scots Queen.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Title-less but going well

Autumn colours are strengthening fast and it is not yet too cold in the daytime though early mornings are a tad on the chilly side.  Long may it last.
This is just the weather for writing a sequel to Abduction of the Scots Queen and I'm deep into it now. I have a first draft, which is a help and around chapter fourteen I decided to remove a couple of chapters and change the direction of travel, so to speak. It should enhance the plot, particularly where Marie de Guise is concerned, and more original that the content I had.

Maybe I'll add a paragraph here on a regular basis as a sort of PR exercise. Nothing is set in stone as yet, and there will definitely be changes before publication. I might even send a submission off to an agent to see what response I get. That means thinking of a title, which I never find easy.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Book v Kindle and Lewis

No one seems able to make up their minds about The Book v Kindle. First I read the book is declining, almost gone, and then I read Kindle book sales are dwindling fast and real book sales are rising.
This may be attributed to regional variation, or personal bias. (I always view statistics with caution after reading a little book called How to Lie with Statistics) But I wish we knew the true story. Perhaps it just means that if television is good that month then no one reads much - and vice versa!
There seems a lot that is good on  the box at the moment so no doubt sales of books will plummet whatever the format.

There's even a new series of Lewis to watch in these chilly autumn nights. Last night's first episode is safely recorded on video to watch later (I hope it recorded safely! Doc Martin didn't on Monday). I never quite empathised with Morse, found the series interesting in that Morse always went off after rabbits and hares while poor Lewis often had the right idea but got little credit. I find I don't want to watch Endeavour again though I enjoyed watching the episodes once. But the Lewis/Hathaway combo is brilliant and I do watch them again - for the combo development as much as anything. Plus the back chat with Laura, of course.

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