Pay it forward – 6 weeks on

Pay it forward

When I wrote my original Pay It Forward post, I had little idea of the reaction it would cause. It was largely written as a statement of intent for myself. Why should I, as a self-published author, expect people to buy my work when I didn’t buy books from other self-published authors myself? I decided to change my behaviour, with the aim of purchasing and reading the work of those I had met since beginning this journey and promoting those books I’d enjoyed.

At the same time, I wondered how many other self-published authors bought work from their peers.  The final paragraph – where do you come in – was written in the hope that one or two of my fellow authors would be converted to the cause of paying it forward. It was added mostly as an afterthought. My think was that maybe my thoughts would influence one or two others to join in and spread the love too.

I should have known better.

Since starting out as a writer I have found many wonderful, supportive people from within the writing community, and the pay it forward post has introduced me to many more. It has become the most viewed, most commented and most liked post I’ve written to date. I’ve lost count of the number of  times it has been re-blogged and retweeted. Since first published it has gone on to have a life of its own. There may be days go by without me hearing a mention of the post before it once more springs back to life as it is discovered by another writers. You only have to read the comments in the original post to see the many wonderful people committed to the idea.

The other thing I have learnt is that it wasn’t an original idea. Many authors had come to the same conclusion long before I had and have been reviewing or promoting books from independent authors they admire. I have never been so pleased to have people approach me to say “welcome to the party.” I’m just sorry it took me so long.

In the six weeks since starting down this road I have read a number of self-published books. Without fail, all have been well written and presented. One or two weren’t for me, but that was more likely a failing on my part rather than the author’s; they still received my money and the statistical uptick from my sale. Those I have enjoyed have been promoted here under recommended reads, as well as receiving a review on Amazon and Goodreads.

One unexpected benefit of starting this process has been discovering how much I enjoy reading short stories. It is a format I’ve avoided in the past (I know, burn the heathen) as I like getting buried in large novels, or novel series, but I’ve really enjoyed the novellas and short story anthologies I’ve read to date and will look them up more often in the future.

An important part of my personal ethos I haven’t mentioned so far about paying it forward is around what I hope to get out of it. The short answer is: nothing. For this concept to work well any support has to be given freely, without obligation. I would be horrified if any author I’ve featured felt obligated to do the same for my work in return. I would, however, be delighted if they decided to pay it forward to self-published authors they have enjoyed (if they haven’t already) but that’s a choice for each individual alone.

So finally I would like to thank everybody who has contacted me, everybody who has committed to pay it forward from now on; all those wonderful people who have been doing this for a while now. I have been truly humbled by the reaction of the self-published community, of which I’m proud to be a member. And if you are a self-published author new to the concept, I would urge you to consider giving it a go. All you have to do is every now and then choose to buy an independently published book and if you enjoy it, tell everyone. That’s it. Simple, eh?

Recommended Reads: Moondust Memories by Vaughan Stanger

Moondust Memories

This is a great collection of speculative fiction short stories. Stanger shows his breadth of range, moving from alternate history to pure science fiction whilst keeping us entertained with a range of interesting, well-rounded characters and scenarios. Whether writing about an alternate version of Mallory’s tragic attempt on Everest, alien first contact or the all to real possible ending had the cuban missile crisis ended differently; Stanger brings warmth and humanity to each story, allowing us to view the various what ifs and possibilities at a very personal level.

The tell-tale sign of great speculative fiction is that you are still thinking about it days after you finish reading. This has been the case for me with Moondust Memories. Highly recommended.

You can buy the Moondust Memories from Amazon.com here and from Amazon.co.uk here.

Recommended reads are independently published books that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

What I learnt over the weekend

Second Chance

This weekend has been a wonderful learning experience. To say that I have been blown away with the response to my free promotion would be an understatement. I ran the fill gamut of emotions, from surprise, to excitement, to pinching myself to see if it was real. If the next few paragraphs come across as boasting, I apologise. It’s not. I’m just trying to get my head around it all.

amazon.co.uk top 10People like free books, and that’s a good thing

Some authors are against giving their work away for free. I can understand why. When it takes a year or more of hard work to write a book, why should people have it for nothing? I see it a little differently. While I want to earn money from my work, I also know that the biggest challenge to a self-published author is visibility. The more people who see our work, the more chance we have of generating a word-of-mouth buzz. I discovered many of my favourite authors through friends lending me copies of their books. I may not have paid for that particular book but I certainly paid for everything else the author wrote.

Saying that, my expectations for the promotion weren’t high. Having spoken to a couple of authors who ran free promotions at a similar stage in their publishing career as myself, I thought it realistic to have 100 downloads over the two days. My hope was that possibly 200-300 copies would be downloaded. To put that number into perspective, it would be close to twice the number of copies than I had sold since launch. I knew I was being a little greedy but hey, one could dream.

In the end over the two day period my book was downloaded over 1000 times. At one point I was no.8 in the Amazon.co.uk free Science Fiction charts as well as  no.1 in the Dystopian and Cyberpunk sub charts. On Amazon.com I made it to no.16 in the Science Fiction charts and No.2 in the Cyberpunk and No.3 in the Dystopian charts. I was also in the top 10 of the UK Thriller charts, top 20 in the US thriller charts. All from a 2 day promotion.

The kindness of strangers

I didn’t pay any money to advertise the promotion. The only promotional avenues I used were via social media. Many friends and family shared my promotion on Facebook, to which I am very grateful. Probably the biggest promotional boost, though, came via twitter. I’ve spoken about how I’ve come to like twitter in the past, how what started as a means to promote myself became a great way to meet like-minded people. I have rarely promoted via twitter but for this weekend only I sent a total of 13 tweets letting people know my book was available for free. I was worried it was too much as I didn’t want to fill people’s inboxes with tweets saying ME, ME, ME!

What happened next was wonderful. Many of the people I had befriended via twitter retweeted my tweets. This meant they were seen by all their twitter friends, some of whom retweeted them on again, and again. Through these acts of kindness, enough people decided to take up my promotion to send my book into the charts. Once visible, it enabled many, many more Kindle readers to find out about my book and download it. If it wasn’t for the kindness of these people, my promotion would never have been as successful as it was.

The fear of success

Of course, having this many downloads means that there are now hundreds of people all over the world who will now judge my work. For somebody as self-critical as myself, that’s a terrifying thought. Even though I’ve been lucky enough to have had a number of good reviews to date, a small part of me is just waiting to be pointed out as a fraud. This isn’t a plea for sympathy, I would much rather be in the position I am in than have nobody read my work, but I’ve now realised that I’ve passed the point of no return as far as critical anonymity is concerned.

Writing is not everything

Probably the most important thing I’ve learned is that while all this has been very exciting, the thing that gave me most pleasure this weekend was watching my 7-year-old play his first cricket match of the season and taking his first wicket. It put everything else into perspective.

 

 

Recommended Reads: Ravens Gathering by Graeme Cumming

Ravens Gathering

“Martin Gates left the village fifteen years ago because he didn’t belong any more. Now he’s back, and looking for answers. The problem is, no one wants to hear his questions. Well, maybe Tanya McLean, but she has an ulterior motive and her husband won’t like it.

I really enjoyed Ravens Gathering. Graeme Cumming captures perfectly life in a close-nit hamlet. When one of their own returns, strange things start to happen and it is the newcomer and outsiders that shoulder the blame, at least at first.

From the insular outlook, mistrust of outsiders and the ongoing friction between locals; everything has an air of authenticity about it. History weighs heavily on all, and it’s only during the second half of the book that you truly begin to understand why.

While the writing style is straightforward, Cumming likes to play tricks on his readers, meaning passages you thought you understood are revealed to have a different meaning later on. If, like me, you enjoy piecing a story together as you read and having your initial expectations confounded, you’ll enjoy Ravens Gathering.

 

Recommended reads are independently published books that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

Second Chance on Kindle: Free this weekend only

Second Chance

 

It’s taken three months and 90,000 words but I’m very happy to say that I have finally finished the first draft of the (as yet untitled) follow up to Second Chance. Rather than go off and drink a bottle of wine to celebrate*, I thought I’d like to share my joy as much as possible.

So for this weekend only, you can get the kindle version of my first book, Second Chance, free from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Yes, you read that right. You can get all 315 pages of my fast-paced futuristic thriller for free. But you have to move fast. The offer ends midnight Pacific Daylight Time (Los Angeles time for those who aren’t sure) 18th May 2014.

To whet your appetite, here are a few reader review highlights about Second Chance:

“A taut, fast-paced thriller set in the near future, Second Chance hardly gave me a single chance to catch my breath.” Amazon.com – 5 Stars 
“This is a highly enjoyable read – a real page-turner, which kept me guessing to the end” Amazon.co.uk – 5 Stars 
“Political intrigue, neuroscience, a missing-persons investigation–this well-written novel has it all.” Amazon.com – 5 Stars 
“The people-stories just pull you in. It’s clever, but not inaccessible.” Amazon.co.uk – 5 Stars

So what are you waiting for?

For people in the US, to get your free copy of Second Chance from Amazon.com click here

For people in Canada, to get your free copy of Second Chance from Amazon.ca click here

For people in the UK & Ireland,  to get your free copy of Second Chance from Amazon.co.uk click here

 

The offer starts at 0:01 am PDT on the 17th May 2014 and ends at 23:59 PDT 18th May 2014**.

* I may do this as well.

**Unless of course I’ve somehow screwed things up, which is a possibility.

An Indie Book: Second Chance by Dylan S Hearn

Another review, this time as a result of the Pay it Forward campaign!
I think it’s wonderful that more authors feel encouraged to try out the work of their peers, even in completely different genres, and are being pleasantly surprised by what they find!

51stories

51V6ZrL0YYL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_ I recently came across a blog post by Dylan Hearn in which he regretted the fact that so few Indie authors make the effort to read (and review) other Indie authors. I took him up on the challenge and downloaded his book Second Chance on my Kindle. That was actually a bit frightening because what if I simply didn’t like it and what would I do if I disliked it and couldn’t read the book? You know how it is.

Fortunately, my fears were completely unfounded. Even though I am not a big genre reader (except perhaps for spy, political thrillers and noir books) as you know, this turned out to be one of those books that have a strong story with a plot that holds together well and, more to the point, is also well written.

The book is classified as science fiction / cyber punk but might just…

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Why Hemingway was right

This quote more than any other kept me writing (source: www.redbubble.com)

This quote more than any other kept me writing (source: http://www.redbubble.com)

If you happen to walk past my house over the coming days you may hear the odd squeal of delight. No, not that sort of squeal. It’s just me getting excited because I’m coming to the end of the 1st draft of my sequel to Second Chance. The process has taken a little longer than I had expected, not because of any particular writing issues, just that life had a tendency to get in the way. There may also have been the odd moment of procrastination – some of them odder than others – but I was soon brought to heel by writers I have befriended, either through this blog or more recently through twitter. You know who you are and I can’t thank you enough for your support.

As is usual at this point of my writing process – listen to me, the experienced novelist with one whole book under his belt – I’m already thinking about what I’m going to change. Now this might come a surprise to some of you. In fact, I know it will due to a number of recent conversations I’ve had, mostly from writers starting out on their path.

“Why haven’t you already made the changes?” I hear you cry. “You haven’t finished your first draft yet, there’s still time.”

Well there are a number of reasons.

Disclaimer

What I’m about to tell you is something that works for me. Having spoken to other authors and having read plenty more texts on how to write, I believe it works for many others too. But it is not the way to write because there is no the way to write. The only way for you to write is the way that works for you; anything else is hot air.

When I write my first draft, all I’m worried about doing is getting the ideas out of my head. I’m not concerned about the prose, whether I have captured things well, if the dialogue is stilted or not or if I’ve committed any grammatical sins; all I want to do is tell the story. This doesn’t mean I’m not trying to write well, or I don’t think about what I’m writing. I’m not advocating a stream-of-consciousness methodology (unless of course you are a stream-of consciousness poet, in which case move along, nothing to see here). During my writing process there have been days where I feel I could crap gold, and other days where I’m convinced what I have written should never see the light of day, but unless I have trouble sleeping at night they are both kept as part of the first draft.

I haven’t always been this way. When I started writing would often spend days trying to perfect a single scene. I would become frustrated if I couldn’t find the exactly the right word and my writing would grind to a halt as I stubbornly refused to open a thesaurus. There were times where I would write a sentence, delete it, write it again then delete it once more. Then I read what Hemingway wrote about first drafts.

The strange thing was, I had heard from various quarters that with the first draft, you just needed to get it down. Don’t look back, just write. But I thought this was advice for new writers, for amateur writers, and I didn’t want to be an amateur writer, I wanted to be A WRITER. It all sounds a little ridiculous now, looking back. As far as process is concerned, there is no difference. It was only when I read what Hemingway wrote, that I realised the advice was universal.

So instead of searching for perfection first off I wrote the rest of my first draft without looking back, and it was only when I finished it that I learnt the reasons why this approach is so highly regarded:

You don’t know what your book is about until it is written

This may seem counterintuitive. Surely you know what the book was about before you start writing, especially if you are a planner like me. Before I wrote Second Chance I had certain themes that I wanted to explore and I thought that the first draft covered them well. The problem was, my brain had other ideas. Even though I thought I knew what the book was about, it was only once I had finished that I realised the core story was something else entirely.

What you thought was good may not be, but what you thought was bad may not be either

You remember me mentioning days where I thought I could crap gold? When I read back some of those scenes I was embarrassed with the prose. At the same time, there were scenes I had written and felt depressed afterwards where I got a pleasant surprise.  This is why it’s important not to get too hung up on what you have written in the first draft. It is very difficult to know what is good and bad at the time. By the time you have finished writing, a number of months (if you are lucky) or even years may have passed between your first written words and the last. Your thoughts on the story and your skill levels will have changed during that time. You need space to forget about the book for a while (which is why it is recommended that you leave it for a few weeks) so that you can look at it with fresh eyes. You’ll be surprised what you find.

But the most important part I learnt was:

It is during the editing process that your story and prose reaches its full potential.

When you go back to your book and start the edit, there will be scenes that need a light touch, others that need a hard prune and still others that may need ditching or re-writing completely. But you cannot do this, or at least I could not do this, until I had the context of knowing what the book was about and got to know each of the characters , and that couldn’t happen until that first draft was finished.

So instead of worrying, get the first draft down and enjoy the ride; the real work starts during the edit.

 

Recommended Reads: The Seneca Scourge by Carrie Rubin

Seneca Scourge

She may not know or remember this, but Carrie Rubin was one of the first people to encourage me during my writing adventure. I started following her blog – The Write Transition – around 18 months ago because it was warm, funny and contained lots of information on the ups and downs of writing a novel. She is nothing less than supportive to many people, which made me nervous about buying her book in case I didn’t like it. I’m glad I ignored those fears.

The Seneca Scourge is a great, fast -paced medical thriller, with a twist. The heroine, Dr Sydney McKnight, is asked to work with the eccentric Dr Casper Jones to fight what looks to be an deadly outbreak of a previously benign form of influenza. As the situation deteriorates, the behaviour of her partner raises different, more serious concerns.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a well written, easy read with characters you believed in and a plot that kept you guessing to the last. I was concerned to start off with with the amount of medical terminology but I needn’t have been; Rubin explained things in a way that any layman could understand. There is a point halfway through the book where the story takes a very different turn from the usual medical thriller but I urge you to go with it, because you will be well rewarded. Highly recommended.

You can buy the Seneca Scourge from Amazon.com here and from Amazon.co.uk here.

 

Recommended reads are independently published books that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

Recommended Reads: The Prying Game by David Palin

resource

If you found an old post-it note in a bush with a telephone number on it, would you call it? That’s the opening premise of The Prying Game, a wonderfully written novella by David Palin. It’s dark, erotic psychological thriller that twists and turns in unexpected ways. If you are looking for an intelligent page-turner with genuine surprises then this is the book for you.

You can by The Prying Game from Amazon.co.uk here and from Amazon.com here.

 

Recommended reads are independently published books that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.