Reedsy – the one-stop shop for writers?

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About eighteen months ago I wrote a post about a new startup, Reedsy, who were looking to develop a marketplace to bring authors and publishers together with the best editing, cover design and book marketing professionals. At the time I thought it was an intriguing idea, as indie authors were realising that for their books to be taken seriously they needed to be well-written, well-edited and have a professional cover but it was difficult to know where to find the best possible support. At the same time, I was concerned that this was yet another service looking to earn income from authors (and publishing professionals) without delivering any real value in return.

Since my last post, Reedsy has grown, developing it’s services and website, so I thought it was time to revisit what they offer.

Full disclosure: Ricardo Fayet, one of the founders of Reedsy, has read and given great reviews of my books. This has no impact on this post and I have never been requested to write anything about Reedsy. I also have not used the Reedsy marketplace to find a publishing professional but my editor offers his services via Reedsy.

What’s new?

Where the old Reedsy was pretty much the market place, allowing authors to search for marketing professionals and professionals to promote themselves, Reedsy now offer a lot more.

Learning

They have a series of free Live Videos where industry experts talk about specific topic (e.g. cover critiques, how to go about your second draft), all of which are really useful for a novice or experienced writer. They also offer a series of free courses on topics as diverse as how to build your writing routine to getting the most from Amazon’s algorithms. The best thing about these services are that you don’t have to be registered with Reedsy to take part (although the courses are via email so you do have to give you name and email address). Even if you don’t use any of Reedsy’s other services, these are well worth having a look at.

Book editor

Reedsy have also created a book editor, free software for you to use to write your novel. Because it is online, you can use it to collaborate with your editor and once complete it can create the final ebook or POD file for you. My thoughts on this are mixed. In function it is very similar to Scrivener – which I love – and the fact it is free makes it very attractive. However I have two concerns. First, by using this service you are tying yourself to Reedsy in the same way some of us are tied over time to Google or Apple products. I’d want to know how to access my files if I change my mind. Second is around the files themselves. Where are they stored? Who owns them? What happens if Reedsy goes bust? It’s not clear from the promotional page and I would want clear answers on these points if I was ever to think about using the service.

The market place

The market place has developed since I last looked from being predominantly editors and cover designers to now promoting PR, Marketing and Ghostwriting services as well. You can filter your search by the type of service offered and the genre they specialise in to help find the right person for you. What is noticeable is that there hasn’t been a significant rise is the number of professionals offering their services. For me, this is a good thing. It shows that Reedsy aren’t just trying to pull in numbers to make a quick buck but are

One thing that’s knew is you can see the response rate of the professional, so you know whether your enquiry will be looked at or not. It’s a nice addition but I’d still like to have some form of rating or feedback where verified users of the service can give feedback of their experience. I would also like to have some indication of an indicative price range as it’s difficult to tell initially whether you would be wasting your (and the service provider’s) time with an enquiry.

Summary

As an author, I like what Reedsy are doing and the way they are approaching the market. They appear to be in it for the long haul and are choosing quality over quantity, and are building up a portfolio of services to support authors and offer real value. While I don’t think their offer is perfect, if they continue in this manner they could soon become the one-stop shop for authors they’re aiming to be.

At the very least, I would recommend anyone interested in writing to check out their learning videos and courses, whether you are starting out and looking to develop your craft, or if you are an experienced writer looking to learn move about the intricacies of the trad or indie publishing scene. They cover a wide variety of topics and are delivered by market experts. Also, they’re free, so what do you have to lose?

On a personal level I’m lucky that I already have an editor and cover designer I enjoy working with, but if I was ever looking for a professional service, I would definitely look on Reedsy on top of my other searches.

What about you? Have you used Reedsy at all? Do you have any feedback you would like to share with us? I would love to hear from you.

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

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The guaranteed way to gain reviews

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Reviews, reviews, reviews. They are something an author both craves and fears. We are desperate for reviews, both as confirmation that what we’ve produced is liked – though I’ll let you into a little secret here, no matter how many great reviews you receive, you’ll never get rid of the thought that people are just being kind and not really telling you what they think – but also as a means to attract new readers. At the same time we’re terrified of reviews, especially early in our careers, in case they confirm our darkest fears that what we’ve created is illegible rubbish.

In my case, about a week after I published my first novel I became afflicted by a kind of desperation as I waited for somebody, anybody, to review my book. I couldn’t understand why everyone was taking so long. What was the problem? Didn’t they know how important reviews were? I ended up doing something I really don’t recommend you do: I hassled my friends and family in the hope they would write a review. Most didn’t – thankfully – but I used up a lot of good will during those early days which in some cases I’ve still yet to regain.

So, in order to help those of you who have either just published or are about to publish, I’m going to give you tips on how to increase your chances of receiving honest reviews of your work, activities I would advise you avoid, and then finally the one guaranteed method of generating reviews, although I’m not sure you’ll like the answer.

Before I get there though, I need to mention one thing. Nobody owes you a review. If somebody has bought you book, or even if they got it for free, the only expectation you can have of them is that they received it. If they read it, that’s even better, and if they review it, that’s fantastic. But don’t get angry if the vast majority of people don’t review your book. They don’t have to and are under no obligation to do so.

Ways to increase the number of reviews

1. Contacting book reviewers

Book reviewers are the most wonderful people in the whole world, as I mentioned in a previous blog post here. They take the time to not only read your work but to then review and promote it afterwards, all out of the kindness of their hearts. Most, however, are inundated with requests so don’t be surprised if they don’t take you up on your review request. It’s not personal, it’s just that they only have a limited amount of time and with so many people approaching them, they can be choosy about what to read.

This approach isn’t easy. It’s a lot of work investigating each reviewer, making sure they like the type of book you’ve written and reading some of their reviews before getting in contact. However, what you do know is that if they agree to read your book, you are guaranteed a review.

2. Offering a free book in return for a review

You’ll see at the end of this post that if you sign up to my mailing list, you can get one of my books for free. All I ask is that I receive an honest review in return. Again, this isn’t a guarantee of a review  – but some of those who receive the free book will uphold their end of the bargain and write a review.

3. Leaving a message at the end of your book

At the end of each of my novels I’ve written a polite message thanking the reader for reading, explaining the importance of reviews, and asking if they would be so kind to leave an honest review. I’ve seen a small uptick in reviews since doing this, not huge, but it has made a difference.

4. Reviewing other books

I’m not talking here about review swaps – which I’ll come to in a bit – but one of the side results of me reading other self-published authors’ books, and recommending the books I’ve enjoyed, is that some of those authors, and even the readers of these recommendations, have read my books in return. And some of those who read my books enjoyed them enough to reviewed them, not because I’ve asked, implied or demanded them to do so, but because they understand the value of reviews and are happy to do so.

5. Running free book promotions

I know some authors hate the idea of giving your work away, but when you are starting out the biggest challenge is not writing or publishing your book but being heard. I run occasional free promotions on Amazon and every time, within a few weeks, I receive new reviews. There is a  down side to this approach. The best reviews come from people who have researched your book and like the genre or subject matter. Free promotions are picked up by all sorts of people, so your book could reach the wrong readers and receive low scores because the book wasn’t to their taste.

Ways I wouldn’t recommend to generate reviews

1. Pestering friends

I’m not talking here of politely asking a friend when told they’ve read your book if they wouldn’t mind leaving a review when they get a moment. I’m talking about asking them every time yo see them, boring them with how important it is to you, leaving whiny, passive-aggressive posts on social media, and generally being a pain in the arse. As I mentioned earlier, nobody owes you a review. You need your friends for many better reasons than as a personal review factory. Leave them be.

2. Paying for reviews

Really, don’t pay for reviews. I can see the attraction – trust me, I’ve been tempted, especially early on. A simple google search reveals a number of ways to gain reviews. Any service that offers X number of reviews for X dollars should be avoided like the plague. They are against Amazon’s T&Cs and could lead to your book getting banned. Some book reviewers offer reviews for money. I can understand it from their perspective – they’re spending time and effort reviewing the book, why shouldn’t they get rewarded? But as a writer what you want are honest reviews, and even though the final review could well be impartial, there will always be a suspicion that the rating was bought, which will tarnish the rest of your legitimate reviews.

I wouldn’t even recommend paying for your book to be reviewed via a well-known legitimate source like Kirkus, not because I believe the review would be dishonest, but because there are better ways to spend the $400 it costs to promote your book.

3. Review swaps

At some point you will be asked by an author to review their book and they will review yours in return. It’s very tempting, I mean, what could go wrong? The problem with review swaps is that no matter how honest either party is, there is a pressure on you to be more positive than usual because you know that they will be reviewing your book in return. Even if you both write honest reviews, there will always be the suspicion that you haven’t. This is why I never take on reviews and only recommend books I’ve paid for and enjoyed.

And the one guaranteed method of receiving reviews is …

Time. If your do some or all of the things I recommend above over a long enough period of time, you will get reviews. They may not come as quickly as you wish or be as many as you’d like. They may not be as nice, or as in-depth, as you were hoping for, but the longer your book has been published, the more reviews it will receive.

I long ago realised that while I could take action to encourage people to review my books, I had no control over whether they did or not, so I stopped worrying about it. And do you know what? I’m a much happier writer because of it.

So what about you? Do you agree with what I’ve written? Are there any other methods you’re aware of that help generate reviews, or are you not bothered in the slightest? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

Overcoming author envy

Envy

The solitary nature of writing is both a blessing and a curse. Time spent alone is an essential part of creating art. You need the space to dream-up new and exciting ideas, to get to know your characters and to fully explore the best ways to express your story. But as we all know, there are times when we fill that space with thoughts that aren’t creative. Sometimes our thoughts can be downright destructive.

I don’t know a single writer that hasn’t suffered from author envy at one time. For some it’s the envy of authors who have published their book while they’re struggling to finish their own. For others it comes after publishing a book and seeing another author’s book constantly sell better than yours. Then there is the time when you’ve read a successful book and wonder why the frankly average novel is so popular while you’re having to fight for every single sale.

Unless you are one of the lucky publishing lottery winners to have instant success, there will come a time when the little green monster knocks at your door. This is natural. This doesn’t make you a bad person. Some writers use this envious streak as a spur to success. For others, this envy has devastating consequences, knocking their confidence and motivation, becoming their all-consuming focus. It’s at this point the solitary nature of writing becomes a curse.

I can’t claim to have the answer to author envy, but there are a few things I’ve learnt to do whenever the little green monster comes calling.

Don’t look at the outliers, look at the majority

It’s easy to look at author X or author Y and think that should be me. Most authors have dreamt of being as successful as Stephen King, JK Rowling or even EL James. At the same time we know these are exceptional cases, and that the majority of authors have nothing like the success of these outliers. The problems come when we look at authors similar to us, either those that write similar books or authors you’ve got to know personally or through social media. When one of these authors find success it’s natural to think, why not me?

The thing is, when you do this you’re focussing on the outliers. Most authors don’t have that level of success. There are millions of books for sale on Amazon and only a few thousand make it into the Top 100 genre lists each year. The vast majority of authors are in the same situation as you, working hard in the hope of making a living from their writing. Many of those few thousand successful authors were at one time in exactly the same position as you. The only difference between them and you is that they followed my next point.

Focus only on what you can control

There are many factors that influence whether a book is a success or not but you only control a handful. The things you control are:

  • Writing the best, most compelling story you possibly can.
  • Publishing it in the most professional manner possible (whether self-publishing or via a publisher).
  • Raising awareness of the book (although this is only partly in your control).

Everything else is out of your hands. You can’t change how people receive your work. You can’t change the success of others. You can’t change which books go viral or which trends become popular. You can’t change which books are picked up by agents and publishers and which are rejected.

Getting angry about a book you see as poor being successful only hurts you. Getting frustrated that you aren’t receiving good reviews – or even any reviews – only hurts you. Looking at a similar book being promoted through BookBub or ENT when they’ve passed on yours, only hurts you.

Envy is a natural and understandable reaction in each and every one of these situations. Authors put their heart and soul into their books, and it’s hard to understand why your book isn’t as successful as you’d hoped. But being envious of others, or of particular situations, sucks energy away from the things you can influence: writing the best possible book, publishing it in the most professional manner and raising awareness it exists.

You have no divine right to success. Nor does any other author. But by focussing on the things in your control, you give yourself the best chance of being successful. For everything else, it’s best to let them go.

Learn to celebrate the success of others

This is the biggest lesson of all and one that turns what is a negative situation into a positive. Publishing is not a zero sum game. The success of other authors has absolutely no impact on your own success. There are millions, possibly billions of people out there buying books. Even Stephen King or JK Rowling touch just fraction of this global readership. There is room for us all.

Instead of feeling envious of another’s success, celebrate it. Don’t see it as a personal slight, take comfort from the fact that people do find success. Use that fact to motivate you to keep going, to try harder. If you see an author have success, contact them and celebrate their success with them. Let them know how pleased you are because like you, they may have spent years, even decades to get to that point. Then channel that good feeling into your own work. Who knows, it could be the start of great things.

So what about you? Do you, or have you ever suffered from author envy? How do you overcome it? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

My starter motor

 

Writers block copy

Those of you who are regular followers of my blog may have noticed a paucity of posts over recent weeks. I could say it’s because I’ve been focussing on my latest book, and while this is partly true, it’s not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I’m still awaiting feedback from one of my beta readers for the last instalment of the Transcendence Trilogy before I can crack on with the next round of edits. While it’s frustrating is some respects I also completely understand the amount of time and commitment it takes to give quality feedback. Also, a part of me is happy to put off finishing the Transcendence Trilogy. It’s been a part of my life for over three years and while I know how the story ends, I’m not yet ready to hand my characters over to the world. I’m like a parent adjusting a child’s hair and correcting imaginary issues with their collar before they go into class for their first-day at school. I don’t want to let go. In the meantime I’m in the process of getting the cover developed as well as writing the promotional blurb ready for launch, but this hasn’t taken up all my time. I’ve also developed the outline of the book I plan to write next, which I’m very excited about, but this too has been finished for a while.

Then there is the fact I’m currently living on a building site. As a typical optimist I thought having a major extension to my house built would have little impact on my writing.

I was wrong.

It’s fair to say I’ve been distracted. It’s hard to write when the drilling downstairs is so loud that vibrations send your keyboard skittering across your desk. Then there are the times when I’d prefer not to be at my desk at all. While I appreciate the reassurances from my builders, I’d rather not be sat above a wall that’s being removed until somebody else proves there are enough acrow props in the right place to support my weight. Then there are the bills to pay, the daily conversations around progress, the ongoing worry about whether when the unusually warm weather will change to winter’s bite. And let’s not forget the ever-present dust.

Yet even though I’ve been distracted, if I’m totally honest the real reason you haven’t heard anything for a while is because that monster procrastination has sunk its teeth into me. With all the disruption I’ve lost the writing habit and found other things to fill the gap. Most of what I’ve already mentioned are excuses on why I can’t write, and in the classic self-hating way I know they’re just that, excuses, but have carried on wasting my time regardless.

I was asked the other day how an aspiring writer can move on to become a writer. The person in question said they’d loads of ideas for stories that they’d developed for years and had always wanted to write. How had I turned that into actually writing a book. I talked a bit about how some writers were plotters and some pantsers, I talked about the three-act structure, about developing your characters and knowing the world they live in. I talked about motivations and overcoming challenges to meet goals. But at the end I gave the blunt truth. The difference between aspiring writers and writers is that writers put in the work and aspiring writers don’t. It’s all about bum on seat time.

Exactly what I’ve not been doing.

So this post is my starter motor, the push I need to get me back into the writing habit so I can finish my novel and start another. It is the first step on the next stage of my journey, the slight glance I need to fall back in love. Wish me luck!

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

5 Things you learn when writing your second book

There have been lots of articles written about writing your first novel, both on how to do it and the struggle and sense of achievement when finally completing it. This is understandable. You only write one first novel and you are one of a select few who having started, manage to get to the end. But what of your second novel? What should you expect when starting book number two and how is it different from the first time? Here are my top five things I learned writing my second novel.

1 It is just as hard as the first but in different ways

Writing your first novel is a struggle because it is the great unknown. It’s like having a child; you knew in theory what to expect but the reality was so much more. So writing your second book should be easy, right? Unfortunately the answer is both yes and no. Some things are easier. You know what to expect, how much commitment is required and what to do during each stage of the writing process. But at the same time, each book is different and how you get your story onto the page can vary wildly depending on the idea, the characters, your chosen POV and many other factors. Some writers say there is no such thing as a second book, just another first one, and I have a tendency to agree. Even though my second novel was a sequel to my first, it was just as hard to write. And then there is the pressure of expectation to add to all the other challenges you face.

2 You have improved as a writer

The good news is that you have improved as a writer. Yes, you have. It may not be noticeable as you oscillate between the wild creativity and frustrating inertia of your new first draft, but when it comes to editing you should see a difference in the amount of effort needed to pull your book into shape. This isn’t always the case, especially if your first book was an idea that had been germinating for years and your second came from an “oh, shit, what should I do now?” thought after your first novel was finished, but most of us find that there are things learnt when writing the first novel around pacing, phrasing and characterisation which naturally incorporate into our writing process, improving the standard of our first draft.

Then, when it comes to editing, most of us have a clearer idea of what we should be doing and to what extent. Like many people I over-edited my first novel

3 You still have a lot to learn

Writing a book doesn’t automatically qualify you as an experienced author. It makes you a journeyman at best, a novice in most cases. What you’ve learnt with your first novel is how to write that particular story. You’ve picked up many skills along the way – you can see this by how much better your later chapters were compared to your first – but you’ve still only flexed a few of the writing muscles available to a writer. The best writers are always learning, always looking to improve. And then there is the ever-present challenge of how to write without resorting to cliché or stock phrasing. The bad news is, you’ve not made it as a writer, you’ve just started. The good news is that’s a wonderful situation to be in.

4 There are certain typos you will always make

Muscle memory is a funny thing. Once an action is learnt it is very hard to un-learn. When editing your second book you’ll soon notice old friends making an appearance, those same typos that riddled your first book coming back to say hello. If you haven’t already made notes of which typos you regularly make, I suggest you do it now, because these gremlins are guaranteed (that’s one of mine) to visit every manuscript you ever write and a quick ‘find and replace’ (not replace all, always check placement and context) of your document can save hours of frustration further down the process.

5 Once published, you find out your true audience

On publishing your second book your assumption is that your second book will sell at least the same number as your first book, with a bigger launch, because you already have a group of dedicated readers who can’t wait to find out what you’ve come up with next. This may be true if you’ve a thriving mailing list and are releasing your book only a few months after the first. In fact this is the reason why many people suggest you don’t publish book 1 when it’s finished but wait until you have three ready to go and publish them either all at once, or quickly after each other.

The reality for most of us (especially those of us self-publishing) is that the initial sales of our debut novel – especially at launch – came from friends or family either keen to support us or morbidly interested in what could be a car crash of a novel. Another segment of people who bought your novel are those who bought it because of the great cover, blurb, personal recommendation or reviews but found it not good enough to race out and buy the next one. That doesn’t mean they thought it terrible (although they might have) but it just wasn’t compelling enough that your next novel automatically pushed in front of every other book being released. Then you have the people who would be interested but you’ve failed to engage with so they’ve moved on to other things.

As with all these points, this may not apply to you, but don’t be surprised if your second book doesn’t initially sell as well as your first. It can be a frustrating lesson but the good news is that those readers that buy your second book are your true audience. They aren’t there for moral support (well, maybe a few) but they’re there because they’re genuinely interested in what you come up with next. As long as you continue to produce quality work, this group should remain with you every step of the way (although a mailing list helps), becoming the foundation of your (hopefully) ever growing readership.

So what about you? What lessons have you learnt that I’ve missed? Or is there anything I’ve written you strongly disagree with? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

Top 10 Books on Writing and Publishing

The best artist always looks to improve their craft, whether they are just starting out or have many years of experience. And for those of us who self-publish, we not only have to continually improve our craft, we also have to stay ahead of the game on how to publish and market our work. The good news is that there’s lots of advice out there. The bad news is that there’s lots of advice out there. Finding out what works for you can be difficult. I’ve read many books over the past few years, some were incredibly helpful, others less so.

The problem is that writing is a very individual task. Advice that works for one person will be useless for another. However, despite that I thought I’d share the books that have helped me the most, both with my writing and to help publish and market my books. I hope you find them as useful as I have.

 

Writing

You will notice I’ve not recommended On Writing by Stephen King. This isn’t because it isn’t useful (it is), but because everybody recommends it so if you haven’t read it by now, it’s unlikely you ever will!

Emotion ThesaurusEmotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman

This is an excellent book that helps a writer go from telling to showing. It lists a series of emotions and then lists examples of how it manifests physically, internally, the mental responses it provokes, cues to long-term exposure to the emotion and cues that somebody is suppression the emotion.

I found this incredibly useful when starting out and also after having written for a while and catching myself using the same phrasings on multiple occasions.

To buy The Emotion Thesaurus from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy The Emotion Thesaurus from Amazon.com click here

 

 

Self-editing for fiction writersSelf-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

This is a great, how-to guide on the steps to go through to edit your own work, whether to get it into shape before passing it on to an editor, or to go on to publish. It helped provided much needed structure when editing my first book and I still follow its principles today.

To buy Self-Editing for Fiction Writers from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Self-Editing for Fiction Writers from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

2kto10k2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron

Want to speed up your productivity? This book gives no-nonsense, concise and practical advice on how to improve your daily word count, with the added bonus of also going through the whole writing process to boot. I read it in an afternoon and it was probably the best afternoon’s read I’ve ever had.

To buy 2,000 to 10,000 from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy 2,000 to 10,000 from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

How not to write a novelHow not to write a novel by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark

This is a very funny guide to the many mistakes a writer can make when writing a novel. The book is split into sections on plot, character, style, perspective and voice, world building and selling your novel, with excellent made-up examples to demonstrate the points made. While reading this book can be occasionally painful (as in, “my God I do that”) it is always helpful and never patronising.

To buy How not to write a novel from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy How not to write a novel from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

bird by birdBird by Bird by Anne Lamott

While this book gives good advice, its real strength lies in the very successful Lamont’s openness about her insecurities and fears about her own writing (even now), and the struggles she underwent before becoming successful. By the end you’ll be reassured that the doubts you have about your writing abilities are completely natural.

To buy Bird by Bird from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Bird by Bird from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

Publishing

Digital2Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran

In this newly revised book, Gaughran rakes you through the nuts and bolts of how to self-publish with clear instruction that anybody could follow. It then moves on to how to market your book, and ends with a series of stories from self-published authors who started with nothing and went on to become a success. Then, if that wasn’t enough, come a series of appendices including checklists leading up to and post-publishing, how to set up mailing lists, advice on how to create paperback books and specific support for authors of short stories. If you are serious about self-publishing, you should own this book.

To buy Let’s Get Digital from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Let’s Get Digital from Amazon.com click here

 

 

Lets get visibleLet’s Get Visible by David Gaughran

The follow up to Let’s Get Digital, in this book Gaughran provides clear, concise advice about how to give your book the best chance to be seen through knowledge of Amazon’s search and ranking systems. I used this book extensively when setting up my novels on Amazon and it helped me both understand how Amazon rankings worked as well as made sure I avoided any pitfalls that could have had my books disappear into the black hole of oblivion.

To buy Let’s Get Visible from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Let’s Get Visible from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

cover-write-publish-repeat-finalWrite, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B Truant

This book was an eye-opener. The good news is that it provides a great guide on the best (but not guaranteed) way to build a self-publishing career. The bad news is that there are no short cuts and no magic beans. It’s all down to working hard, treating writing as a job and producing lots of high quality content.

To buy Write, Publish, Repeat from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Write, Publish, Repeat from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

10 step plan10 Step Plan to Promote Your Book: Online Book Marketing on Any Budget by Scott Hughes

This book is a quick and easy guide to book promotion. The steps are clearly described and achievable – although step 1 is by far the hardest one of all. The only step I would query is around guest blogs, only because from my experience and the feedback of many other authors, it doesn’t deliver the results that other activities do for the same amount of work. However, this is just one small gripe. There is a little bit of self- (or should I say website) promotion in the book but I have no problem with that considering it was free. Overall, a good simple guide, especially useful for those starting on the self-publishing path.

To buy 10 Step Plan to Promote Your Book from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy 10 Step Plan to Promote Your Book from Amazon.com click here

 

 

your first 1000 copiesYour first 1000 copies by Tim Grahl

This book is all about marketing your book and gives a step-by-step guide to establishing a connection system which will help you sell your first 1000 books. The steps are straightforward but as with many other books I’ve read, a lot of it is down to hard work. However, for the serious self-publisher, this book is a must.

To buy Your first 1000 copies from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Your first 1000 copies from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

Recommended Reads: The Pennsylvania Omnibus by Michael Bunker

 Pennsylvania Omnibus

The Description

Young Amishman Jedidiah Troyer is now a traveler. He’s signed up for an emigration program that is colonizing the planet of New Pennsylvania. He just wants to start a farm and homestead on affordable land in a new Amish community. Space pioneering isn’t as easy as it sounds when you’re “plain.” Jedidiah and his new friend Dawn arrive on New Pennsylvania in the middle of a rebel uprising, and TRACE, the resistance group that is rising up against TRANSPORT, has taken on the mission of getting Jed from the City to the Amish Zone. Being a stranger in the old world doesn’t even compare to being a stranger in a new world… a world that is at war and where nothing is what it seems.

The Review

This is a book I kept bumping into on Amazon and I was intrigued by the premise, an Amish science-fiction novel had to be worth a look. I wasn’t wrong.

Jedidiah Troyer is leaving home to set up a new life on another planet, New Pennsylvania. But stepping out from the comfort of a life and community he knows so well becomes the least of his challenges as he finds himself accused of breaking the law before his journey even begins.

I really enjoyed the Pennsylvania Omnibus on a number of levels. The story is well written and I was continually left bamboozled as Bunker skilfully revealed each plot twist, especially in the opening third of the book. There are twists and turns galore and even when you think you have a grip of what is going on, Bunker is happy to pull the rug from under your feet once again.

However, the thing I liked most about the book was the culture clash of viewing a futuristic world through the eyes of somebody who has lived in a culture virtually unchanged in centuries. This juxtaposition of a world view based in the earth and a simple life meeting the challenges of a hi-tech virtual world is fascinating and gives the novel unique flavour.

There are occasions where the book is let down by its original episodic structure, with cliffhangers at the end of a chapter only to be quickly resolved on the next page, but overall this is an excellent book and one I highly recommend.

 

To buy The Pennsylvania Omnibus from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy The Pennsylvania Omnibus from Amazon.com click here

 

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – 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.

My recent promotion – the results

Two Covers

If you’re a regular follower of this blog you’ll know I ran a promotion over the weekend for both Second Chance and Absent Souls and I wanted to share my results with you.

Background

Outside of blogging and the rare promotional tweet, up until June this year I’ve rarely run a book promotion. Second Chance was published in January 2014 and has stayed in the minor charts on amazon.co.uk ever since. Its sequel, Absent Souls, was published November 2014. There is a third book due out later this year (if I pull my finger out).

I’ve been lucky that I’ve had success with both books on Amazon.co.uk but my efforts of getting noticed in the US have been virtually zero. This is bad news for my sales (the US is by far the largest single ebook market) but good news for testing promotional effectiveness.

I’m not intending to heavily promote my books until book 3 of the trilogy is finished but I wanted to test the effectiveness of different forms of advertising beforehand to see where to focus. I ran my first paid ad in June this year through Booksends, offering Second Chance for free. At the same time I put Absent Souls on a 99c/99p countdown deal. Over the three days Second Chance was downloaded 1000 times and I should enough copies of Absent Souls to cover my costs. While my sales on amazon.com since then have been flat, my pages read (both my books are in Kindle Unlimited) resulted in a higher income than before but were starting to tail off after two months.

The Goal

As in any business, your book promotion should have a goal. My goal was to increase awareness of my two books on Amazon.com, gain new mailing list subscribers and to cover the cost of advertising. I would also hope to see an increase (read: any) in sales and/or pages read over the following weeks.

Promotion Plan

Use the same offer, Second Chance for free and Absent Souls for 99c/99p over three days.

Day 1 – Promote only on my blog, a promotional post by the wonderful author Tammy Salyer, and one or two promotional tweets.

Day 2 – Two adverts placed, one with Ereader News Today (ENT) and the other with Robin Reads. I’d originally planned to promote only with ENT but I’d heard Robin Reads had a good UK following, and as they had a space free I thought I’d try them as well. The cost of both came to the same amount as the cost of the one promotion with Booksends.

Day 3 – No promotion other than the odd tweet.

The Results

IMG_3394Day 1228 downloads of Second Chance.

This was a surprise as I’d expected maybe 50 with so little promotion, so thank you to everybody who took the time to support the promotion with tweets, reblogs or by telling their friends.

Day 21830 downloads of Second Chance.

Because both mailing lists are US based, the first (Robin Reads) didn’t go out until 3pm UK time. I immediately noticed an upsurge of downloads at this point, from around 30 to over 300 by the time the ENT mailing went out at 5:30pm UK time. This is when things went crazy. By the end of the day I’d reached no.2 in the free science fiction/cyberpunk charts, no.8 in the science fiction charts and had broken into the overall top 100 at no. 65. This was well beyond my wildest expectations and a little surreal.

The down side was that I made hardly a ripple on amazon.co.uk, so either the information about Robin Reads was incorrect, or the majority had already bought my book. 🙂

Day 3385 downloads of Second Chance

Over the same period Absent Souls hit no. 13,000 in the overall paid charts, with total sales more than covering the costs of the promotion.

Conclusion

It’s always a little dangerous drawing conclusions from such little data, however it’s clear promoting on two mailing lists was more effective than one. I know this may sound like common sense but remember I paid the same amount of money for the June promotion and the one last weekend.

I also believe you need momentum for a successful promotion. The promotion in June met my goals but it only got Second Chance into the top 50 of the Science Fiction charts. Breaking into the top 10 of science fiction, and the top 100 overall, meant Second Chance was visible to a much larger audience, giving it a second chance (no pun intended) to be seen and downloaded by readers other than those on the mailing list.

For the longer term goals it’s too early to say. I know from Kevin Brennan’s blog earlier this year, that high free downloads doesn’t automatically mean higher sales, but even if I don’t reach this goal as yet, I’ve learnt another lesson on the effectiveness of different promotional options and strategies.

What about you? If you’re a writer, which promotional routes do you find most effective? Or if you’re an avid reader, have you signed up to any bargain book mailing lists and if so, which ones? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

10 Reasons you stop writing your book and why to ignore them

Writers block copy

There isn’t a writer alive that hasn’t stopped writing, whether as a planned break or simply because they got out of the habit. It’s happened to me in the past and I’m sure it will happen again in the future. When it does, we often come up with excuses as to justify why we’ve stopped writing, but the majority of the time that’s all they are, excuses. The trick is recognising them for the lies they are and dealing with them. Here are the ten most common reasons people stop writing and why you should ignore them.

1 Your writing isn’t very good

You’ve just read back what you’ve been slaving over for the past few weeks/months and are horrified at how poor it is, so much so you’re questioning whether you’re a writer at all. I’ll let you into a little secret, every writer does this. OK, there may be a couple who write perfect prose straight off but we don’t talk to them. The key to being a productive writer is allowing yourself to write badly. We all write lumpen prose and stilted dialogue at times, as well as falling back on clichéd descriptions. This is alright because we know we can fix anything during the edit. So go ahead, stop worrying and get back to your writing.

2 You’re tired

Most of us have other jobs or roles which leave us drained at the end of the day. The most productive writers know this and either change their routine to compensate (by writing first thing in the morning for example) or learn to write tired. Unless you are lucky enough to be a full-time writer you need to find a regular slot you make your own and get into the habit of writing then. It will be hard at first but if you do it on a regular basis you will soon get used to it.

3 You’ve fallen out of love with the story

This can be a tough one. You started out writing your story with a fire and passion for the new but somewhere along the way you’ve fallen out of love with the story, possibly even questioning whether it’s any good. This is a normal reaction. A writer’s emotions vary wildly during the writing process. It’s important to recognise this and work through the down times. When this happens to me I have a number of ways to rekindle the fire. I’ll read back the start of the story to capture some of that initial passion. I’ll also switch to writing a scene I’ve been looking forward to. I’ll also stop writing win the middle of a scene I’ve been enjoying so I can’t wait to get back to it the next day.

4 You’ve written yourself into a hole

This can happen to any writer but especially to those who prefer to free write rather than follow a plan. Finding yourself in a hole can be really deflating because once you’ve written something your brain automatically tells you this is ‘how the story is, how it was and how it will always be.’ This is nonsense. You have full control over your story. You can do anything with it. If you’ve written yourself into a hole, go back to a point where just before it went bad and change it. Throw in something new, something unexpected. Don’t get disheartened, use it as an excuse to play around with things and be creative. You’ll soon find your story moving again.

5 The imposter syndrome

You’ve been writing for a while but you’ve realised you’re not really a writer so you’re giving up. It could be because of a bad review, some feedback you’ve received about your manuscript or just the way your friends smirk when writing is mentioned, but no matter how much encouragement you’ve had from others, there’s this nagging voice in the back of your mind telling you you’re faking it. You aren’t a real writer. Some point soon you’ll get found out for the imposter you are, writers everywhere will point at you and laugh and all the doubters will be proven right.

You aren’t alone.

Nearly all writers suffer from the imposter syndrome, from award-winning novelists to newbies. And it’s a good thing. Rather than let it crush you, harness these doubts about your own ability to fuel the desire to improve, to never settle with where you are but learn and get better.

6 You don’t have the time

When I was younger I thought my day was full. Then I took on evening classes and realised my day hadn’t been full at all, it was just an illusion. I had plenty of time, I just didn’t use it effectively. Then I had children and realised doing evening classes was a breeze in comparison. I’d thought time was tight before but boy was I wrong. Everybody has time to write, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. The question is never if you have time but what are you prepared to give up to free up your writing time.

7 You’ll do it later/tomorrow

You’re going to write, sure you are, but not today. Today you’ll catch up with that boxed-set you’ve been watching, or finish polishing the family silver. Tomorrow will be your writing day. And when tomorrow comes, there’ll be another reason to delay getting back to writing.

You’ll do it tomorrow is one of the most insidious excuses for not writing because you genuinely believe it to be true, yet how often have you said this only to find that two weeks later you’ve still not written a thing. If you can find time to write tomorrow you can find time to write today, it’s a simple as that.

8 It’s a pain

Writing is a real pain, especially when you move from the lovely, free-flowing creative part into the painstaking grind of the edit. If writing was easy, everybody would do it. But you’re not everybody, you’re a writer. You’re don’t do this because it’s easy, you do it because you want to tell your story. The main reason people stop is not because the work is hard but because there is so much to do. They can’t see the finish line, just a seemingly endless pile of work that’s stopped being fun. The thing is, there’s no time limit to writing a book. It takes as long as it takes. Instead of worrying about how much there is to do, simply do. Then look back after a week, a month, and see how much you’ve achieved. You’ll be amazed.

9 The muse isn’t with you

For those of you who have a job other than writing, I dare you to go to your boss/business partner and let them know you won’t be working today because the muse isn’t with you. If you’re lucky, they’ll just laugh in your face. The most productive writers treat writing as a job. They sit down whether they feel creative or not. They learn to grind out words on the bad days and enjoy the rush on the good days. If writing as a hobby by all means sit back and wait but if you want to be a writer you need to treat writing like any other job by turning up and putting in the hours.

10 A fire has destroyed your home and all your belongings

OK, I’ll let you off this time, but you could always borrow a pen and a notepad to record just how you feel and use what you’ve written to fuel your next blockbuster!

So what about you? Do you recognise any of these or are there others I’ve missed? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

WritersLife Wednesday – Blogging to Build an Author Platform

This is a great counter-argument to my post yesterday. I think my central premise still holds, that there are easier ways to sell books than through blogging, but the post offers a number of good points why you shouldn’t write-off blogging as a sales tool entirely.

Author Amie Gibbons

cropped-img_0884.jpg

I ran across a post today on how blogs aren’t as great for building an author platform as they are made out to be.  It’s here: https://authordylanhearn.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/there-are-easier-ways-to-sell-books-than-through-blogging/

I’m here to offer the counterpoint.  Now, this writer is completely correct in saying you should blog because you want to and not just because you are told you are supposed to.  If you don’t want to do it and you’re forcing it, odds are the readers can tell.

But I think he’s underestimating the power of blogging the right way (or at least the way I got from my friend Peter Grant)  

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