10 things I have learned whilst promoting my novel

  1. Advertising works, even when you are not getting clicks. Spend sixty dollars on a Goodreads campaign and play with the text every now and then to test the traction. Link straight to your retailer page – you want people be directed to where they can buy your book. If they click, the fund goes down. If they don’t, they’re seeing the cover of your novel, even if they’re  not directly looking at it. Thousands of people will see your book advertisement each month. Never underestimate the power of the familiar subconscious.
  2. Get on Goodreads. Without Goodreads my novel would be sitting sadly on Amazon, all alone, with two or three reviews. Granted, it only has six now but lots of people are seeing it through my regular giveaways and over 1,400 people have added it to their ‘to read’ list. That means something, right?
  3. With reference to the above, run regular giveaways. Just list one copy of your book, make the eligibility worldwide and let it run for a couple of months. Then when a winner is chosen put the next one up. It’s not exactly free advertising but it’s pretty cheap advertising – your book is being continuously advertised in the giveaway section. People’s friends will see when they enter thus spreading the word.
  4. Tweet! I do not Tweet nearly enough, but I try. If you’re doing giveaways or Kindle Countdown Deals let the users of social media know. Make a Facebook event, mention it in blogs, email group organisers on Goodreads and (responsibly) ‘spam’ the relevant folders in the forums. Just let readers know what’s happening, when; and share your excitement about your book as often as you can.
  5. It seems to be the thing for authors to follow five thousand people on Twitter in order to get five thousand people to follow them back. Except at some point they start to unfollow those five thousand people to make themselves look established. If they’re all doing it, it probably works, but it’s entirely false. Mostly they’re all just DMing each other asking one another to read their currently free book (yes, I know they’re probably selling more novels than me).
  6. Time is money, money is time. Do you have the money to splurge £500 on your latest advertising campaign? Can you pay for verified reviews from top reviewing/endorsement agencies? No? Do you have 36 hours a day to make the posters and find the reviewers/endorsers yourself? No? Do you have the money to get someone else to do it all for you instead?
  7. Promotion is time consuming and time spent not writing, but it works. 17 ratings on Goodreads may seem a low amount to most authors (shh, I’m going somewhere with this), but there are plenty of self-published (and agency-published) books out there that go their whole first year without. one. single. review. Oh, the horror.
  8. Visual aids help even the most learned of readers. Have a promotion? Then declare: FREE EBOOK! Now let’s try something more visual:

    FREE EBOOK!

    Slightly more eye-catching? no?

  9. Free ebook giveaways are better than discounted ebook sales. Whilst this is true for unknown authors like myself, someone like J. K. Rowling would probably benefit more from a discounted ebook giveaway bonanza. When I ran my Kindle Countdown deal with a discount on my novel, I achieved a grand total of 3 downloads. Better than none, obviously, and those people are probably more likely to leave a review. When I ran the free equivalent I got over 500 downloads. Have any of those people read my novel yet? There’s no way to tell. But it got me in the top five of the Arthurian books category for a couple of days at least (side note: Harry Potter is NOT ARTHURIAN!).
  10. Try to keep up with your social media appearances. Homely images of your novel next to coffee on Instagram will draw attention, or pen a declaration of how actively you are living the life of a writer. Share something like: New ideas for new scenes today. Writing from the heart, with a picture of you gazing out of a coffeeshop window. I haven’t tried it yet, but I see other people posting such stuff on Instagram and they get more likes than me, so they must be doing something right.
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Free Giveaway! 5 signed copies!

The first snow of the year has fallen, my 27th birthday has passed, and the weekend is nearly over. Oh, how Mondays seem 5 to 7 of the normal week! The reviews are starting to arrive for The Future King: Logres on the various hosting websites (mostly positive), and they’re highlighting (quite naturally) just how subjective this whole reading business really is. With various other commitments dominating my schedule, I feel I’ve failed to really get a good chunk taken out of the task of writing book two, but am comforting myself with the knowledge that much of my creative process involves a short waiting period, one in which I wait for a particular scene or chapter to bubble away in my head until it feels ‘done’.

With the excitement of my ebook giveaway over, now comes the lull in which sales and shares drop slightly. Both will pick up again, I’m sure, but I’m not one for sitting and waiting if I feel I can be doing something constructive (mind-scene-bubbling counts as constructive too, by the way, just not immediately productive). Presently I’ve been wasting my time running about Middle Earth as a Warg warg11 warg11 (I know, I know), but today I’ve also prepared my next trick: a free hard-copy giveaway (signed, five to be exact) of The Future King: Logres, on Goodreads.

This won’t be open for entry until the 1st of February (I had to list it at least seven days in advance for some reason), but once the giveaway is available all you have to do is click ‘enter giveaway‘. I’ve even put a handy Widget in the sidebar for your convenience, so there’s no excuse for you not to enter. All you need to do is supply your address to Goodreads if you win, and then I’ll post you a nice crisp copy of The Future King: Logres, personally signed by me, the author.

book12

Meanwhile I’m trying to get the start of the second instalment right. It picks off right where it left off, in the middle of the action, and I’m aiming to ensure that Volume II is much faster-paced than Volume I with much higher stakes. I’m excited about continuing to develop my characters, who are essentially still growing into their ultimate roles, and am particularly excited about unravelling some of the key twists (some my entirely own, and some slightly more inspired by the Arthurian legends).

Mostly as I await more feedback about how people are finding The Future King: Logres (trying not to page-stalk my own stats too much), I’m just hoping that people are actually enjoying reading it more than anything else. Naturally, I’ve been taking note of any feedback and have been creating a bulleted list. Do I agree with what the reviewer has said? Are other readers saying the same thing? Yes? No? Partly? I’m sure a seasoned author will tell me to avoid reading your own reviews, or to perhaps avoid worrying too much about them, and though the book you write should firstly be written for yourself – if you enjoy it, that’s the main thing – it’s also meant to be enjoyed by others and interpreted, and perhaps someone might give you a point for improvement that (when you think about it), might make a little bit of sense.

Or not. You may disagree entirely. Such is the nature of taste. It is, quite naturally, entirely subjective.

 

10 things I have learned whilst exporting to Kindle

  1. There are many more file types than I thought. .rtf, .htm, .epub… but it’s .mobi that you want. According to Amazon, .mobi is the one.
  2. Making your book available on Kindle isn’t as straightforward as it seems. A quick conversion of your .pdf, and then you’re done? So. I. thought.
  3. Actually, the above requires a) removing all formatting from your original Word document that you exported for print, b) keeping any formatting as simple as possible, c) exporting your Word document as a .htm/.html file, d) running said .htm file through a converter, e) downloading Amazon’s Kindle previewer, f) downloading Amazon’s Kindle reader because the previwer doesn’t preview well, g) realising that your document hasn’t exported quite as you would like and, h) running through all the former to try and suss out where you went wrong.
  4. Oh, and on top of that you’ll read all sorts of blogs and tips about what you shouldn’t do (i.e., forcing a certain font type on your text), but do them anyway, because firstly you don’t know how not to do it, and secondly ‘Normal style’ completely undermines any alternative fonts you have made use of in your book (who doesn’t like Garamond, anyway?).
  5. At several moments, in desperation, you will break from your formatting to look into companies and services which promise to do all the hard work for you.
  6. You will bemoan, ‘but I just want it to look like a book!’. Specifically your book, which you just spent months perfecting in print.
  7. It comes to your attention at some point that perhaps you should have sorted out your Kindle file first, before your book launch, but then you remember that Createspace and Amazon told you that it would be easy.
  8. Perhaps this is easy, you then think, as you export your book for the third time wondering why your TOC (that you made in Word, as you were told), still isn’t working. Why? Why?
  9. After downloading independent software to export your book to .mobi for you, you realise that it is the conversion itself that has broken your TOC, and that you could have just edited your .htm document in Dreamweaver in the first place to fix all the links and the formatting issues instead.
  10. You find random things in the block of your book text (like a hyphen between two paragraphs) and then think, God, has that always been there…? then don’t want to look to double check just in case it is (you’ll do it later, or forget, or a reader will find it for you).

10 things I have learned whilst proof reading

  1. Unless you are a professional proof reader, it is inevitable that you will always miss something (but then I wonder, do professional proof readers miss things too?).
  2. It is surprising how one can read a manuscript multiple times, catching double-spaces, incorrectly formatted dashes and dots, missing words, extra words, and yet on the hundredth read discover an entirely overlooked error – in my case missing speech marks at the end of some lines.
  3. Relying on speech & dictation to catch things for you is a very useful method (particularly for spotting typos) – but it is not to be relied upon 100%. Only yesterday my reader Alex decided to add ‘that’ into my sentence. Clearly he thought the sentence was better with an extra demonstrative pronoun.
  4. A formatted manuscript is much easier to spot mistakes in than a non-formatted manuscript. I suppose it’s the increased space between lines, the fewer words per page, or something.
  5. Fewer words per page and a smaller page size means that you’ll have twice as many pages to proof read, yet somehow because of this the whole task seems to go faster (120 pages per day! Woo!).
  6. Knowing when to stop proof reading is a real issue. How many times do you go through it? With each change lies the potential for fresh mistakes. What if you have a blind spot to the difference between her and his? You meant his, but you typed her. You might not see you typed her until your book is already in print.
  7. I suppose the above is why I am asking friends and family to read through my manuscript for me (trusting, of course, in their superior ability to sense typos in a sentence – much like those who sense a formidable, horrible disruption when one digit is off in pi – can you? 3.141592653589793238462643383279
    50288419716939937510582097494459230781640628620899862803482
    534211706798214808651328230664709384460955058223172535940812
    848111745028410270193852110555964462294895492038196442881097
    56659334461284756482337867831652712019091456485).
  8. The fear of releasing one of those books that we’ve all come across – when you’re on page seven, and a word is missing, or wrong, or repeated – is quite possibly irrational, but also very real.
  9. Don’t try to proof read if you’re tired or hungry. Unless you’re in the right frame of mind whilst reading, you will approach the end of the chapter with the feeling you have not done as well as you could have, and then resign yourself to combing through the same pages again later, when you’re feeling a little less useless.
  10. With all the above taken into consideration, a novel can always be amended to fix any overlooked errors. After all, we all know that’s what editions are really for, right?

10 things I have learned whilst formatting a book in MS Word

  1. Apparently, if you’re going to be making changes to your book after formatting, MS Word is your best choice as it’s easier to edit content. That, and InDesign is just scary if you don’t know how to use it at all, really – so what hope would one have when it comes to formatting a whole novel?
  2. You’ll probably start with a font size which will make your book seem shorter. But then you’ll change the page size, line spacing and margins, and suddenly your book will seem longer. Much longer. Not good if you’re self publishing and more pages=less profit.
  3. It is surprising how bookish your book will look with only the things mentioned in (2) formatted. Because yes, surprisingly, there is more. Once you do get to the ‘more’ part, MS Word will start to seem like a living, thinking thing that does illogical things just to annoy you. This sense of working with a living, thinking thing will not deter you from insulting it frequently with all kinds of profanities, however, and you will feel no guilt in doing so.
  4. If you’re a first time self-publisher and have no experience in publishing, well, anything, you’ll inevitably have to refer to other (more traditionally published) novels to figure out what yours should look like. This is useful, and you should do it. Pick one book you like the look of and use it as a point of reference. Preferably something from your genre. After all, you don’t want your crime-thriller looking like erotic fiction (though if it’s all about tension anyway, what’s really the difference?).
  5. Referring back to point (3). You will format, you will think you are done, and then you will notice something that isn’t as it should be. For example, paragraphs breaking on the next page, thus giving you uneven line-to-page frequency. (Tip: if you have this problem, uncheck window/orphan control in format/paragraph for the whole document to fill your pages completely with lots of lovely prose). There will be other things, but at least you will feel accomplished when you fix them.
  6. Even if you do the above and check off window/orphan control, if you have inserted chapter dividers that look fancy, this will knock off your layout on your lovely new-chapter pages. Still trying to figure out how to fix that one without simply changing the font size of the empty line above said fancy chapter dividers (because, somehow, that seems crude).
  7. Headers and footers are important – format them well! Choose ‘different odd/even pages’ and make sure you mirror your margins through format/document. This does something else to make it look more bookish. From looking at various books I have determined that authors usually have their name on the even page and the title of the book on the odd page.
  8. Inserting Section Breaks is an absolute nightmare. Seriously, first you figure out that you’re supposed to inset a Section Break relative to whether it’s an odd page or an even page, then you figure out how to get the page numbers to start at ‘1’ on the fourth actual page, and then you realise through exporting to PDF that each new Section Break has skipped a page number and thus created a ‘phantom page’ with nothing on it before every chapter in your document. Huzzah.
  9. Confident in all the abilities you have learned (as listed above), you calmly go through the document to rectify the problem, only to have one Section Break change reset all the others into a paradoxical chaos of wrong numbers and jumps and gaps where your book is suddenly longer or shorter than it actually is (but not really, hence the number-paradox).
  10. You fix the above (9) without screwing everything else up. But you’re still editing or there’s a few things left to change. You now wish you had finished the final draft before even attempting formatting, because you’re terrified the slightest change might destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Who knows? Maybe a paragraph more or less will confuse everything and you’ll be stuck undoing everything you’ve done in order to redo it properly. Let’s hope not.

10 things I have learned whilst making a book cover

  1. Pre-existing book covers are your friend. Look at them, examine them and focus on studying books in your genre, but don’t be too disappointed if your self-publishing platform doesn’t support the trim size you inevitably fall in love with as a result (five by seven, five by seven!).
  2. Make sure the cover correlates with the interior feel of the actual novel (and then dance about celebrating your own brilliance when you think of something that looks really cool).
  3. Having twenty layers live at once in Photoshop will destroy your computer. No, really. The fan on mine has just… died, or something.
  4. After spending four hours trying to align font at the bottom of your page to font at the top of your page, your eyes will go funny and everything will look wonky anyway.
  5. The longer you stare at the block colour red, the more it begins to look like some whacky gradient.
  6. Apparently due to variations in book binding the artwork for the cover will sometimes end up on the spine, and spine on the cover. You will be advised to avoid sharp lines and complex patterns, so naturally use them anyway.
  7. You should (and probably will) print out your book cover and wrap it around some other less important novel just to see what it looks like on a bookshelf (mighty good, I tell you).
  8. An actual, real life plastic ruler can be very helpful when determining layout spacing on your screen for the less technically gifted of us.
  9. Asking (non-graphic designery) people their opinion on your artwork can be confusing. Just focus on the things they agree on, and ignore anything they don’t.
  10. Making a book on a template before you have your final page count is just asking for trouble. You think you’re finished, then a last-minute cut adds or subtracts a page or two. New spine thickness, new document! Yeah!

10 things I have learned whilst searching for a literary agent.

  1. The Artists and Writers Yearbook is a must, but with my copy harking from 2013, I have discovered the internet to be just as useful.
  2. At first you apply to three agencies simultaneously, having heard the stories. Then five at once. Then eight at a time. When you start to fear they may all reject you, you begin to wonder how long you should wait until starting from number one again.
  3. Time is slow when you have queries pending, which (assuming you adopt the above) is always.
  4. Checking your emails seven times a day does not make time go faster.
  5. A request for a full manuscript will always fill you with joy.
  6. A rejection after a request for a full manuscript amends your expectations to ‘best case’ and ‘worst case’ scenario. The ‘worst case’ scenario is that you will receive an unaccompanied ‘no’. The ‘best case’ scenario is that you will get some usable feedback.
  7. The gratitude you feel when you finally do get tailored feedback is boundless. Agents are busy, we all know, which makes this feedback all the more valuable when someone does find the time to give it to you (thank you, really).
  8. Rejections pass like unusually-shaped clouds. At first they are something to point out, but soon they go unnoticed.
  9. Silence from an agent after a query is no reflection on you, but on the time they have spare to respond. Don’t take it personally.
  10. Despite the above, finding an agent who loves your work as much as you do is still a viable and possible dream. Worrying about what to do should two agents ask to represent you may be premature, but it is an inevitable fantasy.