New cover reveal for FRY!

25 Sep

FRY ebook

 

 

As much as I liked the old cover for FRY, I didn’t feel it really fit the psychological thriller genre as well as it could so I decided to update it. I wanted a cover that would be more appealing to my target audience, namely women, and would show more clearly that FRY is a psychological thriller, and not a horror novel.  The the new cover, courtesy of Grafire Studio.

Have you changed any of your book covers? Do you think it’s made any difference to your sales?

Creating an audiobook with ACX

13 Jul

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The audiobook version of my debut novel, FRY comes out later this year and I’m really excited!

If you are interested in making an audiobook of your self-published book, I recommend you give ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) a try. The process is quite straight forward. I posted a description of FRY, along with an excerpt and details of my review rankings on ACX and waited to see if any narrators would be interested in producing my audiobook. ACX offer you the option of paying the narrator a fee, so that you as the author can keep all the profits, or else you can go 50-50 with the narrator and share the profits. I found the second option more appealing as it means you don’t have to invest any money up front. It also means that you and the narrator have an equal interest in the project’s success, which can only be a good thing.

I’d love to say that the offers came flooding in straight away, but I didn’t get much interest for the first few days, until I received a message from ACX to tell me that they had awarded my book a stipend. This meant that on top of the 50-50 profit split, my narrator will be paid for each hour of finished recording time, up to £2,500 dollars. This is when the auditions and messages of interest really started coming in.

ACX only opened up to the UK in April of this year and this may explain why I had some difficulty in finding narrators who could do an authentic British accent, which my book requires. Despite this, I felt confident in choosing actress Crystal Marcano, as not only did she get the accent right, but she also understood the tone of the book and was both enthusiastic and active on social media.

More about ACX

ACX was created by Audible, an Amazon company. They distribute to the three leading retailers of audiobooks; Audible.comAmazon.com, and iTunes. If you choose to distribute exclusively to these three channels,  you earn 40% of the profits, whereas if you choose to distribute your audiobook non-exclusively, you earn 25% but retain the right to distribute your audiobook at your discretion.

Useful links

How to create audiobooks via ACX

Marketing ACX audiobooks

Are you interested in making an audiobook? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Should writers also be readers?

30 Jun

 

Image courtesy of Marin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The last book I read was Gone Girl, which was just fantastic. Great style, great twists, really did it for me. Trouble was, I stole a few hours from my writing schedule to read it. I know I shouldn’t have, but it was so good, I just couldn’t put it down. And it made me want to reach for my next read straight away. I am already halfway through Killing Me Softly by Nicci French, another book I can’t put down.

I used to read all the time. I spent far more time reading than writing. But that was partly because I was commuting to work every day, and what better to do on the tube than read? Since I had my children, I’ve read a lot less. In fact, it took me a couple of years to finish reading The Thread by Victoria Hislop. Not because I didn’t love it, but because I find it hard to commit to a chunky book the way I used to, knowing that I don’t have hours at a time to devote to it.

I’m making a reading comeback though. Last year, I set myself a modest goal on reader’s website Goodreads. I decided that I would read 10 books by the end of 2013. As someone who likes to tick things off lists, I felt strangely pleased when I met that goal. This year, I’ve set a goal of 15 books and I’m already 8 wonderful, delicious reads down. The more I read, the more I want to read. And the more I want to write too, because reading good books is so inspiring. Reading bad books can be useful too. When something about the book doesn’t quite click, I like to try and work out what it is, so that I can avoid making similar mistakes in my own writing. Luckily I have excellent taste (or just plain luck), and all the books I’ve read so far this year have been corkers.

I’ve heard writers who say they are too busy to read, and if I’m honest, I was one of them for a while, but I think I’m past that now. As I work on making writing my career, I know that reading needs to be an important, yet enjoyable part of my work.  A good story haunts you. It forces you to think about it, long after you’ve put the book down. Without reading, I think it would be hard to grow as a writer.

How much do you read? Do you find that reading interferes with your writing schedule, or does it enhance it?

 

Literary festivals – what’s in it for indies?

20 May

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With indie entrepreneur, Joanna Penn

As a self-published author, you might wonder what you’d get out of attending a literary festival that primarily celebrates published authors and their books. I’ve just returned from Crimefest, an annual event in Bristol, England, and I would definitely go again. 

In recognition of independently published authors, Crime Writing Day began with a talk from self-publishing guru, Joanna Penn. Joanna emphasized the need to make self-published books as good as traditionally published ones, by using professional editors and cover designers. She also pointed out the fact that each book is not just one product, but many because it can be an eBook, a print book and also an audio book. It can also be sold in many countries, both in English, and in other languages if you get it translated. This is a good reason not to sign all your rights away to a publisher, but does not stop you from accepting, say a print deal whilst keeping your eBook rights. Joanna added that it was the business side of things that had made her self-publish. Once she had worked through the process of publishing her first book, she found that it was not that hard and she did not need a publisher to do it for her. 

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Some of the other writers I met at Crimefest had been holding out for traditional publishing deals but I think the Emerging Indie Voices panel was an eye-opener for many. This panel featured successful indie authors, Tim Cooke, Eva Hudson, Mel Sherratt and Carol Westron, who each spoke about their decision to self-publish. Mel Sherratt said she was grateful to Amazon for giving her the opportunity to publish her own books, after many years of seeking a traditional deal. She has since signed with a publisher for at least one of her books, but it was self-publishing that gave her the opportunity to do so. 

As a reader, as well as a writer, I can’t deny that I found It exciting to mingle with successful authors, many of whom had plenty of advice.There was also the opportunity to meet literary agents and editors, as well as readers and bloggers. But I think the thing I liked most about Crimefest was the shared love of books. It made me want to write more than ever. 

Have you attended any literary festivals as a self-published author? How did you get on?

Disaster and contingency planning for self-published writers

28 Apr

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Last month was the anniversary of the launch of my first novel, FRY. I can’t say it was as special as the anniversary of my first baby being born, but it still meant something to me. I was planning to do a post to commemorate the event, but the internet had other ideas. 3 weeks, 2 engineer visits and 1 new router later, it’s finally working again.

Our internet issues got me thinking about how fragile the self-publishing environment is. It’s predominantly eBook based, which requires both authors and readers to have near regular access to the internet. Of course, this dependency on the internet must be true for a lot of businesses, but it especially applies to self-publishers. The internet brought down the costs of publishing and distribution to near zero. It is a market based solely on the existence of the internet. Without the internet, our current opportunities would not exist. I would not be writing this blog, and most likely, FRY would not have found an audience.

This latest outage was not the first time we’ve been without internet in recent months. At Christmas, we were without power for the best part of three days, and there were more power cuts in February. On both occasions, we were lucky to avoid the floods that affected the villages around us. But for me personally, the power cuts meant that I could not participate in social media or work on my new novel, as I had saved it on my computer. Without electricity, the batteries on our phones and laptops quickly ran out. Not having electricity in the house is a major hindrance, but it is still possible to do most things; we lit candles for light, bought a camping stove for cooking/heating water and we still had a car to get around in. Working on my novel, on another hand was impossible. We are completely reliant on electricity and if it cut out and stayed out – I would not be able to blog, distribute my books or finish my novel, without starting all over again from scratch. But then again if we lost electricity for good I would have bigger problems… no more Eurovision!

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So what can I do (other than digging an underground lair and stacking it full of water and tins of Spam?) Well, I don’t think we are likely to lose electricity or the internet any time soon. It’s possible but unlikely. It’s far more likely that I will spill coffee on my laptop, drop the flashcard down the loo or overwrite a backup file. It’s also possible to back up to an empty directory instead of a file (yes, I was doing that for a few months). So what is a writer to do? Well, here are my suggestions:

  1. Back up. Then back up the back up and take a back up of that. It won’t hurt. Just make sure you set up a process so you don’t confuse yourself. I back up every day to a flashcard, then back that up every week or so to another computer. I then back up that up to an external hard drive  and also back up to a cloud every few weeks. This is not paranoia, but a cautious back up strategy.
  2. I also print. It’s easier to read when proof reading and also means you have an additional hard back up.
  3. If possible, I also avoid using the same laptop for writing and the internet. There are a lot of viruses out there and I don’t want them!

What do you do to safeguard your work? Do you have a contingency plan in case of disaster?

May Queen Killers and a game of WordPress tag

3 Mar

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Image taken from Wikepedia

I was tagged in a game of WordPress tag by the fabulous Lorna Lee of the very colourful Lorna’s Voice. I have yet to meet a Lorna who wasn’t fabulous. If anyone knows a rotten Lorna, please don’t tell me. It will break my heart. The game is simple. I have to answer a set of questions about my writing, then tag three more writers to continue the game. Here are my answers:

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on my 2nd thriller, May Queen Killers, which is set on the English/Welsh border. Here’s a little teaser:

Where have all the May Queens gone?

At 34 years old, Sapphire Butterworth is a little old to be crowned May Queen, but she has her heart set on the title and no one is going to stand in her way. But then Sapphire disappears in the middle of the May Day celebrations and someone throws a brick through the window of her tea shop. Soon, there are scenes of May Day carnage throughout the village; lambs mauled by vicious dogs and may poles ripped apart. 

Mystery writer, Jock Skone is one of the last to see Sapphire and determined to use his detective skills to find her. But Jock quickly discovers that Sapphire’s friends do not know her as well as they thought they did. And Sapphire is not the first May Queen to go missing. Is there a deeper reason why Sapphire wanted the title so badly? Does she know more about the May Queen Killers than she’s been letting on?

How does your work differ from others in the same genre?

I write very British psychological thrillers. My books are fast-paced, five hour reads that are hard to put down. I use a combination of action and dialogue with a splat of dark humour. My mysteries are hard to solve, but I write in a simple and accessible way. I don’t like too much gore, and don’t do a lot of swearing. I leave out the parts I would skip as a reader, so you won’t find any long-winded descriptions in my books. And although the police may make an appearance, they are never the ones to solve the mystery!

Why do you write what you do?

I write what I love, but I do try to stick to psychological thrillers because I have created an audience for those. If I write anything outside of that genre, I keep it short and just for fun. If my mystery readers like my side projects, then that’s a bonus.

How does your writing process work?

I usually get the idea for the next book while I’m working on the one before, so I have to write everything down before I forget it. I am chaotic at heart, but I am slowly moving towards a more planned style of writing. I still end up taking twists and turns that I had never intended, but I no longer spend time polishing my first draft until I have to. I like my work big and messy and covered in scorch marks until I am absolutely sure of the story.

 And now I have to tag three more writers

Pete Denton, is currently working on a couple of crime novels. You can download a free sample of his work here.

Rami Ungar is the author of the Reborn City series available on AmazonCreatespace, and Smashwords

Roberta’s Dreamworld – Roberta is the author of Hugged by an Angel, The Melody in our hearts and A Christmas Melody.

As always, thanks for reading!

Separate Yourself From The Pack: Getting Noticed – Guest post by Nikolas Baron

12 Feb

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Everyone wants to be a writer. If you go onto Facebook or Twitter and ask “how’s your book going,” there’s a good chance you’ll get numerous replies, many from people you weren’t even aware wanted to write a book. And, why not? When we’re hanging out with friends, we all love to tell stories, and we all want to be the guy or gal at the party who captivates the other party-goers with tales of fun and adventure. The idea of putting that natural desire to paper in the form of a book, which anyone can read, is an enticing one. Where issues enter, however, is when we realize that everyone else around us feels the exact same way. Everyone wants to be a writer.

Ebooks and the Internet have made all of this even worse. Where once, if you wanted to publish your book, you either had to go through the traditional publishing process of submission, rejection, and eventual publication, or you had to invest massive amounts of money out of your pocket to self-publish. Now-a-days, you simply format your book to certain guidelines, upload it to an Internet store, and wait for the sales to roll in. Anyone can do it, and many, many, many people do, for better or worse. What then can an amateur writer do separate him or herself from the pack? What can an amateur writer do to get noticed in a sea full of amateur writers?

In my work with Grammarly, I spend a lot of time researching online tools to make writers better, and I believe that while setting yourself apart from the pack is difficult, it’s not impossible. In fact, the easiest way to do so is to start by understanding some of the most common mistakes amateur writers make and how to avoid those mistakes. Here are a few tips I’ve learned to help amateur writers set themselves apart, and even above, the crowd.

  • Actually Finish Your Book: Remember when I said you could ask about books on  Facebook or Twitter and getting a ton of replies? Often, many of those replies will be something along the lines of, “I’m working on it. Just gotta find the time” or “I’m still in the outlining phase.” That’s because while most people talk about writing a book, very few people actually do. Writing a book is hard, and it takes discipline. The easiest way to set yourself apart from the rest of the writers on the Internet is to actually finish your book. Don’t worry about quality yet. You can edit errors in a book, but you have to have a book to edit first. Don’t think, just write.
  • Write Every Day: Writing is a skill, like sports or visual art. The only way to get better is to practice, practice, practice. Whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, a blog post, a business memo, or whatever, try to find time in your day to  lay some words on a page. In fact, if you want to avoid two major mistakes, use this tip to help with the previous one as well.
  • Remember That Editing and Proofreading Are Different: So, you’ve taken the first two tips in hand, and you’ve finally finished your book. Great! Celebrate! Then, prepare for the long and arduous process of  editing that book. No one writes perfect first drafts, and editing your manuscript is almost as important a process as writing it. Some might say it’s even more important. With that said, it’s important to remember that editing and proofreading are two different things. If you’ll allow a cleaning analogy, proofreading is like dusting. You aren’t making any major changes to the room, but you’re tidying up. Editing is like taking all of the furniture out onto the lawn, deciding whether or not you want to keep it, and then moving it all back in. Is this scene necessary?  What about this character? This bit of  dialogue – is that really how the character would talk? Would anyone talk like that? Be willing to slice and dice your book to shreds, if necessary, and in the end, you’ll have a superior product.   
  • Don’t Forget to Proofread, However: Keep in mind, however, that even after you’ve finished moving the furniture out of the room and decided what’s coming back, you still need to tidy up. You still need to dust off the coffee table, so to speak. One of the easiest ways to lose professionalism in the eyes of your audience is to put out a product filled with typos and silly grammar mistakes. You can use a standard spelling and grammar check on your word processing program, but if you really want to catch all of those errors, consider a more detailed grammar check. For example, at Grammarly.com, we offer a check that scans your text for over 200 standard grammar errors, alerting you to issues you might not have caught on standard readings. Regardless of how you choose to proofread, don’t forget this important step. A typo-riddled manuscript will quickly turn your reader off, and as previously established, he or she will have plenty of other things to read.

Setting yourself apart from the pack is not easy, but it’s not impossible. It takes work, but if you’re willing to do it, you have a better chance of finding an audience for your book. Remember to write every day, and when it comes time to edit, don’t be scared to tear your manuscript apart if it serves the story. Firmly establishing these practices early will save you many headaches in the future.

 

About Nikolas Baron

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

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