Archive | writing RSS feed for this section

3 New Year’s Resolutions I intend to keep

1 Jan

IMG_7836 (2)

In 2015, I will be more careful with my time. I want to work in a way that is more effective, creative and efficient.

1. Outsource more

This year I will increasingly outsource the work I don’t want to do and look for new opportunities in self publishing. I will consider outsourcing anything that takes me away from the actual business of writing. I am doing some of these I outsource already. But I intend to do more:

  • Editing
  • Proofreading
  • Cover Design
  • Formatting
  • Audio recording
  • Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Research
  • Translations
  • Foreign Rights

2. Work on simultaneous projects.

I find that is easier to stay inspired if I dip between projects. I will have one main project at a time, but I’ll allow myself half an hour here and there to dip into something else if I want to. It’s not that different to spending a little time on social media or blogging. I see it as a way to warm up before starting work, or as an alternative if my attention is flagging. The main thing is to make the most of the time I have for writing.

3. Blog for readers, not for writers

I started Self Publish Bible at the beginning of my self-publishing career, when I was still had everything to learn about the business. A couple of years in, I feel my focus has changed. I have a little bit more experience and although the world is constantly changing, I know where to go for good information. You can’t beat blogs like  The Creative Penn. There are also some great podcasts – I love Rocking Self Publishing and The Self-Publishing Podcast; a great mix of enthusiasm, information and entertainment. I still like to talk to other indie authors and swap ideas, but I don’t need to do that on my blog.

So I’m starting a new blog.

Lorna Breaks Stuff is aimed at my fiction readers. It will be light-hearted and fun, with lots of colourful pictures. It should be an enjoyable way to keep in touch with readers without bombarding them with emails.

What do you think of my new year’s resolutions? Are you making any yourself?

Advertisements

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?

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?

 

Disaster and contingency planning for self-published writers

28 Apr

320px-Insulators_and_electricity_pylon

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!

200px-EuroUE.svg

 

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?

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

12 Feb

Image

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.

High or low? Choosing a price-point for my self-published eBook

21 May

Image

When I launched FRY on Amazon back in March, I initially priced it at $2.99, which translated as about £2.06 in the UK.  For the first few weeks, it sold steadily on both Amazon.com and Amazon UK. Then after around three weeks, my UK sales started to pick up as it was swept into the orbit of some much more prominent books in my genre. By orbit, I mean that it appeared in the ‘Customers also bought’ category for these books, and by prominent, I mean Amazon top 100 books – top 10 at one point. I believe that this happened because I went free for a couple of days shortly after my book launched, which helped give my book more visibility, even if it didn’t lead to a sales bump at the time.

Image

I knew that FRY would not probably not stay in the orbit of these more prominent books forever, and noted that most of them were priced lower than mine. £1.99, or even 99p or less were quite common for books in my genre, so after the first month, I took a gamble and dropped the price right down to 77p (99 cents.) This definitely had an impact. I went from a best of around 20 sales a day, to 70 sales in one day (nearly all in the UK). Albeit temporarily, FRY rose to number 4 in psychological thrillers on Amazon UK, above some of my favourite authors.

And now? A few weeks on, I do not make more money at the lower price-point, but I do sell a lot more books and I reach a lot more readers, which is very important to me. As a writer, I want people to read and enjoy my book, and I also want to build an audience for the next one, May Queen Killers, which comes out next year. I also get more reviews, which have been overwhelmingly positive, and I’m sure this helps to convince readers to give FRY a go.

Many self-publishing gurus advise that you don’t drop your price, or attempt any other marketing tactics until you have a number of books out, but for me at least, the low price is working. For now. And of course, I can always change my mind. That’s the beauty of self-publishing. Nothing is set in stone.

Have you experimented with different price-points?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Taking the Traditional Route – Guest Post by ‘Dolls Behaving Badly’ Author, Cinthia Ritchie

13 Feb

Image

When it came time to look for a publisher for my first novel, Dolls Behaving Badly, I had no doubt that I’d go the traditional route. I was working as a journalist at the time and every few days the UPS man would bring in a box of books for review. I’d sit at my desk, barely able to contain myself. Browsing through those books, so new, so untouched, was the highlight of my week. I loved the feel of the bindings, loved opening the first pages and reading the dedications, the acknowledgments, loved turning to the first chapter and not knowing how the voice would sound, if it would be lyrical and lovely or brisk and matter-of-fact.

In my mind, traditional publishing was the only way to go. I wanted the verification, the approval. I wanted to know that editors in New York (who all wore, I was sure, expensive shoes and sleek, tailored suits) were impressed by my writing, and my book. I wanted to feel as if I had made it.

Dolls Behaving Badly released last week through New York based Grand Central Books/Hachette Book Group. I have the verification, the approval, and though I’ve never met her, I imagine my editor wears expensive shoes and wears smart dark suits.

Yet, looking back, the whole process hasn’t been as seamless as expected. My book is out, yes, but the world isn’t mine. My life is basically the same. Except that now I must promote my book. And that means competing with self-published authors who have the freedom to set prices as they see fit.

Indie on the rise

Years ago, self-published books were viewed as a last resort for people without the writing or story skills to nab a traditional publisher, and most books were badly edited, badly written and badly produced.

That’s changed, however, and the past few years have seen since more self-published books hitting the New York Times bestseller list. In fact, one weekend last summer saw four independent authors snag seven New York Times bestseller spots.

Self-publishing is no longer reserved for old ladies writing their memoirs or housewives penning poetry about flowers and trees. Authors are producing professionally edited books with slick covers and clever marketing campaigns, and they’re edging ahead of higher priced traditionally published books.

This hurts. I know. My book sells for around $14 in bookstores and $10 for eBook format. That’s reasonable, or used to be reasonable.

Yet, I’m an unknown author and while there’s a good chance of people picking up my novel in a bookstore, there’s less chance of that same person buying it online for $10 when there are hosts of others selling for $5.99 and less.

Like all of us, readers want a bargain. They want a good read, yes, but they want to spend a reasonable price. They want to feel as if they’ve made a smart choice. They want to feel smart. We all do. Yet how smart is it to spend twice as much for one book than another?

Good news, bad news

The price differential between indie and traditional books is bad news for authors backed by publishing houses. The good news is that traditional publishers offer invaluable information and support when it comes to promotion. I’ve been lucky enough to garner positive reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Review, Booklist and Library Journal Review. The weight of these reviews, along with the reputation of an established publishing house, could take me far.

Could, that is.

When it comes down to it, we are all, traditional and self-published authors alike, fighting against thousands of other authors and thousands of other books for readers. It’s a daunting process, and many of us will lose.

Years ago Mark Doty gave a talk at my graduate school. He looked around at the forty or so of us gathered in that room and said (and here I paraphrase): “Only one of you will make it. It won’t be the best writer, but the most determined.”

This, I believe, holds true for post-publication authors as well.

Cinthia Ritchie is a former journalist who lives and runs mountains and marathons in Alaska. Her work can be found at New York Times Magazine, Sport Literate, Water-Stone Review, Under the Sun, Memoir, damselfly press, Slow Trains, 42opus, Evening Street Review and over 45 literary magazines. Her first novel, Dolls Behaving Badly, released Feb. 5 from Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group. 

 

Image

Dolls behaving Badly is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indie Bound. You can contact Cinthia on Twitter and Facebook.

Next week, I’ll be blogging about how my daughter and I made headline news around the world and my family’s connection to the Titanic.

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: