Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Goodbye from me - by Tara Lyons

I've loved sharing all my bookish experiences with all at AE
I posted my first blog for Authors Electric in April 2016, just a month after I'd self-published my debut solo book. I felt a great sense of belonging - reading other author's posts, having a new monthly "deadline" and sharing my bookish experiences with everyone involved with AE. In the past year and a half, that feeling hasn't changed, although my situation has.
My son finally entered the world of full-time education, and while that sounds like I should have more time on my hands, I haven't. It's quite a surreal feeling to be given more "free" hours each day, yet feel you're still not getting enough done.

But, not only am I using this time to write the fourth book in my series, I've also taken on a new project that will mean I can continue to work from home and keep my working fingers in the proverbial publishing pie.
Sadly, that does mean something has to give. And with the new, increasing deadlines, I'm sorry to say I will be stepping back from my monthly blog posts on Authors Electric. I'd just like to thank the team, who have helped me publish a few short stories in the AE anthologies, and who are a fantastic bunch of people. I'll be stopping by whenever I can to catch up with the posts.
So, in the words of Cilla, ta-ra for now (and if you'd like to follow what I'm up to next, stay tuned to my Amazon Author page).

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Holiday reading habits, by Elizabeth Kay



  

Cinnamon hummingbird

I’ve recently returned from three weeks in central America. The first part was an organised tour of Nicaragua, with seven participants, including me, plus our guide, and the second part was staying with a friend in Costa Rica.
     I’ve always used these holidays as material for stories, but this time I was intrigued by the differing reading habits of the others on the first trip. Most people brought books, not e-readers, much to my surprise. When you have a 20 kilo weight limit on an aircraft books take up quite a lot of it, so for me an e-reader has been a real bonus as I never run out of something to read.
     What seems to happen is that people read the paperbacks they’ve brought, and then leave them somewhere for other people to read and use the resulting space to bring back souvenirs. It never seems to occur to them that authors get nothing when a book is passed on, or sent to a charity shop. I’ve nothing against charity shops, they do good works, but it does rankle when someone asks you to sign a copy that they’ve bought in Oxfam. Not all authors earn a fortune, the way so many people assume they do, and a few sales can actually be rather important, both for income and rankings. So hurrah for the e-reader, which no one is going to leave behind for someone else to read.
     My husband and I do share books on our Kindles, but that’s just two of us. Charity shops encourage their clients to read something, and then bring it back so that it can be sold over and over again. I wonder how the managers would feel if they were expected to work for nothing? PLR has made libraries a positive force for the writer; we’re all in favour of them as some recognition for the amount of work that goes into a book, however small, is good news.
      I’m always surprised by how much more expensive books seem to be in other countries. Costa Rica is not a third world country by any stretch of the imagination; it’s become a very popular tourist destination, especially with the US as it’s on their doorstep. Books there cost more than they do over here. A lot of countries have English Language sections in their bookshops now, but as the books are all imports it makes them even more expensive.
Howler monkey
Sally Lightfoot Crab, illustration
Sally Lightfoot Crab, taken in Galapagos
        Although I read nearly all my fiction via the Kindle, I still buy field guides in hardback. I’m fussy, too, having illustrated a few myself. There’s a good reason why the best guides contain illustrations rather than photographs. Try taking a picture of an animal from the right angle that shows all its features, doesn’t have a shadow on it somewhere or a bit of foliage obscuring part of a leg. It’s really difficult. Illustrations can be derived from several photographs, or even the animal itself. I used to wonder why, in the Natural History Museum, they have an entire drawer devoted to one insect – it’s so that you know what the majority of the species looks like, because there are always aberrations. Butterflies, with white patches on their wings. Moths that have oddly-shaped antennae. Crickets that never reached full size. Mistakes get made, too. Many years ago I was doing an illustration of a swordfish. Like most people, I’d assumed that the fish was dark on top, and silver or white underneath. Not so. It’s copper-coloured. The books that first showed it were in black and white, and other illustrators simply copied previous illustrations. This is why I always buy reputable guides, and update them every so often. Even using the live creature can pose problems. I was illustrating a stick insect for a T-shirt, and obtained a live specimen. I was really pleased with the result, and a lot of them were printed. And then someone pointed out that the antennae were too short. I couldn’t believe it – the insect I used had clearly had some sort of mishap, and both its antennae had been broken off at the same place!

Friendly mantis

Anyway, here are a few photos from the holiday in Central America, and a wildlife illustration as well, so that you can see the difference. These days, I try to paint from my own photographs, as not only does it avoid royalty conflicts, I also know a bit about the animal concerned. 
Pacific parakeet

Monday, 16 October 2017

A Murder of Crime Writers by Wendy H Jones




 So what do Canada's 150th Birthday and a bunch of crime writers have in common? No it's not a joke. For their 150th Birthday the Canadians threw the crime party of the year, Bouchercon 2017. This conference hosts the glitterati of the crime writing world and it was an honour to be a part of it. The fact it was in Toronto was the icing on the cake. What an exciting city. The vibrancy and fun of Toronto is another blog post in itself.

So, why am I waxing lyrical about Bouchercon? The answer, it is a chance to hear the top names in the industry talk about their writing and publishing itself. Who can pass up the chance to hear from the likes of Sara Paretsky and Kathy Reich? Not only are they knowledgable, but also extremely funny.




Of course, I had to have my photo taken with them.




Kathy Reich and Sara Paretsky


The Scots were in town in force. Caro Ramsey moderated a panel with her usual flair and bucketloads of humour. Her panellists were equally funny leading to genuinely laugh out loud moments. 


What with a dance, a quiz, networking, panels and making new friends it was a whirlwind of fun and learning about the industry. The Canadians put on a great event and made everyone feel welcome. I am already looking forward to the next Bouchercon. If you ever get a chance to go to one I can highly recommend it. It's not all dead bodies you know. 


About the Author

Wendy H. Jones is the author of the award winning DI Shona McKenzie Mystery series, and The Young Adult series, The Fergus and Flora Mysteries. She is also an international public speaker, the presenter of Wendy's Book Buzz radio show, and runs a Writers Consultancy and Training company, Equipped to Write.









Sunday, 15 October 2017

TARGET PRACTICE: or Waiting to See the Whites of Their Eyes by Jane Thornley




My early indie publishing career had me uploading my first book on Amazon and then sitting back to wait for the readers to flock in. I did have a newsletter list consisting of fans who had been following me from a prior life, and it was to them that I sent the initial BUY MY BOOK message. Actually, buy it they did. In fact, they bought enough books on that first day to jettison me up to within the top 10 of all books on Amazon. At the time (this was 2013), I was unimpressed. #1 would have been so much better.

But after that, I just waited. I thought for sure that after Frozen Angel's excellent maiden voyage, something magic would happen and my writing career would just take off on some fairy-dusted trajectory without my assistance. Huh. Still, I just kept writing rather than marketing because that's what I'd always done.

And then various self-published marketing courses began hitting the scene with stories of authors actually finding readers through social media. Inspiration fired my jets. The first course I took (and the only one I needed) focussed on marketing through Facebook. By then, I'd launched a series that was not only a thriller/mystery/caper hybrid, but featured a protagonist who knit. Knitting anything ends up wedged among the cosies on Amazon, but mine didn't fit. I had blood, guts, high-speed chases, oh, and sex. Besides, knitting was not even a plot factor, making my reviews often petulant and disappointed. No, I needed to go reader-hunting and target my readers right between the eyes. Distinguishing my series from the masses became my overwhelming impetus. Facebook offered just the tools needed.

By now thousands of market-savvy writers had begun proliferating the Facebook feeds with clever ads, most of them targeting broad categories like suspense, mystery, or 'readers who like author fill-in-the-blank'. But, thanks to Facebook's specific audience-targeting capabilities, I could zero in on readers who love thrillers/mysteries but who also knit, or readers who love thrillers but who are also interested in textiles and archaeology. By honing in on age groups, interests, and even gender, I could package eye-catching graphics with a catchy phrase and hit my potential readers right between the eyes. 

Here's the short story: this huntress found her readers. Hoards of them. For the first few months of my Facebook career, I thought I'd be buying a second home in Italy. I was a best-selling author! I say this is past tense because then Facebook flipped the switch. They dialled down the number of ads sent to their subscribers; they offered their peeps the option to turn ads off all together and; they made the exercise of reader-hunting much more expensive. On top of that, world events began spewing vitriole and anguish into the online feeds, prompting many of my readers to simply switch off. My sales took a nose-dive, resulting in me dialling down my Facebook ads before I went broke.

But, hey, I'm back. Now I'm coming in with a new psychological suspense series which should appeal to a broader interest-base, just as the Facebookers slowly begin to reengage with social media. New ads are blooming in my head as I write, and my marketing plan is ready to roll with Facebook and my newsletter list being my prime campaign strategy.

 I will go reader-hunting again, this time with a beady eye fixed on targeting new reader profiles. Beware, dear reader: this time I may be coming for you.





For more information on Facebook advertising, try this source: Resources for Author Marketing


Saturday, 14 October 2017

SHOW ME THE MONEY! - Louise Boland

Last week I heard a shocking story from a writer friend.  It probably isn’t shocking to those writers of the Authors Electric crew who’ve been in the game a while, but I guess I’m still a newbie to this world of publishing, so it was shocking to me.  I’m going to call the story, The Sure Thing, and it goes like this….

An unpublished writer sends his first novel to a high-profile London agent who takes an interest in it.  The agent requests some significant re-writes and asks him to be sure to send it back.  It takes the writer a year to make the changes, after which he excitedly returns it.  The days tick by.  We all know how it goes.  Jumping whenever the phone rings, the heart stopping with every message ping.  Two months tick by.  He tentatively rings the agent.  Whoops! The agent forgot to put it on their ‘To read’ list.  Apologies given and accepted.

The days tick by.  We all know how it goes.  Jumping whenever the phone rings, the heart stopping with every message ping.  A further two months tick by. He tentatively rings the agent (with a slightly heavier heart this time). Whoops! says the agent, I forgot to put it on my ‘To read’ list.  No! No! cries the writer. That’s what you said to me two months’ ago.  Did I? replies the agent, nervously. Yes… stammers the writer, his head in his hands.  Oh, well, says the agent, I guess that means I just wasn't that into it.  Thanks, but I won’t take it any further.

What to do about it?

Well I’m guessing quite a few people are shouting SELF PUBLISH! at the screen. And I agree that’s a great way to cut out all the nonsense above. Self publishing has been a revolution for writers – but as we all know, it’s not without its own difficulties.  

For those trying to squeeze their writing in between a job… running a family… friends… hobbies, a social life… figuring out how to create an e-book, understand Print On Demand or set up and run a marketing campaign can seem like one or three mountains too many.  Sending an unpublished manuscript into a submissions process, for many new writers, is still a necessary evil.

Respect for Writers?

So, I have a question for those ‘old hands’ out there.  Has the publishing industry’s submissions process always been so disrespectful to aspiring writers or is this a recent phenomenon? 

As a newbie publisher (www.fairlightbooks.com), we really want to try to get this right.  We can’t publish everything that we get sent, that would be impossible, but there’s no reason why we can’t run a submissions program which shows some respect to those writers who have been kind enough to send us their work.

We’re thinking maybe we should try and raise the bar on this and have some sort of code of practice for submissions.  Perhaps the following:

Fairlight Books
FAIRLIGHT BOOKS SUBMISSIONS CODE

We agree to endeavour to:

-          Acknowledge every submission we receive
-          Reply to every submitter with a response within three (or two?) months
-       Read everything that we get sent and banish the word 'SLUSH PILE' from our company ethos.



We know we won’t always get it right.  That mistakes will get made and the odd submission accidentally overlooked.  We know that already we often um and err too long about something great we’ve been sent but aren’t sure what to do with, and that currently the process of responding once we have a full manuscript is taking longer than we’d wish as we find our feet.

But we think if we try to stick to an ethos of remembering that there is a person at the other end of that submissions process, we’re starting off on the right track.

I’d love to know other writers’ thoughts on the matter.  What are your stories – good and bad? Should we have a Code of Practise for submissions?  If so, what should it be called? Respect for Writers? A Jerry Macquire-esque Submissions Manifesto? [Hence the eponymous title of this blog] And what should be in it?

You can comment or tweet us on @Fairlightbooks

All thoughts welcome!

Friday, 13 October 2017

A Bit of DIY by Ann Evans


 
Firstly apologies for being absent last month. I don't know where the time went to. One minute I'd got days to go before I had to write my blog, next minute I'd missed it by two days. I'm hoping it's not an age thing, more a really busy 'up to my eyes' kind of thing.

And one of those things was to try and bring my children's book Rampage back to life. It was published by Usborne back in 2007 as the third book in my Beast Trilogy – The Beast, The Reawakening and Rampage

As publishers tend to do, they decide they are going to let your book go out of print when you least expect it. In my case it wasn't long after The Beast took top place in the 2013 Coventry Literary Book awards in the raring2read category; and Usborne were offering me as a prize in a schools' prize draw – win an author visit to your school, at The Education Show. So it came as a bit of an unwelcome surprise to get the dreaded letter giving me the bad news so soon after all that. 
 
 
 Somehow or other, I managed to acquire plenty of stock of The Beast and The Reawakening, but Rampage was another story. I soon realised I'd got about two copies to my name. And despite the publisher losing faith in the trilogy, I know from experience how schools love these books, and as I do school visits fairly regularly I needed stock of all three books to take with me.

With copyright back with me for all three I was able to buy back the licence to use the Rampage artwork for 10 years for a certain fee. However, it didn't include the text/title etc. So once again trusty friend and photographer Rob Tysall did a great job in adding the necessary words onto the image. He also did three new covers for when I put the trilogy out as ebooks – which I'm determined to do soon!


But meanwhile, getting the layout for Rampage via CreateSpace was fiddly to say the least. But I got it done finally and sent for a proof. Only then did I realise I'd sized it incorrectly and Rampage was bigger than the other two, the spacing was all wrong, and I hadn't numbered the pages - so back to the drawing board. I think I've got it right now, and I'm currently waiting for a second proof to land on the doormat. I have my fingers and toes crossed.

I'm wondering whether other Authors Electric Indie writers find the technical side of producing their books as paperbacks or ebooks easy or not. How do you feel, is this the best bit after getting the writing done and dusted? Or is it the bit you dread?

I'm planning on updating my 'Become a Writer – A step by step guide' soon, and guessing that it will be a bit of a nightmare. Not for the printed version, as I'll be saving that as a PDF before uploading it, but the ebook version, as it has many chapters, sub chapters, bullet points, indents and so on. A local publisher did all the layout previously, but now I'll be re-issuing it under my own steam. Wish me luck!

Have you read Kill or Die. Decisions can be murder.





Please visit my website: www.annevansbooks.co.uk

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Rotten Bitch-- A True Writin' Fable by Reb MacRath




In a minute I'll get to the rotten bitch who inspired this true fable. For now, true to form, I'll stand the writin' rules on their little pointed heads and start off with the moral:

Familiarity with writers may breed worse than contempt: neglect.


This moral evolved from three hard-learned lessons. (And don't fret, the rotten bitch is on her way.)

1) Many readers believe the best writers are dead.

2) Most readers prefer living writers to be remote, unreachable, even a bit otherworldly. The less known about them the better, for a myth is as good as a mile.

3) Some readers who are thinking of planning to write enjoy putting down struggling writers they meet. Every put down adds more fuel to the fire of their conviction that they're better off not trying.

All right, all right, already. It's time now for the rotten bitch.





Setting: the Amtrak Empire Builder, a round-trip cross country excursion.

In the dining car I was seated with an attractive older woman. Our conversation took a number of pleasant turns till the subject of writing came up, mysteries in particular-- and I admitted I wrote them. Two things happened then at once: Her eyes lit up. But her questions proved a game of cat and mouse:

I'd heard most of her questions time and again before:
Why am I publishing ebooks? If my stuff is really good, wouldn't I have an agent and wouldn't my books be in stores? How can I be happy to spend thousands of hours on projects and not be able to fly first class, vacation in Madrid? Etc.

I played the role of wily mouse:
My first four books were placed with two major publishers....I won a major international award and was even optioned for film... Those first four books appeared in stores...I have had a number of agents...But the publishing industry has changed dramatically and thousands on thousands of traditionally published writers were orphaned in the process... As for success, I write the books I want to write-- my way, at my own pace.

Before we parted, I gave her one of my business cards. And she promised to buy one of my books as soon as we reached a station with internet access.  I excused myself and hobbled off, badly injured in a fall the week before. I thought I'd seen the last of her. But...



The next morning, she joined me in the dining room for breakfast. She seemed a bit agitated. And her questions had an edge. In particular, she wanted to know why I now live in Seattle. Surely if I were a serious writer, I'd live in New York or L.A.

I started to tell her of Seattle's funky charms. I said I really loved the colors of Seattle: the slightly grunged-out grays and greens mixed with buildings in varied shades of terracotta.

That was it, for her. She slapped my card down on the table and snapped: "Terracotta, dear, is RED. Not brown or orange or anything else. And if you were a real writer, you'd know that!" And with those words, she moved to another table after sneering at my cane.

Well, the point was moot since we had no Wi-Fi. But Google could have told her this:

Reminiscent of a fading sunset or stark desert, terracottas are earthy hues that brings a sense of inviting warmth to any space it touches. Whether it’s a muted clay or a rust orange, this color can suit a variety of home styles and tastes.

One year later, I'm still stung and tempted to cry out at the top of my lungs:

EAT MY TERRACOTTA!

But no. I'd prefer to think that she'd been looking for a train romance. In which case, I offer my belated response:

BETTER NEVER THAN LAID

                                                          *****

Special bonus: Umberto Tosi has written a wonderful post about self-promotion and writers interacting with readers. Check it out!

http://authorselectric.blogspot.com/2017/10/self-promotion-for-socially-impaired.html