Wednesday, 23 May 2012

There's ALWAYS a silver lining!

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Okay, I admit it...I must have an ego the size of the island of Ireland because I LOVE hearing from someone who has read my book - whether it's face-to-face, an email, tweet, message on Facebook or a review on Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads or wherever. To be able to connect with someone who has read what you've written is pretty darn fabulous!

Of course, not all reviews are positive and not all messages are congratulatory since there is no book in the universe that is going to appeal right across the board. Once you publish your novel and hope that people will read it then you need to be prepared for the criticism; and also be prepared not to storm in and start a debate with the reviewer! I can't speak for anyone else but this is how I look at it - yes, negative reviews sting (it's a year, or perhaps more, of your life that they're picking apart so it'd be odd if it didn't hurt) and especially if the comments made are incorrect but at least the person making them actually took the time to read your book and then felt strongly enough about its content that they sat down and wrote a review of it too. Reviews matter - there is so much power in the hands of each and every reader now - I mean, think about it; there you are looking for a book to read and you spot a cover that looks enticing. What's next? You read the blurb. Hmmm. Interesting premise, yep sounds like something you might like to read so what do you do next? You read the reviews! we all do - and the more reviews a book has the more interesting it becomes to a potential buyer. There's our first SILVER LINING - ALL reviews (whether they're 1 star or 5 star) draw readers to your work.

I read an interview a while back where the author admitted that he never read the negative parts of reviews. I have to admit that I found that strange - I read and re-read those bits (cringing every time!) 'cause they show me where I failed to live up to that particular reader's expectations and I want to know how I can improve in my next book. I'm a reader first and there's nothing worse than a book with a great premise that just doesn't deliver. Publishing 'Demon's Daughter' was a huge leap of faith for me and I've learned a huge amount, not just from the process itself, but from readers' comments and reviews afterwards.

One reviewer was frustrated by the spelling and grammar mistakes in the book (she was right - I should have been more careful, held back until I could afford an editor maybe) which I'd already found by myself (and was hugely embarrassed by), didn't like my main character and felt that my research was incorrect. Now, that stung - a lot! - but I still got 3 stars for the review which was great! She was blog reviewer so I emailed her and thanked her for taking the time to read and review my book, apologised for the mistakes and promised I'd do better next time. SILVER LINING? It made me tighten up on EVERYTHING for book 2 and I believe that 'Demon's Revenge' is better for it.

Recently 'Demon's Daughter' was reviewed on Goodreads and on a blog and, although the reviewer loved the story, she was appalled by my Italian - she's a native Italian speaker and I got it all wrong. Again, that's embarrassing and I was thrown into a quandary since book 2 has more Italian in it than book 1 (and is already with the designer). If only I knew a native Italian speaker, (if the penny has dropped here for you then congrats - I'm obviously slower in figuring things out!) if only I had a way of getting in touch with someone who could speak/write Italian (nope, my brain STILL hadn't worked out what to do). I knew that if I wanted books 2 & 3 to be an improvement on book 1 then I had to rescue the Italian in them and so I emailed the designer, explained the problem and asked for a week to sort it out. Happily he agreed and, after a few cups of coffee, my brain got a kick start and I emailed the reviewer, apologising for my pathetic-ness and asking if she would consider helping to correct the Italian in book 2 and 3. She was fantastic! I had corrections in my in-box on the same day that I sent them to her. SILVER LINING? The last 2 books in Emily's story will have the correct Italian in them! 

And before you ask why I chose to use a language that I wasn't proficient in...I didn't, Sariel did! (And when a gorgeous fallen angel is whispering in your ear in Italian then believe me - you let him speak any way he wants!)


Monday, 14 May 2012

Concentrating On Book Condensation.

When sending my precious newborn novel off for the consideration of an agent, one of the things I found most difficult was the synopsis. This is NOT the same as the blurb that goes on the back of the book (more about that later); the synopsis is basically the whole story-arc of your novel in an easy to swallow amount. And when you think about how many enquiries agents must get on a daily basis it's easy to see why they need a condensed version.

Some agents don't specify how long or short your synopsis should be, others request 1-2 A4 pages, one A4 side or, in a couple of cases less than 500 words. Until I actually sat down to do it I'd imagined that this would be easy to accomplish - might even be fun. Ha!

It took me about a week to whittle my 260+ page novel down to a more manageable size - the first synopsis I wrote for 'Demon's Daughter' was practically a novella! So what should I take out? What was important to keep in? What moves the story on? What is inconsequential when attempting to impress an agent?

I scoured the Internet for advice; most sites gave pretty much the same list of dos and don'ts, some conflicted entirely and in the end what I made use of most were the advice sections of some of the agents' websites. I think I probably sent out around 8 different versions and I was never really content with any of them. Maybe my incompetence at writing a compelling synopsis is what kept my book from being snapped up by an enthusiastic agent? Hmmm.

Anyway, now I find myself with another problematic area to deal with - writing the blurb. The blurb that goes on the back of the book is, in my humble opinion, one of the most important things that I can do for my book. The blurb is all the best bits of the synopsis - the best way I have to entice a reader to choose my book from the billions of others out there. It's certainly how I find books - the title might get my attention, the cover might keep it, but it's the blurb on the back that'll make me decide whether or not I'm going to part with my cash. No pressure then!

I've written a few blurbs for 'Demon's Daughter' - some longer than others - and my favourite is probably this one:-

Emily Carson is an average teenage nerd whose goals in life are to ace her exams, save her brother, Seth, from his own bad taste in girls and persuade school hottie, Adam Farlow, that she is the girl of his dreams. And then her dad shows up - her dad the demon. Cue meetings with Werewolves, tussles with Vampires and close-encounters with gorgeous Fallen Angels as Emily and Seth fall headlong into the world that exists within our own.

On the back of the actual book I used a longer version with a quote from the book. Did I get it right? Well, I'm never going to be 100% certain.

Now of course I have to do the same for book 2 - persuade a would-be reader to try my book with a short, snappy, 20-second's worth of reading material. So far I've had three versions and this is what I reckon I'll be going with:

 'A recessed back door was opened by a tall man carrying a real, honest-to-God shotgun. I couldn’t take my eyes off it – guns look much more ‘solid’ in real life than they do in the movies. It was obvious that this was no toy and was big enough to do a lot of damage if the guy holding it decided that the doing of damage was necessary. I decided that it would be worth our while to be nice to him.
“Hi,” I said brightly, sticking out my hand. “Is Rick at home?”
Both Shotgun Dude and Sariel turned to look at me in astonishment. Sariel’s eyebrows rose into his fringe and Shotgun Dude looked first at my hand and then my face. He scowled and I withdrew my hand. “This way,” he told us gruffly and we trooped dutifully after him into the unlit house.
What exactly was that? Sariel asked, amazement and amusement colouring his voice in equal measure.
Hello? Did you not see the gun? I thought we should be nice.
You faced off against a Demon lord and now you’re scared of a human with a gun?
It’s a big gun!’

My name is Emily Carson.
Last year my twin brother, Seth, and I discovered that we have demon DNA and things got a bit…messy. Surprisingly, Asmodeus (our Daddy Dearest) doesn’t seem to have forgiven me for my actions the last time we met and the word is that he’s out for revenge.
It’s okay though ‘cause there’s a plan – escape to Italy with gorgeous Fallen Angel, Sariel; meet his buddies, catch a few rays, convince him to wear Speedos and maybe even engineer another excuse to lock lips with him (that’s my plan, anyway). Sounds good, right?
What could possibly go wrong?

Feedback so far is that it might be too long and I should maybe leave the book quote out. Hmmm. Maybe I should consider another re-write...

Monday, 7 May 2012

And the price of my second book should be...?

Now that my second book is on its way to the designer for a new coat of paint (yeah, okay that's lame but you know what I mean), I have to start thinking about marketing book 2 and how much I'm going to charge for it.

There's been a lot of talk recently about the pricing of e Books. I can't in all honesty pretend that I can explain all the ins and outs of the court cases and the subsequent ripples in the Indie publishing pond (I fully admit to being less than smart enough to understand what it all means) - if you want to have a recap then the Dear Author post is a good read. It's weird to imagine that any other job which required at least 6-12 month's work being rewarded with 30c/p per sale would leave the workers scandalised but I suppose that's the nature of eBook sales.

I priced book 1 at $2.99 at first and then I reduced the price to $0.99 for a few months. Why? Simple - I needed a few more readers and the consensus among my friends was that most people were trawling the free-$0.99  sections first. I also gave away free copies for a week on Smashwords which resulted in an increase of downloads by around 50%. I am currently charging the $0.99 price again (roughly £1.12 sterling). Did I do the right thing? Was this the correct way to go about it?  No idea - I'm learning as I go along here! The idea behind the give-away was to raise the visibility of 'Demon's Daughter' on the Smashwords download chart and yes, it has gone up quite a few places and received 2 more reviews but as to this translating into regular sales? Can't say that it has. My Amazon sales remain stagnant although my paperback sales have increased (but more about that later). So what now?

My thinking is that I've left 'Demon's Daughter' at $0.99 for long enough so I'm going to increase the price to $2.99 at the end of May and see what happens. I've signed up for a Goodreads promotion in August when Book 2 comes out so there'll be a few give-aways of book 1 on Goodreads during that month and Book 2 will debut at the same price as book 1 - again, I don't have any idea if that's the right way to go about it or not but that's the plan for now.

It's actually easier to price the paperback! I go by the print cost (roughly £4.00) + the wholesaler discount (35%) + my cut (just over £1.00) which brings 'Demon's Daughter' out at £6.99. It's about average for the size and type of book so I don't have any major problems with that. My decision not to allow returns has seriously affected how many shops/wholesalers will stock it but to date, since its publication in February 2012, I've sold 51 copies which is...okay actually. I think that being invited into local schools to give talks and readings, and the recent book signing in Waterstones are the reason for the sales. The challenge, of course, is to keep it going.

Obviously I'm still useless at marketing and the conflicting information about how to increase the visibility of your book is confusing to say the least; plus the fact that I've received a few knuckle raps from Goodreads (for reviewing other authors' work), Twitter (for 'jamming the feed' with chat instead of promos) and from Facebook (for being on there too much) has left me thinking I should've stayed in my cave and ignored the publishing dream. (Yes, I know...I need to work on cultivating that thicker skin.) The fact is that if I want to keep writing, then I have to sell books. It's pretty simple and I can't not write...I'd go insane within a matter of days!

Hmmm. Well that all went off on a bit of a dark tangent. Sorry! I'm still damn proud that my second book is on its way to being published, book 3 is written and champing at the bit to get to the editors, book 4 is also lining up for its chance to escape the confines of my hard drive, and all that's holding them back is me. Dammit!

Friday, 4 May 2012

'Demon's Revenge' is almost ready to fly the coop!


Okay, I know my post is ridiculously late this week (apologies) but I do have a valid reason - I received the ms of 'Demon's Revenge' (book 2 in Emily's story) back from the editors on Monday morning so I've spent all week doing the changes and corrections. It's now in the best shape it's ever going to be in and I'm so excited to get it to the Graphic Designer next week - can't wait to see what cover he comes up with and how his magic will transform the fairly standard 'Times-New-Roman-on-white' pages into something gorgeous!

Feedback from the Beta readers was really positive, although there were apparently quite a lot of tears shed and one was considering therapy (I think she was joking...!) and there were a few suggestions made about including a dictionary for the translation of the Italian and 'Angel-speak' and also adding a preview of book 3 to the end of book 2. After going through all the text there were just over 20 Italian words and six 'Angel' words and phrases, most were translated anyway, some were easily recognised (per favore, grazie etc. etc.) and a couple were fairly easy to guess (pazienza, scusa) so I decided that included a mini-mini-translation guide/dictionary might be over-kill. As to whether or not to add the first few chapters of book 3 on to the end as a kind of 'teaser' or 'hook'? Well, it's tempting but I've decided not to - they're on the blog anyway for a start!

So, book 2 is ready to leave me and head out for its make-over before heading out to see the big, bad world and I can't wait! Roll on August!