Saturday, 31 October 2015


The scenery around our new home is certainly inspiring!

Moving house and writing are two things which, in my opinion, do NOT go together. Moving takes up not only time but emotional energy (all those decisions to makes, potential problems to worry over). And if you are low on emotional energy it is very difficult to write – for me at least.
In September husband and I moved from a largish farm in South West Scotland, where we had lived for over 20 years, to a much smaller house in the middle of a village in the Scottish Highlands.
So it was a change of house type as well as a change of location. It was hard work. But now it’s over I find that I am, if anything, writing more freely than ever. Was it the break? The feeling of a new start? I don’t know, but I’m certainly not complaining!
And this got me to thinking about the way life influences how, when and what we write, whether consciously or sub-consciously. A chance re-reading of a decades-old letter can spark a string of ideas, as can a visit to another country or merely an over-heard conversation. A family tragedy or upheaval can send all ideas out of one’s head. They may return or they may not, depending (possibly) on how good the ideas were or (probably) on a chance event that reawakens them.
How about you? Can you write no matter what is happening around you or to you? Do you manage to remember all your good ideas? I’d love to know.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The girl can't help it by Jennifer Young

Bought by accident!
A friend asked me the other day how my book sales were going. The terrible truth, which I admitted with some embarrassment, is that I actually don’t know, because I never look. 

The even more terrible truth is that I don’t look for two reasons, one of which is that I could all too easily become a slave to the numbers, checking my Amazon ranking every day, obsessing about its ups and downs, checking back every time I post a tweet or a blog post to see if anyone has actually bought a copy. The second is that it would be a waste of time because very few authors make significant sales and therefore significant amounts of money.

So why am I wasting my time writing?

I’ve always written. I always will write. I have no choice over it; my brain is full of stories which cry out to be told and I have to tell them. Like every other writer I know, I inhabit a world full of imaginary friends, people who live in my head and tap me on the shoulder. Listen, they say. I want to tell you what happens next. Or sometimes they say: but I want you to tell MY story. For the time I write they are more real than some of the people round me.

People do buy my books, though not by the thousand or anything like it. And the thing that I appreciate most is when someone takes the time to come back with a view, even if it’s a negative one. I had a charming email from someone apologising for not having been able to get into one of my books and promising that they’d give it another go some time. And just as I was mulling over what to make of that, some else sent me a message which raved about how wonderful that very same book was.

I don’t check my sales. I don’t check my rankings and I don’t check my reviews either. None of those things would stop me writing or spur me to write more. Cacoethes scribendi habeo, as the Romans would have it (translation: I have an insatiable urge for writing). 

But I can’t deny that knowing that someone enjoyed what I’ve written makes me feel good about doing what I’d be doing anyway. Recently I came across this gem of a review. “I downloaded this book by accident. But what an amazing stroke of luck.” (You can see the reviews - and buy the book - here)

That’s what I get out of it. Not money, not fame, just the knowledge that somewhere out there is a satisfied customer — even if they didn’t mean to buy my books!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Get Your Novel Noticed by Mary Smith

I’m right in the middle of a Kindle Countdown promotion for my novel No More Mulberries and have just taken my finger off the Tweet and FB buttons for a few minutes. I thought I’d share the results so far, although there are a couple of days still to go before the book returns to full price on the 21st October.

Sales had hit a depressing, all-time low last month. This was entirely my fault as I hadn’t done anything to promote the title since May when I was lucky enough to be accepted by the holy grail of book promoters BookBub. No More Mulberries went FREE, 30,000 copies were downloaded and the number of copies borrowed (this was in the days before ‘pages read’) more than paid for the cost of the ad. It also gained some very nice reviews (and some not so nice ones but, hey, the one and two stars are a necessary rite of passage for an author).

The knock-on effect of this, which included increased sales of Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni, carried over for several weeks. Amazon allows titles on Kindle Unlimited to be on Countdown or go FREE every 90 days so I should have organised another for August but I let it slip. Big mistake. There’s no room for complacency in this business – take your eye off the promotional ball at your peril.

I booked my Countdown dates and started contacting promotion sites. I realise trad-published authors are probably told by their publishers when their titles are going to be discounted (if they do that) and may not have a say in the matter. Even so, once you know the dates, you can still approach promoters – that should make your publishers happy.

I went with twenty promotion sites. Some sites promote your book for free, asking that you promote their site in return (a pretty fair deal) while others charge for advertising. I went for a mixture. The group, eNovelAuthorsatWork, of which I’m a member, has some wonderful resources for writers on its site including lists of promoter sites and a series of blog posts on which ones work well. Do check it out.

How has it gone? So far not too shabbily. It has a best seller sticker on one of its categories on Amazon UK.

I only need a few more downloads to get me a best seller sticker in the US (hint, hint). 

Before the start of the promotion my rankings on Amazon UK and US respectively were 17,741 and 201,258. I had not sold a single copy of No More Mulberries in the US in October. Three days later the rankings are:

UK •  Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,771 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
• #1 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > Asian
• #10 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Classics > Women's
• #48 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Literary Fiction > Romance

US •  Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,514 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
• #2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > Asian
• #3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Classics > Women's
• #84 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Literary Fiction > Romance

In the three days of the promotion I’ve sold around 90 copies, over half in the US. I’ve covered my costs, moved up the rankings and there are still a few promos to come before the sale ends. 
I’ve tweeted far and wide and I’ve had some tremendous support from the eNovelAuthors group who’ve tweeted and retweeted as have the team at BeeZee Books  

Of course, it’s not enough to pay your money and sit back. It is important to share the promo information on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and all other social media platforms. Let the world know your book is on sale – and take a moment to thank the people who run these promotion sites.

I’d be interested in hearing what others do to promote sales and climb the rankings – and when will it ever be safe to stop?

Right, back to the Tweet button.

Click here for Mary’s Amazon Author page

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Bad language - or language that's fit for purpose? by Jenny Harper

No swearing!
By Loozrboy (Watch your language)
[CC BY-SA 2.0
via Wikimedia Commons
Is bad language in a novel offensive? Or should I be asking, when is bad language in a novel offensive? These are questions I've wrestled with for some time, ever since a reader in America posted a review that objected to one of my characters cursing.

I'm not a great fan of bad language when every other character is 'effing and blinding' all the time – yet there are plenty of people in this world who don't even think of f***  or f***ing as swear words. They aren't even verbs or adjectives, they are just a normal feature of their speech.

Balanced against that, many people are really turned off by the use of such words, and that needs to be thought about too.

Is there a scale? Is 'bl**dy' all right? Or 'b*gger'? What about 'damn'? I think I'm right in saying some US readers would consider 'darn' more acceptable. I'm envious of the Irish who seem to get away with 'fecking' and the Americans who have 'freaking', while we don't seem to have an English variant on the same level of acceptability. There are one or two words I wouldn't ever let my characters use because I personally consider them too high up a scale of my own making – yet I'm finding my use of the ****ing asterisk very coy!

Oh g*sh, this is all very complicated, isn't it!

Some people swear occasionally. Some people swear a lot. Some people never swear – so when they do, it immediately conveys a great deal about their state of mind. All these are things that can be used to differentiate characters. I have friends who habitually say 'sugar' instead of 'sh*t' or 'oh good heavens' instead of 'oh my God'. They correct children or grandchildren if they swear. They use wonderfully creative alternatives to swear words, such as 'oh plinkety plonk' or 'suffering catfish'.

One evening I raised this question with some of them, and we discovered that over the evening's game of bridge we all actually swore (mildly but frequently). Only once was this on the f*** scale, but that's because we are all douce, middle class women.

Back to writing novels. My characters swear when it's appropriate, and sometimes this creates a strong effect. A violent criminal isn't likely to say, 'Oh bother,' when something goes wrong – but neither is a douce, middle class woman when shocked, terrified, or  faced with disaster.

Have I already lost a whole swathe of readers? What do other writers feel?

Oh heck.

Click here for Jenny Harper's Amazon page.

Monday, 5 October 2015


When I first started writing - and being published - I had no idea what sort of journey it would take me on. I assumed writers sat at the keyboard and wrote and publishers got on with, well, publishing. I had no idea back then that I would have to sell my own work to a certain extent. The experience that opened up a whole new world to me was when I was in a charity anthology for breast cancer research and was invited to W H Smith in Cardiff where Carole Matthews was the biggest name at a book-signing. I remember being in awe of such a well-known author and I had to pinch myself that I was in such company. But book-signings led to talks in libraries and book groups. The first talk I ever gave I typed my speech in triple-spacing and Times New Roman 20. I read it aloud over and over again at home, timing it to fifteen minutes. On the day I more or less knew if off by heart. I was in good company that day - Margaret James and Jane Bidder (aka Sophie King) and was happy to let them answer questions from the audience.
I progressed to jotting down ideas and talking, ad lib, between prompts. I've heard Jane Wenham-Jones speak for half an hour without a single note to prompt her as to what to say and without a single um and er. Again I was in awe. But I am - unlike Jane - not a natural public-speaker. At various conferences I've sat and listened to a panel of experts answering questions from the audience. Obviously they have no idea what questions they are going to be asked, and they have impressed me with their instant, intelligent, professional answers. And I've thought - I could never do that! So, it came as a bit of shock that I was asked if I would be on the panel of experts at a prize-giving for a short story competition. My instinct was to say no. But in my head I could hear my dear old dad saying, 'There's only ever one first time for doing anything. The second time it's with experience.' As many reading this blog will know I'm profoundly deaf and have a cochlear implant so I'm going to have someone sitting beside me fielding the questions from the audience, and repeating them to me. Trisha Ashley is the big name on the panel this time.
And as lots of people will be looking at me I will need to boost my confidence by wearing something that stands out from the crowd.
So, time to dig out my flashy jacket, take a deep breath, and tuck another writing-related experience under my belt.