Advertising on Amazon

Katie and the DeelansHave you advertised your book on Amazon? Last night, I listened to an Amazon ads for authors webinar and decided to put the advice into practice for my book, Katie and the Deelans.

The webinar was run by Mark Dawson and Joanna Penn, both self-published success stories and users of Amazon’s Marketing Services.

Amazon Marketing Services are relatively cheap. It uses a cost-per-click, auction-based pricing model. You set the maximum cost per click. I chose the sponsored keywords option, and I chose 13 keywords:

  • Adventure fiction
  • Divergent
  • Harry Potter
  • JK Rowling
  • Juvenile fiction
  • Rick Riordan
  • Stephanie Meyer
  • Suzanne Collins
  • The Hobbit
  • The Lightning Thief
  • Twilight
  • Veronica Roth
  • Young adult

What then happens is your book appears on the related options when Amazon customers search for a particular product – in this case, JK Rowling, Twilight et al.

One of my more ‘out there’ keyword choices was cat food. As my book features people who can change into cats, I thought those searching for cat food are cat lovers. Maybe they want to read cat-related tales too?!

The maximum I’m willing to spend per day is $10, but you can go lower than that. And you only spend money if people click on your ad and never more than your budget.

The custom text for an ad should not be the same as your blurb. It can’t be anyway, as the custom text is a Twitter-like 150 characters. I went for – We all want magic powers, right? What would you do with yours? Teenager Katie Harper is about to find out in this fun-filled action adventure.

Amazon advertising is all about experimentation. My campaign will run for the next week or so. If it works and I make enough money to recoup the cost of my investment, great. If I don’t sell books, the lessons could be that I need to look at a better cover for my book. The keywords could be too competitive or perhaps the custom text needs re-doing.

I’ll report back…

 

Life on Pluto

I wrote some more flash fiction this week, but, wait for it, not on a Friday…

A fellow writer, Russell Conover, updates a dedicated Friday Flash Fiction blog and my story was in response to one he wrote. Both of us share a love of cats, and over the years we have created lots of stories about a fictional feline known as Alice’s cat.

Life on Pluto

If they send a cat to Pluto, its life expectancy increases by 20 years.

So, your average cat should live about 12 years. A Pluto-tripped cat has the potential to miaow for three times as long.

Unfortunately, the same doesn’t apply to humans. Their life expectancy decreases by 10 years.

Alice was yet to travel to Pluto. Though if she did, she could time her demise to fit in with that of her cat. A world without her precious pet didn’t bear thinking about.

She checked Rocket Flights 2Go. March’s special offers included half-price interplanetary travel.

She signed up.

 

You can also read more flash fiction on the flash fiction website here.

A Meeting

Here’s a little flash fiction…

A Meeting

The tutor looked familiar. It took her ten seconds to remember – the sofa in her flat, ten years previously.

Did he recognise her? Hopefully not. She made sure to look at him when he talked, the way someone who has no history with another person would.

Maybe she waved her left hand about a bit too, waggling the fourth be-ringed finger. His own left hand was bare.

Nonetheless, when he said ‘good’ in response to a point she made, she glowed. At the end, she thanked him – glad that his attention was taken up by others anxious to talk.

Exes.

Book Revising & Editing – Some Tips!

Not so fast, my friend. Now, the hard work begins…

Ever heard of the ing sentence construction? It’s new to me, but once the concept had been explained, I thought, “Aha! I do that a lot. Time to stop.”

Here’s an example:

Grabbing the cheque from his boss’s hand, George ran for the door.

What, at the same time?

George grabbed the cheque from his boss’s hand and ran for the door.

Dropping ing sentence construction was one of the tips I picked up at a recent Book Revising and Editing Course I did as part of the Aye Write festival. It’s hard work rewriting and revising a book – far harder, perhaps, than writing the first draft – but that’s where the magic happens.

What did T S Eliot have to say about rewriting? “I maintain that the criticism employed by a writer on his or her own work is the most vital… and that some writers are superior to others solely because their critical faculty is superior.”

General tips for revising and rewriting include:

Check punctuation. Punctuation errors wear away the reader’s confidence in the writer and his or her abilities.

Shorter sentences and paragraphs are easier to read. As a writer, you want to make your prose as readable as possible.

The ing sentence construction. See above!

Dialogue arrangement. Generally, if a new person is speaking, put the dialogue on a new line. Make it clear who is speaking.

Read out your dialogue to check it sounds authentic.

Remove redundancies, padding and clichés. Redundancy examples include “screamed loudly”. Isn’t it enough that the person screamed? Padding includes too much description and lots of adjectives. Clichés are overused phrases, such as “cling on for dear life”.

Try to show, not tell. Angrily he put the book down. He slammed the book down on the table is better.

Other things to consider are:

  • Is there too much exposition or back story? If there is, it feels as if the story is taking place in the past. This kills the energy of the story.
  • Are points of view consistent?
  • Are there too many characters?
  • Are there any digressions or tangents that don’t tie up with the main plot?
  • Is there anything you think, “I’m not sure that works”.
  • Is there any possibility of a gap between your understanding and that of your readers?

If you can say ‘yes’ to any of the last four points, revise and rewrite.

I have plenty of material in need of revision. Having a list of issues to go through will help considerably.

 

 

Book Revising and Editing

aye-writeThis year’s Aye Write festival includes a workshop of book revising and editing.

I’ve written five books and have two on the go at present, but the minute I finish a book I leave it to moulder on my computer. I know they desperately need revising, re-writing in parts and editing*, but at that point I want to move on. I wash my hands of my finished projects and go my merry way, starting up a new book.

That’s more fun, right?

Aye Write is an annual festival of writing and reading that takes place in Glasgow. It’s not as big as Edinburgh’s annual book festival, but it’s a lot cheaper and the programme is brilliant and varied.

The workshops for writers offer advice on everything from script writing, to writing your own autobiography, poetry writing, writing historical fiction, comics and graphic novels and more.

The revising and editing course on Sunday 12 March is an interactive workshop that covers the basis of drafting and editing, looking at common mistakes and introducing the skills needed to refine a piece of writing to make it as good as it can be.

I’ll report back on what I learn.

 

*I’m very bad at over-using words and phrases.

E-Book Promotion – Starts Today

Katie and the DeelansSmashwords Read an Ebook Week promotion starts on Sunday 5 March and ends on 11 March.

For one week, tens of thousands of ebooks are available for free or heavily discounted – and this year, those e-books include one Katie and the Deelans by Emma Baird. Me, if that’s not clear.

Katie And The Deelans is the story of Katie Harper and her friends, ordinary teenagers who go to the worst school in the country. Life, however, takes a turn for the extraordinary when Katie and her friends take up magic lessons.

Taught by the fabulous Miss D’Azzler and the enigmatic Jazz, Katie and her friends find out that they are deelans – humans who can change into cats and who have magical powers. Katie and her friends enjoy the first few months of being deelans by practising their magical skills and trying to improve the school and life for those living in the sink housing estates nearby.

Katie, who has struggled with parental alcoholism, neglect and abandonment by her mum and dad, wants to use her magical abilities mainly to improve her life AND start a relationship with the school’s best-looking boy, Danny Finch.

But just who is Danny Finch? And what about the super-powerful deelans determined to do harm? Katie has a lot to learn, and her adventures take her from experiments with apples that turn into chocolate to mind-reading (it’s not all it’s cracked up to be), battles with wicked women and unexpected family revelations.

You can get the book from Smashwords here – and if you enjoy it, please leave me a review. For access to other discounted or free books, visit the Smashwords promotional pages

 

Mount! Review

Mount!Mount! by Jilly Cooper
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Contains spoilers!
If anyone ever tells you the difference between self-published books and traditionally published book is editing – refer them to the new Jilly Cooper novel.

My sisters and I all read the Jilly Cooper books when we were teenagers – Imogen, Prudence, Bella et al. We loved Riders, Rivals, Polo and The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous.

Then, every few years more of the big bonkbusters came out – Wicked, Apassionata and more. Each book got progressively worse, but we kept reading them in the hope the old Cooper magic would come back.

As I got older, I started to find the politics in the books disturbing. Racial stereotypes abounded, and people who were left-wing or concerned about the environment were always portrayed as baddies – paedophiles in one book. A woman’s first loyalty was always to a man, never to her friends or even her children.

I bought Mount! to read while on holiday at the end of last year. It’s the kind of book that would never get you a book deal if you didn’t have the name and following already. Anyone giving feedback would say there are far too many characters – Jilly’s list of animals in the book goes on for several pages, for example.

It’s a cute Jilly thing to include mention of just about every character she’s ever created, but that obviously increases with every book you write. Mount is bursting at the seams with too many characters, and plot lines for so many of them.

Why didn’t an editor tell her to trim the numbers back?

I don’t mind silly plots, but a whole lot of them together makes a very bad book. I don’t mind an infidelity plotline either, but this isn’t the place for it. Cooper’s books are aimed at a mainly female audience, so why create an unsympathetic main female character who sleeps with her good friend’s husband?

There is a lot of detail about horse breeding and racing – too much. When you have detail instead of a plot, a book doesn’t work. Cooper’s acknowledgement at the end of the book is the longest thank-you note I’ve ever read. Clearly, she felt duty-bound to write about everything she discovered. A good writer or editor should make ruthless decisions about what to ditch.

Cooper always kept Rupert Campbell-Black, her hero of Riders and Rivals, faithful to his wife, Taggie. Given that he was such a playboy, that often felt unrealistic to me, but she was consistent with it. In Mount, RCB is unfaithful to Taggie – a mistake, I believe. Why change that now? It doesn’t feel like a thought-out plot line, more something thrown in randomly to add excitement.

Mount seems like a book that wasn’t read by beta readers, never mind an editor. It feels like a cynical publishing exercise – put out a book by a big name because it will sell regardless. Did anyone at Curtis Brown or Transworld Publishers do anything to this book, apart from proof-reading it?

View all my reviews

Flash Fiction – Two Examples

For more than two years, I wrote a flash fiction story every week. As I love alliteration, I wrote the story on a Friday so I could call it Friday flash fiction.

I stopped because I wanted to concentrate on writing books. My imagination is finite. If I use it up on short stories, there’ll be less left for books!

However, last Friday a member of a group I’m part of wrote a lovely little tale about the founder of a flash fiction group on LinkedIn. I couldn’t resist it… Here’s the original story and my response.*

The Painting Problem, by Russell Conover

The painting club was enjoying a weekly meeting, with one exception.

“Great to see so many faces here,” Bob said with a smile.

“Yeah, but I miss our founder Jill,” Ted lamented. “Wonder what happened to her?”

The painters looked at each other and shrugged. Jill had occasionally been in touch with brief updates, but compared to her flawlessly regular masterpieces before, she’d all but vanished.

“Hey–why don’t we work together on a tribute painting for Jill?” Betty suggested.

“Awesome!” Tanya exclaimed. “Then she’ll know we miss her.”

“Let’s do it. We owe our founder a shout-out.” Ray smiled.

The Wobbly Glass, by Emma Baird

“Jill? Jill? Are you there?”

In extreme circumstances, Ouija boards served a purpose. The glass whizzed across the board to the letter Y.

Ray smiled. “Okay, so she went over to the other side.”

Betty looked puzzled. “She sounded perfectly well the last time I spoke to her.”

The glass wobbled ominously. It moved from letter to letter so fast, it was impossible to keep up.

Ray nodded slowly. “I think I know what this other side is. Clarity and precision are no longer our founder’s watchwords. I think she’s been kidnapped by the stream of consciousness crew.”

 

For more Friday flash fiction, see the WordPress site, Friday flash fiction, and the website of the sane name.

*I’m duty-bound to report that there was a typo in my story. I wrote “steam of consciousness”, rather than “stream”…

Podcasts for Writers: the Self-Publishing Formula

self-publishing formulaDo you listen to any podcasts about writing? I stumbled across the Self-Publishing Formula podcast* recently and I find it very useful.

I say “stumbled across” but if you listen to the podcast, you soon realise that its presenters put a huge effort into ensuring people do find it. My stumble across was nowhere near accidental.

Two authors present the Self-Publishing Formula, one a huge self-publishing success and the other starting out. Mark Dawson is the best-selling author of the John Milton, Beatrix Rose and Soho Noir series. He’s a six-figure sum, self-publishing success story. A lot of that success is down to targeted, skilful marketing. Dawson is known for using Facebook ads to good effect and runs courses for authors on how to do so too.

Interestingly enough, the author was originally traditionally published. His first book, The Art of Falling Apart, was published by Pan Books in 2000. The book didn’t sell well at all. He later self-published a thriller, which again didn’t do well.

However, he then decided to give the book away for free. At that point, his sales took off. These days, he’s a hybrid – self-published in this country, traditionally published in other places.

The podcast is co-presented with James Blatch, a writer setting out on the self-publishing journey.

Here’s what I have learned from the few podcasts I’ve listened to:

  • A good story should be plotted like a film.
  • Psychological thrillers are selling well at the moment.
  • You need to have a few books to your name to be successful.
  • A cover is really important, but not that important. Mark Dawson’s readers often chose his books based on the blurb.
  • It’s not easy to write your own blurb.
  • Permanently offering one of those books for free is a good tactic.
  • A mailing list is a must. As any modern marketer will tell you, email newsletters provide the best return on investment.
  • A healthy Twitter following will help you get more subscribers to that list. Offer them a freebie – a free book or a free ‘how to’ guide to get them to sign up.
  • How do you get more Twitter followers? Go for the “if I follow them, they’ll follow me back” rule. Target people in the same industry, use automated tools to help you find followers. The author Ian Sutherland has a book for authors – Advanced Twitter Techniques for Authors.
  • A reader survey is another good idea. This helps you target marketing appropriately and work out what’s the most worthwhile material to write in the future.

 

*Anyone else been wondering how to leave a podcast review on iTunes? Me too. iTunes befuddles me completely. If you want to review a podcast (or a book) on iTunes on your desktop, here’s how –

  • Open iTunes > the iTunes store > Podcasts
  • Find the podcast you are looking for (the search function is on the right-hand side)
  • Click on ratings and review
  • Click on write a review
  • Voila!

 

 

Golden Hill – a Review

Golden HillGolden Hill by Francis Spufford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Francis Stufford’s Golden Hill was the first novel award winner in 2016’s Costa Book of the Year awards. I haven’t read any of the other winning category books, but this one blew my socks off.

Set in the mid-18th Century, a young man called Smith arrives in New York with an order for £1,000 in his pocket. Can he be trusted? What does he intend to do with the money once New York’s merchants are able to honour the order?

The book is rightly described as a page-turner and you’ll find it impossible to put down. Smith is the most appealing male main character I’ve read in a long time. The exchanges he has with the book’s other characters are a joy to read and his thoughts on the then colony of America are beautifully descriptive.

Description isn’t something this book lacks. Vivid colour paints in pictures throughout. Stufford makes liberal use of 18th Century terms and language to add to the effect. The insults have a particular 18th Century feel to them and there are splendid ones thrown about. The beginning of the book acknowledges the novelists of the time – Tobias Smollett, Laurence Sterne and Henry Fielding – and it has awoken in me a desire to read those books.

Often, when a novel holds a mystery in its centre, the final revelation is disappointing. While small clues were dropped along the way, the final reason for Mr Smith’s visit to New York and where the money came from is still satisfying. The last chapter is another bitter-sweet surprise.

Read this book. It’s amazing.

View all my reviews