copies of the Diabetes Diet books in a pile

A Little Bit of Success

copies of the Diabetes Diet books in a pileBlimey… I’m comfortable enough with failure. It’s not the opposite of success after all. But something happened this week that astonished me.

It was a teeny-tiny hint of something that might be working. I went online to check book sales. I have three, two fictional ones* and The Diabetes Diet, which I co-wrote with Dr Katharine Morrison. The total sales took me by surprise as The Diabetes Diet had made more than £160 in royalties in less than two weeks.

Successful authors won’t view this as a big deal, but the book’s royalties hover on the £10 a month mark most of the time. The book has always sold (put the word diet on a book and sales are guaranteed), but never at these levels.

Type the diabetes diet into Amazon’s UK site and ours is the first book to come up—at least on Monday (18 June). It’s in the top ten disorders and diseases category, the top 50 diets and weight loss, and number 1283 in non-fiction.

Traffic to both my blogs (this one and the one I write to complement The Diabetes Diet) has spiked in recent weeks, which might have contributed to the rise in sales. Or perhaps Dr Morrison’s attendance at the Public Health Collaboration conference last month helped. Maybe it’s both.

I did do some jiggery-pokery at the beginning. I made sure I used a lot of keywords in the description and I thought carefully about my tags. When we gave the book a paperback offering, we paid someone to redesign the cover, making the book look more professional.

I publicise the blog on LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, but do little else to promote the book. I’ve never run marketing campaigns on it, and I’ve never put it in for a Kindle count-down deal. Even the blog doesn’t do that much to implicitly promote the book. I don’t have a plug-in, for example, that tells people where they can buy it every time a visitor lands on our site.

Of course, successful authors do their best to discover where the sales are coming from so they can do more of the same. Another idea would be for me to investigate the costs of an audio book, so that The Diabetes Diet is available in three forms, or even a large print paperback. Given that diabetes often affects people’s eyesight, an audio or large print version makes sense.

I recognise that rankings and sales fall as swiftly as they rise on Amazon. To quote Rudyard Kipling, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two imposters just the same”. In other words, don’t get too wound up by either of them.

Anyway, it is nice to have a little success. I’ll revel in it for the short time it lasts.

*The success won’t go to my head. Sales of the fictional books still elude me…

Advertisements

Origins of the Artist

Origins of the Artist, a book by Emma BairdSometimes you just can’t let go of a character. Two years ago, I created a young man, aged 18 and in denial. I made him go through a horrible ordeal when his best friend died, then I charted his coming out. I added him to the background of a story about another of his friends, then decided I wasn’t quite finished with him yet…

Now’s he’s in his late 40s and yes, yet again I’m making him suffer. 

Even when John turned up in Kippy’s dreams alive and very much well, he always knew it wasn’t right. As the sequence played out, the dream Kippy would eventually say, “No, you’re not really here. You’re dead,” or some such.

He wasn’t conscious of John suddenly disappearing, a ghost who said, “It’s a fair cop, guv,” and vanished now he’d been fingered, so to speak. But the John of his dreams was there one minute, gone the next. Kippy didn’t wake up and relive his partner’s death over and over again.

It didn’t stop him from crying most mornings. He was forty-seven years old, far too young for widower status. Granted, John had been fifteen years older than him, but even so. A man dying at sixty-one was rotten, rotten luck. Especially when that man was so fit and healthy your average insurer would be hard-pressed to quote over-the-top premiums for life insurance.

Take his lifestyle. Some years ago, John announced he was giving up the sauce as a fiftieth birthday present to himself. He’d never been a big drinker, anyway. Brought up in a small town and having spent many years hiding his sexuality, Kippy was the one who put away the pints and downed the whiskies.

John, though, decided he didn’t like the after-effects anymore. He’d been a nice, non-nagging teetotaller too, never minding Kippy having a pint too many and becoming maudlin and soppy, in your typical West Coast of Scotland man’s way.

John exercised regularly, and his diet had been exemplary post a high-cholesterol scare. It was he who’d introduced Kippy to the joy of salads and vegetables, foods that Kippy always regarded suspiciously. Rabbit food, right? John’s Italian momma and her Scottish husband were exceptionally good cooks, and their talent rubbed off on their son. He believed in home-cooked food made with passion and garnished with love.

And yet bowel cancer struck anyway, its diagnosis so late John was beyond saving. At the hospital, they made him as comfortable as they could, agreeing reluctantly in the end that he could go home to die.

Kippy found the world’s kindest and most compassionate palliative cancer care nurse who split her support equally between the two of them, helping prepare Kippy for those last few moments when your partner finally leaves you.

The peace of it was what he remembered. Pain takes everything from you, even a kind and wonderful man like John ends up with little reserves of love and patience left. Kippy needed something from him—a dramatic statement or gesture that raised them from the everyday mundanity of death.

“Bereavement is ordinary and extraordinary at the same time,” the nurse told him. “We all go through it, but we experience it quite differently, which is why it’s so hard to explain to anyone else.”

He’d willed John to use his gift with words. His partner was the man who’d spent years using his rapier wit to persuade judges and juries that the wee nef stood in front of them deserved a second chance. He’d torn apart police statements, making juries laugh at the same time as everyone loved the public putting down of authority figures.

A man of such talent should be able to summon forth words that Kippy could store in his mind’s vault, taking them out from time to time to polish and cherish their beauty. But there was nothing left in John. He muttered that he loved Kippy and those dark eyes welled up. And then one morning, Kippy woke and took in the deafening silence that told him his life partner was dead. He walked into the room and felt the stillness of it. There were no ragged breaths, no creaks from the bed of a man shuffling in a vain attempt to get comfortable.

Oh, the relief.

They’d celebrated their 25th anniversary six months before John died, an occasion that later became known as one of the BC events. Before cancer, everything seemed careless and overly optimistic. An anniversary almost always prompts the words, and here’s to the next ten, fifteen and even twenty-five years.

The date marked their 25th year together, rather than a formal wedding or civil partnership anniversary, though that took place too. What a day it had been. Neither of them fancied flamboyance or even more than one or two guests, but the celebration was taken out of their hands.

“You must make it a big event!” Lillian declared, her excitement far more visible than theirs. “It’s symbolic. Please let me help organise it!”

By ‘help’ she meant, take over completely. They’d both given in to her, partly because she’d been moping her way through a bad break-up at the time. On 31 December 2006 just over a year after the law came into effect, Kippy and John registered their civil partnership, both wearing Lillian-designed suits. She insisted on lots of photographs and posted them all over her website and Facebook. She intended to position her business as the go-to for civil partnerships, she announced. Kippy raised his eyebrows at that. Wasn’t high-end fashion inherently gay? She didn’t need their help to make it more so.

The guest list, one that needed cutting many times, numbered almost 150 in the end. Kippy muttered about the expense repeatedly. John tended towards sensibleness far more than he did, but the wedding-like whirlwind seemed to deafen him, and he waved away Kippy’s concerns about the bills. Covers on chairs? Why not? Kitsch, handmade favours? Of course. A reception in Glasgow’s most expensive hotel. Nothing else would do.

He remembered the cheers when the registrar said that in the presence of their friends, family and witnesses, it gave him great pleasure to declare they were now both civil partners to each other.

John’s momma managed to source a gay priest to confer blessings on the couple that day. As an elderly Italian, she’d only recognise a partnership that had some stamp of authority from the Catholic church, no matter that her son and his partner had lived together for more than ten years by that time.

The priest was known as a firebrand in religious circles and he had to dodge the odd death threat online, but he charmed Francesca assuring her that God smiled kindly on her son and he delighted in the union.

“Love is all,” he told the gathering, “and that is it.”

The post-ceremony celebration had gone on for hours. John stumbled off to bed at 1am, and Kippy partied with their extended family and friends, knocking back enough whisky for him to end up dancing, something he never bothered with unless he was paralytic.

He’d later woken up John to tell him all about it, seeing as that was how they’d first met. Kippy, a young and just-out art school student, had been at a party and drank too much of the punch. He asked John to dance with him to an Erasure Abba cover and John had taken him home afterwards. That hadn’t been their beginning though. As someone who’d been ‘out’ for far longer, John thought Kippy wasn’t right for him.

“I thought you would break my heart,” he told him when they’d finally got together. “Young, gorgeous… One of those gays who needed to sow his wild oats.”

It had been sort of true. Kippy grew up in a small fishing village in the 1980s. He’d kept his gayness a secret, even dating girls to appear normal to the outside world. When he’d won an art prize, he’d been able to leave Kirkinwall behind and his first year at art school had been heavenly, all the wall-to-wall cock and no-one to horrify with your lusting after it…

He’d done the classic thing, shagged everything that moved for months but the memory of John’s eyes and how his gaze felt on him was always present. Every encounter Kippy experienced was tinged by the warmth of that stare. It took a life-threatening beating to bring the two of them together, finally.

Finally, and forever—or at least until death do us part.

The funeral was to take place tomorrow, and Kippy found himself trying on different suits to find one that fitted properly. He’d lost so much weight over the last couple of months, they hung off him. Clinging to your stylishness was his survival mode of choice. His long-ago civil partnership suit still fitted, but was it fitting to wear an outfit of celebration to an occasion of mourning?

Lillian would say ‘yes’, but then she would. He’d be promoting her clothing and he wouldn’t put it past her to photograph him surreptitiously in it and then post it online. He longed to ask for her opinion. “Do I wear the suit, or buy another one?”

He hadn’t told her in person about John’s death, unable to face that complication, but someone would have passed the news on. John had been an old family friend, and he was…something Kippy tried not to think about too often. Lillian would come to the funeral if he wanted her to or not.

And he found he did. She could even bring her too if she wanted.

Still stuck on the question of appropriate funeral gear, he went out. Fraser’s had come to the tail end of the January sales and the gentlemen in Menswear pounced on him, razor-sharp radars detecting gayness and a liking for decent clothing at first glance.

When the guy asked what the suit was for, Kippy avoided the truth. Sympathy from someone who hadn’t known John would have been too hard to handle. He couldn’t bear to hear condolences trotted out in fake sincerity. He’d lost weight, he said, and nothing in his wardrobe fitted.

Dan, the salesman, eyed him enviously. He was what John would have called deliciously plump, and Kippy described as fat.

“How did you manage that over Christmas and New Year?” Dan’s voice had slipped, resentment replacing the usual customer cultivation tones. “I ate my bodyweight in chocolate.”

Kippy said he’d been ill, smiling to himself when Dan slipped back into obsequious mode.

He managed to find Kippy a gorgeous suit. It was more flamboyant than anything he’d usually wear (and ludicrously expensive), but it fitted beautifully. Kippy had been a skinny young man who’d turned into a slim older bloke. The weight loss had turned him skinny again and the new burgundy suit looked as if it had been sewn on. The sheen of it would have been tacky on anything less expensive. He handed his card over and tried not to wince.

At least he’d been able to resist Dan when he’d tried to steer him to new shoes as well.

Now, all he had to do was get through the next day.

You can follow the story’s progress on Wattpad. 

©Emma Baird 2018

High Heels and Pink Glitter – the Books

This week I’m…trying out other people’s blog ideas (thank you Sandra). She posted a piece at A Corner of Cornwall where she took the title of her blog and looked at books that started with the same word.

Emma Baird doesn’t easily lend itself to the idea, apart from the famous Jane Austen book I want to read again in a few years’ time but my old blog name, High Heels and Pink Glitter, throws up possibilities.

I read Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity years ago, but there’s also J G Ballard’s High Rise. I saw the film starring Tom Hiddleston when it came out, and it would be interesting to explore how the story plays out in the book.

High heels features in a lot of book titles, according to Goodreads.com. Gemma Halliday has a whole series of books using ‘high heels’, Undercover in High Heels, etc. There are lots of variations on the theme of head over heels too.

In my twenties, I read a book called Running in Heels by Anna Maxted, which I loved. It featured a protagonist who was the same age as me and working in the same industry, and it felt very current at the time.

Reading the reviews of the book on Goodreads reminded me once again what an individual experience reading is for everyone. The range of adjectives and descriptions used is huge, enough to make you wonder if everyone read the same book. But no, that’s reading for you! One (wo)man’s meat is another one’s poison, etc.

For pink, I found this title – Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies): Amazing women on what the F word means to them, a collection of writing from Hollywood actresses to teenage activists including Helen Fielding, Saoirse Ronan and Karen Gillan. Apart from anything else, I do have substantial amounts of pink in my wardrobe…

Glitter is used in a lot of chick lit too, but I homed in on this example—Glitter by Kate Maryon, a book written for the tween audience. I’d like to read this because the reviews are so good and I want to see how an author writes for that age group. You don’t have to like a genre or be the target audience to appreciate an author’s abilities after all.

Do any of my choices appeal to you?

 

Auld Claes and Parritch

Ah, January! Once you crawl out from under the pile of wrapping paper, empty bottles and chocolate wrappers, the Bacchanalian joy vanishes, and it’s back to auld claes and parritch*, right?

No wonder folks hate January. It’s cold, dark and no-one is going out (in the UK at least). Whisper it, I quite like January so far. There are a lot of small (and the odd big) things that are making me happy.

Scheduling. Nothing says January like plotting out your activities on an online calendar, eh? I’m THE saddo who spent a satisfying two hours adding everything to Outlook. Basically, there’s no room for anything spontaneous until the end of February.

Emma BairdFeeding the Birds. If I’d known how much joy this would give me, I’d have done it years ago! I put out a handful of nuts every day, and they’re gone an hour later. We’ve got three or four blue tits that visit the garden regularly, and this morning I managed to spot one of them and a robin swoop in for a feed.

“Birdie, are you sure you can eat that?” I wondered aloud. Half a peanut looks like the equivalent of a human trying to chow down on a double cheeseburger.

I’ve also got a jar of Flutter Butter, peanut butter, especially for small, fluttering birds. Next job is to find the cat-safe place to install it seeing as our garden is also a haven for the neighbourhood cats. As my friend said, “Wow, it’s like you’ve just put a takeaway menu for them up on the wall.”

Using Draft2Digital. The Girl Who Swapped is now out of Kindle Select so I can go wide. I used Draft2Digital, as I’ve heard and read good things about this platform for uploading e-books onto multiple places. The book is now on Kobo, iTunes, Playster and a good few I’ve never heard of, as well as Amazon.

Here’s the Universal Book Link – books2read.com/tgsw

 

 

Walking along beaches. Thursday was a dull, gloomy day in my neck of the woods. I took myself off to Prestwick to visit a friend. Down there, the sun shone brightly, so we took her dog Ruaridh out for a long walk along the beach front. I probably met and spoke to half of Prestwick at the same time. Dog walking is unbelievably sociable.

Emma BairdAcquiring jewellery. My mum LOVES giving gifts and this year she decided to pass on her ring collection, giving my sisters and I one each. This is mine. Isn’t it gorgeous?

How’s your January going?

*A Scottish saying meaning the humdrum, workaday world.

Artists Town – Rewrite DONE #amwriting

Artists Town by Emma Baird

Drum roll – I finished rewriting something this week. Big deal, Ms B, you say, and I don’t blame you.

But regular readers and friends might know I LOATH rewriting. When I finish a book, I go off it very quickly. In the perfect world, it would rewrite itself, magically upload itself on Amazon, Kobo et al., and then, oh I dunno, sell? And sell in enough quantities to make money.

I gave myself a ticking off. Emma, I said, the magic fairies do not come along and do this for you. In came the carrot and stick. Restructure the novel – BOOM; you get a glass of wine. Fail to rewrite for an hour or so. WHACK – you’re not allowed to write anything new. (Writing new stuff is what I love doing.)

The carrot thing, unfortunately, ran out on 1st January as I signed up for one of those Dry January thingies, so that motivated me to rewrite faster.

Rewriting Artists Town kept presenting different issues. I changed my mind numerous times about the order of some chapters. A weird and wonderful crime that took place in the 1990s was my inspiration. When I did more research, I had to change quite a few things.

And then there were the bloody comma splices. My factual writing differs a lot from my creative writing style. It turns out I am forever putting independent clauses in one sentence. I’m not keen on semi-colons, and they shouldn’t be used too frequently anyway. I rewrote a lot of sentences as a result.

I end a lot of sentences with prepositions too*. I took them out where this would improve the prose, but left in a lot of them as otherwise the sentence didn’t sound natural.

But hey, at least I know what comma splices are now!

One rewrite does not a finished novel make. Improvements are still needed. And I have some factual stuff I need to check – police procedures relating to crimes committed in different jurisdictions. But the project is a lot further on that it was two months ago.

Here’s the blurb for the book, which I hope to publish later this year:

Fifteen-year-old Daisy has been dragged along on a family holiday in a small Scottish town against her will. But then, that’s what happens when you suddenly develop a chronic health condition. Your mum and dad take away all your freedom.

Still, the holiday has its compensations. There’s Katrina, resident ‘cool’ girl who decides to take Daisy under her wing. Katrina happens to have a gorgeous, older cousin who looks at Daisy in a certain way. Is this holiday about to change Daisy’s life for the better?

Escaping from London seems to have affected Daisy’s dad. He’s got some madcap schemes in mind, but just where is all the money for this coming from?

Set in 1990, Artists Town is a coming of age tale that explores friendship, first love, learning to be cool and navigating life’s challenges.

 

*See the wonderful Grammar Girl’s article on ending sentences with prepositions. She also does a weekly podcast which manages to make grammar easy to understand AND interesting.

 

Writing Resolutions for 2018

Image result for 2018

Write something that makes a profit?! Okay, if we count my copywriting business, that’s ticked off. But there are areas I want to move away from and plans I have for 2018.

Look for work elsewhere. Copywriting, and especially using job bidding worksites such as PeoplePerHour and Upwork, isn’t sustainable for me. The pay is dreadful, and most of the small contactors want too much for too little. I’ll stay on the sites, but I’m not going to put the same effort into pursuing work there as the ROI isn’t worth it.

Author services. This market can only continue to expand. If the robots are coming for our jobs, then more people will have time to write, and they’ll need accompanying services, beta reading, editing, formatting and more. I’ve done more paid author services this year and I plan to expand my offering.

Check out AI. Artificial intelligence is already writing factual articles and sports reports. It’s even produced fan fiction. You can rail against it, or accept that it will happen and look for how you can work with AI. I’ve done this already through jobs where I’ve worked on AI translations to make them sound more naturalistic. Again, this is an area that will continue to grow.

Workshops. A friend suggested I think about running workshops. I hate the idea, as I’m an introvert, but resolutions are about moving out of your comfort zone, right?

Publish four books. Every success story in indie publishing points to proliferation (I flippin’ love alliteration) and the Amazon algorithm rewards you if you can upload something every 30 days. This can include short stories. I’ve got four draft novels that need tidying up. Edit, go forth and publish dear gel…

Ongoing development. I’ve taught myself a lot about book marketing, and especially online marketing but I’m no master of it. If you want to stay ahead, you must keep learning about this subject.

Sell directly. This year, I want to offer direct sales of my books. There are plenty of options, Gumroad, for example, or e-commerce via WordPress if I upgrade my site.

Happy New Year and thanks for following my blog. What are your resolutions, writing or not?

Picture thanks to Max Pixel free pictures.

 

Wattpad Adventures Part Three

Hello new follower of me on Wattpad! I pounce on ‘em, as they are small in number. Then, I stalk them. The profiles, sadly, are often irritatingly vague.

Where are you from, I ask. Just out of interest.

(Is this getting creepy yet?)

Then, I think up questions I’d like to know the answer to. How did you find me? Why did you follow me? What piece of my work interests you particularly? Is there anything you hope to get out of our new relationship?

I debate which one I can ask without seeming like a neurotic nut job who gets herself instantly unfollowed. Maybe number three? With parts a), and b) why, why, why did you like it? And, was it only like and not love?

TBH, that is just the tip of the iceberg. What I really want to ask is, gosh how did you stumble upon me, given that I’m about as visible as a…not-very visible thingie. Then, did you think, oh wow, this SavvyDunn is one super-writery person! I really love her. I’m gonna recommend her to all my 950,000 followers, all of whom actually prefer buying books on the Kindle to reading them for free on Wattpad.

Ah, wishful thinking.

My newest follower number one is reading my erotica. So, having tried to write endless sex scenes and bored myself to tears with it, it now looks as if I might need to start dreaming up new ways for two people (or more) to get jiggy.

I don’t want my newbie to feel cheated. He thought he was getting loads of sex. Instead, my characters spend most of their time obsessing about life, love, work… oh, hang on a minute. Something sounds very familiar.

Newest follower number two is a 14-year-old girl. I guess she wants to read the books I’ve written that are aimed roughly at the YA audience (though YA also gets a lot of reads from older people, some 55 percent of readers). To keep her happy, I’m going to have to go away and think up more teen girl aligning with vampires nonsense.

To keep it interesting, I might need to try the reverse harem approach – one girl, three or four guys to choose from. The rules of the genre are that she never makes her mind up, not by the end of the book, nor even the series.

Or maybe I could just ask newbie one and two what they want. When you write copy for businesses, they generally tell you what they want you to write about. That makes it easy. When you’re writing fiction, you guess what people want to read. And not always accurately.

One of the UK’s biggest indie success stories, Mark Dawson, surveys his readers once a year to ask them what they want to read.

Anyway, back to my new followers. Another thing you notice about the young things is that they blatantly ask for follows, reviews, tags and comments back. I don’t do that kind of thing because I’m a) British and b) I’d prefer it came naturally, people who genuinely like and read my stuff.

And how’s that working out for me? Wattpad followers – seven in total. Time for plan B, eh?