Mid-year Writing Summary – 2018

 

I believe the greatest pressure applied to an indie author is from within—as should be the case with any self-motivated person. We must have a heartfelt desire to produce work to the best achievable standard. This sets the tone for this post.

Each year, I end with a summary of my writing achievements and near-misses (I try not to class anything as a failure—except my one-time attempt at writing for children). I tend to start the new year with my targets for the year ahead, but it occurred to me to produce a mid-year summary.

This year has already served me with mixed fortunes in my writing.

Codename: Nightshade, a standalone thriller has for several reasons not developed as well as I would like, and will remain a Work in Progress.

Czech Mate, a second standalone thriller has likewise cost me time and effort but I’m unsatisfied with the direction—a second tale to leave on the back-burner.

One Man, Two Missions: and other stories is my next anthology of mixed-genre tales and they are coming along well. Several of the stories started life a long time ago—and we are talking years; not weeks or months. Due publication in summer/autumn 2018.

Lisa: and other short stories by C I Lopez was a collection I felt privileged to assist the author to produce. This is Carmen’s second selection of stories from her wide-ranging files full of short stories. As I did with her first anthology, I provided three ‘bonus’ tales to support the book. This author may be new to some of you, but her work is worth checking out.

 

Curious and Camping: An Erotic Journey developed rapidly from two different ideas, and I believe it worked. In May 2018 it became my second erotica novel. As usual with this genre, good to see early sales, but reviews are hard to come by.

Quiet Night Inn: and other erotic stories is another by-product of not throwing away ideas and has resulted in the successful completion of my second erotic anthology. These tales have been redrafted several times over a long period. Publication – June 2018.

To find out more about my erotica work please visit: Tom Benson – Erotica

 

Paperback conversions had been beckoning me for a couple of years and I’m pleased I postponed the task—and a task is what it is. Of course, I’m suggesting that it’s hard work, but my intention was never to simply copy the eBook files and have a cover designed.

I reworked Amsterdam Calling from beginning to end and apart from reducing the word count and altering the style to cut dialogue tags, I believe the writing is an improvement. The cover was designed by my professional cover designer Aimee Coveney and made to measure.

Having learned many lessons, I followed up with Ten Days in Panama and performed the same disciplines. Once again the job took weeks rather than days, but the end product is pleasing to the eye—in my humble opinion.

What’s next?

I had intended the next paperback project to be the Beyond The Law trilogy, but again, for various reasons, I’m putting that job on hold. I may write a post in a few weeks to explain my rationale for those who are interested in such information.

A Life of Choice, my military, fact-based fiction series-novel is by far my most successful work to date. This story has resulted in my book sales being daily and not sporadic. My page reads (KENP), have for some months been in the thousands rather than the hundreds on a regular basis.

Requests to have the story in the paperback format are sent to me at least twice weekly, which to my way of thinking is a ‘demand’ worth meeting.

Again, it will not be a straightforward ‘conversion’ of digital to paperback. I will have five books to revise, but to make all five books worth the price set by Amazon I intend to move chapters to increase/decrease volumes to keep them at a uniform size—which is appropriate.

My poetry collections had never been a consideration for a paperback, until recently when I thought it might be a good idea to combine all five anthologies as a single bumper edition (250) of my rhyme. It will be a project to keep me occupied when I’m taking time out from other work.  

My writing journey began seriously in 2007. From the outset, although at first, they were of a low standard I dabbled in short story writing. I kept titles, ideas, introductions, passages and whole stories. As my writing has developed I revisit those old snippets and occasionally it takes only a title or a phrase I’ve used and I feel the urge to get a story written using those old fragments.

I am a great believer in a writer never throwing away material, and this has proved an asset and helped my steady production of titles.

During January 2018 I increased my Facebook visibility by creating Tom Benson – First Pages. My intention was always to attempt a daily post and when I felt the page was established, give publicity to other indie authors.

For three months I plugged away, highlighting an excerpt from one of my books. As April got underway I introduced Monday and Thursday as Review days to show my reviews of fellow indie authors’ work.

I don’t know how much notice is taken of the reviews I feature, but I have noted an uptake on my titles over this time. On week-ending 20th May, I stopped all activity on the page—my intention, to leave it dormant for one week. I’ll see how it goes in the coming weeks.

The internet and social networking are wonderful aspects of our modern world, but occasionally I indulge in a partial or complete detox. Over the past week I’ve deliberately kept a low profile and for me at least, it helps recharge my creative batteries.

Thank you in advance to all those who indulge me with a visit here.

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On Top of The Covers

 

No, it’s not a title for an erotic novel, although it could be.

As any author will tell you, apart from a good story there are a couple of other important aspects when creating a book.

Good formatting to make the book look professional and easy to read, and of course, a decent price to attract sales are two areas to think about. A catchy, accurate title is in the running of important things to consider.

My attempt

Where do you first find the title?

Oh yes, on the cover.

I’ve been writing since 2007 and self-publishing since 2013. Yes, I know to some people it seems longer, but there you go – those are the facts.

 

How have I dealt with covers so far?

I produced covers myself in the early days and though I thought they were okay at the time, I never considered them to be good. I had this misconception that as long as there was a cover to bear the title and the title did its job – that was enough.

Not so, and anybody with experience of buying books or trying to sell books will know.

Would I buy a book with an amateur cover?

Not usually, so I shouldn’t expect anybody to buy mine if they have an amateur cover. Yes, there are some people out there who are not professional cover designers and they’re doing a good job, but many of the indie eBook and paperback covers are badly finished.

I paid for a professional book cover designer to produce a cover for Beyond The Law (as it was prior to becoming first in a trilogy). I later had the cover updated at no cost. The point is, that I saw my book sell and inside three months the price of the designer was covered by those sales. My return was such that the sales paid for the same designer to deal with Ten Days in PanamaAmsterdam Calling, A Taste of Honey and the other two books in the Beyond The Law trilogy.

Do I make exceptions?

Yes, I continue to work hard at designing covers for my short story and poetry anthologies, because those types of books are recognised as being low in the sales market. For the past three months, my five-part series A Life of Choice has been selling well. To ensure the series was spotted by a target audience I created the covers with actual photographs from my military service mounted on a background of the regimental colours of the Royal Corps of Signals. I also design the covers for my erotica titles because although they sell, I consider them an extension of the joy of sex writing.

My efforts may not attain professional standards but I aim to maintain a brand feel by using continuity within any series. We all know that recognition plays a big part in marketing and it’s an area we should strive to understand.

 

What’s my next step?

Form the outset I’ve formatted my eBooks, although I have depended on beta readers to improve the end product. I recently bought a licence to use Vellum Press, which means I will now be able to format for a paperback.

 

As I write this, my cover designer is working on a paperback cover for Amsterdam Calling. I’m confident Aimee (the designer) will produce a good solution for me, and I’ve spent many hours working on a revamped version of the book’s formatting.

 

The results of our combined efforts will be here for all to see when I’ve got my first paperback in my hands. I’m nervous about taking such a step but I promised myself I would only go paperback if I saw sufficient sales of my eBooks. On top of the sales, I’ve had a lot of interest from people contacting me who for one reason or another cannot deal with eBooks.

 

I hope my words have sparked interest. Remember, if you do decide to pay somebody else to design your covers it will require effort from both parties, or as I suggest on another of my personal covers a little bit of Give & Take

 

Thank you for visiting my blog and as usual, any comments are welcome.

Beyond The Law – The Trilogy

The trilogy is completed with the publication of Beyond The Law: Consequences.

My character Phil McKenzie aka Hawk, was born in an experimental poem in July 2008. Due partly to the nature of the writer’s craft and to the evolution of a story it has taken until now to complete this trilogy of novels.

Novel - BTL - Formation - 220216The first book Beyond The Law: Formation (originally titled Beyond The Law), was intended as a standalone when published in 2013, but as I received feedback it was plain to see I should develop the idea and the characters.

In the second story, Beyond The Law: Retribution, in order to maintain balance and credibility I took the story beyond the streets of Glasgow, and introduced more characters on both sides of the fence which separates good from evil. I continued with the aspects of the original story which had appealed to many readers.BTL Retribution

It will come as no surprise, to bring a successful story to a close is a difficult decision, and no less difficult than how it should be done. I spent many hours considering how to further develop characters and what might become of them in a final story.

As an avid reader I am aware of the empathy felt for the heroes in a story, and in particular an ongoing story. Who should die? Who should live? How will the survivors if any move on?

Novel - BTL 3 ConsequencesUntil I read feedback on Beyond The Law: Consequences I will suffer a long wait.

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Sincere thanks goes out to Anne Francis Scott and Sarah Stuart who performed the task of beta reader for me, and gave me plenty of useful, insightful feedback. Every point highlighted and each recommendation was appreciated. My intention was to accredit these two fine authors in the front pages, but as many writers will be aware, the ‘cross-contamination’ of author names in Amazon can be lethal to all concerned.

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I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Aimee Coveney of AuthorDesignStudio who designed all three covers for this trilogy. In each case Aimee provided a variety of solutions based on my brief. We worked together as she took my initial vision to what have now become established and successful covers.

Aimee is now a member of the team at a new venture called Bookollective.

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As always, I thank you for taking the time to read my post. Now, how far have you reached in the BTL story? If you do take the journey, please consider leaving a review.

Tom

A Life of Choice: Part One – now available

In 1992, I considered myself fortunate, not only to have completed a military career, but to have done so unscathed by mental or physical trauma. It was towards the end of that great life I considered writing my autobiography, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed.

Most service personnel are storytellers, although many would say it wasn’t the case. To put that statement in context, if you have two or more soldiers in a truck, in the troop garages, a trench, a bar, or a social event – you will have storytelling.

My favourite setting is the ubiquitous campfire. I can recall more than one occasion sitting around with a group of guys, sometimes with beers, and sometimes with coffee. Even the memory brings a smile.

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CampfireThe scene means more to me now, as a writer.

Why?

It is where storytelling began – and in effect where my present career was born.

Prior to the written word, storytelling was how experience, instruction, and legend were passed between our ancient ancestors – and it still is in some places.

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I toyed with the idea of a straightforward, no holds barred, truthful account of 23 years of fun, fear, drunken nights and a multitude of different days, but I realised it couldn’t work. Next up was the thought of writing the chapters as individual short stories, but that method would have made it easier for real people to see themselves and others.

I followed my military career with 20 years in retail management, during which I wrote my autobiography in several styles – but always badly.

I am not foolish enough to judge if I’ve got it right this time, so I’ll have to await reviews, but the story will now be published in easily digestible parts.

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It was in 2007, I stepped down from retail management to make writing my third career, but it was only in recent times I pulled out my handwritten notes and word documents to assess what to do with my very first ‘big’ story.

Armed with the experience of writing my novels and short stories, I tackled the venture with a new attitude. The story is loosely related to my military career, but it is not an autobiography. Although I’ve chosen to write the tale in first person point of view – it is fact-based fiction.

All the ingredients are retained, but with a light-hearted tone. I sincerely hope it leaves a sense of intrigue and not frustration in the mind of the reader, to know that some events involved me, some are fictitious, and yet others are based on events that I know happened to somebody else.

A Life of Choice – Part One is now available on Amazon and is unlike anything I’ve written previously. My estimation is to complete the story in five parts, and if reviews are favourable, this is the story I would most like to produce in paperback at a later date.

The link below is an Amazon – universal link which will take you to your local Amazon.

Amazon – universal / preview / buy

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As always, thank you for reading my blog, and if you do decide to try this new title, I would appreciate a review, however short. Authors don’t ask for reviews to receive praise – they ask for them to provide feedback to let them know if they’ve achieved the primary aim, which is to entertain the reader.

Until we meet again. Thank you.

Tom

Happy New Writing Year!

Ten Titles minus oneI’ve left behind a year which felt productive from beginning to end.
My primary objective for 2016 is that it will be at least as fulfilling as last year.
I will continue to deal with my Work in Progress (WIP) simultaneously, and in that way each project will feel fresh at every session.

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What’s on in 2016 for Tom Benson – Author?

1  Publication of A Life of Choice – Part One

Production of Codename: Koki by Malcolm Beadle

3  Revision of each of my present novels.

Publication of A Time for Courage: and other military stories, my next anthology

Produce artwork to accompany Whisper Wood, my submission for the IASD Children’s anthology

6  Produce a short story for the next themed IASD anthology

Produce one of my present novels as a paperback using Create Space

8  Ongoing maintenance and improvement of the IASD website / blog

Read and review more titles from the IASD catalogue

10 Support of the IASD members in whatever capacity I am able

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Tom’s blog post – Supplementary

A Life of Choice - Part OneMy aim is to publish A Life of Choice – Part One by Sunday 10th January.

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Codename: Koki is the debut novel by Malcolm Beadle. He is fellow writer and friend who is more comfortable scriptwriting, which is why he needs support to edit and fine-tune his first action thriller. Malcolm has a direct and entertaining storytelling style.

Provisional cover idea

Provisional cover idea

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As mentioned in a blog post last year, I intend to visit each of my present novels in the order they were published. My intention is to revise each book, but using the reviews as my guide. I will amend the book covers as I complete the revisions.

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IASD - globe 2The IASD website / blog is now fit for purpose, but we are going to introduce new ideas and aim to achieve regular interaction for our members and visitors.

The Admin team will be driving the changes, but from this point onward, guided by the comments, suggestions and support of the whole group. There will be more on an update in January.

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I’ve got some serious work ahead of me now, so I will thank you for dropping by and any comments.

Let’s get reading, reviewing, and writing!

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2015 – A Year of Writing

 

Like many other writers, I enjoy turning a fresh page, whether it be reading, writing, or turning that page metaphorically. As we approach another year end / beginning, I’m taking a look back at my targets for 2015.

Firsts for 2015

I published A Taste of Honey in December 2014, so I was delighted to begin my new writing year with great reviews of my latest title.

In that happy frame of mind, I set myself the following aims:

1.  Update the ‘back pages’ information in all of my books.
2.  Read and review more work by the members of the IASD writing group.
3.  Step in quietly and offer assistance to new / novice writers wherever possible.
4.  Update my author website, creative writer and artist website, and this blog.
5.  Attempt a book or series for children.
6.  Write a new novel.
7.  Write a sequel to one of my present novels.
8.  Write another anthology of short stories.
9.  Work harder at my ongoing project of my fact-based fiction, coming-of-age story.
10. Work hard to make my blog topics interesting.

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How did I do with my ten general topics?

1.  I updated the information for the back pages of my published titles, and set out a standard document to make the process simpler as I moved forward.

2.  I read and reviewed 15 books in the IASD.

3.  I’ve given assistance to three novice authors directly from our group. At the time of writing I am editing a fellow writer’s debut novel. I’ll be formatting the finished manuscript, and producing the cover for him in 2016.

4.  I updated my two personal websites and my blog, and in an ongoing effort to streamline and improve them, I’ve gone on to overhaul my secondary website and this blog twice more within the past year.

5.  On my first attempt at writing for children, I failed on several levels, but rather than dwell on a specialised genre where I recognise I don’t belong, I decided to leave the genre to those who write it well.

6.  A fresh novel was beginning to look like another thriller, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and based on the success of my erotica anthology – I wrote a novel in the same genre.

In September, I published Give & Take: a Tale of Erotica.

7.  My first sequel saw the light of day, after a lot of procrastination, planning, and hard work – and then of course it was rewritten several times.

In November, I published Beyond The Law: Retribution.

8.  I started the year with three ideas for an anthology, and following the offer of including work by guest authors, the anthology was eventually created.

In December, I published, The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories, a collection of 15 stories, six of which are from guest authors.

9.  My fact-based fiction novel is now taking shape as my first attempt at a series. It is presently intended to be a five-part story. The first book is ready to be formatted.
A Life of Choice – Part One will be published on Amazon in January 2016.

10. I’ve written blog articles on marketing, blogging, writing anthologies, and a few other topics. My official followers have now risen to the dizzy heights of 170+.

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What else have I been up to?

writingmagazineI had an article in Writing Magazine in March, highlighting my writing successes to date.

I wrote Goals, a short story for the charity anthology, You’re Not Alone, being produced by Ian D Moore. Stories from 28 members of the IASD were included and it went live on Amazon in July. Book cover - You're Not Alone

I wrote Faith, Hope, and Charity, a short story for Holes, an IASD anthology produced by Eric Lahti, as a marketing tool for our members.

Holes snip

I wrote the poem Whisper Wood, for inclusion in a children’s anthology of stories and poetry being produced by Sylva Fae. The collection will be published in 2016.

I’ve been interviewed by Christoph Fischer, and had a Recommended Read award from Patrick (Max) Power.   Max Pwr Rec Read

Since October, I’ve been working hard on the IASD website with fellow Admin guys, Paul Ruddock and Ian D Moore. The restructuring is complete and the new, improved version of our website will be posted for public viewing in January, complete with our first Featured Author of 2016.

IASD - globe 2I’ve signed up to another couple of websites too, but whether they will prove useful in the long run is hard to predict.

My most recent trial has been signing up to BookLinker. This is a site where a regular Amazon URL can be transformed into a ‘universal’ link. I’ve been using the links on Facebook and I’ll be reporting my findings in January 2016.

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That’s about it for this year, so I’d like to say a sincere thank you to all who have played a part in my writing journey over the past 12 months, whether it be in buying my titles, reviewing, offering advice, reading my blog, or any number of other things.

Have a great end to the holiday season, thank you for checking out my scribbles again, and I’ll see you all in 2016 with a new set of projects.

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Learning to Listen, Read, and Write

banner - crpd

What’s the hardest thing to do when you’ve received praise?

I believe the hardest thing for many of us is to consider that we could have done better.

Yes, you’ve done something that received acclaim, but does that really mean you’ve done your best?

No, it means you’ve done enough.

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In July 2015, while I was working hard simultaneously on Give & Take: A Tale of Erotica, and Beyond The Law: Retribution, I wrote a blog titled A Review of Reviews.

I stated in the post that I intended to get my main projects published by December 2015, and then I would tackle each of my titles, one after another to perform a full critical analysis and rewrite.

Well, guess what … it’s November and those two main projects are now published.

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What are my projects for the months ahead?

My agenda is flexible, but fairly well set up for the foreseeable future:

1.  Continue working on my next anthologies
The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories
A Time for Courage: and other military stories

2.  Dust off and get back to work on my fact-based fiction / coming of age story A Life of Choice, which I will now be producing in a series of books.

3.  Continue to work behind the scenes to support and build on the success of the Indie Author Support and Discussion Facebook group, especially with the restructuring of the group website.

4.  Read and review titles from the IASD group website.

5.  In December 2015 I will begin what I said I would do – commence a detailed revision and rewrite of all of my titles.

– Make a copy of the main manuscript.

– Read and make notes from every review, whether positive or negative issues.

– Locate and amend the negative issues as a priority.

– Read the story as a reader, and look out for the telltale signs of the novice. I will have a list of key words and phrases in front of me to locate and zap / replace.

– Subject each chapter individually to Grammarly to double-check punctuation, grammar, and so on.

– Amend the cover and inside information to have a subtle ‘Revised Edition’ with the appropriate date.

– Ask for beta readers in advance of completion.

– When all bugs are ironed out, republish and set up a Kindle Countdown Deal to kick-start interest in the title, and my brand.

– Move on to the next title.

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How long will it take?

Time is not my major concern, because if I’m aiming to achieve a higher standard, it takes as long as it takes.

I’d like to think if I don’t touch the poetry series, I might be capable of dealing with the novels and short stories by next summer. It will be interesting. I’ve no doubt there will be many things which are fine, but there will be issues and it will be a test of my mettle to deal with them properly.

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I will of course report back on a regular basis. Once underway, I will not give up.
Thank you once again for joining me on my journey. All comments are welcome.

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Work in Progress ?

My fuel tank ... and a message.All writers have them, but it’s down to the individual if it is a shelved idea, or a work in progress (WIP).

What’s the difference?

Like all topics I post, this is a matter of personal opinion and experience – and not the result of a deep, and prolonged survey of thousands of hours of discussion. I believe there is a stark difference in this case.

Editing - Amsterdam Calling

What do I consider a shelved idea?

As I tend to do, I write about what I know, including my blog articles.

The following are ‘shelved’ as opposed to WIP.

1 – I have an abundance of titles – yes, only the titles.

2 – I also have around 20 short stories which have been started. This doesn’t mean I’ve opened a file and given a title – it means I’ve written at least an intro paragraph, or more in some cases.

3 – The shelved ideas category also includes the ‘ideas’ which are still in my head. I don’t like to think of myself being busier than anybody else because I’ve got a head full of ideas.

Every writer should have a head full of ideas.

What do I consider a work in progress?

At the time of writing (31st October 2015), here is my WIP:

1 Beyond The Law: Retribution.BTL Retribution

This is the sequel to my most popular title so far. Understandably, I’m working hard to produce my best.

I’m presently reading it aloud, line by line, and using a red pen to highlight minor issues before final tweaking and formatting.

Publication date is 7th November 2015.

 

2The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories.

The WelcomeThis is not a single title of course, but a collection. I will be supplying eight of the stories. Four other stories will be supplied by guest authors. If you’d like to take part, please see the recent, relevant post:

(The Weclome) – plus details of the invitation to add a short story to an anthology.

Three of my stories in this collection have been published previously in other anthologies. Another three are new and completed, while the final two are completed, but I don’t like the endings – yet.

Of the four stories coming in from guests, I have two firm and in my file, one being reworked, and there is no show as yet from the fourth.

I’m determined that any anthology I publish will have at least 12 titles, so if necessary I will write another title to make up the shortfall.

3 A Time for Courage: and other military stories.A Time for Courage - 1

This is another anthology, for which I’ve invited at least four guest authors. The offer is still open.

Three of my stories in this collection are previously published elsewhere in anthologies. The other five are at various stages of completion. A satisfactory ending is paramount for me with a short story, so it’s an area that will affect a completion date for any of my work.

4A Life of Choice – Volume 1.

This is a coming-of-age story with a difference.

ALOC - Vol 1It is a fictional tale, but based on my life. The story started as my autobiography many years ago when I could type … but I couldn’t write. I’m now fairly confident in my ability to do both, although how good a writer I am is not for me to say.

Instead of one book, this story will now be written as a series, which will allow me to take it into the years after the military career.

I believe the post-military character of a person is as important to understand as the boy-to-career soldier.

Much of what will be in the various volumes will be true events, where only a name or two have changed, but some scenes will be completely from my imagination.

I’m always working on this series in the background, but until I’m happy with the first three volumes, there will be nothing published from the series. (Volume 1 should be out by March 2016)

My theory is that I have to know if the idea is worth the effort. To be fair to readers and give the project a healthy chance, I feel I must give at least a good bite of the cherry – or in this case, three volumes, all at low prices.

Well, there you go my faithful, and possibly some new followers.

In a nutshell, if it’s a work in progress (WIP), to my way of thinking – you are ‘working’ on it.

Thank you once again for putting up with me and my theories.

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PS. I’ve used a little bit of artistic license. I am in the bottom picture of A Life of Choice, but I’m not a recruit. 😀

The Wallpaper Effect – Part 2 of 2

Wallpaper sectionIn the first part of this two-piece article I highlighted what I refer to as the Wallpaper Effect. As promised, this second post is not intended as a list of suggestions to bring success to all, but it is an insight into my own personal strategy.

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It may not seem like much, but if you saw Part 1, you will remember how busy the graphic appeared. There was so much it was difficult to see the information. In the picture above you’ll see the same information, but presented more clearly.

Even in a picture we must remember to keep it straightforward – or the message can be lost, or ignored. For an eBook, the cover must be effective – it has a job to do, so it might be the reason there is little or no interest in your hard work.

Be prepared to change your cover if there are no sales, or after a lengthy period only low sales. Yes it’s true, the cover can be the cause of folk taking no interest in a title.

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Who designs my covers?

The covers of my novels are usually designed by a cover designer – and this has proven to be a good decision. I saw my sales rise when I made that investment.

I created the cover for Give & Take, and then it was enhanced with the help of the very talented Nico Laeser. The whole idea of attempting the genre was experimental, so I didn’t intend a big outlay. Give and Take - the final cover

As we all do for all of our titles, I have high hopes for my erotic story, but I will only have a new cover designed if the sales continue to rise over the coming weeks. This is not through lack of faith in my work, but because of the saturated market in that genre. Since publication about two weeks ago there has been one day when it hasn’t sold.

I design the covers for my poetry and short story anthologies – because it doesn’t matter how good they look – they are both low selling markets.

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Why would I have a cover designed if my erotica story was actually selling?

Statistics used at a recent conference demonstrated that a professionally designed cover increases existing sales of an eBook by 34%, or if you don’t like percentages – one third. In other words if you are selling 30 books per week, the change to a professional cover is highly likely to take your sales up to 40 per week.

My own title Beyond The Law was selling a couple of days per week with the cover I produced. I had a bespoke cover designed. Inside the first week with the new cover it started to sell almost daily, and it is still my best performing title.

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Which outlets do I use?

I was with Smashwords for a year, and with Kobo about three months, and that was whilst I was also using the basic Amazon account. I decided early on not to spread myself too thin and end up with a possible conflict of interest between outlets.

A few months ago I moved all of my work to Amazon, so as I’ve said before in two posts, I’m an Amazon Bitch. Check out Amazon Bitch Part 1 and Part 2.

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What is my philosophy regarding marketing?

I treat my name as a brand with regard to writing. I know that many indie authors don’t agree with the ‘brand’ idea, but if I am promoting the sale of a product – my work – it is a brand. Fact.

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How do I use my books as a marketing tool?

My steadily increasing catalogue of titles is my best asset. If I can capture one reader with any of my titles they might go on to read more of them. If I’m really lucky the reader will talk about their experience.

I believe my general format helps. To ensure the prospective reader is offered a good sample – I place the minimum information at the front of my books:

– Title, copyright, acknowledgements, and Table of Contents (which lists the information at the back).

There is time enough for extra information at the back:

– Endnotes, a word from the author, a short bio, and also by the author – listing each title with a blurb to entice the reader to try another. I will soon be adding links to other authors – if I’ve read their work.

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What about pricing?

I maintain a reasonable and varied price range – bcause I’m an unknown.
My poetry anthologies are the cheapest – because few people buy poetry.
My short story anthologies have 12 stories – because I believe that gives value for money.
This year, I’ve started working on a sequel to one of my novels. I will eventually write sequels for all of them.

Wallpaper section

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Is there anything I do not do?

– When I post about my titles, I do not praise my own work, except occasionally with a humorous comment.
– I’ve learned to reduce my membership of social media to a handful of sites. I believe that one of the reasons for indie authors feeling stress about marketing is because they spread themselves too thin on the ground.
– Even on Facebook I try not to join too many groups. Once again, less is more
– I do not promote my work daily.
– I post on social media regularly, but not always the same title, or the same message. I alternate between the Books page of my author website, the News and Projects page, the Homepage, and this blog.
– I occasionally use a Kindle Countdown Deal, but I do not do FREE books. I have tried it three times and I don’t think it helped my cause.
– I do not rush my writing – so my publishing target date is not set in stone.
– I do not do a ‘release’ page or anything of that sort on Facebook. This proved to be fortuitous, because I postponed the publication of Give & Take by a week, and I believe I improved the overall product.

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How do I produce my books regularly?

I work on at least two projects simultaneously. Most recently I alternated one month on Give & Take (erotica), and one month on Acts of Vengeance (thriller). Whilst one manuscript is ‘resting’, I work on the other. I’ve found that method of working pays me dividends on various levels, but I may write more about that in another post.

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What else do I believe helps to market me as a brand?

– I have my author website which I paid to have designed. Writing is not a hobby for me – it is by choice a new career, so I wanted a professional look.

– I have another website, Creative Writer and Artist, which features both my writing and samples of my artwork.

– I have an account with the Independent Author Network.

– I have my separate page on Facebook: Tom Benson – Writer.

– I have an author page on both Amazon – UK and Amazon.com

– This blog is related to writing – it is not used as a journal of my daily life.

Please remember – if you don’t want to spend any cash, you can use a blog website as an author website.

My one suggestion is that if you do, you must maintain it as such, and not allow it to become a blog. WordPress have a good basic framework to build such a thing, and it is easy to use. This blog is a WordPress site.

Apart from all the efforts online I designed a business card, and business postcard. Image (28)

I have these produced regularly through Vistaprint. I designed the front with a gloss finish and downloaded a QR code so that it can be scanned by smartphones.

The back of the business card has all contact information except phone number.

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Is there anything that helps but indirectly?

It is probably the most subtle of all things, and I have never intended it as any sort of self-promotion. I make every effort to help other indie writers – especially those who are new to the game. There is not one of us so good that we can’t do with a little bit of help occasionally.

There is nothing more to it for me, than the desire to help, so I read and review work by others.
If I see something that would spoil a story, I hold back on a public review – I tell the author privately. There have been cases where the author has dealt with the issues and I was happy to go back and write a 4* or 5* review.

I do not promote an author’s work unless I’ve read it – for many reasons. If I do like an author’s work, I will praise it at every opportunity.

I’m proud to say that I’ve been in support of Paul Ruddock since he set up the Indie Author Support and Discussion group on Facebook. In the early weeks I ventured to send respectful private messages to those who were producing … less than a good quality product.

We lost three ‘writers’, but since then I’m pleased to say that I’ve continued to work the same way and we have several members who accepted my early criticisms and have gone on to produce great stories.

That is not due to my interference – it is down to the individual author’s hard work and positive attitude. They’ve accepted that their skills were lacking in a particular area – and done something about it. I still get the odd message from a fellow writer about a minor issue, and I’m always grateful.

Mutual support is key to our individual success.

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Do I consider myself an authority?

No, I am not an authority, but I learned most of what I do by reading reference material, hard work, and listening to my reviewers. I am now more of a hermit than a socialite, but I have a burning desire to help my fellow writers to avoid issues I’ve had on my journey.

I joined a writing group a couple of years ago, and it helped me in some ways. When it began to feel like a social gathering, I left.

For several years I’ve subscribed to the two main writing magazines on offer in the UK. They are Writers’ Forum, and Writing Magazine. I’ve won prizes and free subscription years with both of them in the past.

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I hope I haven’t bored anybody with my opinions and ideas, and as always, I’m willing to take any comments or criticisms coming my way. I try never to say anything that I cannot later justify.

Thank you for reading. My next post will be about my journey from ‘regular’ genre to the divisive area of erotica.

See you there … all you voyeurs.

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The Wallpaper Effect – Part 1 of 2

WallpaperWhere am I going today with my opinion?

Marketing, and more importantly – self-marketing.

I’ll explain ‘The Wallpaper Effect’ later in this short post, but before we get there I’d like to address what is probably one of the biggest headaches for indie writers.

An indie writer spends months, or perhaps a year or more working on a book. My average is between eight months and a year for a novel, and longer for a book of twelve short stories.

Having taken every care to get the book ready for the world, the writer is then hit with a variety of issues.

Where to publish?
What price to sell the work?
Where to advertise?
How often to advertise?
Produce it in paperback?

That is a short list, but I think long enough to make my point, so let’s move on.

There are those who believe (as I once did), that we should get the book written, publish it, and then plug it at every opportunity, on every available social network, and as often as possible.

I am not an expert, but trust me – that is not the way to go.

Why not?

There my dear reader is where I believe ‘The Wallpaper Effect’ presents itself.

The book is seen so often that it effectively becomes a ‘regular’ sight, so rather than attracting attention – it is ignored. Think of it as negative marketing.

Where did I come up with this theory?

I will use two previous careers to demonstrate my point.

We’ll look at ‘blending in’ versus ‘standing out’.

1 – In my military career, I had to ‘conceal’ my large radio truck in woodland by ensuring I broke up the square edges and straight lines with camouflage. I made it blend in, so it wasn’t seen. If I was on foot, I’d camouflage myself so that I blended in – unseen.

It was desirable to have The Wallpaper Effect.

2 – I now work a couple of days a week as a sales assistant, but before stepping down – for twenty years I was a retail manager, and for five of those years I worked as a ‘support’ manager.

My role encompassed many aspects of the trade, but one challenging area was pointing out to store managers why an in-store display or window display didn’t produce sales. Sometimes it was just badly done – but in many cases it was the ‘wallpaper effect’.

The display had been the same for so long that it became invisible. It had once caught the eye, but sadly no longer.

It was not desirable to have The Wallpaper Effect.

I’d suggest changes were made – and the product caught the eye once again – and sold.

Changes don’t have to be drastic, but we’ll cover that in Part 2 with regards to self-marketing for indie writers.

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In Part 2 of this post, which will be with you in a couple of days, I’ll write about my most recent (and successful) strategy. I will also mention a couple of ideas I’ve incorporated into that strategy.

How do I judge ‘success’?

During the past month I’ve had five days when I had no sales. I’m not big on statistics but I thought I’d throw in that small one. Okay, so I suppose that’s no big deal, but it gives my morale a boost.

For now, in summary I would suggest to the daily, blanket coverage, campaigner – ease off a bit, relax – and get onto your next title. Yes, still go for blanket coverage, but only once a week.

If you want to see what type of hornet’s nest can be stirred up when dealing with this topic, please check out fellow author and blogger Andy Updegrove‘s article.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again on Wednesday or Thursday.

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P.S. How subtle is that graphic at the top!  😀