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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Ten Days in Panama … in paperback

 

Ten Days in Panama was my second novel, and having first been marketed as a thriller, I amended the description to romance. The first publication of this title was in December 2013 and it’s had two makeovers since then in terms of the manuscript.

As I told my son when he left home to live abroad, ‘if we’re honest with ourselves, about every five years we think we know it all’.

In my humble opinion, the advice I gave that young man is never more accurate than with writers. We may write, revise, edit, rewrite, and so on, but if we go back to a piece of work we were proud of five years earlier, we’ll find things we want to amend. I’ve been plying my craft (and learning) since 2007, and it’s due to my targeting of a higher standard that I’ve delayed paperback editions until recently.

In Ten Days in Panama (paperback and digital), I’ve reduced the sexual content to a softer tone. If there are any readers out there who like my style and crave explicit sex scenes, check out Tom Benson – Erotica.

– The cover of the book is now brighter and I’ve reduced the strapline, and I believe in this case brevity works.

– For me, nothing has been more important or more of a challenge than tightening the manuscript to improve the reading experience. An example would be the removal of most dialogue tags, to be replaced by character activity.

It was a labour of love to produce this story the first time around, and I spent many months creating characters, situations and a story which would live on in the memory. I’m pleased to say that none of the original aspects of the tale has changed in the process.

To those who strive to maintain an updated and informative author website, you will appreciate the joy of adding a ‘paperback’ button to the page for a title. Now I have two of those buttons on display, and in the coming months, I’ll be working hard to add them to my other novels.

Thank you to all who pass by and take the time to leave their thoughts.

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*Remember, if you don’t want to buy a paperback and you don’t own a Kindle, the Kindle App UK is free and it can be downloaded to a PC/Laptop.

If you’re not in the UK, don’t feel left out … Kindle App (from Amazon.com)

 

Amsterdam Calling – with options

There is no excuse for not reading certain books and Amsterdam Calling is now included in that ‘certain’ category. It matters not if you use a smartphone, eReader, computer screen or prefer to handle a physical book — the options are all there. If you have a Kinde eReader you can even read the book for free on Kindle Unlimited.

As the author it’s not for me to say whether it’s a good story, but here is the selection of review excerpts I’ve included on the back cover. I’m delighted to say that the reviews are by three exceptional authors: Lesley Hayes, Patrick Christopher Power, and Barbara Fagan Speake.

Research in Amsterdam

The seed was sown by my distant friend and fellow author, Carmen Lopez. She suggested my knowledge of Amsterdam and its many attractions would lend itself to a good story. In the latter part of 2012, the first notes were made, hundreds of photographs perused and a simple plot devised. A few weeks later I had the makings of a thriller, but as an author will tell you, strong characters have a way of messing with your head; and your story idea.

By the spring of 2013, my tale was a romance with thriller undertones, so thanks for that, Dan and Crystal, (the main characters).

The final version took a year of rewrites, double-checking of facts, emails to businesses and reaching up to pull out hair that was no longer there. Amsterdam Calling was no longer one of several optional title ideas and a hard-fought manuscript. By the summer of 2014, it was an eBook.

This year, having revised all of my books at least twice I was prepared to do so again, starting with Amsterdam Calling. After all, the paperback version was going to be more expensive and I wanted them to look professional in every respect. My aim was to deal with formatting so I purchased the Vellum program. I asked Aimee Coveney a professional cover designer to deal with the solution for the exterior of the paperback. I gave myself a target of four weeks for completion, and that was how long it took.

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It was halfway through my final year at school, in May of 1966, the Beatles released what was to become one of my favourite tracks – Paperback Writer. I recall there was a big football tournament on TV at the time, but it took second place to my loves of music and reading. It would take a little over fifty years before I fulfilled my dream and published a paperback.

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My creative writing commenced in earnest in 2007, so I spent ten years working at my craft and only publishing eBooks. For the past two years I’ve suggested I’d get into paperback versions of my books, but each time I’ve started work on the project it’s been postponed to write more stories.

To see this story in paperback is a thrill, and sales are being made which is heartwarming, but unlike many authors, I have something else which will give me a buzz. In the summer I’ll be heading to Amsterdam, so I’ll be taking a few copies of the book; gifts for people who gave me permission to use their enterprises in the story.

I’ll leave you with useful links in case you’re one of those yet to find a comfortable way to read this story:

Amazon Preview/Buy      Amazon Paperback      BookLinker Global

You’ll notice in the graphic of the paperbacks, I finally have the excuse to make bookmarks. They’re double-sided and laminated, which means anybody who uses one won’t forget what I write and where to find my books.

As always, thank you for reading my post, and those of you who do; my books.

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.

Happy New Writing Year – 2018

 

I’d like to start this new year by celebrating ‘firsts’.

This is the first month of 2018, and the start of my first full year of retirement. I’ve had a few weeks practice to get accustomed to the idea. To celebrate, I’ve reduced the price of all of my ‘first‘ in series to a mere 99p (or equivalent), and it’s an ongoing promotion.

Click on graphic to go to my website

 

What are my main targets for the writing year ahead?

– I have novels underway and intend to publish them this year.

– I aim to resurrect pages of notes and compile another anthology of short stories.

Czech Mate – a thriller set in Scotland and the Czech Republic.

Codename: Nightshade – a spinoff from my successful Beyond The Law trilogy.

One Man: Two Missions, and other stories – a collection of short stories and flash fiction.

What could be better than two more novels and another anthology?

I also intend to produce:

Curious and Camping – an erotic novel.

Quiet Night Inn: and other erotic stories – a collection of 12 short stories.

The updates and details of these two titles appear on Tom Benson – Erotica.

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Apart from my titles:

–  I’ll be assisting my distant friend and fellow author Carmen Lopez to compile her second anthology. Carmen is the author of Alone: and other short stories

– More reading and reviewing will be in order.

– I will continue to work with the other members of the IASD to produce the next anthologies we’ve planned.

– This may be the year I finally tackle the idea of a paperback version of my titles. I have the first in mind, but I’ll keep the title under wraps until I’ve made progress — or I need help.

– I’ll continue to go out on my bike rides to do a lot of my thinking and planning. My choice of ride affects my thought process, but more of that in a later post.

– I’ll also be drawing and painting, which are wonderful pursuits to allow ideas to develop.

– This year I will try my latest hobby – baking. What has that got to do with writing, you might ask. It depends on the results, but at present, I’m hoping that like cycling, it will allow my mind to wander. I can’t promise to publish pictures of my early failures, but I will no doubt let you see my successes.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.

May the new year be as good to you as you wish.

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My Writing Year – 2017

 

I’m exhausted, but content as we are teased to the end of the writing year.

Completed in 2017

In many ways, this has been a productive and enjoyable year. My writing aims were achieved with the exception of two areas.

– I placed a variety of my titles on Kobo for four months and saw nil return for my efforts.

– I postponed tackling paperback to allow more time for producing my target titles.

What were my reading and writing achievements?

– I read thirty books – twenty of which, were by IASD authors.

– I published all seven titles which I had either in progress or intended for this year.

– I created the early stages of Codename: Nightshade, a standalone thriller which is a spinoff from the Beyond The Law trilogy.

The ‘Tom Benson – Author’ catalogue at end of 2017

 

– In March, I separated my erotica titles from this blog and set up Tom Benson – Erotica

– In July, my study received a makeover, and I got an early birthday pressie – a Mac.

More views available on slideshow to top right

– In September, our son, Andrew treated me to a four-day break in Prague, Czech Republic – to celebrate my retirement year. This spawned the idea for a new thriller — Czech Mate. Many photos were taken and pages of notes written in research.

 

 

 

 

– In the first week of November, I turned 65 and finally retired from regular work. Another celebration trip was made, and on this occasion, I went to Edinburgh, Scotland with my wife. While there I took photos, made more notes and walked miles in research for Czech Mate. The main character is from Edinburgh. 🙂

 

– As this year comes to a close I will cease to hand out my work for free. For over two years I’ve given away one, or a number of titles for a weekend each month. How much impact the venture has had on my sales is unclear, but somewhere along the way I’ve had reviews from folk generous enough to give their time. My freebies were worthwhile for that if nothing else.

 

– When December got underway I dropped the price of A Life of Choice: Part One. Now that the series is complete and there are a few sales, I thought it might stimulate interest if the first volume in the series was only 99p (and equivalents).

 

– During December, my Highland Games erotica novellas are available at 99p each. If you haven’t ventured into reading this genre, you know what they say — don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. 😀

 

 

 

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– Throughout the year I was proud to be a part of, and play my part in the Admin of the Indie Author Support and Discussion (IASD) group. For me, this involved assisting in the maintenance of the group website, and the updating of the monthly Featured Author.

– During 2017, I continued as mentor for my distant friend, Carmen, to help produce her first collection, Alone: and other short stories. The stunning cover was designed by Carmen’s partner, Bryce. I supplied three of my stories to support this debut title.

Carmen was my key resource and support during the writing of Ten Days in Panama. She is also one of the guest authors in my collection, The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What lies ahead for my new writing year?

All will be revealed in my first post of 2018, but suffice to say, I’m going to be busy.

I will take this opportunity to thank all who read my work, and those who make the effort to read my thoughts and check on my progress. I sincerely hope your old writing year has been good to you, and your new year will be better yet.

Tom