Introducing – A Life of Choice

 

Part celebration of an anniversary, and part promotion of my longest running project.

It was 7th November 1969, on my 17th birthday, when I signed ‘on the dotted line’ and joined the British Army. On that momentous day 48 years ago I left the family home in Glasgow, Scotland. I took a train for my first journey to England. I wasn’t sure if I’d be gone for a week, a month, or a bit longer. As it turned out, it was a bit longer …

 

Not in my wildest dreams could I have envisaged the next stage of my life. Within the story are: violence, sex, alcoholism, humour, drugs, bullying, armed conflict and a lot more besides. Having since built a collection of books on modern warfare penned by the men and women who lived through it I have altered my tale of life in uniform in two ways.

First, I felt a greater freedom to expand on certain topics by making the work fact-based fiction.  I also wanted to focus on the humorous outlook of the average serving soldier and his progression – or lack of it. My view of soldiering is told through the eyes of a fictional character.

Secondly, I do not call this an autobiography; it is a five-part novel.

I have written a tale I’ve researched in considerable depth. The interesting ingredients are still there and in the same measure but with a more light-hearted view.

I sincerely hope it leaves a sense of intrigue and not frustration in the mind of the reader to ponder whether some events actually took place or are fictitious. The story is told from the point of view of a variety of ranks, and not all by a Private soldier, but if you choose to read this tale, you’ll see how I’ve achieved varying points of view.

 

If you should decide to take this journey I would ask that you read the books in sequence. Should you read my efforts please leave a review. My intention is to entertain and I’d like to know if I’ve achieved my aim.

 

The initial covers have been designed and produced by me. If you are not ex-military and you’re wondering what the three background colours indicate – they are the ‘Corps colours’ of the Royal Corps of Signals. There is a brief explanation within the story. I’ve used graphics and sub-titles appropriate to the stages of the journey.

Clickng on any cover takes you to the book’s individual page and the links to preview/buy. Clicking on the ‘series’ picture below will take you to the Anthologies page of my author website.

 

As 2017 draws to a close I am in touch with Aimee at Author Design Studio to arrange professionally-designed covers for the series. Next year I’ll be investigating the idea of producing the series in papaerback. There are many people who enjoy reading, but are not fans of eReading devices.

Many thanks for taking an interest in my work,

Tom

P.S. For those who like detail, the bio picture in this post was taken yesterday – 6th November 2017.

Advertisements

May … I continue with projects

 

In the next few days I’ll be reading / reviewing which will take me to a new month.

May update - five

As this year got underway I made a list of ten targets, so I thought with one third of the year out of the way I’d revisit my list to check progress. As I hit 2016 the five titles above were at various stages of completion.

1. Publication of A Life of Choice: Part One – job done and, now has reviews.

2. Production of Codename: Koki by Malcolm (Mali) Beadle – a detailed critique / suggested edits which took a couple of weeks. Manuscript is now back with Mali being redrafted.

3. Revision of my present novels – Ten Days in Panama – job done and, now appearing on Amazon categorised under Romance.

4. Publication of A Time for Courage: and other military stories – job done.

5. Produce artwork to accompany Whisper Wood, my submission for the IASD Children’s anthology – job done.

*

What else is going on?

Since January, apart from my personal workload and, working on Mali’s book, for fellow authors I’ve beta read three short stories and, two novels.

A Life of Choice - Part TwoA Life of Choice: Part Two is in the final stages. I’ve heard from one beta reader and, in the next couple of days I’ll hear from the other, who is one of our IASD authors. I’ve printed the manuscript and, by the coming weekend I’ll be performing a red-pen edit, line by line.

  • No music and, no interruptions.
  • As usual it will be me, the manuscript, the red pen, my perpetual diary, character profiles, cast of characters, a plentiful supply of black coffee and, a notepad for worries, queries and, thoughts.

*

Did I mention I’ve set up two more pages on Facebook?

I set them up without any grandstanding to see if anybody would come across them and, I’m delighted to report I’ve got a couple of likes by IASD members and it’s much appreciated. I’d noticed several authors had set up pages for individual novels, but I decided to go with my writing categories. I now have:

Tom Benson – Writer

Tom Benson – Short Stories

Tom Benson – Poetry

Tom Benson – Erotica

I look at extra Facebook pages as a passive marketing tool. I may not produce many regular entries on them, but they’ll add to my online presence. I felt I needed to demonstrate diversity by not using a single page with disparate genre spread throughout. Temptation (2)

As ever, I’ve got projects listed in my Work in Progress section. Some of these ideas have been planned for a while, but now I’ve added a new and, for me, exciting project. If you want to know what it is, you’ll have to look for the clue.

One of my latest projects is Temptation: and other stories. It will be another collection of short stories, but with an open theme.

*

I’ve now decided the Beyond The Law series will end as a trilogy. The original idea was intended as a single story. I like to think of it as my signature style and, I don’t want the stories to become formulaic. The original tale is re-titled as Beyond The Law: Formation, the second is Beyond The Law: Retribution and, the final title will be Beyond The Law: Consequences. A lot of background material has been written and, the story will start taking shape in the summer.

Beyond The Law - pair

*

Following the successful conversion of Ten Days in Panama to the Romance genre, I am intending to perform a similar conversion with Amsterdam Calling. Once again, there will be little change to the storyline, but I know where it needs to be adjusted.

*

I’ve now made inroads into my two short stories for IASD anthologies. For the Indies for Charity anthology my story will be Taken for a Ride. My story for the Horror anthology will be Dark Places.

*

I’ve got a bit of reading, reviewing and, writing to do guys, so if you’ll excuse me … oh, and, thank you for dropping by. It is much appreciated.

***

Refreshing …

Banner 151115It might not appear so at first, but ‘refreshing’ items for a writer is a wide and varied area of responsibility. Refreshment is important – because it is for the writer’s personal benefit.

*

Let’s make a list …
1.     Project list
2.    Website, blog, and social networks
3.    Personal bio and author photo
4.    Book covers
5.    Book supplementary content
6.    Book pricing
7.    Appointments
8.    To be Read (TBR)
9.    Work in Progress (WIP)
10.  Take regular breaks

*

1.  Project List                                                      

As a priority, we must strive to maintain separate writing and domestic ‘to do’ lists.

A good way to deal with this is to differentiate between domestic and writing.

Refer to domestictasks,’ but writing ‘projects’.

In the domestic tasks list add in a heading – Writing Projects. To the right is an example of my present Writing Projects.

It’s a good reminder to treat it as a different part of the writer’s life.

*

2.  Website, blog and social networks

In my articles I use my projects to give examples, and this is a recurring project for me.

Update one ... update all

Update one … update all

I write an update for my author website every week. I write an update for my secondary website every month, and I write a blog post when a relevant topic comes to mind – like this one.

Remember if you have an Amazon Author Page – update it too. If you haven’t got one – get one organised.

In the last few weeks I’ve completely overhauled my secondary website and it’s had a few compliments. I’ve also given this blog a facelift and consolidated the main menu.

I updated my two Amazon Author pages, and my profiles at Bookbub, Independent Author Network, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. A few weeks ago I ditched my LinkdIn account.

*

3.  Personal Bio and author photo

Here are items that many writers have issues producing. My suggestion would be to read up on the topic, and compose a bio. I have different bios, because I’ve found it useful. One is 50 words – when brevity is required, another is 100 words, which is sufficient to create a good personal writing history.

In my opinion, the bio for a website can afford to be longer, depending on the purpose of the website. A key point to keep in mind is – your writing bio should be clearly about your writing history and accomplishments – it is not about your granny, your rabbits, or your last holiday abroad.

If you’d like your writing to be taken seriously, take your profile and author photo seriously. My bios are both less than one month old, and my present photo is three months old. I don’t go to the extent of a ‘professional’ photo, but I trawl through several recent shots to get the best I can – and in cases like mine, that can be a task!

Practise your bio and give yourself a word limit. Produce two, three, or four so they can be adapted for a variety of purposes. If in doubt, send a copy to a fellow author you trust and ask for an opinion.

*

4.  Book Covers 

 Was ... and ... Now

Was … and … Now

If you have a title out there which isn’t performing well, but has had a handful of good reviews, the lack of performance could be down to many things, among which is the cover – if you have any doubt – change it.

A few days ago I changed the cover of one of my books because it was stagnating. Within 48 hours of changing the cover, it sold again.

*

5.  Book Supplementary Info

From ToC of Beyond The Law: Retribution

From ToC of Beyond The Law: Retribution

In the back pages of all of my eBooks I have supplementary information which includes: a short bio, and other titles.

We must ensure our bio is updated in all of our work as we produce another title, and we must ensure our latest title has all the others at the back.

Why at the back?

If you’ve published an eBook it will give more of a sample for prospective readers (customers), and the information is irrelevant if the prospective reader doesn’t buy.

This is marketing by stealth.

*

6.  Book Pricing

Yes, we all love writing and we’d do it even if we weren’t paid. The flip-side of the coin is – while we can be paid, we don’t want to lose out. I abide by certain simple rules.

I have several titles out there covering a variety of genre and types of writing. I don’t consider myself a household name, so I price my work accordingly. Don’t set a high price on your first book, and don’t think a few five star reviews means you’ve made it and you can ask whatever price you like.

Keep in mind, there are thousands of e-Reader users who only download books which are free, or up to a certain price. We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘everyone has their price’, and it’s no different in the world of eBooks.

A few days ago I amended my pricing across the entire range of my catalogue. Always remember, it’s better to get 100 shares of a low price – rather than 2 shares of a high price.

*

7. Appointments

Whether you made them or somebody else made them – keep them. At one end of the scale an ‘appointment’ might be the date you’ve set to promote a book with a low price. At the other end of the scale an ‘appointment’ might be a phone call or meeting with somebody who can influence your success – or failure.

*

8. To be Read (TBR)

I’m well known for my methodical approach. Tom's Kindle

On my Kindle I have a TBR – 1, and a TBR – 2. Apart from those, I have a TBR diary/journal which has all of the TBR 1 and 2 listed with genre and author name.

TBR – 1 is my priority list for reading and reviewing. TBR – 2 is my list of titles which I’ve collected as a matter of interest, but I’m in no hurry to get to them. Using my TBR journal I can decide which genre to switch to after a recent read. I tend never to read and review the same genre twice in succession.

*

9.  Work in Progress (WIP)

When did you last look at your list of WIP?

I know there are many, who do as I do and work on various projects simultaneously, but we must set ourselves a time to remind ourselves what else we have and any ‘due dates’.

*

10. Take regular breaks

Yes, obvious isn’t it – but do you do it?

I work in retail part-time, so many of my days are hard-working, writing days. I enjoy a coffee while I work, but I am disciplined regarding breaks.

On an average writing day: By 7am – I’m already writing. By 10am – I’ve taken out an hour to deal with my first pass on social networking, so I take a 15-minute break (away from my writing). At 12noon – it’s lunch-time (for one hour).

At 3pm – I take my 15-minute afternoon break, and if my head isn’t in another world, I make a second pass on my social networking. At around 6 – 6.30pm I stop for dinner. I make a third pass on social networking in the evening.

Yes, that is the perfect day, but there are anomalies. I have the occasional coffee while I work. I will invariably come back to writing for an hour or two in the late evening, and I occasionally use a ‘break’ to catch up with social networking.

My fuel tank ... and a message.

My fuel tank … and a message.

*

So my friends there we have it – we all need some refreshment in our writing lives.

I hope I’ve reminded, educated or inspired in some small way. As always, comments are appreciated and all will be acknowledged.

***

Marketing in Shorts …

Don’t panic … the shorts in question are of course short stories.

How do you market in shorts?

A good question and I’m glad you asked. If you don’t already write short stories you have a couple of straightforward options:

1. You could opt not to try your hand at writing them.

If you choose this option, then I believe you are missing out on what can be an enjoyable writing discipline, and also a wonderful training ground for tightening your regular creative fiction.

2. You could try writing short stories, put them out there for folk to review, and when you think you’ve got the hang of it, compile an anthology of your work.

In which case, depending on the time available for writing, if you care about the quality of your output it might take anything from months to years.

3. You could look at a short story as a way of attracting readers to your name, and then your longer work.

This is my favourite choice, and not only because I get involved, but because I get to help fellow indie writers to get their name and their writing in the public eye.

*

Where do we go from here?

A Time for Courage - 1Another good question.

I have recently mentioned in this blog and on my author website about my intention to produce two themed anthologies. The first will be sci-fi stories, and the second will be military stories.

At the moment, my intention is to publish the sci-fi collection in January 2016, and the military collection in March 2016.

*

How do I fit another story into my present writing workload?

Oh, how I love the easy questions. Prepare yourself for a simple writing exercise.

Stop reading at the end of this sentence and write down the first idea that comes to mind for a sci-fi themed story.

Okay, I know most of you wouldn’t have taken the opportunity, but that’s how easy it is to get started, or on the other hand to miss an opportunity. You’re sorry you didn’t do it now, aren’t you? Yes, I thought so. I’m going to give you another chance, but with a twist – so be careful. Let your mind run free before you read on.

Are you ready?

When you get to the end of this sentence, write down the first idea that comes to mind for a military / armed forces themed story.

I know it took a couple of minutes, but for those of you who took the opportunity the second time, I’m pleased for you. Leave your new ‘idea’ aside, but we’ll be coming back to it.

*

I’ve found ‘opportunity’ a key factor in creative writing. As writers we may:

1. Write about anything.

2. Write short pieces, or long pieces.

3. Write when we can, or only when we really feel the pull.

(Personally, this is every second that I don’t have a coffee in hand, but I’ve now mastered holding my cup in my left hand).

4. We can choose to write whatever we enjoy and tell nobody.

5. We can also choose to establish ourselves by taking every route available to get our name, and our work out there.

The list is endless.

*

Hey, what about fitting a short story into my workload?

A few minutes ago some of you wrote down an idea. Yes, I realise only some of you did.

Let’s say you enjoy producing a quality piece of work, so you occasionally leave it aside. It might be after a paragraph, a chapter, or at some other point, but you will leave it aside to let your mind refresh and revitalise.

During those ‘breaks’ of minutes, days, or even weeks is when you could take the opportunity to work on something different to your primary work in progress (WIP).

1. A short story is a good way to do this.  The Welcome

2. A short story is not too taxing on time.

3. It can be left aside without worry.

4. It will improve each time you come back.

5. It’s still creative writing.

*

The more astute among you will now see that we’ve come full circle and we’re heading back to my two anthologies. If you would like to make use of an opportunity please read on, and make notes where you deem it necessary.

*

Guidelines for anyone interested in inclusion in one of my next collections:

1. Guest authors should be members** of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group on Facebook.

2. Stories must be a maximum of 3,500 words.

3. Stories should be completed to final edit and submitted to me by the following dates:

31st December 2015 – for inclusion in the sci-fi themed collection.

29th February 2016 – for inclusion in the military themed collection.
(If there is interest but the timing is too tight, I’ll be happy to extend both deadlines).

4. Copyright will remain with individual authors for their stories.

5. Any author who contributes will have the opportunity to include a short bio (50 words), and two hyperlinks of their choice, to be added after their story.

(Please remember, there is no requirement to have been an astronaut, an alien, or have served in the armed forces).

*

However this article has left you feeling, I sincerely hope it’s made you consider writing short stories, and reconsider how often we as writers let opportunities slip away …

Thank you for reading.

Tom

**I reserve the right to add a new indie author who is not yet a member of the IASD.

***

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.

*

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.

***

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

Marketing by Stealth

An Amazon Author Page

An Amazon Author Page

This is not one of the thousands of articles … ‘Ten Things to Do to Increase Sales’
In my post last time which was about the results of my three weeks of non-marketing, I said I’d come back to mention a couple of simple ideas that I believe help to encourage sales.

*

It may be accepted that we’re not going to buy a small island in the near future, but we want sales, and reviews, and recognition for our efforts. Whatever our reason for writing, if we publish, either traditionally or self-published, we’re not doing so for the exercise. It is a means to an end. We want success.
Personally, success with my writing is more important than money or fame.

*

Why are eBook samples important?
It’s an obvious answer. It gives the prospective reader an insight into the story they may, or may not buy. Keeping that in mind, we must tease and please the reader with a worthwhile sample.

*

How can we improve the sample?

Only have the essentials in the front pages of a book:
1. Cover
2. Title
3. Copyright
4. Acknowledgements
5. Dedication
6. Table of Contents

*

That is a minimum of six pages / screens before your new reader has seen your writing.
The odd one out is ‘Dedication’, because it is not essential, but it is usually found at the front if it is to be included.
Immediately after the Table of Contents, we should expect to see the Preface if there is one and then Chapter 1.

If using a Preface, try to keep it short. I read one recently that stole a lot of the space that would otherwise have allowed me to read more of Chapter 1. A typical occasion for using a few words before the first chapter might be because the book is a sequel.

I will repeat – the Preface is an introduction so keep it short and let the story do the work.

*

What information would I suggest leaving out of the front pages?

1. A word from the author
2. About the author
3. Also by the author
All of those subjects and even the dedication can be placed in the back pages.

*

How do the back pages help with marketing and sales?

A lot of readers like to know about the person who wrote the story, so a page dedicated to a short bio at the back is a good idea. If the reader doesn’t want to look at it, they have a choice. If they do – it’s there for them.

*

A word from the author

This can be whatever you like, but good ideas are to say something about the story the reader has just finished.
1. What inspired the story.
2. Any interesting research that was done.
3. If there are plans for a sequel
It is up to the individual author how this area is used.

*

About the author

A short bio. Practise writing your bio, but keep it between 50 – 100 words.
Once again, what is said here is an individual choice, but good ideas include:
1. Use it as a writing bio, whether you are a novice, or if you have any track record.
2. Perhaps mention your nationality, and the country where you now live.
3. Family? Some do, some prefer to leave it out.
4. Pastimes when not writing.
5. Interesting careers you’ve had.

*

Also by the author

A key area for marketing by stealth.
At the back of all of my books I have the titles and the blurb for all of my other books.
I believe that this is a crucial part of creating substance for your brand.
If you are new and using this in the back of your debut novel – use it to talk about your next piece of work.
If a reader likes the story and style of what they’ve just read – don’t have them going on search engines to find your name and other titles – tell them here, right after they’ve been impressed.

If you haven’t already set up an Amazon Author Page – consider setting one up on Amazon.com and also on Amazon.co.uk

*

Remember, even though the prospective reader sees the sample and hasn’t read the back pages information yet – it is listed in your Table of Contents, so they know it will be there.

The ideas above are not a quick-fix, but I believe I achieve initial sales and follow-on sales by using them. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and theories – now if you haven’t done so already, please have a look at my author website:
http://www.tombensonauthor.com

***

Come what? May … Results

Sales and Borrowing

I posted on 10th May to say that I was intending to conduct one of my regular experiments. Before I continue, I should say that the only ‘regular’ thing about my experiments is their frequency. I don’t believe indie writers learn anything by sitting still, observing, and waiting for the world to come to them.

*

What was I up to this time?

My personal challenge was to refrain from daily promotion of my books for the remainder of the month, which effectively would mean 20 days of not using any of a variety of platforms to ask people to check out my work.

Contrary to what some folk might think, I’m not an ‘in your face’ type person, so the whole ‘self-marketing’ idea was alien to me when I started out as an indie writer. I learned with my debut title that if I didn’t shout about my work, then nobody else would.

I got on with it, and it produced results. Okay so moving on, nothing mind-boggling, but after a change in my attitude to the sometimes embarrassing act of self-promotion I had a few sales, and I realised the truth – if I waited silently, nothing would happen.

*

Did I have work in progress during May?

Having a variety of projects on the go at the same time is my preferred method of working. As May got underway I was already working on two novels, and making notes towards the commencement of a third.

I had to attempt a couple of things to make my idea work:

1. Restrict my visits to social networking sites to a couple of short visits per day.

2. Compel myself not to check my sales and lending figures on a daily basis.

3. Remind myself that I was trying this thing for more than one reason.
a) Primarily, it was to free up more writing time.
b) Secondly, it was to see how much effect it would have if there was a lack of daily promotion.

Apart from my own interest, both of those targets were for the benefit of any fellow indies who read my posts, either as subscribers, or by extension when I offer my thoughts on social media.

*

How did it go with social networking visits?

I managed for the most part to keep to two or three visits per day. There was an anomaly in this area, because I continued trying to keep up to date with the first charity anthology by the Indie Author Review Exchange group on Facebook. I’m proud to be both a member of that particular group, and a contributing author to the anthology.

*

What is that very important collection of stories?

You’re Not Alone by Ian D. Moore and friends.

To be published as an eBook on 11th July 2015.

An anthology of short stories produced to raise funds in aid of the Macmillan Nurses

An anthology of short stories produced to raise funds in aid of the Macmillan Nurses

*

Apart from that, how did I get on?

Otherwise, I feel I did well. I avoided getting tangled into the threads on Facebook, forums on LinkedIn, or keeping up with comments on Google+. I have to be honest and admit that Twitter irritates me, so although I use it, I cannot spend good time reading bite-size chunks and random thoughts.

Now having said that about Twitter – I do actually stop and check out books that are advertised on Twitter, which is why I still use it myself, obviously thinking that there might be like-minded souls out there.

*

Were there any sales, lending, or slumps?

Yes, and there was no discernible pattern or reason.
— I had sales of various levels except for five days.
— I had lending except for six days.
— There was a two day period when there were neither sales nor lending.

*

Did I learn anything else?

Yes, and it’s for the benefit of those indie authors who presently have one, or even two titles out there and are feeling a little disheartened. I’m not a big name, but in only a few years of self-publishing I can say that without a shadow of doubt – more titles means more sales.

That might sound simplistic, but in a blog next week I’ll elaborate on that area. What I have to say in that post may be of interest not only to those of my peers with one title, but also those with low sales figures.

What else have I achieved with my latest experiment – if anything?

1. In that period of 20 days when I was abstaining from advertising, reading mind-numbing messages, and getting involved in conversations and debates – I completed the first draft of seven more chapters of my latest crime thriller, Acts of Vengeance.
If you know how hard I work at my craft you will appreciate that was a feat.

2. Those chapters might not sound too remarkable, but to put them in perspective, I also started work on and completed the first two chapters of my first erotic novel, Give and Take.

3. Again, it may not seem like much, but the exercise has given me a boost in confidence in my own brand. I know there are those who do not believe that an author’s name is a brand, so for you guys, please think about this question:

Would you consider any of the following as brands?

Wilbur Smith, Jackie Collins, Stephen King, Lee Child, Katie Fforde, or James Patterson.

It was just a thought …

*

Where do I go from here?

As I assess the positive and negative aspects of my trial, I have to say that I’m happy that I tried such a thing. My initial thoughts are along the following lines:

1. Maintain my writing output as best I can. I’m in the enviable position of only working in a ‘day job’ for three days per week, so I can feasibly get in at least three writing days.

2. Get back to self-promotion, but only on a weekly, or possibly twice-weekly basis:
a) Promotion on Facebook groups which exist for the purpose of reading, reviewing and self-promotion.
b) Promotion on Twitter, because it is done automatically by the Independent Author Network, of which I am a member.
c) Promotion on Google+ because I’m a member and I check out other members news.

3. Blogging activity:
a) Try to write at least one blog post per week.
b) Allocate time to read other blogs. I supposedly have 140+ ‘followers’ but I tend to mainly visit those who I know make an effort to visit mine. It may not be often, but I do get there.

4. Continue to read and review as many Indie Author Review Exchange members’ books as possible.

5. Maintain a ‘maximum of 3 x 15-minute visits per day’ policy for social purposes on Facebook. There is a tendency to get involved in discussions on social networking sites, but time disappears when we’re in touch with those that we regard as friends.

There is a slight twist in that previous comment. I admit openly that I do not socialise in the regular sense these days, and have not for some years. The term ‘friend’ is used freely on social networking by many, but that is effectively where any of my present friendships exist.

Yes, since leaving the military in 1992, I have become something of a social hermit, but I don’t mean that in a pathetic way – it is fact, and through personal choice.

Thank you as always for taking the time to visit and check out my musings. I appreciate all feedback.

*

Oh yes, there’s a P.S.

In the last 24 hours I completed the first full draft of Acts of Vengeance. I will now let it ‘rest’ for at least a week. While that manuscript is resting I’ll be active with some more chapters on Give and Take, my secondary work in progress.

I will also be reading, editing, and critiquing work for my peers. One of my favourite background roles is acting as mentor for a fellow writer.

I know it’s still early days, but I already feel that if you enjoyed my anthology Coming Around and other erotic stories, you will enjoy the novel Give and Take.

Thanks again for reading my posts.

***

Change is … Refreshing

It matters not whether it’s an outfit, a job, a car, the look of a room, the layout of your desk, or the way that you do something – it sometimes gives the spirits a lift to create change.

As a writer it helps to have more than one project on the go, moving from one to another as and when the mood takes you, or when ‘resting’ a story between drafts.

*

What are we doing when we change something?

We are refreshing. I recently set up a new item on my blog menu to give some basic guidance on the writing of short stories. I said within those guidelines that I’d follow up with a piece on writing short stories for competitions. That is now done and appears in my menu under the Competition Writing heading.

*

What was that about change and refreshing in the intro?

When I started creative writing it was poetry, and then I tried short stories. The poetry was left behind as the whole concept of short story writing captured my imagination. It took a couple of years before I dared to consider a novel, but once I’d dipped my toe in the water – I was smitten. That particular change has proved worthwhile and fulfilling.

*

What is the relevance of my personal writing progression to this post?

In recent weeks, apart from my other projects I’ve produced two short stories for anthologies. The incentive for writing the stories was that the proceeds of sales of the anthologies will be forwarded to charities. I will return to the subject of the anthologies to talk about them and promote them closer to their publication.

A lot of people are excited about the cover and title of one of the two charity anthologies, and quite rightly – because both are excellent. Over the next few days I’m pretty sure there will be many who ‘share’ the cover and promote the collection before its publication. I’ll leave that to them for now, and I’ll get underway with a similar strategy a day or two before the publication date.

By far my favourite Facebook group is the Indie Author Review Exchange, founded by fellow author, blogger and friend, Paul Ruddock. It is from that group, now numbering 570+ after only a few months, that an open request was made for authors to take part in the two charity anthologies.

I noted that not only were there authors who hadn’t written short stories for a while – it became clear that there were those who had never ventured into the challenges of writing short stories.

*

Why is it a good idea to try writing short stories?

The short story is a separate discipline to that of novel writing, or even novella writing. A short story requires tighter word usage, fewer characters, a tight timeline and a single unwavering plot which starts with a personal conflict of some description.

There is no allowance for a cast of thousands, or lengthy and flowery descriptions of imagery. The dialogue should move the story forward as rapidly as the action. The character in crisis should be the one who plays the major part in how the original conflict plays out.

In my own humble opinion I believe that even the occasional short story helps the novelist to tone-up, refresh, and reassess where they are with their writing craft. I am presently working on three completely different longer pieces at the moment, but taking a break to produce two short stories was a breath of fresh air, which I am sure has affected how I am now approaching my novels.

*

Are there any other reasons for writing short stories?

It may not be obvious to all writers, but there is money to be made and prizes to be won with short stories. Yes, they have to be of a high standard, and yes they will require to follow certain guidelines, but isn’t that true of any competition. If you’ve never considered the short story competition market and you’d like an insight, please check out – Competition Writing.

*

What am I working on in novels?

In terms of priority my front runner is Acts of Vengeance, which is the sequel to Beyond The Law. Rapidly following that one is A Life of Choice, which is a fact-based fiction, coming-of-age story. The latest contender for my literary affections is Give and Take. I am intending it to be a full length erotic novel, so the story is very much an experiment. If you’ll pardon the pun, the secondary reason for writing such a story is to provide relief when not working on the other stories. Give and Take – Chapter 1.

*

What else have I changed recently?

Whilst working on my two short stories for the anthologies, something came to mind. I went to my blog to check it out, and I was surprised by how many main subject headings I had on my main menu.

When I was leaving my writing aside for a break, I spent about half an hour refreshing my menu and selecting items that could be stepped down to sub-menu level.

You will see that my tips for writing short stories are all under one main heading. My short story anthologies are under a single heading. My four published novels are under one heading, and one that I’m particularly pleased about is, placing Work in Progress under one heading.

In one session I believe I have: improved the appearance of the main menu, made it easier to navigate, and made it more manageable for me as the main user. I look forward to any thoughts on the topics I’ve covered in this post.

***

Come what? May …

Come what? May …

Well, it’s the month of May, and I’ve decided to try an experiment, as we indie authors are known to do on a regular basis. This particular indie author is always experimenting.

I’ve just returned with my wife from a week in the Netherlands. I would say Amsterdam, but we are in the habit of getting out and about, so although we spent a lot of time in the beautiful city in which we were based, as usual, we ventured further afield.

Delft - the Netherlands

Delft – the Netherlands

Anyway, I digress.

Whilst away, I spent at least an hour every day working on my latest novel. I wrote several new passages and reinvented one of my fictional abodes. I also introduced a new character for the team of bad guys, so I was pleased with my progress.

*

What else came to mind?

What else indeed. There were four main things:

1. Like any indie author, constantly promoting their own brand, pushing their back-catalogue, their latest release, or keeping up with social networking – I lose a lot of actual writing time.

2. The result of the constant marketing activity may be tedious to the author concerned, but I believe that it is as we often refer to it – a necessary evil. I consider social networking to be a promotional activity, although to a lesser degree.

3. There are occasional comments on social networking sites that demonstrate quite clearly that there are some dissenters concerning the self-promotional posts. It may be one comment, or one comment that prompts others to voice an opinion, but they will always be there.

4. I wondered about ceasing my promotional activity for the remainder of this month. When I got home after my break, I checked social networking contacts and my Amazon sales activity for the most recent 30-day period.

There were some surprising results.

a) I had in excess of 90 Facebook notifications, (of which, at least 30 posts involved me). I’ll refrain from including Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, emails, etc.

b) In the week up to 9th May, I had a book on promotion; reduced to half-price – but it sold less than my other work.

c) In the month up to 9th May, I have only had two days where I have had no sales or lending.

d) My sales over the most recent two months are only marginally higher than my lending rate. Keep in mind, if books are borrowed there is still a royalty payment.

*

My intention now is to concentrate on my writing for the remainder of May, which will mean 20 days without self-promotion. I am a member of the Independent Author Network so as part of their agreement with authors they will promote my brand occasionally on Twitter, but as I don’t believe Twitter is an effective platform for book promotion I’m not concerned about that area.

I will of course continue to pay one or two daily visits to social networking sites on the off-chance that there is a conversation in which I would benefit from taking part.

Instead of a regular update on the topic here on my blog, I’ll leave the next three weeks to run their course and then I’ll write a blog post to report on my findings.

Now at the risk of repeating the title of this article….
Come what? May….

As always, I appreciate any views and comments.

***

A Taste of Honey – KCD promotion result

At the end of March 2015, I used the Kindle Countdown Deal (KCD) to promote A Taste of Honey.

I’d never used the KCD promotional tool before, but I had to know if it was effective. The idea is that the title is set at the lowest possible price, and then the author sets increments to move the price up every day or every other day. By the end of the week the title is back to regular pricing.

*

Did the KCD promotion work for me?
Yes, I’d say it did. I gave average figures at the time, but I’ve since calculated the sales of the individual title. Over a six day period there were 50 downloads across the various price settings for the promotional book.

Did the KCD promotion work in any other way?
Yes, the promotion achieved a few things for me.

1. A Taste of Honey has been selling almost every day since the promotion.

2. For the first time since publishing A Taste of Honey in December last year, it has overtaken Beyond The Law in daily sales. To put that point in perspective, since a few days after publishing Beyond The Law in October 2013, there has hardly been a day when that title hasn’t sold at least one copy.

3. I’ve seen an increase in sales in the Amazon.com arena which was one of my aims.

4. I have also enjoyed an increase in sales of my other novels and my short story anthologies since the promotion. All of my titles are listed in the back of each of my books, so if a reader enjoys any one of my books, the other titles are there at the back with a blurb. I’ve found it’s better to capture the reader with the title they bought, and then that book must act as my publicity machine.

*

Will I use the KCD with any other titles in the future?
Yes.

Would I recommend the KCD to other indie authors?
Yes.

If you bought into my brand during the promotion or since, I’m grateful to you.

As always, thank you for coming by and reading my thoughts. Please leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

***