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.
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.
– 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.
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,
P.S.For those who like detail, the bio picture in this post was taken yesterday – 6th November 2017.
In the next few days I’ll be reading / reviewing which will take me to a new month.
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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
It 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
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 domestic ‘tasks,’ 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Another 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-fithemed 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.
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:
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.
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.
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