My Writing Year – 2016

 

The updated catalogue:

first-twenty

As I did for 2015, I gave myself ten targets for 2016:

1.   Publication of A Life of Choice – Part One

2.   Production of Codename: Koki by Malcolm Beadle

3.   Revision of each of my novels.

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

5.  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

7.  Produce one of my present novels as a paperback using CreateSpace

8 Ongoing maintenance and improvement of the IASD website / blog

9.   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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How did the reality match up to the good intentions?

publications-of-2016

In terms of writing it’s been a year of the series for me, and apart from those mentioned, I’ve been working on Beyond The Law: Consequences, which will bring the trilogy to a close. I found writing a sequel a daunting task, but the final part of the story is proving more of a challenge. I aim to produce the book in early 2017.

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1.  I created the artwork to accompany my poem Whisper Wood for the IASD Children’s anthology.

2.  I revised and heavily edited my published work which took between two to three weeks for each book.

3.  In conjunction with the other Admins, I made a few visits to the IASD blog/website to update and keep members abreast of our news. The Featured Author will be continuing in 2017.

4.  An unexpected occurrence was becoming the mentor for a newbie erotica author. I read the debut title and found the story and writing failed in several areas. The few public reviews were praising the story, but none were justified in my opinion. Instead of damning the book publicly I left a comment on another reader’s review.

The story author got in touch and was keen to know more. I told him I wasn’t an expert, but his work needed more substance. At his request I provided a critique of the story. He pulled the book from Amazon, reworked it and sent it to me for a second opinion. It was much improved and he’s now working on his next title.

5.  I was the beta reader for a couple of our IASD authors, and I read and reviewed several books by members.

barn-owl-96.  I’ve taken brief breaks by drawing and by updating my Tom Benson Author website and my Creative Writer and Artist website.snowy-owl-004

 

In certain areas I achieved more than I expected, but there were casualties in my battle-plan.

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1.  I spent two months revising and editing Codename Koki for Malcolm Beadle, but it appears my mix of honesty, integrity, and expectation were too much. I haven’t heard from Malcolm for a few months, but I’m sure he’s working on the story and other projects.

2.  I have yet to create a paperback, so perhaps 2017 will be the year for me to try CreateSpace.

Blogging A to Z 20164 . On the social scene I had a timely reminder I am not a blogger who writes, but a writer who blogs. I entered the 2016 A to Z Challenge with the best of intentions, but after a few days I abandoned the attempt. Having completed the challenge before, I recalled many hours spent responding and reviewing and in honesty, I couldn’t justify the time. I had difficulty maintaining an interest.

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5.  Among my aims I wanted to cut down on casual social networking, and concentrate on reading and writing. I’ve been true to my goals for most of the time. This year I’ve tried to strike a balance. Not many reviews will have been seen from me because I’ve dipped into my TBR, but I’ve also read from my large collection of paperbacks.

I have an allegiance to the Indie Author Support and Discussion group, and it will remain the exception to my personal rule about social media visits.

Exposure of my writing has been assisted by my monthly ‘Freebie’ weekends on Amazon. I’ll be continuing my monthly giveaways in the coming year.

What do I have planned for 2017?

Once again my year will be dominated by ‘series’ but I’ll give more detail in my first blog post of 2017. I have an ambitious number of titles lined up for completion. A lot of the groundwork is laid and I continue to work across titles simultaneously.bike-shots-plus-033

Retirement late in 2017 means I’ll devote more time to my passion, and to my renewed interest in cycling, which is where I do a lot of my thinking and scene setting.

As always, thank you for your time, and comments.

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Writing is series work ….

2016-so-far

Graphic links to Anthologies page of author website.

Before this year got underway I set myself certain targets regarding my writing. Among my aims I wanted to cut down on casual social networking. Yes, it’s the mainstay of our marketing for self-published authors, but I’m working on the theory – if I have more titles with quality time spent on them, it’s better than pushing the present catalogue.

I’m delighted to report I’ve been true to my goals … for most of the time. In the past I’ve gone from conducting a minimum of marketing to going overboard, and this year I’ve aimed to strike a balance.

I tend not to advertise too much prior to publication of a title, and so far, I haven’t embraced the ‘pre-order’ idea. This year so far I’ve produced five titles, but none were rushed. Due to my method of working, I have three projects underway at any given time. I may work on one book for a week or a month, and when it is left to simmer, I pull up one of the others. Of the five titles in the banner above three of them had been rewritten several times before 2016.

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Working on different projects in such a way may not appeal to everybody, but I’ve found it maintains my interest, and my productivity – if I avoid the distraction of social media.

iasd-globe-2I have an allegiance to, and certain responsibilities regarding the Indie Author Support and Discussion group, and it’s never a hardship to work towards the success of the group. The IASD has been and will remain the exception to my personal rule about social media visits.

Exposure of my writing has come about, in the sense I’ve continued with my monthly ‘Freebie’ weekends on Amazon. This month the free book appears on the 15th/16th.

Apart from the regular free books, I update the News page of my author website monthly, and the detail is posted in all the usual places.

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What have I got in store for the remainder of this year?

I’m presently sharing my writing time between four projects. Before the end of the year I’m hoping to publish: the third title in the series A Life of Choice, the final part of the Beyond The Law trilogy, and if the characters will misbehave for me – the third in the Highland Games erotica novella series.

The fourth project (not shown in graphic), is my next anthology Temptation: and other short stories, which is under constant revision.

part-threes

Of the aforementioned titles I’ve discovered a peculiarity. The Highland Games series carries the lowest priority for me, but when I feel the need to get away from another project, or I simply want to escape into a world of fantasy, the words flow easily with my erotica series.

When I’m out and about in life and my notebook makes an appearance, it is invariably to jot down a new idea, character, or situation for one of the series.

However the rest of my writing year goes, my readership may rest assured I’ll be putting every effort into producing my best entertainment.

As always, thank you for your time, and any comments.

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Ten Days in Panama - the cover 2904

Click graphic for book blurb.

If you’ve been kind enough to check out this post I think it’s fair to drop a subtle hint about Tom’s two-day freebie for October ….

This was my first romance, but has recently been revisited.

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!  😀

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 …

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Art of Letting Go – by Chloe Banks. A word from the author

A foreword from Tom Benson:  Website - Author page

I recently read The Art of Letting Go by Chloe Banks, which I reviewed here on my blog. Prior to reading the book I had already been following Chloe’s blog since 2010. We have shadowed each other’s progress since and we gave mutual support throughout the NaNoWriMo 2011.

Since the outset she was determined to produce her novel using traditional publishing. It was a courageous step, and though it took many months and extra work, she achieved her aim. I am delighted and honoured to publish now, a ‘guest’ post by Chloe.

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41o0Nt-NySL[1]

Dear Reader,

With the rise of e-mail, text messaging and social media, the art of personal letter writing seems to be in something of a decline. It’s a shame as letters make great records of the everyday and the extraordinary events of our lives. There’s something rather special about receiving a letter in real life, and when it comes to fiction they can be used to great effect.

When I chose to write part of The Art of Letting Go as a series of letters between my main character, Rosemary, and her childhood friend, I was following in the footsteps of a huge number of epistolary novelists. A true epistolary novel contains only documents of some kind – letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, blog posts, e-mails etc. Whereas many novels, including my own, contain these things as part of a wider narrative.

Novels told in this fashion have been around since the 15th-century and have remained prominent to this day. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Bronte), The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins) and Dracula (Bram Stoker) are famous 19th-century examples. Even more recent works range from the horror classic Carrie by Stephen King, to teen favourite The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. But why do authors across so many genres choose to write in letters and other documents instead of in prose?

For me, Rosemary’s letters to Julia served a vital function. Rosemary’s nature – reclusive, blunt, secretive – was key to the plot, and yet I ran the risk of making her difficult to know and therefore difficult to care about, despite the first-person narrative of the book. Her letters showed the less guarded, warmer side to her. It allowed me to reference parts of Rosemary’s past that no other character would know about and gave me a chance to inject some humour into a book that deals with some less-than-funny issues. Letters added character insight and light to the shade.

This style of telling a story is certainly not to everybody’s taste. While I was in discussion with a couple of different agents, one of them questioned how relevant it was to use letters in a modern novel. On the other hand, more than one person has told me how the letters are their favourite part of the book. As with all things, it can come down to personal taste. If you read my book, I’d be glad to know whether you think the letters work. Or if shameless promotion isn’t your thing, how about trying one of these wonderful novels…

  • We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver). One of the best books I have ever read. The one-sided letters draw you in to the relationships between the main character and her husband and son, but make the twists when they come all the more shocking and brilliant.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary-Ann Schaffer is set on the occupied Channel Islands during the second world war and is one of very few books that have made me cry.
  • Or if you are sceptical about letters and like a good laugh, another form of epistolary novel is Diary of a Nobody (George and Weedon Grossmith) – a great piece of Victorian observational comedy.

Let me know how you get on. And if you have another example of great epistolary novels you think I should read, do write back to let me know!

I remain your faithful servant,

Chloe

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The Art of Letting Go tells the story of Rosemary, whose peaceful seclusion is disrupted by the man who she was involved in a traumatic relationship with decades earlier; only this time he’s lying in a coma and Rosemary must decide whether to let him live, or let him go. In the midst of her secret dilemma  she meets an abstract artist who is used to manipulating shapes and colours to make people see things differently. But what else is he manipulating? And can he help Rosemary see her own situation in a different light?

41o0Nt-NySL[1]The Art of Letting Go is available as a paperback and an e-book here.

 

Chloe Banks

Chloe Banks

 

 

Chloe Banks lives in Devon with her husband, son and an obsession with words. She started writing for a dare and forgot to stop until it was too late. She is a prize-winning short story writer and a first-time novelist, represented by The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency.

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