Amazon, authors, book reviewers, books, fiction, Linda Fausnet, Queen Henry
Linda Fausnet

I’m over at Linda Fausnet’s blog this week talking about the importance of the book reviewer to authors and publishers:

Originally a screenwriter, Linda’s novel Queen Henry is the story of a homophobic, macho major league baseball player whose participation in a clinical drugs trial alters his life in ways he could never imagine:

Linda is a strong advocate of equal rights and all proceeds of sales of her book go to The Harvey Milk Foundation.

She is also a great supporter of the self-published author and regularly features fellow writers on her blog.

She says: “I … believe strongly in helping other writers. It’s my goal to connect readers with good stories, whether they come from traditional publishers or independent writers.”

On the shelf

authors, books, Dumfries, Ewart Library, fiction, libraries, novels, The Sleeping Warrior

THE journey of most debut authors – whether mainstream published or self-published – is a long and arduous uphill climb. Few are fast-tracked to the top of the world’s reading lists and even fewer make a good living out of writing.
So why do we bother to do it?
There was a time when I believed there to be no feeling more satisfying for authors than holding a real copy of their first novel.
The ability to thumb through the pages and recognise parts of one’s own work in tactile print creates a significant sense of achievement.
Although most authors would say they write books to satiate a personal need, there is also a necessity to share the work with others. Authors of fiction are storytellers and storytellers need listeners. There is little point in telling tales in front of an empty auditorium.
I’ve just received another five-star professional review of The Sleeping Warrior ( in which the reviewer Danielle Pinzon described it as ‘remarkable’. It is little words like this from complete strangers that make all the effort meaningful and there is nothing better than a sense of worth to raise confidence in a writer and spur them on to do more and do it even better.
The highlight of the month for me was a visit to my local library where I saw a copy of The Sleeping Warrior placed in a prominent position on the shelves. Seeing my book displayed for public access can only be described as one of life’s true joys.
The success of a product lies in its potential value to the purchaser –  in an author’s case, the reader – and the only way to increase recognition is to give readers the means by which to spread the word and share their good experiences. That’s why reviews, libraries and bookshops are so important to an author: they provide the physical channel for public access to your book that no amount of social networking can compete with.
Although Amazon is the biggest seller of books throughout the world, its shelves are endless labyrinths of virtual words and books that don’t sit in the top one hundred of any particular list will normally fail to get noticed by potential readers. Amazon is also very fickle in that anyone who knows how to manipulate their way to the top of the lists can become an Amazon best-seller for a nano-second and then it’s all over.
There are, of course, many exceptions to this rule and I would never seek to underestimate the power of the mighty e-book nor the honest efforts of fellow writers.
I think I’ll put what’s left of my hard copies to good use and attempt to sell them to more libraries and bookshops: especially the ones with a geographical and genre connection to the book.
I will also try and find more professional reviewers to increase the list of candid, independent analyses.
How that will equate to more readers and sales in the long-term is yet another story to be told.

I’m an author … get me out of here

authors, BBC Scotland, book launch, book signing, books, Dumfries, Ewart Library, fiction, Giancarlo Rinaldi, Sara Bain, The Sleeping Warrior

I have just paid a Glasgow printers for a small print run of The Sleeping Warrior and they are due to arrive hot off the press in a few days.
I have also organised a physical book launch in my home town on 5th December: my very first venture out of Cyberspace and into the real world.
For those who don’t enjoy being under public scrutiny, there is a lot to be said about internet promotion. You only need to reveal that part of you that you want others to see; tell the curious what you want to tell them; and package yourself with a virtual smile on your face from a photo you are truly sick of looking at.
There is, however, nowhere to hide in the real world. The stammering, the self-doubt and even the warts all light up like the proverbial Beleshia beacons and, before many expectant faces, there is a tendency for even the most hardened of public orators to implode inwards or run screaming to the taxi rank.
A friend of mine, who is also a very successful writer and has made many a public appearance in her time, gave me the following advice:
“Remember to talk more slowly, have a plan. I either type or write about seven  or eight headings to keep me on track. If I’m doing a reading, I time it.
“Remember also that, if folk are sitting there, they’re already interested.”
She also says to be honest and chatty for the inevitable question time.
Although I may appear quite forthright and confident to most of my friends, I am actually quite shy of strangers and absolutely loathe the idea of selling myself.
To counteract this, I am fortunate enough to have enlisted the aid of another very good friend and a local BBC journalist, Giancarlo Rinaldi, who knows me well and will introduce me on the night. He is funny and interesting and will probably put on such a wonderful performance that people will forget about my book signing and ask him for his autograph instead.
In an ideal world, that would be fine for me as I could sneak out the back door and let out a heavy sigh of relief into the cold Scottish evening.
Debut novels, however, rarely sell themselves and, for the past few weeks, I have been printing out posters and placing them on strategic notice boards around the town. I have also been posting the launch on Twitter, Facebook, KILTR, my writing forums and anywhere else with a bit of blank space.The next move is a press release to the local paper and an interview for an article.
On the day, I’m going to find something to wear that the cat hasn’t been sitting on and brave my first public appearance as a new author.
I’ll report back on 6th December.

Resurrection of Borley Rectory

books, Borley Rectory, fiction, ghost hunters, ghosts, Neil Spring, paranormal
Borley Rectory: the most haunted house in England

WITH a legendary reputation of being ‘the most haunted house in England’, it’s not surprising that the bones of Borley Rectory have been dug up to produce what is set to be a prominent best-seller in the fiction market.

I remember, in my youth, reading a book about Victorian ghost hunter Harry Price’s investigations at the notorious haunted house of Essex. That book terrorised me so much that I couldn’t read more than half of it. I had nightmares for years and it put paid to my fascination for the paranormal and things that go bump in the night for many more.

It wasn’t just the pictures of the imposing house, the eerie figures, bricks suspended in mid-air or spectral writing on the walls, it was the witness statements and true accounts of horrific paranormal phenomena that occurred in and around the rectory, even when Price was conducting his investigations.

The rectory appeared to have more than one ghost and there was a strong suggestion of poltergeist activity that could not be explained away by fact or science. From my distant recollections, I remember reading about the ghostly figure of a nun who would walk through the garden and peer into the window of the dining room. The vicar got so fed up with the meal-time intrusion that he bricked the window up. A spirit attached itself to a woman called Marianne and would write on the wall beside her, appealing to her to light mass candles. When one young lady got hauled out of bed by the hair by unseen hands and dragged across the room, enough was enough for me and I slammed the book shut forever, finding a cold comfort beneath the covers of my bed with the light on.

There have been very many books, films and documentaries created about Borley over the years and very many websites dedicated to its name. Some dispel the assumption of paranormal activity; others claim to verify the truth of it. Some have even dramatised the events which took place at Borley in serial fiction. Irrespective of whether the stories are true or arise from the mischievous imaginations of some of the rectory’s inhabitants, it makes a fabulous ghost story and an off-the-peg template for an instant best-seller.

Now novelist and entrepreneur, Neil Spring, has resurrected the haunting once more in his book The Ghost Hunters which is due to be published next week. From the excerpt I have read, it is a well-crafted, stylised work by an intelligent author who gives meticulous care to structure and sense. There wasn’t enough story-line in the excerpt, so I can’t fairly comment on his ability for characterisation or plot, but I have a spooky feeling it will be excellent.

The Ghost Hunters follows Price’s investigations through the first-person narrative of his young assistant, Sarah Grey, and Spring asserts that ‘the novel isn’t just about a haunting, it’s about the interpretation of hauntings and the nature of belief.’

I would love to read it but I’m not sure if I have the nerve to re-visit the stories that have haunted me since childhood. Perhaps it’s time to lay my ghosts and man-up!

Self-promotion for the bashful

authors, books, fiction, self-promotion, social media

WHEN I told a writing buddy about my fears of falling under the spotlight of self-promotion, he said ‘get over yourself.’
A bit harsh, I know, but he is absolutely right and also happens to be quite a successful author.
I am usually the one behind the camera; the one conducting the interviews; and the one promoting another person’s work.
Self-promotion is anathema to me and one of the most difficult tasks a self-published author will ever have to undertake. You just have to let go of the pride and say it’s got to be done.
The impersonal nature of social media makes promotional work relatively easy to stomach. It’s like creating a mirror image of yourself and hiding behind that artificial persona that really isn’t you. I will probably never meet the thousands of Twitter, Facebook and blog followers I’ve made and so can dare to be a little more blatant about pushing my book on them, often just falling short of spamming.
It is comforting to note that I have joined the serried ranks of thousands of other authors doing the same thing and there’s a sense of safety in numbers; a collective conscience with a common goal in mind. Those numbers, however, are so vast that it makes it almost impossible for anyone to notice an individual grain of sand in the desert dunes.
There are, mercifully, many book reviewers, bloggers and readers who generously give up their time to help support authors. I’m compiling a list of them on Pinterest.
Some charge for their time and effort, while others do it for the love of reading or as a cross-promotional tool. I’ve had a look around the internet and can’t find any real evidence of whether paying a site to promote your book actually equates to sales.
The good people who do it for free are not looking for a quick business opportunity and have no intention of fleecing authors. Avid readers will offer to review a book for merely the price of an e-copy; while bloggers, especially those who have just started up, will offer an interview or guest post in order to swell their page counts and followers.
The trouble is that there are just too many authors out there all wanting their books noticed and, I’ve seen it many a time on Goodreads, a reader will put out a request for review copies and the next moment free books are coming at them in a relentless swarm like a scene from a zombie movie.
There’s a lot more about this on my publisher’s blog at Ivy Moon Press.
The next step, I am dreading: launching my book and myself in the physical world with no avatar to hide behind.
Makes writing a book seem like a walk in the park ….

Author interviews

authors, Bill Kirton, books, fiction, Mary Smith, Michael Brookes, publishing
TRYING to keep up to date with the social networking platforms is exhausting but often the results are very satisfying.
While I’m busy promoting my own book, over at Ivy Moon Press I’ve interviewed three quality authors and would really like others to take a good look at their work.
Bill Kirton, Mary Smith and Michael Brookes are a diverse trio of talented writers who I’ve brought together in my publishers’ blog in the hope that my small efforts may get them noticed by a few more readers.
Take a look and see for yourself:

Writing, designing, editing and selling: The journey of a new book

books, fiction, marketing, promotion, publishing, reading, Sara Bain, The Sleeping Warrior, writing

The Sleeping Warrior by Sara Bain

MANY people believe that writing a book ends with the words THE END. How wrong can they be?
I’m in half a mind to update those last two words of my debut novel, The Sleeping Warrior, to read IT BEGINS because writing the book is only a fraction of the time and effort it takes to bring a new work to the attention of the world’s readers.
I decided not to go with a publisher. I think I’ve got the experience and skills to go it alone, so started up a small press where the first book on its lists is written, published and promoted by me.
Publishing is not as straightforward a business as people think. From the initial editing process to design, through to making the work available on all reading formats, is a long and often frustrating task.
No matter how many times you proof your own work, there is always something to change. Even after having The Sleeping Warrior proofed by two very excellent editors, who I trust to be pedantic and subjective, I still found some little bits and pieces that needed amendment.
The trouble is, there is no such thing as perfection in the world of publishing any more. Too often, I open a traditionally published book and find glaring typos on the pages. Cuts to staff and the freelance budgets as well as department restructures across the publishing industry have taken a large toll on quality, even amongst the publishing giants.
In addition, I’ve heard that marketing budgets are minimal, so publishers like their authors to be ‘pro-active’ in the promotion of their own works. Roughly translated, this means that authors (unless the name is a marketable commodity in itself) must develop a presence on the internet by social networking; find outlets for reviews and interviews by undertaking their own press work; get themselves a spot on the literary calendars by finding hosts for book launches, talks and presences at book events; and generally sell their souls to anyone they know who is able to help them spread the word.
If authors are being forced to become their own press officers and advertisement managers, then why give away the royalties to a business that’s not prepared to invest in you?
Apart from said time and effort, it costs nothing to put a book up on the likes of Amazon, Smashwords and FeedARead etc. It costs nothing to set up a print on demand service and have paperback copies made available across the world and it costs nothing to make the book available to the big bookshops and worldwide distributors.
Initial outlay costs are low. Anyone serious about self-publishing who wants to keep complete control over sale of his/her/their books will need an ISBN which can only be bought in blocks of ten for about £128: these are cheaper if bought in bulk, as the larger publishing houses do. Otherwise, for the self-published author who just wants to get that book out there, Amazon et al will provide a free ISBN but also reserve the right to publish a particular version exclusively.
Investing cash in a good editor is vital as is finding a good cover design. Most authors are not graphic designers but most authors also have an inkling as to what they want their cover to look like: one that’s eye-catching and tells the story, or at least part of it. I’m lucky to be an able graphic designer and so can keep full control over what I want the end product to look like.
I’ve developed a good following on Twitter and am working on my Goodreads and Facebook profiles while trying to get the websites up and running.
The eBook version is out but I’ve had a few problems with CreateSpace which have delayed the proofs so the paperbacks won’t be available until the end of the month (or when I get to see the proofs, whichever is the soonest).
I need to do a few booklaunches and send out a few press releases but need the paperback copies before I can set these particular wheels in motion. In consequence, I am organising a small print run with my local printers.
Trouble is, I’m so busy blogging and networking, that the author part of me has become lost.
Why be an author if no one reads your book. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation at the moment, but I’ll get there.

The F word

author, fantasy, fiction, publishing

Before anyone writes in to complain or express disagreement or outrage, the following blog is solely the opinion of the blogger and any similarities to fact are purely coincidental.
There are loads of words beginning with the letter F that, when blurted, can cause serious offence depending on the temperament of the recipient. In the world of publishing, there is a certain F word that prompts violent reactions from all mainstream editors and literary agents when spoken out loud during a telephone query or appearing in a covering letter. From the odd raised eyebrow, to the derisory sniff; from the stifled titter, to a broken nose by a slamming door, there is no other word more anathema to a publisher than the one beginning with “F” and ending in “antasy”.
“Fantasy” — there, I have said it, and the furious bolt of lightning has seemingly missed me. It appears that, despite a big presence in the movies and many established authors still selling well, few readers are enamoured with the new stuff. In fact, according to one literary agent, Sci-Fi (a genre that was considered passé about 10 years ago) is in and new fantasy is struggling to survive in the book world. Apparently, the British readers are gorging themselves on a three-course menu of thrillers, crime and diet books — enough to give anyone a serious dose of indigestion. I jest, of course, I really need to go on a diet. Add to this the difficulties, frustrations and humiliation an unsolicited author (especially one that has no dubious celebrity status) faces in breaking into the publishing world, and you have a recipe for probable disappointment.
So, what is wrong with new fantasy fiction? First, I think, perhaps, that there are too many people doing it. Whether they are writing it badly or not, most precious fantasy submissions — and they are legion —end up at the bottom of the dreaded slush pile, many without even being read. Secondly, fantasy readers are Orced-out. Elves, dwarves, dragons and ethereal faery creatures of shadow and light have all been done to death and are simply becoming variations on a jaded theme. Thirdly, there are relatively few literary agents and publishing houses that actually deal in fantasy — most expressly forbid it. Fourthly, those literary agents that do work with fantasy generally stick to the same formula that has brought them success in the past (go back to point 2).
A bleak picture indeed, but that optimistic streak I find cowering in a corner inside me (the one behind the disheartened murmur) tells me that, like every dog, a good book will eventually have its day. I just hope that it will not be a posthumous one.