Yearly Archives:: 2016

Georgette Heyer Regency Romance #4: ‘The Spanish Bride’

February 7, 2016 Georgette Heyer, Regency romances, Review 0

Another one I’m going to pass on. Written in 1940, although this is classified as a Regency romance, and it probably is, it’s also based on real historical characters, and, like An Infamous Army, it’s very focused on the historical setting.

Divider

Authors Answer 8: The New Year is coming soon. What are your plans for 2016 in terms of writing?

January 19, 2016 AuthorsAnswer 0

Again, I’m out of sync here, although I suppose January still counts as New Year. This is going to be a very short post, since I already posted at some length about my plans for the year in both writing and marketing. So… I’m done.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

Divider

‘The Fire Mages’ Daughter’: now available!

January 16, 2016 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages' Daughter 0

Great news! The latest book set in the Brightmoon world,The Fire Mages’ Daughter, is now available for purchase from all Amazons at a special introductory price. If you pre-ordered – thank you! The book should already be available on your device. If not, you can:

Buy for Kindle or your phone, tablet or whatever for just $0.99 or equivalent, or

Buy the paperback for $10.99 or equivalent (and download the Kindle version free), or

Download for free if you have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited or Prime.

Click the Buy! button for a link to take you direct to your local Amazon. This special low price will only be available for this weekend, and the price will rise to $2.99 or equivalent on Monday 18th, so be sure to tell all your friends about the deal.

Although this book can be read independently, it is best enjoyed after The Fire Mages, which you can also buy for the special price of $0.99 or equivalent. This price will last until the end of January.

I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it! When you’ve finished, it would be wonderful if you could write a review on Amazon, Goodreads or your blog, to help other readers decide if they would like it. Thank you! And if you have any comments or questions, do feel free to email me. I’d love to hear from you!

Divider

Authors Answer 7: Christmas is coming! In your opinion, what would be the perfect gift for a writer?

January 15, 2016 AuthorsAnswer, General 0

{Yes, yes, I’m very out of sync here – but Christmas is always coming so…}

Oooh, I can answer this, because I recently found the perfect gift for me. I added it to my wishlist, and… nobody bought it for me. Oh. Here it is:

JaneAustenFigure

Isn’t that… erm, really, really naff? But cute and fun. If you don’t mind the idea of Jane Austen wearing a shocking pink spencer, that is. And look, she has her own quill pen and a copy of Pride and Prejudice. So, so cute.

Serious answers? Do I have to? Oh, all right then. Scrivener, because it’s positively the best writing environment ever in the history of writing environments. There are plenty of word-processor wrappers which guide an author through the necessary steps to writing nirvana (or a completed manuscript, at least). Scrivener doesn’t do that, but what it does do is to allow the author to work in the way that suits her/him best. You want to start at the beginning, go on till you come to the end and then stop? You can do that. Want to plan every single chapter and scene? You can do that too. Want to include all your research notes, web pages and images? Work full screen? Move chunks around? Keep old versions? Yep, no problem. Want to compile direct to epub or Kindle format or pdf or double-spaced printed submission format? Absolutely. It’s a wonderful tool.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

Divider

Georgette Heyer Regency Romance #3: ‘The Corinthian’

January 9, 2016 Georgette Heyer, Regency romances, Review 0

After the history-fest of An Infamous Army, written in 1937, which I couldn’t even attempt, this one couldn’t be more different. It’s the most frivolous, silly, light-hearted confection imaginable, but then it was written in 1940, so perhaps frivolity was what was most needed.The plot begins with Sir Richard Wyndham, the Corinthian (dandy) of the title, accepting that at the age of twenty nine, he must make a loveless marriage to please his family. Neither the icily practical lady, nor her debt-riddled family, appeal much, but he feels he must do his duty. But on the evening before making the offer which will tie him, he gets very drunk and on his way home he spots someone climbing out of an upstairs window. This is seventeen-year-old Penelope (Pen) Creed, an heiress escaping the prospect of an unwanted marriage to a cousin, by dressing as a boy and running away. Richard agrees to help her escape, and thereby sets in train a glorious set of ever-more-unlikely events, involving stolen diamonds, an elopement, a Bow Street Runner, even a murder, and a whole array of wonderfully eccentric characters.

The story is delightfully silly, but the real charm is in the two main characters. Pen is a complete innocent, always coming up with outlandish schemes which go horribly wrong, and then require even more outlandish schemes to set things right. Richard is the world-weary cynic, trying very hard to protect her from the worst consequences of her actions. The writing is as light as a feather, with humour in almost every line.

This book was a delight from start to finish. The romance isn’t totally convincing, not least because Pen is so young and innocent, it’s hard to believe that she really knows her own mind. But that’s a very minor quibble. A very enjoyable five stars.

Divider

Georgette Heyer Regency Romance #2: ‘An Infamous Army’

January 9, 2016 Georgette Heyer, Regency romances, Review 0

I set out to read all of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances in publication order, and here I am at the second book, written in 1937, and already I’m refusing to jump. The opening is a whole confusion of characters, so, naturally, I turned to the Goodreads reviews for advice. And find that this book is more of a historical treatise on the Battle of Waterloo than fiction. It is, apparently, still required reading for the officer training school at Sandhurst.

Well, it may be picky of me, but I read for entertainment, not to be hit over the head with the author’s depth of research. I’ll take a raincheck on this one, and maybe come back to it later, when I feel stronger. Pass.

Nice cover, though.

Divider

2016 strategy part 2: launches and promotions

January 7, 2016 General, Publishing/marketing, Writing musings 0

I talked in part 1 about my writing and publishing career to date, and my writing plans for 2016. This time, I want to talk about the other half of the writing/publishing equation, which is launching and promotion, or telling the world your books exist.

There’s a lot of talk about marketing strategies and building a platform and the value of blog tours or Facebook boosts or whatever. However, the only truly effective measure I’ve found has been paid promotion via mailing list sites. The most effective ones included Ereader News Today, One Hundred Free Books, Book Barbarian, Robin Reads, FreeBooksy/BargainBooksy, Booksends and Free Kindle Books and Tips. Both discounted books (setting the price to 99c) and free worked well.

Having a mailing list is reputed to be a good way to boost a new book launch, by setting the book to a special low price for a day or two, and telling your mailing list about the deal. Some people expand their mailing list by offering a free book as an inducement to sign up, but this results in lower engagement from the list. I’ve allowed my mailing list to grow organically, through links at the end of each book and on the website, so my list is still small, but one day I hope to have enough readers signed up to be able to launch a book with no promotion other than a single email to the mailing list.

Another long-term strategy is the obvious one: write more books! With only one book out, a reader who enjoys it has nowhere else to go, but if there are several, there’s a good chance of readers moving on to devour the whole set, one after the other. I’ve noticed a definite increase in baseline sales and borrows, now that I have four (soon to be five) books out. That increase is something that will likely continue into the future, so long as I can write and publish at a steady and not too infrequent rate.

There are other promotion strategies that might help, but at a much smaller scale. Blogging, social media engagement, soliciting reviews from bloggers – these get an author’s name out there, and may result in a few sales, but I don’t recommend spending a lot of time on any of these unless you happen to enjoy them. And don’t let them eat into the writing time.

Launch strategies

For my first published book, I had no clue about marketing or promotion, so I basically didn’t do any! Sales were low in consequence. For the second book, I splurged rather at the time of the launch, and that worked very well. It worked even better for the third book. It began to look as if I’d worked out a successful launch strategy. Nowhere near bestseller status, but enough to bring in steady sales.

But for the fourth book, the same technique was a flop. While the book was cheap and being promoted, it sold pretty well, but as soon as promotion ended and the price went up, sales dropped away. The long post-promotion tail from the previous books just wasn’t there.

Partly, this is the result of Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s subscription borrowing service, which changed the landscape fundamentally. If a reader is paying $9.99 a month to read as many books as they like, they’re bound to be less inclined to buy books. And the most voracious readers, those who once would have bought the most books, are now in KU. As soon as the fourth book was launched, pages read surged, and stayed high for the whole of the first month, while the book was featured on Amazon’s Hot New Releases lists. And that was unaffected by promotions.

The other significant factor is Amazon’s new policy of encouraging readers to ‘follow’ an author if they liked her/his books. When there’s a new release, Amazon will send out an email telling those followers about it. That can result in a surge of sales – at full price! – some time after release. My fourth book saw some 80 additional sales as a result, which absolutely astonished me. I would never have suspected I had so many followers. And again, this is unaffected by promotions.

The no-promo launch

So for the fifth release, on 15th January, I’ve decided to change tack experimentally. The book has been on pre-order for three months, and has 200+ pre-orders now, all at 99c. I’ll keep it cheap for a couple of days, so that my mailing list and blog followers have a chance to pick up a bargain if they didn’t pre-order, and after that it goes to full price. However, since this is my first sequel, it will be only $2.99 and the previous book in the sequence will be only 99c for the first month or so.

And there will be NO PROMO. This is the really edgy part, for me. Will it sink like a stone? Will it flap its wings for a couple of days and then crash land? Or will it actually stick a little better, because of the higher price point? Whatever it does, I expect to see two certain outcomes: 1) an increase in pages read as soon as the book is released; and 2) assuming Amazon sends out its oh-so-helpful email again, a bump in sales after a couple of weeks. I’m hoping that this will be enough to keep things afloat for a while. After the first month, I’ll re-evaluate, and perhaps organise some promo if needed.

The no pre-orders launch

For the following book, my sixth, which I hope to release in May, I’ll try a different strategy again – no pre-orders. I hope this will encourage readers who like the books to sign up for my mailing list. It seems to be an either/or thing: readers either pre-order the next book or they sign up to the mailing list. Either works as a way of finding out about the next book, but the mailing list brings in potential customers for every new book, not just one.

Pre-orders have worked very well for me, especially the long-running ones, which have kept the book constantly in the Hot New Releases lists, even with only 2-3 pre-orders per day. It does dilute the impact of the launch, though, since many guaranteed customers have already bought the book. But I’ve found an unexpected bonus to pre-orders: because they keep the book visible for several weeks or months before launch, and the price is low, I get pre-orders from people who haven’t read the other books. When the new book is released, there’s a little spike of follow-on sales of all the earlier books. So, swings and roundabouts.

But this business is all about experimenting, so I’m going to try launching a book without pre-orders for the first time ever, just to see what happens.

The bang-bang-bang launch

For my Regency romances, I intend to try something very different, but a technique that’s well-tested by others, and is known to work well. This will be a series, probably of six books, but I could stop after four or take it further than six if I want to. They’re shorter than my epic fantasy – I’m aiming for 50,000 words apiece, whereas the fantasy is typically 140,000 words or more. Because they’re shorter and, individually at least, less complicated, I should be able to complete each one in 2-3 months. However, rather than publish as I go, I plan to stack them up until I have at least four ready to go, then release them a month apart.

Why? The idea is to take advantage of Amazon’s 30-day grace period wherein new books reside on the Hot New Releases list and get a ton of exposure. So, release one, then 30 days later, release another before the first has quite shot its bolt. That way, the series stays in the limelight for as long as possible. Of course, this also allows me to weave a number of long-running sub-plots into the mix, which will meander through the whole series. It’s not so easy to do that if the early books are already out.

On building a career

There’s a school of thought that says a book has to hit the stratosphere just after launch or else it’s sunk. I don’t entirely agree with that. I’ve seen authors whose careers gradually built over two or three years or more, and I’ve seen individual books revived by a timely promotion, which went on to sell very well. So I’m not overly concerned about a launch that’s less than stellar, or (for the Regencies) a series that doesn’t take off immediately.

To me, the important factor is to produce books that I enjoy writing, and to minimise the stress and pressure of self-publishing. It’s very easy to get swept up into the gotta-get-another-book-out fever. Well, blow that. I’m having fun here, and I’m happy to take things at my own pace, which is faster than some but slower than many.

Expectations for 2016? No expectations. Hopes, maybe. I hope to publish three fantasy books this year, and the first of the Regency romances. I hope sales and borrows continue to rise, month on month, and year on year. I hope readers continue to find the books and that some of them at least, find my style of storytelling to their liking.

And I hope that the writing and publishing continues to be so much fun. I’m having an absolute blast.

Have a good 2016, everyone.

Divider

Regency romance review: ‘The Impostor Debutante’ by May Burnett

January 6, 2016 Review 0

I enjoyed this one a lot. Too many Regency romances these days have plots that are too silly for words, requiring hero or heroine or both to behave in quite incredible ways. This one felt quite sane, and both main characters behaved like sensible people. Very refreshing.

The plot revolves around the neglected niece of a London socialite mother, who decides to do her duty by bringing the girl down from Yorkshire to be suitably introduced into society and married off. But the niece is almost blind, recently married and pregnant, and has no desire to enter London society. She does, however, want to recover her inheritance money, so she sends her half-sister to London in her place to find out why the solicitor isn’t responding to letters. All this is slightly pedestrian, but there is another, more interesting, sub-plot, focused on the half-sister’s background.

The romance features the hitherto rather useless second son of the socialite mother, who is a pleasant enough chap but doesn’t have much to make him stand out from the crowd. Despite the obstacles seemingly keeping the two apart, they fall in love rather easily, and start lusting after each other in no time. I’m not a big fan of Regencies with added sex, but that’s a matter of personal preference and it was all rather tastefully done.

This isn’t the most historically accurate portrayal of the Regency era I’ve ever seen – the dialogue is more modern colloquial than Jane Austen, and the heroine enjoys afternoon tea at one point (not invented until 1840). But the characters and the leisurely plot have a charm which overcomes such minor quibbles. The ending felt rather awkward, with way too much time taken tying up loose ends, but overall this was a pleasant read. I wavered between three and four stars, but as it’s the first of the series I’ll be generous. Four stars.

Divider

Authors Answer 6: Which mistake or bad habit in writing is the most difficult for you to stop doing?

January 6, 2016 AuthorsAnswer 0

Adverbs. I know they’re supposed to be a Very Bad Thing, but there are so many situations where a judiciously placed adverb can save a world of verbiage. I’m all for expressing myself briefly and succinctly and efficiently and all those other —ly words. And I’ll also hold my hand up for that other cardinal sin, the adverb used in a dialogue tag, she said shamefacedly. Yes, folks, my characters sometimes speak softly instead of whispering, and they sometimes speak coldly or bracingly or icily or gently as well. My bad.

But here’s the thing. Part of the skill of an author is in not boring the reader, and that’s not just in the plot. It also means including plenty of variety in the writing, so that a long succession of ‘he said… she said…’ is broken up by an action beat, or, dare I say it, by tossing in an adverb. Just as you wouldn’t write a three-page wall of exposition (well, I wouldn’t, although some writers do), so it seems sensible to introduce variety into dialogue, too.

Well, that’s my excuse, anyway.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

Divider

2016 strategy part 1: Writing

January 5, 2016 Current writings, Regency romances, The Dragon's Egg, The Fire Mages' Daughter, Writing musings 0

January 2016 sees me enter my seventeenth month as a self-publisher. To date, I have four books published, the fifth is imminent and the sixth is written in first draft form. The seventh is already taking shape in my head. All of these are part of the Brightmoon Annals world, a connected series of (mostly) stand-alone books. There is also a new project, tentatively entitled the Allamont Annals, a series of Regency romances. The first of these is almost finished. In 2015, I wrote 318,000 words.

In terms of sales, the books have had some modest success. Total sales 4,000, borrows 2,000 and over a million pages read. This is nowhere near bestseller status, but it’s satisfying to know that there are complete strangers out there who read and enjoy the books. In addition, I’ve given away more than 20,000 copies for free.

But now that I’ve worked out how to write a book and publish it and market it, what next? Do it all over again, of course! Here are my writing plans for the rest of this year.

The Fire Mages’ Daughter (book 5 in the Brightmoon Annals)

This one is written, edited, proofread and already loaded onto the Amazon servers ready to launch on Jan 15th. It’s a sequel to The Fire Mages, featuring Kyra’s daughter, Axandrina (or Drina for short), who is summoned to the capital as a potential heir to the Drashona. Bennamore’s neighbours, the unsophisticated Blood Clans, have a new boy god, and Drina’s unique heritage comes into play as events unfold.

The Dragon’s Egg (book 6 in the Brightmoon Annals)

This is finished and brewing for a while until it’s time to start editing. This is a little different from most of the other Brightmoon books, in that it features several point-of-view characters, and it’s more of a quest than many. For anyone who’s read The Magic Mines of Asharim, and wondered about the cache of dragon’s eggs Allandra and Xando discovered hidden under the mountain, this book will answer your questions. It also features some familiar characters from previous books. Likely publication date: May 2016.

The Second God (book 7 in the Brightmoon Annals)

A sequel to a sequel! This follows on from The Fire Mages’ Daughter, picking up Drina’s story after some five years. It’s again focused on the Blood Clans, and what happens when a second boy god is discovered. I’ve only just started writing this, so I have no idea at the moment where the story will take me. Possible publication date: autumn 2016.

The Allamont Annals 1: Amy (book 1 in the Regency romance series)

This is my new venture. Regency romances in the vein of Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer were my first love, and I still have a partially completed manuscript, banged out on a manual typewriter, in a drawer. These stories are intended to be shorter than the epic fantasy, and amusing rather than exciting. They’ll be traditional (which means drawing room, not bedroom), and I plan to write six books in the series. Once I have the first four written, I will start publishing them a month apart. The first should be finished this month. Possible publication date: autumn 2016.

Writing faster

So far, I’ve managed to publish a book every four months, and for epic fantasy, I’m happy with that. My books tend to be long, convoluted and, for the later books, built on the back of the earlier ones. In The Dragon’s Egg, for instance, the characters travel to Mesanthia and meet up with Allandra, Xando and Zak from The Magic Mines of Asharim. This means a certain amount of rehashing of previous events to remind those who’ve read the earlier books what happened and cover the basics for anyone who hasn’t. But it also means making sure nothing contradicts the earlier books. I’m very bad about making notes as I go, so I end up rereading chunks of the earlier books to find out the details I need. That’s not a process that can be rushed.

The Regency books are shorter, but I’m finding I need to do quite a bit of research to get the historical details right. Did they have afternoon tea? Nope, not invented until 1840, but they did have sandwiches. What is an Earl’s mother called? She’s a Dowager Countess. How do guests sit down at the dinner table? Still working on that one. But it all takes time.

Nevertheless, I’d love to increase the amount I write each day, not so much to be able to publish faster, but to give myself more time to develop these stories with a little more breathing space. I’ve found a couple of ways to help me produce more words.

1) Write in several short bursts during the day. Some people call these sprints, but I’m too slow a writer to qualify for that. Plods, maybe. But several a day, each one producing 200-300 words, plus a longer session in the evening, gets it done nicely.

2) I have a rinky-dink little computer – a tablet/netbook hybrid – which runs Windows and therefore allows me to run Scrivener, my writing software. It’s also small enough to be easily carried round with me. So anytime I get ten minutes free – tappity-tappity-tap.

In part 2, I’ll look at the marketing side of things: launches and promotions.

 

Divider