Saturday, 8 February 2014

Indie Book Marketing 101 - Build a list for crying out loud!

I've been fluffing around on this blog and twitter for a while now, mostly procrastinating, but every now and then making a serious attempt to 'market' my humble debut publication 'The Viscount's Son'. I am about to release my second publication and I thought maybe it's time I get my butt into gear with the whole marketing thing.  After all, the indie author - especially the newbie indie author - has to do everything themselves. There's no PR department in a big publishing house to do the hard yards for us. As much as most of us hating blowing our own trumpet, it's that trumpet that will get our books read.

So during my many hours of procrastination research, I've read a few blogs and listened to a few podcasts that all scream the same message: when it comes to marketing, your indie book needs social media. And what's more important than blogs, twitter and Facebook combined?

Build an email list.

Yes. That's it. Build a simple - nothing fancy - email list.  I was shocked at the lack of fanfare when I first stumbled across this little gem of advice. "What? That's it?" I thought. And apparently, according to many already accomplished indie authors, it is the email list that is the single most important means of reaching readers and developing a connection. And that connection is what readers like most.

I've finally got around to taking this advice and doing something with it. I've set up an account with Mail Chimp (if it's good enough for Hugh Howey, it's good enough for me).  But how do I start building this list? Well, with all the procrastination and navel gazing I seem to partake in I was able to come up with a brilliant idea!

Sign up to win a free paperback.

**UPDATE** Thank you to everyone who signed up. I have drawn the winners and sent an email out. I will have more giveaways for my list in the near future.

I have nine paperback copies of that humble first publication 'The Viscount's Son' to give away (I only meant to order 1 from Amazon but accidentally ordered 10 ... don't ask). So ... I am going to put all the names of the people who join my list into a hat and pull out nine (assuming that nine people actually join up!), and those lucky readers will receive a free, signed, brand new, never been opened paperback copy of my little novelette. Not immediately as I can only afford to pay for the slow shipping delivery but you'll get it eventually ;)

What will joining my list mean for you? Well I'm not going to spam you every day, only once a week ... no, just kidding. The top benefit will be the exclusive deals and free books I'll be giving out to my list only. Members will also receive information about my new releases before anyone else.  So I'm aiming to make it worth your while and you can 'unjoin' at any time.

If you're still reading this post you must be interested so feel free to fill in the form below. Upon signing up you will receive a welcome email in which you will be required to confirm your email address.  I look forward to putting your name in a hat and drawing it out next Sunday - 16th February.

Subscribe to my mailing list

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And if you're still reading this, have a look at the new family members I bought at a farmers' market today. Aren't they cute!

My new Apple Yard Ducks :)

Saturday, 11 January 2014

My next book - out soon!

As you can guess I've been spending recent months writing rather than blogging and soon I'll be releasing my second Book.

Why the pic of the cat? Well, aside from my love of those precious little mammals, the book will include a main character who is a cat.

'The Borderlands: Journey' is the first book in a trilogy. It is an urban fantasy that follows the journey of 16 year old Dale as she struggles with the challenges of attending an elite international school while having no friends. No friends except for Gareth, an old homeless man with a love for sailing his little wooden boat.

Dale also has secrets. She can see people's auras and when she was younger she saw magical creatures that she still likes to recreate in her paintings. But were these magical fairies, sprites and gnomes real or the result of an active imagination.

Then there's Rhys. A new boy at school who looks like he just stepped out of an advertisement for designer jeans. Aloof but enigmatic, Rhys soon charms Dale and the whole student population - or at least the 'plastics' lead by super snob Prudence Feathertop.

Want to know more? You can read the official blurb here.  And have a look at a sneaky reveal in a previous post.

'The Borderlands: Journey' is currently in the throws of final edits. It will be released very soon. I hope to add a 'cover reveal' post in the near future.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Why write fantasy?

This question is rarely asked outright. Either the person I am talking to is a die hard fantasy fan, in which case the question is a redundant one; or they are quite the opposite and prefer to nod their head and give me that raised eyebrow look, rather than ask the obvious question 'but why write fantasy when you could be writing (capital 'L') Literature?'

But, it's a question I like to ask myself. Why do I write fantasy?

I love the places in fantasy fiction.

I think part of the answer can be found in my childhood. Growing up, I was a happy kid and had two loving, caring parents. But there was a frustration that life was rather ordinary. I always looked past the 'real', ordinary status of a place and imagined it to be something more than it was. When my grandparents added a small garden just outside their kitchen I was delighted and named it 'Small's Garden' after the book I was reading at the time. I remember playing in my bedroom, only it wasn't a bedroom, it was the dining saloon of Dr Doolittle's sailing ship. I spent a lot of time looking outside my window, telling the sharks to behave themselves.

Of course, as I grew up I stopped 'acting out' these happy fantasies and resorted to deep and lengthy daydreams. My family still joke about my ability to go off to dream-land and not be 'contactable'. It now seems like a natural parallel that the more I dreamed the more I became attracted to fantasy fiction, and my daydreams fully embraced that genre.

One obvious attraction fantasy holds for many of us is the unrestricted potential - anything you can dream up is allowed. This freedom is such a contrast to the rules and limitations of ordinary life. Of course, when you take your 'dream' and turn it into a story, rules and restrictions must be applied to make the story credible. But even so, fairies, dragons and grand sparkling palaces, can all exist in a world that you create.

For me, one of the most satisfying effects of writing fantasy can also be a trap for authors: morality.  Most of my imaginings, in their initial raw form, certainly follow a hero quest, with some underdog coming out on top and showing an obscure evil badass 'what for'.  Of course 'real life' is rarely so clear cut as 'good vs evil', but it does seem like bad people, or selfishness and greed, do a lot of winning in our world (just watch the news). Fantasy lets us embellish morality so that we have hideous creatures like orcs and demons juxtaposed with good elves and hobbits, and it's always so satisfying to see 'Good' win.   But, the most interesting fantasy takes morality and paints it with grey, so that we can see the good and evil in all characters.  Game of Thrones is the most obvious example here, but all good fantasy needs to show the struggle the hero goes through in defying the lure of evil - and this is what really fascinates us.

I love the notion of magic. I really can't explain why, but the act of it and the restrictions bound up in it are so interesting and that's often what I love most about reading and writing fantasy fiction.  It provides another layer of complexity - with all its advantages and pitfalls -  that 'reality' fiction cannot employ.

So, I write fantasy for the characters, the magic, the possibilities, the places, the morality ... and many other things.

If you're interested in exploring more about this topic have a look at this conversation between two Australian fantasy novelists, Allison Goodman and Allison Croggon.  Put it on when you're doing some mundane task (I listened to it while doing the dishes). They share their path into fantasy writing, and their enjoyment of the escape that fantasy provides.

Teresa Coffey has a series of fascinating blog posts that open up the discussion of what fantasy is, and what it might be missing. Her observations are interesting for writers and readers of fantasy fiction:
What is missing in fantasy fiction?
Defining fantasy: It's more than just wizards
Defining low fantasy
Defining high fantasy

So, why do you write fantasy?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

'Between Giants' - A must for your bookshelf

Everyone should have a contemporary poet to follow. Sure, many people know the classics - Wordsworth, Blake, Yeats. Some can even rattle off a verse or two, but how many of us can recite a list of contemporary poets, or even one?

Ashley Capes is a contemporary Australian poet whose poems vacillate between making you question the world and marvelling in its details.  His latest work Between Giants contains 49 poems that, to me, seem inspired by ancient Italy and modern Australia.

Over recent weeks I have picked up the book and opened to a random page.  More often than not the poems have caused me to stop and think. They compel me to consider things I normally don't 'see', or to simply appreciate a mood or a feeling. Shelley famously said that "poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted." For Between Giants the poetry is a mirror that prompts you to glean some meaning about the world, but I think every reader will see something different, and it's not necessarily "beautiful". Don't get me wrong though, there is certainly beauty to appreciate in this work - particularly with the simplicity yet weight of meaning within the words.

There were 'things' that really caught me. I'm wary of labeling these 'things' for fear of reducing them to something that perhaps they are not. You might call them 'themes' or 'topics' or 'thoughts', but I like to call them things.

Things we all recognise

Moments are captured in detail that all readers will instantly recognise. I love the first poem Transitions and its portrait of an airport. In a few lines I was nodding, smiling and then wondering about this strange structure, shared by so many cultures but yet so homogeneous in its 'feel'. Capes remembers for all of us that in airports "we are sitting and eavesdropping through no fault of our own". We all recognise this place where "announcements are goddess-like" and "hands get shopping bag fatigue". The quip "voices travel - we should be envious" had me smiling - recalling my own memories of the tedious wait for the plane in uncomfortable chairs.  The last line got me really thinking "everything is duty free".

With Birds still talking I felt invited to smile at another moment. This one much 'smaller' and more like a passing mood. For me, this poem is about the simple visit to the letter box and the joy this can bring when the weather gives us a glimpse of summer, when despite the "sun pedalling downhill" the "birds are still talking". How such simple, natural 'things' give us "hope".


That word, 'suburbia' connotes mostly negative stuff in my mind. But Capes delivers a picture of it without prejudice. So, in 'Things without Beds' we stroll along footpaths and watch "lights from lounge rooms leak onto front lawns" - snapshots of an Australian suburb on a dusk walk home.  Although, like Bradbury or Kafka, something alarming lurks in the shadows.

One of the townsfolk is one of my favourites. The title conjures notions of community spirit but such ideals are quickly unsettled by the "fishbowl dance" of most suburban households when the TV remote calls to us - "its patience like an old, desert stone waiting for rain". Many of us will 'feel' the guilt in this poem and wonder with the narrator "what the television gives me".

Narrow beds shows us pictures of our shopping strips and business centres where behind the "registers beeping and clicking" the "summer flowers linger". We see the narrow flower beds squeezed but surviving "between heroic volumes of tar". With allusions to the seasons, I enjoyed the tension this poem drew between natural and urban settings.

Past vs present

That contrast we feel, between the grand narrative of the past and the oh-so-ordinary present, is also something I chewed my lip about.  In Vesuvius sleeping we struggle through the hot hotel with flies who "batted their drowsy heads against the glass". Such ordinary images are positioned starkly against Pompeii of all places, with its "deep wagon ruts". But, what he also does, is to give us a glimpse of the 'less-than-romantic' within such classical eras -  "the stone brothel" of Pompeii - so clever!

Mythical begins with:

Over a hundred years or more
shops and gelatin
have crept close to the Trevi Fountain

It goes on to speak about the tourists and "the gaping mouths of hundreds" at the Sistine Chapel to -

to Saint Peter's Square
where we shoot
the requisite photos

Ultimately, against a backdrop of classical history, this poem makes you contrast the "millions of 1s and 0s" of mass modern tourism with the 'true' intimacy of "two people in the sun beside a fountain".


Speaking of intimacy, I've always enjoyed Capes' willingness to share how those intimate memories feel. It's another thing that, as long as you're human, we can all tap into. Hutchi street had me at "when we're apart". I read this poem when I was experiencing some time apart from my own partner (we were in the midst of moving towns) and it caused some serious eye-welling. This poem brings back those lovely moments of blossoming love (sniff).

The poetry in Between Giants is, more than anything, truthful. Its imagery reflects pictures of reality to us, but just like a mirror, we will interpret that 'truth' according to our own experiences.  I loved the moments of reflection, appreciation and questioning that this book gave me.  I recommend this work and this poet to anyone interested in reading and life. I hope that the promise proffered in a table set for thousands, rings true:

"I will keep sucking poetry out of small things"

We hope so Ashley, we hope so!

Between Giants is available here.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Is too much of a good thing bad for writing?

My new house - I love it but it doesn't seem to be getting me writing!

Over the past few weeks I've been incredibly happy.  After my partner gained a promotion, which meant a move to another town, we bought a house on some land and we've been like a couple of fat pigs up to our ears in chocolatey mud, working on our new property and loving the fact that we are now living in our dream house - a cute little brick cottage.

Of course the move has meant a lot of my time was taken up with finishing my job, packing, moving and unpacking.  But I've been well and truly settled here for the last three weeks - so why no writing and blogging?

I do wonder if my sudden onset of pure glee has dampened my passion for writing.  Not having a job at the moment means I can while away the hours at my leisure.  You'd think I'd be spending every second of it on my writing projects but instead I find myself getting into the garden, or rearranging the furniture for the tenth time.

Does happiness deter the writing process?  My prior life was not misery, but the drudgery of a full time job, and not living ones ideal lifestyle meant that my mind frequently wandered to my stories and day dreams.  My writing projects have always been a wonderful escape from the mundane.  Could it be that a little unhappiness in life helps to drive creativity?  The 'Tortured Artist' stereotype is renowned for a reason.

I love to quote Stephen King, so what does he say about happiness?

"I believe happiness is the exact opposite of sadness, bitterness, and hatred: happiness should remain unexamined as long as possible."

I couldn't agree more.  And over the past week I have got back into my writing and I've loved every minute of it.  I'm not going to examine it further ... but I'd love to hear if anyone else feels they don't write as much when everything is going well in life.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

'The Viscount's Son' - free for one week!

It has been a month since the publication of my debut ebook, 'The Viscount's Son'.  To celebrate, I will be giving the novelette away for free for one week!

I have been very pleased with the sales performance of my little book, and this is 'free deal' marks the last week of my 'official' launch.  So, if you haven't had a chance to get a copy of 'The Viscount's Son', now is your chance.

What would I like in return?  Nothing, I just hope you enjoy it :)  Of course I'd love to hear about it in an email, comment here or even better, a review on Goodreads, Smashwords, Amazon, or your blog if you have one.  I'd like to thank all the readers and reviewers who have given me feedback, I very much appreciate the encouragement.

This will be the only free deal I'll be making for quite some time, so make sure you get it this week.  I hope you enjoy it!

'The Viscount's Son' is currently available for free at Smashwords.  It will also be free at Amazon and everywhere else soon - but remember, for one week only.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Blog Hop - The Next Big Thing

I know I've only just released my first publication - 'The Viscount's Son' - but recently I was 'tagged', by Kristen DaRay, to do a blog hop about my current work in progress.  So, for the first time I will reveal my next work.  This is my first Blog Hop, so go easy on me :)

1.  What is the working title of your book?

The Borderlands

2.  Where did the idea for the book come from?

My partner told me about a man he met who has gone through three nasty divorces, and after a number of financial 'settlements' he has found himself with not much left.  He built himself a boat and lives on it, sailing from one town to another.  I thought this was a fascinating story and I kept thinking about what it must be like to live like that.  Sure enough, the kernel of a story formed.

3.  What genre does you book come under?

Probably Urban Fantasy and Young Adult - although it has some strong language, so I think it might be older Young Adult.  It's like a coming of age story too.  I hate trying to classify my stories - I really don't know half the time!

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

If this happened I'd love to do a 'JK Rowling' and choose the actors from a bunch of unknowns.  Dale, the main character would have to be a redheaded 16 year old girl with very fair skin.  Rhys, also 16, would be a very dark and handsome young man.  Gareth - think Santa ;)  And here's a picture of one of my favourite characters - Cat. He's a Scottish wildcat.

5.  What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

After witnessing the murder of the only friend she'd ever had, Dale embarks on a journey to the mysterious and mystical Borderlands.

6.  Will your book be self-published, published by an independent publisher or represented by an agency?


7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Roughly six months. But there's been another six months of redrafting and workshopping.

8.  What other books would you compare your story to within your genre?

Well, there's a few similarities to 'Harry Potter'.  But it also reminds me a little of a childhood favourite, 'My Side of the Mountain'.

9.  Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Aside from the man I mentioned above (question 2) I was inspired by the feeling of not fitting in that many teenagers experience at school.

10.  What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

I always try to add a sense of mystery in my stories and I think I have achieved this with 'The Borderlands'.  I've also incorporated magic and a mystical land.

Thanks for reading.  I hope to release 'The Borderlands' later this year.

I'd like to tag the following authors to undertake the blog hop and tell us all about their current works in progress:

A.K. Fotinos-Hoyer
M.R. Graham
C.J. Jessop
Nessie Strange