Suzanne Cass's Blog

August 13, 2018

Signed Paperback Giveaway

A Chance to WIN a signed paperback copy of Shadows in the Dust
As a thank you to all the loyal readers of my newsletter I’m giving away one signed paperback copy of the romantic suspense, Shadows in the Dust, plus one ebook copy. Leave a comment on this blog to go into the draw. Competition ends at midnight on 22nd August.

Shadows in the Dust is the first book in a new series, called The Colours of the Earth, a romantic suspense set in the heart of the Outback. This was the very first manuscript I ever wrote, a labour of love, which has sat at the bottom of my drawer for many, many years. I’ve taken it out, dusted it off, re-worked and re-mastered it. This story was born because I had to write about all of the characters I met during my years working on a sheep farm as a jillaroo in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales. There’s even a slight paranormal twist, as I’ve always been fascinated by the deep spirituality a person encounters in the Australian bush. The heroine doesn’t trust anyone because of an event from her past and her journey towards finally breaking down that wall of loneliness to let people in, as well as finding love, is a long, hard, but in the end, joyful one. I hope you enjoy reading Jenna and Dan’s story.


DESCRIPTION


Witness to a brutal murder, Jenna is looking for a place to hide. The last thing Dan needs is trouble, after his time spent in jail. Can they let go of their pasts to defeat a killer in the harsh outback desert?


Jenna Montrose is on the run from the man who killed her father. Alone and always moving from town to town, Jenna trusts no one, not even the cops. She arrives in remote Smokey Creek, outback West Australia, where she takes a job as a jillaroo on a cattle station. Perhaps this time her archenemy won’t be able to find her.


Dan Simmonds has demons of his own to conquer, having spent two years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. He needs to keep this job as a jackaroo to re-build his reputation. But he can’t seem to shake the protective instinct Jenna awakens, when he sees through her lies to her desperate vulnerability. She’s so full of contradictions, he’s not sure she’s worth fighting for.


When they become trapped together in the desert, Dan admits she provokes emotions he thought buried deep. Jenna is drawn to Dan’s courageous heart and welcoming smile, but desperate not to reveal her secret, will she revert to her habit of running away when the murderer reappears? Or will she let him help her, and turn the hunter into the hunted?


Leave a comment below and I’ll put you in the draw. Winner drawn on the 23rd August 2018. Winner will be contacted by email.


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Published on August 13, 2018 17:00

January 26, 2018

Celebrate Your Book Release

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.


Oprah Winfrey


Four weeks ago, I self-published my second book. I’d slaved over this book for more than a year, spent nearly every waking moment thinking, worrying, obsessing, plotting, planning and even dreaming about it. And then all of a sudden, at a push of a button, it’s gone. Out into the ether, for all those voracious readers to get their hands on.


But there was very little fanfare.


So, I wondered what other people do to celebrate the release of their book.


Obviously, there’s a difference between self-publishing an eBook (which is me) and someone who’s traditionally published in print. There is (usually) a lot more hype surrounding a print book release. Many authors, both indie and traditional, organise a book launch party (or if they’re really lucky, have it organised for them) either online or at a bookstore, library or other book-related location. But I’m not really talking about the big book launch parties here, that’s a whole separate blog post. I’m wondering what authors do individually on the day their book-baby is released to the wide world.


Personally (and I’m sure this applies to the majority of other authors) I open a really good bottle of bubbly and toast my new book with my husband and family on the day of release.


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Some people (well okay, this is probably mostly female writers) buy themselves a nice bunch of flowers to celebrate as well. Or if they’re really lucky and have a man around who actually has a romantic bone in their body, a bunch will magically appear on the dining room table. And perhaps you could go buy yourself some wonderful indulgence you NEVER normally eat. Mine is the divine lemon tart (Tarte Au Citron) from an authentic French patisserie. Yummy.


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What about a more permanent reminder? For my first eBook release, I bought myself a Pandora book charm to go on my bracelet. Now every time I look at it, I get that tiny thrill when I’m reminded, I’m a real author now.[image error]


I’ve also heard of authors getting a nice print of their book cover done up and framed to put on their wall. Or what about something practical, like software that’ll help write the next book. Such as Scrivener, or Vellum, or Dragon (dictation software) All very useful presents to yourself.


I can also go back to eating healthy food. All those late nights, and endless days spent sitting around in my pyjamas, eating lots of comfort food, (high carbs because that’s what your creative brain craves) or all the kids school snacks, because I haven’t been grocery shopping for the past three weeks, are over now. At last I can actually plan a nutritious family meal and start eating vegetables again.[image error]


A well-earned break is also in order. A time to just veg out and read all those books sitting on my TBR pile looking at me with their sad, soulful eyes. And sleep. Lots of sleep is always welcome after those (self-imposed) deadlines.


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But then, there’s that little voice in my head that keeps nagging, you need to write another book, you need to write another book, you need to … And it won’t go away. Until I start writing another book. Plus, there are all those ideas, plots, scenarios and characters, screaming to be let out of my brain and put down on paper. So, the main thing I do after releasing a book, is to start work on the next one.


I’d love to hear what you do to celebrate release day of your newest book.

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Published on January 26, 2018 22:25

January 1, 2018

A Self-Publishing Journey – Part 4 After The End – Never Stop Dreaming

“Writing is not just a process of creation. It is also a process of self-discovery.”


Christina Istrati


I’m starting to discover writing a book is the easy part. It’s all the stuff that comes afterwards which is the hard part. In my last Self-Publishing post (part 3) I talked about marketing your indie book and how to have an online presence.


So six months down the track, I thought I’d check in with a post about where I’m at as an indie author right now. How is Island Redemption selling? The answer is, not as well as I’d hoped. I have made a little over $50 in royalties. (which amounts to around 30 copies of my eBook sold) Which I’m proud of in some ways and disappointed in others. On the other hand, I’ve had hundreds fo downloads of my free novella, Island Souls, which does go to show that the freebies are definitely in demand. I’ve also just published my second eBook title, Chasing Bullets on the 20th of December. It’ll be interesting to see how that one performs in comparison to my first.


Originally, I chose to sign up to KDP select for the first six months, (which means your book is locked exclusively into Amazon for that whole period) but all their promotional hype didn’t seem to work very well for me, so when my KDP select came due, I went wide and published across all platforms instead. I did this by publishing on Smashwords, who distribute to all other platforms (except Amazon). So now I’m on Kobo, Barnes and Nobel, and available in all libraries and bookstores across the world. Smashwords also publish to the iBooks platform, but I decided to go direct to iBooks and set up my own account, that way I can see exactly how the book’s performing with them.


I hear so many other authors say, once you’ve published, it’s about keeping up momentum. To stay front and centre in readers minds. One way to do that is to publish more books as often as you can. The only problem is I’m not a prolific writer, but I do have a few more manuscripts tucked into a drawer I can pull out and tidy up. So my aim is to publish a new full-length novel at least every six months. So far I’m on track, with my second novel just out and a third one waiting in the wings, just needing a bit more polishing before it too can go out into the world.


From my blog post Self-publishing part 3, there were a few things I suggested as a good way to get the word out there. Here’s an update on what I’ve found works so far.


Freebies: Give away free short stories as a way to draw more readers into your world. I wrote a novella (20k words) using characters from my first book, Island Redemption and put that out as a free book. It’s doing way better than my paid book, with hundreds of downloads so far. I’m not sure how this translates across to sales for Island Redemption though, perhaps it’s attracted up to ten sales so far!?


I’ve signed up to Instafreebie, and put Island Souls and another short story available on there. If you sign up to the Pro version of Instafreebie (which costs $20/month) then everyone who claims a copy of your free story will also sign up to your newsletter in exchange for a copy of your free story. This is a great way to start growing your email list and has led over a hundred new readers joining my email list, currently on MailChimp.


https://www.instafreebie.com/authors


Promotions/Using other’s networks: I participated in a really fun giveaway for Christmas. Annie Seaton, well known author of such wonderful books as Kakadu Sunset and Daintree just to name a few, set up an author blog hop with 30 authors participating. We all put in $5 each and came up with a grand prize of $150. We all wrote a blog post and each of us posted on a separate day leading up to Christmas eve. It was a great way to meet new authors, gain a new audience and perhaps even a few new readers. Annie Seaton used RaffleCopter to do the giveaway (which seemed quite easy and straightforward) It was a real learning experience for me, and now I believe I could probably do something similar on my own in the future.


Annie’s offer came to me through my contacts at RWAus (Romance Writers of Australia) and I know I’ve said this before, but I can’t stress enough how important this organisation has been in helping me along my learning journey. The contacts, the friends, the critique partners, the positive influences, even a shoulder to cry on, to commiserate with me when something goes wrong. If you write anything with a romantic flavour to it, definitely join this organisation.


I’ve also started listening a few very enlightening podcasts. The Smashwords Smart Author Podcast is really informative and helps shed a whole new light on the tricks of the trade to self-publishing and marketing your book, as well as ending a few of those wrongly-held beliefs and myths about becoming an indie author.


http://blog.smashwords.com/2017/10/smart-author-podcast.html


The other one I love to listen to while I’m out walking the dog is Joanna Penn’s Creative Penn Podcast. Joanna is a bit of a guru when it comes to self-publishing and all things to do with becoming an indie author entrepreneur.


https://www.thecreativepenn.com/podcasts/


Check these out if you get the time. And good luck on your self-publishing journey, one of the most exasperating but rewarding experiences of your life. I’d love to hear any of your tricks or tips on how to be a better indie author, so leave me a comment if you like.

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Published on January 01, 2018 01:18

November 27, 2017

Christmas Romance by the Beach

A Chance to WIN $150 Amazon gift voucher and EBOOK

“ Live in the sunshine. Swim in the Sea. Drink in the wild air.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.


Welcome to the Christmas Blog Hop, an exciting advent calendar of blogs for you to open. Christmas, Romance and the Beach. All three are really awesome on their own, but when you combine them the result is especially intoxicating. What could possibly be more romantic than dabbling your toes in the cool lapping waves on a warm, temperate night, while strolling along with the love of your life at your side? Then he hands you a perfectly wrapped box and whispers ‘Merry Christmas,’ in your ear. When you open it, nestled inside is the most amazing heart-shaped ruby necklace you’ve ever seen. It’s what fantasies are made of!


Even though my novel Island Redemption is not Christmas themed, it certainly has lots of romance and lots of beaches. After all, what better place to fall in love than on the white sandy beaches of a deserted island, surrounded by sparkling azure water and balmy tropical skies? Add to that the question of how the chance of winning a million dollars in a reality TV show would affect that love affair and you have certainly got the spice needed to give this story conflict and high drama. [image error] You have a chance to win an eBook copy of Island Redemption by leaving a comment below.


I’m extremely lucky because I get to celebrate Christmas in the middle of Perth’s sizzling hot summer. So trips to the beach are a must. And Ralph Waldo Emerson definitely got it right in his quote above, living by the beach is an uplifting experience. When Christmas day rolls around the first thing on our family agenda is opening all the pretty presents scattered beneath the tree. But the mountains of discarded wrapping paper are soon left behind for the much-needed trip to the beach. It does seem to be a bit of a Perth tradition, as the beaches are always chock-a-block with people on Christmas morning, but the vibe is happy, cheerful and carefree and strangers wish you a Merry Christmas with a grin and a wave. Once we’ve spent a few hours relaxing at the beach, getting burned and salty and covered in sand, we go home for a brunch of the biggest, butteriest, fluffiest croissants I’ve ever seen, from our local bakery (and a glass of champagne for the adults).


Christmas dinner is always a family affair, and if it’s our turn to host, we get the arriving hordes to set up a long table on the back patio, combining 3 smaller tables, then we cover it with colourful bon bons, a large glazed ham (always free range) a whole baked salmon, piles and piles of West Australian tiger prawns and salads of all makes and models. There has to be shortbread, and only Walkers will do, my husband is Scottish, pavlova—no one really wants to eat a hot Christmas pudding on a sweltering Perth day—and chocolate covered almonds. The most romantic thing about Christmas day is I get to spend it with my husband and two sons. Christmas reminds us all how lucky we are.


My recipe for whole baked salmon:


1 whole salmon filleted to give two sides with the skin still on.


1 lemon cut into slices


2 handfuls of mixed herbs from the garden, such as parsley, dill, tarragon, thyme or even basil and bay leaves


2 shallots thinly sliced


½ cup white wine


60g butter


salt and pepper to season


Heat the oven to 180 C then lay the fish, skin side down, onto a large sheet of baking paper. Scatter the lemon, herbs, shallots and dobs of butter in the middle of the salmon and fold over. Tie it up with twine and splash a generous amount of wine over the top and season generously with salt and pepper. Place the baking paper onto a large piece of foil and wrap the whole thing up in a big fishy parcel. Cook for around 50 minutes in the oven. Can be served warm or cold. Leftovers can even be frozen for later. [image error] So, my question to you is what is the one food you can’t do without on Christmas day?


The wonderful author Annie Seaton has gathered together a group of authors and organised this amazing give away which will run between now and Christmas Eve. You have a chance to win a $150 Amazon gift voucher and an eBook from one of the participating authors. [image error] You can enter the giveaway here at Rafflecopter. And don’t forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of the eBook Island Redemption.

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Published on November 27, 2017 20:25

October 4, 2017

Getting to Know Your Characters

“An author is in every single character they write. Harry, Ron, Hermione—I am in all three of them.”


J K Rowling


A writer has to know every last detail of their characters (and perhaps leave a tiny part of themselves in every one, like J K Rowling). They have to get to know them intimately, to be able to make them come alive on the page and resonate with readers. One of a writer’s worst nightmares is being accused of writing a 2-dimensional character. A character without heart, without motivation, without vulnerabilities and strengths will not sound realistic to a reader.


So how does an author get to know their characters? Every author has a slightly different technique, but I like to use an in-depth set of questions to really flesh out each personality. I do this in the planning stage, so I’m already in the head of my protagonist (or antagonist) well before I start writing.


But these questions I ask are way more than just listing physical attributes. We’re less concerned with the fact a character is a 6’2” black man with a goatee who lives in Nice, and more concerned with the fact that his young son died of SIDS, but he still dreams about the feel of his soft baby fingers wrapped tightly around his thumb. We fall in love with the core of a character’s personality, want to find out what drives them to make the decisions and mistakes they do along their journey.


Crafting Unforgettable Characters is a free ebook from K. M. Weiland. Hop on over to her website at www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com and take a look.


This book has been invaluable in helping me get to the core of my characters. It was written in 2006, but is still relevant today. K M Weiland has come up with 100 questions, which she suggests you use as a character interview. I have adapted this method to suit myself, adding some of my own questions and removing a few of hers.


I thought it might be interesting to show you just a few of the 100 questions, so you can see how complex creating a character can be. The interview below is from my character, Jean-Luc Munulo, a counter-terrorist agent in France, from my book in progress, called GLASS CLOUDS (a working title).


Of course physical appearance (and keeping it consistent, eye colour, hair colour, those kind of things can’t change half way through a book) is important too, and most authors will keep a portfolio of photos etc. of lookalikes for their individual characters. Here’s a photo of what I think (dream) Jean-Luc might look like.


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Birthday: 7th January 1988 (now 33) Capricorn


Origin of name: Jean-Luc is his grandfather’s name, on mother’s side. Munulo is his father’s surname, Sudanese


Place of Birth: Near Sault, Provence, France


Mother: Helene Babineaux was born in Sault, Provence, on her parent’s Lavender farm. Brought up along traditional French lines, she has one younger sister, Adele. Helene loves working the Lavender farm; it’s her passion and her life. She and her sister inherited equal shares of the farm, but Adele married a Parisian artist and moved to Paris, leaving her and Jayian (father, African refugee) to run the farm (just the way she likes it) Her parents were devastated when she first brought Jayian home. It wasn’t done back then for the daughter to marry one of the itinerant workers, and to make things 100 times worse, he wasn’t even French! Even now, his mother and father still get stares from locals and visitors to the town alike. People can’t get used to seeing a black and white couple together. Jean-Luc has had to live with this pervasive prejudice all his life, and this has moulded many of his thoughts and the way he views the world today.


Father: Jayian (meaning the rain) Munulo is an African immigrant who arrived in France in 1968 as a 9 year old, displaced from Sudan after a civil war in 1963. He arrived on a boat with his mother and younger brother. His father, a teacher, was killed in the war, and he and his family were left destitute and homeless. Jayian is Christian. They moved to the country, so his mother could find work picking lavender. His schooling was sporadic, even though the French government did try hard to assimilate all immigrants, he spent a lot of his time working to help support his family.


What was important to the people who raised Jean-Luc: His mother and father love each other very much, and this is what’s most important to them, not the colour of someone’s skin. They have tried to instil these ideals into Jean-Luc, but because of his job (counter-terrorism agent), he knows that equality is not always that easy. Love doesn’t always conquer all.


Lavender is the most important thing to his family, producing the highest quality, to be sold to the Grasse perfumeries. But sometimes Jean-Luc finds the smell confining and overpowering, reminding him of the feeling that used to overwhelm him, of the need to escape from the farm and its small-village mentality.


Siblings: Jean-Luc has two other brothers, one older, Herve, and one younger, Fabien. Herve has always showed the most interest in the farm, and is set to take over when his parents become too old to run it, which is fine with Jean-Luc, it left him free to escape to the city (Paris) and then become a cop. He is closer to his younger brother, Fabien, who is an artist, but all three get along well.


Economic/ social status growing up: Jean-Luc has always felt like a little bit of an outsider, displaced. His family enjoyed a normal, middle-class status in the village of Sault (as all farmers do) and might have even been considered rich by some standards. Their farm has always done well, and they have generous contracts with some of the Grasse perfumeries. So Jean-Luc has never wanted for anything materially, and the extra money has afforded the family a buffer against some of the worst racism and other insulting remarks.


Ethnic Background: Children born in France to foreign parents are automatically granted French citizenship upon reaching the age of 18. He was brought up essentially French, but with some African traditions (brought in mainly by Jean-Luc’s grand-mere, Jayian’s mother). The family meals are often a fusion of African and French cuisine, but the farmhouse and the surrounding farm are completely French.


I don’t want to bore you with too much information, but as you can see from this, there is a lot of backstory already in Jean-Luc’s character, even in this small set of questions, but most of this won’t even appear in the finished novel. It’s all part of getting to know a character better. Interviewing each of my characters can often take two to three days, and can be two to three thousand words long.


What do they want and why do they want it? These are the two main driving forces behind every single book ever written and every single unforgettable character. A well-written character will have a distinctive voice so that readers remember them, as well as a main goal that drives them. Everything they do must be true to their personality. For example, when Jean-Luc sees a young couple strolling down the Nice Promenade pushing a pram, he immediately thinks of them as naïve and weak, and has to look away in disgust from the happy pair. The loss of his baby (and then divorce by his wife) colour his every thought and decision. If he were a different character, he might instead see the hope and potential that a young couple just starting out together have to look forward to.


For an author, getting to know your characters is a little like making new friends. You have to like and understand each one (if you don’t then it will show through in your writing)


As you can see, getting to know your characters is time consuming and thought provoking, but I can guarantee if an author takes the time to do it they’ll end up with a character that leaps off the pages, and one the readers will fall in love with time and time again.


I’d love to hear about who your favourite character of all time is, and what makes them so endearing.

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Published on October 04, 2017 05:00

September 6, 2017

Whether to review or not to review – When you’re an author

“One cannot write a bad review without showing off.”


W. H. Auden


On the day I hit the publish button for my first indie book, my thoughts immediately turned to book reviews (specifically, how to get good ones) My very next thought was—now I’m an author, should I continue to review other author’s books? Is there some kind of unwritten law that states I can only give 5 star reviews? If I give a bad review will other authors retaliate, or shun me? Does it hurt my author brand if I leave reviews (good or bad)? Lots of questions I didn’t really have an answer for. I’m pretty sure celebrity authors like Nora Roberts or Sandra Brown don’t do reviews, so I wonder where that leaves the less-established and/or indie authors.


I thought I’d have a quick look into some of the dos and don’ts of giving reviews as an author. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about bloggers or book reviewers (or authors who do book reviews on their blogs) I’m talking about the five star review systems on Amazon and Goodreads and the like.


Amazon has some quite strict rules about reviews. Some of them are obvious and some of them not so much.


The first Amazon rule is:


You can’t review your own book. This is pretty much common sense. Who in their right mind would give their own book anything less than a five star review?


But what about reviewing for other authors?


Amazon rules also state:


“Authors are welcome to submit Customer Reviews, unless the reviewing author has a personal relationship with the author of the book being reviewed, or was involved in the book’s creation process (i.e. as a co-author, editor, illustrator, etc.).


https://www.amazon.com/gp/community-help/customer-review-guidelines-faqs-from-authors


Which takes us into more of a grey area. How close do they consider to be a personal relationship? Husband, mother, sister or just plain friend. Surely, at the very least your friends should be able to leave a review? But Amazon is trying to stop any kind of overt collusion, or fake reviews.


And this is where it all starts to get a little tricky. Amazon has all kinds of hidden algorithms and ways of checking on who’s leaving reviews. If they think that you’re collaborating with other authors, ie leaving intentionally good reviews for each other, they have the power to remove any reviews they don’t like. I’m not saying this happens every time. But if you get caught, things could get nasty, perhaps even coming down to being accused of buying fake reviews.


This doesn’t seem fair; after all, what’s wrong with a few honest reviews between authors, but Amazon cannot always tell the difference.


A few more tips on the ethics of peer reviews can be found at The Self Publishing Centre:


https://selfpublishingadvice.org/ethics-of-reviewing/


There are also rules about paid reviews being a strict no-no on Amazon, but book reviews are a bit different, authors are allowed to send out free copies of books and then ask (politely) if the recipient might like to leave a review.


So it seems there are a few concrete rules about reviewing, but that’s about where it ends.


I’ve read, through author blogs, that there are some in the indie community who try to blackmail other indies into giving them reviews.


They’ll contact an author saying, “I just gave you a nice review, so you owe me.”


This is not true, you don’t owe anyone a review, and also not nice. Stay well clear of these kinds of scams.


There is nothing to stop you, as an author, from posting a bad review (as long as a book deserves it) but you might do so at your own peril. A bad review is painful enough, but a bad review from an equal, well that probably feels more like a betrayal. After all, if an author (especially an indie author) is brave enough to put their work out there, (and we all know how that feels) then do they deserve to be trashed in public? Perhaps a personal (constructive) email might be better than letting a bad review hang out there for everyone to see.


I’ve heard of other authors who will only leave a review of 3 stars or above. After all, if an author has gone to through the pain and hard work (and sometimes sheer torture) of publishing a book, then they deserve at least that much credit.


I think from now on I’ll be a little more circumspect about who and what I review. If I read a really wonderful book and want to leave a five star review, because it deserves it, then I can’t see a problem with that. But perhaps I might follow the advice or other authors, and if I think a book deserves a bad review, I might just bite my tongue and stay quiet. We’re all only human, after all.[image error]


What are your views on authors reviewing other authors? I’d love to hear what you think.

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Published on September 06, 2017 18:00

June 20, 2017

A Self Publishing Journey – Part 3 The End – Getting People to Love You Book

Book marketing is like opening doors for your readers to find you, not a stick you hit them with.”


Heather Hart


So, I hit the publish button and then … What? I was elated, ecstatic, ready to burst out of my skin. But then came the hard part, getting people to find and love my book. And this is where I floundered the most. I’m no marketing guru, and like most other authors, I’m a bit of an introvert and absolutely hate promoting myself.


But then I started to discover marketing is actually all about the reader – about sharing what you love with other like-minded people.


Big sigh. It’s not quite as scary as I first thought.


A great site I’ve discovered is called Just Publishing Advice. They have HEAPS of advice for indie authors in all stages of publishing. They have a great article for authors new to publishing on how to market your book;


https://www.justpublishingadvice.com/book-marketing-basics-for-new-authors/


Another great website I discovered through the wonderful RWA is:


http://www.marketing4writers.net/about.html


You just have to sign up for the email newsletter (for free) and they send you lots of helpful information on marketing.


There are 3 main things that stand out as examples of what most authors are doing to get the word out. These are:



Establish your online author presence, things like having an up-to-date website, as well as regular blogging.
Gearing up your media platform, such as using your blog to announce your publication, as well as using other social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest and Goodreads to build a potential audience.
Use professional and personal networks to help spread the word. This could be friends on Instagram or other bloggers who do book and/or author info sessions.

Some of these things I’ve done, and some I’m still in the process of getting up to speed.


Establishing an Online Presence: I’d already sorted my website out months ago. And started a very basic blog on said website. Big tick for that. But there was only one problem. Supposedly, the absolute best way to boost sales is to grow an email list. Although I’ve started a blog (Oh, that’s right you’re reading this, so you already know that J ) but I didn’t have anyone signed up to my email list. The very first thing I did was install MailChimp on my website, to help me collect, build and maintain this list. But it doesn’t stop there. Then you need to learn how to create the perfect promotional email using MailChimp to send out to your fans. I’m still perfecting that skill.


Freebies: Once you have an email list, then a great idea is to give stuff away. You could write a short story or novella (I’m going to try this one) that might interest your target reader and put it up for free on all the platforms your book’s available on, as well on your website. You can run a raffle, where you offer a signed free copy of your print book to people, who in return for an entry into the raffle then sign onto your email list. (I’m going to try this one as well.)


Gearing up your media platform and announcing your publication: I also created an author Facebook site a few months ago, when I knew for sure I was going down the indie author road, as well as an Instagram account and a Goodreads Author account. So I proudly sent out a few posts on these platforms, which did actually boost sales each time I did it. But I’m not one of those people who can shamelessly promote themselves day after day, sending out posts and tweets thrice daily to keep pushing their product. So my sales haven’t been spectacular. But I will keep at it, trying to make some interesting posts that invite people into my author world, but without the used-car-sales-pitch.


Using other’s networks: The advice for this one is Don’t’ Be Shy. Other authors are generally a really helpful bunch. If you do decide you’re game enough to try and organise a blog tour, you need to give yourself time, as most bloggers organise their content 2 to 3 months in advance. This isn’t something I’ve tried yet. There is a resource, namely the RWA community I could connect with, as there are many bloggers who quite happily share their reviews for like-minded authors in this large group. But again, I’m too chicken to reach out there just yet. I will, though. Soon.


A few other tips: A lot of people run advance marketing promotions well before they even publish their book, to build excitement for when your book is actually launched. Building anticipation is a great way to sell. A lot of the things you can do for advance marketing you’ve either already done, or are in the process of doing right now, ie creating a website, getting a blog on, making contacts with other authors and readers. So it’s just a matter of being well organised before the launch of your book.


This is the end of my three-part blog on my Self Publishing Journey. As you can see, I’m still learning something new every day. But hopefully there may be one or two tips to help you on your own journey, even if it’s just the advice to GO FOR IT. It will be the most exasperating but rewarding experience of your life.

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Published on June 20, 2017 04:17

May 30, 2017

A Self-Publishing Journey – Part 2 The Middle

“The publishing world is very timid. Readers are much braver.”


Kiran Desai


Welcome to the middle of my self-publishing journey. The first part really boiled down to lots of reading and research to gather the details I needed to set up my publishing armoury. The second part is about actually hitting the publish button.


I’ll talk you through some of the decisions I made regarding how and why I published Island Redemption the way I did.


After reading many comments on blogs, community forums, websites and such like, I decided to publish my ebook with Kindle Direct Publishing Select (KDP select) for the first three months of my new release. The main reason I did it this way was because this is my first book, I have no other books published yet to back up my first book sales, and have very little experience in marketing.


So what is KDP select? If you choose to put your book in KDP Select, it means you commit to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP for a certain period (three months to start with) Your book is than available to readers who use Kindle Unlimited, which is a subscription program for readers that allows them to read as many books as they want. Your book will still be available for anyone to buy in the Kindle Store, and you’ll continue to earn royalties from those sales. When a Kindle Unlimited reader reads your book, you are then awarded a share of the royalties from all the books that have been read that month.


This helps make you more discoverable, reaching a much larger audience, allowing readers who wouldn’t normally see your book better access, to determine if they like it. People on Kindle Unlimited are often voracious readers and because they don’t have to pay for each individual book they buy, they’re more likely to take a chance and read something they mightn’t normally read.


I’ll most probably un-enrol my eBook from KDP Select once my three months are up and then go on to publish on all the other platforms such as iBooks, Smashwords, Barnes and Nobel, etc. But for now, I’m happy to let KDP Select do some of the work for me. Self-publishing is such a big task, sometimes it’s easier to do it in a series of small jumps rather than one huge leap of faith.


I also very much wanted a print version of Island Redemption out there (mainly so I could hold a copy in my hands. The fourth best day of my life! (After my wedding day and the birth of my two kids.) There are a few options for creating a print on demand (POD) book. The three main ones are:



CreateSpace – is a part of the Amazon group of companies, and allows you to publish POD books directly onto Amazon. This is a completely free service (although they do have paid options as well, if you need help formatting, editing or creating your cover)
IngramSpark – is very similar to CreateSpace, although I hear it has better features and you can distribute to a wider audience. But IngramSpark does have a few fees associated with their service.
KDP beta – this is a relatively new initiative by Amazon, where you can create a POD book on your KDP platform. If you’ve already published an eBook through KDP, then the process of creating a POD book seems to be a fairly painless one, as you’ve already got most of the information required. BUT, I have been reading that KDP beta is not called beta without reason. It seems to have a few teething problems, very long shipping times, and doesn’t support some of the features that CreateSpace does. For this reason I stuck with CreateSpace. But I may move my POD book across to KDP beta at a later date, which is quite easy to do.

Once I decided to use CreateSpace and I uploaded my book, it all became very easy. CreateSpace publishes it on Amazon, and your POD book appears in around 24 hours time. The people at Amazon are even clever enough to link your eBook and print book, so they appear together on the same page.


The perfect book cover is another must have for a great book. There are myriads of websites and designers out there who’ll help you come up with the perfect cover.


To make sure they’re not shonky it pays to check out lists reliable mentors have come up with for good cover designers. For example, Joanna Penn over at TheCreativePenn has a list of book cover designers she knows and trusts.


But while all of these cover designers are probably very good at what they do, you can pay upwards of $300 to $500 to $1000 for a custom designed cover. A cost I couldn’t afford. So I found a wonderful, extremely helpful man called James, at GoOnWrite.com who primarily sells pre-made covers (which are actually really good, and start at $50 USD for a cover, a bargain price. While he doesn’t do romance covers per se, he does do couples, hearts, erotic and lots of things in between.) But he will also make up a custom cover for you as well, as long as you already know what you want your cover to look like and have an image in mind. Both of which I had. I’d already chosen my image for Island Redemption from iStock photos months ago. And I had a basic idea of how I wanted the fonts to look, and where I waned my tagline, all that kind of thing. This only cost me $100USD, which again I thought was a bargain, as I now have a beautiful cover to finish off my book. [image error]Once James has done an eBook cover for you, he will also make you a POD cover (wrap around) for only $80 USD. I’m really happy with his work, but you might find someone else who is equally good who produces the exact cover you need. Again, this takes lots of time and patience researching and searching the Internet.


Once you’ve made these decisions and got your shiny new cover ready to roll, then you can go ahead and hit the publish button. That part is actually really easy. In my next blog, part 3, I’ll cover the dreaded marketing and PR circus. Til then, keep smiling.

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Published on May 30, 2017 23:07

May 16, 2017

A Self-Publishing Journey – Part 1 The Beginning

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”


Cyril Connolly


My promise to myself when I took six months off to concentrate on my writing, was that I would self-publish a book. And I finally did just that. My debut book, Island Redemption was published on Amazon on the 15th of May. But it was a long, sometimes torturous and very winding journey. I’m under no illusion I’ll enter the rarefied company of authors who can quit their day jobs any time soon. This is more of an adventure for me, as well as a way to finally express my writer’s need to be acknowledged.


There’s an amazing amount of information you’ll need as a fledgling Indie Author, so much research to be done and so many decisions to be made. So I thought I’d document my journey over the past few months, broken down into a three part series. You may find a helpful tip or two for your own journey, or perhaps this will help you make your own decision whether to self-publish or not. It is a big step after all.


There is SO MUCH to learn when you decide to become an Indie Author and after much time spent on the internet, I found a couple of very helpful websites full of tips, suggestions and advice on what to do and how to prioritise.


The first website is, TheCreativePenn.com. This wonderful lady, Joanna Penn, is a New York Times best seller and has self-published numerous fiction and non-fiction books over the course of the last seven years. She has a couple of FREE books available on Self-publishing, such as Successful Self-Publishing: How To Self-Publish An Ebook And Print Book, as well as podcasts and blog articles and other tools and resources that were all extremely helpful in guiding my faltering feet towards the right path.


The second website was Amazon Author Insights, amazonauthorinsigts.com which is a way for writers at all stages in their career to find guidance, inspiration on writing, publishing, and marketing from other authors and trusted experts. There’s also advice from Amazon partners like the Center for Fiction and NaNoWriMo! There’re actually so many different tools and services on this site, you may even get lost in the maze of information. (I did)


One thing that has become abundantly clear to me over the past few weeks is the fact that being an Indie Author is just as much about marketing yourself as about the writing.


“A writer’s job is writing books, while a self-publisher’s job is selling books. It’s an important distinction that often gets lost when would-be sages advise you to ‘just keep writing and your audience will find you.’”


Scott Nicholson


I’ll go into the marketing and promotion merry-go-round in part 3 of the blog, but for now there are seven things I discovered you definitely need to have before you can even consider self-publishing.



Have you written a good book – have you done everything you possibly can to ensure your book is good enough to be published? Such as writing three, four, five or more drafts, sending it to beta readers, getting feedback from critiques groups.
Decide whether you want ebook only, or Print On Demand (POD), or both – POD is a fairly new development in the self-publishing world and opens up all kind of other options for Indie Authors, but it does require a little more work and formatting than just an ebook on its own.
Format your book correctly – Amazon will allow you to upload only certain types of files, and iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords all have slightly different requirements as well. Know which platform you’re going to publish on, so you can format your book correctly. If you’re going to do a POD book, this needs to be formatted differently.
Have you got a professional looking cover – This is extremely important, a tacky, amateur cover will scare away more readers than you think. You’ll also need another, separate cover (a wrap-around cover, with both front and back) if you decide to go for POD.
Make sure you have a great book description – this is second only to your book cover in importance. It is the first thing people will read while they’re deciding whether or not to buy your book.
Decide which platforms you want to showcase your book – There are so many platforms out there on which to sell your book. Do you want to stick to Amazon and only have a kindle book available? Or do you want to branch out to iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, or even aggregator sites like Smashwords and Draft2Digital.
Decide on your Categories and Keywords – These were foreign words to me when I first started researching self-publishing, but they are highly important to get right, so readers are able to find your book amongst the plethora of other ebooks available out there.

So after my first few weeks, instead of having a beautiful ebook ready to publish, I found I was still researching all the material I’d need to make a sellable item. I was a little daunted, but I knew if so many other people can do it (and make it look easy) then I could do it too. There’s a lot of information here, and I’ll go into more detail in part 2 about which platforms I chose to publish on, and how I found the perfect book cover designer, and all those other tricky little details. Til then, cheers and keep smiling.

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Published on May 16, 2017 02:46

April 12, 2017

Book Recommendations – The Dry by Jane Harper

BLURB:


Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well …


When Federal Police Investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.


MY THOUGHTS:


This book was always going places. It won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015. Then recently The Dry also won Indie Book of the year for 2017. It has sold more than 50,000 copies since its release last year in May. And now Reece Witherspoon’s company has bought the options to turn The Dry into a movie.


Jane Harper’s book deserves these accolades and so much more. I couldn’t put this book down, finishing it in only three sittings. (Quite an achievement for me)


I’m a huge fan of any story set in Australia and especially outback Australia. The setting is a small town, Kiewarra, in rural Victoria, which Harper brings to life with her wonderful description of the ruthless and unrelenting heat and endless dry of the drought. It’s hard to believe Harper is a city slicker and has only ever visited the county a few times – her depictions of the sparse fields, dried up creek-bed and dusty roads wending their way over the horizon are so embedded into the existence of the book.


This is a book that highlights what is so often the case in isolated rural communities – that opinions of the community count more than the truth, or even the law. And it is through this prejudice the murderer is able to get away with his awful deed for so long.


Harper is able to link a tragic event that happened to Falk when he was a teenager in the town with the current events of the supposed murder-suicide, but this time-travel is done in a faultless way as Harper drops in flashbacks showing the reader what really happened. Throughout the whole weaving of her tale, I found Harper’s characters to be truly relatable as they slowly exposed their painful truths.


This is a fast paced, nail-biting thriller. A well-written and easy to read book that is so evocative of rural Australia it deserves to be on any good TBR pile. I love that Aussie authors can mix it up with the any of the world’s best.

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Published on April 12, 2017 02:58