Saturday, 28 September 2013

Self-promotion for the bashful

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

Monday, 23 September 2013

Genre Benders: A speculative approach to fiction

THERE was a time when all ‘genre’ fiction was regarded with haughty disdain by librarians and publishers of quality, realistic literary works. As more people learned to read, however, access to books was no longer the privilege of scholarly bureaucrats and popular fiction was born. 

In order to feed the voracious appetites of patrons and readers respectively, more novels were commissioned and written in a wide variety of subjects, themes, structures and functions. This led to the classification of popular fiction into subject matter or ‘genre’ as we know it.

Publishers rely on strict classification for promotion and marketing. Bookshops require that each new work of fiction is labelled with a ‘genre’ in order to maximise readership and revenue. By placing a book on the right section of the right shelf eases access to buyers’ preferences, thereby increasing sales. Libraries need a classification system by which to help their patrons choose what they want to read.

This has been the traditional way of the fiction market for a very long time and authors whose works crossed those fixed genres had a high chance of being turned down by publishers for the sole reason of failing to belong on a shelf.

Only a few years ago, most speculative, or cross-genre, fiction was sniffed at by many publishers who couldn’t see past their profit and loss accounts to take the risk of baffling bookshops and libraries with works they could not label. A similar treatment was given to erotica which was deemed only to be read by dirty old men in raincoats.

The very word ‘speculative’ denotes conjecture, chance, theory over practicality and a high risk of loss, suggesting that whoever dreamed up that category had a very cynical view of crossing stereotypical classifications. That said, there have been some very successful novels written in this sub-genre of general fiction but they are few in comparison to other more traditional genres.

Speculative fiction, as a concept, has been around for millennia. It was written by the great Greek dramatists and by Shakespeare long before Robert Henlein wrote Life-Line. In fact, every work of fiction can be said to contain a speculative element, no matter how subtle. It is only since the ’40s that the term has been further stretched and distorted to include an element of fantasy, sci-fi, horror or paranormal in the narrative.

The coming of the mighty Amazon, has opened the minds of publishers as well as the locks to their submission gates to speculative fiction as reader trends have demonstrated a hearty appetite for the genre. As superheroes, vampire-slayers and boy wizards wage war against evil in contemporary or dystopian societies - and also on far-off planets - on television, cinema, computer and hand-held screens, spec-fic novels are being gobbled up by new fans and are even appealing to younger readers who would otherwise say that books are for bores and losers.

E-pub websites have revolutionised the publishing business in that readers are now choosing what they want to read as opposed to publishers telling them what they should. The effect has been brutal on the established publishing houses who are all reeling in the wake of the e-book explosion and the movement away from the traditional business model. Without the watchdog of a publisher, however, the absence of quality in many self-published books is a serious cause for concern as is the saturation of the market by thousands of new books being published every day that is giving readers too much choice.

For authors, the likes of Amazon, Smashwords and FeedARead have granted them that freedom of expression that traditional publishing houses have denied them. Now anyone can be an author. Amazon et al have no limitations to their lists, no selection process and no submission constraints. They don’t discriminate on quantity or even quality but instead allow readers to enforce the rules.

Whether this is good or bad is a completely different subject for debate, suffice it to say that now every book has a chance to be read and speculative fiction in all its many guises has an undeniable position on the shelves of quality literature.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Author interviews

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

Saturday, 7 September 2013

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

The Sleeping Warrior by Sara Bain

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

Monday, 2 September 2013

Moving home

I am moving.
I've written and published my very first book and I am very proud of myself.
I've built a new website on Wix as a temporary measure until I get the chance to build one properly.
You can find me at
You can also follow my publishing journey on or visit my publishers' website at: (once it's built, that is).
See you there.