Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cover uncovered

Yesterday, I took the opportunity to cycle to the garden as it was such a glorious day. I love the garden in the sun: it's always as if I walk up the stairs and into another world. Probably one advantage on being a roof garden. Between you and me, I had quite another reason to go: I wanted to take pictures for a book cover; a collection of mixed short stories I've written over time. Some were for contests, some were for a writers group I started earlier this year, some were written out of a certain mood. Most of them were on my blog for a while, and some even got high praise from visitors. So I thought it would be a shame to have them now rotting away on my hard drive. Why not put them together and share them with readers? They're all more or less flash fiction and best for a short break. Something to take your mind off things for five minutes and that's how I came up with the title.

I wanted to be a bigger part of the cover creation (yeah, control freak), and I had an idea of what I wanted. First it was a vintage table with two chairs against a brick wall, but that would have been a little difficult. Lucky, though, that the roof garden has distressed benches, plenty of green, and a box with a kettle, mugs, and tea, so that was a no-brainer. I'd also brought my Kindle with me and soon, everything was set up. I took a few pictures with my mobile and voila. When I came home, I sent them to my friend Sandra Giles, who made them look like a real cover. A few tries and tweaks and it was done. I can't believe the result, because I have no background in, or knowledge of photography. I'm fussy, which is probably a good thing. I'm really happy with the cover and have to smile every time when I look at it.

So when can I download that book then, you wonder? Well, I hope I'll be able to release the stories by mid September, but it may take a week longer. But definitely in September.

And the best thing is yet to come: they'll be free!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The army of beggars

It seems that the most recent development among self-published authors is to share that ridiculous advice, suggestion, or you could even call it passive plea 'how to support your favourite author'. It suggests that you should buy books (really?), tell your friends (ah?) and leave a review (nope, I'm out!).
To me it feels like the main reason behind that advice is gathering reviews praise. There's almost nothing self-published authors value more than positive reviews and here's where the trouble begins: first, it was the review-exchange, which they quickly learned wasn't the best idea, then there was the bribing of top reviewers; didn't work either, and now it goes a step further: advising educating readers.

Here's the most recent merry-go-round: Click the picture to enlarge.

I'm a reader, too, and I don't want to see a plea or worse: a reminder to leave a review if I liked the book I just finished. What if I didn't like the book and have only one desire: to walk away? What if I feel insecure about giving my opinion? What if I can't be bothered? I bought the book, I read it and that's all you can expect from me. Sorry. What I do after that is my choice, my decision and not yours. I think everyone would agree with me that sharing a book that has touched me, is almost common sense or even human nature. If I have friends who read, I'll recommend it. And, of course, I'll look for another book by that particular author.
The key element here is that a book must really stir something in me, good or bad, before I talk about it. And I would think that applies to most readers. Why recommend a mediocre or terrible book? The latter perhaps for a laugh, but if something doesn't convince me, I move on and forget.

I see people complaining about having plenty of downloads when their books are free, but that nobody leaves a review. It's all over several fora, Facebook, blogs, and Twitter. Some moans I've seen even sounded like demands: I give you a free book, something I've worked on for years, now you have to review praise!
A reader doesn't owe you anything. If you give your book away, it's your choice. A choice you made for marketing purposes. Being snappy because readers grab the opportunity with both hands is wrong.
Free means free and that means it doesn't come with conditions, unless you have an agreement with a reviewer, which is an entirely different case. Expecting something in return is pretty cheeky if you ask me.
People stack up their e-readers, collect freebies; they don't necessarily read the books straight away, or maybe they do and quickly delete it and move on. If they dare to give an honest opinion and bravely leave a negative review, they get shot down and attacked by the author's friends, in some cases even by the author. Because the call for reviews is secretly a call for praise.

Reality check: self-publishing is not a walk in the park.

Speaking of self-publishing: as you know, my experience with self-published books has been catastrophic, so I don't blame any reader who tries and deletes, walking away in silence. I honestly think that many authors would be devastated if they knew what their readers really think. Many authors seem to believe that their offerings are exactly what readers have been waiting for, brainwashed by the success of Hocking, Locke and E.L. James, but those success stories are rare.
Don't get me wrong, I'm in this, too, you know? I had over 4k downloads during my trial with the KPD Select programme, and I didn't get any reviews. Probably for the same reasons: I didn't touch the readers, those of them who read the books. Taste is subjective and if it didn't impress them enough to recommend it to their friends, then there's nothing I can do other than continue to write. I've had people tell me in person, via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and even the Amazon forum that they loved my books, but they didn't leave a review. Did I ask them straight away to do it? No. It's their choice. I said thank you so much and grinned like an idiot for most of the day.
Imagine you walk into a book shop, and at the till you are told to leave feedback, buy another book by the author if you liked it and please share your opinions. You'd probably be pretty gobsmacked, wouldn't you?

Guilt-tripping a reader into a review, recommending your book or else insults a person's intelligence. Leave the reader be; stop blaming everyone around you when your book isn't a success. Start looking at your writing.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

It pinched my arse!

That's right! It did and I didn't like it. I mean, in the end of the day, it's my decision who or what is allowed to pinch me. A common loo seat is not on the list. The cheap plastic seat had done its deeds; not only was it rather wobbly and moved around, it had also lost one of its buffers (I think it didn't even have all to begin with). As a result, it cracked and as the crack got bigger, it was getting more uncomfortable--not to sit, but to get up again. Ouch!
So I merrily went to get a new seat. Wooden this time, as it's much nicer, far more comfortable and you don't get a shock in the winter.
Happy and with my new loo seat tucked under my arm, I went home and looked forward to use it. See, I'm easy to please. It's the simple things in life that make me smile.
With trembling hands, I opened the packet, removed the seat and fixings, and got to work. But I made my plans without the seat; it wouldn't have any of it. The plastic wing nut wouldn't screw onto the metal spindle! No matter how hard I tried, it just didn't grip. Simple Assembly instructions my arse! After minutes of trying, I had a sore thumb and index finger. The other one was just fine, but not that bugger.
Well, I'm not easily defeated--not by a toilet seat! So I grabbed a hammer and helped it a little. Not that it did any good, because the bastard still wouldn't screw to the top. Not one bit! By now I was fuming. I had a dig in my tool box and found another metal spindle, but couldn't get the plastic wing nut off the original spindle anymore. Brilliant! Just brilliant, I thought, fumbling in the tool box again. But nothing would fit the spindle.
Deflated, I fixed one side, but it really didn't do the job. Have you ever tried to sit on a very wobbly loo seat and wipe your backside? I guess I'll have some muscle ache tomorrow from trying to keep me sitting on instead of ending up on the floor.
Who the hell invented plastic washers anyway? On slippery porcelain? That's just wrong if you asked me.

Can you see it laughing? But not for long. I'll have the last laugh! Wish me luck.
Today will be round two of the battle. May the better one (that is me in case you wonder) win.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It only takes one person

I had a pretty miserable day which went from bad to worse. There were several issues I needed to sort out and I wasn't really in the mood to smile.
Just one of those days, you know? Where you knock over a water bucket while cleaning, drop the chopped onions and have to do it all over again, and burn yourself on the the pot handle, because you simply forgot to put on the gloves.
In all that turmoil, I received an e-mail that brought the smile back to my face; recently, a lovely woman from the Amazon forum, had offered to proofread books by self published authors, and because experience shows one can never have enough proofreaders, I asked if she would read No Wings Attached and Candlelight Sinner. She agreed
and it seemed that she was pleasantly surprised.
She wrote: "I was a bit dubious about reading your books because I really didn't think they were my type of thing and I thought I would struggle like mad.  Surprisingly though, I really loved them and they were a refreshing change to what I would normally read, so well done you on writing two really good books!"
Sometimes, it only takes one person to make your day. Thank you, Elaine, you brought some much needed light into mine. The biggest compliment a writer can get is when someone reading outside their genre or being sceptical (she normally reads Crime/Thrillers) falls in love with your books.

And because one can't have enough sunshine in the heart, I've cooked some food for the soul: Broad beans with smoked streaky bacon and home made mashed potatoes:

A little tip for perfect potato mash: a good knob of butter, milk and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.
You can find the recipe here:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tip of the week: be selective

A while back, my friend and fellow author Dixon Rice entered the world of rants after discovering that he'd promoted an author's rubbish novel. Dixon, being one of the nicest people I've ever come across, has kindly helped many people by just sharing a link, recommending books on authors' behalf, in order to spread the word. Then he made the 'mistake' to take a look at one of the books he blindly recommended and promptly decided to not do that again. Read his excellent rant here.
And I couldn't agree more; while it's wonderful to help each other, I find that it's taken to an unacceptable level: Indie authors, or still unpublished writers, join networks where they do nothing else than share each others' links and push their books, regardless of the quality.
Be honest: how many times have you recommended someone's work without even knowing if it's of a certain standard? And how many times did you know the book wasn't good, but you recommended it nevertheless, because you've been conversing with the author so much?
People are more likely to help someone they've been talking to a lot, it's only natural, but as a published author, you have a reputation; and such reputation can be damaged easily. If you recommend books of mediocre or lesser quality, you'll automatically lower your own profile. What is a reader supposed to think of you if he or she buys a book upon your suggestion and it's utter drivel? The reader will think you can't tell good from bad and will most probably pass on your books, too.

Think about it. Only recommend what you have read and consider good or excellent.

The same goes for editors or proofreaders. I've recently seen people recommending an editing and proofreading service that, in m opinion, doesn't deliver. Yet the service keeps being recommended as the person is a big part of a community. I've had a look at the website and a book which was mentioned on the site. The book had inconsistencies and errors (different speech marks, commas in direct address missing, dialogue attributes). Another book, edited by the same service was published with several errors, too. On the US site, there was a comment saying that the book contained too much telling, and not enough showing, something that an editor should have eliminated before publishing. Of course, this could very well be the author's fault; some authors think they know better and ignore the editor or proofreader. Or they suddenly decide to make changes. There's nothing an editor can do in that case.

Before recommending someone, check the person's work. Never recommend someone just because they're 'nice' and you had a laugh with them.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A proud moment

From time to time I check my books on Amazon, search for them to see if my tags work. That's what I did today.
The search term 'funny short stories' in the Kindle store resulted with Excuse me, where is the exit? at #17, which is fantastic.
The term 'paranormal romantic comedy' brought up No Wings Attached at #15 and Candlelight Sinner at #10.
I've searched for 4 stars & up.
Not too bad, I think. Although it's unlikely someone searches for paranormal romantic comedy. Ah well. You can't have everything. But what I'm really and I mean really proud of is the following:

And that makes all the hard work, the tears, the pain, the frustration and fuming worthwhile. I hope my next books will be perceived with equal enthusiasm. A massive thank you to everyone who helped me to bang the books into shape, my beta readers and friends for invaluable feedback, and my dear readers who kept encouraging me to finish Candlelight Sinner.
Just wanted to share. Now I'll better go and edit the next novel, hopefully coming out around November.