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Super Thursday

Today is Super Thursday, the day when publishers launch their best hopes for the Christmas market. According to the BBC, more than 500 books in all formats, amongst them 200 hardbacks, are being published today, including a good helping of comedians’ autobiographies, and of course a Jamie Oliver cookbook, Jamie’s Great Britain. This latter is the hot favourite to the Christmas bestseller.

Getting the Christmas books out today gives publishers and authors enough time to do lots of promotion and for word of mouth to kick in and the power of reviews to kick in. The next best day will be in a fortnight, October 13th, so if you were hoping to make it big this Christmas, get your skates on! Looks like I’d better get a move on with my two non-fiction ebooks.

Last year, nine of the books released on Super Thursday sold more than one million pounds’ worth of copies. Not bad. In the 12-week run up to Christmas, a total of 69 million books were sold, with a value of 567 million pounds. This is serious money.

Ebook publishers will be looking to take a share of the public’s book budget this year. You can’t put an ebook in a stocking, though, which will work against them during the festive season. However, you can put a Kindle or other ebook reader in, and with the new Kindle priced at 79 dollars, that’s in normal spending parameters for family and special friends.

It will be very interesting to see how ebook sales fare over the next three months. I’ll be watching closely.

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Twitter, Tweeps and Big Egos!

OK, so which groups of Tweeps are the most egocentric? First of all, for those of you not hooked on Twitter yet, Tweeps are people on Twitter.

Following John Locke’s advice, I’ve set up a Twitter account solely to promote my upcoming book, Something Fishy. It’s a fishing mystery story – honestly, it’s far more exciting than it sounds! Anyway, I’m writing it under the pseudonym of Rorie Stevens as it’s a bit racy in places, and I’m known so far as a children’s author. I need an image change. So, I’ve brought Rorie S to life. Like me, he/she (I’m being vague on purpose) is a fishery owner in France, and, less like me, a keen carp and trout angler.

So, I had to find followers for Rorie. To get followers, you have to follow. Over the course of a few nights, I tracked down prime targets to follow, and I duly added them to my ‘following’ list. I put up a good few fishing related tweets to show willing. But certainly to begin with, I got less than a 10% rate of follows back. That’s improved slightly now – 11 followers to 70 following – but it’s not great. However, it’s typical of the fishing fraternity. They aren’t keen on following other anglers. They want to be followed. I was rather surprised by this egotism, but it’s definitely out there. It’s also odd, since surely Tweets are about information sharing. It’s hard to share if you insist on one-way communication. You see, only people following you get your Tweets. Unless you follow them, you don’t get their Tweets. Anglers, it seems, are happy to preach to others but not to listen in return. Shame.

This is in stark contrast to writers. Almost everyone in the authoring field follows a lot more people than are following them. They’re open to advice, hints, encouragement, tips from others. They’re friendly people who are delighted to make new Twitter friends. In a lot of cases, they’re working to build a platform for themselves and their books, but then everyone who Tweets is looking for attention. Picking three people that I follow from my @Booksarecool23 Twitter account and we have one author following 1340 with 998 followers, sample 2 following 1,998 and followed by 1,663 and sample 3 following 75 and followed by 49. (One of them is me, but I shan’t say which one!)

Let’s take scientists as well. They put even anglers to shame. Prof Brian Cox, for example, has nearly 400,000 followers, but only follows 94. Now that’s pathetic! An American scientist, Sean Carroll, has 8,000 followers but follows only 100.  Ed Yong has a slightly better 10,000 to 700 ratio, so Jonathan Eisen with his 6,400 to 1,500 is a quite a breath of fresh air.

So it would appear at a quick glance that the more creative you are, the more generous you are in the Twittersphere. And the more you get out of Twitter.

 

 

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Being an Organized Writer Part 2: Patrolling your Platform

Following on from my post about prompt cards  to make sure you don’t waste any valuable writing time dithering, this next tip on being organized is to do with managing your author platform. Here is how Joanna Penn defines author platform: “The author platform is how you are currently reaching an audience of book-buying people, or how you plan to do so. It is your influence, your ability to sell to your market. It is your multi-faceted book marketing machine!”

I talked about building my platform here. It’s increasing almost daily. For a while I managed with the relevant details scribbled on bits of paper, but that soon proved to be insufficient. I was forgetting exactly who I’d signed up with. I now use a répertoire or address book to keep on top of which websites and forums and showcases I’ve joined and this way it’s easy to keep track. I note down on the appropriate page the name of that particular platform, then my user name, the email address I use for that account and the password. I colour code these with highlighters so they’re easy to pick up. This is a French habit I’ve picked up, I’m afraid. We all love highlighters in France!

 

I regularly work my way through my book to update each platform, and I’m almost constantly adding new entries to it.

It works for me. Perhaps it will help you keep on top of your platform too.

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Being an Organized Writer Part 1: Prompt Cards

My prompt cards to keep me busy

I’m not a very organized person. I’d like to be, but it never quite seems to happen. I’m nearly there, but that’s as close as I get.

I’m the same as a writer, but, since the time I have for all things writing related is at a premium, I’ve had to do something to make sure I don’t waste any of it wondering what to do. Any time I start to dither when I sit down in front of my computer, I now pull out one of these little cards at random.

And I do what it tells me. I’m finding it to be a very good system for stopping me from having a ‘I’m not getting anywhere’ crisis, for which the whole family is very grateful!

My current ten prompt cards are:

  • 30 mins research for a non-fiction project
  • Write a book review
  • Write 1,000 words fiction
  • 30 mins work on author platform
  • 10 minutes on Twitter
  • 1 hour writing – anything
  • Find a new blog to follow and comment on a post
  • Get up to date on Facebook
  • Outline a non-fiction project
  • Edit one chapter

 

Obviously, adapt this list to suit your own portfolio of projects. If you’re on the disorganized side, you might find it helps. Do please let me know.

 

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Assisted Self-Publishing

I’d been wondering what the recent explosion in self-publishing was going to mean for traditional publishers and, in particular, for literary agents. It’s been all too obvious lately with what it’s doing to bookshops. Several big chains have unfortunately gone under due to the rise in ebooks – Borders in the US and Angus and Robertson in Australia are two examples.

To a large extent, literary agents have always been the hangers-on in the publishing world. They’re not contributing original material, like the authors are. They’re not producing the finished goods, like the publishers are. They’re somewhere in the middle taking a cut of the author’s earnings.

So it looks like some agents are becoming ‘self-publishing enablers’, offering ‘assisted self-publishing’. They will undertake to do tasks such as reformatting the author’s manuscript into ebook friendly formats, organising cover design, uploading files to Amazon, Smashwords etc  and drawing up marketing plans. These are all things the author could do on his or her own, with a very little bit of effort. First time is always the hardest preparing a manuscript for the digital market, as I know from experience, but once you’ve got the hang of what to do, it’s quick and straightforward. Most indie authors are up for doing as much as they can for themselves generally, so it remains to be seen how well this new agency role will catch on.

I was about to launch into  a longer discussion of this, but then came across David Gaughran’s excellent discussion of the topic here. He has far more clout and involvement in the world of digital publishing and can discuss the area much more knowledgeably than I can. It’s interesting to see I’m not the only one who’s questioning the new route agents will take.

 

 

 

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Freemiums for Authors

I’m busy mugging up about book marketing and came across the term ‘freemiums’. To my shame I had no idea what they were, so I looked them up. A freemium is promotional or business model that offers something basic for free, while charging for more advanced or premium related products. (That’s where the ‘free’ and ‘mium’ of freemium come from.) So I’ve been coming across freemiums all the time without realising when I’ve signed up for free ebooks or newsletters on sites that are hoping to sell me something eventually. This website explains the model in detail.

Will they work for authors? Undoubtedly. The Internet is all about getting things for free, so surfers these day expect to get some sort of freebie from every website. And if they don’t find it on yours, they’ll go elsewhere. Joanna Penn explains in a fascinating guest post here on The Savvy Book Marketer that authors have an advantage when it comes to freemiums as they can write, and the vast majority of the free products offered are written articles. It’s fairly painless, therefore, for us to rattle them off. Her suggestions for some good freemiums for writers to offer include:

  • Blog posts and articles for free, but your books are premium.
  • Short stories or first couple of chapters are free, but the whole book is premium.
  • You make your first novel free, but subsequent ones must be paid for.

So, freemiums look like being an interesting book marketing avenue to explore.

 

 

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JulNaWriMo

Who’s up for JulNoWriMo?

For a start, what is it? As the organisers say, it’s like NaNoWriMo – but hotter! NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November every year, and the aim is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. It’s about putting perseverance and enthusiasm above being painstaking and polished. The idea is to churn out the words and tidy everything up later.

50000 words = five of these!

You’ll find the rules here, explained by Elizabeth Donald. She explains that yes, anyone who tries to write 50,000 words in 31 days is certifiable, but that’s the fun of the whole thing. It’s a challenge and it’s actually almost achieveable.

I’m signing up! It’s going to be a tall order since July is going to be crazy with the kids at home, the llama trekking season getting going and I have quite a few appointments lined up for various things. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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#samplesunday

I’m learning a lot these days as I prepare to become an ebook author. My latest discover is #samplesunday on Twitter. It’s an indie author thing. Enter #samplesunday as a search term and you’ll find links to samples of writing by people intending to self-publish. I shall be joining in from next week.

Two great websites I’ve recently discovered are Kindle Obsessed and Writinghood. These are packed full of info and tips. Check them out.

 

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Mindmapping

Mindmapping is all about avoiding the disadvantages of making a list i.e. thinking in a non-creative, linear way. It’s about emptying your brain to get ideas which you can tidy up later. This is what makes it such a great tool for creative people e.g. authors. It’s inspirational and keeps those brainwaves pulsing.

If you’re not sure how to construct a mindmap, then look here for a walkthrough.  Using colours and little pictures along the way keeps both sides of your brain busy and therefore you’re working more efficiently.

How many mindmaps do you need? As many as it takes. Perhaps one for the overall plot, and then more detailed ones for each main facet of the plot. I do one for the overall dramatis personae of the book I’m working on, and then one for each character so I know him or her inside out and will always give the correct shoe size or hair colour when it crops up! The moment writer’s block threatens to descend, I rustle up a mindmap to keep me functioning.

Non-fiction benefits as much from mindmapping as fiction, and it doesn’t end there. Do a mindmap for marketing ideas and another for promotion strategies. A third for publishers and agents to contact.

Once you start using mindmaps to help your writing, it’s hard to stop. They’re a very valuable, effective tool that give a great boost to your creativity.

Here’s a list of some mindmapping software packages.

 

 

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Book Festivals, Salons du Livres and E-books

Limousin

I’ve been reading how it’s book festival season in the UK at the moment, so I thought I’d better see how France compares, and in particular, my région – Limousin. Limousin consists of three departéments – Creuse (where I live), Correze and Haute-Vienne – and is pretty much slap-bangin the middle of France. It’s a largely rural area with an elderly and declining population, so it’s not the cultural hotspot of the country. However, a look at this website reveals that is plenty of literary activity going on. There are numerous secondhand book fairs, series of lectures, storytelling festivals, comic book and children’s book fairs, days devoted to schoolbooks and the intriguingly entitled event: Les auteurs vivants ne sont pas tous morts – living authors aren’t all dead! The biggest salon du livre in our area is the annual Brive one. My two eldest children usually go there with lycée each year and enjoy it. I shall go too this October.

Brive salon du livres http://www.foiredulivre.net

I’m glad I did this bit of research because I had no idea there was so much going on book-wise. I’d be fascinated to meet some French authors and talk with French publishers, being an author and editor myself. My main impressions of French books are that they are expensive, but lavishly produced and with a penchant for quirky illustrations. I must look into this in more detail.

And how will e-books fit into such festivals? Very well, I think. Authors can still attend fairs and talk to fans. Rather than autographing paper copies of books, they’ll have to sign good old fashioned autograph books (do you remember those? I got through loads as a child!). The e-books can be displayed on computers or Kindle or whichever platform they’re designed for. In fact, I think this would do nothing but good since may traditional dead-tree readers are badly informed about electronic reading media and deeply suspicious of it. It would be a great chance for them to get up close and personal with it. Ebooks certainly won’t kill book festivals.