I think chapters should always have titles. It tends to be essential in non-fiction books, and in my opinion it’s as important in fiction.  And even more so with the advent of the Kindle. There is nothing more dull than having two full screens or so at the start of the book merely listing Chapter 1, Chapter 2 etc. OK, these are hyperlinked to the relevant chapter, although I can’t actually see why you’d use that facility much, since Kindle remembers where you got up to, and opens the book on that page next time you call it up. You don’t have to go back to the chapter list to find where you were. And anyway, only a very organised person would remember the number of the chapter. You’d be far more likely to remember its name – our brains are built that way.

So why are so many authors reluctant to give a short name to each chapter? One word will do to act as a reflection of its content? A taster of what’s to come? Either would be far more appealing than Chapter X. Thrillers and mysteries often use time and dates to break up the text. That’s good too. Children’s fiction generally uses chapter names, so we’re all used to it. I can’t see any justification for dropping the practice when we progress to YA and adult works. There’s no logic to it.

I’ve had fun naming the chapters in my two forthcoming big projects, Something Fishy, a racy fishing mystery (fiction) and my non-fiction travel narrative Heads Above Water. For the latter I’ve incorporated a relevant French quotation too at the opening of each chapter, one that ties in with the heading. It didn’t take long and I think it adds a further level of enjoyment for the reader. For my fiction work, I’ve simply used a punchy gerund that best reflects the action of the chapter e.g. Meeting, Catching, Drowning. It wasn’t too demanding!

So, bring back chapter headings I say. Readers appreciate them. They’re memorable, entertaining and a lot more interesting than just a number.

There are a lot of book bloggers like me out there – new indie authors,  established ‘traditional’ authors, book reviewers and book lovers. I wondered what a good collective noun would be for us. I love collective nouns – a murder of crows, a charm of goldfinches, a labour of moles, and a pace of donkeys are just a few excellent examples.  Now, for bloggers, and particularly book bloggers? A shelf of bloggers? A library of bloggers perhaps? Since we’re all artists, how about a creativity of bloggers? An originality of bloggers? Most definitely a brilliance of bloggers! But there’s a strong sense of comaraderie amongst book bloggers too. We comment thoughtfully on each others’ blogs because we genuinely enjoy reading what fellow bloggers are writing about, as well as what they’re writing if they’re authors. So, an encouragement of bloggers? A friendship of bloggers? But what about the bad times, when we can’t think of anything to write (a slog of bloggers), when we’re getting behind with our blog (a backlog of bloggers), we can’t think what to write (a fog of bloggers) or we want to let off steam about something annoying us (a grump of bloggers) or we’ve had a bad self-promotion day (an in-the-dumps of bloggers)?

Let me have your suggestions please!

I’m in a quandary and temporarily disheartened. I really don’t know what to do regarding promotion and marketing. I’ve been spending hours on Twitter and various author platform websites such as Author Outbreak, Goodreads, Library Thing etc. But I’m seriously starting to wonder what’s the point. It seems the only other people out there are other authors. I’ve bought some of their books, and a couple of people have bought mine – but if we only ever sell to each other, I don’t think we’ll do very well. Writers don’t get much time for reading on top of self-promoting and writing, and they’re not the wealthiest folk either.

How do you get out there to the readers? Maybe through reviews on Amazon and Smashwords? However, people will only find those if they look you or your book up i.e. they still need to know about you first. But how to get them to that stage?

I’m guessing that the personal website is the key starting point. If you can build up followers to your website that will hopefully turn into buyers for your books, then at least you’re spreading beyond the fellow indie author market.  So I shall cut down the time I spend on social media for a while and put more time and effort into my websites. And my writing. I still think it’s best of all to keep writing and fit the marketing activities around that, and not the other way round.

A new month – time for a new challenge. I want to make it a tough one, so my aim this month is to get 10 books up on Kindle and to have worked on 10 books in my new ebook editing business (nearly-finished website is here).

Here’s a glimpse of what the next Kindle book will be in the form of the brilliant cover. Roger Fereday is the illustrator and Caitlin Dagg is the typographer. What a team!

What’s your September challenge?

 

I’m busily extending my author platform on a daily basis, signing up to forums and groups here, posting about my books there.

I came across a free listing opportunity on Author Outbreak, a promising looking indie author website. However, the offer ends on 31st August so you need to get motoring, if it appeals. You’ll find the details here:

I’ve sent my details in so we’ll wait and see what happens.

I’m also currently considering joining the Independent Author Network http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/join-ian.html. There’s a fee for this, so I may wait until Heads Above Water is ready to launch. I think I’ll stick with free promotions for my rereleased children’s books.

Is anyone else having problems with logging onto yourbookauthors.com? I’m having a terrible time.

Finally, I need guinea pigs. Human ones. My ebook editing service is very nearly ready to roll. The website is in its final stages of being tidied up. You can take a quick peek here  (please remember, it’s still a WIP!). To help me firm up my pricing structure, I need to work on a few projects to get a feel for the level of work that is generally required and roughly how long it will take me to tidy up 1,000 words of electronic manuscript. No charge of course. So, if you’d like some free editing on your ebook, then please contact me via the comments below and we’ll talk!

Oh Gran! will be hitting Kindle soon. Here’s a taster and a peep at the great cover artwork by Roger Fereday.

Chapter 1 News Time

“Has anyone else got any news?” asked Mrs Crowley.

It was Friday afternoon, which was end-of-the-week news time at school. Teresa Barry had just told everyone how she’d passed her first Tae Kwondo exam the night before. She now had a yellow-tip belt. (Frank Feeney, sitting in the back row, decided he had better stop teasing her in the yard.)

“Surely someone has more news?” persisted Mrs Crowley.

No one put a hand up.

Mrs Crowley’s eye fell on Emily.

“Emily, have you got some news?”

Emily had, but she didn’t feel much like sharing it.

“Not really, Mrs Crowley,” muttered Emily, wishing her teacher had picked on someone else.

Mrs Crowley refused to be put off.

“There must be something you can tell us about, Emily. Now, come up here and share your news.”

Emily knew when she was beaten. She shuffled to the front of the classroom and turned to face the others.

“My news is that Gran is coming to look after me this weekend because Mum and Dad won a holiday in a competition so they’re going away.”

Emily shot back to her seat, her cheeks burning.

“Why, thank you, Emily,” smiled Mrs Crowley. ‘That’s nice news. I’m sure you’ll have a great time with your granny!”

Emily and her friends weren’t so sure. They talked about grannies at break time.

“Gosh, poor you,” said Mary Roberts. “Whenever my granny comes she makes us turn the telly down so low that we can’t hear it!”

“Yes, and my granny’s always telling me to wash my hands and brush my hair and stuff,” groaned Dermot Halloran.

“Has your granny stayed before?” asked Niamh Desmond.

“Not for ages and ages,” Emily answered. “You see, after  Grandad died a few years ago, Gran went to live with my Auntie Hilary in Australia. Then just after Christmas she decided to come back to Ireland. We were going to go up to Galway to see her, but I got chickenpox so we I couldn’t. But now she’s coming down to look after me. She said she would pick me up from school today.!

Her friends pulled sympathetic faces. Grannies weren’t considered cool.

 

 

Chapter 2 Gran Arrives

Emily was quite nervous when the bell rang at the end of school. To be honest, she couldn’t exactly remember what Gran looked like! It must be more than three years since she’d seen her. Mum kept sending photos of Emily to Gran, but Gran never sent back any of herself.

“So how am I supposed to recognise her, then?” grumbled Emily.

She had a vague image in her head of someone small, smiley and rather wrinkly. But that was all.

She dawdled out of school, wanting to be one of the last out so that her friends wouldn’t see her with her granny. Plus it would be easier to work out who Gran was if the other parents and relatives had already gone home with their children. But Emily’s friends were curious about her granny. They dawdled out too so they could see what she looked like.

Glaring at them for being so nosy, Emily led a gaggle of her friends to the school gate. She looked across the road to where the remaining mums and dads were a waiting. She recognised all of them except for a motorcyclist wearing a black leather jacket. So where on earth was Gran? Emily was dismayed. Mum and Dad would be at the airport by now. Gran was meant to be here to pick her up.

Emily looked at all the faces again. Had she missed Gran somewhere? Unless, no, surely not! Emily watched in amazement as the motorcyclist pulled off a tiger-striped helmet and revealed the smiling face of an elderly lady. It was Gran!

Emily’s mouth dropped open in astonishment.

“Where’s your gran then?” hissed Niamh.

“l can’t see a walking stick anywhere!” joked Dermot, not very nicely.

“Yes, where is she?” asked Mary.

“There! She’s there!” croaked Emily, pointing to her leather-clad Gran.

Her friends fell silent in horror.

Oh Gran! thought Emily. I will never live this down.

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.

 

 

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.

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.

 

I happened across ‘Kindlegraph’ in some Tweets, so I decided to find out more about it. It’s a way of ‘signing’ a Kindle book for a reader. The website is here.

You log in via your Twitter account and then have to supply the ASIN (the Amazon supplied ISBN) for your book and fill in the inscription you’d like to put. I opted to try the system out with Oh Auntie!  and typed in the dedication: ‘Enjoy the story, best wishes, Stephanie Dagg’. Up came the cover of Oh Auntie! with those words in rather neat handwriting.

So far, so good.

However, the next step took you to another site, docusign, where you had to sign an agreement. You could choose from a list of about a dozen handwriting type scripts. There was one remarkably like my writing. I selected that. Then I read the small print which was along the lines that this signature would become legally binding on documents it was used on, or words roughly to that effect, which freaked me out so I ended the process there.

Am I being a chicken? Plenty of authors are Kindlegraphing. However, I just didn’t like the idea that my electronic signature, floating around in cyberspace, might be used fraudulently without my consent and cause me a lot of trouble.

I guess I’ll think about it a little longer. I don’t imagine there’ll be a massive rush for my Kindlegraph in the imminent future … unfortunately!

UPDATE on 19th August: Kindlegragh creator Jacob Evans contacted me with the comment below. I’ve now found the newer signing system which involves drawing your signature if you wish to. That seems a much less scary way of doing it! Thanks to Jacob and wishing him good luck with this innovative service.