This is my first go in a blog hop so I hope I’ve done everything properly.  Because of my Irish connections – fifteen years living in the Emerald Isle and two children born there – I thought I’d better join in.

Tomorrow is Ireland’s big day. There will be parades in every town, and anyone who gave up alcohol for Lent will be officially let off for a day. It’s a public holiday and generally a lot of fun. And most likely it will be pouring with rain. I can remember one sunny St Patrick’s Day, but that’s it!

Irish publishing won’t be celebrating that much though. It’s struggling at the moment, suffering its worst eight weeks for a long time at the beginning of 2012. The full article is here.

Non-fiction performed worst, falling 18.4% from comparative sales for 2011, and children’s books fell by 17.5%. Not good news for someone like me with kids’ books with an Irish publisher.

I wonder if some of the problem is that Irish publishers haven’t been doing too well with ebooks. Some presses are beginning to produce them, but generally they tend to be expensive. Readers want low prices for ebooks. Tirgearr Publishing has just launched itself as an ebook only publishing press with sensible prices. I bought a copy of The Trouble with French Kisses, one of their first books, to support them, but was a little disappointed with it, sadly. The editing wasn’t very impressive with a fair sprinkling of typos and the French wasn’t always correct. We had the heroine’s boyfriend calling her ‘mon petit’ occasionally – that’s horrendous! Anyway, let’s hope other books from the press are better presented and avoid these avoidable silly issues that good editing would sort out. (I have to say that since I’m a good editor!)

If you’d like a free copy of my children’s ebook Oh Auntie, which is the most Irish of my kids’ works I think, and therefore the best to be given away for St Patrick’s Day, then leave a comment below. I’ll send you a coupon code to use on Smashwords.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

To find more blogs in the hop, go here.
Final link

http://carrieannryan.blogspot.com/

Paranormal romance is fast emerging as a very popular ebook genre. Some people consider it a subgenre of fantasy and others of romance. However, I think it deserves its own separate niche since it blends elements of not just these two previously distinct genres of fantasy and romance but also often science fiction and even horror. It grew up out of gothic fiction. Probably the most common feature is a romance between humans and ghosts, vampires, shapeshifters or other fantastic creatures. Also, psychic powers often come into play.

So you couldn’t wish for a better introduction to this exciting genre than a book by Hope Welsh. I have just read her book Linked, and it’s a brilliant read. It’s about Lana, a feisty young woman with psychic powers and a sad secret, and shapeshifter Cole, a private detective with special powers. There’s a third crucial character, The Evil One, who poses a terrifying threat and has a connection with Lana. The book is very well written. The hero and heroine are persuasive and likeable, and their relationship is neither predictable nor plastic, as can be the case with the romantic thread of a story sometimes. There are interesting twists and turns in the plot. I ended up reading the book in one go, leaving my youngest son dissolving in the bath (it’s OK, he’s 10 and he was quite happy to have an hour-long bath!) and the bedtime hot chocolate unmade. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did. And if you do, then please put up a review in all the usual places. Authors need reviews!

Hope kindly agreed to do an interview for me and so I’ll hand over to her now.

1. What inspired you to write Linked?

Linked was written for a contest, but I liked it so well, I decided to publish it instead. It was offered on by the first publisher that read it, but I decided to self-publish on Amazon instead.

2. Which character from the book are you most like – Lana, Cole or The Evil One?

Hmm… I’d have to say I’m most like Laura, Lana’s mother. Certainly not The Evil One! Unlike Lana, I’d love paranormal abilities.

3. Linked has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

I knew what I wanted – to show the evil and time running out on the lovers – but my daughter did the design. She did an awesome job, didn’t she?

4. Would you like to be a shapeshifter? What animal would you turn into?

Oh, definitely a panther, I think. Sleek and beautiful. Although, I’m rather partial to tigers…

5. Is there a story behind the book? Why did it demand to be written?

It was a dream. Most of my stories start that way. My daughter worked on it with me, though. SHE did all The Evil One. It was written very fast – less than a month.  I was obsessed and wrote non-stop for days and days.

6. Please tell us a little about your other books, The Storm Within, Forbidden and Once Bitten.

The Storm Within is a romantic suspense. The heroine is running from a boyfriend that’s framed her for murder. I loved writing it – another of those that kind of just took off with a spark of an idea.

Forbidden & Once Bitten are a little more risqué. They are connecting stories with vampires, but not your traditional vampires.  One was a born vampire, and the other was created. I had a blast writing them, though. I can’t wait to get my rights to them back so I can put them up at a more reasonable price – and put up the third story in the series.

7. You’ve created a book review website http://books2lovereviews.blogspot.com. Can you tell us a bit about that please?

As an author, it’s very important to get reviews. As I’ve struggled for my own reviews, I decided to offer a site with honest reviews of books I’ve enjoyed.

8. Does reviewing books help your writing, do you think?

I don’t think reviewing helps my writing – but reading does. I read in many different genres. A good writer has got to be a voracious reader in my opinion. I’m lucky that I’m a very fast reader. I can easily read a book in two hours.

9. Are book reviews important to authors?

Book reviews are imperative for authors. It’s how we know that our work is enjoyed – and how we let others know about our books. They are also helpful in that we can learn; sometimes we just don’t hit the mark and we learn how to improve with future books.

10. Do you have any strange or quirky writing habits?

When I’m on a roll – I write sometimes up to 24 hours non-stop.  I’ve been known not to eat or sleep when I’m really in a story. I also tend to let my characters tell me the story. I rarely have an end in mind when I start. I have never plotted a book – I just write and see where it goes.

11. When did you first realise you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

When I was eight. I wrote a play for school at age eight, and have been hooked ever since. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write.

12. What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Read before you write.  Learn to promote your work and to take constructive criticism – and for goodness sake, please learn to format and edit! I’d also suggest a writer join either a critique group or a writers’ group. Beta Readers are very important as well.

13. OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?

Chocolate, Butter Pecan Ice Cream–and steak.  Can I add Diet Coke?  Cannot survive without Diet Coke.

14. And finally, what would you not be seen dead wearing?

Leather – or a bikini, LOL.  My character in Once Bitten is wearing a leather number I affectionately call her “Sluts R Us” outfit in the book.  It’s actually similar to an outfit a friend bought my daughter when she was 18. I was less than enthused – though I must admit she made it look good.

Buy Linked here.

 

According to reports nearly all we ereader owners are busy reading erotica aka porn. OK, not all the time, but at least some of it. And apparently we get an extra thrill from reading them on our Kindles or Nooks when we’re on public transport or during work breaks when other people are around but have no idea what we’re feasting our eyes upon!

What’s more, it’s not just the books that are dirty. There are some shady authors out there in the erotic arena who are shamelessly plagiarising material and masquerading it as their own. There’s an interesting report about it here.

So, erotica sells well. What other genres enjoy consistently good sales? In  a previous blog post I discussed a report that gave the following information about ebook market shares: romance 16%, paranormal 15%, thriller 12%, mystery 12%, fantasy 8%, science fiction 7%, young adult 5%, comedy 4%. There’s no breakdown of how much erotica comes into that romance category!

This site  gives an idea of erotic ebook sales which it summarises as:

Average erotic romance ebook sales as of Dec 8, 2011

  • First month (or quarter): 290 copies
  • Total to date for books out one year or less: 417 copies
  • First year: 845 copies
  • Total to date for books available for more than one year: 1415 copies
  • Total books on record: 258

These averages are based on sales of at least 5 in print books by at least 3 different authors for each press surveyed.

I’d be very interested to find out what sales are for the free erotic books that appear every day in the lists of free Kindle books, and on Smashwords. I’m guessing those are through the roof.

Should we all jump on the bandwagon and churn out hardcore novellas with lots of groans, sighs, throbbing and words starting in ‘cu’? At times it’s tempting when sales seem SO slow on my books. I do have a blovel out there with an adult element in it, shall we say, but it’s contemporary romance rather than erotica, with mystery thrown in. (I use a pseudonym since I’m mainly known as a children’s author and this isn’t something you’d want them reading!) But am I on the top of a slippery slope?

Paranormal is another immensely popular genre, closely followed by thriller. Maybe I should give those a go?

No. I think it’s pretty clear I’m not going make much money as an author, certainly nothing like enough to live on, so my writing remains an enjoyable if time-consuming and occasionally infuriating pastime. I shall carry on writing the rom-com/mystery stories that are swirling around in my head.

And yes. I confess I’ve downloaded some naughty ebooks and enjoyed them, but I’ve downloaded an awful lot more travel memoirs, mysteries, rom-coms, fantasy and chick-lit. Like many ebook readers I imagine.

 

This New Year saw all books being made equal in France. Previously ebooks suffered from a much higher level (19.6%) of TVA (= value added tax), whereas dead tree books were taxed at 5.5%. Now both types of book are taxed at 7%. The fall for ebooks is very welcome, although the overall rise to 7% is to be deplored, but is an unfortunate result of the austerity measures we’re currently having imposed on us.

Hopefully this will have a positive impact on ebook sales. French people still don’t really ‘get’ ebooks. They continue to be stuck on the expensive but always well produced printed versions. Ebooks account for only around 1% of all book sales in France. However, the launching of the Kindle store on Amazon.fr in September 2011 and this new VAT reduction, plus the general buzz about elivres, will work in their favour and I’m sure we’ll see the figure rise soon. People are interested in the whole idea of ereaders and ebooks but still slightly sceptical. Native French suspicion at work! That said, the Kindle was the best selling item at Amazon.fr in December, following the same pattern as elsewhere in Europe. Our Caiti’s Kindle 4 was one of them. She is delighted with her Kindle and takes it everywhere, apart from the bath, luckily! ‘Kindling’ has  become a new verb in our house.

So, the only way is up for the ebook in France in 2012. It has everything going for it now. And a further temptation. Perhaps readers will be tempted by one of the 47 ebooks about Nicolas Sarkozy available at Amazon.fr or the 11 on Francois Hollande in this election year, these two individuals being the main contenders!

 

This wonderful new age of indie authors means that there are many first-time book writers out there who aren’t sure what they should do once they’ve finished creating their work of fiction or non-fiction.

Here’s a suggested course of action. I’m assuming you’ve reached the stage where you’re happy with what you’ve written and, as far as you’ve concerned, you’ve done as much work on it as you can.

1. Take a break for a few days, and then read your MS through one last time, no matter how many times you’ve already checked it. (MS = manuscript, i.e. the unpublished work in whatever format.) You’ll almost certainly spot some silly mistakes, typos, inconsistencies etc you’ve missed up to now. Correct them, but don’t start tinkering unnecessarily with other parts of the text. You have to stop the writing part some time.

2. At the same time, get a friend or family member to read the MS through. Ask them specifically to make a note of any errors they find. Don’t ask for general comments – those aren’t necessarily helpful!

3. Get the book edited. This can be the tricky part. OK, it’s not obligatory but it is EXTREMELY helpful. Search online for a freelance editor and do shop around to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Book editors are professionals who are trained to be good with words. They will polish your book to bring out its full potential. But how do they do that?

To start with, you can expect the editor you’ve chosen to read through the first few thousand words, free of charge. This will give him or her an idea of your standard of writing and how much work they will be having to do to polish up your book. They’ll report back, and may suggest you deal with some of the issues yourself to save paying them to do that. For example, we all have our favourite words and phrases – just, however, could only, in no time at all etc. An editor will quickly spot yours, and may ask you to work through and replace these. At this stage they’ll be able to give you an estimate of what their fees will be to work on your book. I charge per 1,000 words; other editors charge on an hourly basis.

Once you’ve had the editor’s feedback and quote and given the go-ahead, you may receive queries from the editor. For example, possibly you’ve given your hero blond hair in some places, and black in others. The editor will want to know which is your preferred colour. He or she might spot a hitch in the time frame of the story’s action, or pick up a subplot that doesn’t go anywhere, and ask what you want to do about these. Do respond to queries as promptly as you can so your editor can complete the project quickly and efficiently.

Editors should only be looking to do a minimal edit anyway on indie books if they’re tuned in to this market. Remember, you’re only after a polish. You don’t want someone else totally rewriting your book to suit themself, which is something that can happen. An editor’s job is to fine-tune what’s there. They will certainly rephrase and reorganise parts of your text to make it clearer for the reader, or to avoid repetitions, or to correct inaccuracies, but that’s as far as it should go. And let’s face it. Indie authors don’t have much money. You can’t afford to pay for major surgery. A lot of freelance editors work mainly with publishing houses who have a vast budget and can pay a generous fee. Indies can’t. It’s a fact that you’re probably not going to be earning a great deal of money from your ebooks, at least initially. It’s a hugely competitive market out there, with lots of free and very cheap books around at the moment. This is a good advertising ploy but it’s unsustainable. We’ll see ebook prices rise, and with it author income, but for the short term, readers aren’t willing to pay a lot for an ebook. You can’t afford to pay a ridiculous sum for editing.

4. Once you have your edited text back, it’s time to publish. Formatting for Smashwords and Kindle is actually quite straightforward. You can do it yourself if you’re prepared to put the effort in the first time around and follow the instructions on the relevant publishing platforms to get it right. It’s a matter of a few hours’ work. Once you’ve done one book, it becomes quick and easy to do the rest. But ebook editors will take care of this part of the process if you ask them. They shouldn’t charge much for this.

5. Work on your author platform. What’s this? At its most basic, it’s a website, blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. It can be as huge and complex as you like! But that’s for another day.

 

As for my own editing services, I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve matched the lowest going rates out there. More expensive editors will say you pay for what you get, implying cheaper editors aren’t as experienced. Well, I’ve had 25 years’ experience, and I’m also a published author both of print books and ebooks. Knowing the ebook markets from both sides is a huge advantage. Cheaper editors are simply being more realistic, since they’re more in tune with the world of indie authoring.

My ebook editing website is at http://www.ebook-ed.it.

I mentioned book bags in a previous post. A book bag is always a nice present. It’s traditionally a bag, hence the name, but you can equally have a book box or book parcel, which contains a book together with some appropriate items to go with it. A book bag for a cookery book, for example, would have some cooking items in it too – perhaps a pinafore and a rolling pin. Now that the ebook is here, there’s no need to include the book anymore. You supply that separately to the recipient. But you can still give the bag of associated goodies.

Here are ten ideas, starting with three of my books, followed by seven great reads I’ve enjoyed this year:

1. Best of Blog in France (Non-fiction about expat life in France.) A bottle of French wine and some French cheese, one of the varieties that comes in a round wooden or cardboard box, would be most suitable as well as practical. But anything French will do!

2. The Smelliest Cheese in the World (Fiction) Now this is a kid’s book, but adults would enjoy it too. If you’re giving it to a grown up, then give them some smelly cheese too – stands to reason! Roquefort or Auvergne Blue are good ones. For younger readers, since the story also features socks, then a pair of those would be perfect.

3. Oh Santa! A chocolate Santa, a skipping rope and a Santa hat would be good choices.

Now for those other ebooks that I’d thoroughly recommend:

4. Big Backpack – Little World: this is a wonderful and entertaining account by Donna Morang of her experiences as an ESL teacher. See the guest post by Donna on this website. The ideal accompaniment would be a rucksack. The author spent a lot of time in Mexico, and in fact now lives there, so some Mexican food like a box of tacos or a jar or guacamole, or a bottle of Tequila would be excellent too.

5. Sunshine Soup by Jo Parfitt: this is a book about expat life with a good bit of cooking thrown in. A soup recipe book, or a set of nice soup bowls would be suitable.

6. Stay Tuned by Lauren Clark: this is about Melissa who works for a TV station. It’s chick-lit/rom-com. I reviewed it here. During the story she revamps her look. Give the recipient some make-up or a voucher for a facial or a massage.

7. A Song for Europe by Simon Lipson: this is rom-com at its best with the Eurovision Song Contest at its heart. A CD of all the songs from one of the Contests would be fitting (2010 and 2006 were really good years). Anything Euro would go well with this book. Failing that, go here  to get souvenirs with the European flag on them!

8. The Lingerie Castle by Markee Andersen: well, lingerie would be good with this book! Or a football. You’ll have to read the book.

9. Lye in Wait by Cricket MacRae, a home crafting mystery. The heroine is a soapmaker so fill a book bag with beautifully handmade perfumed soap.

10. The Wake-Up Call by Jonas Eriksson: gritty rom-com starring an overstressed, overstimulated executive, so I’d suggest decaff coffee, bath bombs, scented candles or a lavender-filled sleep mask.

Hope these are helpful!

 

How well and for how long can you realistically expect a Christmas book to sell? I have a children’s Christmas ebook out, Oh Santa!, so this is a very pertinent question for me! However, I haven’t been able to find many concrete facts and figures on the Net.

Printed copies of Christmassy books will have been selling for a month or so now. The publishers brought out their books aimed at the Christmas market back in October to allow time for word to spread and sales to pick up. But ebooks aren’t quite the same. You don’t have to wait a week for them to arrive in the post or plan a trip to town to buy them so you don’t tend to purchase as far in advance. You get them within seconds of hitting the ‘buy’ button. Also, ‘word’ is spread via instant social media rather than via slower newspaper articles or magazine reviews and so that happens quicker.

When is the best time to launch a Christmass ebook? November still feels too early, and it would seem a lot of people share that feeling since I’ve only sold a handful of copies of Oh Santa!, which is priced very reasonably at 99 cents! So I’m going with December. You can’t avoid Christmas once kids start opening the windows on their Advent Calendars. Tomorrow I’ll make available a Smashwords  coupon code so that folk can get the book for free, but just for 24 hours. I can Tweet and Facebook that to get some attention. I’ve come across a couple of Christmassy virtual book tours scheduled to take place in December, and that seems a nice idea too. I’ve probably left it too late to organise one for Oh Santa!, but we’ll see.

Ebook sales can in theory continue right up to and including Christmas Day itself since those shops won’t shut and you’ll get the goods immediately. But how can you give an ebook? Well, with Kindle books it’s easy. You gift a book to someone. You buy it and specify where it is to be delivered. And Smashwords? You can choose and buy a book and download it in the suitable format, and send that as an attachment to the recipient via email. Please don’t abuse the system and send it to loads of people though. Think of us poor starving authors! I’m not sure what the Nook system would be. Barnes and Noble refuse to sell me anything, including ebooks, since I don’t live in the USA so I don’t have a lot to do with them!

In the next few days, I’ll be suggesting some ‘book bags’ you can put together to go with some of my ebooks as Christmas pressies to make them more fun. Most of my ebooks are free, by the way, so they’ll make budget-friendly pressies! I’ll also come up with some lists of great ebooks for anyone and everyone you might need to be buying for.

http://www.public-domain-photos.com/travel/paris

It looks the austerity measures announced in France yesterday may give ebooks a boost. Despite the fact that the founder of the fantastically successful Feedbooks is a Frenchman, Hadrien Gardeur, the French haven’t been very quick to take up ebooks. I have my own theory about this. Books from amazon.fr are more expensive than from amazon.com – which is unnecessary and offputting. Being a Kindle owner living in France, I was kindly invited to switch my account from .com to .fr since this would be better for me, apparently. Well, it isn’t. I now can’t get books that are offered free on amazon.com and all the other books cost more. A 99 US cent book costs 99 Euro cents (about $1.20) and others are even more expensive. I’m not impressed and I’m buying most of my books from the brilliant Smashwords.

The official reason for ebook apathy is that publishers aren’t being very enthusiastic about producing them. However, VAT on physical books will be rising from 5.5% to 7% in January, which might help to make ebooks more attractive, for producers and consumers alike.

A last quick word about Feedbooks. This company distributes 3,000,000 ebooks per month. That is mindboggling. And it also offers indie authors the chance to publish their ebooks to be offered free to clients, an offer I shall be enthusiastically embracing as soon as I can.

I’ve been spending time on this wet and windy October afternoon to update the My Ebooks page on this website. We’ve gone straight from summer to winter this year. Autumn is usually short in this part of France, but we’ve taken it to extremes this time around!

Anyway, all my ebooks are now listed. There are three free ones – Oh Gran!, Escape the Volcano and The Witch’s Dog. Of these, Gran is doing best! She’s zoomed ahead with 557 downloads (via Smashwords) as at this precise moment. There was a sudden surge on 1st October which tied in with me listing the book at www.getfreeebooks.com and with it appearing in the Barnes and Noble Nook store.

Fantastic!

I was lucky to get the great photo I did for The Witch's Dog cover. There were plenty like this where Nessie wouldn't co-operate!

The Witch’s Dog has had 70 downloads in its first 48 hours up on Smashwords. I’ve submitted that to getfreeebooks.com as well, and it will trundle its way onto the B&N site in a couple of weeks. That should give it a nice boost. It may be a little late for Halloween – I should have been better organised. But we’ll see. Hopefully people will want to read it anyway. It’s a sweet little story.

Next book up will be … hmm. I would like to get a free non-fiction out there before releasing Heads Above Water. The book will be ‘Best of Blog in France’, a selection of posts from my first two years’ of blogging. Blog in France goes from strength to strength I’m pleased to say. I’ve even had people pay me to put adverts up on the site!

And Something Fishy isn’t far behind …

I submitted Oh Gran, one of my two free ebooks available via Smashwords here to www.getfreeebooks.com. It was accepted on 1st October and by today, 3rd October, it’s been downloaded over 200 times. Up to then I’d had around 130 downloads directly from the Smashwords site over about 10 days. So going to getfreeebooks.com was a very worthwhile move in my opinion. Hopefully people will enjoy the book and remember my name, and one day, actually pay for one of my masterpieces!

None of my latest batch of ebooks, two free and one at 99 cents, have made it onto Amazon yet in Kindle format. I thought I’d do it via Smashwords this time round. It’s taken longer than I thought it would, but the advantage of using Smashwords as distributor is that they pay by Paypal, whereas Amazon will only pay overseas authors by cheque. Cashing cheques drawn on foreign banks in a foreign currency is practically impossible in France. I’ll probably have to open a special account somewhere with an awful lot of accompanying bank charges when the time comes to deal with royalties coming directly from Amazon. Sadly at the moment I imagine those expenses will far outweigh the income 🙁

But I’m an optimist! I plan to carry on plugging away with my ebooks in the certainty that one day it will be worthwhile financially.