Tag Archives: Amazon

a very british blog tour 2013

jack

I’ve been invited by fellow Very British writer  Alice Huskisson to answer some Very British questions. You can find her blog entry here: http://www.themaninahaystack.com/#/newsblog/4568893650

A VERY BRITISH BLOG TOUR 2013  is a collection of blogs, books and authors who are surprisingly very British. Paul Anthony http://paulanthonys.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/a-very-britsh-blog.html is the original host and invites you to take part in ‘A Very British Blog’ by visiting and supporting the websites of authors involved in the tour and who are dedicated to turning out some of the finest books available in Britain today.

Each author named at the bottom of the page has been asked the same questions but the answers will obviously all be different. 

By the way, we British have certain conventions, traditions, and procedures that are expected. There is a dress code in the reading of this British blog and you are expected to comply with it.

For example…

Gentlemen will wear suits, white shirts and dark ties. (Military ties are expected wherever possible). Ladies will wear dresses (one inch above the knee, no higher, no lower) and floral summer hats. A break for tea and cucumber sandwiches is expected at some stage and is permissible. (I’d like to make the point here that I personally detest cucumber and never wear dresses, but never mind, I’m sure you get the general picture!). Now then, let us proceed in an orderly fashion. As you know, we are all very boring and staid in Britain, aren’t we?

Well, there’s a myth about the British and your starter for ten Stuffy, class conscious, boring, staid! But is this still relevant in today’s world? Let’s find out from our wonderful writers what they feel about it.

 So, without further ado, here my answers:

Q. Where were you born and where do you live at the moment?

A. 

I was born in Stanmore, which is now part of Greater London. I live in Oxford, by choice because I love it.

Q. Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere at the moment?

A. I grew up as an air force child and have travelled widely, so, no, I haven’t always lived and worked in Britain. In fact I both lived and worked in Brittany, France in the late 1980s. However, I’ve been settled in Oxford and based my work life there on and off for many years.

Q. Which is your favourite part of Britain?

A. I can’t pin myself down to liking one particular part of Britain. I love Scotland and Wales, the Peak District, the West Country, Kent, as well as towns and cities such as Oxford and Canterbury. Britain is beautiful and varied and I love it all really.

Q. Have you ‘highlighted’ or ‘showcased’ any particular part of Britain in your books? For example, a town or city; a county, a monument or some well-known place or event?

A. Ah, yes, all my published books, including the pagan ones I wrote in the 2000s for the American publisher Llewellyn, center around Oxford and the Cotswolds. My Aunt Sally novels are very much based in the Oxford area and my other novel, The Sacred Marriage, is set in Brittany and Oxford.

Q. There is an illusion – or myth if you wish – about British people that I would like you to discuss. Many see the ‘Brits’ as ‘stiff upper lip’. Is that correct?

A. I think we do tend to be more restrained sometimes than, say, the Latin races (who are able to show how they feel without fear of ridicule); but I don’t support the stereotypical view of the stiff lipped Brit and we are certainly passionate enough when you scratch the surface of our supposed reserve.

Q. Do any of the characters in your books carry the ‘stiff upper lip’? Or are they all ‘British Bulldog’ and unique in their own way?

A. Dante Blackthorn, one of the main characters in the Aunt Sally series (The Aunt Sally Team, Aunt Sally & More and the third in the series, being written now, After Aunt Sally) has been to public school and had a very strict, loveless upbringing, so he appears to have a stiff upper lip; but he’s also an alcoholic and so has been known to be subject to passionate emotions and furious rages. The other characters handle emotion in various ways, none of them being ‘typical’. 

Q. Tell us about one of your recent books

A. The Aunt Sally Team is about a group of disparate people who come together to play a traditional English pub game. The book is written in a soap opera style, switching from character to character as it follows their lives and interactions. It none-the-less tackles serious issues such as racial prejudice, alcoholism and teenage sexuality.

Q. What are you currently working on?

A. I have two books on the go at present: one is the third in the Aunt Sally series and the other is a kind of sequel to The Sacred Marriage, but written in a way that verges on chicklit.



Q. How do you spend your leisure time?

A. I have two dogs, a Saluki lurcher and a border collie/Arctic mix, and walking them takes up some time. We usually go down to the river, to an area called Aston’s Eyot (which features prominently in my books), which is a nature reserve with deer, kites, buzzards and all manner of other wildlife. I also spend a lot of time reading, being a total readaholic. I enjoy trips into Oxford city centre as well – Oxford is a truly beautiful city and I never tire of walking round it.

Q. Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?

A. I aim my books at both, but I do find Britsh people particularly identify with my style of writing (which can be quite tongue in cheek) and in the settings.

Q. Can you provide links to your work?

A.Of course. All links are the UK Amazon first and US second:

The Aunt Sally Team: http://amzn.to/MgZRmW & http://amzn.to/LJvFhf

Aunt Sally & More: http://amzn.to/12fQSIy & http://amzn.to/Y5ZaTi

The Sacred Marriage: http://amzn.to/LhdwVm & http://amzn.to/Lr8JoY

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/TheAuntSallyTeam

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AUNT SALLY & MORE due out on Amazon this December

Cover image by Beccy Blake: http://beccyblake.com/

Here is the blurb for Aunt Sally & More, sequel to The Aunt Sally Team (http://amzn.to/MgZRmW http://amzn.to/LJvFhf): 

Find out what happens to the Aunt Sally team. A year on and it’s still going strong, but the lives of some of its members, past and present, seem to be in upheaval.

Dante is out of rehab, wanting Diana to give him another chance. But she finds that giving up drink is only the beginning of a long, rocky road for an alcoholic. His daughter Lucy fears abandonment and wants her dad to herself, and his old flame Lou has inveigled her way into his thoughts again. Can Dante and Diana’s love survive the trials and pitfalls as he fights his addictions and gets his emotions in balance?

Beth is drawn into the world of fashion, with all its glamour and dangers. She’s divided between her love for Zac, who’s back for the summer, and Harvey, who gives her the break she needs but seems to have a hidden agenda. The only person she can be sure of is pagan musician Humphrey, who’s like an older brother to her. In the end, torn between the two sides of her nature, she questions who she is and her health and sanity are threatened.

Harry wants to leave Oxford and go away to uni. Can Lucy trust him or will he desert her like her dad did? After all, there will be loads of new girls to tempt him. When she runs into Zac then meets a handsome stranger on a train, things get more complicated than ever.

Lissa and Rashi return to Oxford from Sheffield with baby Ravi and move into the George and Dragon, home of the Aunt Sally team. Liss wants to make a go of it, but her Indian in-laws don’t want their son to have an English wife. The pressure on her marriage mounts till she wonders if she and Rashi can survive.

Jason and Rose are deeply in love but don’t have anywhere to be together. When things start to resolve, they take on Tyson, a puppy with a dodgy past and an uncertain future.

And Vera is determined to keep her friendship with Jim under control and on an even keel.

Sex, drugs and fashion modelling; Druids at the Neolithic Rollright Stone Circle; mushroom picking in the autumn woods; a gypsy-like existence aboard traditional canal boats on the river; old loves and new; all the ups and downs of relationships under pressure – Aunt Sally & More explores some of life’s deeper issues…but there’s still romance and wonder in the world, and Oxford and its surroundings are as beautiful as ever.

 

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dementia, a remarkable book & more

Today I want to showcase a book by a fellow author, Doreen ‘Dody’ Cox, Adventures in Mother-Sitting: http://amzn.to/RQo8kn UK, http://amzn.to/Qn08by US

Dody is one of my beta readers for Aunt Sally & More, the sequel to my book The Aunt Sally Team, and I got to know her via Twitter and Facebook. The reason I’m featuring the book is because it’s free at the moment and I think everyone should have a chance to download it. Dementia affects us all sooner or later, whether personally or through the media. If you read Terry Pratchett’s books, you will probably have been moved by finding he has Alzheimer’s and touched by his tireless work in raising public awareness about the deterioration of the mind it causes.  Dody’s book is remarkable as it plots the course of her mother’s deterioration and her own growth as she finds resources within herself to carry on coping and loving. Below is my Amazon review of the book, but don’t take my word for it; take a look.

This book is about the journey two brave, wonderful women make. One treads the path of self realisation and spiritual insight via her role as carer for her elderly mother: the other journeys through dementia to death. The voyage is one of learning, humility, dignity and above all love. These central characters are held and sustained by a network of compassionate supporters – both close family and the health care workers, nurses and doctors involved as well as people chance met along the way. The tale unfolds in an almost Zen like manner, showing how suffering, grief and frustration can evolve into peace, insight and the love and equanimity that help us rise above the hardships and sorrows of the human condition.

Dementia touches all our lives, whether through people close to us, through our own mental deterioration as we grow older or through the wider context of society. I would recommend this beautiful book as reading for anyone closely involved with the experience of dementia or caring for the elderly, but also, perhaps, as a tool of understanding and realisation for anyone.

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KDP Select free promo part 3, negative reviews, tags & categories & a little bit more dog news

As you will know if you’ve read my recent blog entries, I’ve done two previous KDP Select free promos and they’ve been wildly successful. They’ve boosted the visibility of The Aunt Sally Team (http://amzn.to/MgZRmW & http://amzn.to/LJvFhf), led to a huge bump in both sales and ranking that lasted several weeks after each promo, and gained me several lovely reviews in the UK, not to mention new readers. As sales had finally tailed off again, I decided to do another promo last week, running for three days, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This one has gained me a lowly 39 sales post promo and one very nasty 1 star review (the other 22 reviews were 5 and 4 star) and one public announcement on Twitter, by a total stranger, informing me of her adverse view of my book – how kind of her to let me know along with the rest of the world! Why the other two promos were so successful and this one wasn’t, I have no idea. Perhaps it was timing, doing it at the end of the summer holidays, when people are back at work and school, or perhaps it was because it was timed to run over part of the weekend, which is supposed to be the optimum buying time.

Which brings me to negative reviews. Every writer gets them sooner or later, if they have their work publicly accessible, and indeed other authors say that they can be an almost inevitable consequence of letting your work be downloaded free (in which case, I was very lucky with my first two promos.)  If the review is constructive, then it can be taken on board, no matter how unpleasant it might be receiving it. However, many negative reviews are by people who clearly haven’t read a book and who are being inaccurate or spiteful for reasons of their own. There has been a lot in the news recently about sock puppets, other authors or publishers creating bogus personas to post destructive reviews of rival authors work; but to be honest, and without discounting this, there have always been bad reviews no matter the quality of the book concerned. You can’t please everybody and what appeals to one person will be anathema to another. You even get people slating a book because it wasn’t in a genre they would normally read, and the sense of that is very hard to comprehend.

But don’t let anyone tell you negative reviews don’t hurt. How can they not when you are making the products of personal creativity and hard work available to strangers? Not only that, but bad reviews are destructive in other ways.  I’m pretty sure that the reading public will discount one or two bad reviews amidst several good ones, but I’ve seen perfectly sound books where a 1 star review seems to have sparked several more in the same vein. I won’t review a book at all if I can’t give it at least 3 stars. I know what it’s like to rely on writing to make a living (no matter how small) and to want to please people with your writing, and I know how hurtful negative reviews can be, so I won’t do it to other people.

Leading on from this, it’s very important to pay attention to tags and categories when publishing onto Amazon and other eBook sites. Both these make it easier for readers to find your books, and the more apt the tags and categories, the better they will point to your work. I’ve shifted the categories on both my books. I’d listed one of the categories for The Aunt Sally Team as humour, as it’s written in a slightly tongue-in-cheek style and people who had read it said it made them laugh. But it isn’t out and out snort your coffee over your keyboard humour. Every time I’ve offered the book free, it’s shot to around the top of the humour charts on Amazon UK. But…this is a huge category and you have to sell a lot of books to stay up there once your book goes back on paid. I did manage to reach the #3 slot in paid humour on the UK Amazon site and stayed in the top 10 for quite a long time, but in the long term I was up against authors like Nick Spalding and Terry Pratchett, both of whom have shifted hundreds of thousands of books. Not only that, but one reader, who gave me a 4 star review and was otherwise generous with her comments, did say it hadn’t made her laugh. I’ve now put my book in Contemporary Fiction and Women Authors and Fiction and will monitor how that affects sales and ranking.

Moving on from writing, our Saluki lurcher, Isha, is settling in more and more. she was emaciated when found by the rescue organisation we got her from (Evesham Greyhound & Lurcher Rescue: http://bit.ly/RIl2Bt), but she’s filled out with both flesh and muscle. She’s is so gentle and loving but incredibly playful and can be a handful off the lead, when she wants to play with every dog she meets. After the wet summer here in England, we have beautiful sunny weather, with crisp mornings and warm days, so walking the dogs is a joy. I guess book sales, reviews and all else aside, that’s what makes life worthwhile.

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writing, tweeting, dogs & tags

This is a mish-mash diary kind of entry

I’m pegging on with the sequel to The Aunt Sally Team (http://amzn.to/MgZRmW & http://amzn.to/LJvFhf). Actually pegging on may not be the right description, as it seems to be pouring out at a rate of around 3000 words a day. I haven’t written this fluently since I was a teenager scribbling on my lap in class at school with my desk lid raised to hide what I was doing. Of course, me being me and being quite a perfectionist, I’m deeply suspicious of anything that’s happening so easily – what’s the catch? it’s bound to be inferior if it’s not causing me grief and sending me into displacement activity. But so far it seems fine.

I’m constantly amazed, while writing, at how characters emerge. I may start off with ideas about who they are and what they do, but they soon put me right and surprise me with facets of their personalities that I’d had no notion existed. And people who were minor suddenly thrust themselves into the limelight and take on a more central role in the book. It’s impossible, while in the midst of crafting a novel, not to relate to your characters as if they are real people.

Meanwhile, to return to the leviathan machinations of Twitter, I tweeted recently of how being part of the community of authors on there is akin to being let loose in a huge library: so many excellent books, like gorgeous offerings in a sweet shop window. Just love it! My Kindle is filled to bursting point with wonderful stuff that I’m looking forward to finding time to read. And very few of those books are published traditionally. Although there are some lemons published by indie authors, I would say that there is a vast body of brilliantly written, engaging, absorbing material that the mainstream publishers were mad not to have snapped up. Their loss – and, to be honest, I don’t know that I’d want to go the trad route now: indie lets you keep a much higher percentage of royalties. The Aunt Sally Team earned more in June than my traditionally published books did in six months in the past.

But it’s not all about writing. We take the dogs down to the Kidneys and Aston’s Eyot once or twice a day to run to their hearts’ content. This is a large green area down by the Thames and is filled with trees and wild flowers and various species of wildlife, including red deer, muntjac deer, buzzards, hawks, red kites, herons and jays. This area features quite largely in The Aunt Sally Team and its sequel (which is what I’m writing now).

Mind you, it’s been a minefield down there lately. One of our dogs (the new one, the Saluki lurcher) has taken to rolling in fox poo (which stinks!) and finding rabbit carcases and, last night, a wing from a dead bird – she carries these trophies off in triumph at great speed till yelled at to drop them. I washed her harness two days ago only to have her roll in unspeakable things again. The joys of nature and dog ownership.

Just a final word, while it’s fresh in my mind. If you have a book on Amazon, tags are important. You can do your own tags and hopefully this will encourage others to also tag your book. The tags section is halfway down the page your book is on. Tags help people find you when they are searching via key words, so they are actually pretty important.

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cover image for The Aunt Sally Team, illustrated by Beccy Blake

Image

Beccy Blake’s site: http://beccyblake.com/

The Aunt Sally Team Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/MgZRmW

The Aunt Sally Team Amazon US: http://amzn.to/LJvFhf

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is KDP Select worth the restrictions?

I’m afraid this is yet another KDP Select free promo tale, but bear with me. I’ve read masses of blog entries lately from fellow authors saying that KDP Select isn’t worth it now that Amazon have changed their ranking algorithms so that free downloads don’t count as a full sale now for purposes of determining sales rank. But my experience has been very positive. I duly pulled my book The Aunt Sally Team:  http://amzn.to/MgZRmW http://amzn.to/LJvFhf from Smashwords and Lulu as one’s work has to be exclusive to Amazon for 90 days to qualify for the Select program. I then scheduled the promotion for 3 days starting Friday 15th June.

The promotion exceeded my wildest expectations. I had over 8500 downloads globally, the greatest number being in the UK. The book shot to # 2 in the Amazon UK Kindle free top 100 and stayed there. OK I thought, but what will happen once it goes back on paid? Well, first of all my ranking disappeared for a couple of hours, but then the sales started rolling in. The Aunt Sally Team moved into the Kindle top 100 paid list and stayed there for 5 days, peaking at # 53. It was also # 3 in Humour, stayed in the Humour top 10 till yesterday and is still in the top 20 Humour on UK Amazon. It rose high in both Contemporary Fiction and Romance too. 11 days later my sales are at last slowing down and the ranking has dropped drastically, but during the halcyon period I made more money in a week than I’ve done in a month working at jobs other than writing. I’ve also had several new 5 star reviews, which is wonderful and for which I’m inordinately grateful. It’s grand when you reach new readers and when those readers show their appreciation for your work. It’s one of the things that makes writing worth while.

Interestingly, although the downloads in America during the free promotion ran into thousands, I’ve only sold 10 books over there and had 2 borrows since. I see from Nick Spalding’s blog that he’s done well in America with his books, but my book hasn’t taken off there, and I wonder if it’s because the British and American senses of humour are rather different, or is it maybe because my novel is peppered with British colloquial terms.

So would I do another free promo? I have two days left and yes, I will use them unless sales pick up again or even stay where they are. I’m hoping that one more free promo will boost visibility and ranking enough for the book to catch on in a bigger way. But I can’t complain as, before the promotion, it was all but undiscoverable and selling only a few copies a month. The only downside for me was when I discovered, quite by accident, that my novel had had a high ranking in some humour charts in Australia. I expect I’ll lose those sales as I’ve unpublished the book from Lulu and Smashwords.

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