Tag Archives: indie authors

amazon kdp free promotions: have they stopped being effective?

From my point of view, yes. I did very well out of free promos in the past, boosting my ranking for weeks to come, (if not months), and selling a lot of books. However, I’ve seen the effectiveness of the free promo slowly peter out, with both older and new books. Gone, it seems, are the days of authors doing a free give-away and then hitting the best seller lists. I spent some time in the Kindle top 100, initially overall and then, for a longer period of time, within two or three categories after free promotions. Now I’m lucky to sell a handful of books after. And I’m not the only one: sales of self published eBooks – and indeed eBooks in general – seem to be down across the board.

I’m not absolutely sure why free promos don’t work as well now, and I’m sure there are authors who find them still to be effective. But here are  a few suggestions: Amazon seems to have changed the algorithms for ranking, so that your book no longer goes back on sale with its end of promo ranking, but instead appears to go back to where it was before the promo; publishers can and do sell their books for as little as 26p, (around 43c), but indie authors can’t reduce their books to less than 75p;  cut price books seem to have replaced free books from traditional publishers, so the top 100 free books are now of mixed quality (some are really good, others are dire – there is quite a variation with indie books); the market is now saturated with free and low price books, some of which are superb.

I have been loyal to Amazon and have tied myself to KDP Select since publishing my first book with them. This has meant that I’ve traded the right to publish across several platforms for the chance to boost sales and make money through the Amazon Prime lending program and free promos. However, I don’t think I’ll be renewing my affiliation to KDP Select when my current three months is up. Borrows don’t make me much money, since most of my readers seem to be British and Amazon Prime doesn’t seem to have taken off here. It’s time to have a look at what Apple iBooks can offer me.

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

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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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relationships, editing one novel and writing another, plus some good indie reads

Mic, the love of my life, just before he got his hair cut…

A love relationship is a marvellous thing, but sometimes it can be stressful too. Every relationship we have, whether with partners, children, friends or family, teaches us more about life and helps us to grow. I know that sounds trite and New Agey but it’s also true. Whatever we need to confront in ourselves, you can be sure that a relationship will force us to meet it head on. And yet relating brings joy and deep contentment too. It’s like the extremes of weather that lead to growth and blossoming. Of course, relationships provide endless veins of rich material for writers. Though it would be a mistake to assume that any one character or set of circumstances translates directly into one’s latest novel. It’s more that all the experiences we have of our encounters with other people, and what we observe of people in general, seem to mulch down into a rich compost that feeds the creative process.

Talking of the creative process, Aunt Sally & More, the sequel to The Aunt Sally Team (http://amzn.to/MgZRmW  & http://amzn.to/LJvFhf is now finished and edited and is out with beta readers. Beccy Blake (http://beccyblake.com/) has already sent me a rough for the cover, so we are on target for publication in December. Meeting fellow authors whose writing I admire, and whom I trust to review my work and make suggestions/pick up mistakes etc. prior to publication, has been one of the bonuses to come out of using Twitter.

I’m now also 10,000 words into writing a new novel, Angel in Between, which is linked to my novel The Sacred Marriage (http://amzn.to/LhdwVm & http://amzn.to/LJvFhf) but is far more like chick lit. I’m really, really enjoying writing it. My only regret is that it leaves me little time to read the many excellent books by fellow indie authors, as well as traditionally published books, that I have piling up in my library. Some good ones I have managed to get round to are: The Chapel in the Woods by Susan Louineau, Tollesbury Time Forever by Stuart Ayris, Death in Spigg’s Wood by Linda Gruchy and The Blake Curse by I.C. Camilleri – I’m still reading the last one…

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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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social networking again & writing, with a bit of dog walking thrown in

I’m discovering more facets of social networking, especially regarding Twitter. For a start I’m still trying to gauge how many retweets I can do for fellow authors before going over my daily limit. I’ve got a horribly over developed social conscience and can’t bear to leave anyone out. Consequently I keep being rate restricted, thus hampering tweeting about my own books.

But I’m also finding ways to streamline what I’m doing. Following an excellent series of articles by Rachel Abbott in her author friendly blog (http://rachelabbottwriter.wordpress.com/) I’ve started using SocialOomph to schedule tweets so that I don’t have to worry about composing those and posting throughout the day: you can even save tweets to repeat post later. However, coming back to being rate restricted, I’m finding that some of my scheduled  tweets aren’t going out because I’m over the limit. I really do need to get a handle on how many to do for other people and how many to save for myself.

I’m making friends and getting to know people on Twitter now. I didn’t think that was going to happen, given the brevity of a tweet, but happily there are ways round the 140 character limit, such as breaking a message into several tweets. There are some truly supportive people and my experience so far has mostly been positive and heartening  One or two other authors are less giving and don’t return the retweet favour and a couple are happy to offer swapping likes for your book but don’t fulfil their side of the bargain, but they are in a minority. The majority are courteous and helpful in the extreme.

With scheduling the tweeting of my books, I’m finding time to write now and have got nearly 13,000 words done of the sequel to The Aunt Sally Team. This may not sound like a lot, but the way I work is to reread and reread, polishing and refining as I go along. Walking the dogs in the local water meadows is helping my writing as the book is set in our home area of Oxford.  We see deer down there from time to time and tonight a heron flew over and buzzards were circling. The place is a mass of wild flowers at the moment: yarrow, convolvulus, vetch, teasel, cranesbill and red and white campion. The endless rain of this summer in Britain, followed by sunshine, has caused an absolute profusion of blooms. It’s all very inspiring.

So all in all life is interesting and fulfilling. The worst of the settling in problems with Isha, our new Saluki lurcher, seem to be behind us. She’s fun and very sweet. We still have some hairy moments with her, like when she ran at full speed into the net surrounding the tennis courts in the park today and did a double somersault, but she’s mostly much easier now.

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