Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Old chestnut time

Written by Frank L. Visco and originally published in the June 1986 issue of Writers' Digest.

How To Write Good

My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:

  1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  8. Contractions aren't necessary.
  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  10. One should never generalize.
  11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
  12. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
  13. Don't be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  14. Profanity sucks.
  15. Be more or less specific.
  16. Understatement is always best.
  17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  18. One word sentences? Eliminate.
  19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  23. Who needs rhetorical questions?

Minus two kudos points for anyone who comments that it should be "How To Write Well". Oh, and minus five irony points too.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Halloween... and I'll scratch your back, etc

As a writer with a couple of titles enrolled in Amazon's KDP Select programme (which gives the retailer exclusivity), I am able to offer those titles for free every now and then. The idea, I guess, is that the rush to download a freebie leads to a "bump" in downloads, a momentarily higher profile and then residual sales in the aftermath. To be fair, that has been my experience, although I should point out that the law of diminishing returns certainly applies - after four or five freebie weekends it seems that pretty much everybody who wants your story on their Kindle already has it.

Having said that, I'm planning one more freebie, and am writing about it here in advance in the hope of maximising the take-up. Turn Around Where Possible, my old-school horror yarn, will be available for free on Amazon on Wednesday, 31st October. Yes, a horror story free on Halloween. I'm nothing if not original.

Anyway, since I'm not only giving you stuff for free but also giving you plenty of prior notice, can I ask a favour in return? Two of my short stories, the aforementioned Turn Around Where Possible and Cold, are eligible for Wattpad's Watty Awards 2012. No, me neither, but hey, an award for a story would be nice to win. So can you help me get in the mix? It won't take much of your time, just a few mouse clicks really.

You can vote for Cold here:

And for Turn Around Where Possible here:

If you don't have a Wattpad account (which I'm guessing is most of you) you can use your Facebook credentials to exercise your right to vote - exercise is good for you, right? And enjoy Turn Around Where Possible for Halloween.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Books vs e-books - has the debate gone away yet?

Or will it never go away?

Newsweek produced the following comparison a couple of years ago, and whilst things have moved on a little since then it still raises some interesting points, not least that the most eco-friendly way to read a book is to walk to your local library.

© Newsweek 2010

The question I'm most intrigued by is the strap line - does one have to win? Just because e-readers have taken off massively, and traditional book sales are down, does the former have to spell the end for what I try (and fail) to avoid calling "proper" books?

I have a Kindle, and it's great. But I love the feel, the heft and the tangibility of real books. I have an MP3 player too, but I prefer to buy CDs. Is it just me that still prefers the physical product? Guess I'm just a cup of tea man in a latte world...

How about you?

Friday, 24 August 2012

Free as a bird, apparently

First off, two points* to anyone who identifies the film dialogue from which this post's title is taken.

Secondly, in honour of having a nice long Bank Holiday weekend, I figure you need some short stories to read. So, today and tomorrow, Turn Around Where Possible will be free over at Amazon. Then, on Sunday and Monday, Cold will be free.

Here are some links:

Turn Around Where Possible:


And as I've said before, don't worry, you don't need a Kindle to read e-books bought from the Amazon Kindle Store.

* Points have no value but hey, you earn my respect.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

You mean there are rules for writing?

Well no, not really. I mean yes, of course there are tips, things that help, things that are good practice. But rules? They're all made to be broken, at some point.

Anyway, I'm not going to give you my rules - who am I, after all? But I will offer some from other authors, famous authors, successful authors. You might like them. If nothing else, this might make a nice jumping-off point for you.

Here we go.

Thirteen writing tips from Chuck Palahniuk

George Orwell’s five rules for effective writing

Jack Kerouac’s rules for spontaneous prose

Stephen King's "Everything you need to know about writing successfully - in ten minutes"

And everyone else... including Elmore Leonard's famous ten rules, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Jonathan Franzen, Neil Gaiman, PD James, and more.


Ray Bradbury's 12 pieces of writing advice to young authors (thanks Mark)

Colson Whitehead's rules for writing

David Morrell's five tips for writing thrillers and more

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Time management for writers

Like a lot of writers these days, my primary bread-winning is done by something other than writing. In my case, it's IT. If I had to live on my income from writing, well, I would be skin and bones, and sleeping rough. Put it another way, my last royalty payment from Lulu was £4.54. I know. I tried hard not to spend it all at once.

So writing is a secondary activity, both in terms of time available for it and financial recompense. And if you throw a hectic family life into the mix, again something that many writers will have, then writing is further demoted, and becomes a tertiary activity.

How do you fit it in, then? How do you make time to write?

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert. I can only tell you some of the things that I do that enable me to fit some writing time in around everything else. Around life. I won't pretend it's always easy - if, for example, you have a job like mine that requires you to be in front of a PC all day then the last thing you want to do when you get home is fire up the laptop. But there's no other way of saying it - if you want to be a writer, you have to write...

Anyway, here are a couple of things that I do to make the most of the limited writing opportunities I get.

  • Carry a notepad and pen around. If the perfect line comes to you in the supermarket, at least you can capture it, ready to go when next you sit down in front of the keyboard. If you don't have a notepad, make use of your mobile phone - they nearly all have note-making, or even voice-recording, facilities. Equally, I use the phone's camera a lot to capture visual reminders of things I want to write about.
  • Make sure that notepad is next to you when you go to bed. I don't know about you but quite often I wake up in the early hours and something is just there, in my head, but if I don't write it down it's gone by the time the morning, and conscious recollection, arrive. Don't lose the moment.
  • As I've already said, it can be hard to face the PC in the evening, especially if you've spent the day looking at a work PC too. But really, that trash TV you're watching, is it worth it? I say watching but be honest, how often is the TV just on, and you're just sat in front of it for the sake? In the words of Why Don't You, maybe it's time to "switch off the television set and go out and do something less boring instead"? Bottom line? TV, much of which is junk, sucks your time. You don't need it.
  • If you can't be writing, be reading. It's the next best thing, so always have a book to hand, even if you can only dip into it for a page or two at a time. Read something challenging. Read something you admire. Read something good. I won't say good writing is contagious, but it is inspiring...
  • Make sure your writing space suits your writing style. If you like lots of natural light, be near a window. If you need absolute peace, close the door and turn the radio off. If you need space to spread out, sit at a proper table. There are no hard and fast rules on this, but you know what works for you, so make sure it's always available. If writing time is limited, you don't want to have to spend the first ten minutes of a precious slot setting up your work space.
  • Consider getting up an hour earlier. You'll feel bright and energised, and chances are the day's distractions won't have started yet. Seize the moment, and get some writing done before work.
  • And finally... writers write. Sometimes you'll be tired and lifting the laptop lid will be the last thing you want to do... but lift it you must. Yes, what you write in that frame of mind might be below par, not your best. But it's down. It's on paper. You've advanced your story. And you can improve it in the edit. Put simply, if writing time is scarce you have to take what chances come your way, however demotivated or tired you might feel at the time. If you don't, well, how serious are you about this writing lark anyway?

Some might say that the speed with which my novel-in-progress is, or rather isn't, growing suggests I should take some of my own advice. That's fair. As I said, I'm no expert, after all, and am as fundamentally flawed as the next man - I try to practice what I preach but it's not always easy, I acknowledge that readily. But anyway... these are some of the things that work, most of the time, for me. What works for you?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Coincidentally, it's also International Short Story Day

Today is International Short Story Day, apparently. What better time to launch a new short story then?

Cold is published today, exclusively available through the Amazon Kindle Store (at first, at least). It's a short, dark tale of what happens when a woman breaks her own rules about office relationships and married men. When she realises she can't get her man back she decides to get even instead. So begins her thirst for revenge... and as we all know, revenge is a dish best served cold.

Cold is available right about now, on and - please do read and enjoy!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

So what do you think?

Alongside the never-ending novel-in-waiting, I've been working on a short story lately entitled Cold. It's nearly ready to go, and will be coming to a Kindle near you soon. Maybe other formats and outlets too, I haven't decided yet.

But anyway. Have I mentioned before that I do my own covers? I have a lot of fun with these - whilst it's safe to say I'm no graphic artist or designer, it's amazing what can be achieved with some free software, royalty-free stock images and an understanding of layers.

Here's what I'm thinking of going with for Cold. What do you think?

Draft artwork for Cold

Monday, 14 May 2012

So what have I learnt?

As you might know, I recently ran a survey with the intention of getting to know my readers better. Except it didn't really work out that way. I was getting a low response rate, so publicised the survey anywhere and everywhere I could. This pulled in a lot more responses but not from my readers, just readers in general. So it became a "trends in reading" survey rather than just a "my readers" survey.

I offered a prize too, an e-book copy of Dark Steps. Congrats to Dara England on winning that.

Okay, enough pre-amble, here are the results.

Q1: gender?
  • Male : 27.3%
  • Female : 72.7%
What does this tell us? Nothing, other than women are perhaps more inclined to respond to surveys and/or try to win prizes?

Q2: age?
  • 0 - 18 : 3%
  • 19 - 35 : 18.2%
  • 25 - 55 : 63.6%
  • 56 - 75 : 15.2%
  • 76 + : 0%
What does this tell us? Nothing, apart from the fact that I was most successful at publicising the survey to people in my own age bracket.

Q3: where do you live?
  • UK : 24.2%
  • Europe (other than UK) : 9.1%
  • USA : 60.6%
  • Other : 6.1%
What does this tell us? That Kindle Boards, which generated most response traffic, is very popular in the US. The "other" countries were Australia and South Africa.

Q4: which e-readers do you own?
  • Kindle : 69%
  • Kobo : 0%
  • Nook: 3.4%
  • Sony : 3.4%
  • iPad / iPhone / iPod : 31%
  • None : 20.7%
  • Other : 10.3%
What does this tell us? The Kindle predominance was expected, partly because we all know it dominates the market and partly because Kindle Boards generated most response traffic. I'll be honest, I hadn't expected almost a third of respondents to have an e-reading Apple device. The "other" devices were an Entourage Edge, Android smartphone and Google pad. I wonder if there would be a swing towards more Android devices if I were to repeat this survey in 18 months time?

Q5: how do you PREFER to read?
  • "Real" book : 39.1%
  • E-book : 60.9%
What does this tell us? That I got a lot of stick for using the phrase "real" book to mean a physical print book, and should have included a "no preference" option. Given that this question was only asked of respondents who had indicated owning an e-reader in Q4, maybe I shouldn't be surprised to see such a clear result. But I am, because I own (and love) an e-reader... but still prefer holding, and reading from, a print copy. Maybe it's just me.

Q6a: what's a fair price for an e-book novel?
  • 99p ($1.59) : 3.4%
  • £1 - £2.99 ($1.60 - $4.79) : 44.8%
  • £3 - £5.99 ($4.80 - $9.59) : 51.7%
  • £6 - £8.99 ($9.60 - $14.39) : 0%
  • £9 - £11.99 ($14.40 - $19.19) : 0%
What does this tell us? That people don't want to pay a lot for e-novels, maybe figuring that they should be cheaper than print editions. And that someone thinks I should be giving away 85,000 words and three years of effort for 99p...

Q6b: what's a fair price for an e-book short story?
  • 99p ($1.59) : 82.8%
  • £1 - £2.99 ($1.60 - $4.79) : 17.2%
  • £3 - £5.99 ($4.80 - $9.59) : 0%
  • £6 - £8.99 ($9.60 - $14.39) : 0%
  • £9 - £11.99 ($14.40 - $19.19) : 0%
What does this tell us? Short stories and "singles" should be cheap. I agree.

Q6c: what's a fair price for a paperback novel?
  • 99p ($1.59) : 0%
  • £1 - £2.99 ($1.60 - $4.79) : 3.4%
  • £3 - £5.99 ($4.80 - $9.59) : 58.6%
  • £6 - £8.99 ($9.60 - $14.39) : 31%
  • £9 - £11.99 ($14.40 - $19.19) : 6.9%
What does this tell us? That people understand, and are accepting of, the need for a physical product's price premium. And that someone thinks I should be giving away 85,000 words and three years of effort for no profit whatsoever...

Q6d: what's a fair price for a paperback short story?
  • 99p ($1.59) : 34.5%
  • £1 - £2.99 ($1.60 - $4.79) : 44.8%
  • £3 - £5.99 ($4.80 - $9.59) : 17.2%
  • £6 - £8.99 ($9.60 - $14.39) : 3.4%
  • £9 - £11.99 ($14.40 - $19.19) : 0%
What does this tell us? That four fifths of respondents don't understand the cost of producing a print edition. Selling a paperback at £2.99 is just about the break-even point for me. I can safely say that the only way you'll be seeing short stories from me in paperback form is in a collection, where I can justifiably charge enough to cover costs.

Q7a: how many e-books have you BOUGHT in the last 12 months?
  • 0 : 4.3%
  • 1 - 10 : 30.4%
  • 11 - 20 : 21.7%
  • 21 - 30 : 8.7%
  • 31 + : 34.8%
What does this tell us? That e-books have really taken off. And that someone has bought an e-reader but no books for it...

Q7b: how many FREE e-books have you added in the last 12 months?
  • 0 : 8.7%
  • 1 - 10 : 21.7%
  • 11 - 20 : 17.4%
  • 21 - 30 : 8.7%
  • 31 + : 43.5%
What does this tell us? That free is a popular price point, but that some people just don't bother with freebies. Perhaps there's an assumption that free = rubbish. Further investigation is required, I suppose.

Q7c: how many e-books have you SAMPLED without buying in the last 12 months?
  • 0 : 30.4%
  • 1 - 10 : 30.4%
  • 11 - 20 : 8.7%
  • 21 - 30 : 13%
  • 31 + : 17.4%
What does this tell us? Either that "try before you buy" isn't as popular as I had expected, or that people usually buy what they end up sampling.

Q8a: how many "real" books have you bought in the last 12 months?
  • 0 : 17.2%
  • 1 - 10 : 48.3%
  • 11 - 20 : 6.9%
  • 21 - 30 : 13.8%
  • 31 + : 13.8%
What does this tell us? That people are buying fewer paperbacks than e-books? At least the respondents to this survey are.

Q8b: of these, how many were by authors you hadn't read before?
  • 0 : 34.5%
  • 1 - 10 : 48.4%
  • 11 - 20 : 10.3%
  • 21 - 30 : 3.4%
  • 31 + : 3.4%
What does this tell us? That people are less willing to invest in print books by authors new to them than they are e-books, presumably because of the price differential? Although I'm guessing the pleasure of holding a beautiful print edition in your hand from an author you love may also be a factor.

Q9: have you read anything written by me?
  • Yes, "Dark Steps" : 0%
  • Yes, "Turn Around Where Possible" : 3.7%
  • Yes, in "Unthology No. 1" : 7.4%
  • Yes, in "Streetcake" magazine : 3.4%
  • Yes, in "Alliterati" magazine : 0%
  • Yes, in "Artillery of Words" magazine : 0%
  • No, nothing : 92.6%
  • Other : 0%
What does this tell us? In general that I need to sell myself more but also that, given this adds up to more than 100%, some people have read more than one thing by me. Am I acquiring Constant Readers...?

So there we have it. Interesting? It was for me, even if I didn't learn about my readers per sé. I promise two things: firstly that these findings will shape my future output, even  if only in terms of pricing, format and markets; and secondly, I won't do another survey like this for a good long while, okay?

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Help me out, and you could win Dark Steps!

I want to understand my readers better and, to that end, I've put together a little survey. If you need an incentive, one lucky respondent will win an e-book copy of Dark Steps. I know, I spoil you!

The survey will run until 12 noon (UK) on May 11th, so hurry, hurry, hurry. Here we go...

The survey was here but it has now closed so, you know, this is just a place-holder... you can view the results here.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The great Twitter experiment is, mercifully, over

Last month, I wrote about my great Twitter experiment - a somewhat cynical attempt to gain more followers. I felt a bit uncomfortable about doing it, but at the same time it seemed a viable way of attracting new readers.

Because I felt uncomfortable though, I decide I would only actively hunt followers in this way for a month, and that month ended at midnight last night. As the clock struck twelve, I had amassed 1,361 followers - and increase over the month of 1,254. Not too bad, I guess. On the downside I was following 1,995 people (as opposed to my usual 77), leaving me vulnerable to spam DMs and making my timeline so hectic as to be almost worthless.

The month's up now though, so (nearly) all bets are off. I have already dispensed with all the new people I followed who did not follow me back, making my timeline marginally less frantic. Beyond that, I've decided:

  • if you tweet anything I find offensive, I'll unfollow you.
  • if you tweet predominantly in a language I do not understand (i.e. not English, French or pigeon-Russian), I'll unfollow you.
  • if you spam DM me about weight loss programmes or the fact that someone is spreading bad rumours about me (spammers, you can think of something better than this, surely?), I'll unfollow you.
  • if you don't tweet for a month, I'll unfollow you.
  • if you tweet anything about Bieber or One Direction, I'll unfollow you.
Seems reasonable, doesn't it?

You can find me on Twitter here.

P.S. None of those bulletpoints apply if you're one of the original 77. You know who you are.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

I'll take that!

As you may know, when you look at an author profile on Amazon there is a sidebar that shows you other authors whose books were bought by customers who bought work by the author you're looking at. I know, that's not a very elegant sentence but my point is this: today, I took a quick look at my UK author profile and that "also bought" sidebar showed this:

Yes, a whole load of authors I've never heard of, but Dean Koontz and Stephen King at the top of the "a bit like me" list? I'll take that!

Friday, 16 March 2012

The great Twitter experiment

Before this week, I had a whole 107 followers on Twitter. I know. Stephen Fry can rest easy. But then I read one of the many "how I sold thousands of copies of my self-pubbed book" articles that indie authors cling to like drowning men. As usual, it waxed lyrical on the importance of social media as a promotional tool. What was different, though, was the strategy for using Twitter that was described.

I have always been selective about who I follow on Twitter. I like a nice, uncluttered timeline to read, full only of things that are likely to interest me, written by people I have an interest in, so before this week, I only followed 77 people. But this article suggested that was where I was going wrong. It suggested I should be actively seeking followers, specifically followers of other authors who write in a similar genre or tone to me, and that I should be following them in the hope that they would follow back.

The author I most aspire to emulate is Stephen King but he's not on Twitter (yet). There are a number of King fan/news Twitter accounts though, so I picked a popular one of those (@SoStephenKing) and went after its followers.

Now Twitter imposes limits on following, in relation to how many followers you have. For average Joes like you and me, that's 2,000... so I could add nearly 1,900 people. Not something I wanted to do manually, so I used Tweepi to do it in bulk.

At the time of writing, I now follow 1,940 people... and have a mighty 337 followers. I know, not the greatest return on my investment, but let's give the experiment time. Will an increased following (just writing that makes me feel like a cult leader, but hey) translate to increased sales? Well, it hasn't yet, but it's early days. Let's give it a month and see what happens.

One positive I've noticed already is that there is a much greater international mix in those 337, judging by the sudden spike in visits to this very website. My stats tell me they're coming in from all over the world, compared to an almost exclusively British demographic before. Again, will this translate to more sales globally? Again, we'll have to wait and see. What I can tell you is that this has led me to use Twuffer to schedule tweets for when I'm in bed and the US are doing their evening surfing...

Downsides? My Twitter timeline is crammed full and too fast-moving to be of any real use. I've had to resort to using lists to follow the people I originally followed, the 77. But that's not so bad. I can live with that. My plan, such as it is, is to treat the next month as a massive Twitter experiment. Can I use it to generate sales? In a week or so I plan to unfollow all the followers of @SoStephenKing who didn't follow me back, and then follow the followers of another author, maybe David Morrell. Then rinse and repeat for other authors for the rest of the month.

Does this make me cynical? Yes, I fear it does, twisting Twitter to my own ends like a capitalist pig-dog. But I just want to sell more copies of Dark Steps and, more importantly, build a readership ready for when Drawn To The Deep End is published. Will it all work? I'll let you know.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away another world (it sometimes seems), I was made redundant from a job I quite liked but was never particularly taxing. One of the things I did in that job was develop databases using a Microsoft product called Access and, if I do say so myself, I'd become rather good at it. To the extent that, in the six months I spent bumming around and travelling before I got another job, I actually entered into discussions with a publisher about writing a textbook on the subject - a sort of "build Access databases my way". But then I got that other job, and parked the idea permanently.

Now though, I've sort of revisited it. Because back then, in that former life, I also developed a website full on tips, tricks, code samples and other info for Access developers. Enough info, in fact, to fill a book...

And so my first piece of non-fiction is published: Accessory - the real-world workbook for Microsoft Access developers. I know - snappy title. You can buy it from Lulu as a PDF (the only format that would support embedded hyperlinks), right here.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

I still get a thrill...

I walked into my local Waterstone's a couple of weeks ago (sorry, I know they have but I can't bear to dispense with the apostrophe), and what should I see on a big end-of-shelf display but this?

Three books under the heading "Books we want to shout about! Celebrate local writing talent!"... and there was Unthology No.1 from the always interesting Unthank Books.

My short story Waiting Room is in that there book... and it still gives me a thrill, albeit a little one now, more than a year after the book was published, but a thrill nonetheless to know I can walk into this bookshop, part of a national chain, and pick up a book, open it and find some words of mine inside. How must Stephen King feel?

I dream of the day I can go in and find Drawn To The Deep End filed under 'P' in fiction. Guess I'll need to finish the damn thing first though...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A story in ten words

Ernest Hemingway famously demonstrated that a story could be written in six words with this:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
Okay, so you don't learn exactly why the baby shoes were never worn, but you get enough - the story works.

When I heard that last year's Arts Council-funded National Short Story Day (it was December 22nd - shortest day of the year, see?) was running a competition via Twitter to write a short story in ten words, I thought I'd have a go. I gave it a lot of thought actually - like Hemingway's, my ten words needn't tell the full story but they would have to tell enough for the reader to get something out of it... hmm.

On the 22nd, my Twitter timeline was littered with entries with the #StoryIn10Words hashtag. So many, in fact, that when I found out this week that my entry had been chosen as one of the five winners, I was suitably chuffed. Here's my entry:
She pretended to be asleep when he came to bed.
What do you think? I'd love to hear how other people interpret this, why they think she is pretending to be asleep.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Turn Around Where Possible

Hmm. The village is called Grave. Maybe not a good sign?
Last October, I tried to write a Halloween-themed short story. Except, me being me, I disregarded the theme and instead just tried to write a scary story of the "don't go in the woodshed" variety. The rough draft I came up with was entirely silly, but I had a lot of fun writing it. And it turned out okay, I think.

Okay enough that I subsequently spent some time rewriting it. Even though it's not my usual kind of thing - I prefer psychologically unsettling stories to those with axes and blood - it came out well enough, I thought, to submit to One Buck Horror in the hope of actually selling a story to a publication. I know - ground-breaking!

One small snag though. OBH have a 3,000 word limit. Try as I might, I couldn't get the story down below about 3,500, and that was with hacking it to the bone. Since their word limit is completely inflexible (presumably because they pay by the word), that was the end of that little plan.

What to do with the story then? Why, give it away, of course. Because it's not my usual kind of story, I don't see too much point in holding it back for a future collection - I doubt it would fit in too well. Far better to make it freely available, in the vain hope that it helps to draw attention to my other works. Well, it doesn't hurt to dream, does it?

Turn Around Where Possible is available as a PDF right now, for nothing, from Lulu and Smashwords. I recommend the Lulu version - it handles the fonts better. Please do have a read, and maybe let me know what you think. Plus, if you can see a way to cut another 532 words, feel free to suggest how!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

On getting reviewed (or, the hard slog, the wait and the pay-off)

For the struggling independent like me, getting reviewed is hard. Yes, the Internet is awash with book review blogs, journals and websites but once you knock out those that don't accept self-published works and those that don't accept books with less than ten Amazon reviews, you've halved the list. Then take out all the ones that have currently closed their doors to new submissions, usually because they've been inundated, and the list shrinks further. And of course you only want to consider review channels that fit with the genre, theme and tone of your work.

Looking back through my e-mail sent items, seems I've sent out 30 review begs, jumping through whatever hoops are deemed necessary: the book must be a PDF; the book must not be a PDF; links to Amazon must be supplied; send no links or attachments; a recent photograph of the author is required; the author biog must contain inside leg measurement (only one of these was made up). It's been a giant faff, in short... but a faff that is starting to pay off. Take a look at my Media page - reviews for Dark Steps are starting to rack up, and I've just had emails promising me two more imminently. Good news. When it comes to promotion, it really is a case of "every little helps".

I'm starting to accumulate more customer reviews too - three on, two on and, most satisfying of all, my first five-star review anywhere, on Lulu. Happy days.

First review on Lulu... and my first 5-star anywhere!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Books on writing - what's your poison?

There's a maxim for writers - if you can't be writing, be reading. Why not take that a step further then, and read about writing? I've wittered on many times about the brilliance of On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King; I also have The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing by David Morrell and The Writing Book: A Practical Guide for Fiction Writers by Kate Grenville in my "to read" pile...

But what about you? What books on writing have you found useful? What would you recommend, and why?