Sunday, 24 November 2013

Author Interview with Romance Lives Forever

Hello all,

A quick post to let everyone know that my latest author interview with Romance Lives Forever, blog of fellow romance author Kayelle Allen, has been posted.

Check me out here for details on how to win a free kindle copy of my latest novel, Legend of the Mist.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Adding Detail to Historical Romance

Last night I finished writing a guest post which (hopefully) will appear in December on 4covert2overt - A Day in the Spotlight. The piece was about putting detail into your historical romance novels and making sure that a) you’ve got enough in there, and b) it’s accurate.

I won’t rehash the article, but after it was done I decided I want to say a bit more on the subject. What prompted me to write the post was a reader review on Amazon for Legend of the Mist (my latest novel, for those of you that don’t know). In it, the reader said: “the author took quite a bit of information from the ancient times and made it relevant for me.”

I’m thrilled to hear stuff like that, because obviously that is the most challenging part of historical romance: making it believable and relevant. I’ve had comments and reviews like this before, where the authenticity of my historical detail is praised.  I’ve even had someone remark that they thought I was an expert in the genre.

No, I’m not sounding my own horn, I actually have a point. And here it is …

I’m not an expert. Not even close.

What you see in my novels is the result of a combination of critical thinking and a lot of Googling. And here’s the other thing … it’s not a difficult skill to master; anyone can do it.

Take, as an example, Legend of the Mist. In it, the brochs of ancient Scotland are a key feature. I describe not only what they were used for, but also how they were constructed in enough detail that they are easy to visualize.

But believe it or not, up until February, 2013 when I read Monica McCarty’s The Chief (in which a broch was featured) I had no real concept of what a broch was. All I knew was that it was an ancient stone structure that had fallen out of use by the time of Robert the Bruce. What that structure was for and what it looked like I had no idea.

It could just as easily have been a commode as a castle for all I knew!

To find out, I Googled “what is a broch,” and (besides the occasional image tagged with a misspell of “brooch”) I got enough information to describe one. Only then did I decide to add it to my story. If I hadn’t read The Chief there would probably be no broch in Legend of the Mist.

I can give another example from my first novel, Bride of Dunloch. In it, I had to figure out how Jane would have boiled water alone in the woods to care for a wounded enemy warrior named Robbie. And, of course, the first image that popped into my head was a cast iron cauldron hanging over a fire on a tripod.

This is where critical thinking came in handy. I had to ask: how realistic would that have been? Did peasants use tripods? What about hunters and nomads? It’s unlikely that tiny, feminine Jane would have snuck a heavy tripod from Dunloch castle out into the woods in the middle of the night.

It was then that I realized I would need another way for her to boil water.

So I looked it up by Googling “how did people cook in ancient times?” And not long after I found the specifics of stone boiling, where stones heated by fire were dropped in pots of water to create a boil.

There’s no secret to knowing that kind of detail. It’s nothing more than knowing when to ask the questions.

This is an easy skill to acquire if you are a writer of historical fiction. What I do, anyone can do. When you’re in the writing stage the internet should be your best friend. Assess your manuscript with a critical eye and determine where detail is required (hint: lots of places – the more the better). Then look the detail up to ensure it’s accurate. This is what will make your historical novel stand out and resonate with authenticity.

Remember: your readers are investing a lot of time and effort in you and your historical romance. What better way to show them you appreciate it by investing time in the detail that they want to see?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Kindle Freebie Boom on the Decline ... So What? Get Over It!

I came across a post today called Do Free Day eBook Promotions Still Work? As the title suggests it talked about why Kindle’s KDP Select free promotion option doesn’t work as well as it used to. Indie authors aren't seeing the same number of free downloads that they used to, and the after sales aren't what they hoped for. 

I just put out a post two days ago, and wasn't going to do another one so soon, but this article got me thinking.

Scratch that, it got me fuming.

To start, there was nothing wrong with the article itself. On the contrary, it was well-written and insightful. The author, Marla A Madison, lists several key reasons why Kindle freebie days aren’t boosting sales like they used to. The three I consider most important are:

1.         the competition for eBook sales has increased exponentially over the past few years
2.         freebie promo sites have increased and are now overwhelming readers with choices
3.         readers’ kindles have become saturated with freebie downloads, further overwhelming their choices

If this blog post is correct – and I suspect it is – then there is a growing frustration among indie authors that they are getting less and less recognition for the same amount of work …

Seriously? Wah, wah, wah!

You know what? Any indie author who is banking on Kindle freebie days to make them a barrelful of money needs to revisit his or her priorities. Success is not an overnight thing for the majority of us. It can’t be gained by resorting to promotional gimmicks. It is a long and continuing struggle. It is our writing, our story-telling ability and our connection with our readers that will build our following.

Any indie who disagrees with that is in the wrong business.

Readers aren’t stupid. They don’t just blindly follow us because we're in the top spot on our free promo days. That doesn't mean anything. 

Readers are deeply passionate about the books they choose to love and the authors they choose to trust. However cleverly we market ourselves, however diligent we are with getting the word out, at the end of the day our books that sell themselves, not the marketing options we choose for them.

So, okay, the glory days of the Kindle freebie promo are on the out. Deal with it. It is what it is. If you’re passionate about writing then you’ll watch it go by with an “oh well.” And then you’ll go right back to writing. Because your career is not dependent upon some marketing gimmick. It’s founded on solid, passionate, dedicated writing.

To all those authors out there who write for the love of writing: keep at it. It’s your writing that defines your career, not how well your kindle freebie days catapult you into the spotlight. You will build a following of readers slowly and steady if you do. These readers are the ones that will stick with you book after book because they appreciate your talent, and trust you to give them the emotional satisfaction they demand from the books they read.

To all other indie authors who can’t accept that … quit. You’re probably in it for the wrong reasons anyway.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Badly Behaving Authors - An Indie's Two Cents

Since taking to Twitter over the last several months, I’ve seen a lot of blog posts on what is, collectively, known as Badly Behaving Authors (BBA from here on). There are different uses for the term, but I’m referring particularly to authors who respond to negative reviews and social media criticism. I wasn’t going to write a blog post on this, mainly because I didn’t want it to seem like I was complaining. But after seeing this topic enough, the urge to put in my two cents is just too overwhelming.

I debated whether or not to name names. Of course I don’t want to start partaking of this BBA phenomenon myself by calling out offenders. But at the same time, if I stick to vagueries, the point of what I’m talking about might be missed. For that reason I’ve decided to give a link to one key example. (A disclaimer: I do not condone the one or two personal remarks this blogger makes about the author in question. Just saying …)

To view link to PocketFullofBooks blog, click here.

One of the most important lessons about self-publishing that I’ve taken to heart is “don’t respond to negative reviews and criticism.” By this I don’t mean, “rise above,” or “turn the other cheek,” I really mean “don’t respond.” Why? Two reasons:

1. Most importantly, readers have a right to share their opinions and feelings about whatever they read. Someone doesn’t like my book? They have every right to voice that opinion loud and clear, wherever and whenever they want. If I don’t like it, I probably shouldn’t have written a book and put it out there for people to read in the first place. Goodreads and Amazon especially are reader communities, established to help readers recommend and engage in discussions about books. As a writer it is not my place to engage in discussions about my own work. Period.

2. Even if a review is obviously malicious or unfair (a competing author or a factually inaccurate criticism), responding to it does the author no good. As an example, I refer you again to the link above which clearly demonstrates the fallout of this ill-advised engagement. At the end of it all, it was the author who lost out; she only succeeded in making herself look really, really unprofessional.

The thing with indie authors is that so many of us are new not just to the industry, but to the business of writing, marketing and promoting our own books - and it is a business! We do not have a team of experienced individuals to advise us along the way. Because of this inexperience and lack of mentorship, we might tend to be a bit more sensitive than established, traditionally published authors who have been dealing with the constant flux of praise and censure for decades.

Does that excuse BBA? No, absolutely not. The other thing is that, because of lack of experience, indie authors may tend to continue behaving like the regular, ordinary people they are in their daily lives. Regular, ordinary people snipe at each other. They speak their minds. And they stand up for themselves and the things they believe in.

Unfortunately, if you’re an author, indie or not, being a regular, ordinary person is not a luxury you can afford. At least you can’t afford to show that part of yourself to the world if you want to encourage readership (unless you're making a platform of it). The face we present to our readers is sometimes more important than the books we present to them. Ask yourself: have you ever been put off reading certain books as a matter of principle because of a BBA?

I can’t speak for the entire indie community, but I sure know I’m invested in my career as a professional writer. It is disheartening to see that the BBA-ness of a handful of authors is often perceived as a condition of the entire indie community - of which I am inextricably a part. I am very cautious about what I say online, what I reTweet, what I promote, etc. And when it comes to not-so-glowing reviews, well, I’ve maintained from the get-go that I respect the right of my readers to express their opinions about my work. If they have something to say, good or bad, I appreciate and want to hear it.

Am I alone out there? Are you an indie author who has an opinion either for or against what I’ve said? What about readers? How do you feel about BBAs responding to your reviews?