Tag Archives: Self-publishing

Spotlight on Zoe Ambler

Last week author and blogger Zoe Ambler was kind enough to feature an interview with me about my writing and publishing adventures.
zoe2
This week I’m turning the tables and inviting Zoe into my spotlight too answer some daft questions about her work! I’m hoping this will be the first in a series of posts featuring other writers who have books already out there in the world.
Ready Zoe? First question:

When did you start writing?

I started writing fan-fiction when I was in my early twenties…and then progressed to more detailed stories by way of role-play gaming. When I had no one as a writing partner, I wrote elaborate stories for my characters to flesh them out. I can get quite wordy…>_>

What was your path to publication?

My path to publication was more like trying to trek my way through a jungle or swamp with a machete. Set back after set back. I decided, with a lot of weighing of the pros and cons, to self publish. It’s not as easy as some make it seem. I have regrets, but I’ve learned from them, and with the next book, those mistakes won’t happen!

Who was your biggest influence when you were starting out?

Out of the authors out there, I’d say Stephen King and Anne Rice. I could really connect with the characters they set out. Now, on the personal side, a great influence was my mother and older sister. NAG NAG NAG…”You need to publish that!” was screeched at me a lot. 😀

What was your favourite piece of writing advice?

Never rush things. Too many mistakes can be made. Also, write every day, whether it’s a blog entry, a gaming story, or reaching a word count on a story. If you don’t see fresh entries on my blog for a few days, you can pretty much bet that I’m working on a role play thread/story, or I’m working on my next book.

If you could send one Tweet back in time to your younger self, what would you say? And would you listen?

I’d tell myself “Slow down, you silly ass. Quit rushing.” And no, I probably wouldn’t listen. I’m a rebel like that. 😀

What’s the logline for your book?

Vampires, demons, war and voodoo. One little fierce vampire defies all that might redeem her, until finally she meets her match. Not your typical vampire story!

Do you take part in a writing circle, either online or in real life?

Hmm..not really. I mean, I role play game, that’s a little like a writing circle, but specific groups, no, I know I should. I’m shy around new people, and ooze low self esteem sometimes. I’m working on it!

and finally,

What’s the one word you always type wrong?
‘separate’ I always want to write ‘seperate’. >_<
Thanks for your honesty Zoe! Now, to learn more:
Author Bio:
Zoe Ambler hails from Enterprise, Alabama. She’s 44 years old and broke through into writing by way of role-play gaming, which she still loves to this day.
She has traveled the world, being a ‘military brat’, but always finds her way back home. Her hobbies include sketching, playing violin (badly), collecting oddities and office supplies. Zoe is often found spoiling her fat cat and obsessing over coffee and the coming zombie apocalypse.
Book cover
Zoe’s first book is called “The Road of Darkness”. Here’s what you need to know about it:
The Road of Darkness is the story of Addison. She’s a young Southern Belle in early 1700 Louisiana with a love for Voodoo. She’s a child of privilege, but never really let it go to her head. She was always a little odd.
On an innocent outing, Addison falls prey to a supernatural predator. A vampire. He attacks and turns her, then leaves her to lost and alone with this new hunger for blood. However, unlike most, she embraces this new ‘life’. She finds delight in it. A darkness grows within her.
Like any young vampire left to fend for themselves, she stumbles in her new existence. She meets others here and there, and the world of the paranormal opens up to her.
Due in part to her thrill of bloodlust, she becomes fascinated with war. Soon she is moving from country to country, war to war. Man’s evolution and technology in the art of warfare intrigues her.
Through her time and adventures, she has fleeting bits of both happiness and sorrow. The darkness within her will only allow her so much happiness.
Her link with all things Voodoo brings her into the servitude of the Baron Semedi, demi-god of the Underworld. A deal gone bad. It only serves to deepen that darkness.
Where can you find “The Road of Darkness”?
And where can you find out more about Zoe and what she’s up to?
Best of luck with “The Road of Darkness” Zoe, and I look forward to seeing the sequel soon!
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Correlation does not imply causation

That’s my caveat for today, the last day of my free giveaway of “Troubled Souls”. I’m keeping it in mind because I’ve had FOUR sales this month (and this month is less than 10 days old) when I usually get around two or three at most. Four sales, with three being the follow-up book to “Troubled Souls”.

Available at the Kindle Store

Available at the Kindle Store

This is the first time I’ve seen any connection between a giveaway and sales, but this is also the first time I’ve given away a book with a direct link to a connected book. Previously, “Troubled Souls” mentioned that “Eddie and the Kingdom” was coming, but there was no link. Now “Eddie” is finished, published and the link is in “Troubled Souls”. And at least one person has chosen to buy another of my books.

At just over forty downloads in total (worldwide), this has been my most successful giveaway, and the one I worked hardest on. The usefulness of the giveaway gets debated a lot, but I think we can assume causation here. With a direct link between the book being given away free and the book that follows it, I have generated some sales from the free offer.

This should be good news for people writing series books – trail the next book at the end of your previous book, and include a link, and free giveaways of book one should lead to some sales of book two. Make it easy for your customer to spend their money – they get to the end of the first story, read a teaser for the second and the link to purchase is right there….Click!

I don’t think there’s ever going to be a magic bullet – something that everyone can do that will guarantee sales or success. Anyone who tells you that is likely trying to sell you their book “How to sell your e-book”. But in this case, I think there is a connection between the giveaway and the sales, and if I were a better marketer, both the number of downloads and the number of sales might be higher.

That doesn’t mean the number of sales of unconnected books of mine would be higher, though. At least one person has said they liked my short stories but weren’t interested in zombies. My butterfly attention span when it comes to genre is certainly working against me there. But if you find your niche and love living in it, you could use this tactic to add sales from giving away your older books.

Self-pubbing : Is it a Catch 22?

Though there’s no guaranteed way to self-published success, a lot of writers will agree on some “best practice” ideas that will improve your chances. The Holy Trilogy are these:

  • Pay for a professional Editor to make sure your story and copy are spot on.
  • Pay for someone to get the formatting right for whatever method of publication you’re using
  • Pay for a professional to design your cover artwork.

They may not be in order – the cover art is what is likely to snare your passing trade, after all. A decent front cover makes your book look professional and worth buying. Once you’re over the threshold, it’ll really help the reader get into your book if the inside is as well laid-out as the outside, with no irritating typos, bizarre paragraph breaks or plot holes you could lose a badger in.

We can all see the worth of these three choices. But what if they’re beyond your reach?

Certainly, a lot of people are finally able to tell the story they’ve been thinking about for years, and publish it through the magic of the internet. No more submission letters to agents and publishers, hoping to catch a break. Just write it, upload it and wait for the money. Except, without the money to start with, you don’t get your Editor, Formatter and Cover Artist, so the odds of your book selling in decent numbers are small. Maybe you could hire them once your book has sold a few hundred copies, but…Oh. It won’t sell without the hiring and I can’t hire without the….Right.

I posted this question on some writer communities on G+ and received some great responses. Many of the writers there had used contacts they had made through social media – getting friends to Beta Read, rather than using editorial services, or they had traded their own artistic or graphic design skills to get editing in exchange for cover art. Some simply shopped around, getting good deals on editing work from new editors looking to make their names.

My favourite response was from Buzz Malone of the writing group “Literary Agents Hate Kittens”. He said:

“The good news about self publishing is that you can learn from your mistakes and fix them. I would encourage every writer to dive in and start making the mistakes as soon as possible. It really is the best way to learn.

HOWEVER, I would also encourage every writer to think and long and hard before ever spending a penny on almost anything. Why not try it yourself first? You may discover that you needn’t ever hire a cover artist because you like the pictures your fiance takes. Or, it may be a good venue toward showing an artist friend’s work.

As far as making the whole chicken and egg thing of hiring people to do stuff using the money you’re going to make from your writing, etc., forget about it. We all have golden dreams of becoming overnight sensations and making it rich somewhere deep inside. But the fact is that 99.99999% of us will never get rich writing. 99.99% of us will never make a living at it. 90% of us will never sell enough to recover our time. If you’re writing books or novels as a way of getting rich… let me save you a lot of time and money and heartache. Stop….now. Buy a lottery ticket. Your odds of winning are way better.

If not, you write and starve and go in debt, and then, you make the mistakes. And then, finally, you get a job and hire an editor to fix the mistakes that you cannot fix for yourself. But even then you do it with the realization that the investment is into making your art the best it can be, and not with the idea that somehow, someday, your “investment” is going to pay off in cash. That’s not why we write. “

This is the real truth, I think. Always strive to make your work the best it can be. If that means you re-read it a dozen times yourself, and hand-draw the cover art, then so be it. As long as you are committed to producing the best work you are capable of, then be proud of it. If that means you hire people to work on it because you have the available cash, that’s fine. If you do it all yourself, then that’s fine too.

The work and words of Buzz Malone can be found here: http://buzzmalone.blogspot.ca/

 

Writing for profit…

Ask yourself - are you in it for the booty?

Ask yourself – are you in it for the booty?

Ransom notes.

That’s how the old joke goes: “What kind of writing makes the most money?”

“Ransom notes”

The truth is that no one really knows the secret to making piles of cash from writing. When Bloomsbury were accused of somehow influencing people to buy the Harry Potter series, they were openly scornful. One spokesperson said “Really, if we could do that for JK Rowling, we’d do it for all our authors”. Of course they would, it’s their financial success too.

One thing a lot of writers agree on, though, is that setting out to write something because other things like it are selling is a huge mistake. For one thing, by the time you’ve completed YOUR dinosaurs-on-a-spaceship novel, everyone might be rushing out to buy Zombies on a Bobsled fiction instead. For another, it’s hard to write well when you’re not interested in your subject matter, and if you’re writing it with dollar signs in your eyes, then you’re not interested in the story and the characters, you’re interested in the money.

There’s one crucial point to make here, though. You CAN write books with the intention of making money. In that situation, you are organised about the way you write. You work to a schedule, you have an overall plan for the book you’re writing and where it’s going. You negotiate with an editor and a cover artist to produce the best version of your book that you possibly can. You create a network of friends and writers and readers who read and review for you, and who spread the word about the completed book. You keep that book hovering in everyone’s consciousness while, in all probability, you are  writing the next book. And you keep going, even though those first two, three or four books have not catapulted you into the ranks of the mega-rich.

The sections above are dealing with fiction writing of course. Writing non-fiction is a different thing altogether, and it’s a matter of finding a subject in which you are something of an expert, and tailoring the book to your experiences OR having access to other experts who will contribute to the book. But unless you’re working from a commission for the book, you’re still going to be the one pounding the virtual pavement and banging the drum for people to buy it.

The other way to make money from writing (WARNING, CYNICISM AHEAD!) is to write books on how to make money writing books. Do a little research, and you will be amazed, staggered and eventually a little sickened by the number of people telling you how to write best selling books, when the only best selling books THEY have written were about…writing best-selling books.

I believe that your first reason for writing, the first person you should be trying to impress, is YOU. Write because you must, because that story demands to be told. If it’s good, or if it can BECOME good with some polish and judicious surgery, then pursue it. Get help, take a deep breath, take advice and take the plunge.

DON’T rush out and write a story about sparkly vampires.*

I’m wondering if I wrote this piece because my latest book is a zombie novel, and I’m worried that I’ve not just missed the boat on that genre, but that the boat has sunk and sent a Tsunami towards the shore that is threatening the town…. Nonetheless, I have to see the story through, and since I’m enjoying it and people have liked the preview (available in “Troubled Souls“) I’ll self-publish again.

 

 

 

*This should be generally considered as good advice regardless.

Book Launch: The Great Canadian Adventure

The terrific cover designed by Eduardo Ramirez

The terrific cover designed by Eduardo Ramirez

It’s been almost exactly a year since I last worked in an office for someone else. In that time I’ve increased the trade through the Lazy Bee Appraisal Service, completed hundreds of play reviews for my publisher and written a handful of new plays and sketches.

Behind it all, I’ve been polishing old blog posts and working with some neat software to repackage that material with some new entries and information to make this book : The Great Canadian Adventure.

The whole family, just before we left the country

The whole family, just before we left the country

This is the true story of our emigration to BC from the UK. Starting the week before we flew out, it tells of our rush to clear the house we’d been living in, the whirlwind tour of family and friends and the first twelve months finding our feet in the Vancouver area.

But it’s not just a memoir – along the way I’ve collected useful links and made note of things I wish I’d known in advance, and laid them out in the book. Thanks to the Amazon Kindle technology, you can read this book on your PC, your smartphone, your iPad…or even your kindle… and follow those links to learn more.

Writing this book took over four years and several thousand pounds – I had to apply for residency in Canada, and move three children and one wife. We had to get new jobs, a new car, a new house and a dog. And dogs aren’t cheap.

Enjoying our new life in BC!

Enjoying our new life in BC!

Officially launching on May 1st, if you’re seeing this blog post it means you’re special enough to warrant a head start on everyone else! Plus, for the first month, I’m lowering the price by fifty percent. Buy now to avoid disappointment!

If true-life stories of emigration, excitement and orthodontics aren’t your cup of tea, then perhaps you’d rather take a look at some of the other ebooks I’ve written in the past:

Troubled Souls : Three short stories told from the male perspective, each dark and a little disturbing.

Coffee Time Tales 1 and 2: Easy reading for coffee time, two collections of five tales with warmth and often, romance.

Sci-Fi Shorts: Four stories of Science Fiction and Fantasy, including “Twist Stiffly and the Hounds of Zenit Emoga”, a golden-age sci-fi romp.

Writing a play for the Amateur Stage: Guidance and advice on writing plays for community theatre groups, written from the perspective of someone with over a decade of experience in the field. (Me.)

If you’ve produced an ebook, or have some other kind of project you’d like to shout about, HOP ON THIS BANDWAGON! I’ll be posting links to this page as I travel the internet, hawking my books, so why not drop a link to YOUR brilliance in the comments section?

E-publishing – playing the Amazon Self-Publishing game

My latest publication. Which sounds much grander than it is. Get it while it's FREE, folks!

In my last post, I looked at the books I had on my kindle and mentioned whether or not the free offer had given any extra incentive to make further purchases. Following that post, it was only logical that I should jump into the publishing pool myself.

Though I’ve been a playwright for over a decade, I did put in a lot of time writing short fiction (and long fiction. Long, long, tedious, boring fiction, as it turns out) and I sold a couple of my short stories. A couple more won competitions and some ended up in anthologies. None of them made me rich, obviously. But those successes still left a huge…what, heap? Pile? Herd? Of stories, lying around on my hard drive. One that stuck out was a Sci-Fi short I had written in four episodes. It was a for a competition run by a coffee company, who wanted four-part fiction to print on their coffee tins, so people would buy new tins for the continued story. Maybe the coffee wasn’t that good?

Whatever the reason, I didn’t get the job, but my four-part story was written. It was a “Flash Gordon” style, Golden Age of Sci-Fi piece of fluff, but I liked it. I liked it so much that I went back to the story years later and wrote a play about a group of people who were working on the film version of the story. It’s called “Waiting for Twist Stiffly” and people have bought and performed it. If you’re one of them, let me know and send some pictures!

The cover for "Twist Stiffly". Yeah, yeah, I know. It's awful.

So I dug out the story “Twist Stiffly and the Hounds of Zenit Emoga”. I followed the KDP guidelines on formatting (ridiculously easy, fortunately) and I cobbled together a cover (harder than formatting, and a much less satisfactory result.) And then I published it. The entire process took about the same length of time as it takes to write a blog post, except at the end, I had a product on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.Fr….It’s crazy.

That week seems to have been a watershed week for authors, or maybe I just have a lot of writers in my G+ streams. There were dozens of books being put out on free trial offers, and I didn’t want to dump something as low-rent as Twist Stiffly in with these genuine novels. So I put it out for $2 and warned people it was really bad. Naturally, a couple of friends bought it out of curiosity, and some of my G+ acquaintances bought it. I’m grateful, but also apologetic. To make up for it, I collected together some of the short stories I wrote for Ladies’ magazines years ago and worked a little harder on the cover (It still looks terrible, but shows I worked hard. I simply don’t have the gift.) Now Coffee Time Tales is on sale for $0.99, but I am running the free offer for the weekend of 17th Feb to Monday the 20th.

Am I expecting to get rich? Not from these books. I have a vague idea of spinning off maybe two other volumes of Coffee Time Tales, and a Science Fiction Shorts special, all at $0.99, but they’re not going to be money spinners. I’m publishing these stories because they still make me smile, and it seems a shame to leave them mouldering on my computer when they might make SOMEONE ELSE smile.

In the meantime, I’ll stay a playwright, and work on my screenplay. And buy more lottery tickets.

Have you tried the self-pub route? Are you rich yet? Are you too nervous to try? Do you want a step by step guide to getting your text into e-print? Seriously, folks, the publishing is the EASY part. The difficult bit is getting anyone but your parents to buy it.