Shooting Stars

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You might think you need a degree in symbology or semantics to understand what the hell your book reviews reveal about your novels, but fear not lads and ladies, I’ve put a good half hour of research into some of my own books’ critical reviews and come up with practically no all the answers.
For starters, the star rating means different things to different people on different days. Do not attempt to find any correlation between high ratings and postive reviews (or vice versa). Sometimes the most critical reviews lie in ambush under a five star rating and likewise, a three star rating can often be accompanied by the most glowing review. Do not try to make sense of this – that way madness lies!
However, by using some examples from my own Amazon customer reviews (which I usually read with one eye through a tiny gap in my fingers) I’ve put together a highly scientific system of categorization to make things a little easier. Strap yourselves in!

 

1. The Back-handed Compliment Review
“If you are looking for literture for the ages, this isnt it. However, if you are looking to settle back in your favorite reading chair with a cup of hot tea and some lemon cookies for a delightful afternoon of light reading, this book is your ticket. I thoroughly enjoyed it!”
adrien brody wink GIF
I love you really

 

2. The Passive-Aggressive Review
“The story is readable. A good ‘waiting time’ read.”
“Easy & light summer read.”
angelina jolie smile GIF
Ooh, did I say something wrong?

 

3. The Least Said, Soonest Mended Review
“Too slow”
“Boring”
ouch 40 days and 40 nights GIF
OUCH!

 

4. The Insult
“Fair warning.  I have better things to do with my time!”
“The cover art was the best part of this book in my opinion.”
dissed fan GIF
How dare you write this book!

 

5. The Have-They-Even-Read-The-Book Review
“Once you get past the fowl language and depravity”
(Fowl language? I don’t remember any poultry featuring in that book…)
Whaaat?

 

6. The Angry Review
“THIS ITEM HAS NOT ARRIVED ON MY KINDLE, ALTHOUGH THE MONEY HAS BEEN TAKEN FROM MY ACCOUNT !!!!”
zooey deschanel fox GIF by New Girl

So, what I think what we’ve all learned here today is that reviews can be confusing, but let’s be honest, we wouldn’t have them any other way, right?! Short, long, cogent or rambling, we love to read them – so please keep writing them 😉

What Is A Review Worth?

love of books

Out of every 100 copies of my book sold, approximately 2 people will leave a review. At least that’s what the statistics say, but empirical evidence shows that it is far less.  The fact is that most readers don’t see the connection between leaving a review and improving the book’s visibility on Amazon or Goodreads.  Yet, that is exactly what happens, every time someone writes a review. In fact, few people outside of the publishing industry are aware of the importance of reviews.  They are the lifeblood of authors and their books – a priceless promotional tool that is aimed purely at other readers. In this USA Today article by Elizabeth Weise, it claims that “Just going from zero review to one increases the rate at which online window-shoppers actually click the ‘buy’ button by 65%.”

The publishing industry has changed a lot.  It used to be that you went to your local bookshop, picked up a book you liked the look of and if you enjoyed it, you probably loaned it to a couple of friends.  There was no such thing as writing a review and word of mouth was the only way to spread the love.  Nowadays however, leaving travel reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor has become the norm and something businesses rely on heavily for publicity and future trade.  It’s no different for books and reviews can make a huge difference to future sales, especially for Indie Authors and publishers.

If your book garners 20-25 reviews, regardless of how many stars awarded, Amazon will highlight the novel under the ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought and You might also like’ section on a page.  If your book receives more than 50 reviews, Amazon will include the title in their newsletter and increase its visibility on the site with spotlights, which means it will reach more potential readers.

Obviously, reviews are paramount to your book’s future success.  But how do you encourage readers to write reviews without resorting to begging and losing any sense of dignity?!  Readers are under no obligation to leave a review and to be fair, they’ve already paid you the highest compliment of buying your book in the first place.  But I honestly believe that if readers knew how much of a difference their review could make in terms of an author’s ranking (not to mention potential revenue and ratings), I think they would be much more inclined to write one.  Especially if they are already a fan of the author’s work. When it comes to Amazon in particular, they make it extremely easy to leave a review with their ‘reminder’ email, asking you to rate the book.  These ratings are so important, because even when it comes to promoting your book with sites like Bookbub, they take your star rating into account.

So why do such a small percentage of readers write reviews? Even readers who contact me personally to say they enjoyed my book are reluctant to publish a review online, as oftentimes, they don’t know what they’re expected to say.  If you scroll through the reviews on Amazon on Goodreads, you will find that a lot of reviews are written by professional book bloggers and are written in a standard format that includes the blurb and an in-depth critique of the novel.  However, it is the reader’s choice what they decide to write – after all it is their opinion and they’re free to express it however they wish.

One reader told me that she didn’t like reviewing because it felt like being back at school and writing book reports, so I wonder if that’s what puts people off? It’s not like reviewing a lipstick, for example, because you don’t feel pressure to sound clever about it. Either you liked it or you didn’t! But the thing is, a review is simply to inform other readers – a brief review of your response to the book, saying why you liked the book (or didn’t like it), and maybe a similar book that it reminded you of.  I am currently reading a book that I would describe as an ‘Entertaining read, very likeable characters and an interesting plot.  Fans of Nick Hornby would like this book.‘  However, when I REALLY like a book, I go all out and write something more in depth.  It’s really up to the reader – if you’re really moved by a book, you want to shout from the rooftops about it.  But if it’s just okay or average, you might not bother. However, all ratings have value and even critical ones give a more balanced picture of readers’ responses.

The truth is that we all rely on reviews to some degree before hitting the ‘Buy’ button. Apparently, they drive 20% of overall sales.  I always check out the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon before buying a book, just to get a feel for it and even if there are negative reviews, it can sometimes influence my decision to buy.  As an example, I recently bought and read an AMAZING book that I absolutely loved (you can see me gush about it here) and that was after I saw a negative review saying that it was a story about a girl who talks to squirrels.  Talking squirrels you say?  Count me in!  Obviously, the story was about so much more than that and it’s clear the reviewer hadn’t read the entire book.  But the point is that what turned her off (a little quirkieness) completely turned me on.  So you see, all reviews have their own funny way of influencing future readers.  Ultimately, I think most people make up their mind using a combination of the blurb, the cover and reviews, but it definitely makes a book look more appealing if there are more reviews beside it.

So I would always encourage readers to use this platform to provide feedback on books that traditionally, might only be reviewed by book critics or worse, not at all. Short or long reviews, they all count!  Your review has a big impact on, not only the book’s future, but also the author’s career.  Writers and readers are so important to each other, as the author John Cheever once said:

“I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.”

THE DEFINITIVE SELF-PUBLISHING CHECKLIST ~ For People Who Aren’t Very Organised and are absolute beginners.

The definitive

You just hit publish, right?  That’s what all the articles say.  Any idiot can upload a book in minutes.  And yes, I suppose any idiot can, but it takes a very informed, dedicated, professional and talented individual to upload a book that people will want to read.  A recent Facebook post from a first-time author seeking advice made me realise how long I’ve been doing this self-publishing thang and how I’ve kind of taken for granted that everyone has ‘the knowledge’.  There are so many blogs, articles and how-to books on the subject, and yet authors can still struggle with the basics.  The first author asked what she should be doing in the run up to her launch and another suggested that while there is a lot of information out there, it’s almost overwhelming.  Where do you start?  Where does it end??  So in an effort to share said knowledge, I’m writing a blog with an impossibly long title, which will (hopefully) be filled with all of the essentials, while trying not to bombard you with too much scary stuff.

  1. Make a publishing schedule.  promo-calendar      So you’ve typed those blessed words, THE END and you’re mooching around the Kindle Direct Publishing website wondering where the publish button is.  Whoa there Tex, what’s your rush?  You’ve skipped the bajillion steps between finishing your manuscript and sending it out into the world for people to read.  So roll back your wagon and follow step number one – create a publishing schedule.  In my opinion, you’re going to need at least six months to get everything done before your book goes live, so first things first, DO NOT RUSH.  This is not a race, unless you’re hoping to win a medal for the person least prepared to publish a book.

2. Polish your prose.  Has your book been edited?  Proof-read?  Again, don’t rush out there and get the first editor you find on Fiverr.  There are so many ‘professionals’ who are feeding off the self-publishing industry, so you want to find someone who has a proven track record.  A great place to find all of the professionals you’re going to need is Indie Author Alliance Services Directory.  At the very least, get some Beta readers whose opinions you trust and respect.  It nigh on impossible to view your work objectively, so you need other eyes to see the things you cannot.

3. Hire a designer.  Again, you’re going to need time to find a good cover designer and depending on their work load, you might have to wait a few months in a queue, so best to get in early.  Again, look for examples of their work.  Don’t worry if you are on a budget, there are plenty of websites that offer pre-made covers that are really good value and you simply add your name and title.  The Creative Penn is a great resource for self-publishing and offers a handy list of tried and tested book cover designers.  This is just one list however, there are lots of designers out there and a great way of finding them is finding covers you like and checking out who designed them.

4. The Blurb.  You know, there are two sides to every cover and the back can be just as important as the front.  The blurb.  This is often the last thing authors think about and run up a quick summary in a ‘that’ll do’ kind of approach.  Do not do this.  Think about it, when you’re buying a book online or in a store, the cover is the first thing to catch your eye, but the very next thing you do is turn it over to see what it’s about.  This is your moment to hook the reader.  A few carefully-worded sentences are all that stands between them popping your book in their basket or placing it back on the shelf.  Spend time studying blurbs in your genre, Google ‘blurb writing’ and keep refining what you’ve written until you’re satisfied with it.  It’s not a summary and should be written in the same style as your novel.  As author Susan Kaye Quinn explains on The Bestseller Experiement podcast, ‘a blurb is flash fiction, only you don’t end it‘.  Write a killer blurb, or you’ll only have your shelf to blame (sorry!)

5. Formatting.  Before you can upload your book to Amazon or Smashwords, you’re going to need to format it.  You could pay someone to do this for you, but if I can manage it, I’m pretty sure you can to.  Everything you need to know is in this post by Catherine Ryan Howard  on Writing.ie. It’s pretty old, but I’ve yet to find a more user-friendly, dedicated formatting article that explains things as well as this.

The big question, should you publish a paperback version, is something you need to decide for yourself.  Kindle Direct Publishing have made it easier than ever to do this, and as soon as you upload your eBook files, it asks you if you want to make a print version.  In my opinion, you have nothing to lose but the time it takes to configure your cover (or pay your designer to do this).  My print sales are relatively low, but it’s good to give your readers the option.

6. Pre-order.  You know you can put your book on Amazon for pre-order, meaning that people can see your book before you launch (yay marketing!) and also order it ahead of time.  This will give your sales a bump on launch day and it also means that you can start promoting your book earlier and creating a buzz, while you’re still doing all of the finishing touches behind the scenes.  Confession:  I did not do this.  I was in too much of a rush.  So is this a case of do as I say and not as I do?  Well, yes I suppose it is, but only because I want you to benefit from my mistakes.

7. Reviews.  Reviews (1)If you are a new author, you will most definitely need the help of book reviewers/bloggers to review your book.  Now is the time to start approaching them, as the most popular ones work to very tight schedules that can be booked months in advance.  You’re probably starting to see that six months isn’t very long at all!  But how do you find book bloggers?  Easy, just type #bookbloggers into Twitter or Facebook or any social media platform and follow the links from there. The Indie View also provide an extensive list of bloggers, so if you’re still baffled by blogs, start there.

My best advice is to treat this like your typical manuscript submission process – find bloggers that are interested in your genre and contact them according to their book review policies.  You can get more information on how to approach book bloggers here.  Advance Reader Copies (or ARC’s as they’re known in the business) are essential if you want to have some reviews on your book’s page when you launch, so as soon as you have completed your edits and finalised your cover, start sending these out.  As a self-publisher, I only sent eBooks for review and used the preview file from my Kindle publishing page, so I could send reviewers a .mobi version.

There is also the hugely popular NetGalley where readers can request your book for free.  This is quite an expensive option and it’s difficult to say if you will hit your target audience here (as opposed to approaching reviewers personally), but if you can afford it, it’s definitely a powerful promotional tool.

8. Author platform.  If you haven’t already created an online presence for yourself, now would be a good time to start.  Yes, it can be time-consuming to set up and to maintain, but not only do you need a profile that people can connect with, you also need a profile so you can interact with other people.  The best way to get people interested in you is if you show interest in them.  Blogging is a great way to let people know who you are, what you’re interested in and what you’ve got coming up.  ‘But nobody cares!’ I hear you cry.  Well, you can start driving traffic to your blog from your Twitter account and Facebook.  While there is no way of calculating how much your online activity will result in increased sales, it’s definitely the best way to connect with readers and other people in the industry, which can lead to further opportunities for you and your writing.  If you come from a marketing background, you’ll have heard of The Rule of 7, which basically means that a prospective customer needs to see  your product at least 7 times before deciding to buy, so being active online can only help!

9. Price.  I have never given my book away for free.  Ever.  It’s just not something I would endorse – you might get lots of downloads but chances are that most of those people might never even read your book.  I also subscribe to the wacky notion that people deserve to get paid for their work.  The prevailing wisdom is that £2.99 is the average price for an eBook.  It might not seem like very much, but you get to keep 70% of your royalties.  It’s really up to you to decide what price you want to retail your novel at and the beauty of being a self-publisher means that you can change your pricing and experiment with what works best.

10. Promotion – As with your ARC’s, you need to start booking promo spots as far in advance as possible.  Book bloggers host author interviews and guest posts and there are lots of online eZines where you can submit articles (with links to your new release).  It’s also worth trying traditional media, like local newspapers or radio stations that might be interested in  your story.  As for advertising online – most ad sites require that your book has a minimum number of reviews, so you might have to wait a while for that, but you can run a Facebook ad or a Goodreads giveaway to create some hype around your launch.  (Caveat:  Goodreads giveaways are for print books only.  They are going to introduce an eBook version, but it will not be free, unlike the paperback giveaway).

And now that you have your own platform, why not run a giveaway on your own blog?  Use Rafflecopter, the gold standard for managing giveaways and I promise, it’s easy to set up and use.  If your book is part of Kindle select (which is absolutely worth doing) meaning that your book is sold exclusively on Amazon, you can start preparing your kindle countdown deal which you will be able to run 3 months after you first publish.  At that point, you can make your book available for 99p (while retaining your 70% royalty rate) and give  your sales another boost.

So there you have it, 10 practical ways you can prepare for your book launch.  HOWEVER, if you’re reading this and you’ve scheduled your launch for tomorrow and haven’t done any or all of these steps – fear not!  You have two choices here:  go ahead with your launch and try to do all of these steps in hindsight or just postpone it.  Trust me, unless you’ve done a fantastic job of promoting the launch of  your book online, no-one will even notice.  I remember when I published my debut novel, I sat at home all day, staring at the screen and wondering when the sales figures would start increasing.  Seriously!  That’s what I did.  And  you know what?  Nothing happened!  I had a handful of sales, but to my disappointment, the Internet didn’t stop what it was doing and congratulate me on publishing my book.  Do you have any idea how many books are self-published every day on Amazon?  Someone self-publishes a book every 5 minutes!  The best chance you can give your book is to follow all (or most!) of these preparations ahead of time.

Final piece of advice, try not to get sucked into the marketing vortex to such an extent that you delay starting your next book.  The best way to sell your first book is to write a second.

Best of luck!  You’ve written a novel, now go publish it.

Reviews: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

book_nerd1Remember when you first started writing your book and your overriding thought was, ‘I just hope somebody reads it!’?  All authors, whether self-published or traditionally published, are increasingly responsible for the promotion and marketing of their books (when I say increasingly, can the self-published authors at the back stop sniggering!).  Time was when marketing departments did the dirty work for their authors and readers often found their next read by word of mouth.  But things have changed drastically in the digital age and we’ve been making up the rules as we go along.  These days, the almighty review has become the holy grail for authors, fueled by Amazon’s marketplace mentality.  While I do encourage readers to leave a review (you can read my post about it here), it seems to me this whole review thing is getting a little out of control and needs a bit of rethink.

As I said, Amazon is essentially a marketplace, where you can find anything for sale from a hair dryer to a wonder woman outfit (I won’t tell you how I know that).  Amazon uses an algorithm to categorise it’s products in order of ranking, which takes into account the price, keywords, sales and of course reviews.  We’ve all seen those tweets stating that 50 reviews or more can kickstart some magical booster on Amazon, propelling your book into some undefined stratosphere.  While I do believe that reviews help, I am starting to see that it is your sales in any given 24 hours which really defines where you are ranked on the list.  However, in order to get sales, it helps to have a healthy amount of reviews.  The words chicken and egg come to mind.

When you launch a new book, you can’t have it sitting there all naked, wearing nothing but a ‘Be the first to review this item’ sticker.  Readers need to see that other readers have invested in your book and as a consequence, in you, the writer.  As customers, we think to ourselves, ‘Is it any good?  Who else bought it?  What did they think?’  Even if we turn around and ignore everything the reviewer has said, we still like to see a bit of activity in the review section.  The chances of a reader buying a book off Amazon with no reviews are almost non-existent.  But how do you get reviews without readers?  How do you get readers without reviews?  You could bribe your friends and family, but that’s a little bit soul destroying and ultimately transparent.  So, as an author who desperately needs reviews in order to increase visibility and sales, what can you do?  If only there were a group of people out there who loved reading and reviewing so much, they started writing a blog about it and posting about the books they’ve enjoyed reading.  Kind of like book-clubs, but a million times better!  Well guess what, these people already exist.  Cue the book bloggers!

There has been a lot of talk about book bloggers on social media recently, so I won’t rehash the entire discussion (check out #bloggersarerealreaders), but the main gist was that people were extremely misinformed about what book bloggers actually do.  Some people seemed to be under the impression that bloggers get paid for their reviews.  Well that made me laugh.  Have they met authors?  WE’RE BROKE!  Where would we get the money to pay for reviews?!  And apart from that, do they really think that authors who slave over a manuscript for a year or more, making it the best it can be, would tarnish their artistic integrity with a paid-for review?  Yes, there are people out there who produce books purely as a business venture and yes there are some shady spots where you can buy reviews, but they are not book bloggers.  Book bloggers read, review and promote books of their own free will.  They are real readers who have found the perfect platform for their love of books, which means they get to interact with authors and other readers.  And then they put great time and care into crafting an honest review.  And then they share it on social media.  And then other book bloggers share that.  For free.  For the love of books.  Really!  The whole reason authors tend to gush about bloggers is because they go out of their way to help you promote your book and ask for nothing in return.

However, on top of the misconceptions people have about book bloggers, it would appear that bloggers are also getting hassle from authors too.  This is where I think the obsession with reviews has pushed some people into unacceptable behaviour.  I recently read a post by Cat, a book blogger over at Happy Meerkat Reviews, which addressed the dark side of reviewing.  I was genuinely shocked to hear that she had been bullied and harrassed by authors (she particularly cited indie authors).  Even in the comments section, she had to plead with people to keep a civil tongue in their heads, such was her bad experience.  I think all sides need a bit of a crash course in what book bloggers do and what to expect (or not to expect) when requesting a review of your book.  It’s a bit like asking someone to dance; basic rules of common courtesy apply.

  1. First off, if you are asking someone to read and review your book for free, the least you can do is supply them with a copy of your book.  I mean, that’s just basic, right?  But that doesn’t mean a book blogger is suddenly under  your spell and working as a member of your promotional crack team!  Anyone who thinks a free book somehow guarantees a review at all, never mind a positive one, obviously hasn’t done a giveaway before 😉
  2. Book bloggers decide what they will and will not read.  Period!  Just like normal human beings, they have their own tastes in books and while the majority are pretty open to most genres, they often provide a helpful list on their REVIEW POLICY page of what they do and do not accept.  You should probably read that page.
  3. They do not guarantee a positive review.  However, some reviewers will go so far as to not publish the review if it is negative and may (potentially) harm your book launch.
  4. They may not reply to your request, for any number of reasons.  That’s the point where you move on and politely ask someone else if they would like to dance/review your book, instead of harassing someone who isn’t interested.  On several occasions I have had book bloggers agree to read my book, but then I never hear from them again.  People change their minds.  That’s life.  You move on.
  5. You know what’s really nice when somebody asks you for a favour?  If they use your actual name!  I can’t believe the amount of book bloggers who receive requests addressed to Miss/Mrs/Madame.  Come on people, if you want someone to show your book some love, show them a little respect first and at least find out who they are, the kind of books they like to read and just maybe don’t bully them.  M’kay?

So there you have it.  It’s a simple contract – you offer a free copy of your book to a reviewer and  all they ask in return is to have the freedom to give your book an honest review.   But hey, book bloggers aren’t the only reviewers out there, are they?   Well, I did a little research of my own regarding reviews and asked the members of an online bookclub if they ever leave reviews on Amazon.  As you would expect, the majority of replies were were an overwhelming no.  Some said that it never occurred to them and it wasn’t something they had ever considered doing.  Some said they would feel self-conscious writing a review.  Some said that they had considered writing reviews, but on reading book blogger reviews (which tend to include plot summaries and in-depth analysis) they felt intimidated and as though their review wouldn’t be as good.  They felt there was no point in contributing a short review of a few lines, when compared with the lengthier book blogger reviews.  I felt really disappointed by that, because while we’ve come to rely on book blogger reviews in order to gain exposure, other readers can be put off by them and don’t feel ‘qualified’ to air their own opinions.

There was also a feeling that book bloggers are somehow part of the author’s promotional team and that it’s all a bit of a marketing scam (especially if the reviews are positive).  I think they feel this applies equally to self-published and traditionally published authors.  Publishing houses have always sent ARC’s (advance reader copies) to reviewers and with services like Netgalley, this is now open to all and sundry.  This is standard practice and does not mean that the publishers are ‘buying’ reviews, but some people do see it that way.  I think we really need to address these misconceptions and make people aware that, far from being an industry, writers and bloggers are just individuals with a mutual interest in promoting books.

But then I got the answer to my question that changed everything.  One woman said that writing a review felt like having to do a book report at school and she said it would ruin her reading experience.  I was so glad to hear that, because it reminded me of a very important point: readers do not owe us a review.  They have already paid us the ultimate compliment of reading our book – which is the very outcome we wished to achieve at the start.  It’s when we are expected to turn into authorpreneurs and take sole responsibility for promoting our books that we feel under pressure to ask for more.  We’re desperate for reviews, because that’s what we have been told matters most.  And maybe it does matter, but at what cost?  As writers, we just want people to enjoy our words.  I want people to get swept away in one of my stories and fall a little bit in love with the characters I’ve created.  All of this algorithm, ranking and visibility stuff just sucks the joy out of the relationship between the writer and the reader.  I think we need to take a Buddhist approach to reviews (disclaimer: I know next to nothing about Buddhism!) and just let go.  Yes, by all means send your book out for review and and stick that bit in your back matter about how leaving a review would be lovely, but then just let go of the outcome.  And get back to writing your next book!

20 Questions ~ Chapter 3

book_nerd1

Next up for the quick-fire round of 20 questions is newcomer Niels Saunders.  The most important thing you need to know about Niels? Do Not Challenge This Man To A Chili Eating Competition!  You will lose.  And if you want to find out why he’s holding a pineapple, you’ll have to read his book.  Take it away Niels!

Niels Saunders, Author of Mervyn vs. Dennis
‘God I love a good pineapple’

1. Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Where the hell do you find the motivation to stick at it?
Once I invent a character, they’re extremely pushy. They demand to have their story told and won’t let me rest. Writing is the only way I can get them to shut up. Stories are like secrets : they demand to be told. As storytellers, it’s our duty to tell them the best we can.

2. Which would you prefer: monetary success or literary acclaim?
Monetary success. Literary acclaim is lovely and means you’re more likely to be read after you’re dead but monetary success means you have a large readership and can provide for your family by doing the work you love. Isn’t that all anybody wants?

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3. How do people typically respond when you say you’re a writer?
Half of people will be fascinated and enquire about my books while the rest give me a concerned look and say, “Oh” as if I’ve told them I have an inoperable disease. A few particularly self-centred types will forgo all talk about my own work and immediately tell me in microscopic detail about the novel they’ve always planned to write but never got around to.

4. Social media – love or hate?
I used to hate it. Social media has always seemed a wretched hive of humblebragging and negativity. Since I’ve been on the self-promotion trail, however, I’ve warmed to it a little. I’ve met some lovely people through WordPress blogs and Twitter has its moments of hilarity. I still have no idea how Pinterest and Tumblr work, though.

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5. What would you classify as a ‘bad review’?
Mediocrity. I’d rather someone despised my book than thought it was ‘okay’. At least that way my work would be inspiring passion (albeit negative) in a reader. That being said, in order to maintain my review score, I’d like to respectfully ask (by which I mean beg) readers who loathe my books to kindly spare me their wrath.

6. What’s the worst review you have ever given a book?
If I really hate a book, I don’t leave a review. I feel there’s enough negativity on the internet already.

7. Your publisher asks you to write a sequel to your very successful debut, but you never planned on writing one and you’ve left those characters behind. Do you (a) Write it and be glad that ANYONE is asking you to write more books? (b) Write it, but spend the whole time in an almighty huff about the whole affair, taking your anger out on your characters by killing them all off – swerving the possibility of a trilogy? (c) Refuse to sell out and walk away with your integrity intact, but your bank balance in a shambles?
I’m tempted to say (a) and laugh my way to the bank but my writing process depends a lot upon the nebulous instinct of ‘things feeling right’. If I was in this for the money, I’d be penning cheesy police procedurals. I can only write about ideas and characters that inspire me so, regrettably, I might end up choosing (c).

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8. What book do you wish you’d written?
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. It’s the book that really inspired me to start writing novels and I’d love to write something myself one day that might equally inspire others.

9. If you could ask your favourite author a question, what would it be?
I don’t have a single favourite author but I’d love to ask William Faulkner how the hell he wrote The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary and Light in August in the space of 4 years. I’d consider writing even one of those masterpieces in an entire lifetime an incredible success.

10. Which is your favourite part of the publishing process?
I can tell you what it isn’t: waiting for responses from literary agents. Now I’ve chosen the self-publishing route. I’m enjoying the small pleasures that come every day such as a compliment on my blog, a glowing new review on Amazon or an unexpected batch of sales.

11. What was the first song you ever slow-danced to?
As an indie and rock teenager of the nineties and a house and techno clubber of the noughties, I fear I may have never actually slow danced in my life. Who says romance is dead?

12. If money were no object, where would be your ideal place to write?
An atmospheric study with a comfy leather chair, an enormous antique walnut desk, a crackling fireplace, shelves of hardback books and a whisky cabinet with a 1930’s soda spritzer.

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13. Do you think readers still value books in the same way?
Not if they’re free. Many people like collecting free stuff and will download novels just because they cost nothing. They’re much more likely to read them if they’ve paid for them. Of course, self-published authors often have to give their books away to gain publicity (myself included). We write to be read, after all.

14. What genre are your books and do you find genres restrictive?
The dreaded genre question! I’ve never been a genre author, I simply write the kind of books I’d like to read myself. Having said that, I market most of my books under the humour genre because they’re meant to be funny. My books tend to mix elements of comedy, mystery and thriller. Unfortunately, there’s no category for that on Amazon.

15. Do you have any unpublished books, buried at the bottom of the garden and doomed never to see the light of day?
I have two. I wrote them both as a teenager back in the 90s. They’re epic dystopian thrillers and although I dread the thought of anybody reading them, I still can’t bring myself to completely destroy them.

16. What was your favourite childhood book?
A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony. It’s a superb fantasy novel that really sparked my imagination. I used to almost exclusively read fantasy when I was a kid and have only just got back into it via A Song of Ice and Fire.

17. Do you have any other hidden talents you’d like to brag about?
I won a chilli-eating competition and I also smoke my own meat.

18. Book launches: all fur coat and no knickers or a valuable rite of passage?
My only book launch so far consisted of clicking the ‘publish’ button on Amazon and posting about it on Facebook. I’ve yet to experience the classic image of signing hardbacks in a bookstore.

19. What did you dream about last night?
I can’t remember which means it was probably one of my recurring dreams about repeatedly mislaying my suitcase on the way to the airport.

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20. What would you like your epitaph to be?
I’m going to steal the one from Spike Milligan’s headstone: I told you I was ill.

Cover of Mervyn vs. Dennis by Niels Saunders Niels is the author of Mervyn vs Dennis which you can download on Amazon and you can catch up with him on his Blog , Facebook and Twitter.  Just don’t mention Pinterest or Tumblr (touchy subject!)

 

Ye Olde Kindle Countdown Deal

Cross collage - Copy

It’s summer.  You all want a good read.  Something you can really get your teeth into, historical fiction with a modern twist?  I’m only too happy to oblige!  Get your peepers over to Amazon UK and Amazon US where you can download a copy of my novel, The Cross Of Santiago for only 99p/c until June 7th.  It’s got it all – Spanish knights, battles at sea, mystery, family ties, heirlooms and a love story that spans four centuries.  

Adopted as a baby, Amanda Morrison knows nothing of her biological family. But when a lawyer reveals that she has been bequeathed a mysterious heirloom from a long lost aunt, she unlocks the door to a distant past and a secret love. Can her past life really be haunting her present and what can she do to put things right?

The Cross Of Santiago is a tale of two women living in different centuries, whose lives seem to be entwined by fate. A perfect read for Outlander fans.

But don’t just take my word for it!  Readers have left the following reviews….

5 stars

Very good read and also an interesting change of times

Published 2 months ago by christine gaster

4 stars

An epic romance across the centuries!  This book has two settings and I loved both.
If you know nothing about the Spanish Armada and how so many of the ships were shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland and Scotland; then worry not, this book will fill you in. I had forgotten so much of this part of history that it was fantastic to revisit it and I ended up having great discussions about the battle and their mission with my husband who is a history fiend.

Trish @ Between My Lines


5 stars

Really enjoyed. Kept my interest.

Published 12 months ago by Martha Smith

“The Cross of Santiago” is an intelligent and well written historical romance book. I love historical fiction with a bit of romantic story-line thrown in and this book sure fits the bill.

OnlineBookClub.org full review here.

4 stars

This book has a lot of mystery. I was adopted and so I can relate to Amanda as a character. She wants to know about her past, about her birth family, and her family’s history. I have been there and so this book was a good read for me because I could REALLY relate to her. I think books that the reader can relate too are the best kind. They help you feel that the story is more REAL, rather than it just being a story that is being read.

Boundless Book Reviews

4 stars

The historical parts based around the Spanish Armada seem particularly well researched and it was interesting to hear the story of the Armada crashing around the coast of Ireland. The characters all feel fleshed out and interesting enough to want to read about and the story doesn’t get bogged down by too much history, there is a nice balance.

The Bearded Bookworm

While you’re at it, you may as well pick up a copy of The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris, also at the delectable price of 99p! 

One Born Every 5 Minutes

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Idiots?  No, books on Amazon.  Apparently there’s an idiot born every minute, which unfortunately seems about right, but this blog is about publishing.  So with a mountain of new books being published by both Indie authors and traditional publishers every few minutes, how can you get your book noticed?

There’s nothing like typing the words ‘The End’ to get you all hot and bothered about publishers, bestsellers and writing acceptance speeches (*gushes* I really wasn’t expecting this!)  As a committed self-publishing author-entrepreneur, I do sometimes fantasize about life with a traditional publishing deal.  Would I be better off?  Or is it a case of ‘Is glas iad na cnoic, i bhfad uainn’ an old Irish saying meaning  ‘faraway hills are green’.

A recent article by Dougal Shaw for BBC News explores the current state of self-publishing and finds that, while it is a hard road, it can be just as successful for the author (if not more so) than getting that holy grail of a traditional publishing deal.  It’s true that Indie Authors have to be a lot more creative with their marketing strategy and their use of social media when it comes to peddling their wares, but the fact is that even if you’ve signed up with a publisher, the marketing will largely be left up to you.  Publishers tend to budget their marketing spend in such a way that sees them putting their money behind one or two ‘sure things’, gambling that the profit made on those books will pay for the other 99%.  At the end of the day, the best person to sell your book is you.  You have a much greater vested interest in its success and getting it in front of as many readers as possible.  A good example of how author platforms can work for self-publishers is Andy Weir’s book The Martian, which has since been made into an Oscar nominated movie.  The story was originally published chapter by chapter on his blog for free.  Now that’s a gamble, but a gamble that paid off.

How about earnings?  Traditionally published authors can expect to earn an average of 10% royalties on their books.  Self-published authors can earn up to 70% royalties, which sounds much more interesting, but there are several factors to take into account.  Indie Authors generally charge less for their books, as low as 99p for eBooks.  The flip side to this is that people are more willing to take a chance on a cheap eBook, thereby boosting sales.  However, you have to consider the cost to the author in producing the book, which brings me onto my next point.

The old belief that traditionally published books are better because they’ve been professionally vetted no longer rings true.  Indie authors are hiring professional designers and editors, so really, they are on a level par.  The only difference is that self-published authors bear the cost of all this outsourcing, so while traditionally published authors are totting up how much they’ll make on their advance, Indie authors have to make a lot of sales just to break even.  Then again, the beauty of self-publishing means you are always in control of your sale price and distribution, so you can run a Kindle Countdown sale for your book to boost sales or even make it available for free for limited periods (which I don’t agree with, but that’s a whole other conversation!)  The point is, you have far more control, so even a year or two after the book has been released, you can still drive sales with promotions and giveaways.

So, will I self-publish or start the long and frustrating process of sending out manuscripts?  Well, therein lies my next point.  Once my book has been edited, a cover designed and a marketing campaign put in place, I am ready to rock if I decide to self-publish.  With a traditional publishing deal, I first have to go through the submissions process, which can leave you waiting for anything up to six months for a response.  All of that time, your book is sitting on your computer, going nowhere.  If it does get accepted, it could be another year before the publisher decides to release it.  Now, you could say I should use that time to write my fourth novel (gulp), but it is a long time to wait for your baby to be born into the literary world.  I suppose I’ve become quite spoilt in terms of making all of the decisions about my book.  Self-publishing is a control freak’s paradise!

Regardless of all these pros and cons, there is still that sense of validation for an author who gets signed by a traditional publishing house.  It would be hypocritical of me to say otherwise, but when you get down to the nuts and bolts of getting your book ‘out there’, both options have their merits.  For so long the underdog and oftentimes dismissed as vanity publishing, self-publishing is now an equally viable choice when it comes to getting your book to market.  And if validation is the cherry on top, consider the validation of readers who decided to pick up your book, regardless of who published it, and leave wonderful reviews on Goodreads or Amazon.  Whichever path you choose (or whichever path chooses you!) you’ve got to be willing to learn the business and find a happy compromise between writing and promotion.

Happy Easter Book Sale!

Easter sale

Fancy a good read while you’re stuffing your face with chocolate?  You’ve come to the right place!  Both of my books are on sale for Easter at the cracking price of €0.99/£0.99/$0.99/.  But what are they about?  Will I like them?  I hear you cry.  Hold on to your cream egg – here’s a little preview to help you decide.

 

The Mysterious Bakery On The Rue de Paris (6)

THE MYSTERIOUS BAKERY ON RUE DE PARIS

 

A charming bakery in a picturesque French town sounds like the idyllic place to escape her life, but Edith Lane soon discovers that some ghosts are harder to escape than others. A magical, heart-warming story that is sure to appeal to all of the senses, The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris is a mouth-watering journey of love, liberty and la vie en rose.

 

*****  A wonderful, captivating story    *****  Terrifically written and researched

*****  Heartwarming story     *****  Magical read!

The Cross of Santiago-Amazon

THE CROSS OF SANTIAGO

A second chance to meet your first love’

Adopted as a baby, Amanda Morrison knows nothing of her biological family.  But when she receives a mysterious heirloom from a long lost aunt, she unlocks the door to a distant past and a secret love. Can her past life really be haunting her present and what can she do to put things right?

The Cross Of Santiago is an intriguing novel that tells the tales of women in two different eras and how their lives seem to be entwined by fate.

***** Epic romance across the centuries    *****  Intriguing story    

*****  Interesting mix of genres    *****  Unusual but enjoyable!

Betwixt short

And don’t forget, you can always download my short story Betwixt anytime of the year for free!

‘Catherine returns to Hollowbrook Cottage on a cold November night, looking to escape her present life and lose herself in the past. However, her journey crosses the path of a mysterious stranger who will change her life forever.’

 

 

 

 

 

Special Offer!

 

The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris

Most Recent Customer Reviews

A wonderful novel about the books heroine Edith and her life changing adventure set in magical Compiègne . Read more

Published 5 months ago by John O’Malley

I finished this in two sittings. I enjoyed it, it is a nice gentle read but without the typical romance of many of the genre. Read more

Published 9 months ago by Lorna Sixsmith

Wonderful heartwarming story. It has been described as chiclit but I think it a great read for men too. Read more

Summer read must gives a lovely warm cosy feeling, just finished it highly recommend intelligent chick lit download now and support indie writers, I’m glad I did :).

Published 18 months ago by Lorna Dooley

A lovely, engaging read with some surprising twists. I’ve never been to Paris but the author really evoked a feel for the city with all its wonderful sights, smells and tastes. Read more

Published 18 months ago by Heather Hill

I chose this rating because this is a great book. Interesting, entertaining, engaging with a little bit of romance and magic thrown in and all from a very fine writer. Read more

The Cross Of Santiago

Most Recent Customer Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I enjoy books that combine a modern story with.one that takes place in the past.

Really enjoyed. Kept my interest.

Published 7 months ago by Martha Smith

The best thing about this love story, is that it doesn’t start off as a love story. Read more

This book had a lot of mystery. I was adopted and so I can relate to Amanda as a character. She wants to know about her past, about her birth family, and her family’s history. I have been there and so this book was a good read for me because I could REALLY relate to her. I think books that the reader can relate too are the best kind. They help you feel that the story is more REAL, rather than it just being a story that is being read.

Published on December 14, 2013 by Amazon Customer

I received a free copy of this book for an honest review.
The Cross of Santiago belongs in several different genres which makes it interesting. 

Going Retro

IMG_0608  Now Available In Paperback!

Well, to say that I’ve been anticipating this day for a long time is an understatement.  Finally, I am thrilled to announce that my novel, The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris is now available to purchase in paperback on Amazon.  It is the one year anniversary of publishing my eBook and the response has been fantastic so far.

However, so many of you have requested a paperback version that it makes me realise – people still like to have the option of reading a physical book.  Digital publishing is such an exciting revolution, but for a lot of people, there’s just nothing like a real book.  And I have to say, I count myself among you.  I guess it’s a bit like vinyl – you can really appreciate the artwork and there’s just something about the feel of the pages between your fingertips that (for me anyway) eBooks cannot replace.  So fill your boots people!  And spread the word – The Mysterious Bakery is going retro 🙂  Now you can tweet all your photos to @evgaughan of my book being read in exotic locations à la Amélie and the travelling gnome!

Oh, and if you’re looking for a recommendation, why not check out my latest 5 star review on Amazon UK by Bodicia.

After finding herself feeding mints to an unhappy child like some sort of maiden aunt, Edith Lane decides enough is enough and something drastic must be done. She answers an advert in the paper for an English speaking manager for a bakery in Paris and when, to her surprise, she gets accepted immediately she whips out a French phrasebook and books a flight. Quiet and unassuming Edith finds herself not in Paris but in a beautiful town about an hours drive away and in a very small room which would be more suited to a mouse. Deciding adventure doesn’t necessarily mean immediate gratuitous pleasure she stays anyway and quickly settles in with the locals. But who is curling the croissants at 4am and why can’t she go down to the basement?

I loved Edith and this book is an absolute cracker with a cast of wonderful characters who ooze ‘Frenchness’. It’s about a woman who, having spent several years looking after other people, broke free of the doldrums and sets out to see what she can do to get some adventure out of life. There is a love interest but it is fraught with moral implications. There are moments in the book which had me in stitches particularly when Edith is in a club and comes face to face with the hole in the floor which serves as the loo – the joys of French plumbing. This is a book which encourages independence and standing up for what is right and a story of a strong community who is appreciative of the past and proud of who they are.

Evie Gaughan’s writing style is on point and so engaging. Right from page one I was hooked – there’s humour, a cracking story and likable characters. Take advantage of the ‘Look Inside’ on Amazon and have a read for yourself.