Friday, 30 March 2012

My book is in an actual bookshop!

Today I had the pleasure of seeing my book on the shelves of a local bookshop - not only that but also right beside the till! I was totally overcome - I had to walk away for a bit. I'm not even sure that I can put into words how it feels to see something that you wrote in a bookshop that you spend the better part of your life in.

And yes, I had a wee cry - there it  was, my story in the same shop as books by Stephen King, Dean Koontz and all those other authors who have inspired and amazed me over the years. Unbelievable!

As if that wasn't enough, I've also been asked to come in and do a book signing next month - best day EVER!!! Thank you Waterstones, Coleraine!!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Decisions, decisions.

In self-publishing there are a lot of decisions to be made - book cover design, font design, who goes into the acknowledgments, who to dedicate it to, which printer to go with...the list goes on and on.

Most of these choices are made by a process of elimination, research or talking to people who have more knowledge or experience than you do. And a lot are made with the bottom line in mind - what will sell the book? What will make my book catch someone's eye?

There was, however, one decision that I wasn't expecting and when the time came to make a choice I didn't do hours of research, speak to someone higher up the food chain and (deep breath) I didn't spare a single second's thought for the bottom line. It was the decision of whether or not to accept returns.

Should be simple, right? Accept returns and bricks and mortar stores are more likely to stock your book, it will also be more likely to be stocked by distributors - making the whole distribution area of things much more streamlined and efficient. Don't accept returns and bookshops are unlikely to stock your book on the shelves - they will still do special orders but, since the distributors are unlikely to have copies immediately in stock, getting orders filled will take longer and most customers are unwilling to wait 2 weeks to get their hands on a book these days.

I decided NOT to accept returns.

Before you wonder if I'm a sandwich short of a picnic, lacking in the marbles department etc. etc. let me explain; I worked for a long time in a book shop. I LOVED it - what could be better for a book-a-holic than being hip-deep in books every day? I still love going into bookshops and libraries for that quiet energy that they have, all those books just aching to be read, the stories just waiting to draw you in and fill a few hours, days, weeks of your life with another world, another life. And then there's the smell. Go and get a's okay, I'll wait here for you. Any one at all - it doesn't matter.

Got it?

Okay, now flick through a few pages and inhale. Smell that? There's no other item in the universe that smells like that - hours of blood, sweat, tears and coffee have gone into the creation of it, many more hours have been spent designing how it should look, the size it should be, the feel of the paper that it should be printed on. It may be an inanimate object but for me, each and every book is ALIVE and waiting for you or I to come along and read it.

Now, knowing how I feel about books let me explain to you one of the painful things about book selling - RETURNS. I don't mean the laborious picking of each book from the shop-floor, although I won't deny that there were times they seemed determined to hide from us. I mean the actual act of returning the books to the publisher. Each publisher was (and I assume still is) different - all had different requirements. Some (mainly the academic publishers) wanted the books returned as they were received - in mint condition if possible. I could deal with that. Others wanted simply the title page returned and a small number wanted the backs of the books sent back. That's right - either rip out the title page or rip off the back. The rest of the book was unimportant and was to be pulped. Unimportant. Not. Worth. Returning.

None of us enjoyed doing this - it felt like killing books.

Now, I could have authorised returns and arranged for the returns to be sent to me but I would have had to handle the expense of this myself and I just don't have the money to do that so as far as I was concerned the only way to deal with it was to say 'no returns'. Does this mean I've lost sales? Maybe. Does this mean that the bookshops aren't stocking my book? Yes. Will this be a decision that I live to regret? No. My daughter once described my book as my 'third baby' - I think I snorted and told her not to be ridiculous but she was right because it's precious to me and every time someone buys a copy I'm delighted that  another one has found a home and a reader. It's the whole point of a book,  isn't it? To be read, I mean.

Damn. Now I've guilt-tripped myself into hitting a bookshop and liberating some paperbacks!

Best wishes.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Try something new.

Last week I had the pleasure of being proved wrong.

Some friends were organsing a coffee evening in the local community and asked for some help with letters/posters etc. It was being held in the local town hall and letters were being sent home in the schoolbags of all the local schoolchildren, posters were going up around town and information was flying around social networking channels too. It sounded like fun - local craft stalls, beauty demonstrations, tea/coffee, cakes, chat - what's not to like? I signed child number 1 up to sell raffle tickets and signed myself up to help with the teas and coffees.

"Why aren't you selling books?" asked one of my friends.

"I don't have any spare and there isn't enough time to get more ordered and delivered," I told her.

"Well, can you now just display what you have and take orders?" she asked, undeterred.

I made one of those 'pfft' noises. I may even have sneered a little. "Who's going to want to order a book by someone they've never heard of at a community coffee evening? Anyway, I don't have any proper display stuff, or order sheets."

My friend frowned. "What's the big deal? What would you need?" She pulled her lap top over and began fiddling with a photo of the book cover and a table insert.

I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. "Don't be daft, there's no time to get it organised. The thing's on tonight."
She typed a bit, cocked her head to the side and considered the document she was creating, typed some more. "What're you doing?" I asked, craning my neck to see over the top of the lap top.

She turned the screen so that I could see it. "There. An order sheet. And you have those bookmarks that you had printed, you could bring them. Do you have like a poster sized print of the book cover? We could put that up."

I gaped and then licked my lips. "No, I don't think this is a good idea."

"You're right," she told me, "It's a bloody great idea, now away on home and gather your stuff together. I'll see you about half past six."

I went home, paced a bit, gathered books and bookmarks into a bag, took them out again, paced some more, drank some coffee, welcomed the children home from school, ironed some clothes, paced again, made dinner for the children and their friends, drank more coffee, chewed on my lip a little. And made up my mind that it was a ridiculous idea and I wasn't bloody well doing it. So there!

The phone rang. "Did you get your stuff organised?" she asked in a tone that said she knew very well what I'd been doing for the past couple of hours.

"Look, this is a really bad idea," i told her, "I don't think I should do it."

"What's wrong with you? This is an opportunity to get your book under more folks' noses and maybe even sell some." She sounded annoyed. I chewed on my lip a little more as she listed more reasons in favour of doing it.

"Look," I cut in eventually. "I'll make an idiot of myself, you know I'm useless at all this self-promotion stuff. I blush and stammer and just act like someone who can't string three words together never mind write a whole book. I'm a terrible advertisement for my work. I'm much better hiding behind the words on the page instead of representing them."

She sighed. "Look, there's no-one who thinks they're good enough at what they do - we all feel the same, no matter what our job is. But I can tell you this - you're not going to get your book read unless you tell people that it's there. Take a chance, put yourself out there. If you still feel uncomfortable after half an hour then you can quit. Okay?"

"I'll think about it," I told her in my very best 'grumpy-five-year-old' voice. I sulked for a bit (well, she'd used the 'quit' word), polled all the kids that were in the house on what I should do and then took what is cheerfully referred to in my neck of the woods as a 'head stagger' - this is where you do something random or out of character - I went for it.

By the end of the night I'd had 8 orders, interacted with loads of people and given away quite a few book marks - I even had an 11 year old come and tell me that she'd read the book 3 1/2 times and wanted her parents to get her book 2 in the series for her birthday.

So, yeah, I was wrong. Getting out of your comfort zone isn't easy but it can really pay off and in future when one of my friends has a marketing idea, I'll listen and use the area of my brain that isn't connected to my internal panic button before dismissing it! I have good friends who are much smarter than me - I should remember that!

My friend, Deb, at the 'Demon's Daughter' stall.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Quid habes, quod scripsi

Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Marian for her blog, 'Quid habes, quod scripsi'. It was my first blog interview and I was quite nervous about how it would take place, what the questions would be like, how long I would have to answer them, if I would end up sounding either a) boring or b) insane!
In the end the questions were delivered via email, there were 20 in all and, although some of them really made me sit down and think carefully before I answered, most were simply about my favourite subjects - books and writing! The hardest to answer were those which asked for advice for other writers. Honestly, I really don't feel that I've earned the right to give advice to anyone - I'm still tripping over my own feet with this writing and self-publishing lark - so I hope what I sent back was helpful to someone. I had a few days to complete and send back my answers and then Marian asked for some general background information about me that she could pass on to her readers - again, more difficult than you might think!
All in all, very enjoyable - Marian was lovely and I am very grateful to her for asking me to do the interview. If you'd like to read it and check out her blog, then follow the link here.
As always any feedback is appreciated!

Best wishes

Monday, 12 March 2012


Well, it's been a game of two halves this week - firstly I was celebrating 'cause I received my first royalty payment EVER. And, yeah, okay £18 won't exactly make a huge difference to the family's income and it's taken me 6 months to earn that but I'm still quite proud!
And then my computer decided to kick the bucket.
Bless it - I suppose it's almost 10 years old but I was kind of hoping to get a bit more time with it. Thank God for the external hard drive and my husband's insistence that I back up all my stuff. I'd have been seriously snookered otherwise.
Farewell, Dell computer - we had some good times but in the end I couldn't ignore the fact that it took an hour to load ANYTHING (and the smoke coming from the monitor was a dead giveaway that you'd had enough). Time to go and get acquainted with my new computer pal - he's called 'NOC' and so far he's doing a pretty fine job.

Best wishes.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Read An Ebook Week

This is 'Read An Ebook Week' over at Smashwords - there are thousands of books with at least 25% off  -and to celebrate you can download 'Demon's Daughter' FOR FREE for this week only!

Simply enter the code RE100 at the checkout.

The promotion ends on 10th March 2012 so get yours NOW!!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

World Book Day 2012 Update

The Year 8 pupils of Dominican College, Portstewart really know how to make a gal feel welcome!

They were friendly and enthusiastic, listening intently as I read to them and then unleashing a torrent of incredible questions - 'Would you like your book to be made into a movie?' 'What fictional character would you like to be?' 'Do you always know where a book is going before you write it?' to name a few. It was wonderful to be able to chat with representatives of my target audience and I found them and their questions lively, engaging and great fun!

Thank you so much for having me, I really hope I get the opportunity to see you all again in the future.

You can see reports and pics from the school website here and here.