Wednesday 23 November 2016

Make It Stop

I've just come back from doing the weekly shop.  Look, I know everyone moans about Christmas stuff in the shops as soon as August Bank Holiday is over, etc etc etc, but can I just have a mini-moan about the bloody music in supermarkets, too?

This morning in Morrissons, on November 23rd, it was Christmas CD time.  When I went in it was only that comparatively inoffensive one by Greg Lake, from the little known and very short CD, 'Christmas Songs That Won't Make You Pray For A Power Cut', or I might have walked straight out again and done my shopping via Waitrose Online, but I just struck lucky.  By the time my trolley was half full, it was Wham!'s Last Christmas.

I know why they do it.  It's all about subliminal messaging, is it not?  If you are made to feel that the season is already upon us, you will think
  • Oh no, I haven't bought all my stuff yet; must buy, buy, buy
  • Oh good, it's all Christmassy and lovely; must buy, buy, buy
But there are many among us who just think make it stop.  I know I am not the only one.  Like the awful upselling, I wonder how counter-productive it is, especially as more and more people, it seems, are starting to see the whole season as nothing but a celebration of the retail trade, and are downsizing Christmas more and more each year.

And why isn't Kate Bush's lovely December Will Be Magic Again on any of the Christmas CDs?  Perhaps it's on the same one as Greg Lake's song.  The one that no-one ever plays.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

What do we think of it so far? #TWD #TheWalkingDead #TWDSeason7

Right, so we've seen the first five episodes ~ what do you think?

The first one was a belter, wasn't it I could hardly wait to get tapping fingers to keys after I'd seen it; my post is HEREThen we got to the second, and King Ezekiel.  A lot of people criticised this episode.  I wasn't so sure, I have to admit, and I wonder if it was a mistake to run it so early in the series; a bit of an anticlimax after the drama of the week before, maybe?  I thought the Ezekiel character was too pantomime at first, though he did become more 'real' when he talked to Carol at the end, and I was heartened by his crew being less than compliant with the Saviours.  Great to know that there's another large community who will, we hope, join forces with our gang in the future to slay the demonAnd I'd forgotten until I watched it for a second time about the Kingdom cleverly feeding walkers to Negan's gang, via the wild pigs.  Might be just the thing....

Then we come to episode 3, and the fate of Daryl, which I think was the best one so far.  Back on form!  Clever of the writers to hint at the slightly more human side of Dwight again, with small hints that some time in the very distant future he and Daryl might become allies.... well, that's what I reckon, anyway.  Long as he doesn't bring his tape of On Easy StreetInteresting to see inside Negan's lair, and find out a bit more about the Saviours.  I'm hoping that some of them might start to think, "Yeah, why exactly are we all doing what this one pscyho says?"  Like the escapee who Dwight didn't want to shoot....

Meanwhile, back at Alexandria and the Hilltop..... Rick, I'm not the only one waiting for you to get your fighting spirit back.  We want to see you standing on a platform saying "We can do it.  I know you can all do it.  This is how we survive.  This is how we eat", and all that jazz.  It'll come, it'll come.... 

Loving Xander Berkeley, on form as the revolting Gregory.  Could he cause the downfall of them all As Maggie said, he's a coward, which is more dangerous than just being an idiot.  Like the idea of Maggie taking over Hilltop (which is, clearly, what is going to happen), but I hope she doesn't become only a hard-edged badass.  

I like how they're giving more scenes to Rosita, who I always thought was a top girl.  I feel a bit sorry for her with the Abraham thing, though.  Okay, so Sasha loved him too, and they were together when he was Lucilled, but this had only been going on for a couple of weeks, whereas Rosita was his love through thick and thin, for years.  But her loss seems overlooked.

Other predictions?  I think there will be more storylines for Spencer (who I think is a bit of a drip), and I'm hoping that the lovely Aaron will emerge as the new Glenn ~ the really nice guy with the heart of a lion and the soul of a ... really nice guy.   Offscreen, Jesus will become the new hearthrob (if he isn't already ~ woof woof!) ~ c'mon, producers, clean our Daryl up just a little bit, and get him back giving those sidelong looks, almost imperceptible nods riddled with emotion, and profound one liners:  "We ain't dead."  Alas, I fear he is to be in a dark place for some time yet....

I think the new season is yet to find its feet, and maybe part of this is that it's so scattered, with all the characters we know and love all over the place.  But it worked in Season 4 after the prison, so it can work this time, too, if they get it right.  I still love every minute, though!  Oh yeah, and when are Heath and Tara ever going to get back from this two week run they went on after the Saviours outpost massacre?  She's yet to find that Denise is dead, and Heath ditto about his pal Glenn....

Roll on next week...... and just because I want to include it, here's my favourite moment ever.  It's when Rick and Carl discover that Tyreese and Carol have saved Judith, after Terminus, at the beginning of Season 5.

ps, incidentally:  Ladies: I've never fancied Rick, but have you noticed that he's got the sexiest legs, like, ever?  Something about the shape and his stride, and those jeans moulded to him and the scuffed cowboy boots.  Tick vg :)

Monday 21 November 2016

Thank you :)

I've just finished the first Kindle Countdown promotion for my latest book (yes, I'm fed up with the sight of it too, can't even bear to type the title), and it's been even more successful than I'd hoped.  All the posts I've ever read about maintaining success after a sales spike tell me you have to keep madly promoting to capitalise on your potential Amazon algorithm fab-ness, but to be honest I can't face it.  Perhaps I'm fairly crap at this marketing stuff after all.  Last week's sales hardly put me in the bestseller leagues, but they show what you can do without paid promotion, and with a bit of hard work ~ and help.

.... which is what this post is about.  I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who helped me spread the word around :)

The highest point it reached in the Amazon UK chart was #2124, and it actually slipped into the Psychological Top 100 chart, which is a really hard one to get into, as it's filled with all those hugely popular and mega-selling 'exciting new psychological thriller busting at the seams with suspense and unguessable plot twists so astounding that you will spontaneously combust in amazement and your house might explode too' books that are the new black Nearly all the 'also boughts' on my book's Amazon page are now of this type, so I am hoping it will contine to appeal to readers who love this 'grip lit', as my online friend Louise Marley told me it's called.  And that they won't be disappointed about the lack of abducted children/girls on trains/dodgy teachers/gender surprises (though there is a bit of domestic abuse in The Devil You Know.  Okay.  I admit it).

Anyway... much of the success of this promotion has been down to the sharing and retweeting of others, so THANK YOU.  It's also down to some great reviews from book bloggers that, simply by luck, happened to come out this week ~ so a double big thank you to Mrs Bloggs' BooksWhispering Stories and Alison Williams, and to judithanne and thrillergirl who also reviewed it on Amazon this week.  And to all Mrs Bloggs, Alison and Whispering followers who shared the reviews of my book, and everyone who has enjoyed and taken the time to review it since it came out last month, because it's those reviews that make people think, "yeah, I'll risk 99p on this."

I know some writers don't rate Kindle Countdown, but if you wait until the book has a fair few good reviews then really push it to the point of people threatening to slice your head off if you tweet it once more, you can get good results.  I didn't promote it anywhere else (didn't mention it on Facebook or Goodreads).

Michonne: 'If I see one more tweet about that wretched book....'

A word about not paying loads of money out.  I don't have an editor; everything you read is all my own work, ha ha!  Editing your own stuff is something you can learn to do, it just takes practice, hard and repetitive work, and not being precious about what you've written.  By which I mean being as honest as the strictest editor would be about whether something works or not.  I get that not everyone has the mindset to do this (because we're all different), which is why those really good editors exist!  Of course I have a proofreader, because everyone needs one.  I've never paid a penny for promotion, either.  Which is, clearly, why I am not as successful as I might be, but the freedom that my choice of self-publishing brings means that the promotion is all on YOU, too.  Amazon sales are all about visibilityThe problem with most low selling books that are just as worth reading as those in the top 1000 is simply that hardly anyone knows they're there.  If they did, they might buy them. 

THANK YOU again to everyone who helped make this a success for me :)

(Btw, The Devil You Know is always free on Kindle Unlimited.... oh shut up).

Monday 7 November 2016

There's raising money online, and then there's online begging....

Today I was followed on Twitter by someone who described himself as a writer.  I almost always follow writers back, so I did with this one, too.

Later today I saw that I had some DMs; whenever I have a follow back session, I always get a rash of automated ones, as I presume you do, too.  You know:
  • Hey!  Thanks for following.  If you'd like to connect on Instagram, Facebook, and thirty-three other sites too, here are all my links (no, why would I?  I don't know you.  It's a Twitter follow back, not the beginning of a meaningful relationship).
  • Thanks for the follow.  Check out my blog/book at linklinklink (and my motivation for doing so is what, precisely?)
  • Hi!  I know automated messages are awful, but I so want you to see this! (Listen.  Acknowledging that auto messages are awful doesn't make it okay to send them.  If you know, why are you doing it?  If anything, this makes it worse).

I've also had my share of links to, or gofundme or whatever it's called, as I am sure you have.  But today I got an absolute peach.  It was a long message from this guy asking me (and no doubt everyone else who'd followed him back) for money to get his book edited and illustrated.  He claimed it was something he'd wanted to do all his life - so why hadn't he managed to save up the cash for it?  He sent the links telling me how great Kickstarter is, and how I could send him money.  He even very kindly said that if I would like to spread the word for him, I could include the link in my tweets.  

I hope you don't mind me using this, Agent-X comics, it's so perfect!
I couldn't resist - says it all :)

He didn't even send a genuine, non-automated hello, first.

I couldn't believe my eyes.  Are these people completely lacking in any social skills?  Would they go up to a complete stranger in the street and ask them for money to edit their book?  If you're raising money for a worthy cause, yeah, tweet away (but please don't shove it in my face), and I hope you reach your goals, but setting up one of these online begging (because that's what it is) projects because you're too stupid/tight/poxy to save up the money to pay for an editor - well, either start saving now, or learn to edit your book yourself.  

And what of Patreon?  Users appear to fall into two camps:
  • 1.  Those who have been supplying advice/a service for some time, free of charge, and are now asking those who follow them if they wouldn't mind donating to help them carry on doing so.  I have zero problem with this, and have in fact become a Patron of a book blogger who has done a great deal to support me.  He has earned it.
  • 2.  Those who think they can get people to sponsor their hobby, with big promises about the rewards to be earned.  Inevitably, these rewards are worth little.  What they don't understand is that you have to be providing this service/advice/whatever for a while before you start up a Patreon, so that people know what you're offering is worth the outlay.  Trying to get Patrons in this way is like going to a publisher and saying, please can I have a publishing contract, and then I'll write a book.
One more thing.... if a publisher requires you to start up a Go Fund Me or Kickstarter, or whatever, it is not a proper publishing house, but a version of a vanity press.  Publishers pay authors; they don't expect them to raise their own funds to get a book edited/proofread, etc.


Wednesday 2 November 2016

Daring to change genre ~ could it become the new black?

I read an author interview on Shelley Wilson's blog the other day, in which children's fantasy writer Lynette Creswell talked about writing fantasy for grown ups, and other genres.  

The other day I was talking online to author of the fantasy Storm Trilogy, Anthony Lavisher, who says he's going to write a thriller next, possibly followed by something historical.

Is this a bad idea?  Some might say yes, but I applaud them.

Since I've started this self-pub thing, one piece of advice I've read over and over again (and, indeed, have given myself) is to stay roughly in the same genre.  This is why: if Angela Author has built up a fanbase for her historical fiction over the last 5 books, those readers are going to be disappointed if her 6th book is about space ships and aliens.  "It's not what I expect from an Angela Author book," they will say, and may give up on her.

But I've been thinking about this.  All creative minds grow and change, don't they?  Surely the essence of creativity is that you're always thinking of new stuff?

I photographed various piles of books around my living room!

The books I write are all character driven, from multiple POVs.  I went darker with The House of York, but they all centre around relationships, usually family.  After The House of York, the plot for The Devil You Know popped into my head - it's about five people who think a local serial killer might be someone close to them.  I wanted to write something more suspenseful, including the odd character with some seriously evil sh*t going on in their heads.  I slid diagonally, I suppose, rather than changing genre....

.... but what I'm coming to is this.  Most of us read several different genres, so if you love the SciFi of Joe Bloggs and the financial thrillers of Bob Smith, might you not like to read Bob Smith's SciFi, too?  Should we be as fearful as we are that we'll put off our readers if we produce something that isn't along exactly the same lines as what's gone before?

Bit of a GRR Martin bias on this shelf!

The cheapness and easy availability of Kindle books means that most avid readers have tried new genres over the past few years, and discovered new writers.  In 2010, I was told by a reputable literary agent that she couldn't sell You Wish to a publisher because it was written from multiple 1st person POVs.  I had no desire to rewrite, so I self-published.  Several years down the line, multiple 1st person POVs has become so popular that I rarely open a book that features the same narrator all the way through.  Many readers didn't seem to care for it at the time, either, but now accept it as a popular style, and comment about the author's skill in changing 'voice'., my point is this.  If a certain style/format used to be thought of as unsaleable, but is now not only accepted but the happening way to go, maybe authors writing in multiple genres might become more accepted, too.  The norm, even.  I know some have got round it by writing the alternative genre under a pen name, but unless you have a good publisher behind you it can mean starting off a whole new promotional platform for that pen name.

Okay.  *Deep breath* My next book will be part one of a post apocalyptic series.  No, not zombies, much though I love to read about them, but a pandemic.  Essentially, though, it will still be a Terry Tyler novel.  It centres around one family and their friends, their hopes, fears, love lives, joys and disappointments, but in an end-of-the-world setting rather than comfortable middle class life in East Anglia.  I think that if you like the way I write, then you'll like Tipping Point (working title) as well.  

I'm fascinated by survival after disaster, by the psychology of how people cope, by the manipulation of the population by the media (Tipping Point deals with this, too) ~ isn't it, therefore, logical that I would want to write about it?  If you like the way someone writes, then you like the way they write, full stop ~ surely?  Unless they're moving from romcoms to air conditioning installation manuals, it's likely that you'll still have time for whatever they bring out.  And with any author you like, even if it's action thriller after action thriller or vampire after vampire, you always have your favourites and not-so-favourites.

I hope I'm right and am not just trying to convince myself.  I daresay there will be some readers who say, "I like her family dramas but I don't really want to read about a global disaster."  But if more of us dare to branch out into other genres, it might give others the confidence to give it a go, too.  It might also encourage readers to try genres they always thought they wouldn't like.  I only discovered that I love zombie apocalypse books by accident.  A lady who reads my books asked if I'd be so kind as to read her zombie apoc short story.  I did so out of politeness, and bloody loved it, so much that I've bought three of her books since, and it's now my most-read genre after histfic

Maybe it depends how orientated you are towards marketing.  I'm not so much; I always have about 4 stories on the 'to be written' list, and when I've finished one novel I just pick which one I want to do next and crack on.  I'm sure those savvy book marketing people would pour much scorn on this!

I don't know where else I'm going with this really, but if you've dared to publish in more than one genre, are thinking about it but are wary, feel hemmed in by your publisher, or have any other thoughts on the subject, I'd love to hear about it!