And I’m done, done, on to the next one

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Dead Write is on sale.

Months of writing, panicking the story wasn’t coming together, that my characters might come across as vacuous or unlikeable, that the twists wouldn’t be as clever as those in Dead Letter Day, editing, choosing covers, writing blurb for the cover (always more difficult, in my opinion, to do this than write the book) and now the anxious wait to see how it sells and find out if my readers enjoy it.

Early feedback seems to be positive from the few who have already finished the book, but there are still plenty more to go, and refreshing the Amazon page hoping to see that new reviews have appeared is like having skated in the Olympics and waiting for the judges scores. I quite like that analogy given my complete lack of poise, grace, rhythm, coordination and actual skating ability.

Now is the time for promotion. Trying to make people aware of Dead Write’s existence, and to give my novel a try, without forcing it down their throats and annoying them by relentlessly saying ‘buy my book, buy my book’. And all the while my mind is thinking ahead to the next story.

The most exciting part for me of writing a book is getting the words down on the page and feeling the novel start to take shape. Preceding this is usually several weeks of developing and plotting, hanging out with old characters and deciding what paths they are going to take, while meeting new ones and learning all about them.  And this is where I am at now.

Most of my days are spent with my characters and they are nearly in place. My dilemma now is building a story for them that will live up to the first two books.  I have so many ideas and have explored several different plotlines. None of them are quite right yet, but the story will come, and if you see me wandering around with a completely vacant look on my face, in a world of my own, I’m not ignoring you, I’m just very busy figuring things out.

Followers of my Facebook page, be prepared for many questions over the next few weeks as my dark and devious mind goes into overdrive.

 

Authors – How to make Facebook work for you

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I have recently been talking with an author friend who is disillusioned with Facebook and feels there are better ways to market his novels.

That maybe so, but I truly believe that for free promotion Facebook is easily the best marketing tool on the Internet. Sure the annoying popups reminding you that for an additional cost you can reach a bigger audience are annoying, but trust me, you do not need to pay. If you’re prepared to put in the time and effort, Facebook will work for you, the same as it is working for me.

Here are my six rules.

Don’t force your books on people

Some authors are relentless. All I see is ‘Buy my book, you won’t regret it’ repeated again and again. Sure, post the occasional reminder, maybe share when you receive a four or five star review, but don’t keep ramming your work down people’s throats.  They know you are a writer and that you have books to promote and if they’re following your page it’s because they want to know what you’re up to, not continually be bombarded with relentless sales pleas. Look at the pages of celebrities who are prolific on Facebook like Ricky Gervais and Jason Manford. They have things to promote, but they are not constantly reminding you with every post that you must buy their latest work, and let’s face it, if they were you would probably stop following them, because it’s not what you want to see.

Mix it up

Don’t post the same type of thing day in, day out. You will always go through peaks and lulls with your audience, but most loyal followers will keep an eye on your page. Keep them updated with what is happening with your work. Tell them how sales are going and if you’re meeting with a book club or doing some other kind of promotional engagement, talk about it. Let people know where you are off to and afterwards how it went. But don’t keep it all about the book. Post interesting pictures and quotes about writing in general. And try to inject some humour into your updates. I post about my family, my cats, my love for wine, my gripes with life (in a lighthearted way to make people smile, as no one wants to listen to a moaner), and anything witty that happens during my day. Think about what you’re putting on your page and whether it would engage you if you were the reader. If it would, post it.

Don’t give snippets away

When I was about half way through Dead Write I sought advice on whether to post a passage from the book to whet appetites. While the decision was left in my hands, I decided against it after it was pointed out to me that bestselling authors such as JK Rowling don’t reveal snippets of their work before the release of the book and that it comes across as rather amateurish – like, look at me and what I managed to write today – rather than engaging your readers. They want the finished product, not snippets, so make them wait and give the book to them in its entirety.

Post regularly

I cannot stress the importance of this enough. If you post once or twice a week you are going to have far fewer page views than if you post every single day. We all have other commitments in our lives, social, family, work and of course writing, but if you want people to engage and interact on your page you need to make time to post frequently. You don’t need to say a lot, but let people know you are there. Post every single day and at least two or three times a day if possible.

When I went on holiday last summer I switched off from writing for 10 days, only to return to find the people interacting with my author page had dropped from over 100 to about 5. This then had a knock on effect to the number of people who were viewing my posts. I don’t regret switching off while I was away because we all need to have a break from social media, and I would do it again, but be prepared for the harsh truth. A week away is enough time to knock you almost back down to zero and it takes longer – a couple of weeks to a month – to get you back on top.

I have a personal Facebook account, but other than to exchange private emails with friends and family, I rarely use it. Instead I have concentrated on my author page and over the last few months I have made an effort to post to it almost every day and when possible several times a day to make sure I am constantly in people’s faces. It pays. My average post view is around the 200 mark, but plenty are much higher and I’ve had posts hit almost 3,000 views.

Engage with your audience and be human

I love interacting with anyone who posts to my page, so this bit is easy for me. The people who follow my updates are great fun, they make me laugh, they encourage and support me, and I feel I have made so many new friends. Regardless of how your audience is, don’t ignore them. Without your page followers you are nothing. If someone takes the trouble to comment on one of your posts, acknowledge this. I have seen far too many author pages where a post is made and then there is no further interaction from the author. Like any conversation it’s a two way thing, so get down off your lofty pedestal and be nice.

Increase sales by asking people to post share

I know some authors are sceptical about whether marketing on social sites can lead to sales. I am not one of them. I still have my doubts about Twitter, as once you post it has already disappeared off the page of most of your followers, but Facebook can definitely increase sales and I know people I have met through my page, who had never heard of me before, have gone on to buy my book after engaging in my updates. Asking friends and followers to share links, especially when you have a new book out for sale, is also effective and I know I gained a lot of sales this way when Dead Letter Day was first released.

So the bottom line is this, Facebook is a great marketing tool, but if you want it to work, you need to put in a lot of effort. Yes, at times it is hard, but it can also be a lot of fun, and I promise you it will be worth it.

Writing versus Social Media

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I have been very bad of late, ignoring my blog in order to work on my book.

For a while I tried to juggle both, wishing there were more hours in the day, but this took a toll on my writing and eventually I had to commit myself to finishing the novel, with my only social media coming in the form of brief Facebook posts on my author page.

As I hurtled towards the finishing line I even turned my back on Facebook and was reminded of the importance of daily interaction as I saw my ‘post reach’ tumble from the 1,200 down to just 500. I need to build this back up while editing Dead Write and also to start engaging on other sites, getting the word out about the new book, in order to give it the best chance possible.

It really is a chicken and egg situation and I know I am not alone, with every other author experiencing the same dilemma. Writing is the most important thing, right? This is your product and it is what you are trying to sell. It has to be good, the best work you can produce, and it takes time and concentration to get it right. But without social media, how will the finished article reach a wide audience? You may have written the best book in the world, but what is the point if no one knows about it?

I don’t regret the time spent working on Dead Write. It is currently with my test readers and the four who have finished it so far all think it is better than Dead Letter Day, which is definitely a step in the right direction.

So I will edit and send the manuscript off to my publisher, and I will become a social media whore for the next few months, trying to get my face and name everywhere. I played the game once before with moderate success and this time I want to spread the word wider, get my book on the map.

Love me or loathe me, expect to be hearing a lot more from me over the next few months.

 

A day in the life of this writer

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Working full time, I have to grab my writing opportunities when I can, be it a couple of hours in an evening or an afternoon of a weekend. Occasionally I will have a clear schedule; a solid six hour period to throw myself at my novel. Nothing will disturb me, no one will interrupt me; I will churn out twenty odd pages of brilliance.

Except it never quite works like that, at least not for me.

This is pretty much how it goes.

Fire up laptop.

While it’s loading, time for a coffee.

While the kettle is boiling I notice a few weeds poking up in my pathetic excuse for a garden, well… it’s actually more like a verge. Okay, it’s the area I step over between my front door and the bin. I pour my coffee and head outside to remove the offending items.

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Lola follows, because she is not really a cat, she is a sheep. A sheep disguised as a cat.

She rolls around on her back making funny little whining noises in an attempt to get me tickle her belly. I am a sucker for cat belly so I bin the weeds and give her a cuddle.

Her sister, Ellie, hears the purring and realizes she is missing out. More belly rubs and cuddles. That is another five minutes wasted.

Back inside, I grab my coffee and head back to my laptop, which has switched itself off, bored waiting.

I reboot and drink my now lukewarm coffee. Once the laptop is loaded I quickly check Facebook, Twitter and my email. Because you can quickly do that, right?

Half an hour later, after replying to emails, posting a couple of updates (because you’ve got keep yourself out there in the public eye) and making a Scrabble move or two, it is really time to crack on with writing. I log off the Internet and open up my novel.

First to reread the last few pages I wrote. I like to do this to get myself back into the flow of the story and reacquaint myself with storyland. So I’m up to date and ready to write. I have just typed the first few new sentences when the phone rings.

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It is my mother.

Now I swear that my mother has a magic telephone in her house that is programmed to ring whenever I am about to eat dinner, get in the shower, watch a movie or am working on my book. How else would she have a 100% record of interrupting me whenever I am doing one of these things?

Usually Mum is distressed about something when she calls. This may involve a decision she has made and is now regretting. She does this a lot, and not just with small stuff like agreeing to play golf three days in a row and realizing it is too much for her, but with big stuff too. Only my mum could spend ten years designing her dream kitchen, finally have the money to do it, then realize within a week of it being finished she should have done it completely different. Or spend years living in a house and dreaming of downsizing to bungalow, only to move to a bungalow and complain because she can no longer go upstairs.

If she’s not distressed about a bad decision, it will be about Tesco putting up the price of toilet roll by 15pence or no longer stocking her favorite kind of bottled water. Or it could just be distress because she is knackered. Now don’t get me wrong, Mum is fairly sprightly for a lady in her mid-sixties, apart from suffering from back pain and shoulder pain and headaches, and days where she just can’t put one foot in front of the other. Anyway, you get the picture; Mum has phoned to have a moan.

So I let her have a moan. I join in too, because I am her daughter and I can moan with the best of them.

By the time we are done – usually when her free hour is up – it’s back to the book. I’m thirsty from all the talking though, so first I decide to put the kettle on.

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While it is boiling I notice the flashing light on the washing machine and realize I’ve forgotten to get my clothes out. I make my coffee, sort my laundry and nearly trip over Lola lying on the stairs while I have my arms laden with clothes.

Lola wants a cuddle and shows me her belly. I cave and then have to make a fuss of Ellie, because Ellie is a very jealous cat and if she doesn’t get what she wants she might go upstairs and piss on my bed. (She hasn’t done it yet, but I know the threat is there).

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Back to my laptop with my coffee, I reboot, take another quick look at Facebook, Twitter and my email. Lose another half an hour networking, then turn back to the book. I write a sentence, sip my coffee. It’s cold, so off I go to make a fresh one.

This time I will focus. I won’t get distracted by cats, mothers or laundry. I will stay away from the Internet. Well, okay, I’ll just play a quick game on Sporcle first.

Okay, enough. Get back to the book, Keri.

I type a few more lines before needing clarification of something. Being a writer, research can be very entertaining and very random. One minute I could be looking up the year Google was launched (September 4th, 1998, for anyone who is interested), the next I could be finding out how long a person could survive in a buried coffin. (One to two hours depending on how much you’re panicking and using up air).

So I do my research. Just check Facebook, Twitter and my email while I’m back online.

Hello, I’ve had a few new messages. Better reply.

Finally back to my book.

I notice it’s spitting outside. This isn’t good as I have plans for tomorrow. I check the weather forecast.

All this Internet work is making me hungry. I head off to the kitchen for a snack and another coffee.

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And so the pattern continues.

Finally I notice I have about one hour left of my six hour time frame. This is not good. How have I managed to waste my day again? I sit down to write and suddenly, like the man who ate a bad curry and had the whole wide world fall out of his ass, my writing starts to flow.

I am typing faster than my brain can engage, my characters coming alive and doing their own thing. I’m just documenting it and all of it is good stuff. I can’t stop and I overshoot my six hour window, working into the evening, forgetting to stop for dinner, for a shower or for sleep. Sometimes it’s ten pages, other times as many as twenty to thirty pages.

Eventually I stop. Usually I have to force myself to stop because I have a day job to go to the following morning, but I don’t want to.

I could write all night.

 

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Don’t you forget about me.

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Everyone needs to recharge their batteries now and again and I have just returned from ten gloriously sunny days on the Spanish island of Menorca.

Before I departed England, I made a conscious decision to switch myself off from all social media. No Facebook or Twitter posts, no blogs, no book promotion at all. I knew my pages would take a hit. After all, out of sight is out of mind, and a week and a half is a fair amount of time.

I was right and on return my Facebook author page, where I am most prolific, and where it is easiest to analyse viewer statistics, had dropped by over a 100 regular viewers to just 6. Proof perhaps to those who think they can write a novel and sit back for an easy life, that if you want your book to sell, you have to be marketing on a daily basis, making the public aware of your existence.

By that, I don’t mean shamelessly self-promoting your book on every web page going, but instead building up a presence as you, the author, and engaging with your audience through entertaining posts. There is nothing wrong with an occasional polite and gentle reminder of your product, but keep ramming it down your audience’s throats and they will soon grow sick of you. Instead tell them how things are going with your current book, give updates as to what you are working on at the moment and mix things up with a few witty anecdotes from your personal life.

So readership of my page has dropped and over the coming weeks my job is to try and get this back up. I don’t regret my decision to switch off. I needed a break, to forget all things Dead Letter Day related for just a little while, and spent my ten days lazing in the sun and catching up on reading.

I used to be a voracious reader, but between writing, promotion and a full time job, I’ve struggled to complete more than a couple of books over the past six months. While on holiday I had time to immerse myself in four excellent novels (two by established authors, Karen Rose and Nora Roberts, and two debut novels by Megan Denby and Phil Simpkin) and I was reminded of the importance of reading to an author.

When I wrote Dead Letter Day I was probably averaging twenty books a year and I fully believe that reading makes you a better writer; not in terms of plagiarism, but because it helps unlock your mind and gets your creative juices flowing. And I can’t wait to get back to working on my new book.

If you are interested in checking out my holiday reading, please see the links below.

Karen Rose – No one left to tell

http://www.amazon.co.uk/One-Left-Tell-Karen-Rose/dp/0755373960/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373192615&sr=8-1&keywords=no+one+left+to+tell

Megan Denby – A thistle in the mist

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thistle-Mist-Megan-Denby/dp/1482699168/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373192648&sr=1-1&keywords=a+thistle+in+the+mist

Phil Simpkin – Jack Ketch’s puppets

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jack-Ketchs-Puppets-Introducing-Borough/dp/1482712008/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373192680&sr=1-1&keywords=phil+simpkin

Nora Roberts – Black Hills

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Hills-Nora-Roberts/dp/074992893X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373192717&sr=1-1&keywords=black+hills+nora+roberts

 

The juggling life of a writer

Lovely Oregon. Setting for Dead Letter Day and its yet to be named sequel.

Lovely Oregon. Setting for Dead Letter Day and its yet to be named sequel.

I was discussing with a fellow author a few days ago the difficulties of finding quality writing time in our busy day to day lives, and I am sure this is something most others working on novels can relate to.

Unless you are one of the lucky few, whose books have sold so successfully you can afford to write full time, you will probably have a day job eating up a huge chunk of your week. I had one of these when I was writing Dead Letter Day, but was fortunate that it was nine to five-thirty and fairly stress free. Now I have been promoted and have a much bigger workload and a lot of responsibility sitting on my shoulders. Add to this a boss who uses words such as “disaster”, “catastrophe” and “nightmare” on a daily basis and most evenings when I leave work I want nothing more than to unwind with a hot soapy bath and a bottle of wine.

At the moment the day job pays the bills and quite rightly they expect full commitment while I am there. I am not lying when I say I have seriously contemplated jacking it in and getting a job in the local supermarket, so my “me” time can be spent full focusing on my second book and not worrying that I have forgotten to do something crucially important in the world of contracting. It’s still not ideal though, so I will continue to juggle work and writing and hope that one day the second one will pay well enough to allow me the luxury of going part time.

In addition to work, you have to find time for family and friends. Some writers I know have the commitments of a young family to contend with and I applaud them for being able to get any writing done at all. I have no kids – unless you count the two furry monsters that live with me and demand frequent feeding, litter changing and attention – but I still want to find time for my family and friends. They have all been so supportive of my writing career, I can’t neglect them.

Housework has gone out of the window since my book was published. While my desk at work is chaotic and the inside of my car looks like “Steptoe’s Yard”, my house (well actually, it’s more a shoebox) has always been my little bubble of serenity. Everything has to be clean, tidy and smell good. Not so much anymore. The carpets are barely visible under a layer of Lola fluff, my bins are overflowing, there are socks outside of the linen bin and a pile of washing up is gathering by the sink. It’s driving me insane, but a little voice chirps away in my head, telling me to ignore it. The book is more important.

Finally there is marketing. I already have a book out and I need to do everything possible to keep it in the public eye.  The marketing side is great and I really enjoy promoting the book, but it is very time consuming, as I am sure other authors will agree. There are myriad websites offering book promotion opportunities and it is very easy to lose an entire weekend plugging away blogging, reviewing and updating. And it pays. I have noticed that if I am very active online reminding people about the book, my sales improve. Whenever I take some “me” time and focus on writing the sequel, my rankings suffer. Add to this contacting press, bookstores, libraries and book clubs and marketing can easily become a full time job.

Now I don’t want anyone reading this blog to think I am complaining. I have been handed a wonderful opportunity and with the publication of Dead Letter Day, my ultimate dream came true. I feel very lucky to have the above dilemmas and I wouldn’t change any of it for one second. I am a writer and the need to write and the frustration at not always being able to write is just making me vent a little while I try to put some order into my life, so I can get everything done.

This weekend I am going to do my anal Virgo thing and have boxes. There is a little box for the marketing, which involves this blog and a couple of posts on Facebook, another box for the housework, which I will be doing as soon as I have finished the marketing bits. My house needs to be clean or my brain will go into meltdown. Then the rest of the afternoon, this evening and most of tomorrow I have kept free to write. Likewise, I will be doing the same over the bank holiday weekend. I have even turned down an invitation to go to the pub next Sunday afternoon. See how seriously I am taking this? I know the letterettes are desperate for the sequel and I want to deliver one that won’t disappoint.

I am not an author who can manage five minutes writing whenever I can snatch the time. I need to lose myself in the plot of my book and the lives of my characters in order to bring them to life. So this afternoon I am off to Juniper, Oregon.

See you later, folks.

Want to have a character named after you in my next book?

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Fancy seeing your name in print?

I am hard at work on the Dead Letter Day sequel and offering one reader the chance to have a character named after them.

The competition is on Facebook, so if you want to enter please head on over to my page www.facebook.com/allaboutbeev and follow the instructions.

Closing date is Sunday 5th May.

Good luck!