Increase your July book sales with Smashwords promotion

Promotions can often be key in marketing. Getting people to buy your book is no easy thing, as I’ve discovered myself, and a few freebies and discounts here and there can offer great incentives for readers to download your book, read it, love it and hopefully spread the word.

If you currently sell with Smashwords and received their email this morning, don’t bin it to your delete box before reading because they’ve announced their Summer/Winter sale. This site-wide promotion starts on July 1st and lasts a month, allowing you to discount your books. You can make them free, 75per cent off, half price, or 25per cent off. If you want to enrol, then do so before July 1st for maximum exposure.

As you can see from the form above, it only takes mere seconds to enrol and you might find a jump in sales. I’ve never used the promotion before, but anything to offer readers a little extra incentive to buy your book is a good opportunity to utilise. Inside Evil will be 50% off for the month, and you’ll be able to buy it at the reduced price using the SSW50 code.

Top five soundtracks to enjoy whilst writing fantasy, science fiction or paranormal novels

I don’t know about you, but when I write I’m normally listening to some kind of music. I can’t have anything with actual words in because, before you know it, I’m singing along and not writing at all. However, I do find that soundtracks help immerse me into my novel, and help conjure the right ambiance to start setting out scenes.

Here are my top five writing tracks of right now:

Harry Potter

Whether you love him or hate him, Harry Potter has provided some great thrills over the year. I have all of the film soundtracks and have listened to them so much that I know the exact scene for each track. They’re great for putting you in a ‘magical’ mood.



Alien

In my personal opinion, Alien remains one of the most thrilling and scariest science fiction horrors of all time. The suspenseful and iconic score is a joy to listen to, and if you’re ever in the need for some inspiring outer space and horrifying ambiance, then this score is ideal for you.



The Descent

My all time favourite British horror movie, The Descent has confirmed my fear of caving and if there’s one thing I’m happy to never do in my life, it’s descend underground and crawl through minuscule rock cavities. But, this soundtrack is yet another fantastic score to enjoy if you want to give yourself an isolated ambiance with scary undertones.



28 Days Later

Ok, I lied, 28 Days Later actually tops The Descent in my favourite Brit horror flick. It’s score gives me goose pimples and there’s one scene in particular that I wrote in Inside Evil with the theme of this movie going around in my head – in my opinion, it’s the scariest scene in the book.



Jon Hopkins

OK, technically this isn’t a soundtrack, but Jon Hopkins has graced so many soundtracks that I’m bending this blog post’s rules slightly. This musician is one of my favourite artists to enjoy when I’m writing, and has a range of tracks for any occasion. If I need something uplifting, hopeful or romantic, I turn to Jon Hopkins. Here’s one of my favourite tracks, Cerulean.

Raising your profile with Authors Den

For many self publishers the battle with obscurity will begin as soon as the ‘publish‘ button is pressed and we realise that readers aren’t going to automatically flock to our books. Through unsolicited reader reviews and emails from people about your books, you can quickly establish that, yes, your book isn’t crap and there are people out there who are loving it. This can help stop the huge disappointment that is likely to ensue when book sales are slow. If you’re getting one and two star ratings, then perhaps your works needs some fine tuning. But, if you’re getting positive reviews from the few readers that you do have, then it’s a shove in the right direction to keep persevering.

Obscurity is a very hard problem to cure, and visit any self publishing forum you’ll to see hundreds of threads about how to get more sales. Reviews will encourage new readers to buy, but how do you get these reviews in the first place? Getting into the Top 100 is likely to get you seen by more people, but how do you get enough sales to reach these desired spots? Around 1,000 Amazon sales and you’re entering the realms of catching the eye of an algorithm or two so that you’ll appear in some of the spotlight lists. After launching your book and noting sales dribbling in, you may wonder whether you’ll ever make that 1,000.

It seems as if the most positive think that you can do is to write. Write more books, add to existing series, put out titles that people will want to read. However, this takes time, and you can be raising your online profile whilst you write. A Goodreads marketing campaign or a LibraryThing giveaway may help readers find your work and spread the word. Joining sites such as Shelfari, Goodreads and LibraryThing will also help, especially if you participate in discussions. A new site that I’ve come across is Authors Den, and with the owners claiming to have a million visitors a month, then surely creating a profile here is a good idea. Making a profile is easy and you can add books, WITH sales links. It may not give you a thousand sales, but in my eyes, anything to get both your name and book titles seen my more people is a bonus.

How to start a Goodreads book marketing campaign

Up until this point it’s fair to say that I’ve spent minimal money on self publishing. Through the help of a couple of avid readers, I had Inside Evil vetted and proofread for free. Uploading eBooks costs nothing, and I spent $50 on the cover. In addition, I bought this blog domain; so overall I’ve only spent about $65. This, in truth, is nothing when it comes to creating, publishing and advertising a novel.

Those who know me, know that I’m pretty frugal. Some would say I’m tight – I would say I’m financially organised and careful with my spending. It’s the way I was brought up. Just because you might want to buy something, doesn’t mean you should or can buy it. If you really want, you should save – these are the lessons my parents instilled upon me which, in fairness, have been a great help in life. Still, that didn’t stop me blowing my entire student loan in the first year of university on a sound system, hundreds of DVDs and so much booze that I ran out of money in May and had to live of baked beans and scavenged bread for about two months.

Still, I get aside from the point; I don’t like to spend money if I can help it. However, I have finally bitten the bullet and invested into a Goodreads advertising campaign.

The problem with self publishing is that, after that initially flurry of excitement, book sales can slump. I’ve tried to kick start things with a LibraryThing giveaway, but have only had one review, 4 stars, come in. More about that in another post. I know that some indie writers have been successful enough without having to do any advertising, but for the majority of us, some investment will be needed.

Creating a Goodreads campaign is very easy, after all, they want to take your money. However, for those who are worried that it’s going to be difficult to create, fear not. It only takes a few clicks, a couple of lines of copy and you’re off. Goodreads Self Serve advertising took me less than half an hour to fill out and prepare the adverts, and then it took around 12 hours for them to be authorised. Please note, you will need a creditcard so that you can throw some money into the advertising account. However, you can carefully control your Cost Per Click (CPC) rates and set a limit on your daily spend so that money isn’t literally haemorrhaging out of your account.

To prevent huge losses without any actual results, I decided to follow Lindsay Buroker’s advice and go with a targeted market campaign. Whilst you can advertise to everyone, you pay for every click. If these clicks aren’t getting you actual sales, then you’re effectively wasting money and being very inefficient. As it is, I am bidding 30cents for a click. With a royalty rate on Inside Evil of $2.70, it means that if I get one sale for every nine clicks, then I’m breaking even.

In addition to carefully selecting the groups of people I want my novel targeted at, I’ve included the price, the genre and the fact that Inside Evil is an eBook in the actual ad copy. This should stop people wanting paperbacks or crime thrillers clicking on the link and wasting my hard earned cash.

Currently I’m testing out two ads, both pointing to Amazon, to see which has the better CPC rate. I’ll probably add adverts for B&N and Smashwords over time, but at the moment I’m choosing to focus on Amazon whilst I get to grips with the advertising process.

In regards to money, I’ve only dumped $35 into the account. I’ve set a maximum of $5 per day, which gives me 16 clicks. You may not think this is very high, but CPC rates can be pretty unimpressive, as low as 0.05per cent, meaning that for me to max out I’ll actually need to have 32,000 indents during the space of the day to get those 16 clicks. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m not expecting to see these high numbers. And, of course, you can change your maximums or dump more cash in at any time.

Another note to add is that your advertising fund will cover all of your ads. I initially thought I would put $35 in for each of the two ads, but upon creating the second advert, I discovered that they come under the same umbrella. This is great as it offers you the chance to play around with your CPC bid costs and different advert copies without having to invest an increasingly large sum of money.

So, you can see that creating a Goodreads book marketing campaign is fairly easy. From perusing forums and Kindleboards, it seems that some people have success with this route whilst others don’t.  My adverts have been live less than a day and have had 973 indents and no clicks so far.

I will update over the coming weeks :)

Writing books on smartphones and gadgets

When it comes to writing, I’m one of the world’s greatest procrastinators. Rather than simply sitting down at my computer, I like to first get all of my client writing work out of the way. I like to schedule my day and work out when I can write blogs, clean the dishes, feed the cats; anything but actually sit down and actually work. I will be thinking about writing, formulating scenes and chapters in my mind, but I can often put off the actual process of writing for an extraordinarily long length of time. Sometimes, it’s just that I don’t want to sit down at my computer.

Something that’s got me producing more work and words every day is writing whilst I’m on the move. Though I’m a PC boy, I have fallen into the Apple cart, quite literally, and the iPhone has literally changed my life in the past two years that I’ve had it. However, it is in more recent weeks that the ‘Notes’ app (right) has been proving a huge benefit.

You may not think that writing a novel on your iPhone is the smartest way to go about producing work, but if you can actually get words written, then anything is a bonus. Think how fast you type messages and emails on your smartphone. If you can transfer this speed to your ‘Notes’ app, then surely you’re onto a winner. A benefit with the app is that there’s an integrated email function. When I’m home I can simply cut and paste the words into my main manuscript. Yes, there’s some formatting that needs to be done, but highlighting the text and adding line spacing, indents and changing the font takes mere seconds. As for correcting comma and quotation fonts; well I can easily do that in the final edit.

In the past few weeks I’ve managed to get a lot of words written using this method. Any free moment, whether it’s a coffee break or even an advert break when I’m watching the television, I can jot things down. Yes, you can take notepads, netbooks or laptops wherever you go if you wish, but there’s one thing that’s almost certainly always going to be to hand, and that’s your phone.

Of course, this isn’t a replacement for your PC or Mac, but it sure helps churn out those important thoughts and words when you have a few spare minutes. It also seems like less work than sitting down at your computer. And, for the ultimate procrastinator like me, emailing across the document, integrating it into the manuscript and suddenly realising you’ve written 5k by utilising otherwise wasted time is wonderful. I’m not sure whether other smartphone systems have similar applications as this. But, if you have an iPhone and you sometimes struggle with sitting down to concentrate on writing, utilising the Notes app may just provide the extra incentive to keep going.

The Tower of Souls – the first excerpt

I’ve been working on The Tower of Souls, both actively tapping away and passively thinking, perusing and dreaming about it. It’s funny when you start a new novel and it gets under your skin; it’s almost all you can think about it.

Today I’ve been working on a chapter with Susan and Martha and thought I’d do something that I never did with Inside Evil; post a short except. Bear in mind that this is a first draft and only cobbled together today, but I thought I’d share this brief passage that involves one of my favourite double acts.

                                                                                               

The Tower of Souls; Except

Christmas had come and gone in Ridgewood. As Susan stood at the window of Martha’s kitchen, she looked out upon the grey scene. Though snow had brightened up the quiet little town in the weeks preceding December 25th, rain had arrived on Christmas Eve to wash away the crisp white sheet that blanketed her surroundings. Within hours, the beauty of the white landscape had been washed away to slush, and though evening temperatures continued to plummet, there was no new snow to provide fresh beauty to the town.

Susan sighed as she plunged her hands into the hot water and continued to clean dishes. The past few days had been extremely difficult; the first Christmas without Vanessa had been as bad as she thought it might be. Much to her husband Bernard’s displeasure, Martha had been invited for food, drinks and more drinks. They had sat in almost complete and uncomfortable silence around the table, with Martha occasionally attempting to make light conversation with Bernard.

“Why can’t you just leave us in peace?” he said finally, the words spilling from his lips with tired anger.

“Bernard, I’m so sor-“

“You have nothing to be sorry about,” Susan interrupted, before turning her eyes on her husband. “How dare you-”

“How dare I?” Bernard shouted with indignation, “That’s a bloody joke! This woman, this interfering manipulative woman ruined our marriage the day she stepped into OUR bookstore.”

“What marriage?” Susan said, almost rolling her eyes, “We’ve been pretending to love each other for years. We only stayed together for Vanessa’s sake.”

“Well, how lucky for you, dear,” Bernard replied with sarcasm, “She’s dead, you can leave me now.” And, with that he pushed his plate away and stormed out of the room.

Susan had not needed any heeding, and despite Martha offering to leave whilst advising her friend to let matters simmer down, Susan knew that there wasn’t any going back. She’d known for a long time that her marriage was over, and since her daughter’s death she and Bernard had only been growing further apart. With Bernard glowering in the front room, Susan had filled a suitcase with clothes and left with the promise of a bed at Martha’s. Little did she know that as soon as the door to her family home had slammed, Bernard, teary eyed and regretful, had wandered the house looking for his wife, not believing that she’d actually gone. No, Christmas had not been pleasant.

As Susan heard the front door open and the rustle of an umbrella being shaken, she looked up from the foamy suds that filled the washing up bowl. A small movement caught her eye, and she noticed a small purple spider was spindling on a small length of silk attached to the top of the window frame, gently descending to the countertop below. Reaching out with soapy hands, Susan squashed the tiny creature with her index finger, before wiping the oozy innards from the paintwork with a sponge and turning to smile as Martha bustled in.

“I got it,” Martha beamed as she held aloft the large tome that she’d received from Sam Carter. “It’s exactly as she said it would be.”

A curious thing had occurred the previous night. Susan, though going to bed early, had been suffering from her usual early morning insomnia, and around 1am had finally given up the attempt to sleep and had instead crept down to the living room for a late night tipple. She thought, for a few seconds, that Martha had beaten her to it when she saw her friend standing at the drinks cabinet, before realising that Martha was actually staring into the large mirror mounted on the wall above. Drawing closer, Susan had seen the animated image of an older woman shimmering away, before the reflection in the glass was replaced with Martha’s familiar face. Martha pushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear as if nothing untoward had occurred, saw that Susan had entered the living room and immediately pulled out a bottle of whisky.

Now, standing in the kitchen on the following morning, Martha pulled Susan across to the table as she pushed up the sleeves of her mauve cardigan and dropped the large and old looking book onto a small breakfast bar.

“How was Sam?” Susan asked, realising that she hadn’t actually seen him since the night that Roberta fell from the cliff.

“Dishevelled,” Martha responded as she flipped open the thick leather cover to reveal the first page. “I’m afraid I was too keen on getting my hands on this to spend any time with him.”

Upon the first page of the faded pink paper was a list of names and dates pertaining to the previous owners of the tome.

“Mrs Peacock. She must’ve been the woman in the mirror,” Martha said as she drew her index finger down the list.

Susan peered over her shoulder and saw the inscription below, letting out a small gasp as she did so. “Martha Wittle.”

Martha grinned with excitement. She seemed unfazed by the fact that a woman had appeared in her mirror in the middle of the night with instructions to pick up this book; a book which was obviously predestined to make it into Martha’s hands.

Leaving the table momentarily, Martha disappeared into the living room. Susan flipped the page and found that it was blank, the pale and slightly water marked pink paper feeling fragile under her fingers. Page after page was blank, with the only slight marks being those of age related trauma.

“Martha, it’s empty!” Susan called out.

“What?”

“It’s blank!” Susan shouted again, raising her voice as she did so.

“Bring it here would you?” Martha said, popping her head around the doorframe before once again disappearing. “I think I have a little trick to solve that.”

                                                                                

For those of you who’ve read Inside Evil there may be a few titbits of Martha’s future in this except. For those who haven’t, I hope I haven’t given anything too much away!

Inside Evil; The Tower of Souls

It’s official, the sequel to Inside Evil that I’m currently writing will be called The Tower of Souls. You may think that, as an author, I ought to have known the title before I started writing. However, many authors actually finish entire novels before the title pops into their mind. In a similar way that characters grow into themselves as the pages are written, so too does the overall story arc, and often the title. And now, 20,000 words in, The Tower of Souls has ruminated in my mind for long enough to set down its official anchor.

What can we expect from The Tower of Souls? Well, to be completely honest, I’m not even sure yet. When I was in the throes of writing Inside Evil, a lot happened which I’d never envisaged. I have set milestones that I work towards, but the storytelling in between is left largely to my fingers and the characters themselves. Do I know where Tower of Souls will finish? Yes. Do I know what is going to happen along the way? Not entirely.

I can tell you that our favourite characters, Roberta, Sam, Susan, Martha and Karl will all be back, with Sam moving to the forefront a little and having his own Point of View (POV). As Roberta explores the dangerous world of Gathin, she’s going to discover the true horrors that shadows Ridgewood, and she may come to realise that her part in this story is not a mere accident. Meanwhile, with Roberta presumed dead by her friends who have been left behind, life goes on. However, shaking off the experience that was suffered in the final days before Inside Evil’s conclusion isn’t easy and, Sam in particular, will struggle to adapt.

Several further reviews have come in for Inside Evil, making me know that taking a breath and hitting that ‘publish‘ button was the right thing to do. Now, even I am excited by the story unfolding on the screen before me. Over the coming weeks I’m also going to post a little competition for one reader to have a very specific character placed within Gathin, allowing a creative fan to have their concept immortalised in an eBook form. But for now, and with a tentative release date of September, I need to get back to tap, tap, tapping away.