Thursday, October 30, 2014

Brigaders at #BristolCon Part One

Having missed out on the awesomeness of LonCon 3 (WorldCon) due to various disasters, I jumped at the chance of doing BristolCon. While I will always regret the missed opportunity of LonCon, perhaps it's better to start with something like BristolCon with it being just one day and hopefully less overwhelming to an author appearance virgin like me.

I'll admit - I was petrified. I am not a people person. Online, with the safety of a computer screen between me and the rest of the world, I can be pretty chatty and sociable. Face to face? *runs and hides in a corner* But with visibility being the biggest hurdle most authors have to get past, making a physical appearance somewhere, sometime, seems necessary. And I miss going to conventions - hubs isn't a fan, and once the kids came along even the odd trip to London to the Comic and Film Fairs became nonexistent. So I was eager to get back into conventions.

First, a bit about the venue. BristolCon " a one-day convention organized by the BristolCon Foundation, a charitable foundation set up to support and promote speculative fiction writing, art and related activities in the South West." It takes place in the Doubletrees Hotel in Bristol town centre, just yards from the Temple Meads Station. A huge part of the attraction for me was my favourite SF author Jaine Fenn was going to be attending and doing some panels, plus my eldest's new favourite author Janet Edwards (YA SF), which meant I easily persuaded eldest to come along (we met both authors at the Women In Scifi panel in London, which coincidentally also covered the subject of lack of visibility). Being included on the guest list alongside them, plus the likes of Mark Lawrence and Gareth Powell certainly isn't too shabby either. ^-^ But if you're curious about the rest of the guests and events, please check out the BristolCon website HERE

What I took:

1. Download cards. Now, I got a few questions about these before the convention while I posted images of my convention gear as I prepared my kit, so I'm going to go through making them. Firstly, I do have one publisher (Champagne Books) who will issue us with ready made download cards for ebooks, but these have to be ordered in bulk, then shipped. I'm always nervous about having valuable items like that sent through the post and across the sea to boot. My other publisher (Breathless Press) does gift cards via codes, so I asked about the possibility of codes for specific titles ie mine. This was apparently a viable option, and I bought ten codes for each of my two ebooks. These are one use only just for the title they relate to, so no need to worry about multiple downloads. But what to put them on? The codes were printed onto a sheet of stickers. Then for each title I printed off postcard sized cards with the book cover and blurb on the front, and the download instructions on the back, with a space for the code sticker.

This meant I didn't have to print out individual cards for each code, so if I use a couple of unsold codes for giveaways after the convention, I can just take the sticker off and reuse the card (this really saves on costs). So once printed, I put on my stickers, then put the cards onto a display unit with the price and a note of Buy Now Download Later.

And if you can't get codes from your publisher or you're indie? Well, for an indie author, there's the ability to produce codes via Smashwords for a specific title. This would mean you could use the download card idea with a coupon for free download, but the buyer has to purchase the card from you first. Unfortunately I don't think there's any way to make the coupon valid for just one download, so there is the risk of the buyer using it multiple times for that title. This would need more investigation. As for publishers - well, if they do gift card codes, that's an option which would at least guarantee the buyer going to their website, but not necessarily for YOUR title. My philosophy is - if you don't ask, you don't get. Maybe it's something they'd be interested in doing if it means more business for you and for them.

2. Free samples/goodie bags. Breathless/Lycaon Press send us sample PDFs of our books to give away or print off, usually the first chapter. Using the booklet facility in Word 2010, I printed these off for my two titles currently published through them, with the cover and blurb included, plus a link to my publisher's website. I had to invest in an extra long stapler to finish the booklets off properly (there are an awful lot of costs for a first time conventioneer, sigh), but I'm rather proud of the results.

These went into clear resealable bags. For my two YA titles, they got a YA sticker on the front. My scifi romance has a SFR Brigade sticker. I also put a pencil and sharpener from Breathless Press into each bag, and related swag. For example, my SFR has postcards from Sabine Priestley and Rachel Leigh Smith for their SFR titles, a promo card for the SFR Brigade, and a small card for Tales from the SFR Brigade, our free anthology. I bought some high quality silk finish photography paper for the Brigade promo, intending to print both sides, but unfortunately it didn't work out for that paper, and I had to resort to a one-sided card (3x5.5 inches).

The YA titles are paranormal and scifi respectively, so they each had cards/swag related to their genre. I've left the bags unsealed so that anyone interested in taking them but who expresses interest in anything else on the table can have extras added in. The Brigade stickers were bought from Zazzle, while I made and printed the YA stickers myself.

3. Goodie basket. Thanks to the generosity of my fellow BP author Mia Epsilon, I had a hardback edition of BP's Wonderland Tales, an anthology of stories based on Alice in Wonderland. I also ordered a print edition of Tales from the SFR Brigade, a copy of Ghost Planet by my fellow Spacefreighters buddy Sharon Lynn Fisher (a scifi romance published by TOR), and a notebook with the cover of my recent release - Hallow's Eve - on the front. This was to be raffled off at the event, with ticket money paying for postage.

4. Breathless Press giveaway. As well as providing pencils and sharpeners as swag, BP also sent me some wristbands, with a giveaway attached. Entrants need to post a picture on social media of them wearing the band and tag Breathless Press in the post, to be entered to win gift cards, books etc. I felt having some no obligation stuff on offer would hopefully draw people over rather than just blatant 'we are here to sell you stuff'.

5. Sweets and more freebies. I am not above bribery myself. I bought some star shaped sweets (to fit our SF theme) to help tempt people over, plus we had plenty of free bookmarks and business cards (obviously promoting our books, but heck, we *are* authors trying to promote our works). I also have two clipboards, one for contact details for the goodie basket raffle, and the other for my newsletter.

6. Myself, Misa and my eldest. Eldest and I both wore t-shirts for two of my titles - she had my YA paranormal Restless In Peaceville, while I had my upcoming superhero romance, When Dark Falls. I also dressed up in a bright red highwayman jacket, and wore my lightsaber earrings and sonic screwdriver necklace. Misa had an author banner, something I'll now consider investing in since I plan to do more conventions.

7. What Misa had. Misa also brought download codes for her titles, a print collection of three of her novellas, and bookmarks. She also had a banner (something I need to invest in, though possibly not from Vistaprint after the two of us failed to get the darn thing together, and another author had to help her set it up).

And how did it go?

Come back next week on Wednesday 5th November to find out! In the meantime, if you have any questions at all just give me a shout.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Myth and Mystery with Science Fiction Romance

One of the elements I like to include in my science fiction romances is a strong feeling of the richness of the myth and mystery of the planet where the action is taking place. I think this quote from Smart Girls Love SciFi blog’s review of my recent SFR, MISSION TO MAHJUNDAR,  sums up what I'm striving for:

Scott blends fantasy and SF speculation effectively, I think, and the SF reads somewhat like a fantasy tale. Magic, oracles, prophecies all give it the rich epic fantasy feel. Another plus is Scott’s ability to blend various world cultures so that her worlds seem like a truly diverse galaxy of the future-not just Western world rehash

So there’s science fiction and advanced technology in my novels but also that element of “otherness” that raises questions and possibilities. My heroes are usually Special Forces personnel from the Sectors (the universe where my stories take place). My military guys have seen a lot in their careers, fighting the enemy across the galaxy and they’ve learned not to be skeptical of powers that stem from sources other than the technology they rely on. Blasters don’t necessarily solve every problem!

For the planet Mahjundar, I envisioned a world where the older beliefs are fading, under assault from new gods favored by the local Empress. The heroine, Princess Shalira, has the knack for channeling the power of the legacy gods, but this ability is no longer respected or needed in the current political situation. The fact that she’s blind further reduces her status in society, to the point where she’s left facing a less-than-desirable arranged marriage.

Over the course of the novel, she and the hero, Major Mike Varone, face a number of challenges, some of which can be resolved by his high tech weapons and gadgets, others which only yield to her connection to the mysteries of Mahjundar’s past.

I also write a paranormal series set in ancient Egypt and have done immense amounts of research into the myths and lore of the Nile civilization, giving me a rich background from which to spin the more fantastic elements of my planets. I’ve also done less intensive research into other ancient world beliefs and customs, which helps me blend new mysteries for my SFR novels. And I also ask myself, What would be really cool to have happen on this planet?

Here’s an excerpt from MISSION TO MAHJUNDAR, illustrating my approach. The group is on their way to retrieve certain items from her mother’s tomb, but they need a key, which can only be obtained in an abandoned temple:

“We must make an offering.” The princess freed her hand from Mike's. “Could you open this pouch for me and set the items in my hands?” Fumbling at her belt, she detached a small red leather purse, which she held out.
Unknotting the rawhide strip at the neck of the purse, he removed ten different things loosely packed inside, carefully depositing them in Shalira's cupped hands. There was an iridescent feather from some rare bird, a sachet of rich perfume, an exquisite jade carving of a deer-like creature, ten tiny golden bells strung on a fine chain, and other miniature treasures he’d no time to examine. One for each god, I suppose.
“This is the last item.” He laid an enameled brooch encrusted with baroque pearls on top of the pile in her hands and tucked the small purse away in a pocket.
Tightening her fingers around the precious hoard, Shalira raised her arms. Bathed in sunlight streaming from the sky­lights, she chanted in a variation of the Mahjundan language that his hypnotraining hadn’t included. Her voice was lyrical, mesmerizing in the way the rhythm rose and fell. Realizing he was dizzy, Mike blinked hard, reaching to steady himself against the red block.
Within the chamber, a humming had begun, like an accompaniment to the chanting, but in a much deeper tonal range. The strange sound vibrated through his spine and behind his ears in an un­pleasant way. As if a breeze had sprung up inside the room, the dust and debris on the floor shifted hither and yon, moved into small piles. It was as if he and Shalira were cut off from the others, isolated on the island of the dais by sound and a wall of wind. Now the princess lowered her offering toward the block’s sur­face. Mike reached out, guiding her hands toward the closer of the two oval depressions. Electricity tingled through his nerves, blue fire danced in the air and he couldn’t release her fingers. His hands supported hers.
This time there was no invisible shield to prevent him from touching the stone. Contact with the altar hit Mike like ice water. Shivering, he felt Shalira trembling violent­ly next to him, but the princess continued her ritual with no break in the song, although her voice grew wobbly. At last, their hands separated, and he jerked his fingers back. Shalira held one final, lingering note, suddenly opening her cupped hands.
The gifts she offered drifted the last few inches into the stone oval. One by one, as if falling through thick glue, the items touched the rock and disappeared in showers of red, yellow and turquoise sparks.
Shalira fell silent, licking her lips and lowering her head. She took a step backward. Hastily, Mike reached out to steady her and prevent her from toppling off the edge of the dais. Head against his chest, she leaned into him. “Is the offering accepted?” Her whisper was so thready he could barely hear the words. “Is there a key in the other bowl?”
“Lords of Space, there is a key.”

An attempted assassination left Princess Shalira blind as a child and, now that she’s of marriageable age, her prospects are not good because of her disability. She’s resigned herself to an arranged marriage rather than face life under the thumb of her cold stepmother. But then she meets Mike Varone, a Sectors Special Forces officer sent to Mahjundar by the intergalactic government to retrieve a ship lost in her planet’s mountains. After Mike saves Shalira from another assassination attempt, she arranges for him to escort her across the planet to her future husband. She’s already falling hard for the deadly offworlder and knows she should deny herself the temptation he represents, but taking Mike along to protect her is the only way she’ll live long enough to escape her ruthless stepmother.

But what should have been an easy trek through Mahjundar’s peaceful lands swiftly turns into an ambush with danger around every turn. Shalira’s marriage begins to seem less like an arranged union and more like yet another planned assassination. The more they work together to survive, the harder it becomes to stop themselves from falling in love. Caught in a race against time, can they escape the hostile forces hunting them and make it off the planet?

Best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories. Two time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, she is also a 2014 National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award Winner.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Meet the #Editor Monday - @LaurelCKriegler

Please tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m originally from South Africa, but have spent most of my adult life in the UK. I’m married and have one daughter who spends her time causing chaos. I have always loved to read books – and pretty much anything else in sight if books are unavailable.

What inspired you to become an editor?
A love for the English language. My education in writing well started when one of my sisters taught me a few elements – I wasn’t older than twelve at the time, I’m certain – elements I still rely on when both writing and editing.

Having seen the rise of self-publishing and the poor quality of much of what is self-published, I am passionate about enabling self-publishing authors to get their books edited.

Tell us a little about your editing process--where and how do you start, and how do you progress?
Generally, I go with what the author requires. I usually do developmental edits and line edits simultaneously, but if developmental edits are required, I’ll go back and do the line edits on that section at a later stage. I also offer a final proofread.

With some authors I work during the week and they work through the edits at weekends. Other authors prefer to take the whole book in one go, so I work till I’m done then hand it back to them.

Tell us about Sorrel in Silver:
Sorrel in Silver is the third in the slipstream series by Peter Vialls. The books are a mix between steampunk and fantasy. The main characters are Sorrel, a human female pilot with mage abilities, and Wrack, a taciturn human/dragon. I didn’t edit the first book, but offered to edit the second when it was written – which was what happened.

What is the hardest part of the editing process?
Hard? Nothing. I love editing.

I lie. I dislike villains, or people who abuse MCs I love. When a writer does their job well in this regard, it can make it very tough for me to read the next sections – even as I admire the craft in creating a good villain.

What is the best part?
Finishing a manuscript and knowing that it’s better for having been edited.

Have you ever had to turn an editing job down?
Not yet, thankfully.

What is the weirdest thing you’ve come across as an editor (for example odd punctuation or grammar, a scene so bizarre/unlikely/comical that you couldn’t let it pass, words being used in a strange way (“You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”)?
My authors have all been pretty easy on me; they haven’t quite mastered the art of mangling the English Language – thankfully 

How did you get started in editing?
It’s been a long road. Mostly, it was about taking the plunge and telling people I could edit their work. My background in editing for academics meant I had the language skills. For story, I have generally relied on my instincts as a reader; I am still learning the finer points of storytelling, but I can guarantee that a book I’ve edited will be a good read.

Any tips for aspiring editors?
Editing isn’t a dictatorial profession. Much of it is negotiation, and sometimes the author is right.

Questions for fun:
If you had the power of time travel, is there anything you would go back and change? Why/why not?
No. Everything in my past has made me who I am today. No regrets.

What super-power would you choose?
Telekinetics. Having had a baby, the value of telekinetics has been deeply imprinted on me!

Coffee, tea or wine?
Tea. All. The. Time.

What is your favourite book? (aside from one of your own!)
There’s a long list. The most recent addition, however, is My Name is A’yen by Rachel Smith. Read it.

Favourite genre to edit and why?
My preferred genres are science fiction and fantasy. This is my reading stomping ground.

Favourite colour?

Upcoming news and plans for the future?
I’m currently planning a website that will release a batch of short stories, in multiple genres, every quarter. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll give more info about Sparky’s Fireside Tales.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!


My first novel, Sorrel in Scarlet, was edited by my then agent. He did a respectable job, and I was grateful for his aid. When it came to editing Sorrel Snowbound, my agent and I had parted company, and Laurel very kindly agreed to take on the task.
Being edited isn’t easy – your baby is being chopped about and criticised. Laurel was calm, thoughtful, patient and incisive, making the task much less painful, but at the same time she was extremely good at picking up the faults, suggesting effective revisions and curbing my worst crimes against the English language. Once she set to work, she and I corresponded daily by email, with the travelling draft altering and improving by leaps and bounds. She made suggestions and threw in ideas, but still left me with confidence that the end result was my book after all. The difference between Scarlet and Snowbound is visible to anyone who reads them both (which of course you should!) – Scarlet is a good book, but Laurel turned Snowbound from a good to a superb book (in my biased opinion, of course!).
I really wish I’d known Laurel when I wrote Sorrel in Scarlet

Peter Vialls | Author of Sorrel Snowbound | 2013

Time was starting to get away with us with the SFRB antho. Laurel’s ability to copy edit so quickly was a great help. For doing it so fast, she did a really outstanding job.
Laurel has a really nice, gentle touch. Copy editors shouldn’t be imposing their preferences, and she didn’t. At the same time she was able to identify when a sentence wasn’t reading clearly and to make a suggestion. Again, very respectful of the author, and comments were tactful.
I found Laurel very easy to work with. It was like we were an instant team. I’ve worked with enough people not to take this phenomenon for granted. I get the impression that establishing good working relationships comes quite naturally to her. It’s a greater asset than she may realize.

Paula Dooley | Developmental Editor of Tales from the SFR Brigade Anthology | 2013

Thursday, October 23, 2014

SFRB Recommends 26: The Curse of the Brimstone Contract #scifi #steampunk #romance

This week's recommendation is brought to you by Sabine Priestley.

Book Description

Magic existed at the fringes until Prince Albert discovered he was a mage. Now he and others like him are leading a revolution in steam technology that’s held tight in the grip of the upper classes.

A man of half-Indian heritage, rejected by his upper-crust, mage-gifted family, Gregor Sherringford lives in working-class London, investigating cases involving magic among the lower classes. But he’s never met a client quite like spirited, stubborn Joan Krieger.

Joan’s dream was to lead a fashion revolution designing women’s clothing suited to the new technology. But when her richest client mysteriously dies outside her shop, it deals a mortal blow to her dreams.

She hopes the handsome, enigmatic detective can prove the death a magical murder. She never expected a dark plot would be woven right into the fabric of her family. Or that cracking the case will mean merging gifts, minds—and hearts—with the one man who could be her partner in every way. If they survive the release of a soul-binding curse.

Warning: This novel contains an intelligent, repressed detective and a woman who won’t take no for an answer, not when she hires him…and not when she falls in love with him.


This was a seriously enjoyable read. I prefer my heat level to sizzle, and this is sweet, but I loved it anyway. The writing is pretty tight, with minimal errors. The physicality was messed up a few times (for example someone sat when they’d already sat). I love the way Corrina writes, she has a strong voice that really works for me. I highly suggest this book!

Author site: Corrina Lawson: Writer, Mom, Geek & Superhero

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Science Fiction: Not Always About the Spaceships by Corrina Lawson

      The stories I read during my formative years have had a lifelong impact on my writing, in particular, two short science fiction stories that are an obvious influence on my SF romance books. And in these stories, the SF part of the tale concerned strange new worlds here on Earth rather than among the stars.

      “To Ride Pegasus” was the first story I read that dealt with psychic powers in a SF, rather than fantasy, fashion, meaning that the psychic “Talents” all had a genetic (scientific) basis. Each Talent possessed not only a unique flavoring of mental powers but also had different strength levels. The “Talent” series, set in the contemporary world at first, is all about the discovering and harnessing these mental powers and protecting them from exploitation.

      I often describe my Phoenix Institute series, of which Ghost Phoenix is the latest, as my idea of

Marvel’s Mutant X-men. But “To Ride Pegasus,” McCaffrey’s three short Talent stories and the

novel Pegasus In Flight provided the clearest template for my own stories of introducing psychic-

powered individuals into the contemporary world.

      Later, as an adult, I read Julian May’s Galactic Milieu series. While May’s books do contain aliens and starships, the first book, Intervention, is all about people pushing back against those with just discovered mental powers here on Earth.

      Introducing a new element into the modern world isn’t the only subgroup of SF to be set on Earth. Alternate history has a long and proud SF tradition. The alternate world I loved growing up was part of a series of stories by S.P. Somtow, set in a world when the Romans conquered Native Americans. The Aquiliad stories appeared over the years in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and each had a similar structure: an officious, blustering and not-too-bright Roman official would attempt to get the better of the “barbarian” Aquila, a Lakota Sioux. Each time, the wily Aquila outwitted the Romans.

      When I started to write a fantasy novel using Roman and Native American societies as a template for the fantasy civilizations in Dinah of Seneca, I remembered Aquila and decided to toss aside the fantasy idea and write alternative history instead. I added in Vikings too because the more societies that clashed, the better the conflict. And so the Seneca books were born. The second book, Eagle of Seneca, is my own personal tribute to Somtow, as eagle is “Aquila” in Latin.

      All these stories, including mine, belong to SF. They’re about how an unknown element affects a known world. Earth is able to reach the stars because of McCaffrey’s Talents. May’s worldmind summons the rest of the galaxy to Earth’s aide and opens a new world to them. Aquila’s steely determination and skills turn the Roman idea of barbarian upside down. In similar fashion, I’m bringing the psychics/superheroes of the Phoenix Institute more in the open with each book, changing my entire storyverse from our world into something else.

     So when you think of SF, remember that SF is more than spaceships and aliens. Remember that the best SF is all about change—sociological, technical or cultural--and the human reaction to that change.

Ghost Phoenix:

(This is my Amazon author page, which also has links to the Seneca books.)

Aquila stories by S.P. Somtow:

My website:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Meet the #Author Monday - Sheryl Nantus

Please tell us a bit about yourself:

Well, let's see – I started writing years ago and actually cut my chops writing fanfiction! Yes, it's still out there in all its horrible glory, my X-Files, Stargate SG-1 and other fanfics… But aside from improving my writing it also got me my hubby who discovered me through my fanfiction and wrote me an email and I wrote him back and so on and so on… we've been together for 21 years and married for 14 so don't neglect your fan mail!

Tell us about IN THE VOID:

IN THE VOID is Sean's story in my series, Tales from the Edge. Each book focuses on an individual member of the crew of the Bonnie Belle and this is Sean's story about how he came onto the Belle and what might make him leave.

What inspired you to write this particular story?:

I wanted to focus on Sean because he's a sweet tortured man and who doesn't love a man like that! It also allowed me to show the other characters on board and how they all relate to each other and despite their difference how they bind together to fight a common foe.

Please share a favourite snippet from your book:

I love this bit at the very beginning where Catherine Rogers discovers exactly what the Bonnie Belle is all about…

“What sort of ship is this?” She couldn’t help sighing as he spread the white ointment over the burned areas. “Touring? An acting troupe?” She could see him on the stage doing a soliloquy, maybe Shakespeare. The crew had, in the few moments she’d seen them, seemed to fit the image.
He looked up at her, his blue eyes twinkling. “A Mercy ship.”
Her breath caught in her throat. “A what?”
“My name is Sean, Sean Harrison. And this is, as we said before, the Bonnie Belle. A Mercy ship. We caught your emergency call and responded since there was no one else around.”
“A—” She couldn’t bring herself to say the words.
“A brothel. Whorehouse. Ship of ill repute.” He applied a thick dollop on her leg, concentrating below her knee. “It’s nothing we haven’t heard before. And a lot worse.”
“A Mercy ship.” She spat the words back at him. “Of all the—”
She couldn’t finish the sentence. Fate had it in for her, that much was certain.
A damned Mercy ship. 
Which comes first for you – a character's looks, personality or name?:

Their personality, for sure! I want characters that the reader can relate to to a certain degree – in Catherine's case it's a search to do what's right despite the personal cost. In Sean's case it's looking to escape from a horrific past and help people find love and comfort out on the edge of civilization.

Any tips for aspiring authors?:

Write. Write a lot. Write harder. And don't stop. Even when you get rejection notices, low sales and no reviews. Keep. Writing.

Questions for fun:
If you had the power of time travel, is there anything you would go back and change? Why/why not?:

I'd probably go back and tell my past self to dump that guy sooner. You know, THAT GUY. Whose name I'm not going to say because he KNOWS WHO HE IS.

What super-power would you choose?:

Flight. Just to bypass all the traffic and get to my Starbuck's and Panera Bread faster.

If you could have three wishes, what would they be?:

Good health, immortality and the ability to make perfect tea every time.

Coffee, tea or wine?:

Please see above.
What is your favourite book? (aside from one of your own!):

I'm quite attached to the In Death series by J.D. Robb and love the first one, Naked in Death. It introduces Eve Dallas, Roarke and sets up a wonderfully futuristic world and characters you love to love. And a hot romance to boot!

Favourite genre and why?:

D. All of the above.

Seriously, I read everything. Romance, non-fiction, action/adventure, science fiction… if you looked at my shelves you'd wonder how many people live in my house. (Hint: I'm married and have no kids.) You'd think I had hundreds!

Favourite colour?:

Plaid. Tartans turn me on.
Upcoming news and plans for the future?:

More books in the Tales from the Edge series, to be sure! There's so many stories to be told on the Bonnie Belle… and I plan to tell them all!

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!


Twitter: SherylNantus

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Modern Marketing For The Indy Writer Part III

Part One: Evaluate, Strategize, Execute, Re-Evaluate
Part Two: Sales Targets & Solid Foundations
Part Three: The Marketplace, Your Product & You
Part Four: Branding - Why Your Book Cover Matters
Part Five: Top Five Marketing Dos & Don'ts

Part III: The Marketplace, Your Product & You

If you've been following this series then you know that in Part One I asked you to take a long, hard and painfully honest look at your book and your marketing efforts. More than that, I wanted you to directly compare your work to other best-selling indy authors, gauging your efforts vs theirs. 

In Part Two I asked you to come up with a realistic and well-researched sales target, along with a set timeframe to achieve it.

These tasks were designed to help you build a solid foundation for your marketing platform. Those were my short term goals. My longterm goal for this series remains the same: I want you to know (and I mean, really, really believe!) that you can and should be selling more books.

Today, I'm going to tell you how. Today I'm going to do my damnedest to change your mindset.

You vs The World? Nope. You vs You.

80,000 books were released for Amazon Kindle this month, and there are now nearly three million eBooks available in the Kindle store. I'm not telling you this to depress you. I'm telling you because I want you to forget all about those books. They don't matter.

The only thing that matters today is you. You and your book.

Why? Because 98% of those other books are simply terrible and most of them will never sell. They look awful, they sound like nonsense and they're formatted like crap (ugh! so easy to fix!). And worst of all, they read like crap, with go-nowhere plots and completely forgettable characters.

These books are garbage, and, guess what? Readers are fed up with them clogging the marketplace. I'm fed up with them!

Amazon readers are suffering from crappy-book-fatigue syndrome. It's up to us to provide the cure.

In marketing terms, this is what we call an opportunity.

This is our way in. Why? Because our book isn't going to be any of those things. Our book is going to be written, rewritten, and rewritten some more, not to mention, subjected to brutal and thorough criticism from qualified readers who are going to tell us what we need to hear and not what we want to hear. It's going to be professionally edited and formatted, and it's going to feature a brilliant, exciting and completely original, professionally-designed cover by an artist who's already designing best-selling book covers. And when we do publish our book it's going to be aggressively priced to move!

In marketing terms, this is what's called 'removing barriers to entry.' This is our strategy, and that's why we're going to actively slam aside each and every barrier we can.

The best news of all is that our book doesn't even need to stand out from the crowd, at least not that much, because that 'crowd' is filled with books that are so bloody awful all our book has to do is stand a little to the side.

In the case of Amazon, 'niche marketing' can be as simple as us taking those extra steps, walking that extra mile, and doing all those little things that most indy-writers never do.

But we will. We're going tackle it all. And if there's something that needs doing that we don't know how to do then we're going to bloody well learn it. We're not going to make excuses.

This is what will set us apart.

Paradigm Shift

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that there's been a massive shift in the publishing business these past twenty years. Amazon has turned the business on its ear, and indy-eBooks are outselling trad-books in almost every genre-fiction category. Just check out the top hundred list for scifi and you'll see it's dominated by indy authors—just like you and me!

As a result, traditional publishing houses are struggling to stay afloat, and for good reason. Publishing was never supposed to be free-market capitalism. But it is now. The big trads have completely lost control of the marketplace, and now their big-budget books are being crushed by a flood of low-priced indies.

This isn't news. We know this (or we should). But what does this paradigm shift mean for the independent writer?



That's right, nothing. While the trads might be struggling, we've always been struggling. That's why for you and me this shift doesn't change a damn thing. The barriers to our success are exactly the same today as they were twenty years ago. We were struggling to get noticed then, and we're struggling to get noticed now.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago, the only way to sell books, and I mean in meaningful numbers, was to go through a traditional publishing house. But when 98% of all manuscripts submitted are being rejected, finding a publisher can seem like a monumental task. 

We thought that self-publishing was the answer, but we were wrong. Why? Because the same obstacles that kept us from getting noticed by a publisher are the very same obstacles (with a few new extra ones thrown in) that are stopping us from finding readers today.

What we didn't appreciate then, and what's still true today, is that each and every manuscript that gets rejected by a publisher (ours included) is being rejected for exactly the same reason: they're not ready. They aren't finished.

These manuscripts are drafts. They are incomplete—not ready for publication.

Talk to any professional reader or editor and they'll tell you the same story. They're not rejecting us because they want to. Quite the opposite. They're desperate to find the next greatest thing. Their job depends on it. And the reason for their rejections is not a simple case of good novels vs. bad. Most novels submitted (and most novels self-published today) are simply not ready. They need work. They need rewriting—and they need a good editor. And today, they absolutely need proper packaging.

The Savvy Writer

The savvy writer will recognize this. She knows that massive pile of submissions isn't the obstacle to her success at all. It's not the other books preventing her from finding readers, it's her own. She knows that editors (and readers!) are as desperate to find a good book to read as she is to be found!

That's why she's going to do everything she can to supply her publisher with a body of work that's as near and ready for publication as she can possibly make it. She's going to work her butt off when it comes to developing her craft, and she's not going to sit back and hope a publisher might see 'promise' in her work. She wants them to see opportunity. She wants them to see a book that's good to go.

And…the savvy writer will make damned sure she only submits her work to the right publisher, as there is very little to be gained by submitting her zombie-vampire S&M novel to a publisher of literary maritime fiction.

"But, wait!" you say. "We're not looking for a publisher! We're self-publishing!"

Just because we can publish ourselves doesn't mean we don't need to worry about rejection letters anymore. This is where the real paradigm shift has happened. Twenty years ago it was the publishers who were sending out rejections. Today it's the readers of Amazon. Today, they're the ones slogging through the very same pile of submissions that editors used to slog through.

This is the new reality, and this is why it's so important we take each and every extra step that we can.

This is Marketing

I can't stress this enough.

More than anything else, good marketing is about removing barriers to sales. And that's what you'll be doing when you take the time (and make the investment), in making your novel as professional as it can be.

As of today you are not a 'self-publisher.' Gawd, I hate that term! You are an independent publisher, and you're going to be every bit as professional as any of the big publishing houses.

This is why your novel is going to stand out from the crowd. 

Remember readers, just like editors, are searching for your book. They want to find your book. Especially on Amazon. They're weary, and they're fatigued. But our book is going to welcome them with open arms.

Our our packaging, our presentation, everything we do, is going to let them know they've arrived.

If All This Is Obvious Then how come everyone's not doing it?

Most people who publish do it for fun, out of curiosity, or out of hope. They want to see if their book finds a market. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this approach. Minimal effort, minimal investment (in time and money) = minimal risk. For many of us, this is exactly the path we should be taking. Remember, it's all about the goals you set for yourself in Part Two. Let your goals dictate the pace of your work. The higher you set the bar, the harder you're going to have to dig in.

But if you've been there and done that, if you're not happy with the results you're getting, then you must consider taking the next step.

Yes, it's work. It's lots of lots of work. And money. It's headaches and heartaches, too. In my own case, as a first time novelist, there were many, many (many!) rewrites, and I went through six different editors before I finally found the one I knew I needed, and my cover cost me $1500. I've tried the 'bargain' route before and it simply doesn't work. But I also knew this was an absolutely necessary part of the process.

And, yes, it paid off. I can't tell you how many kind emails I've received from readers who thanked me for putting so much work into editing and formatting. I even got more letters from people who admitted they bought my book because of the cover art. Those letters said it all.

They let me know that all that work was worth it.

HOMEWORK: Eliminating barriers to sales.

  • First, take a deep breath. I really mean it when I say that you shouldn't be intimidated by the fact that there's millions of books out there. They don't matter. Focus on your work. Focus on your book.
  • Ask yourself, is my novel a draft, or is it really, really finished? Has it truly been put through the critical wringer?
  • Is my novel properly formatted? Have I checked and double-checked its formatting on multiple devices? Do all the viewing options function properly (single page vs. facing page, for example)?
  • Has my novel been professionally edited by an experienced editor?
  • Is my book cover generic and royalty free, or one of a kind?
  • Does my book title tell a story?
  • Is my book blurb exciting enough?

Next Week: Branding - Why Your Book Cover Matters

Next week we're going to get into the real nitty gritty. Next week we're going to thoroughly examine your presence on Amazon. This means your book page, your book blurb, your cover, your bio and links to your web-pages and twitter feeds—everything that's going to make people sit up and take notice.

Until then, cheers, and thanks for reading.

SFR Brigade Bases of Operation