Tag Archives: creative book marketing

Press and publicity. Could I? Should I? M T’s upcoming stall at #BurySt Edmunds Christmas Fayre.

McMini’s latest, as he looked out at the pouring rain and the dark, sub-aqueous sky this morning.

“Mummy, I think the sun has decided not to get up this morning and it is hiding under the covers with its underpants over its head, refusing to come out.”

Very succinctly put. Naturally a long conversation ensued about the specifications of inter galactic underpants as we discussed size, standard of flame retardancy would be required when constructing (make doesn’t reflect the size of the undertaking) underpants for a star.

To be honest, today, I’m feeling a little bit like the sun, myself. I’m doing an event at the end of the week, so I have been having a go at press stuff. I started yesterday – nice and early natch (not). I’ve got something going that reads a bit like this:

“Hello I’m M T McGuire, an author based in Bury St Edmunds and delighted to be taking part in the Fayre this year at Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre (just behind Moyse’s Hall Museum). Come and visit to see the wonderful crafts and gifts made by local artists and while you’re there, why not say hello to me too? You can pet Bob the voiceless Tribble, pick up a free bookmark, and if you want to sign up for my mailing list, your name will be entered a free draw to win a book related mug (no, I’m not talking about the one behind the table).”

It’s very difficult to market a funny book. It’s difficult to market any book actually and as you know I’d kind of decided to give up on the idea. Indeed, my strategy for all marketing has been this:

Marketing? Pfft, easy. Ignore it until it goes away.

Marketing? Pfft, easy. Ignore it and write books.

However, there are people locally who have actually enjoyed my books and with the Fair, sorry Fayre, looming I thought I should at least make a token effort to tell the local folks I would be there.

In this post, I’m going to give you some advice. I’m also going to share a powerful secret: i.e. the many and varied ways I’ve bollocksed it all up so that you don’t have to.

In theory I’m supposed to be good at this. I was a brand manager for a household name company. But when 98% of the population knows who you are you don’t exactly have to try. Everyone is agog to know what your brand’s view on x, y or z is or what it’s doing next. You are, basically, insanely newsworthy AND not only that, but you have half a million quid to throw at making the 2% of the population living under a rock which is unaware of your brand well… aware.

Interestingly, as the brand manager, representative of the corporate heavyweight, I developed various techniques for putting others at their ease, most of which involved humour. In the bus and coach company, they worked. Unfortunately, public passenger transport is not your usual public relations arena. I found that people wanted you to be able to do your job, but if you could be humorous about it at the same time, they considered this a bonus rather than any lack of professionalism. I remember lengthy conversations with a freelance representative from one magazine about a mythical agency we would found together called “we write shite” you get the picture.

Since then, I have learned – possibly to my detriment – that this is not how the rest of the business world works, indeed, it may be that the transport industry doesn’t work like that any more. It’s been 12 years and one child since; a lot of my brain has gone missing and I couldn’t possibly comment. Coupled with my genuine lack of professionalism (cf 12 years: one child: no brain comment) this has not done me any favours.

Yes people, even if you are marketing a humour book, for God’s sake, don’t try to be funny: not until the interview, anyway, then you can be as funny as you like because you’re talking to your audience. I think, if you are able, it’s worth waiting until there’s some point in the press talking to you, too. Until there’s something in it for them. As a very small time affair, I feel quite arrogant and jumped up approaching them now.

Press coverage will not necessarily win you fans but it will put your name in front of a lot of people. However, if you can win yourself enough fans, it might bring you some press coverage anyway. A lot of fans is reason enough for the press to write about you. And if you have a following, your hopeless ditzyness melds magically from unprofessional conduct to cute eccentricity.

If, like I am this week, you find yourself called upon to abandon your concentrate-on-the-writing-and-wait-until-you’re-established-enough-for-them-to-seek-you press policy, here are a few handy hints.

  1. Make the information as interesting and up beat as possible.
  2. Target it. Use a press guide like Willings (or Pimms Media Guide if it’s still going). You should be able to find one at your library. Obvious suggestions are to try your local press, if you think they will be interested as well as magazines or new sheets aimed at fans of your genre(s). It might also be worth looking into press dealing with any other area in which you have a hook. In my case, magazines for mothers or families might be the way forward because I’m a stay at home mum. If you’ve written a thriller set in the world of competitive hang gliding, then magazines aimed at people who enjoy hang gliding or are fans of hang gliding might be a place to start.
  3. Check it. Make sure all the dates, times etc are correct. If you have discalculia, take extra special care to avoid doing what I did and telling everyone that your event on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th November is on Friday the 29th and Saturday 30th. That doesn’t look cool. However, if you have done that. Accept you’ve stuffed up and move on.
  4. Send it to them. Yes, very obvious this one but you have to be in it to win it. Even if you are pretty sure, in your heart of hearts, that nobody is likely to tell their audience about your event, send in the info because you never know. Let’s face it all they can say is ‘no’… or nothing. But if the information isn’t with them, they can’t magically know about it. Try to imagine ways you can make it useful to them as well as yourself. If they can see an obvious benefit from using it they may be more interested. Avoid doing what I did, though which was suggesting topics I could talk about for a radio interview. I was unsure at the time, because it’s kind of teaching Grandmother to suck eggs, but a day on I am cringing so I reckon it was a bad move. Er hem, there are reasons my publicity for this event hasn’t gone too well and the biggest one, so far is me. Perhaps that could be Thing Five.
  5. Avoid being the thing that holds it back. Ask nicely: be as courteous, cheerful, pleasant and polite about approaching as you can and try not to do anything dumb.
  6. Give them time – I have failed miserably on that score too – remember they plan their stuff in advance and so a couple of weeks’ notice rather then ‘oh tomorrow I am…’ is always going to be more effective.
  7. Be patient. Sure you can follow up (once, possibly twice if they sound interested) but don’t hound them. They’re busy and you are not the centre of their world; they have a lot of other stuff to do, deadlines to meet etc.
  8. Accept their verdict. They know what their audience wants. If they think that news of your stall/book/appearance/existence is unlikely to be of interest, you’re just going to have to suck it up and accept it. They probably have a much better idea of what their audience wants to hear about than you do.
  9. If they do give you some coverage, thank them.

So to sum up:  firstly, if you have an event on, then, obviously, you must tell the local press and anyone else who you think will be interested. After all, all you can do is ask. However, if you’re an obscure nobody, such as myself, accept that your information may not be used.

Secondly, I believe, more and more, is that for obscure and little known writers, our efforts are best put into writing books, good books that people will love. I’m sure there is a tipping point, I’m sure there is a critical mass at which sales suddenly skyrocket and members of the press start calling us. I’m sure that some people hit that tipping point with their first or second book; through luck, hard work, judgement or all three.

However, I’m equally sure that for most of us, that stuff is years in the making. So you and I, how do we go about it? We just keep going. We do stuff, we courteously advise the press it’s happening, we follow up and we carry on. The best products sell themselves, grashopper, but it takes time. And for all the events, appearances, signings and publicity that you do, the place you’ll sell the most copies of your next book is between the pages of your previous one.

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M T McGuire will be at Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre, in Bury St Edmunds, on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th November. That’s the one behind Moyse’s Hall Museum and opposite McDonalds. She will be giving out free book marks and selling copies of books from the K’Barthan Series to anyone who wants to buy them. Should you wish, she can even devalue them by signing them for you. You can also purchase Christmas cards and there’s an alphabet poster on sale. You can pet Bob the voiceless tribble and watch him make a noise like an annoyed lawn mower. If you sign up for the mailing list your name will be entered into a free draw to win a K’Barthan Series mug (not the one who wrote it, obviously, I mean a thing to drink hot bevvies out of).

 

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What am I doing here?

Do you ever have the feeling you’ve slipped into a different version of the universe by mistake? Sometime I feel as if I’m living another MTM’s life where the basic essentials are the same but some of the bits around the edges are… not what I thought. I can’t quite explain this but it’s usually at times when I look at the zeitgeist around me and then at what I do and think… ‘ah.’

This cropped up in two respects this week. First, because as a fairly avid reader of Chuck Wendig’s blog (you really should check it out) I read his post about 10 books that had stayed with him and took up his invitation, at the end, to list the ten books that stayed with me. You can check out the post and read everyone’s comments (including  mine) here. What interested me was that the books that had stayed with people were all pretty heavyweight, barring one person, who, like I did, listed Green Eggs and Ham. But basically, the mood is academic. And serious. And then I turn up.

Here are ten of the books that have had the biggest effect on me:

THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW, CS Lewis. My parents read all the Narnia books to me and my brother as kids. I thought all books were like that. I didn’t realise there was a special pariah genre for them all.

FAIR STOOD THE WIND FOR FRANCE H E Bates. H E Bates can describe a summers day and just put you right there. This is just a wonderfully uplifting story and I loved it.

THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST Frederick Mayerat. Another fantastic book which my parents read to me as a kid. It has people with big hats and swords in it. What more could you want?

A GENTLEMAN OF FRANCE, Stanley Weyman. More hats and swords, in France this time.

THE THREE MUSKETEERS Alexander Dumas. Cracking historical novel. More Swords and big hats, with the odd heaving bosom thrown in for good measure.

THE ASTERIX BOOKS by Goschinny and Uderzo. Yes. All of them. I first read them when I was about five. After that, each year I grew I got more of the jokes. Multi-layered masterful humour. And silly names.

THE HITCH HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY Douglas Adams. Because that’s how you do brainy comedy.

GREEN EGGS AND HAM Dr Seuss. The world of Dr Seuss – particularly Tweetle beetles from Fox in Sox has me completely hooked. That’s where my own fantasy world building started. With the weirder offerings of Dr Deuss. But I like green eggs and ham best.

WYRD SISTERS and THE NIGHT WATCH by Terry Pratchett. Because Terry writes the most fantastic stuff and I love it.

ABOUT A BOY Nick Hornby. Poignant, intelligent and laugh out loud funny.

A SPOT OF BOTHER, Mark Haddon. Ditto.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Bill Bryson. Bryson makes a history funny. It’s densely written. You can’t read too much at a time because it’s the literary equivalent of an enormous cream cake. Little and often is the way to read this. But it is absolutely fab. Actually, anything Bryson writes is a scream.

Looking at it now, I missed out, PRACTICALLY EVERYTHING BY GRAHAM GREENE (whose name I can’t remember how to spell) and PRACTICALLY EVERYTHING BY OSCAR WILDE. If I could write one piece of work like The Importance of Being Earnest I would consider my work as an author done.

Looking at my list compared to the books on the others it struck me how very out of step with the popular zeitgeist I am. Lots very serious books by people like Melville, Poe, Atwood, Hosseni… A fair bit of GRRM, CS Lewis, Herbert and King. Nobody mentioned Pratchett as far as I recall although I think someone mentioned Douglas Adams.

Find a forum about books and the authors everyone bangs on about seem to be the likes of Steinback, Hemingway, Poe, King, Herbert, Melville, Hemingway, GRRM….  American authors. Always American. No-one mentions HE Bates, no-one mentions Greene. Perhaps, most Americans – and we have to face it, the English speaking internet has a very strong US bias even though there are more of us, from other nations, than them – haven’t heard of Bates or Greene, or other greats like George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde or Sir John Betjamin, just as I haven’t read Steinback or Melville (yet). But going back to the blog post, the onus of that set of comments does seem to be on cutting edge, horror or high brow.

It made me realise how inept I am at trying to be edgy.

It also highlighted the career decision that lies ahead of me now; heart or head. Let me explain. I started out with a budget that would cover six books. But due to the requirement to edit K’Barthan 1 again and again and the need for a proof edit after the copy edit I’ve blown that budget on four books. I thought six was a good buffer but to be honest I expected to earn enough to produce a low budget book once I’d published two or three. I’ve published four and that may yet happen. It may but it’s not looking too hopeful.

So what now?

The K’Barthan Series was completely self indulgent. I wrote exactly what I wanted to write, and I wrote it with a passion. In an ideal world that’s what I’ll do. But I’m beginning to realise that K’Barth is quite… out there. But… in the wrong way. It’s up front but not edgy enough, it’s weird but not scary enough. It’s not normal. It’s a book syndrome. It’s a bit socially lumpy.

Mwahahahahargh! I’ve produced the literary equivalent of myself!

MTMcGuirePhoto

FACCover 300dpiFront

Then I swing back the other way and convince myself it’s fine. Comfort myself with stories of people like Anne Magill, who studied fine art at Liverpool and then went to London (St Martin’s) where she met solid resistance from her tutors to her style. She stayed true to it, though, and is now a hugely successful painter selling works to people like Russell Crowe.

Nice.

She says (Anne Magill, I mean):

“I ended up going into commercial design because figurative traditional work was frowned upon,” but, she added, “If I’m damned I’m damned. I can only do what’s in my head.”

She followed her heart and now she’s doing OK.

Then there’s Kate Bush. Look at the pop scene in the late 1970s and early 80s. You’ve got punk, two tone, mods doing the usual do and then the odd M.O.R. hangover from the disco era. Where in the name of all that’s holy to you put our Kate Bush among all that? Her output is completely crazy, it’s quirky, her voice is weird, her choices of subject for her songs is esoteric, at best, and at worst barking loola. But people liked it anyway because it’s so honest and genuine, oh and it’s also good.

That’s what I want. For my stuff to be honest and genuine and good. And for me to be right in believing.

But am I? Or am I just being a self-indulgent, jumped-up twat? Someone called me a hack in a review the other day. It was oblique, as in ‘hack habits’ but it smarted. A lot. And the worst thing. It’s probably true.

When I wrote the K’Barthan Series, I wanted to show myself and all the naysayers that I can write like this and succeed. I reasoned that, if I liked it, other people would. And some do. And I am beyond grateful to each and every one of you who has bought it, read it, reviewed it. But it is a hard sell. And I’m realising that all the publishing people who said the names were stupid, the plot too involved, the level of intellect I assumed for my readers too high… I’m realising that unfortunately, if I want to make enough money to pay for another book, they might be right.

That’s probably why the big self publishing sites like Big Al’s Books and Pals and Bookbub won’t touch Few Are Chosen. Because when it comes down to it, even in self published author land, the big fish want the same commercial criteria that publishers want. And it’s all very well trying to prove something actually does work, but for that to happen, readers have to know it’s there. And it’s almost impossible to get it in front of them. Except off line, in the real world, where you need stock that costs money I don’t have. It’s a bit chicken and egg to be honest.

So the nub of it all is that I’m suffering a bit of a conundrum as to what I should write next.

Because I want to write stuff that is honest and true, that is me on paper, which means more stuff like the K’Barthan Series. But if I’m going to write more K’Barthan style madness, I need to do something alongside that sells, to fund it. Or something that will, at least, be mainstream enough for the big indie sites, with thousands of followers, to risk actually putting it in front of them. That’s tricky, because I wouldn’t know what commercial was if it stood up and smacked me in the face with a haddock. Universal appeal, yeh, I can do that, but nobody wants that, it makes selling the books too difficult. They want the next big thing. Before it happens. They want stuff that sells. And I don’t know what that is.

Oh dear.

So it’s back to the brick wall. That’s right, the one I was hoping I could sidestep by self publishing my books and proving to the world… yada, yada, yada.

Because my stuff didn’t fit with publishers, but it doesn’t fit in with the indie gatekeepers either – except for Awesome Indies, who I, therefore, think are awesome.

So here’s my three step plan:

STEP 1: Find out what, exactly, is ‘wrong’ with the K’Barthan Series, somehow. I.E. find out why a publisher would say ‘no’ so I can avoid making the same mistakes in the next book.

STEP 2: Applying what I’ve learned, I need to write the most commercial novel of which I am capable and use it to fund any subsequent pieces of unmarketable whimsy.

STEP 3: Stick £10 a month away in my building society account. For all my hand-to-mouthness (yes I know, I spent everything I had on a car. It’s definitely my fault) I won’t notice it’s gone. I have discalculia, for heaven’s sake! And in a year’s time, when I’ve written my next book, there might be enough cash to publish it at the usual loss and eventually there might be so many books that the sales income they generate can fund another one, anyway.

STEP 4: Write some shorts and experiment with putting 20,000 novellas into things like KDP Select on a rolling basis, which, hopefully, will introduce my work to a whole new bunch of readers who have no access to it now, and who will buy all my other books (and then music will play and there’ll be smeary shots of me dancing, crying with joy, through falling rose petals-) Sorry. Got a bit carried away there.

Held in reserve, steps 5 and 6.

STEP 5: Find a publisher who will make me rewrite and rewrite and rewrite my next piece of unmarketable whimsy until, together, we turn it into something marketable. This is a hugely unappealing prospect because I can’t imagine a publisher thinking any differently about my books from the agents and the big hitter review sites. Which means thousands of pounds on postage and years and years of being told, politely, to fuck off and trying to put a positive spin on it. But I might manage it, and if I do, it will open many closed doors, and I’ll learn a huge amount.

STEP 6: Crowd fund the next book? Eeesh. I guess there’s Unbound, but do I have the time or charisma to undertake the social media activity required to drum up… well any votes? Let alone enough for them to publish a book.

Which brings me back round in a circle to the question ‘how do I make my work commercially viable?’ The biggest problem I face lies my answer to that question: ‘I like it the way it is.’

So that’s the nub of it. Do I attempt to be the Kate Bush of writing and try to make it on my own? Only with rather less talent and no help in the offing from any literary equivalent of David Gilmour. Do I keep on struggling and hope that somehow, one day, my work stands up? That I can find a way to walk the line between being true to myself and bang on the money. Or do I try to sing something more mainstream, in a slightly less squeaky voice, about a bog standard subject to see if the Polydors of the writing world will accept it?

Very tricky question. And one to which, right now, I have no answer.

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Stealth Marketing in the Grand Tradition of the British Navy.

OK, I’ll admit, it’s a tenuous connection, especially in the extremely likely event I’ve got my facts wrong, but there is this lovely story about Admiral Rodney; that he was concerned that the demand of the British Navy for oak trees to make ships was outstripping British supply. He therefore carried acorns in his pockets and dropped them wherever he went. Actually, it may not even have been Rodney who dropped acorns wherever he went… thinking about it, I have a vague recollection that it was some Elizabethan dude…

Sadly I haven’t been able to get a sniff of conformation on this story in connection  with Admiral Rodney or anyone else. The internet, usually a rich source of substantiation for such bollocks, is disturbingly mute on the topic. Then again, it might have been invented in Britain but it’s definitely American and the demand for trivia pertaining to European history is probably limited over there. I expect I’d be more likely to find it using Google.fr. Possibly… if I was better at French. Or maybe I’ll have to find “Our Island’s Story” a three book set of the most engaging and charmingly written, albeit ideologically unsound and dubiously jingoistic, version of British history ever produced.

But I digress. The reason I mention it is because in a small way I like to think I am upholding this proud naval tradition… except with flyers and bookmarks advertising my books rather than acorns.

GooglyJoy

Eyebombing, harmless naughtiness.

Seldom, do I leave the house without my  pockets weighed down by promotional literature; two business card sized things for books one and two, book marks for three and four, and a packet of googly eyes – because if my target area proves unsuitable for leafleting, there’s always eyebombing.

Wherever I go, I leave promotional bumpf, printed at bargain basement cost. If there’s a rack, I put them in. I was particularly gratified, after leaving some in a hotel when I arrived for the night a couple of weekends ago, to find that the staff had straightened them all out nicely with the other leaflets when I went to breakfast the next morning. As if they were legit.

It helps that as a 45 year old bag, I can pretty much dump these things where they’re not supposed to be in broad daylight, because I look like an upstanding member of the community who is far to old to do anything furtive, subversive or childish. Even if I’m right there, sticking googly eyes on the back of a builder’s lorry, or walking into Starbucks and laying out my  leaflets as if I’m a member of staff, I get the impression that the people who witness it can’t quite believe their eyes or assume my presence there is kosher.

There are other stealthy methods I employ. I leaf through books in the fantasy and science fiction departments in book shops and libraries and slip my cards between the pages for readers to find. I shoved a load into all the Terry Pratchett books in Tesco. I leave them on tables in restaurants and bars, on shelves in stores, slipped behind mirrors in public loos. Naturally I left them on the seat on the tube – on the few occasions I went to London.  I slip them under the windscreen wipers of nice looking cars. Indeed, I have not been above sticking fridge magnets with them on to lamp posts in my locale. Sometimes I even leave whole books. I have even convinced myself that all this works because I have been contacted by a fellow who went home and bought both my books after he and his wife started reading a copy one I left on the shelves in Costa.

Perhaps it sounds a bit strange but all this clandestine activity makes me feel better. As if I am at least pushing the envelope, even if I seem spectacularly unable to push my actual books onto anyone.

It’s easy to get disheartened being an author, even about the things that make you happy, so, for example, a while back, an author friend had a book picked as a read of the month on a forum I visit. I was genuinely over the moon for him because he’d missed out for so long. But it also made me feel a bit disheartened because it occurred to me that of the authors I know well, in the cyber sense, on that forum, I am now the only one who hasn’t ever had a book read in the monthly reads thing. Occasionally stuff like that catches me on the hop and makes me churlishly low – even while I’m being delighted for someone else. I suspect it’s because books are very personal things to write so it’s easy to take that sort of thing the wrong way and feel like the kid in the playground nobody wants to talk to.

Well, we all go through these ups and downs but folks, if you’re going through a down like that I proscribe a bit of stealth marketing, or, if you read books rather than write them, try a bit of cathartic eyebombing. Seriously, it’s a hoot and it’ll pep you up in no time.

So anyway,  it was with much amusement that I read this post on indie hero recently confirming  two things. First, I am not the only one who likes a bit of stealth – he calls it guerilla marketing. Second – tsk – I missed a trick.

I must make myself some stickers.

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Box 010: Number 11, C. E. Martin

Well hello, and after a bit of a hiatus, welcome, once again, to Box 010; a bit of light whimsy which is, in no way, inspired by the popular BBC programme Room 101. Here’s now it works. Every two weeks, except in the holidays when I turn into Mumzilla and everything goes a bit mental, my special guest will pop in and then present us with five things they would like to see consigned to the dustbin of existence. This week’s special guest is C. E. Martin. He writes paranormal military thrillers, now there’s a genre mash up. Nice. He has written the Stone Soldiers Series. The first book is called Mythical and you can find more details about it at the bottom of the page.  You can find more about Stone Soldiers on his website here.

Hello C. E. from me M T. So, before you launch into your cathartic rant, would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi, yes I would. I reside in the midwest with my wife and two daughters.

After serving four years in the USAF, I returned to the midwest in 1994. Toiling by day as a civil servant, I enjoy reading classic pulp novels and watching B Movies in spare time.

Oh you are a man after my own heart. I love B Movies. So, what else do you do when you’re not writing.

I lurk around the internet or on Xbox Live–when my kids let me have the TV.

I can just about manage Lego StarWars on my phone so that’s impressed me straight up. Right then, let’s get onto your rant. What is the first thing that you would like to see wiped from the face of history?

Easy. My first item is Hippies. Here in America, hippies radically changed society with their free love, drugs and romanticized communism. Personally, I think they are the root of many of our society’s problems. Especially now that they’re old and gray and fill my tv with their old age sex drug ads. Egads you nasty old dopers, I don’t want to know what you do in your private lives or that you need drugs to do it. Go in the forest and hug a tree or something.

Ooooo controversy! And that bit about aged sex dopers fills my mind with horrible images. Phnark. OK, onto your second item.

My second item is fraudumentaries. I’m talking about stuff like Animal Planet’s mermaid show (Mermaids: the Body Found) or Discovery’s giant shark special. Dammit, stop trying to trick people into believing your fiction is real. You’re not Orson Wells and this isn’t War of the Worlds.

Woah! Sounds completely barking. We used to have a newspaper like that called the Sunday Sport. Luckily nobody took it seriously though. Onwards and upwards then. That is THING 3?

My third bugbear is Romance/erotica Novels. First off, why is it so terrible for men to read Playboy but women can read novel after novel about heaving bosoms and long-haired Fabio wannabes? I call Fifty Shades of Hypocracy on that one. Secondly, Romance/erotica is a HUGE portion of the book market. If those books didn’t exist, readers might have to turn to something else… Like paranormal military thrillers (which I happen to write).

Mwah ha hahargh! You and me both! Actually I enjoy Romance but without the squelchy bits – I think they call that cosy. Erotica is a bit hard for me (phnar phnar). I tried to write a proper sex scene once and it was one of the funniest pieces of writing I’ve ever done… but in so not the right way. Phnark. 

My fourth item is low fat foods. Okay, people, if you want to lose weight get off the couch and get some self-control. I am so sick of accidentally buying food with a bunch of low-fat chemicals in them that tastes like crap. Give me some real fat with some real flavor. Chemicals belong in a lab.

Tell me about it.  I, too would rather just eat less of the full fat version. I’m not too excited about forms of pretend sugar either. Right then, what is your fifth and final item?

My fifth item is American versions of British TV shows. When I was growing up we loved Benny Hill, Monty Python and the Avengers. What happened? Why do popular British shows now have to be remade for America? We speak the same darn language! And name one American remake that’s half as good as the BBC original. Everyone else in the world watches Top Gear. Why does the USA need their own, far less entertaining version? Top Gear even comes to America once a year!

C. E. Martin. Thank you very much for joining me today. Now it’s time to vote. You can find more information about the first book in the Stone Soldiers Series, Mythical – along with details of where you can stalk C. E. Martin on the interweb below the poll. Join us next week when we find out how many of C. E. Martin’s pet hates you have voted into the black hole of existence for ever.

Mythical, Stone Soldiers Series #1

Colonel Mark Kenslir is the last of the Cold War supersoldiers–and he’s just come back from the dead.

Sent to Arizona to hunt a heart-devouring shapeshifter, Colonel Kenslir and his team of supernatural-smashing soldiers thought it was just another mission. But instead of stopping the monster’s murderous rampage, Kenslir and his stone soldiers became the latest victims in a trail of carnage blazed across the southwest.

Suffering from partial amnesia, with no weapons and no support, Kenslir must rely on two reluctant teens to help him remember his past, complete his final mission and avenge his men.

You can stalk C. E. Martin on the internet in the following places:

Http://www.StoneSoldiers.info
Http://www.facebook.com/CEMartin.Author
@troglodad
http://www.amazon.com/C.E.-Martin/e/B0089W99VC/

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Treasure hunting. Naval gazing.

It’s the school holidays so work on my book has stopped for a week or two while McMini and I do stuff.

Today was particularly good. We went round to some friends; mine and his. The weather was lovely, we sat on the leeward side of the house, in the warm, out of the wind, and while the kids played together we had a gossip. Then, as their house is 14th Century I thought I’d have a go with my metal detector.

Despite owning it a while, I seem to be taking a terribly long time to get the hang of actual metal detecting. All the permissions etc required take time and so far, I haven’t got round to it. This has made it tricky, well, illegal actually, for me to practise outside my own garden. And therein lies the problem. The detector does several different tones of beep for different metals. However, in my garden it usually gets all the beeps in a single sweep. It makes it rather tricky to pinpoint any of the beeps individually or work out where to dig. Added to my severe lack of experience and you have a recipe for if not disaster then, very slim pickings. All that had come to light, before this morning, was one old nail and I was cock-a-hoop to find that.

However, today I finally felt I might be getting the hang of it. Just like my garden, it was a case, not so much of failing to find anything, as finding too many signals. Three or four different tones on one swing and no obvious indication as to where to dig. The truth dawned that it is not my garden that’s full of rubbish – well it is, I’ve never dug up so much aluminium foil but I digress. Where was I? Ah yes. The truth hit me that metal detecting isn’t walk, walk walk beep, ah yes, dig here, indeed it is clear that my garden is the norm rather than the exception.

So, clearly, I realised, it might be smart to filter out some of the beeps. I played with the settings and chose ‘coins’ because that cut out about half the spectrum including iron, which, frankly, seems to be in most things. I get signals for iron off everything, even the sodding grass. Thinking that there was bound to be the odd coin lying about and at least I’d start to get the hang, not only of finding things, but also of actually digging them out.

The machine reported some coppers – it’s American so it suggested they were 1c pieces but let’s not split hairs. They were pure signals, no interference, so I was able to pinpoint them fairly quickly and dig. So have I found a gold sovereign? Have I been like the blokes at my club who turned up last week with Edward II coins, coins from the reign of King John, Saxon beads and other amazingly ancient things? Am I like the guy who arrived the month before with an Iceni gold coin?

Well… er… no.

After digging two enormous holes in her lawn I came up with well… yes, two coins. They weren’t old, they were pennies, not even pennies, one pence pieces from 1971 and 1979, respectively.

For some reason this caused both of us an insane amount of mirth. Even so, both of us admitted to feeling a slight frisson of excitement that the machine had beeped, that we’d dug and that we’d managed to get something out. Even if it was only 1p.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Success is relative. If I’d been using a metal detector for the last twenty years I’d be expecting to turn up some pretty good stuff. But I haven’t. This is the third time. I went there hoping that I might learn how to find a metal thing and successfully dig it up. So while today’s er… can I call it a haul? was laughable in most respects, I think I might actually have gained that knowledge. Job done then, right?

Food for thought.

Where does writing come in you ask? Well, here’s a short list of THINGS about my books:

  1. I’ve written two books and I’m writing another one. That’s something I never thought I’d achieve.
  2. There’s a chance they might be good books.
  3. People who have read them often like them. Some people like them a lot.
  4. People like the covers… and the merchandise.
  5. Are people buying the books? Are they buffalo?

What worries me? What do I dwell on the whole time? Number five. Because the other four, they make it look as if the K’Barthan Trilogy is a quality product that should walk off the shelves. But it doesn’t, and it isn’t. I don’t know if that’s my fault or if I’m deluded or whether it’s just a reflection of the difficulty of the market and if I think about any of that stuff I will be undone. That way madness lies.

What the metal detecting thing has taught me is that, actually, I’ve done quite well and that maybe I should concentrate on being happier with things 1-4 and on what I want to do next. In other words, I want to find something a bit more interesting than a one pence piece with my metal detector, but until I’ve gained the skill to locate one of those with a reasonable level of consistency, I probably won’t.

In short, when it comes to selling books, no-one really seems to know what works. So all an author can do is show people where to find them, or tell them – where permitted – and hope someone, somewhere will pick up on them. Because the only thing that’s really going to sell your book, ever is readers, who love it, telling their friends. So, let me leave you with the seven golden rules of happy authordom;

  1. Write, as much as you can. Write, to pick yourself up. Even if you can’t think of anything to write, write something. Because every authorholic needs authorhol, and when you’ve written it, get it edited, honed and primped until it’s the best you can possibly achieve. You owe yourself a decent product.
  2. Avoid checking your sales figures more than once a week it’ll only depress you.
  3. Avoid any places where authors who sell hundreds of books a month hang out, because you may find them complaining that their sales are piss poor almost as often as you do, that’ll make you want to weep. Also avoid the it-can-happen-to-you-too stories. It might but it probably won’t. Accept that and don’t beat yourself up.
  4. Try not to be disheartened if you discover that the only place you can persuade anyone to buy any of your books from is Amazon.
  5. Avoid going to forums to sell your book except in specifically designated areas. Go there to chat. If people like you and you’re lucky, they might buy your book eventually but nothing’s less appealing to them than a hard sell.
  6. Always remember that behind every overnight success are usually several decades of hard work.
  7. Remember that the only thing that will sell your books, ever, is readers who have loved them, banging on and on about them to their friends.

There you go.

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I’ve got my mojo working baby and I’m gonna try it out on you…

Er… eventually.

I’ve been agonising about my career choice; mother versus writer. There are aspects to the two that clash (like all of them, mwah ha ha hargh). But the fact is, it’s not just finding the time to write that poses a problem. Being an Author is like any other job. There are bits you’re good at and bits you’re not so good at; aspects you love and aspects you dislike. But as an author I stake my professional integrity on the stuff I put out and getting the bits I’m not so good at wrong could be seriously risky.

Clearly the happiest author is going to be the one who writes full time but unless you’re Sir Terence, with the might of Transworld behind you, that’s not realistically possible. Actually even Sir Terry has to do other stuff.

However, happiness really is a state of mind. And more to the point, none of the other scary stuff; the marketing, for example, and the grammar – or the grim business of reasearching and approaching the various gatekeepers who are going to throw your manuscript in the bin and tell you to piss off. None of that is going to go away.

So, I’ve been a bit blue lately. My perfectly acceptable (two years ago) punctuation is now unacceptable and because I’m a self published author it’s no good arguing – as both my editors do – that it’s consistent. Sure if you’ve a contract with Orion or somebody, the indie bashers will merely ‘disagree’ with your approach but if you’re M T McGuire, self-published nobody, they will consider it ‘wrong’ and review accordingly. So my book’s going in for a third edit.

That’s why I haven’t written anything on here. Because, I was beginning to wonder if I should try to continue being an author, or at least publishing my efforts. Yes, yes, I admit it, an artistic hissy fit, but it all felt very real to me – like I’d really lost my mojo – and what can you say about feeling like that? Nothing interesting or constructive that’s for sure.

Then I realised that anyone, in any job, is going to feel a bit pants about what they do from time to time. The trick is to ditch the negative aspect that’s bugging you for a day or two – even if you have a deadline – and concentrate on an aspect of your work that you’re good at.

So, in my case, that would be the actual nitty-gritty of writing the story. Except that it’s the end of term, there’s lots on and I’ve been rather strapped for time to write. So my usual negativity cancellation technique has been an epic fail.

While I was wondering what else I could do to get the feel good factor back, the answer cropped up totally unexpectedly; at toddler group. There I was, with McMini, and I ran into a fan. Someone who I didn’t know – one of the dads – who had read my books. And he sidled up to me, shyly, nervously even, took a deep breath and told me he’d loved my books and couldn’t wait until the third one came out. And he used things like my name and the word ‘talented’ in the same sentence. And I thanked him – from approximately 40,000 feet up because I was flying. And suddenly even though I was looking down the barrel of the summer holidays – which, while a delight in most ways, does present a daunting eight week moratorium on all writing – McWorld was McRight again.

It’s things like that which make all the scary I-could-get-this-so-wrong-and-destroy-my-reputation-for-ever side of publishing your own work worth it. And then I read this post and it got me thinking.

My cyber buddie Mr Will Macmillan Jones. It’s in his honour that I’ve used a jazz lyric for a post title… that and the fact it made me laugh. Mr Macmillan Jones is a fellow humorous fantasy author; Mancunian, exciled to Wales and driver of a slightly more plutochratic but similarly stupid car as myself, he does a lot of book signings. Now, OK he’s a proper author because he has a real live publisher, not one actually, two – I swear he’s made some kind of pact with the devil – but I digress.

Anyway, he does a lot of book signings. As I understand it, he rings a branch of Waterstones, introduces himself and blags them into letting him spend an afternoon in their shop, with a big pile of books, flogging them to unwary customers. I think it scared him quite badly at first but it’s abundantly clear that he’s become rapidly addicted. Like delivering a good stand up set, it clearly gives him a buzz.

Now, on the one hand, the idea of doing signings fills me with toe curling, buttock clenching fear – and I don’t have time to do more than about five a year anyway. On the other, I’m an ex stand up comedienne so I really should be able to handle it and anyway, it’s not so bad, is it? After all, I only have time to do about five a year.

Furthermore, I’ve sold 200 copies of Few Are Chosen over the past year simply by having a copy in my handbag so that if people ask me what I do I can say, ‘This.’ And show it to them.

In other words, though the prospect of doing signings scares me, the chances are I might enjoy it. I might even do it reasonably well – or, certainly, be better at it than I am at selling e-books. I may not have sold as many via the handbag as I have via the web but my handbag hit rate is a lot higher, I can tell you.

Signings also get you into the real world. OK, don’t tell anyone this but believe it or not, out there in the normal, non-scary world beyond Amazon, people still quite like authors.

There is one small problem. I’ve only written two books. It’s not enough, but come next year, when I’ll have written three… and it’ll be a trilogy… THAT’S when it might be smart to look at signings. In earnest.

Right, so, if any of you are still awake, the conclusions I’ve come to for happy authordom are as follows.

1. Write as many books as you can, GOOD BOOKS mind you, as fast as is humanely possible without letting your quality standards drop.
2. Do the Lightning Source thing and get them into the wholesalers or get a publisher so it’s really easy for both independents and chains to order them.
3. Do signings.
4. Publicise them. Do press releases and send them round to local newspapers where you’re going to appear – pimms media guide or similar in your local library will have a list with contacts. Or ask the manager of the shop you’re going to for any press contacts they have. Many will be happy to help – they’re as keen as you are to sell lots of books, after all.
5. Do schools events – I’m not sure how, as yet, but I’m sure it’s worth it.
6. Get in touch with your local literary/library officers if you can.
7. Make post cards and other promotional items and leave them wherever you go – here are some examples.
8. Take a copy of your book with you, wherever you go and if people ask you what you do, don’t be shy, whip it out and show them (phnark).

I’m not saying I’ve applied my plan – apart from the postcards and the taking my books about – but when book three is in the bag, I will have to seriously get my finger out. There’s no chance of intensive signings, not on Saturdays but I think I should be able to swing some. So I think I’ve found… well… if not my mojo then a plan and now that I have a plan, even if I have to wait 18 months or so – hnur hnur hnur hnurrrgh – I’m gonna try it out on you.

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Filed under General Wittering, Marketing Ideas, self publishing

Taking the plunge

Having discovered the lovely Smashwords is going to charge witholding tax I have been feeling, for some time, that my plan to e-publish my book has been a bit well… to put not too fine a point on it, pissed on. Now though, I have a plan.

So, here’s the deal.  I’m going to serialise my e-book for free, starting the last week in July. Anyone who gets bored reading the instalments can buy a copy of the e-book in advance for £2.50 or, if they really want to push the boat out, they can buy a paperback. Incidentally, the free, serialised, e-book will always be available. My aim is to get it printed for a price that will allow me to sell it for £7.99 and send it anywhere in the world for a tenner!

Terrestrially (is that the right word) I’ll try to sell the paperback locally, my local book shops, a signing, publicity in the local papers, radio and if I could swing it, TV, e-mails to friends, family, clubs etc. The angle being stay at home parent with two year old writes and self-publishes book – might add NCT or the like to the list for press releases then.

I’ve thought about Amazon but because they demand you sell it half price I’d have to list it at £15.99 in order to sell it for a reasonable amount and leave room for costs an their cut, let alone actually earn anything from it.  It all seems to be a bit artificial to me.

So there we go, that’s the plan… I took a big breath and sent off for the ISBNs today… one for each format of the serialised e-book, one for each format of the sold e-book and one for the paperback.

And yes, it’s a lot of money all this printing and isbns and gubbins and I could end up looking a real idiot. It’s sort of daunting and yet quite exciting too.

On a lighter note, scion pointed at my Dr Who mug today and, unprompted, shouted “Darlick”.

I did tell him what a Dalek was – when he was about 5 months old at any rate – but I don’t remember mentioning it since. Even so, clearly it went in.

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Filed under e-publishing, General Wittering, self publishing