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Tag Archives: Dark Dates

Spring forward – work roundup: Dark Dates live, Legal Directories Presentations and a new book in the pipeline!

As ever, from November-mid-March my life has been dominated by the UK directories season – while I do a lot of international work, that tends to be a bit more spread out, and UK firms are still my biggest customer (and, besides, a lot of international work also falls within this season – making me a very busy girl indeed!). Because I am so heavily committed, everything else tends to take second place, but with the last UK deadline under my belt and the arrival of spring, I get to take a bit of a breather (this year, as ever, celebrated by the annual ‘getting really ill as soon as the deadline is over’ ritual, from which I am only now recovering) and look at the bigger picture, assess what else is going on in my life, and what I want to achieve before the UK season swings round again…

Magazine work: I still review and occasionally write articles for theatre magazine Exeunt, and write a regular column on freelancing for Better Business magazine, and this is certainly something I would like to explore more of over the next few months. Last year, I had a piece published in writing magazine Mslexia, so it was nice to add another title to my CV, which is something I’d like to expand on this year.

Directories presentations: One of the nicest surprises over the past year or so has been the success of my ‘demystifying directories’ presentations, which I have now given to law firms in Europe, London and the rest of the UK – in fact, I got to the stage where I was having to turn people down as I was so heavily booked up! I really enjoy doing these – it’s great to be able to answer people’s questions face-to-face – so hope to do more over the coming months.

Books: This time of year is typically when my writing projects move into full swing and this year is no exception! I’m currently working on a slew of projects, including getting Wolf Night into print and writing the sequel, compiling a collection of Dark Dates stories and exploring a potential new publishing venture. Watch this space!

Zoe Cunningham as Cassandra Bick

Zoe Cunningham as Cassandra Bick

Dark Dates Live: Possibly the most exciting development has been the creation of a one-woman show An Audience with Cassandra Bick, with actress Zoe Cunningham and director Peta Lily. After opening to great reviews in the First 2015 at the Tristan Bates theatre in London, it’s coming to the Brighton Fringe in May, with further touring possible. Zoe and I are also collaborating on another project at the moment, so, again, hopefully there will be more news soon…

Throw in a bunch of international directories deadlines and suddenly the summer doesn’t look so quiet after all. The hard work is over – let the hard work begin!

Dealing with downtime – and more adventures in print

While there are many upsides to being a freelancer – I am writing this in my living room, with the sunshine pouring through open balcony doors, so I don’t expect anyone to be crying salty tears on my behalf – the downside is that, when you’re not busy, it’s easy to give into The Fear that you will never be busy again, that this lull in your schedule is only the first in many, and you will soon find yourself struggling to pay bills. It’s particularly pernicious at this time of year, when you know that you could, if you wanted, treat any downtime as a holiday – after all, it’s summer! Everyone deserves a holiday! But then the Fear reminds you that when you are being bombarded with images of your friends gallivanting off to glamorous locations, they are still getting paid while they do so.

My own business – tied as it is to the deadlines of the legal directories – is particularly susceptible to the summer lull. Last year I barely noticed, since I was full in the throes of my Year From Hell, and my attention was tied up with sorting out my mother’s estate and the endless red tape that involved, and finding somewhere to stay from one week to the next while I was house hunting. Since the one upside of having nowhere to live is you don’t pay any rent, I was able to survive on whatever work I could squeeze in around these two exhausting responsibilities, and even managed to use my time creatively, resulting in my last book, the novella / long short story A Vampire in Edinburgh.

This year, when I actually do have to pay rent and can’t just rely on the other people’s larders for my food, the summer slump seems a far more terrifying prospect, but it’s also one I am determined to utilise properly. I’ve built up my repertoire over the past year, and expanded my client base, so am planning to use the summer to see if I can build on both my range of products and expand my international client base, so that I can balance my schedule more throughout the year. I am continuing my project of getting my books into print (A Vampire in Edinburgh and Other Stories is now available in paperback), I have another novel coming out over the summer and I have a Dark Dates sequel in the works. But I’m also trying to accept that my chosen career will always have fallow seasons, and I need to work with that, not rail against it. I’ve always been terrible at taking holidays – even when I worked in an office, I found it impossible to switch off my BlackBerry. Now, though, I have realised that while that most elusive of things, ‘work-life balance’ is impossible to achieve on a day-to-day basis in my life (when I am busy, I am 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week busy), I can balance out that hectic period with a calmer, more restful season, when instead of fretting about what isn’t happening, I should be taking advantage of the slower pace to tend to all those things that necessarily get pushed aside when work is at full tilt.

Last year, I spent months trying to get my home by the sea – and now I have one, maybe this is the summer I learn to enjoy it.

You can buy A Vampire In Edinburgh and Other Stories here.

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Self-publishing – the next step

I’ve done a lot with my business this year to expand into other markets – in my legal directories work, for instance, I have done a lot more presentations, and more one-to-one phone calls, either handling Q&A sessions or doing mock interviews with lawyers. So it made sense that, when it comes to the publishing side of the business, I branch out on that front too. I’ve already expanded to other platforms than Amazon – in part to extend international reach, but also to reach those readers who aren’t keen on Amazon’s attitude to tax (I’m afraid, for an author, they’re a necessary evil – but hey, I pay my taxes…).

So the next step (unfortunately Amazon-dependent – whatever their problems, they are a godsend to indie creatives) is getting my books in print. The reasons for this are varied: some solid business sense, some not so much  – as a lover of print, part of me wanted to simply have my books as things I could hold in my hands. But books as physical objects are also useful as a marketing tool and a way of increasing my profile with readers: I can take them to events, readers who enjoy them can share them with friends, buy them as gifts, etc. Sure, it took a lot of time and effort to get there, and, despite the CreateSpace system being free to use, I had to pay someone to format the book and cover for publishing, so I have to sell (quite a few) copies before I make a return on my investment, but that’s what I feel it is: an investment. Stay tuned to see if it pays off…

Want to help? You can buy paperback copies of Dark Dates here.

DD Nook

 

 

Raising money for charity without running a marathon (or growing a moustache)

I’ll keep this post short as I’ve already covered the material on my Dark Dates blog, but since I am by nature (thankfully) ill-equipped to grow a moustache for Movember, and, less fortunately, ill-equipped to run a marathon (well, by ill-equipped, I mean I get out of breath running for the bus) I’ve decided to use my main marketable talent – writing – to try and raise some money for a cause I care about this Christmas.

Therefore I’ll be donating all royalties from my digital-only short story A Vampire Christmas to three homeless charities this year – to read more and to find out why homelessness is a very personal cause for me this year, click here. (UK Amazon link here)

Do help if you can – it’s less than £1 for the book, and every little helps!

Kinde cover

New Dark Dates story out – is this good or bad timing?

One of the fun things about being a freelancer is the variety of the work – one minute I am doing a legal directories presentation to an international law firm, the next I am writing an article on the lack of female superhero movies for a pop culture website – and so it seems fitting that just as I plunge into the UK directories season and my busiest time of the year, I choose to put out another book. So, I’m thinking, possibly my timing could be better… but really, am I wrong to do this now?

The reason, of course, is slightly more complex than just bad timing. A hectic, displaced summer has meant that I had to put plans for the sequel to Wolf Night on hold, and now the directories season is in full swing, I simply don’t have time to focus on that side of my writing. But I did want to capitalise on the great reviews my last book has had – in a crowded market, people forget you fast, and it’s good to pop up on readers’ radars. A short story is the perfect compromise: it allows readers to keep up with the world I’ve created and get a fix of the characters that, they tell me, they have come to love, and the digital-only format means such a book is cheap and easy to produce. Writers like Lee Child and Tess Gerritsen use this formula well, regularly putting out digital-only shorts between novels, so I figure if it works for people at the top of their profession, it can’t be a bad idea for writers like me, either. Admittedly this means that the amount of time I can promote the book is limited, since I’m constrained by other commitments, but on balance I am happy to have it out there, getting notice (and earning money!) while I focus on other things, rather than sitting in a folder waiting for the ‘right’ time to put it out.

So if you have a project sitting gathering dust because you’re waiting for the perfect time to finish it, maybe it’s worth looking at it again. Sometimes, you just have to take the plunge, and hope for the best – or risk doing nothing at all.

You can buy the new book on Amazon or Kobo.

Sequels: is publishing any easier the second time around?

Having previously been published by a small literary publisher, when I changed genres to urban fantasy I decided to dip my toe into self-publishing with a novel, Dark Dates.  In some ways, it was risk-free – I published it on Amazon, which is free, and was lucky enough to have a handy team of beta readers to help, plus my friend Caroline from Red Button Publishing offered to design the cover for me. It cost nothing – months of hard work aside, of course – and the worst that could happen was that people wouldn’t buy it, or that they would buy it and then say it was crap. But are the stakes higher – and the job harder – the second time around?

WN KINDLE final

Fast forward a year from the publication of Dark Dates and I’ve been generally delighted with the reception the book received. Sales could be higher, of course – I’m not quite retiring to my seaside villa just yet – but it’s had some great reviews, and received some nice accolades, including landing on a couple of bloggers’ ‘top ten of 2012’ lists. I’d followed it with a couple of short stories just to keep things bubbling over, and only a few weeks ago, put out the sequel, Wolf Night. So the question is, is it harder, or easier second time around?

What Cassandra did Next

In some ways, it was much easier, if nothing else because the technical side of it was so much more familiar. I had a (paid) formatter who I trust, Caroline again did the cover, and my beta team again came through, and the process of actually publishing on Amazon is relatively straightforward once you’re less scared of it. I had also built up some great contacts in the book blogging community over the past year, so while lots of blogs won’t review self-published work at all, I knew that I had some blogs that would be happy to host guest features, Q&As, giveaways and reviews. I’d already done some of the legwork in setting up the Dark Dates ‘paraphernalia’, too – a Goodreads author page, a dedicated website, Tumblr page and Facebook page, so a lot of things were already in place. Plus, of course, I hoped that there were a lot of people just eager and waiting for the sequel to a book they said they loved.

Of course, it’s never quite that easy, and I’m finding I still have a lot to learn this time around. For a start, I should have done more advance planning: a perfect storm of deadlines meant that I sort of shoved the book out without any fanfare, and then, once it was out, started my follow up with bloggers and online, whereas what I should have done was send out review copies months ago, and organise a load of blog posts (perhaps even pay for a tour – it’s not that expensive and cuts down on admin) to coincide with the launch. Even the friendliest of bloggers – and those who are genuinely keen to read the book – have their own schedules and towering TBR piles to negotiate, you can’t expect to put a book out and have people read and review it overnight!

Dark Dates Nocturnal Reviews

Likewise I somehow hadn’t realised that if you’re plugging a sequel, you are actually plugging two books – because you’re not only trying to get the people who liked the first book to buy it, but you’re trying to snag new readers to the series as a whole. Who wants to read a sequel to a book they’ve never heard of?

A few weeks later and the reviews are starting to trickle in and, so far, they are very positive, but it’s been a nerve-wracking time waiting to see what the response will be. I’m slowly gearing up for guest posts and promotions, with a few things done and some more down the line. But I have realised that I plunged somewhat blindly into this hoping that the process would be the same as last time, without remembering just how long and complicated that actually was (for instance, in the last month I have only just had Dark Dates reviewed by sites I sent it to last spring). I still haven’t solved the problem of getting to a much wider audience, and feel that is my next task, but I also think I probably made things more difficult for myself by being too hasty to just get the book out there (and, if I’m honest, out of my way so that I couldn’t tinker with it and convince myself it needed changing). So my advice to any writer who finds themselves in the same situation would be – plan ahead. Plan way ahead. Everything takes longer than you think, and you’re always dependent on the schedules of others, which you have no control over. Maybe I’ll have learned that lesson by the time the next book comes out…

Digital promotion – feeding the machine

One of the criticisms of the digital book market is that it puts pressure on authors to constantly churn out new material: that on top of the ‘book a year’ demands of mainstream publishers, authors are now expected to put out digital-only short stories to keep their profile high and, of course, bring in extra income. (Although these are generally priced very low, for writers as popular as Tess Gerritsen and Lee Child – both of whom have successfully embraced this model – a lot of 99p sales soon add up). Short stories are now often used as ‘promos’ for new novels, either priced low or given away free in the weeks before a novel is published.

My reaction to this trend – both as a fan and a writer – is a positive one, and I must admit my sympathy for those professional writers complaining about this is, well, zero. For a start, it’s not exactly new: most novelists will regularly produce content for magazines and anthologies (just look at the recent Terry Pratchett book, A Blink of the Screen, a collection of his writings that brings together pieces from a surprisingly diverse range of sources). While some writers eventually have enough of this material to be compiled into standalone publications (Kelley Armstrong and Jim Butcher being good examples of this), often this isn’t the case, and fans either have to shell out for the anthologies or simply miss out.

Digital has changed all that. Now stories can be released as standalone pieces, or old stories that would have been buried in the archives of long-defunct magazines and publishers are now getting new life as digital-only releases. I was recently delighted when I discovered that the Lawrence Block’s ‘Burglar’ series – which the author stopped writing years ago – had a whole series of related short stories, now all available for less than a quid.

So I decided to embrace this trend myself. The sequel to my novel Dark Dates won’t be out till spring, but  I wanted to get something out before Christmas, and when I had an idea for a short story (and, if I say so myself, an enormously fun idea), I decided this was the perfect chance to try this model and see if it worked. While it’s far too early to know if this will boost sales in any way, initial reaction has been great, and it’s also an excuse to reconnect with bloggers with whom I have slowly started to build relationships over the past year. Plus I get another book with my name on it on Amazon. What’s not to like?

You can buy my new short story, A Vampire Walks Into A Bar, here.

New Dark Dates short story. Cover by Caroline Goldsmith of Red Button Publishing

Digital promotion: Do you need a website to promote your book?

So, this week I have been continuing my publicity onslaught for my book, Dark Dates. This has taken two forms: the usual round of blogs (with some of the contacts I made months ago starting to pay off in terms of reviews, which shows that you need a fair degree of patience in trying to get reviews, as often book bloggers have enormous backlogs of books to get through before they get to yours, though Since my reading this year seems to have ground to a halt, I admire the fact that they get through so many books a year…) With Halloween approaching I have a few themed posts lined up, and I have discovered that offering  a giveaway – which of course costs nothing, as it’s a digital version – is a great way of engaging readers, and gives the bloggers you interact with something to plug. (See below for a round-up of reviews and guest posts).

Dark Dates website
My friend and cover designer Caroline at Red Button Publishing and I have been discussing setting up a website for a while. I must admit I wasn’t sure it was worth the effort – who is going to visit the site other than people who have already bought the book? But we batted around some ideas and I decided to take the plunge. The cost is minimal – I simply bought a WordPress domain, DarkDates.org – and Caroline provided some images to personalise the site. When it came to content, I decided there was no point in having something that just plugged the book, so I went for something a little different. I set up the site as if it were for Dark Dates dating agency, and put some fun pages in there, including a ‘where in London is this?’ image quiz, and a ‘who’s your ideal vampire’ multiple choice, both of which have already got me some traffic and nice comments. Will it help me sell any books? I have no idea, but it was fun to do and not a huge amount of work, so it can only be a good thing… So why not pop over and have a look and see what you think? And if you have any experience – good or bad – of having a website for your book, I’d love to hear from you.

Dark Dates online:
This week saw a guest post on author Jade Kerrion’s blog and an enormously fun interview and giveaway at the Book Tart (with whom I seem to have an enormous amount in common!) – she also posted a very nice review.  There was also another lovely review at Bookish Whimsy. In terms of giveways, I took part in the Fangs, Fur and Fey giveaway over at Michelle’s Concise Reviews. I also signed up to another Read to Review programme on Goodreads, so we’ll see how that works out…

I used images of London on the Dark Dates site (photo by Caroline Goldsmith)

Digital promotion – a Dark Dates round up

A brief update this week, as the legal directories season is upon us in the UK and from now until spring that will be taking up a lot of my focus. This week has seen a nice review and feature over at Red Headed Bookworm, and I also took part in Lorraine Beaumont’s month long Crave promotion, which I came across in one of the discussion groups on Goodreads. Finally, an interview, excerpt and giveway over at Book Brats, another blog I picked up on Twitter. Which just goes to show, if you’re an author looking for avenues of promotion, it’s really worth keeping an eye out on platforms like Twitter and Goodreads, where bloggers frequently advertise their availability or willingness to host posts and giveaways.

Ebook promotion – getting others invested in your success

One of the things I have learned through promoting my novel, Dark Dates, is just how reciprocal a process it is. I’m not talking about any dodgy ‘sock puppetry’ activities of the ‘you give a nice review to my book, I’ll do the same for yours’ kind (though, of course, I think it’s perfectly valid to ask people you know or who have worked with to give you a nice review if they liked the book). (You can read my thoughts on the sock puppetry scandal over at Strictly Writing). Of course much of dealing with bloggers is because they need content – writing reviews is time consuming, especially for bloggers who fit in their reviewing around other jobs – so if you’re willing to provide them with content in the form of guest posts or interviews, then you’re helping them create content (and hopefully traffic) for their blogs. Being willing to supply free copies for competitions also helps, as does a willingness to take part in themed events – for instance, since one of the characters in my book is a witch, I’m taking part in a Wiccan themed event over Halloween.

But one of the other things that is enormously helpful is to get other people properly invested in your success. I don’t mean in a cynical, manipulative way – and I assume that your friends and family want you to succeed anyway – I just mean, creating a win-win situation where they are in effect getting good publicity while promoting your work can be beneficial to everyone.

I’ve had a couple of great examples of this recently: one is with my cover designer, the multi-talented Caroline Goldsmith. Caroline has been invaluable in helping me with Dark Dates – I have ruthlessly picked her brain over digital publishing, she created the cover and online trailer for Dark Dates (and has already created an image and teaser material for Book 2), and has been a fantastic sounding board and enthusiastic supporter for my work. So it’s fantastic that now all of her input is helping her provide a showcase her own talents, as she and her fellow publishing alum Karen Ings have launched a new digital imprint, Red Button Publishing – but, of course, it also means that I get a very nice plug on their website.

The second is slightly more tangential, but a nice example of cross-selling. One of my friends runs a jewellery company called Stella My Star, and, as I own several of her pieces (they’re funky and inexpensive), I asked her to commission me a charm bracelet to celebrate Dark Dates. The result is lovely – a beautiful mix of supernatural and London charms that perfectly reflects the book – but of course she has showcased the piece on her own website and blog, which is a nice piece of additional coverage for me, while she gets both a sale (in fact, several, as the response has been so good several of my friends have asked for similar pieces) and the publicity of me blogging about her work.

So when it comes to promoting your book, why not think about how you can team up with other creators to cross-promote your talents?

Dark Dates charm bracelet by Stella My Star

Review and guest post round-up

So what else has been happening on the Dark Dates front?

I was delighted when Jo from review site Jaffa Reads Too contacted me to say that she loved the review copy I sent her and wanted to do an interview.

I also got a lovely review at Night Owl Reviews, and posted a guest piece that is fairly topical to this post – about how you need a team around you to succeed – at Bunny Reviews. Rounding out the coverage this week was an author interview at Daydrmzzz.

I also signed up to the ebook personalisation service Kindlegraph: I have no idea whether it’ll boost sales but I thought it sounded fun, and it was free to sign up.