Writing, editing and legal directories advice

Tag Archives: digital publishing

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?


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 publishing: Trying my first Amazon free promotion

So, every so often I realise that I am novice at this self-publishing malarky, and am regularly befuddled by the workings of this world. Forget finding an agent and publisher to make me rich and famous, I really just would love someone who can do all of the boring techie bits that I have no idea how to do. But I decided to try a free promotion this weekend (1-3 December, so you can get it if you’re quick) for my shory story, A Vampire Walks Into a Bar, to see if I could stir some interest and also, if I’m honest, just to have a go and see how the whole thing works. While it’s too early to see any long-term impact on sales or profile, I did learn some handy things for next time…

  • Bloggers are your friends – but give them notice! I sent a rather random mailshot to a few friendly bloggers, more in the hope that they’d download the book than in anticipation of any publicity, and actually got a lovely and positive response, with several offering to host posts. However, I actually ended up having to turn down several since, as I am currently up to my eyeballs in legal directories stuff, I simply didn’t have time to create the content they needed. Lesson learned: next time, contact them well in advance of the promotion, and have a few pieces prepped, including Q&As (some bloggers are more than happy to have you write your own questions!)
  • Check out other authors for advice: There’s actually a lot out there if you look. Jade Kerrion was kind enough to direct me to her post, here.
  • Twitter and hashtags spread the word: You could use a tweeting service like Tweet Your Books (again you need to arrange this in advance) but also tweet your offer from your own account, and remember to use hashtags so that others can pick it up (#free #freereads #freekindlebook are just a selection). This will help you get retweets or picked up by newsfeeds that promote free books.
  • Goodreads is a great outlet: if you’re an indie author you should be on Goodreads anyway, but many groups will have discussion feeds where you can promote your free books. It’s important to follow the posting rules – and these change from group to group so be careful – but this can help you get more readers.

I will be doing this again – probably next year before the sequel comes out – as so far the reaction has been great, but I’ll definitely be more organised and use a bit more advance planning next time.

Cover Kindle Size


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, – 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.

Ebook promotion – different strokes for different blogs, and what to consider before publishing

Another update on the promotional rounds I have been doing for Dark Dates – and again an illustration of the many different types of blogs out there, and the kind of information that they like to have when promoting a book, so the types of things you need to consider when contacting them.

Over at the Jeep Diva, I got a straightforward review on the back of sending them a copy on spec, while Laurie’s Thoughts was an interview and excerpt.  I’m starting to find excerpts a great selling point, as several people have told me they downloaded the book after reading some of it on a blog post. I actually struck gold in contacting Laurie – she’s very active in the blogging community and sent me a tremendously helpful initial email, which included lots of tips on how I could get in touch with other bloggers, writing groups etc, and my interview with her has been repeated retweeted by people in her network, so I would heartily recommend indie authors getting in touch.

I also did an interview with Diana at Offbeat Vagabond, and Barbara at Reviewer Extraordinaire – as part of the Risque Reviews network, Barbara’s blog had a slightly different focus, but it was fun to bring out the sexier side of the book – and the excerpt in this post was a little bit steamier than the others I have posted!

I encountered Morgen Bailey through a writers’ group on LinkedIn, and she’s another author/blogger who is keen to support indie authors and has a strong network behind her, which saw my post repeatedly retweeted. In keeping with her site, instead of just talking about myself – again – I did a post on the 5 questions you should ask before you self-publish. She gets very booked up – this was scheduled in months ago – but she is a hugely prolific blogger, so definitely worth getting in touch.


Book promotion: review round up and considering covers

Teaser for Dark Dates 2

My promotional blitz for my ebook Dark Dates is continuing, and I must admit I’m finding it a fascinating process: seeing just how many passionate book bloggers there are out there, and how there really is a book blogging community. So what have I been doing online this past week?

I was thrilled to be the first author to take part in When Pen Met Paper’s new feature, Author Talk, on my by-now-familiar topic of why neither genre fiction nor its fans are stupid. This was followed by a guest post, giveaway and review over at Close Encounters of the Night Kind – and of course, the great thing about digital publishing is once you have formatted copies of your book, giveaways cost nothing – it’s not like having to pay out for hard copies. This was rounded up by a very nice review over at Nocturnal Book Reviews.

Meanwhile, over at Strictly Writing, I’ve been talking about cover design: how do you decide what images best sell your book, especially if you are on a budget?