Monday, August 14, 2017

Time for a quickie

Hi.
Having just returned to the UK from a holiday in Florida, which was wonderful, I knew I would still be struggling with tiredness as my body battles to return to its normal sleep pattern, not to mention eating and drinking smaller quantities 😊.
So this month I decided to share a story. A few months ago I began adding a very quick five minute read to my monthly newsletter. I use it as an opportunity to experiment with my writing including genres, points of view, third or first person etc. It's also a great discipline for me. I can be a little verbose and have to rise to the challenge of only having two sides of A4 for a beginning, middle and end. Because I send it to my reading list first, and it later appears on my website, I have to keep things "clean"—something else I'm not used to in my writing. It really awakens my brain cells. That said, I know it is mentioned here many times, the effort and discipline required to write and edit any story takes a lot of work.
So. This was my first "quickie" five minute read. Let me know what you think and if you do anything similar.

Elfine’s Story

Elfine ran her long fingered hands over her soft, smooth, bare skin. No hair. She loved the feel and liked what she saw in the mirror. Almost a shame to cover it up. The clock confirmed it was ten o’clock. Just enough time to put on her costume and get to the party.

She spied him as soon she prowled into the room. He was a little taller than the man he was talking to, and his mask appeared sturdier and harder than she had imagined it would be. It didn’t look comfortable. Yet it appeared to be a part of him.

Elfine grabbed a glass of something orange coloured from a tray being proffered by a zombie, and headed over to him.

“You made it.” His voice was harsh as the words rasped in his throat. He nodded to the skeleton at his side, making it clear that their conversation was over. Then he lifted the glass from her hand and took a long sip before wrapping his hand around the back of her neck. He leaned down and sealed his lips over hers. It was a show of alpha-male possession. Elfine wallowed in the flavour of the orange liquid he shared with her so intimately. The kiss broke as they swallowed. He wrapped his fingers tightly around her dainty hand and began to lead her to the staircase.
“It’s a little crowded.” She hesitated but couldn’t resist his pull. “Can’t we go somewhere quieter?”
“No time,” he hissed impatiently, his pace not easing as he mounted the stairs. “I reserved a room. It’s not going to waste.”

The door closed behind them and the loud music emanating from downstairs was dulled slightly, providing reassurance that they would not be heard.
“So, my darling, who are you this time.”
“Elfine, of course.”
“Of course.” His smile filled the only part of his face she could see. He slid his hands over the shiny rubber barrier to the skin he was desperate to touch. “Let’s peel this off.” Inch by inch he stripped his companion bare, the shiny suit revealing her naked, hairless body beneath. His fingers caressed her face so lightly, expressing his fear that it could shatter under his touch. He ran them along her red lips, enticing her to bite him.
She did.
“Ouch!” He shook his finger and stared at the drop of red blood that had oozed to the surface. “Not yet,” he urged, “not yet.”
Elfine twitched slightly. “I’ll try. I’m sorry.”
He wrapped his arms around her and held her close. He pressed himself against her naked body and nuzzled at her neck. Her hands ran down his back and suddenly he gasped as her nails clawed through the fabric of his costume. He shot a glance at the clock on the mantle piece. Eleven o’clock.
“We’re going to run out of time.”
“Tie me,” she pleaded. “It’s not too late.”
“Lie on the bed.”
The mounting tension in her body subsided as Elfine crawled onto the duvet and held her wrists out for him to bind them with the rope from under the bed. He fashioned intricate patterns as he bound her to the posts, leaving her outstretched and immobile. She stared as he quickly removed his clothes, his face squirming when he pulled at the fabric that had stuck to him where she had drawn blood on his back.
He stood before her, sculpted to perfection, strong hard muscles beneath dark hair and smooth skin. He climbed onto the mattress and cloaked her body with his. Their skin connected from chest to thigh. Their lips melded and he sought entry to taste inside her, to entwine his tongue with hers and to share their flavours.
“I’m ready,” she whispered, fearful he was going to hold back. But her fear was unfounded.
His fingers trailed lightly down her neck before coming to rest on her breasts. Kissing with a deep felt passion, his fingers progressed lower to trace a line over her abdomen and beyond. He pressed his palm on that soft mound and ground his hardness against her thigh, revelling in the delicious friction. Gently he eased her soft skin apart and placed his finger inside that warm opening to his goal. She was wet and moist. He needed to see her like this. He broke the kiss and sat back to gaze over her beautiful body. Her skin was soft and pale, almost translucent. He admired the perfect domes of her breasts, their tips caramel coloured and peaked, yearning to be touched. As he leaned forward and teased each one between his teeth she started to growl from deep within her throat.
He needed to hurry. Sitting up once more, he steadily eased himself inside. He slid libidinously back and forth, her delicious warmth consuming him as her tightness imprisoned him inside her. Their time was slipping away. As his pace quickened, her growls became sweeter and moanful. He believed he had made time standstill for her. The friction of his body moving on top of her was grinding, creating that excitement of the promised joy. He had a commitment to fulfil and he wouldn’t disappoint her. As his ecstasy took its hold he gasped and worked lovingly to bring sheer pleasure through every part of her body and mind.
Elifne arched her body off the mattress, attempting to break free from her bonds as she felt him pulse inside her, a warm liquid invading her body and beginning to course through every limb. She howled unreservedly.
He cried out in carnal satisfaction. He covered her body with his one last time and dipped his head to pierce the translucent skin at her neck. Their union was complete. With a desperate haste he tore the rope from her, releasing her back to herself.
He waited just a flash in time. Two green eyes peered out from the thick black fur that now covered her body. Time permitted only a furtive glance before she sprang from the bed and hissed as she brushed past his legs and out of the open window onto the ledge, before descending down into the undergrowth.
It only took a second for him to stare out at the moon, before his mask fell to the floor and wings took him out into the night sky.
“Until next year, my feline friend.”


Thursday, August 10, 2017

How to Encourage Readers to Post Reviews

As a follow-up to the great August 6, 2017 Novel Spaces post by Linda Thorne regarding reviews, I was speaking to a close friend last night about why one book receives hundreds of reviews in let's say, 1 month, and another book receives only a few reviews, if any. The two books might be just as good, yet the variance in the number of reviews is apparent.



My friend and I were trying to come up with ways to inspire readers to understand the importance of writing reviews. We're working on that.

But for now, my opinion is that once a book initially receives a great number of reviews upon release, the book attracts the attention of prospective readers who become curious, and then once those readers buy and read the book, they're more motivated to go back and write a review as well.

Reviews really are a great way to show us authors that readers enjoy our work. Reviews, good or bad, can make readers curious, and in turn, increase sales.

My friend mentioned that some readers might feel that taking the time to sit down and write, edit, look it over, and then post the review, is like homework. Something they don't have time for. And Amazon in particular won't let you only give the book 1 to 5 stars. You must also post a certain number of words.

Years ago, I think reviews were written more frequently. I'm not sure why that's changed. Maybe because there are so many more choices. Also, I think that some genres garner more reviews than others, i.e. romance novels receive more reviews than women's fiction in some cases. And obviously, the popularity of the author, subject matter, and interest play major roles.

I found that with my 2016 title, The Practice Wife, after offering advance reading copies in exchange for an honest review, I did end up with quite a few reviews on or just after the release date. But also, Amazon removed some of the reviews, as Linda Throne mentioned can happen (or at least they were posted in a way that people could not see them), because the books were not purchased via Amazon.



If we can all try to outright ask readers to post reviews, whether to Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Goodreads, etc., I think they will, though we don't want our sales to be their responsibility. We want them to buy whichever books they want, the way they want, as often as they want. And if they review them, we're grateful. But we can nudge them along.

Let's keep spreading the word about the importance of reviews, and in the meantime, my friend and I plan to come up with something to inspire readers to do so, just as a small way to contribute to the big picture.

What do you think can be done to encourage readers to write reviews?

Write on!





Sunday, August 6, 2017

Verified Book Purchase - Amazon




by Linda Thorne

Has anyone else noticed on Amazon that reader reviews only show if the book was purchased from Amazon? Once upon a time they all showed. There's a way to see them, but will the average online shopper even bother? They may, but only if they can figure it out.

Assuming the shopper is aware he is not seeing all the reviews, how does he find them? The offer to see all is hidden behind links that say "verified purchase reviews" above and below the list of reviews (even though some are not verified purchase reviews). Click on customer reviews and those for Amazon purchased books will appear under a big, bold heading that says: Top Customer Reviews. An obscure little link above that heading will say, "See all verified purchase reviews," which you're already looking at. If you click on this top link, you'll be offered an opportunity to see all the reviews. At the bottom there's another tiny link that says, "See all verified purchases (newest first)." If you click there, you'll see other filters, but none offering all reviews. You'll have to click on a second "verified purchase" filter to get an offer for both verified purchase (a 3rd time) and finally, all reviews.  

Amazon is responsible for its success and the company can set up its website any way it wants. The problem is most authors sell their books in other places too, but look to Amazon as their power base. Bookstores deserve a chance to stay in business. Authors want to sell books at events, booths, and book signings. There are book giveaways of all kinds. Then there are the professional reviewers they seek. Authors are known to spend hours and days in search of a known, approachable reviewer who will hopefully read their ARC and give them an Amazon review, especially if they have a new book coming out. The bottom line is if a reader wants to write a book review, that reader will be apt to go to Amazon to do it. If he didn't purchase the book there, most shoppers will never see his review.

The reason for this change likely resulted from abuse of the book review system. If Amazon gets that under control, I hope they'll consider being more generous with review space for those who bought, won, or were gifted the book somewhere else. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Sales: The Trump Effect


Yesterday I read an article that left me thinking about politics and book sales. In "Is Trump Ruining Book Sales?" the author, Morgan Jerkins, makes several observations about what I'll call the Trump Effect. One author cited claims that any books that aren't political and/or dystopian aren't really selling "in a world where reality has become stranger than fiction." Politics has become mass entertainment that's so compelling mere books have a hard time competing.

The US political spectacle has affected me both a reader and a writer--and I'm neither American nor resident in the US. Since the nonstop circus began, I have had to force myself to pick up a novel every now and then when the anxiety about my non-reading hits hard. I've always been a voracious reader but now I spend my reading time on online articles. When I do pick up a book it's usually nonfiction. I'm trying to avoid political articles but the lure is strong. However--and this is where things get really interesting--I'm finding that my book sales are better than ever before. I've gotten a royalty check every month since January 2016, and since January 2017 those royalties have been substantial enough to make a difference to my budget. It seems escapist genres, at least, are doing quite well despite the overall decline in sales.

Apart from the verifiable claim that overall book sales are in decline, the article is short on hard data, so I'll do an informal survey here. Has the ongoing political saga made a difference to your reading habits? And if you're a writer, have you noticed any difference in your sales? Enquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What Do You Know?

Over the last few months I conducted a writing workshops for a few teens. One young lady brought in a story that was quite interesting. After we read and critiqued it, she shared that the story had been a school assignment. Her teacher had asked them to write a story that included several elements including a pueblo blanket. It was clear from the list of items that the teacher wanted the students to write a story with a Native American theme. The young lady, however, decided she did not know enough about Native American culture to write comfortably about it and without the option for research she wrote something with which she could relate and in which the required elements made only cameo appearances.

I'm not sure how her teacher responded but I applauded her innate understanding of the idea of writing what you know. This is a complicated and often misunderstood concept. If it is interpreted at its most basic level it would mean the police should be knocking on Maggie King's door and let's not even begin to discuss Pynk. Writing what you know may have more to do with writing about emotions, feelings, and experiences you understand, even if they are then set on Mars, in locales you have researched but never lived in.

You may never have been accused of murder but you may have felt the injustice of being misunderstood or having your motives questioned.

You may not have lost a brother but you have felt the loss of something that meant a lot to you.

You may never have flown in a spaceship, walked on another planet, or encountered an alien race but you've probably felt the exhilaration of a new, exciting, and deliciously dangerous experience.

You may not have killed anyone but you may have felt the rage or longing that took you to the brink of committing a crime.

What has been your experience writing about locales and experiences foreign to you? What steps do you take to ensure your writing is authentic?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

What's in Your Swag?

 
         

            Today’s post is about swag. You know, that stuff authors give out at events to get people to remember them.

            I have several events coming up, so I had to think long and hard about the swag I’m going to give away. It’s not an easy decision for me, as is true with many other authors, because I want something that stands out and I can’t spend a lot on it.

There are authors out there who give away tote bags, bookmarks (and not just any bookmarks—the dangly kind with a charm on the end), cute little spiral-bound notebooks with a book cover printed on the front, even seed packets (which are great for authors who write about farmers and gardeners, but I’m not one of those authors), but I don’t have the kind of money one needs to give away things like that.

So at the risk of being the most boring author out there, I’ve ordered postcards. Again. Each one is printed with one of my book covers on the front and my photo and social media URLs on the back. I love how they look—I just wish I could do something really out-of-the-box. But out-of-the-box is expensive.

I’ve also ordered bookmarks. Again. These have the covers of each of the three books in my current series. Like the postcards, I think they’re nice-looking bookmarks. I hope people use them.



            But in addition to the postcards and the bookmarks, I have managed to include two more interesting things.

            First, I did a little research and learned that some of the most popular items for authors to give away are pens. Thus, I have ordered pens with my name and a small graphic of a rose on them. This is the same rose photo I use on my website’s Contact Me page and some of my newsletters. It’s not just any rose; it’s a rose from a bouquet my husband gave me when I signed my first contract with a publisher. It means a lot to me and I love the photo, so I use it often.



            Second, my most recent book and my next book are both set in Scotland. What comes to mind when I think of Scotland? Sure, the beauty, the majesty, the lochs, et cetera, et cetera. But I can’t give those things away.

            What comes to mind next? For me, it’s shortbread (it’s always about the food, as far as I’m concerned). Buttery, crumbly, delicious shortbread. I found a website (worldmarket.com) where I could buy twenty individually-wrapped two-packs of Walker’s Shortbread Cookies for about $11.00. Since I only needed fifty packages (this particular swag is for gift bags at the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival in August), I could get away with spending $33.00 or so and still have some cookies left over for another event. My plan is to staple a package of cookies to one of my Scotland-themed postcards.



            What do you think? Is it memorable, or would you do something different?

            I’ve got a book club appearance coming up in a couple weeks. The club is discussing my book set in Hawaii. I’d like to take a homemade dessert with me that the members can share at the meeting—something with coconut or passion fruit or macadamia nuts. I don’t know how big the group is, but I figured if I make a large pan of something, there will be enough for everyone. Smaller, more personal events like book club appearances make it easy for me to take something because I love to cook and I love to come up with foods that connect somehow with the setting of the book the club is reading.

            Incidentally, I do host giveaways once in a while through my newsletter. For the giveaways, I like to do something a bit more elaborate than postcards and bookmarks. For my last giveaway (to celebrate the release of my book set in Hawaii) I had a reusable shopping bag that I stocked with tropical-themed items and Hawaiian foods (pre-packaged, like macadamia nuts and candies). For my next giveaway I’ll probably award a tote bag with some Scottish-themed items.

            I’d like to hear what other authors are using for swag. What do you give away, if anything? Is there something you received at an author event that was particularly memorable? Share your ideas in the comments below—I’d love to hear them and I’m sure other writers would, too.
           
                       

            

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Book Promotion: What Works for Me and What Doesn't



Like many of my fellow authors, I’m on an eternal quest for promotional ideas—preferably ones that generate sales. For the first book in my Hazel Rose Book Group series I had a hit-or-miss approach, but I’ve been much more pro-active with #2 in the series. Here’s my assessment of my activity and findings:

In February, I appeared on Virginia This Morning. I was beyond nervous and recount the experience on my blog. But my sales soared that day and I got an invitation to visit a book group.

I used an e-mail service called Ereader News Today (ENT) and also had a huge boost in sales. I’ll be going that route again. My publisher wanted me to use BookBub but I balked at forking over close to $1,000 (ENT is $50).

I’ve joined four tweet groups on Facebook. My Australian friend Christina Larmer invited me to the first one, which is “secret.” All I can say is that it’s for cozy authors.

Next I tried T4US, a group that anyone can join. It has many members and they tweet everything from books to skin care to jewelry.

A member of the aforementioned secret cozy group sponsored me for Authors Social Media Support Group (ASMSG). This is a multi-function group with a newsletter, several tweet groups, forums, etc. I haven’t tapped into ten percent of what ASMSG has to offer, but I share tweets with the group daily.

My most recent tweet group is part of the Mystery Authors International Facebook group. I've been a member for less than a week but already love the enthusiasm and support. We can all use a hefty dose of that. 

There are lots of tweet groups and you can find the right one for you. It’s a great way to get retweets. Everyone who posts on a given day is expected to retweet all the other posts for that day. 

I’ve created what amounts to a portfolio of memes to accompany my tweets. This is the fun part for me. Here's an example:


What else? I’ve been interviewed for radio and podcasts. As for blogs, I continue to post here on NovelSpaces, on my own blog at Maggieking.com/blog, and on Lethal Ladies Write. Aside from the requisite Facebook and Tweet accounts, YouTube, Instagram, Google Plus, and LinkedIn complete my platform. I have all but abandoned Pinterest.
 
But how does all of this activity impact sales? Aside from the obvious sales boosts from my TV appearance and ENT promo, it’s hard to measure, especially when I’m using several promotional tools on any given day. But it all helps. Before joining these tweet groups, I’d been a half-hearted tweeter, always feeling like I was shooting at a moving target. But some of these tweeters have thousands and thousands of followers—so with that many retweets hurling around in cyberspace, someone must be taking notice. 

As for Facebook groups, there are hundreds of them and I belong to many—but, aside from a few, I’m not sure if my posts make any impact. And these days I feel much the same about my Facebook author page.

Here’s an idea I haven’t tried yet. Amy Vansant has a service called Authors Cross Promotion and one of the options is a Series Spotlight Newsletter Feature. Here is more info. If anyone has used Amy’s services, please share your experience. 

Of course, engagement is key on social media, not promotion per se. But my purpose in writing this post is to consider promotional tools. And the best tool of all: my next book. I hear that time and again from seasoned authors. So excuse me while I get back to writing mine!

Please weigh in with your thoughts and suggestions. What works for you? What doesn’t?