Category Archives: ebooks

Attracting the Reader’s Attention: Choosing the best eBook Cover Design

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For us British, anything related to self-promotion tends not to come naturally. We’re brought up in a culture where mentioning your achievements is only a step away from boasting – and we don’t approve of boasting, ho no! If you’re a writer, the chances are you’re at the quiet and shy end of the social spectrum, possibly a little insular, with perhaps a tendency towards self-doubt too. I’d put myself firmly in this category.

This means I’m mostly doing the social media equivalent of standing at the back of a busy room, raising my hand and giving a polite cough to get everyone’s attention. Sometimes no-one notices. Sometimes I don’t even have the courage to do it at all. Everyone carries on talking, and I just stand there thinking I probably should mention what I’m doing, but maybe it’s not the best time.

But now I really ought to tell you formally about my latest project. I’m writing a book. Just a little one you understand (so that you know I’m not boasting!). It’s my first non-fiction book: “Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide”. I’ve aimed to incorporate all that I’ve learned from my own experiences as both entrant and judge – the idea being the reader will be able to learn from my mistakes rather than having to make so many of their own!

Alongside drafting the text for the book, I pondered the cover design for a long time. There’s no way I’d attempt to create my own eBook cover, but I sent a couple of ideas to Shar, my cover designer, and she mocked up three designs for me.

 

As I’m pretty rubbish at making decisions, I decided to consult family and friends, Facebook and the Twittersphere. The results were really interesting – each cover got lots of support, and there were also some good comments, discussions of the relative merits of each, and suggestions for improvements. Of course, with an eBook cover, you have to think about how the design will work both large scale and in thumb nail form when the reader is quickly scanning through the available options.

If you’ve not chosen a favourite yet, or you’d like to make a further suggestion about one or more of the designs, I’ve love to hear your comments. If you’d like to see the final cover design before the book is out, please click the link on the right hand side of the blog to join my new mailing list. (Oh, did I mention…. *whispers* I’ve got a new mailing list!) 😉

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Platforms for Publishing your ebook: To Select or Go Wide

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In my last blog post about smartphones I mentioned I was now hooked on podcasts – in particular I’ve been listening to The Creative Penn, The Book Marketing Show, and the Smart Author podcast. Listening to a writing-related podcast at the same time as doing everyday chores is great because at least I feel like I’m learning something new about the indie-author world, and making a positive impact on my own writing, even when I’m not able to be at my desk. It’s also really inspiring to listen to the experiences of other writers – especially those who’ve had lots of false starts or disappointments in their careers, but have ultimately been very successful.

One of the topics I’ve been thinking about as a result of this is whether or not I should continue to stay in KDP Select, and thus stick exclusively with Amazon for my eBooks, or whether I should consider striking out to Kobo, B&N Nook, Apple iBooks, etc.

There’s no doubting that Amazon is currently the major player in the eBook market, and it’s difficult to imagine a future in which this is not the case. As a newbie to self-publishing last year, it seemed entirely sensible to trial my initial ebook upload through KDP, and having done that, it also seemed sensible to maximise my potential readers by clicking to join KDP Select. Now though, with a couple of ebooks under my belt, I’m considering my longer term strategy.

The ebooks I’ve published to date, The Camel in the Garden and Beyond Words are both short story collections, but I’m currently working on a non-fiction project. One of the reasons I’d like to consider cross-platform publishing for this project is to enable it to be borrowed via public libraries (though applications such as OverDrive). I’m also coming around to the view that the all-eggs-in-one-basket approach may not be sensible in the long run – especially when the basket it owned by such a huge, powerful organisation. In order for us as indie-authors to have choice in the way we self-publish, alternative platforms have to exist – and in order for them to exist, they need authors and customers.

So at the moment, I am exploring Smashwords and Draft2Digital and learning as much as I can about opportunities to publish across multiple platforms. I’d be really interested to hear any other self-published authors’ experiences of and opinions on either staying with KDP Select, or using a multi-platform approach. And if you’ve come out of KDP Select in order to “go wide”, please comment below to let us know how you go on.

 

Smart Phones for Smart Writers

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One of the great conundrums of the modern age is that despite all the technology which has been developed, and despite all the labour-saving devices we have in our homes, we appear to have less and less time. How can this be?

Well of course, we still have exactly the same amount of time as we’ve always had. Those 24 hours won’t grow or shrink. It’s what you do with them that counts. So, yes you can get up at ridiculous-o’clock to squeeze in a few more useful hours. You can multi-task up to a point. You can choose to stop doing certain tasks to devote the time to something more important (see Kath McGurl’s Give Up Ironing book for more ideas on this approach!). And you can stop getting distracted.

I’m not a big TV fan – and you’ll absolutely never hear the words “box set” pass my lips in the context of losing a whole weekend watching 400 episodes of some show or other. (I am the person who can’t take part in office discussions about Game of Thrones etc.) But I am totally addicted to the internet, particularly because of my smart phone. I love YouTube videos which help me improve the way I ride my horse. I can lose hours googling random facts, or watching amusing or tear-jerking videos on Facebook. I’m also plagued by a kazillion emails (many from all the great writing-related websites I’ve signed up to). And I think this is the route of the time problem we all face. Whether smart-phone-related or not, there is simply too much information out there for our brains to process. So, I’ve decided I need to be more selective.

Before I had a smart phone, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. People had managed perfectly well for centuries without such a gadget. It was just a silly fad. Now? It’s an integral part of pretty well every aspect of my life. Its alarm gets me up in the morning, and the sleep app tells me how long and how well I’ve slept the night before (last night was amazing – 8h 4mins – almost a record!). My running podcast takes me through my morning’s run, and the health app monitors my steps/distance travelled. On my way to and from work, I listen to a writing (or sometimes horse riding) related podcast – at the moment, I’m checking out the backlist of The Creative Penn which is amazingly informative about the indie author world – and also very entertaining.

This week is National Short Story week, and my smart phone has been invaluable in helping me advertise my two short story ebooks The Camel in the Garden and Beyond Words, which have been on special offer. Using my phone has enabled me to access Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, post photos and links, join in discussions, to post and comment on this blog and, of course, keep track of downloads – at any time, not just when I’m at home at my writing desk.

But I need to get better at sifting online information, saving the important bits (such as story competition info) and managing it in a way which means I won’t overlook it later.

If you have any top tips on the way you manage this process, please share them in the comments below.  I will be eternally grateful!

And if you’re the sort of really organised person who has arranged their life so efficiently that you have an afternoon free for a spot of reading, Beyond Words is still half-price for the remainder of this weekend. 🙂

“I am a #writer” – Keeping the Faith

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One of the best Christmas presents I ever received was a portable typewriter. Granted, we’re going back a bit. I was 13. My mum had watched me scribbling away in notebooks, or head buried in a kazillion novels over the previous months/years. She had listened when I told her I wanted to be a writer. And she wanted to help. Opening my present on Christmas Day was one of those rites of passage moments – not only was it something I really wanted (I appreciate this makes me a pretty nerdy teenager!), but it was a proper grown-up present. And most importantly, it meant that my parents didn’t think I was being silly. I said I wanted to be a writer: they believed me, and believed in me.

I now know how lucky I was. And I also now know that having people around you who believe in you is only half the battle – you also have to believe in yourself. There are so many hundreds, thousands, of great books out there, so many talented writers, it’s easy to become discouraged, to think there’s no place for you. Even literary success may not wholly dispel feelings of “imposter syndrome”.

After some initial (perhaps too easily won) success in short story writing when I was a teenager, my writing “career” took a nose dive. For many, many years I dabbled, but didn’t work at it. Only when I made the decision to do a Creative Writing MA did I truly start to take myself and my writing seriously. There were huge benefits – from writing regularly, from being exposed to other people’s writing processing and discussing each other’s work, and from learning about the wider publishing industry. Building my author identify online (instead of hiding way in anonymity) was a huge step for me (I kept waiting for the sky to fall in – just for reference, it didn’t). Achieving the MA gave me some kind of validation – as did publication and success in writing competitions. But hearing feedback from readers is the best thing. (This is the first year I’ve had “fan mail”! Thank you so much to the people who have emailed or contacted me via Twitter to tell me they’ve enjoyed my stories – I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support.)

I know several would-be writers who are too nervous to show their work to the wider world, or even talk about their writing. But if you write, you are a writer, and if you want the wider world to believe in you as a writer, you must first believe in yourself. If you want the wider world to know about your writing, you have to talk about what you do.

Next week is National Short Story Week – a great opportunity to talk about all things writing and short story related. To coincide with this, I’m running two special offers on my eBooks:

The Camel in the Garden will be FREE from Monday 13th – Friday 17th November 2017

Beyond Words will be HALF PRICE from Monday 13th – Sunday 19th November 2017, so you will be able to pick up 12 stories for a mere 99p.

To find out more about either of these short story collections, click the relevant tab at the top of this page.

If you’ve struggled with self-belief or “imposter syndrome” and would like to tell us about something which made the difference for you, please comment below. Similarly, if you read any great short stories over the coming week, please let us know. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

One Year On…

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A year ago, I posted here about having lost my beautiful mare, Cracker, how hard I was finding adjusting to life without her – and how difficult it was to focus on anything, even writing.

Since then, a lot has happened (including a house move), and while I’ve been horse-less, I’ve definitely had more time for writing-related activities. On the non-fiction front, I’ve had my first full-length article published in a national magazine (equine-related, of course).  And on the fiction front, most excitingly, I achieved my aim to release an eBook short story collection on Amazon. (Two, in fact!)

I’m quietly proud of “Beyond Words” (the second of the two collections) as it brings together some of my favourite short stories, all of which have achieved competition success.  There’s so much to be gained from entering competitions – the discipline of meeting deadlines, word counts and themes can only help improve your writing, especially when it takes you away from your comfort-zone, and being short-listed, placed or commended can only increase your writing confidence. If you’ve never entered a writing competition before but would be interested in having a go, there’s a reference list at the back of “Beyond Words” which gives each of the competitions in which the stories were entered.

And a year on…  Well, I finally decided it was time to take on a new equine partner. This is Deemon Whirlwind, my new part-Arab gelding:

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After 15 educational years with Cracker, I’m looking forward to an equally long and inspirational partnership with this handsome chap. And of course, I’ll keep you posted!

Special Offer for Storytelling Week

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Who doesn’t love hearing a story told to them? Whether you’re a child listening with rapt attention to a bedtime story made up for you by your parents, or you’re an adult listening to an audio book in the car on the daily commute, there’s something magical about being told a story. As someone who reads quite quickly, and not always very carefully (in fact, sometimes I skim read – a terrible admission for a writer!), listening to a story sometimes helps me pick up nuances and details I’d otherwise have missed.

Well, this great oral tradition is celebrated during National Storytelling Week which this year runs from 28th January to 4th February. You can find out all about it here:

http://www.sfs.org.uk/national-storytelling-week

I’m afraid I don’t yet have any audio versions of my stories, though there are lots of other out there, such as Patsy Collins’ story “Uncle Mick” available to listen to here:

Not to be outdone though, in honour of all things short-story related, my collection The Camel in the Garden is free to download from Amazon Kindle this weekend.

If you take the opportunity to download it, you could always read it to someone else! And if you like the stories, and had time to leave a brief Amazon review, I’d be ever so grateful.

Thank you – and happy reading!

 

Flash Fiction – One in a Million!

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If you’re a writer of short stories or flash fiction, you may be interested in the “One Million Stories Creative Writing Project” at:

http://www.millionstories.net/index.html

As their homepage states, “It is our mission to discover, select and showcase some of the very best new short fiction being written today, and then publish it right here for you to enjoy…”

They have a specific page dedicated to flash fiction, called The Sharp End and they have just published my 100 word piece, “Sunburn”:

http://www.millionstories.net/TheSharpEnd.html

The One Million Stories Project is open for submissions now. They are looking for anything between 50-5,000 words.  Check out their guidelines here:

http://www.millionstories.net/contactus.html

And of course, if you like my flash piece, you might want to read my short story collection Beyond Words available here:

 

 

Erewash Writers Comp – Winning Entries

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Last month I discovered I’d managed to place not one but two stories in the 2016 Erewash Writers open short story competition (cue slightly smug grin!). I’ve made it as far as the shortlist in past Erewash competitions, but to find this year that Resolution had been placed 4th, and Never Far From the Tree highly commended, was a real boost.

One of the nice things about Erewash competitions (as well as the fact they post the judge’s comments), is that the winning stories are published on their site: http://erewashwriterscompetition.weebly.com/winners-2016-open-short-story-competition-with-patsy-collins.html

If you enjoy Resolution and would like to read some more of my stories, don’t forget Raspberry Ripple is available free here: https://fictivedream.com/2016/11/27/raspberry-ripple / and if you’d like to read some others I’ve written which have been successful in competitions, you can find my ebook Beyond Words on Amazon, here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Words-short-stories-deception-ebook/dp/B01JWLPKW0

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Hopefully the festive break will provide lots of reading (and writing!) time – and perhaps even a blog post or two. Until then, thanks for reading – and Merry Christmas! x

Online Story Outlets – Fictive Dream

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In the words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a changin’, and whilst there may be fewer print outlets for short stories writers than there were in the past, on the web there’s a proliferation of ezines, blogs and pages devoted to flash and short fiction. At the moment, publication via these outlets generally won’t earn you any hard cash – and it’s up to the individual writer to consider whether or not they are happy for their work to appear for free. An established writer may not see much benefit, but if you’re new to writing and hoping to build a list of writing credits, or simply want the buzz of seeing your work “out there”, it’s a step on the literary ladder.

There’s also a case if, like me, you’re hoping to make links, and promote your other work. Having a story on a website devoted to the medium may bring you to the attention of a few more readers who otherwise wouldn’t have heard of you. If they like your free story, perhaps they’ll click the link to your Amazon author page, or start following your blog.

“Fictive Dream” which was launched six months ago, is one such online magazine dedicated to the short story, and is open to submissions from both emerging and established writers. Editor Laura Black is looking for “stories with a contemporary feel that give an insight into the human condition…  They may be on any subject. They may be challenging, dramatic, playful, exhilarating or cryptic. Above all, they must be well-crafted and compelling.”

In a recent email to her writers, Laura writes, “From the start, it became clear that the calibre of the Fictive Dream writer was going to be high. Almost all of you are experienced authors, many with short story collections, novels or plays already behind you. However, it’s also great to be including talented new writers in the early stages of their writing careers. “

Today sees the publication of my story Raspberry Ripple – I’m excited to see this story appear on “Fictive Dream” and hope readers enjoy it. Of course, I also hope that they’d like to read more of my work, and decide to visit this blog, or download one of my ebooks, but anything which encourages interest and enthusiasm in the short story gets a thumbs up from me.

To read Raspberry Ripple, or find out more about “Fictive Dream”, including their submission guidelines, visit https://fictivedream.com/

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Free and half-price stories for National Short Story Week

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This year, National Short Story Week runs from 14th to 20th November celebrating all things short story-related. The aim is to raise awareness of short stories themselves and those who write and publish them.

As someone who loves the medium of the short story, as both a reader and writer, I’m looking forward to seeing what the week brings. Patron Katie Fforde says, “Let’s get everyone reading, writing and listening to short stories in this designated week.” My tiny contribution to this aim is two special offers I’m running on my own short story collections.

The Camel in the Garden, a collection of three short about loss, love and family, is free from 14th to 18th November. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Camel-Garden-Three-stories-family-ebook/dp/B01EPBTO92/ref=pd_sim_351_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=5A7PRP33X1R38X5PQXR9

Beyond Words, 12 short stories about love, death, and deception, is half-price from 14th to 20th November.  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Words-short-stories-deception-ebook/dp/B01JWLPKW0/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

If you don’t usually read short stories, this week is a great opportunity to try some. If you’re interested in writing short stories, and perhaps having a go at entering a few competitions, you may find Beyond Words useful to read, as each of the stories has either been short-listed, long-listed, placed or highly commended in a variety of competitions.

I hope as many people as possible take this opportunity to get involved with short fiction – reading it, writing it, and reviewing it. And if you pick up, or download, a short story this week, I hope you love it and want to talk about it.

For more information on National Short Story Week, visit the website:  http://www.nationalshortstoryweek.org.uk/