Tag Archives: indie author

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A day in the life of author – Maggie James

Maggie James is a British author who lives in Bristol. She writes psychological suspense novels.

Maggie JamesThe first draft of her first novel, entitled His Kidnapper’s Shoes, was written whilst travelling in Bolivia. Maggie was inspired by an impending milestone birthday along with a healthy dose of annoyance at having procrastinated for so long in writing a novel. His Kidnapper’s Shoes was published in both paperback and e-book format in 2013, followed by her second novel, entitled Sister, Psychopath. Her third novel, Guilty Innocence, has now been published, and like her first two, features her home city of Bristol. She is currently editing her fourth novel, The Second Captive.

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Self-publishing – A one day course by Rachel Abbott

If there is one email that I receive more often than any other, it’s one that asks, “Can you please tell me how to sell more books?” – and it’s a really difficult question to answer.

Being successful as a self-published author is not easy. With over two million books on Amazon, it’s hugely difficult to get noticed, and I appreciate that I am one of the lucky ones that has – until now at least – been fortunate enough to sell a lot of books. According to the Daily Telegraph, I am the top-selling self-published author in 2014 to date on Amazon UK, which is a huge honour against some very fierce competition. Screenshot 2014-09-10 23.27.57 But it wasn’t easy. I worked long hours, ate lots of biscuits, put on a ton of weight – all to try to get my first book noticed.

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SLEEP TIGHT – a story of obsession, deception and retribution

PRESS RELEASE – SLEEP TIGHT LAUNCHED TODAY

Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon worldwide

Rachel Abbott, self-published author of best-selling thrillers “Only the Innocent” and “The Back Road”, was inspired by some of her own experiences when writing her new novel, Sleep Tight, published on Monday 24th February.

Sleep Tight is the story of an obsession that escalates from persistent stalking to something far more sinister – a powerful compulsion to possess. When the object of such potent emotions is slipping out of reach, tensions mount and control is lost.

When Olivia Brookes disappears with her children, her car is still in the garage, and her purse on the kitchen table. The police want to issue an appeal, but for some reason every single picture of this family has been removed from albums, from phones, from computers.

When asked about the subject of this novel, Abbott said, ‘Being stalked is a terrifying experience, and yet it has only recently been classified as a criminal act. I was stalked when I was in my early twenties – and for a long time, I didn’t know who by. I would find messages stuffed under the windscreen wipers of my car, saying “I’m watching you”, and sometimes a flower on my front doorstep. I was constantly looking over my shoulder – wondering who it was, and what would happen next. So when writing this book, I tried to imagine how that might have intensified, if I hadn’t been saved by the intervention of a good friend who was prepared to put her own safety at risk.’

Asked if all her books are based on personal experience, Abbott laughed. ‘I hope not. I’m certain that I’ve never met anybody who would commit such wicked acts as my protagonists. But I look for characteristic behaviours – such as obsession – and think where they might ultimately lead.’

Abbott likes to pose moral dilemmas in her novels and Sleep Tight is no exception. ‘I hope readers will be surprised by some of the twists and turns in this novel,’ she said. ‘Sometimes good people are forced to do bad things, and this novel questions how far any of us should go, in order to protect our loved ones.’

‘A fast paced, multi-layered crime thriller, full of tension and secrets. We loved it!!’ was the verdict of bloggers at Crime Book Club.

Prior to beginning her writing career, Abbott ran an interactive media company which she sold in 2000, moving to Italy for a number of years where she bought and restored two properties. Her first novel, Only the Innocent, was self-published in November 2011 and has sold over 250,000 copies. She now lives in Alderney in the Channel Islands.

Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon worldwide

To download a copy of this release as a PDF, please click here.

PLEASE SHARE this press release with all your friends on Twitter. Just click the “click to tweet” next to your favourite tweet, and you’re done!

The new book from Rachel Abbott – SLEEP TIGHT – is launched today!      Click to Tweet

The new psychological thriller from Rachel Abbott – SLEEP TIGHT – is out now!    Click to Tweet

SLEEP TIGHT from the bestselling author of ONLY THE INNOCENT is out today.    Click to Tweet

Defining a winning strategy – update

straegyimageA few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about defining a winning strategy. I laid out my ideas, and explained my thinking about pricing. I decided that today it was time for an update. (You can find the original post HERE if you haven’t read it.)

Some of you eagle eyed readers may have noticed that – contrary to my last post – from 1st May the price of Only the Innocent and The Back Road both dropped to £0.99. You can check them both out by clicking the title links, but I thought I should explain what has happened.

This is an intrinsic part of my strategy, and not a change of heart!

I have to admit that after my last post, the temptation to drop the price of The Back Road to 99p did prove quite hard to resist, once I’d realised that only books that were either extremely well known or under £1 had much of a chance in the Amazon chart. But I did my sums, and I decided that 70% of £1.99 would overall bring me a better financial return than 35% of 99p – despite the much higher sales figure of books in the top 5. Quite how long I would have hung on to that stubborn resistance if my book had fallen out of the top 100, I don’t know – but fortunately for me, it didn’t. For any of you who aren’t aware, Amazon has two different royalty rates depending on the price of your book. The lower prices attract a 35% royalty, whilst anything over £1.49 is paid a 70% royalty (less a few pence for distribution costs).

So why are both books 99p now?

One result of maintaining the higher price has been that I have been selected for an Amazon promotion. There is a “100 books for under £2.99” promotion each month, and to be selected, a book has to have a price that Amazon can effectively reduce. They select the price point, so I waited with bated breath to find that they have reduced both The Back Road and Only the Innocent to £0.99.

The advantage of this promotion is that even though the price is reduced and my royalty is based on 99p, I still get 70% of that price. I was delighted that they agreed to do this for Only the Innocent as well as The Back Road, because to be honest I had decided that Only the Innocent was now an ‘old’ book, and had more or less stopped promoting it. The major discovery in all of this has been that the books really do sell each other – when The Back Road hit the number 2 spot, Only the Innocent raced up the charts to number 30.

The timing for the price reduction is good. The Back Road has been out for six weeks now, and has started to be mentioned in a few forums. It has been selected as one of the four “Books for May” in the Goodreads UK forum, and been awarded “A MUST READ” status by the reviewers. It’s had a few reviews on blogs – and great reviews on Amazon. However, I have to say that it’s been more difficult to generate buzz about the book than I would have expected. Much of this is down to the changing face of the forums.

When Only the Innocent was launched, I know that some of its success was down to lots of chatter on key forums – but it all feels a little different now. People used to chat a lot, get to know each other, buy each other’s books. Now it seems that most people just post their promo and move onto the next thread where they can post exactly the same thing. I was suckered in to doing something similar – it seemed the way to go. But it’s not particularly effective, because few people are reading what other people post.

As a result, yesterday I set up my own discussion group on Goodreads, and there are already 41 members. We can chat about books, and other authors can join in too. You can check it out here if you’re a member of Goodreads. I’m going to generally stick to places where I can chat and share information and thoughts with others now.

I have to admit that in spite of not achieving the buzz that I had hoped for in the forums, the result of dropping the price has been pretty impressive. The Back Road has gone from around position 70 in the charts to number 11 today. Only the Innocent has risen from 277 to 24 since the 1st May – just 4 days ago.

It would, however, be a mistake to suggest that this is purely down to an Amazon promotion. The third highest rated title (after my two) in the Crime, Thrillers and Mystery category of the promotion is at number 157 in the charts, so currently quite a way behind.

The stark reality is that to gain visibility for a book, the vast majority of the work is still down to the author. Once it gets into the top 10, I think an author can have little impact, because the sales numbers are high, and it’s unlikely that a Twitter or Facebook campaign would significantly impact upon those numbers. But to get there in the first place, there are no short-cuts. Amazon promotions will undoubtedly help – particularly if they are tied into email campaigns – but any hopes I had of forgetting all about marketing and getting on with the next book have actually proved to be little more than a pipe-dream.

So – that’s my update. The key findings are:

  • financially I’m very happy that I stuck to the £1.99 price
  • it’s very clear that a sub £1 price is very attractive to readers, who are more likely to take a risk on an unknown author
  • the forums are not as useful as they used to be
  • it’s harder to create a buzz about a book
  • there is no shortcut to marketing
  • books by the same author sell each other

The conundrum comes in the last two, of course, because whilst marketing – I’m not writing the next book!

As always – comments, please!

And if you would like to benefit from the current 99p price point, click on the book covers below to go to Amazon.

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Bestseller on Amazon

Do video book trailers work, and how do you make one?

I have been questioning the impact of video trailers on book sales for some time. I’ve seen some very good trailers – usually with specially shot video – and some very poor ones where scrolling text describes the whole story for seemingly endless minutes.

I played around a bit with some utility apps that I had on my Mac (and I do love messing around with software), but I really didn’t know where to start. I checked out Animoto – a free app – but although it was quick and easy I didn’t really like the fact that I had no control at all, and with little more than the cover of my book to work with, it just didn’t seem to deliver – so I temporarily gave up.

However, I was impressed with the impact that a good trailer could have when I went to one of S J Bolton’s Amazon pages and saw a video taster for one of her books. Once I’d got over the fact that the actor chosen for her leading man was nowhere near as sexy as he seems in the book, I watched the video and I was hooked. I’d gone there to purchase the book, as it happens – but if I had stumbled across that page by accident, I would still have bought it. The video worked.

I knew that I couldn’t produce anything as professional because S J Bolton’s video was made with specially shot footage, but I thought I might be able to put something together that gave a flavour of my book.

First of all I explored Adobe After Effects. I have a subscription to Adobe Creative Suite and I thought that my knowledge of Photoshop would help. It didn’t. I spent a whole day trying to get to grips with After Effects, and while I am certain that it’s a fantastic piece of software in the hands of the right person – that person isn’t me!

I then discovered an app called iMovie on my Mac. There were no clues about how to work with stills – but I thought I would just have a go. It’s not super-sophisticated, but it did exactly what I wanted it to do. (I understand there is an equivalent for the PC.)

Check out the video here so that the following might make more sense.

These were the steps I took:

  • I found a piece of music that was 30 seconds long – the length that I thought would work best as I only had two images! I had to pay for this soundtrack, and I bought it from iStockPhoto.
  • Using Photoshop and the original PSD file for my cover, I extracted various layers. If you’ve never used Photoshop or equivalent software, images are created using different layers – a background layer, then layers that hold different parts of the final image – in my case the girl, the headlights and the text. The Back Road cover has over 70 layers!
  • I selected the same section of each relevant layer so that I could ‘build’ the images on the screen as the action developed – when you look at the video, this should make sense: the empty road, the road with the girl, the road with the headlights, the road with the headlights AND the girl
  • I played around with colour a bit.

Manipulating images in iMovie

The first thing I did was to add all the images that I wanted to use. Each of these is nominally given an on-screen duration of 4 seconds, but that’s a long time to look at a still image. Fortunately in iMovie there is an option to set the time to fractions of a second. There is also a great feature that allows you to select an area of the still image shown at the start of the shot, and the area at the end. The software creates a moving image of the still by zooming in or out accordingly. The selections don’t have to be centred – you can start in the bottom left corner and end in the top right, if you want to. This adds movement to your still images without resorting to effects. In the example below, I chose to start wide, and end where the red rectangle is. This happens over a period of 4.9 seconds

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 18.20.48

Transitions

There are a number of different transitions between images to choose from. They are a bit limited but you can wipe screens, spin things in and out, fade, dissolve etc. Most of these transitions weren’t really relevant to the type of story I was trying to tell.

Titles

After all of the transitions are in place, you may want to add some words, and iMovie offers several title options, from ‘sideways drift’ to ‘boogie lights’. In general I wanted them to be quite simple in my trailer – I didn’t want loads of flashy stuff to take away from the message. What I did find, though, was a lens flare option. This normally flares around the title words, but I’ve used it a couple of times without any words at all. This tied in nicely to the car headlights which feature in the movie.

Music

Finally, the music track can be selected from wherever it is stored on your computer. I downloaded mine into iTunes. When the track is added, you can start tweaking so that the dramatic moments in the music are matched by changes to screen images. This can be achieved by shortening clips, playing with transition times, increasing the duration of titles, etc. Some people would probably choose to put the music track down first, and then match the images to the track – but I had a clear idea of the structure of the images, and then I tweaked until I was happy. You can see where the peaks are in the music, so that you can match up transitions.

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 18.24.31

You can apply different video effects too – such as changing to a sepia effect, a negative, etc. I didn’t use any of these – but they’re there if needed.

So there we have it. One video, which – if I hadn’t faffed around playing with tools that were far too sophisticated for me – I could have done in about three hours. An expert would do it in about 20 minutes.

I have now been bitten by the bug. I would like to use moving footage next time, but I’m not good enough to shoot it so I will have to buy some clips. I reckon that to create a 30 second video using the clips I have found will cost me around £80 (including the music that I’ve already bought).

So we have to ask – is it worth it?

If the video is just going on YouTube, I doubt it’s worth it at all. If you have a website, and it’s getting a decent amount of traffic, it’s certainly worth considering. You can also add it to a Goodreads page and your Amazon Author page.

My video is on my book page on Amazon. An author can’t upload video in this way as far as I’m aware, but this was organised between my agent and Amazon as part of the Amazon White Glove programme.

I don’t think the video has driven more people to my product page, but I do think that it may well have converted more page visitors into purchasers.

V6 smallWhat do you think? I know the video is far from professional – but I would love to know if this would be more or less likely to persuade you to buy the book.

Click the book cover to go to the book page and see the video.

The Back Road to Success – defining a winning strategy

As many regular readers of this blog will know, my second novel – The Back Road – was launched just four weeks ago, and being my usual obsessive self I had a carefully considered (and very long) marketing strategy.

Based on my experience with Only the Innocent and its startling success, I had tried to analyse what made it shoot to the top of the charts and stay there for so long, and my plan was based on identifying those key points and making them work for me again.

My expectations were lower. There are not only more books out there now, but other authors are much more savvy about how to market them (I knew I shouldn’t have blogged about my methodology! :-)  ). On top of that, until the day of launch there were still lots of 20p books in the charts, and my book stood no chance against them. Fortunately for me, the era of the 20p books ended (for now, at least) just as I was about to publish – but had left in its wake a plethora of books at 59p or 65p. The desperation to get into the charts and get noticed gave authors and publishers little choice and due to Amazon’s price matching policy and the will of other distributors to discount heavily, the days of cheap books are not quite over – and indeed, might never be.

So what did I expect?

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Killer tips for self-publishing by Mel Sherratt

I am sure many of you will have heard of Mel Sherratt, whose book Taunting the Dead was a bestseller in 2012. She’s a great supporter of other indie authors, so I have asked her to share some of her knowledge and experience with us all. 

smallerSince my novel, TAUNTING THE DEAD, became one of the top ten self-published Kindle bestsellers of 2012, I’m often asked how did I do it. The answer could be one of a few things: did I get lucky? Did I get noticed in some way? Did I have a marketing strategy? Did word of mouth take over once people started to read it? The answer is obviously the latter one – joking! In truth, it’s probably a bit of all of them. So I thought I’d share a few tips with you:

1. IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: Cover, cover, cover. Personally, I think covers are everything for e-books. I know they’re not seen as often as on a printed version but online they are crucial to catch someone’s eye, just as much as walking into a book shop and spotting one on the shelf that sticks out from the many.

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UK Indie Authors – Tax on US royalties

If you are a non-US citizen and you have self published your books in the US, you will already be aware that there is a 30% withholding tax applied by the distributor, and if you’re selling a reasonable number of books, that could be quite a bit of money!

But you CAN do something about this.

I put it off for far too long, and when I eventually got around to it, I found a website with a great article by Karen Inglis – and I followed her instructions to the letter. The whole process was straightforward, and so I thought I would ask her to write a post for me to share with you.

I should point out that I made the decision a few months ago to form a company for my publishing activities. That may or may not be the right way to go for you – it depends on a number of factors and the best person to advise you would be your accountant – but it certainly made it a whole lot easier to deal with the procedures in the US, as you will probably see from Karen’s article.

I hope it proves as helpful to you as it did to me.
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Editing your book – great fun, or complete nightmare?

Bestseller on AmazonIf I’ve been quiet for a while on this blog, it’s because I’ve been editing. And editing again. And reading out loud. Then editing again. And to my huge surprise, it has been a most absorbing and fulfilling experience. I don’t think I had understood what editing really was before now. I think I was living under the misapprehension that when somebody edits your book, they find all the bits that could be better, and they rewrite them. Oh no.  Nothing like that at all, as all you experienced writers will know. You get back your whole book with notes scribbled all over it.

Things like “too much dialogue – let’s have more insight into what Tom is thinking” or “too factual – make it more personal” or “What sort of a voice does Tom have?” or even “There’s something a little odd about this line”. There were lots of scribbles of “very important few lines – we need just a touch more to explain in emotional terms”.
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