Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Writers' Village International Novel award

A £500 cash prize can be won for a debut novel in the Writers' Village International Novel award, closing 30th June. Novels that have previously been self-published are also eligible. The winning author will be assessed by international literary agency A. M. Heath for possible representation and the top eight contestants will receive personal feedback on their novels by the judge, novelist Michelle Spring, Royal Literary Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Entry is £14.
Details here.
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Monday, 21 April 2014

Feed the beast with me

Two quick notes.

First is an open invite. Does anyone want to do a guest post on my blog? Other authors: talk about any aspect of writing, or your own experiences as a reader. Readers: what do you love or hate in terms of books or reading experiences? I'm open to suggestions from anyone, just get in touch if you'd like to write a guest post.

Secondly, there's freebies for people buying my books. Also, if you Tweet, blog or Facebook about one of my books, or put up a new review somewhere, then send me a link - you can have something from the list too. Offer valid until June.

Thank you all. Now go and enjoy a nice cup of tea and some victoria sponge cake.
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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

It were only a shilling and sixpence in my day


Here's a fun tool which is also a fantastic resource for writers and educators. What would a pint of beer have cost back in 1976? How much does that 1989 salary equate to nowadays? This "Historic Inflation Calculator" tool will answer that for you, back and forth through time.

Writers keep all sorts of information. I have a folder of very old bank statements and receipts - not for tax purposes, but so that when I write any story set in the past I can go through items from the time, and identify how much I paid for things. The inflation calculator tool is a handy add-on for that.

Inflation is a weird thing. I sometimes worry about the day when buying a bar of chocolate will cost me a million pounds. Then I lie awake in bed wondering why humans haven't decided to stamp out inflation so that it exists no more. Then I decide that I'm weird and go back to sleep.
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Friday, 11 April 2014

Monday, 7 April 2014

Night Z


"I'm here to kick ass and chew gum. And I'm all out of ass."
(Mmm, doesn't sound as tough as the original when I put it like that).

This Saturday I took part in a Battlefield Live special zombie event down in Pembrokeshire. I love interactive stories, especially those created by doing, where you are a true participant; I also savour a bit of fictional horror and darkness, so these kind of events are a perfect fit for me.

There was a lot of excitement as my family group made our way there - a fog descended that was incredibly creepy, along with light rain. We were dressed for the apocalypse though, so the damp didn't matter. It was also getting dark, as we chose the session that began as the last of the daylight faded. Put all this together and you have trepidation even before you arrive!

After a briefing the players split into two teams of eight: we were humans versus humans in a battle for supplies (food, water, ammunition) during a zombie apocalypse. So how did the zombies fit in? They were "walkers" who randomly wandered the paths moaning, then they came after you if they detected you. The paths were just wide enough that you could dodge past them but usually it was better to run another way and hope you didn't sprint head-first into another walker! Some of them moved silently so you got a real shock when you rounded a corner and came face to face with one. The make-up and acting was great, totally convincing, giving you a visceral thrill as you abandoned your goal and just retreated full speed. It is obvious that everyone involved put lots of thought, time and effort into the whole event.

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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Goodreads, giveaways, marketing, getting into trouble


I really like Goodreads. Although I also use Shelfari and LibraryThing, it is Goodreads where I interact most with books and readers.

I have done giveaways in the past. They seem like a good idea and are favoured by Goodreads staff because it means their users get freebies without it costing Goodreads a penny. I've found it has one large benefit for authors: it means people who haven't heard of your book become aware of it. More people mark it as "to read". There is a downside though. Every book has an ideal audience which is smaller than the full reading population (Karl's Law). Whether it's a Western or a young adult vampire romance, some readers will devour it, others will revile it. You want to target your book only at the former. Then everybody is happy. However, in a Goodreads giveaway any reader can tick that they'd like a copy. So you get people applying for every book just to get something for free. Then Goodreads software chooses who gets the books. This is where it goes wrong. My experience is that of all the books I've sent out for free via Goodreads giveaways, only a small percentage (possibly one in ten, but hard to know for sure since Goodreads doesn't share this data with authors) actually reviewed the book. This is a far lower percentage than if I'd chosen my own readers. It gets worse: I've seen reviews along the lines of "This book really isn't my kind of thing..." THEN WHY DID YOU SAY YOU WANTED A COPY? DON'T YOU READ THE SYNOPSIS? So the end result can leave you worse off. Goodreads also makes costly mistakes. Once I selected a giveaway just for the UK. I triple-checked the details as usual. Then Goodreads sent me a list of US readers to send the book to! It was incredibly expensive. The end result is that Goodreads giveaways can be a mixed bag for authors.

What else can you do? A targeted giveaway is much better. It's the logical approach. In August last year I made the mistake of being logical, even though I thought I was adopting best practice.

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