Self-Publishing isn’t for the Fainthearted: 2013 365 Challenge #308

Smashwords Dashboard

Smashwords Dashboard

My unshaken confidence in my five-year plan to become an author that actually sells books took a serious wobble today. Due to dismal sales figures last month (each book only sold 6 copies) and the lack of any reviews on Baby Blues, I decided to drop the Smashwords price to 99p on both books for November. It ties in nicely with NaNoWriMo: my contribution, if you like, as I can’t participate this year. The first draft of Baby Blues was penned during NaNo 2011 (while I sat watch over my solo art exhibition) and it seemed appropriate to celebrate the fact.

However, when I dropped the price on Smashwords they put the book under review (even though I hadn’t touched the manuscript) and then booted it out of Premium Catalogue for apparently containing page numbers. It doesn’t. So instead of writing a decent Claire installment this morning, I spent two hours copying and pasting the entire MS into a new word document, relinking the hyperlinks and double-checking everything. Only to have the darn thing not load properly. I’ve tried three times today and it’s still ‘loading’. Grrr.

It’s very tempting to withdraw both my novels from Smashwords and re-enroll them in KDP Select, as I haven’t sold any copies through any other route. It feels a bit like moving to sit in the other end of the boat as it goes down though – I don’t think it’s going to make much difference to the result. There are just too many books out there to compete with. Free books. Books with glitzy covers. Racy books, thrillers, erotica. Things people seem to want to read.

A lovely review

A lovely review

So far I’ve had around 2,200 copies of the free Two-Hundred Steps Home downloaded, across the ten volumes. That’s thousands more than I’ve sold copies of my novel. So my glorious idea of writing THSH to hopefully cross sell Baby Blues and Dragon Wraiths clearly isn’t working. I did get a nice review on THSH Volume 10 today – my first review on anything in ages. (Don’t get me started on the reviews from friends and family that Amazon just won’t publish, even though they’re not at all sycophantic and are just genuine and nice).

I try so hard not to get disillusioned. I knew this was going to be a long slog. I could still be trying for an agent for Dragon Wraiths: instead I’ve sold nearly 100 copies. It doesn’t sound like much, but rumour has it even eighty-something percent of traditionally published books don’t sell more than 100 copies, so it’s something to be proud of. It’s just hard, spending 70% of my time on promotion, formatting, covers, social media, thinking up new sales ideas and 30% on actually writing more books. I can’t even squeeze in NaNoWriMo for the first time since 2008.

I have four unfinished manuscripts and two outlines for sequels and I haven’t been near them all year. I’ve loved doing THSH and publishing Dragon Wraiths and Baby Blues, but it’s hard not to feel discouraged when I see what little impact they’ve had. Writing the darn things is just not enough. The story of my life revolves around my inability to sell my stuff. Web design, paintings, books – you name it. I can do the graft, put in the hard work, but if no one buys anything it’s just so much clutter and hours wasted.

Anyway, sorry for the doom and gloom, I’m sure it’s the infernal cold talking and I’ll be back to my positive self tomorrow. That’s if Smashwords actually sees fit to publish my book anytime soon! Grrr

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire looked at the email and pursed her lips, trying to read beneath the business-like words. The message contained none of the usual friendly jokes or snide comments that they used to, before Sunday night ruined everything. With a frown she read the note again.

Claire

Thank you for sending through your initial findings, they appear satisfactory, although I have not had a great deal of time to peruse them. We are working hard on the Carnival and there isn’t much time to spare.

Regarding the Carnival: I need you to be back in town for that week. I realise that it isn’t part of your current job description to help out, but I’m afraid we’re short staffed. It’s an essential part of the region’s tourism, so I’m sure you’ll understand why we need it to be a success.

In the meantime I suggest you press on towards Cornwall: there is a lot of ground to cover and, as I understand you’re still in Dartmoor, you will struggle to get around all the major destinations in the time allotted.

Regards

Conor

The last sentence definitely sounded like a rebuke, although Claire couldn’t point to the exact part that gave her that impression. Did he know she was hiding, licking her wounds? Was he angry at her running away or ashamed at his behaviour? There was nothing to work with. It was as friendly and helpful as an email from Carl would have been.

Pushing her laptop away, Claire pulled out a copy of the hostel map and worked out her route. She’d decided to stick to the YHA hostels, after her experience in Torquay.

Although I’ll learn to call ahead.

Looking around the empty hostel at Bracken Tor, Claire wondered if she would be as fortunate to have an entire building to herself in any of the other hostels. It felt a bit spooky, with the gardener the only other living person in the area, but at the same time her soul yearned for the solitude.

When she’d arrived back at the hostel she’d decided to skip her planned activity and wander around the house and gardens, enjoying the silence. She’d read her book, eaten some toast and made endless cups of hot tea. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt at such peace with the world.

Still, Conor has put an end to that. Back to work.

With a sigh, Claire looked down the list of hostels and picked one to call. She grabbed her phone and keys, strode out the room and up the hill until she got a signal.

“Yes, hello? I’d like to book a bed for the night. Yes, tonight please.”

As she waited for the manager to check for vacancies, Claire looked around at the endless scenery, with no sight of the steaming heap of humanity Conor was so fond of. Aside from the hum of the main road, she could have been on a remote island, miles from anyone or anywhere.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

***

“Kobogeddon”

First WH Smith then all KOBO

First WH Smith then all KOBO

A couple of days ago I wrote about online retailers censoring self-published and indie books, referring to WH Smith / Kobo in the UK. Despite including this picture of the BBC news headline, “Kobo pulls self-published books after abuse row”, I didn’t really appreciate that there were two distinct (though overlapping) aspects to the scandal.

The first part, to do with censorship of erotica, I covered in my previous post. I personally don’t have a problem with restricting books that might be considered inappropriate (or ‘sick’ as one commenter defined them. Although I think these days sick means good, yes? I’m over thirty, I don’t know.)

The other element, that had passed me by, was the fact that Kobo blamed self-published authors for the whole affair. I caught up when I stumbled across the hashtag Kobogeddon on Twitter last night. UK-based author Rayne Hall started the hashtag to bring attention to Kobo’s hypocrisy and back-stabbing actions. Her blog posts on Goodreads here and here explain the full story, for anyone who doesn’t know the details.

#Kobogeddon on Twitter

#Kobogeddon on Twitter

In summary, a UK newspaper pointed out to WH Smith that they had featured books on rape and incest alongside children’s books (I think we can all agree that something had to be done. Perhaps put an 18+ filter on all books containing erotica?). In reaction WH Smith took down their ebook website and their provider, Kobo, took down all UK books. (Not just UK authors, I believe US authors were affected, although their books are still available in the US).

Fine. They had to do something. I’ve worked in PR, I get that. But they only took down self-published books (and ALL of them, not just erotica): any traditionally published erotica is still available for all to see.

That was five days ago. As of now my books are still not available on Kobo, although I understand that books published directly through Kobo are starting to reappear.  Any of you who have read Dragon Wraiths, or Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes, or any one of the Claire installments on this blog that I collate into free books, will know there is nothing racier than a non-explicit sex scene or the occasional snog. Hardly risqué, Kobo.

Yet when I type in “School of” (as suggested by a comment on Rayne Hall’s blog) I get this selection of books (picture below): notice the erotic books School of Spank and School of Discipline alongside the children’s book The Clumsies Make a Mess of the School.

Kobo search results for "School of"

Kobo search results for “School of”

When I look down the list of categories on the left hand side there isn’t even an erotica category listed (although if you click in the book they are labelled as erotica, so the tagging is there).

I have restrictions enabled on my iPad to stop the children coming across things they shouldn’t (including books). Shame it doesn’t seem to work on any of the online retail sites. Smashwords at least has an adult filter, although it seems not all authors are using it. Self-published authors do need to take some responsibility for correctly tagging their books.

But Kobo has got it all wrong. Indie and Self-Published authors are not the only problem. Even if authors are not correctly labelling their books as ‘adult’, it still only represents a proportion of all books. By taking down everything, with no explanation (unless authors are published directly with them) they haven’t just chucked the baby out with the bath water, they’ve thrown the cash cow over a cliff.

Like it or not, self-publishing is part of the future of the book industry and pissing off authors is a really bad idea. I don’t need Kobo. According to my Smashwords stats I haven’t had a single book downloaded from Kobo since the beginning (although I might be in trouble if Barnes and Noble decide they don’t want to publish my books). I have other routes to market. Do they?

Please spread the word, whether you’re in the UK or not. If possible, buy your ebooks from another source. Direct from Smashwords is best. Support your Indie authors! We thank you for it.

99% Perspiration: 2013 365 Challenge #268

CreateSpace Formatting

CreateSpace Formatting (note the time!)

If genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, I’m definitely wallowing in the latter right now.

I spent five hours formatting various versions of Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes this evening, having had the latest updated Smashwords version rejected for a stray page number.

When I uploaded the new version it seemed some of the paragraphs had smaller text than others, so I went through the file and found that half was in Style 2 and half in Normal (only interesting if you’ve spent a chunk of time formatting Word docs for Smashwords as I seem to have done lately).

I fixed the dodgy paragraphs, or so I thought, and then realised there were more issues. At the same time I was also formatting a Word doc for CreateSpace to hopefully, finally, approve my print version and get that up for sale. Not because I think there are many people who will spend £8-£10 on a book from an unknown author, but because I want some copies for giveaways! And because I think a book looks more ‘real’ if you can buy a print version too.

I have just downloaded version twenty of Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes from Smashwords to check for errors, in kindle and epub format, and arrgghh I still have random blue words on the second page and chunks of text in a different font size. It’s currently 1.37 a.m., the dog is snoring, and I haven’t started my Claire installment. Do I go back and reformat another version of Baby Blues or do I go to bed? The kids will be up in a few hours, it almost doesn’t seem worth trying to get any sleep.

Anyway, as this is all very boring for those who haven’t lost hours and days of their lives to formatting ebooks, here’s another poem from the set about my father, just so this post isn’t entirely dull! 🙂

Swanage from the pier

Swanage from the pier

August

Along the bay, beach huts begin to fill
with plastic rings, cheese sandwiches and tea.
Their owners sit on stripy chairs at noon
and watch the promenaders passing by.
 
Amusement arcades call out, ‘Come and play!’ 
Electronic sounds and flashing clashing lights.
Sweet smell of popcorn, tuppeny cascade.
The favourite haunt for children of all ages.
 
Windbreaks and brollies march down to the sea
in rainbow ranks, a modern D-Day landing.
A whiff of fish and chips makes tummies rumble,
while raucous seagulls fight for fallen food.
 
The sand is cool and damp beneath my feet.
I watch as children brave the icy waves,
they dash and splash, come shrieking, running back.
My childhood overlaid there in the haze.
 
Red speedboats hum then roar across the bay,
creating frothy arcs, stark white on blue.
The ghosts of generations haunt the beach.
I face the cliffs and say my last adieu.

That’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll have something more interesting to talk about tomorrow! Right, back to Word.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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Claire stared out the window at the rain and chewed the inside of her cheek. It sounded like there was a celebration going on behind her, as the stranded passengers made the most of their enforced stopover. Claire had never felt less like partying. A quick investigation had revealed the cost of flying to Queenstown to be almost as much as her flight back to the UK. Without venturing online to check her finances, she knew there wasn’t space on her credit card to pay for it, leaving no choice but to wait it out.

“This is ridiculous.” She pushed herself away from the window and went in search of the hostel owner. Forcing a calmness she didn’t feel, she tried to frame her question in a non-confrontational way. It wasn’t the manager’s fault that she was stuck.

She tracked the man down at reception, where he sat making phone calls. Claire leant against the wall and kicked her foot, idly listening to his conversation as she waited to speak to him.

“I’m calling about your booking tomorrow. Unfortunately, the Homer Tunnel is currently closed. … Risk of rock fall this end I’m afraid, due to the heavy rain. … No, I can’t say when it will open again. The best thing is to check the website for updates. … Yes, I’m sorry too, thank you.”

Claire’s limbs felt heavy as she walked over to the desk. There didn’t seem much point to her question, but she decided to ask it anyway.

“Sorry, I couldn’t help overhearing your call. The tunnel isn’t opening in the morning then? The driver was hopeful that it would open in the daylight.”

The man behind the desk looked up at her and smiled ruefully, laughter lines appearing at the sides of his eyes. “It isn’t looking hopeful, I’m afraid. We’ve had some problems recently with a large overhang of loose rock. There is some talk the tunnel might be shut for a week or even two while they sort the problem.”

“A week! My flight home leaves in two days.” Claire gripped the edge of the desk and fought back tears.

“I am sorry. You might be able to catch a flight to Queenstown, if the rain eases. They won’t fly in this weather.”

“I can’t afford a flight. Unless the government will evacuate us? Yes, they have to do something, don’t they? They can’t leave us stranded down here for a week?” She focussed on the man’s face, eager to see some agreement. He merely shook his head.

“They’ve never evacuated before, to my knowledge.”

“Has the tunnel remained shut for a week before?” Claire demanded.

The manager shrugged. “I haven’t been here all that long. It’s never been shut for more than a day or two. I’m sorry. I’m trying to find out what I can, but the rain plays havoc with communications I’m afraid. You’ll have to try to be patient.”

Claire inhaled through her nose and bit back a retort. There were many times in her life she would have loved to be stranded in a beautiful location, with nothing to do but read and relax. Now was not one of them.

She nodded at the manager and strode back to the lounge, where a noisy game of Monopoly was taking place. Unable to stand the good humour, Claire retreated to her room.

I’m just going to have to find a few more hundred dollars from somewhere and worry about it when I get home.

Wracking her brain for someone likely to lend her the money, Claire curled into her bunk and closed her eyes.

***

Formatting and Covers: 2013 365 Challenge #256

Manuscript Paper Planes

Manuscript Paper Planes

Phew. I have spent the last two days updating my Kindle and Smashwords files to include Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes under ‘other titles by’ and to add Twitter and Facebook links. I am formatting blind. I had to load each file half a dozen times, because I kept missing things. A case of more haste less speed.

Even now I know there’s an error in each of my Two-Hundred Steps Home files (a link that doesn’t work). I wasn’t going to reload them all, and start the ‘premium catalogue’ clearance again, except I’ve had to resubmit for clearing after linking all the books as a series (even though Smashwords said it wouldn’t affect premium distribution).

When I updated my kindle file for Dragon Wraiths, I also got the Facebook link wrong in that, and now I have to wait for Amazon to publish it before I can upload it again. They could learn a thing or two from Smashwords. My head is spinning with all the details, remembering what quirks Kindle has compared with Smashwords, and remembering to link to my other books on the right platform (Smashwords will reject a file for having Amazon links within it).

Spot the difference!

Spot the difference!

I also tinkered with the Dragon Wraiths cover today, to try and incorporate the dragon pendant from the first cover. I’m not 100% happy with it, but it needed to be done. The current one, much as I love it, doesn’t say ‘fantasy’ or ‘dragons’ enough.

What’s the point of this ramble? Not much, except to say I think writing a book is about 20% or 30% of the actual graft of being a self-published author. All the other stuff is so time-consuming. More than you think it should be. My ‘two minute’ job on the cover took two hours and nearly made me late to pick my daughter up from school!.

And you have to be super organised and logical and all those things I’m not to keep track of it all. At least I’m learning I guess. I could probably format a file for Smashwords in my sleep (and get no autovetter errors) and I’m not far off knowing how to do a Kindle file without referring to the notes. If the author thing doesn’t work I guess at least I could make money doing that! 🙂

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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“What are we searching for exactly?”

Claire looked across the racks of clothing to Bethan, who was holding up various items against her and contemplating her reflection in the mirror.

“Fancy dress.”

“I gathered that. I meant, what are you going as? And what the hell can I wear?”

“The theme is anything beginning with P. So I thought I might go as a prostitute.” She grinned at Claire’s shocked expression. “Too much? What about a princess? You should do that, you look much more Disney than I do.”

“I don’t know, you could be Pocahontas.”

“She was Native American, not Thai.”

Claire blushed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you, it was a stupid thing to say.”

Bethan laughed. “That’s alright, I know you didn’t. You’re not likely to be up on the Disney princesses unless you have a four-year-old girl hidden about your person.”

The flush deepened. “Well, actually I did spend a few weeks with my niece recently, but all those princesses muddle together after a while. There was an Oriental one, now I think about it.”

Mulan. Chinese. Closer but still offensive.” Although Bethan spoke with laughter in her voice, her face looked brittle.

“Sorry.”

Bethan looked up and her face became more sympathetic. “Oriental is a racist term in America, is that not the same in England?”

Claire shook her head. “Not that I know of. Better than calling someone Chinese when they’re really from Japan or Thailand, surely?”

“In America you use Oriental for things, not people. Asian is a better word.”

Claire swallowed and nodded, feeling like she’d been told off. Wanting to change the subject, she ran through other fancy dress ideas beginning with P. “Right. Not princesses then. Pigs? Paupers? That shouldn’t be a problem; I’m going to be poor by the time this trip is over.”

She glanced at Bethan and saw a flicker of disapproval flash across her face.

Now what have I said?

They had been travelling together for a week and this was the first time Claire had sensed anything but happiness in Bethan’s demeanour. The moment passed and Claire searched her mind for a simple fancy dress costume that wouldn’t cost the earth or humiliate her. Not that there was anyone left on the bus whose opinion she cared about apart from Bethan, and she’d already offended her twice.

Bethan held up a sequin covered top and some sunglasses, all trace of censure gone. She grinned. “How about pop stars?”

*

“Do you want another drink?” Bethan yelled over the music.

Claire shook her head and then wished she hadn’t. “No,” she yelled back, “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Bethan nodded, downed her drink in one, and grabbed hold of Claire’s arm.

Claire let herself be towed through the writhing bodies, the music pulsing in time with the throbbing in her head and drowning out all attempts at rational thought. The dinner of steak and venison, delicious at the time, sat heavy in her stomach. She really didn’t want to see it again.

Outside, the music still filled the air but left some space to think. The chill autumn wind rushed over her bare skin, raising goosebumps and drying the sweat. Claire slumped against the wall and gripped her head with both hands.

“You okay?” Bethan squatted beside her and peered under the mass of back-combed hair that concealed Claire’s face.

“I think so. What time is it?”

Bethan checked her watch. “1 a.m. Apparently they’ll chuck us out at 2 a.m.”

“I’m not going to last that long. I need to go to bed.” Claire slid down the wall, ignoring the damp seeping through her tights as she sat on the floor. The events of the evening swam through her mind like a movie montage.

“Did I do a drinking game?”

“Yes. You were very good.”

“Snog the driver as a forfeit?”

“’fraid so.”

“Dance on the tables?”

Bethan shrugged. “It was Bon Jovi and you’re dressed as an ’80s pop star. I thought the balloon in a bottle as a microphone was an inspired touch.”

“Are there going to be pictures of us on the wall, like all the others?”

Bethan nodded and laughed as Claire groaned. “Look at it this way, who do you know who is ever going to come to this dirty motel in the middle of nowhere and scour thousands of Polaroids to find your embarrassing photo?”

Claire grunted in agreement but it was small consolation.

Bethan laughed again. “Relax, Claire. This is all part of travelling. You joined in, made some new friends, drank some shots. You won’t remember most of it in the morning and I promise not to remind you more than, ooh, once an hour?”

“Thanks.”

“Are you coming back in? It’s freezing out here and I’m starting to sober up. I need a drink.”

Claire gave a tiny shake of the head. As Bethan stood up, Claire risked raising her head to make eye contact.

“Bethan, can you do me a favour?”

“Sure, what is it?”

“Can you show me where my bed is please?”

With a giggle, Bethan pulled her to her feet and led her to the dorm rooms.

***

Endings and Beginnings: 2013 365 Challenge #242

The Changing Faces of Time

The Changing Faces of Time

So, there it is. My daughter is no longer a ‘preschooler’.

She doesn’t seem bothered. I think the staff were more sad at her leaving than she was. I was just grumpy that they thought the 20 chocolate chip cookies I took in this morning were for the staff, rather than for the children. I mean, what did they think the flowers, cards and all were for? Sigh.

Still, thankfully another child was also leaving today and her Mummy brought in cakes, so my two didn’t notice the mistake.

I’m glad I waited until the last possible moment to take her out of nursery. Since we got home she has asked how many days until she starts school at least a dozen times. I might record it, so I have evidence for week two, when the novelty has worn off and she doesn’t want to go back!

That’s my ending. My beginning is my beginning as a ‘proper’ author, because I finally applied for my EIN today. Those non-writers following this blog won’t realise the significance of this, but it’s a BIG THING. I did actually even call the number in the States (plucking up courage again!), to apply on the phone and hopefully come away with the precious digits today. But the automated voice told me it was a minimum 30 minute wait, and – at 20p a minute or whatever our phone company charges to the US – I didn’t fancy it. In the end doing the paperwork to complete the SS-4 Form took twice that long, although it was less scary.

Mind-Numbing Paperwork

Mind-Numbing Paperwork

I have decided to fax the forms, as it’s supposed to take only 4 business days. That meant also finding an internet company to send and receive international faxes (I mean, who has a fax machine any more?) but, hopefully by next week, I’ll be able to tell you whether it’s all worth the effort! I wouldn’t have done it at all but Amazon sent me an email reminder, gently suggesting I get my tax forms sorted or they might take my books off sale. Funny how that motivated me when 30% of very little withheld in tax hadn’t!

I also spent today listening to my book on the laptop. It turns out that Adobe will ‘read’ out a PDF. It’s laborious and mostly done phonetically, which can lead to some odd pronunciations and virtually no correct cadence. But I’ve spotted several typos I wouldn’t have caught any other way, so I’m happy (except at the slow progress: I’m only 15% through).

The funniest part was the voice changing Mia (the lead male’s ex fiancée) to Missing In Action, every single time. She does go MIA in the novel, so it rather tickled me. A nicer proofreading experience than the five queries my hubbie found on page one, when I gave him a copy to check. Given his propensity to tear things apart I’ve had to insist that he keep his comments to typos only. I can’t face another huge rewrite!

Anyway, I’m submerged in a riveting book (Thanks, Rinelle), as well as wracking my brains for an August finale for Two Hundred Steps Home. As September’s only 2 days away, I need to come up with one soon! Best get on …

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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Claire stumbled as she exited the lift. Three more staggering steps took her to the door. Even though she had been on dry land for over an hour it still felt like the earth was moving beneath her. Catching at the door frame, she swiped the plastic card and cursed at the red light. After several more attempts the light shone green and she opened the door.

She vaguely registered an en-suite to her left before going through to the bedroom. Without bothering to shut the curtains or undress, Claire climbed beneath the covers and curled into the pillow. Within moments she was asleep.

*

When she woke, several hours later, her mouth ached with dryness and her body called its urgent need to pee. Claire rolled off the bed, just managing to get her feet to the floor before the rest of her followed in a heap. Feeling the worth of every penny it had cost to stay in the hotel, Claire staggered to the en-suite.

The face in the mirror looked like something from a zombie movie. Claire shut her eyes in horror and reached out to pull on the shaving light, before switching off the harsh overhead spotlights. Ten hours on a ferry had taken their toll. Eyes half closed against the still too-bright light, Claire brushed her teeth and drank some water. Her tummy rumbled but she guessed it was late in the night and her budget didn’t stretch to raiding the mini bar.

A piercing headache stabbed in the base of her skull, intensifying when she accidentally turned on the main lights. Turning them off again, Claire walked to the window and looked at the view of the harbour beneath her. The water appeared calm and, although the sky looked cloudy, it wasn’t raining. It was as if the hellish weather of the last twenty-four hours had ceased to exist, reinforcing the sense of it all being a bad dream.

I’m in Wellington instead of Picton; that alone tells me it wasn’t all some terrible nightmare.

Despite the refund on her ticket and the offer of compensation, Claire wondered how the ferry company could replace her stolen time. She needed to be on the South Island, ticking off tourist sites and making her way to Christchurch and a flight back to the UK. Although she hadn’t yet decided to accept Conor’s job offer, there was no doubt she couldn’t travel for much longer. Every time she used her credit card she waited with in held breath for it to be rejected. When that happened she wanted to be on the right side of a thirty-hour flight home.

Unaccountably wide awake, Claire located her iPad and tried to check her emails. The hotel WiFi was priced for business guests and Claire snorted at the cost. No expenses for her anymore.

I’ll have to wait until morning; go find a café with free Internet. It won’t hurt me to be disconnected from the world for a few more hours.

Claire looked around the large, pristine, hotel room and felt guilty for not offering the spare bed to Bethan. Her friend had opted to return to the hostel, when Claire had declared her intention to treat herself to a proper bed for the night. It had been on her tongue to offer, but a combination of tiredness and a yearning for silence and solitude had held her back. Now it seemed unnecessarily mean.

I’ll find her tomorrow, buy her breakfast.

Feeling her eyelids sinking once more, Claire changed into her pyjamas and climbed into the second bed, enjoying the sensation of clean, tucked in sheets.

***

The Never-ending Edit: 2013 365 Challenge #241

Paper flowers (Mummy to the rescue!)

Paper flowers (Mummy to the rescue!)

Today is my daughter’s last day at nursery. A sad day for me, an exciting day for her.

We spent yesterday shopping for flowers for her nursery staff, writing cards and making tags. Little man wanted to get involved, so – after some frantic searching of the craft drawers and a few tears – we also made paper flowers for his key-workers, as he moves rooms now he’s nearly three.

Today also marks my last full nursery day, ever! Readers of this blog will know I view this with fear: I like my eight-hour days twice a week to have some head space and get my writing done.

Knowing this is the last one, I want to make it a productive one. Of course it won’t be. What I really wanted to do was finally to put Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes to bed. Hmmm not sure that’s ever going to happen.

Flowers and tags

Flowers and tags

In my two hours of preschool time yesterday, I finally finished going through the proof reader’s amends on the Baby Blues manuscript. Hurrah! you might think. Except it wasn’t. Because I’ve realised why you normally have an editor and then a proofreader go through your manuscript.

My lovely proofreader, Sarah Nisbet, actually did more of a light edit than just a check for grammar and spelling errors. As a result I ended up rewriting scenes. Which leads to more potential errors.

I happily loaded the new manuscript to Smashwords just as I was about to collect the children from preschool, only to immediately spot two typos. Given how tired I’ve been for most of August I’m sure there are plenty more. So now I have to read it through again and try to spot mistakes, which is fiendishly hard in your own work! I’m also scared to read the book through again, as I’ll want to change more and more things. I know this isn’t the best book ever written and, following on from the free book debate, I feel like I’m letting down every other self-published author if I publish a book that isn’t outstanding.

I long for the day when I can afford a structural edit, a final edit and a proof read, though I can’t see when it’s coming.

Shopping for flowers

Shopping for flowers

The general view on the cheap and free book debate was that it goes hand in hand with the poorly-edited mistake-ridden books of the self published author and how both are potentially career ending. Maybe I should have published under a pseudonym, thus giving myself the option of a fresh start should it all go wrong.

In the meantime I’m seriously considering having the book converted to an audio book so I can at least save my eyes when I run through it again. Has anyone ever done that? I’d be interested to hear your views. I have so many books I want to read right now, mine just isn’t one of them. I know how it ends for a start!

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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All around was chaos. Children screamed, parents shouted and still the ship rocked. Claire dug her fingers into the arm rests and concentrated on not vomiting. She sensed Bethan looking round, calmly assessing the situation, trying to ascertain what was going on. A tiny part of Claire’s mind envied the girl’s calm, while the rest was grateful for it. At least one of them could stay together in a crisis.

Eventually Bethan got up and went to peer out of the window, gripping onto chairs for support as the boat pitched around like a fairground ride. Claire closed her eyes and waited for her new friend to return. When she felt a touch on her arm she jumped, and Bethan’s squeal made them both laugh.

“Sorry, you scared me,” Claire said through gritted teeth. “What’s happening?”

“We’re in Picton, as far as I can tell, but we haven’t docked. It looks like we might have hit the wharf. They’re scurrying around out there like rats.”

Claire glanced around the ferry. “Not much difference in here.”

She stopped talking as a voice came over the loud-speaker. Straining to hear the words above the hubbub, Claire groaned as they sunk into her foggy brain.

“We apologise for the delay. We are unable to dock due to some damaged sustained to the docking equipment. Please remain seated and we will keep you updated.”

Dropping her head back against the seat, Claire heaved out a sigh.

Great.

*

Two hours passed, and then three. The same announcement came across the tannoy, asking them to remain calm, informing them that every effort was being made to allow them to disembark. The children around them had mostly fallen asleep, or were plugged into iPods and tablets. Claire was surprised no one was handing out free drinks or food, not that she could have eaten anything. Despite its lack of forward motion, the ferry still rolled around until Claire had forgotten what it meant to be still.

When the tannoy crackled into life again, Claire barely heard the words, until one stood out.

“… Wellington. Once more we sincerely apologise for the inconvenience.”

The cabin erupted. All around her, adults began talking, gesturing, demanding to see a manager. People talked of missed appointments and events. The children, sensing adventure, came to life, adding their yells and screams to the mayhem.

Claire turned to Bethan for more information and saw the girl grinning. Is she ever bothered by anything?

“Why is everyone so upset?” Claire stretched, conscious of just how long she had sat in the same chair, without food or drink. “Aren’t we getting off? I need to pee.”

“No, we’re not getting off.” Bethan laughed, quietly, drawing frowns from the passengers around her. “We’re going back to Wellington.”

***

Should Books ever be Free? 2013 365 Challenge #239

The Inflatable Slide

The Inflatable Slide

There’s an ongoing debate amongst self-published authors (potentially all authors but I can only speak for Indies) about the merits of making an ebook cheap or even free for a short period of time.

For an unknown author, making use of something like the KDP Select Program, with its five free days every three months, can be a great way to get your name out there.

Even if no one reads your book after they’ve downloaded it for free – and I’m sure the majority don’t (I only ready about 10% of those I download for free) – the giveaways increase your Amazon rankings and make you appear in the ‘also bought’ section at the bottom.

The more relaxed Bouncy Castle

The more relaxed Bouncy Castle

Whether this gives you sales you wouldn’t have achieved anyway, with self-belief and patience (not traits I have in abundance), is possibly debatable, but I know I wouldn’t have sold 7 copies in Germany this month if I hadn’t appeared on some German website during my last free promo. Dragon Wraiths reached No 1 in Fantasy during the three-day promotional period and it boosted sales tremendously, if only for a short time.

The effect of the other element – pricing cheaply – is harder to grasp. Authors like Amanda Hocking have made their fortune with a 99c price point, but only through lots and lots of hard work, promotion and through writing lots of books.

Equally I have heard compelling arguments to say pricing too cheap can affect people’s perspective of your credibility as an author. It’s hard to utilise free alongside low pricing, as the KDP Select Program prevents you from pricing as low as 99c, so I have little direct experience of a low price point.

In another dog show

In another dog show

Therefore these are not questions I have answers to. Catherine, Caffeinated has a great post on why Indie authors need to price low, even though she also wrote the post above about why you should charge as much as you can. If she does’t know the answer, with her wealth of experience, I’m certainly unlikely to figure it out. I imagine it is different for every author, book and personality type (ie how much patience is on offer).

The reason it popped into my head today was due to a trip to our local village fete. The kids wanted to go on the bouncy castle and the inflatable slide. The castle was £2 for as long as they liked. The slide was £1.50 for three goes.

Most parents and kids came away from the busy bouncy castle feeling happy that they’d received value for money. We all came away from the half-empty inflatable slide, and the miserable lady ushering the kids off after their three goes, feeling grumpy and hard done by.

Our Young Handler, 4th place

Our Young Handler, 4th place

Just because the castle man was giving away more, it didn’t devalue the experience. I suspect he made more money even though the kids were on the castle for ages for their two quid: there’s nothing like a castle full of giggling bouncing children to entice others to have a go. No one went on the inflatable slide twice, they just went elsewhere.

Part of being an author is about building a brand. If you give your book for free, so what? It means people have a chance to read your book who probably wouldn’t otherwise. If people like what they read they’ll come back for more, even if it isn’t free. If they don’t like it, you’ve lost nothing. Yes you get bad reviews but you get those anyway (or I certainly do)!

Anyway, these are just my thoughts! What are your views on cheap and free? Does it make you think the book won’t be worth reading, or does it encourage you to discover new authors?

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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It surprised Claire how much more fun it was wandering around a museum with someone else, particularly someone knowledgeable who also had a sense of humour. Bethan proved herself well versed in the history of the country and the Maoris, adding snippets of information and reducing the amount of sign-reading Claire had to do.

The Te Papa museum was vast, with everything from Maori dancing to space exploration. Claire’s feet throbbed and her mind swirled with the myriad of information crammed into it. And it was free! When she thought about the money she’d spent on tours and experiences since arriving in the country, and here was this amazing facility at no cost. Even so, it was definitely time for a break, before her legs dropped off.

“Enough! Don’t you ever stop?” Claire stood with her hands on her hips as Bethan tried to drag her outside to see the ponds.

“We’ve only seen about half. Come on, wus, don’t stop now. What else is there to do? It’s tipping it down outside.”

Claire smiled at the strangely English colloquialisms coming from the Asian face in an America accent. Bethan’s history intrigued her, not least because she hadn’t shared a single thing about herself apart from the stay in the States.

“A coffee, please? Just a coffee break. I need caffeine.”

“It’s not good for you, you know? Much better to drink fruit juice or, better still, water.”

Claire pulled a face. “I wouldn’t live longer, it would just feel like it. Okay, I’ll have a latte and you can drink green tea.”

It was her turn to drag Bethan, as she towed the girl towards the coffee shop. It was crowded, like the whole museum, and Claire sincerely hoped they would find a seat.

Trust me to be in the capital on a bank holiday weekend. Why couldn’t I have been in river valley or somewhere else devoid of people? Rain or no rain, I might have to brave the Cook Strait crossing tomorrow.

As if reading her mind, it was Bethan’s first question when they eventually found a seat. ”When will you get back on the bus? Are you taking the ferry or flying to the South Island?”

“Ferry, I guess. Whichever is cheaper.”

“I wouldn’t fancy flying in this weather. It’s a nasty crossing on a good day.”

“You sound like you’ve done it before?” Claire sipped at her coffee and felt the warmth and caffeine spread through her body.

“I have. This is my second tour of the country. I did it all too quickly the first time round.” She blushed and Claire wondered what the story was. She raised an eyebrow, inviting confidences, but Bethan only shook her head and laughed.

“Are you staying in Wellington for a while?”

Bethan smiled, seemingly glad of the change of subject. “I should. I need to work. Funds are running low again, and it will be easier to find a job here in the city.” She frowned. “I’d rather not, though. One city is pretty much the same as another after a while. I miss the mountains.”

Remembering something Mitch had said, Claire asked, “Couldn’t you get work at one of the ski resorts, or down in Queenstown?”

Bethan shook her head. “I don’t ski. Besides …” She hesitated and Claire again suspected there was a story there.

Maybe she’ll feel able to tell me later.

It felt good to have some female company, to gossip – even if it was a bit one sided. Claire had told Bethan about Carl and Michael, work and Kim. Something about the way the girl actively listened made Claire share her life history with her.

Sitting with Bethan, laughing at silly things that they had seen or done during the morning, Claire felt a pang of sadness. It felt like old times with Kim. She wondered if she would ever have them again.

***