The Bonfire of the Straw Men Publishing Writing

In the third of a series of increasingly misguided essays for The Guardian – Why social media isn’t the magic bullet for self-epublished authors – Ewan Morrison builds a bonfire of self-publishing straw men. Morrison is convinced that “epublishing is another tech bubble, and that it will burst within the next 18 months.” The reason given: epublishing is inextricably tied to the structures of social media marketing and the myth that social media functions as a way of selling products. It doesn’t, and we’re just starting to get the true stats on that. When social media marketing collapses it will destroy the platform that the dream of a self-epublishing industry was based upon. Where do I start? Perhaps I should first point Read More…

Pricing, Visibilty & Experimentation Marketing Publishing

This blog focuses a lot on getting the basics right: a good story, cover, blurb, sample, and price. However, all of that means little if no-one is actually visiting your book page to begin with. Competitions, blog reviews, giveaways, guest blogs, interviews, presence on reader forums etc. can all bring extra traffic to your book pages, but they are very time consuming. If you want to move beyond what is essentially hand-selling your work, you need to gain visibility on Amazon, and let them do the hard work of selling your book for you (while you spend your time writing instead). Just make sure those basics are in place first, or you won’t get a good return from anything outlined Read More…

Pricing, Visibilty & Experimentation Marketing Publishing

This blog focuses a lot on getting the basics right: a good story, cover, blurb, sample, and price. However, all of that means little if no-one is actually visiting your book page to begin with. Competitions, blog reviews, giveaways, guest blogs, interviews, presence on reader forums etc. can all bring extra traffic to your book pages, but they are very time consuming. If you want to move beyond what is essentially hand-selling your work, you need to gain visibility on Amazon, and let them do the hard work of selling your book for you (while you spend your time writing instead). Just make sure those basics are in place first, or you won’t get a good return from anything outlined Read More…

Jodi Picoult and the Myth of the Segregated Marketplace

Jodi Picoult made headlines last week for her views on self-publishing, expressed in an interview with the Daily Beast (from Page 2): What advice would you give to an aspiring author? Take a workshop course. You need to learn to give and get criticism and to write on demand. And DO NOT SELF PUBLISH. Unfortunately, Jodi Picoult wasn’t pressed by the interviewer and didn’t elaborate (it would have been amusing if she had done so IN ALL CAPS). The (outdated) blanket warning to avoid self-publishing generated a lot of reaction in the comments of that piece and anywhere else it was reprinted. I won’t rehash all that, only to note that, by contrast, Ms. Picoult thinks it’s a fine idea to sign with an Read More…

A Storm Hits Valparaíso – Released Today!

In 1810, José de San Martín deserts the Spanish Army and returns home to Buenos Aires to lead a bloody revolt against his former masters. Struggling with an increasing dependence on opiates, San Martín forms a secret army of thieves, mercenaries, slaves, and prostitutes to free Argentina from the Spanish Empire. A Storm Hits Valparaíso is an epic, 400-page historical adventure with a huge cast of characters whose stories gradually interweave, including: two brothers torn apart by love; a slave running for his life, a disgraced British sailor seeking redemption in a foreign land; an Indian trapped in the death mines of Potosí; and a Spanish general who deserts the army to raise the flag of rebellion against Madrid. A Storm Read More…

Around The World In 80 Drafts

Thailand might not seem like the most obvious place to start a historical novel set in early 1800s Argentina, but it made a lot of sense at the time. It was a cheap place to hole up for a few months and get some serious work done. The glorious weather, perfect beaches, and competitively priced drinks were just a bonus. One side effect was that I got used to writing in bars and restaurants. And on the move. Two essential skills for the modern-day wandering minstrel. That was five-and-a-half years ago. I finished A Storm Hits Valparaíso last night. As in, completely finished. Editorial suggestions incorporated, back-matter written, the whole enchilada. It just needs proofing, a cover, a blurb, formatting, some testing, Read More…

November Report: Rising Tides, Higher Prices & A Lucky Break (Or Two)

November is a curious month, filled with strange American inventions like Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday (also known as National Buy-Yourself-A-Present Day). It’s also traditionally (as in since last year) when e-book sales pick up. At this early stage, new entrants to the market can have a significant effect. New e-reader owners tend to go on binge-buying sprees, which makes sense – they need something to read on their new toy. The real boom starts on December 25th and continues through February. However, a smaller boom starts at some point in November – after all the shiny new e-reader models have been unveiled – and millions of Americans crack under the temptation, forego waiting to see who loves them Read More…

November Report: Rising Tides, Higher Prices & A Lucky Break (Or Two)

November is a curious month, filled with strange American inventions like Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday (also known as National Buy-Yourself-A-Present Day). It’s also traditionally (as in since last year) when e-book sales pick up. At this early stage, new entrants to the market can have a significant effect. New e-reader owners tend to go on binge-buying sprees, which makes sense – they need something to read on their new toy. The real boom starts on December 25th and continues through February. However, a smaller boom starts at some point in November – after all the shiny new e-reader models have been unveiled – and millions of Americans crack under the temptation, forego waiting to see who loves them Read More…

World-Building in Historical Fiction

I’m up against a very tight deadline to get A Storm Hits Valparaíso off to the editor so posting will be minimal over the next week or so – apologies. By way of introduction to the last excerpt I posted, I spoke a little about the challenges facing historical fiction authors in terms of authenticity and how demanding its readers are in that regard. That point was illustrated perfectly in a comment by Hannah Renier, who pointed out that my character would not have traveled in a stage-coach, but more likely in a post-chaise (thank you, Hannah). Today, I want to talk briefly about world-building and PoV. I’ve chosen to write A Storm Hits Valparaíso in third-person omniscient, essentially meaning that I Read More…

Incorporating Historical Figures Into A Narrative

Blogging has been a little less frequent of late. I’m working hard on A Storm Hits Valparaíso and that’s taking up most of my free time. If you are after the usual programming, I have a guest post up on Joe Konrath’s blog called I Can’t Afford A Publishing Deal. For the rest of you, it’s been a while since I showed you what I was working on and Sunday seems perfect for that. Writers of historical fiction face some unique challenges. We must “build” an authentic world as backdrop for the story, in a similar way that science fiction and fantasy writers do, except we don’t start from scratch – we have the historical record to draw from. This, however, can Read More…

Crowdfunding A Novel – Turning A Profit Before You Publish

Regular readers will know that I always stress the importance of a professional package. This means only publishing your best work and having a great cover, neat formatting, proper editing, and an enticing blurb. Some of that stuff you can do on your own, some (usually covers and editing) you have to pay for. And good work doesn’t come cheap. I also try and remind people that we aren’t just competing against other self-publishers, but against the very best books from traditional publishers. When you take this professional approach, it’s important to recoup your costs as quickly as possible. Then every sale after that is pure profit. One of the competitive advantages that publishers have is the ability to take Read More…

September Report: A Big, Big Slump

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: I had a huge drop in September. I’m quite sanguine about it. I haven’t released something new since July and I have been virtually inactive on the promo front while trying to finish the final pass on A Storm Hits Valparaíso. I know some people don’t like hearing talk about numbers and even less about dollars. For those of that persuasion, you can read my recent post on Indie Reader about the bout of pessimism that had permeated self-publishing circles on foot of Amazon’s recent changes to its layout and algorithms. If you have already seen that, you can check out my new blog: South Americana. I’ll be talking more about Read More…

The Haunting Eyes of Dom Robado Vivaldo

Brazil is a fascinating country. In geographic, demographic, and, in recent years, economic terms it dominates South America; but it’s a world apart: a distinct culture, history, gastronomy, and language. In fact, it’s the only Portuguese-speaking country in all of the Americas. Most Portuguese colonies were further west: Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. This is no accident of history. When Columbus first discovered America for white people, he thought he had reached Asia, opening up a quicker, less treacherous route to the lucrative Spice Islands (at the time, certain spices such as nutmeg were more valuable than gold).

Exclusive: Chapter 3 of A Storm Hits Valparaíso

The best piece of writing advice I ever received was write the book you want to read. The kind of books I love have a huge cast of characters, often starting in completely separate, exotic locations, whose narrative strands gradually interweave. I think readers – of any genre – like some kind of puzzle in the story. They like figuring out where things are going to go next. One of the writer’s jobs is to give them enough information here and there, and then pull the rug out from under their feet. If you do it too often though, you will piss them off. But if it’s all predictable, it will get boring too. This tension is one of many Read More…

Sneak Preview: Chapter 2 of A Storm Hits Valparaíso

Last week, I gave you a preview of Chapter 1 of my forthcoming South American historical adventure A Storm Hits Valparaíso where you met Catalina, a feisty tavern-keeper’s daughter in the Chilean port-town of Valparaíso. In Chapter 2, the action switches to the other side of the world to introduce another of the seven main characters. While Catalina was my invention, Thomas Cochrane was very real and has been the basis for several famous fictional characters, such as Patrick O’Brien’s Jack Aubrey and C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower. In fact, his life was so fantastic I had to be selective in which parts of his history to present so as not to stretch the credulity of the reader completely. As I Read More…