Author Help Page Answers: Duncan M Hamilton

Today, Author Duncan M Hamilton is sharing his wisdom and experience with us. Thank you, Duncan! (He really has some great advice!)

You can find Duncan’s Amazon Author Page here:

http://www.amazon.com/Duncan-M.-Hamilton/e/B00BOUK5ZA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1438180933&sr=8-1

1. How did you decide to become an indie author?

I’ve been writing all my life, but always as a hobby, and never as something I thought I could make a living at. When a relative fell seriously ill, she said not to get to that point in your life with any regrets. Publishing one of the books I had written was my first thought. It was around the time self publishing was getting some media attention, so I decided to give it a try.

2. What genre do you write in and why?

I write in Fantasy. Historical fiction was always my thing, but I usually hit a road block when historical events wouldn’t allow my story to progress. For that genre, I’ve never liked the idea of playing free and easy with real events, so this was a bit of a problem. One day it struck me that making up my own history would not only help solve this, but would also be a lot of fun! I haven’t looked back!

3. What social media sites do you use and can you offer a tip for each one?

A WordPress based website and blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads author profile, and a Google Plus page that I never use. I’m not great at this stuff, so the main tip I’d suggest is the thing I rely on. I have my WordPress set up so my blog posts are automatically shared on the other sites, populating them with content and saving me a lot of effort!

4. How important is blogging to an indie author in your estimation?

In honesty, I don’t know. I don’t blog that often, and probably far less than I should, because it’s not something I’m particularly good at. When I do, it’s limited to book related news, and things that give me inspiration. I’ve always seen it as a resource for people who’ve already encountered my work to visit, rather than a tool to grow my audience. Not sure if this is the best approach or not. Probably not.

5. How do you go about getting reviews?

For my first book, I spent some time making a list of all the review sites and book bloggers that were open to my genre, then went about emailing them all (it took quite a while!). I mailed nearly two hundred sites, heard back from about 10, of which 4 ended up posting reviews, so it can be something of an uphill battle.

6. What do you price your books at and do you give away free copies?

They range from $2.99 to $5.99. I’ve given away some copies as part of promotions, but I don’t have a permanently free title.

7. Do you use a cover artist or make the cover yourself?

I use a cover artist. In my opinion, the cover is too important not to have expert input.

8. What do you do about editing?

I use professional editors.

9. What do you do when sales are slow to encourage more books to be sold?

Panic! Work harder to get another release ready sooner. This is something I really don’t have much of an answer for. There’s no silver bullet that I’m aware of. If you have one, I’m listening!

10. What do you know now, that you wish you had known before?

I can’t think of anything. There’s so much information out there for writers looking to venture into self-publishing, that a bit of time spent researching can cover most of the pitfalls before plunging in. As with anything, there are minor things I change and refine with each book, but they’re more matters of personal preference rather than anything substantive.

11. Do you use a mailing list or newsletter to promote?

Yes, I do. Conventional wisdom is that it’s pretty important. I can’t say with any certainty how helpful it’s been for me.

12. Any further advice, tips or tricks you think would help others?

If you hope to make a career out of this, behave professionally in all areas and at all times. Only release your work when it has the level of production quality you would expect from a book you buy.

13. Where do you sell the largest majority of your books and do you do just ebooks or print as well?

Amazon, with Kobo in second place. I have my novels available in print through print on demand.

London from my Windows by Mary Carter

London From My WindowsLondon From My Windows by Mary Carter

Ava Wilder’s home in small-town Iowa is her sanctuary. A talented sketch artist with severe agoraphobia, Ava spends her days drawing a far more adventurous life than her invisible disability allows. Until she receives a package from London, explaining that she has inherited her Aunt Beverly’s entire estate—on condition that she lives in Bev’s West End flat for a year.

Once overseas, Ava wonders if she’s simply swapped one prison for another. The streets and shops are intimidating, and Bev’s home appears to be a drop-in center for local eccentrics. Worst of all, Bev left a list of impossible provisos to be overseen by her quirky, attractive solicitor. Ava is expected to go out—to experience clubs, pubs, and culture; to visit Big Ben, Hyde Park, and the London Eye. After years of viewing the world through a pane of glass, she’s at the messy, complicated center of it. As exhilarated as she is terrified, will she be able to step up, step out, and claim the life she was meant for?

In an insightful, poignant novel, Mary Carter delves deep into self-discovery and the meaning of courage, exploring the fears that serve to protect us—until life calls us to connect at last.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not sure how I feel about this book, even after completing it. I absolutely loved the main character, Ava. Watching her experience life in a bit different way than the rest of us do was enchanting. She is a smart, thoughtful and likable character that the author clearly put a lot of effort into creating.

The story itself I wasn’t so sure about. Whilst I enjoyed Ava’s personality and her reactions to things, some of the story I had a hard time suspending belief enough to get around.

This was the sort of book that I kept wavering on a star rating for. I eventually decided on 3 stars, because I had a hard time believing the character would act the way she did at some points, and yet the writing was beautiful and Ava was so charming.

Overall this is a book that I would still recommend. It was different and intriguing and obviously the author cared about it enough to put herself into it fully.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided by Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Villains V. Anti-heroes: What’s the difference?

What? Why do you people always expect me to have an answer?

Kidding…

Villains are the ones that you love to hate. They are eyeball glue for fiction readers. Seriously–want to ensure that the reader will keep turning pages? Give them a well designed villain and an equally matched hero, and they will finish your book and get that Kindle pages read graph to sky-rocket.

When we think about the basic set up of a novel, what do we think of? Hero + Villain = story? Most of the time. Let’s look at that a bit closer.

Most people go that route because it is a less risky formula. It is easy, accepted and authors choose it for those reasons. The likeable protagonist is common because:

*The reader can identify with them easily and put themselves in the character’s place.

*The character embodies all the good things about ourselves and the world around us that we want to believe in.

*They offer one half of a classic dynamic that readers respond to on an emotional level.

Villains, adversely, prey on the primary and earliest fears of the reader. Remember that monster in your closet when you were six? He’s back. They open up our minds to the idea that not everything is as safe as we might have thought. They activate the fight or flight response in us that is hardwired into our brain (thank our ancestors for this trait. Try running from a hungry cheetah whilst hunting down your breakfast.) Or just go to Subway. Easier.

So–this conventional view makes sense. Hero that stands for all that is right and pure + Villain that is evil incarnate and stands for all the things we fear =

SEEN IT ALL BEFORE

What if we want to do something different? What if we want to risk using an anti-hero as our protagonist? Can you do that? Of course you can. You can do anything–you’re an author.

Anti-heroes are an interesting and conflicted character type to work with. Though the reader may not easily be able to see things from their point of view and step right into those tarnished shoes, anti-heroes are built with some form of redeeming quality. The reader may not agree with them, but they will surely be able to understand why they act as they do. Also, the anti-hero does not have to be fully redeemed by the end of the story. That makes for an unexpected character arc.  Lets take a look at some differences between anti-heroes and villains

Anti-hero: The anti-hero is almost never a willing participant. They do what they do because they have no choice.

Villain: Do what they do out of selfishness and a desire to conquer. Willingly plot and plan against protagonists (or in the case of super-villains, everyone else.)

Anti-hero: Can be very average, or even very unattractive, both physically and morally.

Villain: Can be unattractive, but is rarely ever just an Everyday Joe.

Anti-hero:  Highly versatile and able to transition between scenes easily. Just killed a bus full of bad guys? No problem. Show up two minutes later for his daughter’s graduation looking not the slightest bit disturbed.

Villains: Ego makes them a show off. Just killed a bus full of good guys? Take over the hero’s daughter’s graduation event to use the mic and brag about it.

Anti-hero: A mess of contradictory qualities. “I hate animals rights groups. I will kill them all. Oh…a kitten. I love kittens.”

Villains: Rarely have any redeeming qualities and have no issue being evil.

Anti-hero: Complex MO

Villain: Power, revenge, powerful revenge–selfishness.

Anti-hero: Can often appear to blend in with the good side as well as the bad side, equally as easily.

Villain: Imagine Otto Octavius sitting quietly through a hero awards ceremony. Yep.

Anti-hero: when forced to make a choice between two paths, one right, one wrong–will sometimes willingly choose wrong because the results are faster or less dangerous.

Villain: Chooses wrong because of the pure joy of being evil.

So now that we know some of the differences, we can easily also see some of the similarities.

Both character types do bad things–but for different underlying reasons.

Both types live at the edge of society and make choices that the reader might not make, but will certainly find enthralling.

Both types have issues with authority, but for separate reasons.

Both types can be motivated by self interest, although the anti-hero can often be motivated by love or the desire to protect someone or something.

Both types of characters require the reader to think beyond what they see in the every day world. They make the reader feel vulnerable–frightened even. You want your readers to feel something.

So how do I build a good anti-hero? The anti-hero is an excellent choice for an author. He or she does not have to fit a specific cookie-cutter type. Your Anti-hero can be outrageously sexy, or the guy on the hijacked plane with the bald spot and the stained t-shirt. They can swear every other word and be a racist, an ex-con, a loser who is at the lowest point in their life. Whatever you choose to do with them. Whatever works best for your story.

Here are the important things:

*They must have some sort of reason for their actions, and the reader must know what that reason is. Give them a back story. What made them who they are?

*They must be equal in intelligence (although it may be displayed differently) to your villain.

*They must display their reluctance at some point in the story–otherwise they are just a willing hero with some less than savoury qualities.

* If heroes are blue and villains are red, think of the anti-hero as purple. He is a combination of all traits, to be used at your will and command.

* He usually will have a fragile sense of self worth–this can make him both dangerous and demotivated–so give him a strong reason to care.

A few examples of anti-heroes:

Luke Jackson–Cool Hand Luke

Shrek

Han Solo

Dirty Harry Callahan

Who hates Shrek? Not most people, I wouldn’t think. He is an oddball character type. Some gross antics, not the best manners, negative and suspicious, suffers from ridicule and not all that excited about saving the day–but people love him for all of those things and more. The perfect anti-hero. (No, you don’t have to have a green character who eats eyeballs as your anti-hero, but he is a good example.)

I realise this is a long post, so I will wrap it up. One of the most important things you can do for your characters and for your readers, is allow your characters to grow beyond your own experiences and beliefs. Have you ever crossed the desert on a grumpy camel to save a princess who will thank you with disdain and ignorance? Me either. I bet I could create a believable character who could. So could you.

Do not limit your characters to only believing what you believe, speaking like you speak, and seeing the world through your eyes. Wherever possible, make them your absolute opposite. Yes, the saying has always been “write what you know,” but that only goes so far. Do you think that Anne McCaffrey really knew the Dragons of Pern or that all of the famous sci-fi writers of the 20th century really travelled to other planets for research? Don’t be afraid to be different. It just might pay off.

Go write.

Gargoyle Hall: An Araminta Spookie adventure by Angie Sage

Gargoyle Hall: An Araminta Spookie AdventureGargoyle Hall: An Araminta Spookie Adventure by Angie Sage

When Araminta throws cold water over her best friend, Wanda, to disperse a crowd of panicked bats, it s decided Araminta has been helpful one too many times, and she is packed off to boarding school. On arrival, Araminta is surprised to discover that Gargoyle Hall makes her home, Spook House, seems positively cosy. Strange moans and clanks echo down the corridors and the two head girls are equally creepy. Most of the other pupils have been scared away, but Araminta senses that something or someone is behind the menace.With the help of best friend Wanda and Uncle Drac s prize bat, she is going to do something about it!”

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In usual Araminta Spookie style, this book is full of silly laughs and an entertaining story that children and parents are sure to like. I’ve enjoyed watching the progression of these stories since the first one, and look forward to see what is going to happen in the future.

Hoping for more books.

I thought this one had a bit slower start than some of the others, but the antics soon caught up, making the kids smile and holding their attention. I love books that can make kids curious about what is going to happen next.

If you haven’t checked out this series yet, you should, especially if you have little ones in your life.

Another fun book, another recommendation.

This review is based on a complementary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Indie Author Help Page Answers: Bianca Sloane

We have been very lucky and had a great response so far from people wanting to help out with the Indie Author Help Page. Today Bianca Sloane is in the hot seat, sharing her wisdom on this business. Thank you so much, Bianca!

We will continue to accept answers to these questions indefinitely so, why not? Share what you’ve learned with others! We can all learn from one another. What works? What doesn’t? The best way to find out is through actual experience.

Find those questions here:

http://readfulthingsblog.com/2015/07/18/the-indie-author-help-page-questions/

Website: www.biancasloane.com

Amazon: Bianca Sloane

1. How did you decide to become an indie author?

Back in the early 2000’s, I tried to find an agent, but to no avail. Discouraged, I let my writing fall to the wayside. Fast-forward to 2012 and an article I stumbled onto that changed everything. I used to follow late film critic Roger Ebert on Twitter and he retweeted an article about Amanda Hocking’s success with eBooks. Reading that article was like a lightbulb exploding over my head and after learning everything I could about the industry and doing some tweaking to my craft, I published my first novel, “Killing Me Softly,” at the end of 2012.

 

2. What genre do you write in and why?

I write psychological suspense novels because I love figuring out puzzles: whodunit, whydunit, howdunit.

 

3. What social media sites do you use and can you offer a tip for each one?

I use Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Twitter: Don’t tweet “buy my book” ad nauseum. Show your personality by interacting with others and being genuine.

Facebook: It’s okay to be a little personal on Facebook without a blow-by-blow of what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner that day. Post vacation pics, mention movies you’ve seen, TV shows you like. Again, you can show your personality without going overboard.

Goodreads: Post the books you’re reading so readers can follow along. Also, the Ask the Author feature is a great way for readers to reach out to you with questions about your books.

Pinterest: I use Pinterest to build boards for my books featuring who I would cast in the movie of my book (maybe one day!), book quotes and more.

 

4. How important is blogging to an indie author in your estimation?

I think it’s great for building the all-important author platform. Use your blog to share writing tips or other things that fit your author brand and to again, show a little about who you are. For example, my tagline is “Suspense Novels about the Dark Side of Love,” so I post blogs about my “Top Five Favorite Suspense Novels.”

 

5. How do you go about getting reviews?

I actively reach out to book bloggers who read in my genre. I can honestly say, it’s been a huge piece of the marketing puzzle for me.

 

6. What do you price your books at and do you give away free copies?

When I came into the industry at the end of 2012, I priced at $.99, as everything I’d read pointed to that being a sweet spot. Earlier this year, I raised my prices to $2.99. I only wish I’d done it sooner!

I do give away free copies of my books. I take advantage of KDP Select Free Days as well as Goodreads giveaways (for paperbacks). My novel, “Killing Me Softly,” is available as a permafree (permanently free) book on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords.

 

7. Do you use a cover artist or make the cover yourself?

I have an amazing cover artist, Torrie Cooney. She’s been invaluable to me on this crazy journey.

 

8. What do you do about editing?

I’ve started to engage a developmental editor to help me identify plot holes and other weak spots. I also use a copyeditor and proofreader and have also started to do my own “audio edit,” where I load the book onto my Kindle and read along while it reads the text out loud to me. It’s amazing the number of errors that get caught using that method.

 

9. What do you do when sales are slow to encourage more books to be sold?

I haven’t paid for any advertising, though that’s something I’m planning to do in the near future now that I have a bit of a backlist. Setting one of my books to permafree a few months ago provided a huge boost in sales across my other books and a recent Countdown Deal I did for my novel, “Every Breath You Take,” provided a nice bump as well.

 

10. What do you know now, that you wish you had known before?

I wish I had realized just how time-consuming this business is. It’s 24/7. Sometimes, you have to force yourself to step away from the computer and remember to re-engage with your life. Still, I love it and wouldn’t change a thing.

 

11. Do you use a mailing list or newsletter to promote?

Yes, I send out a newsletter to my mailing list when I have a new release.

 

12. Any further advice, tips or tricks you think would help others?

Even if you write standalone novels (such as I do), don’t think you can’t brand your book covers to look the same (see Gillian Flynn, Danielle Steele, John Grisham – especially his early books). Branding your covers sets the expectation in the mind of the reader about what kind of book they’re going to get from you, which in turn, encourages them to buy more of your books.

Be prepared for the long haul and don’t be afraid to experiment with blurbs, covers, pricing, etc. Above all else, keep writing!

 

13. Where do you sell the largest majority of your books and do you do just ebooks or print as well?

The majority of my sales come from eBooks on Amazon. I do offer print versions of my books as well, though they make up a very small percentage of my overall sales. Still, it’s great to offer that option to readers.

Final Reviews

Pamela Beckford with some excellent advice from a reader’s start doing and a shameless plug for plundering. I love that woman.

Year 'Round Thanksgiving Project

This will be my final block of book reviews on this site. Posting on two different blogs is more than challenging and time consuming. I obviously haven’t done a good job with it either. So, I have decided to keep this site open for the history of my reviews and such, but my other site, Poetry by Pamela will contain all future reviews (except for children’s book reviews which will remain on here). But here are the reviews I have today.

Before I get into the reviews, let me make a couple of other comments.

1) Book Covers really do make a difference. I often buy a book (or bottle of wine) because I like the artwork. It indicates to me that the author either was a professional or used a professional. Book covers show me that it has a quality I enjoy. If they look too “homemade”, I usually…

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The Indie author help page questions

For anyone who would like to answer these questions, feel free to copy them and send your responses to readfulthings@gmail.com

For anyone who missed it the other day, Charles Yallowitz and I are starting a help page on both of our sites for indie authors who are new to the publishing arena. Nothing too complex, just asking authors the same set of questions and hoping to get answers from those who write across a broad array of genres. The answers will be posted to the blog once a week and then links to those posts will be put on a page where authors can go and refer back to them. We will also be listing sites that have useful info for authors about marketing and promotion both free and paid.

So if you’d like to take a moment and answer the questions, it would be much appreciated. Only thing we ask is that you are an indie or crossover author, not exclusively traditionally published. Please include the links to your work or website with your answers so we can help promote you!

Thank you for your help!

Questions for authors

1. How did you decide to become an indie author?

2. What genre do you write in and why?

3. What social media sites do you use and can you offer a tip for each one?

4. How important is blogging to an indie author in your estimation?

5. How do you go about getting reviews?

6. What do you price your books at and do you give away free copies?

7. Do you use a cover artist or make the cover yourself?

8. What do you do about editing?

9. What do you do when sales are slow to encourage more books to be sold?

10. What do you know now, that you wish you had known before?

11. Do you use a mailing list or newsletter to promote?

12. Any further advice, tips or tricks you think would help others?

13. Where do you sell the largest majority of your books and do you do just ebooks or print as well?

I need your brains (that sounded so zombie)

shutterstock_287056304

Want to become part of my next parody?

I had so much fun writing Plundering the Romance Novel. Really, it was great. I made a list of the things that authors do in romances that drive me completely mad, and built the story around those.

Now it is horror’s turn in the hotseat. You can think horror movie or horror novel or a combination of both.

Here’s the deal. I’ve got a list of horror clichés going already, but I want to involve you. Give me your worst horror clichés, and if I use one of them in the book, I will name a character after the person who submitted it. Who doesn’t want to be immortalised in a terrible horror parody? First names only, I promise.

Bring it on, folks.

The book is called “Saturday the 14th.”

Apparently, Friday the 13th is bad luck.

Tits and Bobs and perfectly passionate poetry

Nope, not a typo.

A couple things to cover. First of all, I can’t stop thanking people for all they have done for me since releasing my book last week. Carmen Stefanescu rocked my world this morning with her awesome and unexpected promo on her site, which you can find here. http://shadowspastmystery.blogspot.ro/2015/07/guest-promo-ci-ionia-martin.html?m=1 I hate to admit that I cry, but I did.

Thank you Carmen. Love you.

Also huge thanks to people who left a review on Amazon. I was so excited I nearly peed.

Second, some questions and a few declarations.

I have new respect for all of you indie authors. I have been writing and publishing for years under a couple of different pseudonyms and have always had a publishing house behind me. Even when I put out some previous “indie” novels, I had other people working on promoting and covers and such. I didn’t do it all myself, by any means. Now, I’m doing that for the first time and I’ve got some questions for the pros out there.

Other than the titles that appear here, under Ionia, I write adultish-romance and erotica books. I’m not ashamed of this. I enjoy doing what I do. I review everything but those, because believe me when I tell you there are some strange…worse than strange sub-genres out there in the erotica world and I figured I would spend more time updating my guidelines to exclude dinosaurs and bigfoot than I would reviewing. Erotica books tend to sell themselves. If you’ve got a kink for sale, then there is usually an audience for it somewhere. I’m concerned with the other, less vice-like titles.

HOW DO YOU PEOPLE FIND TIME TO WRITE, EDIT, MARKET, WRITE BLURBS, DESIGN COVERS, MAKE DINNER, DO THE LAUNDRY AND STILL SLEEP?

SUPERHUMANS!

Question 2. How do you get over the shyness of asking people to help promote you? Even when someone does something you didn’t ask them to do, don’t you kind of blush and kick your heels in an awe shucks manner? I do.

Question 3 Would you be interested in sharing a bit of your journey? I am figuring things out as I go, but I’m thinking about putting together a page here on Readful that is an advice from indie authors page. Free for anyone to look at if they want some info, and just collecting answers to some basic questions about writing and publishing indie stuff from various authors who would like to contribute. Links to your blogs would be included, of course. Would anyone be interested in doing that?

Next Useless factoid: I’ve only got a couple of indie novels left on my reading list and will soon be accepting more titles. I will still have to limit how many I take on. (Not just indie books, but books in general–I’m an addict and books are crack.)

I will start considering review requests unsolicited books again on September first.

Finally, Poetry. I love it. Poems seem to be closer to the heart of the author than a lot of other forms of writing. They can express mood, thought, emotion, a personal viewpoint–so many things. That said, it is also a really difficult category to sell books in. I would like to offer a spot on Readful Things every Friday for one author to promote your poetry, either through a poem with links to your blogs or books or through a cover image and sample of your work. I don’t guarantee thousands of views, (I don’t guarantee one, for that matter,) but if it will help get the word out then let’s do it! Contact me via readfulthings@gmail.com and send me an HTML post. I will let you know what date I will have your post up.

It will look something like this:

(Shameless best friend promo to follow)

Pamela Beckford writes poetry designed to inspire emotion. She is the author of three solo poetry collections and co-author of another. If you are interested in some steamy, emotional reading to share with your lover or to read on your own, check out her solo works, which show many different aspects of love, in beautifully worded poems.

Dreams of Love

Cover 5

LLaF

VoN

Find Pamela’s entire catalogue of works on her Author Central Page

Pamela Beckford’s Author Central

Plundering the Romance Novel by Ionia Martin

Another complete surprise and a very good one at that!

a day in the life of patootie

51t2fcaBeRL._SX383_BO1,204,203,200_I just finished reading the funniest book I’ve read in a long time. I trotted over to Amazon to leave a review. In their little pop-up, they asked me if there was sexual content in the book. I’m not sure how to answer that question, so I left it blank.

I will say, though, that this book is short, sweet, and hilarious. It is told by the hero, narrator, author, and your choice of two heroines. You can tell them apart by the color of their flowing locks. Watch out for the potato sack race which had me spitting my drink onto my Kindle. A MUST-READ for any romance fan or writer…especially writer. I encourage all of my author friends and anyone who loves a good romance novel to go get this book…TODAY…RIGHT NOW. Click HERE. If you hate romance novels, you’ll like it even more.

It is written by…

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