Our new vampire series is launching tomorrow! Read the first chapter right here!

Hey guys, me and my sister Susanne Valenti have teamed up to write a kick-ass new vampire dystopian series and the first book is out TOMORROW! 

The full series is going to release over the next few weeks so you won’t have to wait long to get your fix! And book is just 0.99 at the moment as a very special release price!

Grab it now from…

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

And don’t forget to add it to your TBR on Goodreads!

 

Scroll down to read chapter 1 for FREE!

 

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What readers are saying so far about the series…

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ “OMG. This book gets you from the beginning. It is so good I couldn’t put it down. The story is fast paced, full of action and so true to itself you can actually believe this could happen!” – Anna, Goodreads Reviewer

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ “The strength that each of these girls possess is incredible. The twists and turns this novel made for each of their journey’s was pulse pounding, action-packed…romance vibes happening -squee!” – Nicole, Goodreads Reviewer

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ “This novel was a nonstop, high-speed train filled with kickass heroines, unfaltering love for family, and ancient warriors battling against vampires who….care?” – Angie, Goodreads Reviewer

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ “I am falling for one of the characters so fast my BookBoyFriends top10 might be in danger! ” – RJ, Goodreads Reviewer

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️“This book was fantastic. A little bit dystopian. A splash of romance. A heap of supernatural. And a whole lot of action and sass!” – Nicole, Goodreads Reviewer

 

 

 

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Synopsis:

In the year 2133, vampires rule America.

Within the Realms, human life is defined by blood.

But there is a way out: The Testing.

No one knows what happens to those who pass. But rumours of the powerful vampire family who want them spark fear in the chosen few.

When sisters Callie and Montana pass the test, they rebel against their fate and plan to do what no human has ever done.

Escape their Realm.

But the vampires have eyes everywhere and the girls are soon torn apart, sending them spiralling down two dangerous paths.

One to the vampires.

The other to the slayers.

With Callie in the hands of a fierce warrior and Montana trapped in a terrifying ritual run by the royal vampires, can they find their way back to each other before it’s too late?

Or will their fates be decided by the deadly men who shadow them..?

 

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Chapter 1: Callie

 

I suppressed a shudder as an icy drip fell onto the back of my neck and raced down my spine.

My heart beat faster as I fought the urge to shudder. Any movement could give me away. I couldn’t risk getting caught. Not if I wanted my family to survive the winter. Everything depended on this.

Rain fell steadily, pinging off the metal rooftop above my hiding place in the ruined building. Freezing raindrops made their way through holes in the rusted roof. I tried my best to ignore them, but a second drip rolled beneath my collar, stealing what little warmth my body clung to. I didn’t adjust my posture though.

I might have been uncomfortable, but I’d been waiting in the rafters for a reason. And I wasn’t about to give my location away because of the cold.

I squinted down at the courtyard outside the building. Four floors below me, the remains of a decorative fountain were crumbling in the centre of the open space but everything was so wet due to the downpour that it hardly stood out.

I’d braided my blonde hair tightly to keep it out of my eyes but I missed the warmth of it around my ears as the cold wind blew mercilessly through my hiding place.

Just as I’d expected, Thomas stepped into the courtyard and moved towards the fountain. He paused, pulling his collar higher around his neck.

Satisfaction coiled through me like a living thing and I allowed myself a triumphant grin.

I drew in a long breath, willing my heart to stop racing. If I was right about this then everything might be about to change for our family. Anything Thomas could do, I was sure I could do better.

He stood in the pouring rain, glancing about nervously as it slicked his muddy-brown hair to his forehead and obscured his eyes. I understood his need for secrecy. If anyone figured out what he was doing they’d either follow him like I planned to or worse… they’d turn him over to the vampires.

Another drip slid down my spine and its freezing touch slipped into my veins. I longed for the end of winter already and it had barely even begun. With hardly enough firewood to go around and food scarcer than ever, it was shaping up to be a pretty horrendous season. Unless I could pull this off.

Finally trusting in the fact that he was alone, Thomas moved across the courtyard. This was as far as I’d been able to track him until now. I knew he came to this courtyard regularly but for the life of me I had no idea where he went from here.

My sister’s warning sounded in the back of my head. He could be getting it from a vampire. For all we know he gets it by selling the rest of us out. But my gut told me that wasn’t it. A worm he might be, but I didn’t peg Thomas for a rat. No. Somehow, he was getting in and out of the Realm. Undetected. Until now anyway.

I smiled to myself as he stepped over the partially shattered wall of the fountain and waded through the deeper water beyond it.

He glanced over his shoulder one last time before climbing the higher wall on the far side and dropping down beyond it. I could just make out the top of his head as he stooped low and a dull sound reached my ears like something heavy being dragged over concrete.

The noise stopped and Thomas stood upright again, surveying the area. I held steady in my shadowed position in the rafters despite the cramp growing in my muscles. I knew he couldn’t see me but my heart leapt as his gaze swept across my hiding place. He didn’t even give my location a second glance, but turned back to look at whatever was by his feet then dropped out of sight.

My breath caught and I leant forward an inch. The wind drove the pounding rain into my face and I squinted to try and see where he’d gone. It was no good. He didn’t reappear.

Indecision froze me in place. If this was another attempt to flush out anyone following him, then stepping out would give me away. And if he caught me spying on him he’d never make the mistake of letting me do it again. This was my only shot. If I didn’t go soon then I was going to lose him.

Screw it,” I muttered as I gripped the edge of the thick beam I was perched on and swung myself out of my hiding place.

I hung suspended from the wood for a few seconds and used my toes to feel for the edge of the wall beneath me. My gut lurched with fear as I struggled to find it and my arms began to tremble. With a surge of relief, my right sole connected with the crumbling masonry and I swung myself towards it until both of my boots found it. Once I had my balance, I released my hold on the beam and dropped into a crouch atop the wall.

A high-pitched squeak warned me half a second before a black bat almost collided with my face. I managed to contain my shriek of surprise as I lurched backwards, nearly losing my balance. My stomach swooped and my right arm cartwheeled wildly for a moment before I managed to grasp the brickwork again.

The little creature spun away from me, zipping across the sky in a blur of motion as I tried to calm my nerves. I glanced down at the courtyard I’d nearly been plastered all over and released a shaky breath.

Nice work Callie; why not throw yourself to your death because a creature the size of your palm made you jump? Pathetic.

I forced my mind away from mentally berating myself and looked back towards the crumbling building instead.

I scrambled down the inside of the wall where half of the second floor was still intact and landed on the floorboards with a soft thump. The wood felt springy beneath my feet. Not exactly reassuring. Ignoring the less-than-trustworthy floor, I jogged towards the stairwell.

Four stairs hung suspended above nothing and the rest lay in a shattered heap below. The grimy remains of a carpet coated what was left of the first floor. Two decades of rain blowing in hadn’t done it any favours.

The hole which used to be a staircase extended all the way to the ground. The rope I’d used to scale the building hours ago still hung in place where I’d left it. I wrenched my make-shift grappling hook out of the soft floorboards and searched for something else to secure my rope.

There wasn’t really any choice apart from the thick bannister which marked the top of the decayed staircase. I kicked it, trying to gauge its stability. It shifted slightly which was less than ideal. It was that or lose my hook though and the rusty piece of metal was practically priceless to me. Certainly irreplaceable.

I threw the hook into the small bag I wore on my back and tied the rope around the bannister.

Here goes nothing.

I dropped over the edge and started shimmying down quickly. A shudder trembled through the rope and a heavy creaking sounded above me.

Shit!” My heartbeat thundered in my ears.

My palms went slick as panic seized me in its grasp. I gave up on shimmying and let myself slide. The rope burned my palms and pain lanced through them.

I made it past the second floor and was level with the first before the sound of splintering wood rumbled above me and the rope went slack.

My stomach soared and a scream built in my chest. I hit the floor hard on my back, the air violently whooshing from my lungs. I blinked through the pain and spotted the bannister hurtling towards me.

I rolled aside, throwing my arms over my head before it could flatten me and the floor vibrated as it crashed to the ground.

I peeked out from beneath my arms at the devastation I’d created. No chance it would go unnoticed. Damn bloodsuckers knew everything. Nearly everything anyway. But there were no rules about staying out of the ruins even this close to the edge of the Realm. There weren’t even any rules about not destroying things out here. Who’d care anyway? So a useless banister fell down in a useless building. It didn’t matter.

I pushed myself to my feet, ignoring the pain in my back and shoulders. I was pretty sure I’d have some impressive bruises by tomorrow. I’d have to be careful to cover them up around Dad. Although if this panned out then I was sure he’d agree it was worth the risk. Maybe.

I just had to hope Thomas hadn’t heard me. Or gotten too far away. I had to locate him again.

I ran out of the building into the rain. I wished my coat had a hood. It had a hole in the right pocket and a fraying hem along the back of the blood-red material. Despite that, it was considered a pretty good coat by most people’s standards.

But I saw what the vampires wore. Winter coats should be thick and warm and have hoods. The worst thing about it was that they didn’t need to stay warm. They couldn’t get cold but they wouldn’t let us have coats like that and they damn well knew we could feel the icy kiss of the season. Every winter people froze to death. Some even volunteered for the blood bank rather than face the slow inevitability of that fate. Poor assholes.

I splashed across the courtyard and clambered into the fountain. The water washed over the tops of my boots and soaked my feet. Perfect.

Climbing over the back wall took two attempts; it was level with my chin and slick with rain water. On the far side, I hit the jackpot. Thomas had lifted a drain cover revealing a dark hole which led… well wherever he was gone. Out of the Realm no doubt.

I glanced about nervously. There was no sign of anyone amongst the ruins nearby. If the vampires caught me leaving the Realm… no time for chicken-shit thoughts. I bit my lip and dropped into the drain.

I landed in a crouch and squinted as my eyes adjusted to the darkness.

All of the drains had been caved in along the edges of the Realm to stop this exact thing from happening and yet, I could see light up ahead.

Cautiously, I started moving towards it. There were no sounds in the tunnel so I guessed that meant Thomas was gone. It didn’t matter anyway. If this got me out then I could do what I needed and get back without him ever knowing I’d learned his secret. Unless he was as observant as me.

I’d noticed him having more to trade recently even though he’d taken care to spread himself between many vendors. I’d also noticed the healthy flush his family had in their cheeks. And the subtle upgrade in their clothing. He was being smart about it. But there wasn’t much that got past me. Especially when I was pretty sure another harsh winter could kill my family. There was no way I would let that happen.

Sure enough as I closed in on the light, I came across the caved-in part of the tunnel. Some of the rubble had been cleared though. Just enough to allow a large man to crawl through. Which meant it was more than big enough for me.

I climbed up to the hole and hesitated. If I did this, I was officially breaking the law. Leaving the Realm could land me in the blood bank. If I was caught and they sent me there it would tear my family apart. Dad and Montana were all that I cared about in this world and the idea of being taken from them froze my limbs in place.

But if I didn’t do this then I wasn’t sure we would survive. I’d been skipping breakfast for weeks, allowing the two of them to have a little extra without them realising it. I left the apartment first in the mornings and I was gone before they woke. All I had to do was leave a bowl drying on the rack to make it look like I’d eaten my portion of the porridge before I left. And even with that sacrifice, I could tell they weren’t getting enough.

The rations we were given daily were slowly decreasing. Bit by bit we were receiving less food as the weeks wore on. My ribs already showed too clearly through my skin and my hips jutted out in a way that spoke of the meals I’d missed. We needed more food.

If I had to risk the blood bank to make sure we survived then so be it.

I took a steadying breath and crawled through the hole.  

No turning back now. I’d just crossed a line I couldn’t come back from. I’d broken the law and left the Realm. I just had to hope it would be worth it.

I looked ahead and spotted the source of the light. Another drain was open above me and I quickly scaled the ladder.

I peeked above the rim of the manhole and paused. This was it. If I climbed out then I had definitely, one hundred percent broken the law and left our Realm. Although as I’d probably already done that when I crawled through the hole in the rubble there wasn’t much point in continuing to worry over it… I hesitated for another few seconds then climbed out.

The street was much like the one I’d been standing on minutes ago, it was just on the other side of the electric fences which kept us trapped in our Realm. With a jolt, I realised that I’d never been this far from home. My whole life had been conducted and contained within that space. Five square miles. That was it, always. Twenty one years lived within clear boundaries. Until now.

I grinned as I started down the street, anticipation gripping my heart. There was no sign of Thomas and I hoped it stayed that way. I knew his secret but I’d prefer it if I could keep that information to myself. No need for him to know I knew. I’d rather he wasn’t able to rat me out to the vampires if they got suspicious. And if they caught him they’d make him talk. No way he’d die to protect me.

The closest apartment blocks had been ripped apart by whatever bomb had destroyed the ruins I’d been hiding in so I skipped them. Nothing good was going to have survived in a building missing walls.

I jogged the length of the block and swung east. An intact apartment block greeted me and I made a bee-line for the entrance.

The rotating door groaned in un-oiled protest as I forced it to allow my entry. Once inside I paused. Excitement thrummed through my veins. I didn’t know where to begin.

A corridor led away from me to my left so I took it. The first door I came to was ajar and I pushed it wide, holding my breath.

The door’s movement sent dust swirling ahead of me as I entered. The apartment looked untouched. I doubted anyone had entered it since before...

Life without vampires had always sounded like a fairytale to me. My twin sister Montana and I had the bad luck to be born the year they took over, so anything pre-them was nothing I would ever know.

I headed further into the apartment and found a bedroom. The closet whispered sweet promises to me and I approached it, sliding the door wide. My mouth fell open. I felt like a total idiot but there it was; I stood with my mouth open wide as I stared at the kinds of clothes I’d only ever dreamed about. Thick winter coats with hoods. I reached out hungrily, tearing a white coat from the hanger and swapping mine for it as quickly as I could manage.

It was better than I ever could have imagined. Like being wrapped in a cloud which caressed every part of me. I pulled the furry hood over my head and hugged it close to my face. My eyes fell on a floor-length mirror and I stilled. There was no way I could bring this back. No way I could ever explain it.

I stayed wrapped in its warmth for five more seconds before slipping it back off. My heart broke over the perfect item as I carefully hung it back where it came from and retrieved my threadbare coat from the floor.

I tried to ignore the chill from the damp material as disappointment curled in my gut. I sighed as I hunted through the rest of the things hanging in the closet. At the back I found something I could take. Sets of thick, thermal underwear were folded neatly on a slim shelf. I took two women’s sets for me and my sister and a men’s set for Dad.

I carefully folded them into my pack and turned my back on the coats which could have made such a difference to us. My gaze landed on the thick duvet covering the bed and I had to force myself not to cry. All of this was here, so close and yet completely out of reach. Everything the human population of our realm could ever have wanted. What difference did it make to the vampires to keep this from us? They clearly didn’t want it and leaving it to rot here, just meters from the boundary of our Realm was beyond cruel.

I wondered if they laughed at us as we shivered. If finding people frozen to death in their beds was amusing to them. Hatred coursed through me more readily than usual as I thought on it.

My fingernails dug into my palms hard enough to draw blood and I hissed in pain as I made myself flex my fingers. There was no point in worrying about the things I couldn’t take. I needed to focus on those I could.

I hurried into the kitchen and started opening cupboards. I’d already been here longer than I should have and I needed to get back.

There were several tins of food which I rammed into my pack. I didn’t waste time trying to decipher the scribbles on the labels which no doubt told me what was inside them. The pictures gave me a good idea and though I wouldn’t have said I couldn’t read, I couldn’t exactly claim to be able to either.

It wasn’t like I’d ever needed to anyway. Dad had tried to teach us but I’d never had the patience for it like Montana. Besides, I didn’t see how reading would ever be of much use to me.

The last cupboard I checked held stacks of plates and bowls but peeking out from behind them, I spied a brown wrapper.

I pulled out the slab of plastic-wrapped food and frowned at it. I had no idea what I was looking at but the kids pictured on the wrapper were smiling while eating it. Curiosity got the better of me and I ripped the corner of the packet open. After foregoing my breakfast rations my stomach was pathetically empty and it rumbled in anticipation as I licked my lips.

The food inside was brown. I wrinkled my nose, thinking it was gone off, but a delicious smell reached me. I lifted it closer to my nose and sniffed again. It smelled good.

I tentatively broke off a square and placed it into my mouth.

The most delicious thing I’d ever tasted started to melt on my tongue and I let out a groan of pure pleasure. I’d never had anything like it before and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to get enough. I closed my eyes to savour the taste as it slowly dissolved on my tongue.

Carefully folding the wrapper back down, I tucked the delicious food into my bag before closing it and throwing it over my shoulder. That was it. I couldn’t take any more and get it back subtly. It was more than we’d had in a long time. We’d have a good meal tonight and something to keep us warm while we slept. That was more than I’d hoped for when I’d decided to follow Thomas.

I grinned at that thought as I headed for the exit. Things were going to be so much better now that I held this secret.

 

Want to read on?

Grab it now from…

Amazon.com

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And don’t forget to add it to your TBR on Goodreads!

One year into self-publishing – Advice, tips and tricks

First of all Happy New Year!

2016 was a very eventful year for lots of reasons from Britain leaving the EU, to saying goodbye to a whole host of famous faces, to Trump becoming president of the US (and much more!).

I think it’s safe to say that 2017 is looking like it’s going to be a year of big changes and perhaps some uncertainty that will have even the top-selling indie authors shifting nervously in their seats.

So what have I learnt one year on and four books in to self publishing? Turns out, a helluva  lot. The learning curve has been massive! This article is going to be a long one so maybe grab a snack.

Got it? Okay, deep breath.

  1. It’s hard (like really, really hard)

If nothing else, I’ve learnt this. But it’s only made me push myself and realise how much I really want this. So my advice to anyone readying to click the self-publish button is this: you are by no means ‘done’. But don’t fret! Because if you want it enough, everything will be fine.

What do I mean by hard? – I now look at self-publishing as a business (so if you’re publishing books for a hobby or aren’t bothered about making money straight away then just disregard this advice). But if you are looking to do this full time as I am, then the sooner you look at this as a long-term endeavour, the better. There’s no harm in wistfully looking to the top runners out there who are doing this (and killing it) but just remember that they worked their asses off to be where they are. It may seem like they popped out of the ether into success but remember this quote by Steve Jobs:

“If you look really closely. Most overnight success take a long time.”

Sure, some people get lucky and I think to make it really ‘big’ there has to be an element of luck somewhere along the line. But I think to get lucky you have to put yourself in the firing line of luck’s assault rifle by working your butt off.

I’ve read a lot (like a lot a lot) of blog posts from successful indie authors searching for their secrets but what I found was just a lot of sensible business-minded advice. It seems one of the key things to making a success of self-publishing is being prolific. This is the one piece of advice that I’ve seen given again and again from the people doing this full time. So stop reading this and go write your next book…I’ll wait.

Back? Okay. But what if I can’t get more than one book out a year, I hear you say? Well, that’s fine. Just write and continue to write. It just might take longer to be a success that way. There is obviously a trade-off between time and quality. So if you can (semi)comfortably write a novel 50k plus and bring it out within say, 3 months at a high standard? Then you can publish four books a year. Like me 🙂

2. Work with Amazon, not against it

I know Amazon seems like a huge sale-sucking monster who is dominating the world right now. But remember that Amazon is a huge sale-sucking monster who is dominating the world right now…

This one varies across indie authors. I personally, am a big fan of Amazon. They offer a platform (albeit a small one) for anyone who wishes to publish their writing and can help you find an audience – if you work with them.

What do I mean by working with them? I mean, do your research on how to use Amazon to get eyes on your book. This is very hard, it’s something I struggle with now – but trust me when I say that even the top runners struggle with this. That’s life. It’s hard to build an audience. So start now. Go on.

I could ramble on for ages about all the different things I’ve tried and failed at to get Amazon to show my book off. But like everything, it takes work.

So I’ll break down some key points you need to get your head around now to immediately give your book a better chance at finding new eyes:

  • Keywords – this one has just been made slightly more difficult by Amazon. They’ve just changed their layout on KDP which means you now have a word limit on each individual keyword (I found some previous success with filling my keyword block with a tonne of words for each one) but I think this is a good thing. I’ve noticed since this change that I’m ranking more strongly in the categories I want. So I can only assume this has done some good (though I’m not sure what it is yet – I’ll get back to you).
    For those of you who don’t know what keywords are. Here’s how it works. Amazon rank you in categories across the kindle store. You can choose two categories for your book to be ranked in at any time and then use 7 keywords to help you rank more specifically within those categories. You ideally want to be in a top 100 chart of a category that well-defines your book. But you have more chance of doing that if you find a category with as few books in it as possible (so you have a better chance of ranking higher).

Still with me? – good. I cannot for the life of me remember where I picked up this following  tip but it’s a good-en. I’m going to call it…

Rank Spying: Go to the Amazon kindle store. Pick a category that well suits your book. So for me that would be Fantasy. So click Kindle ebooks on the bar on the left > pick your category (e.g science fiction & fantasy) > keep defining it (fantasy) > and again (coming of age)

Note: you should see numbers in brackets next to the categories as you define your book. This is how many books are in that category. You want to choose one that has the lowest number and still defines your book. I can see that in fantasy ‘Classics’ only has 200 books in it. That’d be a great category to rank in….if your book was a classic. There’s no point ranking in something just because it’s a small category. (Nail files for octopuses might be a small category but no one’s going to go looking for your book there).

Now here’s the tip:
Knowing the number of books in a category is still not going to help you much, if say, the top 500 of those books is in a very popular category and are all ranking very highly across the whole kindle store.
For example, say the top 100 in Paranormal are all as popular as Twilight (obviously they’re not but stay with me) – you are not going to rank well in that category if the top 100 books are extremely popular in general because it makes that category very competitive. So here’s how you find a good category to rank in….

Choose one that fits your book well. Let’s say you choose:
Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Superhero

Now click on the number 1 book in that chart which today happens to be Onset by Glynn Stewart (Tip: if you click through to the categories and it doesn’t take you to the top 100 chart then click on the first book on the list, scroll down to their Amazon Bestsellers Rank  and find it there, clicking on ‘superhero’ and you’ll be taken to the top 100 chart).
Now click on the book in the number 1 spot, scroll down to their Amazon Bestsellers Rank and look at their overall spot in the kindle store which I can see for Onset is #650 in the paid kindle store. Now go back to the top 100 chart and scroll down to the book in position number 20 in that chart which I can see today is Outcast by Lindsay Fairleigh. Scroll down to their ranking…which I can see for her is #3,743 in the kindle store.

Okay, so what have we learnt here? Well, you know the books in this category are doing fairly well over the entire kindle store. So it might be tricky to rank in. Ideally what you want to see is that the book in number 1 position is ranking anywhere from 500+ but more like 1000+ in the entire kindle store if possible and a book at number 20 in that chart at 20,000+.
But what if the categories that suit my book are all too competitive? Well, that’s a tough one. But if you dig really deep, you can usually find a smaller category. How do you find new categories? Research people’s rankings, click on books in the top charts in categories that suit your book and look at the other charts they’re ranking in. You can normally find a gem or two.

Now even if you find a niche category that’s small and fits your book well, you still have to make some sales to rank in it- but a lot less than you would have to have ranked in the popular categories – ta-da!  You just made it easier for your book to be seen.

So on to getting sales….

3. Getting sales is hard (really hard)

But do you know what’s harder than getting sales? Getting sales and continuing to get sales and thereby making your book hang around in those top charts.

So how do you do it…?

Well, if I knew that I’d be a bestseller by now, sailing off into the sunset on my yacht. As with anything worth doing, there’s a lot of hard work involved. But I do have a couple of tips and tricks that work for me (most of the time).

Reviews – I almost hear you sighing. Yes, getting reviews is – you guessed it – hard! And it’s one of the biggest ways Amazon ranks your books – that’s right it’s not done just off of your sales -they’re also taking into account that people like your book too. So yeah. If your book sucks, sorry. But Amazon have to have some quality control, don’t they?

Let’s assume your book doesn’t suck…
Let’s say someone besides your doting mother who has no reason to lie to your face said they really actually enjoyed reading it. Well done you! Take a moment to appreciate that because it’s a big achievement and sometimes we lose sight of why we really do this – because we love it! And we looooovee hearing that other people love it too. Yeah, maybe we’re all just egomaniacs. I dunno. But a good review just makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. But I digress…

Getting reviews: I’ve done this through several different avenues.

  1. Blogging – set up a blog, say hi to the community (they’re really nice) and do not ram your book down their throat. Blog about your book, what your experience is, your advice for people just starting out – things like that. Read other people’s blogs that have similar interests to you, like reading your kind of books and then when you’ve got a little following going (it took me maybe six months to get to a point with blogging that I asked for advanced readers to review my book). It’s really not a quick fix but you should have a blog anyway so go start one now and meet the authors and readers who love the same thing you do.
  2. AMZ Tracker – This one got me about 10 reviews before I decided I didn’t want to pay for the AMZ privileges any more. It’s basically an Amazon run company that lets you give away your merchandise at a discounted price to sellers and in exchange they will honestly review your product. This isn’t dodgy or a scam it’s a genuine way for new sellers to find buyers on Amazon and it’s anyone selling anything not just ebooks. AMZ tracker also let’s you see how well you’re ranking in the Amazon store in specific keywords people are searching for.
    I could ramble on about it but just go check it out. To use their review exchange service you have to pay a monthly subscription – it is however a ‘cancel any time’ contract – so you could do what I did and buy it for a couple of months (I think it’s something like $30 a month I can’t remember – go look) but you can get a 10 day free trial to see if it works for you first.  The problem with this is… the discounting. For me it was easy as book 1 in my series is permafree. So my ‘voucher’ was just a link to the free download on Smashwords. (If all of that was Greek to you, I will explain shortly about permafree). I’m not sure how you would make a voucher for your ebook otherwise. But look into it. It might be possible if you don’t want to give your book away for free.
  3. Asking for reviews in the back of your book – a simple call to action in the back of your book can do no harm. But it’s giving people incentive that really works. Most people will not bother to leave a review –  not because they’re callous and coldhearted but to them it’s a bit of effort they’d rather avoid. I know I was guilty of never reviewing anything out of pure laziness before I had books out and realised how precious they are (if you’re not much of a reviewer yourself and take nothing else from this article, please leave a review for the next book you read – especially if it’s a book by an indie author). And why are they so valuable? Remember what I said about rankings? Yeah that. And if you get enough reviews ( I think the bar is in the fifty region) apparently Amazon will start putting you in newsletters but I’ve heard that on the grapevine so don’t take my word for it…

    Incentive – FREE STUFF! It’s really the only way, IMHO. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to give away your work for free then don’t go complaining to me when you get no sales. I’m sorry but it’s just plain business sense. You’ve got to prove your worth to people. And a lot more people will give your writing a chance if there’s zero risk involved for them (I’ll talk about permafree in a minute I promise). Anyway, back to incentive. In the back of my book, I make a deal with my readers. It’s very simple. Write me an honest review on Amazon, email me when you’ve done it and I’ll give you book two for FREE! And yah. It works. Nuff said.

  4. Find people that like similar books and email them – I know it sounds shifty. But it’s not. I’m talking about legitimately researching people that would be interested in your book and, if they provide an email address or have a blog where they review books then you are fully entitled to email them and ask them to honestly review your book and you’ll send them a free copy. How do you achieve this? Take a guess. Yeah it’s hard work again…but so worthwhile!

    I’m going to call this…

    The Reviewer Hunt:
    Get on Amazon, look for books similar to yours and scroll down to the reviews. I’ll give you an example using Lindsay Buroker (because I love Lindsay and I’m just going to shamelessly promote her – so there!). Look at her Emperor’s Edge Book 5 (if you choose a book later in a series you know these are die hard fans so there’s more chance they’ll stick with your series too). Click on the reviews (she’s got 4.8 stars on this  – legend) then change the filter settings to 5 star only as you want to contact people who really liked her book as there’ll be more chance they’ll really like yours too. Then get scrolling and clicking.

    Click on each reviewer one at a time (this takes a long time) and you’ll be taken to their reviewer page where you can see their rank etc. There will be a ‘see more’ button so click that and if a reviewer has shared their details that means they don’t mind being contacted – I promise! I’m not promoting hounding people by any means. These people have shared their information freely, you will find that most people won’t have any contact information so just pass them on by and send them some happy thoughts for the hell of it and maybe they’ll come across your book one day and review it voluntarily.

    Okay so once you come across an email address or blog/facebook page you can contact this potential reviewer (note the word potential!!!). DO NOT SEND THEM some generic, copy and paste email. Mention where you found their email address in the first line of your email. Something like: I came across your review for Lindsay Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge book 5 and wondered if you might be interested in reading my new novel blah blah blah in exchange for an HONEST review. Never ask people for anything but honesty in their reviews. It’s not cool and Amazon will hunt you down and will kill you (Liam Nieson style). Give them the Amazon link for your book or if your book’s not out then make sure you save their email address to give them the link later. If someone agrees to read your book thank them profusely and send them a copy. You’re entitled to give them a gentle nudge if you have heard nothing but crickets with in a month – NO HOUNDING!

Okay this blog post is turning into a novel itself (hmm there’s an idea…) I’ll keep going. Maybe it’s time to grab some coffee? Or tea (herbal or otherwise). I’ll wait. I got one too.

Alright alright, I’ll tell you about permafree.

This is my number 1 tip. But in this list it’s number….

4. Permafree changed my life – I’ve heard from authors who got into the game waaaayyy before me back when self-publishing was fairly new on Amazon and apparently permafree used to pack a massive punch. But it’s still a very useful tool and it was a real game changer for me. It’s not a quick-fix either by the way but it will boost your sales if you write in a series.

Remember what I was saying about people not taking a risk with your writing if it’s free? That’s the general principle of this. If your first book is free AND good (keep in mind if your book is sh….rubbish then that’s a separate issue) but if it’s good and free, people are going to read the follow-ups. Why wouldn’t they? Would you start a series, fall in love with it then stop reading after the first book because the rest of the series isn’t free? Or would you buy the next book because you just gotta? Also I’m a cruel author because I love a cliffhanger. I know people hate them and don’t put them in just to get people to read on but if it works for you, go for it. If not, don’t.

Basically, don’t go permafree until you’ve got more books out in your series. It’s pointless. You want people to buy your next books, if you go free too soothen, they’ll forget about you by the time book 2 is out.

So how do you go permafree with a book on Amazon? – I think I can get a chant going here, I ask a question and you shout ‘it’s hard!’. Alright it’s not that hard but it’s fiddly. Amazon don’t really want you to do it but they will begrudgingly let you because they just gotta pricematch. They’re a sucker for it. So make sure your book is not enrolled in the Amazon kindle unlimited programme. If it’s already in just un-enroll (is that a word?) it when your 90 days are coming to an end (you can uncheck a box on Amazon KDP so it won’t automatically renew – if it does, you’re screwed and gotta wait the 90 days again so go do it now. Done? Okay.)
Then pootle on over to Smashwords and publish your book there for free. Now wait a moment before you do that because you’ve got to format your book for Smashwords first so they can distribute it to stores like ibooks and kobo etc. They have a formatting guide (it’s an entire free book all about how to do that) I’m not going to natter on about how to do that just read the guide. I do have one big important tip though! Make sure that nowhere in your book do you link to Amazon. I had a link to the next book in the back of my first book and it took me ages to figure out why it kept getting rejected at Smashwords. ibooks and Kobo don’t want you driving sales back to Amazon. Makes sense, they are their biggest competitor after all.

Okay so once you’ve got your book for free on Smashwords and it’s been distributed to the other stores (this can take up to a week and even longer for some of the stores). Once it’s on ibooks or Barnes and Noble, your solid. Just grab the link , paste it into an email to Amazon through the KDP ‘contact us’ and veerrryyyyy nicely ask them to pricematch your book to free on Amazon and give evidence of it in the ibooks store or all the stores if you want to make sure they accept it.

Note: Amazon will laugh in your face if you send them a Smashwords link. They don’t value it, they’ll only pricematch to stores like Apple because they are their competition. So be patient, it might be a few weeks before you get your book pricematched or it might be a matter of days. I think it took me two weeks from start to finish when I did it.

Now your book is free -wahay! Congrats. You’ll get a boost of downloads as it’s fresh meat on the free Amazon market. I didn’t know this and wasted my advantage with those first few days of hundreds of downloads because I assumed it would always be that way. Don’t be me! If I did it again I would have bought some ads for those first few days to maximise impact. Even without doing anything I got to number 2 in a free chart (oh yeah, you won’t rank in paid charts anymore…more about that another day). Just think what I could have achieved if I’d bought some ads. I’m going to talk about advertising another day because my fingers are falling off.

Let’s round this up. One more and I’m done. If you’ve stayed with me this long, you deserve a medal. You’re clearly as determined as I am in this.

5. Building your fanbase

What you want is a big fanbase that scream about your books from the top of mountains, right? Well, if you want that it takes time and effort. People will be loyal if you’re loyal to them back, If you actively make friends with people. Don’t fake it. Actually want to interact with your fans. And who doesn’t love doing that anyway?

Do you know how cool it is to say I have ‘fans’? I love getting emails from people who are enjoying the books, demanding that I bring out the next one -it’s such a thrill! Of course that’s not why we started writing…well it is a little bit, isn’t it? (go on you can admit it, I understand). Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked daydreaming about my fans.

You’ll get fans if you do all the things above, blogging, getting reviews, reaching out to people. But the main thing is to keep those fans close. And you do that with mailing lists and social media. If you don’t have a Facebook page, go get one. If you don’t have twitter, go subscribe. Get a website. And if you do nothing else – get a mailing list.

Mailing list – the biggest tool an author can have is this. I use Mailchimp but there’s plenty of others out there. I have a list for people to subscribe to for news about my books and I promise only to email them about releases. People don’t want you bugging them, they’d just like to know when your next book is out. That’s what they want from you, your writing.

And how do you get people to subscribe? FREE stuff! Yep. That’s it. If you subscribe to my mailing list you get book 1 for free plus two free novellas and I let people know that in the front and back of all my books as well as on my Amazon Author page, my website and Facebook. Everywhereeeee.

 

I need a break so I’m going to leave it there but there’s some more things I will talk about another day. I’m off to finish my Christmas chocolate before Monday when the diet begins. But it is a bank holiday so maybe I’ll start Tuesday….

 

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eight Steps to self-publishing

6 months into self-publishing with Amazon KDP and I’ve learnt some things along the way that I think everyone going down the indie author route needs to do to start their journey.

  1. Perfect your Novel (novella/short story/ anthology etc. etc.)

This may be a no-brainer to some but I know the feeling of wanting to jump the gun and get that e-book out as fast as humanly possible! But you want to sell quality right? Or you’re not going to make lifelong fans who buy your subsequent works. So make sure you get an editor, proof-reader and bribe as many of your friends and family to read it too! If you’ve read your novel a hundred times I can guarentee you’ll still have missing words etc. because our minds have a very annoying habit of autocorrecting mistakes…

2. Get appropriate Cover Art

If you’re handy with photoshop you may be good enough to create your own cover art like I do. But if not it’s definitely worth hiring a cover artist who can make something professional for you.

Before you go off making the prettiest cover ever, have a look at covers in your genre. It may seem like a good idea to make a cover that’s different to what’s on the market but the best way is to have a cover that is similar enough to those in the same genre that anyone who comes across your book will know what to expect from it.

3. Formatting your ebook

If you’re going the Amazon route to start your book off then here’s a simple guide on the Amazon KDP website to get your ebook in shape:

If you’re going wide with your ebook then different platforms may require different formatting. To make this step easier I suggest publishing with Smashwords who will distribute your book to Kobo, Barnes and Noble, ibooks and Overdrive without all the hassle of doing it individually (yeah -I’m lazy like that but hey! If it saves time that you can spend writing then it can’t be a bad thing, right?)

Smashwords have a FREE downloadable formatting guide which you can grab here

Tip: Don’t put any links to Amazon in the ebook version that you upload to Smashwords (e.g links to other works) – ibooks will reject you and you’ll have to start the distribution process all over again – I learnt this one by experience 😉

4. Give out Advanced Reader Copies

I can’t impress upon you enough to do this! Find as many people as you can to give your book to in exchange for HONEST reviews (seriously, don’t go buying people off fore reviews this is not cool AND will get your book kicked so far off of Amazon that you’ll never see the light of ebook again if they find you out!!!). You can set up a Goodreads page pre-publication so they have somewhere to post their reviews before your work goes on sale.

How do you find ARC readers I hear you ask?

Well, one way is to ask friends to read your novel and give their honest opinions (don’t ask family members because Amazon won’t allow any reviews on your book who have the same surname etc.I’m sorry it doesn’t matter if Aunt Bessy thought your novel was a modern day masterpiece! She simply can’t have her say online. Sorry Aunt B).

The most effective way is to get blogging and reach out to fans who do this sort of thing in their sleep (literally…some of these awesome bloggers are like machines devouring 10 books before their breakfast!)

Tip: don’t forget to contact your reviewers with your store links once your book is live so they can put their reviews on Amazon etc. for you!

Which leads me onto my next point…

5. Get blogging!

This is the number one way to get eyes on your work. If you haven’t already started blogging get off of this post and go sign up to wordpress or tumblr or something of the like and write a post about reading this post! Or just something to say hello to the world or readers and authors out there!

Okay – back? All signed up? Good!

You can pay to have a domain without the added /wordpress or /tumblr etc. So my website is simply: http://www.carolingpeckham.com

I think the wordpress one was in the region of 15.99 per year when I signed up. I thought it was worth it personally but it’s not necessary. It could be something you want to do further down the line when people start googling your name 😉

6. Click Publish!

If you’re publishing with Amazon KDP you’ll need to have an Amazon account. You can create one with them here otherwise just sign in with your existing one. You’ll need to go through a series of steps where you enter your bank details so you can get paid and you’ll also have to give tax information. When that’s all done you can ‘create a new title’.

Tip: Pick your keywords carefully. Think about what categories your work fits into and try to choose keywords that will help you rank well in those categories. Amazon have a whole page of information on this here including links to keywords and what categories they will assign you to.

If you’re not publishing with Amazon then the same rules apply for Smashwords. You can choose up to ten keywords but they won’t give you any advice on which ones rank you where. The best thing to do here is to use Amazon’s keywords as a guide seeing as they probably know what they’re talking about when it comes to what buyers search for.

7. Write your next book

Not what you were expecting? Well, I promise you that promoting the hell out of your first book is a fairly futile exercise. You may get lucky and strike big with your first work but this is not the way it works for 99% of us!

If you’re book isn’t part of a series then, as an indie author, I suggest you reconsider…

The best way to get noticed is to get more work out there. Consistency is key! If you can release a new piece of work every 2 – 3 months you will increase the amount of eyes on your name simply by having several books dotted around the ebook stores. Also, your budding fanbase will get used to you bringing out new books regularly and so you will stay in the back of their mind for longer.

8. Promote, promote, promote!

This bit is hard and long and neverending and I can’t say I’ve figured out the best ways for sure myself (I’m fairly certain it’s a combination of many tactics + a little trial and error + a dash of luck).

Once you’ve got 2 or 3 pieces of work floating around in the ebook world it’s time to get promoting. There are a thousand different ways that other authors swear by but this is my tactic…

Permafree with book 1 – BOOM my downloads skyrocketed when I went free with the first book in my series and now I’m reaping the rewards of followup sales on my subsequent books.

This isn’t as simple as going free then sitting back and looking smug with a cigar, you need to work at keeping your free book ranking in the top 100 of your best category. This is done by placing ads with promotion sites for free books (to name a few I like:  ebookhounds, booksbutterfly, sweetfreebooks, readcheaply and the mother of all ebook promos which I haven’t yet managed to score…Bookbub)

Some people swear by Facebook advertising or Goodreads ads but I’ve had little to no success with these personally (perhaps it’s a genre thing? I write fantasy btw)

Good luck guys!