Raising funds, business plans and other marketing stuff #CrowdFunding #Marketing #BusinessPlan #PR

But you’re a published author. You must be rolling in it!” Yes, I’ve heard it all before, and I’m sorry to disappoint you, but my bank account is currently coloured red. Last July, I made the decision to go full-time in my writing career. At first I was going to subsidise it by offering editing etc. But, I closed down RWLS earlier this year for a variety of reasons – one of them being that it was taking my time away from actually writing. And sadly, my books just aren’t selling that well. This means that Hubby‘s job is really our only form of income.

But why aren’t my books selling? It’s not that they’re badly written – I’ve received enough four and five star reviews to assure myself that I’m actually not a terrible writer. No, it’s because of a serious lack of marketing and publicity. The romance genre is saturated in novels, novellas and short stories, which makes it very difficult to be seen, and PR is the only real way to make sure that my titles are pushed in front of the readers. But as I’ve already said, I have no money, and PR and marketing costs money. So, after careful consideration and chatting to a few fellow authors and publishers, I have decided to set up a couple of crowd funding pages to see if I can raise enough money to market The Final Straight.

the final straight cover

The two sites have chosen to use are GoGetFunding and GoFundMe. Each one is set to raise £2000 – yes, that is how expensive it is for one day’s worth of marketing for one book at full price through BookBub. With any luck, it will sell enough to market my other titles, and eventually help me reach my goal of hitting the best-sellers list.

Stop The World, I Want To Get Off!

This blog post is more an apology for my lack of presence throughout 2015.

So much has happened over the last six months that I’m not sure whether I’m coming or going. My feeds and timelines have always been flooded with preppers telling me that I should be preparing for the apocalypse (a variety of scenarios are mentioned from alien invasion to the more believable, total economic collapse), and I’m starting to feel like I really do want to GOOD (apparently it means, Get Out Of Dodge). Not because I actually think we will have a SHTF (Sh*t Hits The Fan) event, but because I need a break and off-the-grid, away from it all, back to nature living sounds pretty darn good right about now.

Back in December, my dad died. I am executor of his will so have spent the last six months fighting with solicitors and organising finances. Add that to being a full-time mum and housewife (is there really any other kind?), working part-time as an admin and teaching assistant, job-hunting because that contract was about to end, volunteering for the Girl Guides Association, completing the first module of an English Literature & Creative Writing degree, finishing my next erotica novel (currently under submission), and trying to promote, market and publicise my other five books, I have been left feeling utterly drained. The rest of the year doesn’t seem to look any less hectic. I’m still a full-time mum and housewife, I’ve just agreed to be a supply teaching assistant and midday supervisor at two schools (the original primary school I was working at and a specialist school nearby), the next module for my degree starts in October, I still need to promote, market and publicise my books, and I’ve started writing a new fantasy series (which will be published under a pen name). Not only that, but I’m still dealing with my dad’s estate, I’ve got a couple of courses that I’m taking as part of the Girl Guides, and I’ve started a new company – R W Literary Services (www.rwls.co.uk). I feel exhausted just reading through all that.

Something needs to give.

I’ve started to make some changes. One of these is the day job. I can’t go into too much detail, because the right people haven’t been told yet. We’re lucky that hubby has a good job, and my books are selling quite well **Seven Dirty Words is available for 99c / 99p** so finances aren’t really an issue. I need a break though, something bigger than just getting rid of a few stresses. But, thanks to the fridge dying at Easter and other unexpected expenditures like having to pay vet and crematorium bills after editing cat died (RIP Harry-Bo, **sniff**), our savings have been eaten into over the past few months, so no holiday this year. We have done day trips to places like Longleat and Lego Land, but really what I need is a desert island or a cabin in the woods, away from reality.

I’m not religious, but I’m praying for a change in luck right now. 2015 has been nothing but bad luck after bad luck. I’m hoping that 2016 will be a new year and new start, but I still have the next four months to get through…

Diary of a workaholic part 2

If you follow my blog (and if you don’t – why not?) you’ll know that eight days ago I took part in the Mum’s race as part of Sports Day and fell with magnificence, resulting in a busted foot. Official diagnosis (after two trips to A&E) is torn soft tissue. But, if you follow my blog you’ll also know that I am a self-confessed workaholic. So how do the two combine? Not well, let me tell you!

Sat on my backside is not easy. Especially when all the TV offers is Jeremy Kyle (I swear I met some previous guests in A&E), Murder She Wrote, Father Dowling, Diagnosis Murder and antiques after antiques show. Thankfully, I am surrounded by gadgets. I have my laptop, iPhone, tablet and Kindle sat by my arm. So you’d think relaxation would be easy. Yeah… You’d think…

Firstly Kane & Ellie’s story, “Touch of Silk” has come to a standstill. 45,000 words and I’m stuck. So, I started writing a new novel, entitled “Past Lives”, about a woman named Amy who is can’t seem to shake the feeling of being haunted. 500 words and it’s stopped. I know where both books are going, I just can’t seem to get there. Perhaps it’s the painkillers – blocking my mental capacity.

So I’m concentrating on my bookshop. It now has a name: R W Books, named after my children Rebecca and William. The business plan is coming along nicely, and I’ve spent the past week contacting distributors, publishers, estate agents, and suppliers. I’ve even got a very rough estimate of a cash flow forecast! But it is very rough and needs ironing out.

I started on a website yesterday, and plan on buying the domain name tomorrow (payday!!), and have begun planning how I want the bookshop to look as well as drafting out my expansion opportunities. Writing this plan, analysing my SWOT and drafting up finances has made me appreciate all those years in business and maths lessons. Suddenly 2 years of Maths A-Levels, wistfully watching Mr Cotton, and hoping it would rain after he’d left the roof of his car down doesn’t seem like such a waste!

Somehow I also managed to find the time to weed my garden – a task which inspired the opening scene of “Past Lives”. I hate gardening, but I love the idea of being self-sufficient and am very proud of my little veg and herb pots. Unfortunately the slugs and snails like them almost as much as I do and have devoured two pumpkin seedlings, a sunflower, and all my coriander.

Being a housewife and mother hasn’t been forgotten either. I’m not as active as I normally am because of my foot, but I have still managed to gut my son’s room. And found 2 boxes of pineapple juice under his bed. Or rather, they used to be boxes of pineapple juice. I thought it highly coincidental that as soon as these items had been removed the odd smell that’s been bugging me for weeks has dispersed.

Poor dog needs a good walk… I can’t wait to be able to trek through the fields, iPhone in hand talking into it and looking odd as I come up with inspiration for my novels. On the other hand, she’s had lots of fuss in the house and has been racing circuits around the garden, upsetting the cats and rabbit.

The doctors think I have another 5 weeks of not being able to do anything, but if they can be as productive as the past seven days have been, then perhaps this RICE thing isn’t such a total loss.

Support the British Heart Foundation


BHFLOGO

Recently, my Grandad sadly passed away after having a heart attack. Rather than flowers, my family asked that people make a donation to the British Heart Foundation. With this in mind, I have decided to donate all royalties from sales of SEVEN DIRTY WORDS during June to the worthwhile charity. I would be so grateful if everyone could help spread the word, so that we can raise lots of money and help save lives.

The term “heart disease” covers a variety of conditions & problems including angina, heart attacks, heart failure, and congenital defects amongst  many others. But it doesn’t just affect the person with the condition. It affects everyone around them as well. The British Heart Foundation work tirelessly with research and campaigns, trying to not only fight heart disease, but educate the public on how to keep their hearts healthy, spot the early signs of a problem, and how to help people in need of emergency treatment.

According to their website:

£500 could help heart patients to set up a Heart Support Group in their community, giving them, their family and friends the chance to meet and talk to people who have gone through similar experiences.

£5,000 could fund 28 days of specialist Heart Failure nursing, changing the lives of around 170 heart failure sufferers.

£10,000 could fund 80 Little Anne realistic adult manikins used for training people in emergency life support training skills.

£180,000 could help us find a cure for heart disease by funding the complete costs of a research project for 3 years, including salaries for research staff, funds for the equipment and laboratory materials needed for the project.”

We all have a heart, so this is something that could affect anyone of us, at any time. Help me, help others.

Why I’m Pulling Down My Self-Published Works

This week is the last time that Murder at Meadowview and Untamed: A Collection of Poetry will be available for the foreseeable future.  I’ve had several people ask me: “Why?”  Here is where I would like to emphasise that it is not because they are self-published.  Okay, so maybe it is.  But, I have absolutely nothing against SP works, and I know several authors who choose SP over traditional print.  But, I chose SP for all the wrong reasons, particularly in the case of Murder at Meadowview.

When I wrote MaM, it was the first full-length piece that I had ever completed.  I had a file filled with short stories and flash fiction, but my aim was to write a novel.  I wrote it, loved it, and sent it off to agents and publishers across the UK.  I had that arrogance many new writers have, thinking it was perfect the way I’d finished it.  But I was naive and new to the world of published literature.

Lack of Editing

As I said, I was arrogant and thought it was perfect.  Now I know that before you even consider writing that synopsis and cover letter, you need to edit.  And edit with a harsh mind.  What I should have done is found a few non-biased people to read through it and point out plotholes, typos, etc. What I shouldn’t have done is only allow my two best-friends to see it.  I’m lucky, my best-friends are honest with me and will tell me when crap is crap.  But still, I should have sought out an independent person to beta-read it for me first.  Of course, this is not always necessary.  If you are able to look at your work with an open-mind, then you may want to rely on editors provided by the publisher.  If you know that you can’t dissect your new masterpiece and rip it to shreds, then I would suggest you hire your own editor or beta-reader, before sending it to someone who will be even more critical.

I did none of this.  I email my friends, ignored everything they said, and left it as it was.  The first draft was the finished draft.  That was my first mistake.

Length

48,000 words is not considered a full-length novel.  That was the first thing I found out.  For some publishers, it needed an extra 2,000.  For most publishers and agents, it needed to be a minimum of 75,000 words before they would even consider it.  The fact that I’d put the approximate word count in my cover letter probably meant that the sample chapters and synopsis didn’t even make it past the bin.

So, second mistake – not researching what constitutes a full-length piece of fiction.

Cover Letter

Yes.  The cover letter.  You know?  That letter written to agents and publishers asking them to please, please, please, publish your work?  The letter that addresses them as an individual, and is personal?  Yeah… That…  My cover letter was copied from a template on a website with my details hacked into it, beginning “Dear Sir,” (big mistake if you’re addressing a woman!) and fired off to several agents and publishers.  There was nothing personal about my cover letter.  Publishers and agents like that you have sought them out, especially if they are small houses or new businesses.  They like the fact that out of all the possibilities, you chose them to represent your work.  They are special.  And nothing says that more than an email with hundreds of over addresses in the CC bar…  I was intelligent here, I BCC’d emails and printed off most letters to send by snail-mail, but even so – they are publishers and agents.  They’re not stupid and know a standard form letter when they see one.  Hey – they send them out enough!!

There was my third mistake.  Always make the cover letter addressed to the person you are writing to.

Self-Publishing

With all this, it is probably no surprise that MaM was rejected by every agent and publisher I sent it to.  Most of them didn’t bother replying at all. But my arrogance is still up there!  I still think I’ve written the best thing since the Bible!  Well, those letters that did come back had said that it wasn’t for them and they wished me luck in the future.  They didn’t say it was badly edited, needed padding out, or needed to be re-written!

I searched vanity publishers, but did not like the fact that I was looking at £1000s to get my name on the spine of a book.  Then I found – KDP.Amazon!!  Woooooo!!  I can self-publish FOR FREE!!  And I did.  I made an attempt at Createspace, so printed copies were available, but when the first copy came back after costing me $10 to have it shipped over to the UK, I really couldn’t be bothered with re-formatting, so meh.  It stays as is.

Now nobody has mentioned any glaring mistakes in MaM.  But that is probably because the one I fixed on Kindle (thanks Mum for pointing out that in the middle of the book, the end of a paragraph was missing), I couldn’t be bothered to fix in the print version (did I mention it cost me $10 to have books shipped to me to proof-read?!) and nobody has bought a paperback copy.

Sales

Yeah it’s made me a few  bucks here and there.  Technically it’s sold in excess of 3,000 copies (since 2010).  But it’s enrolled on KDP, so I have no clue how many of those were freebies I’d given away.  Probably close to 2,999.  Why?  Because I suck at marketing and sales.  I worked a sales job once.  And was moved into the returns and customer service department because I actually convinced a customer that he didn’t need to buy those new sales products if he already had a perfectly good one at home…  That’s how much I suck at sales.

I didn’t go into writing because I want to be rich and famous (rich would be a bonus, really not fussed about famous), but at the end of the day, if authors didn’t want to make money they would give away their books.  Oh, that’s what I did…  Either way, sales would be nice.  A cheque to prove my hard-work (or lack of it) had paid off would be nice.  Yeah… none of that’s happening.

So, are we really surprised I have decided to take it down from sale now?  SEVEN DIRTY WORDS is doing so much better.  It has been professionally edited, beta-read by several people, (yes there may be one or two typos, but I’ve noticed them in books by BIG writers too – Stephen King, James Herbert, Jilly Cooper, Tami Hoag – all names on my bookshelves where I’ve gone “that’s spelt wrong.  It’s expected every now and then.  Editors are humans too.)  It has also been marketed by people who know what they’re doing.  I’ve been a face and voice for interviews, and I did write my own responses for blogs etc. But most of it has been organised by my publisher.  She has been fantastic at sending out press releases, copies of the book to reviewers, organising interviews, sending me marketing material for my area…  And it shows when I get that lovely sales report and see my author ranking shooting up into the top 1% on Amazon UK and 8% on Amazon US.

I’m not saying this is an end to me self-publishing.  Untamed is fine as is, but I have written more poetry and a few pieces of flash fiction, that I would like to include.  So for now, Untamed will be coming down until I have ‘bulked it out’.  Murder at Meadowview will be put to bed though.  It’s been suggested that I edit it and re-write it, but I think that would be unfair to the people who have spent money on it.  You never know – one day, a publisher may pick it up.  The long lost piece of work by that famous author, Charlotte Howard.  Never seen before!!  And worth hundreds and thousands and millions!!  (Hey, a girl can dream.)

Until then though, I have learned my lessons, and realised that self-publishing is not as easy as simply uploading a file, and I have the utmost respect for authors who choose SP over traditional print.