What to give your favourite author for Christmas #reviews #book #amreading

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Christmas is a time for giving.

As anyone who follows me knows, I’ve made my short story ‘STRANDED‘ perma-free, and it’s available to download from all good e-reader stores. It will remain free for the rest of its e-book life. I have no intention of ever charging for it. It’s a short story, for anyone who loves hot and erotic romance and reads eBooks. That’s my gift to you, the reader.

I support other authors by offering blog space to help promote their books. I share it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. I retweet and share posts. I review books that I’ve read on Goodreads & Amazon. I buy books. That’s my gift to you, the author.

And, I’d like to invite other authors and readers to join me on the “giving” spree. It doesn’t have to cost you anything. There are plenty of free ways to give back to the literary community.

Your Words

As an author, I regularly reach out to readers to say thank you – either directly if they’ve contacted me, or through the power of social media if it’s an anonymous sale. (I can’t see who’s buying my books!) As a reader, I regularly reach out to authors to do the same, because I know how hard it can be. Writing is a lonely job, and there are so many times when we feel like giving up. Reaching out and sending a single email / tweet with words of encouragement could make a huge difference to your favourite author.

Reviews

Reviews are worth their weight in gold. They don’t have to be lengthy or particularly well-written. A single sentence is appreciated. The important part is that it gets put on sites like Amazon US / UK. Reviews are a way for readers to communicate with authors – I know that I read every single one that I receive. We use them to better ourselves and work on the bits you didn’t like. But more than that, they help that title get seen by other readers.

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Sales

I have a love-hate relationship with money. I wish it didn’t exist, but unfortunately, we all need it to pay the bills. Writing is a career. For many, it is a full-time job. It’s not a hobby. Yes, we’re lucky enough to be self-employed in a job we love, but only if it pays the bills. I’ve known so many excellent writers to give up because they don’t have the time to concentrate on writing. It sounds mercenary and perhaps selfish, but it’s necessary. To continue to write, we need the sales. Buy an eBook for yourself, buy a print book as a present for someone else. Even the smallest of sales help.

Authors aren’t rich. For every $2.99 book I sell, I receive maybe $1, depending on my contract. Even self-published authors don’t get 100% of sales – they get a 35%-70% royalty, again depending on the contract they have with their sellers, and whether it’s an eBook or paperback. Point of fact – eBooks provide you with a higher revenue as there is less cost into creating it. It’s not uncommon for a traditional publisher to offer 10%-20% royalties on a $9.99 paperback, but 40% on a $2.99 eBook.

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Can you afford to buy a new book? Fabulous – treat your favourite author to a new sale. Are you as skint as the rest of us? Leave a review, or send a message to your favourite author, letting them know that you appreciate them.

Why I don’t do book signings, AKA: Social anxiety & me.

I get asked all the time: “Are you doing a book signing any time soon?” “Are you going to the RNA conference?” “Are you going to the **insert local town** festival?” And my answer is always “No”. Why? Because I suffer with social anxiety.

Hubby and I joke about me being anti-social. I distance myself from people all the time. I turn down coffee mornings, I make excuses so I can’t go to parties and events, I even avoid going into town if I can. Social anxiety sucks. But is it really that bad? Is talking to someone really going to kill me? Probably not, but that doesn’t stop me feeling like I am about to die. So what are the symptoms of social anxiety?

*Sweaty palms

*Feeling sick

*Chest feels tight

*Need to go to the toilet every five minutes

*Churning stomach

*Aching muscles in my neck

*Headache

*Panic attack (feeling faint, chest pains, can’t breathe properly, arms and legs start shaking)

*Feeling like everyone is looking at me

*Running over worst case scenarios in my mind

Imagine going through all of this at just the thought of having to talk to people. That’s social anxiety. You can read more about it here.

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At the Festival of Romance in 2014

Every time that I have done a book signing or gone to an event I have had to take someone with me; my mum, my husband, my two best-friends. I cannot do it on my own. And even then, when I stand up and do a reading, I feel like I’m going to pass out and rush through it so that it’s done.

I can’t help my social anxiety. I’ve had cognitive behavioural therapy, which has made it easier (I can go as long as someone I know and trust is with me, as opposed to just avoiding them all together), but I still struggle on a daily basis to meet new people.

I would love to organise a book signing, and get my face out there, but the prospect of being an utter failure (like the Festival of Romance where I sold 2 books and gave 1 away, and then came home with 50 books in a suitcase that I am STILL trying to shift) weighs on me. I don’t want to be that sad, lonely author sat in a bookshop begging people to buy a book – and yes it does happen, because I’ve had it happen to me. I was a reader, and an author literally cried because nobody would buy his books. I ran away and hid in the children’s section until I could sneak behind him without being grabbed again. I don’t want to be him.

I want to go to more events. I want to interact with other authors and readers. I want to sell my books. But even meeting people I’ve met before can be tricky. I feel like I’ll look like an idiot, because I’m very good with faces, but I’m convinced that nobody will remember me. That’s happened before too. Not in an author / reader setting, but I started chatting with someone I’d met a few times through Yeovil Creative Writers, and she ran away because she clearly had no idea who I was. Super embarrassing because it happened in front of a group of other people who saw it all. I wanted the ground to swallow me up, and I’ve avoided bumping into her since, in case it happens again, or she laughs about how she didn’t know who I was. Ha, ha, ha.

Equally, there are times when I don’t know who people are – for instance, authors who like their anonymity. I’ve never seen their faces (because we’re friends online), but spoken to them loads. I’m supposed to know them. I don’t want to be that person who runs away and feels awkward because I can’t put a name to the face. See, that’s another problem. Something that might be construed as “do you remember that funny time when I didn’t know who you were, and how we laughed…” for “normal” people, is an event that makes me want to curl up into a tight ball and cry.  So, I avoid group events where I could bump into people I’m supposed to know, or where they are supposed to know me. Just in case that awkward “who the hell are you?” moment happens.

So, I sit at home with my social anxiety, trying to convince people to buy my books online, because I can’t physically meet anyone.

It’s not you. It’s me. And my stupid anxieties.

A Saturated Market

OR Why I Won’t Self-Publish a Self-Help Book

About a week ago I decided to set up a new company – RW Literary Services – offering editing, proofreading, manuscript assessment, CV writing, and freelance article writing. (www.rwls.co.uk) I was asked by a couple of people why I think I have the experience to set that company up, after all I’m just an author and I have a team of people who do all of this for me. If I can’t do it for my own books, how can I do it for someone else?

Well, for a start, I wasn’t always an author. In fact I started out as a freelance writer, creating articles on pet care, beauty, and parenting. This developed into advertising and eventually a full-time job in editing and fact-checking. I was on good money. But it wasn’t where my heart was. I wanted to concentrate on fiction, so in 2013 jacked it all in and decided to throw myself into promoting Seven Dirty Words and Four Letter Words, and writing more novels. So I do have the experience and skills to set up the business, but it got me thinking – why was I asked that in the first place? If someone opened a restaurant, you wouldn’t say “oh I guess anyone who cooks can run a business like that”, would you?

It should be well-known by now that authors tend to have a real job as well as writing, but most of us want our novels to be full-time and paying the bills. So we look at ways to support our work. Some have written non-fiction books on how to write books, how to get published, or how to get an agent. Some (and it has to be said, mostly self-published) authors have set up publishing companies. Through a little bit of digging and research, my opinion is because setting up a house and then publishing under that name gives you a little bit more credibility when it come to marketing to readers. It also allows you to reach a wider market, getting your book listed with the likes of Gardners and Bertrams. After a few books have been self-published, a few of these authors decide to help others and publish their books as well, and voila! A new publishing house with multiple authors is born. Some of these have worked and gone on to become sought after houses, others have flunked and struggle to pay their debts.

Other authors, like myself and quite a few friends, have gone into editing, offering literary services to help develop unpublished works and get them polished and ready for submission. But it doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop using each other. Yes, I run a business that edits, proofreads, and gets your book to the best it can be. But I still email my editor with manuscripts and hand over my cash. Yes, I offer advice on marketing and PR. But I still email my publicist and say “What the hell am I doing wrong?” Does this mean I’m crap at my job? No. It means I’m not arrogant enough to think that I’m the best in the biz and don’t need help.

Recently I’ve been asked, if I can edit etc., if I have the experience in self-publishing, why don’t I write a self-help book for new authors? Why don’t I set up a publishing house? Why? Because the market is saturated with authors who have done exactly that, and all these self-help books say the same thing, which I can do for free:

  • Have a blog
  • Keep writing novels
  • Join social media and interact with your readers
  • Network with other authors, editors, publishers etc.
  • Invest in marketing tools and an author kit – business cards, Facebook banners, postcards, posters etc.
  • Go to events and organise book signings
  • Spend money and use companies like ENT, ReadCheaply, BookBub, and Fussy Librarian.
  • Talk about yourself
  • Have a street team who talks about you and hands out bookmarks
  • Give your book away every now and then – run a competition on Goodreads, Facebook or Twitter
  • Make sure your novel is professionally edited and proofread and has a professional jacket

Done. Did that take up 15,000 words or cost you a penny? Nope.

I won’t set up a publishing house because, while I did self-publish a novella back in 2010 (no longer in print for a very good reason), I’m not a publisher. I have never worked with a publishing house. It is not my area of expertise. I’m not saying I’ve never considered doing either of these things, because it did cross my mind that I could. I’m saying that I won’t add to an already over-flowing market, and I won’t risk losing the time to write books by concentrating on other ventures.

I started RW Literary Services because I want to run my own business, and editing and proofreading is something I’ve been doing for almost 10 years under a variety of websites and for other authors, so why not start charging an actual fee for it? I can do it in my own time, pick and choose work, and still find time to write my own books and look after my family.

So yes, please, look at my website and email me for a quote. But please, don’t for a second think that I’m over-priced or under experienced – you get what you pay for and quality costs money. And please don’t ask when I’m going to write that self-help book or set up a publishing house.

Marketing, PR & Publicity

My sales aren’t terrible, but they’re not terrific either. I won’t be quitting my day job any time soon. So the hubby and I sat down the other night and discussed my marketing techniques and we came to the same conclusion: I’m sh*t at sales. This is not a good thing when you’re a writer and need to be able to sell not only your books, but yourself as well. Also, I’ve just set up a new freelance editing business – my marketing skill mean the future does not bode well.

But why? Why am I so shocking at selling myself? Hubby thinks it might be because I don’t relate to my target audience – married women in their 30s. But I’m a married woman in my 30s! How can I not relate? I would much rather be sat on my ass playing games or watching action and thriller movies than I would rom-coms or doing the housework. Surely I’m not alone in this? I can’t be so far from the stereotypical housewife that I’m bodering on being a man?

Maybe it’s my brand. I’ve discussed branding before. I’m never going to be a sexy woman who flaunts everything she’s got – I’m comfortable in my skin, but I’m even more comfortable in a pair of skinny jeans and a baggy T-shirt. I figured my brand would be “houswife with a cup of tea”. But I’m not that either. Yeah, I drink tea, but housewifey? Nah… Like I said, I hate housework. I’m never going to be the girl-next-door or competing for Housewife of the Year.

Poster

Flyers, bookmarks and postcards get shoved into every paperback copy of Seven Dirty Words

So now I’m googling marketing, pr, publicity and books. But every blog says the same thing:

*Set up a Facebook account. Check. Readers can friend me or like my page. (Chowardauthor or Charlottehowardauthor)

*Tweet. Lots. Check. (@shy_tiger) I have in excess of 800 followers.

*Build an author kit. Check, check and check! I have a website (www.charlottehowardauthor.co.uk and http://www.rwls.co.uk) I hand out business cards, flyers, postcards and bookmarks with every copy of Seven Dirty Words I sell. I take them all to any events like Smut.UK and stuff them into hands, goody bags and books. I have a street team who do the same.

*Connect with your readers. Check. I try to converse on Facebook and Twitter with readers and other writers – okay I’m a bit lax in the forum department,  but only because I don’t want to be a pushy, in-your-face, BUY MY FRIGGING BOOK kind of author.

*Keep writing. Double check. Four novels, one short story published, one recently submitted, and another one being written.

So I give up. I’ve decided that I really couldn’t sell toffee to kids and looking for a PR company to represent me.

My dream was to have a publishing contract by the age of 30, and I did that. My next goal is to be a best-seller before I’m 35. 2 years to go. Let’s see what this week brings…

Interview with Descending Darkness author Michael Chulsky

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Michael Chulsky grew up in New Jersey and has been writing ever since his fourth grade teacher let him create a class newspaper to channel his creativity. He is the author of The Descending Darkness and currently lives with his fiancé. When not writing he enjoys browsing Tumblr, listening to music, and devouring every piece of cheesecake that falls into his line of sight.

***

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Book Title: The Descending Darkness
ISBN: 978098956856-2
Publisher Link: http://www.rockinghorsepublishing.com/new-release.html
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

***

“Descending Darkness”

“Now, if we can get on with the issues at hand – “ Shadow began. To his dismay, he was interrupted by someone loudly clearing her throat. Glancing around the room for the cause of the interruption, his eyes fell upon Crystal. “Yes, Crystal?” he asked through clenched teeth.

“Sorry for interrupting, Shadow, but I think that we all deserve, well, a break,” Crystal said. “We’re all tired of being cooped up in this boring, dark, and dreary place.”

Shadow’s eye twitched. “What do you mean, a break, Crystal?”

Crystal shrugged. “Maybe we all deserve just, like, a chance to blow off some steam, you know,” she said. “Like a trip. . .maybe to the mall?”

Shadow laughed, glancing at Crystal like she was crazy. “You. . .you’re not serious?” he asked, hoping she wasn’t, but it was evident that she was, and he frowned. “You are serious.”

Seeing the look on his face, Crystal shook her head. “What is it?” she demanded, hands on her hips.

“I just don’t understand it. Weren’t you the one who, a day ago, told Ryan and Tristan off for not being serious? For being easily distracted when it came to our mission?” Shadow asked, sighing and putting his face in his hands. “Now you’re doing the same?”

Crystal shrugged. “Yes, I said those things. I believe without a doubt that our mission is important, but still. . .I’ve been here for three months and have the exact same wardrobe as I did when I first got here.”

Shadow lifted his head up and raised an eyebrow. “So?”

Ethan shook his head. “Oh, dear.”

Faith looked confused. “What’s wrong, Ethan ?”

“He’s got her started now….”

Crystal flushed bright red. She was shaking like she was about to go into convulsions. “Shadow, do you have any idea how horrible it is to wear the same outfit more than once?” she asked, glaring at him. Looking at him, she saw that he was wearing the same things he always wore: a black shirt with a black pair of jeans.

“Okay, so maybe you do know what it’s like to wear the same outfit more than once. But I absolutely refuse!”

Shadow sighed. “Somebody please tell me she’s joking.”

Ethan scratched his head. “I’m sorry. I wish I could.”

***

Tell me a bit about your book.

The Descending Darkness is the story of Shadow and his attempt at saving the world. It’s not exactly a walk in the park, he has to gather up some little helpers – teenagers with special powers like himself.

How did you come up with the title and storyline?

The title was actually the difficult part. I had a couple of titles originally in mind but either they were taken or they simply didn’t capture what I was going for. The Descending Darkness has a ring to it.

The storyline was the fun part. I love stories that feature teenagers with super powers. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Teen Titans are two of my favorite shows. I think that teenagers have so much going on already and to throw super powers/abilities on top of that is just…insane. In a good way.

How long have you been writing and what inspires you?

I’ve been writing since, roughly, the fourth grade. Back then, it was common to be asked what you wanted to be when you grew up. Some kids wanted to be doctors, others wanted to be firemen/women, and others wanted to be professional sports players. I was the weird one. I was like…when I grow up I want to professionally stay up late and have magical powers. And luckily enough, I was blessed with a gift for writing which I feel lets me do exactly what my younger self dreamed of. 😛

As for what inspires me, I’d have to say joy. I write because I want to make people happy. I want people to pick up one of my stories and get lost in it. And if they can forget about their troubles for just one moment, it would mean everything to me.

How did you get published?

It was a long, dark road filled with peril and woe. Actually, I looked around and submitted my manuscript to various publishers/agents. Eventually, I found Rocking Horse Publishing and had a conversation with Robin Tidwell (the owner) and decided that I HAD to be one of their authors. I was selected and voila!

What do you do in your spare time?

I play video games. I’m a huge gamer. I don’t think a single day goes by where I don’t play at least one video game for an hour or two. When I’m not doing that, I enjoy listening to music and/or watching anime.

What is your writing ritual?

I need the room to be well-lit. I compile a list of my favorite soundtracks from various video games to listen to in the background. I have a bottle of white wine on my desk – moscato or pinot grigio. And then I just pour my heart and soul out onto the pages.
What book are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading Omorphi by Cody Kennedy. You should check it out. It’s quite lovely.

What piece of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Never doubt yourself. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from, you have a power inside of you. You have a story to tell. And people deserve to hear it.

Are you working on any future novels?

I’m in the middle of writing the sequel to The Descending Darkness, as well as the prequel. I’m working on a YA M/M romance novel. I’m also finishing up on my adult novel, Red Rose. I expect they’ll be surfacing in the next year or so at various intervals.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

A proud author of ten or more novels, happily married, hopefully with a few children, and finished with a degree.

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Where to find Michael:

http://michaelchulskywrites.blogspot.com
http://facebook.com/tddnovel
https://www.facebook.com/michael.chulsky
http://www.twitter.com/michaelchulsky

Where to find Descending Darkness:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Descending-Darkness-Michael-Chulsky/dp/0989568563/
http://www.rockinghorsepublishing.com/new-release.html
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-descending-darkness-michael-chulsky/1116993147