If You’d Told me Back Then… #amwriting

 

DIARYI got a shock this morning. Well, not so much a shock as a reality check. After yet another early 4am start, I reached the 20K point in my current script, the sixth in a crime series, and checked my diary to remind myself what day of the week it was. (I tend to lose track of time when I’m in the writing zone.) I’d made a note in it:

STARTED WRITING MY FIRST BOOK TEN YEARS AGO TODAY

Really? Has it been ten years since I penned the first lines of Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines? At the time, I fully expected it to be my one and only book, yet here I am a decade later, with twenty titles under my belt and more to be published.

I wonder how many words I’ve actually typed since that time – undoubtedly millions. I’ve worn letters off keys and broken four laptops.

Initially, I didn’t type the book (I am the world’s slowest typist and even now can still only type using three fingers). I actually wrote out the entire script by hand – a laborious but tested procedure – and filled A4 notebooks with chapter after chapter which I then corrected in red ink like a deranged teacher. It was only after I’d scrawled corrections and drawn arrows to move paragraphs, and added extra sections, that I would begin typing. All of that worked for me and I preferred to read the handwritten scripts than to scroll down pages on a computer. Nowadays, that’s not possible. With 3-5 books to write a year, I have to start immediately by typing ‘Chapter One’ and off I go.

In 2009, writing a book was top of my bucket list – a one-off comedy that would sink or swim. I had a desire to accomplish something I had not yet managed to do. Little could I have imagined that the decision to write it would direct me along a new path. The book swam and I continued writing.

As I look back over the last ten years, I feel a sense of achievement that hitherto, I couldn’t contemplate. I have loved writing every single one of my books and the more I write, the more ideas I have, so no sooner do I type an ending to one, than I’m ready to go again.

Undoubtedly, there will be further casualties over the forthcoming years: more laptops will be sent to the recycling unit with worn out keys and numerous notepads that now only contain essential notes, and I hope there will be many more books for you to enjoy.

If you’d told me 10 years ago that I would become a best-selling, full-time writer, I’d have laughed and said, “I wish!”

Well, it happened, so my message to all you writers out there is don’t give up because this time next decade…

Crime Pays #writers-life

AwardIn January 2017, I moved from comedy to crime. It was a bold move. I’d made my name as writer of comedy and enjoyed much success, written features for and appeared in national magazines, been on numerous BBC radio stations, even interviewed on BBC Breakfast Television (twice!). I’d won the prestigious People’s Book Prize award and had a contract with Bookouture/Hachette to write 2 more romantic comedies… and… I was performing a stand-up gig around the Midlands, entitled, Smile While You Still Have Teeth to sell-out audiences.

Moving from one genre to another is a challenge. You learn skills and techniques while writing one genre that can’t be transferred to another and you have to treat the whole writing process in a completely different way. Where I had once written whatever came into my head and written larger than life, hilarious characters and scenarios, now I had to think up twists and devious red-herrings and imagine the mind of a killer. I had to plot my books carefully, research like mad and lose the humour!

Bold or not, it was the right move. LITTLE GIRL LOST shot up the charts to become the #2 best-selling on Amazon Kindle and even became a USA Top 150 Best-Seller. DI Robyn Carter was taken to my readers’ hearts and more books in the series were commissioned and written.

Earlier this month, I had the most incredible news – my crime novels had sold over 500,000 copies. I had to sit down. Half a million copies? How was that ever possible?

Having pinched myself several times, I checked the email again. It was true and I was astounded. It was beyond my wildest expectations and I felt a huge surge of gratitude to my publisher, to all of the reviewers, bloggers and friends who have helped promote my books and most of all to my readers.

I have always dreamed of selling million copies. I love entertaining people, whether that be by making them laugh, feel-good about themselves and life or by thrilling them and making their jaws drop. To know half a million people have read my books is amazing.

My sincere to all of you who have helped make this happen. THE DARE, the third book in the DI Natalie Ward detective series comes out in April. There’ll be two more after it and one further crime thriller to be written by the end of the year. I have plans for more after that and hope you will continue to read and enjoy my books. I have my fingers tightly crossed that one day in the near future I’ll be able to say I’ve attained my goal but until I hit that elusive one million sales, I am immensely satisfied with what I have achieved so far and can only say that crime definitely pays!

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How a Celebrity Pug Dog Stole My Book #pugs @canelo_co

Biggie Smalls.pngMy new release, WHAT HAPPENS IN FRANCE is out in 3 weeks. It’s a brand new romantic comedy that I can’t wait to unleash onto my readers.

I loved writing it – every single word, every character and every silly scene. I loved researching for it – getting onto gameshows (even though I felt a right idiot on some of them), travelling around France, collecting information about the country, and I even loved lying awake at night, conjuring up crazy games fit for It’s A Knockout and a gameshow that would be a delightful mixture of Big Brother meets Love Island meets I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

I wanted my readers to laugh uproariously at the antics in it and in the parts, shed tears and come away from the book uplifted and feeling that life is good. What I didn’t anticipate was for everyone to fall for a lesser character – a pug dog called Biggie Smalls!

Biggie has not won over every reader who received an ARC but my publishers Canelo, who were so enamoured by him, they had stickers featuring him made especially for a giveaway.

The idea of a media star pug came from an article about owners and their pugs. The feature showed the dogs dressed in various outrageous outfits and I wondered what it would be like to own a dog dressed like the notorious rapper, Biggie Smalls.

Biggie doesn’t play a huge role in What Happens in France but my goodness, he has stolen the show to a large extent. Even those who are not ‘dog people’ have been emailing me to say how much they like him.

It seems that in order to sell more books, I’m going to have to buy a real -life pug and dress him up in COOGIE jumpers and jewellery and parade him around bookstores because no matter how good the book is, and regardless of how much readers enjoy it… they’ll all remember it as the book about Biggie Smalls – the media star dog!

 

WHAT HAPPENS IN FRANCE  OUT 28TH JANUARY

“This delightful read is done with excellent pacing, thus showcasing the marvelous talents of this prolific author.” Robin Reads

“Wow, wow and double wow….What a fantastic, fun and beautifully written book this was”

 WHAT HAPPENS IN FRANCE is available to pre-order now for just £1.99 click HERE 

Video made by Inky Covers.

 

Do Giveaways Help Promote Books? #giveaway #writingadvice

Birthday promo 3I often see tweets “#RT for a #Giveaway” or similar, scrolling through my Twitter feed. It seems every day, authors are eagerly offering not just signed copies of their books, but other goodies to boost sales, sometimes even huge hampers of gifts, from £100 Amazon vouchers to promises of putting winner’s names into the next novel.

Most of us will have tried this. We’ve offered books, purchased out of our own pockets. We’ve signed them and posted them to far-flung places, again at our own cost, to those fortunate enough to win. Yet, how much does a giveaway influence a book’s performance?

We’d love to believe offering a signed copy of a book will garner interest in it, and those unlucky enough not to win your book will race off instead to purchase it.

Websites like Goodreads would also have you believe it is imperative to offer free books and run a giveaway campaign several weeks ahead of release. Some virtual book tour companies also advise you to offer free copies of your book to run alongside reviews, and bombard you with statistics of how many people read and respond to such posts.

Do giveaways sell more books?

After numerous giveaways held on various websites, I have had mixed results. Goodreads campaigns yielded no increase in sales, nor did I have much success offering giveaways on virtual tours or Rafflecopter prizes on blogs.

This might have been due to the timing or poor promotion on my part or simply not doing it properly,  but if you are considering doing a giveaway you should remember that a lot of people you attract are simply looking for freebies. They might or might not even read or review your book. They could well tell their friends how great it is, but the reality is you will spend a lot of your hard-earned money on promoting and the financial rewards are unlikely to outweigh the cost.

Are giveaways pointless?

In brief – no. They are a terrific marketing tool and success is not always based on number of book sales.  Much depends on your expectations. Gear your giveaway to create a social buzz, gain more followers on your social media platforms and increase your email or newsletter list, and all of those will eventually lead to sales. You are playing a long game and building up your author platform.

If you get your promo right, your name and book will get massive exposure, which is again great news. I learned recently, a reader needs to hear of and see a book about seven times before they click to buy. A promotion will increase those chances.

The key to a giveaway is to decide what you want out of it. If you are creating a name for yourself then they are worthwhile. If you are hoping for an immediate increase in book sales, be prepared to be disappointed. (Having said which, I know of authors who have had a spike after a big giveaway.)

The Internet is stuffed full of giveaways so target your promotion carefully. You need to be heard and stand out among other giveaways.

Results of recent giveaway.

My new thriller THE BIRTHDAY is due out on September 27th. Pre-sales have been decent but I wanted to raise interest prior to the actual release.

I offered two notebooks (see above) as prizes. I started my campaign Sunday afternoon because that seems to be a time when many people are online. I offered one notebook on Twitter for merely following me and retweeting. I offered a second book using my Facebook page for anyone sharing my post and commenting.

Given my goal was purely to raise awareness of the forthcoming release, I was pleased with the results.

My Facebook page post reached 1011 people and was shared 124 times.  The Twitter post received 2,080 impressions and was shared 104 times. In total, 3091 people saw the post and are aware of my book. I’m pretty happy with that. I can’t say if any will convert into sales but for now I’m satisfied to know THE BIRTHDAY has been paraded in front of these people and the icing on the cake is that before I ran the giveaway yesterday at 2 p.m. THE BIRTHDAY was at #630 in the UK Amazon charts. By 8 p.m. it had risen 250 positions to #380.

The giveaway runs until Thursday so you have time to win one of these fabulous notebooks. If you’d like to do so, pop along to my Twitter page and retweet the link here or my Facebook author page which you can find by clicking here