When a reader really connects with your book

I’m always incredibly thankful to readers of my books who leave reviews, but this one of The Fairy Lights really impressed me, as the reviewer totally understood some of the more subtle characterisation of my main character Aisling that I had threaded throughout the story. There are always layers to my plots, and if you’ve read my books you’ll know I like to leave some room for the reader to have their own interpretation of what’s really going on.

If there are any authors out there reading this post, I’m sure you’ll know that reviews are more geared towards other readers rather than directly intended for the author. But don’t you love it when you read a review of your book that really seems to get what your story is actually about? I’m not talking in an ego-flattering sense, but a way that shows how deeply they connected with your story.

Thanks to M.H for this lovely review on Amazon UK. I read every review of my books, and value them all, but I’m really blown away by this one as an amazing literary analysis of my story. Thank you!

How to price your books to attract readers

If you’re an Indie author, then you’ll know that depending on what stage of the publishing process you’re at, you’re going to have to adopt a different role: writer; editor; graphic designer; publicist; the list goes on. After your ebook and/or paperback and hardcover versions are ready to upload onto KDP, Draft2Digital, Ingramspark or whichever distributor you’re using, you’ll know it’s time to price your books. After all, as a sole trader, it’s up to you to do the job that a traditional publisher would do, supposing you had chosen that route. But, how to choose the right competitive price for your books? In this post, I want to share how I choose my prices, what I have learned from regular pricing and promotional pricing and my opinion on competitive pricing.

Look at other paperbacks in your genre

After searching around on Amazon and Waterstones, I discovered that the sweet spot for paperbacks in the genres I write (ghost horror and psychological literary fiction) tends to be around £8.99 for a 300 or so page book. This price works well for me, so I tend not to deviate too far from it. What price would work well for your genre?

How much would you spend on eBooks?

As a starting point for pricing my eBooks, I thought about how much I would pay as a consumer. I’m a subscriber of Kindle Unlimited, always having nine books on the go, but in terms of buying eBooks outright, the maximum I have ever spent is £1.99 – both on authors I love and new authors I haven’t read before. Based on my own purchasing limit, I tend to price my own books at around £1.99; this is enough to earn 70% royalties on KDP, but not priced highly enough to put off new readers wanting to try my writing and to sample me, as a new author for them. From my experience of tinkering around with higher prices, and lower ones through £0.99 sales, I’ve found that £1.99 seems to sell the most copies. What balance – between reaping the highest royalties and making the most sales – would work for you?

Shouldn’t I sell my ebook at a higher price? I deserve to be paid highly for my work.

This is true. I’m an Indie author too, so believe me I know how long it takes to write, edit and polish a book: months can turn into many, many years. Authors should be paid for their hard work – and the many hours of entertainment they give to readers. However, I’ve learned that the goal for now is to get my books in front of readers. To do that, I have to take off my writing hat and stick on my marketing one (a black Halloween witch hat with green trim, fyi – hey, I’m a horror writer after all). Isn’t it better to sell 100 books at £1.99 because readers are willing to take a chance on an author they don’t know, rather than selling only 10 or 20 books at £4.99 because your book is too expensive for them to take the risk on trying someone new? If you’ve already got a readership and/or a huge newsletter mailing list then, of course, you can set whatever price you’d like. Congrats too if that’s the case, btw. For a mere mortal like me in the writing world, it’s business as usual and so setting a competitive price helps gain new readers. I want to attract readers who will hopefully keep coming back to read more of my books; or buy from my back catalogue.

But doesn’t it put readers off if my book is too cheap as they’ll think it’s worthless?

Not necessarily. Readers love a bargain. If you set your eBook at say, £0.86/$0.99, your royalties from KDP will only be 35%, but you will be making your book available to a much wider range of potential readers. Books don’t sell themselves, mind you, so you’ll need to place ads if you drop your regular price to a promotional one: I have had some success with Bargain Booksy and the Fussy Librarian when I run discount promotions – and lots of success through Amazon ads. If your book is listed in Kindle Unlimited, KDP allow you to set your book for free or on a promotional price for 5 days in every subscription period. I have definitely had success by dropping my books to 99 cents and running ads for 5 day promos. Many best-selling ebooks are often either perma-priced at $0.99 or periodically reduced on promo discounts; if it works for big name authors, why not the rest of us too?

The takeaway?

Long-term thinking that spans my author career as a whole is more valuable than thinking of making the maximum amount of cash off my latest published book in the here and now. I find that pricing books in a low ‘sweet spot’ where I can still reap 70% royalties from KDP, yet still entice new readers, is more beneficial both financially and in terms of widening my readership than trying to gain the maximum royalties per sale. Chances are, some of those new readers will stick around for future books, making it a longer term investment towards all of my books than a quick, short-term reward, in any event. At least, here’s hoping. I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, so only time will tell if the pricing strategies I’m currently using will work in the long term. But for now, my results have been pretty decent on the whole. I’m happy with the sales I’m making and the kindle reads I’m having, and at the end of the day, my goal is to get people reading my work, not to think only in monetary terms.

What do you think about all of this? Feel free to share your thoughts, or any other strategies that work for you. After all, writing and selling books is a lifelong learning journey!

Which is best: strong protagonists or flawed characters in fiction?

I had an interesting conversation with some bookish friends the other day about books we’re currently reading and we got onto the topic of how new books that we have recently read tended to have strong main characters, often ‘perfect’ or tough protagonists who can handle anything thrown at them. It was something that, admittedly, I hadn’t given much thought too beforehand, even as an author. Once I started thinking of this topic, it occurred to me that more often than not on social media lately, I had seen authors displaying their books with arrows and advertising labels such as “strong female lead”. It got me thinking about a few things, from a writing point of view, regarding protagonists in fiction, which inspired my blog post today.

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Manuscript drafting: on reaching the 40k benchmark

Last week I finally reached 40,865 words on novel wip #6 after one year of working on this manuscript. This draft will become Book 3 of my Belfast Ghosts Series alongside Book 1: The Blue Man and Book 2: The Fairy Lights, and will complete the trilogy.

Why do I consider 40k words a benchmark? Simply because after this point in a draft, a MS reaches novel territory and is no longer in novella range.

Out of the trilogy, I’m finding this manuscript draft the hardest to write. Normally I find writing the easiest, editing harder and marketing hardest, but this manuscript requires much more historical research than The Blue Man and The Fairy Lights and the medieval sources are scant at best. I may have to arrange an archaeological field trip for myself soon as the latter half of my book will involve much more action and although it’s a ghost horror, not a historical novel, I want the historical aspects to ring true.

But, enough spoilers for now. I’ll be sharing the blurb and other promotional teasers before too long. My short-term goal for this year is to have the draft finished by summer so that I can pass it over to my editor and proofreader for checks. Will I manage my goal of publication by October? Let’s see…

Promotional videos of my books with thanks to Amanda Sheridan

Many thanks to fellow Indie author and fantastic psychological suspense writer, Amanda Sheridan for these amazing book promotion videos.

Here’s a video for The Fairy Lights.

And here’s a video for The Blue Man.

Amanda also designed some book promotional posters for my books too. Here’s one for The Fairy Lights.

And one for The Blue Man.

Amanda is the author of the fabulous Rapid Eye Movement trilogy.

I read all three of her books last year, and have to say, it’s a page-turning trilogy that centres around remote viewing, a subject that makes for a fascinating and unique plot. Amanda is currently working on a new book, which she’ll hopefully have more updates about soon.

In the News! Interview in Sunday World

Many thanks to Roisin Gorman at Sunday World for this amazing interview about my Belfast Ghosts Series books 1 and 2, The Blue Man and The Fairy Lights and my plans for future horror books.

This amazing article came out on Sunday 27 November when I was ill with covid. Unfortunately I was housebound that day and unable to go to the local shop to buy a copy, so I’m especially grateful to Roisin for sending an electronic version.

I’m currently working on book 3 in the series, and I’m now over the 40,000 word milestone-marker of what constitutes a novel. This means I’m just over halfway. If all goes to plan, I’m hoping to crack on and have the draft done before summer, so that my editor and proofreader can go through it. My aim is for this third and final installment of the Belfast Ghosts series to be published by October 2023.

Wish me luck!

Which do I recommend? Traditional, hybrid or self-publishing?

I’m writing this as a follow up to my blog post in February 2021 about my experience of traditional, hybrid and self-publishing. Back then, I hadn’t yet set up my own publishing imprint as a sole trader; in other words I hadn’t yet started my Indie publishing journey, with the exception of a couple of poetry chapbooks that I had printed myself to sell at open mic events. Much has changed since then, including my opinion. In this updated post, I want to compare all three options in terms of costs versus royalties so that aspiring writers can make a decision about what might be best for their own career.

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Writers write – stories are no good stuck in an author’s head

Happy New Year! 2023 is upon us and a fresh new year is a blank writing pad, or a blank first page in a Word document, to a writer.

As I always do at the start of a new year, I reflect and then assess. I have so many ideas for books I want to write – but deciding which one to prioritise is the trickier part.

Stories are no good stuck in a writer’s head. It’s better to have a first draft out than to be pondering an idea. Jotting down an overview to write later is a step in the right direction, or a chapter plan is even better. My goal for 2023 is to keep up the pace with my writing. I published two novels in 2022 and hope to keep up my output of at least one novel a year as a bare minimum.

Why? Mainly because if I don’t get my stories written down then they’re at risk of never seeing the light of day. It’s a bit similar to my to-be-read list; often I have a pile of books that I’ve bought, but not yet started, and then I buy more. The chances of some in the pile never getting read increases each time I do this. It’s the same for my novel ideas. I have a notebook of ideas with some from as far back as 2009 and I really need to start whittling it away, or a few may never get written. Of course, I always prioritise the ideas that grab me the most at any given time – The Fairy Lights, for example, was an idea I came up with in December 2021, wrote within six months and published in November 2022. I can imagine all my other story ideas sitting in that notebook for over a decade, shaking their papery fists in a jealous rage at my fourth novel for usurping them. Yet, it was the story that I was most excited about at that time, so I went with it.

What’s the goal of this post? Mainly to say that you can expect to hear about more completed novels from me in 2023 – or at least, it’s an expectation I have for myself. I hold myself to quite high standards. Let’s see how this pans out!

January sales! 99p eBooks this week only

Happy New Year! To celebrate 2023, Books 1 and 2 in my Belfast Ghosts Series are only 99p between 2nd and 9th January. Yep, you heard that right; if you haven’t read The Blue Man or The Fairy Lights, why not kick off the new year with some ghost horror?

Speaking of my Belfast Ghosts Series, I’m still working on Book 3, which will complete the trilogy. I’ve been somewhat delayed, what with illness between October to December last year, but I’m hoping that my health will be better in 2023. I’ll be posting more updates about this, which I’m aiming to have ready by autumn 2023. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, hope you enjoy Books 1 and 2 above, and please do leave a rating or review if they make an impression on you. It really helps them to find new readers like you, and is also very much appreciated by me as the author.

A New Year’s Eve literary reflection of 2022

Wow, is it really Old Year’s Night? What a year it has been. Overall I’d say it was a good one for me, in literary terms, if not the best health-wise (see my last blog post about that). Without further ado, here’s my wrap-up for 2022.

1. I published 4 books this year

Yep, two poetry books and two novels; pretty productive even if I say so myself. Poetry first with The Redundancy of Tautology on 15 June, followed by my third novel The Blue Man on 29 July, poetry collection A Model Archaeologist on 16 August and fourth novel The Fairy Lights on 10 November.

2. Two of my books got onto bestseller lists

I never expected to have a book on an Amazon bestsellers list, never mind to stay in the top 10 for 8 days in a row, but The Blue Man did just that. At its peak, it also reached 2113 out of the many millions of eBooks in the Kindle store.

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