Well I never! Having, for the last few days, had my nose buried in what has come to be known by me as my ‘fairly-soon-to-be-published’ latest novel, I go to my emails and pick up a message from Amazon Accounts Payable – A Royalty Payment Notification!
Clicking through I see a sudden spike in ebook sales (actual sales!) of my first novel, The Silver Locket (written under a pen name, because I was too shy at the time to use my actual name).
I’m not sure what shameless self-publicity I ventured to put out a month ago, because I’m not very good at this. I believe I did mention on Twitter that it was the seventh anniversary of its publication. Anyway…
I don’t know who you all are, but thank you for buying… and reading? I wonder if you enjoyed it? Hope so.
Okay, it won’t be a fortune, but it’s nice people have found it! And if you haven’t seen it, why not take a little peek? Perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon, or maybe Monday, since it’s (mostly) a holiday.
This article gave me a little prod of encouragement when it comes to marketing. I’m clearly not putting enough energy into my efforts and I need to re-double this for my forthcoming novel ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.
I know a couple of folk who are up for #PitMad tomorrow – good luck to you guys!
Here’s some useful advice should anyone be considering entering a future contest, plus a bit about the etiquette on how to respond to people’s pitches on Twitter.
If you’re a writer on Twitter, every now and then your feed is going to blow up with book blurbs for a day. If you’re wondering what the heck is going on, the answer is…a pitch party. This is an event where writers share a one-tweet length description of a completed book, in hopes of attracting an agent or publisher.
I’m not pitching..what do I do!?
It may sound counter-intuitive, but DO NOT LIKE PITCH PARTY POSTS. Agents and industry professionals use the like button to indicate interest in a pitch. YOU, as a friend, should show your support with comments and retweets ONLY. Re-tweeting raises the post’s visibility, and it becomes more likely to catch an agent’s eye. It’s also a great way to make new friends and build your following.
The building stands proud and prominent on a history-dense corner in the commercial district of the Big City. Not a member of a countrywide chain in a modern mall, this proudly independent book store has character. The floors are wood and mosaic and a rickety stairway leads down to the basement (children’s books and non-fiction, coffee and cake).
The author enters. Staff members are all busy with the stock. She peruses the shelves studiously. Virtually all of the fiction they carry is literary fiction. There is no ‘populist’ or mass-market stuff. Actually, these are the books which the author likes to read.
Awesome company surrounds her.
She ventures downstairs. The children’s books are for early middle grade and below. No YA at all. The coffee smells good and there are lots of comfy seats. A couple of students are chatting quietly and, at a rough wooden table, two women are deep in conversation over a laptop and a sheaf of closely typed pages.
The author sits down with a coffee and a rather dusty chocolate brownie. She selects a literary magazine from the low table in front of her and listens in to the two women. Eaves-dropping is second nature to an author, after all.
They are discussing which new books they are going to take for the store!
Dare she disturb them?
She thinks about the Margaret Atwoods and the Zadie Smiths upstairs. The beautiful book covers with their multiple reviews and recommendations. She hears them reject the latest Alan Titchmarsh.
She is intimidated.
She buries her head in the literary magazine. Time passes. She listens and ‘people watches’. For a Monday afternoon there are a surprising number of customers. She pigeon-holes them for future reference.
Finally, the two women finish their meeting and go upstairs. The author abandons the remains of the brownie; her mouth is dry enough as it is. She takes a deep breath, then takes the stairs.
One of the women is leaving, but the other smiles at her from behind the desk. The author approaches and enquires in general terms about the store’s purchasing policy. What the owner has to say is interesting, but not exactly encouraging. She explains how they know their purchasing clientele and what will sell in their store.
And here it comes. The woman’s guessed what’s she’s really asking. The author owns up and bravely tells her about her book.
The owner is very pleasant. She explains that they select less than one percent of Indie Authors’ work each year. Anything they do pick has to have a local ‘buzz’ about it. The author’s novel clearly doesn’t fit.
The woman is kind. Another might…one day.
The author reflects. It would be nice to have her book in a bricks and mortar store. But one book, amongst all these… and in just one store..?
So, this writer walks into a book store. She has a mooch about; she knows the store well. She often comes in, to browse (books are so expensive). It’s one of the largest book selling chains in the country. Nicely fitted out, and the staff are always friendly. It must be nice to work in a book store, surrounded by all those lovely books.
The writer picks up the latest copy of The Artist magazine. She’s written a few articles on behalf of clients which have been published in this particular periodical. Not that the artists get paid – it’s for their publicity. Nor does she get a mention, but at least the clients pay for her time. She has an idea for another of her clients.
But that’s not why she came today.
Clutching the magazine, she approaches the desk. One of the assistants intercepts her. “Can I help you?”
She takes a deep breath. “Can I just ask you..?”
The assistant smiles encouragingly. He’s a nice-look young man; intelligent, open-faced.
“Can I just ask you if the store supports Indie Authors?” (There, she said it).
The assistant smiles kindly; a little apologetically. “No, no, never. It’s all done by Head Office…with the publishers, you know.” He pauses. “There was this one time though…”
“Go on,” the author says, leaning forward, as if some major confidence might be shared; some key to unlock…
The assistant is speaking. “The lady’s books were selling very well. There was a lot of publicity. She was selling her books out of the boot of her car.” He shakes his head. “It was a bit greedy really. You know, on the part of the store. They realised they could make money out of her. It didn’t last long.”
The author nods. “So you have to be popular first?”
The assistant nods and smiles sympathetically (pityingly?)
The author nods. “I’ll just pay for this then.” (At least she asked. The ground didn’t swallow her up). She leaves the book store, head held high.
When 23 year old Lucy is given a beautiful ruby necklace by Pierre, a gorgeous man she’s only just met in a Liverpool nightclub, her humdrum life is changed forever. But the ruby is more than just an expensive jewel, and Albie Chan, the sinister Triad boss, is determined to have it for himself, forcing Pierre and Lucy to flee the city.
Meanwhile, Lucy’s best friend and flat mate, Gina, has been tracking down the father whom she never knew. Now Godrell Clark, once a sailor from Jamaica who was part of the Liverpool jazz scene in the sixties, finds his past is catching up with him fast, all the way to Kingston, Jamaica.
But there is an even greater prize than the ruby, and passions run high when a mysterious little jade statue turns up in a pile of boxes belonging to the upstairs tenants in Lucy and Gina’s rented house.
Lucy is snatched by Chan and Pierre faces an impossible choice: obtain the statue for Chan and gain Lucy’s freedom, or hand it over his one-time guardian and employer, the mysterious Aurora, to whom he owes his freedom from his brutal childhood.
So, you know what this is? It’s my long-sweated over first attempt at a blurb for my recently-completed novel. I’m not entirely happy with it, but I’ve stared at it long enough!
Some of you may have read the story (or bits of it) as a work in progress last year, so you’ll have an idea of the story. Others won’t, and you’re coming to it cold.
Would you buy on the strength of the pitch?
Would you at least ‘download it for a dollar’?
Writerly friends, please would you care to give me some feedback? Constructive criticism really is most welcome.
I smile as I watch my mother play with my little brother Tommy on the hearth-rug. My father sits in his chair, still but alert. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I detect a movement in the yard. I turn to look. Soldiers, four of them! By the way they are dressed, I know them instantly as ‘the enemy’. My father has followed my gaze as I gasp in fright and immediately he’s on his feet, sweeping up Tommy in the same movement and shoving him in my direction.
‘You know what to do Annie,’ he says quietly. He nods urgently at me and I grab Tommy’s hand and propel him through the kitchen. I look through the window, checking our route to the barn. It’s clear, so I open the door and we slide through and dash into the slatted wooden building. Behind us, I hear the soldiers hammering on the front door, shouting.
Although Tommy’s only little he knows what to do. Just as we’ve practiced so many times in recent months, I help him up the ladder to the hayloft. He doesn’t make a sound as we creep across the creaky boards and hide ourselves in the straw behind the loosely baled hay. We lie there, waiting. We haven’t practised what happens next. Then I hear a scream; I know it’s my mother, although the sound is like none I’ve ever heard her make. Her pain and terror flood my head. I grip Tommy tightly; he’s trembling and sobbing silently. The minutes tick by; I wonder what’s happening in the house. My father is shouting, but I can’t make out what he’s saying. The shouting stops abruptly and I hear the back door slam against the outside wall of the kitchen.
Heavy boots march towards the barn; I bite down hard on my knuckles. A cold fist contorts my stomach as I suddenly realise I forgot to drag the ladder up behind us. I hear the soldier’s heavy breathing down below. He’s pulling things over, searching. He approaches the ladder and in my mind’s eye I see him grab the ladder and place his boot on the first rung. Sweat runs down my back. Tommy is rigid in my arms.
There is a loud call from the house: ‘Move on!’ I hear the sound of the ladder clattering to the floor. It settles and there is no sound apart from the blood pumping in my ears. Slowly I get up, my legs are shaking. I grab the rail at the edge of the loft and feel for the rope which we use as a swing when it’s too wet to play outside. Telling Tommy to stay where his is, I let myself down and run quickly towards the back door which is gaping off its hinges.
Inside the house furniture has been overturned and one curtain has been ripped from the window. My mother cowers in a corner. Her blouse is torn and there is blood on her skirt. Father’s face is bruised and bloody. He reaches for her, but she turns her face to the wall.
That was the first piece from ‘A Sextet of Shorts’, my little book of short fiction pieces.
‘Sextet’ is currently available to download on your Kindle for $0.99 / €0.99 / £0.99 and other currency equivalents (+VAT) until midnight on 01.01.19.
And, since it’s the holidays, if you’d like a freebie, I will arrange to gift a download to the first 10 people who respond in the comments section below!