Friday, October 9, 2015

New author biography

Most writers would consider themselves skilled at describing a person, but when it comes down to writing an author biography, it is suddenly difficult to decide what's important and what isn't. We are not used to writing about ourselves, especially not in the third person. 
Do you stick to the cold hard (boring?) facts or do you add something more personal?
I had a go at writing an author biography the other day and to my surprise, enjoyed it. I even found out about the correct spelling and original meaning of the word mother lode.
Then I thought about my love of Italy and how that rubbed off in my writing in Tom's character, and I got distracted wondering how many types of pasta I could name from the top of my head. (Oh, the writer's brain, it's so marvelous and so irritating...)

Despite all of these distractions, I managed to finish my author biography. Here it is, without further ado:

Annie loves coffee with a mother load mother lode of milkfroth on top, she loves the scent of the native bush that surrounds her home in the hills in South Canterbury/New Zealand, and anything Italian, especially the food and the language, will delight her.

Not surprisingly, her main character Tom happens to be a great cook of Italian dishes and can correctly identify and pronounce nine different types of pasta. (How many can you list?)
Being an eternal romantic, Annie loves writing the type of novels that she loves to read – love stories that make you laugh and cry, love stories that make you pine for and cheer alongside your main characters as they negotiate their way through the ups and downs of new, old and second-chance love. Her favourite characters are ones that are strong and independent, but when their flaws and vulnerabilities are exposed, they have to suffer so much more than others.

Annie shares her home with her not-so-romantic husband (she doesn’t hold that against him any longer) and their teenage daughter as well as a bunch of pets: two dogs, two cats, one noisy African Grey parrot and a couple of donkeys.

During the day, Annie is lucky to be teaching a class of nine and ten year olds the joys of reading and writing as well as all the other exciting subjects in primary school. Depending on the time of day, you might see her wearing an apron while cutting up fruit for the children, an art shirt while having a go at printmaking (one of the many benefits of being a teacher – you get to do all the fun stuff you used to do when you were at school) or some weird book character costume during a special book week.

In the evenings, weekends and school holidays, you will find her sitting at her laptop, looking out the window, thinking, and typing. 

If you want to find out more about Annie’s books or want to compare your pasta list with Tom’s, please get in touch.  She’d love to hear from you.

What do you think? 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Relaunching your book with a new cover

A year ago, I published "Teaching Tori" with a book cover that I liked a lot. But has the cover helped sell the book? And would I have to get a new cover to go with the book's sequel, "Teaching Tom"?

In brief, the answer to the questions are: 1. No, 2. Yes.

This is the book cover of "Teaching Tori" as I had it since its launch in July 2014.

I really liked this cover because of its colour scheme, the font and the girl. The landscape of Central Otago in the background plays an important part in this story, so I was very happy to have it as part of the book cover. I liked the font too.

One year on, I'm not so sure any more.
The girl looks a bit squashed under the title bar, the colours are rather flat, but most of all, the cover doesn't convey what type of genre this is.

Apparently, romance novels are among the best selling books on kindle, but mine certainly isn't. (Actually, I'll be honest with you - this is how many books I've sold last month: 0)
Could it be that my book cover does not attract the millions of romance readers out there?

So I set out to create a new cover for "Teaching Tori" (along with a matching one for "Teaching Tom", my sequel due to be published later this year). Most importantly, the new cover should convey that this is a love story to increase my slice (actually, I'll even take a crumb) of that lucrative romance market.

After reading hundreds of blog posts on the importance of book cover design, I launched a book cover design competition on a website called designcrowd.

So how does it work?
After creating an account, you launch a project by writing a brief and deciding on a budget. You can choose between payment guaranteed projects, or money back projects. If you go for payment guaranteed, you should get more designs submitted because someone will, eventually, win your competition and get paid. There is a bigger incentive for designers to work hard for you if they know that someone's design will be picked.

To make things easier for the designers and to get the look of the characters I wanted, I purchased stockphotos of a couple of people who I thought might look like Tom and Tori. (Hint: pick your stockphoto before you even start writing your book, or else you'll never find a picture of someone who matches the picture in your head!).
Anyway, I found a photo of a guy with pretty blue eyes (just like Tom's) who looked a bit lost, and bought the photo, along with a couple of background pictures that I liked as well.

After setting a timeframe, you launch your project and wait until the first design suggestions come in. This is the exciting part! You can communicate with the designers by giving them feedback and making suggestions for improvements.
Soon you'll find yourself swamped with designs and confused as to which one to choose. This is when you need to launch a poll after selecting your favourite designs, and send the link to as many people as possible, or share it on social media.
Then you will get even more confused because the design you love the most gets anything from a one star to a five star vote...
What I found most helpful though were the individual comments most people left after voting. This gave me a really good insight into how people reacted to a potential design.

There were two clear favourites in the design competition right from the start, and I ended up choosing the one that matched my brief more.

So is the new "Teaching Tori" cover:

I like the fact that the girl and the landscape remain the same, but with a clear 'luv is in the air' font and colour. I'm glad the 'bar' is lost and Tori can breathe more freely now.

I've uploaded the new book cover onto kindle a week ago, and my question now is whether changing your book cover alone will make a difference in book sales.

I will keep you updated on my experience with this change of cover.

In the meantime, what attracts you to buying a book from an unknown author? Would the cover make a difference? Or do you go by the book description or reviews?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Teaching Tori - One year on...

A year ago, I secretly published my novel "Teaching Tori".
After clicking 'publish' on the Amazon interface, I didn't tell anyone for a week (apart from my husband and my daughter).
Would I do this again for my second novel? What have I learned over this past year?

Writing came to me by accident. It isn't something I've always wanted to do, and it isn't something that I have to do, unlike other writers who feel like part of them is missing when they don't write.
So when I started writing, it was all very new and personal to me.
Only my closest family members and a couple of friends knew about this new hobby of mine. In hindsight, it seems a bit strange to be secretive about it, but at the time, I didn't have the confidence in my writing nor the desire to tell people about it.
So clicking 'publish' on that day a year ago wasn't only about finally achieving what I had worked so hard for, it was also about 'coming out' as a writer.

I had to go through it in stages to get comfortable about it:

  1. First, I published the book and just let it sit in cyberspace for a week. Not surprisingly, nobody bought my book! I proved that if you publish a book and don't tell anyone about it, nobody will buy it. (Yes, this had to be proven because until then, I thought that people might accidentally come across it on Amazon.)
  2. After a week, I told my family and friends here in New Zealand and overseas. I sold my first few books and got some good reviews. This was nervewracking in itself, even though these were the people who already knew me and supported me no matter what.
  3. After yet another week, I finally felt confident enough to announce the arrival of "Teaching Tori" to the world. Surely now that I had posted it on Twitter and announced it on Facebook, people would flock to Amazon, unable to hold off buying and reading my book?

Reality of course was different. I sold a few more books to other people who knew me from my online presence, but sales were slow and reviews dripped in even more slowly.
It took a while to sink in (or maybe I just didn't want to face the truth!) that every single blog post, every single bit of advice on promotion, every single word that I had read while slaving away writing my novel had been true, I just didn't want to listen because I focused so hard on my writing: Writing the book is the easy part. Promoting it is so much harder.
So I tried a free promotion which resulted in 650 downloads and one review. I read thousands of words on book promotion, but didn't actually do much about it. Where to start? What to do? How much to pay for advertising? Too many decision to make while also working full-time, drafting my second novel and going through the nightmare of building a house.
So I did what I thought was the best use of my time - write my next book (while still constantly
thinking about what else I could do, and driving myself mad in the process!)

What have I learned since clicking that 'publish' button a year ago?
It is easy to say now that I should have organised a proper book launch and promoted myself and my book prior to publishing it. Reality is, I wasn't ready or comfortable with that idea. This year has been a huge learning curve and I have grown so much in confidence in my own writing that I am now quite happy being out there in the big wide world for everyone to see.
That doesn't mean that I'm not thinking very carefully about my next book. I have learned from the frustration and lack of promotion of "Teaching Tori" and will do things differently for my sequel "Teaching Tom".

But that's the topic of a whole new post. Time to sit down and have a celebratory cup of coffee (it is too early in the day for anything else).

Happy Birthday Teaching Tori! Maybe you grow into a beautiful established book with thousands of happy readers (and a little brother coming soon....)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Back up, or back out!

You're a writer who takes his/her writing serious, whether you're a full-time author or a hobby writer.
You diligently back up your writing because you understand that no writer should be so stupid/reckless/naive/ ....... (fill in your own adjective) and not back up the words they sweated blood and tears for.

But then...

You realise that the back up system you have created over the last couple of years is in fact useless when your USB flash drive gives up the ghost and only produces gobbledigook.
You are incredulous about how you could have been so ........(fill in above adjective) and rely on a cheap old USB drive to keep your 71,000 words of your newest WIP safe?

Welcome to my world!

And, just before you shake your head in disbelief, I don't consider myself naive, ........(fill in the adjective), or under the illusion that my USB stick is indestructible.
I regularly backed up my ywriter project by sending the file into the cloud. But what I stupidly didn't back up were all the folders that ywriter needs to put the project together.
And that's why I recently had to fork out over $250 to send the USB drive to a data recovery specialist in Auckland. I didn't want to risk damaging the corrupted drive further with a DIY-approach to recovery, and opted to go with the professionals.

So, whether you are a fledgling writer like my teenage daughter who likes to write fanfiction, or a highly successful author with a bank account to show for it and a ton of books published, please back up your work. And check that your back-up is actually valid and functioning.

Because if you don't back up, you might as well back out of writing.
Go check that cloud.
Or that drive.


(End of lecture)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How did you come to writing?

Does that title sound strange?

It does to me, because the more obvious title would be "How did you become a writer?"

To me, those two things are not the same. Becoming a writer is when you  know, over time, or in some cases, maybe suddenly, that you are a writer. That it is what you want to do, or what you have to do.
But coming to writing is different, almost like stumbling across it by chance, like it is thanks to a coincidence or maybe luck that you've discovered that you are a writer.
And that's what I want to share with you today. How I came to writing by chance.

A few years ago, a successful homegrown TV show called Outrageous Fortune aired here in New Zealand over a number of years. It was one of the most successful shows produced in New Zealand and got a huge fanbase over the years. A total of six series was produced, with the final sixth series airing in 2010.

A serious cliffhanger at the end of series five left the audience gasping with their mouths open, just like Cheryl West, the main character, did after smashing a bottle over a cop's head. In the last screenshot, the cop pointed the gun at Cheryl and shots were fired.
A collective gasp went across the country  - did Cheryl survive? How could she possibly have survived? How could the show go on without Cheryl?

After speculating for weeks like so many other fans, I took to my keyboard and wrote the first of many instalments with my own version of what happened to Cheryl West.

Back then, I'd never heard of fan fiction, didn't even know such a thing existed. But after my first post on the Outrageous Fortune forum, I received many comments with encouragement and feedback, and so I carried on with my own version of what happened to Cheryl.

My fan fiction centred around Cheryl and Judd, the couple whose relationship so captured my heart to the point where I'd written 75000 words by the end of my "epic in instalments", which happened to finish just in time for the start of series 6.

It was during those months of writing for such a captive and positive audience (maybe they were just desperate for any OF fix) that I came to writing. I didn't become a writer, but I came to writing on a daily basis, something I had never done before.

It was a long road from coming to writing to becoming a writer (that's quite a mouthful!) and some of what I wrote back then now feels quite basic, but it was the start. A seed had been planted.

And eventually I moved on from Cheryl and Judd, and my own characters started to form in my head: Tori and Tom.

How did you come to writing? Is it something you've always done, or did you stumble across it like I did?