Monday, 28 April 2014

The benefits of reading a bad book...

The benefits of reading a bad book...

I have been thinking about reviews as in a recent writing group one of the writers referred to the horror of receiving a one star review. I wanted to say that it happens, but I didn't and since then I have been mulling over this  'review' society that we now live in.  Recently I  read three books that have annoyed and bored me. At first I thought of all the hours I had wasted reading them. Then I remembered the benefits of reading a bad book. Years ago I read a best seller and I found the book so dull and annoying that I realised that all reviews are subjective. It was one of the first incidents in my life that made me believe in myself and it gave me the courage to pick up a pen and write a book.

But this notion of bad reviews is something that plagues all writers. Unless you already have the skin of a Rhino. Whilst I have read some reviews saying how well my first book was written, I have read others saying it was badly written. I myself, have mixed feelings about my first book- after all it was just that - a first book. I discussed this with H and surprisingly he was supportive. 'Would you rather not have published Goa Traffic'  he asked?  It was the right question. If you regularly read this blog you will know that publishing that book has taught me so much I would never regret publishing it. He then went on to remind me about how impatient I was when I did publish it. It kind of ruined the moment. But it made me think of my options. I have self published so I could remove it from public consumption and rework it before publishing it again. However, I see that as going back when all I want to do is move forward and the majority of reviews have been positive and it's selling well. In fact it's funding this writing hobby/sideline that I have going and I am hoping to put some of the profits back into various charities in Goa.  I have a full time job and other books to work on and perfect - will going over my first book  be any use? And if I do do that what am I saying to people who have read it and enjoyed it? Your review is not good enough? I don't like the idea of that! The only downside of not going back to make your work the best that you can, is the fear that it may put some readers off any future work. I've been wondering about this but I have come to this conclusion: In my opinion every author has a voice. An individual voice. Readers will like this or not. If they are unsure they may try a second book of yours. If they hate it they probably wont like much of your work even if you go back and change it because they don't like your voice/style. Yes my first book was littered with 'head hopping' and other no-no's that give writers nightmares, but that was me then. Will I always be judged by my first book? Maybe but then again maybe not. My current work in progress is very different to my first novel and they may be easier to read because of the realisations I have made along the way, but has my voice/style changed? I doubt it - underneath it all - my novels are still just my stories!

I do think that whatever you publish you should be proud to put your name to. But that pride can fade with time. Now, I am proud of The Bittersweet Vine - I have more confidence with this book but what happens in two years time when my writing improves further (because lets face it honing your writing skills is an on-going process)  and I am no longer as proud of it as I am now. Do I change my name and start again?

All authors will know we are our own worst critics. Art is subjective. If someone loves your work then chances are that someone will hate it also! As an author you have to accept that there will be some great reviews and some not so great reviews. To prove my point have a look on Amazon at some of your favourite reads. I can almost guarantee you that they will have received bad reviews as well as good. Don't even get me started on some of my favourite reads which have an average of 3 *'s when they blatantly deserve a 5! I guess as a writer or any artist for that matter you just have to take the rough with the smooth !

Monday, 14 April 2014

In a Nutshell - Social Media for Authors

In a Nutshell – Social Media for Authors

As an author I like nothing more than completing a book and starting on the next. Yes I am concerned with sales of my existing books (Goa Traffic and The Bittersweet Vine) but do I want to put time into promoting them? The honest answer is no. I don’t. I find it all rather laborious. All I want to do is sit down and start writing my next book.

If you are an author (Trad or Self Published) you may feel the same. There are two ends of the spectrum: If you are lucky enough to be published by a large publishing house with a large marketing budget behind you then hurrah for you they will probably do most of this for you. Or at least set you up with a webpage, twitter account etc. They will retweet, like and share your posts and ensure you have a following. If you are self published and have done everything from choosing the book cover to getting it on the correct distribution channels, at this point you will  be responsible for getting your own web page up and running, along with your twitter account and Facebook page and no one will tell you about this or give you any support or guidance. It's tough and you have to do it yourself. In the middle of this spectrum are the smaller publishing houses which will do the hard work of getting your book into print and will advise you on what to do to get yourself out there but they wont do much for you. They will just expect you to do it yourself. 

Since publishing Goa Traffic myself  and having The Bittersweet Vine published by Thames River Press I have realised the importance of social media. Over the last three years through reading, experiencing and trial and errorI have picked up a few bits and pieces. I am no expert, but what I have learned I am going to share with you.   There are several reasons you have to get involved with social media.   They are

1 – Creating brand awareness for your pen name
2 – Publicity for your book- which ultimately may lead to sales
3 – Increasing the chances of word of mouth publicity – which is the best and cheapest publicity out there
4 – Social media is the cheapest form of advertising there is (or so I think! This does not include any money you attribute to your time! Because, like writing a  novel it will take time)

It is for these reasons above that I use Social Media (SM). Now there are a gazillion forms of social media you can use but my comments only relate to the ones I use below as I have no experience on the others. They are:

Blog – If you are reading this blog then you are probably familiar with this. It's like an on-line journal
Facebook – Here you can have an author profile/fan page. If people like your page – when you update this page i.e book signing at Waterstones, this will come up on the news page of anyone who likes your page. You can do giveaways, reviews, post pictures etc.
Twitter  - Here you can have an author profile. Tweet (Tell people what you are up to, share links to good sites and share pictures with a public audience)
Good Reads – A book review site where you put the books you have read or are going to read on virtual shelves. Here you can have an author profile linked to your books, conduct book giveaways join forums and groups all about books. 
Pinterest – It’s all about pictures and visuals. You create a profile and virtual pin boards where you pin pictures that you like to boards. I have a writing board, a book marketing board, a Goa Traffic Board, and author board.
Google Plus – A bit like Facebook you can have a public profile and add people to your circles, share writing tips and news stories.
Linked in – A professional networking site. This site has some great groups that you can join for authors. I have had the most engagement and blog views from this site even though I rarely use it.

Other sites I am looking to use are:

Shelfari – Like Good Reads as above
You Tube – Post videos of a reading of your book or an author interview.

So where do you start? Well this Blog post will give you a flavour for improving your social media presence, skills but it wont give you the basics of how to set up an account etc. To do this have a look at various ‘for dummies’ books or cheaper e-books or Google it. Nicola Morgans’ ‘Tweet Right’ e-book is fantastic and targeted at authors as well.

Once you are set up on one or more of the above you can't let your accounts gather virtual dust. You need to utilise them to your advantage and to do this I have summarised my key findings and tips below:

  • ·         Who are your social media supporters? Okay so you've sent a tweet, put a post on Facebook (FB). Who retweets (RT) you? Who likes or shares your status update? Know who these people are and return the favour. Listen to what they have to say. Also target them. If its something specific they support about you make sure they get your messages because they will tell their audiences about your news. Yes, they will act as your mouthpiece – and promotion is always better when it doesn't come directly from you. Why? Because it is more believable. Also this breeds word of mouth advertising which is crucial to building 1) your brand/exposure and therefore popularity and 2) sales.

  • ·         Make friends through SM with other authors (I am not great at this) I have met, in the virtual world of Twitter,  two successful authors. One did a guest post on my blog and one also hosted part of my blog tour. Instantly reaching out to a whole new audience. This way you can create your own little SM community . You’ll also have a set of like minded people or a bunch of readers you can call upon when you need.

  • ·         Start conversations. Don’t just talk at people. If you met someone in the street would you just go on at them about your book that just got a five star review? No. So read their posts, respond to their queries (Always respond to direct questions- its rude not to, and ask questions and it doesn't all have to be about writing and your book. Remember:

  • ·         Be yourself. Readers will buy your books if they like you- don’t be a one dimensional character. You know how characterisation works. You need to be well rounded for people to like you and therefore find your ‘voice.’ People want to hear what you have to say. Again you know about this from writing.  You need readers to like you to 1) be your supporter 2) look at the books you have written. You can only do this if you are authentic and genuine and don’t talk about yourself incessantly. (Which I have done myself! so I know this is not a good move.)

  • ·         Build your brand name – This is your pen name. Like Coca Cola and Cadburys – like Sophie Hannah, like JK Rowling – brands you know and love you have to be aware that your name is your brand. I know authors like to keep ourselves private and of course you can still do this. But you can provide a glimmer of that personality. Why not?  If they like you they are more likely to be a supporter.

  • ·         Use characters – Got a serial or trilogy out? Create a Twitter account/Facebook page etc in the name of your protagonist. Use their voice. Post things they would like. Speak as them. As authors we all want to get inside our character’s heads. This will kill two birds with one stone.

  • ·         Web presence. To improve your brand you must have a website. Someone gave me this advice on my blog when I first started writing and I really believe this has improved my presence and book sales. We live in an e-world. You need a website to showcase your works- It really is like having a shop front and adds to your credibility. Have a look at other author websites for inspiration (see mine here). And dont eb afraid websites are easier to set up than you think. Many companies, like Go Daddy offer a full package with templates for web building as well. 

  • ·         Be a lover not a fighter – You will get a few tweets or comments and reviews which are not favourable. Do not try and defend yourself. Not everyone will like what you have to say and you have to respect that. If you don’t it will just become ugly. And will put people off you. Trust me you don’t want that to happen. Here all publicity is not good publicity. So remember whatever you post before you do so think first as to whether you want to be known as the author who said… (A note on being opinionated - which is different from responding to critics - here being opinionated helps.  You will get more followers and engagement if you don’t sit on the fence all the time. I haven’t managed controversy yet to create a stir, but I am sure some people are great at this without being hugely offensive. And remember people want to hear your voice so speak up!). But always remember if someone has taken time to engage with you respect what they have to say even if you don’t always like what they have to say.

  • ·         Be the Jewel in the Crown. And by this I mean give back – add value to your audience. For example this Blog Post and my ‘In a nutshell’ series was created to give back. Yes, pay it forward. I am not an authority on everything and mostly it’s just passing on tips that I have found useful etc. Initially I thought that I didn't really know enough on topics to pass it on via a blog, but now I just roll with it.  I put my thoughts out there on my blog because they may help someone or provide entertainment at least.

  • ·         Credit your sources.  Repost links to articles, blog posts. If you read a good blog post and you repeat what they say always quote them and provide a link to their blog. Remember always pay it forward.

  • ·         Forums are not old skool! I once thought this, but it’s not true. Log on to writing forums like Wattpad and Writing Forums and get chatting. I did this before I joined Abingdon Writers. Now I rarely use them but where else can you have easy interaction. Join in discussions. Forums are the best way to get your social media juices flowing. Blogging is another simple one. On blogs you can just be yourself, find your voice and be who you are. It’s not staged like a website but still adds value to your brand. Comment on blogs too.

  • ·         Commenting on people’s blog posts and talking in forums leads to interaction and therefore engagement. You need engagement for people to take notice of you. Think of it like a hook in the first chapter of your novel.

  • ·         I haven’t seen you for a while! Being on social media is one thing but as I said earlier you need to keep the information flowing. Don’t do a Houdini. With Blogger you can schedule posts to be posted when you want. Write five in one sitting and drip feed them out.  Tweet – someone tells me 7 times a day is what you need to get noticed. I don’t do this but I know I should. You need to keep the content of your social media fresh and relevant to stay in peoples minds. Plus you need to keep the information flowing because this will encourage engagement and interaction through familiarity. Remember out of sight, out of mind.

  • ·         Cross Pollinate! This is what I refer to when making your post information rich. Add links like I have dotted through this blog, reference articles you have read and link up your accounts! You can use Twitterfeed so that every time you post a blog it automatically puts a link on twitter. You can also link your Goodreads account to your blog posts so they show up on your page and your Google plus account. Use widgets (bits of HTML (computer speak)  you can paste to your blog/website to add buttons and logos showing readers which SM sites you are on so they can follow you there). You can even use Hootsuite to manage all your SM sites. However, before you link everything up think about your audience and what you want to tell each audience. If you have different followers on Twitter than your blog think about whether you want to send the same message to both audiences? Would you send the same query letter to four different agents? Personally I don’t link my Facebook page to my blog or twitter. I just add updates and links manually. I do post my blog updates on Goodreads, Google + and Twitter.  But, for writers, I don’t think this is a huge thing – so cross pollinate away! 

  • ·         Don’t spread yourself too thinly – If you are just starting out pick one or two sites to get involved with I suggest a blog (although it can be labour intensive – it will help you with your writing and help in letting off some steam) and Twitter.  Twitter is not my favourite but it gets you out there. From there you can get involved with other sites.


And finally… don’t expect all this hard work to immediately correlate into sales! You have to be continual in your social media approach. You have to be patient. You can put free software like  Google Analytics on to your website to track where your audience is coming from, how long they stay on each webpage etc. But remember with every tweet, with every post, like and share you are creating a brand for yourself.


That’s all from me. I hope you have found this useful! If you like this post, remember to find me on: 

Twitter : @marissadeluna or click here
Facebook : www.facebook.com/marissadelunaauthor
Become a friend or fan at Good reads 
Find me on Pinterest: Marissa de Luna 

Ohh and you can buy my books here!


Monday, 7 April 2014

Location, location, location


I hope you enjoyed reading my previous blog post  as part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour. Be sure to check out the writing process of @Martinlastrapes and @timarnot on their blogs too. Their writing process should be published on their blogs today so check out my last blog post for links to their sites.  

Another article from the Crime Writers Association Newsletter caught my eye and this time it was written by psychological thriller writer, A J Waines (www.ajwaines.co.uk). In this issue she wrote about the importance (or not) of the setting of a book. This Friday at the Daunt’s Book festival in London they had an interesting talk about location and setting in novels. Sadly I will miss it. However Waines article gave me something to ponder. She mentioned how the Nordic and scandanavian crime novels have a great setting geographically. Like I have said before you can’t help a bit of weather to help create atmosphere and the culture of a place can link into the way a crime is solved (Think of the Italian laid back Montablano and the Ladies No.1 Detective Agency compared to CSI and Morse – they all draw on their locations as to how the crimes are solved ) but Waines goes on to say that you can create atmosphere anywhere. The geographical setting doesn’t have to be paramount to the story.

This is true. Although I do like to have a setting. Especially if it is exotic. As a child watching Poirot on his adventures always enticed me. Evil under the Sun with Peter Ustinov is still my favourite Poirot!  – Goa is a big part of my life and a big part of The Chupplejeep Mysteries – after all the series is set in one of the local sleepy villages and to me this setting makes the novel what it is. By using Goa as the setting not only do you get to explore the local cultural nuances and the behaviours of people (which I can assure you is very different to anywhere else I have seen) but you get to go back to a more simpler way of living, you get to explore themes that would be relevant to your reader but in a different cultural context, for example how people perceive adultery, murder and so forth.

If you have only ever written books set in one location perhaps write a short story set in another. This is a fab writing exercise. I had great fun doing this for Indian Diaries and perhaps I will do the same when I am off on my summer holidays somewhere in the Med this year. 

Also on an aside note I went to the Oxford Literary Festival on new Indian Writing. It was a fascinating interview with two Indian authors  Prajwal Parajuly (author of The Gurkha's Daughter and other stories) and Anjali Joseph (author of Another Country). It was fascinating and good to know that Joseph reads self published authors recognising that there is good writing out there that has not been published with mainstream publishers.  It was interesting to hear about the  pros and cons of Indian writing in English. The stereotypes that litter such novels (Typical of Chupplejeep I suppose), but good to know also that the stereotypes sell also. That is what the market wants. I suppose stereotypes do exist - and something like cosy crime which is what Chupplejeep is lends itself to this type of stereotyping. ANyway it certainly gave me something to think about in regards to The Chupplejeep Mysteries! 

Also loving The Book Thief which I am currently reading. If you are looking for a good book to read then give this a go!