In conversation with Rhoda Baxter, romantic comedy writer

Today I’ll be shining the author spotlight on romantic comedy writer, Rhoda Baxter! 

Hi, please can you give a brief introduction of yourself?
Hi. I’m Rhoda. I write romantic comedies which are published by Choc Lit Publishing. I also write short fiction. In real life, I trained as a microbiologist but now work in university technology transfer (which is the most fun way to keep in touch with the science without having to do lab work). I drink far too much tea and am partial to a bit of cake.

When did you first start writing?
I’m not sure. Apparently I wrote a story about parrot when I was about seven. When I was in my early teens, the Sweet Dreams romance novels were incredibly popular. I wasn’t allowed to read them, in case they gave me ‘ideas’ and distracted me from my studies. So I started to write my own. I still have my early typescripts. They’re impossibly naive and cringeworthy, but they’re worth keeping for the scribbled notes from my friends (my early readers!) on the margins.

How would you describe your author brand in 5 words?
Smart, witty heartfelt romantic comedy.

What has your experience been of publishing with Choc Lit?
I love the way Choc Lit choose their books. They have a ‘tasting panel’ who check out the submissions. If enough people on the panel pass the book, they publish it. This means that they don’t have to second guess whether the readers would like a book, they know. They can also edit the book with actual market feedback. Choc Lit publishes a lot of unusual romances – ones that other publishers might turn down because they perceive them as too niche. For example, a romance with a non-white heroine (mine) or one with a hero with cerebral palsy (Jane Lovering) – both of which would be considered ‘risky’ in the normal run of things.
They also do fabulous covers!

What’s your opinion on diversity in the contemporary romance genre?
I’d like to see more of it. By this I mean real diversity – with people of different backgrounds (be it different by ethnicity, sexual orientation or ability) having a place in the genre.

I’ll use ethnicity as an example, because it’s what I’m more familiar with (I’m Sri Lankan by descent). There is a tendency to fetishise difference. You get books with Asian characters, but either the conflict of the book revolves around the Asian-ness of the character or the characters are over-the-top Asian. The day to day lives of most British Asians isn’t hugely different to the day-to-day life of other British people. Religious and cultural differences exist, sure, but on a basic everyday level, we live in the same sort of houses, eat lunch/tea at the same sort of time, watch the same sort of TV shows. But, if you look at romance novels, you’d be hard pressed to see that. The differences in culture are magnified. The familiar elements are ignored. So people see only how ‘they’ are different to ‘us’.

It’s important to change this. We absorb our world view from the books we read and the TV shows we watch. If we’ve only ever seen Asian women as downtrodden slaves to tradition, no wonder we’re surprised by Nadiya Hussein baking a fizzy pop flavoured cheesecake. I’m a big fan of GBBO and of Nadiya. When she won GBBO, the undertone of the commentary that followed was ‘oh my word, she wears a hijab, but… she and her family seem so Normal!’. Which, if you think about it, is just bonkers.

So, I’d like to see more romance novels with diverse characters falling in love – not falling in love in an Asian way, or in a gay way, or in a disabled way – just falling in love in their OWN way.

Describe your ideal fictional love interest
He’d be kind and clever and funny. Preferably, he’d be fit in a slim-built kind of way… and would definitely wear glasses. Most men look sexier in glasses. David Tennant in glasses… ooh…

Sorry, what was I talking about? Oh yes. Men. I much prefer beta males to alphas. I tried to write an alpha male hero once (because people kept telling me they were popular). I hated him so much that I had to stop after a few chapters and start again.

What are your writing goals for 2017?
I’m trying my hand at writing novellas at the moment. I’m hoping to write three novellas set in a fictional village in West Yorkshire. I’ve done one. Two more to do.

My next book Girl In Trouble – the sequel to Girl Having A Ball – should be coming out with Choc Lit later in the year. I’ll be editing that in the next few months.

What authors would you recommend for fans of contemporary romance?
There’s too many to mention. I like books with great dialogue (sharp, realistic and funny). I’m currently reading a lot of Courtney Milan, Jane Lovering, Jenny Holliday, Alison May, Kate Johnson, Mhairi McFarlane, Janet Gover, Julie Cohen. All of whom write great dialogue. Those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head, there are many, many more.

What’s your opinion on self-publishing?
I have always kept an eye on self publishing. I was too insecure in my abilities to self publish (I have chronic impostor syndrome), so I needed the validation provided by having a traditional publisher, but I’ve always thought that Indies were the ones who knew how to market books. I follow a lot of Indie blogs because they are so clever in what they do. I think I’d like to end up with a combination of both. When I’ve finished my West Yorkshire novellas, I’d like to self publish those. [If you want a preview, you can get a short story set in that world for free by signing up for my reader group].

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to new writers?
Don’t give up. Write, submit, get feedback, edit, repeat. Eventually, good things will happen.

I started writing in my early teens. I’ve been writing in earnest since I was in my twenties. I wasn’t published until I was in my mid thirties. It takes time and effort, but it’s worth it.

Rhoda Baxter writes cheerful romantic comedies starring smart heroines and charming beta male heroes. She likes to write about people who make her laugh. Her books have been nominated for awards, so she must be doing something right. In real life, she’s a former scientist who works in technology transfer and a mum of two. Her latest book is Girl Having A Ball.

Website: http://www.rhodabaxter.com
Twitter: @rhodabaxter
Latest book: Girl Having A Ball 

Book Review: ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a work of modern art. It’s radical, sophisticated and subversive in all the right ways. And, dammit, there’s just something really sexy about reading an intellectual book and learning new things without it feeling like extra work.

I’ve read ‘Half of a yellow sun’ by Adichie in the past, so I went in with high expectations, which were met and exceeded by this book. It follows two star-crossed lovers, Ifemelu and Obinze, from their upbringing in a middle-class neighbourhood in Nigeria. However their relationship is cut short when Ifemelu emigrates to America to continue her education and Obinze, failing to get a visa, starts a new undocumented life as an illegal immigrant in England instead.

In America, Ifemelu deals with success and failure, finds and ends new relationships and eventually gets a fellowship at Princeton. For the first time, she becomes aware of race as a concept, and how differently she is treated because of her skin. She starts to document her observations in the form of a blog about race, which quickly brings her newfound fame. However despite all the luxuries of her new life, something pulls her back home, back to the Nigeria she grew up in. When she returns she meets Obinze again, who is now a wealthy, married man. As the two former lovers reunite, old sparks are rekindled and the two are faced with some tough decisions about their futures.

I once heard someone on goodreads refer to this book as a ‘500 page commentary on race’ (it was meant as an insult, I think of it as a positive thing). It’s true that ‘Americanah’ is not subtle at all about the issues of racism it tackles, and very much focuses on Ifemelu’s experience of being black in America. However it doesn’t read like a text book, or a preachy rant, it reads like a very smart, very intellectual novel written by a world-renowned race academic. As Ifemelu herself says in the book, racism is not a subtle thing, and should not be dealt with in a subtle way. As it does for all African Americans, race is something that affects every aspect of the protagonist’s life, and therefore seeps into every part of her narrative. The point of the novel is to illuminate the pervasive, omnipresent shadow that race is for those living in the Western world, and also how race is not a fixed category as its definition is tied to shifting social values.

‘Americanah’ is not just another ‘book about race’. It’s brutally honest, heartbreaking and also fiercely hopeful. It analyses the very real, very damaging consequences that race can have, from racial stereotyping, to lack of representation, to alienation and loss of identity. It’s a book about overcoming hardship and succeeding in a country that is against you purely on the basis of your appearance. It’s about miscommunication, a lack of understanding, a lack of willingness to learn. It’s a story about love in many different forms and, ultimately, two people finding each other again.

This Really Happened: Excerpt

 

This really happened
POSTED ON FEBRUARY 24, 2014 / BY ERIN T / LEAVE A COMMENT / FACEBOOK

Have you ever wished you could go back and change something? Thought about all the things you would’ve done differently? Everyone has regrets, even the people who claim they don’t. The world is full of shit that could have been avoided with the power of hindsight. And it’s natural to wonder about the what-ifs, the could-have-beens, even though it won’t change anything. They’re just so much easier to believe in than reality.

I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a story about one night when everything changed, a night I go back to all the time, seeing my mistakes and wishing I could go back and change my own mind. Maybe if I could, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. Maybe if I could, the chain of events that followed wouldn’t have happened.

The story starts with Rita Ora: they were playing her in the club again that night, for the third week in a row. It wasn’t a bad song really, but it wasn’t my thing. The others didn’t seem too keen either; Allen was grimacing, Gabe had disappeared into the mass swarming the bar area long ago.

Through a haze of people, I spied Dan wrapped around a tall blonde girl, seemingly fused at the lips. Definitely his type. Ava was tottering around in her high heels, trying to simultaneously dance and stay upright. I was a happy medium; tipsy enough to feel that familiar warm buzz, sober enough to get myself home if I needed to. This was going to be a good night, I decided. Maybe one of the best. With everything that had happened, it’d been a while since all six of us had done something together and I’d really missed it.

Suddenly Charlotte appeared next to me, her whole face a bright, sweaty pink that complimented her fiery hair. “Selfie!” she demanded, throwing an arm around my shoulders and holding up a camera in front of us. We pressed our faces together and grinned stupidly up into the lens as it went click.

“You’ve got a bit of flush going on you know,” I laughed. “You’re completely red.”

She poked her cheeks in disbelief. “Really? Where?”

“Um, everywhere.”

She looked devastated. “But I don’t wanna look like a tomato.”

“Maybe you’ve just had a bit too much.”

She stumbled, nearly pulling me down with her. “Urgh…can we go outside for a bit? I need some air.”

“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.”

I half-carried, half-dragged her out of the club, past the main square until we found a more secluded set of steps to sit on. It was 2am in the morning and the campus was alive; all the lights were still on and students wandered around in groups, helping drunk friends back to their dorms. Friday night was always the most popular club night.

Charlotte immediately curled up and gripped her head in her hands, trailing ginger strands of hair through her fingers. She was shivering. I distantly realised that it must be freezing, even though the alcohol blanket had numbed me to it.

“Are you feeling okay?” I asked, tentatively placing a hand on her shoulder in what I hoped was a comforting gesture. “Do you think you might throw up?”

She shook her head but didn’t look up. “I-I’m just so cold,” she spoke through chattering teeth. Then she began to cry. It started out as a quiet sort of sniffling, but quickly turned into loud, messy sobbing. I was, understandably, alarmed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, but she didn’t answer and only cried harder. Eventually, after ten minutes, she calmed down and sat up, looking at me through red-rimmed, watery eyes.

“Thank you,” she slurred.

I was beyond confused. “What for?”

“I’m not sure. Just thank you. For existing, I guess.”

“Um, you’re welcome?”

“I really like your existence,” she continued. “I think it’s great, honestly.”

“Charlotte, you’re really drunk right now.”

“I know, but I mean it. I want you to know that I appreciate you…being here. Does that make sense?”

I sighed and patted her shoulder. “Yeah. I like your existence, too.”

She smiled at me – a floaty, oblivious sort of smile that people only conjure up when they’re completely hammered. Then she leaned into my shoulder and I tentatively gave her a one-armed hug, feeling strangely protective of her. If I could redo that moment now, I wouldn’t have pulled away. I would have stayed there on those steps with her, holding her close. I would’ve made sure that nothing bad could happen to her. But I didn’t.

“Do you want to go home?” I asked, after a few minutes of comfortable silence. She shook her head. “Okay, water?” A small nod. “I’ll have to go buy some. Just wait here for me.”

I dragged myself up and crossed the road to get to the kebab van on the other side. I bought water for Charlotte and a burger for myself. Just as I was counting out the change I needed, I happened to glance in the direction of the road. I froze.

I felt like I was seeing it all in slow motion, an old black and white film on repeat.

Her stepping into the road. The car, sleek and black, careening around the corner. No. No, please god no –

The forever too-slow braking, the sound of wheels skidding. The car’s headlights illuminating her dazed expression for a moment like a spotlight as it made contact. Her lying on the ground. Too still, too still.

Then I heard screaming, distant and muffled, as if I was underwater. It took me a long time to realise that I was the one screaming.

This is an excerpt from my new New Adult novel ‘This Really Happened’ which will be released on Amazon March 1st! Read the blurb on my books page and follow for more sneak previews and updates coming soon. If you’re a book blogger and interested in getting an ARC review copy, get in contact at annmariemcqueen@aol.com 

Book review: ‘We were liars’ by E. Lockhart

“The island is ours. Here, in some way, we are young forever.”

I’ve read a lot of books in the last few months. Spending nearly 3 hours a day on a train commuting to work and back has made reading the highlight of my day. But despite all of the classics I’ve read ‘We were liars’ is the book that has stuck with me. I know that many will claim that it’s not in the same league because it’s ‘YA’ and therefore of lesser value somehow. But frankly I feel like there’s not enough space in the world of literature for newness, that literature is very much a closed off category of the past.

‘We were liars’ is a work of the present. Through her depiction of the Sinclair family, Lockhart paints a surprisingly authentic metaphor of modern day American society, touching on relevant issues such as insidious racism and power struggles within the family dynamic. Though the Sinclairs may be beautiful, rich and powerful on the outside, they are riddled with corruption and tragedy underneath.

Cadence Eastman Sinclair is the American golden girl; she’s rich, pretty, loved, however beneath the facade she is struggling with chronic, debilitating migraines, which doctors believe to be a symptom of a post-traumatic brain injury. She believes this was caused by an accident she had swimming in the sea, while holidaying on her family’s island two summers ago. However she’s not really sure, since the accident also caused amnesia.

From there Cadence takes us on a trip down memory lane, back to when she first went to the island with the rest of her family, including her cousins Johnny and Mirren and Johnny’s best friend Gat.

The four of them quickly become close friends, calling themselves the ‘liars’. Cadence falls in love with Gat and they start a summer fling, one that Cadence’s grandfather, the patriarch of the family, disproves of since Gat is ethnically Indian. While the grandfather never says this outright and speaks more in veiled threats than clear statements, the situation becomes tense and Gat mysteriously breaks off the budding romance.

Heartbroken, Cadence tries to move on, however when she finally returns to the island 2 summers later everything has changed and it’s clear that something isn’t right. What really happened on the night of the accident? To discover the truth, Cadence is forced to dig up old memories that are probably better left buried.

Lockhart’s prose flows effortlessly as she describes lazy days on the beach of a paradise island cut off from reality. Everything about this book has a dreamy, semi-lucid quality to it, evoking emotion and imagery with every paragraph. It’s truly a masterpiece to read, and even better when you find out what the twist is at the end. Though I had my suspicions, it still took me by surprise and I thought it was very masterfully constructed. I was satisfied with the ending and, though I was sad it was over, it felt like the story had come to a natural close.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mysteries, suspense, psychological thrillers and general YA. It really is an excellent read and definitely worth the time investment.

Win the ultimate library of 100 signed books!

Charity Lifelites is raffling the Ultimate Library of 100 signed books to raise money for children in hospices

Lifelites – a unique charity which donates specialist technology packages for the 10,000 terminally ill and disabled children in every children’s hospice in the British Isles – is giving one lucky bookworm the chance to win The Ultimate Library of 100 signed books.

The prize, which is a once in a lifetime opportunity, will be given away as part of an online raffle hosted on givergy.com, and tickets will cost just £5 each. That’s equivalent to just 5p per book, but to a book lover the prize will be priceless, as every single one is signed by the author or illustrator. Everyone who buys a ticket will also be helping to support the charity’s work in children’s hospices across the British Isles.

The 100 signed books cover just about every genre including crime, romance, fantasy, historical, biographical, mystery, comedy, political, poetry, food, travel, and thriller.

Among the authors who have kindly donated are Zadie Smith, Sue Perkins, Jeremy Paxman, Sophie Kinsella, Tony Parsons, PD James, Sophie Hannah, Andy McNab, Paula Hawkins, Alan Bennett, John Le Carré, Jeffrey Archer and Margaret Drabble.

As well as the top prize of 100 signed books, there will also be a second prize. When finalised, the full list of books in each prize can be found on the Lifelites website: http://www.lifelites.org/get-involved/enter-one-of-our-raffles/ultimate-library-of-100-signed-books

Every penny raised will support Lifelites’ work to enhance the lives of terminally ill and disabled children in hospices through the power of technology. The charity donates and maintains cutting-edge, accessible equipment to give these children with limited lives unlimited possibilities. The equipment, staff training and ongoing support costs Lifelites over £1,000 a month per hospice but the charity donates this completely free of charge.

Fundraising and PR manager Dominic Hourd said: “Lifelites is so excited to be offering this prize. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. We are extremely grateful to every author who has kindly donated a signed book. Each one will help us raise money for all 10,000 terminally ill and disabled children in hospices across the British Isles.”

The raffle will begin on January 20th and run for three weeks. A link will be available on the Lifelites website when it goes live: http://www.lifelites.org/get-involved/enter-one-of-our-raffles/ultimate-library-of-100-signed-books

 

Please note: cost of delivery is not included. Lifelites will arrange this with the lucky winner. All books are currently at the Lifelites head office in central London. Shipping overseas is possible but will be extremely costly at the winner’s expense, so we do not advise this.

About Lifelites: Lifelites empowers 10,000 children and young people in hospices with life-limiting, life-threatening illnesses and disabling conditions by providing them with opportunities to benefit from the power of assistive and inclusive technologies to learn, to be creative, to communicate and to take control. There is a Lifelites project in every baby and children’s hospice across the British Isles. The hospices do not pay a penny towards their Lifelites project and all of Lifelites’ work is funded by donations: the equipment, ongoing technical support and training at each hospice costs around £50,000 over four years.
http://www.lifelites.org
Charity Number: 1165791

7 Ways to Boost Your Book Sales

In my last post, I looked at how to prepare yourself for self-publishing. This time I’ll be focusing on what to do once your book is already out there, and how to increase your sales revenue. Here are my top tips for marketing your novel on Amazon:

  1. Start driving traffic towards your amazon page. Post the link on your social media accounts, your blog, everywhere you can. Change your signature in any forums you’re part of to your book cover, with a link to the book. Ask your friends or fellow bloggers to tweet the link out for you. Write some articles for news websites or online magazines. Make sure to include a mention of the book and that link in your bio at the bottom.
    .
  2. Send out review copies. Research book bloggers that you think will be a good fit for your book (there are many internet databases out there which make this much easier) then send them a message politely enquiring if they’d be interested in reviewing your book on their website. If they say yes, give them a free copy. In the internet book community high-profile book bloggers are basically celebrities. Their opinions matter. Get them on your side and you’re good to go. Just make sure to read through their review policies first.
    .
  3. Hold a giveaway. You can do this through Goodreads, or twitter, or any other social media website. Ideas include ‘like my Facebook page for a chance to win a free of copy of *insert your book title here*’ Everyone loves free stuff. Make them want your book, and get them to follow you while you’re at it.
    .
  4. Engage. When people leave you reviews, you can reply to them to say thanks. When people tweet about your book, tweet them back/retweet them. Leave reviews on other people’s books. Chat to other writers on forums. People appreciate you showing interest and making an effort.
    .
  5. Make it easy for your readers to follow you. At the end of your book, include a page with your social media handles, your website, info about any other books you’ve written and a ‘thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this book please leave a review.’ Asking for reviews actually makes people more likely to review the book.
    .
  6. Build up your writing CV. Submit short stories to magazines, and if they get published make sure to mention your book in your author bio. You can post excerpts of your book (up to 10%) or other things you’ve written on some popular writing sites such as WattPad. Publish multiple books on Amazon, since then you can cross-promote them.
    .
  7. Put your book on sale. Strategically putting your book on sale at the right times can have a massive effect on sales. Make it 99p or even free for a week and see how the book performs once it’s back up to full price. Usually if the book is good, a strategic sale will kickstart the domino effect and get people to start talking about the book. By the time it’s back up to full price, the word will be out and people who have heard about it based on recommendations will be willing to pay an extra pound or two for it.

 

Follow me for book reviews and more tips on self-publishing, writing and marketing. i’m also looking to host author interviews and guest blog posts in the future – if this is something you’d be interested in please get in contact!

This Really Happened (COVER REVEAL)

pieces-2

“We all have our own truths. Sometimes they’re the same. Sometimes they’re not.”

Erin has never really known who she is or what she wants, especially when it comes to relationships. That is, until she starts her first year at University and meets her new flatmate Allen.

Reckless, eccentric and intensely creative, Allen is everything Erin doesn’t have the courage to be and she’s immediately drawn to him. She’s sure it’s a mutual feeling, too, until he starts dating their flatmate Charlotte instead.

Then one night changes everything.

When a drunken mistake ends in tragedy and Charlotte is left fighting for her life, the victim of a hit-and-run, there’s only one question everyone’s asking: what really happened? Erin has an answer to that, more than one in fact, but running from the truth is far easier than facing up to it…

‘This Really Happened’ is a YA drama being released on the Amazon Kindle Store March 1st. Follow for more updates, sneak peaks and giveaways to be announced in the near future! I’d also love to know what you think of the cover – please leave comments below.

Review: ‘Wonder’ by R.J Palacio (guest post)

Anyone who’s filled with as much self-doubt as I am will surely understand what I mean when I say that every now and then, you come across a book that makes you resolve to be a better person. Wonder by R. J. Palacio is absolutely one of those books. Touching, engaging and uplifting, it offered everything I wanted from a story and then some: a whole host of characters; conflict that felt only too realistic; a conclusion so poignant I’m still drying my eyes and an abundance of youthful, untamed delight.

Trying to summarise a book that’s comparable in style only to Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is not easy, but I’ll give it a go. The premise is simple: August Pullman has a genetic condition that makes him look different to other ten-year-olds. Not just a bit different, like a cleft lip or a weird birthmark, but really, truly, stop-in-the-street-and-stare, makes-small-children-run-away-screaming different. Up until the point where the story starts, he has led a sheltered life. If you can call undergoing surgery every few months, wearing a space helmet every time he goes outside and being home schooled by understandably overprotective parents sheltered, that is. But things are about to change, because Auggie is starting middle school. (Whatever that is. Damn these Americans and their confusing educational systems.) Here, he – and the reader – will meet a variety of his peers and undertake a Bildungsroman-esque journey towards all kinds of acceptance.

I could gush about all the things that are great about Wonder for at least thirty pages. Auggie’s emotions, his dark humour, all the ups and downs…it all feels so real, and that’s what makes the story so gripping. I was rooting for him right from the first page, and I found it surprisingly easy to put myself in his shoes thanks to Palacio’s honest, conversational style. What was even more surprising is that I actually engaged more with Auggie, a ten-year-old boy whose life is dominated by a physical distortion, than I did with, for example, his older sister Olivia.

Via is closer to my age than her brother; her typical-teenage-girl problems are certainly more familiar to me than the issues our protagonist faces. Yet, during Via’s sections of the book, I found myself skimming the text, wondering when it was time to get back to the proper story. Yes, I cared about her, and about Jack, and Summer, and Miranda, and even Justin, but these characters’ musings felt like mere interruptions. It’s only now, on reflection, that I am beginning to question whether the asides about Jack’s poverty, Miranda’s home life and so on had some deeper meaning. Yes, these children look completely normal from the outside, but as the saying goes, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Auggie’s classmates might not carry their burdens on their faces like he does, but they are all equally scarred in one way or another: by their past; by their family; by their friends. If the multiple narratives aren’t there to move the plot along, then perhaps they are intended to remind us that Mr. Browne’s precepts apply to everyone, whether their problems are visible or not. “When given the choice between being right and being kind,” Palacio is telling us, “always choose kind”.

I’ve seen some reviews that use words like ‘ableist’ in relation to the story’s tear-jerking happy ending. Some readers suggest that Auggie is awarded the Henry Ward Beecher medal simply for being deformed, and is therefore subject to positive discrimination. I disagree. Auggie earns his standing ovation for showing empathy, wisdom and kindness in the face of adversity, just like Via and Justin do when they face their demons in order to play the leads in their high school production. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a physical condition, a broken family, the death of a loved one…we are wonderful not in spite of but because of our struggles, and this deserves recognition. Who knows what these characters would be like had they led seemingly idyllic lives like Julian? Who’s to say that they wouldn’t be the ones putting mean notes in other pupils’ lockers? I think Palacio is telling us to embrace our differences, even the ones that make people point and laugh. Even the ones that provoke attacks from the uninformed. Even the ones that, as in my case, make strangers stop in the street and say, “Gosh, you’re tall!”.

These are the things that shape us into the remarkable human beings that we are.

 

This guest post was written by a good friend of mine, Rosie, who runs her own book blog ‘an improbable truth‘. Check it out for more excellent book reviews! 

My Top Ten Books in 2016

2016 may have been a terrible year for politics, Remain voters, minorities, women and fans  of pop culture celebrities, but at least it’s been a good book year. Here’s a little gallery of my top 10 reads for 2016. If you haven’t read these brilliant books, might be worth putting on your reading list for the new year!

 

And, here’s a little snapshot of the first book I’ll be reading in 2017:

71mrvaxv8fl

8 Things you need to do before you self-publish

I recently wrote a post about my experiences of self-publishing on the Amazon Kindle store, explaining my reasons for going through with it and why I think it’s a great idea. However for those who are planning on trying it for the first time, it can be a daunting and scary prospect. I would recommend doing as much research as possible beforehand, to know what you’re getting into. Jumping into self-publishing without adequate preparation is a huge waste of an opportunity. Here are some of my top tips for preparing to self-publish your novel:

  1. Decide on your author brand: Are you going to use your real name, or a pseudonym? What sort of books will you write – romantic comedies or dark thrillers? How are you going to market yourself and to which type of audience? It’s a good idea to come up with a basic marketing plan before you start by choosing how you’re going to sell yourself. Your author name is essentially a brand you’re selling to potential readers, so understand it first before you try to pitch it to the wider public.

    .

  2. Start building your author profile: Get a twitter. Get a wordpress blog. Get an instagram. Start writing things, posting on your social media accounts regularly, and in general make your presence known on the internet. Try to keep the same sort of aesthetic and tone across all of these accounts – continuity and strong branding is the key here.

    .

  3. Research. Read up about digital marketing. Read other people’s blogs, read the kindle boards, read all of the FAQs and self-help sections on Amazon direct publishing. It’s there to help you. Take notes of the important points and make sure you fully understand everything and have a basic working knowledge of how the self-publishing world works before you attempt it.

    .

  4. Make a plan. Next week, I’l be going over book marketing strategies in detail. However your plan doesn’t have to be anything super complex. Build a list of resources for yourself, such as potential book bloggers to offer review copies to. Jot down names of forums you want to get involved in. Come up with a rough timeline of when you want to release the book, when you want to have a sale, when you want to make the book free for a week etc..

    .

  5. Engage. Don’t just passively post on the internet about your upcoming book release, it gets boring fast. Instead, take part in writer forums. Comment on other people’s blogs and start conversations on twitter with open-ended questions. There’s a huge book-loving community out there on the internet, with a lot of very valuable knowledge. Go out there and make the most of it. This way you’ll curate a much more engaged following and you’ll develop a relationship with your potential readers, so that when book launch day comes they’ll be much more likely to return the favour and promote it/buy a copy.

    .

  6. Edit your novel to perfection. It’s best to hire a professional editor or proofreader, though if you’re on a budget and can’t afford it, you should at least send it to a few friends to check over. Many writing forums, such as AW writer forum, offer opportunities for authors to swap novels and gain mutual feedback. Make sure you’ve also gone over your book until you’re sick of it. On average, I redraft a novel 3 times and then do a read-through edit 6-7 more times. By the end the novel barely even resembles the first draft. If you’re having trouble with certain areas of this, see my post 8 tips for writing a novel.

    .

  7. Get a professional-looking cover. If you’re capable of making one yourself, go for it. I always use my own photos for covers because it makes the copyright issue simpler, since I already own the photos. Canva is a brilliant online website that allows anyone to make beautiful looking book covers in less than half an hour. Google is full of free stock photos you can make use of. Just make sure you know who owns the copyright for the image. If you’re not confident making your own cover, many indie authors also design book covers pretty cheaply on the side.

    .

  8. Build up hype prior to the book release. Start this at least 1 month in advance of your launch date. Post excepts of the book and cover reveals on your blog. Mention it on social media. Hold a giveaway or a competition. If you look up ‘pre-launch marketing campaign’ on google there’s a whole bunch of articles out there with ideas on how to do this. By the time your launch day comes, it shouldn’t be a surprise to your audience, they should be eagerly anticipating it!

 

If you’ve found this article useful, please share it. Follow for more tips on marketing, writing and self-publishing. I’m also looking to host guest posts and author interviews – if you’re interested in taking part please get in touch!