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:

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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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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..

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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!

 

My Amazon Self-Publishing Journey

I wrote my first novel, Cold Water, when I was thirteen. At the time I thought it was great, and enthusiastically shipped it off to literary agents expecting a publishing contract to land on my doorstep. Of course in hindsight it was actually pretty terrible, basically angsty-teenage word salad. I put it in a drawer for a few years and forgot about it. Then when I was seventeen, my dad suggested that I self-publish on Amazon. At first I was wary – would it be worth the effort? Would they just take away any royalties I made? But I decided to give it a shot because what did I have to lose at that point?

So I did it. I went back, I rewrote the entire novel until it didn’t make me want to physically cringe anymore, then I published it on the kindle store.

At first I only sold a few copies. I made some pocket money out of it, nothing glamorous but enough to give me a little electric buzz of happiness every time I saw the number go up. It gave me a purpose, something to work towards. And soon I became addicted to that feeling. I wanted more of it. I needed to sell more copies.

So I started doing some marketing, though at the time I didn’t really know that’s what it was called. I joined writing websites, forums, chat rooms. I’d made my own book cover so I flogged that thing everywhere I could. I posted samples and excerpts. I sent off review copies to book bloggers. I made the book free for a week. And then something amazing happened.

My sales went from 3 a week to 30 a day.

It was so incredible, so completely unexpected that I was honestly in shock for a very long time. I’d expected to sell maybe 10 books total. The real number was in the thousands. I still don’t completely understand how it happened, whether it can be attributed to my marketing efforts or luck. I expect it’s a bit of both along with good timing. I published at a time when the indie book market was just starting to take off, with people like Amanda Hocking and Jamie McGuire gathering fame.

I was still in school, trying to make decisions about University, and this was the thing that made the decision for me. I thought ‘look, I’ve got this novel out there, and people are reading it. They’re paying money for it and recommending it to their friends and blogging about it. So maybe studying Creative Writing isn’t a stupid idea. Maybe I could really do this one day for a living.’

I think of self-publishing as similar to starting up a business. Most people will go the traditional route of being employed by a company because there’s structure, guidance and a boss to give you jobs and targets. There’s stability and financial security. Building something yourself is different – you are completely accountable for your own success or failure. You’re not reporting back to anyone, there’s no one to tell you that what you’re doing is right or wrong. You’re essentially on your own, which can be both terrifying and liberating.

For me, and many others though, Amazon self-publishing gave me something I couldn’t find elsewhere. It gave me an opportunity to test myself. It gave me the chance to take control of my publishing experience and see how far I could go. It gave me the validation I so desperately needed at the time and the courage to base a huge life decision such as going to University on my writing. It  made me realise that writing could be more than just a hobby for me, that maybe there was an audience out there for it, I just had to reach out to them.

I’m not saying self-publishing is the right decision for everyone. Even now, I would love to have the approval of traditional publishing houses. But I do think it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s been an exciting journey up till now, one that I’ve learnt so much from and has made me a better writer. My initial dabbling in book promotion has led into a career in marketing, which I realised through that is something I enjoy.

So to anyone out there who’s undecided on whether or not to go for it, I say to you: ‘why not? What have you got to lose?’ It might just turn out to be everything you wanted, and more.

 

To find out more about my work, see my books page. Follow for updates on an exciting new release scheduled for next year, as well as more tips and tricks for self-publishing. I’m also looking to host author interviews and guest posts on my blog – if this is something you would be interested in, please get in contact!

 

 

Book Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

“Hello? I hope somebody is listening.”

‘Radio Silence’ is one of those powerful, powerful novels that sticks with you long after you’ve finished it. It’s striking, rebellious, startlingly funny and incredibly honest at the same time. Most of all though, it’s a beautiful story about two people finding love and solace in each other. And when I say that, I mean in a completely platonic sense. Yes that’s right, the main relationship in this novel is a boy-girl friendship that DOESN’T turn into a romance. And frankly I think that’s what makes this book great.

There’s so much pressure in society nowadays to find a romantic partner – romance is portrayed as being the only way to love and be loved. Anything else is useless and a waste of time. But I really hate that idea, that love is basically worthless unless it’s a certain kind of love. I believe that you can find soulmates in platonic relationships too. And I don’t think a platonic relationship is less strong or less valuable than a romantic one. They’re just different kinds of love. Both good, both beautiful in their own ways.

Anyway, rant aside, I don’t see enough good friendship stories around, and ‘Radio Silence’ satisfies my need for one. It’s quirky, fun and the main character is a nerdy fangirl so I think most of us bookworms out there can probably relate. The story is written in first person from the point of view of Frances who feels alone, misunderstood, and basically pours all of her energy into her studies to distract herself from it. Her secret obsession is a sci-fi podcast called ‘University City’ which she draws fan art for and puts on tumblr. Then the maker of the podcast asks her to become the official artist for the show. Around the same time, she also meets and befriends the maker in real life – Aled Last, a shy boy who’s hiding more than one secret, including a missing sister who Frances used to be friends with.

Frances and Aled quickly bond over the podcast and become best friends, however when Aled’s secret identity as the maker of the podcast is revealed, the trust between them is broken and things start to go downhill.

Alice Oseman’s writing style in ‘Radio Silence’ is very grounded and authentic – she’s only 21 herself which is absolutely incredible, and in my opinion makes her very relatable to this generation of young readers. Tumblr and online culture play a big part in the book, much more so than in any other YA I’ve read, which again is all down to the author drawing from her own personal experiences. Also there’s a lot of diversity – non-white characters, LGBT characters, asexual characters, characters with mental health issues. I think this is an incredibly brave move, as I get the feeling that despite the demand for diversity YA publishers still tend to stick more to ‘conventional’ books as they believe there’s less risk attached.

Anyway, in conclusion, GO AND READ THIS BOOK. It’s a book about so many things – identity, sexuality, goals, friendship. Frances and Aled were more than just main characters, they were people I was rooting for and wanted to be friends with. And I think that’s how you know when a book’s good. When you’re so invested that it stops being fiction and becomes real to you.