Neuschwanstein castle, May 2017

Fireborn, I imagine you in these rooms
Chandeliers like caves, like crowns
Marble floors made for waltzing
Dancing through the endless night.

You painted stories on the walls
With your clairvoyant fingers
Tales of chivalry and romance, an
Echo of something better, a past
Preserved in pastel colour dreams.

This was your escape, wasn’t it?
This castle with its spiral towers
Gleaming white, a diamond in the
Forest of your heart.

I wonder where it went wrong.
You are a mystery that time has
Swallowed, a secret kept safe
Beneath the lake’s calm surface.

I imagine you walking along that shore
A century before me
And plunging into those
Murky depths.

 

A few weeks ago I travelled to Munich alone with the goal of finally visiting the fairytale castle on the mountain that inspired Disney’s ‘Sleeping beauty’ castle. It was just as beautiful as I’d imagined. I brought my notebook along and wrote this poem about King Ludwig II – the owner of the castle – and the strange mystery surrounding his untimely death.

It’s said that one day Ludwig and his psychiatrist were taking a walk around the nearby lake. A few hours later they were both found drowned. Though there are many theories about how he died, none have been confirmed. 

Seeing this castle in person was a sublime experience for me. It was the realisation of a dream I’d harboured for a very long time, but lost sight of last year when I was in a dark place. Being able to make this trip to see it has reminded me of the person I used to be and has given me hope that one day I’ll be that person again. I found that poetry was the best medium to try and capture that feeling and channel the beauty of the place into language, and I hope you agree.

Have you visited Neuschwanstein castle? I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

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In conversation with Didi Oviatt, indie suspense author

Didi Oviatt is an indie author I met through the blogging world. She’s got a wicked writing style and recently released a crime/thriller book called ‘Aggravated Momentum’ which I wrote a review for. As part of my efforts to #SupportIndie I wanted to find out more about her writing process and her experience with self-publishing on Amazon kindle.

Hi Didi, thanks for joining me today. What are 5 things you would like our readers to know about you?

I’m so excited to be here! If I have to settle for five, then I’ll stick with the big five S’s… simple, silly, sure, satisfying, and strange.

  • Something simple: Every year I drink a bottle of cheap wine, and I bury myself in a romance novel on Valentines Day.
  • Something silly: I can touch my tongue to my nose.
  • Something sure:  I’m one hundred percent sure that every book I ever write will be suspenseful.
  • Something satisfying: Goals, Lol…  It may sound funny, but there is nothing more satisfying to me then nailing my weekly goals.
  • Something strange: I completely believe in ghosts. Good ones, bad ones, creepy ones, and even protective ones. I think we’re all just a little bit haunted.

What are you reading at the moment?

I usually read more than one book at a time. I strive to support Indi authors like myself, so I keep one of them cooking at all times. I also believe it’s important to keep your head in a wholesome influential place as a writer by reading Best Sellers in the genre of your current project.  This week I’m rotating two books. Living in the shallows, by an Indi-Author Tani Hanes and also Mercy, by Best-Selling Author Jodi Picoult.

How do you choose what book you’re going to read next? Is it the cover, the blurb, recommendations etc..?

All of the above plus some. When it comes to highly recommended books or Best Sellers I compare each of the mentioned tactics along with either a genre rotation (I’m kind of a seasonal bird) or by books that may counter point whatever project I’m working on myself.  When it comes to Indi books, I take a lot of author requests and debuts, but after I’ve read a blurb of course.

 What’s your experience been of self-publishing so far? Are you enjoying it?

I absolutely adore self-publishing! I love being in control and calling all the shots!  So far I’ve tried something different with each of my books. I’m a “dive in head first and learn from my own mistakes” kind of gal. I am human, and have made a few mistakes along the way, but self-publishing is definitely NOT one of them. I wouldn’t take back my decision to self-publish for the world and doubt I’ll ever even try Traditional.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to a new writer thinking of self-publishing?

Don’t fall for the “self-publishers” that offer you the world and ask a ridiculous amount of money to “help” you publish! You’d be amazed at how many shysters there actually are in the book publishing world. There are a lot of places that are affordable, and they actually let you choose your own pricing, cover image, and you still maintain all of the rights… KDP and Bookbaby in my experience have been great, but do your own research because there are most definitely more. Don’t limit yourself in options, and don’t let your excitement blind you.  A rule of thumb I like to live by, is that if there is an enormous contract involved then it isn’t actually self-publishing.

I’ve just finished reading your fantastic new book, ‘Aggravated Momentum’. Wow. What a rollercoaster. What was the inspiration behind it?

With Aggravated Momentum I wanted to challenge myself. Suspense is where I shine, so I chose to make it psychological in order to test my abilities. Part of me wanted to master writing a variety of first person characters, and part of me wanted to ensure that I didn’t allow myself to get stuck in a repetitive rut. In my opinion, there are too many Authors who seem to repeat themselves. Their books are one dimensional — like if you’ve read one then you’ve read them all… I didn’t want that to be a problem for me, so my main focus with Aggravated Momentum was to make it diverse and unique.

Was there a lot of research involved?

Hardly any… To be completely honest, I hate research and I suck at it.  What little bit was required, I kind of left hanging for my editor to “come across” and have to fix lol… Don’t worry though, she’s a friend so it’s fine 😉

 Okay, last question: Are you working on anything new?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes!!!  I’m so dang excited about my latest and greatest! Search For Maylee is a mystery novel that I intend to release in the fall of this year, so hold your breath!!! Here is a short description:

Since Maylee was abducted from her high school the very month of graduation, her Aunt Autumn has never lost hope in finding her.  It’s been three years. Autumn has finally reached inside herself and found the courage to track down an old lead. She moves across the country to find him. Will Autumn be able to pry Maylee’s case back open? More importantly, what will Autumn uncover in the process of searching for Maylee?  It’s a cold dark world we live in, and she is about to find out just how cruel it can be. Strength and determination are on Autumn’s side and she will do whatever it takes to either bring Maylee home, or to deliver the justice she deserves.

 

What have your experiences been with self-publishing? Do you have a favourite indie author? Let me know in the comments and stay tuned for more updates, interviews and book reviews! If you’re an author and interested in being interviewed on my blog, please get in contact. 

FREE BOOK: This Really Happened

This week, my New Adult romance novel ‘This Really Happened’ is FREE on amazon until Wednesday 12th April. Please share it, download it, read it, enjoy it, and (you’ll get cookies and my eternal gratitude for this one) review it!

You can see public reviews for it on goodreads and download the book now on Amazon

Summary: 

Erin has spent her life drifting, ruled by her controlling parents and social anxiety. That is, until she meets her new University flatmate Allen. Reckless, eccentric and creative, Allen is everything Erin doesn’t have the courage to be and she’s immediately drawn to him. She’s sure he feels the attraction too, until he starts dating their mutual friend Charlotte instead.

Then one night changes everything.

When a drunken mistake leaves Charlotte fighting for her life, 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…

 

Reviews: 

‘Annmarie McQueen has created a range of likeable characters in a recognisable setting, while introducing ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘The Girl on the Train’-esque elements to set her story apart from other coming-of-age tales.’

‘A real breath of fresh air for the YA genre’

‘Jam packed with layer after layer of authentically written emotion’

View from the bridge

Black holes, fast cars
I walk off the edge of the platform
Chasing neon lights, the London
Eye swirling as it plays witness,
All-knowing, ever-present
There are potholes in my mind
I am filling them with gravel from
Streets I’ve forgotten the names of
Subway station debris, this
lit-up nighttime metropolis
Bursting at its seams.

Inheritance Books: Annmarie McQueen

My guest post on fellow author Rhoda Baxter’s blog 🙂

Rhoda Baxter

This week’s Inheritance Books come from blogger and YA author Annmarie McQueen. Take a seat, Annmarie. While I put the kettle on, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself. 

H20161013_201557i, I’m Annmarie. I’m a 22 year old writer, blogger and photographer living in London. I enjoy instagramming food, taking selfies with dogs I meet and being that annoying friend who always has a camera to hand. I currently work in event marketing. I’m a graduate of Warwick University with a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in cultural policy. I also really love tea. I currently have 18 different types of tea in my room and I’m immensely proud of this fact.

Yay, tea! Which book have you inherited from a generation above? Why is it special?

The book that I’ve inherited that I would like to shine a spotlight on today is ‘Northern Lights’ by…

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BOOK LAUNCH: This Really Happened

It’s BOOK LAUNCH day! It’s March 1st and to celebrate the start of spring, my New Adult novel ‘This Really Happened’ is now available on Amazon worldwide!

I can’t say how excited I am. This book has been years in the making. I started it during my first year at University, when I was studying a creative writing degree. It was the best year of my life and I was desperate to immortalise it somehow, so I decided to write about it.

While the events and characters in ‘This Really Happened’ are purely fictional (luckily my university experiences were nowhere near this traumatic), the emotion behind it is very real. The excitement, the scary and liberating idea of independence, the confusion, the loneliness, the forging of strong friendships that will last a lifetime. University is a rollercoaster; for many it’s their first time leaving home, which can be both a positive and negative thing. It’s a chance to take responsibility for your own life, to live by your own rules and discover new sides to yourself that you didn’t even know existed. It’s intense, and tiring, but also life-affirming and life-changing in so many ways.

I don’t see enough books about University out there. The literary narrative for young people nowadays seems to stop as soon as they reach 18, at which point they’re deemed ‘adults’. But life doesn’t work that way and age can’t be defined by a number or the ability to legally buy alcohol. Leaving home and trying to forge your own path in life is only the beginning. I think, more than anything, age is defined by experiences. So at the heart of it, ‘This Really Happened’ is a coming-of-age story. It’s a story about a group of young people learning to be responsible adults and dealing with all the obstacles that life throws at them.

You can buy ‘This Really Happened’ online here: 

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Follow me on Facebook

I’m also looking to give away a limited number of review copies – if this is something you would be interested in, please get in contact

 

 

This Really Happened: Excerpt

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

When I was nine and my sister Naomi was eleven, our parents took us to the Natural History museum in London for the first time. Like any child I was fascinated by the dinosaur displays, the buttons and interactive games.

But the thing I remember most clearly about that day are the whale bones.

The skeleton of the blue whale took up the entire room, hanging ominously from the ceiling like a phantom observing the mortals passing below it. The bones were a dull bronze, as if they’d been white once but had been left out past their expiry date.

I remember running the length of the ribs, trying to count the steps. It hurt my head to imagine that such a ghastly, claw-like structure also existed within my own tiny chest, holding my organs captive like the bars of a prison cell. I couldn’t imagine sharing anything in common with the relic that hung above us, silent, a mere shell of the impressive mammal it had once been.

Naomi did not share my fascination.

“It’s not even real,” she said, barely glancing at it, more interested in the new pink flip-phone she’d gotten last month.

“What? It so is.” I glared at her, offended that she didn’t seem to care.
“It’s obviously fake. Come on, can’t you tell?” she rolled her eyes, in that patronising way big sisters do when they’re trying to assert themselves as the older, more mature one.

I looked helplessly up at my father, hoping for reassurance. His familiar smile, thin lips and a high forehead, wise grey eyes set in a face lined with age. “Is she right, daddy?” I asked. “Is it really fake?”

He put his hand on my shoulder and said: “We all have our own truths, Erin. Sometimes they’re the same, sometimes they’re not.”

I peered up at the skeleton again. In the cavities of the skull, the spaces between each rib, I saw glimpses of the sea, flashes of something that had once existed, now saturated with the past.

That day, I decided that the bones were real, no matter what Naomi or anyone else said. They were real to me, anyway, and that was enough.

This is an excerpt from my New Adult novel ‘This Really Happened’ which is now available on the Amazon Kindle store! Read the blurb on my books page and share this post on social media! 

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 

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 

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.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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!