Two Free Short Story Competitions

Need something to gee you up and encourage the writing muse? Try one (or both!) of these free, themed short story competitions.

Vanda ‘n’ Linda’s Write Space Competition

Vanda Inman and Linda Lewis are looking for 500 word stories inspired by the photo on their website.
First prize is your choice of module from Vanda’s Short Story Success writing course. Second prize is either a critique of a short story of up to 2000 words or a copy of Linda’s book, The Writer’s Treasury Of Ideas (UK only).
Closing date is 31st August.

Words Magazine Short Story Competition

Words Magazine wants up to 2,000 words on the theme of ‘Murder’.
First prize is £50. Second prize is £25.
Closing date is 31st December.

Good Luck!

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Too Much Time?

Is it possible to have too much writing time?

Tempus fugit in my living room

One of my constant gripes is that I don’t have enough time to write. If the day job, the housework and general ‘stuff’ all disappeared, I would be prolific. The words for that bestselling novel would tumble from my brain through my fingers and onto the page. My success would be guaranteed. Or would it?

Those of you who are my Facebook friends will know that a nasty foot infection had me in hospital for four nights. The foot is going to take several weeks to fully heal and until it does my activities are severely restricted. This means I have more time to write. But I’ve found it very difficult to motivate myself. When the day stretches emptily in front of me, the urgency to do anything disappears. I’ve been getting up later, lying on the settee reading magazines and checking Twitter and Facebook ten times more often than usual. My excuse is that I’m convalescing, catching up on the sleep I lost in a noisy hospital ward and recovering from the stress of fighting with an NHS which wouldn’t give me a treatment plan. I’ve been told to sit with my foot up as much as possible – and the most comfortable place to do this is on the settee not behind a desk. I could write longhand as I lounge around but that seems like too much effort and what’s the hurry, at the moment I don’t have to cook, wash up, iron etc. (thank you, husband!) so I have all the time in the world.

Result: I have time handed to me on a plate and I waste it.

Lesson learned: My dream of giving up the day job and becoming a full-time writer may not work for me. When time is limited I make much better use of it.

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How To Organise a Book Launch

William the Hedgehog Boy

Robert A. Brown at the launch of William the Hedgehog Boy

A few weeks ago in my local library I overheard a conversation at the desk. A gentleman was introducing himself as an author with a new book coming out and asking if the library would display a poster advertising the launch event. With my ears flapping, I pounced on the poor man before he could see the triumphant glint in my eye and escape. The result of that meeting is this blog post giving you Robert A. Brown‘s ten top tips for organising a book launch. Robert is a children’s author but his tips make sound sense for the rest of us as well.

  1. Set a realistic budget for your launch.
  2. Invest in some promotional materials, e.g. business cards, postcards, flyers of various sizes, pull up banner, book marks. These make a statement and look professional. But remember your budget – promotional materials may help sales but they won’t guarantee them.
  3. Choose a suitable date to hold the launch. Don’t rely on the publisher’s date for printing, as there is often slippage. Make sure your books will definitely be available to sell and sign.
  4. Consider what type of event to hold, e.g. daytime or evening, formal as in a bookshop or library, less formal, as in a café or a room in a pub/restaurant. Do you want to attract passing trade or is it invitation only?
  5. Decide what refreshments will be available if any and find out what the costs will be.
  6. Select a price point for your book, offering attendees an enticing discount compared to bookshop and internet prices. Have appropriate change ready in a float.
  7. Publicise the launch event. Approach shops, libraries, relatives, friends and media with publicity material and flyers and, of course, your book. Build up a social media presence.
  8. Recruit friends and family to help during the event, e.g. serving refreshments, selling the books and taking money, taking photos for future publicity, a master of ceremonies (to meet, greet and direct people) etc.
  9. How will you manage questions from the audience? Will people raise their hands or do you want questions written down on postcards and collected by another of your helpers? Pre-plan answers to the most common questions e.g. Where do you get your ideas from? How long does it take to write a book? Be prepared for the unusual, Robert was asked, ‘What is a hedgehog’s favourite tipple?’!
  10. ON THE DAY: You will be busy! You will be signing books, posing for photos, responding in the Q&A, giving a reading and delivering a brief speech including list of thanks.

Remember to enjoy your day – you have worked hard to get there!

Robert A. Brown is the author of the children’s and young adults’ book William the Hedgehog Boy.  The story is inspired by the work of Michael Morpurgo and Dick King Smith. It will be enjoyed by readers aged 9-11 with an interest in wildlife.

 

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Creating an EBook and Paperback Box Set – Part 3

In the first blog post of this mini series I talked about why indie authors should consider creating a box set of their works. In the second post I looked at the points to think about when obtaining a cover for a box set. This time I’m looking at creating the paperback using the new KDP paperback facility.

Differences between Amazon KDP Paperback Publishing and Createspace

• Createspace allows the author to purchase a proof copy of the book before it is published. KDP does not but it is possible to publish at a low price, order a ‘proof’ copy and then increase the price. There is a small chance that someone else will order at the low price and/or receive the book with as yet uncorrected mistakes.
• Createspace allows authors to buy in bulk at a reduced price per copy. This is useful for those who want to hold a stock of books to sell at author events and signings. The cost of doing this plus the cost of shipping from America (where these author copies are produced) has become higher since the UK Brexit vote in 2016. On KDP it is possible for an author to use my ‘proof copy’ price reduction method, mentioned above, to buy books for direct sales.
• A paperback published via Amazon KDP cannot be later re-published via Createspace.
• Publishing a paperback via Amazon KDP allows the author to view all the Amazon sales figures for that book on one dashboard instead of logging into a separate Createspace account.
• Createspace offers ‘expanded distribution’. According to the Createspace website this ‘offers you the opportunity to access a larger audience through more online retailers, bookstores, libraries, academic institutions, and distributors within the United States’.

This blog post from the Alliance of Independent Authors offers an overview of the current pros and cons of publishing a paperback through Amazon KDP rather than Createspace .

How to create a KDP paperback

Tips on Using Amazon KDP Paperback Publishing

• Download a KDP template of the correct trim size. I used the template with sample content.
• I copied and pasted my text into the template chapter by chapter, deleting the example text as I went along.
• Think about the font. I stuck with the Garamond of the template but increased it to 12 point – possibly a sign of bad eyesight!
• Headers – A Coffee Break Story Collection is a ‘box set’ of three books and I decided to have the book title at the top of every even numbered page and the individual story title at the top of every odd numbered page. It was necessary to split each story into a separate section within the Word document to do this.
• A Table of Contents is not usually needed for novels. If needed, a Table of Contents can be created using the TOC functionality within Word or it can be done using the Cross Reference facility within Word (detailed instructions for both of these methods in the different versions of Word can be found by searching the internet). I chose this second method because my box set required three separate Tables of Contents – one for each book.
• Check the formatting of the book, using the KDP Previewer, before obtaining a cover, to ensure that the number of pages is correct. In order to do this, it may be necessary to use the KDP cover creator to generate a temporary cover. You will be able to replace this cover with your own prior to publication.
• Product description – this can be copied from the book’s Kindle product description. However, on publication the line breaks may disappear. My description initially appeared as one mass of text. I queried this with Amazon and was advised to manually insert HTML coding to force the line breaks. To do this insert <br> where a line break is required.
• Linking of Kindle and paperback editions on the same product page. This should happen automatically after publication, but may take a few days. If it doesn’t happen, contact Amazon and they will very quickly make the link.

Formatting and publishing a paperback book takes patience and an eye for detail, whether done via Createspace or KDP but it is not rocket science. Good Luck!

A Coffee Break Story Collection contains a bumper 36 stories and is available for Kindle and in paperback via Amazon and also on Kobo.

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Creating an EBook and Paperback Box Set – Part 2

In my previous blog post I talked about why indie authors should consider creating a box set of their works. In this post I’m going to look at the points to think about when obtaining a cover for a box set. My next post will look at creating the paperback using the new KDP paperback facility.

The EBook Box Set Cover

There are two types of box set cover – a 3D or a 2D design.

The 2D design is the same as a ‘normal’ flat, e-book cover. It might feature images of the original covers of the books within the set or a design indicating the overall concept or theme of the collection.

The 3D version shows the spines of all the books included in the set and emphasises the number of books and therefore the great value for money it offers.

However, the 3D image does not always reproduce well as a thumb nail image on e-book retailers’ websites. A recent Kobo promotion of box sets advised authors that books with a 2D cover would have a greater chance of inclusion within the promotion than those with a 3D cover.
In addition, 3D images do not convert easily to paperback covers. If there is to be a paperback version of the box set, stick with a 2D image.

There is a very good article on the Kobo Writing Life blog about box set cover design. Read it before ordering a cover.

I used cover designer, Debby Dale, on Fiverr for both the e-book and paperback covers of A Coffee Break Story Collection. I sent her the covers from the original three books and specifically asked they be used for a 2D design that could also be used on a paperback cover. She also supplied two 3D images (with and without reflection) in case I wanted to use them for publicity. All three covers are shown below so that you can see the difference and also how the design might impact the thumbnail image.

A Coffee Break Story collection box set

3D Image Without Reflection

3D Image With Reflection

2D Image

A Coffee Break Story Collection contains a bumper 36 stories and is available for Kindle and in paperback via Amazon and also on Kobo.

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Creating an EBook and Paperback Box Set – Part 1

One of the joys of self-publishing is the freedom to re-use published works to create a brand new product and attract a new readership.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been re-using my three short story collections to produce a ‘box set’ containing a total of 36 short stories. Most people are familiar with DVD box sets. A book box set is similar – it is two or more books, previously sold separately, combined together and sold as a bumper, single ebook and/or paperback. This single volume generally offers the reader great value for money when compared to the individual selling prices of each standalone book.

In this blog post I’m going to talk about why creating a box set is a good idea. In my next post I’ll talk about procuring a box set book cover and in the third post in this series I’ll talk about using the new KDP paperback facility to create a print copy.

Why Create a Box Set?

  • To maximise revenue from individual books by repackaging them as a new product.
  • Binge consumption has become the norm with viewers lapping up complete series of TV shows in one sitting on Netflix and similar providers. Book consumption is heading the same way and therefore it makes sense to offer readers what they want.
  • Box sets offer good value to the customer (the box set price offers a good discount on the individual book prices) and may therefore sell in higher numbers.
  • Maximise revenue per customer. The sale of a box set brings in money ‘up front’ without relying on a customer returning to buy each individual book.
  • If the individual books in the set are relatively slim, as with many short story collections, bringing several together in a box set makes the production of a paperback version worthwhile. I’d had several requests for paperback versions of my short stories but felt I needed more content in order to make a paperback value for money for the reader.
  • On a more personal note, I’m trying to get away from an over-dependence on Amazon and had read that box sets sell well on the Kobo ereader.

The super-successful indie publisher Joanna Penn offers more detail on why box sets are a good idea on her blog, The Creative Penn.

A Coffee Break Story Collection is available on Amazon and Kobo and is half the price of buying the three individual story collections.

 

 

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A Contract with The Book Guild

I am delighted to announce that I’ve signed a contract with The Book Guild! My novel, The Promise, will be published in the early part of 2018.

The Promise is a slice of British noir with dark undertones – a promise made in prison thirty years ago must now be kept on the outside, by the next generation.

I’m really looking forward to working with The Book Guild and excited to see the cover design they come up with – you’ll be the first to see it!

On that note, I’d also like to thank you, my lovely, loyal followers for the support, encouragement, comments, likes etc. that you’ve given me over the past few years. You all know that writing is a tough old business. We need skin like rhino hide to stop us sinking in a sea of rejections but also the ability to spot and act on constructive criticism when it’s offered. I hope you’ll stick with me in the coming months. It’s going to be an exciting journey!

To celebrate my good news, the Kindle price of my first dark, psychological novel, Bedsit Three, has been reduced to only 99p for a limited time!  Bedsit Three is a thrilling why-dunnit which twists and turns its way to a shattering finale! No one knows what goes on behind closed doors or in the darkest corner of our minds. Sometimes the threat is too close to home …

Bedsit Three

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