E-Day for “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast”

Tomorrow the Kindle version of my history/travel book becomes available on Amazon. The Paperback is already out and some lovely people have bought it – more than I anticipated since I don’t really get into the marketing swing until 10 August when I’m back in the UK.

I thought I’d share some of the marketing ideas that I’ve put together and the responses I’ve had to them -bear in mind that this is a non-fiction book and likely to have a limited audience.

1. I’ve had A5 posters made of the cover. I spent ages agonising over the size of these – naturally I thought the bigger the better. However, the posters are going to library, museum, visitor centre and supermarket notice boards in the towns and villages down the coast that feature in the book. The decision about size was taken on the basis that there is always pressure for space and it’s far easier to remove a large poster to make more space.

2. I’ve been fortunate enough to have articles published in a number of regional magazines and I approached the editors to see whether they would review the book. As all have agreed to do so a copy is winging its way to each of them.

3. I’ve used social media to a limited extent mainly because I don’t want to put folk into a catatonic state as I rabbit on. Creative1 publishing – the company that formatted the e-book has offered to do a number of tweets about it for me and of course I use this blog, Facebook and Twitter. In addition I’ve uploaded a number of the photos from the book as well as some that didn’t make it to Pinterest – www.pinterest.com/sheila0661/close-to-the-edge and I’ll be adding to the Board over the next few weeks.

First Spurn Lighthouse later used for storing explosives.

First Spurn Lighthouse later used for storing explosives.


4. I’ve approached the local radio station to see whether they would be interested in running a short piece as well. So far, the air waves are silent.

5. I now regularly follow some of the local newspapers to pick up any snippets of news relating to the area I’ve written about. This enables me to contribute to any debate or news item on-line without overtly touting the book.

I find, like many independent publishers/authors, that marketing is just not my thing. I shrink from banging on too much about The Book and don’t find it easy to “naturally” mention it in both on-line and direct conversations. When I’m back in the UK I’m going to a couple of independent bookshops in the area to see whether they would take the book on and that fills me with some trepidation too…and I’m not normally what you might describe as a shrinking violet. I can’t quite put my finger on why this is just yet so I’ve tried to adopt the attitude – “if you don’t ask – you’ll never get”. I also keep asking myself – “What’s the worst that could happen?” and have (perversely) rather pleasurable moments thinking up the most horrifying answers. It helps to soothe the fears.

So this is where I’m at right now. Saturday 1 August is E-Day for “Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast” – it’s also Yorkshire Day so it seems fitting. Breath is baited!

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Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

It’s hard to say goodbye to old friends particularly those who provoke strong memories. I am of course, talking about books -the real, solid ones that sit on shelves not the virtual kind. This is not, I hasten to add, a meandering about the virtues and vices of real v e-book – that’s a debate long past its sell-by date.

I have books…lots of books and over the past couple of days I’ve been sorting them out, moving some on and packing up the rest in anticipation of The Move. It’s been a slow job – the snail sliming itself on the window scaled the dizzy heights there and back twice before I finished the task and I still have some leftovers to wrestle with.

There’s Nevil Shute’s “On the Beach”. I snaffled it off my parent’s bookshelf where its vivid green and black dust jacket beckoned me. I was eleven and my dad said it was too adult for me and hence all the more intriguing. Then, I remember the moment came when the house was quiet, both parents were wacking a golf ball round some course and I was in bed, bored and recovering from an appendicitis operation. I read it under the bedclothes and it gave me nightmares for weeks. I can still see the giant green radioactive bunnies I dreamed up yet it proved to be the foundation stone for my taste in sci-fi and apocalyptic-type novels.

Roll forward a few years and JB Priestley’s “Saturn over the Water” reminds me of Christmas when I was fifteen and the book was a present from my sister. I open it and there is an inscription written with a flourish in bright turquoise ink –” to Bella – Happy Christmas”. I won’t explain the Bella bit – too embarrassing. Yet the book evokes a wealth of childhood adventures as my sister and I came, saw and conquered a host of imaginary worlds. It reminds me too of the schism now between us. I believe that Christmas was the last time we shared any real affinity.

Phyllis Bentley’s “Inheritance” and Thomas Armstrong’s “The Crowthers of Bankdam” appealed to my West Riding textile heritage.  I’m guessing neither author’s name will be that familiar however their work provided the impetus and inspiration to write my first book. At the time I was living the good life on a small-holding in the Yorkshire dales where in the intervals between rounding up a bunch of misbegotten sheep with wanderlust and persuading a novice bull to attend to its duties I cobbled together an appalling novel based on the story of the Luddites.  After a well-deserved series of rejections I turned it into a play which achieved one radio broadcast. Fame!

Coming further towards present time, I have a whole series of Georgett Heyer novels, untouched for years until I was dumped by my partner when I sniffled and snuffled my way through them, non-stop just to lose myself and get away from the misery for a while. She’s another author, probably not read much these days yet whatever you think about the style and genre, she is peerless in her historical detail and accuracy.

As I pulled these little memory boxes off the shelves, blew the dust off them, fingered their slightly yellowing pages, grungy at the edges I wondered whether those books now residing in the ether and called up, like the genie in Aladdin’s Lamp, to appear on my Kindle will capture and hold the same memories. On the other hand perhaps I’m just becoming a sentimental old trout.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Why is it that when I’m away during the week doing the day job, when I get to the weekend there’s a more than usual number of “must-do” jobs around the house and garden? These “must-dos” are not tasks that I’ve let slip (well not many really) but are things that have cropped up during the days I am away such as a delivery that I’ve planned. I explained to the courier when and where to bring it only to find that he washed up three days too early and seemed to have left my precious parcel with everyone and his dog in the village. By the time I finally tracked it down it was, shall we say, well handled!

And another thing…have you noticed that the whinge factor of my posts is on the rise? No? Well it’s just not fair. Pay attention please. I’ve been blogging since January this year and over the weekend I took a trip down blogging lane to revisit some of them. Over the weeks I noticed how they’re beginning to sound whiney. Too hard, too difficult, too much work, not fair, no-one will buy my wares blah blah blah. It’s a dangerous thing this increasing whinge factor – for one thing it exacerbates my rheumatism – have whinge will twinge sort of thing – but more seriously whinging raises the victim spectre. Poor me; all I ever wanted to do was write but “they” won’t let me. They insist I pay my mortgage; they insist I write something worth publishing; they say that unless…Oh get over yourself woman.

So there’s going to be a few changes around here. This blog is going to be less about writing, the writing process, Kindle and all the other writing/publishing nibbly-pibblies (bring back “Blackadder” please). Instead it will be more as I originally intended – notes from the coast and will probably not even mention the W word, the K word et al.

If this is not to your liking and you follow this blog (what wonderful refined taste you have) I’ll quite understand if my future musings are not your thing and you decide to “unfollow”. However it’s only fair to warn you that I am the neighbourhood witch and I know where you live.

John Paul Jones, His Lordship and Me

Last week I went in search of a cannon ball. Not just any old cannon ball but one supposedly fired by John Paul Jones, the scurrilous Scottish pirate or, if you’re a US patriot, the brave heroic scourge of those snotty, tea-swigging English.

It is rumoured that during the War of Independence he used to sail up and down the English coast, harrying shipping and every now and again firing a cannon ball at the local gentry’s houses. One such missile is said to have landed and thereafter resided, in the garden of a country house not too far away from where I live.

Since I’m writing a feature about the adventures of JPJ, I thought I would try to establish some facts and, if possible, get a photo of the cannon ball if it really exists. So, notebook in hand, camera over shoulder and my latest vanity – a biz card that declares I’m a writer – tucked in my bag, I went in search of my quarry.

The house in question is one of hundreds of minor mansions that dot the British countryside. This particular one is inhabited by a peer of the realm,thought to be somewhat reclusive and/or eccentric. Aren’t they all?

Be that as it may, cap in hand and forelock ready for tugging I drove up the winding gravel drive to the imposing front door. There my nerve fled as the shades of his lordship’s ancestors rose up in anguish at such an intrusion. I snuck around the back, looking for (no sniggering please) the tradesman’s entrance.

Before I could track it down my ears were simultaneously assaulted by that cut-glass English accent so beloved of cliché-ridden 1950s films shown on daytime TV and the twanging of an acoustic guitar coming from an outhouse.
“I say, twang, what are you doing, twang, twang twang?

I was confronted by a scruffy figure holding a guitar, wearing torn jeans and trainers that that looked as though they’d gone a hundred rounds with Mohammed Ali. His face, like mine, was all saggy but, unlike mine, he had what those who know would describe as a “good bone structure”. I explained my mission and handed him my card which he scrutinised for a tenth of a second before stuffing it in a pocket.

Then he sneered and I must admit it was one of the best ever; the Full Monty in fact – the raised eyebrow, the look-you-up-and-down glance, the scornful eye and the precise, clipped speech.
“Now let me see, have I understood correctly? You are almost certainly one of those new Kindle writers. What do they call you now, self-publishers is it? Was a time when it was called vanity publishing and produced the most appallingly written rubbish – “Memoirs of a Country Bore”, “The Reticulation of the Cabbage White Butterfly” – all utter fatuous, unreadable rubbish. Am I right? Am I right?”

His voice rose an octave as he almost danced around me. At one time I thought that his guitar and my head were about to meet in unholy union. I backed off a little but take credit for almost standing my ground and I repeated my enquiry about the cannon ball.
“Ha! Never heard of it. You’ll have to come back at the weekend when the house and gardens are open.”

He turned to go and I could see I wasn’t going to make any progress so despite the urge to cripple him with one of my devasting ripostes, I said politely,
“Well thank you for your time, your lordship. Perhaps I will come back at the weekend then.”

Without turning he gave me a dismissive wave and then, just before he disappeared back into the outhouse I heard him mutter,
“And I’m not his bloody lordship either. I am his lordship’s bloody butler.”

Just goes to show you can’t take anything for granted these days.
Oh how we self-publishers suffer for our art.

Kindle Revisited

My exclusive 90-day deal with Kindle Prime for Time for Your Life will soon be up and I thought now might be a good time for a bit of reflection.

The original idea for Time for Your Life was to start to build up a library of articles and e-books on my business website http://www.thecoachingcorner.co.uk to support my coaching activities. I never expected to sell many copies – just as well really as it turns out.

The book garnered 3×5* reviews on UK Amazon and 1×5* on Amazon.com (Thank you Gwen Bristol) but I have sold very few copies through Kindle. On the other hand I have negotiated three-year licence agreements with a couple of companies for it to be available to the staff via the company intranets. This alone has more than covered my costs and will keep me in jelly beans for a good few months. Both those agreements came about because I sent free PDF copies to Human Resource Directors and two of them got in touch with me. The next step is for it to be available as a PDF via an on-line training and personal deveopment resource website: http://www.glasstap.com. This will expose the book to a completely different market.

I also had some picture postacards printed with the front cover of the book on one side and message/address space on the other. These I sent out to my past and present individual coaching clients. As far as I know none of those has resulted in any Kindle sales but I have sold PDFs.

So what have I learned?

1. Publishing an e-book takes very little time if you have the tech skills or the right people behind you. However marketing an e-book and getting sales takes a very great deal of time. I haven’t put nearly enough time into marketing. I had a marketing plan but seriously underestimated what time it would need – particularly finding, getting and keeping active on different book forums, blogs etc.

2. Pricing an ebook is a bit of a thorny question for me. I didn’t do enough homework on prices and so, in comparison with other books that appear to be of similar content, Time for Your Life may look pricey. £6.00 as opposed to the £1.99ers. Perception is all here. I have a view that if something is offered for sale at what seems to be a very low price then I have very low expectations of it and am more likely to pass on it. I also hold to the belief that you can always lower a price but if you start low and then try to go up in price, you pretty soon piss off a section of your customer base.Maybe I need to review these beliefs…I’m not sure.

3. I’ve mentioned this in other posts but for non-fiction it still may be better to bite the bullet and go for hardcopy publishing. I’ve been asked so many times for a hard copy or “proper” book as many have called it. I think this is an issue of disposable v for keeps.

4. I’m not totally convinced of any advantage Kindle Prime offers for this type of book other than the % rate. With hindsight I would have preferred to have offered the book from the get-go in as many ways/formats as possible.

So just something to chew on this Friday morning. I’d be more than happy to hear your thoughts/experiences – perhaps between us we should put an ebook out on the definitive way to self-publish.

Anyhoo – signing off for the weekend which is predicted to be warm and sunny – so have a good one.

Books on Botox…The Enhanced E-book?

During a period of prolonged www fossicking I came across the latest thing in e-books – enhanced e-books. Well I say latest but I don’t get out much so it could be old hat to some of you. But I’ve only just digested ebooks so what is this enhanced version?

Now just to prove I’m no Luddite here are a few snippets I’ve garnered.

Audio – if you want to quote an extract of a speech say by Winston Churchill or Abe Lincoln why write it? Why not insert an audio extract, possibly of the great man himself if you can get the permissions.If your recipe book includes instructions for simmering your soup why not have the steady “gloop gloop” noise playing in the background to illustrate the process. If your hero is caught up in a great conflict why not have a bit of background bang and crash to help make the point?

Video – travel writers you could show people, places and events using short video clips to enhance your words and make them come alive. Instead of static book covers we could have a little vid clip – Orcs slobbering, masked killer about to strike, heaving bosoms as heroines meet heros…your imagination’s the limit.

Author Interaction – not enough just to write the ebook we all need to give additional interactive material – our reasearch, where we get ideas from, where and how we write. We could even share our notes, plot lines and characterisations. Talking of characters…

Hyperlinks – internal hyperlinks inserted say for a list of characters so readers can tag along with them or find them quickly in any part of the book. External links too can take the reader to other sites, resources, people or places.

Then, one of my favourites – tables. When I wrote Time for Your Life it was replete with tables that the lovely Steve at http://www.kindlemybook.co.uk had to convert for me to make them more Kindle friendly. But no more…embedded pdfs, that’s the way to go so I now can have tables, graphs, graphics of whatever sort for my ebook.

All of which creates a multi-media, multi-sensory reading experience.
Does it mean writers will need to add other techie type skills to their profile?
Or will books become collaborative efforts with people with different skill sets sitting round a table to produce an enhanced ebook?
If we have an ebook can we still be said to be reading? Yes, but not as we know it, Jim.

I guess it’s a bit like cosmetic surgery – it all depends on how judiciously we use these enhanced features, which by the way, only Apple and B&N readers support.

Whatever will happen to curling up quietly with a good book?
The runes are there to be read or multi-media’d.

The “Real” Book is Dead, Long Live the “Real” Book

A new day and I’m not as grunty as I was yesterday…it’s the artistic temperament dontcha know. I’m still musing over a chat I had yesterday with a group of participants at one of my workshops. It was break time and good for dropping the oh so casual hints about THE book. There was apparent interest – apart from one guy whose eyes had glazed over the moment I started the workshop and who slipped quietly into a state of catalepsy as the session continued. I had to proddle him awake at the end of the afternoon and he had the nerve to tell me he thinks better with his eyes closed. But I digress.

The question most asked was “can we get a copy?” I explained it was an eBook available from Amazon, hastily adding that if they didn’t have a Kindle they could download a reader for free onto their PCs/Laptops. Their disappointment was flattering although I harboured an unworthy suspicion that it might have had something to do with their assessment marks but I like to think not. What this particular group wanted was a hold-in-the-hand, curl-up-by-the-fire “real” book and they wanted it signed. (Note to self – query possible sycophancy?)

Driving home I thought about why I had chosen to be Kindled. Apart from the fact that all the publishers out there seemed to suffer from a distressing form of myopia when it came to my book, the royalties from Amazon do at least offer an author the possibility of bread and dripping rather than one or t’other.

Last night I had a little Google (no scatological or salacious comments please). I found that there are certain genres – fantasy, sci-fi, romance, crime and thrillers that all do well as eBooks but non-fiction and more literary fiction do less well. It seems that many people consider eBooks to be disposable whereas they seem to regard non-fiction to be for keeps.

So which way to go? Do I want to go down the road of hard-copy publishing? Time to put the brain in gear. You know, I definitely think better with my eyes closed.