Category Archives: Writing

Su Williams in the HOT SEAT

When Su Williams first lays eyes on the HOT SEAT, she begins to whimper and cry. It’s almost as if she’s having an extremely bad dream. But this ain’t a dream, Su. This is real. 

Let the  games begin. 😀 

What genre(s) do you write, Su?

Su Williams

Gday, Su!

Well, considering Dream Weaver is my first book, I write in YA paranormal fiction. I went to my first conference about 4 years ago and people were throwing around all kinds of genres I had no clue what they were…steam punk, high fantasy, space opera. Boy, did I get an education. I really didn’t know what genre I wrote in other than YA fiction. I recommend conferences to beginning writers as well as self-published writers. Conferences are a great way to make connections and learn the craft.

[CJ: I agree. I’ve only gone to one conference but I got heaps out of it.]

Tell us about Dream Weaver in 25 words or less! 

Dream Weaver coverDream Weaver, Nickolas Benedetti rescues tragedy-torn Emari Sweet from the night terrors that haunt her. And draws the living breathing nightmares to her doorstep.

[CJ: Oh no! Tell us more.]

Seventeen year old Emari Sweet has lost her parents in a horrific car crash. Night terrors stalk her sleep and she teeters on the precipice of life, and death by her own hand. Her flesh screams for the razor’s edge, if only to exorcise her inner pain.

Nickolas Benedetti is Onar Caphar (Dream Weaver). He is able to cull and control the memories and dreams of others with a simple touch. Emari’s nightmares evanesce under his fingertips and with one whispered word, ‘forget’, he fades from her dreams with the cool grey mist of morning.
But a darker, more violent terror stalks her and ravages her precarious life. Nick strives to  save her but draws his own nemesis to her secluded cottage. Picketed by a promise, Nick will offer his own life in order to save hers.

Most of us write part time. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing or working I like to read. We go camping during the summer up at my parent’s cabin. There’s always something new to see up there. Baby raccoons, hunting osprey [a bird of prey], beavers, bear, a swarm of butterflies or a nesting duck or robin.  I love to take pictures of the wildlife we encounter. Some of my favorite pics are posted on my Pinterest page.

Tell us a little about your writing process.

LOL. I love this question. I keep telling people I’m a puker…as opposed to a pantser or planner. Random scenes come to me at random times inspired by random events. Then I have to write them down on whatever piece of paper I have available. I’ve been known to use register tape (I work retail.) Once I have my scenes, I tie them all together. And then, I edit, re-edit and edit again. I can’t afford a real editor, so I’ve worked hard at learning as much as I can about writing in general and novel writing specifically. There’s a lot of great books out there. I even used a college writing text book. Two books I suggest are: Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon; and Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino.

[CJ: A puker, hey? Nice!]

Who or what are your biggest writing inspirations?

I LOVE vivid, original imagery. I love it when writing is beautiful and poetic and heart-wrenching. The authors that I believe do this for me are Lisa McMannMaggie StiefvaterAnnette Curtis Klaus and Richelle Mead.   

[CJ: My to-read list just got even longer…]

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?

Without a doubt, I’d have to say promotion and marketing. It takes a great deal of time to get the word out on your book if you’re self-published. There’s no one to set up interviews or reviews or create ads. It’s all me. The biggest piece of advice I’ve gotten lately is ‘do what you can without sacrificing your creativity. Don’t forget that writing is what you love most and you can’t lose focus on that. :)’ (Thanks A.L.!).

[CJ: That’s excellent advice. And I totally hear you about promotion and marketing – it’s incredibly time intensive.]

Time for the HOT SEAT questions!

Hot Seat

*Insert scary music here*

Wow! This is a bit like being on the couch in the psychiatrist’s office. Delving deep into my psyche. Are you sure you really want to know this?

Yep, there’s no getting out of it now! Here we go…

Which fictional character are you most like and why?

Definitely Emari Sweet. She’s a bit quirky, a bit dark. Emari is kind of a compilation of myself, my daughter and every goth/emo girl I’ve met or read about. We call people who know who they are and aren’t shy about sharing it ‘characters.’ There aren’t enough ‘characters’ in the world these days. Everyone wants to fit in and becomes a cookie cutter of everyone else. I don’t mind being called ‘weird.’ Good, that means I’m not like you. And my daughter, Sarah inspires me too. She is not like every other teen girl. She’s Sarah. A bit of a geek with a quirky sense of humor and a side of dark. I’m so proud of her just for being herself. 

[CJ: ‘Weird’ works better for me than ‘normal’ too. Normal = boring!]

Finish this sentence from your character Emari’s perspective.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but… I’m a big wuss. If it weren’t for Nick, I’d be a hotter mess than I already am.

Now finish the same sentence from your own perspective.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but... despite not minding people thinking I’m weird, what other people think of me matters more than it should..

[CJ: Someone wise once told me that ‘what other people think of me is none of my business’. Easier said than done though!]

Cally, thanks so much for hosting me on your blog.

[CJ: You’re very welcome. It was great having you, Su.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like the sound of Dream Weaver? Grab your copy now from Amazon (paperback and Kindle) (only 99c for a limited time!), Barnes & Noble (Nook)  or CreateSpace.

If you’d like to hear more from Su, check out her website, her blog or like her on Facebook

If you’d like a turn in the HOT SEAT, let me know in the comments and I’ll schedule you in for a buttocks burning. 😀

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Filed under Hot Seat, Writers, Writing

IWSG: Bad reviews are a tonic for the writer’s soul

First up, baby update! Mackenzie is now three and a half months old and is developing a wonderfully cheeky personality. Here are some recent shots…

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

Moving on…

For this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, I’m going to discuss how bad reviews can make you feel better. Yes, you read that correctly, I said better. Before you start thinking I’m crazy, let me explain. I’ve never felt better by reading a bad review of my own work. That always makes me feel a little hurt. But to remind myself that opinions are subjective, I will occasionally go and read negative reviews of a book I love.

For example, I adored Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall. When I reviewed it, I said, ‘I highly recommend… [this book] to teens as I think it could help them to identify – and maybe even challenge – the nonsensical conventions, relationships and hierarchies that exist within their own school.’

Yet, here’s what others thought:

“Literally the worst book I have read this year. After all the hype this book received, I was excited to finally get my hands on it from PBS. Let’s talk about a let down.” Review on Goodreads

“This book is entirely predictable. If you are an individual with any kind of empathy or soul, you know where this is going. The only question you ask yourself is why does it take so long to get there- that’s the first reason I had to stop reading.” Review on Goodreads

OUCH! Thankfully, nobody has said anything nearly that harsh about my work. But that’s not the point. The point is: people’s taste in fiction is incredibly subjective. Just because one person (or even a handful of people) didn’t connect with your work, doesn’t mean what you’ve written is bad. It just means it wasn’t to their liking.

Putting your work out there to be judged by the masses takes courage, and I think anyone who’s done it deserves recognition for their bravery. So if you’ve published something, give yourself a pat on the back for having the guts to put yourself out there. And if you’ve felt the blow of bad reviews, take heart – you’re in good company!

“I really do not like his style of writing at all … His prose is lumpy and I feel like it’s completely devoid of character.” Review of The Power of One

“I don’t actually hate this book or maybe I do; I can’t make up my mind. There were plenty of things in this book for me to hate about it, that’s for sure.” Review of The Time Traveler’s Wife 

“If I could give this no stars, I would. This is possibly one of my least favorite books in the world, one that I would happily take off of shelves and stow in dark corners where no one would ever have to read it again.” Review of To Kill A Mockingbird

What do you think?

Have you ever read bad reviews to lift your own spirits? (it sounds bad when put like that, doesn’t it?)

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Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Writing

Book review: Easy by Tamara Webber

Book blurb

I'm glad I had an e-book without a cover because my version of Lucas is so much hotter!

I’m glad I had an e-book without a cover because the Lucas my mind created is so much hotter than the one depicted here!

When Jacqueline follows her long-term boyfriend to college, the last thing she expects is a breakup. After two weeks in shock she wakes up to her new reality: she’s single, ignored by former friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.

Leaving a party alone, she is assaulted. Rescued by a stranger in the right place at the right time, she just wants to forget that night. But when her attacker turns stalker she has to make a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Her savior proves protective and intriguing, but he’s hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly, knowing who to trust is anything but easy.

My thoughts

I literally just finished this book, which could be a bad thing because my emotions might get the better of me and I might gush. Quite simply, I loved this story. I kept reading it when I should have been catching up on much-needed shut-eye (with an eight-week-old baby, sleep is an elusive commodity), but I just had to read on. The story was that addictive.

Jacqueline and Lucas are beautifully crafted characters. I felt like I got to know them both intimately throughout the book, and my heart ached as their stories unfolded. I’m sure the author would be thrilled to know that I now want to take self defence classes because she’s shown me how empowering (and necessary) they can be.

Jacqueline is a brilliant main character, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her grow and learn. There were times when I was disappointed with her decisions, but they just made her all-the-more real.

And Lucas. Wow. What can I say? There are so many layers to Lucas that I never tired in reading about him. The connections that developed between him and Jacqueline felt so real and organic – I really admire Webber’s ability to develop authentic connections and not just rely on superficial interests as some books do.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys realistic, gritty stories in a college/university setting. The plot deals with some pretty heavy topics so if you’re up for a light read, this may not be the book for you. But if you’d like to read a novel that introduces you to flawed, vulnerable-but-beautiful individuals, get your hands on a copy of Easy!

PS If you’ve read Easy and would like to read another gritty novel set at college/university, try my novel, The Big Smoke! 😀 (couldn’t help adding that plug in there!)

My rating: 5 stars

 My 1-5 scale (updated)

1: Terrible.
2: It was okay.
3: I liked it.
4: I really liked it.
5: I loved it. 

Your turn

Have you read Easy? If so, what did you think? If not, is it on your to-read list?

3 Comments

Filed under Book review, New Adult fiction, Reading, Writing

IWSG: sales slumps (and a bub update!)

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

Hello there! Long time no speak! Can you believe it’s MARCH? Crazy, right? And being the first Wednesday in March, that makes it Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Considering this group exists so: “Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak,” I decided to share my latest sales figures and have a good moan about them.

When I started this post, I thought my sales had slumped big time. You see, I log into KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) every so often and check my sales figures, and for the past couple of months, I’ve been disappointed with what it’s told me. Why? Because I’ve only sold four books via Amazon all year. Four! Way less than I was hoping for, that’s for sure.

I haven’t been bothering to check Smashwords and its affiliates because the lion’s share of my online sales have always been with Amazon, but I thought I should check before I wrote this post. So I did, and what I found surprised me. Apparently, I’ve sold 45 books via Apple in 2013. Pretty cool!

HOWEVER, I’m not convinced those sales are actually from this year. I think they’ve probably only been reported this year, so they’re not 100% proof of continuing sales. Either way, I’m thrilled those sales have occurred at all. That’s 45 more people who’ve read my work and hopefully enjoyed spending time with my characters, and that’s what it’s really about for me. Of course, I’d love for sales to go gangbusters so I could quit my day job and write full time, but writing will continue to be a big part of my life regardless of how much money I make from it.

Considering sales have stagnated on Amazon, I’m toying with the idea of dropping the price to 99c. I figure, it can’t hurt my sales (since I’m not making any via that channel anyway) and it could push the book up in the rankings, giving it more visibility. What have I got to lose? I’d be keen to hear your thoughts on this idea.

And in other news…

For those who are interested, baby Mackenzie is growing at lightening speed (out, not up!) and is a very demanding but adorable little girl. Here are some recent photos and a video!

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Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Marketing, Publishing, Self publishing, The Big Smoke, Writing

Charity Bradford guest post: Top 5 Things I Wished I Knew Before I Started Writing (#1)

I’m poking my head out of baby land to introduce a guest post from one of my favourite bloggers. Before I do, here are a few photos of little miss Mackenzie, who is now five weeks old.

Mackenzie has really discovered her lungs the past couple of weeks, and if she’s not happy with something, she’ll let us know in no uncertain terms! To balance out the crying, she’s rewarded us with a few little smiles every now and then, which melt my heart into a warm puddle of mush!

Anyway, let’s move on… I’m delighted to take part in Charity Bradford’s mini blog hop, which forms part of her blog tour for the release of her debut novel, The Magic Wakes. Charity was one of the first bloggers I ‘met’ when I joined the blogosphere, and I’ve followed her journey with great interest. She’s an absolutely beautiful soul who deserves great success, so I was thrilled when she announced that her debut novel was going to be published.

Banner 3

In her guest post below, Charity tells us about the number one thing on her list of the “Top 5 Things I Wished I Knew Before I Started Writing”. The list came about from a discussion Charity had with a group of teen writers.

Take it away, Charity!

1. TIME

Author photo Time is one of the biggest factors in writing, and perhaps the one we think about the least before we begin. That’s why I want you to understand the time involved BEFORE you start. This will head off some of the disappointment you might face.

A. You have to make the time to write. If you don’t, the writing won’t happen.

  • No one is going to come to you and say, “Let me clean your house today and do your grocery shopping so you can write.”
  • If you don’t say, “This is my writing time” and turn off the phone and internet, and lock yourself away from your family, TV, whatever it is that distracts you—you will continue to be interrupted and the writing will suffer.
  • Fifteen to twenty minutes here and there is better than nothing, but if you’re like me, you need at least that long to remember where you left off and where you’re heading. For this reason, I prefer to get at least an hour block, but two is my goal.
  • Be willing to sacrifice for your writing. Get up an hour earlier, skip that sitcom or crime show and write at night, whatever it takes.

The important thing is to make a schedule and stick to it. Find a time to write and do it. For me, the hard part is turning off the writer when it’s family time, but if you have a plan you can work toward a healthy balance.

B. Getting published isn’t going to (at least it shouldn’t) happen overnight. Even in today’s faster paced world, good publishing takes time.

Example—I got my first ‘yes’ in 2011 and I turned it down because I didn’t feel I was ready. The next ‘yes’ came March 2012 and it just felt right. However, it took another month before the contract was signed and everything was official. Two more weeks before I met my editor, another two weeks to get the first notes back from the editor and then a month for me to work on those edits. A month after I turned them in I got a note from my editor saying she was starting on my WIP because guess what?? She has other authors she’s working with! SO, even after you get a YES, there is a lot of waiting. Be ready to accept that. Embrace it and work hard when the ball is in your court.

I finished my edits and received my cover art in September of 2012. In my mind everything was done and it was time to start planning my blog tour and implementing my marketing plan. There was nothing wrong with that, but let me tell you, there was still a lot of waiting until my book was actually out in public. Even with a move across two states, I was like a five year old waiting for Christmas. My poor publishing family probably dreaded getting emails from me (so sorry!).

Learn patience now, because waiting for your dream to be alive in the world is harder than anything else you’ve ever experienced. It was very much like waiting for the birth of my children but harder. Why? Because I kept thinking I could speed things up by working harder and faster.

But what if you self publish? You still need to put in the same amount of time and effort into polishing that manuscript as those with Big 6 (5, whatever they are now) contracts. I’m sure Cally can tell you ALL about that! She did an excellent job getting everything taken care of for her book. Just remember, the better the final product, the more success you will see. And yes, we have seen exceptions to this rule, but don’t you want to be proud of the quality of your finished novel?

About The Magic Wakes

CoverTalia has a secret, one that will save her world and yet rip it apart. Only she can decide if the price is worth it.

Scientist Talia Zaryn has always had visions of an alien invasion and of her own death. She’s kept it a secret, hoping they are nothing more than childish nightmares. But when her face in the mirror matches that of her dreams, she fears the dreams are prophetic. Talia must prove that life exists beyond their planet, Sendek; perhaps then people will prepare to fight.

Talia’s work at the Space Exploration Foundation leaves no time for personal relationships, but Major Landry Sutton isn’t looking for a friend. He’s looking for a traitor. His ability to sense emotions convinces him Talia is that traitor until a touch sizzles between them. In an instant their minds are connected and they can communicate telepathically. Just as the two begin to trust each other, the invading force arrives.

Talia and Landry must uncover the secrets of Sendek’s past if they hope to defeat these terrifying creatures. And Talia is the key—if only she can learn to trust the magic coursing through her veins.

Want more?

Watch the trailer, read the first chapter, find The Magic Wakes on Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, or visit Charity’s blog or website.

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Introducing… Mackenzie Elizabeth Jackson!

You may have guessed by my absence recently that the package I’ve been awaiting for some months has arrived. I’m a mum! Our precious little girl, Mackenzie Elizabeth Jackson, arrived in the world at 10.05pm on Wednesday 9 January, weighing 3264g (7  pounds 3) and measuring 50 centimetres.

She loves to be cuddled and sleeps much better in my arms than in her basinette, which is why it’s taken me so long to write this post. Right now, she’s sleeping in a baby carrier on my chest. Actually, she’s now stirring so I’d best keep it brief!

Here are some photos of our little miss. Forgive the quality of some of them. They won’t be winning any photo competitions!

Your turn

How are you going? What have I missed while I’ve been happily lost in baby land?

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First post for 2013: Insecure Writer’s Support Group!

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

Wow, can you believe it’s 2013? Christmas and New Years have come and gone, and I’m now 38.5 weeks pregnant!!  For the last Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, I spoke about being worried that my novel, The Big Smoke, will disappear into a cloud of oblivion when bub comes along and I stop promoting for a while. I got some lovely comments on that post, including a great reminder from Cherie Reich that the book will be around for a long time, so it always has a chance to find its audience. That’s the beauty of online retailers – there’s always a chance for your book to become the next ‘overnight success’.

So, to be honest, I’m not nearly as concerned about my book’s sales over the next period as I was a month ago. I’ve done a fair bit of promotion since I launched the book, and hopefully, sales will continue to bubble away on their own now. If not, I won’t be losing sleeping over it – because I probably won’t be getting that much sleep anyway! Not with an infant to care for! 🙂

Here are some photos from Christmas of the bump…

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I’m hoping not to disappear completely from the blogosphere once bub arrives. But rather than posting regularly, I’m hoping to spend my online time  hanging out at your blogs and continuing to follow and support your journeys. I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings for everyone!

Also, I’d like to open this blog up to guest posts from my regular followers – no point in a good blog staying silent! So if you’d like to guest post on the amazing Cally Jackson Writes, let me know and I’ll get my people to talk to your people! 😉

Your turn

How was your Christmas and New Years? What’s occupying your mind at the moment? Any insecurities? Would you like to guest post on Cally Jackson Writes?

PS You can find out more about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group at Ninja Captain Alex’s blog.

18 Comments

Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Marketing, Personal, Publishing, Self publishing, The Big Smoke, Writing

Cornell’s Suicide Problem Spotlighted in Oculus

Michael Offutt

Michael Offutt

Today, I’m delighted to welcome one of my favourite bloggers, Michael Offutt, to guest post. Michael has been a fantastic supporter of my blog and my writing, and he also happens to be a very talented author. Today, he talks to us about a touchy subject that forms part of his recently released novel, Oculus, which is the sequel to his first novel Slipstream.

Take it away, Michael!

Oculus Button 300 x 225

Michael: Suicide is a topic that I never really encountered when I went to college at the University of Idaho. Maybe my school was just too small or too unimportant, or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. But when I started reading newspaper articles, blogs, and internet forums written about Cornell to better understand this Ivy League school that would be the setting for “Oculus”, I came across an astounding statistic. CU has a lot of student suicides.

I kind of struggled on how I wanted to portray this in my book. A lot of people blame the easy access that people have to Ithaca’s gorges. And there’s no point on campus that you can wander where you cannot hear the rush of water moving through one of these miniature canyons. In fact, in many a Carl Sagan address (he taught at Cornell before he died in 1996) you can hear the roar of a waterfall in the background. As a side note…Carl Sagan is my hero and there’s a few references to him peppered through the narrative. So if you’re a fellow Carl Sagan fan, you might enjoy these “Easter eggs.”

What I finally decided upon was the idea that once Jordan realized what was going on, he would be torn up about it, because he actually has the power to see what happened at the very moment someone plunged to their death. Additionally, Jordan is a really nice guy and he’s going to be moved emotionally by just thinking that someone would choose to end their life this way. He has a “hero complex” and that means if he can do something about a problem, he will. Finally, I wanted to draw into question that at least one of the suicides might not be what it seems.  This of course leads to further questions, investigations, and an overall mystery that unfolds for the secondary characters in Oculus who have a task to complete while Jordan does his best to locate the Black Tower on Earth (a place that holds a miraculous box running a program that applies all of the laws of physics to the entire universe as long as it continues to operate).

I think the task that the secondary characters do is as riveting as the one that Jordan is tasked to do, and overall, keeps the book from having the dreaded “saggy middle.” However, I still question as to whether using Cornell’s problem with suicides as a plot device in my book is crossing some kind of line. I hope it isn’t.

If you would like to read a sample of my writing or know more, visit the books page on my blog.

More about Oculus 

Autumn has arrived in New York, and Jordan Pendragon attends his first classes as a freshman at Cornell. Born with a brilliant mathematical mind, he balances life as a research assistant with that of a student athlete.

But Jordan also has a quest. He must find the Black Tower, a monolithic edifice housing a thing that defines the very structure of the universe. Jordan believes it is buried somewhere in Antarctica under miles of prehistoric ice.

October finds Jordan earning a starting position with the Cornell hockey team. But a dark cloud gathers over his rookie season. Unexplained deaths, whispers of a cannibal cult, a prophecy, and a stone known only as the Oculus, cast a shadow over his athletic ambitions. It is the start of a terrifying journey down a path of mystery, murder, and to a confrontation with an Evil more ancient than the stars.

Read a free short story that’s a lead-in to the book series.

Cally: I’m interested in your thoughts about Michael’s question – do you think it’s okay for authors to use real societal issues as plot devices for our novels? A lot of successful authors do it (Jodi Picoult comes to mind, though I know her genre is very different to Michael’s), but does that make it a good idea?  Keen to hear your thoughts!

Also, as part of Michael’s blog tour, he’s giving away six signed copies of Oculus – just enter your name into his competition rafflecopter to win. AND I get to give away an Oculus bookmark (pictured); all you have to do is comment on this post! So what are you waiting for? Get commenting! 🙂

Oculus bookmark

Oculus bookmark

If you’d like to hear more from Michael, you’re in luck! You can find him on Twitter, Facebook or his blog. You can also find his books on Amazon and Goodreads (and a host of other places – check for his work at your preferred e-distributor), and you can check out the artwork he’s produced relating to the Slipstream series.

P.S. Did you miss the post about my Goodreads review competition, where anyone who writes an honest review of my novel The Big Smoke can go into the draw to win a $50 book voucher? If you missed it, never fear. You can find more info over at the Goodreads competition page!

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Goodreads review competition – it’s happening!

As my regular readers know, I’ve been toying with the idea of running a competition where people who review The Big Smoke go into a draw to win a $5o book voucher. Well, I recently received an email response from Goodreads saying they were happy for me to run the competition, so I figured what the heck?! Let’s do this! Competition details are below and on the dedicated competition page.

If there’s anything that doesn’t make sense or that puts up a red flag for you in the info below, please let me know. I’ll also draw your attention to the fact that people who have already posted reviews about The Big Smoke on Goodreads are eligible to enter – that some of you guys, so don’t miss out! 🙂

Without further ado, here’s the info!

COMPETITION DETAILS

The Big Smoke by Cally Jackson

Would you like to go into the draw to win a $50 book voucher? Of course you would!

All you have to do is read my novel, The Big Smoke, and write an honest review of 100 words or more about it on Goodreads. Yep, it’s that simple!

How do I enter? 

Once you’ve written your review on Goodreads, you can register your competition entry via the competition rafflecopter.

There will be a simple question about the novel as part of the registration process to ensure all entrants have actually read the book.

You can earn bonus points for telling people about the competition via Facebook, Twitter or your blog and/or by posting your review in other places such as Amazon or Smashwords.

Sounds great! What else do I need to know?

  • Reviews must be posted on Goodreads.
  • Reviews do NOT have to be positive. Any considered review of 100 words or more is eligible to win, provided it doesn’t contravene Goodreads’ review guidelines.
  • The winner can choose which book seller they would like to receive their $50 gift voucher from (as long as I can buy it from Australia).
  • The competition will close on Monday 11 March 2013. If less than 50 reviews are received before the closing date, the competition will be cancelled.
  • The winner will be contacted via email.
  • People who have already posted reviews on Goodreads are eligible to enter into the competition.
  • Goodreads has given permission for me to run this competition.
  • Relatives of the author are not permitted to enter (sorry, Mum).
  • The Big Smoke is available to buy in e-copy from AmazonSmashwords, iBooks, KoboDiesel Books, and hard copy from this blog (Australia and New Zealand) and Amazon.

Any questions? 

If you have any questions about the competition, please comment below or contact me.

ENTER HERE

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Filed under Book review, Competitions, The Big Smoke, Writing

IWSG: Where to from here for marketing The Big Smoke?

Last week, I posted about the top ten lessons I’ve learnt since I independently published my debut novel, The Big Smoke. Tonight’s post will be about what my next steps are for marketing /getting the book out there. Where does the Insecure Writers Support Group fit in? You’ll see!

Advertising at QUT

Over the past few days, I got very excited about the possibility of putting advertising material (bookmarks) into the welcome bags of first year students at Queensland University of Technology, which is the uni where The Big Smoke‘s two main characters study. I was even more excited when the uni said they’d give me a discount due to the book’s connections with the uni and my poor artist status.

However, after some long conversations with my ever-pragmatic business partner (aka husband Marky), I’ve come to the disappointing conclusion that it’s not a smart investment right now. You see, even with the discounted rate, it would cost me about $600 for the advertising fee and production of 5000 bookmarks.

Just to break even, I would need to sell 600 e-books or 110 paperbacks as a result of the advertising, which would require a conversion rate between 2% and 12%. Although the audience is pretty targeted (first year uni students), there are still going to be a lot of people in that audience who wouldn’t be interested in The Big Smoke. I’d say at least 60% (wild stab). So is a 2-12% minimum conversion rate realistic? I’d love to find out, but unfortunately we’re not in a position to risk $600 on it right now.

This doesn’t mean advertising at QUT is completely unachievable though. They do have some cheaper options such as putting up posters on campus, but I’ll need to do similar sums to those above before I know whether they’d be a good investment either.

Local magazines and newspapers 

I’ve got some feelers out at the moment for reviews/interviews in local magazines and newspapers, which I’m hoping may generate some interest. It’s early days in this area though so I’ll let you know if anything comes of it.

In saying that, thanks to my awesome dad and his “connections”, a teen magazine called Orbit on the Sunshine Coast has advertised The Big Smoke (for free!) and are giving away two copies of the book to readers. I believe their latest edition is out now but they haven’t uploaded it online yet. Here’s what the ad looks like:

Orbit Ad for The Big Smoke

Hopefully it sparks the interest of some sunny coast teens!

Review competition – idea still bubbling away

Some of you might remember a competition idea I mentioned a few weeks ago, where people who review The Big Smoke go in the draw to win a $50 book voucher. At the time, I said the reviews would need to be on Amazon, but now that I’ve learnt you have to purchase something from Amazon before you can leave a review there, I’m thinking that Goodreads reviews would be a better option.

As I said initially, reviews would NOT have to be positive. Any considered review of 100 words or more would be eligible to win. However, I’m still not sure whether I’ll go ahead with this idea because there’s a risk that people could perceive I’m paying for positive reviews. I’ve actually emailed Goodreads to get their thoughts on the competition idea (I value the connection they provide to readers and wouldn’t want to upset them), so I’ll let you know their response when I get it.

Goodreads giveaway and advertising

I’m currently holding a giveaway of two copies of The Big Smoke on Goodreads, and it does seem to have slightly increased my e-book sales (or it could be a coincidental increase). To support the giveaway (and promote the book more generally), I’m also running an ad on Goodreads, which I set up using their beta self-serve advertising system. At last count, 405 people have entered the giveaway, and there have been 205 “views” of the ad, none of which have resulted in a click through. From what I can tell, a “view” means that the ad has appeared on a page that someone is looking at, but you have to actually scroll down the page a little to see the ads, so I’m not overly worried about the conversion rate at this point. You’re only charged per click through, so if the ad tanks, at least it will be an inexpensive failure!

Here’s the ad and the targeting options I’ve chosen. I’d be interested in any feedback you have.

Goodreads advertisement

Book bloggers

I’ve provided review copies of The Big Smoke to 12 book bloggers / bloggers who occasionally review books, and so far four of them have written a review, all of which I’ve previously quoted. I’m hoping that the other bloggers have been too busy to read the book yet (as opposed to them having read it and hated it) but will get around to it eventually and contribute their opinions to the reviews slowing stacking up. I want to continue to identify book bloggers who might enjoy The Big Smoke because I believe that opinion leaders play a big part in the overall success or failure of books, and the best way to make opinion leaders aware of the book is by telling them about it myself!

And how does all of this relate to the Insecure Writers Support Group?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

It totally relates, trust me. I’ll explain right now. As you can see from the points above, I’ve got a lot of ideas and plans in progress for marketing The Big Smoke. Putting these plans into action takes up a lot of time, which is all well and good at the moment, but there’s also the slight matter of being 34.5 weeks pregnant. In less than six weeks time (or thereabouts), my priorities are going to change dramatically and I’m going to have, let’s face it, absolutely zero time to progress any of these plans. How long that will last is yet to be seen, but I imagine it will be at least three months.

I’m ridiculously excited about becoming a mum, but part of me is worried that all the work I’m doing now will equate to very little if I drop off the planet from a marketing and social media perspective. Will my sales figures dry up? Will I have to start from scratch when I’m finally ready to re-enter the marketing realm?

I’m concerned about all of this, but it’s important that I remember what I set out to achieve when I decided to independently publish The Big Smoke. I never expected to achieve massive sales (dreamt about it, yes; expected it, no), I just wanted to share my story with people who were interested in reading it, and hopefully touch a few readers along the way. And you know what? I’ve done that.

I’ve also learnt an amazing amount already, which I plan to put to good use with my next book. So if everything comes to a halt because I stop actively promoting The Big Smoke for a while, that’s okay. It’s been a great experience regardless. And who knows, maybe little miss Jackson will be an absolutely perfect baby who is more than happy for me to spend a bit of time marketing and writing while she sleeps peacefully… 😉

Your turn

What are your thoughts about my marketing plans? Do you have any feedback on the Goodreads ad? What do you think will happen for The Big Smoke when I drop off the radar for a while?

PS You can find out more about the Insecure Writers Support Group at Ninja Captain Alex’s blog.

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Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Marketing, Publishing, Self publishing, The Big Smoke, Writing