Category Archives: Author Tips

Feel The Fear… and Write it Anyway

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When you want something; really, really want something, where do you begin in getting close to it? My own answer: “Build it, and they will come.”

I live in a beautiful, rented house in Scotland which was the very thing that drove me to write. Seven years ago our landlord decided she wanted to sell it, my husband and I wanted to buy it, yet it was (and still is) way out of our price range and we knew one of us would have to do something extraordinary in order to make it our own. Then our landlord agreed to let us stay until we could, however long that might take.

Sundown in 'Field'.
Sundown in Field

Behind our beloved house is an empty field, owned by our landlord, and every day I take the dogs up there to let them run about free, turning around to look back down over the roof of our home and tell myself again that one day we WILL own it. That is, the whole house, not just the roof. But there are other things I have been telling my landlord’s field.

‘I’m going to write a book,’ I said on a Monday. On a Friday, two years later, I finished it.

‘I’m going to get an agent for this book,’ I told the sky above the landlord’s field several fine, summer mornings in a row. Just six weeks later, on a fine summer morning that found me trudging around Kilmartin Glen, I got an email from an agent asking to meet with me. I signed with her less than a month later.

‘I’M GOING TO GET A PUBLISHER FOR THIS BOOK!’

I shouted this on a pretty windy afternoon in the field that will one day be mine, red-faced and bubbling after the last of a stream of publisher rejections came through. I even shook my fist for emphasis; well, you never know when the Universe needs a bit of sheer grit and anger to get your point across. Just over a year later, I signed to a small press.

‘I’m going to be a best-selling author, Field.’

Okay, I didn’t say ‘Field’, but I love that bit in Shirley Valentine where she talks to the wall, addressing it as ‘Wall’. Right from the off, ‘The New Mrs D’ became a best seller; but not one of those fancy ‘million’ or ‘New York Times’ ones. It’s an Amazon best seller, which all authors know isn’t necessarily going to help anyone buy their house.

‘I’m going to see my name and my writing in one of my favourite publications.’

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Psychologies Magazine (UK), September 2015 edition.

Tadahhh!

‘I’m going to sell a million books!’

Wait… what?

This is the one I’ve been telling Field for around a year now. It’s a toughie, because a year on I’m nearer to the mark of buying a million books than I am to selling them. I didn’t even make one ‘Best Chicklit Books of 2015’ list to give me a sales boost. No one hailed my book as a ‘Top Ten Beach Read of 2015’ even after I’ve spent a lot of time asking the bloggers and journalists that make these lists for reviews. Many have gladly helped; many, many more have never replied. And as British summertime comes to a close, after allegedly having started in the first place, (has anyone had a postcard from the sun?), the beach reads lists are becoming less relevant. It seems the Field of Dreams has hit a stumbling block in the race for me to write my landlord a fat cheque.

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Line from ‘I Hate That You Bloody Left Me.’

So I better get on with the business of finishing my next book, ‘I Hate That You Bloody Left Me’, which is in edits right now.

And everyday I’m still out standing in my field, (you knew I was going to go there with that corny line, right?), watching my dogs roll around in fox poo while I say out loud what I’m going to do with my life.

Who is this nobody shouting at fields and having the audacity to write about selling a million books? Does the fear grab you when you even dare to think about doing that? This is my point. Fears can stop you reaching, and reaching is necessary if you’re going to catch that bonus ball. Let me list some common writerly fears for you:

  1. What if I can’t write as well as I think I can?
  2. What if people laugh at my efforts and I make a fool of myself?
  3. What if no one wants to read my work?
  4. What if people do want to read it and then they hate it?
  5. What if nobody buys it?
  6. What if I get some terrible reviews?
    And the main one:
  7. What if I fail?

Read all of those fears again and imagine they all happened. Now, where in the world are you? Has the absolute worst thing that can happen to a person happened to you?

What if you don’t fail?

I had all of these fears at the beginning but I’ve met them now, and they weren’t nearly as ugly as I thought they would be. I get to say I stood up, took my turn and I tried.

Perhaps you scoff at the idea of thinking and believing yourself to success. If you happen to be an author on Twitter, you might have your own ideas for sales success. Well, let me take this opportunity to tell you this: how many books did you buy after clicking a link in a tweet from a fellow author? This should tell you what works and what doesn’t when it comes to selling yourself.

Asking the entire world to buy won’t always make them buy. Daring to tell yourself out loud you are going to sell drives you, at the very least, to work harder for it. Much harder than spending your time spewing out the kind of tweets that will make your followers mute you. Think hard about where you want to be, say it out loud and watch the answers begin to arrive.

So, I’ll race you to the finish line, oh book link tweeting author. Two hundred and forty ‘buy my book’ tweets in your timeline against two hundred and forty days of asking my future field to make the masses buy a million of my books. Because I do believe there is some truth in this ‘ask and you will receive’ thing. If you dare to make yourself want something enough, you will continue to focus on it until finally, it becomes yours. Not by chance or mystical, universal intervention; by sheer hard work, persistence and a great big dollop of belief. What I’ve found is that shouting out loud about what you want also helps drive away fear; the very thing that holds many of us back when it comes to reaching for something we want. Shout at the fear. Don’t be afraid to tell yourself outside of your head that you are going to do this and be specific about it. Just make sure you’re listening when you do.

Be specific; that’s the ticket right there. On reflection, I’ve got a new request for my pal, Field:

‘I’m going to sell a million books. But listen, I’d like this to be before I die, if you don’t mind?’

Tony-Robbins

Update for Toni Betzner – this is the house:-


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Conquering Writer’s Block (Without Your Head Falling Off)

One of the questions posed on my Goodreads author page, was ‘how do you conquer writer’s block?’ I said I didn’t believe in it. I said, ‘just push through. Keep writing. Write anything, even if it’s drivel.’

I think the best thing you can do is allow yourself to write nonsense and all of a sudden, breakthrough occurs.  Simply put: speed write.

I must just point out that speed writing isn’t anything at all to do with drugs. No, that’s called ‘I’m going to prison now writing.’ Speed writing is where you simply blast out all your thoughts in one long, stream of conscious flurry not stopping to worry at all that you might be writing garbage. And yes, you’ve guessed it; this blog post is a speed writing exercise. Thank you for noticing.  And look out, it may be somewhat unpredictable. One minute, I can be telling you something and then (oh look, a new pencil that needs sharpening) I can go off at a tangent because, wow, (my nails need biting some more, hold on a sec), my brain is off the charts odd.

But I believe this is an incredibly effective way to break what you perceive to be your writer’s block and using your blog to do so is the perfect place. This is where I put all my lesser edited, stream of conscious writing, so it’s perfect. But I do think writer’s block is your perfection obsessed self simply stalling you. Stop it and write!

Having said that, I have become a bit of a new-age hippy lately and taken up meditating. But not before I spent an age trying to teach myself how by searching for YouTube videos for guidance and practice. I’ve tried listening to and watching so many bizarre things on there, but keep finding myself side-tracked by my own, zany thought processes that don’t ever seem to switch off when I’m watching or listening to someone else.

‘Now,’ says meditation guru number one. ‘Imagine your whole body is loose and limp.’

I sink down into my pillow, not being able to help imagining I’ve fallen off the top of a tall building and everything is broken. Hmmm, this might not be good…

‘Imagine your hands are loose at the end of your arms.’ What? Like coming off, loose?

‘And your head is loose on the end of your neck.’

Holy hell, now I’m decapitated. Next!

Then there was the ‘ASMR Ear To Ear Whispering’ video, where I plugged in my earphones and listened to a young woman ‘awakening my creative self within’ by leaning in to whisper ‘you are wonderful. You are creative,’ into each of my ears at a time.

‘Ah, what a lovely, hypnotic voice,’ I thought. ‘This could work.’ Only, WAIT! Is that a penis under the chin of the sun behind her?

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Next!

The soft, male voice on my little free meditation app says, ‘imagine yourself on a beautiful, tropical beach.’

Ah, this is better. Yes please.

‘Now, you see a small rowing boat on the horizon and it’s heading towards you.’

I really hope it’s Gerard Butler with a case of champagne, wearing a thong. Do they make thongs for champagne cases?

‘When the boat reaches you, you climb aboard and sail away.’

Oh, Gerard Butler is wearing the thong. Okay, now I’m really not relaxed.

‘And then you come to a small, uninhabited island and disembark. Then the boat leaves.’

What the…? Gerard has left me marooned on a deserted island! How is this helping again? *panic panic*

So you see, I can’t do it… the whole ‘switch off your mind and relax’ thing. Even downloading the famous Paul McKenna’s app for my mobile phone didn’t work:

‘Do not listen to this tape whilst driving or operating machinery.’ (Puts down the chainsaw) ‘Wait for a time when you won’t be disturbed. Get into a comfortable position and switch off your phone.’

Okay done. Why has he stopped talking…?

So now I simply sit in silence for ten minutes twice a day and empty my thoughts to only focus on my personal mantra. Which I cannot tell you, as it is very personal; but I can reveal that I changed it from ‘I am’ to stop my mind wandering further as I attempted to finish the sentence with a comedy retort.

‘I am… probably asleep.’

‘I am… missing Coronation Street.’

How have you conquered writer’s block?

To World Book Day, Waterstones and Being Delusional

For what seems like my entire life, the gift I have loved to receive far and above anything else has been a shiny, new, book-smelly, book. And none more so than a hardback – a pleasure I can’t often indulge myself in these days, given the additional cost factor.

For a long time, I did think this made me a bit different. None of my friends in school talked of a love of books; no one in my family was an avid reader except my dad, who hoarded them all over the house like scattered dust, but sadly, didn’t live long enough to tell me much about his love for them. All these years later, I do like to think my bookish mania was sent from his heart to mine.

The first books I remember being given as a gift has a special place in my memory though, and I was probably only about eight at the time. They were from my older sister, Linda, and they were two hardbacks: a beautifully illustrated copy of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame and ‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams. I6a00d8341c84c753ef0168eb87d246970c-800wi remember loving them completely and breaking the first one open on Christmas morning, the way children nowadays might stuff in to the first of six chocolate filled selection boxes and the latest Xbox game.

My first love was books and I always felt this made me a little strange, having no bookish friends that I knew of. I have spent years taking off from the crowd to wander into grand bookshops like Waterstones by myself, not to be found again for several hours. While many of my school pals were licking the windows at boob-tube tops and Rah-Rah skirts in TopShop, I was stroking pretty book covers whilst being weirdly intoxicated by the delectable aroma of paper, ink and adhesive. I was no glue sniffer; I was a book sniffer and not yet proud of it. I told no one.

Then one day, as as slightly older fifteen-year-old, I rode my bike through town on the way to school and spied a gorgeous, white, boob-tube dress that took my fancy. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and every day – for about a month – I stared at it as I cycled by, wishing it could be mine but knowing it had a price tag my hard-up mother would balk at. I dreamed of that dress and it was a dream I could tell my friends about had I chosen to, because loving new fashions was cool, of course. But I didn’t.

I remember spending an extraordinary amount of time thinking about that dress. How the boy I was mad about at school would notice me at last if I wore it to the school youth club disco. How much I would feel like Madonna in it. I must have imagined myself in that dress, wearing the pair of white lace, finger-less gloves I did own, singing, ‘Like a Virgin,’ for weeks.

Then one night my mother came home screaming that she had had a huge win at the bingo. Hooray! We could buy new clothes instead of being gifted second hand ones from friends with older daughters. The very next day, I walked in to the shop that had almost made me fall off my bike countless times and bought my dream dress.

As a young girl, I told no one of what I thought was my extraordinary love of books or my ‘delusional’ dreams of myself in that dress and as an adult, I’ve told no one of the amount of times I have pictured my own books on the shelves of Waterstones, WHSmiths and Foyles. How many times I’ve mentally placed them between Marian Keyes and Sophie Kinsella in airport shops. No one knew just how delusional I was – until now.

Last month, I had word from my publisher, Fledgling Press, that my book launch event for the paperback of ‘The New Mrs D‘ would be in Waterstones in Glasgow. Because I pictured it so often? Or because it is written… so to speak? 😉 We shall _78300969_waterstones_tweetsee, because, my delusions include getting locked in one night like this lucky guy…

Happy World Book Day! And stay delusional.

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My book launch for the paperback of ‘The new Mrs D’ is at Waterstones, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow on 30th April 2015 at 6.30pm. I’d be thrilled to see you there, if you happen to be in the vicinity. Please stop by 🙂

Authors: Don’t Be a Bloody Statistic

There are people that are writing in the hope of getting rich, and there are people that are writing for the love of the craft. I would firmly plant myself between these two extremes.

I suspect that those writers who are most disappointed are in the first category.

I love writing, have reached a point in my life where I recognise I have always loved it, yet was hampered by an inaccurate belief that making a career out of it was out of my reach and capabilities.  Today I’m ready to pursue it to the death, only with the hope in my mind that I might make a decent living out of it.

Since the moment I first began working on my book, I knew I’d never stop writing again. I know that even if I never sold another word, I couldn’t stop. I’m forty three years old; that’s how long it has taken me to get to this place

Do I hate the idea of getting rich quick? No. I’ve almost accepted around four email marriage proposals from Nigerian Princes in 2014 alone. Do I care if I don’t make my fortune with writing? No, actually, I do not.

I’m not taking my rejections personally, not watching my sales figures hour by hour asking why the world isn’t recognising my genius and I’m not dying inside every time a fellow author has heaps more success than I do. This is my journey; my dream. I’m not going to dilute it or belittle its significance to my life’s journey by making it all about money or the competition. I wish we could live a little (okay a lot) easier and I do imagine that big cheque landing on my doormat, of course I do. But my ultimate goal is having a better, more fulfilled life experience. It is doing what I think I was supposed to do with my life and being in love with it. That, for me, is worth more than gold.

I’m offering you here my best advice on how to overcome your obstacles as a new writer. It is an A for attitude – and the greatest thing about attitude, is you get to choose yours. There are too many articles telling writers to be careful what you wish for and I for one don’t like reading them. It is good to know the pitfalls you might face, but not good to focus on them too much.

Let me break it down in to a simple sentence: Don’t let people tell you you can’t do something.

A few months back, I wrote to hundreds of book shops all over the world, asking them to put ‘The New Mrs D’ on their shelves. I emailed scores of book reviewers, joining what I don’t doubt is an absolute sea of similar requests from self-published authors just like me. As well as the rejections this book has had, I also have the biggest pile of ‘no thank you’ emails you’ve ever seen. The ‘no reply at all’ pile is so big, I’m considering climbing it for charity.  🙂

A submission that sticks in my mind the most is the book I bought and posted, as per the submission guidelines on their website, all the way over to Barnes & Noble in New York asking that they please consider stocking it on their shelves. Their response was (something along the lines of), ‘in our experience, self-published authors only sell on average two hundred copies for the lifetime of the book, many of those to family and friends.’ In case you haven’t guessed where this is going, they declined my request. Yet I had already sold a thousand copies by the time I read their letter, and believe me, I don’t have that many family and friends.

I read this particular line again: ‘Most self-published authors only sell on average 200 copies for the lifetime of their book.’ I’d already proved them wrong in my own case, but instead of internalising this statistic, as some might be inclined to do, I decided to smash it. And no, I haven’t yet. This is not a victorious, ‘I told you so, you short sighted bookshops, agents and publishers’ post. I didn’t sell thousands of copies, but to date over 32,000 people have downloaded ‘The New Mrs D’ and of that 32,000 I gave away just over 29,000 in a free Amazon promotion. It’s not a huge, life-changing income, but it’s a very promising potential readership for book two. Although, in a personal way, it is life-changing. It taught me I’m ever-so-slightly addicted to being read. Thank you for feeding my addiction today.

I can’t offer advice from the perspective of a long in the tooth, experienced writer who has made it to the top. I can only offer the perspective of a long in the tooth person with some years of life experience behind her. And my advice is, if you love it, don’t let it lie.

Don’t be a bloody statistic.

Am I selling dreams of writer success to people who can’t write? I don’t think so. If writing is what you love and truly believe is inside of you to do, even if your first attempt sucked, you are going to work hard to get better. You’ll scrape together your last pounds for proper, professional editing, get the best cover art you can afford and you’ll read your submissions feedback, searching for the common elements and taking at least some of the advice given to make your project shine. You’ll give it all you’ve got and stop wallowing in bitterness and self pity.

(Okay, give yourself an hour on this last one, then move on) 😉

You won’t spend your precious writing time emailing agents that reject you with a stream of profanities telling him/her they have missed a golden opportunity and don’t know what they’re talking about. You are writing all of the time and reading about writing all the time.

So I guess I’m talking to YOU.

Now, get off this page and on to your own. X

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Update From a Slightly Less Terrified Author

For those that have been following my progress, I have news. About a month ago I left my agent – a most amicable parting – and decided to go it alone again. I won’t go into my reasons here, but will just say that there were other avenues for me to explore and as she was in the progress of moving to another company, I decided not to go too. My agent was – and still is – a very lovely, hard-working lady who was very much on my side. I have much to thank her for.

However, many and varied things have happened since which I’d like to share with you.

There was a tiny mention on BBC Radio4’s Women’s Hour Listener Week program this week, when Jane Garvey and Dr Paula Hall were discussing porn addiction in relationships.

A TV producer, having read and enjoyed the book, is now pitching it to TV and film companies. This could be phenomenal, but feet firmly on the ground with this one… I’ll keep you updated.

The wonderful folk at Novelicious  interviewed me on their website HERE.

I met with a small press publisher in Edinburgh, with a view to taking my current work in progress. This was a very positive meeting, with a lovely lady in a fabulous cake shop. (Priorities firmly intact as always). Now I just need to finish the book. Again, I will keep you posted!

And another, less pleasing thing – the loss of my sales rankings and Amazon Best Sellers chart position.

Publication of The New Mrs D was agent-assisted under Amazon KDP’s White Glove Program. For those who don’t know what this is, it is a self publication platform only available to agented authors. Your book is promoted on three Amazon pages in rotation with other White Glove Program books for a period of thirty days. In return, Amazon KDP requires a 6-month or a 12-month period of exclusivity. Some authors see a spike in sales during that 30-day period, while others see little, if any, difference.  In order to benefit from this 30 days of promotion, you must sign 15% of your royalties away to your agent. I decided to give it a go.

The New Mrs D hit the UK humour best-sellers list within a day of becoming available for pre-sale. And not long afterwards, it was chosen for a Kindle Daily Deal promotion on the Australian Amazon site. For one day only it appeared on the Kindle Daily Deal home page and subsequently sold 857 copies in that day, rocketing it to no1 bestseller over all.No 1 in OZ

Following this one day deal, it remained in the 100 best selling humour list, outselling greats like Helen Fielding, Graeme Stimsion and Sophie Kinsella, for three months.  This afforded me a steady income, good enough to fund more advertising, giveaways and keep me writing. So when my agent and I parted ways, I asked what would happen to my eBook rights, currently held by her previous agency, if I took them back. The answer was ‘nothing, it’s fine. They have agreed to transfer the rights to you and you won’t lose any of your reviews or sales rankings.’ ‘Happy days,’ said I. ‘Let’s do it.’
For two whole weeks I continued to plug my book, putting links in everything I wrote and even began planning a few free days on KDP. I contacted over 40 free ebook websites telling them of the dates of my promotion. Then, I tried to see my sales reports, which were originally held by the agency so I could only see them if I asked for them. Assuming they were now moved to me, I had a peek and found: NOTHING. Not one sale. Despite my novel appearing to still sitting comfortably in the Amazon Australia Humour Top 100.

I contacted Amazon, who then pointed out that I now in fact had TWO ebooks on there. The original one, still with my old agency, and a newly published one which was the one I was looking at that had no sales. I wasn’t seeing sales reports because the original sales were still going to the agency. The one I had was only visible to me. I hadn’t noticed the new ASIN number.

I contacted my ex-agent agent, who came back to me the very next day to say it was all sorted out now and very sorry for the confusion. The rights were now mine. I still had my reviews and sales rankings. Brilliant! Except… I didn’t.

The agency unpublished the original eBook (without telling me or my agent) and it crashed out of the charts, leaving me with a newly published copy that couldn’t be seen or found by anyone. I’d gone from making a modest income, which in truth was like oxygen to us, to none – at the click of a button. I telephoned the agency, naturally, to be told, ‘we’re very sorry. It can’t be undone.’

At this point I should point out that when entering the White Glove agreement, I was well informed that taking my eBook rights back could result in the loss of my sales rankings. But, I had said that if it meant losing rankings I was happy to leave the eBook with them if they were fine with that. I was advised that I could move it and nothing would be lost.

It was.

And so, here I am again, trying to hit the ground running and finding all the links to my book on the world wide web in order to have them changed. This was a learning curve; and one I’m happy to share with you so you don’t fall down a similar pit on your publication journey.

Anyway, as I always say: ONWARDS!

And so I am asking for your help. In order to try and get The New Mrs D back into some form of visibility, I am having TWO KDP FREE DAYS next week. You can download the eBook from 3rd – 5th December absolutely FREE. Please, please do.

Check out my video below, which was made for just $5 by a design artist I found on www.fiverr.com. Another great, promotional tip for you 😉

Thanks to everyone for your messages of support, for downloading and for the reviews I am so grateful for have been able to keep. Nothing ever comes easily, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth having.