My 2017 in review

This is the first time I’ve sat down to write one of these year in review posts where I’ve felt like my successes have been qualified. Where I haven’t felt as proud of myself as in previous years.

On writing

The Lucid Dreaming duology, as endorsed by (my) Lara Croft (PopVinyl)

I finished writing, edited and self-published False Awakening, the second book in the Lucid Dreaming duology. But, since then, I haven’t managed to start my next novel, and my promo efforts have been lackluster at best.

I have done other things; I wrote and submitted a short story for an anthology (which I’m still waiting to hear back about), and this month I’ve been working on a novella I originally wrote more than ten years ago. But I had this huge period in the middle of the year where it felt like I didn’t achieve much of anything.

A lot of that was due to real-life pressures. My work has been short-staffed all year, and insanely busy since May. I edit for a living, as I’ve said before, and the idea of coming home and sitting in front of a PC after sitting in front of a PC all day was just too exhausting. As a result, I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing. Blog posts and reviews, sure, but books? Not so much.

I’ve been working on that over the last couple of months, though not with a novel (yet). Still, I will definitely have a couple of releases for you this year. Woohoo!

On reading

This is the first year since I started doing the Goodreads and Australian Women Writers challenges that I haven’t quite met me goals. For the Goodreads one, I set a goal of 40 and read 31. And for the Australian Women Writers challenge, I set a goal of 15 and read 11. At least I got close in both, right? (Right?)

A lot of the blame here goes to Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. When I set my Goodreads goal, I didn’t anticipate discovering (and adoring) this series, and each of these books is over 1000 pages. That’s three regular novels for one Stormlight one. I’m currently listening to the audiobook of the third one in the series, and the download is available in five parts. FIVE. If I hadn’t been reading them, I would have nailed my goal, for sure! ūüėČ

Goodreads produced a handy summary, an extract of which is below. If you’re desperate to stalk my reading (and why wouldn’t you be?!), you can find the rest of the blog post here.

My 2017 reads

My resolutions

In light of all this, my writing resolutions for 2018 are very straightforward:

  • Do better.
  • Forgive myself at times I don’t do better.

I figure that’s pretty comprehensive!

What about you? How did you do with your reading (and, if applicable, writing) in 2017? Tell me your triumphs, or commiserate with me on your woes. ‚̧

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Goodreads reading challenge – 2016 wrap-up

goodreads-2016

Actual figure: 48. See note below.

I’m a huge fan of the Goodreads reading challenge, as it’s something that¬†keeps me motivated to read, even when life gets crazy busy and sometimes I’d rather just sleep. (What? I like sleep!) So, once again, here are¬†the books I read in 2016,¬†with some handy statistics. (I also like statistics. I did up an Excel spreadsheet with formulas and everything!)

I haven’t included any of my own books that I’ve read in the editing process, because then Goodreads asks me to rate them and I personally don’t want to go there.

  • 77% were one stripe or another of speculative fiction, with 27% being fantasy, 21% being urban fantasy and 17% being sci-fi. Interestingly, 10%¬†were superhero fiction, which is something I hadn’t really read at all before 2016.
  • 63% of the books I¬†read were by women writers (or had a women co-author in the case of Gemina). I am very happy with this stat. In 2015,¬†I over-corrected from my male-dominated reading habits to get to 87% women. I prefer it to be closer to balanced, but — given that I do the Australian Women Writers challenge every year too¬†— the numbers are¬†always going to favour women writers a little.
  • Two new-to-me authors featured very heavily this year: Brandon Sanderson (21%) and Emmie Mears (13%). I hadn’t read either of them before 2016 and they are now big favourites. (They are also responsible for all the superhero books I read, and the bulk of the fantasy!) Sanderson also made¬†up¬†the majority of the books by men¬†that I¬†read in 2016. I am nothing if not consistent.
  • Format-wise, 48% of my reads were paperback or hardcover books;¬†16% were audiobooks; and 9% were on my Kindle.

goodreads-2016-books

One thing I noticed after I got the screen grabs from Goodreads is that it didn’t record me having re-read Divided, even though¬†I changed the date completed. Grr. I did include it in the stats above, but here is a¬†picture of¬†the cover, so the book¬†doesn’t feel left out:

DIVIDED full digital

How did you go with your reading¬†this year?¬†What was your favourite book (or your favourite top five if you’re like me and can’t commit to one)?


Advertising Strategies: a Work-in-Progress

Maze

Source: Shutterstock

As of maybe six months ago,¬†I’m a fully independent or self-published author, what is sometimes referred to as an “author-publisher“. I like that term, because it conveys the sense that¬†self-publishing is more than just banging out words and then sending them out into the world, all naked and unprepared.¬†There are things one needs to consider, things a publisher usually does. Two of those are editing and book design, and I’ve blogged about those before.

The other thing that a publisher does to a greater or lesser extent (at least, if you’re lucky and they are any good) is advertise your book. In the case of small or independent presses, you may have a small or non-existent presence in bricks-and-mortar stores, so you can’t rely on people stumbling across your work by accident. That’s where¬†advertising comes in.

I’m still feeling my way through the morass, trying to find strategies that work for me and my books. I thought it might be helpful to others (and for my own future reference) to catalogue some of them here.

Book blitzes

These are generally organised to try and raise a bit of word-of-mouth attention when a book first comes out; kind bloggers share promotional content. Sometimes they result in a few¬†adds to peoples’ Goodreads shelves, but I haven’t noticed a huge number of sales as a result. Maybe I’m just not doing them right! Certainly, I wouldn’t do a blog tour with customised posts, as I don’t think the time invested would be worth it. But I would do a book blitz for each of my future releases. Every book deserves a birthday party. ūüėČ

NetGalley listings

Publishers will usually list books on NetGalley, which is a site that allows reviewers to apply for¬†free ebook copies of books in exchange for an honest review. It’s a lot of reviewers’ bread and butter. But it’s expensive to have a NetGalley account, so, for an independent author, it’s generally more cost-efficient¬†to buy in on a co-op such as this one. I had a three-month co-op when Isla’s Inheritance and Isla’s Oath came out (I had¬†each book up for about six weeks), and a one-month co-op for Lucid Dreaming. I got a bump in the number of reviews on sites like Goodreads, but, like a blitz, this is about word of mouth rather than direct sales.

Facebook advertising

I saw a tweet that described Facebook advertising as¬†being as effective as setting your money on fire. The metaphor probably works better in countries where the money is made of paper, but still, it’s not too far off. I have tested a handful of ads and have seen no return. These days, the only thing I’d pay to¬†advertise on Facebook would be occasional¬†posts on my author page; Facebook throttles visibility of page posts so that not everyone who likes the page will see them. If you pay them money (the extortionists that they are), they will share the post more widely. In terms of impressions, this is quite effective … but I’d reserve it for significant updates, such as book releases.

Free book promotions

This has been my most recent effort, and also my most successful to date. Because it is my most recent, I’m going to go into a bit more detail, with some numbers. (This does feel a tiny bit like airing dirty laundry, but if you promise not to oggle my underthings I think we can all ignore that!)

I made the¬†Isla’s Inheritance¬†ebook permafree (ie I have no plans to set a price for it again), and advertised it via the “Buy a Series Post” option at Freebooksy. They have a significant market reach and people loooove free stuff. When I¬†previously advertised a¬†sale of my erotica novella (*cough*), I had a ton of downloads, so I knew it worked.

In the first two weeks after the promo ran, I had almost 5000 downloads on Amazon and a handful at the other sites. Isla’s Inheritance made it to #2 on Amazon US for free Paranormal & Urban Fantasy (as I write this, it’s¬†sitting at 233).

Isla's Inheritance free ranking

There haven’t been a huge number of reviews as a result, but there have been consistent sales on books two and three in the series. I didn’t expect that people¬†who downloaded the book would buy the sequels so quickly, but on the first day of the promo I had four¬†sales of Isla’s Oath and one of Melpomene’s Daughter — suggesting that there were at least four people who read it straight away and liked it enough to keep reading. (If you were one of those people: thank you!)

Within the first two weeks, the promotion had paid for itself with sales on the other books. It’s the first time a promotion has¬†done that for me, so I’m pretty pumped.

There are a few caveats, however. The first is that obviously I didn’t make a penny off those 5000¬†copies of Isla’s Inheritance; this means that, in order for me to even break even on the trilogy, sales on the other two books have to cover not only their own production costs but those of the first books as well. For this reason,¬†I wouldn’t personally make a book permafree that didn’t have sequels¬†available¬†— because, while I don’t expect to be rolling around in piles of money, I’d at least like to imagine I might recoup my expenses at some point. ūüėČ

The other caveat is that there hasn’t been much, if any, cross-pollination to my other book, Lucid Dreaming. I expect that if¬†people finish the trilogy and enjoy it, and they decide that they’d like to see what my adult (rather than young adult) book is like, that might happen … but it will be slower.

What next?

Now that the sales bump from the Freebooksy promotion has more or less worn off, I’ve decided my next experiment will be with Goodreads advertising. I read a really interesting blog post by Lindsay Buroker on how she made it work for her, and I’m keen to give it a try.¬†Goodreads has a big advantage over Facebook in that at least we¬†know the people on there are readers to start with.

Wish me luck!

If you’re an author-publisher, have you tried different forms of advertising? What has worked for you? What hasn’t? ¬†I’d love to hear about it!


Isla1_Front_smlDo you also like free things?

The Isla’s Inheritance ebook is available free from the following retailers:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Australia

Barnes & Noble

iBooks

Kobo

Smashwords


Wrap-up for 2015

As I said in my Christmas post, 2015 has been a crazy year for me. It started off with a bang, with Isla’s Oath being released in January. In April, Melpomene’s Daughter came out.

However, for both books, only the ebook version was released — and, in October, just as I was gearing up to self-publish Lucid Dreaming, I got the word that Turquoise Morning Press was closing. The bright side is that I got the rights to the trilogy back straight away, as well as permission to use the original covers if I wished. I ended up deciding to commission new covers, and so the scramble to re-release them commenced.

I couldn’t have done it without Kim from KILA Designs; as well as being my designer and friend, she also¬†patiently explained the parts of self-publishing a book that I hadn’t even considered¬†to that point.

The upshot is that, in 2015, I had five release days for three books. Is it any wonder I’m spending my new year’s eve in my pyjamas and a T-shirt (a black one that says “The book was better”)? I’m too knackered to contemplate anything else!

I achieved most of my
reading and writing resolutions…

but not all.

As I mentioned yesterday, I only read 9 out of 12 of the books in my Aussie Readers challenge. And, although I did indeed release Isla’s Oath, Melpomene’s Daughter and Lucid Dreaming, and I did finish writing my fantasy novel, I didn’t manage to write another Tammy Calder novella. I’ll have to save that one for next year.

I also set myself a goal of blogging at least twice a week, but I don’t know that I always achieved that. (Trivia: according to the WordPress stats monkeys, my most popular post in 2015 was my review of Eleven Weeks by Lauren K. McKellar.)

I haven’t done up a list of 2016 resolutions yet. I know I’m supposed to do it before the year kicks over, but at the moment I can’t think past “don’t release three books five times”!

I read one book a week…

That wasn’t deliberate; it just worked out that way. For the last two years, my Goodreads challenge number has been 40 books + however many kids books I read/listen to with my son (excluding picture books, which I don’t bother recording). This year, that worked out to 50 books. I overachieved a little.

Of these:

  • 87% were¬†by women writers (or, in the case of Three Slices and Illuminae, had at least one female writer)
  • 75% were speculative fiction of one stripe or another (including the children’s books)
  • 31% were by Australian authors (or, in the case of¬†Losing It, had at least one Aussie author)
  • 25% were by Kim Harrison (I gobbled the entire Hollows series this year)
  • 12% were by Cressida Cowell (the boy and I went on a How to Train Your Dragon kick earlier in the year — did you know the audiobooks are narrated by David Tennant?)
  • 4% were non-fiction

Goodreads2015

So there you have it!

This year has been busy, but I got by with a little (or a lot of) help from my friends. And also my family, and you guys — my lovely readers. I hope your 2016¬†is filled with love, hugs, laughter and, above all, books.

See you next year!


Giveaway: ‘Isla’s Inheritance’ paperback

If you’ve been waiting for Isla’s Inheritance to come out in paperback but haven’t quite gotten around to buying it, this may be of interest to you — I’m giving away three paperback copies over at Goodreads. The contest is running for all of February, so if you live in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US or the UK, now’s your chance to enter.

I suspect you need to have a Goodreads account to enter, although I don’t know for sure since I’m already a member.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER!

IslasInheritance-cover


My 2014 Goodreads challenge wrap up

This year I really embraced the reading challenges (both the Goodreads and the Australian Women Writers one) and you can really tell. Last year I read 40 books, whereas this year I read 61 — excluding picture books. Originally my goal was to read 40, but when I got there I discovered I’d read 12 novellas or childrens books. So I increased it to 52, figuring that way I’d get at least 40 full-length novels.

Here are my reads as I write this (from most recent to least recent). I haven’t counted books I wrote, even though I’ve read three of those this year, plus a novella. ūüėČ

A few observations:

  • Roald Dahl (13%) and Kevin Hearne (also 13%) were a feature. Both were writers I listened to on audiobook, the former with my son in the car, the latter not so much. :p
  • Female writers were heavily represented at 59% of my reads, which I’m really happy with. Eleven of those, or 18%, were Australian.
  • Eight (also 13%) of the books I read were self-published.
  • There were four novellas (6%), nine childrens books (15%), and one non-fiction, which means I read forty-seven full-length novels. Win!

I think I’ll aim for 40 full-length novels again next year and see how I go!

2014_reads


Cass goes AWOL

Hello! Remember me? I know I disappeared for a week there; I confess, I knew I was going to be offline but I wasn’t organised enough to schedule posts (with the exception of yesterday’s) in the interim.

Coast boyThe reason I was AWOL was that our family had a gathering down the coast, which meant wrangling the five-year-old for a night away. We had a good time, though he did insist on dragging me into the surf when the water was about ten degrees celcius at best. (Google tells me that’s fifty degrees fahrenheit, if you’re wondering.) I only went in up to my knees, but it’s a miracle I still have toes left.

He’s declared he wants to learn to surf. I’m quietly having conniptions about that.

On the Monday when we got home, I had surgery. Planned surgery — it wasn’t because of frostbite or anything! My boy and I stayed with my folks for an extra night so I only got home yesterday afternoon.

I’m slowly getting better, although I am sore. Mostly I’m just glad it’s over.

Cover giveaway competition results

The winner of the $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift voucher as part of my Isla’s Inheritance cover reveal giveaway is Alicia. Congratulations!

IslasInheritance-CPage-MD

Goodreads 2014 Challenge Complete

Goodreads challenge

As I did in 2013, I set my Goodreads Challenge target at 40 books. Unlike last year, I finished it in the last week rather than in December. However, I feel a bit like I cheated, because among my 40 this year are three novellas and nine childrens books (mostly by Roald Dahl). So my new goal is to get to at lest 52 books by the end of the year, so that I’ve read 40 adult or YA novels. That’s also one book a week, which is quite nice!

We’ll see how that goes!

What have you been up to in the last week?