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Louise's current project is to make all her sweet romances available on the internet.
Look out for her new Regency romance, Regency Fortune, coming soon!


Saturday, 31 December 2011

Free Romance Novels in Exchange for Reviews

Reviews are so important to authors - mine are building up, but slowly, if only because Amazon UK, Amazon.Com, Goodreads and Smashwords are 4 different places, so I have to have 40 reviews to get 10 on each site, if you see what I mean.
So I thought I'd try offering books in exchange for reviews.  So, if you like sweet romances, go to this link: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/LouiseArmstrong and you can see what kind of romantic novels I write. Or this one: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Louise-Armstrong/e/B001HOGK5W/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

If you would like a free paperback copy of a sweet romance in exchange for a review, just leave a comment with contact details below, or go to my website and you'll find snail mail details etc. I'll then send you my private email address so that you can send me your address and I'll post out a book to you. I won't keep any details if you tell me not to, and honest reviews are fine.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Romantic Novelists' Blog


Check out this link for an interview about how I write.

The RNA - Romantic Novelists' Association - is a great organisation. There is so much support available for writers and want-to-be writers. When I started writing I sent a novel to the New Writers' Scheme. It came back with a crushing report - but I needed to know the truth and somebody had to tell me! The conference is good value. There are so many workshops, and the networking opportunities are great as well. There are local meetings, but I'm usually working when they are held, which is a shame.

Another regret is that I wasn't writing when I lived in London - Lancashire is too far to travel for the events. If you live closer, take advantage of your luck and go!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Free Cake Book Idea

I know, none better, that there's a million miles between an idea and a finished book, but still, a good high concept can be worth a lot - so here it is and if you write the book, let me know and I'll buy one.

I love to bake, and I have lots of cake books, but one problem with them all is that every recipe seems to need a different sized tin. Thanks to TK Max, I am building up a good collection, but it's costing me a fortune, and there's the storage problem. (There's an overflow in a box on top of the wardrobe!)

Here's the idea: why not produce a recipe book that featured different cakes that can all be baked in the same tin?

The 8-inch Round-tin Cake Cook. (Or 20CM as I suppose one should say these days). It could be a series: The 8-inch Square Cake Book. The 10-inch square...the bunt... the 9 x 5 loaf tin... well, you get the idea.

Every time you bought a new book, you'd buy a new tin to go with it. You could even bundle the tin with the book.

With a book themed around the cake tin,  the reader would be saved the frustration of flicking through a recipe book and going, 'Ooh, that looks nice! Dang! No 11-inch square cake tin. How about that one? Arrgh, you need a 1.5-litre bunt tin and I've got a one litre and a two litre but not the 1.5."

Like I said, I'd buy it.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Literary Joke

I think I'm going to be a summer holiday writer - half term is now over, and I still have marking and prep to finish, lesson plans to prepare and not one but two inspections to prepare for. Ofsted and the exam board are due.
Well, it could be worse: I might not get any time at all. And if I get myself organised, one book a year every summer could work pretty well.

I needed cheering up after reading too much about real death on the internet (I became fascinated by the number of people, the HIGH number of people killed or disabled by their own pets), so I hunted for jokes to lift my mood and here's what came up:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson go on a camping trip. After a good dinner and a bottle of wine, they retire for the night, and go to sleep.

Some hours later, Holmes wakes up and nudges his faithful friend. “Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”

I see millions and millions of stars, Holmes” replies Watson.

And what do you deduce from that?

Watson ponders for a minute. “Well,

Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.
Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo.
Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three.
Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.
Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful, and that we are a small and insignificant part of the universe.

But what does it tell you, Holmes?

Holmes is silent for a moment.

Watson, you idiot!” he says. “Someone has stolen our tent!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Independent versus Professional Publishing

For once, dilly-dallying, or having no time, has paid off. Robert Hale are an independent publishers based in London (UK) who publish Black Horse Westerns. I wrote one when I was on holiday in Egypt, and they published it. For the sake of completeness, and because I really like it, I wrote to them a few months ago to check it was OK for me to publish it in e-format (I'd lost the contract - how organised is that?) and they replied saying, 'Go ahead.' I got as far as making the cover, but not any further, which is a good thing, because they wrote this week saying that Faber were going to publish it with all the other Black Horse Westerns, if I would give permission.

IF!!! IF??? Of course I want Faber to publish it! I won't have to go through the grind of turning it into an e-book. I won't have to force my poor dyslexic brain to proof read it. I won't have to find someone to draw me the half a dozen Chinese characters that are used as a part of the story. I won't have to scan the characters and find out how to publish a book with images in it. I won't have to try to market it. I won't have to make a cover...oh! I made a cover! Mind you, I'm sure theirs will be better. However, I've pasted my cover up here a second time, seeing as I had made it.

The secret to a good cover for an e-book (when you don't know what you are doing!) is to find a photograph that does all the work. This one does it all. I'm quite sorry about not getting to use it, but delighted about everything else.

My eyes have recovered. As soon as I've prepared a good few lessons ahead (all new syllabus this year - WHY do people change so often?) then I'll go back to proofing.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Opportunity Cost

I was browsing the Internet looking for wise words on book marketing when I came across a blog by an agent and book publicist which seemed very good. He used the phrase 'opportunity cost' and pointed out that whatever you spend time doing, you are not doing something else. It seems obvious, but clearly lots of writers spend a frightening amount of their time networking on the Kindle boards, Linked-in author's groups and similar activity. Why not, suggested this agent, spend that time writing a new book? There's a kind of anxiety when you see other people doing something, especially when they all swear they are making money (buy their e-book to find out how) and yet I was coming to the conclusion that a good deal of so-called networking actually goes around in circles. I was pleased to find someone in the business who agreed. So, that let's me off the hook! I can go back to being a grumpy old anti-social writer who writes books.

The other reason that the phrase 'opportunity cost' is resonating with me this week is that I am in the middle of proof-reading all my published books. It didn't seem right to leave them them up for sale when I knew there was a problem, but after doing seven in a row (and not writing any new books) my poor eyes gave out. Physically the muscles around them are so tired they are simply refusing to scan any more lines, so I'll have to wait until they recover. I had three days off, and did one more chapter today, so they are slowly coming good. I keep reminding myself that this is a once only task, once the old titles are up they will never need doing again.

I also had another good idea that will have to wait. Public Bookshelf emailed to say that the response from their readers had been positive about Kingfisher Days, and did I have any other titles I wanted to publish free?  Like many authors, I do have a couple of unsold novels. Looking for Griffin being one of them. I made the cover before I decided that it wouldn't be worth rewriting. It's a shame to waste all that work - I found my notes for it and might do another post discussing them, because I worked so HARD on that book! So, I thought, well, I could post it for free with a note at the front saying that my editor hadn't liked it, and asking readers for their feedback. I could put a few chapters from a better book at the end so that they could see if they thought I'd improved!

And of course, term has started so I'm teaching again. By great good fortune nearly all of my hours are for the same course - that means one lot of prep and then delivering the same material over and over. I love that idea! I was a bit sorry at first not to have a group doing the new A-level this year, because I love teaching literature, but it takes even longer to deliver an A-level than it does to study for one, so now I feel that someone has taken a burden off my shoulders! It's that opportunity cost again. Instead of preparing lessons on other people's books, I'll be writing my own.

It is worth thinking about though, because there are so many things I could be doing with my time right now. The blog is definitely worth it, because it helps clear my mind. I'm going to give my eyes a break and do a bit of cooking now.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Preparing British e-books EVEN MORE THOROUGHLY for the American Market

 Mea Culpa!!  Forgive me, readers, for I have been blind and lazy. Oh, dear. I am thoroughly ashamed of myself! Yesterday I got another review complaining about mistakes. It suddenly occurred to me to do a check of the book I've just finished typing up in the Kindle previewer, so that I saw what readers saw. And you know what I saw - typos!! They jumped out at me. Lots of typos. Humbling, shaming, misery-making typos! So that means there probably ARE mistakes in the other books. And me a teacher! Me who writes to want-to be writers kindly pointing out that their manuscripts should be error free before submission. Me who puts red ink all over her student's essays.

All I can say is writers heed this: there is a good reason why copy-editing costs money. It is a skilled art and I wish I could afford to have it done. It requires the kind of brain I don't have. The kind of brain that can do spreadsheets and use logic. Why is it, though, that I can look at a page of my own manuscript and happily read, 'the government were' with no flicker of an idea that it should be singular? Possibly because I'm thinking of the people in the government taking the action? But when I  look at the same line in a Kindle viewer, I think, ah, that should be the government was. It's a mystery.

Ah well. As it happens I haven't got around to putting my notice about British English in front of the books that are already out there - I was too busy and happy working on my new Regency, but now it can't be avoided any longer. I'm going to take them all down, add that notice and check them page by page in the Kindle viewer.

So the moral of the story is check, check, and check again!!

So, if you are one of those people who wrote a review, THANK YOU!! I'm proof reading them all again. If you'd like a coupon for a free book, or if you'd like a signed paper copy, get in touch (with the name you used on the review) and I'll be happy to send a free book - you deserve it and thank you again.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Preparing British e-books for the American Market

Nothing is ever simple!! Last week someone posted a review on one of my sweet romances saying that it was full of spelling mistakes and typos. I thought, 'I'm sure it isn't!' and left it at that. Yesterday, someone else posted a review of the same book saying that they could tell I'd self-published it because of all the mistakes. ????

Now, I'm rubbish at spelling and proof reading, I'll freely admit - I'm dyslexic and have a kind of scrambled word blindness that means I simply don't see errors (on the plus side, it means I can enjoy a book in a couple of hours), but that book has been through not one but TWO professional copy editors, once when it was first published, once when it was published again in a large print edition. And I checked it again before I published it.

I dug out the file and checked it very slowly and carefully with a ruler. No mistakes. And then it dawned on me - the people reading my books are American! There are a number of small differences between British and American English, in spelling, in syntax, in vocabulary and even in punctuation. To readers from the USA, my British manuscript doesn't look right. I can't spell colour, I say aubergine for eggplant, I put my full stops inside the quotation marks and so on.

So, what to do? I'd probably make a horrible mess of it if I bought the Chicago Style Manual or similar and did it myself because I think in British and find copy editing hard. I cannot afford at this stage to have my books copy edited for the American market - and what about one's other international readers? I'm pretty sure Canadians use British English, and so do Australians. Amazon have different sites, but Smashwords and All Romance do not. It would be complicated and difficult to have two or more editions, anyway. Yet I can understand that readers don't want to think they are spending money on a rubbish book that is full of mistakes.

So, for now, I'm going to try the simple answer to the problem of American readers thinking British English is full of mistakes -  on Tuesday, I'm going to take all my books down, one by one, from all the places I spent so long posting them to in the first place (growl) and put a notice at the beginning of each book explaining that they are English books by an English writer and have been copy edited in the UK and so feature British spelling. 

I hope this will help many readers understand the situation. If you know any other ways to solve this problem, please let me know! 

A BIG PS: Since writing this it occurred to me to check the book again in a Kindle viewer - and you know what I found? Mistakes - swarms of pesky typos. So, if you are one of those people who wrote a review, THANK YOU!! I'm proof reading them all again. If you'd like a coupon for a free book, or if you'd like a signed paper copy, get in touch (with the name you used on the review) and I'll be happy to send a free book - you deserve it and thank you again.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

E-Book Review Management Plan

Browsing through the Internet the other day, mainly looking for marketing ideas, I began to realise that many companies now have reveiw management plans. Well, there's an interesting concept.  I love reviews - I like reading them, and when I feel like it I write them. But what does it feel like to be on the other end of them?

I can understand a company responding to reviews - if somebody has a complaint, then why not resolve it? Much better value for money than advertising, I'm sure, so it makes good sense for a company member to monitor the reviews and take steps to put any bad ones right.

It's different for an author, however. I honestly think the best response is a dignified silence. But I do read mine, I have to admit it. I learn from them - it's like getting red ink scribbled on your essay. Until somebody points out the B** obvious, it isn't obvious at all. So, I'll never respond to an individual, but here's a few things I have learnt from reviews:

  1. Nobody Knows Nothing! William Goldman was right. I wrote a couple of books for Black Lace. The editor loved the first one, she honestly loved it. We did a TV show together and mine was one of the books she took along. My second book she hated. She made it clear she only took it because I was under contract. So, the only reviews on these books? You guessed it. Exactly the other way around. The second book sold a lot better as well. See, nobody knows anything.
  2. Reviews can make you bonkers. I lose confidence easily - if I get 5 stars I'm delighted. But if somebody dislikes something I worry about it for days. Sometimes I learn something valuable, but mostly I just worry.
  3. You can learn from them, if you can stand the pain. One person complained that I gave too much away too early - that it was too obvious that the couple were going to end up together. My first instinct (I hate criticism!) was to think well, Duh! Hello? Has there ever been a category romance where the couple DON'T end up together? Of course not!! That's what romance is all about. But then I finished the book I was reading, which was Persuasion. And right to the last few pages Jane Austen had Edward first secretly engaged to Lucy and then, so we all thought, married to her. If it's good enough for Jane it's good enough for me. Point taken. I will work harder on my plotting - the external reasons that keep the couple apart must not be skimped.
It is hard taking criticism on board. At least it's all at a discreet distance. I don't get readers in front of me saying that they love or hate or couldn't care less about my books. How do people stand being on reality TV? imagine having one's shortcomings pointed out in front of the nation?

On the whole, I think I should just leave my reviews alone and stop worrying about them! I once read that it's not a writer's job to think about what other people are going to make of their book. It's a writer's job to get on with writing, and there's a lot of truth in that.

Unless I'm insane to ignore valuable feedback that is marketing gold?

 I'll guess I'll carry on reading them.

Friday, 19 August 2011


Book number ten went up on the Internet today - and for now, that's enough! I'm a writer not a publisher, really! There are another six books or so to be turned into e-books at some point - maybe next summer. It's time now to concentrate on my new Regency novel.

Rightly or wrongly I have made Kingfisher Days free. The first person to download it said, 'Oh, I'd have bought it anyway as I love books set in Caribbean'! But anyway, I think it's a good idea to let people read a whole book and see if they like my style before they shell out hard-earned cash on an unknown author.

Here's the blurb:

I don't want to tell you exactly what happens on this roller coaster voyage - I'm not sure you'd believe it and it's more of thrill if you go along for the ride.

Still, you need to know enough to persuade you to join the adventure, so I will tell you that this Caribbean voyage brings out unexpected talents in society girl Antonia Everett-Cox, and that skipper and life-long loner Jack Bentley can't help but admire them.

Not that there's time for falling in love. They have to rescue Antonia's brother, and there's a ruthless drug gang trying to stop them.

Ready to join the fun?

Remember, Kingfisher Days is free!!

Read it now!

To get a free copy, go to my Smashwords page. http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/LouiseArmstrong 

 I notice that Smashwords do actually say they distribute to Amazon (I'd always unchecked the box before) so I've simply left that box checked and maybe that's how an independent author can get a free book listed on Amazon.

Wish me luck and lots of exposure!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Marketing that E-book

I've been thinking hard about marketing for a few months now - what a world it is out there! Did you know that companies have Review Management Plans? Well, I can understand that and will post my thoughts on reviews later, but for now, here's where I'm at with marketing. This is not going to be a definitive post with 10-sure-fire ways to market that e-book, or 7-easy advertising steps to make your e-book a best seller, because at the moment, I haven't reached a conclusion. So, this is a ramble to clear my head.

I have spent a week or so contacting special interest groups (sweet romance readers) asking if they'd like to read my book. Time consuming, depressing, and not very productive.

Way back int he 80s I used to be a Park Ranger (trust me, this is relevant). For a year, I worked at Undercliffe Cemetery in Bradford. My task was to encourage local schools to use the cemetery (26-acres of Victoriana) as a nature resource. For the first couple of weeks, I rang up the schools and asked if they would like to go on a nature walk in the cemetery. Schools are awful to deal with. First you have to get past suspicious dragons who treat you like a potential pornographic white slaver, then they pass you to someone who treats you like a small piece of dung on the bottom of a shoe, and if you do get through to a teacher, they pin you to the spot and tell you why their frightfully important curriculum means they have no time for pathetic rubbish like you or your walks. Dreadful! It still stands out as one of my biggest job-shaped disasters. (And there are many!).

During this time I had been developing the walks. Thanks to a weekend workshop with American who developed the Earthwalks programme, I knwe that you had to put a cute spin on the walks: so, we came up with minibeast safaris (thank you, Steve), and a monument tick charts, so the designer & I made some nice leaflets & sent them to the local paper. Their reporter was brilliant. He fetched his pretty little daughter and a pith helmet & a magnifying glass, and put her next to undergrowth and headstones in an exploring pose. The resultant charming photograph was on the front page of the paper. And you know what? The phone rang off the hook for the rest of the year.

I was the same. The activity was the same. The location was the same. All that had changed was the perception of its desirability. And that changed because of spin. Not a nature walk, but a minbeast safari. Not ringing up begging people to support the cemetery, but showing how fun it was so they came to us.

So, it's coming to my mind that I'm currently in the first part of the story with my romance books. Book readers are nicer than teachers. They often reply sweetly, wishing you luck and saying they might have time in December to look at your book, which is all one can reasonably ask from them, but I think I need to somehow turn around the situation so that they WANT my books.

Next point, which I haven't quite joined up yet. Duncan Bannatyne in his business book Wake Up and Change Your Life says that you need to know what your business is. Writing books (or making soap) isn't a business, it's an activity. Your business lies in what makes you different from everybody else. Now, I've read lots about unique selling points, and never quite got it, but last night I suddenly saw what he means. That difference is what makes people come to me rather than the other way around. Not a nature walk (that's an activity) but a Monument Tick Chart (which gained a half a page in the Guardian newspaper - that's a business).

So, not just Regency novels, that's an activity, but something about that Regency novel that makes people pick it up, which will be (pun irresistible) the business.

Jane Austen and the White Slavers, anyone?

So, not a firm conclusion, but I'm sure this is the right path. I think people waste a lot of time chasing their own tails (back-scratching on author's discussion boards, review swapping, tag swapping, leaving cheesy messages on forums & blogs just to get their links seen). It's time that would be better spent on creating, and spinning, the next book.

So what that means is that I have to work harder at high concepts. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Thoughts on Promoting e-books & a Three-point Pricing Strategy

I'm not the only one trying to promote my e-book - I got an email offer today, and as requested, am posting it on my blog. 

Try a free Jewish E-Book at www.jewish-e-books.com.

It's interesting it should arrive today, because I had just read this article in the New York Times.

Basically, they were saying that giving a free book away is a great way of promoting awareness of your books. This makes sense to me, because if I assume most readers are like me, then paying for banners or adverts is a waste of time because nobody reads them! I would read a whole blog post, or a long article on a book or an author, and often do, but I never take much notice of an advert.

 I would also download a free book if it was on offer. I might not read it straight away, but I'd put it on the shelf for that day when I got stuck at the airport or ran out of books on the beach or just felt like a change. There are so many books out there, why spend good money on a new unknown? And the best way to become known it to give something away.

So, my pricing strategy is taking shape.

1. Give away at least one book free. This is to act as an initial introduction to get my name known. What I lose on possible royalties, I'll save on not paying for advertising. Kingfisher Days will be available free on Smashwords as soon as it is ready. I'll have to ask Amazon if they'll allow it to be given away on Kindle. They seem to not offer the option for independents.

2. Price all my old titles at 99 cents. Why not make them cheap enough for readers to take a chance on?

3. When I finish my new book, the Regency novel, I will price it, and all subsequent ones at around $2.99.  I don't think a new book should be priced rock bottom, because it is worth more, and it should stand out from the older titles, but nor should it be as pricey as a paper copy, because in all fairness, there are no publishing expenses for paper, printing, storage or distribution. Nor are there any returns to worry about.

The only thing I haven't decided yet is whether to drop the price of each Regency as a new one comes along, but I can worry about that when the day arrives. I'll have more information by then.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

A Dialogue Writing Technique

I'm currently re-typing A Picture of Happiness, which is one of the first books I wrote.
This is what appears in the printed version - so it has been through a copy editor, two in fact, because it went into large print as well.

Araminta met his eyes anxiously.
'You do like your new place, then?'
There was no mistaking the sincerity in his tone.
'I love it! As soon as I walked in, it felt like home.'

Can you see anything wrong it that? I can now. It's like that spoof soap, Acorn Antiques, where the character walked across the room and stood looking at the phone. The character looked expectant and reached out a hand. Then it rang. And everybody laughed. Dwight Swain is very strict about this in his excellent book on writing. First the punch, then the recoil.  The rule should be, action then reaction. How can you hear sincerity in someone's tone until they have spoken? I suppose the advantage is, that it tells people how to read the line before they begin, but I think the loss of veracity is too big a price to pay for clarity, especially when a slight change solves the whole problem.

Araminta met his eyes anxiously.
'You do like your new place, then?'
'I love it.' There was no mistaking the sincerity in his tone. 'As soon as I walked in, it felt like home.'

So, as I'm retyping, I'm making changes like the one above.  I don't think it reads as smoothly, but in theory, the principle is now so much a part of my writing technique that new drafts come out both sounding natural and with the action before the reaction.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Good use for Old Books - to advertise your new e-book

Do not ever, ever, ever throw away your old files - mine were on funny old low-density discs and in long-obsolete programmes like Word Perfect, so I chucked them all away. But now, in order to get them up on the Internet as e-books, I'm having to retype them. I would have happily paid an expert to have them reformatted to save me the chore. But there's no choice now.

It's a long, long job! I used to be a fairly quick typist, say 60 wpm, but it's gone down to 30 now, well, you can do the math easily enough! And there's another four or five titles to go.

What is good is reading my own old stuff - it wasn't bad! What it lacked in technical expertise, it made up for in fun and good will - and the valuable lesson I've learnt from the exercise it not to worry too much. I made errors that I wouldn't make now, but is it worth fussing about tiny technical details if the books used to sell anyway?

In some ways I don't expect my old books to sell that many copies, because people like new ones, but everything I read about marketing an e-book says that each title acts as a platform to support the others - so up they must all go.

What's depressing is that I read a blog where the writer said that she can write a My Weekly novella in two weeks.  WRITE one!! It's taking me longer to just type up my old titles - with planning, drafting, composing and polishing, mine used to take about 6 weeks, but I'd often have a folder full of ideas and notes that would build up steadily for about a year before I even began writing.

I'm feeling very slow and unproductive, but will keep plodding on.

I haven't done any more to my new Regency. The excuse is that I want to get all the old titles out first and kind of clear the decks, but I think it's my old enemy writer's block. As soon as I get back in the real world, I lose confidence again.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Another E-book Goes Live

Pattern of Love is my take on Sleeping Beauty. It's an interesting proof that readers probably won't consciously notice any particular artifice that the writer might use, because I wrote this book, and I was halfway through re-typing it before I noticed what I'd done!!

I deliberately introduced Sleeping Beauty motifs all the way through. I remember spending ages planning it. For example, the hero and heroine meet in a rose garden - how obvious is that? Not obvious enough. He goes round her her place at least three times and bangs on the door to wake her up; she is described as being in bed, sleeping, wearing nightdresses and pyjamas on loads of occasions; and his kisses always rouse her and wake her. It's also due to meeting Prince Charming that she stops dreaming her life away in the country and comes to life as a television presenter.

The experience gives me the confidence to say, well, if I feel like throwing in a few roses and sleeping motifs then I will! The cliche police are not going to come around and arrest me!! In fact, this exercise of reviewing my old titles has been a real eye-opener. In many ways, my earlier books are better because I've just written them and enjoyed them. Years of studying killjoys like Foucault and Derrida have kind of squashed my innocent pleasure in stories. I also tried to be a better writer, which is no bad aim, but it's inhibited me and again taken the gloss off the experience. Instead of thinking: what fun! I love this! I'm worrying,  thinking, should I say this? Is this a cliche? Have I used too many adjectives? And certainly with romances (and most light fiction) I think people read for the feeling. The feeling in my earlier books is fun and pleasure, in the later, tense anxiety. I'm sure that getting an education was a valuable experience, but it's time to throw all the strictures away and enjoy myself again.


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Best Way to Advertise E-Books

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Her Guardian Angel by Louise Armstrong

Her Guardian Angel

by Louise Armstrong

Giveaway ends September 03, 2011.
See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

I know very little about marketing, but it's already clear to me that my books will not sell in any useful numbers on the Internet unless people know that they are out there. So, what's the best way to market or advertise an e-book?

I started by considering how advertising affects me - I don't even look at adverts that don't interest me, but I'll read a lot about products I do like. So, the first task becomes to identify and find e-book readers. This takes me directly to Goodreads, which is full of readers. Next challenge is how to get those readers to register my name and my books.

Last month I tried a giveaway on my Regency novel, and 1067 people entered the draw to win a copy of Love's Gamble. It cost £8 in postage to send out the copies to winners in the US and Australia, but I think that's a good return, because all those people (who are reading people!)  registered my name and my book's title and entered the draw.

So,  although I'm going to keep looking for angles and low-cost ways to advertise, I think I'll keep the giveways running until I have used up all my spare copies.

This one is for a romantic thriller. It will be interesting to see if it attracts a similar number of entries.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Light Reading & Goodreads

Check out the Goodreads siteWhen I'm ill, which I have been this week, I always do the same thing. I retreat into bed with a huge pile of books and shut out the world. But because I'm ill, I don't want to read anything taxing, so I get Andy to take me to the library and I check out a dozen titles, at random and in a hurry. This may not be a good enough excuse. When I was on holiday I also read a load of assorted junk - that time because I was limited to the hotel bookshelf. Oh, let's admit it - I've always read a ton of junk!! I used to think that I liked junk, but do I? All those lame single stars don't say enjoyment to me.

The reason I'm noticing how unsatisfactory this way of reading is comes down to GOODREADS, which I've just discovered and totally love. What you can do is add each book you have read to a bookshelf, along with a star rating and a review. I've just ripped through about 30 books and given them one or two stars. Looking at the list makes me ask: Is this the best use of my time? I read very, very fast, two hours for a short paperback, so it's not the big investment of time that it is for slower readers, but even so...

I didn't want to study business studies at university as a second subject, but it's been incredibly useful. I used to think facts and figures were dull, but in fact they can teach you so much. Once you have the cold hard evidence in front of you -  like 30 rubbish titles that I didn't enjoy - then reality is so much harder to ignore. What a waste of time!! How can I make better use of my reading time?

So, what to do?
  • E-readers might be part of the answer, because you can collect a pile of books and keep them ready for when the flu bug strikes, and you can take a fortnight's reading without paying extra baggage.
  • Another strategy might be to choose library books more carefully (not easy if you feel rubbish and/or are keeping someone waiting).
  • A third strategy might be to stockpile titles that look as if they would fall into the category of what I call 'Good Bad Books'. Light enough to see you through flu, good enough that you give them 4 or 5 stars and don't feel like you wasted your life.
Thanks, Goodreads!

Sunday, 24 July 2011


If anyone would like a copy of A Change of Heart, I'm running a promotion on it until September 24.

Go to Smashwords and enter this coupon at the checkout: AW57B

As always, please, please, please leave a review.


Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Perfect Writing Conditions

Would you believe that I've come home with the ENTIRE outline of a Regency romance? There is nothing, simply nothing like having a free mind. No day job, no email, no distractions of any kind. All I did was lie on the beach, thinking and dreaming all day, and write for a couple of hours early each morning. It was complete heaven.

As well as the lack of distractions, my mouse broke, which meant that I couldn't do any editing - I think that's a bonus when writing a first draft. I lose confidence, go back, change, things, think it's rubbish and start again. I might unhook my mouse next time I draft a story, because it's so freeing to just keep moving forward and enjoying yourself.

Now it's back to reality, and as I heard a surfer dude say as we landed at Manchester in the rain: 'I hate reality!'

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Marketing Mix and E-books

Well, I put the price of my books down today. If you already bought one at a higher price, leave your contact details, tell me which book you bought and when, and I'll send you a coupon for a free book (of your choice). The reason I put down the price is that I was reading what other authors do and think about pricing, and I realised that I was charging too much. John Loke, for example, has about 6 books in the Amazon top 100 - and his philosophy is to charge 99 cents and, like Tescos, pile 'em high and sell them cheap. It seemed like a good idea to me. I had been thinking of a book more like a paper book - but an e-book doesn't carry those expenses of print, packing, postage, carriage, shelf space, stocktaking, warehousing and so on - so it's not fair to charge for it. So that's price sorted! So far as product goes, my Regency is far and away the most popular of the books I've published so far, which I'm thrilled about, because I love Regencies! There's a top 100 author with several Regencies in the list, which gives me something to aspire to. Place - well, Amazon seems to have the most sales, however, I have not yet published anything to All About Romance, which is surely a place a romantic novelist should be!

So far as marketing goes, John Loke said find out who likes your kind of book, go round to where they are, and shove it down their throat! Well, in essence, he's right. I know from experience that people who want to read my books because they know me never like my romances - because they don't like romances. Romance readers, on the other hand, love them. And that's not quite accurate, because people who like spicy romances don't like my sweet romances, that's how specialised the world is. People know what they like. QED, it's a total waste of time to try and market my books to anyone other than sweet romance lovers.

Anyway, I'm off to Greece for 2 weeks - I'm going to lie on the beach, think about everything I found out over the last couple of months, and write me a Regency.

One last thought, I'm actually really glad I just got some books out before I even knew what I was doing, because it is so easy to change things with e-publishing. I just won't be able to grumble at Microsoft for doing the same thing now! Isn't there a fancy word for it? When you throw things out and make improvements on the fly? It's not a bad way to progress.

Thursday, 30 June 2011


I've just discovered Goodreads, so I put my books up with them as well, why not? This post is to test the widget, which seems to work. It's a fun place to hang out. I've just had a nice conversation about SF - I was one of those kids who was utterly blown away by the discovery of authors such as Robert Heinlein - I read a book called Red Planet just about every week for my life from the age of about 10 to 18. I'm still not sure just what the appeal was, but I loved it. A great website for book lovers, and I'm glad I discovered it.

How to Format a Book for E-Publishing (when you use Word)

It's not hard, once you know how. It only takes an hour or so, once you know how - finding out how took me forever - so here are a couple of useful tips. The first concept to understand is that Word is not always your best friend. In fact it reminds me of Terry Pratchett Igor characters, shuffling around helpfully in the background, inserting bits of liver or eyeballs that it thinks you might like. This concept especially applies if you have written your book at more than one computer, and it is quadrupled if you used more than one version of Word. I think we've all had the experience of Word stubbornly altering our formatting while we sit there shouting, 'No! Leave it alone! I don't want a capital letter/double spacing/whatever it is Word thinks is needed there.' Word sticks in all kinds of formatting that it thinks you might like, and the extra formatting upsets the E-publishing machines, which are machines, and need telling what to do, and are easily confused.

The publisher Smashwords has a useful style guide that you can follow. Most of my info came from there. You should read it if you are going to format your own book - but here's an overview. The first thing you do is to find Notepad and open a new document. Then you go back to your precious book, select all (CTRL+A) copy all, and paste all into Notepad - this gives you a clean, unformatted text.

Next open a new Word document and turn off ALL the auto formatting, (go to the Office button then Word options) because you don't want Word putting any commands back into your text once you've formatted it. Paste your text from Notepad into the new Word document, and there you go. A nice clean book in Word with no gremlins, ready to format for Kindle or any other e-publishing format.

You have to learn how to use Styles (there are plenty of good tutorials on the internet) because the idea is that you set the style you need for chapter headings, ordinary text and first line indents, and then, to make sure it's consistent, you click on the style to apply it instead of formatting by hand. It's also quicker, once you have got your head around styles.

The most important tips for me were:
Line breaks and page breaks throw up weird floating spaces. Reduce the distance between chapter ends etc to 1 space only.
If you use the tab command to make new paragraphs- that also makes the text in e-books float around, and readers complain. It's easy to fix: enter find ^t and leave the replace box blank and thousands of replacements will be made in two seconds.

The good news is that you don't need page numbers or anything fancy - the E-publishing machines will pop in all that is needed, except a table of contents, that technique eludes me so far.

Once you kno whow, It takes about an hour to scan through and get a document ready, but it's so worth the effort, as you'll see when you preview your text.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

It's not the Writing, it's the Selling!

Louise ArmstrongI guess it's the same with just about anything. You could sit in your shed happily making left-handed widgets for the joy of it all day every day and life would be perfect - but then how do you pay the bills?

If anyone knows how to sell/promote books on the Internet, do please let me know. I'm making a start by entering a profile everywhere and anywhere telling people that I write books - but what do you do next?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

How to make book covers for e-books

As you can see, I am far from being an expert, but then, I'm a writer not a graphics artist!

The key to the process is to find a good photograph - the better the photo, the less you have to do. I have found Morguefile http://www.morguefile.com/ to be the best source of free images that allow comercial use. All their images are free to use as book covers, so you don't have the experience of finding the perfect photo only to find it says strictly no commercial use and their photos will open with Adobe Photoshop, which I coiuldn't make images from StcXchng do (http://www.sxc.hu/.) although I'm sure that's just me.

I tried all kinds of free programmes - but they were either too simple and wouldn't do what I wanted, or they were too difficult. Fine for an expert, but no good for someone with no skill who just wants to get the job done. So, do you know anybody who can use Adobe Photoshop? Ask them to spend an hour or so showing you the basics (I am slow with things like this, and it took me 2 hours. Thanks to my colleague Matt Briggs for putting up with me!) After than, you will be familiar enough to be able to find what you need in Photoshop for Dummies or a similar reference guide.

You then open a new document in Photoshop, set it to the required size (Kindle suggest 800x1280 pixels) and then download your chosen photo. You click on 'open with photoshop' and it will open in a new document. You can then cut and paste the part of the photo you want into your already waiting document.

Then you add a couple of textboxes and type in the title and your name. There is a good range of fonts to choose from and Matt suggested using the 'eyedropper' tool. This will pick up a colour from the photo and you can use it for the text, which makes the colour scheme look pulled together.

Light backgrounds don't work on the tiny thumbprints that e-books show, so you can colour the background of the document and just shrink the photo slightly so that the background acts as a border.

It may sound simple - but it's taken me about 3 weeks to learn this. Let me know if you know any good tricks that make covers look better.

Free Romantic e-books for Reviewers

I'm so pleased with my new covers - oh, I know they are not quite professional, but as thumb-sized placeholders they do the job. Now, I need people to see my books. I'm told that reviews are vital - so here's an offer - if you would like to read and review any of my e-books, leave a comment or email me at louisearmstrong58@btinternet.com and I will send you a coupon that you can use on Smashwords (all formats are available) for a free copy. You enter a code at the checkout and then download a book for free. This is a genuine offer - you are free to leave honest feedback. If you like my sweet romances then hurray! If not, then I'll learn something.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Hurray for Matt Briggs & PhotoShop

Matt was on my PGCE course. We teach in different departments now, but I suddenly remembered that he was a whizz at graphics. He's also a great teacher - look at that cover! He gave me a 2-hour lesson on Adobe PhotoShop and one hour after that, I'd made this cover. I'm so pleased! And all in exchange for a couple of bottles of posh beer. Thanks, Matt!

Monday, 20 June 2011

What Would You Write if You Couldn't Fail?

One of the books that I have put out as an e-book was firmly turned down by my editor - but I'd finished it anyway, and I liked it even if she didn't, so I put it out to see what would happen. It has sold a few copies already - and done better than some of the previously published titles. It's taken me a while to absorb the implications, but basically, with e-publishing, you cannot fail. There is no gatekeeper to say 'my readers wouldn't like this book'. The readers themselves get to decide.

So what will I write? Well, you know what? I always liked Regency romances. They are hard to sell, but they suit my style - lots of fun and frolics and not too much navel gazing. We are going to Greece for 2 weeks, so I just might treat myself and write a Regency.

But it's a liberating thought, isn't it? You can't fail.

Friday, 3 June 2011

To Update, or not to Update?

Well, I sold my first e-book - I couldn't resist clicking on the little link that tells you how many books have been sold. What a thrill - it's all going to be worth it. I have found a 69-page instruction book on how to format a book for e-publishing - and realise that I have not being doing it properly. Now I'm not sure if I should remove the books that are already up there, or just carry on and then go back and tidy up the original books. I'll probably just leave them for now.

I'm working on the very first romance I ever sold right now, and it wasn't that long ago (honestly) but how the world has changed! My heroine has videos. There are no mobile phones - not even the secret agent hero has one! She lives in Japan and her family write letters to her. No email, no Facebook. Her father loses some 'slides' that he needs for a lecture. Nobody looks anything up on the Internet, and people smoke in restaurants. Would you update it or not? I think probably not, on the whole, it's of its time, let it stay there.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

What's a Sweet Romance?


Somebody asked me what a 'sweet' romance was. I put the word 'sweet' on all my romances because it kind of tells the reader what to expect - lots of story and not much sex. Some romances focus very much on the feelings and emotions between the main characters - and as they are falling in love, these are usually sizzling and sexy contrasted with whatever feelings are holding the two characters apart. This does happen in my romances, of course it does, BUT I prefer to keep my couples busy - lots of adventures and not too much navel gazing. I don't mind adding sizzle and bedroom scenes, but the publishers who take sweet romances adhere to the old Hollywood rule: one foot on the floor at all times! I once wrote a very passionate scene where my couple made love in a four-poster bed with navy blue sheets in a room with a crackling log fire. This was replaced by a line where the heroine opens the lounge door and announces, 'You can sleep on the sofa bed tonight!' They weren't married, you see, so my deathless prose hit the carpet again!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Get A Move On!

I added another romance to Kindle today. This is one that hasn't been published before, but I have copy edited in line with the principles I'm picking up from comparing my original texts to the published versions. Have you come across the saying 'murder your darlings'? I can't remember which writing guru said it, but it means that if you think you have been doing some particularly fine writing, you should cut it out. It is so true! I've been noticed how the editor will cut lines of stuff that goes: "he stood up and looked at her with sad grey eyes, and they turned, and feet crunching on the ground blah blah" and simply replace it with 'They returned to the car.' All my painstaking attempts at creating atmosphere are simply stripped and replaced with a summary. Including in one book about 5,000 words of description of a family enjoying Christmas, member by member, activity by activity. I can see the point - this is a romance. who wants to see Dad cutting the tree etc. Anyway, having applied a savage edit to this book, it is now 33K rather than 55K words and a whole lot better for it.  I've priced it as a novella and I hope readers enjoy it.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Lexical Sets and Copy Editing

So here's my cover solutions for now - I'm on with the next romance and for now I think it's more important to edit them and get them up on Kindle than it is to mess with covers - although I do think covers are important.
This week I've been thinking about lexical sets (a collection of words on the same subject) - when I teach I go on (and on, probably) about how there's ALWAYS a lexical set to be found in a poem or a piece of text. I encourage the students to find them and say what effect the lexical sets have on the piece they are analysing, how it affects mood and tone, how it builds a picture. So why then, has it taken me so long to appreciate the effect of lexical sets on a romantic novel? One of the things that copywriters do to my novels is change and possibly negative words to something with nicer connotations. I used to smile at bit at first. In one book a character I saw as comic pointed with a finger that 'had clearly been gardening.' This was changed to pointing with a 'beautifully manicured' finger. My couple found a dark corner in a restaurant. No, not nice enough. They were seated in a discreet corner. And so it goes, I honestly thought they were being over sensitive and fussy - until I wrote down each word. Over the course of about a quarter of a book: the words dark, oily, dirty, greasy, grubby, old and oily again were taken out. They look totally revolting piled up next to one another in a good old lexical set. Well for goodness sake! Who do I think I am, Salaman Rushdie? (Or any of those writers who like to pile on dirty filth in the name of realism - if you don't believe me, take a highlighter to one page and mark every negative word.) No way to I want to emulate that style, yet somehow I've been infected. I seem to think that in order to make a scene 'real' I have to use the kind of vocabulary favoured by 'real' writers. Well, no more. So far as I am concerned, a tree full of beautiful apple blossom is as real as a burnt-out car. No more negative descriptions for me! It's going to be cherry trees all the way.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Don't Judge a Book by its Cover!

I give up, I really do. This is perhaps only one step better than a placeholder generated by Kindle, but it will have to do for now. The good thing about e-publishing is that you can change the covers at any time, so I think I'll get all my books online, then see if I can come up with a better cover solution.

What I'm busy with at the moment is copy editing. It's very interesting to compare the original text with copy edited versions - I know when I first got the books back, I was sometimes indignant at the changes made. The worst things publishers do to you is to find a nice picture they want to use, but which has a heroine with say, different coloured hair. They then go to your book and use search and replace to change red hair to blonde hair or black hair to red hair. This I hate. Because a search doesn't throw up expressions such as 'strawberry locks' or you have a heroine with black hair being taunted for being 'ginger' or a red-head deciding to put blonde streaks in, or a red-head looking fabulous in a scarlet dress. It really doesn't work. HOWEVER, I have to say that now 10 years has passed and I no longer remember what I wrote and why, in nearly every case I agree with the changes made by the copywriters.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Setting up in Business

This is too dark, and the photo is too small - grrr! However, I uploaded my first book to Kindle today. You can change the covers at any time, so if I work out how to make prettier ones, I'll change them. I also (hopefully) managed to link this blog to both Author Central at Kindle, and my website - this little post is by way of being a test to see if they pop up.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

How to make Simple Book Covers for Kindle

Nobody liked the flower covers so I am now looking for photos with people on. The heroine of this romance is an eco-warrior, and there is a scene that takes place in a tree house, so I thought it would fit the mood of the book.  I do not know why this photo distorted, but once I've found out how to fix that, the process of making a book cover for Kindle seems to be:
  1.  Find a royalty free photo that allows commercial use (this photo is from http://www.sxc.hu/)
  2. Then load a free online software editor and find the poster function (this one is made by Phixr)
  3. Change the poster colour to suit the mood, and hey presto - a cover!
PS: (Feb 2012) - I think you can see from the book covers that I'm currently using that it's possible to do much better!
1. I now only use photos from Morguefile because they are all free to use for commercial use - other sites have some restrictions and it's so disappointing when you find the perfect photo, do all that clicking, and then find you can't use it!
2. I have learnt to understand layers. All I do is have one layer with the photograph, another with the title, and a third with my name. You can do this in a free programme such as Gimp. I use Phototshop.

    Sunday, 15 May 2011

    Covers for Kindle

    Covers are hard! Is it better to have them all looking the same, like a brand? Or would it be better to design an individual cover for each book? Bearing in mind that I am so not a design person (as if you need telling!). Isn't it amazing how many things, which are nothing to do with writing, a writer needs to do!

    Sunday, 8 May 2011

    Kindle is Calling

    Somebody contacted me and asked if it was possible to buy my books for her Kindle. I had to say, 'No,' because it isn't. But it made me wonder why I'd never put them up there? I know Kindle is growing in popularity. Virgin publishing have put 2 of my Black Lace books on Kindle, and people are even buying them, so why not all my old romances? And even more fun, the romances I wrote but the editors turned down. I'd love to see if they were right after all. Wouldn't it be great if readers liked all my books? I have to work on my IT skills, and find the right cover maker.

    Wednesday, 20 April 2011

    Creating a Thesis Statement - Hamlet

    Revision for AQA English Language and Literature B - Talk in Life and Literature

    An essay that focuses on analysis usually contain one or more key words such as describe, examine, explore.

    These questions ask you to evaluate: they require you to give your opinion, to make a judgment call. This means you can't sit on the fence. You have to take a stand. Students sometimes say they have no idea about the text, but if pressed will offer a comment that gets everyone laughing. This is what I call  a ‘BIG IDEA’ and it's important. Once you have an idea, you can turn it into a thesis statement. All you do is put your idea into academic language. The best essays come from an idea that interests you and connects to the material in the extract that you have to write about in the exam.

    Big Idea: I think Horatio was a big wuss. Thesis Statement: It could be argued that Horatio’s role is that of confidant and chorus.
    Big Idea: Hamlet was well OTT. Thesis statement: Hamlet is not just the archetypal revenge hero; he is the most introspective, the most melancholic, the most pensive hero ever.

    Be confident - your ideas about Hamlet are worth reading, and your essay will be easier to write if you are saying what you truly think.

    Saturday, 9 April 2011

    Poetry Comparision Essay Template

    I know some people regard essay templates with hatred because they stifle creativity and can be limiting - as any model can if it is used too rigidly - on the other hand, if you are drowning in the deep end of essay writing, a template can feel like a lifebelt. Regard this template as baby-pink water wings! It is designed for the poetry section of the WJEC English Literature Exam, and it is based on work done in class, so it's by no means comprehensive, but if any part of it is useful, feel free to cut, paste and adapt.

    Link to Handout on Poetry Comparison Essay.

    Thursday, 7 April 2011

    Writing a Text Book

    Being that writers should write, and I can't think of a story right now, it occurred to me that a text book might be a good idea, especially because there seems to be a gap in the market. I've been looking at books about writing essays because most of my students need help with this, but the books on the market seem to be a) tediously dull and b) aimed at university students. There is some helpful stuff on the Internet, but it's fragmentary. There isn't a bright, clear, interesting book aimed at people in the first year of A-level study - or if there is, I haven't found it yet.

    A lot of English Literature teachers don't teach their students how to write essays - mine didn't, not at night school, not at university. My PGCE mentor didn't. It was Andy, who had the benefit of a Grammar school education, who taught me how to answer the question being asked and structure an essay. Students spend thousands of hours taking information in, but very few in organising it out again - and yet that's what you get marked on. You won't even get into university if you don't write a good enough essay to pass your exams.

    I thought I could post my notes here, and then if I have enough material, organise it all into a book. Sounds like a plan.