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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!


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.