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My guest this week says that for the first part of her life, performing music was everything to her. She spent most of her teenage years singing two-part harmony with her sisters and was set for a career in music when a bout of depression wiped out her desire to perform. During her recovery she began to write romantic comedy, which seemed a natural way to use her awareness of pacing, rhythm, texture and emotion, those innate senses that help us master the reader’s experience. Now she uses music for companionship while she writes and to put her into a creative state of mind. She is Kirsty Greenwood, romantic novelist and founder of the site Novelicious, and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack.
Ani Difranco, authors, Best Coast, Bobby Helms, Boogie Woogie, Carole King, classical music, Color Me Badd, contemporary fiction, Danny Elfman, Desert Island Discs, drama, Duke Ellington, Eddi Reader, Ella Fitzgerald, entertainment, Fairground Attraction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, George Fenton, George Gershwin, Grease 2, Hans Zimmer, having ideas, how to write a book, how to write a novel, Ironside, Jeff Buckley, John Grant, Kirsty Greenwood, Matilda Beam, music, music for writers, music for writing, musicians, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Nora Ephron, Novelicious, Pan Macmillan, Phoenix, playlist for writers, Point Horror, romance, romcom, Rosemary Clooney, Roz Morris, Rufus Wainwright, Skeeter Davis, soundtrack, Stacey Kent, Stevie Wonder, The Andrews Sisters, The Undercover Soundtrack, Toni Braxton, undercover soundtrack, Women Writers, writers, writing, writing life, writing routine, writing to music, Yours Truly
I always feel a tad self-conscious when I get asked to write about what I’ve been up to. Post an entire piece without trying to help, inspire, solve problems…? Can’t I turn it into advice, just a teensy bit? No, said Women Writers, just write what you’ve been doing. Once I started, it turned out I had quite a bit to report for the past few months, so here it is….
And since we’re sharing news, tell me … in the past year, have your writing dreams become a step more possible?
PS WordPress informs me this is my 500th post. Which must indicate somethingorother about progress!
authors, creativity, culture, dreams, Fix and Finish With Confidence, guest post, guest posts, how to write a novel, literature, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, publishing, Roz Morris, self-publishing, sharing news, tad, update, Women Writers, Women Writers Women Books, Women Writers Women Books blog, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing life
My guest this week is another Undercover Soundtrack veteran. In fact, she deserves this title twice over, as she was the first of my guests who also wrote some of the music that helped her create the book (and she then made it available as an album). This time, she uses music in a different, but equally creative way. Her main character is a child who has behavioural problems and eccentricities, and struggles to understand the adults’ world. The metaphorical language of song lyrics, jumbled through a child’s mind, became a cornerstone for her to understand the character. She is Jessica Bell and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack.
authors, behavioural problems, child's view, childhood, deepen your story, drama, entertainment, female writers, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, having ideas, how to write a book, Jessica Bell, literary fiction, metaphorical language, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, novels, publishing, Roz Morris, self-publishing, The Book, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, Women Writers, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing life, writing to music
Take a long look at this cover for Nail Your Novel, original flavour. In the next few days, it’s going to have a snazzy new outfit.
Proverbs notwithstanding, covers are perhaps our most potent marketing tool, so I thought I’d talk to various authors who’ve changed theirs with good results. My panel are literary authors Jessica Bell, Melissa Foster and Linda Gillard, chick-lit author Talli Roland, and travel writer and novelist Catherine Ryan Howard
Why did you change the cover of String Bridge?
I changed it twice. The first time was because my publisher closed and I had to put the book back on the market myself. The second, because it didn’t seem to attract attention, so I decided to go for a more commercial look.
How long had you had the old cover? Both for six months each.
Did it boost sales or interest?
The latest new cover did. The difference was phenomenal. The first free KDP promo I did with the second cover resulted in 2000 downloads. The second, with the latest cover, resulted in over 20,000 downloads. The latest cover is obviously more attractive to the mass consumer.
Were there any other results? Yes. More reviews!
Any tips for the changeover? Look at the covers of what’s hot on Amazon in the same genre as your book, and try to replicate the feel.
Why did you change? To rebrand my books. Chasing Amanda sold very well with the previous darker, more mysterious cover, but it occurred to me that while Chasing Amanda is also a novel that tugs at the heart of most parents—-and perhaps it was time to try a cleaner, fresher look, giving readers a visual understanding of that side of the story. It will be interesting to see if the audience changes with the imagery change.
How long had you had the previous cover? My first book (published in 2009) had the original cover for almost three years. My second had the original cover for about a year before it was changed.
Did the change boost sales or interest? It’s always hard to tell what has caused a bump in sales when you do more than one thing at once. When I recovered my books to self-publish, I also put more promotions into play to promote them. Given that, I’d say the combination helped.
Any other results? I believe branding is important and so are professional covers. Traditionally published authors rebrand every few years to breathe new life into old titles.
Any tips for the changeover? I’ve changed all my covers and there is little to no impact on sales during the change. The paperback will go off sale for those few days while it’s being approved. The Kindle book doesn’t miss a single day; it’s live while you change.
Any time a cover is upgraded, try a promotion that was done in the past, then compare the results.
Why did you change the cover of Untying The Knot?
I was about to bring out the paperback so decided to reassess. I wanted to make it reminiscent of House Of Silence, which is my big seller. I’ve always assumed it must be the cover that sells that book, so we went for a dramatic sky and interesting building.
Untying The Knot has had brilliant reviews, but doesn’t sell as well as some of my others. It had a Marmite cover – people loved it or hated it – but most of the feedback was negative, especially from people who’d read the book. They didn’t think it represented the tone or content. Untying The Knot looks at the destructive effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on a marriage, but there are elements of rom-com mixed in with the drama. It was difficult to come up with an image to suggest all that. My original cover was a surreal image of a bride fleeing with a suitcase across a rural landscape but readers thought it suggested chick lit. I realised you need to make sure the cover of a mixed-genre book doesn’t give out a mixed message. That confuses readers and doesn’t work in that crucial thumbnail in ebook stores.
How long had you had the previous cover? A long time. Since August 2011
Effect on sales etc It’s too early to tell, but the feedback on Facebook suggests people think the new cover is more suitable and more appealing.
Why did you change the cover of Backpacked?
Backpacked was my second travel memoir, and as the first (Mousetrapped) had been so successful, I wanted to keep the brand I’d inadvertently created: scrapbook image on the bottom, nice blue sky picture on the top, white band with title etc through the middle. I have a deep-rooted and somewhat worrying need for things to match, so doing it that way satisfied that requirement as well.
But Backpacked didn’t sell as well as I’d hoped, and when I started examining the cover – really examining it – it struck me that this design did nothing for this book (although it had worked for the first). It actually looked dowdy and dull. So I decided to entirely revamp the cover, focusing more on the content of this book instead of how much it did or didn’t match the previous one.
How long had you had the old cover? Almost a year. (I had to look that up and I was actually very surprised it took me that long to change it!)
Did changing the cover boost sales or interest? Absolutely. And it was immediate. Now, Backpacked is probably my best-reviewed book, and I think that’s because it’s reaching the right readers. By changing the cover I caught their attention, and identified the book as something they’d like to read. It’s been out now since 2011 but continues to sell a steady amount each month.
I would say, though, that a cover change does not automatically generate new interest or boost sales. I had a shortlived self-published novel whose cover I changed and although sales were boosted initially, it didn’t make any difference in the long run. A new cover will only work if it’s the cover the book should have had all along. Change alone doesn’t contribute much.
Any tips? Very important: unless it’s a new edition (i.e. you’ve changed the content considerably), do not create a new book. I know that technically, if you change the cover, you should create a new edition but the headache is not worth it. I went through a month-long migraine when I brought out a new edition of Mousetrapped in 2011, and boy did I learn my lesson!
It is so much easier to go to CreateSpace, Amazon KDP etc. and upload a new cover file than it is to make a whole new book with both editions available at the same time, which is very confusing. You might also affect your rankings and reviews. Simply swap the cover files and keep everything else the same.
Why did you change the cover of The Hating Game?
My publisher and I noticed my book was linked on Amazon with others of a different genre (mainly crime), so we suspected the cover wasn’t reaching the right audience. My novel was firmly chick lit, yet wasn’t being sold with other chick lit.
How long had you had the previous cover? We actually had two other covers before the current one. The first we’d had well before the launch of the book, and the second was live for a few weeks.
Result? When we finally hit on the right cover, the novel rocketed into the top 100 on Amazon within a week or so.
Any tips for the changeover? Explain the reasons, to avoid confusion. Although we only changed the ebook cover; by the time the book was in print, we’d found a cover that worked. Make sure the new cover addresses the genre you’re targeting, too.
Paranormal thriller author MARY MADDOX has an interesting tale of how she changed the cover of her novel Talion because she’d originally used a photo she loved – but readers told her (some rather rudely) that it was too abstract.
Do readers get confused?
One of the questions I was most interested in was whether readers become confused. The general consensus was no. The Kindle store warns you if you try to buy a book you’ve already downloaded. And although you can buy paperbacks more than once, no one reported a dreaded disgruntled review for that reason. Jessica Bell says publication dates are clearly labelled, so readers can tell it’s the same book. And Catherine Ryan Howard points out that readers are already used to covers changing in traditional publishing. ‘A book will have one design for the hardback and another for the paperback, and bestseller authors with extensive backlists get cover redesigns regularly. If the title, sub-title and blurb stay the same, how could anyone make such a mistake?’
Cover designer Jane Dixon-Smith has two useful tips to add. ‘If you’re designing a cover for a sequel, make sure it matches in terms of quality and style Second, it’s important to change a cover if it’s an improvement to your image and the assurance of your quality and brand.’
You’ll have to wait a day or two while the new cover of Nail Your Novel worms its way through the works at CreateSpace et al. But don’t go too far because I’ll be back with an unveiling post AND a very special competition…
In the meantime, let’s talk about changing covers. Have you changed any of yours? Are you thinking about it? Are you happy with your covers, and why? Do you have any other questions you’d like to discuss?
Backpacked, be a bestseller, bestsellers, book covers, book marketing, books, Catherine Ryan Howard, Chasing Amanda, chick-lit, contemporary fiction, cover design, designing a book cover, entertainment, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, how to sell a book, how to sell more books, indie publishing, Jane Dixon-Smith, Jessica Bell, Linda Gillard, literary authors, literary fiction, literature, making a book cover, Mary Maddox, Melissa Foster, Mousetrapped, My Memories of a Future Life, mystery, mystery fiction, mystery novels, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, novelist, paranormal thriller, Roz Morris, self-publishing, sell books on Amazon, String Bridge, Talion, Talli Roland, The Hating Game, travel writer, Untying the Knot, Women Writers, women's fiction, writing business
I’ve now got Eric Satie’s Gnossiennes on repeat in my head – and so will you once you’ve read this week’s Undercover Soundtrack. Satie helped my guest conjure a lulling, heady summer in France; a five-year-old girl running wild while her mother grapples with tragedy, late pregnancy and looming disaster. The novel is The Night Rainbow, the author is Claire King, and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack. Even better, you could win a copy for sharing the post and commenting!
authors, bereavement, Bloomsbury, books, childhood, Claire King, contemporary fiction, contemporary novels, deepen your story, entertainment, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, French countryside, French rural living, grief, home, how to write a book, how to write a novel, literary fiction, literature, love, music, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, publishing, recovery, Roz Morris, The Night Rainbow, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, Women Writers, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing life, writing lifestyle, writing routine, writing to music
It’s an extra pleasure to be hosting this week’s guest. For a number of years we’ve corresponded about agents, publishing options and writing questions, and many of her queries have resulted in useful posts. Now here she is with her first novel, a romantic thriller called Into the Dark, published by MuseItUp. If you guessed she needed a dark soundtrack you wouldn’t be far wrong. She is Stacy Green and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack.
authors, deepen your story, entertainment, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, how to write a novel, ideas, inspiration, Into The Dark, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, novel, novels, publishing, romance, romantic thriller, Roz Morris, Stacy Green, The Undercover Soundtrack, thriller, undercover soundtrack, Women Writers, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing life, writing to music
About a month ago, I launched My Memories of a Future Life on Kindle in 4 parts. A Dickensian adventure in serialisation, rekindled for the ebook generation.
I had great fun and plenty of hair-tearing. For instance, it was never clear exactly how long the Kindle store would take to make the episodes live, so I had to publish days in advance and keep them quiet until the witching hour. (Some of you still seemed to find them…) My computer was starting to look like a duplication hallucination with multiple covers, textfiles and whatnot.
Not that Jane?
Jane is a former publisher at Writer’s Digest and a prolific and respected speaker on writing, publishing, and the future of media, including South by Southwest, BookExpo America, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Her expertise has been featured by sources such as NPR’s Morning Edition, Publishers Weekly, GalleyCat, PBS, The Huffington Post, and Mr. Media. She has consulted with a range of nonprofits, businesses, and creative professionals, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Creative Work Fund, and the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati. It says it all that one of her nicknames is ‘Not-that Jane’.
Amazon, book marketing, book promotion, book publicity, fiction, guest post, how to get book publicity, how to publicise your book, how to write a novel, Jane Friedman, Kindle, marketing, Marketing your book, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, novels, promoting your book, publishing, Roz Morris, self-publishing, Selling your book, Women Writers, Writer's Digest, writing, writing business
When I ghostwrite, it’s a collaboration. The editor, the ‘author’ and various other parties will be involved with it from birth. Together we hammer out the plot. I go to them first with my research questions. We chat about how it’s going. Of course the majority of the work is mine, but by the time I deliver the manuscript it’s as though it’s been written in public.
Writing my own novels is not like that at all.
The first time an agent talked to me about My Memories of a Future Life, it was a surreal experience. I met her in a cafe in Covent Garden, on a freezing cold February evening. We sat outside in the penumbra of a gas heater. As people scurried past on their ordinary way home, a person I had never met before was talking to me, in great detail, about regression to the future. The tangled dynamic between four people. Music and its ghostly role in the book’s world. It wasn’t like any other book I’d written, it was more like a long and elaborate secret I’d been keeping. It was so bizarre I was struck monosyllabic. I still haven’t quite got used to it.
I’m over at Women Writers today, talking about the curious and special relationship writers and readers have with novels. Do join me.
agents, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, ghosting, ghostwriting, how to write a novel, literary agents, literary novels, music, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, novels, pianos, publishing, Roz Morris, Women Writers, Women Writers Women Books blog, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing business, writing life
Today I’m guesting at Women Writers, a newly minted blog to highlight contemporary women writers and readers. They wanted me to wax inspirational, so I chose a key place in my novel – a narrow 92-mile trunk road in England.
Trust me, it’s legendary. When you take the A303, you travel not just in miles, you sail a metalled sine wave back through time. Come over and enjoy the ride…
A303, authors, Character, Devon, Fix and Finish With Confidence, having ideas, how to write a novel, ideas, inspiration, landscape in writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, novels, publishing, Roz Morris, Somerset, West Country, Women Writers, Women Writers Women Books, Women Writers Women Books blog, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing life
Yesterday Laura Pauling asked me about my decision to self-publish My Memories of a Future Life. She also had another question:
‘Now that you have fiction you’re promoting, will you be blogging about topics other than writing? Kristen Lamb, who blogs about social media and platform building, said recently that bloggers shouldn’t be blogging about writing to find their readers.’
Laura, you’ve nailed perhaps the most difficult question for writer/bloggers. Most of us start blogging and find – hey presto – we’ve got lots of readers who are writers.
But not all our writer/readers will like our fiction, because everyone’s tastes are individual. And we hope that far more people are going to buy our books than just other people who write. Because although the blogosphere may seem infinite to us, it’s only a tiny grain of the reading world.
In mainstream publishing, authors get noticed by writing and talking about their novels’ subjects and issues in big-circulation media. This is where a traditional publishing deal can be really worthwhile. They will punt you in front of readers you can’t reach on your own. This is what publicists do as well, although there’s one area where bona fide publishers are still ahead – because many reviewers simply won’t look at self-publishers.
If this is starting to sound waffly and generalised, then it is. Every book needs a different sales approach. You have to identify where your specific readers are likely to be, and then reach out to them. I can’t tell you how to do that for your book; all I can do is tell you what I’m going to do for My Memories of a Future Life.
My biggest problem is that it isn’t a genre novel. If it was supernatural, paranormal, historical, sci fi et al I could trot over to the lovely collectives who review those books, find the forums and spread the word that way. I could review books myself, talk about other novels in my genre that I like. But instead I have a contemporary, offbeat story about a lost soul trying to find where she belongs. It should be a story anyone could read, but I need a better target than that.
I have a platform, but as Laura has pointed out, it’s about writing. And I like to keep it that way. You may indulge me with the odd splurge like this (and really it’s still about publishing) but one thing I’ve learned from many years in magazines is that readers want you for a certain thing, not for others. Here is where you want fighting talk about writing – and here is where I want to write it. If I want to write arty farty pieces about kick-ass pianos (which I had to learn about for my novel) that doesn’t belong here unless I make a useful writing point out of it. (Although that book did teach me a few hefty lessons about writing, and I hope you won’t mind me sharing them from time to time.)
Similarly, on my Twitter account @DirtyWhiteCandy you want writing advice. I’m not going to dilute that either.
So here’s my marketing plan for spreading the word without annoying you all. If you’re in this position, you might find it helpful too.
- A parallel Twitter account – @ByRozMorris. I’ll use that account to chat about my fiction, but also about subjects that inspired me to write the book – stage hypnotists, memory tricks, illusionists, mysterious injuries, music and, of course, kick-ass pianos.
- Blogging at other venues with a wider remit. I’ve been invited to be a regular guest blogger at Kindle Authors UK, a collective of professional UK authors branching out with independent projects that are too edgy, bent and challenging for mainstream publishers. Watch out for me on the 20th of each month – but drop in there at any time and you’ll find a lot of pro writers with exciting indie projects. I’m also blogging at Women Writers, who have invited me to talk about any subject close to my heart and link it loosely with my book. I’ll signpost these guest spots with short introduction pieces here, as I usually do, but if they’re not your cup of tea they won’t be clogging up your inbox.
- Creating a website for My Memories of a Future Life. Behind these walls I’ve been constructing a parallel world of the red piano, which I’ll be opening soon. I’ll post material there that’s specific to the book, for those who are curious.
All books have to find their audience, and this is how I’m going to find the readers for mine. But without intending to, I’ve already been building curiosity for it – I mention it in Nail Your Novel and I’ve been getting inquiries from people who want to buy it.
But I do have a big secret weapon to send it into the Kindlesphere with a bang. It’s either a really good idea or a totally dumb one. But hey, you only live once. Or maybe more than once… I’ll be revealing that in a couple of weeks…
Have you solved this problem of developing a platform for your novels? I’d love to know what you’re doing. Especially if there’s anywhere you can suggest that I should introduce myself! Share in the comments!
authors, blogging, DirtyWhiteCandy, fiction, how to write a novel, Kindle, Kindle Authors UK, marketing, Marketing your book, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, novels, platform, publishing, Roz Morris, social media, twitter, Women Writers, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing business, writing life
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As @NailYourNovel I post 4 to 5 useful writing links per dayMy Tweets
Off duty I tweet as @ByRozMorrisMy Tweets
- ‘Music to make a creative space’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Kirsty Greenwood December 4, 2013
- How to write down story ideas so you can remember why they were brilliant December 1, 2013
- Could The Undercover Soundtrack help you reach readers? Post at the Alliance of Independent Authors November 30, 2013
- ‘Sex, drugs, metaphysics and rock’n’roll’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, David Biddle November 27, 2013
- How do I develop something special in my writing? November 24, 2013
- 2 Tone Records and two cities riven by conflict – The Undercover Soundtrack, Catriona Troth November 20, 2013
- Social media: a message in a bottle November 18, 2013
See what I did there…