Saturday 25 February 2017

Ten Ways I’m Just Crazy Enough to Be an Indie Author by @saraheboucher

Sarah E. Boucher is a lover of fairy stories, romance, anything BBC and Marvel, and really, really cute shoes. On weekdays she wears respectable shoes and serves as Miss Boucher, the Queen of Kindergarten. On school holidays she writes stories about romance and adventure. And wears impractical super cute shoes.

Sarah is a graduate of Brigham Young University. She lives and works in northern Utah. Midnight Sisters is her second novel.

''I recently made the switch from traditional to indie publishing and I’m just enough of a nutso to love it. Therefore for your entertainment, I present:

Ten Ways I’m Just Crazy Enough to Be an Indie Author

10) I gave myself roller skates for my 30-somethingth birthday. Yep, I hit up cheap skate nights where the oldest people on the floor are teenagers trying to look cool. And me.

9) I love BLING. Because with the right tiara and sparkly sparkly shoes, a woman can rule the world. (Even in her pajamas.)

8) I’ve spent the better part of 15 years taming ankle-biters. I magically transformed hundreds of preschoolers into fully functioning first graders who can read, write, and tie their shoes. Probably.

7) I’m a grown adult who adores fairy tales and princes and princesses. They make for great bedtimes stories, sweeties!

6) I heart books. You might lose an eye or a finger if you get between me and whatever I’m reading.

5) Somehow I survived growing up with five brothers. I’m a lovely mix of tomboy and girlie girl and I can still howl with the best of them! Howwwooooooo!

4) Shoes make me happy. When I moved into my condo, my mom said I couldn’t buy any more shoes because I’d filled the shelf. Challenge accepted, mama! Ooh! Are those on sale?

3) My brother once told me he wouldn’t go to funny movies with me because my loud laughter and/or snorting is creepy. Guess what, bro? No. One Cares. Mwahahahaha! Snoooort!

2) While I’m commuting to work, I get a lot of weird looks. Not only do I sing at the top of my lungs, but I also do elaborate choreography. All I have to say to those people is You’re welcome.

1) I’m a small town girl. While I’ve never accidentally dated one of my cousins, I do wave at strangers, flirt with babies, and flash my dimples at anyone and everyone. (Because dimples mean I don’t have to talk to you but you’ll still find me adorable.)

If I do all of those things without feeling ashamed, surely I can tackle formatting my own books, managing blog tours, giveaways, convincing shop owners to host events and whatnot, right? If cranky five-year-olds or opinionated brothers can’t get in my way, editors, publishers, or people who write crappy reviews can’t either.

Because no matter what negative nonsense comes my way, I can stand my ground and keep my smile pasted in place. (And I’ll probably be wearing fabulous shoes while I do it!)
That kind of down-to-earth confidence reaches people in real life and on social media. Which is fortunate, because I’m a grown woman. And I write fairy tales. ''

Blurb for Midnight Sisters:

The words rattled around Jonas’s head. What was the punishment again? Death? Dismemberment? Jonas, the newest addition to the gardening staff, couldn’t recall the exact penalty for breaking the rule. What does it matter anyway? He would never dream of meddling with the Earl of Bromhurst’s haughty daughters.

Until he comes face to face with Lady Ariela, the eldest of the Master’s daughters.
Her elusive smile and open manner cause him to question his convictions. In no time, he’s drawn into Lady Ariela’s world of mystery and intrigue, a world where she and her sisters will do anything—including leaving twelve empty beds at midnight—to escape their father’s strict rules.

Only Jonas can uncover the truth and save them from their father’s wrath and their own folly, if he is willing to risk everything he’s ever worked for.

Book links:
Midnight Sisters is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

Visit Sarah at or connect with her on Twitter @saraheboucher   

Thursday 23 February 2017

A Letter to my Granddaughter, Age 3

Dear Avalyn Grace

Today, Friday 24th of February marks your 3rd birthday. You've had a letter from me every year of your life (this is the one I wrote when you were 6 months old) and you have been the inspiration for a whole series of blog posts describing our rather eccentric adventures together. So here's another letter from me to you.

The biggest change in your world right now ~ well, in all our worlds, is that you have a gorgeous little baby brother who worships you unquestioningly and unconditionally. Make the most of it because as soon as he starts walking, you're in for trouble!

Other changes: we've migrated from the Purple Buggy with a Mind of Its Own to a second hand collapsible buggy with dodgy brakes, which always go at roundabouts when we're travelling to my house, skeetering you across the bus at high speed and sending me into a panic. You find it terribly funny.

You are also a fully paid-up member of the Accessorize Club. You have a box of tiaras, crowns, necklaces and headbands. Yes, You Must Be Mad has tried to bring you up in a pinkless gender-neutral environment, but you have managed to tunnel your way out. Now each one of our adventures begins with a selection of appropriate bling to accompany it. I have to confess to being slightly envious: I'd secretly love to wander round Sainsburys in a tiara and sparkly boots, though I remind myself that I may yet come to it in my dotage.

For your birthday, you are going to the zoo ~ which you are looking forward to huguely as it has a soft play area with a gigantic slide. Animals? Well yes, there will be some animals obviously, but let's get our priorities right. There will also be a party in your house at some future date when the 'hand/foot & mouth' virus that I, in my ignorance, thought only occurred in cattle, has run its course.

As we approach our third year together, I look back and see how much you have taught me: your ability to live in the now; to find amazement and fun in mundane and ordinary things. Your life may be very circumscribed in one sense, but it is crammed with wonder, joy and delight because that is how you choose to experience it.

Happy Birthday, my special girl. You have inspired and entertained us all ever since you arrived in this world. Long may you continue to do so. As for the thought that your next birthday marks the end of our carefree adventures together, and the start of your schooldays ~ well, we're not going to think about it, are we?

Saturday 18 February 2017

Don't Give Up The Day Job!

I am becoming less and less a fan of bookshops. Yep, I know that sounds heretical, but from a writer's point of view ( especially a self-published one like me) bookshops are the reason we are bottom of the financial food chain, even though WE are the reason they exist in the first place. It is unfair and I am miffed about it.

Bookshops do not have the writer's best interest at heart. To get books into any bookshop, a publisher has to offer at least a 48% discount. This means that for them to stay in business, publishers in turn offer writers such measly returns on books (10% - if you are lucky, and that's on the discounted figure) that it just isn't worth bothering. The growth of ebooks is as much the greed of bookshops as it is the development of technology ~ they signed up to the scrapping of the Net Book Agreement, allowing them to discount titles and then discovered Amazon/supermarkets beat them to it.

I was recently in a blog discussion about small publishers and royalties, and one of the participants (Dr Teika Bellamy: @MothersMilkBks) helpfully provided the following breakdown of costs:

On a £10 RRP (please note, these are approximate figures)

50% retailer (£5)
10% distributor (£1)
10% author (£1)
20% printer (£2)
10% publisher (£1) ← That 10% needs to cover things like ISBN costs, advertising, free books that are sent off to reviewers (and postage and packaging), illustrator’s costs, editing, proofreading, typesetting and all the various running costs of the business (including salaries if employers are paid).  
Based upon this, the writer at the bottom of the pile ends up with so little for all their years of hard graft that they might as well go and work in Asda (also selling discounted books).

Large publishers can print books cheaply and in bulk, and take a hit on a couple of titles. Small publishers cannot. And most bookshops still operate their snobby policy that if it's NOT published by one of the big names it is, ergo, of inferior quality. As one who has given up on so many novels by 'famous/hyped authors' because I can't get beyond page 9, I find that, frankly, deeply insulting.

My local Waterstones had a local writer shelf. I was on it. Then it didn't have one. Now it has reinstated it, but they don't take my Victorian Detective books as I am self-published on Amazon and Bertrams & Gardiners (the 2 big suppliers) won't look twice at me.

More evidence of discrimination. Even though the quality of Createspace books rivals many other publishers' stock (and they frequently resort to using POD companies anyway). Same policy with WH Smith. Same with most independent bookshops. Same with their suppliers ~ same suppliers.

I am lucky in that a local gift shop takes my books (at a slight discount) and sells them like hot cakes as I am not in competition with shelves and shelves of other titles. Now I am, let's face it, at the latter end of my career. And most of my sales now come from Ebooks.

But for a writer just starting out, full of expectation and hope, I'd have to say: Be realistic. Love what you do, be proud of your end product, but don't give up the day job. As a fellow writer remarked: 'unless you sell gazillions of copies, writing books is mostly for pleasure, or a little income to subsidise what else you have.'

Is it worth it then? Yes ~ a hundred times yes, as long as your definition of 'worth' is not measured in pounds and pence

Saturday 11 February 2017


'If I write it, they will read it' ~ thinks many a fledgling author with a quiet smile.
Oh no they won't!
It is estimated that a new author on Amazon may sell as little as 50 copies of their book in a year. 95% of writers earn less than £5k. The 'top earners' are a teeny tiny % of the market, and usually get there on the back of a publicity department. But you don't have one, do you? Nor do I. So where to dive in?

Writing a book and getting it published, by whatever conduit you use, is only the start. To get any sales, you have to make people aware of your masterpiece. In this blog, I'm exploring some of the portals I use to promote my work ~ if I don't mention something, it's because I don't specifically use it for book promotion. Feel free to expound on how useful you find it in the comments section, because unless we are all out there, loud and proud, nobody will notice

1. Pre-Publication: At least three months before you are ready to gift the reading public with your masterpiece, it is good to offer it to a few REPUTABLE book blogger sites to read. I say 'reputable' because you want an honest opinion. One of the best sites is Rosie Amber @rosieamber1  Getting your manuscript to them early means that you will have a few (hopefully good) reviews up as soon as your book is published. And yes, I can vouch for their integrity : a reviewer posted a less than enthusiastic review of one of my YA ebooks. I am sure there are other book bloggers out there. Maybe people could identify them in the comments section.

2. Twitter::  I make Twitter my main platform. Most of my sales come from Twitter  eg:

I have been looking at your books on Amazon and all look great, will buy two of your favorites. Select please.

 I also encourage readers to post pictures of the actual book (and then they get a surprise signature sent to them in the post)
It's next on my 'to read' pile 🙂
And practically all sales come from me chatting, posting stuff etc or people recommending the books to other readers. In other words, I'm a friend first, an online character second, and a writer selling books third.

2a Twitter Hashtags: I use #histfic or #Victorian and #historicalfiction. This places my book alongside the others in the same genre and makes it easier for readers to find them. Your genre will have a #. Or there are general ones #bookboost @IARTG ... check other people's promo posts and you pick them up quickly. You can also follow readers via the authors especially if they have the magic words Avid Reader in their bio. Don't send them promos though. If you want to see some Twitter book promos, check out @TerryTyler4 or @paul_cude (or even me) for ideas.

Make sure you RETWEET other writers and say a general or personal thank-you when people retweet you.

 3. Press Releases: The local press are (usually) delighted to receive a press release, a publicity pic and a free copy to review.

3a. Press Releases: Anywhere your book is set will be delighted also.

3. Local Radio: Contact them via Twitter, phone them up, arrange to do a studio interview. Listen, I sound like a 15 year old mainlining helium, but I still do it.

4. National Press: Will be interested if you have a brilliant backstory, particularly if it involves abuse, or hardship. Also if you earned shedloads of advance shekels or you are very very photogenic. I haven't cracked this one yet. Maybe you will. Also if your partner/family member is 'famous'. However I was told by the wife of someone well known in public life that this could be a two-edged sword as the press can jump on you if said famous person is not liked.
Bernie Steadman in W H Smiths

5. Literary Festivals: Everybody's doing it. Local library will have contacts of yours. Organisers have a Twitter site. Get in touch. I did the first St Albans Literary Festival two years ago and last year. I ran a workshop on how to get published ... ooh, and I had some books on a side-table.

6. Signings: Local bookshop is worth approaching (see pic). Make sure you are professional in your set-up and your conduct ~ do not hassle people to buy your books.

Harpenden Writers, 27th Jan 2017
7.Talks: WI ~ you have to audition and be approved, but it's worth it. They pass you round like a sweetie. Local book clubs/writers' groups are also worth contacting. Library should hold the list. If you write YA or children's fiction, schools are always keen to have a visiting writer. Make sure you get paid ~ the Society of Authors has recommended fees. WI expects you to donate 10% of any book sales to their group.

8. Blogging: Worth a whole post on its own. Maybe I'll write one. Sufficient to say that blogs are great for writing interesting posts around your book. I have blogged on Sex, Food, Child cruelty, Poisons .. did I mention Sex? Some people arrange Blog Tours to publicize their book. I host other writers and write posts for other blogs. It's getting your name out there, building your profile and being part of the writing community.

Writing Magazine
9. Writing Magazine (@WritingMagazine) : The 'bible' for any writer. It has comps, helpful articles, lists of publishers/magazines that are open for submissions, everything you need to stay in touch with fellow writers etc. It also has a Membership Spot where you can happily plug your new novel. I always do them a small write-up. Worth the subscription (which you can claim as legitimate expenses against tax). You can also use their own marketplace to promote your book FREE!

10. Local Shops:: If you are a small published/self published writer with books, it is well nigh impossible to get them into the big bookshops. This is because they get 45% discounts from established publishers and usually only deal with 2 or 3 suppliers. But other shops like gift shops, & craft shops may well be happy to negotiate a better rate. I get a kick from seeing my books in a local shop window (see pic at top of piece). I've never had that happen at Waterstones!

Finally -  if you have published actual books, make sure you are registered for PLR ~ Public Lending Rights: that's the money paid by libraries every time your book is borrowed. You can register here. Every little helps.

What I do not do, and nor should you, is inundate followers, friends on Facebook, or total strangers with 'buy my book' promos 24/7. If you want to read one of my books, great. If not, hey. And I won't be constantly checking my sales figures or Amazon and informing you every hour of the day. That way madness lies. And somehow I have to find time to get on with the next book, (which is the other GREAT way to generate sales), so that IF you bought, read and enjoyed Diamonds & Dust and its three successors, there will be another book in the pipeline for you to read very soon.

Saturday 4 February 2017

The Importance of Publicity 1

Excitement is building at Hedges Towers. Reviews of Diamonds & Dust on Amazon UK have just broken the magic 90 in number. This has never happened before in all my years of being published, so is very gratifying. Even more so, as those of you who are aware of the back story know, because I parted company with my agent over it, as she had told me that there was no market for this type of 'Present-tense historical stuff ' book, so she was not going to bother sending it out to publishers; comments that resulted in my almost losing heart and deciding to give up writing altogether. Take whatever lesson you wish to learn from this.

So, apart from sorting out the party fairy lights and discovering they don't work because one of the bulbs has blown, ordering in crates of prosecco and wrapping crepe paper streamers round the PINK SOFA who has been in launch mode since the series started, I am now wondering whether the villa in Tuscany and the black Maserati I promised OH might be a tad nearer. Meanwhile, because complacency isn't in my vocabulary, I crack on with the publicity machine.

Publicity has become vitally important in today's frenetic book market. In the 1950s when I was growing up, there seemed no need for authors to get involved in marketing their books. Nobody was interested in them. I could have passed Ruby Ferguson, Primrose Cummings, A Stephen Tring, Pamela Brown or Don Stanford in the street and not recognised them. Now if you publish a book, unless you are happy just to have achieved publication, and content that only your immediate family, and close friends will buy it, you HAVE to put yourself out there.

There are some myths still going round about publicity. The first says that mainstream published writers don't have to do much if any publicity, as they have marketing wonks to do it instead. Wrong. My own experience, based on OUP and Usborne, my two previous publishers, is that at my level of importance, publicity wonks will send your book out for review, feature you in the publisher's catalogue, and produce press releases, but that's pretty well it. The rest you sort yourself, unless you are a 'famous or favoured writer' - of which more anon. Sometimes, they don't even do that - one year, I was told by OUP that they were going to spend the entire marketing budget on a couple of well known children's writers who brought in more money than a mid-lister like me. Seriously.

The bottom line is always money. If you don't sell enough books, and make sufficient money, big publishers will drop you. Actually, most publishers of whatever size will drop you - so those authors I recently came across on Facebook moaning that ''they can't do publicity, it isn't ''them'' and why doesn't X (their small publisher) do it all for them like big publishers do'' really need to wake up and smell the coffee.

The other myth is that 'popular' mainstream authors get taken on lovely trips and outings to promote their books. Hollow laughter. I recently caught up with one such writer, just back from the US. It was a nightmare. Meetings with publishers, followed by book talks, followed by signings, followed by working dinners, followed by total exhaustion. And one of the famous OUP writers I mentioned earlier didn't get to write a thing for two years, had a nervous breakdown, and had to force herself to inch back into writing again. So there you are. Myths well and truly busted. Next week, I shall explore some of the publicity portals available and how to use them without annoying people too excessively.