Honeyeater in the garden

I have a fortnight’s breathing space and I’m very grateful for it. After the tension of Sky Garden‘s Kindle Scout campaign, then its release (on Thanksgiving Eve – possibly not the best timing, although I was very thankful to have the book out), looming in front of me is Djinn Justice‘s release on Dec 9, and its free weekend, Dec 11-13, which means more stress, even if it’s of the good kind. So, I’m grateful for these two weeks of downtime.

Of course, by downtime, I mean I’m hard at work on Djinn Justice‘s sequel, Dragon Knight. But that’s a joy!

I’ll also be catching up with my critique partner. I can’t believe it’ll be our last catch up of the year! We always have fantastic discussions about writing, publishing and life in general. I’m looking forward to it, although there’ll be serious questions and challenges as we map out our writing goals and strategies for achieving them in 2016. I do like having a plan.

Release Day: Sky Garden

Sky Garden is live! Transport yourselves to the rooftops of London, to a world of mystery and love.

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On the rooftops of London, you can be anyone.

A year ago, Lanie Briers escaped a serial killer. She grew up in a theatre family and her act was mediumship, but not anymore. Life, now, is a hidden retreat above a quirky Bloomsbury museum, where she waits and watches.

Nick Tawes is an unexpected intrusion. He’s a landscape architect filming a television series on roof gardens, and he intends to build one in Lanie’s aerial territory. He has his own demons, old family troubles, that lure Lanie out of her refuge and into living again.

But as summer progresses and the sky garden grows, Lanie’s enemy is closing in—because some secrets must go to the grave.

Sky Garden, romantic suspense, kindle unlimited,

Sky Garden is 99c on Amazon or free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

My Kindle Scout Campaign Experience

Kindle Scout is run by Amazon. Authors submit a book for a thirty day window in which readers are invited to nominate it for publication. Kindle Scout editors then consider the book. If they select it for publication, readers who nominated it receive a free copy on publication; and, authors receive a five year contract, $1,500 advance and simple reversion rights. Plus, the possibility of Amazon’s algorithms helping to push the book in front of new garden, kindle scout, kindle scout promotion,

I decided to try Kindle Scout as the path-to-publication for my romantic suspense novel, Sky Garden. The thirty day campaign has just ended and I’m waiting to hear from Kindle Scout editors, but whether they say yes or no to publishing Sky Garden, I’ve learned a lot. I thought I’d share those lessons here as they’re a distillation of my wider publishing experience.

[If you’re interested in how I approached Sky Garden‘s Kindle Scout campaign, you’ll find the posts outlining marketing, Facebook advertising and managing expectations here.]

First, the concrete stuff. Sky Garden spent 192 hours of 720 on the Hot & Trending list. It had 1,063 page views. Of those page views, 33% came from within Kindle Scout (i.e. they were browsing the books) and 67% were direct clicks to Sky Garden‘s page. By far the greatest source of this latter, external traffic was Facebook.

Woohoo! that confirms that my Facebook advertising campaign worked. Well, that depends. The Facebook ad (and I ran the same ad for 29 days) had 114 clicks for $59.92. To me, that’s not a great return on investment. On the other hand, I learned that, at least in this instance, Facebook’s algorithms did not increase the effectiveness of who they served the ad to over time. In other words, the algorithms didn’t seem to “learn” in a way that benefited my advertising reach.

However, when I posted to Facebook asking for nominations of Sky Garden, I got them. The Kindle Scout graphs shows that. For reference, I asked for nominations first on my author page, then in a private group (Romance Writers of Australia – who are awesome), and finally, on my personal profile.

The best aspect of the thirty day campaign was people’s kindness. So many not only nominated Sky Garden, they asked others to do so, and they sent me encouraging messages. Those messages were life-savers. Thank you!

The Kindle Scout campaign is as stressful as you allow it to be. For me, it was a low level simmer, one that left me a little on edge all the time. However, it didn’t stop me working on other projects. I wrote and edited through the thirty days, and in fact, finalised Djinn Justice and popped it up for pre-order during this time.

A vital way of managing the stress is to have a plan, not only for the thirty days, but afterwards. Instead of dreaming or fearing the results, I cut off those thoughts by reminding myself that either way (whether Kindle Scout editors accepted or rejected Sky Garden) I would be ready. In the event of the editors rejecting Sky Garden, I will self-publish it. Everything is ready to roll.

I’m also aware that publishing decisions are about more than a book’s quality. Quality matters. It does. But that just gets your book on the table. To get editors to accept it, your book has to fit in with their other publishing plans (e.g. that it won’t cannibalise sales of another book they have scheduled), and with data they have (and don’t share) on what is selling, where and to whom. A rejection of Sky Garden by Kindle Scout editors doesn’t mean it won’t sell. It just means it doesn’t fit their publishing schedule.

I don’t expect to run another Kindle Scout campaign, but I’m glad I did for Sky Garden. It confirmed that a good book needs a strong premise, a hook. It needs a cover that conveys its genre and something of the hook. The blurb should be snappy (Kindle Scout’s short word count for blurbs emphasises this). You should know its readership, what appeals to them and how to reach them (i.e. study popular books and authors in the genre). Finally, don’t under-sell yourself. You’ve written an amazing book. Go out there and be proud of it.

Djinn Justice – update!

Djinn Justice is almost a solid draft. I just need to make sure the ending delivers the fireworks that the story promises.

Here’s the draft blurb. Critique is welcome :)


A new relationship doesn’t need added pressure…

Fay Olwen is still adjusting to life as one of a couple. She never expected to have a sexy leopard-were cuddling her at midnight in his huge bed in his gorgeous villa on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. But here she is, in love and in luck—finally! There’s not a demon in sight.

Pity she can’t say the same about the invading djinn.

As romantic plans are scuttled, Fay discovers she has a lot to learn about her new lover. Steve Jekyll isn’t simply the lethal mercenary she thought him. He’s also heir to the Suzerainty, the ancient order that delivers justice for all weres.

Steve hoped he’d have more time to reveal the many aspects of his complicated life to Fay; not least, his family. But with a rogue mage teaming up with a power-mad jackal-were to enslave innocent weres, Steve hasn’t got time for tact. His family are just going to have to deal with the fact that his chosen mate isn’t a were. She is, in fact, their total and feared opposite: a mage.

And Fay isn’t any ordinary mage. She’s an ex-Collegium guardian with the magical firepower to banish Axlttrea demons.

Fay wouldn’t normally break a sweat defeating a poorly trained rogue mage, but this spell is different. This spell steals a person’s dream essence: all that they are and all that they will be. The result is heart-breaking zombies.

From the cold of Siberia to the Mountains of the Moon, Fay and Steve are involved in an epic battle against evil—and against in-law disapproval. They might win one fight, but which one?
“Djinn Justice” is for fans of paranormal romance who like their adventures filled with humor and heart. It can easily be read as a stand-alone novel, although the novella “Demon Hunter” tells the story of how Fay and Steve get together.

Invisible Books

invisible books, Invisible books are one of the mysteries and heartaches of a writer’s life. These are the books that we release with high expectations, knowing our readers will love them, only to discover that no one buys the book!

Now, this is comparative. For a best-selling author, “no one” buying their invisible book might mean it’s sold a thousand copies. For me, if Kiss It Better, published last October, sold a thousand copies, I’d be sobbing with joy and running down the road to stop the bus and tell bewildered strangers the news. *sigh* Kiss It Better is my invisible book.

When I wrote Kiss It Better I truly thought it was the book of all my books that would resonate most with readers. Who hasn’t experienced a quarter life crisis, that time when you realise your first hopes and dreams of adult life have to be adjusted?

But almost no one has picked up the book. [To those who have, and especially to those who reviewed it so positively, thank you!]

So Kiss It Better is the book that haunts me. Invisible books do. They’re a tiny bit of author soul that has wandered off and gotten lost.

I don’t know how other authors deal with their emotions around invisible books. Some self-publishing authors are on record as saying they pull those books from publication and either bury them or re-vamp them (new title, blurb, cover, etc) and try again. I can’t do that with Kiss It Better as it’s not self-published — and its publisher, Escape Publishing, is awesome (especially my wonderful editor there, Lauren McKellar) so don’t think they’re the reason Kiss It Better is invisible.

Sometimes a book just doesn’t find its readers, and with the avalanche of new books releasing daily, the window for finding those readers is getting smaller and smaller. There are a lot of invisible books out there, and a lot of authors quietly mourning great stories that are sitting unread.

So the next time you’re wandering through the virtual shelves of Amazon or Goodreads or wherever you browse for your next book, please don’t be put off by a book that is sitting at a low rank or with few reviews. Download a sample, take a risk. Many an invisible book holds delightful surprises.


P.S. In a shameless plea, could you help me get my latest novel, Sky Garden, published by Kindle Scout (details here). It needs your nomination. Nominations close 21 November 2015.

kindle scout, sky garden, romantic suspense,

Friends and Kindle Scout

I never expected that trying Kindle Scout as a path-to-publication option for my romantic suspense novel, Sky Garden, would open the door to warm-fuzzies, but it has.

The advice around things like the Kindle Scout program, where you need nominations (i.e. people to click, vote or whatever you want to call pushing that blue button) is to activate your online network. Ask people to nominate your book.

So I did.

And what has overwhelmed me is the generosity with which people have responded to that request. We’re all busy, distracted and the cat-has-just-coughed-up-a-hairball kind of frantic people, and yet, my friends have stepped up, found those spare moments, and nominated Sky Garden — and then, they’ve gone further. I’ve had reshares of the request. I’ve had so many good wishes and honest questions. Shelley Munro invited me to post at her blog about my experience. It’s been amazing. A special shout-out to my BookLikes friend Mary – one day, I’m going to get to Louisiana!

I have half the campaign still to go for Sky Garden, but whatever happens, I feel blessed. ben

Yesterday, I caught up with my critique partner, Eliza Redgold, and she gave me a signed copy of her new book, Enticing Benedict Cole. It was so exciting to hold a copy in my hands, having known Ben since he was just a baby, so to speak 😉 But just as touching was to open the book and read the inscription, a special one that referenced back to my Kindle Scout hopes and dreams.

Friends understand the importance of our dreams, and support them. I am so very, very lucky.

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