Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Sells Books?

Happy Tuesday! I hope everyone has recovered from the long weekend. I've plunged back into revisions... sigh. Still, I'm starting to catch a faint glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, although it still seems some way off.

Anyway, I wanted to blog today about something rattling around my mind: what exactly is it that makes books sell? As more and more books flood onto Amazon (and fewer and fewer onto actual bookshelves), it seems almost every author out there is pushing their masterpiece. And rightfully so -- we all want our work to be read, right? But why do some books flop while others become bestsellers, despite authors' publicity efforts?

I'd argue that any book needs four things:

1. A great concept
2. An easy to read blurb that hooks the reader
3. A cover that immediately signifies the genre (notice I don't say a good cover, because that may be a completely different thing!)
4. A reasonable price point -- particularly important for ebooks.

Without these four things, a book may sell a limited number of copies within the author's immediate circle through efforts like blog tours, Twitter, Facebook, etc, but it's never going to achieve bestseller status because it simply won't catch on with the general public.

Take, for example, my debut novel The Hating Game, which launched back in December with a totally different cover. Not to toot my own horn, but my publisher and I really did believe we had great concept, a good blurb, a fantastic cover and a reasonable price. Through my websplash, I was able to push the novel into the bestseller's list the day of the launch. But slowly, over the next couple weeks, the book dropped lower and lower as people in my immediate circle stopped purchasing -- and the general public didn't start buying. My publisher and I racked our brains, trying to figure out why the novel wasn't catching on. Finally, we changed the cover and within a week, the novel was back in the top 100, where it stayed for the next two months. Even now, five months after its release, it's still in the top 200 on Amazon UK (although now that I've written this, it probably won't be!). And all because we changed the cover.

So, what's my point? Yes, blog tours, Twitter and manically hitting every social media site known to humankind can help make your book visible to your circle of pals. But if your novel lacks a critical element, its success will likely be limited. Write a good book with a killer concept, a great cover and solid blurb -- then cross your fingers, because there's one thing we can't control: luck!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

I was going to post something sort of serious today (well, as serious as this blog gets, anyway) but then I realised my brain is in full-on long weekend mode. It's a Bank Holiday here in the UK and Memorial Day for my friends in the US, so I figured I'd give a round-up of my weekend! I have:

1. Paid homage to Londoners who died valiantly trying to save others at the memorial plaques in Postman's Park (if you've ever seen Closer, it's where Jude Law meets Natalie Portman).

2. Scoffed down delicious pizza at my favourite Italian in Soho, watching the people parade go by.

3. Experienced a rather bizarre video installation in the Serpentine Gallery.

4. Wandered around Portobello Market, narrowly refraining from purchasing yet another pair of shoes I don't need.

5. Had a drink by the Serpentine Lake, watching the pedalos crash into each other.

6. Watched The Hangover: Part 2, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

7. Not done one bit of writing!

8. Had a deliciously lovely afternoon nap on my bed in the sun.

9. Stuffed myself silly on Thai at the pub across the street.

10. Rented The Heartbreakers, a French comedy with Romain Duris, who I LOVE!

All in all, I'd have to say it was a fantastic weekend! How was yours?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lanzarote Living: Pauline Barclay

How did it get to be Friday? Can someone please tell me? Well, however that happened, it's a long weekend here in the UK (yes, another one. Yes, we like holidays). And today, I've got the lovely Pauline Barclay here to talk about her fabulous writing locale in the Canary Islands. It would be fair to say I'm just a little jealous. Pauline has also just released a new novel, Sometimes it Happens. So... take it away, Pauline. And send me some of that sun!

Pauline says:

Having read The Hating Game, which I enjoyed very much, I’ll never watch TV dating games again without thinking of Mattie Johns. What a character Talli, I know you are busy on your next book, so a special thank you for taking time out to invite me to your Blog. Though I’ve already guessed the reason for this and that is you want me to package up our sunshine and send it to you. No worries, here it comes…!

I’m Pauline Barclay and I live in the Canary Isles on the beautiful volcanic island of Lanzarote. The sun shines most of the time, though like much of the world, our weather pattern has been strange this year. Having said this, I live in shorts, t-shirt and sandals, so you can guess it isn’t cold!

Talli asked if I would show you a little of where we live; we being my husband, Clive and our two adorable rescue doggies. This is the view from our villa and this is the view from my office. Though I confess to sitting andstaring out at the ocean far too often, my laptop open on the table, when I am supposed to be writing! And this is a view of the beach, which is just five minutes stroll down the road.

In between sneaking a stroll to the beach or a peek at the view, I manage to get some work done. This month my third book, Sometimes It Happens… was published on Kindle. I am an Indie publisher and for this book I did things differently. Firstly, I had an amazing mentor who is also a brilliant author, who saw me through the entire manuscript, checking for continuity, believability, repetition and so much more. Then to add the final sparkle, I had the cover designed by a Graphics design company. I just love the cover, it says so much about the story.

Sometimes It Happensis about secrets, deception, lies, love and laughter. Winning the lottery was just the beginning. Nothing prepared Doreen Wilkinson for her holiday at Villas Bonitas and nothing prepared Villas Bonitas for Doreen Wilkinson. This is a holiday that will never be forgotten for many people. Sometimes It Happens… Will make the reader laugh out loud, I certainly did writing it!

My other two novels, Magnolia House and Satchfield Hall are available in both paperback and Kindle editions. In between marketing and all my other commitment, I am busy with my fourth novel!

Despite the different stories of my three books, one thing I can say about all my novels, and that is, you will need a tissue!

Pauline blogs here, her website and sample chapters are here, and she's also on Twitter and Facebook!

So, are you as jealous of her as I am?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why I Don't Write About Writing

Well, writing techniques, anyway.

I do write quite a bit about the actual quirks of writing -- writer's arse, habits and such -- but I've never been comfortable advising others on writing techniques. I have no problem talking about my own if someone asks, but I really believe that every writer is different and you need to find what works for you. Plus, there are a zillion writers out there way more qualified to discuss techniques than me (than I? See?!)!

When I first started writing, all the books and blogs I read boggled my mind. Write every day. Don't write every day. Write what you love. Write for the market. And on and on, until I had no idea where to even start. Should I sit down in the chair? Or should I stand? Should I turn on the radio, or write in silence?

The one thing I did learn was this: read all the books, but don't live by any of them. Do what you enjoy; what really makes you embrace the process of writing. I truly believe if you do that, everything will fall into place.

You'll find your rhythm, baby.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ten for Tuesday: Naw...

I was all set to do a tag, but then I changed my mind. Then, I was going to do a Ten for Tuesday as per usual, but I couldn't drum up the energy for ten things! In my current listless state, I'd like to talk about footballers.

Yes, footballers. Those men who run around, swatting each other on the arse, shouting at refs and baring their chest hair in a most unattractive way when they manage to kick a stoopid little ball into a very very large net. What an accomplishment! If someone would like to pay me a zillion pounds to run around on a field each night, please feel free. I'll even throw in a little chest hair, no extra cost!

Even worse are their antics off the field, when they do the tangerine tango with their wife/ mistress/ random girl/ pet/ club owner and it's splashed all over every newspaper -- and even becomes news in the bloody House of Commons! Is this how low we've all stooped? Are our own lives that boring we must live vicariously through footballers? (I won't answer that.)

Phew -- rant over. Just remind me of footballers next time I need to stir some ire! And oh yes, happy Tuesday!

Tell me, am I wrong? Should I respect footballers and their hairy-chested, shouty ways?

And PS - Yes, I am well aware of the irony of posting loads of stereotypes above a post where I rant about stereotypes! Maybe I should submit this piece to The Daily Mail. Hm...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sexism? Ageism? Alive and Well in Britain

Is this the image of a twenty-first century romance writer in Britain? The Daily Mail certainly seems to think so. Blue rinse, support tights, twin-set, pearls . . . and oh, let's not forget the rain bonnet and perms! Goodness, let me think, what other stereotype can I throw in there?

How about women tootling around for fun, only to top up their pensions?

You can imagine my chagrin when, early Saturday morning, I checked out The Daily Mail, looking for the promised piece on the Romantic Novelists' Association Summer Party . . . only to see this screaming at me: The Blue Rinse and Bodice Rippers: In twin-sets and pearls, meet the ladies behind Britain's steamiest novels.

Um, what?

Sadly, it was all downhill from there. An incredulous laugh bubbled out of me as I scanned the first few paragraphs.

All around me are middle-aged and elderly women in their pearls and support tights. They look like the kind of ladies you’d find working in charity shops or arranging the church flowers — can they really be penning the sort of racy novels that would make a convent girl like me blush?

My mouth actually dropped open. No, really. I know because Mr TR asked me why the hell I was displaying my half-eaten toast.

After snapping closed my mandibles, I decided to double-check the reporter was writing about the RNA Party; the same swanky do -- chock full of glam young things with funky shoes -- I'd been attending. I hadn't made a habit of scrutinising my fellow writers' guts, but I was pretty sure no-one sported support tights. And Lord, please give this momma a rain bonnet, because I'd have given anything to have protected my fine hair from frizz that night. Pearls? True, my chunky gold necklace could have been mistaken for pearls -- if the reporter had been smoking crack an hour before the event.

Maybe she had. Maybe that could be the explanation for all ageist, sexist statements that followed. Because surely now, with the collective experience of the recent past behind us, we all know better than that.


You can see the real RNA Summer Party here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Twisted Velvet Chains by Jessica Bell

It's Friday, and it's a sunny lovely day here in London. Hope it's as nice in your neck of the woods!

Today, I want to give a shout-out to Jessica Bell. She's written a wonderful book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains.

Here's the blurb:

Twisted Velvet Chains is a collection of poems which follows the experiences of one woman growing up with a bipolar, drug addicted, gothic musician mother. Each poem represents specific moments of their life that embrace vivid rich imagery, and illustrate the turmoil of emotions both experience while together. The collection is divided into four parts that flow one into the other from childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and post-death.

And here's my review on Goodreads:

It's been a long time since I've read a book of poetry, so when I sat down when Bell's 'Twisted Velvet Chains', I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But . . . wow. The poems grab you by the throat and won't let go. Visceral and powerful, Bell masterfully evokes image after image. Words become hammers, striking blows. It sounds a horrible cliché, but I couldn't put it down.

Check it out if you get the chance! Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Day After

Next week I promise to return to more serious posts (okay, semi-serious), but as I'm struggling to recover from potent Cosmos and one glass of champagne too many, I thought I'd share a few pics from the Romantic Novelists' Association party last night. It was another fun-filled evening, chock full of writers, editors and agents.

We started off early, meeting for a Tweet Up at Waterstone's Piccaddilly. It's a bookshop with a fabulous bar! And coffee shop! Have you ever heard of anything so cool? That's me becoming overly familiar with my ear, talking to the lovely VV Savage and Catherine Miller.

After a failed attempt to get a cab at The Ritz (it started raining and instantly, all cabs disappeared), we hopped the Tube, rescued Jane Holland from the evil Tube doors, and finally made it to the beautiful Library of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

Lots of fun was had by all (including the coat hanger, which I tackled at the end) and while my feet and head are suffering slightly today, it was a great night.

Anyone got some hangover remedies?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


After a lovely night last night -- drinks at a funky lounge bar then a fantastic dinner at Somerset House (steak! Bearnaise sauce! chips! sticky toffee pudding!) -- tonight I'm off to the Romantic Novelists' Association Summer Party. What can I say, it's a tough life, but someone's gotta do it. Anyway, it will be good to get out my of rubbish Primark threads for an epic two nights in a row!

I've been to a few RNA events over the past year, and I've always had a great time. Everyone is so friendly and lovely, and I love meeting online friends.

I'll have an extra drink/ canape/ spin around the floor for you all!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ten for Tuesday: Things I Love

Woo! It's Tuesday, and I'm actually going out for dinner tonight at Somerset House on the South Bank to celebrate my and Mr TR's kissaversary.

So, here are ten things I love!

1. Tumblr. It's my new addiction.

2. Twitter. I've met so many great people in there!

3. Twizzlers. Red ones. Yum!

4. Mr TR. Enough said. :)

5. Newsletters. (Ha! I slipped this one in there just to say, if anyone would like to sign up for my fun-filled newsletter, you can do so here, or on the sidebar. I do love newsletters, though!)

6. Salt and vinegar crisps. My mouth is watering now just thinking about it.

7. My brand new Kindle! Just arrived today!

8. The smell of freshly bought clothing. Pure starchy goodness.

9. Bread. Any kind, anywhere. Just gimme some bread.

10. Raspberries. Mashed up with Chantilly cream and lots of sugar, over a sponge cake.

Gosh, I'm starving now!

What are your loves?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Smelly Animals

Why, it's Monday! How did that happen?

I've got my revisions back and after seven hours spent staring at the screen, going: 'How can I make that work?', my brain is fried. So I did what I usually do for inspiration: I went on Twitter and asked what I should blog about today. And I must thank @InTheseHeels for providing the inspiration of smelly animals. It's timely, too, seeing as how I have a paragraph about a stinky guinea pig in Willow.

Without further ado...

‘Take that, you disgusting rodent,’ Jay Bellamy growled, pouring a fresh handful of sawdust over the world’s smelliest guinea pig. He smirked as the animal tried in vain to shake off the flakes. Bunny – just why his mother had named her guinea pig Bunny was beyond him; if she wanted a rabbit she should have got one! – was the bane of his already horrifying existence. It was bad enough having to move back in with his mother in Milton Keynes, but when you had to share your room with a stinking, chubby guinea pig, too . . . ugh.

Don't you just love a malodorous rodent?

On Bad Blogger Day (Friday!), I was on the Minxes of Romance, talking about book promotion. Check it out if you have a chance!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Guest Post by Nicole Zoltack

Better late than never! Today I've the pleasure of welcoming Nicole Zoltack to my blog! Since it's Friday night here now, I've had one glass of wine too many and there's a pizza burning in the oven, I'll turn this over to Nicole:

When I sit down to write, I either have a plot idea or a main character that just won't shut up. I then sit down at the computer and just type. I am definitely a pantser!

I write like I read for the most part, and as such, if I think to far ahead of where I am in the story - specifically if I think about and figure out the ending - I never finish the story. I get bored with it.

And when you're writing the last book in a trilogy, you can be sure I was thinking about the ending long before I actually reached it! Needless to say, Champion of Valor, the last book in my fantasy romance Kingdom of Arnhem series, was by far the hardest to write.

The first book - Woman of Honor - practically wrote itself. I knew the main character first - a young girl who asks her king if she can train to become a knight.

Knight of Glory I knew I wanted to expand the fantasy world so it was more plot oriented.

But Champion of Valor had to tie up many of the loose odds and ends and there was a war to resolve, and oh yeah, Lucifer was trying to bring about the Apocalypse before its time. To say that I got stuck several times while writing it would be an understatement!

But writing Champion of Valor as I did forced me to more closely examine my writing process. By realizing that I write as a reader has helped me become a better writer. I always strove to write stories I would love to read, but now I know that I need to fall in love with the hero, root for the heroine, feel their pain and anguish, struggle with them through their hardships as I write the story, and hopefully the reader will feel the exact same way when reading them.

What about you? What kind of a writer are you? Is your writing style anything like mine?

Be sure to leave a comment to be entered to win some signed post cards and magnets. Each comment during the Champion of Valor Blog Tour gives you an entry for the grand prize: a copy of the entire Kingdom of Arnhem trilogy - Woman of Honor, Knight of Glory, and Champion of Valor.

Have a great weekend, all!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dead or Alive... and Contest!

Happy Thursday!

I'm over on Rebecca Bradley's blog today, talking about who I'd meet -- dead or alive. (Bon Jovi has just popped into my head. Waaanted: dead or alive. Cue guitar...)


Exciting contest!

To celebrate the launch of her latest urban fantasy novel, Blood Faerie, author India Drummond will give away five Kindle copies of her book on its release day, June 1, 2011.

Blood Faerie is the first in India Drummond’s new series, Caledonia Fae. I've read the novel and even though it's not my usual fare, I was blown away. I love India's writing -- it was almost hypnotic as it pulled me along, and I just had to keep reading.

The blurb:

Unjustly sentenced to death, Eilidh ran—away from faerie lands, to the streets of Perth, Scotland. Just when she has grown accustomed to exile, local police discover a mutilated body outside the abandoned church where she lives. Recognising the murder as the work of one of her own kind, Eilidh must choose: flee, or learn to tap into the forbidden magic that cost her everything.

To enter to win a Kindle copy of the new book, all you have to do is sign up for her email newsletter. The email list is only used to announce book releases and important events, and emails are sent out infrequently. (It’s free, and it’s easy to unsubscribe after the contest date if you find it’s not for you.) Sign up here: http://eepurl.com/bTDfP

Five winners’ names will be announced on the India Drummond newsletter on June 1st, along with instructions for how winners can claim their free Kindle books. Only subscribers are eligible to win.

No Kindle? No problem! Anyone with a PC, Mac, or smart-device (iPhone, Blackberry, Android phone, etc) can read a Kindle book. Download free reading software here.

Want to quadruple your chances of winning? Simply tweet about the contest with a link to any participating blog post and include @IndiaDrummond in your tweet. Or, share the link on Facebook. (But be sure to add @India Drummond to tag her on the link so she will see it! – You can add her to your friend list here). And finally, add another entry to the list by posting about the contest on your blog.-- Tweet and share the link as much as you like, but only one additional entry per method, per person.

Good luck, everyone!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Me and Mr TR on the Cotswold Way, six years ago

Seven years ago today, I arrived in the UK. I knew no-one, I had no job, and I really didn't know what to expect.

Now, I'm married, I'm a British citizen and I have three books published with another on the way. Looking back on that day when my plane landed at Gatwick on a misty May morning, I can't believe how far I've come. And I wouldn't have it any other way! I've made my home in London and fallen in love with (almost) everything about it.

So... here's to the UK! Cheers!

On a completely unrelated note, I'm guesting over at Pauline Barclay's website, talking about how I have no self-control. Sad but true.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ten for Tuesday: Debris on My Desk

Interesting, non? Don't you want to hear what's on my desk, at this very moment?

1. Empty coffee mug. Must be retained until the writing day is finished, or all hell will break loose.

2. Two phones. My Samsung Galaxy Europe and an old pink Nokia, because I'm too lazy to update my new number with everyone.

3. Aloe Vera Vaseline Lip Therapy. I can't live without it.

4. Empty water glass. 'Coz I'm thirsty.

5. A hooked-rug coaster featuring a kitty cat design, from Cheticamp, Nova Scotia. My little piece of home.

6. A metallic camel penholder from Egypt. A gift from my husband's cousin when we were in Cairo last year.

7. A paperclip holder moulded from plasticine and lots o' paperclips. A 'gift' from Mr TR. So romantic.

8. A tissue. Because this damn pollen is making my nose run!

9. A guillotine (that's what they call a paper-cutter here. Scary). No idea why.

10. A wrist-rest for my keyboard. I never use it.

What's on your desk?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Oh, Hello There!


I'm back, after a week's hiatus, and it feels ssoooo goooood. *breaks into song* You'll be happy to hear I completed my (very) initial round of edits for Willow and sent them off to my editor, although she assures me she'll be winging back requested revisions shortly. Eeep! While I'm pleased with Willow overall, there are always things I can't see for myself and I LOVE those aha moments you get when editors read your work.

This week away from blogging -- especially after the frantic month that was April -- has been downright weird. It's the first time I've taken a break and not gone on vacation somewhere and it made me realise just how much of my time I devote to blogging. Suddenly, I had my evenings free! I could go out without worrying about how many comments I'd need to return the next day! I could have a life! (Well, let's not get carried away here.)

Don't get me wrong; I do love blogging and visiting blogs, and I missed everyone while I was gone. But I realise sometimes it is a good thing to step back and just be, without the whirl of social media. My week allowed me to recharge my batteries and plunge back in!

How often do you take blogcations? And how do you feel when you return?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

International Chick Lit Month!

So, yes. I'm supposed to be on blogcation until a week from tomorrow. But I couldn't NOT blog on the first day of International Chick Lit Month!

Run by review websites Novelicious, Chick Lit is Not Dead and Chick Lit Club, the month of May will feature authors, giveaways and lots of chicklitty goodness.

And guess what? The Hating Game is the month's first giveaway! Two paperback copies are up for grabs over there. The contest is open worldwide until 4th May.

See you next Monday!