CORDELIA APPLEBY

Writer of children's stories, passionate about writing. Author of Black Water.

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Ten Marketing Tips


How do I market my book, Black Water, once it is published? What better way to find out than to ask an expert. All three of Thomas A Knight’s books, The Time Weaver’s Chronicles, have hit Amazon’s best seller lists. I want to know what he’s doing right, so this week I’m turning my blog over to him.

When I started writing, the last thing I ever dreamed of was being a published author. I mean, I’m a software developer; I expected to scribble down a few ideas, then shelve the plan – along with twenty-seven other projects I currently have back-burnered. I stuck with it though, and finished my first book eight months after I started.

I was left with a choice: find a publisher, or publish it myself.

I’m not one to work for other people if I can help it, so I opted for the ‘do it yourself’ approach which is self-publishing. And when the book was published, I sat down and said “Oh my God, I’m an author. Now what?”

Marketing a book is a big job for one person, so here are 10 tips that I use for my books. I hope they will help you too.

1. Don’t do this alone. You don’t have to. Accumulate lots of friends by being a social person and getting involved with others. Help others out, and they will help you.

2. Start early. No really, start earlier than that. Have an idea? Think it could be a great book? Have you decided to write it? Put the first words down? That’s when you should start coming up with a marketing plan.

3. Have a plan. Marketing a book without a plan is like trying to cross the ocean without a map, compass, GPS, or any knowledge of the sun and stars. You might make it. You might also get swallowed up by the ocean, or end up in Antarctica.

4. Be realistic. You’re not going to be an overnight success. Nobody ever is. Being a successful author is a lot of hard work.

5. Know your audience. You can’t sell water to a drowning man. Understand the types of people who will want your book, and target your marketing. Then you won’t have to work so hard.

6. Don’t be spammy. This is quite possibly the most important lesson of them all. Social media is for making connections, not selling books. Amazon is for selling books.

7. Get Amazon (or other retailers, but mostly Amazon) to sell your books for you. There are several ways to accomplish this, but the easiest is by getting their recommendation engine to show your book to more people. How do you do that? Sell more books. I know, it’s a catch-22.

8. Maintain an email list. You absolutely MUST do this. How else are you going to tell all your adoring fans when your next book is coming out? Seriously, do this.

9. Make sure your book, blog, website, Facebook page, Twitter page, and all your other social media pages look nice and professional. Everybody judges a book by its cover.

10. Write! Write some more. Keep writing and publishing more books. And when you’re done those, write another, and publish that one too. The more books you have out, the more they cross-sell each other. That’s right, your new books will sell your old ones, and your old ones will sell your new ones.

That’s it. That’s how I market my books. I currently have a complete trilogy published, and will be publishing the first book in a new trilogy some time next year. I’ll also be starting another book once that one is done. It never really ends, but it’s the most rewarding thing in the world when people buy your books and post reviews saying they loved it.

Good luck, and I hope our journeys cross paths!


Thomas A. Knight’s debut novel, The Time Weaver, is the recipient of an indiePENdents Seal of Good Writing and has reached both the Sci-Fi/Adventure and Epic Fantasy Amazon best-seller lists; it is considered by many to be an exciting and unique story that appeals to readers of all types. His novels are epic fantasies set in Galadir, an alternate world of his own design.

What I Saw

Extraordinary things happened to me in Scotland this summer. Such as the small grey seal I found in the bay next to ours, curled like an upturned moustache on a rock in the rain; she turned her white face to look at me, before yawning and scratching her nose with her ridiculous flipper.

Or the hundreds of solitary herons we saw, patrolling every lonely cove, like misers searching for pennies in the sea. They stood motionless for hours, except to spear the occasional fish or rustle into the air and creak regally away when they glimpsed us.

An otter lay sunning itself on a boulder as we rounded a corner on our bikes. It dived into the waves and came up wrestling with a fish twice its size, thrashing and crunching before both vanished beneath the surface again; the otter returned empty pawed a few moments after, and spluttered contemptuously before giving itself a little shake and running behind the rocks.

Just as amazing was the sea eagle mobbed by gulls as it carried a limp bird back to its nest in a windswept Scots pine on the cliffs; or the school of porpoises we watched, bucking through the waves. And the giant Corryvreckan whirlpool that made our tiny boat jump and bounce so that the children screamed with pleasure.

Everything in Scotland was extraordinary. Even the tornado of midges that chased us into our chalet around dusk, and the relentless rain. Not to mention the doe my daughter and I saw, crashing through sopping woodland at twilight, followed by a blood curdling scream.

A startled badger? Somebody being murdered? We got on our bikes and barrelled home.

Even after we locked up our little house and drove away for the very last time, Scotland had one more gift: a young stag darting across our headlights and two tiny fawns staggering drunkenly in the road.

It was in keeping with our wonderful holiday that on that very last night we saw something unexpected.

PS: I got an agent.

Call For A Midwife (Agent)

The search for an agent reminds me of giving birth to my daughter.

I was terrified of the pain.

I spent eight years trying to have a baby, and the day that I found that I was pregnant, my joy was only surpassed by the terror that I would lose her. I had already lost twins a couple of years earlier in an ugly miscarriage that left me in pieces for months afterwards. And now I was 43. This pregnancy was a miracle, my last chance to have a child of my own.

The first and second months passed with morning sickness that left me delightedly drained. Then, on the morning of the third month, I woke with the same red warning sign that preceded the cessation of my first pregnancy: blood.

I took to my bed and lay there hardly daring to breathe. My husband brought liquidised vegetables and other nutritious foods to feed me and our baby. We contacted a herbalist who recommended a herb to prevent miscarriages and after much agonising, I decided to take it. I meditated, and even though I don’t believe in deities, I prayed.

Each day seemed like a life time. My mother rang every morning to ask if the baby was still there. I tip-toed to the loo, and tip-toed back again. I lay watching the clock, waiting for my baby to grow.

Finally, we passed the first trimester, and I got out of my bed and came shakily downstairs. I was now formally pregnant.

It wasn’t an easy gestation, but I loved it: the hard bump of my belly and the little feet kicking inside my stomach wall, an extraordinary intimacy with someone I had never met, yet who was part of me; and the way time had changed, so that all other schedules bowed to this new one, which I called ‘baby time’. I loved the feeling of wholeness. Of hope.

In the eight month, I found myself unable to breathe and was taken to hospital. Gasping for air, I asked my husband if he would take care of our daughter, should I die. I was glad it was my life I was contemplating losing this time and not hers; I wanted her to live more than anything in the world.

So when the labour loomed, I was afraid. My baby was going on the most treacherous journey of her lifetime, down the birth canal – and I had to help her leave me.

I had to say goodbye to those wonderful, terrible months of carrying her inside me, and turn the dream into a reality, to let her go out into the world as a separate being, and trust she would survive.

Of course Black Water is nothing like a child. And yet… I have nurtured it and grown it out of that strange dark womb of my imagination, and now it is being sent out, to risk rejection and unkind words. It may well die in the face of indifference, because what is a book that is never read? In some sense it remains stillborn.

Yet, as I contemplate the possibility that I may have spent all these years labouring over my story in vain, one consolation remains: while it was with me, it was truly loved.

Exclusive Interview With Coyote

Could you tell my readers who you are please, Sir?

I am the great, the wondrous, the unsurpassable Coyote, of course. How can anyone not know me?

Where do you originate from?

From all over the Native American cultures, you dolt. Do you not read your First People myths?

What part do you play in those myths?

I’m a hero, naturally, though like all great shapeshifters, I change my form, depending on what is required. To the Crow people, I am Old Man Coyote, who crafted humans out of a fistful of mud. Yet to the Chelan I am an animal person, with the gifts of the Creator. Elsewhere, I am merely a messenger, though vital to the plot, you understand.

And which are your favourite roles?

I love the part I have in your book, ‘Black Water’! It’s a new twist on something I’ve been doing for years. Wielding power to teach people a lesson is what I really enjoy.

Could you give us an example of how you do that please?

Certainly.

Someone stole the moon you see, so I offered to take its place. Everyone thought I was a good moon, a real bright light.

The perk of the job was that I could see everything going on below, so it was never boring. (Fascinating what creatures get up to, don’t you think?)

Naturally, I couldn’t resist having a little gossip about it.

‘Did you see what skunk did in the bushes? And that badger! What a bad boy!’

Anyway, people got fed up with me and in the end they voted me out of the sky.

So instead, I took up juggling my eyeballs to impress the ladies.

That was going superbly, until I tossed one so high it stuck in the sky. It’s still there today; it’s been there such a long time it’s become a star. They call it Arcturus.

Finally, can you tell readers briefly about some other feats you have accomplished?

Certainly. I have transformed scenery, diverted rivers, found sacred items for great persons, not to mention slaying Thunderbird, the destroyer of humankind. Generally I am a trickster, but – and you can have this secret for nothing, to help you with your little blog – my motto is ‘always be different’.

Twittering

This month I have discovered the wonderful world of Twitter and I thought I would take some time to celebrate all the amazing people I have met and some of the exchanges we have had.

I started without a clue what I was doing or why, having been told this was the way to promote my book. The very first night, I began with just two Tweets from Angela Blackwood and Philip Davies from my writers’ group and I tweeted them back forlornly, ‘Goodnight to both my followers.’

Next day a friend from Muddlegraders, Kate Walker, invited me to Tweet on her followers, so I did and in no time at all I had 2001 and an e-mail from Twitter telling me that if I didn’t stop, I would be thrown off.

So instead of trying to conquer the world, I began noticing the new people I was following – like the kind Judy Peace who retweeted me on numerous occasions and told me she liked my blog, which gave me a huge boost.

And the Younger Jay Squires, whose profile says ‘In the gene pool of life I am an unflushable floater.’ I asked him what kept him afloat, and he said, ‘Gas, Cordelia, Gas.’

Sam followed me from the US, inviting me to drink at Sam’s Tavern in Seattle. ‘You pay my airfare and I’ll be right over, Sam,’ I tweeted. Shortly afterwards, Las Lobo chipped in, ‘Come on Sam, pay her airfare.’ ‘Yes come on Sam, be a sport,’ I tweeted. ‘LOL rt ’ came the reply. In the end I tweeted, ‘Feeling sorry for you Sam. I’ll let you off if you leave a comment on my blog.’ But he hasn’t yet.

I also discovered George Henry, with a photo of him smiling and sipping a drink in the sun, so I tweeted him saying that he looked too relaxed to have written his racy thriller, Love and Death in Trieste.

‘That was before, Cordelia. This is after,’ he tweeted, alongside the photo of him stark naked and haggard on a motorbike.

There were numerous other little connections, including John J. Higgins, who wrote me a great comment on my blog after I promised to love him forever, and a visit to Jason Howell’s quirky but interesting website, as well as Georgia Rose, who also has a pen name.

One of the funniest websites was that of The Struggling Writer.

Despite not having a book to his name, has clocked up 10,000 followers and when I asked him how he did it, he tweeted, ‘By spending too much time on Twitter. These days I focus on the writing.’

Which reminded me what I ought to be doing. I’m listening, Struggling Writer, I’m listening.

Thrill of the Unexpected

It’s really exciting starting a new book.

My daughter asked me to write about a girl this time, and I promised I would. I knew the heroine had to be special in some way, and to have a quirky friend, so I looked around at the folk I knew, to see who fitted the bill.

I’m fascinated by people, but I don’t always ‘get’ them, so I’ve chosen protagonists that I want to understand better; it’s my way of exploring what makes them tick. They aren’t modeled on anyone in particular, but they do have the traits of a number of people I know – which might not delight them if they recognise themselves, but I’m hoping they never will.

I always give my characters at least one quirk, like a tag, which makes them distinctive to the reader. Usually it’s a habit, like sniffing or always losing their glasses.

I also try and give each one their own style of speaking. That got a bit troublesome in Black Water, because Dad had a stammer which interfered with the action. In the end I seriously edited him.

The characters took on a life of their own in Black Water, and it was really maddening when they drove the story in a different direction to the one I wanted to go in. They invariably won though, because as soon as I made them do something out of keeping, the story world teetered.

That’s why I find it hard to plot in advance, except in the broadest sense, with lots of room for manoeuvre. I was writing a section of my new book this week and the characters made a whole scene happen without my knowing it was going to. I was blown away by it.

I stopped writing at ten to three, as I always do, and went down to the school gates to collect my son, still in a state of shock. In that sense, I really am a reader who has no idea what’s going to happen next.

Rejection Innoculation

As a freelance journalist, I developed a thick hide for rejection. I just ignored it and kept going.

However, when I came to sending out Black Water, the chutzpah deserted me. Probably it was because I’d invested so much in it – five years to be precise, although not solidly because I was raising a family and working at the same time, but anyway a lot of toil.

With an article you can shrug it off and write another, but with a book – well it’s your life’s blood.

That’s what it felt like anyhow. I decided to take the coward’s way out: assume rejection and self publish. That way I’d never have to feel the pain.

Enter my writers’ group. Oh, how I love them. They encourage me to take ever greater risks, heading the challenges as they come.

‘Why don’t you just send it out?’ said Angela Blackwood, who has a theme park based on a book she wrote. ‘You have to try, don’t you?’

I don’t actually.

But there again… I went home and stared at the manuscript.

I had a fantasy that if I self published an agent might pick it up, because I know someone who once had a book published that way.

Then I did some research and I discovered that agents don’t generally like books that have been self published because they lose out on the first rights. In general it reduces your chances of getting an agent, with the first book anyway.

So then I realised, I was going to have to run the gauntlet.

I researched the agents and chose one who sounded possible. I typed my letter and synopsis and took both to my writers’ group, several times. I spent ages proofreading my script and preparing it just the way the agent asked.

‘For goodness sake just send it,’ said the same member of my group, to a chorus of, ‘Do it!’

With trembling fingers, I attached the letter. And the synopsis. And the sample of my book. Finally, with palms sweating, I pressed, ‘Send’.

It was a moment of anticlimax akin to sending my baby to school for the first time, because as soon as it had gone, I thought of a million ways to make it better, a billion things I should have said.

And a few weeks later, the dreaded rejection came.

‘The first one is always the worst,’ said the same member of my writers’ group cheerfully, and we spent a good half hour reminiscing about rejections we have had, after which it didn’t feel so bad. More like a rite of passage.

Travelling Blind

I didn’t plan Black Water. I just sat down and started writing it.

After a while I got scared, writing month after month with no idea where I was heading and yet too invested in it to turn back. I didn’t know who it was for, or what it was about or even where the story started. I kept thinking I’d written the beginning, then realise that I hadn’t and a lot needed to come before it. Consequently almost every chapter was the beginning once!

I wrote the story over and over in numerous different ways, each time finding new layers of meaning in it, until at various points the narrative became overwhelmed by ideas rather than following one through to its conclusion. It was like being locked in my own circle of hell.

I put the book together in different ways, and took it apart again. Characters came and went.

My readers asked, ‘Who is it for?’ And I couldn’t say. I wanted it to be read at different levels, so that it would appeal to adults and children alike. They said: ‘That’s ridiculous.’ ‘It’s too complex.’ ‘You can’t plan to write a crossover novel, it just happens’. They said I should target my readership more precisely and stick to that. They said I should give up on it and start again.

In despair, I wrote to Philip Pullman for advice and this was his reply: ‘The quick answer is that I’ve never given a moment’s thought as to who might read my books. Apart from being a great distraction, it’s a waste of time: you simply don’t know who’ll be interested, and you might be utterly wrong about it. You might think you’re writing a tragic love story, and you find people think it’s a brilliantly funny satire. My advice is to write as if publishers and readers didn’t exist at all. Aim to please yourself alone. That’s what I’ve always done.’

‘It’s alright for him, he’s made it,’ said my readers. ‘He can afford to think like that.’ But the more I thought about it, the more I thought he was right.

I don’t know what books other people want to read, I only really know what I like. And who knows what an agent might want? If I did what my readers suggested and gave up on what I was writing, which really interested me, in order to write something to please an imaginary somebody – there was no guarantee of success, and I would have sold myself out.

In any case, even though I didn’t know what the story was about, I had a commitment to it: I couldn’t let it go.

I was in a writing group at the time with someone called Marissa de Luna, who had as the motto of her website: ‘Write what you want’.

So I did, and I’m glad I did – because whatever anyone else thinks about it, it’s mine.

And in the end I found out what the story was about, and I made it the most powerful that I could at the time. That is why I write.

Thank you Marissa de Luna and Philip Pullman, for reminding me.

How Black Water Began

Dear Reader,
I wrote Black Water because my adopted son was afraid I would die before he grew up, and I wanted to show him that even if such an awful thing happened, he could survive.

At least I thought that was my reason for writing it; because as time went on, I came to realise that I was actually writing it for, and about, myself.

I was trying to make sense of what happened to me, when as a young person, many of my closest relatives and my best friend died. I went to a funeral on average about once every two or three months over a period of two years, and in those days there wasn’t counselling readily available for young people. We simply went back to school and got on with it.

The consequence of this was that I lugged my grief around for many years, coming to accept the pain as part of ‘me’, until in the middle of my life, I managed to find my way into therapy and work it out.

Afterwards, I went on to adopt a child and in so doing, I recognised that many of the struggles my son had, were profoundly related to the process of grieving and loss. By this time, my life was completely different to the way it had once been. I was happily married, doing things that I loved and I wanted to show my son and other young people, how it is possible to transform the difficult feelings associated with loss and to find happiness in new relationships, by living in the present instead of the past.

I didn’t really plan Black Water though, it just evolved over time. And while I was writing it, the myths of North America’s First People found me – or rather, they found Ben Pilgrim, as he struggled to understand why bad things had happened to him and what these losses meant. They spoke to him in a deep way about the order of the universe and what we can learn from every single moment of every day, when no matter how we try to control things, ‘stuff happens’. They showed him that Coyote is always looking over our shoulder, teaching us something and the only thing we can do about that, is pay attention and learn from it what matters to us.

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