Monday, 7 April 2014

Slow Going

I'm not enjoying this, and that's not like me.
But the truth is, I'm not enjoying writing the final Ondine novel.
It's written, but it's in seriously bad shape, and now I'm revising it and I don't think I've ever been so slow.

Is it because I can't bear to say goodbye to these people (who are so real to me)? Yes.
Is it because there is so much work to do? Very yes.
Is it because I set the bar so high with the first three books I feel like I'm trying to catch lightning in a bottle one more time? Much yessness.
Have I forgotten how to write? No.
Have I become lazy? Not exactly ... but reluctant. For all the reasons state above.
I don't have writer's block, but I have a bad case of the doubts and it's slowing me down. I'm more easily distracted than ever before. I'm tetchy and grumpy and distracted. Did I mention I'm getting distracted? Ohhh, look, a thing!

I suspect this is all normal, but now that I've admitted I have a problem, perhaps I can push through it and get this darn book written!!!!!

Monday, 24 March 2014

How many books do you have to sell on Amazon to make a Bestseller list?

This book is officially
an Amazon Bestseller.
Not that many as it turns out.

The numbers are in from my recent promotion. Through the Ereader News Today link, I sold 45 copies of The Summer of Shambles for US$0.99c through Amazon in one day.

I probably sold another 15 or so (I don't have the exact numbers for this yet) through my fabulous friends promoting the book on the same day, who linked directly to the book.

So let's estimate I sold 60 books in one day on Amazon.

Those 60 sales were enough for Amazon to create those subset lists where the book went from #600,000 in Paid Kindle to #37 on Paid Kindle > Young Adult > Romance > Contemporary.

What did I earn from this? About $20.40 in royalties, or $0.34 c per book.

How much did this promotion cost me?

An absolute pittance. Get your jaw supports in place because this one is a doozy.

$3.90 US.

So my 'profit' for the day is $16.10

In the grand scheme of things, these are miniscule numbers, but it shows how affordable some promotions can be, and how with less than 100 sales in one day a writer can get into a Bestseller list.

Have you had promotions that yield great results? What's worked for you?

Information is like chocolate. Sharing the goodness brings people together.

Friday, 14 March 2014

How I Became A Bestseller in One Day

And I didn't do anything unethical or annoying.

In fact, it was insanely easy. And I'm going to cut to the chase and tell you how I did it.

I paid for it.

Yep. I handed over money to a book promotions service, they promoted my book and BANG, in one day The Summer of Shambles rose from a flatline of #600,000 in Paid Kindle to hit #37 in Paid Kindle > Young Adult > Romance > Contemporary.

Thirty Seven!
On a Bestseller List!

Just look at that!

As I posted last week, an author's biggest problem is discoverability. You can have the funniest, best-written, most romantic and magical award-winning book around *ehem* but hardly anyone will buy it if they don't know the book is out there.

I've had fantastic reviews from the most rabid fans. I've had people blame me for keeping them up all night reading. I've had people rave about how gorgeous the covers are and that they'll 'leap off the shelves'.

What I haven't had are decent sales. And by decent I mean enough to put a few meals on the table.

Last week, I hired Ereader News Today (ENT) They send daily emails out to thousands of readers; those emails are chock-full of bargain and free books. I paid for The Summer of Shambles to be on that email on Tuesday, USA time.

I also lowered the price of Shambles for the promotion, from $2.99 to $0.99c.

And then all I did was sit back and watch the numbers come in from Amazon.

By mid afternoon, it had risen to about 30,000 in Paid Kindle, but still no 'List' section.

Then a couple of hours later, things really kicked into gear as Shambles started to climb. Climb and Climb and Climb. By my bedtime, it was at #37 and I was so excited I couldn't sleep. An hour later it was still in the high 30s and by then I was ready to pass out.

It was the most astronomical day and a huge 'win' for discoverability. Readers were discovering my book and buying it.

Here's where I think ENT is really clever. They earn money based on a percentage of your royalties from book sales. With the low price, I'll 'earn' about 34 cents per book. I will probably pay ENT half that. Which is fine by me. The fact is, I will only be paying for books sold, which is pretty fair all round.

I don't know how many books I've actually sold at this point. But the fact is, The Summer of Shambles is now officially an AMAZON BESTSELLER and I can strap that all over the place because it's true and it actually happened.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Discoverability Pt II

The reviews are starting to come in for The Winter of Magic (Ondine #3) and they're lovely. Sigh. So lovely.

Also here at Bookwitch, Ann has had loads of fun in Brugel!

But getting reviews on Amazon is only one small step. If people love a book, it's great that they leave a review. In fact, it's fabulous. But that does not translate into people finding out about the book - unless they go looking for it.

But how do people go looking for it, if they don't even know it's there?

This is where promotions have to come in.

Next week I have a promotion for The Summer of Shambles (Ondine #1), starting with Ereader News Today.
Here's how it works.
1) They encourage readers to sign up (for free)
2) They ask you to check your favourite genres
3) They send you an email each day, with reduced-price books matching the genres you checked.

For the reader, it's all win.

For a writer, it's a chance to get your title out there in front of thousands of readers who previously hadn't heard of you.

The way ENT makes their money is they charge a fee to advertisers (publishers and/or authors). But what I especially love about ENT is that their fee is based on a percentage of the number of books sold through their offer.

If I do well, they do well. If I don't, then it hasn't cost me too much in the process.

But with any luck, people will buy the (heavily) discounted book and some of them might even review it, which can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014


Book the first. Amazing cover. 
Out of all the hurdles facing authors, discoverability is probably the hardest one to jump over / climb up / crash and burn into.

You can:
Write a great book.
Have a sensational cover.
Have a big publisher making sure your book is
 a) in the stores
 b) going out to reviewers
 c) entering awards
 d) getting great reviews
 e) winning awards
 f) selling copies.

Yet even with all of these elements in your favour, your time as 'next big thing' becomes 'whatever happened to' in the snap of a pencil.

Most paper books published the traditional way spend a month on the shelves in the stores.

A month to get noticed.

Book the second. Stunning cover.
Why a month? Because the publishers have new books to bring out, and they want them in the stores. Your book has had its turn; time for the next author.

Sometimes publishers do the 'double dipping'. They bring the first book out in expensive hardback, in the hope of selling a few thousand copies, mostly to libraries. Then a year later, they bring the same book out as a paperback. This reminds readers about the author, gives them another chance to sell and be in the stores. (My books were not brought out in hardback, by the way, so Ondine didn't get a second shot.)

Reviews, stores, covers, all for one month on the shelves, and if they don't sell, they are usually returned to the publisher and pulped.

Then, if you're lucky enough to have a two book deal, it all happens all over again with the second book. Except it doesn't. You're no longer a 'debut' author, so your book isn't promoted as a 'shiny new thing' and there may not even be advance copies sent out to reviewers . . .

Book the third. Brilliant cover.
All this is not to say publishing is broken. Not at all. But it does seem a bit hit and miss and a bit disorganised. And a bit impossible for any one author to really 'break out' and get known.

Which is why so many authors I know (myself included) are bringing out their new books independently and self-publishing. Our books might not be in the bricks & mortar stores, but they are available on line and once they're up, they're up there forever.

No more returns eating into their royalty statements, no more limited shelf life, more staying power.

Along with 20 million other titles out there.

New books are getting published every day but the old ones are not moving on. This is both a blessing and a curse. Readers can get their hands on 'old' books any time they like, but there are so many new books coming out it's hard to sort through it.

People also want to know if the book is going to be worth their money and their time. Under $5 is considered affordable in most budgets, but you're asking someone to commit a fair amount of time. Older books have already proved this, so there is something of a 'flight to safety' in our choice of reading material. Newer authors are an unknown quantity. As much as people love a little novelty, they also want to know what they're in for.

It's also incredibly difficult for newer books to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Again, they can have beautiful covers (like mine), glowing reviews (like mine) and win awards (oh yeah, like mine) but the author still has plenty of work to do getting the word out.

This is where self-publishing becomes really, really hard. I can see why some would give up after painfully low sales.

Most self-published authors don't have a paid publicist to do the promotions for them.
But they also don't have the one-month on the shelves window slamming shut on them either.

Self-published authors have to be organised. I advertised for a couple of months on a popular romance fiction website. I had some good click-throughs but ultimately, it didn't sell books. The exercise was about being seen and getting some interest. In the end I don't think it was the right website for my books. My books are young adult (see how young Ondine is on the covers?) and there is plenty of whacky magic and comedy. And footnotes. My books didn't fit the demographic of that website.

So I am doing more homework and looking to place adverts on websites that appeal to readers of my kind of book. In a way, I have to narrow it down in order to get the biggest amount of appeal.

I'll keep you updated on how it goes.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Public Service Announcement.

Now for something completely different.
A warning about asbestos that could be in your home, that could give you cancer if handled the wrong way.

Asbestos is a building material that has wonderful heat-resistant properties. It was used extensively in  homes and industry until the early 1980s. When it's solid, it's fine. Alas, when it becomes fibrous and the particles become airborne, the fibres can lodge in your lungs and lead to mesothelioma cancer.

For my friends in the USA, here is a handy info graphic to check over before you think about doing any renovations and repairs.
Check out this link and be informed about the dangers.

"But hang on, this is nothing about writing," You say.

And I say, "No, it's not, but it's pretty important and I have something to say and this is my blog so ner ner ne ner ner."

And also, when I was a kid in the 70s, my dad pulled down our old shed and I used the 'plaster' to draw hopscotch on the footpath. It wasn't actually plaster, it was asbestos sheeting and therefore scraping it on the concrete path would have released fibres I most likely breathed in. They could be sitting there in my lungs, like a ticking time bomb, just ready to give me Mesothelioma cancer.

Which means I really must get on with finishing Ondine 4, right? It wouldn't be fair to the fans to get cancer and die before then.

I've already had cancer and got on to it early. But I had bowel cancer, which is curable with surgery. Mesothelioma is incurable. That freaking sucks

For my friends in Australia, check out for all you need to know.

We get our own infographic as well, which looks a lot more like an Australian house.

For everyone else, type 'asbestos information' and your country into a search engine and get the knowledge.

Now if you'll excuse me, I really must crack on with Ondine 4!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Another gold star!

Oh this is too wonderful!

The Autumn Palace (Ondine book #2) scored a gold star at The Book Designer ebook cover awards for January.

That's two gold stars for two covers, in two months!

A gold star is for "covers that were considered for the award or which stood out in some exemplary way: ★"

Judge Joel Friedlander's comments for The Autumn Palace cover were short and to the point: 
"Delightful. Expertly evokes anticipation to get into the story. ★"

Obviously I now MUST enter Ondine book #3, The Winter of Magic and see if I can make it a hat trick.

Three book covers in three months - can my designer earn one more gold star?

Or maybe go one step better and take out the big prize?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

27 years' guilt; signed, sealed, delivered.

Today I returned this lush book to its rightful owners.
27 years late.

I'll back it up a bit.

27 years ago, or thereabouts, I borrowed this book from Ballarat Library, part of the Central Highlands Regional Library Service.

It's a hardcover illustrated edition of The Hobbit, and it is so lush. Full page colour illustrations all the way through. Magnificently done, atmospheric and sympathetic to the sweeping story.

I borrowed it, then I moved house. Again and again. No, we were't on Witness Protection, but sometimes it felt like it. During the 1980s we lived in Smythesdale, Ballarat, Mt Pleasant, Ballarat again, Corindhap, Buninyong, Maldon and then back to Smythesdale. Each time we moved, I'd spot this book on the shelf, feel a huge pang of guilt that it should go back to the library, then feel scared that the late fee would bankrupt my parents (and see me grounded) ... so it would end up in a box and find its way to our new house.

Come to think of it, maybe we WERE in Witness Protection. No wait, maybe we were trying to outrun debts? Yeah, that's more like it.

Anyway, now I'm living in my "I'm not leaving till they carry me out in a pine box" home, I saw this in the bookshelf and was beset with fresh guilt. I should NOT have this book in my keeping. This kind of relic belongs in a museum should be in the library where it belongs.

Also, I jumped on line and bought myself a replacement. Not the hardcover (it was $80!) but the paperback. Same exquisite illustrations, softer packaging, cheaper postage etc. $27. BARGAIN!

Which meant today I finally bit the bullet and posted the library book back where it belongs.

Along with this letter:

"Dear dedicated CHRLS librarians, It’s with a deep sense of naughtiness that I write this letter to accompany the return of a library book I borrowed some time in 1986 or 1987. I was in high school when I borrowed this marvelous hardback edition of Tolkien’s The Hobbit, illustrated by Michael Hague. My family’s trips to the Ballarat Library were a highlight of an otherwise pretty dull teenagerhood. Unfortunately, my parents moved house many times during my high school years - at one point we were living in Smythesdale on the weekends and then down in Corindhap, near Rokewood, during the week. This style of living could be politely termed “chaotic”. Every time we moved house, I’d find this book in my shelves and chastise myself: “I must take this book back, it’s so overdue.” But then I’d have a horrible thought at how enormous the late fees would be, and The Illustrated Hobbit would find its way into a box and carried to the next house, instead of returning home to the library where it belonged. Now I simply have no excuse and the book must go home. I’m a writer and I love libraries (and the Public Lending Right and Educational Lending Right that comes with having my books in so many libraries). Also, I really should set a good example to my son, now 10.
 So it’s time to say goodbye to this much-loved book, which I think is still in very good condition despite moving house with me more than a dozen times. And I hope the late fees have passed some kind of statute of limitations so we can all laugh about it. That’s why I’ve only given you a PO box instead of my home address, because the Sherriff’s office can’t visit me! (You pick these things up when you move house as much as we did.)  Yours affectionately,Ebony McKenna"

So folks, how long have you kept a library book? I want to know I'm not the worst offender, basically.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Why Disney's Frozen did and didn't work for me

*warning, spoilers*
*Oh come on, you haven't seen Frozen yet? Get on with it!*

Copyright Disney
I read a post today about people claiming Frozen is a feminist film, based on people saying Elsa and Anna are 'strong female characters'.

I don't want to join the 'pile on', because I enjoyed the film and I want - no DEMAND - Disney make more films with women in the lead, driving the action. More, d'ya hear me? MOAR!

But writer Dani Colman makes some really valid points about where Frozen falls down. Elsa lacks true motivation (or characterisation), living her life according to the demands of trolls and her own father, to hide who she truly is.

Anna is … I'm not really sure. I don't think she knows what she wants in life. She reacts to things, she doesn't set out to change the world … sort of. I mean, she loves her sister to the point of endangering her own life, which serves to emphasise how important love is, but she also tears off into the winter without a proper coat, no preparation, and leaves a virtual stranger in charge of things.

Then there were the blatant open window /closed door references that made me feel like I was being whacked over the head with the metaphor hammer.

I have to confess tho, I found the hardest chunk to swallow was the mother. She said nothing in the whole film. Seriously. Sure, she was there on screen, but I don't recall her uttering one line of dialogue!

Then Disney killed off the parents!


Aside from having abandonment issues, the part that really fell down was in the characterisation, which is where I feel Dani Colman is bang on about the film NOT having strong characters.

Characterisation is where the characters have goals, motivation and conflicts.
a) what do they want (the goal)
b) why do they want it? (the motivation)
c) what's in their way? (both external and internal conflicts)

So let's look at Elsa.
In the beginning:
She wants - to be left alone
Because - people have told her the ice magic is dangerous and she could kill her sister
But … actually, she does all this. There is no conflict because she has achieved her goals and she's been a shut-in her whole life. Alas, she has lost any chance of a normal life but this seems to be OK with her. There is no mention of the film about how much Elsa has missed out on because of her shut-in status.

During the coronation Elsa
Wants - to hide her powers and be left alone
Because  - she thinks she'll hurt someone
But … she makes a mistake and sends some ice splinters loose so … she runs away.

OK, Elsa's character is ALMOST there, but it's not.

Let's look to Anna
She wants … to experience life? To get out of the castle?
Because - she's been shut in (by other people)
But - no, she gets this too. Anna gets out, makes a hash of things and falls in love with the first man she meets. But this is not conflict.

Which is where the story fell apart for me because although I really enjoyed the film - and the 10-y-old boy, 10-y-old girl and 8-y-old girl we took with us LOVED it - I couldn't help tinkering with their characters and writing my own fan fiction as I watched the film. I also re-wrote the parents back in as well, and the story worked just fine in my head.

You do that too, right?

Fine then. What about Anna's relationship with Elsa?

Anna wants - Elsa to come out and play (do you want to build a snowman?)
Later, she wants a proper relationship with her sister.
Because - she's lonely
But - Elsa won't come out because she's a shut-in. Later, Elsa chases Anna away because of her fear of her powers.

Hooray, goal, motivation and conflict! Even if it's external conflict brought about by other people, it's still conflict. Phew, I thought I'd never get there.
(Internal conflict is when a character self-sabotages … like the way Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler are madly in love with each other but they simply can't admit to it because of their true natures).

For fans of structure, this is definitely NOT the structure of The Hero's Journey, but it does follow several of the main beats of The Virgin's Promise, which is a more feminine journey of realising you don't fit in, self-discovery, becoming comfortable with your powers and acceptance of those powers. It's a structure of LOVE as the driving force of a personal journey, and Frozen has that in spades.

I lost it during "Let It Go" as Elsa acknowledged her powers and gave in to who she really was. I had tears, people, TEARS! Well played Disney, well played.

Loving your sister is a beautiful message, and I have to give Disney props for basically making a film about two dysfunctional women causing utter chaos wherever they go. Elsa with her accidental magic that gives her sister a heart condition, and Anna who can't stop falling over things.

Sure, they are not 'strong characters' because the goal, motivation and conflict are not fully developed, but they still carry with them a message of love and acceptance.

What did you think of Frozen?

Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Winter of Magic is here!

Sound the trumpets, pop the corks on the bottles of bubbly and pass the canap├ęs, The Winter of Magic is here.

This is the trequel in the ONDINE series and I'm so happy I could burst.

"This third enthralling instalment in the young adult fantasy romance series takes a dark turn, as the country of Brugel descends into anarchy. 

Mutating magic is spreading across Europe. 'Normals' are developing supernatural powers at a startling rate and 16-year-old Ondine appears to be at the heart of it. 
To unravel the mystery, Ondine and her boyfriend (and part-time ferret) Hamish infiltrate CovenCon, a gathering of hundreds of witches presided over by wanna-be-witch-queen Mrs Howser. There, she tempts Ondine with an intriguing offer - but can Mrs Howser be trusted? It transpires the powerful witch has her claws in the arrogant royal heir Lord Vincent, in a covert bid to control all of Brugel. 
As dark magic riots break out in the nation's capital, Ondine is left with a heart-breaking choice that could tear her apart from her beloved Hamish. Forever. 
The Winter of Magic is the third novel in Ebony McKenna's comedic and wonderfully weird four-part ONDINE series. Fans will devour this spellbinding adventure, which will have readers gasping in shock and laughing with delight. Occasionally at the same time."

You can buy it from the ibookstore, Amazon, kobo and nook.

It's available worldwide too. None of that pesky "This title is not available in your territory" guff. If you want it, you grab it.

All proceeds from the sale of this book will be syphoned off into the Venzelemma 2026 Winter Olympic Games bid, run by the "Board to Make Brugel Better and Beautiful" (BMB3).