Battle of the Blurbs


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Blurb writing. I hate it. Possibly the reason I hate it is that I’m no good at it!

The first blurb version for my first novel, Ship to Shore, was judged so vague as to be misleading (see A Scottish werewolf). So I threw in some detail. Last week I found “4 Easy Steps To An Irresistible Book Blurb“, complete with foolproof formula. Wonderful! I love steps and formulas. Do A, do B, do C, do D, and, ta da!, Number 1 on Amazon.

So I’ve applied the formula to my existing novel blurbs, and also to the blurb for the soon-to-be-released In Your Sights. My original ‘working blurb’ for IYS was, I admit, pretty clunky.

The problem is … I now have two formula versions of the IYS blurb and I don’t know which works best. Or if neither works, and I simply have a new werewolf on my hands.

Feedback needed!

That’s where you come in. Please have a look at the cover (to the right of this post), read the blurb versions below and then vote.

Blurb 1 (the original blurb)

A serial rapist terrorising Sydney, a secret lover, a blogger who posts sinister photographs online, and an ex-commando seeking to escape his past; these men appear to have nothing in common.

But a young Amercican widow begins to realise that the men are not what they seem, and that she is the element that binds them. As Caroline Bready struggles to rebuild her life after the violent death of her husband, she must find the strength to confront the menace coiling around her.

If Caroline cannot distinguish friend from foe, it could cost her life.

Blurb 2 (with formula applied, version 1)

What happens when you trust the wrong person?

Caroline Bready is struggling to rebuild her life after the unsolved death of her husband. She takes up photography; she takes a lover. She drifts through the days, not caring.

But then a serial rapist turns his attentions to Sydney, and photos of Caroline begin to appear online. She must find the strength and the will to confront the menace coiling around her.

If Caroline cannot distinguish friend from foe, it could cost her life.

Blurb 3 (with formula applied, version 2)

Caroline Bready is being watched. Someone is posting photographs of her on a mysterious website.

Still struggling to rebuild her life after the unsolved death of her husband, Caroline dismisses the images. But as a serial rapist begins to attack women in Sydney, the photos take on a deadly meaning. Are they a threat? A warning? Or simply a coincidence?

If Caroline cannot distinguish friend from foe, it could cost her life.

Excerpts from ‘In Your Sights’


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In Your Sights in almost ready to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world. Next comes the part of novel writing that I, and most self-published authors, do not enjoy at all: trying to get people to read the thing!

Here is a taste of in ‘your sights’, in four brief excerpts.

(click the pause button to stop the auto play, and click the next/previous arrows to advance or go back)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Feel free to leave a comment to tell me what you think — good, bad or indifferent.

Why I will never win the Man Booker Prize


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Well, there are a number of reasons why I’ll never win the Man Booker! But here’s the one that prompted this post:

2014’s winner, Richard Flanagan, took 12 years to write his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Not only that, but “He wrote five versions of the novel before deleting the files and burning the hard copies of each, and starting from scratch again.” source:

Twelve years. Five drafts from scratch. No way.

I just don’t have the dedication, the drive or the focus for that. I actually am on draft 4 of In Your Sights, but each draft is based on the one before it.

I guess I better not give up the day job!

Amazon book reviews: buyer beware


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It is a truth (almost) universally acknowledged that an author in possession of a book for sale must be in want of reviews*.

The accumulation of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads is the Holy Grail of many authors. It is based on the belief that book buyers are easily swayed creatures who are influenced by the opinions of their peers. The equation is simple:

more reviews = more book sales

The obsession with book reviews was brought home to me by two different events in the past two days.

Yesterday, I did a Google search for “promote novel”. We self-published authors with marketing budgets of $0 can’t exactly slap an ad on the side of a bus, so suggestions of freebie alternatives are welcomed. One of the themes that popped up repeatedly in my search was the importance of getting reviews on Amazon, and secondarily on Goodreads.

Today, I received an email from a fellow author on Goodreads.

If you’re not familiar with Goodreads, it’s a reader community website. You make an account, list books you have read / want to read / are currently reading, rate and review them, follow other members, make friends, get reading recommendations, enter contests, etc. It’s a great platform for authors to establish a presence and interact with both readers and other writers. You can find me on Goodreads here. I belong to a few groups, although I admit I am not very active.

When I received the email today, I had to read it twice to be sure it really said what I thought it said. It was brief, and to the point: it proposed a review swap. In principle, I do not object to two authors reviewing each other’s work – IF it is established in advance that each will read the entire book and give an honest opinion, warts and all; no “I’ll give you five stars if you’ll give me five stars” deals.

So far, so good.

how to make a 5-star reviewThis email then went on to suggest that we each read the ‘look inside’ portion of the novel that is available on Amazon (generally the first 10% of a book), and look at other people’s reviews, and then write a review of the book based on that.**

To say that I was aghast is not an exaggeration.

I can’t count the number of novels that I have started to read because the blurb intrigued me and the beginning was promising, but I then abandoned because the book did not live up to its promise. A few years ago, when I first got into this writing thing, I read about a successful self-published author who said that he devoted 90% of his efforts to the first 10% of his books. Even if a novel is consistently brilliant from start to finish, if you read only the first 10%, how can you possibly comment on character development? On plot twists? On narrative thrust? On the ending, for pity’s sake!

As for regurgitating other reviews…I was speechless at the prospect. I assume this person had proposed the same review swap to a number of authors on Goodreads, and I had an image of hundreds of reviews of this person’s book all based on other reviews. And, worse, if the “more reviews = more sales” theory is right, I imagined this person’s book shooting up the sales rank.

Yes, I would like to sell significantly more copies of my books than I have, but not that way! I value the reviews I’ve received from people who have read my books from start to finish and taken the time to put their opinion in writing. One of my favourite reviews of one of my novels (Too Close) is in fact by a Goodreads member. You can read it here if you like.

As for today’s offer to swap reviews – I declined.

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*Apologies to Jane Austen
**To be honest, this person did offer to send me the whole book if I wanted, but that was not the main thrust of the email. I have doubts they would have read my entire novel in return.

Good news and bad news


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100 sales of Too Close -- good news or bad news?

The good news is that on 30 August I sold the 100th copy of my second novel, Too Close; the bad news is that on 30 August I sold the 100th copy of my second novel, Too Close.

As you can tell from the graphic above, I have mixed feelings about reaching this milestone.

On the one hand — woo hoo, 100 copies were sold! And no more than 10 were to people who have an association with me, which means 90 total strangers paid money for my novel. That’s worth celebrating.

On the other hand — it took a year and a half to sell 100 copies. How pathetic is that? Does it sound the death knell for Too Close of death by disinterest, a slow trickle of ever-decreasing monthly sales?

I remind myself that I am a self-published author with a marketing budget of exactly $0. It’s hardly surprising that so few people have bought the book, because so few people know it exists.

After a few hours of vacillating between being pleased and being depressed, I came to a decision about how to regard reaching that milestone. The image below should give you a clue.

I celebrated

By the way, that 100th copy was a Kindle version sold on, so I’d like to say “thank you” to that unknown Canadian — and to the other 99 people around the world who have also bought Too Close.


Wise Words 11: “Good fiction creates its own reality”


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Good fiction creates its own reality Nora RobertsThis quotation conjures up what I love most about books: escape. A good book can transport me from my here-and-now to an ‘elsewhere’, where I don’t notice the lateness of the hour or the noisy neighbour who lives above me. It can turn a snowy winter street into a walk on the beach.


Wrestling with a villain


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1 Day 1 World Project: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

red wine computer screen laptop writing

1 Day 1 World: 6:23pm, Sydney, Sunday 15 June.

On a weekday, 6pm-7pm will find me on my way home from work: on a train, perhaps walking from the station, maybe in the supermarket. I don’t do much writing during the work week. By the time I get home, get settled, and shed the baggage of the work day, I have little interest in crafting a plot or wrestling with a villain.

On the weekends, however, I get in a few hours of word wrangling. Today I finished Chapter 5 of my third novel, a psychological thriller entitled “In Your Sights”. The villain is slippery: he has to be sufficiently unlikeable that a reader will believe it when he is revealed to be the villain, but likeable enough for the reader to believe that the heroine could be involved with him. It’s a thin line to tread, and as you can see in this photo I have been known to turn to an external source of inspiration.

This post is my contribution to the excellent 1 Day 1 World Project (6:00pm – 7:00pm). I wish I had got involved earlier in the ‘day’. Check out the project here for more info. It’s a fascinating example of how our blogs can bring us all closer together.

Free chocolate this Saturday


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celebration-choc-180wFree virtual chocolate, that is. ;)

A Celebration of Chocolate will be free from Amazon all day on Saturday 7 June. That’s Amazon US’s timezone, so if you’re in Australia it’s more like Sunday 8 June.

No Kindle? No problem!
There’s a free Kindle reader app for PCs and Macs, smartphones and tablets. Get yours here.


Copyrighted vs freely available


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I had an illuminating encounter with Amazon this week. The chocolate book I referred to in an earlier post was ready to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world. The inspiration for the book was a chocolate walking tour I did in Brisbane six weeks ago, full of fun facts about chocolate that I found quite interesting. I decided to create a book that combined such information with large, colour photographs.

copyrightI did wonder what the protocol for referencing the snippets of info was, or indeed if any reference was necessary. Nothing I was including was proprietary research, nor was I quoting anyone. Chocolate melts in your mouth because it melts at a temperature just below our body temperature; Chocolate was first harvested in what is now southeast Mexico in 1,000BC – these are facts, akin to saying that the earth orbits the sun or the sky is blue because the light is scattered by air molecules.

However, Amazon had a different take on the content. I quote:

“During a review of your KDP submission, we found content in your book that is freely available on the web. Before we can publish your book, you need to take one of the following actions within five days:
“1. If you hold the publishing rights for all of the content in this book, resubmit your book for publishing following the instructions provided below.
“2. If the book is in the public domain, please confirm the initial publication date of the work and the author’s date of death. We will contact you if we need additional information.
“3. If you do not hold rights for all of the content in this book, please remove the book following the instructions provided below.”

Well, option 1 was tricky – I certainly hold the publishing rights for the photos, but Amazon seemed to disagree about the words. Option 2 simply didn’t apply. That left option 3, which seemed extreme.

I considered option 1, but having little idea about copyright law I wasn’t at all sure how I stood with reproducing what I perceive to be known facts but which in legal terms may be something else entirely. It would have helped to know which of the 29 snippets were causing problems.

And then there was Amazon’s “big stick” to consider:
“If you publish books for which you do not hold the electronic publishing rights, your account may be terminated or you may lose access to optional KDP services. If your account is terminated, all of the books you have uploaded through KDP will be removed from the Kindle store and you will not be permitted to open new KDP accounts.”

In the end, I implemented the unmentioned option 4, which was to remove all the interesting little snippets of info and replace them with my own vague words. Instead of learning that white chocolate is not considered to be true chocolate because it contains no cocoa solids, we get “Is white chocolate ‘real’ chocolate? Does it matter?” That version of the book was published in only six hours, with no queries.

So A Celebration of Chocolate is alive and kicking, but it’s not as interesting as it was. Perhaps more importantly, my account is safe and my books are still available.

If anyone has any information about the law covering use of information that is “freely available on the web”, please leave a comment. I’d love to learn about this topic.

Dobbed in


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Another link in the chain.

Another link in the chain.

The baton has been passed. The chain letter forwarded. Or, as my blogging buddy Margaret-Rose Stringer put it, she dobbed me in.

M.R. was asked to answer four questions about her writing. So she did. But, as these things work, she was then meant to nominate three other writer/bloggers to answer the same questions. I don’t mind answering them, but because I don’t know any other writer/bloggers I fear I have dropped the baton and/or broken the chain. (If you are a writer and would like to have a go at answering the questions, leave a comment and you can be the next link in the chain.)

Anyway, here we go:

What am I working on at the moment?
Two things, actually, about as different as they could be! One book, non-fiction, is entitled A Celebration of Chocolate and features 30 large, full-colour photographs, plus tidbits and facts. It should be available (Kindle only, at this stage) in about a week. It was much easier to create than my other project, which is my third novel, a psychological thriller entitled In Your Sights. That one is proving to be, shall we say, challenging, but in a good way.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not sure it’s possible to answer this question, unless one has read every example of a given genre. I will say that reviews of my second novel, Too Close, a contemporary romance about an engaged couple who discover they may have the same mother, use words such as ‘disturbing’ and ‘thought-provoking’. A reviewer who has read my first and second novels said that they both had unusual story lines.

Why do I write what I do?
I sort of fell into the romance genre, and to be honest it’s not a genre I read a lot of! I had four months “between jobs” around Christmas 2011, and was filling time by devouring library books. One day I re-read the journals from my two transatlantic sailing voyages, and thought “hey, I could turn these into a book”. Ship to Shore is the result. Then 50 Shades of Grey came out, and I thought “aha, I need something titillating to spark sales!” So I ran through all the various types of non-standard sexual behaviour I could think of. I figured that bestiality and pedophilia didn’t lend themselves to happy endings — quite apart from the fact that I had zero desire to write about either one! — but that incest, or, rather, the spectre of incest and its effect on the couple and their relationship with each other and their families/friends, could be very interesting if handled correctly.
As for the thriller, my editor said, “Hey, you should write a thriller! You’re good at plots.”

How does my writing process work?
I think about the book for quite a while before I put anything down. I have a high level plan of the plot, sort of like stops on a subway line: I know where it’s going, and what the major events will be, but until I start to write I don’t know every step on the way. It just comes to me, and I have no idea how, or from where. I read advice that recommended putting every single scene and character on index cards, dozens of them, before you wrote a word, so that all you had to do then was string them together. Not only do I not do paper index cards (I am digital to my soul!), I simply couldn’t write like that.

So there you have it, Elizabeth Krall in a nutshell.



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