Ducie’s Diary: June 2020
Just over two months ago, I had everything mapped out for spring and early summer. I was due to have knee surgery on 26th March, so my physical movement was going to be heavily restricted for at least three months; I was therefore preparing to move my life even more online than it already was.
And then the world paused…
My operation was cancelled; but the rest of the world decided to join me in my virtual reality anyway. It was a huge change for all of us. Priorities shifted. Things that had seemed impossible, like a massive move to home working, became possible overnight. Many of us switched into hunter, gatherer mode as stocks of flour and toilet rolls disappeared overnight.
On 23rd March, I finished my weekly blog with these words: So, in a change of plan, I’m taking my week off NOW, and will return with Ducie’s Diary next week. In the meantime, keep safe and healthy everyone. And take it slowly. Change is inevitable. But how we deal with it is up to us.
Well, I took my week off; but I didn’t return as promised the following Monday! There was just too much going on; too much else to think about. And I’m speaking as someone who lives in a rural area with a supportive community; with a house I only share with one other person; a reasonable garden; and no dependants to worry about. I know I’ve had it easy (or should I say, I am having it easy, as I don’t think we’ve reached the other end yet). I know there are people who are really suffering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic; and I feel for them.
But now, ten weeks later, it’s time to get back to some semblance of normality. I’m restarting my blog, although on a different day of the week, and with a different pattern of posts. I still have my operation to face at some point in the near future, so I can’t guarantee everything will run completely smoothly, but I’m going to give it a try.
Writing Since March
One of my regular writing gigs is as Editor of Chudleigh Phoenix Community Magazine, an online publication by and for the people of our small town in South Devon. It’s a monthly publication, running to 14 pages, taking me two to three days to produce. Or at least, it was until a couple of months back. From 22nd March, when the town’s Covid Task Force was gearing up to support the whole community, we realised a faster communications channel was needed. So I switched to weekly production. I thought it would be maybe a couple of pages each time. But what with all the official notices; details of local businesses, especially food outlets, that were still operating; and the lighter notes and positive messages that we felt were so necessary, it’s averaging 12 pages every week. And although I’m delighted to be able to contribute in some way to the support services in town, that’s Saturday to Monday pretty much eaten up in preparation time. Which is a long-winded way of explaining why I’ve not been writing much new material, including blog posts, for a while. And why I’ve switched this blog to a Wednesday. How long this goes on for; and whether I will switch back to Mondays at some point; is anybody’s guess at the moment.
Having said that, I did sign up for CampNaNoWriMo and spent April finishing the first draft of my new novel. It’s the first in a series of Coombesford Chronicles, set in a fictional village in South Devon. Tentatively called Who Killed The Squire?, I sent it to my writing buddy to read last month. And she hated it! Actually, that’s rather harsh. But she told me the structure didn’t work. And she was right. So it’s back to the drawing board. I thought switching from thrillers to cosy crime would be easy; but it’s not. I’ve got several new chapters plotted out and will be working on them this month. I’m still hoping for a launch in time for Christmas, but it’s more important to get it right; so I’m not fixing a launch date just yet.
Sales and Marketing
As someone who currently sells more physical books face to face than ebooks online, the cancellation of all talks and book signing events was obviously not good news. But with everything else that was going on, it didn’t seem important. And for two months, I even removed my adverts from Chudleigh Phoenix, as it didn’t seem right to be pushing my books while people had more important things to worry about. We had a lot of discussion and opposing views about that on my Facebook group, The Business of Writing, and my approach was in no way a criticism of how other people responded to the situation; it was just how I felt. However, I’m also aware that many readers have extra time on their hands at the moment, so I’ve started ramping up the promotional activities once again.
I’ve recently completed my move from ‘wide’ distribution to Amazon exclusivity. Anyone who has read any of my pieces on independent publishing will know there are benefits and disadvantages to either approach, and the right route for any one author will depend on a whole raft of factors: the size of their portfolio; their target markets; the balance of time they spend on writing versus marketing; and so on. I’ve decided the exclusive route is the right one for me at the moment. Who knows whether it will always be like that? But for the time being ALL my books: novels, short story collections; and The Business of Writing series of textbooks are free to download for members of Kindle Unlimited, while still being available to all other readers as ebooks or Print On Demand paperbacks from Amazon. And of course, if you want a signed paperback, just give me a shout…
Out and About
Public appearances are out for obvious reasons, but I’ve written a number of guest blog posts recently. In March, I chatted to Clare Rhoden about my writing and my books in Murky Worlds and The Business of Writing. I was delighted to be invited by Colleen M Story to write a piece for Writer CEO website, and Tips and Tools to Help Writers Boost Their Businesses was published on 21st April. Then just five days later I talked to Georgia Conlon in her Isolation Book Club about Tips for Indie Publishers.
And coming up in the next few days, I have a couple of live (albeit virtual) appearances. On Friday, I am the guest of Katie Griffin of Sawdye & Harris, who is interviewing local business people about their Lockdown Lessons. It’s going to be an informal and relaxed chat; and I’ll post the link on all the usual outlets after the event.
Then on Saturday, I am making my first appearance in an online event. Crediton Literary Festival runs from 10am on Saturday 6th June and the organisers have put together a great programme at relatively short notice. I am on at 4pm, with a light-hearted look at how publishing technology has changed in the 40+ years since my first attempt at self-publishing back in 1978. The whole festival is free to attend, but places are limited and booking is therefore essential. Check out the poster or visit the Crediton Library website and then email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your place.
Other Literary News
News of a couple of book launches due this week: Exeter Writers is launching its latest anthology. Flashlight: Flash Fiction Stories To Brighten Your Day is a varied collection, much like its authors. I have one story in there and join my fellow contributors in hoping you’ll find plenty to amuse, move, intrigue and entertain you. It’s free to download for members of Kindle Unlimited; or just 99p for everyone else. It’s available to pre-order right now.
And any author who needs help with any aspect of getting published might be interested to know that my friend and fellow Swanicker, Val Penny, author of the acclaimed DI Hunter series of detective novels, is launching her first non-fiction book. Let’s Get Published is ‘A basics to blast-off guide’ aimed at assisting authors to maximise their success on the road to publication. It’s also available to pre-order now.
The organisers of Exeter Literary Festival, along with virtually every other such organisation, have decided this year’s festival, scheduled for late October, will not go ahead in its planned format. There will be some events taking place later in the year, either physical or virtual, but it’s too early yet to decide exactly what. However, the ExeLitFest short story competition is running and has just opened. This year there is one category only, for adults; and the prize money has been increased. You have until 31st July to get your entries in. Check out all the details on the website.
Cancer Lifeline South West
Regrettably, our first Time to Retune weekend, scheduled for the last weekend in March, was cancelled. And we have yet to schedule any more, although we know there will be a high demand for places once we restart. At the same time, our fund-raising activities have been severely curtailed. So it’s pretty much a holding operation at the moment, although we are continually on the look-out for suitable grants to apply for.
Writers are Readers Too
I don’t think I’m alone in finding the past couple of months have been unsettling and as a result, my reading speed has gone down. However, it’s building up again now, and I have a great series of books to talk about next month. Plus a new venture for me: entering the world of blog tours as a blogger rather than an author.