Ducie’s Diary: November 2022
November has been an interesting month, with lots going on both on the writing and the marketing front. But I did find time to make good on my intention to search out some of the classic Dr Who episodes from the 1960s. And I have to admit to mixed feelings about the whole thing. On the one hand, it was great to be reminded of the impulse to hide behind the sofa when the Daleks appeared (and no, I didn’t do that this time around) and fun to spot the faces of actors who are much more famous (and considerably older) now than they were then. On the other hand, I am amazed at just how poor the scripts and acting seem when viewed through the lens of the more technical and sophisticated twenty-first century. Not to mention the home-made feel of most of the props. I guess CGI has spoilt the more simple approach for me. Nevertheless, I will persevere; it’s good to be reminded of one’s roots occasionally. But enough nostalgia. Let’s get back to the writerly world.
Writing This Month
Like approximately half a million writers across the world, I’ve spent this month taking the annual challenge that is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo to its friends). The objective is take off our editorial hats, replace them with our less critical, creative hats and to write fifty thousand words in a month – an average of 1667 words every day. As a scientist, the fun for me is not only in the writing, but also in playing with the numbers. The NaNoWriMo website has a tool that presents your progress as a graph, gives you targets and even, if you are so inclined, badges to collect as you progress. Of course, it is a bit of a marmite entity. Some people hate it and say it stifles their creativity rather than encourages it. But I absolutely love it. After a couple of abortive attempts, I first completed the challenge in 2013 and have done so every year since. Five of my six previous novels were drafted in November. And I am delighted to have completed this year’s challenge earlier today, by which time, I had a fair chunk of Calamity at Coombesford Church drafted, ready for the editing process to begin in January. I am even beginning to think about commissioning the cover design.
I have yet to write and submit a competition entry this month, but I have another two days to go, so hopefully I will get that done before I sign off for my customary holiday month of December.
Sales and Marketing
Last month, I talked about taking the decision to simplify my marketing approach. That seems to be working. I was certainly far less panicky this month and my ToDo list has been considerably shorter, while the negative effect on my sales has been minimal. In fact, the move back into Kindle Unlimited, coupled with a small spend on Amazon Ads appears to be doing wonders for my page reads in the US in particular.
One tool I applied to my launch this time around was to set up a stacked promo on book 1 of the Coombesford Chronicles series, Murder at Mountjoy Manor, in the two weeks before book 2, Villainy at the Village Store, was published. I dropped the price to 99p/99 cents and booked slots with Robin Reads and Bargain Booksy. There was a noticeable spike in sales on each of the two days the newsletters came out, and enhanced sales of the book across the whole period. But the income from these sales was only around 50% of the cost of the promos. Whether the promotion was worth it in terms of read through is something that will only become clear in the coming months. That’s one of the most frustrating things about marketing. It is so difficult to link cause and effect accurately. But, would I do it again next year? The jury is still out on that, to be honest.
I have always avoided the whole Black Friday bandwagon and do not put on special offers as a rule. However, this year, Amazon seems to be doing my thinking for me. Here in UK, the paperback editions of my Jones Sisters thrillers have all been reduced significantly in price. They normally sell at £8.99, but Counterfeit!, Deception! and Corruption! are currently listed at £6.80, £6.41 and £5.19 respectively. If you’re looking for Christmas presents for the readers in your life, and you think they might enjoy a series set in the sometimes murky world of international pharmaceuticals, then now would be a great time to buy them. (I’m afraid don’t know whether there are price reductions in other countries, but if you are reading this from outside the UK, it might be worth checking out.)
Out and About
November has been quite a busy month in terms of events. My catch-up with Hannah Kate on Hannah’s Bookshelf (North Manchester FM) went well. If you missed it, you can find the recording here (starting at around 36 minutes in). The talk on Author Business Foundations was well received by members of the South Hams Author’s Network, and I am looking forward to joining that group again in a couple of days time to meet up with local best-selling author, Theresa Driscoll for an informal Q&A session. If you are in the area and fancy coming along, you need to book with Alison as usual.
The first Christmas Fair of the season, in a local village, went quite well, and it was a great opportunity to spend time with friend and fellow author, Celia Moore. We share a table every so often and have found it is actually easier to see someone else’s books than it is to sell our own. Our double act is coming along quite nicely, although we were not the only stall holders to comment that people were not spending as much this year as last. A sign of the financial times, I guess.
The all-day convention, Crime at the Coast, in Torquay Museum was a great success. I was one of ten local authors, taking part in panel discussions about genre; setting; research for historical fiction; and routes to publishing. The audience was very enthusiastic and there was a real buzz about the place. This was the first event of this type we had attempted, but if yesterday was anything to go by, it will not be our last.
As I said earlier, I tend to take December off, in order to prepare for Christmas (all my Christmas presents are homemade, mostly edibles) and to enjoy all the various carol concerts and other festive occasions to the full. So apart from one more Christmas market next week and an author event in Ivybridge on 13th, that’s me done for the year. (Although I doubt if I will be able to break myself of the habit of checking my KDP dashboard at least once a day, even during the festive period.)
Looking Forward to 2023
I am delighted to be a speaker for the third year running at the annual Women in Publishing Summit at the beginning of March. If you are planning on investing anything in your writing or publishing career next year, especially if you want to grow your sales in the United States, then I would highly recommend this online event. I have learned so much in the past couple of years, and found a great bunch of folks to hang out with. You can find out more about the summit and the lineup of speakers by clicking here. And if you do decide to book a place, please use this link. (In the interest of transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I will get a small amount of commission for each ticket booked, but it costs you absolutely nothing extra to do so.) And do get your ticket now before the early bid price expires.
Looking forward even further to August 2023, we have the annual Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick. Regular readers of the blog will know what an important part of my writing year this week is. Normally, I would not start talking about it until January, just before booking opens on 1st February. However, this time around, booking is already open and there is an early bird offer running here too. If you book before the end of December, you can get the 2023 summer school at the 2022 price. So do check out the programme, which you can find here, and get your ticket booked before the price goes up.
What Have I Been Reading Lately?
Regular readers of this blog will know how I love crime fiction, not just as a writer, but also as a reader. Among my favourite authors in this genre are M W Craven, Michael Connolly, L J Ross, Angela Marsons, Damien Boyd, Cecilia Peartree, Anne Shillolo, Frances Evesham and Val Penny. In fact, Val’s name came up in this blog just a few months ago when her first crime novel, Hunter’s Chase, was re-released by her new publisher, Spellbound Books. You can read my review of that one here.
Val Penny is an American author living in southwest Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and their cat. She has an Llb degree from the University of Edinburgh and her MSc from Napier University. Her many previous jobs include hairdresser, waitress, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer but she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories, nonfiction, and novels.
Unsurprisingly, Val’s books are all set in Scotland, so it is entirely appropriate that this Wednesday, 30th November, is not only St Andrew’s Day, but also the chosen launch date for Hunter’s Revenge, the second in the series. Val is a friend and a fellow Swanwicker who is very generous in her support of other authors. I was therefore delighted to agree when she asked me to be part of the blog tour for her latest release. The ebook is available for pre-order right now at a ridiculously bargain price of just 99p. Here is my review in full:
Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson and his team are at the start of a murder investigation. Every murder case brings sorrow and horror; but that is even more the case when the victim is a work colleague. It would appear that quiet, unassuming George Reinbold has a hidden past. A past that the reader learns about right from the start of the book, but which Hunter and co need to uncover in order to solve the murder and bring the culprit to justice. At the same time, Hunter is dealing with a new source of drugs coming into the city.
The back story to Reinbold’s death makes this seem a much more wide-ranging book than the first in the series, even though most of the action still takes place within Edinburgh, a city that Val Penny knows well and uses to great effect as the setting for her novels. The continuing development of Hunter’s character is enjoyable as is that of friends Tim and Bear. The upcoming nuptials between Jane and Rachael provides light relief and question marks about whether their somewhat explosive relationship will survive (but we will have to wait for more in the series to find the answer to that particular question.). Once again, there is an element of light relief provided by cousins Frankie and Jamie, the hapless petty criminals. And the unexpected turn of events involving two very different members of the local prison community was a delightful outcome. As usual, there were lots of red herrings and, although the suspects were rather more obvious this time around, I did not work it all out before the answer was revealed. Another very enjoyable read from Val Penny. I look forward to reading more about DI Hunter.
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