Tag Archives: Insecure Writers Support Group

IWSG: I’m a tortoise, not a hare

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“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

It’s time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) post. Actually, in all honesty, I’m a little behind time. The official IWSG post date was yesterday, but I figure better late than never, right? And funnily enough, that’s quite a good intro to this post.

There are so many writer-bloggers that have me in absolute awe. People like IWSG Creator and Ninja Master, Alex, who comments on a bazillion posts a day and is just about to publish his third book. People like RaShelle Workman, who has independently published countless novels over the past few years and sold 300,000 copies in the past 12 months alone. People who participate in NaNoWriMo (where you write an entire 50,000 word novel in the month of November).

I’m not one of those people, not even close. The thought of NaNoWriMo is enough to send me into a corner of the room, rocking and muttering incoherently. My first book took me 11 years from first thought to finished product. When it comes to writing, I’m a tortoise, not a hare.

Sometimes I’ve wished I worked faster. I’ve wished I could be one of those people who churn out words at a feverish pace. But that’s simply not me. I have occasionally tried to make myself work faster, but it’s always ended up stressing me out and actually slowing my progress.

Now that I have a daughter, I have even less time to write so who knows how long my next book will take to complete. But you know what? That’s fine. Because I love writing and I’ve decided I’m okay with being slow. It’s like the literary equivalent of this:

Lapping on the couch

I may not be writing fast, but I’m still writing. Some people may write 50 books in their lifetime, I may only write five. And that’s totally okay with me. 🙂

How about you?

When it comes to writing, are you a tortoise or a hare?

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IWSG: Bad reviews are a tonic for the writer’s soul

First up, baby update! Mackenzie is now three and a half months old and is developing a wonderfully cheeky personality. Here are some recent shots…

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

Moving on…

For this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, I’m going to discuss how bad reviews can make you feel better. Yes, you read that correctly, I said better. Before you start thinking I’m crazy, let me explain. I’ve never felt better by reading a bad review of my own work. That always makes me feel a little hurt. But to remind myself that opinions are subjective, I will occasionally go and read negative reviews of a book I love.

For example, I adored Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall. When I reviewed it, I said, ‘I highly recommend… [this book] to teens as I think it could help them to identify – and maybe even challenge – the nonsensical conventions, relationships and hierarchies that exist within their own school.’

Yet, here’s what others thought:

“Literally the worst book I have read this year. After all the hype this book received, I was excited to finally get my hands on it from PBS. Let’s talk about a let down.” Review on Goodreads

“This book is entirely predictable. If you are an individual with any kind of empathy or soul, you know where this is going. The only question you ask yourself is why does it take so long to get there- that’s the first reason I had to stop reading.” Review on Goodreads

OUCH! Thankfully, nobody has said anything nearly that harsh about my work. But that’s not the point. The point is: people’s taste in fiction is incredibly subjective. Just because one person (or even a handful of people) didn’t connect with your work, doesn’t mean what you’ve written is bad. It just means it wasn’t to their liking.

Putting your work out there to be judged by the masses takes courage, and I think anyone who’s done it deserves recognition for their bravery. So if you’ve published something, give yourself a pat on the back for having the guts to put yourself out there. And if you’ve felt the blow of bad reviews, take heart – you’re in good company!

“I really do not like his style of writing at all … His prose is lumpy and I feel like it’s completely devoid of character.” Review of The Power of One

“I don’t actually hate this book or maybe I do; I can’t make up my mind. There were plenty of things in this book for me to hate about it, that’s for sure.” Review of The Time Traveler’s Wife 

“If I could give this no stars, I would. This is possibly one of my least favorite books in the world, one that I would happily take off of shelves and stow in dark corners where no one would ever have to read it again.” Review of To Kill A Mockingbird

What do you think?

Have you ever read bad reviews to lift your own spirits? (it sounds bad when put like that, doesn’t it?)

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IWSG: sales slumps (and a bub update!)

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“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

Hello there! Long time no speak! Can you believe it’s MARCH? Crazy, right? And being the first Wednesday in March, that makes it Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Considering this group exists so: “Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak,” I decided to share my latest sales figures and have a good moan about them.

When I started this post, I thought my sales had slumped big time. You see, I log into KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) every so often and check my sales figures, and for the past couple of months, I’ve been disappointed with what it’s told me. Why? Because I’ve only sold four books via Amazon all year. Four! Way less than I was hoping for, that’s for sure.

I haven’t been bothering to check Smashwords and its affiliates because the lion’s share of my online sales have always been with Amazon, but I thought I should check before I wrote this post. So I did, and what I found surprised me. Apparently, I’ve sold 45 books via Apple in 2013. Pretty cool!

HOWEVER, I’m not convinced those sales are actually from this year. I think they’ve probably only been reported this year, so they’re not 100% proof of continuing sales. Either way, I’m thrilled those sales have occurred at all. That’s 45 more people who’ve read my work and hopefully enjoyed spending time with my characters, and that’s what it’s really about for me. Of course, I’d love for sales to go gangbusters so I could quit my day job and write full time, but writing will continue to be a big part of my life regardless of how much money I make from it.

Considering sales have stagnated on Amazon, I’m toying with the idea of dropping the price to 99c. I figure, it can’t hurt my sales (since I’m not making any via that channel anyway) and it could push the book up in the rankings, giving it more visibility. What have I got to lose? I’d be keen to hear your thoughts on this idea.

And in other news…

For those who are interested, baby Mackenzie is growing at lightening speed (out, not up!) and is a very demanding but adorable little girl. Here are some recent photos and a video!

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Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Marketing, Publishing, Self publishing, The Big Smoke, Writing

First post for 2013: Insecure Writer’s Support Group!

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“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

Wow, can you believe it’s 2013? Christmas and New Years have come and gone, and I’m now 38.5 weeks pregnant!!  For the last Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, I spoke about being worried that my novel, The Big Smoke, will disappear into a cloud of oblivion when bub comes along and I stop promoting for a while. I got some lovely comments on that post, including a great reminder from Cherie Reich that the book will be around for a long time, so it always has a chance to find its audience. That’s the beauty of online retailers – there’s always a chance for your book to become the next ‘overnight success’.

So, to be honest, I’m not nearly as concerned about my book’s sales over the next period as I was a month ago. I’ve done a fair bit of promotion since I launched the book, and hopefully, sales will continue to bubble away on their own now. If not, I won’t be losing sleeping over it – because I probably won’t be getting that much sleep anyway! Not with an infant to care for! 🙂

Here are some photos from Christmas of the bump…

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I’m hoping not to disappear completely from the blogosphere once bub arrives. But rather than posting regularly, I’m hoping to spend my online time  hanging out at your blogs and continuing to follow and support your journeys. I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings for everyone!

Also, I’d like to open this blog up to guest posts from my regular followers – no point in a good blog staying silent! So if you’d like to guest post on the amazing Cally Jackson Writes, let me know and I’ll get my people to talk to your people! 😉

Your turn

How was your Christmas and New Years? What’s occupying your mind at the moment? Any insecurities? Would you like to guest post on Cally Jackson Writes?

PS You can find out more about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group at Ninja Captain Alex’s blog.

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Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Marketing, Personal, Publishing, Self publishing, The Big Smoke, Writing

IWSG: Where to from here for marketing The Big Smoke?

Last week, I posted about the top ten lessons I’ve learnt since I independently published my debut novel, The Big Smoke. Tonight’s post will be about what my next steps are for marketing /getting the book out there. Where does the Insecure Writers Support Group fit in? You’ll see!

Advertising at QUT

Over the past few days, I got very excited about the possibility of putting advertising material (bookmarks) into the welcome bags of first year students at Queensland University of Technology, which is the uni where The Big Smoke‘s two main characters study. I was even more excited when the uni said they’d give me a discount due to the book’s connections with the uni and my poor artist status.

However, after some long conversations with my ever-pragmatic business partner (aka husband Marky), I’ve come to the disappointing conclusion that it’s not a smart investment right now. You see, even with the discounted rate, it would cost me about $600 for the advertising fee and production of 5000 bookmarks.

Just to break even, I would need to sell 600 e-books or 110 paperbacks as a result of the advertising, which would require a conversion rate between 2% and 12%. Although the audience is pretty targeted (first year uni students), there are still going to be a lot of people in that audience who wouldn’t be interested in The Big Smoke. I’d say at least 60% (wild stab). So is a 2-12% minimum conversion rate realistic? I’d love to find out, but unfortunately we’re not in a position to risk $600 on it right now.

This doesn’t mean advertising at QUT is completely unachievable though. They do have some cheaper options such as putting up posters on campus, but I’ll need to do similar sums to those above before I know whether they’d be a good investment either.

Local magazines and newspapers 

I’ve got some feelers out at the moment for reviews/interviews in local magazines and newspapers, which I’m hoping may generate some interest. It’s early days in this area though so I’ll let you know if anything comes of it.

In saying that, thanks to my awesome dad and his “connections”, a teen magazine called Orbit on the Sunshine Coast has advertised The Big Smoke (for free!) and are giving away two copies of the book to readers. I believe their latest edition is out now but they haven’t uploaded it online yet. Here’s what the ad looks like:

Orbit Ad for The Big Smoke

Hopefully it sparks the interest of some sunny coast teens!

Review competition – idea still bubbling away

Some of you might remember a competition idea I mentioned a few weeks ago, where people who review The Big Smoke go in the draw to win a $50 book voucher. At the time, I said the reviews would need to be on Amazon, but now that I’ve learnt you have to purchase something from Amazon before you can leave a review there, I’m thinking that Goodreads reviews would be a better option.

As I said initially, reviews would NOT have to be positive. Any considered review of 100 words or more would be eligible to win. However, I’m still not sure whether I’ll go ahead with this idea because there’s a risk that people could perceive I’m paying for positive reviews. I’ve actually emailed Goodreads to get their thoughts on the competition idea (I value the connection they provide to readers and wouldn’t want to upset them), so I’ll let you know their response when I get it.

Goodreads giveaway and advertising

I’m currently holding a giveaway of two copies of The Big Smoke on Goodreads, and it does seem to have slightly increased my e-book sales (or it could be a coincidental increase). To support the giveaway (and promote the book more generally), I’m also running an ad on Goodreads, which I set up using their beta self-serve advertising system. At last count, 405 people have entered the giveaway, and there have been 205 “views” of the ad, none of which have resulted in a click through. From what I can tell, a “view” means that the ad has appeared on a page that someone is looking at, but you have to actually scroll down the page a little to see the ads, so I’m not overly worried about the conversion rate at this point. You’re only charged per click through, so if the ad tanks, at least it will be an inexpensive failure!

Here’s the ad and the targeting options I’ve chosen. I’d be interested in any feedback you have.

Goodreads advertisement

Book bloggers

I’ve provided review copies of The Big Smoke to 12 book bloggers / bloggers who occasionally review books, and so far four of them have written a review, all of which I’ve previously quoted. I’m hoping that the other bloggers have been too busy to read the book yet (as opposed to them having read it and hated it) but will get around to it eventually and contribute their opinions to the reviews slowing stacking up. I want to continue to identify book bloggers who might enjoy The Big Smoke because I believe that opinion leaders play a big part in the overall success or failure of books, and the best way to make opinion leaders aware of the book is by telling them about it myself!

And how does all of this relate to the Insecure Writers Support Group?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

It totally relates, trust me. I’ll explain right now. As you can see from the points above, I’ve got a lot of ideas and plans in progress for marketing The Big Smoke. Putting these plans into action takes up a lot of time, which is all well and good at the moment, but there’s also the slight matter of being 34.5 weeks pregnant. In less than six weeks time (or thereabouts), my priorities are going to change dramatically and I’m going to have, let’s face it, absolutely zero time to progress any of these plans. How long that will last is yet to be seen, but I imagine it will be at least three months.

I’m ridiculously excited about becoming a mum, but part of me is worried that all the work I’m doing now will equate to very little if I drop off the planet from a marketing and social media perspective. Will my sales figures dry up? Will I have to start from scratch when I’m finally ready to re-enter the marketing realm?

I’m concerned about all of this, but it’s important that I remember what I set out to achieve when I decided to independently publish The Big Smoke. I never expected to achieve massive sales (dreamt about it, yes; expected it, no), I just wanted to share my story with people who were interested in reading it, and hopefully touch a few readers along the way. And you know what? I’ve done that.

I’ve also learnt an amazing amount already, which I plan to put to good use with my next book. So if everything comes to a halt because I stop actively promoting The Big Smoke for a while, that’s okay. It’s been a great experience regardless. And who knows, maybe little miss Jackson will be an absolutely perfect baby who is more than happy for me to spend a bit of time marketing and writing while she sleeps peacefully… 😉

Your turn

What are your thoughts about my marketing plans? Do you have any feedback on the Goodreads ad? What do you think will happen for The Big Smoke when I drop off the radar for a while?

PS You can find out more about the Insecure Writers Support Group at Ninja Captain Alex’s blog.

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The Big Smoke soundtrack, IWSG, early reader reactions and a competition idea…

The Big Smoke soundtrack

In the seventh stop of my blog tour, I’m guest posting over at Charity’s Writing Journey about the soundtrack to The Big Smoke. Here’s a sneak peak…

Like many authors, I often use music to help get me into the right mood when I’m writing. I used this technique frequently when writing my debut novel, The Big Smoke, which is told from the perspectives of the two main characters, Seb and Ceara. Interestingly, I could only ever listen to music where the lead singer was the same gender as the character. (Strange, I know!). Read more…

The Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG) and some early reader reactions to The Big Smoke 

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“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

You might remember that as part of IWSG a few months ago, I posted about a fear I had. It went something like this:

“Now that I’ve decided to indie publish my first novel The Big Smoke, I’m faced with the fact that people everywhere around the world will be able to purchase my writing and then tell everybody else what they think about it. That’s AWESOME but it’s also FREAKING TERRIFYING.

I fear that, soon after The Big Smoke is released, my Amazon page will be swamped with bad reviews by people who absolutely hated my book.”

Well, I’m pleased to say that hasn’t happened yet. I do have a slight fear that they’re still coming, but some lovely reviews from early readers have helped to set my mind at ease. I thought I might share some snippets of these reviews with you. (Note: each of these reviewers received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

The Big Smoke by Cally Jackson“I’m going to be honest here and say that originally I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this. I wasn’t sure it was going to be “my thing” by the blurb. For that reason, it means a lot more when I say I REALLY enjoyed this… Cally did a wonderful job digging into some deep emotional topics in a realistic and believable way.” Charity Bradford (read the rest of Charity’s review)

“I received an Advanced Reader Edition of Cally Jackson’s debut novel, and I read it in just a few days. It was THAT good… The Big Smoke is a complex look into the lives of college freshman that tackles issues of body image disorder… abandonment, sex, relationships, and loss. This is a great book, and you would do good to read it for yourself.” Michael Offutt (read the rest of Michael’s review)

“Relationships, romance, drama, humour, heartbreak, coming of age–this book has a lot packed into it! It’s a long book. Not long in a this-story-is-dragging-on-forever-I-wish-it-would-end kinda way. No, no, no. Long in a I-scored-two-awesome-books-in-one kinda way!!” Rachel Morgan (read the rest of Rachel’s review)

“This book sneaks up on you, grabs you by the throat, and doesn’t let you go until the last page… The Big Smoke boldly sets itself against the current trend of shallow character development and over reliance on plot. What the reader finds instead is an organic development of connections, entanglements and emotional high stakes, which provide much food for imaginative reflection.” Mari Webb (read the rest of Mari’s review)

“I don’t normally review books, and if I was going to review a book it would have to be one I was crazy in love with. THE BIG SMOKE definitely didn’t disappoint… What I loved most about this book was how distinct Seb’s and Ceara’s voices were. Sometimes with books written from a multiple POV it’s very hard to differentiate bewteen the charcaters, but in Cally’s novel the voices were not only very different but very authentic.”  Tracey Joseph (read the rest of Tracey’s review)

How awesome is that?! I’m so unbelievably happy that The Big Smoke is connecting with readers – which leads nicely into the next topic I wanted to cover…

A competition idea – 50 Amazon reviews for a $50 book voucher 

So many people say that reviews  are one of the driving factors behind a book’s success. And while I’ve been overjoyed to receive the reviews I have, so many other people have dropped me a line on Facebook, Twitter or email to say how much they enjoyed The Big Smoke, but they don’t get around to actually reviewing it (which I totally understand – writing a review take time and mental energy).  However, I thought maybe I offered up a little incentive, they’d decide it was worth their while!

It’s still just an idea at this stage, and I’m keen to hear your thoughts about it. Here’s a bit more info about what I’m thinking:

  • Reviews do NOT have to be positive. Anyone who takes the time to write a considered review of 100 words or more can enter.
  • People do not have to have a blog to enter. Reviews are to be posted on Amazon (as well as anywhere else people would like to post them) so ANYONE can enter.
  • The winner can choose which book seller they would like to receive their $50 gift voucher from (as long as I can buy it from Australia).
  • I will set a time limit of six months on the competition. If I don’t receive 50 reviews in six months, the competition will be cancelled.
  • People who have already posted reviews on Amazon will be automatically entered into the competition so they’re not ruled out for being my early supporters.

I’m quite excited by the idea because I LOVE hearing the reactions that The Big Smoke has prompted from people, even if they’re not so glowing! There are a few risks though. These are the ones that immediately spring to mind:

  • Am I just asking for negative reviews by putting this out there?
  • Although I will be very clear that all reviews (as long as they don’t contravene Amazon’s guidelines) are eligible to win, perhaps it could come across like I’m trying to solicit positive reviews.

So… what do you think? Good idea? Terrible idea? Considerations or other angles I haven’t thought of? I’m really keen to hear your thoughts.

And don’t forget to check out The Big Smoke soundtrack over at Charity Bradford Writes!

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Filed under blog tour, Competitions, Insecure Writers Support Group, The Big Smoke, Writing

Insecure Writers’ Support Group: typo-phobia

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“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

It’s time for this month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post! Can you believe that? September just flew by. Some lovely friend on Facebook tells me that Christmas is only eighty-two days away. Gah! Add another 18 days to that and you’ve got the due date for my baby. That means I’m going to be a Mum in about one hundred days. Oh my goodness!!!

So anyway, some exciting news for you. Yesterday, I received five proof copies of The Big Smoke, so I got to experience the thrill of seeing my writing in a physical book for the first time. Such an awesome experience! (In case you’re wondering, I ordered five copies to spread the America-Australia shipping costs and to have some hard copy ARCs up my sleeve). Mark, my thoughtful husband, video-taped the experience so I could share it with you:

Unfortunately, about sixty seconds after Mark pressed stop on the recorder, he uttered those words no author wants to hear: ‘There’s a typo.’

‘Haha, good on you,’ I said, confident he was joking.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t. As you would expect, I’d checked the final manuscript over and over again, scouring it for any errors. But I hadn’t been quite so fastidious with my final electronic book proof, which includes the ‘About the Author’ and ‘With Thanks’ sections that were never part of the manuscript. And sure enough, on the ‘About the Author’ page (which is the FIRST page of the book), I’d typed ‘thier’ instead of ‘their’ (in a sentence I’d changed at the very last minute). NOOOOO……

Thankfully it was identified at the proof stage, right? Crisis averted! But as a result, I’m now paranoid that the story itself is littered with typos that both I and my copy editor have somehow overlooked. I’ve given two proof copies away to people to read, under strict instruction that they’re to let me know if they spot any errors. So they will share the blame if any suckers slip through!  😉

I know that, at the end of the day, a couple of typos in a book of more than 130,000 words is not the end of the world, but the perfectionist in me is losing sleep over it. What if it’s not just one or two that have slipped through? I wonder as I lay in bed. What if there are ten in there? As a reader that would drive me crazy, and I’d lose respect for the author. What if I become one of those authors even though I’ve tried so hard?

And then I say to myself, ‘Get over it, Cally. You’ve tried your best, and that’s the beauty of self publishing – if there are errors, you can go back and fix them at any point.’

I’m trying to listen to that logical voice. Honestly, I am. But if you pass me in the street and notice that I’ve developed a facial tic, it’s probably a side effect of my latest ailment: typo-phobia. Ahh, the joys and woes of an insecure writer…

In other news, I’ve nailed down another few planks in my social platform, creating my very own Goodreads author profile and Facebook author page. Like me, friend me, follow me, make me feel loved! 😀

Your turn

What do you think when you read typos in a published novel? How many will you put down to ‘mistakes happen’ before it affects your view of the author/publisher? If you’re a published author, have you learnt of typos in your own work? If so, what did you do?

P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!

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Filed under Fear, Insecure Writers Support Group, Self publishing, Writers, Writing