Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Accidental Best Seller

Tell Me A Story

RJ Rowlings eat your heart out -  

Lynn Serafinn is a transformation coach, book promotion coach, radio host and bestselling author of the book The Garden of the Soul: lessons from four flowers that unearth the Self, as well as the upcoming book The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell. She also works as a campaign manager for mind-body-spirit authors and has produced several #1-selling book campaigns.

In a recent article - - Lynn Serafinn says, “If your book sales are amongst the Top 100 in any category on Amazon, you are technically a “bestseller.” You don’t have to be in the Top 100 of all books. There are dozens of categories and sub-categories on Amazon, and if you achieve a sales ranking in the Top 100 in any of these, you can say you are a bestseller.”

Yehhhh! According to this criterion, I’m already an Amazon Best-Seller with no less than three of my books hitting the lists - well at least in the UK - and I didn’t even know.

The only problem is no one else knows either… My grocer won't accept it, my car is still a wreck, I'm still broke...

This best-selling stuff isn't what they make it out to be... I think someone is kidding me...

30th July 2011:

Short Moments: A collection of 10 heartwarming stories:

Amazon Bestsellers Rank

Yesterday: A collection of 10 heartwarming stories:

Amazon Bestsellers Rank:

Just About Write: A masterclass in creative writing:

Amazon Bestsellers Rank

I wish it meant my coffers overfloweth, but someone forgot to tell the bank manager...

The Amazon category-ranking system is a laugh. Why not leave it at plain old numbers-sold to determine overall ranking for best-seller. Categories mean bog-all. I only sold 6 copies of Just About Write in the UK - how the hell does that make it a best-seller...

Come on Mr Amazon - you're surely taking the p*** or is it people like Lynn Serafinn who shift the goal-posts to make something out of nothing to make it seem like they are good at their job.

Maybe I'm a little too cynical...

Friday, 29 July 2011

Creating Story Appeal

Tell Me A Story

AJ, how do I make my book more interesting to readers. I've invited friends to read it, but they went vacant afterwards. I realise they didn't think much of it, even though they made the right 'noises' about it.
Oh dear, Annie. You need to hook your reader’s from the opening paragraph. Look at books by successful authors to see how they achieved it and why you found them interesting. 

Remember, characters are the most important ingredient in any story. Adventure means nothing if you don’t care what happens to characters. You should burrow into each of your protagonists until they become 'real' to you. How can they feel real to others if they aren’t real to you? Develop them so they exist as people in your mind. Know everything about them, all their faults, assets, likes and dislikes, their favourite music, food, films etc.

Unless YOU feel your character's problems are real, no one else will. 

Before you start to write, go over the story in your mind until you're in the correct mood. Feel the emotions you want to generate in the story, be at one with your characters and the problems they're facing. Have empathy.

You must also make sure you have a central problem running throughout the story. It must be a problem that can't be resolved until the very last few pages of the last chapter of the book. Make the problem one that is of paramount importance to the central characters, something that affects them if it cannot be

resolved. Criss-cross this major problem with minor problems that are resolved within a few chapters.
In this way, reader's keep turning those pages to find out what happens to the story people they have come to care about.

Hope you found this useful.... and keep writing. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Finding New Writers

Tell Me A Story

How do you find a new writer? Most of us are quite loyal to authors we are familiar with. If you’re anything like me, I tend to devour all their work, and become disappointed when they run out, and I have to seek out a different writer.

I used to find new writers by browsing book stores. It was one of life’s pleasures to glance through pages of random books especially if I discovered a new treasure. However, in the world of ebooks, it isn’t quite the same. There are so many, the choice has become difficult. You can’t browse all of them.

What method do you use? How do you come across new writers? Is it by word of mouth? Does the cover draw you in to read more? Have you ever purchased an ebook because of an advertisement or because something caught your eye on Facebook or Twitter? Do you visit book forums, or find new writers in newsletters? Do you indiscriminately surf online stores?

I hope you share your thoughts, because these are things writers really do need to know.

Your knowledge is important. Please share it.

Monday, 25 July 2011

First Book Giveaway

Tell Me A Story

Well, that's it then - done and dusted. My first book giveaway for WITHOUT REPROACH has been conducted on Librarything, 40 winners selected, and ebook coupons sent out.

I had a panic when I couldn't see the emails in the 'sent' folder, but it seems they all went. It's something to do with the same wording in the 'subject' line was the problem. Once I put a different subject line wording for each one, they appeared in the 'sent' folder - the bugs are at it again...

I wish Goodreads would allow ebook giveaways as well. It seems a shame that my friends over there weren't included - but for some reason, Goodreads only allows giveaways on deadtree books...

I hope  out of the 40 winners, at least some of them offer a review, preferably on Amazon.


Sunday, 24 July 2011

Book Giveaway on Librarything

Tell Me A Story

This the last chance to enter the Librarything Giveaway of WITHOUT REPROACH. It is drawn later today - You can still enter a request if you're quick about it.

It's totally unbiased - conducted by Librarything. I send free copies to the winners. There has been a surge of requests, so I have upped the numbers of review copies to 40 - so you REALLY do stand a chance of winning.

It would be great if winners would leave a review, especially on Amazon, but it isn't obligatory.


Thursday, 21 July 2011

12 Important Points For Creating Story Characters

Tell Me a Story

Characters are central to your story and you must get them right or your story will never work.
  1. In my early days I received advice from an established writer that stood me in good stead - cut out magazine pictures of people who suit your story and build characters around them. I followed it ever since. I stick mine above my workspace so I never forget who they are and what they look like. Be warned, never tell readers who your characters might look like - use your descriptive powers instead.
  2. I spend a fair bit of time developing a complete profile of all the physical qualities, mental traits, mannerisms, education, backgrounds, friends and family, for each of my main characters before I start to write. I know what music they like, what food, what drink, what taste in clothes, what makes them laugh, smile, and cry. My characters become people, before they hit the page.
  3. In order for readers to believe in your characters, you must believe in them first. You must know everything about them in order to understand how they will react in a given situation.
  4. To capture reader’s attention, it is essential your characters come across as real people.
  5. In a novel, ‘real’ is not tantamount to run of the mill. We're all run of the mill. Run of the mill is boring. However, bear in mind the most mundane person can turn out to be exceptional under pressure.
  6. Your readers should always empathize with your main characters.
  7. You should always empathize with your main characters.
  8. Actions and situations influence people. Your characters must develop with the story, and should be different at the end than the beginning; they must have ‘grown’ in some way.
  9. You must never allow protagonist to behave out of character just to fit in with the plot. Nothing in your story should feel contrived.
  10. You must demonstrate all attributes of your central people by showing not by telling, and this includes aptitude, looks, strengths, intellect, and emotional qualities.
  11. Eccentric personalities can help differentiate characters, but keep it low key or it will seem out of place. Remember, Less Is More.
  12. Create unforgettable characters, and readers will think it is an unforgettable story.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Sample Sunday Once More

Tell Me A Story

Well it's Sunday again, and on Sundays, writers on twitter, hold out a sample of their work for readers to check. Here is mine for this week, a look at stories available in Short Moments - a collection of 10 Heartwarming Short Stories.

Broken Promises

An iron bed in the corner of the upstairs room, food on the table, water drawn from a tap instead of hauled from the well, a window looking towards the sierra. What more could she want.
Sun poured down the barren hills like molten gold. Though early morning, it scorched everything in its path. August was always hot. Delia pulled the lace of her widow’s black around her shoulders as protection from the sun, and went out into the tiny square with its dry fountain, and single gnarled olive. She had sufficient to make life comfortable so what gave her the right to feel like this?

Broken Promises, a heartwarming story of expectation, a chronicle of disappointments and final redemption.

Stronger Than Pride.

A retired Englishman, Juanita from Spain, and teenager Megan; what a tangled web of life. What would his son say? What had that bitch, Juanita, already said? Had he the right to intrude on Megan’s young life?

Set in Spain, this heartwarming story explores the improbable relationship between two strangers who grow inexplicably together.

Colour Her Grey

Gina let herself into her flat. The noise from the flat above made it sound as if the ceiling was coming through, and there was that dreadful stink of curry again. It was becoming more like a Bombay whorehouse every day. A knock on the door startled her and when she opened it, one of the bimbos stood there. The tall one, the one who ought to be locked away, all legs, tits and arse.
There was no way that Gina was going to get involved with the neighbours… and yet… 

Everything is in Hand
The doorbell rang. Francine was in bed. Kevin had left for work, but she was snatching an extra half hour to make up for the previous night. Friends had been over for drinks and nibbles. Evening became night, night became morning, and still it went on.
They’d talked about art. Francine painted; in fact, she actually sold paintings and made a modest income from them. As far as their friends were concerned, she was an expert, and she’d been on a roll. Her soapbox had been well and truly tweaked. Now she wished it hadn’t….

Francine thinks she’s been lumbered with all the problems in the world, until the acid-tongued old lady from up the street refuses to take no for an answer. This heartwarming story will have you smiling.

Out Of The Gloom

As kids, they were afraid of Jenny Wren. She’d shout and wave a stick if they played near her house. Because they were afraid, they played there all the more to show they weren’t.
Jenny was squat, and as far back as Chloe could remember, always wore black, in contrast to the grey hair that was mostly screwed into a bun, but which sometimes hung in thin straggles.

Chloe was perhaps still a little scared of Jenny Wren. She wanted to dispel those childhood dreads, and despite so many easier options, she had intentionally, though foolishly, ended up with Jenny Wren. 

People There Catch Monkeys
“You don’t need a bank balance to give love.” Cathy’s voice was decidedly wobbly. Suddenly she pulled herself away and fled from the house. Why the hell couldn’t she just tell him and be done with.
She ran to the car, reversed it hard from the drive then hit the brakes making the wheels screech. She sat staring at the dark outline of the house for a while. A faint smell of rubber drifted from the tyres and Cathy grimaced. Spitting rain clung to the windscreen making starlets in the glare from the houselights.

Cathy ought to have explained, yet the time never seemed to be right. When would it be right? How much more could she take?

Shelley’s Shock

Shelley found her way back into the house and sank onto the settee. She couldn’t stop shaking.
Eventually the tears came but they did nothing to stop the fury. She felt consumed. Truth can be a terrible thing when you confront it.
That bitch was stealing her man; stealing him from under her nose! How dare she? Yet, how could Shelley compete? She wasn’t glamorous, she didn’t do excitement, and there wasn't an ounce of grandeur in her.
She couldn’t let him see this terrible hurt though. No! She couldn’t let Alex and that woman have one of their long chats about how upset they’d made her. Alex was a daft old fool and deserved to be treated as such

Child's Play

James was in the garden, stooped over a small cutting he'd recently planted, picking at the odd weed or two that had recently appeared, whistling low to himself as he did so.
The mist-softened braes of Balquhidder ran to gold in the early September sun. He looked part of the land and Emily was glad of him for it, there was no denying it, but enough was enough.
James McIntire straightened with a wince and held his hand to his back. Emily clicked her tongue. He seemed to be troubled with it more of late. She was sure gardening wasn't helping. The trouble was he'd spent more time than ever there since he'd retired.

Sometimes a woman has to use guile to get a man to do what’s right….

Great Aunt Elvira’s Last Laugh

I thought it was ugly. The thing is it was huge. I’m no judge but I know what I like and this thing was grotesque. I suppose I was the first to see it because Maria’s taken to confiding in me. I reckon it’s because we’re in a similar boat, what with her husband, Juan, and my wife Celia passing away a couple of years ago, but in any case I’ve known her forever; we’re good friends.
Word spread all over Calpe, and people made excuses to visit Maria so they could see it for themselves. It became the talk of the club. Some thought it was Roman; some that it was Chinese, and that a mandarin had it specially made. A rather important-looking gentleman was sent from the Town Hall to check in case it was a Spanish artefact dredged from the salt lakes, but it wasn’t.

This is a heartwarming story about relationships and trust. When Great Aunt Elvira died, her bequest to her favourite niece, Maria, was a huge vase that turned out to be worthless, whilst Maria’s less-than-caring cousin had a beautiful piece of furniture. It hardly seemed fair…

Red Rose for a Lady

The woman behind the counter in the florist’s was nice. Not stunning, not gorgeous, not a contender for glamorous grandmother, but pleasant on the eye all the same.
Arthur was embarrassed about buying flowers, but her smile made him feel at ease. She tried to make him feel comfortable, and he was grateful for it. He wondered if the smile meant she felt sorry for him, or was it because she was a similar age to him – an affinity of generation if you like.
She probably thought a man of his years ought to be long past embarrassment, but he’d always been the same. If he was honest he’d probably got worse since Liz passed away.
“Would you like a card with the bouquet?” she asked pleasantly.
He must have nodded because she selected one from the pile and handed it to him without further ado.

Arthur’s little trick at the office worked fine until unexpectedly, it twisted out of control. A heartwarming story with an unexpected end.


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

How to Create a Successful Viral Marketing Campaign for Your Novel

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Most authors despair of book promotion and marketing. It is the blight of a writer's life. I hope this post by Barry A. Densa will help drive away some of that despair and put it all in perspective.

How to Create a Successful Viral Marketing Campaign

On the “Ask a Question” marketing page on I often see the following question: How can I make my go viral on the web?

It could be a website selling weight loss pajamas … an eBook on fractal theory … a copywriting home-study course … or anything else the marketer wants to promote.

Of course, what the marketer is really asking is: How do I get my valuable, clever, entertaining message about my product to spread like a virus across the web – so I can make LOTS of MONEY FAST?

Viral Marketing is to Marketers What Immediate Gratification is to Consumers

Everyone wants what they want – NOW!

Fat people want a skinny pill. Skinny people want a muscle pill. Poor people want a get-rich-quick pill. And flacid male people want a blue pill from Pfizer.

And marketers want to wake up in the morning and see six zeroes added to their PayPal account overnight.

Blame it on YouTube

Whether it was a video of an embarrassing, unlikely yet subsequently wildly talented performer on a TV talent show … or an awe-inspiring video of dung beetles doing it to the beat of Eminem … which then spread virulently across the web from one person to another by text, chat, email, Facebook, Twitter, phone call or over-the-shoulder viewing on a Blackberry in the office – marketers quickly realized that viral is the new, best, must-have marketing pill!

So how do you create an emotionally and intellectually appealing promotion guaranteed to garner a gazillion views within 24 hours of it being uploaded to the web, and quickly make its creator RICH?

How do you harness the wind?

Viral by Any Other Name Would Still be…

… Engaging, stimulating, mass appealing, and ultimately ineffable!

The problem is: How does anyone know how or when the unruly, fickle and transcendent zeitgeist – or just your target market – will react to any statement, opinion, proposition, expression or product you proffer?

As a book, Harry Potter went viral. As a movie, Avatar went viral. As a marketing methodology, Mass Control went viral.

No doubt they were in the right place at the right time to strike a perfectly pitched note that resonated wide and far.

So will every fantasy novel, alien movie or marketing platform go viral – even if theme and content are duplicated exactly? Of course not.

If Harry Potter, Avatar, and Mass Control had been released one or two years earlier, or later – would they have had the same effect, the same appeal if the political, economic, or social landscape had been different?

And what if the same story line or marketing message had been crafted and delivered by someone else – not J.K, Rowling, James Cameron or Frank Kern – would they still have been a success?

If you fall in love with a blonde, tall, athletic, tanned, funny and intelligent woman, or man – will you fall in love with each and every person who looks and acts exactly that way, too?

When you gaze into your lover’s eyes – will you ever see, can you ever feel, ever be enraptured in that same way by the eyes of another person just because they may be brown or blue and almond shaped, too?

What makes a joke hysterically funny when told by one comedian and flat and stupid when told by another?

What can be taught? What can be learned? What can be patented?

The 3 Guardians of Viral’s Holy Grail

If you’re a marketer, three indispensable components must be present if your marketing message and your product will ever be disseminated at anything close to viral speed.

  • One, you must have a quality product – one that eminently satisfies a proven and measurable need or hunger. It must have value beyond its price.

  • Two, your marketing platform and creative has to match and cater to the personality and sensibilities of your target market. You must understand them, speak like them and walk some distance in their shoes. You must have a passion to help, not to just make money.

  • Three, your target market has to be clearly defined and approachable. It can be delineated by gender, age, income or any other demographic or psychographic attribute, singularly or in combination, so long as they communicate with one another and can be reached initially by you. A communication network must be in place.

And the degree to which those three criteria are met, will determine the light speed and the distance at which your message and product will travel.

Concentrate on one component to the exclusion or the diminution of the other two will effectively produce a crashing and forgettable thud rather than a viral, self-perpetuating marketing bang.

Unfortunately, most marketers who ask: How can I make my go viral on the web … just want a magic pill that requires no effort, much less an understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

What they have yet to understand is that in the marketing world, going viral, as in getting big-buck lucky, requires the convergence of the tangible with the intangible; it is the hallowed marketplace wherein opportunity and preparation gleefully meet.

A great product, a well-planned launch and a continually evolving and adaptive marketing campaign – none of which happens magically or overnight – is marketing’s true, only, and attainable Holy Grail.

Going viral only happens, if at all, afterwards.

About Barry Densa
Barry A. Densa is a freelance marketing and sales copywriter. You can view samples of his work at Writing With Personality. To receive free blog post updates sign up here.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

River God

River God: A Novel of Ancient EgyptRiver God: A Novel of Ancient Egypt by Wilbur Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is compulsive reading - a novel based on the facts behind the Hyksos invasion of Egypt, around 1780 B.C. Containing all the standard elements of great adventure--intrigue, romance, greed, cruelty and furious action--the yarn is spun by the clever eunuch Taita, who reports on events with an irony akin to a 20th-century sensibility. Taita is the slave of Egypt's scheming Grand Vizier Lord Intef, whose daughter Lostris is in love with Tanus, a young army officer whose father's demise was brought about by Intef's greed. 

I really enjoyed this book. Smith veers from his usual style with this book. He normally writes about his native South Africa, but with this one, he gets inside the head of an ancient eunuch in ancient Egypt. The story is thrilling, imaginative and haunting - what more can I say.

It remains one of my favourite reads.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Book Giveaway - Librarything

Tell Me A Story - Book Giveaway

Okay guys. Guess you should be amongst the first to know. I've made 20 copies of my ebook, 'WITHOUT REPROACH', a romantic suspense, available for a Librarything ebook giveaway.

Librarything does this on a regular basis. Members put in a request for books they fancy, and at the end of the contest, Librarything randomly draw the winners.

For WITHOUT REPROACH, the contest period is 2 weeks. The contest started about 12 hours ago and already, 11 readers have requested the book. It looks like it might be over subscribed by the time 2 weeks is up.

If you fancy subscribing to the contest you will need to be a member of Librarything, joining is simple. If you are a member this will take you to the WITHOUT REPROACH  page

The contest ends July 24th so if you're interested, jump in.

If, however, you are willing to put an unbiased  review of WITHOUT REPROACH on Amazon, then email me and I'll make an ebook available.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Hash-tags for writers

Tell Me a Story

I want to make it clear that this is not my original post. It is from Daily Writing Tips  But - it is so important I want to show it to all my followers,

If you use Twitter, you’re probably already familiar with the idea of hashtags. These are simply a way of categorizing particular tweets by including within them a keyword prefixed with the hash or “pound” (#) symbol.

So, for example, tweets containing writing advice will often contain the “#writetip” tag. The point of this is to make it easier to find all tweets containing writing advice : you just search for “#writetip”. Similarly, you could find a stream of publication tips by keeping an eye on tweets with “#pubtip” in them.

Using relevant hashtags in your own tweets also increases the likelihood of others seeing your post and becoming a follower. They’re a great way to engage with a particular community of Twitter users.

The following is a list of some of the hashtags that will be of interest to writers. The list can never be exhaustive because anyone can invent a new tag at any time. Most are self-explanatory, although some need explanation : 

#amediting  posts from people who are editing
#amwriting  posts from people who are writing
#askagent  agent questions and answers
#fridayflash  flash fiction on a Friday
#nanowrimo  national novel writing month
#pubtip  publication tips
#vss   very short story
#webfic  web fiction
#weblit   web literature
#wip   work in progress
#writetip  writing advice
#writingtips  writing advice

Some hashtags are specifically “chats” – which means they work in the same way as all tags, but are mainly used at certain agreed times : 

#yalitchat   young adult literature chat 

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Are you Serious About Writing?

Tell Me A Story - Writing Tips

A lot of people say they want to write a story - yet most never get around to it. Are YOU serious about writing?
  • If you are really serious, the first thing you should do is beg, buy, or borrow, a couple of books on creative writing. All writers need to get to grips with the basics of story telling. The idea of writing may seem like a fire burning into your soul, but unless that fire is fed with the oxygen of skill, those flames will fade and die.
  • A textbook on creative writing will show you the right way to tackle your story and help you to become fruitful. You'll appreciate the why and wherefore of what you're doing.
  • Artists in every genre - dancers, painters, musicians, all have to learn before they can harness their unrefined gift. They study for YEARS before they find success. They all display flair in the first place of course, but without direction that flair will flounder. Writers are just the same.
  • You should stop listening to lay people. You’ll probably find a lot of friends offering advice - telling you how good you are - telling you where you're going wrong..... forget it. Listen ONLY to skilled writers or editors. Friends and family can be too enthusiastic or too critical – they won’t look at it with a qualified eye – they’re too close to you.
  • If you're really serious you should join an online Writer’s Circle. They're free, friendly, and full of like minded people - some with years of experience to tap into and take advantage of.
  • You should try to find a local writer's group - mixing with other writers will work wonders for your morale, they’ll offer good advice and give a professional critique to your work. you'll soon start to feel like a real writer - what more could you want?
Hope this helps you on your way a little. Don't give up, don't get dispirited - just keep writing and one day it will happen.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Romantic Suspense on Smashwords

Tell Me a Story

Just a quick post to let everyone know that WITHOUT REPROACH is now available on Smashwords - which means that within a few days it could be in Apple and Sony ebook stores.

If you've never used Smashwords, try it. They are ebook publisher/distributors who make  ebooks available in numerous formats for every reading pleasure.

If you fancy a steamy romantic suspense  then give WITHOUT REPROACH a try - you can even download a 20% sample free to see if it tickles your fancy - now what's fairer than that.