In November, my UK publisher and I broke up. Which explains the delay in the publication of Telegram Home. All three books are now with a new publisher. Fifteen Postcards will be rereleased in May, The Last Letter in June, and then Telegram Home in July.Read More
I didn’t imagine I’d write any more historical time slip novels after writing The Old Curiosity Shop series… but here I am. 21,000 words into my first YA (young adult) novel, a serious time slip novel set alongside Hadrian’s Wall in England.
Our heroine, Lillian Ward, along with her mother, Lucia, are returning their farmland to nature. Ithaca Farm has previously undiscovered ancient Roman ruins lurking under its malnourished pasture. The discovery of those ruins leads to all manner of shenanigans.
We’ve got archaeologists, reporters, metal detectorists, high school kids, an albino, and a librarian (every book should have a librarian). Add in some Roman centurions, a brothel keeper, a pair of thieves, and the ability to slip through time, and hopefully I’m writing an adventure-filled novel. There will of course be a handful of deaths, with a smattering of not-too-much blood.
Ithaca Bound was dreamt up during a rainy walk along Hadrian’s Wall in 2018. Ithaca Farm (and Ithaca Fort) is a figment of my imagination. So please indulge me in a little shuffling of the known forts and fortlets alongside Hadrian’s Wall. Is it here that I mention walls don’t work? Just ask Hadrian, or Berlin…
The release date is a little hazy, but I’m planning for 19th June 2019.
I have a wonderful team of Beta readers, who are walking with me chapter by chapter, firing their constructive feedback as they go. And I’m eternally grateful for their help.
The photos above are from that very walk, in 2018, and are essentially where the story began, in my head. Poor Dr Andrew Birley had to then endure my thousands of questions for the rest of the ten mile walk we did… inspiration can strike at any time, even in the rain.
I’m working on the blurb now, and will release that over on my Facebook page this week. Please join me over there for more peeks into the process of delivering my new novel in the coming weeks:
So… what do you think? If you are excited about reading Ithaca Bound, click on the link below to join my very, very sporadic mailing list, so I can let you know straight away when it’s live. It will be available across all digital platforms. I promise.
New Zealand’s First Crime Writing Festival - Rotorua Noir
The last weekend of January 2019 saw dozens of crime writers descend upon Rotorua for New Zealand’s first crime writing festival.
The brain child of Craig Sisterson and Grant Nicol, the festival, coined RotoruaNoir, not only attracted authors from around New Zealand, but from around the world. Extraordinary authors such as Alex Gray from Scotland, Lilja Sigurðardóttir from Iceland, and Kati Hiekkapelto from Finland attended, together with Michael Robotham from Australia and New Zealand’s favourite crime writer, Paul Cleave.
RotoruaNoir follows on from the successful Bloody Scotland crime writing festival, and NewcastleNoir. And it didn’t disappoint.
Sold out three months before the event, the programme was filled with panels covering all aspects of the crime genre - small town settings, overseas influences, historical accuracy, police procedurals, genre blending, debut authors, and the launch of a new thriller by Josh Pomare.
I was invited to be part of the Genre Blenders panel, together with Tina Shaw, Jude Knight, and our panel convener Darise Bennington. Sadly Brynn Kelly couldn’t join us due to ill health. They say preparation is the key to success, and Darise had us all on a Skype call before the event discussing how we wanted the panel to go, some of the questions she should ask and to talk over key points of our panel discussion. I cannot stress how valuable that Skype session was. If you are ever invited to convene a panel, for anything, take the time to prep your panel. It makes a world of difference!
The event was utterly amazing, and invaluable. The amount of work that must have gone on behind the scenes to make it happen must be unfathomable. Full credit to Craig and Grant for pulling off an extraordinary event.
Meeting some of my favourite authors, both local and overseas, was a highlight. Reconnecting with old friends was fabulous. And making new friendships the biggest takeaway of all.
When Craig and Grant have recovered from the 2019 Rotorua Noir festival, and draft up the next one, buy your tickets straight away, as this is one writing festival you won’t want to miss.
It seems crazy that another year is almost over.
I’ve now been a published author for three and a half years. With four books under my belt, and another two almost ready for publication in the new year, it feels a whole lot longer!
This year I was asked to join the organising committee for the NZ Book Festival, which came with its own challenges and excitement. The Festival turned out to be my best one yet, sales wise. Due to another exhibitor pulling out at the last minute, I had to lengthen my stand to fill their space in addition to mine. I’m pretty sure that worked in my favour. I’m also a firm believer in engaging with the public when they walk through the door. That might have helped too.
The week before the NZ Book Festival, the NZ Herald ran a great article about the Festival and the independent author scene in New Zealand.
And I didn’t just appear in the NZ Herald this year. The New Zealand Society of Authors interviewed me about being more nimble, as an independent author, for this magazine. The article was a wonderful piece detailing the ability of independent authors to take control of their careers, and finances.
After the Christmas break, and before school goes back in February, I’m also attending New Zealand’s first crime writing festival - Rotorua Noir. And I was honoured to be asked to sit on a panel at the festival - Genre Blenders. So I’ll be spending some of my beach time thinking about that panel and the extraordinary authors I’m appearing with. What an honour!
So although 2018 has been hectic, with the release of Doctor Perry, which hit #1 in the Horror Charts overseas; and appearing as a panellist at Murder In The Library; and helping with the arrangements for the NZ Book Festival; and still being a mother and a wife, and a volunteer at school, it doesn’t look like things are going to slow down in the new year!
Adding to my plate this year, was the excitement of helping my husband launch his first non fiction book - 81 Lessons From The Sky. We quickly followed that with 101 Lessons From The Sky, and just last week, we launched 51 Lessons From The Sky. So he now has three books out, helping to ensure pilots make it home to their loved ones. I’m so proud to be able to help him launch these incredibly valuable resources.
So now I really just want to say, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to you all.
Take care. Drive safely. Exercise. Eat well. Read lots.
Love Kirsten xxx
For most authors, BookBub is considered the pinnacle of promotion. Both independent authors and traditional publishers apply for BookBub's coveted promotion spots, and most authors get knocked back, many, many times. I've heard of some authors being knocked back over sixty times!
Back in October 2017 Painted was accepted by BookBub for an international deal, one which excluded the United States. That was when Painted reached #2 in both the UK and Canadian horror charts, and #1 in the Australian horror charts. What a wild ride that week was. You'll all remember the screenshot showing Stephen King in #1 and me at #2, and then Stephen King at #3, #4, #5 and #6! In case you've forgotten, here's a handy screenshot I took...
And now Painted has been accepted for a worldwide Bookbub promotion, today - 9th June 2018. In preparation, Painted has been discounted to 99c/99p across all digital platforms. So now I'm the author constantly pressing the refresh button on my MacBook Air as I wait for the promotion to start. Refreshing the BookReport screen, hoping to see the sales sky rocketing... an author can dream right?!
What will be more interesting this time round, is to see if there is a flow on effect on the sales, and page reads, of Doctor Perry. Doctor Perry is currently enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, which means you can read it for free if you are enrolled in Amazon's Kindle Unlimited, and I get paid for the pages you read. It's a surreal feeling seeing the page reads climbing for Doctor Perry, knowing that somewhere in the world people are, in real time, reading my words. Will the Bookbub promotion for Painted have an impact on the sales/page reads of Doctor Perry? That's my hope! Conventional wisdom would suggest that if a reader liked the author's horror novel, they would probably go on to read another horror novel by the same author. Fingers crossed. I'll let you know if that's true!
So watch this space. I'll report back after the next week, to tell you the results!
You can of course follow me over on BookBub in order to receive the notifications for when any of my books are on sale, or when a new release is launched.
Doctor Perry may have prescribed champagne for the ebook launch, but Bloody Mary's might be better for the official launch in June!
Doctor Perry is finally live and available on Amazon. I pulled him kicking and screaming from the deepest parts of the Amazonian rainforest, and thrust him into a low cost retirement home in the heart of Florida, and from there he's been a very busy boy...
A book is never a solitary endeavour. To start with it is, but then you involve beta readers, or ring someone for advice - like your friendly paramedic or consulting doctor. You muse aloud about the 'what if's' and the 'what about's' whilst walking the children to school... our conversations have at times been quite entertaining! Then there's the editor who fires back four pages of notes, and that was just for the last seven chapters, and the waking up in the middle of the night to jot down key plot ideas without turning on the lights. I might one day post a picture of some of those scribbles! And the online friends who read the first ten or so chapters and were quite clear in what needed to be amended.
I may have written all 77,000 words of Doctor Perry on my own, but I couldn't have done it without the help of so many people, both directly and indirectly.
Now Doctor Perry is in your hands, to read and to review. After all, reviews (as well as coffee) are the lifeblood of authors. A short snappy review on Amazon and/or Goodreads is essential to visibility.
Now here's something a little bit special, if you work in the medical industry - as a doctor or a nurse or a hospital orderly or a carer or similar, post a photo on my Facebook page or via Twitter, showing you at work (remembering important privacy issues first though), and I'll send you a free ebook version of Doctor Perry to read.
Thanks everyone for your support.
Happy reading (and reviewing)
My second horror novel, Doctor Perry - a medical thriller, is now available for preorder on Amazon.
It's taken a few months longer than I had initially planned, but good things take time! And Doctor Perry will be open for appointments on the 26th April, so preorder your copy HERE.
And because I know some of you prefer your books via Kobo, or iBooks, Doctor Perry will be available on those other platforms later this year. A paperback version will be available in May 2018.
Thanks everyone for your patience while I piece together this latest novel. You'd think it would get easier, but no, it still seems to take me bang on eight months to get a novel done!
No rest for the wicked, it's back to my keyboard to work on Telegram Home - the final instalment in the Old Curiosity Shop series. Sarah Lester awaits her fate...
Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick?
No, not that sort of murder!
Murder in the Library is an annual series of national events put on by the Ngaio Marsh Awards, in association with the New Zealand Book Council and Auckland Libraries, for book lovers featuring talented local crime writers.
Ngaio Marsh Awards: "Over the past century, crime writing has evolved from puzzle-like reading into modern novels delving deeply into people, places, and psychology. Still the world's most popular form of storytelling, crime fiction can take readers into all aspects of society, providing page-turning entertainment and memorable characters while also addressing real-life social issues."
And this year, as well as a number of authors I know and admire, I'll be one of the panelists at the New Lynn Library in Auckland, on the 12th April 2018.
I remember attending a Murder in the Library event at the Takapuna Library in 2016 when novelist Ben Sanders was on the panel with Linda Olsson (one half of the Adam Sarafis pen name) and Ken Smith. At that stage I'd only published Fifteen Postcards, and I never imagined I'd one day be sitting on the other side of the table. I was there to soak up their advice and to hopefully glean some useful information I could use for The Last Letter which I was half way through writing. Also in the audience with me was author Madeleine Eskedahl.
This year we'll be discussing crafting authentic characters and narrative tension, and the impact of setting on tales of crime and mystery. Auckland lawyer and Ngaio Marsh Awards judge Darise Bennington will play referee and prosecute the offenders.
It's a free event, and it would be wonderful to see some familiar faces in the audience. xxx
WHEN: Thursday, 12 April 2018
WHERE: New Lynn War Memorial Library, 3 Memorial Drive
WHEN: 6.15 for a 6.30pm panel discussion
This is a free event but you do need to RSVP.
RSVP to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lessons learnt from the 2017 NZ Book Festival in Auckland.Read More
I've been to Italy twice now, once on a school trip in 1992, where I was mostly interested in eating gelato and eyeing up the good looking Italian boys, and then again last December, where I finally appreciated the abundance of art and culture which Italy is famous for. And I'm more than happy to go a third time, should the need arise.
After Painted was published in June this year, I could never have anticipated that of all the Amazon platforms, my horror novel would take off in Italy. Don't get me wrong, it has done well in the other Amazon markets, but the success in Italy has taken us by surprise.
The French translation rights for Painted have been negotiated, and I'm hopeful that the French version will be available in time for Christmas this year. Now it looks like we need an Italian translation. That's something we'll be working on in the coming weeks.
Launching a standalone book is so different to launching a series. When Fifteen Postcards and The Last Letter were published, I knew I was writing a series and that I could tempt people to follow me to hear about the next instalment. But what about writing standalone novels? How do you get people coming back for more? How do you keep the momentum going?
As a starter, we decided we could increase my reach by actively targeting smaller markets, and having Painted translated into different languages will achieve that. Greater reach equals more sales, which results in more reviews, which results in more sales. Hopefully.
Secondly, write a good book to start with and hope that people want to read the next one. That worked for Stephen King, and still does. There are horror writers out there who don't write series and they seem to manage it just fine.
And finally, write another book. Which I'm doing. Slowly. I'm 15,277 words into book #4 so far - another horror. Although I also have 60,000 words of The Ruination of Art sitting on my hard drive waiting for me to return to my Florentine based novel. That needs about another 60,000 words written. Probably now would be a good time to finish that one! I must have subconsciously known Italy was going to be good for me! I started The Ruination of Art after I finished writing The Last Letter, so it's been percolating for a while now.
The goal was to publish one book a year. We've decided to contract that slightly, and I'll aim for one book every ten months. With a husband, two children, and a cat who thinks that they are a puppy, ten months is a comfortable time frame, although I did manage to write Painted in the space of eight months, So maybe it'll be one book every eight months. We'll see. Should I be required to travel to Italy to run a promotional book tour for Painted, I'm sure my writing would speed up. It's amazing how many words I could do sitting at the window of a Tuscan farmhouse, sipping my chianti, admiring the landscape as I ponder how my next novel may end...
I've found a small villa for sale. It might be a little out of my price range this year, but next year, maybe, so I'd better get back to my writing...
Yes, I can now shout it from the rooftops!
PAINTED has been published!
Available at all online retailers.
It is entirely true when I say that PAINTED wouldn't be the book it is without a barrow full of help from some amazing friends and family, and from strangers. From people who chose to join the Launch Team over on Facebook, and acted as Beta readers and ARC readers. They really are amazing people. Thank you.
I tried following all the launch plans littering the internet. Launch plans written by authors and experts with a lot more experience than I have. And here are my key learning points:
- You need a plan. You cannot wing a proper launch.
- You need to write that plan down. Do not rely on remembering everything. You will forget something. Trust me.
- You may have only just started your Man Booker Prize winning novel, but start prepping your launch now. Don't laugh, this bit is true. Start nurturing the bloggers, the media contacts, your launch team, now. Massage them, wine and dine them, tempt them with tantalising snippets from your work. You can't turn up begging on their doorstep three days before the launch and hope for some media. That's not the way it works.
- Pay for help. "Oh but I've got no money." Yes well, that may be true. But put some aside for all the things you're going to need - a great cover, an editor, formatting software, Amazon advertising, inclusion in catalogues, membership to various society groups - Alliance of Independent Authors, Society of Authors, Society of Horror Authors etc etc.
- Are you still following that plan? Step-by-step?
- Newsletter swaps - these need to be organised weeks in advance. Start working on those now. Yes, even if you don't have a firm date for your launch. Make contact. Write those contacts down in a master list somewhere. Same goes for blog sites, review sites. You cannot wing this part. Be like the Avon Lady, and know the best doors to knock on.
- If you are doing paperbacks, get them into your hands before the launch. It makes marketing so much easier if you can take photos of those bound beauties. It also makes it easier to tempt people to review your book by offering them copies. Media sites like to give away copies if they're going to put in the effort to interview you. This is a marketing cost. Be prepared to shoulder this cost.
- Don't try to do everything, all at once. You need to space out your energies, or you will burn yourself out. Trust me.
- Your launch team is your best asset. Don't ask them to do too much. Reward them. And be grateful for the effort they put in on your behalf. They didn't have to do it. Don't underestimate how important they are to your success.
- And as Rachel Hunter said, "it won't happen overnight, but it will happen".
You can buy PAINTED from all online retailers now
CLICK ON THE BOOK COVER BELOW
Eighteen days remain before my horror PAINTED hits Amazon. Eighteen long angst filled days left to do the hundreds of things on my to do list. It could be more. It feels like more!
What I have been doing every morning, is taking myself out for a long walk around the park, listening to Mark Dawson's SPF Podcasts, which are incredibly insightful. If you are an author, I recommend you listen to them. Although, when I get home from my walk, after listening to Mark's podcasts, I'll invariably add another dozen things to my already heaving to do list! At least I feel fitter, and am sleeping better.
At the beginning of June I created an official PAINTED Launch Team over on Facebook, for people interested in helping with the online launch of PAINTED. Thirty three people are now part of my team, and their assistance has been invaluable. It's a place where I ask the team members to share posts, or tweets, or to add PAINTED to their own Goodreads lists, etc. You are welcome to join (there is no obligation to read the book if horror isn't your cup of tea!).
A week ago, a Goodreads giveaway for three signed copies of PAINTED went live, as a way to increase the profile of the book, to create a little bit of buzz, and to get it onto readers To Be Read lists (TBR). So far 442 people have entered the competition for one of three signed paperbacks. The competition ends on June 30th. Have you entered yet?
I've approached a small number of horror book reviewers, pitching PAINTED to them for review. Some have replied positively, which is fantastic news. This week I'll be approaching more. If you have any great blogging contacts, or book reviewer contacts, and are happy to introduce me to them, I would be eternally grateful! Please drop me a line through the contact page and we can go from there.
The members of the official PAINTED Launch Team have all been sent ARC copies of PAINTED for their reading pleasure. They've picked up some minor errors, which is fabulous! Better that they pick them up than readers on June 30th. Their feedback has been invaluable.
PAINTED was formatted using Vellum, which is the most amazing tool every designed. I love it. I have it open on my desktop now and can add, amend, delete, rewrite at any stage, and those changes are shown live on the kindle view to the side of the manuscript. VELLUM IS AMAZING. I can't shout that loud enough, not even using my old Air Training Corps Warrant Officer voice. It was a breeze generating all the different files formats I need for the different platforms.
On a completely unrelated note, I've started work on my next novel, and have managed 4,548 words already, in between editing, formatting, marketing, walking and mothering. Oh, and having my daughter in hospital as her appendix was whipped out! She's all recovered now, but that was certainly a speed bump in the month of May!
Don't forget to join my mailing list for updates about the launch of PAINTED, and where you can get your copies, and the official IRL launch party later this year.
THANK YOU EVERYONE xxx
The feeling of happiness after you've finished writing a book!
Today I typed the words "The End". They were words number 77,070 and 77,071 respectively. And whilst those words are there, at the end of my manuscript, this is not the end of the road.
I will toast the completion of PAINTED, with a glass of Pinot Noir, and the smug satisfaction that it all came together nicely in the end, over seven months. Before 11.30pm last night, I had no idea how it was going to end, not properly. I'd mulled over some ideas in the shower, like always. Some ideas had come half formed as I drifted off to sleep. Walking round Cornwall Park listening to podcasts delivered others. But the end, the last few paragraphs, were as elusive as the winning lottery numbers.
But at 11.30pm last night, just as I was drifting off to sleep, with my rescue cat sleeping awkwardly on my shoulder (I know, she shouldn't be on the bed, but she doesn't know that), the ending came to me as clear as my newly installed double glazing. I turfed the cat off, turned on the lights, and wrote a page of notes. Today, the paragraphs appeared on my laptop as though someone else were writing them.
And so now I'm done. But not really. Not by a long shot.
Today the final chapters were emailed off to Beta Reader #1 - an English friend living in Australia. Three of the earlier chapters were emailed off to Beta Reader #2 - my American friend residing in Washington D.C. Between them, they make sure I don't fill the book with adverbs or colloquialisms only Kiwi's understand.
Also, the first 5,000 words were sent off to a proof reader, with a request for her to quote on proofreading the whole 77,071 words.
Tomorrow I will read PAINTED through, from start to finish, to pick up any inconsistencies, or loose ends.
And then there's the formatting to do, the book to load, and the launch to prepare for.
I think I'm going to need more than one glass of wine.
So, if you would like to be part of the launch team, please message me, and we'll arrange some arc copies to come out to you for review, and as a thank you for your assistance in spreading the word. Looking forward to hearing from you and thanks for all your support so far. x
Last week Fifteen Postcards hit #2 on Amazon. Not just in one category, but in two.
Before that happened, I woke up to Fifteen Postcards being #36. And boy was I happy! Next time I looked it was #10. Then, when I was at the supermarket, it hit #4. By the next morning, it had hit #2.
For someone who was happy with her book bubbling consistently around 300, what did that do to me?
As a starter, I broke out the champagne. Then we broke out the really, really good wine. The wine we'd been cellaring for years. The sort of wine you want to drink before you die, and before it goes off, but the occasion normally never presents itself.
We know someone who died before they could drink all the good wine in their cellar, so we invited friends over, and celebrated the hell out of that #2 ranking!
How did I get there - to the dizzying heights of #2? To start with I was perplexed, but then a number of ducks came home to roost. My publisher had changed my Amazon categories. They'd also asked me to give some love to my blurb. Remember, Fifteen Postcards was published in May 2015, and it hasn't had much love since then. So the blurb was updated, and I updated all the Amazon Author Central platforms, and there are many. Why Amazon doesn't extrapolate that out automatically is a mystery to me.
But my publisher did one other thing. They promoted me to readers of Jodi Taylor's books.
Jodi is with the same publisher as I am, Accent Press in the United Kingdom. I haven't met Jodie yet, but I know her fans are incredibly loyal, and it was through their love and support, that my books almost hit #1. And what a ride. And I am grateful. If it wasn't for Jodi's incredible writing, and her loyal fans, I wouldn't have hit the highs I hit. Sure, changing the categories, and giving my blurb some love helped, but Jodi helped more.
So, if your books are languishing, have you thought about your relationships with other authors? Maybe not someone with the clout of Jodi Taylor, but maybe link up with someone else, cross pollinate, share the love, and the workload, and that may just be the key.
Be Atlas and shoulder the load. Go out to bat for one of your author friends. Help each other.
And thank you Jodi, and Accent Press. Last week was a wild ride. xxx
Choosing a book cover is akin to choosing the name for a baby. You mull it over. You sound it out. You might share it with a few trusted friends. But in the end the decision is yours. And that decision can make or break the 80,000 words you've toiled over for the past year, two years, ten years.
This week I commenced the scary but exciting task of choosing a cover for my next book, for my horror novel PAINTED. I put the pitch out to DesignCrowd, and waited for the designs to roll in.
And they are. And some of them are amazing! I want to launch PAINTED now, today. Right this very second. I want to show you all the designs, I'm that excited. Designs have come in from Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Azerbaijan, UK, Bulgaria, Spain, India and Romania. And there is still a week to go in the design period.
I keep refreshing the DesignCrowd page, looking for new designs. I already have my favourites, I've popped my top five down below. But I'll run a proper poll over on my Facebook page once the design period ends, and you can all vote for your favourite then - go here to be involved - FACEBOOK.
I'd still love to have your feedback now though! Comments below are welcome.
Looking at the original book covers Stephen King used, there wasn't a lot of blood and gore on those. In fact, if you look at the current top 100 books on the Amazon horror list, very few of them feature blood, guts or gore in any form (although some of the new Stephen King covers do...).
So tell me, what do you like to see on the cover of a horror novel? Minimalist? Blood? Black and white imagery? Skull and crossbones? Comment on this post, and I'll put your name in the draw to win a signed copy of PAINTED when it is published in June 2017.
My Top Five Cover Designs, so far!
Just typing those words is pretty amazing in itself!
On the 18th March I teamed up with the hilarious Hawkes Bay author Andrene Low, and we spent the evening sitting in the window of a shop... Not that sort of shop! We were perched in the window of Antique Alley on Dominion Road as part of the Auckland Arts Festival White Night.
Between the two of us we did live readings from our books, and ran Q&A sessions about writing, publishing and the inspiration behind our books.
People came and people went, and at one stage we had a full house.
The tables were prepped during the day with darling silver trays from Antique Alley, and decanters filled with Lipton's Iced Tea. An abundance of antique sherry glasses were washed, dried, and lined up next to the decanters. Up on the stage we had the real stuff in our decanter to moisten our throats for the four hours we were performing. I think if you were one of the attendees who turned up much later in the evening, you may have seen some evidence of that!
And what a buzz it was. Next year though we might add in a couple of other authors, because four hours is a long time for two authors to bounce off each other.
We also had crystal bowls of popcorn for the punters, newsletter sign up sheets, and piles of postcards and bookmarks showcasing all our books. Huge signs in the window too, as well as numerous copies of our books, on the off chance someone wanted to buy any, which they did. And for their benefit, we had EFTPOS available. Perfect.
There was a real buzz along Dominion Road that night. We had a couple of performance artists outside the shop as well, which really helped. We can only expect the White Night event to get bigger and bigger in the coming years.
Thanks to the Dominion Road Business Association for all their assistance, and to the Eden Albert Board, and of course thanks to the Auckland Arts Festival for putting on such a spectacular event for all of Auckland to enjoy.
Or, not all reviews are created equally...
Reviews are the lifeblood of an author. We clamour for them. We beg for them. Amazon tells us we need them. Bookstores ask for them. Magazines print them. Newspapers rank them. Bloggers give them, sometimes begrudgingly, and hopefully honestly.
But not all reviews are created equally. And just having Amazon reviews is not enough for some bookstores or libraries to agree to stock your baby.
Authors tend to pounce upon any review as mana from heaven. The crumbs the reading Hansel's and Gretel's of the world have left us. Stumbling across a fresh review on Amazon sends an author's endorphins through the roof.
Goodreads, another treasure trove of reviews and ratings. Even ratings are gratefully gathered around an author, lovingly coveted and caressed.
Of course the Everest of reviews are by those illustrious literary journals which pepper the world. Or decades old newspapers, whose opinion's are eagerly read by their adoring subscribers and discussed over long meals and expensive bottles of pinot noir. Those reviews are considered the gold class of reviews.
Reviews in women's magazines. Sniffed at by highbrow literary journals, but read religiously every week by the biggest regular consumers of books, women. I don't sniff at those reviews. They are gold.
Reviews by celebrities. Even Kim Kardashian has started asking for book recommendations via her Instagram feed. Reece Witherspoon has a book club. Emma Watson is about as much of book vigilante as you'd expect from her decade of playing bookwork Hermione. She has her own book club too. Oprah started it all. The Richard and Judy Book Club. I'd donate a kidney to be reviewed or profiled by any of these bookish celebrities.
But some of the best reviews, the most considerate and considered, are by the associations and societies within which we operate. The various organisations who exist to support authors writing within their particular genre - Romance; Historical; Horror; Crime; Thriller etc. Reviews which are done by reviewers who understand the genre you are writing in. From the genre you are trying to market to the world. They get you. They understand you. They are gatekeepers though. They want the genre to be full of great works worthy of the title "Romance" or "Historical" or even "Erotica"...
The Historical Novels Society is one such gatekeeper. And in their February issue, Issue #79, they published a review of 'Fifteen Postcards'. You can imagine my response. I opened the link hesitantly...heart in my mouth, palms sweating...and here's the review:
"Kirsten McKenzie has written a very unusual novel: part time travel, part historical, and part antique review. Sarah’s adventures in other times and other continents, linked together by the postcards and the antiques, are well researched and entertainingly written. The twists and turns are a little frenetic, and the reader can sometimes feel as if they are running to keep up. At times the plot is somewhat convoluted and a little unbelievable, but Sarah is an engaging heroine, and the need to know what happens next overrides these minor inconsistencies.
OVER THE MOON. Thank you Historical Novels Society. And yes, I've since asked them if they would be interested in reviewing The Last Letter. I now await patiently for them to respond. They don't always say yes to reviews.
So far Fifteen Postcards has done pretty well on the number of Amazon reviews front. Somewhat annoyingly, they don't collate all reviews across all platforms, so I have to traipse around the various country sites checking for new ones... Here's a snapshot:
So next time you read a book, take a moment to write a review. Just a few words, no spoilers. I'll give you a quick guide on what you could say:
- Did you like it? YES/NO
- What did you like most about it? PLOT/RESEARCH/CHARACTERS/THE END
- Who else would enjoy it? HISTORY BUFFS/SPORTY TYPES/NEW MUMS
- Do you want to read a sequel? YES PLEASE/THANK GOD IT ENDED
- Was there anything the author could improve on? EDITING/LENGTH/KILL MORE PEOPLE
- Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera
Your taxi drivers are very polite.
Your streets are bustling.
You love books.
Thanks for having me.
Kirsten McKenzie, Author
On the 18th February, I flew down to Wellington for the inaugural Kiwi Book Feast with six other New Zealand authors. The concept being that sharing the costs involved with a launch, and sharing the publicity, and the work load, would make all the more impact. And it did.
Having seven diverse authors all marketing the Kiwi Book Feast to their own networks was far more effective that slathering the city with posters and tweeting into the ether...
For an inaugural event, it was a learning curve, deciding on the run sheet, the catering, the venue, the date, the time, the authors, the layout. A hundred different decisions. For an event we hope to repeat around the country - with future books, some new authors possibly, who knows, it's a fluid thing.
Potentially a library or a bookstore may have been a better location, although holding it in a bar ensured fantastic food, a flow of beverages, and a dedicated sound guy, and a stage. So there were plenty of pluses!
We had a lovely bookish Wellington crowd, and plenty of Twitter personalities turned up to support us, which was fabulous. And I was blessed by two friends flying down from Auckland to surprise me. I should have worn waterproof mascara...
We were also all very grateful to the support given to us by the New Zealand Book Council. They've just launched their beautiful new website. You should go and have a look at it - NZ Book Council Website
Ten things you need to know for a book launch, anywhere in the world:
Sensible shoes. I sat down once, for about 10 minutes, over the four hours of the event.
Cash - have a float. $10 notes, $5 notes. Just enough to provide change if everyone only pays with $20 notes.
Have a display which is sympathetic with the content of your books. Historical? Have a couple of vintage props. Western themed? Horsey type props. Science Fiction? Not sure where you'd get your hands on some space junk, but maybe cobble something together!
Extension cord... I have battery powered lights which I tuck in the side of my suitcases, but I did note that one of our authors came prepared with a multi plug and an extension cord. Pack it.
Mailing List Sign Up Sheet. I've put that in bold, because I didn't have one. I must pack this into my book display suit case. That's this weeks job. Pack some pens too. Practice signing your book.
Price List - People don't like to ask the price of your books. They like to see clear signage showing the price of one book, two books, or the complete set. Make it easy for them.
Books. Self explanatory. But also book type things that can be slipped into your books, or into handbags. Nothing bulky. A bookmark, a postcard, all with your book and contact information printed on them.
Don't sit behind your table. I know lots of people feel more comfortable doing this, but I'm more a stand to the side, or stand to the side in front of the display. Its easier to engage. Easier to pass the book to a prospective customer. And on the topic of your table. Buy a table cloth. If you can't afford a table cloth, use your top sheet and iron it first.
Dress to impress: You're trying to portray that you are a professional, that you're serious about your writing. You don't have to go all Annie Hall, but maybe think beyond your usual old jeans and t-shirt. At the first two NZ Book Festivals I went with a long skirt and a velvet jacket. At the Kiwi Book Feast I wore smart jeans and a white cotton shirt, with a brooch. I felt smart and comfortable. The brooch was a nod towards the vintage theme of my books. Something to think about.
Smile. Smile and engage. Ask the people at your table about the weather outside. Ask if it's improved, or if the rain has finally arrived. Weather is a very safe topic. It's an easy opener. Even if you're shy you can say "Has it stopped raining today?" or "Isn't it a lovely day for being out and about". Give it a go. Relax and have confidence in your work. That'll flow through to your own personal confidence. Good luck.
Watch out for the crowds hurrying behind you, but they're in a hurry to come and see me at a couple of public events in New Zealand in the next two months.
Back in December I received an email inviting me to be part of a group of New Zealand authors who were planning a large joint book launch. That launch has now taken on a life of its own, and will see me flying to Wellington on the 18th February for a three hour event at Meow Cafe with six other amazing New Zealand authors for the first Kiwi Book Feast.
I know that through Facebook and Twitter, there are many of you I've interacted with online, but which I have yet to meet. I would love to finally meet you at Meow on the 18th February. We're providing nibbles, naturally, and there will be live readings, prizes and our books will be available to purchase, which we will of course sign for you.
And now I have a booking for March. As part of the Auckland Arts Festival, the Eden/Albert Board invited local artists to be part of the White Night on the 18th March. They specifically mentioned involving the iconic Dominion Road. I was all over that invite like a non contagious rash.
I'm happy to announce that Antique Alley will be open the evening of the 18th March, from 6pm to 11.30pm, and I'll be there, in the shop, doing live readings from my books and book signings. Both sides of the shop will be open, with my brother manning the business side of things.
What will April bring?! Should I pencil in April the 18th for some future event?!
So...who is going to come and see me in action in Wellington on the 18th February, or in Auckland on the 18th March?