Tag Archives: amazon

I’m an #AmazonRisingStar for 2015.

Spider-in-the-Corner-of-the-Room-CoverBig news this week: Amazon have selected me as one of there Rising Stars for 2015. I know – who knew?

So, naturally, had to share the news on the blog with you guys. The selection is for my new book – The Spider in the Corner of the Room – out worldwide in all good bookshops on 4th June.

Not plugging this or anything (plugging it), but you can pre-order now. The link’s below. Spider is the first in a trilogy about Dr Maria Martinez, a plastic surgeon with Asperger’s who find herself in prison for the murder of a Catholic priest, only she has no memory of the murder.

So, thank you, great blogger, for following me all this time. We are all #teamspider. Hell yeah.

Pre-order Spider here

 

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Diary of a hopeful author: I’m donating my book royalties to Comic Relief!

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…rnd13 logo

 This week is a different kind of post. Because this week I’ve announced that I am to donate all the royalties from my book, The Boy Who Played Guitar, to the charity, Comic Relief.

Yup, between now and 29th April, 2013, every time my book – a contemporary fiction novel – is sold, the royalties will go to raise vital funds to help people across UK and Africa who live unimaginably tough lives.

Nikki Owen_RND_13
Me, my Red Nose Day nose & my book! Read & raise, people!

You can buy my book two ways: in paperback and for Kindle.  I’ve stuck the links below for you to follow. Ooo, and just to reassure, it’s a great read – 5 star rated on Amazon. Quick synopsis: Tired teacher starts a choir to help troubled students get their grades, but things don’t quite work out the way he planned. It’s funny & sad all at the same time.

Once the royalties are gathered, as well as writing (hopefully a huge) cheque for Comic Relief, I’ll report back to you on the blog about how it’s all gone.

In the meantime, if you can tell as many people as you can about it, if they could buy the book, too, it means we’re generating more funds, helping more people out of poverty. Spread the word!

I’m calling it ‘Read & Raise’ and in advance, a MASSIVE than you for reading and raising with me to make people’s lives better.

Have a cracking week.

Nikki

Getting The Boy Who Played Guitar:

For Kindle UK click here

For Kindle USA click here

For paperback UK click here

For paperback USA click here

The Boy Who Played Guitar is also avaialble via Amazon Europe. All royalties to Comic Relief.

 Want to know more about Comic Relief? Click here

Red Nose Day does something funny for money this year on Friday 16th March on BBC TV from 7p.m

Win a copy of The Boy Who Played Guitar – now out in paperback

It’s Media Monday where I post my views on the latest writing and publishing news: The Boy Who Played Guitar is now out in paperback…

Oh my giddy aunt! I don’t normally pop a post about my own Media Monday news, but I’m off on my holidays so what the heck! My book The Boy Who Played Guitar is now out in paperback and to celebrate – and because you’re all so nice – I  I have a free copy to give away .

To win a copy of the book, simply answer this question:

What was the title of my short story that won the Wotton Arts & literature 2012 Short Story Prize? Was it:

a) The Woman Who Had a Limp

b) The Woman Who Had Piles

c) The Woman Who Walked to School

You can find the answer (if you haven’t guessed already…) by taking a look through my blog posts. To send your answers, just use the ‘contact me’ section to my blog – that way no sneaky answers will appear in the comments section….

The competition closes Monday 6th August when I’ll pull a name from the hat to chose the lucky winner.

If you fancy ordering a copy of The Boy Who Played Guitar, if you know, you feel like it, you can on Amazon. For the UK, click on this link. For the USA, click on this link.

The book’s already received rave reviews, with review site FacE-Bookers saying: ‘It was a flowing story…that had them giggling in some places and crying in others.’

Here’s a bit more about the book…

What do you do when life hits a rut? Stuck in a failing secondary school in Cheltenham, ageing Assistant Principal, Dan McClean, is fed up. His 16-year old pupils won’t learn; the school’s changing to an Academy; his wife can’t have a baby; and his middle is growing faster than Facebook. So when one day the school Principal tells Dan to get his pupils’ grades up or they’re off the higher exam paper, Dan hits on an idea: he’ll start a school choir. But what Dan doesn’t know is that by setting up the choir, he’s starting down a road where life will never quite be the same again.

From columnist and debut novelist, Nikki Owen, a heart-warming, poignant tale of courage, loss and what it really means to find out who your friends are –even if they do like Lady Gaga.

Thanks for tolerating my shameless plug! Have a great week – and thanks so much for following my blog. It’s great us all getting to know everyone.

I’ll be taking a little blog break now, so see you after my holiday. France – here we come!

Nikki

**

Diary of a hopeful author: My book’s soon out in paperback..!

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 My book is going into print! A paperback! This is not quite what it seems but to me, this week, it might as well be everything. ‘Your dark circles are getting bigger, mum,’ says my youngest. I give her a hug and sigh. ‘Sweetie, when you get to my age everything gets bigger – and it’s not my favourite thing.’ She narrows her eyes at me. ‘I want to get bigger.’ I smile. ‘I know you do. And that’s good! You are growing.  A big girl!’ I think of my dark circles. ‘Not quite the same for mum, I’m afraid, love.’ She looks at me then announces she’s going to play with her Lego.

I make a coffee, and, as the rain slams against the window (who knew this was July?) I think of the past few days and, namely, my growing obsession with Amazon’s Create Space. Yup, I’ve been on Create Space. If you don’t know it, but it’s a new venture, if you will, by Amazon, and it allows self-published authors to create print-on-demand books of their own, well, books.  It means that every time someone orders your paperback book, they print it off -there are no reserved stocks or need for reprint. So, for example, take my novel, The Boy Who Played Guitar – I can now stick it on create Space, get it all set up and ta-da! One book in print and, get this – in my hands! I know! I shake just at the mere thought. Having your own book, printed in your hands is well, like every hopeful author’s dream. What they don’t tell you though is that dream will consist of days of frowning, formatting and some occasional swearing. ‘Are you still on there?’ asks my hubbie as I frown away at the laptop, the Create Space website open.  ‘If I. Could just. Understand how to. Format….Ah! There’s some information!’ I tap away at a ‘how to’ guide on formatting your book ready for printing to Create Space. My hubbie tuts.’You’re mad – lovely – but mad.’ I scratch my head and my hair sticks up – I fear he is right.

The good thing about mad though is that it gets things done. My obsession with Create Space has now produced a book waiting to be printed. My book. Mine! Oh God, I feel sick. If you fancy going down this route with your book too, a top tip – download their word template which has all the formatting built in and then insert your book into it. I didn’t realise you could do this at first and it took me ages to sort out, I mean ages – I didn’t wash for 2 days and the discarded mug mountain next to my computer could have qualified for an art installation.

The Create Space format is prescriptive and if your book doesn’t adhere to its format, it’s not going to work. Take a look at a paperback book and you’ll see that each right and left page have different margin sizes. The font’s specific, too, plus the headers and footers. All that is pre-formatted for you if you use the template.  With the cover, back and binding, there is a full service of formats ready to use. You can insert your own artwork, which I tried, but it turned out the pixels weren’t high enough (it needs to be a minimum of

The new cover – what d’you think?

300 pixels – this is opposed to ‘pixies’, as my daughter read it. Not the same thing. Although, nice mental image…) This means that, sadly, I have had to change my book cover. I’ve stuck it on this post – see what you think compared to the old one. Let me know what you reckon to the new one. I swear I took at least two hours deliberating what to do about the cover. I know, daft, but it’s things like this you end up obsessing over, because, once it’s done and out there, it’s really hard to turn back.

After the cover was done, I switched to pricing and, drum roll, royalties. Before you get excited, let me tell you something – the royalties are tiny. Tiny! The minimum price you can charge for your book on Create Space is £5.30, which, is reasonable, but earns you peanuts. I opted for a steady £5.99, which equates to $7.99. This earns me a small royalty per book. So why not just stick to Kindle editions, you may think? Well, the great, great thing about a digital download of your book is that it is cheaper for the reader (mine just £2.48) and the royalties are much higher for the author. But,  there are still many people who either prefer or want a paper back (over 70% of global book sales are still print formats, even though digital sales are shooting up and print declining). So, it means by making The Boy Who Played Guitar available in print format, I am tapping into 70% (run with me here) of the market that I couldn’t access before. Crikey, no wonder I’m cream crackered.

The old cover…

Anyhoo, I can happily report that in the next few days you can buy a paperback of my book from Amazon. How cool is that? Mind you, if you see a sales increase it will probably be me and my very excited family and friends buying loads because we are, you know, very, um, excited. I really hope it works out. I’m off this week to do a blog tour, pushing The Boy Who Played Guitar to be reviewed, hoping to get it read by a wider audience. And then? Who knows? Maybe the whole thing will grow and get bigger. Just as long as my dark circles don’t expand some more. I think might go and buy some more concealer today. I need it. Nice to meet you, by the way.

Right – over to you. Which book cover do you prefer for The Boy Who Played Guitar? And have you used Create Space? How have you found it? Are your dark circles growing, too…?  We’ve all got to stick together…

Links: Amazon’s Create Space

 Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about green wheelie bins (honestly)…*

It’s Media Monday: What would your top 100 books be?

It’s Media Monday where I post my latest views on writing & publishing news…  Writing news

How do you know which books you should read? This is the question that I pondered the other day as I searched for some new summer reads for my holiday. In this search I stumbled across an article in The Guardian entitled “The 100 greatest novels of all time”. (You can read the list here) Great! I thought, there must be some I’ve read on here. On the list, the novels range from Clarissa by Samuel Richardson to Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. Hmmm. I’ve never heard of the first one and the only Tom Jones I know is the Welsh hairy bloke that women throw knickers at when he sings on stage – but somehow, I don’t think this list quite refers to this version.

Anyway, as my heart sank, it got me to thinking about these 100 greatest novels. I mean, what really does make a novel great? Does the fact that we can’t quite understand it make it great? Should it be a high-brow classic to be great or will a fast beach read count? Is it the theme it tackles? The way it is written? It’s complex characters or plot? I think different novels mean different things to different people – what works for one doesn’t always work for another (step forward Fifty Shades of Grey…)

So, in this quest for greatness I’ve decided to compile my own short list of best books, a top ten, if you will. Take a look and see what you think. For me, the books below are ones that I haven’t been able to put down and that have stayed in my head long after I’ve finished them – and that, to me, makes a novel great. Are these the kind of books you view as great? Or are the novels in the top 100 article more your thing? And what makes a novel great for you? Let the count down begin…

My top ten books (in no real order, sort of):

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – An all-time classic whose themes are still so relevant today.
  2. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen – Beautiful story and insightful account of old age
  3. My Father’s Glory and My Mother’s Castle, Marcel Pagnol – not strictly a novel, but an all time favourite of mine. It’s an account of Pagnol’s childhood in Provence, France – atmospheric, magical. You can almost hear the cicadas.
  4. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt – so well written, it was a book that stayed with me for a long time afterwards.
  5. Notes on a Scandal, Zoe Heller – sharp, dark, cracking plot, amazing characterisation.
  6. 1984, George Orwell – has to be on the list. ingenious, a book way, way ahead of it’s time and one that still influences society today. Big Brother and Room 101, anyone..?
  7. Keeping up with Magda, Isla Dewer – on the list because it’s a book I re-read  when I need some calm and imagine I am by the sea. Cracking characters, great writer.
  8. Tell no one, Harlan Coben – The master of a thriller, this is his best book, bar none. Fast, intelligent – and the film’s just as good (french with subtitles)
  9. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte – ahead of it’s time, Bronte devised a novel full of humour, sharp cultural observation and poignancy. It surprised me how much I loved this book.
  10. The History Boys, Alan Bennett – alright, so it’s a play, but I have the book of it. The script of the play reads so, so well in book format – I couldn’t put it down. Relevant themes, rounded characters, lashings of wit – highly recommend.

 What makes a book great for you? Do you have your own top ten? Or do you prefer to let your preferences change as you go along?

Link: The Guardian 100 greatest novels: a list

 **Look out for Wednesday Wafflings where I post my latest entry of my Diary of a Hopeful Author**

Media Monday: If you’re a self-published author look away now…

Writing news

It’s “Media Monday” where I bring you my views on the latest writing and publishing news…

You might want to look away now. Or, go get yourself a drink. Especially if you’re an author looking to self-publish. Go on, well done…What’s that?A Pina Colada?  I roll my eyes. Right, now down it in one because the latest news for all you aspiring writers out there is that authors publishing their work DIY style online earn an average of $10,000 (£6,375) – and, wait for it, less than half make $500. I know. What? Another Pina Colada? Oh, go on then.

Yep, the latest news published in an article by The Guardian last week revealed that a survey of writers concluded that only the smallest percentage of authors were raking in more that $100,000 in 2011. In this less than 10% were earning approximately 75% of this revenue and, that’s right the rest – that’s more than half of all those exhausted writers surveyed – scraped in just enough to cover the service of their car. If they have one.

Once I pick myself up from the floor, along with my broken laptop and spilled pens, I have to admit that this news comes as no surprise. Like with any industry that has headline success stories, such as music, art, banking – oh wait, no, the lasts one’s a disaster story, sorry – for every high-fiving, cash-generating sensation, you’ll find thousands of bleary-eyed, overdraft-inducing wannabees. And, as I peer at my sorry bank balance and peel open my eyes, I speak from experience here. But hey! We are writers! We are a hardy bunch, single-minded in the pursuit of our craft, nothing but nothing can stop us from plowing forth! So, I shall whisper then that the survey found that  yes, you’d do well if you were female, with a college degree and in your early 40s. Never, ever so much before have I wanted to be older than right now. On top of this, it turns out our paper-published cousins are muscling in on the act, with big names such as Jackie Collins announcing that she is to bypass the traditional paperback route and put her novel The Bitch (sorry, bad language…) as a self-published piece. Have we nothing left for ourselves, I hear you cry? Even if it does earn us peanuts?

Well now look, let’s not get hysterical. No one said this was going to be easy. We must wish good luck to everyone! And the good news is that there is something we can do. The survey also revealed that the high-earners it identified dedicated more of their time to writing, banging out an average of 2,047 words a day compared to 1,557 from those lower down the pay scale. So come on! Write! Also, making your book sound professional is another earmarked area by the survey, with it highlighting the need for writers to perhaps get their work professionally edited and proofread – this alone can help you earn 13% more than average (and, I for one shall be doing this…). Yes, that’s right, readers have been waiting our new writing voices, but, understandably, not one full of spelling errors.

Of course, as the Jessie J song goes, it’s not all about the money. What counts for success in one writer’s eyes, may not in another’s. For some, simply finishing the first draft of a novel is achievement enough, for others, the stars, my dear, the stars! Whether you pick yourself up from the floor or the ceiling, the trick is knowing what your goal is and then doing everything you can to get there. And in that, I wish you all the luck in the world. But perhaps first, just step away from the Pina Coladas, hmmm?

What are your experiences as a self-published author? Do you want to make money from your writing? Or are you content with the art of writing itself? Let me know.

 **Look out on  for Wednesday: Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry from my Diary of a Hopeful Author…**

Media Monday: Has Waterstones sold its soul to Amazon?

Writing news

It’s “Media Monday” where I bring you my views on the latest writing and publishing news…

Isn’t it funny how things change? This morning, I was all set to write this post about the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron’s new biography reveals how he likes to ‘chillax’ (his words, not mine) by singing some karaoke, calling his tennis machine the “Clegger” (I kid you not) and kicking back to watch a DVD box set. After I’d sewed my sides back up from laughing, making yet another mental note to ALWAYS WORK HARDER, I was greeted with the bizarre news via The Guardian that the UK bookstore chain, Waterstones, is hooking up with its arch nemesis Amazon to sell Kindles in all its Waterstones stores.

Now, look, call me a fool here, but isn’t Waterstones flogging Amazon gear a bit like Tesco selling Sainsbury’s own brand? Or, to put it in book terms, like Harry Potter asking Voldemort to give him a foot rub whilst reading a copy of The Worst Witch? Either way, aside from looking strange, it’s just not going to work. At this juncture, I have to point out that I am not normally one for the negative,Waterstones Logo and like Obama himself, I like to think, ‘Yes we can! ‘when approaching most issues (for example, ‘Can we eat this chocolate? Yes we can!’ ‘Can we finish this novel? Yes we can!’ ‘Can we ignore the icky feeling we get when David Cameron says Chillax? Yes we…Actually, no, we can’t.’)  I can see what Waterstones are trying to do by linking with Amazon, hoping, as I am sure they are, that it will help sales and drive footfall. But the thing is, climb into bed with a lion and, sooner or later, you’re going to get bitten.

If Waterstones was looking at this with more rational, unfettered minds (have you seen the slump in paper book sales lately?) they would admit that they were late  to react to the emergence of the e-reader and were similarly uninspired to proactively adapt and develop as the market rapidly changed. But wait, I hear some say. The Kindle is popular, speedy! Won’t that help poor old Waterstones? Well, to be honest, I don’t think it will. You see, one of the great advantages about a Kindle is that you can have instant access to books, where ever you are, what ever the time and what ever your attire (shops don’t like you turning up in your PJs. So I hear.) And so, if you do chose to make a specific trip to Waterstones, surely that negates the need for a Kindle, because you are in a shop! Ready to buy! Wearing clothes! A book, you think, I just want a paper book! I want to browse, feel the page, soak up the atmosphere. That’s what you are there for. If you wanted an e-book, you’d get one from your sofa with your feet up and the TV on.

To be honest, I think what Waterstones have done here is fail to recognise that consumers – us readers out here – like paper and digital book formats, but, just as you might like your boss and your betrothed, say,  that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to hang out with both of them at the same time. Yes, book stores need to adapt. Yes, it means the likes of Waterstones having to change their business models to survive. But that’s just the thing: we want them to survive and be themselves. By letting Amazon in through the front door and selling Amazon’s merchandise for them, haven’t Waterstones just banged the first nail in their own coffin? I hope not.  Or perhaps we are witnessing the beginning of Amazon’s entrance into their own-brand high street bricks and mortar store? Who knows what’s going to happen next. But either way, I’m just going to have to make like David Cameron and jolly well chillax about it…

 **Look out on  for Wednesday: Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry from my Diary of a Hopeful Author…**

Tiredness and hormones lead to help from my mum and a local newspaper

This week we’re all a bit under the weather. After being away over night at an outdoor activity place with her school, my eldest spends the next morning in tears. ‘Is she ill?’ asks my husband. I feel her forehead. ‘Nope. Normal,’ I say. My daughter lets out a tear tremble. ‘Is she going to be sick?’ he asks, eyes narrowed. I turn to her. ‘Do you feel sick, sweetie?’ She shakes her head, cheeks damp, brow furrowed. ‘Aw, honey,’ I say, ‘what’s to do?’  ‘I don’t know,’ she sobs, sinking to the bottom stair. ‘I just.’ Sob. ‘Feel.’ Sob. ‘Like crying.’ Sob. ‘And I don’t know why!’ Hmmm. I take one look at her, march into the kitchen and tap my husband on the shoulder. ‘Hormones,’ I say. ‘It’s a mixture of sheer exhaustion and hormones.’ His face looks as if I have just told him she has three heads, which, of course, being a girl, she does, figuratively speaking. ‘I’m off,’ he replies. Wise move.

Thing is, I don’t think it’s just my daughter who’s feeling awash with tiredness and oestrogen. For some reason, I’ve been finding this past week tough. In many ways, things have been going well. I’ve signed up to several e-book forums now in a bid to promote my novel.  ‘Get on to forums and join in the conversation to grow your readership’, all the advice on the web says about it. ‘Yes,’ I mutter, the clock flashing 11.30 p.m. at me, ‘but they never tell you it will take for ever to sort out. And no, for the fifth time no, Gspotter83, I am absolutely not interested in your new erotica novel.’ My laptop promptly dies on me. This, I think, is my cue to go to bed.  To be fair, the people on the forums are a very friendly bunch, but the trouble is I keep forgetting to log on and get chatting. I’m just so tired and achy. Amazon has its own forums, which are very easy to use with some handy author threads so you can do some hefty self-PR, but again, it’s finding the time to get on there. What I have found though is that, once you are on, you’re on all night. ‘Are you still up?’ my husband asks after a rare Friday night out with the lads for a few beers. I glance at the clock. 12.45 a.m. I meant to be in bed by 11. Damn it. ‘How was your night? Have a few pints?’ I ask, yawning, closing my laptop. ‘Bernard was there. He has a bike with four seats!’  I look at him. He is jumping like a new puppy. ‘Oooh, I feel queasy now,’ he says. I need my bed.

The next day, my hormones hold me hostage. I am trying to write my second novel, and it is not going well. ‘It sucks!’ I wail as my husband blinks awake. ‘What time have you been up since?’ ‘4.30,’ I reply, aware that I sound slightly crazed, ‘and it’s a Saturday!’ He sighs and goes to put the kettle on. I resume staring at the word document on the screen.  The eldest walks in, peers at the laptop and places a small hand on my shoulder. ‘Do you feel like crying but you don’t know why, mum?’ I smile at her and nod. She pats me on the back. It gives me an idea. ‘I need feedback. I shall send my new book to my mum to read. She has hormones. She’ll help me.’ My daughter nods her head. ‘Nice one, mum,’ then goes downstairs to watch TV.

Thankfully, turning to my mum ends up being a godsend.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. ‘Pop it over now and I’ll have a look. Can I put it on my Kindle?’ she says. I have no idea, but she seemingly does, and before the end of the day, Mum’s read five chapters and loves it. ‘You’re not saying that because you’re my mum, are you?’ I ask, wary. ‘Nope. Well, yes, I’m rooting for you, but no. It’s right up my street this new book of yours.’ She then proceeds to give me some good pointers, what I can tweak from a reader’s perspective, the whole lot. When she’s done, I could hug her. Except she’s in Dublin. ‘Thanks, mum, that’s just what I needed. I wasn’t sure if it was okay or not.’ She sighs. ‘Just keep going. You’re doing great.’ I breathe out.  I feel better. ‘I’ll keep sending you chapters. Is that okay?’  She readily agrees, and with that I have my own personal editor.

Over the next few days, buoyed by my mum’s comments, I keep on writing, and even, on the suggestion of my hubbie, take a long shot at contacting a local newspaper to tell them of my blog, suggesting I can write a weekly column for them.  I don’t really expect to hear back, but what the heck. ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it, mum,’ says my youngest. I pick her up for a hug. ‘That’s right honey. That’s right.’

It gets to the evening one day and I’ve managed to find the energy to go for a long run before making tea. Picking up my Blackberry, I check my messages. An email from the local newspaper editor flashes up. I stop breathing. Clicking on the button, I read it. They want to give me a try. They want me to write a regular column. I’m so, so chuffed, a couple of tears slip out. Digestive biscuit in mouth, my eldest tilts her head. ‘Mum, you okay?’ I nod. ‘It’s good news,’ I croak. The youngest comes in. ‘Sssh!’ says the eldest as she shuffles her sister away. ‘What is it?’ I hear the youngest ask. ‘Hormones,’ the eldest replies, ‘always hormones.’