Thursday, 29 December 2011

Surprise!

Yes, when I think about everything that's happened in 2011, the word 'surprise' seems to sum it all up nicely!
   This time last year I had just set up the writers' group Writebulb with my friends Stuart, Brigid and Jane and we were looking forward to our first meeting. Throughout my life I'd always written but never thought I'd ever be published; I'd let very few people read my writing, I'd barely heard of a Kindle and although I used the internet I knew nothing about social networking.
   The turning point came when Stuart asked Penelope Fletcher to speak to the Writebulb group about her work. I can honestly say that until that point I'd never even heard the phrase 'indie author'! I still have an image of me sitting there, listening to her speak, scribbling down everything she said about putting your work on the web - what an inspiration she was (and still is) to me! I remember thinking 'I can do that'. So I did. I rushed home, dug out a story I'd written some years ago for my son, worked hard on it and then self published.
   I'm now on the point of publishing my third Burly and Grum book. The second book, The Secret City, has been downloaded over 22,000 times just in the month of December from amazon.com. I haven't made any money so far but I have to say that I've learnt an incredible amount!
   I have surprised myself on so many levels. I bought a Kindle (love it just as much as I love 'real' books!), created this blog when I'd never even read a blog before, cursed and sweated as I set up the Burly & Grum website and Facebook page. I'd never understood Twitter but set up an account and have started tweeting and I've also given interviews (BBC Radio Essex and the GMTA literary community). I have published my books on Smashwords and personally, I can't say enough good things about Mark Coker who heads it up, he really leads the way for us indie authors. I've also self published on Amazon, found out about ITIN numbers, visited the US Embassy and I'm just about to put my books into print - it's been quite a journey!
   Every single one one of those statements above could start with the words "I surprised myself by...."
   But the biggest single surprise this year has been how supportive and wonderful people are. So many people have given me their help without asking anything in return - Rob (the incredibly talented artist who has brought Burly and Grum to life), Stuart, who has helped me in my struggles with technology, Richard Farr who is helping with the design of the book covers, Linda Palmer who has just put her hand up and said she'll do the editing, Kitty Bullard from the Great Minds Literary Community (thank you for the great reviews Kitty!), Penelope Fletcher who is so inspiring, Mark from Witherbys done so much scanning for me, Joanne from the Born Free Foundation and all my family and friends - Angus my son (who has been very patient), Dawn and Eddie, Carol, Anna, Gemma, Heather - everyone has been so supportive. Thank you all and one day I hope I'll be able to surprise you all by being able to pay you back with more than just a cup of coffee!
   As 2011 ends I feel as though I've accomplished a huge amount and if you've managed to read through this far, it will come as no surprise to you that in 2012 I'll be working just hard to learn, improve and make the Burly & Grum books as good as they can be!
   Wishing you all a most wonderful New Year!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Happy Christmas from Burly and Grum!


Christmas is coming! Yes, my first Burly and Grum Christmas - I'm very excited and hope there will be many more to come! As you can see from the picture, they've been getting into the festive spirit and have been practising their cracker pulling technique (Burly nearly always manages to get the end with the little gift!). 
    This last week I somehow picked up a rotten head cold and have been feeling very sorry for myself but, through streaming eyes, managed to tweak the Burly and Grum website so it looks quite festive now. Web design isn't my strongest point and I have to admit that I was very relieved to get a snowflake effect without too many problems! I also printed out some Burly and Grum Christmas cards and have given them away but next year I'd like to be a little better prepared and have Christmas cards and calendar ready to sell.
   Meanwhile, I've finished the third book, Burly & Grum and The Birthday Surprise and hope to have it out in the New Year (I'll keep you posted). There are more colourful characters in this book, a bit of adventure and a few surprises. I've been so pleased that those who have proof read it have fed back that they think it's the best so far. I know I enjoyed writing it - I'm definitely getting to know Burly and Grum a little better with each book and am feeling more and more comfortable writing about their adventures. Over the Christmas break I have to give some serious thought to marketing because although the downloads are still very healthy (over 5,500 so far this month) and I'm very happy that people are reading them, it would be nice to actually earn some money!
    So although I'll still be working hard over the Christmas break I will find time to kick back and celebrate Burly and Grum style (eating a lot and getting into trouble!). From myself, Burly and Grum - we hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends! 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Downloads, Front Covers and Proofs!

This has been such an interesting week!
   On 30th November I checked the number of downloads from Amazon.com and discovered that 6,666 copies of The Secret City had been downloaded during the month. I did a little swivel of happiness on my office chair and then started hoping that those people who have downloaded it actually like it!
   The proof copies of Beyond the Forest and The Secret City arrived the next day and I've been going through them with a fine toothcomb. It's so helpful having a printed copy to hand because not only can I visually see what needs tweaking format-wise to make the book look better but I've picked up a couple of typos I'd missed. (Tsk - how could I have missed them?)
   And on an even more positive note, I've met up with the most wonderful graphic designer, Richard Farr, who is going to help me improve the covers of the books. I felt that the backs of the books were just not up to scratch and with only Mircrosoft Publisher to work with, I was becoming frustrated because I couldn't do what I wanted and make them look the way I had in my mind's eye.
   But Richard has the tools, the technology, the training - way to go Richard!  We met last weekend and went through what needed to be done and he's already sent a draft of the Secret City cover with some of his ideas. It looks much more professional, more appealing and I'm very pleased indeed - I knew I was falling way short but it wasn't until I saw his draft version that I realised just how amateur mine was! 
  So all in all, things are good. This week I'll be editing and tweaking the third book and, fingers crossed, it will be out in a few weeks. I have to say that I'm looking forward to the New Year and whatever it brings!