Free short: The Painted Man


Free short: The Painted Man

Now available on amazon for kindle. For a limited time only, available too as a free download by clicking on the image. If you like it, buy another short from my amazon page!

Once downloaded, you can email to your kindle address. If you’re not sure what it is, go to Amazon/Manage your kindle – it’s listed next to the picture of your device.


This is part of my bid to clear my hard drive of fragments, snippets, and half-finished ideas – completing them and publishing them! What do you think? Would love to hear comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Kindle publishing – the new slush pile?


I’ve become a bit of a Womans Hour listener while on my summer holiday, and quite enjoy the mix of discussion that they have – plus I find Jenni Murray’s voice very soothing!!

I listened to one programme in particular, hosted actually by Kate Mosse whose books I love and which I found fascinating, about publishing. The programme’s described thus:

Author Kate Mosse interviews Woman’s Hour Power Lister Ursula Mackensie on her role as Chief Executive of Little, Brown and Lennie Goodings, Publisher at Virago. Are fewer women reaching the top in publishing in the digital age? Former publisher, now agent, Clare Alexander; author and chair of the Society of Authors Anne Sebba and Philip Jones, editor of the Bookseller join Kate to discuss. Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement and journalist and reviewer Alex Clark debate why books by men, reviewed by men, dominate the pages of newspapers and journals.

I might talk about the male-skewed statistics another day, but for the moment this tallied with a particularly harsh article I read here (thanks to The Parasite Guy for directing me to this interesting topic!). The article suggests that all indie authors are all terrible (they use stronger language than that) who can’t write, want a quick buck and think the world owes them a living. In the programme, Mosse asks whether the indie publishing so prevalent on Amazon in particular is ‘the slush pile in which we all started’. The R4 programme is pretty balanced, really – the participants agree that there is some rubbish out there, but they are surprisingly (to me) positive about the indie publishing experience and that it can be a very positive thing for authors.

I’ve just published a novella on Kindle – Balancing Act – and several short stories before that, and I think that self-publishing this way can be a very useful thing for a new author to do. It encourages you to write better – to thoroughly edit, to make sure that you’re telling the best story that you can so that people want to buy it. The power of having an audience – any audience – is an enormous confidence boost; for anyone suffering low self-esteem or the chronic fear of ‘is this good enough?’ it is brilliant to realise that people you don’t know are buying something that you wrote!

Building the habit of finishing

It can be a training ground. I wouldn’t suggest anyone published something that they thought was terrible, but I would suggest that people who want to write publish. Whether you send it to magazines for consideration or whether you e-publish, writers need the habit of finishing work to the best of their ability and putting it out there for other people instead of just leaving it on your hard drive. At the end of every project, you should feel that you have done something worthwhile. I also often feel that if I was going to start this project again, I could do better – but that’s where moving on to the next project is incredibly important, because otherwise you run the risk of starting and restarting, and never truly finishing anything.

There’s a lot of argument to be had about it, but I think it comes down to some key ideas:

Are indie authors all simply rubbish writers who can’t get a ‘proper’ publishing contract?

No. Of course not. There are some great indie authors who write powerful, interesting work that for one reason or another aren’t with a traditional publisher. Conversely, there are some terrible ones as well. That’s inevitable in any platform which is open access. But there are some traditional authors who aren’t that good as well – they might have fixed the typos but it might still be a bad book, or even just simply not to your taste.

So how does a reader find a good book?

In exactly the same way as with traditional publishing! You listen to who your friends are reading, you read reviews (magazines, newspapers, online) and see what other people think. You browse the top 100, whether of fiction in general or in a category that you particularly like, you look at the ‘people also bought’ at the bottom of the Amazon page.

Once you’re on an item’s page, Amazon is great for weeding out books you’re not interested in – in just the same way as you can browse in a bookshop, you can read the blurb, look at the cover and read the first few pages to see what you think. If the blurb sounds like a rough translation or is badly misspelled, or the formatting of the first few pages looks terrible, then don’t buy the book! But if you like the look of it, the first pages get your attention and you want to read more – well, then why would it matter if an editor likes it, as long as you do?

The programme is available here.

Kindle marketing: Keywords and phrases


In this post, I’m going to look at some of the issues surrounding Amazon’s kindle publishing using keywords, categories and tags to help readers find your work.

To help readers get to your book, you need to make sure it’s as easy to find as possible. Obviously if someone knows the title or your name, it’s easy for them! However, you also want to try and reach as many browsing readers as you can, and that’s where good use of the keywords and categories comes in.


When publishing, the KDP information page asks you to select two categories. These are based on the system all libraries use and are what you see down the left-hand side of Amazon’s home page.

It's mid-August! We don't need back to school yet :)

It’s mid-August! We don’t need back to school yet 🙂

Choosing the right category can make a big difference. If you click through the categories, you can also see how many titles there are in each one (either in brackets on the menu, or on the top bar Showing 1 of 1651 titles). In Crime, Thrillers and Mystery, there are 259,638 results. If you drill down a little further, you might decide your book’s better suited to one of the sub-categories, Police Procedurals, with 7,448. It’s also important to know that any book in the smaller category is shown in the larger – if you list under Police Procedurals, you’ll also be visible under Crime, Thrillers & Mystery so it might be better to be as specific as possible, while remaining honest about what your book really is.

It’s important to note that not all the categories are listed in the KDP options. There’s a VERY niche category of Adventure Stories/Sea Adventures which only has about 8 books listed. When choosing your KDP category, if there’s nothing that suits your book then you can choose “Unclassifiable” at the end of the list and then email Amazon to request a category change to something more specific.

Ways to choose your category:

  • Look up books similar to yours – what category are they in? This is a good way to find those niche, small sub-categories.
  • Look through the left hand column. How would you describe your book to a potential reader?
  • Which category would you search for first, and second?
  • What category are similar authors listed in?


You’re allowed to select up to seven words or phrases for your keywords. When customers search, Amazon searches the category, title and keywords so these can help direct readers to you if you get them right. Sadly, there’s no way to see what keywords other books use, so you need to do a bit more thinking on this one.

Amazon’s FAQs has a list of potentially useful keywords to get started, which are required if you want to list in certain popular genres.

Brainstorm some ideas – how would you describe your book to a potential reader? Once you have a list there’s a few things you can do to test them out. First – put them into Amazon’s search bar. Look at the auto-complete: is there anything there that would work better, or which is obviously also a contender? For example, by typing in “How to write” into the search bar, the author of this article about marketing a book on writing found that How to write fast, his original search term, was not searched for as often as How to write a lot – so that phrase went into his keywords too. You can also use the google keyword planner on their adwords section, which will recommend some alternatives and show you a likely search rate. It requires you to sign up for an account but you don’t have to buy ads to use the planner.

Be honest – expectations are crucial.

You need to remember that you’re targeting people who want to read your book, so only choose categories and keywords that really apply. Ever been to a film that wasn’t what you thought it was going to be? If you want a brilliant Chinese takeaway but end up with a great pizza, you’ll still not enjoy it as much as you were going to enjoy the Chinese. Expectations are crucial. If you sell your book as a crime drama, but it’s really a romance, you’ll either not sell very many or you’ll sell some and get negative reviews because, no matter how good it is, people won’t like that it was mis-sold. So think about how you would genuinely describe it, and how to explain that to people.

Helpful sites with more ideas

A beginner’s intro to categories and keywords, as well as some hints for how to come up with them.

Use Amazon’s autocomplete to suggest keywords for you (or show you that nobody else is using that search term!)

Quite a good run down of the difference between categories, keyword and tags, and especially useful on why drilling down into smaller categories is useful.

Aimed mostly at non-fiction, but some useful information on how to use keywords in your product description and title as well as just the keywords publishing section.

How to request a change of category – excellent, considering the KDP book information doesn’t have every category available just ‘unclassifiable’ tacked onto the end.

Interview with my cover designer!


Balancing Act Cover MEDIUM

This has been really exciting – for my new novella, I’ve decided to get the cover done by someone professional rather than doing it myself, as I’ve done for my previous short stories. I’ve really enjoyed the process, and had found Jane a very reliable, professional person to work with who’s done some great work for me!  Her website is and you can see some of the previous covers she’s done.

The novella itself is currently being processed by the KDP system and will be available early this week – another post will definitely announce its arrival!

I wanted to get someone else to do the cover because design really isn’t my forte – I quite like the story covers, but they aren’t as professional looking as I would like because my taste outstrips my ability, and though I put in hours and hours of work, I think that time is better spent doing what I am good at – writing stories.

Plus, this novella is more of an experiment to see how well I can do on Kindle publishing, and I want to give it the best possible chance. It’s like sending it out into the world – would I want it in everyday jeans and a t-shirt, no makeup and three day old hair? No – I want it dressed to impress and ready to rock.

There’s an interview with Jane here which explains really clearly and interestingly the process of designing a cover:

Fenella Miller: Jane Dixon-Smith talks about cover design..

Review: Self-Publishing Attack!


The full title of this book is “Self-Publishing Attack! The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books” and, really, what an offer! To learn the things I need to do to create a steady income writing? Awesome!

While this book is pretty awesome in what it offers – and doing it in 141 pages for £2.56 on kindle – it’s also very realistic and honest about what exactly Bell is offering. He doesn’t promise magic, and he doesn’t promise six-figure salaries. What he does suggest is the successful ways he’s found, through his own experience and knowing plenty of writers, to make a decent living. I found myself highlighting madly on my kindle, and scribbling plenty of ‘read this late’ notes.

Bell is mostly discussing what to do when you’ve completely written a book and you want to get it out there to people. He’s talking about thinking like a business, not an ‘artist’ in the airy-fairy way some people like to define artists, and the ways to make sure that you can get you product in front of people. He also does have some comment to make on how to write an excellent book that people want to read – the most important aspect.

What you won’t get here is some marketing plan based on twitter and blogging – while Bell has both of those things, he’s pretty clear that it’s the writing that counts, not the social networking, and that actually these can be a distraction from writing the best damn book you can think of and ways to improve getting it in front of an audience.

Bell covers setting goals and taking actions to meet them, writing great books that work for kindle – opening pages that feature in a downloaded sample and how to include a synopsis in that sample – ways to plot character and structure, how to get a great cover and to format your book. 

It’s incredibly helpful and practical, and the way Bell writes is excellent – honest, up-front, and encouraging. Highly recommended for anyone trying to write fiction to sell themselves.



Shadowed: published ebook


Buy now
Shadowed – buy on kindle

  My second e-book is quite different to the first. It was inspired by a conversation with a friend who did some work in a mental hospital, and came across a woman who thought she could see that people were being possessed – her medication stopped her seeing the possessing creatures, but that didn’t mean she stopped believing that they existed. That was a terrifying thought; what would someone do in that situation?

It took about a week to write the first draft, which is quite quick for me. Perhaps a sign that my writing muscles are getting stronger? In the redrafts, I went back and layered in some more ideas about the woman, suggesting that she might be struggling with being a mother and the pressures that women feel to take all their maternity leave to spend with the baby, dealing with the conflict I imagine women feel between a fulfilling career which they’ve loved, and their new role as mother.

I rewrote the ending a few times, including changing tense, narrative voice, and stripping out a lot of event narrative (then I did this, and found this, and tried to do this) in favour of more emotional description and a wider view of her actions, like zooming out. I think that worked much better, maintaining the emotional side of the woman rather than becoming too plot-driven.

Buy it now and let me know what you think!

E-Publishing stories


In this post, I’m going to look at the three main e-publishing options available for short stories – amazon, lulu and my own website.

Having decided to experiment with e-publishing I chose a story I’d written while at university and think is pretty good. As much as anything, I want to see what the process is like and whether it’s viable. Obviously, when trying to sell writing, marketing is crucial, and that’s something to look into once I’ve got my head around making it available. There is clearly an option to post writing online for free on various websites like East of the Web or enter competitions etc but, as I said yesterday, I’d like to try this as well. Submitting stories for free is something I’d class as marketing with the hope that it’d lead to something more later on.


As I go through this post I’m going to suggest some of the pros and cons that I think are the major issues, as well as be really upfront about the costs involved – because, after all, that’s partly the point of this. Of course if I just wanted people to read my work, I could distribute it in all sorts of ways but I do want to explore the possibility of making this a more realistic lifestyle eventually. The balancing act required – in all types of publishing – between income (and how that’s divided!) and the price someone is willing to pay – is always going to be a delicate one, and is one that has been squeezed in recent yeras with the development of online purchasing, both digital and hard-copy. Undervaluing fiction is also a negative thing; I strongly believe that to make something sustainable it needs to pay for itself (a discussion I recently also had involving subsidies to the film industry) and I think that when people expect to get a novel for free it makes them less willing to pay for other novels.

Publishing options

Continue reading

First steps into e-publishing


In September, I took the (scary!) step of entering my name for the Ilkley Literature Festival open mike competition that ends the festival. October, then, found me reading a short story in front of around 40 people. It was an experience that had me literally shaking – despite standing on my feet all day talking in front of people, nothing scares me like seeing people read my own creative work…except reading it to them. Despite my nerves, however, I was pleased to be Highly Commended by the judges – who said that it as brave to atempt a short story in three minutes!

So, the next phase of my attempt to turn this writing love into something more than a private hobby is to experiment with the world of e-publishing.

There’s a few reasons I’ve decided to give this a go. I have several short stories on my hard-drive that I feel are well-written and powerful. I could try to submit them to a series of competitions or to a publisher as a collection. Short story collections are, though, difficult to place and sell when you don’t have a track record of novels behind you. Competitions are often more focused and I do intend to do something more with that – but what about those stories that are entered and don’t win? It doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t valuable or worthwhile – although it can mean that! – it means they didn’t suit what the judges wanted on that occasion. I also think that e-publishing’s an exciting avenue to try and experimenting with it via short stories will be an interesting thing to do – and part of what I want to do with this is to try new things, new ways of writing and having people read what I write.

So, my next post will be a detailed look at how I’ve gone about exploring this!