Unexpected Goals, Who Knew?

First, thanks to those who volunteered to beta read my Casey Holland novella. I truly appreciate your taking the time to read the book and offer comments.

Last week, while I was sitting on the floor with my granddaughter and not really thinking about anything, ideas started popping into my head. Some of the ideas had occurred before but I’d dismissed them as too much work. Something’s now telling me that 2022 is the time to get moving. A couple of the newer ideas occurred after attending an online publishing workshop a few days ago.

One of the earlier ideas I dismissed came from an online course from marketing guru and author, David Gaughran. He advises re-doing covers on older books and sprucing up book blurbs prior to launching a marketing campaign for a new book in the series. I need to do this for the first four books in my series, as the covers were designed by my former publisher. I also have decided to use IngramSpark to make print books available to libraries etc., another idea I’ve put off for a long time.

When I acquired the rights to the cover art back in 2016, I didn’t realize until much later that the resolution was too low to publish on Amazon. Unfortunately, I had a lot on my plate back then, so only ebooks are available.

I’ve been using Draft2Digital for platforms aside from of Amazon, but one of the new ideas (again from the workshop) is to add PublishDrive to the roster, as they apparently have a larger audience in other countries than D2D does. If any of you have experience with PublishDrive or IngramSpark, especially pitfalls to avoid, I’d love to hear them.

Lastly, for those of you who might not have picked up a copy of the third book in my series, Beneath the Bleak New Moon, this book is now on sale until February 8th for $.99. I really enjoyed researching this book, as I learned a lot about street racing, legal and illegal, for my story. The book can be found through the BookFunnel link HERE:

Searching for Beta Readers

Things are moving along at a fast clip (finally) with edits on my 7th Casey Holland mystery, tentatively titled, Man in a Gold Satin Thong. If the title piques your curiosity or makes you smile, then I’m on the right track. Although there’s a murder in this story, this 24,000 word novella explores a lighter aspect of Casey’s security work than in the previous novels.

I’ve been fortunate to find two beta readers, but I’m looking for two more, especially those who are fans of amateur sleuth mysteries. It’s not necessary to be familiar with the series as each book works as a stand alone. Hopefully, the story says enough of Casey’s professional and personal life to not leave new readers confused.

For those of you who are uncertain about the role of a beta reader, it’s basically to read the manuscript to provide an overall impression of the book, and to point out where there might be some confusion, repetition, or a lag in the pace. In other words, it’s not a line by line edit, looking for typos, grammatical glitches, and so forth.

The book will be available in PDF format this week, and I’ll provide a short list of questions to use as a guide, but I’ll certainly welcome all comments. I’m hoping to have feedback back within three weeks, so I can get cracking on the changes. My goal is to publish the book this year, but that will depend on beta readers responses and later, my editor, plus the jacket designer’s schedule.

If you are interested reading the book this month, please email me directly at debra_kong@telus.net

Thank you!

Off and Running in 2022

How’s your first week of 2022 going? For me, it’s been busy as I deal with car repairs, a few errands, writing, writing related tasks, and babysitting. People have been talking about this year being a turning point for Covid. I hope it is, but we’re sure not there yet, are we? Someone in our immediately family was briefly exposed to a coworker who tested positive for Covid shortly after that encounter. Right now, we’re all staying inside and taking precautions for three more days. Luckily, I’ve had my booster shot. Crazy times, right?

On the writing front, things are progressing well with both the urban fantasy and the Casey Holland novella. Improvements are made every day, but I find myself asking, why didn’t I see the glitches, awkward phrasing, or wordy sentences before?

The answer is that it’s because I’m usually working on the plot, pacing, continuity, and characters. Line editing is often in the latter stages. While working on grammar, syntax, etc., though, my brain still analyzes the story, so it’s not unusual to catch another minor plot glitch. There are many TV shows and movies where I find glaring potholes, and it’s always disappointing. Some viewers won’t care or don’t notice, but I do.

Promotion and marketing efforts are ramping up once again, and I’ve joined a new group of authors who are offering free ebooks, or excerpts, through BookFunnel. This one features cozies, amateur sleuth, and detective novels. Also, if you haven’t picked it up yet, my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark, is also one of the offered books for free. You can find the link HERE:

This week, I’ve been reflecting on the last ten years of my writing life, and just realized that since originally publishing The Opposite of Dark in 2011, I went on to publish five more books in that series, plus two novellas in another series over a ten-year period. Honestly, I hadn’t given this much thought before now. In hindsight, eight books in ten years was a productive time filled with hard work, as I also had day jobs and looked after my mother’s needs.

I worked on both series much longer than those ten years, and I have no idea what the next decade will bring. I lack the ambition to publish eight more books, but I am greatly interested in taking my writing to the next level. So, we’ll see what happens.

Beyond your new year’s resolutions and short-term goals, do any of you implement long-term goals?

So Long, 2021

I imagine many people have good reason to see this year end, and for things to improve in 2022. I totally get it. Here in British Columbia we’ve suffered a grueling year. Mother nature provided harsh reminders that she’s hurting and we’d better smarten up to avoid more death and destruction. As I write this, Vancouver was -12 degrees Celsius overnight. In our area, this is rare but not as unsettling as the forest fires and heat dome last the summer, and the major flooding that wiped out entire farms and killed many animals in the fall.

Worldwide, there were immense challenges, much of which saddens and angers me, especially at the horrible way people treat one another and the planet. But I also saw plenty of grassroots heroes showcased on TV, helping friends, neighbors, and community through crises. There are still many good things happening. There is still hope. It also makes me really appreciate the blessings our family enjoyed this holiday season.

Although we had snowy conditions for part of the hour+ drive to our daughter’s home, Christmas was delightful. Ellie wasn’t quite sure what was going on with all the gifts, but she certainly took to her new Elmo and other toys.

Despite the weather and ominous COVID challenges, I took some positives from this year. I worked diligently on editing the urban fantasy and made good progress, thanks to my wonderful critique group. I’m finally going back to finalizing the Casey Holland mystery novella for beta readers, which I’ll be seeking over the coming weeks.

I also returned to craft fairs and facilitating this fall, and enjoyed our first family vacation with Ellie. When it comes down to it, for me it’s all about family and doing things that fulfill me. My first full year of retirement has been busy and rewarding, but as always, I can’t wait to ring in the year new and see what the next chapter brings. Happy New Year to All!

Pixabay image by Gerd Altmann

Holiday Prep and Blessings

Somehow, I managed to get all ready for Christmas five days early. Mind you, it took some planning and help from my son and hubby who shared cooking and housework duties while I did my thing. But the big day’s almost here and I’m so happy to be celebrating Christmas with little Ellie this year.

This time last year, our province was in a major lock down that prevented families from getting together. Ellie was four months old, so I figured she wouldn’t miss us, but this year she’s an energetic, curious sixteen months, who loves Christmas lights and purple bows. She also gets excited when her grandparents, uncle and great aunt walk arrive together. I’ll share a couple of photos next week.

Year-end thoughts will also be in next week’s blog, but right now I’m focused on family and gratitude for the blessings I’ve been able to enjoy. I never stop appreciating how lucky we are to live in this part of the world, and that our family’s staying healthy. I wish the same for you and yours.

Happy Winter Solstice, Happy Holidays, and a Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

A Whirlwind of December Activities

Autumn 2020 was a fairly mundane, stay-at-home affair, as public health orders in our province forced everyone to avoid social gatherings by early November. The creative workshops I and colleagues had been facilitating were shut down, along with Christmas craft fairs and other public festivities. So were in-person gatherings on Christmas Day.

This fall is more normal, which means the past two weeks have been busy! I participated in two Christmas craft fairs (one 2-1/2 days long), facilitated 9 out of 11 creative writing workshops, babysat my granddaughter three days a week, and prepared for Christmas. The craft fairs were conducted with face masks, lots of hand sanitizing, and social distancing, when possible.

It’s a bit of relief to be slowing down this week. The creative writing sessions ended on Saturday, I’m not participating in anymore craft fairs, and I’ve finished my Christmas shopping, none of it online. Whew! It feels like I’ve gone from 0 to 60 since last year, but it’s been worth the effort. I can’t wait to celebrate Christmas with little Ellie and read her the new books I bought. I still have wrapping to do and shortbread to make, but I’ve slotted time for that.

Not my shortbread, just a baking reminder from Pixabay

Needless to say, I’ve haven’t written or edited much lately, and two out of three projects have been completely shelved this past month. I’ll make more time for writing after Christmas. The last week of the year is always a creative time for me, and a time for reflection.

How about you? Are you operating at a faster pace than last year? Was it easy to get back into it?

Tough Times in the Publishing Industry

Image from Pixabay

We live in unsettling times, not just because of the pandemic and climate change devastation, although they certainly play key roles. Lately, much has been written about the uncertainty and new challenges facing the publishing industry. By publishing industry, I mean indie and traditionally published authors, publishing houses of all sizes, distributors, and bookstores.

An article from IG Wealth Management, which focuses on the situation here in Canada, reports that supply shortages in paper, ink, and glue have hampered the ability to make books. Also, what used to take weeks to produce and ship now takes months and at a much higher cost.

One result of the shortages is that successful books which have sold out aren’t getting their second print runs. Nor are new releases being shipped in time for the Christmas market. Transportation challenges, which you’re likely aware of, further diminish the prospect of full shelves.

This means that bookstores, distributors, publishers, and authors are not going to make the money they would have under normal conditions. If you’d like to know more from the perspective of well-known Canadian publisher, Dundurn Press, please read the important article HERE.

As a geographically large country with a small publishing community stretched thousands of miles apart, distribution has long been a challenge for Canadian bookstores, but as this article clearly shows, things have become much worse and aren’t likely to improve quickly.

Another article from Friesen Press, which addresses some American issues, also stresses the lack of supplies, right down to printing plates. As stated in this article, paper production was becoming a major problem before COVID, as a significant number of paper mills have shut down in the U.S. over the last 5 to 10 years. Things have now reached a point where paper is being rationed to publishers. You can read more HERE.

The last print run I did was just over a year ago, when I had 100 copies printed of The Opposite of Dark locally. There were no issues with shortages at that time, but I wonder if this is still the case.

These challenges now force publishers, large and small, to be even more careful about releasing new books and assessing print-run size. What hasn’t been said yet, but which I sense from anecdotal information, is that publishers, and perhaps agents, are far less likely to take on new authors right now.

Of course, I know of a number of Canadian mystery authors who are releasing their latest titles this fall, but they signed their contracts a while ago and their publishers likely know how many books they can reasonably expect to sell in various formats.

A new author trying to break into the market is a huge uncertainty. Think about it. Even if publishers come across a fantastic author with a surefire blockbuster, how will they print enough copies to meet the demand? And what will they have to charge for those books to break even?

Some of you might think, well ebooks and audible books can step up, and I agree. But based on articles I’ve read (and I’m sure some of you have seen them) over the past couple of years, print still sells, especially at Christmas. It’ll be interesting to see what the stats show for 2021 and 2022.

Writers have had to endure a variety of challenges for many decades, but we keep creating and find ways to adapt under changing conditions. We might not have enough paper, ink, glue, or truck drivers, but we have plenty of ideas about how we can pivot and perhaps even help make things better.

Thanks to author Julie Ferguson, for forwarding me the IG Wealth Management and giving me the idea for this important topic.

How Do You Feel About Black Friday?

As many of you know, I do a fair number of discounted book promotion events throughout the year. It’s part of a two-year long experiment to figure out if they’re worthwhile for me, especially since I don’t use Facebook, BookBub, or Amazon ads, as of yet.

As the year draws to a close, it seems logical to step things up before 2022 begins and I turn my attention to other projects. So, starting today, and going for only five days, my second Casey Holland mystery, Deadly Accusations, is on sale for $.99 till Nov. 30. This is another BookFunnel event, however, you can order directly through Amazon, Apple, Barns & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play. For those of you who’d like to use BookFunnel (no signup is required for this event), you can find the link HERE.

The banner created by the organizer calls it a Black Friday sale, which I wasn’t expecting, but as I’ve found over recent days, many authors and publishing services are jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon. My inbox is filled with deals from ProWrite, Reedsy, BookBaby, and several others targeting authors looking for images, writing tools, and other techie apps.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the Black Friday label. While it used to be exciting, I think the varnish has worn off, and I’ve never been much of a shopper anyway.

I’m curious, do you take advantage of Black Friday sales, especially when it comes to books, writing tools, or discounted courses, etc.? Do you think Black Friday holds the same appeal as it did a decade ago, or do you think this sale is more important than ever, not only for authors, but for businesses’ survival? If you don’t take part as an author with books to sell, do you fear missing out on great opportunities? For me, that’s a small yes, as I’m only doing one thing this week. I’ve always had trouble with the think big or go home concept. 😊

Deadly Accusations can also be ordered through the links below:

Amazon booklinker: myBook.to/DeadlyAccusations

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/deadly-accusations-1

Apple books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/deadly-accusations/id1166038139

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/deadly-accusations-debra-purdy-kong/1109129841?ean=2940153520209

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=vyEvEAAAQBAJ

Horrific Weather and Writing Events Reminder

Once again, here in British Columbia we’ve been hit with devastating weather events, only instead of forest fires and extraordinary heat, it’s an atmospheric river resulting in massive flooding. I’m safe and dry where I am, as are most of my friends and colleagues in the interior. A few, however, live in danger zones, and I’m hoping they’re safe.

Sadly, there’ve been deaths from the mudslides that literally swept vehicles off the road. I can’t begin to describe the amount of property damage and lost livestock this week. The entire city of Merritt was evacuated and extensive damage has occurred in Princeton, Abbotsford, and other areas as well. As of Wednesday, our province is in a state of emergency, and travelling out of Metro Vancouver east isn’t happening right now. Gas is running low in some communities, and food shelves are emptying as the trucks can’t get through.

Like last year, although for different reasons, we’re advised not to travel, which suits me fine. I’m on a week’s holiday from babysitting, so I’ve been catching up on editing projects and other things. We’ll see what happens next week.

Meanwhile just a reminder that our Authors in Conversation talk is today, Nov. 18 at 7:00 pm PST. Our topic is strong female lead characters. You can watch it live on the 18th HERE.

Also, the BookFunnel ebook freebies is still going strong, offering free crime fiction, many of them cozies, until Dec. 13. You can find the link HERE

Meanwhile, I hope you are all safe in your respective areas. I know that communities just below the U.S. border are also struggling, and I fear there is more to come.

Fun Events Coming Up!

Last month, I was deciding what, if any, marketing I’d do for the rest of 2021. But I found myself invited to a couple of events and wound up signing up for others. This week’s focus is on two of them.

First up is a BookFunnel promotion offering free crime fiction, many of them cozies, that starts today and runs until Dec. 13. I’m offering the first book in my Casey Holland series, The Opposite of Dark, free this month. There are more than 50+ authors participating and from what I’ve glimpsed, there’s quite a different selection from other promotions I’ve taken part in. BookFunnel asks you to subscribe to their newsletter in order to get the free books but, of course, you’re not obligated to stay subscribed. If interested, check out the link HERE:

From Nov. 12 – Dec. 13

In last week’s blog, I discussed some of the work I’ve had the privilege to read during our local creative writing workshops. I’m thrilled to announce that one of those writers acquired an agent, who found a publisher for her debut novel, A Conspiracy of Mothers. This incredible story is set in the U.S. and in Cape Town, South Africa, just as apartheid is about to end. It is a story of redemption and family dysfunction at a tumultuous, politically charged time in that country. Colleen is from Cape Town and is an exquisite writer. You can find an Amazon link to her book HERE:

To my delight, she’s invited me to take part in a panel discussion on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 7:00 pm, PST. Our topic is strong female leader characters. You’ll be able to watch it live on the 18th at this LINK. I imagine it will be up for a while after that.