Three Dominant Writing Challenges

Before I get into today’s post, I wanted to let you know that I’ve been on a sales promotion blitz for my Casey Holland mystery series. Until August 28th, all six books can be purchased for under $10 (US) The first one, The Opposite of Dark, is free and the next two are $.99 each. You can see all of the books and sale prices on one page at https://tinyurl.com/myhvfzjp These sale prices are also available on other platforms.

Now, all writers who hope to make a living from their work, or to at least supplement their income, face many challenges. For me, those challenges often boil down to three primary things: time, energy, and skill.

Those who need a day job to pay their bills, are raising kids, or caring for aging parents, are all-too familiar with the time challenge. Over the years, I’ve developed strategies, mainly by preparing for the project(s) I intend to work on that week, and minimizing internet and TV time. I’ve also carved out time by giving up exercise or housework. Not a huge sacrifice really, but there’s a price to be paid regarding exercise, which leads me to my second point. Energy.

Even those of you who’ve carved extra time for writing might discover a lack of energy for a variety of reasons. COVID hasn’t helped, especially with mental health issues, but there are other physical health challenges that I’m finding as I age. For instance, I need to nap more often because my brain becomes foggy after 2:30 p.m. Second, I’m dealing with neck and shoulder pain these days, which has flared up off and on for twenty years. Other writers are enduring health issues that drain them of creative energy or even the inclination to sit in front of the keyboard and start working. Grief, stress, loss of income and/or home, and other uncertainties all contribute, as I’m sure many of you know.

Last but not least, is skill. For newer writers, the question often is, can I do this? Will I ever be good enough to write one publishable story? Is there a better use of my time? For more experienced writers, it’s the inability to find an agent or publisher for their finished novel(s) that results in the same questions. For those who’ve been published, self doubt creeps in with lousy reviews, poor sales, or the sinking feeling that you’re not good enough to keep doing this.

I’ve dealt with all of these issues, and more, over the past four decades, and here are two things that have kept me going. First, I still love writing, editing, publishing, selling, and even some of the marketing stuff.

Second, I don’t constantly berate myself over mistakes and disappointments. At the end of every week, I conclude that I did the best I could with whatever time, energy, and skill I have. I’ve used this mantra for years and it’s helped me come to terms with things. If you think it’ll help you on your creative journey, feel free to use it. You deserve to acknowledge your challenges, and you deserve to give yourself a break. The mountain you’re climbing will always be there, you don’t need to break your back, or your spirit, over it.

The Blade Man Excerpt

This is one of those weird weeks that’s been inundated with appointments, the kind of situations where one appointment suddenly becomes three because more work or information is needed. Time constraints have kept me from coming up with a new topic this week, so I’m sharing a short excerpt of my latest Casey Holland mystery, The Blade Man, which was released in February 2020.

I was thinking about the book last week, because June 15th was the tenth anniversary of an infamous day in Vancouver history, the Stanley Cup riot. For those not of you not familiar with hockey, the Vancouver Canucks were hosting the Boston Bruins in game seven of the Stanley Cup final in 2011. There’d been an electrifying and intense winner-take-all buildup to the game, and, well, the Canucks lost.

Some of the fans didn’t take it well and begin throwing tantrums in the streets. Drunkenness, anger, and disappointment escalated into a violent mob who took to burning cars and looting buildings. People were hurt. It was not our city’s finest moment, but the following day all sorts of people arrived and began cleaning up the glass and debris. No one asked them to. They just did it.

That riot inspired the opening for The Blade Man, but my story takes place in Coquitlam, BC, a municipality east of Vancouver. Here’s an excerpt from the opening of the book:

“Wesley, look out!” Casey Holland ducked behind the bus driver’s seat and glanced over her shoulder. “Everyone down, now!

Casey didn’t know why Wesley bothered with the yelling or the horn. Minutes ago, a mob of teens and young adults had overtaken the road, ignoring his earlier blasts. Why would they listen now?

The Molotov cocktail exploded on the road, rocking the bus slightly. Somewhere outside, a woman screamed. Casey peeked out the window to see a woman running from the flames flaring up just a few feet from the bus. If they had to evacuate, she’d make damn sure that the half dozen passengers who’d decided to stay on board got out of here safely. A decade of security work had taught her to stay calm in tense situations. She’d be deceiving herself if she wasn’t worried, though. A drunken mob was a new experience she’d rather live without.

“That was too damn close!” A middle-aged passenger glared at Casey. “I thought you called the cops.”

“I did.”

“Then where the hell are they? The RCMP detachment’s just two blocks from here.”

“Manpower shortage, most likely. From what I hear there’s trouble at the rally in the park.”

“Then they should have called for reinforcements by now,” the woman grumbled as she opened a window. “It’s too hot in here. Don’t you have air conditioning on this bus?”

Casey admitted it was unusually warm for mid-May. “Sorry, no. This is an older model.”

“Stupid company,” the woman muttered. “This is the last time I’ll ride an MPT bus.”

Casey hoped so. She stood and used her phone to record the broken glass and burning rag on the road. She zeroed in on the five culprits in ball caps, hoodies, and bandana-covered faces who were laughing and high-fiving one another. The stench of gasoline and smoke made her cough. She’d closed all the windows when the trouble started, but she wasn’t going to make anyone close them again in this heat, at least not right away.

. . .

If you’re interested in reading more, you can find the book at these sites:

Amazon universal link: mybook.to/TheBladeMan

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-blade-man

Apple books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1495092401

Barnes & Noble : https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-blade-man-debra-purdy-kong/1136038076;jsessionid=586EF327BB32223BF6FBE875896E9649.prodny_store01-atgap14?ean=2940163854387

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

New Giveaways and Crime-Writing Award Winners

This month, I’m taking part in another giveaway of mystery and suspense ebooks. For anyone looking to load up on summer reads, this is an opportunity to sample the work of authors you might be unfamiliar with. Please check it out HERE:

Speaking of crime fiction, on May 27th Crime Writers of Canada announced winners of the Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing awards (formerly known as the Arthur Ellis Awards). I’ve been part of this organization for over twenty years and it’s a great one for crime writers. Their link is HERE:

Now for the winners!

Best Crime Novel: The Finder, by Will Ferguson (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Best Crime First Novel: The Transaction, by Guglielmo D’Izza (Guernica Editions)

The Howard Engel Award for Best Crime Novel Set in Canada: Stay Where I Can See You, by Katrina Onstad (HarperCollins)

Best Crime Novella: Never Going Back, by Sam Wiebe (Orca)

Best Crime Short Story: “Cold Wave,” by Marcelle Dubé (from Crime Wave: A Canada West Anthology, edited by Karen L. Abrahamson; Sisters in Crime- Canada West Chapter)

Best French Crime Book (fiction and non-fiction): La mariée de corail, by Roxanne Bouchard (Libre Expression)

Best Juvenile or YA Crime Book (fiction and non-fiction): Red Fox Road, by Frances Greenslade (Puffin Canada)

The Brass Knuckles Award for Best Non-fiction Crime Book:Missing from the Village: The Story of Serial Killer Bruce McArthur, the Search for Justice, and the System That Failed Toronto’s Queer Community, by Justin Ling (McClelland & Stewart)

The Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript: The Future, by Raymond Bazowski

Congratulations to all the winners!!

Darlene Foster’s New Release! Amanda in Malta

It’s a great pleasure to welcome back fellow Canadian author, Darlene Foster, who’s just released her 8th installment in the Amanda Travel Series, Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady. I had the privilege of meeting Darlene in person at a book signing before COVID. We’re hoping to meet again as travel restrictions lift so I can buy a signed copy! For those of you who aren’t familiar with this amazing series, here’s a quick Q & A:

Can you tell us more about Amanda?

Amanda is a twelve-year-old girl from Calgary, Alberta. She is the only child of Evelyn and Don Ross, both accountants. She loves to read, is interested in history and enjoys cooking. Her parents work long hours so she likes trying different recipes for them, especially ones from places she has visited. She is inquisitive and kind and always wants to help people. This gets her in trouble sometimes. She loves animals but has no pets of her own. Once she travelled to visit her Aunt and Uncle in the United Arab Emirates, she was hooked on travel. She never passes up a chance to travel to someplace new. 

Amanda and Leah seem to be very good friends. How did they meet?

Amanda first met Leah when she visited the United Arab Emirates in Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask. Leah lived in the same apartment block as Amanda’s aunt and uncle. The girls got along right from the start even though they are quite different. Leah is English and well-travelled as her father’s job takes them to many countries. After the adventure in the UAE, Leah and her parents invite Amanda to spend a week with them in Spain at their timeshare. She also visits Leah in England and Leah visits Amanda in Alberta. Whenever they get together, they tend to have an adventure or a mystery to solve. Like all friends, they don’t always agree with each other, but they always have each other’s back. 

The Blurb:

 Amanda receives a postcard from her best friend, Leah, and is surprised to learn that she is in Malta with her aunt. Reading between the lines, she senses Leah is in trouble. Desperate to help her, Amanda travels to Malta with her classmate Caleb and his parents.

Amanda is intrigued by this exotic island in the middle of the Mediterranean, full of colourful history, sun-drenched limestone fortresses, stunning beaches and fascinating birds. But…who is killing the protected birds? Who stole a priceless artifact from the museum? And why is Leah acting so strange? She couldn’t possibly be involved in these illegal activities, or could she?

Join Amanda and her friends as they visit ancient temples, an exciting falconry and the enchanting Popeye Village, as they try to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Sleeping Lady.

Be sure to read all the books in this exciting Amanda Travels series!

1. Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask
2. Amanda in Spain: The Girl in the Painting
3. Amanda in England: The Missing Novel
4. Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone
5. Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music
6. Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind
7. Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action
8. Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady

Excerpt from Amanda in Malta:

 Max gingerly stepped out from behind the shrub. 

“Miss Leah is in trouble. Her aunt is being crazy. The mean men want them to steal something and Miss Leah says no.” He gave his head a shake. “It would be very bad to steal from the museum.” 

Amanda gulped. “What do they want them to steal?” 

“The Sleeping Lady. She is very old and was found in the underground temple called the Hypogeum. She is now in the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. They want them to steal her and then they can ask for much money to give it back.” 

“You mean they want to kidnap a lady?” Caleb scratched his head. 

“Well—not a real lady. She is a small figure from a long time ago.” 

Amanda took her feet out of the water and started walking around in circles. “Let me get this straight. Some people want Leah and her aunt to steal a precious artifact from the museum, so they can hold it for ransom. Is that right?” She stopped in front of Max and poked his chest. “Who are these people anyway, and why do they think Leah and her aunt would be willing to do something like this?” 

“I-I am just the messenger, Miss Amanda. You need to come and get Miss Leah out of the house. It is dangerous there. Those men have guns.” 

“G-guns?” Amanda paled. 

“Yes. They use them for hunting.” 

“Sounds like we need to get Leah out of there—and fast.”  

The buy links

Amazon Canada here

Amazon UK here 

Amazon US here

Barnes and Noble here

Chapters/Indigo here

Darlene’s Bio:

Darlene Foster grew up on a ranch in Alberta, Canada, where her love of reading inspired her to see the world and write stories about a young girl who travels to interesting places. Over the years she worked in rewarding jobs such as an employment counsellor, ESL teacher, recruiter, and retail manager, writing whenever she had a few spare minutes. She is now retired and has a house in Spain where she writes full time. When not travelling, meeting interesting people, and collecting ideas for her books, she enjoys spending time with her husband and entertaining rescue dogs, Dot and Lia.

Darlene at Popey Village, Malta

Social media links

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DarleneFosterWriter

Twitter https://twitter.com/supermegawoman

Blog https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/

Instagram  https://www.instagram.com/darlene6490/

Down the Rabbit Hole of Discoverability

Pexels photo by Darlene Alderson

Discoverability is one of the indie author’s biggest challenges and it’s often an uphill climb. Big bookstore chains and stores like Costco don’t often feature indies. The good news is that there are always other opportunities to sell your books. The other day, for example, I found a list of recommended free promotion sites, and thought why not list at least one of my books? And that’s where the trip down the rabbit hole began.

One of the first sites I clicked onto, invited me to list my Amazon Author Central page, which I bookmarked quite some time ago. That’s when I discovered that all of my books except The Opposite of Dark had disappeared from that page. Also listed, was an old blog site I hadn’t used in years. My Author Central page wanted an up-to-date RSS feed to link my blog, which I didn’t have, so I went to WordPress and figured out how to do that. Next, I discovered that I actually had two Author Central pages, so I contacted Amazon to figure out how to fix this. The solution was simple, as Amazon merged the two pages for me.

It was a lot of clicking and searching to prepare for just one listing. On the upside, though, my Author Central pages is up to date. Note to self: check in on these sites more often. How many of you list your books on sites then eventually forget about them? I’ve now started a list of all the sites where I’m listed, which I probably should have done ages ago.

I also listed my Casey Holland series on Google play this week, which took a bit of time, although once I got into the rhythm after a couple of books, entering the metadata, blurb, bio, etc. went much quicker. I have no idea if Google Play will result in any sales, but every time I sign up with a book promotion site the option to add Google Play’s link is available. Apparently, they apparently have over a million subscribers, so who knows?

Needless to say, this week I spent more time on marketing than writing, which is not the balance I want. In June, the emphasis needs to be on writing and editing or I’ll never get anything finished.

One Promotion Done, Another Underway

Happy April, everyone! I’ve never been a fan of April Fools Day, so no pranks will be found here.

Today launches the start of a brand new promotion I’m taking part in. In a bid to find more newsletter subscribers, I’ve joined a group of 50 other authors, and all are offering free mystery/suspense ebooks if readers sign up to their newsletter. The promo lasts until May 9th , which provides ample time to find great new reads. I have no idea how this event will go, but if I don’t try I won’t have my answer either. The link to all of the offered ebooks is HERE If the link doesn’t work, please let me know!!

Last week’s series promotion on Freebooksy went well, I think. Of course, when you’re trying something new there’s nothing to compare it to. But I sold a couple of hundred ebooks and wound up ranking #52 in the free Kindle books category and #5 in the women sleuths category. This is a rarity for me. I had just over 2,000 downloads on my featured day, but Amazon and other outlets are keeping The Opposite of Dark free until April 5th, and sales are still trickling in. Perhaps the most important part of this exercise is that I improved my discoverability, which is wonderful.

A year ago, I gave no thought to promoting an entire series, or a newsletter, for that matter. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and taking some risks. One of the best parts is that I’m learning a lot and by sharing my experiences, I’m hoping it’ll help with your strategizing too.

Series Promo Event is Up and Running!

Marketing guru David Gaughran has long advised authors to offer their first book for free when promoting a series. Given the tough financial circumstances many readers face these days, it sounds like a good idea to me, so I signed up to be featured on a book promo site called FreeBooksy on Saturday, March 27th.

Because things can always go wrong with changing prices, especially since I need to rely on Amazon’s cooperation to make the book free, the changes have already been made and are now in effect until April 5th. I contacted Amazon on Monday and requested a price match. This is the only option that authors with wide distribution have to make their books free for a short time period. The tricky part is that Amazon can always say no. I had to provide links to their competitors’ sites, showing that the book is indeed free elsewhere. Luckily, I corresponded with a really helpful person, who made the book free the same day.

So, I’m giving away Book #1, The Opposite of Dark. Book. #2, Deadly Accusations is now at $.99.. #3 Beneath the Bleak New Moon is $1.99, #4, The Deep End, is $2.99 as is #5, Knock Knock. My latest, The Blade Man is $3.99.

One of the cooler things Amazon does is to provide a link to the entire series so readers can purchase all six books with just one click. Right now, the entire set can be purchased on amazon.com for $10.35 US! You can find the link HERE.

The books are also available at:

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-opposite-of-dark-2

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1151714413

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/opposite-of-dark-debra-purdy-kong/1101958680?ean=2940153393650

The cost of this Freebooksy campaign is $170.00 US, however, with the Canadian exchange I have to pay over $200, so we’ll see what happens. As Gaughran says, a large part of marketing is all about experimenting, trying new things to see what works and what doesn’t. I still need to put more focus on ads, but I’m not quite ready until I have a clearer understanding of how they work. Wish me luck!

Making the Most of Freebies in 2021

Free ebooks and workshops have been fairly common for some time, but over recent months the popularity of free anything appears to have exploded.

I used to resist offering one of my books for free, mainly because my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark was traditionally published a decade ago, at a time when advanced review copies were the only freebies my publisher offered and self-publishing was just starting to ramp up. Things have changed a great deal, including my mindset, and I now offer the book free for anyone who signs up to my newsletter.

I also offered the book free during a BookBub promo event in late 2019, which garnered enough sales of the other books to make this event profitable. Based on a recent blog post from author and marketing guru David Gaughran, 2021 is the year for free, and he recommends offering at least one of your books for free more than ever before. You can read more HERE.

I was recently told that there are now over 2 million books published worldwide, and over one million in the U.S. alone, each year. A staggering number when you think about it. With the collapse of in-person book selling opportunities in 2020, more authors turned to online selling through book promo sites, for example. To compete with all the others, many of them have offered at least one book, if not a whole boxset, for free.

I’ve taken part in a number of cool free workshops lately, one on marketing and others related to fantasy writing. The information’s good and the presenters knowledgeable, but there’s a lot of upsell with links to purchasing software, courses, and other things, which seems fair enough, as long as they’re not bombarding me everyday. But it really does feel like free is king these days, which is okay is you have a series, but not so much if you only have one published title.

Self-isolation and uncertainty is tough for many of us, but I’ve found that taking workshops is a good use of time. Once things go back to normal (whatever that might look like) I doubt I’ll be inclined to spend as much time at home in front of the computer. Who knows, maybe all the free courses will disappear too. It’ll be interesting to see what bookselling looks like a year from now, and if David will still recommend free for 2022.

I Read Canadian Day

Today in Canada, we’re celebrating a day of reading Canadian books for young people. I’ve already seen terrific Facebook posts by Canadian children’s authors, Darlene Foster and Eileen Holland to promote exactly that. As stated on the I Read Canadian website, its purpose is to “raise awareness of Canadian books and celebrate the richness, diversity, and breadth of Canadian literature. You can read more about it HERE.

When my kids were in school, reading was a high priority in elementary and middle schools, but it dwindled somewhat in their high school years. When I was in school, oh so long ago, the majority of our required reading was by American or British authors. It’s great to see that more Canadian schools and libraries are reaching out to local authors.

Some of the books I love are Darlene’s, who many of you know through her WordPress blog. I also want to give a shoutout to children’s author Eileen Holland, whose two children’s books found a home with a Canadian publisher a couple of years ago. If you have school age children in your lives and you’re looking for good reads, please check them out.

Darlene can be found HERE and Eileen can be found HERE

There are many other great children’s authors, but a google search will help you find many more. And if you know of any, feel free to share their links with others.

As it happens, I’m also reading a Canadian mystery author this week, named Winona Kent. Although Lost Time is written for adults, it’s still Canadian and Winona is another terrific author who deserves attention. Canadian books and Canadian authors have been working hard to raise their profile over the years. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that the number of Canadian publishers has risen all that much recently. Our country is a small market, so we have to work hard to gain a little attention. But we’re a tenacious lot with plenty to say. It’s always a thrill to find new exciting authors, not only here in Canada, but everywhere. 😊

Winding Up 2020

Pexel photo by Karolina Grabowska

If you’re not an accountant and would much rather write or clean out your closets than tackle recordkeeping for your writing biz, I understand. Having been raised by a bookkeeper whose father was an accountant, and with three CPAs in my immediate family, numbers are definitely a thing in our household, though. Oddly, I’m the one who balances the checkbook in our house, but I don’t mind.

I keep records for my writing business without using any particular program, although I will if the business grows. Right now, income and expenses are few enough to simply record on an Excel spreadsheet. My family takes care of the tax filing and calculating the deductions I’m allowed from working out of my home office. My part is to simply enter expenses and income as they appear.

It isn’t always that straightforward, given that bookstores and some of Draft2Digital’s vendors have a lag time between making a sale and reporting it to the author, as do publishers. In the old days, I used to wrap my bookkeeping up on December 31st, but it now occurs the last week of January.

Crunching the numbers is the best way to take stock and compare net profit with the previous year’s income, and to make budgetary decisions for the year ahead. I wasn’t expecting much for 2020 because my usual craft fair events were cancelled. The book promotion sites, especially BookBub boosted ebook sales to the point where I sold more books than last year than ever before, although 90% of them were ebooks and therefore a fraction of the price of my print books. Still, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that my net profit for 2020 was up a little bit compared to 2019. The reason is that my expenses were cut in half because I didn’t have to spend big bucks on craft fair fees and the insurance coverage that some fair organizers require.

Hopefully, the craft fairs will be back this year. I’ve already received one application from a fair planning to return in November. I can’t wait to see how this year unfolds. How about you? Was your 2020 better, worse, or the same as the previous year? Do you plan to try something new to sell books this year?