Where to Spend, or Not Spend, on Your Author Biz

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At this time of year, I always calculate how much money I’ll need to maintain and expand my writing business. Having grown up relatively poor, budgeting has been a way of life since childhood. The accountants in my family keep me on track, so financial accountability is part of normal life.

I record writing income and expenses on an Excel sheet pretty much once a week, but I don’t create a new spreadsheet of anticipated expenses for the upcoming year, though I probably should. When it comes to annual fees for professional memberships, websites, promotion services, etc. I simply refer to previous years to know what I’ll need.

They say you have to spend money to make money. When it comes to book production, this is quite true unless you’re traditionally published. So, it’s always a challenge to see if anticipated income will be enough to hire the editor and jacket designer I’ll need. As many of you know, production costs can add up, especially if you intend to sell print copies at various events. The question is, how likely will it be to make that money back in a relatively short timeframe, and what is a short timeframe anyway?

To boost sales income, I’ve tried half a dozen promotion (aka book deal) sites with mixed results. Last June was more profitable than the fall, although each event helped get the word out about my books. Still, I’ll be reflecting on how much to spend this coming year. I’ve also pondered Amazon, Facebook, BookBub ads, which can be highly profitable or extremely costly, depending on a number of factors. Based on what I’ve learned so far, you need to know what you’re doing.

A recent post from Writer Beware also got me thinking about money. The piece made it clear that the number of scammers is growing and they’re becoming more clever about targeting authors, both traditionally and self-published. I recommend reading their most recent blog and, as mentioned before, using their site as a resource when you’re approached by someone or a company you’re not sure about. You can find the blog HERE.

To me, financial health is as important as physical and mental health. This year, I’m excited to see if I can build my business while still spending prudently. It should be an interesting experiment.

How Can You Tell When the Year’s Nearly Over?

Before I start this week’s discussion, I now have links to the Writers in Our Midst event tonight at 7 pm. PST. The show will be live streamed on Facebook at Port Moody library’s FB page HERE. You can also access it directly from the library’s website HERE.

So, how can you tell if the year’s nearly over? It’s because the best books of 2020 lists are showing up everywhere. While I always find the lists interesting, they’re also a little discouraging as it becomes quite clear that I can and will never keep up on my reading.

I read about fifty books a year. After an active day, most of my reading is for pleasure, although lately I’ve been reading and studying a number of nonfiction writing-related books. I have read the work of several authors on the New York Times bestseller list (divided into categories), which you can find HERE. I just haven’t read their latest offerings.

It can certainly be argued that bestselling books don’t necessarily mean best written book. The Washington Post has chosen to name the top 100 books for 2020, books that stood out for them (HERE). Since I’m not a subscriber I couldn’t see all of the article, but I was able to get a look at their thriller and mystery category (HERE) up to a point. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see the fantasy list of novels at all.

When it comes down to it, I don’t feel overly guilty for not reading all the recommended books. I spend a lot of reading indie authors (I’m woefully behind on that as well) along with the big names. I also post short reviews because I like to showcase authors who deserve more attention.

I don’t know if I’ll post my own ‘best of’ list this year. I did so at the half way point this summer, but we’ll see. I’m curious to see any you will create a best of the year list. If you are, I’ll definitely be taking a look at them!

Those Devilish Details

As an indie author with wide distribution, meaning that I sell my books on other platforms besides Amazon, I’ve learned that it’s crucial to keep the information at the back of my ebooks separate between Amazon and other booksellers.

Amazon doesn’t like it if, for example, I provide universal links to other platforms at the back of an ebook that I published directly through Amazon. As Draft2Digital is my distributor for Kobo, Apple books, and Nook, among others, I therefore had to create two separate ebook files to keep things straight. Apple also will refuse to list my books if I include any Amazon links at the back of my books, by the way. While I understand that the conglomerates aren’t interested in supporting one another, it also means we have to pay extra attention to production details.

This week, I’ve been updating the backend information in each of my Casey Holland mysteries, and reducing prices in preparation for a couple of upcoming promotion events. One of the things I’ve done is add a short paragraph, inviting readers to post a review on Amazon or wherever they’d like.

On sale for $.99, starting Oct. 28th!

After submitting the fourth book revision, I received a message indicating that Apple won’t accept the updates until I remove the word Amazon from my review request. Oddly, this apparently wasn’t an issue for them with the first three books. To prevent further disruption, I created a more generic review request for the first three anyway and resubmitted them.

Both self-publishing and traditional publishing are filled with restrictions and rules, which aren’t always clear. It’s why I keep detailed notes, as there’s no way I’ll remember the details when I release another book a year or two from now. If I decide to publish directly with Apple and Kobo down the road, I’ll probably need separate versions for their books as well, and I’ve no doubt that the formatting will be different for them than it is for D2D.

If you’re fairly new to publishing, I suggest that you make notes of every step in your book’s production process, especially if you’re planning to offer your book for wide distribution. If you wish to provide links to other books in the future, remember Amazon only promotes Amazon, so you’ll need different versions. It’s extra work, but providing live links for readers is worth the effort.

Improving Marketing Strategies

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned as an author is that marketing is as much of a marathon (if not longer) as is the process of coming up with an idea for a book, then writing and rewriting until it’s finally ready for publication.

Authors with marketing backgrounds excel at implementing strategies for reaching potential readers, but for the rest of us it’s a hit-and-miss process to figure out what works best. Also, in this rapidly changing world, what worked well five years ago doesn’t work nearly as well today.

I’ve been reading recommended books on the topic of ebook marketing, and found a great resource in author David Gaughran. I just finished taking his free course (I don’t know how much longer it will be free) called Starting From Zero, which you can find HERE. I’ve also read his book Let’s Get Digital. The book is an introduction to publishing, but the latter sections on marketing were so useful that I’m currently reworking my Amazon book descriptions, finding better keywords, and changing the price for upcoming promotions.

Gaughran stresses the importance of developing a website, having a Facebook page, and getting an email list going. I’ve being doing the first two for some time, but I’ve always balked at the idea of maintaining an email list, which is a huge mistake in Gaughran’s view.

Part of my reasoning was that I didn’t want to bother people with announcements to buy my book, every time I released a new one (Gaughran also used to think this way), but the other reason is that I already make announcements on my blog and other social media outlets, so wouldn’t I be repeating myself?

I’m curious if any of you use an email list in addition to your blog. As part of my book updates, I’m adding a link to my blog on my end pages (I probably should have done this from the start) inviting people to join if they’d like to learn more about my writing life and to receive upcoming announcements.

It seems like there’s always something to tweak and improve upon, but as Gaughran also notes, the most important part of your day should still be writing. I couldn’t agree more.

Following Up On Book Promotion Sites

Last week’s blog about promotion sites generated few responses and those who did respond weren’t familiar with the sites I listed. However, I did come across something helpful while catching up on the many blogs I subscribe to.

Author and marketing guru David Gaughran posts a lot of helpful and interesting information about marketing that includes ads, Amazon algorithms, and many other things. The day after I posted my blog I came across his piece on the Best Book Promotion Sites, which you can find HERE.

Those who’ve been following my blog for a while know that I’ve already taken part in a BookBub promo back on Dec. 31. In June, I also promoted my books on Bargain Booksy and Book Adrenaline, offering the first book in my series, The Opposite of Dark, at the discounted price of $.99. Results showed a small profit, but nothing significant. Next month, I’m trying the same discount with The Fussy Librarian.

1st in Casey Holland transit mysteries

I’ve chosen not to do three or four promos at a time because I want to track the amount of sales for each event to figure out which are the most financially viable investments. With six books in my Casey Holland series, sales can trickle in for two or three months (longer for BookBub) after an event, which I also want to track.

Meanwhile, a colleague also planned a promotion event in June, offering the first book in her series for free. As with my books, hers are available at sites other than Amazon, however when she asked Amazon to price match the book for free, Amazon declined. That didn’t happen to me back in January, so I’m wondering if this has happened to any of you, or if you’ve heard of this happening to other authors? So far, I’ve had no difficulty asking Amazon to price match books I’ve discounted for $.99 this summer, but who knows what will happen in future?

Welcome Children’s Author, Eileen Holland

Today, I’m delighted to host children’s author Eileen Holland. As members of the same critique group, Eileen and I have known each other for years, and I was thrilled when her publisher launched Eileen’s first Sophie Trophy novel last year. The second in her series, Sophie Trophy Too, was released this spring. Eileen’s written a piece that I think many authors can relate to. Enjoy!

Sophie Trophy Too

Writing Sophie Trophy and Sophie Trophy Too: Cultivating Scenes While Drifting Off to Sleep                                                                                                                

As the author of Sophie Trophy and Sophie Trophy Too, I’m often asked how I came up with my story ideas.

I was teaching in Coquitlam, B.C. one day when two girls cried out, “Mrs. Holland, a spider is lowering itself into your hair!” I stepped away just in time, and the class roared with laughter.

Nights later, I was in the transitional phase between wakefulness and sleep when I realized that a funny book could be built around that spidery moment. This time, the spider could actually land in the teacher’s hair. And it could be Sophie’s friend’s Show-and-Tell spider terrorizing the teacher. Sophie could fixate on things, like saving teachers in peril—and spiders in peril, too. Sophie could struggle at school, her imagination and good intentions misunderstood. Young readers would recognize her. There are students like her in every class. Her foibles would help them realize that everyone has issues. Her big heart, humour, and honesty would help them warm to her.

Resisting the urge to succumb to sleep’s call, I flicked on the light and searched the drawer of my bedside table for paper. Unearthing a ratty NHL calendar page, I scribbled down several scenes. It’s lucky I did, or Sophie Trophy would never have been written.

There’s a reason the daily writing we do resurfaces in our thoughts as we drift off to sleep. Most of our daytime distractions take a back seat at bedtime: texts, emails, appointments, dislodged buttons, meal planning—the list is lengthy. Scene directions considered earlier in the day—the very design of sentences, paragraphs, and dialogue in order to build tension in our stories—sally forth from our subconscious as our waking moments dwindle. Barry Gordon, John Hopkins University professor of neurology and cognitive science explained what happens in Scientific American:

“The vast majority of our thinking efforts goes on subconsciously…. Only one or two of these thoughts are likely to breach into consciousness at a time…. Although thoughts appear to ‘pop’ into awareness before bedtime, their cognitive precursors have probably been simmering for a while.”

When my search for a theme for Sophie Trophy Too started, I realized falling asleep one night, that there was a way Sophie could get into mischief in every corner of the school. I envisioned a flashlight-crazed Sophie making shadow puppets … in the staffroom closet! The next morning, minutes prior to awakening, I imagined the principal, Mr. Homework, discovering Sophie’s flashlight antics … in the medical room. Both times, I groggily jotted down the scenes before they faded from memory. The storyline about a new student in Sophie’s grade three class came later. Sophie is certain they should be friends. But every time she tries to get to know her, disaster strikes in hilarious ways.

Due to my sleep-aided writing skills, I had two precious book-starter scenes anchored as I faced the morning. The day’s writing hours beckoned.

Eileen HollandEileen Holland is the author of Sophie Trophy (Crwth Press, 2019, ages 7-9, short-listed for the 2020/2021 Chocolate Lily Book Award), and Sophie Trophy Too (Crwth Press, 2020, ages 7-9).  

Sample Chapter of Sophie Trophy Too: https://www.crwth.ca/product/sophie-trophy-too-by-eileen-holland/

Amazon.ca: Sophie Trophy Too:   https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=Sophie+Trophy+Too&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Sophie-Trophy-Eileen-Holland-ebook/dp/B089G8WZHW/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Sophie+Trophy+Too&qid=1595883305&s=books&sr=1-1

Sophie TrophyAmazon.ca: Sophie Trophy:   https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=Sophie+Trophy&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

Kobo Kobo: Sophie Trophy and Sophie Trophy Too both available at: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/search?query=Sophie+Trophy

BC bookstores with copies of Sophie Trophy and Sophie Trophy Too on their shelves:

Western Sky Books (Port Coquitlam) https://www.westernskybooks.com

Kinder Books (Coquitlam) https://kinderbooks.ca;

Vancouver Kidsbooks https://www.kidsbooks.ca;

Welcome Guest Author, Jacqui Murray

Jacqui, 2020I’m delighted to host Jacqui Murray whose prehistoric fiction sounds absolutely fascinating. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Jacqui in person, but we’ve become friends thanks to WordPress and a mutual love of reading and writing. Jacqui has just released Book 3, Against All Odds, in the Crossroads trilogy, but Jacqui will tell you all about it!

The Universe That Connects My Novels

A million years of evolution made Xhosa tough but was it enough? She and her People finally reach their destination—a glorious land of tall grasses, few predators, and an abundance that seems limitless, but an enemy greater than any they have met so far threatens to end their dreams. If Xhosa can’t stop this one, she and her People must again flee.

The Crossroads trilogy is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate all those who came before.

CrossRoads chartThis book is part of the trilogy Crossroads which is itself part of a bigger Universe called Man vs. Nature. It is a collection of trilogies, each dealing with a seminal point in man’s evolution as we grew from helpless prey to dominant Alpha. The first trilogy, Dawn of Humanity, is set 1.8 million years ago and features Lucy, a Homo habilis. She and her kind were the first creatures to create tools, routinely walk upright, and solve problems they’d never before encountered. But Lucy had thin skin, no claws, and tiny teeth–pretty defenseless in a world of sabertooth cats and thick-hided mammoth. There was no reason to believe she’d survive much less thrive. In Dawn of Humanity, I show you how she took control of her world. Book 1, Born in a Treacherous Time, is already published. I’ll start Book 2 and 3 soon.

The second trilogy is Crossroads featuring Xhosa, a Homo erectus. Xhosa and her kind were tough, resilient, brilliant for their time, and the inventor of many of man’s greatest creations–fire, clothing for warmth, and sophisticated tools. This also was the first of our genus to leave Africa and spread throughout Eurasia. The trilogy title, Crossroads, comes from that concept, following groups of Homo erectus from five different parts of Eurasia (and Africa) who come together in the Levant about 850,000 years ago.

The next trilogy with the working title of Savage Land will be Cro Magnon man. He had a bigger brain than even modern man, sophisticated tools, and advanced weapons. Unlike any before him, he buried his dead, had forms of art, decorated his body, and is considered by some to be a sub-species of modern man. I can’t wait to start this trilogy. Their development and advancements promise an exciting story!

All of these trilogies together make up the Universe of Man vs. Nature. As a group, they deal with man’s evolving ability to solve problems, think critically, defeat enemies, pursue actions that are apart from instinct, and in general, facilitate our rise to dominance in the animal kingdom.

OK, I know that’s a lot. Any questions?

Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for  NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, Winter 2021.

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears! 

Available digitally (print soon) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU

Against All Odds

Excerpt: Chapter 1 

The foothills of the Pyrenees 

They came out of the mountains, hair frozen in sparkling strands, hands and feet wrapped in shredded pelts, ribs etched against their skin under ragged hides white with snow, faces haggard with fatigue. Blood crusted scrapes and gashes, many recent, others almost healed, reminders of the violent struggles endured on their journey.

Though their steps flagged, not one of these upright creatures exhibited a hint of defeat. All males and a few females carried at least one spear, some two, many with warclubs strapped to their backs. Despite the anxiety and fear of entering this foreign land, hope energized them today, that their migration might be at an end.

All of them—Xhosa and her tribe, Pan-do and his, Wind, Zvi, and Seeker—had been chased from their homes by enemies. In their flight, they found each other. It took time to work through their differences but now they traveled side by side, respected ideas not theirs, and called themselves the People.

Their charismatic Leaders—Xhosa, Wind, and Pan-do—were known as reliable friends to those who earned their trust and dangerous enemies to those who opposed them. Two wolves—Spirit and Black Wolf—journeyed with them. Though the People lacked the animals’ sharp claws, dense fur, and piercing teeth, each considered the other “pack” and would defend them to death.

The exhausted group straggled down the gently sloping flank, feet shuffling carefully over the slippery scree. The ground changed from talus to stunted tufts of grass, sparse and brown which made walking easier. Optimism shone from their faces even as their tired eyes flicked side to side in search of unexpected movement, ears strained for out-of-place noises, and noses sniffed.

 Rather than continue across the meadow, Xhosa led the People into the shade of the edging forest.

“Do you smell it, Wind?” Anticipation filled her gestures.

She and Wind, pairmates as well as Co-Leaders, stood quietly, absorbing their surroundings. Light filtered lazily through the canopy, the shadowed ground dappled with patches of warmth. She sniffed in the essence of wet earth and rotting leaves, the mustiness of moss, and something else much more enticing.

“It’s there.” She pointed and strode forward, lengthening her stride.

An icy gust whipped down the hillside through the shadows and raised bumps on her arms but she ignored it. The forest gave way to open sky and searing heat. It was too hot for her thin pelt but she didn’t stop to remove it. Green stalks swayed as far as she could see, edged on one side by more mountains and the other by some sort of leaves and branches. Sunlight glinted off the rippled surface of a distant river as it curled over the terrain.

“Dung!” The scent overpowered every other odor.

Wind huffed to her side. “It’s been a long time since we smelled dung that wasn’t frozen.”

“We did it, Wind.” Her eyes glistened with relief.

For most of a Moon, dread gnawed at her courage and left her wondering if following the guidance of Seeker—a boy barely a man—was a mistake. But Seeker assured her in his ebullient way that once out of the hills, their new homebase would welcome them. Xhosa wanted to believe him because she wasn’t sure what else to do. Nor did she know what to do if it didn’t work.

Wind motioned, arms inclusive, “It’s beautiful, Xhosa.”

Siri, Pan-do, Ngili, the wolves Spirit and Black Wolf, and the rest of the People gathered around Xhosa and Wind, eyes locked on what lay in front of them.

Pan-do whispered, “We made it.” His eyes were moist, mouth open.

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, hands close to his body. “With all this grass, Gazelle or Mammoth must be nearby.”

Dust, the Lead Scout, trotted up, coming from a tall cliff far ahead on their forward path. “I think there are caves there.”

The People hadn’t slept in a cave since leaving Viper and the Mountain Dwellers. It would be a treat if true.

Xhosa looked behind. Shadows already stretched as far from the bottom of the rocky slopes as sunlight to the top. Daylight would soon end.

“We don’t have much time. Let’s rest and then see if those are caves.”

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, fingers spaced out, palms up, “I’ll go with Dust to check.” He added a swift spread-fingered swipe with first one hand and then the other, followed by a quick bob of his head and a puff.

Xhosa brushed both hands down her sides. Go.

The People spoke with a complex combination of hand motions, facial expressions, body movements, and sounds augmented with chirrups, snaps, hisses, and whistles. By the time Ngili finished talking, Xhosa knew how many would join him, where they would go, and how long they’d be away. The People’s communication was sophisticated but quiet, a precaution especially in unfamiliar areas. Unusual sounds—voices, for example—stood out. All animals made noises but few as varied as the People’s. Why alert Others who lived here to their presence? Xhosa would do that in her own time, in her own way.

Dust, Ngili, and two scouts soon receded into the landscape, the only evidence of their passage a slight disturbance in the slender waving stalks. Despite the dung scents, the abundant plant food, and the glisten of a faraway river, Xhosa crossed her arms over her chest and paced.

Something is wrong.

She searched the forests and the rippling field that had swallowed up Dust and Ngili . Xhosa possessed the ability to see great distances in sufficient detail to find trails, footprints, movement, or the glitter of sun off eyes.

She saw none of those and that made her more uncomfortable.

With this wealth of food and water, Others should be here.

Wind motioned, palms flattened against his chest, “The mountains we crossed touched Sun. They’re cold and barren. Few can do what we did to get here, Xhosa. We are safe.”

Xhosa could hear in his voice, see in his gestures, that despite his bravado, Wind too felt uneasy about what they didn’t see and hear.

But she grinned. “I don’t know how I survived without someone being able to read my thoughts.”

She trotted over to a stream that fed into the river she had noticed. She stretched out on her belly, flat on the soft grass at the water’s edge, and took a long, satisfying drink of the sweet liquid. Thirst quenched, she collected handfuls of the tender shoots of new plants growing along the shore, ate what she wanted and tossed the rest into a communal food pile that would be shared with all the People. It was already filling up with fat fish speared from the slow-moving pools beside the river, tasty reeds and cattails, and even a handful of eggs plucked from nests not hidden well enough along the shore and in the roots of trees. The wolves snapped birds from the air and swallowed them almost whole, coughing up feathers.

Xhosa leaned back on her hands, sniffing the unique fragrance of each group member. Zvi was sweaty from wrestling with Spirit. Siri smelled sourly of hunger but she wouldn’t eat until Honey’s bleeding foot was wrapped in mulch and leaves. The females with new babies exuded the pleasant aroma of milk. Some scents jumbled together making them impossible to identify. When Xhosa became Leader of the People, before it merged with Pan-do’s and Hawk’s, the People had been small enough that she could recognize everyone by their odor. Now, she kept track of her tribe while Pan-do did the same with his. Wind helped everyone.

Done eating, the People sprawled on the warm ground, soaking up Sun’s remaining rays, chatting contentedly with gestures and the occasional sigh. Water dripped from their thawing bodies, soaking into the thirsty ground, as the remaining ice and snow on their pelts and in their hair melted away.

Xhosa and Wind sat apart from the others, on a log long ago softened by rot. She uprooted handfuls of grass and wiped the sweat from Wind’s body, as he did hers. The soft scratch felt good and the earthy fragrance reminded her of times long gone. When he finished, she harvested chunks of green moss from the log’s decaying bark and stuffed them into her neck sack. All the People wore one of these around their necks. Even the wolves did when they were migrating.

Finished, she leaned against Wind and closed her eyes. In a group of Others, her pairmate stood out. A Big Head, the People’s traditional enemy, the ones who drove Xhosa and her tribe from their long-established home, Wind had earned Xhosa’s trust by saving her life more than once and then, as a member of her People, sharing Big Head spear tricks and warrior skills with her Leads. Before long, each of them individually told her that thanks to Wind they could now defeat an attack which they couldn’t have done in the past. Whatever distrust her People harbored toward him faded away.

“Xhosa!” Dust panted up to her. “I found a cave. And we found trace of a herd. Ngili is tracking it.”

 

By the time Sun settled into its night nest, the People were ensconced in the cave Dust found. They had to squeeze together to fit but all were thrilled to sleep without waking to frozen toes and numb fingers. Stone and Zvi—the burliest of the People—lugged rocks in and Siri built a fire that quickly warmed the interior. The subadults gathered kindling to feed it and arranged who would be responsible throughout the night for keeping it lit.

Usually, the wolves slept scattered among the People but with Black Wolf close to delivering her pups, she dug out an opening in the back and claimed it as her den. Then she settled to her belly, one leg forward, the other bent back, eyebrows twitching.

Xhosa strode toward the nest she would share with Wind but stopped at the sight of Seeker, weight on his bottom, legs crossed in front of his body in the uncomfortable position he preferred. His pairmate Lyta curled next to him with their best friend, Zvi.

Xhosa approached Seeker. “You are not outside.”

Every night as long as Xhosa could remember, the enigmatic male lay on his back, gaze fixed steadily on the star-dotted sky, spouting what to Xhosa sounded like gibberish to whoever listened. Intermittently, he leapt to his feet and spun dizzying circles or bounced from one foot to the other, huffing and chirping. Lyta and Zvi would either join him or watch. He once explained to Xhosa that this was how he studied the changes in the night sky—the appearance and disappearance of particular stars or their movement in relation to each other—so he could guide the People accurately. This nightly process was how they had moved from the distant start of Endless Pond to this cave where Endless Pond seemed to end.

He didn’t respond to her statement, didn’t even acknowledge her. That worried Xhosa. She hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that danger lurked around them, somewhere. Seeker’s anxious look didn’t help.

She squatted at his side and added a question to her declaration. “The stars aren’t talking to you?”

To the side, Lyta wriggled, not comfortable in the seated position Seeker preferred but determined to try because Seeker liked it so much. Zvi crouched on the balls of her feet, the more traditional pose. She’d tried to sit on her bottom, legs crossed in front, but kept falling backward. Besides, it took her too long to rise from that position which meant if Lyta needed help, she couldn’t respond quickly. Squatting, for her, made more sense. Seeker didn’t care. He expected all to do what worked for them. Both his best friend and his future pairmate were long accustomed to his eccentricities.

Finally, Seeker offered Xhosa only a confused frown.

That’s not a “Yes they are,” and that raised the hair on her neck. Before she could ask more, Ngili scrambled through the thistle barrier the youngsters had placed around the cave’s mouth to prevent the entrance of intruders and hurried toward Xhosa.

He motioned, “I lost the herd’s trace in the dark. I’ll try again tomorrow,” and then raced toward where the hunters had gathered. They were all tired. Some would mate before sleeping but not Ngili. He hadn’t given up hope that his pairmate, Hecate, would come back.

After a final glance at Seeker, Xhosa joined Wind in their nest. She squatted behind him and teased the dirt and debris from his long head hair, occasionally focusing on a difficult tangle until her fingers could move easily through his hair. When she finished, he did the same for her.

As he groomed, he said, “I’ll join Ngili tomorrow. If there are herds, we will find them.”

“Pan-do and I will continue with the People.”

They said nothing more, both enjoying the calming feel of nails scratching on their skin and the intimacy of someone they trusted implicitly. Done, both fell asleep.

 

The first rays of daylight filtered into the cave. Black Wolf was already outside, padding back and forth restlessly, huffing uncomfortably. Wind left with Ngili and a handful of scouts, knowing Xhosa would leave a trail to wherever they settled when Sun’s light ran out. Though Spirit usually went with the hunters, today he stayed with Black Wolf.

Xhosa and Pan-do led. Dust copied their pace and direction but a distance away. With Ngili and Wind searching for meat, Xhosa focused on finding a cave large enough for the People. They strode onward, gaze sweeping the landscape, everyone grazing on berries, roots, and worms as they walked. Sporadically, Xhosa heard a faraway squawk or glimpsed a covey of birds as they exploded into flight, fleeing an unknown threat. It was the direction Ngili and Wind had gone, and told her how far they’d gotten.

The People rested by a waterhole. They searched its shoreline for prints but found none. Wherever the herds lived, they didn’t drink here so the People moved on, through copses of young saplings and around a bed of haphazardly-strewn boulders. The air tasted of flowers, warm earth, and the mild tang of salt, but the dung they found was hard and old.

Xhosa touched Pan-do’s hand and both stopped, eyes forward. “Do you smell that? It reminds me of Endless Pond.”

He pointed to his strong side and the direction they were walking. “From there and there. How can it be on two sides?”

Xhosa tingled. One of her People—Rainbow—had abandoned them long ago, taking many males and females with him. Others she and her People ran into while migrating here told her Rainbow traveled the same route she did but along the opposite shore of Endless Pond. For him, as for her, this was as far as he could go without folding back on himself.

If they got this far. If any survived.

She pushed aside those thoughts. Before searching for whatever remnants remained of Rainbow’s group, the People must find a homebase. All they suffered to get here—the interminable walking, the loss of Hawk, the death of groupmembers, Nightshade’s treachery—was for naught if they didn’t establish a home.

Spirit bumped her leg. Black Wolf panted at her mate’s side, her belly almost touching the ground.

Xhosa motioned, “Your mate’s pups won’t wait much longer. We will find a den for her.”

Spirit took off, his movements graceful and fluid with Black Wolf lumbering after him.

Not much later, Pan-do squinted ahead. “I think Spirit found a cave.”

Xhosa leaned forward, narrowing her gaze, and finally saw where Spirit stopped. He sat on his haunches at the base of a cliff, facing her, nose twitching, tail swishing the dirt behind him.

It took the rest of the day to cross over the craggy scrubland, up and down the deep ravines, and around the occasional spot of slippery ice. The cave proved too small for the People but not for Black Wolf’s needs. With much scuffling and panting, she created a nest for her pups and disappeared into the cool dark hole. The People settled outside, under an overhang that would protect them from rain and predators, and far enough away to not bother the new mother. As soon as Ngili and Wind arrived, shaking their heads that they hadn’t found a herd, they left again to search for signs of a trail left by former inhabitants of this cave.

Xhosa’s chest squeezed and her stomach knotted. Spirit padded up to her side, hackles puffed, nostrils flaring. He agreed. Something about this area made her tingle but for now, until Black Wolf finished, they must stay.

Jacqui's Header

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears! 

Available digitally (print soon) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU

Social Media contacts:

 Amazon Author Page:        https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                       https://worddreams.wordpress.com

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

LinkedIn:                                http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                                http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                                   http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                                 https://jacquimur ray.net

 

The Indie Showcase presents, Debra Purdy Kong

self-publishing[1]I’m pleased to appear on Richard Dee’s blog today, where I discuss marketing and promoting in a COVID-19 world.

 

via The Indie Showcase presents, Debra Purdy Kong

$.99 sale for The Opposite of Dark

My newly retired life is already busy, and I’m pretty sure that those of you who’ve been retired a while are either nodding or laughing, because you saw this one coming a mile off. The busy-ness is largely of my own making, though. I did plan to step up my writing and promotion activities between retirement and the birth of my granddaughter in about seven weeks. For the moment, I’m happy to spend more time writing and promoting, although that desire might fade for a while once I’m holding that baby in my arms.

OppositeOfDark_cover_1_frontAs part of this month’s promotion, the price of my Casey Holland mystery #1, The Opposite of Dark will drop from $4.99 for $.99 from June 11 – 25th! Note that Amazon is slow to respond to making the change on some of their sites, like .ca, however the .com and .uk sites reflect the change.

Since most mystery readers prefer to start at the beginning of a series, this is an opportunity to find out how it all began. The book was first published by TouchWood Editions in 2011, but I now have full rights and control of all of my books, which feels pretty good!

Brief description:

When the cops tell Casey that her father was murdered the previous night, Casey doesn’t believe them. After all, she buried her dad three years earlier…or did she?

Ordering links:

Amazon universal link: myBook.to/TheOppositeofDark

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/the-opposite-of-dark-2

Apple itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1151714413

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

Canada Council Survey and My BookBub Stats

Last week, Canada Council for the Arts released survey results regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the artistic community. The artistic community includes organizations, groups, and individuals working in arts and culture, so it encompasses a broad spectrum of people.

The report (HERE) is quite detailed but in a nutshell, more than half of the participants (just over 32% responded) felt that the Canadian government’s emergency response fund was helpful. Over half were not applying for assistance, though, for a variety of reasons. Some didn’t think they were eligible while others had income from other sources which they believed disqualified them. Needless to say, artists have been hit hard, but then artists have always had tough challenges.

But writers are adaptable creatures. I’ve already seen authors employing Zoom, podcasts, and Instagram in discussions, readings, and book launches which is very cool. I took part in a discussion hosted by Port Moody Arts on May 14th. Despite a couple of technical glitches with my audio at the beginning, I think it went well. The Facebook link to the recording is HERE.

OppositeOfDark_cover_1_frontSpeaking of online promotion, I finally completed the stats from my one-day BookBub ‘Featured Author’ event back on Dec.31st. I offered my first Casey Holland mystery for free that day on Amazon, Kobo, and Apple ibooks. The stats encompass Jan. 30-Apr. 30, and I’m pretty pleased with the outcome. Note that The Opposite of Dark remained free for 3 or 4 days after the event, although next time I would keep it free for a little longer.

There were over 96,000 downloads of the book and in January I sold 475 ebooks of the other four in the series. (The Blade Man hadn’t been released at that time). Usually, I sell maybe half a dozen ebooks in January if I’m lucky. As anticipated, sales tapered off in the following three months, but I have absolutely no complaints because the point of this was to increase my visibility and I succeeded.

The Opposite of Dark was #1 in Kindle sales by the end of Dec. 31st, and still at #10 on Jan. 2nd. Over 70 people recommended by book on BookBub’s site and I went from 7 reviews to over 150. I can’t imagine how long it would take me to find that many reviewers without this promotion. My net profit was nearly $900, so yes, I think the event was a success and I’m going to apply again next December. I don’t know if it’ll be any easier to get in the second time around, but the contact person there advised me to offer the same title only once a year. It took months to be accepted last time, so who knows what will happen?

I certainly can’t promise that everyone will have the same results. There are uncontrollable factors in any promotional event. We are in a different time now, where money is understandably tight for many people. Mystery/suspense novels are popular, so whether BookBub events work as well for literary novels, niche nonfiction, or children’s books is another matter. I do recommend that you have at least four books before approaching BookBub because the money is made on selling your other books. So, remember to put links into your ebooks, so readers can easily find them. As you can imagine, my challenge these days is selling print books. Here in British Columbia businesses are slowly opening up, but it looks like the book events I’d planned for the summer have been cancelled. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the fall.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK:

Amazon: myBook.to/TheOppositeofDark

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

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