Welcoming Guest Mystery Author, Winona Kent

I’m delighted to host colleague and fellow BC mystery author, Winona Kent, this week. She’s just released her 4th Jason Davey mystery, Ticket to Ride, which I’ve finished reading and really enjoyed. If you like entertaining whodunits set in England and are a music fan, then this book is a must read. Winona’s post discusses an interesting and relatable aspect about herself and one of the characters in her book so, take it away Winona!

After a gap of about eight years, I’ve made a concerted effort to embrace social networking. I’ve just released a new novel, and this time I’m determined to work flat out at promoting it online. If nothing else, it’s causing my creative brain to go into overtime. I haven’t been this busy in decades.

I’ve written all kinds of posts (I know I’ve driven my friends crazy on Facebook). I have a mix of out-and-out promo’s for Ticket to Ride, along with personal things like photos from my recent trip to England, and random, off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts. What’s been an eye-opener to me is the popularity of one of posts on my personal Facebook page…a celebration that I’d lost 45 pounds over the past couple of years, got my Type 2 diabetes stabilized, and managed to get myself off insulin in the process.

At last count, that post had 111 reactions and 124 comments. I think that must be some kind of record for me.

I guess the weight loss thing resonates with a lot of my friends. We’re all getting older (I’m 67), and we’re all going to come to terms with health issues, sooner or later. Obesity has recently been officially recognized by medical communities as a chronic disease, rather than a behavioural issue, and that’s opened up all kinds of avenues for therapies that are more successful than the usual “eat less and exercise more” advice that our GP’s have issued in the past.

One of the other things that has resonated with my friends is the upsurge in Type 2 diabetes. I was diagnosed in 2009, but I wasn’t at all frightened. My husband had been diagnosed ten years earlier, so I knew it could be treated and managed with meds, lifestyle and diet changes.

What I didn’t know – until it was pointed out to me by the physicians at the medically-supervised weight loss clinic I attended – was that insulin actually promotes weight gain. It’s a sad irony. I was told that if I could lose weight, I could take the strain off my pancreas, and it might start to work more efficiently again. Yet, the one therapy that helps regulate our blood sugar the most, and which is prescribed routinely as standard treatment, is insulin. Go figure.

Anyway, long story short, I lost 45 pounds and because my pancreas was able to start working more efficiently again, I was able to stop taking insulin. I’m still on three other meds which control my glucose levels (one of them is that once-a-week shot which, as a side effect, also promotes weight loss). But I’ve been able to say goodbye to those nightly injections into my upper thigh. (I could never inject into my stomach – it’s far too sensitive.)

One interesting side-effect of being familiar with insulin, however, is that I was able to use my first-hand, intimate knowledge of the stuff in my latest novel, Ticket to Ride.

I did quite a lot of research on top of what I knew. I tasted it. Interesting. I smelled it. (Yes, insulin has a very distinctive smell – it’s the preservative.) I looked into all the different types (there are several, long-acting and short-acting, depending on your particular needs). And I looked into real cases of deliberate massive insulin overdose. And how they were treated. And what the recovery rate was. I had to read a lot of articles in peer-reviewed medical journals. Fortunately, before I retired, I worked in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC.

It was all for a good cause. My main character has a particularly harrowing run-in with insulin in Ticket to Ride. And you can be absolutely certain, when you read it, that I know exactly what I’m talking about.

Ticket to Ride was released on March 26.

More info at my website:

http://www.winonakent.com/tickettoride.html

Winona Kent is an award-winning author who was born in London, England and grew up in Canada, where she completed her BA in English at the University of Regina. After moving to Vancouver, she graduated from UBC with an MFA in Creative Writing. More recently, she received her diploma in Writing for Screen and TV from Vancouver Film School. Winona has been a temporary secretary, a travel agent, a screenwriter and the Managing Editor of a literary magazine. She’s currently serving on the Board of the Crime Writers of Canada and is an active member of Sisters in Crime – Canada West. She lives in New Westminster, BC, where she is happily embracing life as a full-time author.

Here’s some ordering links for a Ticket to Ride:

Amazon Canada: Paperback, ebook

Amazon US: Paperback, ebook

Amazon UK: Paperback, ebook

Barnes & Noble: Paperback, ebook

Apple books, Kobo

My Odd Relationship with Instagram

Last month, the Alliance of Independent Authors posted a good article about how to boost your presence and ultimately book sales on Instagram. There was a lot of useful advice, which you can find HERE. The more I read, however, the more my head started to spin. Among the many suggestions were preparing reels, posting high-quality content regularly, creating a theme, hashtags, being creative in the captions, and much more. Of course, there was the issue of snapping quality photos, which is where I really run into a snag.

Although I enjoy viewing photos on Instagram, I’m not much of a photographer at all. In fact, I rarely think about taking pictures unless on holiday. When I go out for a walk, which isn’t often enough these days, it rarely occurs to me to snap a picture of anything, so you can see my conundrum. I’m just not sure what to photograph. I don’t have a pet right now and when I sit down for a meal, even a fancy scrumptious one, it never occurs to me to take a picture of it. I just can’t seem to get my brain around the idea of integrating photography into my life. On the other hand, I like the quick simplicity of Instagram.

While I like my life, I can’t say it’s overly exciting. I write. I babysit Ellie. I do chores, run errands, exercise a little, and read. I am going for a CT scan this week, which might count as exciting but I’m pretty sure you don’t want to see a photo of that. I sure don’t.

I know some of you are on Instagram because we’re following one another, and if you’d like me to follow you, let me know and I’ll do my best. Right now, I’m just starting to develop the habit of checking in daily, but sometimes that doesn’t happen either. My question is, as writers, do you use Instagram? What is your best means of acquiring followers? Do you feel it’s helpful to find new readers or grow your brand?

Meanwhile, the BookFunnel promo I mentioned a couple weeks ago is midway through, so if you’re interested in a chance to win a $250 gift card or looking for other great mystery reads, please check it out HERE. My 5th Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, will be on sale for $.99 until March 31.

Title Chosen, and Knock Knock on Sale!

I want to thank those who provided feedback on the pending title for my upcoming Casey novella. Your comments were invaluable! I cut and pasted all of them on one page, along with the potential titles, so I could carefully review everything, and I made a decision.

The title will be A Gold Satin Murder. The title is shorter than the original, eliminates the controversial ‘thong’ word, offers intrigue, and fits with the type of titles already in the series. Won’t it be interesting to see what the jacket designer comes up with?

To help on that end, the designer always asks me to share examples of covers I really like in my genre, so I’ll start researching that soon. The cover will need the transit theme that appears on each book in the series, but I want the colors to be lighter than they are in the last two books to reflect the lighter tone of the story.

I’ve just wrapped up the changes suggested by my beta readers, and the book’s off to the editor shortly. It’s hard to believe I’ve finally reached this point, but there is still work to be done before a launch date is set.

Meanwhile, in my ongoing experiment with BookFunnel promotions this year, I have a new $.99 promotion, this time for my fifth Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock at $.99 for the month of March. This is a big event, with nearly 100 authors offering ebooks for sale. Based on the promo organizer’s description, authors need not offer their books at a special price. I have, but that’s just me.

Note that this event is for mysteries, suspense, and thriller stories, although I did notice a couple of cozy titles thrown in. This organizer is also offering other perks, which you’ll see when you click the link HERE. One of them is a chance to win a $250 Amazon gift card!

Here’s the book blurb for Knock Knock:

When a home invasion kills senior Elsie Englehart, security officer Casey Holland is devastated. Part of her latest assignment is to watch over elderly bus riders in an area frequently targeted by a group of thugs. Determined to keep others safe, Casey escorts an elderly man right to his home, only to come under attack by an armed intruder.

Hospitalized and angry, Casey struggles to regain control of her life, despite interference from family and colleagues, and the postponement of her wedding. Yet another home invasion compels Casey to take action, but at what cost to her health and her relationships?

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.

October Sale for Crime Fiction Fans!

I’m delighted to be taking part in a sales promotion event this month, featuring suspense and thriller novels.

5th in series

Two ebooks in my Casey Holland mystery series, Knock Knock (#5) and The Blade Man (#6), are on sale for $.99 each. You can find the link to the promo event HERE:

For those of you who enjoy crime fiction with an edge, this is a great opportunity to stock up on your fall and winter reading.

6th in series

Prices vary among the 60+ plus titles available, and I’m finding plenty of intriguing reads to choose from.

If you have any problem with the link, please let me know. Thanks for your support. We all appreciate it!

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.

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?

Puzzling Promotion Possibilities

If you’re an author, you’ve probably received numerous emails from people who want to sell their services for social media blasts, blog tours, press releases, and other things. Reviewers, jacket designers, and proofreaders have also invited me to purchase their services for a wide range of prices.

These aren’t all scams, but it does take some digging to determine which ones are legitimate and/or useful and which are not. The Writers Beware website is helpful, but it doesn’t cover everything, so I often do my own research.

Lately, I’ve been inundated with emails inviting me to list my books on promotion sites. Some of these offers are free listings while others come with a price tag. A few sites give you an option for free or paid listings, depending on how much visibility you want.

Here’s what I’ve found with a quick search. All of the sites below want me to set up an account, which I’m not prepared to do right now. The emails I’ve received suggest that these are the best book promotion sites in 2020, which is likely subject to opinion. I have started a basic search and most of these sites list featured, standard, or basic listings, likely dependent on the price.

Giobooks.com – offers different levels of visibility, so assuming it provides both free and paid

Bmibooks.com – has a startup fee starting at $10.00

Olto.App – has a free and paid options

BookswiFi.com – again offers a varying price range.

Bestreads.app – invites you to share your amazon purchase link for free

Reactbooks.com  – little info is given about this site without registering

Wordlikes – charges $15.00 for one year

I’m sure that several of you have also received similar emails. Have any of you tried these book promotion sites or do you think it’s a waste of time? Do you use any specific sites for your books? Honestly, you could join a new site every day for a month and still not have covered them all. If I get enough responses, I’ll share them with you, plus other searches I plan to do over the next couple of weeks.

Pondering the Pros and Cons of Blog Tours

KEEP-CALM-BLOG-ON[1]I have a confession to make. With seven published full-length books and two novellas, I’ve never taken part in a blog tour. I have nothing against them as they seem like a good way to promote one’s book. But with two part-time jobs, family responsibilities, and several writing projects on the go, I never felt I had the time or energy to prepare a dozen or more blogs.

I have written guest blogs before and answered interview questions, but I can do this only half a dozen times before I run out of steam. Honestly, I’m not even sure how to come up with ideas for twenty or more blogs. I have maybe two topics in the works and one completed blog, but that won’t be enough.

I follow over seventy blogs and a number of them host guest authors who are on blog tours, but very few focus on crime fiction. I read some of the guest blogs, but not all of them. It depends on whether I know the author and what the topic is, and how much time I have for reading blogs on any given day.

So, I could use your advice. Are blog tours a good way to spend your time and energy?

If your answer is yes, then do you have tips on how to find guest blogging opportunities that would especially interest mystery readers? I know there are services that arrange blog tours for authors, but again I know little about them or their price range. So, any input would be appreciated!

Ending the Year With a Promo Bang

The Opposite of Dark, amazon imageI’d planned to end the year quietly and work on production for Casey Holland mystery #6, The Blade Man, but then I got inspired to do some tasks (thanks for your tips Jacqui Murray,). I then learned that BookBub will be featuring my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark, for free on December 31st.

Back on April 3rd’s blog, I pondered the pros and cons of investing a fair bit of money in their promotion site, and after weighing varying opinions, I decided to submit my book. Colleagues warned me that it’s very difficult to get in and would take a while but to keep trying. So, I applied every month only to face rejection. I stopped in September, as the fall was so busy that I forgot about submitting. I remembered again in early December and was shocked to find that I’d been accepted to be featured on Dec. 31st. I told the BookBub contact person that given that this was the last day of year, it should be interesting, and she responded that BookBub’s stats showed little difference between this or regular days. We’ll see.

I’ve extended the offer for an extra day on either side, to ensure the price change is in place by the 31st, so again, it’s a matter of waiting to see the results. I probably won’t know if this is a good investment or not for a while. If readers want to buy subsequent books in the series, it likely won’t happen the same day, but possibly throughout the month of January or even further on.

I also finally took the plunge and joined Instagram just before Christmas, and am currently following just a small number of people as I get a feel for the site. Instagram is different than I expected and I’m not sure how to make the most of it yet, but I’ll figure it out. Someone advised me to have a stash of hashtags ready to use, so I’m working on that. Meanwhile, I’m linking this blog to my account, so we’ll see what happens. If you have any great tips, I’d love to know what they are. You can find me HERE. If you send me your link, I’d be happy to follow you!

I think that’s enough busy-ness for the last week of 2019 and into 2020. Oh, and I have another big announcement, but this one will have to wait until the new year!! Meanwhile Happy New Year!

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