Friday, June 14, 2013

All Authors Blog Blitz

As part of the All Authors Blog Blitz taking place today, I am proud to have my first blog interview with Toni Allen -  tarot reader, astrologer and author. With that, let's launch right into it.

Toni can you tell us a little about your background?

As a child I was always making up stories in my head, but mainly only wrote them down for school. I studied photography at college and it’s still one of my greatest passions, being able to capture a single moment and show others how I see the world around me. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I realised that other people don’t relate to the world in quite the same way as myself, and it was only through a long process of self-discovery that I acknowledged the word psychic to explain the many weird and wonderful things that happened around me. As a child I assumed that everyone else had prophetic dreams, saw ghosts and knew what was occurring in other places at the same time. To me this was all normal, a part of who I am.

While at college someone introduced me to Tarot and, due to my early years of self-discovery, I immediately understood the symbols and was able to read the cards without ever having picked up a book on the subject or had any training. Becoming a Tarot reader gave me a platform to use my psychic abilities and help other people with my ability to see beyond the physical realm. As a teenager I was always intrigued by astrology and would do things like sit in the pub with my friends, scribble down birthdays and announce, “Did you know that even though eight people are here we only have Sagittarians and Taureans?” My friends would reply, “Who cares?” And I would say, “I do,” and had to work out why we had homed in on each other. Consequently I learnt astrology.

I now work full time as a tarot reader and astrologer.

You can find out more about me on my blog at

How'd you make the transition to becoming an author?

I started writing novels years ago. Stories populated my head and so I started to write them down. A few poems came along too.

After I started reading tarot I went out and bought a few books on the subject to see what others were thinking and, to be frank, I found them quite irritating because they just gave the meaning of the card but not the reason why it should mean that in the first place. I was already teaching a small group of students and handing out information sheets, and one student said, “You’ve got the making of a book here,” so I started collating my material and putting into book form. Hence the System of Symbols, a new way to look at tarot evolved from my teaching notes.

What kinds of things do you write about?

With my fiction I think a friend of mine put it very well. She said, “I’ve got it. You’re books do have a theme, they’re all about ordinary people that extraordinary things happen to.” These extraordinary things usually have a paranormal twist of some description, but in my experience they are not impossible. My main characters are not ghouls, or vampires they are just ordinary folk…oh yes, and usually there’s some kind of investigation or mystery unfolding as the story progresses. The next novel I’ll be releasing, Visiting Lilly, is a detective mystery, with a paranormal/sci-fi twist.

That's very ineteresting.  Now, can you tell us a little about your latest book?

Being Richard is a story about a very ordinary man who just happens to be an immortal. He wasn’t born immortal. A sacrificial ritual to protect his tribe from an advancing army backfires and instead of killing Sunbeerka, gives him eternal life. So now he’s 2,562 years old, looks like he’s thirty and is yet again scrabbling around for a new identity so that he doesn’t appear to be too young for his alleged age. Choosing to become Richard Ridley, who died as an infant, proves extremely challenging.

He doesn’t want to be Richard, but his nemesis appears in the form of Gilbert Hawkins who works for a secret government department that is hunting down immortals, and is forced to become Richard.
On first meeting Gilbert Sunbeerka asks,

“How long have you been observing me?”
“Long enough to know that you’ve way out lived your four score and ten. Before Julian you were Mike; and killing Bobby off just after the war was a real mistake, maybe one of your biggest. Records, Richard, records and photography, they really have been the bane of your life in recent years, even though you’ve proved extremely camera shy.”
There was no point in answering him. He was my worst nightmare come true, all of my fears realised into one forty something man leaning against my gate thinking he was clever. Those sharp brown eyes were scrutinising me, eyeing me up and down, searching for answers in my face and eyes, and the way I smiled or frowned.
“I have all of the evidence,” he said, turning his collar up against the fine mist of drizzle that had begun to grey the surrounding green.
“I’m sure you do.” I pushed myself off the gate and headed back towards the cottage.

Gilbert admits that he too is an immortal, although he was born like it. It’s not until one of them is wounded that the differences in their immortality start to show; and questions arise as to whether Gilbert is immortal or lying. Persuaded that all the The Department wants is for him to track down other immortals, Sunbeerka plays their game, but cannot rest until he’s discovered how baby Richard really died. Researching the dead child’s family leads him to uncover dark family secrets, living relatives with blood on their hands and murder. Life becomes dangerous, even for an immortal.

Which do you prefer writing - fiction or non-fiction?  Why?

Now that’s a really difficult choice. I think it has to be equal. I enjoy writing non-fiction because I love sharing my knowledge with other people. When people say they have learnt something new from one of my books that gives me a real buzz. With fiction I’m more compulsive addictive. People appear in my head and I have to write about them, they have a story that needs to be told. I enjoy getting to know my characters, but sometimes they’re like naughty children and run off and do their own thing, which is exciting and part of the fun.

What's the most difficult thing you've encountered in your journey as an author?

Finding the time to write all of the novels that I want to write. I have several finished novels waiting to be tweaked ready for publication, but I’m also working on a new project.

Also finding the right platform and audience for my work. I’m not a natural at social media, but I’m having a go and slowly but surely connecting with people who enjoy my style and content.

What words of encouragement would you give to any potential authors out there?

Never give up, never give in. Keep writing. When you’ve finished one piece of work send it out if you’re looking for mainstream publication, but start on your next manuscript, don’t stop writing. In your more creative times always keep a notebook of ideas. A word or two, a scene, any idea that pops into your head. This will become your source book when less creative times leave you feeling dispirited.

Finally, where can readers find your books?

Being Richard is available from Amazon US  |  Amazon UK for Kindle and in paperback. iTunes and from Lulu.

The System of Symbols, a new way to look at tarot is available from Amazon US  | Amazon UK for Kindle and in paperback. iTunes and from Lulu.

 Sex and Tarot is available from Amazon US | Amazon UK for Kindle and paperback. iTunes and Lulu.

 You’ll also find my books on Nook and other platforms. You can join me on my Facebook page at or my blog to find out more about me and my latest books.

Thanks, Toni, for taking the time to speak with us today and share your experiences.  We look forward to hearing about your success in the future.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Book Promotion

Years ago, I read an interview with a musician who described what it felt like the first time he heard one of his songs on the radio.  I can't remember exactly what he said, but the word "surreal" comes to mind.  Regardless, I had a similar experience recently when I received an email from Amazon that contained the following:

Hopefully it's not too hard to read, but this is an email from Amazon recommending my own book  Sensation to me!  How cool is that???!!! (Not to mention, as I said before, surreal.)

Naturally, I'm pretty pleased about it (because I assume this means it's being recommended to other people), but I wish I knew how to quantify the effect.  In other words, does this have an effect on book sales?  If so, how much? To what extent does it weigh in a buyer's decision vs. a tweet saying something similar or a reviewer's blog? 

Or maybe it doesn't even matter.  After all, I'm getting a lot of positive exposure from this and that's probably enough.  I feel blessed that the book is continuing to do well, and I'm grateful for all the support I'm receiving.  Hopefully, I'll keep getting cool emails like this well into the future.

Monday, June 10, 2013

May 2013 Book Sales

I feel blessed to have had a rather successful May in terms of book sales.  I had gone through the trouble of making some very nice Excel tables and charts to present the data, because I think they show some interesting trends.  Unfortunately, you can't post Excel charts/tables here (and I'm not sophisticated enough to use other applications), so we'll just have to make do with the raw numbers.

The month started off a little slow; I published Sensation on Kindle on May 3, and I had a grand total of 3 sales for the week ending May 11, but things quickly picked up. 


In essence, I started off selling 3 copies per week on Kindle and ended the month selling more than 30 books per day and ranked #1 in multiple categories.  This, of course, is success at a greater level and far faster pace than I ever anticipated, and I really don't know what factors to attribute it to other than the fact that, as my mother always says, GOD is good.  I think it also helped that I received some good reviews, both on Amazon and other places, such as the Comic Book Bin

Basically, despite a few editing errors/typos in an early version (the book has since been professionally edited and had all such errors corrected), May was a great month.  In addition, June also got off to a robust start (see below), so things are going quite well at the moment.


I previously wrote in another post about that fact that I was having such overwhelming success with  Sensation that Warden had become kind of an afterthought.  However, it has been doing well, despite only being published on Kindle during the last week of April.

                                             Week                                         Sales

I'm extremely proud of these numbers, and the fact that Warden is currently ranked #23 in one of  its categories (as well as #53 in another).  It's taking a little more time, but I'm certain that eventually it can be just as successful as Sensation. (And, just like my other title, Warden has been professionally edited to make sure it is error-free.)

In short, I count myself fortunate to be enjoying a modicum of success early on with respect to these books.  I'm praying that my work continues to gain momentum and resonate with readers, and I thank everyone for their support.

*FYI:  For the first 5 days of June Sensation sold over 300 copies (close to 70 books per day).  As of today, June 10, Warden has sold over 60 copies.  Thanks again, everyone, for all your support.  I know that past performance is no guarantee of future results, but...Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Little Novel That Could

In a number of my previous posts, I have mentioned the early success that I have been blessed to have with my superhero novel Sensation, which is currently #1 in a couple of categories.  What's been lost in the shuffle, however, is the fact that my other book, Warden, is also performing respectably.  In fact, I looked up earlier today and found that it was listed in the Top 100 in one of its categories:

Warden (Book 1: Wendigo Fever)
Kindle Edition

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,913 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Frankly speaking, it caught me a little by surprise.  Like any other author, I had been watching the sales that were occurring with both of my books.  However, I was a bad parent, paying more attention to the child who showed all the textbook indicators of being a phenom rather than recognizing that both of my literary children were special.  Thankfully, Warden took no notice of my neglect, and has just kept chugging right along like The Little Engine That Could.

Needless to say, I'm thankful that both books are finding an audience.  If I'm being honest, however, I have to admit that - if I'd had to choose between them - I would have thought Warden more likely to become a runaway hit.  With its inclusion of mythical creatures, monsters and other things-that-go-bump-in-the-night, it seemed to be a bit more mainstream. (For the record, calling paranormal and horror novels "mainstream" still seems like an oxymoron to me, because when I was growing up I don't recall the genre being embraced the way it is today.)  Although I've decided to incorporate less-common creatures in my Warden series (such as the Wendigo, which - accordingly to legend - is virtually unstoppable), I was still concerned that readers might find the idea of a superhero novel like Sensation to be passé in comparison.  In fact, between the two, my twelve-year-old actually liked Warden better. (And let me say here that, while these two books will certainly appeal to the young adult/teen demographic, they are meant to be enjoyed by readers of all ages.)

As they say, however, truth is stranger than fiction, and I couldn't be more pleased that Sensation has been so warmly received by readers and that Warden is getting its sea legs as well. I'm praying that the same audience that is embracing the former will find room on their shelves for the latter.

When I check a short time ago, Warden had moved up to #66 in its category.  As always, I feel blessed to have this success, and I thank everyone for their support.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

How to Beat the High Cost of [Indie] Publishing

Back when I was in high school, a friend's mother decided to publish a book. She went the self-publishing route, and in the process spent something like $2000.  Unfortunately, the book had minimal sales, to say the least, and she lost money on the deal. However, she may have felt it was worth it to achieve her lifelong goal of becoming a published author.  (There's a reason why they call it "Vanity Press.")

These days, of course, it's a lot easier - and cheaper - to self-publish.  In fact, you can essentially publish for free.  For example, you can just go to Createspeace or Kindle, upload your novel, pick your free cover (or design one yourself) and you're done.  No out-of-pocket expense whatsoever. 

That said, I think there actually is a cost to publishing via the do-everything-yourself route.  Basically, as I mentioned in my post on pen names, very few of us are adept at multiple disciplines.  Thus, if you're a great writer, what are the odds that you are also an excellent artist? An impeccable proofreader (especially of your own work)?  And even if you're hitting on all cylinders and are a whiz in every other area, there's a cost in the sense that doing all these things yourself takes you away from your bread-and-butter: writing.  In other words, every second that you spend doing some of these other activities diminishes your overall return.

Of course, someone is bound to argue that outsourcing all of these activities costs as well, and they'd be right. But what is that cost?  In short, what's the budget you need to anticipate if you're in mind to self-publish a book?  

To answer this, you really need to think about what services you need.  On my page of Self-Publishing Links, I try to cover the basics in this arena, so let's take a look at what you might hypothetically have to spend on a novel of, say, about 200 pages:

Publishing - As previously stated, this is essentially free, so cost is $0.  (Just to be clear, I'm speaking of ebooks and print on demand (POD) services, not traditional vanity press publishing).

Editing/Proofreading - Prices vary, with some people charging by the word, others by the page, and so on.  I think that budgeting $1/page should be adequate.

Conversion/Formatting  - Again, prices vary. I've seen some that strike me as relatively expensive (over $100) and others that are extraordinarily cheap ($5 on Fiverr).  Searching for some middle ground, let's just budget $69 (which is the cost of the Kindle Conversion service on Createspace).

Cover Art/Design - This is another one that is all over the place in terms of cost.  An artist with name brand recognition could charge a hefty fee that runs into the thousands.  Or you might come across someone who is immensely talented but undiscovered at the moment and commission them on the cheap.  In short, prices here can be as low as five bucks or cost thousands of dollars.  For argument's sake, though, let's assume you can get it fairly cheap - maybe a pre-made cover for about $50.

ISBN Numbers - I enjoy having my own ISBN numbers and being my own publisher, but it's not a necessity. Let's assume that in this arena you're an extreme cheapskate and are willing to use an ISBN number provided by Createspace, B&N or whatever publishing platform you use. Ergo, cost is $0.

Copyright Registration - As I mentioned in my other post, copyright protection attaches to your work as soon as its created.  However, let's just assume that - in addition to being cheap - you are a paranoid mofo, and want additional protection.  In that instance, online copyright registration is only $35.

So what's the total damage?

Publishing:                           $0  
Editing/Proofreading:       $200  
Conversion/Formatting:     $69   
Cover Art/Design:             $50   
ISBN Numbers:                  $0
Copyright Registration:       $35
Total:                               $354 

In addition to this, I'd say that you should tack on some additional funds to cover incidentals.  For instance, you might want to order a proof for review purposes.  You may want some copies to give away to friends and family, or to send to potential reviewers.  You might also want to do a little advertising.  Thus, I'd say that it's probably worthwhile to bump your budget up a little and round it off to a nice even $500.

Of course, within that $500, you can fudge numbers any way you like.  Maybe you absolutely have to have your own ISBN numbers and will shell out $250 for 10 of them and forego copyright registration.  Maybe you can find a retired English teacher who will proof your work for $50.  Maybe you've got a cousin who's an artist and will work for free as long as you put a link to his gallery on your blog.

Finally, to the extent that $500 sounds like a lot of money (and I'm not saying that it isn't), think about how much time you would spend doing the things noted yourself.  How much time would you spend proofreading your 200-page novel? (And if you say, "Not much" or "Just a couple of hours," then your work is pretty much assured to have some typos/errors.)  How much time would you spend creating that perfect cover?  How much time would you spending formatting/converting your work for publication as an ebook?  

Basically, you need to figure out what your time is worth (slap a value on it) and determine if you'd rather spend that time - and if that time is better utilized - writing, or doing all this other stuff.  In my book, I'd rather spend the time writing, and leave the other stuff to the professionals. It may cost a little moolah now, but in my opinion it's worth it and will pay big dividends later.

*One added note: I can't emphasize enough the importance of a good, professional cover.  From a novelization standpoint, it's the face you're showing the world, so decide whether you want it all dolled up, or more like someone who just rolled out of bed and immediately went about their day without any attention to hygiene, grooming, etc.

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