When Indie met the establishment (guest post by Laxmi Hariharan)

Cut to twelve months ago—as a just born Indie, I listened to Kate Mosse (author of Labyrinth) talk about how she was not on Facebook, Twitter or any of those necessary evils, which help Indie authors like myself build a platform. On a panel discussion she made it very clear that she preferred not to have her peace of mind destroyed by social media chatter, in order to really focus inwards and write. Then, a fellow author confessed how she was beyond the point of being a social media junkie—she stayed connected even when she took her dog for a walk.

It was clear to me that as a writer and a marketer I needed to find the sweet spot somewhere between the two. I needed to become a spider—a black widow?— an arachnid who sat square in the centre of a 720 degree social network web, and controlled everything that went around me, not the other way around. It was about choice. I absolutely had the right to decide when I wanted to dip into the social media world and went I wanted to unplug. After all, isn’t that what being an Indie author was all about? Exercising your right to be read, to be seen and heard unadulterated by veils.

Just one of the many insights I gained from attending the Writing in a Digital Age conference, held by TLC. I will be back at the 2013 installment of the same, as part of the storytime sessions, talking about where I am twelve months on—wiser, more confident, and in the throes of completing Return to 7 Islands (#2, Bombay Chronicles.)

If you are wondering whether to go Indie or if you are already Indie and pondering what next, then this is where you want to be. You will get the chance to meet fellow Indies as well as published authors, publishers, and agents too (some of them are really nice too – I promise.)

Writing in a Digital Age 2013, June 7-8, London. Tickets on sale till June 6th.  Laxmi Hariharan is a content branding strategist and award winning author of epic fantasy. Find her at LAXMIwrites.

March Blog Tour Summary

tour_FIThe FMB blog tour is over. It lasted for 30 days straight, and it’s time to sum up the results.

It’s impossible to quantify the effect of the tour in terms of sales – at the same time I was running several promos which boosted the sales much more. But the tour was never about sales: it was about getting exposure, reviews, followers. And in that, I’m quite happy with how it worked out.

416 people took part in the giveaway (if you’re one of them – I’m still waiting for the ballot results). My FB page and this blog received a few dozen new followers – which may not sound like a lot, but is a considerable increase over my average numbers 🙂 I got a lot of positive reviews, more importantly, ones that feel authentic rather than the store-bought “couldn’t put it down!”. A couple of bloggers did not put up a review, which I suppose means the books weren’t up their alley, which I don’t mind. All in all – money well-spent 🙂

One unexpected result of the blog tour was discovering the world of Host Blogs – that is, blog sites that thrive, and indeed exist, only to serve as hosts for blog tours. Some of them post several different blog tour stops a day. Looks like a lot of hard work, so I wonder what the incentive to operate something like that is. I can only assume it’s worth it 🙂

Here’s the list of all the tour stops, by category:


March 2nd- Deal Sharing Aunt
March 6th- Happy Tails and Tales 
March 8th- Sweet n’ Sassi
March 15th- I am, Indeed
March 17th- A Book Lover’s Library
March 27th- HDWPbooks

March 4th- KMN Books – “How to write historical fantasy”
March 12th- Buffy’s Ramblings – “Great women of Japanese History”
March 16th- Paranormal Romance Fans for Life – “Ghosts and Ghouls of Japan”
March 18th- C.S. Jameson – “Building the World”

March 28th- Mightier Than the Sword – “What does it take to publish a book”

March 29th- Book Addict – “The Dragon King’s Blessing”


March 1st- Love in a Book
March 11th- Simply Infatuated
March 13th- Tamara’s One Stop Indie Shop
March 22nd- The Avid Reader
March 24th- Waiting on Sunday to Drown 


March 3rd- Musings of a Writing Reader
March 10th- Free eBooks Daily
March 14th- A Bibliophiles Thoughts on Books
March 20th- Books and their Wordly Realm
March 26th- Froggarita’s Bookcase

5 things I’ve learned from self-publishing

This was supposed to be a guest post for somewhere else, but due to mis-communication I’m now able to post it here for your viewing pleasure. I’ve kept the intro, because some of you might not read the “About Author” section of this website as often as I’d like you to 🙂

Gutenberg pressJames Calbraith is my pen and internet name – my Polish name is an unpronouncable jumble of consonants, so it’s for everyone’s benefit, really.
I write speculative fiction – fantasy and (sometimes) science-fiction. These last few years I’ve been immersed in the historical fantasy world of steampunk Japan, where my main series of novels is set.
I also travel a lot, eat a lot, and listen to a lot of really old music.
My inability to keep up any social presence is legendary, so if you feel like a challenge, you can follow me on G+, FB or Twitter – links above. 🙂


Modern self-publishing means that you’re on the mercy of the freelancers. All good freelancers are busy – and very good freelancers are very busy. No matter how much you will pay them, they are likely to forget about your book if you don’t pester them continuously.
Pestering people and institutions (that includes all sorts of Customer Support) was the first thing I had to learn. Being an introvertic with assertiveness problems, this was the hardest lesson, but a necessary one. Another was setting tight deadlines. At first I was playing loose with deadlines I set for my freelancers, hoping for their workmanship to do the rest, but it didn’t work – and I should have known, being a champion procrastinator myself. You need deadlines, and you need to be strict about them, or you’ll never get anywhere.


I was very succesful with my KDP Select results – seeing the sales soar mere months after my debut was really heartening – until I started getting the reviews back.
It is not just my opinion – that would be quite self-centered of me – but a common psychological rule that a free product is not a respected product. A customer is much more likely to trash something they haven’t made an effort to obtain, and vice versa: if they’ve spent money on something, they will try to rationalize the spending by any means possible.
It was one of the hardest lessons to take, and one the effects of which I’m still reeling from.

(incidentally, if you liked any of my books and still haven’t posted a review anywhere, I implore you to do so :))


I have spent a lot of time and money – way too much, in fact – on marketing, social presence, building readership, ads, etc.

None of it did anything for my sales in the long run. The only thing that mattered was whether Amazon wanted my book to sell or not. The mysterious, almost god-like in their omnipotence, algorithms of Amazon were able to raise my novels to dizzying heights and then cast them back into the shadow of oblivion virtually overnight, and nothing I tried (or didn’t try) to do had the slightest impact on what was going on.

Selling is all a game of big numbers. If 10,000 people see your book, a hundred may be tempted to buy it. If 100 people see it, nobody will buy it. And for someone like me, who always had problems reaching a mass audience on my own, only Amazon has the power to bring the necessary 10,000 people to my books – and then take them away in a blink.


As far as I can tell, there is no more distinction between indies and traditionally published books in the eyes of most readers and reviewers. You can still find reviewers who will announce publicly they don’t read indies – but I’ve discovered that a well presented package will be picked up: it’s just a ruse they implement not to have to pile through shoddily prepared selfie manuscripts.

The same goes for readers, for good and for bad. If the book looks “proper”, most people will not bother to look at the publisher’s label; they will buy it, read it – and review it just like any other book from a bookstore. This means all books are now held to the same professional standards, but also, sadly, means that experiments in publishing are not as welcome as they may have been before. The reader expects a real, “normal” book, with a beginning and an end, no matter whether it costs $.99 or $9.99.


The internet is filled with people giving good advice to anyone who asks. Almost none of it is useful. In case of publishing, it’s mostly easily repeatable trite about nothing, sold in increasingly attractive package (videos, infographics) which can be summed up as “do lots of obvious stuff”. (Yes, we all have our FB pages, our blogs, our Goodreads accounts, our professional covers and proofread manuscripts. Now what?) And it’s almost never backed up by actual success – because genuine success is a rare and elusive beast.

Judging by my author’s rank fluctuations on Amazon, I can tell there are less than 200 “successful” authors in my genre – and by that I mean writers who can make a decent income out of their sales. And that’s including everyone who’s ever published a book – out of tens of thousands. Even fewer of them decide to write about their success. And fewer still can point, with certainty and clarity, to what they did to get where they are. Why do some books sell better than others? Why are some artists effortlessly popular, while others toil for years in obscurity? It’s a secret as old as art and commerce, and no shouty infographic will solve it for you.

Building a Blurb

Today I have a guest post by Ben Galley

A good cover can make a reader swipe it off the shelf, but a bad blurb can have it thrown  straight back again.

There are two sides to every book cover, and I don’t just mean the front and the back. I mean the art and the words, the blurb. The combination of the two is a bit like those infamous “Golf Sale” signs you see being held aloft in the centre of every busy shopping hub across the lands. The signs are usually painted a luminous, ungodly yellow to grab your attention. You look up, squinting at the brightness, mystified and curious, until you see the words splayed across its cardboard face – “Golf Sale!” I do not golf. I have no need for a golf sale. I walk on, sign ignored.

Book covers are like these signs. The cover attracts the browser’s eyes, whether by art or by colour or both, and leaves the blurb to handle the task of the information. It’s a symbiotic relationship, one that needs to be perfectly balanced. It’s an important one too. Getting it right can mean the difference between your books being taken home or downloaded, or being snubbed.

There are three rules to writing a blurb:

Read More »

The Secret Art of Getting a Blurb

One of the things that seem to most visibly distinguish self-published books from traditional ones on the bookstore shelf is the cover quote: those few words of praise from another established writer.

Yes, sometimes they may seem jarring – like when the cover of one of your favourite, classic authors gets defaced with a quote from a young ‘trendy’ upstart you don’t really care about; their effectiveness as marketing tool may be dubious – do people actually buy books because of a single sentence on the cover? But in general, having a famous name on the cover is regarded as a sign of maturity and accomplishment. It means your book made it big, that you’ve become a hot rising star in the galaxy of old giants.

It is also often regarded as something only a traditional publisher can get you.

Well, that part’s not quite true…

(if you’re interested in reading the rest of this post, head over to Ben Galley’s SHELFHELP website, where today I’m guest-posting.)