Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Buying Reviews

I’ve recently come across this phenomenon via Facebook and personally I find it sickening: people offering to review books for self-published authors for money, guaranteeing 5 star reviews. I saw one a couple of days ago stating they could put several reviews on the one book on Amazon, using different names and addresses! I have no idea how long this has been going on nor how many authors actually buy such ‘reviews’, but it makes me think differently now about those books on Amazon with lots of 5 star reviews. I know Amazon pulls reviews they’re dubious about and, like most self-published authors, I complain about that, but I sincerely hope they can put a stop to this practice, which makes those of us who only have honest reviews at a disadvantage. As a reader I’ll disregard reviews now.

I’m not so adamantly against the common practice of authors providing free copies to readers in the expectation they’ll write a positive review but it still seems a little off to me. There’s also quite a lot of trading going on–review for review–and I confess I did that once, trading a review for an app with one for a book of mine. Never again! The ‘reviewer’ clearly read only the outline and while the review was certainly positive it was totally out of whack and I have asked Amazon to remove it. Like all self-published authors I very much appreciate hearing from readers, and 5 star reviews certainly help sell books, but I’ll stick to the honest reviews from those who actually read and enjoyed my books! For info on any of my books please visit my Author Pages at Amazon.com and Amazon.UK.

 

 


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Vanity Publishing

I’m constantly surprised at how many writers don’t seem to understand the difference between traditional publishers and vanity publishers. I often read writers proudly announcing they’ve been accepted by a publisher and they’re thrilled at how easy it was and pumped by how enthusiastic the publisher is to publish their very first novel.

Most self-published writers, I presume, get unsolicited offers from publishers these days; we’re always accessible on Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever. We all want to have the next ’50 Shades of Grey’, or at least that kind of success and it’s nice to hear any kind of praise for anything we do, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how many writers respond to these kind of publishers.

BookCoverImageher fleshandbloodLet me make it clear–traditional publishers don’t ask writers for money! They actually pay an advance to the writer which immediately puts them in a position where it’s to their advantage to distribute the book and sell as many copies as possible. The writer is still expected to make use of social media and other publicity but the publisher doesn’t make any money unless the book sells.

A vanity press is a publisher who asks the writer to pay for everything, from editing right through to distribution, while a traditional publisher pays for all of this. The vanity publisher in fact makes his money directly from the writer, whether their book is a success or not. The traditional publisher makes money only if the book is successful enough to cover the writer’s advance, the costs of editing, printing and so on with some net profit at the end of it. It’s not hard to understand why it’s so difficult for new writers to find a place in the world of traditional publishing.

I’m not necessarily saying all vanity publishers are scammers, just that writers should understand the difference. It may be that you think it’s worth paying someone to do all that’s required to produce your book for you, but if you do choose that road at least make sure you do lots of research and try to find someone with genuine recommendations from other writers. This is why I self-publish–all things considered it seems the best option for me. I can do what I like when I like, and if I do choose to pay someone for a book cover design or any of the many things a self-published writer has to do, it will still be my decision.

If you have any experience, good or bad, with vanity publishers, I’d love to hear about it.

‘Her Flesh and Blood’, a fictionalised version of my true story ‘Not Guilty’, is FREE from the 14th to the 18th of October. For more details about this and my other books please see my ‘Fiction and Non-fiction’ page or visit my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK

Excerpt from ‘Her Flesh and Blood’: We had a blazing row when George finally got home. He was drunk and he called me names that I would never say, let alone write down, even here in the privacy of my journal. I slapped him and he hit me hard across the face. I fell over and hit my head on the table. The children were asleep but we were arguing so loudly that Dolly woke up and came out crying. She cried out to George to stop hurting her mumma and he came to his senses then. He picked her up and then helped me to my feet and we both said we were sorry and put her back to bed. He refused to discuss what happened at the factory, except to tell me never to go there again. I know he was humiliated. I’m sure Mr Leggo gave him a good talking to and the workers were no doubt amused by the whole event. I don’t care. Now those women are gone and we can get on with our lives. My children will have a father.

 


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100 not out!

No, I’m not 100 years old and neither am I a cricket fan, but this is my 100th blog! Maybe not as big a deal as turning 100 but at least as good as 100 runs on the cricket field. Well, I did say I’m not a fan, right?

It’s been a little over 3 years–I just looked up my first blog and it was March, 2013. Since then I’ve written three books which have been more successful than I ever imagined (Red Dust series) and my family has grown considerably. I had two grandchildren in 2013, now I have four plus six step-grandkids!

At times I’ve struggled to find things to write about and my blogs became less regular as time went by–now I’m no longer trying to blog weekly or monthly. I only write when I have something I want to say. For some reason I’ve recently joined Instagram as well but I’m not sure I’ll stick with it. I might just spend my time writing books instead. The one I’m working on at the moment is based in the area I’m living in, which should make some aspects easier at least. The story starts in 2015 and then changes to the 1860s, much of which will be based on the goldfields here. Unless my characters decide to go elsewhere–you never know really!

The sun’s shining here and I can see a bird on next-door’s TV antenna–I think it’s a pigeon–but it’s freezing cold and apparently we’re in for a winter blast in the next few days. I’m sick of winter already but it’s nice to see the sunshine from the window in my cosy home office.

darkamazonNothing better than curling up by the heater on a cold day with a good book is there? I have a free ebook coming up on the 27th June (USA time), Dark Innocence. It’s quite short, novelette size, and inspired by some of my experiences growing up in the sixties in a country town. Check it out and feel free to leave a review on Amazon if you enjoy it!

For details on my other books please visit my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK.

 

 


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The plural of ‘you’.

It used to be Australians used the term ‘youse’ and some still do. I don’t think I do and it’s generally considered one of those ‘bogan’ words the rest of us avoid. Well-known Texan, Dr Phil, uses y’all, which has a nice ring to it if you have the right accent, but I suspect that’s the American version of youse and is not universally acceptable now in the US if it ever was.

So what is the plural of ‘you’? In the news today our Australian of the Year, David Morrison, has chastised people for using the term ‘guys’ to refer to people of both genders. I must admit I’ve never been offended by this. If you were to call me a guy, as an individual, I might be, but if, for example, I get a text saying “Are you guys home?” it’s clear that refers to both my husband and me. If the text said “Are you home?” then it refers to me only. I’d probably be offended, or puzzled at least, if I got a text saying “Are you men home?” but the term ‘guys’ has somehow become gender neutral, hasn’t it?

I have five adult sons and I tend to still call them ‘the boys’ but since they now all have wives or girlfriends I might use the term ‘guys’ if I’m talking about the guys and the gals together. I’d be interested to see some feedback from our friends in the USA, since we obviously took over ‘guys’ from you. Has the usage changed there? Is it more or less non-gender specific or are we just lazy? Maybe we should speak correctly and say “Are you and your husband at home?” Generally language issues do annoy me but in everyday speech and texts I think we should all just take a chill pill. The language is evolving and BookCoverImageconnectionsit will continue to. She’ll be right mate.

sanctuary cover 2014

‘Sanctuary’, my Sci-fi novel for young adults, is free right now (June 1-5) on Amazon and my collection of short stories, ‘Connections’, will be free from the 3rd to the 7th. For details on all my books please visit my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon UK.

 

 

 


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Good bye and good riddance, Daylight Saving

This morning saw the end of daylight saving for now; it will unfortunately be back some time in spring. I’ve never been a fan and I’m always pleased to see the end of it. Given that we live in a hot country and most of us whinge about the heat in the summer I don’t know why we choose to extend the hot days and have less of the cool nights.

Yes, I am aware we don’t actually change the length of the days, just our clocks, but summer itself does that already. I don’t have to rush off to a job in the mornings and I no longer have little kids to force in to bed when the sun’s still shining, so it doesn’t affect me as much as it does some. I had a particular hate for it when my kids were little.

As far I can fathom, longer summer evenings are nice for those who live in the cities and have to commute some distance for work, but they’re going to be going home in the dark in winter anyway, so may as well get used to it, hey? Mid summer sunset without daylight saving is closer to  8 than 7, I think, so plenty of time for most workers to get home. Wouldn’t that extra hour in bed in the morning, when you’re finally cool and comfortable, be more appreciated than in the heat of a summer evening?

Queensland and Western Australia, I believe, both had trial runs of daylight saving and decided they didn’t want it–interesting that they’re both very large areas of land with smaller cities than the southern states. I do think it’s the city folk that make the decisions for the rest of us here in Victoria, because more people live in the capital city, Melbourne, than the rest of the state. In Queensland it’s the country population that’s bigger than that in their capital city, Brisbane, so city folk there don’t have as much influence.

Well, that’s my whinge out of the way for now and yes, we do have bigger concerns, I agree. On the subject of my home country, I’m delighted to see Australian readers have found me on Amazon! I’ve been published there since 2012 but almost all sales have been in the US and UK, with just a few at home. Since I published the last book of my Red Dust series, set in Outback Australia, my sales here have grown tenfold! Thanks everyone!

For sales and all details on my books please visit my Amazon Author Page, or here for UK readers. 

 

 


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SELF-PUBLISHING WITH A BUDGET OF ZERO

This is an old blog I wrote for ‘The Self Publisher’ that still seems relevant. Not much has changed apart from the series I mentioned–it’s now complete, with three books, all of which are selling well on Amazon. The link to ‘Inheritance’ in the blog has been replaced by the cover image on this page. new the inheritance cover

by Christine Gardner (visit Christine’s blog here).

My first attempt at self-publishing was with lulu and I could never in a million years have done it on my own. My son did all the formatting and put the cover together from a background photo of a landscape (we spent an afternoon driving around looking for the perfect shot) and a painting I did of a cottage covered in roses, for my first novel, Inheritance. I was very happy with it at the time but it was horribly complicated and it was probably a year or so before I got my first (and last) cheque from lulu, for around $20. I’ve since re-published Inheritance on Amazon, with a new cover, a photo of a rose from my garden. Easy peasy. I do have a little background in Art and Design but my skills in drawing and painting are not really…

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In the Top 100

All three books in my Red Dust Series are in Amazon’s Top 100! For their category, that is, but I’m pretty happy with that. The category is ‘Historical Australian & Oceanian Fiction’ and I’m in good company there. Stephanie Laurens has several on the same page as my ‘Road to Karinya‘, while ‘Stony Creek‘ and ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms‘ share a page with Peter Carey and Catherine Gaskin, among others. Red Wine is the last book in the series and it’s been selling well from the start but it was good to see the first review on Amazon last week:

      By Amazon Customer on February 16, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

THIS IS A MUST READ STORY. IT HAS SUSPENSE, DRAMA, ROMANCE AND SOME SERIOUS MOMENTS AND LOTS OF CARING FOR OTHERS FEELINGS. I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED EVERY PAGE

 

Amazon reviews are much appreciated by writers, at least good ones are! We take particular risks when we put books up free for promotions. The first time I did that was years ago; 6000 people grabbed a copy of ‘Inheritance’, and around 20 or 30 reviewed it.
Most were positive but not all–not everyone likes an unexpected ending! It was interesting that negative reviews often came from readers whose grasp of spelling and punctuation were sadly lacking and I tend not to take them too seriously.
        I went to a play last week, an independent production in Melbourne, in a small venue. The actors were fantastic and the play was hilarious and I was surprised to read a review online criticising the director. Even had I read it before I went I’d have taken no notice though because the spelling and punctuation were absolutely awful! When I see that I disregard the source as being some loner who thinks he knows something about theatre but actually doesn’t.
       Am I what didwrong to assume anyone who actually reads ought to be able to spell? And there’s Spellcheck. Typos I understand; we all do that, but if you’re not a good speller, do use your computer’s help. I have a small ebook, ‘What Did You Say?’, permanently free at Smashwords,which might be of use as well, especially for grammar and punctuation.
      Summer’s nearly over here and autumn will be very welcome. We have a very hot day forecast for tomorrow but it’s quite cool today and I’m hoping they’re wrong. Anyway one stinking hot day isn’t so bad. It’s when it goes on several days in a row and stays hot throughout the night it’s hard to take. Bring on winter!

 


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Time for a New Start

Beast_of_War_Cover_for_Kindle

I finished a 3 book series a few weeks ago and have deliberately put off starting a new project because I didn’t want to be distracted by other things. I went to Mildura, my home town, for my brother’s birthday, worked on a new cover for my children’s fantasy, ‘Beast of War’, and then there was Christmas.

I have five sons and, adding in their partners, a couple of grand-kids and now several more step grand-kids, it’s become impossible to get everyone together for Christmas. We had three Christmases this year and managed to see everyone so that worked. New Year will be quiet, unless there’s something I don’t know about, and I plan to start work on my new book next week.

Of course I’ve been thinking about it and have an idea what it’s about but I’m not much of a planner. I don’t map out chapters or anything; hopefully once I get to know the characters they’ll do their own thing. That usually works for me; I present them with a scenario and they deal with it according to their personality. Having spent the last three years writing a series that’s now finished I feel both free and a little nervous about starting something different. My ‘Red Dust Series’ has, and still is doing very well and I hope my readers will like the new one. I’m not sure yet if it will be another series or just one book.

I do know this book will be mostly based in Bendigo, central Victoria, which is my home now and has been for 25 years or so. The history of not guilty 2014 coverBendigo is very interesting, built as it was on the gold fields, and I studied something of that at uni. I also had reason to research other aspects of Bendigo for my true crime book ‘Not Guilty’, about a woman who killed her three children. The jail she was in for a few months after her trial was converted last year to a theatre. Converted is probably the wrong word–what they did was keep the outside walls and build an amazing 1000 seat theatre within them.

So I’ve had a good break but I’m starting to get a bit toe-y now and it’s time to get back to work–next week. Happy New Year everyone!

Stony Creek on Amazon

The Road to Karinya

Red Wine and Summer Storms

 

 


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Agony and Ecstasy–Designing your own book covers

Beast_of_War_Cover_for_KindleI finished my latest book a week or so ago and decided to spend some time before I start the next one working on covers, one in particular. I’ve done all of my own covers and currently have 15 books on Amazon; most of them I’m reasonably happy with but the children’s books in particular are really crying out for an artist. There’s no way I’m ever going to find an image of 3 teens, one who’s green and extremely tall and thin, one blue and muscular, and one tiny with white skin and pointy ears, for ‘Beast of War’!

When my youngest son started school I did too and I spent a few years studying art before I decided writing was more my forte. It was fun and hard work and I think the design aspect has proven worthwhile but unfortunately my drawing skills are just not up to scratch, certainly not now if they ever were. Then again my handwriting has deteriorated a lot since I started spending so much time on a computer too and that might be part of it.

Anyway, back to the drawing board–or at least the free photos at morguefile. I did find a picture there that I used for a new cover on ‘Beast of War’, which gives it a fresh look at least. Maybe next year I’ll try the local community college–see if I can find an artist who’ll work for nothing!

 

The only cover I’ve paid for is ‘Inheritance’ and I’m very pleased with that one (from fiverr). I had planned to get the same designer to do my latest new the inheritance coverbook, ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms’, and since it’s book 3 of a series I wanted the other 2 re-done so they’d all sort of match up. I wasn’t happy with his design and I realise now what I actually love about the design of ‘Inheritance’ is the actual picture, which was from one of those sites that sell them, so I went looking for pictures and found one I liked at istock for around $14. Then I redid the titles on the others so they match up reasonably well.

not guilty 2014 coverMy favourite cover, for ‘Not Guilty’, is one of my own photos and the layout is one of Createspace’s, which is considerably easier than using your own.

I’d love to hear from other self-published writers about your cover design stories.

‘Beast of War’ is FREE on Amazon from 4th to 6th December (USA time) and ‘Not Guilty’ is free 4th and 5th. My book of short stories, ‘Connections‘, if free right now, today only.

 

 

 

 

Sunset Vineyard


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Opening a Can of Worms–Daylight Saving

I know a lot of people love daylight saving and if you happen to live in a cool climate where you absolutely relish that extra hour of sunlight, then lucky you! Daylight saving absolutely makes sense for you. If, on the other hand, you live in a country where temperatures can get to the mid 40s (Celsius–100 plus Fahrenheit) and beyond in some areas, what on earth is the point? Why would anyone in their right mind choose to take an hour of the coolest part of the day, when they could be sleeping, and add it on to the hottest part of the day?

Now, to be honest, it doesn’t affect me a great deal these days; I’m lucky enough to have air-conditioning; I rarely have to get up  to an alarm clock and my kids are all grown and flown. The coop. But I remember what a nightmare it was getting little boys to bed when the sun was still shining in their bedroom windows. I don’t know if parents still do that or if they’ve given up and let the kids stay up until the sun goes down and then have to drag them out of bed in the morning for school.

Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland have all had the good sense to abandon daylight saving–I think they all tried it and it proved unpopular. I suspect the reason it succeeded in the south east states is more to do with our large city population than the fact that our climate is a bit milder than up north. City workers seem to like it because, I suppose, they have a chance to get home or even go to the beach before dark. Since more Victorian voters live in cities than the country I know it’s a lost cause but I still feel for those parents trying to get their kids to bed.

Daylight saving starts here tomorrow morning and I don’t even have to put the clocks forward any more–it’s automatic. I’d be interested to hear from other readers why they love or hate daylight saving, or wish they had it if they don’t.

It’s also footy finals today and ‘my’ team is playing. And winning. Sometimes I wish I cared, but it’s just a group of Aussie blokes playing another group of Aussie blokes and either way, we win, right? Now if we were playing New Zealand, or the UK, or USA, I might be more interested!

I’m getting on with Book 3 of my Red Dust rural romance series and will almost certainly have it finished by Christmas; I’m moving into a new office shortly which will make it easier, I hope. I’m currently working in the lounge-room and, with three empty bedrooms, I decided to bite the bullet and clean one out. I’ll be able to work with no interruptions and will get heaps done–at least that’s the theory! ‘Dark Innocence’ is FREE on the 4th and 5th of October–it’s quite a small book and will definitely keep you interested!

Stony_Creek_Cover_for_Kindle          karinya cover           darkamazon