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Magic Bites Review

I’m kinda late to the Kate Daniels party.

Embarrassingly late.

So I decided to haul some arse* and read a bit of the chick whose sword needs a feed, kinda like your weirdo best friend’s pet snake needs a frozen mouse.

Also, I want to know more about the serious Narnia lion on the covers.

As there’s a crapload of drooling 5 star fangirls on Amazon and Goodreads, dribbling words of praise all over these puppies, I gotta read one of them.

At least.

*(an ‘ass’ is a donkey-horse hybrid, not a swear word, dear US readers)

Pre-Read Expectations

I have high expectations for this book, mainly because all of the slathering reviews and copy-cat series it’s spawned.

The cover is kind of cheesy, but I can overlook that.

Fingers crossed that Kate Daniels is NOT another snarky, bitchy, braid tugging, sniffing premenstrual 12 year old like a lot of other urban fantasy (UF) heroines.

I want Kate Daniels to be as good as the lead characters that Kim Harrison, Laurell Hamilton, Laura Bickle and Kat Richardson have created.

You know, someone like Xena crossed with Agent Scully, rather than Nikki Minaj crossed with an empty shoebox.

via GIPHY

I have no idea about the worldbuilding in the series, so no preconceptions there. Don’t even know where it’s set (the US, I’m guessing).

Magic Bites is a bit of a blank space.

Kind of fun, eh?

Plot Summary

Kate Daniels’s mentor/step-father figure, Greg has been murdered. Normally a loner merc (mercenary), Kate agrees to help the Order, who Greg worked for, solve his murder.

Clues soon suggest the involvement of the other two big paranormal organisations in Atlanta outside of the Order, the Pack (shapeshifters) and the People (necromancers).

Kate soon figures out that neither are involved – instead, a mysterious third party is trying to get the People and the Pack into a war against each other.

She finds herself loosely allied to the Pack, lead by Curran (the Narnia lion dude). The Pack are mainly nekkid men’s chests who change into wolves and other furry beasts.

via GIPHY

Randomly, they start riding horses along ley lines (It. Just. Happened. Ok?).

Kate thinks she’s figured out who the Big Bad is: a human guy named Crest, a try-hard plastic surgeon who’s been dating her. Curran and his Pack of nekkid men chests come with her on a seriously big operation to confront Crest.

Turns out, she’s wrong and he’s not the Big Bad.

She loses the Pack’s trust, and pisses Crest off.

Kate goes home, gets drunk, and the Big Bad turns up at her place, but she’s set wards and he can’t bust in.

The Big Bad kidnaps one of her Pack friends and sets up a challenge.

There’s a big battle with Curran, Kate, and the world’s worst entrance, stage left, character, Nick the Knight of the Order, who gives Kate the key piece of info she needs to kill Bono, the Big Bad.

There’s a seriously. Big. Climax. Fight. Everyone gets hurt.

Bad.

Bono joins the choir eternal in a puff of smoke.

Afterwards: Kate accepts random job offer from the cops, and Curran fixes a hole in her roof.

My Review

I seriously considered ditching this book halfway through.

It seemed to be yet another example of the overused UF trope of SNARKY FEMALE MC (main character), mixed with a bad case of WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T INFO DUMP, gone cray-cray.

Let me give you an example.

Almost every time Kate interacts with anyone save her slightly random step-mother, she strikes like a viper. The claws are out.

Most of the time, it’s for no apparent reason…

… and I have a problem with it.

A BIG problem.

Snark is cheap conflict.

Instead of having a character with an internal emotional conflict, or a conflict with her setting, you get newish authors doing the same, tired thing: snarky conflict between characters.

In UF, the result is always angsty, moody, bitchy-for-no-reason characters, who snap, back-chat and act like smart-arse 12 year old, premenstrual douches in nearly every single piece of dialogue.

The good news was that the snark calmed down towards the end of the book, and thankfully, Kate was pulled up for her mouth several times.

Gives me hope she is a little more than cardboard cut-out she comes across as (compare her with Harper Blaine of Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series or even Anita Blake, both deep characters from the beginning).

Another annoying thing with the book was the LACK of information.

We’re talking fantasy world here.

We need some worldbuilding. A little bit of explanation, some exposition, sprinkled here and there.

There is not an additional line of exposition anywhere in this book.

It’s as lean as an anorexic greyhound on speed.

Which, again, smacks of not-quite-ready-in-my-art, like the snark-fest.

Given that the world Andrews has built is complex and original, it deserves more than the cursory blink it’s given.

I totally get revealing only what’s needed to the reader through your character’s eyes, but in this book the LACK of this was noticeable and jarring to the reader.

Like horses.

Suddenly, in Magic Bites, we’re riding horses. No explanation.

via GIPHY

Go figure.

I have two other issues I thought worth mentioning, and they are especially important to US authors to consider.

Beautiful People

For goodness sakes, why is everyone is so fucking gorgeous in US, female-written urban fantasy?

All the shapeshifters in Magic Bites are nekkid men’s chests (yes, there is Jennifer, but she’s barely mentioned).

Kate is 5 foot gazillion with luscious hair and a look that attracts men.

Enough.

I want a SHORT, muscular chick with a flat chest.

A guy with crooked teeth and a dad body.

Not unbelievable characters influenced by Hollywood glitz.

Male UF writers don’t tend to do this.

There is no reason for female writers to do it, yet WE DO.

Slap yourself.

The American South

UF authors, please stop writing books set in the US south.

Those ‘southern’ cultural nuances you find cute or even comprehensible, sound creepy, disturbing, or worse, leave the reader puzzled.

I.e. In Magic Bites, Kate notes a male character wears boots like any Southern man would.

Umm, a hell of a lot of Aussie men wear boots to work.

FFS, I wear boots to work!

So whatever the cultural nuance was regarding boots, it made no sense to someone outside that cultural milieu.

Redeeming Features.

Now that I’ve trashed Magic Bites, I’ll discuss what worked for me.

Slayer, the sword that needs a feed, worked.

Kate having MUSCLES (female authors: you have a chick that uses weapons, she is going to have muscles), definitely works for me.

via GIPHY

The world works, but needs about 10000 additional words in the text to bring it to life. It seems to be post-apocalyptic (not sure), the vampires are very original (they’re like drones and need piloting), the setting well-developed in the author’s mind but sadly lacking as a character.

The plot was ok. No real twists other than Crest, the red-herring.

The gore was great, I loved the anatomical details, and I also loved the honest, realistic swearing.

The book is not for pathetic, christian apple-pie moms, which make me fist pump and scream: YES YES YES!!

I guess the question is, then: WILL I READ THE NEXT ONE?

Hmmm…. school’s out on that.

Rating:

3 stars – Not too foul category

Facebook Ads For Authors: My First Experience

I’m currently experimenting with a pen name in an erotic fiction sub-sub-genre. In other words, I’ve launched a brand new, unknown author straight out of the gate.

Everyone tells you the money is in the list, and I know from the travel website and guides I do with my partner how true this is.

If you want to check out what we do in travel as we get over 50K eyes to our website every month, and have close to 30K Facebook fans and 18K Instagram fans, traveloutbackaustralia.com is the place to go.

At present, for a brand new author Facebook (FB) ads seem to be the best way to build a list quickly. I’m a lifelong adventurer so I thought I’d give it a go.

What I’m going to write is honest and straight from the heart. It’s also pertinent to ONE sub-sub-genre, so I have no idea how it will apply to others.

If you find this article useful, say THANK YOU by signing up for my mailing list.

Stage 1: Learning From Others

There’s loads of info out there now on FB ads for authors, so I’m going to share what I found useful for one erotica sub-genre.

Mark Dawson, David Martin and Mavis Amouzou-Akue were the folks I’d seen recommended by others so I read whatever whatever they’d put out free or contained in low cost PDF reports and then synthesized it.

Here’s what you need to know about the resources I used:

  • David Martin’s ‘In The Trenches’ (now unavailable) report contains a step-by-step walk-through for setting up different kinds of ads and has a few examples of his older ads
  • Mavis Amouzou-Akue’s report is very similar to Martin’s and contains a walk-through for setting up lead ads
  • Mark Dawson’s free series of videos walks you through setting up lead ads but does explain other kinds of ads in passing

If you haven’t set up a Facebook page or ever looked at the FB Adverts Manager or Power Editor, each of these resources helps you do that, too.

The first thing I’ll say is that was based on the comments of many other authors, I was expecting FB Advert Manager to be extremely difficult to use.

It wasn’t.

Maybe it’s because I’ve had years of making and running websites and can cope with CSS and HTML. Maybe I’m just used to the FB interface.

Anyhow, I didn’t find the interface as daunting as others had made it out to be.

I started off working my way through David Martin’s ‘In the Trenches’ report and abandoned it after one spectacularly frustrating day that has nothing to do with its ability to explain ad set up – I’ll come back to this in the next section.

Likewise with Mavis’s report. It’s very easy to follow, and covers setting up pages and lead ads, but once I was up and running, I didn’t refer to it again.

Personally, I found Mark Dawson’s free series of how-to videos the easiest to follow – even though I HATE watching videos and would much rather learn how to do something by following a step-by step tutorial.

CAVEAT: Some of the screen shots in all of these resources need to be updated, as FB has changed its interface.

Whilst this isn’t a show stopper, it will mean you have to sometimes click around inside the FB Adverts manager to find the equivalent sections.

Stage 2.1: Implementation & Frustration

In the beginning, I was following David Martin’s step-by-step guide and adapting his ad style to my pen name and the series of erotica shorts I’d written.

Oh dear. I fucked up – and I’ll share what happened in a moment.

First, I’d like to talk to you about something that none of the resources covered very well: how to actually make an ad!

(Yes, I know Mark covers this in his ‘paid’ course, but at present it’s closed so I can’t comment on what he teaches in there).

Missing in Action

You want to be able to make the artwork for your ads and change your ad designs and text QUICKLY to get best results, so I’m going to tell you where to do this:

https://www.canva.com/templates/social-graphics/

Canva has a FB ad template that’s the exact right size, you can adapt one of their designs or upload your own images.

Canva will take a little bit of learning, although I find it very intuitive.

Once you’ve designed your ad, it’s very easy to change little bits of it and re-upload it to the FB Adverts Manager or Power Editor.

But let’s step back a bit.

BEFORE you hit Canva and start designing, have a look at the ads in your FB feed and get a sense of what other people are doing.

Hopefully, as an author you like lots of other author pages and their ads are being served to you, so you’ll find something that you like.

Copy what’s working. Not every design will work for your genre – which is why it’s really important to be able to change your ads quickly.

To simplify things, I only designed TWO ads to monitor, tweak and experiment with.

Facebook lets you use a number of ads. As most people do A/B split testing in the online marketing space, I followed this and only used two ads.

Stage 2.2: I FAILED & WHY

My first attempt at getting an ad up failed before a single person had seen it.

Facebook WOULD NOT approve my ad.

Apparently, my ads had too much cleavage!

This was hilarious as the cover of the book I’d used in my ad had a woman in a black evening dress on it. She’s 100% clothed with no nipples or cleavage showing.

Your gran could look at this book and not be offended!

*The erotica sub-sub-genre I’m in is unique in that it doesn’t favour covers with NEKKID men’s torsos or women’s nudie bits on them.

So it had me completely stumped why the %&#^# Facebook wouldn’t approve my ad.

After several hours of swearing (fuck, fuck, FUCK! I can swear!) I figured out that it was my pen name’s profile pic… there was a little bit of cleavage showing as she’s wearing a bikini top!

Yup. Facebook has a problem with chicks wearing bikinis.

Anyhow…

I zoomed in on her image so that you could only see her head and shoulders, and voila!

My ad was approved.

Also, using the words ‘erotic’ or ‘erotica’ in your ads is a no-no. They won’t get approved.

But my woes didn’t stop there…

I’d decided to send people to my website and a landing page to sign up for my amazeballs free book.

I followed David Martin’s advice to the letter. I’d even modelled my ads on his designs and copy.

I already had a landing page on my pen name’s website and I’m am a HUGE Thrive themes fan, so I’ve got their Visual Editor plugin that makes building your own landing page a breeze.

Here’s one I’ve built here.

Sweet?

Nope.

I left two ads running for 24 hours and it resulted in only 6 clicks and no sign ups.

WHAT THE HELL HAD I DONE WRONG?

Stage 2.3: AUTOPSY REQUIRED

I woke up feeling bummed.

Like this whole indie author thing was going to be a massive failure and I should go back to my agent and start prostituting myself to HarperCollins again…

Soon, I was wallowing in the black pit of doom, my entrails flapping behind me.

I was scared.

No one was looking at my ad or my free amazeballs book.

Deep breath. Take a 10km walk and then run 5km in the afternoon.

Regroup.

Whilst I was out walking, it came to me that I should go back and watch Mark Dawson’s videos again.

I did.

Something else also came to me when I was walking and my mind was in the flow state exercise triggers … I wasn’t sure about it at first, but in the end, it proved to be critical.

Stage 3: Back to Square One

I decided to try the FB lead ads route that Mark describes (so do Mavis and David).

My reason for NOT doing it in the first place was that I am a stubborn, headstrong biatch and I wanted people to see MY stupendous lead page that I’d built all myself.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

No one gives a crap that I’d built it myself.

And they voted with their resounding silence… and zero clicks!

So Facebook lead ads it was to be!

WHAT IS A FACEBOOK LEAD AD?

I hear you asking.

Quite simply, it’s an ad that collects people’s email addresses when they sign up for an offer or a subscription. They never have to leave Facebook.

You then manually download the emails in a spreadsheet and put them into Aweber, Mailchimp or the email provider you’re using.

There are PAID services that will add your sign ups to your email provider for you, but as I’m stingy and this is a throwaway pen name, I’m doing it manually, twice a day.

Stage 3.1: A Modicum of Success

I relaunched my ads using David Martin’s design suggestions and some slightly altered copy after rewatching Mark’s videos.

Remember, I’m only testing TWO ads.

YES!!

HIGH FIVES!
I woke up the next day (I’m in Australia so magic happens overnight for us, whilst the rest of the world is still trying to play catch up) and a whole seven people had clicked and subscribed.

Over the course of the day, I watched my ads’ ‘Relevance’ score, like Mark Dawson had told me to.

You don’t get a relevance score until your ad has reached 500 people.

It took until mid-afternoon for me to get one (the ad had gone up the previous evening).

I scored a massive 1 out of 10, ten being an ad that bestows immortality, conquers evil and wins lotto… or the meat raffle the local pub.

ONE. Out of ten.

Hmmm…. there was something wrong with my ad, my copy or my targeting.

Remember I said I had another epiphany on my walk?

I was right.

Stage 4: SUCCESS, CLICKS AND 9/10

This is the part of my journey where I get down and dirty.

I started to tweak and test parts of my ads and monitor the results.

What I’m going to share worked with erotica. It might not work with other genres, and it’s only based on one set of ads, so who knows, I could be talking through my bum!

Stage 4.1: Design

I’m going to be totally upfront here.

David Martin’s ad design did not work for my target audience. He does clean romance.

I don’t. In fact, clean romance leaves me cold. And do not even start me on ‘christian’ romance – my stomach is hurling my lunch!

(I find Mr Martin very odd. He does ‘jesus’ interpretive dancing. Uhuh… Cannot take him seriously).

Lesson here: study your market. What works in clean romance probably won’t work in erotica or science fiction!

My design tweaks:

I ditched the scenery background on one of my ads and went for a plain, warm crimson with the book cover on the right hand side.

On the left side of the ad was the book’s short tag line.

Yes, I started to get more clicks.

I waited a few hours, then tried a close up of my cover model’s head and shoulders on the second ad with no text in the picture.

The text was beneath the picture, and was a short story logline.

This DID NOT WORK. Nopety, nope!

Then:

I created a second plain background ad in a different colour (a WARM blue like Facebook’s blue, although FB is a cool blue).

This ad got a few clicks.

Lesson: In my erotica genre, people seem to like plain backgrounds and book covers. No flowers, no scenery and I didn’t have a single naked, headless muscle man anywhere!

Stage 4.2 Copy

On my two initial ads, I used Mark Dawson’s very simple copy in one and David Martin’s longer, elevator pitch copy on the other.
Here’s what I changed:

Crimson ad:

Used Mark Dawson’s simple copy. No details of story, other than the tag text in photo design. Just the kind of ‘get it free’ text above and below the ad.

At the end of running this ad for 5 days, I have a relevance score of 7 and a CPC of $0.64 (Australian dollars).

Blue ad:

Initially, I used identical copy to the crimson ad, which resulted in fewer clicks

After going for another 10km walk, I decided to TELL people what I wanted them to do. I changed the text in the picture design of the ad to a CALL TO ACTION and added a very short teaser of the story (a logline) below the picture.

BOOM!

At the end of running this ad for 48 hours, the relevance score is 8 and the CPC is $0.39  (AUD).

After running this ad for 12 days, I had a relevance score of 9 and a CPC of $0.34. AUSSIE DOLLARS – not US!

fb-ads

Stage 4.3: Targeting

Now this is where my results fly in the face of what the experts are saying.

I think there’s some damned good reasons for this which you may or may not agree with.

Every single one of the resources said to target the US only, and start with mobile.

I did exactly that.

Something inside me said this wasn’t right.

So, after the second day, I added the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

THIS IS WHEN I STARTED TO SEE RESULTS.

After another day, I added Canada (sorry Canucks, I left you out!).

I can hear you saying… HEY! WHOA! That can’t be right, the US market is THE BOMB! I make 90% of my dosh there…

Well, I’m telling you what happened for me.

I have two suspicions.

One is cultural:

The US has a religious, puritan culture I just don’t get.

The countries of the Commonwealth don’t have this prudishness.

Some of us were founded by very, very naughty people who did heinous things like stealing ducks cos they were starving and were transported to the Colonies for their efforts.

Perhaps this means that US women are less likely to sign up for erotica in their FB feed, and would rather do it elsewhere? I’m sure there’s erotica writers serving ads to US markets – so I’d like to think this wasn’t the case.

Maybe US readers like all sunshine and rainbows type erotica… which my books aren’t?

Maybe US readers only like books with NEKKID men or billionaires on them?

I don’t have enough data to be sure – but hey, I’m glad for my fellow members of the Commonwealth and their desire for deeper, darker things.

Flooded Markets

A significant percentage of people are signing onto my list from the UK, South Africa and New Zealand. I have some thoughts on this:

  • Other authors aren’t serving ads to them because experts have told them not to
  • Other authors don’t care/know these markets exist
  • My ads were drowned out in the US market by other author’s ads
  • My ads don’t appeal to the US market

Again, it’s early days and I don’t have anything to compare with, so this is all speculation.

*NB – after 2 weeks, most ADDITIONAL sales of other titles by my pen name came from UK, NZ and AU

The last thing I did was to deliver to desktop as well as mobile.

Again, I saw an instant increase in sign ups.

This seems to be a biggy that flies in the face of what I was told.

Reflections

After almost two weeks, I’ve had hundreds (312) of sign ups and downloads of my free book.

I’ve also had some reviews and made sales of my pen name’s other book.

I spent just over $100 AUD (Australian dollars, in case you’ve forgotten) and am quite happy with the result.

The things I can say:

  • You MUST study your market first and know what appeals to them visually
  • Tweak and monitor constantly
  • It IS possible to get a relevance score of 9/10 – you just have to work at it
  • Sign ups peaked on the UK/US weekends
  • IGNORE THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH AT YOUR PERIL —> you are cutting off precious markets
  • Readers in the UK,NZ & AU purchased OTHER titles after reading my free offering more than US readers

I will be repeating my FB ad shortly in our travel non-fiction niche, and then for the first book of the Night Lily series due next January (2017).

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Writing at Light Speed: Chris Fox 5000 Words Per Hour Experience

Yes, I’m still proceeding with the Grand Chris Fox Experiment, although it’s morphed from researching a market to writing now.

I’m pleased to say that I’m three quarters of the way through the first draft of The Night Lily, that’s around 48,000 words of what I expect to be a 70-80K novel once finished.

The aim is to have the first draft done by the end of September, complete the second by the end of October, ready for my trusty beta readers to read in November. I’m aiming at a mid-January 2017 launch.

Apparently, launching in December is not good for the US market… Ho hum.writing5000words-perhour

Or should that be ho ho ho?

Writing At Light Speed

Throughout the process of writing The Night Lily, I’ve been using the method outlined in another of Chris Fox’s books, 5000 Words Per Hour. (Click on the image to read more about the book. It will take you to Amazon.com).

Fox’s method involves a training method to get you up to speed, spreadsheets for tracking your progress and the suggestion of a Pomodoro timer for writing sprints.

He also recommends using Dragon Naturally Speaking or other voice dictation software to help you write faster.

I’ll make a comment on my speech dictation experience right here and now.

Quite frankly, it sucked.

No only does speech-recognition software not cope well with an Australian accent, when you’re writing fantasy fiction, you tend to have a lot of made up words.

So for me, words like Taqi (the main character’s name) and Jhiriyah (the name of the empire in The Night Lily) don’t play nicely with speech software.

Then there is the self-consciousness/flow of words factor.

Maybe some writers can rattle off quality prose when using speech recognition software.

I am not one of those writers.

Dictating my words completely screws up my flow and blocks my muse…and if there’s anyone in the house save the dogs, then I’m completely self-conscious.

So much so, that I simply can’t ‘write’.

Yes, I did give the speech dictation a go – this is where the experiences above come from.

And I decided that it wasn’t for me.

This probably means I’ll never crack 5000 words per hour. 

Am I worried?

NOPE… and and the next section, I’ll explain why.

Sprinting for My Life!

Using the methods outlined in Chris Fox’s book  I’ve hit 2000 words per hour (WPH) just typing.

Admittedly, I don’t hit that all the time. I seem to average about 1600-1800 WPH.

I know this because I’ve been tracking my progress using the spreadsheet you Chris Fox kindly allows you to download through a link in the book.

I set the little Pomodoro app on my Mac for 25 minutes, turn off the wifi/internet and open Scrivener (the program I write in).

Then I just go for it.

Rinse and repeat.

Until my chapter is done.

In this way, I have been able to finish a draft chapter a day of The Night Lily – an astounding achievement for me, a perfectionist who will dwell upon a sentence for three hours.

Getting this far in such a short time has been a complete eye-opener for me.

As I write in under another pen name, have writing and promotion of our outback Australia travel website to do, and book promotion to do as well, drafting a chapter a day of an 80K novel leaves me feeling supremely satisfied.

The Question of Quality

Of course, lots of people will ask: “Yeah, sure. It’s all very well to write fast like that, but what’s your writing like? I bet it’s utter crap?”

I have to admit, this was a huge fear of mine, too.

Yes, I was terrified that I would simply write rubbish that would require massive re-writing.

So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

The writing is serviceable and in some places, is close to second draft quality. Other places it requires editing, better characterisation and ‘deep setting’, but as I’ve GOT something to work from, I’m already way ahead of how I usually plod along and write.

So whilst what I’ve written as a draft isn’t my published-quality writing, it is the skeleton on which I’ve hung some flesh and sinew.

The second draft is where I’ll hang the skin, hair and clothing.

Of course there is a secret to me being able to think about doing something like this, and that’s having all 206 bones in place before I start.

I’ll save that discussion for another post, though, as it’s another writing adventure altogether.

Reflections

The method, on the whole, has been a rollicking success for me.

I’ve got so much written…far, far more than I ever would have imagined.

Yes, there has been some trade off in quality, but as I’ll be doing a second draft -and I would normally do this ad infinitum- I’m not all that worried about it.

As I’m not actually trying to write 5000K per hour, I can say that about 4000 words in a day has been my biggest achievement.

I haven’t seen meteoric rises in the amount of words I’ve been able to write, just a slow, steady increase.

However, underpinning this great leap in productivity is the fact that I’ve done my homework and got my bones all laid out on the anatomist’s table.

And that’s a whole other blog post!

Day 2: Write to Market

It’s Day 2 and I’m working my way through the exercises in Chis Fox’s Write to Market: Deliver a Book That Sells

So how did I go?

To tell you the truth, it wasn’t too hard.

I had to find three genres on Amazon that I’d be interested in writing AND which conform to certain criteria set out in Fox’s book which are guides for identifying a hungry, yet uncrowded market.

I’m kinda chuffed cos the book I’ve started on (yes, I’m cheating a little here) fits into three super cool genres that match Fox’s criteria.

So no big sweat.

Tomorrow’s exercise, however, promises to be a little harder.

I’ll see you then.

 

 

The Grand Chris Fox Experiment

My biggest problem as a writer has always been finishing.

Like many writers, I’ve got a harddrive (and a cupboard) full of abandoned manuscripts or handwritten foolscap tomes that I’ve written and rewritten.

And, let me tell you, I’ve been writing books since I was 12 (that was way back in 1979), so I’ve got quite a few books either completed or partially completed, most of which will never see the light of day.

Fast forward to 2002.

I wrote a few short stories and I won a few awards. Yeah, I got a publishing contract, too. And an option from a major publishing house on a novel I’d written.

It was those shorter works that gave me hope – convinced me that my writing had reached the point where it wasn’t garbage.

And then my muse died…

I’m not going to waffle on about what happened. It’s all a bit painful and superfluous now. Let’s just say I didn’t write fiction for a very long time.

But I did write.

I wrote a PhD.

I wrote HUNDREDS of travel articles, reports, and other pieces. I was published and PAID for my writing over and over again.

Which kind of told me that my writing didn’t suck.

Then, in January 2015 the muse returned (at the insistence of two of my characters, mind you) and I started writing fiction again.

Lessons From University

I kicked butt at uni (Australians shorten words. UNI is short for ‘university’, and let’s be clear: university is university, it’s NOT ‘college’ which is a lesser institution here in Australia, one that doesn’t confer degrees).

Within a few months of commencing uni, I was getting High Distinctions in my majors.

I went on to get a First Class Honours which then enabled scholarship for my anthropology PhD.

My anthropology PhD allowed me to do what most anthropology grads only dream of: I went on to earn a six figure salary all because I could write and manage my time better than a lot of other people could.

How Did This Happen?

I figured out by the end of first semester at uni what the MARKET wanted.

Of course, the ‘market’ at uni was my lecturers and the writing conventions of each discipline I studied. It wasn’t hard to figure it out: read a lot of papers and articles, listen to my lecturers, glean the style and write what was expected.

Which worked fine…

But what about doing it for fiction? 

How write to market when you’re writing fiction without:

  • Writing something you don’t give a shit about?
  • Selling out your dreams (let’s all jump on the cozy mysteries or ‘clean romance’ bandwagon, yee-haa. Now wait for a minute whilst I go vomit in the corner)?
  • Knowing what the market actually wants?

Chris Fox is one person who’s got an answer:

It’s called ‘Write to Market: Deliver a Book That Sells‘.

And of course, if you click on that image, it will take you to Amazon and if you buy the book, I’ll earn a few cents and so will Chris.

So, I’ve read Chris’s book.

In fact, I’ve read three of his books over the past week.

Chris talks like an Aussie.

I like that.

He doesn’t crap on with loads of personal anecdotes in the books, he gets straight to the point and is blunt about it, just like Australians do.

I’ve decided to implement his advice and put it to the test.

Can I use his system to research and write a book?

Which brings me to…(insert drummroll and taa daa!): the GRAND CHRIS FOX EXPERIMENT

41days

What Evil I’m Planning:

Starting with the exercises outlined in Write to Market  I’m going to research and write a novel in…wait for it 41 days.

Why forty one days?

Easy. As I write this, it’s Sunday 21 August 2016

I want the novel completed for my beta readers by 30 September.

I’m going to record a short video of my daily progress or write up a blog post of how I did (a video depends on how photogenic I feel and whether my nasally nerd voice irritates me too much).

Each day I will set the next day’s task.

So my task for 22 August (Day 1) is:

Find my market

How will I go?

Let’s check back in tomorrow and find out.