Let's face it, writing is a tough gig. Especially when you are in the 99% of authors who rarely admit to themselves, let alone the general public, what their actual book sales are during any given month. It's very easy to see successful authors as an entirely different species - the ones who have "made it" and no longer associate with us mere mortals still hoping for that breakthrough novel. So it was a refreshing surprise to attend an author talk with the mega successful author Michael Connelly and listen to his experiences and to be reminded that whether you have sold 70 books or 70 million, as he has, that the writing experience is still the same.
Flashback, my collection of short stories is now available in paperback. Originally comprising three short stories and only available as an e-book, Flashback has been updated with two new short stories and also includes my other stand alone short story, 'The Perfect Proposal.'
Two earlier combined versions (The Perfect Proposal and Other Stories - also known as Short Story Collection) will no longer be available. Those volumes did not include the two new short stories from Flashback. Flashback in paperback can be purchased here from this website or through Amazon (easiest if outside Australia).
Coming up with a title for your novel can be surprisingly challenging. With my first book, The Beach House, the title came to me long before I jotted down a single note about the story. I didn't care that there were several other books with the same title, it was set in stone as far as I was concerned. When my publisher gently suggested I might consider changing to a variation on the theme (in the interests of being more original) I politely said I would consider it, but knew it would never happen. I have never regretted taking that firm stance as my book is about not only "a" beach house but "The" Beach House.
I wrote this article just after my first novel The Beach House was published back in 2011. Since then I have published two more novels and I have to say the editing process was NOWHERE near as painful for either of these books. For those of you still in the early days of your writing journey, I hope you find some of the information useful.
Long before I became a publisher author I believed myself to be a “good” writer. All through high school and university I did well on written assignments because I had an engaging writing style and my spelling, grammar and general formatting were always correct. Having loved books from an early age, I knew how to construct a story and had a fertile imagination. Besides I actually enjoyed writing – whereas other people hated the idea of sitting down and even writing a letter - that was a walk in the park for me. I regularly helped family members and friends write all kinds of things as well as edit assignments, speeches etc.
So, when I finally got around to writing the novel I’d had floating around my brain for years, I was fairly confident. After all, I knew how the story was going to pan out and, besides, I was sure in the knowledge that I was a “good” writer. My biggest challenge was going to be actually sitting down and getting the thing written!
It's always gratifying when you hear from a reader how something in your novel has had an impact on them - be it funny, sad, thought-provoking etc. But the best kind of impact is to inspire someone in some way. A reader once told me how four words in a sentence one of my characters, (Kate), spoke helped her through the last semester of her university degree. Bogged down, tired and discouraged, she was on the verge of giving up but when she read the words "sheer force of will", it gave her the focus and determination to just push through with her own studies and finish what she'd started, even though she wasn't sure it was even what she wanted to do anymore.
Although most of my writing energies these days are directed towards creative writing (I am working on my fourth novel), I began my writing career as a biographer. No, not a well-known A-list kind of biographer, the opposite, in fact. I helped everyday people who wanted to write their life story but didn't know how to go about it. The idea started with a university assignment - to record the life story of any person. It didn't have to be an "exciting" life, the assignment was more about how you recorded and collated the information. The person I chose was so enthusiastic about the project, I couldn't help but be the same. It was the first assignment I can say I loved from start to finish and, realising what a powerful thing the recording of a life (any life) was, I knew that at some point I wanted to do more of it.
Can I just say to begin with that I do now (and think I always will) prefer reading a "real" book than a digital one. There is something about the weight and texture of a real book and the feel of turning paper pages, not to mention the sight of a physical "to be read" pile (and crammed bookshelves) that cannot (in my opinion) be replicated with an e-reader. Yet as an author (and a reader), I can see the real appeal of electronic books and I am incredibly grateful for the way e-books have transformed the publishing industry for ever.
When my book was first published it was initially only created as a paperback. My publisher did not deal with e-books (although he gave me the option of exploring that possibility myself) and I must admit I was not that fussed about creating an digital version of my novel. Although I was aware of e-readers I did not own one and had never really seen one in operation. Besides I figured that if anybody really wanted to read my book then they would buy a paperback. It didn't take me too long to realise that was not the case! In fact I soon realised that when asked if there was an e-book and I said no, rather than offering to buy a paperback many potential customers simply asked me to let them know if and when the e-book was released.
It's always so exciting to announce that your new book is published and ready for sale. It's hard to believe this is my third, but I must say that the process has become more streamlined and I like to think I'm getting a bit better at it. The gap is shrinking too, it is just over eighteen months since my second book was published. So, you never know, the fourth might be even quicker. But, I'm not going to make any great predictions about that. It will be ready when it's ready.
My new book is called Third Offence. It is a sequel to one of the characters from The Beach House, Jack. For those who have read The Beach House, Jack was the character whose life was changed after meeting a young boy, Danny, and forming a close friendship with him. In Third Offence, Danny is a teenager and their story continues in a different direction. I loved developing the characters of Jack and Danny further and revisiting some other familiar characters from The Beach House.
For more information about the book, just click on the Bookshelf tab above. It is available right here from the website as well as Amazon. It will be coming to other e-book retailers soon.
There are pros and cons about becoming a published author in this day and age. On the pro side is how technology has not only revolutionised the way we write, but also the way we publish, advertise and sell our work. Authors are no longer held ransom by major publishing companies or exorbitantly priced self-publishing and have the option of going it alone and using social media to promote their work. On the con side, these things can also hinder an author's journey. Because there is so much more written work out there competing for the same amount of readers, it is very difficult to get noticed (especially if you are an unknown).
One of the best ways readers can help an author get their work noticed is by rating and/or leaving a review. As mentioned in a previous blog post Amazon.com is the king of the on-line book stores. If a book is listed on Amazon, there is no better place to leave a review and rating. While many people have tried (and failed) to understand the way that Amazon's algorithm's work, it would seem that books with a higher number of reviews rate higher and show up better when searched. Reviews are especially important when a book is newly released - there is nothing more lonely than seeing a book up with no ratings or reviews.
Helen McKenna's books on Goodreads
ratings: 80 (avg rating 3.98)
The Beach House
ratings: 77 (avg rating 3.86)
The Perfect Proposal
ratings: 12 (avg rating 3.75)
How Do I Write My Life Story?
ratings: 9 (avg rating 4.11)
The Perfect Proposal And Other Stories
ratings: 9 (avg rating 4.22)