A book confession and a bit of excitement!


December 2014 1Regular readers might recall me claiming not to be acquiring any new books during this season of Christmas, not so secret Santa schemes and upcoming birthday. Well, unfortunately, this appears to have happened … what am I talking about? It’s fortunate – it’s lovely!

First off, one I forgot to include in November as it got itself into a pile of handbags – my good friend known in this household as Editor Laura (to distinguish her from the other 1,000 Lauras I know) visited us at the weekend with her other half, and kindly gave me “Unbridled Spirits”, which is a book about women of the English Revolution and looks fascinating. Then I was in The Works yesterday, picking up bits and bobs, and I found a copy of “Mr Selfridge”, which patently Doesn’t Count because I did have a copy I’d picked up in a second-hand shop, but it was really manky with odd stains and I ended up … discarding it. I did want to read it, though, and now I can. And then a biography of Dolly Parton. I’m kind of assuming that none of my friends or secret santas will be buying me a book on Dolly Parton for Christmas. But I love her, I have done for years, and was reminded of this only the other day while watching a TV programme about Nashville. So, Dolly’s on the TBR shelf.

And the exciting thing? Well, only last Monday I was talking about how I was glad I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo but I was going to carry on working on my Iris Murdoch research anyway. I had a free evening tonight and I sat down and FINISHED writing up an extended version of the presentation on book groups reading “The Bell” which I gave at the Iris Murdoch Society conference in September. It’s with my mentors now for a read-through, and with any luck it’ll be going out to my book group leaders and other interested parties before the end of the month. Hooray! And thank you to everyone who’s supported and encouraged me through that.

I also worked on my longer piece, which will look at both aspects of the research I have done and pull it all together with a bit of theory and discussion. Who knows *what* that is going to turn into, as it’s an awkward 18,000 words long at the moment, but this piece will feed into it and we’ll see what happens then. But I have Research Output, and it feels like a good milestone. Night night! (or good morning if you’re reading this tomorrow!)

State of the TBR, a book confession mystery and why I’m glad I “lost” NaNoWriMo


December To Be ReadHello! It’s the first of December and time to report on the state of my TBR. I also have some book confessions, a MYSTERY and a note about NaNoWriMo, so we’ve got a lot to get through this month. Let’s get started …

Well, the TBR is not looking bad (confession – I added two books to the end of the shelf after I took this pic. BUT they slotted in the gap at the end, so it’s still only one shelf long.

Oct 2014 1Yes, that’s right – only one shelf long still. I’ve been carefully Not Buying Books because it’s Christmas (and Not So Secret) season – I’m in three Not So Secret Santa schemes this year, two booky, one not specifically booky, plus I have a lot of booky friends, so I’ve had to be good just in case duplicates ensued. See below for a slight slip off the non-buying wagon, but I have done OK with that on the whole. I did acquire one Persephone during November,  but I was in charge of the Big Persephone Trip this year, so I just made sure I didn’t buy it for myself from anyone!

Dec 2014 next to readI currently have “Merchant Adventurers” on the go – I’ve just got them sailing off in their three new ships to find the North-East Passage. I’m reading this for the Shiny New Books Newsletter, coming out in the new year, so I’ll point you towards the review when it’s out.

Coming up next, I’ve got a lovely book, “The Bookshop Book”, which my friend Ali has kindly loaned me – I suspect I’ll be buying copies for a few people in the near future. I loaned Ali “The Constant Nymph” for a Margaret Kennedy reading week but fancy re-reading it myself, so that might slot into this month or maybe my January of re-reading.

Book Confessions, including a Mystery

November 2014 3My friend Laura came to visit with her other half at the weekend. We’d promised them the delights of Kings Heath’s charity shops and had a good old rummage. I was mainly shopping for my two booky Not So Secret Santa gifts, but I couldn’t resist these two. I’m not sure anyone else is going to spring on Tony Benn’s diaries for me in the next couple of months – in fact we ran into the person who would be most likely to do that on the day, so I carefully showed it to her. And “Estates” is a book I have on my Kindle, so a weird buying of the print version of something I have electronically, but more importantly, it’s not on my wish list!

November 2014 2Now to the mystery. I found this copy of Iris Murdoch’s “Henry and Cato” in one charity shop. That pic is to show the spine colour, as there has been some confusion over whether it’s a first edition – one known first I’ve seen pictured has a yellow spine where mine is red, but I can’t see from their pic if it’s faded.

November 2014 2aThis one has the known first edition cover, and the back of the title page seems to suggest that it is one, so I’m going to put it on my small shelf of firsts. Oh, and also, in case anyone’s wondering, I’ve already popped back to the charity shop and give them an extra donation, because it’s worth more than I paid for it and that seems fair.

November 2014 2bBut here’s the mystery – on the title page, it has this round sticker that reads “Presented by Britain” with a crest.

It’s really hard to Google that, or the book title and presented by Britain. So I’m hoping a blog reader might know what this signifies! Do comment if you know or can point me to a resource.

On losing NaNoWriMo

So, finally, congratulations to my readers who wrote their 50,000 words in November and “won” NaNoWriMo. Hooray! I’m so pleased for you – it’s a big commitment and achievement. I started doing NaNoWriMo, convinced that I was going to write up my Iris Murdoch research. I’ve been working on this for years, first reporting at the Iris Murdoch Society Conference in 2012 on my scheme to read all of her novels with a group of friends, then getting 24 book groups to read “The Bell” and answer a questionnaire on various aspects including what they knew of Murdoch and whether they thought “The Bell” was a good book group read.

I was planning to write up A Book of some sort. I’d considered the possibility of registering for a PhD, but I know only too well what that entails, and it didn’t work with my life. I am used to writing and I’m OK with self-publishing, although I had had a very, very, very preliminary chat with a publisher about submitting a synopsis etc. I started off, put all of the text I had already in place, zeroed my word count and started adding words.

A few days in and it became patently, blindingly obvious that I do not have the ability to understand, synthesise and apply literary theory to my work. And to produce a work that’s academically relevant, I would need to. Oh dear. Tears ensued. Discussions ensued. Lovely people offered their kind help.

But when it comes down to it, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to write up my research in a much shorter form (and yes, patient book group members, I will produce something by the end of the year (this year: 2014) reporting on my work with you). I’ll add the chronological read to the book group research, fill in the background, draw conclusions and include a tiny bit of theoretical background. It won’t be a PhD, it won’t be a full-length book, it won’t be publishable by a publishing house, but I’ll probably make it available electronically. My hard work will be recorded and I will have produced something, just not what I thought I was going to produce.

I’m glad I started NaNoWriMo because I found out what was going to happen to my research a lot sooner than I would have otherwise. So I’m glad I “lost” NaNoWriMo!


Whew, a long post – did you make it to the end? Any thoughts on any of this will be eagerly read, and I hope you all have a lovely December reading time!


Change your book title and boost sales …?


Liz and Business books

Liz and her books. Photo by Simon Howes

I was setting up a post on my main blog introducing my two new books to the world and I thought it would be interesting to write a “making of” on this blog which is, after all, about my adventures in reading, WRITING and working from home … And the title of this piece explains it all, really – can tweaking your book titles change your sales profile? I’m sharing my experience of naming my books and tweaking those names … and what might have happened next …

Funny book titles equals higher sales? Hm.

My first book was called “Going it Alone at 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment“. I realised there was a danger of people only reading the first part of the title and thinking it was a guide to empty nest syndrome or divorce, but it was my first book, so I could ‘leverage’ that and tell the world about my book. It was sufficiently differentiated from other books to do quite well, and I’ve had some lovely positive reviews (if the worst someone can say about your book is that it contains a few too many cardigans, then life isn’t too bad).

I wasn’t really planning on writing another self-help careers book … except I then put together a Quick Guide to Your Career in Transcription, because people kept searching for that topic on my blog, and that has indeed done pretty well, given that it’s a small book, not a full-length one. And then I kept on blogging about how I was building my business and developing my career and it became apparent that I could put together another book, about increasing your income, saying no and planning your time, plus what I’d learned about blogging and social media. I wrote some new chapters for the book which were later summarised in blog posts, and I published “Who are you Calling Mature? Running a Successful Business After the Start-up Phase” in early 2014.

I did some market research on this title, this way round (and yes, if you’ve clicked the links, you’ll notice that the titles aren’t quite the same now) and people generally thought it was a good and funny title, as well as thinking the idea of the book was useful, given that there are lots of books out there about starting out and not so many about what happens next. I asked friends and colleagues on Facebook and in person at networking events, and excitedly launched the book. At the same time, I launched an omnibus e-edition of the two together so people could get better value, and called that “Going it Alone at 40 AND Who are you Calling Mature? The Omnibus“, which was probably a mistake. Who was going to find THAT searching for business books?

Launch your book and watch it fly!

Or not. I’ll be honest, sales were not what I’d hoped for. I did all the stuff you’re supposed to do, including sending out review copies, and people have bought it and posted some good reviews. But not in the numbers I’d wished for.  Then I asked again, did anyone think there was anything wrong with the title? And I got lots of replies, some along the lines of the business area not being as large, but several saying that the title didn’t lead them to think about business, but about some kind of guide to growing old disgracefully. Oh. After some fulminating about there being subtitles and blue books with graphs on the cover not generally being the way to sell comedy books on ageing, I actually listened to the advice, realised that no one had a chance of finding the omnibus, and switched all the titles around.

Do your research and tread carefully

It’s been a week or so since I changed the titles around. I haven’t actually changed the book covers – yet. I considered it, but as my motto is “Do things carefully and don’t spend out unless you have to”, I thought I’d see if the change had an effect.

What did I do?

  • I changed the titles around on Amazon, and added a whole new title to the omnibus, so it’s now called “Your Guide to Starting and Building your Business“.
  • I remembered to change the titles on my business website’s publications page, and I took the opportunity to add to their SEO (search engine optimisation, AKA making sure that people can find your stuff) by adding sub-headings with the book titles.
  • I changed the titles on my book pages on this blog
  • I told people what I’d done and thanked them for their input
  • I wrote a blog post on my main blog introducing the books (with their new titles) to the world – it’s common practice to launch independent authors’ books once they’ve garnered a few sales and reviews) and made sure they were helped by the SEO of that site

What happened?

I sold more books. It’s anecdotal, obviously: there hasn’t been enough time to see whether this is a trend or a spike. I don’t think the sales were ‘support buys’, i.e. my friends feeling sorry for me and buying a copy to help out (I do massively appreciate that when it happens, and am chuffed at all sales, but that does sort of skew your sales statistics!), but so far I have had significantly more interest and sales.

What happens next for those book titles?

Well, for a start, I’m going to leave them that way around, as it obviously works.

I’m going to see how sales go through next month, and if they are good enough and I can see they’re going to pay their way, I will get the covers redesigned (including the covers for the print books)

And I’ll let you know!

Update – 20 days on and I’m redoing my book covers!

Update: 20 June. I’m pleased to report that as of 20 June I’ve sold copies of my books every day, and more copies of the renamed ones. Luckily, I get a nice report from Amazon about daily sales. I don’t think I’ve been talking about my books any more on social media than I usually do, so I’m putting it down to the new book titles.

Update – August 2014

Liz new books fbI ordered a new cover for the Omnibus e-book, and the two print books – and here they are. Doing that plus creating a dedicated books website has helped to build traffic and sales – but what started it all off was changing the titles! I’ve blogged a more detailed update here.

Read this and pass it on …


mature_frontI don’t do chain letters and blog award things very often, but I’ve been nominated in this writers’ one, and as I have my new books out at the moment (“Who are you Calling Mature?” and the Business Omnibus), I thought it would be a nice one to do. The person who nominated me is Chris Longden, aka Funnylass, a novelist who’s a friend of a friend; she writes satirical novels that are funny and make you think, and she’s been generous in sharing three nominations in her post.

So, the idea is that you accept the nomination, answer four questions, then pass it on and nominate two more writers. I’m glad that the writers can be fiction, non-fiction writers or even Plain English writers and editors like my friend and fellow-nominee, Laura Ripper (here’s her post from today, too) and here I go with my answers …

What are you working on?

I’ve just published my new business book, “Who are you Calling Mature? Running a Successful Business after the Start-up Phase”, and so what I’m mainly working on is building its visibility, collecting some reviews (including sending out a few review copies) and then talking about it. I’ve done this one in print and e-book versions simultaneously (exciting!) after producing a print version of my first business book, “Going it Alone at 40”. I’ve been working on climbing up the steep learning curve with that: I’ll admit to having 10 copies in my possession which are formatted a little oddly – for that reason, I’m going to give them away via BookCrossing. I can assure any potential buyers that the copies now available on print-on-demand will be formatted just fine!

So I’m working on building my profile as an author; I’m always looking at different ways to share knowledge, and I’m contemplating putting myself out there as a speaker locally, although that’s only in the thinking stage at the moment!

How does your writing differ from others in its genre?

I like to think that I have two Unique Selling points in the business how-to genre …

  1. I have a relaxed and approachable style, encouraging rather than instructing, and happy to admit my own mistakes and learning points. I like to be a bit light-hearted, friendly and sometimes funny, which is something I do in my blog posts and something I take across to my books. My first book talks about what a homeworker wears, and my second one takes you on journeys through the real ways in which social media can help you – all trying to tell it how it is while encouraging my readers to take those first and subsequent steps. I hope that I come across as caring, too.
  2. I give all of the information people need. I give a lot of information away on my blogs, and this, again, carries over into my books. I get really frustrated when people don’t tell you exactly how they did things, or you have to even buy an expensive downloadable or course in order to find out the nitty-gritty details. I share exactly how I’ve done what I’ve done, in detail, with examples from my own life. The books don’t have many images in them, but they have links to FREE material on my blogs which has screen shots and all sorts of extra explanations. I have vowed never to make my readers pay extra to access that material: it is important to me not to do that. They can buy the next book, or the other book, of course …!

Why do you write what you do?

I am passionate about encouraging people to believe that they can set up and run a successful business – on their own terms. I started writing my Word tips on my business blog when I didn’t know how to do something and wanted to make a note of it. That built into a successful series, then when I went full-time with my self-employment, I decided to blog about my experience, sharing exactly how I did it and what happened. That became the raw material for my first book, and my next year of blog posts formed the nucleus (although again much enhanced) of the second one.

I started writing with a how-to guide on lowering your cholesterol without drugs, which is still my biggest seller, and I added one on transcription as a career when I realised that I was getting a lot of searches on that topic reaching my business blog. All of what I do is basically to share what I’ve learned along the way, and to encourage other people by sharing my own experience and real-life examples. If I can inspire somebody to take the plunge and start their own business – and enjoy it – then I’m very happy.

How does the writing process work for you?

The kernel of my books comes from my blog. But it’s not just a question of copying and pasting a load of blog posts into a Word document – there’s a lot of editing and fiddling around, re-ordering, putting into context and new writing to be done.

Typically, I will collect together posts on a topic or number of topics, pop them in a Word document in a vague order, work out what else I need to write, and write that. Once I have a document – oh, and this is all done in the spare time I have in between doing jobs for my regular clients – I send it off to Catherine, my editor, and Chrys, my beta reader, who go over it for typos, errors, things that don’t make sense, things that need more explaining, repetition, etc., etc. Then I edit it again, and out it goes. It can be a long process – obviously the shorter books take less time, but I’ve put out one full-length book a year for the past two years.


Now it’s nomination time, I’m pleased to nominate my friend and children’s / teens’ author Leila Rasheed as my first colleague. Leila has written a variety of books, and she also teaches and lectures in creative writing. Leila’s blog post is here.  My second nomination is Fiona Joseph. She’s a fellow non-fiction writer who’s produced some lovely books about figures from Birmingham’s history; she also writes short stories and has a novel coming out this year. Again, there’s lots of interesting stuff on her website and blog, and you can read her post, too!  Over to you, ladies!