Wednesday 31 August 2016

The Day I Valued Myself (kaching)

When I'm not bumping off people in my books I'm writing freelance articles for both 'old' media (paper magazines, remember them?) and 'new' (Yahoo, HuffPost et al). I've been a journalist for so many years I would seriously age myself if I even whispered the number, but take it from me. A LOT.

And for the most part it's been a breeze. I've earned a steady income, always had a swag of stories under my belt and could charge a decent rate. So much so, I struggled to take time off to write my fiction. It was a lovely conundrum. At my peak I had 25 freelance articles lined up.

It was a beautiful thing. Busy, but beautiful.

Then the internet—which had made it such a beautiful, busy thing—turned against me and suddenly everyone was a writer, everyone had a blog and nobody wanted to pay anybody a decent rate for anything.

As a consequence, all of the old magazines were closing down, the freelance market was flooded with writers, good and bad, and earning a quid became hard yakka.

C'est la vie, right? Suck it up.

Well, things reached a new low the other day when a new editor reached out to me and offered me some work, for less than half of what I usually get paid. A lot less. But that wasn't the low. I mean all power to the woman. She's starting a new magazine and has no advertisers lined up yet. Can't blame her for having a crack.

Oh no, dear readers, the low came when I began to seriously contemplate doing it! After decades exhaustively building my portfolio, earning experience as an editor of several national magazines and a bureau chief in three cities including New York and London, I was considering selling myself short.

For a few hours there I thought:

"Maybe I should just accept that lowly wage. What if nothing else comes in? What if this is the story of my life now? Maybe I should just get over myself and start earning less."

Then I gave myself a shake, remembered how well my fiction is doing (did I really need the pittance she was offering?) and decided I was worth so much more than that. If I accepted that ridiculously low fee, it would be a very slippery slope to working for absolutely nothing. And why should I do that? I don't need to build my portfolio. I don't need the exposure. Don't even really need the money, not to get by, anyway.

But it goes deeper than that. It goes to basic fairness.

Think about it. Imagine going in and saying to your hairdresser/builder/plumber/dentist, "I'm only going to pay you half what you usually charge. Cool? Now, about that tint... "

It's not fair. It's not right. Enough was enough. I decided then that I'd rather NOT work as a freelancer anymore than give my power away for nothing.

So, I emailed the editor back, politely declined her offer and wished her all the best with her new venture.

Then exactly an hour later—I kid you not, people, ONE HOUR LATER—another editor I had never met emailed to offer me work on her publication. But this editor wanted to pay me MORE than I usually get paid. Was I up for it?


It wasn't just that it was more money. It was what I should be earning after 30 years in this business, 15 of them as a freelancer. (Damn did I say those numbers aloud?)

There's a moral here, guys, in case you didn't catch it. It's a pretty simple one, and one I hope to remember in all areas of my life:

Believe in yourself, belief in your true worth, and the rest will follow 
(although I can't guarantee it'll follow that quickly! One hour. Extraordinary.)

Happy reading—and, hopefully, earning—everyone.

xo Christina

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Win a Free Paperback Copy of Murder on the Orient (SS)

Last month you had the opportunity to win the first book in the Agatha Christie Book Club series and I'm now offering you the chance to score a paperback copy of book 2: Murder on the Orient (SS)!

Just log in (or sign up) with Goodreads and head to their Giveaways section, or click on this link: GoodreadsComp.

Alternatively, use the following html:

The competition is open until August 26 so get in quick.

If you're not a member of Goodreads or don't wish to sign up, never fear. Just check out my earlier blog and you could win a free e-copy of this or any book of your choice.

Happy (free) reading everyone!

xo Christina

Monday 8 August 2016

Check out my revamped cover and win a free e-book

As my devoted readers will know, I have a naughty knack of fiddling with my book covers whenever I get a chance. I love design and am often looking at ways to make my covers stronger, slicker and reach a broader audience.

Well, oops, I did it again!

Or, at least, my favourite cover designer Stuart Eadie did. As you can see from the image below, he's redesigned the cover of the first book in my Ghostwriter Mystery series, Killer Twist. This time, however, you won't notice a huge difference. It's just a minor revamp, a tiny polish, a strategic yet subtle appeal to those for whom first impressions count. I do hope you like it.

Over the next month Stu and I will be revamping all six covers in the series, so stay tuned as each new look hits the digital stands.

Until then, I'd love to hear your thoughts! I'm offering a free e-book* to the first 10 respondents, so don't hesitate to leave a comment below or email me directly:

Happy (revamped) reading everyone!
xo Christina

*NB: this competition is open for one full month from first publication of blog, and winners get to choose an e-copy of any of my nine C.A. Larmer novels, which can be found at Amazon. Good luck!

Tuesday 2 August 2016

The Ikea Theory on Writing (it's just as unfathomable)

I was chatting to a neighbour the other day, groaning about a particularly badly written novel I was in the middle of editing.

"Some people just shouldn't write books," I said. "It's woeful and I'm struggling to make sense of it."

"Oh dear," he replied. "Hopefully she'll just self-publish and be done with it."

I was gobsmacked.

What did he mean? Was he saying that self-publishing is only for woeful writers? Was he saying that self-published books didn't go anywhere so it would get lost in a giant black sludgepile and save us all the agony?

Whatever my neighbour was saying, it didn't bode well for me.

While I have had a book traditionally published, I now self-publish my own novels, and have nine indie books available on all the major channels. I sold over 3,000 copies last month on Amazon alone and have an average four star rating. I DIY, and I do so proudly.

Or at least I did, until we had our little roadside chat.

Despite my humiliation, I didn't call my neighbour on his words because I didn't want to embarrass him. He's actually a decent bloke and I knew that he knew I self-published books, so would be mortified by what he'd just said. I couldn't bear the look in his eyes when he realised his faux pas, the frantic backpedal, the attempt to swallow words and attitudes that were, frankly, indigestible.

Come on, guys, let's remove the scales from our eyes and modern up.

We no longer believe that the produce sold at Woolworths and Coles is better than produce from the farmers' market. That's laughable. We accept that mass produced furniture from Ikea usually fails in comparison to bespoke pieces made by a local carpenter. Yet we still cling on to the idea that if there's a Big Publisher behind a book, it must be somehow better. Surely we're better than that? Surely we're smarter? Surely we've read anything by Tara Moss, Mary Higgins Clark or Lynda La Plante?

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Now before you get up in arms and accuse me of my own bias, allow me to qualify: I know all three traditionally published mystery authors are HUGELY successful and have an enormous fan base, and all power to them. I'm not saying their work is crap, not at all. But I could name at least 50 indie mystery authors I've read who do a FAR SUPERIOR job. These lesser-known authors create prose that is so much richer, characters who are far less cliche, and plots that leave you gripping the edge of your bed each night.

Yet by destiny or design, they have gone the independent route, and while some are doing really well, others are struggling. And they're struggling thanks to the attitudes of people like my neighbour who clearly wouldn't give them a whirl because they haven't got the words Pan Macmillan or Penguin or Harper Collins somewhere in the opening pages.

How short sighted of him, and oh how he's missing out!

The changing tide
The indie book publishing world IS changing, and it's changing fast. Sales are zooming, profits are booming, and many writers now choose to go it alone. Yet the general population has a looooong way to go to catch up. My neighbour was not trying to be insulting, he just has a bias that should be left in the 20th century where it belongs.

Stories are stories are stories. It shouldn't matter about format or publisher. That's an irrelevance.

All I ask today, dear readers, is that you give a book credit based on its content, not the imprint at the front. Take a look at the star rating. Look at the reviews. Read the first few chapters before you diss or dismiss. It's that simple.

Oh and be careful what you say to your neighbours. They might have just published another indie novel and be feeling pretty proud of themselves. Let's give them a pat on the back not a silent slap.

Happy (unbiased) reading everyone.
xo Christina