Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Guest: Steve K. Smy

My Guest this week is an author of Sci-Fi who has some telling words about creating an Author Brand for all new and/or aspiring authors out there. Ladies and Gentlemen,

Steve K. Smy

Lost in the Labyrinth

Are you a new author? Before we go any further, let me just say that I don’t believe that there’s any such animal as an ‘aspiring’ author. You either write or you don’t. If you do write, you’re an author. If you don’t write, then nothing in the world is going to turn you into an author. Believe me, this is important to this whole discussion.

As a new author, you’ve struggled with all the usual issues of doing the actual writing and polishing. You’ve found a publisher or you’ve self-published. You sit back and wait for the sales...  And nothing happens! Your book sits there with no activity associated with it, except perhaps a few strays stopping long enough to take a brief look. So what’s happened? Simple: books don’t sell themselves. More importantly, perhaps, authors have to sell themselves to potential readers! Yes, you can hammer the social networks with the news that you’ve got a book available, but you’ll be disappointed by how much notice that gets you. You need to negotiate your way through the labyrinth of the internet, and you have to do it right or you’ll be lost in there forever!

Amazon Link
Very few people, whatever they do, are anything but a small voice in a mass of voices, as far as the internet is concerned. Sadly, most people are almost microscopic voices. They go unnoticed, unremarked. Why?  Because they make the mistake of thinking that putting something up on the internet will draw others to them automatically, with no great effort expended. That is, to be brutally honest, utter nonsense! Above all else, entering into the internet community means you have to sell yourself, and you have to do it in the right way. Apart from a handful of friends and family, nobody out there knows who you are or what you do. You have to tell them, and you need to do so in a way that will make you attractive. Good humour, avoiding self-obsession, talking about subjects you’re passionate about, and being as open as possible while protecting your privacy. All these are essentials.

“But I just want to sell my book!” 

Sure, and that seems perfectly reasonable. Now tell me: given the choice between an author you already like (or one you’ve heard of) and somebody you’ve never heard even a whisper about, which book, assuming the books are the same price, will you buy? And that’s part of the problem. People feel they know the bestselling authors, beyond knowing their books. They have presence! That’s what you have to create for yourself. You need to let people get to know something about you, as a person and as an author. You have to show them who you are and what you stand for. But, you have to do it in a way that doesn’t overdo it. If you get ‘in their faces’ too much, they’ll turn their backs on you.

Amazon Link
In truth, you should really have started creating You, the Brand, long before you published your first book. It’s a lot harder work doing it once you’ve got a Product to sell under the Brand name! “Brand”? “Product? Oh, yes! That’s exactly what we’re talking about. You’re a Brand and your book is your Product. There’s no escaping that fact. So just what do you have to do to publicise Brand you? Top of the list: create a website. I would  recommend doing so using a blog facility - it will save you a great deal of work. It also means you only need one site to worry about, as you can use the blog part as a blog – to keep your readers updated and entertained. And in those blog posts, don’t focus too much on yourself and your writing! Talk about writing in general, talk about other authors, post reviews and interviews, get guest posts. Too much you and people won’t be hanging around or coming back for more. Then, in the early days of your website at least, get on those social networks and be heard! It doesn’t matter what you say, as long as it makes you sound interesting and fun to know. Also, be prepared to back other authors by helping them spread the word about themselves and encourage readers to visit your site by making connections with reviewer blogs. And visit other blogs, leave likes and comments as appropriate – genuine ones – don’t abuse blog commenting to just advertise yourself or your book! The occasional plug for your book and/or website/blog won’t hurt. A status note that you’ve got something new on your blog is fine, but limit the frequency of such messages! If you live outside the USA,
Amazon Link
then you can possibly get away with two publicity messages per day – to cover your local peak time and again at some time when others from other countries are more active. You’ll be surprised how much more activity you get if you build your Brand effectively.

Theseus used a thread to avoid being lost in the most famous labyrinth of all. You have a thread of sorts: your footprints on the internet. Keep it simple, at the start at least! Set up an author page on Facebook, get a Twitter account that describes you as an author, and have that blog! If you know how to use it, then add LinkedIn too – and when you acknowledge new contacts, include a link to your blog in your message signature! Steer people to where they will find your book using gentle means – as if you’re letting them use your own labyrinth-busting thread to avoid getting lost.

I should close with a dose of reality! You are extremely unlikely to become a bestseller. Sales will be slow and sporadic. You’ll have to work hard, too, just to put your book up on the eye-level shelf, where it can be seen. Every bookstore has thousands of titles. They’ll have many free books. It would be unreasonable to expect your book to leap into first place overnight!

One final word: The you that you present will establish your reputation online. If you value your reputation, give careful thought to how you portray yourself!

Steve K Smy was born in Ipswich, Suffolk - a picturesque part of England famed for being part of Constable Country, where the renowned artist John Constable worked and produced many of his finest paintings. He has lived virtually his whole life there. He started writing for pleasure when he was 13 years old, with a science fiction novel! Naturally, his writing was less dominant for many years, as he and his wife Jenny raised their three children to adulthood and independence. He returned to writing seriously in February 2012, following a long illness. Since then, he has written and published, in ebook format, several short stories and, in ebook and paperback formats, four novelettes and a novella, and has been working on a major fantasy novel.

His published stories include tales in three series: the Thief series of fantasy short stories, the mixed genre G1: The Guardians series (two novelettes and a novella, to date) and the science fiction Captain Henri Duschelle Stories (a short story and two novelettes, so far). The novelettes and novella have now been published in paperback. Fans of the G1: The Guardians series will be delighted to hear that a novel (A Darkness in Amazonia being Part 4 of the series) has recently been published!

Steve is also a blogger with a growing readership for his blog Imagineer-ing, Again, fans of the G1: The Guardians series will be happy to hear that they can find background information on the stories, especially the political shape of the world, in a special section of the blog site!

Thank you, Steve, for an interesting article. I'm sure it will help many a writer surmount the obstacles presented as they try to get their work known.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Guest: Susan Mac Nicol (part 2)

In my Guest Post this week I am featuring the second half of a previous guest's post. This time the writer tackles a common problem from the perspective of her own novels. Ladies and Gentlemen,

Susan Mac Nicol

Character Stereotypes

The first part of this guest post was all about the process of research and the rather weird and wonderful things I came across in the course of performing it. To recap, it was fairly run of the mill stuff - S and M, 101 uses for a flogger, gay man sex,  female on male rape, retributivism, cults, Stockholm Syndrome, male sexual abuse, psychopathic serial killers and more sex. Everyday topics for a Romance author really.

You might think that was the sum of all the weird and wonderful insights into the genre in which I write, which is gay male Romance. Well there’s more.

I am a straight woman writing about two men falling in love and having sex. Now while I think most of us have an idea of what this might entail, it might surprise you to look at a few statistics on the gay man world, and give yourself food for thought. I came across so many stereotypical views so I thought I'd look at this in more detail.

available 2nd Oct  -  Link
Firstly, there are a lot of myths about the gay life style out there.  Assumptions such as all gay men love anal sex, they can all do wonderful interior design or be a woman's BFF when it comes to choosing clothing (someone's been watching Father of the Bride or Will and Grace), they are promiscuous, love to have sex in bathrooms, and they are more likely to be paedophiles.

Yes, as in everything else in life, there are stereotypes and one of the things we as authors try not to do, is propagate the myth in our books unless it's what we choose to do for the story. We might not always succeed but we try. We all know some real doozies. That Irishmen called Murphy are supposed to be idiots. That all Englishmen love to drink tea. That anyone who wears a tattoo is a complete skank. That all priests are paedophiles. I mean, what a load of horse pucky. Yes, there might be a village idiot called Murphy somewhere in the world but that's just the way it is. I'm sure there's one called Einstein somewhere too.

This article by Simply Psychology was a fascinating look into what stereotypes are and how they get to be perceived as such:
[McLeod, S. A. (2008). Stereotypes - Simply Psychology]

Stereotypes are defined as “...a fixed, over generalized belief about a particular group or class of people.” (Cardwell, 1996).

In the Romance genre we see this a lot. The beautiful heroine with her heaving bosom and flashing eyes who probably came from a wealthy family and is now trying to assert her independence. The handsome, muscle bound hero, with cheekbones to die for and a devil may care attitude. The dark, brooding villain who somehow manages to sweep away said heroine (or in my case, hero) to a life of lustful sex and enjoyment, a happy ever after. And you know what, there's nothing wrong with this. The Romance trope depends on the burgeoning love relationship between a hero/heroine, hero/hero, who meet through some unforeseen circumstance, normally piss each other off, then come together in the realisation that they are meant to be together, leading to the inevitable HEA- Happy Ever After. The creativity comes in HOW we tell their story, what creativity we put into their development, how we define and develop their flaws (because they have to have some) and how we get said happy ending.

I am a member of the Romance Writers of America and this is what they been quoted as defining the plot of a romance novel -
According to the Romance Writers of America, the main plot of a romance novel must revolve around the two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship together. Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship although the novel can also contain subplots that do not specifically relate to the main characters' romantic love. Furthermore, a romance novel must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending."

This is it in a nut shell. But making your characters non-stereotypical, trying to give them their own identity and personality while not making them so reflective of what people expect them to be, that's where the challenge lies. And sometimes we may not succeed and succumb to the lure of the stereotype. If this happens, all I can say is that as long as you enjoy the story, it entertains you and makes you feel emotional, whether it be sad, happy, angry, disgusted or just plain horny, then who really gives a damn. As a writer we've achieved what we set out to do - make you, the reader, believe in our characters, their lives and leave you with the feeling that perhaps, just perhaps, you might like to do it all again. With our next book of course - that goes without saying.  :)

Read PART 1 of Sue's post here


Sue Mac Nicol was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom. At the age of eight, her family moved to Johannesburg, South Africa where she stayed for nearly thirty years before arriving back in the UK in December 2000.

Sue works full time in the field of regulatory compliance for a company in the financial services industry in Cambridge. But she still finds time to work until the small hours of the morning doing what she loves best – writing. Since her first novel, Cassandra by Starlight, was penned, Sue has written the other two books in her Starlight trilogy, four other novels, two short stories and a screen play based on Cassandra. Her passion is keeping herself busy creating worlds and characters for her readers to enjoy.

Sue is a member of Romance Writers of America and Romantic Novelists Association in the UK. She is also a member of a rather unique writing group, called the Talliston Writer’s Circle, which in itself has a story all of its own to tell, and lives in the rural village of Bocking, in Essex, with her family.

Her plan is to keep writing as long as her muse sits upon her shoulder. Her dream is to one day get that big old house in the English countryside overlooking a river, where she can write all day and continue to indulge her passion for telling stories.

Sue can be contacted at:

Personal website: 

Cassandra by Starlight Facebook page:

Thanks for another great post, Sue. Er... don't all Englishmen drink Tea?

Eric @