Social Media

I would really like your comments on this post, because while I’m engaged with social media – as I’ll tell you below – I’m not sure I’m making the most efficient/effective use of the various social media.


First of all, let me tell you what I have.  I have a website:, which is actually put in place by my publisher, but I update it from time to time.  The website has a page for each of my books with a sample chapter, synopsis, information about awards, links to Amazon, etc., and a little bit about me.  This blog runs down the margin of the website.  I have an author’s page on Amazon.  On Facebook, in addition to my personal page, I have an author’s page and a page for each of my books.  I have recently started to advertise Sable Shadow & the Presence on Facebook, and I’m getting about 10 Likes per day.  I have an author’s page on Goodreads, where this blog also runs.  I am currently advertising four of my books on Goodreads, but I’m only getting one or two clicks a week: I’ve set a pretty low budget.  When I review a book I’ve read (about once a month), in addition to posting the review here, I post it on Amazon and Goodreads.  When I review a book on Goodreads, the review appears on my personal Facebook page.

Then, there is this blog.  This will be my two hundred and fourteenth post over the course of four and a half years.  Generally, I try to post once a week, and I aim the blog at people like me who are trying to make their way as writers, or who are interested in what writers think and do.  Last year, I paid about £250 for SEO – by my internet service provider – but I haven’t seen a major increase in hits: I’m up from about two per day to four per day – average.

I haven’t done Twitter, although I have registered.  My view is that Twitter isn’t a good vehicle for a busy writer (what could I say every day about writing in less than 140 characters?)  I haven’t done UTube, again because I don’t think it’s the right medium for me.  I looked into Pinterest, but again, I felt that it didn’t fit.

One thing I’m planning to do is to start answering reader’s questions on Goodreads.  That would seem to be a good investment of my time.

What else would you suggest?  I have only two constraints:

  1.   I haven’t got much free time, and what free time I have, I would rather write than promote.
  2.   I’m willing to spend some money, but I’d like to know that I’m getting a return on my investment.  So far, the return has been only what I’ve learned about social media.

What Literary Agents Dislike

Chuck Sambuchino contributed an interesting  post to the Writer UnBoxed blog, excerpts of which appear below.  Chuck is a freelance editor of query letters, synopses, book proposals, and manuscripts. As an editor for Writer’s Digest Books, he edits the Guide to Literary Agents.


Chuck Sambuchino

“No one reads more prospective novel beginnings than literary agents. They’re the ones on the front lines — sifting through inboxes and slush piles. And they’re the ones who can tell us which Chapter 1 approaches are overused and cliche, as well as which techniques just plain don’t work. Below find a smattering of feedback from experienced literary agents on what they hate to see the first pages of a writer’s submission. Avoid these problems and tighten your submission!


“I don’t like it when the main character dies at the end of Chapter 1. Why did I just spend all this time with this character? I feel cheated.”
– Cricket Freeman, The August Agency

“I dislike opening scenes that you think are real, then the protagonist wakes up. It makes me feel cheated.”
– Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary


“I’m not a fan of prologues, preferring to find myself in the midst of a moving plot on page 1 rather than being kept outside of it, or eased into it.”
– Michelle Andelman, Regal Agency

“Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.”
– Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

“Prologues are usually a lazy way to give back-story chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead!”
– Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary


“Perhaps my biggest pet peeve with an opening chapter is when an author features too much exposition – when they go beyond what is necessary for simply ‘setting the scene.’ I want to feel as if I’m in the hands of a master storyteller, and starting a story with long, flowery, overly-descriptive sentences (kind of like this one) makes the writer seem amateurish and the story contrived. Of course, an equally jarring beginning can be nearly as off-putting, and I hesitate to read on if I’m feeling disoriented by the fifth page. I enjoy when writers can find a good balance between exposition and mystery. Too much accounting always ruins the mystery of a novel, and the unknown is what propels us to read further.”
– Peter Miller, PMA Literary and Film Management

“I dislike endless ‘laundry list’ character descriptions. For example: ‘She had eyes the color of a summer sky and long blonde hair that fell in ringlets past her shoulders. Her petite nose was the perfect size for her heart-shaped face. Her azure dress—with the empire waist and long, tight sleeves—sported tiny pearl buttons down the bodice. Ivory lace peeked out of the hem in front, blah, blah.’ Who cares! Work it into the story.”
– Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary


“Characters that are moving around doing little things, but essentially nothing. Washing dishes & thinking, staring out the window & thinking, tying shoes, thinking.”
– Dan Lazaar, Writers House

“I don’t really like ‘first day of school’ beginnings, ‘from the beginning of time,’ or ‘once upon a time.’ Specifically, I dislike a Chapter 1 in which nothing happens.”
– Jessica Regel, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency


“I know this may sound obvious, but too much ‘telling’ vs. ‘showing’ in the first chapter is a definite warning sign for me. The first chapter should present a compelling scene, not a road map for the rest of the book. The goal is to make the reader curious about your characters, fill their heads with questions that must be answered, not fill them in on exactly where, when, who and how.”
– Emily Sylvan Kim, Prospect Agency

“I hate reading purple prose – describing something so beautifully that has nothing to do with the actual story.”
– Cherry Weiner, Cherry Weiner Literary

“A cheesy hook drives me nuts. They say ‘Open with a hook!’ to grab the reader. That’s true, but there’s a fine line between an intriguing hook and one that’s just silly. An example of a silly hook would be opening with a line of overtly sexual dialogue.”
– Daniel Lazaar, Writers House

“I don’t like an opening line that’s ‘My name is…,’ introducing the narrator to the reader so blatantly. There are far better ways in Chapter 1 to establish an instant connection between narrator and reader.”
– Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary

“Sometimes a reasonably good writer will create an interesting character and describe him in a compelling way, but then he’ll turn out to be some unimportant bit player.”
– Ellen Pepus, Signature Literary Agency


“I don’t like descriptions of the characters where writers make them too perfect. Heroines (and heroes) who are described physically as being virtually unflawed come across as unrelatable and boring. No ‘flowing, wind-swept golden locks’; no ‘eyes as blue as the sky’; no ‘willowy, perfect figures.’ ”
– Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary Agency

“Many writers express the character’s backstory before they get to the plot. Good writers will go back and cut that stuff out and get right to the plot. The character’s backstory stays with them—it’s in their DNA.”
– Adam Chromy, Movable Type Management

“I’m turned off when a writer feels the need to fill in all the backstory before starting the story; a story that opens on the protagonist’s mental reflection of their situation is a red flag.”
– Stephany Evans, FinePrint Literary Management

“One of the biggest problems is the ‘information dump’ in the first few pages, where the author is trying to tell us everything we supposedly need to know to understand the story. Getting to know characters in a story is like getting to know people in real life. You find out their personality and details of their life over time.”
– Rachelle Gardner, Books & Such Literary

I agree with all of these points except ‘Prologue’ (in some cases).  I have a prologue in two of my novels.  The first novel has a prologue and an epilogue, set in a later time frame, to help the reader understand that the narrator is an adult who was a child in the story.  If I had it to do over again, I would do it differently.

Sable Shadow & The Presence has a prologue and an epilogue.  In this case, the prologue has no back story; rather, it jumps ahead and establishes a central theme of the novel.  The epilogue tells the reader what happened after that.  So, I think there situations where a prologue can be useful.

Authors’ Earnings

I was looking for information on authors’ earnings, and I spotted the post below on the UK edition of the Huff Post.  It was written by Sara Sheridan, a Scottish writer who works in several genres, but primarily historical fiction.  She is the creator of the Mirabelle Bevan mysteries.


Sara Sheridan

“I write historical fiction. I’ve been a full-time professional writer for almost 20 years. I realized early on that being an author is a hugely misunderstood job. Because there are no pay grades and very little structure, people make interesting assumptions about the profession. The writer is a mysterious figure, wandering lonely as a cloud, fired by inspiration, or perhaps a cocktail or two. Writers have it easy. If you write a bestseller or have your book made into a movie, you’ll never have to work again, or so the myth goes.

“When my first novel was optioned for film in 1999 the common response was “Off to Barbados?” The option was for £3,000 – this remains a fairly average figure for that kind of deal. In fact, the perception at the Society of Authors (which acts as a union for writers) is that in real terms, writers’ incomes have gone down over the last 10 years. The industry values publishers, editors and publicists (who are paid reliable salaries) but when it comes to writers, there are so many people who want the job, that conditions are tough. At publishing houses writers aren’t even treated as part of the team. It was interesting last year when Random House made record profits from 50 Shades of Grey, that it decided to award a bonus of $5,000 (just over £3,000) to everyone working in the US arm of the company. They did not include their writers.

“This decision stems from the underlying belief that writers are artists and artists should be doing whatever they do for love alone. Money sullies art and damn you for having bills. From figures compiled by the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society it is easy to see that for every JK Rowling or Ian Rankin there is a huge swathe of scribblers whose sales don’t merit even a living wage. Conversely, the top 10% of writers earn over 50% of the total income. Like all the creative industries, it’s a winner take all game.

“For publishers, the hunt is on to find those high earners so they commission more books than can possibly make it – and see what sticks. In the UK something just under quarter of a million traditionally printed books are published annually. Set that against the fact that the average first novel sells something in the order of 1,000 copies and you can see what writers are up against. Although given a (usually) small advance by a publisher, a writer still has to earn that money from sales.

“So how much does a writer have to sell to make it?

“Average earnings in the UK were around £26,500 in 2012. To make this amount on a book contract for a paperback edition selling at £7.99 that pays 10% a writer would need to sell 33,166 copies a year. And that’s if the book isn’t discounted as part of a 3 for 2 promotion, for example. That is a lot of books! To put it in perspective to get to number one in the UK paperback chart last month you’d have needed to sell almost 20,000 copies a week. This means that going to number 1 doesn’t even earn you the national average wage (and that book may have taken the writer months or even years to produce). The odds of making a mint are very long – writing is a risky profession. And like most jobs in the UK there is a glass ceiling. Female writers on average earn only 77.5% as much as their male counterparts. Their books are also less likely to get reviewed in the traditional press or for that matter win awards (apart from the prestigious Women’s Prize for Fiction, set up expressly to try to redress that balance).

“In 2005 (the latest figures available) the mean (average) figure that a professional writer-of-books in the UK earned was £28,340 but because there is such a huge bias at the top of the table, the median figure is far more telling. £12,330. Well below subsistence levels. As I said, it is the view of the Society of Authors that figure has now gone down in real terms. All this, I suppose, sounds like a complaint. The truth is that in the last several years although I haven’t reached the dizzying heights of that top 10%, I have done better than the mean. My books get reviewed in the national press. I love my job and it’s exciting to see the popularity of my books growing. Like all writers I live in hope that perhaps one day I’ll make it big and at least on the way I’m enjoying what I do. After all, it can take several books to get your break.

“There’s a larger issue though, than simply one writer (even if that writer is, well, me). Books have a vital place in our culture. They are the source of ideas, of stories that engage and stretch the imagination and most importantly, inspire. The digital revolution has wrest a little control away from corporate publishers and white, male, middle-aged critics, but the financial value put on the job of the writer and the misconceptions around that make it extremely difficult to enter the profession. If we don’t value the people who inspire us (and money is one mark of that) then what kind of culture are we building?”

The above may be a bit depressing if you’re an author trying to write for a living.  But for those of us who love to write, who have other sources of income, but are hoping one day to reach the number one position in sales, it can be at least a little annoying that one’s labour of love achieves so little remuneration.

Adult Coloring Books

I must live a very sheltered life because until this morning, I never heard of adult coloring books.  If I had to guess, I would have supposed that this was a very minor niche in the publishing business and that it is dedicated to adults with learning disabilities.  To my amazement, it was in part due to the sales of adult coloring books that kept print book publishing out of the red in 2015.  {Print book sales increased in 2015 over 2014, largely due to Big Publishing’s victory over Amazon: it won the right to a larger say in the pricing of ebooks.  As ebook prices increased, readers turned to the print versions.  As a whole, in 2015, the industry experienced a decline in sales (down 4.1% from 5.82 to 5.58 billion dollars)}.

So, adult coloring books are a big thing currently.  Here is what Laura Marsh had to say in an article last December in New Republic:

“In 1962, Barbra Streisand channeled all the emotional turmoil and lyric despair of an abandoned lover into what must be the strangest four minutes of pop music ever written. “Crayons ready?” she croons, “Begin to color me.”  The opening lines of the song, “My Coloring Book,” refer to that year’s fevered interest in coloring books for adults, much like the trend that has taken off recently. “For those who fancy coloring books / As certain people do,” Streisand sings, before asking listeners to fill her sorrowful life with equally sorrowful hues. When the song came out, coloring books for adults permeated pop culture, as Mort Drucker’s JFK Coloring Book spent 14 weeks at the top of the New York Times bestseller list in 1962, and sales of adult coloring books reached $1 million. Today, coloring books are perhaps even more profitable: Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest were the two best-selling books on Amazon in April, responsible for some of the year’s recovery in print sales. (Basford has sold nearly 10 million coloring books since Secret Garden was published in 2013.) But their powerful appeal—enthusiasts say they are a “great way to de-stress” —has very little in common with adult coloring books from the 1960s. Where today’s titles offer consumers a neat package of therapy, escape and nostalgia, 1960s coloring books were both genuinely novel and subversive.

“The first adult coloring book, published in late 1961, mocked the conformism that dominated the post-war corporate workplace. Created by three admen in Chicago, the Executuve Coloring Book showed pictures of a businessman going through each stage in his day, as though teaching a child what daddy does at work. But the captions, which give instructions on how to color the image, are uniformly desolate. “This is my suit. Color it gray or I will lose my job,” reads a caption next to a picture of a man getting dressed for work. Another page shows men in bowler hats boarding their commuter train. “This is my train,” it reads. “It takes me to my office every day. You meet lots of interesting people on the train. Color them all gray.” The rare appearance of a non-gray color is even more disturbing: “This is my pill. It is round. It is pink. It makes me not care.”

From The Executive Coloring Book, 1961.Ad to the Bone

“The coloring books that followed managed to cover, between them, a selection of the decade’s neuroses: national security, the red scare, technology, sex, mental illness. Two popular books took aim at President Kennedy: Drucker’s JFK Coloring Book and Joe B. Nation’s New Frontier Coloring Book. There were coloring books that made fun of communists and coloring books that made fun of people who were scared of communists.  Krushchev’s Top Secret Coloring Book: Your First Red Reader caricatured Soviet leaders and life under communist rule, but was still deemed “objectionable” and banned in the United States Military. Meanwhile, the John Birch Society Coloring Book, which ridiculed conspiracy theorists and extremists, stretched the coloring book concept to its limits with a blank page, captioned: “How many Communists can you find in this picture? I can find 11. It takes practice.” In August 1963, the Washington Post reported on a doctor who proposed using a 12-page coloring booklet “as a diagnostic tool…to classify patients by their types of disorders” from schizophrenia to brain damage. The Post called it the ‘Psychotic’s Coloring Book’.”

Julia Felsenthal writing in the December 2015 issue of Vogue had this to say about more recent interest in adult coloring books:

“But, in spite of the fact that I do on occasion sketch and paint with watercolors, I’ve never once felt moved to pick up a coloring book and go to town. Nor did I imagine that people in my social sphere were doing so. Were those Instagram-famous coloring parties a total anomaly? Or were my other friends also secretly brandishing markers in their spare time?

“I posted the query to Facebook and the response—entirely from women—was surprisingly immediate and enthusiastic. “My aunt-in-law brought coloring books and fancy markers to Thanksgiving and I was all ‘pshhhh, really??’ ” wrote Dean, a designer in Chicago whose funky style I’ve long admired on social media. “Next thing I know, I’m suuuuper chill with a glass of wine, coloring a picture of a flower shop. It’s surprisingly kind of awesome.”

“Other ladies seemed to agree. “I do this,” an old colleague who works in video production admitted with a trace of sheepishness. A writer acquaintance raved about Chat Thérapie, a French, feline-themed coloring book she uses after dinner as a means to avoid screen-induced insomnia. A fashion-school grad explained that coloring-book patterns help her dream up jewelry designs. A mom of two avowed that the hobby keeps her sane. A friend in Austin described how coloring books have begun to appear at packed house parties, psychedelic concerts, and on camping trips. Another friend, a therapist, agreed with Beck that they’re best enjoyed while bingeing on TV.”

OK.  I get it.  But I don’t think I’ll enter the market any time soon.