“How Do You Do” Marketing? Book-signings or Bust..

gary with Leighton I write in English and live well away from cities in a foreign country, so there’s not much call for book-signing events or any of that sort of thing anywhere near me – but “now” seemed to be a good time to get into it.

Right now I’m away from relative seclusion in sunny South-West France and I’m back in Australia for several weeks then on to Fiji for a couple more. A lot of the trip is doing research for the two new novels I am now working on – a sequel to BEGINNINGS, my time-warping, historical novel about Spain and the Basque people (by the way, the e_book is now on special discount of 0.99c for a short time),  and a more personal memoir about growing up in Australia in the 1950s-60s …. and about dogs  ———-  but enough of that.  Now, I’m taking the opportunity to do some active marketing as well – mainly “book-signing” and “book-reading” events.

I embarked upon these marketing appearances with some trepidation.  Like many writers, I have a horror of casting myself as a salesman, PR person or networker. Somehow it didn’t fit well with my social and political conscience – but now I believe I was wrong. I’m keen enough to tell people how to make the world  better place… so why not tell them about my fiction and other writings.

Indeed, I’ve written lots of academic and professional books but never has a publisher ask me to do any appearances, book-signings or networking. I gave papers at professional conferences and thought that was enough – I probably didn’t even really care about book sales. My readers bought my books because they needed to not because they wanted to – and therein lies the difference. So over the last couple of years, I’ve come to accept that these marketing activities just have to be done …. and indeed should be done. At first, I started by throwing myself into twitter , blogging, author pages on Facebook, AboutMe sites etc.  That’s all time-consuming enough.  So I never got into the business of “appearances” at book-signings, book readings and speaking events. But taking this on has meant facing a bit of a “learning curve”, at least for me.

Preparing or Winging It?

Now I’m not averse to speaking in public but even my short career as a trial lawyer and then a university law professor didn’t prepare me for doing ‘stand-up’ comedy, nor even for pitching my own creations to present and potential readers.

Everything I did before was about “preparation”. You don’t go into a trial without a heck of a lot of preparation and you don’t give a law lecture or present a paper at a professional meeting without being fully prepared … otherwise you risk embarrassment or even worse. But book promotion appearances aren’t the same. Here you speak from the heart not the head. You talk about your own creation, what motivated you to do it and where you wanted it to go and where it led you. …. It’s really about making a connection, not making an argument. It’s as much about ‘who you are’ as ‘what you say’. So I took a different tack and just spoke from the heart.  Hey, that shouldn’t be so difficult, should it?  But it goes against decades of professional training.  Judges, students and other lawyers don’t care how you feel about things… they want to know about the case in question and the law that applies to it. So, did this “non preparation” approach work?

My first event was a book-signing at an occasional lunch function for survivors of my old High School Alma Mater – Brisbane Grammar School – and I was surprised by the warm reception, interest and how keen some people were to  have their copies of BEGINNINGS signed. It was a semi-public event but pretty “laid back” and amongst relatively familiar company .. so a good start.


The next event was an appearance and signing at a privately hosted evening cocktail-champagne party on the Gold Coast – Australia’s version of Miami, for those unfamiliar with it. Mostly, there were new people present. A lot of fun. And I was to talk about my writing, my motivations for writing BEGINNINGS, what it was all about and then I had to follow it up with a “reading”. Well, again nothing was prepared and in view of what I said above about my background, it was certainly hard for me to contemplate just doing it, though a bit easier to carry it off.  I can’t really be sure what it was that I said or will say next time, but the response was good.


Lots of applause, compliments and interest!  So maybe it worked! But when it comes to reading, aloud, for an audience, even if it is your own writings; that doesn’t come easy …. and I’d recommend at least a little bit of preparation!

My support act – and I had invited him – was the writer of “Bar and Barbecue Humour”, a series of slightly ‘politically incorrect’ joke and humorous story books, Rumford Kindling – a pseudonym of course – but you can get his books on Amazon.  A few jokes and funny stories was a wonderful way to wrap up the formal part of the event – if you’re not afraid of having the limelight stolen away from you by a comedian.




Autographing Books and Dedications?

It certainly is a pleasure and an honour when someone wants you to sign their copy of one of your books. A cynic might say that maybe they’re hoping that one day, when you are famous, it’ll be worth a lot of money.  But I look at it differently. It’s just another symbol of what I was talking about about… making a connection between the reader and the author.

But you might ask: how do you autograph a book?  Exactly where is the best place to sign it?  I usually use the back of the front cover. There’s quite a few guides on these questions. But it can make a difference and autographing can be embarrassing. Of course, it helps when you have met the readers before or if you know them socially …  but not if you can’t remember their names – though you can always ask glibly: By the way, how do you spell your name again? And as long as the answer isn’t B..I..L..L  or something equally uncomplicated, you’ll probably get away with it.  Then, what do you say in a dedication – though perhaps that’s not the correct term for the little extra you write above and beyond the signature?  If I don’t know the person at all or haven’t really had a chance to meet them, and can say: A great pleasure to meet you! or Wonderful to see you again, all I have been able to come up with is hoping you enjoy the book!  Any other suggestions would certainly be welcome!

And Are There More Events?


Yes, soon off to Fiji and another couple of appearances at book-signing or book reading events at a couple of tourist resorts.  That will be interesting.

Finally, I’ve been fortunate to have these events set up for me, and for that I am truly grateful.  But here’s a few tips and ground-rules for anyone thinking of hosting a book-signing for themselves.  Better still, here’s how to maximize the impact of the event.


“Freebies” If I could?

Marketing is a pretty cunning activity as any ” Indie” author already knows  … or certainly soon finds out, especially if you read books like “The Brain Sell” by David Lewis; and see what lengths the marketing people are going to in order to harness our emotions and persuade us to buy “something”  .. or anything!

What about “freebies”?

However, I was amazed recently by an Indie author I spoke to …… on-line, not in real life (who actually talks to anyone face-to-face these days?) … and she told me that out of 33,000 downloads of her e_book, there were 29,000 give-aways!   Whoa! I thought to myself .. that’s still 4,000 sales which isn’t too bad .. and .. with all those “freebies” she was certainly getting her name around.

….. Incidentally, another useful way to do that seems to be through the About Me network!

cover3Now with all the restrictions Amazon and other distributors impose on their authors, offering “give-aways” is pretty difficult, except perhaps through Google Play: Books – but I’ve found their site and distribution quite complicated to manage –  so I haven’t yet been able to sort out such massive free download possibilitites …

But I thought I’d do what I could,  to the extent possible through the traditional e_book distributors of Amazon and Smashwords (including retailers from iTunes  and Barns&Noble to Flipkart in India), and the best I could do was to try “0.99cents” … worldwide …  Looking forward to seeing what impact that has!

“BEGINNINGS” …March Only Promotion 0.99cents!

Of course, I also try to promote other “Indie” authors whenever I can … and still keep hoping they’ll help promote my books as well…

3 Novels by Ann Massey – Something For Everyone

If you haven’t read any of Ann Massey’s books, you should give them a try.  They’re all a good read and quite different. You can find them on Amazon.  Ann has a new novel coming out soon.. this time it’s humour: The Little Dog Laughed.  It sounds as though it’s completely different too.  On her Facebook page, Ann says

The hero, Spartacus aka Sparky (BLESS HIM), is off on a time travel adventure in Roman-occupied Briton.”

Ann Massey is an Australian author living in Perth, Western Australia – the far south-west corner of the continent. It’s a state that, at a guess, makes up almost two-thirds of Australia and probably 95 percent of it is desert. It’s a pretty bleak environment but down in the civilized corner, money talks. And the people there love it.  Here are my reviews of  the three of Ann’s novels that I’ve read and enjoyed…

Product DetailsThe Biocide Conspiracy: This was the third book by Anne Massey that I have read – it was her first novel and without underrating the other two which I very much enjoyed, I think it is the best! Good story, great plot and characterization, and well written. Yes, it’s about biological weapons of mass destruction but like Anne Massey’s other novels, its also really about people and important social issues … especially the young and how easy it is for them to get into trouble and how an uninspired legal system and an unforgiving society, especially those uprighteous, self-satisfied members of the affluent middle class, are all too ready to see the worst in everybody except themselves. The story revolves around secret biological experiments on an international space station that crash-lands in the middle of the desert in Western Australia bringing with it lots of action as a young offender from the city on probation and a nerdy young local girl see conspiracies everywhere and go through trials and tribulations in trying to outwit a violent group of soldiers of fortune looking to sell the WMD to a foreign terrorist state. Lots of local scenery and insights into the hardship of life where tough old farmers eke out an existence in the vast open spaces of arid Western Australia.

Salvation Jane:  This is the story of an ordinary, not so young woman’s emotional growth from rather shallow materialism to Product Detailsa thinking, caring human being. But it’s more than that. It’s also a comment on a cynical politics, greedy corporations and the realities of social conscience in the western world. Everyoned needs to read this … it also paints a telling picture of the Australian social landscape at the beginning of the 21st century…. Now I’m a bit of a sucker for novels with a message – an
essential ingredient of a good novel in my view – and this message is so important as the the mass media (owned by the rich) does nothing but magnify the myth that the poor and homeless are that way because of their own fault and laziness. This book sets the story straight. It doesn’t glorify the homeless but in an intelligent and balanced way, it juxtaposes the plight of the poor with the soul-less selfishness of the rich corporate and political class (a misnomer as “class” is one thing they lack). You’ll enjoy it!

Product DetailsThe White Amah: This is the second Ann Massey novel I read and very much enjoyed. It tells the story of a rather unpleasant and ambitious young woman who seems to stop at nothing to build a career as a rock star… Ann Massey does a great job of juxtaposing the rise of this totally selfish young woman to riches and fame with the gentler path of the hapless baby she abandons to life as an orphan in rural south-east Asia …. at least until their paths eventually cross. Gangsters, toffs, celebrities and greedy corporate interest litter the scene .. and there is subtle social commentary as one expects from Ann Massey. A gripping read.

Novel Writing – more than just story-telling?

Webucator” has asked some authors for their views on writing novels ….  here’s my response..

What a question! My thoughts on novel writing …. and as a part of the National Novel Writing Month campaign … well, that’s taking a risk!  Given what I’ve said about it in the past .. though now my views have mellowed.  So congratulations to all those who braved the challenge of writing 50k words in a month!

NaNoWriMo … love that abbreviation .. it wiggles round the wips … especially for non-americans like me .. who didn’t grow up talking out of the sides of their mouths!  I grew up in Australia, and we mumbled  – our excuse? .. trying to avoid the flies sneaking in .. it wasn’t really, t’was probably anxiety at hearing our own voices – like when you hear yourself on playback for the first time! Cringe.. Hey, that was a lifetime before YouTube! We were pretty self-effacing in those days. …So maybe writing is a way for me to say something without hearing my own voice… maybe that’s why I write… maybe. Maybe that’s Freud sitting astride the elephant in the corner.  “Tell me Sigmund … what do you think?” .. “Let it go, boy!” he whimpers. The elephant’s backbone must be hurting.  I do as I’m told.

So back to “Na-No-Wri-Mo”:  “try it” I say, “just try to say it”.  “Move your lips .. try it” .. the trouble comes when you get to the “wa-ri” … it’s the only way I can say it .. and even then it feels likecover3 I’m the only old guy at an elocution class.  ….. Sigmund tries and fails .. his guttural Austrian accent makes it sound like “Ve azk ze qvestions”..  I squirm.  “Should I be afraid?”   “Vy are you zo afred? Iz it somezing to do wiz yur childhood?” he offers … Disgusted. I shut him down…. perhaps too curtly. “Let’s get on with it.” I grumble.

… Now, I should make a clean breast of it. I’ve only written one novel .. it’s new cover is just here on the left … no right …  I’m still struggling to master wordpress’s  editing and formatting tools … especially as I have rather neglected my “author blog” for quite some time. I’ve even let down the twittersphere of late. Too much to do… No, not “NaNo”, though I do have a couple more novels on the slow burner and I’m just about to turn up the gas. … But I do have a good excuse for all this delay and neglect; and it does go some way to answering one of the questions you pose… notably, what pays the bills?  Well, it’s been a tragic year for novel writing as far as I’m concerned. I’ve barely had the time to translate my e_book: “Beginnings” into a createspace print-on-demand masterpiece !!!!.. and I’ve still not pressed the final button to set it free – I’ll do it tomorrow .. it’s hard to let go .. maybe I should ask Sigmund about that?  Sorry, he’s dropped off to sleep. Wait, I’ll do it now. I’ll publish “Beginnings” in print and be damned!

But yes, you’ve gotta “earn a quid” (or a “buck” as many of you would say) .. when you can. And it just so happened that a couple of the books I wrote in a previous incarnation needed new editions and a couple of others needed writing and the odd article … and they’ve taken me just about the whole year to do …. don’t scoff or scorn, one’s a 1,000 page plus encyclopedia on aviation law… it’s the third edition. The other two or three? .. Well they’re much the same sort of stuff but quite a bit less lengthy .. anyway only some ‘proofs’ left to polish off now and another little “spin-off” project to complete. ..  So my unfinished new novels beckon.  Anyway, it’s not that the money these publishers pay that actually pays the bills .. even though they’re some of the richest publishing corporations in the world ..  of course, they don’t stay rich by lavishing money on their authors.  But that’s publishing, I guess.  So, I don’t do it for the money …   No. No, I don’t rely on writing for a living. I wish I could.  So why do I do it? It’s tedious sometimes .. and frustrating .. and incredibly time-consuming .. and incredibly underpaid .. but I  think I must love it.  Just trying to get the words right .. or is it the right words … or is it .. just to write words right!

Sorry to say, but it’s the old career I gave 537026_10151863541959885_645410101_nup as an academic lawyer that just about finances my life now  – of course there wasn’t much less left after it subsidized going off and sailing the South China Seas … …but that was just another shattered dream .. and life’s full of  them. .. a bit like the internet and property bubbles that transferred all the wealth to the super-rich. Anyway, even if I had used all this last year to finish the sequel to “Beginnings“, the royalties it’d likely be bringing in might just buy dinner at a chinese take-away.  So it’s not for the money that I write. It wasn’t even for the money that I wrote books during my academic career. Lots of academics don’t do it. … It’s that you want to be heard. … Or I do! … You want to communicate. You hope that someone might  just get something out of what you’ve written…  learn something, think something new, get some pleasure or even some comfort ..  Ideas have a life of their own, after all  .. at least I believe that … and maybe, just maybe they can help to make the world a better place ….  My other books were useful and some were appreciated, but I was and still am hoping for much more with my novels. …. Strangely though, I’m a bit embarrased when my readers tell me how much they’ve enjoyed “Beginnings”. You’d think I’d be glowing! Weird huh!

Do I have any advice for fiction writers?  Decide what you really want to achieve. .. getting published .. making money or what?  Well, what I want to achieve may be quite a bit different to what lots of other writer’s want. I want to write great literature   … and I want to write literature that will be read in a hundred years’ time… and maybe even make a difference. … “Modest aspirations,” you say!  As to wanting literary longevity, my friend Sigmund would no doubt tell me it’s because I’ve written lots of ‘law books’ and they go out of date every few years or so and are forgotten!   “OK , Siggy … but it’s not just that!”  And what about: “great literature”? What is that? You may well ask. …. For quite some time I’ve asked myself that question  … and I even blogged about it… it’s hard to put your finger on it and even harder to do. .. Then, just lately, I read a little book called “As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning“, about a young man’s wanderings by poet-cum-author Laurie Lee, and then an almost impenetrable mist thinned and  lifted,  dark ominous clouds parted and the word “poetry” appeared.  It reminded me of my old High School English literature teacher, “Buster” Bevan, when he quoted from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”:

“Out, out brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard of no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

And this was before  my university studies in English “literature” dashed for decades any hope of my actually writing literature … and left me with the law.  But to make that sublime choice of words, that flourish of imagery, elegance of simile and shock of metaphor …  it adds so much to what is just a nice little story .. and there are lots of nice little stories around, but not much literature …. yes … there were moments when Laurie Lee overdid “it” and maybe then “it” didn’t quite work .. when the flurry of words let something other than the simplicity and beauty of the image weadle its way in … maybe that’s what went on in de Waal’s “The Hare with  Amber Eyes” …  So I read the last book in Laurie Lee’s autobiographical trilogy, called “A Moment of War” when he trekked over the Pyrennees in winter to join the republican forces and fight Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War .. what a debacle … and  this time there was more than just a nice little story … and the poetry was back but muted  and never overdone … and I was back home again … back with my book, “Beginnings”  .. set in the Basque country in the aftermath of the conflict that should have warned the western world about the rise of fascism, but didn’t.  …  Doesn’t history repeat itself …

A World of Dirty Politics, Power and Greed in 14th Century France.. plus ça change …

Just finished reading “The Iron King” written by Maurice Druon in 1955 and recently translated into English.


This is a powerful and wonderfully written story (aside from the first few pages which no doubt editors or translators managed to mess up – I’ve seen this before). It’s the first of a very popular series in France – Les Rois Maudits – (The Accursed Kings) written over fifty years ago, and out of which a successful TV series has been made… not that this necessarily means a lot when you see some of the rubbish that’s made into films. It’s also supposed to be the inspiration for the ‘Game of Thrones’ which I had the misfortune to watch one episode of on an international flight and had I been anywhere else I would have fallen asleep.

But quite to the contrary, “The Iron King” is a great piece of literature wrapped up in an historical tale of the last months in the life of French King Phillip the Fair in the early thirteen hundreds.  It’s historical fiction verging on fact which I find incredibly interesting but I can imagine that those not interested in history and in particular French history might not be too enthused by the story. Of course, there are also those who aren’t looking for literature but something rather less. Indeed, there’s so much in this fast-moving, tightly written, entertaining and colourful tale – human folly, political intrique, extreme greed, love and loss, insights into the lives of the powerful and the weak, the rich and poor, in an unforgiving and violent era … and above all, how so very little has changed today, except perhaps for the level of violence and who it is that wields the power over the lives of ordinary people. I’d highly recommend it if you enjoy or are interested these kinds of issues. You can get it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1omQShg

75 years ago: Who Remembers “La Retirada”?


Plage des Elmes at Banyuls-sur-MerAs I sit here today overlooking the dazzling waters of the western Mediterranean Sea at Banyuls-sur-Mer – or Banyuls de la Marenda as it it called in Catalan – on the edge of the moutainous border of France and Spain,  it’s near impossible to imagine the mixture of suffering, hadship and hope that thousands and thousands of refugees from the Spanish Civil War were feeling as they passed through here just 75 years ago.

In an era of 24 hour news and the internet, refugees in their thousands, lost in distant and dismal camps are rarely away from the world’s attention. But it wasn’t always so; even as recently as one person’s  lifetime ago, such a crisis on the French-Spanish border was not well known and now risks being  almost half-forgotten.

Spanish Civil War (2)

Refugees from the Spanish Civil War crowd the roads to Perpignan at Le Perthus, France. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images). 1936

In the first few months of 1939 ; only a short time before Europe awoke with a shock to the beginning of the the Second World War, another vicious conflict between fascism and republicanism was coming to a cataclysmic conclusion.  It was in Spain and after three long years of civil war and devastating battles such as the blitzkrieg bombing of Guernica in April 1937, mass executions, disappearances and other horrors that war entails.   Indeed, it was more than a civil war as German and Italian fascists had come to the aid of  General Franco’s nationalist forces and were learning the militarist trade that would soon be unleashed on their unprepared neighbours just to the north.

But in early 1939, the republican forces were facing a devastating defeat as Barcelona was about to fall  (and Madrid would follow before long) despite the intermittent assistance the USSR provided to the Republicans, the commitment of foreign idealists in the International brigades such as Willy Brandt and Simone Weil and the reporting of Hemingway and Orwell against the background of callous indifference by most members of the political classes in the democracies of western europe and north America.

It was at that time that more than half a million refugees followed the well-worn smugglers tracks across the snowed-in Pyrenees mountains of Spain and France’s Catalan territory bordering the Mediterranean Sea in the west, and the Basque country in the wild and mountainous region at the far east of the Pyrenees on the edge of the Bay of Biscay. Despite the welcoming arms of many of the Catalan and Basque peoples in France, hundreds of thousands of refugees from the execution and persecution at home found themselves suffering disease and slow starvation in hastily-built camps in such otherwise idyllic venues as Gurs, not so far from wealthy Bairritz as well as Rivesaltes and Barcares outside historic Perpignan.

Journalist Raymond Walker risks his life under a hail of bullets dashing across the International bridge from Hendaye, France, to Irun, Spain to save a baby, during the Spanish Civil War. (Photo by Horace Abrahams/Getty Images). 1936

Journalist Raymond Walker risks his life under a hail of bullets dashing across the International bridge from Hendaye, France, to Irun, Spain to save a baby, during the Spanish Civil War. (Photo by Horace Abrahams/Getty Images). 1936

Worse was to follow for some as it would be only months before the nazi occupation of France would force many of these refugee camp residents back  into prison camps in fascist Spain or into nazi work and labour camps as far away as eastern Europe. Many were fortunate to escape with the help of the French camp authorities just before the nazis came to take them over.

Perhaps it is understandable that the stories of  the hundreds of thousands displaced and abused people at the end of the Spanish Civil War was lost and almost forgotten as the world descended into the madness and horror of a new “world war to end all wars”.

And when it was all over – lives had to be rebuilt and the future was what pre-occupied  almost all survivors.  Spain stayed neutral in the Second World War, as it has in the 1914-18 war, and doubtless many there thanked General Franco, with his fascist links, for this small mercy.

But survival can carry its own burdens.  Not only for the thousands of “lost” Basque children sent away from the fighting to “safety” in Britain, central America and Russia; many of whom never returned; but also for those that Franco’s fascist state regarded as enemies and persecuted and hunted down even after the end of the war.

“BEGINNNINGS: Where a Life Begins” is the storyone such damaged Basque family and critical moments in its genetic background in various parts of Spain and at special times in Iberian history. But it is also much, much more.  It’s about survival and about revenge – personal or wild and uncontrolled – and about murder, in its many and varied forms, from in pure self-defence to  murder in defence of one’s home, way of life and all that is the highest in civilized values. All this has been a big part of this family’s lives, moulding their deepest drives since time began. …. ……BEGINNINGS is available on Amazon and iBooks and just about all other retailers.


A gripping sci-fi thriller romance and a great read

ALifetimeToWait-Cvr“A Lifetime to Wait” is the fast-paced and exciting second novel in “The Darkest Series” by Jackie Mae.  That’s a name you’re sure to remember and the author’s very original fusion of a sci-fi thriller  and romance is sure to be a hit with these big reader- markets . You’ll find it on Amazon

“The Ones” is the first book in the series  and introduces a violent and seemingly sociopathic breed of extraterrestrial outcasts living almost unnoticeably amongst us on earth; and they make a chilling re-appearance in Jackie Mae’s follow-up.  And there’s another one to come: “Hope and Destiny” that we get a sample of at the end of the second book. It’s another one to look forward to.

Jackie Mae has a great talent for creating suspense with an edgy narrative style and right from the get-go, we are plunged into the depths of her heroine, Brook’s frantic attempt to escape from unknown pursuers. She gets unwelcome help from her would-be protector, Dragone, a trained assassin working for the rebellion against a world ‘take-over’ being engineered by a renegade branch of the Ones.  Unsurprisingly, Brooke takes some time and quite a bit of brutality before she accepts the reality of what is quietly happening in the world though a conspiracy of  scientists, high-ranking military officers and politicians.

Jackie Mae tells an exciting and entertaining tale that holds together very well and keeps the reader glued to its pages.  I could undertand many readers not wanting to put the book down until its explosive conclusion.  Jackie Mae doesn’t just  rely on a thrilling storyline but delves into the complexity of its main characters and their emerging love story.  The book is well written and conceived, entertaining and sometimes thought-provoking. For that alone, it deserves its 5 star rating and is highly recommended; so we can easily forgive the occasional lapse of polish that a little more editing might have brought to it. “A Lifetime to Wait” is a great read and “The Darkest Series”  deserves to be a great success, especially with fans of the sci-fi, thriller, romance genre.