Indie Authors, Book Marketing and Kindle Unlimited…

While I’ve not been directly impacted by this recent crackdown of Amazon’s on what they deem suspicious page reads (in the Kindle Unlimited programme), I have watched with interest how authors I know have been affected.

Kindle Unlimited has worked for me in the past. I regularly pay for Freebooksy features and through Freebooksy, my ROI has been 300%-400% on good days. For me, this was a revelation when I first discovered it and because my books were in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s algorithms were triggered and my KU page reads were always boosted as a result. I have found that running regular freebie promotions for first books in a series has been the most reliable method of book marketing I have ever used. This, coupled with good covers, good content inside my books, plus characters you want to continue reading about for 2 books or more, has worked for me.

Back when I first published novels in 2012, I would put books on sale or free – and using Facebook and Twitter alone – I would always manage 2,000-3,000 free downloads during the period of one promotion (the most consecutive free days you can do in a row with KDP select is five, and I would normally do a promo lasting 2-3 days). Nowadays, I would never get that many downloads for a free promotion without using email marketing (newsletters to my personal mailing list, or Mailchimp promos; Freebooksy emails; Bookbub; or other sites like these). Without boosting posts on your Facebook pages, audience reach is very, very small these days, unlike back in 2012 when I had maybe 1,000 page likes and I’d still generate 2,000 free downloads with little effort at all.

For some of us who’ve been doing this a long time, it feels like our ability to speak to our readers is being crushed and squeezed, bit by bit, unless we bury ourselves away in private FB groups or try to use other emerging social media platforms. It is a challenging time to achieve discoverability, to say the least.

Book marketing is evolving, ALL THE TIME. I’ve monitored it for six years and the pendulum swings from one end of the spectrum to the other, depending upon the day itself. For me personally, I’ve found that the sweet spot when paid promotion really works is either in the holidays when everyone is loading their kindles ready for a foreign trip or time off work, or around Christmas when everyone has a bunch of gift cards to spend. I have yet to try AMS ads, but given that my books are often heavily erotic, this explains why.

Kindle Unlimited is designed to give hungry readers access to as many books as they like. Readers who read 4-5 books a week or more are significantly better off if they subscribe to KU because they pay one fee and get all these books for that one set fee. You can take a max of 10 titles out at once and then return them once they’re read, then “borrow” more after that. Amazon has opened their own digital library and given readers the keys to the kingdom for a reasonable price. It seems like nobody has anything to lose, right?

WRONG!

Honest authors are losing out, and they are losing BIG TIME. Not because of readers, who legitimately pay their KU subscription and legitimately read books, but because of click farms and book stuffers and other nefarious people out there who have concocted ways of abusing the KU programme and consistently make money from fake pages read. FYI for people not in the know: KU allows customers to read as many KU books as they like, and authors submit their book into the KU programme (which requires exclusivity), then the author gets paid X-amount per page read. If the customer reads all of your book and not just part of it, then obviously you’ll get paid more. Legitimate authors are losing money day after day after day… and as I mentioned before, I have not been directly impacted by page scammers… but I have heard what is going on…

My longest novel, Unbind is over 150,000 words long and when it was in KU, it made good page reads because of its length (777 pages in terms of Kindle Pages)  but unless your books are really long, you’re not going to make that much money from page reads. It’s all relative. Which is why certain dodgy authors are book stuffing, the practice of advertising ONE book, but then hiding quite a bit more material at the back of the book from other titles, or as some are labelling it, “bonus material”. I’ve seen recently that people have started pointing out that bonus material shouldn’t exceed the 10% “extra content” guideline that Amazon recommends you include. Maybe this is starting to be rolled out, but I don’t know. Some of these book stuffers, I am led to believe, have been including links inside their e-books which encourage readers to skip all this extraneous matter, and thus the guilty authors receive royalties for those “page reads” which are not legitimate. Therefore, when Amazon is dividing the KU pot out at the end of every sales period, book stuffers are being awarded a certain % of “sales” while legit authors who’ve had real readers reading each page legitimately are robbed of their rightful % of the pot because these book stuffers are nicking fake pages read. (Does that make sense? It doesn’t to me…) All this, quite frankly, makes a mockery of Amazon’s technology – and the authors who opt in to KU in good faith, only to be shafted, whether they know it or not.

We haven’t even got started on click farms yet (dodgy websites or whatever they are), which dodgy authors employ to download their books through KU, skip to the end, and therefore earn them money for not even reading a book. They just skip to the end and Amazon still registers it as “pages read”.

I have been told of instances where authors have released a new book which has done well, only to be told their KU reads were suspicious and that Amazon won’t be paying them for any of those pages read, most of which were legitimate. The rest weren’t legitimate because click farms have started targeting honest, hard-working authors in a bid to confuse Amazon even more – making it more difficult to differentiate between ruthless money grabbers and genuine authors.

For a while now, I have been pulling my books out of Kindle Unlimited for marketing reasons. A lot of my books were in Kindle Unlimited for ages and I judged that it was time to take them wide and gain success elsewhere. And they have – they have gained success in different markets, elsewhere. In some cases (because I am a multi-genre author) some of my books have done better on iBooks, B&N and Kobo, than they ever did on Amazon. Maybe there’s no logic to that. As I said, everything is dependent on the mood of the day/week/month/year/season.

For all these reasons above, whenever I come to publish a brand-new title in future, I will not be clicking the “Enroll in KDP Select” box in the same automatic way that I used to. Nope.

Integrity and enjoyment of what I am doing is paramount for me. I do not enjoy seeing innocent people robbed of their hard-earned monies because of criminals abusing the Kindle Unlimited Programme. I do not enjoy Amazon accusing innocent authors of malpractice and not giving them a chance to fight their corner. It is my understanding that Amazon have been rather hard-line on this and once they’ve decided your “page reads” were gained illegally, they won’t be paying you for those page reads that were REAL, i.e. from regular, hardcore fans you’ve had for years in some cases. This is because they don’t have the means to find out which page reads were authentic, and which were from click farms. The only way they have been handling this is to discredit all the page reads of authors/books which have suddenly dropped onto their radar as suspicious – even if the author has appealed and tried to fight back.

While these injustices continue – book stuffing, click farms, authors being stripped of royalties, not to mention books being taken down from Amazon randomly, sometimes without warning – my choice will be to take my books wide and take my chances in the broader marketplace.

True fans and readers will read your book if they really want to, no matter how you are selling it. Many readers don’t like KU because once you return a book, that’s it. You can’t keep it forever like you can if you buy a book outright. KU doesn’t work for my reading preferences. That’s just me. I prefer paperbacks, but I also don’t read enough books that are in KU to warrant me paying the monthly subscription. Those are just my personal habits.

Amazon’s algorithms favour books in Kindle Unlimited. They promote those more than they promote non-KU books (check the top #100 charts). As an author, pulling your books out of KU is a difficult call to make if you’re not yet where you want to be in terms of sales and discoverability, because Amazon is where many have started off, been discovered and gone on to do a lot bigger, better things with different publishers. Also, for many authors (particularly the KU All Stars), let’s face it – their page reads are their bread and butter, and Amazon has been good for them. But even they are now finding themselves coming up against more and more restrictions, for instance in the way that Amazon allows blogger/critical reviews to be added on release day. Instead of allowing them to pour in like they used to, reviews are now heavily monitored and restricted. What other new rules is Amazon going to impose in the future? Will these restrictions protect Amazon, the reader or the marketplace as a whole? I think, to be honest, Amazon is like the proverbial headless chicken right now, desperately scrambling about – seeking a way of controlling this huge monster they have created with Kindle Direct Publishing, whereby books written by “ghost writers” available for hire on Fiverr are written and uploaded within a day – and still, no matter the tripe within, these titles make 1000s of dollars, no matter how badly written they are, because there are disingenuous “authors” out there who’ve figured out ways of manipulating the system.

It’s the enablers… always the enablers.

So while the possibility exists that even if I release a book in the correct way and gain loads of legitimate page reads in the first week(s) of release, only to be told that I may lose all that money generated from page reads because illicit activity has been detected – I will therefore choose not to opt my books in Kindle Unlimited. I would rather earn NO MONEY from pages read, than earn money which also comes with the risk of maybe being told I will have all my hard work stolen from me – and there’s absolutely nothing I can do.

Until Amazon finds a way to protect the 100% innocent authors in all this, I encourage fellow KU authors to seriously consider whether voting with their feet is the only way to make Amazon realise that there are innocent authors who are the victims of other people’s abuses – and despite how much they’ve made for Amazon in the past – these authors are faced with a non-negotiable stance on an issue which, so far, Amazon seems to have handled poorly.

My bottom line is this: I want to sell my books on a platform where I, and my books, have value, and I won’t give away exclusivity for anything less. While I personally have had no bad dealings with Amazon, I fear that if ever I were to have massive sales with them, I would suddenly come under scrutiny and they would probably have something to say about that. That’s how it feels right now. A culture of mistrust, doubt and suspicion is spreading, all because there are problems in the way Kindle Unlimited page reads are monitored…. #NotTheAuthorsFault

Announcing Poems to My Younger Self – An Anthology

POEMS TO MY YOUNGER SELF

Our list of contributing authors:

Eleanor Lloyd-Jones

Paula Acton

Glenn Haigh

KA Hobbs

ES Carter

Jane Washington

Merlot Bookbinder

Alistair Stone

Linda M. Crate

Andie M. Long

Marian Barker

Lisa J Hobman

Sharena Lee Satti

Andy Lynch

Zak Hardacre

Claire C. Riley

Lisa Fulham

Bella Settarra

Alison Clarke

Nadia Correia

Anna-Maria Athanasiou

Charlotte E Hart

Dee Palmer

Sam Dutton

Audrina Lane

Rachel Hague

O.Y. Flemming

Sarah Michelle Lynch

***

Every single author has brought it for this project and I’d just like to say thank-you to them all for really getting what I wanted from them. I’m so happy with this book, and I think you will be, too.

ALL PROCEEDS of this book are going to MAKE A WISH, a charity granting wishes to terminally ill children. One of our own writers, KA Hobbs told me her sister was granted a wish before she died and it meant everything to her sister and their family. This is such a special charity and we hope this book provides hope but also a generous donation, too.

If you would like a review copy, please visit THIS FORM and fill out your details. Review copies will be sent in the form of a Kindle book – but please note – “Poems To My Younger Self” will only go on sale in paperback. Poetry needs to be read on the page. It’s so much more powerful that way.

The paperback will be available to buy from Amazon on February 20th but I’ll also be selling this in person at the Leeds Author Event on March 3rd, 2018. Many of the contributing authors will be in attendance that day. I’ll let you know how you can pre-order your copies for this event beforehand.

More details are to come… and I’ll be posting snippets of everyone’s poems on my Instagram account in the run-up to publication, so do not miss out!

Sarah x

LEEDS AUTHOR EVENT 2016

Let me first start by saying that the run-up to this event was an exhausting ordeal in itself (for me and no doubt many others, including the organisers).

For more than a month prior to the signing I was running a blog tour. Every day I featured a different writer (most signing at Leeds, some not). The blog tour meant quickly collecting everyone’s words and putting them into blog posts vaguely resembling the same sort of format! That was time out of my own routine, as was formatting the blogs into what became a special paperback produced in honour of this signing.

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View the tour

Buy the paperback

 Was it tiring? Yes. Was it worth it? Hell yes.

With busy periods in your life comes the slump afterwards when you’re left wondering – what next? In quick succession, I recently finished a novel. Finished the blog tour. Edited someone’s memoirs for them. Then prepared for a book signing. It’s all been a total mind fuck.

In the run-up to a signing, your finger constantly hovers over the re-order button on all the sites you’ve bought books, bookmarks, posters and merchandise from. You’re in a perpetual state of thinking, Have I bought enough? Have I done enough? It is absolute madness. You get to the point where you become at one with everything and if you haven’t got it, tough shit.

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So, the run-up to these things is crazy. The day itself is crazy. The aftermath is like venturing to Hell’s Mouth and teetering on the edge for days on end. I’ve been sat here sort of laughing and cackling to myself, randomly recalling moments I’d almost forgotten about. Hubby sits next to me with a wry smile, just knowing I’m running it all through my head again and storing it in the long-term data banks.

Last year when I did my first signing in Peterborough, I could barely stomach my breakfast. This year I managed a few things for breakfast because I knew what to expect and I was glad I had some food in me because it was non-stop all day long. I barely had time to breathe, I don’t think anyone did. I must have dropped about half a stone in one day from nervous excitement, the air-con and generally having to concentrate and sound lucid! LOL.

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On Saturday there were few moments to stop and think and it’s why the aftermath is always so bittersweet. These events are so treasured and so overwhelming that afterwards, you wish you had done this, that or the other. All I can comfort myself with is the fact that there will be more signings. Here’s just a few of the things (however) which particularly made Leeds special for me (these might not come to me in the same order of the day’s timeline):

  • I was placed in a Ham and James-Marlow sandwich. Otherwise known as sitting between Lisa Fulham and the delectable duo Victoria L James and Francesca Marlow. I like to think of James-Marlow as being like a delightful salad relish with a dash of bourbon! It was great to be able to sneak a glance at what was going on at the tables around me. Victoria’s mum holding a glass of wine… a very LARGE glass I may add. Go on my love! Victoria was completely overwhelmed by the whole experience, as were many other debut signers. Nothing quite compares to your first time and realising that actually, yes, people really do love your work. For every troll out there wanting to pull you down, there are dozens of people clambering to get a piece of you – people who love reading and totally get what self-published authors are trying to do. Indie books have more of the soul, less of the polish that strips out what makes each author individual, and I love that. I think many people do. As for Lisa “Manchester” Fulham, I only have to look over at her and smile and we just know what the other is thinking!
  • Dented bottles! Yes, I became obsessed with a dented wine bottle after I partook of one glass of wine during the signing. I think it went straight to my head…! 😉
  • “They Say I’m Doing Well” was a huge hit, the charity anthology I led, alongside 28 other authors. It was wonderful to see so many people holding their copies and trying to get them signed by all the authors in attendance who’d participated. Like I say, in the run-up to this signing I’d been pedal to the metal with this project but the messages from people who really got what this blog tour/book were all about really made it all so worthwhile. I can’t tell you what a privilege it is to do what I do. In my day job, I help people get published. It’s a dream. I will always consider this a privilege. It’s special. It’s not even work for me. For people to congratulate me on standing up for mental illness seems bizarre. It’s something I feel necessary to do, not even that, but a natural urge. It’s not brave, but normal, to talk about things. That’s all. And yet the interest I am getting in this project is gathering pace on a daily basis. I am not kidding you!!!!
  • NooNoo’s shaking on the dancefloor. She really can drop to the floor as well!! Louise White is my favourite blogger. She rocks. Despite the broken zip, well… you had THE GLOVES so it didn’t matter. I hold you responsible for me writing Tainted Lovers because you mentioned there weren’t enough novels around about married couples…
  • Seeing Rachel and Jo, the Hourglass ladies, tear up as they were presented with a card and presents at the end of the day was like watching all their tension slide away in one fell swoop as they suddenly realised “we did good”. It was amazing. Pats on the back darlings. We’re one crazy group of authors. I never doubted Jo and Rach for a moment.
  • Having authors like Charming Man and Anna-Maria Anthanasiou, EJ Shortall, Lavinia Urban, Rebecca Sherwin, Cameron Lincoln (I know your real name, I know your name – sang to the Casino Royale theme tune) and so many others know your face. It’s truly a bizarre thing to be recognised.
  • The whole day felt nicely spread out and nobody had to wait for too long, everyone had a great spread of visitors to their table. I remember looking over at Scarlett Flame and Neil Winnington who were both loving it. I couldn’t take my eyes off Scarlett’s steampunk outfit (HA HA, Scarlett).
  • The BAD, BAD, BAD Dad dancing at the masquerade ball. IT WAS BAD. LOL.
  • Rachel falling over in her huge ball dress. It had to happen and it did. Shame nobody had their phone out at the time.
  • Victoria L James break dancing in a pretty red dress. I’m sure I was seeing things!

However, the moment of the day has to be this:

My husband (who was in and out all day) was walking in through the hotel’s revolving doors when he overheard two women stood outside, deep in conversation. He overheard, “EL James is okay, but the thing about Sarah Michelle Lynch is you can actually relate to her characters.”

My husband’s gob was smacked big style. I don’t think I can convey how proud he is of me on a normal day, let alone that day. I actually thought he was kidding me when he told me this. He waited until after the signing to tell me. I thought he was lying. I thought it was just a joke. IT WASN’T. *sniggers* When it sank in, I had a little cry and he reminded me of all the stuff he constantly reminds me of that keeps me going. Somehow, I am reaching people. I think of myself as like the Reliant Robin of social media management but obviously I’m not doing too badly! LOL. (I still think my husband is lying!!!)

My thanks go to Rachel Hague, my “date” for the ball. Your stamina astounded me. You got round every single table. I will forever remember you as the first person to hit my table at my very first signing last year. We ❤ Lottie.

Thanks to Michaela – she bought so many books! Girl loves her some books.

EJ Shortall – it shocked and awed me when you said you read AA before you became an author yourself. Just wow.

My thanks also go to everyone aforementioned, as well as each and every author who participated in “They Say I’m Doing Well” – and for Jo and Rach supporting the idea.

Thanks to everyone who came to my table, new or old readers or general enquirers, you are all appreciated. I think I sold a fair few copies of the Sub Rosa trilogy to some mature ladies who have still got it in them. Wa-hey. That rocked my world. I sell quite a few ebooks every month but in one day on Saturday, I sold dozens of paperbacks which doesn’t often happen and left me made up.

As for what’s next? I am DYING to get back to writing, which I haven’t done much of so far this year. However, at this moment in time, I really do think it might be time to put my feet up a moment and reflect, digest and bask in the warm glow of such a great day.

I do however have a new notebook…

Much love,

Sarah x

p.s. if you got some pics with me on the day, tag me in them because I barely got a sausage 😥

*Now Live in Paperback*

THEY SAY“They Say I’m Doing Well” is a collection of blogs about overall mental health and it has now become a paperback. 29 authors came together, uniting in the hope of discussing matters often brushed under the carpet. In the process the book is supporting Mind, the UK mental health charity championing improvements to mental health services across the country. £1 from every copy will be donated to Mind.

From poetry to short stories, first-hand experiences to monologues and matters of the heart, “They Say I’m Doing Well” aims to reassure others they are not alone. You can read everybody’s words on this blog for FREE: www.sarahmichellelynch.net/blog

Words have the power to change lives; to educate and nurture, to help bring people together. The authors have put their hearts and souls into this project. Issues tackled include post-natal depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, stress, eating disorders, the strains of coping with physical illness, overcoming cancer, domestic abuse and suicide.

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You can reach the authors who contributed to the project by clicking through these links: Alexandra North, Amelia J Hunter, Andie M Long, Anna-Maria Athanasiou, Audrina Lane, Blake Rivers, Carrie Elks, Charlotte Hart, Claire C Riley, David E Gordon, EJ Shortall, Eleanor Lloyd-Jones, Francesca Marlow, Glenn Haigh, Grace Harper, HA Robinson, Hemmie Martin, Lavinia Urban, Lisa Fulham, Mandy Gibson, Muriel Garcia, Rachel Hague, Rebecca Sherwin, Sarah Michelle Lynch, Scarlett Flame, Stevie Turner, SJ Warner, T A McKay and Victoria L James.

To buy the paperback and support Mind, follow these BUY LINKS:

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1523952636

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1523952636/

Or to support our project with more than a £1 donation, visit our Just Giving page to give a little more: https://www.justgiving.com/Sarah-Lynch16 – your donation goes direct to the Mind charity.

Thank you x

FRAMED – A Protect Your Breasts Anthology Raising Money For Cancer

I am a #PYB Wordy Warrior and I’m honoured to be part of this line-up. When Lisa asked me to contribute I jumped at the chance. A) because I’d be writing something for a good cause and B) this presented a new challenge for a broad group of writers. I was excited to see the outcome for myself. Every penny donated goes to cancer research projects. Amazon isn’t taking a cut and everyone involved in this project has volunteered their time and energy to raise awareness, get people reading together and have some fun. There’s not a person I know whose life hasn’t been touched by this dreadful disease in some form or other. All donations, big and small, are greatly appreciated.

Framed is a book put together by Protect Your Breasts in order to raise money for Cancer Research, but rather than put the book on sale, it’s being given as a thank you gift for donations made through their Just Giving page

28 authors

Framed is a collection of twenty eight stories, one thousand words in length, each written by one of twenty eight writers, collectively known as the #PYB Wordy Warriors.

Beautiful girl travelling through the magical portal - fantasy tale

All the tales in this anthology are inspired by this picture. Every story is different, every writer’s way with words unique, but they stand united for the cause. Fear, love, pain and freedom; you’ll find it all in this book, on a heart-breaking and uplifting journey through beautiful prose.

The team of Wordy Warriors and the team at #PYB want to say a huge thank you for all your support and we hope you enjoy this collection.

You can get the full list of #PYB Wordy Warriors and more details about this project here

How can you get your hands on this book and support this cause? In three easy steps

  • Make a donation through this Just Giving Page
  • Register the name you made the donation under and your email address through this form
  • Enjoy the words, support the cause and follow #PYB

Protect Your Breasts is a non-profit campaign ran by Lisa Fulham and V to raise awareness for the importance of self examination for the signs of Breast Cancer.

You can follow and support #PYB in the following places

Twitter

Facebook

Blog

Together let’s make C stand for Clear, not Cancer

Earth 8-8-2: Boundless Limits Blog Hop

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Dear Reader, Writers and Precious Patrons,

All Authors Publishing House would like to bring you a Double Book Release of earth shattering proportions.

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Are there any limits out there which are boundless? Two characters, two different stories of paranormal drama, put that to the ultimate test!

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“Earth 8-8-2: The Genesis Project”

by

Y. Correa

Blurb:

Could Science Serve as Salvation?
One-fourth Human.
One-fourth God.
One-fourth Superhuman.
One-fourth Vampire.
For Dr. Scott, the combined strengths of each life form represent the answer to the onslaught of malice and tyranny plaguing his Earth. When his creation—Genesis—begins developing, the lines between scientist and father become blurred. Soon the time approaches where Genesis is expected to fulfill her purpose. Does she go along willingly, or will her rapid evolution obliterate everyone’s best laid plans?

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“Boundless Limits: Transcendent Choice (Book One)”

by

Da’Kharta Rising

Blurb:

There’s Love … and then there’s Love Beyond Limits.
Felipe and Therice had a love that knew of no boundaries. When Therice and “Mama” lose their lives in a tragic car accident, Felipe has a gaping hole that just refuses to heal and Therice has a determination to see him again that just refuses to die.
Heaven feels anything but, when Therice discovers that spirits are prohibited from visiting loved ones after they have died. Sensing that her angelic guide Amare possesses empathetic traits, Therice develops a plan of appeal in the hopes she will see Felipe near the anniversary of her death.

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Get Your eBook Copy Today!

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Boundless Limits: Transcendent Choice Book One

Earth 8-8-2: The Genesis Project

Coming Soon to …

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Being Held Hostage By a Book!

The bane of my life at the moment seems to be trying to find a happy medium between writing and interacting with readers – not to mention all the other stuff!

Sometimes, as an author, you end up getting so wrapped up in writing or even reading a book, you neglect everything else! It is a common complaint. Sometimes after a drought, when the flood comes, you’ve just got to go with it. You just don’t know when the impulse is going to return. You have to listen to the voices.

There might be one year where you barely write anything and another year where you cannot bloody stop writing! It seems 2015 is the latter for me and I have got stuff coming out of my ears! Only problem is I haven’t got time to be all things to all people – unsurprisingly certain areas of life have to go on the backburner. For me, it always seems to be social networking and chasing reviewers that gets neglected.

HOWEVER….! The current work in progress, which has been an up and downhill journey for me, is now in official first draft status. I honestly didn’t know which way this book was gonna go – it was such a toss-up all the way through. It’s about a journey of discovery that rips the heroine apart and leaves her a different person to the one she started out with.

For once, I’m not dreading the editing of this one. I’m really, really looking forward to it! Kayla Tate has been such a joy to write! I adore her. I don’t know if it is that the last book in a trilogy is always the easiest because you’ve got the big points already covered, but this book has just been one of those where I’ve just had to ride the highs and lows and it’s somehow worked out good in the end – thank all that is good for that!

The story from Unbind and Unfurl continues into Unleash and my, have we some revelations to come…

I’m aiming to give Unleash a tentative June release, but we shall wait and see…