Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The future of book shops

A friend who has just returned from a 6 week trip in the US read my blog post yesterday about how we find books and made some interesting observations.

"The change in the US was dramatic since I was there 4 years ago. In 2008, Borders had huge bookshops that doubled up as centres for students to write essays, friends to meet and chat over coffee etc. My favourite was just off Union Square in SF. I recall it being open until 11 pm or even midnight. It was 3 or 4 storeys high; huge. Such a lovely, contemplative and creative atmosphere. All gone. The only bookshop I saw in the States was in a small university town (San Luis Obispo) and Chicago airport.   By contrast, coffee shops seem to be doing even better than 4 years ago. In some Starbucks, there are long, old fashioned wooden tables for people to place their laptops side by side to each other. A good, communal atmosphere."

Although I have noticed how in the UK we have lost more and more bookshops overs the years (and this trend started well before the advent of e-readers) I didn’t know the extent of this elsewhere. After libraries, bookshops used to be my favourite places, yet since I began using Amazon, and especially since I got my kindle, I don’t go to bookshops very often now.  I’m reading more, though, because I can download books so easily onto my kindle.   What will happen to books if bookshops disappear?  This is currently being much debated.    So I was very interested to  come across this article in the Huffington Post, which put forward this opinion:

"Instead of killing physical books, ebooks have actually encouraged a new level of fetishization of the printed page. Beautifully made editions that sit as objets d'art on the shelf or coffee table, are becoming more prevalent.
I know from recent discussions with a publishing consultant, who works with writers to produce indie published print books, that her business is booming right now.  And another publisher I have previously worked with is developing a range of special edition print books that can be cherished for their quality and aesthetic appeal. I’ve always believed that print and ebooks can complement each other and encourage more people to discover the pleasures of reading.

You can read the full article here – very thought provoking. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

How do we hear about books?

I recently came across an interesting post about the changing way in which we hear about books on Nathan Bransford's excellent site. Quoting from Nathan:
Two years ago, 35% of book purchases were made because readers found outabout a book in bricks-and-mortar bookstores, the single-largest site ofdiscovery. This year, that figure has dropped to 17%, a reflection bothof the closing of Borders and the rise of e-readers. In the same period,personal recommendations grew the most, to 22% from 14%. Somethree-quarters of personal recommendations are made in person, while therest come by e-mail (8%), phone (7%), Facebook (4%) and other socialnetworks (3%).That's an incredibly fast change. Just two years ago a plurality ofpeople were hearing about books in bookstores, now that has dropped tohalf that number.
I sometimes wonder what things will be like 10 years down the line, or even 5 years.  Will there still be bookstores?  Then again, it would be instructive to see how many people who found their book in the store were already stimulated to visit because of a personal recommendation?  Often we may go into a store (or Amazon) to purchase one item, only to end up sidetracked browsing to discover another item.  

Personal recommendation is obviously the crucial factor, and this probably hasn't changed over the years - just the way we receive that recommendation, ie in person, or via a real or virtual channel. What do you think?

To read the post in full go to

Related posts:

Monday, 29 October 2012

Carnival of the Indies features Lessons in Indie Publishing Part 1

Brevity is the order of the day.  So this is a short post.

Firstly, I'm totally thrilled that my blog post titled Backtracking: Lessons in Indie Publishing Part 1 is included in the Carnival of the Indies for October on Joel Friedlander's excellent site The Book Designer.  To see the post go to:

Secondly, inspired and encouraged by my guest blogger Vikki Thompson, I have today signed up for NaNoWriMo.  Panicking now!  Hoping to see some of you at some of the Kent events.  And if anyone else out there has signed up, I would love to hear from you.

Thirdly, I promise a more substantial post tomorrow.......

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Guest post: Vikki Thompson: Write a novel in a month!

Today I'm really pleased to be doing a blog swap with Vikki Thompson, whose excellent blog is The View Outside, which I only recently discovered and would enthusiastically recommend. Next month is National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo) and as Vikki has twice been a winner, I was delighted when she agreed to my request to write a post on the subject.  Over to Vikki.....

In 3 days time, over 300,000 people across the world will be taking part in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing month). Their aim? To write 50,000 words during the month of November.

Madness? Probably, but a great amount of fun and, who knows, you may just be the next Elizabeth Haynes! (Elizabeth Haynes is just about to publish her 3rd novel. All three worked on as projects for Nanowrimo - )

So you've decided to join the madness and write a novel during November,  but you haven't got a clue where to start. Well, firstly, you need a story. Not an easy task for any writer, we all need inspiration, something to draw on for ideas. You may already have an idea, but if not, here are my top 10 places to look for inspiration:

1. Newspapers & Magazines: Flick through the pages and pick out stories you like. Make up your own endings. Read headlines, they may just inspire something.

2. Films: Borrow the storyline from a film you've seen recently. Every single story or plot has been done before. Do your own version of a well known favourite.

3. Problem Pages: The agony aunt section of a magazine. Do your own solution to the readers problem in story form.

4. Re-write a Fairytale: Do a modern day version of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or how about Beauty and the Beast?

5. Photographs & Pictures: Search Flickr for something that catches your eye.

6. Songs & Song Titles: Most songs tell a story. I still can't figure out why no ones turned The Script's The Man Who Can't Be Moved into a rom com movie!

7. Book Titles: Scan the books on your shelves and use one of the titles to inspire your own story.

8. TV Programmes: Write some "fan fiction". If you don't like what the writers are doing to your favourite characters on TV, write your own version of your favourite soap. Remember, E L James started with "fan fiction" ;)

9. The Nanowrimo Forums: On the Nano site there is a forum called "Adoption Society" which is definitely worth a look. You'll find hundreds of story ideas.

10. Real Life: If nothing appeals, write a fictional version of your life story. It doesn't have to be your real life, try your fantasy one.

I think I might go for number 10 myself this year. I quite fancy the idea of being wined and dined on a yacht by Robert Downey Jnr ;)

About Vikki
Vikki lives in Medway with her husband, 3 adult children (who refuse to leave home) and 2 cats. She blogs, (or should that be rambles?) daily at The View Outside ( and spends her time fantasising about being the next EL James, but isn’t too keen on having to write Erotica to achieve that (unless Robert Downey Jnr is available for research). 2012 see’s her first year at being a Co-ML (Municipal Liaison) for Nanowrimo Kent.

Vikki Thompson    @vikkithomp

Please pop over to Vikki's blog to read my guest post on Targets and Goal Setting

Making a difference

"Everybody loses everybody and then one day - BOOM! - your number's up.  But at least you're making a difference."

This quote is from the Supernatural TV series (which I love), Season 7, Episode 12, when character Dean Winchester goes back in time to 1944 and is hunting demons with the legendary Eliot Ness.  The words come from Mr Ness and they stuck in my mind.

We should all try to make a difference and it's a good philosophy to live by.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Writing in a cupboard

If you want to check out my recent post about writing spaces for Creatabot, it starts like this....

A dear friend recently reminded me that I once wrote in a cupboard.  

In a previous home I rented, space was very limited but the bedroom had a large walk-in wardrobe.  Since my clothes only took up a fraction of the space, I realised my computer desk would fit in perfectly, with a stool tucked underneath and I could close the doors on it.  This became my writing space, and very successful it was too.  I was both prolific and productive during that time.  

To read on go to

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Interview with Gemma Carnell, Fundraising Manager for Redwings Horse Sanctuary

I'm delighted that Gemma Carnell, Fundraising Manager for Redwings, kindly agreed to take some time out of her busy schedule to allow me to interview her.  Since all my royalties from sales of the Matty Horse and Pony Adventures are donated to Redwings, I thought it would be helpful for readers to learn more about the work of this amazing horse sanctuary and why donations are so vitally important.

JaneHow long have you been working as fundraiser for Redwings and what made you decide to work for a horse sanctuary?

Gemma: I have been working at Redwings for eight and a half years, but I first started to support the charity in 1988 when a friend adopted a pony called Pepper for me! I have always wanted to work for a charity and am proud to be a part of such an amazing organization where you can see the achievements all around you (I can hear a happy donkey braying as I type and can see a cheeky pony running round the veterinary recovery paddock!). The fact that we are not only here to rescue and rehabilitate horses and donkeys, but also offer life-long care to those who are too ill or too traumatized to live in a private home, is a remarkable thing. I genuinely do not believe that anyone else offers the level of care and dedication to so many horses.

Jane: Redwings is the largest sanctuary of its kind in the UK.  Can you give us an idea of the scale of funds needed to keep everything going to enable Redwings to rescue and care for horses and ponies that need help?

Gemma: Redwings relies 100% on donations made by the public – we receive no government funding. We need to raise at least £6 million a year just to care for the 1,250 horses that live with us. Nearly 60% of our income is received through legacies – a gift in a Will really makes a powerful difference. The rest of the funds we need are raised through people adopting a horse or making a donation.

Jane: Can you tell us a bit about what it’s like to work for Redwings.  Is there a typical day?

Gemma: No day is ever the same at Redwings and that is what makes working here extra special! We are a friendly, dedicated team working really hard to help horses in need and we are all prepared to muck in to ensure we use our resources in the best way possible to benefit our horses. Fundraising involves lots of time at  the computer, planning and analyzing, but I also spend a lot of time at our three (soon to be four!) Visitor Centres, where people can meet our horses in person for free. Keeping in touch with the supporters and seeing the horses is an important part of my job and one of the most rewarding.

Jane: What is the hardest thing about your job?

Gemma: Seeing a poorly horse arrive in a terrible state is always heartbreaking. Sadly we are seeing more and more of them and it never gets easier.

Jane: What do you like most?

Gemma: Driving up the road in the morning or on the way home at the end of a busy day and seeing fields full of happy horses, knowing that you have helped them be content and safe for another day.

Jane: Do you have any favourite horses, ponies or donkeys?

Gemma: Yes, but don’t tell the others! Tinkerbell the Shetland, Wellington the chocolate coloured cob (who has just been re-homed!), and Denise the donkey – they are all lovely and have very cheeky characters! You can read about Denise on the adoption pages of our website - I am also in love with the whole of the Breakfast Group – 19 young ponies who were rescued from Wales recently. They have the best names (such as Waffle, Weetabix and Bagel) and are all adorable – seeing them grow up and get well again has been such a privilege.


And last but definitely not least, I absolutely love little Doc! Doc was born at Redwings after his Mum was rescued from the notorious Spindle Farm in Amersham in 2008 - he was the cutest, fluffiest foal I have ever seen and grew up to be a cheeky chap, always escaping under the paddock fence to the 'big boys' field' to try and share tea-time feeds. He and his family were named after fairytale characters as a symbol of the fairytale ending they had after their traumatic lives.

Doc at 2 days old with Mum Snow White

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Matty and the Moonlight Horse is FREE to download from 19-23 October!

DON'T FORGET  - Matty and the Moonlight Horse is FREE to download from 19-23 October on Amazon.

Aimed at children, teenagers and nostalgic older readers, Matty and the Moonlight Horse is the first story in a exciting trilogy. 

Meet Matty Mathews.
Thirteen years old. 
Pony mad.
And pony-less.

Until a midnight encounter with a mystery horse. Life’s about to change for Matty …..

Available from and


All profits from sales of these books are going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary
Redwings Logo            

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Breathe! Indie publishing from the experts!

Today I want to draw your attention to some really excellent posts about indie publishing and marketing.  

The first one is recommended reading for anyone, like me, who sets themselves impossible targets and then beats themselves up for not meeting them.  This post, called aptly The 5 Keys to Pain-Free Book Promotion by Carol Costello, takes a more realistic and less stressful approach to book promotion.  Great advice and suggests you don’t have to do everything at once!  As Carol says, just breathe.....

The next one is an informative post by Anthony Wessel, a book industry veteran and founder of about the cycle of book sales – every writer should read this!

And finally, a great post with some sobering statistics for writers – for example, in 2011 there were 211,269 self-published titles and out of at least 1.2 million titles published by the entire industry over the course of a year, almost 80% sell fewer than 100 copies.

But if this makes you feel like giving up, just read this truly inspiring post from dedicated indie writer and entrepreneur Kimanzi Constable.

Wonderful stuff!

Related posts:

Monday, 15 October 2012

Writing, routines and running

Apart from my 3 day a week salaried job I find it really hard to get into a routine.  When I was younger, I hated routine and rebelled against it so maybe I’m paying for it now.  Because I want to be able to establish a strict writing routine, like you should.  The trouble is, life often seems so chaotic and unordered and things happen so you constantly have to change and be flexible about plans made.  At least it provides variety.

The two things I would like to fix more are my writing and running.  The latter is quite erratic and gets squeezed in between everything else, as does my writing.  Even when I put aside a chunk of time for the creative stuff I end up side-tracked by marketing and admin.  There never seem to be enough hours in the day to fit everything in. so I am constantly chasing my tail and feeling exhausted.   If only I could get up early, go for a run, write, eat, write again, ignore the phone and emails and achieve a worthy 2000 words a day. 

When I was in my twenties I easily wrote 1000 words EACH WAY on my hourly commute to London but these days managing 2000 words a day as standard would be a Herculean task.   That’s not to say it doesn’t happen sometimes, when I have deadlines to meet.  Then I go crazy, glue myself to the laptop, forget to eat, drink, or even go to the loo until my target is achieved.  Not very healthy, but at least I have the capability. 

Although I struggle physically with my running, it is great for clearing the cobwebs and playing with ideas and I usually come back from a run with my head full of creative possibilities which I try to retain until I can write them down.  Because of this blog, I do write almost every day, which was an ambition achieved, so that is positive. But those writers I meet who turn down coffee and meetings because they are working on their novel inspire respect – and envy.  How do they manage to ring fence (to use management speak) time for this?  How do they stay disciplined enough to keep focussed? My brain goes off on tangents all the time, so I fail miserably on this score.  If anyone has any suggestions about how to successfully stick to a routine, I’d love to hear from you. 

Related post:

Sunday, 14 October 2012

5 Star Reviews for Matty and the Moonlight Horse

Reviews are hard to get and lifeblood for a writer, so imagine how thrilled I was to read the latest review on Amazon for Matty and the Moonlight Horse, which says, 

"In this book, Jane Ayres has created a pony novel which manages to combine the best of both traditional and modern pony stories. It will appeal to a wide range of readers, both youngsters and oldies re-visiting their horsy youth. A definite cut above the average teen pony story!"

Read the whole review here - and please buy the book, which has just been reduced in price for a limited period, as all royalties go to the Redwings Horse Sanctuary. Thanks!

Related posts:

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Backtracking: Lessons in Indie Publishing - Part 1 Marketing

In December 2011, I set up my blog and gave myself a year to see what effect it would have on the sales of my pony books.  It was probably the only thing I did towards creating my “author platform.”   Mistake number 1.  More of this later. 

Having been traditionally published for over 30 years, and with 20 years plus experience in marketing, you would think I would be in a strong position to indie publish my work and have an awareness of what is involved.  That’s what I thought.  However, I don’t think I was fully prepared for how it would take over my life. Mistake number 2.

Like most writers, I have a day job that pays the bills.  So imagine that you also want to start your own business in the hours that are left.  Self-publishing is essentially a business start-up.  Your book is your product.  You, the author, will be the brand.  Intellectually, I knew this.  How could I not?  Although I had my first story published in a magazine at the age of 14, most of my 30 plus fiction titles have appeared in translation (in 7 languages), in the UK and US I am virtually unknown.  So I did not have an existing audience to build on – rather like a new writer.  I had decided to publish three of my backlist titles for the kindle to raise funds for Redwings Horse Sanctuary.   I will add that this was a thoroughly considered decision, having been researching self-publishing for months (and I continue to do so).  There are some brilliant sites out there that will help you.  For example, I subscribe to which will also provide links to other useful sites and there is a great post on self-publishing and having realistic expectations on

I commissioned a professional designer to create my cover designs as this is the first thing that potential buyers will see.  For a digital book, Amazon is your shop window. I worked hard on the descriptions of my books, as this is the next thing a potential reader will see. I hadn’t anticipated that I would end up rewriting them all several times, hopefully improving the content.  I would recommend Make A Killing On Kindle (Without Blogging, Facebook Or Twitter). The Guerilla Marketer's Guide To Selling Ebooks On Amazon by Michael Alvear for advice on this, as well as every other aspect of indie publishing for kindle.

Of course, before a buyer even gets to this stage in the process, they have to know your book exists and let’s face it, with a 6 figure number of indie published work on kindle, without even thinking about all the digital books from the big boys and girls and the corporate publishers with an impressive marketing budget, you really are a tiny, almost plankton sized fish in a vast ocean.  This can be very disheartening.  You are therefore recommended to create a “book buzz” and build an author platform at least 6 months in advance of releasing your book onto the world.  This can include using a blog, Facebook, Twitter (which I have not yet pursued – mistake number 3?), contacting reviewers, doing interviews, readings, giving away freebies, etc.  The list is endless and can be overwhelming.  Being impatient to see my books on Amazon, I foolishly published first and am now chasing my tail to promote the titles.  Ouch!  I will know better next time.

I am now doing guest blogs with specialist sites that target my readers, have learned about review sites and am trying to use Facebook more strategically to promote the books.  Getting reviews is proving a major hurdle, and I now understand why some writers have paid for this service.  In fact, one of the review sites I contacted told me they do charge to write honest reviews, because it involves a significant amount of time to read the title and then write about it, which is fair enough.  Thanks to the wonderful advice found on, I learned that there are sites that will promote your books on their free days, so I sent a blog to Digital Books Today, they published it and I was over the moon.  Being featured on the Carnival of the Indies on The Book Designer was also a major boost on many levels, and both sites have increased my blog traffic significantly. 

Because I was donating all profits from my books to charity, I decided that using the Amazon “free” days to promote the books would defeat the object of the fundraising. Mistake number 4. There are three books in the series and I have been told by several professionals that if Book 1 is free for a while (and readers enjoy it) they are more likely to buy the next two books in the series.  No sales = no funds for the horse sanctuary.  So later this month, I will be offering Book 1, Matty and the Moonlight Horse, free for 5 days. 

Similarly, I ignored all the advice I read on pricing strategy as part of the marketing plan because the money was going to charity and I wanted to raise the maximum amount from each sale.  Mistake number 5. Comparing the price I am charging to other similar titles, my book costs a lot more.  So now I am tweaking the prices and testing the market to see what works best. 

There are lots of freelance professionals out there who will help you with every stage of the process, from editing to marketing,  and if you do go it alone (like me) there is also lots of support in the indie community, both online and off, who are happy to share what they have learned. In some ways, writing and publishing your book is the easy part.  Selling it, however, is another story…..prepare to work your butt off.

Related posts:

Friday, 12 October 2012

Books, Mud and Compost. And Horses

The lovely Jane Badger Books blog called Books, Mud and Compost. And Horses has featured my Matty Books, which is wonderful!

The link is here but check out all the brilliant blog posts.  If you love horses and pony books you will love this site. 

There is also a guest post from me called Ponies, Names and Happy Endings, which talks about my childhood and teens and my relationship with horses as an adult.  It starts like this:

Ponies, names, and happy endings by Jane Ayres

These days, I seem to forget so many things. The house is littered with post-it notes because if I don’t write it down, it will get forgotten.  So why is it that I can remember the names of most of the ponies I rode?   

Read the full post here

Related posts:

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Writing for Charity: post on Creatabot

I've just written a post about writing for charity for Creatabot, to which I regularly contribute.  Do check it out, and all the wonderful articles on this e-zine by a host of amazing creatives.  An extract is below -

“As a creative I can speak for most of us and say that often our motive is not money, it is to make a difference in the world.” Natasha Steer
This statement, from Natasha’s post on Networking Vs Making Friends, really struck a chord with me about why creatives create.
When I hear about best-selling authors making a fortune I envy the fact they can then give lots of money to charity.  Writing can be a powerful force for change.  But could it also offer a pathway to giving? .........

To read the complete article go to

Related posts:

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Self-publishing post for Edit Train

I was really delighted when I was asked to write a guest post about self-publishing for Edit Train.

It started like this:

If anyone is considering self-publishing (or indie publishing as it is known – a much nicer term), then my advice is be aware that if you want to succeed, you will have to work your butt off.
Having been traditionally published for over 30 years, and with 20 years plus experience in marketing, you would think I would be in a strong position to indie publish my work and have an awareness of what is involved. That's what I thought. However, I don't think I was fully prepared for how it would take over my life...........
Read the rest of the feature by clicking

Monday, 8 October 2012

A Library in my Handbag

When I was a child my favourite place was the local branch library.  It was just a five minute walk from my home and, amazingly, it is still there 50 years later when many libraries have since closed. An avid reader, I would go there after school and scour the shelves for anything about horses, ponies, boarding schools, girls’ adventures and the supernatural.

After I had read everything they had on these subjects for my age group, I progressed to the bigger central library, a huge, old building in the town, a 2 mile walk each way.  I proceeded to devour everything there.   By now, I had added horror stories, vampires and ghosts to my list.  I was allowed six books a week on my library ticket.  Only six.

Much later in life, when I went to Sussex University as a mature student, and the library there quickly became my new favourite place .  It was amazing, stunning, overwhelming.  Paradise for someone who is inspired by books, and who loves research.  When I wrote my degree thesis I got so distracted by the sheer volume and choice of texts on offer to me that my research went off on many tangents!  This was pre-internet and nowadays I would compare it to browsing on Google or Amazon.   I usually went home on the train carrying lots of heavy books, my bags weighted down.  I was only limited by the sheer physical constraints of what I could actually carry.

Fast forward 25 years to the kindle.   This neat little beast is portable, light and actually fits into my handbag.   I’m not restricted by weight, or a maximum number of books I can borrow or buy.  It offers me all the delights of my own personal library.  I can read what I want, when I want.  I can explore non-fiction, poetry, novels, stories – everything my heart desires.  If only such a thing had existed when I was studying.  I could have conducted all my research without even leaving the house!  

Related posts:

Matty Stories Price Reduction for Christmas

STOP PRESS: ALL 3 Matty books are now available at the reduced price of £2.98 until 2013 to encourage pre-Christmas sales.