Injury unplugs me . . . need to plug in again

Fitness Big Year

I jogged a couple of days ago, not 10 kms as per my Freshness Big Year, not 5 kms as has been a frequent last-resort action, but only 2 kms. And it didn’t work. My right quad muscle is messed up and it’s time to see the physio. In the meantime all my exercise goals are moot and need to be sensibly revised. My other Big Years also flounder, I’m not sure why.

So, with a quarter of 2018 remaining, let me reorient and recommit.

Tractor Big Year: The puzzle of email lists

Day 245 of this Big Year, of daily exploration into how to publish in 2018, and I’ve run out of general topics to pursue. What’s more, I’m moving closer to self publication of the first of my mysteries. My strategic and tactical choices from this moment onwards will have momentous implications, and I’m not ready to make those choices, so today I’m going to tackle a first big decision.

It’s a given that a self published author needs to self promote, to find ways to be “discovered” amongst the millions of ebooks out there. Social media, in particular Facebook, is a powerful discoverability option, but a vigorous school of thought is that an author’s most potent asset is her email list/newsletter. An email list is a group of people who consent to be regularly emailed to. “Grow your list,” is one strand of commonly perceived wisdom. And yet . . . and yet . . . there are authors who eschew emails yet do well, and there are authors who decry emails as “not my style.” What should I do?

As ever, I prod a decision by reading a book. Tammi Labrecque, a multi-genre author, gets plaudits for her US$300 newsletter course (formerly called Email List Expert, now Newsletter Ninja, find this at but the next one won’t run till January, so the next best choice is to read Tammi’s just-published book of the same name.

An hour a day on this book and then I’ll make some big scary decisions. Wish me luck!

Tractor Big Year: Educating oneself can confuse

Roz Morris is an excellent writer of an eclectic mix of books. I came across this intriguing blog post, “Building readership: a quiet rebellion against three pieces of conventional marketing wisdom.” Use pictures, bribe potential readers with cheapies or giveaways, and find out what readers want . . . like Morris, that’s what I’ve been told in my research. She reckons you do the opposite: use words, engage as a person, and follow your own muse.

Tractor Big Year: Self-publishing means acting like a publisher

Studying how best to self publish involves a repeated cycle of reading and absorbing. I’m much more familiar now on how to make a book, either ebook or pbook (aka paperback). Unsurprisingly the more daunting aspect is figuring out how best to get noticed. BookBub, an ebook marketing group with great clout and a superb business model, just issued its teaser “how to,” namely a blog post titled “Why (and How!) to Reach the Right Readers [Book Marketing 101].”

What strikes me right away is that a self-published author is now expected to act like a mini corporation or business. BookBub’s advice can be summed up as follows: define a narrow target audience by researching the most suitable reader profile; research how such a reader searches for books; nut out comparable authors; identify my book’s most appropriate categorisation on sites such as Amazon; optimise my “metadata” to aid discovery of my book; run ads (of coursing including on BookBub) often with price promos; find and pitch to the bloggers who might best review or feature my book; and pursue free PR (paid PR is too expensive and mostly useless).

Each of these steps involves work. Each involves time away from the pen. Each is scary.

Tractor Big Year: The chaos I need to extract order from

This Big Year – spending an hour or so every day puzzling out the new world of publishing – is working in spades. How fascinating but oh how complex! In the old world, you could never get noticed by publishers but if luck came your way, your publisher would just grab your Word file and go from there.

No longer do you need to beg for publishers’ attention but there are so many options in self-publishing! Just to give you a glimpse, here are a list of names one might look at (and this is not all by any means), taken from an online course I’ve been working through since May:

Mailchimp, Aweber, Mailerlite, ConvertKit, Ontraport, Infusionsoft, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat, Vellum, Jutoh, Calibre, Scrivener, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, Reedsy, Polgarus, Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Nook, LeadPages, Thrive Leads, Instafreebie, Bookfunnel, Bookbub, Freebooksy, Goodreads, Reading Deals, Bookrazor, etc., etc., etc.

My next task: a publication project plan. I can’t wait!

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

A break from crime fiction: The Ann Tyler interview

1,000 Big Year

On an extended break from mainstream and literary fiction,  immersing in murder mysteries, I nevertheless had to soak in a wonderful Louise France interview-article in last Saturday’s The Weekend Australian Magazine (originally in The Times), a most rare chat with 76-year-old Anne Tyler, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of 22 books that have sold ten million copies and delighted readers of all reading proclivities. No author could be further from the crime fiction currently filling my head but I just could not resist. I can heartily recommend every paragraph of this intriguing glimpse into Tyler’s life and personality, but of course one of its fascinations for me is this:

Each novel begins with a one-page outline. It is then written, section by section, in longhand with a Pilot P-500 black gel pen. She revises again and again until she types it onto her computer and then writes it out again in longhand. At a final stage she reads the text out loud into a recorder, all the better to hear what doesn’t sound right and make changes.

Oh, and better still . . . Anne Tyler’s 23rd – “Clock Dance” – was published a week ago!

Tractor Big Year: Amazon’s backdown in Australia

Tractor Big Year

I’m still patiently working through course material on the modern world of self publishing. At the end of May, Amazon announced that because Australia will levy GST on its products, it would prevent Australians ordering products from its flagship U.S. site ( by insisting we buy from

Wow. The Australian site’s product line is large but a fraction of the U.S. site’s offerings. In my main area of interest, books, we Aussies will no longer be able to order and have shipped to us paperbacks from America. This in itself doesn’t impact me because I no longer buy physical books, but what about Kindle ebooks? Will I be forced to buy them from the paltry range at, sometimes at escalated protected-market prices?

But the implications are deeper. My naive plan, prior to May, was to publish my ebooks (and print-on-demand paperbacks) on (and separately, assuming that Amazon would make them available on at equivalent $AU prices. Now what will I need to do?

On the road I wasn’t able to investigate this properly, and I probably don’t need to do so right now. After all, whatever global publishing options are open to me will become amply apparent when I get to the starting gate. But my initial impression is that this Australian issue isn’t being debated widely online. Why not? What am I missing? More to come . . .

The 2018 Big Years and life looking forward

Big Decade

Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead propping on my arse in a seaside holiday town, but the experience in magical Rovinj has been so wonderful that my aversion to sitting still now seems wrong. Seven nights in one place! No car (and limited drawcards near town)! Laziness but plenty of restorative exercise! A rare opportunity to review what an inspiring long trip has provoked!

So . . . I depart homeward today with many changes afoot, both in the short term and into the 2020s.

Nervous but excited.

Back home in the mystery genre: Shetland and Jack Irish

As part of the Tractor Big Year, preparing for self publication in small licks every day, one decision has become clear. I’ll self publish the nuclear book but first will come number one in a series of murder mysteries, and to have any hope of promoting that, I need to return to that genre. A book omnivore, lately my reading has been all over the shop but my core reading preferences are murder mysteries and literary novels. I’ve decided to immerse myself once more the mystery genre.
As a start, I’ve watched the first three episodes of two recent, classically inclined, mystery TV series, Shetland and Jack Irish.
Shetland, based on the series novels of Ann Cleeves (which, to my regret, I have not read), about a policeman in the Shetland Islands, represents one perennial sub-genre, the police procedural. I began with Series 1 from 2013 (there are now four series!). Murders are committed and solved, amidst which the hero, Inspector Jimmy Perez, copes with life as a widower and father of a teenager. Douglas Henshall is superbly cast as the dedicated, principled Perez, and the rest of the cast is just as adept. Tight scripting and lush landscape cinematography add to an experience that is at once familiar and exciting.
Jack Irish, a scarred, barred solicitor existing around the edges of Melburnian society and illegality, was a creation of Australia’s finest mystery writer, Peter Temple (recently deceased). A couple of Jack Irish movies have been made, plus an earlier TV mini series. Netflix has a new season (from. 2016) in which fresh plots spiral out from the Temple books. Guy Pearce has always played Jack Irish, and here he is superb in a lengthy drama involving a shady church and Philippine crime. This is a PI novel, one in which the PI is almost shambolic but nonetheless a true hero, and the script progresses sharply and dramatically. Supporting roles by Marta Dusseldorp and Claudia Karvan are terrific, and all the regular bit players circling the persona of Irish are brilliantly cast.
I’ve only watched the first three episodes because I’d downloaded them, and travelling to Europe has shifted my apparent domicile so that episodes four onwards aren’t available to me until I return to Australia. I can’t wait to watch more once home.

100 days in: Happy with 2018?

Taking two months out of Big Year obsessiveness, it’s vital for me to prop and ask: am I okay or is change needed when I reboot in June? The last four days’ posts have assessed, for my benefit, each of my four Big Years, and I’m pleased to leave Australia’s shores with a smile on my face. 2018 has not unfolded quite as hoped, and I’ve battled myself and the world, but I’ve done myself proud.

So . . . a break and then leap back in, Andres!