Interview with Fantasy Author KJ Taylor

Many writers spend their lives enchanted by the epic sagas seminal to the fantasy genre, escaping into the pages of Middle Earth, Hogwarts, Westeros and Narnia, but how many of us have the patience and vision to write something of that scope?

The long-running Cymrian Saga, about to reach its climax with its ninth instalment, is one of these such narratives, with interweaving plots across generations of characters in high-stakes political and cultural warfare set in a dangerous and magical world of secrets and powerful griffins.

Today’s special guest is the acclaimed author of the Cymrian Saga, but also the Drachengott series and a number of standalone fantasy works: KJ Taylor!

First published at a young age, KJ Taylor is the author
of numerous beloved fantasy KJ Taylornovels, and her latest novel, The Cursed Guard, was released on Sunday,
December 1.

In 2011 she won the Young Distinguished Alumni of the Year from the University of Canberra and the Critic’s Award. Her novel, The Dark Griffin, was shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards in 2009. She has a Bachelor Degree in Communication and a Masters of Information Study, and she currently works as an archivist.

The Cymrian Saga, a trilogy of trilogies starting with the Fallen Moon trilogy and followed by the three Risen Sun books, has continued with this third series, the Southern Star trilogy, which follows the tale of a common guardsman living in Cymria in the supposedly settled aftermath of the first six books.

The Last Guard, published by Black Phoenix in October 2017, introduced Red, a brave and loyal Southerner determined to prove himself, but his entire world is torn apart when King Caedmon invades the South. Helped by an alliance with the Emperor of Amoran – a huge and powerful country to the East of Cymria – Caedmon conquers the South and declares himself ruler of the entire continent. Red, having joined forces with a the fearsome griffin Kraego, rallies his fellow Southerners to fight back, but the second book, The Silent Guard, sees them enslaved in the lands of the Amorani Empire. Red is forced into the role of reluctant leader, bringing together a band of insurgents and their griffins who must go into battle once more.

The Curse GuardThe Cursed Guard continues the story. Once more, battle lines are drawn between North and South, testing old loyalties. Immortal, yet dead, unable to love, or be loved, Red searches for the strength within his hollow soul to end the war, once and for all.

KJ Taylor’s real first name is Katie, but not many people know what the J stands for. She collects movie soundtracks and keeps pet rats, and isn’t quite as angst-ridden as her books might suggest. With The Cursed Guard just around the corner, Ms Taylor answered some questions about her process, her experience and her upcoming release!

  1. You have an extensive academic history and are now working as an archivist. Did your formal education assist your writing practice and does your current rule as an archivist provide you with writing inspiration/information? 

    I signed my first publishing contract while I was still in high school, and I remember arrogantly telling my mother I didn’t “need” to go to university – I thought I was set for life! She told me I should go anyway because I needed the life experience, and I decided to go along with it. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, because it exposed me to new ideas, introduced me to a lot of new people, and helped give me a work ethic. It also made it possible to get a proper day job later on when I went back for my Master’s.Archiving is an interesting job in a lot of ways because it means spending a lot of time immersed in stories, surprisingly enough. The archive I run is essentially the home of the entire history of the organisation, and that means I’ve learned an awful lot of stories – human stories, about people who worked here, or were educated here, and stories about how the place was founded and changed over the years.

    In a sense being an archivist means being a historian and sometimes a detective when someone asks me to ferret out some obscure piece of information. I love it! In fact, it was probably part of the inspiration for one of my characters (who will appear in The Cursed Guard for the first time!) who is obsessed with studying history, and particularly the really obscure parts people didn’t think to write down.

  2. What do you love about the Fantasy genre? Why do you continue to write within this genre specifically? 

    I like having the freedom to create my own setting, with its own history and cultures and so on, and I like exploring things that don’t or can’t exist in the real world and try to make them work in a way that makes sense. With that said I still like to keep my stories mostly grounded in reality – which is why the setting of this series is low magic – and have recently begun exploring other genres. I decided I needed the challenge as well. Plus it’s nice to write in the real world and not have to figure out how people do everyday stuff.

  3. Can you tell us a little bit about your latest novel and what readers can expect? 

    The Cursed Guard is, of course, the last of the Southern Star trilogy, and one of my favourite books in the entire series in large part because of the ending, which I found incredibly satisfying to write. I’ve waited a long time for people to read it because it finally resolves a lot of very important things.What can I say about it without spoiling too much?I can say that two characters who seem to be the most weak and insignificant players in all this will each make choices that will change everything. A single act of extraordinary courage will undo terrible mistakes from the past, and offer the chance for redemption to someone who seems so very far beyond it. Betrayal will be rewarded with betrayal. And our hero, Red, is probably going to endear himself to a lot of readers by telling a certain person to “kiss my arse” and then flipping them off for good measure.

     

  4. Can you share your writing routine with us? Are you a morning or night writer, paper or pen, plotter or pantser? 

    I used to write at night because I was so busy during the day that that was the only time I had, well, time for it. Of course, I was pretty young back then, and extremely hyperactive – these days I’ve slowed down. Turning thirty does that to you, it turns out. Nowadays since I don’t work full time I have three days a week set aside for writing and editing. I don’t write by hand except when I’m on holiday – anyone who has seen my appalling handwriting will understand why. My hand just can’t keep up with my brain. I don’t do plot outlines, but I have the shape of the general plot in my head before I get started and sometimes I know how it’s going to end. Sometimes not.

  5. Knowing what you now know, what advice would you give to aspiring writers regarding the writing process and the path to publication? 

    Don’t be fooled by the allure of fame. The time eventually comes in any creative’s life when they have to choose between maintaining their integrity or sacrificing their principles to get ahead, and when that time comes you have to stop and ask yourself why you started doing this in the first place. And if you do manage to win some measure of fame, be very aware that it can be taken away at any time, for reasons you have no control over. In the end, it’s better to write because it makes you happy. Become too fixated on the idea of being a glamorous bestseller, and you run the risk of both losing your integrity and turning into a very unpleasant person to be around.

  6. Final question, what does the J in K.J Taylor stand for? 

    Jill! After my maternal grandmother, who died just a few months before I was born. It’s one of my lifelong regrets that I never got to meet her because my parents say she was a lovely woman who adored books, and I think we’d have had a great relationship.


The Cursed Guard by KJ Taylor
Purchase The Cursed Guard here.


CHRISTMAS STORY EVERY TIME HE DIESLOVE Christmas and I LOVE writing. So, I figured I better stick these two loves together and write a super special Christmas Story for my email subscribers. This short & sweet little story is for anyone who has read Every Time He Dies but was left wanting more.

If you’d like to receive a copy of the ETHD Christmas Story, please consider joining my email newsletterWhen you subscribe, you’ll also receive a downloadable copy of my cheatsheet Seven Ways To Stay Motivated As A Writer. 

 

 

Book Launches: Why They Are Awesome and Why You Should Have One

It was the fourth time I’d emailed the event coordinator my purchase order. After sending her three incorrectly completed forms, she eventually realised that I was a total newbie and very bad at maths. Thankfully, she took pity on me and carefully and clearly explain what each acronym meant, what value to put beside it, and how to calculate the three different ‘totals’.

I mean … I think that’s what we did … 

?

Hosting a book launch is a fantastic way to build hype around the release of your novel, but it’s also a fun way to celebrate this huge personal and professional achievement.

Lots of people want to write a novel, but not all of them do. 

Taking a moment to pause and acknowledge yourself is important because our “busy” culture sometimes tricks us into moving onto the next thing before we’ve even stopped to celebrate the completion of a current milestone. 

Hosting a book launch is simpler than you think, minus the paperwork.

Of course, where and with whom you host your event will likely determine the quality of your experience, but a few things will remain the same.

Once you have picked a venue and settled on the date, it’s super important that you do two things:

  • Order copies of your novel in advance and deliver them to the venue ahead of time. That way, the bookseller can assist in the promoting of your event — and the book — by having the item in-house and on shelf
  • Promote, promote, promote. 

You may have guessed that promoting your event is pretty important. 

You should definitely promote your event on social media, your website and newsletter, but there are other sources you can tap into as well. 

Because your launch is location dependent, you need to target the residents of that region/town/city. 

Media sources you should consider contacting are:

  • ‘What’s on’ websites/facebook pages
  • Book clubs and writing groups within the region
  • City zines
  • City culture blogs like Urban List or Concrete Jungle
  • The Writer’s Centre for your state (many have community notice boards)
  • Local newspapers
  • Local radio
  • Local TV stations
  • Local magazine

Approaching local media is the best way to ensure that the maximum volume of potential attendees is reached. 

Hear me: You cannot depend on the bookstore to promote your event.

Yes, they will tell customers, they may send out an email to their newsletter subscribers and have a poster in the store … but it is up to you to generate interest in your book and in the event. 

Now, approaching media outlets may seem scary, but it’s actually not! So, stop listening to that small voice in your head. Feed it a sandwich, throw it a shiny ball and get on with your promotional plan. 

If you don’t know HOW to approach your local media outlets, check out the blog post here. 

In addition to spamming strangers, it is also important that you invite your family, friends, beta readers, proofreaders, editors, cover designer and everyone else who was involved in the creation of your book. 

If you’ve been working on this book for a long time — and I know you have — then these people will want to celebrate with you. 

After all, they’ve put up with you yapping on and on about this project so the least you can do is give them some cake and treat them to a live reading. 

Hosting a book launch had a dual purpose, it’s a way to celebrate the release of your novel, but it’s also a way for you as the author to say farewell to the project. 

The book is done. It’s not yours anymore. The launch signals your willingness to release it into the world so that it can go off and have new adventures with other people. 

If you’ve been thinking about hosting a launch, I encourage you to go ahead and do so. 

The event may be brief (1-2 hours), but it will be packed full of meaning. Promise.


CHRISTMAS STORY EVERY TIME HE DIES
I LOVE Christmas and I LOVE writing. So, I figured I better stick these two loves together and write a super special Christmas Story for my email subscribers. This short & sweet little story is for anyone who has read Every Time He Dies but was left wanting more.

If you’d like to receive a copy of the ETHD Christmas Story, please consider joining my email newsletter  When you subscribe, you’ll also receive a downloadable copy of my cheatsheet Seven Ways To Stay Motivated As A Writer. 


 

How To Make Your Fiction More Interesting

It was 1 p.m. in the afternoon and I was watching the cursor on my word doc. blink, blink, blink.

I’d spent the last three hours writing … actually, that’s being a bit generous …

In truth, I probably wrote for 1.5 hours. The rest of the time was made up with quickly checking/replying to emails, hanging out laundry, patting the dog, making lunch, refilling my water bottle, and staring out the window. 

Yup, you guessed it. I am working on a first draft.

It’s been three weeks since Every Time He Dies was officially released and as you well know it took me seven years to write that novel. 

The last few years of working on Every Time He Dies was so joyful because I was confident with the story and the characters.

Here’s the thing, because that project started so long ago, I’d totally forgotten what it’s like to begin a new project!

The new novel (which I started in January this year) is about three female protagonists who have animal companions. The book has elements of sci-fi, cli-fi, horror, magical realism and literary fiction.

When compared to ETHD, It could not be more different … at least in premise.

Don’t worry, it’s still written by me so it reeks of mysticism, time manipulation, and otherworldliness.

But … can I just say how weird it is to be working on a project I am so unfamiliar with?

Right now, I am ten months into the drafting process and I’m still drifting. 

I wrote a 60,000 word draft at the start of this year, but it’s really just a brain dump of ideas. Now I am HEAVILY revising that document to the point where it feels like a totally new story. In fact, to say that I am revising my brain dump draft feels a bit disingenuous considering how much I am changing the story. 

I hope you’re getting a sense here of how messy writing is because it is messy. 

At the start of this project, I produced an outline, completed profiles of all my characters and typed one that initial brain dump version of the story. All of this succeeded in getting the ball rolling, but these processes only lead me so far.

Writing is a physical act. You can’t always think your way through it. Sometimes, you don’t know if something is going to work until you sit down to write it. 

As a result, there comes a point where you have to put one foot in front of another (or one letter after another) and that is how you make your way through the dark. Slowly. Very slowly.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’re probably thinking, “Don’t you write 2000 words a day?”

Yeah, for the most part, I do. 

Q: How the heck do you do that?

A: I follow Natalie Goldberg’s rules for writing and rule number one is: keep your hand moving. 

A: Okay … but what does that actually mean?

Q: Basically, during the drafting phase, I try not to think too much about what I am writing, instead, I let the story lead the way. 

And yet, there is some cognitive action going on behind the scenes.

Lately, my writing mantra has been make it weirder. 

It’s amazing how effective those three words have been.

I can be working on a scene and thinking, “God, this is boring! I’m just moving the characters around! I’m just describing their day!” 

Then I pause and think, “Okay. So this scene stinks. Big deal! What can we do to fix this? How can I make it more interesting? How can I make it weirder?

I then skip ahead to the next page and let loose. 

This approach has resulted in some damn fine writing, and you know … some pretty weird stuff too.

If you’re currently in the throes of writing a first draft, or if you are revising a manuscript and thinking things such as, “this is boring”, I invite you to try my mantra or to come up with your own. 

You may be surprised by just how effective this simply mind game can be. 

 

How to Approach Your Local Media Outlet

I was on my way to an interview about my debut novel, Every Time He Dies, when I realised that I looked like a funeral-goer. I was wearing a black dress, a black denim motorcycle jacket, leather tights and way too many silver rings. 

Given the premise of my novel, maybe not such a bad thing?

If the journo made anything of my appearance, he kept it to himself. 

We stumbled over introductions, I ordered a decaf long-black in a cup with a side of honey. ‘My order is a bit simpler,’ he laughed and asked for a milkshake. We then spent the next hour waxing lyrical about ‘the craft’.

In my opinion anytime spent talking about writing, books, and reading is an hour well spent, but when the discussion dipped over to my own novel, things got even better.

The internet has provided authors and writers with publishing and business opportunities that weren’t possible two decades ago. 

Now, we can reach our audience directly. 

We can publish our own (high quality) books.

We can create marketing campaigns that target our specific readers and become a part of the online writing community.

The internet is great, truly, but don’t be so quick to discount the power of your local media.

As an ex-journo, I am well aware of how content hungry the news and media industry can be, especially high-turnover publications like newspapers and radio where the pressure to produce daily, engaging, and meaningful content is incredibly high.  

Here are some of the reasons why you should approach local media outlets:

  • Communities love supporting members who are doing interesting things
  • You can target a wider audience who may not have discovered you otherwise
  • Having face-to-face interactions and building relationships with people IRL is pretty awesome.

There are a few things you should prepare before you start emailing media outlets:

  1. a good press release
  2. high-resolution images of the book’s cover 
  3. high-resolution photographs of you holding the book

I may write a blog specifically about how to write a press release, but for now, just know that there are plenty of great sources online. 

When emailing a media outlet be sure to do a few things:

  • Introduce yourself 
  • State why you are emailing them (eg: book release, book launch)
  • Why their audience would be interested in this story
  • When (roughly) you’d like the article published (newspaper, magazine) or live interview conducted (radio, television)
  • Include links to social media accounts, website and YouTube channel

Be Prepared

It’s important that you prepare, at least a little, before being interviewed.

This will help you sort out your thoughts about the writing process, and how you want you and your novel to be present. 

Despite all your preparations, you will be asked unexpected questions. However, rehearsing your responses to basic questions about you and your novel will give you a greater sense of ease and control.

Standard questions may include:

  • Your journey/background as a writer
  • What your book is about
  • Why you wrote the book
  • Your writing routine
  • What you hope readers will “get out” of your novel

Reaching out to local newspapers, radio stations, tv shows, independent bookstores and trendy cafes is a great way to include your local community in the release of your book.

There is tremendous power in getting out there and meeting people face-to-face, and readers love meeting authors and hearing them talk about their work, the writing craft and the writing life. After all, there’s a reason book festivals are so popular! 

When we build connections with our readers, they are more likely to stick with us.

Reaching out to your local media may seem scary at first, but what is life without a little risk, eh? 

Put yourself out there, the worst someone can say is no and I am pretty sure you can handle that. 

We may be in the digital age, but relationships and community engagement still matter.  

So, what are you waiting for? Fire up Google, gather a few email addresses and start soliciting yourself. 😉 I won’t even judge you, promise. 


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Review and Interview with Romance Author Suzy England

What happens when the secrets of your past suddenly become the plot of a best-selling novel?

Suzy England


I don’t think many of us have considered this stomach-twisting possibility, but this is the premise of Suzy England’s debut book, ‘The Weekend’. Wealthy socialite Clark stumbles across a table full of hardcovers at a New York bookstore while waiting to propose to his girlfriend… and quickly realises that the books flying off the shelves into the hands of romance readers everywhere are a detailed, steamy and very identifiable recount of a thrilling affair he had with the author – a weekend he has never been able to forget.

It’s easy to see just from the summary why this story would be a hit, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to learn that ‘The Weekend’ was already an established success in its homeland of Wattpad before it was picked out by editing students at University of Southern Queensland, and then acquired by Black Phoenix Publishing Collective for mainstream publication. It’s a fun and quirky read, alternating between the story’s present day and the novel Clark is reading, and it’s sweet, but it’s also remarkably well-written. Suzy England is considered with her words, often moving the scene along with feeling and dialogue rather than big blocks of prose. This seems especially fitting for a moving novella about a whirlwind romance that takes place almost entirely in one small cabin over a single weekend.

I caught up with Suzy to ask her some questions…

Before we start off, can you share a bit about yourself, your education, work history, writing experience, etc.

According to my mom, my love of writing started in 1st Grade when I penned a poem about a bubble. My teacher loved it! I guess that’s when the seed was planted. It’s funny – I was talking about that poem with my mom recently and she said that when she read my poem for the first time, she didn’t believe that I actually wrote it myself. I don’t remember the exact wording of the poem (and we lost the original when our home burned) but evidently, it was somewhat advanced for a seven-year old’s mind. Imagine being accused of plagiarism by your own mother! LOL!

In 3rd grade, I fell in love with author Judy Blume. I read every one of her books–multiple times with some titles. In 5th grade, I started a writing club. I even had a pen name – Lucky Lemon Lollipop. Sophisticated, huh? I journaled and wrote poetry throughout junior high and high school. I wrote a modern version of Thorton Wilder’s play Our Town during my sophomore year. My English teacher printed copies and used it as a companion piece with the original text for several years. My senior year of high school, I fell in love with Chaucer (if that’s even possible) and wrote my own Canterbury Tale in iambic pentameter. If that doesn’t say nerd writer girl, I don’t know what does.

I entered adulthood–marriage and motherhood–and didn’t write a word for years. Then I found the world of online fanfiction. My first thought: Who are these weirdos who make up stories about existing characters? Within a year of stumbling on various online fandoms, I became a weirdo too! I have written fanfiction off and on for four different fandoms since 2005. Not only has it helped me grow as a writer, but it has also created some of my strongest friendships.

I graduated from college in 1994 with a degree in Education and became an elementary school teacher. I’ve taught 2nd and 3rd grades, and now I teach Physical Education. Best job ever! I get paid to play games with kids all day! I am excited to announce that I’m starting a Creative Writing club at my school this month. I’ll be working with several 2nd graders, coaching them in all areas of writing in preparation for a district competition in the spring.

True story: Back when I was in my last year of college, I went to see a psychic. Now I don’t hold much stock in mystical readings, but a friend begged me to go with her and I thought, why not? Looking back, the psychic predicted a lot of things that have actually come true in my life, with regard to relationships, children, and the like. But the most curious thing she told me was that teaching was not my true calling. She didn’t say exactly what my true calling would be, only that she saw letters and words in my future. Lots and lots of words.

What was the inspiration behind writing The Weekend?

The Weekend actually began life as a very short fanfic which married my love for a certain fandom with a well known novella. It has undergone many rewrites and has featured two very different endings. While most loved my original ending, some readers wished for an alternate ending. So I wrote a different ending, and it was well received for the most part. But I knew in my heart that my original ending was the true ending, so The Weekend will be published with my original ending. My apologies to those who like the alternate ending better. At the end of the day, I have to be true to myself and write the story that’s within me.

What other novels would you compare The Weekend to and have you always been a lover of Romance novels?

The Weekend is my updated retelling of Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County. That book imprinted on me from my very first reading. And then Clint Eastwood made his beautiful movie with the incomparable Meryl Streep and a haunting soundtrack/score and I fell in love with the story all over again. I find that whenever I’m flipping through television channels and find it playing, I stop whatever I’m doing to watch. I have always loved Romance novels and credit my mom for sharing so many wonderful books with me. And the titles she wouldn’t share? Well I’d just sneak those and read them in secret! (*ahem* every Jackie Collins novel I could smuggle into my room!)

Can you share your writing routine with us? Are you a morning or night writer, paper or pen, plotter or pantser?

I’m a night writer! Well, more of a “late afternoon/early evening writer.” Also, I’m a big “shower writer.” I do some of my very best thinking and compose some of my best dialogue in the shower. As a teacher, I try to get as much writing done in the summer months as possible. I didn’t write much this past summer BUT I did read a ton of books (16 novels!) so I’m gonna call it “research.”

Hate to admit it, but I’m 100% a pantser. Ugh! It can be so painful at times! I wish I could be one of those writers who map everything out in advance, but I’ve just never done it that way. I write exclusively on my laptop but keep a notebook and pen close by to jot down ideas when my computer isn’t handy. I have seven completed works and I haven’t written myself into a corner…yet.

Knowing what you now know, what advice would you give to aspiring writers regarding the writing process and the path to publication?

Four things:

  1. Write the stories you want to read. If you love it, others will love it too.
  2. Edit, edit, and edit some more. And then, when you’re certain your story is perfect, edit it again because I can promise that you missed something.
  3. If you’re pursuing a traditional publishing path, be careful not to query literary agents too soon. I have queried agents with projects that were not ready when I naively thought they were.
  4. Join the #WritingCommunity on Twitter! You will connect with authors all over the world who will love you, champion you, and send you hilarious vids/GIFs/memes when you’re having a bad day!

As far as publishing goes, there are so many paths! Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that by joining Wattpad back in 2015 I’d be publishing my novella today. The craziest part? My publishing dream came to me, via a DM from a Wattpad reader, asking to submit The Weekend to her Editing and Publishing class at the University of Southern Queensland for a full scale publishing project. I have learned so much on my journey with the incredible USQ students and their wonderful professors, who are also industry professionals and head Black Phoenix Publishing Collective.

Someone said life writes the best stories, and honestly, I think my path to publishing is one of the best.


‘The Weekend’ is available now for pre-order (link to come)! It will be released in eBook and print on 25 November, 2019, from Black Phoenix Publishing Collective. You can find out more about Suzy England at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

How to Find the Right People to Review Your Book

I was taking my dog for her usual afternoon walk and listening to a podcast that was all about how to find your first ten book reviews. 

I already knew that reviews were important to a book’s success, but the podcast made me realise that reviews aren’t important — they’re vital! 

The truth is, I had been burying my head in the sand in regards to finding book reviewers because:
1) it sounded hard
2) it sounded time consuming
3) I was in the process of editing and formatting my novel, so looking for reviewers seemed premature. 

Boy howdy was I wrong. 

As it turns out, points 1 and 2 are very true and point three is sitting over in the corner with climate change deniers. 

Here’s the thing … because finding book reviewers is both hard and time consuming, you need to start early.

After listening to that podcast, I made finding book reviewers a top priority in my pre-launch plan. (Yes, I created a pre-launch plan. Yes, you need to do this too). 

In this week’s blog, I’m sharing all the things I wished I’d known a year ago. 

Book reviews are vital to a book's success
Finding book reviewers is time consuming, but you can’t skip this step!

Finding Book Reviewers

In the beginning, I had no idea how to find reviewers, but my early research encouraged me to reach out to book bloggers, YouTube reviewers and bookstagramers (people who review books on Instagram). 

I started out with Googling phrases like “Australian book bloggers”, “Crime fiction reviews” and “Best bookstagrammers” and I was delighted to see that many people had already curated websites listing the top/most relevant reviewers in my genre. 

Now, buckle up kids, because this is when it gets time consuming. 

Now it’s your job to check out the websites and accounts of all the reviewers who appeal to you: reviewers that read your genre, live in your country, are highly active (for example, don’t email someone who hasn’t posted a review in a year!) or have a large following.

Familiarise yourself with their content and be sure to read some of their latest reviews. 

Familiarise yourself with a book reviewer before contacting
Read the review policy page before you email a book reviewer.

Read the Review Policy Page

Before you reach out to a book reviewer, you must read their review policy page. Every website and YouTube channel will have one. In terms of Instagram, you’ll have to get a ‘feel’ for the reviewer’s book taste from their former posts or see if they have an official website linked in their bio.

You must read the review policy in order to avoid looking like an ass.

Pitching your romance novel to a crime reviewer is going to make you look stupid and the reviewer will know that you’re unfamiliar with their website/account and that you were too lazy to do your research before contacting them. 

It’s also important to check their policy page to see if the reviewer is open to requests. 

A reviewer may have an active site but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re open to requests. Emailing a reviewer who is not open to requests is a waste of time, plus they’ll know you haven’t read their review page and your email will promptly be deleted. 

Be polite and professional when contacting book reviewers
Be polite and professional when contacting book reviewers.

Be Polite and Be Professional

Most book reviewers publish their reviews for free. Basically, they’re the guardian angels of writers.

For this reason, make sure that you take the time to write a warm and concise email that contains all the relevant information they need to know about your book or follow the specific guidelines provided on their review policy page. Many reviewers post these guidelines as a way to weed out the ‘spammy’ requests from newbie authors.

Some of the basic information you’ll want to include are:

  • Elevator pitch (1 sentence)/brief synopsis (2-3 sentences)
  • Genre
  • Audience
  • Publication date
  • Length (word count or page count)
  • When you’d like the review published
  • Author bio
  • Links to your social media pages, website, Goodreads and Amazon pages

Of course, you don’t have to write a brand new email for every book reviewer you send a request too.

Everyone knows that you’re using a template, but you must tailor that template to reflect that reviewer’s website and review policy page.  

The information I dot pointed above can be prepared in advance, but make sure that your introductory paragraph/s are relevant to the reviewer you are emailing. 

Introduce yourself and your novel at the start of the email. In the following paragraph, tell the reviewer why you think they’re the right reviewer for your book. Maybe they have recently reviewed a novel that is similar to yours or maybe they enjoy reading within the same genre your book is written in. This is why researching a reviewer is so important and why you must be familiar with the type of content they publish or post. 

You’ll also want to state the type of format you are able/willing to send them. Will you send them a paperback or ebook? If sending an ebook, what type will you send, epub, PDF or mobi? 

Including a press release makes you look professional and a little bit fancy.
Including a press release makes you look professional and a little bit fancy.

Press Release or Media Kit

Attaching a press release or media kit to your email will make you look professional and a little bit fancy. It shows that you give a shit. 

A basic press release should include additional detail about your book including:

  • The book cover image
  • The official (full-length) blurb
  • Previous reviews or endorsements 
  • Longer author bio
  • Purchase links
  • Contact information

A press release adds a level of professionalism to your request and the reviewer will appreciate the chance to read the book’s full-length blurb and to see the cover image. 

Keep track of every book reviewer you contact.
Keep track of every book reviewer you contact.

Track Your Progress

Trust me guys, you’re gonna want to keep track of every reviewer you email because you’re going to be sending a lot of emails!

I recommended creating a spreadsheet that includes:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Website
  • The platforms/websites the reviewer will post their review on 
  • Preferred format
  • Accepted/rejected

Keeping track of the reviewers you have contacted will help you avoid: 
1) re-emailing a reviewer who has already said no
2) emailing a reviewer you’ve already queried but haven’t heard back from
3) trying to locate old correspondence because you need to double-check a small detail.

Finding book reviewers easily
My success ratio for finding book reviewers was 1:5

Success Rate

Once you start emailing reviewers, it’s important that you keep things in perspective.

For the first six-months leading up to the publication of ETHD, I emailed 165 book reviewers. That’s a lot of emails to keep track of. So, what was my success rate? 

Of 165 reviewers, 33 said yes. That’s a 1:5 ratio. 

I’m pretty happy with that number, but it took me six months to find and email 165 RELEVANT reviewers. This is not something you can do over a weekend. 

I don’t need to unpack why reviews are so important, you know they’re important. 

If you’re releasing a novel in the next six-twelve months, don’t skip this step. 

Don’t put off finding reviewers. 

You may think six-twelve months is too early to start email people, but many reviewers appreciate hearing from an author who is so organised; it shows that you are in control and that you are confident in your ability to produce and publish a novel by a certain date. 

Finding reviewers may be hard and time consuming, but reading their reviews – at least for me – has been a total joy. 

When you do the work, you reap the rewards. (You know … usually!)

Now, I’d love to hear from you. What has been your experience with finding and contacting book reviewers? Do you find the process intimidating, fun or a hassle? What have you learned from the process? Leave a comment below! 


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Five Things You Need To Know About Every Time He Dies

We’re only five days away from the official publication of Every Time He Dies. YAY!!!!

If you haven’t already, click here to pre-order your copy of the book. Everyone who pre-orders the book automatically gets access to the first five chapters as a thank you.

Pre-orders are vital to a book’s success as these sales are included as part of the release week sales. If pre-sales are strong, the book has a far better chance of getting on a best-seller list, appearing in algorithms or being included in Amazon’s weekly “recommended for you” email newsletter.

This increase in exposure is invaluable. 

So please, if you have been following this blog for a long time or if you are planning on buying a copy of Every Time He Dies anyway, then please consider pre-ordering the book. I sincerely thank you. 

Now, on to this week’s topic.

You guys have been asking a ton of questions about ETHD, so I thought I’d put this blog together as a way to answer them!

1 / ETHD is a Hybrid Novel

When you boil it down, ETHD is a mystery novel as the book is shaped around a central mystery. Dah.

However, labelling ETHD this way is slightly misleading.

ETHD is not a tidy, read once, throw away mystery novel. Oh no, this baby’s got layers. She is about something. 

ETHD draw upon many different genres. There are elements of crime, thriller, horror, supernatural, mysticism, romance and speculative fiction.

Basically, it’s Frankenstein’s monster: a stitched together beast whose parts I’ve pilfered from robbing the graves of multiple genres. But, that’s what makes her so damn beautiful — if you can get past her lopsided smile!

2 / ETHD is Not Your Average Girl Novel

This is connected to the last point, but it’s also a little bit different …

Though the book opens at a crime scene, a double homicide, ETHD is not a crime novel.

In fact, the crimes that occur in this novel do so as a way to keep the story moving forward.

The book isn’t about an unsolved crime, not really, it’s about what happens we bury our grief and isolate ourselves from our community and ourselves. 

What this novel is really about is the characters. An early title for this book was Haunted. Not because the book has a ghost, but because ALL of the character’s are haunted by their past mistakes; mistakes they can never undo.

This book is an exploration of how our mistakes can have huge ramifications and how we can move through this. 

3 / ETHD is Funny

After reading points one and two, you’re probably thinking, “Damn! This book sounds heavy!”

Look, a good book should contain both light and dark passages.

There are some sad moments and some moving exchanges, but this book is also very funny.

I mean, how could it not be?

I attached a ghost with amnesia to an embalmer who is suffering from PTSD and who doesn’t believe in anything woo-woo … I mean, that kind of character friction can’t be anything BUT funny. 

4 / Research

I covered this a bit in one of my last posts, but it bears repeating.

One of the elements that makes Every Time He Dies so unique is the volume of research that informed the writing process.

I interviewed cops, psychic, mechanics, nurses, pharmacists, Filipino witch doctors (boy, howdy!), embalmers, funeral home directors, medics, detectives, and other crime authors. 

Basically, I bought a lot of people a lot of coffee. 

The reason I am telling you this is because I embedded all of their glorious knowledge into my book.

As a result, the scenes are visceral and authentic.

I describe the embalming process, the smell of the chemicals, the equipment used. I go deep into the psychological ramifications of working the beat and I’ve included colourful adaptations of stories told to me by Western and Eastern Healers. 

Basically, ETHD is pretty awesome. 

5 / Effort

I’ve made a lot of sacrifices in order to write this book: financial and personal.

I chose to invest in a master’s program where students spent one year developing their novel under the guidance of established writers and teachers. I worked with a brilliant mentor and hired a slew of professionals. 

I quit my job, moved to a different city (three times!) and rented rooms with strangers (now friends) in order to study. 

Much to everybody’s horror, I turned down a lucrative job in order to dedicate more time to study and writing. 

And I haven’t even touched on the effort it required to write the book.

Needless to say, I’ve totally lost count of how many revisions this book went through.

There is only one scene (the climax) and one single paragraph (the opening paragraph) that has remained virtually the same since the day I wrote them. Everything else has been rewritten more times than I can count. 

But it was all worth it.

When I started writing ETHD, I knew that I’d be figuring out how to write a novel while writing a novel.

It was a long and windy path, but I did reach the top of that summit. Eventually.

There’s no guarantee that my next hike up the novel-writing mountain will be any easier, but at least I will have a map and well broken-in shoes.  

There you have it guys, the five things you need to know about ETHD. Remember to pre-order your copy BEFORE publication date (Tuesday, November 5) and enter my book giveaway. DETAILS BELOW!


EVERY TIME HE DIES

AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER + GIVEAWAY

‘Who knew that a book about murder, grief and disintegrated families could be so funny?’ – Paul WilliamsEverytimeHeDies_3D

‘A unique modern mystery that is one part psychic practices and one part police procedural. The fast pace, dynamic characters and intricate plot will keep readers hooked until the end.’ – Gregory James

‘It’s rare to find an Australian-set book of this scope and genre that could stand among its international peers and hold its own, but I won’t be surprised to see this book find its success in all corners of the crime genre reading world.’ – Shayla Morgansen

‘Can someone please make this into a TV series? This is a fabulous read and I want to see Liam and Daff on the small screen.’ – Carol Seeley


CLICK BELOW TO PREORDER NOW

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PREORDER GIVEAWAY!

Everyone who preorders a copy of Every Time He Dies (paperback or ebook) will go into the draw to win one of THREE MAJOR GRAND PRIZES.

To celebrate the release of Every Time He Dies, I’m running an EPIC book giveaway. The three grand prize packs include signed copies of:

🎉Dying in the First Person by Nike Sulway
🎉Bordertown by Gregory James
🎉Haunted by Shayla Morgansen
🎉The Spark Ignites by Kathleen Kelly
🎉Every Time He Dies by Tara Louise East

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If you preorder a copy, simply take a snapshot of your proof of purchase and fill out the entry form here. 

WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Everyone who preorders a copy will ALSO receive the first five chapters straight to their inbox. Not only will this tide you over until the book arrives, but it’s also my way of saying thanks!