Being more oriented to words than to pictures, I had no interest in Instagram until I learned about its subgenre, Bookstagram. (Book Instagram = #bookstagram ) Now I’ve taken the plunge. Early activity is promising: In just my first two days I connected with several book reviewers and bloggers. When I get at least 20 potential reviewers, I’ll offer them complimentary copies of Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock. I’m told that Amazon treats writers better when their books have at least 50 reviews. As a series, Waterspell has more than that, but Book 1 by itself has only 35. My goal is to get that number to at least 50 before I start serious promotion of the forthcoming audiobooks and Book 4.
If you enjoy reviewing fantasy books, please drop me a note at waterspell(at)earthlink(dot)net. I have review copies of The Warlock available in all formats, print as well as ebooks, but I can mail the paperbacks within the US and Canada only.
Full disclosure up front: Book 1: The Warlock ends on a cliffhanger. And as reviewer Twiggy Piggy says: “The moment you finish this book, you WILL want to go on to the next.” (Perhaps I could supply you with that next book, too. Let’s talk.)
Here are the results of my advertising test at BookBub: “Belong” (ad 1) and “Courage” (ad 2) got almost exactly the same number of clicks, but hardly any clicks at all from Amazon shoppers. The vast majority of readers who showed interest by clicking either ad were Barnes & Noble customers (“Belong”) or, surprisingly to me, Apple Books and Kobo readers (“Courage”).
This supports my belief that writers who give Amazon exclusive rights to sell their books are condemning their works to compete with the almost infinite number of “products” sold by Amazon, while ignoring the truly dedicated readers who shop at Barnes & Noble and elsewhere, and who prefer non-Kindle tablets and e-readers.
My next steps include looking into the usefulness of these things:
• The Fussy Librarian
• Blog tours
• Goodreads Giveaways
• Amazon advertising
• Written Word Media
I know who I’ll ask for new reviews to augment the glowing reviews that Waterspell received upon the books’ initial publication. The circle I move in, these days, is much changed from the social circle that I knew before my husband’s death in 2012. Now, I number among my friends many anti-fascist activists, folks I got to know after November 2016. Most of them didn’t even know I was a many-times published author; it wasn’t what drew us together. Now, gradually, I’m revealing my past life and enlisting the support of those who are willing to help me recover something of it.
Am I dreaming, thinking I can relaunch a 10-year-old fantasy series? Possibly. But I’m making final edits to Waterspell Book 4, preparing for a 2022 release. And the audiobooks are slowly coming together, after my wonderfully talented narrator endured a major upheaval in his own world. It took him away from the work for six months—disruptive, yes, but not as damaging to a career as was my own dark, nine-year period of grief and neglect. If nothing else goes too badly wrong, the audiobooks should be released in 2022, along with Book 4.
I’m thinking those two events could be and should be enough to spark new interest in the original trilogy. If I will get out there and promote, dammit. It’s no secret that promotion takes money, and I’m prepared to pay, within reason, for advertising. Here’s what I plan for my first sponsored Facebook post:
“Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Charlotte Brontë.” From award-winning author Deborah J. Lightfoot, an unforgettable epic fantasy that readers call “extraordinary, enthralling, completely unpredictable.” Think “Jane Eyre meets a sorcerer.” Coming in 2022, Book 4 of Waterspell will complete the series. Print & ebooks available. Audiobooks in progress. www.waterspell.net
Amazon advertising and BookBub being completely new to me, I’ll need to discover how they may or may not fit into the budget. But at least I’ve got a little ready cash to spend on a new promotional push. The 2020 Pandemic Year not only gave me time and opportunity to pursue audiobooks and to write Book 4, it saved me money. I went nowhere and cooked meals at home. Everything I didn’t spend on travel and restaurants is now earmarked for book promotion.
I hope to Drisha this plan of mine will get these four books in front of the readers who will most enjoy them. At this point, it’s readership I want—not fortune so much, just a tiny bit of fame to validate the years I’ve spent obsessing over this story of mine.
Evidently the rest of the writing world learned about Canva.com long ago. I’ve only recently discovered its multitude of free and easily customized templates for Facebook posts, Instagram, postcards, and all sorts of things.
Now that I know, I’m hooked. I started out playing with their ready-made templates, and created graphics that I may or may not ever actually post on my Facebook page:
Further experimentation produced results more in keeping with my tastes and better suited to the books:
Canva’s templates gave me ideas. This one suggested a way of showcasing several reviews at once:
Finding my rhythm, I knocked out several images that I’ve stockpiled for a social-media blitz when the time comes to actively promote Waterspell Book 4 (it’s nearly finished!) and the audiobooks (after an unavoidable delay, we’re now aiming for a Spring 2022 release at Audible).
I’m thinking I can never have too many of these things pre-made and ready to post. So it’s back to Canva.com that I go. Many thanks to that wonderfully generous Aussie tech company for making so many of its templates totally free. ♥
“The trick isn’t to get people to read your book. The trick is to get people to hear about your book.”
So said a participant in a recent Authors Guild webinar about book marketing and promotion. The comment struck a chord, for I’ve struggled to get my books more widely noticed. The reviews they have garnered suggest fantasy fans would enjoy reading Waterspell, but too few members of my intended audience have even heard of the series.
Anticipating the release of the audiobooks (which are progressing now, after a six-month hiatus in which Life with a capital L again intervened to back-burner them), I’m trying a mix of old and new ways to reach my audience. My newest effort is through two particularly lively Facebook groups:
The Reading Corner Book Lounge: “A fun and friendly place for bookdragons to discuss anything and everything bookish! We have a wide variety of members worldwide who read all sorts of genres. We frequently host readathons and have several group reads every month if you choose to participate. We also host author Live interviews a few times a year.”
Fantasy-Faction – SFF Book Discussion: “Fantasy-Faction.com is one of the world’s largest fantasy and science fiction book communities. Each week we bring readers book reviews, author interviews, articles on the genre, up-to-date news and much, much more. Our site has proudly been nominated for the World and British Fantasy Awards and twice won the Reddit Award for Best Fantasy Website.”
Reading Corner allows authors to self-promote, within limits. Naturally they ask writers to comment and participate with the other posts, and to not join for the sole purpose of self-promotion. I’m enjoying the group immensely and find it easy to participate as simply one avid reader among thousands. Group members read everything, but fantasy is a popular genre among them. The tone is unfailingly supportive and polite. They enjoy each other’s company. I’m not yet ready to straight-out ask for group members to read and review my books, but I anticipate a positive response when I reach that point.
Fantasy-Faction, on the other hand (the dragon is their logo), does not allow advertising or “buy my book” posts. It’s wonderfully informative, however. I’m learning a new vocabulary for discussing the fantasy genre: terms like “grimdark” and “reactive protagonist.” One post so neatly summed up the elements of classic, epic fantasy, it gave me a kind of template for describing Waterspell’s place in that subgenre:
Waterspell fits firmly in the realm of epic fantasy (but with an environmental fantasy twist) … It’s got ancient and mysterious magic, a Hero/Heroine’s Journey (with a twist), a passage from one world to the otherworld, a (reluctant) Chosen One, and a search for belonging and redemption.
One frequent Fantasy-Faction contributor described her favorite genre tropes in terms that left me in no doubt: She would like Waterspell. Now I’m wondering if it’s cricket (honorable, acceptable, not insectoid) to message her and offer her a review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review. I have to think it over and seek advice. Mustn’t offend (or get kicked out of the group).
New Paperback Covers
Another thing I’ve learned from participating in these two bookdragon groups is that fantasy fans still buy physical books! I had assumed that ebooks were more popular with my intended audience. Personally, I prefer the convenience and portability of ebooks, and I’ve gradually culled my library of physical books. When I got new ebook (and audiobook) covers made, I thought I wouldn’t bother with updating the paperback covers, too, since the Waterspell paperbacks are much more expensive than the ebooks and haven’t sold as well.
My thinking has changed, after realizing that fantasy fans are collectors as much as they are readers. They love beautiful books, they want to hold them in their hands, and they want to display them on their bookshelves. Therefore, I have returned to my cover artist, Vila Design. and placed an order for new paperback PDFs to match the ebook covers, to be uploaded at Lightning Source.
Tweaked Facebook Page
I had wondered why my books’ Facebook page didn’t look like other writers’ pages. Visitors had to scroll past layers of Facebook-imposed clutter to reach the heart of the page. Finally I dug deep into the Settings (they bury it deep) to discover I was using FB’s “Standard” page template. When I changed to the “Public Figure” template, voila! The page cleaned up nicely. Much less clutter at the top. I’m glad to discover the fix but wonder why it was so hard to find.
And so I press on, trying this and that, seeking a wider audience for my work … convinced, at the end of the day, that nothing really succeeds except word-of-mouth. Personal recommendations are gold.
Recently I listened to the audiobook (all 51 hours) of The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, beautifully narrated by Davina Porter. Of course I’d read the series years ago when it was a New York Times bestseller, but listening to the audiobook version was even better for getting totally caught up in the story.
With great interest, then, I paid my $10 for this Profs and Pints Online program: “The Women of King Arthur Legends,” presented by Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman, former instructors at The Ohio State University and co-founders of the Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic.
Their talk is well worth $10. I highly recommend it. I had fun comparing and contrasting the women of Bradley’s historical fantasy with the women of Cleto and Warman’s folkloric interpretations. Their overview of the traditions and legends surrounding the women deepened my appreciation for what Bradley accomplished in her wonderful retelling.
“Morgan Le Fay, Queen Guinevere, The Lady of the Lake, Elaine. Each of these women play crucial roles in the rise and fall of King Arthur, Britain’s greatest legendary hero. But they’re almost always presented as enigmatic, ambiguous forces in the story.
“Is Morgan Le Fay the evil sorceress who plots Arthur’s demise, or is she the good fairy who takes the dying Arthur to the magical isle of Avalon for rest and healing? Is Guinevere an adulterous schemer, or a woman trapped by politics and the limited possibilities for women of her time? The numerous gaps in the traditional materials of these legends allow many different interpretations, some positive or nuanced, and some that hint at more than a little of the misogyny, fear, and contempt women have faced throughout the ages.
“In this talk, Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman will guide you through the complex world of Arthuriana and discuss how these women and their stories have been understood (and misunderstood) from ancient times to modern retellings. Join us for an enchanted night of swords and sorcery, as we explore what these strange and powerful women offer today’s world.”
The recording of their talk, available online, includes recommended readings, both scholarly and popular. Below is a screenshot of part of their list. I was surprised that The Mists of Avalon did not make the Creative side of the list—it’s certainly creative. But perhaps the omission is due to the books being so well known, they need no introduction. In any case, I’ve added several of Cleto and Warman’s recommendations to my personal reading list.
Treat yourself doubly, to this online presentation from Profs & Pints and also to the fabulous audiobook version of Mists. Together they’re an investment of more than 52 hours, but it’s time wonderfully well spent.
Plummer’s narration is brilliant. He gives each character a fresh new voice and brings out each personality to perfection. Even as well as I know the story, he had me laughing out loud. Listening to his performance (and it IS a performance, not merely a reading) is an entirely different (and better) experience than reading the books.
Given the ways in which my own Waterspellfantasy novels connect with the Alice books, I am particularly delighted to discover the Plummer narration and to recommend it to anyone who loves a good story well told. You’ll enjoy listening to a consummate professional lend his remarkable talents to Alice in Wonderland.
By the way, I couldn’t find the Plummer narration at Audible. I downloaded my copy from Barnes & Noble Nook Audiobooks.
A writer friend recently posted a book trailer she’d made with the Animoto video builder. I loved it except for the Animoto watermark that was displayed on it.
Searching for an affordable, flexible, easy-to-use video maker for my own books, I explored Powtoon and Animaker as well as Animoto. With these, it seemed that the only way to avoid the company’s watermark and to outright own my handmade videos was to subscribe for a full year. Shorter, more affordable subscription terms were not offered.
Then I found Biteable. It’s definitely the one for me. You can subscribe monthly instead of for a year, and every video you make while subscribed is yours to download and keep forever. Biteable’s templates are so easy to use, and their library of stock footage is so comprehensive, covering every need, you can create a great many videos in a month, making this service by far the most cost-effective of any that I looked at.
Another great advantage with Biteable is that you are allowed to use the videos you make for commercial purposes, “something that other video editors don’t allow,” notes Brightspark. I can’t imagine why any writer would pay to make videos that they are not then legally allowed to use for the commercial purpose of promoting their work. That feature alone raises Biteable far above the pack.
Waterspell Book 1 video intro scene
Brightspark claims that voiceover isn’t available at Biteable. That is incorrect. After I made a very cool (if I say so myself) book trailer for my Waterspell fantasy novels, I emailed the video to my audiobook narrator. He recorded a voiceover in an MP3 file, which I then uploaded to Biteable and synced with the video. Syncing the audio was simple, since Biteable’s video-editor allows lengthening or shortening “scenes” in half-second increments. It required only a few adjustments to the length of each scene to perfectly match the narration with the video.
For authors seeking an affordable, easy-to-use online video-maker for creating book trailers, I highly recommend Biteable. You can subscribe for just one month if you like, and every video you make and download during that time will be yours to keep and use whenever and wherever you wish, unrestricted and watermark-free. Check it out: Biteable.com
Was there ever an attempt at “social media” that turned out more difficult to use or clunkier than Goodreads? I set up an author profile at Goodreads years ago, but soon abandoned it because it’s so maddeningly difficult to beat into submission. Every update requires multiple attempts to make the edits “stick.” I thought I never WOULD manage to upload the new Waterspell covers and force the interface to show those as the default covers.
I wonder how useful Goodreads actually is to authors like me, who are trying every way we can to reach a wider audience. Cutting through the static is enormously difficult.
With new audiobook editions of my fantasy novels in the works, however, I’m once again struggling with such things as a Facebook page. “Clunky” isn’t a strong enough word for THAT particular platform—it’s dang near impossible to use, and Facebook’s algorithms ensure that few people will see it. I’ve now done my utmost to update my author profile at Goodreads. I’m trying to do something with LinkedIn, though I’m not sure it’s particularly suited to my needs. I’m not looking for a job. Twitter? Yech. I quit Twitter years ago and have no intention of going back.
What’s next? Instagram? A YouTube channel? Are any of them worth the effort they require? Are they worth the time they take away from writing and editing? I don’t know.
What I do know is that word-of-mouth is the only truly effective way of spreading the word about books that are worth reading. Fingers crossed that the soon-to-be-released audiobooks will catch on, the forthcoming fourth book will get some attention, and Waterspell will finally reach its intended audience. Given the glowing-ness of the reviews the trilogy got, I live in hope that more of my potential readers will find my work. I know they’re out there.
My eternal gratitude to everyone who has read the trilogy and left reviews at Amazon, Goodreads, and book blogs. I love you all, dear readers. ♥
I’m having a great time working with a skilled, extraordinarily talented professional narrator to turn the first three books of Waterspell into audiobooks. The way the narrator has moved into the body of my wysard is uncanny. The man sounds exactly like the voice I heard in my head during all the years I devoted to writing Books 1 through 3. I look forward with eager anticipation to each newly recorded chapter the narrator sends me. He’s finished Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock and is approaching the one-third mark of Book 2: The Wysard. We plan to release both audiobooks together or within about a month of each other, since Book 1 ends on a cliffhanger and I believe listeners will want to move immediately into Book 2.
For me, an unexpected side benefit of hearing my characters’ voices come alive in the real world, is the inspiration this experience has provided to finally get me writing again. After my husband’s sudden death in 2012, I had no impulse to write. People would ask about a possible Book 4, and all I could tell them was that Life with a capital L had kicked me hard, and I wasn’t writing. Then came 2016, and the shock of discovering that I wasn’t living in the country I thought I was living in. The country of my birth was, in fact, a breeding ground for the absolute worst in human nature.
Therefore, after spending four years trying to patch together my life, I found myself obliged to join the Resistance and spend the next four years attempting to save the soul of my nation.
Then came 2020 and Covid-19, and a months-long self-isolation that has been a godsend for me. I hate the pain, the loss, the suffering that this virus has heaped on other people’s heads. I’m a walking example of white privilege: I get to stay home, safely isolated out in the country, ordering stuff for delivery to my gate and going into town only to pick up groceries and my mail. My pandemic experience has been 180 degrees from the devastation that others have experienced.
After years of no motivation followed by years of exhausting nonstop effort to resist the tide of fascism, I suddenly found myself with both the time and the desire to create something of my own again. Almost immediately upon entering my bubble of self-isolation, I hired my audiobook narrator. After six or seven weeks of listening to his breathtakingly good interpretations of my characters and their story, I placed my fingers upon the keyboard and started pounding out Book 4.
I started Draft One on May 6, and completed Draft Two on September 6. Record time for me (Books 1–3 took me 16 years to write and publish).
The second draft will need to sit for a couple of weeks. I do still have obligations to my state and my nation—I’m supporting candidates and contributing to Get Out the Vote efforts. I’ll spend the next couple of weeks engaged in that effort.
But then I’ll be looking through my notes again, and settling down for a close reread and re-edit of Draft Two. I’m tentatively planning a Summer 2021 release date of the Book 4 ebook, to coincide (I hope) with the release of the Waterspell Book 3 audiobook.
How good it is to be writing again. Strange, how inspiration will arrive unexpectedly, and opportunities may arise from cataclysm.
Making a place for yourself in a world where you don't belong takes courage. So does moving in with a warlock.
"If you like epic fantasy that sweeps you to amazing, immersive worlds and while following intriguing characters, be sure to add this series to your to-read list." —Once Upon a YA Book
Castles in the cornfield provided the setting for Deborah J. Lightfoot's earliest flights of fancy. On her father's farm in Texas, she grew up reading tales of adventure and reenacting them behind ramparts of sun-drenched grain. She left the farm to earn a degree in journalism and write award-winning books of history and biography. High on her Bucket List was the desire to try her hand at the genre she most admired. The result is Waterspell, a complex, intricately detailed fantasy that begins with The Warlockand The Wysard, and concludes (for the present) with The Wisewoman. But a legal pad filled with notes, formerly tucked away in a desk drawer, has grown into a nearly finished Book 4 that will, in Spring 2022, complete the saga, at long last. Deborah is a professional member of The Authors Guild. She lives in the country south of Fort Worth, Texas.
Magic, mystery, murder, and romance. Waterspell: An intricate save-the-world fantasy adventure with complex characters, cosmic calamities, and the gothic sensibilities of Jane Eyre.
Mix environmental fantasy with magic, mystery, and a little slow-burning romance, add dark dystopian undercurrents, and that’s the Waterspell trilogy—a cross-genre story with too many layers for a single label.