Look what I found! A video from a few years ago, of my audiobook narrator, actor and voiceover artist Simon de Deney, reading a short story during a fundraiser for the Emergency Care Fund of the National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery in London.
It’s a great story and an absorbing performance. Watch it here:
You can also enjoy Simon reading an excerpt from the forthcoming Waterspell audiobook (The Complete Series, a boxed set of four books). I’ve posted the excerpt on my very own, brand-new YouTube channel:
Much more to come! This being my first audiobook, I’m climbing the learning curve as I explore options for distribution: going wide, far beyond Audible. Barring unforeseen complications, Waterspell: The Complete Series boxed audio set should be available Summer 2022. “Stay tuned!”
The dates are set: April 21 is release day for the Waterspell ebook boxed set, followed by the audiobook set on June 1.
WATERSPELL: The Complete Series (boxed set of four ebooks)
Other people’s schedules largely dictated my choice of these two dates. Goodreads is having a March sale on Kindle Giveaways. As long as I book a giveaway by mid-month, I get the discounted price, and those who enter and win will get their free boxed set in April on release day.
For the audiobook edition, I hope to tie my promotions to “Audiobook Appreciation Month” in June. My wonderful narrator, Simon de Deney, is now recording Book 4 of the series and should completely finish his narration this month. Then I begin the process (I hope) of uploading nearly 100 separate MP3s at Audiobooks Unleashed.
WATERSPELL: The Complete Series will be available as an audio boxed set, expertly narrated by Simon de Deney.
I’m still debating about NetGalley and Written Word Media. As I mentioned in my January planning post, Written Word Media is pricey. And I read that NetGalley reviewers can be even harsher than Goodreads reviewers. Not sure I want to spend $50 and get negativity from constipated reviewers. Maybe I’ll stick with the Goodreads Giveaway, and try a little advertising for the boxed set(s), too.
Unpacking a shipment of your own new book is a thrill like no other! I’ve had the pleasure of opening a box of my latest, Waterspell Book 4: The Witch, which is now available in print (paperback) and all ebook formats. It looks great, IMO. But I’m biased. Now it’s a waiting game, putting me on pins and needles as I look for the first reviews to come in. I’m sure I could have done more, I could have sent out more Advance Reader Copies, I could have spent more on ads and promotion. But the reality, I know, is that readers won’t care about Book 4 unless they have read and enjoyed the original trilogy.
My promotional efforts, therefore, remain focused on Book 1: The Warlock. It’s featured today, February 18, by BookRaid (with which I’ve enjoyed success previously); and on Saturday, Feb. 19, Bookorium (new to me) promotes it. After that, I intend to run only one ad each month, alternating between BookRaid and The Fussy Librarian (adding Bookorium into the mix, if that one proves successful).
The greater part of my attention must now turn to the two boxed sets: Ebook and audiobook. With Book 4 releasing (singly) in February, does it make sense to release the boxed set of ebooks in April? Is that too soon? Will that schedule give me time to promote the set? Research is needed, along with serious thought. The later in the year, the fewer the months during which the boxed set will carry the 2022 copyright date. With so much emphasis on “new releases,” keeping that 2022 date as fresh as possible, for as long as possible, seems to argue for publishing the boxed ebook set ASAP.
Then there’s the boxed set of audiobooks. Will it be most likely to find an audience during the summer months? Should it be released in May, hard on the heels of the companion ebook set? I think that might be best. But again, I should research and find out when audiobooks sell most strongly: spring, summer, fall, or winter.
Also washing around in the back of my mind are the words of my experienced beta reader, and the suggestions of my audio narrator. Both of them are telling me that I should write more books (or at least novellas) set in the world(s) of Waterspell. Hmm. Should I? Can I?
I think my spring, summer, and winter of 2022 will be busy.
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.
Making a place for yourself in a world where you don't belong takes courage. So does moving in with a warlock.
“A riveting series. Well written, excellent world-building with an engaging plot in each book and well-developed characters. I was gripped right from the start with twists I didn’t see and unpredictability.” —Aria, NetGalley
“An entertaining, fast paced, and well-plotted fantasy series. The world building is fascinating, and the characters fleshed out. Highly recommended.” —Anna Maria, NetGalley
“I absolutely loved all four books! You kept your storyline throughout the four books brilliantly. The characters were all genuine and relatable.” —Carol, Goodreads
“I was hooked instantly. I willingly gave up sleep and could not wait to get up to read more. I’m reading the whole series, and absolutely loving it.” —Sarah, Amazon
“I was HOOKED. I read until 3 am two nights in a row to finish this. The magic system is unique and the characters are as morally gray as they come.” —Megan, Goodreads
“Addictive epic fantasy, with drama and adventure. I binged through the books, eager to see how the story unfolds. Great book. 5 stars.” —Di, NetGalley
“Complicated characters, plot twists, romance, adventure, and magic — all written in a voice that immerses you in a fantasy world both foreign and familiar. Get the box set because you won’t want to leave this world.” —Beck Digs It, Amazon
“Jane Eyre meets Beauty and the Beast. Amazing story, very original. Great series.” —Emma, Amazon UK
“In this four-book saga, the author has created an epic fantasy world full of magic, danger, romance, and travel through time and space. The characters are vivid and complex. This is a most enjoyable read for fans of fantasy and fine writing.” —Shirley, NetGalley
“Captivating. I loved this series from beginning to end. Complex characters who mature through the series and unexpected plot twists kept me reading far too late into the night.” —Amy, Amazon
“Lightfoot has a sure touch with regard to characterisation. Each of her characters has their own authentic and convincing voice. Narrative, description and speech are exceptionally well-balanced.” —Martin Dukes, author of the Alex Trueman Chronicles
“An extraordinary book, four in fact! I read these over a five-day period and found the storytelling fantastic. See for yourself!” —Michelle, NetGalley
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 multi-layered, intricately detailed fantasy about a girl and the wizard who suspects her of being so dangerous to his world, he believes he’ll have to kill her … which troubles him, since he’s fallen in love with her. Deborah is a professional member of The Authors Guild. She lives in the country near 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 dystopian undercurrents, and that’s the Waterspell series—a cross-genre story with too many layers for a single label.