Readers who have followed my writerly journey will remember that I hit a dry spell between 2012 and 2020. I wasn’t writing during those years. Promoting my work was the last thing on my mind. I was emotionally, mentally, and physically unavailable for any kind of bookish event.
Which is why I was both excited and nervous about participating in an author event sponsored by the local public library. It wasn’t just a book-signing opportunity. The 10 participating authors also presented a mini-workshop on Getting Started Writing, Overcoming Writer’s Block, Avoiding Common Errors, and Getting Published.
Nerves and eagerness led me to over-prepare, as I do. I had new posters printed for my book table. I obsessed over what I should wear. I actually practiced—in front of a mirror—my five-minute talks on two of those topics.
It all went fine, of course. Book-signings and writing workshops are like riding a bicycle: once you learn, you don’t forget. I fell back into it like the old pro I am. Prior to 2012, I’d done a bunch of author events and writing conferences.
Here are a few pictures from my “comeback.” It was fun, and I’m glad to go back on the circuit.
I’ve been invited to speak at an event for local writers and participate in a mini-workshop on “How to Fix Common Writing Errors.” As it happens, I published a little e-book on that subject, several years ago. The invitation reminded me to take a fresh look at what I’d written back then.
I’m pleased to report that the little book holds up. It’s aged well, and it offers solid advice: so much so, that I’ll be taking my own advice when I return to editing my work-in-progress.
The ebook is free at Smashwords:
If the Download button in the graphic doesn’t work, you can find my little book of advice here:
My fresh reread and re-edit of my own advice has reminded me of things I need to watch out for, as I return to my WIP. Is it possible that I’ve grown a little complacent, maybe a little sloppy in recent years? I’m grateful for the speaking invitation that has motivated me to revisit the basics. Every writer benefits from a refresher course.
The Waterspellaudiobook is distributed by Findaway Voices, and Findaway now belongs to Spotify. Findaway has sent word that they are discontinuing their Authors Direct storefront and listening apps, and will move those services to Spotify.
This won’t affect many of my listeners. Happily, however, the relative handful who redeemed giveaway codes via Authors Direct will get to keep your Waterspell audiobook. Findaway promises to email you a redemption code to unlock each of your previous Authors Direct books on Spotify. Listeners can use Spotify Free and Premium accounts to access those books.
Please be aware that the Authors Direct listening apps (iOS, Android, and Web) will not be available after June 5, 2023.
Besides Spotify, many other audiobook retailers carry Waterspell, some at a discount off the $24.95 regular price. Audible offers the four-book boxed set (50 hours of audio) for a single credit. Such a deal!
Book description: Laura never realised she was different, or that she was touched in some way by the heavens, until she first set foot, contrary to all law and tradition, within the portals of Darkharrow. Here, in the remote Eastings of Britannia, far from the wealth and the power of London, the dead lie sleeping beneath the ancient towers and cloisters of the great abbey. For some, destiny dictates that their long slumber shall endure until the last trump sounds and all the dead shall rise from their graves, but for some the care of the Camalodolite Order shall reawaken them long before that day. No one has ever been able to look upon the countenances of the departed and tell whether they may be awakened, whether their hearts are of ice or of stone – until now.
Caught between the competing affections of those who love her, threatened by those who would destroy her, Laura finds herself enmeshed in a web of conspiracy that draws upon her deepest resources and enforces choices upon her that are of the most momentous kind.
My review: Dark, fascinating, original, and beautifully written
I love this book! It is utterly engrossing and kept me turning the pages late into the evening. I give it 10 stars for the original storytelling, masterful writing, fascinating characters, and a crisp, compelling plot that sweeps the reader into an ever-darkening story. The prose is elegant and perfectly matched to the story’s brooding, spooky, gothic aesthetic. Fans of Edgar Allan Poe and of Bronte’s Wuthering Heights will revel in this book. I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended. Take a chance on an author you might not know — you won’t be disappointed.
Just a quick update on my work-in-progress: I’m at 101,000 words. And only about 2/3 of the way through the story. This will either be a long book, or four novellas. I haven’t quite decided.
The working title is The Karenina Chronicles: A Waterspell Novel. The subtitles of the four chronicles: The Leviathan, The Nomad, The Adept, and The Wolf. I hope to finish the first draft by January, and then let it sit for a month before I begin what will be a major effort of revising and editing. Themes emerged as I went along. They are much clearer to me at the two-thirds mark than they were at the beginning, so I must go back and clarify my somewhat muddled thinking in the opening third.
But I’ve got time. I’m on nobody’s schedule but my own.
They’re inevitable. Every writer gets them. Even rich and famous authors get bad reviews.
Some of the best advice I’ve ever read, on how to handle the trolls, comes from Julia Whelan at Writer Unboxed. I excerpted some of her comments to give ’em the Canva treatment. But every writer will do well to read her entire post.
Julia Whelan is a screenwriter, lifelong actor, and award-winning audiobook narrator of more than 500 titles. Her performance of her own debut novel, the internationally best-selling My Oxford Year, garnered a Society of Voice Arts award. She is also a Grammy-nominated audiobook director, a former writing tutor, a half-decent amateur baker, and a certified tea sommelier. Her new book, Thank You for Listening—about a former actress turned successful audiobook narrator who has lost sight of her dreams and her journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance when she agrees to narrate one last romance novel—released in August 2022.
What a relief to have all of this frantic effort behind me! Now I can focus on making pretty promotional graphics at Canva to post on social media. I can try to remember to upload new videos to my somewhat neglected YouTube channel. Most importantly, I can start planning a new book.
Too Much, Too Fast?
At this natural pausing point, it behooves me to pause and consider whether releasing three new books or editions in less than six months might have been rushing things a little. If this frantic schedule has left my head spinning, I fear it has also confused my readers.
Barely had I begun begging for reviews for Waterspell Book 4: The Witch before I was begging equally earnestly for reviews for The Complete Series boxed set. Some readers, I suspect, got muddled: They didn’t fully grasp that Book 4 is a separate publication from The Complete Series. And thus, they didn’t realize that each publication needs to be reviewed separately. Although Amazon correctly shows The Complete Series (the boxed set) as being one part of the Waterspell series, reviews for each individual book in that series are not immediately visible to shoppers who are looking at any single title in the collection. That is to say: Amazon treats each book (and edition) individually, which creates (in me) a need for readers to take the time to post individual reviews for every book and every edition. A big ask.
Indeed, that’s a lot to ask of even the most ardent fan. All of my asking—first for the individual Book 4: The Witch, then for the boxed ebook set, and now for the culminating audiobook—has befuddled even me. I’ve no doubt that I’ve raised confusion in the minds of many readers. They (and I) would have benefited from a slower pace of new releases in 2022.
Nevertheless, rushed though it was, I’m delighted to have all of the publishing frenzy done and dusted. The new titles and new editions are out there, readers are finding them, and new reviews are appearing. The six-month sprint is over. Now I settle into the marathon of ongoing, nearly continuous book promotion.
Book Promo Overview
In May, I ranked the promotions I’d used, according to their effectiveness. With another month of experience behind me now, I’m revising two of my earlier estimations. Both of my giveaways—Goodreads and Reader Views—have improved their grades from C to B-minus.
Goodreads was a giveaway of 100 Kindle ebooks of The Complete Series. That giveaway has now netted me five-star ratings from two of the winners, along with a very nice review from one of those satisfied readers: “Loved it. Couldn’t put it down. 5 star box set. I may actually reread this because I enjoyed it so much.”
Reader Views was a giveaway of physical copies. I’d been disappointed that no recipient of those rather pricey, high-quality paperbacks had responded by word or deed. But on May 28, a winner of a print book posted on Goodreads: “Thank you, Deborah. I loved this novel and can’t wait to start Waterspell 2.” Those few words made everything worthwhile, all the expense and effort of mailing out physical copies.
I hope this doesn’t sound whiny. I’m truly grateful for every review and every star. Readers are busy. I get that. Writing reviews can be hard. I get that, too: I suck at writing reviews. Some of the reviews my books have received have filled me with awe, they’re so insightful and so beautifully written. Me? About all I can ever think to write about a book is: “I liked it.” Too many mandatory book reports in my school days ruined me for writing book reviews, I fear. But every author will value a simple “I liked it” as much as they value a detailed, four-paragraph analysis.
All reviews count. Every review matters.
To sum up: Marketing is hard, it’s expensive, and it’s time-consuming. To ensure that I’m spending my promotional dollars effectively and using my time wisely, I must pause occasionally and analyze how I’m meeting, or not meeting, my goals. At this point in my writing life, my goals are to get more reviews. At present, reviews are more important than sales. Without reviews, books (and audiobooks) won’t sell. First comes the writing/publishing, then the reviews, and THEN the sales.
Quick Links to Post Reviews
If you’re a reader who is inclined to help me out with a new review (or two, or five), I’ll be eternally grateful. 💙 Here are the direct links to post reviews at Amazon:
Releasing June 1, 2022 WATERSPELL: The Complete Series Audiobook
Am I excited!? Just a little. Well, a lot actually.
This new audiobook is the culmination of decades of work. I started writing Book 1 of Waterspell so long ago, the story seems to have always been in my life. In a sense, I suppose it has been in my life since I learned to read in my childhood. Everything I’ve ever read has probably found its way into this series, in some fashion or other.
But that’s true for all writers, I imagine. We are products of the life we’ve lived, the people we’ve known, the education we’ve received, the work experiences we’ve had, and perhaps most of all the books we’ve read. We write what we know.
Waterspell is deeply personal for me, however. I remember my doubts and my uncertainty as I began the switch from nonfiction to fantasy. As a trained journalist and an award-winning author of history and biography, I wasn’t even sure I could write fiction. Did I know how? I had much to learn, and attentive readers can follow my learning curve through the series. Wordiness, for instance, was my painfully clear weakness in Books 1 and 2. That fault is less apparent in Books 3 and 4.
Our house in Mexico on Lake Chapala
During my years of work on this story, I not only grew as a writer, I gained a deeper sense of my place in the universe. A huge amount of the writing was done while my husband and I lived in Mexico, in a house that I loved, prettily situated on the south side of Lake Chapala, south of Guadalajara. Our time in Mexico was a highlight of my life, an intensely creative eight years. Amid the tropical flowers and greenery that surrounded our house, I gave myself to my writing, tapping my deep subconscious during those quiet nights by the lake, disturbed by nothing, visited by only owls and inspiration.
My beloved husband holding a fuchsia for me to photograph in our Mexican garden
After we left Mexico, another seven years would pass before Books 1–3 of Waterspell were published. And then, to my horror, my husband died quite suddenly and unexpectedly, only two months after Book 3 was released. I have written elsewhere about the effects of my grief on my writing; I will not elaborate here, except to say that my husband’s death is, for me, inextricably woven into the very fabric of this series. It is chief among the reasons for my deep personal investment in this story.
The Gift That Started Things Off …
All of this history will perhaps explain why I’m so joyously, deliriously excited about the new audiobook. Readers had been asking me for an audiobook, but I thought the expense of such an undertaking would be beyond my reach. I resisted the idea of even investigating the possibilities, until my sister-in-law gave me an Audible membership for Christmas. The first thing I bought was Lord of the Rings, narrated by Rob Inglis.
What a revelation! A great work of fantasy was elevated, by a masterful job of narration, to a plane of perfection almost beyond my comprehension. That was when I knew I had to pursue an audiobook of my own series, and damn the cost.
… And Now Here We Are
Here we are, on June 1: Release Day! I can hardly wait for the world to hear Simon de Deney’s wonderful work on Waterspell: The Complete Series. I love how Simon connected with the characters. I am deeply grateful that he took on this big project, that he liked the story and my writing, and was willing and able to produce 51 hours of narration. Not a small undertaking! I feel honored to have an actor of Simon’s reputation narrating my novels. 💙
Simon de Deney is a professional actor, playwright, director, and audiobook narrator with more than 25 years of broadcast experience and a wide range of acting credits, from feature films to shows in London’s West End. His audiobook work includes Flames Over Frosthelm (Dave Dobson), It Calls from the Forest (multiple authors), and The Story of Wine (Hugh Johnson), for which de Deney was nominated for Best Performance (Factual Audiobook) in the 2022 One Voice Awards (UK). As a writer, de Deney has had several BBC Radio commissions, including “The Way It Is” and “Future Perfect.” He has developed and directed new plays including “Broken Voices,” “Scotch and Water,” and “Late Fragment.” His acting credits include (theatre) “The Madness of George Dubya,” “The Prisoner of Windsor,” “Beneath The Waves,” and “Felix,” as well as television roles in “House of Elliot,” “The Upper Hand,” and “Rose Cottage.” His film credits include Damage, Shining Through, Another Country, and The Selfish Act of Community. Simon de Deney has a Master of Arts degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University. He lives in London.
This being my first audiobook, I’m not sure what to expect. Will it suddenly just appear in the catalog of every retailer? It’s been available for pre-order at Barnes & Noble, Chirp, AudiobooksNow, and Libro.fm. It’s supposed to show up on June 1 at Apple, Kobo, Walmart, Overdrive, and many others including Audible. But I’ve been warned that Audible lags behind.
So check back here on my website for new links. I’ll post them as I get them.
I will have 100 Giveaway Codes to hand out. Drop me a note (below) if you’d like a free copy of this audiobook!
Six months ago, in November 2021, I ran my first paid promotion for my novels. My first effective promotion, that is. I’d been experimenting with BookBub but getting nowhere. After concluding that BookBub is overrated and overpriced, I went looking for better, cheaper alternatives and found BookRaid. My single-day November 2021 promotion at BookRaid was far more successful than my ongoing, daily BookBub ads had been to that point, persuading me to drop BookBub entirely.
Since then, I’ve also run promotions with The Fussy Librarian, ManyBooks, Bookorium, and Freebooksy (Written Word Media). Additionally, I’ve done three smallish Reader Views giveaways of paperbacks, finished one big Goodreads Giveaway of Waterspell: The Complete Series (Kindle edition), offered a 50% discount on the series at Google Books, and made ARCs of the boxed set available free, for the month of April, on NetGalley. Looking ahead, I’ve scheduled a Book Barbarian promo for July 12. (Book Barbarian specializes in SF/fantasy titles.)
Which of these has worked best?
The Prize Goes To …
The hands-down winner (to date) is Freebooksy. At $170 (!) it’s the most expensive promotion that I’ve run, but:
You get what you pay for, as shown in this chart:
Not only did Freebooksy outperform all other newsletters by an astonishingly wide margin, notice that even Day 2 of the Freebooksy promo (when folks were opening their email late, on the day after) brought in more orders than The Fussy Librarian did in total. Evidently, Written Word Media has a vastly greater reach than any other book promotion service that I’ve tried. I also appreciate them promoting the entire series (not just Book 1), and continuing to list Waterspell on their website:
My Freebooksy promotion thrilled me by making Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock a No. 1 bestseller in a pair of Amazon categories, and vaulting it to a very respectable second place on yet another Amazon bestseller list:
Freebooksy, obviously, must top my list of book promotion sites that truly deliver. I’ll save up to run another promo with them in six months or so. The $170 price tag becomes less of a shocker when I consider that The Fussy Librarian charges $50 for a one-day listing, Book Barbarian is $55, BookRaid is $60, and a one-month NetGalley listing is $50 (when arranged through a NetGalley co-op). A Goodreads Giveaway (if you get it on sale) is $99. A ManyBooks promo is $29.
While there’s no fee to put a book in the Reader Views giveaways, each paperback that I mailed out cost me $10 for the book plus at least $4 postage. I sent out 10 books (one to Canada for a whopping $21 in international postage), bringing my total Reader Views out-of-pocket to about $160 (spread over three months). I’ve no idea whether any of the recipients reciprocated by leaving me a review anywhere. I have no direct evidence that any of them favored me with a review or even a wordless, anonymous rating. Sadly, none of them communicated with me, despite the contact-info sheet that I included with each copy. In future, I’ll think twice before doing another unfiltered, unvetted giveaway of pricey paperbacks.
The not-knowing about their effectiveness is why I’m giving both Goodreads and Reader Views a so-so C for their giveaways. It’s been nearly two full months since Amazon sent all of the winners at Goodreads their free copies of The Complete Series. So far, only one of those recipients (that I know of) has reciprocated by rating the Waterspell series at Goodreads.
NetGalley gets a B-minus from me because the reviews there, although they are excellent five-star reviews (like Aria’s pictured here), are far fewer in number than I had anticipated. I was hoping (too optimistically) for 40 or 50 reviews. To date, I’ve received six. I’m deeply grateful for those six highly positive reviews (thank you, Aria and other readers!) but I’m somewhat disappointed that so few of the individuals who requested and received an advance reader copy (ARC) have posted their reviews.
ManyBooks gets a C average from me because my two promos there have not moved the needle very much. They’re nice people to work with though (they gave me a badge!). And they’ve certainly outperformed BookBub (ridiculously expensive and ineffective), Bookorium (useless and now defunct), and my experimental Google Books discount, which has not attracted even one taker. Half price doesn’t appeal? Huh. The 50% discount code expires on May 31. I guess I’ll extend it for another two months, since it’s not costing me a dime.
That’s my report. If you’re an author who’s researching the best promotional sites and methods, I hope that my experiences will help you decide where and how to spend your advertising dollars. May your sales rankings skyrocket!
April 21, 2022: The 4-in-1 book bundle hits the stores! Before I had my first cup of coffee on Release Day, I was checking the downloads on my Kindle and Nook to be sure the formatting had survived the trip through cyberspace. Especially the complicated Table of Contents that I struggled with, before finally figuring out how to use Word Styles to achieve the hierarchy needed to list each individual book with all of that book’s chapters as subheadings. Evidently I was successful: The TOC in every edition looks good and makes logical sense.
Now I wait for ratings and reviews to (hopefully) appear. I’m especially interested in the results of my Goodreads Giveaway of 100 Kindle copies: Will that giveaway generate the new reviews I’m hoping for? Fingers crossed that most of the people who entered the giveaway are actual readers of epic fantasy. Past experience, however, tells me that at least some of the entrants (and therefore, some of the winners) are pirates who only want free books that they can turn around and sell under the table. It’s a shame that Goodreads attracts so many unsavory characters. Between its trolls and its thieves, Goodreads remains a sketchy proposition for authors, though readers seem to find it useful for tracking their To-Be-Read lists. Here’s hoping that my newest giveaway produces results that will raise my admittedly low opinion of Goodreads.
Far more rewarding (and fun) has been my experiment in offering ARCs (advance reader copies) at NetGalley. Going through a co-op made NetGalley affordable. And so far, I’ve been very pleased with the quality of the reviews The Complete Series has received there (excerpts pictured above and below). I’m thinking of trying NetGalley again to pull in reviews for the forthcoming audiobook edition.
Release Day always feels anticlimactic, after the flurry of pre-release promotion. I’ve done what I can to let people know there’s now a boxed set, and the 4-in-1 bundle is the easiest, slickest, most convenient way to experience the world of Waterspell. I hope readers find it and love it.
Where does this leave me? Besides tired? I’m truly worn out from this flurry of publishing and promoting. The end of all this effort, however, is in sight. Before too much longer, I will log off of social media; ignore this website (as I have often done in the past); and settle down to WRITE something new! The ideas are bubbling. I’m scribbling notes, in between the Instagram posts and my YouTube uploads. What a joy it will be to discover the story that arises from those scribblings! I was meant to write, not to spend all of my time waving a book over my head, asking people to “Buy this, please!”
Making a place for yourself in a world where you don't belong takes courage. So does moving in with a warlock.
“An extraordinary book, four in fact! I read these over a five-day period and found the storytelling fantastic. See for yourself!” —Michelle, 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
“A great read that features world building with drama and magical characters. Highly recommended.” —Neil, Amazon
“Such a joy to narrate this. It didn’t feel like work. The story and characters take flight so naturally and then soar.” —Simon de Deney
“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
“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
“An entertaining, fast paced, and well-plotted fantasy series. The world building is fascinating, and the characters fleshed out. Highly recommended.” —Anna Maria, NetGalley
“Jane Eyre meets Beauty and the Beast. Amazing story, very original. Great series.” —Emma, Amazon UK
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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.