This is epic. Grand. Beautifully written, masterful in scope and execution, brimming with palace intrigues, murder and treachery, high-stakes conspiracies and closely guarded secrets amongst a large and intricately choreographed cast of memorable characters. The action is intense, complex but well-paced, allowing the reader to catch their breath along the way and hear the rain battering the roofs of country inns while thunder rattles the windows of remote castles. Settings and characters are presented with a remarkable degree of finely wrought detail, details that paint the total picture of place and time, so that the reader feels they are present in each scene over a vast landscape.
This book is the work of an experienced, accomplished, highly talented author. I give it an enthusiastic and appreciative 5 stars and recommend it highly to lovers of epic fantasy. I’m moving directly into the next book in the series (A Trick of the Light, second of Wheldrake’s Toxandrian Chronicles). I’m eager for more excellent writing and another sweeping tale of adventure, destiny, love and sacrifice.
Note: Contrary to my usual practice, I’m not including the book’s cover with this review because the cover — beautiful as it is — tends to suggest that the story is a romance. The young woman pictured on the coveris indeed a romantic figure, and she serves as the pivot around which the story turns. The cast of characters, however, is large and varied, with many among them who lodged themselves deeply into my heart and my sympathies. I cared for them, and the story’s end brought tears to my eyes. This is not a happily-ever-after tale. Some of the characters never find happiness, and even those who enjoy years of blissful togetherness are eventually at the mercy of the fates. Do not, therefore, judge this book by its cover. It’s not the category romance that one might expect from casting a quick glance at the beautiful girl in the purple dress.
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.
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:
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!”
When I first looked into NetGalley (“We Help Books Succeed”) I thought it was beyond reach because of the budget-busting expense. But then I learned about these things called “NetGalley co-ops,” which are group ventures that bring the cost down considerably. Going through a co-op (I am using Victory Editing), a writer can put a book on NetGalley for $50 for one month and start sending out ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) to all sorts of industry professionals, including booksellers and librarians.
My listing for Waterspell: The Complete Series (Boxed Set: Books 1–4) is scheduled to run through April 29. In just the first two days of it being on NetGalley, I’ve received requests from more than 40 interested readers, including several booksellers, educators, and institutional as well as school librarians. These are people who would not have known my series even existed, if not for NetGalley.
This experiment has only just begun. Proof of its success (or failure) will lie in how many reviews my boxed set gets, and the quality of those reviews. At this early stage, however, I’m thinking that NetGalley, accessed via a co-op, is a good investment. At the very least, I’m getting exposure in a much larger arena than Bookstagram and Facebook—and my cover art for The Complete Series is getting all thumbs-up so far! Not a single negative vote has appeared yet, which validates my choice of a traditional two-dimensional cover instead of the 3-D “boxed set” graphics that many writers are using (to their detriment, in my opinion, since those 3-D images hide the pretty cover art and make the books’ boring spines prominent).
Another useful aspect of a NetGalley listing is the space it provides for a Marketing Plan. Forced to actually think about it, I came up with this:
The magic number of reviews is 50. That’s what I’m hoping for: a total of 50 reviews at Amazon for The Complete Series.
Past experience with Goodreads Giveaways suggests that only a fraction of the 100 individuals who won Kindle copies of the boxed set will actually post a review. I may be lucky to get 10 reviews from that giveaway.
Which means I’m pinning most of my hopes on the NetGalley reviewers. I’m appealing to you, you lovely librarians and booksellers: help me out with plentiful reviews. They don’t all have to be 5-star (though a girl can hope and dream, and extend oodles of humble gratitude to everyone who is so kind and generous).
As a little experiment to attract more readers to my website and my Instagram, I’m offering the Google Books edition of WATERSPELL: The Complete Series (Boxed Set: Books 1–4) at a 50% discount via Google Play. Through May 31, just click this link to redeem the discount code.
Upon publication of the boxed set on 21 April 2022, you’ll get all four books in the series (Warlock, Wysard, Wisewoman, and Witch) for $4.48 instead of the list price of $8.95. Such a deal!
I’m also running a Goodreads Giveaway for the Kindle boxed set. Click below for more details. (The Goodreads Giveaway ends on March 31, but the Google Books discount continues through May 31, 2022.)
Intense! The first four days of January 2022 were intense. I’ve been glued to the computer, shepherding Waterspell Book 4: The Witch into the catalogs of every major bookseller, and several less-famous stores, too.
It’s been extremely gratifying, seeing the book appear in store after store. There’s now a Universal Book Link (UBL) that takes readers to their preferred bookseller. Book 4 has a page at Goodreads now, too.
What’s next? I still need to flesh out the book’s detailed listing at Amazon, as soon as Author Central will let me. And I’m waiting on the printers to send me a proof of the paperback edition.
Once the Book 4 paperback is proofed and ready to print, I’ll begin the process of updating each of the earlier paperbacks with a repaginated interior. Printing and shipping costs being so high these days, I took the opportunity to make a handful of minor text edits to the existing paperbacks, while also repaginating them to slightly reduce the page count of each. It may not make a great difference in printing/shipping expenses, but the end-of-line hyphenation definitely looks better in the repaginated editions.
Also in the near future, I’ll be scheduling a new promotion at BookRaid. I’ve already got a one-day ad scheduled for The Fussy Librarian, for January 18.
Happily, though, Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock continues to rank quite high in its category at Amazon: #49 in Fantasy Adventure Fiction, #82 in Epic Fantasy, and #85 in Sword & Sorcery Fantasy. It’s building momentum, which I hope will carry readers through the entire series, drawing them in due course into the finale, Waterspell Book 4: The Witch.
Now, I think I’ve earned myself a nap. Followed by an online grocery-shop. I’ve been too busy to bother with mundane things like trips to the supermarket or the post office or the gas station. Book publishing takes tremendous amounts of time and effort! #ifyouknowyouknow
It’s nearly January! I’m champing at the bit, ready to start the New Year with my long list of new publishings and refreshed publishings:
1. NEW Waterspell Book 4, both ebook and print, becoming available for pre-orders in January. 2. REFRESHED Books 1-3, ebook and print editions, going up at Amazon, Google, Smashwords, Lightning Source, etc. 3. NEW Complete Series Boxed Set, Waterspell Books 1-4, available for pre-orders in March, I think. 4. NEW Complete Series Audiobook Boxed Set, to be published in Spring 2022.
If I was better at social media, I would know just how to tease the new Book 4 with a tantalizing and intriguing Cover Reveal. Even without that, though, I’m pretty pleased with the success of my marketing efforts for the series-starter, Book 1: The Warlock. It has made it onto an Amazon Best Seller list.
To feed my need to be doing something ahead of January, which will be a flurry of publishing activity, I’m using this week to make my lists and check them twice, ensuring that every file and graphic is in readiness for January 1. I seriously doubt I can wait any longer than that, to get Book 4 out there and then begin the painstaking process of refreshing the Original Trilogy, in every edition and format. I’m committed to publishing wide, but it does take organization and forethought to ensure completeness and consistency across multiple publishing platforms, booksellers, and databases:
Two months? Have I messed up the countdown? In November, you may recall, I was Four Months Out.
The fact is, things are going so well, I’ve moved up the release date by a full month. Waterspell Book 4 will be available for pre-orders not later than January 18, with the book to be officially released on February 18. Hallelujah!
The short little lines at the bottom of the above graph were the products of my ongoing advertising via BookBub, before I wised up and quit wasting my promotional dollars there. I have found BookBub to be overrated and WAY overpriced. Clicks there were costing me about 60 cents, whereas the cost-per-click ranges from under a penny to about 3 cents, max, at the other sites.
Ranked in order of their cost-effectiveness, based on my results:
The Fussy Librarian
BookBub is totally off my list now. I won’t bother with them again. Nor will I continue with Story Origin, which has also proven to be ineffective, for me anyway. Some people may have the time and interest to work through the complexities of Story Origin’s interface, but I think my time is better spent elsewhere. I’ll fulfill my obligation to support the December 2021 “Passing Through Portals” promotion sponsored by Story Origin, but I won’t continue with a $10 monthly account there.
That’s my monthly promotional report, shared for the benefit of any authors who might profit from my personal experiences with paid book advertising. Ads in selected (and selective) newsletters are working for me.
Social media? Not so much. My friends give me wonderful support at my personal Facebook profile, but my efforts to “go viral” via my public accounts (Bookstagram and Facebook author page) are generating only modest interest. As is this blog. But I have things to say, so I’ll keep posting!
Many thanks to all of the readers who have downloaded Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock, vaulting it onto the Amazon bestsellers lists! I am deeply grateful to you. ♥
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
“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
“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
“An extraordinary book, four in fact! I read these over a five-day period and found the storytelling fantastic. See for yourself!” —Michelle, NetGalley
“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
“I absolutely loved all four books! You kept your storyline throughout the four books brilliantly. The characters were all genuine and relatable.” —Carol, 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
“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
“A great read that features world building with drama and magical characters. Highly recommended.” —Neil, 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
“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
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.