Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: Contests and Giveaways

Cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our ongoing marketing series.


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In recent posts in the series Mari Christie and I are writing on marketing in the bazillion book marketplace, we’ve been talking about marketing plans. Posts have focused on audience and purpose. What do we want to achieve? Who do we need to reach? We’ve begun to talk channels. Where will we go to find our readers? But we don’t yet have a plan.

A marketing plan is our map for the journey to the destination ‘book sales’. But deciding you’re flying to the Caribbean for a holiday is only the first step in a travel plan. You need to do a lot more planning and take a heap of actions before you can drink cocktails under a beach umbrella. And a marketing plan is no different.

So we’re going to talk tools and tactics: the mechanisms you’ll use to get to your destination (the savings account, the airplane), and the actions you’ll take (put aside 2% of your pay packet, buy a ticket).

So watch for posts on various tools and tactics. This week: giveaways.

Promote your book by running a giveaway

Hosting creative giveaways can help draw attention to your book. But making sure they give you the results you want takes a bit of planning.

Keep it simple — but be clear about what you want to achieve

Do you want more subscribers to your newsletter? More followers on Twitter? More party-goers at your Facebook launch party? Design your giveaway questions to get the results you’re after. Be creative. You could ask those who enter to:

  • share a particular post
  • comment on a particular post
  • post a phot
  • post a caption to a photo
  • come up with a name for something in your next book: a character, pet, house, ship, town… or even book title
  • answer questions about what they enjoy in books.

Choose a prize people want — and that works for you

The better the reward, the more entries you’ll get. At the same time, you want entries from people who are interested in the type of book you write. A $50 Amazon card may be attractive, but it might also attract people who are only interested in the prize, not your book. Here’s a post Mari wrote on prizes.

Consider combining with other authors to make a bigger prize.

Use multiple forms of social media to promote

Different people focus on different types of social media, so make sure you promote your giveaway on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and wherever else you have a presence. Use the word ‘giveaway’ in the title and tell people about the prize.

Pay attention

During the giveaway, visit the posts and comment. Talk to those entering. Show an interest.

Finish gracefully

Announce your winner or winners as soon as practical after the giveaway is over. Send out the prizes straightaway. Thank all those who have participated.

Watch the legal stuff

A sweepstake is a promotion where the winner is chosen by a random drawing. A contest is a promotion where the winner is chosen on merit (by vote or a judging panel). You can safely call them both giveaways, but be careful not to call a sweepstake a contest.

You need to state the prize, the deadline, and the conditions of entry up front, and you can’t change those after you’ve started. You can’t charge a fee to enter and you must accept all valid entries.


10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJudy holds a Masters in Communication, and is accredited in public relations through the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand. As a writer and editor for a broad range of government and private-sector organizations, she has applied her clear writing skills to topics as diverse as insurance, climate change, income tax, genetics, finance, local government, and health.

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New Title Tuesday! Jude Knight – A Baron for Becky

On New Title Tuesday, you will find books that have been out for less than three months or will be released within two weeks in all different genres, with all sorts of authors. If you would like to be featured on NTT, use the contact form to let me know.


A Baron for Becky, Jude Knight
Genre: Regency romance
Release Date: August 5, 2015 (pre-order available)

BfB cover final smallBecky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

 

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

 

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

 

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

Heat: R for implied sexual content, 2 out of 5 flames

Buy Links
Amazon  |  Amazon UK  |  Amazon Aus  |  Barnes & Noble  |  iBooks  |  Kobo

What was the first thing you thought when you saw your published book the first time? 
My first book was a novella: Candle’s Christmas Chair. I put it out as an ebook in mid-December 2014, and what a thrill it was to see it on Amazon. I always intended to also publish it as a print book, using the CreateSpace print on demand service, but what with Christmas, finishing the novel I was writing, and the time post takes between the United States and New Zealand, the first print copies didn’t arrive on my doorstep until early February. I was torn between absolute elation (look, a real book!) and horror. The colour wasn’t at all as I’d envisaged it. Despite a career in publishing, I’d forgotten to change the colour settings to CMYK, and the maroon of the chair was dull and lifeless. Oops.

When did you first decide to call yourself a writer? What prompted the decision?
People who don’t know what to say to children often ask ‘and what do you want to be when you grown up?’ The best answer I’ve ever heard came from my son, who at four was clearly delighted to hear he had options. ‘A horse,’ he told his startled interlocutor.

If family legend is to be believed, my answer was far less imaginative. By the time I was seven, I had already made up my mind to be ‘a writer and a mother’. I’ve written ever since, and I have six children and twelve grandchildren. The two roles haven’t always been compatible; I found fiction writing absorbed me to the point I neglected my family, and I abandoned it to write advertising copy, investment statements, government reports, computer manuals and the like.

I always knew I’d come back to fiction. And now that I’ve started, I’m keep doing it while there’s a breath in my body.

What is your best advice for someone just starting their first manuscript? Halfway through? Just finished?
Write every day. Write whenever you have a few minutes. Keep writing. Don’t give up, and don’t despair. You can’t edit what you haven’t written.

Don’t expect your first draft to be the end. It’s just the beginning, and that’s okay. The theatre adage is that plays aren’t written, they’re rewritten, and it applies just as much to books.

Good critique partners, good beta readers, a good developmental editor; all of these will help you examine your draft with fresh eyes and tighten and improve it.

Take advice, but believe in yourself. It’s your book.

About the Author
10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJude Knight writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

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Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: Road to a Better Mousetrap, Part 3

Cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.


billboard-951520-mby Jude Knight

A few weeks ago, I posted the first part of an article about writing marketing plans. This was about knowing your reader. You need to know who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, and how much they will spend.

The second post talked about knowing your product and finding your readers.

In this post, we talk about how to keep your readers and how to get them to sell your books.

How not to become rich and famous

Writing books is no sure way to wealth and fame, as every writer knows. Wealth and fame, or even a modest income and privacy to write more, means selling books. Selling books eats into your emotional and creative energy: energy you could be pouring into your books.

But not selling books, for those of us without a private fortune or a rich spouse, means doing some other job to put food on the table, and the job eats into your time and very likely your emotional and creative energy.

You already know that finding buyers (other than your closest friends and relatives) means writing a good book, having it well edited, and giving it a gorgeous cover. Do these things and you’ll find a few buyers. A few.

Sales figures for ‘the average book’ are no more than a guesstimate, but a few brave people have made an attempt, basing their figures on reported sales from a variety of sources. And those figures come out somewhere in the region of 200 to 500 books in the first year, depending on genre, with an upper average of 1000 in the lifetime of the book.

Of course, a very tiny fraction of one percent of all books do spectacularly well, selling 10s, even 100s of thousands, which means the average of all of the rest is probably lower, closer to the 200.

That’s the average. And you wouldn’t be reading this article if you didn’t want to beat the odds.

Don’t find buyers; attract (and keep) fans

It’s a vicious cycle, but there is an answer. Find other people to sell your books for you. Convert your readers into followers, and your followers into raving fans.

We’ve discussed in other posts the need to interact with readers. This post gives three steps for making those interactions count. When you write your marketing plan, document how you intend to do these things.

  1. Make it easy for them to find you.
  2. Make it worthwhile for them to follow you
  3. Provide interesting stuff

Make it easy for them to find you

Sell your books where the bulk of your readers are. Whatever you might think of Amazon’s business model, learn how to make the most of the platform they offer. Tailor your keywords, the bio on your author page, and all the other tools they provide to get your book noticed. Do the same with other eretailers, too.

Your print audience is going to be smaller. I cannot give much advice on print. My books are available in print, but I haven’t been pushing the print copies because I only have a certain amount of energy.

Give away a free book—short stories, excerpts, or a novella. Before you can convert that reader, you first have to put a book in front of them. My novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was downloaded 53,000 times in its first six months. That’s 53,000 readers I have a chance at converting.

In your free book, as well as your books for sale, give your readers a reason to go looking for you and a way to connect with you as soon as they finish the story. On your next pages, put links to your social media and subscription services, teasers and excerpts for your other books, buy links for the books already on sale.

Make it worthwhile for them to follow you

Okay, you’ve given them a reason to click. Now give them a reason to subscribe, to buy, to join, and to follow.

Here are few that work well if you do them well.

Have a newsletter. Make it easy for people to sign up and give them interesting content. Reward them with coupons or insider information, and special contests. Keep your newsletters brief and informative, and don’t send them too often.

Have a blog. Blog about things that interest your target readers, and blog regularly. Use your blog to inform and entertain. Watch your blog stats to find out what posts do well and what topics people consistently ignore. Do more of the one and fewer of the other.

Post often. Themed days can help if you have trouble thinking of what to say. Visitors can help, and people love to be hosted on other people’s blogs. It’s a win-win; they reach your audience and you’re introduced to theirs. One idea is to invite other novelists to post a themed extract in comments. (A brilliant example of this is Exquisite Quills).

Encourage people to subscribe to your blog, so they get notified when you put up a new post. And post often. Visitors can help. Themed days can help.

Have a twitter account. Tweet about things that interest your readers. Reply to people’s comments. Tweet about interesting blog posts. Link to free books and excerpts.

Have a Facebook fan page and post stuff about your books, research you’ve done, places you’ve been, and your cat. Facebook loves cats. Ask questions. Join in conversations. Post interesting memes and idea.

Provide interesting stuff

Don’t be a digital billboard, constantly trying to sell something. Engage, inform, entertain, intrigue, delight. Put the effort into writing quality content, whatever you’re posting: hot men, useful recipes, research into royal mistresses, castles, cute cats, questions about romance tropes.

I’ve been trying to do all of these, though not as consistently as I’d like. Torn between the day job, the fiction writing, family commitments, and marketing, I lurch from too much focus to too little. Still, in the first three months after the release of Farewell to Kindness, I’ve sold over 900 copies. Not enough to retire on, but considerably over the odds.

In the next road to a better mousetrap post, tools and tactics?


10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJudy holds a Masters in Communication, and is accredited in public relations through the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand. As a writer and editor for a broad range of government and private-sector organizations, she has applied her clear writing skills to topics as diverse as insurance, climate change, income tax, genetics, finance, local government, and health.

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Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: Road to a Better Mousetrap, Part 2

Cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.


billboard-951520-mby Jude Knight

A few weeks ago, I posted the first part of an article about writing marketing plans.

Most of the first post was about knowing your reader. You need to know who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, and how much they will spend.

But they’re not going to come to you; you have to find a way to go to them. And before you do that, you need to know what you have to offer them.

Know your product

Ridiculous, right? You know your product. Who better? You’ve spent six months, or a year, or three years of your life on this book. So can you encapsulate its essence in a sentence? And does that sentence hook into the interests and passions of the readers you want to reach? If the first nine words of your sales statement does not capture people’s attention, then expect to be lost in the crowd.

Tagline
This sales statement is called a tagline, and it’s worth spending some time crafting it, because you can then use it everywhere – at the start of your description on eretailers websites, in newsletters, in requests for review, on twitter, at the start of Facebook posts, even on the cover of the book itself.

Here are some great taglines:

  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis: What does it take to survive aboard a spaceship fueled by lies?
  • The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney: Hush little students, don’t say a word…
  • After by Amy Efaw: You’ve done the unthinkable. What happens…after?
  • Wake by Lisa McMann: Your dreams are not your own.
  • Hold Still by Nina LaCour: How does your life move forward when all you want to do is hold still?
  • Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher: Bad boys and secrets are both hard to keep.
  • Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story.
  • Le Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess by Mari Christie: Kali Matai was destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful men. She hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn.

Keywords
Keywords are the next thing to think about. What words are your readers likely to search on. “Spies Napoleonic wars”? “Courtesan to wife”? “Tudor court politics”?

Amazon and Smashwords let you enter a number of keyword phrases, and carefully chosen keywords will help people using their sites to find your book if that’s what they’re looking for. But you can use them much more widely than this.

First, you can litter the keyword phrases in your online conversations about your books, thus increasing the number of times you’re picked up by search engines.

Second, you can use the keyword phrases to search for the people who are using them and the places they hang out. Which brings us to:

Go where your readers are

Writing books is a solitary task. We talk to one another about our craft and our day, but when it comes to putting words one after the other into a text that will one day be a book, we do it alone.

But to put those books into the hands of readers, we need to step out, often outside of our comfort zone, and hang out with people. Mari and I have posted elsewhere about marketing by not-marketing, and I’m not going to repeat that here, except to say I’m not talking about going out to make sales. I’m talking about going out to meet people and have conversations.

You cared enough about your “pirate-lord-succumbs-to-captive” story to spend endless hours writing, editing, and honing it. Perhaps you can ask people what they think of the concept behind it: the idea, perhaps, of arrogance faltering in the face of genuine love. Or you might have some insights to offer from your research into piracy at the time your novel is set. Or you might be able to combine with other writers who’ve explored the same trope to do some kind of a joint presentation.

We’re getting down to tactics, here, and that’s a whole other blog post. Suffice it to say that talking about your passion, the topic in which you’re an expert, shouldn’t be a chore. (And it should go without saying that, as in any conversation, it’s a great idea to listen twice as much as you speak.)

So get out there and hold conversations, whether you meet your readers online or in real life; on Facebook, Pinterest or Google Plus; at a book fair, a country show, or a signing tour.

In the next road to a better mousetrap post, who will sell your books for you?


10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJudy holds a Masters in Communication, and is accredited in public relations through the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand. As a writer and editor for a broad range of government and private-sector organizations, she has applied her clear writing skills to topics as diverse as insurance, climate change, income tax, genetics, finance, local government, and health.

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Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: Road to a Better Mousetrap, Part 1

Cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.


billboard-951520-mSo you’ve written a book. You’ve done all the right things. You’ve learned your craft. The book has been edited, copyedited, proofread. It has a marvelous cover.

Now all you have to do is stick it up on Amazon, and wait to grow rich?

Right?

If only it were that easy.

Those who fail to plan, plan to fail

You need a good book. You need persistence. You need a healthy dose of luck. Above all, you need a plan.

In this post (and the next) in the Bazillion Book Marketplace series, Mari and I are going to talk about what needs to be in a marketing plan for a book. (You might also want a marketing plan for Brand You, but that’s another post.)

To write a plan, you need to know who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, how much they’re prepared to pay, and where they expect to find it. (In marketing parlance, the 4 Ps–Product, Place, Price, and Promotion.)

This week’s post looks at your reader, your book, and your price. Next week, we’ll talk about where books are sold, where they are promoted, and what marketing materials you might need.

Know your reader

Your marketing plan should start with your reader. Can you describe your typical reader? Do you know how old they are? What sort of education they have? What they do when they’re not reading? What other genres they read?

Do you know what they like about the kind of book you write? What they don’t like? What will make them keep reading and what will cause them to shut the book and hurl it across the room?

What are their hobbies, interests, passions?

Where can you meet them (online or in person or both)?

The better you can describe your typical readers, the better you can put yourself (and your book) in front of them.

Know your book

No one knows your book better than you do, right? But can you capture the essence of your book in a couple of compelling sentences that grab that typical reader by the imagination and drag them to the bookstore?

In your marketing plan, describe what about your book will appeal to your reader, then write your compelling description–your story’s tagline (some call it a logline).

Know your price

What do your readers think they should pay for a book like yours? What are they prepared to pay? Do some research. Also think about the best price points to give you a good return. Pricing e-books is a contentious topic, and a post I wrote on this several weeks ago has been the most viewed and commented on more than any I’ve written since I started this blog.

Should you give one or more of your books away free (permanently or for a short period)? Should you put the book on a special price for a limited time? Will pricing low help you sell more books, or will it make them less valued? How does your genre affect your price? (For instance, novels are most often seen in the $2.99 – 3.99 price range, but self-help averages about $7.99.)

Next steps

Knowing who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, and how much they will spend is a good start. In our next post, we’ll talk about putting that knowledge to good use when deciding where and how to promote your book.


10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJudy holds a Masters in Communication, and is accredited in public relations through the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand. As a writer and editor for a broad range of government and private-sector organizations, she has applied her clear writing skills to topics as diverse as insurance, climate change, income tax, genetics, finance, local government, and health.

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Royal Regard meets Encouraging Prudence

Author’s note: In the virtual worlds of historical fiction, authors create whole societies of characters, interacting with real historical events and even real people. But each virtual world sits alone, never touching the worlds of other authors. Until now.


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“Lord Aldridge”

The year is 1801 in Fickleton Wells, Somerset.

The Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Duke of Haverford, is 21, just down from Oxford. Lord Nicholas Northope, second son of the Duke of Wellbridge has been, at 27, racketing about England unchecked a fair few years without much purpose. And the trajectories of both young lives are about to change.

“The Duke of Wellbridge”

“I don’t fancy hanging so much, myself.” Lord Nicholas Northope observes, rubbing his fingertips along his throat, the iron chains at his wrist clanking as he considered the length of his neck. “I always thought if Prinny ordered it, I’d be drawn and quartered or boiled in oil. I seem to bring out his bloodlust.”

Nick looks out the window. They have been imprisoned in an old Norman tower at the home of the local baron. Fortunately. With the entire town of Fickleton Wells on the rampage, the local gaol would not have been safe. Even from this place of relative safety, he can see angry townspeople keeping watch from beyond the gate.

The two young noblemen are sitting, cramped and freezing, in torn, grimy clothes, awaiting the Prince of Wales’ pleasure after rather an uproar in one of his royal townships. Wrist and ankle shackles clank at each gesture, chains long enough to allow considered movement, but short enough to impede them if they run.

Back to the wall on the cold stone floor, Lord Aldridge, the Merry Marquis, tosses out, casually, “I don’t qualify for silk myself, you know. I’m just using my father’s second title. Hemp for me, same as you,” Nick thinks Aldridge is taking rather a ghoulish interest in the possible mechanics of his death. “Though I did rather fancy Madame La Guillotine if I were ever put to death. There is something so divinely aristocratic about it.”

“It seems one can only play so many pranks on a monarch,” Nick opines, “before one’s neck is stretched.”

“It wasn’t our fault. Those women…” Aldridge shudders. “I can’t have swived more than three or four, surely? We only had them to ourselves for one evening, after all.”

“I can’t possibly have swived all of them. Though perhaps half… There were… how many? Fifteen? Surely not.”

“I don’t remember much after the dancing. They danced beautifully, didn’t they? The rector’s daughters?”

Both men fell into rather a trance for a few minutes, remembering the plump thighs and comely smiles of the rector’s twelve lovely, lonely daughters.

“Nick, we didn’t do anything… dishonorable… Did we? They won’t really hang us? And the prince—he wouldn’t… Hell, Nick, I played with his little brothers and sisters from the time I could toddle.”

Nick shrugged, “And I might have married Sophia. You will do best not to remind him you might have touched his younger sisters with the same hands you used to defile the rector’s daughters. In fact, Aldridge, speaking as a man six years older and wiser, you will not want to mention the princesses—or defiling—at all.”

He can’t keep his chained hands away from his neck.

“My head feels very fuzzy,” Aldridge complains. “Nick, how many hands am I holding up? And what is that elephant doing in the corner?”

“Prinny won’t be fooled by false deliria. I’ve tried it once already and he caught me out by calling a physician.”

Aldridge subsides, grumbling. “Is it not worth trying? And how very like you to steal a man’s alibi before he even has the chance to use it.”

Perhaps Aldridge has a point. “The gin did have rather a sharp taste, to be sure, though. Did you not think?”

Aldridge straightens, clearly prepared to synchronize their stories. “Yes, of course. Assuredly. Quite sharp indeed.”

Nick laughs and shakes his finger. “Do not lie to your sovereign, Aldridge, and if you must, never so poorly as that. The mayor, the rector, and the squire have truth on their side. There can be no doubt of our guilt. I did visit the squire’s wife, and you did enjoy the mayor’s younger sister, no matter what we might or might not remember about the rector’s daughters. We both knew the town was on the prince’s estate—is that not why we were there? To avoid our fathers’ holdings? No, my friend, we’ve been well and truly served up for His Royal Highness’s supper.”

Aldridge utters an expletive, and sinks his head in his hands.

A sound outside the tower room brings them both to their feet. A key turns in the lock.

The Duke of Haverford brushes past the burly guard who opens the door. “Out!” he barks.

Lord Nicholas Northope is no stranger to the ducal disposition and backs into a corner first thing, a tactical error he started making in childhood and has never outgrown. Aldridge, the son of this particular angry duke, stays at rigid attention, which does not avert the ducal fire.

“You miserable, self-indulgent, beef-witted nodcocks! What on earth possessed you? What were you thinking? Don’t answer that. You were not thinking!” Nick and Aldridge shrink, inch by inch, to the size of ten-year-olds. “Northope, I blame you for this mess. Show the boy the town, I said. Give him a good time. Keep him out of trouble. What the hell do you mean by it, eh?”

If Aldridge thinks Nick will step forward to do the honorable thing and admit his part, he has lost his bloody mind.

“Aldridge,” the duke barks as his heir begins to edge to one side. “Stand, boy. I’ll get to you.” The last is uttered in a low steady monotone.

Nick sinks ever-deeper into the corner he should have abandoned when he had the chance.

“Listen to me, and listen well, you buffle-brained nincompoops. You have been banned from Fickleton Wells! Banned! The sons of two of the greatest men in the Commonwealth banned from an English town. How on earth did this happen?”

Nick clears his throat and still manages to squeak, “Patent medicine, Sir, I swear it!” He shoulders his way out of the corner, determined to give his lies confidence. “In the… in the gin… we were… we were poisoned! The brandy, too, I’ll wager. Lucky to be alive… Surely cannot be held responsible for…”

“Rubbish, Northope. Rubbish! I’ll tell you how it happened. You let a pack of women lead you by your willies. Yes, you did. Your father and I have talked to them. And paid them off, the bitches. Because…” he walks right up and taps Nick’s chest as he makes his point. “You. Let. Them. Fool. You.”

Nick’s hand runs around his neck again.

“Your Grace,” Aldridge has suddenly realized that they wouldn’t be banned if they were to be hanged. This has given him an altogether overly optimistic sense of confidence. “They say they are pregnant, Your Grace.” Haverford’s head swivels dangerously in Aldridge’s direction. “It can’t be us, Your Grace. It’s only been a week since we arrived, and surely, virile as we are, we cannot each have impregnated a dozen women in a week? Surely, not even Your Grace could—”

Nick suddenly realizes the benefit of being six years wiser.

Haverford turns all his attention on his son and heir, and Aldridge’s confidence shrinks to a needle point.

“They claim you have been visiting them for months,” Haverford explains, his suddenly gentle tones a sure sign that Aldridge is about to be very, very sorry. And then even sorrier than that.

While Aldridge tries to duck out of sight, Nick moves to a position well away from any more corners. He is a grown man, for heaven’s sake. And there are plenty of places to stand.

“I haven’t finished with you, Northope.”

“Months?” Nick responds, shaking his head, straightening his cuffs. “You’ve been coming here months, Aldridge?”

“Not I, Your Grace. It’s a lie.” Aldridge squeaks.

“I, on the other hand,” Nick offers, “just came to Fickleton Wells for a prize fight. At least that is why your son told me he was bringing me here. If he had another purpose… well… I cannot speak to that…”

Haverford casts his eyes to heaven. “No honor among thieves or scoundrels. Did the Duke of Wellbridge’s wife play him false with the village idiot? Aldridge, if your mother weren’t a saint I would swear you couldn’t be mine.”

Aldridge is casting Nick a look of deep betrayal. “Nick, how could you?”

Nick relents. There is no need to leave all the blame on Aldridge. “Admittedly, Your Grace, we had a bit more gin than two gentlemen should… But I would swear Aldridge and I were both unknown to them. And the gin had quite a sharp taste, rather like… patent medicine. I can’t help but think they are lying.”

“Of course they are lying.” Haverford throws up his hands in despair. “And of course they set out to trap you. And of course they drugged you. And of course you would drink anything put in front of you! Do you think I’m as big a fool as the two of you? But they have the whole town believing them, and the prince half believes them, too.”

“The prince,” Nick gulps. “What is Wales going to do to us?”

Haverford ignores him to continue his version of a fatherly sermon. “I have told you before, Aldridge. And you should listen, too, Northope. Never, ever, indulge yourself with the lower gentry or the middle sort. Servants, yes. Farmers’ wives and such. But never with people who can embarrass me… you. Keep a mistress. Keep ten; your allowance is large enough. Just don’t let your mother know, and stay away from the middle sort. One of our own, if you must, and if she has done her duty by her Lord. But never the middle sort. You have embarrassed me. You have embarrassed Wellbridge. And you have embarrassed the Prince of Wales.”

“On the topic of, er… Wellbridge… Sir?” Nick’s tentative voice demonstrated not an ounce of the Eton/Oxford poise he was so fond of displaying. “Did my, er… father… say what he would do? And Wales? What has he decided?”

“If it were up to me, and if Aldridge weren’t—God help the Haverford name—my heir, you’d both hang. But Prinny is inclined to be generous. I have no idea why.” He fixes Aldridge with another glare. “Your mother may have spoken to him.”

That brought up a very good point.

“Sir, Your Grace,” Nick asks, “might it be possible to bring this up with the Duchess of Wellbridge, not the duke?”

“There will be no discussion of anything with you, Northope. The king discussed it with Prinny, who discussed it with me and Wellbridge; we discussed it with your mothers, and the petty provincials in Fickleton Wells discussed it the length and breadth of England! You are asked not to find yourselves in the royal presence until such time as you are requested. You are further banned, until the general sense of noble fury is abated, from all of Prinny’s estates, his father’s, your father’s, and mine.

“Which. Will. Not. Be. Difficult.” Haverford’s finger drives the point home, “as you are both leaving England. Northope, your father has booked passage and suggests your long-delayed Grand Tour commence immediately on conclusion of this interview. Aldridge will be going to my estate in Outer Strathclyde, to study the wool trade. It is time he took a hand in estate business.”

“But Your Grace, isn’t Outer Strathclyde… didn’t you complain that you can’t seem to keep anyone there under the age of sixty?”

“Outer Strathclyde,” Nick snickers.

Aldridge looks hunted. “Outer Strathclyde,” he whimpers.

“Live to a ripe old age, they do in those parts. Something to do with the fine crisp air. Of course, all the young people have long since gone. But you could learn a lot there, Aldridge.”

“But Your Grace. You said you would never go there because you couldn’t get a woman to…” Aldridge’s voice trails off. Nick thinks he would have been better not to have opened his mouth.

Haverford, though, just smirks. “Precisely. And so the estate is neglected. But now I have no need to go. My ungrateful son—who could clearly do with fewer women—will represent me instead. And you, Northope…”

Nick knows exactly where he will be going, and if he can go without the ducal blessing, so much the better.

“Hanover, I presume?” he shrugs.

Nick has been recently considering a visit to his old friend, Adolphus, the viceroy, and Prinny will have no objection to Nick causing trouble in his brother’s viceregal Court. Northope second sons have a tradition of travel; it is how the French and Italian titles were acquired, and Nick will be more than delighted to continue the custom. Unexpected, given his brother’s infirmity, but not at all unwelcome. He does hope his father allows him a valet and enough money to eat well.

“Aldridge, you will not disappoint me,” Haverford’s mere tone of voice is a threat to both men… er, boys, who thus comply with the two burly servants come to escort the young lords to their respective transports.

“This is so unfair,” Aldridge hisses to Nick as they are separated. “You are being given the freedom of the globe, while I am being sent into celibate exile in a community of geriatric woollen weavers.”

Nick cannot help but grin. Aldridge is bearing the real punishment for their prank, and Nick is being rewarded with a merry jaunt across the Continent and no way for his father to object to it.

“I’ll remember this day, Northope,” Aldridge calls, as his keepers escort him away. “And I vow my exile will be a short one.”

Nick vows his might last forever.

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Royal Regard meets Encouraging Prudence – Part 3 of 4

Author’s note: In the virtual worlds of historical fiction, authors create whole societies of characters, interacting with real historical events and even real people. But each virtual world sits alone, never touching the worlds of other authors. Until now.

11025188_432122276937344_5770461272420998884_nThe Bluestocking Belles, as part of the launch of our new website for historical romance readers, created a magical coaching inn—fittingly called ‘The Crock and Bull’—a place for characters to meet from all of our books’ worlds and those of our guests.

Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight soon discovered that two of their characters knew one another well. Rather too well, according to all who knew them as young men.

During the course of the party, the Duke of Wellbridge and the Marquis of Aldridge have referred on several occasions to an incident that saw them banned from an entire town, from the Prince of Wales’ presence, and even—for a time—from England. Until now, even the Duchess of Wellbridge hasn’t known the whole truth.

What was that mysterious event? How do Aldridge and Wellbridge know each other? Why has it been so long since they’ve spoken? Are they still keeping secrets?

Now, exclusively for readers of our blogs, Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight have co-written a small bit of backstory shared by a young Lord Nicholas Northope (from Royal Regard) and his protégé in crime, the Merry Marquis of Aldridge (who first appears in Jude Knight’s work-in-progress, Encouraging Prudence).

We will share sections of this scandalous story the week of March 8-13, leading up to the Bluestocking Ball on March 14.


10959826_424216954394543_9016208317182697592_n

“Lord Aldridge”

The year is 1801 in Fickleton Wells, Somerset.

The Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Duke of Haverford, is 21, just down from Oxford. Lord Nicholas Northope, second son of the Duke of Wellbridge has been, at 27, racketing about England unchecked a fair few years without much purpose. And the trajectories of both young lives are about to change.

“The Duke of Wellbridge”

PART 3

Haverford turns all his attention on his son and heir, and Aldridge’s confidence shrinks to a needle point.

“They claim you have been visiting them for months,” Haverford explains, his suddenly gentle tones a sure sign that Aldridge is about to be very, very sorry. And then even sorrier than that.

While Aldridge tries to duck out of sight, Nick moves to a position well away from any more corners. He is a grown man, for heaven’s sake. And there are plenty of places to stand.

“I haven’t finished with you, Northope.”

“Months?” Nick responds, shaking his head, straightening his cuffs. “You’ve been coming here months, Aldridge?”

“Not I, Your Grace. It’s a lie.” Aldridge squeaks.

“I, on the other hand,” Nick offers, “just came to Fickleton Wells for a prize fight. At least that is why your son told me he was bringing me here. If he had another purpose… well… I cannot speak to that…”

Haverford casts his eyes to heaven. “No honor among thieves or scoundrels. Did the Duke of Wellbridge’s wife play him false with the village idiot? Aldridge, if your mother weren’t a saint I would swear you couldn’t be mine.”

Aldridge is casting Nick a look of deep betrayal. “Nick, how could you?”

Nick relents. There is no need to leave all the blame on Aldridge. “Admittedly, Your Grace, we had a bit more gin than two gentlemen should… But I would swear Aldridge and I were both unknown to them. And the gin had quite a sharp taste, rather like… patent medicine. I can’t help but think they are lying.”

“Of course they are lying.” Haverford throws up his hands in despair. “And of course they set out to trap you. And of course they drugged you. And of course you would drink anything put in front of you! Do you think I’m as big a fool as the two of you? But they have the whole town believing them, and the prince half believes them too.”

“The prince,” Nick gulps. “What is Wales going to do to us?”

Haverford ignores him to continue his version of a fatherly sermon. “I have told you before, Aldridge. And you should listen, too, Northope. Never, ever, indulge yourself with the lower gentry or the middle sort. Servants, yes. Farmers’ wives and such. But never with people who can embarrass me… you. Keep a mistress. Keep ten; your allowance is large enough. Just don’t let your mother know, and stay away from the middle sort. One of our own, if you must, and if she has done her duty by her Lord. But never the middle sort. You have embarrassed me. You have embarrassed Wellbridge. And you have embarrassed the Prince of Wales.”


To find out whether Aldridge will be blamed for twelve (or is it fifteen) pregnancies, come back here or go to Jude Knight’s blog March 13, 2015 for the conclusion to the story.

To attend the Bluestocking Ball with Aldridge, Nick (who is now, himself, the Duke of Wellbridge, at the wise old age of fifty), and dozens of other historical romance characters, go to the Bluestocking Belles’ Housewarming Party, March 14, 12 noon – 8 pm EDT.

Facebook Housewarming Party (The Bluestocking Ball)
Twitter Chat: Follow @BellesInBlue #BellesInBlue
Web Chat on the Bluestocking Belles Website

Royal Regard meets Encouraging Prudence – Part 1 of 4

Author’s note: In the virtual worlds of historical fiction, authors create whole societies of characters, interacting with real historical events and even real people. But each virtual world sits alone, never touching the worlds of other authors. Until now.

11025188_432122276937344_5770461272420998884_nThe Bluestocking Belles, as part of the launch of our new website for historical romance readers, created a magical coaching inn—fittingly called ‘The Crock and Bull’—a place for characters to meet from all of our books’ worlds and those of our guests.

Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight soon discovered that two of their characters knew one another well. Rather too well, according to all who knew them as young men.

During the course of the party, the Duke of Wellbridge and the Marquis of Aldridge have referred on several occasions to an incident that saw them banned from an entire town, from the Prince of Wales’ presence, and even—for a time—from England. Until now, even the Duchess of Wellbridge hasn’t known the whole truth.

What was that mysterious event? How do Aldridge and Wellbridge know each other? Why has it been so long since they’ve spoken? Are they still keeping secrets?

Now, exclusively for readers of our blogs, Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight have co-written a small bit of backstory shared by a young Lord Nicholas Northope (from Royal Regard) and his protégé in crime, the Merry Marquis of Aldridge (who first appears in Jude Knight’s work-in-progress, Encouraging Prudence).

We will share sections of this scandalous story the week of March 8-13, leading up to the Bluestocking Ball on March 14.


10959826_424216954394543_9016208317182697592_n

“Lord Aldridge”

The year is 1801 in Fickleton Wells, Somerset.

The Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Duke of Haverford, is 21, just down from Oxford. Lord Nicholas Northope, second son of the Duke of Wellbridge has been, at 27, racketing about England unchecked a fair few years without much purpose. And the trajectories of both young lives are about to change.

“The Duke of Wellbridge”

PART 1

“I don’t fancy hanging so much, myself.” Lord Nicholas Northope observes, rubbing his fingertips along his throat, the iron chains at his wrist clanking as he considered the length of his neck. “I always thought if Prinny ordered it, I’d be drawn and quartered or boiled in oil. I seem to bring out his bloodlust.”

Nick looks out the window. They have been imprisoned in an old Norman tower at the home of the local baron. Fortunately. With the entire town of Fickleton Wells on the rampage, the local gaol would not have been safe. Even from this place of relative safety, he can see angry townspeople keeping watch from beyond the gate.

The two young noblemen are sitting, cramped and freezing, in torn, grimy clothes, awaiting the Prince of Wales’ pleasure after rather an uproar in one of his royal townships. Wrist and ankle shackles clank at each gesture, chains long enough to allow considered movement, but short enough to impede them if they run.

Back to the wall on the cold stone floor, Lord Aldridge, the Merry Marquis, tosses out, casually, “I don’t qualify for silk myself, you know. I’m just using my father’s second title. Hemp for me, same as you,” Nick thinks Aldridge is taking rather a ghoulish interest in the possible mechanics of his death. “Though I did rather fancy Madame La Guillotine if I were ever put to death. There is something so divinely aristocratic about it.”

“It seems one can only play so many pranks on a monarch,” Nick opines, “before one’s neck is stretched.”

“It wasn’t our fault. Those women…” Aldridge shudders. “I can’t have swived more than three or four, surely? We only had them to ourselves for one evening, after all.”

“I can’t possibly have swived all of them. Though perhaps half… There were… how many? Fifteen? Surely not.”

“I don’t remember much after the dancing. They danced beautifully, didn’t they? The rector’s daughters?”

Both men fell into rather a trance for a few minutes, remembering the plump thighs and comely smiles of the rector’s twelve lovely, lonely daughters.

“Nick, we didn’t do anything… dishonorable… Did we? They won’t really hang us? And the prince—he wouldn’t… Hell, Nick, I played with his little brothers and sisters from the time I could toddle.”

Nick shrugged, “And I might have married Sophia. You will do best not to remind him you might have touched his younger sisters with the same hands you used to defile the rector’s daughters. In fact, Aldridge, speaking as a man six years older and wiser, you will not want to mention the princesses—or defiling—at all.”

He can’t keep his chained hands away from his neck.

“My head feels very fuzzy,” Aldridge complains. “Nick, how many hands am I holding up? And what is that elephant doing in the corner?”

“Prinny won’t be fooled by false deliria. I’ve tried it once already and he caught me out by calling a physician.”

Aldridge subsides, grumbling. “Is it not worth trying? And how very like you to steal a man’s alibi before he even has the chance to use it.”

Perhaps Aldridge has a point. “The gin did have rather a sharp taste, to be sure, though. Did you not think?”

Aldridge straightens, clearly prepared to synchronize their stories. “Yes, of course. Assuredly. Quite sharp indeed.”

Nick laughs and shakes his finger. “Do not lie to your sovereign, Aldridge, and if you must, never so poorly as that. The mayor, the rector, and the squire have truth on their side. There can be no doubt of our guilt. I did visit the squire’s wife, and you did enjoy the mayor’s younger sister, no matter what we might or might not remember about the rector’s daughters. We both knew the town was on the prince’s estate—is that not why we were there? To avoid our fathers’ holdings? No, my friend, we’ve been well and truly served up for His Royal Highness’s supper.”

Aldridge utters an expletive, and sinks his head in his hands.


To find out whether Prinny has them served broiled, fried, or fricasseed, go to Jude Knight’s blog tomorrow, March 10, 2015.

To attend the Bluestocking Ball with Aldridge, Nick (who is now, himself, the Duke of Wellbridge, at the wise old age of fifty), and dozens of other historical romance characters, go to the Bluestocking Belles’ Housewarming Party, March 14, 12 noon – 8 pm EDT.

Facebook Housewarming Party (The Bluestocking Ball)
Twitter Chat: Follow @BellesInBlue #BellesInBlue
Web Chat on the Bluestocking Belles Website

New Title Tuesday! Jude Knight – Candle’s Christmas Chair

On New Title Tuesday, you will find books that have been out for less than three months, in all different genres, with all sorts of authors. If you would like to be featured on NTT, use the contact form to let me know.


Candle’s Christmas Chair, by Jude Knight
Genre: Georgian Romance – FREE EBOOK

BookcoverCCC2When Viscount Avery comes to see the best invalid chair maker in the southwest of England he does not expect to find Minerva Bradshaw, the woman who rejected him three years earlier. Or did she? Older and wiser, he wonders if there is more to the story. For three years, Min Bradshaw has remembered the handsome guardsman who courted her for her fortune. She didn’t expect to see him in her workshop, and she certainly doesn’t intend to let him fool her again. Even if he is handsomer and more charming than ever.

Download for free at:
Smashwords
Barnes and Noble
Scribd

What was the first thing you thought when you saw your published book the first time? 
I was super excited. I’ve thought about this and planned it for so long, it was hard to believe this wasn’t another day dream. When it appeared in the Smashwords bookstore, I downloaded both the ePub and the Kindle version, and sat and looked at them on my iPad. I absolutely love the cover, and I kept going back to the bookstore to compare Candle to the other covers and feel smug.

When did you first decide to call yourself a writer? What prompted the decision?
I was seven. That’s the age people ask you ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I wasn’t as creative (or as literal) as our son, who answered the same question with ‘a horse’. I said: ‘a writer and a mother’. I found careers advice for our children very difficult, because I’ve never had any doubts about what work I should do. And I’ve been lucky enough to do it. Though I’ve been away from fiction for a long time, I’ve loved the writing I’ve done. And now I’m loving life in the early 19th Century, and the people I’m meeting there.

What is your best advice for someone just starting their first manuscript? Halfway through? Just finished?
If you’re starting your first manuscript, write every day. Set yourself a daily word count and be fanatical about meeting it. If your target is only 100 words a day, at the end of a year you will have 35,600 words.

If you’re halfway through, don’t stop. If things aren’t working, are you trying to tell the wrong story or to force your characters somewhere that doesn’t fit their characters? If your story is boring you, what can you do to make it interesting?

If you’ve just finished, you’ve just begun. Reread and be critical. Look for continuity slipups, awkward changes in point of view, and boring bits that you wrote just to get to the next part of the story. If it really doesn’t work, can you fix it? If it works, or when it works, get other people to read it. I love my beta readers. They see problems I didn’t notice, and give me time to fix them!

If you can’t fix it, put it in a bottom drawer and start on the next project. My drawer is full of finished and unfinished pieces. I may dust them off one day and try again. Meanwhile, I learnt a lot from writing them.

Above all, read. Read widely, and read critically.

About the Author
i-JfvBhZR-LJude Knight has been a commercial writer and editor for most of her working life. Candle’s Christmas Chair is her first published fiction in over 30 years. She has a novel with beta readers and two more in various stages of writing, all slated for publication in 2015.

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