<![CDATA[SKYE MACKINNON - News]]>Sat, 04 Jul 2020 16:46:12 +0000Weebly<![CDATA[Top 6 Ways for Authors to Reach International Readers]]>Mon, 29 Jun 2020 01:25:17 GMThttp://skyemackinnon.com/news/top-6-ways-for-authors-to-reach-international-readers
Authors are always on the hunt to find more readers, but to do so, we sometimes have to look beyond the end of our own nose and expand our horizon. While there are many ways to discover those elusive readers who've just been waiting to read your book, one of the most important aspects of being an indie author is to think global. Ebooks enable us to reach people from all over the world, so we need to make sure that we're ready for those international readers.

First of all, “international” is relative. For me as a Scottish author, it means every country besides the UK. For an author in Australia, it will be every country and continent except for Australia.

Your aim as an author should be to target all readers, no matter where they are. It may seem harder to reach audiences who aren’t in your own country, but with a few simple methods, you’ll be able to increase your international readership.

1. Use universal links

Universal links, you say, aren’t they just for people who’re wide? I only sell on Amazon, I don’t need them.
As someone living in the UK, this attitude is a particular pet peeve of mine. Many authors only post Amazon.com links when they recommend their books. When I follow that link, I can’t just click the ‘buy’ button to get the book. When I’m at my laptop, it’s fairly easy, there’s a redirect option and the the Amazon UK page is just one more click away. If I’m using my phone, however, it’s an entirely different matter. The only way I can then get your book is change the URL from amazon.com/yourbook to amazon.co.uk/yourbook or open the Amazon app (or open Amazon.co.uk in a new tab) to search for your book. Both of that uses time. If I wasn’t quite sure whether I’d like your book or not, I might not go through all that effort and forget about it.
To the rescue, universal links. They transport readers right where they want to go: their own local storefront where they can one-click your book.
I personally use Books2read because it works for all ebook retailers as well as audiobook shops, plus it’s free and easy to use, but there are many other options, both specifically designed ones for authors like Booklinker (Amazon only) or generic URL redirect services (make sure they have a geographic redirect option).

By the way, it’s only Amazon that gives you this much trouble. Kobo, iTunes and Google Play all redirect to your own country’s storefront.
2. Adjust your prices

£3.62 doesn’t look very pretty, does it. Research into psychological pricing tells us that buyers prefer prices that end in .99, although customers in some countries are also okay with .49.
One study conducted by the University of Chicago and the MIT gave a group of women the choice of buying an item of clothing at either $34, $39 or $44. Even though $34 was the cheapest, most sales happened at $39. Nine is the magic number, so use it!

If that didn’t convince you, take a look at this Gumroad blog post showing that the conversion rate of $1.99 items on their website is twice as high as $2.

All retailers allow you to adjust individual countries’ prices. I know some authors want to make it as fair as possible to international readers by relying on the retailer’s exchange rate – but as a consumer, have you ever gone and compared how much a book costs in other countries? I highly doubt it. British readers won’t care what Canadian readers pay for the same book. What counts is that the price they see on the product page looks enticing.
3. Think of time zones

Imagine your best friends meeting every time you are at work (or putting your children to bed or having your daily tantric massage) so you can’t join them. Not very pleasant feeling, right? Fear of missing out, FOMO, is very real and very unpleasant.
If you have a social media presence, think about your audiences worldwide when you decide at what time to post. This is not to say that you always need to post in the middle of the night, but to be a little conscientious of where your followers are from. If you organise a group takeover, for example, make sure that at least some of the slots will be suitable for people from the other side of the world, and ensure that giveaways stay open for at least 24 hours to enable everyone to see the post and take part.
On Facebook, you can use the inbuilt scheduling function, while for other platforms like Twitter and Instagram you can use a scheduling app like Hootsuite.
4. Make prizes and offers available to all readers

“This giveaway is open to US readers only.”
As a reader, this would make me immediately turn away from an author, or at least leave a bad taste in my mouth that could develop into something more if this happened again and again. It feels like discrimination, like the author doesn’t value their international readers.

Yes, it’s not easy to send books and swag abroad. It’s expensive and a lot of work. But there are other options. If you don’t want to send a signed book, order the book in their country and send them a bookplate with your signature. If you want to send swag, upload your design to sites like Redbubble or Zazzle and order it from there – they ship to most countries in the world.

(Take a look at the cute space octopus face masks I’ve been using for swag!)

Gift cards are a little trickier. While Amazon and Kobo let you buy gift cards in other countries, Apple and Google Play don’t. Barnes & Noble is only available in the US, so not very suited for using in international giveaways.

Gifting books via Amazon or Google Play is only available in your own country, but you can use Bookfunnel or similar tools to gift books to readers abroad. If you publish directly with Apple, you can request review codes for your books which you can share with readers worldwide. On Google Play, you can send books to readers with their slightly hidden at the very bottom of your book’s Content section on your Dashboard.

If your prize really can’t be changed, offer an alternative prize of equal value if the winner is from another country.
Google Play Dashboard
5. Avoid brand names

Before using a brand name in your writing, think whether international readers will know what you’re talking about.
If I mentioned my kilted Highlander snacking on Tunnock’s Tea Cakes, will all readers know what that is? Very unlikely (although everyone should try Tunnock’s at least once in their life). I can either replace it with a generic ‘I ate a chocolate-covered marshmallow treat’ or I can use the brand name but then describe it.
I nibbled on a Tunnock’s Tea Cake, enjoying the crunch of the biscuit while relishing the velvety softness of the marshmallow and the slowly melting chocolate coating my tongue.
There you go, now you kind of know what it is, at least the main ingredients.

If you’re in doubt whether your international readers will be familiar with a specific brand, ask them. Readers love being asked for advice and feedback.
6. Go wide

You will have noticed that I’ve mentioned not just Amazon, but many other retailers in this blog post. This is because I’m wide (= available at many retailers, not exclusive with just one) with all my books and passionate about it. Amazon may have the biggest market share in most countries, but it’s not as dramatic everywhere else as it is in the US (depending on what statistic you use, Amazon seems to rule up to 85% of the US ebook market).

Being wide with your books will help you reach new audiences and diversify your readership. When I started publishing in 2017, I was in Kindle Unlimited and about 77% of my sales came from the US. The year I went wide, this sunk to 66% (but total sales increased). Last year, it was 63%, but if you add audiobook and print sales, it’s likely even lower.
That’s not to say that I don’t want US readers, not at all. I want them and others. My aim is to be as inclusive as possible, reaching readers worldwide. Again, that’s where being wide comes in.

If you’re exclusive to Amazon, it’s likely because you’re in Kindle Unlimited and that you earn most of your royalties from page reads. KU is available to readers in the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, India, China, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and Australia – a lot of countries, but some English-speaking countries like New Zealand and South Africa are missing.

Kobo is great for reaching readers primarily in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but I have sales from all over the world there. They offer a (non-exclusive) subscription model in Belgium and the Netherlands, with plans to extend that to other countries soon.
My Kobo sales in the first half of 2020 by country
Tolino dominates up to 40% of the German ebook market (figures vary a lot on that) – and I sell a surprising amount of books in Germany, even though my first translations are not yet live - while distributors like Draft2Digital and Publishdrive let you reach smaller retailers and new markets like China.
A few other random bonus tips and tricks that have helped me in the past:
  • If you write in a particular English dialect, say so at the beginning of the book. Before I did that, I sometimes got reviews claiming my book was full of errors (which it wasn't). Once I added a note that I’m writing in British English and therefore use words like ‘colour’ rather than ‘color’, those reviews immediately stopped. On that note, tell your beta readers about it too! I once had a beta reader who didn’t know about the differences in AE/BE and I ended up with a very red document, which was a waste of time for both of us.
  • If you use a lot of local terms, add a glossary.
  • Use beta readers from different countries to point out differences – I have readers from the US, the UK and Australia on my team, which means someone will always notice if I use a phrase or word that they’re not familiar with because it’s too British. I can then either change it, explain it or add it to a glossary.
The glossary in Winter Princess
  • If you work with authors, designers, editors etc abroad, don’t use Paypal to pay or receive money, their fees are way too high. I always try and use Transferwise (referral link), which not only has much lower fees but also gives you the option to open virtual bank accounts in several countries. I get my Amazon US royalties paid to my US Transferwise account, which I then use to pay for author services, plus I can wait for the exchange rate to be at an optimal level before converting the USD to GBP. Their Mastercard also came in very handy when I was at a book signing in Australia earlier that year, I simply opened an Australian account and bingo, no fees when paying in shops, restaurants etc.

I hope this wee guide has been helpful. Let me know in the comments what your experience has been and if you have any tips on how to reach international readers!
<![CDATA[A Book Makeover]]>Sat, 13 Jun 2020 15:31:08 GMThttp://skyemackinnon.com/news/a-book-makeoverI've given my Defiance series a bit of a makeover - new covers as well as new titles. I'd planned to do this for some time, but a wee spout of writer's block gave me the opportunity to finally do so.
Abandoned Heart is now Frozen Heart, Broken Princess has turned into Broken Spirit and Beloved Heart has changed to Loving Heart. Funnily enough, the only book that kept its title is the one not published yet
The new covers/titles have been changed everywhere except for Audible - that one might take a while yet, it's a lot more complicated than I thought. However, the audiobooks are now available at other retailers too, including Kobo, Nook and Google Play, as well as at libraries.
Discover the Defiance Series
<![CDATA[New audiobook: Meow]]>Fri, 10 Apr 2020 23:19:33 GMThttp://skyemackinnon.com/news/new-audiobook-meowThe first book in the Catnip Assassins urban fantasy series is now available as audiobook! Dive into a gritty world full of murders, mysteries and cats, brought to life by the very talented narrator Melody Muzljakovich.
Assassin. Private Investigator. Cat shifter.

Kat is used to killing people, but for a blank cheque, she's willing to do the opposite and help solve a murder - even though it sounds boring as hell. That is, until she finds some body parts in her fridge, makes friends with the neighborhood cats and realises there may be an assassin better than her....

Suddenly, things have become purrfectly exciting.

An urban fantasy full of cats, secrets, and murders. This is a slow-burn reverse harem where Kat will find her love interests over time. Book one in the Catnip Assassins series.

Now available at Audible, Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, Nook and many others!
get your copy
<![CDATA[Kickass Heroines: A StoryBundle]]>Fri, 06 Mar 2020 20:00:00 GMThttp://skyemackinnon.com/news/kickass-heroines-a-storybundleGuest post by Melissa Snark
What does it take to qualify as a kickass heroine? Tough question. Curating this bundle has taken me on a journey of discovery into nuances—everyone has their own definition. Often while talking to a prospective author, they would say, "I'm not sure my heroine kicks ass, BUT…"

She does in her own way.

Every woman is the heroine of her own heroic journey, and that doesn't always mean what we might assume. Heroism is about helping others; acts of heroism can be great or small. I would like to give a shout-out to the real-life heroine-volunteers of Knitted Knockers who make special handmade breast prostheses for women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures. A portion of the proceeds of this bundle will go to benefit the Knitted Knockers charity.

So back to the question… What turns a female lead character into a kickass heroine? TV Tropes characterizes Action Girl as "a female badass who is tough and kicks butt." (This definition must have been written by a man.) If you're a feminist (men and women and all others inclusive), right now you're making a sour pucker mouth. Fans want more. Kickass heroines are not just girls. While we can be girls, we are women of all ages and ethnicities and origins who have endured hardships and adversity. We want strong and diverse women protagonists that embody admirable traits.

Kickass heroines are smart.

They achieve their goals through intelligence and education. In Ann Gimpel's Feral Ice, Dr. Erin Ryan is a doctor and biochemist at a floating research station in Antarctica. Stephanie Burgis's heroine in Thornbound is the first female magician and the founder of a school for girls. The steampunk heroines of Shelley Adina's and Gail Carriger's books solve their problems with smarts and savvy. Having praised intellect, my personal favorite heroines tend to be more action oriented.

Kickass heroines are tough.

I love heroines who are literally capable of kicking ass and taking names. That scene in Aliens when Ripley declares, "I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."
I get chills. Every. Single. Time.
My gender-swapped Captain Hook is a hardened buccaneer and brilliant naval commander. Thankfully, my pirate captain is in good company. Pauline Baird Jones has heroines who are a professional solider and an interstellar spy in turn. Nicole Zoltack delivers a detective champion with a badge and you can bet that Skye MacKinnon's panther-shifter has wicked sharp claws.

Kickass heroines are clever.

Wait. What about the heroine who has street smarts and survives by guile? Never fear. We do love lady rogues as well. J.C. McKenzie's raven-shifter heroine embodies the cunning of a trickster and Michelle Fox's private investigator is a psychic with punch.
So, what does it take to qualify as a kickass heroine? She's smart, tough, and clever—someone readers can care for and cheer for. Most importantly, she's a champion to those in need. We, the authors of the collection, hope you fall head over heels for our Kickass Heroine StoryBundle. – Melissa Snark

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you're feeling generous), you'll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.
  • Meow - Catnip Assassins - Book One by Skye MacKinnon
  • Conspiracy of Ravens by J.C. McKenzie
  • Feral Ice - Ice Dragons Book One by Ann Gimpel
  • Hook - Dead to Rights by Melissa Snark

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus NINE more books!
  • Thornbound by Stephanie Burgis
  • Magnificent Devices Series - Books 1-2 by Shelley Adina
  • Project Enterprise Bundle - Books 1-2 by Pauline Baird Jones
  • When Vamps Bite - Bedlam in Bethlehem Book 1 by Nicole Zoltack
  • Psychic P.I. - The Zombie Heist Case File by Michelle Fox
  • Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger
  • Hook - Dead Wrong by Melissa Snark

This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It's also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.
  • Get quality reads: We've chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that's fine! You'll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there's nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to Knitted Knockers!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you'll get the bonus books!
StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.
get the bundle
<![CDATA[Happy World Book Day!]]>Thu, 05 Mar 2020 19:55:15 GMThttp://skyemackinnon.com/news/happy-world-book-dayBest day of the year, right?
If you've been wondering which of my books to read, take this fun quiz to get a personalised recommendation!
<![CDATA[New preorder: The Hunger Games meet post-apocalyptic aliens]]>Thu, 16 Jan 2020 02:02:51 GMThttp://skyemackinnon.com/news/new-preorder-the-hunger-games-meet-post-apocalyptic-aliensBreaking news: One of my favourite authors ever, the amazingly talented Rebecca Royce, has co-written a book with me!

If there had been aliens in the Hunger Games...and more steam...and several yummy guys...this would be it.

Purgatory City is the first book in our Through The Gates series, a post-apocalyptic reverse harem set both on Earth and other places (spoilers...).
Alone in a desolate world ravaged by war and alien invasion, Eileen Paine offers herself to indentured servitude in Purgatory City—a chance at a different life.

No one knows what happens beyond the gates, but it has to be better than the peril in the Blastlands. Nothing could have prepared her for the darkness, the tests, the changes, or the people she meets. Least of all being changed and controlled by the aliens in power.

With no guarantee of success, eliminations happening frequently, and the threat of potential allies becoming enemies, does Eileen have what it takes to survive?

And when her heart gets involved, can she live with what she has to do to escape Purgatory?
<![CDATA[The Between Rebels trilogy is now complete]]>Sat, 04 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMThttp://skyemackinnon.com/news/the-between-rebels-trilogy-is-now-completeIt's time to return to space! Chosen By Them is the final book in the Between Rebels trilogy. More aliens, more space pirates, and even a nine-brained space octopus!

It's been quite sad to finish this series as it's been such a blast writing these books. Wren started off as quite a normal, unremarkable woman, but by the end of this book, she has transformed completely. I'd planned to write a much steamier story, but after all that happened to Wren, I couldn't force her to act faster than she wanted to. I always prefer to let my characters decide the story and the pacing rather than force it on them (I know that sounds totally crazy).

Anyway, enjoy Chosen By Them! And if you're new to the series, start with Stolen By Them.
<![CDATA[New release: Guarded by Them]]>Sat, 07 Dec 2019 14:39:07 GMThttp://skyemackinnon.com/news/new-release-guarded-by-them
I never expected to be stranded on an asteroid with four aliens.

It's a miracle we survived, but just because we're still alive after the crash doesn't mean it will stay that way.
One of the Athions almost killed me. I don't trust him and I don't think I ever will. The other Athion seems nice, but every time I look at him, I'm reminded of what his kind did to me. And the two Trads... well, things are confusing. I think I like them. A lot. But I'm not supposed to fall in love with the enemy.
It would have been easier to have died in the crash. But now I'm determined to survive, no matter the cost.

The second book in the Between Rebels trilogy, a sci-fi reverse harem set in the Planet Athion shared world.

The third and final book in this trilogy, Chosen by Them, is now available to preorder!

read now
<![CDATA[A Hidden Castle]]>Mon, 11 Nov 2019 00:39:59 GMThttp://skyemackinnon.com/news/a-hidden-castle
When I first moved to Helensburgh, I explored a lot of the local area and thought I'd discovered most interesting places around. Turns out I was wrong.

Today I went on a rather unique hike from Cardross (only two train stops from Helensburgh) around the Kilmahew Estate. To be honest, I'd never even heard of that place, but hey, a hidden castle ruin in the woods? A magical waterfall? A peaceful glen? Sign me up!
Even better: there's an audio guide you can download in advance of the walk, together with a route description. I'm used to having to do my own research about whatever ruins I stumble across, so this is a complete luxury.

I started off at the train station and made my way up some roads until I reached open fields. It had been zero degrees overnight and a lot of the puddles were frozen over (one of the best sounds in the world is the cracking of a frozen puddle).
The first ruin I saw wasn't the castle, but the remains of a lodge part of the Kilmahew Estate. The estate covers around 140 acres and its name is derived from the Gaelic word cille, monk, and Mahew, a sixth century monk who came to Scotland from Ireland to spread Christianity.
On I go following a narrow and muddy path along a ravine, the gurgling sound of a small stream accompanying me until I reach the castle. If I hadn't known where to look, I would have never found it. Perfectly camouflaged by the surrounding colourful autumn trees, it blends into the landscape.
The castle's history is a little peculiar. Originally a 16th-century five-storey tower house, it was remodelled in the 18th century, adding details like large gothic windows. There's also a very pretty arch that looks like it should have led to another building but never did (can you be in love with an arch? If so, I am!). The theory is that the owners planned to convert the tower house into a country house or large villa, but never completed their work.

I stayed at the castle for a while, soaking in the atmosphere. I've always loved ruins, especially abandoned ones. As much as I like big, well looked-after castles like the ones in Edinburgh or Stirling, this felt a little more...magical.

The audio guide said that a barn owl nists on top of the castle, but sadly it didn't fly down to say hello.
Gothic window from the outside...
...and the inside
When it got a little too cold, I continued on along a very overgrown path (cue me kneeling on the ground to duck beneath some fallen trees, getting my brand new walking trousers muddy) to a waterfall called Spottie's Linn. According to local legend, a will-o’-the-wisp lives here, a woodland sprite who likes to tempt unwary travellers off the beaten track. Sadly, Spottie was in no mood to talk so I continued on without temptation.
Next up was more water, this time a little lake, Swan Pond, with an artificial island in the middle. It was part of the estate's pleasure gardens. The pond was frozen over completely and the sound of ice gently cracking under the midday sun filled the air. Yes, I'm feeling poetic.
The next stop was one I intend to return to next summer: a rhododendron tunnel. I've seen some of those before, but never one as long. I can't imagine how beautiful it must look when the rhododendron is in bloom - one for next year's to-do list.
Normally, the route would have led me to St Peter's Seminary, another ruin, yet one that's a lot younger than the castle. After the Second World War, the Catholic Archodiocese bought the estate and with it, the mansion house. They transformed it into a seminary to train priests, remodelling the building completely. Sadly, the architects didn't take into account the Scottish weather and the seminary closed in 1980, the building leaking all over the place. Since then, it's decayed quickly and is now a modern ruin. It's still being used occasionally for peculiar things such as a rave and an art installation, but sadly, I never got to see it because the entire area is fenced off for building works.
No pictures of St Peter's, so here are some sheep instead
Since I still had a couple of hours of daylight left (I should get up this early more often), I returned to Cardross and took a bus to the Ardardan Estate (I would have walked had there been a pavement along the busy main road leading there). It's a farm, complete with a farm shop, cafe and garden nursery, perched at the top of a peninsula that I can see from my living room window.

With the sun gone, I decided it wasn't the right time to walk around the peninsula and went into the warm and cosy tea room for some afternoon tea (amazing!) instead. And then filled my backpack with cheese and other goodies from the farm shop.

All in all, a lovely winter's walk with lots of nature and history. Now, with my brain refreshed and my stomach happy, it's time to write some magical stories...maybe about a sprite who kidnapped an author?
More information
The walk on Discovering Britain (includes audio guide)
Kilmahew Castle on Canmore
Ardardan Estate (afternoon tea!)
<![CDATA[Advent is about to get a whole lot hotter]]>Fri, 08 Nov 2019 16:52:37 GMThttp://skyemackinnon.com/news/advent-is-about-to-get-a-whole-lot-hotter
Ho! Ho! Hot! The first-ever reverse harem advent calendar is here!

I've got together with other authors to put together twenty-four first chapters from bestselling reverse harem novels, perfect to fill up that reading list for the holidays. Get a taste of books you haven't discovered yet and be inspired to re-read the ones you know already.

Plus, exclusive behind the scenes insights about your favourite authors. How do they come up with ideas? How do they spend the festive period? You'll get answers to those questions, as well as fun titbits about pets, unruly characters and the craft of writing.
Make yourself a hot drink, cuddle up on the sofa and get ready to open your first door... it's about to get hot.

The ebook is free, but if you prefer a paperback (I certainly do) to physically open one chapter a day, all proceeds from sales go to the charity Doctors Without Borders.
get the free ebook

Paperback retailers