Posted in Reading, Self-publishing, Writing

12 Free Books For You – including “Marry in Haste” (24th-28th February)

An invitation to help yourself to 12 free ebooks between now and the end of February, including one of mine!

Graphic showing Free Reads for Smart Women banner
We thought a dozen would be a nice round number…

If you like reading ebooks, read on to find out how to take advantage of a special offer that includes a free download of one of my collections of short stories, Marry in Haste.

If you don’t like reading ebooks, or haven’t tried them yet, here’s a chance to convince yourself, without it costing you a penny! In case you didn’t know, these days you don’t have to own an ereader to read an ebook – you can download to your phone, tablet or computer a free reading app such as Kindle or Kobo, and away you go!

A couple of days ago, I was very pleased to be invited to join a group of eleven sparky women authors in a joint promotion of free books called “Free Reads for Smart Women“. Always a sucker for flattery, I was very happy to add my name under this banner, which, in classic Freudian slip mode, I had misread as Free Reads BY Smart Women”.

Of course, both interpretations apply – because what smart woman could resist the offer of twelve ebooks for free, when they look as intriguing and beautiful as this?

array of books

There’s a bit of everything here to appeal to smart women of all kinds, from crime thrillers to romance, from historical novels to contemporary humour.

What’s the Catch?

The closest thing you’ll find to a catch is that to get your free books, you have to submit your email address. Obviously, that’s so that InstaFreebie, the service that’s hosting this promotion, can email the ebooks to you.

Also the authors would like to send you information about more of their books – but don’t worry, you can unsubscribe from their mailing lists at any time, no questions asked.

InstaFreebie would also like to send you more free book offers, if you’d like them – but again, just unsubscribe if you prefer.

And There’s More…

Interestingly, when you download each free book, InstaFreebie immediately shows you three other free ebooks it thinks you might like. Our team of twelve was bemused to find bare-chested men on the covers of many of these books. But so far we’ve had no complaints…

Men Also Welcome!

cover of Marry in Haste
“A book for women that every man should read” – reviewer

By the way, you don’t have to be a woman to enjoy any of these books. In fact, one of my favourite reviews of Marry in Haste is by a gentleman who described it as “A book for women that all men should read”!

Men are of course very welcome to help themselves to our freebies too. (I’ll be very interested to hear whether Instafreebie offers you same books featuring bare-chested men!)

How to Download Your Free Books

Hoping I’ve whetted your appetite to download one, some or all twelve, here is the link to claim your free ebooks:

It’s a landing page hosted on Helena Halme’s website, and you just click on the book cover of your choice to claim your free download. You can revisit the page and keep clicking for more as often as you like – and if you’d like to share the page or this post with your friends to help them do the same, please do.

***Please note that this promotion is running 24th-28th February only – so get in quick before the end of the month!***

Why Are the Books Free?

Cover of Best Murder in Show by Debbie Young
Due to launch in April

By the way, if you’re wondering why the twelve authors involved are not only smart but so generous – all the books being offered are still on sale commercially elsewhere – it’s because it’s every author’s wish to build up a mailing list of people who are interested in their books, so that we can email readers directly whenever we’ve got a new book about to launch or a special offer coming up.

This campaign is coming at the perfect time for me, as I prepare to launch my first Sophie Sayers Village Mystery in April, and I’ll be sending to my mailing list details of a special launch price offer in March. Exciting times!


Cover image for The Alchemy of Chocolate showing chocolate coins falling out of a purse

If you’d like receive news of that offer without getting involved in the InstaFreebie promotion, that’s fine too – you can sign up here. It won’t get you a free book, but you will have the option to receive a free short story, The Alchemy of Chocolate, as a thank-you.

Happy weekend reading. folks!

Posted in Self-publishing, Writing

Multitasking Gone Mad – The Agony Aunt Under Anaesthesia

Screenshot of article on magazine websiteA news flash about my new role at Self-publishing Magazine

People often say to me “how do you manage to do so much?” Of course, they are seeing only my output rather than the massive to-do list on the overcrowded desk in my study. Normally a glass-half-full person, my inner optimist daily quails at my sins of omission – all the things I should have done by now but haven’t. But even I had to be impressed at my apparent ability to post an advice piece in Self-Publishing Magazine while under general anaesthetic…

What is Self-Publishing Magazine?

Self-Publishing Magazine is an online publication produced by Matador, which helps authors self-publish their books through its Troubador imprint. I know quite a few authors who have used its service, and I was pleased last year to be invited as a guest speaker at their annual Self-publishing Conference. I was sad to have to turn down the opportunity to appear at their 2017 event because it’s on 22nd April – the same day as the local litfest that I run in my village, the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival.

My Role as Agony Aunt

Alliance of Independent Authors / However, I was pleased to accept an invitation to be an occasional agony aunt for the publication, answering questions put by their readers, drawing on my knowledge as an indie author and commissioning editor of the Author Advice Centre blog for the Alliance of Independent Authors.

My first column for Self-Publishing Magazine, answering the question “How do I keep writing every day even if I get writers’ block?”, was due for publication on the same day as my recent operation, giving the impression that not even a general anaesthetic was enough to stop me multi-tasking.

Of course, it was actually written some in advance and scheduled to go live that day. Though the tweeting taking place on the day of my operation wasn’t. (Hurrah for free hospital wifi!) Not even a general anaesthetic can keep me offline for long.

If you’d like to read the article online, just hop over to its website here.

In the meantime, I’m off to tidy my desk…



Posted in Events, Reading, Self-publishing, Writing

Coming Soon: Two Talks in Three Days (22 & 24 October)

Hello folks, just a quickie to give you advance notice of two events that I’m involved in over the next few days.

1. Indie Author Fringe Conference Talk: “The Best Day Jobs for Authors” (Saturday 22nd October)

logo for 2016 Frankfurt Indie Author FringeOn Saturday 22nd October at 6pm, my talk in the autumn Indie Author Fringe Conference will be broadcast online by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), which hosts this fab series of free online conferences that you can join in wherever you are in the world.

ALLi runs three conferences each year, to coincide with the world’s biggest book trade events – the London Book Fair, Book Expo America and the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is currently in full swing, and the IAF Conference will run for 24 hours from Saturday through to Sunday, starting at 10am Frankfurt time. My talk will be at 6pm on Saturday 22nd October on the topic of “The Best Day Jobs for Authors”. and I’m including advice from lots of fellow ALLi authors as well as drawing on my own experience. Click here to find out about the full programme and how to join the Fringe live online as it happens, visit this page.

All the talks will also be available online for evermore afterwards too, so don’t worry, you don’t have to forego sleep for 24 hours to join the fun. If you’d like to enjoy my contributions to the two previous 2016 IAFs, here they are:

2. BBC Radio Gloucestershire: Reading “The Alchemy of Chocolate” live on air

Picture of Debbie reading from Quick Change
Reading “The Alchemy of Chocolate” at Stroud Short Stories, April 2015

I’m delighted to have been invited to give my first ever live reading on BBC radio of one of my short stories, The Alchemy of Chocolate. I’ve been invited to read this particular one as part of a piece promoting Stroud Short Stories,because it was the same story that I read at the April 2015 SSS event and also at SSS’s Cheltenham Festival of Literature event last Monday. (I’ll be posting separately about that once I have photos . Event organiser John Holland will be in the studio with me on Monday 24th October on the lunchtime show at 12noon, and he’ll be reading some of his stories too, which are always compelling and often very funny.) Tune in here.


“The Alchemy of Chocolate” is one of the stories in my flash fiction collection Quick Change, and it’s also available as a free download for anyone joining my Readers’ Club, which means I’ll send you news of new books, events and special offers, plus a free short story with every enewsletter. Just click here to sign up. 

Photo of Debbie Young, Dominic Cotter and Caroline Sanderson
Having fun at the October Book Club at BBC Radio Gloucetershire yesterday

In the meantime, if you’d like to catch the October BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book Club broadcast, featuring Caroline Sanderson, Associate Editor of The Bookseller, and me, talking books with presenter Dominic Cotter, you can do so here – it starts an hour into the show. No prizes for guessing what this month’s read was – as you can see from the photo, we got into the spirit of it, raiding our wardrobes for purple. Caroline even managed to rustle up a raspberry beret! We like to think Prince would have approved.


Posted in Self-publishing, Writing

My Self-Publishing Advice for Aspiring Indie Authors

A post to help writers become self-publishing authors

Headshot of Debbie in a bookshop“Help! I want to self-publish the books I’ve written, but I haven’t got a clue how to go about it!”

That message arrived in my inbox from a very nice chap who I’d enjoyed chatting to at the recent Triskele Literary Festival in London. The advice that I sent him in reply will help any writer thinking of becoming a self-publishing author, so I thought I’d put it on my blog to help as many people as I can.

Tip #1: Join the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)

ALLi logo
The must-join membership association for self-published authors everywhere

First of all, you should most definitely join the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) via this link, because you’ll find it an invaluable resource at all stages of your self-publishing journey, in lots of different ways, e.g.

  • meeting and networking with other self-publishing authors
  • access to our private Facebook forum where you can ask and find answers to questions about any aspect of writing and self-publishing any time of day or night from our global membership
  • free guidebooks in ebook form which are definitive guides to different parts of the process
  • discounts and deals on a wide range of essential services and events
  • entitlement to post your book news on our Member Showcase
  • the option to write guest posts on ALLi’s widely read blog,, of which I’m Commissioning Editor

The benefits are incredibly good value for money, and if any aspiring indie author can afford to pay for only one thing, that’s the one thing I’d recommend.

Tip #2: Learn as Much as You Can Yourself

Cover of "Self-Publish Your Book" by Jessica Bell
A handy quick read for anyone interested in self-publishing their books

Secondly, it depends on how IT-savvy you are. Self-publishing requires a whole string of computer-based tasks, but they are not rocket science. If you are comfortable with word processing and social media, and you have some spare time to throw at the task, it’s not that hard to master creating book files, especially if you acquaint yourself with various good guide books that I can recommend:

  • Amazon KDP’s own guide to creating a Kindle ebook (free to download)
  • Catherine Ryan-Howard’s Self-Printed  – appropriately subtitled “The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing”! (a huge tome but worth every penny)
  • Jessica Bell’s Self-Publish Your Book (small but perfectly-formed!)

You should soon realise what tasks you can and can’t manage yourself, and you should delegate those to someone else who can. You should ALWAYS get your proofreading done, at the very least, and preferably some editing too if you can afford it, and next on your shopping list should be a good cover design from a book design specialist.

That will be sufficient to get you started by publishing to Amazon in print and ebook form, and once you’ve mastered that you can move on to the various other distribution platforms. If you want to be able to sell your books via bookshops, you should also publish via Ingram Spark. (NB This doesn’t guarantee that your book will be sold in any bookshops, but it makes it possible for bookshops to order them if they want to.

Tip #3: Decide on Your Priorities: Cash vs Time

Thirdly, it depends on whether you are cash-rich, time-poor or cash-poor, time-rich. If money is no object, you can pay a company to publish a book for you, who will do everything other than write it, to get it to the production stage – but you will have to market it. Buyer beware – there are LOTS of charlatans out there, but the good news is that ALLi will help you identify the good guys! Also, of course, if you delegate to a third party, you relinquish some degree of control. Our guide Choosing a Self-publishing Service (free to download if you become a member) is available to buy in paperback here).

Tip #4: Network with Other Indie Authors

It’s also worth joining a good local meetup group of self-publishing authors, if you can find one near you. I run two, in Bristol and Cheltenham, and I’m also involved with one in Oxford, and know of others in London and elsewhere. If you’d like me to put you in touch with any of my self-publishing author friends near where you live, leave a comment and I’ll see if I can hook you up with a group or a like-minded individual.

Group shot of authors in doorway of bookshop
With some of my author friends with the proprietor of the Anthology Bookshop, where we meet once a month in Cheltenham (Photo by Angela Fitch Photography)

Tip #5: Make Sure Your Book is Really Ready for Publication

Make sure your book is the best it can be before you publish it – it is so easy to self-publish a book these days that it is too tempting to push the “Publish” button sooner than you should!

Tip #6: Keep Writing!

The more books you self-publish, the greater your chances of success. Received wisdom is that provided the books you’ve self-published are any good, and that they are in the same genre, you’ll see a significant increase in sales when you publish your third, fifth and seventh book, and so on – although yesterday someone told me that the fourteenth is the biggest tipping point (no idea why!) So I’d better get back to writing my books, then…

My Self-published Books

I’ve now self-published a number of fiction and non-fiction books, and I’m also currently writing the second in a cosy mystery series of seven, the Sophie Sayers Village Mystery Collection.

  • To find out about my fiction books,  click here
  • To read about my non-fiction, click here
  • To join my mailing list so that I can let you know whenever I’m launching a new book, or other book-related news, just click here – and you’ll get a free ebook as a welcome gift!

Link to sign up to book news mailing list


Posted in Events, Reading, Self-publishing, Writing

My Talk for Sopworth Ladies’ Circle: An Author’s Journey in the 21st Century

A summary of the talk I gave to a local women’s group about being an author

Cover of Tetbury Advertiser
Unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos last night at the delightful village of Sopworth, so here’s the cover of the latest Tetbury Advertiser, which was the catalyst for this gig! (My Young By Name column gets a shout-out, bottom left.)

Last week I did something I’d never done before: entered Sopworth Village Hall! Sopworth is an idyllic little village tucked away on the edge of rural Wiltshire. A drive through its winding lanes is an estate agent’s dream. Beautiful honey-coloured Cotswold stone cottages and substantial detached houses are surrounded by flower-filled gardens, with the only background noise the sounds of nature.

I’d been invited to speak to the Sopworth Ladies’ Circle about my life as a writer because the events organiser enjoyed the regular column I write for the local monthly magazine, the Tetbury Advertiser. (Tetbury is Sopworth’s nearest town.) This magazine, run by the Tetbury Lions, does great things to unite and inform the local community. For this it was rewarded last year with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. I’m proud to support its work.

The Essence of My Talk

About fifteen ladies attended, a couple of them interested in writing themselves, and they all listened attentively to my three-part talk (15 minutes per part) in which I explained:

  1. how I came to be an author
  2. why I think there’s never been a better time to be an author
  3. my ten top tips on how to become an author

I won’t say any more about the first point, because that information is elsewhere on this blog (see personal bio and career). Instead I’ll give an abridged version of what I said about the second point, and list those 10 top tips.

Why There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be An Author

The many reasons include the greater ease of writing, editing and publishing; the wider reach of books in all their forms to potential readers around the world; and the benefits authors gain from self-publishing such as greater creative control and higher potential earnings. Here are those points in a little more detail:

  1. Modern technology makes it much easier to write and edit manuscripts, whether you use bog-standard software such as Word, or invest in specialist software such as Scrivener (a fancy word-processing system developed especially for authors, complete with virtual corkboard for plotting) or Dragon (highly accurate voice recognition software that enables you to write much faster, no matter how high your typing speed).
  2. Technogical advances and trends also make it possible for authors to upload their books to publishing and distribution platforms such as Amazon, which means that authors can, from the comfort of their own homes, publish books that are almost immediately available to buy in print and in ebook form all over the world.
  3. The development of sophisticated ereaders that allow for the user to choose typeface style and size makes it possible to reach those who are “print disabled” whether through conditions such as dyslexia or bad eyesight, and those who are unable to hold printed books e.g. those whose hands are weakened by rheumatoid arthritis (e.g. me).
  4. The new era of digital audio books is increasing reach to the blind.
  5. New synchronising technology that connects ebooks with audio books, enabling you pick up on audio in the car where you left off reading your ebook at home, for example, creates more reading opportunities for readers – and therefore more readers for authors. 
  6. The easy availability of books on smartphones is opening up new markets in developing and remote countries previously unreachable by print or where print books are beyond the financial or practical reach of most people
  7. The rise of modern self-publishing as a viable alternative liberates the would-be author from dependence on previously essential third parties – agents and big publishing houses.
  8. Self-publishing allows authors to retain creative control rather than having their views overruled by publishers’ marketeers.
  9. It also allows authors to make much more money per book sold – typically 70p in the £ of the cover price for an ebook, compared to 5p for trade-published books.
  10. Reading is still a very popular hobby, with all the debates about ebooks and ereaders having fuelled new conversations about reading, rather than killing book sales.
  11. Bookshops are thriving, despite some closures, with new bookshops becoming more dynamic and exciting places to be – real community centres buzzing with events, activities and coffee shops, rather than just being places to buy books.
  12. National programmes and charities continue to promote reading as a desirable activity to the general public, e.g. World Book Day, World Book Night, Readathon.
  13. The general public are hungry to meet authors in real life, even those they’ve never heard of – hence the growing popularity of small local festivals such as the free Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival (run by me!)
  14. There is a hugely supportive and generous community of self-published authors which anyone may join to help them take advantage of all these opportunities – the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), of which I’m proud to be a part. (I’m Commissioning Editor of ALLi’s Author Advice Centre blog.)
ALLi logo
Great source of author networking opportunities – click the image for more info

Just Two Disadvantages

Of course, it’s not all good news. There are two key disadvantages:

  • as a self-published author, you assume all the responsibilities of a publishing house, including production and marketing (but don’t worry, it’s best practice to delegate to freelance experts or specialist services for aspects that you don’t have the skills to do yourself e.g. cover design – and no-one should ever attempt to do their own proofreading!)
  • with it now being so much easier to publish your own books – and it’s that fact of publishing your books that turns you from being a mere writer into an actual author – more people are doing it, which means you have much more competition in the market

10 Top Tips on Becoming an Author

If those two factors don’t deter you from entering the fray, here are my  ten top tips to help you achieve your writing ambitions.

  1. Cover of Dorothea Brande's Becoming a WriterEstablish regular writing habits, ringfencing realistic timeslots to suit your life e.g. get up earlier, go to bed later, scribble in your lunch hour.
  2. Aim to write a set number of words every day – it doesn’t have to be huge, but a single daily page will add up to a substantial novel over a year.
  3. Don’t wait for the muse to strike – just allow your brain free rein, writing whatever comes into your head or to specific prompts (e.g. imagine a back story to a newspaper article, or turn the radio on at random and write about the first thing you hear). You’ll soon realise you have got plenty of ideas and inspiration after all.
  4. Join encouraging groups such as ALLi to reassure yourself you’re not alone and to gain moral and practical support (conversely, leave any writers’ groups that bring you down).
  5. Take advantage of technology to increase your productivity – Scrivener (writing software) and Dragon (speech recognition) are excellent investments of your money and the time it takes to learn to use them well.
  6. Expect to edit – a lot. No-one writes perfect copy first time. Rough gemstones need lots of polishing to make them shine.
  7. Delegate what you can’t do yourself, including different aspects of editing.
  8. Read good advice books about writing – whichever ones resonate with you. My favourite is Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer.
  9. Read widely in general – your writing will improve by osmotic or subliminal learning.
  10. Make a public commitment to your writing goals and they’ll seem much more real and worth striving for.

lit-fest-bookmark-flip-side-webinvitationto-the-hawkesbury-upton-literature-festival-low-resThanks again to Sopworth Ladies’ Circle for making me so welcome. I’m hoping they will take up the invitation I gave them to attend the next free Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival next April!

I always enjoy the opportunity to talk to groups like this – invitations are always welcome via my contact page.

A full programme of my events may be found on my Events page