Some authors steer clear of their reviews and I can completely understand why. A negative review can be so hurtful and destructive that it can leave them unable to write for the rest of the day and sometimes even longer. I know that to be true as it’s happened to me.
But not all reviews are negative and it seems a shame not to read the lovely comments shared by readers who’ve loved a story. I feel they’re so special and something to celebrate. I therefore read every single review posted on Amazon, including the negative ones. The latter do still hurt but they are massively outweighed by the positives and I’ve been working hard to keep the negative few in perspective.
This week, I’ve been thrilled to reach review/ratings milestones for three of my books. Woo hoo!
Just under a month ago, I announced in my Facebook readers group that three books were heading for the 1,000 milestone and asked members which they thought would get there first:
New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms at 980
Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove at 957
All You Need Is Love at 949
As the first two have been out a year longer and the rate of reviews had massively slowed, I did wonder if All You Need Is Love might just race ahead. It came very close but Seaside Blooms pipped it to the post. Just.
I logged on yesterday morning and New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms had hit the 1,000 mark.
And then, this morning, there was a surprise. A book not even previously in the race – The Secret to Happiness – had stormed ahead hitting the bigger target of 2,000!
Not to be outdone, All You Need Is Love also hit the 1,000 mark this morning. I knew the bears could do it!
Finding Lighthouse Cove isn’t far off the target either with 993 reviews/ratings at the time of writing this so hopefully we’ll be celebrating that milestone by the start of next week. Come on Lighthouse Cove. You can do it!
To all those lovely readers who have taken the time to share a review – whether detailed, a couple of sentences, a few words or even just a rating – I am so grateful. I get such a buzz out of reading all the gorgeous comments and it drives me to keep writing and wanting to bring you loads more books.
Please keep sharing the book love for all your favourite authors as you never know when a few kind words might be the lift they need at a time when they’re struggling with edits or deadlines, feeling disillusioned by lower sales or weaker chart positions, have been wounded by a negative comment, and may be questioning whether it’s all worth it. You really can make a difference. No pressure!
Ooh, I’m so late with these! I’ve returned from a wonderful week in the Lake District (post and pics to follow soon) and I meant to write and schedule three posts before I went away – one to celebrate publication day, one to reflect on August, and one to celebrate a book birthday – but time escaped me and none of them got written.
With no WiFi at our holiday cottage, I had to leave it so I’ve combined two of them and decided not to do the reflections posts anymore. Instead, I’ll post more regularly but shorter posts. Me? Short posts? Well, I’ll try!
Firstly, publication day. My 13th novel, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, came out on Tuesday 31st August and gathered a category bestseller flag on day one which was lovely. Less than a week after release, it has 69 reviews (at the time of writing this), 85% of which are 5-star which is amazing.
It’s on a super-lengthy amazing blog tour and the feedback so far has been so touching with a mix of regular reviewers and newbies reading my work for the first time. Thank you to everyone taking part.
I may have caused a tissue shortage in the country (and possibly other countries – Belgium has been cited!) as this book is a weepie. It is NOT a light Christmassy rom-com and it doesn’t claim anywhere to be one as you’ll be able to tell from reading the blurb (see below).
I never intentionally set out to write a story that will make readers cry but this was the story that these characters needed to tell and, while there will always be a few critics who call it ‘depressing’, I am blessed with so many amazing readers who completely get the story, who love the light that appears among the tragedy, and who feel the hopeful and uplifting message.
“With courage, nothing is impossible” (Sir William Hillary, RNLI Founder) is a theme throughout. Hollie and Jake have had tragic pasts, but the beauty of this story is how they find their way forward … with the help of the most gorgeous dog who readers have fallen in love with.
Hot on the heels of publication day, I’m celebrating a book birthday.
Friday 3rd September was TWO YEARS since The Secret to Happiness was published by Boldwood Books. And what an amazing two years that has been! (Blurb below too)
This was a book I submitted when I knew I was failing to make an impact as an indie author. I did have some regular readers but I only sold a handful of eBooks a week and there was no way I’d was ever even going to come close to being able to write full-time; my absolute dream.
A few rejections of the manuscript floored me and I had to as myself some tough questions about whether I really was good enough to make it as an author. I could have easily given up at that point but writing is part of who I am and I couldn’t let go.
Around that time, I saw an advert for a newly-formed company called Boldwood Books and thought, “maybe one last try”. Thankfully they loved it and took me on. Boldwood found me my readers and my readers have loved Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow and have made my dreams come true. I’m so incredibly grateful to you all.
It’s particularly appropriate that I’ve ended up posting about these two events together because, almost exactly a year from publication of my first Boldwood release, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café is not only my 13th release but also the start of a brand new 12-book publishing deal with Boldwood Books.
The books in my first contract were a mix of new books (The Secret to Happiness and the three books so far in Hedgehog Hollow series) and re-edited versions of my backlist. Starting with Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, everything I release from now on will be brand new, never been released before, which is really exciting for me and my readers.
Thank you to everyone who has bought/downloaded/borrowed either of these stories – and any of my others – and shared lovely feedback about them. I cannot thank Boldwood Books enough for taking me on and my amazing editor Nia Beynon for her continued enthusiasm, belief and expertise which help shape each of these stories into the final versions the readers/listeners fall in love with.
Wishing you an amazing start to September.
Big hugs Jessica xx
Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café is available as an eBook on all platforms, a paperback, a large print, a hardback, as a physical audio, for audio download and audio streaming. Please contact me if you’d like a signed copy of the paperback.
Here’s the blurb:
Welcome to The Starfish Café – where you will find stunning views, delicious food and lifelong friendships.
Two broken hearts.
Since she inherited The Starfish Café, Hollie has poured her heart into the business, striving to keep her mother’s traditions and warm-hearted spirit alive. But behind closed doors Hollie is searching for true happiness as she grieves the tragic loss of her family who were once the beating heart of the café…
An unexpected meeting.
Jake lives by two rules: don’t let anyone get close and don’t talk about what happened. Little does he know that a chance meeting at The Starfish Café, facilitated by a fluffy lost dog, is about to turn his world upside down…
The chance to love again.
Can Hollie and Jake break down the barriers that have been holding them back from finding love and happiness, before Christmas comes around? After all, with courage, nothing is impossible…
The Secret to Happiness is available as an eBook on all platforms, a paperback, a large print, as a physical audio, for audio download and audio streaming. Please contact me if you’d like a signed copy of the paperback.
Here’s the blurb:
Everyone deserves a chance at happiness…
Danniella is running from her past, so when she arrives at the beautiful seaside resort of Whitsborough Bay, the last thing on her mind is making friends. After all, they might find out her secrets…
Alison is fun, caring and doesn’t take herself too seriously. But beneath the front, she is a lost soul, stuck in a terrible relationship, with body confidence issues and no family to support her. All she really needs is a friend.
Karen’s romance has taken a back seat to her fitness business. But she doesn’t want to give up on love quite yet. If only those mysterious texts would stop coming through …
When the women meet at their local bootcamp, a deep friendship blossoms. And soon they realise that the secret to happiness is where they least expected to find it…
At the end of July, Audible launched a new programme for their UK subscribers called Audible Plus. This programme was rolled out in the USA previously and is all about giving subscribers additional free unlimited content so, if you’re an Audible user, do check it out.
The Audible Plus catalogue consists of thousands of carefully selected audiobooks, podcasts and Audible originals which subscribers can listen to as many times as they want for no additional charge.
Audible say: “The new Plus Catalogue offers an exciting opportunity to introduce more audiobooks, podcasts and Audible Originals to members, on top of their credits. New and existing members will be able to discover more titles for the first time at no extra cost, which we believe will increase member listening and allow them to discover new authors or similar genres and themes. The Plus Catalogue provides extra content our members will love, and forms part of our ongoing commitment to present value-added offerings to consumers.”
I’m really excited to have a whopping SIX out of my twelve titles included in this special programme from day 1:
Making Wishes at Bay View (book 1 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series)
New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (book 2 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series)
The Secret to Happiness
Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes
Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1 in the Hedgehog Hollow series)
I hope that this will introduce new listeners to my worlds of Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow who will perhaps go on to use their usual credits to explore my other titles.
Let me know if you’ve discovered any fabulous new listens through this programme.
Just a quick post this morning to celebrate some more review/ratings milestones over on Amazon. I was so close to posting this yesterday but one of the books was just one off the milestone but hit it overnight. Yay!
And that book is Coming Home to Seashell Cottage which is the fourth and final book in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series, telling Clare’s story. I love all the books in that series for different reasons but this one is my personal favourite. I felt that I’d discovered who I was as a writer when I wrote this one and I love the twists and turns in the story.
Thank you to everyone – especially Jade on Twitter who added in the 1,000th review last night after I posted that I was tantalising close – for helping Coming Home to Seashell Cottage reach the 1,000 reviews/ratings milestone.
This is the second book in the series to reach 1,000 reviews/ratings. Making Wishes at Bay View (book 1) passed that milestone a few weeks back. Book 2 – New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – and book 3 – Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove – still have a little way to go and are currently at 838 and 826 reviews respectively but I’m hoping that they’ll reach their 1,000 milestones too in the not too distant future.
We’re still in Whitsborough Bay for the next book and it’s The Secret to Happiness which passed the 1,500 milestone yesterday. This was the book which secured me my publishing deal with the amazing Boldwood Books so it will forever be a special book for me. It’s one of the most adventurous I’ve written in that it features three different perspectives, and it’s the only one of my books that is written in third person.
Another huge thank you to everyone who has helped The Secret to Happiness pass the 1,500 milestone. Even the 1-star reviewer who describes it as “absolute pish” and tells me he “didn’t know it was possible to publish something so bad”! How rude!!!!
And finally the hedgehogs have done it again with a goal also achieved yesterday on the five-week anniversary since publication day. The third book in the series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – passed the 1,500 reviews/ratings mark. Woo hoo!
Of all my books, it has the highest average percentage of 5-star ratings with a whopping 83%. I’m so very grateful that everyone has taken this series – and particularly this book – to their hearts. Although I’m massively feeling the pressure with book 4 which I’ve just started writing ready for the 6th January publication date. Hoping I haven’t set the bar too high with book 3!
Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write a review or just to leave a rating. It is such an amazing way of thanking an author if you’ve loved one of their stories, and I personally find it such a motivator to keep writing.
The first book in my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series, Making Wishes at Bay View, has reached a huge ratings/reviews milestone on Amazon today, passing the 1,000 point. Woo hoo!
This is the sixth of my books to pass the 1k milestone, joining Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow, New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow, The Secret to Happiness, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café. and I still have to pinch myself that this has happened.
Before I joined Boldwood Books, this particular book had somewhere in the region of 30-40 reviews on it and none of my books had reached the 100 point, never mind 1,000!
I’m so chuffed that they’re mainly positive too. Thank you to all the readers and bloggers who have taken the time to share the book love and to pass on their recommendations to friends and family. It makes such a difference.
I’m now watching the remaining books in the series. They’re all way past the 700 point with which I’m delighted.
It looks as though Coming Home to Seashell Cottage – the final book in the series – will make it to 1,000 first. I love all the books for different reasons but this is my personal favourite as I love the many twists and turns in the story. I’m not sure whether it has the most reviews out of the remaining three because more readers loved it or because not all readers have reviewed the previous books, instead rating book 4 with their thoughts on the whole series. Whatever the case, this is a very happy sight…
Thank you again for helping Making Wishes at Bay View achieve this amazing milestone today.
This week, I’m celebrating four amazing milestones for reviews/ratings on Amazon.
The Secret to Happiness which was the book that secured me my publishing deal with Boldwood Books, released in September 2019, has reached 1,000 ratings/reviews. Woo hoo! I’m thrilled with that.
But there’s more…
Both Hedgehog Hollow books out so far – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1) and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (book 2) have hit a whopping 1,500 ratings/reviews. Eek!
I posted a couple of weeks ago about book 2 surpassing the number of reviews for book 1 and this has continued with New Arrivals hitting 1,500 before Finding Love, despite only being released in January this year compared to July last year for book 1.
This still surprises me and I have to assume that readers are joining the series at book 2 and feeling settled enough with the story that they aren’t going back to book 1.
For those who are loving their visits to Hedgehog Hollow, Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow is out on 4th May but available for pre-order now and I’ve just started to write book 4. This doesn’t have a title yet but will be out in January next year.
But it doesn’t end there…
My final milestone is a whopping 2,000 reviews for Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which was a re-release in August last year, although the title remained the same as before. Oh my goodness! TWO THOUSAND!!!!!
What’s even more special is that these aren’t just huge milestones; they’re milestones full of love for the stories with more than 90% positive reviews/ratings (4 or 5-star) and the majority of them being 5-star.
I’m so grateful to readers and bloggers/reviewers for sharing their kind words and recommending my stories to others. I look at these volumes of reviews and still can’t believe they’re for the characters and plots that I created. I’m so incredibly humbled and thankful xxx
In the run-up to Christmas last year, I created a Spotify playlist of books inspired by my two Christmas books, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café. I enjoyed it so much, I created a Spotify playlist for all my other books!
So, if you fancy a little music to accompany your reading, here’s the links. Some of the lyrics fit perfectly, some carry the theme, some are specifically mentioned in the stories and one is even the title. Bet you can guess which one that is!
There are some very well-known tracks but there are a few from albums that I love.
You shouldn’t get any spoilers from listening to these although you will pick up on some themes if you haven’t already read the books. The tracks are presented in the order of relevance to plot points in the books and, where they link to a series, they’re in the order of the books in that series too..
Welcome to Whitsborough Bay Series: 24 songs, 1 hr 41 mins, found on Spotify here.
All You Need Is Love: 15 songs, 59 mins, found on Spotify here.
The Secret to Happiness: 20 songs, 1 hr 19 mins, found on Spotify here.
Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café (non-Christmas): 21 songs, 1 hr 28 mins, found on Spotify here.
Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes & Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café (Christmassy): 25 songs, 1 hr 28 mins, found on Spotify here.
The Hedgehog Hollow Series (covers books 1-3): 32 songs, 2 hr 16 mins, found on Spotify here.
I’d also previously created a playlist of ‘Thirty Songs to Make You Smile’ which is full of uplifting songs for when things feel a little rough. You can find it on Spotify here.
A huge thank you to my fabulous editor, Nia, for creating these in Spotify on my behalf.
Down in Australia, the Easter bunny is delivering a fabulous basket of treats for Kindle readers because a whopping eight of my ebooks … yes, EIGHT of them … are on a very special offer for ONE DAY ONLY.
The four titles in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay Series, one of my Hedgehog Hollow books, and three more of my Whitsborough Bay books are all reduced to the ridiculously low price of $0.99 for SUNDAY 4th APRIL ONLY:
Making Wishes at Bay View (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 1)
New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 2)
Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 3)
Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 4)
The Secret to Happiness
Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes
Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (Hedgehog Hollow book 2)
And All You Need Is Love and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1 in the Hedgehog Hollow series) are both only $1.89 on offer at the moment too.
So you can get all ten of my Boldwood Books releases for only $11.70!!!
In a month which signals a whole year since the UK first went into lockdown, I have a happier milestone to celebrate because today is the two-year anniversary of receiving an email that completely changed my life.
“Thanks for submitting to us – I really enjoyed Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye. What a gorgeous read! … Would you be free next week for a phone call?”
Eek! I squealed, I shook, I bounced about on my chair like I had ants in my pants! A phone call had to mean an offer, didn’t it?
It did. That phone call turned into a 9-book publishing deal with the amazing Boldwood Books, which later extended to a 12-book deal (and a further 12-book deal beyond that) and that book became The Secret to Happiness published in September 2019.
Since then, I have had ten books published through Boldwood, had five of them enter the UK Kindle Top 100, become an international bestseller, sold over 300k copies and have been able to resign from my day job to become a full-time author. Wow! Dreams come true all over the place!
It feels appropriate that my tenth Boldwood release – out last week – is entitled All You Need Is Love because that’s exactly what I needed; for my manuscript to land in the inbox of someone who loved the story and characters as much as I did and for that publisher to love my writing and believe in me so much that they wanted to offer me a publishing deal. And another.
If you’re struggling to find a home for your writing at the moment, whether at the start or part-way through your career, don’t give up. All you need is love and, just like finding Mr or Mrs Right, it may not happen immediately. There may be tears and disappointments along the way but hang in there because love can be found if you keep looking and keep believing.
Thank you to my amazing editor, Nia, and the fabulous team at Boldwood Books for believing in me. To steal another of my book titles, you unlocked the secret to happiness for me two years ago today and I’m eternally grateful!
A memory came up on my Facebook feed from a year ago: an announcement from The Bookseller about Boldwood Books launching their traditional print programme with The Works. This was so exciting as it was an opportunity to see our paperbacks out in the world and every author who’d signed with Boldwood at the time was guaranteed at least one book going into this programme. Woo hoo!
But at the time of that announcement, as I celebrated the great news and looked forward to visiting my first book in The Works, none of us had no idea what was about to hit us. None of us had any idea how much our world was about to change.
The Secret to Happiness – my Boldwood debut book – was scheduled to go into The Works around Easter which would coincide with the start of the tourist season in Scarborough. I had visions of my local store quickly selling out of the book before I’d even seen it as locals and tourists recognised the Scarborough scene on the front cover. But my book didn’t go into The Works at Easter because we went into a national lockdown. Stores closed and we retreated indoors. The programme was on hold.
The Secret to Happiness went into The Works in June instead when restrictions were lifted and I was both delighted and surprised when they took another two of mine – Making Wishes at Bay View and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – before stores closed once more in late 2020.
I felt a mix of emotions as that announcement from a year ago popped up on my feed today. So many amazing things have happened for me as an author during the past twelve months yet so many tragic, shocking and heartbreaking things have happened around the world, changing life as we know it both now and for the future.
Today I’m thinking of all book sellers in the UK and around the world whose doors are currently closed or who have been closed at points during 2020 and 2021. Some of them for good.
I’m thinking of all book sellers whether high street chains, small independents, market stalls or those for whom books are part of a bigger product offering. I’m thinking of how they lost their valuable Christmas season and how 2020 barely existed and 2021 hasn’t even started.
I’m thinking of the indies who don’t have an online presence or a way of operating a click and collect process so no way of making sales.
I’m thinking of all the owners of these businesses, particularly indies, and the staff they employ.
I’m thinking of all the businesses connected with book retailing like printers and distributors who may have been furloughed/lost jobs/ceased trading. And perhaps less obvious connections like the arts. My husband is a freelance typesetter and everything he was working on was put on hold during the first lockdown. One of his clients produces plays. With theatres closed, there were no plays to typeset.
I’m thinking therefore of all the freelancers in the business whose work may have slowed down or dried up: typesetters, editors, cover designers and so on. There will be exceptions and some may have been busier than ever but not in our household.
I’m praying the industry is able to ride the storm and, despite the hardest year ever to face retailers, I’m hoping they’re back when some sort of normality returns. I’m hoping they all remain part of our ‘new normal’.
It’s been tough for authors too. At the ever-innovative Boldwood Books where all our books are available in a stack of formats with a big emphasis on the digital offering (ebook, audio or streamed), we’ve still been able to reach our readers. Authors with the bigger traditional publishers derive much (most?) of their income from the sales of hardbacks and paperbacks and have had to rely on sales through online retailers. With Amazon needing to prioritise warehouse space for ‘essentials’ like medical supplies, even that route became a challenge.
Last year, launches were pushed back with one crazy day in September where hundreds of new titles were released. Debut authors who might have waited years for this to happen may have been lost in the masses. Even successful authors might have experienced limited impact. Book signings, launches, festivals, fairs and conferences would normally generate income and provide an invaluable opportunity to meet and engage with existing readers and find new ones. And, of course, the organisers of these events and the venues where they’d have been held have also missed out.
Some of my fellow Boldwood authors didn’t get their opportunity to go into The Works, perhaps because they’d written a Christmas book and the shifting schedule would have made it out of season or simply because the moving schedule didn’t have the space to fit them in. And some authors had their books instore but couldn’t visit them because that would involve unnecessary travel. I was very fortunate that my local branch stocked all three of my books and I was able to visit them all. I also tried to get photos of other Boldwood Books like this fabulous romance collection in the Beverley branch of The Works last September when travel was permitted.
And finally my thoughts are with our amazing libraries and the passionate, book-loving knowledgeable staff who work for them, whether employed or as a volunteer. Such a valuable resource, libraries have struggled for many years for funding and support and this past year has provided new and unexpected challenges but it’s been amazing seeing how libraries around the country have worked hard to engage with users and bring them new content, even when the library doors have had to close.
Of course, the book industry isn’t the only industry to have had a tough year. Hospitality, travel and tourism, leisure, retailing as a whole, the creative arts … I could go on and on as I doubt there are many (if any) industries not touched by the pandemic and that’s before we even think about healthcare. But this is a post prompted by Boldwood’s The Works Programme announcement so the focus of the post is purely on the book industry.
Spring is approaching as is the one-year anniversary of the UK lockdown. Let’s hope year two is kinder.