Category Archives: self-publishing

My atheist comedy has been offered a review by a Catholic blogger…is this good?

So, every now and then in the life of a self-published, independent author like myself something interesting happens. It could be getting your first great review, as recently happened to a friend of mine and fellow indie author Rachel Shaw (she’s the writer of a fantasy novel called ‘The Raveller’s Guild’, http://tinyurl.com/kqxnrhu), or it could be going on a podcast and talking to people about your book or maybe starting up your own blog up and finding things to talk about that you hope your audience will enjoy. For me recently it was being offered a review, something that seems to be increasingly difficult to get due to the ever increasing number of indy authors out there, and the not-that-large pool of available reviewers but the interesting part was who the offer came from: a former atheist, now Catholic blogger.

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I should explain. ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ and the sequel ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again!’ are satire novels where religious icons travel to Earth to convince us to stop destroying our world. In the first book the only person who is able to help God is an atheist and in the sequel, Jesus treads God’s well worth path making somewhat of a fool of himself along the way. Now, these clearly make fun of the various religions and of the iconography of Christianity, and I have a lot of fun lampooning what God is, who my version of Jesus is, the role of the Heavenly Bureaucracy and The Committee, a group of angels who are now in control and so on and so forth and you can find an example of the sort of humour that this book contains below.

God was in a meeting...

But these books are definitely not aimed at a religious audience. Despite that I have always wondered what someone of that persuasion would make of them and so, naturally, lots of questions start swirling around my brain. Do they really want to review my book, a satirical poke in the eye for religion, and if they do how come? I mean, it’s light-hearted fun and I certainly haven’t set out to offend anyone but I’m still left with the question of why would they want to do this? Well, they say that all publicity is good publicity but I was still confronted with the choice of whether I should I do this, do I send a review copy to someone who may, in all likelihood, give me a very bad review indeed. They could always just buy the book but in the end I did send them a free copy.

 

Either way, it draws attention, right, even if the opinion given is not a good one. And if the review is very poor indeed I shall still tweet excerpts from it in the same way that I do with the good reviews that I have received (like the one below). I will simply ensure that the tweet contains the words ‘Catholic blogger’ and then my atheist followers will know that the review may be somewhat biased. If he says that the book is a piece of atheist trash, that’d work for them, right? At least I hope it will. Still, I can’t help wondering whether I have made a mistake in engaging with this person.

 

Now all I can do is wait and see what they make of it and what it is that they say in their review. And wonder, as we indie authors endlessly do, if this is one of the things that helps to pull in the publicity that launches the book to a bigger audience. Here’s hoping, even if takes the outrage of the religious to help move things along. Cheers!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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Indie author? Lost your cover artist? Don’t panic…

I self-published my comedy novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, last July having spent the previous three years trying to find an agent who would represent me without success. Given that my novel is a religious satire where God comes to Earth to try to save us from ourselves and then finds that an atheist is the only person who can help him, I should not have been surprised that the agents I contacted were less than enthusiastic. The book may be something of a hard sell 😉 Despite this, I was certain that there was an audience out there who would enjoy my work. While I was repeatedly editing the novel and considering the self-publishing route I realised that I needed a striking cover, as all independent authors do, for that is the first thing that a potential reader will see and so a stunning image that grabs their attention is absolutely essential. I made some enquiries and found an artist who was willing to work with me and the image that you see below was the result.

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I was very happy with the cover, I’ve had many people ask me about it and so, when it came to writing the sequel that I never thought I was going to write, ‘Jesus Returns! Here he comes again’, I knew that I needed something that complemented the image that I already had. Unfortunately, this was when my cover artist decided to go AWOL. The last time I had checked in with her, there was a note on her website saying that she was taking time away from her business to improve her skills and come back afresh. Now she seemed to have completely gone off the grid. I emailed her, politely asking whether she would be interested in making a cover for my sequel and that she at least reply to let me know either way. I received no such reply. I waited a while, worked on the manuscript and then emailed again. And then finally, one more time just to be sure. Nothing. Eventually I came to the realisation that I needed to find another artist, that mine was truly out of the game, and that I would just have to accept that I would probably not get another one like the first and that whatever I ended up with would have to suffice, even if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. What else could I do?

So I again began the tedious process of sending out emails and searching for her replacement with little hope of success. I contacted some artists who never got back to me and then some kind person on Twitter sent me in the direction of Natasha Snow. I sent her an email explaining what I wanted to see if she had any interest in the project as well as a link to the previous cover image. Natasha replied that my last cover was indeed quite spectacular and that she would look into finding suitable stock images and I continued to wait and see whether she could help me.

I needn’t have worried. The first indication I had that I might get the cover that I wanted was when Natasha sent me some links to some stock images that looked remarkably like how I imagined the Jesus of my novels might look. I knew that his image was the key to the whole thing and that, once that was right, everything else could be figured out. So, we agreed on the image and on the details of the design and I sat back to await the arrival of my new cover. When I received the first draft it confirmed that I had made the right choice and that this whole thing was going to work out. I loved it, only minor revisions were even needed to finish the image and, once they were done, I received the rather wonderful image that you see below…

jr

So, if you’re a self-published, independent author like me who’s lost your cover artist (what are the chances?) then my advice is this: don’t panic, send out some feelers, know what you want and it will most likely work out well, as it did for me. You could also check out Natasha’s website (http://natashasnow.com/) and send your business her way, if you wanted to 😉 You never know, she might make for you as striking an image as she did for me. Here’s hoping!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of Terry Pratchett’s ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’…

This time I’m reviewing Terry Pratchett’s ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’, his book of collected non-fiction. I have been a fan of Mr. Pratchett’s for as long as I can remember, I read his and Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ in my teens and every Discworld novel since then, along with most of the rest of Pratchett’s output. But before reading this book I hadn’t read much of his non-fiction output and so this collection was a joy to find and devour. I also think that it is fair to say that Pratchett, along with Gaiman, is a huge influence on my work and writings (who isn’t influenced by this pair, though) and reader reviews have even made that comparison more directly than I would ever dare (review here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z), which is lovely! Anyway, onto my review.

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So, ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’ includes all manner of articles Pratchett wrote from the 1970’s to almost current day where he talks about things ranging from what his life as a writer was really like both at home and on the road, to his thoughts on paying taxes or on education, to how much his life changed since he announced that he was suffering from a rare form of Alzheimer’s. The articles range from the absolutely hilarious to the heartbreakingly poignant and I don’t remember the last time I read or saw anything that made me laugh as much as this book. And it’s non-fiction! But Pratchett knows how to set up and deliver a joke and the speech’s that he gave must surely have been absolute barnstormers. I had to continuously pause when I was reading the book so that I could stop myself from laughing too loudly on the train to work. I think I might even be scaring the other passengers a little! Oh, well.

Pratchett also covered matters that he clearly felt strongly about including the need for regulated assisted suicide in the UK (or assisted death as Pratchett prefers to call it) so as to reduce the suffering of people with terminal illnesses to how poorly funded Alzheimer’s research is compared to things like cancer research. These articles obviously have a different feel that the openly comic ones that the book starts with but they are nevertheless a joy to read.  As with Gaiman’s ‘View from the Cheap Seats’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/zklvpvp), there’s a strong sense when reading this book of the author talking directly to the reader and that is just wonderful! As a young, self-published author with no agent, publishing house or support network, I am yet to go on a book tour or do a signing but I’m hoping to get to that point someday and Pratchett’s words on what it is like and how to cope with the stresses of said life are invaluable. These articles are also incredibly entertaining too which always helps!

As a fan of his work, I’ve read the vast majority of Pratchett’s output (I still have to read ‘Nation’, his best book according to the author, so I shall definitely have to hunt that out) and this is one of the one’s that I have enjoyed the most. I expected to enjoy it, but not nearly as much as a I did. ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’ is a joy to read from start to finish, through the early articles and letters onto his life as an author to his fight against Alzheimer’s and how much his life changed when he announced he was suffering from the disease. I highly recommend this book to any and all writers out there as well as to fans of his work who simply want more of his writings to read, even if what we all really want is more Discworld novels.  Pratchett has left an incredible legacy and this is one part of said legacy that deserves to be read and enjoyed by as wide an audience as possible. So go out and read it people!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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One year on: an update on writing, sequels and interesting developments…

A few days ago was the one year anniversary of the day that I self-published ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ and so now seems like a good time for some thoughts, some reflection and for me to post an update for all that’s happened and that I have been doing since then. The first thing I should say is that I can’t believe that it’s been a year already! It has flown by, as it always seems to do, and what a fun ride it has been including getting some great reviews and appearing on a number of atheist podcasts. The sequel is also proceeding nicely, I’ll talk about this more below, as well as an interesting aside that happened in the past week. Anyway…onwards!

The first thing I want to say is thank you to many people, from the guys and girls who first took a punt on my novel and were then kind enough to write reviews for my book (you all know who you are and how grateful I am to you!), to those who invited me onto their podcasts for chats about atheism, politics and of course my novel. These people have all been remarkably generous with their time and I currently have ten reviews of the book, including three five star reviews, with an average of 4.3 stars out of five. That’s fantastic and you all have my thanks!

As well as writing and appearing on podcasts, one of the other things I have also done this year has been to post as often as I can to this blog on everything from comics like ‘Rumble’ and ‘Mind Mgmt’ to reviewing non-fiction books like Johann Hari’s ‘Chasing the Scream’, George Monbiot’s ‘Captive State’ and many others. I’ve also written about my appearances on atheist podcasts, my recent experience of working in retail again after many years in science, and other random bits like my reviews of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Captain America: Civil War. Basically, anything that’s caught my interest or that I love I’ve written about in the hope that I can persuade others to enjoy the things that I do.

I also wanted to post an update as to the sequel to ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’ which is again back in production now that I have been able to find some time to actually do some writing! I am having a blast working on this book, which is now more than halfway done, and I hope to finish it soon now that I have the time to do so (though the real possibility of a decent full-time job in the near future would make this more complicated!). Of course, once the writing is done, the editing process will begin and that often takes as long as the writing, so the release of this novel might be further in the future than I hope. But unlike when ‘Only an atheist’ was released (and I was more than a little apprehensive), I can’t wait for people to read ‘Jesus Returns’ so I certainly have the motivation to keep going!

Finally, I wanted to end on an interesting note that also seems to warrant some discussion. My brother’s fiance is Australian and, on a recent trip back to her homeland, she sent me and my family an intriguing message. She said that she was having a conversation with a friend about atheists like Sam Harris, a fellow neuroscientist and author, and she happened to mention me and my novel (for it is always good to have friends and family willing to proselytise on your behalf). Then something interesting happened. It seemed that her friend had already heard of me and my book and had even seen the cover (which he thought looked like Socrates) but not via me, my twitter account or my appearances on atheist podcasts. There was a brief confusion where it seemed that Penn Jillette may have been the source of the information (I have since confirmed with him on Twitter that he was not) but nevertheless my brother’s fiance’s friend had heard about the book from somewhere, some podcast that was seemingly talking about it.

And this is truly exciting for if people other than myself are now talking about and suggesting my novel to other people then suddenly it feels like this thing might be taking on a life of it’s own. I am aware that this could happen, that the novel might be found by the right person, someone with the right connections  and then things could escalate. And even if this wasn’t that moment, I am still intrigued and I know that event still could happen and that is an exciting thought indeed! So if anyone knows of any podcast or outlet that is talking about my novel (without me as a guest), then please get in touch so that I can make contact with them directly. That would be very helpful.

To sum up, it’s been an exciting year with some standout moments and I hope that the next one is as enjoyable. I’m hoping to finish ‘Jesus Returns’ in the near future and then the novel will be released when I am happy with it. Which will undoubtedly take some time! And then I’ll have to see what happens next in this series and whether or not it will continue (I’m already thinking of a sequel so it probably will). Hopefully the journey that I am on as an Indie author will and bigger things are to come. Here’s hoping!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

 

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Update: atheist podcast appearances and my 5 star review!

For my 25th blog post (has it really been 25 already?) I thought I should turn my attention away from comics, book reviews and other matters and focus on the actual reason that I began this blog: my life as an independent author, and that I should post an update on recent happenings. So, two significant things that can occur in the career of a writer like myself occurred in the past few weeks. The first was that I made several appearances on atheist podcasts to talk about, among other things, my novel. The second  was that I got my first FIVE star review from a reader! Both of these events seem like significant milestones in the career of a self-published, independent author like myself and I’m going to talk a little about each. First, the podcasts!

In the past few weeks I’ve been on three atheist podcasts: Atheist Human’s show, the Ehtheist podcast and Cellar Door Skeptics. I’ve had a blast doing them and you can find the links to each show below. During our conversations we talked about religion, atheism, politics and of course about my novel, and all of the hosts of these shows have been remarkably generous in the amount of time they’ve allocated me to ramble about ‘Only an atheist’. Everyone involved has my thanks and I very much look forward to talking to you all again soon! Thanks guys!

Having appeared on these shows I am also struck by what they are and what they can be. They are outside of conventional media and a way of directly reaching an (admittedly small, but steadily growing) audience of listeners and conveying your message without the bias of the conventional media. OK, so most of the information discussed in these podcasts has been informed by interactions with said media but I am still impressed by the discussions that I have been a part of and how well informed my hosts have been. I have already arranged several more podcast appearances that will hopefully be lined up in the near future and I very much look forward to them. The one downside to this is that most of these shows record in the middle of the night for us here in the UK, but a few hours sleep is a small sacrifice for something so enjoyable.

The second thing that happened in the past few weeks that has truly stunned me is something that every indie author hopes will happen to them: I got a five star review from someone who read and obviously enjoyed my novel! Here it is:

Justin's review 2

Now, clearly I hoped that I would one day get a review like this and each previous review posted for my novel gave it four stars (except for the one person who didn’t like it and gave it three). But I have to say that this felt like a significant moment and I have, unsurprisingly, been enjoying telling people and retweeting this review out as often as I can. I am incredibly grateful to the person who wrote the review (they know who they are ;)) and I am sure that my first five star review will eventually be balanced out with a very negative review (probably from someone with religious tendencies). Little puts the bounce in the step of an indie author, however, than something like this! It was a very special moment and one that I treasure.

So, onwards…There will be more podcast appearances in the coming weeks as well as (hopefully) more positive reviews as there is now a significant number of people who have told me that they have bought my book and are reading it. I hope you guys enjoy my appearances on these shows now and in the future and I can’t wait to hear from all of you who’ve read the novel and reviewed it. Cheers!

 

Atheist Human podcast appearance: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/atheisthuman/2016/03/22/all-atheists-have-a-voice-1

Ehtheist podcast appearance: https://www.spreaker.com/user/ehtheist/live-with-matthew-james

Cellar Door Skeptics appearance: to be released.

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help Godsave the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My ‘ramblings’ about the pitfalls of using social media to promote your

So, for my twentieth blog post, I thought I should actually ‘ramble’ about something that is directly relevant to the purpose of this blog and to the reason that I am on social media: the promotion of my novel ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’. That is, after all, the main (but not the only) reason that I write this blog and why I am using Twitter, and having recently reviewed several non-fiction books, I realised that I really should try to post on relevant topics more often. This time I am talking about the pitfalls that indie authors like myself can fall into when using social media in an attempt to find an audience and to convince said audience to actually read the work that they have produced. For it is not an easy thing to do so here are my thoughts on how to do so with a little grace.

Now, I am hardly an expert in the use of social media to promote your work, but I do feel that I have learned a thing or two since engaging with this medium and in the past few weeks I have had a few interesting exchanges that have increased my knowledge and actually changed the way that I have been using it. As many others do, but to a lesser extent, I follow accounts in the hope that they will follow me back and if they choose to do so, I then take the opportunity to tweet them an advert for my novel. So, I have carefully crafted this tweet to be upbeat and friendly and I have had far more positive responses to it than negative, but still it doesn’t always work out that way. On the positive, sometimes I will be told how stunning the cover is and that opens up a conversation nicely. But I do still I get the occasional bad reaction.

One such reaction came when I tweeted at one of my followers and they responded immediately with an unpleasant retort and then blocked me. I thought that was more than a little harsh when a simple unfollow would have sufficed but what can you do? Another reaction occurred when I followed a fellow atheist, they followed me back, I tweeted my greeting and they expressed their annoyance at me ‘shilling’ my book to them. Now, this is not the only reason that I follow people, but it is the principal one, and I can hardly complain when I was doing exactly that. This person then asked me (somewhat indirectly) to unfollow them and I obliged for I am not trying to piss anyone off. Still, the exchange left a somewhat sour taste though I was still glad they didn’t block me. But it left me wondering how I could refine the way in which I use twitter and since then have I reduced the number of times per day that I send out my tweets about my book.

So, I am again struck by the delicate balance that Indie, self-published authors like myself have to strike between advertising their works to their audience, and not pestering them too much and thus driving them away. I followed an author in the past few weeks whose time-line was an endless stream of thank you messages to their new followers that completely dominated my feed and so I quickly unfollowed them. But I am also aware that the time immediately after someone has followed you is the best chance to say hello, let them know about your novel and to show them the book cover. I know that my cover image is one of the best things that I have when seeking to advertise my book, along with short excerpts and highlighting the reviews that I have been given, and I know that I have a truly memorable cover, but the line between someone seeing this image enough times to snag their interest and being annoyed can be quite thin. And no matter how good your cover image is, your followers are likely to get tired of it eventually. I know that I would in their shoes.

In the past few weeks I have also taken to trawling my list of people that I am following in an attempt to remove those who have recently chosen to unfollow me. I am still trying not to expand my following list too quickly and this allows me to remove those who no longer have an interest in my novel and replace them with others who might. I don’t blame those who do so as it must become tiresome following an author who is using Twitter for promotional purposes, and actually I am now more aware of how many times some of my followers must have seen my cover image, and so I am grateful to those who choose to stay. I recently noticed several of my followers had chosen to leave and I was very sad to lose a few of these accounts, including someone who is a tiny bit famous and who’s work I admire and who followed me despite having little reason to do so, but there is nothing you can do once they choose to leave.

As ever with these things, you have to take the good with the bad and accept that you are using twitter for a purpose and that sometimes people you follow will not like what you are doing. I am aware that popular opinion writers for newspapers and magazines that I read have it far worse than I do (though I have received a little bit of that flack from time to time when tweeting about their articles) and I know that I have relatively little to complain about. I am also aware that this may change as more people read my book and I am still waiting for the day when someone religious reads a novel in which God comes to Earth and the only person who can help Him is an atheist. I am certain that it will happen and also that that will be an interesting day for I am very curious as to what they will make of it!

Next up, either a review of the brilliant comic series Mind Mgmt by Matt Kindt or Owen Jones’ ‘The Establishment’, I haven’t decided which yet. And yes I know that my staying focused on writing about being a indie author didn’t last very long. Oh well 😉

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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Thank you to my followers, retweeters, and most importantly my readers and reviewers!

So, having recently published several entries to my blog where I review either for a non-fiction book or the recent Star Wars movie, I think it’s time for something a little different. This entry is talking about some familiar themes: being an Indie author, the relationship that I have with my followers and readers, but more than anything it is a big thank you! Thank you to those who follow me, to those who retweet me, and especially a HUGE thank you to those who’ve chosen to buy and read my book! And if you’ve written me a review, then you get an even bigger THANK YOU! As an indie author the only means that I currently have to persuade people to read my book is through social media so if you’ve read and reviewed my novel you have my gratitude. I also think it’s time for a little reflection on the past few months…

Right, so, my book was self-published at the beginning of July 2015 and since then I have amassed a following of around 1300 people, most of whom I also follow. I am aware that I could’ve pursued this more quickly and aggressively, as I see other indie authors doing, by following many more accounts but to do so would be somewhat missing the point. I’ve tried to engage with as many of you as I can, though I have doubtlessly not done so with everyone, and I have enjoyed the majority of these interactions. In 7 months I’ve only had to block one account and have in turn been blocked by a small number, some of whom have turned out to be rather unpleasant characters, but at least one of which was down to my own stupidity. And being blocked by fellow atheists is quite a strange thing! There are lessons to be learned in the art of using social media to promote your novel and I feel I have learned them well!

I’ve also talked before about the relationship between Indie authors and their readers, yet every time I have a conversation with one of my followers who is reading my novel and they tell me how much they are enjoying it, I am again struck by how utterly unique this relationship is. Recently one of my followers tweeted me to tell me that they had bought my book and for someone like me that is always a good day indeed! Then, a short while later they again messaged me to inform me that, although they were very busy working, they were trying to find the time to read it when they could. They told me that they were “enjoying it immensely” and that they thought I “really out did myself”. This has happened a couple of times now but the days when I receive a message like this are truly wonderful. I am also eagerly awaiting the message that informs me they have finished the book and what they thought of it…

So, every time this happens, every time someone messages me to say that they have enjoyed my novel I get the feeling that this entire endeavour is worthwhile. I experience a small sense of satisfaction, and I know that, regardless of the number of books I have sold so far, I am glad that I am doing this. Then it happened again with one of my followers messaging me, someone who had previously told me that they thought my blog was “excellent”, to say that they had bought my book. Each time this occurs I am a little bit astonished and incredibly grateful. I am starting to get the feeling that I am getting somewhere, that this process is getting a little easier and that the next sale will be easier than the last. Yet I am not quite sure what has changed or why I feel like this and I shall have to have a think about it! Hopefully this feeling will continue and my sales will also do so!

Finally, I’ll end where I began with a thank you! Thank you to all of you who have followed me and seen my adverts for my book and then retweeted to help me reach a wider audience. To those of you who have taken the chance and actually either bought my book or grabbed it when it has been offered for free get double thanks! I know that doing so is taking a risk on an unknown author and I am immensely grateful to those who have done so! And even more gratitude to those who’ve finished the novel and then messaged me to tell me how much you’ve enjoyed it, and left me such lovely reviews on Amazon and Smashwords (you can find them here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z and http://tinyurl.com/pu46r2b). Your comments keep me going and I know that I owe you guys. You know who you are and you have my gratitude! Indie authors cannot be successful without the support of their fans and so I offer you one final THANK YOU! Now, onwards…

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, self-publishing! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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