Category Archives: Talent Chronicles

Guest Post: Protagonist Arizona Darley, and Quantum

When my dear friend Imogen Rose, author of the Portal Chronicles, asked me if I could help with Quantum‘s launch by hosting her and her character Arizona  on launch day, I was delighted to say yes. Let’s hear from Arizona…

A note from Arizona Darley

Once upon a time–well, a year ago now!–I suddenly woke up as Arizona Darley, a blonde California cheerleader, which, of course, I’m not. I am actually Arizona Stevens, a varsity ice hockey player from New Jersey. It was confusing to the say the least–I mean really? A blonde Barbie doll… sheesh, not! It turns out that my mom’s time travel  portal was somehow responsible. Anyhow… it’s now a year later and the portal is now active again, which means that I can go home to my real dad….

-Arizona

Book Description

Quantum Cover ArtA whole year has passed. It’s October again… or is it?

As California teen, Arizona Darley, contemplates traveling back through the portal to seek out her dad, her life is plunged into a whirlwind ride through the unknown.

But this time, she doesn’t disappear through the portal.

Has Arizona been kidnapped–again? Is Raj Sen to blame? Could Dillard have taken her?

As Kellan, David and her parents launch a frantic search with the help of the Wanderers, it becomes apparent that things are much more complex than they seem – for all of them. While investigating her daughter’s latest disappearance, Olivia faces shocking revelations about the Wanderers and her life with Rupert.

In the meantime, what’s happening in New Jersey? Are both of Arizona’s worlds about to collide?

Quantum is the third book in the Portal Chronicles. Catch the start of Arizona’s adventures in Portal and Equilibrium.

Quantum can be purchased today on Amazon.com.

Book Trailer!

For more information on the author, Imogen Rose, or to read more about the earlier books in the series, visit her website: http://imogenrose.com.

…Please visit again tomorrow when I’ll have some information for you about Heroes ‘Til Curfew, the sequel to Hush Money, including the first reveal of the cover art.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under books, characters, Guests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, interviews, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

Status Update, Coming Attractions, Secret Identities

Let’s just get this out of the way. I don’t think Stacey Wallace Benefiel (authoress of Glimpse, Glimmer, Day of Sacrifice) ever initiates a conversation two times in a row using the same messenger. One day it’s email, then Goodreads PM, then Facebook message, then a DM on Twitter… Is Stacey a secret agent, trying to cover her tracks? Are there coded messages I’m too blonde to see? While posing as a home-renovating mother-of-two, is she really about to drop from a helicopter onto a moving train and wondering why I haven’t rushed her plea for extraction to the agent they have planted at the local Waffle House?

These are things I ponder.

Hush Money hit a new milestone yesterday: 2000 sales. The end of October/beginning of November was freaking awesome on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

This will probably not be the last time that I mention that there’s nothing like a shiny new paperback under the tree, should you wish to consider Joss and her friends to fulfill your gift-giving needs this holiday season.

Can you believe she’s starting up with that crap already, and it’s not even freakin’ Thanksgiving yet? Damn. I know!

Ok, what else. Oooh! Right. So Quantum! Who’s a fan of the Portal Chronicles, raise your hand? (If your hand is not raised, it’s because you haven’t read yet, so go, buy Portal, start getting caught up now, ’cause…) The third book, Quantum, releases on Tuesday, November 16th. The main character, Arizona, is due to drop by here and drop off some kind of message for you on Tuesday. So make sure you’ve done the homework.

Also of possible interest, she said innocently, the cover of Heroes ‘Til Curfew, the follow-up to Hush Money, will be revealed on Wednesday, Nov. 17th. It was not at all what I expected, and really took my breath away when I saw the initial concept. Robin is awesomesauce, and I hope you’ll all like it as much as I do.

Yes, the new book is coming along better, thank you for asking. Yesterday I finally pushed through a scene that was giving me all kinds of problems. When I was finished, I just wanted to sit and write more. Dammit. Self-washing dishes, where are you?? As I was driving to Girl Scouts, I was totally seeing the inside of the record store instead of the road, Joss was yelling, stuff was flying–it was all pretty distracting. Now imagine me, having this realization: Wow, I could totally have a really bad wreck right now! and grinning from ear to ear because I’m finally getting somewhere.

Watch out you Nano peeps. Don’t count me out yet!

Did you guys know I have another identity? No, I don’t use a pen name. In the dark and dangerous manuscript critiquing underworld, I am known, by those who can find me, as Pink Hammer. My supercharged weapon of choice? The Pink Hammer of Doom, of course. Now this is all totally wrecked by Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, because now even I am asking myself if the hammer is really my penis, and it pretty much makes me the laughingstock of the underworld. Thank you very much. Nevertheless, I persevere, and will be taking out these frustrations on Devil’s Eye by Kait Nolan. So if Kait seems a little jumpy this week, if you see her stocking up on adult diapers because she’s pissing herself in fear, be kind.

Haha, no, really. It’s not like that.

Is it?

Ok, I think I’ve babbled at you guys long enough for one morning. Anyone have news? I haven’t been getting out much; feel free to tell me what’s up.

14 Comments

Filed under books, characters, Guests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, Kettle chat, me me me, NaNoWriMo, progress update, PubIt, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

This, That, Stuff, and Things

I used to have this social studies teacher who absolutely hated “stuff and things.” Use either of those words in an essay question at your peril. So now I often say them, just to say them, because I’m just ornery like that.

I’m also constantly behind. Everything’s just late, crazy, and overdue.

Take the 1000 Sales Giveaway. I was supposed to draw that on Monday. Just did it now.

It has been such a week. Sales started a random upswing over the weekend and then just exploded. It was all very exciting, finally slowing back down again, but I’ve been so obnoxious this week that I’m lucky I have any friends left at all, and you’re all lucky I forgot to blog.

So I’m not going to bore you with a play by play, but I’ll just record that my highest rank in the Kindle store was #327, and at B&N, where there is less competition right now, I think the highest I got was #140. Don’t know how that happened, and I think I’m pretty much going to have to retire from trying to figure this stuff out because I haven’t got a clue.

Ok, I know, tell us the winner already. I’m just messing with you. The winner of the signed paperback of Hush Money is Marta! Because Random.org thought to itself: which number feels like international postage?? Hahaha. That’s awesome, though, and Marta, I am very excited to send this to you.

Speaking of contests, I think Robin and I have settled on a cover concept and images for Heroes ‘Til Curfew. Last night I sent her a bunch of spew, descriptions of Dylan, some recurrent themes and imagery from the new book, that kind of crap. What she came up with is pretty awesome on the first try.

It’s not ready yet. I have to buy the stock images, she has to play with the color and make some adjustments, and I apologize for just teasing you like this with nothing to show. But I’m sure we’ll have it ready for you soon. I already feel so much pressure about this sequel that, to be honest, I’m sort of afraid of the cover reveal. Because I just think Robin’s work is so awesome it’s going to make a mob come to my house and chain me to this machine until I finish the story to go with it.

Which Kait suggested might not be a bad thing.

Smartass.

Anyway, I asked Robin if she was inspired by any of the responses in the Find My Dylan contest, and it seemed that her image selection came mainly from what I told her about the story. We agreed that it’s probably best to go with random selection on that too. So when we’re 100% on everything, and ready to reveal the cover, I’ll announce the winner on that as well. Thanks to everyone who helped look for Dylan.

In other news, my husband and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary on Tuesday. I’ve now been married half my life. Whew.

NaNoWriMo is going pretty slowly. November is always a bear for me. Just in this week I had my attention sucked away by the awesome upswing of sales, our anniversary, election day means a day of no school, I should have had my knitting day but got sick, then doll club with my mom today, and tomorrow I have a bazillion errands and a social commitment I should honor. So that’s all interfering a bit with my whole BICHOK program, but most of what interferes with that program is me. I got 1230 words today of what is mainly note-form to be turned into proper prose later (well, as proper as we get in the Talent Chronicles), which brought me up just over 4100, I guess. I forget, but I updated it at the website, so it’s probably in the sidebar. The stats tell me I’m behind. Big surprise.

How is everyone else doing?

3 Comments

Filed under Contests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, love, me me me, nano, NaNoWriMo, progress update, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, word count, writing

Quick Exciting (to me) Update with Stats and PubIt Stuff

Hush Money was in the top 250 when I looked at Barnes & Noble this morning, at #246. When I looked just now it was #242. Seems like their ranks are updating more often than they were earlier in the week, or I could just be more obsessed. :eyeroll:

 

#246 in ebooks

Sales at Amazon were down yesterday, but I got back into the top 1000 this morning, at #840 when I looked earlier.

I was going to mention about that “Hot New Releases” list on Amazon we were talking about the other day. I can’t believe I never noticed this thing, but my dear reader, Marta, actually screen-shot it for me the other day. It’s a tab under the bestseller lists that I click to all the time. You know, the ones right under your rank in your listing. Dur. So anyway, as there’s plenty of stuff on the list with less than 20 reviews, I’d say it’s just based on the magically mysterious Amazon sales-tracking formula, and being on the new releases list is just a matter of…release date.

And so, another theory bites the dust.

Back to PubIt. I’ve been there for two weeks and I’m really liking it. Since B&N hasn’t reported their numbers to Smashwords since I got listed, I don’t have comparison numbers for you, but just based on ranking, my B&N ranking was abysmal before PubIt. I’ve been there two weeks with ever-increasing sales, which makes sense with that whole visibility thing we talked about recently. The more sales you make, the better visibility you get for customers who are browsing, the more sales increase.

And browsers have got to be key here, because the main difference between my Smashwords listing and my PubIt listing is that PubIt allows you to choose categories like the Amazon DTP that actually work in the store. Through Smashwords, you’re just not searchable that way. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Smashwords, am grateful to them, etc., but this step-children attitude the stores have to their Smashwords listing sucks.) And I’m sure the fact that you get more than 400 characters to pimp your book doesn’t hurt.

As a 99cent book, I’m at a 40% rate at BN. It’s about a 3 cent loss per book, I guess, compared to my share of the sales when I used Smashwords to get into BN. Who cares? I’m actually selling now.

Indies, if you haven’t gotten those EPUBs done and made your listings at PubIt, get off your butt and just do it. If you download your EPUBs from Smashwords and edit the license info using Sigil, it should go very quickly. I did four of these for a friend the other day. Besides, we need to start making enough money for B&N that other sites will want to carry us and take care of our books so they’ll sell.

Be aware that after you do your thing with PubIt, your Smashwords listing will disappear after a week or two, and eventually take all your previous reviews with it. You’ll be starting over in that respect, and there have been some delays and problems getting new reviews to appear, but I still think it’s worth doing.

P.S. I forgot to tell you, since I was on Stats and the me me me thing in this post: I’m over 800 total sales for October, across all channels and formats. I was afraid to dream about selling this well so soon as a total noob.

2 Comments

Filed under books, Hush Money, Increasing Kindle Rank, PubIt, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles

Wanna Nano Buddy?

Yeah, I did it. I went and signed up all fresh and new this morning. Here’s my profile, if you think you might like to buddy me. It’s a little slap-dash. I have no idea what years I’ve tried to do Nano before, but I can tell you that I’ve never finished. I think I’ve had two accounts, the second one because I couldn’t get back into the first one for my second year because of all the website problems. This year, though, I’ve put all the past behind me, all the hiding behind a handle, afraid to tell anyone that I write, and I’m there with my real name. So there. [self-directed “so there”]

I’m working on Heroes ‘Til Curfew. I know that, technically, it’s supposed to be something fresh and new. I had hoped to have HTC out in beta and be able to possibly start the rough of the third book for Nano. Well, there’s a dream that’s long behind me as I fall further and further behind. I really feel like I need something to get me going right now. And trust me, I’ve got at least 50, 000 new words left to write in this draft.

I’m not sure how I’ll do with the goal. I’ve never finished. Nano is a difficult concept for me. The idea of waiting to start something until a set date, setting that date around one of the busiest and most stressful parts of the year, and then all that just writing whatever to get words out, the frantic output to be fixed later–that’s not really how I work at all. So I may end up plodding along at my own pace and being behind, but I think it will be nice just to be part of Nano fever, because just the energy that surrounds it is sometimes helpful–if you don’t let it stress you out and drive you mad.

Anyway, if you’re doing Nano this year, feel free to add me.

I’m feeling really reflective today, and I was just thinking about what I said above, about how I had been hiding behind internet handles and how I avoided telling any one in real life that I was a writer. It’s been really interesting, and very nice, to be able to do this with a shiny book in my hands and my name on the cover. People in my life have been very kind, supportive, and downright enthusiastic. But I’m not sure what it would have been like without that shiny book, and I wonder if I ever would have done it.

A lot of Hush Money is about fear. I know I said this in an interview somewhere, that one of the movie lines that repeated in my head while I was writing, and continues to live there when I think about the story, is from Pump Up The Volume. It’s the part at the parent meeting when Paige Woodward, the girl who blew up her kitchen, takes the stage and passionately tells the crowd how she’s just been going through the motions of being perfect. “We are all really scared to be who we really are.”

And didn’t think too much, until I started to out myself as a writer, how much of Joss’s secrecy was actually mine.

I got another bit of fan mail this morning, from someone who hasn’t quite reached the end of the story, but wanted to tell me how much I made her feel like she was there, in school, living this life. (As a writer, I should have better words for what those messages mean to me.) Looking forward to her finishing the book, wondering how she would feel at the end of it, I started thinking about the ending of the book myself, and how I lived it.

Writing that ending was very exciting. There was a sense of Oh my God, this is finally over. That feeling of exhilaration was both Joss’s, having just come through the other side of this battle and solved this big problem that had been hanging over her, as well as mine, having come through it with her, and also having come to the end of a struggle of my own. I felt like I had conquered something too. As I was typing her thoughts, I was thinking, this is starting to sound like the end of an after school special.

And then I decided that was just fine.

13 Comments

Filed under books, characters, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, ideas, insecurities, Laws of the Universe, nano, NaNoWriMo, Signs, Talent Chronicles, writing

1000 Sales, Giveaway, Mini Writer Conference, and a Puzzle Piece

Hush Money went over 1000 total sales last night, within 12 weeks of release, and, naturally, I’m very happy about that. I’ve passed my break-even point as far money I’ve put into the book. Next financial goal would be to earn enough to pay for the art and copyright for Heroes ‘Til Curfew.

That’s going a little better, in that I think I’ve figured out why anything I manage to write has been so chock full of suck lately. Now that I know the problem, if I can figure out how to work through it, I should be able to get back to writing like crazy to get this book out by late December/early January.

I was really inspired by our mini conference over the weekend, which some people would call lunch, but whatever. Those of you who follow Kait and Lauralynn will already know that we drove from all directions to a central point to have lunch and spend a few hours talking about writing and indie stuff. Then Lauralynn and I met Zoe, who wasn’t able to make it to the lunch, and spent some time with her, too. I had a lot of fun. More importantly, I have been living so mojo-free since September, that it was a really big deal for me to get inspired by all the writer talk and actually whip out my notebook to jot down some ideas for my WIP when I got home.

The last bit of news I’ve been meaning to come and tell you comes from a lovely email exchange I had with one of my readers who is also an ebook enthusiast, just as I am. Except that, rather than stamp her feet over availability issues like I do, she just has multiple e-reader devices. Possibly this makes her my new hero.

Anyway, I’m not going to clip the email because I neglected to ask her permission, but she told me that she found me in a “Hot New Releases” list on her Kindle. I was on the romance list, on the 41-60 page when she found me, read the excerpt, and bought the book in mid-October. This coincides with the period of crazy sales I had on Amazon at that time.

Thank you, Amazon!

So why did Amazon put me there? Why Amazon does anything could probably be its own In Search Of… style TV series, but my theory here is about reviews. There’s been a rumor going around that 20 is the magic review number that gets Amazon to start recommending your book to others. I don’t know if that’s true. But I looked through my reviews and I can see that I got my 20th review on October 4th, so just after 8 weeks. I had also broken into the top 1000 for the first time by September 28th. Maybe it was a combination of those things that inspired Amazon’s algorithms to choose my book for that list.

I don’t know anything about the list itself, like how long I was on it, how often it updates, etc. I had broken into the top 1000 a two weeks before my reader saw my book on the list, but the sales I had around that time I know I was on it were the days I was firmly in the 600-700 range, when I hit my current best of 623.

Long story short, those reviews really count, and that’s as much of a lesson for readers as it is for writers. If a book made your day, if you want an author you enjoyed to succeed so she can keep writing, an Amazon review is a big deal and something that doesn’t have to take a lot of time.

Writers, make it easy. I should start counting the number of sites and blogs I visit where authors talk about their books and don’t link directly to the book on Amazon, or even mention anywhere one can purchase it. Admittedly, half of these are traditionally published authors who may think facilitating purchases is not their job for some reason. I don’t know. I’m not suggesting pop-up ads (don’t make me hurt you), just don’t make me search. I’ve got a lot on my plate.

[ETA: Now that PubIt! is finally here, a lot of us have been looking to generate more reviews over there for the Nook crowd. If you’d like to copy and paste your Amazon review to the PubIt! listing, I’d be grateful.]

Oh, did I say giveaway? Ok, in honor of the 1000 sales, how about if I send out a signed, paperback copy of Hush Money to someone who leaves a comment between now and October 31st.

19 Comments

Filed under book review, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, Increasing Kindle Rank, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, tips, what not to do, writing

The quick lame post jumped over the lazy blogger…

…and commences making excuses for lack of content. My randomness is spewed below. You have been warned.

Just checking in and saying hey. I had some thoughts for you, but I gave them away. No, really. There were a few things rolling around in my brain from the series last week, so I wrote them down. And then I handed them over to Reena Jacobs who recently asked for indie-related articles for her blog. So you can read my thoughts on the parts of your listing over which you have control, focusing on blurbs and your sample. The post will be titled: Never Too Late To Change.

So that’s tomorrow (Thursday, 10/21). On Friday, I’ve got an interview with Chris Kelly. He’s a writer who’s passionately indie, he’s way into Steampunk, and he’s Scottish. I can’t imagine what more you want, people.

In awesomesauce fan mail news this week, I got an email from a reader in Spain. Yes, Spain! Ok, maybe you don’t think that’s too exciting, but it appeals to my inner need for world domination. Also, last night, yet another of those snarky thanks a lot for making me stay up until the wee hours because I couldn’t put your damned book down emails. Those make me happy.

Speaking of things that make me happy, another book blogger showed Hush Money some love last week while I was out of town and couldn’t tweet about it, so I’ll mention the Fragments of Life review now.

People keep telling me they hate Marco. There should be club. What’s the opposite of a fan club? All I’m coming up with is lynch mob.

I may reach 1000 sales this month. That would be amazing. Because of the number of copies I’ve given away, I’ll almost certainly reach 1000 downloads. But 1000 sales, 1000 people who actually paid money to read my work? I know I say awesome a lot, but come on. Not sure; I might need just a bit of a push in sales to squeak by, but we’ll see.

I’d kind of like to do something, but I’ve no ideas. And no budget. Any ideas what might be fun? (and cheap?)

Leave a comment

Filed under blogs, book blogs, Hush Money, ideas, Laws of the Universe, links, love, me me me, progress update, Signs, Talent Chronicles, tips, writing

Increasing Your Kindle Rank: Cover Art and Your Website

Here we are at the end of the week (well, it’s the end of the week for you; for me it’s Tuesday, I think, and while you’re reading this I’m probably spending quality time with my mom and boring the crap out of her about stuff like kindle ranks and DRM and all that stuff she listens to with feigned interest), with what I think is the last post in this series. If you’re new, I introduced this topic last Saturday, yammering about cracking the Kindle top 1000.

(Also, if you’re new to my blog and commenting for the first time, I’d like to let you know that I’ve written this post ahead and scheduled it. I don’t plan to be online to moderate comments until late Saturday or Sunday, but if you’re moved to reply, please don’t let that stop you!)

Why Cover Art Is Important

Before releasing my book, I was definitely of the mindset that cover art was not a deal-breaker. I was in the process of getting professional cover art, because I seriously lack graphic design skillz, but I didn’t think it was such a big deal. After all, if people I trust tell me a book is great, I’m not going to care what the cover looks like, and that’s the biggest factor for me in reading new-to-me authors.

But I finished Hush Money, it was all edited and shined up, I was learning about formatting, and I was almost ready to go. It was time for me to start talking about the book, what I’d been doing, getting people interested in the release, and I had nothing to show. (At that point I ended up leaving the artist who wasn’t able to get the job done, and going to Robin Ludwig.)

While we do a LOT of reading words on the internet, it’s also very image-oriented. You see that, right? Think of one of your virtual friends, someone you chat with, a Twitter friend, maybe a blogger or a regular commenter to your blog. What image comes to mind? Their avatar. When I was very active on LJ, I had all these dear friends whom I really thought of as Star Trek alien girl, funny old man girl, and Joan Jett. And I’d be kinda shocked when people changed their long-standing avatar. When we think of people and things, we sort of need a visual placeholder.

I didn’t have that for Hush Money, or for me, as a writer. I think it helps to have that, and to have it as early as you can create it so you start building that graphic representation in the mind of your future reader. Of course, it helps to know what the book is going to end up being about before you run out and make the cover for it.

Thoughts That Went Into the Hush Money Cover

In my mind, cover art should be:

  • Professional quality
  • Genre-appropriate
  • Unique in some way
  • Related to the book
  • In some way intriguing to the reader
  • Able to tie into future books in some way to create a brand appearance

It’s not always going to be easy to do all these things, but they’re things that Robin and I were trying to keep in mind as we developed the cover together.

Robin sent me a few mockups early in the process that I rejected on the basis of genre-appropriateness. They were great, very professional attempts. But they were not the kind of covers that I would expect to see when browsing Teen Paranormal. I was looking at a lot of vamp books:  Twilight, Vampire Academy, House of Night..dark covers, soft edges, attractive girls. I told Robin, “I don’t want another white-throated young female vamp cover, but something with similar elements.”

I think it helps when a book stands out without looking out of place. Two things help my cover in that way. One is the Talent Chronicles stripe. When I talked about elements I had seen and liked, I mentioned that I was sometimes drawn to covers with that colored band element with the author and/or title on it. I had also mentioned branding, that I’d like to have a way to tie the books in the series together. Robin’s red, vertical stripe gives me that way to brand going forward, but it’s also pretty eye-catching, isn’t it? The other thing that’s kind of unique is Joss’s “hush” gesture. You’re like wait, why do you want me to be quiet? or What’s the big secret? And the “hush” gesture relates to the title. And to thence to the book. So hopefully, that makes you want to know more, maybe enough to read the description.

So I hope that gives you some things to think about when developing covers, and gives you some ideas you can take to your artist. [cough]go to Robin[cough]

Because Robin is so full-service, she also made my website elements that match my book cover: background, header, avatar. They’re very pretty. I don’t actually know enough about web design to really talk about them beyond, ooh pretty, though. What I think is most important in the look of a website is: can I read it?

Some website Do Nots, IMHO

If you want me to hang out on your site, do not make it hard on my eyes. You may be 22, but I’m not.

  • Avoid putting lots of text on dark backgrounds, especially colored text.
  • Avoid like the plague putting text on a patterned background.
  • Don’t assume everyone’s running at your speed, you don’t need every widget ever made
  • On a related note, don’t assume everyone will wait for your pages to load
  • When choosing security/anti-spam features, remember that no one wants to fight to leave you a comment

Remember to include

  • Easy ways for me to subscribe. Give me choices. Do you know I don’t subscribe to most blogs at Blogspot because most don’t offer an email signup? (Of course, I’m also turned off a lot of Blogspot blogs because they have every widget known to man, so pages take forever to load, and leaving comments is often a struggle.)
  • All your information. Make it one-stop info shopping. Do you know I’ve visited author blogs, where the blog is not integrated with the website, and the blog doesn’t even have a link to the website? And the website is where the rest of the info is.
  • Descriptions of your works. I’m at your site, checking you out. I see three book covers with no descriptions or anything. I click the most interesting one, and it takes me to Amazon (and uses the same window!). Now I have left your site and am wandering Amazon. What if I never come back to check out those other books? One of them might have snagged me, but we’ll never know. It’s your website. It’s all about you. This is not the place to be shy about talking about yourself.
  • Tell visitors you’re a writer. No, really. You don’t know how they stumbled on your site. A while back, someone asked for opinions on a blog/website they had just set up. I went to look at it. A lot of work went into that thing, but nowhere on the landing page had this person made it clear to the visitor that the site was about a series of books he was writing.

Why the blog-centered website?

When I visit author websites, it’s usually because I want to know the reading order of books in the series because the geniuses at the publishing house listed the authors works freaking alphabetically at the front of the book. Destroying any chance that I would pick up that book while it was in my hand at the store, btw. Seriously, that kind of information is generally my only reason for looking up an author site.

When an author keeps a blog, there are two things going on. One is that the author is attempting to engage the audience between books, on another level, about different topics. The other is that the author is potentially being discovered by other citizens of the internet, some of whom may become readers. Changing content and varied topics, make it more likely that posts will get picked up by search engines, and bring in those new readers. Lots of them? Probably not, unless you’re a fab blogger like Mr. Konrath. And even for him, lots of us love his blog but don’t buy too many thriller novels. So becoming a fabulous blogger should not be the totality of anyone’s marketing plan. But every little bit helps, right?

Another reason is that developing at website, at least with WordPress.com, is really easy. I mean, really. You have your blog, but you can also make all kinds of static pages for whatever you want. You can make one of those static pages your landing page, just like a lot “regular” websites.

If you want to have your own domain name, you register and pay for that through a separate company, like GoDaddy. Then you come back to your WordPress.com blog and you pay WordPress $10 a year to associate your content with that name. Not necessary, but also not hard.

This, by the way, totally covered in @kristenlambTX’s We Are Not Alone.

You can still decorate a WordPress-based website all pretty, with a header that establishes brand, and you can use lots of widgets in your sidebar (though there are a lot of widgets that don’t work, grr, but then see above about Blogspot blogs) to advertise and direct traffic elsewhere, etc. It’s always easy to add pages and make changes.

I have another website, fairly dormant at the moment, for my doll stuff (which I need get back to someday). That’s one I’ve built, with website design software (hopelessly outdated, but still), pay for monthly hosting, and it has a self-hosted blog attached to it. It’s not rocket science, but doing this site through WordPress.com has been a lot simpler, it looks more professional, and it leaves me time to write and stuff.

This was another one that probably could have been two posts, but hey, why wait? Now you can go get back to work. I hope this series has been helpful for you. Thanks for stopping by.

3 Comments

Filed under blogs, books, Hush Money, Increasing Kindle Rank, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, tips, tools, writing

Increasing Your Kindle Rank: Pricing

Yeah, I don’t like to talk about money. Like politics and religion, it can ugly. That’s why this post is longer and rantier than usual. But it’s part of this whole series I’m taking you through this week, and it’s my opinion. I’m keeping it. If you don’t like it, just go do your own thing, ok?

Ok, so the series, if you’re just joining us… Last Saturday I talked about reaching the Kindle top 1000 and some things I think were helpful,  and now I’m going through and expanding on those ideas.

When most of my friends put out their first books, everyone was all about 99 cents. It’s the lowest price an indie can set on Amazon. And there were a lot of 99 cent ebooks out there, competing for space. At the time, it was even harder for the 99 cent books to get found because, when searching by price, you had to start with the freebies that the trad publishers are allowed to run, pages and pages of freebies, many of which were merely excerpts from books.

The two things happened: first, Amazon broke the freebies away from the rest of the Kindle store so that they could be searched and ranked separately (yay!), and they went to the 70% royalty rate for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99.

Since that time, $2.99 has been on its way to becoming the new 99 cents, possibly in the same way it seems that just yesterday a regular sized Milky Way bar was under 50 cents and the “fun size” was a whole lot funner. /accidental chocolatey tangent.

And I’ve certainly got no beef with anyone who wants to make $2 off their book instead of 35 cents. What I do have a problem with is people implying that I am doing something wrong by pricing my book at 99 cents. That I am undercutting other authors, devaluing my own work and books as a whole, and somehow behaving as a bad citizen of the indie author community. In a sense, reading (SOME and not all of) these articles on why we should all move on up to $2.99, feels a lot like reading some of the not so nice things the trad authors have said about the indies.

Last month I sold over 300 books through all channels. This month I’m on target to sell that many by halfway through the month. But I’m making 35 cents per book, or a bit over $100 when I could, in theory, be making $600. OMG, why don’t I raise that price.

Because there is no way on this Earth that you are going to convince me that, as an 8 week old, baby author with NO name, NO ad budget, and one title, that many people are going to buy my book at $2.99.

But Susan, it doesn’t matter if 300 people buy your book. At that rate, fewer people can buy your book and you’ll still be making more money. Great. If making money were the most important thing to me right now, I’d be all over that. Would I like to be able to make back what I paid my cover artist, the copyright registration, the paper copies I’ve sent out? Would I love to be able to give away more paper books, t-shirts and other swag, do the Kindle Nation sponsorship thing, have contests that give away Kindles? Hell yes! Am I there yet? No. I haven’t earned that yet. Would I love to be able to pay some bills, figure out what’s wrong with my car, and not have to roll down the window to open the door from the outside? Yes. But I haven’t earned that yet either.

I’m pretty sure I once read where Holly Lisle (who has many smart and helpful things to say to writers) said that you shouldn’t quit your day job until you have 11 books published. Because that’s the point at which your royalties may be stable enough to support you writing full time. Now that was a few years back, and the industry has changed boatloads in that time. I have no idea what she’d say about that now. But that has really stuck with me.

So what do I think I’m getting at the 99 cent level? Sales and rank. Rank comes from sales. Once I started to push up from the middle of the category lists I was on, sales increased. See, I had trouble figuring this out because, remember all those reviews I had? Well, things had a been really quiet on that front. And then sales, like, doubled. Not that that was totally crazy, because it wasn’t a huge number either way. But I’d Google myself and no one was really talking about the book. I wouldn’t be able to put my finger on what prompted someone to check me out. But the thing that had changed was my placement in the Kindle rankings, which was moving me up those category lists.

The biggest hurdle is visibility, the second is credibility.

There are some people out there saying that people who buy books for 99 cents are then not motivated to read them. That’s their loss. It’s a fun book. I believe that plenty of people do read it and are then unmotivated to tell others about it. So in that way, as far as sales of this book are concerned, non-reader and reader have done me the exact same service. They’ve registered a sale that has increased my rank, and therefore also my visibility. When they come across another blogger talking about it, maybe they’ll move it to the top of the TBR list.

I know people are searching me by price, and I’m pretty sure some are choosing free reads over mine. And this is because, on my Kindle page, I can see What Do Customers Ultimately Do After Viewing This Item? Most of them are still buying me. That percentage, often referred to as “conversion rate” has gone down a lot since I started. That’s because, in the beginning, people were going to my page via direct link because of me, a tweet, a review, etc. They went with the purpose of buying my book. As I got out of that, and browsers became a bigger part of my sales, that rate goes down, because some browsers by you, and some pass you by. The browsers who do not buy Hush Money generally buy other free reads or other 99 cent ebooks. So far, I don’t have a lot of people looking at my book and walking away to buy a $5 ebook instead. Because I’m only 99 cents, so why not try it?

When people come across me, unknown, under-vetted, baby indie author, it’s a lot easier for them to throw 99 cents at Amazon than it is $2.99. It just is. It may very well be that $2.99 is no big loss for lots of people if the book doesn’t suit them, but it’s still more than 99 cents, and any increase in price has the potential to increase customer resistance of the Buy button.

Yes, there is more to marketing than just a low price point. We need to learn to market effectively, build a brand, build a readership. But it has to start somewhere, and I think new authors who start higher are denying themselves some perks of the 99 cent slot.

I said on the Indie Reader blog recently that I don’t devalue my work. That makes no sense to me. I don’t have an ad budget, so a discounted price for the work is what I have to trade with right now in order to develop an audience for my future work. If my work had no value, that wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t net me anything. I’d get no word of mouth, and no one would come back for the next book. If I didn’t believe my book was going to earn me some loyal readers, and if I didn’t believe in my ability to produce good work in the future, I’d set a higher price, take the money and run. Wouldn’t I?

Authors talk about all the work they put in. The years they spent honing their craft, the months they put into this book, the planning, the writing, the editing, money they put into producing and marketing. They deserve to get paid for that. Well yeah. And so do all the artists selling over at Etsy who have done the same thing. And a lot of them realize that they have to sell at a break-even point for a while to build a brand and a business.

That’s all I’m saying. I believe in my future work. Hush Money is an introduction to my writing and my world, and it comes at a discounted rate. I earn very little on it in cash terms, but that gets made up to me in other ways that I hope will help me in the long run.

Will it be 99 cents forever? I don’t know. I’m still feeling my way through. What I do know is that the first books in Amanda Hocking’s My Blood Approves series and Imogen Rose’s Portal Chronicles series are both currently priced at 99 cents and both have been very high on their category lists for quite some time. I’ve also seen new printings of first books of some series, like Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, reprinted with $2.99 on the cover as an incentive to draw new readers into the series.

To review:

  • Your share of your 99 cent price is more than 35 cents. It’s just not all in cash.
  • Despite what others are saying, a low price does not mean “lack of faith in the work” to all people. Don’t be bullied. Do what’s right for you.
  • Biggest hurdles? Visibility and credibility. Think of those when thinking about pricing.
  • Remember that, in many professions, it can take years to begin to earn what your work is really worth. We may do it faster, but maybe not right of the gate.

My recommendation to other new indies is to price at 99 cents. I feel it’s been very beneficial for me, and plan to leave the price at this level at least until after the release of Heroes ‘Til Curfew, if not longer.

No matter how much I really want to buy six seasons of Supernatural on DVD.

19 Comments

Filed under books, Hush Money, Increasing Kindle Rank, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, tips, writing

Increasing Your Kindle Rank: Friends and Cross-Promotion

Ok, for those of you just dropping in, I want to mention that this post is part of a little series where I’m talking about things I did that helped me make it from a complete unknown to the Kindle top 1000 within 8 weeks of self-releasing my first novel, Hush Money. The first post is…here.

You know, I think I mostly covered the “friends” angle yesterday when I talked about social media. So for review, we’re talking about sphere’s of influence. I’m not the most motivated blogger, nor am I great at developing a large following on social media sites. But I have friends who are good at these things, who maintain quality networks with followers who trust them. And because my friends believe in my work, they’ve mentioned my book to their friends, who sometimes even mention the book to their friends. So it doesn’t HAVE to be about who has the most followers. Sometimes you can just be yourself, a good writer and good person, and that will get things going.

Moving on to cross-promotion. This is largely for indie ebooks. While at the 70% rate on Amazon, there’s a little bit of fee involved in how long your book is, for the most part, you can put in as much extra material at the back of your ebook as you want. When someone finishes the ebook version of Hush Money, they can go on to read excerpts from two other indie authors in my genre whose work I recommend: Imogen Rose and Stacey Wallace Benefiel. In addition, I have promo for some other indie authors I like in a related genre. (I have promo, not excerpts, because these friends write adult PNR and I write YA. If it were the other way around, I’d excerpt away.) I also have informational blurbs for all these favorite authors at the back of my print version, and I have a line at the end of my Amazon product description, recommending these authors.

In exchange, I have the beginning of Hush Money at the end of Portal and Glimpse, and I have a line of pimpage in the product description of Glimpse and Forsaken By Shadow.

Does it work? Check out “Customers who bought this item also bought…” on those pages. And look at this category list that Portal and Hush Money hang out on. We’re often very close together, sometimes with no books between us.

A lot of the time, when you read a book, you want more of the same. Right freakin’ now. When a teen paranormal book junkie finishes Portal or Glimpse, they can go right on reading the beginning of Hush Money, without even getting up. Until they get to the end of the excerpt and are forced to buy it because they’re a junkie and they’re hooked on another book already. And yay!ebooks again for giving them instant gratification on that.

So how do you get yourself in someone’s back matter? Um, carefully? How did I ever get the nards to approach two authors I didn’t know about doing this is a better question, but maybe not as important and I still don’t know that anyway. While it’s cool to do this while you’re in the final stages of getting your stuff ready to go, you can do this at any time. Find those books that are most similar to yours. You’re looking for books that will be enjoyed by the same reader. Portal, Glimpse, and Hush Money all have teen characters, supernatural elements, and romance. (And they’re all vampire-free, but that’s more by coincidence than design.) They’re all books that could be enjoyed by the “Twilight crowd.”

I only chose books I had read all the way through, books I enjoyed and believe in. Books I feel good recommending to the people who are paying my author salary. And that’s in terms of quality, but also in terms of genre.

I cold-contacted both of these authors before Hush Money was released. I had put up an excerpt on my site, just for this purpose, and linked them to where they could start reading. That way, I wasn’t a stranger trying to send them an attachment, and they could check out the quality of my writing and decide if they wanted to spend more time on me. In the email, I was clear about what I wanted: I would include excerpts of their books at the back of my ebook, and they would do the same for me in exchange. I was polite, and business-like. I didn’t wheedle, pressure, or sales pitch. I left it open to them to contact me if they were interesting in reading the full manuscript, and I was clear that I would completely understand if this offer wasn’t for them.

And I meant that.

Both authors were completely gracious and enthusiastic about the idea, and I’m sure we’ve all benefitted.

When looking for books, beyond looking for books similar to yours, I would also recommend not looking at the top of the charts. Notice that, even though “Twilight fans” is in my head as an audience, I did not ask to trade with Amanda Hocking. Yes, I would love to ride that comet, but I also wouldn’t have asked Stephanie Meyer if she were an indie. That just seems a little too “poor relation,” if you see what I’m saying. Amanda was already so far ahead of me. (Imogen was farther ahead than uneducated me realized at the time, but lucky for me she’s awesome and nice to me!)

Once you find these authors, consider yourselves a team. You already believe in their work. Promote each other. Do not keep score as far as who’s got a line in their description and who doesn’t, whether you’re in both their Smashwords AND Kindle editions, etc. Do EVERYTHING you can to help your teammates succeed. Be a friend.

Steps for Cross-Promotion:

  • Find authors who write books like yours, those which will appeal to the same readers.
  • Read the books and make sure you can recommend them without reserve.
  • Approach authors in a no-pressure, business-like manner.
  • Do what you can to support your indie team, don’t keep score– bad karma
  • If you approach an author who is not interested, be cool. If you can’t, don’t do this.

I was going to talk about pricing in this post, but it went on longer than I thought it would, as things always do, and why am I surprised by this? We’ll do pricing next time. Thanks for stopping by.

6 Comments

Filed under books, Hush Money, ideas, Increasing Kindle Rank, insecurities, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, tips, writing