Tag Archives: book marketing

#ROW80 and Thoughts on Blogging

So life here is slowly returning to what passes for normal. Last week wasn’t terribly productive as I had a lot of catching up to do in a lot of areas and needed a lot of staring dumbly at the wall time. If you have little kids and a low tolerance for chaos, you know what I’m talking about. But things are better now and this week I found myself faced with the fact that I REALLY have to actually work.

This resulted in a lot of procrastination. But since I had decided to give myself a freakin’ break all around, I was able to allow it to be productive procrastination. I think that when I decide I have to work on JUST THIS AND NOTHING ELSE BEFORE THIS, I end up with more stress and less productivity overall.

I’ve recently been spending more time on my blog. I’m always going around in circles about what I want to do with it and getting it “right,” and like you really care. But I finally came around to some ideas of things I want to cover. I do want to talk about writing and self-publishing because most of you who visit on a regular basis are interested in those things, and often seem to appreciate those posts. Even though they aren’t things that readers are into, and even though they’re not the kind of thing that would draw a reader in or get her to subscribe to the blog, I have no doubt that sharing my experiences and opinions about what works has earned me a lot more support than I can measure. So I’m going to keep up with the posts about writing and self-publishing.

I’ve been trying to blog too frequently, I think, and I just write up a post when I think about it and hit Publish. Now I’m hoping to jump in and write up that post and hit Schedule. And keep those writerly posts for Mondays. Maybe that will keep it from being so feast or faminey around here.

I do absolutely agree with Kristen Lamb–and how can you not?–that readers don’t want to read about writer stuff, and the way to attract readers is to talk more about the kinds of things that readers like in your fiction. Well, it’s easy to get caught up in that expert knowledge trap we talked about the other day. I’ve probably mentioned before that I was caught in that for a long time with regard to the Talents. There’s that bit of wisdom, and it is wise, that says you need to read a lot in the genre you want to write in so that you understand the rules and reader expectation. So I thought that to write about superheroes, I needed to become an expert on comics. Even when I put that aside, I still felt under-qualified to blog  about superheroes on a regular basis.

Just like it was hard to blog about writing before had a book out there to point at and say hey, here’s how I put this into practice. Lately I’ve come to realize that my best posts aren’t the ones where I try to be an expert, they’re the ones where I really personalize what information I have to offer, wrapping it in my own perspective, and feeling less like it’s my turn to stand in front of the class for the oral report and more like we’re all sitting around getting caffeinated and I’m the one sharing for a few minutes before the really hot guy painting the storefront across the way takes off his shirt and I lose your attention.

So in the one day a week reader-oriented (hopefully) posts, I’m talking about what I love in fiction: superheroes, heroism, and/or romance. Those are the things I tend to pay attention to when I read or watch. This may lead to me feeling like I’m reviewing some stuff, which I don’t like to get into, but I’m more trying to think of it as discussing my perspective on a particular facet of the fiction in question, and if I have to include a paragraph or two to gush or whine about the overall fic in general, well, you guys are used to OT babble, so…

We’re in ROW80, and rounds of that are planned throughout the year. So I’m also looking at two more days on the blog for updates. On Sundays, I’ll be combining my update with list of recommended online reading for the week. I don’t have time to read a whole lot of blogs, but sometimes something really stands out and you just think others should read it or might enjoy it. I keep a file on my desktop to make note of those when I read them.

Wednesdays, in case you haven’t figured this out, are for me to be even more self-indulgent than usual. A free day to include in the ROW80 update whatever happens to be on my mind, or not include anything else at all. Today the bloggy stuff is on my mind, along with the fact that our bus driver just told us she’d be coming over 45 minutes earlier starting tomorrow which is going to add more time to my work day (good) and cause less sleep, more morning stress, and take some getting used to (bad). Anyway, a me me me babble day. Witness the babble.

So back to the update: This week’s productive procrastination has allowed me to try out the schedule I had tentatively set for myself, and I now have posts for my topic days scheduled through Feb 4. I’m still spending a lot of time on writing blog posts. I posted the schedule, tinkered in my sidebar a little, gave some thought to what people are looking for when they come to the site, if they can find it, what I’m trying to present and what they see, etc, and I’m pretty satisfied with what I have right now.

Goal #1 has been to spend specific amounts of time on the work. Recently I’ve been suck and fail at that, but I didn’t change my goals because it wasn’t about scoring, it was about continuing to strive for that. This week I’ve been excessive as far as time spent working on problems in the Talent Chronicles world and in Heroes ‘Til Curfew specifically.

Goal #2 has been 3 scenes in Heroes per week. I wrote the first of those three yesterday. I also finished listing everything that was supposed to happen from here forward so that I could identify all my holes and logic problems. A loose outline that allows room to move around is important. But it is amazing to me how it can seem like a solid story and then you get to that part and it’s like–well, that doesn’t really make sense. Why would he do that? Why wouldn’t she just…

Meta-humans are fascinating, but their abilities cause all sort of dilemmas.

So I’ve made copious notes and written all my WTF? questions in pink, and hopefully I’ll be able to draft some of my buds to help me kick ideas around this week because talking things through with someone else really helps me focus, and I often lack focus even though there are no shirtless painters in my neighborhood.

Today’s ROW80 Linky.

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Filed under me me me, ROW80

The Next Level? What’s an indie to do?

Today I feel like my brain is going to break. Like, moreso than usual.

It all seems pretty straightforward when you start. For the beginning stuff, information is pretty abundant.

Write a book. Well, okay, I’ve read a lot about doing that. Got lots of books on the shelf, have read countless advice on the internet. Been processing all that and practicing for years. Let’s sit down and write a book. Okay, done.

Edit the book. Well, okay. I guess I can pretty much go back to those books and articles and all the practice, and hopefully come up with something readable. Okay, done.

Format the book. Hmm. Well, okay. New searches, new articles, talk to some friendly people. Seems pretty step by step. I think I can do that. Okay, done.

Publish the book. Okaayy… Read the instructions, ask a few questions of the friendly people. Click, click, okay done. Finally. Now let’s sit back and…

Oh, no. Go market that book. Oh, right. Marketing. Okay. More books, more articles, social sites, lots more being friendly. Some comfort zone issues, but also a lot of fun and rewarding. So that’s cool. And oh, look, sales are starting. Awesome!

Write the next book. Sure, okay, did that before. Oh, no wait. This is a sequel. Okay, that’s different. But okay, I can do this. Because of the reading and the practice and stuff. It’s just going to take some different thinking and some more time.

Time. Well, there’s less of that. Nothing is going right. And we need things to be just right. Plus, you know, got all this other stuff to manage. Got all these new friends to follow and get to know and remember all their stuff and want to read their books and check out their blogs, but also gotta keep learning stuff, and gotta reply to comments, tweets, emails. Don’t want to miss anyone. Need everyone to know they’re appreciated. Don’t ever want anyone to feel slighted because I can’t keep up. But my inbox won’t stop refilling itself. Is it possessed? Is all this really necessary? Of course it’s necessary. If they take the time to say something nice, they deserve a thank you. If they ask me a question, they deserve an answer. Does the answer have to be hundreds of words and take the whole morning? Well, maybe not, but I want to be thorough. These are people, and they deserve attention.   But so does my family, and my home, and that poor, unfinished book that those people are waiting for.

Waiting. Right. Two people–more?–are still waiting on interview questions to be answered and sent. Gotta get those done. How many people have I promised giveaway copies to? Are those due yet? I hope they follow up with me, because I don’t have a way to be organized with this stuff.

It’s just those emails got buried under the barrage of alerts I got, and flagged for follow-up, of places advertising my pirated book. Well, what to do about that? Just shrug it off? Say oh, that’s ok, because it probably doesn’t hurt sales anyway and maybe we’ll find a way to make us think it’s actually a good thing. Maybe. I don’t know. It seems wrong. Especially those guys who are trying to sell it for $4 and haven’t offered me a cut. So do I just ignore it? When in doubt, we have to ask ourselves: WWHRD? What would Howard Roark do?

Um, well, when Howard Roark lost control of his work, his designs, he blew up Cortland homes. So…maybe not really. Perhaps we should just go with the lesson that we should make an effort to do something, if only to say look, this is mine, I made it, and it’s not okay for you to give it away without asking me. I’m pretty generous with stuff. My photography isn’t great, but still, a lot of it’s got Creative Commons licensing on it in case it’s useful to someone. I try to blog a lot of useful stuff, information that I might have been able to compile and sell. I try to share what I can and keep back some particular things for myself. So it kind of sucks when someone takes them. I don’t think that’s okay. Not trying to start a movement, not holding a rally or screaming and whining about it. But if I believe in doing what I can to protect my own property, I have to follow the leads, find the files, find the hosts to contact, write and file the proper notices, and this is all stuff I have to learn and do. (And thank goodness I found an awesome friend who has been very generous in helping me get started learning this stuff. Even though a lot of it is still over my head and dealing with me requires a lot of patience.)

Do I want to license out some of my other rights, stuff I can’t do on my own? Umm…well, yeah, I guess so. I mean, really? That would cool. But wait. Is this for real? Is this legit? Google Google, seems okay. But…I have concerns. I need more information. But how do I ask? Is asking for more unprofessional? Will it make me look like I don’t know what I’m doing so I can be taken advantage of? Is this just how it’s done? How is it done? I have no clue, I need help.

But…no one seems to know anything. Google Google, not really getting exactly what I’m looking for. I need to talk to someone who’s done this. Ask a few indies who are farther ahead than I am. Answer: get an agent.

Well, okay, that’s an answer. That would be someone who’s done this. Someone who has answers. Didn’t occur to me that I would need an agent for what I was going to do, or at least need one in the first year with one book out. Didn’t think THAT would come up. But one of the indies I wrote to basically said, paraphrase: if this is coming up now, it’s probably going to come up more.

Couldn’t I learn to just DIY? Um, yeah, I guess. But damn, look at how much DIY I’m already not able to deal with. Having someone to help me, to not go through these mornings of Googling and trying to piece information together, to have someone to go to answer my questions, someone I wouldn’t feel like I was imposing on…that sounds pretty freakin’ good right now.

Does that make me less indie? I don’t know. I kind of don’t see how, and I kind of don’t care. For me, part of independence is that I get to decide my own crap, not have it decided by the indie purist committee because this isn’t the junior high cafeteria.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still on the fence. After all, what the hell good does deciding to look into getting an agent do me this morning when I have this big red flag in my inbox needing attention right now? It’s not as though I’ve been approached by an agent. From what I’ve GOOGLED (omg I’m as sick of it as you are) there’s nothing for it but to start the process from scratch, as though I were going trad, with the added interest of trying to make them not see me as damaged indie goods.

Excuse me, what? Okay, let’s just skip that part. So should I add read/learn/practice the query process to my to-do and start the process politely asking, in just the right way, for the privilege of being allowed to audition for the person I’d like to hire to help me out with this? I understand, I really do, that there are reasons why the process is the way it is. But it just seems way backward to me, I don’t know if I want to get into that, and I don’t see it helping me deal with today.

Today I just want school to reopen, my house to magically clean itself, and to sit in the quiet and write my book. Write a book. Simple and straightforward, like it was in the beginning.

Should I be apologizing for the level of whining insanity self-disclosure lately? Does anyone else feel just totally overwhelmed?

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Filed under self-publishing

2010 in review: The story of Hush Money

So I need to do the look back at the year thing. I’ve kind of been waiting to see what the end of the year numbers were. When the month rolled over, it seemed like I lost some PubIt sales. They finally showed up again, and then they found a few more stragglers over the next few days. I mean, I realize the report itself is always 2 days behind and you have to add those separately, but mine kept changing after that. This makes me a little nervous about them…

But that’s neither here nor there. It’s been a really big year for me, so I thought I’d try to talk about where I started and where I ended up. Be warned, this post is incredibly long.

Prologue

Some of you know that, when I started Hush Money, it was after a period of not having seriously written for a lot time. The only thing in my idea file that really interested me was my Talents, but even though I worked some on their stories and new characters showed up all the time, I couldn’t really bring myself to get a real story going. Part of that was a matter of motivation. Even if I finished one book of the Talent Chronicles, the idea of shopping it didn’t appeal to me, for a lot of reasons. I thought about, maybe, just starting to write it myself and putting it up on a website somewhere. You know, for fun. But writing is pretty emotional for me. I love creating this stuff, but most days…it is not fun. That idea wasn’t motivation enough.

Act 1: The world before

But Kait, my writing buddy and best friend going on, what, four years now? kept after me. Because of her, part of my mind was always in the writing world. She’d send me articles, talk about writing and bookish topics, and of course we worked a lot on her various writing projects.

And then, of course, there were books. I’d run of out room for books, had to feel guilty about any new book I brought into the house, but ebooks bought me back to book-buying and collecting big-time. I found myself getting passionately pissed off about availability issues, format incompatibilities, and DRM, and did a lot of reading and research on ebooks. Part of that was reading some of the stuff that Konrath was saying about ebooks vs. paperback; ebooks, DRM, and piracy; and then he was talking about his ventures in self-publishing.

Which was really interesting because Kait’s friend Zoe was also self-publishing. I was one who thought self-publishing was great for niche-markets and how-to books, I’ve got a bunch of self-pubbed how-tos, but I had been less than impressed with some of the fiction I’d read, and my opinion had been pretty negative. However, the more I read about it from the writer’s perspective, the more I started to think about it the same way I thought about crafting.

I’d had a good run selling intricate and pricey items on Etsy, and I was burnt out on that. But for a while there, I’d been having a blast, being creative and having my work sought after and appreciated. (I really thrive on that shit, but who doesn’t?) Etsy took crafting for money to a whole different level. It no longer mattered if there was a market for what I wanted to make in the place I live. I wasn’t going to have to try to make a bunch of inventory to try to sell batches to local shops or try to do shows to reach more customers. I could just do what I wanted, at my own pace, in my own home, and reach that niche of customers around the world who were interested. Freakin’ awesome.

I started to see indie publishing as the exact same thing. And, for the first time in a long time, I started to get excited about the idea of writing a novel.

Kait decided she was going to go ahead and do it. I was totally encouraging because, hey, she’s good at learning all the stuff, and if it went well, I could totally benefit from her knowledge later. Kait published Foraken by Shadow at the end of March. And people bought it. With money! And it was freakin’ awesome.

I really wanted to do it too.

Act 2: Into the story world

I got my outline together. I’d been studying story structure via Larry Brooks’ Storyfix blog, and suddenly, planning a story from beginning to end seemed so much easier! In fact, all the writing books and articles I’d been reading over the last few years seemed to be coming together in my head, like everything was just there waiting for me to get started.

I had a startlingly positive attitude going into Hush Money, that if I would just sit down to do the work, of course the words would come. Words had never been a problem for me, unless it was having too many of them. I was going to start the book, I was going to finish it. I was going to make it good, and then I was going to see what I could do with it.

But I was up against a ticking clock. It was already May, after all, and there weren’t that many more days of school. Soon my daughter would be with me to destroy any hope of concentration or immersion in character and world. I had get moving.

I wrote the first draft of Hush Money in 30 days. That last week or so, school was out, but Vacation Bible School filled the gap. When I might have gotten scared of the end and stuck in a slump, I pushed forward, knowing I only had a few hours a day for one, more, week. I would drop her off at the church, rush home, write like a maniac. Then go pick her up, go to McDonald’s, wolf down a double cheeseburger and write at least another one or two thousand words while she played on the playland with other kids.

After that week, I was almost at the end. I wrote the last several scenes in one day. I asked my mom to have my daughter over to play so that I could work on getting my first draft finished before my upcoming visit to Kait’s house. I wrote thousands of words that day.

I’m still very happy with the way the book ends, but the biggest criticism of the story is that the ending is somewhat abrupt. Maybe I was just exhausted.

Act 3: In which the Wanderer becomes a Warrior

Well, I’m not sure Susan as a protag will ever be considered a warrior, but certainly there was a lot of self-doubt to be overcome. I had to get 11 beta readers with overwhelmingly positive responses on Hush Money, before I started to believe that it was good enough to put a price tag on it.

I was editing a manuscript, something I’d never really done before. I’d finished a few things, but nothing I’d ever loved enough to want to make it better. And I was learning about formatting and all the other stuff that goes into publishing an ebook.

During this time, I’d finally hooked up with Zoe Winters one-on-one instead of going through Kait. It was fun and exciting to talk to her. She was in the crazy period of having released Claimed and Mated and having incredible success with those. Kait was having record sales of Forsaken by Shadow. Evenings would go by, with both of them in separate chat windows, both of them giving me their stats, rankings by the hour, in stereo.

And I was waiting for Hush Money to return from 11 betas and feeling absolutely desperate to join this party. By the time I had to leave my original cover artist and hire a new one at the end of July, I was crazy obsessed with getting my work out there to see how it would do.

Act 4: The exciting climax sequence

Finally, at the beginning of August, I was finally ready to get this thing out there! I uploaded on August 2nd, and the book started to go live all that week. First on Smashwords on the 3rd, then I think the Amazon listing started show up on 4th, with a buy button by the 5th.

And then commenced the crazy. I had to start doing that which I had dreaded. Marketing. I had to go back to blogging. I had to active on Twitter. I had to try to learn Facebook. And it was hard to find the time for all that because I had to check my stats EVERY. FREAKIN’. HOUR.

The week after Hush Money was released, I went to Disney World. While I was there, Kait sent me a text to let me know I’d made my first Amazon bestseller chart.

I had to check out Goodreads. I did the ebook giveaway event there, got great response, and had people reading my book.

In August, I “sold” a total of 113 copies.

36 of those I gave away.

I was also very busy researching print-on-demand and trying to figure out the best method for doing that for my non-existent budget and attention span. I chose Createspace. The print version of Hush Money was released on September 24th.

Hush Money was finally finished, I was getting started on Heroes ‘Til Curfew, and by the time the second month was over, I’d sold four times what I’d sold in the first month.

Epilogue

Five months later, I still struggle with making this sequel happen. Just like I’d never liked anything enough to do serious edits (though at least I’d edited for others!), I’d also never tried to write a sequel.

Hush Money continues to do incredibly well. I went into this with no idea what to expect, hoping, perhaps, to reach 1000 copies by this time. I’m astounded to be able to tell you that I was able to reach well over 6000 copies by the end of this year.

I can’t begin to tell you the joy that sharing this story has brought me. I’ve met so many incredible people this year, made so many wonderful friends. At least a few times a week I experience the wonder of finding that someone has taken the time to contact me, by email, or by leaving a comment on my About Me or Talent Chronicles pages, or somewhere else, just to tell me how much they enjoyed Hush Money. I get fan mail! Internationally!! I have been thanked countless times for doing something that I loved doing. And I’ve been damned, numerous times, for the sins of keeping someone up past their bedtime or making them remember how it feels to be a teen.

This will probably be the last time I talk about numbers for a while. Certainly, for me, the subject will always inspire excitement and a measure of awe. In the beginning, I really did believe that sharing these numbers was helpful for those who might be considering indie publishing and might want some ideas what to expect. But sometimes more is just more, and I don’t want to invite negativity into my life by having anyone take my sharing of this information in a different spirit than it’s intended.

What I hope I have managed to express, in this post and in this year, is the profound sense of gratitude I feel for everyone who’s helped me. Toward everyone who has (in no particular order) reviewed the book at a retail site, left a review on Goodreads, talked about it in a forum, voted for it in a poll, tweeted about it, blogged about it, told a friend, written to me, asked me a question about it, longed for the sequel, encouraged me during the many times I get nervous and feel like I’m losing my mind, bought it for someone else, sent me interview questions, and, hey, bought it and read the freakin’ thing.

Thank you all for making 2010 an absolutely amazing year for me.

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Filed under Hush Money, Talent Chronicles

Karma points, what should I spend them on?

Ever have points from some promotion or other, and get really uptight over actually spending them? Because you need to find just the perfect, best thing, because it takes a lot of time to save up this many points, and you don’t want to waste them… (This makes me think of games like The Sims and saving up weeks of wages for a new +10 Comfort bed, and then not wanting to spend it because there’s always something else. Thank goodness for the money cheat!)

Does Karma work like that? Or does even asking for stuff negate one’s whole ability to cash in on any mystical positivity they’ve built up because the point of doing good is to do it with no desire or expectation of having it returned? Meh, I guess I’ve more of a Magnificent Obsession mindset.

Anyway, this is called babbling.

I’ve gotten a few of these emails from Goodreads lately, to vote in the Goodreads Choice Awards in various categories. Today was the first time I saw my title in the list of answers in the email, though, in the Debut Author category. I guess my title hasn’t gotten enough votes to actually show up in the covers.

If you really liked Hush Money and it was, by chance, your fave amongst books by debut authors you read this year, I’d love it if you’d go over there and drop me a write-in vote, in the Debut Author category, or in Young Adult Fiction or Fantasy, Cover Art…wherever you think appropriate. Who know what might come of it.

Speaking of Karma, in our last episode I directed you to Andrew Mocete’s blog on which he had posted about some writers in need this holiday season. His most recent post is about the fantastic response he got for that post as a new blogger. So for any of you who went by and checked that out, took steps, promoted those causes in some way, thank you. And it’s not too late to do it now, nor to do it again.

I’m on vacation. My daughter is off from school and will be into the second week of the year. I’m trying to rest up and get rid of some of the serial illness that has bogged me down lately, and generally trying to clear cobwebs for a reboot. I actually read a freakin’ book all the way through, watched all my Netflix discs which included Camp Rock and Letters to Juliet and I’ve been absolutely obsessed with Style Savvy for DS. When did working retail get fun?? I’m completely addicted to this freakin’ thing, and Dominic’s totally interested in me, I can tell.

So…posty things I can think of that are probably coming up:

  • I’m going to be talking about ROW80, my goals for that and how it’s going to completely change my life (or else)
  • Probably going to be giving you my impressions of the first few episodes of Buffy Season Eight, as well as some thoughts on comics in general (No, giving them to you. Not doing impressions. Do I look like I’ve got the energy to start doing impressions?)
  • There will have to be a year-end wrap-up on how this indie author thing has gone (preview because I suck at waiting: I’ve passed 5k copies of my one little title)

Oh, and one more link. Thirteen-year-old Corey of CoreyReads posted a nice review of Hush Money. If that’s your thing, maybe you’d drop by there, compliment his excellent taste, and encourage this next generation book blogger?

I hope you’re all having wonderful holidays. I have to go now and pick out cute clothes for anime girls with way too much money who are ALWAYS polite.

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Filed under Laws of the Universe, writing

Amazon, Censorship, and DRM

I freaking hate DRM. Hate hate hate. DRM absolutely affects my buying decisions. Absolutely. I’ve been an ebook fan for a while now. My device was pretty expensive, because the technology was newer when I bought it, but before agency pricing I was able to save enough money on my book-buying habit to make it worth the price, because back then you could get a lot of good deals on ebooks. (And you still can, if you stick to cheap, DRM-free indie reads.) What really made the decision for me to embrace ebooks at the time was how much I love getting digital books from the library. So my choice of ereader was the one that worked with the library’s DRM.

I’m going to want a new device down the line. I’m already looking. But in purchasing a device, I want to concentrate on device quality and features–not the quality of the store to which the device is virtually tethered. A main reason I don’t buy DRM-encumbered books is because I want to be sure my library is as future-protected as possible, and that I’ll be able to read all of those books on my next ereader.

There may be some of you who are confused about what I’m saying here, so let me pause to explain. But do keep in mind that I’m not a technician and I don’t play one on TV, so my understanding and explanation may be technically flawed. An ebook is a file. When you purchase an ebook with DRM, that file is locked by the DRM. You need to have a program that contains your (or your device’s) individual license in order to unlock that file and enjoy your purchase. That program and information is contained in your device, and you may or may not also have that on your personal computer as well. As long as the DRM encumbers your purchase, you will need to rely on that program and license info any time you want to experience the media you bought. Depending on how much you buy, that can start to require a lot of faith on your part. Faith that your license will always be honored.

And the fact is, a lot of people just don’t think about or care about actually owning what they buy. But I’m not one of those. Books have never been throwaway purchases for me, and I don’t have a different attitude toward ebooks. All my ebooks get saved to my hard drive, backed up, and the selection I want to keep on the device gets side-loaded (moved from PC to device by cable) on and off.

So guess what’s not going to happen to my DRM-free books. And here’s where the inspiration for today’s post comes from: I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and find that the willy-nilly Amazon censorship committee has dicked with my personal library. Unless I very much mistake how the world works, if it’s DRM-free and I’ve backed it up, they can’t take it away from me. And, of course, I can convert it to any format I want, to read it on whatever device I choose to purchase going forward.

It’s my money and my purchase. I deserve that security and that freedom to be able to own what I buy. And my readers deserve it.

All the DRM has been cracked. The amount of effort it takes for a pirate to strip a book of DRM and fileshare it is about as much effort as it takes you and me to check our email. Yes, DRM will prevent casual sharing. It will prevent Sally from telling Jane, “OMG, I just read the greatest book. Read it nooowwww,” and attaching the file, in the same way she, and probably you, have lent out paperbacks in the past. And yes, I agree that there are no controls on the number of copies the enthusiastic Sally can fileshare, and that’s a problem inherent in digital media.

But at the end of the day, I trust Sally, my reader, more than I trust the corporate entities that are currently screwing around, back-room dealing in DRM to control my purchases and spending. And I’d kind of rather be a little dicked over by Sally’s enthusiasm than dick her– and my other readers, scrupulously honest readers– over by not allowing her to take my book with her to her next device purchase or to find it no longer available to her when the retailer from which she purchased it decides to remove her access.

Want an example of the controlling bullshit going on with DRM? Sony Reader reads EPUB, and DRM’d content for the Sony is “protected” by Adobe. Wow, same with NOOK! So that means Sony owners have a whole new store to shop! Um…no. Notice how Sony’s not on the list of supported devices. Why? It makes no sense. Same file format, same program for licensed content. What’s the deal? I NEVER got a straight answer out of B&N customer service. At first I think they wanted to talk about the wireless stuff. Um, I don’t CARE abut the wireless stuff, my device is pre-wireless. Why can’t I just purchase the content, open it in Adobe Digital Editions, and side-load it? And I actually think that customer service just wasn’t educated enough to answer my questions.

A lot of Googling finally informed me that just because both devices go through Adobe Digital Editions, doesn’t mean it’s the same DRM. I read somewhere that NOOK DRM is a variation on the previous Adobe DRM, and that’s why it won’t work for the Sony Reader. Why? Or maybe because they’re following Amazon’s model: if you want to shop our store, you’re going to have to buy our reader (we’re just not even going to talk about smartphone or PC apps because who wants that?). Maybe because everyone else who’s been dealing with Adobe got together and pressured Adobe: No! Don’t let them have the same DRM as us or we’ll lose all our ebook customers to B&N! Who knows?

But what’s any of that got to do with piracy?

Nothing.

Indies have the choice to DRM or not to DRM with some retailers. Many DRM without even thinking about it. Oh yes, protect me from the dreaded pirates! when it’s got so little to do with piracy and so much to do with controlling the market. We can’t always control what happens to our uploaded content at all retailers (I’m sure Hush Money is DRM-encumbered at Kobo, Sony, and Apple, for example), but we can give our customers choices.

My readers don’t deserve to be encumbered by bullshit DRM, and I won’t choose it.

PS. Everyone who commented yesterday was a winner. I’ll send those prizes out today. Thanks, guys!

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Filed under rant

Giveaway: My favorite book marketing how-to guide

ETA: Read on for more about this very helpful book, but please note that this giveaway is over and comments have been closed.

My daughter’s scheduled outpatient surgery (getting a bunch of gum-chewing teeth taken care of because she tried to sock the dentist, even with laughing gas), was canceled due to snow. It’s certainly not a ton of snow by our standards, but for this part of the country, everything has to shut down. I hate snow, I really do, and my daughter told me, “If you hate snow, you hate Christmas.”

But, I really don’t. I’ve “Bah Humbug”ed more than once already, and I’ll do it again, but underneath this stress-ed out exterior, I really do love Christmas. And to prove it, I wanted to give away something I’ve found very useful this year.

Yep, I’m talking about We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb. I talked about this book when I was reading it back in September, but I just got around to writing an Amazon review yesterday. Bad Susan.

I’d like to believe you all hang on my every word and that, when I mention a book, you all run right out and buy it. But hey, you don’t, and this one’s 8 bucks for the Kindle version! And we’re all starving artists, aren’t we? But thanks to the magic of Amazon’s Gift as a Gift button (how much does that rock?) (and my magical Amazon credit card), I can easily offer you this book that I found so helpful, encouraging, and entertaining.

Note that this is the Kindle edition, and is DRM’d, so you’ll have to read it on a Kindle-compatible device or on your computer.

It would be lovely if you’d use the sharing buttons below to mention this to your friends and get more people to check out Kristen’s book, but I’m keeping this simple and all that’s required is that you leave a comment, saying that you’d like to win the book (to distinguish you from the other people who have to comment to gush about how great Kristen is). Let’s have an end to entries at 9am Eastern on Friday, since I’ll have another 1-day giveaway for you on Thursday. That should jog my memory to, you know, pay up. Then I’ll choose one random winner from among the entries. (ETA: it looks like I’ll be doing that other giveaway tomorrow, FYI. Doesn’t affect anything for this one, though, except my ability to remember to hand out a prize.)

And if you already read this book, will you please drop by Amazon and leave a review? Just your 5-star rating (I assume) with the line “I found this book really helpful” or “Great introduction to social media for authors” or something like that. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but ratings really help. In a world of corporate-branding For Dummies and Idiot’s Guide how-to books, let’s help out one of the little guys who deserves it.

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Filed under Contests

PubIt vs. Smashwords, now with numbers

First of all, sorry for the hit and run posts lately. I know I’ve been dropping these posts and then running off and not being good about responding to comments. It’s rude and I apologize. I want to thank everyone who reassured me about that email/article the other day, especially. And I’m claiming “silly season” for the rest of it.

And, not to be all about the apologies, but this is another post that’s very indie-author oriented and of limited interest to readers.

So today I found that I finally have actual numbers for my sales at Barnes and Noble through Smashwords, so that I can give a more accurate picture.

I wish I’d kept better records of this stuff, but it’s hard to keep up with everything. Hush Money was published via Smashwords on August 3rd, but I don’t think it caught a ship date to BN until the end of the month. Then it takes a while for the book to actually show up at BN. So I don’t remember the date it actually showed up at BN, but it was sometime in September.

I published via PubIt on October 14. The book went live quickly, within a day, I think, and the Smashwords version was taken down within a week.

Anyway, sales at BN via Smashwords were actually better than I thought. For the period ending October 31, I sold 13 copies and estimate royalties (because they just gave me sales, not royalties yet) at $5.59.

These last two months with PubIt I’ve sold over 1800 copies and they tell me they owe me over $700.

(Since we never get paid until 2 months after these sales, I still haven’t actually received more than $150 for my work, so all this discussion of royalties still feels very theoretical for me. Theoretically cool, but still like Monopoly money.)

Why some authors took off at PubIt right away and some haven’t is something we’ve been trying to figure out. And it’s not just one thing. I’m pretty sure price has something to do with it, as some readers have told me they picked up Hush Money because it’s cheap. It’s possible there was a problem with the searchability of the Smashwords listings and they weren’t being categorized and sorted when NOOK users wanted to search by price.

But it seems unlikely that price, and searching by price, could be all of it, since Zoe Winters’ sales make mine look like peanuts, and her work starts at $2.99.

It’s possible that BN chose to promote some authors on some kind of a “Deals” list or something of that nature, but I’ve no idea if that happened, nor how they would have selected.

But I think the point is that BN just hadn’t gotten behind the indie books until PubIt. It doesn’t seem like they took care of the Smashwords listings. Many authors have complained about not being searchable by category, and I think browsability must be an issue. Essentially, it seemed that we just weren’t being found on BN unless someone searched for our book specifically or followed a direct link. Until PubIt.

It should be noted that the royalty rate for titles under $2.99 is going to be significantly higher via Smashwords, as Kait recently explained to us so clearly in this article. However, this is like my arguments about the 99cent price point for new indies: a higher royalty on significantly fewer sales doesn’t benefit you.

And I say this loving Smashwords, and Mark, the vision of it, and what it tries to do for us. I hope we’ll come to a point where indies will have enough of the market that our listings will be treated as valuable commodities no matter how we choose to publish, and that Smashwords will gain the power to assure us of proper categorization, browsing, and searchability with other retailers, more reasonable and certain stocking times (I’m STILL not stocked at Diesel), faster reporting and payment. Because the one-stop, multiformat publishing and distribution they offer really is a great service. The ebook thing, as a whole, is still very new. Everyone’s still scrabbling to try to figure it out, and just starting to realize that it’s worth doing well.

(I mean, look, if I just made $700 at BN at 40%, that means they made $1050. Which is not huge, but I’m sure they’ve got plenty of listings that didn’t make that for them in these last two months. And I’m not Zoe Winters, Amanda Hocking, or HP Mallory who are making me look like adorable baby indie isn’t that cute. Is Borders wondering if maybe now it’s time to get a piece of these indie sales yet?)

Anyway, I hope this helps any of you who might be trying to make the decision about whether to go with Smashwords to get into BN–which I believe Konrath said he was sticking with a few weeks ago–or whether to go with PubIt. And if anyone’s still on the fence about whether they should bother with anything outside of Amazon, I hope this helps you realize the potential of sales at Barnes and Noble.

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Filed under PubIt

Lessons from the Universe Continue to Plague Me

Some days are just full of headaches and embarrassments.

The headache is mainly just that I’m sick with one of those nasty, painful colds. At least we didn’t have a snow day for the THIRD day in a row. I know I’m not supposed to consider school my babysitter, but come on.

Anyway, I feel terrible about this, like I just have total promo fail. I can’t believe my reach is still so small that I can’t even give away 10 copies of a book. And it may be partly that Imogen and I have been doing cross-promo and she’s already tapped as much of my small network as she’s gonna. And it’s probably also that I had to go our around 12:30 yesterday, didn’t get home until 8pm, and then just crawled into bed, so the PM world didn’t really know about the giveaway. So basically, everyone who commented yesterday wins, and I appreciate it. I’ve already sent those out.

So a friend of mine, who is somewhat down, has written to me with some questions about self-publishing. And like the indie fiend that I am, I’m responding with a long letter, attempting to take advantage of his frustration and bring him over to the Dark Side.

And while I’m doing this, an email I wrote a few weeks ago come back to haunt me.

While I was away for that reunion thing over Thanksgiving weekend, I got this email from the people at BookBuzzr, basically saying: hey, since you’ve been with us, your rank has gone from this to this. Do you know how that happened and have any marketing tips we could share with our readers?

Well, now, you guys know that I am always happy to babble about that stuff, so I did. With my husband tapping his foot, I furiously typed this really long email in which I brain-dumped everything I could think of, most of which you guys have already read. Only, you know, I thought I was just talking one-on-one, and I was pressed for time, and I left out the self-effacing humble stuff that I actual feel, but just didn’t have time for that morning.

So in the middle of what’s supposed to be a kick-ass, indie-rah email to my friend, I get a promo in my inbox that mentions my name in a link. And follow it to the reprint of this previous email.

Now, don’t get all mad on my account. I say I didn’t know it was coming out, but I’m sure it was a misunderstanding on my part and I’m not mad. You’d be AMAZED and frightened by the amount of stuff that goes over my head and that I just plain forget. If you’re one of those writers who goes about in a fog most of the time and makes the absent-minded professor look like Franklin Planner-Man, you know what I’m talking about. (I am, actually, the antithesis of Kait Nolan. And suddenly the Anti-Kait has a ring to it…) But it leaves me sort of nonplussed and kind of embarrassed, and concerned about whether, perhaps, I came off as a big no-it-all with a huge, bloated head. Plus I might have tried to sound more smarter than I do around here, talking with you friends.

The lesson here, for all of us, is to remember to be careful in our communications with others, to pay attention to whether or not we’re projecting what we intend, and that what we say electronically can live on for a long time in ways we didn’t originally expect.

Heroes ‘Til Curfew, for enquiring minds who want to know, is going fairly well this week. I enjoyed the 2500+ words I wrote yesterday from Dylan’s perspective, many of which were written in Burger King, with its wonderful indoor playground. You know, when I mention fast food playland, NO ONE takes their kids to unhealthy places like that. Oh well. Deal. I got words down and no one had to die, and if someone had to suck down some chicken and fries for the cause, so be it.

I have now exercised two days in a row, and three times within a week. Now, I will grant you, it hasn’t been a lot of exercise, but I have turned on the Wii and done something, and I demand at least partial credit for this. Plus, there was water consumed that was not even carbonated. I know, right? But I did it anyway.

That’s it! That’s all the babbling you get for now. I have things to do, tissues to destroy, and vulnerable writers to corrupt, and I must move on.

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Filed under Contests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Increasing Kindle Rank, Laws of the Universe, links, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, what not to do, word count, writing

For Indies: Get your print and ebooks linked

My rankings are really sliding the last few days. I hope that means some of my buddies are getting some traction and selling lots of books.

To that end, I come to you with a quick post of hopefully helpful indie info.

My print and Nook versions of Hush Money are finally linked on Barnes & Noble. Moreover, when they linked the two listings they also copied ratings and reviews from one edition to the other. This does give me a couple duplicates from a few people who were kind enough to find both listings and leave reviews for me, but it also means I now have 70 ratings and 17 reviews that people can see when they find the print version. Yay credibility.

Ok, so if the listing for your print version states that there’s no Nook version available, you’ll want to email BN at corrections@barnesandnoble.com and let them know that you do have both formats. Provide them with the links to both listings, and especially the ISBNs for each edition. When I did this, they took care of it VERY quickly (but if there’s a small flood of them they might slow down).

If you haven’t done this on Amazon, you’ll want to take care of that too. When your cheap Kindle version is climbing the charts, sometimes it gets onto “Books” charts, not just Kindle charts. So when those non-Kindle readers find your awesomeness, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy for them to see there’s an edition they can buy too. (Not that mine are flying out the door, mind you.)

When I wrote to Amazon, a very nice CSR told me that if your titles are exactly the same for both editions, this usually happens automatically. This may be the same for BN, I’ve no idea, as I think the format of my title is a little different (like one is Hush Money (Talent Chronicles) and one is Hush Money: Talent Chronicles #1, or something like that). When they’re not identical, you’ll need to email these guys and give them a heads up. I contacted DTP customer service for this at dtp-support@amazon.com, and it was taken care of within a few days. Make sure you send them the ISBN for the print, the ASIN for the Kindle edition, and send them links to both listings in case that makes it easier.

Don’t put it off. It’s Christmastime. Go and sell some books.

And hey, don’t forget that a shiny new copy of Hush Money would make a swell gift. If anyone’s interested in autographed copies for gift-giving, I’ve got some copies here and would be happy to send those out for you, though I’m not promising next-day order fulfillment. Email me with any personalization details you need and don’t forget to include your PayPal address so I can bill you. I think I can match Amazon’s $8.99 with no shipping fee and break even.

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Filed under Hush Money, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

Rantus Interruptus Continuous: In which the Universe has a lesson for me

Arg, I am an idiot.

I do things I know I shouldn’t do, because I know I’m just going to frustrated and pissed off, and that’s just going to make my whiny and depressed. And I have no right to be whiny and depressed.

But then, as I was writing this post about how I wasn’t going to rant about this, the world shifted again. And people, when the Universe gives you a sign, you need to work through what it means. Which is what I’ll be doing, should you choose to continue reading this.

And now that we’ve had THE most confusing beginning to a blog post EVAR, I’m going to go back to the beginning.

Last night, in my email, a Twitter notification of a new follow by @JamiGold. So because Twitter can’t just give me everything I need in the email, I have to actually go to Twitter to read her bio and follow her back. And what’s her latest tweet?

I know, I know! I should never have clicked that. What was I thinking? I was thinking that I should not be clicking that. But I’m just going to peek.

And then it’s scroll scroll scroll through a lot of opinions that are making ZERO sense to me, and I am taking it WAAAAAY too personally. And it wasn’t a mean, nasty angry thing AT ALL. It was just…insensible.

I mean, what I kept reading, over and over, is that because the books aren’t vetted, self-published books aren’t a good risk for these readers. They acknowledge that there might be great indie reads out there, but trad-pubbed books, while not a sure thing, are a safer bet. Ok, yeah, that’s totally logical, if you’re looking at a new trad book vs. a new indie book, all things being equal and no buzz, no reviews, etc. But here we have people saying I wouldn’t buy a book by an indie unless I met them first.

So you can see how this would make me sad. I just don’t get out much.

And the problem is that when I read this stuff I take it whack-job personally. In my head, I’m whining at these people going, what the hell? Compare my sales rank, compare my cover, compare my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, check out the page of links to blog reviews I have on my website, READ a few pages to see if I’m literate. Judge my book on the things that matter in a book. And then decide if you want to sink the whole 99cents and a few more hours of your time into it.

Maybe it just comes down to this: no one likes to be dismissed. And I think that part of the way these comments touch me is because that feeling of dismissal, that what I can do (write an entertaining book) doesn’t matter because of what I am (an indie author), feels so much like the frustration of being a powerless child.

Here’s what I came to when I decided I wasn’t going to harp on this– and I’m sorry to cuss because that makes me sound angry, but I’m trying to have a personal power moment over here, so indulge me: This shit does not apply to me. Not in some way of I put the awesome IN the mutha-fuckin’ sauce! and this shit don’t apply to me, but more in the way of this is not my readership right now, and their opinions are not relevant in my world right now.

I’m not going to win these readers over by arguing with them. (Oh don’t worry, I didn’t get involved.) There are so, so many literate people in the world today, you guys. Do you know what’s been the most surprising thing to me since publishing? How many non-writing readers are out there embracing indies, supporting indies they love, and how many more just aren’t aware that we’re even out here, that there’s really a difference. If a book looks crappy, they avoid it. If it looks good, they try it. So many readers out there judging books on the book stuff. I think you’ll find, overwhelmingly, that the people who are most negative about indie books are other writers, for whatever their reasons, which are not my business.

Part 2

So yeah, all set to just let this all go and write you this quickie post about how I wasn’t going to rant about what I was going to rant about. And then the Universe stepped in.

Last night, after reading a lot of those disheartening comments I got whiny and tweeted (is there a word for a whiny tweet, like twined?)

A few friends showed up to say cheering things to me, and remind me that I had nothing to be depressed about and I did feel better. And while I was worrying about this crap that I can’t fix, I sold my 3,000th copy of Hush Money and totally missed it. I mean, how far up your ass does you head have to be before you notice you’re being an asshat?

Nevertheless, this morning, I found myself still ticked off enough to be composing a ranty post in my head. Then I got hold of myself, decided to post the Rantus Interruptus instead, and move on with my life. And then, as I was writing this post, @JamiGold shows up. And she says,

And I’m like…Really? Seriously, I was rendered kind of panicked and speechless. Which, if you’re an introvert or social phobic, you might understand. Or if you can imagine Joss’s reaction to, Well heck, Joss, everyone knows who you are. [cue garbled choking sounds]

And also a little…Really? Like, I’m doing this right, this marketing/platform stuff that I was so sure I fail at and would be the ultimate reason for my bookfail?

Oh yeah, dude, it’s totally all dramarama like this in my brain all the time. You do not want to live here.

Ok, so now my brain is totally melted. There are people on Twitter I want to attempt light banter with, but everything’s scrolling by while my mouth is doing floppy fish thing. And @JamiGold says,

(There was one in between where she said she hasn’t read mine yet due to the scary TBR pile from Hell with which we are all familiar.) Wow, Jami, condense all my effort into 140 characters of pure validation. :sucker punch:

No, this is not hyperbole. I’m very emotional. Quit rolling your eyes and embrace this special moment we’re having together, dammit.

Because this is why I decided to tell you the whole story of my stupidity in reading that comment thread. Because we don’t ignore the things the Universe tries to tell us. Especially when the Universe talks via Twitter, because then you really know it means business. Maybe. Whatever. Fine. Have we learned anything?

1. I must not read comment threads about prejudices against self-pubbed books/authors. Evar.

2. Those are not my people. You are my people. Later on, some of those people will hear about my books, be intrigued. They’re NOT the unreasonable people I thought I saw last night. That’s silly. They’re people who love books. They’ll look at my books, at the fabulous cover art, at the reviews, and they’ll judge us on the book stuff. Someday.

3. Until they do that, I’ve got a lot of other things I need to put my energy into. Like getting you guys Heroes ‘Til Curfew. And, to that end, I’m leaving you with a link while I go work on finishing the shit that I started.

The above link is mandatory for all writers, although adult language and beverage warnings do apply.

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Filed under book blogs, books, goals, insecurities, Laws of the Universe, me me me, rant, self-publishing, Signs, what not to do, writing