Tag Archives: giveaways

Talent Chronicles at your neighborhood bookstore

Well, if your neighborhood is Somerville, MA.

Otherwise you’re probably SOL.

Months ago–I don’t know how many months ago, but it’s been some months–I made an offer to donate my books to libraries and to give free copies of my books to indie bookstores so that they could try them out without risk. I don’t know if it’s just because I haven’t gone out of my way to publicize this, but there’s been very little interest in the program so far. I’m not independently wealthy, so I didn’t want to get in over my head and didn’t shout it from the rooftops, but I did expect some interest and more word-of-mouth than what I’ve seen.

Not bitching, really, just reporting as it’s interesting to me and maybe interesting to my indie author friends (that I can’t even give books away, LOL).

Anyways, Massachusetts is the place to be for the Talent Chronicles in paperback. I sent books to the Somerset Public Library back in February. This week I had the pleasure of correspondence with Gil Barbosa, owner of family-run independent THE BOOK SHOP, in Somerville. Gil told me that he was putting my books in his window display, so if you happen by, feel free to snap a picture for me.

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On CreateSpace

On my to-do list for some time has been to talk to you a little bit about print, how I came to choose CreateSpace for that, and my experience with it so far. Hopefully this will be just an overview and informative while mercifully brief.

Question #1: To print or not to print?

Print! Yes, ebooks ARE the future. I buy digital whenever possible, don’t even like to buy paper books anymore, and I absolutely believe that’s where we’re going. But I also understand that I am not Jill Every-Reader. While more and more people are trying out ebooks and embracing them every day, there are still plenty of people who prefer paper, or who are simply not ready to take that plunge.

For me, print is about customer service. If I were running a retail store (which I have done), part of my job would be to stock the types of products my customer wants and needs. I know from experience that customers can get pretty peevish when you don’t supply what they want. If it’s within my power to give my customer the type of product that best suits their need, why would I not do that? This is as true for providing both print and ebook formats as it is for providing your customer with a variety of file formats for various devices.

Question #2: DIY or Author Services Company?

I think of Author Services as those companies that offer to do this for you. Names that come to mind are AuthorHouse and Xlibris. Companies like CreateSpace and Lulu also offer author services packages in addition to the DIY stuff. This is something you’re going to have to answer for yourself. For me, and most of the indies I spend time with, it’s DIY as much as possible. We simply don’t have the money to shell out hundreds of dollars for someone else to do this work, and it just doesn’t have to be a big deal.

In fact, I think that, especially when you’re talking about fiction which is primarily text without images, print can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. A simple print edition is no harder than formatting for e.

I have read some scary-ass things put out by Author Services Companies. I’m not saying they’re all charlatans, and I’m sure that some of them provide great service which the authors feel is worth the price. I get that they need to make their services sound important, worth the price they’re charging, etc. I have seen some claims that lean toward un-truths, and some really bad “science” when discussing sales numbers. If you’re going that route, beware. Read a lot. And keep in mind when reading testimonials that many people have a need to justify their own choice, sometimes by making it seem better than it is.

Question #3: Which company should I choose?

Keep in mind from this point on that I’m talking about my thought process, my choices, and what works for me. Your mileage my vary. Because we’re obviously going to talk DIY, the conversation usually comes down to three: Lulu, LSI, or CreateSpace.

I’m throwing out Lulu right off the bat as too damned expensive. A big part of the decision-making process for me was: how cheaply can I sell my book? Answer from the Lulu calculators? Not cheaply at all. In just the manufacturing costs, the exact same edition I got from CreateSpace prices out 70% higher on Lulu. (To be fair, I have to say that they price out about the same, except that I’ve added an option to lower my CS price, which I’ll talk about later. As far as I know, Lulu could have something like that, but I don’t know.) Lulu has more format choices (coil-bound, hardcover), but for fiction and a first novel, I don’t see any need to get fancy.

LSI (Lightning Source) is favored by many indies as the most professional way to go. And likely it is. It certainly seems moreso in the way they don’t put a lot of information on the website and expect you to do a lot of talking on the phone. (Oh yeah, you know that’s an issue for me.) Most of going with LSI is about having more options and maintaining ultimate control as the publisher. The trade-off in that seems to be having a somewhat more complicated process with a bit more to learn–although I’m not sure because I haven’t actually worked with them, and shelling out a good deal more up front.

ISBNs and ownership are an issue for some indies. They want to have their own imprint, to have everything in their own name, they have their reasons and they’re willing to pay for that. I’m not right now. Unlike the other options, LSI doesn’t offer free ISBNs and requires you to set yourself up as a publishing company. And while that may look really spiffy, I’m just not into the added hassle right now.

LSI has other initial costs that are greater than CreateSpace. I don’t know if the books cost appreciably more like they do at Lulu, again because LSI isn’t upfront about that stuff. I do know that most of the LSI books I’ve seen are priced higher than mine, but then, most of the books I’ve seen are priced higher than mine.

LSI has some other benefits with regard to distribution and you can find people talking about these all over the web. Most of them don’t apply to me as a beginner, and those benefits don’t outweigh the added hassle and expense.

After I have progressed in my career, if I feel I need to have an LSI edition, there’s nothing that says I can’t go do one later. I still own all my stuff, right?

My choice was CreateSpace and I’ve been very happy with it. And since this is running long, I’ll try to just bullet the pros and cons for you.

Pros:

  • No up-front cost. Nothing. You can go print your book with CreateSpace today for free. Free ISBN (but you can bring your own if you’re into that), no setup fees. We like free.
  • ProPlan- Lowers your cost. You’ll want to add this. It’s an up-front cost of $39.00 (for each book). For this you get a lower manufacture cost which allows you higher profits and/or the ability to lower your retail price. Since you pay the manufacture price for any copies you personally buy, this will pay for itself pretty quickly in your copy for your mom, giveaways, review copies, and the ones you sell out of your knitting bag to sweet people who are just excited to meet someone with their name on a shiny cover.
  • ProPlan- EDC: Just as important, this gets you into the Expanded Distribution Channel which I believe gets your book into Baker & Taylor (but I don’t think into Ingram and I cannot find that info). Don’t get excited. This does not mean B&N is going to order your book to stock in their stores. They probably won’t, even if it’s doing well. I’ll discuss that in the Cons. But it will allow your book to be listed at B&N’s website, at Book Depository (which has free international shipping), and allows registered booksellers (like your local indie bookstore that carries books by local authors) to order your book at wholesale prices.
  • You will find VS. posts around the internet that talk about CreateSpace books not being able to get into Baker & Taylor, not being available to resellers, etc. Be advised that the EDC is a new program, so check the date on those posts when you’re doing your research.
  • Oh! You should also know that renewal of ProPlan is only $5 per year. My annual fee was waived in December, I assume because my book was out less than 6 months. I believe LSI does charge an annual fee to list your book in its distribution network. I read somewhere that it’s around $13, but that may be old or inaccurate info.
  • Easy as print as PDF. Really. That’s all there is to it. Now, getting that PDF just right might make you pull out a few hairs, but you don’t HAVE to get super fancy in your layout to produce a good book. MOST people don’t care about fancy book interiors. What’s important is that your book is readable. With a little thought and care, you can do that. You did it with e, you can do it for print.
  • It’s pretty fast. Once you’re done with your part and you upload your book, it take a few days for them to review it. They’re not proof-reading it for you, but they are making sure you have the right margins, stuff like that, and that nothing’s going to get cut off or anything. After that, you order your proof copy for the price they’ve quoted you as your cost. From my limited experience, I’d say expect to pay about the same amount as your book’s cost for media mail which generally takes a 7-10 days unless it’s a busy season. Expect to pay exponentially more for expedited shipping options. Once your proof is in-hand, all you have to do is log on and say yes! I approve! Go sell that bitch! And then it goes live on Amazon pretty quickly, like within a day or two, if I recall. Other sites will pick it up eventually.
  • Low cost means low price. You know how I feel about low consumer prices. CreateSpace, and some fudging with fonts and layout stuff, allowed me to put together a book that sells for $8.99, the same as what the mass-market price seems to be right now. Not being more expensive than my vetted counterparts is important to me.

Cons:

  • Borders doesn’t list it. I’m at the point of thinking this is more Borders’ problem than mine. I mean, It’d be cool if they would pick it up and I could sell a few more, but whatever. I don’t think I’m losing that much by not being at Borders.com. They’re losing more by not embracing indies in general, that’s for sure. Anyway, I think this may be because I’m not in the Ingram catalog, but like I said above, I’m not sure about that.
  • This edition will probably never be in the brick and mortar chain stores. Doesn’t matter who it’s listed with, CreateSpace does not allow you the option of making the book returnable. Essentially, the bookstores want to order a bunch of books, put out a few for however long they decide to try them out on the shelf, then box them up and send them back for credit. So think about it like this: maybe one day you have orders for a couple hundred or a couple thousand books. Awesome. And then in six months you find that all but six copies were returned. And all the “profits” you’ve been waiting on, that couldn’t be distributed to you because they’re held against possible returns, are now gone, and you get a check for $3. Possibly it’s better to have loved and lost, and certainly I’d like the opportunity to be browsed in the chains, not saying that wouldn’t be a great thing. Just it’s hard to work up a lot of upset about it, and the hassle/expense vs. potential benefit ratio just isn’t impressing me right now. (Ok, who am I kidding, if B&N calls me up and tells me they want to stock my book, my laptop and I will be on Zoe’s doorstep begging her to help me put together an LSI edition ASAP. I will bring a Firehouse Sub to get me in the door. I’m crafty that way. But I just don’t see as a likely scenario right now.) I know there are people who go with LSI for reasons of ownership who still don’t want to exercise the option to make the book returnable.
  • I’m not the publisher. Like I said, I don’t really care about that at this point. CS puts their name on it. I think this may be because I went with the free ISBN, and I think it might also be a requirement of expanded distribution.

I think a lot of the point is that I’m happy with CreateSpace because it was cheap and easy for me to just get it done now without adding fees I couldn’t afford or stresses I don’t need. If I get to the point where it’s no longer the right choice, I figure I can go with something different at that time, when I’ve grown into it.

Sorry about the lack of merciful brevity, and I’m going to continue for a bit because indies like numbers. It’s been absolutely worth it for me to put out the print edition. Extra costs for me were $80 for the rest of my cover and a new title page from Robin (a title page I also put in my e after that), and the $39 pro plan from CS.

I make 5xs more in royalties on Amazon than I do when I have sales through the EDC. Which is fine. The royalty from EDC sales isn’t much less than I’d get from a standard royalty if I had a trad publisher. So I’m not really losing anything, I’m just getting 5xs more from Amazon. Since I put the book out at the end of September (actually 4 months exactly from the day I’m writing this. Print was several weeks behind the ebook version because I thought it would be harder and I was learning a lot of stuff at once), I’ve sold 45 copies through Amazon and 38 through EDC (most of those I believe are via B&N), for a total of 83 paperbacks. I’ve pretty much just cleared my expenses. And that doesn’t count any of the ones I sold to local acquaintances. Having print also gives me something more to offer as a giveaway, which is nice, as people seem to get more excited about a $9 item than a $1 item. Go figure. And it’s cool to know there are people out there who are actually willing to pay that much to read my book. Yay!

So, in conclusion (finally), totally worth doing, really happy with CreateSpace as the cheap and easy alternative, and looking forward to reaching over 150 paperback sales soon so that I can rub Brad’s nose in it. I’d love to hear your experiences, addendum to this info, and will try to answer questions in the comments. Hope this was helpful.

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Giveaway: Kindle Kisses of Day of Sacrifice

Today I have 5 copies of the Kindle edition of Day of Sacrifice by Stacey Wallace Benefiel, the author of the Zellie Wells trilogy that starts with Glimpse.

Note: Although this is the Kindle edition, it is DRM-free, and so can be converted with a program like Calibre to be enjoyed on a variety of devices.

With only three days left until her twenty-first birthday, her Day of Sacrifice, Flora Hamilton should be living it up. But when another Supernatural family puts a hit on her she’s forced to go into hiding with Julian, her gorgeous new Guardian Angel. Sometimes running for your life isn’t so bad.

Day of Sacrifice is a short story of approximately 15,000 words. It is intended for adults due to language and sexual situations.

I’ll be using Random.org to choose 5 winners from amongst the entries. To enter:

Step 1: Copy and Tweet the following statement:

I want to read Day of Sacrifice by S.W. Benefiel http://amzn.to/e1kch0  #books #kindle @Momjeans1975 @susan_bischoff

Feel free to use the tweet button below and replace the suggested text.

Don’t tweet? You can also make a status update for Facebook, or add the book on Goodreads and leave this statement as a temporary review.

Whichever you do, get the links to the Tweet, Facebook update, or Goodreads review, and…

Step 2: Leave your links in the comments.

You’ll get one chance for the comment (no addition promo necessary) and one chance per link; limited to one prize per person. Comments made after 9am on December 15th will be excluded. The prizes will be sent out tomorrow morning using Amazon’s Gift as a Gift feature and the email address associated with each winner’s comment.

P.S. To get the link for your tweet, click its timestamp. A new window should open that displays the single tweet. Copy the address from your browser’s address bar.

P.P.S. Helen Smith is trying to get the word out about a BUNCH of giveaways she’s doing on her blog this week. If you’d like to score some free reads, why not check it out? And if you’re blogging this week and have some space to spare, tell your friends. I understand that if you send her email and tell her you blogged about it, you’ll be entered to win an Amazon gift card.

P.P.P.S. Sorry, the post-scripts are getting ridiculous. But this morning I read a fabulous article by author Holly Lisle. Especially for those of you waiting to get your hands on Kristen’s social media book (see yesterday’s post), many will enjoy this article on “Your Online Presence” and the theories behind how Holly works to create one of the most engaging fiction sites out there. It’s a long article, but it’s all worth reading.

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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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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

Heroes ‘Til Curfew: Cover Art and Latest Info on the Sequel to Hush Money

Ok, that was the longest title ever.

I’m sure that there are some of you out there who fondly remember a time when I had planned this book to be a fall release, with yet another book out before the end of the year. Let’s all get that laugh over with. Life just happened all over me this fall, and I’m still trying to recover.

Work on Heroes is back on in earnest now, in a way that makes me feel like I’ve got a bit of my mojo back. At least enough to go to Robin and say: these are some things I know happen, these are some themes in story, etc. (Incidentally, I think the fact that I discuss themes with Robin, as well as characters, events, and set-pieces, might be why she’s able to come up with things that work so well. Or it could be just because she’s awesomesauce.)

So I have a cover. Here it is:

Heroes 'Til Curfew Cover Art

Cover Art by Robin Ludwig

I’ll give you a moment.

Do you love it?

Ok, so when can we expect the rest of it? Right now I’m saying January 2011. I hope you’ll all run right out and start up some best of 2011 lists as soon as you read it. ETA Release info: Since this post gets a bunch of hits from people searching for release info, I wanted to say that Heroes ‘Til Curfew still isn’t finished (*cringe* sorry!), and I don’t have a release date right now. I’ve added a line at the top of the sidebar with it’s status for your quick reference, and recommend signing up for the newsletter. I so much want to thank everyone for your patience and support.

I know that’s a while yet, although, trust me, it doesn’t seem like so very long from my perspective. I do, however, have a beginning. Imogen Rose was kind enough to include the first scene of Heroes ‘Til Curfew at the end of her latest release, Quantum. That “sneak peek” excerpt is just under two thousand words.

One thing I’ll tell you about the new story: it does not pick up right after Hush Money. A little bit of time passes between the two stories. For those of you who may now be going–

But wait! What happened when Joss got home? What did her dad say?

Hey, no one wanted to know that more than I did. I’m currently working on a short story which will serve as a sort of epilogue to Hush Money. Right now, what I have is being told from Dylan’s perspective. And all I can say is, “Poor Dylan.” Heroes ‘Til Curfew is my number one priority, but I hope to get back to the epilogue while Heroes makes the rounds with the beta and proof readers. I think it would be lovely if I could have that out for you around Christmastime.

As of right now, I intend for that story to be a freebie, a gift to readers who enjoyed Hush Money enough to sign up for a newsletter that will alert them to new releases and events in the Talent Chronicles series. Anyone who signs up for the newsletter now will receive information on how to download the new story as soon as it becomes available. (And anyone who doesn’t want to receive emails about new releases will be free to unsubscribe at any time.)

Did you know that Hush Money has now sold over 2500 copies, here in its fourth month of release? This blows my mind. That’s thanks to a lot of people who have written reviews, tweeted, and even hand-sold copies of the book to their friends, for which I am so grateful. And that’s a lot of people who will need to know about that sequel! If you’d like to offer help or ideas, please feel free.

Meanwhile, I gotta go write the damn thing.

ETA for PS: If any of you wants to borrow this cover image for the purpose of generating interest in the series and otherwise having something to blog about, please feel free.

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Filed under books, goals, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, love, me me me, progress update, 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?

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

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

Increasing Your Kindle Rank: Goodreads, Giveaways, and Reviews

I wrote recently about reaching the Kindle top 1000, 8 weeks after releasing my first-ever novel, Hush Money. This post is part of a series talking about some stuff I did that helped me get visibility and sell books.

So I said the other day that Goodreads was described to me as “Facebook for book people.” I think that’s pretty much true. It’s very social networky, and yet the only thing anyone’s talking about is books.

I didn’t spend much time on Goodreads before I released Hush Money. It’s one of those things I probably should have done, but…need I tell you again that I’m not great with the social stuff? If you’re not either, try making friends with just a few people who are active there.

One of the cool things about Goodreads are the update emails. People who get those get a digest list of things their friends are doing on Goodreads. Things like: adding a book to their “to-read” shelves, posting ratings and reviews, updating their progress in reading any given book.

Additionally, members who have their Twitter and Goodreads accounts linked are sending out tweets about books with every status update, so you’re getting your name out there on two platforms at the same time in those cases. (I suppose this is also true of Facebook? I’m not a Facebook person at all.)

If Goodreads member “Jane” decides to add my book, any of Jane’s friends who get those emails may see my book cover when Jane adds the book, when she starts reading it, anytime she updates her progress through it, and when she finishes it and leaves a review. That’s a lot of nice exposure for my book cover, and it’s exposure to a group of people who might be more inclined toward my book than the average person on the street, assuming that Jane liked my book, and that Jane’s friends know their own tastes are often similar to hers.

But how did I get Jane to read my book? Well, if you’ve spent enough time on Goodreads to make some real friends, you might have some people reading you just because they like you and they’re curious about what you’ve been working on. I had a few of these friends, but not enough to really get going.

After setting up my Goodreads Author stuff, I read about Giveaways. Unfortunately, that section of the site is only for physical books, which I didn’t have at the time. But there was the Events section which didn’t say you couldn’t use it to give away ebooks…

First, I wrote up a post for my blog about giving away review copies of my book, so that I would have something to link to when I set up the event on Goodreads. Then I wrote a brief, to-the-point, no pressure invitation:

I’m giving 100% off coupons to download Hush Money, in a variety of ebook formats, to anyone willing to leave me a review here on Goodreads, at Amazon, on a blog, etc. If you’re interested, just send message me via Goodreads or send an email and I’ll hook you up. Offer ends August 23, 2010. Please feel free to invite your friends to this event.

By the way, I think it’s better to keep things like this simple. Avoid playing the friend card, avoid sounding like a sales person. I think the only thing I would add to this would the the 400 character blurb for the book, so that the user didn’t have to click around to look for it.

Two Goodreads friends tweeted me to confirm whether I really wanted to them to invite all their friends, to which I said Yes, please! I had only 8 friends at the time. A very small reach. Once they had sent out invitation, about 350 people were personally invited to come check out my book.

That might scare you. It shouldn’t. How many people on their friend lists are actually active on Goodreads? How many read ebooks? How many are interested in spending their reading time on an unknown indie author? In my case, about 10% responded with a Yes or Maybe. And even had more responded, giving away ebooks costs me nothing. If you think of every giveaway as a lost sale, I’d recommend changing your thinking.

To each of those people, I sent a PM via Goodreads with the information to get my book with a 100% off coupons via Smashwords. While I had a form letter that I pasted in, I tried to personalize the messages any time someone made a comment in their event response, and I used different messages for those who said Yes or Maybe. I spent a lot of time that week responding to PMs and emails. All totally worth it.

By the way, very few people emailed, PM’d, or left comments to my blog. Most response I got was just saying Yes, No, or Maybe to the invitation (you get notified of each of those by Goodreads). So you’ll want to keep close tabs on that and keep track of your replies. You’ll have a few people who do not accept PMs via Goodreads, and for whom you do not have contact information. I don’t know how they expect you to give them anything, and I’m not sure there’s anything to be done about that.

Did everyone who downloaded a copy give me a review? No, not yet, anyway. I didn’t actually expect 100% on that, yet I was very pleased with how many people have come through with reviews. And think of your own TBR pile. This is going to take some time. Smashwords sends out an email to anyone who downloads a book from there, reminding them to come back to Smashwords and leave a review. I think this was GREAT, in that it reminded people they had my book and were supposed to be reading and reviewing, without me having to ask them. I got a small flurry of reviews at about that time.

The event did get a lot of people adding my book, and it did result in more ratings and reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and Smashwords than I would have had without having done it. All of this increased the book’s exposure.

Another great outcome of the Goodreads event was that book bloggers hang out there, and they love books! Many of them have to buy a lot of the books they read and review, which gets expensive. So many of my responders were book bloggers! Bonus! I’ve had 15 reviews on individual blogs since Hush Money’s release, as well as a few interviews. It’s hard to approach reviewers when you’ve got no author cred, no publisher validation or reviews backing you up. But the event sort of had them coming to me, in a more low-obligation kind of way than if I gone to them and asked them to review my book for their blog.

Now, I had a lot of people read Hush Money before it was released. Eleven beta readers/proof-readers. Remember that not everyone who is your friend is going to want to read your book, and not everyone who reads and tells you they like it is going to write you a review. It’s all percentages and is not personal. But since I had eleven betas, and they were my friends, when I asked for Amazon reviews as soon as it was live, I got 4 reviews right away. So anyone who came across my Kindle page in the early days had something to look at.

Between those reviews from the betas, and the ones that started to show up after the giveaway, it became a lot easier for me to approach book bloggers and ask for reviews because, in my query, I could link to a page full of positive responses to my book. There have got to be very few book bloggers out there looking for stuff to hate. They want to have some idea that this book is for them, and that they’ll be able to recommend it. Many don’t even write reviews of something they didn’t like, so giving time to a book they don’t like is a waste for them. They want to have the sense that they’re going to like your book before they agree.

At the time of this writing, I’ve had 247 adds on Goodreads (and I think most of those have gone ahead and purchased because the price is low), 15 reviews on blogs, 20 Amazon reviews, 15 on Smashwords, and 29 on Goodreads (38 ratings). All of those, plus tweeting about them by me as well as others, have helped make me more visible.

And visibility is our biggest hurdle, seconded by credibility.

The reason that I consider the Goodreads giveaway event serendipitous, was because it wasn’t something I had planned to do. It was more something that came out of a marketing brainstorm while the book wasn’t really moving in that second week of release. And it’s really been possibly THE best thing I’ve done so far. (Well, after that whole writing a decent book and putting it out thing.)

So I hope it helps some of you as well. Sorry I’ve run long today. I’ll hope you’ll come back next time, when I think I’ll be talking about Blogging and Social Media. If you think other indies might be helped by the ideas in this post, sharing buttons are located below for your convenience. Thanks!

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

Kindle Rank: Unknown to top 1K in 8 Weeks

Not saying that’s unusual or stellar. I actually don’t know what average is. For those of you who are not writers, and/or not especially into the indie scene, this may not be of much interest, for which I apologize in advance. When you’re preparing your first book to go out into the world, and just after it goes out there, there are so many questions that go through your mind.

  • Are people going to like my book?
  • How am I going to get people to read my book?
  • Am I doing well compared to everyone else?

While I won’t say that I have the answers to these, I do believe it’s about time for me to put my experience out here alongside so many other indies who share their results so that we can all get a better idea of things that work and how to gauge our own success.

Hush Money went live on Amazon on Thursday,  August 5, 2010. That puts its 8-week birthday on Thursday, September 30. I am frankly thrilled at how it’s done, and yet, “satisfied” is not a word I can use. Because I’d love to see it do even better.

At the time I’m composing this post, Hush Money is holding around 1000 in the Kindle store. It had been holding firmly around the 2K mark, with fairly consistent daily sales (which I don’t think I’m allowed to actually tell you under the new Kindle rules). It then started a slow climb toward 1K, also climbing the Kindle store category charts that it had been on and off since its first week of release. It’s been on page 2 of its category charts for a few days now, with a significant increase in sales.

It did break into the top 1000 on September 28th, and its highest rank has been 699.

Since I think this is pretty good, I want to share with you some things I’ve done that I think have worked in my favor–beyond writing a decent book. Partly because I consider myself a lousy self-promoter, and marketing was something I was very worried about. I’m going to go into more detail about these things in later posts, so as not to overwhelm, but for now, here they are, in no particular order:

  • Good, genre-appropriate cover art– I think my cover works for me in a lot of ways
  • Website– that’s easy to read, all my info and links in one place, updated content
  • Goodreads– Goodreads was originally described to me as “Facebook for book people.” Hush Money has been added by over 200 members. I’ve absolutely no doubt that exposure there has helped me.
  • Giveaways– I gave away a lot of books, especially in the first few weeks the book was out.
  • Reviews– I got a fair number of reviews on Amazon right away, and also on Goodreads. This gave me something to show both potential readers and book bloggers I approached later, which I think is especially important for an unknown indie.
  • Good friends– This was really important in that first week, especially, because I went out of town the day after Hush Money went live and was offline for a week. I’m sure that Kait Nolan, who is effective at blogging and tweeting, pimped me out in both places.
  • Pricing– Despite the fact that so many people are saying that $2.99 is the new $0.99, and the temptation to make decent money already, I’ve reason to believe that raising the price would do me more harm than good at this point.
  • Cross-Promotion– At the back of my ebooks are excerpts from the ebooks of a few other indie authors in my genre, and I am in the back of theirs. I also have a line at the end of my product description on Amazon, recommending other indie authors, and some of those authors have returned the favor for me.
  • Blogging, Twitter, and other social media– I’m not very good at social media, I don’t have a large following on any platform, and lots of days go by where I can think of little to say. I generally feel like I don’t get much out of it in terms of sales for the time I put into it. But I do get some, and when others allow me access to their networks, it makes all the difference. No matter how fish out of water you feel at it, no matter how much you think it’s all a waste of time, I don’t think blowing it off entirely is a best practice.

Coming up this week, I’ll be trying to cobble together some posts that get into these things more specifically, for those who want to know.

P.S. If you think this might be helpful info for your indie friends, please feel free to hit that tweet button. Thanks!

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