No Friday Fun Facts Today- It’s Cover Reveal For Me!

October 30, 2015

Echoes of the Heart

I am so pleased to officially reveal my cover. Echoes Of The Heart will release on Amazon and other e-publishers around the world on November 9, 2015! It will also be available for print-on-demand so all of you who’d rather have a “real” book will be able to hold it in your hands.

I’m excited to share this with you. It is a culmination of six years of honing my craft and several re-writes to this one novel. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed creating my damaged heroes. I believe we all deserve a chance at redemption and love. All it takes is a leap of faith and courage.

 

Available for pre-order here:bpg-badge

http://www.boroughspublishinggroup.com/


Best Practices for EBook Publishing with Mark Coker of Smashwords

August 7, 2013

Song of the Day: Prayer of the Refugee by Rise Against

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a workshop hosted by Northwest Houston RWA, my local Romance Writers of America chapter. The speaker, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords.

Now this is not the first time I’ve met Mark, nor the first time I’ve listened to him speak. But I couldn’t wait to hear him talk again. He has a very impressionable way with understanding the world of eBook self-publishing.

With his permission, I’m going to relay the notes I took from his talk on the best practices for publishing an eBook.

photo (22)

Mark and Jenn!

1. Write a fantastic book. Honor the reader with a great story and satisfy them by moving them to an emotional extreme. It doesn’t stop there. Make sure you are fanatical about the entire process, including the editing and packaging.

2. Create a great cover. The cover is not only the first impression on the path to discovery, but a promise to the reader. Use a professional cover artist, or, if you plan to do the cover yourself, make sure the cover is comparable to what New York publishers produce. Make sure your cover targets your audience. The cover is merchandised as a thumbnail. It should look great in that size.

3. A no-brainer, but warrants repeating. Write another super awesome book.

4. Give some books away for free. By doing this, you eliminate the financial risk new readers face. Free books builds awareness and trust. This especially works well for books of a series. If you have a series, at least one book should be free, even if for a little while.

5. Patience, it’s a virtue. Retailers force books out of print before they have a chance because new books are kept on the shelves for only a few short weeks. Most don’t have an opportunity to gain an audience, much less a fan base. EBooks are immortal…and changeable.

6. Maximize availability—don’t be exclusive. Play the field, play with everyone. If you are exclusive, you limit discoverability and become dependent on the site of the exclusivity. Oh, and by the way, retailers see no stigma in self-published books.

7. Build a platform. The larger your platform, the more power you have over your career. Connecting with readers becomes a form of currency. There is no single right way to do this. Use all the social media tools you feel comfortable with. Have a newsletter. Some will want to connect using blogs, but it is difficult to gain readership this way. However, once you do, they are yours for life. And here’s a biggie, offer a way for readers to connect with you at the end of your book, aside from your website. It simply makes sense, but is often overlooked.

smashwords style guide

Free! Click cover for your copy!

8. Architect for “virality”. “Spread the germ.” Get your fans talking about you. Word-of-mouth is still the most powerful way to discoverability. Book marketing is always going to stem from word-of-mouth. Utilize viral catalysts that makes your books more accessible, discoverable, desirable, and enjoyable—story, cover, title, editing, targeting right audience, book description, pricing, broad distribution, formatting, proper categorization, just to name a few. Eliminate the friction that limits the catalysts (think exclusivity, lacking cover, bad editing, etc.).

9. Unit volume is a lever for success. Every book sale has two benefits: money and a new readers. The latest survey conducted by Smashwords indicated that $1.99 was a black hole, not performing as well as higher priced units, and $3.99 was the current sweet spot for all genres. Proper pricing can maximize money made and the amount of readers. Keep in mind lower priced units will sell more units, and higher priced units will sell fewer, but the lower priced units under-perform as income and higher priced units will get you more readers. Of course, experience may vary and it is encouraged to play around with pricing to find what works best for your book.

smashwords marketing guide

Free! Click the cover for your copy!

10. Don’t worry about piracy. Obscurity is the bigger risk. Those stealing your books weren’t going to buy your book to begin with. Who knows, you may even gain a super reader out of it. Most piracy is accidental—a lending of a book, picking up a book at a garage sale, etc. This type of discoverability is effective and cheap! The best way to combat piracy is to make your book easier to purchase than steal. This goes back to distributing broadly and pricing fairly. And it doesn’t hurt to add a polite license statement in the book. (See Smashwords’ example in their style guide.)

11. Take advantage of Pre-orders. This will be available soon through all distributors. In short, list your book for sale before it officially hits the virtual shelves. Allow a sample to be downloaded. It is highly suggested books should be completely ready before listing it as a pre-order. Some retailers will credit all the pre-sales on the day the book comes for sale. This will possibly shoot the book onto various best-selling lists. Let me add here SHAZAM! Putting a book up for pre-order sale 4 to 6 weeks prior to release gives you, the author, a chance to market the book generating interest. Capture the reader and get them to buy while they are still fired-up instead of waiting until release day when they most likely have forgotten or are no longer as interested. Check out Smashwords’ blog post on pre-orders.

12. Practice partnerships and positivity. If you discover something that works well, share it with others. This builds friendships and a good reputation. Don’t be a complainer or behave badly. Everyone, including the marketing peeps at retailers, have Goggle Alerts. You will be remembered.

13. Collaborate with fellow authors. Short stories, bundles, or boxed sets are a great way to share, promote, and gain new readers with existing fan bases of your fellow collaborators. Plus the retailers like them and they sell well.

smashwords practices

Free! Click the cover for your copy!

14. Think globally. All retailers are expanding beyond the US. Aggressively. Over 40% of Apple sales are outside the US and looks to be trending higher. And these books are in English.

15. You are running a business. Business requires a profit. Most books don’t sell well, so control your expenses. Never borrow money to publish a book. Pinch your pennies. Invest in great service. If you can’t afford it, offer to trade services. Once you are profitable, reinvest in your business.

Whoa! That’s a lot of information. Absorb it! And to help, check out Smashwords FREE marketing books and style guides.

What do you think about these practices? Have you tried any? What has worked or not worked for you? Do you have other tips to share? Let’s hear from you.


You Are Being Tracked- How Do You Feel About That?

January 31, 2013

Did you know your e-reader tracks:

what time of the day you read and for how long?

what passages you highlight?

what notes you might make while reading your book?

if you stop reading the book and where?

how many times you re-read something?

your digital file?

….and we don’t know what they do with all this information?

You just thought you were going to curl up by yourself and read a good book. Who knew you had someone looking over your shoulder and taking notes about you?

th_ebook-readers

From this technology, they now know that the average time to read the Hunger Games is approximately 7hours, nearly 18,000 people have highlighted the same line from the second book, and the first thing that happens on The Nook is that readers immediately downloaded the next book in the series.

In the past when books were tangible items and you actually owned what you bought, the experience was a personal tete a tete with the author. No one was with you two except the wonderful characters that took up residence on the collaborative journey called reading.

Obviously from a business stand point this information is golden. If a significant amount of readers stop reading a book by page 165, then something must be done to bolster that story line. Suggestions have been made that at that point they could then insert a short video or other props to re-capture the readers’ attention. Should they invest in an author if folks only read through the story once or should they only heavily promote those that get their books annotated and highlighted? Amazon is now a publisher as well, this could be the golden ticket to marketing and higher returns.th_doortomoney_zps1709b59f

Certain authors have come out in favor of utilizing this information as well. Scott Turow, award winning author, lawyer, and president of the Author’s Guild says he’s waited for this type of information for years. He once had an argument with his publisher over the fact that he had been with them for years and had sold almost 25 million books yet they couldn’t tell him who bought his books.” He also argues that if you find a book is too long then you have to be more rigorous in cutting.

While I can understand that this information may be useful to authors, are they really sharing it with the authors? If you’ve published, how many of you have gotten reports on your readers’ habits? How many of you know the intimate details of what your audience did with your book? Is that information actually getting back to you? Would you want that kind of data?

Let’s play what if. What if Jane Austen or Herman Melville had access to this, would their masterpieces have been written the same? Would they have written artistically or tailored their stories to marketing feedback? Would it still be their stories or a book written by committee? So many questions.th_magnifying-glass

If I take off my author hat and put on my reader/consumer hat, you’d find that I have some serious issues with strangers being in my head. I don’t want to be a marketing pawn. I don’t want someone looking over my shoulder while I go back and re-read passages or even whole books. This should be my own private fantasy world. I read to escape, to immerse myself, by myself, in worlds and adventures. I’m not a bleeping ride at Disney Land where folks buy a ticket to come along! (Not that I feel strongly about this issue.)

A few of the readers give you the power to turn off these features, but you have to find them and opt out, they come turned on. Most don’t even give you this option. I provided a link on Tuesday to EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and they show a nifty table of all the different formats and how they are set up. I encourage you to glance over the information. You should be informed. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/11/e-reader-privacy-chart-2012-update

Let me know what you think as an author and as a reader!


Link Of The Week

December 4, 2012

http://www.writershelpdesk.com/

 

While this web site has items that require money, it is also loaded with free webinars and reports for writers as well! If you’ve ever wondered about self publishing, but the whole idea sounds like something from an alien planet, this is a good place to start piling in the information you might need! Enjoy!school_desk


Buy Cough Syrup And Your Favorite P.O.D. Book At The Same Time

September 20, 2012

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  ~Sylvia Plath

 

Good Morning Muse Trackers!

 

I have just run across an amazing bit of news. I sincerely hope it isn’t the case of the whole world already knows this and I’m getting clued in at the last minute, but here goes. In the not so very distant future, you may be able to print your e-books at CVS and other convenient locations. I think this has the potential to change the whole game. At the very least, it will bring in a whole segment of the population that simply won’t convert to e- formats. (I’m very excited by this, can you tell?)

 

A company, On Demand Books, has created a machine that will be able to print self published books and also the more than seven million backlist and public domain titles in its catalog. The Espresso Book Machine (I love what they call it.) will be able to print a book out in minutes and it can contain pictures as well. I see all sorts of possibilities for the future. Will it be much longer before we can include short films? My books take place in exotic locales, what about a photo journey?

Here’s an example of an Espresso machine in Alexandria, Egypt!

 

On Demand has partnered with Kodak to add print-on-demand technology to Kodak Picture Kiosks which are not only located throughout the United States, but are found all over the world! They have also formed a partnership with ReaderLink, which distributes books to grocery stores, drugstores, mass market and club stores as well, to make even more titles available through Kodak Picture Kiosks. As it stands, there are 105,000 kiosks globally. Book releases will begin this year in the U.S. and will expand on the international front in 2013. While the Espresso Book Machines are already in about 70 bookstores and libraries globally, Kodak will be able to expand their footprint immensely.

Think of the possibilities!

“We envision an integrated solution that can substantially redefine the publishing industry and bring exciting new solutions to customers,” said On Demand CEO Dane Neller in the release.

I also found on the Espresso Machine’s web site that they are excited to help authors connect their works with others. The books will have full color covers and black and white interiors making it indistinguishable from books produced by traditional publishers. If an author chooses to use this system, they retain all rights and the author also has the responsibility of setting their own price point. They have many different programs to assist writers such as EspressNet and The Shelves program which are detailed on their site http://ondemandbooks.com/self_publishing.php  EBM will also go beyond simple printing as they offer full publishing packages including editorial, design, layout etc.- whatever you might need.


Could Marketing Crash The Book Market?

September 6, 2012

The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction.  By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.  ~Mark Twain

 

Marketing. (AAGGHHHH!!!!!! …as she runs screaming out of the room.)

As authors we have to continually keep our eyes on that ball. Besides providing great content between the covers of a book, we now have to be masters of the business world as well. Sheesh- sometimes it feels overwhelming.

 

I have an interesting question that I will ask in just a minute.

 

There’s no getting around the business side of writing. There just isn’t. Let’s say you’ve published your book, you’ve blogged, you’ve Face Booked, you’ve had a book launch, you’ve done all the things you know how to do and your sales are still moving along at a sluggish pace. Many authors will offer their books for free on Amazon and other sites. While doing that, you can also contact sites such as www.indiebookslist.com, www.pixelofink.com, www.freebooksy.com, www.bargainbookhunter.com, www.flurriesofwords.blogspot.com, www.freebookdude.com, and www.snickslist.com. These types of sites will be happy to email or tweet your book to their followers which can run into the thousands. There are tons of sites out there to help you, too many to list them all here. I’ve heard of one author who offered is book on Amazon’s KDP Select, ran it through as many of these sites as he could (with no other promotion) and he ended up with over 4000 free downloads. This sounds pretty terrific!

 

Another interesting idea is to use something called Wattpad. I had never heard of it, but it could be a great place to start building a readership, get feedback, and build excitement for your next bit of work. It’s like a giant high school literary magazine where people can put up their work and there are tons of readers there. This site is most often accessed by smart phones where short stories, novels, poetry, and fan fiction are read voraciously. Many writers reveal their stories chapter by chapter so the readers anticipate new developments and can often be found asking the writer for plot shifts or new characters! If you think this is just another site among the millions out there, think again. Wattpad gets 9 million unique visitors a month! I think that qualifies as a good site to build a readership.

 

So here’s my question. With this fairly proven method of offering your work for free as a marketing tool, are we training a whole generation to expect free books?

 

What does that mean for a writer? Dale Brown, who is a very successful author, just offered his books for $1.99. That’s not free, but it is pretty cheap. My husband bought ten books at once. While that’s a win win for both my husband and Dale Brown, Peter will now think twice before spending a chunk of change on a new book. If he waits long enough it will go on sale or be offered for free.

 


The Drill Sergeants Of Prose!

May 31, 2012

The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. ~ Mark Twain

 

You’ve sat at your computer for several months, even years, and you finally have a product you think is ready to publish. You’ve even had friends and family read your manuscript and they say it’s good to go. Some of you have also taken the extra step of working with critique partners to revise and polish your pages. Good for you! Unfortunately, that’s where the majority of writers stop before they press the publish button or send it off to agents and editors. No matter the road you’ve chosen to publication, there’s another step you should consider.

While your friends and critique partners can provide valuable insight and catch many mistakes, they are not the same as using a professional copy editor. These folks can do amazing things to your manuscript to bring it to the level it should be before a story is published. Wikipedia states, “The ‘five Cs” summarize the copy editor’s job: Make the copy clear, correct, concise, complete, and consistent. Copy editors should make it say what it means, and mean what it says.” Isn’t this what we all want?

A good copy editor will look for grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure mistakes. This is the key to not letting your reader get distracted by basic errors. They will also check for consistent verb usage and for the consistency of tone and mood. If something doesn’t make sense or they think your accuracy might be in question, they will point that out as well. A good copy editor will get rid of extraneous or over used words, sharpen your paragraphs to a point and will even delete sections if they don’t make sense or add value to the story. In short, they are the drill sergeants of prose!

There are several things to check before you enter into an agreement with a person to do this job for you. They should have an excellent command of language and be able to spot factual errors. (This means that if they are not familiar with your subject, they will take the time to look something up if they don’t feel it’s accurate.) They should also have good critical thinking skills so they can spot inconsistencies in your manuscript and have good interpersonal skills to communicate their thoughts with you. They should be able to do all of this and still not change your voice and the heart of your book. That’s a tall order.

Check their web site for an editing philosophy, client list, resume, and affiliations with professional groups. If this type of information isn’t on their site, contact them and ask about their work process, rates, time frames and if they have different levels of editing based on what you need there and then. This may sound like a lot of work on your part, but why would you trust your blood, sweat, and tears to a person you didn’t take the time to vet?

A good copy editor should offer to take a few pages as a trial run to see if you are compatible with each other. This protects both sides of the coin. They don’t want to get stuck with a writer who has serious issues and the writer doesn’t want to get stuck with someone who tries to change too much or can’t pick a misspelled word out of a sentence. This trial run should also be done for free or for a small amount of money. The sample should be around five pages so it shouldn’t run into any substantial kind of money. Do not hire someone if they want to change things to the point where your unique voice is unrecognizable. Do not hire the person if you question some of the changes and their response is defensive or cold. Run away as fast as you can. This is a partnership which should be collaborative and supportive. However, by the same token, don’t hire the editor who strokes your ego and only tells you how fantastic you are. They should be honest and willing to offer their authentic insight on how to make your book better

I might want to stroke this writer’s ego!

Once you’ve found the right person, you can expect a written description of the steps involved in the project. This, my friends, is called a contract. Make sure you have one. This way there is no mistaking the expectations on both sides.


Do You Want To Make Money? Help Yourself!

April 12, 2012

 

Write your first draft with your heart.  Re-write with your head.  ~From the movie Finding Forrester

 

 

Do I want to write as a business?

 

This is a question that has plagued my brain for quite awhile. I’m so very lucky because I don’t depend on writing for a viable source of income and that’s a luxury. I recognize that. While I struggle with wondering whether I want to put a passion to work, I’ve learned some very important things that an author should understand if they want to make a go in this industry.

 

The first thing to ask yourself is if you know your genre. I know a lot of you are shaking your head and telling me to start with something a bit more advanced. I’d like to, but too many authors haven’t studied their genre well enough and make basic mistakes that turn off readers. Have you read books written in the same vein as yours? Do they sell well? What aspects of one book make it a better seller than another? Are there things that readers come to expect and love in that genre? Is it in your book? I know we all want to write about the things we love, but let’s face it, if your book is about something that has a very narrowed window of interest, you might have a tough time making it into a viable seller.

 

I started this journey wanting to write a category romantic suspense, but my characters wouldn’t let me keep the story within the confines of a category book. (At the time, I didn’t even know it was called “category” and that it had all those rules attached to it!) I seem to write bigger suspense/thriller types of stories and with the encouragement of many people who read my pages, I started to swing towards all out non-romantic suspense. There was a problem. I didn’t read that type of book.

 

After jumping in and raiding my husband’s book collection, I discovered two things. Those books were awesome and I didn’t want to write one. I liked the stories, but I always found myself wanting more romance infused into the book. I finally came upon writers like Brenda Novak, Roxanne St. Claire, and Allison Brennan who wrote big suspense with a romantic thread running through the stories. I’m also happy to say that they sell quite nicely. Know yourself. Know your market. Do your homework.

 

Not all of you will agree with my next assertion. You need to spend money to make money. Spend some money on a professional editor and for a professional design of your book cover. Begin with your critique partners, have some beta readers give you feedback and then send your work to an editor. It will cost money, but it should be money well spent if you get a reputable editor. Don’t ever, ever, ever rely on just yourself to edit your work. I can almost guarantee that you will not have a polished product.

 

If you want your book to be placed next to a professionally published book and the reader not be able to distinguish any difference between the quality of the two, then find a cover designer. Unless you have a degree in marketing and are a computer genius, you will be able to spot a homemade cover a mile away. I believe this is almost more important in the virtual world of selling than in the real world. All you have to capture their attention right off the bat is that tiny picture showing up on their screen. Spend the money- make it professional. I know an author who put her book up for sale with a cover she put together for little to no money. It wasn’t bad, it was actually quite attractive until you compared it to others professionally done in her genre. Despite that, sales were fair and then she hired a designer and re-published the book with its new cover. Sales soared and she started receiving fan mail. Does a cover make that much difference? YES!!!!!

 

Once there’s a refined, sleek looking product the author needs to publish it. You have two choices at this point. You can hire a company that will do the work for you or you can educate yourself and do it. Most of my friends are doing this part themselves and saving money. If you don’t think this is for you, there are many companies willing to take your money. Some are quite reasonable and others will charge you a huge amount. It’s just like anything else. Do your homework and research the options. I’m of a mind that if you can figure it out, then give it a try.

 

This is the beginning of the business part. Are you still with me? Are you scared? Are you excited? The next two weeks will be spent talking about marketing, looking at actual authors’ numbers, and can you truy make a living doing this?

 

** Spoiler Alert** Yes, you can! It takes research, trial and error, and a whole lotta chutzpa. 


Marketing- Don’t Let Your Head Explode!

April 5, 2012

Easy reading is damn hard writing.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

Help!

I’m choking on the amount of material out there about our industry, all the different ways to market our work, and the changing face of the market itself. After spending many hours trolling the internet, I hope to give you bite size portions to think about and for you to not get overwhelmed by the avalanche of, sometimes very conflicting, information.

The number one item repeated time and again was that it doesn’t matter what route you take to being a published author, you must become savvy to marketing techniques to boost sales. The days of a publishing house taking over and making you a best seller are gone. The houses expect you to have an online presence and that you are willing to put much effort into promoting yourself. Brick and mortar publishing models will have you in stores for a finite amount of time and then you are done. E publishers will promote you on their website, offer you a chance to blog  to the readers who frequent their site, but after a certain amount of time, you are done. If you want to continue to have your books sell, then you MUST have some kind of strategy. Right, wrong, or indifferent this is today’s reality and every author needs to get on board for long term survival.

A good friend of mine, author Suzan Harden, directed me to http://victorinewrites.blogspot.com/2011/03/sales-growth-over-time in order for me to see several indie authors post their numbers of sales over a period of time. I strongly suggest you hop over there to study the numbers yourselves, but here are my general impressions of the data.

– Most authors start off with small numbers, but with time grew. This makes sense because growing is due to word of mouth which is now done in an IT sort of way.

-Sales generally increased around the holidays which led to continued higher sales for many of the authors.

– Based on their anecdotal information, sales spiked consistently with each new release. Some chose to publish short stories, some novellas, some full length novels. It didn’t seem to matter- new material equaled new sales.

-Authors also had spikes when they changed their covers or tweaked the descriptions of their books. I found this very telling because it confirms my belief that unless you are a cover artist/marketing guru, you should spend some money and hire a professional designer for your cover. We are a society of instant gratification and if the picture on the front doesn’t grab us within the first 5 to 10 seconds, you’ve lost a potential buyer.

– As a whole, those authors that had more than one item for sale had better sales. (Although there were exceptions to this.)

Every author should consider establishing a Facebook personal page, a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account, a You Tube account and a blog. Even as I write this, I need to warn you not to take on all of these things at one time and not every single one will be right for every person. The next couple of weeks, I will give you a breakdown of each of these, mistakes that many authors make, and more data from published authors that I’m collecting. This is such a huge topic with many layers, but I believe we must explore and commit to being an active part in the business side of  creativity.

 


Cover me! I’m going in!

January 25, 2012

Song of the day: The Way You Move by Since October

I’m a woman. I’m a writer. So it stands to reason that I am fickle and never quite satisfied. Shocking, I know.

Something has been burrowing in the back of my mind for some time now. It wasn’t until recently I decided to confront the gnawing little critter. My debut pirate romance Blood and Treasure has a couple of flaws. *gasp* The longer I tried to ignore it, the louder the flaws scratched, chattered, and hollered at me to fix them. I became obsessed by those damned errors. Now we authors know that no matter how polished and shiny our masterpieces are, we will find something we want desperately to change or improve. It’s the nature of the beast.

I could stand the incessant badgering no longer. The past couple of weeks, I poured over Blood and Treasure correcting wayward punctuation and banishing anachronistic words that somehow, either by oversight or blind eye, made it into the novel. The result? A breath of relief reviewers and readers didn’t find my faux pas—or found them serious enough to string me up by my toenails. Over dramatic and paranoid? Perhaps.

That’s not all. As much as I love my cover, I realized something very crucial. The cover need to be revamped. This became glaringly obvious once I saw the new cover for my latest pirate tale Beneath the Water’s Edge (forthcoming – I promise). These covers needed to match in tone, mood, setting, font, and heat level. Especially since they belong to the same series. As much as it hurt to let go of the current cover, it was imperative to move on. (I’ll miss you, Jimmy! Please don’t forget me. I’ll write every day! ) It’s marketing. And it makes sense.

The downside – all those print copies and trading cards sitting in my closet. I feel a sale coming on!

So what do you think? If you want to know who created the cover, check back for my next Link of the Week.