Category Archives: BY THE MAD GENII

A list of our perpetrators.

A Change in Plans

A quick note before I get into today’s post. The series on formatting will continue next week. I want a little more time working with some of the programs I’m going to discuss before blogging about them. Sorry for the delay but I wanted to be comfortable with the programs before not only reviewing them but, in at least one instance, recommending them.

As for today, well, the title says it all.

Last week, I released Nocturnal Rebellion. It is the fifth book in the Nocturnal Lives series and the sixth title overall. This was the first series I started and Nocturnal Origins was the second book I published. To say this series and its characters have held a special place in my writer’s heart is to put it mildly. Because of that, I expected a few days, maybe more, of mourning after Rebellion’s release. Why? Because Rebellion brings an end to the current story arc and I’m not sure where the story will go from there — or when the next installment will happen.

Okay, that’s not quite right. I have a glimmer of a spark of an idea about where to go next but that’s it. Knowing Mac and company won’t be part of my regular writing schedule for a while is, well, odd.

Normally, I take a week or so away from writing after a book release to do some promotion and to simply get my head cleared of that book and ready for the next project. That’s when I try to catch up on my reading, reorganize my office — okay, cleaning it and getting it ready for whatever I’m about to start writing — sleeping and gaming. It is also when I catch up on those projects around the house that I put on hold while I got the last book ready for press.

This time, however, it didn’t happen like that. I took a day. A single day. Then I dug into my office, clearing away all the notes and research used during Rebellion’s writing. Once that was accomplished, I sat down and over the course of the next two days, made notes on the projects that have been floating around in my mind, those I knew I needed to get done in the next six months or so as well as others that, it seemed, had been lurking just below the surface until I finished Rebellion.

By the time I was finished, I had notes on 12 separate titles. 12. What the bleep?!? Fortunately for my sanity, not all of them are novels. More fortunately, some were for titles I’d already planned and, in a couple of occasions, are projects I’ve already gotten very rough drafts completed for — the next in the Honor and Duty series as well as the next in the Sword of the Gods series. What I hadn’t expected doing this were the several standalone titles that cropped up or the additional titles I hadn’t planned in the Eerie Side of the Tracks, including a novel that hit me out of nowhere but that I’m very excited to write.

So what’s the change, you ask.

First, and least important, is the fact I sat down and actually made notes on more than the current work in progress. I very rarely do that. While I’m not a pantser, I most definitely am not a plotter either. I’ve always fallen somewhere in-between. Whether this indicates a change in my process or not, I don’t know. I’ll admit, the prospect of my process changing is a bit scary. But it’s happened before and I adapted. I’ll do so again.

The second change is in the publishing schedule. Again, it’s no biggie. That is the joy of being an indie. I can shuffle my schedule as needed. But, in this case, there is no shuffling needed. I simply added more titles to it. In a way, that’s reassuring. It is also daunting because it means I can’t goof off and say “I don’t know what to write”. And yes, there was a teen-like whine with that quote.

The change is the obvious one. For the first time in more than five years, I don’t have a story with Mac in the hopper. Part of me mourns that. But it was time for this particular story arc to come to an end. Yet, even as I write this post, I know Myrtle the Evil Muse is thinking about what to do with our band of heroes next. She’s already teased (okay, tormented) me with a scene with a panicked Mac discovering she’s pregnant and wondering the best way to potty train the baby of two people who shift into jaguars. Do you buy stock in diapers or kitty litter? Do you buy teething rings or scratching posts?

You see why I call my muse evil?

Crap!

Even as I sit here typing in this post, I hear Myrtle cackling madly. It’s not enough that she inflicted me with a book that wants to be written NOW! I feel a new series coming on. In case you’re wondering, it’s a bit like feeling a headache coming on. Why? Because Myrtle isn’t subtle. She comes racing in with her combat boots and bullhorn.

Seriously, the change I refer to in the title is more of a mental change than anything else. I noticed something as I wrote my last couple of books. I was allowing myself to be distracted by the internet, by gaming, etc. I know the reasons why but knowing them doesn’t always mean I do anything about them. So, I made the decision to change one very basic and yet important part of my writing. I have switched machines. My PC laptop no longer is my work machine. I’ll still use it for a couple of post-edit functions because it has a larger screen and some of the programs I use after I finish a manuscript. But the actual writing now happens on the MacBook Air. So far, it has been a very positive change. It is as though my subconscious understand that when I’m on the Mac, it is “work”. the PC is “play”. We’ll see how long that lasts.

I’m not recommending everyone go out and buy a laptop or desktop that is a totally different OS from what you have now. What I do recommend is that you review how you write and be honest with yourself about whether you are allowing yourself to become distracted too easily. I know authors who have machines without internet connectivity that they use to write on. Others don’t put games or social media apps on their work machines. I finally am starting to understand why.

The other thing I’ve done is blocked off several hours in the morning and then in the afternoon where I don’t go online. I don’t check email and I don’t go to Facebook or similar sites. This is “work” time. That has helped as well.

In other words, I am practicing what I preach — I am treating my writing like my business. I’m still looking at ways to get better, both with time management and with promotion. Boy do I need to get better at promotion. How about you? What can you do to improve your productivity? What techniques are you using that seem to help?

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: CRAFT, WRITING: LIFE

The Erogenous Zone

Most romance writers these days – or their editors, trolling (that was a typo from telling, but I’m leaving it!) them to write what sells – are under the impression that they know where all the erogenous zones are, and they march through the checklist with their characters to steam their work up. While I don’t have a problem with smut, it does sell, I do have a problem with many literary (and probably film, although I’ve seen less of that due to censorship laws, thank goodness) depictions of sex. They miss the point entirely.

You see, the erogenous zone where you want to hit the reader is not located between the legs or on the chest or face or wherever… It’s wrapped up inside the bony case of the skull and can’t be touched directly. Especially for a reader, if you want to make a book reek of sex, you must get inside their head. Once in there, you’ll realize that their imaginations are all different, unique, and you couldn’t possibly write sex scenes that would turn every reader on…

I joke that I am a sapiosexual, but it’s not entirely a joke. What attracted me first to the person I later married wasn’t anything physical. I’m not sure I’d even seen a picture of him before we were good friends and slowly moving toward flirting. I fell for his mind, not his body. Readers are, more often than not, similarly inclined. Which means that to seduce them with a book, you are appealing directly to the erogenous zone of their brain.

It’s not that I would never write out a sex scene blow-by-blow. It’s that I think I would be failing my readers to do so. My idea of what is good sexytimes is almost certainly not theirs. Sure, there are sex acts that are the same the world over, but sex is -and ought to be – far more intricate a dance than simply ‘insert tab A into slot B’ which gets frankly boring to write more than once, not to mention the tediousness of finding euphemisms for the equipment involved.

I’d rather write up to a certain part and leave the rest to the reader to interpret according to what heats up their own personal erogenous zone. There are several ways to accomplish this: closing the bedroom door on your lovers completely, wandering in their with them and only describing high points, describing action up til their subconscious takes over, or the romance genre stroke-by-stroke method. I’ve written the first, the last, and then dumped those scenes. My preference as a writer and a reader is some combination of the first two options. But I’m not writing erotica… That would be a whole ‘nother post, not for this blog.

The other big objection I have to many romance novels (or in my recent cranky rant about mystery novels that are really romance novels) is the whole ‘we’ve just met, we instantly fell in love let’s f*ck’ which isn’t fun to read. I want more literary foreplay, I don’t know about you. I also object to love in all the wrong places, by which I mean sex in the midst of a running gunfight, or while the pair are being held captive by a psychopath (and he’s on the other side of the door), or… I recognize that adrenaline rush does weird things. I prefer my characters to not be a raging ball of uncontrollable libido.

I’m willing to bet if I asked folks to list what their favorite sexy but not explicit book was in the comments, I’d get as varied a list as we have readers. Because everyone’s erogenous zone is unique.

Follow-up

I promised I’d report back on the promotion I did for Pixie Noir. I realize there wasn’t a lot of interest in that post, but I did say I would, so you can skip this part in good conscience.

The highest sales peak of other books in the series came ten days after the start of the free days. To my surprise, sales of Pixie Noir itself were up slightly after the promotion as well. I suspect the momentum bumped it up on people’s radar and on Amazon as well. As of now, I have four new reviews on PN, all favorable, all obviously from new readers. The also-bot profile for the book has changed significantly, being Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy but not Correia and Butcher, more romance-style, for better or for worse.

Finally, my KU reads for the whole series tripled with the advent of the promo – and have stayed almost steady at that level for two weeks now. The First Reader asked me when I would break even from the expenditure, shortly after the end of the giveaway, and I gotten up sales only… And was already in the black. So it’s been well worth the investment already.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON, characterization, WRITING: ART

Dream a Little Dream For Me

Pam Uphoff

 

“A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep.”

Wikipedia

 

But why?

Oh, the theories are numerous. Dreams help us incorporate memories. Process emotions. Solve daytime problems. Play out our subconscious desires.

Frankly I think it’s file cleanup and de-rezing the wetware so we can function the next day, but whatever it is, I really like dreaming. It helps sort out plot problems and throws all new situations at me.

Dreams can be like brain storming—throwing out ideas as fast as possible and only analyzing them later. And they get pretty wild.

The flat-out weird dreams are my favorite.

My Zoey Ivers books? Half BSing on the internet, meshed with this totally bizarre dream . . . I mean bouncing balls that thought they were Elvis, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin?   A computer that thought it was a T-Rex? My Dad the FBI agent walking out into a cyber desert to fight a gigantic rattle snake? WTF?

I got up at 3AM and started writing that one down. Turned into a two book YA adventure. There will be a third book Real Soon Now, and maybe more later.

OK, maybe last night’s that ended with one of my fictional characters screaming in the back room while she was being tortured wasn’t one of the better ones. (Eek! Not Rael!) Was my subconscious trying to tell me I have to be more brutal to my characters? Was this a message that I’m only showing the good side of my macguffins and eliding past some obvious problems.

Maybe it was just free association in a sleeping brain. No deep messages needing dream analysis.

But you know the thing about nightmares? You can play around with the ideas. How did your character get into this fix? How does she get out of it? Be creative. The above nightmare? Oh please, Rael was screaming so the guys in the next room didn’t realize she was actually loose and beating up the torturer, collecting interesting improvised weaponry and so forth.

And yeah, that kid in the dream has a problem! Or maybe he is the problem!

No doubt it’ll all show up in a story down the road.

If I go to sleep thinking of the possibilities for the next scene . . . Okay, it mostly keeps me awake . . . but sometimes an idea falls into place.

Sleep apnea was actually great for this. Once I got that really fun overnight test, I realized that I wasn’t actually just laying there awake, thinking about the WIP. I was flipping between REM sleep and awake so fast I wasn’t recognizing the dream state. But I sure planned some good scenes that way. And typed them half-asleep the next day.

I almost miss that. But with an oxygenated brain, I have plenty of uninterrupted dreams to stock the idea cabinet.

So . . . what do your dreams do for you . . . and what do you do with them?

Oh, and the new book, a complete stand alone unconnected to anything I’ve ever written:

 

 

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Filed under BY THE MAD GENII, PAM UPHOFF, plotting, WRITING: ART

Formatting for Print (Pt. 2)

When formatting your book for print, there is no one right way to do it. The goal is to make your book look not only as good as possible but to make it look “professional” or, in other words, to make it look as close to a traditionally published book as possible. Why? Because that is what the readers expect.

It isn’t difficult to do. Some methods take longer, or cost more, than others. How you get to your end product is up to you. Before we get to some of the options available, let’s go over some basics.

As authors, many of us have been programmed to write in Times New Roman or Courier or a similar font. Usually using 12 pt for type size. Standard manuscript format for submissions has usually included 1 inch margins and double-spaced lines. First line indents can be up to half an inch. We often default back to this without even thinking.

Don’t. At least not when it comes to converting your work for either e-books or print. For print you have to think about thinks like page bleeds, page size, interior margins vs exterior margins, section breaks vs. page breaks, alternating headers and footers and so much more.

Depending on which service you use as your print-on-demand source, you can choose to release your book as a mass market paperback, a trade paperback or even a hard cover. Most of those sources have basic templates you can use — and adapt — which will help you decide your margins and how to place your headers and footers, etc. If you haven’t ever put together a print file before, or if you aren’t comfortable doing so, I recommend you download one of the templates and use it. After you have your manuscript in the basic format offered by the template, you can go back and add what flourishes and changes you want. But it is a good way to start getting used to setting up a print file.

This is especially helpful if you are setting your print file up using Word or a similar word processing program.

This first shot shows basic margin information. (Click on the images and they will open in a new window in a larger format) You can see from the tabs at the top of the screenshot that I found this information in the layout tab (using Word). For a manuscript using 6 x 9 pages and coming in at approximately 270 pages total, the margins are set as shown in the image. Note also that the document has been set to mirror the margins.

The one caveat I will put here when it comes to margins, especially the inside margins is to never trust templates or what anyone tells you. You need to see what it looks like for yourself. The more pages a book has, the wider that interior margin needs to be. This is why I always recommend using a POD supplier that lets you have a physical copy of the proof before you send it to “press”. What looks good as a PDF file on your screen or even off your printer might not look the same once it has been bound. So do yourself a favor, at least until you’ve done enough print books to trust your instincts, and order a physical proof before hitting the print button.

In the same dialog box open to set the margins, click the “paper” tab. This is where you choose the size of your page. You’ll note that in Word, the 6 x 9 size is a “custom” size. This might vary depending on what word processing program you’re using.

The rest of the information in this dialog box seems like it doesn’t have much to do with what you are setting up but go ahead and make sure you have paper selection set to your default tray. This will come in handy later if you decide to print out your mss to check it yourself.

Using the “layout” tab in the same dialog box, you should get something that looks like this. I’ll be honest, this is one of the most important things you can do in setting up your print file in a word processing program. This controls the way your headers and footers will look as well as where your section breaks begin.

This is important because, if you look at traditionally published books, you may see a couple of things. First, there usually are no headers or footers on the first page of a new chapter. Second, the author’s name usually appears at the top of the even numbered pages and the book title appears at the top of odd numbered pages. (To make sure you’re setting this up right, you need to do one other thing. At the end of a chapter in an e-book file, you would have a page break. That gives the digital file the appearance of a page ending and the new chapter beginning on a different “page”. In you print file, you will replace the page break with a section break. In Word, “breaks” are found under the Layout tab. If you click on “Breaks”, a dialog box will open up. At the bottom of the box, you’ll find the alternatives for the different types of section breaks you can insert. Choose “odd page” if you want your chapters to all start on the next odd numbered page. The value of doing it this way, you chapters will all begin on the right hand side of the book and feel more traditional to your reader. However, there is a downside to this in that it can add physical pages to your book and, as the author, the amount of money you get per sale of your POD book depends on how many pages it has. The higher the number of pages, the higher the print cost. I tend to go with the more traditional approach because it is what readers expect and the pricing differential of 20 or so pages isn’t enough to worry about.)

This screenshot shows what you get when you click in either the header or footer areas of your manuscript. I wanted to show this because you can see how I’ve made sure “different first page” as well as “different odd and even pages” have been clicked. Since I’d already set them in the dialog box above, there shouldn’t have been a problem but no computer program is perfect and sometimes Word does weird things — as does any other word processing program. So it is always good to check elsewhere when possible to make sure the coding is in place.

But there is another reason I wanted you to see this screenshot. If you look at the column of options immediately to the left of the “different first page” bit, you should see as the last option “link to previous”. You want to make sure this is NOT clicked prior to your first chapter, or where you want your first page numbers and headers to appear. Otherwise, you will wind up up page numbers on your cover page, etc. If you aren’t sure where to start your headers and footers, look at print books in your genre. See what they have done.

Now, once you’ve done all this and you’ve made sure you have all the flourishes, etc., you want in place, it’s time to save your file. You’re going to do this in two steps. One, as your DOC or DOCX file. Always do this. The second will be as your PDF file. Most, if not all, POD places want a print ready PDF file for both your interior and exterior files. If you want to print your book to read through it one last time before submitting it to your POD provider, print the PDF file because it will keep not only your page size, even if you are printing on standard paper, but it will print the blank pages added in between chapters if you have your new sections always beginning on either the even or odd page.

From there, it is simply a matter of deciding if you are ready to upload the file and move on to your cover file.

Now, a couple of quick notes. If you use Word or a word processing program to create your PDF file, you need to set your margins to justify. (Of course, you can choose not to. As I mentioned above, check to see what the traditional publishers do in your genre and copy it.) If you do this, you may wind up with some odd sentence breaks. You can adjust the character spacing by highlighting the line in question, opening your font dialog box, clicking the advanced tab and then adjusting the character spacing.

One other thing you need to do is make sure you have turned off widow and orphan control. Doing this will insure your pages all end at the same place unless, of course, we’re talking the last page of a chapter where you have only a few lines or paragraphs. It’s a little thing but it makes the book look more professional.

I’ll admit there are easier ways of doing this. There are programs out there that make this a snap. Some have a very small learning curve and others have a much larger learning curve. The industry standard for years has been InDesign by Adobe. I love InDesign. I also love Quarkxpress. Both are anything but cheap and have learning curves most of us don’t want or have time for. Neither are great, at least in my experience, for designing e-books. If I’m going to put in a lot of time — and money — into a publishing program, I want it to do both. For Mac users, I’ve found one that does just that. Unfortunately, it isn’t cheap but it seems to be well worth it. The program I’m talking about is Vellum. I’m going to be buying it later this week. I’ll have a review of it next week for you guys. We’ll also talk about some of the other programs available to help streamline the process. Some of those programs include InDesign, Jutoh and Scrivener.

And now, for a bit of promo.

It’s here!

Nocturnal Rebellion is live on Amazon.

All she wanted was a simple murder case, one uncomplicated by shapeshifters or interfering IAB investigators. What she got instead was much, much more.

Now three cops are dead and Mac’s world will never be the same again. It is up to her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what justice? That of cops and attorneys and criminal courts or that of the shapeshifters where there would be no record and a quick execution of punishment, whatever that might be?

As she walks that fine line, Mac walks another tightrope as well. Shapeshifter politics are new to her and, as she has learned, more complicated than anything she ever encountered as a cop. One misstep can lead to not only her death but the deaths of those she cares for. Like it or not, she has no choice because she has learned there are other things just as inevitable as death and taxes. Sooner or later, the world will learn that shapeshifters aren’t just things of legend and bad Hollywood movies. If that happens before they are ready, Mac and those like her will learn the hard way what happens when humanity learns monsters are real and living next door.

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

KENP, Click Farms, Overdrive, and Hand-selling at AMA-Con

First, a couple notes on things that have been happening in the field since last column:
1. KENP 3.0 – Normally Amazon’s big changes to KU come in July, but this year it came in August. While there was much sturm und drang, really, there doesn’t seem to be much appreciable change from 2.0 for regular indies. The KENP page counts shrunk slightly, to align closer to true page counts when the story’s in paper. The rest appears to be on the back end, invisible to us, mostly targeted at click farms and bought reviews.

2. Speaking of click farms, several indies have recently reported their accounts being locked / books taken off sale after buying “advertising” with a “guaranteed number of readers.” You know that picture of Batman slapping Robin? Yeah, picture that. Here’s how NOT to get your account locked and books delisted:
A.) You cannot guarantee buyers ethically. If buyers or readers are guaranteed, that means you’re paying a click farm to run a program on a laptop slaved to a bunch of stolen iphones, each loaded to an Amazon account, “borrowing” and “reading” them. Unless you’re paying a click farm in North Korea, in which case it’s a poor schmuck pacing down a table, manually finger-swiping every iphone.
B.) If you can’t sign up for their mailing list, it’s a click farm. Real promoters want everybody to sign up for their lists, so they can grow. Click farms say they have a list, but if it’s not obvious and easy to find, then it’s a lie.
C.) If they don’t have a website, it’s a click farm. ESPECIALLY if their only presence is a “closed facebook group.” Again, if they’re not soliciting more people to join them, they’re not right.
D.) If it’s too good to be true, it ain’t true. It’s more likely to be this: https://kotaku.com/inside-chinese-click-farms-1795287821

3. Draft2Digital is now able to load books on OverDrive – yes, that means Draft2Digital can now get your ebooks into a library. However, it’s not all wine and roses, and “can” is not the same as “will.” The comments at Passive Voice are illuminating: http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2017/08/draft2digital-adds-overdrive-to-the-fold/

And now, on marketing in the flesh:

The North Texas Writer’s Association, also called the Bugscuffle Shooting & Writing Club, ran a booth at Ama-Con up in Amarillo last Weekend. This means JL Curtis, Peter Grant, Lawdog, and myself caravaned up and Alma Boykin met up with us for the booth setup. We then spent two days hawking all our books (and the night inbetween, Jim & I got some sleep while LawDog & Peter were both furiously typing away on their latest books. LawDog’s “Africa & Other Stories” is now out for sale, and Peter’s “King’s Champion” is out to beta readers.)

If there’s anything more painful than an introvert trying to hawk their wares, it’s five introverts trying to hawk their wares. Fortunately, I have plenty of sales training, and everyone else has some “dealing with public” training. So Alma and I wore our spiffy dressy clothes (She went Edwardian, I went ren faire & steampunky with exterior corsetry), attracting eyes and cameras, and the guys took turns pitching in on sales. And we had a bowl with mints and bouncy balls, which attracted younger kids (and their parents, dragged along).

It was excellent at distilling books down to their essence. Jim’s Gray Man series quickly became “Modern westerns, with cowboys versus drug smugglers!” and Alma’s Alexi’s Tales became “Urban fantasy, but with Russian mythology instead! …And a texting cat!”

Interesting divide: People over 40 bought books, and people under 40 wanted to know if it was in ebook. We sold just enough physical books to cover table rent, but not enough to cover hotel, food, and time off work. If we do this again, we’ll have book cards (cover, blurb, QR code & URL to book on Amazon) for the ones on sale, as well as the ones not there!

Also, people may pick up the entire series at once (That happened twice with Jim’s series), especially if you take credit card. (Square worked fine.) So, bring bags! We ruthlessly dumped Office Depot supplies (sharpies for autographing, pre-printed business and book cards, books stand boxes, etc.) in order to present the bag to the happy customer who’d just bought stuff. On Day 2, Alma brought a handful of grocery bags, and life was better!

However, if you don’t have book 1 of a series, people will look interested, and then put the book back down. Most casual readers do not want to start in the middle of the series. I was really kicking myself for not having book one of everything there – or a card with book one to point them toward Amazon.

(I don’t have a good feel how we did on ebook sales. For one, LawDog is through a publisher, so I can’t get those numbers, they may be buried in the tail of a sucessful release anyway. For another, I’d have to get the other 4 of us to all check our KDP accounts and check in. I should do that. Instead I spent two days not talking to anyone, because I had used up all the extro in my vert, and needed to recharge.)

You can see our table setup here: https://oldnfo.org/2017/08/06/ama-con-update/

And for new releases this week, we have two!

Tom Rogneby has taken his talents into noir, with a few hints of supernatural in the background, with The BoogeyMan:

Martin Shelby is The BoogeyMan, a private investigator and fixer for folks who get into trouble too tough and too strange for the police. People only bring him the jobs that require the body of a linebacker and the face of a gargoyle.

Now, he’s been handed a job that pays double, but that can only mean double the danger.

But when the things that go bump in the night look under their bed for HIM, how hard can it be? To The BoogeyMan, it’s just another job.

Alma Boykin has released hilarious and lighthearted stories of witches and wizards dealing with the parts nobody ever mentions in urban fantasies: taking your familiar to the vet when it’s a 100-lb skunk, the IRS won’t let you deduct robes as professional expenses, and typos in the spellbook’s latest edition mean that students get some spectacular results from the example!

Familiar Tales, by Alma Boykin!

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Filed under BY THE MAD GENII, FYNBOSSPRESS, MARKETING, PROMOTION, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Breaking into New Markets

This last week I did something I have meant to do for a while, but haven’t had the time to contemplate doing: I paid for advertising, and coordinated a big promotional push for one of my books.

Most of my marketing is near-passive. I have my blog, and my social media presence, but I don’t use them to push my books in people’s faces. I’m a big fan of content marketing, and I prefer to have people want my books without me jumping up and down shouting “I write books! You must buy!” because that will turn them off and I’ll lose readers rather than gain them in the long term. It’s the project of years, not days or months. Peter Grant and I sat down shortly after we first met, along with our respective spouses (and I’m going to interject a big veering-off-track here and say that both of us are blessed in our spouses. You all know Dorothy as a marketing guru and a writer in her own right, but those years ago she wasn’t yet writing, she always has been brilliant about marketing, though. My own husband is the Evil Muse. I don’t think I need to say more!). During the course of that conversation he told me his own strategy for marketing, and it was a long-term one – spend five years, give or take – blogging regularly, then release his first book. It worked beautifully, and I have been following in his footsteps to some extent (I had already been blogging, but on his advice took it up to a daily blog and much more regular than it had been. Which was a huge challenge during college).

Above and beyond the slow audience growth a blog affords, I had decided a few months ago that I wanted to do some aggressive market growth and actually shell out money for marketing. Before I started, I had to figure out some things: What form of promotion I wanted to do, what audiences I wanted to reach, and what my budget was going to be.

The first thing I want to make clear is: I was not spending money for an immediate ROI. This is, like my blog, a long game. I could – and still may at some point – buy ads. Targeting an ad is a tricky business. You can buy ads on Facebook, on Amazon, on Project Wonderful… heck, you could buy ads in your local newspaper or TV channel, if you’re willing to really shell out the dough. I opted not to buy ads, not having the time nor the inclination to sit down and design one, research where would be best to buy eyeball time… and most important, because I don’t think they work. Advertising slots are the opposite of permission marketing. There is a reason I use adblockers and FBPurity, and I do not doubt that my readers use those, too. Which means buying an ad is nearly akin to making confetti out of my money and throwing it off a bridge. So….

Where to find readers who want to read a book?

Book promotion sites and emails, of course. BookBub is the big one, but when I looked at the cost for the genre I wanted to promote in, I decided that although it might be interesting to experiment with another time, it was out of my budget for this particular push. So I started looking at the smaller ones, the ones I’d used before, like Fussy Librarian and EbookHounds. There are a lot of them. Dorothy Grant was good enough to send me a link to a list of them, and between ones I’ve used before and that list, I picked out a total of six I wanted to try, and they fit into my budget.

Which brings me to that. I set a very modest budget for this promotion. I wanted to spend no more than $100. I spent $89, placing my book in eight different places. One was a freebie. One was a freebie, but didn’t run my book, which is what happens when you’re doing promo sometimes, so I didn’t sweat it.

Choose what book you want to promote wisely. If you only have one or two books published, do not do this. I did this knowing that I had a complete trilogy to sell, by giving away the first book in the series. In addition, I had a new release in the same genre (although not the same sub-genre) which I thought might attract the readers who liked my promo book well enough to read the whole trilogy and start looking for my other books. So I picked Pixie Noir to giveaway through Amazon, offering it for free for a total of five days. I chose to schedule the promo over a weekend, although interestingly the highest day was Friday.

Pixie Noir Giveaway
August 3 August 4 August 5 August 6 August 7 Promo cost
Fussy Librarian x $6.00
Ebook hounds x $45.00
MHI Promo post x $0.00
Awesomegang newsletter x $10.00
FreeDiscountedBooks.com x $8.00
The Kindle Book Review x X X x x $10.00
AccordingtoHoyt promo post
      x   $0.00
Daily Bookworm x $10.00
total cost $89.00

This ranking would climb, but there is the first stage…

 

It would peak at #2 in Paranormal and Urban, but I couldn’t get a screenshot at the time. Still!

Over the five days, I gave away a total of 4394 books. For me, this is four times the total of any previous free book drive I’ve done. On Friday there was a huge spike of 2637 books given away, which I attribute to the book having been pushed up the charts at Amazon the day before, and the momentum continuing into Friday and pushing it up the charts even more, which meant more eyeballs on it at Amazon… and so on. It was sort of exciting to watch! Saturday I left on a four-day trip, so I wasn’t able to watch as closely, but books given away did taper off and finally come to a stop. So… over four thousand new readers, right? Wrong.

The peril of giving a book away, rather than offering it at a steep discount, is that people will scoop up free books, not read them initially, and then forget they own them. Personally I have about 780 ebooks on my Kindle, and that’s not my full ebook library. I know there are books in there I got free, forgot, and will likely never read. Amazon has really fallen off the ball on offering readers a way to curate and organize their own libraries, but I digress. Even if I could create a collection of ‘books I got free’ it would be a lower to-read priority than the books of Siberian and Alaskan folktales and mythology I’ve been reading for research. So my point is that giving away free books is not a direct one-to-one correlation of a book and a set of eyeballs on that book. Still, some will read PN, and like it, and I know this because…

That’s the graph of Kindle Unlimited reads across all my titles. You’ll note that it was doing ok, not great, up until the giveaway was a couple of days old. Now, this is not what I’d call a peak. Sales are up, for the other titles in the series, but not dramatically so. I was surprised by the KU increase, I was not at all surprised that the sales weren’t – yet – up. This is probably going to take another week to see it play out (and I’ll do a small follow-up next week as well, along with another topic).

If – when – I do this again, I won’t buy the highest level promotion from Ebookhounds. It wasn’t worth that much more money than the others. I’d also start working on this further out – I wanted to do this over the first weekend in August after releasing Snow in Her Eyes during the first week of August, but I didn’t plan ahead very far. It can be done, but it would be better to start researching and planning a month out. The Fussy Librarian and Kindle Book Review between them accounted for 730 freebies on that first day, so they were well worth the fees and planning in tandem, as I think that pushed the ranks up enough to create momentum at Amazon itself.

Overall I’m pleased, and will do this again – but not soon. If I do another promo, it will be a discounted book. But I don’t have a series to do that with, so I’ll wait until I have either the rest of the Tanager series complete, or perhaps the next of the Children of Myth series. Both of those will take me a while! In the meantime, I’ll be watching my sales and reviews to see what the long-term payout on this modest investment is. For one thing, in this last week I have seen three new reviews pop up for Pixie Noir, all of them from new readers. On a book that has been out for four years, that’s pretty good.

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Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON, MARKETING, PROMOTION

Formatting for Print Revisited

Formatting. The bane of every author’s existence. Whether we’re talking about formatting for print or for e-books, we’re all looking for the one click version, something that will work each and every time. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Why? It goes far beyond the fact we use different operating systems and word processing programs. The answer really rests in what readers expect and how do we, as indie authors or small press authors, make sure our work looks as “professional” as that of the Big 5.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of formatting for print, I want you to do something. Look at print books in your genre, preferably newer ones, and see how they are put together. Look at the order of front matter. What sort of flourishes are used to set off the chapter headings and section breaks. Does the first paragraph of each chapter begin with a special character or is it in some other way different from the other first lines in the section or chapter? Check more than one book and see if you can spot a trend. If you can, you need to seriously consider doing your best to imitate what is being done. NOTE: many times, those special characters used as flourishes at chapter titles and section breaks are specially licensed fonts. So make sure you have the rights to use anything similar.

Now, there’s one more thing you need to decide before we get to the actual formatting conversation. No, it’s not do you need to do a print book. The answer is yes. It isn’t because you are going to make money off of them. In fact, it is best if you look at the print version of your work as a loss leader. But what it does is make your author page and product pages look more “professional”. Readers will subconsciously take you more seriously as a writer if you have both print and digital versions of your work available. And, yes, I know I am not following my own advice right now. The reason is because I am updating my print versions and have taken a number of them off-sale until I do.

So, what is the question you need to ask yourself? It is what service to use for your POD (print-on-demand) needs. There are a number of different versions out there. Lulu, Lightning Source, Createspace, KDP are just some of the more familiar ones. They all have costs involved and some cost substantially more than others.

I’m not going to tell you which service to use. I will, however, tell you what I have used and why. Right now, all my print books are through Createspace. I chose them not only because they are easy to use but because they are cheap when it comes to buying author copies. They also allow you to order a physical copy of the proof and I’ve learned that’s important. What looks good as a PDF file can suddenly look very differently in print. So I want to hold a copy of the proof and be able to check every page before sending the book out into the wilds.

The downside to using either Createspace or KDP for your print needs is their association with Amazon. That means a number of bookstores won’t stock your book. Now, before you gasp and say how much you want your book on the shelves, it’s time for a heavy dose of reality. The chances of you getting into a bookstore are slim, very slim. First of all, most of our bookstores are still chain stores. That means they have their own purchasing agents and those agents are going to stock major publishers over the local indie author. Fewer and fewer chain stores have local buying power. As for the locally owned bookstores, if you have a really good relationship with the store owner or purchasing agent, you might be able to get your book in if you use Lightning Source but that is still a long shot. So you have to ask yourself if it is worth the price difference of setting up your book and getting it printed. Ask yourself if you sell more copies via online sales, sales from physical stores or from hand sales at cons. Then choose which printer, for lack of a better word, gives you the best product for the dollar.

CAVEAT: Do not use a printer that requires you to buy a certain amount of books in order to qualify for their program. That smacks of the old vanity presses that would “publish” you but you then had to buy scores of the book and sell them yourself. There are still authors with boxes and boxes of their books sitting in the garages because of that scam.

The next thing you have to consider is what program you are going to use to format your book for print. You can use Word, or alternatives like LibraOffice. You can use InDesign by Adobe. Then there’s Scrivener. If you are a Mac user, Vellum is also an alternative. There are others programs as well. Some let you write directly into the program. Others assume you will be working in a program like Office or Pages and will then import into the conversion program. Each have strengths and weaknesses.

So, here’s the thing. I could go on and write another 1000 words or so on formatting but this post is already over 900 words. In the comments below, tell me what programs you intend to use to format your work. Ask your questions about where you can go to have your book printed (Createspace, etc). In fact, ask any questions you have about formatting for print and next week I will answer them.

In the meantime, Nocturnal Rebellion is available for pre-order. Publication date is 8/15.

All she wanted was a simple murder case, one uncomplicated by shapeshifters or interfering IAB investigators. What she got instead was much, much more.

Now three cops are dead and Mac’s world will never be the same again. It is up to her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what justice? That of cops and attorneys and criminal courts or that of the shapeshifters where there would be no record and a quick execution of punishment, whatever that might be?

As she walks that fine line, Mac walks another tightrope as well. Shapeshifter politics are new to her and, as she has learned, more complicated than anything she ever encountered as a cop. One misstep can lead to not only her death but the deaths of those she cares for. Like it or not, she has no choice because she has learned there are other things just as inevitable as death and taxes. Sooner or later, the world will learn that shapeshifters aren’t just things of legend and bad Hollywood movies. If that happens before they are ready, Mac and those like her will learn the hard way what happens when humanity learns monsters are real and living next door.

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING