Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Writers' Conferences in 2012

Looking to network with fellow writers, agents and editors next year? I can't say enough good things about writers' conferences for building those all-important connections. So far, I've managed to attend meetings of the Historical Novel Society and Writers' Digest, both well worth the costs because of the diverse topics each offered to writers. You can learn the basic elements of craft, how to sell manuscripts and market your published works, insight into character sketches and research, or pitch to your dream agent or editor. Conferences are one of the best opportunities to aid personal growth and reach your publication goals. If you're worried about financing a future trip, I hope this listing of the following conferences in 2012 will give you ample time to save up - you'll want to attend at least one these venues next year. 
January 2012
2012 Writers' Digest Conference: January 20-22, Sheraton New York Hotel. $525 for general three day registration, $375 for Saturday attendance only or $275 for student registration with student ID and proof of enrollment. Note that this does not include room reservation. Highlights: Author Barry Eisler & agent Chuck Sambuchino.  

13th Annual Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Conference: January 28-29, Grand Hyatt, NYC. Early registration rate of $360 for members, $450 for non-members. 

February 2012
2012 San Francisco Writers Conference: February 16-20, Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, California. $595 general registration (ends December 31, 2011), $695 thereafter, $645 includes Speed Dating with Agents session. Room rate $179 per night. Highlights: Author Lisa See.  

March 2012
Sleuthfest 2012: March 1-4, Royal Plaza Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida. Sponsored by the local Mystery Writers of America chapter. $255 for MWA members, $275 for non-members by January 15 to avoid a late fee. Room rate $119 per night. Highlights: Author Charlaine Harris

April 2012
Romantic Times Booklovers Convention: April 11-15, Hyatt Regency O'Hare Hotel, Rosemont, Illinois. Varying rates for writers and industry insiders. Room rate $130 per night. 

May 2012
DFW Writers' Conference: May 19-20, Hurst Conference Center, Dallas-Forth Worth, North TexasRegular registration $295 until March 19, late registration $325 until April 19; thereafter $350 until May 19. Highlights: Author James Rollins.

Backspace Writers Conference: May 24-26, Radisson Martinique, NYC. $425 conference registration through February 1; $525 thereafter OR $595 conference registration includes author-agent day through February 1; $720 thereafter.  Call for room rate. Highlights: Agent Donald Maass

June 2012
32nd Annual Romance Writers of America Conference: July 25-28, Anaheim Marriott, California. Registration opens January 16. Varying rates based on member, non-member and early or late registration status. Highlights: Authors Stephanie Laurens and Robyn Carr.    

July 2012
7th Annual ThrillerFest: July 11-14, Grand Hyatt, NYC. Varying registration packages. Call for room rates. Highlights: Authors Jack Higgins, R.L. Stine, Lee Child and Catherine Coulter (whom I always thought of as a romantic novelist - learn something new everyday!).

August 2012
Killer Nashville: August 24-26, Hutton Hotel, Tennessee. Varied  registration rates, including student and senior citizen discounts. Highlights: Authors C.J. Box and Peter Straub.  

September 2012
8th Annual UK Historical Novel Society Conference:  September 29-30, The University of Westminster on Regent Street, Central London, United Kingdom. Registration details forthcoming.

October 2012
Surrey International Writers Conference 2012: October 19-21, Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel, British Columbia, Canada. Receive updates on registration rates. Check room rates online

November 2012
American Christian Writers Conference: November 2-3, Phoenix, Arizona. Registration details forthcoming.

December 2012
Check back for updates.

If you decide to attend any of the conferences, safe travels, and enjoy the experience! I'm sure you'll find it worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Meet your creative needs with crowdfunding

Yeah, I never heard of crowdfunding either until a friend on Twitter got tired of my bellyaching about the costs of cover art, editing, etc. for a self publisher. Good friend that she is, she sent me this article.  Essentially, crowdfunding in its various forms allows you to get your creative project off the ground through much-needed donations or assistance. It's more than just begging virtual strangers, friends and family, or anyone in your social circles to help you. Your backers expect something in return for their generosity.

I had two months of reservations about crowdfunding to work out, before I launched my first project with Kickstarter, which focuses on creative projects needing a source of capital. For now, it's only available in the US, but there are similar international sites like Pozible (Australia) and FundIt (Ireland). To date, the site has connected artists, filmmakers, fashion designers, musicians and writers with backers who have pledged varying amounts; the minimum pledge is $1. The setup costs you nothing, unless your project is fully funded. Some exceed their goal with the creators receiving all funds, minus a fee of up to 5%. Over 10,000 Kickstarter projects have been successfully funded; that's approximately 44% of the total submitted. With the average successful submission raising up to $5,000 (much of it donated by strangers), the rate seems reasonable. This isn't a quick or easy opportunity to abuse the kindness of others; not only do you have to provided incentives to donate and fulfill those requirements, you're expected to fulfill the project or cancel your funding request if you don't think you can complete the work.

But before you rush to sign up, consider the guidelines. Also, think about what you have to offer as a reward. Can you provide greater incentives for those who donate a little more? When can you offer those rewards? It's important to consider how you can thank those who help, including the associated costs, like shipping, for delivering rewards to them. Lastly, what's your timeline to achieve your funding goal? Kickstarter allows creators up to 60 days in advance. If a project is successfully funded, the money is transferred to your account via Amazon Payments, using the same settings you may already have in place as an Amazon buyer or self-published author through Kindle Direct Publishing.  

Here's the way in which Kickstarter works:

  • Sign up for an account at the Kickstarter website. You can also login with Facebook, but at some point you'll need to provide a password.
  • Follow the steps under Start A Project to submit your proposal to the Kickstarter staff.  It may take upwards of a day to receive a response. Your proposal includes;
    • The category and name of your project; for a writer, the genre and title of your book.
    • A range for your funding goal.
    • A project description; writers, try a two-line summary of your work with a sample of the first two or three lines.
    • Reward levels, if any. There should be at least one.
  • Once your proposal is accepted, you can flesh out the ideas. Set realistic goals on your funding amount, the timeline and rewards deadlines. None of this can be altered once your project is launched.
  • Make a video that explains your project - this is required. Since I hate this slightly nasal twang in my voice, I decided to do a book trailer pertaining to the project. If you look at the site, you'll see a variety of creative ways in which others are making videos.
  • Lastly, set up an Amazon Payments account, which will allow you to collect funds if you meet your goal.        

Once your project goes live, you can update backers on the status as your project. You must achieve the goal of your funding in full to receive the money - all or nothing. If you set a goal of $1,000 but only receive $990, you get nothing. Seems tough, doesn't it? Not when you consider the role social media has in our lives, or the shared interactions you have with others. If you're a writer with an interesting concept or story to tell, the same way word of mouth works to sell books, applies to crowdfunding. Also, if you're just that close to reaching your goal, perhaps a friend or family member would be willing to help you achieve it - you never know until you ask. In case you're wondering, don't try to get over by providing that last $10 yourself - Amazon has ways of tracking that kind of activity.

My Kickstarter funding goal is to raise $1,200 for editing fees and costs of my cover for The Rule of Love, a historical set in fifth century India, by February 4.  It's due out Fall 2012. Wish me good luck with my crowdfunding project.        

Saturday, December 10, 2011

How to sell books from your author website with PayPal

A website is one of several ways you can increase visibility online for you and your work. Before I ever blogged, tweeted or established a Facebook page, my website had been up and running for at least 3 years. That the initial design was crappy minimal is besides the point.

If you don't already have a website, get one. Now. Find an affordable web designer or, if you have some tech savvy, build your own. Even unpublished writers should have a website. By the time you've finished your manuscript and have it out on submission, agents and editors will be searching for you on the internet. A perfect manuscript and query letter aren't enough - the decision-makers in the industry are also looking at your online presence. Some want to know whether you can market or promote your own work. Do you really want to be building a site in the midst of edits and rewrites?

Are you self-publishing your work? Your personal website is essential to helping people find YOUR book among the millions of available titles. Invest enough time in your site and it becomes one of your best marketing tools. After all, potential readers can't buy your books if they don't know about them. Once your book is available, feature it on your website. Encourage sales by adding links to where the book can be bought; offline and online locations.

You can also grow your readership and maximize potential profits by selling from your own website. If you've featured buy links for your book, why shouldn't one of those include an opportunity for you to sell your work directly? When I've spoken about this to other writers, three responses typically occur. "Wow, that seems so hard." or "Oh, I don't know to do that." I'll talk about the third one later. Let me show you how to address the first two.

What you need 

  • Inventory on hand ready to be delivered to readers as soon as they order, whether it's hardcover / paperback copies or ebooks. Nothing says 'amateur' or ticks off potential readers more than being told, "This book is not available for purchase at this time."
  • Some reviews or testimonials that inform your potential readers about the book(s) and the benefits to them for buying your product direct.  
  • The ability to process orders online in real-time. Unless you already run a secure business site that processes online transactions, you'll need to establish a merchant account. 
  • Software that can process credit card orders, safely. 
  • If you're selling more than one book, you'll need to develop a virtual "shopping cart" experience to allow for multiple orders.
  • Immediate notification of payments processed with orders that must be fulfilled.
  • An order fulfillment or completion process. Learn the shipping rates of your hardcovers / paperbacks to various locations and build that cost into your pricing structure.
  • A feedback form or visible email address that lets readers communicate with you.        

What your readers want

  • A secure shopping experience. They want to know that their credit card will be encrypted in each transaction and their address information will be safeguarded.
  • Instant or fast delivery of their orders
  • Ability to communicate with you, to provide feedback or let you know if there is problem with fulfillment.
If you've read all that and think it's daunting or not worth your time, PayPal allows you to do all these processes and met reader expectations. There are other sites where you can do the same activity, including eBay. Since I have no experience with it, but tons with PayPal, that's my focus.

Steps for selling via PayPal
  • Establish a PayPal personal and / or business account at https://www.paypal.com/. Notice the URL; the typical http followed by 's' which indicates that this is a site to allow credit card authorizations and secure transactions. Something that will give you and your readers peace of mind. I recommend both types of accounts. The personal account allows me to pay my cover artists and editors, while a business account lets me transact sales of books online.  
  • At minimum, PayPal will need your real name, physical address, email address and a funding source for your accounts, be it a bank account or credit card. The latter allows you to process payments through your personal account and have a link to where you can transfer monies received from your business account.
  • Be prepared for low fees dependent on the number of transactions you're filling each month on the business account. A business account will also be helpful for tracking what you've earned when the tax man cometh. Yes, you should report sales through your website as income earned. 
  • Once you have completed the setup, take advantage of PayPal's tools for merchants, including shipping and tax calculators, accepting multiple currencies, tracking inventory and my favorite, buy buttons for your website.       
Configuring PayPal buy buttons for single orders or virtual shopping carts for multiple transactions takes some forethought. How do you want to sell the book(s)? Are they available in varying formats? If you have more than one book, do you want potential readers to buy one book in one transaction, or offer them the ability for multiple selections in one transaction? The Merchant Services section can help you determine the best approach. Here's how I did it.

Since I have more than one book in multiple formats, I chose to setup a virtual shopping cart with two buttons, one for ordering paperbacks and another for ebooks. Setting up the virtual shopping cart was simple:

I set multiple prices on each type of book and added comment fields for readers that enable fulfillment; e.g. for someone who wants an autographed paperback, I need to know who I'll be dedicating the book to or in the case of ebooks, the specific format my readers want. After saving each button, an HTML code was  generated, which I copied to my website:

The virtual shopping is the best experience for your potential readers, allowing them to place orders for multiple products, with totals automatically calculated. Each time an item is added, the shopping cart is updated, all in one transaction. Here's an example of how it might look to readers. Notice the exact quantities and pertinent fulfillment information is visible, and will be transmitted to the author when a transaction is completed. 
 Even better, if your readers don't have PayPal accounts, they can still complete the transaction. There's nothing to stop them from purchasing off your site. Except... 
"Readers won't buy sites they're not familiar with!"
Sad but true. The average person would rather go to Amazon or any other online retailer they're familiar with than buy from an author website. However, this shouldn't stop an author from making the option available. For instance, I recently purchased Dara Marks' Inside Story: The Power of the Transformational Arc on the recommendation of a friend. So far, it's an excellent read. I tried to buy the book direct from the author website, where it was cheaper AND shipped faster than from the Amazon affiliate site where it's offered. A problem with the author website wouldn't allow me to submit the transaction. So, guess which giant online retailer (or its affiliate) got my money that day? Money that could have gone directly to the author. 

As authors establish trust with their readers through good storytelling and a well-crafted online presence, the perception about buying direct from an author website will likely change. No reason you should be caught flat-footed when it does. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Would You Give Amazon Exclusivity Over Your EBooks?

That's the proposition Amazon is offering thousands of self-published authors who distribute ebooks via its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) arm. Details regarding KDP Select can be found here. I found out out about the offer as I logged into KDP this morning to, um, you know, eh, check out the KDP Community and what's happening with them! Yeah, that's the ticket.

Basic terms of KDP Select: if you're a self-published Kindle author or publisher, for a period of at least 90 days, you vow to sell your soul to the Devil can enroll as many ebook titles as you choose. To participate, you just have to promise that your ebook(s) will not be sold online anywhere during the term. Not online through Smashwords or its distribution partners, Kobo, Deisel, Apple, Barnes & Noble or Sony. Not Xin Xii, OmniLit or Pubit (owned by B&N). Not even through your website or blog.  Your paperbacks are unaffected.  During the proscribed period, you have the option of making the book free for up to five days. Your enrolled titles are also made available for borrowing through Amazon's Kindle Lending Library, which is also available EXCLUSIVELY to Amazon's Prime members (of which I am a card-carrying member - I buy enough from Amazon to justify the $79 fee). You can learn how many people borrowed the books, something which isn't available to authors automatically enrolled in Kindle lending based on their enrollment in the 70% royalty scheme. Non-Prime customers can still buy your ebooks and you earn the same royalties. There's also some slightly muddied language about additional royalties, but I don't feel like sorting out legalease this morning.

Before unrolling this offer to all, Amazon previously invited certain high profile indies to try KDP Select for six months. Several of them said no and I would have too. Six months AND I have to rely on Amazon for revenue exclusively? Oh, and Prime members get to borrow, not buy the book? As the one book per month that they can borrow through the Kindle Library? So they have the choice of Stephen King's Dome for $19.99 or mine for $2.99, and will somehow choose the cheaper one as the freebie? As Whitney once said:  

Except - you knew this was coming - if you're like me, a self-published author whose revenue is generated mainly from Amazon and more directly, through sales on Kindle. If you are, then certain parts of this deal start to look attractive. For instance, if you have a title that you already have made available only through Amazon, you don't have the hassle of making the title unavailable anywhere else. If your revenue as a self-published author comes mainly or only through KDP, what have you got to lose?

Before you think I'm suckling at the teat of Amazon or afraid of biting the hand that feeds me every month, allow me to assure you: Amazon fucks up sometimes. Like this bonehead move announced on December 6 right here: Amazon Will Pay Shoppers $5 to Walk Out of Stores Empty-Handed. Really, Amazon? How about that $2 surcharge on delivery of Kindle in certain geographic areas, which was mentioned in a recent post? Whether or not Kindle authors choose to participate in this power play (and believe me, they're discussing the pros and cons at Kindleboards), this is another blatant attempt to create a monopoly over ebooks and tether authors to the existing system, even if it's for a mere 90 days.

So why has Amazon made this move now? Will it increase their bottom line by enlarging the offerings that make Prime membership so good? Does creating goodwill with self-published authors by inviting them to the grownups' table make Amazon the go-to guy for future authors? The reasons are less important than the fact that Amazon can do these things. Do you see any of its competitors thinking in similar terms? Part of why Amazon can make this offer as attractive to self-published authors is because ITS RIVALS DON'T DO DIDDLY SQUAT TO COMPETE. Forgive the shouting, but all of those sites, like Smashwords, like Pubit, that also offer the opportunity to self-publish do next to NOTHING to promote their authors or self-published works. If Amazon recognizes yet another area they can exploit and make some Kindle authors happy in the process, more power to them. Perhaps this move may shake up the competition. Lord knows they need it.

EDIT: Since folks on Twitter and Kindleboards are asking, I'm enrolling the omnibus edition of the Sultana books, raising the price to $6.49 and doing a freebie December 24-29. I'll post about the results of my experiment with KDP Select in the spring KDP answered my inquiry about enrolling books in a series, I won't be testing Select.      

What do you think of this latest move by Amazon? If you're an author publishing through KDP, will you consider enrolling in KDP Select?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

UPDATE: Fall & Winter Writing Competitions

Here's an updated list of writing contests with fast approaching deadlines in 2011 or early  next year 2012:

2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards - Entry period January 23 - February 5, 2012.  Best benefits of ABNA? Free entry AND making lots of new friends! Prizes include $15,000 to the top winners in two categories.

Benjamin Franklin Awards - Second call deadline is December 31, 2011, for books published September 1 - December 31, 2011. Prizes include trophies, and gold and silver award certificates. Entry fees; $90 per title for Independent Book Publishers Association members or $190 if you're not in the IBPA, which will give you a one-year membership. 

Erma Bombeck Writing Competition sponsored by Washington-Centerville Public Library and established in 1997 to pay tribute to hometown writer Erma Bombeck, one of the greatest humorists of the 20th Century. The contest, now held every two years, opens for online entries ($15 entry fee) at 8 am (EST) Tuesday, January 3, 2012, and closes at 7:30 am (EST) Tuesday, February 14, 2012. Entries should be 450 words or fewer and cannot be published more than once in the calendar year 2011 (blog posts are allowed).

A $500 cash prize and Registration Fee (value $350) to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at University of Dayton from April 18 through the 20th will be awarded to four writers: Humor category (local entry and a global entry) and the Human Interest category (local entry and a global entry). Panel of judges include authors, syndicated columnists, and experienced writers and some entries will receive feedback. Winners will be announced in mid-March. No more than one entry per writer. For complete contest details, visit http://www.wclibrary.info/erma/index.asp.

Foreword Reviews - Deadline January 15, 2012. Varied categories with a grand prize of $1,500 for the best Fiction and Non-fiction books. Entries are $99. 

International Book Awards - Deadline December 31, 2012 for $20 off entry fee (regularly $69); final entry date of April 30, 2012. Over 150 categories. Affiliated with USA "Best Books 2012" Awards; includes full listing on USABookNews.com's webpage for six months.

IPPY AWARDS - Deadline March 15, 2012. Prizes include medals. Tiered entries; $85 per title October 16, 2011 - January 7, 2012; $95 per title January 8 2012 - March 15, 2012. So, the earlier, the better. Includes ebook awards. See entry form for eligibility details.

Next Generation Indie Book Awards - Deadline February 24, 2012. Grand prize of $1,500 for the best Fiction and Non-fiction books. Initial entry fee is $75, additional fee of $50 for other categories. Seriously debating this one, as I know some previous winners who've spoken well of the contest.

2012 San Francisco Writers Indie Publishing Contest - Deadline January 4, 2012. Grand prizes include an hour-long consultation with a literary agent OR free publishing package from Author Solutions. Stated aim to compete with the ABNA, which offers free entry, doesn't quite match the $35 entry fee for this contest. Click here for the form. 

USA "Best Books 2012" Awards - Deadline December 31, 2012 for USABookNews.com coverage leading up to final entry date of September 30, 2012. A $69 entry fee and multiple categories including several specific to e-books.

For more on why you might want to consider entering a writing contest,  author Jody Hedlund wrote a great article earlier this year on the benefits of such activities for published and unpublished writers.  If you decide to enter any of these contests, good luck!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's ABNA time again. Maybe.

Today's announcement of the fifth annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards has got me wondering whether I'll enter the contest again in 2012. If I do, Sultana's Legacy will be my submission. Since it just debuted this past October, the entry qualifies under the rules that allow self-published novels into the contest. Submissions are open January 23 to February 5; sorry, English-language only.

What are the merits of this contest? It's one of few where you can participate without an entry fee. On a modest writer's budget, free becomes very appealing. There are TWO grand prizes in each of the categories, general fiction AND young adult fiction. In addition, you'll meet some great people in the forums and discussion pages, many of whom have done this contest several years running. All that camaraderie bolsters you as the judges start winnowing the entries from 10,000 manuscripts to 5,000 until the final two are chosen for the grand prize sometime in June. Writers are amazingly supportive of each other, even when we are effectively competing. Penguin co-sponsors the contest, and did I mention those grand prizes include a publishing contract with a $15,000 advance? Also, a self-published entry can elicit some new eyes on your available work and generate those reviews we need.

So why am I less than super excited about this contest in just a few days?    

I truly was eager for an announcement of it. Since Sultana's Legacy is so new, having it in the contest may boost its presence and spark some interest or sales. Or maybe not. If I make it as far as the quarterfinals like last year, Publishers Weekly will read and review the manuscript in full. Oh joy. If you want some of the great and gory details of my previous entry of Sultana, click here to understand why I'm not thrilled to bits at the prospect of PW dissecting my work again. Yet, there's one factor that looms above all other concerns - the contest's end game, that contract and advance - I don't know if I'm so interested in the hype surrounding that.

WTF? Is she being serious?
Yes, I'm actually serious. Don't get me wrong - the chance offered by the contest is great. I'm not making a killing at self-publishing, and the marketing aspect is making me nuts. Yet, I'm not wondering when or if I'll ever get good reviews, great fan mail or a nice royalty check. Honestly, I'm just not aiming for a publishing contract, nor do I hold out much hope I'll garner one. Something about not querying agents or thumbing up my nose at certain tactics in the industry may seal this as fact. Odd how the possibility no longer bothers me, when three years ago, it was all I wanted. Plus, I don't know if the masochistic control freak in me, who actually enjoys all the hard work that goes along with self-publishing, is ready for a publisher's timetable and their oversight of the financial aspects.

The only valid reason for my entry would be further exposure of my work. At no cost, that seems pretty good. I have two months until February 5 to decide.

Will you be entering ABNA 2012?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Growing Pains: A Writer's Journey

I have been lucky to know some inherently gifted writers from various online communities. Authors whose words effortlessly flow across the page, evoking the strongest emotions within me; sometimes laughter or tears, but more often, jealousy.  There, I said it. I am jealous of their natural aptitude. I read their work and think, "Why can't I write like that?" Talent like theirs just does not live inside me. It takes a lot of drafts and several revisions for me to tap into the inner workings of a story and its characters. More than I would want you to know about, trust me. 

While on Skype yesterday with a dear writing friend, we started talking about the subtleties of talent and craft. Specifically, we were discussing why some writers of a certain caliber are reluctant to share insider knowledge of the industry or secrets of the trade, as if the prospect of a newbie hungry for information is their worst nightmare brought to vivid reality. As she put it succinctly, any writer can learn the craft (provided you are dedicated to the task), but no one can steal talent. Drat! It’s time for master plan two, since master plan one to siphon off her gift for storytelling won't work. 

For those of us who are not born but rather shaped into writers, what does this mean for us?  As if my lack of inherent skill isn't enough, my natural inclination toward impatience gets in my way.  An eager desperation to learn every lesson I will ever need in order to be a better writer right now! To write the best and cleanest prose on the first draft and sell one million copies at debut.  No, I’m not kidding – don’t pretend that you have the same dreams. I'm looking for one of those Easy buttons. Seriously, where’s the shortcut to becoming a genius at writing when you need one?

Today on Kindleboards, I offered some advice to a fellow writer who seemed worried that his or her pace of publication could not match that of other authors.  I suggested, “Work at your own pace.” So much of writing is about the pace – learning the delicate balance of tension and conflict, pacing ourselves so we don’t rush to the resolution. Perhaps it’s time to take my own advice and set a realistic pace.

Just like babies, who do not learn to walk before they crawl, each of us as writers have steps and stages we must take on our writers' journey. From basic competence and knowing the rules of the craft, we can grow to learn much more.  With each novel, we take on a new challenge and with luck and dedication, improve our skills. The task may seem difficult and is fraught with pitfalls (some of our own making), but isn’t our writing worth the experience? For my part, I hope the journey never ends. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kindle's Expansion In Euro Markets: Why You Should Care

Guess who was doing the happy dance this morning, as Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) unveiled amazon.es and amazon.it? This person! But, it's not for the reason you may expect - no, I don't enjoy obsessively tracking my sales in each market. Well, not as much.

The new Spanish and Italian sites for Amazon customers allow residents of those countries to buy the thing nearest and dearest to my little author heart: books on Kindle! Since Amazon went live with the German and French sites, there was speculation that Italy would be the next foreign market made accessible to publishers and self-published authors. For reasons which should be very obvious to anyone who knows me, I was rooting for Spain. For now, I earn 85% of my sales on paperbacks and ebooks through Amazon alone. In fact, 90% of my sales come from Kindle ebooks. To say I'm heavily invested in Amazon's every move concerning ebooks would be an understatement. So far, I've had less than ten sales in Germany and nothing in France. Why am I possibly more hopeful with the inclusion of these two new markets? Allow me to explain.

For one, penetration of English language books into any foreign market is great for authors and English-speaking residents of those countries. It introduces readers to books that  may not have been translated into the language of their particular country. It gains more exposure for smaller publishers and self-published authors, like me, who might have been weighing the heavy costs of translation fees against a strong desire for access to European markets.  In addition, Kindle sales in these new countries qualify for the 70% royalty on ebooks priced within the equivalent of 2.99 and 9.99 US dollars - before, the maximum royalty earned was 35%. Double the royalties and more English language books available? Sounds good to me.

Speaking of sales, did you know your Kindle book used to cost an additional $2 or more to readers in the aforementioned European countries? Money that you never saw? Thanks to David Gaughran, who first exposed that nasty little detail on his blog, it became clear why getting sales in certain European markets were that much tougher - why would anyone choose to pay such a high surcharge on an ebook? With each European expansion, Amazon has now removed this surcharge in that particular country. I'm all for making ebooks more affordable across the globe. So Sultana on Kindle, which retails for $3.99 is now available for the equivalent price of 3.22 Euros, without an additional fee imposed. Only two things might make European buyers even happier - learning if or when the new Kindle Fire will be launched in their respective countries, or having all the newly available Kindle books free for download.

Lastly, as a writer of historical fiction, which remains more popular in Europe than it does in the US, and the author of two books set in Spain, subtitled "A Novel of Moorish Spain", Amazon's entry into that particular market couldn't come soon enough for me. Now that it's here, I'm already looking at how I can enhance my author page on amazon.es. Also, I'm betting as the holiday sales of Kindles rise, the Italians may be saying 'Buon Natale' and the Spanish 'Feliz Navidad' with Kindle books. Let's hope some of that holiday cheer finds its way into the pockets of Kindle authors. What am I betting on next? Do I hear whispers of Amazon India? 

Be sure to check out David Gaughran's blog today too; he has a much more in-depth analysis of what this new move from Amazon may mean for us all. If you're not following his blog, you should be!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Social Media Done Wrong

As if writers needed anything more to occupy our time, the advent of social media has ensured that our days are filled with tweets, Facebook posts and pages. Article after article stresses the importance of good social interaction: we have to be on Google+, Twitter, Linked In AND Facebook, because the days of the invisible author are OVER! Social karma and etiquette demands that we tweet and re-tweet, follow and be interesting in every message.

Here's where I fess up: I'm a social media failure. I rarely use Twitter and post more on my personal Facebook page to catch up with family in Barbados or the UK, than I add anything to my author page. For all the advice which says authors should be actively using social media to promote our work, I give a half-hearted, grudging shrug. Sometimes I try the techniques suggested, but more often than not, it's a failure from the outset because I just don't believe it helps. I do nothing to promote Sultana through the usual social channels, yet it consistently sells well each month. Beyond the occasional monthly promotion on my website or mention of it on this blog, I don't talk about it. Yet people are finding the book, writing me, visiting my web pages and talking about the story in their reading groups. The social media pundits must forgive me for saying so, but the best promotion of an author's work is a good book. It isn't spamming each other every day with our latest reviews and "buy my book" pitches. Good social media usage is the same as conducting ourselves like normal people offline - would you ask someone to marry you one minute after the initial meeting? So, why DM people about buying your book as soon as they follow you on Twitter?  
Stop spamming your friends! If they like your book, they'll buy it.
I don't doubt that social media can be an effective tool when it's used the right way. How's that? Start by letting people get to know YOU. When we look for the best advice, we turn to those whom we trust, our friends. Friendships aren't established overnight - they're earned through time and trust. For an author just starting out, it can feel as we have to rush into everything and use every means at our disposal to get our names out there as quickly as possible. Just as a good friendship takes time to grow, so to does good social interaction and karma take time to produce results. Unfortunately, some of us are going about this the wrong way and alienating the very people we're trying to reach. How many people have you unfollowed on Twitter or deleted as friends as Facebook, just because all they do is promote their work all day?

Go forth and be social! The right way.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Updated website and blog

Have you ever seen a grown woman dissolve in a fit of total despair? You would have last week, when Tripod completely @#$%^&*"}?! my old site.

I'm a big girl, but watching years of hard work just disappear because someone at Tripod felt it was time for a site upgrade was NOT fun. Web stats? Gone. Ability to sell books directly from the site? Poof! Other custom HTML and hidden exclusives for readers of my book? No more. As for Tripod - gone too, at least my reliance on the company for web hosting. Never cancelled a contract so fast in my life.

If there's one thing I love about being a Scorpio, it's that wallowing in misery for too long is not an option. So, I spent part of what should have been a restful weekend setting up a new website. While those custom QR codes I had designed for readers of my book will now point to public pages that everyone can access, at least I salvaged most of the original elements. You can now find me on the web at www.lisajyarde.com. Please be sure to check out the new site and let me know what you think.

For a long time, I've wanted to link this blog to my website. Now that I've done that, it seemed time to update the look and feel too. This particular theme includes the Brooklyn Bridge, which fits perfectly given the blog's title - you got all that, right? 

Necessity isn't the only mother of invention. Sometimes, disaster works just as well.    

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Joy of Just Writing

After a ten-day business trip to Canada, it's back to the daily grind for me, which usually involves a hellish commute. My bus route takes me past Zucotti Park in lovely downtown Manhattan, but this morning I didn't even look up to see what might be happening with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. I'll give you a good guess why, and it wouldn't be because I've grown tired of trying to understand what this movement hopes to accomplish. No, I was too busy writing scenes of my next, The Burning Candle.

Years ago, I used to wake up early in the morning and write for an hour before I went to work. My productivity level often soared after a decent night's sleep and the creative energies would just flow on to the page and later, computer screen. Lately? To hell with that! I need as much rest as I can get, especially since my sleeping habits border on insomnia. I've started spending more mornings on Twitter and email than doing the one thing I love best.

Crazy, right?
I can't blame my former malaise on a lack of energy or sleep. It's also has a lot to do with my foray into self-publishing. Four of my books are now available for sale since summer 2010. Expect two or three in 2012, dependent on whether I can get various pieces in place. In the past 17 months, I've spent so much more time than I ever expected on the books I have produced, with scant attention on the manuscript I'd like to finish. The concept of completing a manuscript just so I can sell the book makes me queasy; I swear, my stomach just tied in knots as I wrote that line. If there is one negative aspect of self-publishing , it's that it has changed how I view writing. What used to be a joy is now a chore; one more thing than has to be done in an otherwise busy day. I can't wait to type "The End" so I can be done with the damned thing, yet I dread all that comes afterward. I don't like feeling that way. I want to get back to the place where I loved to write, just for the sake of telling a good story. I plan to get back to the joy of just writing, one morning at a time. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A letter to my 18-year old self

Eighteen years ago today when I turned eighteen, I was a first semester sophomore at SUNY Stony Brook, which apparently must now be referred to as the slightly more pretentious prestigious Stony Brook University. I got a great education there and had a blast with my best buds. It was far enough from home for the experience of living away, yet close enough so I could hop on the train and surprise my mom for her birthday / raid the fridge and cupboards / beg for money. I had all the hopes of dreams any person would have at eighteen, including plans to become a lawyer making thousands and thousands of dollars at a job that I would find incredibly interesting. Yeah.

Eighteen years later, things haven't quite turned out the way I expected, in some good, bad and very interesting ways. If I could talk to my eighteen year-old self, I'd have a lot to say about acceptance of people and situations. This would be some of my sage advice: 
  • Don't worry about becoming a lawyer or any of that career track you're on now. Inside of you, the heart of a writer beats with one desire: to share your love of storytelling with the world, one reader at a time. It's not going to be easy, but you don't take the easy route on anything.
  • Enjoy these college years to the fullest, because what's coming will require harder work, tougher commitments and bigger decisions than anything you've faced before.
  • Develop better eating habits now and exercise more. Otherwise, your family history of diabetes and hypertension is going to catch up with you.
  • Friendships change in ways you don't expect. People will come and go out of your life for different reasons. Accept them for who they are when they are there and wish them well when they are gone. 
  • You’re never going to forget your first love. No matter what happens, he’ll leave his mark. Don’t make assumptions about other guys based on him. Learn to love again without fear. 
  • Your parents aren't perfect. Forgive your father for his frailties and love him despite them, cause in a few years, he'll be gone and you'll only have your mom. She's going to depend on you a lot more, even though she taught you to be very independent. Remember the strength inside you comes from her.
  • Get to know your sister a lot better too. It may seem like a generational divide now, but she will become your most constant ally and supporter, if you let her. And, she's going to be the best mom in the world and you will be the proudest aunt.
  • Whatever's going wrong now will be meaningless in a few months and years. Laugh more.
  • And by the way, you're going to LOVE your thirties!  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sultana & Sultana's Legacy FREE

Starting today, I'm offering TWO Goodreads giveaways that will run all month long, each for three paperback copies of Sultana and Sultana's Legacy. It's my way of celebrating the completion of the latest book in my series on Moorish Spain. Winners will be chosen by Goodreads at random and I'll provide each with a signed paperback copy of one of the books.

You can enter the drawing by clicking the links below. Good luck!  

Goodreads Book Giveaway
Sultana's Legacy by Lisa J. Yarde

Sultana's Legacy

by Lisa J. Yarde

Giveaway ends November 30, 2011.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Sultana by Lisa J. Yarde


by Lisa J. Yarde

Giveaway ends November 30, 2011.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
Want to download the e-book copies of Sultana and Sultana's Legacy for FREE now? All you have to do is pay me with a Tweet. Yes, you read that correctly. Go to my website and click the Historical Fiction link, or copy and paste the following link into your browser, http://www.lisajyarde.com/p/historical-fiction.html. Choose from Sultana, Sultana's Legacy, or get them both. All you have to do is click on the Pay With a Tweet button next to your selection. The application connects to your Twitter account and asks you to send the Tweet to your followers. You can modify the text of the tweet, but you can't alter the link to my site. After you've Tweeted, you'll be redirected to Media Fire, where you can get the Kindle and / or Nook copies of the ebook of your choice.    

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Free Ebooks: Good for Authors and Readers?

I always have a split opinion on the topic of free ebooks - opinions to match my personality, you ask? Maybe. This is one argument where I can't pick a side and stick to it. It's very easy to see the pros and cons of both sides, based on my own experience. 

I experimented with giving away a book this summer. Recently, I received final numbers for On Falcon's Wings as a freebie. Below are the total number of downloads per site:
Amazon.com: 21,292
Barnes & Noble: 1,312
Kobo: 51
Smashwords: 317
Sony:  114 

That's a grand total of 23,806 downloads all occurring June 6 - August 6. It would have been a shorter period, except a certain company among those listed above refused to set my price back to $2.99, so I had to yank my book from their site. In the meantime, Amazon kept the book free because it remained free on that one site.  

In May 2011, I set the price of On Falcon's Wings at Smashwords to $0.00. I offered the ebook for free, initially in the hopes that it would generate one measly review on Smashwords. Still waiting. Tick-tock. Anyway, while that review never materialized, I was able to get Amazon to move pretty quickly on matching the free offer. Here's how I did it:

When you're attempting to get Amazon to match your free e-book pricing, you want to click or have your friends click the link above which informs Amazon of the freebie. I've heard from writers who saw no effect from doing this. I made it work in three tries. Each time I saw the book go free on the sites where Smashwords distributes, I alerted Amazon. Within two weeks, the ebook went free on Amazon.com. How did I know? Since I was obsessively checking my sales at Amazon KDP, I knew something was up when I woke up to more than 1,000 downloads on June 6.   

How good can this move be for authors and their readers? From the author side, it gives us exposure to readers who might not take a chance on us even at $2.99 or lower. If you're an author of a series, making the first book free could sell subsequent novels. I believe David Dalgish credits some of his success to this. For readers on a tight budget, you can stock up on  all the freebies you want, including best-selling authors published by the Big 6 (whose ebooks tend to as expensive as mass market paperbacks). Also, it lets you sample the dreaded unknown author without parting with hard-earned cash on what could potentially be a dud.

For me, therein lies the problem with freebies for authors and readers. Yes, you gain exposure, but you also attract readers who will download anything, including your grocery list, just because it's free. Is that the audience you want to attract, or is it readers who are genuinely interested in your book? Also, if your book is a standalone, or you have no other offering, making that book free won't help you generate revenue. Also, for readers who download everything that's free, how many of those ebooks have you actually read? In recent weeks on Kindleboards, one of the moderators mentioned she was going to read On Falcon's Wings as part of the general topic thread, but she couldn't remember why or how she got the ebook. Sigh. Thanks to sites like Pixel of Ink, I'm guilty of this myself. I have over 300 books on my Kindle now, half of which are from favorite authors whose work I downloaded because it was being offered for free. Am I going to get to those books any time soon? It's not likely, but I'll try.  As for my promotional efforts with other books, I'm looking into new ways to generate ROI.

Today, I found a site linked at Self-Publishing Review that offers an interesting take on the freebie.  Pay With A Tweet is a social payment system that rewards those who help you promote your work with a free download of that work. Provide your contact information, a link to your download and the tweet you want sent out. Information can also be posted to Facebook. It's a variation on free, but whether it offers a greater return remains to be seen. I'll let you know what I think in a followup post in a few weeks. 

Have you experimented with offering an e-book for free? As a reader, do you gravitate to free ebooks? 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Advance copies of Sultana's Legacy until Nov. 1

Now through November 1, 2011, order a paperback OR ebook copy of Sultana and receive a copy of Sultana's Legacy for FREE! How? Email me a copy of your receipt from a retailer like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, OR direct from my website through Paypal, etc. as proof of purchase for Sultana. I'll send you a copy of the sequel, Sultana's Legacy in your preferred format, paperback or ebook.

Does it matter when I purchased Sultana

Is the receipt for my purchase of Sultana the only proof you will accept so I can get a free copy of Sultana's Legacy? 

How many free copies can I receive per receipt submitted?      

Any shipping restrictions? 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Getting over it and getting published

Remember when I was talking about fear of publishing the other day? Well, that's nothing compared to the fear of losing a loved one. Since last Thursday, my mom has been hospitalized. She's got it all thanks to diabetes, "the gift that keeps on giving." The worst was watching her on a ventilator in ICU for three days, though a close second was hearing that she had a blockage in her heart. By the grace of God and very attentive hospital staff, she is on her way to recovery and eventual discharge. 

It's amazing what incidents like this will do to teach us that the little stuff we worry about, like that old fear of publishing, doesn't matter. It's the people whom we love. Everything else is just crap we worry about, but most of it's irrelevant. If I never publish anything again, I could care less. It will be very different when, not if, I lose my mom one day. She is my rock and solid support. She has been mother and father to me even when my dad was around. The eventuality that she will not be around makes me cherish the moments we have together, even when we argue. I get my best features from her, including my determination, spelled stubbornness. That's why this latest book is dedicated to two people; a great writing friend and my mom. I think both ladies will be surprised and delighted.

So tonight, I'm putting all my silly fears aside and hitting the button:   

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fear of publishing is real

You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn't exist anywhere except in the mind. -Dale Carnegie

I’m sure a famous writer and lecturer such as Dale knows what he’s talking about, but I’m still having a hard time with a certain “fear of publishing”. I’ve looked it up several times now on a list of phobias – I can’t find it. It must exist. I have it! I have found agateophobia – fear of insanity; could be a related disorder. Also on the list: allodoxaphobia – fear of opinions, arithmophobia- fear of numbers and atychiphobia- fear of failure. That’s just the A’s, folks. This could go on forever. Yet nothing on the fear of hitting the Save and Publish button in Amazon KDP or Submit for Review in CreateSpace.

Now as to what’s holding me back: why fear? My mouse has hovered over Save and Publish twice today. It’s visited the Amazon KDP Bookshelf several times this week, and not just because I was checking sales. How else can I explain why I have a book that’s ready to go, post-beta reads and edits, yet I refuse to make it available? At first I rationalized it as, “The release date isn’t until November. Takes Amazon and the other online retailers a few days to make the title available. Why can’t you just wait?” Yes, I have conversations like that in my head. It helps that I know some psychologists.

Potential sources of fear? No clue. I’m not afraid it isn’t a good story. My trusted beta readers have assured me it was worth their time. Nor do I worry about the opinions it will generate. I’ve stopped reading reviews for a bit now. People will either like or hate it but that won’t change the story.  Strangely enough, I have been telling anyone who would listen, “I’ve spent more years than I wanted to on this book and its prequel. Time to let it go!” Somehow, I just can’t seem to do that.

Just a note to the psychologists I’ve mentioned above: fear of publishing is real. You might want to assign a named phobia to it. At this rate, I’ll be checking into your office SOON. Actually, I know some folks with upcoming release dates, so I might be referring a few friends. 

Time flies when you're having fun, or writing novels.

It's been a tremendous twelve months. A new job and health issues have impacted my writing time, but I'm still at it, trying to wrap...